March 18, 1999
The Ritz Hotel, Paris. A lavish hotel, reserved only for those in the upper echelons of wealth and class. If you were able to stay there, even for a night, you could easily be considered one of "the elite", and be opened to the finest in customer treatment by hotel staff. So when the hotel received a reservation request, for two whole weeks at that, from a member of a prestigious italian family, suffice to say they "rolled out the Ritz", as it were, providing every luxury possible. The customer, surprisingly, was nowhere near impressed.
The man scoffed as he was escorted through the lavish hotel. True, this was certainly the best the city had to offer, but compared to his usual lodgings, it barely met his standards. He was dressed in a fancy navy blue suit, with matching slacks and expensive leather shoes. An ascot was wrapped around his neck, and around his wrists he wore flashy golden cufflinks along with a silver Rolex wristwatch on his left wrist and a leather glove over his left hand. Brown eyes, cold and uncaring, stared out from underneath bangs of spiky dark orange hair. He carried himself through the hotel with a near overbearing sense of authority and confidence. There was no hesitation in any step, as if he was challenging those around him.
"Your room key, Mister De Scaglione," the hotel assistant said, handing the suited man a key. "If you require anything at all, do not feel afraid to ask." Alfonso rolled his eyes as the assistant walked away and entered the room calmly. They think they can butter me up with this kind of treatment, eh? Disgusting. They need to learn their place.
The Italian man chuckled lightly to himself. It didn't matter if anyone thought themselves above him, not yet at least. After all, it would only be that much more satisfying to push them back into the dirt. Smirking, he held out his right hand, examining the red mark that had formed. They designated him as a Master in a Holy Grail War; the perfect stage to assert his dominance over those he knew to be beneath him.
Alfonso knew this War was not the reason he was supposed to be in Paris, but with such a perfect situation practically gift-wrapped for him, well, how could he refuse? Casting his mind back, he recalled the day he had been given his mission from his family's close friend and ally: the leader of the Yggdmillennia house, Darnic Prestone Yggdmillennia. Technically, all he had to do was catch a little bird that had flown off from the family and return it, so to speak. But, once he arrived in Paris, he was instead greeted by the appearance of his Command Seals, or the buds that would become them.
He looked about the vast suite he had been provided with. It was certainly fancy, of that there was no doubt, with its white carpets, luxurious and comfortable bed and couches, and priceless paintings hanging from the walls. Stil, it was nothing compared to his family's estate back home, but it would do its job at the very least. Carefully, Alfonso opened one of the briefcases that had been brought up by the hotel staff and withdrew the contents: several vials of chicken blood. He was glad he brought them, as if he did not, he would have no way of creating the summoning circle needed to call forth his Servant.
As he set about setting up the circle, Alfonso felt a tad of regret about potentially ruining the expensive white carpet beneath him, before quickly brushing the thought away. If the research he had done was correct, the circle would disappear after the ritual was complete, leaving no damage behind. After a short while, he was finished.
Alfonso stood back, admiring his handiwork, before quickly glancing at the clock. 12:30 PM. His magical energy wouldn't be at its peak for another couple of hours, leaving him some time to himself. Since he had so much time, he may as well scout out the surrounding area. No doubt it would offer him an advantage in the coming war, along with hopefully offering a modicum of entertainment. Casting a simple barrier on the door, he prevented anyone else from entering for the time being. Sure, the do not disturb sign would serve the same purpose, but it could never hurt to be too cautious.
Making his way down to the lobby, Alfonso exited the Ritz onto the midday Paris streets, heading northwest. He had to admit; the city was every bit as beautiful as its reputation made it out to be. The overhead sun shone warmly down, unblocked by clouds in a clear blue sky. A soft breeze blew around as Alfonso walked, adding to the ambiance of the weather.
As he walked around the city, Alfonso took note of the people milling about the streets. The rumors about the pandemic spreading in the city had done their damage; far fewer tourists and locals were out and about. Those that were kept their distance from others, some even wearing sick masks in a futile prevention method. The sight caused him to scoff. Do they truly think this is going to help them? It's not as if the Grail cares if you're wearing a mask or not, idiots. Ah well, I suppose I shouldn't be bothered by the whims of the masses. I am above them, after all, and they will learn that soon enough.
The fact that a Lesser Grail had manifested in Paris had surprised him when he learned of it. True, he had heard plenty regarding the numerous conflicts using the Holy Grail War system, but as they were never truly over a Holy Grail, he never paid too much attention to them. But the allure of the Lesser Wars, true fights over portions of the Greater Grail's power that had manifested as Lesser Grails, that was the true prize. Despite his position, Alfonso had never expected to be granted the opportunity to fight in a Lesser War. But now, he had the opportunity of the lifetime, and Alfonso was not one to let chances slip from his grasp.
Finding a secluded spot in an alleyway (Why did alleyways have to be so gross? It would ruin his shoes), Alfonso held out his palm and began to channel his mana. A small swirl of flame formed, twisting and taking the shape of a small bird; a phoenix. Flexing his fingers, he sent it off to gather any info it could on the other Masters. He doubted he'd learn anything major at this stage, before the War had even truly begun, but any information was good information. Watching his familiar fly off, he exited the alleyway back onto the streets.
After a good deal of walking further, Alfonso eventually arrived at the Arc de Triomphe. Out of all the landmarks and tourist spots that filled Paris, this was the one that had always confused him the most. Sure, it was a very pretty site. But the fact that tourists flocked to what was essentially (for them, at least) a fancy gravestone and war monument irked him, for whatever reason.
To mages, however, the monument held special importance. The monument had been carefully designed to be smack-dab in the middle of multiple of the city's intersecting ley lines, before being easily disguised using it as a center of twelve of the city's major avenues. Ingenious, really. Alfonso had no doubt that when it came time for the Grail itself to fully form, the Arc would be where it did so. No other location in the city made as much sense as this one.
He scoffed as he watched the tourists (those that were still out, that is), mill about the site, taking picture after picture. If it were up to him, those worms wouldn't be allowed anywhere near the Arc. But alas, he would just have to deal with their presence. For the time being, at least.
Having finished his business at the Arc, Alfonso set out in the direction of the Eiffel Tower, to most, the symbol of Paris. Standing an impressive 1,063 feet, it was hard to be in Paris and not at the very least catch a glimpse of it. It was synonymous with the city itself, after all. As the most popular tourist attraction in the world, he should not have been surprised by the swarms of people about the area, despite the supposed virus outbreak in the city. People would always be idiots, he supposed. Still, you could only see people taking so many "clever" photos with the tower before you've seen them all.
As he walked, Alfonso took note of just how sporadic some areas were in their design. Plenty of dark alleys and narrow backways criss-crossed through the main streets and between buildings. This did not surprise him in the least, but rather, sent his mind whirling. Such places, as disgusting as they likely were, would offer plenty of opportunities for stealth and ambushes, especially if his catalyst summoned who he hoped it would. Alfonso chuckled to himself. It's almost unfair. The other Masters stand so little chance, that I might as well not even bother. This certainly won't take long at all…
A small alarm began to bleep forth from his watch, signaling that it was time for him to head back to the Ritz and begin his summoning. Walking back in its direction, Alfonso couldn't help but feel a very slight pang of regret that, for the moment, he could not spend more time roaming the city, especially in weather as nice as the day was providing. He shook his head quickly. There were far more important matters at the moment.
It thankfully did not take him that long to return to the hotel. He made his way to his room quickly, carefully making sure nothing had been disturbed, even with the seal he had placed on the door. Finally, it was time to begin.
Crossing the room, he carefully opened another piece of his luggage and withdrew the object from within. It was an ornate red and gold longcoat, obviously belonging to some sort of naval commander with a great deal of importance. Alfonso slowly placed the coat in the center of the summoning circle and stood back, preparing himself to begin the ritual. Once he was ready, he began to chant.
"Elements of silver and iron. Foundation of stone and the Archduke of Pacts."
"Raise a wall for the wind that should fall. Close the gates of the four directions."
"Come forth from the Crown, and follow the forked road leading to the Kingdom!"
The back of his right hand began to burn a brilliant crimson as his mana pooled into the summoning circle. The circle itself had begun to glow pale blue, signifying that he was successful in starting the ritual.
"Heed my words. My will creates your body, and your sword creates my destiny!"
"I hereby swear: that I shall be all the good in the world. That I shall defeat all evil in the world!"
Alfonso took a deep breath before beginning the next line. He had done his due diligence, of course, and if he was correct (and he always was), the next piece of the chant would help him call the Servant he wanted.
Yet you who comes shall be cloaked in shadow, unknown and unseen, until the world is ready to see who you are!
"Thou Seventh Heaven, clad in the three great words of power, come forth from the circle of binding, Guardian of the Scales!"
A final flash of light exploded forth from the circle, momentarily obscuring everything from Alfonso's sight. Slowly, but surely, the light faded, revealing his Servant. However, he quickly noticed something very odd.
There were two of them.
He blinked a few times, as if trying to make sure that he was seeing correctly. Yet, sure enough, he had called forth not one, but two Servants.
To the right, a rather short white haired woman stood, dressed in a long black overcoat, collared so that most of her body was hidden, only parting slightly to show her white undershirt. She also wore a matching pair of black tights and a black headband through her hair, which was fairly short, save for two strands that fell around the sides of her face. The woman's sea green eyes stared at him coldly, not helped by the large scar that ran down her face.
To the left, there was a much taller blonde woman, wearing the same ornate red and gold longcoat that he had used as the summoning catalyst, worn over a maroon undershirt, neither of which did much to hide her more than generous chest. She was also wearing a black pencil skirt reaching down to her mid thigh, over a black pantyhose, held in place by a leather belt with a golden buckle around her waist. Long red gloves were worn on either hand, stretching to her biceps as she effortlessly held a massive rifle over her shoulder. Her feet were covered by a pair of thigh-high red boots, matching her gloves. Long, fluffy, blonde hair fell down past her waist, decorated into twin tails by a matching pair of red ribbons.
Her face and light ruby eyes seemed far more playful than that of her companion, almost as if she was already thinking of how best to mess with Alfonso.
"Surprising, isn't it?" The white-haired one spoke, her tone seeming fairly dismissive or uninterested. "The two of us are just one Servant, summoned here under the Assassin class."
"Yup, that's right!" the blonde continued with a smile, her voice just as playful as her eyes made her out to be, "My name is Anne Bonny, and this here is Mary Read. It's a pleasure to meet you, Master. Or I suppose 'Captain' works just as well, hehe"
Recovering from his surprise at the situation before him, Alfonso quickly stood up straighter, fixing his collar in the process. "Well then," he said, smirking. "I must thank the two of you for responding to my summons, even if the situation is… unique, to say the least. But getting two for the price of one is all the sweeter, no? The other Masters will be mere pebbles beneath our feet!"
Despite the grandiose proclamation by their Master, the Assassin Servants seemed thoroughly unimpressed. "Hey Anne?" Mary said, nudging the woman next to her gently. "Doesn't our Master seem like the annoying rich guy type?"
Anne nodded, still smiling. "You're right, Mary. Almost makes me want to loot him for all he's worth, y'know?"
"W-Wait!" Alfonso had his arms out, slightly flustered. "Servants aren't supposed to insult their Masters like that! And certainly not steal from them!"
His Servants broke down into a slight giggling fit, clearly amused by their Master's panic.
"Sure, sure," Anne assured him, not sounding serious in the slightest. "We'll keep our hands to ourselves. Unless you want to get more hands on…?" The pirate wiggled her eyebrows suggestively at him. "Don't think I didn't catch where your gaze went."
"I-I certainly did nothing of the sort!" Alfonso insisted, gritting his teeth in a mix of embarrassment and frustration.
"Master's just a pervert. Right, Anne?" Mary said quietly, the slightest of slight smirks on her face.
"Yep, yep! Sure seems that way!" Anne replied cheerfully, still grinning.
"ARGH! Stop this nonsense, both of you!" Alfonso shouted, quickly turning his back to his Servants to hide his embarrassment. "As your Master, I order you to stop, at once! For that matter, just take spirit form until I need you!"
"Fine, fine," Anne huffed, though her tone was still light. "But I've got a feeling this whole Grail War business is going to be much more fun than I thought," she added, shooting a wink at Mary.
"Oh yes, I agree, Anne," Mary replied, though it seemed her smirk had flatented. With that, the pair were suddenly enveloped by blue light, before disappearing, signifying that they had entered spirit form.
Alfonso let out a long sigh, more relieved than he would have liked to admit. Dio mio… those two are going to be a handful. But the fact that there are two of them is a very welcome surprise. No doubt that will give me some considerable advantages going forward. Dealing with any future antics shouldn't be too hard, all things considered. Besides, no matter how they look, they're nothing more than tools for me to use as I crush the other Masters and take the Holy Grail. He chuckled lightly to himself. I'll stomp them like the bugs they are! Nothing is going to stop me!
He moved to quickly glance at his watch. Only… his watch wasn't there. He blinked in surprise, before he suddenly heard Anne's laugh ring in his ear. Clenching his fists, he chose to edit his previous thoughts. Okay, they're still just tools. Tools with an unfortunate penchant for robbing their Master. Brilliant.
Parc de Belleville
March 18, 1999
As he sat on one of the park's numerous benches, Tatsuya let out a light sigh. He was exhausted, and the one hour of jet lag certainly didn't help matters. Alex sat next to him, munching on some sort of pastry he had insisted on picking up. The past day and a half had gone by in a flash, or so it seemed. After summoning Saber, he was left alone for a while to get acquainted with his Servant. So far, progress had been slow, to say the least.
Casting his mind back, he recalled the fallout of his first meeting with Saber. He was still not sure how he had even called such a powerful Servant to begin with. From what he understood, Susano-o should qualify as a Divine Spirit, thus rendering him unable to be summoned into a Grail War. So then how had he summoned him? To that end, Saber seemed thoroughly uninterested in acting as Tatsuya's Servant.
"You may be the Master, and I may be the Servant," he had said. "But do not presume to command me, fool. If you try, you will meet my blade. I am more than willing to forgo the grail to teach you your place."
At the moment, Saber was off scouting the area. Not by Tatsuya's order, of course. Simply because he wanted to. This had put him at a crossroads. He didn't doubt his Servant's power. Saber was probably strong enough to fight against his Command Seals, if he really wanted to. So was he just to accept being unable to control his Servant? If he was, how was he supposed to fight this Grail War properly?
"Hey, are you still brooding about this?"
Tatsuya jumped slightly at Alex's sudden comment. His friend wasn't even looking at him, still just gazing at the park as he nibbled his pastry. Tatsuya sighed in response. He seemed to be sighing a lot more often as of late.
"You mean am I still worried about not being able to control my Servant? Kinda, why?"
"Well to me, this sorta seems like a good thing," Alex replied nonchalantly. "If your Servant is so powerful that it can fight even his own Master's Command Seals, doesn't that make your Servant stronger than any other by default? I mean, how many Servants can actually do that?"
"Alex, I don't think you understand why this is an issue. If I need Saber to do something, I have no way of making him do it. That's going to be a huge detriment to us once the actual fighting begins."
Alex, however, remained unconvinced. "That's true enough. But from where I see it, Saber seems strong enough to blow away the other Servants with one arm behind his back." His friend paused for a moment, frowning slightly. "Okay, maybe that's a bit of an exaggeration. But still, Tatsu! Your Servant is a literal god! I don't think you need to worry so much. Besides, I'd rather not walk around Paris with you all frowny-like."
"Need I remind you, again, that this isn't a vacation?"
"Sure, sure," Alex dismissed him with a wave of his hand. "Then how about this; Saber is probably testing you or something. Not sure why, really, he just seems the type to do that. But he's testing you nonetheless. If you start getting all mopey because he won't listen to you now, then he never will, you get me?"
Tatsuya thought for a moment. Strangely, Alex's words actually made some mediacom of sense, for once. He was about to reply, when he felt a sudden chill run down his spine. Saber had returned.
"I am back, boy," he said, materializing in front of them. 'Boy'. That's what Saber called him, instead of Master, like a traditional Servant would. And just like that, Tatsuya's worries returned in full force.
"I have found a few locations which I believe shall be acceptable for me to keep a lookout on the area. I will remain around them, and watch for other Servants to appear. When they do, I expect you to do your job as we clash. Do you understand your role, boy?"
Tatsuya swallowed a gulp, before nodding quickly, prompting an eye roll from Alex.
"Good. Well then, I am off. I hope you do not forget your place, boy." Practically spitting the last word out in spite, Saber turned and vanished, just as suddenly as he had appeared.
Moments after Saber had left, Tatsuya clenched his fists angrily. Despite the talk he and Alex had just had, he still had just sat there and let Saber talk down to him. It was frustrating to no end. If he was going to make it through the War, he would need to figure out how to tighten the leash on his Servant. It was the only way forward.
Just then, he felt another chill on his spine. For a second, he thought that Saber had come back once more, but he hadn't. This chill was… different. Something, somewhere, having to do with this War, was out of place. But what? He had no idea. All he could do was hope it did not end his dreams.
Somewhere in Paris
March 18, 1999
It could not see. Darkness was everything.
It could not hear. Silence was everything.
It groaned, protesting this existence, but it could not change.
It could feel, however. It could feel the magical energy growing in the city. It counted.
Where was seven? There should be seven. Seven made sense. But six could also be right, couldn't it? Why not five? Or four? No. No no no no. Seven. There had to be seven.
But where was seven? It felt again, trying to find seven. No answer. For a fleeting moment, it had hope of finding something. Alas, it was just two. No seven. Why was there no seven? Could things continue without seven? No. No no no no. Seven. There had to be seven.
If seven would not show itself, then it would make seven. But how? It could not speak the words to call seven. It could not draw the gate for seven to come through. So how? How how how how?
It felt once more, searching for the answer it needed. Ah, there! There there there there! By two. Some mistake had left the gate open. Was it usable? It didn't know. All it knew was that it needed seven.
It felt the gate, slowly tracing it. And then…
It continued to feel, to open. As it pulsed, it felt. As it felt, it pulsed. The gate protested, but still it felt. Eventually, the pulse began to take shape. As if it was a shadow, rising from the ground, it came forth. And a shadow it was.
It slowly stopped pulsing, stopped feeling. It had done its part. There were finally seven. Seven would take it from there. It knew what to do.
As the newly formed shadow took in its surroundings, only one thought came to mind.
Chapter Four: Free Birds and a Shadow
Summoned Servants and Masters:
Saber: Susano-o, Master: Tatsuya Horibe
Archer: Atalana, Master: Hugo Rousell
Lancer: Arthur Pendragon, Master: Ophilie de Laval
Caster: Tamamo-no Mae, Master: Raijin Takeru
Rider: Kiyohime, Master: Emilia Lugnica Yggdemillenia
Assassin: Anne Bonny and Mary Read, Master: Alfonso Lugnica De Scaglione
Berserker: ?, Master: ?
-7 Servants remain in the fight to answer the Grail's call-
A/N: Before I go, I'd like to give a quick thanks to CelestialSkyDragon for also creating Alfonso for this story. He's a delight to have, and there will (hopefully) be many great things for him to come! With that, I say good night! (Or morning, I'm finishing this at 3 AM lol).
Finally, if you can, please leave a review with any comments, thoughts, worries, or whatever. It really helps! See ya!