A massive thank you to my amazing beta Draconic! He has a wonderful collection of Nasuverse writings himself so go over and check them out after you're finished here.
There are two types of people in the world.
Those who have the Second Magic and can travel through the infinite dimensions (frequently referred to as myself)… and those who lack such abilities and sometimes find themselves—whether cognizant of it or not—subject to the whims of the first category (most often referred to as everyone else).
Now, the thing to understand about a person who possesses the Second Magic, and a possibly infinite lifespan—one of the few things I still don't know, because I've never felt the need to test it—is that at a certain point, one realizes that they've seen… well, everything there is to see. Or has come very close to doing so.
And sometimes… well…
I get dreadfully, intolerably bored.
In a modest apartment in London, Rin Tohsaka happily hummed as she put the finishing touches on dinner. Though breakfast was typically one of her boyfriend's responsibilities in the relationship since waking up in the morning was something of an anti-talent of hers, other meals were typically fair game. Today was her turn. It was also the anniversary of his adoption by Kiritsugu Emiya, which, since he didn't remember his actual birthday, she had decided to celebrate with him. As such, there was no way she was letting him work for her this evening… outside of certain… specific activities, of course. She shook a few indecent thoughts from her head. She still needed to focus on the soup pot or she might ruin this particular dish, and then it would just be a weapon. Like at that restaurant at Mount Miyama.
Regardless of what day it was, Shirou had protested, of course. Apparently, he thought he was going to be cooking every night this week, and had supposedly wanted to make tuna steaks, but she'd eventually gotten him to concede and let her give it a shot. She'd never actually made tuna steaks before, but she was more than confident in her cooking ability and was more than eager to give it a go.
Naturally, they turned out perfectly, though she suspected that one was a little overcooked near the edge, so she made a mental note to be more careful while grilling them next time. And speaking of time, she still figured she could churn out another dish before Shirou got suspicious about what was taking her so long, so she'd decided to use what was left of the tofu. Given Shirou's nature to be a self-sacrificing idiot, she supposed she should have been grateful he'd agreed to leave the apartment at all until she called him.
Although she did have a sneaking suspicion that he might have just been using this as a test of whether she'd actually figured out how to use her cell phone.
Shows what he knew. She'd only misdialed a drunken pub-crawler once that month… and a barber shop… and some old woman speaking Mandarin… and by some weird coincidence Ayako Mitsuzuri's dorm room in Mifune where she was going to university, that was a nice, if awkward, conversation—but none of that mattered!
After all, the familiars she'd sent to spy on Luvia had informed her the Finnish bitch had accidentally called two electronics stores, the United States' Mexican Embassy, and a sex line. Ha! Sex lines were totally worth six drunks.
Her good mood soured a moment as she felt a brief pang of homesickness. She missed her old landline. At least that one made sense and never stopped working for some arbitrary reason… what the hell did it mean by 'out of batteries?' She might not be a genius, but she knew what a battery looked like, and that cell phone didn't even have anything to open up as far as she could tell.
Oh, who cared, her side dish was almost finished and then she'd call Shirou back. Not to mention, accident it might have been, but she'd still figured out that she could just press '1' and it'd call Shirou automatically. The phone called it 'quick dial' or something like that. No, it was 'speed dial.' See, she could remember things about technology.
With a new spring in her step, Rin scooped two bowls of Mapo Tofu out of the pot and set them down on the dining table. She looked over the array of dishes she'd prepared with a satisfied smirk. Even Shirou would have to commend her culinary skills when it came to cuisine from their homeland. At least that damn priest was good for something, even if it was introducing her to a dish. And she did have a particular talent for making spicy food, after all.
She could certainly do it better than the maniac running that restaurant.
She thought about her father's murderer screaming in hell and her grin expanded into a smile of blissful serenity. Oh, what a lovely day.
A series of three knocks sounded from the door.
Rin sighed, her head shaking bemusedly as she made her way to the door. If Shirou hadn't been able to keep away from the house like he'd promised, at least he had the decency not to come barging in with his key.
Still, she was about to share a warm meal with the man she loved while imagining the humiliating desolation of her enemies. How could anything spoil her good mood?
She opened the door with a smile. "Honestly Shirou, I am perfectly capable of cooking a simple—"
"Apprentice, we have a problem."
Rin's mouth slammed shut, her eyes wide at the sight before her.
Shirou was not at the door. Instead, there was a being who, as far as most people in the world could tell, was only a haggard old man.
Rin knew better.
Before her was Kischur Zelretch Schweinorg. The Wizard Marshall. The Old Man of the Jewels. The Wizard of the Second True Magic. The Kaleidoscope.
Her insane teacher who never did anything normal because it was uninspired.
And instead of appearing in her home in a flash of light, he had knocked on her door and waited for her to open it.
Rin immediately stepped aside. "Come in, master."
Zelretch nodded and did just that. The Dead Apostle Ancestor wadded over to the fully set dining room table and plopped himself down into a seat. The dark look in his eyes momentarily lifted as he idly smelled the food spread out before him. "Hmm, not bad. I hope you don't mind that I bought Burger King on the way over."
He raised a paper bag that seemed to appear out of nowhere and started gobbling down the contents. "Ah yes, chicken fries. Always a delight."
Rin silently moved before her teacher. "Master, what's wrong?"
Zelretch immediately stopped gorging himself and readopted his grave expression. "Ah yes, that. Well, my dear apprentice, there is a cataclysm afoot. A danger that, if not stopped, could spell the utter annihilation of all life in the world, nay, perhaps the multiverse."
Rin gulped, her hands gripping the back of her chair until her knuckles turned white. What catastrophe could possibly make Zelretch behave so solemnly? Had Alaya lost control of the Counter Force? Had Gaia finally decided to wipe out humanity? Was some ancient collective of demons possessing the long dead body of one of the greatest mages to ever practice the art about to complete a ritual more than a thousand years in the making that would erase all existence?!
Okay, that last one was a bit out there, but what could possibly be so serious as to—
Rin plummeted to the floor in shock. Slowly, she recollected herself and stumbled back to her feet using her chair for support. "Come again, master?"
Zelretch took a pensive bite out of another chicken fry.
"I'm terribly bored, my dear apprentice.
When one is as old as I, one reaches
A point at which one feels that they've seen all
That can be seen. Been around for too much.
I've bore witness to so many events,
Acquired so very many mysteries
That I now often feel as though there is
Nothing left that can bring forth new wonders.
I've arrived at this dread point once again.
I entreat thine aid that I might stay sane."
He paused for a moment before scowling and taking another bite of fast food. "Good God, not even speaking in Iambic Pentameter helps!
"Though I'll admit that verse was improvised
And as such, it was rather shoddy work.
Hmm… it seems that this is harder to stop
Than I had at first anticipated…
It doesn't help that the part about my
Sanity is also inaccurate."
"Well…madness comes in many forms, Master," Rin said uncertainly.
"That was ten syllables, Miss Tohsaka,
You aren't helping me cease this nonsense!
If this progresses, I'll need recompense.
It's a waste of time, and worse yet, it's a
Mere distraction from the real narrative.
Don't think there won't be consequences if
I keep going like this for much longer.
It's getting rather exhausting, really.
Can you please just help me stop!"
"Blast it! Just stop finishing the couplets!"
"It wasn't intentional!" Rin squeaked.
Zelretch sighed. "Thank you, apprentice. Much better. But the problem remains. I am dreadfully, cripplingly bored."
Rin let her face fall into her palm. If she was dealing with literally anyone else, she would have torn them apart for getting her so worked up for nothing. But Zelretch was her teacher, the teacher of her ancestors, and a figure of legend for magi. He had instructed the Three Founding Families in the design and construction of the Holy Grail War. He had saved the entire world multiple times!
Also, he had come up with that on the spot?! She repeated his verses over in her head just to confirm that it really was Iambic Pentameter. It was.
To be his student was an honor beyond compare. Even if she had to put up with his eccentricities. And Luvia.
"This is truly a state of affairs that I cannot abide," he continued. "Perhaps it would have been best had I stayed on the world's other side… Oh, still rhyming…"
"I am… very sorry, master" she spoke diplomatically. "But… look… I'm really not sure how I can help remedy this."
Zelretch's mouth shot up into a smile Rin was much more accustomed to seeing. He grinned as a spark that spoke of insanity glinted behind the genius' eyes.
"Ah, but my dear apprentice, I did, in fact, come here with a purpose. There is a very simple way for you to help your beloved master. You won the Holy Grail War, did you not?"
Rin hesitantly nodded. While she had technically been the last Master standing, she wouldn't really say she'd won the war. Without Shirou to handle Gilgamesh, she doubted she could have done anything that fateful night at Ryuudou Temple.
"Well… I… survived, I suppose."
"That you did! Now, here is what I propose: There's a very exciting one taking place on a much larger scale that I've found taking place at the same time as yours did, though in an alternate reality. Now, I've seen how it plays out, and it is a rather dull affair, truth be told, and that is just unacceptable today. Therefore, I'd like to send you to participate in it. By my estimation, that should add a little spice, if you will. I'm sure you'll do fine. Your significant other who you don't want anyone to know has a Reality Marble has already agreed to it."
Zelretch gave her a good natured, if mischievous smile that she really, really did not like.
"Have fun! Don't forget to be cautious. Tread lightly and all that. Good luck!"
Rin's eyes widened. "Wait, hold on! What are you—"
And then her master snapped his fingers and she disappeared in a flash of light.
Shirou knelt down and examined the summoning sigil. It had been drawn in blood across an artificially flattened boulder on the grassy hill he'd landed on when he'd arrived. The freshly slaughtered… thing… the blood had come from—from his approximation, it was some sort of phantasmal beast with the body of a cow and the head of a gigantic rat—was laying in the grass a few meters away. If memory served, the complex mystical circle seemed identical to the one he'd called forth Saber from… or… what he'd assumed was what he'd summoned her from. He'd found the intricate carving in his shed floor well after the fact when he was packing up to move to London. When he had left Fuyuki for the Clock Tower with Rin, he wasn't sure he'd ever see another like it.
He sighed. He'd done his best to keep away from the apartment like Rin had asked of him, but after a while, he'd just…drifted back to the building's lobby. He'd been so determined to keep his promise that he'd started up a conversation with a passing old man.
And then that old man had inexplicably told him people were in danger from another Holy Grail War and he hadn't been able to stop himself from asking what he could do to help. The man had just smiled deviously and snapped his fingers.
The next moment, Shirou was standing on a hill in the middle of nowhere. Which probably should have been more disturbing, but he pretty much did the same thing whenever he used his Reality Marble. His mental landscape had changed ever so slightly with the state of his life, but it would always be a forge. Actually, the lack of endless swords made this place rather picturesque.
Another flash of light drew his attention to his side, and he shielded his eyes from the glare. When he could see again, he found Rin with her eyes wide and looking like someone just told her she'd have to figure out how to work a new TV in an hour or become Luvia's maid. Overall, about as flustered as she could possibly look.
"—talking about, Master! What did you—" Rin stopped talking and glanced at her surroundings. Her gaze landed on him and her eyes narrowed into a glare. "Oh…"
Shirou gave her a small wave, cringing at the thought of the verbal beatdown he could see coming his way.
Rin growled and stomped over to him. "Shirou, where are we?"
The fledgling Hero of Justice shrugged. "I don't know. I was…talking to some old man and he suddenly brought up the topic of another Holy Grail War. Then he snapped his fingers and… I found myself here. I know… you probably don't believe me."
Rin's whole body shook with rage. "Shirou. That old man was Zelretch."
Shirou raised an eyebrow. "Your teacher?"
"Uh huh," Rin growled with a nod, her eye twitching dangerously as she struggled to keep a straight face. "My teacher. And the sorcerer of the Second Magic. Meaning he could have literally sent us anywhere, at any point in time."
"…You don't say?"
"Yep. Now, would you please explain to me what in the hell you were thinking when you agreed to FIGHT THIS WAR FOR HIM?!"
Shirou raised his arms in an attempt to defend himself as Rin started slapping him repeatedly. "I didn't know who he was! All he said was that another war was going on and innocent people were in danger."
He said that like it explained everything. She knew that in his mind, it really did.
He wasn't a fool anymore. His conflict with Archer had showed him that his ideals were flawed. To follow them expecting the salvation of all was foolish and dangerous. Still, there was something beautiful about them, and just because they were unachievable didn't mean they weren't worth striving for.
"Look, when I asked what I could do to help, do you really think I was expecting to be teleported to another world on the spot?" he complained.
Rin stopped smacking him and took a deep breath. He had a point. He was probably almost as annoyed as she was and was just doing a better job of hiding it at the moment.
"Ugh! Fine! I guess it isn't really your fault. When that old fox sets his mind to something there isn't much that people like us can do. Still, please be a little more careful. We barely got out of the last war alive. Pulling a repeat performance isn't going to be easy."
A spark of prismatic light flickered in front of them and almost instantly seemed to materialize into the form of a letter, which hung in the air in front of them practically begging them to open it. Rin's name was stamped on it in elegant cursive.
The Tohsaka heiress snatched up the page and tore the envelope open. Her face paled when she looked at the message within. Shirou read the letter over her shoulder.
My Dear Apprentice,
Thank you for agreeing to help relieve me of my boredom. Your beloved master is eternally grateful from the bottom of his heart.
Now then, you're in another world. Some people nearby are about to hold that exciting Holy Grail War I mentioned. It will be taking place in the Romanian countryside (which is where you are, no need to thank me) near the town of Trifas (which you're not anywhere near). You'll need to find a way to get there on your own. Don't forget to ask for directions. What? I've taken you almost 2½ thousand kilometers (and a day-and-a-half of travel time in a cramped train compartment) in less time than it took the kitchen at Burger King to fry up my chicken fries. What more would you demand of this poor old man?
I've left you in the immediate vicinity of Sighișoara, a town almost completely unrelated to the Grail War except for a shady man lurking in a church, but such things seem to be the norm in Grail Wars these days. Anyway, the city should already be visible. No sense in forcing you to make your way there on your own dime (no need to thank me for this either, your funds over on this side are limited enough already without forcing you to spend more of them).
You may be wondering why I would take you to Romania but not the place you need to go. Let me answer that question with two of my own: Isn't the town just lovely? Quaint, but charming, don't you think?
I've set up the summoning circle and tampered with the Grail itself to ensure you'll have Command Seals as soon as you complete the chant. The boy will get something a little more interesting, but I am forty-three percent sure there will be no negative side effects (as long as he doesn't use all of them, which is something he must not do under any circumstances! That would be hysterically unwise, so keep an eye on him!).
I have enclosed the modified summoning incantation you'll need. And yes, the color is nonnegotiable.
Postscript: If don't think you are up to the task, just say so, and no matter where you are, I will hear you and bring the both of you back (no matter how much the idiot complains). Besides, I'm certain that Ms. Edelfelt would love to give this a shot.
Post Postscript: I finished my chicken fries and helped myself to one of your tuna steaks—it was superb, by the way—so I'm going to start on your tofu. I'll admit, I've been skittish in the past about trying this particular variety, but I'm sure that if nothing else, the new experience will at least provide a reprieve from the usual monotony of life. I'm sure you won't mind.
Post Post Postscript: Be sure to check out Sighișoara's clock tower. It's of no significance to mages whatsoever, but I've heard it's lovely this time of year.
The magic circuits in Rin's arm lit up all at once and the letter burst into flames.
Shirou took a tentative step back. "Uh, Tohsaka? Are you alright?"
Rin shook with rage. She'd gained a marginally better degree of control over her temper as they grew up, but…
She was still Tohsaka.
She took a deep breath. "Fine. Just, fine, Shirou. We're just stuck fighting in another Holy Grail War, in another world no less. We have no money, no resources, no idea who the other masters are. And, oh yeah, according to this, Master Zelretch has done something to you that has a fifty-seven percent chance of killing you!"
"Well, I mean, he never explicitly said that."
"Did you somehow miss the glaringly heavy implications of 'must not use all of them under any circumstances'?!'"
"So… do you want to go back? It does say you just need to—"
"Like hell! I am not giving Luvia a chance to make me look bad!" she turned her head aside to hide a stray tear welling in her eye. "God damn him preying on my pride like this!" she sighed and then flashed him a rueful, almost sad smile. "Besides, even if I went back, you'd still stay to try and help."
Shirou bashfully rubbed the back of his head. "Well… I can't turn my back on people during a crisis like this. Besides, I'd never forgive myself if someone like Kotomine or Gilgamesh got their hands on this world's Grail and I could have helped stop them."
Rin shook her head and removed another piece of paper for the singed envelope. "Well then, I guess I should take a look at this new summoning… incantation?"
Her eyes narrowed as she examined the message. Shirou walked closer in concern. "Are you okay? Is there a problem?"
Immediately, she pressed the paper to her chest. "No! No, everything is fine! It's just…well… he said the color was nonnegotiable, didn't he?"
Shirou raised an eyebrow. "Yeah. What did he mean by that? I don't remember there being anything about colors in the chant you showed me after our war."
Rin glowered. "Nothing. Just… cover your ears while I do the ritual. Okay?" She marched towards the summoning circle without waiting for a response. "The way things are going, I wouldn't be surprised if Master rigged it so we'd get the worst Servant the Throne could possibly send us."
It was peaceful when she'd returned.
She still had her wound from Mordred. She still did not have her scabbard. Her kingdom was still in ruins.
She still did not have the Holy Grail. Twice, she had it in her grasp and twice she had obliterated it with her own holy sword.
But… that was what had happened. This was the story of a girl who wanted to save her people. It was a tragic reality, not a fable in which everyone got what they deserved… but this was how it ended. Ultimately, she had failed. Her choices had led her to ruin. But she had done her best. There were people who were only still alive because of her… Because she and her knights had taken up arms to fight for the causes they believed in. They all had their own reasons, but they shared that common goal. She only had herself to blame for the tragic way it ended, but it was better that she tried and did her best than to have never made her attempt.
She hadn't been able to keep the Knights of the Round Table united, perhaps, but if not for her, who'd have brought them together? Who would defend the people of Britain from the Saxons?
If not for her, who else could ever have had so much as a prayer of stopping Vortigern? Did she really think that someone else would be able to do that?
She would never again entertain the suggestion that she should never have drawn the Sword of Selection. Perhaps, if she were ever to get a wish, in another time, in another life, it would be to have found common ground with Mordred before it was too late. Or perhaps for Lancelot and Guinevere's affair to have never been discovered, saving the lives of Gawain's brothers, and Lancelot's pride as a knight.
If she could do it all again…
But that opportunity was gone. It had never been there to begin with; all just a cruel joke by whatever monster was lurking in the Grail.
Bedivere was beside her. She trusted him to return Excalibur to the Lady of the Lake after she was gone.
She leaned back against the tree, her last sunset beating down on her face.
She smiled. This was enough. She'd given everything she'd had. Done the best she could.
They had taught her that that was all anyone could do.
Even as she closed her eyes, she saw them. A just man devoted to his ideals and the fierce woman would keep them from consuming him.
As she faded away, a smile crossed her lips at the thought of them.
It was selfish, but she wished she could see them again.
One last time.
Something familiar called out to her. She'd heard its voice twice before. But this time was different. It felt clearer and warmer than it had previously.
But… it wouldn't grant her wish, would it? Was there even any point? No, those were the wrong questions. She should be asking what she had to lose if she accepted once again?
There was nothing. No reason not to take this chance.
So she let it take her.
Rin lowered her right hand, the dust from the ritual beginning to settle as the light faded. Three Command Seals materialized in a familiar shape on the back of her hand.
Shirou removed his hands from his ears, narrowing his eyes to try and see through the glare. And his eyes went wide. He rubbed them with the heels of his hands and looked again.
"Is that… who I think it is?"
The smoke cleared. Rin's mouth fell open. Could it be?
Kneeling before them with her head bowed was a familiar blond woman in a regal blue dress and shining silver armor.
Rin's mouth split into a massive grin. They might just have a chance after all.
The knight rose to her feet, her blue dress billowing in the breeze and a steely look in her gaze. "I ask of you, are you worthy to—Rin?" she looked around, "Shirou?"
"Saber!" Rin cheered, oblivious to the Servant's ruminations. She enveloped the King of Knights in a massive hug as tears of joy fell from her eyes. "We're saved! I can't believe it—we actually have a shot at this!"
Shirou grinned widely, and strode over to them, but dodged Rin's hand as she tried to pull him in. "I just…can't believe you're here."
Saber smiled as she returned Rin's embrace, before pulling away, and offering a gauntleted hand to Shirou, who shook it with about as much enthusiasm as could be expected of him. "I share the sentiment. After the events at the Temple, I was fairly certain I'd never see either of you again… I am very pleased to see the both of you looking so well."
"That said," she looked worriedly between the two mages. "We are… not in the same world, are we?" It wasn't a question. "From what knowledge the Grail has afforded me, we're in Romania, but that concerns me less than the fact that the both of you are here at all. This Great Holy Grail War takes place in an entirely different timeline, concurrent with when ours began. How could you possibly be involved?"
"My master, Kischur Zelretch—"
"Ah, say no more," Saber cut in. "The Grail warns of any unduly powerful individuals capable of interfering with the ritual, and he seems to be what it fears most…"
"Well, he did devise the system," Rin sighed, "It would only make sense that he'd be able to dismantle it as well. Honestly though, right now I honestly wish it didn't make sense." She glanced at the red marks on her hand and her grin returned in full force. "But, with the three of us back together again, we're going to breeze through this Grail War."
Shirou gave her a skeptical look. "Don't you think that's getting a little ahead of ourselves, Tohsaka? These are still Servants we're talking about. And while my Reality Marble will definitely be an advantage, unless we're fighting Gilgamesh again it will only help so much."
Rin waved off her boyfriend, idly noting and disregarding the set of black Command Seals that had appeared on his hand. Those could be investigated later. Right now, he needed her calm and rational reassurance.
"Don't worry, Shirou. We've already been through a Grail War already, which is something none of the other Masters can claim. And with Saber by our side, we'll crush the other six Servants easily!"
Saber's smile fell away, to be replaced by a look of deep-seated concern.
"You'll not be happy to hear this…" she murmured, just loudly enough for Rin to catch her voice.
The joyous atmosphere rotted away in an instant as Rin's smile vanished. She whirled on Saber in trepidation.
"What do you mean? What's wrong?"
"There are… fourteen."
Rin suddenly felt sick.
"Fourteen what?" she asked, dreading the answer she knew was coming.
The King of Knights raised an eyebrow. "It seems that there are fourteen other Servants involved in this war, Rin. Two teams of seven with each possessing a single Servant of every class. There are two factions, Red and Black, who will each fight until only their own Masters remain…" she paled slightly, "At which point, those mages will then turn on one another to determine who will ultimately take the Grail. What a grotesque arrangement. Regardless, it seems your master has inserted us into the conflict as an independent third faction. At the very least, we've no reason to fight amongst ourselves as Shirou has no Servant. Although… I am curious about those black Command Seals. And a little concerned."
"Huh" Shirou remarked. "Guess that explains why the old man said it was 'on a much larger scale'. And the Red and Black does explain why he mentioned a color in the chant. Which one did he give us? Tohsaka? Tohsaka? Rin, are you okay?"
Rin was frozen, her eyes wild and her teeth bared furiously. For a few moments her head twitched to the side with the rhythm of a broken clock.
'Two teams of seven.'
It was her, Shirou, and Saber against two teams of seven Servants and Masters. Servants who could have any number of world annihilating powers and Noble Phantasms. Masters who had very likely been preparing for this war for years.
And best of all, they'd all share a single goal the moment they realized there were extra participants interfering in their competition. Any time that she, Shirou and Saber showed up in the middle of a conflict between other Servants, those Servants were guaranteed to put their battles on hold to eliminate the three of them.
And even if they took down one, the others on their team would surely be watching and would be able to plan around their tactics. And each time, they would have no idea what they were up against. Not until it was being used to annihilate them.
Rin threw her head back and screamed at the sky. He would hear her anywhere, would he? Well then...!
"DAMN YOU ZELRETCH! DAMN YOU AND YOUR BURGER KING CHICKEN FRIES!"
Author's Note: So... Originally I was going to wait until I had a backlog of chapters for this before publishing it so as to not starve people for months as my focus will be on RWBY Zero. However, the AMAZING kulamrit5625 did me the absolute honor of creating a TvTropes page for that story and now I am pretty much over the moon. And here we are.
This story is going to have quite a few emotional beats in it (it would be dishonorable to the characters if it didn't) but I am going to try to go for far more humor than I usually do, as can be evidenced by the last line of this chapter.
Other than that, I hope you can forgive the snail's pace updates.
Thank you for reading! I hope you enjoy what comes next!
Go Forth and Conquer!