Saber arrived in Ruler's quarters with no time to waste as soon as she received the summon from Caster.
Lying on the canopy bed was her Master, her body writhing in agony even though she was unconscious. By her side Caster knelt and had her hood down as she used some form of magecraft to soothe her. Archer of Red watched from the end of the room with a grimace on her face.
Saber dematerialized her armor and went back to the casual clothing that Ruler had lent her.
"What of her condition, Caster?" she said as she went next to bed. Ruler's face was deathly pale.
Medea stood up, her face grim. "I've isolated most of the poison inside her system, however the curse afflicting her is more of a concern. It is likely that it is caused by Asssassin of Black's Noble Phantasm. Knives are slowly manifesting and cutting her from the inside."
"Can you not remove it?"
"Without knowing full well the Noble Phantasm that had caused it, I may just make things worse. Assassin of Black seems to have another ability that removes information regarding her after a battle. Though we remember fighting her, we cannot recall her image nor anything else about her."
It had been frustrating for Medea when she realized her own memories of the time turned murky. The other Servants that came into contact with her were much the same. No one can tell remember for sure who or what she was, other than that they had surely seen her.
"If nothing is done, then she will die."
Saber knelt down and took Ruler's hand, closing her eyes as if praying. After a few moments, she rose up with a determined expression.
She held out her hands.
A golden light shone from between them. Within a second, one of her most precious possession appeared into her open hands.
"Avalon," said Caster in awe. "The hallowed scabbard of Excalibur. I had thought it had been lost in King Arthur's legend. It was hard for me to believe when I first saw it."
"It was lost," Saber nodded. She smiled as her fingers brushed over it. "However, someone very important to me had kept it safe and returned it to me. I had thought to never part with it again. It is part of a vow I had sworn. But given the circumstances, it will be best to have Ruler keep it for the meantime. I'm sure he would understand."
Saber slowly laid the scabbard on top of Ruler. As soon as it came into contact with her, the sheath sunk and disappeared. Ruler's body began to emanate a low golden glow before receding. Not soon after, her rough and labored breathing began to settle down.
Caster quickly went over Ruler's health.
"It appears to have worked," she answered. "There is barely any poison left, and the curse has weakened considerably. She's not entirely healed, but she's no longer in any danger. Truly impressive. At this rate, she should be well enough to wake soon."
Saber breathed a sigh of relief. Atalanta smiled from her corner as well.
The sleeping and peaceful face of their Master gave the Servants in the room much needed assurance that she would be well.
For the time being, the holy maiden of France could rest easy.
Mordred wondered where she was.
Staring around her, she noticed that she stood in a wide grassy plains that stretched for miles all around her. Clouds gathered above her, blocking her view of the sun. The clouds appeared to move at the pace of the slow breeze that also touched the grass.
"What am I doing here?" she asked herself.
Then, she remembered.
Her chest felt tight. It felt cold to her. She quietly sat on the ground, laying her elbows to her knees as she stared into the far off distance.
Mordred had wondered what would happen once she and her father finally reunited in this war. She spent a long time thinking on it. Would she be furious at seeing her? After all, she was the one that tore down everything that King Arthur had built. It wouldn't be strange for her to feel intense hatred and rage towards her. They might have even fought at the first recognition of one another, continuing that final battle they fought in the last day of their lives.
She considered many outcomes of their meeting. But there was one thing that she had failed to consider. Most likely because it was something that she had dreaded completely that she had shut that possibility out of her mind.
And that was what happened. Her father ignored her presence completely, as if her existence in this war meant absolutely nothing to her. Not even after everything she had done.
Mordred was nothing to her.
Time passed by slowly, same as the clouds in the blue sky. She remained where she was, detached and unsure. It was quite unlike her, but she didn't really want to think too much about it. In fact, she didn't really want to think about anything at all at the moment.
Mordred wasn't quite sure how long she would have stayed there. Maybe she would've stayed until the entire Holy Grail War had ended. She didn't think it would have been so bad.
But it appeared that she wouldn't even get that simple of a wish.
"So this is where you were?"
She recognized that voice from behind her.
Archer walked up beside her. "You seem to have a lot on your mind. I take it you two finally met, then?"
Mordred didn't answer. She didn't want to. So, she just ignored him.
But he didn't leave.
He stood there quietly as he gazed off into the same distance as she did. For a few minutes, they did nothing but that. A cold breeze swept through the grass and the trees, a biting morning that would normally cause one to shiver.
"You know, I liked you better when you kept barking loudly like a wild dog," said Archer finally. "It doesn't suit you to act so meek like this. Were you expecting a touching reunion perhaps?"
Normally, Mordred's blood would've boiled at that. His mocking tone was unmistakable.
She sighed, then stood up and walked a few feet away.
"Leave me alone, Archer," she said without turning back at him. "I don't really feel like cursing at you right now. I don't give a damn whatever you have to say."
She heard him sigh, then turn and walk away. Though slight, Mordred felt a little bit of satisfaction at having been able to drive the annoying man away without losing her cool again. A small victory.
There was the spark of mana that came from behind her. She heard Archer whisper something in a low voice.
Her combat-oriented mind automatically shifted her from her apathetic state into a battle-ready stance, her armor and weapon fully materializing before she had even turned. Mordred hadn't thought that Archer would have been stupid enough to fight her head on like this, but she wasn't so far out of it that she'll allow herself to be attacked without repercussion.
"Don't think that I'll—!"
Mordred's mind blanked out completely as soon as she had turned. She was shocked. She was unable to process what it was she was seeing in front of her eyes.
"I take it I have your attention now?"
Archer smirked at her.
Mordred mouthed like a fish out of water as she couldn't even form the words needed to communicate.
"T-That's—Where did you get that?!" she demanded. Her eyes were glued to the sword in one of the many stones in the ground. "That's not real… It can't be real!"
"That's right," Archer nodded. "It's not. It's a fake." His smirk grew. "A genuine fake. Can you tell?"
Mordred's eyes studied each and every part of the sword thoroughly. Even though he already called it a fake, Mordred couldn't even tell any difference at all from her observation. From the hilt down to the edges of the blade, it seemed to be an exact copy of Caliburn. It was almost impossible to discern its authenticity by sight alone.
The holy sword pulled from the stone that became a symbol of King Arthur's legend. Engraved in dazzling gold on its hilt where the words, "Whoso pulleth out this sword of this stone is rightwise king of all England."
It was the beginning of everything that mattered to her.
And it was not more than a few feet away from her.
Mordred could feel it pulling her towards it. Long had she dreamed of having the chance to test herself. Fake or not, her heart didn't seem to care anymore. All she needed was to reach out to it.
"I think your forgetting someone." Archer blocked her view of the sword, placing himself between it and her. "Really? How many times are you going to ignore me today? I feel a little hurt."
Mordred's tunnel vision vanished.
"…Just who the hell are you?" she asked. Mordred's mind raced as she tried to piece together his true identity. "That isn't something that someone—anyone can just pull out out of nowhere!"
"Oh? Now you want to talk?" Archer shrugged."I don't really feel like it anymore."
Archer stepped to the side. Caliburn was gone from the stone. It vanished as if it were an illusion.
However, what Mordred had felt from it had been very real.
Hot burning rage coursed through Mordred's veins. She had been close. Oh, so close to her goal.
"You're going to regret that," she growled. Archer smirked in response.
Mordred pushed her feet off the ground. She closed the gap between them almost instantly and brought her sword down on his head. Archer didn't even try to block it. He moved his body to the side to avoid it, and countered with his twin blades. Mordred parried them easily.
When she moved her sword to shield her head from one of Archer's blows, he took that opportunity to kick himself up from the flat of the blade. Archer threw his swords at her, which pinned her on the spot as she had to deflect them with her sword. And then, Mordred noticed as he was falling high in the sky, he held a large elegant ebony bow that was aimed right at her.
She readied herself for his attack. In that instant, Archer fired off three shots. However, none of them were aimed at her. The arrows landed on the ground near her, and then, exploded.
The damage Mordred received from it was minimal. It only served to annoy her as her armor merely got dirtied by a layer of earth. However, she knew Archer was aiming for that moment when his explosion knocked up clouds of dirt to hide from her vision. Since straight-forward attacks weren't something he could pull off against a Saber-class Servant like her, Mordred already assumed he would rely on tricks to try and get around her.
She quietly relaxed her breath, waiting for him to attack. It was hard to track anything through the billowing smoke. But Archer charged right in front of her, clashing his dual blades against her sword. He smirked that irksome smile of his. Her gut was telling her that something was wrong. He didn't pull all of this off just to make a direct attack at her.
Her ears picked up the sound of whirling blades somewhere behind her.
"Don't underestimate me, you shitty bastard!" Mordred roared.
She poured her mana into her sword. It pushed against Archer's blades, then pushed Archer entirely. His feet left the ground as the force of it threw him, and her swung sword went all the way behind her, blowing away the two swords that nearly cut her from behind and even creating a large gash of torn earth.
Mordred didn't stop there. Red lightning flashed as she released a burst of mana around her, clearing the field of the cloud of smoke and dust.
Archer tensed up, as he was now the one that prepared himself for her to attack. He reacted with surprise when Mordred's sword nearly reached his neck. Mordred had thrown her own sword at him. It was something one did not expect to see from anyone who would dare call oneself a proud knight.
He had barely avoided it by jumping to the side.
"You're not the only one that can throw swords around here."
Mordred appeared right next to him and grabbed him by his leg, and then, in an arc, threw him hard against the ground. The impact cracked the ground.
Archer groaned and tried to pick himself up, but Mordred stamped her foot on his chest, forcing him back down. She pointed her crackling silver and red sword at him. Her helmet retracted back into her armor.
This time, it was her turn to smile—a vicious and victorious one.
"What now, Archer?" she asked haughtily.
Archer dismissed his swords with a helpless smile on his face, raising his empty palms above his head in surrender.
"So I'm beat," he said. "Feel better now?"
"Do I feel better?" Mordred hissed at him as she inched the pointed end of her blade closer to his throat.
Well, she actually did feel a lot better now. The thrill of a fight and beating someone she hated into the ground did really well on lifting up her mood. So, yes, she supposed she felt much better.
But that didn't mean she'd just forget about earlier.
She was about to threaten Archer with even more pain when someone else interrupted her.
"As much as I enjoy seeing that sly fox getting a beating, I'm going to have to ask you to stand down, miss knight."
Lancer stood with his spear in hand a few feet away from the two, his eyes like a hunter carefully watching its prey. His voice was playful yet threatening. He acted casually, but there was a strong undercurrent of danger coming off of him.
"Caster told us that you're on our side, but looking as things are right now, that doesn't seem to be the case," he said.
He leveled his spear in her direction. Mordred could tell that the moment she drew blood from Archer, Lancer would likely kill her in that instant. She could tell that he wasn't a weak Servant.
"We were just having a friendly spar, Lancer," came Archer's voice. "Nothing to be concerned about."
Lancer frowned, his gaze switching from his fellow Blue Servant on the ground to Mordred.
Mordred clicked her tongue. She put away her sword. However, when Archer made to get up, she pressed down hard on her boot against his chest again, pushing him back to the ground.
She leaned down and said, "Don't think this is over."
Finally, she lifted her boot and made to leave, dismissing her armor and returning to her casual clothing. She gave Lancer a spiteful glare as she left.
"What was that about?" complained Lancer.
Archer dropped his head back on the ground and sighed.
"What the hell is she doing now?"
Kairi Sisigou stumbled from his room into the hallway. He had just woken from his much needed sleep when he felt a slight dip in his mana levels. And it only took his groggy mind a few seconds to realize what that meant.
"Please, please, please don't be fighting Berserker," he grumbled as he tried to get his bearings and walk at the same time by moving his hands against the wall. His feet weren't quite fully awake yet.
He was just about to contact her through their mental link when he encountered someone else in the hallway.
Don't tell me it's…?
Kairi groaned in his mind. A girl that looked very similar to his Servant casually walked over to him. Though she wore no armor and appeared in a simple white blouse and a blue skirt, the blond girl stood with a straight back, a firm posture, and an unrelenting gaze that did not shrink at the sight of him. And, sad as it does make him admit, there weren't many people that reacted that way to his intimidating appearance.
"Uh, yeah," he answered with a weak wave of his hand and a tired smile. "Hey, there. You must be Saber of Blue?"
"That is correct. And I assume you are Saber of Red's Master?"
Kairi stood there uneasily. He wondered if she had met Mordred yet or not. It was hard to tell from her stoic attitude.
"I don't suppose you've seen my Servant yet, have you?" he decided to ask.
Two words. Her face did not so much as change at all at her admission. Kairi thought there was no way in hell those two words should have been enough to explain such a meeting between the two, but Saber did not seem keen on expanding any further on it than that.
Yeah. Kairi did not know what to say. The two of them just remained standing in the hallway in awkward silence.
Kairi complained in his thoughts why he had to be the one meeting her. Where was his Servant when he needed her? She was the one who had been waiting to meet this king. He had never even wanted to converse with anyone from royalty in his life. Queen or king of England or whatever, he'd much rather stick to dealing with stuck-up magi.
"It must be difficult for you," said Saber finally.
Kairi didn't know what she had meant at first, but he realized she was likely talking about his Servant.
"Well, she can be a handful," he admitted, slightly relieved at having the tension broken by conversation. "She's willful, hot-tempered, and a pain in the ass some times. But I think she and I work well with each other. She's a good partner and a strong Servant. I don't think I could have summoned a better Servant than her… uh, no offense."
With that, their brief meeting and conversation was over. Saber left to wherever it was she was headed, leaving Kairi by himself. After taking a relaxed sigh, Kairi felt the tension in the air clear. He wondered what it was that father and son had talked about.
Still, while he had known the stories of King Arthur and his knights, there were plenty that wasn't quite as known to the world. Such as the king being a girl. He also had more direct experience courtesy of his Servant's memories in his dreams.
"She wasn't quite what I expected either, huh?" he mumbled.
For a moment before she left, he thought he'd seen the shadow of a faint smile on her face as she had passed him by.
But he didn't have time to give it much thought. He just remembered why he had gotten up in the first place.
"Really, that partner of mine just can't make things easy, can she?"
Shirou Kotomine discussing with Semiramis and Shakespeare on how they should proceed with allying with the Black Faction. His first close encounter with the homonculi Servants that remind him a lot of his former Master. His wish to have them become non-active participants in the war as a condition to agreeing to Darnic's demand is granted and mentioned in another chapter by Darnic.
"How arrogant must that mage be to think that we would accept such an absurd demand."
Shirou Kotomine sat in deep thought on his couch whilst Semiramis fumed. He hadn't agreed to Darnic's condition, but he hadn't turned it down outright either. Darnic had given him time to think on it, offering him a place in the fortress to mull his thoughts. It was an unneeded gesture, the mage had known. He knew that there really was no other choice.
"Well, mages are generally not known for their charitable personalities," said Shakespeare. "Considering he did not ask for a more ridiculous condition such as outright controlling all of the Red Servants, I should say we are rather fortunate. As our Master had only asked of a single wish from the Holy Grail, it does not matter if Red or Black were to win."
Semiramis glared hatefully at him, appearing ready to strike him down for his objective opinion. She, however, lost much of the fire in her eyes after seeing that the writer was not even paying attention to her.
"For someone so useless in this war, you seem to be fairly busy," she said.
Shirou noticed this as well. The famous literary hero had been scribing on his notes all day.
"What can I say?" Shakespeare flourished with a bright smile. "Inspiration comes quickly through adversity. Struggles of life and death. Powering through against the odds! My quill feeds off of comedy, romance, tragedy and such and such! And war is quite the fine wine in those regards."
Though his attitude served only to irk Semiramis, it did bring some slight amusement to Shirou.
"Perhaps we could do the same as we did the Masters of Red?" Semiramis suggested to Shirou. "Turning the tables on that man and taking full control of the Black Servants as well. It wouldn't be such a bad idea."
"No." Shirou shook his head. "He and the other Masters would likely take measures against that. He already fully knows that I'm the one that controls the Red Faction. No doubt he does not need imagine what I had done to achieve that. His Servants are likely to be on the lookout for that as well."
The same trick won't work. In fact, until he agreed to his demand, Shirou understood that the mage would be wary of any signs of such things.
"Then what are we to do?" said Semiramis.
Shirou had spent two hours considering their options. He had sent Assassin and Caster away so that he may deliberate in peace and in prayer. Finally, after he had exhausted all other possible alternatives, he had to admit that there was no other choice.
An unfamiliar voice shook him from his thoughts. Someone had entered the room as he had been busy thinking.
He chided himself for being so careless. Even though he already knew that the Black Faction would need their cooperation to win, that didn't mean that they wouldn't attempt any form of subterfuge that would gain them any sort of advantage.
However, it was a moot point. The person that entered the room bore no hostilities. He would have detected it instantly if there was.
"Would you like me to refill your tea?"
He watched as the female homonculus took his empty cup and poured a freshly brewed one from a pot. Her expression was apathetic. No hostility, no emotion. That's how she had been made to be. A doll dressed up and serving as a maid.
It had surprised him to know that the Yggdmillenia clan had managed to create homonculi like the Einzberns had. They acted much the same as their Einzbern counterparts, save for his old Master. They had minor variations though, such as a wider degree of individual characteristics. Unlike those of the Einzberns that rarely altered from their preferred formula of a perfect homonculus.
Now that he had taken a closer look, her eyes were a lighter shade of red compared to the Einzberns. As if showing that their blood was thinner than those homonculi they had been copied from. Even their hair differed in color, missing the pure white hair of the Einzbern homonculi.
"If that is all?" she asked. The homonculus curtsied lightly before attempting to leave.
The homonculus stopped and turned back to him, waiting for an order.
Shirou didn't have one. He wasn't quite sure why he had told her to wait.
"May I ask for your name?" he said. Perhaps his fondness for his old Master had never waned even after all these years. He could never truly forget her last dying moments in his arms.
The maid showed no expression, though she tilted her head ever so slightly. "This one has no name. No homonculus in this castle has one."
Even the Einzberns named the homonculi they had created. Even if they were simple Servants, they were still given names to differentiate themselves from the others.
She tilted her head slightly now to the other side. "Because it is unneeded. Our lifespans range in a few months. There is no need to name disposable tools such as us."
Shirou sat their in silence, quietly observing her.
"All living beings have a right to be named. Even artificial ones such as yourself."
There was a change in the maid's expression. Her brow seemed to crease by a small degree.
"…Perhaps," she seemed to agree, a little reluctantly.
When he had no other questions or requests, the maid curtsied once more and left Shirou by himself. His hot tea had already gone cold by the time he had touched it to his lips.
Thoughts of his old Master resurfaced in his mind.