Vlov was dead.

Vlov Arkhangel was dead.

He was dead, and his Idea Blood, his Crown and Authority, was gone.

He'd only just left her lair after she'd rescued him from the redheaded Magus, and now he was already dead. She hadn't even blinked twice before he'd kicked the bucket.

It seemed impossible, yet it was true. Her little ones had brought her the news, and they never lied, nor would they be mistaken about something so momentous.

Vlov was dead.

And now, the redheaded Magus, that dogged figure, was tracing Vlov's steps back to her laboratory, undoubtedly in order to kill her too.

Needless to say, the Spider Queen was consumed by fear, a dread potent enough to make all her appendages shake uncontrollably.

She did have defences, Magical and mundane, but while those might hold up against an unprepared interloper, they wouldn't be able to withstand a concentrated assault, especially not from him.

Although she was an Ancestor, one of the older Upstarts even, she was a coward at heart. In fact, it could be said that it was her cowardice that had kept her alive for so long in the first place, especially since her combat-capabilities were rather low for a Dead Apostle Ancestor.

She wasn't ashamed of it. Nearly all Ancestors were cowards, preferring to avoid violence and dangerous situations as much as they could, with only very few exceptions. Exceptions that rarely lasted long out there in the real world.

Vlov Arkhangel had been one of those exceptions, refusing to cower and hide like the rest of them, and look what had happened to him!

And to make matters worse, she was still weakened from when she saved Vlov! It had taken her massive amounts of energy to create enough powerful Dead Apostles to assist the late Knight, and it had left her with precious little, even after she'd fed on every Yakuza and vagrant she could find.

No, the Spider Queen wasn't sticking around any longer. It was a shame that all her hard work on setting up her laboratory and preparing her grand experiment in Misaki Town was going to waste, but as long as she stayed alive, she could always start again.

Not so much if she was dead.

She wasn't about to leave absolutely everything behind though. Currently, she was standing on but two of her many legs, as all her other limbs were hard at work packing away the contents of her laboratory. Vials, jars, and containers were rapidly being thrown into bags, suitcases, and cool bags, as she tried to preserve her most valuable and precious resources. The resources she couldn't easily replace.

Of course, with her appendages shaking as much as they did, many of the vials and jars ended up shattered on the ground, their contents spilled all over the floor. Perhaps as much as one-third ended up destroyed and useless.

But that was fine. They said haste makes waste, but at the moment, she needed so much haste she did not care about the waste.

She needed to get out of here before the redheaded Magus would arrive.

By now, Shirou completely understood why the Burial Agency and the Enforcers found it so difficult to track down the Dead Apostle Ancestors.

They had proven to be incredibly stealthy creatures, seriously sneaky. They flew under everyone's radar even as they committed atrocity after atrocity, slipping past the Burial Agency's best tracking-devices and the Enforcers' greatest Warding spells seemingly without effort. They were even capable of fooling both Shirou's nose and eyes, which was saying something, considering both of those senses had been imbued with literal divinity.

It was only to be expected though. The Dead Apostle Ancestors were enemies of humanity, hunted and reviled by all, and they wouldn't live long if they were easy to find. Hence, they had developed superior methods of hiding themselves, refining those methods over the centuries until they were completely untraceable. Furthermore, since they were technically the children or grandchildren of a god, the Crimson Moon, it wasn't entirely illogical for them to be able to contend with Shirou's budding divinity using some false divinity of their own.

They were just too good at hiding, and it had rankled Shirou fiercely to know he was in the same city as three Ancestors yet to be unable to find any of them, especially since they didn't seem to be able to stop killing people for any longer than five minutes at most.

But now, the situation had rapidly changed.

Vlov Arkhangel was dead, the name of Roa's vessel was known, and the Spider Queen had accidentally revealed herself in her arrogance. The Dead Apostle Ancestors had been dragged into the light, and the hunters were now moving in for the kill.

Arcueid Brunestud, Tohno Shiki, and Ciel were pursuing Roa, aiming to kill him once and for all. Easier said than done of course, but perhaps Tohno Shiki's special ability could succeed where everyone else had failed so far.

Meanwhile, Shirou was going after the Spider Queen, the third and last Ancestor within the city's borders, trying to find her main base of operations.

He'd already found one of her lairs earlier tonight, in the Tohno-manor of all places, but Shirou felt reasonably secure in saying that she likely had a base somewhere else in the city as well. She had been living in Misaki Town for decades now after all, so she needed a place where she could work on her Dead Apostle-business in private, away from her closely-monitored room in the Tohno-manor.

Yes, it was technically possible that she'd spent all those years living only in her disguise as doctor Arach, but Shirou frankly doubted a Dead Apostle Ancestor could ever be so disciplined or so passive.

She had to have another base, a place where she could be herself, and it was up to him to find it.

He didn't have her scent, or at least not enough of it to reliably track her down, so he was following Arkhangel's trail instead, tracing it back to where the Russian knight had come from, which he suspected and hoped to be the Spider Queen's secret base.

She had rescued her fellow Ancestor only the day before after all, sending her minions to help him out, and Shirou was fairly certain that those minions had brought Arkhangel back to their Queen's lair.

There was no guarantee of that of course, they might have taken him to a random location in the city instead, but Shirou's gut told him they had not.

After all, Arkhangel had suddenly disappeared from his radar last night, soon after being rescued, which suggested that he'd entered a place protected by potent Bounded Fields, and on top of that, he'd been equipped with the mysterious syringe, indicating that he'd met the Spider Queen in person.

So yes, it was fairly certain the late Ancestor had been brought to the Spider Queen's base.

Though even if that was not the case, if he had been brought to a random location after all, Shirou would just have to find that location and track her down from there. It didn't change all that much in the end.

Fortunately, Arkhangel's trail was incredibly easy to follow all of a sudden. Perhaps it was because the Dead Apostle Ancestor had perished a mere hour ago, but whatever tricks and techniques he'd used to hide his tracks had suddenly lost all their effect. The scent of ash and frost was crystal clear to Shirou's nose, and the trail couldn't have been easier to follow if every footprint he'd made had lit up in the night.

Shirou's search soon took him into a more rundown part of the city, a part filled with abandoned warehouses and derelict homes that were due to be demolished soon, covered in filth and trash, looking unfit for even the seediest of drug deals and the most desperate of vagrants and Yakuza.

In other words, the perfect location for a Dead Apostle to lie low for a while.

As if to further support that theory, Shirou soon noticed an unusual number of spiders skittering about in the shadows, their beady eyes watching his every move, and he also did not miss the fact that he was very close to the place where he'd lost track of Arkhangel the day before, during the chase after the battle.

It seemed he had come to the right place then.

Eventually, the scent brought him to a large warehouse, seemingly abandoned yet with subtle signs of someone having inhabited it up until very recently.

Cautiously hopeful that he'd found his quarry, Shirou hopped through the nearest window, keeping a sharp eye out for possible traps, before his face fell when he entered the building's main hall.


More than a dozen of them.

Yakuza, by the looks of it, which meant he was wrong in his assumption that this part of town was too filthy even for them.

They had been butchered in all kinds of gruesome ways, ripped apart as if they'd gotten on the wrong end of a pack of bears, yet there wasn't a drop of blood to be found anywhere.

It was clearly the work of a Dead Apostle.

This warehouse was not a base, but a feeding trough.

Shirou spared a moment of pity for the slain men, who had not deserved such a terrible end no matter their crimes, and he promised them to inform the police of their demise once he was done in the area, before he moved on, still following Arkhangel's scent.

Which was suddenly mixed in with that of the Spider Queen!

Shirou's heart leapt up in excitement when he noticed it, irrefutable proof that the two had been together at some point, that she was near, and he increased his pace as he left the warehouse again, following the mixture of scents with the eagerness of a young hunting dog.

He didn't have to go far. Only about a hundred metres away lay another warehouse, even more derelict than the one before. At first glance, there seemed to be nothing out of the ordinary about it, but when Shirou took a closer look, he noticed the faint shimmer of cleverly-hidden Bounded Fields surrounding the property.

That, and the hypermodern, state-of-the-art truck standing just outside. A truck that was obviously still in use and did not fit its surroundings at all.

Things couldn't have been clearer if the Spider Queen had put a large sign outside announcing her presence.

Using the tricks he'd learned at the Clocktower, copied from the Bounded Field-savant Khamul, Shirou slipped past the defences without triggering or destroying them, approaching the truck to take a closer look, noticing that its hatch was opened and its cargo bed half-filled with a variety of bags and boxes.


The moment he fully passed the Bounded Fields however, the redhead nearly retched as a terrible odour hit his nose, almost burning his sinuses. An odour reminiscent of rotting blood and sulphur, indescribably bitter and sour at the same time.

This… This was the Spider Queen?!

It was her scent, definitely, but it was a thousand times more potent and a million times worse than he'd expected.

What on Earth had she done to smell this bad?!

His eyes watered from the indescribable stink, but he ignored it as best as he could in favour of focusing on the truck. The bags and boxes inside produced an awfully alarming smell of their own, which meant he better check them out.

Entering the truck, Shirou quickly opened one of the boxes, holding Mjolnir at the ready in case he found something dangerous, before he blinked in surprise when he found not a Dead Apostle, as he'd half expected at this point, but rather a variety of cigarettes.

Yes, cigarettes.

All kinds of different brands and sizes, stuck together in one container, with their only common denominator being that they all carried the smell of Dead Apostles.

A bit confused with his discovery, Shirou opened another crate, finding that it contained a suspicious-looking white powder, which he quickly recognised as heroine. Heroine that also smelled like Dead Apostles for some reason.

A third crate held more cigarettes, while a fourth held cigars, expensive ones too. There were more kinds of drugs, and even several supposed medicines.

Unscrewing one of the vials, Shirou tasted a drop of the medicine, before he stiffened when the foul taste hit his tongue, a taste he'd never experienced before yet immediately recognised.

Dead Apostle blood!

And with that discovery, everything became clear to him.

In a flash, he understood the purpose of the syringes he'd found, and he realised the full scope of what the Spider Queen had been up to in the past three decades.

She was planning to create and unleash a veritable tsunami of Dead Apostles by dispersing cigarettes and drugs that had been laced with her blood. She was going to create an army, one that was so massive that even the Burial Agency and the Magus Association would be hard-pressed to deal with it.

That alone was already enough to make Shirou grit his teeth in anger, but when he discovered, among the many crates of drugs, a box filled with flu-vaccines, vaccines meant for children, he lost it.

With a roar, he threw the box against the side of the truck with such force that it dented the metal, completely shattering the wood and the vials, before he kicked a nearby crate with cigarettes hard enough to make it explode.

He stormed out of the truck, seeing red from how angry he felt, but just as he prepared to incinerate the vehicle and all its contents with the hottest and most powerful flames he could produce, he noticed something that made him pause.

Something was approaching.

Something inside the warehouse, not yet visible to his eyes.

Something large, powerful, and very much inhuman, which hadn't noticed him yet as far as he could tell.

It was obviously the Spider Queen. That was evident even with several Bounded Fields and other Wards still in the way.

And just as Shirou realised that, a nearby door opened, and the creature stepped outside.

At long last, the redhead laid eyes upon the Spider Queen, seeing her in the flesh for the first time.

And the sight was enough to make him forget about his anger at once.


That was the only word that sprang to mind.

Hideous, revolting, nauseating, and foul, to a degree that frankly boggled the mind.

He'd been prepared to face an inhuman creature. Knowing that she was the Spider Queen, and that her clan saw spiders as the ultimate lifeform, he had expected that she would have various spider-like body parts. Her minions had too after all.

But whereas Shirou's mental image of her had been slightly cool and rather intimidating, as befitted a Dead Apostle Ancestor, the real thing was uglier than he could possibly have imagined.

Words could not do it justice, yet he gave it a try anyway.

The lower body was grotesque and bloated, seemingly half-eaten by maggots and larvae. Legs were sticking out from random places, covered in welts and green slime, and ending in appendages that looked like human hands, if human hands had horned skin and fingers three times as long as they should be.

The upper body seemingly burst out of the lower body like a worm bursting out of a fresh corpse, also covered in slime and grease, while six arms with multiple elbows each were wrapped around more bags and containers.

The head was that of a spider, clearly, though it had far more than eight eyes, all of them milky and dull, while the mouth was hidden by mandibles that were seemingly rotting away where she stood.

Her skin was hairy and wrinkly in all the wrong ways, covered in welts and poorly-healed lacerations, and there were spots visible where the skin had seemingly peeled right off her flesh, never to return.

But while she looked revolting enough to make an ordinary person throw up on the spot, Shirou found himself most bothered not by the sight, but by her smell.

He'd noticed before that her scent was a bitter one, unpleasant even by the standards of Dead Apostles, but now, with no spells and other tricks to obscure her and fool his nose, he was hit full on with the indescribable stench that was wafting from her body, both Magical and mundane.


Shirou choked. He had never smelled something so foul before. Not at the Clocktower, not in Fuyuki, not anywhere else. It was a sickening odour that seemed tailor-made to make him gag. A biological weapon, designed specifically to counter him.

It was so overbearing and eyewatering that Shirou could barely understand how she'd managed to hide it from him for so long. Truly, it was a testament to her talent at remaining undetected that he hadn't picked up on it long before his train even arrived in Misaki Town!

For a moment-and-a-half, both Shirou and the Spider Queen were too surprised to react, staring at each other in abject horror at what they saw.

Then every bag and container in the Spider Queen's arms was dropped with a thunderous crash, and she bolted.

She didn't get very far.

She hadn't even made it back inside the warehouse before Sarpanitum, the Noble Phantasm that had proven its worth against Arkhangel, pierced no fewer than three of the legs on her left side, causing her to topple over.

Shirou didn't immediately pursue however, instead turning to the truck filled with cigarettes and drugs.

Sowilo, the Rune of the Sun, would probably have been enough on its own to destroy it all, but Shirou linked it together with Thurisaz, the Rune of Thorns and Directed Destruction, and with Fehu, the Rune of Abundance, to make absolutely sure that not a single atom would survive.

The vehicle turned into a conflagration in the blink of an eye, burning so fiercely and hot that not even a whiff of smoke could escape. Before Shirou could even turn around again, there was nothing left but molten slag.


The Spider Queen led out a screech that was filled with horror and anger in equal measure, and for a moment, it looked as if she wanted to jump at Shirou's throat.

That moment passed quickly however, and she ripped the legs that had been pierced by Sarpanitum straight off her body, before she tried to run away again, rushing back into the warehouse.

This time, Shirou pursued, though with some healthy caution, wary of tricks and traps as he entered the warehouse too.

At first sight, the warehouse seemed rather ordinary, the kind you could find in every city where the manufacturing business had seen its best days. A better look though revealed thin threads of spider-silk that had been spun everywhere, the giant webs that covered the ceiling and the walls, and the countless spiders guarding the doors.

Undoubtedly, anyone caught in those webs would have very little chance of escaping, and then the Spider Queen could take her time killing them, if she didn't have her minions take care of it instead.

There was a single path leading to the back of the warehouse where no webs had been spun though, most likely to allow possible visitors, like Vlov Arkhangel, to enter. The path was barely visible, cleverly hidden from normal eyes, but unfortunately for the Spider Queen, Shirou could see it perfectly well nonetheless.

Using that path, he easily caught up with her.

Gritting his teeth and promising himself that he'd take a bath as soon as this was over, he threw himself against the Spider Queen's side to knock her over, having to suppress a shudder when large quantities of puss and slime were splattered all over him as a result.

Never mind a bath. He'd cleanse himself in fire instead.

"N-No!" The Spider Queen wheezed when she fell, desperately crawling away from him, before she grabbed two nearby vials, from among the many that had been scattered all over the warehouse's floor, and threw them at him.

One of them exploded in a foul green fire, while the other unleashed a massive burst of acid, far more than should have fit in the small container.

A powerful gust of wind deflected both however, and Shirou answered with a burst of lightning.

It wasn't very effective.

The Spider Queen was massive and bulky enough to tank the lightning with little effort. She merely grunted in pain when it hit, twitching as the current rushed through her gigantic body, before she continued skittering away from him.

Until she reached a Magic Circle.

Slamming one of her horrendous appendages down upon the Circle, the Spider Queen activated one of her defences, one not linked to any kind of Bounded Field, and Shirou braced for its effects.

Nevertheless, he was still caught by surprise when the floor suddenly started liquefying beneath him, changing into an extremely potent acid that rapidly consumed everything inside the warehouse, even the discarded steel tools that had been stacked everywhere.

The entire front half of the warehouse turned into a green fluid, and within moments, nothing was left of the abandoned waste that had been so ubiquitous before. The acid was extremely strong, strong enough to consume metal in moments, perhaps even strong enough to blister Shirou's skin.

Fortunately though, he could fly, and so he rose above the acid, having no desire to test his durability, before speeding after the Spider Queen again.

She looked horrified at his ability to fly, which rendered her acid trap completely ineffective, but she didn't look desperate yet.

It became clear why when the roof suddenly came down upon him, giant plates of iron and bricks collapsing and tumbling down to crush him.

He dodged of course, rather easily, but his breath hitched in alarm when pieces of the ceiling fell into the acid pool, where they turned into clouds of ominous, red vapour.


The Spider Queen clearly loved her concoctions, and once more, Shirou took no risk, holding his breath until he'd made it past the deadly vapour.

Just in time to see the Spider Queen enter a back office.

He pursued again, leaving the warehouse itself behind, and in the back office, Shirou quickly found a hidden door, leading to a long hallway.

The hallway was rife with traps, including but not limited to more poison, more acid, various explosives, horrid curses that aimed to strip the flesh off his bones, and vast amounts of spider silk having been spun between the walls, floor, and ceiling.

Frankly, the curses were the easiest to deal with. He just let them strike him, after which they were immediately dispelled by his Magic Resistance.

The spider silk he burned, using the Cleansing Power to call forth white flames, which also worked decently well against the fist-sized spiders that tried to ambush him at regular intervals.

The poison and acid he dodged and deftly avoided. It was definitely Magical poison and acid, meaning that his Magic Resistance should be effective against them, and he was far more durable than most to both, but even so, he didn't take any chances. Not when he didn't have to.

As for the explosives, he relied upon his armour to weather those blows, using his cloak to shield his face.

Woven by lady Frigga herself, from the silken fur of a hundred different Divine Beasts, it easily held up against every attack thrown its way.

The traps slowed him down however, giving the Spider Queen many extra seconds to get away, and he wasn't surprised to find himself at a dead end eventually, with her nowhere in sight.

Except it wasn't a dead end, thankfully, but only a change in directions. When he came closer, he saw that the hallway did continue, but straight downwards, changing into a deep crevice.

The hallway Shirou had just crossed had already been pitch-black, with the last source of light having been the lamp in the back office, and down in the crevice, it was even darker, like a black hole swallowing every bit of light that could possibly have existed down there.

But Shirou's eyes no longer needed light to see, so he was able to discern the roof of an elevator, a crude metal box that slowly descended into the Earth, moving without the need for electricity or support cables.

The redhead quickly scanned the shaft for any nasty traps or surprises, and when he found nothing of importance, he jumped down, letting gravity run its course, before he landed on top of the elevator.

There was no hatch to be found, so Shirou simply ripped himself a new opening, tearing apart the low-quality metal with little effort.

But once again, he was too late.

The elevator had already reached its destination, the lowest possible floor, and the Spider Queen had fled again, mere moments before Shirou caught up.

Not yet deterred, he lowered himself into the elevator proper and also stepped through its open door, finding himself in yet another hallway, though this one was much wider than the one above and was properly lit with various candles, giving it a fairly open atmosphere despite being dozens of metres underground.

The Spider Queen's disgusting scent was all over the place, potent enough to make Shirou pull a face despite his best efforts not to, and the further he got, the stronger it became.

Unpleasant, but it did mean he was going the right way.

Which was confirmed once more when he triggered another trap.

Unlike the traps in the hallway above, this one did not involve poison, acid, or explosives. Perhaps it was because the Spider Queen did not want to use such destructive measures so close to her main base, but the trap consisted of nothing more than two large dogs being released from their cages.

Shirou could not help it, he huffed a bit. Compared to the earlier defences, potent enough to slow him down considerably, this seemed rather lacklustre.

That was not to say those dogs weren't dangerous though, because they were. Clearly, they had been tampered with extensively, sufficiently so to make them dangerous even to the likes of seasoned Enforcers. They were the size of polar bears, with eight legs each, teeth like daggers dripping with venom, gigantic muscles rippling beneath leathery skin, and eight eyes like black beads, radiating pain and hatred in equal measures.

The moment they were released, they pounced on him, like attack-dogs were wont to do, though they did not bark, nor did they growl. Instead, they were squeaking softly, continuously, in both madness and agony.

If Shirou had had any qualms about fighting the beasts, out of reluctance to harm creatures with no inborn malice and no choice in their actions, those squeaks made him harden his heart.

These dogs had been maimed and altered beyond all hope of recovery, both physically and mentally. They had been sliced apart and put back together without any regard for their health and well-being, in a way that even the Meluastea would have considered needlessly cruel.

All they had left was pain and hatred. Even if he managed to restore their original forms, somehow, they'd never actually recover, not from this.

All he could give them was a swift, merciful end.

One of the dogs was faster than the other, eagerly snapping its jaws at everything it could see, and Shirou let it bite into his left vambrace, which its teeth, despite being awfully sharp and horrid, could not pierce.

Then, he swung Mjolnir with his right hand, bringing the hammer down upon its temple, the weakest part of the skull.

The poor creature immediately went limp, its jaws relaxing as it toppled over. Death had been instantaneous, free of any pain.

Shirou didn't have much time to feel sorry for the beast though. The other dog, even larger and even meaner-looking, came up next, and unlike its deceased counterpart, it did not go for any of his limbs, but targeted his throat instead, aiming to rip it out.

It was by far the best move available against an armoured opponent, and although Shirou did consider the possibility of the dog knowing that, the sheer madness and frenzied panic in its many eyes quickly disabused him of that notion.

It had no idea what it was doing. It just wanted to kill, and it happened to have chosen the best way by coincidence.

Fortunately, Shirou knew what to do about that, courtesy of his father's training.

Dogs were used as guard beasts pretty much all around the globe, and their sharp senses and resistance to bribery made them a serious obstacle to any potential anti-hero mercenaries who might want to 'dispose' of cruel dictators or corrupted officials.

Kiritsugu had taught his son much about fighting dogs, and even though he'd never needed the knowledge before, now that he was looking a rabid dog in the face, the redhead was once more grateful for his father's excellent foresight.

Dropping Mjolnir for now, he used both hands to grab the dog's cheeks, thereby pinning it in place, before he sharply jerked it to the side, bringing it off-balance, after which he managed to drag it off its feet.

Using his core and arms, he then slammed it down on the ground, hard, and while its eight legs flailed in the air, he called Mjolnir to his hand and brought it down upon its malformed head.

Its struggles ceased immediately.

Grimacing slightly, Shirou mumbled a short apology to both beasts, and he hoped that, if there was a dog afterlife somehow, they were now happy there, free and restored to their proper forms.

Then he continued, now with one more reason on the long, long list to kill the Spider Queen.

He wasn't exactly a dog person, but all the same, this kind of casual cruelty could not stand.

Although Arcueid Brunestud, in her latest rush to find Roa, had started out with a considerable head start over Tohno Shiki, courtesy of Emiya Shirou, who'd kept the latter back for a while to have a private conversation, it didn't take Shiki all that long to catch up with her.

The reason for that was simple. Arcueid had started out nicely, tracking down Roa using her connection with the Earth, but she'd soon run into an old rival, and she was now stuck in an alley, arguing with said rival.

When Shiki entered the alley too, he was at first surprised to see her there, having expected she'd be much further away, and then outright shocked when he realised whom she was arguing with.

It was no one else than Ciel-senpai.

His own Ciel-senpai, the captain of the tea club at his school, his newest and oddest friend, and the girl who'd been giving him so many headaches lately with her tendency to appear and disappear at will.

She was right there, shouting at Arcueid, while wearing an outfit that he could only describe as that of a warrior-nun, guns and all.

Now, Shiki was many things, not all of them good, but he wasn't dumb. He soon understood what was going on, that Ciel-senpai was also a denizen of the Moonlit World, and frankly, he wasn't even that surprised anymore.

He'd suspected from the very beginning that there was something off about her, and now he had his suspicions confirmed. His gut-feeling had been right all along, and that honestly made him feel pretty good about himself, especially after feeling like a complete idiot for the past two days.

He didn't have long to bask in his own cleverness however, as the two women quickly noticed his presence, ceasing their argument at once in favour of welcoming him.

"Oh, Shiki!"


Arcueid looked pleased to see him, much more pleased than when she saw Shirou, but Ciel looked almost horrified.

That horrified look was a bit rankling, especially from someone who'd pretended to be his friend, but Shiki ignored it for now.

"You took him along with you?!"

But he couldn't ignore Ciel's sudden outburst at Arcueid, her eyes blazing in anger.

"I chose to come along." He replied before Arcueid could, crossing his arms as he glared at his supposed senpai, daring her to protest further.

"But it's dangerous!" Ciel did in fact protest further, paying no heed to his warning glare, and for a moment, she once more looked like a proper senpai trying to look out for her kohai, a normal girl with normal concerns.

Which only pissed Shiki off even more. There were few things he hated more than people trying to be normal when they were not.

"There is no need to be concerned about me." He informed her, his voice terse and decidedly unkind. "I can look out for myself, can't I, Arcueid?"

"Absolutely." Arcueid happily confirmed, and the pride in her voice went a long way to sooth Shiki's irritation. "Shiki killed the Knight, you know. He killed Vlov Arkhangel."

"W-What?!" Ciel's unabashed shock at his most recent feat was pleasant to the eyes, as was the fact she seemed to be struggling for words now. She'd always been so composed and mature, so unlike what a normal teenage girl was supposed to be like, that it was nice to see her like this for once.

"And I will help you kill Roa." He added for good measure.

"R-Roa? I-I am not sure that is wise. I discovered his true identity earlier tonight, and it could be a shock for you to-"

"Roa has taken over the body of Tohno Shiki, Shiki's older brother." Arcueid interrupted her, smugness practically dripping off her voice and expression. "Shirou told us."

"You knew, and yet you still took Shiki along with you?!" A bit of the earlier anger returned, but Shiki was having none of it.

"I don't care." He said bluntly, getting quite fed up with people treating him like he was a porcelain doll they had to protect. If it wasn't Akiha, then it was that Shirou, and now even Ciel. "I don't even know him. All I know is that he killed people, he is one of those Vampire Kings, and he needs to be stopped. I want to help."

He made his desires clear, yet the warrior nun still seemed reluctant. She just wasn't listening to him, and the urge to brush past her grew by the moment.

"I am going, Ciel-senpai." He informed her again, trying to make it clear it was not up to negotiation. "With or without your permission-"

"Fine!" She suddenly snapped at him, relenting at last when she recognised the futility of trying to stop him. "But you will stay within my line of sight and you will run if things seem to go wrong."


"That is final, Shiki!"

"A-Alright." Now it was Ciel who didn't budge, and after he glanced at Arcueid, who seemed to agree with the nun, it was Shiki's turn to relent.

"Yay! We're all working together!" Arcueid cheered once the negotiations were over, which earned her a dirty look from Ciel.

Then they were off together, and as he followed behind the two women, Shiki wondered for a moment whether he should inform Ciel about his ability.

About the Mystic Eyes of Death Perception.

It would be the logical thing to do, to make sure that Ciel, who seemed the most tactically and strategically minded of them all, knew what she was working with. It would certainly increase efficiency.

But in the end, he did not.

She had kept secrets from him, pretending to be normal when she was anything but, and that still stung.

So he kept his mouth shut. She'd find out about his Mystic Eyes when it was relevant.

Until then, it was none of her business.

When Shirou entered the laboratory of the Spider Queen, having made his way past all the traps trying to stop him, he noticed several things at once that made him purse his lips in disapproval and even outright anger.

For one, the laboratory was filthy, with dust, grime, mould, and who knew what else sticking to the walls, the ceiling, and even the benches and what little equipment remained. Drops of unidentified liquid had been spread around everywhere, and the floor was a veritable minefield of broken glass and sticky patches.

That might not have seemed like such a big problem, especially considering the circumstances, but Shirou was a bit of a neat-freak, making this laboratory an eyesore, not to mention the fact that Waver had thoroughly imparted on him the importance of keeping one's working space clean and tidy, which made this place an affront to look at.

But that was a mere irritation compared to the pungent smell of blood, actual blood, hanging over the laboratory like a dense cloud. Most of it was animal, blessedly, but a not insignificant part was human.

Hardly surprising, considering this was the lair of a Dead Apostle Ancestor, but that didn't make it any less terrible.

Having taken that all in with a glance, Shirou continued making his way into the laboratory-


Before he was bowled over by the Spider Queen herself, who'd hidden behind a hastily erected Bounded Field.

Though he was physically stronger than her, she outweighed him by an order of magnitude or more, so he ended up on his back with her on top of him.

Her stench was eye-watering, especially from so close, but Shirou ignored it in favour of grabbing her head.

Her many milky eyes stared at him with unhidden fury and terror, and her fangs dripped with venom and her own blood as she snapped her jaws at him, trying to rip into his throat.

Having no idea whether his skin was durable enough to withstand her fangs, and also no idea what effect it would have if she succeeded at getting her blood into his system, Shirou kept a tight hold on her head, keeping it far away from him.

He might be a Demigod of sorts, which could possibly give him a resistance to Dead Apostle blood, but then, Ancestors were also Demigods, kind of, which might overpower his resistance.

Better safe than sorry.

For a moment, he struggled with the Spider Queen, before he shifted one of his hands to her chin and the other to the back of her head, and snapped her head to the left.

Her neck broke with a dry crack.

Not a fatal wound to an Ancestor, but the shock of suddenly having the connection between brain and body severed made her go limp for a moment, allowing Shirou to throw her off of him.

She came down with a crash at the other end of the laboratory, right on top of a pile of glass shards, causing her to let out a shrill cry.

As if in response to that cry, a legion of spiders then emerged from the shadows, rushing straight at Shirou, who lifted an eyebrow when he noticed that none of those spiders had been Magically altered in some way. Unlike the dogs, they were in their natural state, and quite well-fed on top of that.

They were normal spiders, coming to the aid of their queen.

It was almost beautiful to behold, an army rushing in to save their monarch, only ruined slightly by the fact that the monarch was a Dead Apostle Ancestor and the army consisted of spiders.

Fortunately, Shirou wasn't afraid of spiders, so he kept his cool even when they started crawling all over him, attempting unsuccessfully to pierce his skin with their tiny jaws.

In response, he summoned solar flames, using them to burn away the miniature army.

"No!" The Spider Queen let out a pitiful cry at the demise of her underlings, but unlike Vlov Arkhangel, she didn't charge at him with reckless abandon to avenge the slight, but rather tried to use more Curses and strange concoctions from a distance.

None of which survived the flames either.

Evidently, combat wasn't her strong suit by any means, and that, combined with everything else he'd seen of her so far, led Shirou to the conclusion that she was likely an Alchemist.

She brewed her potions and her concoctions, she performed experiments on animals and humans alike, she even worked in an actual laboratory, filthy as it was, and she had no aptitude whatsoever for combat outside of directly throwing her mixtures at her opponents.

An Alchemist indeed.

Knowing that her bulk gave her a measure of resistance against attacks, Shirou fired a powerful bolt of lightning at her, striking her in the abdomen.

Letting out another pitiful cry, she went down, spasming wildly as the electricity burned through her system.

The spear Sarpanitum formed in Shirou's hand, eager to drink more Apostle blood, and Mjolnir glowed white as he channelled the Cleansing Power, before he advanced on her, keeping an eye out for unexpected surprises.

He wasn't going to let another Ancestor slip through his fingers at the last moment. Absolutely not. One had been enough.

He needn't have worried though. Already weakened from helping Arkhangel and with no more tricks up her sleeve, the Spider Queen could do nothing but stare in horror as he approached, crawling backwards until she hit the wall.

She was well and truly cornered, and that made Shirou even more cautious of anything she might try in order to escape. Prey was most dangerous when cornered after all, and that probably went doubly so for Dead Apostle Ancestors.

In the end, she did indeed try something, something radical, though not in the way he was expecting.

Suddenly, she started convulsing like she had a seizure, spasming and jerking this way and that. Her bones cracked and warped, her skin seemed to melt and harden simultaneously, and her spider legs literally popped off her body, discarded as if they had no more use.

It was a disgusting sight, but Shirou had seen so many disgusting sights already over the past hour alone that it didn't really bother him anymore. He just braced himself, ready to face whatever scheme she'd cooked up now.

Only to be surprised once more when the metamorphosis ended, not five seconds after it began, revealing an unexpected sight.

Suddenly, he no longer stood opposite the Spider Queen, that horrific monstrosity that gave the humble spider a bad name.

Instead, he found himself facing a human woman, who didn't look so bad at all. The opposite rather.

She had long, brown hair that was tussled up in a rough but charming mess, a face with distinct royal features, and a body to rival Arcueid's. She wore an orange blouse, a black mini-skirt, black-and-orange tights, and black high heels, with a lab coat over her shoulders.

There were no lacerations to be found anywhere, no imperfection marring her skin, no puss or slime coming out of any orifice, and even her repulsive stench had been replaced by a subtle, sweet scent that suggested she'd taken a shower not too long before.

It was a baffling metamorphosis, and even though Shirou had known already that the Spider Queen had a human form, he was still taken aback by the sheer contrast between the one form and the other.

In fact, the difference between them was so great that he almost couldn't connect the two. The monstrosity had been the Spider Queen, undoubtedly, but this… This was…

"Doctor Arach, I presume?"

"H-Huh? A-Ah, yes." The woman, Arach, nodded rapidly, making a brave attempt at a smile now that he had struck up a conversation rather than kill her immediately. "D-Doctor Arach, medically-trained general practitioner and certified architect, at your service."

The politeness was a massive tonal shift from her earlier hostility, but it wasn't hard to see through her ploy. In this form, her combat-abilities were even less than in her monstrous form, so the only reason she would have changed it would be to try and negotiate with him in order to wriggle her way out of the fight.

By assuming a more human shape and behaving submissively, she tried to appeal to him, to make him forget, even if only for a moment, that she was supposed to be a Dead Apostle Ancestor.

And the frustrating part was that it actually worked. Even though he knew she was still the Spider Queen, Shirou had paused upon seeing her look so human, he had failed to follow through on striking her down, and he had even struck up a conversation, thereby fully humanising her in his eyes. For all intents and purposes, Arach had successfully separated herself from her Ancestor-persona, at least in his eyes.

Frustrating indeed.

"Please don't kill me." Arach wasted no time in getting straight to the point, milking her newfound advantage for all it was worth, assuming a full-on dogeza-position. "Please!"

Shirou tried to remain deaf to her pleas, knowing that he should kill her. By all accounts, he should kill her right now and end her miserable life, saving thousands in the process.

A swift lunge with his spear and a finishing blow from Mjolnir. That was all it would take. Then it would all be over.


But he couldn't. He couldn't get his arms to move. Not when his opponent had surrendered and was begging for mercy. Not when she was no longer a threat. He wasn't that coldblooded.

He wished he was, just this once he wished that he could kill in cold blood, but he couldn't.

He was well and truly stuck.

It hadn't been like this with his previous opponents! Vlov Arkhangel had fought until the bitter end, never surrendering or begging for anything. He'd been desperate when it seemed Shirou was about to kill him, yes, but he'd still been resisting!

But now the Spider Qu- Doctor Arach had prostrated herself, and Shirou was left in a bind.

A Hero of Justice couldn't kill his opponents in cold blood, but he couldn't let her go either. Taking her prisoner was a fool's errand, and any promise on her part to never harm a human again was guaranteed to be a lie.

"You killed people." He spoke at last, in an attempt to convince himself to strike her down more than anything else.

"Only a few!" She protested, as if that made a difference. "I-I lived mainly from animal blood! A-And the humans I killed were criminals! Criminals and vagrants! No one will miss them!"

Those callous words actually provided Shirou with a bit of motivation, and he took a step closer.

"I-I can give you information!" Immediately realising her mistake, Arach tried another approach, still in her dogeza-position. "I-I have been living off the grid for a while, s-so I don't know much about current affairs, but I can tell you things, useful things, about Roa, about Sumire, a-and even a big secret about Altrouge Brunestud! Things no one else can tell you!"

Shirou paused again at the promise of information, his interest piqued despite his best attempts to ignore her. She had mentioned three names, only the first of which he recognised, but she wouldn't have mentioned this 'Sumire' if she wasn't important, and the name 'Brunestud' was significant all on its own.

"I-I will tell you everything I know!" Heartened by his pausing, Arach's voice gained some strength, and she lifted her head to look at him, her face set in a perfectly pleading expression, one that made it clear at once that she'd practiced it in the mirror many times. "S-So again, please don't kill me! I would seriously die from that!"

A terrible joke, but it was such a tonal shift that Shirou couldn't help but huff all the same. And with that huff, and the fact that his killing instincts quieted completely, he knew that he had made his choice already.

The choice to hear her out at least.


"Roa is here in Misaki Town, in the body of Tohno Shiki." She revealed, to which he nodded.

"I am aware."

"Eh?! A-Ah, but, d-did you also know that his Reincarnation this time was a mistake?!"

"No, I did not." That made Shirou's ears prick up in interest. "In what way was it a mistake?"

"Tohno wasn't the one whom he aimed for." Arach looked immensely relieved that she did have something to offer him after all, eagerly spilling the beans. "It is said that he actually wanted to possess one of the Nanaya."

The Nanaya…

Shirou knew that name.

The Nanaya were a family of powerful assassins who specialised in killing Demons and Demon-like creatures. Famous for their massive successes at fighting the inhuman and infamous for their tendency to slaughter anyone with even the merest drop of Demon Blood even when they had done nothing to warrant execution, they had been Kiritsugu's allies and enemies alike.

"The Nanaya were all killed ten years ago though." Shirou protested, remembering that Kiritsugu had been both pleased and saddened at that fact, before he blinked when he realised something. "Is that why Roa's Reincarnation went wrong?"

"Yes. W-Well, it's pretty complicated, but I'll try to explain." Arach genuinely looked pensive for a moment, before holding up a finger in an impromptu lecturing pose. "It is rumoured that Roa's Soul goes to the Root of Akasha in-between his Reincarnations, though no one has been able to confirm that. Not even Roa himself, as he doesn't remember those periods."

A Dead Apostle going to the Root of Akasha?!

Wow… Shirou really hoped that was an exaggeration.

"In any case, one of the leading reasons for that rumour to propagate is the fact that he always seems to Reincarnate in the ideal body. It's always someone weak, living in a place with few enemies, who are destined to develop some kind of ideal power for him. As if he's searched through the Records at the Root in order to select his ideal option. Hence, the fact that he ended up in the halfwit son of the Tohno-family was a shock to us all."


"A-Ah, m-me and my underlings." She explained quickly, and though it sounded like a lie, it was actually the truth. "I-I was already living with the Tohno at that point, a-and I almost couldn't believe my eyes when I saw Roa's Soul in Makihisa's eldest, Tohno Shiki. Frankly, I was tempted to kill him right then and there. That dirty slug!"

Right. Roa was hated by pretty much everyone, including his fellow Dead Apostle Ancestors.

"But?" He prompted the Ancestor to keep talking. "Why didn't you?"

"I didn't want to blow my cover." She admitted plainly, before shrugging. "And besides, Makihisa ended up killing him himself."

"He killed his own son?!"

"Yeah, he did."


"Because he went out of control." Arach explained, before elaborating when she saw he still did not understand. "You probably already noticed that the Tohno are halfbreeds. They have a fair amount of Demonic blood. That blood sometimes goes haywire on them, a process they call 'inversion', and when that happens, the rest of the family kills the one afflicted."

"…" That sounded immensely harsh to Shirou's ears, both to the executioner and the executed, and unless he was missing something, it hadn't worked in this particular instance, considering Roa was still running around in Tohno Shiki's body. "I assume Tohno Makihisa wasn't very successful then?"

"Oh no, he was. He killed Shiki stone-cold dead, but this is where it gets complicated." Arach huffed, looking more than a little amused now. "When Tohno Shiki inverted, he ended up killing his younger brother in his sudden bloodlust. Their sister however, little Akiha, ended up giving half of her life-force to said younger brother, thereby reviving him. When Shiki was killed by Makihisa however, he stole half of that given life-force in turn, also reviving himself."

"So they all survived?"

"Certainly, and what's more, when Shiki, or perhaps I should call him Roa from now on, stole half of his younger brother's life-force, he also copied some of his abilities. This is relevant, because that younger brother, the Shiki who has been running around with the Moon Princess, is not actually a Tohno, but one of the Nanaya."


"Yup. Adopted during the massacre of his family, or should I say, kidnapped?" Arach pondered for a moment, as if choosing the right word was actually important right now, before she shrugged. "Well, whatever. In any case, Roa found himself a weak mind in a strong body, that being the older Shiki, and through a set of circumstances, also obtained the power of the Nanaya. It's everything he wanted, even if his reincarnation almost went wrong."

That was certainly interesting, and a lot of food for thought, but in the end, it didn't exactly seem important.

"That is all very interesting, but how is it relevant right now? You said you had useful information on Roa, but this doesn't sound very useful at all."

"It is useful!" Arach insisted, looking almost affronted. "Don't you see?! Don't you understand, Magus!? By stealing the abilities of the younger Shiki, Roa is more dangerous now than he ever was before, in any of his Reincarnations!"

That claim, which contained not a single falsehood or omission, made the redhead pause.

"How so?"

"It's his eyes!" Arach didn't even try to be coy anymore. She promptly replied with the whole truth and nothing but the truth. "His current form has Mystic Eyes! Really dangerous ones! They allow him to cut through anything! You know of what I speak!"

Yes. Yes, Shirou did know.

Really dangerous Mystic Eyes that allowed him to cut through anything?

An ability stolen from Tohno Shiki the younger?

That sounded an awful lot like…

"Roa possesses the Mystic Eyes of Death Perception! Mystic Eyes that allow the user to perceive death itself! To see the conceptual 'Death of an Existence'! The ultimate killing tool!"

The bottom of Shirou's stomach seemed to fall away, and his throat constricted painfully.

He'd never heard of the 'Mystic Eyes of Death Perception' before, but he'd noticed that the younger Shiki had Mystic eyes, and he had seen, firsthand, what their power could do against the unaware, even against the Moon Princess herself.

Tohno Shiki could grievously wound and perhaps even kill immortal beings, exercise some kind of horrible Authority that cut into Reality itself, and apparently, Roa also possessed that ability now.

It was the worst news imaginable!

Right now, as they spoke, Ciel, Arcueid and Shiki the younger were heading into battle against that fiend, and unless they'd somehow made a grand discovery in the short time he hadn't seen them, they were unaware of his true power.

It would be a massacre!

He had to hurry, before it was too late.

"What else?"


"What else can you tell me?!" Shirou repeated harshly, urgency eroding his manners. "You said you had information on someone called Sumire? And on Altrouge Brunestud? Tell me now!"

"Sumire is the twenty-first Dead Apostle Ancestor and the only one of us who is capable of using a Marble Phantasm!" Arach immediately rattled off, slamming her head back down on the ground in another dogeza-pose. "She lives in the water, is weaker on land, is perpetually drunk, and I happen to know that she is weakest when she is in the air! Get her ten metres off the ground and killing her will be easy, or at least easier."

"Noted." Shirou could work with that, should he ever find himself in battle against this Sumire. "And Altrouge Brunestud?"

"My information is not about her directly, but about her pet beast. She claims that her wolf is Primate Murder, the ultimate mankiller and Beast II."

Yes, Shirou had heard about that monstrosity before. Primate Murder was a creature he planned to fight himself at some point, though only when his Asgardian side had increased so much as to make him sufficiently inhuman that the Beast had no Authority over him anymore. Otherwise, he'd be killed in an instant by the being that was the most adept of all at the art of killing humans.

But more information about the Beast was always welcome, so Shirou gave doctor Arach his full and undivided attention.

"It's a lie!" She wheezed out, laughing breathlessly. "Altrouge's claim isn't true! That wolf is not Primate Murder, but Fenris!"

"Fenris?!" Shirou's voice rose an octave or more, and he nearly reared back in shock. "The Norse Divine Beast?!"

Whatever he'd expected, it was certainly not that!

"At least a fraction of it." Arach confirmed, lifting her head again. "When the Age of the Gods ended and Mystery disappeared from the World, Altrouge helped it take on the guise of Primate Murder, so it could stay and serve her even in the modern age."

"And no one has figured this out before?! No one noticed it?! Not even other Ancestors?!"

"N-Not as far as I know. I-It is still a Divine Beast after all, one that managed to fool Gaia, a-and if Gaia thinks it is Primate Murder, then f-for all intents and p-purposes, it is. B-Besides, I don't think anyone can really tell the difference between one wolf and another. N-Not that many survive seeing it in the first place of course."

Had he not been standing opposite a hostile Dead Apostle Ancestor, Shirou would have needed to sit down at this point.

Primate Murder wasn't actually Primate Murder…

Instead, it was the remnant of a Divine Beast which had tricked the World into not banishing it to the Reverse Side by pretending to be something it was not.

It was a revelation that would make the Moonlit World shake on its foundations, and Shirou's legs weren't too steady either, as he struggled to maintain his balance in the face of such destabilising news.

Though at the same time, it was also, perhaps, maybe, possibly, good news, in a very twisted way.

Divine Beasts were bound by the laws of destiny, even more so than humans, and according to Norse Myths, it was Fenris' destiny to be killed by Thor.

Or, in other words, by Shirou.

If he could put any stock in those myths, and in Arach's words, then he might very well have a massive advantage over the Beast, one that would allow him to put an end to its reign of terror far sooner than he'd expected.

Of course, he shouldn't rely on Norse Myths too much, especially since they claimed that the World should have been destroyed already, which it obviously wasn't, but Shirou would be lying if he said that he wasn't getting excited again.

Thor's influence, no doubt.

In any case, this was immensely valuable information, and as he looked at the Ancestor, who was still scraping and bowing, he nearly decided to let her go right that instant.

Before he suddenly remembered a promise he'd made.

"…I have one more question."

"By all means!" Arach accepted eagerly.

"Why did you decide to live in the Tohno-manor?" He asked slowly, seeing how the Ancestor's expression froze. "Why did you deceive Tohno Akiha?"

When he'd discovered that doctor Arach and the Spider Queen were likely the same person, Akiha had asked him to determine why Arach had used her as an unwitting host and ally. For decades, the doctor had been a good friend to the family, or at least as good as could be expected in the Moonlit World, and it puzzled Akiha why a Dead Apostle Ancestor would go to such lengths for seemingly no reason, why she would be so kind to a Magus who had nothing to offer her.

It puzzled Shirou too.

So he asked the question.


It turned out to be a more difficult question than expected however, as Arach remained still for a few seconds, her expression shifting several times as she tried to come up with a proper answer.

…Was he seeing things wrong, or was one of the emotions she displayed actually guilt?

"I needed a place to lie low for a while after the debacle in Nice." She said eventually, pursing her lips as she spoke. "Misaki Town seemed as good a place as any, and Makihisa was easily fooled. I simply showed him how useful and mellow I could be, and allowed him to think he was manipulating me. From there on, it was easy to wriggle my way inside, into his house and into his confidence."

She spoke the truth, and it sounded about right too. Becoming too arrogant when you believed everything was going your way was a problem that afflicted not just Magi, but many people all around the world. The idea that a crafty Ancestor had hoodwinked an arrogant lord was not at all unlikely.

"I did not expect that Akiha would be so different from her father though." Arach continued, now looking even more displeased. "Knowing her, she probably didn't make a very good impression on you, but she's a good kid, honest. She looked after me, even before she became the head of her family, and I tried to look after her in turn."

"By causing trouble within her territory?" Shirou asked sceptically.

"I resent that!" She countered, baring her teeth slightly in her first display of aggression since she'd changed shapes. "I never caused trouble in Misaki Town! Not until Vlov and Roa started making havoc and lured the Burial Agency here! Before they came, I went to great lengths to ensure this city remained perfectly safe! Otherwise, Akiha might have been troubled by it!"

Once again, it was the truth. It seemed the Ancestor genuinely cared about Akiha, in her own, twisted way, and Shirou wondered whether the young lady would be happy to hear that, or only more saddened.

"Please tell her I am sorry." Arach continued, her frustrated expression making way for a sorrowful one. "If I had known I would cause this, that I would hurt her, I never would have come to Misaki Town at all."

The regret in her voice was so clear that Shirou didn't even need his budding Clairvoyance to tell she wasn't lying, and he lowered Mjolnir at last, unable to remain hostile in the face of such sincerity.

"You have my word I will never come back either." She then swore, pressing a hand to her heart. "I will leave Japan immediately. By next week, I'll be on the other side of the world, with all my underlings, and I'll never return."

She slowly got to her feet, keeping a wary eye on him, as if he were a hungry lion.

"I have told you everything I know. S-So, s-since you need to go and kill Roa, w-would you please let me go?"

She took a careful step towards him, and Shirou didn't react.

"I-I wish you the best of luck with Roa, a-and with Sumire and Altrouge." Emboldened by the lack of a reaction, she took another step forward, and then another. "I-It's them you need to k-kill, n-not me. L-Like I said, I never caused trouble here. I'm harmless."

Her pace increased, as she prepared to slip past him and make a break for it. Her freedom was close now, and in her haste to escape, she missed how Shirou suddenly froze, one of her words ringing in his head like a church bell.


The Spider Queen claimed to be harmless.

But that did not sound right.

What about the truck full of cigarettes and drugs he'd found outside? All of them spiked with Apostle Blood?

What about the ominous syringes, one of which he'd found on Vlov Arkhangel's person?

What about the blood-laced vaccines, intended for innocent children?

And what about the bands of Spider-Apostles and Spider-thralls he'd fought throughout the city?!

The memory shot to the forefront like a bolt of lightning, the memory of fighting a group of Spider-thralls in the alley where he'd met Ciel for the first time.

Arach claimed that she only preyed on criminals and vagrants, people whom society would not miss, yet now he remembered that among that group…

Had been a young boy.

Not ten years old.

"The humans I killed were criminals! Criminals and vagrants! No one will miss them!"

Those callous words once more echoed in his head, rattling his very bones, and just when Arach tried to weasel past him, Shirou's body moved on its own.


The next thing he knew, his hand had pierced straight through Arach's ribcage, her blood dripping down his arm, and he found himself gripping her still-beating heart.

"No! Please-!"

He squeezed.

Whilst summoning an immense amount of the Cleansing Power, he squeezed as hard as he'd ever squeezed, crushing her heart in his grip and burning her body to cinders.

It went so quickly he almost missed it, despite being the one who killed her. One moment, the Spider Queen was there, a terrified expression on her face, and the next, there was only ash and white flames.

White flames that did not douse by themselves, as they normally did when the target of Shirou's ire was gone, but rather spread rapidly throughout the laboratory to consume everything in sight.

Shirou knew that they were just flames, merely an expression of his power given the form of a physical phenomenon, and that he shouldn't anthropomorphise them, yet he couldn't help but feel as if the fire was actually hungry.

Hungry for the vileness and horror that hid inside that laboratory.

The redhead watched as glass and steel melted, as the filth and dirt was vapourised, and as the mysterious substances were thoroughly destroyed. The fire acted as if it had a will of its own, determined to erase every trace of the Twenty-Sixth Dead Apostle Ancestor.

That, more than anything, proved that the Spider Queen had been utterly evil after all, and utterly delusional on top of that.

She'd claimed, with a straight face and no deceit in mind, that she was harmless and hadn't done any damage to Misaki Town, yet the Cleansing Power vehemently disagreed, burning away with a vigour that showed her laboratory had been the scene of unspeakable atrocities.

The drugs outside had been meant to change thousands of people into Apostles, she had changed even children into mindless thralls, and she'd done experiments that even the Meluastea would have been horrified by.

Yet she'd still had the temerity to claim she was harmless and mean it too.

As he'd said, delusional.

For a few moments, Shirou watched as the fire rapidly consumed the underground laboratory, appreciating how the putrid stench rapidly disappeared, before he turned around and headed back up to the surface.

As if that was the signal it had been waiting for, the white fire pursued him, leaving the laboratory as well, though it always remained a single step behind him, slowly creeping up to the surface, to continue vanquishing the vileness above with its aforementioned hunger.

By the time Shirou left the warehouse, the building had become a conflagration. His humble flames had become a storm of fire that neatly erased every trace of the Spider Queen and all her underlings in its entirety.

By the time the emergency services were called and the fire brigade arrived on the scene, there was nothing left but smouldering remains.

The firefighters were quick to thank their lucky stars though, both for the fact that the fire hadn't spread and that it had happened in a derelict part of town, where the only things that could burn were long-discarded materials and heaps of filth and grime.

Nothing of value had been lost.

Something Shirou wholeheartedly agreed with.

"This is my school!"

Shiki couldn't suppress the cry of surprise when Arcueid and Ciel led him to a very familiar place, one that he'd been going to nearly every day for the past three years or so.

"Yes, it is." Ciel agreed, reminding Shiki of the fact she'd been pretending to be his Senpai at this very school for several weeks now.

"It's a lot more charming after sunset." Arcueid added, having also come here before to pick Shiki up for their shared hunt for Roa.

Neither of them seemed to be particularly surprised or upset to have ended up at Metropolitan Misaki Town High School, and Shiki grumbled softly at the confirmation that they didn't care at all about this beautiful bastion of normality.

"Roa is definitely here, right now." Ciel stated, pulling out three of her strangely long knives from… somewhere. "I can't tell where exactly though."

"I second that. He even changed this building into his own personal territory." Arcueid nodded, and despite the fact that the blonde woman had just agreed with her, the blue-haired nun's face twisted into a displeased grimace at the mere fact that her hated rival was talking to her at all. "There is a considerable chance he is watching us now, waiting for us to get closer."

"Heavens, did you figure that out all by yourself?" Ciel huffed.

"Just making sure we're all on the same line, miss Executor."

The dislike between them was so strong that even Shiki could easily pick up on it, just like he could pick up on the fact that it was actually pretty much one-sided.

Poor Ciel. It wasn't easy to hate someone who didn't care much about you in turn.

"Let's go inside." Arcueid decided after a few moments of further observation. "We gain nothing by waiting here."

"…Shirou might join us." Ciel ventured, sounding a tiny bit hopeful all of a sudden, and Shiki found he rather disliked that hopeful tone. Not half as much though as he disliked the fact that Arcueid nodded.

"Can we afford to wait on him though?" The Moon Princess asked nevertheless. "Every moment we wait is a moment the Serpent can use to either flee or prepare."

"I am not too keen on walking into an obvious ambush with no reinforcements and only you as company." Ciel argued, making Shiki feel rather overlooked. "I am more than willing to wait for a few minutes if it means we get another reliable ally-"

"We can handle it."

That remark was a lot more pleasant to the ears, and Shiki made to nod, but he stopped when he realised that the voice that had spoken hadn't been female.

It took him a few moments to realise that he had been the one to speak up, only making the link between that voice and his own when both women turned to him.

The next few moments were awfully awkward, until Arcueid started beaming.

"I'm with Shiki on this." She declared swiftly, making the teen's heart soar in delight. "It's two against one now, miss Executor. You can either come with us, or you can wait here for Shirou on your own."

"Kch." The prospect of staying outside while Arcueid and Shiki killed her archnemesis was enough to cast all doubt from Ciel's mind, and she nodded firmly. "I'm coming too!"

Thus, the three of them went inside, and Shiki was sufficiently delighted over the fact that Arcueid had been so quick to agree with him that he barely even noticed the creepy shadows and the creaking sounds that seemed to be ever-present in the large, old building.

Y-Yes, he barely even paid them any mind.

"Don't worry." Ciel said helpfully when she noticed his apprehension. "Those are just the normal sounds you hear at night. They're nothing to be afraid of. If something's coming to kill you, you won't hear them until it's too late."

Shiki deadpanned at her in response, but she'd already turned her back on him, carefully studying every perch and alcove that looked big enough to hide a Dead Apostle Ancestor from view.

"Do… Do you see anything?" He asked eventually, after what felt like an eternity but the clocks in the classrooms claimed to be only a few minutes.

"Nope." Arcueid declared cheerily, not looking the least bit bothered about it. "But I can sense him staring at us."


"I suppose it could be someone else, but that's hardly likely." Ciel replied, apparently sensing the same, before she raised her voice. "Right now, that coward is the only one here aside from us."

Her insult garnered no reaction, but judging from her expression, she hadn't expected one either.

"Seems like we're going to have to search the whole building piece by piece." Arcueid huffed, not sounding too thrilled about it, before her frown morphed into a smile as she had an epiphany. "Or perhaps I could burn down the school?"

"What?!" That was an awful idea, and Shiki gave her a shocked stare in response.


And why was Ciel actually contemplating it?!

"We are not going to burn down the school!" He declared strongly, crossing his arms in an 'X' in front of him.

"It would be more practical though…"


"Tsk, fine."

By some miracle, Shiki managed to convince his companions not to destroy public property by means of arson, finding himself questioning their common sense. The mere fact that it had even been considered was already bad enough, but that they didn't even seem to think anything of it really made him wonder whether those kinds of methods were acceptable in the Moonlit World.

…Shirou would probably do it. That bastard seemed like the kind of person who enjoyed mindless destruction.

"That we are not going to burn down the school does not mean our objective has changed." Ciel declared, pulling everyone's attention towards her again. "It just means we'll have to search this building piece by piece, like the White Princess-

"Please call me Arcueid."

"-The White Princess suggested. It's a huge place, so I suggest we split up to cover more ground."

That she also wanted to get away from Arcueid was readily apparent, so much so that no one felt the need to comment on it.

"I disagree. Splitting up is a bad idea under the circumstances." Arcueid shook her head however.

"I agree with Arcueid." Shiki ignored the hurt look that Ciel sent him in favour of looking through the window, at the track field outside. "Like you said, Ciel-senpai, the school is very big and complicated. If we split up, Roa can easily isolate us and then pick us off one by one."

That was what always happened in the films after all. Those who split up were definitely going to die, and this situation was a bit too much like a film for him to be comfortable with them following old cliches.

"It won't be that easy for the Serpent to pick me off." Ciel countered, looking vaguely insulted at the notion that she'd be caught off guard.

"But you said yourself that you don't know where he is exactly, and that he is likely watching us now, preparing an ambush."

"It's hardly the first time I've purposefully sprung a trap or two. I'll be fine on my own-"

"Ciel-senpai!" Frustration warred with worry in Shiki's heart, and he gave the recalcitrant nun a pleading look, practically begging her to see sense. "Please."

"…F-Fine." At last, he got through to her, and she reluctantly agreed, though not before holding up a stern finger. "But Brunestud will be in the front of our group, I'll be behind her, and you'll be at the back, where it's safest."

"That sounds good to me." Arcueid supplied, though she went ignored by Ciel, who kept staring at Shiki with a stern look, daring him to disagree.

"Sounds good to me too." There was nothing to disagree with however, so he nodded his assent.

"Hm." Ciel made a satisfied noise, and once they had assumed her preferred formation, they continued on their way.

Slowly and cautiously, they traversed the hallways of the school's main building, checking every nook and cranny for suspicious activity. They didn't have torches or other sources of light, but neither Arcueid nor Ciel needed anything like that to see in the dark, while Shiki found that the light of the full moon was actually rather sufficient for him.

Since they were being extremely careful, they proceeded at a snail's pace. It took them well over half-an-hour to properly clear the first floor, after which they climbed the stairs to repeat the process for the second, where they went even slower.

Rather than getting bored however, Shiki only felt more tense with every classroom they searched and broom closet they checked. Sweat was beading on his brow and temples, and his pocket knife hadn't left his hand since the second classroom they'd looked through.

"It's because you can feel the Serpent's eyes on you." Ciel had told when he'd asked about it, which did absolutely nothing to calm him down. The knowledge that they were being watched by a creature they could not see in turn awakened some kind of primal instinct inside of him, the kind that demanded he find the nearest cave and did not come out until the sun was high in the sky.

A remnant of the times when mankind had still been hunted by the top predators in their ecosystems. The instinct that had kept the humans alive even while sabretooth tigers and bears were on the prowl.

He felt like a spooked prey animal, and he hated the feeling. He fingered his glasses, wishing he could just remove them, but since going without his glasses gave him a splitting headache after a few minutes, he needed to save that for when Roa finally came out.

For now, he just remained on edge.

"Oh my!"

Hence, when Arcueid suddenly let out a cry of surprise while they were rummaging through yet another classroom, he almost ended up cutting her in half, again.

"Woah there!" She laughed, taking a quick step back. "Sorry, sorry, it's not an emergency. Nothing happened."

"What is it then?!" Ciel had also been startled, her long knives held ready in her hands, and she bit out the question through gritted teeth.

"Whoever was sitting here has been a naughty boy." Arcueid laughed, holding some kind of magazine she'd fished out of a desk drawer, which she showed to Ciel. "Mankind truly has progressed very far if they can make beautiful things like this. Look at how flexible these women are. And this one's butt is almost as nice as yours."

The nun glanced at the cover that was being presented to her, before she flushed red, her grumpy expression turning immensely embarrassed in the blink of an eye.

"Give that here!" She barked, snatching the offending magazine out of Arcueid's hands. The next moment, it was on fire.

"Hey now." The blonde woman pouted, but the nun ignored her.

"What was it?" Shiki asked, though he was reasonably sure he could take a good guess, judging by the reaction.

"Sin!" Ciel hissed in return, which was further evidence to support his theory. "Sin and vice!"

"What kind of-"

"Ask one more question and I'll force you to say a thousand Hail Maries to cleanse your Soul!"

Shiki's mouth snapped shut, and he quickly looked away as the nun continued to burn the magazine to a crisp, muttering furious prayers under her breath.

…If this was her reaction to what he assumed to be a porn-magazine, he really hoped she would never learn what the internet was.

"We continue." About a minute later, Ciel resolutely departed again, leaving Shiki and Arcueid to scramble to catch up.

In hindsight, that minute had been a wonderful opportunity for Roa to ambush them, distracted as they were, yet still nothing had happened. Not even a peep.

"Are you really sure he's here?" Shiki found himself asking when they reached the third and upper floor of the building, still without having found even the slightest hint of his presence.


The simultaneous reply from the women, which elicited a giggle from Arcueid and a glare of annoyance from Ciel, was quite decisive however.

"Where is he then?" Shiki grumbled, his patience beginning to wane at last.

"Right here, little bro."

He froze.

He froze completely stiff.

That voice…

He recognised it!

Flashes of a distant past ran through his head, and memories began rushing up to the surface, memories of a beautiful garden and delicious treats for them to snack on.

Akiha was there, in the memory, smiling more brightly than ever, as were Kohaku and Hisui, tiny and not as competent as they would one day become, but there was another person as well, someone he'd forgotten so far.


Another Shiki.

Slowly, Shiki turned his head to the left, to an adjacent hallway, where the new voice had come from, and there, he saw…


A face that seemed like a male version of Akiha, a head full of long, white hair, a tattered cloak concealing most of the body from view, and piercing red eyes glaring at the trio with amusement and bloodlust.

He'd changed over the years, in demeanour and appearance, yet it was undeniably him.

His older brother.

The brother who had murdered him.

"That's not your brother anymore!"

Shiki only had a fraction of a second to stare in stupefied shock before Ciel grabbed his collar and pulled him behind her with a strength that belied her small frame. He landed on his behind, hard, while she threw her long daggers at his bro-


Not his brother.

At Roa.

The Parasite-vampire knocked them away with contemptuous ease however, smirking cruelly as he took a step closer.

"Vade Retro, Diabolus!" Ciel cried, throwing two daggers into the floor in front of her, one dagger into the wall to her right, one into the wall on her left, and two into the ceiling.

Immediately after, the daggers rushed away, slicing through the stone as if it were hot butter, cutting a spiralling pattern into the hallway, centred around Roa.

A blueish light enveloped the Ancestor's limbs, and judging by the pained expression that took over his face, it wasn't a pleasant sensation.

Roa's knees buckled under the strain of the light, and he nearly went down, prompting Ciel to ready yet another dagger to cut his throat…

"Nice try."

Before he escaped.

The Serpent suddenly leapt out of the pattern's centre, straight towards the blue-haired nun, forcing her to scramble back as he broke the hold that the blueish light had had on him.

Behind him, the six daggers that had been used to trap him had all snapped in two, and as if to rub it in, he laughed in Ciel's face.

"Your Bounded Fields improve every time we meet on the field of battle, my dear." He praised her, though it sounded far from kind. "But I too have improved."

"Evidently." Ciel snapped at him, before she charged headfirst at the false Vampire Lord, her knives at the ready again.

Roa's eyes widened for a moment at the suicidal attack, an attack that only the likes of Lorelei Barthomeloi could pull off successfully against a Dead Apostle Ancestor, before he raised his arm, aiming to crush her head in one blow.

She saw it coming. Shiki was certain that Ciel saw the blow coming from a mile away, yet she didn't change course, running headfirst into Roa's fist.


Shiki had never seen a skull shatter into bits before, but now, he witnessed the gruesome sight for the first time in his life.

One moment, Ciel was running at the Vampire with the intent to kill. The next, his fist impacted her forehead, piercing through skin and bone, and then, there was only a headless corpse left, covered in her own gore, her brain matter splattering all over the hallway.

Shiki screamed in horror, his stomach turning upside down and his head becoming woozy, and he stumbled forward, reaching out to the body as if he could change anything.

He couldn't. He was only good for killing, not healing.

Roa turned to him next, drawing back his blood-covered fist again, and Shiki saw his life flash before his eyes, when-

-Arcueid suddenly appeared in front of him, striking Roa even harder than the vampire had struck Ciel, her punch landing right in his ribcage, shattering the bones and sending him flying off into the distance.

By sacrificing herself, Ciel had created a minor opening in Roa's defences, and Arcueid had mercilessly capitalised on it.

It was impossibly ruthless, on Arcueid's side as well as Ciel's. Shiki liked to think of himself as a selfless and dutiful person, but he couldn't even imagine giving his life merely for the possibility of maybe creating an opportunity for his allies to strike.

It was as baffling as it was infuriating.

His breathing came out in ragged gasps, his stomach was still rebelling, and tears pricked at his eyes. It wasn't the first time he'd seen a gruesome sight, not even the first time today, nor was it the first time he had witnessed someone die, but never before had it been someone close to him. That, more than anything, knocked him completely off balance.

It was Arcueid's expression however, entirely calm and disaffected despite the demise of their ally, that changed his confusion into rage.

He straightened up, balled his fists, and drew in a breath, before-

"Did you destroy his heart?"

-Before Ciel suddenly reappeared again, right next to the Moon Princess, looking none the worse for wear.

Shiki's furious cry died in his throat, his hands relaxed again, and he stumbled, nearly fainting in shock as the nun had seemingly resurrected.

"No." Arcueid shook her head, pursing her lips a bit. "I did not. He still lives."

"Good." Ciel nodded approvingly. "Even if you had killed him, such a punch would only have destroyed his current body. If we want to destroy his Soul, we'll have to use other, more sophisticated methods."

"I know. That's why I held back." Arcueid frowned a bit at Ciel, before she turned to Shiki. "We'll need your talents to- Shiki?! W-What's wrong?!"

At last, she noticed Shiki's utter befuddlement, how he was swaying on his feet. Her cry also prompted Ciel to turn around, and she too gasped.

"Tohno-kun? What happened? Did he hit you?!"

She grabbed hold of his one arm while Arcueid took the other, and it was a testament to their concern that they didn't even glare at each other as they did so.


"How? How what, Tohno-kun?!"

"How are you still alive?"

It was a completely reasonable question, at least in Shiki's eyes, yet it seemed to confuse the two women, as if he was the one not making any sense.

At least until Ciel gasped, her mouth forming an 'o' of realisation.

"I didn't tell you about my immortality yet?"


"Yes, Tohno-kun. You see, I am functionally immortal, for reasons too complicated to get into right now. Just take it from me that I cannot die as long as Roa is alive. It's Magic."


A word that used to excite him, but now only gave him a headache.

Frankly, he wanted to scream in frustration, but at least Ciel was not dead. That was a huge relief, sufficiently so that he could supress his irritation for now.

Noticing how he relaxed slightly, Arcueid was quick to pull him back to his feet.

"Pull yourself together, Shiki. We can talk about this later. For now, we have to fight Roa."

"…" Her deeply ingrained dislike of Arcueid almost made Ciel disagree, but her hatred for Roa won out in the end. Thus, she only nodded, also pulling him back to his feet.

Slavedrivers, the pair of them.

"I'll go on ahead." Arcueid said once Shiki was ready to go again. "If Roa jumps me, you can attack him when I have pinned him down. Be ready to use your eyes."

Right, the Mystic Eyes of Death Perception. The only reason he was here at all. He couldn't mess this up.

Shiki took his knife out of his pocket, the beautiful, well-crafted knife that he'd gotten from his father, and he placed a hand on his glasses, ready to take them off.

"Are you certain you can handle Roa, Brunestud?" Ciel asked, more rudely than necessary.

"Easily." There was not a trace of arrogance in Arcueid's voice. Only well-founded confidence.

"Very well then."

As announced, the blonde woman took off first, playing the roles of scout and vanguard, while Ciel and Shiki followed at a more sedate pace, with Ciel holding on to his arm, ready to pull him aside should Roa try to ambush them instead.

"We agreed we wouldn't split up." Shiki protested softly against the current arrangement, not at all happy with Arcueid putting herself at risk on her own. "What if Roa attacks her?"

"The Serpent is no match for the Moon Princess." Ciel didn't seem worried, though considering her dislike for the blonde woman, that did not reassure Shiki at all. "She is much stronger than him, much more powerful. He lacks any means of harming her, while she could kill his current host with a flick of her finger. She is a True Ancestor, and he is only a false Upstart Dead Apostle Ancestor."

There was a grudging respect in her voice, and that, more than the unknown terms she'd used, slightly reassured him.

Though it did raise another question.

"If she is so much more powerful than him, why hasn't she killed him yet?"

"Because killing his body is worse than pointless. He is the Serpent of Akasha, a Reincarnator, and every time his current form is destroyed, he pops up somewhere else. It's his Soul we need to destroy, but so far, neither Arcueid nor me have found a way to do that. Until now that is."

She gave him a meaningful look, and Shiki glanced away, feeling a blush come up at the trust he saw in those eyes.

"I thought you wanted to kill Roa yourself though." He protested, fully aware of that little fact by now, after spending over an hour in the presence of both Ciel and Arcueid, who seemingly spent every moment on arguing over who would get to deal the final blow. "Are you sure you're okay with me doing it?"

"Okay? No, I'm not okay with that. In fact, I hate it." Ciel admitted bluntly. "I despise the fact that I won't kill him myself more than I've despised anything else in my whole life, save for Roa himself."

"A-Ah…" Hearing how she despised the fact that he was going to steal her kill was more scary than he'd care to admit out loud, especially since she was still holding on to him with a crushing grip, placing him well within stabbing-distance.

"But… If it is you…"

But then her tone softened considerably, and the tense lines on her face eased. Her grip on his arm became much more tender, and her hold on her knives became less strained.

"If it is you… It's alright."

That was an immensely surprising declaration, and he turned to give her a befuddled stare, but she suddenly refused to meet his eyes, pointedly looking elsewhere.

Though that did not stop her from closing the distance between them even further, their shoulders rubbing together as they walked.

It was strange.

But not, he had to admit, altogether unpleasant.

Of course, that was the moment Roa chose to attack. They were all distracted, and just about to enter another hallway. It was a moment so perfect that even Shiki had frankly expected him to profit from it.

From the shadows, he launched a blistering attack on Arcueid, a butcher's knife in his right hand as he crossed the distance between them in a fraction of a second, lunging for her spine.

Had it been Shiki in Arcueid's place, he would have died right there.

Arcueid proved Ciel's confidence in her strength was warranted however. She'd turned around before the vampire was halfway, and with a twirl of the wrist, she knocked the blade off course and grabbed him at the neck, holding him up like a toddler.

Just like that, the battle seemed to have been won, and Ciel tugged on his arm, pulling him along towards the struggling duo.

As promised, Arcueid had pinned Roa in place, and now it was Shiki's turn to prove his worth.

Knife in hand, he ran as fast as he could, attempting to keep his eyes on Arcueid's back.

Though he had assured everyone that he would have no trouble killing the husk that remained of his own brother, the rapidly returning memories threatened to make it a problem after all. The last thing he needed was to look the monster in the eye now, to see the torturous resemblance again.

Hence, he kept his eyes on Arcueid, going as far as to stare at her butt in order to keep his gaze away from Roa. He'd been glancing at it for days now, finding it had a hypnotic effect on him, and now, he counted on that effect to help him out.

But of course, today of all days, his teenage instincts failed him.

Before he knew it, his eyes met Roa's.

But rather than a pleading expression, one that he'd expected and would pierce straight to his heart, Shiki found only smugness there.

Smugness, and an odd glow about the irises.

A familiar glow.

For a moment, Shiki was stumped, but then he remembered where he'd seen that glow before.

In the mirror!

"Arcueid!" He screamed, and she stiffened in surprise at the terror in his voice. "He has the Eyes too!"

For half a second, the entire World seemed to come to a standstill.

Then the knife in Roa's hand flashed.

And Arcueid's arm came off at the elbow.


The Moon Princess made a surprised sound, blinking at the stump which used to be her arm.

The knife flashed again.


She stumbled, her left leg no longer connected to her hip.

Another flash.


A jagged tear appeared from her right shoulder to her left kidney, deep and wide, and she started falling backwards.

The final flash.


She was cleaved in two, a perfect cut separating her upper torso from her lower torso.


And with that remark from Roa, she was blown away by his Magics, cast out of a nearby window, falling three stories down to the ground.

A total and humiliating defeat.

Just like that, Shiki found himself standing opposite Roa on his own, with Ciel half a hallway away and Arcueid defeated.


It was the best summary he could give of the present situation.

"Commander, look there!"

Noel, the leader of the Burial Agency's forces in Misaki Town in Ciel's absence, looked up to the sky at the prompting of one of her underlings, blinking in surprise when she noticed a human shape flying at great speed towards them.

None of their detection equipment indicated anything amiss with that shape, nothing inhuman, but Noel's hands automatically moved towards her Black Keys all the same, her instincts prompting her to take the shape down before it reached them.

She didn't go through with it in the end, thinking better of it, but she could almost feel how her lieutenant gave her a disapproving look all the same. Attacking before asking questions wasn't how the Burial Agency preferred to operate these days, despite most Magi thinking otherwise, and Noel had been reprimanded several times already for her trigger-happy attitude.

But since she'd never actually killed anyone she shouldn't have, and in light of her difficult past, she had never been punished before. Something she wasn't too eager to change. Ciel could only shield her for so long after all.

Thankfully, the shape was faster than her, and it came down in front of the small group of Executors with such swiftness that she couldn't have taken it down even if she wanted to. There, the shape was revealed to be a red-haired young man, clad in armour and holding a hammer in his right hand.

Noel had never met him before, but she'd read Ciel's reports of the past days, and was thus reasonably certain she knew who this was.

"Shirou, I presume?"

"Correct." He confirmed, slightly lowering the tension in the group, which had risen considerably upon his arrival. "Are you agents of the Burial Agency?"

"We are." Noel confirmed in turn, giving him a small nod in greeting, unwilling to offer a handshake. Not necessarily because she thought he'd do anything, but because she was unwilling to tie up one of her hands, however short, on a hunt.

"I am very happy to find you here." He did seem unusually relieved to find the forces of the Church, but he blinked when he took a proper look at them. "Are you all the agents the Burial Agency has in Misaki Town right now?"

Not a terribly illogical question, considering her team only consisted of six members plus herself, which would seem very little for an Ancestor hunt, but it wasn't a question she was going to answer. Not revealing sensitive information to outsiders was one of the first things you learned while becoming an Executor, and the exact numbers of your forces was the most sensitive information there was.

"You understand that I can neither confirm nor deny that." She huffed, crossing her arms. "But let me assure you, we might be few in number, but we are more than capable of isolating and fighting Ancestors. Even if there are three of them in the city-"

"One." Shirou interrupted her. "Vlov Arkhangel was killed by Brunestud and I killed the Spider Queen. Roa is the only one left."

His words caused a wave of shock to wash over the team of Executors, one of them even taking a step back, but it was a testament to their harsh training that they didn't say a word. Even as they reeled in surprise, their discipline remained intact.

"Good news if true, but we cannot simply take your word for it-"

"That doesn't matter! You need to go and help Ciel! She is hunting Roa now, if she hasn't found him already."

"We are aware." Noel lifted an unimpressed eyebrow at his rude behaviour, her impression of him going down considerably. "Ciel wants to fight him on her own. She is more than capable of-"

"Roa possesses the Mystic Eyes of Death Perception!"

Once again, he interrupted her, before hastily explaining what he meant by that term.

After only a few sentences, Noel completely understood and forgave his panicked behaviour, for she herself was now panicked too.

Mystic Eyes that could see the lines of death on any person, object, or concept? That could sever the coils of mortality and undo the very laws that held the world together? In the hands of a Dead Apostle Ancestor?!

That was exactly the sort of thing they should have known about before they came to Misaki Town, something that could turn the tide of any battle, and if she managed to survive the upcoming fight, Noel swore she was going to have words with the scouts and informants who'd overlooked something so huge.

"Ciel needs our help." Shirou stated once more, and this time, Noel nodded in agreement. "Roa has stopped hiding. He is located to the West of here, in that direction. Ciel is probably there as well."

He pointed to the West North-West, and Noel looked back at her own tracker, who, after once more consulting her equipment, went wide-eyed in shock, before she nodded hastily in affirmation.

For a moment longer, Noel hesitated, still wary of this being an elaborate trap, but in the end, she figured it couldn't hurt to go and take a careful look at least.

"Very well." She thus said, gesturing at her team to form up behind her. "We shall believe you for now. Let us follow Roa's tracks."

"I'll go on ahead." The Magus said, already rising into the air. "I wish you the best of luck, miss Executor."

"It's Noel." She replied, before she struck a cross. "And Godspeed to you, Magus."

"Shirou." He reminded her, before he was off, flying so fast Noel was surprised he didn't break the sound barrier.

Once he was well and truly gone, her lieutenant came up to her, his eyes set in a bemused look.

Tall, broad, and with a white beard that reached to his belt, he was the most physically impressive member of the team, which was one of the reasons he'd been selected as lieutenant.

When the leader, Ciel, was a small girl who looked like she was barely past her teenage years and the second-in-command, Noel, looked like an older student trying to find her first proper job, it was quite useful to have a more experienced-looking gentleman present to talk with the civilians.

Especially in a society as patriarchal as Japan.

"Do you believe him, ma'am?" The lieutenant rumbled in his heavy voice.

"Strangely enough, I do." For once, both her head and her heart agreed on something, and it was that this strange Magus could be trusted, for now. "Do you disagree?"

"No. He seemed surprisingly reliable, for a Magus." The lieutenant passed a hand over his beard in thought, somehow managing to make the gesture look very distinguished. "But we must be wary all the same. Even if the boy didn't mean to deceive us, he might have been deceived himself."

"Quite." Noel had been thinking along the same lines, and she quickly touched the man's shoulder to show her appreciation. "I suppose there's nothing for it then. Let's find Roa and help Ciel kill him."

It sounded so simple in theory, yet she had to do her utmost best to hide her apprehension at the mere thought of fighting Roa herself.

She'd talked a big game to the Magus, to Shirou, about her team's ability to fight Ancestors, but the truth of the matter was that only Ciel could realistically fight one of those monsters. The rest of them were very useful for culling the Dead and the minor Dead Apostles, but against an Ancestor, they would fall like bowling pins before a boulder.

Noel had trained so hard for so long to become stronger, to get closer to Ciel, the woman who had saved her life on multiple occasions, but the gap between them had only widened over the years. She couldn't fight an Ancestor now, and she couldn't see any future in which she could realistically fight one either. Not to win at least.

But that didn't make a difference now. They were members of the Burial Agency, and they weren't going to back down from a fight, not when their leader might need them.

The Church praised the bonds of friendship and camaraderie, and Noel would be damned if she failed to live up to it now.

"Let's go!" She ordered, and after her team assumed their standard formation again, they were off.

Had they been any less disciplined, they might have shouted in agreement or something sappy like that, but they were professionals. The only indication of their motivation was the sound of heavy footsteps, which contained more strength than usual.

To Noel though, that was more than enough.

Shirou was only marginally surprised when he discovered that Roa and Arcueid, the ones whose scent he'd been tracking, had decided to throw down inside a school.

Schools seemed to be at the heart of many modern stories, not in part because they were so essential to modern life. They were everywhere, both in the mundane world and the Moonlit World, with even the Clocktower technically being one.

Big events taking place in schools was something so ubiquitous in fact that Shirou fully expected something to happen at his own Homurahara High School soon. Perhaps even the kick-off of the Grail War itself.

It wasn't guaranteed, but at the same time, he wouldn't be surprised either.

Reality and fiction were closely intertwined, and that went doubly so for him.

But future visions and philosophical pondering would have to wait until later. For now, he had to help slay Roa, before his Mystic Eyes of Death Perception claimed too many victims.

He feared he might be too late however, having been held up for quite a while by the Spider Queen, and when he arrived in the sky above the school, he saw that his fears had indeed come true.

He couldn't see any sort of battle taking place, not from above, but right there, next to the school's main building, lay a corpse, in a puddle of its own blood.

The corpse of a blonde woman, sliced neatly into several pieces.

Deja vu much?

Shirou quickly descended and landed at Arcueid's side, taking stock of the situation.

Once again, she was still alive despite having been cut into pieces. She missed an arm, a leg, and she had been bisected, with a deep cut running from her shoulder to her kidney. All those wounds had been dealt with that Authority that cut into Reality itself, which Shirou now knew originated from the Mystic Eyes of Death Perception, and her attempts at healing herself were once more ineffective.

At the same time, the redhead heard the sounds of battle coming from the upper floor of the building, and he assumed for now that Shiki and Ciel were still fighting Roa despite Arcueid's loss.

Then there was no time to lose. They probably needed help, fast.

He got to work on healing Arcueid immediately, utilising all the tricks he'd learned when he'd healed her the previous time. Fortunately, she'd only been cut into four this time rather than seventeen, and all the pieces were present, so it shouldn't take too long to put her back together. Furthermore, it turned out that the Authority of the elder Shiki Tohno was even less than that of the younger, which made it far easier to break the effects of his Mystic Eyes.

Within a minute, Arcueid was sitting up again, none the worse for wear.

"Thank you very much." She beamed, before she sobered up again as she got back to her feet. "He surprised me and knocked me out of the fight. I didn't expect he'd have Shiki's power too."

"Neither did I." Not until the Spider Queen had told him directly at least. "Who else was with you?"

"Shiki and the Executor. They are fighting the Serpent now."

As if to confirm her words, an almighty crash sounded upstairs, as if a wall had been smashed by a body flying into it. Hopefully a vampire-body.

"Let's get up there and help them."

"Carry me." Arcueid half-asked, half-ordered, holding out her arms.

"…Alright." Shirou awkwardly stepped forward to wrap his arms around her torso, but was then pushed back all of a sudden.

"Not like that." She scolded him, before practically dropping herself into his arms, bridal style, wrapping her arms around his neck in turn. "This is how you should carry a lady."

"…Very well." Shirou wasn't going to waste time on arguing, so he tightened his hold, braced himself, and then flew straight towards the broken window.

"Weeee!" It was a very short journey, but Arcueid still found the time to let out an excited squeal, apparently not having much experience with flying.

Her excitement died a quick death however when they arrived at the field of battle, where the situation became clear in one look.

It was, in a word, critical.

Both Shiki and Ciel had been wounded quite grievously in the few minutes Arcueid had been away. Ciel had lost a hand that wasn't regrowing, there was an awful gash on her face that only just missed her eyes, and she didn't seem able to use her left leg anymore.

Shiki was comparatively less wounded, but he too was covered in cuts and grazes that kept bleeding, refusing to heal, and he'd lost a few fingers on top of that.

Fortunately, Roa hadn't come out of the fight unscathed either. A black key was sticking out of his shoulder, he'd been stabbed in the abdomen, and his knee seemed to be broken, though that wound was rapidly healing.

Likely, Shiki and Roa had been having a knife-fight, trying to use their Mystic Eyes of Death Perception on the other, while Ciel had run interference, trying to hamper Roa's attacks and expose him to lethal strikes from Shiki.

The appearance of Arcueid and Shirou caused a lull in the fighting, as Shiki broke out into a smile, Ciel heaved a tiny sigh of relief, and Roa's eyes widened in shock at seeing the White Princess hale and hearty before him.

To his credit, the false Ancestor didn't remain shocked for long, and with a sharp gesture of his hand, he unleashed a swift attack.

He generated multiple powerful discharges of current, materialising in the form of lightning bolts coming straight at Shirou and Arcueid.


Against Shirou.

The redhead would have smirked if the situation wasn't so serious.

He didn't even have to gesture or move in any way. He just willed the electricity out of existence, utterly neutralising the attack with a mere thought.

Then, in one smooth motion, Shirou dropped Arcueid to the ground, materialised Mjolnir again, and threw the hammer at the false Vampire Lord before he had a chance to process just how badly his attack had failed.

A brilliant hit.

The hammer smashed into Roa's gut, right on top of the stab wound, and rammed him through the wall behind him, and the one behind that, generating a ruckus that was almost enough to drown out the cry of agony.

Mjolnir promptly returned to Shirou's hand, but he didn't pursue for now, instead tending to the wounded before they bled out.

First, he healed Shiki, closing the cuts and grazes and reattaching his fingers to his hand. After that, he saw to Ciel's injuries, mending the gash in her face and the fracture in her hip.

"Do you know where your hand is?" He asked her, looking around for the missing appendage. He could make her a new one, but it would take much longer than reattaching it.

"Here!" Arcueid found it first though, somewhere down the hall, and she threw it at him like it was a tennis ball.

"Careful with that!" Ciel snapped, very vexed to see how her body part was treated with such irreverence, but she was distracted when he put her hand back on her wrist, healing it with but a tap of his finger. "Ah, thanks."

"No problem." Shirou assured her, before he looked around, at his three allies and the smashed hallway. "What happened here?"

"He tricked us." Shiki fumed, looking extremely offended at his own ability being used against him.

"He got us good." Arcueid agreed, sounding awfully chipper for some reason, a big, broad smile gracing her face. "If you hadn't been here, Shirou, this might have been the end of us."

"I doubt it was that serious!" Shirou deadpanned.

Arcueid would have pulled herself together in time, and although Ciel and Shiki had been wounded, they hadn't been defeated. Furthermore, Roa had been injured too, sufficiently so to seriously hamper his fighting abilities. As far as Shirou could see, the battle could still have gone either way.

Though he imagined Ciel and Shiki were pleased with his help nevertheless. It was better to be almost certain of victory than to have it be a toss-up after all.

And with the Moon Princess, a senior Executor, a young man with an awfully lethal ability, and a demigod working together, victory was indeed all but assured.

Which meant Roa was likely going to make a run for it now.

"We cannot allow the Serpent to flee!" Ciel was thinking along the same lines, retrieving the Black Keys that she'd scattered all around the hallway with a sense of frustrated urgency. "If he hasn't already!"

"He hasn't." Shirou assured her.

With his Clairvoyance, the redhead was able to look through walls if he concentrated, and saw that the Serpent was only now getting up from where he'd been thrown down earlier. Mjolnir had severely injured him, and it had taken quite a while for the wounds to heal enough for Roa to get back to his feet.

Like several other Ancestors before him, Roa now experienced what it was like to be wounded by an alien weapon of near-endless Divinity. How difficult it was to heal the injuries that it had dealt him.

He was not coping any better than Arkhangel or the Spider Queen.

"Should we follow him then?" Shiki asked, gesturing at the hole in the wall. "Before he runs?"

"No need."

If they charged after him now, they could probably catch him easily enough, but why take the risk?

Shirou had already established that the walls weren't load-bearing, not integral to the building's structural integrity, so he made a gesture with his hand, calling upon the wind to obey his orders.

Powerful gales shaped into razor-sharp blades, and they sliced into the walls, rapidly cutting them into pieces, which were then blown off to the sides, clearing their way.

With one motion, Shirou had changed two separate classrooms and a hallway into one big, open space. A testament to his growing control over his abilities.


Judging by the cry of pain and surprise, Roa had been caught in the storm of debris, and indeed, once their view was clear, they could all see him lying on the ground, bruised and battered.

Not so much though that he couldn't move anymore. Like a startled hare, Roa leapt away, rushing off on all fours, all dignity abandoned in the face of such overwhelming opposition.

He didn't get very far.

In a flash, Arcueid caught up with him, and she grabbed the back of his neck, before she slammed him down into the ground with a sickening squelch. Then, she lifted him up again, and slammed him down once more, before she threw him into a nearby wall. He hadn't even finished healing from that when she grabbed him at the throat and shoved his face into the floor.

Although Dead Apostles were much stronger than humans, and Ancestors even more so, they were no match against the White Princess, and Roa was painfully reminded of that fact as Arcueid literally wiped the floor with him.


But Roa never would have survived for so many centuries if he was the sort who'd allow himself to be slaughtered like that, and eventually, he managed to nick Arcueid's arm with his knife.

He had to have targeted a specific spot with the Mystic Eyes of Death Perception too, for her arm promptly became numb, forcing her to drop him.

He hadn't even gotten back to his feet however before Ciel jumped him next, throwing him on his back with her on top of him.

She punched him in the throat, making him gasp for air, and then grabbed the hand holding the knife, pushed it down onto the ground, and rammed a Black Key into the wrist, pinning it to the floor.

The cruel steel pierced through skin, flesh, and bone, but Roa couldn't even cry out in pain, as Ciel viciously backhanded him across the face immediately after, knocking out several teeth.

"Do you remember me?!" She shouted at him, her face red from exertion, tears of grief and hatred pouring down her cheeks as she came face to face with her most hated enemy, closer than ever before. "Do! You! Remember! ME!?"

Every word was punctuated by a punch or backhand, culminating in a vicious beatdown, but at the end, Roa was grinning widely, as if he was the one with the upper hand.

"How could I not?" He laughed, his voice awfully throaty and wet from the blood spurting out of his mouth. "My dear Elesia. You killed my five previous Incarnations, and even now, you still hunt me. I don't think we'll ever forget each other. Are you perhaps in love with me?"

"You disgust me!" She shouted, grabbing the collar of his cloak, her eyes blazing with fury. "You disgust everyone!"

"Disgust? Yes, perhaps I am disgusting. However, you cannot deny we had such a good time together, my dear Elesia, when I was stuck inside your head." Roa was needling her, trying to get under her skin, and it seemed to be working too, as Ciel's hands started shaking. "Admit it. You miss the might I granted you. You miss being so far above the rabble. You crave power, my power, and the only reason you pursue me so doggedly is to repent for those desires, which your leash holders are so quick to deem sinful."

"I do crave power." Ciel admitted, her grip on his collar tightening. "But only to kill you! No other reason!"

"You cannot kill me in any way that matters." Roa scoffed, missing how Ciel froze for a moment, before her hands stilled as her agitation decreased. "You are damned annoying, that is true, but killing me is no more than a setback. I am eternal!"


Ciel's tears soon stopped flowing, and she relaxed slightly, as her expression of hate and grief slowly morphed into satisfied smugness.

She glanced back at Shiki, who was standing at the ready, before turning to Roa again, visibly enjoying his lack of knowledge, his lack of knowledge on an ability he'd stolen years before but apparently never studied well.

"And you know what the youngsters say these days." Somehow, Roa managed to miss Ciel's massively improved mood, grinning as if he was about to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat. "If you can't beat 'em, join 'em!"

Suddenly, he lunged for her, snapping at her throat, probably in an attempt to turn her into a thrall.

Ciel merely lifted an unimpressed eyebrow however, not even bothering to dodge. Unlike the Serpent, she'd kept an eye on her surroundings, so she knew there was nothing to fear.

A fraction of a second later, Arcueid's heel came down upon Roa's head, slamming it back down onto the ground well before he could take a bite out of Ciel.

Had she put her full strength into that, his head would have popped like an overripe grape. As he was still alive however, she'd clearly held back.

In fact, Arcueid had been holding back from the beginning. If she'd wanted to, she could have obliterated Roa with a single punch, turned him into a smear on the wall even. Such was the difference between the Moon Princess at peak condition and a false Dead Apostle Ancestor who lost most of his power every time he Reincarnated.

The same was true for Ciel. Had she been fully serious, she would have stabbed her Black Keys into his eyes or his throat instead of his wrist. For an Executor who'd fought several full-powered Ancestors, battling this weakened husk was a comparatively small matter.

But neither woman had gone full-out, because simply damaging him would solve nothing.

It might feel good to obliterate him, to hurt him like he'd hurt them, but Roa would simply heal from any wound they dealt him, up to and including the popping of his head like an overripe grape. Now that he had made the school his own Territory, using spells and Magecraft that even Rin would have found mind-boggling, and with the full moon shining brightly in the night sky, giving him strength, it was nearly impossible to kill him, especially within the boundaries of the school.

Now, Shirou could probably have broken those spells, dispelled the Territory, and obscured the moon with a few dark clouds, making it far easier to kill him, but that wouldn't help either. It would do nothing to deal with the main problem.

As Roa had said himself, being killed was nothing but a slight inconvenience to him, a mere interruption. His Soul would live on, free to seek out another host, and the whole song and dance would start all over again.

He was the Serpent of Akasha, a Reincarnator and a parasite, and his physical body meant nothing to him.

If they wanted him gone forever, they needed a way to destroy his Soul, a way they had always lacked before.

But which they had now.

With Roa pinned down under Arcueid's heel, Ciel was free to pin his other wrist to the ground too. Furthermore, she stabbed Black Keys into both his shoulders, and wanted to do the same for his ankles, only to find she had no more of her daggers left.

Shirou quickly Traced a few more though, and she gave him a grateful nod when he handed them to her, before using them to turn Roa into a proper pincushion, completely nailed to the ground.

It was a testament to the Serpent's pain tolerance that he only grit his teeth in response. When Arcueid stepped back, he lifted his head again, the only indication of his suffering being a slight twitch in his otherwise mocking expression.

"What's this?" He asked with a lop-sided smile. "Are you going to torture me? Hope I lose my mind from the agony and cease to be a threat? I'm a Dead Apostle, dear, I don't have a mind to lose."

"I know." Ciel assured him, returning his smile with a smile of her own. "Neither killing nor torturing you will stop you. What we need to do is destroy your Soul along with your body, and fortunately, we have just the right man for the job."


"Did it never occur to you that your Mystic Eyes can be used for more than just cutting up your enemies?" Ciel's smile grew at Roa's confusion. "If you'd taken a moment to properly learn of your own abilities instead of rushing into battle headfirst, you might have discovered that the Mystic Eyes of Death Perception allow you to destroy even the intangible. To destroy someone's Soul."

"You're bluffing!" Roa immediately denied it, shaking his head as if that would change anything. "It can be used to kill, but it doesn't affect the Soul! The pretty princess over there healed just fine! Twice! It didn't even cost her anything!"

Ah, so that was the source of his confidence. He thought that since Arcueid didn't suffer from any complications from being slashed to pieces with the Mystic Eyes of Death Perception, he would be similarly unaffected.

And really, with the information he had available, that was a perfectly logical conclusion to make.

It was wrong of course, but still, logical.

As long as you didn't know that it had been Shirou who'd pulled Arcueid back from the brink both times.

Roa had to have seen something in their expressions that gave away their inner thoughts, because he went from confused to worried very quickly.

Even more so when Ciel pulled back and Shiki advanced towards him, knife in hand and glasses off.

"S-Shiki, brother, l-little bro, you wouldn't do this, would you?" He protested, finally starting to fight against his restraints. "I-I… R-Roa might be dominant, but Tohno Shiki is in here as well! He's watching as we speak! Y-You wouldn't kill him, would you?!"

Shiki didn't reply, his eyes laser-focused on a certain spot on the false Ancestor's abdomen, and Shirou was startled to notice he was emitting bloodlust. A crazed, alarming sort of bloodlust.

"That's what Shiki was like when he attacked me." Arcueid whispered to him, looking oddly fascinated by the sight.

"You cannot do this!" Roa had become much more vehement in his protests, his eyes blazing with various emotions Shirou couldn't quite make out. "You owe me, Shiki! You owe me! You stole from me!"

"Huh?" That actually managed to make the younger Shiki pause, his bloodlust almost fizzling out on the spot. "W-What do you mean?"

"You stole my life!" Roa roared, and Shirou was surprised to discover that his anger was sincere. "You stole my life and you don't even know it! Was that old man's Hypnosis so powerful that you cannot remember even now that everything you have was supposed to be mine?!"


"Akiha is my sister! Makihisa, bastard that he is, is my father! The Tohno-manor is my manor! Kohaku and Hisui are my maids!"

"Is he pretending to be the older Shiki now?" Ciel muttered softly, frowning in slight concern.

"Not pretending." Shirou shook his head, recognising Roa's latest trick for what it was. "He is the older Shiki. Roa gave back the reins, at least partially, to the actual owner of the body."

The elder Shiki's Soul was not gone after all. Just like Ciel, he was still in there, in his own body, but delegated to a backseat, unable to do anything unless Roa allowed it. Now, he was being used as a shield.

"That is low." Ciel hissed, eliciting a nod from Shirou.

It was indeed low.

And it was all the more effective for it.

"You took everything from me! Thief!"

"T-That's… I'm not…" The younger Shiki had gone even paler than normal, the hand holding the knife shaking in confusion and doubt. "I… I am sorry?"

"You are a cuckoo young! Growing fat on the care of a family not your own!" The older brother spat, angry veins popping out all over his face. "You tricked us all! If you had any decency, you'd give back what you took from me! But no! Instead, you come here to kill me!"

Shiki had lost every bit of bloodlust he'd had before, unable to take another step to or from, the knife in his hand slowly lowering as he flinched at every accusation thrown his way.

Shirou almost stepped in, to at least shut Roa up, but he was held back, by Arcueid of all people.

"Let Shiki make his own decision." She told him, wholly calm and composed. "We can step in at any point, so please, give him a moment to conquer his past."

There was not a trace left of her normal flighty attitude. Her childish demeanour had completely disappeared, and in its place was a mature woman who'd grasped the whole situation in a heartbeat and wanted to give a troubled youth a chance to overcome his old trauma.

For the shortest of moments, she wasn't the normal Arcueid, slightly shorter than him, with short, blond hair, the face of a young woman, and modern clothes. Rather, she seemed like an ideal version of herself, two heads taller than him, well in her thirties, her hair reaching down to her calves, and wearing a dress that seemed to have been spun from the light of the moon itself.

Then Shirou blinked, and the old Arcueid was back, her hands folded under her chin as she looked worriedly at the two Shikis, fidgeting and shuffling without end in her concern.

"Why are you even here, pretender?!" The older Shiki cried, drawing Shirou's attention back to the scene playing out in front of him. "Do you truly go all the way to the bone?! What more do you want to take from me?! You already have everything! Everything!"

The tortured screech was the limit, and Shiki took a frightened step back, unable to even consider killing his brother anymore.

Playing right into the false Ancestor's hands.

"Got you."

Within the blink of an eye, Roa seized control again, throwing the older Shiki on the backseat of his own body.


Then, with a scream of heart-rending agony, his body changed into pure lightning, shifting from a state of matter to a state of energy through a baffling display of Magecraft.

No longer bound by the Black Keys, he shot away like the lightning bolt he now actually was, ending up right behind Shiki, perfectly placed for an attack in the back.

An opportunity he did not pass up on.

His knife flashed forward, aimed at Shiki's lower back, where it would sever the spine and either kill or cripple him…

"I don't think so!"

-Had it not been intercepted at the last possible moment by Mjolnir, thrown by Shirou to block the attack.

The knife ricocheted off, and then Arcueid appeared on scene, punting Roa right into the wall behind him.

Neither of them had been surprised by the sudden attack, having anticipated a dirty trick like that, so they reacted promptly.

Roa's bones shattered and blood spurted out of countless wounds when he collided with the wall, but the false Ancestor laughed, healing so rapidly it was as if he was never wounded in the first place.

"What happened to you, White Princess?" He spat, easily getting up. "In the past, you could kill me so easily. Why can't you now?"

Arcueid didn't reply, but rushed him again, taking great care to avoid the butcher's knife.

She grabbed his collar and threw him into the ceiling, before she punched him away again when he came down.

But he healed again.

She kicked him so hard against the legs that they actually came off, pierced his chest with her hand, tore off his head, and flung him into another wall.

Yet within a fraction of a second, he was back.

"Weak!" He hissed, now looking more annoyed than amused. "How can you be so weak?!"

A steel support beam, thrown by Arcueid, pierced his stomach the next moment, pinning him to the wall again.


A slash from Arcueid's nails shredded his head.


She tore his body into two pieces.


She threw him down onto the ground, before stepping closer, lifting her leg to grind him into dust under her heel-

When Shirou grabbed her around the middle and pulled her back.

Just in time to avoid Roa's knife, aimed for what was probably a Line of Death.

"Calm down!" The redhead thundered, keeping a tight hold on Arcueid as she struggled against him. "Don't lose your head!"

"Too late." Roa laughed, before he raced forward and lashed out at the blonde woman.

He would have hit her too, if Shirou hadn't twisted them around at the very last moment, taking the blow himself.


He couldn't even scream when it hit him.




Roa laughed, Ciel and Arcueid screamed in shock, and Shirou staggered, his hand coming up to clutch at his bleeding side.


What was happening?

He could hear the screams, even understand what they were saying, but it was like they were under water, or very far away.

His vision was swimming, unsteady. The light of the moon and the stars seemed to dim, and all colours leaked away from his sight.

His breathing was difficult, ragged, and it took him an astoundingly long time to remember just what had happened one moment earlier.

His connection to the Mysterious Power felt muted, his Magic Circuits turned cold, and the strength was sapped from his limbs.

For the first time in his life, he felt what it was like to be stabbed in a Line of Death, and it sucked.

There was no pain, oddly enough. It just felt… hollow. Like ice, slowly creeping up in his veins.

It was as if a part of him was suddenly disconnected from the rest, and he could feel how his Healing Abilities struggled with the wound. A wound that wielded behind it a terrible power. A cursed power.

He could easily see how this was something that might vanquish even immortals.

But Shirou wasn't so easy to kill.

With the stubbornness and bullheadedness he was renowned for, he gathered his focus, taking in a deep breath despite the unwillingness of his lungs to cooperate.

He forced his Magic Circuits into action, and reached out to the Mysterious Power again, feeling how it eagerly reached back.

He knew how to deal with wounds like this. He'd done it before, twice even.

Just like he'd overpowered Arcueid's wounds, so too did he overpower his own, bathing himself in his golden light, the exact same shade as his eyes.

Before Roa could even think of capitalising on Shirou's injury, he was already healed again.

Such was his Authority.

The Authority of a Demigod to whom his people's health and happiness was the highest priority there was.


Of course, Shirou did not fail to retaliate, and Roa once more got very closely acquainted with Mjolnir very quickly. Hammer to face, in fact.

It was a blow that shook the entire building, and this time, after Roa was smashed through a wall, he did not get up.

He might have claimed the school as his personal Territory, it might have been a full moon tonight, and he might have been a false Dead Apostle Ancestor, but that didn't mean healing from a Divine attack was going to be easy.



Ciel seemed shocked that he'd recovered so quickly, but Arcueid promptly embraced him, relief pouring off of her.

"I wasn't even worried." She declared, the confidence in her voice completely at odds with the aforementioned relief, causing the blue-haired nun to give her an incredulous look.

"Damn… you…"

The muttered curse was a sign that Roa had patched himself up, and Arcueid broke the hug in favour of unsheathing her claws again. Meanwhile, Ciel took out her Black Keys, together with some other Holy weaponry, and Shirou readied Mjolnir, ready to end this once and for all.

He'd never tested the Cleansing Power before on a creature that could Reincarnate, but after his experiences with Zouken and the Spider Queen, he was fairly confident he could destroy a Soul if he really tried.


But then they stopped.

And Shiki took a step forward.

"Please let me finish this." He asked them, his voice bereft of anger or confusion, determination clear in his eyes. "I promise I will not fail again."

Shirou studied him, looking for any sign of weakness, but when he did not find any, he backed down easily enough. He still had Nasu's instructions to account for after all, to not kill Roa himself, so if Shiki wanted to take another crack at the job, that suited him just fine.

"Lunge deep." He advised his fellow teen. "And cut deeper."

His only response was a nod.

"Be careful." Ciel urged him.

"Don't let him catch you off guard again." Arcueid added.

Shiki nodded again, pausing to give the women a grateful look, before his expression hardened, and he strolled forward, towards Roa.

"Here to have another go at your brother?" The false Ancestor sneered as he climbed to his feet, though he was still swaying from the blow Shirou had dealt him. "Making sure I can't claim my rightful inheritance from under your nose?"

"You have no right to it anymore!" Shiki countered harshly, prepared for such verbal attacks this time. "You lost it when you killed me! When you hurt Akiha! It wouldn't even surprise me if you killed father too!"

"I did. Damn that Makihisa." The Serpent spat on the ground after uttering the name, with such contempt that it was clear that the gesture had come from the elder Tohno Shiki rather than Roa. "But what of it? In the Moonlit World, the strongest rule! And I am the strongest! I have ascended above humanity in any and every way. I am a Dead Apostle Ancestor, and now, I even have the Mystic Eyes of Death Perception to boot! A limitless ability!"

"Not limitless."


"Behold." Shiki raised his knife, carefully aiming it at a spot somewhere to his left, before swiping the blade to the right.

Immediately after, all Roa's Enchantments, everything he'd done to make the school his Personal Territory, came apart at the seams.

"What?!" Roa looked around wildly, clearly confused. "What happened?! I did not release the equation holding this place together!"

"I killed it." Shiki explained, lowering the knife again. "You should be able to understand what I did. Death is the end of everything, and everything in existence is only a single step removed from it. So I killed your equation with my knife."

Roa stared blankly at him for a moment, before he huffed. Then he started laughing.

"Bwahahahahaha hahahahaha!" His body shook from how hard he was laughing, and he cast his gaze to the ceiling, having no qualms about expressing the full extent of his hilarity. "Oh, please! How naïve can you get? Lifeless objects don't have the concept of death! You cannot kill a spell any more than you can kill a rock!"

"And therein lies the difference between us." Shiki stated, taking a step closer. "You can only see the Lines and Points of living creatures, whereas I can see the end of everything, including spells and yes, even including rocks."

"Cease your bluffing! Not even a child would believe something as outrageous as that! Tell me, what kind of conceptual weapon have you hidden away?!" For a creature of myth, the false Dead Apostle Ancestor was strangely reluctant to believe that something might be beyond his understanding. "That redhead was the one who broke the equation, wasn't he?! He's been messing with it since he arrived!"

Shirou did not recall messing with anything, but he was more than willing to believe his Magic Resistance might have interfered with an enemy's Territory.

"You do not understand death." Shiki's voice had become outright clinical, as if he were a doctor telling a patient about their terminal condition. "That is why you can't kill me. That is why you can't kill Arcueid. That is why Shirou could heal himself so easily from your supposedly fatal attack."

Roa's breath hitched, but Shiki wasn't done yet.

"That is why you will lose. That is why you will die."

Words as final as the evening bell, and they struck a critical blow to Roa's self-esteem.


Roa threw a massive bolt of lightning at Shiki, followed by another, and another, and another, each of them powerful enough that Shirou considered them fairly respectable.


But it was no use. Shiki cut apart the lightning as easily as he'd cut apart the Enchantment, and he kept advancing on the Vampire Lord.

"If you had been able to see death, you wouldn't have been able to maintain your sanity. If you see the end of all things, you realise how fragile this world truly is. The ground does not exist, the sky seems to fall, and everyone around you is but a single misstep away from perishing. If you could truly see that, you would have gone insane already." The bloodlust from before returned, but unlike back then, it was controlled now, kept on a tight leash. "That is what it means to see death."

"Ridiculous! How can you be sane then?!" Roa barked, his voice high-pitched from how frightened he was getting. "Are… Are you even human?!"

Shiki's eyes narrowed, and the bloodlust became utterly overwhelming.

The shadows deepened, the light of the moon dimmed, and for the slightest of moments, it was as if a giant hand closed itself around Roa, trapping him in place.

Bereft of his greatest advantages and nearly trapped, the Serpent suddenly felt more vulnerable than ever, like a mouse facing a cat as large as a mountain, and his true nature came to the surface at last.

He was no warrior, like Vlov Arkhangel, who would fight until his last breath.

Instead, he was a lowlife, like the Spider Queen, who fled at the first sign of an actual threat.

So that was exactly what he did next. He turned around and fled.

But Shiki wasn't going to let him get away.

"I'll show you…" He declared, and his dead eyes came to life, determination, pride, and the will to attain victory shining like two bright stars. "What it means to kill something!"

He plunged his knife into the ground, and the entire floor collapsed, its structural integrity killed by a perfect strike.

"N-No!" Roa couldn't keep his footing, tumbling down.

Shiki made his way through the rubble perfectly well though, jumping from spot to spot, until he'd caught up with the Serpent.

Shirou quickly grabbed Ciel and Arcueid before they fell, hovering up so they could see what was happening, and he smiled when he saw how Shiki lunged deep and cut deeper.

His thrust was perfect, brilliant even. A perfect hit in Roa's chest.

"This time..." Shiki stated with complete and utter certainty as the Serpent stared at him in horror. "You will not come back."

The building collapsed with a great crack.

In one of the most secure bases of the Burial Agency, deep down underground, stood a set of twenty-eight infernal devices.

Each of these devices had been linked to a specific Dead Apostle Ancestor, and should the corresponding Ancestor meet their end, their device would automatically be destroyed as well.

It was the most reliable way available to the Church to verify the death of their most hated enemies, and thus, they were constantly overseen by a trusted Warden, appointed by the Pope himself.

In total, there were three Wardens, always working in shifts of eight hours, around the clock. Though none of them had known the others before they had been appointed, they had become fast friends, and it wasn't unusual to see all three of them together in the base, watching the infernal devices while drinking beer and shooting the breeze.

Today was not one of those days, unfortunately, so the Warden on duty had taken a book with him, to pass the time. His task hardly required constant vigilance after all, just that he kept an ear out for sudden exploding noises.

Over the past decade, he'd witnessed the destruction of two infernal devices himself, while his colleagues had seen one each. Together, that meant a total of four Ancestors had been killed, three of them by the Magus Association, specifically Lorelei Barthomeloi, and one of them by Ciel, one of the Burial Agency's greatest Executors.

It had been a little over two years now though since the last of them had been killed, and the Warden didn't expect much activity today either. After Barthomeloi's show of total dominance, the Ancestors had become much more wary of her, and made sure to stay well out of her way. The same went for Ciel.

As such, when one of the infernal devices did actually spontaneously combust, he was very surprised, though pleasantly so of course.

The book was unceremoniously dropped, his chair collapsed backwards from how hard he'd jumped up, and upon verifying that a device had indeed self-immolated, the Warden let out a cry of joy.

Another enemy of humanity had been eliminated! That put the counter of the decade on five already!

The device itself couldn't give him more information than that however, not even which Dead Apostle Ancestor it corresponded with, and he had to search the lists that had been prepared for such an occasion to determine which Ancestor had perished.

Vlov Arkhangel.

A fresh-faced Upstart if there ever was one, hardly one of the greats, but he was an Ancestor all the same, and his death was thus something to celebrate.

The Warden dutifully made a note of the event, and then, before he went to inform anyone else, he first went to collect the remains of the destroyed infernal device.

The throne of an Ancestor never remained empty for long, so they'd undoubtedly need another infernal device soon. As they were quite difficult to make however, the Alchemists responsible for the creation generally appreciated it very much if the Warden on duty took the time to collect the parts of the previous one before they disintegrated completely, so they could be recycled.

Not an easy task by any means. The parts were burning with cursed fire, there were all manner of nasty spells woven into the material, and they were just plain hot to the touch to boot.

It would take several hours of prayer and rituals to cleanse them enough to safely collect, but the Warden didn't complain. There wasn't really anything else for him to do anyway, save for bringing the good news to the Pope, but that could wait. Collecting the materials could not.

Kneeling down on the hard floor, the Warden started praying, but he was hardly two hours into the cleansing when he was violently disturbed by another infernal device exploding next to him.

He wasn't hit by any of the shrapnel, thankfully, but the shockwave did knock him on his side.

He was back on his feet the next moment though, ignoring the creaking of his old bones, and rushed towards that second device.

Had a second Ancestor been eliminated?! On the same day?!

Yes! Yes, they had, and the Warden almost dropped the list from his shaking hands as he looked up which one had been vanquished this time, near feverish from the sheer excitement.

It was the Spider Queen!

The Warden jumped a full metre into the air, throwing his hands up and whooping in ecstasy. The Spider Queen was one of the oldest Upstarts of them all, an ancient louse in the pelt of the Church and the head of a powerful enclave of Apostles. She was an expert at hiding and an old hand at survival, a true enemy.

Her death was a massive victory by any means, far greater than Arkhangel's demise.

The Spider had been beheaded, and with any luck, the body would soon wither.

The desire to rush out of the room and inform everyone of the victory, from the Pope to the nearest bishop, was near overwhelming, but the Warden ruthlessly suppressed it, remaining in the room.

Not just to collect the remains of the infernal devices this time, though that was still very important, but also to see if any more of them would immolate today.

He didn't want to hope, certain that hoping for more when God had already blessed them so much would be naught but greed, but hope grew in his breast all the same, refusing to let itself be extinguished by caution and reason.

And lo and behold, a third device did immolate a mere hour later.

The Warden had never let go of the lists, and he hastily searched through them, before he almost fainted when he saw the name corresponding to that specific device.

Michael Roa Valdamjong.

The Serpent of Akasha.

The most hated Dead Apostle in existence.

Now dead for real.


The Warden could not control himself, he shouted his joy to the Heavens above, abandoning what little dignity he had left at his age in favour of making his delight known.

And this time, it did not go unheard.

"My friend!" One of his fellow Wardens, here to relieve him of his duties for today, came rushing into the base, concern writ clear on his face and a Bible in his hand. "My friend! What is happening here?! Are we being attacked?!"

"Three!" The Warden shouted back.

"Three attackers?!"

"Three!" The Warden repeated, rushing up and taking his colleague and friend into a joyous embrace. "Three devices were destroyed! Three Ancestors have perished!"

"Three!?" The other man gasped, every bit as surprised as the Warden himself had been.

"You must go now, my friend, and spread the word." The Warden ordered, letting go of his colleague again, not giving him a moment to take in the news. "Go and tell the Pope, the Cardinals, the bishops, and all the world that Vlov Arkhangel, the Spider Queen, and Michael Roa Valdamjong are no more! Their evil will never again torment humanity!"

"Praise the Lord!" The second Warden declared, and it wasn't just an idle call, but a statement that came straight from the heart.

"Praise the Lord!"

It was a testament to how short the battle between Arcueid, Ciel, Shiki, Shirou, and Roa had actually been that Noel and her team only arrived after the school had completely fallen apart already.

It wasn't their fault of course, they'd moved as quickly as possible, but since they'd been far away when Shirou had warned them, they only arrived after the fight had been concluded.

Though on the upside, that meant they were just in time to take care of the post-battle cleanup.

There was plenty for them to do still. There were some stray thralls running around, Roa had left a few minor Magical traps to clean up, and, of course, the school itself needed to be fixed post haste. That, or a very good explanation for its collapse needed to be found, preferably before dawn.

Shirou had been a bit worried about that, but Noel and her team had assured him that they had plenty of experience with matters like this, and that he and the others were free to relax and recuperate.

Though to Arcueid, that apparently meant scolding Shiki for his perceived carelessness.

"How could you just collapse the building like that!?" She bristled, holding Shiki a full metre above the ground by his collar. "If Shirou hadn't caught you, you might have landed on your head! You could have died! Or been crippled!"

"I had everything well in hand." Shiki protested, though after everything that had happened, he was too tired to be very bothered by the manhandling. "I was in full control the entire time."

"I doubt that." Arcueid scoffed, daring him to disagree. "You are never in control of anything!"

Shiki made to protest, to insist he knew what he was doing, but he soon realised that that would be a bold-faced lie, and that she might actually be right. He had no rebuke to offer in the end, which condemned him to even more scolding.

Meanwhile, Shirou and Ciel were discussing the events of the past night. The nun would, in all fairness, rather join in on the scolding, but she was professional enough to suppress that desire in favour of crossing all the t's and dotting the i's.

"So you are certain that you definitely killed the Spider Queen? Beyond all hope of recovery?" She asked, to which Shirou nodded. "And you are certain that Roa is dead too?"

"I am." The redhead confirmed. "His Soul is completely gone, and it will never come back. Only his body is left, and that will soon disappear too."

Together, the nun and the Magus glanced at the Serpent's slowly dissolving corpse, which was still lying amidst the wreckage of the school building, not a dozen steps away from them.

They hadn't made any attempt at moving or claiming it, nor would they ever. There was no use in doing so. Though the post-mortem disintegration of an Ancestor's body went very slowly, as Shirou had observed earlier with Vlov Arkhangel, there was nothing that could stop the process once it had begun. Before dawn, the body would have disappeared, no matter what they did to preserve it.

Perhaps Shirou could have thought of something if he'd really tried, or he could have whipped up some amazing new tool from the Vault to do the impossible, but he didn't see the point. There was nothing new to be learned from the body, and research on Dead Apostles always ended badly.

In fact, he'd rather have burned it immediately, just to be safe, but Ciel had asked him not to. She wanted to revel in her victory, and seeing her hated enemy's corpse on display only made it all the sweeter.

Whether she would have tried to put his head on a stake if he wasn't dissolving was a question Shirou was definitely not going to ask. He'd probably not like the answer.

"We have won a great victory today." The nun stated, looking supremely satisfied with said victory. "We might have failed to claim the Idea Blood of both Arkhangel and the Spider Queen, which means their successors will soon rise, but for now, the thrones of the Nineteenth and the Twenty-Sixth are empty. Furthermore, we killed Roa, and there will never be another one of him."

"I'd say we were quite successful, yes." Shirou nodded in agreement, though his task in Misaki Town was actually not over yet. "But I still need to get that information from Arcueid."

"Hm? Ah, yes." Ciel looked a tad confused for a moment, but then she remembered the deal that had been struck between the demigod and the White Princess. "I don't know what you hope to learn from her, but I'm sure Brunestud will be willing to share what she knows now. As long as you wait until she's done with Shiki."

"I wouldn't dare interfere." He laughed, as Arcueid was indeed still animatedly cussing out his poor fellow teen. "I'll wait until she's calmed down a bit."

"You're smarter than you look." She praised him, appearing utterly well-willing and kind despite the rather back-handed compliment, before she frowned, her mirth making place for a sort of distant concern, or perhaps curiosity? "Shirou, can I ask you something?"


"Are you in fact Shirou Fujimaru? The new Sorcerer?"

The redhead somehow managed to suppress his flinch, remaining perfectly calm, even as on the inside, he reared back in shock, his heart rate nearly tripling.

His enhanced mind was running a thousand miles a minute, frantically going over all the interactions he'd had with the nun, searching for anything that could have given him away, but coming up short at every turn.

"…Why would you think that?" He asked eventually, lifting an eyebrow as casually as he could. "Shirou is hardly an uncommon name, and I don't think I've done anything today that's impressive enough to be considered a True Magician."

"I think we can safely say that the Mystic Eyes of Death Perception can damage and even destroy Souls, no?" She answered his question with a question of her own, continuing after he nodded. "So when Arcueid and you yourself were stabbed and cut by Roa, we can assume he struck your Soul as well, correct?"

"You… could say that, yes..." Shirou agreed, slowly and hesitantly, almost physically feeling how a noose was tightened around his neck.

"But you healed yourself and the princess in mere moments." Ciel pointed out, very correctly. "Which could only be possible if you were a wielder of the Third True Magic. Couple that with the similar names and the fact you seem to think very little of killing an Ancestor and crippling another on your own, and the conclusion draws itself."

"…Odin's Beard." Shirou sighed deeply, knowing that any denial at this point would be nothing but the frantic and fruitless floundering of a drowning man. "You got me."

Busted, after only two days of minimal interaction.

He really was bad at this game.

"Then, I hope you will understand that I must urgently request you to meet with the highest ranking agent of the Burial Agency on location, for a debriefing and… negotiations."

"I thought that was you?" Shirou politely ignored the word 'negotiations' for now in favour of pointing out a discrepancy. "I got the impression from miss Noel that you are their highest-ranking operator."

"Normally, that would be the case, as I am the highest ranking field-operative. However, since this was a mission involving no fewer than three Ancestors, the Church saw fit to send a bishop too. Bishop Mario Gallo Bestino, to be exact."

"I can't say I have ever heard of him. Is that a problem?" If this Bestino-guy was a bigshot, he might not appreciate Shirou not knowing about him.

"No, he is relatively unknown." Ciel assured him. "He has done little of note. His greatest claim to fame is being the grandson of Cardinal Laurentis."

"Never heard of him either."

"Once more, that is not a problem."

It was good to know that his ignorance wouldn't be an issue, but even so, Shirou actually had a think for a bit whether he'd agree to this meeting, partially because the Burial Agency wasn't very fond of Magi or True Magicians and partially because it might take quite a while. He'd already stayed in Misaki Town longer than he'd planned, and he'd prefer not to extend his stay even more.

On the other hand, he could hardly blow off one of the most powerful organisations on Earth, and if it really was only a short meeting, he didn't have reasonable grounds to refuse.

"Fine." He thus agreed, before holding up a stern finger. "But only after I obtained the information I'm after from Arcueid. That comes first."


With that matter settled, they fell into a comfortable silence, which continued until Ciel suddenly held up one of her Black Keys.

"I just spent a minute on collecting these, and I couldn't help but notice I have more Black Keys now than when I started." She remarked, her voice artificially casual. "You handed me a few while I was pinning down Roa. Where did you get them?"

"I made them." Shirou replied, seeing no harm in sharing that much, opening his hand and Tracing another one of the Mystical daggers. "Using my own version of Projection."

He handed the weapon over to Ciel for study, and after she'd thoroughly looked it over, establishing that it actually held the Mystical properties that Black Keys were known for, she huffed in amusement.

"That is quite the trick." She praised him, storing away the Black Key with the others. "Is there no end to your capabilities?"

"Haha." Shirou tried his best to fake a laugh, painfully aware that she'd only seen a fraction of what he could do so far.

Fortunately, he was saved from further interrogation by Arcueid and Shiki. The former had finished her scolding for now, and the latter made use of the lull to quickly make his way over, wary of the Moon Princess gaining steam again.

"Shiki!" Ciel positively beamed as the young man came to stand next to her, before she suddenly winced, sagging slightly in apparent regret. "I… I am sorry for lying to you."

"Huh?" That was a little too fast for Shiki, but to his credit, he soon caught up again. "Oh! You mean pretending to be my Senpai?"

"I am sorry for that." Ciel repeated, closing her eyes for a moment, before opening them with a determined look. "But, for what it is worth, I genuinely enjoyed being your Senpai. I liked hanging out with you and your friends, a-and I was really happy that you invited me to the amusement park. I cannot apologise enough-"

"You certainly can." Shiki suddenly interrupted her, smiling at the harried Executor. "And you have. Really, Ciel-senpai, I'm not mad. I also enjoyed hanging out with you, and I hope you will continue to do so."

"You mean, I can?"

"Of course." Shiki confirmed. "And naturally, you are still invited to the amusement park. Satsuki would be terribly disappointed if you didn't come."

"…I'd like that."

Ciel discreetly tried to wipe away a happy tear, but everyone saw it nonetheless. Shiki had really shown his good side here, and Shirou gave him a thumbs-up in approval.

"Ah, but I want to go too!" Arcueid didn't properly appreciate the tender moment however, grabbing the teen's arm. "Shiki, take me too!"

"You weren't invited!" Hissing like an angry cat, Ciel grabbed Shiki's other arm, and they started pulling him in both directions, to the young man's growing panic.

So Shirou did what any hero in his position would do and ignored the matter. Yes, he might have multiple girlfriends as well, making him the closest thing to an expert around, but they all got along with each other perfectly well. They did argue from time to time, which was almost inevitable when you put four stubborn people together, but he'd never experienced an actual cat-fight between them before, least of all over him.

He had no intention of getting mixed up in this one either, and he only stepped in when Arcueid threatened to haul them off to the nearest amusement park right that second.

"There is no time for that." He said, looking at each of them in turn. "Miss Ciel, you still have to bring me to your superior, Arcueid, I want that information you promised me, and Tohno-san, you have to go home as soon as you can. Your sister and your maids are very worried about you."

"Yes." Ciel agreed immediately, relieved he'd stepped in.

"Moo." Arcueid made a disappointed noise, but she didn't protest any further.

"Home…" Shiki however looked troubled, his body-language clearly conveying his reluctance to do as Shirou said. "I'm not sure if I can ever go back home now."

"What?" Shirou blinked at the sudden claim. "Nonsense. Of course you can. Your sister is waiting for you."

"But she's not my sister." Shiki pointed out, looking absolutely morose as he reminded them that Roa had shoved the truth in his face during the battle. "And it's not my home. Roa was right, I'm a cuckoo young-"

"Let me stop you right there. No, you aren't a cuckoo young." Shirou interrupted him sharply, cutting through the self-pity. "Of course you aren't. The Tohno took you in and raised you as their own, didn't they? They chose to make you their family, and I don't see any reason why that would have changed."

To be honest, the situation was a bit more complicated than that, since the Tohno had actually taken him by force while killing his actual family, but Shirou didn't think it'd be a good idea to tell him all that right after he'd already gone through a massive ordeal.

By killing Roa, he'd also killed his adoptive brother, which could not have been easy, and the last thing he needed was more baggage being thrown onto the pile. Shirou might not be a social genius, the opposite rather, but even he could see that much.

Besides, if he dealt Shiki a blow like that right now, Arcueid and Ciel might actually try to kill him.

"So don't pay any attention to what Roa said. What matters is that you still have a sister, someone who loves and appreciates you, waiting for you back home."

"Well… When you put it like that."

"I do put it like that!" Shirou grinned, before he turned his fellow teen around and gave him a small push in the back, to start him on his way. "Go home, show Akiha that you are alive and well, and get some rest. You did a good thing tonight in battle, now you must do just as well at home."

"Yes." Shiki nodded, slow at first, but then faster, with more confidence. "Yes, I will!"

"Good man." Shirou clapped him on the back, before giving him another push. "Now get going, and give your sister my regards."

Shiki didn't need to be told thrice, and he rushed away, his gait much surer and happier than before.

"I don't think I like his sister all that much though."

Arcueid had the good sense to wait until Shiki was out of earshot before she expressed that opinion, frowning a bit in apparent unhappiness.

"Me neith-" Ciel began to agree, but she remembered just in time that she disliked Arcueid, and quickly changed her tune. "I mean, she's not that bad."

"Do try to get along with her though, for Tohno's sake if nothing else." Shirou told them, receiving two reluctant nods in return, before he turned to Arcueid specifically. "Now, I believe you have some information for me."

"Indeed I do!" Arcueid needed no further reminding, perking up again. "I'll tell you right now."

"Should I go elsewhere?" Ciel asked, mindful of the fact that Magi were a private people. "I'm sure Noel could use a hand."

"You don't have to bother for my sake." Shirou saw no reason to keep the information a secret though. It concerned saving the world, which was hardly something that Ciel would try to sabotage or be against.

"No, I do think it is better if you didn't hear this." Arcueid disagreed however, and the seriousness in her demeanour showed she didn't just say that because she disliked Ciel. "This information is for Shirou's ears only."

"Very well." Ciel complied without further comment, stepping away to join her team. Right after, Arcueid erected some minor barriers around herself and Shirou, showing she meant it when she said she wanted privacy.

"To save the world from the perils that are approaching, you need weapons, and one weapon in particular." She told him without further ado, skipping past all pleasantries, a hint of her mature version returning. "To obtain this weapon, you must first return to the Clocktower."

Returning to the Clocktower was already on the schedule, in only a month or two in fact, so Shirou nodded, only a bit surprised that this weapon was apparently located at the headquarters of the Magus Association.

"There, you must find someone called Millieune Carillon, and you must insist to see their classroom, located deep underground, right below the Clocktower. You must go to the classroom's deepest point, where you will see multiple tunnels going even deeper. Normal Magi cannot enter them without dying, but you must descend into the tunnel that smells of fresh air."

Shirou nodded to show he was following, committing the instructions to memory.

"You must go down and down and down and down, deep into crack and crevice, where you will find the one who will give further instructions. You will know her when you see her, and she is expecting you."

"I understand." Those instructions were quite limited, but Shirou could work with them. As long as he knew where to go, he was fine.

"But be careful. There are many things down there, things that have awoken from slumber and things that were born anew. Lifeless beasts, deathless beasts, and flesh-walking things. Guardians arise in Doom-Shadow, awoken by the singing of the gods."


Those were some cryptic warnings, but the last sentence made it all perfectly clear. With the return of Mystery, caused by Shirou's apotheosis, ancient creatures had woken up deep in the tunnels beneath the Clocktower. Creatures that he would have to overcome on his way.

Difficult, but not unexpected, and also very much his own fault.

"Thank you."

"No problem!" As quickly as the mature Arcueid had appeared did she disappear again, leaving only the usual exuberance. "Glad to be of help, Shirou. Have a nice day!"

With that said, she made to leave, probably to pursue Tohno, but she stopped mid-turn, before looking back at him, her smile suddenly soft and radiantly beautiful.

"And thank you. Thank you so, so much for your help. I couldn't have done this without you."

Then she suddenly embraced him, and after a moment of surprise, Shirou cautiously hugged her back, grateful Tohno wasn't here to see this.

"You would have been fine." He assured her.

"No, probably not." Arcueid giggled into his shoulder, before she broke the hug to smile at him again. "It meant a lot that I could count on someone. If you ever need help, with anything at all, please don't hesitate to ask."

"That goes for you too." Though the past few days hadn't exactly been enjoyable for Shirou, Arcueid had never done him wrong. On the contrary, she had grown on him despite his best efforts to keep a polite distance. In fact, she might even have become something of a little sister to him.

His third little sister yet, alongside Taiga and Illya. All of whom were actually older than him, now that he thought about it.

One day, he'd get a little sister who was actually younger than him, but it seemed today was not that day.

"I wish you much luck." He spoke, perhaps a bit formally. "With everything, and with Shiki too."

Though he didn't exactly approve of the boy, it was not his place to interfere in Arcueid's potential love life.

"With Shiki? Why?" Arcueid didn't seem to understand though, which confused him in turn.

"I was under the impression that you wanted to get closer to him?"

"Closer? Oh yes, I suppose." Arcueid still didn't seem entirely sure what he was talking about, but she nodded anyway. "He's a very good friend."

"…A friend?"

"A wonderful, wonderful friend." She nodded happily.

"I apologise if I am mistaken, but I thought there was something romantic between you?"

"Romantic?!" Arcueid blinked in surprise, before let out a giggle at the mere thought, one that made Shirou's heart clench in sympathy for Tohno Shiki. "Not at all, silly. I don't do romance."

"I see."

Tohno Shiki's hopes and dreams had just been crushed, and as Arcueid left, Shirou muttered a prayer for his Soul.

"Shirou Fujimaru, meet Mario Gallo Bestino."

After his conversation with Arcueid was over and the matter at Tohno's school had been mostly settled, Ciel wasted no time in dragging Shirou along to her superior, the bishop.

According to her, the bishop had set up shop in a humble hostel, having rented out the entire ground floor to run his operation from. The owners of the hostel, an elderly couple, hadn't been too pleased with the strange, foreign visitors, but money was money, and the visitors had paid a whole lot of it.

On the way to the hostel, Shirou had tried to imagine what a temporary Burial Agency-base would look like, and he honestly expected to find the bishop in some kind of fancy command room, with numerous clerks writing down everything that happened within Misaki Town's borders, several Mystical objects humming away, various Magical radios or their equivalent constantly transmitting information, and all that to the backdrop of church-music.

But what he found instead was a standard hostel room, with only a desk and a few pieces of parchment being at all out of the ordinary.

And behind that desk sat the bishop, to whom Shirou was promptly introduced.

Mario Gallo Bestino turned out to be a very young man, barely in his teenage years, with blonde hair, piercing green eyes, and an outfit that couldn't be called professional or priest-like by any meaning of the words.

It was another sign that competence really couldn't be correlated to appearance in the Moonlit World.

Or at least, it would have been, if Shirou hadn't been able to pierce through the glamour and see the man's true appearance underneath.

"Welcome, Fujimaru-san." Bestino welcomed him, his voice perfectly youthful, which too was very fake. "That's a rather piercing glare you're aiming at me. Are you surprised at my age?"

"No. I'm surprised at your glamour." Shirou corrected him, not in the mood for games.

"I couldn't even last one second?!" To his credit, the bishop wasted no more time on games either, and he let out a resigned sigh. "Very well. Masks off then."

The glamour dropped, and the young, blonde boy changed into a tall, elderly gentleman, with long, silver hair, flowing robes, and the same, piercing green eyes as before.

"Cardinal Laurentis?!"

Ciel's cry of shock revealed the man's actual identity, and Shirou twitched at coming face to face with an actual Cardinal, a man whose authority within the Church and the Burial Agency was second only to the Pope himself.

"I apologise for the deception, but I couldn't join this hunt as myself." The man explained, both to Ciel and to Shirou, inclining his head slightly. "So I took the identity of one of my sons- ahem, that is, grandsons, with his full knowledge and permission of course, so that I could participate in the search for Roa."

"B-B-But why?" Ciel stammered, really thrown off-kilter by the sudden reveal.

"Because I hoped to learn something along the way." The Cardinal explained, before he elaborated. "You see, a few years ago, I made the mistake of perusing the Serpent's research in the hope of extending my lifespan, and as a result, I was-"

"Cursed." Shirou finished for him, able to see the dark haze hanging over the man's head, interfering with his every thought process. A curse that tried to eat away his mind.

"Just so. It's what I deserve for my hubris of course, but even so, I wish to be free of this torment. That is why I accompanied you, my dear Ciel, in the hope of questioning Roa. Of course, now that he is dead, that hope has proved idle."

"I.. am sorry?" Ciel looked even more thrown than before at the reveal that a Cardinal of all people had committed the purest form of heresy, to peruse a Dead Apostle's research to extent one's own lifespan, so her reply wasn't the most elaborate or sophisticated.

"No need, no need. You did your duty, and I'll just have to find another avenue by which to break the Curse. Ah, if they don't burn me at the stake for heresy first of course."

"Allow me then." Shirou did not know what to think of this overly informal Cardinal, and he didn't approve at all of the man's utterly inane decision to look into Dead Apostles for selfish gains, but he wasn't about to leave someone to a fate of slowly having their mind destroyed over the course of what could be years.

He resolutely placed his index finger on the Cardinal's forehead and channelled the Mysterious Power, burning away the Curse and, while he was at it anyway, rejuvenating his body too.

"That should give you another few decades." Shirou huffed after he was finished, before seizing the man's collar, pulling him over the desk, and giving him a threatening look. "But if you start messing around with Dead Apostles again, I'll kill you."

"Noted." The man's voice was entirely sincere, if a little too chipper for someone being threatened, so Shirou let him go again. "And you have my utmost gratitude! If you ever need a favour, don't hesitate to contact me."

"Hm." A favour from a Cardinal was not something to take lightly, so Shirou nodded in acceptance, before he got back to their original topic. "Now, why did you want me here? I don't mean to be rude, but I have more to do today."

"Then I'll get down to business immediately." In a flash, Cardinal Laurentis composed himself, and he motioned for Shirou and Ciel to sit down as well, which they did, though the latter still looked rather off-kilter. "First of all, inviting you here was simply a method of finally meeting you and taking your measure, as the world's youngest True Magician. Although the Burial Agency has received numerous reports on your presence and your actions at the Clocktower, very few of our operatives have ever personally met you, let alone interacted with you. The only exception to this is Caren Ortensia, and she is not the most reliable of witnesses."

That, Shirou could not deny. He considered Caren a friend, but he knew very well she could be… a bit flighty, to put it mildly.

"Hence, Ciel saw it fit to invite you here, so we could build some rapport with you. There will undoubtedly be times that we will have to cooperate, and having good relations is important in light of that."

"That is fine, but I'm not making any deals with you right now, and I'm not going to break ties with the Magus Association." Shirou was not against good relations with the Church, but he had to be wary of being tricked into making promises.

Lady Montmorency had told him, back at the Clocktower, never to make promises to people unless he'd really thought it through, and though she'd meant that to be advice for dealing with the Magus-nobles, it probably applied to Burial Agency-operatives too.

"Of course, it is not my intention at all to turn you against the Clocktower, least of all its Queen. Though I may have behaved rather abominably in recent times, I am still a man of the cloth. I would never ask a husband to turn on his own wife."

"Kgh?!" Shirou choked on his own breath, horrified by how badly the Church had apparently misinterpreted his relationship with Lorelei, but he didn't get a chance to set the record straight before the Cardinal continued.

"All I wanted was a meeting, a chance for me to show my face and take your measure, and I think we can safely say that I have been successful." Cardinal Laurentis let out a boisterous laugh, emitting nothing but sincerity, before he calmed down again, the happy twinkle in his eyes dimming considerably. "And thus, since we are short on time, let us discuss the Dead Apostle Ancestors now."

"Vlov Arkhangel, the Spider Queen, and Michael Roa Valdamjong are dead." Ciel promptly reported, calming down now that they were moving back into familiar territory. "Fujimaru slew the Spider Queen, while Arkhangel and the Serpent were slain by… the White Princess, Brunestud."

There was a minor pause in her speech, barely detectable and easily written off as a result of her dislike for the Moon Princess, and Shirou carefully ignored it. She clearly wanted to keep Tohno Shiki under the radar, at least for now, and that was something he could get behind.

"A great victory." The Cardinal smiled, but he didn't seem surprised by what he'd been told. "Already, the news is spreading fast. Their deaths have been verified, though no one knows what exactly happened. Could I ask you for a report on the battle with the Spider Queen, Fujimaru-san? It doesn't have to be a long one, just the bare bones."

Shirou obligingly told them of the battle, if it could even be called that. How he'd tracked her down to an abandoned warehouse, how he'd burned her vile schemes to ash, how he followed her into her laboratory, killed her, and then destroyed said laboratory as well.

He didn't tell them of the information the Spider Queen had given him however, about Sumire and Fenris. For now, he wanted to keep that close to the chest.

"Thank you." Cardinal Laurentis said after he'd finished. "It sounds like you arrived just in time. If that truck had gotten away, things could have turned very ugly, very quickly. Yet another victory for mankind."

"And a blow to the Ancestors." Ciel grinned, her mood once more beyond excellent. "Ortenrosse will be most wroth to hear about this."

"Ah, no, I wouldn't go that far." The Cardinal's smile dimmed a bit, a pained look appearing in his eyes.

"What do you mean?"

"Well, Ortenrosse, who is, as you know, the King of the Ancestors, has lately been filling the ranks of the Twenty-Seven with his own patsies, and your actions have only given him two more thrones to fill. Since neither Arkhangel nor the Spider Queen were allies of his and Roa was hated by all, I fear he will see this as a victory every bit as much as we do."


"I'm sorry. Such are their politics."

The idea that he had somehow helped the King of the Ancestors was infuriating, and Shirou gritted his teeth in annoyance, imagining how the creature was probably laughing smugly right now, leisurely selecting new Ancestors from his list of flunkies.

That could not stand.

"How do I deal him a defeat then?" He asked the Cardinal, who lifted an eyebrow in response. "What do I need to do to hurt him?"

"Slay one of his senior followers." The elderly man replied promptly, smiling forlornly. "Something we have been trying to do for ages."

"Which followers are those?"

"Van-Fem, Rita Rozay-en, and Gransurg Blackmore are all Elders, and losing any of them would be a massive blow to Ortenrosse. If you really want to hurt him though, killing Stanrobe Calhin is the way to go."

"Stanrobe Calhin?"

"The Eleventh Dead Apostle Ancestor. The Duke of Predation and Ortenrosse's spymaster. Take him out, and you'll render the king blind."

That sounded good. Once he'd obtained the weapon that Arcueid had spoken of, saved the world, and finished the Grail War, he'd have to look into that. Provided he was victorious and lived to tell the tale of course.

"I must urge you to be cautious." Cardinal Laurentis easily guessed what he was thinking, linking his fingers together to give Shirou a measured look. "While True Magicians are powerful, please keep in mind that these creatures have outlived many great True Magicians in their time. If it was easy to kill them, they would have long since been dead."

That was of course completely true, and Shirou accepted the Cardinal's warning with a grateful nod.

After that, he answered a few more questions, discussed a few more matters, and then they were done.

"I wish you a good day, Fujimaru-san, and I thank you again for your help with my… little issue." Cardinal Laurentis rose from his chair and clasped Shirou's hand in his own, smiling brightly. "Here's to a fruitful cooperation."

"Have a pleasant day." Shirou replied, carefully not commenting on anything that the man had said about cooperation.

"Until we meet again, Shirou." Ciel on the other hand was much easier to talk to, and Shirou shook her hand as well. "It probably won't be on the battlefield for a while, but I'm sure I'll see you around."

"I hope so." The redhead nodded, before he paused. "Ah, miss Ciel, could I ask you to deliver a message to Akiha from me?"

"Of course."

Shirou quickly Traced a pen and a piece of paper, before jotting down a part of his conversation with the Spider Queen.

He didn't know if it would help the girl to know that the Ancestor had been genuinely fond of her, in a twisted kind of way, but he'd promised to let her know, so he did.

He handed the letter over to Ciel, said his final goodbyes, and then left again.

As Shirou had expected, he found himself trailed by several spies before he could even make it to Misaki Town's train station.

Some of them were from the Burial Agency, having probably been sent by Cardinal Laurentis, but there were a few who answered to different masters as well.

Evidently, the news of his identity and presence here had already gotten out, and several parties had dispatched their agents to investigate him, undoubtedly hoping to obtain valuable information, perhaps even his place of residence.

For a moment, Shirou considered shaking them off the regular way, but frankly, he wasn't in the mood.

He'd been awake for three days now, had fought three Dead Apostle Ancestors, learned a lot of new information, gotten stabbed in a Point of Death, and he was feeling oddly tired all of a sudden. To be quite frank, he just wanted to go home and cuddle his girlfriends, not waste energy on playing games with spies.

So he decided to skip past the journey by train and the tedious mess of having to shake off his pursuers, by using a new form of travel.

The Bifrost.

So far, he'd only ever used the Bifrost to travel to and from the Vault, but that wasn't the limit of its capabilities. The rainbow-coloured bridge was essentially an expression of the Mysterious Power, one that could create portals, wormholes, folds in space, and many other things.

In other words, it could also be used, once properly mastered, to travel between different places on Earth.

He'd spent hours on mastering it sufficiently, grinding away at home in the hopes of never having to fly by plane again, and he finally felt ready to use it for an actual field-test.

Shirou exerted his power, called upon the Bifrost to obey his commands, and created a portal, one that should lead straight to his living room.

He sensed more than he saw how his pursuers all reared back in shock at the appearance of a rainbow-coloured portal, something any Magus would immediately link to the Kaleidoscope, and he couldn't suppress a mean grin.

He might be showing his hand a bit by being so open with his new ability, but it was worth it. Both to get home quickly, and to mess with the people trying to have him followed.

Before the next sunset, the whole world would know that he could wield both the Second and the Third True Magic. Of that, Shirou had no doubt. Even if it wasn't true.

But that was a problem for later. For now, he just stepped through the portal and then dismissed it, finding himself exactly where he wanted to be.

In his living room, where the girls and Taiga had just started their breakfast.

They were surprised to see him appear out of nowhere like this of course, but since they already knew just about everything there was to know about him, including the fact that he had a rainbow bridge at his disposal, they recovered quickly.

Within mere moments, they were rushing at him for a hug.

And no one missed the fact that Rin was the first to jump into his arms.

And with that, the Tsukihime arc ends.

The previous chapter received a whole lot of positive reviews. I truly do appreciate that, and let me reassure you all that I will not give up on this story. Even for chapter 55, the bad reviews have long since been buried, so that is nice.

This is however the last chapter in this string of quick updates. Chapter 58 will take a while again, though hopefully not many months. It depends on how much time I have available.

With that said, on to the chapter.

Three Ancestors are dead and Shirou's legend grows. He assisted in killing Vlov Arkhangel, killed the Spider Queen by himself, and assisting with Roa too.

It was a longer chapter than usual, because I needed more space. There were quite a few revelations here, and a lot of action.

Doctor Arach was indeed the Spider Queen, shocking absolutely no one. She's a bit of a coward, and as an Alchemist, not very adept at melee. Hence, she tries to buy her freedom with information, which almost works, if it hadn't been for the fact that Shirou had a flashback at the exact wrong moment.

Now, you might all be very surprised by the fact that I decided to say that Primate Murder is actually Fenris, but I needed a way to include both Altrouge's pet and Fou in this story, and this is the way I chose.

It also fits nicely with another plotpoint in earlier chapters. Ever since Mjolnir arrived, Primate Murder has been skittish, confusing Altrouge to no end. Had it been Primate Murder, that would have been weird, but Fenris…

Fenris has every reason to fear Thor.

Shiki eventually deals the final blow to Roa, just like in canon. I mean, it's fine that way. Ciel is interested in him, as he can be surprisingly charming when he wants to be, but Arcueid does not have romance on her mind, at all.

Not with Shirou either by the way. As things stand, this story will have no Shirou x Arcueid. Shirou has plenty of lovers as it is, especially when counting those that are still in the wings.

Arcueid's information turns out to be another clue for the scavenger hunt, this time to descend into the Tomb of Albion, as the caverns beneath the Clocktower are officially known. Wonder what he'll find there…

The Wardens of the infernal devices have themselves a party, and Cardinal Laurentis gives Shirou a quick lesson in politics, before he uses the Bifrost to get home.

Maybe it was careless of him to show it off, but he was tired. He needed his Shirou-sleep. In the end, he saw no reason not to show off a bit, also partially out of spite. A lot of Magi are going to panic over the next few hours, which was exactly the point.

With that, Ted signs off. See you again in a few… weeks? Months? Depends on my schedule.