Edit: Fixed a few of the major spelling errors that slipped through. I hope it flows a little better now.

March 31st, Morning, East of Trista

Shirou watched the landscape pass by as he looked out of the train window. Around two weeks ago, he agreed to Prince Olivert's offer to attend Thors Military Academy and now he was finally on his way to his new school. The trip from Celdic to Trista wasn't that long, so he didn't bother packing anything to pass the time.

The beautiful landscape combined with the rather advanced technology, like trains or artificial light, really gave Erebonia the image of a fairytale land thrust into an industrial revolution. It was amazing to him how all these high-grade technological creations were apparently all developed only in the last fifty years.

At first, Shirou thought the technology used on Zemuria was electricity based, like back on Earth, but as it turned out, all devices were powered by so-called 'orbal energy'. A form of energy drawn out of a mineral called Septium through the usage of orbments. These devices were made out of mechanical parts and so-called 'quartz', compressed and refined Septium.

No matter how hard Shirou tried, he wasn't able to understand how these 'orbal power sources' worked. He once tried to use his Structural Grasp magecraft on an old radio in Otto's house, but with no success. He could understand the parts surrounding the power source, but not the source itself. The layout of the radio was similar to others back home in Japan, but instead of drawing its energy from batteries, it took it out of the orbment inside. It seemed like his Structural Grasp was just not compatible with Septium and Orbal Energy, a mineral and form of energy that does not exist in his homeworld.

"The Ministry of Railways wishes to thank all passengers for their patronage." The female voice from the speakers tore Shirou out of his thoughts. "This train is bound for its final destination in the imperial capital of Erebonia, Heimdallr. The next stop is Trista. Trista. The train will enter the station in a few minutes and will be stopped for five minutes. "

'I guess that's my place to exit …' Shirou thought as he looked up to the speaker.

"When disembarking, please ensure no belongings are left behind," the voice continued.

'Not that I have anything to lose.' He didn't bother to carry anything with him. The few things that the Perms provided for him, like new clothes or a few textbooks, were already sent to the dorms in advance. 'Well … there is this.' He pulled out his combat orbment. It came via mail a few days ago and he didn't have the chance to really try it out. But according to Otto, combat orbmets could be used to cast 'arts'. They were a staple of modern combat and could range from fireballs, healing techniques to little earthquakes. Shirou was amazed by their apparent multifunctionality. 'Sounds like magecraft born from technology … even if said technology looks more like magic, to begin with.'

He watched how other students collected their belongings. All of them were already on the wagon as he boarded in Celdic, they must have boarded it in Bareahard, the capital of the Kreuzen province. Back at the Celdic station, he saw a few other students, but they must have taken a seat in a different wagon.

All the students he encountered so far wore green uniforms, the color all commoners wore that got to attend Thors. The nobility apparently wore white. Shirou himself already wore a bright red uniform, the trademark color of the empire, likely to show him being part of Olivert's 'special' class.

When he first saw the uniform, he was quite surprised by the quality and detail that it possessed. Definitely a step up from the plain brown gakuran of Homurahara High School. From what he saw so far, even the uniforms of the commoners had this quality and love for detail.

Shirou felt how the train started to slow down.

'Seems like the train is about to stop…' The young magus thought and prepared himself to leave the train.

March 31st, Morning, Trista

Shirou and the other students quickly left the train behind, entering the streets of Trista.

He felt a little overwhelmed by the little town that looked like it just woke up from a deep slumber. Merchants were cleaning the windows of their shops or swept the road in front of them. A few students were already standing around in the park and several younger children played catch. Even the trees were blooming brightly.

'Right … back I Japan we would also enter the cherry blossom season…' Shirou sighed and felt actually a little homesick. But before his mind would wander anywhere else, he noticed something else.

"Hm?" He spotted a girl in a similar red uniform as him, having her long blue hair styled in a ponytail. She was accompanied by an elder man wearing what looked like a butler's uniform. The two of them headed towards a restaurant by the park and disappeared inside it.

'That must be a future classmate of mine … looks like a noble and her servant.' He looked around a little. 'No orbal car … she must have taken the same train as I did. I guess not all nobles arrive on their own.'

"The train for Breahard via Celdic will enter the station shortly. Please stay behind the line as the train enters and keep your belongings to you." He once again heard an announcer's voice through the speakers of the station behind him.

'Time to head to the school, before Trista gets overrun by the students from Heimdallr.' Shirou dismissed the thought about his future classmate and instead heads towards the school grounds.

He walked past Trista's buildings, and he reached an avenue that led directly to the school grounds. The school's tall bell tower could likely be seen from all over Trista. The town's main sight was Thors, after all, it only made sense that it stands out like a real attraction.

Shirou followed a few other green-clad students through the archway that marked the entrance to Thors. Inside, he now got to see a few students wearing the white uniform of the nobles as well, all students were directed to head towards the auditorium.

"Oh, hey you there! The one with the red uniform!" Shirou was just about to follow the stream of students as someone called out to him. He looked around and saw that it was a rather short girl in green, beside her stood a chubby boy sporting a hat and a yellow jumpsuit.

"Yes, you!" She greeted him with a bright smile as Shirou walked over to her. "Hello and welcome to Thors Military Academy!"

"Uh … Thanks, I am happy to attend this school," Shirou answered.

"That's great to hear!" She said motivated. "I really hope you will enjoy the coming years at our school! Just like we do!"

'Wait …? She is a second year?' Shirou thought as he looked down to her, raising an eyebrow.

Oblivious to his suspicion she continued her introduction. "You are actually the first … I am really excited about who will be the next. But never mind that..." She looked up to him with bright eyes. "I am Towa Herschel, student council president of Thors. Should you ever need something, don't hesitate to visit us at the Student Union Building right beside the main schoolhouse."

'The president even? But she really seems to be passionate and a hard worker.' Shirou closely listened to her little speech.

"... and this is George Nome, head of the engineering club and our handy-man." She pointed at the chubby boy beside her.

"Yo!" George greeted him with a nod but also raised an eyebrow. "You don't have your weapon with you? I thought they mentioned that you should bring them on your first day?"

"I don't really have one … I hoped that I could borrow one from the school until I know what fits me," Shirou answered. He didn't bother to buy a weapon in Celdic, they just didn't have anything that really fit his technique. Should he really need something in an emergency he always could just trace Kanshou and Bakuya, but he would rather not throw around mythic weapons while at school. Using something like the married twinblades would likely cause even more problems.

"Hm …" George studied a clipboard that he held in his hands. "Oh! They actually arrived already! Then that makes you Shirou Emiya, right?"

"Yes, but … are you sure they arrived under my name? I don't think I sent something like a weapon to the school," Shirou asked confused.

"Yup, but let's not sweat the details. I inspected them, I think you will enjoy them," George said, smiling.

"Well, with that out of the way, I think you should hurry towards the auditorium. I can already see the next batch of students heading up the avenue," Towa said and pointed him again towards the large building.

"Thanks for the introduction." The young magus thanked her started to walk over to the auditorium.

"No, problem. Just promise me to stay out of trouble," the president shouts after him. As he looked back to her, he could already see her giving instructions to a new group of students.

The empty seats started to fill quickly after Shirou entered. The front rows were claimed by the white-clad nobles, the seats behind them by the commoners in green. The few students with the red uniforms spread out between them. Shirou did get a few strange looks because of his getup but nobody bothered to approach him.

After a few minutes, Principal Vandyck, an elderly man but rather tall and with a broad and muscular frame, started to introduce himself and the staff to the new students. He talked about their future on this academy and told some anecdotes out of his life, finishing up with a brief summary of Thors' founding.

"... Many of our students pursue a career outside of the military. But it doesn't matter where their paths lead them. Our mission remains the same: to prepare our students to fulfill Emperor Dreichels' famous mandate …" He leaned forward on the podium and looked at the students with expectations in his eyes, fully convinced by his own words. "'Arise, O youth, and become the foundation of the world.'"

'The youth as the foundation of the world … a rather idealistic approach.' Shirou thought a little about these words. 'But it has a nice ring to it.'

"Though much has happened over these past two and a quarter centuries, the world is still the domain of the young. The last fifty years, in particular, changed the world in more than one way. During my childhood, I would have never dreamed of traveling through the empire inside a steel horse, or flying over with a ship that sails the sky." He smiled as he remembered the old days. "Yet one question never changed since Emperor Dreichels sat on the throne: What qualities must one possess to become a part of this world's foundation?"

"Hope, justice, zeal or determination? No … I cannot answer you this question because I don't know it. We all must find our own answer, our own path!" he continued proudly. "I hope this credo will serve as a guide and inspiration to you during your two years at this academy, just like it has done to all the other students in the past two hundred years. Go forth, my students. The world awaits the great things you will one day accomplish."

With that, he finished up the speech and stepped back. Vice-Principal Heinrich, a scrawny looking man with glasses and trimmed mustache, took over and gave instructions the students. The auditorium started to empty again, only the students in red were not told on what to do next.

"The class designated in our guidebook? I don't think I saw anything about that in my guidebook." A boy with hair the color of a carrot said, he wore a red vest instead of the more common jacket. Despite being called a military academy, Thors was apparently rather soft on clothing regulations and allowed a lot of customization. The school even provided several different types of clothing for each student.

"There wasn't any information on that in mine, either," the black haired boy beside him answered. "I assumed they'd tell us after the entrance ceremony…"

Shirou noticed how a purple haired teacher, a young woman with a long coat and a short dress beneath it, walked up to them. "I think there comes said information," he said and joined the conversation.

"All riiight! Students in the red uniforms! Yes, you lot with the long faces. May I have your attention, please?" She asked smiling. To Shirou, she seemed awfully lax with her first impression. "I can see it on your faces. 'Where's my assigned class?', 'Why the red uniform?', 'Isn't she way too young to be a teacher?' … These and other questions are going through your little heads, right?"

'Is she serious? This school is really less like any military academy that I can think of.' Shirou thought while looking deadpan at her.

"That's perfectly understandable, your class' situation is a little more complicated than the others'," she continued. "But all questions will be answered after a special orienteering exercise. You will have your explanations."

"A what now?" a boy with glasses asked.

"An orienteering exercise? Like tracking?" a tall boy with a darker skin tone muttered.

"Did you mean an orientation exercise?" asked one of the girls. She wore her long blond hair with two pigtails on the sides, her red eyes glued on the teacher.

Shirou noticed that the blue-haired girl he saw earlier also muttered a few words to herself. "Hmm … some sort of training?"

"Maybe some kind of treasure hunt, to get to know the school grounds better?" suggested the girl with glasses.

"Worry not! Everything will be made clear soon enough!" The teacher stopped their ramblings. "Now follow me! Right this way and all your questions will be answered." She promptly turned around and started to walk towards the exit.

"Looks like we have to follow if we want any answers," the tall boy from earlier said and followed her outside. A blond boy sighed annoyed and went with him.

'I guess that is part of Olivert's plan … maybe to bring the class together.' Shirou thought and made his way to the exit. The rest of the class close behind him.

After a short walk across the school grounds, they arrived at an old, run-down building. Some windows were covered in wooden boards and the paint already fell off parts of the wall.

"What is this place?" the boy in the vest with the orange hair asked.

"Why is a run-down building like this here? It looks like it should've been torn down ages ago?" the dark-haired boy beside him asked.

"Hm …" Shirou looked at the old building, an uneasy feeling rising up in his stomach. 'Something's not right with this place … it feels like some kind of weight pressing me down … and it comes from that building.'

He decided to take a good look at his surroundings as he suddenly could feel someone look in his direction. 'Someone else is watching?!' At first, he couldn't see anyone, so he looked over his shoulders without alerting anyone. Behind a few trees on a close by slope, he spotted two people, a boy in the green commoner uniform and a girl in something that looked like a leather bodysuit. 'Are they students? Must be second years … I haven't seen them during the entrance ceremony.'

"Mhm~ hm~ dadadi~." The purple-haired teacher was just humming a melody without a care in the world and fiddled with her keys inside the front door's lock. After a loud clicking noise, she pushed it open and disappeared inside the building.

"Please don't tell me we have our class set here?!" The blond boy pressed out annoyed. "I expected more of Thors!"

"What does she even want us to do here?" The girl with pigtails added. "That building doesn't look safe for students to be around."

"Is she ever going to tell us anything?" The boy in classes said. Shirou could guess by his tone that he grew increasingly fed up with the situation.

"We should follow her … If the teacher wants us to head inside, then we should. I don't think the school would put us in any serious danger on purpose," Shirou said, deciding to urge the class into pushing forward.

"Indeed, there is no point in staying outside and standing around like trees." The blue-haired girl with the long ponytail smiled and nodded. She stepped forward and pushed herself past Shirou up the stairs that led to the front door. "If we want to find out what the instructor wants, we will have to head inside and see what awaits us."

She walked forward and went inside the house, quickly disappearing out of view. Shirou as well nods and follows the girl into the house. He could hear footsteps behind him. 'Looks like they are coming after all.'

They all gathered inside what looked like some kind of old hall. It seemed like the school uses it to store old, broken furniture or other junk that no one really needed anymore.

The teacher stood on some kind of stage and confidently looked down to them.

"The name's Sara Valestein. I am the Instructor of Class VII, which means you get the pleasure of seeing me all year." The teacher finally introduced herself with a confident smirk. "Well, that is during combat classes and homeroom … you will still have to spend some time with the other instructors. Haha!" She laughed a little as if she cracked a joke. "Glad to finally meet you!"

"Wait … Class VII? We are all in the same class?" The boy with glasses said.

"Well … I figured as much…" The blond girl said, her eyes drifting over to the boy with black hair. " … because of the uniforms. Why even the different uniforms?"

"I am not sure I understand," the girl who first entered the building said. "I wasn't told anything about this at enrollment."

"Excuse me, Instructor Sara?" The girl with glasses asked. "I was under the impression that there were only five classes at this academy and that students were split among them based on their social class and home region. Class I and II for the nobles, III to V for the commoners. Am I correct?"

"Right you are, Miss Top Scorer on the entrance exam," Instructor Sara said. "It has been this way since Emperor Dreichels founded the academy. He wanted to spread the knowledge, ideals and morals of Erebonia to ALL citizens, not just to those born into noble houses." She explained while resting one hand on her hips. "Buuuut that changed this year. Now we have a new class to spice school life up a bit."

"I fear I cannot follow. What are you ...?" The girl tried to ask.

"We now have a sixth class. Fittingly titled... Class VII! Tada!" Sara grinned.

'I am getting flashbacks from Fuji-nee …' Shirou had to fight the urge to press his hand on his temples. That woman was way too easy going to be a teacher.

"Wait … You just jumped straight from five to seven?" The boy with black hair asked confused.

"Yep, because this class is technically two in one … even if it has fewer students than average." Sara grinned down to them. "Because in Class VII, we recognize no distinction between nobles and commoners."

"Yeah … but why Class VII?" The boy repeated the question with a sigh, seemingly not that fond about this type of joke.

"You are really putting nobles AND commoners in the same class?" The red-eyed girl asked unsurely.

"This must be some kind of joke!" The loud voice came from the boy with glasses who was already pretty annoyed by the whole situation. "And why is this the first I've heard of it?!"

'Is he one of those more stuck up nobles?' Shirou thought and walked up to him, trying to calm him down. 'Better try to defuse this before someone else gets too fired up.'

"I am sure there is a reasonable explanation for this. Like … some kind of social experiment? Right, Instructor?" He said and then looked up to the teacher. 'Now please act your age and position … I don't want to believe that the Prince charged someone like you to look after this sort of class…'

"Oh, yeah … of course." She nodded a little startled and then looked at the boy with the greenish hair. "Sooo … Well.. err… Who are you again?"

Shirou looked speechless at her. 'Are you kidding me?!'

"Machias Regnitz!" The boy glared up to her. "And with all due respect, Instructor, it's ludicrous to intermix nobles and commoners like this!"

"Regnitz? … Wait does that mean he is related to Carl Regnitz, Governor of Heimdallr?" the orange haired boy muttered.

'Oh … That would explain a lot. So he isn't a noble after all... Otto told me that the Governor was one of the central figures of the Reformist Faction.' Shirou thought and swallowed. 'That is no coincidence that he got placed in this class.' He let his eyes wander to each of the students. 'I wonder who else comes from an important background … he cannot be the only one.'

"Must I be forced to spend my next two years shoulder to shoulder with those arrogant, stuck-up hedonists?!" Machias Regnitz continued, getting even more fired up.

"Uh … You DO know I'm not the one who made this decision, right? 'Don't shoot the messenger' they say …" Instructor Sara tried to justify herself. "Besides, what's the big deal, anyway? You're all kids… Can't you all just … get along or something? Play some games, have a sleepover and that stuff…"

'Just how old you think we are, Instructor?!' Shirou exclaimed in his mind, mildly annoyed with the easygoing teacher.

"J-Just get along?! Hah! And how would you propose we do that?" The glasses wearing boy looked up to her.

"Hmph …" The blond boy beside him let out an amused sound.

"And what's YOUR problem?" Machias reacted.

"Oh, nothing much," the boy said. "I just find the irony of your behavior rather humorous."

"Is that so? It seems the scion of some noble house has left the comfort of his mansion to grace the unwashed masses with his wisdom," Machias said mockingly. "Please, milord, on whose feet may I have stepped? Please, share your esteemed name with us so I may shower you in praises and respect that you oh so much deserve!"

The blond boy fully turned to him, raising an eyebrow but still sported a neutral expression on his face. "Jusis Albarea. Not that I expect the name of some kind 'arrogant, stuck-up hedonist' to lodge itself in that hard head of yours."

'Albarea?! Wait … isn't that the same name as of the Lord of the Kreuzen Province? Who is the leader of those guards from that one time?' Shirou remembered his run-in with the provincial guard back in Celdic. 'The son of the Governor and the son of one of the four great houses … What kind of problematic class did you create, Olivert?!'

As he looked around he could see that several of his classmates recognized the name as well.

"H-he's from one of the four great houses," stuttered the short boy with bright orange hair.

"The son of Duke Albarea, lord of the Kreuzen province in the southeast, one of the largest provinces in the Empire," the dark-haired boy continued. He seemed to know a bit more about the nobles of Erebonia.

"Well, you don't get much more noble than that," added the blond girl.

"Interesting. I'd heard the rumors …" The girl with the ponytail said. "... so he is the ominous second son? I thought he was still … a little younger."

The tall boy with the tanned skin just looked a little confused while a short girl with messy white hair yawned without care.

"D-Do you expect me to be impressed?!" Machias tried to compose himself. "Your name, your title, your lineage means nothing to me! Just some passed down privileges! I'll never bend my knee to the likes of -"

"Okay, Okay! That's enough!" The Instructor clapped her hands to calm them down. "They really pushed a rowdy bunch on me, did they?" She asked no one in particular with a deep sigh.

"I am sure a couple of you have a few grievances, but now is not the time. I'll hear your complaints later. Right now, you've got your orienteering exercise to worry about. And I am not going to keep you from our fun little icebreaker."

"Ugh…" Machias only answered with a groan while Jusis let out a dismissive snort.

"Again with that 'orienteering exercise', you already mentioned it … what's the deal with that?" The blond girl asked.

"It's some form of outdoor competition? Something like a cross between a map-reading exercise and a scavenger hunt, maybe?" The girl in glasses asked interestedly.

"Is that why they asked us to hand over our weapons at the gate?" the black haired boy asked. "Are they our goal? The things we should find?"

"Nothing gets by you does it?" Sara noted and shook her head. "But no, they are not the goal … you will need them, though." She took a few steps back. "Buuut I don't want to spoil the fun, so let's get started, shall we?"

With a loud noise, Shirou could feel the floor shift beneath his legs, it started to tilt and opened up a trapdoor of sorts. He barely managed to get a hold on one of the floor tiles with his fingers, looking around, he noticed how most of his classmates slid down and disappeared into the hole.

"AAAH!" Shirou heard one on of the girls scream loudly, she seemed to have tripped over and now slid down the trapdoor with her head first on her back. But before he could act he saw how the boy with the black hair already jumped for the blond girl. He wrapped his arms around her, trying to soften her fall. 'Good … I think he got her.'

"Come on, Fie. No Cheating. You're going with them and that's that … go down there and make some new friends … that's the whole reason for an icebreaker." Shirou heard Sara from above the trapdoor, as he looked up, he only saw how the girl with the white hair dropped down and disappeared in the trapdoor. The Instructor appeared at the edge of the trap door and looked down to him.

"Oh? There's another one?" She asked surprised, but then raised an eyebrow and took a step back. "Were you trying to take a peek under my or Fies' skirt? Are you already auditioning for the position of classroom perv?" She asked obviously teasing him.

"No, of course not!" he shouted up to her.

"Hehe … then you better follow down your classmates as well … or do I have to make you too?" She smiles and pulled out a throwing knife.

Shirou swallows and nods. "Of course, Instructor Valestein…"

"And please call me 'Instructor Sara' … Valestein makes me feel like an old woman, you know."

He again just nods and let go of the floor tile, sliding down the trapdoor as well.

Shirou managed to land on his feet, surrounded by his less fortunate classmates. The only other one who was on her feet was that white-haired girl.

"What … actually happened?" Machias asked as he sat up.

"The floor gave out from under us …" answered the girl with braided hair and glasses.

"I can't believe I fell for such an obvious trap," the proud girl with blue hair said a bit down. "Just another sign that I have not trained enough … I should have never lost my footing."

"This doesn't look like a normal cellar, though … does that mean that there's a series of catacombs beneath the school grounds, then?" the tallest of the boys mused.

"Hmph, what does that woman think she's doing?" Jusis Albarea added. "It looks like she is only messing with us and is playing the fool..."

"Phew … I thought my heart was going to jump out of my chest! Hey, Rean, are you alr-!" The timid looking boy with orange hair said but suddenly stopped mid-sentence. "Oh, no …"

"Hm?" Shirou tried to follow the boy's eyes and saw him looking at the blond girl, or rather at the one who was trapped beneath her. It was the boy who jumped for her as she slid down the trapdoor. He must have succeeded in his rescue attempt because he was now right beneath her… with his face buried in her chest. 'Oh, crap … at least he managed to catch her … in a way.'

"I … ah … Rean, right? Try to raise your hands and not to touch anything even worse …" Shirou bent down to the boy and tried to help him.

The boy spread his arms aside and tried to follow Shirou's lead. "Hmphgmhf …" A muffled voice came from beneath the girl, which only helped in waking her up.

"Mhm … what ... happened?" she asked while moving a little. "Where am I? It's kinda soft and warm …? Huh?" She opened her eyes only saw the boy's head buried in her chest. Another set of unrecognizable words came from the boy. "Ah..." she stammered and got up immediately, her head red like a tomato.

"Yeah … I'm really sorry about that…" The boy got up as well and walked up to her, trying to calm her down. "Still, I'm just glad you are okay. That's what's really important, ri-?!'

"Wha!? Don't get so close!" She shouted and took a step back.

"Are you alright?" The boy didn't stop and got even closer to her. "I am just trying to help-!"

"Ah!" The girl hit him across the cheek, the smack echoed through the hall. She was clearly embarrassed about the whole situation and couldn't handle it anymore.

Meanwhile, the rest of the students got up as well, but they obviously tried to not get involved with this mess.

"Wow… today is really not your day, is it?" the shorter boy in the vest whispered to the unfortunate one.

"Well, now that I have hit bottom, things can only improve … I hope," he said while rubbing his cheek, a red lining showing where the girl hit him.

"At least you managed to catch her … right?" Shirou tried to cheer him up.

"Ah … you think that will give me some bonus points?" The dark haired boy said halfheartedly. "By the way, thanks for the attempted help, I still kinda messed it up, though."

"To be honest, I didn't expect for you to get out of there … you were far too deep."

"Please, don't remind me of that …" The other guy said, getting a little red out of embarrassment.

"Wait, you know I didn't mean it like that!"

"So, where did that crazy woman drop us off?" Jusis folded his arms and started to look around.

"That case …" The blue-haired girl looked at one part of the room. Shirou noticed that a set of stone altars were spread around the room. "That's mine, I use it to carry around my weapon when there is no need for it."

"Are … are these our weapons that we handed over…?" the girl with glasses asked as a sudden ringing noise cut her off.

Shirou noticed that the sound came from his pocket. He pulled out the source of this racket and now held his combat orbment in hands. His classmates did the same, as theirs rang as well. 'Don't tell me …' He pressed a button and the noise stopped.

"Heya! Hope you all got down there safely~" The voice of the Instructor came out of the small gadget.

'It really does work like a cell phone.' Shirou looked over to his classmates, they all seemed rather surprised about that revelation. 'Looks like they never had something like this before…'

"Is that … Ms. Valestein?" the tan boy asked.

"Right you are, Mr. Foreign Exchange Student!" Sara's voice answered. "These pretty little things feature a portable communicator. Their range is still a little limited, but it can be quite advantageous in the field."

"W-Wait, don't tell me these are …?!" The blond haired girl, now a little calmer, noted and stared at the orbment.

"... new-model battle orbments made through a partnership between the Epstein foundation and the Reinford company. Newly-made fifth-generation battle orbments, in fact. They're called ARCUS units," continued the Instructor's voice.

"ARCUS …" The dark haired boy beside Shirou muttered.

'Another thing that Olivert didn't bother to mention … what an irresponsible prince.'

"So these are battle orbments," the girl with glasses repeated. "That means they'll allow us to use arts, right?"

"Sure will! Just set a quartz into one of its slots, and you will be able to use all the arts you want!" The teacher's voice continued. "Which is why I prepared enough quartz for each and every one of you! Just go get it along with your weapons! I will explain the rest after that!"

With that announcement, the group split up and each one of them headed to the altar that held their weapon. Shirou looked around a little and noticed that one altar was without a student. On it, Shirou could see a metallic case and the box that held the quartz. 'Is that supposed to be mine...?' He looked around and after nobody went for it, he walked up to the altar.

First, he took the large case and opened it up, interested in what kind of weapon mysteriously turned up for him. In it, he found a pair of curved short-swords, not unlike the twinblades Kanshou and Bakuya, but their blades were not as broad and they were forged out of layered steel. The hilt was separated from the blade with a small guard, on the back of the blades he could spot a few small notches right above the hilt, deep enough to catch an incoming sword with them. Someone ordered these to fit his style, no normal blacksmith would just forge them like this without a reason.

He looked again into the case and noticed a folded piece of paper in it. Unfolding it he realized that it was, in fact, a letter addressed to him. He quickly started to read it:

My dear Shirou!

Should you read this, then that means that I am already dead!

Jokes aside, this letter should reach you together with a new set of weapons. Mueller ordered them on your behalf, he said that they would fit your techniques. I will trust him on that as I am no expert in swordsmanship as he is. Just see them as a little 'acceptance gift' for the start of your school life at Thors.

By now, your little 'orienteering exercise' should have started, so I will keep this short. Just promise me that you will not forget me, my little Hero~!

Yours truly,

Olivert Reise Arnor

Shirou sighed as he read the letter. Of course were they from that mischievous prince. Well, at least he didn't have to worry about finding a weapon now. But the letter didn't end there, there were still a few lines but this time they were written by someone else.

P.S.: Principal Vandyck, Sara Valestein and a select few other staff members know of your connection to the prince, but I would recommend keeping this association under wraps. It will lead to more problems than it's worth. Also: get rid of this letter.


Major Mueller Vander

'As short and on point as always …' Shirou shoved the letter into his pocket and took a belt with a holster for the blades from the case. He wrapped it around his hips and put his new blades inside it.

His eyes moved then on to the little box right beside the case. The magus opened it and was greeted by the brown shine of a Quartz-Orb. On a metal plate beneath it, he could read its name: 'STEEL'.

Shirou took it out of the box and put it into the center socket of his ARCUS unit, a sudden glow started to appear from the quartz. "Huh?! That supposed to be like this?" He looked over to the students beside him, their orbments started to glow as well.

"That light means that you have successfully synchronized with your ARCUS." The Instructor's voice once again came from the orbment. "Congratulations. Now you can use arts as much as you want! These ARCUS units have plenty more nifty features … but I wouldn't want to bombard you with too much info at once, so will go over those another time in class."

Shirou titled the device a little in his hands, inspecting it a bit closer. He wondered what else it could do.

"With that out of the way, I think it is time to get our little event started for real!" Sara's voice continued. "See that big bulky door on one side of the room? That will lead you something like an underground labyrinth … basically a dungeon."

"She actually said it … what kind of school has a dungeon anyway?" Shirou said to no one in particular.

"Your goal is to find your way to the dungeon and return to the surface! The exit will return you to the first floor of the old schoolhouse. There are monsters wandering around, though, so don't let your guard down even for a moment," the voice from the orbment continued. "Still … they aren't that strong, so you shouldn't get seriously injured. Just approach them with care and blast them away with your new arts!"

"Monsters, hm?" Shirou looked at the door. He knew of them, back on Earth they would be considered genuine mythical creatures, but here they are more like pests. Shirou saw some of them around Celdic, but those that got close to the town were just scavengers that went through the garbage. Apparently, there were far stronger and more dangerous monsters out there that could seriously endanger any unfortunate traveler.

"... With all that said, let's commence our special orienteering exercise! Your objective is to make your way through this area and back to the surface! Make it back in one piece and I'll be happy to listen to all your complaints that you might have. If you make it back safely, I might even give you a kiss, free of charge! ... On the cheek, of course!" With that Sara cut the line and after a signal tone, the ARCUS fell silent.

The students grouped up in the middle of the room and formed a cycle.

"... I don't think she's joking," the blond girl said, still a little red, but at least composed. "She seems serious with us finding our own way out of here…"

"Seriously … the nerve of that woman," Machias said. Shirou saw him holding a weapon that looked like a rifle or a shotgun to him.

"Hmph …" Jusis just made his way to the door, his hand resting on his fencing sword.

"And where are YOU think you are going? Were you planning to just wander off on your own?" Machias immediately stopped the noble from leaving.

"I have no interest in wasting my time. And I'm surprised that you, of all people, care for what I do," Jusis answered with a stern look. "Or do you need this noble's aid to guide you out of this dark and gloomy cellar?"

The boy in glasses snarled back at him. "I would never ask someone like you for help!"

"Ah, good, there is that loud mouth of yours … I already thought you hit your head." Jusis smirked back. "Well? But my offer stands? I AM in fact willing to protect you until we reach the exit, as it is the duty of us 'stuck-up hedonists'."

"Like HELL I would ever rely on YOUR help! Nobody needs the sword of some pampered noble that only fought with his subjects!" Machias pushed himself past Jusis. "I will show you that we COMMONERS don't need the aid of outdated relics like you!" He went straight out the entrance and disappeared in the dungeon.

"Hmph … what an ignorant fool." Jusis as well went for the door and left the other students alone.

The group fell silent, the awkwardness from the previous events returned quickly.

Shirou could hear the dark haired boy groan beside him. "Well … that could have gone better."

"Yes, I am not sure if splitting up like this is the smart decision." Shirou agreed with him. "But I don't think anybody could've stopped them in the first place. They seemed pretty set in their ways."

"Oh, but I disagree, we should in fact split up." Shirou looked for who said that and noticed the girl with blue hair looking at him. She stepped a bit forward, her hand resting proudly on a greatsword that was fixed in a holster around her hips. "Finding a way out should be our priority, but I don't intend to leave anyone behind. With these two blockheads going solo, there is a good chance that at least one of them will get lost. By creating two groups it will be much easier and safer to collect them again."

"Are you sure? We don't know what lives in that dungeon … maybe sticking together for the start would be better," Shirou said and tried to convince her.

"Well, there is also our OTHER problematic pair that needs a little air itself," she said and nodded to the side. Shirou followed her gesture and saw the blond girl still glaring at the dark-haired boy, who tried to evade her gaze as well as he could.

"Okay … let's do it your way." There was no point in arguing about it.

"Good …" She turned to the girls. "Care to join my group? Wait … are we missing someone?"

"Th-that girl with the white hair went behind your back and entered the labyrinth as well..." the shortest of the boys said. "I tried to say something but …. uh, sorry."

"No problem … we will find her as well," the blue haired girl said, turning again to the girls. "Do you have any objections in joining my group?"

"No, I would gladly accompany you…" the blond girl said as she finally stopped glaring at the dark haired boy.

"It would be a huge help, actually. I wouldn't know what to do alone here," the girl with glasses said.

"Good, then let's be off. Gentlemen, I am sure you will be fine, but do take care," the swordswoman said and went for the door.

"Take care and good luck" The girl with glasses bowed politely and followed her.

"Hmph." The blond girl just huffed, sent the dark-haired boy a final glare and left as well.

Shirou's eyes followed them a little. He felt a little concerned in letting the girls go alone, but he shook that feeling off quickly. If there was one thing he learned from his time with Saber and Rin, then it was that girls like that can look out for themselves. And he had a good feeling with these here, this class was obviously not made of simple 'run-of-the-mill' students.

"Ugh …" The dark haired boy groaned again desperately. "Sorry … I made this whole thing way more complicated. I couldn't even say a word …"

"Ahaha. Not such a hot first impression, huh?" The shortest of them tried to cheer him up.

"You can say that again. I'll have to clear things up with her later," the boy answered. "Anyway, do you guys want to form a group? Or do you want to kick me out as well?"

"No, I think a group of four sounds pretty good," Shirou said with a smile. "Anything smaller, and we could just go solo as well."

"Let's … not do that. I would get pretty anxious wandering a place like this alone." The boy with the orange looked a little troubled by the suggestion of going alone.

"No objections here. I would be happy to accompany you," the tallest student said. "But I don't think I have introduced myself yet. My name is Gaius Worzel. I just arrived in the Empire so any help you can offer would be much appreciated."

"Oh, right. Instructor Sara said something about you being an exchange student," the orange-haired boy said. "My name is Elliot Craig. I am as erebonian as it gets, straight from Heimdallr. So nothing exciting, sorry."

"Shirou Emiya, nice to meet you all," Shirou said and introduced himself.

"Shirou Emiya? That sounds foreign as well?" the last boy asked.

"I was not born in Erebonia, yes … but I don't know any other country as well," Shirou answered. 'Well … that is technically true…' They seemed to accept that answer and didn't ask any further questions.

"Then I am the only one left? My name's Rean Schwarzer," the boy said. "I am from Ymir, a small mountain town in the Eisengard Range."

After the introductions, they decided on a formation in which they were going to explore the dungeon. They decided on Rean taking the lead with his tachi, Shirou was a little surprised on how a japanese sword turned up here. Gaius and Shirou took each a flank, with Gaius a little back to also cover the rear should the need arise. Elliot stayed between them, he wasn't that great at physical combat, but with his orbal staff, an orbment that further enhanced his arts, he was a pretty good caster with focus on support arts.

In the newly formed group, the students entered the dungeon and started to find their way through it. They encountered several packs of smaller monsters, they were rather easily dealt with after the group got a hang of using their ARCUS units.

Shirou was amazed how easy it was to cast arts with them, a simple strengthening art on him or his allies only took a few seconds and it was ready. Just like Gaius and Rean, he was more of a physical fighter, but having arts as an option would be of benefit. For now, STEEL only gave him access to the defensive strengthening art 'Crest', but with more Quartz, he could unlock more in the future.

"These things are amazing," Elliot said as they walked. "I used regular combat orbments before, but with these, casting arts becomes really easy."

"Yes," Shirou agreed. "It's the first time using an orbment like this, but even I can see how amazing it is. I still need a little training to get faster, though."

They kept discussing their combat strategies and experiences with the ARCUS until Rean suddenly silenced them with his hand.

"Hey, look ahead," he said and pointed forward. In the large room ahead of them, they could see several large bug-like monsters crawling around. They had bulky shells that almost looked like metals. "They look tougher than the monsters we fought so far."

"Let's approach them carefully," Gaius said and readied his spear. "Any ideas on how to do this?"

"Hm … there are a couple of them crawling around. Let's stay close to the door so they won't be able to surround us." Rean unsheathed his blade. "What do you think?"

"Sounds like a plan," Shirou agreed.

Gaius nodded in silence and already aimed his spear.

"I will support you from the back," Elliot added and tightened his grip around the orbal staff.

As they moved forward, the monsters noticed them and made a few clicking noises. Shirou and the other students of Class VII entered the room, suddenly the bugs started to move towards them.

The first one jumped towards Gaius, who promptly countered with a spear thrust, only scratching the bug's shell, but he managed to force it back. "The got tough shells … they will need a few more hits!" he shouted as he immediately attacked the next bug that got into his spear's range. "They will need a few good hits until they stay down! Be careful!"

"Alright!" Shirou shouts and attacked as well, his blades actually managed to tear through one monster's shell. "One down! Aim at the lighter parts of their armor, it is easier to crack there!"

"Already on it!" Rean moved forward, swinging his blade in two fast but precise arcs. A second later two monsters were split open by his tachi.

"Great job, you guys! Here, let me help as well!" Elliot announced behind their backs, they could see a water art flying over their heads and killing a particular fat bug monster. "Seems like they are also weak to elemental attacks!"

The battle was finished several dead bug monsters later. Shirou counted a total of sixteen dead monsters on the ground. "Looks like we got all of them."

"Yes … you guys did most of the work, though. I think I only finished off two or three of them," Elliot said with a smile.

Meanwhile, Shirou bent down to one of the monsters and looked at them closer. "I have never seen creatures like this."

"They remind me of a breed of bug-monsters up in Nord, they live in small caves underground," Gaius said as he walked up to him until he suddenly shouts. "Shirou! Behind you!"

Shirou tried to turn around, only to see another bug monster jump towards him. Before he could raise his blades, a loud shot blasts the monster out of the air.

"I got that one!" someone shouted from the other side of the room, turning his head, Shirou could see Machias standing there with his gun aimed. "Seems like I arrived in the right moment, Aidios be thanked."

"Yeah, thank you," Shirou said and stood up.

"No problem, but I think you would have managed without me. Your reflexes are pretty good, I must say." The boy in glasses walked up to them.

"Still, better safe than sorry," Gaius said and looked at him. "You said your name was Machias, right?"

"That's right, Machias Regnitz, a pleasure to meet all of you. But I don't think I have caught your names?"

"I am Elliot Craig, it is nice to meet you."

"Shirou Emiya, again, thanks for the backup."

"The name's Rean Schwarzer. It's a pleasure as well."

"Gaius Worzel. That was a pretty good shot there."

After everyone introduced themselves to the newcomer, he continued. "I… came to the realization that I shouldn't have just stormed off like that. That was immature and foolish of me, I was just on my way to return to the start and look if someone was still there."

"No, we were the last that headed out from there," Elliot said, smiling. "I am glad we found you already. The girls and we split up and formed two groups to find those that left on their own." He briefly summarized what had happened since Machias left the group.

"Oh .. then I have to repeat myself: I am deeply sorry for the inconvenience that I may have caused."

"No, worries. Water under the bridge," said Rean dismissive.

"Yeah, we all sometimes say stupid things or act like that in the heat of the moment," Elliot added.

"Believe me … I am the last who would criticize you for a hotheaded reaction like that," Shirou said, shrugging.

"Thank you." Machias looked briefly at each one of them. "Is, and please don't take this the wrong way, any one of you a noble as well? I know how this may sound, considering my recent … outburst. I am simply curious to know who I am associating with."

"From what I have heard from each one of us… I don't think anyone here has noble blood in his veins," Rean said, smiling.

"Both of my parents are commoners, so no."

"I am as common as they come," Shirou said, shaking his head.

"... and my homeland does not have a class system like this," Gaius explained. "My father is the tribe's chieftain, but we are only around thirty people, and we live and behave exactly like the rest of it. Does that count?"

"No … I wouldn't go that far," Machias said and dismissed it. He then rubbed his cheek with a finger, looking a bit embarrassed. "It's not like I hate ALL nobles or anything … it's just that this whole day, the school, and that Albarea really got to me." After a short pause, he added. "You … you don't have a problem with me tagging along with you?"

"We were looking for you, so yeah, no problem on our front," Rean said without a second thought.

"The more the merrier, or so they say," added Elliot.

Shirou nods. "But I think we should get going now, maybe we can catch up with the rest ahead of us."

"Yeah, let's," agreed Rean and started walking. "We already spent enough time in this dungeon."

"It seems we meet again!" They reached an intersection while exploring as suddenly someone shouts in their direction. Shirou followed the voice and saw the girls approaching from one of the paths.

"Oh…" Shirou could hear Rean swallowing nervously, looking at the blond girl. The girl looked less than pleased about the encounter. 'Seems like nothing changed on that front.'

"Good to see you hanging in there." Elliot tried to lighten the mood a little.

"I am glad the five of you are unharmed as well," The girl with glasses said, sending them a warm smile.

"Indeed, you even added someone to your group," the blue haired girl said and then addressed Machias. "It seems you've cooled down your temper a bit."

"Ah …" The boy in question sighs. "Yes, I have calmed down now. I apologize to you as well for my past transgressions."

"At any rate, I don't believe I've introduced myself yet, haven't I?" The girl said and walked forward. "I am Laura S. Arseid, from the town of Legram. It's a pleasure to make your acquaintance."

"Huh. Legram?" Rean said, seemingly thinking about something.

"That's down in the southeastern outskirts of the Empire, isn't it?" Elliot asked.

"Correct. It's an old castle down on the shores of lake Ebel. We're connected to the rest of the country by train, but other then that, it's a fairly remote region."

"Hm … Arseid. That name sounds so familiar…" Machias mused.

"I don't think this is coincidence, but I still have to ask: Are you per change related to Viscount Victor S. Arseid? The Radiant Blademaster?" Rean asked.

'Viscount? Radiant Blademaster? … So she really is a noble?' Shirou looked back and forth between the two of them.

"Yes, he is my father, the lord of Legram and Master of the Arseid School of swordsmanship." Laura looked at Machias. "Is me being a noble a problem to you?"

"N-No! Of course not." He stuttered a little. "Viscount Arseid is a respected member of society, that respects, and is respected by, commoners and nobles alike. He is a prime example of how everyone in the Empire should behave."

"Oh, I am happy to hear that from you," she said and made a short pause. "I may be a noble, but I want all of you to treat me just like anyone else in this class, so no need for titles. Now … Emma, are you going next?" Laura looked at the girl with glasses.

"I am Emma Millstein," the girl in question said, bowing politely. "Like Laura, I come from a distant region of the Empire. I was only able to attend Thors thanks to a scholarship, in fact. It is very nice to meet you."

"A scholarship? Hm … now that you mention it. Our instructor did say yours was the top score on the entrance exam," Machias said as he addressed her. "To think I was outdone … By a girl, no less ..."

"Huh, you must be quite the prodigy," Gaius said impressed.

"Ahaha …" She chuckles a bit nervous. "Maybe it seems that way, but really, I am not … I am just pretty good at studying. I have no training in martial arts either, my mind is the only thing I can rely on. That I am compatible with this weapon helped as well to get me accepted here." She raises her staff a little.

"You got an orbal staff too!" Elliot exclaimed excitedly. "But yours looks a little different than mine."

"Yes, seems like there are different models. We should exchange our experiences with them sometime."

"Yeah, let's!"

Shirou followed their conversation but something about that girl seemed strange to him. He couldn't put a finger on it but he was sure that there was something unusual about here. 'Maybe it's just this place that gets to me …'

Now there was only one girl left. Said blonde was staring at Rean displeased.

"Come on, Alisa … everyone is waiting." Laura encouraged her.

"Hmph … yeah, yeah, okay." She let her eyes drift to the other boys. "I am Alisa R. from Roer. It's a pleasure to meet ALMOST all of you."

'Yes … nothing changed over here.' Shirou thought as he looked over to Rean who looked like rather down about this issue.

"Uh .. Roer, huh? What's it like to live there? There's probably a new technological breakthrough every week." said Elliot impressed.

"I passed through Roer on my way through the empire, from what I have seen it is an amazing city," Gaius added while nodding.

"S-So, hey …" Rean as well tried to start up a conversation. "That bow … I've never seen one like it before. Is there some kind of orbal mechanism built in?"

"There is, but I don't see how that's any of YOUR business," Alisa answered coldly.

"Ouch …"

'Yeah … maybe she still needs a little more time.' Shirou thought and looked at the bow in question. 'There is a bowstring … but I cannot see any arrows. If it's an orbment, then maybe it just shoots the orbal energy like an orbal gun. Maybe she lets me try it someday.'

Shirou's group now introduced themselves to the girls, they each got a warm greeting in response. Except for Rean, who only got a cold "Hmph" from Alisa.

"Uhm … yeah. Anyone got any ideas on what to do next?" Elliot said as he tried to change the subject. "We've all run into each other wandering around. How about we stick together from now on?"

"I agree. I am not sure if it's safe for a group of girls to traverse this dungeon alone, I suggest we-" Machias tried to say as he got interrupted.

"You needn't be concerned about that," Laura said as she pulled her greatsword out of her holster, it looked even bigger in her hands than around her hips.

"I beg your pardon?"

"I don't mean to boast, but I'm confident my swordsmanship will be more than enough to protect us. For now, I think it's best to remain in separate groups. There are still two of us who remain unaccounted for." She let her eyes wander over the boys until it landed finally on Shirou. "Anyone of you who has a problem with that?"

"No … I met enough tough girls to know that girls can handle themselves quite well." Shirou shakes his head. 'Both Saber and Rin taught me that, even if they needed saving at some point… but so did I. Besides … the monsters we faced thus far were not that strong.'

"Haha … as expected of the daughter of the Radiant Blademaster," Rean chimed in.

"Oh? You did mention that previously. Are you familiar with the Arseid School of swordsmanship, Rean?"

"The Vander and the Arseid are the two most prominent schools of swordsmanship in Erebonia. Everyone who studies the sword has to know at least that. But no, I myself have no real experience with either school ... " The tapped his finger on his tachi. "I am a practitioner of the Eight Leaves One Blade School."

'Eight Leaves? … so there is even a style that goes along with these japanese blades. Interesting…' Shirou thought, trying to follow their talk about swordsmanship.

"Hm? I hope we get the chance to spar some day. I am looking forward to facing the famous Eight Leaves School," Laura said, smiling.

"I would only call me an amateur, but yes, I as well would like to test myself against your blade one day."

"Ehem … I think we were talking about something else." Alisa interrupted their moment, seemingly more than a little annoyed. "We still need to find that silver-haired girl and that noble."

"In that case, two teams means double the chance to find them," said Gaius optimistic. "Two teams is double the coverage and double the chance of crossing paths with our two missing companions."

"Yes." Shirou agreed with him. "The monsters we faced so far were not that strong individually, but they can be dangerous in numbers. Alone, they could be easily overwhelmed by them."

"Indeed. Even the weakest foe can be dangerous should they come in mass," Laura said, nodding. "So then, shall we be off?"

"... Alright then." Without a second glance, Alisa started walking with Laura close behind her.

"We'll see the five of you later, then!" Emma said and quickly followed the other two girls.

The boys watched them leave through one of the paths.

"Ugh …" Rean sighs and lets his shoulders fall.

"She really doesn't seem like she's gonna let that thing go, does she?" Elliot asked, both a bit amused and concerned.

"It was clearly an accident. Everyone could see that. But I don't suppose it makes any difference to her," Machias added.

"Well … she did seem to be rather annoyed of him hitting it off quite well with Laura," Shirou said. "Maybe there is still hope for her to come around?"

"How should I getting along with Laura, help me make up with Alisa?"

"Maybe … she is annoyed that not all the girls hate you as well?" Gaius tried to add something to the conversation and shrugged.

"Believe me … when a girl is annoyed or angry straight from the get-go, you can manage. It's when they start off all calm and sweet, THEN the storm that follows will be rough." Shirou sighs and looks towards the path that the girls took. "She is obviously annoyed that you dare to talk to any other girl while the issue that you two have is still not settled … Give her some time and I think she will come around."

"Wow, Shirou, you seem quite experienced with girls and how they act. You must be really popular with them if you know that much. I have only my sister as a reference, and she behaves completely different from Alisa." Elliot looks at him impressed.

"Not really, I never had a girlfriend or anything like that. I just know someone who also had quite the temper." Shirou sighs, just the thought of her hurt a little. "I don't think I ever was popular with them … all the girls I knew seemed to always take pity on me."

"Ahaha…" Rean chuckles now a little cheered up. "A strange feeling tells me that this is not entirely correct." He starts walking. "But let's get going as well, there are still two classmates of us to find!"

"Wait!" Shirou stopped the group as he sensed something. "Someone's ahead."

"Yes, someone's over there, behind the pillar," Gaius agreed with him, bud didn't ready his weapon.

"Could you please step forward, we don't want any accidents to happen," Rean said towards the pillar.

"Heh … you are pretty sharp." A female voice came from behind the pillar and the girl with the messy white hair stepped forward.

'She's pretty good at hiding her presence, she also showed some ability as the trapdoor opened… definitely also no normal student.' Shirou thought and also looked at his other classmates. 'But Gaius and Rean also realized that she hid over there … they also know their stuff.'

"It's the silver-haired girl," Elliot noted.

"I am glad to see you're all right," Rean said and stepped forward. "Though, it looks like there was nothing to worry about in the first place."

"Nope. I'm small and quick. These things can't lay a finger on me."

"So you sneaked past them?" Shirou asked interestedly.

"I still fought some of them … But yeah, I could just ignore all of them if I want to." She had a confident smirk on her face. "My name's Fie Claussell by the way. You're just over halfway through. Keep it up. Later." She turned around and started walking.

"Hey, wait!" Machias tried to stop her.

"Are you sure you are fine alone?" Elliot asked concerned.

"I'll be fine. I am used to this. See you at the end." Before anyone could stop her, she just ran towards the wall, jumped off of it and disappeared on the balcony.

"What just happened?" Machias asked surprised.

"She certainly wasn't fibbing about being quick on her feet," Gaius said while looking after her.

"Yeah," Shirou agreed. "She also managed to evade the trapdoor, Instructor Sara had to force her down herself."

"Seems like there is really no point in worrying about her." Rean took a few steps forward. "What did she mean with 'halfway through'? Did she already reach the end and doubled back?"

"Seems that way," Shirou said and started walking as well. "Now there is only Jusis Albarea left."

"Pah … I think we are better off without him," Machias said dismissively.

"Come on … It's not like you were completely innocent in your fight," Shirou tried to reason with him.

"Do you hear that?" Gaius suddenly said. "The wind … it carries the noise of fighting through the tunnels…"

"Are you sure?" Shirou asked. He couldn't make out anything with his ears. 'He seems to be really good with this sort of thing.'

"Yes… does not sound like the girls. It's probably Duke Albarea's son."

"Let's get there quickly! Maybe he is in trouble," Rean exclaimed and started running. The rest followed him as well, even Machias who only let out an annoyed grunt.

They reached a large room and could only watch how Jusis casually dealt with a group of monsters, using both his swordsmanship and his arts to kill his enemies.

"I-Incredible …" Machias pressed out after catching his breath.

"That was really something." Elliot agreed with him. "Maybe I could use arts like that as well?"

"Seems like he can take care of himself as well," Shirou said as he watched Jusis finish off a monster with a flurry of stabs.

"Judging by that display, I don't think he needs any help from us. I take that's another school of imperial swordsmanship?" Gaius asked Rean who stood beside him.

"Right. That's court fencing. An agile style favored by the nobility," Rean explained. "It's not as well known as the Vander or the Arseid Style, but it is still a solid form of swordsmanship. Judging by his skill, he is definitely no amateur."

"ARCUS, activate! Air Strike!" With that command, Jusis killed the last monster in front of him with a blast of compressed air. He then turned around to the group and walked up to them. "Did you need something? Or are you just here to watch?"

"Grr…" Shirou noticed that Machias let out a silent growl at Jusis words.

"Sorry, we didn't want to interrupt your concentration. Besides that, you seemed to handle yourself well enough alone," Rean tried to explain himself. "Your swordsmanship and usage of arts speak for your talent. I'm Rean Schwarzer, I didn't get the chance to introduce myself earlier."

"Gaius Worzel, nice to meet you."

"Shirou Emiya, nice to meet you as well."

"I-I'm Elliot Craig," Elliot stuttered. "It's an honor to meet you."

"Please, that's enough. Just approach me like any other at school." Jusis simply waved him off. "I believe I have already introduced myself, but once again, I am Jusis Albarea." He then looked over to Machias. "To be honest … I didn't think you had it in you. First announcing how you find your way alone, then turning around and joining up with them. Probably even apologized like the good boy you are. Truly, the virtue of the common man! A 'stuck-up hedonist' like myself would have been far too proud to do so."

"Rrgh… What the hell is your problem?! You nobles are so full of themselves, it's a wonder that you don't just pop!" Machias shouted angrily at him. "After meeting Laura, I had a little hope that not all nobles were like you. But of course, Duke Albarea's son has to crush that as well immediately!"

"Tch. You are one to talk. I don't need a lecture of the son of the Imperial governor. Should your father ask, he would get a meaningless title in a matter of hours. That would make YOU a wretched noble as well."

"MY father is a hard-working, well-behaved man who looks out for everyone under his care! A commoner through and through!"

"Carl Regnitz, the first commoner ever to hold the seat of Imperial governor in Heimdallr. The first to rule the capital. You are his son, there is nothing 'common' about you. So please, spare me from your lectures."

"Don't lump my father in with you nepotists who get your titles and wealth handed just for being born! He is an honest man who EARNED his position through years of hard work!"

"Your father is in league with the Blood and Iron Chancellor, the head of the reformist faction. The faction that tries to oppose the noble faction, led by the four great houses. OBVIOUSLY, he would be rewarded for his loyalty," Jusis said with a mean smirk. "Looking at it like that … your and your father's position looks somewhat … cheap, wouldn't you say? Nothing left of that 'simple commoner who does it for the people' when they themselves are in the seat of power?"

"Y-You son of a ...!" Machias tried to lunge forward until he got stopped by Shirou. "Hey! What do you think you are doing?!"

"You are just reacting to his taunts again! Clear your head before you do anything stupid," Shirou said as he pulled him back.

"Yes, there is no point in lashing out at him!" Rean as well scolded him for his outburst.

Machias pulled himself free and stared at the two of them. "I can't believe you are siding with HIM!"

"I'm not siding with him." Shirou tried to justify himself. "But you are the one who started this fight. And if you like it or not … attacking him would cause you more problems than him."

"Hmph … seems like they also are done with that hypocrisy of yours." Jusis grinned at Machias as if he won.

"You as well, Jusis!" Rean turned to Jusis, staring at him visibly upset. "Dragging his father into this is low. The two of you have a fight and don't like each other, that is understandable. I don't expect of you to just make up and get along! But you, purposely fueling the fire, just proof why so many people are upset with the nobility."

"Hmph … maybe I did step out of line."

"I still can't believe that he just gets away with it," Machias bursts out again. "If you are fine with this noble, then you are better off with him around than me!" He turned around and started to head towards the exit.

"Wait, Machias!" Shirou tried to stop him, but a hand on his shoulder interrupted him. He saw Rean looking at him.

"Let me handle this … there is something I need to get out," he said and walked up to Machias, stopping him again.

"What do you now want?! I appreciate you scolding him, but I cannot work together with a noble. Laura and her father really seem to be the exception to the rule…"

"Machias…" Rean said, looking at him seriously. "I didn't want to upset you previously, having already caused enough trouble for a day, but that was a mistake and maybe I made it worse that way. But, House Schwarzer is the ruling family of Ymir and the Schwarzer Barony, you would have found that out by yourself anyway given enough time. That makes me a noble as well." Machias looked at him shocked.

Shirou looked at him. 'Is he serious? But he said previously …' His thoughts get interrupted as Machias recovered from his shock.

"So … you have lied to me as well?! You nobles are all just the worst!" He tried to push Rean's arm away.

"No. That is not correct either. I said that no one of us has noble blood in our bodies." Rean took a deep breath as if he is preparing for something. "Years ago, Baron Schwarzer found a young boy abandoned in the woods around Ymir. Nearly freezing to death, he took him in and after the parents were never found, adopted him into his family. Since that day, I am Rean Schwarzer, son of Teo and Lucia Schwarzer."

'I did not expect that … that sounds awfully close to what Kiritsugu did for me.' Shirou looked at the two. 'Takes a lot to just come out with that, in particular after this fight.'

At a loss of words, Machias just stared at Rean. "I ..."

"And this is why I want to believe … no … why I KNOW that not all nobles are the self-centered monsters that you make them out to be. Teo Schwarzer, Victor S. Arseid, even the Imperial family itself!"

"I … I am sorry, Rean, for doubting you, for acting rash once again, and for insulting you and your family like this." Machias bowed again in front of Rean. "Seems like I have to learn a lot myself too."

"No problem Machias, I should have told you as well." Rean then looked at both Machias and Jusis. "I don't expect of you to become friends, but do you think you can at least work together until we are out of here? And not jump at each other on every occasion?"

"I can if he can." Jusis sighed and looked in one direction.

"Hmph … I will manage." Machias looked in the other direction.

"Hehe … seems like Rean is a real leader type of character. He actually managed to make them work together." Shirou could hear Elliot whisper from beside him.

"Yeah, but I don't think this rift is already mended. There is a lot between them," Shirou answered as well whispering.

"I am impressed about how he just came out with his secret. Takes a lot of guts to just say that, only to make the two of them work together for now," added Gaius. "I agree with Elliot, he is really someone who knows how to lead if the need arises."

"Yeah." Shirou nodded. "But that skill seems to not work on Alisa."

"Hey, could this be the exit?" Elliot said as the group reached a large room with a set of stairs that led up to a large door.

"Looks like it is." Gaius took a deep breath. "There is also a faint breeze coming from up there."

"I cannot see the girls anywhere," Rean said as he looked around.

"Maybe we passed them somewhere? Or they already took the exit ahead of us," Shirou asked as looked up to the door. "They were in front of us, after all."

"Hm … and they had the nerve to call this an 'orienteering exercise'..." Machias corrected his glasses as he spoke. "I am not certain what I was expecting from an academy founded by Emperor Dreichels, but I can tell you, this wasn't it."

"It wasn't that bad, right?" Elliot asked. "I mean, I would have been lost alone down there, but by working together, we managed to pull through."

"Hmph … I still don't understand what went through that instructor's mind as she threw us down that trapdoor." Jusis crossed his arms in front of his chest.

"Maybe Elliot is right, less of an 'orienteering exercise' and more of a 'teambuilding' one," Shirou answered. "To try and bring Class VII together."

"What was all that business about Class VII, anyway?" Elliot asked again the others.

"Good question," Rean said, putting his hand up to his chin in thought.

Suddenly a cracking noise came from somewhere.

"What was that?" Machias asked as he looked around.

"A-Another Monster?" Elliot quickly readied his staff.

"Up there!" Shirou shouted and pulled out his blades again, looking up to a large dragon-like statue that sat on a podium. "That statue!" It started to slowly change color and its wings began to move as well.

"Statue?" Gaius took his spear in both hands. "No … that thing is alive!"

"Seems like this isn't over yet," Jusis said and looked over to Rean. "How shall we deal with this foe?"

"Can you stay back for now and give us support with your arts, along with Elliot and Machias? Gaius, Shirou and I will try to keep it from moving around too much." The dark haired boy answered him.

"So be it."

"Here it comes!" Shirou shouted as the beast jumped down from its seat, shaking the floor beneath it.

"Aaah! I have never seen a monster this big before!" Elliot seemed to panic a little.

"Elliot! Focus!" Shirou ordered as he got in position. "We will deal with this as we dealt with the others before!"


'It is larger than anything else in this dungeon!' Shirou looked over to the rest of the team. 'I hope they all can hold up.'

"That thing is between us and the exit! This must our last test for today!" Rean pulled out his tachi. "No choice but to fight it! Let's go everyone! Gaius, you take the front, Shirou and I will come in from its sides!"

"Roger that!" The boy from Nord said and charged forward, thrusting the spear towards the beast. He managed to pierce its body, but his attacks seemed to not do that much damage. "It's tough! I don't think there is any flesh in this thing."

Meanwhile, Shirou attacked it from the right, damaging its wings with a few well-aimed slashes. 'That thing acts and behaves like an animal, but it is still made out of stone. Is it some kind of golem? If this is the case, who made it?'

He looked to the other side of the monster and saw that Rean as well attacked its wings, leaving large gashes on the stone-like wings and body. Looking up, he saw how Jusis attacked it with fire and wind arts and how Machias tried to land a shot with his gun.

"Rean! Our attacks don't seem to work!" Shirou shouted over to the other swordsman.

"I can see that!" Shirou heard Rean's answer. "But we have to keep trying!"

"Shirou, take care!" Gaius shouted, the beast immediately turns, striking with its tail at Shirou. He managed to get his blades between him and the stone tail, but he still got pushed back and fell on his back.

"I got you! Tear!" Elliot exclaimed and raised his staff.

Shirou felt how new energy flowed through his body. He got back up his feet and looked over to the caster. "Thanks, Elliot!" He focused back on the monster, it was now attacking Rean with its front claws. Shirou started running towards the monster's back and pushed himself off the ground. He aimed at its tail and put all of his weight into his next strike. Bringing down both blades, he tore through the beast's tail.

"Auuhhhh!" The stone beast howled in pain. It stood up on its rear legs and spread out its large wings, fire started to spew out of its maw.

"It's preparing an attack!" Rean shouted and took the chance to strike it across the belly. With another terrifying howl, the monster let a torrent of flames in the air over Rean's head. The flame reached up all the way to the ceiling. "We cannot allow it to use that again!"

With an overhead swing, Gaius managed to force the beast back on the ground, a barrage of arts crashing into it as well from the backline.

"It doesn't look like it's going down!" Machias shouted, reloading his orbal gun.

"Oh, no! It's already spewing flames again!" Elliot added, immediately preparing a healing art for his allies.

"That beast is going to attack the ground beneath it!" Jusis grits his teeth. "Get away from it!"

Shirou and the others in the frontline jumped away from it, they watched how the beast set the ground beneath it aflame. 'Damn! That thing doesn't look like its getting any weaker.' Shirou thought as he moved away from it. "We cannot get close to it as long as it keeps shooting its fire everywhere! We need to pin it down somehow!"

"Let me handle that! Golden Sphere!" A girlish voice came from somewhere, along with it a couple of arrows that pierced into the monster's body. Globes of light appeared over the dragon-like monster, they moved around it and then crashed into it, forcing it against the ground. "Now get in there!"

Before Shirou jumped in again, he looked where the voice came from. By the doorway, the one that they came through just a few moments ago, he could see Alisa standing with her bow aimed at the monster. She must have been the one who shot the arrows and used the art on the beast. Beside her, Emma prepared the next art as well and Laura was already charging at the monster with her raised greatsword.

"Looks like we made it in time!" Laura shouted as she got in position between Rean and Gaius. "Where did this gargoyle come from? Are the Dark Ages still alive in this place?"

"Let's worry about that later. First, we have to deal with it!" Rean answered.

"Hm? Then let me help you out as well …" Before anyone else could react, Fie appeared seemingly in mid-air and jumped on top of the monster, digging her blades into it's back. The beast started to howl again in pain and tried to shake her off. With a backflip, she jumped back and landed safely on the ground.

"I-Is everyone here now?!" Elliot stuttered as the entirety of Class VII moved in on the monster.

All those that had a weapon for close-combat started engaging the enemy. The monster was unable to defend itself against them attacking it from all sides and the arts that reigned down on it. It was as if the entire class attacked as one being.

"It's getting weaker!" shouted Shirou between his attacks.

"Laura, finish it off!" Rean, who attacked the monster's sides, ordered.

"Hya!" With a loud shout, Laura jumped in from the side, cutting off the gargoyle's head with an overhead swing. Both the head and the body fell immediately to the floor and started to turn back to its original stone-gray color until it even crumbled to dust.

"I-Is it gone?" Elliot asked nervously.

"Yes. I think that's the end of it," Emma confirmed, walking up to them.

"This fight … it felt like we became stronger towards the end," Rean said as he put away his sword.

"It felt like I knew every move that each one of us was going to make," agreed Gaius with him.

"That is kinda strange." Shirou joined them as well and stood now between Gaius and Rean. "I was completely aware where each one of us was during that final attack. Even those that stood in the backline and fired Arts at the monster."

"You may not have noticed it, but there was a shimmering blue light surrounding each one of us," Jusis said.

"Was there? I was not sure …" Laura asked, cleaning her blade and putting it back in its holster.

"I think it came from the ARCUS." Shirou pulled out the orbment. "It felt kinda warm during the end of the battle, and I haven't even used it to cast arts."

"DING! DING! DING! I guess we have a winner!" a female voice came from the stairway. They all looked up to it surprised and saw Sara casually strolling down to them. "How did you all like the ARCUS biggest selling point? The combat link?"

"Combat link? What are you even talking about?" Machias asked her as she came up to them.

"Welp … you know… Do I really have to explain it?" she asked them and was only greeted with annoyed stares. "The combat link: The power of friendship and teamwork, manifested as pure battle prowess!"

The students looked at her in silence.

"'The power of friendship and teamwork'?" Shirou finally asked. "Are you for real, instructor?" He stared at her baffled. 'Is she serious with that?'

"Totes," Sara simply said. "The ARCUS is able to create a connection with another one, but that only works if those that carry it share already a bond with each other. It does not work with complete strangers, so that is why we threw you in here to get to know each other and the better you do that, the stronger the link gets." She started explaining, this time more serious. "You all managed to form a link today, but that does not mean that you will be able to do that again in the future. This time, we kind of 'forced' you to get along, there is a high chance that in a more 'normal' situation, you won't be able to do it again."

She started grinning from one ear to the other. "Nevertheless, you all did it! Honestly, some of the other instructors said that there would be at least one or two who would fail. But NO! You all did it! That means I won the bet! Suck it Neithardt!" She pumped her fist in the air. "Awww … I'm sooo proud of you guys!"

"Is she for real?" Shirou could hear Rean whisper from beside him.

"Seems like we underestimated her … enthusiasm," he answered.

"Anyway, that about finishes up today's special orienteering exercise," Sara said and looked at the students. "Hm, what's with the long faces? I thought you'd all be happy?"

"What are we supposed to be happy about?!" Machias asked her back.

"I have so many questions … I'm not even sure where to start." Alisa folded her arms in front of her chest.

"Oh?" Sara looked at her with a sly smile.

"I will take a stab at it: What exactly is the purpose of this 'Class VII'?" Jusis asked and stepped forward.

"Well, what do YOU think why you are here? Anyone wanna try to answer this question for me? … There are no bonus points, though."

"A melting pot of all kinds of people? To properly reflect the state of the Empire," Emma tried to answer the question. "But why were WE exactly chosen for this?"

"A valid question. There's no single, monolithic reason why you all made the list, but if I had to give one, I would refer to these ARCUS units of yours," The instructor said and watched how everyone pulled out their orbment. "As I mentioned earlier, they are a developed jointly by the Epstein Foundation and the Reinford Company. Like all battle orbments, the ARCUS allows you to use Arts. It has also a communication feature built in. But their crowning feature is the combat link. Not everyone is compatible with it."

"So, we were chosen because we were compatible?" Rean asked, looking down on the orbment.

"Yep, you all were tested, and while we were not entirely sure about it, you all had good chances to be compatible with the ARCUS." The instructor gave Rean a thumbs up. "It doesn't take a genius to imagine how much of an advantage the combat link can be on the battlefield, and even off of it. An elite unit, that can sense each other's movements and position, even in the heat of battle. You can hardly put a price on that."

"Seems too good to be true," Fie simply said.

"Well, yeah. It still has its limits. Some have a natural aptitude for it … and others just don't," Sara answered. "From all the first years, you have the highest aptitudes. This qualifies you all for Class VII!"

'Wait … I wasn't tested in any special way,' Shirou thought. 'Did that prince just send me here and hope for the best? He didn't even mention that whole ARCUS business. I am not sure I like that.'

He took a deep breath and decided to ask. "Instructor. I'm not sure how I should feel about being involved in the creation of a new weapon."

"That is a valid concern, Shirou," Laura said. "I as well am not entirely sure on what to think about this."

"Hmm? You really are good kids, huh?" Sara looked at them, smiling. "I cannot guarantee you that nobody will ever use the ARCUS for something unjust… But it is created together with the Epstein Foundation. They have all the info on it and the partnership states that it will be made public as soon as it is finished, just like how Liberl shares their advances in orbal motors. Erebonia will not gain an advantage over any other nation through it. In the future, this technology will be used to end conflict less bloody, it will help Bracers to protect the common man, it will be the next step to save lives. Does that answer satisfy you?"

"Yes, I think I can work with that," Laura answered.

"And you, my red-headed justice warrior?"

"What's up with the name?" But he nods. "Yes, I trust you on that." '... you and the prince, that is.'

"Hehe. Now that is good to hear." Sara now addressed the rest of the class again. "So does anyone of you have objections with joining Class VII? To fight as commoners beside nobles, as nobles beside commoners? For a brighter tomorrow? Speak now or forever hold your peace." She looked at them with serious eyes. "This program isn't cheap to run, so we are not forcing anyone into it if they don't want to be here. You should also be aware that Class VII's curriculum will be tougher than any of the other class' coursework. Just fair warning. All of you, who rather ditch Class VII will be simply sorted into the other classes."

She looked at each one of them and made a short pause.

"... So now you know. And that leaves you all with an important question to make: Will you stick with Class VII, or not?"

Shirou looked at the other students around him, they all seemed to start thinking about the question. '... I promised Olivert, so I should … but even without that promise, I cannot feel like I could say 'no'. This … idealistic hope that the school and the teachers preach, and Olivert as well, it really draws you in. And it looks like I am not the only one.' He looked to the side and saw Rean smiling, having his decision already made. 'Besides that… these ruins, I wasn't sure in the beginning, but they really feel like magic, maybe there really is hope in getting back home.'

"I'll do it. Whatever Class VII has to throw at me, I'm game." Just like Shirou suspected, Rean was the first to make his decision.

"Yes, I will stay as well. There are things that I need to do, and Class VII seems to be my best bet." Shirou stepped forward beside Rean.

"Now here we are two who are eager to be part of this. After your previous question about the ARCUS, I wasn't sure that you would agree, Shirou. But I'm not gonna pry into your personal reasons, I am just glad that you made up your mind. So, who's next?" Sara asked, smiling.

"Count me in as well." Laura declared with confidence. "The greater the challenge, the more I can push myself to excel. One can't hone a blade without grit, after all."

"Make it four. Considering how far I came to attend this school, it would be silly to back down before I even started." Gaius was the next ho stepped forward.

"Allow me to take part as well," Emma said with a smile. "I was only able to come because of the school's generosity, so I feel it's my duty to help in any way I can."

"S-Sign me up too!" Elliot forced out as he agreed as well. "I kinda feel like fate brought us here together for a reason. I may not be the strongest or smartest in class, but I will try my best!"

"Our foreigner, the strongest freshman and our orbal staff testers? We are on a roll! Who's next? Come on!" Sara smiled confidently.

"Hnn … Let me join too!" Alisa, who just happened to stand right beside Rean, suddenly said and stepped forward.

"Oh? There's a surprise." Sara looked at her curious. "I was almost certain your rebellious streak would you see opt out just on principle."

"W-What's that supposed to mean?" she asked with slightly flushed cheeks. "There is enough that bothers me in this class, like that we need to use these ARCUS units who are still clearly in development, but if I let every little nitpick like that hold me back, I'd never amount to much."

"Haha. Words to live by, right there." The instructor chuckles. "Now … what about you, Fie?"

"Don't really care either way. You can choose."

"Not this time. Choosing for yourself is part of growing up. This time it is your turn to do so! That's the deal, remember?"

"Hmm … fine, I'll do it."

"Well … a little more enthusiasm would be nice." Sara turned to the last two, Jusis and Machias. "What about you two? I can see that you've got issues with each other, but that doesn't mean that you can't at least TRY to work together. I saw you come in with the same group, are you perchance already besties?"

"LIKE HELL WE ARE!"/"I can assure you we are not."

"I would never be friends with one of these stuck-up nobles from the four great houses, who never lifted a finger in their lives!" Machias continued.

"Well, that makes this simple." Jusis stepped forward. "I, Jusis Albarea, claim my place as a member of Class VII."

"Why?! I don't get it! You are the son of a duke! Just the thought of being in the same class as commoners should make you sick!"

"I'll thank you not to tell me how I am supposed to feel. I do what I want to do, my choices are my own. That is not going to change because of my father, any other noble or even you."

"Hm? You think you won this argument, right?" Machias looked at him. "No! I, Machias Regnitz, will be part of Class VII as well. I will show you what a simple commoner can do!"

"Well … that could have gone smoother," Sara said after a short pause. "Still, ten out of ten. Full score me!" She grinned at the students. "With that, I'd like to congratulate all of you on being part the first-ever Class VII!"

Sara started to talk about their future at Thors, on what was special about their class and what was coming towards them in the near future. But Shirou had the feeling that there was even more that she wasn't telling them. He tilted his head a little and looked up to the ceiling, his thoughts drifting off a little.

'Fuji-nee, Sakura, Saber … Rin … I'll find a way back, I promise. But for now, Class VII is my place to be and these ruins likely my only lead back home.'

AN: As I said, this chapter was already finished as Chapter 1 went up, so don't expect the next update as fast! With 16.000 words it is way longer than I originally planned, with all the introductions and how I wrote along the game, it got really long. At least I managed to break that 20.000-word threshold.

This chapter stuck rather close to the game, at times I had the feeling that Shirou almost disappeared because there was so much going on with other characters. But he isn't the type of character who stands in the middle of everything, so I think it's fine for now. The next chapter will definitely feature more original content! Shirou will not just follow Rean around, he will have his own adventures, interactions and things to do!

With the "Introduction"-Phase of the story now over, the foundation for future chapters is laid out. That is why I wanted to release Chapter 1 and 2 closely together. All the good feedback and reviews helped as well! I expected way less! Really helped with staying motivated.

But now, Question time! I will try to keep it as brief as possible, and only answer questions that are not yet answered in this chapter!

Q: Will CS3 and 4 content be relevant?

A: I have not played these games yet so they will not be relevant. I also have no intention to spoil myself any more than I already have(stupid me!). With both CS3 and 4 now released in Japan, and the Remasters of CS1 and 2 releasing in the west in early 2019, I have high hopes that 3 (and maybe even 4) will release in the west in 2019 as well. Should that happen, I will look into it. The "Trails in the Sky" games will be relevant, not as much as the Cold Steel games, but you may still be aware that there will be some spoilers for these as well. I will go into detail on how maybe another time.

Q: 'Consumed by the Grail' instead of 'Zelretch Shenanigans'?

A: Yep, the 'Zelretch' Plot device is boring and (at this point) just boring. UBW being my favorite Route and Shirou being the perfect age, helped as well.

Q: Mueller breaking Kanshou and Bakuya?

A: Mueller cannot break the blades, but Shirou's defense. Shirou's strategy, with the openings, becomes useless should he face someone who is way stronger, faster or both. If he cannot stop an incoming attack, it doesn't matter how strong his blades are. (Edit: Because there has been some confusion: Yes, Shirou's and Archer's fighting style is designed to face stronger and faster opponents, but because Shirou does not have the strength or speed that Archer had, there are still limitations to it. Even by leaving an 'intentional opening' there is a limit how fast he can react or how much force he can stop. Should his opponent surpass that, then he is screwed.)

Q: Will Shirou get a Mech?

A: No. I fear that should I give him a Mech, he would really just become Rean's sidekick, always fighting alongside him and always just playing second fiddle in Ashen and Azure Chavalier conflict. No, the Mech-Thing is Rean's thing. Shirou will have his own set of troubles and things to overcome.

Q: Shirou's looks, Calvard and Erebonia?

A: Something that likely will come up, but not as a major plot point. It is likely that someone won't trust him, but for now, he is going to be fine. Getting a 'free pass' by the prince helps as well.

Q: Emma, Vita, Witches/Hexen-Clan and other LoH-Magic Users?

A: They definitely have their part to play, they have their special place in the story.

I don't know enough about these 'Red Moon Rose'-Vampires, so nothing planned for them. Maybe, if I get around to read up on them again, I can find something that could be interesting/useful for the story, but for now, there is nothing planned regarding them.

Q: Changes from the Canon?

A: There will be (hopefully) enough changes and interesting plot points to make this whole thing worth reading. Just don't expect something like a Grail War to suddenly occur in Erebonia. Major things, like the Civil War or the Attack on Trista, will still occur, but the path to and from them will change.

The first 'big change from canon' is planned for the third field study, which is actually rather soon in the story. I don't intend to do a lot with the first two field studies, it was still a lot of introduction in it, and the original game also only really to started going with the third study. I don't intend to just 'rehash' them, they will play out a bit different than in the original. And No, Shirou will not just tag along with every Field Study that Rean is on.

Q: Gameplay vs. Story?

A: I try to separate these two. There is a lot of things that are possible through gameplay, but make absolutely no sense in the narrative. I really hate it when stories, that are based on games, take gameplay as granted. For example, it doesn't make that much sense that a random shop has a better sword than Laura's initial blade. She is a noble, heiress to the strongest swordmaster in the country, her blade is likely of higher quality than everything you could buy in a normal corner shop. Characters will still grow and become stronger throughout the story, just not because they got gear or experience points, but because they learned, trained and experienced more throughout their journey.

Q: Pairings and Ships?

A: Oh boy … that's a question that I dreaded, but I would have even answered it if nobody asked. Just because you can upset people because you do something according to your personal taste. But keep in mind, "Romance" isn't going to be the biggest focus here, I am pretty sure that I am not even able to write something that great, to begin with.

No, Shirou will not be paired with anyone from the LoH-Games, he will stay loyal to Rin. And now let me explain before you get your pitchforks and torches, for how I dare to do something unheard of like a Crossover without a Crossover-Pairing:

Way too many Crossovers and Isekai-Stories(and most Crossovers, like this one, are exactly that) completely forget or ignore pre-existing relationships (not necessarily romantic) and the 'original world' where the character came from. Most Isekai-Stories get around that problem by simply stating "You are dead, there is no way back, deal with it!", this is not the case here. "Returning Home" is part of Shirou's motivation, he doesn't know how or if it is even possible, but it is still on his checklist. But as we all know, you cannot just turn off that "Eroge Protagonist EX"-Skill, so there will be likely some small crushes or broken hearts along the way … that's going to be more likely just for the laughs, though.

For Rean, I am going with Alisa. She is the one who the games tend to push as the 'default' route, she also turned out to be quite the likable character as soon as that whole "Old Schoolhouse"-Incident got cleared up. And it's totally not like I like Tsunderes or anything!

As I said, "Romance" is not the main focus, it is something that can likely be easily ignored.

Q: POVs and Perspectives? (not something that got asked, but something I want to just add)

A: Most of the story will be told from this Shirou-like perspective. For CS1, I have plans to sometimes follow around different characters, but these will only by small segments and not entire chapters. Just to show how different characters and situations change because Shirou is there.

In CS2, I intend to feature other Characters more and tell more from their perspective as well (mostly Rean, though). The layout and how the story gets told in that game is a bit different to CS1. It would just become really complicated to tell everything purely out of Shirou's perspective.

Well … that has been a lot. I hope you all enjoyed the chapter! And because we have right now the 23 of December: Happy Holidays everyone!