Zero no Tsukaima is the property of Noboru Yamaguchi and Media Factory.
Fate/Zero is the property of NitroPlus and TYPE-MOON.
I claim no ownership of the characters featured in this story. This is a work of fan-fiction.
Alexandriad: The Song of Fire
Louise coughed to try and clear her lungs of the smoke that was the result of the explosion that signaled her summoning spell. The dark smoke was rapidly dissipating, no longer making her eyes tear, and she blinked her eyes hurriedly to clear her vision so she could look up at the no doubt strong, powerful, beautiful, and peerless being that she had summoned to be her perpetual companion and servant. And so she looked up.
She tried not to feel too intimidated and felt herself failing miserably. Louise was naturally a very a short girl, but the bronze skinned man standing in the midst of the rapidly dissipating cloud of black smoke could only be described as HUGE. He towered even over Professor Colbert! And while the professor overseeing the summoning ritual was a lean and scholarly man, the giant who was staring down at her with an expression of intense concentration on his face was a mountain of muscles upon muscles. He was also wearing the strangest clothes Louise had ever seen. The giant's legs were covered by a long and wide leather kilt, with intricate golden designs adorning the bottom, while his feet were bound in leather sandals trimmed with a coarse fur. At his hip, he wore a strange short sword belted to his waist. In reality, the sword was only short compared to the mans stature, Louise realized. The blade was probably as long as she was tall! As the tiny girls eyes continued their upwards journey, she saw that his barrel like chest was covered by leather armor of a dark reddish color with golden highlights that seemed to emphasize every bulging muscle. At the ends of his brutally scarred arms he wore leather wrist guards, trimmed in a coarse fur in a similar fashion as the sandals at his feet. Across his shoulders he wore a long crimson cape with trimmings of fur that hugged the mans bull-like neck and intricately woven designs of flaming golden streamers that seemed to rise from the capes bottom towards the top. Finally reaching his face, Louise saw that it was square, brutish, and surrounded by a mane of wild red hair and a beard that made the man look like a blood soaked lion. However, despite his coarse features, she realized that the mans eyes shone with a keen intellect as he studied her almost as intently as she had him.
The gathered crowd of students just gaped at the giant with wide fearful eyes. They had expected the Valliere scion to fail miserably, perhaps summon something worthless and unremarkable like a butterfly, or maybe even something preposterous and humiliating like a commoner, but instead Louise the Zero had summoned something amazing! What was this strange swordsman whose shadow was nearly large enough to encompass the entire crowd? Was he a barbarian warlord from an uncharted land? Perhaps a half giant from the lands from beyond the north? An efreet from the Fire Dragon Mountains? Their increasingly wild guesses were brutally interrupted as the giant moved. In a single quick movement that belied his enormous frame, he knelt low and put his face right in front of Louise, and spoke in a voice that rumbled like an earthquake.
"So," the huge man said at Louise, sounding amused as the beginnings of a smile tugged at his lips, "you must be my Master, right?"
Louise, startled both at the mans speed and at suddenly being face to face with a man who could probably snap her like a twig with ease in one of those too huge hands, stuttered out a reply, "Y-y-yes! I s-s-ummoned! I mean, yes, Master! No! I mean, I am your Master! Louise Francoise La Blanc de La Valliere!" Low murmurs and chuckles started to make their way throughout the gathered crowd. Louise felt her cheeks grow hot and red as her embarrassment at her own stuttering reply increased. How dare this... this... this brute do that to her? Humiliating her like that in front of the class! A familiar was supposed to help their master, not embarrass them in front of their peers! The pink haired girls' hands trembled violently as she held her wand in a white knuckle grip and her classmates, having known her for a year already, quickly backed away, recognizing the tell-tale signs of Louise's explosive temper.
The giant, however, did not pay Louise's twitching eyebrows and strained grin any attention. Instead the read headed man nodded with a satisfied smile on his face at Louise's words. He spoke once more in a still jovial tone and said, "That completes our contract." Then, without any further warning, he lunged forward, scooped her up in one fluid motion and sat her on his right shoulder. Louise shrieked at the sudden displacement, her anger immediately forgotten and replaced by a growing... concern. Because Vallieres didn't get scared. They only got concerned. And Louise was very concerned right now. Not only for her dignity, but for her life as well. The man looked like he could wrestle Tabitha's dragon barehanded and win, and he was currently keeping her firmly balanced on his shoulder with one large hand around her waist. This sort of behavior was demeaning and completely unacceptable and thus Louise determined to chastise her brutish familiar immediately.
"H-h-hey!" she shouted (it came out more like a squeak) in the giant mans ears, "p-put me down at once! Familiar! I order you to put me down!"
The giant, again, ignored her and instead asked, "Girl, which way to the archives? And maps? We're going to need maps." He was already walking towards the looming towers of the school castle, completely ignoring the wild-eyed crowd of students that they had left behind with their mouths agape. Even Professor Colbert seemed at a loss as to what to do in such a situation. Louise, seeing that she wasn't likely to get any help from either her classmates or her teacher, chose to focus on the question he had asked rather than on the humiliating implications of a mage being manhandled and kidnapped by their familiar.
"Maps?" the pink haired girl asked, sounding just as baffled as she felt, "What do you need maps for?"
The red-maned giant turned his face slightly to look at her perched on his shoulder and gave her a wide grin that nearly split his face. It was an infectious grin and Louise could feel herself wanting to smile back in return. She would have been smiling back in return if she were not feeling so nervous. In a manner, his wide and honest smile reminded her of her sister Cattleya's reserved and gentle smile. Though they were both obviously diametrically opposed, both smiles made her somehow feel comfortable and eager to share in the mirth. However, the mans next words promptly killed any such thoughts of smiling.
"Why for war, of course," the giant said in a deceptively gentle tone that reminded Louise of her father explaining things to her when she was younger, "We're going to need maps to decide which country we should conquer first!"
A minute passed in silence as the giant man and the tiny girl approached the school proper at a brisk pace, the ground being covered rapidly by the giant mans long strides. The silence did not last long.
"WHAT?" Louise finally shrieked once her mind processed what she had just heard. Her eyes were wide and slightly frantic. Her face was slightly pale. She couldn't have heard right, could she?
"Maps," he said again plainly, not sounding the least bit put out by Louise's outburst, "You can't start a war without knowing which way you're marching first, now can you?"
"WHAT?" Louise screeched again, louder than before, still not quite believing what she had just heard. Her eyes got even wider and her face paler. She broke out in a cold sweat.
"You have a very shrill voice, girl," the giant noted as he winced slightly at the noise. He did not, however, stop in his approach of the castle. They were practically at the gates now, and the crowd of bewildered students plus teacher had chased after them, on foot even, since everyone was too startled to remember that they could levitate. They were shouting at them, but whatever was being said was lost thanks to the murmur of the crowd itself and the distance. Louise's voice, however, was perfectly clear despite the distance.
"WHAT?" Louise bellowed at the top of her lungs, her face quickly shifting from pale and clammy into a bright red that was a mixture of both rage and embarrassment. Now her eyes narrowed in anger. First he humiliated her in front of the crowd, then he manhandled her and kidnapped her, then he threatened open warfare against the crown, and now he insulted her? This great oaf truly knew no bounds! That was it! ENOUGH! The small girls temper had reached its limit! Furiously struggling against the fearsome grip that held her in place, she began to kick her legs at his chest and arm while beating her fists against his head. "Put me down," Louise snarled at him between clenched teeth, her voice raising in volume with each syllable, "Put me down! Put me down this instant, you brute! PUT! ME! DOWN!"
And, just like that, the huge man stopped. Turning to face the red-faced struggling girl on his shoulder, a look of confusion and then comprehension crossed his rugged features. Slowly and gently, almost as if he were afraid that she would break, he set her down on the ground in front of them. Once again, he looked at the short girl with a look of intense concentration on his face. Louise, still fuming but far calmer and more pleased with herself now that she had managed to show the brute his place, looked up at him with a sneer painted on her doll like features. The rest of the class was almost upon them, looks of surprise and bewilderment on their faces, and Louise could feel the beginnings of smugness begin to rise in her chest at showing them her new found control over the brute.
"Well?" she asked craning her neck to look up at him, "What do you have to say for yourself, familiar?"
The tall bronze skinned man only looked at her with a concerned and perplexed expression. The crowd was nearing rapidly now and the man seemed, for some reason, anxious. Louise was not particularly concerned. A little discomfort would help teach the rude brute his place, she thought with a certain degree of satisfaction.
"Girl," the huge man started and stopped. He seemed at a loss for words, almost as if he wanted to speak of a subject he did not know how to breach. He looked at her in consternation once again and tried once more to speak. "Little girl," Louise's eyebrow twitched and the man stopped. The red haired man looked around and noticing the crowd beginning to gather around them, he once again knelt low and leaned in to whisper conspiratorially in Louise's ear, using one large hand to cover his mouth and prevent his voice from carrying.
"Little girl," he said once more in a tone that was barely audible in contrast to his usual rumbling voice, "is the reason why you wanted to get down so insistently... the reason... well... little girl... do you need to go pee?"
Louise STARED at him.
Then, with a roar like a great wyrm from legend, she kicked him in the chin with all her might.
This was quite likely a bad idea.
There was a resounding crack and the huge man jerked his head back slightly, but did not topple over as Louise had hoped. Additionally, Louise was not sure if the sound had come from his jaw or from her foot. Judging from the intense feeling of pain currently shooting up her leg it was probably her foot.
Yes, that was definitely her foot.
This had most certainly been a bad idea.
The crowd flinched as Louise fell to the ground howling in pain and clutching at her foot after having kicked the huge man. Almost instantaneously, Professor Colbert was at her side placing a comforting hand on her shoulder and trying to calm the writhing girl down. Louise's eyes were bright and shiny with tears, but she did not shed them as she glared with fury at the muscular man who was idly rubbing his chin. Louise would not shed a single tear because it absolutely would not do to cry in front of the rest of the class after all the humiliation she had gone through today. Not even for a broken foot. Instead, she focused on her anger.
"What are you made out of? Steel?" she shouted at him while the bespectacled professor called on a water mage student to come look at her. As if Louise's question were the incantation that finished a spell, every other student present started to bombard the tall stranger with questions of their own.
"Are you a barbarian?"
"What is your tribe called?"
"Which land do you come from?"
"You are half giant, aren't you?"
"No, no, he's obviously an efreet!"
"He's not on fire so he can't be an efreet. He's just some crazy swordsman."
The tall man ignored them choosing instead to once again focus his attention on Louise. His expression was curious as he watched her being tended to. He cocked an eyebrow slightly in curiosity at seeing the healing spell being cast by the blonde with the ringlet curls, but gave no other outward sign of surprise at the use of magic. He looked at the trembling small girl and took note of her eyes.
"Girl," he said in his normal rumbling voice, immediately silencing all the questions being leveled at him, "you're not going to cry? It sounded like you broke something."
Louise hissed in pain as the healing magic washed over her. Her eyes were locked on the giant before her and she barely heard the professor and the Montmorency girl telling her she should not put too much weight on the foot for the next few days. She heard what the man in front of her said clearly, however, and she replied simply.
"No," Louise said and the crowd stared at her.
"No?" the man said curiosity evident in his voice, just as interest was written plainly on his face.
"NO!" she shouted back at him angrily, startling Professor Colbert, Montmorency, and the gathered students, "I will not cry!"
A grin formed on the man's face and he began to laugh uproariously. His loud, bellowing laughter seemed to be enough to shake the very ground beneath them and it had started so suddenly that many of the students were startled by it.
"You're something else, girl!" he said between peals of noisy laughter. His eyes were gleaming now and he seemed thoroughly pleased with himself for some reason as he looked down at the prone girl. Still laughing, but more sedately now, he spoke in a slightly sheepish tone, "Girl, what did you say your name was again?"
Louise gaped up at him, her fury partially replaced by astonishment. He hadn't even bothered to remember her name? That's why he had been calling her "girl" all this time? That incomparable brute! Muscle bound oaf! She gritted her teeth and snarled out a reply, her face red with renewed and barely restrained anger.
"It's Louise. Louise Francoise La Blanc de La Valliere."
"That's a big name for such a small girl," the huge man said smiling gently completely ignoring the rage in her voice, "And a 'warrior', is it? I am a 'warrior' too."
He had knelt once more and, having forced himself between the Professor and Louise, had helped the short girl gingerly to her feet, taking great care not to put undue strain on her injured foot. Louise was startled but did not resist. Though she knew his grip to be fearsomely powerful he lifted her to her feet gently so that she could stand on her own. He regarded her carefully for a moment and then stood back to his full, imposing height. He continued speaking and his voice was clear and solemn.
"I am Rider, Alexander the Third of Macedon, The King of Conquerors. From now on, my reins are yours and your fate shall be mine. Together we shall conquer the world. This is our pact."
The tall man known as Alexander and the short girl known as Louise regarded each other in perfect stillness as the crowd of gathered students exploded in a flurry of excitement.
"I knew it!" someone cried out in amazement, "He is a barbarian warlord!"
"Where's Macedon?" someone asked, "Is it beyond Rub-Al Khalid?"
"A king? Conquer the world? He's a madman!"
"I told you he was just some crazy swordsman!"
"Rider? What does that mean? Like a gryphon knight?"
"So, he's not an efreet after all?"
The frenzy that the young students were working themselves into was interrupted by Professor Colbert's raised voice cutting through the excited babbling of the crowd. Normally, the tall and lean fire magic instructor was amongst the most patient of their teachers, but it seemed like the series of incredible events that had transformed a regular summoning ritual into a circus had finally frayed the last of the man's patience away.
"ENOUGH!" the bespectacled professor shouted, immediately silencing the noisy chatter of the students. He rubbed at his forehead with his free hand and let out an annoyed sigh. His voice was tired as he spoke.
"As exciting and interesting as Miss Valliere's... unusual summoning might be, I'm afraid that you all are very late for your next class. So you will all be moving along back to the castle," here he accompanied his statement with a wave of the hand that held his staff in the direction of the nearest castle tower, "and giving my most sincere apologies to your instructor while Miss Valliere finishes contracting her familiar, understood?"
There was much grumbling from the students but they all moved to comply with the orders of their teacher, their varied animal familiars moving with them. However, they were still muttering excitedly under their breaths about the strange man that Louise had summoned. A mad barbarian king from an uncharted land? That was something else!
"Oh? We're not done yet, are we?" the man who had finally identified himself grinned as he broke his staring contest with Louise to glance at the dark robed teacher.
"No, Mister..." and here the professor looked at him inquisitively, asking which of the titles he had given he should use to call him by.
"Rider. You may call me Rider," the red-headed giant replied, smiling, "It is not a name, but a title. However, it will suffice for now."
"Then no, Mr. Rider, I am afraid we're not done yet," the balding man sighed dispiritedly and continued, "Well, Ms. Valliere, if you could please finish the ceremony?"
Louise's eyes widened slightly as the professor's words finally seeped into the jumble of her thoughts. She pointed at Rider with a shaky finger and spoke in a stuttering voice.
"W-w-what? W-w-with h-h-him? Y-you must be joking! I refuse!" She huffed indignantly and crossed her arms over chest defiantly. Jean Colbert, however, was having none of it.
"Ms. Valliere," he said in a tone which froze her blood, "finish the ritual. Now."
Louise physically shrank in on herself at the tone of her professor's voice.
"Can't I try to summon something else?" she tried in a small voice as her eyes fretfully jumped from one man to the other. Rider, for his part, had crossed his arms over his chest and looked thoroughly bored.
"No, Ms. Valliere," Colbert replied impassively, "you cannot."
"Well, umm... he's crazy? I definitely should try to summon something else, Professor!"
"Crazy or not," and here the man known as Rider had made an exclamation of protest, "he is still your familiar. Finish the contract."
"Err..." she was grasping at straws now, trying to evade what she knew she had to do, "He broke my foot?"
"You broke your foot yourself, Ms. Valliere," the professor said in an exasperated tone as he once again massaged his forehead, "Please stop stalling. This is a very important and sacred rite, you know? It is tradition."
Louise's shoulders slumped and she looked down at her feet in defeat.
"I don't have a choice, do I?" she said without looking up.
"No, Ms. Valliere, I'm afraid you don't," the professor said solemnly.
"You're wrong about that," Rider said in a serious tone, "Louise has a choice. She could choose to fly in the face of your traditions and run away."
Louise and Colbert looked at the huge man in stunned silence. Rider's face was unreadable as he knelt in front of Louise and looked into her reddish brown eyes.
"So what will it be, girl?" he said, reverting to his normal form of address for her, "Will you finish our contract? Or are you going to turn tail and run away from it all?"
Louise's eyes hardened at hearing those words and her lips tightened into a small line. She replied by touching his forehead with her wand.
"My name is Louise Francoise La Blanc de La Valliere. Pentagon of the Five Elemental Powers; bless this humble being, and make him my familiar," she intoned in a formal voice, her eyes like steel.
Then, cupping his face in her small hands, she kissed him on the lips. The kiss lasted only for a moment and then Louise broke it, momentarily looking as if she had just chewed on a lemon before she schooled her face back into an impassive mask.
"It is done," she said in the same formal manner as she took a step back from the man who would be her familiar.
Rider laughed as he stood up. He cut an imposing figure even as he laughed without restraint.
"You're bold, girl! That's good! That's good! My Master should be bold!" he said while laughing, "You'll have to grow a bit more to get more than a kiss though! You're a bit runty still!"
Louise snarled at him and considered kicking him in the shins but decided against it. It simply would not do to break her other foot right now. That would truly be the final humiliation. Instead she settled for glaring at him and hoping a rock would fall on him.
Professor Colbert for his part had let out a relieved sigh and cupped his chin with his free hand.
"Well, Ms. Valliere, you may have failed 'Summon Servant' many times this morning, but it seems like you have managed to succeed with 'Contract Servant' in one try," Professor Colbert said happily, "We should see the runes materialize any moment now."
"Runes?" Rider said, sounding puzzled. He was about to speak again when a startled look crossed his face and he lifted his left hand to his face. There, at the back of his hand, smoke was rising and several bright scarlet runes were burning themselves unto his skin. The air was filled with the smell of burning flesh and both Louise and Colbert looked away uncomfortably. This, they thought, was not normal.
"This is not normal," Rider said, still staring at the back of his hand in bewilderment.
"These are extremely unusual runes," Colbert said sounding amazed, "And red? I have never seen red runes before..." He trailed off.
"Does it matter?" Louise asked testily, "He has the runes now. That means he is my familiar, right?"
"Yes, well, I suppose it does not matter at that," the professor spoke in a voice that clearly said he was not so convinced at all, "I suppose congratulations are in order, Ms. Valliere. It may have taken the better part of the day but you have succeeded... spectacularly."
Louise chose to take those words at face value and said a simple, "Thank you."
The professor gave her a curt nod, looked at the still stunned warrior, and silently departed back towards the school castle at a brisk pace leaving Louise and her familiar alone at the gates.
A moment passed in silence before Rider spoke again.
"This is not normal," Rider echoed, still focused on his hand. In a daze, he turned to face Louise and said, "Girl, you are a magi, right? And this is a school of magic, is it not?"
She nodded her head in reply, feeling surprised at the tall man's sudden change in demeanor. The entire day he had been loud, boisterous, and entirely too full of himself. Now, he was clearly confused and startled by something. What was so unusual about the runes anyway? Certainly, red might be an unusual color, but runes are runes, aren't they? Even barbarians had to know about familiar runes, right?
"Girl, can you walk?" he said giving her an intense look. She gave a shaky nod and he continued, "There is no shame in asking for help when you are hurt. Louise, can you walk?"
This time, she sighed and shook her head. With a wry grin that did not quite reach his eyes, he knelt and gently picked her up and sat her once more on his shoulders. He turned and faced the school castle.
"Girl, this is not normal," he said once more as he began to stride towards the nearby gates, his strides long and purposeful, "So you're going to point me towards your archives and then we're going to sit down and talk at length about your plans for this Holy Grail War."
"Holy Grail War? What madness are you speaking of this time, familiar? Do your delusions seek to encompass the church now as well?" she asked in an irritated tone. He stopped again and turned to look at her.
"You don't know?"
She shook her head and replied, sounding miffed, "Well, I can't be expected to know about every delusion my familiar might be having, now can I?"
He stared at her for what seemed an eternity before speaking again.
"Now we really need to talk."
The right spark can cause anything to burn.