Cu whistled lowly.

It had been quite a while since he'd last seen the miraculous feats born from the courage and drive of another. In this particular case, it was a welcomed one marked by the return of an unlikely pair of Master and Servant.

Look at the two, one stupefied with an abrupt and possessive peck of the lips, and the other downright murderous against any who would threaten those she cherished behind a cold exterior.

It was a tad different from the blue Saber he'd once seen as this Saber was more assertive, but it was just like old times before an interloper decided to mess with everything.

Therefore, you shouldn't interrupt again.

Cu lowered the tip of his spear where he'd activated a magic incantation to intercept the rays of energy Lev had shot at Shirou in an attempt to stop him from renewing a contract.

The air thrummed with the lingering presence of mystery, feeling like static on the skin.

Cu felt the hairs at the back of his neck raise, the feral nature of the foe before him reminding him of times long past while training in the Land of Shadows with his esteemed teacher.

Every step was one where he had to take the utmost fear to tread. One wouldn't know of the dangers that existed in the world if they hadn't experienced it for themselves. That is, the sensation of being in the presence of Gods and Demons, beings that his teacher often combated against as was her duty and obligation. He as the apprentice was expected to one day surpass the teacher.

He was an apprentice and student of the Rune Witch and Guardian of the Gate of Skye.

It was only natural that he'd be able to recognize the tell-tale signs of the malefic nature of twisted beings.

The one before him was no exception, and was likely the cause of Saber's erratic behaviour of not claiming the Grail for herself despite her overwhelming advantage.

"Lev, Lev answer me! What's happened to you!?"

Cu grunted while trying to keep Olga from doing anything stupid again. Honestly, why was it always him getting saddled with the difficult ones?

Ritsuka had Mash as an endearing Servant, and there were no questioning Saber Alter's qualifications. In which case, this left him babysitting Olga.

Damn, he painted a sorry picture. His fellow warriors of Ireland would surely be laughing at his expense right now, Fergus raising a toast for further entertainment.

Regardless, the one difference he could absolutely rely on to say that he wasn't in the worst situation possible, was the fact that his luck was not Rank E as a Caster. Whatever circumstance he was in now, he took solace in the fact that it could have been a lot worse, like being a Lancer and not having enough magical awareness to feel the concealed might of the enemy before him.

Not even Saber Alter with her overbearing magical energy had caused him to feel such unease, and even then, it was because he couldn't face her as a warrior.

It was just one twist after another at this point.

"Honestly," Lev sighed as his attempts to foil Shirou's contract with Saber had ended in failure. Now he was just annoyed, his attention shifting to Olga who kept calling out to him. "All of these complications have irritated me, and the biggest complication is you, dear Olga."

Lev's voice was cutting and straight to the point. It roused Shirou into a state of attention, and Saber Alter to direct a glower of smoldering rage on Lev's person.

Mash shivered while Ritsuka moved to stand by her side. The two would fight this together.

Good, Cu inwardly approved of the actions he saw.

No warrior, no hero would buckle under the weight of an enemy's oppression. However, not everyone could be strong or be a hero.

Dread pooled within Olga's gut as incomprehension fueled by denial caused her no small amount of grief. "L-Lev this isn't funny. W-What are you trying to say?!" She was breaking, the pillar of support she'd always believed she could rely on crumbling into pieces.

From the moment she was born, not once had she been loved nor acknowledged. She was nothing more than an unqualified heir of a renowned magus family whose prestigious head had perished too early.

A foolish and useless child always trying to achieve goals and recognition beyond her aim…

And Lev was more than willing to push her into despair.

"I set a bomb in Chaldea's Command Room right beneath your feet. From the beginning you were meant to die," Lev grinned cruelly, the sound of metaphorical threads snapping echoed in Olga's ears as her eyes dilated and began misting over.

Lev continued unabated.

"Yet you still live. I suppose I have someone else to thank for that. The one variable that caught even me off guard." Lev shrugged his shoulders, exasperation causing him to thin his lips while staring at a certain red head. "You just couldn't stay dead, now could you, Shirou Emiya?"

Shirou's brow twitched, feeling like he alone was the only one present who understood that he wasn't the Shirou of this singularity. Lev was making a lot of assumptions here, granted his arrival into Chaldea was unexplainable, but if one thing was true, Shirou Emiya was still Shirou Emiya.

"You will not touch him." Saber Alter seethed in agitation.

Saber Alter's confidence in him and surety of his character all but cemented the preconceptions.

Between trying to explain himself and causing Saber Alter needless sorrow, his choice was obvious. He held his tongue and chose to live on behalf of his parallel.

"L-Lev this has to be some sort of mistake," Olga suddenly spoke up in denial in a desperate attempt to regain some sort of rope to cling onto.

Lev shook his head, his hands clasping behind him. "Think of this as you will Olga, but you've always been a failure. Now you can't even accept the reality before you. Truly pathetic. Worthless even till the end."

Olga's mouth opened and closed in the silence, looking as if someone had just punched her in the gut. Her heart was beating wildly to her ears, her stomach sinking. If she were any less proud of her standing as the heir of the Animusphere family, she would have began sobbing where she was. Instead, the sound of sniffling was distinct as she tried to bottle up her misery while she shadowed her face with her bangs and stared at the ground.

Cu abruptly tussled Olga's hair, a scowl over his features. The action was rough, and shocked Olga enough to agitation.

"Hey! I'm not some poor little girl!" She snarled.

The look on her face was anything but. Her cheeks were starting to puff, and the whites of her eyes had become blood shot from the tears and snot she was failing to hold back. She looked terrible.

Cu grimaced. "Damn straight. If you're an heir of a magus family then stand tall and prove your worth through your own actions!"

Lev chuckled. "Can you really expect anything from a failure?"

Olga's shoulders hunched as she flinched.

Cu rounded on Lev. He'd had enough with listening to half truths.

"Big words coming from someone speaking out of a mouthpiece," he said.

Olga glanced up at Cu, her features frozen in shock at the admission.

"You can try to put this little lass down all you like, but to hide a case of demonic possession in front of a Caster is your own folly. Now who are you really?" Cu revealed everything as it was, stunning everyone but Saber Alter.

Possessed or not, she'd already decided that Lev was going to die.

"H-He's being controlled?" Olga stuttered.

Lev's silence was the largest indicator.

"From the looks of it yes. Perhaps even from the moment he was born or perhaps even recently." Cu verified. "It's hard to tell with these sorts of things, but one thing is certain, the one you know as Lev Lainur is dead. Isn't that right?"

Lev grunted, something inhuman peaking out from beneath his visage. "I grow bored of this. It matters not who I am."

Walking forward towards the edge of the elevated ridge in which Lev gazed down upon everyone, something began peaking out from behind him: a projection born from magic to reveal the reality of the world.

"Have you noticed what's behind me? Well, as a parting gift, let me show you the fate of Chaldea, humanity's beacon of hope for the future." Lev bowed elegantly at the waist as the global projection of the near-future of earth, Chaldeas appeared.

"No, no that's not possible. It's a lie, an illusion!" Olga shuddered while yelling in panic. "Chaldeas is bright red?"

"It's real." Lev scoffed, his walking cane thumping against the ground. "With the Holy Grail, I've already connected the dimensions of the Grand Order for you. You may praise my expertise now."

Olga shook her head and fell on her knees. "This can't be happening..." She trailed off.

"O but it is. Now behold your folly Animusphere." Lev's arms stretched out beside him. "Not a sliver of blue representing human survival remains in the future: The outcome of your Grand Order was decided from the start. As was the outcome of this singularity!"

'Get ready.' Cu signalled with his hands to everybody.

No one knew what Lev was truly capable of, but everyone could sense the build up of magical energy around in the air. The man was done conversing with them.

Saber Alter clicked her tongue before promptly wrapping around Shirou and leaping a safe distance away where she then dropped him off. Mash wasted no time doing the same for Ritsuka, but Cu was different.

He alone remained where he was.

He tapped the butt of his spear on the ground and allowed a large root of vegetation to drag Olga towards everyone else.

Saber moved to join Cu's side, but the Caster holding a spear flipped her off. "Enough of this Saber. You can't fool me into believing that you're in any condition to fight. Stay back with the Demi-Servant. Your protection would aid them greatly."

Saber Alter gritted her teeth at Cu's words.

This was her fight. Her grudge to settle.

She knew that Shirou's mana capacity would find it difficult to support her fully, but the fact that he was basically drained of magic power already meant that she had very little to draw upon. The contract they'd just formed had already caused Shirou visible strain, beads of sweat trickling down over his brow. His complexion was also ghastly, standing out in stark contrast to the blood that leaked out from his strained injuries. This caused her no small amount of concern which she was unfortunately incapable of displaying openly.

She was conflicted, and a Knight should never be conflicted on the battlefield.

For a moment, Saber Alter glowered at Olga who didn't even register her anger.

It wasn't difficult to determine that Olga was helping provide Shirou with magical energy through the Animusphere crest on Olga's forehead. However, in Olga's mental instability, she'd stopped providing Shirou any aid at all.

What sort of asset or colleague was Olga if she couldn't even do her job as a battery or energy container?

Saber Alter knew that she was being unreasonable, yet her desire to throttle the bastard in front of her was overwhelming. Better yet, the tainted mud wouldn't impede her as it did her counterpart.

She was already as dark as dark could get.

"Uhm, Saber. You can help if you like. Mash and I can look after Shirou and Olga," Ritsuka offered kindly.

Saber Alter just stared at Ritsuka, then Mash up and down. Her features hardened as she grudgingly acknowledged that Cu was right in his earlier judgement.

She was inwardly sorry but between moving and leaving her Master's safety to an expended Shielder and her Master, and an individual whose capabilities she'd been doubting from the beginning, you'd have to forgive her for already coming to a decision.

"Thanks, but no." She pressed closer to Shirou, leaving no room for any careless accidents, but at the same time perhaps shifting a bit too close. "I like this spot."

Ritsuka and Mash weren't quite sure how to respond to that, and instead just smiled awkwardly.

"Wouldn't dream of taking it."

"You better hope not. I'd see you executed for treason against me."

It was kind of terrifying that no one could tell if Saber Alter was being serious or not, but with the situation as it was, no one paid it much mind, especially Cu.

Unknown to everyone but Saber, his spiritual body was dissipating with the conclusion of the Grail War, but at the same time, he never felt as strong as he did now.

Cu was readying himself for battle, a grin working over his features. His wish, his one wish regarding any Grail War was simply the thrill of combat. With Saber and Archer's connection to the Grail cut, he alone was the clear winner, and with that, came the fulfillment of his wish.

A Grand Duel it will be.

"Just you?" Lev was far from amused at Cu's blatant challenge. "Human arrogance knows no bounds."

A laugh was Lev's only answer, followed by the abrupt emergence of green.

Cu smirked while a tangle of verdant vines elevated him to a level equal to Lev's standing on top of the cave ridge.

If he was going to go out, then it might as well be out in a bang, and Lev's disregard would be Lev's own undoing.

Even now the man hadn't bothered to put up any sort of defence, his hands still clasped leisurely behind his back while using the bare minimum of energy to swat aside large growths of vegetation seeking to ensnare him.

Cu would have felt offended if he didn't know just what kind of existence he was facing.

He was a Demi-God and Hero of humanity: A son of the Celtic God Lugh and a protector of the Gate of Skye.

The unique signature of Demonic energy wafted off of Lev in waves. This was no human or simple possession. This was a being meant to be sealed behind the frigid gates of the Land of Shadows.

Lets just hope he didn't fuck up his teacher's lessons.

Taste the truth of the rune spells learned from the immortal Rune Witch!

A tranquil flame burned over the tip of his index and middle finger before he swiped his arm horizontally in front of him. Runic symbols hovered in the air, blazing with a deep azure glow belonging to the ancient times.

"Primordial Runes," Cu concentrated on the power harnessed by even the Gods.

'The stars tell of times beyond our own under the blanket of a vast night sky encompassing all.'

He flicked the runes with a single finger and watched as they scattered and formed a wall around him that stopped the beams of energy Lev had shot towards him. The man's features had turned considerably solemn at the sensation of the runes, but it was too little too late.

Cu had begun the process of casting the strongest trump card he had in the arsenal of his class. He even snapped his treasured spear in order to syphon the magic power within it into his Noble Phantasm.

The air trembled and distorted.

'The swaying grass points in the direction of billowing winds.'

Cu swiveled out of range from a blast that scorched everything around him but the runes he'd erected as a platform to leap off of. The coat he wore was vaporized, leaving his top half bare as a feral grin spread from ear to ear.

'The winds call forth the storms! The heralders of nature and its mysteries embodied in primordial runes!'

He shouted, a war cry that reverberated deep within the chest and echoed within the ears while producing his staff in a burst of magic light. In a deft motion, he batted away the potent magic of Lev's attacks and began forcing his way closer and closer without care of damage, his body dissipating with every step.

A Druid was a man of nature similar to his counterpart, the Banduri. Druids were sages of the forests.

Feel the rustle of the leaves and hear the call of the animals; mother earth was everywhere.

'Reflect the creation of the world, and give life to Gaia's rage.'

Cu grunted as a hole was blasted through his stomach, blood seeping out of his mouth, yet the feral grin never left his face while he advanced.

Lev had no words, actually backing up a step or two in trepidation, yet in this case, there was no need for it. There would be no escape.

A flock of crows circled above the sky of Ryuudou Temple, watchers of the divine as ancient magic gave way to tradition.

Enormous wooden pillars sprung up and formed a prison around Lev's body, before the vegetive growth sprouted up to reveal a wooden man and Lev trapped within the cage of its chest.

"Ansuz," a single rune of power flashed over the monstrosity before a prison of divine fire was released.

Lev hammered at the wooden prison, but by law of the ancients, not even the Divine could escape containment. The runes and spells of the ominous Witch Morrigan of Celtic mythology ensured the completion of rituals.

Timber giant, eaten away by fire.

Cu's body began to burn and fade starting from the legs.

Become a cage of flames!

He flicked his staff forward and called upon the name of an offered sacrifice.

Let flesh be scorched; let bone be blackened; and let ashes drift in the gales.


Magical energy condensed and expanded all at once in the form of an unbearable heat focused within a single wooden chamber accompanied by pained screams.

This was it. This was all that he had left. Cu buckled in exhaustion as he dropped his staff, but laughed all the same. Euphoria and adrenaline flooded his veins.

A warrior's death as it should be.

He could no longer feel his limbs, nor muster the strength to move despite knowing that his attack hadn't been adequate to put down his adversary. There wasn't anything left that he could do.

His wish had already been granted and fulfilled. What more could he want? Though perhaps he may have regrated not seeing everything through. It was hard to tell what he was feeling.

He looked up towards a narrow precipice high above the cave overlooking the entire area.

What a tenacious bastard.

He smirked before the rest of his body vanished into sand-like mots of light.

Until next time.

"Cu," Ritsuka whispered morosely.

The only sound to be heard in the cavern was the crackling of flames illuminating the somber expressions over Mash, Ritsuka, and even Olga's face. For Olga, she had a hand over her head while recalling the feeling of what she realized had been Cu trying to console her earlier.

No matter how barbaric, frightful, or roguish Olga had assumed and observed Cu to be, undoubtably, he too was a Hero worthy of the Throne.

"Do not be saddened." Saber Alter quipped sharply, cold gaze washing over Ritsuka and the others yet softening when it reached Shirou. It was almost tender. "I, ugh, that is- all of you would do well not to belittle a warrior's death with ill-placed sentiment."

Olga and the others hardly responded, but Shirou only took a moment longer to watch as Cu's spiritual form fully dissipated.

"Saber." He called out reassuringly, noticing how uncomfortable it was for Saber Alter to try her hand at consoling others. "Don't worry. I know. Trust me."

Her gaze softened by a fraction, a tint of red colouring her cheeks, but all she did was nod and stand imperiously.

She sensed it before anyone else, and Shirou simply clued in from the sudden frostiness of her demeanor directed at the fading flames of a timber giant.

"Cursed Saber! If you'd just obeyed then none of this would have HaPpeNeD!" A distorted voice yelled.

A burst of wind funneled the lingering flames into a tower that dissipated up over the cave's roof. Lev was revealed smoking and charred black at the center of the remains of the timber giant. His body was steadily crumbling away into ashes and in its wake was a shadowed amalgamation of magical energy resembling a pillar filled with eyes that stretched into the sky.

"And I'd do it again," Saber Alter said without remorse. "Mark my words, but I will strike you down and drive the heel of my boot through your corpse. This I swear."

"W-What is that thing?" Olga muttered while the colour drained from Ritsuka and Mash's faces.

Demonic energy pervaded from the monstrosity in waves that felt insurmountable in their present conditions. Unprepared, and caught off guard, they were surely going to die.

The question was left entirely ignored.

The only adversary Lev was focusing on was Saber Alter alone; all else it had deemed inconsequential aside from Shirou who it specifically glared at, aggravating Saber Alter to no end. However, before any action could be taken, large distortions began ripping through the fabric of the present world.

"Ah, the SInGulariTy iS at iT's LimIt. PiTy." Lev's voice was gradually recovering, yet was tinted by a deep echo. "FaReWell. My EnjOymeNt of YoUr DeStruCtiOn ends here."

Lev relinquished his hold on the Fuyuki Holy Grail and turned to enter a large vortex that ripped a pathway between Singularities behind him.

"Now be swallowed by the dimensional warp!" He said in parting while Fuyuki's collapse accelerated.

Saber Alter growled, a torrent of red-tinted black magical energy slashing down on Lev's figure, but to no avail as it dissipated a moment before contact.

Shirou panted heavily before collapsing to his knees, a flash of guilt flickering over Saber Alter's features. She expected the best in all her vassals and subordinates, but she never expected more than they could achieve. Shirou's magical energy was already spent, and Olga was being useless. If she drew any more from Shirou, she would risk his life, and this wasn't an option.

Vexed, Saber Alter balled her hands into fists and moved to carefully support her Master.

"Romani hurry! Emergency Rayshift!" Olga ordered by instinct as the threat of death loomed over all of them. The singularity was growing too volatile, and staying for much longer would jeopardize everyone's safety.

Saber Alter heard the intercom of magic communication and saw a projection of Romani Archaman quickly initiating some sort of emergency evacuation sequence, but she didn't care.

As Ritsuka, Mash, and Olga's bodies began to shift translucent and fade, Shirou suppressed the magic attempting to turn him into spiritron particles. It wasn't yet his time to go.

Not now.

With a strength that Saber Alter could not perceive where Shirou was drawing it all from, he struggled to his feet and stalked forward out of her grip towards Lev who'd yet to take his leave.

"You think getting away would be this easy?" Shirou suddenly spoke up with an icy ruthlessness that had pleasant tingles running down Saber Alter's neck. She shuddered and did nothing but watch the figure of her man walk without fear towards certain defeat with a broad back.

She…She felt enamored at the display; the rage and mercilessness she could feel from her connection to Shirou resonating deep within her.

A King must never endure humiliation.

All enemies will be struck down without mercy.

This wasn't her place to intervene. So, she watched, ready to risk her life for her Master at a moment's notice.

"Shirou Emiya," Lev paused in the midst of his retreat to stare at the sole human who dared look at it with such contempt. "I can crush you right here and now on a mere whim. So, tell me, what can you alone hope to do by challenging me?"

"Me?" Shirou felt a wry smile curve his lips upward. "No, not me." He shook his head.

There was someone else who'd been entrusted with a promise to keep.

A red blur shot abruptly towards Lev who intercepted it by catching it in a malformed hand of magic energy. It was a treasured red gem packed with decades of the Tohsaka family's magical energy passed down from heir to heir since the beginning of the family line.

It was the gift Rin had given Shirou, who then gave it to a certain Archer prior to contracting with Saber Alter.

Lev hummed while momentarily inspecting the sheer magic energy stored within the jewel. This wasted a fraction of a second, and an instant was all that it took.

"Ten-fold you sick bastard."

A common arrow, a twisted sword of a nameless blade undetectable through its ordinary properties struck the gem and detonated it; drowning the entire cavern in a volatile sea of magic energy as a torn red mantle fluttered in the breeze.

By this time, Ritsuka, Mash, and Olga had long since disappeared.

Only Shirou and Saber Alter remained, their bodies turning translucent as Shirou allowed Romani to spirit him away.

Saber however, lingered.

"Saber?" Shirou called out to her softly, feeling a swell of emotion within her through their connection.

She hummed in response, but she remained perfectly still, gaze never leaving the sight before her as the red mantle floated down onto her palms, slowly fading away into golden particles.

She would see it through till the end:

The valiant figure of a man who'd earned her respect and admiration.

Lev's pained yells reverberated as a lone Archer appeared and followed the demon through the portal of its own making despite certain death. The already brittle Spirit Origin wouldn't last the journey.

She knew. She Goddamned knew that it had to have been him that was involved with reuniting her with her Master, and for this she cursed her own social ineptitude. Why was it so difficult to vocalize her own gratitude even till the end? Still, if it was him, surely, he'd understand even without verbal expression.

Her eyes shut as she and Shirou faded away into mots of spiritual light ferried off to humanity's last bastion of defense, Chaldea.

Thank you… my Nameless Knight in Red.

-A.D. 2004, Flame Contaminated City, Fuyuki.

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