-Base Sequence: Human Genome Confirmed.
Welcome to the data center for the future of humankind. This is the Security Organization for the preservation of humanity, Chaldea.
Fingerprint, voiceprint, and DNA authentication cleared. Magical Circuit assessment complete.
-Username matched. You are recognized as a member of the primates. Nice to meet you. We hope you enjoy your time here. We are waiting on one more visitor.
The mechanical drone of an automated voice echoed throughout a square chamber where a red-haired man stood alone under assessment. He wore a green button-up sweater over a white long-sleeve, and wore faded jeans with black sneakers. His bronze coloured eyes furrowed unmistakably as he stared down towards the entrance of a long hall opened from a rectangular side-door ahead of him.
So, this was it, Chaldea?
The man's name was Shirou Emiya, and his first impression of the magical institute dedicated to the preservation of humanity, was that it was cold. No literally. 'Surprised' would be the first of many words to take root in his mind when he'd first heard that Chaldea was in Antarctica.
It was an underground workshop built on a snowy mountain 6000 meters above sea level.
The Central Command Room which was in front of the Main Chaldea Gate was just ahead of him down the long hall he'd just walked down through.
He'd been called in as a technician, but after learning of Chaldea's purpose he'd 'applied' and been approved to be part of the group of thirty-eight elite mages and ten public applicants. By applied, he meant unexpectedly strong-armed. You see, he had an uncanny aptitude for something called Spiritron Dives which was inadvertently discovered in the assessment tests conducted on all Chaldea staff.
Shirou had a sneaking suspicion that his aptitude had something to do with him being a former Master of a Holy Grail War that he'd never disclosed to anyone not in the know. Holy Grail Wars were spiritual rituals conducted by magi that pitted seven Servants and Masters in a free-for-all to obtain a chance at a wish. Masters were those who were in contract with a Servant, and a Servant was one of many familiars selected from the Throne of Heroes, a pool of mankind's greatest legends immortalized in spirit.
Shirou was one such Master who'd participated in the Fifth Holy Grail War with the Servant Saber, one of seven classes of Servant. The rest were Archer, Lancer, Rider, Caster, Berserker, and Assassin. However, he wouldn't voice his prior participation in a Holy Grail War as it was only speculation.
What mattered now was that he'd been discovered to have a high aptitude for Spiritron Diving.
Spiritron Diving itself was the concept of Rayshifting into abnormalities in a timeline through conversion of the body into spirit particles that generally constituted a Servant's body. He wouldn't go into the details of the operation as magical terms were way over his head, but the important factor was that he was unable to refuse.
Word was that all those that were capable of Rayshifting had been brought to Chaldea. Of course, that included himself, but at this point there was no use in complaining as the order had come from one of the highest ranked families in the Mage's Association, House Animusphere.
Shirou was a third-rate magus and he'd somehow gotten himself involved in something big again that had Rin, a dear friend and perhaps something more, overly concerned when he'd told her of his sudden departure. Needless to say, she wasn't amused, yet even she had no power to veto the command already given.
Here he was now, walking down towards the Command Room where he was supposed to meet the rest of his comrades in Chaldea for an orientation.
Well, that's what he was doing until he'd ended up bumping into a woman chasing after a white squirrel? A dog? It was difficult to tell, but it was some sort of animal, and she wasn't paying too much attention to what was in front of her. It didn't help that they'd collided at the bend of a corner as the animal made a quick get-away.
"Sorry. I-I wasn't watching where I was going," the girl apologized quickly despite being the one who'd fallen on her butt from the accident. She had bob-cut styled lilac hair, lavender eyes, and was fair skinned. She was wearing square-framed glasses, wore a grey hoodie over a white collared-shirt, a red tie, black skirt, and brown shoes.
"No need to apologize," he kindly offered a hand towards her, but she seemed confused at his actions at first before a bright smile came to her face.
"Thanks," she sounded genuine while taking his offered hand and pulling herself up. "You aren't mad?" She seemed like she'd expected him to yell at her, or at the very least glare.
And then Shirou promptly remembered what sort of facility this was and that it was run by magi. They weren't known to be the courteous sort, and it suddenly made sense. "I'm not like most magi," he was quick to clarify, much to her relief as she placed a hand over her chest.
"I can already tell," the woman said as her eyes seemed to brighten.
He smiled wryly, a hand scratching the back of his head as he decided to introduce himself. If the woman worked in Chaldea, then they were going to be comrades anyway.
"Shirou Emiya," he said with a light smile. "Sorry for bumping into you when you were in such a rush."
"No-no, it was my fault! I wasn't looking where I was going." The woman shook her head vigorously and then seemed to stutter before finding her voice. "I'm Mash Kyrielight, a member of Chaldea."
Shirou could see that Mash wished the conversation to go on, as he assumes that she didn't have many people she could talk with in the facility, but he decided to remind her of what she was doing prior before it was too late. "I think it's going to get away," he said flatly.
"Ah, Fou," Mash nodded and ran off down the hall. "Bye, Emiya Senpai!"
He almost stiffened due to the manner in which Mash said farewell to him, as it hit too close to home about another girl that he used to know that called him by the same formal title. However, he didn't have the time to reminisce. He was already in front of the Command Center, and didn't want to waste time standing in front of the automated doors just for everyone to stare at him.
Single digit, front row. He recalled his seat position and made his way over. There was no designated seat so he supposed he could just pick any. Around him where the other candidates selected for Chaldea, but all he could stare at was the miniature planetary projection in front of him.
From what he remembered from the small briefing he had, it was called Sheba, a telescope used to observe the pseudo planet Chaldeas. It also served as a surveillance system for the facility and was used as a near-future observation device.
Near Sheba was a stage platform where a woman clearly no older than him stood waiting with a straight back, crossed arms, and an indifferent gaze. She wore a black sweater over a white-collared dress, red stockings and bowtie, and black high-heeled shoes. She had long white hair tied into a small braid on her left side while the rest of her hair fell past her shoulders. Her eyes were of similar colour to Shirou's own, and she was practically glaring at anyone who dared make light of her.
Shirou however saw it differently. He'd been around Rin long enough to know when someone was putting up an act, and the woman was clearly putting one up to mask her nervousness.
Her name was Olga Marie Animusphere, the director of Chaldea, and one of the reasons he'd been summoned to the facility. She was evidently waiting for all forty-eight candidates to arrive before beginning orientation, but candidate forty-eight was running late.
"Candidate forty-eight, Ritsuka Fujimaru, has anyone seen him?"
A tick mark was forming on Olga's forehead, and she was quickly losing patience. Fortunately, Mash came in to escort candidate forty-eight into the seat directly beside him, candidate forty-seven.
Ritsuka was a man who looked distinctly on the verge of falling asleep, and to make matters worse, there was no way Olga wasn't going to notice as she began her orientation speech.
Shirou watched as Mash who sat in the third row and leftmost seat gestured for him to help out Ritsuka, but he already knew it was too late.
Shirou shook his head in condolence. The look on Olga's face was almost identical to the way Rin appeared when she'd far surpassed her tolerance point and was only smiling to maintain her image.
Yeah, well, Olga wasn't Rin who'd just smile.
Walking right up to Ritsuka, she slapped him in the face and Judo threw him out of the room. "B-Team it is," she scowled before eyeing everyone in the room like a hawk. Mash flinched. "Anyone else?" Her brow was twitching.
No one answered, and as if she'd never just thrown a Master candidate out of the Command Room, she resumed orientation and told everyone to begin preparations to enter their respective Rayshift pods lined in a semi-circle across the room.
Mash, bless her, took the initiative to check up on Ritsuka before Shirou could do so himself. Seeing as Ritsuka was in good hands, Shirou allowed himself to go through procedures. Twenty minutes later, just after almost everyone got into their pods, his intuition from life and death battles kicked in. Something felt off.
Mash nodded towards him as she entered her pod, but he barely registered her actions. An ominous feeling was flooding his system.
For the life of him, he couldn't put a reason as to why until it was staring him right in the face. The Rayshift pods, coffin-like devices, had been planted with magical bombs which he'd only been able to sense as he'd drawn closer to his own. The scent of potent magical energy was impossible to ignore. He was cautious from the start and didn't immediately enter his Rayshift pod which perhaps changed the future of even just one person.
"Hey, you! What are you waiting for?" Olga called out to him, pausing on her way to her own pod in order to lecture him. "You're wasting time. Everybody's already in their pods and Lev already left to start the activation sequence. We don't have time to waste. What if we're left behind?!"
Olga's point was the last of Shirou's concern. As far as he could tell, the pods were a death sentence waiting to happen, and it was sooner than he could have ever expected. He didn't even have enough time to yell a warning to everyone. The magical energy built up way past the point of becoming volatile that a significant explosion was inevitable.
He had to act now.
"Shit," he swore before tackling Olga to the ground, the two falling sprawled with Shirou on top. Olga bristled and glared at his abrupt action, but she quickly faltered as everything went to hell. Her eyes widened as fire and heat erupted everywhere and all she could see was him shielding her body with his own while activating his magecraft.
It was this one difference that allowed him to survive using Reinforcement and the lingering innate healing factor in his body to recover from wounds. Even now, the memory and actions of a woman he once knew still watched over and protected him despite his growth as an individual. He'd never forget, nor belittle the experiences they'd shared together. He was her Master, and in turn, she was his Servant; the both of them sharing a bond in their determination to carry out their dreams and ideals.
For the sake of a promise he'd made, he would never stop walking forward.
He groggily opened his eyes as he registered the ringing in his ears from the explosion. His vision was spinning, a numbness in his limbs as blood trickled down the side of his face from a cut over his forehead. He carefully forced himself up and looked beneath him to see Olga passed out with only minor burns and injuries on her person. He'd been able to save someone with his actions and that was all that counted in his mind.
Fires raged around him, alarms blaring red, and sending him into hyper focus. He put Olga somewhere safe where the flames would not reach her and scanned the room for life.
"Is there anyone else alive!" He yelled out while digging through piles of rubble in hopes of finding anyone trapped beneath to no avail.
"Over here! I need help!" A voice echoed out, causing Shirou's eyes to sharpen.
Directly adjacent to him, two men had rushed into the Command Room, one of them Ritsuka Fujimaru who stopped at Mash's Rayshift pod.
Shirou didn't waste a second and ran over to assess the damage.
Mash Kyrielight. She didn't look good. In fact, it wouldn't be too much of a stretch to call her dead already. She was buried under rubble, one look enough to tell that her lower body had basically been crushed or blown up to the point that there was blood everywhere. She could hardly speak, and by the time he'd arrived, she could only signal to him with her eyes to get Ritsuka out of the room before they all died.
She was asking him to leave her without even trying to help.
Not a chance.
Laplace's shifting protection established.
Singularity's additional factor slots secured. Please start final judgements.
Announcements were ringing out from all around him, but he wasn't necessarily listening to them. There were people before him that needed to be saved, and that alone was priority.
"W-We have to dig her out if we want to tend to her wounds," Ritsuka, though clearly nervous, put Mash's well being first and proposed a plan of action.
"I'm on it."
Shirou didn't care for the fire and directly placed his hands over the searing metal pieces of rubble. Fire was nothing knew to him, and if burns were the only price to save another's life, then so be it.
No longer able to verify the existence of humanity a hundred years in the future.
Across from Shirou and Rituska, the latest announcement had Chaldeas turning completely red at the center of the room. This time, Shirou heard what the announcement had said and stiffened in shock.
"Hurry!" Ritsuka called out. "We have to stop the bleeding."
R-Right. Maybe he'd just misheard. Shirou focused by putting all his attention on the life he could save in front of him. The rubble was off. They just had to keep her alive somehow.
The announcements continued unabated.
Rayshift requirements not met.
Searching for qualifying Masters…Found.
"Help me lift her. We can't leave her like this," Shirou said while carefully hoisting Mash up from her arms without aggravating her injuries.
Ritsuka nodded without any complaint and moved to her lower body.
Candidate No. 1, 47, and 48, Olga Marie Animushpere, Shirou Emiya and Ritsuka Fujimaru reset as Masters.
Unsummon program, start.
Spiritron Conversion, start
Rayshifting starting in 3…2…1.
Oblivious to what was happening around them, both Shirou and Ritsuka soon froze in place, Shirou more so. This sensation; the sight of a sea of sand-like golden light surrounding the area, it was all too familiar.
All procedures clear. First Order commencing operation.
This had been it. The start of everything.
Hellfire scorched the very ground of a ruined city devoid of life and covered with a tainted filth. Skeletons of once tall skyscrapers now stood warped and bent, eaten away by the fires that lapped at their foundations beneath.
The odorous scent of burning tar and charred flesh was the first to register in Shirou's mind. Then came the sickening feeling that everything around him was all too familiar.
This place, this flame…it couldn't be!
He was sprawled on the ground, but he quickly pushed himself up with his hands and worked his way up to his feet, eyes darting back and forth. His pupils had dilated, a bout of nausea assailing him and causing him to stagger.
Singularity F, Olga had called it during orientation. An alteration in humanity's proper timeline that had to be corrected, and Shirou could already guess what had happened here in this ghost-town of Fuyuki. The tainted Grail must have been unleashed.
Whatever it was that had brought him back to this godforsaken place, the effects seemed only temporary. Minutes later, and the nausea disappeared, replaced instead with ironclad determination.
This city was the place where it all started for him and a reflection of what it would look like had he failed in his task at the conclusion of the Fifth Holy Grail War.
Everyone he'd ever known growing up had probably died in the blaze, and this fact caused him to tightly ball his hands into fists.
He had no time to make sense of it all, but now Singularity F had become personal.
"Don't do anything stupid," he reminded himself in a whisper. Rin had at least managed to curb his impulsive tendencies through sheer persistence.
Shirou began to assess himself. Currently, he felt fine despite the injuries he remembered sustaining in the Command Room. He was also alone, having been Rayshifted at random. He couldn't have been the only survivor. He refused to believe so, which meant that it could be likely that he'd have to find everyone.
Fortunately, Fuyuki was a city that he was all too familiar with.
He didn't waste any time and quickly began running towards the tallest high-rise building he could see. It would be foolish to blindly run through the streets when a vantage point offered a better alternative.
By the time he scaled a particularly large building, he stood on the edge of the roof and peered out to his surroundings…and there it was.
A flash of magical light drew his attention towards where a fight was brewing further ahead of him several streets down. He squinted his eyes and made out the form of Ritsuka and Mash defensively standing in front of Olga Marie while defending against skeletons.
That was easier than he'd expected, which didn't bode well, as it meant he was actually having good luck.
He shuddered, but didn't think too much about it before heading forward for a rendezvous.
And what do you know? A Servant showed up just as he arrived. Good luck was too much of a foreign concept to ask for, but no matter. He was used to misfortune at this point.
"Get behind me!" He yelled as soon as he was in hearing range.
Mash was doing her best with the shield in her arms to block the enemy Servant's attacks, yet it was clear that she was nearing her limits.
Ritsuka wasted no time in heeding Shirou's request, while Olga seemed a bit more hesitant, but complied. Mash closed the distance between herself and Shirou by using the force of her opponents strikes to send her back.
Finally, they all stood together, and Mash, Olga, and Ritsuka watched in confusion as the Servant stopped in her tracks upon sighting Shirou. Her long purple hair that reached past the enemy Servant's ankles hovered in the air as her magical energy momentarily grew restless. She tossed aside the cloak on her body and revealed a black form fitting attire that exposed the sides of her legs and arms.
She was a Servant that Shirou had once opposed before, but in this irregularity in human history, perhaps something different had occurred.
"But you were dead," the Servant whispered, the bloodlust and mud-tainted aura around her weakening if only for a moment as her features cringed sharply in pain.
It must have been the manner in which Shirou called out the Servant's class, but some mental block seemed to give and she just started laughing hollowly.
Olga, Mash, and Ritsuka tensed, beads of sweat forming over their brows, and Shirou saw this. Even now he knew he wasn't fully a match for any real Servant other than a certain Archer, but he would try nonetheless.
He stepped forward, circuit-like patterns of magical energy glowing over his skin.
"You fool! What do you expect to be able to do against a Servant?!" Olga's eyes widened in disbelief. "We should be running in the other direction!"
To this, he gave only a single reply. "What makes you think we'd be able to run?" He was talking from experience.
That statement alone caused Olga to purse her lips, and grudgingly ball her hands into fists.
"Mash," he called out while observing her current changes, a new body suit, a large shield, and the fact that she feels like a Servant. He had many questions, but finally settled on a single imperative. "Protect them," he said. He didn't expect her to fight with the injuries he could see all over her.
"Yes, Emiya Senpai!" Mash hardened her resolve.
"Mash," Ritsuka acted in correspondence, the Command Seals on the back of his hand flashing. "We can do this!"
"Yes, Senpai!" Mash tightened her grip on her shield.
Without having to worry about those behind him, Shirou readied himself. However, when it became clear that he was stepping forward with every intention of going alone, Olga could keep silent no longer.
"Wait! What are you even doing?! Take the Demi-Servant with you!" Olga looked nervous. "Don't you know how to fight a Grail War? Servants fight Servants. Masters provide support not engage! Look at Fujimaru! We can't just lose another prospective Master! You don't even have a Servant, and you think you can defeat a Servant on your own? You've never fought a Servant before; you're taking their capabilities too lightly!"
O he knew what they were capable of alright, and this wasn't his first time fighting this particular one.
Shirou didn't voice his thoughts aloud. Olga already looked to be at her wits end. She didn't need anymore stress, and in fact, just desperately looked like she wanted acknowledgment and to prove her worth as the heiress of the Animusphere family.
Shirou took a step back. "Then will you help me?" He asked Olga. "Please lend me some magical energy."
She looked baffled; her mouth hung open as her words seemingly left her. Finally, she spoke. "What good will that do?"
"Trust you? I just met you! What kind of Magus are you?" Olga's skepticism was not unfounded considering the ethics of other Magi, but Shirou wasn't an ordinary Magus.
"One who needs to fight a Servant," he dodged out of the way of a thrown chain that cratered the concrete beneath him. Rider had stopped laughing an instantly went on the attack, "Can you help me or not?"
Wordlessly, Olga just extended her hands outwards as the Magic Crest of the Animusphere family glowed over her forehead. There was little choice to be had in this situation, and she could only hope that she wasn't supporting a fool.
In some ways, she wouldn't be wrong to call him a fool. She was right that a Master should ordinarily stay away from Servants, but here he was doing the opposite.
She was trusting him by not abandoning him to act as decoy. Who was she not to meet that trust, forced as it was?
He was a Hero. An Ally of Justice.
Magic power flooded around him in a storm, arcs of magical energy writhing and scorching the ground as he brought his hands forward in front of him.
The magic of his craft actualized within him. The thrum of his magic circuits, conduits that converted mana in the air into usable energy, reaching a new high.
Once he saw any weapon even once, everything down to the history, composition, and make of the weapon was stored in the recesses of his inner world.
To materialize the armoury of his inner world was the root of his power.
"Trace. On." The words left his lips, a declaration, a mantra to hone his focus. This was all it took.
Every weapon had a story. Every story had a grain of truth. And sometimes, stories become Legends crystalized through time.
Mots of blue light converged on his outstretched palms, taking shape and form. Suddenly, an aura of crippling bloodlust erupted from the forming weapon in his hands, followed by an imposing presence that could not be ignored.
From the isles of the land known as Ireland, Heroes lived and died, and only the best remained remembered. Their achievements glorified not only through myth, but through conception of the very weapons they once wielded.
"N-Noble Phantasm." Olga looked stunned, her grip on reality becoming skewed as her shoulders trembled.
Mash and Ritsuka gasped, but Shirou could pay no one else any mind. His thoughts were running a mile a second. Olga was right that a Master could not compare to a Servant. Even if he had a weapon that could stand up to Rider, it didn't matter if his body didn't have the physical capability to use it to maximum efficiency. This was why he generally preferred using his married blades; however, he'd spotted a certain individual quietly observing in the distance, and since he knew the man's personality, there was one sure way of getting him to help.
He fully Traced the Noble Phantasm projected into his mind, and felt the air shift through the sheer intensity of one man's gaze.
A crimson spear manifested, riveted with barbs and with vein like designs down the shaft.
Gae Bolg, the Barbed Spear that Pierces with Death.
It's malevolent presence alone caused Rider to grow weary, but it also caused another to be unable to sit out for any longer.
"That's a nice spear you're carrying there." A voice broke through the air. It almost appeared strained, bordering on deprived of something essential. "Want to make a deal? Give me the spear, and I'll help."
It sounded less like a proposition, and more like there was no decision to be had in the matter.
Shirou turned to the voice to see the face of a man he'd not seen in years, though he was a bit different from before. Rather than a blue jump suit, he saw instead, a sage-like cloak and Celtic runic marks drawn directly on the air.
It was Cu Chulainn, the Lancer Shirou knew of in his version of the Fifth Holy Grail war, and owner of the cursed spear Gae Bolg. He was the Shield of Ireland also known as the Hound of Ulster, and presently, he was a Caster if the wooden staff was anything to go by.
Knowing Cu however, the man was probably hating his current class.
Cu's short blue hair and long pony tail swayed as he made his way to appear directly beside Shirou with bloodshot red eyes.
One look, and Shirou knew what would happen if he refused Cu's request.
"She's all yours," Shirou tossed the spear over and watched as anticipation gleamed from Cu's eyes.
"Caster," Rider called out darkly after composing herself. She clearly had the class advantage. "You can't win."
"Caster?" Cu laughed, all but smiling at this point as he twirled the crimson spear in his hands in an experienced manner. He gave a roguish grin.
He took off his sage-like coat and took on a forward stance, his legs parted and held fast on his spear.
Somehow, Olga felt like she was having an aneurism. That's not how class change works!
A Magus who would go head-to-head against a Servant, had access to Noble Phantasms, and now this? If her perception of what reality should be was actually in the wrong then…was she actually the ignorant one?
Olga looked utterly lost while Ritsuka and Mash had stars in their eyes.
Thanks for reading this month's A-Tier story winner!
A Tale of Two Swords will come out a bit later today, give or take an hour or two after twelve since I have a work shift today. (Today is going to be a long work day...and it's not even Tuesday.)
P a treon. com (slash) Parcasious
Book link: Fatedlegacydark. ca
Summary of book:
Death. Grief. Ruin. Nothing was left unchanged after an unexplained tragedy led to the loss of millions across the world in key locations. Cities were reduced to wastelands of steel and concrete, and many were forced into migration. When events leading to the prior tragedy occur once more, Kevin Black was going to have to learn that sometimes mysteries were better left unsolved. Trapped with his friends in the world of a ruined city filled with monsters, the journey out would be far more perilous than the journey in.