Sorry for the late upload; had a bit of a weird moment on my end.

Chapter Ten! We're officially over the halfway point, my friends! At this rate, we'll likely wrap this story up in late November or early December. Quite a way to close out the year, huh?

Review response time! Let's see what everyone had to say this time, shall we?

XiHeng: She is a big fan; she and Illya (At least from Prisma) would have a lot to talk about!

freddy lane 1: Bit of an exciting encounter, huh?

Guest (1): Can't say; Spoilers.

Issei ODR: Glad you enjoyed Heracles going to town on some folks!

D N Works: Jason would have cracked open a bottle in sheer joy, despite it just being step one.

TimeDiver: Illya has good taste is Servants.

Kamijou Touma1: Illya would be very proud! I'd say so, it's just he ends up holding back against people he absolutely shouldn't.

davidomega59: Glad your enjoying it! I'd be down for some viewings of Touma's past, but probably not here. It'd be a bit of a detriment to the moving plot to feature stuff like that, unfortunately.

Anime-ted Life116: Yes; Herc is that agile. All of his stats aside from luck are A or above. Theoretically, Imagine Breaker should at least temporarily dispel Madness enhancement, but this is a case where such a thing is likely not necessary.

paeluclucas: Thanks for your kind words!

tsun: Herc smash. Ritsuka is sure a fan of the classics, huh? Things should be more your speed now that we're getting some momentum with the plot.

craytherlay: Someone's picking up on the Servant-summoning connections!

Guest (2): Sometimes life is like that, my friend!

Guest (3): When a madman stands up to a demi-god...

GuestStar: It'd be one hell of a rough encounter, huh...?

Tank Nobu: Sounds like your one happy Nobu!

Guest (4): Not revealing any of the summoned Servants before they appear, sorry.

MrQuestionMark: I'm so glad that all the moving parts so far are clicking, or at least that's what your review is telling me. It is absolutely something of a struggle to make sure it all works, but it feels so good when it does, you know!?

Sawtooth44: Sometimes you just need to smash.

Sora with an S: Judging form how many things here your quoting... I can only assume that you're having a good time with this story!

Epsilon Zeta: Funny you should mention that...

MythAnime: You'd be surprised how much Accelerator gets out on his own, my friend.

Guest (5): To an extent.

Maxim7: Yeah; my original drafts had the ITEM crew around, but upon writing the actual parts here, I found that it was more than a little bit busy to include all of ITEM. All Berserkers are exceedingly dangerous, especially battle-oriented ones like Lu Bu.

BiggestGuyUUUU: Demi-gods sure do like to steal the show, huh?

YCG: Indeed; I'm glad you agree.

Markoz89: Just wait until the Magic Side officially steps in, my friend. Well, the Noble Phantasm was known as "God Force" For a reason!

Guest (6): Trust me; Accelerator doesn't need his wings to thrash people. There's a thing I'm going for here, and its to try and balance things out on both sides; can't have one outshining the other too much. Since this is set prior to Hamazura even getting into the Suit, I wouldn't hold out much hope.

Missingmoney: It's definitely more the circumstances rather than Lu Bu himself; Knee-deep behind enemy lines against a powerful Servant like Lu Bu when other sources could pop in, such as Darius if he decided to jump into things, but maybe I didn't sell that well enough. Don't worry too much about the cast; I intend to cycle some folks out when the plot shifts around.

G119: Ha!

Kim454: I am aware! I've seen the movie; it was pretty good!

Windraider: They now understand that Imagine Breaker is the real deal.

Mr. X: 1) Maybe it is, maybe it isn't. Let your mind wander, my friend. 2) No slap, but the second part she would definitely do. 3) No Saber this time around!

EternalKing: That's a bit of an issue with Ritsuka as a whole, which is why Fate/Grand Order's narrative shifts away from him a lot, as he is intended to be more of a stand-in for the player in the game. Unfortunately, by the lore of the game, Ritsuka must be around to command Servants, so him being a little bit plain is an unfortunate necessary evil. I've tried to spice him up a little bit here and there, but there's only so much I can do without going OOC for him.

AkumaESPer: I'm just saying that you're really good at figuring out my shenanigans. I wouldn't be surprised if you had my endgame figured out by now! For Kakine's third ascension, it's definitely the latter, but in a way you might not expect. There does seem to be some parallels, but not enough to really hammer anything home. Demon Pillar information is really sparse, as they function more as just bosses rather than full characters (At least until the Epic of Remnant), so I splashed in some lore from the Goeita for Sabnock, as it's stuff Index would likely know. Seems like you got what I was going for with Lu Bu in this instance! Herc and Hipp interacting might be kinda funny once you reach it. With that last prediction, I think you're officially 5 parallel universes ahead of me...!

Guest (7): Theoretically, I think!

And with that done... enjoy!


Skill-Out had begun what little clean up their broken down but livable home needed after the battle had come to a close. Despite some near scares for some of their members, not a single person died nor had a single enemy made it into their compound. Aside from some structural damage caused by Cú Chulainn being flung into it, there was little need for repairs or damage, which was great because they were very ill equipped for such a task.

Now, with the attack repelled and Lu Bu defeated, Chaldea could move onto the next step of their operation to destroy the summoning pit once and for all.

"You think they'll attack us again?" Hamazura asked.

"More than likely," Hector stated. "Sounds like these guys are operating as a single unit, despite some of these beasts being natural predators of the other. That leads me to believe they're being directly controlled, but for that to be even slightly effective, the Demon God or whatever would need use of their eyes and ears. My guess is that his little control system doubles as an information network; what they see, he sees."

"Shit… a lot of them did run away, huh?"

"You got it; the only hope to stop a second wave would have been to take out every enemy, but as we failed to do that, it's likely that another assault will be inbound soon."

As they talked strategy, the Berserker Heracles sat against the wall with his eyes closed. The lone Tokiwadai girl that had found herself with Skill-Out was making water for those in the facility before stepping into their conference room and seeing the large man staying out of the discussion. She was a frightened of him but thought that she'd do something nice for one of the men who saved their lives.

"E-excuse me!" She approached, catching the Berserker's attention as he opened his eyes and stared at her. "Y-you can have some of you'd like!" She held out a glass toward him. Hercules simply stared at her for a moment, making her nervous, as though she had done something wrong. Then he took the water and downed it before handing it back.

This was followed by the Greek servant raising his massive arm, terrifying her further, only for her fears to be unfounded as all he did was pat the young girl's head.

"Y-you like it?" She smiled. "That's great! I know it's just water, but I try my best! Hold on, let me make you some more! A big person like you could use more, right?"

Ritsuka and Mashu watched as the little scene unfolded. "You know… he's supposed to be a Berserker, but outside of battle, he ends up being pretty laid back, huh?" The former stated with a small smile.

"I think he's been able to retain more of his sanity than his madness enhancement would lead one to believe," Mashu agreed. "I think it's a good thing; I was a little worried about how he might react to his surroundings, but then you see him with that girl; seems like he'll get along with everyone just fine!"

"I can never get used to him for some reason…" Romani sighed.

The door opened shortly after with Kamijou Touma walking inside with Index at his left and Othinus on his right shoulder. There was a splint attached to his two broken fingers to aid in their recovery, but honestly, they were just shocked that he still had an arm to begin with.

"Sorry I'm late; washing my hands is a little bit difficult right now…" He joked.

"Honestly, you should be counting yourself lucky you have a hand to begin with!" The doctor fired back. "You running out to intercept Lu Bu's Noble Phantasm scared the crap out of me…!"

"I told you Imagine Breaker's quality was first rate." Othinus crossed her arms.

"As if I could take the whole 'it can stop an attack capable of ending the world' thing seriously without an actual example!"

"And you call yourself a mage."

"And now you're looking down on me!?"

Touma rubbed his neck. "Relax; she is like this with everyone but me."

Still, Romani couldn't help but groan. "Talk about favoritism of the gods…"

"Anyway," The spiky haired teen closed the door behind him. "What'd I miss?"

"Hector dropping a tad bit of a truth bomb on our Skill-Out friends," The good doctor stated. "There's no idea when, but a follow-up assault is likely. One of Solomon's Demon Gods hanging back and waiting to be killed seems pretty out of character, especially when you consider just how important of a role Sabnock plays."

"Yeah, I bet the guy tied to all of this is probably pretty pissed," Medb agreed. She had been sitting at the table but had since moved to join the more casual crowd. "That Hector is pretty wise. With a commander like him around, I don't even need to lift a finger."

"Right; it's more because your whole army got chewed through, isn't it?" Cú remarked.

The pink haired queen deadpanned. "You say that like I could have done anything about that bulbous blowhard."

"…I mean, yeah," The blue lancer rolled his eyes. "Theoretically, any one of us could have done something, but it was pretty liable to get us killed, and since we really need everyone for this to go off without a hitch."

"My point exactly; there was little point in defeating such a foe if he took one of our number down with him."

"I think we can save the wise cracks at each other's expense until after we've dealt with the one doing all this summoning business…" Touma deadpanned. "As much as I enjoy the back and forth, it's not really helping…"

"Ugh… fine, I'll work with him, but I don't have to like it." Medb crossed her arms, no looking particularly happy.

Cú shrugged. "I'm not digging it any more than you, but he has a point. Was waiting for you to turn tail or betray someone… but it seems like you're pretty straight and narrow this time. Color me shocked."

"And why would you automatically assume that?"

"You got me killed."

"…I mean, you're not wrong, but it's called forgive and forget for a reason, right?"

Othinus' brow furrowed. "I don't think murder qualifies for that, skank."

"…I don't have to behave when it comes to her, right?" Medb pointed at the tiny magic god.

"I'm not touching that one with a ten foot pole; you two go nuts," Touma's shoulders drooped a little. "I need to choose my battles carefully; as long as it doesn't come to blows, I'm staying out of it."

Cú smirked. "Least he knows a lost cause when he sees one."

"Master," EMIYA suddenly materialized in the room. "With the dispersal caused by the battle, I was able to scout the area properly. It looks like there is at least one intact road capable of leading us to the summoning pit. As the sun goes down, the creatures are getting more restless. As such, I strongly advise moving out before dusk."

"We intend to," Ritsuka answered with a nod. "Hector; how likely is it that this place will be hit by a second attack?"

"I'd give it an eighty to eighty-five percent chance," The Trojan lancer remarked. "There is a possibility of him pulling his forces back to serve as a defense, but more than likely, he'd be more interested in hitting this position. A lot of people took damage, so this Demon God might be anticipating us hanging back to recover properly."

"Attacking while your enemy has yet to recover is pretty smart," Robin Hood nodded. "So, he marches on us only to realize the residents he wants to put down are gone and knocking on his front door?"

Hector grinned a little. "That's my idea. It'd work best if we had someone to hang back and defend the place to help sell our little ruse," He stated before looking down at the map. "They'll likely march toward us directly; possibly even sending wyverns or dragons at this place… maybe it'd be best if I hung back for the defense then."

"Nah, you go on ahead. I'll stay behind and give them something to think about. Dragons are dragons, but they aren't immune to poison, right?"

"You sure?"

"You bet," The green man nodded. "There are two things I'm good at; pissing off lords and helping the less fortunate. Sure sounds like me hanging back here will tick both of those boxes. Plus, these guys seem right at home with underhanded tactics and the like."

Hanzou shrugged. "I keep caltrops and bunches of little tools here and there if needed; we do fight dirty."

"See? Just my kind of people!" Robin chuckled lightly. "The one who's been a bit of an odd ball around here is you, Hector."

"I suppose so!" The aged servant remarked. "Oh well; I have a bit of a thing for defensive battles, so it just felt right. But you do have a point, I suppose."

"Yeah, and I'm not the best front-line fighter, anyway. Let me set up these guys to handle whatever they throw at us; you put that unbreakable lance to work, alright?"

"Fine, fine; you got me. We really should put our people where they work best," Hector conceded. "To have this work how we want, you're going to have to withstand the full brunt of the enemy forces, alright? We're going to have to make sure they're convinced we're all still there when we strike."

"We'll make something work. We're the bait for luring out as many of the monsters as we can, right?"

"Don't say bait; that makes me feel like a bad person."

"There's no point in sugar coating it." The green Archer shook his head. "To lay a trap, you need bait. Once most of their troops are away, you can march on the enemy position, right? We'll take on as many as we can before signaling you to engage… if that's fine with you lot, of course." Robin turned to Hanzou and Hamazura.

"We're mostly refugees; I don't like the idea of playing the role of a tasty snack," Hanzou crossed his arms. "…What do you think will happen to all the monsters once you take the big bad out?"

"They'll either disappear or they'll turn on each other," Romani answered. "If you can hold out until we deal with the Demon God, then they'll likely take each other out if they don't outright vanish from Academy City. You might even see some of them go wild as Sabnock loses control while fighting us."

"Fucking hell," Hanzou shook his head. "Damned if we do, damned if we don't, huh? Fine, we'll be bait. Just don't take too long, ok?"

Robin Hood nodded. "Don't worry; I'll be with you every step of the way."

"When we strike, Sabnock will likely try to recall at least some of his forces," Hector added. "It might get a little easier when we make our move; you just need to survive to see tomorrow."

"Don't need to tell me twice," Hamazura agreed. "I'll get my Power Lifter and see what I can do with it," He then turned his attention to the Chaldea master. "You; what's your name?"

"Fujimaru Ritsuka." He answered.

"Right; I'll be sure to remember that," The blond put his hands into his pockets. "Talking the boss out of jumping into trouble is like trying to stop a bullet train with your bare hands, so I'll just say this: Keep an eye out for him, alright? He's a friend, and one who likes to find his way into trouble. I'd like to be able to say hi to him once in a while and I can't really do that if he gets put into a casket."

"You don't have to tell me that; I have every intention of making sure everyone comes back alive. That includes him."

Hamazura smirked a little. "Well, that's all I had to say then! You seem like good people, so I'll trust you… for now."

"You make it sound like I'm trying to die!" Touma argued.

"Sometimes I think you are, damn it!"

Mashu smiled. "It seems like Kamijou-san has made quite a few friends during his time in this city."

"Friends in high places, too; who would have thought we would have encountered one all the way out here," Romani commented with a light chuckle. "With Robin Hood running defense, we'll likely be able to hit the enemy without too much concern. We just need to figure out how to actually lure out Sabnock so that we can put him down."

"I don't know about that, but I have a good idea for an opening gambit for our assault." Hector stated.

"Oh? What's that?" The doctor asked.

In response, the Trojan jabbed his thumb toward the seated Heracles.

"We just have him reenact a legend or two. No big deal, right?"


By the sounds of their radios, the attack on Skill-Out base had begun. Chaldea and company was still on their way to their position, but few could ignore the sound of gunfire and the occasional explosion.

"We're still on route; how's it looking?" Ritsuka asked over the radio line.

It clicked on, but a second explosion interrupted the reply. "Pretty par for the course. A lot of the monsters from earlier are leading the charge, but they did bring wyverns this time. No sighting of a dragon or anything like that just yet though."

"Can you still hold out?"

"Yeah; we still got time. You lot better hurry though; we're not exactly swimming in ammunition!"

The line cut out from there, likely so that he may engage in combat himself. They had been moving along the street, but upon a few sightings of more creatures using their route, they opted to move through the buildings along the road. A few walls were easy for a Servant to cut through, but they were careful in examining each structure though before entry. Most of the dens that had been carved out were empty; it looked like nearly every monster was commissioned for Sabnock's attack.

However, this tactic had certainly slowed them down. Servants could phase through buildings, but the humans could not, and they avoided rooftops out of risk of an enemy flyer spotting them. Things would have been easier with an Assassin on hand, but all parties lacked one.

As they moved, they kept a close eye on the radio frequency they were using. Calls for help and ammunition were rising quickly as more of the enemy reached their front door. No injuries yet, but the tension was mounting, as it'd only be a matter of time before the full brunt of the monster army would smash into Skill-Out's active headquarters.

"You made use of your poison yet, Robin?" Hector asked this time.

"You bet; we're doing what we can, but I can only fire off so many Noble Phantasms, you know?" He was panting by this point, feeling the strain. "You folks there yet!?"

"Nearly; how urgent is it?"

"You know how we both agreed that a great-big lose condition here was them getting inside?"

"Yeah?"

"It's that urgent!"

Hector scowled a little; they didn't last as long as he would have liked. "Alright; I think we reached the point of do or die. Everyone remember the plan?" A collective nod went around the room. "Alright! Master of Chaldea; this is your show now!"

"Understood," Ritsuka nodded. "Alright! Do your thing, Heracles!"

The group stood clear as Heracles suddenly materialized with a roar and ripped through a concrete wall like butter. From there, he charged out to meet the nearest enemy, a beastman, and crushed him in only a single blow. The reaction was immediate as more monsters from the surrounding area began to pour out and break off from their own routes, only to be abruptly ended by the Greek Berserker. Once he had sufficiently culled the monsters brave enough to assault him, he began running full speed toward the summoning pit.

Their plan was to have Hercules go on a rampage through enemy lines while they followed close behind in the shadows. The end goal was to lure out whatever kind of insurance policy Sabnock had waiting and take it out in a surprise assault to force the Demon God to confront them directly. Without his legion, Sabnock would have to fight back personally or risk being picked off while in his pit.

This would disrupt his control, and once he was defeated, one of the three major factions in Academy City would be destroyed.

For a time, it looked like Sabnock did not intend to halt their advance; the creatures sent to their doom by the hands of the son of Zeus were mostly pitiful; just enough to be a distraction and slow them down, but far too little to actually stop them. There was a sudden ambush of Chimeras, but Heracles brought them low easily.

"…I never got a golem to hijack…" Index pouted a little.

"Sorry for getting your hopes up!" Da Vinci chimed in. "I was sure he might craft some to defend himself at least, but it appears Sabnock prefers fleshy things to command over hulking walls of stone."

Robin chimed in over on the radio. "Hey, we're not seeing too much of a reduction over here! You started your attack run, right!?"

"Sure did; the big blowhard is skimping on his defenses," Hector answered. "We're almost to the pit itself though; we'll see how he reacts when we knock on his front door."

"Well, make it snappy! Wait too long and we'll have to resort to plan B, and I don't think everyone's walking away from plan B if you catch my drift!"

They pressed on, and while enemy resistance increased, it still felt like their opponent was low-balling their possible strength. The summoning pit itself gradually came into view; a large massive hole that looked to have swallowed up several blocks, laden with rubble throughout its expanse. It reached out and road along the wall surrounding the city, but it was difficult to tell if that was on purpose or if they couldn't breach the wall for whatever reason.

What was very clear was its distinct and eerie glow and that monsters were still creeping from it at a rapid pace.

Heracles continued to rip through the enemy offensive line nearly unopposed. Amidst this, a thick mist began to wash over the street, followed by undead skeletons rising from it to attack the Greek Berserker. They were dispatched with ease, as one would expect, but the road was starting to flood with the dead in much greater numbers than they encountered before.

"It must be Darius' Noble Phantasm," Mashu concluded. "With the destruction of his war elephant, I don't think he can call upon it again, but his army of undead loyalist appears to be just as raring to go as before."

"Yeah, but the bigger question is where exactly is he?" Medb asked. "I know a man when I see them, and I see no man charging out there to join the battle."

"She's right; Darius has deployed his Noble Phantasm, but he is absent… very un-Berserker-like."

"Hold on, let me give it a go," Romani pitched in with a search on Chaldea's own systems. "I have a signal very much like his close to the edge of the pit. He's currently not moving, so I don't know what he's plotting. I am getting a large energy signature inside the pit itself, though, but that could just be Sabnock."

"I suspect a trap…" EMIYA was already on guard. "Keep an eye on enemy movements, alright?"

"You got it; stay safe out there."

The group moved on as if nothing had changed. Darius the Third awaiting them gave an answer as to why Sabnock hadn't recalled more of his forces; there was no need when his support could summon an army of his own, after all. Heracles continued unabated; the skeletons proved to be little challenge for him as their weapons simply banged against his steel-like skin without leaving so much as a scratch. It got to the point that the Berserker simply began ignoring them and jumping ahead, seeking an early clash with the Persian king.

On his approach, Darius roared, something that Heracles matched. What the son of Zeus couldn't match however was the gigantic creature that flew up from the pit immediately after.

"I-It's a dragon!" Romani called out. "It's a red one too; one of the most dangerous variants! Sabnock kept it around for self-defense!?"

"That looks like their ace in the hole to me!" Ritsuka called back. "Let's go take it out!"

The group wasted no time springing to action, only to find the dragon focusing on them with a powerful fire breath attack to eradicate them in a single move. Touma raced out ahead, using his right hand to block the raging inferno, finding it rather competent at dispelling the assault as the colossal beast flew overhead.

"O-ok! So, I can deal with the area effect of the dragon's flames!" Touma looked a little worried that the widespread attack would somehow best his defense. "I might be able to take it out with my right hand, but I can't exactly fly, you know!"

"I got it!" Index turned to face the beast. " T.A.S.I.T.S! (Turn and slam into the structure!)" At her command, the dragon suddenly changed direction and dove right into the buildings on its right side, demolishing them and grounding the beast, although the tactic did spread enough concrete debris to block off their primary exit route.

"Alright; speaking honestly, who would be best to fight off a big, fat, fire-breathing lizard right now!?" Touma asked.

"Honestly, your nun seems like she's doing just fine!" Hector found it possible to chuckle. "Heracles is one of the best monster hunters around, and your right arm might be able to banish it, right?"

"Right; can you switch some targets around? Me getting close to that big blowhard is going to be rough, Spell Intercept or not!"

"Understood! Get those two some ancient Greek backup! Everyone else: We have one more Berserker to put into the dirt!"

The group split off from there. Heracles looked eager to trample over Darius, but a tap on his shoulder followed by a point from EMIYA was enough for him to understand. As he, Cú, and Hector ran ahead (Medb was reluctantly following up the rear of the three), the son of Zeus fell back to support Touma and Index against the dragon. All the while, more undead soldiers crept up from the ground. Mashu hung back to defend Ritsuka so their offensive Servants could unleash all their might without an ounce of concern.

The red Archer addressed the blue Lancer. "No possible civilians to worry about this time."

"You say that when before you shot an explosive bolt. You realize the irony in that, right?"

"What I'm suggesting is that the restrictions of dealing with his Battle Continuation will be much easier to ignore."

Cú raised an eyebrow, but quickly figured out what he was saying. "Alright, then let's wrap him up nice and quick!"

Touma and Index raced to the dragon as it pulled itself out from the rubble. " S.Y.H.I.T.G! (Slam your head into the ground!)" Index called out. As the dragon moved to breathe more fire toward them, it head suddenly drooped and smashed into the pavement with little fanfare. Index seemed proud of herself, but the beast lifted its cranium back up and shook it. To be more of a nuisance, she repeated her command. "S.Y.H.I.T.G!" However, this time, the beast didn't react. "…What? S.Y.H.I.T.G!" Once more, nothing. "S.Y.H.I.T.G! Come on, do it again, damn you!"

"Index; I just had a thought," Touma remarked with a grim look. "Your Spell Intercept only works on stuff under someone else's control, right? So, what would happen if Sabnock decided to release the big guy from his…?"

"…Oh." Index immediately understood as the dragon roared out again, this time much louder, indicating great anger. They could tell it was glaring at them.

The two immediately changed course and started running back as the dragon gave case. Touma would occasionally swing his right arm behind them as the lizard shot jets of flame at them. "I-is it just me, or does he seem especially pissed off!?"

"I think he heard your big and fat comments, Touma!"

"S-since when are dragons sensitive about their waistline!? Such misfortune!"

The dragon was growing even more irritated, seeing its fire repeatedly brought to a halt. Free from Sabnock's control, it could think for itself quite well, and decided that if fire wouldn't work, then maybe some of the scenery would. It swung its huge body around and smashed its tail into the structures on its right, flinging giant pieces of concrete at them.

Just as the large stones would make an impact and crush them, someone swooped in and saved the two, hauling them off in his large arms. The slabs of concrete hit and shattered against the pavement harmlessly, and both Index and Touma looked up to see Heracles baring his teeth at the dragon, but still carrying them both.

"…Hero…!"

"…Hero…!"

The two thought in unison as they realized the Berserker was their definitive savior.

With the other side of the conflict, EMIYA, Hector, and Cú fought their way to meet the Persian king. As they approached, Darius roared loudly and began to march toward them in full force. Medb had vanished, but they didn't have time to exactly search for her with a Berserker bearing down on them.

"Alright; let's see what you got!" Hector charged ahead first, swinging Durindana into the giant man. Darius met his lance with his two blades, putting a hard stop to the attack quite quickly. He was certainly weaker than Lu Bu, but that was a comparison between Berserkers; Darius was still a monster of physical strength when put up against any of the other primary classes, and it showed in him stalling Hector's swing with incredible ease.

Durindana's indestructible nature proved invaluable as the Trojan continued to trade blows with him. Were it any lesser of a blade, it would have snapped in two upon the first exchange; it could do little against his opponent's far superior physical strength, but it held strong against the giant's relentless assault. Darius was certainly gaining ground during their battle, but EMIYA swooped in Kanshou and Bakuya in a sudden attack from behind now that the Berserker no longer had a vast crevasse behind him. He turned to attack the red Archer, who quickly retreated, leaving himself open to a proper strike from Hector. The two took advantage of their opponent's lower agility to pepper his body with blows, but Darius' Battle Continuation and high endurance proved more than capable of shrugging off these injuries.

However, that skill would be put to the test as Cú raced in. His spear was glowing a bright red as he dashed toward his opponent.

"Gáe Bolg!"

He thrust his spear, and Darius managed to move to block it due to his announcement. Unfortunately for him, this was irrelevant.

This was not the Soaring Spear that Strikes with Death, no. This was the Barbed Spear that Pierces with Death. The act of thrusting his spear was a formality at best; in reality, Darius' heart had already been struck. Despite him reacting in kind, having just the narrow enough opportunity to block the spear, the fatal blow had already landed. For the true terror of this Noble Phantasm was that it skews cause and effect, putting the result of the action before the action itself.

As long as the possibility of the spear landing its mark existed, the spear would pierce the target's heart regardless if they acted to prevent it.

Thus, despite feeling the blow make contact with his axes, Darius did not see Gáe Bolg pressing against his weapons, but rather having snuck under them at an angle, piercing his chest and strike at his spirit core. Cú ripped the spear out and withdrew quickly; while piercing his heart, or his spirit core rather, was a fatal blow, he had not yet perished. He continued his rampage, trying to get revenge, but that earned him blows against his legs from Durindana, limiting his mobility. Trying to react to that earned him blades piercing his arms, restricting his reach. Unlike Lu Bu, he held onto no armor, and thus his soft flesh was easy to cut and damage.

This continued for some time, but not until his final breath did Darius the Third stop fighting; just as he did when faced with Iskandar, the King of Conquerors. When he eventually started to fade, even has his body turned into ether, he still swung his axes with every ounce of strength he had. To fight until your body failed you was an admirable way to perish, they thought, even if he was their enemy.

Ritsuka and Mashu knew what had happened when the undead soldiers suddenly stopped spawning and vanished; the second Berserker had been felled.

The fight with the red dragon was not going anywhere near as smoothly, however. With Spell Intercept rendered useless, this left Index as a sitting duck if Touma were to leave her side due to the dragon's fire breath. Heracles did a magnificent job in attacking the creature, proving more than powerful enough to knock it around and give them a moment to fall back, but the beast's ranged options precluded them from their win condition; Kamijou Touma smacking the oversized lizard upside the head with Imagine Breaker. They were sure that Heracles could kill it if given time, but time wasn't exactly on their side.

"I got her!" Mashu ran over now that Darius was dealt with, stepping between Touma and Index. "I'll keep her safe! You see what you can do about the dragon!"

"Trust me! I've been trying!" Touma stated before taking off.

With Index in the Shielder's care, Touma ran as fast as he could to reach the red beast while Heracles wrestled with it. He nearly died of shock when he saw the son of Zeus actually flung at him, taking a dive to avoid being struck directly. The Berserker slammed his arm into the ground to grind to a halt, growling as he did so. Then, he took off running full speed right back at the dragon for a second round.

But not without grabbing Touma by his left arm.

"H-hey! Wait!" He called out, but no reply came as his body flailed about like a ragdoll. Then Heracles began to spin. "S-seriously! Wait! I'm getting Daihaseisai flash backs!"

Then, to be quite simple: Heracles threw the unlucky Kamijou like a spear.

"GURAAAAHHHHHHH!"

"GAAHAAHAAAAAAAAA!"

The former was the Berserker's roar, while the latter was the sound of the helpless boy that was chucked into battle. The dragon looked up with a growl of its own, preparing to incinerate the hapless fool when the road below the creature's feet was upheaved. Spikes suddenly shot from the ground, piercing the beast's feet and chest, proving to be a sufficient enough of a distraction. The origin of this attack was none other than Heracles himself slamming his massive weapon into the pavement with the concrete and stone being ejected a result of the shockwave unleashed.

With it distracted, Touma had an opportunity. He was careening toward the beast in a very vague way, but the position of the creature had him aimed at its head. With little else to stop him, he chambered a fist, threw a punch, and hoped for the best.

The dragon shattered like glass upon impact; its entire body splitting into bright shards that quickly vanished into the void with little trace that it existed other than the blood-drenched spikes that had once pierced its form. Touma breathed a sigh of relief; it worked out better than the Daihaseisai incident. He was starting to get that familiar feeling once again though as time went on.

He looked down and realized why. He was falling right on top of the blood-soaked spikes Heracles made.

"God damn it; how many repeats am I going to have to suffer through today!?" He roared, not being surprised by his predicament but not exactly enthused about it either. Just as he'd make contact, something grabbed him and landed a fair distance in relative safety.

When Touma opened his eyes, he was sitting on Heracles' right shoulder, the large man holding him in place with only a single arm.

"…Two times in one day, huh?" Was all he could comment with. All the Greek Berserker did was shift his head slight toward the spiky haired teen and give him a thumbs up.

With that settled, the two made their way over to Index and Mashu, who had been joined by Ritsuka. From there, they made way over to the summoning pit to meet up with the four remaining Servants. They appeared to have been looking for their fourth wheel, Medb, now that Darius was no longer a concern. Cú looked worried, though not for her safety; there was a notion presented sometime earlier that Queen Medb might actually have been summoned by King Solomon, and thus had no ties to the holy grail residing in the Windowless Building, making her going missing during the clash with the last guardian of Sabnock incredibly suspicious. Even if he wasn't around for this topic of conversation, the idea eventually caught wind and made its way over to the blue Lancer, and he found himself agreeing to the possibility.

Cú Chulainn was incredibly familiar with her tactics, and playing innocent only for a sudden double cross was certainly in her playbook. She made sure to not use Caladbolg since they arrived, only her soldiers; the most expendable thing she had on her person, which was another tell to him. He had been keeping a close eye on her antics, but he feared that he might have given her far too little benefit of the doubt. Of course, if she went off and died to other monsters coming from the pit, he wouldn't bat an eye, but he couldn't help but feel like that was unlikely; she was too smart for a fate like that.

"Damn it all… I gave her a pass because she probably wouldn't have been much help against Darius… but then again, Caladbolg could have one-shot that bastard," The Celtic hero cursed. "Shit; this could be bad…"

"How bad could her holding a contract with this Demon God be?" EMIYA questioned.

"That's the thing; I dunno. Might refill her soldier stocks or give her control of these things? Beats the hell out of me."

As the spoke, the rest of their group came rolling up. "What's going on?" Ritsuka questioned.

"Apparently our favorite queen as gone AWOL; didn't think much of it at the time, but her suddenly taking off doesn't leave the best impression." Hector shrugged.

"But she did make a contract with Master though…" Mashu argued.

"I know; that's why I gave her a pass," Cú remarked. "Now I'm thinking maybe that wasn't a good idea. Master, I know you can't recover them until we get back, but could you forcefully recall her with a command spell?"

"I could if we need to… do we really not know where she ran off to?" Ritsuka crossed his arms.

They looked around, not seeing a trace of her in the immediate area. Although…

"In that building over there!" Index pointed. "I think I see her fur coat hanging on one of the chairs!"

They found one lead on her whereabouts; her priceless white fur coat was resting on a chair inside an abandoned diner near the edge of the pit. Its foundation was shaky, but the structure itself was mostly intact. Then they noticed something else odd.

"Hey; where did the spiky one go?" Hector asked, scratching his head. Now it looked like Kamijou Touma was the one missing. This one was hard to explain away; Medb had the hots for him, and kidnapping wasn't outside the realm of possibility, but he had been right next to Heracles. There'd be no way to sneak past him without an Assassin, and Medb was no Assassin.

The group saw movement close to the edge; Touma was climbing out of the pit himself. After reaching its edge, he turned around and held out a hand, resulting in pulling up Medb right after.

"Hey, hey!" Cú called out as he ran over. "What the hell happened!? Where did you go!?"

"If you must know," Medb answered with an extra hint condescending. "While you brutes were manhandling the competition, I decided to go and investigate the pit a little bit. There's a great big seal at the very bottom; a great big bounded field that's solid enough to walk on."

"Really?" Romani remarked. "I'm having a hard time getting a reading down there due to all the activity. It's possible, but…"

"Then why was he pulling you out of the pit?" Cú wasn't convinced.

The queen rolled her eyes and sighed. "Alright, alright; I got stuck, ok?"

"…Stuck?"

"It was easy enough to get down, but climbing back up was more than a tad bit of a pain, especially with its current population. I picked a route up and it ended with me getting trapped with no way to climb higher."

"Then why didn't you just use spirit form!?"

"Don't get me wrong; I was going to, but~" She rubbed her shoulder up against Touma's own, making him uncomfortable. "This handsome young man decided to peek over the edge~"

The blue Lancer slammed his palm over his face. "Is there anything you won't do for tail!?"

"I mean, I won't put on weight. All those chubby-chasers can suck a fat one; Queen Medb is the definition of perfection just the way she is."

"I am irked by the idea that an ancient Celtic queen knows what a 'chubby-chaser' is and the phrase 'suck a fat one.'" Touma groaned.

"Summonings grant the summoned knowledge of the era, but that seems a tad… specific." Romani joined him.

She deadpanned. "If you think all I was doing while all you guys were having your big-fancy talks was just stand around and look pretty, think again. It's called a magazine; I have it in my coat." It wasn't hard to prove her right. It was likely that the queen had taken off her coat to avoid dirtying it in the pit.

"…I want it on record that these series of events acting as an explanation behind her bullshit pisses me off at a fundamental level." Cú was not pleased. Not as angry as he was before, but still; not pleased.

"Ok, ok; I'll concede that you have some rational reasons to be suspicious of me."

"That's the biggest understatement I've heard all day."

"BUT!" She spoke over him. "I know the barrier that's preventing us from smacking around a Demon God. If you'd like, I'll use Caladbolg to get rid of it for you."

Romani perked up. "Could you?"

"Yup; I'd say have the Archer use his, but his variants are subpar when compared to the real deal. It's either my Caladbolg or Cú-chan's Gáe Bolg; those are the only ways you're breaking into it. It's a pretty hardy barrier, so it'd probably soak up all his mana to bust it," She paused for a moment and put a finger to her chin. "Well… maybe Hector's lance too, but that's beside the point I'm trying to make here; same situation, different Servant."

"I mean… that's not incorrect. Moreover, her primary combat prowess is-!"

"Finish that statement and I'll shove it up your butt and twist it."

"I-I mean this would be the best use of the great Queen Medb's talents!" Romani quickly corrected. It was already understood that Caladbolg was her one direct offensive option, but directly stating it was forbidden as far as Medb was concerned. What was being said was that the blue Lancer would actually hurt their offensive capabilities if he were suddenly drained of mana, but her using her one ace in the hole would be nowhere near as devastating. Of course, she could use Caladbolg on Sabnock, but if the Demon God had a counter, they'd likely be put into an unwinnable position.

"So, what you're telling me is that you're willing to turn yourself into a dead weight if it means we trust you?" Cú questioned.

"I'll even keep the little nun out of harms away; god knows if she'll be helpful against a Demon God, right?" She answered.

"…Master; she might actually have a point," He called out. "You decide; if you leave it up to me, I'll probably do something we'll regret."

Ritsuka eyed the pink haired queen, and then looked back at the summoning pit. "…Medb; are you sure Caladbolg will break it open?"

"If it can't, then we're screwed; we might as wall call it a night and go home," She crossed her arms. "Kamijou-kun's right arm might also be able to do the job, but good luck shuffling him down there and back with him intact, especially if the big bastard pops out right away."

"I could try it I guess; maybe Heracles could get me out ok, but…" The spiky haired teen scratched his head.

"No; that's too risky," Ritsuka decided. "Medb; please destroy the barrier and keep Index-chan clear of the battle. I don't think it'll be a clean fight."

"Then let's get started then! The sooner this is done, the sooner we can head back, and I can have a nice, hot bath to get all this dust and grime out of my hair." She held her hand up and Caladbolg spawned in her hand.

"Someone's got priorities, huh…?" Touma crossed his arms.

"Of course! A girl has to look their best!" She stuck out her tongue. "And if you're feeling adventurous, you're more than welcome to join me in my private spring~"

"Shut up and swing the damn sword already! My whole body aches and I just want to go home!"

With her mandatory teasing out of the way, the pink haired queen unleashed the full might of Caladbolg, aiming it straight into the pit. The magnificent lights that fired from it didn't just strike the center, but rather engulfed the entirety of the chasm, burning away every single creature that had yet to climb from the hole. But that wasn't her objective; it was the bounded field in the middle that protected their target from harm.

With time, the attack ended. The reaction wasn't immediate, spreading some doubt, but before long the ground below their feet started to shake. In an instant, a large mass burst from the summoning pit, being large enough to nearly fill the entirety of it with its massive size. It looked like a horrific, branchless tree, with black skin-like bark and blood-red lines throughout, pulsing like veins. It had eyes, but they looked like crimson diamonds lining the entirety of its form, with another set every few meters up or so. It was thicker at its base, narrowing as it rose, but it was just as tall as any of the skyscrapers in the city, if not more so. Though it didn't completely fill the pit, a dark red mist filled the rest of the space with ease, looking like a toxic cloud that was an extension of its own body.

Then, it spoke.

"…Welcome, Chaldea," The giant, bulbous mass greeted them rather politely with a powerful, booming voice that radiated from its body. "I am Sabnock; I am the Demon God Pillar that represents the Chamber of Life. To what do I owe the pleasure of a direct confrontation?"

"Holy crap, the nun was right on the money." Hector whistled.

Index stared nervously at the towering form. "H-he looks a bit different than how he's depicted, though…!"

"Depictions change over time, and some are altered to spice up stories of the old world, young one. I am indeed Sabnock; need I recite you my number?" It replied rather casually, despite its imposing form.

Ritsuka stepped ahead. "I am here to stop you and your master's plan; why else would we have come to see you personally?"

"I suppose that makes sense; we are enemies destined to fight and only one may walk away alive, be it here or if you somehow make it to the Throne of Time. But I ask thee; is that your only reason? Is hatred of my lordship and his goals enough to bring you here to kill me?"

It was strange. The Demon God pillars had sounded more robotic than this; they were more akin to a system than actual living life form… yet Sabnock was speaking like a typical person. Perhaps its summoning here altered it somehow?

"No, it is not," Mashu confirmed. "We are here to put an end to the madness that threatens our world! If nothing is done, then these two realities will destroy each other!"

"Then why must we fight?"

"Huh…?"

One of the Demon God's eyes focused on Mashu. "Then why must we fight? We do not desire death and destruction for its own sake. Our lordship has a plan; a grand plan that the utter destruction of our world would greatly inhibit."

"Say's the one working for the Grand Caster trying to wipe out humanity! What are you trying to say!?" Ritsuka demanded.

"It is simple; fault in this cataclysmic war does not lie with the king of magic."

They were stunned. Even if the man known as Aleister held the grail, they had always assumed it was Solomon who started the conflict. But to learn the cause of the head of the city…?

"You're lying!" Mashu accused.

"I speak the truth; surely you've seen signs, yes?" The Demon God continued. "Servants in defense tied to the grail, requiring us to supply our forces directly. The power of it pangs from within his white fortress; surely you have seen it! This land was never meant to be a singularity!"

Ritsuka was taken aback for a moment. "But then…!"

"Yes; it is true. The man known as Aleister Crowley is behind this. If you wish to resolve this incident, then our goals align perfectly! To resolve this singularity is to do King Solomon's will!"

"Why are you telling us this…?" Mashu argued.

Sabnock remained passive as it spoke. "It is simple; the enemy of my enemy is my friend. The death of our side is just as impactful to us as it is to you. Our fight might be destined, but that day does not necessarily mean today, Chaldea. In return for your support, I shall personally see to it that you return to your home unharmed, even if my brothers disagree. That is the deal I offer onto you, my enemy; if your goal is to save our world, then we should, nay, must ally against this foe as brothers in arms!"

EMIYA blinked. "I'm not sure if he's serious or a complete whack job…"

"I assure you, I am deathly serious, Heroic Spirit. If I genuinely wished you harm, we would be battling now instead of conversing. I will submit to any test you provide; I'll even sign a contract under you and allow you to force me to do so with your master's command spells if you'd find such appropriate."

That was a very notable bargain the Demon God had laid out before them. It was true; if it wanted a fight, it would have given them one already. And being willing sell itself to Chaldea's service, even if temporarily, was an incredibly valuable chip to bet on them believing it. To be quite honest; it didn't seem like Sabnock was lying at all.

However, Ritsuka couldn't help but shake the feeling that this wasn't all to it.

"…What about the people of this city?" Touma argued. "You've been sending monsters day and night to harass and kill them all!"

"It is not a decision to be made lightly," Sabnock argued. "You must understand; it is our world or yours. If one side does not annihilate the other, both will be irreparably destroyed."

"Even still-!"

"It is not us that throws the people of this city into our attempts to break into that accursed structure; it is he who resides with its walls! Had we been able to invade it directly, none of this would have been necessary!"

The idea of "us or them" didn't sit with the Chaldea master. It caused a pit to stir in his stomach; it felt rotten. Despicable. The very idea of that…

He refused to accept it. Even if this Demon God spoke the truth, the idea of killing off this world to save his own made him disgusted with his very existence.

"No deal, Sabnock," Ritsuka spoke firmly. "Not like this; I refuse to condemn this world for ours!"

"It is but one city, Master of Chaldea!" Sabnock argued. "We have no interest in the rest of this world; only one city and one man must fall for us both to be saved!"

"That doesn't matter! The moment we openly attack and kill innocent people is the exact moment this entire campaign becomes meaningless! We're here to resolve this singularity and save both worlds and as many people that live in them as possible!"

"Even if you cause the death of both!?"

"That is a risk I intend to take; we will find a way to stop the attack on this city and save its people! We know where the grail is; it's not going anywhere. Once you and your brothers are dealt with, then we shall resolve this singularity our way. You speak of deals, Sabnock? I'll offer you one of my own; retreat from this place and we won't have to tarnish the reputation of the esteemed Demon Gods of King Solomon by putting you all into the dirt!"

Sabnock was silent for a while. It was as though he couldn't fathom his deal being refused and it took time for it to reboot.

"…Very well, you shall have your battle, Chaldea!" Its eyes shone a bright red as energy spiked. "In the name of the seventy-two Demon Gods, I will preserve that union we share with every ounce of my power! Prepare yourself!"

The light in its eyes turned from red to yellow for a moment. As they did, a series of yellow beams of light rained down from the sky on all those who would oppose the Demon God. The attack was hard and fast, but not impossible to avoid. Medb grabbed Index and ran for it, just narrowly dodging the assault, with the other Servants moving in kind. Touma raised his right arm, finding the individual beams large enough that doing so was enough to block the attack.

"Hah… is that the best you got you big blowhard!?" He taunted. This proved to be the teen's undoing as a much more powerful red beam erupted from one of its eyes, forcing him to block it with his right hand once again. It was a continuous wave of energy, and despite Imagine Breaker, he was starting to be pushed back as it was overwhelmed.

Imagine Breaker had two weaknesses. One: It only worked on the supernatural. And two: It had a fixed rate of negation that could be overtaken by attacks pumping more power than it could deal with, or entities that could regenerate faster than it could nullify; it reduced all values to zero, but only could reduce so much to zero at once. This was the former; so much energy was being unleashed at such a rate that it was akin to a rampaging tidal wave. Touma struggled to keep his hand up, as the attack's intensity was enough that it started to cut and burn at his palm.

The assault was interrupted by EMIYA who fired Hrunting into the responsible eye. "Don't get complacent because you deflected a single attack!" Though the attack halted, the eye quickly regenerated from the blow and shifted focus to the red Archer and shined yellow again, bombarding him with another arrangement of lights. He was quick to avoid the attack by diving into one of the structures and using it as cover. "Master! Your orders!?"

"You ask that as if I'd order anything different!" Ritsuka was protected from the assault by Mashu. "Everyone! Engage and defeat Demon God pillar Sabnock!"

"Alright; let's get this show on the road!" Cú spun his spear and charged ahead, jumping over the seemingly toxic gas and stabbing his spear down into one of the Pillar's eyes, blood gushing out from the blow. It healed quickly, firing an attack directly to force the Celtic hero off when it was back to full capacity. He managed to clear the pit surrounding his opponent, and was quick to jump back on, this time stabbing into is black skin and hanging on to set up another assault. The Demon God launched its aerial attack, causing Cú to retreat before a second significant strike proper, although it did cause the barrage to rain on its own body, causing damage. The inflicted wounds healed quickly, and in moments it was though Sabnock had never been injured.

Hector tried for a similar tactic but was forced back much quicker due to the focus of the Demon God pillar. It seemed that it knew full well Durindana's reputation and did it's best to keep the Hero of Troy away as much as possible, firing focused attacks to keep him off its body. He shifted his weapon to a sword and swung his blade into each one, managing to reflect the attacks right back into Sabnock, causing large chunks of it to be blown apart.

The wounds healed, but Touma kept a sharp eye on it. Its recovery was fast, but not too fast.

To clarify, its regeneration was nothing in comparison to the output of the attack that overwhelmed his right hand.

"Hey! Hector!" He called out. "How long do you think you all could hold this guy off!?"

The Trojan man deflect another attack before replying. "We got plenty of fight in us; why? Got an idea?"

"A dangerous one that involves me punching the bastard in a blind spot! I just need a bit to get into position!"

"If you're sold on it, make it happen! We'll cover you!"

Touma nodded and took off, running into the nearest building. Sabnock attempted to intercept, but its focus was driven away when Heracles suddenly jumped up onto the Demon God and drove his weapon into its body. From there, the Greek Berserker dug into Sabnock's tower-like frame with his bare hands, ripping chunks of flesh and tossing them aside with fervor and abandon. The gas suddenly shot up, forming into a hand that moved to grab Heracles, but he ripped his weapon free and dove for one of the lower eyes; stabbing his blade into the creature and quickly jumping off before the substance could ensnare him.

EMIYA kept fighting from a distance, sniping the creature's eyes with powerful but low-cost bolts to attempt reducing the behemoth's offensive capability. An invisible strike slammed into his stomach, burrowing a hole in him before he could react. Ritsuka was quick to take notice, casting a healing spell on the red Archer at just the right time.

Servants were only as good as dead should their spirit cores be punctured, after all. As long as their brain and heart remained intact, even ordinarily fatal wounds such as that were manageable. Sabnock focused attention back on Ritsuka as Mashu acted as a barrier between the two, but Cú's red lance suddenly streaked across its vision and ripped one of its diamond eyes asunder once more.

"Hey! The only one putting holes in that bastard is me; you got that!?" The Celtic hero spun his spear like a buzzsaw as he slammed it into the remains of the eye, causing even more damage before another barrage of light forced him away. The damage was significant, but once more it healed back to full with little fanfare. It clearly had a lot of mana to use as it healed itself; the assumption of Sabnock hooking itself into the area's ley lines was starting to sound likely as it began its assault anew.

Touma had a plan to trump this, though. The cover the others were providing allowed him climb the building with impunity, reaching the rooftop rather quickly. Just jumping from the base level could have been fatal, as he'd fall right into the pit and into the toxic gas, but from up above it was different. If it did nothing, he might be able to kick off from the monster and land safely, and if it worked, he'd have a decent amount of time available for any of the heroic spirits to catch him before he plummeted to his death.

Thus, once he reached the top, he ran and leapt off the building with a chambered fist, diving for the monster.

However, an eye shifted and caught him in the air, despite his attempt at escaping the Demon God pillar's sight. "Foolish mortal; your chance for salvation has already come and gone! Now, face my Incineration Ceremony!" A titanic red wave, even larger than the initial assault, exploded from one of Sabnock's eyes close to its backside; an area much harder for the others to approach due to its constant efforts of keeping the Servants at bay. Touma did what he could, slamming his right arm into the burning attack of heat.

He was shot up and forced off course, surviving the assault. But this came at a price; not only was he launched away, but Kamijou Touma's entire right arm was burned away in an instant.

"Kamijou-saaaaan!" Ritsuka called out. It was an event hard to ignore, considering Sabnock's declaration. He wanted to race out to him, but Sabnock tried to snipe him the moment he was out from behind Mashu's shield, pinning him down.

"There, you see!? Struggling against me is pointless!" The Demon God bellowed. "We act in the benefit of our world, yet you reject us! This is your divine punishment, Chaldea! I shall-!"

"I'm not…!"

Sabnock's attention shifted to the boy still in the air. It prepared a second assault, just in case.

"…Finished with you yet!"

The wound was burned shut by the Incineration Ceremony, but something ripped it open as it erupted from Kamijou Touma's shoulder. It almost looked like nothing, but the longer it remained manifested, its form gradually came through.

It was the head and neck of a dragon, completely white in coloration, physically not too unlike the one that they encountered earlier. Its roar was powerful, and its sudden appearance left the party confused, an unusual pressure washing over the area and settling on everybody who was there to witness such a phenomenon. Somehow, it seemed as if the beast above was forcing the entirety of its own existence down upon them. Even the hardiest of them had to at least gaze upon where it was coming from.

Then, it attacked. Its neck seemed infinite in length as it shot down with a howl, racing toward the Demon God below. Sabnock wasted no time in trying to assault the unusual entity. The attacks landed, sure, but the monster didn't even care, slamming its own maw into one of the Demon God's eyes bad biting clean through it in a single attack.

"Miserable beast!" The eye reformed quickly. "Fall before your forthcoming destiny!" An invisible shockwave rippled out, knocking the dragon back. The beast roared, but the Demon God was already onto its next move. The dragon's origin was no mystery; blasts of yellow light rained down upon the still airborne Kamijou Touma, making those around think that the dragon itself was holding Touma in the air somehow.

The attacks fell, but suddenly they turned white and shattered like glass. Not as if Imagine Breaker had nullified them; it was as though they had been turned into pure crystal and broke apart. The visage of another serpentine creature appeared, bathed in a pure holy light as its entire body looked to be made of angel wings. Those who followed its neck to its source found it to be Touma's stub of an arm as well.

Or rather, the blood flowing from the open wound. Somehow, the crimson elixir was actually transforming into the dragons themselves, and more appeared to spawn. One was pitch black, looking as though it was made of solid steel with devil-like horns aimed head instead of eyes, while another appeared light blue with a single navy eye with a torrent of water flowing from its mouth. The third was skinny, but with a visible skull-like visage with razor sharp teeth, and the fourth was a bright yellow that sparked with electricity with a single knife-like horn sticking from its face. The final set consisted of a crystalline beast, like sentient ice with jewel-like eyes, with its partner appearing as a raging bright red inferno with a bone-like face and similarly structured maw.

The dragons roared and charged, each one circling around to attack a different section of Sabnock. They tore through eyes and flesh alike with ease, only being slightly deterred by its attacks. Nothing short of its Incineration Ritual seemed to phase them as they tore the Demon God asunder. Despite that, Sabnock persisted, using every ounce of its power to struggle and combat the threat, even as they coiled around them. The toxic gas shot up in the form of limbs to pry the monsters off, but they simply attacked over and over again like a pack of rabid hounds being fed for the first time in days.

Ritsuka stood in the shadow of the clash in awe; was this what Touma meant when he said bad things happen when his arm is removed? What exactly were they to stand up to Sabnock, when another of their kin was put under the Demon God's foot so easily?

Suddenly, there was an explosion on Sabnock's body. "Now's our chance to put the bastard down for good!" EMIYA called out, readying another arrow.

"Don't hold anything back everyone!" Cú called out. "Now we got him on the ropes! Push forward and finish him off!"

Ritsuka snapped out of it. That's right; he wasn't a spectator. This wasn't over until Sabnock was dead. "Alright! One final push! Let's go!" Thus, he began casting spells to reinforce the fighting Servants as they charged again at the Demon God to put an end to the battle once and for all.

Hector decided to be a little cheeky and actually went for one of the dragons instead, jumping up to land on their infinitely long necks. He had actually managed to snag the lead one that first spawned, and he ran up to the head as fast as he could. He didn't know if the dragon knew his plan or was simply going for its own attack, but the head began to rise drastically before suddenly dipping to sink its jaws once more into the Demon God's flesh. Hector jumped off at this time, and once sufficiently airborne, just barely above Sabnock's massive form, he shifted his weapon to a lance and heaved it over his shoulder.

Flame jets ignited from Hector's gauntlet, as he used his other arm to line up the shot.

"You might be good at enduring our attacks, but this is one thing you aren't getting away from!" He started. "It won't fall apart, break down, nor bend! My spear pierces through everything without exception!" The fire intensified significantly, looking like a star in the sky. "Scatter them all! Durindana!"

Then, he hurled his lance with all of his might. It flew like a meteor fresh from the Earth's atmosphere as it raced toward the Demon God. It tried to intercept it; it genuinely did, but the onslaught of the dragons spawned from Touma's missing arm inhibited every attempt. The one eye that looked capable was suddenly ripped out of its socket by Heracles. There was truly nothing it could do.

"Inconceivable! Inconceivable!" Sabnock called out, desperation dripping from every syllable. "I can't die! I won't die! My lord; my precious, perfect lord! Please! Save me! Save me my king-!"

Durindana struck, the ultimate indestructible lance carrying enough power to cleave the Demon God in two. Its raw mana mixing with the lance's own caused a powerful explosion of light, funneled into the sky as a colossal tower. It was as bright as the sun, and even as dusk set in, the entire area lit up as though it were day as the light pierced the heavens. When the light faded, the only thing left in the pit was the lance that caused it all.

The dragons, their enemy felled, vanished without a trace. The pressure they imposed was gone, almost as if their only goal was rip Sabnock apart and nothing more. However, relief couldn't set in just yet; with the dragon's disappearance, Kamijou Touma was no longer hanging in the air and had started dropping when they did so.

"Ok, ok…! Gotcha!" For a surprise, Queen Medb dashed out to catch him this time, running up the same building and leaping out about halfway through. She tucked and rolled upon her landing; it was a lot rougher than Heracles due to her lack of physical ability, but she didn't hear him complain one bit.

In fact, he couldn't; Kamijou Touma was out cold. He was still breathing, thankfully, but he did look rather pale, a symptom of the anemia he had been enduring due to the loss of his arm. She was a little concerned about blood on her outfit, but she decided it was worth it.

She had picked him, after all; he couldn't die until he's fallen for her charms. Her pride ordained such.

Hector landed in the pit, but aside from a yelp of pain from a sudden impact, he seemed to be fine. "Gah… my back is killing me…" He climbed out of the hole with a grumble after retrieving his lance. "So, is everyone alright?"

"We're fine!" Romani let out a sigh of relief. "It looks like Medb caught Kamijou, and I'm no longer getting any readings in the summoning pit."

"So, that clears it up, huh?" Hector grinned. "Good to know it wasn't the case where he was the subordinate of the real one, right? Imagine a second fight right after this one!"

"D-don't you scare me like that!"

The Trojan laughed a little, infuriating the good doctor more. With time to spare, they checked the radio to see what it was like with Robin Hood, finding that their tactic worked as intended. The defeat of Sabnock didn't dispel the monsters like they had hoped, but nearly all of them turned on each other upon its death. The monsters did eventually breach their defensive line, forcing Skill-Out and the refugees back and causing the injury of a few, but for the most part, they made it out just fine. Right then they were trying to clear out the first floor and push out, and Robin was urging them to return and give them a hand, as it appeared that the soul eaters were winning and would become a problem very quickly if nothing was done.

It still felt like they had won, though. The Unholy Beast Core was undone, and that only left two factions left to deal with.

"…Wait!" Romani suddenly called out. "S-since when did dragons come out of people's arms when they cut them off!?"

"I was just about to ask that!" Ritsuka joined him.

Mashu nodded. "I think it saved us, but that was incredibly reckless of him! What if it had vaporized his body instead of just his arm!?"

"Barking up the wrong tree with that one; trust me." Index groaned. She was used to his antics.

"And he can't exactly hear you chewing him out," Medb walked over to them, carrying the unlucky Kamijou. "How about we load him onto your Berserker's back, put him on top of my chariot, and ride on back to see how those Skill-Out boys are doing firsthand, yeah? I just need to grab my coat and I'm good to go."

"I suppose we can give him a stern talking to later… almost killing himself for our sake isn't acceptable!" Mashu stated.

"I don't think him dying was in his plan, though. Honestly, everything we just did was pretty death-defying if you think about it!" Hector shrugged it off.

"Speaking of which, you climbed on of those dragons!"

"Oh yeah! My first time riding one! It was kinda fun; it's not too embarrassing for an old man like me to be living out some of his own childhood dreams, is it?" He chuckled.

Romani sighed; he did have a point about literally everything they just pulled being just as death defying in the long run. "Well, let's… hmm?" Romani looked through his monitor with a raised eyebrow. "Man, talk about over skilled. Good work with Kamijou-san, my queen."

"I mean… all I did was catch him." Medb shrugged.

"Really? No healing Noble Phantasms or skills?"

"…No? What are you talking about? If I could heal him, he wouldn't be so pale, you know?"

Cú raised an eyebrow at the sight with whistling. "Man… so the kid wasn't joking after all."

Medb looked confused until she stared down at the unlucky Kamijou in her arms.

For Kamijou Touma's right arm was back right where it was as if nothing had happened.


And there we are!

Some unusual things were touched on here, despite the focus on the climatic battle with Demon God Sabnock. Most notably, the notion that King Solomon's invasion was reactionary to the actions of Aleister Crowley. It's a bit of a thing that creates more questions than answer, isn't it?

Some people might be a little disappointed that the arrival of the Invisible Thing didn't end in a one-sided slaughter, but in this case, we land in a bit of a predicament. When the Invisible Thing appears, it either utterly destroys whoever Kamijou Touma is facing, or it is similarly utterly destroyed in return. Thus, gauging its power is fairly hard. So, in response, I crafted this little situation together.

A brawl between a God of Demons and the King of Dragons. Appearing somewhat even in raw strength, it provided the perfect opportunity to fell the nasty monster long before it could be decided which was superior. After all, Heroic Spirits aren't the type to stand-by and let the perfect chance to end the fight possibly slip through their fingers.

Oh... and one more thing before we go.

Another Interlude!


-Interlude: A Divine Meeting with a Humble Book-

The beasts were freed from their control, but that was not the same as them suddenly being particularly fond of humans. Even as they attacked one another, there were still plenty either on their own still on the prowl for their dinner now that night had fallen.

A single father ran with his two little girls. The man was of an average height, slightly balding, and looked like he didn't exercise as much as he should have, and his daughters appeared to be twins: They both wore simple green dresses that matched their eyes perfectly. The only thing outwardly common between them was their blond hair; some suggested that he adopted them, but he assured those who ask they just took more after their late mother, and all they got from him was just that. From the look of them, they were clearly from some place in Europe originally.

It was a rare case of a parent coming to Academy City with their children; the man was in his upper thirties, but the two girls couldn't have been older than twelve years. Now they were on the run, for a beast had sniffed out their humble home in the South-West part of the city. The father could only carry one, forcing the younger to run on foot herself or risk all three being caught.

A chimera howled as it ran after them. They had a sufficient head start, but the beast was gaining. It was almost like it was toying with them; moving just fast enough to keep them fearful but not so much as to end their game of cat and mouse. Despite having the ability, the snakehead did not attack from a distance at all.

It was a done in sport, and this small family was its prize.

One of the worst scenarios played out; the girl running alongside them tripped on a crack in the road and fell face first onto the pavement.

"Elza!" The father turned out. "Come on! We have to go!"

"P-papa…!" The fallen girl cried. "My ankle… my ankle…!"

His eyes widened in horror; if he had to carry them both, they would surely die. But at the same time, it was one of his daughters laying right in the middle of the chimera's path.

"Papa!" The one in his arms called out to him. "Put me down; I'll run so you can carry Elza!"

"You can't Marie! You've had a bad leg since you were born! If it comes to that…!"

It was a desperate situation; if he tried to carry them both, they'd die. But he absolutely had to carry Marie or she'd perish for sure; there's no way she could outrun such a monster.

"Papa…!" Elza looked up. "G-go! Go on!"

"B-but I can't just leave you! Not after I found you again!" The father called out.

"I'll be fine! You have to get Marie out of here! If you wait for me, then we'll all…!"

The father looked up toward the Chimera and then back down to his daughter, his own eyes starting to water. "P-please… please no, Elza!"

"Don't let her die! Please!" She cried out. "Please don't let Marie die because of me!"

That seemed to strike a chord with the father. He gritted his teeth hard, enough that it felt like they were breaking. And then, he turned and run.

"I'll come back for you!" He called back, unable to hide his tears. "I'll come back for you as many times as it takes, Elza! I swear!"

"No! Papa! Please grab her too! Papa! Papa!" Marie cried out. Eventually their voices and footsteps faded into the night.

The chimera had slowed down. Now, it prowled around its prey; the little girl known simply as Elza. So small, so insignificant; she'd never be able to fill that beast's belly. It'd chase the other two down once it was finished with its little snack. Elza eyed the beast is it stalked her, walking around as if it was trying to decide the most enjoyable way to rip her apart.

The girl's eyes narrowed; even with the beast right in front of her, there wasn't desperation in them anymore.

"You just had to rear your ugly little heads, didn't you?" Elza insulted the monster, causing it to pause. "We were getting along just fine, but then you just had to scratch your way through our front door! You flee-infested little gimp!"

The chimera roared; perhaps due to the parts it was made of, it fully understood the insults being slung toward it. It decided the direct approach was best and charged, and as it did so, Elza held out a single hand, as if doing such even stood the slightest chance of stopping it.

Then, a golden lance fell from the sky and pierced the beast's skull. It nailed it to the ground; with that much force, it must have been thrown, not dropped. Elza was frozen with confusion; what just happened? And as if to answer her question, its owner descended and landed on the beast's now lifeless corpse.

The man looked young and could likely pass for a student of the city were it not for his state of dress, consisting of golden armor on his arms legs, and part of his lower body, adorned with matching spikes. Curiously, his equipment did not cover all his skin, leaving most of it exposed. Most of his body was black in color, but only on his limbs and his torso with the exception of his bare upper torso; one could easily confuse the pigmentation for tights of some kind. The rest of him was a pale white, almost albino, and it matched his long, unkempt hair rather well. There was a red stone imbedded in his chest, and it shone a dark red, while his eyes were a piercing green with red marking just below them to act as an outline. To finish his strange sate of dress, two golden circular plates hovered just above his shoulders, and a long, flowing red fur-like cloth hung across his back partly attached to them.

The man took his golden spear out of the beast. "I trust there are no injuries to you?"

"Who are you?" Elza demanded. It appeared as though she could care less about the creature that had attacked her family. "No normal man could have felled such a beast with such ease."

"Indeed; creatures such as this would spell doom for any mortal man, such as the one you were accompanying."

"You were watching us?"

"I was curious if you'd reveal your true nature or not. It seems that I may have struck as you were about to do so; my apologies for… how you say… 'stealing your thunder?' I believe that is how the saying goes."

Elza pushed herself up. "You can see through this?"

"Partially; I can tell that the form you hold is not your own, or at the very least not what you truly are. I find myself curious; reveal your true form, and I shall reveal my identity as you requested."

"I have no reason to trust you, rouge Servant."

"Nor I you; I thought a simple exchange would help determine whether we are enemies or not. If you refuse, I shall be on my way, and you can return to your family as you see fit. Though I question how they'll react to what you really are."

The girl was perturbed. The man before her was throwing her for a loop; he was polite but came off as cold, yet a tinge of curiosity rose within her as he spoke. Thus, she decided to comply. The first thing to appear was a book; it read "Alice in Wonderland" and had a rather cartoony depiction of the characters featured in the tome on the cover. When the girl grabbed it, the rest of her changed in kind. Her form turned younger, though she remained roughly the same height, and her outfit took on the appearance of a Victorian era dress with a mass of frills and a looped skirt with a matching cap, although all of it was colored black. Her skin tone lightened; her hair turned white with the back tied into braids that extended down to the base of her skirt. Her eyes didn't change shape but turned a dark pink in color.

"Very well; I have shown you my true form. Surely your perception and tell which is the real me, correct?" The girl's voice changed too, growing a little higher pitched.

"There is little mystery… though I find it strange; I did not know a concept could form as a proper Servant."

"Your name, sir; like we agreed."

The green eyed man simply bowed lightly. "Karna; Lancer class Servant, son of princess Kunti and the sun god, Surya. At your service."

The girl using the name Elza was a little surprised; part of her thought he honestly wouldn't do it. At least the man was capable of honoring his word.

"I suppose I should thank you, even if your aid was unnecessary," The girl stated. "I could have defeated the beast now that they were free from harm."

"So, you fell on purpose?"

"Correct," The girl remarked. "They likely wouldn't understand me being… this."

"Your situation seems to be a precarious one, indeed."

"It is. I took that girl's form as a way to blend in with the environment; as much as it pains me to admit, Alice would stand out too much here. I never expected to meet her and her father in the city… much less that they'd assume I was the girl's twin sister."

"To latch onto you so quickly…" The Lancer thought for a moment. "…I assume that the twin you're emulating is no longer of this world."

She didn't need to reply. "Humans can be so pitiful sometimes; seeing me carry that visage was enough to convince them that I had somehow survived a tragic accident."

"People pray for miracles, and so few of those prayers go unanswered," Karna's spear vanished. "Sometimes, even if such an event of a loved one returning from the grave sounds too good to be true, they attach themselves to the idea out of desperation. To go as far as to fully believe you were her…" He trailed off for a moment. "…The girl must have been loved very much."

"…I agree," She replied. "And now I'm stuck here playing this role. I don't mind it much, but eventually…"

Karna smiled a little, breaking his cold persona. "Most Casters would simply erase their memories and be on their way or trick them into becoming pawns. You're playing the part for their sake, aren't you?"

"I know what it's like to lose someone important to you," The girl replied. "And the daughter… reminds me of someone very special indeed," She sighed. "…And you even saw through my class, did you?"

"As if many others could disguise themselves without a Noble Phantasm; the ease in which you shifted forms was the clue," The stoic man replied. "You need not tell me your true name should you not wish it; I shall trouble you no longer. Thank you for obliging my minor curiosity." He bowed again and turned to leave.

As he did though, the girl reached out and grabbed his hand. "…Nursery Rhyme."

"Pardon?"

"I am Nursery Rhyme. I am the embodiment of the genre loved so deeply by the children of England. I can recite you one from memory if you don't believe me; the pages of this book are just as much me as its cover."

"You give me little reason to question you, although…" He thought for a moment. "I am curious why the human form accompanies your true self."

"It's Alice."

"Alice?"

"Someone I hold very dear who is no longer with me."

He didn't question it further. "And are those people dear to you as well?"

"…What if they are?" Her grip on Karna's hand grew in strength.

"Then cherish every moment with them," Was all he stated. "Do not fret; I can tell that despite your form, you are indeed powerful enough to protect them. It does seem that my intervention here was indeed unnecessary after all."

"But can I do it without revealing myself to them…?"

The Lancer eyed her for a moment. "If such danger arises, simply call upon me and I shall arrive."

"You'll help me…?" Nursery Rhyme looked up with wide eyes. Karna nodded. "But why would you…?"

"There is no particular reason. It is something I wish to do. I see no reason why you should stain your pages with tears; there is no other cause for my actions than that. But that alone is all I need to make such a decision. Should you wish it, I shall lend you my aid, Nursery Rhyme. I swear on my father's name that I shall protect you and that family you hold so dear with every ounce of strength my spirit origin will allow. As long as I live, I shall see to it that you nor they come to harm."

The Caster's face lit up as she went from simply grabbing his arm to hugging his leg. "You'll help me! You'll help me! I'm so happy, I feel like I could sing!" She looked up to him with a beaming smile. "Karna-san~ Karna-san~ Nursery Rhyme is going to make a song about Karna-san!"

"You needn't concern yourself with me that much," Despite his flat appearance, the girl's affection was overwhelming him a little. She seemed like the type to grow attached rather quickly. "I think your family is likely worried sick about you through."

"Oh my! You are absolutely right!" She backed off. "He might actually come back here looking for me! I need to change back quickly!"

"How will you explain it to him?"

"Very simple; I shall tell the truth!" She grinned. "Elza was saved by a shining hero who really should wear more clothes! I'm quite good at telling stories!" She spun and took on the form of Elza once more. "I'll be off then! Take care, Karna-san!"

Then, she ran down the path the father had taken. His deed for the day done, Karna departed as well, heading north.

However, something was on his mind…

"…Is there something wrong with the way I dress?"


And there we are! I never said that all the interludes would be about those on both sides, did I?

So we've taken another look into the events elsewhere in the city, this time to a simple book who has found herself a family, and a Demi-God that has pledged himself to protect that simple book's smile. Sounds a little bit familiar, now that I think about it...

I hope you all enjoyed. Please, review at your leisure; I still enjoy feedback.

Have a good day, my friends!

Sincerely,
ArmoredCoreNineBall, your friendly (not)robotic (not)overlord (possibly)person who occasionally writes things.