A/N: Good to hear such enthusiastic reviews from last chapter. It's the most-reviewed chapter of the fic! Thank you all! Very good for my ego. Now, let's see if I can pull it off again…

...

FATE/Holy Grail War of 2814

by Shadow Crystal Mage

Chapter 12: Death, And Lots Of Her

Disclaimer: I own none of the characters in this story. If I did… well, this would all be canon. WARNING: MAY CAUSE HEAD EXPLOSION! Really wish someone would rec this. TvTropes, dattebayo!

...

"LET GO!" Rin managed to scream through the burning agony of mana coursing through her body in amounts in wasn't supposed to, through paths and ways it wasn't meant to travel, and not one drop of it in her control. "STOP IT!"

"I CAN'T!" Sakura cried, slightly more use to sudden rushes of power not directly being guided by her passing through her body. "YOU'RE HOLDING ON TO ME!"

"Would someone care to explain what's happening?" Gilgamesh growled, annoyed and still rubbing his eyes, the flicking green afterimages not helping his temper. "What have those two been yelling about?"

"Sakura's been pumping energy into Rin," Luvia growled, just as ill-tempered. "Apparently involuntarily. I think it's safe to assume that the spirit Sakura mentioned has just assumed control. See, this is why you don't mess around with spirits offering you power!"

"Should I try breaking the connection, Luvia-sama?" Miyu asked, holding up Magical Sapphire.

"The feedback might kill them both!" Luvia said. She paused, eyeing Rin speculatively. "Anyway it can hit just Tohsaka?"

"Luvia-sama…" Miyu chided.

"You're right, too complicated," Luvia said. "Lancer, do you think you can–?"

"Luvia-sama!"

"What?" Luvia said, vaguely orange gleam deep within her eyes. "Isn't this the point of the Holy Grail War? Who are we kidding with all this cooperation non-sense? I can't win the war if we're all just going to sit here playing nice, and–"

Miyu stepped forward, and the moment became complicated…

SLAP!

Luvia's head snapped back as Gilgamesh negligently countered Lancer's attempt to block Miyu, the two Servants locked as the blonde Master reeled, one hand to her face. Miyu's hand was still raised from her slap, her face as blankly expressionless as it usually was when Illya wasn't around.

"Get a hold of yourself, Luvia-sama," Miyu said softly. "Now isn't the time."

Luvia stared at Miyu in wide-eyed surprise. The hand on her face trembled. Around them, Rin and Sakura continued crying out, while Lancer and Gilgamesh continued countering each other, the golden armored hero randomly throwing weapons in a bored fashion while the blue knight kept trying to get past him at Miyu. Slowly, she lowered her hand.

"Lancer, stand down," Luvia said, sounding bitter. "No killing Tohsaka, I suppose."

"Gilgamesh, you can stop now," Miyu said.

"Hmm?" Gilgamesh said as he stood with his foot in Lancer's throat, the knight's spear in one hand and a big sword in the other. "Did you say something?"

Miyu grabbed his nose and pulled him off the fallen hero. "Bad Servant. No cookies for lunch."

"UNHAND ME, WHELP!"

Luvia sighed, glared hatefully at Rin, then turned to look through the barrier. Even through the spots in her eyes, she could see a distinct lack of trees. She glanced at Rin again, trying to gauge the power flowing through the two girls and cursed. "What are you doing Archer?" she muttered.

...

Vita knew pain.

It began at her skin. The feeling seemed hot and cold, like one of those weird spicy menthol candies. Her skin burned and froze, the two sensations intermingling together. It felt like it would crack like an egg, breaking up into pieces. The sensation seeped deeper, and she felt her limbs, her muscles start to writhe and twitch and spasm wildly as pain ripped through them. She was aware of air passing through her throat, felt her vocal cords vibrating, but couldn't hear her own voice screaming through the agony. The rocks and dirt and random chunks of wood that used to be trees digging into her became irrelevant. There was only pain.

It went deeper, and her bones felt like they'd turn molten, felt as if the cold of the empty void filled their being. A distant corner of her mind felt they should turn liquid, or crack like glass as she thrashed about. She felt her nails clawing at her own skin, trying to rip the offending calcium formations out and away from her to end their cruelty. Even her hair felt like it was in agony.

Deeper it sank still, into her torso, her skull. Burning star-matter and liquid nitrogen filled her lungs, and her stomach wanted to spew out snow and lava. Her head had the world's worst case of brain freeze, and she wanted to smash it open to relieve the building pressure. And her heart…

Agony did not begin to describe it.

She cried, and she dimly realized she was crying Hayate's name, and didn't care. She was dying, and she wanted her last thoughts to be of Hayate. She wanted to remember her smile, her kindness, the way she treated them like family. Dimly, ever so dimly, she vaguely recalled the idea of masters that had treated them that way. The thought lay in the fossilized depths of her memory, just as there lay the idea of memories of masters who had seen them as mere tools, and masters that used them for their pleasure, and the slightly stronger memory of battle and victories, and loss, and stupid old Belkan jokes whose punch lines she always seemed to get wrong, and an ever-distant childhood that had been taken from her. Yet all this was eclipsed by memories of Hayate.

Hayate, and the cute way she had fainted when they'd first appeared. Her ingenious lying skills to excuse their sudden appearance. Her (slightly worrying) enthusiasm at measuring them up for new clothes. The wonderful food she cooked. The way she breathed when she slept. How she sometimes ended up pressing against Vita sometime in the night. The way she smiled at, well, just about anything!

"Hayate-chan," she said, the agony suddenly fading away, as a deeper, more personal pain washed over her, tears coming to her eyes. The realization they'd failed. "I'm sorry…"

All will be well…

The agony, so insignificant now compared to their failure, reached her heart.

The air seemed still, silent. And then, there seemed to be a 'snap'. A cool feeling filled her chest, washing outward. The pain faded from her, filling her body with a sense of tranquility, like she'd just woken up from a good sleep in a bed that felt nice and cozy, and wanted to do nothing else but laze away for the next hour or so, suspended between true sleep and true waking. Groggily, fighting against the desire to just lie back and vegetate, she opened her eyes.

Hayate's image in blue smiled down on her, not naked as before, but wearing the sleepwear Vita found so cute. The knight realized her head was on it's lap, and one hand was gently stroking her hair. The image said nothing, did nothing but stroke her hair, obviously trying to comfort her. Vita lay back, a bit confused. The rage did not rise. She tried to lever herself up, and the blue image gently but firmly held her down. Still, Vita was able to take in the rest of the area.

Close to her Signum also lay collapsed, ghostly blue images of Hayate and Shamal tending her, her head in the latter image's lap. She seemed to be still dazed, moving weakly. Zafira was in the same position, his own image of Hayate stroking his ears as well as his hair and giggling.

And above them swirled a dark, ominous mass, like smoke with the properties of an oil slick. Tendrils of it seemed to be reaching for the tree knights, yet was drawing away even as she watched. It sickened Vita to look at it. it was wrong, evil, unholy, Hayate-damned, unnatural, an affront to existence. It shouldn't be, shouldn't exist it had to go away…!

Their opponent faced it, ignoring them now, glaring up at the thing, the rings on his fingers glowing brightly with their rainbow lights, gleaming off the long sword he held, and random symbols floated around him. A cage of light had been woven around the dark mass in all colors, and it struggled to escape, trying to ooze around it, but to no avail. Every time it tried, color flared, making it real back as if burned.

Blood trickling faintly from both nostrils, ears and the corners of his eyes, their opponent held out a hand and spoke a single, ominous word. "MINE!"

Orange light tricked from the black thing, forming a seventh ring. It joined the set in his left hand, and he twitched, teeth barring. He stared up at the cloud, reaching up a hand as if to touch it, but drew back, and clearly steeled himself. He glared, and the red ring on his finger seemed to glow brighter. "You've caused a lot of trouble, haven't you?" he said, and Vita couldn't tell whether he was speaking to the cloud or to himself. "Krona really screwed up the universe, waking you up. First Parallax, then the Manhunters… why couldn't you be Taxes instead? You're giving Telute-sama a bad name. And it's still going to get worse… Damn you, Nekron."

With a snarl, he took a step back, slipping the Nodachi through a sudden sheath as a golden sword appeared in his hands. "TRACE, ON!" he cried. The sword began to glow, quickly eclipsing the light of the rings in his hands. It took on a blue hue seeming to shine brighter, as if the color magnified its power. "Nothing is overkill when it comes to destroying you, is it? After all, one must never underestimate the power of the Grail. How did she put it…? Ah. 'Become the light which pierces everything. Tear through everything in a blaze of light!' EX-"

Vita had a moment to realize what he intended when the sword flared with blue light, the air around it seeming to scream as it was suddenly superheated. She averted her eyes.

"-CALIBER! In Celebration of Sakurazaki Setsuna's First Kiss With Her Knoka Ojou-sama Strike!"

The Shinmeiryu technique, augmented exponentially with the power of Hope, and channeled through the most famous, most powerful holy sword known to man as it was used as a Noble Phantasm, tore through the black mist, destroying it utterly like a cobweb in the heart of the sun. The blue image of Hayate interposed itself between Vita and the light, but even this wasn't enough to block the sight of it completely. Even through her eyelids, Vita saw spots.

...

"ARGH!" Luvia cried along with everyone else, except for Rin and Sakura, who were still crying as power flowed through them, as the air suddenly flared like a blue nuclear blast. "WHAT THE HELL? THAT'S TWO IN ONE DAY, AND IT'S NOT EVEN NINE YET! WHAT THE HELL IS ARCHER DOING OVER THERE? OH, GOD, I'VE GONE BLIND!"

...

"AH!" Kuro cried, taking her other eye away from her scope. "I've gone blind! Again!"

...

"GREAT FURIES DAMN IT!" Tavi cried as he covered his own eyes. "NOT AGAIN!"

"I'VE GONE BLIND!" Harry screamed, rubbing at his eyes.

...

Two astronauts floated above the Earth, looking down upon it.

"Damn, what was that?" one said.

"Nuclear blast?" the other suggested.

"In Japan?"

"Maybe there was an earthquake, completely destroying Tokyo, yet allowing it to use secret new technology to not only recover, but become the cultural, economic and technological center of the world in just ten years?"

"Like San Francisco?"

"Ooh, burn."

"But I still feel like signing…"

"Totally. Let's go."

One spread his hands. "I love the mountains…"

"I love the sun so bright…"

"I love…"

From Japan, blue light exploded.

"Oh, shit, I've gone blind!"

"Damn it, not again!"

...

Takamachi Nanoha slept soundly under her blankets, still untroubled by the feeling someone had just stolen her schnicht, as her phone's alarm beeped to tell her to wake up. Unknown to her, her ring momentarily topped off at 200 percent, then slinked back down to a mere hundred.

...

The air screamed like someone being forced to watch Twilight, the Percy Jackson or Airbender Movies as the blast roared from the sword. Energy washed outward, and across Fuyuki, people who'd noticed the pair of colorful blasts suddenly felt very good about the upcoming day, as if absolutely nothing could go wrong. And those blasts were probably nothing to worry about. After all, everything would be all right…

In the Matou basement, what little was left of Zouken was utterly destroyed by this wave of hope, rendering him deader than dead.

In Archer's hands, the Excalibur shattered. His limbs trembled slightly, and he could feel the mana inside him greatly depleted, even as the rush of power from Rin refilled him, if slowly. In his hands, the rings glowed. He looked over his shoulder at Vita, who was struggling to her feet, assisted by the blue Hayate. "How are you feeling?" he asked.

She opened her mouth, frowned, and patted her head. "Where the hell is my hat?-!"

Archer chuckled, and a beam of pinkish-violet light darted out, returning a while later with Vita's hat, a hole in it from being speared through. The beam held it towards her, and she snatched it away angrily, fussing over it and muttering, before repairing it and putting it back on her head, glaring at Archer. "What the heck just happened?-!"

"You had been infected," Archer said. "Ten years ago, the Book of Darkness had been used to contain an enormous amount of corruptive energy at the end of the Fourth Holy Grail War. Recently, that energy was released when Twilight Red– no, wait, she still calls herself Leader Red, right?– stabbed the book with Ensis Exorcizans. She was protected because she was a walking Anti-magic Phenomenon, and all the rest were attended to by purifying magic, except for the three of you. It began altering your mind. Damn it girl, didn't you notice how your Knight Armor had changed? It had turned black and funky red lines on it!"

"Um, well…" Vita muttered, squirming in embarrassment and drawing a line on the ground with her foot. The blue Hayate patted her head consolingly.

"I mean, Signum had started sleeping with Shamal every night, and Zafira had started killing things, and you'd been masturbating more–"

"HOW THE HELL DO YOU KNOW ABOUT THESE THINGS!-?" Vita screamed in mortification, her fists clenched under her chin. The Hayate image gave her a reassuring hug.

"I am Archer," Archer said loftily. "I know things."

Vita gave him a flat look. "Bull." The Hayate image nodded in agreement, massaging Vita's shoulders.

"I am actually a Martian from the planet Mars!" Archer said. "Martians are very knowledgeable because we have telepathy!"

Vita's eyebrow twitched. "I've read about Mars. That whole 'life on Mars' thing was a misunderstanding because some idiot confused 'channels' with 'canals', and complicated by something H.G. Wells wrote." The Hayate image clapped in praise.

Somewhere, J'onn J'onnz of Ma'aleca'andra sneezed.

Archer gave her a blank look. "I'm from the future, come to change the past to prevent a major catastrophe."

Vita rolled her eyes. "Oh, please. I've watched Terminator enough times to know that never works. Either the future is mutable, in which case you changing time means you cease to exist, meaning you never go back in time to change anything, or it's not, meaning you being here is futile." Hayate image nodded, giving Vita a thumbs up while she stroked the knight's hair. "Plus, you know, time travel is impossible?"

In Uminari University Hospital, Tsukino Usagi the second sneezed.

Chao Lingshen sneezed.

Booster Gold sneezed.

Rip Hunter sneezed.

The Flash sneezed.

Meio Setsuna sneezed.

The Phantom Stranger sneezed.

Archer, strangely, smiled at her. "Man, are you going to have an interesting life."

Vita blinked. "What?"

"How are you feeling?" Archer asked. "Can you still fight?"

Vita frowned, considering that question. Despite the fact she wasn't in pain– for some reason– it was easy to tell her body was covered in bruises, all her joints ached, and she was pretty sure she'd used up all of Graf Eisen's cartridges at some point. She was in no condition to fight. "Yeah, I can still– excuse me, but can you make her stop doing that?" Vita said, blushing and pointing at the Hayate image, who was kneeling in front of her and rubbing its head on her legs.

Archer waved a hand, and the image disappeared. So did the others. The other two knights gave a disappointed groan, slowly rousing themselves. "You're a lousy liar, Vita-san."

Vita's pride pricked. "I can still beat you!" she declared loudly.

Archer's hand blurred, and something struck Vtia in the forehead, sending her reeling back. She stumbled and nearly fell, but her eyes latched on to what had been thrown at her.

A nerf ball.

"You're at your limit," Archer reiterated. "Any single one of my companions can defeat you now."

"We are knights," Signum said, sounding weary as she stepped up next to Vita, tiredly handing her Graf Eisen. "We will fight on regardless. Our honor demands nothing less."

"And Hayate?" Archer asked.

"As I said, our honor demands nothing less."

Archer sighed, shaking his head. He held up a hand, a white shape beginning to form above it as she incanted, the rings on his fingers dissolving away. The knights attacked, not wanting to let him complete whatever it was Archer was trying to do, but worn out as they were, no longer augmented by the Grail's taint, it was simple for rains and walls of unnamed swords to hold them back. "The Brightest Day is on the rise…" Archer said. "The light shall soar as darkness flies. We guard all life from evil's blights. Destiny awaits! Shine, White Knights! "

The other rings dissolved from his fingers as their substance faded away, amalgamating and coming together into one substance, pure white, with a metallic sheen. The Ring formed, the Ring of the Earth King.

"Emiya Shiro of Earth…" it said. "Destiny awaits…"

It slipped into his finger, and he banished the swords, a shape of seemingly whiter-than-white light intercepting Laevatein, trapping it in several pentagram-like circles, stopping Signum cold. "Tapping Akashic Field," the ring said. "Tapping Extended Akashic Network. Uploading, Mid-Childan Magical Discipline, Yuuno Scrya, Bind Spells."

A white circle appeared at Archer's feet. "Bind," he said simply, white chains slamming into place around the knight, locking her in place. Calmly, he reached forward and took the Book of Darkness away from Signum. As calmly, he raised the book up and to the side, and Vita barely managed to stop Graf Eisen from slamming into the book.

Archer stared Signum in the eye. "I surrender."

Vita, about to riposte with a counter attack, stumbled and botched the execution. "What!-?"

"I am willing to give you my Linker Core," Archer said simply. "In exchange, you are to withdraw immediately to recover yourselves, visit Hayate at the hospital, and not engage my companions again for at least the next six hours."

They all stared at him like he'd just grown a second head.

"Why in Hayate's name would you do that?" Vita demanded.

"Because it is the most tactically advantageous thing to do," Archer said. "Giving you my Linker Core allows you to complete your objective, bringing you much closer to completing the Book to save Hayate. It keeps you from attacking my companions, since I would rather not have them consider you truly enemies. It accomplishes certain long-term goals. And most importantly, it spares me a rather complicated discussion with Rin."

Vita, however, still seemed locked on to his original declaration. "So you're just going to give us your Linker Core? Just like that? Out of generosity?"

Archer smiled. "This might come as a surprise to you, Vita-san, but I am hardly atypical. Had you explained to Green Lantern, that first night you encountered her, had you given in to her demands and spoken to her, and told her you were doing this to spare the life of an innocent little girl… well, I'm reasonably sure she'd have given you her Linker Core. Sailor Moon would have as well. So would Magus Erebus. And any number of their followers, followers with powerful Linker Cores, and healing magics. We are a soft, kind-hearted lot, we crazy earth people, Magical Girls and their ilk more so. We could have avoided all this. So yes, I am doing this out of generosity. Like you, I am a knight. I understand the lengths you will go. And though I fought you, I did so because you wanted to attack those precious to me, and under my protection. Now that you can no longer do so, as a knight, I will do what I can do to help you protect those precious to you, and are under your protection."

He held out the book. "Do we have a deal?"

...

Batman woke up, realized what had happened and growled. "I hate magic…"

...

The thing that used to be Kotomine Kirei entered the church grounds. It was shaped like a man– shaped, in fact, like Kirei had been– but the subtle feeling of wrongness in the air told the lie. Sweat-like substance beaded on its brow, having barely managed to ride out the strange, disturbing wave of energy that had accompanied the second blast. Yet old imperatives drove it, and it stumbled towards the focus point, the place where the Holy Grail might manifest itself. It knelt, and growled in frustration. Not here. The Grail wouldn't appear here.

Frowning, it turned to find the other points. It would see its Grail completed. The old imperatives drove it still, anchored to the new form by the bonds of the Grail's darkness. And with its new… connections… it could do it more creatively.

First, it needed to kill at least one Servant…

...

Rin wasn't aware of when the agony ended. All she knew was that she suddenly found herself lying on the ground, staring up at the morning sky, Miyu bent over her with the Caster Card Installed, hand glowing with healing magic. ext to her, Luvia was tending Sakura.

"Rin-san," Miyu said, sounding relieved. "You're all right."

"Ugh," Rin said, feeling like she'd just had the worst morning ever. On a Monday. "What happened?"

"We're not sure," Miyu said, helping Rin push herself up. "Sakura-san merely stopped transferring power to you. How do you feel?"

"Lousy," Rin said. "And–" Suddenly, she stopped cold.

Her connection with Archer felt… odd. Instinctively, she looked towards the command seals on her arm, and gasped.

Their glow was slowly fading away.

"Something's happening to Archer," she said, pushing herself up to her feet, trying to concentrate on her link. It seemed to be 'spasming', for lack of a better term, like a bad TV connection, jumping around all over the place. It drank in power from her, but it did so fitfully, as if someone had stuffed a sock in a pipe, which only let a little pass through. She whirled at the barrier, striking at air with her bare hands and giving a frustrated cry when it was stopped. "We need to get through, NOW!"

"Blast it," Sakura said weakly, and Rin whirled toward her. "Blast it with the most powerful thing the Servants have. We can get through it the hard way. Even magic breaks when met with stronger mag–"

Even as she spoke, the world seemed to crack, and the air in front of them reverted back to normal. Tentatively, Rin held out her hand. There was nothing there.

She was moving in a dead run a heartbeat later.

...

"Download."

Signum had been impressed. Archer's expression hadn't changed at all as his Linker core was extracted, and began to be downloaded into the Book. He'd remained impassive, standing tall and proud, unflinching. If his hands curled tightly into fists, well… he could be excused that.

Page after page filled, and Signum quickly lost count after thirty pages. When they'd finished, Archer hadn't moved, merely stared a bit blankly before slowly shaking his head. "Go," he said, voice suddenly hoarse. "They're coming."

Silently, the Wolkenritter took the Book, raising their weapons to Archer in salute, one knight to another. "Good luck to you, Emiya Shiro. And thank you," Signum said.

He smiled dazedly, waving it away. "That's not my name. I'm just a nameless Archer. Now get going. Your queen needs you."

He watched silently as they took flight, disappearing into the morning. He could feel Rin coming closer, and knew the others were right behind her. The white ring pulsed on his finger, keeping him in place. With a sigh, he let go, giving it one last order, just a he heard a sound. He turned.

Rin broke through the trees just as his knees collapsed, and he fell to the ground, dissolving away…

...

Rin stared at the empty spot in the ground where Archer had faded away as the others reached her, clutching at the dead, useless Command Seals on her arm. "Archer," she breathed, still disbelieving. Around them, flames of crimson plasma flickered, melting stone and shriveling leaves, yet not threatening to cause a forest fire. They were slowly burning themselves out.

"H-how?" Luvia said, just as shocked. "How? Those lights… that was Archer, wasn't it? How did they defeat him? How–"

Rin's knees collapsed, hearing no more as she stared at where her Servant had fallen.

"That liar," she heard herself saying. "He said he would explain. He still needed to explain…!"

In the morning light, a white ring gleamed for a moment, then vanished. No one noticed.

...

Emiya Shiro stood where he'd died, feeling the ghost of the White Ring on his finger. He smiled grimly, but the smile faded away as he saw Rin on her knees, a lost look on her face. Soon, that would change, buried or sublimated into other emotions, other drives. Yet right then, right there, he felt his heart ache as he watched his beloved in pain, and all because of him. He held out a hand towards her, murmuring, "Rin…"

The ring on his finger pulsed, and he barely managed to stop it just in time.

"You're early," a voice behind him said, and even expecting it, he jumped in surprise. Old instincts died hard, among other things.

He turned, and gave a bow that he hoped didn't look mocking or stupid. "My Lady," he said.

Death of the Endless raised an eyebrow, her near-perpetual smile becoming amused, but not mocking. Never her. Well, seldom, anyway. "Lady, huh? Have we met before? I mean, yes, we've met before, but most people don't remember that…"

"We've met before, Teleute-sama," Shiro said, the old name the Shinigami had coined coming easily to his lips. "Time travel and reincarnation are involved, though, so–"

Death clapped her hands. "Oh! Heavens Feel, right? All that Holy Grail War business? You're one of the Heroes!"

"Yes, Teleute-sama," Shiro said.

She took off her top hat, scratching her head. "But I've never taken you before– oh! you said time travel was involved. You're from the future? How did that happen?"

"It's… complicated," Shiro said. "I'd rather not think about it."

"Ah," Death said knowingly. "Well, far be it for me to make you uncomfortable. Though I must say, you're taking this rather well. No bargaining or hitting on me or anything."

"Thank you for saying so," he said. the world was becoming misty around them, and he looked around frowning. "Damn, I'm not going to like the next part."

"Oh?" she said, tilting her head. "You know what comes next?"

Shiro nodded. "Since I'm… well, because of Heaven's Feel, I'm going to be stuck in place for a little while, wherever the Grail is gathering. But before that…" he made a look of distaste. "Nekron."

Death waggled a finger at him. "Now, don't be like that! Nekron performs an important function, and he's a hard worker to boot! He's even officially sanctioned by Yours Truly! Franchised and everything. Just because he's not as good looking is no reason to be all huffy."

Shiro wondered if saying anything would make a difference. If he told Death about Blackest Night now, could it all be avoided? Would it stop Nekron? After all, the Endless worked in strange ways. Could she already know…?

"Emiya Shiro… Vengeance has come for thee…"

Shiro spun again, staring at the looming form of a figure wrapped in a dark green cloak, ominous eyes with skulls for pupils staring out at him from beneath the shadowed hood, with a voice best portrayed in some kind of weird, gothic font-face. It was vaguely feminine, wearing a tattered green dress of the same color.

Death raised an eyebrow. "Going after this postmortem, Spectre? What did he do?"

A girlish giggle suddenly erupted from the cloak's hood, and the Spectre seemed to shrink, now barely reaching Shiro's stomach, the cloak long and tangled on the floor, much too big for the being that now wore it. "Oh, he didn't do anything. I'm just practicing my entrance. 26 years and I sometimes still mess up! Spectre-kun doesn't like it."

The cloak she wore made a sound, like someone grumbling from a long way away, at the other end of an echoing tube. "Oh, hush you," she chided. "I'm your moral compass, and right now I'm compassing. Hello, Shiro-san! Did everything go according to plan?"

Shiro nodded. "As well as can be hoped. Though I'm worried about Rin."

The Spectre tilted it's head, wich was now completely hidden under the oversized hood. Then there was a grumbling, and pale hands pulled the hood off awkwardly, folding it hurriedly over an arm in an untidy heap as the Spectre seemed to listen again, her golden hair moving with the motion. "Her heart is filled with rage," she said, sounding sad. "And she wants vengeance. The Spirit wants me to grant it to her."

"I'm sorry," Shiro said automatically.

The Spectre patted his hand consolingly, smiling up at him with clear wine-colored eyes. "It passes. Deaths always make people feel an urge for vengeance. It is a part of the anger of loss. My own mother, unfortunately, didn't cope well with it. But your Rin-san has others around her, and she still has you, in a way. She will be all right."

Death coughed discreetly. "Shiro-kun, we've dallied enough. Take my hand, Shiro-kun."

The Spectre squeezed his hand comfortingly. "It'll be all right, Shiro-san. Follow the plan." Shiro smiled, and ruffled her golden hair. "HEY! No touchy! I'm the great and powerful Spirit of Vengeance, remember? I'm what Uchiha Sasuke prays to! Show some respect!"

"Hard to do when you're as cute as that, Alicia-chan," Death said, laughing as she leaned over to ruffle the Spectre's hair herself.

The Spectre pouted. "Why does everyone keep picking on me?-!" she wailed

Shiro sighed in remembrance. "Ah, that battle-cry brings back memories."

Death held out her hand. Shiro took it. On his finger, the white ring gleamed. And suddenly, there were only two beings there.

There was a moment.

"So, where are you going next?" the Spectre asked Death.

Death's form changed, her clothes morphing into that of a black knight with, for some reason, skis. "Oh, you know, where and there, everywhere," she said, putting on her helmet. With it on, no one could tell she was a girl. "And you?" the Black Racer asked.

The Spectre looked down at her green cloak. "I'm going to see to my family. And then…" She flung out the cloak to spread it, draping it over her shoulders, and suddenly she was taller, more adult-like, the very image of vengeance itself. Only a small glint of gold shown from under her hood. "There will be no rest for the wicked…"

...

Bound to the Grail, Caster of the 4th Holy Grail War looked up, metaphorically speaking, as she felt a soul enter it. "So. End game is coming." The vessel behind her hummed as the accumulated power of the Heroic Spirit within, unaffected by being downloaded by the Book of Darkness, awoke it. "Just as planned…"

...

In a Mid-Childan prison, Precia Testarossa looked up as she felt a chill. She looked around, but her cell was empty as it always was. Shuddering, she drew up her knees, and counted the hours…

...

On her way to school, listening to the buzzing of her classmates as they talked about the news of the green and blue bursts of light, Fate Testarossa felt a chill, and frowned, unsure why. The bus passed a little girl eating ice-cream, her green dress and golden hair shining…

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- To be continued...

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A/N: I was trying to go for 'Badass Surrender'. How did I do?

I've come up with the insane idea that Vita is actually the most well-read of the Wolkenritter. Let's see if I can make it stick…

PLEASE leave lots of reviews, I worked really hard on this…

Please review, C&C welcome.

Until next time, this is Shadow, signing off.