I do not own Ben 10 or Fate/Stay Night. They belong to their respective owners and not me. I am only writing this for fun and I hope despite the hiatus I was on for this fic you all enjoy what is to come. Please be kind and review, but flames will be devoured by Dark Sakura.
Fate/Stay Night: Ultimate Master
By Ten-Faced Paladin
Chapter 5: Aftermath
The night was silent and serene at the Ryuudou Temple, but it was not because of the naturally peaceful atmosphere a religious site could produce. The night was silent because just moments ago a battle on two fronts erupted between heroes both new and old. The power thrown around by all sides had scared away all of the local wildlife. It was only because of Caster's spell over the property that the monks and other residents of the temple didn't wake up in the midst of the chaos. Although the chaos and the battle had ended, the air was still tense.
Standing on top of the stairs to the temple was Ben Tennyson and his Servant Avenger. Both had finished battling the Servants Rider and True Assassin, the black-clad man having singled Ben out for the kill but his ability to transform allowed him to survive the attempt and fight back. The battle had only ended when a pillar of light appeared at the gates of the temple, causing Rider and True Assassin to flee. They both arrived at the source of the light only for the Master to realize he recognized both people on the stairs.
Below them on a portion of the stairs was Shirou Emiya and his own Servant Saber. Saber had come to the temple to attack the Servant that was supposedly fortified there. Once she arrived, she met the samurai-like Servant Assassin naming himself Sasaki Kojirou. The two of them did battle to the point where Saber was preparing to unleash her Noble Phantasm, but Shirou's interruption prevented the power from being unleashed, even if the drain from even preparing to use the attack mixed with her injuries from previous battles left her drained. Assassin retreated, his task of preventing Saber's entrance complete but Saber passed out into Shirou's arms.
"T-Tennyson-san," Shirou swallowed.
"Shirou...Emiya?" Ben blinked in surprise. He knew Shirou was a Master after seeing the teen during the battle in the park against Caster's skeletons. He did feel a measure of relief seeing that Shirou seemed to be the Master of Saber instead of Archer.
Shirou himself wasn't quite sure what to do at the moment. He knew that fighting was out of the question, both due to Saber's weakness and his own lagging abilities when it came to magic. On the other hand, he wanted to believe that Ben Tennyson was the kind of person who you could count on to not stab you in the back. Rin's voice still echoed in his mind, reminding him about how dangerous Ben could be if given half a chance.
The two sides were silent for a moment before Ben's gaze turned down to gaze at Saber, "Is she okay?"
"Uh..." Shirou gulped. He glanced down to the sleeping Saber. "She's just tired. The fights we've been dealing with have been taking a toll on us."
"Tell me about it," Ben nodded, absently rubbing his collarbone where True Assassin had stabbed him. Changing into AmpFibian managed to heal the wound, but the pain of the knife digging into his skin still echoed in Ben's mind. Pushing that dark thought from his mind, Ben turned his focus to the situation at hand. "You guys need help?"
"Master?" asked Avenger. While she could agree with the sentiment of not striking an opponent when they were down and unable to defend themselves, this was a prime opportunity to eliminate Saber. She didn't like the thought at all, but if Ben insisted...
"Relax, we're done fighting tonight," Ben reassured Avenger. "Right now I think we all just want to go home and get some rest. It's been a long night."
"Yeah," Shirou agreed. "Saber isn't really that heavy but..."
"Say no more," Ben nodded. Hopping down the steps, he helped heft Saber to her feet before he and Shirou slung an arm over their shoulders. Ben anticipated some weight, but despite being so powerful he had to admit that Saber really didn't seem to have anything to her. "Woah, she is light." Chuckling, he glanced at Avenger, "Avenger, make sure that True Assassin or Rider don't try to sneak attack us or something."
"Yes Master," Avenger nodded, keeping her sword at the ready.
"True Assassin? Rider?" Shirou blinked, looking over to Ben's face.
"Yeah, a nasty guy who tried to take me out and got pretty close," Ben frowned. "Tall skinny guy with black skin and a white mask over his face that looks like a skull. The odd thing is that his right arm is all wrapped up in black cloth. Seemed to have it out for me too. I don't know about the guy at the gate, but this one is way more what I thought the Servant Assassin would be like."
Shirou frowned at the description, not liking the sounds of it one bit. He assumed that the man at the gate was the last Servant since he had already seen Archer, Lancer, Rider, and Berserker. Since he used a sword instead of magic he thought that the man was Assassin. Hearing there was a True Assassin running around though would make things difficult...and make Tohsaka angrier in the process. His night was shaping up just great.
As they slowly walked down the stairs to the streets, Shirou glanced at the American who was helping him. He had so many questions for Ben, things he wanted to know about the teenager. He wouldn't be shy in admitting that with Ben being an actual hero, Shirou wanted to know how he could become one as well. Recalling all he had learned about Ben from Rin's extensive research and printouts he had decided to go out on a limb.
"Tennyson-san?" asked Shirou.
"Just how did you get involved in the Holy Grail War anyway?" the Master of Saber dared to ask. Ben glanced over Saber's head with a raised eyebrow, making Shirou elaborate. "I mean...you were all the way in America and...well magic is kind of a thing that we really want to keep secret."
"Actually, I had no idea the Grail War existed," Ben admitted. "Some of the people I...work with noticed that ten years ago all this 'gas leak' and 'accident' stuff was going on which seemed to end up with the Great Fuyuki Fire. They sent me to try and investigate what was going on when the same incidents started up again and the same excuses were being thrown around like it was common practice. If there's anything I can do in my line of work, it's realize a cover up, especially one as flimsy as this one."
"Oh," Shirou grimaced, both at the memory of that hellish night where he met his father as well as realizing that the cover ups that Rin had once said were so reliable weren't as effective as they seemed to be. "So you came here to find out what was going on?"
"Yeah," Ben nodded before he chuckled. "Funnily enough, I was sent because most of the people who stood out most had kids here or were in the area. I was supposed to interview you, Rin Tohsaka, Shinji and Sakura Matou, and Kirei Kotomine about the incidents. Instead I get jumped by Lancer and somehow summoned Avenger. Guess I got my answers."
Shirou blinked in shock at the statement. Ben had actually come to Fuyuki to actually try and get answers about the Fuyuki Fire out of himself and his classmates. "Wh-why us?"
"Because Kiritsugu Emiya, his wife Irisviel von Einzbern, Kirei Kotomine, Kariya Matou, and Tokiomi Tohsaka were involved in the previous events which makes me think it was part of a previous Grail War," Ben explained.
"Wh-what?-!" Shirou gaped. "T-Tou-san was involved in this? Wait...Irisviel von Einzbern?"
"Yeah. I think she must be a relation to Illya," Ben nodded. "She died during the last buildup to the fire. She was supposed to be married to Kiritsugu. Did he ever mention her?"
"Once, I think," Shirou nodded, reeling from the thought that more than a magus his father had been involved in the Grail War. The same Grail War that created the hellish fire that orphaned him. "He..he mentioned the name but when I asked he said it was nothing and didn't mention it since. I was curious at first, but if she died in the last Grail War...then he probably didn't want to talk about it."
"Yeah," Ben nodded. "When I showed up I just thought that I was going to deal with some alien that was hibernating under the city or something. Instead I get something way more complicated than that." He sighed, "Magic. I was never good at dealing with magic."
"Heh, me neither," Shirou chuckled.
The two boys gently carried the unconscious Saber down to the bottom of the stairs. Both of them took a moment to set her on a nearby bench so they could get the stiffness out of their limbs.
"You need help getting her someplace safe?" asked Ben.
"Well...I can carry her home myself," Shirou admitted.
"You're unsure if you should allow my Master and I to see where you are residing," Avenger commented.
"Well, there is Tohsaka..." Shirou murmured. She was going to tear into him already because of how friendly he was being with Ben. Letting him see where they lived would likely make her break out in one of those scary smiles she would give off now and then when she thought he was doing something stupid. The girl's smiles could be rather expressive and downright terrifying when she wanted them to be.
"I guess I can understand that," said Ben. "Technically, we are supposed to be enemies in this Holy Grail War."
"She's just worried that, well, since you're being friendly with the other Masters we're enemies with, that you're planning on taking us all out as a group," said Shirou. "You could do it too with that huge form and all..."
"Not my style," said Ben, shaking his head. "I don't even want the Holy Grail. I just want to make sure that it doesn't end up in the hands of some kind of maniac who would use it to enslave the world or something. I've seen plenty of guys like that back home and I don't want to see how many of those types exist in Japan."
"So then why were you-?" asked Shirou, gesturing to the temple.
"Caster there wanted to negotiate a truce or something," Ben replied, "The only Servants I'm going after are the ones who are a threat to everyone. Rider, True Assassin, and Lancer are all on the list. Archer probably won't just want to call a draw either."
'Neither will Saber,' Shirou lamented mentally, looking at his Servant and remembering how determined she was to fight the Grail War. "And what about Berserker's Master? Illya? Tohsaka's freaking out about you working together."
"Illya's family is forcing her to compete. They don't even want a wish, they just want to be able to claim that they have the Grail," Ben shrugged. "I...I want to keep Illya safe through all this but at the same time I doubt Berserker is going to just be a good little dog with that Mad Enhancement still active on him. I just don't get why her family would send a little girl to fight in this."
"I know the feeling," said Shirou. He and Tohsaka were just allies until the other Masters were taken out of the War. Then, it'd just be them and she wasn't the type to want to give up on the Holy Grail without a fight. Her family had a huge stake in the fight, apparently being one of the three families responsible for starting the ritual in the first place.
"Look, how about I just drop you off someplace nearby?" Ben suggested. "Carrying Saber back is going to be tiring enough."
"Sure," Shirou nodded. He knew already a few spots Ben could drop him off and still leave enough mystery to keep anyone from finding out where he and Rin were staying. In all honesty he wanted to trust Ben and people's faith in him as a hero. Call him naive, but Shirou wasn't ready to be as cynical about everyone around him like Rin and Archer were.
"Great," Ben grinned. He activated the Ultimatrix before slamming down on the projected hologram. Shirou shielded his eyes before looking at Ben again. In the American's place was a large quadraped creature covered in orange fur with a large mouth filled with teeth and black lips. It didn't have any eyes and no visible nostrils and what looked sort of like gills or frills of some kind along the neck. The creature gave off a howl before turning to Shirou. After a moment of shock, Shirou recognized the image of the creature as Wildmutt, one of Ben's oldest forms if Tohsaka's research was right.
"U-uh..." Shirou gaped. Seeing Ben had turn into a large, orange-furred canine creature with no eyes and big teeth still stunned ever after witnessing his transformations before. Were his days ever going to return to normal?
After a few gestures from Wildmutt, Shirou managed to haul himself and Saber onto his back. Wildmutt looked to Avenger but the eighth Servant had decided to simply follow on her own. The Vulpimancer quickly took off running, Shirou pointing out directions as they went. Shirou gripped onto Wildmutt's fur so he wouldn't fall off while making sure Saber didn't fall off either.
Wildmutt wasn't exactly Ben's fastest alien nor the biggest, but he really needed a form that could transport people without getting noticed. In the cover of night, people wouldn't be able to see him all that clearly anyway. The trip was fortunately uneventful, Avenger managing to keep up with Wildmutt with a bit of extra effort and Shirou kept a death grip on Saber to make sure she was safe while she slept. Eventually though, Shirou began to recognize his neighborhood and tugged at Wildmutt's fur, alerting him to pull over or whatever the term was when riding a beast.
Coming to a stop with panting breath, Wildmutt leaned down, allowing Shirou to slade Saber down to Avenger's arms before he followed and took her back. Once both passengers were on the ground, Wildmutt flashed green before returning to his original form of Ben Tennyson.
"Whew," he huffed. "That's my workout for the night."
"Thank you Tennyson-san," Shirou nodded to his fellow Master. "I appreciate the help."
"Hey, I'm a hero. It's what I do," Ben grinned.
"Yeah...heroes do things like that," Shirou agreed, looking almost wistful. Nodding to Ben, he hefted Saber onto his back and began walking down the street. Ben and Avenger watched him go for a few moments before they turned and headed in the direction of the hotel.
"Are you sure it is wise to have been so quick to help?" asked Avenger. "Most would call you foolish for not taking such a prime opportunity to eliminate Saber from the War."
"Avenger, you should know me by now," Ben sighed. "I don't go for tactics like that. In the middle of a fight anything can happen, but I'm not going to slug someone when they're down, especially like how Saber was."
"Then it is good that I didn't suggest it," Avenger smiled behind her helmet. "It is a rather disgraceful tactic in my mind as well."
"Glad we can agree on something then," Ben nodded with a smile of her own. "Now, come on. Let's go. I have an appetite and want to lie down."
Shirou sighed as he walked into the entryway to his house, setting Saber on the floor against the wall so to close the door. Glancing to the blonde Servant, he saw how peaceful she looked while she was asleep. If he had to be honest with himself, it was the first time he had seen her so relaxed since he had met her. She was usually so uptight and serious it made her features look like they were made of stone even if she was pretty.
'I can't even find it in me to try and scold her right now,' Shirou sighed internally. Shaking his head, he leaned down to pick her up bridal style...
"My my, such an interesting scene."
"Guh!" Shirou gasped. Looking up, he felt himself pale as he saw Rin smiling down at him, a finger playing with one of her ponytails. "Tohsaka!" Shirou leaped back to his feet. "Th-th-this isn't what it looks like! I was just trying to carry Saber back to my ro-! I mean...you know...uh... you know what I'm talking about!"
"Yes, I know exactly what you're talking about," Rin smirked.
"You don't sound like you do," Shirou frowned, hating that teasing tone in Rin's voice.
"Saber went off to fight by herself and you went to stop her, right?" asked Rin, approaching Saber so to help her up. Seeing Shirou nod, she continued, "I'll take Saber to her room. You go make some tea. Use my set, I put it in the third cupboard. I want to hear what you two saw out there tonight."
Shirou sighed and did what he was told. Walking into his kitchen, he found Rin's tea set where she said it was. Going through the motions, he began to make the tea. He was used to a more traditional set rather than the western set Rin had brought but they were similar enough. After choosing one of the blends that he had on stock, he set in in the pot and began pouring hot water into it just as Rin came back into the living room.
"I'm going to need a moment with you Shirou-kun," Rin spoke.
"Right, in a minute," the redhead nodded before looking up. To his surprise, he could see Saber walking into the room in her civilian attire. "Eh? Saber?"
"She woke up just now. With her body low on prana, she went into a kind of restoring sleep. They generally don't last very long," Rin explained, taking her tea set to the table.
"Shirou, did you carry me all the way here?" Saber asked.
"Well, actually..." Shirou rubbed the back of his head. "I think we should all sit down before I tell you."
Moments later, a loud scream could be heard from within the Emiya Estate. Several children were woken from their sleep and many of the animals in the neighbourhood began making a fuss.
Shirou had just told Rin and Saber that Avenger's Master had helped take him and Saber home. The dark-haired girl was livid. Shirou had just compromised their location.
"Shirou, that was very foolish of you!" Saber scolded her master.
"I didn't show him the whole way here! Heck, he'd be lucky to know which direction to go in the area!" Shirou tried to defend his actions.
"But now he knows where to look you doofus!" Rin snapped. Damn it, she was getting frustrated. First, it was Shirou's naivete and ignorance about the matters of the Holy Grail War. If that wasn't enough, this new shape-shifting Master was a huge threat to them. He was a wild card and a dangerous one at that. Now Shirou had practically painted a dotted line straight to their front door.
"I don't think he's that type of guy," said Shirou. "You've read about him, what he's done. Does that sound like someone who would attack us without warning?"
"Shirou, you are far too trusting," Saber commented before glancing at Rin.
"If he's so devious why didn't he just kill you when you were down?" Shirou retorted. Saber's mouth snapped shut. "Why would he go out of his way to rescue so many people in America? Why fight so many obvious bad guys? Why bother if he didn't see it as some kind of moral duty?"
Saber didn't have a reply, she having seen the evidence of Ben's moral fiber herself both in the documents Rin collected as well as seeing some examples it herself. How he grew outraged when Archer admonished him for not risking civilians to claim victory was a particularly vivid memory. Still, Rin's pragmatic side stood up for the challenge, "Shirou, people show their ugly sides when a good enough prize is on the line."
"He doesn't even want the Grail. He just wants to make sure no one bad gets it and ends up becoming a threat to innocent people," Shirou retorted, crossing his arms. "The only reason he's in Fuyuki in the first place is because he was looking for us."
Rin blinked, "What?"
Sighing, Shirou decided to lay all his cards on the table. Maybe if he could maybe bridge the gap between Saber, Rin, and Ben there could be an alliance against the likes of Lancer and Rider. "Ben was sent here to Japan by a group he works with to interview you, me, Shinji, Sakura, and Kotomine about events that we may have heard about ten years ago."
"Ten years ago?" Saber frowned.
"Why back then? The only thing that happened back then was..." Rin trailed off as her eyes began to widen. "The Fourth Grail War..."
"The organization Ben works with were able to tell that all of the excuses of gas leaks or whatever were just a cover up which ended in the Great Fuyuki Fire," Shirou explained himself. "When the same excuses were being brought up to cover for Lancer's killings and whatever other Servants are doing they probably guessed that someone was covering up the truth. They sent Ben to ask us what we might have known since our parents were in the thick of it all. Only he got the real answer when he got Avenger."
Rin and Saber's eyes widened when Shirou made his statement. It was obviously shocking to them to hear that an organization had suspicions about what was going on, but the sinking sensation in his gut told Shirou that it wouldn't come as calming news. Once again, he started feeling like he had just done something stupid which was going to get Tohsaka pissed off at him again.
"Oh man," Rin frowned. "This is not good. This is not good at all. Shirou, we can't let an outside organization find out about the Grail Wars! Do you know what the Magus Association would do if it became common knowledge to anyone mundane that magic was real? That a wish-granting device existed?"
Shirou nodded grimly. Kiritsugu had half-assed his magical education, but he made sure that Shirou understood the value of secrecy. If word got out that magic existed, the Magus Association would begin taking steps to ensure that the secret was kept. They weren't exactly humane in trying to keep it either. Shirou had been told stories by his father about how the Association had wiped out entire towns and a small city or two just to make sure that magic remained a secret.
"Then we can't let Tennyson make his report!" Rin frowned. "We have to take him and Avenger down! If he does, the Association would wipe Fuyuki off the map and likely start a war with Tennyson's group. If he's any indication, it won't be one that will be won easily."
"Considering he can turn into aliens, I don't think he's going to tell the world Tohsaka," Shirou argued. "If anything, his group may already know about magic if some of the enemies he fought means anything. Knowing about the Holy Grail won't be anything new. Everyone in the Magus Association knows about it don't they?"
"True," Rin sighed, massaging her temple. While she didn't entirely buy into the 'alien' aspect of Ben's transformations there was no denying that he knew about magic and likely so did anyone he worked with. Hex and Charmcaster certainly blew that secret to them a long time ago. "But we can't take any chances with this!"
"As important as this is, you are both missing the core issue of it all," Saber spoke up, her voice like a knife and cutting through the tension. "Can he be trusted?"
"To be honest, I think he wants to end this whole thing without taking lives," said Shirou, heaving a sigh. "It's why he spared us before and convinced Illya not to kill us."
"Then if he learns the seriousness of the situation we may be able to convince him on the value of secrecy," Saber nodded.
"Maybe," said Shirou. Still, he had his doubts. If he weren't in the middle of the Grail War himself, Shirou knew that if he discovered what was going on he'd start fighting to try and stop it before innocent people got killed. No doubt Ben would do the same.
Shinto - Ben's Suite
Back in their hotel room, Ben and Avenger were having a meal together. Well, more like a working dinner. Despite being tired and sore, Ben's mind was working on the events that had occurred during the night from his meeting with Caster, fighting Rider and True Assassin, to seeing Shirou as the Master of Saber. So absently munching on some take-out, he read through the book which kept track of the Servants so far.
"Assassin," Ben read, looking over the entry on the blue-haired swordsman protecting the temple gates. Amazingly, his entry was actually complete compared to the other Servants. By giving out his real name, Assassin apparently had unlocked all of the data in the book concerning him. "Master: Caster. Strength: C, Endurance: E, Agility: A+, Mana: E, Luck: A, Noble Phantasm: ?" Ben frowned, not just at the statistics as strange as they were, but also how there didn't seem to be an entry into how powerful his Noble Phantasm was. "His Class Skill is Presence Concealment: D."
"The Assassin's ability to hide himself from the senses of others," Avenger nodded, absently eating her own food while she discussed the topics of the night. "When it is activated, no one would be able of detecting him until he decided to drop it. I am surprised to hear that it is so low though. Perhaps it is because this Assassin is a swordsman rather than silent killer?"
"Maybe," Ben shrugged. He was hardly an expert on things in the Holy Grail War. Looking back o the pages, he looked to Assassin's personal skills. "Eye of the Mind (Fake): A? What's the difference between the true and fake ones?"
"A true Eye of the Mind comes from hardened battle experience and time," Avenger answered. "A false one is more of a sixth sense and natural talent. Whoever this 'Sasaki Kojirou' is, he must be naturally gifted at battle."
"Okay," Ben nodded. "Next is...Vitrification: B+. Okay, I have no idea what that is supposed to be."
"It's a state of mind, specifically one of serenity," Avenger answered. "To be specific, it allows warriors to clear their minds and rid it of mental interference. To be at such a level, Assassin may be capable of hiding his warrior spirit and be essentially invisible to those who are sensitive to aggression and bloodlust." The knight then turned thoughtful. "Perhaps it could allow him to compensate for such a low Presence Concealment, allowing him to function as Assassin should he need it."
"Okay, so maybe that was enough for him to qualify for an Assassin then," Ben nodded, looking to the list. "Last one here in...Knowledge of Respect and Harmony: B? That's even weirder than the Vitrification skill."
"Not if you know what the skill means," Avenger shook her head. "What this skill refers to is the knowledge of how certain aspects of the world work and are able to adapt to them. For example, if a swordsman has this skill in regards to swords and swordsmanship, then he can use his skills over and over on the same opponent without it losing effectiveness. In other words, he is able to use his skills in such a way that the opponent cannot recognize that he is using those skills no matter how many times they have fought."
"So Assassin will be unpredictable in a fight now matter how many times we fight him?" asked Ben.
"Precisely," Avenger nodded. "Likely all but his greatest skills will be unrecognizable until he actually uses them. Speaking of, does he have an Noble Phantasms?"
"Um," Ben looked down the entry. "Well, one but it's weird. It says it's called Tsubame Gaeshi, but it's ranked at N/A. That means Not Applicable, right?"
"That's right," Avenger frowned. "What does it do?"
"Well, it describes it as a sword technique which has three consecutive strikes," Ben tried his best to explain what he was reading. "What makes it so weird though is that it uses something called the...multi-dimensional refraction phenomenon to make it so that the three slashes come all at once. It hits you where you are, where you try to dodge, and where you try to get away, trapping you inside the strike zone and taking you out." Ben scratched his head, not quite understanding the mechanics of how the Noble Phantasm was supposed to work. "I guess...his attack is some kind of enveloping sword strike that hits you no matter which way you try to go."
"Perhaps," Avenger frowned. She knew that something had to be more than simple sword strikes for a technique to be considered a Noble Phantasm...or was it? She would never have thought there was any Noble Phantasm that would be considered N/A though. Was the Tsubame Gaeshi attack a Noble Phantasm or was it's nature just so powerful that it could be attributed as one? "Does his legend have anything to say about the technique?"
"Only that he developed it while trying to hit swallows," Ben shook his head, reading over the legend of Sasaki Kojirou.
It was a surprisingly short story for a legendary swordsman in Ben's opinion. Sasaki Kojirou was born in what was called Eiroku era of Japan. He was apparently very handsome and wielded an unusually long sword in battle. He studied under a swordmaster named Toda Seigen before beating the man's younger brother with a variation of his master's style called Ganryu. After claiming that victory, he traveled around Japan, fighting other swordsmen and developing his skills, one of which was the Tsubame Gaeshi which he used to strike swallows out of the air. His greatest battle came when he battled Miyamoto Musashi (who that was Ben had no idea) for the reputation of his domain. The battle was long and hard, but Kojirou lost in the end when his forehead got crushed by an oar. It was a rather inglorious death for a swordsman in Ben's opinion.
"Something troubles you?" asked Avenger, seeing Ben frown at the story.
"Kind of. It's probably nothing though," Ben sighed, scratching his head.
"It may be important even if it doesn't look like it now," Avenger argued. "The smallest details can sometimes change everything you know."
"Maybe," Ben nodded. "It's just...looking at this guy's stats and his story...they seem like they're all over the place and his story is kind of lacking in detail." After years of having Gwen help him study for tests and projects, he got some of that eye for detail that she used to help her become such an academic success. Looking over Assassin's entry, that eye took notice of how almost all of the Servant's stats were either respectably high or dismally low with only his Strength being close to a middle ground. Also his story was lacking a lot of detail. It only spoke about how he beat his master's brother and then dueled Miyamoto while glossing over events that occurred in between, even where he created the Tsubame Gaeshi technique. For how important it was to keep the identities of the Servants were to staying alive, the amount of information was surprisingly sparse.
Normally Ben would have just shrugged and used what he knew and moved on, but that would have been before he saw Berserker's entry. After Illya had revealed her Servant's identity, the entry on Berserker likewise became complete and even included his story. Unlike Assassin's entry, Hercules' entry as far as his legend went spanned several pages and detailed first where his story began as a baby who killed a serpent before going through his life's major events such as when Hera drove him insane to kill his family and in penitence went to his cousin's kingdom to do the undoable in order to gain forgiveness.
Not only were all of Hercules' twelve tasks listed and what he did to complete them, but the entries were written as if by someone who directly asked Hercules how he did it or had watched him do it. It listed actual mistakes Hercules made such as trying to shoot the Nemean Lion with arrows or constantly cutting the heads of off the Hydra only to have three times as many grow back. It even listed less than heroic aspects of his legend such as when he killed the Amazon Queen Hippolyta for her girdle thinking she had betrayed him after the other Amazons were stirred into a frenzy by Hera. The entries even had smaller details Ben had never read in a history book before such as how two of the tasks didn't count because Hercules asked for help or had been given payment for them. It painted an image of the man Hercules was in life rather than the insane juggernaut that Illya had at her beck and call. Compared to that entry, Sasaki Kojiro's looked rather lacking indeed. For some reason, that bothered Ben but for the life of him, he just couldn't figure out why.
"It's likely that this Sasaki Kojirou is not as well known as Berserker is," Avenger reasoned. "Of course some detail is likely going to be left out. I agree that his statistics are strange in their extremes, but remember that he was summoned by another Servant, not by a proper Master. Perhaps that is the reasons for the unusual rankings."
"Maybe," Ben sighed. "Man I wish I could ask Gwen about this stuff. Too bad she's never seen anything like the Grail War before."
"It is frustrating," Avenger agreed. "Still, perhaps we should turn to this True Assassin who seemed most intent on killing you?"
"Right," Ben agreed, absently rubbing the area where True Assassin had stabbed him as Armodrillo. Turning the pages, he found the entry on the skull-faced man. "Here we go. True Assassin."
Miyama - Emiya Residence
"Wait, wait, wait! You're saying there's a second Assassin running around?"
Despite Rin's displeasure in finding that Shirou had more or less blown his (and by extension her) location to an enemy Master like Ben Tennyson, she was still intent on learning everything she could about the encounter. So Shirou had regaled her on what he had seen about the samurai at the shrine gate, but also concerning what Ben had told him had went on at the shrine itself. Once the redhead got to the part about the True Assassin, Rin began to get even more agitated.
"Yes," Shirou nodded. "Tennyson-san said that he and Avenger had fought against Rider and someone calling themselves True Assassin."
"Did Tennyson say what this man looked like?" asked Saber, turning intent on the details.
"Uh..." Shirou frowned, dredging up the memory. "He said that he was tall, kind of thin, had black skin and a skull mask on his face. Oh, and his right arm was wrapped up in bandages or something."
"Hassan-I-Sabbah," Rin frowned, chewing on her thumbnail. "I had hoped when you mentioned that samurai we got lucky but...oh tonight has just been going great so far."
"Rin-san?" asked Shirou. "Who's Hassan-I-Sabbah?"
"The qunitessential assassins," Rin sighed. There was no point in hiding this information from Shirou since a True Assassin would be a threat in himself. Having Shirou and Saber up to speed on the Servant would help her by extension. "One thing that has never changed about the Grail Wars is that in every one of them, the Assassin role has always been filled by Hassan-I-Sabbah."
"But who was he?" asked Shirou.
"They, Shirou-kun, they," Rin replied. "Out in the middle east during ancient times there started a cult who would train killers in order to pursue their political and religious goals. They as a whole called themselves Hashashin while the leader was known as Hassan-I-Sabbah. The name of their organization is what eventually became the word assassin for us today. Because of that, whoever tries to summon Servant Assassin will always get Hassan-I-Sabbah because the word assassin is like a catalyst, summoning him."
"So the same Servant has been summoned during every Grail War?" asked the redhead. "Wouldn't that mean that the families that started this would always know how to beat them?"
"I wish! I wouldn't be so worried then!" Rin snorted. "The Hashashin existed for decades but the leader was always Hassan-I-Sabbah! No one person could live that long so instead the name became a title which was passed down to each leader. There were nineteen Hassan-I-Sabbahs! Unlike the other Servants who can give away a few clues in meetings, there's no way to tell which of the Hassans this one was until we see him fight or use his Noble Phantasm and by then we'd likely be already dead!"
"Despite their weak strength, Assassins can indeed be deadly foes," Saber nodded. "They will do whatever it takes to make battle conditions favor them and will sink to any depth in order to make victory possible."
"What's worse, all of their Noble Phantasms have the same name according to notes my family left on the Grail Wars," Run scowled. "Zabaniya. It's always the same name so unless you see it in action, there's no way to differentiate it from the others."
"So then if this True Assassin is the actual Servant Assassin, then who is the swordsman at the gate?" asked Shirou, the weight of the situation once again compounding on his shoulders.
"I don't know," Rin shook her head. "Maybe he's some kind of pseudo-Servant or something which was made to fill the role of Assassin for the Servant on the hill so there would be no more enemies. Maybe he was a Master's attempt to summon something besides Hassan-I-Sabbah to catch people off guard. In any case, it obviously didn't work since the real Assassin is here anyway. Lucky us."
Rin rubbed her temples, ignoring her tea for the moment. So many factors were bombarding her at once, making the Grail War more complicated than she had expected it to be. Hearing Rider attacked the shrine wasn't a surprise. She guessed that Shinji would have had a motive for telling them about the Servant there. They were a distraction while Rider would go for the kill. Process of elimination made Rin think that the Servant there was Caster. If Caster was used to assist in summoning another Servant, that might explain why a samurai was supposedly summoned as Assassin. A Servant used in summoning another Servant hadn't been done before as far as she knew, but it had to have some kind of wonky effects considering all the safeguards that the Grail Wars had going for them. Then the news of the True Assassin showing up, if Tennyson was telling the truth, was likely some of the worst news of all.
'Dammit, when did this get so complicated?' she frowned internally.
Shinto - Ben's Suite
"The True Assassin," Ben read the entry. "Almost nothing on this guy. Strength: B, Endurance: C, Agility: A, Luck: E." Now this was what Ben was expecting from an Assassin-Class Servant. "Says his Presence Concealment is at A+ and the only personal skill that it says is Projectile (Daggers) at B-Rank."
Avenger rubbed her chin, "Indeed. He revealed very little about himself beyond some physical abilities and only one skill he has so far. I'm a little surprised that he tried to kill you so blatantly considering his Class, but likely he assumed in your Armodrillo form you would have been an easy target."
"Lucky Armodrillo is faster than he looks," Ben nodded. "And that I changed into AmpFibian to make his daggers useless."
"We were lucky tonight," Avenger agreed. "He likely will not make that mistake again though. He is a legendary assassin for a reason. We must be on guard at all times now that we know the True Assassin is operating."
"No kidding," Ben grimaced. "I don't want a guy like that to get anywhere near me unless I can see him coming."
"That may be difficult with his ability to conceal his presence. Do you have any form that can counter Assassin?" Avenger asked.
"I'm gonna have to check my playlist," said Ben as he tapped his Ultimatrix. An Anodite would be good. They could detect Mana and Servants were filled to the brim with Mana. It was just too bad he never unlocked that particular species or anything similar. He'd have to look over his other aliens to see what might work. "Maybe Snare-oh, or ChamAlien. Maybe even Ghostfreak if I have to. How can you fight a guy that you can't see coming unless he wants you to?"
Ben had fought opponents who could make themselves seem invisible and hide their presences in order to win. It wasn't the fact that True Assassin could hide himself that was the problem. The problem was that with his Presence Concealment at such a high rank, he could stay hidden until he chose to reveal himself and no Servant would be able to tell he was there until it was too late. Ben had only gotten off with a stab wound because True Assassin underestimated Armodrillo's reflexes and his ability to dodge. It was a mistake Ben doubted a legendary assassin would make twice. Usually such opponents Ben fought in the past had some kind of tell that would give them away if one knew about it, but it seemed that True Assassin had no such giveaway in his stealth technique.
Avenger was actually interested to see more of what her Master was capable of. The device on his arm allowed him to assume forms of superhuman beings he called 'aliens' and there were so many of them. True, he had told her that some of them shared similar powers, but they also had something extra. She had been meaning to suggest an idea to her summoner that day, but the events with Caster stalled her plan. Now it seemed she had the perfect opportunity for it.
"Ben, I think it's time we started training with your aliens," Avenger suggested.
"I know I can't stop you from fighting, but perhaps we can train ourselves to work together better. So, we should try training with your alien forms to see which ones work the best alongside me," the female knight explained. "Until now I've trusted that you knew enough about your battles to select an appropriate form. However, Archer and now this True Assassin have gotten dangerously close to incapacitating you if not outright killing you. If we are going to be better prepared, our first step is that we must learn how the other fights so we can become a more cohesive unit."
"Well…" Ben scratched his head, setting the Servant Books aside. The idea had appeal. Since he and Avenger were both in the Holy Grail War they were going to have to trust each other in order to survive, much less take own their opponents. "That's...a pretty good idea I guess. Neither of us are in this alone are we?"
"Indeed we are not," Avenger nodded with a pleased smile. "We shall start bright and early then were we can have some privacy to work," she then stood up. "I expect you to be at your best. I will not accept anything less from you."
"Yes ma'am," Ben saluted. As he was grinning though, a portion of his mind which sounded a lot like Kevin spoke up again.
'You're going to get your butt handed to you Tennyson.'
Zouken was not one to give into fits of emotion. No, he had long since mastered the art of channeling emotions such as disappointment and rage into more constructive pursuits. Losing one's temper just made them vulnerable and was a waste of time and energy that could otherwise be used to get around what caused those emotions in the first place. It was a trait that out of all of his relatives, only Kariya seemed to have obtained but in the end even that had been devoured by the Crest Worms used to empower him for the Fourth Grail War. Zouken's other son Byakuya and by extension his son Shinji never had an inkling of that valuable trait in the first place. One drowned himself in alcohol simply because he couldn't get over his failures while the other floundered in false pride and simply pretended those failures didn't happen.
Stupidity in action.
Of course, that night Zouken's talent for dealing with setbacks was being exercised yet again. Shinji had finally executed his plot to distract Caster by sending another Servant to the Ryuudou Temple and then having Rider slip in and strike her down. It only served to prove to Zouken how right he was in keeping that little wart Shinji away from using magecraft himself. He'd only end up killing himself in some stupid stunt intended to show off if he could perform even a portion of proper magecraft. The fool actually thought Rider could barge through Caster's barrier even with the Magic Resistance her Class offered her? Against a modern mage he would have been right, but Shinji in all his idiocy forgot Caster was from an age long past where magecraft was much different and in this particular case, much more powerful. Rider had gotten inside, but it was obvious she hadn't done so unaffected.
Still, it did provide an opportunity not only to see Saber and the false Assassin in action. It also gave True Assassin the chance to strike down the American. Caster had attempted some sort of alliance with the boy and from what Zouken could tell they were at least willing to work together for the time being. The boy was wide open with him and Avenger distracted by their fight with Rider, making it a perfect opportunity for True Assassin to strike.
For the sake of the Matou's victory, the American Master and his Servant had to be taken out of the game. They were wildcards, unknown variables that needed to be eliminated. Fighting against the 7 pairs of Servants and Masters was difficult enough but he was prepared for them. This pair, made up of a shape-shifting Master and his unknown Servant made things...difficult and to set his plans back on track Zouken intended to eliminate him. With True Assassin presented with such an opening it should have been easy for him to simply kill the boy and be done with it.
But that did not come to pass.
The boy's reflexes in his beastly yellow form were quicker than expected. True Assassin did not take him seriously and it cost him the first strike, allowing the American to be ready for him. The Servant of Silent Death attempted to strike the boy down a second time and managed to wound him, but could not finish the deed before Avenger got involved. The boy then transformed into an electrified jellyfish monster which could absorb True Assassin's strikes before electrocuting him. It was hardly a deathblow, but being shocked by several thousands volts of electricity would bring just about anything to their knees if even for a short time. By then, Saber had begun getting serious and Rider knew that there was no chance for victory. Alone, exposed, and outnumbered True Assassin likewise had to retreat.
And so Zouken sat in the basement of his home, his familiars squirming about in the rage he wouldn't allow his features to reveal. True Assassin kneeled nearby, silent and waiting for his next orders. He knew he failed and was likewise silently seething, his killing intent causing a few of the worms to squeal and flee, leaving the stone floor he sat on clear of the vile pests. One particularly slow worm choked on the aura and died. It was quickly devoured but its brethren for its prana and materials. Nothing went to waste with the Matou head's magic. Like Zouken though, he didn't let his body or his features show the rage his aura was projecting.
"This will not happen again, do you understand?" Zouken spoke, his voice silencing the worms. "I will not allow some foreign brat to make a fool of my Servant and by extension me!"
"I understand," True Assassin nodded.
"Good. Now leave my sight," Zouken barked, allowing True Assassin to slip into the darkness once more. Inhaling deeply, he stood up and headed for the stairs to the house. His wart of a grandson was due back soon, having gone to the temple area so he could watch his 'triumph' over Caster. Rider had seen fit to leave the boy behind for his stupidity He'd be in one of his spoiled fits once he got back, but Zouken would be having long overdue words with him over his incompetence and inability to use Rider's abilities properly.
Zouken had invested far too much and waited far too long to allow anyone to risk his chance at the Grail.
Bazett walked the streets of Miyama with her hands in her pockets. To the casual observer, she looked like a woman who was enjoying a nighttime stroll. An odd thing considering the events happening during the night as well as the fact she was wearing a suit in the residential district. She may have been considered suspicious, but with everyone else staying in their homes there was no one around to take notice of the red-haired Irish Woman.
Bazett had spent the day laying low and trying to take stock of her situation. She had been feeling disoriented for hours and trying to get the passage of time straight in her head was proving to be difficult. It wasn't everyday that one returned from the brink of death and found out that over a week had passed. How she avoided dying of blood loss even with that preservation rune on her former stump was beyond her.
Thinking of her arm, Bezett lifted a hand from her pocket and ran her fingers across the newly restored limb. It felt the same, even down to her flesh and blood. If Paradox were to be believed, he had somehow nudged time in a way that her body reverted to its previous condition before she was attacked. How someone could control time in any way Bazette couldn't even begin to comprehend. The Mage's Association had been working at it for years and Bazett understood Time Travel was ranked as being part of the True Magics. Time manipulation was something which drifted into the areas of the Second and Fifth True magics, but never had she heard of anyone who could directly manipulate time as an act in itself rather than a process of another magic. If anyone had figured out how to do it, the Magus Association would have been in an uproar and sending Enforcers like her to try and collect the user. She had never heard about anyone like Paradox before in her life.
Bazett shook her head, clearing thoughts of Paradox out. She had enough problems to deal with in the real world as it was without driving herself crazy over her thoughts on how someone could control the aspects of time. She had to stake out her own hotel room for the better part of a day just to make sure that Kotomine hadn't decided to cover all his bases and make sure that she was dead and worm food.
Bazett knew that it had been Kotomine who had attacked her and cut off her arm. She could barely bring herself to think the man's name considering the betrayal she suffered at his hands. He was the one who had invited her to take part in the Holy Grail War. It had been him who suggested a 'safe' spot to summon her Servant. She'd have to be absolutely stupid to think that anyone but Kotomine had been the one to attack her and leave her for dead. He had been the one who convinced her try for a Servant, but all of it had been a plan to use her own Servant for himself. Now her hero was being used by that monster for whatever reason and was being forced to kill innocent people for prana.
After making sure that Kotomine hadn't done something to her hotel room, Bazett returned to it much to the shock of the staff who thought she had ditched the bill and were considering putting her belongings into storage. She was pretty sure some of them thought she was dead considering the killings that were appearing on the news. If only they knew that they weren't too far off in that guess. So after dealing with the staff to extend her stay, she returned to her belongings. She collected her Fragarach and reapplied the strengthening runes to her gloves and shoes in case she was forced into a fight. Some may have called it paranoid, but in the midst in the Holy Grail War and after what had happened to her, she had a right to some paranoia. It would probably help save her life if anyone tried anything funny.
After restocking, she hit the town and tried to find any trace of Lancer so she could try to get her sole mastery of her Servant back. That lead to the residential section of the city where many of the murders had taken place. Kotomine was probably forcing Lancer to patrol around there to keep himself charged in case of a fight. With any luck, she'd find her hero and get him back and then they'd go put Kotomine in the ground, moderator of the war be damned! Taking Gae Bolg to his black heart would be the perfect way to pay him back stabbing her from behind and cutting off her arm!
One stray thought did come to mind though, something Paradox had told her. He had said that there were two Masters who were going to play a big roles in events to come. Since the man was a time traveller, she decided to take his word for it. The Master of Saber was supposes to be one of those two, but in all of her research into the Grail War she had never heard of a Servant called Avenger. On one hand that worried her since she had put considerable hours into learning everything she could about the Holy Grail War and not once had she ever heard of such a Servant Class. On the other hand, information on the Grail Wars was considerably scarce since the founding families the Makiri, Einzbern, and Tohsaka didn't want the secrets of how to construct such a ritual to be made public knowledge. No magi worth their salt would allow their greatest secrets to be unveiled and used by anyone who wanted to try their hand at it.
Her explorations did bear some fruit. There was some kind of battle at a nearby temple. The great blast of light was enough of a clue to tell that it was likely related to ran to the source, hoping that it would be her chance to find Lancer and free him from Kotomine's control. All she found was a discarded bike at the bottom of the stairs and a lingering feeling of a bounded field hanging heavily in the air. It was enough to make Bazett believe she had stumbled onto the base of another Master or possibly even Caster. With no Servant of her own and just her Fragarach, Bazett decided to just keep moving. Still, it was some progress in any case. If she knew where the other Servants and Masters were based, she knew a place where Lancer would eventually show up.
All she had to do was wait and be diligent.
To Be Continued...
A/N: Okay, I know this isn't the epic update you were all hoping for but the aftermath had to be explored as well as showing that Bazett is still in the picture. I finally got off my ass and decided to just continue the story along with Fate/Ingens Cor. Ben and Shirou have officially made contact with each other and perhaps this is the beginning of the partnership that Paradox hinted about earlier. of course, not everyone is as enthusiastic about the meeting as Shirou is. Now though, the story is going to progress at long last. It will definitely be a shorter wait before the next chapter.