Chapter 41: The Strongest

I do not own Fate/Stay Night and stuffs.

o. o. o.

"Hey. Sirius-jiji, Waver-nii. I have a question."

"Sup lad?" The old man looked up from his notes on intermingling runes with conceptual removal processes. "What's on yer mind?"

"I've been thinking about how the Gate of Babylon works, about how everything on the other side is supposed to be stored in some treasury." Shirou scratched his head sheepishly. "Why can't I do the same thing? Instead of fully manifesting my Reality Marble, I can just make a massive bounded field that acts like a portal between it and this world. That way I don't have to spend prana making each sword individually and can focus on just maintaining the bounded field."

"Ah." Waver shook his head knowingly and took out the cigar from his mouth. "I was wondering if you would suggest something like that eventually. It's a pretty enticing idea I'll admit, but it's also suicidal the way you are now."

"Suicidal?" The teen blinked in confusion.

"Best to start at the beginning. Technically, everyone has a Reality Marble lad, or at least an inner world." Sirius explained, shifting in his seat a bit. "It's just bloody rare that any human manages to have one that's so tweaked and fleshed out that they can manifest it."

"I know that much." Shirou rolled his eyes.

"Then you should know that there have been people that have managed to be 'tweaked' enough to nearly have one of their own before, or at least they believed that they could actually pull it off," Waver went on, turning back to the book that he was reading and began to flip through several pages. "Reality Marbles are a forbidden magic because they are both immensely dangerous to the user and can risk the stability of reality in the immediate area. We have covered many of the inherent dangers regarding them recently during your studies, but I believe some specific examples are needed to drive the point home."

Lord El Melloi II lifted the book for everyone to see the article inside. The report was nearly from a century ago involving a failed experiment.The picture that accompanied it revealed a chamber that was filled and twisted with unidentifiable black goo with white stones jutting out irregularly from every angle.

"Ah. I remember that one. Hard ta forget a mess like that." Sirius nodded as he leaned forward to get a better look. "Balint Meszaros. Hungarian lad with a peculiar talent for decomposition and fossilization-based thaumaturgy, but he was from a branch family so he didn't get a crest. Very quiet. Nearly a third of tha departments at tha Clocktower were always fightin for him 'cause his abilities were so sought after, especially tha Archeology dep. Shocked everyone when he spent most of his time in the ones that had almost nothing ta do with his mysteries in the first place… though I suppose now it makes sense with what he was aimin' for. Always was a bit off kilter that one, made him easy ta remember, but everyone tended ta stay away from him after one dumbass pushed him too far and the idiot ended up on the wrong side of his mysteries. Nasty mess took weeks ta clean up. Didn't know what did him in was Reality Marble research though."

Shirou rose an eyebrow at the fact that the kid had been so sought after. He himself had been approached by a few of the departments as the Magus Killer, but they had never gotten to the point of fighting over him. That was behavior he expected to come about when Rin and Luvia began their studies in earnest.

Then again, with Barthomeloi backing him up, certain behavior and actions would no doubt be affected a bit, so he couldn't really use himself as a good comparison. For all he knew, no one would have been interested in his abilities if she didn't hoist him on a pedestal for everyone to see.

"We found out he was trying to create a portal to his Reality Marble from what remained of his notes, the ones that weren't decomposed by the sludge in the room," Waver went on. "He had apparently been at it for years, obsessed almost, though no one had yet to figure out why. He seemed to be pretty confident in the results despite the fact that he only had a slightly better-than-vague impression of what it was supposed to be like."

"Wait, he tried to literally access his Marble with only that much knowledge on it?" Shirou blinked in surprise.

"You make it sound like what we're doin and what we know is common knowledge." The eldest one there glared at the child. "Lad, you really don't know how lucky you are. Yer old man pretty much gave us step by step instructions on everything there was to know about your world before it was even fully recognized, and Waver and I are probably among the most qualified people in the world to fine tune your Marble in particular from our experiences. Most, no, everyone else in the world would have to start from scratch without any idea what the hell they're doin and keep at it the entire time in order to have any hope of pulling it off, and that's if they were fortunate enough to live long enough to do it."

The boy shrunk in his chair. He had forgotten that his situation was beyond abnormal, even for someone that was somehow able to manifest the forbidden magic in the first place. If there was anything that the old man genuinely hated, it was those that disregarded the importance of hard work and taking things for granted. It was the reason why he rarely if ever got along with many of the pompous and self-entitled nobles of the Tower. "S-Sorry, jiji. You're right."

"Of course I'm right." The tension in the room lightened up slightly as Sirius sagged back into his seat. "I'm always right."

Waver held back a quip about a certain event in a certain bar several years ago in order to get back on topic. "Balint's approach was admittedly impressive, plenty of intricate formalcraft circles and the circuit-engraved fossilized bones of multiple then-recently missing students were set up in preparation to compensate for his lack of power and additional circuits. The field itself was outlined with white stones from Israel that had runes cured with his blood for a month. A strong foundation, not the best but still impressive for one his age. Unfortunately they didn't compensate for the fact that his Reality Marble, his world, simply wasn't stable enough. That in turn made the bounded field he was trying to make weak as there was less foundation on the other side."

"Then recently? Ah hell he was the one that was kidnapping everyone?" The old man groaned. "Ah lost my best assistant at the time cause of that brat. An' after ah did him those favors with his equipment too. Good riddance. Little shit."

"Fossilized bones with engraved circuits?" Shirou blanched.

"Apparently it was a modified version of an ancient Scandinavian method to pass on circuits to further generations," Waver elaborated. "Some families there didn't like giving them to their descendants directly on their bodies and instead engraved them on their bones to make powerful mystic codes with them. It's not used that much these days as crests that cumulate generations' worth of experience have shown to be far more powerful with enough time and investment than a small shop of unique tools that can break or be stolen, even if more than one can access the latter at a time."

"I guess that makes sense,"the youngest one there reluctantly agreed. Personally, he always thought that investing everything into a single resource was a dumb idea, but there were always cases where it couldn't be avoided. "So what went wrong?"

Sirius frowned, grunting deeply and scratching at his chin. "Hmm. A flawed interdimensional bounded field with a wildly unstable and incompatible world… oh. Bloody hell no wonder the poor sod ended up like that."

Shirou nervously shivered at the grimace on the old man's face. Anything that could make the hardened geezer cringe must not have been pretty. "What happened?"

"When it comes to making bounded fields and portals to other worlds and dimensions, certain prerequisites must be met. That much is obvious. Most commonly, the area where the bounded field is taking place must be specifically attuned to handle such a strain, such as when Balint used his formalcraft circles, or an object of significance can be used or sacrificed to establish an anchor of sorts. Thus the blood cured stones from the holy land," Waver lectured factually.

"The other part is ya need ta make sure that you know what's on the other bloody side an' adjust the field accordingly. Make the barrier a smooth converter from one plane to the next. Part of Dimensional Jumping 101, or at least according to Zel." Sirius leaned back on his chair with a deep sigh. "If one or both of these things aren't met, shit can go down badly. More so if the dimension that you're trying to access is in yer bloody soul."

"… Exactly how badly are we talking?" The boy knew he didn't want to know the answer to his question, but he felt it was something he needed to be aware of.

Waver pulled the book back and flipped the page. "It was concluded that due to the instability of Mr. Meszaros' bounded field, the foundation of his impressive bounded field, suffered greatly and couldn't maintain the balance between both dimensions, even though the link between the two had been successfully established. The barrier's safeguards collapsed and wound up being more akin to a hole than a gate. Ultimately, Gaia's influence invaded through the opening and invaded the boy's weaker and vastly less stabilized soul."

"Popped him like a balloon from tha inside out." Sirius nodded solemnly. "Never had a chance."

"W-wait. Then how come normal Reality Marbles work?" Shirou stammered at the thought of exploding from his soul being flooded by spirit of the world. "Wouldn't the same risks apply?"

"First, you have to remember that most of the time they don't work, and most attempts that try end up like this. That's part of the reason why they're banned from being studied. The fatality ratio is next to absolute. We've said it before, but you're an extreme exception to the rule, Shirou," Waver pointed out as if it was obvious. "The second part is that when fully established, they aren't making a connection or a link between worlds. When the bounded field is set, everything on the inside is temporarily considered the established world itself and everything outside is still part of Gaia. Purposefully making a space where the barrier between Gaia and Unlimited Blade Works is that weak is just too dangerous unless you could be certain that the membrane between the two could keep them distinctively separate locations. Not to mention what could happen to you if a foreign object actually traveled through it and got stuck in your world…"

"All righ', all righ'. Ya made your point Lad. It's dangerous. Now ta be fair though, it technically isn't impossible ta pull something like what he suggested off," Sirius cut the Lord off before he got lost into his theoretics, scratching his beard in thought. "To be fair like you said, Boundaries between different worlds are used pretty frequently more advanced members of tha Association, though it's mostly tha Department of Spiritual Evocation that do that. It's pretty common ta use them as instant kill traps or a cheap way ta summon an unlimited number of short lived beasts. But, most of the time they're ta places that've been already identified and researched for decades before any long lasting bridges were attempted. There are only a handful of magi out there that are able ta use portals ta other realms so casually, and most of them are as old as I am."

"Don't forget the fact that if he does use it like Gilgamesh, he's going to need the barrier to remain stable even while forcing out the contents of Unlimited Blade Works out at rapid intervals instead of just occasionally transporting a person or an object across the realms once. The usages are completely different. Trying to keep the barrier stable while it's being utilized in such a way would require an absurdly strong foundation to keep it from falling apart." Waver went back to smoking his cigar and reading his book. It wouldn't surprise the other two males if he was going through it to look up more examples to support his claims.

Sirius patted Shirou on the back roughly. "Best put that project to tha side till ya fully realize your Marble ta be safe lad. Better ta be safe than all over tha room."

"Fine." The teen grunted as he gave up on the subject. It was hard to argue against his teachers in matters like this. They had long since proven that their knowledge and experience vastly surpassed his own, even in subjects that he was supposed to be unmatched in. Truth be told he already was spreading himself thin with all of the other things he was researching at the moment on top of the jobs Barthomelloi was giving him.

Besides, if he stuck to the plan and was careful enough, there wouldn't even be much of a need to expose himself in the first place…

o. o. o.

It was shortly after noon when Caster's familiars spied an unfamiliar man with golden hair and crimson eyes walking casually from the Church.

Impeccably dressed in the latest fashions, young, confident, and handsome, he casually made his way into the city without a care in the world. If he knew he was being watched, he either was exceptionally good at hiding it, or he simply just didn't care.

The Witch had to admit, if she didn't already know who and what he was, she would have considered him quite a catch. None in her era, demigod or not, were as naturally attractive as Gilgamesh.

She had spent much of her time preparing until then. Planning her moves. Gaining power. Recovering from her injuries. Increasing her defenses. Stabilizing the mysteries that contained her Master…

It was especially difficult to hold her hand back while her counterpart and Archer were just outside her territory, dismantling the traps and bounded fields that she had begun to set up earlier. Rider's Bloodfort Andromeda had been turning out quite nicely with some of her aid, but the interference would send their work back quite a ways.

It was obvious that the pair had been in contact with the boy. Instead of following the Priest's instructions, the brats were still focusing their attention on her. Weakening her defenses. Putting her on guard. Keeping an eye on her activities. Instead of resting easy after the Priest's announcement and focusing on her projects, she was left sitting on her hands and watching her defenses get dismantled by the hour.

The most damning bit of evidence though was the fact that they were always going for the Bloodfort Andromeda sigils, knowing exactly what to go for. The only way they would have known about Rider's Noble Phantasm was if someone that already knew of it told them.

That blasted boy. He had long since proven to have a knack for predicting and reading the movements of his enemies. Likewise he made it a habit to cut off these plans before any real progress could be accomplished. What was happening just outside the only entrance to her territory was but another example of his cunning hand at work.

The interlopers were always within arm's reach of their Masters. She would have attempted to have Assassin pick them off from a distance; however, Archer in particular seemed to be able to locate his father rather easily.

Unlike their first encounter, the younger generation Emiya seemed to be aptly prepared for his father's tactics. He was always in between his father and any targets, and traps that were left across the buildings in the area by the senior were avoided long before any risk was posed.

She would have blamed Assassin for not putting effort into hiding himself, but after she lost track of her arguably most dangerous asset for the fifth time and only found him again thanks to Archer's movements, she thought better of it. Although she would never admit it, apparently the eyes of an Archer class Servant served better in some cases than ancient mysteries from the Age of the Gods after a certain distance.

Useless.

Other than placing additional traps down in key locations and keeping the enemy on guard, Assassin was completely useless for the time being.

Ultimately, nearly all of the sigils and traps that were mystical in the city were either completely shut down or lessened considerably within a matter of hours and would likely continue to do so for the rest of the day. She had to acknowledge her counterpart was rather apt at locating and destroying her mysteries with relative ease and speed. Honestly, she would have been rather disappointed if she couldn't. It was a rather conflicting subject for her.

Thankfully, the group never strayed near the temple entrance itself, so there was some measure of defenses that were left available to her to employ in the face of an assault.

Her confidence fell.

This still left her in a dilemma. She couldn't move yet even if she wanted to. It was still the middle of the day and she didn't want to draw any unnecessary attention to herself just yet. If she did, her other and Archer would notice her movements immediately. She couldn't afford any distractions.

No, she'd have to wait. One of the biggest flaws with human Masters was that they needed rest. They didn't run perpetually without prana like Servants could all the time. Sooner or later they would have to retreat.

Fortunately those two brats appeared to have had better months given how they looked at the moment. She honestly didn't know how or why they were in such a condition, but she didn't particularly care either. At best it was a relief. Amusing almost, as she watched them from a distance trying to see where Assassin would try to snipe them from next without being seen. It was one of the few real benefits that the man managed to serve right now.

It all depended on where the King of Heroes was going. She had a good idea where that might be, but it was best to be safe. If he returned too early then her plans would be ruined. She would have to keep track of him in addition to the unwanted pests outside her home and the forest where her real enemies waited.

Patience. That was all she needed at the moment. She wasn't in any danger so long as she didn't do anything. The moment she took to the stage the whole game would change. There would be no second chances.

It was risky, but the payoff in the end would be well worth it.

And if she was lucky, she would be left with no opposition.

o. o. o.

"I don't think I've ever had to walk so far just to have breakfast before in my life." Sakura yawned loudly as she sat in the tremendous dining room.

"It's three in afternoon." Leysritt pointed out from her position by the door. As a maid of the household, it was her duty to wait and attend to the guest's needs at a moment's notice.

"And we thought that Luvia liked to overdo things." Shirou matched Sakura's movements perfectly with half closed eyes.

"I apologize if our services do not meet your standards." Sella evenly bowed from another specific location in the room, just barely preventing the irritation in her voice from leaking out.

"Why does the table have to be so high up?" Illya groaned from the head seat, dressed in nothing but her night wear and faring none better than her guests, complete with bed hair and an expression that would match any child that was as old as she appeared.

"The table has always been of that height my lady." This time the head maid's composure did slip just enough to allow her eyebrow to twitch. "Please remember that you are with guests. You are representing the Einsbern."

"Sloppyness and inattentiveness are the enemy." Saber nodded sagely as she finished her second omelet. "May I have another please? I am quite interested in how western cuisine differs from eastern in this era. The tastes and diversity in both so far are quite enjoyable."

"As you wish." Leysritt bowed softly before moving to the kitchen.

"Onii-chaaan. Why didn't you make breakfast?" Illya moaned childishly. "You cook so goood. I wanted you to make waffles."

Sella's eyebrow twitched again. If there was one thing that Illyasviel would never budge on regardless of how mature she acted, it was her illogical love for the breakfast treat.

"I always work out before I eat when I get up." Shirou blinked heavily. It was getting harder and harder for him to wake up. "Problem is that it's been taking me longer to get through my routine these days. Everyone would have been too hungry by the time I would have finished. I'll try to make it for you tomorrow."

"Onii-chan's waffles. Yaaaay." The albino cheered half-heartedly as she swayed left and right, struggling to keep her balance and her consciousness.

"Do you even have a waffle iron?" Sakura turned to Sella in mild curiosity. They were pretty uncommon in Japan. Come to think of it, she's only had them in the very occasional diner or that one time she stayed at a western hotel for a school trip.

"Yes." Sella nodded. "It was not expected considering how superfluous the device is. However given recent revelations I suspect that certain outside parties were responsible for it."

Shirou didn't even bother to look ashamed by the accusing look he was getting. "Illya liked waffles long before the fourth war. Whenever dad upset her, he had the maids make her waffles as an apology. The one time he tried making them, he nearly burned down the castle. I remembered it when I was tweaking the kitchen and added it to the list of supplies. Simple as that. It's not part of some conspiracy."

"So that's why the older maids in the kitchen reacted that way whenever someone tried to make them." Sella muttered under her breath, remembering her seniors always shifting around nervously or running from the kitchen whenever she tried to make the breakfast dish for her charge. She had always assumed it was merely because until she came about, everyone was to have been ordered to treat Illyasviel indifferently. The rule was enforced so harshly that a few models were even scrapped for going against it.

"Onii-chan got me waffles. Yaaaaay." Illya continued to sway in a daze with a content smile on her face. "Oh. Can you make bergische waffles?"

A brief flicker of amusement flashed on his face. Kiritsugu rarely talked about his daughter in length with him, even at the end. However there were a few key facts that he could make use of. "With rice pudding, chocolate sauce, powdered sugar, cinnamon, syrup, and strawberries?"

"… Best. Onii-chan. EVER."

"It must be nice to be fed like this every day." Sakura sighed happily as she ate some freshly cut fruit, savoring the juices in her mouth. She made a point to completely ignore Illya on the verge of drooling at the prospect of Shirou making what appeared to be her favorite guilty pleasure meal of all time. "Even if he is a good chef, Shirou can't afford to spend so much on ingredients as nice as these all the time."

"You are too kind, Matou-sama." Sella nodded in thanks. "However most of our meals here are tamer compared to this. It is only proper to bestow our generosity upon our guests when we host. Even if the circumstances are irregular."

"Mmm." Shirou knew right off the bat what the maid was talking about but he was too tired to make a comment on it. Instead he looked at the other individuals that were at the table with him. "Hey, why are you two so tired as well?" They weren't part nocturnal blood sucking aliens or engaged in any strenuous activity last night, so there was no reason for them to be as wiped as he was.

"We were up all last night too, Shirou." Sakura yawned, keeping her mouth open just long enough to get another piece of grapefruit into it.

"I'm still growing. I need my sleep." Illya grumbled in turn. She didn't mention that she had spent most of the night reading more of Kiritsugu's notes while waiting for Gilgamesh's apparent arrival. "Bed. Fluffy. Sleep."

He could only nod in agreement with his sister's last statement. While he wasn't used to them in particular, he couldn't deny that the beds that they had slept in particular were exceptionally soft and comfortable to rest on. The goose feather pillows that his head literally sunk into were a particularly nice touch.

"Shirou, you need to fit some of your guest rooms with what she has." Sakura turned to him pleadingly. "I think this house has ruined me for life when it comes to bedding."

"Don't you think you're stretching that just a bit too much?" It was too early for him to deal with unreasonable requests.

"No." The sleep deprivation in the girl had given way to pure selfishness.

He couldn't help but give her a skeptical look in response to just how quickly she shot him down. Normally she was a bit more gentle and considerate when she was trying to make a case for herself.

Still he knew a lost argument when he saw one. This wasn't the first time something like this had happened. If he kept up his resistance on the subject, Sakura would somehow manage to get Rin to spend the night here to get further backup. Normally he could manage to hold his own fairly well against either one of the sisters, but it was all over if they ganged up on him. Arguing during a state of war for strategy and logistics he was good at, but he was absolute crap when it came to home decorating that didn't involve the kitchen or dining room.

"Haha. Onii-chan's whipped." Illya laughed at his expense.

"Illya be nice or you won't get waffles."

"Nooo! Not the waffles!"

"Threatening others by withdrawing food from them is most dishonorable, Shirou." Saber glared at her Master disapprovingly.

Said glare disappeared moments later as Leysritt came back with her third omelet.

"I'm beginning to think that you should have started off with that when the war first started. It would have saved you a lot of trouble and time that way." Sakura glanced at the siblings skeptically.

"Sakura, don't take this the wrong way, but I pray that things will never be that simple." He shivered unconsciously. "I'm terrified of what the world would be if it was."

"There would have been more waffles in it!" Illya pointed a fork at her brother accusingly. "With syrup and sugar and cherries and-!"

Nobody missed the girl's body suddenly go rigid and her eyes widen in momentary shock.

"Is it?" Sakura looked around hesitantly as the light mood around the table was killed off instantly. Shirou's posture straightened and Illyasviel's appearance seemed to sharpen and age about a decade in an instant.

"Everyone else go to the observation room to confirm who it is. I'll prepare my things. We can't afford to waste any time." Shirou got up quickly and began to move. "If the bounded fields are dismantled, there is a good indication that Caster has come. Regardless, be on the lookout for multiple intruders. Don't do anything to aggravate them with the bounded fields unless absolutely necessary. It would only prompt them to approach faster and lose us time in the end."

Normally the Einsbern Castle defenses would be a solid boon against an invading party, but the two most likely offending parties were a master of mysteries stemming from the Age of the Gods, and the most powerful Servant ever summoned. Either one of the two Servants would consider the spells used on them child's play to ignore or tear apart. Honestly, Shirou doubted that they would even be able to make the Servants break their stride.

"Leysritt and I will clean up here in the meantime." Sella sternly claimed as her partner began to gather dishes. It was not their place to do fighting if possible. Their job was to take care of Illyasviel and maintain the property.

"Stick with Illya when you're done. I highly doubt that things will be as simple as it looks." Shirou left the room at a brisk pace, not bothering to pay attention to anyone else as he went.

"Please come to me if you have any further concerns." Saber finished the last bite of her omelet and wiped her mouth before finally standing herself. Unlike everyone else in the room, she did not initially appear to be excited or alarmed at the sudden turn of events. "I will be relaying any information we come across while we prepare."

It somewhat surprised Sakura to see how quickly everyone and everything could change so quickly. Even though they had only just started to work together, they all moved quickly and efficiently like a well-oiled machine. Before she realized just how fast everything was going, she was already looking at a crystal ball with an image of Gilgamesh casually walking through the woods.

"Is that him?" The albino's voice was calm and mature, but the others in the room could tell that that it was a front to cover her uncertainty of the situation. "Is that the Archer of the previous war?"

"Yes." Saber didn't blink or turn away from the image of man dressed in a tailored suit and white coat. He was one of the few people in the world, past or present, that she disliked more than Kiritsugu. "That is the King of Heroes."

As if he heard them talk about him, the golden man paused for a moment and seemed to look directly at them through the crystal ball. The small gesture seemed to cause Sakura and Illya to flinch back in surprise, though Saber didn't flinch. She had already half expected this to happen after her experience with the Caster of the previous war.

"I expect you have an appropriate welcome for me, Saber." His voice was loud and clear for them to hear. "Regretfully I have not come for you in particular this day, but it is a woman's place to wait and prepare for their betrothed's arrival."

All three of the women in the room felt chills up their spine. Saber of course despised the idea of belonging to the pompous man, but it had just been confirmed for Illya and Sakura that he was coming for them.

Having said his piece, the trespasser resumed his casual trek through the woods, pleased with himself if the small amused smirk on his face was any indication.

"He still has his way with words, I see."

The three looked up to see Shirou standing in the doorway. Much of his attire was fairly unchanged from earlier, jeans, sneakers, and a black and blue t-shirt that one could find anywhere. However, it was the additions that caught everyone's attention.

The most obvious was the large thick dark-brown raincoat that he wore over everything, in many ways resembling the cloak that Kiritsugu wore when he was alive. Lined with pockets on the inside and outside, the material used clearly had some sort of property that was designed to protect him while on the job.

Second most obvious was that he was wearing his ever present shroud around his neck, mouth, and nose like some sort of ninja knockoff. Unlike when he was in the Clocktower, he didn't cover his hair this time, but it didn't change the fact that it was an interesting look that complimented his skin tone and hair color.

Third was his chest, or more specifically what was under his shirt. It was clearly apparent that he was wearing armor of some sort given that the fabrics across his front was more stretched than it had been before. It also accentuated certain areas that didn't exist on a normal human body.

Last was the belt he was wearing, more specifically the sword shaped precious and semi-precious jewels embedded in it every few inches, each one at least twenty carats in value. It didn't take more than half a glance for everyone in the room to notice that each gem stored a sizeable amount of prana in them. It was without a doubt going to be a vital asset in the near future…

"… You couldn't come up with a better design for the belt?" Illya couldn't help but ask before realizing she had said it out loud.

But it didn't change the fact that the strip of leather was gaudy as hell and clashed with the rest of his outfit. Each gem shone with a different color, easily catching the eye of anyone that glanced at the wearer. If the range of colors were any more diverse it would almost fit right in at a gay pride parade.

"I couldn't find the outer covering for it. It wasn't with the belt when I went through our things." The only proof that Shirou was bothered by his belt's exposed appearance was his twitching left eyebrow.

Sakura simply kept quiet and hid her face. She had known about the belt for quite a while and had actually helped store prana in it every now and then. Even if they weren't as charged as the one Rin was carrying on her now, the amount of power around his waist was not unsubstantial. It wasn't until now though that she remembered its existence and what it was likely for in the end.

Still, it didn't change the fact that he looked absurd with technicolor lights coming from his waist.

"It certainly is a rather… unique, design." Saber tilted her head to the side in curiosity, making note of all the gems being shaped like miniature blades.

"Sword incarnation. Remember? It's not my fault that shaping them this way makes it easier for me to store prana in them. Rin thinks that… never mind. Unless you want to help find the sleeve for this thing, can we please drop the subject? I couldn't find it with my research materials so I think it might be mixed up with our clothes when we unloaded the car."

"But you look ridiculous!" Illya couldn't tear her eyes from the gems. There was a time and place for showing off one's affluence and now was certainly not it. "You're supposed to be a badass mercenary, not some hip hop poser from States showing off your bling!"

Shirou decided to ignore his desire to know how his sister was aware of these terms when she was supposed to be secluded in the German Alps by a magus family for the entirety of her life. "Focus. Gilgamesh might not be the only one coming."

"I'll go look through my things." Sakura sighed, knowing that the sooner the issue was dealt with the sooner it would be out of everyone's heads.

"I will come with you just in case." Saber stepped forward. She had yet to materialize her armor, but it was only a matter of time until it would be called up once again. "We can relay messages should something happen."

"I don't see anything other than Gilgamesh." Illya barely noticed Shirou approve of their decision and the leave of the girls. "He doesn't look like he's in a rush to get here either."

"He knows this is the best place we have to fight him. Anywhere else would only give us more things to worry about than not. Even so he's confident that he'll have no trouble wiping us out. Not that I can blame him." Her brother commented as he examined the blonde man strolling through the woods towards them with barely a care. "He's probably fought against more than a fair share of 'final stands' when he was alive. This isn't something new for him."

"He knows he's walking into a trap, but he's confident that it won't amount to anything." Illya summarized ominously. She'd be lying if she didn't feel a subtle chill down her spine. This was after all a Heroic Spirit that represented not the overwhelming odds that were overcome by the few and the rare, but the overwhelming odds itself that snuffed out virtually everyone else.

"How long will it take for him to get here?"

"If he keeps walking straight towards us, I'd say about another three hours. Give or take." She admitted. It was a four hour walk from the main entrance of the woods, but the detection bounded fields only reached an hour in so that they wouldn't be going off on every random pedestrian that wanted a casual stroll in the woods. "If he decides to rush it though, I wouldn't put it past him to make it in ten minutes."

"Turn on the spiritual defenses to buy time if he goes for the latter. Otherwise leave him be. The more time we have the better." He didn't turn his eyes away from the orb. "When he gets close, open the main doors of the castle completely. He won't be able to resist an open invitation. We can use that."

"And you'll be there to greet him with Saber." She had wondered how her brother was going to lure their enemy into position so the bombs would have their maximum effect. Turns out he didn't have to do much in the first place. All they had to do was cater to the man's ego.

"Lady Illyasviel. We have finished cleaning break…fast." Sella and Leysritt walked into the room but were almost instantly distracted by Shirou's attire, more specifically his belt.

"Shiny." The second maid blinked in curiosity.

"I know, right?"

"My eyes are up here." For the love of all that was decent he prayed that Sakura and Saber found the sleeve for his belt soon. The last thing he needed was for Gilgamesh to be fixated on his crotch region when they started to fight.

Through all the childish banter and chaos though, he couldn't help but get a bad feeling down his spine. He glanced at the crystal ball again to see that his enemy was still just taking his time to get to them. Fighting Gilgamesh was going to be a nightmare in itself…

… But he couldn't help but think that he was missing something important, something blatantly obvious, and it was staring at him in the face as the clock continued to count down.

o. o. o.

"I think I just lost five years off of my life." Rin groaned as she plopped down into her seat in Luvia's dining room.

"We barely did anything and I'm exhausted." The host mimicked her guest's movements, matching bags under her eyes.

"It's like I just started learning how to tend to my father's heard all over again." Caster joined the group uncharacteristically.

"I'll prepare the tea," Archer excused himself, completely unaffected by the day's events unlike the others.

"DAMN STRAIGHT YOU WILL!" All three women shouted at him at the same time just as he disappeared around the corner.

"Really, it's unfair how he can still be so easygoing and calm after all that." Luvia huffed, crossing her arms underneath her chest. "One would think that he would have it the worst among us given who Assassin really is."

"I wouldn't be surprised if he half wanted Assassin to attack." Rin closed her eyes and tried to get some rest. She knew damn well that Archer had great deal of mixed feelings when it came to his father, and wisely didn't bring it up among the perpetual questions she asked him throughout the day. Her command Seal was still active, so he was still obligated to tell her the truth. As such, she used him to keep up to date with his observations while they traveled around town.

She quickly realized the miles of difference there was between them in terms of experience. By the time Archer had finished explaining one situation in its entirety, at least five things had changed to alter their status completely. She and Caster both had some combat experience, but it quickly became clear that Luvia was the only other person in the group that could keep up with the situation with as little information as possible. Sometimes the blonde only needed to see Archer move to a new position to comprehend just what had happened and react in turn to maximize efficiency.

"Please don't say such things. I'd rather not have to deal with more concerns than we already have." Caster leaned back in her seat and allowed herself to connect with the defenses around and inside the building.

It had been less than a day since reality had crashed down upon them, and their willingness to work together was poor enough to begin with. Archer's apathetic personality got on everyone's nerves every time he spoke, but he did not have anything against the partnership itself. Once asked to do something he would perform to the best of his abilities regardless of how he felt, and that willingness to cooperate was one of the main factors that led to the further building defenses around the house.

With his input, Caster was able to fine tune some subtle weaknesses and flaws in the manor's physical and magical foundations that were for the most part easy to adjust. Though he was extremely skeptical and remiss to the idea since it would give Caster a better understanding of his magic, the two Servants had also constructed a bounded field around the building that would enable him to utilize his Reality Marble with far greater ease.

According to Caster, Archer's generalized method of projecting his weapons was similar to her summoning mysteries, as both creatures and blades are originally from another reality brought into the current one. Using his fully manifested Reality Marble as a basis, she managed to make it so that the barrier between this world and Archer's world was notably thinner than normal. This in turn allowed him to summon weapons from his world with far less cost and ease.

Archer confirmed her work moments later as he pulled several tools from his soul out around him at once, spinning them in place, and then dismissed them with but a thought.

Caster probably would have been somewhat pleased with the display had he not been conveniently pointing the weapons at her the entire time.

"Has there been any word from Emiya?" Luvia asked her butler as he came into the room with treats and water for the girls.

"He has not made contact, though there are some members of the family back home that are quite curious as to the recent turn of events," the elderly man admitted. "The priest's declaration seems to have made waves throughout our kind in Europe already."

"That's fast." Rin popped a sweet into her mouth. None of them had trusted their security in the city with Assassin constantly having them in his sights so they went without lunch. "I know word tends to get around fast, but I didn't think that the Association was full of nothing but gossips."

Luvia didn't have the nerve to look at Rin, knowing very well that this had been part of Shirou's fallout plan to protect her in the first place. "That's the troublesome part of politics, Tohsaka. If enough people know of you, then everything goes to hell when you do something notable, for better or for worse."

"She's right." Archer walked into the room with a tray full of cups, tea, and hot water. "It may not be my place to say it, but it will only get worse in the oncoming decades. I highly advise against being someone of public worth in Europe, the Middle East, Africa, or China for the time being."

"That bad?" Rin skeptically rose an eyebrow as he poured the hot water.

"I've heard you state on many occasions that the bulk of politicians could benefit from some common sense lessons taught by me," he dryly retorted.

"Don't take this the wrong way, but I don't envy your future Master." Caster glanced at Luvia with pity.

"I'm sharing similar sentiments sadly." Luvia sighed in depression as she accepted her cup. "I thought that the future was as assured most think, Archer. The war itself could go a number of different ways."

"If the various European economies that make up the Euro are the same as I remember it, I find certain outcomes very difficult to alter." He snorted. "That fiasco in Ukraine practically started the second Cold War. America couldn't get its head out of the Middle East's ass fast enough to stop the fallout from affecting nearly everyone, and while all the other major world powers were busy trying to clean up their own messes, China started to push its weight around here as if it was the only country that mattered anymore."

"Archer, as much as I'd love hearing about how our future is going to suck, can we please focus on the current war?" Rin glared at her ranting Servant, annoyed for a great number of reasons, but mostly just wanting to get her tea at the moment.

"Wait. For future reference, which economies are we talking about?" Luvia quickly inquired.

"Portugal, Ireland, Italy, Spain, and Greece." Archer recited almost instantly. "Especially Greece."

"… Why do you remember those countries so easily when you still have trouble remembering large chunks of your past?" Rin slowly asked, danger lacing her voice.

"You'd be surprised how many corrupt politicians are 'just identified' by outside parties in times of economic crisis." He handed her the last cup of steaming tea. "By the time they finally started to make any real progress to recovery, their government must have changed leading parties at least half a dozen times, a new face each time. It was like dealing with a mentally challenged hydra. Your words by the way, not mine."

Caster winced. She had witnessed her aunt deal with an adolescent hydra on her home island once in her later years. Of all the words that could describe the monstrosities, tenacious would be the one that stuck out the most. The blasted things just wouldn't die.

"Any chance that you could recall which companies would be good investments? And any possible market crashes?" Luvia pushed her luck.

He held back a groan of annoyance. He had always managed to avoid answering these questions in the other worlds for a reason, but he didn't have that luxury anymore. He obviously didn't pay much attention to the stock market much when he was alive, but there were some names that it was simply impossible to ignore while travelling all over the world. "If Apple's and Google's stocks haven't skyrocketed by now, buy as many as possible. As for crashes, my advice is to just sell everything everywhere by 2008."

It was rather sickening just how many people were willing to spend fortunes to kill other people when money was in short supply among the masses.

"Apple? Google?" Rin tilted her head in confusion in not recognizing the names. "Why would I be interested in companies that specialize in fruit and mathematical theoretics?"

Archer and Luvia merely glanced at one another with the same expression. While many aspects of the greater world-wide-web had yet to become mainstream, the two companies specifically mentioned were already fairly well-known names around the modern world.

"I take it that you've avoided this question in the past for this very reason," the blonde observed.

"You should have seen her try and learn how to use the internet for the first time." He didn't know what got fried first, the computer from all the viruses it got or Rin's brain from all the hardcore porn she had consistently stumbled across.

"I'm right here," Rin growled irritably. Her mood had been poor to begin with and it didn't fare better with constant jabs at her shortcomings.

"I'm certain it must have been an experience." The noble decided to drink some more tea in order to buy time to control the amused smirk on her face.

"It was an event that held ramifications for everyone that spanned for decades." There was a haunted tone in his statement that caused nearly everyone in the room that wasn't Rin to laugh to one degree or another.

"Archer…" His Master turned to him with a look that he had grown exceptionally familiar to when he was alive.

Before anymore misfortune could befall the tallest individual in the room, Caster stiffened and her face fell. Instantly she stood up, completely ignoring the drink that she had been holding in her hands just moments before.

Archer had moved before she had even finished getting up, putting away the kettle in his hands for a pair of black and white blades before any of the girls had realized something was off. "How many?"

Caster had already enacted her bounded field's defenses and was tapping into her territory's mysteries. "… Two. Judging by how they feel, one of them is likely to be Assassin. I don't think the other is my counterpart though. She would have done something to deal with some of my countermeasures by now."

"An attack?" Rin blinked in surprise as she finally realized that things had completely changed. "Why now? Assassin was stalking us all day but only now decides to do anything? Fighting here would put them at a huge disadvantage."

"Something else must be happening." Luvia frowned as she tried to piece together things as quickly as possible. It only took a few moments for her to remember what that "something else" likely was as her eyes widened. "No, she couldn't be timing it while-!"

"GET DOWN!" Archer's roar reached them just as everything outside burned such an entrance white that the humans on the inside were blinded.

A fraction of a second after the girls had been thrown away from where they had been, the world exploded. A tremendous unseen force hammered the building's side, overwhelming the combined defenses of its original protections and Caster's additions in just over a few seconds. Every piece of glass and dishware in the room shattered from the simple shockwave that pulsed throughout the structure.

Thwump.

The two humans there couldn't help but cough as air saturated with dust and debris entered their lungs with every breath. The once well decorated and clean dining room had been turned inside out in an instant, lit up only by the setting sun in the distance.

Thwump.

The girls had trouble picking themselves up. They couldn't breathe, they couldn't see much, their bodies were still stunned from the surprise attack, and last of all was the irregular pulsing of the air around them.

Thwump.

Every few moments the air pressure around them increased so suddenly that it felt like they were momentarily being battered and smothered at the same time.

"What the hell?" Rin looked around as much as she could despite her condition. She wasn't hurt that badly thanks to Caster's protections and Archer's warning, but her sense of coordination was not at its peak at the moment.

Still, it didn't take her long to find the source of the irregularity considering the fact that it was glowing such a fierce white that it was lighting up more of the immediate area than the sun was.

Thwump.

"R-Rider." Luvia managed to get to her knees with wide eyes. While she was stunned by the attack and the appearance of the Servant, her attention was fixated on the beautiful creature the woman was on top of.

Two beautiful pearl white wings effortlessly beat the air every few moments, attached to an equally immaculate horse that floated in the air. Its age and power were without compare as a creature that has survived from the Age of the Gods.

Thwump.

"Pegasus." Rin shivered in the creature's presence. The species itself was nothing impressive. A monstrous species as a whole… but this specimen was not like its kin. The first Pegasus was said to have been birthed from Medusa's headless corpse, meaning that the one in front of them might very well be the propagator of its species. The origin of which all others based themselves from. It would not be far off to say that what was in front of them was a phenomena on par with true magic in the form of a living creature. There was no possible way for mere modern mysteries to compare to such a thing.

Thwump.

-gle tingle.

"MOVE!"

Before Rin or Luvia realized that it had been Archer that had yelled at them once more, they had once again found themselves flying through the air via the aloof Servant's efforts. Moments later the room erupted in explosions that would have killed all of its occupants had they remained in their previous location.

"Damn it, Caster! Reinforce these two already!" Archer snapped at his partner while his eyes darted around wildly. Rin and Luvia had fallen into a tangled mess by his feet. "I can't keep an eye on them and fight Assassin at the same time!"

Thwump.

Bullets ricocheted off of Archer's blades, fired off the same time the otherworldly creature had beat its wings to mask their launch. A cheap trick but effective under the right circumstances. More so when the bullets themselves served to distract Archer from the grenade heading straight towards him. Whether due to dumb luck or skill, Archer managed to bat away the explosive with enough time to get some distance before it tore apart another section of the building.

Thwu-

"▅▅▅▅▅▅▅▅▅▅▅▅▅▅▅▅▅▅▅▅▅▅▅▅!"

If the beating of the Pegasus' wings was akin to the world's heartbeat, then the thing that interrupted it was that of reality expressing its unparalleled rage. Anything that had remained intact in the building from the initial attack had indiscriminately shattered apart. Even barely aware of what was going on, Rin and Luvia could not help but scream out in pain as their flesh and bones struggled to stay in one piece under the unnatural roar. Blood vessels in their bodies burst, making them leak red fluid from their eyes, noses, ears and mouths without restraint. It was only due to their prior conditioning and trained bodies that they did not end up permanently crippled.

The blinding light that caused the sky to shudder was chased away moments later by the emerald scaled mountain that breathed fire. Only its hide could be seen from the inside of the damaged building, but that was enough to give those inside a good idea of what it was.

"Argon Coin."

The Princess of Colchis stood proudly from the edge of the room to the outside without fear, facing the two creatures of legend and flanked by one of her bulls. The Golden Fleece that she normally wore around her neck was no longer present.

"Aeetes."

A wave of fire to their side caught her allies' attention, but only Archer and Caster noticed the black blur that had escaped its wake.

Flinching back to avoid the heat, EMIYA glanced around to keep tabs on his father while making note of the dragon outside in pursuit of Rider…

… No. That shouldn't have been possible. Even if both creatures were as powerful as Saber herself, they shouldn't have had the room to move so freely. Inside Caster's Territory, there should be a limit to… ah.

It was only then that he noticed his mistake and saw what had become of Luvia's property. Instead of a fairly expansive yard surrounding an affluent, if mostly destroyed, European building, the area surrounding the Edelfelt property had been replaced with an expansive field in every direction. Natural green grass and stones littered the land around them for seemingly miles, only to stop at the distant sea that bordered the edge.

He couldn't help but snort in dry amusement. No wonder the Witch never decided on attacking her counterpart before, despite being alone for a good period of time. The Princess' territory was almost akin to a Reality Marble when fully utilized. They were not in Fuyuki, or in Caster's soul, but the Mediterranean island of Aeaea, where the goddess Circe ruled undisputed for centuries if not millennia.

Several gunshots were heard, but none of the bullets reached the still recovering Masters. The pieces of lead and iron weren't pointed at them in the first place. Archer looked back to see that Assassin had at some point been surrounded by a pack of tremendous wolves with a peculiar look in their eyes. Nearby, he saw that a large number of bears, boars, the familiar Bulls of Helios, and lions with similar gazes were approaching as well.

It took a moment for Archer to remember the tales regarding this island. Most of the animal inhabitants here were originally human, transformed by the witch Goddess Circe. The odd looks were merely ones of higher intelligence than their natural counterparts, but with the same if not even greater power as well. Even now he could see them organizing and moving in well-practiced patterns to minimize the casualties. Certainly not a combination that was easily dealt with under most if any circumstances.

A sudden blast of air that pushed everyone away came from the dragon as it left in pursuit of Rider.

Roars and other animalistic sounds of the hunt reverberated from the oncoming heard.

Archer couldn't help but allow himself to chuckle in dry amusement. He genuinely felt useless and excessive here. Caster really could handle both Assassin and Rider here by herself.

Given the nature of this world and the animals supporting her, she probably was going to have a better time with this than if he would in the same position in his Reality Marble. Fighting against extreme power types and technique types at the same time was always a pain in the ass for him. He needed to focus to get the needed juice to take out the power types since they radiated so much prana that most Noble Phantasms wouldn't work without some sort of buff, but at the same time it was also important to keep an eye out for the hundred odd potential tricks that the technique types could pull at any given moment.

His small smile faded moments later though. Something was clearly off. The Witch had been partnered with her counterpart before she went wild. She would have known just how dangerous this battle would have been. Even if she did not expect to win, Caster wasn't wasteful. She wouldn't sacrifice two valuable pieces like this. At the very least, she would have some way to try to keep them alive and force a stalemate to maintain her battle potential.

The surprise attack was admittedly a good attempt to take out Rin and Luvia from the start, and it had almost worked… but that couldn't have been all of it.

He glanced up again and frowned. Rider and her Pegasus were easily faster than the Dragon by a wide margin which would be an issue, especially if Rider decided to use Bellerophon. So much so that Caster may have to join her greatest asset in order to balance the scales out.

Assassin though, who was currently preoccupied with moving about and killing as many of the local animals as possible while gaining more room for himself, could be ignored so long as pressure was kept on him…

As soon as the thought crossed his mind, two things happened, unfortunately neither one of them were to their benefit.

The first was the sudden manifestation of a literal small army of armed skeletons between the building and the oncoming herd of beasts. EMIYA didn't bother to wonder how the Witch managed to pull something like this off when she wasn't even here, and instead cursed the fact that the force was enough to hold off the unusual backup from getting close.

The second though was a bigger concern. Partially because it literally dove into the pack of wolves that had been harassing Assassin from behind and managed to tear almost a third of them apart before the beasts had realized that they had been flanked.

That moment of uncertainty and disorganization was all that Assassin needed to enact countermeasures of his own, picking off specific beasts to weaken their formation and moving to a new spot behind some debris that benefitted him more and got him hidden from Archer's sight.

"Oh hell." Archer grimaced as he identified the newcomer. To be honest, he had rarely ever interacted with the woman in his past lives, but that didn't change the fact that he knew she was going to be a problem. Unfortunately he couldn't afford to waste time on her since Assassin was regaining stability. Focusing on anything else right now would almost assure Rin's and Luvia's deaths. "Caster! We need those spells now!"

The Princess glanced back from the chaos that was taking place above, seemingly only now just noticing the new parties and the problems that were abound to come from them. Realizing that her priorities needed to change, she instantly began to follow her partner's suggestion.

"Archer? What's wrong?" Rin managed to pick herself up, her body glowing with healing and reinforcing magic. The initial stun of being attacked finally faded away.

"We're getting hit by a second wave." Bow in hand, he scanned the area around them with all of his senses. A moment later he fired a salvo of arrows seemingly into the darkness deeper inside the building, only for the sounds and flashes of his projectiles impacting others that had not been detected by the Masters almost instantly.

"A second wave?" Luvia on the other hand hadn't turned away from one corner of the room, where the body of her butler laid against the wall. While it was possible that he was alive given that they were within Caster's territory, the injuries that littered his chest and stomach from Assassin's grenades made it difficult to believe.

"It's a good thing that you two are vindictive types." Archer's eyes pierced the darkness in the dead building to see Kiritsugu staring back. Each waiting for the other to move like the merciless hunters they were. "Try to take your fight with her out of the building though. It'll be impossible to keep you alive otherwise."

"Her?" Rin turned to look at the newcomer finishing off the last of the wolves with no issue in the slightest. Her business suit was as crisp and dry as before, untouched by the blood that surrounded its owner, even as her foot crushed the skull of the last one that had been moving.

With empty eyes that betrayed her current state of mind, Bazett Fraga McRemitz stepped forward and adjusted her gloves.

Even with magic from the Age of Gods healing and enforcing her every move, and with Luvia as backup, Rin couldn't help but question her odds.

o. o. o.

"I am glad to see that you are at least somewhat accommodating to your betters." Gilgamesh stood proudly just inside the Einzbern castle entrance, his clothes replaced with his trademark golden armor. "Though there seems to be some confusion as to where your places should be. It is quite embarrassing."

In front of him, Saber, Shirou, and Berserker waited calmly on the other side of the room. The two Servants were on either side of the stairs, holding their weapons tip first into the ground. Shirou on the other hand was sitting casually at the top of the stairway. None of their eyes turned away from the golden Servant.

"Don't get full of yourself. We just happen to like the doors and didn't want you to break them down to get in." Shirou dryly replied, the belt around his waist covered by the leather skin that had been found in Sakura's belongings an hour ago. It was obvious that Gilgamesh was referring to his position at the head of the stairs, symbolizing that he was of greater importance than those beneath him, and that Saber's spot at the foot of the stairs indicated that she was the rough equivalent of "the help".

Their positioning was the most efficient for combatting Gilgamesh. It was obvious even to those without battle experience to tell. The simple fact was that Gilgamesh didn't seem to care what their intents were. His arrival indicated his assured victory, and in his eyes everyone should recognize it.

The guest didn't take his eyes off of the only one there that mattered to him. "You really must find better jesters, Saber. The one you have is woefully inadequate, even if he does double as an exotic pet. It is bad enough that he is a Faker, but I really must be concerned if you find his form of banter entertaining."

"Why are you here, Archer?" Saber didn't get drawn into the conversation, nor did she react to his knowledge of her Master's semi-vampire condition. "You are not a part of the war. None of the other participants have been defeated yet, so the climax isn't even close to occurring. You have nothing to gain from attacking us now."

Gilgamesh snorted. "Of course I have nothing to gain. Everything is mine to begin with, including you. I had assumed that you had already been aware of that, Saber. As for why I am here, I thought it would be obvious after last we met. I am here for you."

The blonde's eyes narrowed dangerously. "Me?"

"Certainly. Did you not hear Kirei's announcement? There is no further need for your participation in the event, quite the opposite, everyone is now attempting to get rid of you. That is not to say that I doubt your abilities. On the contrary, you shine brighter than anyone else on this miserable land save myself. It is simply that I find it distasteful for anyone to lay their hands on my property without permission."

Had those in the room not half expected it already, they would have missed the golden flash that originated above Gilgamesh and lanced out towards the top of the stairs.

Likewise, they would have been surprised when an equally fast bolt fire off from near Shirou and met the oncoming attack head on. The two projectiles hammered one another with enough force to cause the room to shake to its very core before Gilgamesh's version flew wildly to the side and embedded itself into the wall.

Shirou's imitation, on the other hand, had been reduced to shards of metal and other materials that faded away before it even hit the ground.

However they all had expected it, and thus no one seemed to act as if what had just happened was out of the ordinary, their gazes remained where they had been the entire time.

"I've just been called out for trying to ruin the ritual yesterday," Shirou droned calmly, as if nothing of particular note had just occurred. "Do you really think I would care about rules by this point?"

"Hmm. I suppose not. Mindless dogs like you tend to be incapable of following even the simplest instructions for long." Gilgmesh's eyes briefly examined the deflected sword and noted the cracks that had been made down its length. It was a nameless Noble Phantasm and of little worth, but the fact that the Faker's imitations were made well enough to mar the originals in the first place was a bit off putting. With a silent command, the weapon faded away and returned to his treasury. "Then again that is what has made observing this war actually interesting in the first place. Helpless sheep dancing about to the tune of the tainted beast that pretends to be one of them. Quite an amusing comedy, if a bit stale in some regards."

"Only you would consider something like this entertainment. You care nothing for the people you claim to rule over." Saber's eyes narrowed. How humanity could ever prosper with a careless monster like this for a king was beyond her.

"As it should be. I believe that we have already had this conversation before, so I will not repeat myself." Crimson eyes turned to Saber once more. "I suppose I should inform you though that I do have another reason for my arrival. Though I doubt you were unaware of it, the Faker currently has a monopoly on something needed for the Grail ritual. Tainted as it is, I still desire for it to be completed."

"What are you getting at, Archer?" She frowned, not liking where this was going.

"Come with me Saber. Sever ties with the Faker, deliver one of the Lesser Grails onto me, and I will not lay a hand upon the rest here. Even your Master will remain untouched so long as he does not do anything to provoke my judgement," the King of Heroes declared. "Once the ritual is completed, I will cover you in the Grail's contents, and together we can enjoy our second lives ruling over this world, or what remains of it."

Both Saber and Shirou's eyes narrowed dangerously. It wasn't a matter of trusting him to keep his word. Gilgamesh was many things, but he was certainly not a liar. His pride would never allow him to become one.

However the offer went against everything the two of them stood for. Saber's code of chivalry and loyalty to Shirou were among the strongest bonds she had formed. Likewise, Shirou's attachment to Saber, Sakura, and Illyasviel had long been proven to make him do irrational and suicidal things on instinct.

The two didn't even need time to think to come up with an answer.

"You make a tempting offer King of Heroes. I thank you for your generosity," Shirou calmly stated, his silver eyes slowly taking a shine as prana began to run through them. The world in front of him became sharper, every detail imaginable was his to discern and determine. "However, we must decline it. Just as you are unable to comprehend anyone so much as touching your greatest treasures, I cannot tolerate others to claim or harm those close to me. I couldn't care less about who and what their reasons are."

"I will never be yours. I have sworn myself and my blade to someone far more worthy than you." Saber's grasp on her sword changed from being at ease to one of quick use. The winds that hid it from the world began to slowly pick up, mimicking its owner's agitation. "That is, and forever will be my answer."

The silent Berserker merely growled and shifted his own stance as well. He may have been a mad and wild monster, but the pacing and mood of battle was something that was ingrained deeper into his psyche than the madness could reach. There was a time to fight and a time to watch… and the line that bordered the two was fast approaching.

"I see. You are under the delusions that the doll and the tainted experiment are your treasures. A foolish notion, but not completely reprehensible. There is no further point in attempting to negotiate. How unfortunate." The King's statement was akin to a sigh of only slight disappointment. The issue itself was of little concern to him; instead, his reaction was more like a reluctant admittance to do a simple chore he would have preferred to load on someone else. "Haha. How ironic. The King of Knights preferring to side with a corrupted half-blood accident than the King of Heroes. No. Perhaps this too is a part of the show. Once my victory is assured, I can rescue the heroine and return her to the world of rationality in the finale. A tad bit cliché, but it is only natural for me to take center stage once upon it. The retainer's more talented at this than I had anticipated."

Golden ripples on an invisible pond slowly manifested above the intruder, allowing treasure after treasure in the form of unparalleled tools of war to emerge slowly and take aim at the three in front of their owner.

"Though I commend your ability to show more understanding than I would expect, I take offence to your staring at me with such perverse eyes, Faker. Had you not been so uncouth I may have harbored the idea of allowing you to live long enough to see the Grail manifest for the wedding between Saber and myself. Now, as King of this World, I am obligated to sentence you to death. You have no one else to blame for this outcome other than yourself." For the first time, Gilgamesh addressed Shirou directly with a firm tone laced with smooth killing intent. Crimson eyes met silver, and an agreement was made. Only one of them would be leaving this fight alive.

Shirou's frown deepened, but otherwise he didn't move at all. "I've seen enough so called miracles for one lifetime."

Trace on.

Likewise, an equal number of copies materialized into existence around the teen sitting on the stairs. The one responsible for their existence had made no gesture that indicated he noted their existence, much like the Golden Man with his weapons. There had been no time between His circuits started to warm up and his body slowly establishing its link to the jewels around his waist.

Safety off.

The King of Knights took her stance with blade in both hands.

Overclock set.

The Bastard of Zeus crouched down, a growl that resembled the sound of a landslide rumbled from his throat.

Autolock. Flight path calculation. Intended target identification. Intercept routines. Enact.

"Pity."

Fire.

The room all but exploded.

Noble Phantasms met Noble Phantasms in untold numbers, striking one another with enough power that just one collision would have been enough to shake the entire castle in its entirety. Had Shirou not already been sitting in the first place, he would have no doubt been sent to his knees or onto his back from the repeated strikes on his person from all the close range concussive blasts, which in turn would have distracted him for more than long enough for Gilgamesh's attacks to get through and kill him.

Even if nothing in the room was hit, the building would fall if this continued for long. The shockwaves alone were enough to cause tremendous damage to the surroundings. The decorative china and pottery had been the first to splinter, followed moments later by the picture frames that littered the walls and the wooden siding of the stairs and second floor balconies. Tremendous cracks that would no doubt require extensive work to fix were stretching erratically across stone flooring beneath everyone's feet, the walls, and the ceiling above.

"Tch." It was too much. Shirou's circuits were already running near max just to keep up with Gilgamesh. He wouldn't be able to use that spell in this state, it required more energy than he could afford to put out now. He'd have to depend on Saber and Berserker to pick up for his inability.

It wouldn't be wrong to say that he wasn't fully able to understand what was happening. As skilled as he was, even he was having issues keeping up with Gilgamesh's attacks. If he attempted to manage the direction and attack of each projection he made, he would have been overwhelmed instantly.

Instead, it would be more accurate to say that he bypassed meaningless steps such as "comprehending where the enemy attacks would travel" in his mind. Instead he instantly forwarded relevant information gained from his eyes straight to the projection process so that his weapons could intercept their counterparts as fast as possible. Many times it was only after said projections were fired that he had realized that he had made them and noted where they were going in the first place.

His mind was on fire. Even if he did skip several steps to reduce the time needed to project the weapons he made, the amount of excess information he was processing was almost overwhelming. Thanks to Avalon he'd be able to physically withstand it for quite a while, and in an enclosed area it was more manageable due to limiting what he actually saw, but the pain was nothing he could do about.

As it stood, Shirou was unable to move. He could focus on his magic. He could take in every sight from his high position and make commands to the Servants aiding him. But he was still only a human. The rampant explosions around him were perpetually hammering his body and making it difficult to breathe. Changing locations under his current power while staying alive was simply impossible now. It was taking an absurd amount of focus just to stay sitting up and keep his eyes open with the ceaseless explosions going off all around him, hammering his body relentlessly without end.

However not all of the explosions originated from Noble Phantasms clashing with their counterparts.

"Haaaa!"

"▅▅▅▅▅▅▅▅▅▅▅▅▅▅▅▅▅▅▅▅▅▅▅▅!"

Like sharks swimming up a golden waterfall, Berserker and Saber charged against the rain of weapons that fell upon them, each one deflecting and batting aside the weapons that they could not afford to be hit by or couldn't dodge. Between Saber's possession of Avalon and Berserker's Godhand, only the most decisive of blows or curses would manage to even slow down their advance notably.

"Hm. So that's your plan? How childish."

It took no more than a few seconds for Gilgamesh to determine their attack strategy after he had to take his eyes momentarily away from the two Servants to focus more on the projections that had almost made it to him.

It was a simple but effective approach. The fact of the matter was that while the King of Heroes was absurdly powerful, he was but one man fighting with one source at his disposal. On the other side of the field were two top tier Servants that possessed powerful regenerative and defensive properties. More importantly, they vastly outmatched him in close range combat.

Essentially, if they managed to get close, they won. Normally this would not be an issue, but this was not a normal battle.

Shirou's presence added a peculiar spin on things. Because the boy was copying every tool that Gilgamesh was producing, Shirou was not only countering the weapons that were aimed at himself, but also replicating the ones that were aiming for Saber and Berserker as well.

These additional Noble Phantasm copies, considerably powerful as the originals were currently being used to take down Servants, would not be able to meet their counterparts in time. The originals were focused on the Servants who were far closer to Gilgamesh than he was. They would be used and discarded long before they could be intercepted.

So instead the freshly made copies were sent right after the source.

Gilgamesh clicked his teeth in annoyance as he was forced to defend himself again from the excess copies that Shirou produced. A cursed ritual war dagger from Lithuania ricocheted off to his left shortly before a battle axe made from the bones of a phantasmal beast cleaved into the top of a shield and managed to leave a notable gouge before shattering from the impact. He was certain that his armor could easily handle the attacks, but the idea of having it marred by counterfeits was unacceptable.

Past the chaos he noted how close Berserker had gotten in such a short period of time. His body seemed to completely ignore the weaker of the treasures sent at him, and the mad giant deflected the stronger ones. No doubt it was part of some sort of defensive Noble Phantasm. A quick minor adjustment in his armory instantly slowed down the demigod's advance, which had already reached past the halfway point from when the fight began.

Mad as he may be, Berserker put up a reasonable resistance while still managing to press forward. He was far more nimble than his frame might have suggested, avoiding more tools than anticipated.

He didn't even stop when the first blade finally managed to pierce his body. Or the seventh one for that matter.

"Reincarnation, is it? A luxury that even I do not have. Even I have not seen anyone return from being killed before," Gilgamesh observed with mild interest as Heracles recovered from having his chest caved in by a massive hammer that no normal human would have any hope to lift. "A fitting Noble Phantasm for one who was forced to do tiresome, demeaning chores for the gods. I suppose your Twelve Labors were significant enough to etch themselves onto your being. Only the greatest of armaments would be able to penetrate a tale as mighty as yours. Very well. As King I will personally take these lives of yours in honor of your achievements."

It was after the second life that Berserker's tremendous weapon finally shattered from the unending onslaught. It was not a Noble Phantasm, merely a slab of stone from one of his temples crudely hewn into the shape of a weapon and enchanted by alchemy. A mighty tool for this era, but not one of legendary feats.

Enough blades had pierced the giant's legs to pin him temporarily when Gilgamesh was once again distracted.

Again he blinked as several of his defensive measures began to buckle against the Faker's attacks. He had neglected to take into account that the boy's imitations would also grow stronger with his adjustment against Heracles. He allowed himself to snort in frustration at the oversight before allowing several more defensive artifacts to materialize in front of him.

In that time, an exact replica of the tremendous stone axe sword impaled the ground next to Berserker from behind.

"▅▅▅▅▅▅▅▅▅▅▅▅▅▅▅▅▅▅▅▅▅▅▅▅!"

He had grabbed it almost unconsciously and knocked aside the oncoming spear that would have gouged out his skull just a moment later. Finding his second wind for this life, Berserker resumed his bloodlust driven charge forward, once more armed with one of the crudest and most brutal weapons ever fashioned on the planet.

This time Gilgamesh did allow himself to grunt in annoyance and frustration. While Berserker wasn't an immediate threat, making it harder to kill the giant was not something he particularly appreciated. There was even a chance that the fellow demigod might actually reach him at this rate. He would have to address it eventually, but it was not an immediate concern.

With the small issue taken care of, he finally gained enough time to focus on his main reason for coming.

A silver and blue streak darted all about the floor of the building, dodging and deflecting oncoming bullets as they came in its attempt to get closer to him. It was a marvelous and beautiful display unlike the black mountain that could only charge forward like a bull.

"Wonderful." He allowed himself to smile at the sight, the stress induced by the other two men in the room abating somewhat. "You are even more marvelous than you were ten years ago, Saber. There is a glow and potency to your shine that was not there before. Tell me, what has changed? This cannot simply be because you have a slightly more interesting Master than when we first met."

"On the contrary, I am stronger now than ever because I have the most worthy Master!" Saber slashed aside another A ranked Noble Phantasm before charging forward, prana enhancing her speed to new heights. "A monster like you would never be able to see this!"

The mirth on his face died as her words echoed in his ears, crimson eyes narrowed before turning once more to the silver eyed Faker on the top of the stairs. Vexation would be the best way to describe his expression. "You cannot possibly mean to say that you have developed feelings for this mongrel? As amusing as playing with bottom feeders may be at times, it is still not sufficient enough reason to consider yourself one of them, or him one of your worth for that matter."

"Time Alter. Double Accel."

With those words, the blades that manifested over Shirou doubled in speed in an instant and the conversation ended abruptly. Whereas before his weapons met with Gilgamesh's slightly over the beginning of the stairway, they now met significantly closer to the enemy. Even more notable was the power that was behind them.

Moving nearly twice the speed as the originals, the stored up power behind the fakes was now enough to ensure mutual destruction upon contact instead of simply fracturing and deflecting. The copies that were based off of the tools sent after Saber and Berserker charged forward, impacting the shields that Gilgamesh had set up earlier with new ferocity, creating fractures and cracks within the first few impacts.

"Just a bit more…" Shirou's hand slowly reached for the detonator to the bombs above the King. Once Saber or Berserker got close enough, he would set them off as a distraction and buy just enough time for the two to charge in for the final blow. Too early, and Gilgamesh would be able to recover before they could finish him off and they would waste possibly their best opportunity to end this quickly.

The shields were a problem though. Gilgamesh had no need to use them in the other timelines even though it should have been obvious that he had them in stock. It would take longer for Saber and Berserker to get through or around them. It was a stretch, but the accelerated weapons would be needed in order to weaken if not break enough of them to give his allies the opening needed to finish things off.

"You… it seems that the list of crimes you have committed are greater than I had anticipated, mongrel. How dare you interrupt me." There was murder laced in his voice. A calm irritated anger that could not be ignored by any party. "Not only have you the gall to imitate my treasures, strike at your king, and continue to exist before me, but you dare claim that which is mine. Be proud dog…"

The gates burst open. If the number of weapons pouring out before could be compared to an endless river, than what he had unleashed was an eternal flood. The opposing party couldn't even see the other side of the room with the number of tools that hovered in front of them.

"… There have been exceptionally few of your standing that have ever managed to irritate me to such a degree."

The tide of the battle changed instantly.

"Hrg?!" Shirou grimaced as he attempted to hold his own against the wall of destruction that crashed upon them. He had managed to keep up, had even pushed back before under his own steam, but now there was simply just far too many weapons to counter.

To the side, the projection that Berserker had been using had shattered within moments, unable to keep up with the new level of oppression. Seconds after that, the Bastard of Zeus had died once more. As much as Shirou would have liked to send another one over to support his new ally, it was simply impossible for him to spare the concentration to do so the way things were going.

It wasn't that he wasn't able to keep tabs on what his enemy was throwing at them. Every weapon Gilgamesh produced ended up having a copy spawn within Unlimited Blade Works. The problem was simply that Shirou was only capable of transferring so many blades from his world to this one at a time.

His magic circuits had a firm limit that could not be surpassed. He had tried to work around it with the Emiya Crest, which allowed him to speed up the production and conversion rate of his spells, but even then there was a limit to what he was capable of.

Ridiculous. Absurd. Insane.

Those were the words that managed to stand out in Shirou's mind as he rapidly attempted to change tactics in order to stay alive. Because his eyes took in literally every physical fact about anything in their gaze, he could tell that Gilgamesh wasn't even bothering to aim at them properly anymore from the trajectories and intended purposes ingrained into them. The pompous man was just pushing through and firing off as many weapons as possible in their general direction, aiming to simply overwhelm them with quantity and quality projectiles until they fell.

And the terrifying thing was that it was probably going to work.

Analyze. Predict. Isolate direct threats and process countermeasures.

Unable to risk attacking anymore, Shirou focused completely on delving into the intended paths and trajectories of every single weapon that was aimed at him, then producing copies of just those tools to counteract them. Saber and Berserker were to be the ones that would finish off Gilgamesh, but it was his job to get them in range in the first place.

Even then with his efficient approach, the teen was hard pressed to keep up. Moments after the counterattack begun, Shirou had to move his head to the side quickly to avoid getting lobotomized by a nameless Sumerian Noble Phantasm that he didn't manage to project a counter of in time. Unfortunately, that would only be the first in a long series of close calls that he would be making during the battle.

"Shirou!" Saber grimaced as she noticed that her Master was under fire while being pushed back herself. While the number of tools being fired at her and Berserker had increased dramatically as well, it was becoming clear that a significant portion of the Noble Phantasms were being shot at the teen himself.

Her moment of distraction cost her as a sword of immense heat managed to get through her defenses and tore out a part of her armor, grazing her side in the process. The fire was so intense that her wound was instantly cauterized from the brief contact.

By the time Avalon had completely healed it and her armor had restored itself two seconds later, she had received an additional three injuries on other parts of her body due to her restricted mobility despite her best efforts to protect herself.

"▅▅▅▅▅▅▅▅▅▅▅▅▅▅▅▅▅▅▅▅▅▅▅▅!" Berserker too had to take a few steps back under the onslaught. At least a dozen weapons of all sorts were embedded into his tremendous frame. It would not be surprising if he had already used up at least another two or three lives since the fighting picked up.

"Is that all, Faker?" Gilgamesh taunted with a malicious grin. "Don't tell me that all of your confidence was based on that paltry amount of power you managed!"

"Hngh…" This was too much. Shirou had always suspected that the King of Heroes' power with his treasury was more absurd than what his father had insinuated, but this really was just unfair. Even if he managed to manifest his Reality Marble, he had trouble imagining himself being able to counter such a relentless onslaught.

Lurching forward to avoid getting skewered by a nasty barbed spear, he reached for the detonation device in his coat with his right hand. He couldn't afford to save it for a killing blow at this rate. Instead the collapsing building would be used to disrupt the never ending swell of weapons that would surely kill them at this rate.

The seals on his left hand glowed. He had hoped they would have a cleaner shot at this, one that would give them a greater chance of success of victory where Saber was closer to the target, but as it stood this was their best, if only opportunity. The instant Gilgamesh was distracted, Shirou would use his Command Seal to force Saber to cross the distance between the two as fast and as hard as possible for the killing-!?

The world around him shook, and his vision of the battle tilted to the side.

His mind couldn't keep up with the sudden change. His weapons fired off irregularly.

He saw white, his body lurched to the side and burned, and then he knew nothing else.

o. o. o.

"SHIROU!"

Until that point, even when Gilgamesh had seemingly unleashed his full might against them, Saber had genuinely believed that they had a solid chance of victory.

Strong.

That was the first word that she would use to describe her Master, though not in a conventional sense. Reckless, childish, and irrational at times no doubt, but there was strength in him that she had only seen in the greatest of her knights.

True he was just a human… well, that wasn't exactly right, but he was close enough to being one that it didn't matter for the most part. He didn't stand a chance against Servants in a straight fight, much less most of her knights, but that didn't stop him from getting himself involved anyways. For his father. For his sister. For those that he loved.

It wasn't dedication. She knew from previous conversations that he was twisted, a functioning sociopath with his goals in the right place. He didn't care what others thought about what he did, he didn't care much about what he did either. But still, the conviction he put into achieving his goals was something to behold. The measures he went through to ensure that he got what he wanted were unreal.

Nearly everyone recognized it by this point, Servant, Human or other. He was a terrifying ally, a worthy enemy, and simply someone to take note of at all times.

She trusted him.

She didn't know when it started. At first she had been on guard in his presence. As Kiritsugu's son she would no doubt have reservations about his character regardless of his intentions. True, the Hayabusa and his cooking were major points in his favor, but even so she had tried to keep him at arm's reach at first.

They talked during their spare time. About tactics, the enemy, about hobbies, preferences. Shirou probably didn't think much about it, but to her it was more refreshing than most would imagine. The number of individuals that were willing to converse with her after knowing her identity so freely were few. Most of the time, a person wanted something from her. Power. Influence. Wealth. Fame. Iskander, for all his cheerful disposition and casual demeanor, had still wanted her as part of his army.

It would be a lie to say that Shirou didn't summon her for her power and to boost Avalon's healing properties, but when they talked, he wasn't after or expecting anything from her. When he looked at her, he only saw an ally, a friend that he could fight alongside as an equal and trust his life to. He didn't see the King of Knights, Arturia Pendragon when they chatted, he just saw Arturia who happened to be the King of Knights.

It was… refreshing. Not even those who knew of her true identity when she was alive related to her so casually all the time. The closest was Merlin, and he… well, he once gave her a penis as a joke. That said enough about the man's character.

But even Shirou didn't know of the real reason why she trusted him so much.

It was because she knew that he was scared. Scared of making the wrong decisions. Scared of having everyone's lives in his hands. Scared that everything was depending on him.

Kiritsugu may have had the best intentions when he wrote his son the dreams he had, describing how each possible future turned out and the dangers revealed in each, but he had made one major oversight in it all.

Every path, every fight, every decision, every death that was recorded… was a result of Shirou's decisions and influence.

She saw it in the way he acted and fought. Her Master would not make a move unless he gathered as much information as possible in order to be certain about his decision, not out of fear for his life, but for the lives of everyone around him. Sometimes, stalling until the last possible moment and putting himself in danger in the process. His deep seeded inhibitions and fear of making the wrong choice staying his hand…

… But even if things turned poorly as a result of his inactivity, he would move forward if he was confident in his decision, suicidal or not.

He had waited to summon Saber out of fear of causing his friends to become aggressive against him.

He had walked straight into the burning Matou home for Sakura even though he was near dry on prana.

He had not told anyone about his Apostle affliction, believing it to not be an issue.

He had held back from attacking Caster with everything he had from the beginning even though it would have been easier to just call Rin and Bazett for support.

He had attempted to assassinate Caster directly when he did attack, even then only moving in the open once every assumed threat had been located. He had ran past, if not through, a Servant battle in the process without much care.

She knew this because she was his Servant. The bond between them allowed some of his subconscious fears to leak through to her.

She knew this because she had gone through the same thing as King.

It was a curse that haunted the both of them for nights, keeping them up as they went over their options and what they thought they knew repeatedly. Plans upon plans to benefit their people, to keep them alive. She had no doubt that Shirou must have been pushed on the borderline of madness with the responsibilities, much like she had many a time.

Having someone that understood her to that level, to know just how much she put into her duties. It was not a responsibility that should have been forced on anyone except those chosen for it… or those that had chosen it for that matter.

She berated herself for feeling a slight amount of happiness when she finally realized their greatest similarities. It wasn't right for someone to be shouldered with such burdens in the first place.

Perhaps that is why she trusted him greater than most of her knights in such a period of time. A kindred spirit? A comrade in arms? It didn't matter what he was exactly in the end. He was her Master. She had sworn her sword to him, and would do so for as long as was needed proudly. Of the many choices she had made, this was one she could confidently say she would never regret.

She had seen Gilgamesh fight before in the previous War. She saw how he could throw about the greatest of treasures and weapons as if they meant nothing to him. The Golden King was without a doubt a Servant Killer, possessing the tools and banes of nearly every legend in existence. Even with a fresh copy of Avalon, or the original itself, she doubted her odds against the monstrosity. Even with Berserker and her Master at her side, there had been some reservations…

… And then Shirou fought back.

He wasn't held down by supporting two Servants. Saber was running on full and had all but cut herself off from Shirou to maximize his magic casting. He didn't bother with covert and roundabout tactics. Instead he was simply standing there with his allies and fought with everything he had without so much as a blink.

Matching the bastard that wanted her as a toy, her Master unleashed the full scope of his ability and then some. Never had she witnessed a sight quite like it before, swords without wielders waging war against one another from above as she charged through manless legions herself to get to the commander.

Even when Gilgamesh increased the output of his weapons, she was not overly concerned. The battle had turned against them, overwhelmingly so, but no feeling of despair came to her or Master from the link they shared. Frustration, surprise, even some insecurity, but not despair.

… It had happened so suddenly that even Gilgamesh was momentarily caught unawares. She was unable to see what happened, too busy keeping herself alive to turn around, but she had managed to gain enough from her other senses to understand what had happened.

While Shirou had been preparing for an emergency tactic, an oversight had occurred. The Castle and everything in the room had not remained unscathed during the intense battle, quite the opposite. There was barely a square meter of anything in the room that wasn't damaged by this point. There were craters and gouges in the floors, walls and ceiling from where Gilgamesh's weapons had been deflected and collided.

The staircase that Shirou had been on the entire time was no exception. No, it had been even worse, as it had been in the direct path between the two collectors of weapons… and that had led to the disaster.

Whether by fate or cruel luck, the entire stairway had inconveniently sustained too much damage just moments before Shirou had gone through with his move and buckled to the side. The sudden change in position had completely thrown the teen off balance as well as his aim and magic, leaving a massive opening in his defenses that couldn't be addressed in time.

Saber had heard at least one instance of flesh being punctured violently before explosions riddled her Master's location with discrimination.

"Finally!" Gilgamesh exclaimed in relief as if a tedious and arduous task had been completed, allowing him to relax. "It was more annoying than expected to deal with that mongrel, but I suppose that is only to be expected when it was alongside greater beasts. How humiliating, to be done in by unstable houseware. Hilarious almost."

"YOU!"

She didn't even bother to look back or try to help Shirou as much as she desperately wanted to. So long as Gilgamesh was there they would all be in danger, and all their efforts would be in vain.

Invigorated with rage, she pressed forward against the storm of blades. With a single slash, she released the compressed air around her blade as hard as she could, disrupting the paths of more oncoming weapons and exposing a fiercely shining Excalibur to the world.

"Hoh? So that is your holy blade? The one claimed to be the strongest in the world?" Her enemy on the other hand was obviously more interested in her weapon than her anger or intent to use it on him. Despite all the chaos about him, he casually took a pose not unlike a curator examining a work of art. "I admit, you wield an interesting piece. It is not often that I encounter a treasure that does not already exist within my possession. Of course you will have no need for it once you are mine, however I suppose that I can allow you to hold onto it. It does well to exemplify your radiant features."

"▅▅▅▅▅▅▅▅▅▅▅▅▅ ▅▅▅▅▅▅▅▅▅▅▅!" Despite being littered with weapons, Berserker pressed forward as well. In fact, he was almost on top of Gilgamesh with arms raised, ready to lynch and tear apart the King of Heroes, towering over the golden man like a demon incarnate. With a single swipe of his arms larger than tree trunks, the Black Giant had shattered the barriers that had surrounded his prey, ready to strike with the killing blow.

It was only then that the target seemed to remember his existence.

As if he was standing in front of a shotgun with Noble Phantasms instead of pellets, Berserker was blasted back violently in a single go. His black body rocketed back the entire distance of the room, through the wall in the back, and likely several more judging by the sounds that were made from the commotion before he finally stopped.

There was no telling how many lives had been taken with that one attack. There was no telling if he was still even around.

"You managed to get closer than I thought. I commend your tenacious spirit and enduring body Heracles. Regardless, I no longer have patience for you. Be gone."

It took most of her self-control to not look back at the second of her fallen comrades. Every moment, every decision, every thought mattered if she was to be able to get to Gilgamesh.

She knew her odds were low, even with a fully functional copy of Avalon within her. Her abilities and stats were vastly superior to those mentioned in Kiritsugu's visions, but that would help little in this case.

The only reason why she won in a solo fight against this monster then was because he had put too much power into Ea when she used Avalon to negate his attack. He couldn't withdraw it or summon more weapons in time for that decisive blow. It had been an opportunity so low in odds that even her instincts were not able to recognize it.

Even then, Gilgamesh had been playing with her the entire time, unlike now where he had all but completely opened his Gate of Bablyon. The distraction of having three notable enemies coming from separate directions had drastically reduced the King of Heroes' focus and enabled her to get as close as she did, but now she was the only one left, and the entire contents of the treasury were aimed at her.

To press forward now would be almost suicide, but she could tell that her odds were not zero this time. Oppressively low, but not absolute. This fact pushed her further.

She didn't stop. She couldn't. To retreat would mean death.

More importantly, to retreat would encourage her enemy to be more observant of his surroundings.

Shirou was still alive. She could tell from the bond they had. Wounded and weakened… but alive and recovering.

If she were to die, she would do so to give him an opportunity. She knew her Master well enough to know that he never had only one way to take down an enemy if he could help it. Avalon and Excalibur were just one method. Berserker had been another. Shirou's Reality Marble a third…

There had to be more options that he held back. Gilgamesh was too dangerous for those to be his only options. He had been preparing for too long for that to be it…

She was almost in striking distance. Too close for Ea to be effectively used now. Every movement she made was overcharged with prana, changing her trajectory and position erratically several times a second to avoid being skewered from all sides. Her rage and desperation mixed with the rush of battle, weaving through all the attacks that came. It could be considered a miracle in itself that she was still managing to push forward despite what she was against.

"Hmhm. Impressive Saber. You simply continue to entice me. Your worth may be even greater than what I had originally believed despite your shortcomings." Unfortunately Gilgamesh seemed to only be amused by her efforts, not at all bothered by her approach. She was dangerously close now, almost able to hit him should she swing right at him without care of being hit by his projectiles…

"Regretfully, I have grown bored of this performance."

She had been so focused on pressing forward that the only reason why she managed to escape the initial strike was due to her instincts. Disregarding her safety completely, she rushed forward to avoid whatever it was that she knew would ensure her defeat, allowing several unknown pieces that originated from South America to pierce through the armor on her side and legs in the process.

"Haaaaa!"

Her golden blade swung down like a hammer of god, burning an intense light that seemed to illuminate the room. A trail of light followed its path down, exemplifying the amount of raw magical power behind the strike.

Ea had yet to be drawn. As great as Gilgamesh's treasury was, even she doubted that there was a tool in there that would be able to remain intact from the enhanced strike of her legendary weapon…

… However it had not been enough, and her blade stopped long before the swing could reach its max power. The sudden halt of her attack causing enough backlash to blast away much of the debris around the two Servants, but ultimately doing absolutely no damage to the target.

"Kuh?!"

It took a few moments for Saber to realize that she had been stopped in the first place, and several more to realize what had happened.

She was entangled in chains.

Her arms, legs, body, waist, and neck were ensnared by the metal loops that originated from all around her, pulling tighter with every passing second. Inch by inch her limbs were pulled taught despite her efforts, exposing her completely to Gilgamesh.

"A valiant effort, but not sufficient enough." He smiled confidently before glancing up at the chains that bound her arms in particular. Notable cracks laced more than a few of the links above her, evidence of the power she had put into the strike. "Impressive. Though you do not possess divine blood such as myself or Heracles, it still takes a great amount of might to damage Enkidu. Had you not been a woman, victory would no doubt have been yours."

"You! Release me!" She snarled, enraged not only at the man in front of her but at herself as well. The feeling that pressed her forward at the end had been the Heavenly Chains themselves. Had she paid more attention, she could have taken measures to at least maneuver her arms so that her strike would have gotten through the net regardless of her capture… no, things had been moving so quickly that she doubted that there would have been time to make such an adjustment.

She never considered that he would use his chains when fighting her. They were more suited for an opponent like Berserker and Rider, ones with divine blood in their veins. He was more the type to overpower his enemies, establishing his dominance as he saw fit. It was far more likely that he would have used Ea against her than Ekidu… but he deviated from the norm on a whim at the last moment, and it likely saved his life.

"Hmhm. I think not. After all, you are my prize, Saber," the King of Heroes gloated reaching forward and gently caressing her face as if she was a doll. "It is rude for a woman to deny a man his pleasure after he made the effort to travel all the way to the middle of nowhere for it."

"I am a King, not a possession!" She struggled, his words infuriating her more than anything else. "I am no prize or possession for others to take!"

"Ah, even now you still resist." His sadistic smile widened as his hand returned to reach for a sword that had appeared behind him. "It appears that you need some discipline Saber. The Chains of Heaven should be more than suitable enough to keep you in place for the duration of the War, but I believe I'll take a limb or two off to be safe… oh?"

"… What the hell do you think you're doing to my Servant?"

Blades that once sat by her side and at the Round Table shot out from the other side of the room and sliced through the chains surrounding Saber with unnatural ease. The entrapped Servant wasted no time assaulting her enemy, but the stance she had been released from was not ideal, and was blocked by the blade that had been intended to sever portions of her body off just moments before.

Several more times her blade clashed with his with as much force as she could muster before the defending weapon shattered, but in that time the King of Knights had been surrounded by several dozen more tools ready to be fired off at her.

Many of these tools were intercepted before they were even fired off, but nowhere near enough to stop Saber in her tracks. Her target grabbed another blade in the process should she return her assault.

"Mongrel!" Gilgamesh glared murderously at the boy behind her. "How dare you interfere! I despise it when those who are ordered to die still cling to life!"

"Saber." Shirou apparently didn't seem to even recognize the man's rage given the tone in his voice.

She had to stop herself from pausing to look back at her Master in bewilderment. She could tell from their link that he was calling her to regroup, but she honestly had no idea why he would want such a thing when she was so close to the target. With Berserker gone, it would be almost impossible to make up that ground again should she pull back that far.

Unfortunately the decision wasn't left up to her as she was forced back regardless to avoid being skewered from all sides. Going for broke, she went straight back while deflecting several errant weapons that had gotten too close. Behind her, she heard similar sounds coming from Shirou's location, meaning he still had it in him to fight a bit more.

Landing with a skid next to the destroyed staircase, she allowed herself to breath out heavily allowing some of the exhaustion to finally show. They had not been fighting for long, but it already was exacting a toll on her body. The enemy had decided to stop attacking for the time being.

Her breathing stopped as she turned to look at her Master and finally saw his condition.

o. o. o.

The only sense that seemed to work when he first woke up was his hearing. Metal on metal rung through his ears through the high pitch sound of his eardrums being nearly broken.

Once his mind finally regained enough coherence to understand that, the pain kicked in.

There wasn't a part of his body that didn't hurt. His head was throbbing through all his orifices, and he felt the left side of his face burn. His legs felt like they had been through a tenderizer. His ribs and lungs screamed with each breath, and his arms were so heavy that he could barely move them… them?

"… A-ah." His eyes cleared enough to see that he was half buried in the remains of the stairway he had been on just moments before. With all his might he turned his head to look at the anomaly on his body, the one part of him that seemed to hurt and not at the same time…

… Only to find nothing. His right arm was no longer attached to him below the shoulder. Conveniently, if his blood loss was not playing tricks on him, his missing limb was lying on the ground, intact, just a few meters away from him.

"… Rin really is going to kill me."

He didn't know why that was the first thing that came to mind when he realized how bad shape he was in, but he found it oddly appropriate.

He held back a groan from the new pain that emerged from his comment. He could feel that several teeth were at least chipped if not gone, and his right cheek felt air brush past the teeth on his right side. It took him a moment to realize that his head had been grazed by one of Gilgamesh's weapons and he had lost a chunk of the skin and cheek on that side in the process.

More sounds of fighting from what felt like miles away reached him, drawing him away from his problems. He couldn't stay there and marvel at his wounds. The enemy still wasn't dealt with yet.

Prana ran through his tired frame, analyzing and examining what was wrong with him and what, if anything, was still right.

Bones were easy. So long as they weren't completely shattered, he could use reinforcement to strengthen and hold them together for the time being, which was good because both of his legs and remaining arm were broken in one place or another.

Slowly he reached out and started to crawl towards his severed limb. He didn't know why, but he felt that it would be extremely useful to get his hand on for some reason.

Cuts were just as simple. So long as it wasn't too deep and severed anything important, he could just ignore them. He could get someone to get rid of the minor shrapnel in his body once this was all over with. He was littered with foreign objects polluting his system, but they didn't seem to be much of an issue. He could feel his blood and muscles slowly pushing them out as he crawled along.

Had he been of clearer mind, he might have even questioned how that had been happening in the first place.

… Ah, several tendons on his right leg weren't intact and Avalon's healing wasn't going to fix them in time, partially because they were part of what used to occupy a chunk of the limb that was no longer there. That would be a problem, but then again he wasn't in a condition to run in the first place. So long as he was able to stand, he'd be able to think of something.

"▅▅▅▅▅▅▅▅▅▅▅▅▅ ▅▅▅▅▅▅▅▅▅▅▅!" Berserker's call made him wince, his throbbing head nearly split from the hammering sound

Muscle damage and blood loss were of greater concern. His whole body felt like burning lead and he was still bleeding out of the stump where his arm used to be…

Screech. Screech.

More metallic sounds, but this time more akin to metal scraping on the ground every time he moved.

"H-hah. Hah." He managed to finally grab ahold of his wrist, absently marveling at how lifeless and alien-like something that had just moments before been part of his body had been…

… No. Not alien-like. The flesh and bone of it was indeed an odd feeling, but there was another sensation, something far more familiar to him even though it was the first time he had experienced it. Like his arm had become a natural part of his everyday life, but in a completely new way.

He was blown away as Berserker's massive frame flew just past him and through the nearby wall. The impact of the collision threw him back into the pile of rubble painfully. He landed with a large chunk of concrete jabbing into his back uncomfortably, though thankfully not enough to cause more extensive damage. He might have blacked out if his condition got any worse than it was.

He never let go of his arm though. The longer he held it, the more he was certain that if he did let go it would all be over. It held value, though he really didn't know why. It was just another part of him, and…

My body is made of blades.

"Ah. That's right. How stupid." As if remembering something obvious, he chuckled to himself dryly in amusement despite the pain it caused him.

As if to confirm his suspicions, his arm seemed to take on a new meaning and purpose in his eyes. Options that he had not seen before were now available. He could work with this… or not. He didn't know if he could do much of anything in his current state.

Looking down, he saw his front completely saturated in his blood, with more leaking out from his side. Ridiculous. He'd pass out doing nothing at this rate.

Thankfully his belt was still on and undamaged. Almost half of the jewels on him had already been drained dry from the fighting earlier, but there was still sufficient power enough left for some thaumaturgy despite his weakened state.

Using the same alteration spell utilized to move his holy sash around his body, he took some of the fibers in his jeans to make a makeshift tourniquet around the stump to cut off the bleeding. He was slightly thankful that the limb had been blasted off instead of ripped out of the socket. He wouldn't have been able to do anything if that had been the case.

That only left the issue of how the hell he was going to get up. Even if he could get his body to function somewhat, he had virtually no stamina in it. He had lost so much blood and was so heavily injured that it was a miracle that he had woken up at all. He could crawl with some effort, but that was the best he could do under his own power.

It was the slithering sound of chains that brought him out of his stupor. The unique noise simply stood out too much compared to the chaos and ringing that had occupied his ears to not notice.

Looking to the source of the oddity, he watched as Saber rushed forward to avoid getting ensnared by the trap from behind, charging at the enemy with all her might… but at the same time more of the links shot out from all angles. It had been a trick, and had she moved just a bit faster she would have made it too.

His blood boiled as she was caught. His fading consciousness returned with a vengeance at the sight of Saber's condition.

Unacceptable.

Saber was supposed to be an unstoppable force, a beauty on the battlefield. Something that shouldn't be bogged down by anyone or anything once set into motion. The self-imposed weight placed upon her by being King was bad enough in his opinion. The idea of her being trapped went against everything he stood for.

Magic ran through his body. Avalon was doing a reasonable job of taking care of the worst wounds and refilling his veins with blood, but it wouldn't be enough alone. Bones were set into place, then the breaks developed serrated edges that locked with one another and held themselves in place. His wounded flesh mended together with tiny blades acting like mesh that grew and expanded.

His head and body screamed. Yeah, he probably had a fracture in his skull that needed to be addressed now that he through about it. There would likely be a concussion or two there as well.

"Move…" His order to his remaining arm and legs was more of a rasping noise from his dried up throat more than a coherent word, but there was more strength in it than anything else that had been uttered until then.

He was on his knees now. He didn't bother to pay attention to what mindless crap Gilgamesh was saying to Saber. The man loved to hear himself talk and Shirou had no intention of stopping him so long as it gave him time.

The sight of the enemy gently caressing Saber's face like that did not do much for his mood though. If anything the boy marveled later in how no one managed to detect his killing intent then.

One foot had firmly managed to make it on the ground when he saw the man take out a blade, and he knew that he needed to act.

A noble phantasm designed to bring low the divine. A potent and well-made tool, strong and tough to restrain many things, but it possesses no protection against that which is not divine.

"What the hell do you think you're doing to my Servant?"

The blades of the Round Table answered their King's plight. Imitations perhaps, but they still retained their memories, their efforts, and their loyalty to King Arthur. Not a single one could stand by in such a situation, and thus were called out from his Reality Marble with barely any cost to assault the binds that dared to hold back the Once and Future King.

As mighty as the Chains of Heaven were, they could not hold against the full might of the Round Table.

He did not allow himself to relax from the minor victory. He saw moments later more tools spawn around his Servant as she attempted to use her freedom to finish the fight regardless of what would happen to her afterwards.

With barely a thought, he fired off several accelerated copies as fast as he could to intercept Gilgamesh's counterattack. He must have used more time magic than he thought, as he actually managed to get a few before they had even been fired off. Still he didn't get all of them, and whether by dumb luck or convenient planning, Gilgamesh had survived thanks to the tool he had intended to use to mutilate Saber with earlier.

The Golden King snarled some meaningless things to him, but he didn't bother to pay attention this time.

He wouldn't be able to move like this. Half his gems were used up. Berserker was gone, if not incapacitated. Saber was starting to get worn down. He wouldn't be able to stay conscious like this for much longer even if he was healed by Avalon. Plus the detonator to the bombs were lost among the rubble, so there was no hope of setting them off now.

However, that didn't mean he was out of options. No, rather, because he was in such a state, a new path had become available that he did not, and probably wouldn't have, consider before. A last ditch effort with long lasting consequences even if it did work, but the odds were far more favorable than anything else he had. No, if anything, they were probably better than what they had when the fighting started.

"Saber." He called her back. As favorable as being striking distance to Gilgamesh was, her being there would make his plan impossible. He needed her in arm's reach for this to have any hope of working.

She only hesitated for a moment at his decision in confusion before leaping back to him quickly. Gilgamesh didn't seem to take too kindly to that and once more began firing off weapons at them.

He needed as much prana as possible for this, and he couldn't run in his state, so instead of projecting copies to deflect the oncoming missiles, Shirou did something even more absurd…

… Left arm moving on its own, he swatted away the attacks with his severed limb like a club, the sound of metal hammering metal ringing through the room as he did so.

Even though it wasn't connected anymore, his limb still was recognized as a part of Unlimited Blade Works. A representation and medium of all the weapons seen, experienced, and stored within his world. As such, even though it was clearly an arm, it was also a sword… no, it could be considered all the swords it contained at the same time. The properties they held, the materials they were comprised of, the memories they had, were all there.

The first swipe that knocked away a Peruvian lance had been driven by the skills of Cu Chulainn and Gae Bolg.

The second, driving away a Celtic longsword was fueled by King Arthur's Caliburn.

A Greek greatsword by Lancelot's Arondight.

A total of twelve different tools were hammered away by the time Saber got close enough to take the load off of him before the attacks temporarily stopped. He breathed out heavily. As useful as his makeshift weapon was, his body was still nearly gone. That last blow nearly blew his arm out of his hand… and if that had happened then they would have lost for sure.

"Sh-Shirou?" He glanced at his Servant curiously to see what the matter was, only to note that she was staring at him in bewilderment and trepidation. It took him a few moments to remember that he probably looked even worse than he currently felt, and that was after taking into consideration that his arm was severed.

"I'll live," he rasped out, noting finally that with his cheek torn he had a bit of a slur. Noting how annoying the air brushing against the side of his face was, he used some alteration to move his shroud to properly wrap around his head again, covering the wound. "Stay close. We'll only have one chance at this."

"Saber!" Gilgamesh roared in annoyance, having not moved from his spot at all. "Why do you still persist with this charade?! I have already clearly defeated you both alongside Heracles, and yet you continue to defy your King. Surely you must realize that the battle was decided from the beginning! If you continue to delude yourself, I will have no choice but to be stricter with your discipline once this is over!"

Countless weapons started to pool above the man, ready to fire in a moment's notice, a perfect representation of just how irritated their owner was.

"The battle has not been decided, Gilgamesh." Saber took a defensive stance, not daring to look back at Shirou despite her growing curiosity. Out of all the possible strategies that they had discussed, not one of them had them in their current situation. "My Master and I still have the will to fight."

Trace on. / My body is made of blades.

The severed limb in his grasp instantly took a metallic shine, scale like splinters in the shape of countless blades protruded in every direction. It looked more like a bizarre spiked club in the form of a twisted limb than an actual arm now.

"Tch. Another last stand then? How annoying. Just like traitors and would-be usurpers who do not know when to give up." The Golden King raised his arm lazily to signal his final attack, when a sound reached his ears. One that was unexpected. "Your Master seems to have finally gone mad, Saber. My condolences."

Saber held back the shiver down her spine, caused by the dark and broken chuckling from behind her.

Deleting all safeties. / Fire is my blood, and glass is my heart.

"Haha. Ah, sorry to disappoint you, Gilgamesh, but you're slightly wrong on that part." His voice was wet and raspy at the same time, something that belonged more to a deranged old man than a teenager.

Maximize world sympathization ratio. / Through countless battles I forever wait.

His grip on the metal limb tightened, so much so that the tool was begging to splinter in his hand.

Despite the fact that he could barely speak above a whisper, Gilgamesh heard him clearly. "Slightly? Humph. At risk of being exposed to your madness, child, I will indulge you. How am I, who reigns over this world, wrong?"

Balance reality foundation. Counterbalance. Pressure. Equalize. / Alone on the hill of blades.

Cracks were running along all over the limb and progressively growing. It was going to fall apart soon.

"I am not a traitor or an usurper, Gilgamesh. To you, I'm just a thief that just happens to be a Faker… well, I guess I'm somewhat more than that too…" The bloodstained grin on Shirou's face was seen through his shroud, eager madness starting to dance in his silver eyes.

Base focus medium chosen. / For hell's hands to bear.

"A thief?" The King's frown deepened in some curiosity. "I suppose you admit that Saber is mine then, boy? That you intend to take her from me?"

With a final squeeze, the metallic limb shattered like glass into tiny silver fragments that spread in every direction behind him. The sound and sight of the arm breaking caused both Servants to pause for a moment at the spectacle and wonder what exactly the boy was up to.

Within moments, the silver glitter had spread from wall to wall, all the way up to the ceiling above…

Range set. / For heaven's hands to temper.

"No. She was never yours, King of Heroes. It's simply… just as you are the King of this world…"

The silver colors glowed brighter, dulling the image of the ruined castle interior behind them and making way for something else.

Establish bounded field. / Never yearning for salvation.

"I am the God of mine."

Thus I see the dream, on the hill of blades.

A hill illuminated by the twilight of the moon and stars was shown behind him. The land littered by blades reflecting crimson light off of the sun that had all but set in the distance.

Just as seemingly hundreds of weapons seemed to pool out from around Gilgamesh, just as many seemed to do the same through the boundary that had just been established.

"And I'm invading."

o. o. o.

Omake: Good food can solve any problem.

"You better summon it soon Onii-chan." The albino angel smiled softly as she passed her brother on the otherwise empty street. "You won't live much longer if you don't."

Shirou matched her smile with one of his own. "I'll take that to heart Onee-san."

The world froze and her confidence fell. What did he just say?

His confident and kind smile grew. "But until I do that, we don't have to fight. If that's the case, would you like to have dinner at my place? It's rather cold tonight and I wouldn't mind the company. Since you're my guest, I'll make you whatever you want. Even waffles."

"… Eh?"

A week later:

Gilgamesh was running. He would deny it later, but for the moment he didn't care.

The Bastard of Zeus was a formidable foe on his own. While not on his level of pedigree or prestige, Heracles was still a mighty heroic spirit of merit. Tenacious. Relentless. Resolute. Fitting qualities for a demigod worth his time…

He did not expect that his foe's Master would match if not surpass these qualities though. It may very well be his undoing that day.

"FOR THE WAFFLEEEEEESSSSSSSSSSS!" The homonculus Master shouted her war cry at the top of her lungs, clinging onto her Servant's neck as the black giant charged forth with a massive stone axe blade in each hand. The second was no doubt a gift from the Faker that she had been spending her time with since the beginning of the War.

"WAFFFFFFFLLLLLLEEEEEEEEESSSSSSSSSSSS!" The Black Giant roared loud enough to shake the entire forest in his blind charge. The madness that his Master possessed clearly bleeding into his own mind.

Noble Phantasms fired at him would not hit, as the crossing strikes that Berserker unleased that oddly resembled the top of the food deflected and batted away any form of harm that would have come to him.

"Haha." Merem Solomon laughed in amusement as he watched the chase unfold next to a clearly flustered Shirou, who was busy making the next batch of waffles for his sister. "I was right to come here. This war really is interesting to watch."

"Shut up Merem. Please. Just, shut up."

"Mmm." The King of Rats mumbled happily as he ate a small stack of freshly made waffles from behind the two. "I can see what the fuss is about. These are very good Lord Emiya."

"Hunger is the enemy." Saber nodded while covering her waffles in maple syrup.

"They'd better be." Bazett went for her third helping. "I was the one who taste tested them for him until they were this good. You have no idea how much I had to work out to burn all of these carbs off."

"Oh who are you trying to kid? You got to eat for free." Lancer sniped at his Master with a full mouth.

"We need more cinnamon." Rider pretended not to sulk. "Berserker ate it all."

"BERSERKER! USE NINE LIVES WAFFLE WORKS!"

"NINE LIVES WHAT?!"

"WAFFFFFLLLLLLLEEEEEEESSSSSS!"

BOOOOOM!

"There should be more in the pantry." Sakura wiped her mouth with a napkin, ignoring the chaos happening nearby.

"I feel like I should be angry about this." Rin started on her second helping. "But for some reason I just can't."

"Where's Archer?" Sakura asked curiously.

"I locked him in my house after he refused to help make more waffles for everyone." She answered shamelessly. "He seemed to think that it was more important to fight than feed us."

"A pity he turned out like that." Luvia drank some tea at a nearby table.

"He should eat more of these interesting treats, these waffles." The princess nodded in agreement. "A shame they did not exist in my era."

"I have no idea what's going on and I don't care!" Taiga claimed with glee as she loaded her stack with powdered sugar.

"How did she get here?" Sella asked skeptically with her empty place that certainly did not have a waffle on it earlier.

"No clue." Leysritt tilted her head to the side confused.

Kiritsugu stood in the shadows a fair distance away from everyone, confused. He didn't exactly dislike the results of this turn of events, but for some reason he felt like crying profusely because the world didn't make sense anymore…

… Or maybe it was because the waffles he were eating. They were really good.

o. o. o.

A/N:

Thanks again wayfarer for betaing.

THUMP.

I Hate The Night Shift!

Like I said earlier, I started my new job at Ford. As part of the program, me and the other entries have to work a month in the assembly line. 11 hour shifts. 4 days a week. I just finished the first week.

It is hell.

Seriously, to anybody that works on the line, you are a better and stronger person than me. To anybody that knows someone that works on the line, buy them a fucking drink. Or twelve. They deserve that much. I've worked hard laborious jobs before, but this beats that by far. Good god.

It's not so much the repetition and tedious work. I'm fine with that and can do that for a while… but the standing. For hours. That might not sound so bad, but after you hit the 5 hour mark it hurts. It really, really hurts. Especially for someone whose family has a history of scoliosis. My grandfather could have given the hunchback of notre dame a run for his money, and sadly I am not joking when I say that. I'm fine so far, I can run, jump, and climb trees and the like. Overall I'm in good physical shape, but this is torture for me. At the end of the first day the pain was so bad I had trouble breathing.

Yeah, I'm not going to be able to make much progress in writing so long as I'm working this thing. I've been sleeping until 1 every day since this started and it's not something that's going to stop soon.

Anyways, onto the chapter.

I had every intention of finishing the whole fight here, but apparently I got carried away with everything and I had to split it up. This is a big fight that I've been planning for a while so I wanted to do it justice. Lots of things happening all over the place and there's definitely going to be aftereffects as a result.

Now I know there are going to be a lot of type moon fanatics and purists that are going to be up in arms about what I've done here so I'm going to be blunt:

The bounded field rules, the character mentioned at the beginning messing with the Reality Marble, the bounded field itself, Shirou's arm, Caster's territory (not the argon coin though), are all things that I have MADE UP. I have made them reasonable and tried to make them follow the rules of the world to a believable degree for both continuity and story purposes, but none the less I have made them up. Don't quote me. Don't try to make it sound like I'm trying to be legit. If you take offence to it, I don't care.

If on the other hand you do have a question about what I used and want to know IF it is canon or not, please ask. I will not snipe people who are simply curious about these sorts of things. Just don't be a dick about it. There's no need for that.

As for Illya's love for waffles. I made that up too. I just wanted to add a bit more to her character and thought, "little sheltered German girl needs a guilty food pleasure. Give her waffles. Waffles are awesome. Problem solved." Really. That was it. Don't try to look deeper into it cuz you won't find anything.

Shirou's belt has been mentioned several times in earlier chapters, and this is where it finally shows itself. Essentially, it's a replacement for the energy boost he got from Rin in UBW for the sole purpose of helping him fight and hold off Gilgamesh. It really goes to show just how terrible he is at jewelcraft. He spent almost two years pouring energy into the gems, with very occasional help from Sakura, and the best he could manage is slightly more prana than what he would have gotten from the UBW route when he linked up with Rin. Keep in mind that during that route, Rin was also pouring power to Saber at the same time, so it wasn't like that had been the full scope of her power too.

Speaking of Gil, this is where he really shines. In all the fights he's been shown in in the main series, he's never fully opened the Gate of Babylon and gone absolutely nuts except when he was fighting Shirou in UBW, and even then it was fully countered by the Reality Marble. I wanted to show just how absurd GOB was outside of that situation and I think I did a good job of it…

… or not. Really there's no limit to how open Gil can open GOB under normal circumstances, but in this fight… eheheheh. You'll have to see the next chapter to see what I'm getting at. I'll just say that there are three facts or conditions about this fight that in conjunction will turn things against Gil in the end.

But seriously, Gil is OP as fuck and I wanted to show that. He easily took out Saber, Shirou, and Berserker without Ea once he took things seriously. Pure overwhelming power that most tactics would have no hope of surmounting, even when teamwork is employed by the strongest participants in the War. Most of the time it's just one or two people fighting him at a time getting their asses kicked, and even then the characters tend to be either weakened for some reason or just not that strong in general. FZ Rider was an exception to the rule in a way, but in the end his army had no real diversity power wise, so it's hard for me to count him as one.

Having Shirou, Saber and Berserker all team up on him and still get their asses kicked seemed to get the idea across pretty well.

Just because I know someone's going to bitch about this if I don't leave it unanswered, I'll say it here: the only reason why Shirou survived getting pummeled by Gilgamesh's swords on the stairs is because when the stairs buckled, it shifted Shirou's position and caught everyone by surprise. This messed with not only Shirou's aim but Gil's as well, causing his fired weapons to be off target. Granted, some of the blows would have been lethal, but Shirou had managed to fire off some weapons as well and managed to deflect those.

Really, he lived in the end due to dumb luck and Avalon… which is essentially the reason why he managed to survive through the main story, so anyone who tries to argue against that logic should look pretty stupid doing so.

And yes, Shirou lost his arm again. He's really bad at staying unharmed in big fights, as it should be. No, he's not getting it replaced with the Garm or other game breaking plot device that's equally broken. Don't be stupid.

So that's about it guys. I'm back to sleep. Hopefully I can manage to platinum Bloodborne by the time work starts up again…

… I feel like crying now.

SO REVIEW! WORSHIP THE LOG! YES I FREAKING BLASTED SHIROU'S ARM OFF AGAIN BUT NO HE'S NOT GETTING THE DAMN GARM DON'T EVEN TRY TO GET YOUR HOPES UP! AND REVIEW AGAIN!