Chapter 33: White Rabbit

I do not own Fate/Stay Night and stuffs:

o. o. o.

Tohsaka Residence:

"You've been staring at your notes for hours." Archer stated in a slightly embarrassed tone to his Master.

"Quiet you!" Rin snapped. "I'm focusing here! If you want progress then remember something useful while you're recovering!"

The servant sighed helplessly as he didn't bother to retort to the girl's testy attitude. Ever since his near escape from Assassin, Rin had been busy trying to figure out a way to use what she had learned to either take advantage of Assassin's position at the temple or find some way to lure one of the other masters there in a way that would ensure the mystery Servant's demise.

The biggest problem was simply where Assassin was situated. Heavily forested with one straight clear path, ensuring plenty of cover and positions to scout or assault the enemy from without detection. Only one main entrance to the temple that the Servants could enter, funneling in all potential major attackers. Mana rich environment for recovering in.

It was literally the perfect setup for someone that fought like their target did. Neither Rin nor Archer believed the weakest Servant in the war would pose half as big of a problem if it weren't for his current base of operations.

Attacking from a distance was out. Even with Archer's eyes and powerful stock of Noble Phantasm sword arrows, the odds of him being able to actually find and hit his target from a distance was slim to none. Plus after his close escape last time, neither Master nor Servant wished to risk being nearly blown up again from predictability.

Close ranged combat was out too simply because there was little doubt that Assassin had once more rigged the walkway and the forest near the entrance to the temple like a Vietnam jungle. True, Archer's eyes would be of more use here and he would manage to spot out more traps. However, he essentially would be open from all angles the moment he stepped into the woods or on the stairway. The shrouded Servant had more than established the fact that he was not the type to answer to challenges of battle, let alone reveal himself unless necessary…

… Except he did when Archer and Rider had first attempted to get through…

He had established that he certainly was not on friendly terms with Caster, who was still draining the people of Fuyuki of their prana via the leylines. If anything he seemed to be trying to sabotage her efforts by any means available to him while still doing his task of protecting the entrance to the temple. It would have certainly explained his behavior during their humiliation of an encounter.

Had Assassin kept himself hidden until he attacked, Rin was certain that he could have easily killed one of the attacking Servants before the other one could have responded in time.

But he didn't. Instead Assassin had drawn out the battle and forced both Archer and Rider to retreat. While that in itself was an impossibly impressive feat for a Servant as weak as him, it had left his opponents aware of how he fought, greatly enhancing his odds of being killed the next time they came…

Except they were still stuck with trying to find a solid way to attack him in the first place that wouldn't expose them to being blown up or shot on the spot.

Honestly, the only non-suicidal, reliable, and certain way Rin saw of managing to kill Assassin at the moment without relying on outside aid was to…

Ring. Ring.

The antique phone in the workshop distracted the frustrated magus from her thoughts. Rin had installed it soon after she met Shirou simply because she was tired of missing important calls while working on experiments. If her father disapproved of it she'd take it up with him in the afterlife.

"A call, now?" Archer mused as he checked the time. It was nearly three in the morning. By all means, even if Rin was busy with the war she'd still be asleep by now, however the issue with Assassin had been driving her nuts ever since his defeat.

The magus frowned as she reached for it. "It's because someone's calling me now that I know it probably won't be good." She picked it up. "Hello? Tohsaka residence."

"My, you certainly picked up quickly. Don't tell me you've been skipping out on your sleep as a habit." Kirei Kotomine's voice echoed from the other side with an amused tone. "Do remember that you need your rest if you plan to succeed in overcoming the other Masters in the war."

Rin's eyebrow twitched at the sound of the loathsome man's words. "Do be careful, Priest. I thought you were supposed to be impartial. What would others think if you were giving advice to Masters?"

"I was merely giving a suggestion based on common sense out of concern for your health," the man replied, just as impartial as always. "I am your guardian after all. Outside of what occurs in the War, your health is primarily my responsibility. It would not reflect well upon me for my charge to be incapable of taking care of herself."

"Thank you for reminding me of something I'd rather forget," the girl all but spat out. "Why have you called me, Kotomine? I thought I told you I won't accept your help for the War. I will win this on my own."

"Far be it for me to forget that conversation." Kirei's dry tone nearly made the girl thirsty over the phone. "No. I am calling to inform you, Second Owner of Fuyuki, that Zouken Matou is dead."

It took a good ten seconds for Rin to comprehend exactly what the priest had just said, and even then she had trouble believing it. Looking back on the event, she would have betted a fair amount of money that Kirei savored every second of it. "… What?"

"I believe you heard me the first time Rin, however I shall indulge you this once. The old worm is dead," the voice on the other end replied with a hint of amusement.

The teenaged magus was thrown for a loop as she tried to comprehend what this could mean. In a way this was bigger than anything that could have potentially occurred in the War. It drastically changed the power balance in Fuyuki once the conflict was over. The Matou name was now limited to just Sakura, a former Tohsaka, and without Zouken to back it up Rin's position in the area had gained a significant degree of weight.

Screw sleeping now, she'd be up for the rest of the night busy looking at the old contracts between her family and the Makiri to see what this event truly meant for her…

"How?" she managed to rasp out, ignoring the look of confusion and concern Archer was giving her. He had sharp eyes, but his hearing was only so good. "A… person, like that would not die so easily."

That was not an understatement. There had been records of random members of both their families trying to kill him over the centuries, methods and all. None of them worked in the slightest and anyone who tried was never heard from again. It was virtually an unspoken rule in Fuyuki that Zouken was off limits if you knew what was good for you. Even Shirou took the rule to heart…

"Ah, now that I believe was the true interesting part." Rin could almost feel Kirei grin on the other side of the line.

"The one responsible for Zouken's death was none other than your classmate, Shirou Emiya."

Rin's stomach had turned to ice at those words. "Shirou… what?"

"Indeed. With one of his blades, Emiya managed to end what even I would deem difficult to conclude with certainty," the man continued without regret. "Why, my sources even tell me that the two were engaged in some sort of agreement at the time, no doubt regarding the War in some way…"

Rin's mind went back to when she had met Sakura back at Shirou's home just a few days before, all but confirming that the Emiya and Makiri houses had joined forces in the war…

Kirei's voice was almost ignored by the girl's raging thoughts. "Who knew that the boy could be so much like his father?"

"Rin. What is the matter?" Archer asked sternly, not liking the shade of white her face had donned. "What is going on?"

"… And Sakura? Where is my… where is the current head of the Matou?" Rin managed to rasp out, not sure what to think at the moment but still unwilling to give the man more ammo to use against her for later.

For once Kirei didn't respond at once. "The current location of the Matou representative is unknown. At best, I can confirm that the Servant she has summoned is still very much alive. That may simply mean, on the other hand, that Emiya has become its Master as well to increase his odds. The last that I had heard, the state of her health was confirmed to be less than ideal…"

"I see…" Rin's voice was unsettlingly neutral. "… Is that all?"

"For now, yes," the man confirmed. "I plan to make an announcement later to all the Masters regarding another subject, but otherwise continue as you have. I look forward to your victory."

Rin didn't bother to say anything else as she hung up the phone and briefly glanced at her slightly worried Servant before turning to the stairs.

"Rin. What happened?" Archer frowned. "You don't look well."

The girl paused at the foot of the steps. "Zouken's dead, and Sakura's missing." She softly stated. "… Remember anything about that?"

"Zouken? Sakura?" The white haired man blinked in confusion and some surprise. He was well aware of Sakura's predicament, but as far as he knew Zouken wasn't dealt with in most timelines, if any, until the end of the war.

Rin laughed humorlessly at the man's perplexed expression. "Hah. Guess not. Why am I not surprised?"

"Rin…" The Servant made a move to approach his Master…

"STOP!" The girl snapped more forcefully than he expected. It may not have been a Command Seal, but he was anchored to his spot all the same from the sudden order. "Don't follow me, Servant. I need time to think about this alone and being near you at the moment will only give me a headache. Focus on healing, since it's the only useful thing you can do for now."

EMIYA straightened himself out before looking at his boss' disappearing figure with his hawk like eyes…

It didn't take much to determine that his younger self was responsible for Zouken's end. All things considered he was just as surprised as Rin. Unlike the girl, he knew just how annoying the old bastard was to end…

And therein lay the problem.

From his seemingly countless experiences through the war, and the fact that he actually remembered some of them this time, the Counter Guardian recalled that Zouken had frequently left the worm that contained his soul, his anchor as it was, in Sakura's heart…

… The odds of his younger counterpart actually knowing this, let alone doing something to counteract the possibility of Zouken returning to it and then controlling or destroying the girl from the inside were not good.

The Blacksmith Hero decided to remain quiet and simply watched how things turned out for the next couple of days. As impassive as he tried to be, he still held lingering feelings and guilt for what happened to the Sakura of his time, and would not wish to put salt in the wounds of Rin should the same thing happen to this world's version of the unfortunate girl…

… Then again, hopefully she'll remain and possibly die simply an unfortunate girl and not that monstrosity that she occasionally was turned into. He had been called in on Counter Guardian duty a few times in the worlds where the worst possible ending had indeed happened and from what he barely recalled it did not end well… not that it ever did whenever he had to answer Alaya's call.

At the very least, it might snap his foolish younger self out of his delusions…

o. o. o.

Emiya Residence:

"Mmmm." Taiga moaned as she woke up slowly. "Shiiirou… breaaakfast…"

Stretching cat-like unconsciously, the woman slowly returned to the land of the conscious and looked around in a daze. "Huh? Oh… I am at Shirou's this time… that's nice."

She blinked a few times, yawned, then blinked some more… before her eyes snapped open so fast that one would have sworn they heard glass breaking if they were there.

"Oh shit! I slept over a student's house! And one without any parents to boot! On a school night! Oh crap if the board hears of this my ass is so fired it's gonna leave smoke signals! I'm too young to get fired for a false sexual misdemeanor!"

The sound of a door slamming open was clearly heard throughout the property.

"SHIIIIIIIIIIIRRRRRRRRRRROOOOOOOUUUUUUUUUUU!"

The sound of what could only be described as a tiger in human skin would have been heard throughout the neighborhood had it not been for the bounded fields in place.

The young teacher barged through the open hallways and to the kitchen like a force of nature, throwing open any and every door in her way until she literally skidded into the living room adjacent to the kitchen.

"Shirou! Whatever you do don't tell anyone that I slept… over?" The frantic woman was stopped by an image that always seemed to terrify her…

An empty Emiya kitchen in the morning.

No spices reached her nose. No sounds of chopping, boiling, steaming, or frying were heard. No images of Shirou or Sakura were seen in what Taiga considered their ultimate habitat. Nothing.

"… Shirou?" The woman peeked inside the elaborate kitchen to see that yes it was empty. A glimpse at the microwave attached to the wall indicated that yes, she was neither up early nor late compared to normal.

A quick look outside told her that her favorite (and only) charge was not doing his standard morning warm-ups, so he wasn't there…

Given by the fact that no one reacted to her infamously loud yelling, she determined that no one was in the main building, so that simply left the shed outside…

… The shed that Shirou kept under heavy guard and rarely let anyone inside.

Had Shirou been anyone else, Taiga would have honestly assumed that the shed was where he had hidden his x-rated personal items that any healthy teenaged male should possess. He certainly spent enough time in there to warrant such an idea…

However this was Shirou. Not only was the teen a certified stick in the mud most of the time, but he had enough females (and possibly Issei) all but hanging off of his arms to scratch off the possibility. The few times that she had been inside the building or seen Shirou, Sakura or Rin come out of the building, she had not received any sort of hint that there was anything illicit happening. No odd smells outside that of motor oil and stuff burning. No flushed faces or panting when the children coming out. And certainly no items of potential sexual origins...

Though come to think of it, there was quite a bit of screaming from Shirou's end when Rin first started coming over when they first met…

Then again, it wasn't as if she didn't know what went on in there… sort of…

Taiga shook her head as she cleared her head. She could dwell on what was inside the shed later. She needed to find her charge so she could get him to lie to the school board if anyone ever asked if she stayed over his place. It wasn't exactly the most honorable thing a teacher could ask their students, but she didn't want things to be easily be blown out of context.

She was too young to be falsely charged for inappropriate interactions with a student damn it!

Just as she was about to rush to the shed and pound on the door, the teacher noticed two letters on top of the dining room table between her and the door outside. She would have missed them if the one on top said "to Fuji-nee" in big bold characters.

"Hmm?" The teacher blinked in confusion as she looked down at the envelope addressed to her. She vaguely noticed that the second envelope was a bit thicker than her's before she opened her missive and read it out loud.

"Fuji-nee, there was an emergency in Sakura's family. Had to leave quickly with her and Saber to help. Couldn't wake you up. No time. Won't be able to make it to school today. Please let the other teachers know. Please give the other letter to Kizuki-sensei. Will be back soon. Shirou."

Her stomach growled.

"P.S. I made you a quick breakfast. It's in the fridge. Just warm it up."

"Shirouuu. You're such a good kid…" The woman lowered the paper with tears falling from her eyes before she continued.

"P.P.S. I will ignore the fact you brought THAT into my home this time given the circumstances in town, but please don't do it again. You know how I feel about it… Oops."

Taiga nervously looked at the bulge on her right hip which was covered by her striped yellow sweater. She had been so worked up about waking up in the Emiya household she had forgotten about the… defensive measure she had taken with her last night during her stroll. Normally she left it at home when she went to work or to Shirou's, but she had not anticipated going to either last night.

Shirou was under the impression that she had taking to carrying it after a particularly bad experience she had with a rival gang despite its illegality. It just went to show just how much he valued her safety if he was willing to disregard such a blatant disregard for the law.

Hopefully he wouldn't find out about the real reason she made a habit of carrying one on her…

She had promised Kiritsugu…

o. o. o.

With Sakura:

She woke up in a bed that she instantly could tell was not her own or the one she used in the Emiya residence.

She could instantly tell something was off with her body even though she was still lethargic from regaining consciousness. Breathing came easier to her, as did moving and virtually everything else, and yet something felt as if it was missing. It took her a few moments of pushing herself up and rubbing the clouds out of her eyes to realize what it was.

The perpetual "warmth" that she had experienced for what seemed like forever was vacant.

Upon further inspection, the "lumps", for lack of a better term that best represented the worms in her body were surprisingly vacant. A very brief channeling of the prana in her body was all the proof she needed that she was now worm free as she found herself completely unable to utilize the parasites as makeshift circuits like she had been taught to.

At the very best, she could only use the internal scars the worms had made as barely usable circuits, but ultimately she was left to rely on just her forty natural circuits again for her thaumaturgy once more.

She was so stunned that she completely ignored the new… thing… that was supporting her body.

Despite the fact that breathing was physically easier to do now, the Matou could not do it. The last thing she had remembered was going out with Shirou and the Servants and then… nothing. What had happened last night?

"Welcome back." Rider materialized to her side, snapping the teen out of her shocked state. "I trust that you are well, Sakura?"

"I… Rider…" The Matou attempted to rationalize what was happening as she looked around the unfamiliar room. It appeared to be your standard every day hotel room with two beds, complete with TV, closet, bathroom, lamps, etc.

Oddly enough, it was Saber that was sleeping on the bed next to hers. As much as the idea of seeing the Servant sleeping baffled her, Sakura's attention was quickly drawn to the only other human there.

Shirou was sleeping in a chair situated on the other side of her bed with his head and arms resting right next to her side. It was clear that he didn't change his clothes, his tan pants, black and blue shirt, and overcoat, given that first, they were what she had seen him wear the night before (or at least she hoped it was the night before), and second, he was smelling a small bit.

"What happened?"

A twinge of a smile appeared on the Gorgon's face. "What happened is that you are now the last surviving member of the Makiri family. Congratulations."

The girl blinked several times in confusion before the weight of Rider's words finally crashed down on her. "I… what?"

"It appears as if your grandfather, Zouken Makiri was interfering with the mechanics of the Grail War in degrees that surpassed what could be overlooked," Rider elaborated. "Shirou discovered this, and with the aid of the overseer of the war… addressed both him and his machinations."

Sakura, freshly woken up from being operated on, de-wormed, and knocked unconscious, understandably began to develop a headache. "Rider, as much you seem to be enjoying this, and I can indeed tell that you are, can you please start from the beginning and not be so mysterious? While being told that Grandfather is dead is great news, I'm afraid that I'm too tired and confused to be any more shocked than I currently am."

The dark Servant's minor grin widened a fraction. "Do you wish for me to do so before or after you get some coffee?"

The purple haired girl pouted as she turned her attention to Shirou and began to stroke his head affectionately. After spending more time with Rin, she had picked up her sister's habit of needing a caffeinated jumpstart in the morning. It was partially due to the long nights they had spent together, which in turn left them exhausted with the handful of hours of rest they managed to grasp. Soon enough it become habit for her to down a cup of "brown gold" when she woke up in the morning whenever possible.

The fact that Rider was already familiar with this habit spoke for itself.

"Hopefully, after. Thank you. Unfortunately, given that the only ones able to go out to grab some are sleeping the odds of it happening soon is unlikely." Sakura sighed as she focused on playing with Shirou's prematurely graying hair. Much like countless times before, it seemed as if the Emiya was the only thing that she could rely on to maintain her sanity during stressful times. "I'll just ask some simple questions for now. Where are we? Why are we here instead of Shirou's home?"

"We are in a hotel in the south side of the city," Rider answered. "Shirou believed it was unsafe to transport you all the way to his home after your operation at the Church. He has several rooms set up in the area for the duration of the war in case his home is compromised."

The girl frowned. If she was in such bad shape, then why take her out of the Church in the first place? Oh, wait. Shirou didn't trust the priest there. In hindsight, it was more shocking that Shirou willingly went there for help in the first place. For some reason he considered Kirei Kotomine to be just as bad as her Grandfather, which was absurd as far as she was concerned.

No one was more of a monster as her grandfather.

"I take it the operation was to remove the worms from my body?" She looked at her hands. They didn't physically appear any different, but to her they seemed… clean, or at least not perpetually tainted, for the first time in years.

"Most of them." Rider admitted. "Shirou took care of the few that remained that the priest was unable to reach. He did not finish until daybreak and then fell asleep at your side. From what I understand, while the Moderator of the War was more appropriate for dealing with the bulk of the worms, Master had the unique resources to address the most concerning ones."

Given from the fact that the smile had vanished from Rider's face, Sakura was willing to bet that the more concerning worms were in places that she'd rather not think about.

"So… what happens now?" Sakura asked, a bit lost as to what all this could mean. She had been under the impression that the boy sleeping in front of her was working for her Grandfather. That clearly had not been the case. His betrayal was indeed surprising, but the shock of the fact that Zouken Makiri, the monster of Fuyuki, was dead and that she no longer had worms infesting her body was overriding that minor shock.

Was she still allied with Shirou? Yes. There was no doubt about it. He wouldn't put in so much effort to liberate her from the old worm's grasp if he was just going to ditch her right afterwards. Even if he tried to push her away for her own safety or claim it didn't involve her, she'd help him out regardless. She owed him her life, and he already had her love.

Was Shirou after the Grail then? She didn't think so. In fact on the few times they talked about it, she would always detect a hint of disdain for it for some reason. Then again that wasn't a concrete reason to dismiss the idea…

There was probably something else afoot that she wasn't aware of then. Given the fact that her savior managed to somehow outmaneuver Zouken's machinations, it wasn't that far of a stretch to believe that he was up to something else.

It was really a bit of an eye opener for her. Over the past week, she had been exposed to a new side of Shirou. True he acted similar to how he normally did… however, what he had his hands in, what he was capable of without anyone else being the wiser was astounding.

She and Rin would often joke that Shirou was incapable of hiding anything from them for a multitude of reasons whether it be because they knew him too well, to him being a horrible liar, to just being too trusting…

For the love of the third magic were they wrong and she was more than glad that was the case. She doubted her savior's plan would have worked half as well if she knew, as she was unable to hide anything from Zouken for long.

Magus Killer the world called him. She had assumed that was more out of the fact that Shirou's father held the title originally. Now she knew that there was more to it than that.

"I do not know yet. Had this plan failed and Zouken survived the assault, I would be a potential liability so Master did not let me in on his other goals." Rider shook her head. "Saber is more aware of his machinations and plans than I am. What I do know is that he has additional concerns that he wished to address during the War. From what I've gathered, he has been preparing for it more intensely and for a longer period of time than what you are aware of…" She turned to the other bed. "Am I correct, Saber?"

Sakura turned to see the blonde Servant looking at her with her emerald green eyes as she slowly picked herself up. "… I cannot confirm or deny anything on the matter without my Master's approval."

Sakura couldn't help but chuckle slightly at Saber's professional and political response. Even after being released from Zouken's grasp, Shirou's original Servant would not relinquish any details of her Master's plans without his say so. It was a bit relieving in a way. That caution was what enabled Shirou to manage to get rid of her grandfather after all. "I see. Did you enjoy your rest?"

The King of Knights nodded slowly. "While I did not necessarily need it, it allowed me to regain a bit of Mana and not be a burden on Shirou. The second procedure you underwent last night was more tiring than he had originally anticipated."

"Mmm," Sakura agreed, looking at her body again. "Now that I don't have the crest worms in me anymore, I could be Rider's Master again without worrying about being drained dry of prana every other day. If not, I can still help by giving Rider more prana and reducing Shirou's burden."

Come to think of it, even as exhausted as she was, Sakura could confidently say that she currently had more Prana in her than she had on days following most transferring rituals with Shirou, and it was slowly going up for once. It felt good.

So this was what having a normal body was like…

"I suggest you postpone doing that for now." Rider's faint smile returned. "You need to recover from your operation and adapt to your current condition before attempting anything strenuous."

"Her physical health should be flawless by now. On the other hand, I do agree with your other concern." Saber stated, her soft voice carrying a stern power to it. Apparently questioning whatever was used to heal Sakura's body could be considered an insult to the blonde Servant. "I am not a Magus though I do have some knowledge of their craft. From what I understand, the creatures implanted into you acted as circuits of a sort. It would be unwise to dismiss that their sudden absence would not impact your magecraft in some way."

The new head of the Makiri didn't find anything wrong with her statement. Despite Zouken's horrifically painful and demeaning process of implanting the worms into her, even Sakura would admit that there was a sort of sick and cruel precision and care in which he did it. As sadistic as he was, the old worm did want her to be his heir to continue the family line after all. It would be counterproductive to kill or break her, and in his own words, she was a magnificent specimen. It wouldn't do to waste her out of carelessness.

She shivered as her mind went back to the man and hugged herself. Zouken was gone. He was really gone. No more worms. No more Makiri, or Matou, or whatever the family's name was. She was just… Sakura now.

A sinking feeling manifested in her stomach. What would happen to her? She was the last Matou now, at least on paper. Would she be forced to continue the family craft? Would she be able to go to college, let alone afford it? She was aware that Zouken did at least have a bank account set up for public transactions, but she had never learned of where the man had entrusted the family's true fortune.

From what she understood, she was actually almost as affluent as Luvia. The only difference was that Zouken didn't see the need, nor make it a habit to use it that often other than to make more money. Say what you want, but after five hundred years it was hard to deny that the man had learned to play the markets surprisingly well.

"Peace, Sakura. Calm down," Saber soothed the girl. "Place your trust in Shirou. He has put much on the line to get this far. I doubt he has not prepared for the aftermath of his actions."

The girl shifted in her bed uncomfortably as she looked down at the exhausted Shirou's head. Honestly, she believed that dealing with Zouken would be an impossible enough task. Yet, he had done just that and had another target in the near future to focus on. Not only that, but the War was still going on in full swing with all eight Servants still gunning for one another.

That's right. If anyone knew what to do it was her savior. He'd be able to figure out what she should do. He was always there for her…

… Because he was her sword… always…

Doing as Saber suggested, the freed Makiri sighed and pinched the bridge of her nose and tried to clear her mind. As if fighting in a secret war with legends from all over human history wasn't enough, she had an identity and financial crisis to deal with and it was hitting her all at once. "You're right Saber. I need to relax before I try to go any further with trying to make sense out of any of this."

Moving the sheets off of her, but still being careful not to wake up Shirou, the girl slowly moved to the bathroom. Given the way she moved, it was clear that her body was sore despite being supposedly healed to perfect health. "I'm going to wash up. Please don't mind me."

The two Servants watched the girl make her way into some privacy before she closed the door behind her.

When the shower turned on, they pretended to not hear the faint sobs that was almost masked by the sound of water coming through the piping.

"She is handling this better than I expected," Saber mused. "She is strong."

"She has had to be to make it this far," Rider confirmed in a tone that she had witnessed something of the like before. "The future does not look promising."

The King frowned. "It will without a doubt be trying. Zouken was a significant trial in himself that needed to be addressed as soon as possible. Sadly, the fact of the matter is that he was but the first as far as Shirou is concerned, and unfortunately not the most significant by himself."

The other Servant slowly nodded. "I see. Our Master is certainly ambitious to undertake such ordeals at once."

The King did not miss the slight tone of acknowledgement in the Gorgon's comment. It appeared as if the other Servant had become far more appreciative and accepting of her stand in Master as of late.

Saber sat on the edge of the bed and thought of the past night. Rider was right in that sense. Shirou was undertaking a massive task, and he was using a good deal of Kiritsugu's methods to make it so. Not enough to make him as deplorable as his father, but enough to know that he was capable of coming up with reliable and effective plans and come up with fairly unsavory, if not unorthodox, approaches.

Still, the one thing that made Shirou stand apart from his father was what made her truly believe that he was able to accomplish all that he intended to do…

"Yes…" The King of Knights nodded and smiled at her fellow Servant. "Thankfully, he will not be alone in his endeavors…"

o. o. o.

Fuyuki High School:

As much as Luvia would like to say that a day without Shirou soothed her nerves, she would be lying. If anything it made her even more uncomfortable.

It wasn't simply because he wasn't in the school, though it was a bit of a warning sign. Shirou was adamant of trying to live a normal life outside of his activities in the world of thaumaturgy, as absurd as it was. For him to actually skip out on class could only mean that something happened the previous night that was significant enough to prevent him from coming.

Then there was the fact that Tohsaka was not so subtly on the warpath for him for some reason. It didn't help that she had clearly not slept at all last night. Her bloodshot eyes and dark bags were evidence enough if her temper didn't give her away.

She was so intent on finding him that when she heard from Fujimura-sensei that he and Sakura weren't coming due to Sakura's family reasons, the Edelfelt could have sworn that her rival was about to actually curse the woman right then and there.

All things considered, Luvia was pondering if Shirou skipped class on purpose to avoid them, but she brushed away the idea as ridiculous. As annoying as he was right now, the Emiya was the type to take his thrashings like a man (fool), not run away and hide like a coward (smart person).

"Edelfelt-san. I need to speak to you during lunch period." Kuzuki's monotone voice hammered through her distracted thoughts with unnatural ease, causing the affluent magus to nearly jump out of her seat in surprise. "I will be waiting in the teacher's office."

The teacher didn't pay her reaction to him any mind as he calmly turned around and left the room without any thought.

"Why on earth did he have to use this guy as his spy?" Luvia muttered under her breath as she got up and followed the teacher, Caster silently following her without anyone noticing.

"You're certainly popular with Kuzuki-sensei lately." Rin lazily leered at the blonde with her head propped on her desk. While her temper had simmered over the periods of class after finding out that Shirou wasn't there, it was still more than obvious that she was still in less than a stellar mood at the moment.

The foreigner decided to keep in character and flipped one of her trademark curls over her shoulder. "Humph. Unlike some people, I at least try to communicate with my educators and further my education."

"No doubt by shoving bills down their throats." The Tohsaka muttered under her breath as she looked away, having lost her interest in Luvia's activities.

The blonde couldn't help but mentally laugh at the irony of the situation. Despite Rin's determination to find Shirou for some reason today, SHE was the one that was about to communicate with him in one fashion or another. Granted her relationship with the Emiya was not ideal at the moment either, but the situation itself and Rin's blindness were enough to lift her spirits for the moment.

It took little time for her to enter the teacher's room where Kizuki was waiting. Unlike last time, much to her surprise, there were a few other educators going on with their business at their desks as well. Even if the teachers weren't paying attention, it was no place to hide a private conversation.

A second glance at the room told her that yes, Shirou was not there and that there was no hint of thaumaturgy in the room. Luvia pretended to ignore the small feeling of disappointment in the back of her mind that spawned when she realized this.

"AAAH!" One of the female teachers yelled in surprise as she jumped up from her seats, causing the conspirators to warily turn to her direction. "Another rat just ran by my feet! What on earth is going on in this school?!"

"Calm down." Chided an older teacher from a few seats down. "The board has called for an exterminator. It should all be dealt with by the end of the week."

"Caster?" Luvia warily asked her invisible Servant.

"They aren't familiars Master." The Princess glanced at the skittering creature as it ran between a cabinet and the wall behind it for safety. "It appears to be a genuine infestation. There is no ambient prana in this room, nor are there any sources of any kind of thaumaturgy."

"You wanted to see me, Sensei?" the girl asked as she hesitantly sat next to her emotionless teacher and ignored the sudden outburst.

"Yes." The man nodded as he handed her a small envelope. "Let me know when you are finished reading it. I will inform you of what I have researched last night afterwards."

"Not one for conversation is he?" Caster dryly mused as she watched her Master open the message.

Luvia,

This can only be read by you. Anyone else will just see a request for some homework gatherings and some seafood recipes that Fuji-nee likes.

The first target has been addressed. Zouken Makiri is dead.

Luvia paused at those words. True, she was convinced that the Emiya would likely manage to kill the old worm during the war. However, she didn't expect it to happen so quickly and without anyone noticing.

Then again, it might be the reason why Tohsaka was so adamant on finding him today. If she knew that Zouken was dead and that Shirou was behind it, the girl was practically obligated to find him. Throw in the fact that she was rather close to Sakura, who was also missing due to the boy's machinations, and there was no doubt that the Second Owner of the city would be near desperate to get her hands on him.

I am likely recovering from removing the last of the crest worms from Sakura's body as you read this. Unless I contact you by nightfall, I won't be able to provide any direct assistance for tonight. Even so that may be for the best as it would prevent others from suspecting our current relationship, strained as it is.

Caster couldn't help but snort softly in dry amusement at that last line.

Regardless, now that our largest roadblock is removed more options are now available. Should Sensei have a reliable location of where the Witch his hosting the bulk of her operations, and in conjunction the area where your sister is most likely staying, then I believe it would be time for you to make your move…

Luvia skimmed over the instructions that Shirou had laid out for her and silently admitted that they were fairly reasonable and surprisingly simple. For a moment Luvia assumed that this was planned by his father.

While her Caster was not as powerful on the offensive as she was on the defensive, the tactics used would improve their odds of getting at Assassin far more manageable while all but ensuring both her and her Servant's safety. Plus, even if they couldn't bust their way through Assassin's apparent field of traps…

Remember, even if you don't succeed in rescuing your sister, just make sure to perform your primary goal, since that is what will determine the outcome of future fights there. Please don't overextend yourself and put yourself in a dangerous position. I promised you I'd get your sister back and I don't want to lose you to do it.

"He almost sounds as if he cares," Caster sarcastically mused. "No doubt he's simply trying to make himself feel better. It's simply astounding that he has the nerve to put that down after what he has already done to us."

Luvia ignored her Servant's ramblings. True her anger at Shirou was more than justified, but all things considered, they were technically still at war. Had he been anyone else, Shirou would probably have killed them by now given his huge advantage over practically everyone. The worst thing was that it normally would have been expected for him to do as much.

That didn't excuse him for his actions, but at the very least it showed that he was serious about his goals and his intentions, which in turn convinced her that, yes, he would try his hardest to get her sister.

I have instructed sensei through another letter to let you know of everything he's found and to follow your advice. He will still inform me of what he's told you though so I can prepare adequately. I will try to contact you as soon as I can. Stay safe.

Shirou

The Edelfelt looked at her teacher skeptically. She contemplated on whether or not to release him from the Witch's influence and use him on her assault, but discarded the idea after a few seconds. The man was an unknown factor as far as most were concerned, and after reading up on enough of Kiritsugu's exploits she knew that it was best to keep him that way until the best possible moment… and she had a feeling that the time was not quite here yet.

Then again, it wasn't as if she was without options herself. Perhaps it was time for her to put her own spin on things in this farce of a War.

"Sensei…" the girl started off as she quietly pocketed the note. She'd look at it later to ensure that she didn't miss anything in the instructions. "Tell me what you know."

o. o. o.

In a Hotel somewhere in Fuyuki…

Shirou woke up to the sensation of resting comfortably on a soft surface.

"Glad you could join us." Saber wasted no time pointing out his consciousness to the world with an amused tone. "For a while we were afraid you would be sleeping the entire day away."

"Mmm? Saber?" The Emiya yawned and blinked as he tried to pick himself up, only to be held down gently by a pair of soft hands, his body still too tired and groggy to put up much protest.

Zouken's worms had proved to be harder to get rid of than he had originally thought. True he had practiced on cadavers "borrowed" from the Clocktower on occasion (he wasn't going to play doctor on a person's heart without at least SOME practice and knowledge of what he was doing), but the mock targets didn't seem to cling to life or grasp onto its host as stubbornly as the worms in Sakura.

Even without Zouken instructing them anymore, the things were a downright pain to deal with. Rule Breaker destroyed their magical properties, link to Sakura, and made them weaker, but it didn't kill them outright or prevent them from clinging to her warm insides with fervor once they realized that something wanted them out. The anti-thaumaturgy Noble Phantasm merely returned the worms to what they were before Zouken played with them, which apparently, were still large living worms that should not be within a person's body. Clearly the things had been bred carefully to be as big and nasty as possible before they had been turned into familiars.

One by one Shirou manually had to finish them off before decomposing the bodies with the altered reinforcement spell he used to get rid of evidence. Most of the parasites were too deep for him to extract physically. Then he had to use a small common tool he got from the Tower to suck out residue from the experimental subject to get rid of the slush left over before allowing Avalon to finally take over and heal the small hole in the girl's body.

Rinse. Repeat.

The process was long and exhausting for him as he had to go slowly. He wasn't an expert surgeon, and had Avalon not been there with Saber keeping physical contact with the girl, Sakura's life would most certainly have been called into question a few times throughout the endeavor. It was no wonder why the priest had to use a majority of the crests on his arm to get rid of the bulk of them in the first place. The things were almost as annoying to get rid of as their creator.

As much as Shirou disliked praising Kotomine for anything positive, he would have to relent that the man was most certainly skilled in the healing arts. The war probably would have been over if the Emiya had attempted to get rid of all the worms in Sakura by himself instead of the dozen or so that took him all night to extract.

He had contemplated giving his fourth command seal to Sakura after the operation, but decided against it. As things stood right now, he was still the Master of two Servants while the girl was not supporting anyone. The odds of him needing to use them for one reason or another were much greater.

Besides, now with Sakura worm free she could allocate more of her power to Rider while Shirou focused on Saber. As much as it would be easier for everyone to return Rider to Sakura, it was generally understood that Shirou was by far the best strategist in the War, and simply having the mental connection between him and Rider could provide to be essential in the fights to come.

Part of the reason why he had managed to do so well in the War so far was his habit of being at least a step ahead of everyone else. His link with Rider allowed him to react swiftly to Luvia's attack. He used his knowledge of the currently unknown aspects of the war to get Kirei to attack Zouken before things got out of hand.

He needed to keep on making moves and place himself in well informed positions, and more importantly, to maintain his control. Granted, it had been a fleeting control at best for now, but now that Zouken was gone he intended to rectify that.

"Rider and Sakura have gone out to get some food." Saber continued, assuming that her Master was well enough to comprehend what she was saying. "Given the current time, I am under the impression that they will be returning with lunch."

"Lunch?" Shirou parroted in a half hearted surprise as he looked at the electronic clock next to his bed and saw that it was a little past one. "How? I've never slept in this late before. Working on Sakura did take a while, but I still should have gotten up before now."

The King of Knights closed her eyes calmly. "Sakura casted a spell on you to make you sleep longer after she had learned of what had happened and calmed herself down. She, as well as Rider and I, still believe that you are overworking yourself and need as much rest as possible. You may have dealt with Zouken and Sakura's condition last night; however, do recall that there is still a War occurring with all of its participants still around."

Finally returning to reality, Shirou managed to recall why he was in such a dazed state in the first place. "Sakura cast… never mind that. How is she, Saber? How did she handle…"

"The truth?" the blonde dryly finished his sentence, knowing exactly how bad things could potentially get. "As well as someone in her condition could. She is strong for one her age. Not many would have lasted as long as her in such deplorable conditions, let alone handle being released from them so suddenly. I believe she was still in a partial state of disbelief when she left. Do not fret though, Rider will ensure that nothing happens to her. I am more concerned about how she will behave once we inform her of our other goals. She is not foolish, Shirou. She knows that whatever you have set for yourself now is bigger than simply winning the War or releasing her from her family."

"If only it were that simple." The Emiya shook his head with a weak laugh. Closing his eyes he felt out the link he had with his other Servant. "Rider, I'm up. Saber's filled me in on this morning. How are you and Sakura?"

There was a brief pause before he got a response. "We are well enough Shirou. We have just exited a nearby bakery and should be back soon. Sakura has made a complete physical recovery, however she is still a bit shaken despite the admirable strong front she has put up."

"Not many could go through what she has and come out sane." The Master smiled proudly.

"I believe the fact that she had a specific someone with her for so long helped out a good deal." Medusa's reply held a tinge of amusement to it.

"The fact that I was with her for so long only means that I was useless for that period of time." Shirou's mirth fell as he recalled watching her go through her training. "If I really was as great as everyone claims, I would have killed Zouken and dewormed Sakura years ago."

"Do not be so hard on yourself." Rider's even tone became slightly gentler and dare he say… affectionate. "The fact you bothered to save Sakura at all was more than what she could possibly have hoped for. You are her hero, Shirou."

"… Hero huh." He held back a dry snort. He didn't know why, but once more he felt as if he was hearing a bad joke. He knew that he should be proud or happy hearing such a thing, but it just seemed to serve to irritate him for some reason.

"Shirou?"

"It's nothing," he quickly consoled his other Servant as he cleared his head. He still had much to do. "We'll wait for you here before going over our plans for the day."

"Understood… and Shirou?"

"Yes, Rider? Is something the matter?"

There was a brief pause, as the Gorgon tried to think of what to say. "… Thank you."

Shirou blinked in confusion at her sudden thanks. "Um… You're welcome?"

He swore he felt something akin to amusement through their link before it was closed off on the opposite end.

Deciding to not dwell on the oddity of his other Servant, Shirou returned to the physical world, slowly picked himself up, popping all the stiff joints he had developed from sleeping in his clothes. Saber did not hold him back down this time, probably determining that he was well enough to move this much at least. "Mind if I go wash up? I not sure yet, but I'm certain that I must not smell that pleasant right now after all that's happened."

"So long as you inform me of your plans for tonight." Saber nodded as she backed away from the bed. "Our largest roadblock is dealt with. Sakura is no longer a risk. Should we start informing the other Masters about the Grail's condition now?"

Shirou shook his head with a grimace. "No Saber. Sakura's still in, and is, a danger. I took the worms out of her, but she is still for all intents and purposes a lesser Grail, just like Illya and Irisviel. The shards of the previous grail that Zouken implanted into her have completely fused with her. The worms we took out are simply not feeding her prana to them constantly anymore. The main problem is that should a Servant die when near her…"

"… We risk her losing control as Kiritsugu warned." Saber's expression matched his. "Another reason to keep her away from the fighting to come."

"And thankfully, something that is far more manageable than dealing with Zouken," Shirou pointed out, while keeping a few parts of his plan to himself. It was a cruel thing to do, but should Sakura accidentally absorb even one Heroic Spirit… "As for informing the other Masters, I intend to do that as soon as we deal with Caster."

"Caster?" The knight blinked in surprise. "I don't understand. If there was anyone that should have been dealt with before revealing this information, it should be Kirei Kotomine and Gilgamesh as they are already aware of it and wish for the Grail to be used."

"We can't risk her finding out about the Greater Grail's condition when she is currently right on top of it and trying to hack into its system," her Master explained. "With how much trouble she is giving everyone, I don't want to give her a hint as to how to get into the Grail should she somehow get a hold of one of our allies. All it would take is for her to get lucky and stab one of the other Servants with Rule Breaker and then order them to reveal our secrets. Should she get in too deep she might be an even bigger threat to everyone than Gilgamesh. All things considered I would prefer to try to convince Illya to team up with us first, but at the moment I have no way of getting to her. The grounds around Einzbern Castle are too protected to just waltz in, and forcing our way through is… well Illya's potential trust in me at the moment is not very comforting at the moment."

Saber frowned as she contemplated his words. Given what happened in Kiritsugu's visions, particularly the one where Archer betrayed Rin to go with Caster, the King of Knights would have to agree with Shirou's logic there, even if he didn't know who Archer was at the moment.

"Then what is our next move?" Saber asked once more. "I do not believe that either you or Sakura are in any condition to support Rider or I in battle for now."

The Magus Killer donned a small bitter smile as he made his way to the bathroom. "Don't worry Saber. We're not going to be doing any fighting tonight… actually for tonight I was planning we'd be doing something a bit more… intimate, if you gave me permission of course…"

Saber didn't know why, but she had a feeling she wouldn't like what Shirou meant when he said that…

o. o. o

In another hotel:

"What are we getting this time mother?"

"No clue in the slightest," Bazett mumbled out loud as she sat on her bed with her limbs crossed while looking at the book's worth of restaurant pamphlets in front of her in nothing but a pair of shorts and a tank top.

Normally when she came to Fuyuki to visit Shirou, she just crashed at his place and ate whatever her often misguided student made for her seeing as he cooked better food than any other place she could frequent on her budget. When she left, she left some money for the teen to reimburse him for the food. She doubted that it was truly enough to cover the costs, but knowing Shirou's personality it was for the best. If she overestimated the price Shirou would have a near heart attack about the surplus money and go out of his way to give her all of it back instead of begrudgingly accepting the money left behind.

Unfortunately the War had obviously prevented that convenient little setup from working, so the Enforcer had to make do with what she had.

Thankfully Fuyuki was a fairly mixed city so while most of the places nearby catered to the Japanese tastes, there was still a good variety of styles she could go to if she wanted to eat…

On a side note though, she would never make the mistake of going to that curry shop ever again. Nearly having everything relating to her mouth burnt off once was enough thank you very much.

"I know I'm taking a stab at the dark, but do you two have any preferences?" The woman looked at her legs. She knew she looked like a fool doing so, but she didn't really care at this point. Her legs were alive and she might as well do something to make them more cooperative since she was likely to be with them for the rest of her life.

The left leg laughed childishly. "You're silly mommy. We're only a couple of days old. We've only had dinner last night with you since you went outside for lunch today and we couldn't eat in public. We don't know what we like in particular yet."

"She's right," the slightly older sounding and more mature right leg added. "The only thing I think I know is that I don't like greasy foods like the chicken you had left out."

"Oh yeah. I didn't like it either." The "younger" of the two added. "It made me feel funny. Like I was getting bigger in an uncomfortable way."

Bazett pretended not to listen to her legs complain about her leftovers or that they just claimed that they were getting fatter. She'd never hear the end of it from Lancer if he ever found out about it. Thankfully she had sent out the Servant on guard duty above the Hotel due to him being a wiseass one too many times about an hour ago.

She was on a budget, so Italian and Sushi were out. Eating anything greasy would cause her legs to act up, so the standard Chinese takeout was out too. The only solid deli she knew of was on the other side of town, so that wasn't an option either, plus now that she thought about it, it was out of her price range too. Meat in general was more expensive in Japan than it was in the Western countries.

"I'm starting to get hungry Mother," the "elder" leg muttered into her head with a sheepish tone.

"I thought you two didn't get hungry when you were attached to me." The woman glanced at her new limbs with skepticism before her own stomach rumbled loudly.

"Heheheh. Kinda. We don't get hungry unless you do, Mommy." The "younger" giggled with some amusement.

"Ha ha ha. I'm glad you're so amused," the Master grumbled. "Why do I think that Solomon conveniently forgot to mention that?"

Her stomach rumbled again.

"Damn it!" The Enforcer gave up on making an educated decision and simply grabbed the brochure for a nearby udon shop and moved to put on her suit. "Simple it is then!"

"Oh darn." The King of Rats pouted as his head peaked in past the doorway, looking at her decision. "And here I was hoping you'd pick the nearby Pizza restaurant. I have good word that it is quite well done despite not being quite that accurate."

"How did you… never mind. Given how mediocre this hotel is, I'm betting that there's a hole in every room in the building that you could walk into." The Enforcer sighed.

"Half." The representative of the Church pridefully raised his nose to the air. "And for your information, I walked in through the front door. I have the extra to this room."

"Lovely." The woman frowned as her eyes met the rat's. "I take it you have learned something interesting since you left yesterday?"

"Hmm," the false human mused as he strode into the room with a contemplative expression on his face. "I suppose. Granted, anything regarding the other Masters and Servants in this war could be considered interesting in one way or another would it not? By that logic, one would consider that the standard for "interesting" would to the normal individual be considered "outstanding"."

Bazett's stern gaze didn't waver. She had dealt with these transcendent and otherworldly types before and she doubted it would be the last. "Fine then. Have there been any outstanding events of interest that I should…!?"

She flinched and looked down to her left hand to see the command seals on it flashing crimson. The symbols engraved on her flesh flashed for a good thirty seconds before returning to their dull blood red color.

Before it had calmed down though, all the watchers had determined what it meant. It was the way the moderator of the Church called the other Masters whenever he had something important to inform the others. By the general rules of the war, she was now advised to go to the Church in one way or another within the next hour.

"Ah." He looked amusedly at the woman as the command seal stopped glowing. "It looks like I've been beaten to the punch. I'll just keep to myself for the time being. I'm sure I have another tidbit or two to give you once your business is concluded."

o. o. o.

Kotomine Church:

"This certainly is a first." Gilgamesh smirked as he leaned against the doorway to the main altar. "It is not often that you make such public moves such as this."

"It is not often that I am given with the adequate material to manage such a performance," the priest evenly replied. "Besides, it would be quite embarrassing if I did nothing after Emiya's actions last night."

"Imagine. Someone with the nerve to use you to serve his needs." The King of Heroes' eyes flashed in mirth.

"I cannot be used if I know and accept what my purpose was and the results of my actions before going." The man walked past the reincarnated Servant. "At worst, I was merely an accomplice for doing my duties."

"Hm. Well then. He may be a Faker, but at least the mongrel has some adequate taste in capable collaborators."

"Come now. We both know that I merely played the role of a tool last night." The priest shook his head as he made his way to the altar.

"It must have been a nostalgic experience then." Gilgamesh chuckled, not bothering to follow the man's departure. "Now let's see how you perform once more as the orchestrator."

Kirei remained mute as he entered the main room of the building, built to seat at least a hundred odd individuals as they listened to the Lord's gospel, but now were simply housing seven pairs of eyes located all around the room. Much like the previous war, the Masters that answered the call knew better than to come in person lest they give themselves or their positions away, and in turn simply sent minor familiars in their stead. Noting the shortage of one pair of eyes, the moderator emotionlessly strode to the familiar stand from which he performed most of his preaching over the past decade and gave a more visible look around the room.

"Welcome and thank you all for responding to my summons," he spoke out loud, his neutral yet deep voice easily reaching every inch of the virtually empty room. "No doubt you are all curious as to why I have called you so suddenly."

Even if he didn't know that the amethyst owl sitting on the rafters was Rin's, the flash of impatience in its eyes that likely mirrored its creator's would have revealed its maker almost instantly.

"Last night I was informed of an outside party attempting to interfere with the War," the man answered everyone's curiosity without so much of a twitch on his face, prompting many of the eyes there to focus on him with renewed intensity for various reasons. "Indeed, as absurd as it sounds for an individual of this era to somehow pose a threat in a War comprising of legends from throughout history, that is exactly what was revealed to me last night by one of you."

As expected, several of the familiars glanced at one another skeptically and with suspicion, as if looking at the ambiguous representatives of their enemies would somehow point out the culprit to the others.

"While I have no doubt that all of you are well aware of the rules of our little competition, my eyes have been opened from last night's activities and recalling the events of the previous war. For those of you who are unaware of what I am referring to, the Caster of the Fourth War and his Master ignored their purpose and instead indulged themselves in the murder and mutilation of a large number of prepubescent mundane from this and neighboring cities. They then proceeded to unleash an uncontrollable demon that would have done untold damage to the city, revealed thaumaturgy to the public, and canceled the war for an indeterminable amount of time had it not been addressed by the combined might of the majority of the other participating Masters," Kirei continued his speech without hesitation, almost as though he was speaking to another Sunday mass.

"As such I have decided to provide an additional incentive for you to enforce the rules of this event." The man rolled back his right sleeve to reveal the half a dozen or so remaining Command Seals on his arm.

Of particular note, to those that were in the know, was that the Seal that he had given to Shirou was once more back in place and solid. It was a little known fact, but it took time for unused Seals to make their way to the moderator of the war, and as such it was not until the man had returned to the Church that the single crest that Zouken possessed for hundreds of years finally returned to him.

As expected, the intensity of the stares on him magnified considerably. "The Master who revealed the interloper's existence was rewarded with one additional command seal. The ones on my arm are merely the ones left unused from previous wars, minus a few more used for unique circumstances. One of my duties as moderator for the War is to safeguard them for any potential uses they may have in the future, or to pass them onto my successor."

Kirei let his words hang in the air for a few moments to ensure that the significance of his position and authority truly sunk into the heads of his audience. "While I personally doubt that there is another outside individual that posed as great of a threat to this holy event as the one dealt with recently, I will not take any additional chances. As of tonight I, Kirei Kotomine, moderator of the Fifth Fuyuki grail war decree these new rules for engagement. Any and all parties that are determined to be significant threats to the Holy Grail War by the observing Church, are considered priority threats above those that you are currently pitted against."

Familiars or not, Kirei was certain that at least one of the possessed creatures in front of him was drooling at the prospect of gaining an additional command seal.

"To clarify, the threat to the sanctity of the War may not necessarily be an outside force. Should one of you pose a large enough threat to the purpose of the event, you too shall be deemed a liability and your disposal will be rewarded."

The silence in the room was damning. Even though the familiars didn't make any noise since entering the building, the room seemed to destroy any noise that could possibly be made.

The man broke the silence and repositioned his sleeve to its original position. "Of course that does not mean that I will be strictly enforcing this personally."

"I have faith that all of you and your Servants will do more than an adequate job doing so."

o. o. o.

Ryudou Temple Steps:

"Well today certainly has been eventful," the Princess mused to her Master in an alleyway parallel to the forest bordering the forest. The Servant was standing in another ritualistic magic circle and focused in order to summon the fifth flaming bull into the vicinity.

"I'm beginning to see why Emiya is so unnerved about the priest." Luvia sighed as she leaned against one of the buildings that made the alley and pondered the recent declaration. "Even if Kotomine doesn't suspect what he's doing, what the man did will certainly push back his efforts. Any attempt Emiya will make to stop the War now will be met with suspicion and will carry the risk of other Masters betraying him for an additional Command Seal. And the worst part is that he can't argue against the setup if people bring up their suspicions since Kotomine has done absolutely nothing wrong."

"Hm. Yes. A shame for Emiya," the Servant agreed with little enthusiasm as the circle beneath her began to glow more intensely.

"I mean, it was played perfectly." Luvia continued on, barely noticing her Servant's lack of interest. "Had I not known what his goal was or the nature of the Grail, even I would have been completely fooled."

"Indeed. Once is more than enough for my tastes." The Princess's dry comment was not missed, but Luvia decided to ignore it. The resident of Colchis had been in a less than stellar mood ever since Shirou confessed his manipulations.

"It's clear that the man was somehow pressured into helping Emiya to dispatch of Zouken in some way." The blonde pieced together what Shirou had told her via letter with what the priest had announced. "Why he wanted Kotomine's help in dispatching Zouken I don't know, but it must have been important else he would not have even considered doing such a thing. However something tells me that the extra Command Seal was not a factor in his decision…"

"Ah. I see. Clever…" Luvia nodded as she seemed to come to a breakthrough. "He didn't think he was going to get an extra Seal in the first place. The Priest gave him one in order to pit the other Masters against him later on once he made the announcement. Few would want to team up with a Master with such a large advantage over the others, especially not when he already possesses such a strong Servant on his side. The announcement combined with his fourth seal would only compound the suspicions of the other Masters should he try to talk them out of the War."

She made a mental checklist of who else was in the war.

Sakura and Rider… no, there was no point in questioning what they would do. If even half of what Emiya claimed about the Makiri's past was true Sakura would probably follow him around like a lost puppy for the rest of the War if not her life.

Assassin from what she had heard was simply following the other Caster at the moment so there was little she could do to guess what he would do. Maybe once the Witch was dealt he would be of more help, but she didn't think so… especially if tonight turned out well.

The Witch… yeah she was a lost cause. Marjatta could kick and scream all she wanted, but Luvia was dragging her ass out of this war and putting her in her place once everything was settled.

Bazett and Lancer. They'd probably be skeptical of Shirou's claims… actually given from her previous experience with them, the two sides would probably duke it out and wreck whatever abandoned part of town before coming to a consensus. The Edelfelt didn't know the Enforcer that well, but she knew enough to know that she trusted Shirou like family when push came to shove.

Illyasviel and Berserker. They are going to be a problem. Even with her brother's manipulations, Illya had more reason to complete the War, or at least tearing apart Shirou's body to bloody pieces, than not. It would take a miracle to convince her of his story, let alone not kill everyone in sight.

Rin and by process of elimination, Archer. Another potentially troubling party.

Normally the Tohsaka would lend an ear whenever her Clocktower meal ticket tried to lay down the law, but the War was too important for her. As the current head of her family, she felt personally obligated to win the competition and was in a perpetual battle mode. She was suspicious of everyone and everything at the moment, and something as bizarre as Emiya's tale wouldn't convince her.

Given that he has been hiding his machinations of the War from her, which he has been preparing for several years… and factoring in her pride…

Yes, it certainly was not going to end well once her rival realized what was going on. Even if Shirou's plans all worked out in the end, Luvia held no doubts that Rin was going to hold the fact that he didn't tell her about the situation over his head for years to come.

Not that she cared of course. Given what Shirou did to her he deserved everything that happened to him… once he finished saving the world and stopping the War of course. She knew how to order her priorities after all…

A bright but fast flash of bright red light distracted the Edlefelt from her musings and had her focus on the fifth flaming bull in the rather narrow alleyway. She hadn't noticed it before, but with so many fire element phantasmal beasts in such a cramped area, the temperature had spiked considerably. Given that it was early February, the change should have been detected earlier.

"This is the last of them Master." The Princess sighed as she walked to the new bull, placed her hands on its head, somehow not suffering burns in the process, and began to chant quickly in the ancient language. An almost invisible film of prana gradually surrounded the beast before fully enclosing the creature and becoming unnoticeable unless one knew what to look for. "We are ready. Let us make haste. No doubt that Assassin and the Witch have sensed our activities already."

"Good." Luvia nodded, any extraneous thoughts to the current situation were instantly purged from her mind. "Let's get started. Time to see if Emiya's scheming will work for us for once."

"You make it sound as if you didn't put your own twist on tonight's activities." The Princess smiled slyly as she began to possess her summons.

"Don't be too sure." Luvia twirled one of her curls on a finger with a matching grin. "We still don't know if they'll join in on the festivities, even if they seemed interested…"

o. o. o.

With Assassin:

Kiritsugu silently looked down at the city from the branches of one of the trees near the walkway to the temple. He could tell that there was a Servant nearby, but he didn't know which one, and given from the fact that they seemed to be prepared for a frontal, and thus easily countered, assault he wasn't that impressed.

Preparing his sniper rifle, the Servant went over the past twenty four hours. After wrecking Zouken's hideout, surprisingly little happened from his end. Caster wouldn't let him back onto the mountain till dusk, during which he got a better feel for the city. He returned. Kept an eye out for enemy Servants, and then began to set up some traps once Tools of the Trade finally restocked. The sun came up. He set up some more traps, went out exploring the city, lifted some thug's wallet, ate some fast food, and spent the rest of the day browsing the internet for the latest events, weapons, and technology breakthroughs to see if there was anything in particular he could use for Tools of the Trade.

All in all, a pretty uneventful day.

Of course given from the impression he's made on three of the enemy Servants and Masters so far, that could easily mean that they were simply biding their time for their second run.

He held some regrets about harming Archer. As much as he attempted to kill off his emotions, doing any sort of damage to the remaining person that he had not done any harm to… intentionally at least… was chipping at the remaining tethers to his rationality.

Seeing Archer in person… what he had done to the boy he had rescued… he had never truly hated the desire to be a hero more than now. The fact that he was somehow one was probably the biggest karmic joke the universe could have possibly played on him.

He wasn't laughing.

Oh wait. He was summoned by Caster as Assassin too. Apparently bad afterlife karmic jokes came in sets.

Still it wasn't a worst case scenario just yet. True the war was already considerably different than those that he had foreseen, but from what he's gathered Shirou was doing quite well so far. Given what his "Master" had claimed, his son had already established his name among the magus populace as his legacy with several notable kills under his belt. Personally he didn't believe half of them were true, but it was enough to sate his concerns that he was summoned into a war where Shirou was not helpless and ignorant of the world around him.

And if Kiritsugu's luck really held out, E rank stat noted, the world he was summoned in was the one that he had prepared for the fifth war personally… meaning that his backup preparations should still be in place…

His invisible sulking was interrupted as he felt whoever was hiding behind the buildings in front of him spike their prana much higher than before. Apparently it seemed as if they were going to use their Noble Phantasm to try and rush past him…

The irony of the statement didn't elude him as he saw the five flaming bulls begin their charge up the steps of the long stairway.

Despite the fact that his heat vision scope was useless for aiming at the immolated monsters, his first shot had hit the leading beast dead center between the eyes before the small herd had even made it halfway across the street to the entrance. By all means that should have downed it instantly. However, it seems as if the enemy was wiser this time.

Despite being undetected, his bullet had been blocked by a powerful bounded field protecting the creature. The loud impact was matched by an unnatural red and blue rippling that traveled down the body of the target. At best the attack had simply given the Phantasmal Beast a minor headache and slowed it down for half a second before it doubled its efforts forward in a blind rage.

If he had any doubts about its shields holding up before, the fact that the bulls continued to charge forward despite triggering his buried bombs and being blasted from the underside point blank without any sign of slowing down did.

Assassin's eyes narrowed in minor irritation as he channeled some prana into his next round. "Break. Augment Accel."

If his first shot was supersonic, the second could be considered hypersonic, possessing enough power behind it to rival one of Berserker's unstoppable swings.

If the explosion of fire, prana, and brain matter was any indication, his modifications had been enough to do their job. He had half expected the bullet to simply blast through the creature's entire body before drilling into the concrete below, however it seemed as if its skull was hard and possessed enough prana to set off its broken nature to explode almost instantly after contact.

Unfortunately the other four bulls seemed to be smarter than he suspected as they had moved away from his initial target after the first shot. The body of his first victim of the night had done nothing to slow them down as they moved to either side of the stairs and were plowing down… the… trees…

Well this certainly was a surprise. He was facing a Magus with some knowledge of tactics for once. Their main goal wasn't to get past or even kill him, though it would certainly be a boon if that happened.

No, his opponents tonight were simply focused on destroying as much of his territory advantage as possible.

A wider path meant that he had a clearer view of his targets as they moved up, but it also meant a longer period of time before his attacks hit their marks and more time for them to react. It also gave them more room to dodge without interruption, less room for him to hide, and most importantly, less choke points for him to place his traps at efficiently.

Then again, the short term problem was that he was not built to fight with a roaring fire around him. He had a fire element true, but he was fairly certain that he wasn't good enough with his thaumaturgy to easily manage the blaze of these ancient creatures. At best he'd be able to charge through a small batch of the enchanted flames with some minor burns instead of being completely immolated.

It also didn't help his situation that the enemy Master and Servant were nowhere to be seen. He couldn't look for them with his scope with so much fire between him and the city.

The Servant grimaced and moved further into the forest as the remaining beasts roared in tandem and breathed out a small and unstoppable wave of flames up the path. They set ablaze almost everything that outlined the stairs up to the gate of the temple and only stopped thanks to the bounded fields that the Witch had set up to protect her new Workshop.

Kiritsugu didn't lose his composure as the air around him instantly became so oppressive and overwhelming that had he been human he was certain that he would have passed out. This was why he hated working in the same spot for long periods at a time. His tactics could only work for so long before something gave. Eventually someone developed a brain cell and did something that could counter his setup, regardless of how well founded it was.

Jumping back to a branch that was for the moment not on fire, the Servant moved quickly to at least make the situation a bit less against his favor. The forest was now working against him as opposed to before as the fire greatly restricted his options and places to hide. The faster he got rid of the fire starters the slower the flames would spread and the less he would have to deal with later.

"Break. Augment Accel," Assassin spoke a bit louder as he poured his prana into the next bullet in the rifle's cartridge and took aim once more. Unfortunately he did not augment the ammo for this weapon earlier, and due to the more powerful and volatile nature of its ammunition compared to his machine gun's, he couldn't risk rushing to boost them all at once, which meant a bigger delay between each shot.

The bulls seemed to be gaining steam as they rushed up the hill, destroying and burning any and all vegetation that was in their path be it on fire or not, while at the same time seemingly making an effort to spread the damage outward. Regardless of what happened, his summoner was not going to be pleased by the end of the night.

They were already halfway up the hill path when he downed the two bulls on the other side of the stairs as they were the easier shots. Unfortunately it did nothing to stop the quickly spreading flames, but there was technically nothing he could do about it save for calling Caster to deal with them… so he'd call her when the flames reached their peak.

Jumping to the other side of the path onto another branch that was for the moment safe, the man took aim at the rapidly approaching bulls and put them down. The time it took to boost each bullet individually took little more than a second and a half, but in a battle like this it could make all the difference as the fires continued to spread. Thankfully, disposing of the creature in front stalled the one behind it long enough for him to get a good alignment with its skull.

A brief look around told him that his opponent clearly knew what they were doing. The enchanted flames were spreading quickly and eating up any and every form of plant life it touched. By his estimate, he wouldn't be surprised if the path going up to the temple would at least increase by five times before Caster could manage to reign it all in.

He was snapped out of his observations when he felt the additional prana signatures rushing towards him from deeper in the woods, and the lights coming from their general directions.

The first strike was a distraction. The amount of forestry the enemy intended to destroy was vastly greater than he originally thought.

Kiritsugu was somewhat impressed. He didn't think that there would be another Master or Servant in the war that was willing to utilize such destructive yet effective tactics. Apparently there were some Magi that thought with something else than their pride after all…

"We have a situation." He mentally called out to the Witch. He would never consider her his Master. His earlier decision to put off calling her was scrapped in the face of this oncoming two pronged assault. "I won't be able to defend against this alone without consequence."

Had the enemy simply been charging through the forest, he probably would have been able to route and deal with them eventually…

But they weren't just blasting through the forest, they were setting it on fire too. The longer the fighting took the less area he would have to work with. Given that he wouldn't stand a chance in hell against another Servant in a direct battle, the fact that the locations he was able to retreat from was drastically decreasing was not a comforting thing to imagine. He contemplated putting away his rifle as he ran towards the glowing coming from his side of the forest. The weapon really wasn't meant for closer ranged combat, but he still needed to keep as much distance between himself and the fire starting annoyances as possible and his rifle was one of his strongest weapons.

It took him almost no time to see that the bulls had gotten far farther than he had originally thought, so he had to hurry his counterattack. Unlike the main rush, there were only three bulls this time, but the local foliage and the growing fire around him made the shots more uncertain and closer.

His first bullet struck home and took out the leading bull in a spray of fire, blood, and bone, but the white flames that burst out interrupted his shot for the following attempted assassination. He only managed to blow off the second target's right leg in the chaos as his shot absolutely destroyed the its shoulder.

The moment he saw that the screaming creature was about to faceplant into earth before it, Assassin had turned his attention to the only uninjured beast left. The target was disabled for now and that was enough for now. He'd end it once he dealt with the bigger threat.

Unlike the other bulls he had encountered and shot down, the third one in front of him seemed to notice his existence… no, not his in particular, but the existence of a threat that had murdered its herd and the general direction the attacks came from.

Regardless of what it was, the fact of the matter was that after firing his second shot, Assassin had to jump away to avoid being immolated by a large ball of fire that set the canopy above and around him ablaze.

The Servant grimaced at the fact that he had to take a longer route to get back to the stairs but it didn't distract him from his current priority. Landing on another tree branch without so much as a sound he swiftly took aim and shot the summon's head.

Using another bullet to euthanize the crippled beast he hit earlier, the Servant went over his options. He used a total of nine rounds so far, so he had three left in his clip. If he encountered a stronger enemy then having his rifle out would be a bad idea unless he reloaded, and then he'd have to bother to break and enchant the new clip.

"You are unbelievable…" Caster's chiding echoed through his head. Apparently she had finally bothered to make it outside. "You have let things progress this far?"

Kiritsugu didn't bother arguing with her. "There are still some coming from the north side. Their primary goal is to burn the forest around the entrance of the temple."

"The forest? Why on earth would they attack in such a roundabout and pointless way?" The other Servant grumbled angrily, clearly not recognizing its strategic value. "My counterpart's Master must be more careless than I had estimated… foolish child…"

The witch's ranting was interrupted as the sounds of multiple trees being set aflame and bowled over was heard in the direction that Assassin had pointed out earlier.

"Fine then. I shall take care of the minor distractions. You resume your job, which you are currently failing spectacularly at." Had Kiritsugu not been in his battle mindset, he might have smirked at the woman's misfortune.

Instead of approaching the main entrance to the temple, Assassin ran all the way down the mountain to the city below, jumped between two of the taller buildings that lined up the asphalt, seven and nine stories tall, and landed on the roof of the taller with his rifle cocked and looking up the entire inferno that had been made in the span of three minutes. As a precaution, he boosted his next bullet as well in case he needed to make a quick shot.

After the previous fire that had been made several nights earlier that told virtually everyone where they were hiding, Caster had set up a large bounded field that essentially masked any other fires that would be made on the mountain from the rest of the city.

Clearly it was something that didn't go with the other Caster's plans, as it was no longer up.

Just as he expected, the fires on the mountain revealed from where the enemy had approached, with fire trailing up in straight lines to the entrance from the main path, and originating fifty meters to either side of it at the streets giving the inferno a split triangle appearance, only the edge on the left was stopped about three fourths of the way up and the other half.

BOOM!

An explosion of purple and red flared from near the top of the mountain a bit to the right where the entrance was.

"You could have informed me that my counterpart had added an extra layer of protection to her summons, SERVANT," the witch irritably growled into his skull.

Assassin didn't bother retorting as he continued to scan the burning forest in front of him. With the enchanted flames everywhere in front of him, he couldn't use his sense or his night vision scope to inspect the area in front of him. "I don't see any other fires starting in the forest. The other Caster may be using it as cover…!"

The Servant turned around and cocked his gun just as a new figure materialized on the other side of the building.

"Well now." Lancer grinned as he twirled his crimson spear in his hands. "Who woulda thunk? I came here to see who was having fun and what do you know, I come across the sneaky little bastard that blew me up." The spear stopped spinning. "Don't think we've been properly introduced. The name's Lancer. Pleased to meet ya."

Kiritsugu didn't bother to say anything as the newcomer's talking progressively resembled a predatory growl. He had realized his mistake too late as he took aim with his gun. While enchanting his bullets gave him extra firepower, they also gave off a fairly strong signal of prana, one that easily canceled out his Presence Concealment and made him detectable to the other Servants. Mentally he planned his next moves and called up a particular object from his arsenal…

Try as he might, he couldn't prevent the sensation of a certain unwanted someone watching through his eyes.

"Oh? So Lancer is still alive…" Caster's voice echoed through his mind. He could practically feel her predatory grin grating the inside of his skull. "Well isn't this an interesting turn of events…"

Lancer frowned momentarily as he looked at Assassin's face, or what wasn't covered by his hood. "That's an interesting look you have there. I never expected to come across a Heroic Spirit that's lost the will to live in this War. Almost embarrassing that you've been giving everyone else such a hard time really. You're making the rest of us look bad."

Assassin didn't say anything. He preferred to do productive things instead of talking to his enemy.

"Nothing to say?" The hero of Ireland chuckled menacingly as he took a stance, his muscles coiled up like a panther's body. "Well then there's no doubt that you're Assassin. No other Servant is as dull as-"

BANG!

Assassin's bullet, fast enough to visibly shatter the sound barrier several times before reaching its target only a few meters away, and charged with enough prana to leave a faint glowing trail behind it, hammered into Lancer's spear. As fast as the Irishman was, even he was incapable of getting out of the way of a Noble Phantasm bullet from that range when its velocity was enchanted to be twice as fast as it normally was. In fact he would not have even been able to defend against it in time had he not have his Protection of Arrows ability allowing him to track the projectile just before it would have made its mark.

"Ghhk?!" The target grunted as he held up as best as he could. Even if the Servant in front of him was causing everyone problems, Lancer was still having trouble believing that the attack as powerful as it was. "It's… broken?!"

The prana enriched metal attempted to drill a hole through the legendary Gae Bolg as it pushed its grimacing owner back to the edge of the building. The sound of metal scraping against metal tore through the night sky like a metal voice shrieking in pain conjoined with the explosion like shockwave of the bullet shattering the sound barrier.

As strong as Cu Chulainn was, even he was unable to hold ground against the powerful attack, pushing him almost easily to the edge of the building with his feet skidding beneath him as if he was skiing until he flipped back over the ledge. The sudden change in his body's position allowed him to deflect the bullet away at the last moment, causing it to graze his chest before blink away forgotten over the rest of the city.

Not bothering to waste any time, Assassin put away his rifle and began to take out his Calico machine gun when Lancer reappeared once more, shooting over the edge with a gleefully hungry look on his face and his lance practically glowing blood red.

"Oi oi! Where are you going eh!? Don't tell me you're gonna run away again so soon?! We're just getting started! We have so much to talk about!"

Assassin's reply consisted of a wide slew of bullets that sprayed from his new gun as he jumped off of the edge of the building. The unaltered nameless Noble Phantasm barely did anything to stagnate the blue man's advance as the Servant of Murder disappeared over the edge…

But it was enough to buy the owner enough time to get him out of the blast radius before activating the trigger device in his other hand…

BEEP BEEP BEEP!

Lancer grimaced as he turned to the source of the electronic sound and felt the rapidly spiking prana.

"What the-"

BOOM!

The entirety of the shrinking rooftop behind Assassin exploded violently as the charges he had planted there earlier went off, rocking and illuminating the world around him.

The Emiya didn't bother wasting a moment to pat himself on the back or watch out for Lancer as he went over his situation. The explosion no doubt would draw the attention of the other Caster. The fires made earlier had spread enough that the only reasonable direction left for him to go was up the stairs back up to the temple, which was a straight path with no place for him to hide or dodge. Given the fact that Lancer was probably-

"Get back here you mute bomb addicted little shit!"

-Definitely coming after his life with the single minded determination of one the bulls he slaughtered earlier, the odds of Assassin making it up the entire path all the way was very unlikely.

"You look like you're having fun." Caster chuckled into his head, clearly amused by his predicament. "Any sign of his poor wounded Master by any chance?"

Assassin instead focused on the torrent of flames that came from his right, no doubt the other Caster attempting to take advantage of his exposed state.

He was too far from the building to kick off of it, and he couldn't slow down and lessen the distance between him and Lancer, so his only option left was…

"Time alter. Double Accel."

The quiet Servant's dropping speed doubled instantly, giving him enough distance to put the flames between him and his pursuer.

"Gah! What the hell!? He's down there you bitch! Learn to aim!"

Assassin held his time enhancing spell throughout the entire drop down the side of the building until just before he reached the streets. "Root stagnate."

Even at moving a fraction of the speed he should have been moving once he reached the ground, the shock that went through his legs caused Kiritsugu to grit his teeth in minor pain before he canceled the spell. Had he bothered to notice or care, he would have noted the cracks made in the sidewalk from his landing, however he didn't have time for such useless observations.

He grimaced as he felt Gaia work against his body in redemption for his use of the two spells. While he was more proficient in using his magic as a Servant and his body was much sturdier than when he was alive, throwing in the fact that he was simply altering the speed his body was moving at instead of its internal functions, suffering from the aftereffects of what he just did was not a pleasant thing to go through in the slightest. Still it was nothing compared to what he had experienced when he was alive, so he simply filed away the pain for later. There were far more things to focus on.

Without wasting a single moment, he bolted to the stairs as fast as he could while reloading his Calico, breaking and enchanting the entire thing in the process. He had half a mind to bring out his rifle again for the extra fire power, but with only two bullets left in the clip it was better to use the gun with the bigger cartridge and have a free hand to lob grenades on the side.

"Time magic? My my. You have been hiding something interesting from me after all." Caster's casual voice once more echoed through his head with hint of amusement. "A bit crude in application, but certainly not something one would expect from someone that uses such base tricks as your own."

Just as he managed to step foot in between the two infernos and experience the sensation of being baked from two sides, Lancer had managed to land on the ground in a blind fury. The normally composed, if a bit cocky Heroic Spirit was covered in burns, cuts, bruises and other related injuries from his experiences not even a minute beforehand.

If anyone normal saw him, they would compare his image to that of a feral beast that had just fought his way through a pack of creatures just like him.

Had it been any other Servant, save Berserker, their performance would certainly have suffered from being in such a state. Unfortunately, Lancer's skills all but ensured him to be the most durable (sane) Servant in the War. Nothing short of having his head, heart, or entire body being absolutely thrashed would be enough to put him down, let alone slow him.

All in all, his absurd durability almost made up for his abysmal Luck.

"I'm going to shove those bombs up your ass and pull the pin you little bastard," the absolutely murderous Servant growled savagely before covering the distance between the two at a speed that made him appear to be more of a blur than a human.

The Servant of Murder responded by turning around and firing his machine gun in his pursuer's general direction while continuing his retreat. The enhanced bullets, while still powerful, and capable of punching through the buildings in front of him in their entirety before rupturing on the structure behind them, were instead deflected against Lancer's cursed spear in every and all directions.

The rapid heavy hammering of metal on metal sounded more like cannonfire impacting a metal pillar, with each impact strong enough to be distinctly felt by the nearby hidden party. It almost mockingly resembling the sounds made if Lancer had been fighting against a more traditional Servant. It was enough to at least stall the stronger Servant's rampage as he was now only clearly approaching Assassin instead of nearly teleporting towards him.

Tink tink.

"Lancer! Stop! Get away from the stairs!"

The Servant that was nearly blind with rage was barely snapped out of his rush to the base of the stairs by a familiar voice to notice the lazily bouncing metal canisters coming down the stairs right in front of him.

Not even bothering to try to understand what they were, the wielder of Gae Bolg jumped back as fast as possible on sheer instinct while still deflecting Assassin's bullets, chaining more swears under his breath in his native language.

In mid bounce the two fragmentation grenades went off, spraying supersonic shards of metal in every direction. The bottom of the stairs, the sidewalk, some of the street, and any trees that had somehow remained standing after being hammered by the first wave of fire breathing bulls didn't stand a chance as the explosives did what they did best. Lancer, being only a bit further away, was merely pelted with the burning metal that he could not deflect with his spear. His Protection from Arrows helped somewhat to mitigate the bulk of the damage, but by the time he had landed there was barely a portion of his body that was not cut up or burnt in some way.

"That cowardly…" The Hound of Ireland bared his teeth as blood dribbled from his mouth. As bad as he looked, much of the damage he sustained was thankfully superficial and cosmetic. However, it still left a good number of injuries that had gotten a bit deeper and hurt a bit more than he liked. "I thought you said that he'd be easier to deal with once his playground was burned to the ground!"

"I did. You almost got him didn't you?" Bazett frowned as she exited out of an alleyway far enough from the stairs that she wasn't at risk of being sniped by Assassin. "It's not my fault you've run into everything he's thrown at you face first."

"Pardon me for the interruption…" Luvia walked out from the shadows of another break in the buildings on the other side of the stairs with her Servant by her side. "But might I ask why you are here? From the way you spoke, it is almost as if you knew what I would be doing tonight."

"A giant rat told us," Lancer snorted, looking at the two females with barely any recognition. "You did a good job here, ladies. A shame that torching forests isn't a contest in this War."

"That's one thing to call the boy…" The Princess muttered under her breath as she leered at the sole male there. "The same could be said for being shot and exploded Lancer. You would have likely won the War by now if that was the case."

"Enough!" Bazett snapped, stopping the fight before it even began. "We are all here to kill Assassin and Caster unless you have forgotten. We can deal with one another later."

Luvia crossed her arms and looked at the path up the mountain. "Had no one come I had planned on simply leaving and waited for someone else to take advantage of the altered landscape… however I suppose I can make do with your aid. Your Lancer is a suitable foil, if not distraction, for Assassin while we make our approach."

"Glad to see that I amount to so much in your eyes Princess," the Irishman grunted irritably.

"If you could see yourself in a mirror you would not question our impression." The real Princess smirked.

"Focus," the enforcer spoke up with a frosty tone. It was one she often had to had to use whenever she was teaching Shirou when he was younger. "Let's figure out how to get up there without a bullet in our skulls or blown up with a spell."

o. o. o.

Assassin looked down the sights of his reloaded rifle while sitting on top of the temple gate, and tried to see any non-fire related movement at the base of the mountain.

"Hmmm," Caster mused as she looked around at the inferno that was the forest below them and played with something in her robes. "I do believe that this is the first time that someone else has done more collateral damage than you in a fight since you've been summoned."

The weakest Servant narrowed his eyes as he attempted to extend his senses. "… They aren't coming up the stairs."

"I can see that," his summoner snorted sarcastically. "My you are a wonder at conversation and observation."

Assassin began to turn his attention to the flames and focused prana to his eyes to reduce the glare and try to see through the light. "That's not what I meant."

As if on cue, a massive section of the flames in front of them seemed to come alive and contort its existence to consume them and everything nearby.

"I see," the Witch muttered before speaking a few incomprehensible words to suffocate not only the offending blaze, but any fire within a thirty meter radius of them. "Well if nothing else you are at least adept at reading our targets' moves better than most."

Before Assassin could say anything, not that he would have, a spike in prana caught their attention.

"AEETES!"

A massive prana fueled fireball charged straight towards the pair, far more intense than the previous attack and thus more difficult to counter with mere spellcraft.

Without bothering to signal one another, the two Servants jumped off of the top of the gates in separate directions.

Unfortunately for Assassin, he had headed straight towards a massive charging flaming bull that had burst out of the nearby inferno.

"Tch!" He attempted to point his rifle at the oncoming beast, but it was moving too fast and his gun was too large to get a good shot in. His bullet had barely managed to shred apart a good part of its flank, but it had been a solid enough hit to cause the beast to lean to the side and only deal him a glancing blow instead of hit him square on.

Still, getting hit by a flaming bull hurt regardless of whether it was a glancing or direct connection, and the strength behind it was more than enough to total his gun and left arm in the process. Even if it wasn't a big deal and would heal by the end of the night, the injury would still drastically reduce his capabilities for the rest of the fight.

Thankfully it appeared as if his previous blow was enough to cause the creature forget the fact that it could breathe fire and it instead continued its limping charge to circle around for another pass. The time it took for it to do so gave Assassin the opportunity to look and see his controller holding off Lancer while flying in the sky with her massive blasts of pure prana.

Even though they were technically outside of her workshop, the Witch was close enough that she could still abuse the hell out of her base of operations and whatever twisted contraption she had turned her current Master into, giving her a near limitless source of prana that more than enabled her to wreck most competition and the mountainside that they were battling on.

He was annoyed with the fact that the fool in blue couldn't even tell that she was simply stalling for time. If he knew any better, he would take his master and leave before it was too late…

Turning his attention to the bull again he went over his options. He didn't have enough time to enchant any of his weapons. His opportunist skill was useless now. He had no traps nearby that he could use. He didn't know if the bull's protective enchantments were still in place, and even if he could get to his rifle and enchanted his bullets, he couldn't use it with one arm, and there was no guarantee that this was the only beast left…

That only left…

The bull thundered onto his position with flaming wrath in its eyes, bellowing its literally burning rage at the tiny creature that had hurt it and killed so many of its heard mates. It was trapped. It was weak. It was injured…

It was taking out a new weapon and pointing it at it.

"Contender." Assassin stated emptily, firing the single bullet inside the gun straight at the skull of the beast.

The large bullet fired, even bigger than that of the ones shot by his rifle, wasn't even slowed down by the protective enchantment that surrounded the creature…

No, it wasn't that it wasn't slowed down. The bullet just didn't recognize the mystical defensive protection. It simply pierced through the veil as easily as the air it had previously traveled through, and drilled itself into the target's head, killing it instantly.

"… I was right after all." Assassin muttered as he looked at the killed bull. Had he guessed wrong, that without a doubt would have been his last shot fired in the War.

He had initially been somewhat surprised that his Contender had been turned into a Noble Phantasm in itself when he had first been summoned, and one with such an unreliable ability at that, but it did have its uses…

He barely let the knowledge of what he had done go through his head before he focused on his surroundings once more and noticed the three females at the edge of the flames nearest to him. Instantly he had taken a position ready to move as soon as possible with his non crippled hand already in his coat for one of his remaining weapons. He was slightly perplexed by the tallest woman's expression of absolute shock and confusion though. If he recalled correctly, she was Lancer's Master.

"… No…" He heard her whisper as if in a daze, her gaze upon him was wide, unblinking, and quite frankly unsettling. "That couldn't be… you couldn't be… it's impossible…"

Kiritsugu took out his Calico and pointed it at the three females. He didn't fire it though. It was the only weapon of distinct use in his current situation. He had decided not to use his hand gun for this day in exchange for more ammo and explosives, he still had five more clips for the Calico and eleven grenades of various types left over, but he couldn't use much of anything in his current condition. True he was using his broken left arm to grab some ammo while everyone was distracted, but it was not something he could do frequently or quickly for that matter.

"Run."

"Oh? He can speak after all." The blonde Master put on a proud demeanor that screamed standard blind Magus nobility. Clearly whatever was disturbing the other Master had eluded her completely, and the false sense of victory had rendered her immune to her partner's ramblings. Next to her, the other Caster seemed ready to conjure up whatever spell she had in mind for either defense or offence. "And why would we do that when we are so close to defeating you and your partner?"

"…T-trap." The Servant grimaced as he struggled against the control Caster had over him. He didn't attempt to warn them earlier as Caster was in his head at the time, and Lancer didn't seem like the type to pay attention to him anyways. Despite his hatred for the woman, he could not deny that she was a powerful Master. "Lancer…"

"Lancer?" Caster looked at the other fight where her counterpart and Lancer were still tearing up the landscape with no regards for their surroundings. While the land bound Irishman didn't seem to be able to land a blow to his opponent, he didn't seem to be able to have much trouble getting out of the way of the woman's rain of flashy attacks either. "He doesn't seem to be in much danger…"

"No…" Assassin gasp as his arm began to tremble. Going against the Witch's orders even by this much was doing a number to his focus and body. "Not… Legs…"

"Legs?" The Princess frowned as she briefly glanced at the ground below them for some sort of spell or trap, not noticing the other Master finally snapping out of her delirium and turning an unhealthy shade of white.

"Oh no…" The maroon haired woman whispered as she realized what Assassin was referring to and turned to the enemy spellcaster with a look of pure dread. "I shouldn't have come. I have to get out of here…" She paused for a moment and looked at the stressed gun wielding Servant square in the eyes. "… I have to warn Shirou…"

Assassin's eyes widened momentarily in surprise. He instantly understood what the woman was hinting at, but the fact that she managed to figure it out was something that even he didn't expect or anticipate. Before he could say anything else though…

"Servant!"

… He had to turn his attention to Lancer, who had decided to change objectives and focus on him instead. Despite Caster trying to rain hell upon him in the form of A ranked blasts of prana, the blue Servant seemed to pay them no mind as he focused on ending the weakest Heroic Spirit in the War.

Assassin wasted no time turning performing his trademark maneuver of turning his gun on his attacker while retreating at the same time, however he was just a moment too slow as Lancer managed to close in the distance between them and with his long spear managed to slash his target from shoulder to hip just before having to retreat from one of Caster's spells and regrouping with his Master.

"Ghk!" The weakest Servant grimaced as he landed on a knee and clutched his wound with his good hand while keeping his attention on the enemy. The blow had been severe and painful, but thankfully still shallow enough to not be lethal to a Servant. Had Lancer managed to close in just a bit further, Assassin surmised that he wouldn't be able to escape from the Witch's attack in time.

Panting heavily, he grabbed his torn cloak and began to press it against the wound. While he technically was not at risk of bleeding out as a Heroic Spirit, his blood still contained prana, which he needed as much of as possible if he wanted any hope of healing in time.

"Hmm." The Witch frowned as she floated over the group, more curious and amused by her slave's situation than anything. "It seems as if your luck was just a bit in your favor Servant. You might just live after all."

"Lancer. We have to run. NOW." Bazett hissed to her Servant frantically.

"Hah?" The knight frowned as he glanced at his Master. "Unless you haven't noticed, we're winning at the moment. Even if Assassin can still fight, we're still on the better end of this two on two…"

"What are you so worried about?" Luvia leered at the Enforcer. "Why do you need to leave so quickly?"

"Ohohoh." Caster chuckled as if she was a cat that got away with the canary as she turned to the offending party and reached into her robes. "Ah Lancer. I'm afraid you are mistaken. As it stands right now, the fight is not two on two…"

Luvia's only warning that something was amiss was when she noticed Bazett's body go completely ridged for an instant…

And in the next she had thrown a blindingly fast punch at the girl with enough force to crush her skull.

Had it not been for the Princess's fast spell work that pulled the girl back far enough to only catch a glancing blow, the Edelfelt line would have certainly been short at least one heir.

"What the hell?!" Lancer swore as he tried to make heads or tails out of what his Master was doing before turning his attention to the most likely culprit. "Oi what's going on you old hag?!"

"My my Lancer. It's very rude to speak to your new Master like that. You know, you and that woman you are with should be very careful where you leave your valuables." The Witch's merry tone grew even more sadistic as she took out what appeared to be a crude doll made out of bone, hair, and other indistinguishable materials.

The sinking feeling in the Irishman's stomach fell drastically as he instantly identified what that little toy was made of.

"You never know who could pick them up, or what they could do with them."

They should have assumed the worst case scenario.

"On a side note, I must express my compliments on your Master's new legs. They look quite convincing. I never would have suspected anyone from this weak era could come up with reliable replacements so quickly."

They should have guessed that the Witch of Colchis had found and made use of Bazett's forgotten legs after they had barely escaped alive the first time they had attempted the mountain.

"As I was explaining before, our little fight tonight was never two on two. It was always three on one. I simply humored you to allow myself some amusement and to remind my Servant where his place was."

"Caster!" Luvia shouted frantically as she attempted to retreat from the stronger and more experienced Enforcer while shooting off her Fin curses as fast as possible. "Cancel out her curse or crippler her or whatever! Just stop her!"

"Assassin," the Witch's sick grin commanded, causing her counterpart's heart drop as she turned to the otherwise negligible Servant holding up his machine gun at her, the visible part of his face contorted to show how much he was trying not to go against his orders but failing miserably in the process.

Once more the enchanted bullets flew like rain, attempting to strike down the Princess of Colchis who could only put up a bounded field to protect herself to hold off the assault, leaving her Master to unfortunately fend for herself.

"Damn it!" Lancer swore as he rushed to Bazett, whether to knock her out or drag her away was anyone's guess. It didn't matter though, as he collapsed to his knees thanks to a gravity spell that the Witch uttered when his back was turned. "BITCH!"

"Hohohoho! My how exquisitely wonderful!" Caster laughed in victory. "Two new slaves and my counterpart dealt with in the same night! I dare say that even that girl with Heracles will not pose a significant threat anymore! Ohohohoho!"

She was cut off as a metallic arrow rammed into the bounded fields around her, clearly aimed for her no longer laughing skull. The sudden attack from nowhere caused everyone to pause in confusion. Even the seemingly brainwashed Bazett paused to take note of the unexpected attack from nowhere as the weapon lost its momentum and shattered into prana.

"What?" Lancer blinked in confusion as he attempted to see past the flames that the projectile had originated from.

Luvia on the other hand took the opportunity to run away from her attacker and get back to her Servant, holding her chest in the process. She had been on the defensive for not even half a minute, but she could already tell that at least three of her ribs were broken trying to keep herself alive. Even so, she couldn't help but have a dry smile on. "… So she bothered to come after all…"

"Do it." A young female voice ordered coldly from the flames.

"… My body is made of blades…"

A shiver ran through the spines of the humans there despite the fact that half the world around them was set ablaze. It as if they had suddenly been dunked into a pool of ice water. Both Bazett and Luvia knew those words, though they had rarely if ever heard them actually used in battle.

"… Iron is my blood and glass is my heart…"

But what was most unnerving to them was that the voice speaking those words was not familiar to them. It sounded deeper. Older…

"… I have survived through countless battles…"

"What?" Luvia frowned as she tried to find the source of the voice. If memory served her correctly, that was not how Shirou's personal Aria, the one that enabled him to manifest an untold number of his projections, went.

"… Not once retreating…"

In fact, since when could someone else use that Aria in the first place?

"… Nor once being understood…"

"Humph. How absurd." Caster frowned as she attempted to locate the newcomers. "Trying to use meager thaumaturgy against someone from the age of gods? I'm tempted to let you finish your spell simply to give you the honor of watching me dismantle it. With the power of this temple behind me, there is no Mystery that I cannot surpass!"

"… Always alone…"

"No…" Assassin grimaced as he struggled against his body, ignored by everyone, as he reached to replace his Calico with the only tool he had that would enable him to serve his purpose to Caster. "… Stop…"

"… Intoxicated with victory on the hill of swords…"

"… Impossible…" Even in her possessed state, Bazett managed to utter that single word of disbelief and realization as she figured out exactly what was happening and what it meant.

"… Thus my life has no meaning…"

Something about the world around them twitched in a way. It was felt by Servant and Master alike. Only those that had managed to identify the speaker and were aware of his nature knew what was about to happen next.

"Oi what the hell is this?" Lancer frowned as he looked around. He didn't know why, but he couldn't help but think that his old bat of a teacher had run him through something like this before and that he should be able to recognize it. That alone set of major warning signals in his head.

"That is enough! I have lost my patience!" Caster glared at the flames in front of her, rising slowly higher and manifesting more orbs of pure concentrated prana. It appeared that even she had realized that something was amiss and it was best to address the enemy before they finished whatever mystery they were enacting.

But it was too late.

"… This body is truly… made of blades."

Everyone was caught off guard when the flames to the right of where the arrow had nearly hit Caster moved out in a massive wave and engulfed them. They were somewhat surprised that they didn't generate heat for once given that virtually everyone had been more or less baked at some point in the night. Regardless, the odd phenomena passed them by after a few moments, enabling them to once more take in their surroundings.

"What… what on earth…" Luvia managed to stammer out as she tried to process exactly what she was looking at.

Swords.

Countless weapons littered the dry, lifeless ground for as far as the eye could see and likely beyond the murky smog that hid the distant sky and world around them. Even though it had clearly been night just moments before, it was not some time of day now, though it was impossible to see where the sun was with all the thick smog blocking the sky, slowly leaking up from the dead earth accompanied by scant crimson sparks.

What made the sight even more absurd was the presence of the titanic black gears the size of mountains gyrating in the sky without anything to support them. Whether they were interlocked with one another or hovering by themselves did not matter as they aimlessly spun in place, ignorant and unaffected by the people there or the swords below them.

"… Reality Marble…" the Princess whispered in disbelief, snapping her Master out of her confusion. "Hephaestus himself would be humbled by this land…"

Luvia turned to look to where her Servant was looking, and saw the culprits of the new turn of events…

They were standing on top of the only distinguishable landmass in this absurd world, two figures stood on top looking down upon everyone else there.

The first and more noticeable was the red and black Servant with a head concealing helmet standing taller than anything else there, his hawk like eyes glaring down at his targets with unnatural clarity through the wide visor in front of his face. There was no doubt in anyone's mind that he was the one responsible for the change in landscape, as his very body seemed to… fit, for lack of better term, with everything there.

The second was the teenage girl that was his Master. Unlike her stoic partner, the human, while still keeping up a strong front, was clearly unnerved about something as her attention was constantly shifting between the world around her, her intended targets, and her partner himself.

"I-Impossible…" The Witch shivered as she looked around, finding herself with Assassin, Lancer, and Bazett with her counterpart and her Master a good distance away. It only took her a glance to realize that many of the swords around her were Noble Phantasms. "His Noble Phantasm… makes other Noble Phantasms?"

"Oi! What gives!?" Lancer yelled at Archer. "You actually think that we are with this crazy bitch?!"

The owner of the new world leered at Lancer momentarily. "We are at war aren't we? Isn't it natural to take out as many opponents as possible when given the chance?"

"Coward! Don't you have any honor?!" the Princess shouted angrily.

The Servant looked down at her with little to no emotion. "Hmph. Honor and pride are useless. What's the worst that can happen, we insult the name of our true selves on the Throne? You can always wash away disgrace with results."

"Tohsaka!" Luvia yelled at her rival. "Control your Servant! The Fraga was helping me with the Witch until she did something to Lancer's Master!"

"…Shirou…" The teen blinked as she looked at her summon as if seeing him for the first time. This wasn't the Shirou Emiya she knew. There was no hint of warmth or concern to those that he truly cared about in his voice. There was an unnatural coldness to his tone.

His intent to take out Lancer and Bazett were real. True she had made him use Unlimited Blade works to take out many of the Servants at once, but it was really to trap Assassin in the world so that once Caster was dealt with he wouldn't be able to run away and be dealt with in short order. She wasn't exactly the paragon of fair play herself, but Rin had assumed that given his past relationship with Bazett, Archer would at least put off his fight with her until she wasn't possessed.

She had only heard about Shirou's inner world a few times in passing before, but she was certain that this was not what he described. There was no Moon. No setting Sun. The sky was not even visible with all the smoke leaking up from the dry dead earth.

Wrong.

That growing feeling she had been getting about her Servant since she had summoned him came back in full force. There was no mistake about it. There was something horrifically wrong and skewed about him, even more than he would have to be in order to fully manifest his Reality Marble in the first place.

"… What happened to you? This isn't you… this isn't your world… this can't be…"

Archer didn't bother to look at his Master as he levitated the swords that littered the ground above everyone with but a thought. "I am the boy that Kiritsugu Emiya saved from the inferno at the end of the fourth grail war. And I was the fool that blindly accepted the dreams of that man, and followed them until the very end. No more. No less."

Assassin didn't bother to acknowledge what Archer had said. He knew full well what this version of his son had said and what they had led to. The irony of being struck down by what he had inadvertently produced was not lost on him.

Countless blades were pointed at them now. It reminded him of how Gilgamesh fought during the fourth war, and for good reason. From this angle he could easily see why his son was one of the few people that could defeat the terrifying King of Heroes.

Slowly his wrecked left arm moved to reload his new weapon. He was not concerned though. Archer would strike him down long before he'd be able to fire it off.

He didn't bother to hide his smile now.

Die.

He was somewhat disappointed that Lancer and his Master were among the casualties, and that he couldn't have ensured that Shirou see Rule Breaker, but all things considered there were worse outcomes. They were unfortunate casualties in the grand scheme of things.

He didn't bother to pay attention to Lancer taking a protective position in front of his Master, nor his summoner attempting to conjure anything that could protect her from the oncoming bladed massacre that was his son.

They were going to die.

Kill one to save ten. Ten for a hundred. A hundred for a thousand. The bitter and cursed logic behind all Emiya that strove to become heroes once more took hold.

On some unseen signal, the weapons fell upon them like metal rain.

Die die die die die die die die die die die die die…

And this time, today's sacrifices would the Witch of Colchis, the Hound of Ireland, the Magus Killer, and the cursed Enforcer…

… Whose legs were glowing?

"MOMMY!"

Die die die die die die die die die die die d-

"▅▅▅▅▅▅▅▅▅▅▅▅▅▅▅▅▅▅▅▅▅▅▅▅!"

What could only be described as the purest definition of white noise pervaded not just everyone's ears, but their very beings in a wave of undefinable phenomena that could only be loosely described as sound. In fact if he wasn't sure that the new offensive force wasn't affecting his mind, he would have sworn that the new world around him had contorted under its wrath as well.

It was only after a few moments after trying to comprehend what had without a doubt have destroyed his eardrums that Assassin realized that he somehow wasn't dead yet. Confused and disoriented yes, but not dead.

Grunting in pain and slowly picking himself up, he looked around. They were still in the Reality Marble. He noticed that there were a good number of swords around the intended targets and little girls… wait, little girls?

Indeed, in front of Lancer's Master, who was lying on the ground, were two small children, roughly around Illya's physical age, clearly crying and glaring at Archer.

"Don't hurt Mommy Shirou! She doesn't want to fight you!" the younger one with short hair half yelled half shrieked at the Servant. It was only by the unnatural tone in her voice that made him realize that the children there were likely not human. He wasn't exactly sure what she could be though, as he tended to focus on quelling human issues and the occasional Apostle. His nonhuman lore was a bit lacking.

"Shirou?!" Luvia gasped from her half sitting position as she looked at the somewhat surprised Servant in disbelief before looking at the world around her. "Impossible… you mean all this time…"

"Again?!" The Princess swore, looking as if she was biting on a sour lemon. "You could not be sure of the machinations you have already enacted?! You had to use us even to this degree?!"

While everyone else was focused on the women yelling at the momentarily stunned Archer, Assassin had once again begun to move against his will…

"Banshees?" The Witch laughed in faint disbelief. "She had managed to replace her limbs with Banshees of all creatures? Here? Hahaha. How absurd."

"Run!" The younger one yelled to Archer with a hint of hysteria to her voice. "Mommy says that Archer and Caster have to run away before it's too late!"

"What?" Rin blinked in confusion as she tried to repair her ears. "Why? We have all but won here!"

"Him!" The elder one pointed to Assassin, who had managed to pick himself up and just finished reloading the weapon in his right hand…

Even at that distance, with her reinforced eyes Rin had managed to get a good look at the gun… and her face went ash white.

"… No…"

"Rin?" Archer frowned, feeling Rin's sudden feeling of dread through their mental link. "What's the matter? What is so special about that gun?"

"Assassin… he… he's…" The Tohsaka stumbled back, her limbs shaking as they reacted to their controller's mental state.

Rin was not tech savvy. She was half as knowledgeable when it came to guns. But the one she saw at that very moment was one that she would never forget for the rest of her life… because she had used that very same one two years ago in her fight against a Dead Apostle Ancestor… and it was the only gun that she could say that she was genuinely terrified of without question.

She had thought that the war was as good as hers. She had thought that she knew her Servant like no other and advanced knowledge on everyone else. She had thought that none of the other Servants could ever have anything to counter a Reality Marble possessing an unlimited number of Noble Phantasms…

She was now staring at one of the few, if only weapon in existence that could shatter those assumptions with a single flick of the finger…

"SHIROU!" The mysterious Servant roared as he flicked back his right arm to finish reloading his gun, knocking back his hood to reveal his strained face to the world of blades. Everyone had been taken aback from the sudden outburst, as no one had ever expected the borderline mute Assassin to ever raise his voice to such levels. "RUN!"

"?!" The normally stoic Archer was completely caught off guard by Assassin's identity, so much so that the idea of actually escaping or using the world around him to counter whatever his father was trying to do crossed his mind.

Luvia's eyes widened in absolute shock as she recognized the face of the man she had been researching for years. Even though she had been shown pictures of what he looked like when he was living with Shirou, his current self resembled that of images taken during his most active years. At most he actually looked to be a few years older than she was.

"Kiritsugu… Emiya?"

The identity of Assassin echoed within the Princess as it dislodged the little information she knew about the Heroic Spirit and looked at his unhidden features for the first time. "… The Hero of Sacrifice…"

In slow motion, everyone watched as the Magus Killer's right arm descended. Despite the fact that he was facing Archer, his limb did not stop moving until the weapon it held was facing the dry, lifeless ground below.

BANG!

o. o. o.

"You are a cruel person Master," the King of Rats mused as he watched the events on the mountain unfold from atop the King of the Sky. While Archer's Reality Marble had shrouded a good deal of the battle from them, the end results would none the less be what he had anticipated. "You knew what the Witch had in store for Ms. MacRemitz should she ever come again and yet you still lured her there."

The Twentieth Apostle Ancestor did not show the slightest sign of regret as he sat next to his companion. "We merely informed her of what was taking place tonight. It was her decision to partake in the festivities without thinking things through."

The Rat turned to his Master with a slightly disapproving look. "Be that as it may, even I find it distasteful to risk the children so soon after giving them life. You are normally more restrained when bestowing your gifts onto others."

"Do not worry." Merem didn't blink. "The Witch is no fool. She will keep them and Miss Bazett alive for now. They are all too valuable for her to waste just yet."

The fake human leered at his master as if attempting to decipher a puzzle before sighing again and turning back to the events below. "I suppose. Still I doubt that Lord Emiya would share such sentimentalities should he ever find out you are in part responsible for this and what is to come."

"We shall discuss it when the time comes." The vampire looked down away from the Mountain where until recently another Master and Servant had been silently waiting and watching for their prey to arrive. As intense as the night's battle was, it had been clear that the one they had been looking for was not coming that night.

"As unfortunate as it is, sometimes friends must do distasteful things to one another in order to ensure their growth and survival in the future…"

o. o. o.

A/N:

And Done! My last chapter made before I move to a location that will not perpetually keep my penis at half its size. So the next chapter of… anything really, will be made from Jacksonville Florida. Yay.

You guys didn't think I'd make the war so easy for Shirou to deal with, did you? Heheheh. Oh no. I'm dragging this cluster fsk of a war out for a long while, and after a certain point it won't even resemble what it was supposed to be in the first place. Make of that what you will, I'm not saying any more on the subject until it happens.

Yes. The Thompson Contender is its own Noble Phantasm. I know people are gonna gripe about that.

Too bad.

I'll reveal more about it when Shirou sees it, and yes he WILL see it, but in essence, if Assassin had been summoned anywhere else in Japan, or in New York City, the Contender would have had different, less potent abilities, and if he had been summoned anywhere else period, the Contender would have simply just been another gun for him to shoot with. Basically being summoned in Fuyuki gave him the best boost he could get in terms of abilities and firepower.

As it stands in this war, it's a mediocre NP at best in terms of power. Its real strength though is, like I mentioned before in the fic, more… finicky, and a bit unreliable to use in a fast paced battle with little info. More so than his Origin Bullets actually.

I wanted to actually go a bit further before stopping, but the fight took way longer for me to finish than I had thought for some reason.

Also, this chapter re-introduces everyone's favorite character in his full glory: Trollmine. Screwing up grail wars and families since the nineteen eighties.

Caster used Bazett's blown off legs to make a cursed doll to control her through her item construction ability. I've been hinting at it for ages. Call it a cop out or a poorly written plot twist. Come on. I DARE you.

As for the Banshee kids and being able to deflect Archer's sword rain, yes. It happened. They, Caster, Bazett, and Lancer were about to die via multiple high powered NPs, so… that was a lot of potential and almost assured death heading their way, hence their wonder twin powers activated with much screaming. Like I mentioned before, they have great potential, but they are just kids and can't really use it that well yet.

And finally, yes, Rin will finally get more plot as she realizes that something is really fucked up with EMIYA. Honestly, I'm just trying to write her character as if she isn't trying to babysit a clueless suicidal idiot for the entirety of the story, and that she's known him for long enough that she is used to a good part of his behavior most of the time. Hence, more tsun than normal. Her dere showed in her, until recently, blind trust in EMIYA.

Oh, also, the new fate anime coming out is going to be a different route from the VN. Who wants to bet it's the Illya route or the EMIYA route? Or maybe the route that leads to F/HA?

That's… about it. Gotta finish packing now.

Oh, and I don't really care who wins the super bowl. I'm not much of a sports fan. I'm more in the celebrations for the parties and the commercials…

… Go Sea Hawks.

SO REVIEW! WORSHIP THE LOG! HELP ME COME UP WITH KOTOMINE'S PUBLIC EXCUSE FOR THE DAMAGE DONE IN THIS FIGHT! AND REVIEW AGAIN!