Right, welcome back everybody. As most of you who read the AN last chapter know, I've been doing some serious thinking about this story. I sat down and mapped out everything I could do with what I had written, and let me tell you it wasn't pretty. I got lazy writing some pretty important parts of the story, and it's screwed me over big time. In lieu of trying to plow forward with that trainwreck, I'm going to take what I feel is the safer approach and do a fresh rewrite.
To be completely honest, I couldn't find any motivation to continue the story in its current state. It was just too cringe-worthy in my opinion. Too many stupid cliches and too much poor writing. My Harry was a godlike Mary Sue. I think the real turning point came when I had to keep re-reading chapters because even I had forgotten some of the stuff I pulled out of my ass to justify shit.
I think I have grown a lot as a writer since I first started this story, and I'd like to give this story a fresh start.
Thus, this marks chapter 1 of the rewrite. I'll not apologize if this makes you angry. I don't like how my story is, so I'm fixing it. A lot of the plot will change, Harry's godlike Sue'ness will be toned down. He's still powerful, but within reason.
Also, sorry for the wait on this one. I both wrote a first chapter of another story and lost all my progress on this chapter right at the end and had to redo it.
That said, welcome to A Broken Wizard and a Broken Magus... Reborn!
Chapter 1: Start of Darkness
Kischur Zelretch von Schweinorg sat in the study of his Clock Tower rooms, penning his memoirs. His mind was only half dedicated to his work, as the other half was occupied with solving a conundrum he'd recently uncovered.
Mastery of the Kaleidoscope granted more than the ability to travel between parallel dimensions—it was the operation of parallel dimensions. When he fully applied it, he could learn every pertinent detail about any reality he desired. It granted a certain degree of omniscience.
This was a great and powerful ability, but it came at a cost. He had once been a young and promising magus that searched for Akasha like all the others. His chosen field of study was uncovering the nature of reality. With his talent, he surpassed his peers by leaps and bounds until with one final experiment he found it. Unfortunately, attempting to fully understand the twisting nature of the omniverse shattered his mind.
As such, rather than use his power over all possible realities to improve them or further his former research into Akasha, he mostly used it for his own amusement.
Of course, he did hold some measure of responsibility towards his home dimension. When Crimson Moon Brunestud had attempted to destroy the earth by crashing the moon into it, he had called upon the power of the multiverse to defeat the threat, but the strain had severely crippled his ability to use the Kaleidoscope to its true potential. Even when he became a Dead Apostle Ancestor however, he didn't let it alter his pro-humanity stance.
When the Holy Grail War was first being established, he'd assisted the three founding families in creating both the system and the rules. It was this very ritual that was now causing him headaches.
If the information he'd gleaned from the Kaleidoscope was to be believed—and he had little reason to doubt it—the Einzberns had attempted to cheat at some point during the Third War. Their endeavors had somehow caused the Holy Grail to be infected with the Zoroastrian god of evil, of all things. He shook his head, wondering what madness caused the Einzberns to let an evil deity possess their precious Grail.
Then again, perhaps he should not be throwing stones when it came to madness.
Now with the Fourth War coming to a close, the situation was just being exacerbated. Kiritsugu Emiya, the famous Magus Killer, was going to uncover the Grail's corruption and would attempt to destroy it. He would be unsuccessful, of course, and the Matou would pick up the pieces for use in the next war.
Without intervention, the Fifth Grail War would bring an end to humanity. In most universes, what kept this from happening was the intervention of one Shirou Emiya—the adopted son of the Magus Killer. The boy would, through any number of means, bring about both a permanent end for the war and the destruction of Angra Mainyu. Zelretch's frustration stemmed from his universe having no such figure.
Direct interference would do no good, unfortunately. In his weakened state, he could not afford to go toe-to-toe with a god—and it was not his style in the first place. He was always more of a passive observer. If he was forced to step in and sort this war out, he would not do so directly; he would find someone to do it for him.
Slumping down at his desk, he closed his eyes and opened up the channel to to the omniverse. Infinite realities flashed before his eyes, but he narrowed his search to find what he sought. He needed someone young enough to be easily inserted into the war—preferably someone with magical ability as well. Of course, Zelretch was not a heartless individual, so he also expanded his search to include those orphaned and suffering abuse; he didn't was to take a child from a loving family.
A Grail War was no easy thing to win either, he thought; with that in mind, he added the fields of cunning, intelligence, and magical power.
Due to the nature of the omniverse, even with these qualifiers the number of candidates were still theoretically infinite. Faced with such a monumental decision—a decision that may very well decide the fate of his entire world—he handled it with all of the wisdom and maturity expected of one in his position.
"Eeny, meeny, miny, moe," he hummed as he put one hand over his eyes. At the end, his finger rested on the visual representation of one particular universe, and a boy living in it; a universe of witches and wizards, and a boy nobody thought would ever amount to anything.
Chuckling, the Wizard Marshall donned his coat and vanished in a flash of colors.
Six-year old Harry Potter sniffled as he tried to wipe away the blood from his nose. For the second time this week, his uncle had beat him and thrown him out of the house. He still didn't know why all of this had started. Before two years ago, his aunt and uncle had absolutely doted on him, throwing him a massive party for his fourth birthday. His little cousin Dudley had just been born a few weeks ago, and Aunt Petunia had let him hold the infant.
Being a newborn, Dudley had thrown up all over Harry. That was when the strangeness, as Uncle Vernon had screamed to him, happened. He'd been disgusted by the baby's vomit, and after carefully handing Dudley back to Aunt Petunia, they went upstairs to change his shirt so he could get back to his party.
Except, he hadn't needed to change shirts. As they reached his bedroom, he felt this twisting sensation in his stomach, almost making him sick himself, and when he looked down his cousin's vomit was gone. Aunt Petunia had just stood there, staring at him with wide and horrified eyes. She screamed for Uncle Vernon, and when he came upstairs to learn what all the fuss was about, Aunt Petunia whispered something in his ear.
Uncle Vernon's face went white, then green, before finally deciding on purple. He stomped downstairs, loudly and violently declaring that the party was over and shouting for everyone to leave his house.
Once the house was empty, Vernon had whirled on Harry and dragged him by the collar of his shirt down the stairs. After a moment of consideration, he shoved Harry in the cupboard under the stairs and placed a chair in front of the door to keep it shut. Harry had pounded on the door to no avail, before slumping against the wall, weeping.
As he lay in the darkness with the dust and the spiders, he could hear Uncle Vernon and Aunt Petunia loudly arguing. He didn't understand much of what they were talking about, but he heard some.
"We were promised, Pet, that this boy would have absolutely no freakishness about him! None! That was why they wanted to pawn him off to us! Didn't want a normal boy raised among freaks! We took him in on that merit and treated him like a son, and this is how he repays us? By betraying that trust and letting his freakishness loose? I won't have it Pet, I won't have it!"
"Vernon, dear, it's not like we can just give the boy back. The old man, Dumbledore, said that my sister and her husband were going to hiding. Something about some evil freak. If they're hiding themselves from their fellow freaks, we certainly won't be able to find them. No, our only hope is that they'll come for him when he turns eleven. That's when Lily got her letter from that school. If we hold onto him until then, we can send him back to his kind."
Harry heard his uncle let loose a snarl of frustration and he heard what sounded like a fist hitting a table.
"I'll go along with this, Pet, but that doesn't mean I have to like it. I'm going to make that freak regret forcing his way into our lives and betraying our trust. I'll beat the freakishness out of him if I have to."
"I've no qualms about that dear. None at all."
It was another day before Uncle Vernon had opened the door of the cupboard, but that was only to let Harry use the bathroom.
"Don't want some freak stinking up my house with his mess," his uncle had muttered. When Harry tried to ask what was going on, his uncle had just hit him and shoved him into the bathroom.
This pretty much set the tone for the next two years. He had virtually no communication with his aunt or uncle. If he talked, he was hit. If he cried, he was hit. If he tried to get more food than the scraps his uncle tossed him, he was hit. Once he was "fed" and let use the bathroom, he was locked in the cupboard once again.
The only notable diversions from this routine were when he had an incident of "freakishness". Those were never fun. They were what had Harry in his current situation. Uncle Vernon had tossed him a scrap of toast, but Harry had been so hungry that he felt that dreaded twisting sensation—the next thing he knew he was holding an entire loaf's worth of toast. His uncle immediately noticed it, and the usual routine commenced. His belt came off, and the metal caught Harry in the nose. He fell to his knees, eyes watering. His vision could gone hazy, but he could make out his uncle's purple face screaming at him.
He definitely felt something break when his uncle's foot caught him right in the ribs. Fortunately, they were already miraculously healed from when this had happened a few days ago.
"OUT!" his uncle roared, and Harry's breathing was cut off as his uncle snatched the back of his collar and started dragging him towards the door—voluntarily or involuntarily choking him. Harry went limp, knowing that there was no fighting it. Sleeping on the floor of the cupboard was bad, but at least it was warm and dry. Any incident of freakishness had him locked in the garden shed for a few days.
When the door of the shed shut and Harry heard the snap of the padlock, he started doing his best to treat his wounds. His nose and ribs definitely felt broken, but that was alright. As the one saving grace of his freakishness, whenever he went to sleep whatever injuries he had were usually healed in the morning. What really scared him was that his bouts of freakishness were becoming alarmingly more frequent. He wasn't sure how much longer his uncle would tolerate it before doing something... drastic.
"You're entirely right, you know," came a voice behind him. Harry scrambled against the wall of the shed and tried to make out the person standing on the opposite end. It was very dark, but he could just make out the silhouette of a tall man. He considered calling for his uncle, but he wasn't sure if his uncle would hear him—or care.
"W-what?" Harry asked, terrified.
"You're right," the voice replied, "On both counts. Your incidents of accidental magic are increasing in frequency. At the rate you're going, I project your death at the hands of your uncle inside about a month."
Harry gasped. He hadn't said that out loud. Was this man reading his mind? He saw a magician on the telly once that could read minds, but Uncle Vernon had turned it off as soon as he saw it. Still, it was worth a question.
"Are you a magician?" he asked, still scared—but also excited at the prospect. From nowhere, a bright light illuminated the interior of the shed. The man stepped forward, and in the light Harry could see the man's red eyes and gleeful smile. The suspicion started welling up in Harry that this man was slightly... barmy as Aunt Petunia would likely put it, or 'a bloody nutter,' as Uncle Vernon almost certainly would.
"Why yes," the man announced with the tone of the only one understanding a joke, "Yes I am. I'm the best magician ever—famous for it, in fact."
The man knelt down in front of Harry to get on eye-level with him.
"So tell me, Harry Potter, how would you like to become a magician too?"
The Wizard Marshall returned to his apartments with a happy little skip in his step. The boy he'd... borrowed fit all of the criteria he'd been seeking—a tad naive, but the boy was six. He laid his new charge on a worktable and used a bout of Structural Analysis to check the boy's health and magic.
One stipulation he'd placed on his search of the Kaleidoscope was that the target's magic be compatible with that of magi. Bearing that in mind, he examined the wizarding approximation of magical circuits. From what he could gather, rather than having numerous magical circuits distributed throughout their body that generated prana on use, wizards had a single massive magical core, which had a pre-existing reserve prana that recharged passively. As such, wizards had better endurance while magi had access to more power at once.
Of course, the stipulation of only a single magical outlet severely hindered a wizard's ability to practice their magic without the use of a mystic code. They seemed to compensate for this by crafting amplification mystic codes from the remains of inherently-magical phantasmal beasts like dragons or phoenixes.
Now, getting such materials would be a problem in a universe where the average phantasmal beast was either extinct or godlike in power. Not to mention, young Harry's magical system would have to pass for magecraft. The obvious solution to this was to modify the boy's core and stretch it out into a circuit system.
After all, he was the Wizard Marshall. How hard could it be?
Six hours and four instances of cardiac arrest later, Harry's magical core had been converted into a network of exactly one hundred high-quality magical circuits. Upon consideration, another cunning plan worked its way into the condensed frivolity that was Zelretch's brain.
It had been so long since he'd last had an apprentice. Ever since the last one had been eaten by a shoggoth, Lorelei had put her foot down and told him that she wasn't sending any more promising magi to be used as interdimensional cannon fodder. Zelretch had sighed, and accepted that. On the surface, at least.
His eyes glanced down to the boy on his impromptu operating table. He was already outsourcing; what was the harm in testing a little theory he'd been working out? It was related to the effects of a True Magic on a magical crest. The purpose of any crest was to both transfer magical energy in the form of circuits and pre-made spells devised by the wielders of the crest.
But would True Magic work on a crest?
Only one way to find out, Zelretch decided.
A greatly pained Zelretch wheezed as he sunk down into a chair. A fair number of his magical circuits had been disabled by the fight with Crimson Moon, but that didn't necessarily mean that they wouldn't work for anyone else.
That thought in mind, he'd excruciatingly carved out twenty-five inert circuits and formed them into a family crest. He refrained from infusing them with the Kaleidoscope, however. If anyone took a look at the crest in its current form, it would just appear to be a formation of circuits; but with a True Magic in them, his charge would fall under much greater scrutiny.
For the moment, he decided that he'd done as much as he could for the boy. He'd briefed Harry on his upcoming downturn in living accommodations, and promised that there would come a day where all would be well.
After two years of abuse at the hands of the Dursleys, Harry was still eager for the opportunity. Zelretch wished he could have explained in detail the trials the boy would face, but he knew that it was a poor decision and that the boy's mind wouldn't change.
It was too late to intervene in the Fourth War, and doing so wouldn't matter. The dominoes that would spark the Fifth War had already fallen, so all Zelretch could do was go down the line and stick in his own piece.
"Good luck," he whispered as he laid a hand on Harry's face and utilized the Kaleidoscope to send him on his way.
Harry's world was fire, and blood, and smoke.
He was engulfed in a fire so large that the very word lost its meaning. On bare feet, he wandered through the blaze in a complete daze.
With unfocused and smoke-filled eyes he watched the suffering surrounding him: a mother clutched her children as a house collapsed on them, a teenager desperately tried to pull his brother free from some beams only to be consumed as a gas main detonated the street, a boy around Harry's age clutched the blackened stump of his mother's hand as the life faded from her eyes.
Despite it all, Harry realized that he felt nothing for these people. No pity, no sadness, no pain.
The thought didn't even scare him, the thought of feeling nothing.
The last thing Harry saw was a trenchcoat-wearing man stumbling through the inferno much as Harry himself was. He was about to call out to the man when he heard a creaking and the house above him collapsed right on top of him.
Zouken Matou strode through the smoldering ruins of Fuyuki City without a care in the world. Since that pathetic excuse for a magus Emiya had destroyed that Grail, he was forced to scavenge the ashes for the pieces of it.
As he approached the center of the city, he felt pulses of prana emanating from the pile of burnt scrap that was once a building. He couldn't believe his luck as he sent his familiars to search the wreckage. When instead of shattered pieces of the Grail, his familiars instead fed him images of an unconscious boy, Zouken couldn't help but be surprised.
Out of curiosity, he had his worms clear the debris away so that he could make a closer inspection. A pulse of Structural Analysis revealed that this boy had one hundred and twenty-five magical circuits of startling quality. For a first-generation magus, this was unprecedented, but that was the only possible explanation for this boy.
The impressive array of circuits had never been activated, so he'd received no training in magecraft thus far, and were he part of a family they would have already begun transferring the crest to him. Instead, this boy was a blank slate.
He was just about to command his familiars to devour the boy and assimilate his energy when a particularly devious thought wormed its way into his head.
Kariya had failed in his role as a Master due to inexperience and weakness. Zouken's current plan was to use have his newest acquisition, Sakura, marry his grandson Shinji and rebuild the Makiri clan. Of course, this brought about the problem that Shinji was worthless as both a magus and a person. Any future built on Shinji's blood would be forever tainted.
This boy before him presented an opportunity that was unlikely to occur again. Before him was the key to both winning the next Grail War and revitalizing the Makiri line.
Yes, it seemed that young Sakura's marriage prospects had just radically altered.
Now the boy just needed to be trained.
Sakura's world was pain, and screaming, and worms.
For the last three days she'd lain in this pit, being devoured inside and out by her new grandfather's worms. Her body and mind had been wholly violated in ways the five year old didn't even know possible. She'd been screaming for so long it was no longer even a conscious action.
The pain never ended. Even after three days of exposure the pain didn't dull. Every erratic pulse brought a new wave of fresh, unfamiliar pain throughout her body. It was as if the worms were entertaining themselves by devising new ways to inflict pain on her and shatter her mind.
She barely even twitched when she heard the clack of her grandfather's cane descending the steps towards the worm pit.
Perhaps before all of this, the sound might have inspired hope of a reprieve, but not anymore. She was broken. Instead, she just laid there dully while the sound drifted closer.
"You've done well, granddaughter, more than I expected than of you," came her grandfather's rasping voice, "As congratulations, I bring both good news and a surprise."
Over the chittering of the worms, she heard the heavy thump of something meaty being dropped on the stone floor next to her grandfather.
"I've brought you a playmate, dear. Isn't that wonderful?" he sneered. With a lazy shove of his foot, the boy fell into the pit next to her and the worms dove into him with glee. He screamed and writhed in pain as the worms ate their way inside him.
Zouken looked on in obvious sadistic delight at seeing his familiars at work, "Also, the good news is that once you're both accustomed to the worms, your 'lessons' with them will be reduced to weekly. Instead, young Harry here will take your place every night."
The tapping of the cane began departing back up the stairs.
"Do sleep well," Zouken tossed over his shoulder as he departed, barely audible over Harry's cries of agony.
With her grandfather's departure, Sakura glanced over to the newcomer in the pit. Their eyes met at the same time, and she watched as he seemed to, through a concentrated effort, stop screaming.
Green eyes met purple, and a single hand grasped Sakura's.
She stopped screaming as well.
Twelve years later, two lovers lay in post-coital bliss.
A gasping Sakura shifted herself further into Harry's arms as he trailed his fingers through her beautiful violet hair. He was breathing heavily as well—a result of their fifth round that day.
An interesting fact of Zouken's crest worms was that they had almost inverse effects on men and women. In men like Harry, they fed on various parts of the body and produced prana in return. Since Kariya had needed to be taken from an untrained magus to a master ready for the Grail War in a matter of months, Zouken had more or less let his worms have their way with him. With Harry, however, Zouken was taking his time to avoid unnecessary damage.
Harry glanced down ruefully to his emaciated leg as he thought of this.
Despite Zouken's 'restraint', the worms had severed most of the nerves in his right leg, rendering it little more than useless flesh. The leg was atrophied, and Harry doubted that he'd regain usage of it even if he could remove the worms and heal it. The other sacrifice had been his left eye as the worms ate the set of nerves connecting it to his brain. He'd had to steal some research on gemcraft from the Tohsaka's in order to craft a replacement.
From a roughly round emerald, he'd modified it to both resemble his functioning eye, and enchanted it with the same rituals that enabled a magus to see through the eyes of their familiars, along with a few other minor tweaks.
What took careful management was his prana capacity. Whenever his body was deprived of the prana that the worms liked to bask in, they grew agitated and would start nibbling on him. If left deprived, their attacks would grow more malicious and start doing irreparable damage.
In a woman, like Sakura, the worms had something of the opposite effect. Sakura's worms were mostly passive as they slowly accumulated prana. When her body had enough prana in it to incite the worms, they would release a powerful aphrodisiac into her bloodstream. It had caused her great... distress around the time she'd turned thirteen, so Harry had taken it upon himself to... reprieve her.
'Although,' Harry thought as he traced her naked form with his unoccupied hand and she let out a satisfied purr, 'it's not exactly a great sacrifice...'
Thus, they performed their little ritual at least once a week. Sakura would transfer her accumulated prana into him through this tantric ritual, and Harry would store the transferred prana into his worms to both satisfy them and tap into later should he need it.
Through this cooperation, both kept their worms pacified and constrained.
Of course, Harry thought as he finally caught his breath, sometimes the aphrodisiac took quite a while to wear off. He was reminded of this when Sakura slid back on top and smothered his lips with her own.
Harry was glad to reciprocate.
After another two rounds, Sakura let Harry off. Weekends like today were some of the only times Harry could get some sleep free of school or the worms he'd have to face tonight. Thus, with his final climax, she'd given him one final long, passionate kiss and asked him to get some rest before tonight. He'd happily obliged as his head plopped onto the pillow almost instantly.
She smiled, looking down at him, before catching herself guiltily.
She didn't deserve to be happy, especially not about this. With a sigh, she slid out of the bed and padded over to the bathroom, where she drew herself a hot bath.
As she soaked in the steaming water, her guilt flooded her once again.
Sakura Matou loved Harry. It was a fact she'd known since he first took her hand in the pit. Through her shattered mind, a single beacon of light had shone in the form of Harry. Ever since that day, he'd become the focal point of her life. As far as she was concerned, the sun only rose in the morning and set at night because of Harry.
Once their grandfather removed them from the pit after two straight weeks, she'd done everything she could to show her gratitude.
When she first started going through puberty, the worms started... reacting to her. At first, she'd tried to ignore it—to put it off, but eventually it had become too much for her to bear. Her body cried for Harry, but she couldn't bring herself to beg him for that. She feared letting him know just how filthy a person she was on the inside, unable to control her own urges. So, instead, she'd gone to Shinji, who had gladly obliged by ripping off her skirt and forcing her onto the bed.
She had screamed in surprise and apparently alerted Harry, because the next thing she knew Shinji was on the floor and Harry was raining blows on him. Once Shinji lost consciousness, Harry brought Sakura to one of the empty bedrooms, sat her down, and demanded an explanation.
Unable to contain herself, she had broken down crying and begged him to take her.
It sickened her to think that it had been the most wonderful night of her entire life. She had forced Harry to lay with a dirty, defiled thing like her and was happy about it. Her only consolation was that he derived at least some pleasure from it. He was certainly affectionate, and she tried to repay him by doing her best to please and pleasure him.
Worthless as it was, her body was really the only thing she could offer him apart from her love.
Two fingers slipped inside her unbidden at the thought of him, and she suppressed a moan. She didn't want to wake him before he'd have to return to the pit.
Later that night, Harry was brought back from his blissful unconsciousness by the telltale clacking of Zouken's approach. He suppressed a grimace as his sitting up agitated the worms of the pit. Looking up, he saw Zouken standing at the edge of the pit with Sakura next to him.
"Rise and shine, my boy," Zouken chimed with false cheer, "Today is a special day!"
The words brought a shudder to Harry. There was only one thing that could get Zouken this excited.
The Grail War.
He knew that it had been close by, of course. The old man had recently purchased the unique reagents for a summoning circle, and had doubled down on Harry and Sakura's lessons. Still, the knowledge that his end of the bargain with the decrepit worm was coming up did not put him at ease.
"Today marks the culmination of your last twelve years of training, my boy. Aren't you excited?"
"Of course, grandfather," Harry replied amicably. The way he saw it, the more civil he was with the worm, the less suspicion he would be under when Harry finally slipped a knife in those bony little ribs.
"Delightful," Zouken sneered, "The reagents for the summoning are in the workshop, along with a modified incantation for the summoning. I trust you won't disappoint me?"
Harry smiled once again, "Of course not, grandfather."
Without another word, Zouken nodded and departed out of the basement.
Once the old man was gone, Harry limped through the worms to the staircase that allowed exit from the pit. He stopped at the stairs, and retrieved his cane from the hook it typically resided on during his 'rest'.
The cane itself was an unadorned thing, a simple matte black stick with a silver handle. Of course, Harry had deliberately designed it to be unimposing. The interior of the stick was where the real power lay. It was hollow, and its entirety had been painstakingly inscribed with the most powerful amplification runes Harry could get his hands on. In themselves, the runes increased the power of any magecraft he enacted using the cane as a mystic code by several orders of magnitude.
Additionally, the handle could be pulled from the cane in a pinch, which doubled as the handle for a dagger made from the same emerald as his eye. He was too crippled to make much use of the dagger in a straight up fight, but he'd been steadily filling both it and the crest worms with as much prana as he safely could over the years, often supplementing it with the prana given to him by Sakura during their rituals.
As much as he hated to admit it, the crest worms were very effective magical crests. They not only functioned as artificial magic circuits, but they also served the same function as Tohsaka jewels in storing prana. Twelve years worth of power had built up quite the prana battery in the worms.
Still, the benefits weren't worth the toll they took on his body.
Regardless, with his cane in hand he limped up the stairs and joined Sakura to get started with the summoning.
In an empty room of the Matou basement that Harry had converted into his workshop, he and Sakura had just finished drawing out the ornate summoning circle. Sitting on Harry's desk was a note with a modified summoning incantation. Without knowing the original, Harry couldn't tell what the purposes of the changes were for.
After checking the circle for the fourth time, Harry leaned on his cane and straightened his back. It was rather sore from hunching over so much.
He took one final, cursory examination of the circle to ensure that nothing was wrong with it. The thought of Zouken's reaction to him failing the summoning was less than pleasant.
With a quick jerk, Harry pulled the handle free from his cane and the emerald dagger attached to it. He shifted his weight onto his left leg, and with the knife he sliced an even cut across his palm before replacing the dagger in the cane.
The air in the room heated as Harry activated his circuits and began enriching his blood with prana.
He extended his hand, allowing blood to steadily drip onto the circle.
"For the elements silver and iron. For the foundation, stone, and the archduke of contracts. For the ancestor, my great master Schweinorg. Close the gates of the cardinal directions."
Each drip of blood caused the circle to pulse with prana. Harry felt the worms shift slightly in response to the circulation of prana.
"Come forth from the Crown, and follow the forked road to the Kingdom."
Harry's veins bulged as the crest worms squirmed in agitation.
"Fill. Fill. Fill. Fill. Fill."
With each repetition, Harry let loose another drop of blood.
"Repeat five times. But when each is filled, destroy it. Set.
He gritted his teeth as the worms let known their displeasure at him using so much prana in one go.
"Heed my words."
The light from the circle was increasing in brightness, almost difficult to look at.
"My will creates your body, and your sword creates my destiny."
At this point, the prana draw from the circle doubled. Harry started drawing the stored prana from the dagger to compensate.
"If you heed the Grail's call and obey my will and reason, then answer me."
A particularly painful surge from the crest worms made Harry twitch, but he persevered.
"I hereby swear..."
His circuits were burning now with the amount of prana he was producing through them. He thought he smelled smoke.
"That I shall be all that is good in the world"
One of the worms took an agonizing bite out of something in his spine, and he lurched forward to his good knee to keep from falling.
"That I shall defeat all that is evil in the world"
His breath was coming in short gasps from the pain, and the worms were racing around his body excruciatingly.
"But let chaos cloud thine eyes. Thou who art trapped in a cage of madness."
A pounding headache was setting in, and Harry's vision was getting blurry in his right eye.
"And let thine step be soft, and thine ways unseen. I shall be the one to hold thy chains"
The worms were screeching in their own pain now, and Harry felt them start eating him from the inside in their desperation to escape the drain he was placing on them. His vision flashed white from the pain as they started ripping through various nerves. His muscles spasmed but he managed to choke out the final line.
"You seven heavens, clad in the three great words of power, come forth from the circle of binding... Guardian of the Scales!"
During one of his first magecraft lessons with Zouken, Harry finally worked up the nerve to ask.
"Grandfather," he sighed exasperatedly, "I must ask. Why, precisely, are you training me in such a manner?"
Zouken looked down at Harry with an expression reserved for particularly slow children.
"Tsk tsk my boy. Questioning you elders?" he sneered.
Harry glared back, but held his tongue. His new 'grandfather' had any number of ways to express his displeasure that Harry was not excited to have another run in with.
"Please," he pleaded sycophantically, "I just want to make sense of my role to the Makiri family."
"Oh very well," the old man smirked benevolently, "I suppose it is time you understand you role in events to come."
Harry listened attentively as Zouken detailed the history of the Grail War, culminating with a description of the outcome of the recent Fourth Grail War. Slowly, the information clicked.
"You want me to become the Makiri Master in the next Grail War, don't you?" he deduced.
"Good," Zouken crowed mockingly, "you're learning. I knew I made a good decision plucking you from those ruins."
With this confirmed, Harry began thinking of ways to use this for his and Sakura's advantage. With an artifact like the Holy Grail in play, there were any number of ways for him to get out from under Zouken's thumb. Root, he could even just refuse to participate or deliberately throw it.
It seemed as if his poker face wasn't quite good enough for Zouken, as the man idly noted that, "Should circumstances conspire to prevent you from participating, I shall be forced to consider other options. Options like dear sweet Sakura..."
An unspoken bargain was struck that day. In exchange for Harry's willing cooperation and victory in the Grail War, he and Sakura would be free to go their own way following it so long as they continued the Makiri line.
Of course, Harry didn't trust Zouken as far as he could throw him. As such, he'd been thinking up... contingencies.
Dwelling in the Throne of Heroes were a great many spirits of famous legends, many of whom were heroes.
One such spirit felt the call of the Grail. Typically he ignored such things as he had no regrets in life that he felt would be solved by the Grail, until something stopped him. It was the realization that the summoning was being performed without a catalyst. It meant that the Root of the World had taken the measure of the summoner's existence and decided that he was the heroic spirit needed for the summoner.
Out of curiosity, the spirit looked further into the connection. The summoner was a boy, on the cusp of manhood. The boy was a protector, crippling himself for the sake of a young girl that he had to take care of from their sadistic grandfather.
As he felt out his summoner, his mind drew links between the boy and his own children.
The ones he'd been forced to slaughter. At the hands of that witch.
He'd fallen to madness for most of his remaining life. Only in death had the red haze departed and he could truly look back on his life.
One particular aspect of the summoning he noticed was that it had been modified to summon a Berserker. He chuckled, despite himself.
Yes, he decided. He personally had no wish for the Grail, but this boy needed, of all the heroic spirits of the Throne, Heracles.
Dwelling in the Throne of Heroes were a great many spirits of famous legends, many of whom were not heroes.
One such spirit was drifting in a trance through the blackness. She was still puzzling out where she had failed in life. It was too many times, she decided. She failed to meet the maturity of her peers. She failed to serve Allah. She failed to become Hassan-i-Sabbah.
And the worst part, she dies and finds out that it was all for nothing. The closest thing out there to Allah was Alaya, which was naught but a disembodied force that kept humanity from dying.
All that faith, all that pain, all that struggling.
Her mind broke and she wept. Her faith, the pillar of her existence, had shattered like so much dust in the wind.
Typically, this sort of pain and madness would drive one to take their own life, but even that option was denied to her. Thanks to her association with the Hassan-i-Sabbah, she was considered part of the legend and thus imprisoned eternally in this Throne of Heroes.
So she wept. Until she felt a tendril of... something reach out for her. Almost certain that it was an illusion, she reached out for it, and felt him. It was a man: brave, determined, and powerful. His magnificence covered her like a soothing blanket. She wasn't sure how, but she knew that he was calling out to her—specifically her. He was calling her, out of all people across the void of death, to serve him. A new target called for her devotion. A new Master.
What could she answer but yes? The Master called for Zealot, and she would answer.
The circle erupted in red fire, but Harry could scarcely see it through the black that was encroaching in on his vision. He collapsed to the floor as he felt two consciousnesses link up to his.
Six inches from the floor, he was caught by a pair of enormous hands. An invisible presence knelt before him.
Harry lost his grip on consciousness.