Insert obligatory statement regarding properties, their respective owners, and non-profit, entertainment purposes. I don't own any of this. Really!
~Prologue: Declaration of War~
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With a crash, I kicked open the jammed door of my estate's second guest room, stance low, Magic Circuits primed and ready to launch a gandr spell at need—only to freeze at what I saw, understanding what had happened instantly.
"…I did it again," I muttered, fighting the urge to cradle my head in my hands. Once again, it seems that I may have overestimated my capabilities as a magus—or at least, avoiding mistakes at the most critical of times.
What had once been my estate's guest room had been utterly destroyed, with a gaping hole where the western wall and part of the ceiling should be. The guest bed, or what used to be the guest bed, was thoroughly splintered, and a figure sitting nonchalantly on the pile of rubble was all that remained.
So maybe I wasn't an utter failure after all, since I'd managed to properly summon something …though "properly" probably wouldn't be the word that most magi would use to refer to what just took place. Probably not even the second or the third, for that matter, with "imperfect", "flawed" or "botched" being much more likely candidates.
"…Well, what's done is done. I should reflect on my actions," I groused, mad at my own stupidity, though I suppressed the urge to berate myself further, and instead turned my eyes to the boy sitting there with utter indifference.
Was this the Servant?
Since a Servant is said to be a familiar, I thought it was something without form – a spirit, but this seemed like a normal human…
'…No, that's wrong. Don't be fooled by its appearance.'
Even from the doorway, I could sense outrageous amounts of magical energy from what I had summoned, that this was an existence far beyond any modern human, a "ghost" that has nearly reached the level of the Divine Spirits.
Taking in the physical appearance of the figure before me, the first thing that struck me was his eyes, the eyes of one who has seen too much in their time. Looking into them I was almost forced to take a step back, as those blue orbs bespoke of one who had endured all the pain and suffering that the world had to offer, his youthful ideals burned away as he was plunged into hell over and over again. Cynical and weary, but resigned, they accepted all of the evils that humans wrought upon one another with dispassionate indifference, as if to say that nothing could be changed, that there was no use trying.
Feeling an odd shiver run down my spine at the fatalistic thoughts passing through my mind, I pulled back my gaze, only to find that the Servant was studying me as well, those cold, indifferent eyes boring into me as if I was nothing he hadn't seen before, categorizing me as someone else he would have to deal with. What he thought, God only knows, though it probably involved that indifference that I saw lingering in his eyes…the quiet certainty that this, too, would pass.
Still,despite his unnerving gaze, the figure before me appeared quite young – younger than me, even. He was handsome in a boyish way, with still-childish features offset by short, black hair, and a lean frame that didn't seem suitable for a swordsman…adding to my growing suspicion that this wasn't a Saber-class Servant.
For now, though I'd had enough of this silent sizing up of the other party, since the delay between entrance and introduction might not have given my Servant—if that were what he was—a favorable impression of me. It was time to get down to business, to at least adopt the air of a magus who was always in control of the situation, one able to make the destruction of her guest bedroom seem like it fit into some greater scenario like one Matryoshka doll into the next.
"You. Are you the Servant that I have summoned?" I asked, channeling my frustration into my voice to turn it into unbending steel, very in-command and decisive.
"…Yes," the figure replied after a moment, not moving from his apparent repose. "…you have summoned me." Unlike what I would have guessed, his voice wasn't monotone. Rather it simply lacked…enthusiasm, almost as if to ask, 'what's the point?'
Wait…wasn't a Servant supposed to ask that question first? Wasn't that the rule? Was he broken or—yeah, he probably was, actually, considering the results of my summoning…
"And will your body be under my command, my fate entrusted to your blade in this war for the Holy Grail? Will you serve as my sword and shield against all those who might bring forth a challenge?" This was indeed the zinger question. If this unknown Servant complied, then my gloriously botched-up summoning wouldn't be quite the complete disaster I had thought it to be. If he didn't, well…then this Grail War would have one less Master to participate in it—a prospect I didn't really want to think about.
"Yeah, I will," the Servant replied, his tone as noncommittal as before.
Well, it would be better if he had been happier about serving, but I suppose it could be worse, given how laughable everything leading up to his acquiescence had been—and that had he been even less enthusiastic, I might have been cut down by my Servant before the war even began – truly an embarrassing fate. Just to be safe, though, I scanned myself for the obligatory Command Seals that come with every Master/Servant partnership, finding the holy marks situated on my left forearm.
Fair enough. As long as I wore long sleeves, as I was in the habit of doing, no one would ever see them. Still, I noted that the shape of the Seals was rather peculiar, nothing like the circles of balance or harmony. They say that the shape of a Master's Command Seals either reflects the magus' magic characteristic or an aspect of the Servant, but this? What could it possibly mean? It was something that I'd have to investigate in due time, but…
I'd have time to ponder this question later. I still had to get past the introductions with my new Servant…whatever kind he is. Probably better to just ask him.
"So, which Servant class are you?" This was quite possibly the second most important question that a Master needs the answer to, as without the knowledge of what class your Servant is, one would be unable to formulate any strategies based on that class. I still entertained faint hopes of this being Saber, the strongest Servant, but…
"…Class…" the boy spoke slowly, blinking as he looked at me as if from far away. "…I'm a Lancer."
…as I suspected. I'd failed to call forth Saber, the class I was originally going for. I'm not really surprised, since I mistook the time, the summoning circle didn't work, and I even summoned the Servant to the wrong place. I shouldn't be disappointed—I should be amazed that the summons actually was able to call into being a Servant at all, much less one that has more or less sworn loyalty to me like any properly summoned Servant would.
Still…a Lancer. Definitely not a Saber-class, even if it was one of the three Knight classes. A Lancer would make things harder, since I couldn't just breeze through the war as I would if my Servant were a Saber…but as the heiress of the proud and distinguished Tohsaka family, I must adapt and thrive and win this Grail War, no matter what hand Fate has dealt me.
"Are you disappointed?" He calmly and quietly asks, almost as if he expects me to be dissatisfied.
"I'm not disappointed," I temporized, trying not to make my deception obvious. While I most certainly was, after having used that many jewels, there was no sense in wasting energy fussing about it—or to meaninglessly trample on my Servant's pride, as unenthusiastic as he already seemed to be. "I am merely reassessing and modifying my previous strategy, so that it is fit for utilizing a Lancer-class."
"Oh. I see," Lancer replied calmly, slowly turning his head away from my general direction, first surveying the wreckage of the room before focusing on nothing in particular, his mind seemingly elsewhere.
…either he just didn't care, or he didn't believe me. Going by his past behavior though, I think the first is more likely.
Still, there was one more piece of business to take care of: discerning the identity of my Servant, a piece of information far more important than even a Servant's class on the list of a Master's concerns. Why? To put it simply, each soul that has ascended to the Throne of Heroes has a certain legend associated with him or her, mentioning things like the weapons they bore in life, notable feats, or weaknesses…and if an opposing master were to find out a Servant's identity, then that enemy could counter the Servant and discover any weaknesses from their past lives. To use an example, let's say I am going up against a Servant (It doesn't matter what class it is), and I find out that his true identity is Achilles, the hero of the Trojan War itself. As anyone with a healthy understanding of Greek mythology can tell you, Achilles had one, and only one spot on his body where he was utterly vulnerable; his heel. Therefore, if I were to have my Servant perform an expertly aimed strike at that weak spot of his, it is without a doubt that the Heroic Spirit that takes the name Achilles would fall.
Thus, it was time to get this morsel of knowledge and finish up introductions. With this out of the way, the business of the War itself could finally begin.
"Alright then…Lancer," I speak softly but firmly, allowing my take-charge persona to come out again. "Tell me, what is the name that you possessed in life?"
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I've always liked walking at night, when the sun has gone down and the air is chill and brisk—especially during the iconic winters in Fuyuki City. Even the cold wind that stings my cheeks and makes them rosy doesn't dissuade me, as I find such things refreshing, reminding me that I exist—making me feel alive. Does that make me a masochist? I don't think so. To be a magus is to walk with death as a constant companion, with the Reaper waiting to take you away should your downfall be brought upon by enemies or your own conceitedness, so to be reminded that I still lived, in some fashion, gave me comfort and is what I desired then and now.
This late at night, Lancer and I had taken to the public-access rooftop of the Kinoko Building, a modest skyscraper that offered an excellent vantage point of Fuyuki City's Shinto area, what would be called its downtown by any other name. Despite being public access, it is rarely used by others, though I can't imagine why, since there are plenty of elevators allowing for easy access to the observation deck where a nice view of the city's bay can be had—and the Kinoko Building isn't exactly an obscure tower, what with being the tallest manmade structure in Fuyuki. Maybe there aren't enough tourists to consistently make use of the deck. Maybe the locals take the place for granted and just never show up even though it's practically in their own backyard. Maybe people feel uncomfortable around an overlooking view, not believing that the world beneath them is real because it is simply too big to grasp—
—or maybe I should stop hopelessly romanticizing about heights and the views that accompany them so I can focus on the big picture and my reasons for bringing my Servant here in the first place.
The impressive enough view, coupled with the aforementioned chill breeze is enough to inspire in me feelings of power and certainty. The accessibility of the observation deck, coupled with its remoteness (an oddly contradictory combination, yet just what we needed) was perfect for allowing Lancer to get a feel for the lay of the land, the future battlefield that Fuyuki would soon be turned into.
"Okay Lancer, take in the view. I know that extraordinary eyesight and photographic memory aren't defining traits of your class, but combined with all the walking around we've done, this should help you get your bearings and help you devise short-cuts and escape routes if the situation calls for it."
Needless to say, I was rather surprised when he turned to me (rather reluctantly, I thought), and spoke up.
"It's alright, Master, you didn't need to do this. I've been in Fuyuki before…"
On our way around the city, I had kept him in spirit form so as not to startle any of the mundanes we came across, but here on the roof I deemed it secure enough for him to materialize so that we might…wait.
What did he just say? 'I've been in Fuyuki before.'?
"…what?" I managed, looking sharply at my Servant. "What does that mean, Lancer?"
"Well…" Lancer was quiet for a moment, hesitating before speaking as was beginning to become a pattern in our interactions. He seemed to be mulling over his response as if searching for a more delicate way of explaining, yet apparently coming up with nothing and has to state things rather bluntly, if nervously. In fact, this was the first bit of emotion he'd shown since I had summoned him. "This actually isn't the first Grail War that I've been in. This is actually, um, my second time participating."
My eyes widened dramatically when those words issued from his lips. Participated before? Not his first Grail War? Well, I imagine he didn't win if he was being summoned once again, though…
"Lancer," I said softly, my voice just slightly on edge, recalling my frustration from before. "I told you what we would be doing when we left the estate." My eyes narrowed gravely as my tone became serious, giving vent to a little of my displeasure. Even if he was a force beyond human, I was still his Master, and he should respect that. "I said that we would be walking around the city so you could acclimate to your surroundings. For a Master to go out in public and risk putting themselves in the line of fire while the Grail War is going on is one of the most dangerous and foolhardy things that they can do."
I grudgingly admitted to myself that I was the only one responsible for my 'endangerment' because of my other reason for going out: I subconsciously got a kick from having a dangerous familiar as an invisible bodyguard, and so wanted to go outside, brazenly risking myself for the thrill of it. And, well, given Lancer's lack of input thus far, he can't be blamed for following my orders, since I hadn't asked about prior experience before—even if that was supposed to be so unlikely as to be absurd. Still, he didn't volunteer this information, thus making me waste my valuable time, so…I'll be damned if he doesn't owe up to a little of the responsibility.
"Didn't you swear fealty to me, as was decreed to you by the Grail Ritual and your successful summoning?" I asked pointedly, glaring at my Servant as I gave him the ninth degree. "Didn't you take an oath that you would protect me at all costs with no regards to your own existence as long as I remained your Master and you my Servant? Were you trying to get me killed by not saying anything? Do you want us to lose the Grail?"
"I'm sorry," He replied instantly, almost by reflex, as if words had grievously stung him. Or at least, his principles. "I'm sorry…it's just…I'm terrible at getting out what needs to be said sometimes. You were just so…adamant about going around the city and seeing the skyscraper, as if you'd been planning to go see it from the start…"
Great. My Servant doesn't have enough of a spine to take the initiative. This could be troubling….wait a second, he's still going on.
"And, to let the truth be told…," he said, much more hesitantly. "I actually wanted to come see the view."
My eyes widened with surprise at his words, and I did nothing to hide the perplexed look that came across my face. I don't know whether it's because his reasons are so … casual, or if it's because he seems so…
The lights of the city stretched out off into the distance beneath the tower, as if to mirror the night sky above us. The moon was nice and full, illuminating Lancer's semi-corporeal form in a picturesque way as he gazed out at the city, his lips curled slightly upwards in a nostalgic, thoughtful smile. For the moment, he seemed as if his mind was a thousand miles away, in another time, perhaps. As if he had once gazed upon a sight not so dissimilar to the one before him.
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Cutting through a desolate playground for a shortcut, Lancer and I return back to my Manor, and I begin going over what I knew about my Servant in my head. There isn't much.
Like any good Servant, Lancer told me his name when I asked him about it. But there was a problem I had not foreseen: His true name meant nothing to me. I had never heard of Lancer's true identity before, and subsequent research that I performed that night and the following morning had turned up nothing…or at least nothing of relevance.
And while I'm on the topic of mornings, the morning after the summoning ritual, (which only came in a few hours because the ritual took place at eleven o'clock) I was surprised to find out that Lancer had not only cleaned up the house, but had also taken it upon himself to make the morning tea and breakfast, as well as cleaning up all the rubble and debris from the destruction his summoning had caused. Granted, the guest bedroom still had a gaping hole where the western wall and part of the ceiling should be, but putting that aside, it looked presentable enough. I wasn't not sure whether he was under the influence of a geis (a curse that forces its host to perform certain actions when certain conditions are met), or if that's his way of saying sorry, but the gesture was…appreciated.
But, back to Lancer.
To me, Lancer was a mystery, an enigma. There are no records of anyone bearing his name throughout history, nor was there anything recorded of his deeds (which I know nothing of, if there even are any, and that he is not a wraith taking the form of a Heroic Spirit). The question is, how did someone without a legend, without an ounce of fame to his name, become a Heroic Spirit? By definition, a Heroic Spirit is the manifestation of an individual whose deeds (or misdeeds) were so famous or infamous that they were elevated to a higher existence, one nearly matching the level of the Divine Spirits. At the risk of oversimplifying, one becomes a Heroic Spirit by becoming famous enough to have legends and tales told about them.
And yet, Lancer had neither fame nor legends in this world. He was neither a historical nor legendary figure of any sort. So how? How could this nobody have become a Heroic Spirit, one who was summoned to serve as my right hand in the Grail War? Was it just a result of my improper summoning? Had I really botched things up that badly? Shaking my head, I set that aside for now. There had to be a reason that he was summoned after all, and not just my incompetence, as the Grail selects worthy Masters for the trial.
But even without speculating as to the extent of my failures, I was still in a disadvantageous situation, since being unfamiliar with Lancer's past life, means that I would be therefore unfamiliar with his capabilities, unable to properly strategize unless I see them firsthand—or asked him about them, and I had the feeling that getting information from him would be harder than pulling teeth.
Of course, not knowing anything about my Servant did have an advantage, since if I knew nothing about his strengths and weaknesses, then it would be impossible for my opponent to force me into revealing them.
Cold comfort, really, but I'd take what I could.
Yet, though I'd come to accept being in the dark concerning Lancer, I still could not help but wonder just what kind of Servant I called forth. My thoughts turned once again to the Command Seals grafted onto my left forearm, the mark of a Master in the Holy Grail War. With an air of discontent, I pulled up my sleeve, and again contemplated the meaning behind their shapes: a spear-like object with twin tips skewering a fig leaf and a skull with avian characteristics on its shaft. It was said that the shapes that the holy mark of the Command Seals held significance to their Master's abilities and the summoned Servant's past life…but what do these symbols have to do with me? Original sin, perhaps? My family, as secret Christians, was known for its ties with the Church, but what of the rest?
A white-hot flash tore through me as my Command Seals reacted to the presence of an enemy, forcing me to look up.
"You should do a better job of concealing those Command Seals of yours, Rin Tohsaka," an all-too-familiar and all too unwelcome voice broke in – the last voice that I wanted to hear. "Otherwise a more suitable magus might come along and take advantage of your incompetence."
'…Oh my God.'
I froze in place, a reaction to the sudden recognition I experienced.
No. It, can't be? Is it really her? Oh god, don't…it has to be.
I quickly and involuntarily slid my sweater's sleeve back down my arm, warily turning my gaze towards the direction of the hated voice on the other side of the playground. To my utter lack of surprise, it was who I had thought it to be.
She was garbed in a sleeveless blue dress, her long skirts flowing gracefully over the pavement as they blew in the chill night breeze. Her orange-blonde hair hung in long curly drills that fluttered like her skirt, as she peered at me, carrying herself with an air of regality, haughtiness…and complete and utter arrogance.
Without a doubt it was her.
"Luviagelita Edelfelt," I ground out between my teeth, as if even speaking the name was distasteful to me…which it was.
"Surprised to see me, Rin?" Luviagelita asked in a manner that she knew I found particularly grating, as she self-assuredly flicks her drills.
"No, actually," I replied flatly, my fingers inching towards the jewels I kept concealed on my person as a trump card, each made by pouring a year's worth of prana into them. "What are you doing here, Luvia?"
Of course I knew, so I was really only asking to buy time. Luvia was clearly a Master, and one who has apparently discovered that I was one as well—a most dangerous situation, which could only end in one way. Ever since the Third Grail War, the Tohsaka and the Edelfelt families have been bitterly opposed to one another, with allegations of Magic Crest theft and such flying back and forth as we struggled to prove our superiority over one another. And in this war, it seemed as if conflict between the two families was about to happen once again…only I'd make sure that the Tohsaka came out on top. I'd have to, if I intended to win this Grail War.
"Oh, I was just talking a pleasant stroll and enjoying Fuyuki City's nightlife with a friend of mine until I came across you," the bitch said in a not-very-believable tone of voice, her lips curving upwards evilly as she spoke her next words. "Would you like me to introduce the two of you?"
My Servant materialized by my side in response to my call, dropping into a protective stance as he took a step forward. Gone was the quiet apathy and subtly cynical expression he had worn beforehand, and all I saw in his bearing was a grim determination that those had seemingly hidden.
"Master?" Lancer asked of me, knowing what was about to transpire…the fight to the death that was the purpose of Servants in this war.
"You know what to do."
"Yes, ma'am," my Servant replied in a voice devoid of emotion, plunging his hand past his lightly-armored skintight suit, deep within his abdomen, as if it were made of sand and not solid flesh. "Guh…!" As his hand quickly sank into the depths without spilling a drop of blood, a look of intense pain flashed across Lancer's face.
With a determined grimace on his face, he pushed his arm deeper, all the way up to his elbow, muscles tensing as he seized a hold of something with a grunt. I watched as, using slow, jerking motions, Lancer extracted from within himself his weapon of choice: a spear of considerable length, longer than he was tall. The helical shaft twisted and split into bident points, and was as red and divine as the blood I instinctively knew it had spilled.
Spear at the ready, my youthful looking Servant took up his battle stance, and angled it threateningly at my rival.
"Oh, so you had your Servant with you after all?" Luvia noted, feigning disappointment that I had brought out my familiar. "Huh, I guess you're only half as incompetent as I originally gave you credit for. Still, I guess that's not out of character for you, Rin. You always were one to half-ass it." Her dissatisfied pout morphed into an arrogant smirk as she says this undignified remark. "Well, if you wanted me to play with you, Rin, all you had to do was ask. In that case…"
Luvia snapped her fingers in a very clichéd manner (which if the situation weren't as serious as it is now, I'd call her out on to piss her off), which prompted a figure to materialize in front of her.
This new Servant, for it could only be one such, appeared to be a young man no older than any of us with a mop of shaggy gray-white hair atop his head, garbed in intimidating looking black-and-red armor with numerous spiked protrusions jutting off of it. A pair of serious, red irises glared at Lancer, enhanced by facial tattoos that shared the same blood-red hue, looked at my Servant almost…ferally.
Another Servant, this, but which one? Berserker, or…?
"Get them, Lancer."
Upon my rival's order, her Servant summoned forth a wicked looking scythe, a demonic weapon that sent a chill down my spine. My Lancer lunged forward, and battle was joined. Weapons in hand, they attacked with full force, the murderous intent in the air enough to freeze any normal human in place, each determined to kill the other in order to prove their existence.
This was it. This was their purpose. This was their calling. To battle it out to the death. To win. The advent of my participation in the Holy Grail War was about to be christened by battle, and I would…wait. What?
"W-wait a minute," I sputtered, one of my hands now grasping the desired gemstone—a ruby, to summon forth fire. "You can't have Lancer. I have Lancer."
"What was that, Rin?" Luvia questioned, raising an eyebrow—as I noted with alarm that one of her hands was reaching into her skirts.
"In case you're hard of hearing, I said, you can't have a Lancer," I insisted, glaring murderously at my haughty foe—one who obviously didn't have any respect for my intelligence. "I have a Lancer."
"And I'm trying to watch my Servant win against your so-called Lancer, so stop distracting me from my fun," the blonde retorted, glancing disdainfully in my direction. "A commoner's words can be so dull sometimes."
"T-that's my point!" I growled at her, really thinking that she'd look much better with a hole in her face…or maybe somewhere else in her body. "We both can't have Lancer-class Servants!"
"Well," Luvia said, mockingly feigning thoughtfulness. The bitch was playing with me, I know it. Her flippant manner makes that much obvious. "Maybe he is. Maybe he isn't. Maybe we both have Lancer. Ohohoho…"
"That's…impossible," I bit back, barely managing to suppress my urge to attack as the sounds of metal on metal rang in the distance, the chaos of battle acting as mere white noise to my current confrontation.
Anyone with an inkling of knowledge of the Grail War Ritual knew that—
"Oh? But there were multiple representatives of the Seven Classes in the last War," weren't there?" the Edelfelt heir asked with saccharine sweetness, though her expression belied that impression of innocence. "Perhaps the situation is similar with this one."
Dear God, how I hated that self-assured smirk.
"Oh please," I all but snarled. Luvia had a way of bringing out the very worst in me, and my desire to force her to acknowledge my point was all that kept me from killing her. After all, how could she beg me for forgiveness if she was dead, hm? "Any self-respecting Magus with a rudimentary knowledge of the Grail War Ritual knows that the Fourth Grail War was beyond salvageable, and as such is completely and utter hopeless."
Coup de grâce. Let's see if her pride can handle it.
"Really now?" She sneered derisively. "Is that why your loser of a father couldn't even live through it, or is that just a trait that all Tohsakas share, failure?"
Instead of verbally responding to this horrible, pride-piercing insult, I let my actions do the talking.
Drawing my hand from behind my back, I pulled forth a prana-infused gemstones and hurled it in my eternal rival, using a word of command to release the power within.
It blazed forth into thorns of light, streaking forth to vaporize my enemy and everything around her, the impact crashing into the area around her with a thunderous BOOM! Smoke and concrete flew in all directions as raw prana blew Luvia away where she stood, reducing all in her vicinity a gaping, ruinous hole into the playground. I smiled darkly at this satisfying explosion, though a small part of me wished that she were still alive to—
"You bitch?" my rival roared from within the smoke, apparently uninjured, though slightly disheveled, "You tried to kill me!"
'Dammit, did she use a—'
"YAAAAAAA…" But my thoughts on how she must have used one of her own gems to counter mine were oh-so-rudely interrupted as the blonde harpy, now sufficiently pissed off, lunged towards me using a technique I recognized as a form of hand-to-hand combat called England-original Lancashire-style…a style not entirely dissimilar to professional wresting. A style that suits her, as what it clearly lacked in finesse, it more than makes it up with sheer force.
I tried to bring my arm up to use my Gandr spell, knowing I wouldn't have enough time for a gemstone, but Luvia closed the distance quickly…too quickly. Instead, I sidestepped to the left, swung out my reinforced arm, and took her down with a technique called the 'clothesline.' Unfortunately, on her way to becoming forcefully acquainted with the ground, she grabbed me and brought me down as well. With the both of us on the ground, calling it a free-for-all wouldn't exactly be inaccurate, as there was much biting, scratching, ankle-biting, grappling, ripping of clothes and pulling of hair.
Oddly enough though, despite all the chaos happening between Luvia and I, it seemed as if the sounds of battles not our own have ceased. Confused by this development, I turned my head toward over to the area where our two Servants were fighting before, a task made rather difficult to accomplish due to Luvia enthusiastically trying to grind my face into the dirt. Once I managed though, my mouth fell open from shock to see them not fighting each other, but instead standing around fixated on the spectacle of two Masters having a catfight. Seeing me just freeze, Luvia took note of what had so startled me…and froze as well at the sight of our Servants. While Lancer and Luvia's Servant of unknown class both had their weapons held in a fighting stance and aimed towards one another like they did before, ready in case his opponent attempted a preemptive strike, it seemed that we had the lion's share of their attention, with both of them watching our squabble with a sort of fascination.
"What the hell are you two doing?" Luvia and I shouted at the same time, dumbfounded at the behavior of our admittedly young, male Servants, seeming to share a look of mingled exasperation as we made our own personal truce. It seemed neither of us would be able to kill each other, so we'd decide this by way of Servants. "This isn't a damn peepshow! Get back to killing each other!"
Sometimes, I think that we were much more alike than we'd both care to admit…
Our Servants responded as one, their expressions turning serious as they turned upon another once again—their superhuman battle resumed in deadly earnest.
Twirling gusts of wind.
Two figures wove a deadly dance as they strove mightily to kill one another, Lancer like a raging wind, the mystery servant a howling gust. The scythe is swung to deflect the lance's thrust, yet the demon scythe cannot slide down the length of the holy lance, as it is caught between its twin barbs—before the other Servant flips backwards, disengaging his weapon to keep it from being pulled from his hand.
Clash! Clang! Slash!
As spear crashes against scythe, Lancer maintains an aggressive stance and seems to be keeping Luvia's Servant on the defense, attacking to close the distance, to keep the other from advancing, each thrust of his intended to be fatal!
While one usually cannot close in on an enemy with a long weapon, the desired tactic instead being the use of long range…that doesn't apply here, since both are using weapons with great reach: one a scythe that screams as it slices through air, the other a lance that rushes like lightning for throat, shoulders, forehead, and heart!
Thrusts so fast even the afterimages were blurred. Slashes even faster, repelling each strike, rebuffing and pushing back each one—the cacophony of clashing steel echoed through the night, and the sparks from their colliding weapons intensely lit up the darkness for the briefest of moments, illuminating the killing space between them.
Sweep. Thrust. Guard. Counter.
Dodge. Riposte. Block.
Weapons swung like whirlwinds to smash at the other, wielders mirroring one another in movement and form, neither seeming to have an advantage.
In spite of the innate speed attributed to Lancer-class Servants such as mine, the mystery Servant is able to not only able to keep him from decisively landing a killing strike, but has also managed to get in a few good strikes when the opportunity presented itself, so both were ever so slightly bleeding, watching for the chance to deliver a fatal blow—
—a chance like right now!
Having leapt backwards away from Lancer's six-foot bident, the unknown Servant's feet touch the ground briefly as he springs back into the air, reversing his trajectory as he burst forward, the demonic weapon shrieking out a lust for blood as it is swung, taking Lancer's neck…
Or so it would have, had Lancer not recognized the danger in the technique and hurled himself into a roll a split-second prior to the arrival of the scythe's blade, the reaper's tool missing him by mere centimeters, enough for him to feel the wind of its passing before it slammed into the ground, carving deep furrows through the concrete as a spiderweb of cracks raced through the ground from the point of impact. Lancer, having recovered to his feet and seeing the opportunity to attack while the mystery Servant's weapon was temporarily neutralized, whirled in place, his holy lance thrusting out to take his enemy's heart!
But it, like every fatal blow before it, is blocked in a single fluid movement, Luvia's Servant ripped his weapon from the ground and parried, the collision of partizans banishing the rock powder from his scythe and restoring it to its deadly brilliance.
A lance only needs a forward motion—a thrust—to be wielded, and as such requires less effort to inflict a lethal wound than something as unwieldy as a large scythe, which requires wide sweeping blows to lay low an opponent, more than twice the effort required of a spear-user. From a logical standpoint, the lancer should have a distinct advantage over his enemy, just as a lance-wielding Knight should have an advantage over a scythe wielding peasant in rebellion. But such rules of combat and logic only apply when the warriors that the argument concerns are human, and their weapons merely mundane works of metal and wood. These Servants, on the other hand, these hounds of war, whose inhuman savagery in combat could only be likened to the fury of the elements themselves howling in defiance against the cities of man—these combatants were anything but human, so there were no rules by which to abide.
Familiars of different classes that obey their seven masters.
Heroic Spirits from the Throne of Heroes, whose souls ascended beyond mortality due to worship and the glory of their deeds – these are the warriors summoned by the Holy Grail, perhaps human in form, but in reality the ultimate ideal created by the dreams of man, unmistakable for anything other than what they are.
Especially while they're fighting like this.
Luvia's Servant might not be as fast as Lancer, but he seems to possess a very keen battle intuition, and amazingly is more than capable of reading and countering Lancer's would-be-fatal attacks, parrying and blocking with ease.
Twin tips are thrust forward and back multiple times, as Lancer keeps trying to score a hit, but each and every time his lance is thrust, the enemy either turns it aside using the scythe's edge or reads Lancer's moves and steps out of the way with contemptuous ease.
Lancer disrupted his intentional attack pattern and turns a thrust into a sweep, changing the flow of his movements to trip up the opponent and gain the upper hand. It was a simple yet rather commendable move, but it might also be because he was running out of options.
"Damn it! What the hell kind of a Servant are you?" Lancer growled, one of his eyes twitching with visible annoyance. "And if you say you're a 'Lancer', I swear I'll take your head!"
The Servant of the Lance was growing impatient, as the battle had been going on for too long without either side gaining a notable advantage.
"Sorry. I'm not at liberty to reveal that information at this time." The white haired boy answered coolly as he slashed his demonic scythe up in a swing between Lancer's legs to cleave him in twain from crotch to shoulder, with only the vaguest hint of a smirk on his face.
With the inherent speed of his class, Lancer dramatically leapt away from the scything blade up into the night sky, with the light of the moon silhouetting his lithe, airborne form as he sailed through the air. With a feral, catlike grace he landed a healthy distance away from his enemy, and held his blood-red lance in what can only be described as a javelin-thrower's position.
'Lancer has something planned,' I realized, as I sensed a sudden chill and the mana in the air was drawn into the twin-pronged spear. Its crimson glow brightened, accompanied by a pulsating sound reminiscent of a heartbeat audible to all.
I was nearly quivering with excitement when my mind registered what was about to happen. A truly amazing event, the likes of which very few have the fortune of seeing in their lifetimes…and even fewer when not on the receiving end—a Noble Phantasm. A real, honest-to-goodness, Noble Phantasm. A weapon, technique, or ability utilized in life by a Servant, raised to nigh-divine status along with them—a weapon intimately connected with a Heroic Spirit's former identity as their proof of heroism.
An absolute trump card that when called upon, could turn the tide of any battle.
'That's my Servant!' I thought smugly, watching the events unfold—and noting with satisfaction that Luvia seemed to be fascinated by this as well. In that moment, I unleashed a second gem, this time releasing enough wind to level a house and rip her to shreds…but once more, she apparently produced a gem of her own, nullifying my spell with raw magical energy, watching me warily all the while. 'When conventional combat isn't enough to bring down the opposing Servant, use a Noble Phantasm to end it decisively; which is exactly what Lancer is doing right now.' , I noted to myself.
The Servant of the Lance gritted his teeth as he aimed his mana-charged weapon at his enemy and wound up for the big release, his expression was a stirring amalgam of wrath, sorrow, and determination, as if the very usage of this technique was dredging up painful memories, yet he knew he must make use of it if he desired victory.
From my vantage point, in between trading Gandr potshots with Luvia – and the occasional larger spell, I could now clearly see the mana swirling about Lancer's spear, a crimson spiral that appeared for all the world like hissing blood. Lancer's mouth opened and closed with his words, as he recited the name of his Noble Phantasm, the keywords to activating the latent power of the Holy Lance itself…
"Lancea…" The helical lance's tips twisted and fused into a singular shaft, and his volume rose sharply as the weapon's true name devolved into a pseudo-war cry:
Hurled with a power surpassing even that of an Olympian god, the crimson missile streaked through the air as it is thrown, breaking the sound barrier as it tore through space unerringly towards the heart of its victim far faster than a spear had any right to fly, intending to utterly destroy the scythe-wielding Servant under Luvia's command.
It must have been a truly frightening sight. It had to be. To see certain doom come to claim oneself head-on, unable to—
A sudden shout from Luvia just as the spear was launched, my own Seals pulsing as they felt another Master invoking a Command Spell – an absolute order that can both restrain or reinforce the action of a Servant, to the point of making him perform an impossible action. If it was within the scope of the prana of the Master and the Servant, then it could be realized through the power of an order of the Command Spell - even if it is something the Servant isn't normally able to do, such as warping space and time to come to a Master's aid, increasing the might of a Noble Phantasm—or avoiding a normally unavoidable attack.
It was with the aid of that spell that the mysterious Servant bent space itself to avoid the hypersonic projectile, the weapon missing by scant millimeters, but coming close enough to carve a long notch in his armor's side. A millisecond longer and the unknown would have skewered, taking the holy lance through the chest and dying instantly, thereby removing Edelfelt from the competition.
But as it was, the prana-charged lance did miss, instead kicking up a dust cloud of plaster and tile as it buried itself halfway into the playground's boundary wall, discharging its excess prana violently in the form of a burst of super-heated steam that melted the stone and surroundings in a radius of at least five feet. Traveling at such speed and velocity, I was convinced that the only thing keeping that volatile spear from sailing through the wall like hot butter and cutting a swath through the entire neighborhood was that Lancer imposed his will upon his Noble Phantasm, keeping it from traveling further and harming those uninvolved.
With a hiss and a look of horror at nearly having died, the black-armored Servant staggered momentarily before flashing forward to counterattack, his scythe ripping through air and distance as it sang for my unguarded Servant.
But before it could reach its prey, a blood-curdling bestial roar tore through the night, as Lancer evaded with inhuman speed that even outclassed what he was capable of before and propelled himself forward, straight towards his scythe-wielding enemy, wearing an expression of inhuman rage. His eyes flashing with undisguised bloodlust, he took a running leap, sliding under the scythe and grabbing the unknown Servant's leg with his bare hands, tossing him aside like a rag doll.
Apparently Luvia's Servant had catlike reflexes of his own though, as he managed to land on his feet, bringing his scythe up into a suitable defensive position to guard against the physical onslaught of his recklessly charging foe who, at the very last second, altered his attack vector, performing an extravagant overhead somersault to launch a frenzied double-kick to crush the mysterious Servant's head.
At the last possible moment, Luvia's Servant managed to interpose his weapon between the deadly blow and his head, but though he stopped it from being instantly fatal, it wasn't enough to stop the motion and inertia carried by Lancer's attack. The unknown was sent skidding across the ground, into the playground wall behind him – the structure collapsing with the force of impact.
'Wait…unless I'm hallucinating, did I just see Lancer perform a reckless bum rush?' And against a completely armed, albeit slightly shaken opponent, at that? I thought I had summoned a Lancer, not a Berserker. I could only assume that this reckless charge was a technique that made Lancer famous in life, though my confusion was at least somewhat replaced with smug satisfaction when I hazarded a glance at Luvia, who seemed somewhat unnerved by this turn of events.
"No way," I heard her mutter with a mix of incredulity and reverence, swallowing. "Such terrible fury. Is that, really, St…Longinus? "
Heh. If only you knew, Luvia. Well, if only I really knew, too.
Another inhuman bellow sounded, as Lancer's slim but powerful legs propelled him across the ground, his fist flying for the scythe-wielder's head to finish him off with monstrous strength—only to miss, slamming through the wall instead. In spite of his injury and possible concussion, the black-armored Servant had managed to evade Lancer's attack and to get back on his feet. Once more the wall splintered, and Lancer erupted in a burst of speed…but not towards the mysterious Servant. No, this time Lancer proceeded to reclaim his spear now that it was once more within reach, the rictus of fury subsiding, to be replaced with an equally intimidating thousand-yard stare. This was the look of a warrior that wouldn't be stopped by anyone, who would do anything necessary in order for him to complete his objective.
"Servant! Come!" Luviagelita ordered, as her Servant performed an incredible jump, leaping over to his Master, answering her call in the blink of an eye, none of his mobility or power lost due to his minor injuries.
"Yeah, what is it, Master?" the odd one inquired of his summoner somewhat reproachfully, though he didn't take his eyes off of the greater threat…the Servant of the Lance. "This battle is still going on, it's far from over."
"I know that. It's just that we're pulling out for now." Luvia explained, all the while twisting her finger around her blonde curls. "No need to show them everything in one sitting, right? We still have a few tricks up our sleeves, so we can come back later to finish the job. Besides, tonight was just supposed to be reconnaissance."
She looked over to my direction as our gazes met once again. "Teehee, this was fun, Rin. Let's do it again sometime really, really soon."
"Now then, let's go, Ryou." She ordered, her attention focusing back to her Servant as he dispelled his scythe and took her in his arms, leaping over the tops of the grove of trees that surrounded the playground where our skirmish had taken place. In mere instants, we had lost sight of them, and in mere seconds more they would be gone entirely. That wasn't good. I couldn't allow an enemy Master or Servant to escape, not after having seen Lancer's Noble Phantasm in action.
"Master!" Lancer's voice betrayed a slight sense of uncertainty, a stark contrast to the capable, fearsome warrior I had witnessed in battle only moments before. "They're getting away. Should I pursue?"
"Permission granted, Lancer. Finish the job. I don't want to have to deal with them again, especially not her." I ordered, my voice filled with venomous contempt. There could be no loose ends left over from this fight. I wouldn't allow it.
With a brusque acknowledgement, Lancer followed suit and leapt away to pursue our enemies, his form disappearing into the moonlit night. As he vanished from my sight, I took a seat on the swingset, the only section of the playground that has avoided some sort of damage from the battle that had taken place. I spared a glance at my Command Seals, once again greeted by the sight of a fig leaf and birdlike skull, skewered on the holy lance that I had just seen wielded by my own Servant.
] | [
As the minutes tick by, my anxiety steadily grew. It had been a long five minutes since Lancer departed to finish off Luvia and her pet reaper, and he still had not returned. Had he failed? Had the two laid an ambush for him and defeated him? I knew that Luvia, like myself, possessed prana-infused gemstones, and a hit from several of those might well be fatal for a Servant – or at least, detrimental enough that another could easily prevail.
With each passing moment, my level of tension mounted, and I hoped that Lancer would soon return, as it would be a shame to lose a Servant so early on in the war, and besides that…I was genuinely concerned for Lancer's safety. After all, the relationship between Servant and Master was a symbiotic one, with the Master needs the Servant to battle and gain access to the Grail, while the Servant needs the Master to supply the prana needed to stay materialized in the world in order to fight for the prize. In that sense, at least, we needed each other.
Once again, I caught myself lifting up my sleeve to look at my Command Seals. I guess it was my way of reaffirming my status as a Master, and it did put me at ease to see that the Seals were still present on my forearm. They haven't faded yet, so that meant Lancer still existed in this world, and they didn't burn, meaning Lancer had not yet engaged the enemy. The only thing I could do for now…was wait. And wait. And wait...
Despite some misgivings and not being entirely sure I wanted Luvia dead, I knew that this was for the best, as she had to be disposed of as soon as possible. When it came to battle (and the Holy Grail War was one such), knowledge really was power, and an enemy with experience of how one fought was one that could become an especially dangerous threat, as he or she could plan for and counter the strategies one was used to using. Adding the fact that Luviagelita Edelfelt and Rin Tohsaka were bitter rivals…this gave me an excuse to settle said rivalry once and for all. Although I just might miss having an arch nemesis to use as motivation to push myself.
Oh well. I could always make new enemies, I suppose.
Lancer's sudden arrival proved to be a surprisingly welcome interruption to my somewhat sanguine thoughts, and in response to his appearance in the clearing, I sprang to my feet. I quickly took note that I seemed a little TOO enthusiastic doing this, and again adopted the noble air that the dignified successor of a magus lineage should be exuding in times like this…even if it might not help, considering that Lancer had also seen me screw up quite a few times in the space of a day.
Raising an eyebrow, I noticed that my Servant's spear had been returned to its "sheath" inside his body, since he was currently unarmed.
"What happened, Lancer? Did you get them?" I inquired. He had been gone long enough for a second round to have taken place, and here he was in front of me, still alive. And yet, there had been no feeling of danger from the command seals, so I couldn't be sure.
"I…I'm sorry, Master," the spearman said unexpectedly, looking down at his feet. "I…lost them."
"What?" I said sharply, my eyes growing cold as I fixed him with a baleful stare. "Lost them? How could you lose track of them? Aren't all Servants supposed to be able to detect and track other Servants on at least a basic level?"
"I'm sorry." He apologetically intoned once more, which was about the last thing I wanted to hear right now.
"Don't apologize!" I snapped back, venting some of my displeasure on him…though I reined myself in as I notice him wincing. I was unsure as to whether it was because of my tone or what I said, but…I really couldn't be too angry, so I took a moment to school my features back to stern neutrality, putting on a mask like I did at school. "I'm not upset about your performance. Just at the results. You followed my orders perfectly, but something else happened, right?"
"Yes. That's right." Lancer answered professionally, now over the stinging bite that my words had on him. "I went to engage the enemy Maser and Servant pair, just like you had instructed me to do, trailing them by the magical presence of the other Servant." Lancer's brow furrowed and lines creased his forehead as he recalled what happened next, something that nonplussed him rather thoroughly. "The problem was that all of a sudden I lost his signal – his presence disappeared entirely. The trail went cold, and without a way to track them, I could pursue them no further." His youthful face clouded with dissatisfaction as he contemplated the implications behind the events he described to me.
"I see. So it wasn't your fault that you lost them," I reflected, musing on what must have transpired. "The enemy must have had another something else hidden up their sleeves, and they used it to make a safe getaway. I shouldn't have expected anything less from the heiress to the Edelfelt name."
'…from my arch-nemesis, rather…'
But still, this was rather troubling, if only for the reason that it provided no further evidence as to what the true class of her Servant truly was. The lengthy scythe it had used in the fight with my Lancer might qualify it enough to be a Lancer-class as well, but the ability to shut out one's magical presence from the world was more befitting of an Assassin-class Servant, one of the mysterious and deadly ones who skulked through the shadows of the night and normally targeted enemy Masters. With no idea as to whom Luvia's Servant might be, let alone his class, I could not formulate a proper strategy to deal with him for the next time we meet.
"Well then, Lancer," I began, noting that today's reconnaissance was most likely at an end. "If there's nothing else we can do, then let's head back to my—"
"I'm sorry to interrupt you, Master." Lancer suddenly cut me off, an urgent note in his tone. "But I'm detecting Servant activity, four kilometers directly to the west. There's a chance that it might be our targets getting into some trouble, and it may be a good chance to finish what we started. So, what should we do? Go after it, or head back?"
Hmm. If it really was them, this would present a wonderful opportunity to deal with them while they were otherwise engaged—or possibly deal with two targets at once. Or gain some intel, at the very least. Calculating the position from here, about four kilometers would be—
"Wait," I said slowly, coming to a terrible realization as to who lived exactly four kilometers away, an idiot magus who might try to be a hero and get himself killed. "Did you just say 'four kilometers'?"
"Yes. Four kilometers, due west," he confirmed, not pressuring me with the choice, just merely wanting to know my response. "What do you want to do, Master?"
Four kilometers. Due west. There's no mistake then. Whatever was happening, it was happening at the Emiya residence, where…where that idiot lived!
"Lancer! This is serious!" I barked out, knowing there wasn't a moment to lose. "We have to get there right away!"
"Whatever you want. Let's go."
Noting the urgency in my tone, Lancer nodded, wrapping an arm around my waist and taking a running leap towards our destination. As he did so, I noticed that his body, despite having a rather small frame, was actually quite fit and firm, like that of a dancer's, and that his hands seemed almost delicate, unused to the burden of swords. But I couldn't distract myself with thoughts like this, not when something else might be happening near my neighborhood.
With the rushing wind blowing in my hair, I silently prayed that we would get there before it was too late.
*Fin de Prelude.*
-Co written, input, and beta read by AlfheimWanderer.
Here it is, the obligatory Rin-centric prologue. As one can imagine, this is going to QUITE a different Grail War in comparison to the canon one, if this prologue is anything to go by (and it is!). Let's just say it's going to be fun writing for all of the new Servants that will be waging mortal combat soon enough.