Chapter Eleven: Blackest Night

Night had fallen.


Shirou Emiya dreamt of flames.

He walked through the inferno, his nostrils filled with the stench of ash and boiling human fat, his ears filled with the crackling of blazing flame and the screams of the dying.

He walked helplessly, unable to help anyone, unable to help himself, unable to do anything but walk through the pain.

It hurt.

It hurt.

It hurt.

The heat hurt his skin, the smoke hurt his eyes and his nose, the screams hurt his ears, and the need to leave behind these, his family, bonded in suffering, struck deep into the soul of Shirou Emiya with a pain that no flame could match.

Everything burned. Everything.

He continued his meaningless crawl through the flames, alone. And behind them, something he had never seen before, a darkness so deep that even the blaze that ended his world could not illuminate it...


The sky over the sacred mountain was starless.


Saber sat, sleepless. Her senses were weak, but even she could feel a tinge of unease in the air, the vague sense of something wrong with the world.

She should have been out there, she knew. She should have been in the night, fighting her War. Something was inexplicably but undoubtedly wrong, and the King of Knights should have been on the front lines, her sword in hand, charging headlong into battle without restraint.

Sakura and Shirou needed her protection, and she would not abandon them. But her hands gripped the hilt of her sword so tightly her hands went bone white.


A bottomless void from which not even light could escape.


In her room, Sakura Matou clutched her chest, gasping for air. Sweat poured down her body, her skin had gone ghostly pale, and her nails had drawn blood on her chest from where she tried in vain to alleviate the tightness in her heart. And yet, despite the obvious agony she was in, she did not stir from her slumber.

Any who saw her might notice something dark twisting between her fingers, even as they desperately clawed at her heart...


But to those who held true power…


Kirei Kotomine looked at Caster through Lancer's eyes, and wasn't sure if he should frown or smile. On the one hand, he feared she represented some trick of Makiri that he didn't yet understand. And for all that Kirei loved general suffering, he hated Zouken very, very much. On the other hand…

She was beautiful, there was no denying that. The bringer of the end times, a black gem in the night, the personification of the suffering that he was so enamored of.

So, so beautiful.

"How many?" Kotomine asked softly, "How many people will find their meaning in you, I wonder?"

So beautiful.


… for those who had eyes to see the truth…


Ilyasviel von Einzbern sat in her bed, staring at the ceiling, her good mood dissolved.

She would have to deal with this, she knew. It wasn't anything she really wanted to do with her time, it wasn't exactly her idea of fun, but she would have to.

The Holy Grail… if it was that, it was her responsibility. It was nothing that grandpapa had told her, she wouldn't have to listen to that; this was an instinct burned into her blood, the fate of those who held the Grail.

She simply had no choice but to care, this time.

I'm sorry, Shirou. She thought.


the formless black illuminated far more than the pale light of a waning moon.


The Golden King inclined his head in the direction of Ryudou Temple, as if listening to a sound only he could hear.

"Tch." He said, his expression one of disgusted annoyance. He might have to deal with this at some point, no matter what Kirei thought.

Well, for the moment, it still wasn't really an issue. He uncorked another sample from Kirei's wine cellar and poured a glass.

Still, it didn't taste as good as it should have.


And the darkness was only growing deeper.


"We're screwed, huh?" Lancer said, almost conversationally.

"That attitude is not helping." Archer said, pulling a blade from the air. It should have been glowing like the sun, but the pall over the mountain drowned out even the holy light from the weapon.

"She is still a Servant. Aim for the heart and the head." Assassin said. "I doubt I need to say this, but do not touch the darkness. It will devour your mana with even brief contact."

"Why are you even helping us?" Lancer asked.

"I have already assassinated this woman once. Consider this professional pride." Assassin said.

"Also, she seems to want to kill you more than she wants to kill us." Archer said dryly.

Assassin chose not to dignify this with a response. In his defense, at this point Caster seemed to want to kill everyone equally.

But then, that might have been because the thing before them wasn't exactly Caster anymore. It wasn't exactly the Shadow, either. It was as if Caster wore the Shadow as a suit of armor… no. More like the Shadow had become a second skin to her, a merger between the two into a single entity. Darkness flowed from her rapidly closing wounds instead of blood, traces of a black mist whirled around her eyes and the corners of her lips. The thing before them was, despite what Assassin might have said, not exactly a Servant any longer. A Servant at its core, but the merger with the Shadow had clearly left Caster as… something else. It was clear, however, which of the two portions of the composite being had more control over the monster they had become.

"You. Will. Suffer." Caster growled.

And then she attacked.

Tendrils of darkness gathered in her palm, compressing in on themselves until they ceased to have any physical presence, igniting into a flame that seemed to burn without light, doing nothing to illuminate the gathering darkness. The blue-black flame lashed out in arcs that tore furrows along the ground, not digging up trenches in the ground but killing every blade of grass or plant they passed near, carving chunks out of entire trees so smoothly the wood ended up looking almost like polished glass…

"Break!" Archer snapped, leaping backwards as the life-stealing flames continued their hunt, splitting off like a three-headed serpent to track each of the three Servants. On a hunch, Archer hurled the blade in his hands as he moved.

The golden blade struck the black flames, and vanished harmlessly with a hiss.

Very, very not good. Archer thought. Whatever Caster had done here, the holy blades he'd been projecting until now were losing their edge. If he lost his ability to cut the enemy, there wasn't much he could do.

This is not the time, I think. Strategic retreat might be in order. Archer thought. He had thought he understood the nature of his adversary, but it was becoming more and more obvious that this wasn't the case. He had his suspicions as to the nature of the Shadow entity, but the actual creature had proven borderline-invincible, more like a curse than a real being. He had been hoping to destroy it here, but a few minutes into the battle, wasn't sure he could have managed even with Lancer's aid.

Now, he was more-or-less certain he could not. Whatever this thing was, Caster understood it far better than he did, and her knowledge of its strengths vastly outweighed the few minor weaknesses he'd been able to confirm. He'd made some analysis and had a better of idea of what he was up against; now was the time to get out of here, move Rin far away, and begin plans to deal with the situation in a more sensible fashion.

The operative term being 'get out.' He suspected Caster wasn't just going to let them leave…

The woman shifted her arm, and the serpentine flames all turned to direct themselves right at him. The first, which had been coming directly at him, continued its implacable path, while the other two snapped like whips, leaving Archer wholly surrounded by black flame that began to constrict inwards.

Charming. He'd been hurting her pet the most, and she was taking him out first. He'd been hoping she would aim at Assassin, he was the one who backstabbed her.

He also can't hurt her. Assassin was the Servant who specialized in targeting Masters… one-on-one, he wasn't much for combat with other Servants. But then, Caster wasn't supposed to be much good at that either, and she was currently about to kill him so…

A bolt of scarlet lightning ripped through the black flames, scattering them.

Archer blinked as the cage vanished into the ether.

"You should dodge faster." Lancer said, flicking his spear to clear a few black sparks from it.

"Your spear…" Archer said. "How did you…?"

"It cut the darkness." Lancer said with a shrug. "Didn't really hurt it, but cut it. Figured it would do the same for that... she's just playing around with the same shadow-stuff."

That doesn't make any…

Of course it does. Archer thought. I just didn't see how for a moment. All right, perhaps we do have some options. And that's good, because... if I can destroy her here, and now, before this can get too far out of hand...

I have to, if it's at all possible.

Caster extended a hand. Several of the black tendrils gathered together, merging together, lengthening, extending from the palm of her hand as a blade of solid black that continued to draw in darkness and grow further out. And out.

And out.

And out.

Archer gazed at the ebon lance, which was now nearly five times larger than the woman whose arm it was growing from, and still getting larger as it drew in more and more of the darkness.

He turned to Lancer and said, "Hers is bigger than yours."

"I hate you." Lancer said.

Caster whipped her arm around at approximately neck-height, and the forest began to fall.


Assassin really did have to thank them. All of them, to be honest, every last fool among them.

Archer and Lancer, he had to thank for wearing brilliant primary colors in a dark forest in the dead of night. They really couldn't have been better targets if they tried.

Caster, he had to thank for being a bit of a dolt. She had been so focused on his death, back at the lake; had she continued with that single-minded pursuit she most probably could have destroyed him with relative ease. Instead, she had gotten angry, and then she had gotten sloppy. She had let Assassin slip once more into the darkness.

He was not a Servant for face-to-face combat. He did his best work when he wasn't noticed, and it seemed that nobody at all noticed him right now.

The skull mask faded into the night. Or at least, it faded from sight, for the moment...


"Milady, this is highly unusual. Your own plans were…" Sella began, following a few steps behind her Mistress as the young princess gathered her winter clothes.

"My plans were what they were, and they are what they are. They've changed. I intended to only go out during the day, but I can't do that anymore." Ilya said, adjusting her coat. "There's some things I need to look at."

"Milady, if you could tell us even a bit more…" Leysritt implored.

"You don't need to know." Ilya said, placing her hat firmly into place and walking for the door.

"Milady, stop." Sella said sharply (Or rather, as sharply as she was capable of speaking to Ilya).

The daughter of Einzbern did indeed stop in her tracks, but not for the reason Sella had most likely been hoping. She did not turn to face her attendants, but merely said, very, very softly. "Did a broken doll… just tell me what to do…?"

Sella's face, if it was possible, paled even further. But she remained resolute, even going so far as to step forward between her mistress and the door. "I… I am sorry, milady. But your behavior has been… erratic, of late. Your grandfather…"

"Is not here. I will conduct this war as I choose, and I don't need your approval. Move, Sella." Ilya said.

"Your grandfather…" Sella continued. "Has asked that we foster and guide you, for the glory of the Family, and you have not permitted us to act in our role. Please, milady, you must…"

"I must do nothing." Ilya said, her eyes going very, very cold. "You, on the other hand, must move."

With the command, a sudden ominous aura filled the room, and something giant and bronze and black filled the air behind Ilya.

Ilya did not command Sella to move again. She did not really have to.

"… … yes, Milady." Sella said, lowering her eyes and stepping aside.

"I will forgive your disobedience," Ilya said, a bit smugly, as Berserker picked her up and placed her on his shoulder. "This time. Let's go, Berserker. There's something I need to have a look at."

The black giant and the white princess surged off into the night.

"... ... ... I thought we were not going to chastise her until morning." Leysritt said, after they were gone.

Had Sella been a less dignified existence, she most likely would have told her sister to shut up.


Servants, it must be noted, are physically far more powerful than humans. Lancer proved this effectively by leaping nearly forty meters straight up with a single swift motion, clearing the horizontally swung blade of darkness by a huge distance. It was a display of truly phenomenal agility and power; one moment, the blue knight was on the ground. The next, he soared.

Archer, ever the efficient soul, chose instead to just duck, letting it go over his head by about an inch.

Show-off. The two Servants thought of each other at the exact same instant.

Caster raised her other hand, and the Shadow warped itself again. The blade she had swung dissolved, turning liquid and seeping across the ground, a pool of darkness that began to spread across the ground like water... with the exception that water did not draw in any living thing it touched, and this darkness most certainly did.

Archer leapt into one of the trees that had no yet been felled, but the growing pool of darkness was already dissolving it from the bottom up, and he couldn't exactly keep jumping from tree to tree like a chimp. Just staying alive was pointless. Victory was what mattered.

Lancer landed next to him. "What are you doing? You could cut the damn thing before, so get to it!"

"Those blades were just imitations. Forgeries. They worked... passably well against an incomplete thing like that darkness, but Caster's magic is a power from the Age of Gods, a genuine Divine Mystery. Merged, they can easily devour such frauds. A true Noble Phantasm like your spear would be required to cut it, by piercing it with a greater Mystery, but the cursed nature of the lance impedes its effects."

"Feh. So you're saying we're both useless, then? Doesn't surprise m-"

"No, I'm saying I need to try harder." Archer said.

"Eh?" Lancer said. "What the Hell does that m-"

But Archer's mind was already gone.

Searching.

Reality Marble accessed.

Recreating basic form. Recreating exterior structure. Examine, every detail, and perfectly recreate form, ability...

Recreate history.

Every detail, down to the most minute irregularity in the sheen of the metal, must be perfectly copied. As exact a recreation as is possible.

I am the bone of my sword. Steel is my body and fire is my blood.

"Holy-!" Lancer said.

He was absolutely correct.

The blade that now shone in Archer's hands was as different from those he'd conjured before as the sun was from a flashlight. This broadsword was not a mere image, but a true Noble Phantasm.

No... the swords before were one thing, but that's not the weapon of an Archer, it simply can't be! Lancer thought. This was a holy blade, a weapon of power and history that belonged in the hands of a great swordsman. Anyone who mastered a sword like that would simply not be...

"Lancer." Archer said, the weapon in his hands burning back the gloom that pervaded the mountain. "Watch my back."

And he leapt down into the pool of darkness, his blade leading the way. Lancer half-expected him to simply vanish into the shadows, but the holy sword sliced aside the extended darkness as easily as the morning sun burning through fog. A landing space cleared, he dropped to his knees, built power in his legs, and charged...

The Sword of Victory sang as it cleaved through the shadows. His charge had caught her off her guard, and if his initial rush could cut her down with a single stroke...

"Caliburn!"

The blade ignited with the call of its true name, and Archer couldn't help but smirk at the irony. Here he was, battling evil with her sword, a shining knight... it was almost like he was a real Hero. Of course, the image of
heroism wouldn't hold up well if Caster burned him down before his blade could reach her, and her hands were raised.

She opened her mouth to chant the words that would quite likely reduce him to ash. The runes appeared behind her, ready to release the dark fire. Archer prepared his blade to cut her down, hoping that the Holy light would afford some protection... it was too late to dodge, and this plan hadn't gone as planned, to say the least.

Time seemed to slow down.

Archer's blade sliced the night air...

Caster's lips formed the words to her next spell, seeking to protect herself and her 'pet'...

A black dart slipped through the scene, just below her chin.

The words died on Caster's lips, her spell forgotten, as her hand clamped down on her throat, the slit jugular pumping blood.

The white skull mask looked on from atop a fallen tree, grinning horribly.

Archer's blade began to swing down.

Caster slammed her palm into the ground, let out a wordless, blood-choked cry, and everything went straight to Hell.

The leyline that ran through the mountain pulsed, a wild, raw surge of uncontrolled power. Archer thought he heard screams... men, women, and children alike.

She harvested the souls of the town for power...! Archer thought, just before the Shadow exploded. The sudden influx of pure mana was drawn into the Shadow through the leyline, as Caster's Temple reached out across Fuyuki and ripped the power from the citizenry.

Archer was hurled back, his blade falling from his hands. He sought it, but the sudden storm of power blinded him, tossing him through a hailstorm of leaves, entire trees being hurled around like they were twigs.

A hand clamped down on his wrist, and he projected and swung the sword in a single, smooth motion.

It collided with a scarlet lance. "Idiot, it's me!" Lancer screamed. "We need to get out of here!"

"No... I can't leave her to..." Archer said. He had to stop it. Had to. This was his chance to end it, he couldn't...

He turned to see the Shadow. He didn't have to turn far.

Caster was no longer visible. The darkness that had once been surrounding her now completely blocked her from view, a towering wall of black and writhing tentacles. It began to grow further... no, to inflate, in preparation to...

Explode?

"We can damn well leave." Lancer said.

The Shadow burst, and the tides of darkness tore through the forest behind the two, quite suddenly fleeing Servants.


Assassin was the first to escape, as it should be. There was absolutely no reason for him to remain on the mountain; he had begun his retreat as soon as Archer had been repelled. At this point, victory was not possible. Escape was the only option.

He slid through the gate, instantly feeling lighter on his feet outside the oppressive boundary field. He descended the steps seven at a time, preparing to leap to the street and vanish from this place once and for...

Ah.

A soft moaning emerged from the underbrush. Something stirred in the bushes, once again thoughtfully wearing a brilliant primary color. Bright red in a forest in the dead of night was not ideal for camoflauge in any sense of the term. (Admittedly, black was not either, being generally too dark to truly blend in with nightime shadows. Gray or dark green would have been better, from a visual perspective, but Assassin had other means of remaining hidden and could get away with it). She was laying there, stirring from unconsciousness, totally defenseless...

She was a Master. He could sense that much. The Master of Archer or Lancer, he couldn't be certain, but it hardly mattered. At this point, the battle with Caster was over, one way or the other, and so they no longer mattered. She was a Master, alone in the Holy Grail War, without her Servant to shield her. She was prey.

He slid a knife into his fingers. Such an opportunity was not to be missed. He drew back his arm, fairly certain that this one's head wouldn't have a shield of darkness to push aside bladed weapons...

No. Said the voice in his mind.

Master? Assassin thought. You have been out of contact for some time.

I was indisposed. Leave the girl and attend me, immediately.

But...

I have a use for this one. Zouken thought, observing the heir of Tohsaka through Assassin's eyes. Yes. Yes, I do...

This is foolish, Master. Whatever plan you may have, the chance to eliminate her so early and without risk is...

The air ahead of him took on a sudden similarity with the air behind him: not the same clawing emptiness, but disturbingly similar vicious, murderous intent and the oppressive aura of rippling, barely-controlled power. Outside the darkness, with streetlights and the moon no longer obscured, he could just barely make out the outline two figures; one childlike, but the other very clearly something much, much larger than a person.

Perhaps revealing his location was unwise after all.

On the other hand. He said, discarding the knife and slipping back into the darkness, You are the Master, here.


Ilya sighed. "It's not here."

Berserker did not reply, of course, but talking to him helped her organize her thoughts. "I mean, it's here, it's strongest here, but this isn't the source. Even if we deal with what's here, we won't solve the issue. Follow my
eyes, Berserker. We'll trace this back to its heart and end it right now, while it's still early. I won't let something this vile run around and-" Put Shirou in danger. "-endanger the completion of the Grail."

She could sense it. The main 'mass' of the darkness was here. But it was like a pool fed by an underground spring. The visible water was what you drowned in, but the source was somewhere else entirely. Most, she supposed, would have missed that, but then most didn't have Ilya's rather unique senses. Even a great Magus wouldn't be able to feel this phenomenon with the clarity she could; she might be the only person in the world who could truly understand a bit of what had happened, see some small measure of the truth.

Caster, one of the Seven, had been drawn into the Holy Grail. And then she'd come out, but that hardly mattered. The important thing was that the Grail she had been drawn into wasn't Ilya.

A second Grail. Someone was breaking the rules severely, and Ilya strongly suspected who it might be. "To the old Makiri's nest, Berserker."

If one had to travel, in Berserker's arms was not a bad way to do so. The Servant's muscled frame wasn't exactly comfortable, but at a full run he was faster than a speeding car and got to his destination far more quickly by virtue of not having to follow the roads. Buildings were hurdles, not obstacles, and Berserker was very, very good at jumping hurdles.

They were well on the way to the Matou manor within two minutes, but Ilya frowned regardless. Something was wrong.

The trail didn't lead to Zouken?

She hadn't been expecting that, but she could hardly deny the evidence of her own senses. There was indeed a silvery line of magic linking towards the House of Makiri, this much was true. Zouken was, indeed, somehow connected to the incident that had caught her eye. But the darker of the two 'source lines', the one connected most strongly to the Second Grail...

No. Ilya thought.

Berserker followed her mind, turning towards the blackness and pursuing it. But that direction...

It can't be. It isn't. There's no way it could be something to do with him... he doesn't know anything, he can't do anything, he's weak, barely a Magus at all... a Magecraft of this level would be as far beyond him as trying
to grasp the sun in his hands
... She thought desperately.

Berserker stormed down the empty streets, each step bringing them closer and closer to something that Ilya feared more than anything else she could haveimagined...

No... no, no, no, it's not possible, there's simply no way he could...

The thin, black line of magic didn't lie. It remained... hollow and insubstantial and deathly cold, but it clearly existed, and it traced back fully from the Shadow devouring the temple to this place. The house of Emiya...

The wellspring of the Dark Grail was in Shirou's own home.

Oh, Shirou. Ilya thought, her heart falling. What have you done?

And what will I have to do to deal with this...?


"We're not going to make it to the Gate..." Lancer said.

"We are." Archer replied.

The Servants had managed to stay ahead of the black flood, but not by nearly so much as either would have preferred. Archer was not remotely sure what to do. Even Lancer could only retreat so quickly in a forest at night. Added to the fact that they could only escape through the main gate...

And the darkness was, indeed, gaining on them.

"Your girl's down there, right? The cute one. Pigtails, dresses in red." Lancer said, oddly conversationally considering they were running for their lives.

"Yes! You tried to kill her once! Move faster!"

"Girl that pretty is a bad thing to waste. And... I hate to admit it, but I owe you one for keeping me alive this long." Lancer said. "This mountain's a lost cause. Get your girl and get out, I have this."

"But…" Archer began.

"Go." Lancer repeated, sounding almost bored. "I have this."

The wave of darkness was descending, Assassin had abandoned them, and Rin was at the foot of the mountain…

"Fine," Archer said. Then, before he descended the temple steps, out of some sense of bizarre sentimentality that he'd thought himself long rid of, he added, "Try to die well."

Lancer screeched to a halt, drawing his arm back. Die? Not if I can help it.

The spear had cut the darkness. The Divine Mystery behind the lance cutting the magic. The damage had been limited by Gae Bolg's dark nature, but the Mystery…

His blade could cut this darkness. All he needed to do was compensate for the handicap with just a little extra effort.

"Gae…" He intoned, drawing his weapon back further. Gae Bolg, the cursed lance that would always pierce the target's heart… even if by virtue of the fact that it could, if pressed, destroy their entire body.

He doubted Caster was familiar enough with his life as a hero to know it was supposed to be used as a javelin.

He charged the tidal wave of nightmare, a grim smile on his face.

"…Bolg!"

Lancer leapt, calling out the weapon's true name even as he took to the sky. And with a single smooth motion, he hurled the unstoppable spear.

Gae Bolg was a cursed, bloodthirsty lance, an instrument of darkness. Despite this, it lit up the night as even the holy blade could not, the weapon's true name calling forth its ultimate power as a Noble Phantasm.

The light that shone down was not a holy strength, but the light of raw destruction.

The blast of light and energy tore through the wave of darkness, the Shadow releasing a keening wail of agony as it was torn apart by the javelin of Cu Chulainn; The Spear of Striking Death Flight.

When the blast finally cleared, all that remained of the darkness was a pool of a weakly flailing tendrils on the ground where the abomination had been struck.

Lancer sighed in admitted relief. He hadn't been at all sure that would work, but it had been his only remaining tactic. At least it seemed to have wounded the thing, and Caster was nowhere to be seen. If she had been inside the mass, she was destroyed. And good riddance. He thought.

Something sharp pricked his neck. A flash of light blinded him suddenly.

He had a hero's instincts and reflexes; had he not detected the attack, the wound to his neck would have been a slashed jugular, not a minor pinprick. Hewas a bit nervous about the strange light, but managed to roll to the side, calling his spear back to his hand and leveling it at…

"Caster…" her murmured. "You left the Shadow while it was hunting us and snuck around? Bitch."

"Soooooo clever." She purred.

"Guess it was too much to hope you were dead, at that."

The witch stood where Lancer had made his final stand against her pet, an oddly jagged black dagger in her hand. The blade was purely ebon, making the single brilliant scarlet drop of Lancer's blood on the tip stand out all the more. "Hope, my dear? You have no hope." She said. "This battle has reached its conclusion. Not as seamless as I'd hoped, but victory is mine."

"Well, you're not wrong about this being over." His mana situation wasn't exactly perfect, but, he had enough left for this much. "Gae…"

"Don't move." She said, and against all odds, against his own will, Lancer's muscles locked, his lips clamped shut. He tried to complete the incantation, to take her heart, but he couldn't budge a millimeter no matter
how hard he tried. It was as if…

With a beautiful, mocking smile, Caster shifted the hand holding her strange dagger to reveal Lancer's Command Seals on her hand, one of the three marks now faded.

That dagger…!

Caster smiled more widely. "Your Noble Phantasm is brilliant, Lancer. One of the most destructive weapons I've seen in some time. Mine, I'm afraid, is not nearly so magnificent, though it does have its uses, as you're learning now. My dagger is called Rule Breaker, and there is no finer tool for piercing magical oaths and sigils. Your contract with your Master is broken, Lancer. Your command seals are mine. You, my dear, are mine.

"And you are food."

The tiny tendrils of darkness looked, suddenly, like the snapping teeth of a gigantic predator as they slowly but inexorably began to grow again around Lancer's legs...

"Be devoured."


Rin finally managed to extricate herself from the thorn bush (Yes, thorns. Archer had thrown her into a thorn bush. Bastard), falling to her hands and knees, breathing heavily. Getting out of tangled thorns was not fun on the best of days, and she had to admit that her time in the boundary field around the Temple had not been good for her health. Shakily, she stood…

And had the wind knocked out of her as a red blur slammed into her. She felt an arm clamp around her waist and suddenly she was moving and not at all sure what was going on…

"Archer…!" She said when she could breathe again.

"Yes, I'm here." Archer said as he carried his Master to safety, his voice more bitter than she had ever heard it. "For all the good that does."

"What happened? Why are we...?"

"The Temple is lost. Lancer is dead. We can't come back here again." Archer snapped. "Challenging her here won't work, it never would..."

Rin was briefly silent. "What... what do we do now?"

"I don't know, Rin. I honestly don't know." Archer said.

And Rin Tohsaka thought that might have been the most genuinely frightening thing she'd ever heard.


Night had fallen.

The sky over the sacred mountain was starless, a void from which not even light could escape.

Something stirred in the darkness. A jet-black spear pierced the night air. Something jagged and so black it stood out even against the night took shape, then. A malevolence that smelled of blood. The presence took its first steps onto a doomed world, and smiled.

The little remaining light over Ryudou Temple died.

And the darkness was only growing deeper...