A/N: I've noticed I've developed that habit of putting the most obvious physical hurting on Kuro. I really must stop this…
Now that I've done Badass Einzbern-Emiyas, a part of me REALLY wants to do Badass Pendragons. You know, Saber, Arturia, Morgaine Le Fay and cute little Mordred-chan all kicking ass together…
Thanks to Ergast for defending my honor! You know who you are, and where.
On the UBW issue. I know that, as a Reality Marble, it should be a manifestation of a person's inner soul, but since this is magic involved, there are cheats. Kuro manifests it, despite her aria and her general attitude, because her body was materialized by the Archer Class Card that Illya collected in the Fate/Kaleid Liner Prisma Illya 2Wei manga, and therefore has all the powers of Archer, despite not being Archer. Sakura manifests it because she treats it as a spell. Granted, it's a really powerful, really broken reality-altering spell, but still just a spell to her. It will soon be nerfed from her.
Shiro was canonically able to Trace Avalon because having it inside him for ten years has given him an intimate affinity with it. The same goes for the people who have his powers…
If you don't like the number of crossovers… well, sorry, but you could have stopped reading at any time. Fortunately, this is the last chapter. LOTS OF REVIEWS AND ADDING TROPES TO THE PAGE, PLEASE!
FATE/Holy Grail War of 2814
by Shadow Crystal Mage
Chapter 16: Queen of the Night Sky
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!
Lancer fought the dark, twisted copy of Archer, bringing memories of that night, that first night of glorious battle that had soon led to the essential demilitarization of the forces of this War. He remembered the rush of fighting Archer that first time. The clash of weapon against weapons, how the damned red knight had been able to instantly subvert his Gae Bolg by leaving deliberate openings for the Noble Phantasm to pass through so he could block it and keep it's effect from taking hold, the hundreds of swords he had made in that one fight alone. His blood had boiled, eager for this conflict, perhaps reflecting his Master's own bloodlust. Lancer had enjoyed it. And, if he had interpreted Archer's smile correctly, so had he. That night had been the first and last time they had truly fought, and compared to the rest of the war, it had been the most glorious battle ever. The masses of dark 'Invaders', though great in number and frustrating, hadn't given him such joy. It had been like cutting grass, or chopping down trees. Dangerous, in their own way, but a tame activity nonetheless.
This fight with the thing was nothing like that at all.
Its golden eyes were dead and flat. There was none of the aggravating mockery he knew and hated. There was no air of knowing a joke he didn't intend to share. This was just another machine, another tree, another blade of grass. It might kill him, might do it quite easily, and that would be that. It moved perfectly, swords coming to its hand as fast and thick as it had for the real Archer, and even used the same strategy to evade his Gae Bolg, but it did so mechanically, with smooth, icy perfection. It made Lancer's blood boil, made him want to throw down his spear and tear this thing apart with his bare hands for its effrontery. Except he couldn't do that.
All around them, the battle raged. He tried to keep the thing away from his fallen comrades. He couldn't actually see them, because the fight required his full concentration, but he could sense the flow of the battle around him, could remember where there had been vivid action followed by deathly stillness.
And then the battlefield caught fire. The sky changed to clouds at twilight– or was it dawn?– and the ground underfoot became an earthen field littered with swords. There were gigantic interlocked gears beyond the clouds, ponderously turning like the clockwork of the world, and flower petals floated in the air. Beyond the gears were thousands of rifts as if among the stars themselves, flickering in the colors of the rainbow. Along the horizon, gigantic statues grew, reaching into the clouds, their shadows apparently miles long, reaching from edge to edge. Some looked vaguely familiar…
Being a Heroic Spirit, Lancer wasn't particularly disturbed by this, although it was quite surprising. And felt faintly familiar, somehow. Where had…?He had a sudden image of the last time he'd been at this temple, and of the so-called 'battle' at the school that had led to Rider joining their ranks. Fire, and then the world changing…
A sword flew within hairsbreadths of Lancer's cheek, and he actually felt the cross-piece lightly brush through his hair. Dark Archer barely managed to deflect it, and Lancer took advantage of the momentary distraction to move in for the kill. He took advantage of the opening the deflection caused, managing to score a solid strike into the thing's left bicep, then jumping back to avoid whatever had been done to Saber earlier.
This was just in time to avoid the approximately 499 other swords that flew after Dark Archer. They blazed with light, some slamming into the ground, each exploding with the force of a bomb powerful enough to wipe out, say, a cement truck. Dark Archer dodged frantically, clothes getting torn and singed as he tried tosurvive long enough to counter this move. "Trace, on: Rho Aias!" The swords slammed into the flower-like Conceptual Shield, neutralized by its Absolute Protection Against Projectiles.
Kuro flipped over Lancer's head, back in red now. She gestured, and the fake was nearly perforated as swords suddenly started shooting down at it from all directions, and it frantically danced to keep its shield between it and the greatest threat.
"Triangle, triangle, triangle!" Kuro cried gleefully, grinning. "Come on, reaction commands! Reaction commands! Face Zebra Xenmas's final attack!"
Lancer looked at her. "What the hell are you talking about?"
"I'm on a natural high!" Kuro cried. "I'm high on LIFE!"
A sword was thrown at her face. Lancer barely managed to snap at it, slowing it enough that Kuro managed to protect herself all the way. Her smile didn't even flinch. In fact, she threw back her head and laughed. The rate of fire never slowed.
"BRING IT ON, CREEPY PERVERT PRIEST!" she cried. "I have my friends by my side! My friends are my power!"
"Coming back to life messed with your head, didn't it?" Lancer said.
Ignoring him, she charged, still laughing, at Dark Archer…
Gilgamesh was not in a good mood. The afternoon had started with several of his deeply buried childhood issues being suddenly dragged up before a major battle, continued with him being ripped from the side of one of the few people he'd give his life to protect, had followed with his very same childhood issues being used against him by two children to make him do something, and had been topped off by a man he loathed with a vengeance who now had an existence he hated beyond words create a vile abomination in his image. Parodies of his precious weapons leapt at him, and he barely countered them with his own. Behind him, the Caster woman was dealing with her own copy, as well as the copy of the fake Assassin she'd called up.
And then the world caught fire.
Caster gasped. "What–? A Reality Marble? In this Age? How?"
There was the crack like a swarm of bees breaking the sound barrier, and Dark Assassin leapt back as dozens of swords slammed into its previous location and exploded. The strain on the two of them lessened slightly. Dark Assassin turned to look at its attacker as Gilgamesh and Caster both tried to do the same out of the corner of their eye.
A dark-skinned man stood there, holding what looked like a weird imitation of a rose made up of dozens of miniscule swords. It went strangely well with the top hat made of miniature swords and the cape made of swords, all bound together with white light. He pointed dramatically, standing tall and proud, the white ring on his finger glowing. "Halt, evil doer! A temple is a sacred place, filled with thoughts of well-bring and protection, the place were the mundane and the divine meet! I cannot allow your continued desecrations of this, the future site of the happiest day of a woman's life! In the name of Truth, Love, and Justice, as a Hero of the Grail, I shall punish you!"
Silence, except for the sounds of Sakura and Dark Berserker beating the crap out of each other and prototype weapons and spells exploding.
The Kirei-thing broke it.
You have got to be kidding me…
Rin slapped her forehead. "Moron…"
"Oh my gosh…" Shiro breathed, staring. "I know what I want to be when I grow up…"
"My forgotten beliefs from my youth…" Kiritsugu agreed. "I knew they were possible! "
Saber and Iris exchanged a look deeply laden with meaning that all amounted to: "These two are idiots, but they're too cute to really kill…"
Dark Assassin responded with a blast of intense heat and force. Archer twirled his cape, taking the blast of magic on the swords on it. He smiled. "Ensis Exorcizans. Kills magic dead. My turn." He threw the rose.
It slammed point-first at Dark Assassin's feet as the fake tried to throw himself out of the way. Dozens of miniature swords exploded.
"And everyone keeps telling Endymion that's not badass…" he said, laughing. His hands blurred, and the cape and hat were thrown as well, breaking into their individual swords and glowing slightly as they flew. Dark Assassin dodged, but the swords turned, and it was forced to try and shoot them down, freezing the air around them to detonate them. Archer charged towards it, swords appearing around him almost instantly and as quickly being launched at great speeds. "FOR GREAT JUSTICE!"
Gilgamesh's brow furrowed. "Isn't that the Servant who died this morning?"
"LET JUSTICE PREVAIL!"
He and Caster exchanged looks over their shoulders as they concentrated on their own problems. "How did you end up with this group of lunatics?" Caster asked.
Gilgamesh jerked a thumb over his shoulder at where Miyu was circling Dark Lancer to help Rider take it down. "The little girl there made me into her Servant after my Master was turned into a personification of human evil. You?"
"I thought it would be a good idea to make a non-aggression pact with them," Caster said. "I suppose it was some help, but now I think I'll have to kill them all now for ruining my upcoming wedding…"
"Go for the idiot with the orange hair first. He's the most annoying."
The Servant Assassin who called itself Harry Dresden didn't have any memories of his past life. He did, however, have 12 (and change) books and short stories worth of false memories, and from those memories, he came to one conclusion: him charging into battle on a zombie T-rex was the most in-his-favor fight ever.
A little thought would have pointed out there should have been no way things were that easy.
He and Sue crashed through the trees, turning them into so much kindling as they charged to where Dark Herakles had crashed through. The zombie accelerated on the slope, its head down and open to tear apart the charging figure.
There was the jolt of impact, and Assassin went flying over Sue's head as the giant zombie was stopped cold.
"AGH! Assassin cried as he flew over the head, slamming into a tree. It quite clearly didn't kill him, or even break any bones, though it hurt like hell. So did slamming into the ground. He scrambled back to his feet in time to see Dark Herakles rip the dinosaur's head apart. The jaw and skull were pulled free of the neck, pseudo-flesh sloughing off as it was removed from the main body of the construct.
Sue responded by spinning around and slamming its tail into the fake.
As it was sent flying into more helpless trees, Assassin took a dizzy moment to steady himself. Sue's headless body was flailing around random, what with no longer having eyes to see, and he cut the stream of magic to it, causing it to start to dissolve. He levered himself up with his staff, turning to look towards where his enemy had gone flying, already gathering magic into his hands. the sensation felt strange, as it always did now. Tavi had theorized this was because he was used to doing magic one way, but magic's rules were different, so it compromised by adapting his methods to the current rules.
Rage began to fill him at the thought of his friend. He'd only known the man for a few days, but they'd been the only company each other had had. Essentially being chained to a gate wasn't any fun. Dark Herakles recovered quickly, roaring as it turned to scan for him. Assassin leveled his hand. "PYRO FUEGO!" he cried, a long, telephone pole thick stream of seemingly hardened fire that left a glowing afterimage in his eyes blazed through the air. The beam slammed into the large figure, and there was immediately the smell of scorching meat, a nauseous stink like burning Styrofoam, and a crackling as the heat-bloom of the blast started to spontaneously evaporate the moisture from nearby plants. The roaring rose, turning into animalistic screams.
Snarling, Assassin formed his hand into a claw, making a ripping gesture. The heat was ripped out of the figure, gathering into an enormous blaming ball and leaving it super-cooled to absolute zero, moisture from the very air gathering on it as the cold made it condense. Reshaping the flame, Assassin shot a narrower, concentrated stream, blasting the thing's head off in an explosion of dark sludge.
Breathing hard, Assassin moved to survey his handiwork, careful not to be caught by the sludge. Suddenly a wave of strangeness erupted from behind him, a familiar wave, and he turned. A wall of fire rushed at him, passing him without so much as scorching his clothes, the world rippling in its wake.
"She used this again?" he said, blinking and looking around at the sword-covered landscape, which was now minutely different. He didn't remember those giant statues on the horizon, for one. But he'd been cowering behind Sue trying not to get perforated, last time, so he might have missed something. "I mean, it's not like it was much good last–"
A tree being torn behind him was his only warning.
He didn't stupidly turn around, he just dove out of his original position, his shield bracelet flickering to life in a protective bubble around him. Something slammed into his shield, and the bracelet on his wrist suddenly became insanely hot as the shield instantly shattered like glass, the transmitted force sending him flying like a ball. He slammed into a small group of swords just sticking out from the ground, his duster barely protecting him. The ground was vibrating like a small elephant was running towards him, and he hastily rolled and scrambled up, only to nearly fall again when an entire tree was slammed into where he'd been a few moments ago, the branches actually scratching against his duster.
Frantically, he threw another burst of fire. This didn't help, as the tree just burst into flames, and it seemed to just splash on the hulk holding it. "Oh, come on!" he cried, scrambling back and barely dodging the giant burning tree. "It worked a second ago!"
He leapt back, and was surprised at how far the move sent him. He kept darting back, trying to weave back and worth to leave a broken trail, trying to make it harder for it to chase him. This didn't do any good, as it kept charging at him with a speed he'd never seen on anything that big.
"Noble Phantasm! SUE!"
A zombie Tyrannosaurus Rex slammed into Dark Herakles from the side, sending him flying for the second time that day from the same reason. On its back, Illya threw back her head and laughed. "THIS! IS! AWESOME! Get on!"
Assassin leapt onto its back. "I'm sure I killed it, but it got back up again!" he said. "And now it's immune to fire."
"Yeah, it does that," Illya said. "You did kill it. If it's anything like what I've fought, it has twelve lives and becomes immune to whatever killed it."
"That would have been good to know earlier," Assassin said.
There was a roar. It sounded like it came from something with a lung capacity measured in cubic feet.
"Forzare!" Illya cried, her hand lashing it out. Dark Herakles barely rocked.
They turned and ran.
"Crap, it's picking up one of the swords!" Assassin said, looking behind them. "Hells bells, that thing is huge! Where do all these swords come from, anyway?"
"I'm afraid to ask," Illya said, as they slammed through Sakura's fight with Dark Berserker, separating the two, nearly stepping on Dark Lancer, and heading to where Iris, Kiritsugu, Shiro and Saber lay huddled. Saber was struggling to get back on her feet and continue fighting. It was rather indicative Shiro was physically managing to hold her back.
Dark Archer came dangerously close to the group, even as Lancer and Kuro tried to hold him back. The latter seemed in a good mood, smirking at as a thousand and one swords kept blasting at her enemy from all directions, even as they were deflected by a pair of flower-like Conceptual Shields. They all leapt back when Illya threw fire at him.
"Hey!" Kuro cried. "No kill stealing!"
"Stop being so carefree!" Illya cried, sounding like a bad translation. "Take this seriously!"
"I am!" Kuro said, spinning and darting forward to strike at Dark Archer. "Everything is going according to plan!"
"OKAY, SERIOUSLY, WHAT IS THIS PLAN, AND HOW COME NO ONE TOLD ME ABOUT IT?-!-?-!-?-!-?"
There was another roar as Dark Herakles charged through, slamming into Dark Gilgamesh and treading on him, leaving him in a humorous crater while Archer suddenly disengaged from Dark Assassin and plucked Caster out of the way, carrying her bridal style. Gilgamesh, taken by surprise, was sent flying by the charging hulk.
"Okay, plan says that now you call Berserker!" Kuro said as she darted back while Lancer charged Dark Archer from behind.
Unable to drop the pair of Rho Aias in time, Dark Archer's chest exploded. A moment later, Gae Bolg's red spear-point erupted through the hole. Lancer quickly ripped put the weapon, deftly avoiding the rush of dark fluids that burst towards him.
"Yeah!" Kuro cheered.
Dark Archer raised its head haltingly as its knees began to buckle. "Broken Phantasm," it choked. "Unlimited Blade Works…"
Everyone in the air felt their hairs start to rise as power built. Saber tackled Shiro, Kiritsugu and Iris to the ground, trying to keep her body between them and Dark Archer. Miyu and Sakura disengaged, moving to shield Luvia and Rin, even as Archer tried to hastily shield a groggy Gilgamesh, Caster and a hurrying Rider. Sue dropped her bulk on top of Dark Archer as Illya tried what she could protect everyone, crying for her Servant, even as Assassin grabbed her to try and shield her with her own body.
The power of a Reality Marble, unviable as it was, exploded. Two versions of Unlimited Blade Works exploded violently as a dark mirror of a third was Broken. And the top of Mount Enzou was violently removed…
The first thing Emiya Shiro became aware of was the ringing in his ears.
The second thing was the fact his head was squashed against his mother's breasts.
He struggled to extricate himself, and realized Saber was lying on his back, making the operation difficult. Frantically, he struggled, to get out, pulling himself out from between the two women. A roar split the air.
A hand grabbed his, pulling him out with easy strength, and he suddenly found himself face to face wit the formerly-dead Archer. "See, it's times like this that having Kiritsugu forget to take Avalon out of you is a good thing," Archer said cheerfully.
"Y-you're… you're alive!" Shiro said obviously.
Archer sighed. "Ooh, so close. There you were being all badass and awesome, and you had to ruin all that by backsliding and repeating the obvious like a moron. Do you still have magic left? Can you still fight?"
Blinking, Shiro looked around. They were back in the real world, and the temple was… absolutely bombed and leveled. Walls had been blasted, buildings destroyed, and nearly every tree in sight was either broken, crushed, or leaning away. Only the dark mass that had stood in the center of the courtyard remained. The fakes stood before it, looking battered and obviously in bad shape. Among them, a giant hulk was regenerating, dark viscous fluids reforming into a humanoid form.
"That's three lives down…" Archer mused, looking like he hadn't been touched at all. "That makes things easier."
Shiro ignored him looking around. A large mass that was substantially smaller than the T-Rex it had started out as lay decaying on the ground, which had obviously shielded Illya and Assassin, although both were unconscious. Illya had reverted back to her street clothes, and Ruby was frantically trying to wake her, and slowly succeeding if the way Illya was twitching was any indicator. Miyu was similarly down, and though Sakura was still conscious and on her feet, her eyes looked unfocused, and she swayed on her feet. Rin helped her stay up, while Luvia tried to keep an eye out. For that matter, so did Caster, standing over an unconscious Rider and Gilgamesh. Lancer was nowhere to be seen. Around Shiro were the unconscious forms of his parents, Saber and Kuro. The latter looked like she was struggling to stay conscious.
"..take 'em…" she muttered groggily, trying to push herself up, only to collapse against Kiritsugu. She looked in the worse shape of all. "..can shtill fight…"
Archer gently pushed her down. "It's all right…" he said gently. "The three of us can handle this."
Shiro blinked. "Three?" Did he mean Caster or Sakura? Both looked like they were ready to fall over right then…
The large patch of darkness behind the mass that used to be Sue, which Shiro had assumed was its shadow, moved.
"He drives us bats, bats, bats…" Archer sung cheerfully under his breath. "Stay here and protect your parents. Rin-chan! Your boy-toy here needs backup! We'll handle this."
"GO TO HELL!" Rin cried, giving him the finger. Sakura sighed, and started trying to tug her sister towards them.
Dark Herakles roared, charging towards them. Archer yelled right back, running to meet him.
"He's going to get killed…" Shiro breathed. "Again."
"…no…" Kuro managed, eyes fluttering. "…watch…"
"Noble Phantasm…" a voice that sent internal organs wriggling said, in barely a whisper that managed travel. "Belt of Endless Weapons…"
There was a blur, and the air suddenly flickered, hundreds of black glints suddenly whirring through the air, slamming into Dark Heracles. Dozens of small, curved and serrated black blades suddenly imbedded themselves into Dark Herakle's skin, a little red dot blinking on all.
Several dozen Contained Tactical Atomic detonations suddenly engulfed the fake.
"Four down!" Archer said cheerfully, darting sideways to avoid Dark Berserker as he charged the other fakes, power congealing in his hands and resolving into enormous swords. He seemed to flicker, darting between Dark Gilgamesh and Caster's attacks, moving in close. Dark Caster fired at him at point-blank range, but the spells just seemed to cease to exist as he blocked them with the enormous sword in his hands. He kicked her feet out from under her, sword moving to slam down, but Dark Lancer slammed it out of the way, reversing to stab him. He parried it with the blade in his other hand, and the air filled with the sound of metal ringing again. Swords materialized out of the air at a phenomenal rate as it countered both Dark Gilgamesh and Dark Caster.
"Oh, please," Archer said condescendingly. "The real goldenrod couldn't beat my output when I was alive. What makes you think you can?"
He dodged, maneuvering to keep himself between the output of weapons and Dark Caster. He dodged, letting weapons pass around him, causing Dark Caster to stumble back as it was attacked by its own allies. Dark Lancer moved in for the kill, its dark spear lashing forward, and he parried, the weapon in his other hand diverting the spear. He needed to buy time. Destroying all three was very much possible for him, but doing so would use up all his ring power and prana, and it wasn't like he could pop it into a lantern to recharge it. And without a source of energy, he had to conserve what prana he had. That was why he had to piggyback on Kuro's Reality Marble. It had been easier to insinuate his own alterations when she'd already done most of the work. Time… he needed to buy time…
One of Dark Caster's spells wasn't completely neutralized, a small splash burning against his cheek. The pain burned, but he didn't ignore it. The pain was good. As long as he could feel, he was still alive, for a given value of alive. With a grin, Archer attacked.
Dark Berserker charged as Dark Herakles collapsed into a charred mess of exposed bone, the visual effect around it making the eye cringe. An enormous sword suddenly appeared in its hands, and suddenly the illusion lessened, leaving only an enormous knight in dark armor holding a legendary blade. It wasn't an improvement. Dark Herakle's corpse began to regenerate.
The 'shadow' of the mass next to Illya flickered, and suddenly a huge figure in a dark helm, cape spreading out behind it like someone had cut up a piece of the night, appeared from it, having somehow managed to hide in the sliver of shadow it had cast. One arm cast out, one of the chains wrapped around it lashing outward to tangle around Dark Berserker's legs. It slashed its blade downward before it could be tripped, breaking the chain. It charged at the other dark figure, but Berserker didn't seem to be there, the whole area around him becoming a huge, disconcerting blot as his cape spread.
The corpse finished regenerating, getting back to its feet with another roar. It charged at Berserker, who leapt over it, spinning out of the way as it tried to grab him as he sailed overhead. He landed lightly, dodging Dark Berserker's blade. One hand reached into his belt, pulling out a length of metal that unfolded into a long, curved weapon, the handle set in the center. It immediately grew long dark-blue line and growing spikes, more curves, and scalloped edges on top of the scalloped edges it already had. Blade met blade for a furious exchange that lasted ten rapid heartbeats, before Berserker suddenly pitched backward, rolling under Dark Herakle's furious punch to where he'd been standing. The hulk screamed as it was cut by Dark Berserker's attack, then cried again, as Berserker slashed upward with ruthless medical precision, slamming the point of the weapon into the one available opening.
"Break…" he ordered the Noble Phantasmed weapon.
It exploded right at the back entrance, tearing Dark Herakles in half and sending the upper body flying at Dark Berserker with the force of the explosion. Berserker danced out of the way of any shrapnel, coming to his feet, now with a blade in either hand, each growing eye-wrenching geometry in his hands. Five lives…
Shiro, however, wasn't able to watch longer. He had his own problems. He stood in front of Kuro and his parents, Caliburn raised, face determined. Dark Assassin didn't seem impressed. "Stay back!" Shiro threatened.
It tilted its head. "Noble Phantasm: Sue."
Shiro took an involuntary step back, mind suddenly filled with vivid memories of the first time he'd watched Jurassic Park. It roared, lunging for Shiro.
Several glowing jewels flew forward like bullets, exploding in a cacophony of elemental forces.
"Hands off Shiro-kun!" Luvia cried, half-carrying Miyu, before another barrage of explosive jewels lashed forward, exploding with excessive magical force. Sue screamed, stumbling. With a cry, Shiro charged it. His muscles screamed as he avoided its mouth-wide lunge, swinging the shining blade in his hands wide. It cut through the pseudo-flesh, but it didn't react. It lunged at him again, only for another barrage of gems to slam into its other side, making it turn to meet the other threat.
Dark Assassin turned towards Luvia, hand raised to blast, only for a pink ball of light to slam into the side of his head, causing him to stumble back, distracted. That was all Rin needed to come dashing in on its blind side, flicking a jewel at point-blank range at its head. It exploded in a shower of dark sludge, showering Rin, and barely missing Saber and the others. Rin's eyes went wide, and she fell to her knees, hands to her head as she started to scream as the third zombie dinosaur that day dissolved.
"NO!" Sakura growled, stumbling from where she'd shot the little ball of light at Dark Assassin. She knelt, grabbing Rin's head in her hands. "NO ONE IS TOUCHING MY SISTER! REINFORCE-SAN! FULL UNISON!"
Light erupted beneath Sakura's feet in a triangular sigil, Sakura's hair changing from purple to pale silver, eyes turning deep crimson. Awareness flooded into them, and another sigil appeared in front of Sakura's hands. "Starlight Night Sky Therapy Kiss!"
Light flooded from Sakura's hands, burning away the dark sludge covering Rin. Rin swayed, the sludge gone, falling into Sakura's arms. Sakura held her for a moment, before rising to her feet, now the one supporting her sister, and brought her to Shiro's parents. Shiro, with nothing to fight now, joined them, warily watching the other battles. Dark Herakles had regenerated, and Berserker was fighting him as well.
Sakura lay Rin next to Kuro. Her eyes seemed to change as she looked at the smaller pale-haired girl. "You know who I am now," she said, voice slightly different.
Kuro smiled. "All hail Hayate…"
Sakura nodded. "It's time to call my Queen. Can you stand?"
Kuro grimaced, trying to sit up, but fell. "I'll need a pick me up." Sakura smiled and laid a hand, light flowing. Kuro managed to sit up, even as Rin, Iris, Kiritsugu and Saber started to stir. "Right! What do we do?"
"Luvia!" Sakura called, as the blonde came over, carrying Miyu. "We need you!"
"What do you want me to do?" the blonde asked, looking determined. One had to wonder where'd she'd packed all those jewels.
"Archer needs to disengage from the enemy," Sakura said. "The more he fights, the more power he draws from his ring, and the less time he has, and we'll need his ring. Someone needs to replace him in the front line."
"We'll need to revive the Servants, then," Luvia said, setting Miyu down.
"There's no time!" Sakura said. "We need to send Shiro-sempai in. The problem is, he's running low on energy."
"I can still fight," Shiro said, face set.
"Not for long enough," Sakura said. "You'll need more mana. And there's only one way I can think of to transfer enough…"
"I'LL DO IT!" Kuro cried, raising her hand. "I'LL HAVE SEX WITH ONII-CHAN!"
Shiro blanched, while Kiritsugu twitched. So did Rin and Saber. Sakura tugged on Kuro's ear. "Down, girl. That's not what I meant. Someone needs to form a Pactio with Shiro-sempai. Right now, it's the best way we have to establish a constant flow of magic to Shiro."
Luvia frowned. "A pactio… isn't that Latin for 'contract'?"
"A Pactio?" Kritsugu repeated, giving the word a slightly different inflection. "You can make a Pactio circle?"
Shadows writhed underfoot, a circular design with a hexagram in the center and zodiac symbols all around being scored into the ground.
"Of course you can," Kiritsugu said. "I don't know why I'm surprised."
"I'LL DO IT!" Kuro cried again, ignoring the grip Sakura had on her ear. "I'LL MAKE OUT WITH ONII-CHAN!"
"No!" Saber managed, sounding weak but determined. She tried to lever herself up with her sword, and failed. "I will not be a party to such indecency!"
"Says the girl who took my sister's virginity," Sakura said. "Luvia, we need you to do it."
Luvia, Shiro, Rin, and Saber all turned red, though likely for vastly different reasons. "M-me?" Luvia sputtered, eyes darting sideways at Shiro.
"HER?" Rin demanded loudly, pointing an accusing finger.
"She's the most logical choice," Sakura said. "Assassin is going to need massive amounts of prana to recover, and you're already stretched after what happened this morning, onee-chan. Luvia has power to spare."
"And what about you?" Saber asked, staring at her intently.
"I… won't be available to provide it, after I do this," Sakura said, sounding wistful, yet determined. "We have no time to argue! Both of you need to get inside the circle now!"
Luvia looked uncertain, but suddenly turned a smug look at Rin and stepped into the circle. Shiro hesitated.
"Do it, onii-chan," Kuro said weakly. "Trust me…"
Slowly, Shiro stepped into the circle. It began to glow slightly. "What do we need to do?"
"You need to kiss," Sakura said, stepping out of the sigil. One side of her lips quirked up in a half-smile. "Preferably with tongue, so we know you're doing it right."
Shiro blushed, opening his mouth to let out some kind of exclamation… and Luvia pounced, her mouth meeting his, tongue already at full extension. Anything he tried to say came out extremely muffled. Rin's eyebrow twitched wildly. Saber's fingers spasmed on her sword. Kiritsugu wasn't sure how he was supposed to react to this.
Iris sniffed. "WAH! MY SON IS SO MANLY!"
"Onii-chan!" Kuro cried. "Put some backbone into it! Show that bitch who's boss!"
The sigil burst into life in a rush of magic as Sakura snapped her fingers. "PAC-TI-O!" she cried as a card materialized in midair. It showed Shiro, clad in red and black, a determined look on his face, clutching a small orb to his chest, Caliburn in his other hand. On it were inscribed the words:
Sakura plucked it out of the air, and the card split into two identical copies. She waited.
And waited some more.
"Ahem," she coughed. "Luvia-san, you're done. The contract has been established. You can stop kissing him now."
Shiro stumbled back, blushing vividly, while Luvia reluctantly relinquished her hold. "Now what?" Shiro asked, not looking at Luvia, who looked pretty smug.
"Luvia-sempai, the command to transfer power to Shiro is 'Sim Mea Pars,'" Sakura said. "You have to focus on Shiro to keep the link constant. Shiro-sempai, you can draw power from Luvia by saying 'Sim Tua Pars' by yourself if she loses her concentration. The command to activate you Artifact is 'Adeat'." Shiro opened his mouth, but Sakura quickly cut in. "The Artifact is what your Pactio Card transforms into. It's a magical item that corresponds with your own abilities. Usually, only those with Official Contracts get it, but Luvia-sempai is powerful enough to provide you with one at this stage. Any other questions?"
"How do you know all this?-!" Shiro asked.
Sakura gave him a level look, one eyebrow raised. "The being Unisoned to me told me so."
"What kind of an explanation is that?" Luvia asked.
"One that will make sense in hindsight," Sakura said dryly. "Shiro-sempai, you need to go, now."
Both Luvia and Shiro looked at the Cards in their hands.
"Adeat!" Shiro cried, feeling slightly silly. The Card in his hands glowed, changing shape. In his hands was a clear glass sphere about the size of a large marble filled with rainbow mist, within three golden rings wrapped around its three axis's. There was neat writing on the outermost band. On one side of the sphere was Shiro's name. On the other side were the words Vitreus Cor. It felt warm in his hands, and he felt a strange sensation of suction from it. he moved it to his other hand, but his fingers weren't unencumbered. "What is it?"
"'Heart of Glass'?" Rin translated. "What does that mean? Is that its name?"
Shiro considered it, then held it up. "Noble Phantasm! Heart of Glass!"
Shiro squirmed at the stares. "What? It was a likely way of finding out how it worked."
"Do you feel some kind of suction?" Sakura asked. "Because that's a sign it has to be fed magical energy. Just… concentrate on your magic and imagine putting some of yourself into it–"
"A LITTLE BACKUP HERE?" Archer cried. "SERIOUSLY, TALKING IS NOT A FREE ACTION!"
"Um, find out later!" Sakura said. "Put it in your pocket for now! Luvia-sempai, power!"
"Sim Mea Pars!" Luvia called out. Shiro felt energy rush through him, warm and slightly pleasurable. He raised a hand and concentrated, trying to direct the warm energy down the ways he knew. "Trace, on!" His pocket glowed briefly as Caliburn snapped into existence in his hand. Shiro blinked, looking down at the sword, then at his pocket. "What…?"
"I saw that…" Iris said, peering at Shiro's pocket.
"SERIOUSLY, NOT A FREE ACTION!"
"Go!" Sakura urged, swaying on her feet, raising one hand to her forehead. She seemed to flicker, her hair and eyes turning back to purple again. "We're almost out of time…"
Shiro turned and ran, sword held raised in both hands.
Kuro sighed. "Ah, Onii-chan… such a suicidal moron. Can someone help me up?"
"Hell no…" Rin said, glaring at the girl. "I know you. You'll grab whoever helps you up and drain their prana."
Kuro sighed. "Damn my charisma."
Saber frowned, then grabbed Rin, dragging her to the circle.
"Hey, wha–?-!" was all Rin managed to get out before Saber's lips met hers, and she became aware of a foreign tongue in her mouth. Luvia, Sakura, Kuro, Iris and Kiritsugu all raised their eyebrows.
Saber broke off the kiss from the shocked Rin, looking around, golden eyes narrowed and frowning. "Why isn't power flowing into me?"
Sakura coughed delicately. "The circle only works once, Saber-san."
"Shouldn't you be helping?" Iris asked.
Sakura held out a hand. The air above it flickered, and a non-descript hardbound book appeared above it. "I am helping. Onee-chan, have Assassin wake up…"
Archer was feeling slightly annoyed when Shiro finally attack Dark Lancer from behind. "You're late," he said, continuing to counter Gilgamesh and Medea's clones. Shiro just gave an inarticulate cry as he swung downward, slashing at Dark Lancer, who parried with its spear. Metal continued to ring, and Archer sighed. "While I quite understand that yelling like that is all a part of sword fighting, making the diaphragm compact to add more compress to your torso so that you slash down harder, you really need to work on your breath control. No one respects a Hero of Justice who can't banter unless his name is Batman." He subtly knocked several of fake goldenrods weapons away from Shiro.
"Don't…" Shiro panted, sweeping the spear away with wide circular sweeps. "You… ever… shut up?"
"No. I find talking a lot annoys my enemies and makes them sloppy. Besides, you can't properly give long dramatic lectures on the nature of justice in the middle of a fight if you don't talk," Archer said, sweeping an arm as the crystal on his gauntlet glowed several time, summoning several Ensis Exorcizans to block Dark Caster's attacks. "Switch with me, he's about to stab you in the heart." Shiro frantically darted back as Dark Lancer cried, "Gae Bolg!" the spear-point breaking several laws of physics as Archer stepped into the path of the weapon, deliberately leaving an opening only to block it at the last second. There was a sort of delayed ring as the spear bounced off his swords after the fact. "I see you have tracing down. Make this, will you?" Archer said, tossing an Ensis Exorcizans at him. "Caster at seven o'clock."
Shiro caught the sword, and felt a rush as his hands made contact with the handle. He could feel the structure of the thing, felt the mild sense of unreality about it. It was like holding on to a whirlpool, and he could feel its strange, negating power, the skill of the one who'd possessed it. He could feel the structure, the design, could see the blueprint clearly in his mind…
He whirled, the magic from Luvia moving through him into the sword, warping the around it, feeling it spread like a cloud. The sword blocked the blasts from Dark Caster, reducing them to nothing as the magic was negated. He slashed at the air, trying to catch them all. Caliburn shattered in his hands. Without thought, he thought of his new blueprint, pouring power into it…
The Artifact in his pocket flared again, and a second sword was in his hands. There was no doubt this time: it had been easier create that one. There'd been no feeling of being emptied this time. The second blade cut and whirred through the air, negating more spells. The ground by his left foot erupted as he missed a couple, and he stumbled back. A skill from the sword urged him to keep up the pace, and he followed it instinctively. "Kankaho!"
The warmth inside him seemed to mix, and he felt strength rushing to his limbs. His arms began to blur, blocking the spells, seeing the spells coming at him slower, easier to predict and counter. The swords clove into the ground as he overcompensated, tearing into it as easily as through jello.
"Hey, watch it," Archer chided. "I just got my legs back, I don't want to lose them again!"
"W-what's happening to me…?" Shiro managed to get out.
"You can read the skills of those who possessed these weapons before you copied them," Archer explained easily as he suddenly grabbed Dark Lancer's spear by the haft, trapping the weapon under his arm as he spun, kicking the fake in the face before using the spear as leverage to throw the fake into the path of several flying weapons from Dark Gilgamesh. It exploded into dark sludge as Archer moved to counter, tossing the spear aside before it also dissolved. "It's very useful, especially when they know more than how to swing a sword. How's the Pactio?"
"It's… nice," Shiro admitted, blushing slightly.
"Yes, almost as good as porn, isn't it?" Archer said cheerfully, making Shiro blush harder.
Berserker dodged Dark Berserker, parrying Arondight with one of his blades. The other snapped shut like a trap, severing Dark Berserker's hands in a rush of dark fluid. The blade flipped into the air as Berserker dodged the viscous substance, and he caught the sword easily, dark blue glowing lines erupting along the sword as the blade developed scalloped edges and sweeping curves while Dark Berserker's hands began to regenerate. Berserker spun, Breaking the weapon as he slammed it into a rising Dark Herakle's chest. He went with the spin, sweeping Dark Berserker off his feet and grabbing him in midair, slamming him on top of the Broken sword. Calmly, he took several steps back.
The sword exploded, taking Dark Berserker with it as Dark Herakles died yet again.
"Seven," Berserker counted clinically. He reached into his belt, drawing out another long, curved blade. With his other hand, he drew out several disks, and dropped them all around Dark Herakle's corpse. Almost all of them burst, releasing an eclectic and highly esoteric mix of fluids that dropped the temperature to absolute zero, covering the body in ice. He gave the resulting icicle a sharp rap, shattering it into pieces. "Eight…"
Archer sighed. "Always the pragmatist."
"Ow…" Assassin groaned as he dragged the slowly rousing Illya towards the huddled group. "My head…"
"Look alive, everyone!" Kuro groaned. "The plan is almost complete!"
"I think I have to repeat your sister's question here, Kuro-chan?" Iris asked sweetly. "What plan?"
"The plan that's been in progress since the 4th Holy Grail War, when the 4th Caster went rogue," Sakura said determinedly, staring straight at the dark mass that everyone had been ignoring in favor of wailing on each other. It had risen noticeably, now looking like some kind of elongated bulb. Or an egg. "Lancer-san, can you materialize?"
The air next to Luvia shimmered, and Lancer appeared, looking the worse for wear. One eye had swelled shut, and he was favoring his right arm. "Ow…" he said succinctly.
Luvia glared at him. "Where have you been?" she demanded.
"Making sure I didn't kick the bucket," he growled at her. "In case you didn't notice, I was right next to that thing when it went off, and I didn't have some honkin' big dragon to cover me! Even in spirit form that thing hurt!"
"Lancer-san," Sakura asked. "Can you still use Gae Bolg?"
"Barely," Lancer said, gesturing to his arm. "What for? Not much point in me joining in at this point."
Sakura pointed at the mass. "Kuro's heart is still inside that thing. I need you to use Gae Bolg to target it so we know where the center of the Grail is. We need to destroy that completely to break this Grail."
Saber frowned. "The grail is mine. It was promised to me."
"We don't have time for this," Sakura sighed. She looked significantly at Kuro.
"I won't let you–" Saber began.
Kuro jerked herself to her feet, leapt at Saber from behind and wrapped her arms around her shoulders, the Servant tried to throw her off, but Kuro snaked her arm around, pulled, and suddenly had her mouth against the Servant's. Saber collapsed to her knees as Kuro bounded on her feet, smiling as she licked lips. "Thanks for the treat!" she chirped.
Saber panted, face flushed. She tried to rise, and trembled.
"Kuro!" Illya exclaimed as she woozily got to her feet.
"Don't worry sis, I still love you more," Kuro said, smiling brightly. "You have a nicer ass…"
Saber twitched, knowing she'd been insulted.
Lancer stared down at Saber, than looked at Luvia, then at Sakura. He sighed. "Fine," he said, sounding resigned. "What do you want me to do?"
"Hey!" Luvia protested. "You're MY Servant!"
"I apologize, Luvia-sempai," Sakura said. "Can I borrow Lancer-san for a suicide run that might be our only chance to destroy that mass of concentrated evil?"
"Of course!" Luvia said graciously. "You need only to ask"
Lancer rolled his eyes. "You're all insane."
Sakura nodded. "Kuro-chan, please clear a path, if you feel up to it. Lancer-san, stay behind us. We need you to conserve yourself until you're close enough to target Kuro's heart."
"Hey, I just got this thing replaced!" Kuro protested.
"The other one, Kuro-chan," Sakura said patiently. "Are we clear? Then let's go."
Sakura took off at a dead run, towards the dark mass. Kuro soon overtook her, swords appearing in her hands. Lancer pursued, moving very quickly for someone who'd been at pointblank range of a bomb.
Everyone stared at them.
"WHAT KIND OF PLAN IS THAT?-!-?-!-?-!" Rin exclaimed. She raised her hands to tear at her hair, but restrained herself. "ASSASSIN! FOLLOW THEM!"
Assassin gave her a look, but raced after them, looking between the two groups of combatants, keeping a particular eye on Dark Herakles.
"Again, I feel so incidental," Kiritsugu sighed.
Sakura ran, heart pounding, clutching the Tome of he Night Sky to her chest. Kuro ran ahead of her, blades raised defensively. Shiro and Archer were keeping Dark Gilgamesh and Dark Caster occupied, the average high school student somehow blocking Dark Caster's spells with the pair of oversized swords he wielded, the latter matching his opponent weapon for weapon. The ground shook as Berserker fought Dark Herakles. The slightly smaller Servant dodged the large creature, even though both moved at eye-blurring speed, every step causing the ground to vibrate. He seemed to have run out of ways to kill it quickly, or something had broken his rhythm.
She ran past the, believing that Berserker was a powerful as Reinforce has told her. The could barely feel the Unison Device within here, barely the tiniest connection. After ten years of her constant presence within, manipulating the different magical energies that coursed through her, the loss left Sakura feeling almost literally hollow. She quashed the thought. This was it, the moment that night so long ago had been building up to. She grit her teeth and forced herself to move, wishing she could ask Kaze-neechan to boost with something; Kanka, chi, reinforcement, a Bellax spell of some kind…
Something tickled at the back of her brain…
Her steps quickened as the slight heat of chi flowed through her, remembering to stay behind Kuro. They neared the dark mass. The Kirei-thing seemed to have sunk back in, or perhaps moved itself to another part of it. Either way, he wasn't at the area they were approaching.
"Careful!" Sakura warned.
Tendrils shot out of the dark mass, thorned tentacles that swiped at Kuro. She didn't bother dodging, just cutting through them like some kind of economy-sized loli food processor from hell, tearing at them with speed and efficiency, outlining a clear space made by her wall of swords. Watching the little girl, one had to wonder how people could forget so easily: that here was a being with the power of an Epic Spirit made manifest on Earth, a being with potential equal to gods in their own way.
And then Sakura looked, actually looked, at the mass, and froze. "No…" Sakura breathed.
It moved slightly. The surface of the mass stretched, and there was the impression of a long, thin shape.
"It's almost formed!" Sakura cried. "Lancer-san–!"
Lancer raised his spear, face twisting in pain, and Sakura wondered if his arm was broken. "Gae–"
The tendrils arced high overhead, jabbing over Kuro to strike at Lancer.
"Fuego!" Assassin cried, a blinding, needle-like stream of fire slashing sideways, severing the tendrils and causing them to rain all over.
The surface of the mass burst, a hole tearing itself open through the surprisingly flimsy surface for a brief instant, Gae Bolg turning into a red geometric impossibility as it stabbed at a distant heart. There was a brief instance glimpse of a small shape before cause and effect came back in force, and it was realized that Gae Bolg was too short to stab that far.
"Assassin-san, burn!" Sakura ordered.
Fire and force blasted at the hole, ripping it through the universe reasserted itself, tearing the hole open properly.
The book in Sakura's arm tore itself out of her grip, flying through the hole as if pulled by a rubber band.
"There it is!" Sakura cried, feeling completely drained. She tried to push back the hollow feeling within her, which had always been filled before… "Run! It's out of our hands now!"
Kuro held her ground briefly as Lancer, Sakura and Assassin fell back, the magus supporting the former, before she herself danced back. "It's moving, Sakura-san! It's moving!"
"Can someone tell me exactly what that was supposed to accomplish!-?" Assassin demanded. "Because considering how much fuss you people keep making about this 'plan' of yours, I was expecting something that, I don't know, WAS WORTH GETTING KILLED FOR?-!-?-!-?-!-?"
"Kirei is using the Grail to bring the ultimate manifestation of human evil into the world," Sakura panted, helping Lancer move and wincing for him at every jolt. "He can pull it off because the Grail was tainted during the Third War by an untested Servant prototype. To destroy the manifestation, we need to destroy the Grail. Only a spirit being like a Servant can touch the Grail. But of the Servants here, Saber-san has been infected by the taint on the Grail, so she's vulnerable to corruption. Gilgamesh-san is technically no longer a spirit being because of his own exposure to the corruption ten years ago, Archer-san was dead, Berserker could not be allowed to approach it, there are some doubts as to Caster-san's reliability, and you, Rider and Lancer-san are ill-equipped to destroy the Grail."
"So you're saying that none of us could destroy the Grail?" Lancer said. "Then what did we just do?"
"No Servant summoned in this War has the ability or the qualification to destroy the Grail," Sakura said. "So…"
She entered the corrupted, infested body, barriers at full power, barely keeping back the taint of Avenger's corrupted wish. The form she occupied trembled, as if even through all these centuries, after passing through death and this rebirth, it still remembered the touch of the Grail's darkness.
If she'd had a face right then, she'd have smiled darkly. There was only one touch she yearned for…
…And now, after a decade of waiting, she was about to feel it again.
She congealed energy, formed spells, kept that pathway open in front of her even as it knit back behind. The monstrosity wasn't finished yet, though it would be soon. She could feel the wrongness it exuded, feel it grow stronger with each moment. It had been a gamble, deciding to buy time instead of letting it loose and trying to take it down while it was incomplete. She had to wonder how much of what was happening was out of planning and free will, and how much was a stable time loop. Technically, there should be any time loops like that. Not after Zero Hour. But still, she had to wonder…
She broke through and there, there, so tantalizingly close, was the core of the Grail. Kuro's heart. It wasn't a mere organ now. Perhaps the easiest way to describe it was a Conceptual Construct. Incomplete for so long, only to be fulfilled during this travesty, it was a hole into Akasha, pouring power and Light, Life, into the universe. It was a door long closed, finally reopened.
And chained to that door… for all this time… for ten years… waiting this chance…
Your Majesty… she sent. I'm here. It's time.
She heard the smile in the word. Always, that beautiful, beautiful smile. Hello…
"…the plan needed to resort to using one who wasn't from this war," Sakura said. "One that would be powerful enough destroy the Grail even through its bonding to Kirei, and untouched by the taint–"
Without warning, a shockwave rippled along the ground, sending everyone tumbling. Sakura managed to throw herself away from Lancer to keep from injuring the Servant, her body moving instinctively into a roll that kept her from getting hurt. Nearly everyone was throw off their feet, even Dark Herakles, though a dark splot in midair indicated that Berserker hadn't been touched at all.
The top of the mass heaved, and an enormous, skeletal arm clawed at the sky…
"..before that happened," Sakura finished weakly.
Reinforce, bestow upon me my staff and armor…
Just like old times, huh?
Yes… prepare to initiate emergency teleport… please.
I thought you'd never ask… my queen…
Eh…! How many times do I have to tell you! Call me…
"NOBLE PHANTASM! TOME OF THE NIGHT SKY!"
The words echoed on the mountaintop. A brilliant, blazing triangular sigil of light burst into being in the sky above, washing the devastated battlefield in brilliance. Above it, a sphere of pure white energy formed.
Getting to his feet, Archer sniffed. "Women. Can't be early to anything…" He grabbed the still dazed Shiro, throwing the surprised boy over his shoulder and jumping to where Gilgamesh and Caster had fallen and were finally starting to rouse. He looked up. "Any second now…"
Groggily, Gilgamesh looked up, and his eyes went wide as panic seized him. He gestured, but a deceptively soft, immensely strong gripped clamped on his hand. "Now, now," Archer said. "You mustn't interrupt a lady when she's preening…"
Saber stared, wide-eyed. "Impossible…" she breathed. "She should be gone! The Caster Class have no Independent Action! She should have disappeared in a day." Rider groaned as Sakura began to rouse her.
"Yes…" Sakura said, as they finally joined them. "Unless they had a tether to the world to keep them anchored and prevent reality from erasing them… like a girl who contained a part of her." Everyone stared at her as she smiled. "How else could I do such blatantly broken things, if not for the support of a Servant's power?"
The sphere burst.
A woman stood there, garbed in a short dark dress with golden trim. In one hand she held a golden staff, weighed at one end, a sharp, cross-like tip on the other. The book Sakura had held floated above her other hand. She thrust the staff upward. "Light of the Night Sky, come to my hand, come to my soul! Blessed Wind, Reinforce…SET UP!" Light blazed, and power poured off her in waves as clothing appeared on her, all in brilliant white. Her hair paled, and six wings of black erupted from her back. Dark Caster and Dark Gilgamesh reacted, weapons and spells blasting at her relentlessly.
She raised a hand, and an enormous triangular sigil interposed itself between the, blocking the attacks. They saw a glint of white as she smiled. "Oh, how thoughtful… volunteers to help me warm up. DIVINE DANMAKU!"
Everyone was thrown from their feet again as the sky suddenly turned bright pink and dropped like a solid mass on a single, unfortunate spot. Dark Gilgamesh was torn apart as the literal thousands of balls of energy slammed into it in less than a heartbeat, and it exploded into black sludge. The figure whirled as Dark Caster suddenly appeared behind it, teleporting into position. She already had a finger raised and pointed at the fake's chest. "Too slow," she said with a smile, blue eyes pitiless. The next word came as a slightly animalistic, almost orgasmic snarl. "Hraesvelgr!"
Dark Caster simply exploded. The figure dropped the shielded that had shielded her from the resulting dark sludge with the satisfied air of someone who seen a job well done.
"Hells bells…" Assassin breathed.
A tearing sound ripped through the air, drawing their attention to the dark mass. It was…
It was hatching.
"She's cutting it close," Archer commented, one finger pointed up as a watch face made of light balanced atop it.
"KOTOMINE KIREI!" the figure bellowed. "For acts against your fellow man, for murder, for causing suffering, for intentionally setting out to bring evil to this world, I condemn you! For the murder of Tohsaka Tokiomi, it judge you! I am the Servant Caster of the Fourth Holy Grail War! I am the Regina Daemonia, Destroy of Worlds, Hero of Justice, Queen of the Night Sky, Yagami Hayate! I have fought gods and made them cry! I have withstood the attentions of Dark Evangel and the Green Devil of Earth! You are as nothing to me!"
The egg-like shell of the mass finally split and cracked, the afterbirth dissolving into dark sludge as an enormous wave of kinetic force lashed out at 4th Caster, warping the very air as it passed.
One hand snapped up with casual ease. "Silent Wall!" Hayate cried, the blast breaking around the invisible barrier. Her other hand gestured.
"I suggest we get under something," Archer said. "Hayate-chan hasn't killed any allies doing this yet, but the laws of multiversal averages says it'll happen–"
"Schwalbe Fliegen! Overkill Shift!"
Metal seemed to congeal out of the air as Hayate swung her staff, and a near literal rain of streaking metal blasted downwards. It struck the form of the enormous monstrosity that had hatched from the Grail, sending another blast wave through the ground and knocking everyone off their feet again as magic did business with physics.
"Damn it, woman, watch where you're shooting!" Archer cried as he got back to his feet. "I thought Eva and Negi had knocked all the lack of fire control out of you!"
Rin and Luvia both gave Archer a look. "Who?" they chorused, eyes intent. Archer ignored them.
"Eh? Who's there?" Hayate called, looking down.
A giant white construct appeared in Archer's hands, that of a big sign with an arrow pointing at him. "It's me, you crazy nymphomaniac! Servant Archer, 5th War… that ring any bells?"
"Hey! It's been a lifetime since you got your Linker Core uploaded, you can't fault me for forgetting!"
"The nerve! You'd think you'd at least remember with guilt the man you killed because you weren't paying attention to what your knights were doing!"
"It's kind of hard to be guilty when I realized who you really were S–"
"HEY! IX-NAY ON THE EAL-RAY AMES-NAY!"
"What's the matter, afraid of getting in trouble with the Missuses?"
"THAT'S RICH COMING FROM YOU, MISS OMNISEXUAL!"
"HEY! DON'T GET MAD AT ME BECAUSE YOU'VE ONLY EVER BEEN WITH FIVE WOMEN!"
"HEY! THERE WERE SEVEN!"
"DOUBLES OF THE SAME PERSON DON'T COUNT!"
"IT DOES SO COUNT! AND ANYWAY, THEY ENDED UP BECOMING DIFFERENT PEOPLE!"
"Oh, damn it, there's two of them…" Lancer swore.
"S-seven?" Kuro said, eyes wide, drool dripping from her mouth, nose bleeding from both nostrils. "I heard the right, right? He said seven?"
The word wasn't raised, was actually kind of quiet, but it instantly cut through the chatter. Berserker stood there, and one could almost feel your skin trying to crawl off your flesh. There was no glare. There wasn't anything to glare. Regardless, some kind of glare was there.
"Ring power is being consumed…" came the growl. He casually backhanded Dark Herakles as it charged at him from behind swinging a large chunk of rock, breaking said rock and sending the brute crashing back. "You are running out of time…"
The feeling of primal glare intensified, and there was the feeling your bones wanted out of this sinking ship.
"Get to work…"
Hayate and Archer both stiffened, feet locking together and back straight as they saluted. "Sir, yes sir!" they said in unison.
Dark Herakles charged again, and with almost negligent ease, Berserker back flipped over it. A strange, black disc was slapped onto its head in passing. It immediately began to scream, clutching at its skull. There was a high-pitched whine, and dark fluid began to gush from its ears, eyes and nostrils. It collapsed to the ground, shuddered, and finally dissolved into dark sludge.
"Twelve," Berserker said nonchalantly, turning to the where Hayate's last spell had struck.
Hayate and Archer stared, wide-eyed, at where the thing had fallen. "I hate it when he does that…" Hayate muttered. "It makes me feel so inadequate…"
"How do you think I feel?" Archer said.
"I feel out of the loop here…" Rin said.
"Now you know how I feel," Kiritsugu said.
The ground rumbled again. In the crater of the spell, something stirred.
No… this is impossible…
"Ding!" Archer said. "Evil Overlord List Drinking Game! We all take a shot!"
I have the power of the Grail! I am all powerful!
"Newsflash, creepy pervert priest," Archer said, a white bow materializing in his hands. "If it were, they wouldn't have needed 5 Grail Wars to reclaim the 3rd Magic."
A form rose out of the crater. Despite Kirei-thing's bitching, it looked relatively unharmed. Long, nearly skeletal arms protruded from a bulb-like fat torso. A twisted, misshapen head with four asymmetric crimson-eyes glared from it, and it's equally long and skeletal legs had knees that bent over the crouching thing's head. In the center of its chest was the impression of Kirei, like a clay figure squashed and nearly flattened into it. It roared from no discernable mouth, dark sludge dripping from its limbs. They sizzled as they struck the ground, and fumes seemed to waft from it.
Giglamesh forced himself to his feet, face set in rage. "WHAT ARE YOU ALL WAITING FOR?-!" he cried. Weapons began to materialize behind him. "DESTROY IT!"
That seemed to snap everyone out of whatever shocked reverie they'd been in. Flames, force and ice blasted from Assassin, concentrated blasts of pure mana erupted from the re-transformed Illya and Miyu, and an unrelenting barrage of magic flew from Caster. They all slammed into the monstrosity, the skin seeming to burst from the impact, before reforming itself anew. The eyes turned to regard them, changing size and shape wildly.
Another blast of force ripped forward, but Hayate streaked downwards like a harbinger of doom, another cry of "Silence Wall" stopping it cold.
"Trace, on!" Kuro cried, drawing string to cheek, a spiraling sword knocked. "Caladbolg II!"
It flew, exploding to seemingly no effect on the beast's skin.
"It's no good!" Sakura cried as she helped Rider back on her feet. "Even incomplete, it's already growing too fast to be affected! You need to destroy the Grail's core inside it!"
"I thought you said only the new girl there could destroy it," Lancer said.
"To destroy the Grail!" Sakura snapped. "I didn't say anything about burning that thing's skin off!"
"Atem des Eises!" Haayte cried out, four cubes of energy quickly forming around her and as quickly shooting forward. They all slammed into the Grail creature, and the air temperature dropped dramatically, ice beginning to cover the beast in a rapidly thickening sheet, becoming meters thick in moments.
"Gil-san!" Hayate cried. "Now's your chance!"
Gilgamesh's arm shot out, a strangely shaped, cylindrical weapon snapping into his hand. Wind rose as it quickly began to rotate, crimson designs beginning to glow. "Enuma–!"
The ice began to crack and shatter. The whole mass groaned.
The already horribly abused mountain shuddered again, as everything in front of Gilgamesh was annihilated by the time-space distortion blasted out by the weapon. This time, even Berserker was knocked down, unable to keep his footing as reality itself was arbitrarily, random rearranged and reset. There was a voiceless scream as the universe cried out, the abomination's limbs ripping apart, skin flaying and peeling back under the pressures.
The world shuddered, and everything seemed to snap as the Barrier Sakura had raised collapsed. There was a crash as the remains Grail abomination fell on one of the buildings ringing the courtyard. The buildings, walls and trees, most now restored again, shuddered.
"Ring!" Archer ordered. "Access Akasha! Data Download! Initiate Reality Alteration! Create Pathway to a Mirror World!"
An enormous circle came into being, connected to Archer's ring by the minutest of lines. Pure white light, it glowed, and the world lurched again, and everyone had the sensation of suddenly being flipped upside down…
And then they were back. The place was identical to the temple, but clearly a construct of some sort. They could clearly see the borders of the place, a box of gridlines defining the limits of the reality.
"A Mirror World?" Miyu said, surprised. "But how…?"
"I've stopped bothering to ask," Illya grumbled.
"Warning," the ring said. "Ring power at 11 percent. Depletion imminent."
"Any time now, Hayate!" Archer cried, clutching his ring hand.
Hayate raised her hand overhead. "I summon the Green Devil's light of destruction! Gather, light of the stars…!"
Both Saber and Gilgamesh froze, overcome by flashbacks. Kiritsugu felt his knees began to shake, and even Shiro felt vaguely upset as energy began to gather above Hayate. Light seemed to congeal out of the very air, leaving little streaks of light they flew to join the rapidly expanding mass of energy being gathered.
Caster fell to her knees, aghast. "Impossible.. it's impossible… not even the gods…"
"HEY!" Kuro cried.
Everyone blinked to stare at her, now behind the wall next to the gate.
"I think you'll need to be here!" she said as she traced a bright yellow safety helmet on her head.
"Become the weapon that pierces everything," Hayate intoned, the energy above shining like a hellish moon about to fall from the sky.
There was a roar as the abomination slowly began to push itself back to its feet. Berserker bent down, grabbed Illya and Miyu, and quickly blurred as he joined Kuro. That seemed to open the floodgates, and soon they were all rushing, even Giglamesh, who'd let his fear response and herd instinct take over for a split second…
It saved his life.
"Tear through all evil in a shining blaze of righteousness!" Hayate finished.
There was light.
There was darkness.
There was confusion.
There was chaos.
The Grail shattered.
Hayate stood along in the middle of the courtyard of Ryudou Temple. Surprisingly, the whole place was still in pretty good shape. Sure, there was a little damage from the Invaders crawling through, but nothing a little work with shovels and some new rocks couldn't fix. Dark sludge and pale, milky white glowing liquid ran rivulets through the ground.
She heard a sound behind her, and turned.
Archer and Berserker stood there, the latter as inscrutable as ever, the former standing with his hands in his pockets. He was probably the only superhero who didn't shop off the shelf that had actual pockets to put his hands in. both, like her, were untouched by either fluid.
"You okay?" Archer asked.
She sighed. "It's weird… ten years of waiting, and now, it's over…" She looked down at her feet. They were already fading away. Without Sakura to tether her, reality was swiftly editing out her existence. "Was the plan successful?"
"Your part of it," Berserker said, voice soft. Anyone who'd heard him before would have been surprised. "I just have to wait for mine…"
Hayate bowed her head. "I'm sorry."
Berserker said nothing. His helm gave nothing away.
Archer turned away. "Well, I need to go. I still have a few hours of life left before this ring craps out and I go back to the Throne. Everything still has to go according to plan."
There was no answer. Hayate was gone.
Berserker nodded to Archer, and disappeared, back into spirit form. Waiting.
Archer carefully picked his way amidst the fluids, taking care not to touch either. They were already wiping each other out. The Grail hadn't only held darkness, after all.
"Sleep well, Avenger," he whispered to the wind.
Behind the wall, next to the gate, everyone was sprawled, all covered by the milky substance. He had to hand it to Hayate. A lifetime, death and ten years of sitting around doing nothing hadn't dampened the skills of the legendary One Woman Genocide one bit.
Kuro was groggily getting to her feet, nudging Illya to consciousness, until Archer stopped her, shaking his head. "Let them sleep. We need to talk."
Kuro faced him, looking into his eyes. "Shiro-niichan," she said softly.
He bent down and kissed her forehead, his ring glowing slightly as it absorbed all the liquid on her, buying itself a few more minutes. "Yes," he said.
She slapped him. Before he could react, slim arms had encircled his waist, holding him tight.
"I guess we really are brother and sister," she said into his stomach.
He patted her head, smiling gently. "I suppose we are," he said. "Strange. Even when I finally realized I was Archer, I never thought of it like that."
She looked up at him. "What happens now?"
He smiled. "Life moves on. We live. We learn. I stop being such a moron at some point, thought god help me if I can remember when exactly. Saber… Arturia… Things happen."
"That's not what I meant," Kuro said, pouting slightly, and making Archer long to do things to her. "What happens to you?"
His smiled became sad. "All things die in their time. The dead stay dead. It hasn't happened yet, but I died a long time ago."
"I wish you could stay," Kuro said. Her eyes glistened. Years of experience as a big brother told him they weren't fake.
"I do to," Archer said. "There's a lot that needs to be done. But I can't do them."
"I'll do it," Kuro said without hesitation.
"I won't ask it of you," Archer said. "It's too much to put on your shoulders."
Kuro sniffed, this time in derision, though there was a hint of sniffle in there. "Oh, cut that out. This is one of those things where you know what I'll do, isn't it? I'll do it. Let little sister do this much for you."
Archer chuckled wryly. "You're a good little sister, Kuro-chan. Never let Illya tell you different."
"I never listen anyway," Kuro said proudly.
Archer straightened. "Up for a walk? There's this beautiful sunset I want to watch with a someone I love… and there's someone I want to introduce you to."
Kuro smiled, taking Archer's hand. "Lead on, onii-chan."
They left Ryudou. On the ground, the Archer Class Card lay, unregarded. Next to it, Saber lay unmoving, armor dark, her mana spent…
- The Dream Continues…
The Continuation Of the Dream
In the shadows of the woods, Morgaine Le Fey watched as Bedivere wept for his king. The small, childlike form of the only other family she had left lay, still, yet oddly peaceful. She watched as the knight wrapped the body in his cloak, armor and all, and laid it on a makeshift bier. As night fell, he kept vigil over the still form.
The knight's head lolled as the witch worked her craft, lulling him to sleep. Only them did she step from her hiding place.
She knelt next to the body of her sister, tenderly unwrapping folds of the cloak. Odd. Was it a trick of the light, or was her sister actually… smiling?
Her eyes burned. In the darkness, a woman who would be renown through time in song and story as betrayal incarnate wept for one of the few people who had ever truly loved her.
Legend will say how King Arthur's body was taken to Avalon. Legend will say how his accursed half-sister, the evil Morgaine Le Fey, would lay siege to Camlann, calling upon dark creatures of the abyss to do her bidding, and corrupting a once-steadfast to evil, trapping another in ice, having the gall to demand the right to rule as a woman, and destroying the greatest kingdom ever known in her arrogance. Legend will speak of dark days, and the fall of civilization. And Legends will, ultimately, whisper that when he is most needed by his people, The High King will return from where he had just been sleeping, to once more take up his fabled sword Excalibur, to bring about a new age.
The next day, Bedivere would find the body gone. The next day, Moragine would take Arturia to Viviene, to be brought to Avalon as one honored. For that night, however, Morgaine clutched her beloved sister and wept.
Gilgamesh stood upon the empty field where he had fought so long ago and so recently. No one noticed him. He was just another face in the crowd, had there been a crowd. But no, the place was as empty as ever.
He felt a presence behind him and turned. The man who stood there frowned at him, face wary. Next to him, a young girl clutched at his arm, not possessively or nervously, but with an easy casualness. Her hair was quite distinctive.
Gilgamesh fell to his knees smoothly as the cold December wind blew. "Prince Endymion," he said, sounding half strangled and choking on his tongue. "Princess Serenity. I live to serve."
Kuro and Archer avoided people as they made their way to the bridge that separated the two halves of Fuyuki. It was easy when one went by rooftops. They said nothing, just holding hands.
They crossed the pedestrian walk way, still hand in hand. To their right, the sun burned orange, painting the sky in shade of pink and purple. The bridge seemed empty, everyone still hiding from the recent attack. Kuro had heard snippets from radios and emergency workers they'd passed
As the got closer to the center of the bridge, Kuro saw it wasn't empty after all. A teenaged girl with her hair in two buns was leaning against the railing, her back to the sun, working on some kind of flat, touch-screen device. She looked up as they approached, and visibly brightened. "Shiro-san! I was afraid you wouldn't make it!"
"Chao," Archer said, nodding in greeting. He turned to Kuro. "Kuro-chan, this is Chao Lingshen. She's a friend. I want you to help her…"
A Small Problem
Kuzuki Souichirou looked impassively at the 'slightly' trashed temple complex. Monks, some government agents of debatable authority and a few mages from Western Association were going over the place, trying to figure out what the hell had happened.
"Things will be slightly delayed," he said to Medea. "It is regrettable."
She sighed. "Well, more time to plan, I guess. And not everything got destroyed. I suppose this means I won't have to kill them…"
He didn't look at her, but she blushed anyway. "Don't be like that," she pouted. "I was just joking…"
Assassin sighed as he knelt among the flower beds of Luvia's mansion, pulling out weeds. On the whole, it could have been a lot worse. Luvia at least was very generous with her wages for everyone not named 'Rin'. If he got the exchange rate right, he was making more money as a handyman than he ever did as a detective, consultant and Warden combined.
That didn't seem fair, somehow.
In his pocket, the office listings and the requirements for a private investigator's license in Japan crinkled.
Sakura could feel Medusa's gaze on her as an almost tangible thing as she sat cross-legged in her new room– technically her old room– at her ancestral home. She tried to ignore it, but the tingle wouldn't go away. Still, she managed. She mediated, stilling herself, allowing the beating of her heart, the rhythm of her breathing, the feel of Medusa's restrained gaze, and the feel of magic within her to be all.
She slowly raised a finger, keeping herself centered. "Practebiginar Ardescat…"
A little flame danced above her finger.
Not shifting, she stuck out her tongue. "Divine Shooter…"
A small, glowing ball of purple energy coalesced.
Encoureged, she tried once more. "Actus Noctis Erebea…"
Blackness claimed her…
Illya tried to look nonchalant as she stepped into the train to Uminari, the little scrap of address from the cake box in her pocket next to the miraculously recovered Archer Card. Wouldn't they all be surprised when they saw the Christmas cake…!
Beside her, Berserker, invisible and undetectable, kept watch.
Shiro whistled idly as he finished making the hamburger. "Here you go," he said.
It was snatched from his hand, the pale fingers quick as vipers, the wide mouth swift as a shark. She thrust the empty plate back at him.
"More," she said, her golden-flecked pale blue eyes staring at him, looking luminous against her pale, washed-out seeming skin…
They watched the sunset. Chao had left saying something about destroying evidence, though Kuro knew she'd be back. They only exchanged words once.
As the last sliver of light began to be consumed by the horizon, Archer said, "Kuro-chan?"
"I have a favor to ask you."
He turned to her, the sky darkening to deep purple. "When… when the time is right, I want you to give Shiro something."
She frowned. "What?"
He kissed her.
When she opened her eyes again, lips still tingling, the taste of the White Light of Life on her tongue and mind, he was gone, the last, lingering traces of the White Ring dissolving into nothingness like smoke.
She stared into the water, letting the burning in her eyes pass away, until she felt a presence behind her. She turned.
Chao Lingshen smiled at her, eyes sympathetic but businesslike. "Now," she said. "Let's talk…"