[…Foolish King, it was never the sword that was the most precious.]

Arturia woke up with a start, instantly noticing that she was back in her room and feeling sweaty all over. Considering that she'd been tucked into bed after a workout, her present stickiness wasn't unfounded.

Beside her, Caliburn lay propped up at the foot of her bed in a sheath of blue and gold that wasn't there before.

A hand moved to cradle her head, a dull throb ebbing from behind her eyes.

Making a face, she dragged her body to the bathroom and took a quick shower. It was only as she was making her way down the hall back to her room that she took note of how bright the day was. As far as she could remember, it was late afternoon when she went training with Shirou.

It shouldn't be this bright.

Had she ended up sleeping through the night?

Gingerly turning on the TV, she affirmed her thoughts when the date was displayed on the news channel. It was Monday morning, and Kay's absence meant that he'd already left for school due to early club activities with Bedivere. Lancelot and Gawain were out for work since 5am, so it wasn't as if she was used to seeing them in the morning.

What she wasn't used to anymore was the silence.

"Shirou?" She called, making sure that Shirou wasn't just in astral form.

"Athena?" Again, no answer.

Neither of the two seemed to be present.

It's been a while since she found herself without divine company, and it oddly made her feel disappointed. A bout of loneliness assailed her, but she shook her head at the thought. She was being needy, which in all honesty was quite rare for her if at all.

'Get yourself together.'

She clapped her hands over her cheeks, washed up some more, and went through her morning activities. The only real divergence to her daily routine was her hesitation by the front door. She kept looking in the direction of her room where Caliburn had been left propped by the base of the bed.

Should she take it with her or not?

Recalling prior events, she'd fainted the moment that she'd touched it. Therefore, she didn't obtain training, and had no clue how to control the 'magic' it wielded.

It was a real magic sword! Not something from out of comics or novels, and it was all too surreal when she considered that it carried aspects of Merlin's creative work.

Could she bring it around like a normal sword? What if it shot a beam of energy at a random passerby when she wasn't paying attention?

Wouldn't that be murder?

She shuddered, battling with herself, but ultimately ending up walking back into her room.

Taking out a spare sword case, she deposited Caliburn inside before slinging the case over her shoulder.

She'd bring the sword with her, if only because she didn't want to trouble Shirou by being helpless. It was the first time he wasn't with her, and if she ended up proving herself incapable of handling her own, she feared he'd look down on her. The thought itself caused a pang of grief and sorrow to well in her heart, but she pressed on.

Plucking at the cuff of her shirt, she tried to sike herself while making herself orderly on her way to Jounan Academy.

Classes went by as usual, with nothing too out of place.

Ever since Athena and transferred and Shirou confronted Godou and Erica, Arturia had been left content to study without distraction.

Considering the supernatural occurrences that had befallen her everyday life, she couldn't help but grow wary knowing that Shirou wasn't around. It never occurred to her that she was already missing the warmth of his protection.

Arturia left Godou and Erica alone, and in turn they did the same for her in a sort of tacit agreement facilitated only because they weren't sure where Shirou was.

Of course, right now this was all a bluff. Neither Shirou or Athena were really with her right now, but she had to maintain her composure since she had something to prove.

Shirou could trust her to stay safe, to confide with, to…draw comfort from.

Her ears reddened, heat wafting up her cheeks and causing tingles on the back of her neck.

You can do this!

Straightening her posture, Arturia was determined to get through this day without any problems. In the worst-case scenario, Shirou had said that the Command Seals on the back of her hand could enable him to appear on a single call.

There was nothing to fear- except obviously unknown variables.

"My name's Mariya Yuri."

Arturia found herself stopped in the middle of the hallway at the end of the school day, just when she was trying to make a successful beeline straight home.

"Arturia Pendragon," she replied back stiffly in response to the classmate that suddenly accosted her. "Uhm, is there a problem?"

"A-Ah no no, not at all!"

The girl, Mariya Yuri, appeared innocent enough. She was wearing the brown and white collared Jounan Academy uniform with a matching skirt, but it seemed small on her with her shoulders hunched and complexion pale. She had long brown hair tied up at the bottom by coloured ribbons, and white cylinder clips over her squared bangs.

The look of surprise and worry in Mariya's brown eyes was what took Arturia aback.

Arturia would have felt a better impression from Mariya if the look on Mariya's face was directed at Arturia rather than the sword case on Arturia's person.

As it was, Arturia intuitively felt that there was something wrong with the interaction, and without Shirou or Athena around to help guide her on decision making, she chose to make a hasty retreat.

"A-A pleasure to make your acquaintance Mariya, b-but I have to go," she stammered out, turning and and powerwalking away before Mariya could even get another word out.

/-/

"Ah, no wait…" Mariya dropped the arm she'd raised to call Arturia back, but it was futile.

Evidently, Arturia wasn't going to listen.

Shaking her head, Mariya's chest rose and fell with her mounting anxiety.

First there was the situation with Japan's History Compilation, and now this-

"An Authority," Mariya whispered, her lips pursing before she clenched a hand over her heart.

Her eyes worryingly trailed the sword case Arturia had strapped over her back until Arturia rounded the corner and disappeared, but there was nothing to be done.

"I see you've noticed as well," a voice called out to Mariya in the now empty hall. "I dared not try to look at it in the middle of class, and Godou was practically clueless and thought it was just an ordinary sword case."

Mariya turned, and wasn't surprised to see the speaker.

"Erica Blandeli," Mariya called as Erica walked towards her from the end of the hallway opposite to where Arturia left from. "Did you need something from me?"

"Mariya Yuri. You're from Japan's History Compilation Committee, aren't you?" Erica asked, apprehensively. "Are you aware of what's happening with them? I can no longer get in contact with their higher representatives which is problematic due to a joint venture. I've kept a certain item with them for safe keeping, as I couldn't trust myself with it. However, they've suddenly stopped contact with me altogether. This is most concerning."

Mariya glanced away, her complexion pale. "A-About that. I-I was actually looking for you."

"Oh?" Erica mouthed, lips pursing from a sinking sensation.

"The committee is…it's under hostile take over," Mariya admitted unresigned. She bobbed her head, hands gripping tightly to the hem of her skirt. "The committee must obey or risk provoking the ire of Heretic Gods."

The more Mariya spoke, the paler Erica's complexion became until it was practically despondent.

No. No this can't be. Then the Gorgonian…

Erica staggered, unnoticed by Mariya who was too deeply lost in her grief.

"Only a Campione can defeat a God. I have dear friends and family members still inside the organization. T-The seventh Campione, can he-"

"It will be difficult," Erica interrupted helplessly, hands cradling her face. "I can hazard a guess as to which Gods likely attacked your organization, and brought it under foot, but that makes things even worse. Goddess Athena, and a God of Steel, yes?"

Mariya nodded.

Erica swallowed audibly, staring into Mariya's eyes as if she carried her last vestiges of hope within them.

"Without pinpointing the origin of the God of Steel, Godou has no chance of victory. It's why I sought you out for aid? You're a Hime-Miko..." she trailed off.

"I am, but what you're asking is impossible," Mariya shook her head, knowing that Erica was implying to use her power to glimpse the God's origin. "I've already tried and was bed-ridden for days as a result. Athena was easier to divine, but the other one…T-This is my first day back to the academy in over a week," she admitted. "A friend of mine who escaped the committee is taking refuge at my family's shrine. She may be able to help by praying to a patron God, but there's no guarantee."

Silence befell the two, each mired in their own thoughts and judgements.

With the situation as it abruptly was, Japan was effectively under the control of Heretic Gods.

This really was a horrid outcome.

"Might I make a suggestion?" Erica finally broached after a tentative moment.

"At this point, anything is better than nothing Ms. Erica," Mariya slumped her shoulders, desperate for any kind of solution.

Erica wet her lips, swallowing audibly before speaking. "I'm not certain of the backlash you experience as a Hime-Miko, but if it's to the extent of what you've described in this case, then maybe you were going about it the wrong way?"

"I-I nearly died," Mariya admitted, her hands trembling. "It was only a single glimpse, yet it felt as if that Heretic God's very existence would crush me. It was just an overwhelming jumble of Authorities that seemed to have no end or feasible common bases. A-Are you insinuating I try again?"

"Not quite," Erica shook her head guiltily, noting the terror glimmering over Mariya's eyes. "What I meant to say is different. Hear me out, but such determinantal effects occurred when divining the God in general, correct?"

"It's more of a focused sight called Spirit Vision if anything, but you can assume so…"

"Then what if you focus not on the God, but on things related to him?"

Mariya blinked in wonderment. Learning the identity and origin of a God didn't have to mean glimpsing directly at said God. Much can be learned in archeology and myth about a certain God from those that he or she interacted with or represented.

This was worth looking into.

"I will try," determination bled into Mariya's features when she considered what her friend, Ena, had told her regarding the states of the Committee's elders and Noble family heads.

Glancing around to make sure that no one uninvolved was nearby, Mariya took in a breath and gradually shut her eyes. A dim radiant aura formed a thin layer over her skin, and tufts of her long hair floated up in a breezeless wind.

When next Mariya opened her eyes, they were crystal in colour and appearance. There was a type of divine allure within them that could entrance all that gazed upon them. However, the mortal vessel appeared too frail.

Even if it wasn't a glimpse at the nature of this certain Heretic God, the indirect backlash from the God's relation alone was no joke.

Blood seeped from out of Mariya's nose, her knees wobbling, head tucking into her shoulders. She gasped, her chest constricting and making it difficult to breath.

"Ms. Mariya!" Erica acted immediately as support, steadying Mariya with both arms as she panted for breath.

It didn't take long before the aura around Mariya began fading. It was expected considering what may befall her if she prolonged her Spirit Vision against such a Heretic God.

Soon enough, Mariya was back to normal and panting desperately for air. Wiping away at the blood dripping down to her clothes, Mariya lost strength in her legs and could only allow Erica to find a remote place to set her down.

Erica ended up taking Mariya to the back of Jounan Academy's gymnasium, using a stack of gym-cushion mats for a makeshift bed.

"Anything?" Erica pressed desperately once Mariya's breathing evened.

Mariya weakly craned her neck up to stare into Erica eyes and gradually nodded her head.

"Merlin."

This single name was uttered aloud.

"We have to look for a Merlin."


If Athena were to specify whether or not she was pleasantly surprised or not, well, no one would be able to tell from her poker face. Just at the edge of her divine sense, and located within the confines of Japan's History Compilation Committee, a familiar feeling of resonance called out to her.

"So, it was here all along," Athena's eyes gleamed as she jolted upright in anticipation.

She and Shirou had just finished carefully depositing the petrified members of the magic association into a storage room where they wouldn't be in danger of cracking from mishandling. Perhaps when their control over the association was better cemented, Athena would consider breaking the Authority in order to earn loyalty, but not now.

Athena shut her eyes and focused in on where the resonance was occurring, and immediately she her inner sight revealed a decorative black box stored within the depths of the building. Magic formations and archaic script were sealing the fluctuations of power within the box, but now it could do little now that she was so close to it.

"There's a box on the basement level of this building," Athena said toward the pale woman standing behind her and Shirou.

The woman had red hair and wore a butler's outfit, unbuttoned at the top, and dress pants on the bottom. Overall, she dressed in the fashion of a man. However, her distinctly feminine curves, beauty, and appeal, ordinarily gave her a more tomboyish air. None of that was present at the moment.

Her name was Sayanomiya Kaoru, Heiress of the Sayanomiya Clan, and daughter of the woman Athena had petrified.

The young woman was stiff, features trained as she flinched from being addressed. However, beneath her shadowed bangs, were gritted teeth and balled fists.

Athena's features were monotone, uninterested. Therefore, her words came off as cold and unfeeling, promising punishment should they be disobeyed.

In contrast, Shirou had been more considerate from the start. Different from Athena, he allowed himself to be mindful of how he treated everyone else aside from the leaders who could rally a mutiny. With those people, he agreed with Athena to keep them frozen in stone for the time being.

In any case, Athena's voice was like thunder to the ears of the former subordinates of History Committee's higherups.

"B-Box?" Kaoru stammered, swallowing audibly. "I-I'm not sure what you mean."

"Oh, are you playing coy?" Athena drawled disinterestedly. "I suppose I could just get it myself. It saves me the hassle of trying to decide whether you'd just run away with it or not."

Kaoru didn't speak a word, but a cold chill travelled down her back. She really had been considering it. The fact that the Seishuuin Heiress managed to get away could mean that she too had a chance. Unfortunately, this didn't seem to be the case with Athena on high alert from the first runaway.

Rubbing at her arm, Kaoru felt a stifling sensation of helplessness as Athena left on her own.

"Here."

Kaoru startled as some object was tossed her way. Through skill and reflex, she was just able to catch it without complication.

A-A Bento?

Confusion was the first thing on her mind, then came the growl of her stomach. She looked in utter confusion at Shirou who tried to remain neutral, but ended up just appearing dorky instead.

"You're pale, and your legs are shaking. You've also been the one to prevent the lower wrung members of the association from panicking. However, no matter how hard you try to hide it, you're exhausted."

Warily Kaoru took a step back, unable to believe a Heretic God would be this considerate. Therefore, there had to be some sort of ploy? A food-based Authority? Hades and the pomegranates of the Underworld was one such Authority, but she doubted Shirou was Hades as Athena had never called Shirou 'Uncle.'

"It's not poisoned. It's really just food," Shirou clarified in the face of Kaoru's skepticism. "Try it."

"I-Is that an order?" Kaoru stammered.

"No. A suggestion," Shirou sighed, never too into playing the role of a villain. "For what it's worth, if I'd wanted to harm anybody here, we wouldn't be talking right now."

"You're just planning to harm us later. There's never been a case of a Heretic God that won't eventually lead to disaster…" Bitterness escaped Kaoru's mouth when she recalled Athena's frigid features.

"Then this can be the first." Shirou shook his head, and drummed his fingers on his crossed forearms. "Believe what you will then, but there's no need for you to act as a secretary. At most, we'll only ask to use your associates to gather information. At other times, you're essentially free to do as you wish. Or what? Do you think the moment you take your eyes off of us, a massacre would happen?"

"…"

Shirou shut his mouth, understanding that this really was what Kaoru and many human practitioners of magic expected from Heretic Gods.

"Alright, eat the food and go shoo," Shirou waved Kaoru off. "For what it's worth, I can promise you that no harm will come to the innocent or uninvolved."

"H-How can I trust that. It's not like you speak for your compatriot."

"I don't. But I'm stronger."

"-I resent that."

Shirou's brow twitched as Athena sent a divine transmission straight into his mind from somewhere inside the building. All this just to let him know her thoughts on the matter.

How prideful.

"She'll listen," he continued stubbornly, as Kaoru hesitated.

It wasn't as if Kaoru could do anything to Shirou or Athena, right now, anyways. A strategic retreat…it didn't sound so bad. Especially when she knew that she had to comfort and reorganize the members of the committee who were left leaderless.

Hesitantly, Kaoru ended up leaving the room, gaze alternating from Shirou to the Bento, then back. None of this was making sense to her; most of all the feeling that she could trust in Shirou's words: the words of a Heretic God.

She really must be going crazy.

Still, she was powerless without the backing of a Campione, and with her mother petrified in stone. Still, there really was no reason to stay any longer.

Pursing her lips, Kaoru carried the bento and left to consolidate what was left of the History Committee now under the jurisdiction of two Heretic Gods. Japan's future never seemed so bleak.

/-/

Standing on the roof of Japan's history compilation building, Shirou could sense the very moment Athena appeared beside him with an uncharacteristic smile on her face. It was radiant, pure even. For a moment, he'd lost the impression of how calculative Athena could be, and assumed her to be an innocent maiden.

He shook his head, and when next he regarded Athena, she had her normal impassive face on.

In Athena's hands was a black brocade box sealed with glowing sigils and runic archaic markings.

Inside the box was likely the goal of Athena's entire trip to Japan, meaning that from here on, all that was left was how to deal with external forces intruding into Arturia's life. Of course, this was the question that took the majority of Shirou's attention. They'd left her alone for a bit, but with this, she would surely be safe.

As Shirou mused to himself, Athena got to work and tried pulling the box open from behind him. Red crept up her porcelain neck, working its was into a flush of exertion. Her fingers kept digging in to the grooves of the brocade used to open it, but she kept getting repelled by snap zaps of magic energy. Worst of all, she'd used up too much of her Authority on petrification and maintaining her proud image upon the mortals of the history committee.

"Ahem," She coughed to get attention on herself before saying in barely above a whisper.

"I can't open it," she said, flatly. A great blow to her pride.

"Hmm," Shirou hummed, obviously too lost in thought to take the cue and missing the irked expression that flickered over Athena's face. She took a breath and held it in.

Walking up to stand near him, she expectantly held out the brocade with both hands.

With Shirou's back facing Athena, expectedly, he didn't see it as the bastard didn't bother to turn around when talking to someone.

Athena quickly deduced that Shirou was likely thinking about Arturia despite being in the presence of someone as alluring and beautiful as her. Her brow twitched in displeasure, weight shifting from foot to foot.

What? There was no way she was inferior.

"I said, I can't open it," Athena repeated, calling out louder.

"Oh, okay, then. Good luck with it," he answered vaguely.

A twitch formed directly over Athena's brows, a snarl nearly escaping her throat.

"Open it," she jabbed the brocade at his cheek in irritation, chin turning up as she huffed.

Feeling the pressure on his face, Shirou finally shifted his attention fully on Athena and took the brocade from out of her hands. Structural Analysis revealed a complex network of magic interlaced to keep the brocade sealed. No ordinary human could open it, let alone a weakened Athena. It was no wonder she couldn't open it.

It would be a pain to work his way around the various archaic scripts and binding magic, and therefore he didn't.

In his right hand appeared a jagged ritual dagger that had Athena blanking once more, as she gleamed its origin from Medea of Colchis.

Rule Breaker, the dagger of the witch of Greek mythology with the Authority to sever all contracts and magic bindings.

By this point, Athena was numb. Even with her mind and wisdom, she couldn't devise how Shirou possessed so many shared Authorities with the Greek Pantheon let alone the sheer number of them she'd witnessed in his inner world. Hence, she did the wise thing when dealing with the unsolvable…work with it. Besides, it was to her benefit right now, so what was the point in complaining?

With a click, the brocade's sealing locks severed upon contact with the dagger in Shirou's hand. Passing the box back to Athena, Shirou dismissed the dagger and stared at Athena.

Opening the box, a circular stone carving of a gorgon's face reflected in their eyes.

A small laugh escaped Athena's lips as she quickly took the Gorgonian into her hands.

Upon contact, both she and the Gorgonian began to shine, and meld together until they were both indistinct.

Raising an arm to cover his eyes, Shirou watched as the girl before him turned into a ravishing woman adorned in a white Grecian toga. A laurel of flowers was adorned over her now waist-length silver hair, the deep hue of her violet eyes twinkling. A golden circlet glimmered over her neck, wrists, and ankles. A blue sash around her waist securing her garment together.

"Well," she smiled serenely, overwhelming Authority exuding out from her. Like she'd expected, with her connection with Arturia as a Master, she didn't fall into the Curse of Madness and maintained her rationale. "Captivated, are we? Let me tell you, this is virgin charm as a maiden Goddess of the Greeks. I told you once before that Paris was blind, truly I am fairer, more slender, purer, and more stunning than the slut. I'll give you the honour of basking in my radiance as the one who now knows the gospel truth of what began the feud of Troy."

"Stop joking," Shirou said after a moment, taken aback by the level of Athena's present allure. Worse, he distinctly noticed that Athena's outfit didn't come with a bra to support her large bosom, forcing him to politely keep his gaze away despite the smirk on Athena's face.

She'd caught him blush.

"I'm definitely bigger than the girl, aren't I?" She pirouetted on her sandaled toes.

"She's still growing," Shirou replied automatically in his Master's defence. "Give her a few years, and she'll make even a Goddess envious."

"Bah, as if a child like our Master could ever catch up, but that's not important," a competitive gleam flickered across Athena's features as she diverted the topic. She set a hand on Shirou's chest, index finger jabbing at his sternum. "How is it? Care to put my strength to the test? You can't boast about speaking for this Goddess now, can you?"

"Is this because of before? Are you that petty?"

"It's a privilege. Let me tell you, women don't forget a slight; merely, just put it aside until it's convenient. Now we're on even ground."

"Who's the one who needed help opening a box?"

"…" The smile on Athena's face darkened, but she focused on the matter at hand.

Channeling the full burnt of her restored Authority, Athena stepped away from Shirou and moved towards the edge of the roof where the two were standing.

There was purpose in her eyes that belied the strength of conviction.

"What are you doing?" Shirou called out.

Athena didn't answer, and stared in the direction of the distant horizon instead. There was a subtle feeling in the air that denoted the build up of even more divine Authority converging over her open palms.

Crackling, tendrils of splitting energy spread around her like static. Her hair uplifted, her skin, shining white as ivory. Turbulent winds blew with her at the origin.

"Since ages past, heroes gather to combat the Gods. You asked what I was doing, I'm planning for the present," Athena whispered aloud, eyes turning into an enchanting gray hue without glancing in Shirou's direction. "This era is no different, and looking to the future, we will need a base of operations to defend our livelihood and that of our Master's…We must take the initiative."

"To paint a target over our heads?" Shirou frowned, getting an idea of what Athena was intending.

"Precisely," she all but verified without hesitation. "Knowing that enemies are coming, what else would we do? It may sound unwise, but a reactive and passive stance in a battle between Gods and Campione, is a horrid alternative even with our strength. Not for us, of course, but for the girl who would surely attract them in her oddity. You have given our Master an Authority, but her flesh is still that of mortal bone and blood, yes?"

Words weren't necessary in Shirou's silence. He could picture the scene of Arturia's figure shattering under the pressure of an enemy God or Campione's Authority. He need only recall the terror in her eyes in the face of the raging bull prior.

His hands opened and closed, lips thinning.

"No country, no king, no ruler, would ever appreciate a battle at his or her doorstep," Athena continued, her scythe appearing in her grasp, before she jabbed the butt-end into the ground. From beneath, a divine circle with the image of a gorgon spiraled and expanded rapidly. "The ability to dictate where and when we fight, will be our greatest advantage. No harm would come to the Master if we choose carefully. We will make it such that no God or God Slayer would trespass easily, and even then, it would be on our terms."

Shirou took everything in silently.

Athena finally shifted her attention back onto him, a curt nod awaiting his decision as the power of her Authority exuded from her pristine form.

"My fertility as an earth mother, and the wisdom of the owls will act to nurture and guide this land," she said firmly, beckoning him to take action alongside her. "Thy numerous Authorities would serve as confusion and warning. What say you?"

Magic energy soon welled up around Shirou in a sign of tacit agreement.

"For sooth, God of Steel." A mirthless chuckle escaped Athena's lips while she turned her attention back towards the glow of the horizon. "Let us create it, here and now. A home, a haven, a domain in which no foreign God or God slayer may trespass upon this island of the distant east."

Shutting her eyes, she threaded a hand through her hair and pulled out a single strand which was blown in the wind.

Hissing, it turned into a black snake that slithered and coiled as it flew up into the sky.

Following this, a helm manifested in Athena's right palm, which she quickly donned over her head.

The Cap of Invisibility, a shared Divine Authority tied with her uncle, and bestowed for her use in legend.

A faint mist would enshroud all Godly means from mortal eyes. Only the worthy would be able to see, to fight, to comprehend this battlefield.

It was done. The time had come.

Athena clutched at her chest, almost in solemn prayer.

"I am the serpent that encroaches upon the bounds of the world," she began, glancing in Shirou's direction and nodding at him.

"I am the bone of my sword," he replied in understanding.

Good.

Unbridled Divine Authority swelled from around Athena, growing ever stronger until it reached its zenith. From her scythe, divine feathers began to shoot out and drift over the entirety of Japan before bursting into motes of shimmering life energy.

"Thus, I proclaim! Thus, I am!" Her hair billowed in the wind, the divine glow of her pupils, shifting from a silvery gray into the hue of the stars. "I am the earth mother! Cunning! Wise! The Titan-Goddess of Good Council!"

"-Steel is my body, and fire is my blood."

Thump!

A declaration of intent carried out through the globe, and echoed in the ears of those attuned to the divine.

Athena flourished the scythe in her right hand, while the shield of Aegis appeared on her left. The snake that ascended to the skies prior had returned, bringing along with it a massive ephemeral outline of fortress walls shrouded in mist.

It fully encompassed the island in its whole.

"I stem from the root of civilization, patron of the arts, mathematics, law and justice."

"-I have created over a thousand blades."

Upon the silhouette of divine Authority, steel formed and gathered into an entanglement of protruding tips upon the marble ramparts. The shield of Ajax, the spear of Hector, the sword of Perseus, all manner of Authorities far and wide began to appear; those of Greek origin resonating like none other.

"War and wisdom are my domain."

"-Unknown to death."

"I beckon upon the ancient call."

"-Nor known to life."

Defensive towers coiled with the heads of gigantic hissing snakes appeared. Scales protruded from illusory battlements atop the contoured ridges amidst the defensive lines. Billowing tapestry of golden laurels accompanied a procession of emblazoned chariots marching onto the Field of Mars.

"O worthy heroes, thy pledge I hear; thy pledge I hath sworn."

"-Have withstood pain to create many weapons, searching for the one."

The flutter of wings gave rise to a spirit of resistance and determination. Pinioned wings spread unfettered.

"The wisdom of the owls will take flight."

"-Yet these hands have never held anything."

"Manifest! Hark to the dawn of fortitude Minerva!"

"So, as I pray…"

Blinding radiance had all but encompassed Athena's stalwart form by this point. Pressure abounded around her, the outline of the silhouette above, taking form upon a single proclamation.

"Divine Fort: Andromeda!" Athena intoned, jutting the butt-end of her scythe to the ground again, cracking it.

A pulse of light, ring-like in shape, burst out. Where it passed, the fortress summoned gained more and more clarity within the mist until its presence could no longer be denied.

All throughout the world, a blatant disturbance could be felt; effectively drawing attention away from Arturia and towards those who'd erected this blatant provocation.

By this point, Shirou had paused in his words. There had been no need to continue lest he usurp Athena's efforts due to the nature of his Reality Marble, but it mattered little.

Before him, lay the results of his collaboration, and the turning point of all future confrontation.

A bulwark of Snakes and Steel: Japan


Staring upon the sudden emergence of a fortress-based Authority and the sheer amount of steel surrounding it, those that had escaped the take over of the History Committee, stumbled in despair. Others had collapsed, but individuals that had been in the midst of searching for a clue regarding a certain name, felt their hopes shatter into pieces in only a matter of hours.

In the confines of Jounan Academy's school grounds, Godou Kusanagi was abruptly accosted.

"E-Erica?" Godou stuttered out as a blur of red and blond pushed into him and began dragging him away by the arm.

Godou himself was still stunned at the sight of the misted fortress hovering over the skies like a barrier. Worse yet, no one else seemed to notice it but him and those with ties to the divine. In any case, he understood that this wasn't the time for idleness.

"We need to leave!" Erica yelled, urging him to be faster, nearly tripping on her feet. "We can't handle this on our own. It's just too much!"

"What's going on?" Godou swallowed down his panic at the thought of leaving his family to whatever was happening in Japan. "W-What about the people left behind?"

"I'm sorry, but they'll have to endure for now. I'll explain on the way, but an emergency meeting was called through the magic societies."

"A meeting for what?"

"Japan has been designated as a restricted zone," Erica said before sucking in her breath, and glancing up into the sky. "No matter how one looks at it from here, or anywhere in the world, that fortress isn't the work of just one God! Greek, Celtic, Mayan, Egyptian, the sheer meshwork of Authorities present indicate the representation of numerous Gods."

Erica shuddered at the thought.

"The tentative consensus is that it's an alliance of Heretic Gods."

"And?"

Erica passed over a sealed invitation letter addressed formally to 'the Seventh Campione.'

"To fight an alliance…calls for another alliance."

Godou glanced down at the letter now in his hands.

A convene of the Campione has been issued.

A God slaying alliance.


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