Chapter 46: Foundation

I do not own Fate/Stay Night and stuffs.

o. o. o.

Merem yawned as he walked to his next destination. It was just after ten, and he had just landed after his meeting with Fina.

"It's too early for this," he moaned to no one in particular. Normally he'd keep his thoughts to himself, especially when it was very likely that Fina had spies in the area, but he didn't care.

How did Ortenrosse, Altrouge, and all those other micromanaging monsters around the world deal with this day in and day out for centuries? He never understood it. There was a need for organization for large projects, yes. Time and preparation were always necessary for things that were worthwhile in the end, but for a monster that was more akin to a natural disaster to spend day after day without end at a desk of all things plotting was just unbearable to him.

Maybe it was the fact that he was a Planet Terminal that kept him from being able to stay in one place for long. The ways of the World did not mix well with the ways of Man after all.

While most Apostles thought him as a traitor for working for the Church as what was generally accepted as an attack dog position, he didn't care. He didn't want to be in a high ranking political position. He didn't want to have subordinates. He didn't want that sort of power. It was all meaningless to him.

Truth be told, he had initially harbored the idea of siding with Ortenrosse before the Church. The jobs in general wouldn't have differed much. Take out target A. Go to location B. Etc. He chose not to in the end for three main reasons.

The first was that the Church had a better cache of ancient treasures that they could pay him with to add to his collection.

The second was that Ortenrosse was just too old fashioned and boring for his tastes. He simply just didn't get along with the dusty white old man.

The third was just to see if he actually could join the Church in the first place, if only to see everyone's reactions and figure out just how far he could take it.

He was one of the oldest Apostle Ancestors. Turned by Crimson Moon himself. He got bored. It happens.

He felt his left hand twitch, as if it was laughing in amusement.

"Hush you," he chided the rat before stopping in front of his destination, the home of Rin Tohsaka. He would have flown the entire way there, but he was fairly certain that alarming four high strung Servants with a rapidly approaching Divine Beast would be a poor decision.

The bounded field around the property was strong. Granted, the bounded fields he had crossed walking on the streets to the building were potent as well, but those were more for detection while these were no doubt for War. He doubted he'd be able to get through them without some serious effort.

That being said, he took the more mundane approach to announce himself and rang the doorbell, followed shortly by knocking on the gates.

Then for good measure he spiked just a small bit of his prana to set off a few of the bounded field alarms. He wasn't hiding in the first place, but it would get them to him faster. He wasn't exactly in the mood to wait today.

A minute later, the gate opened to show a far more pleasant Caster than the one he had dealt with that morning.

… Well, pleasant was a bit of a stretch given how stressed and disheveled she looked. Less conniving would be a better way to describe her.

"Hello. I'm Merem. Is Shirou here?" He smiled politely, appearing for all intents and purposes like an innocent fourteen year old child.

The Servant looked at him confused for a moment before the name registered. "The Vampire?"

"Mmm. And you're the other Caster. Medea of Colchis." He verified her identification of him in return.

She looked around warily. "… You're responsible for all the rats that have been spying on everyone."

He lifted up his left hand and wiggled his fingers, as if to show her that the King of Rats was not at the moment, a rat. "Spying on everyone, yes, but for the most part they're everywhere to begin with. Humans tend to be rather suboptimal when it comes to keeping buildings insulated if they don't see that things are wrong in the first place. That being said, you'll be pleased to know that I have no idea what's happened with your group since you moved here thanks to your fields."

"I learned my lesson the first time." She frowned, unsure if it would be a good idea to let him in the first place. "Why are you here?"

He blinked in confusion, as if genuinely not understanding her question. "To help. Shirou must have told you about my actions by now. Unless, is he still unconscious?"

She shook her head slightly, her face betraying the fact that she clearly didn't want to think about him at the moment. "No. He is awake now, though he was preoccupied with other matters. I took a moment to have some time to myself so I'm not particularly up to date on his status. One mom-?"


Before Caster could finish her sentence a small explosion blew out the windows of one of the rooms to the side of the building, catching their attention. A red and black blur shot out from the debris, followed soon by a brown and red one.

"He looks fine to me." Merem looked around Caster to get a better look at the situation, not too perturbed by the new turn of events before looking at her again. "This may sound a bit rushed, but do you mind letting me in before things get more escalated? I want a better view of everything."

Standing in Rin's front lawn were Archer and Shirou, staring one another down and waiting for the other to move first. Their circuits running hot and their eyes searching for the slightest weakness or sign of magic from the other.

Archer remained impassive for the most part, but Shirou was borderline apocalyptic if his expression was any indication.

"Is now really the right time for this?" Archer asked in a bored tone, as if he was talking about a chore. Despite his words, Kanchou and Bakuya were in hand and at the ready.

Shirou on the other hand didn't say anything. His jaw was clenched tightly and his eyes seemed to burn molten silver. Around him hovered several copies of Gae Dearg aimed at the Servant, and a few ethereal and transparent shields directly between them, trinkets from his fight against Gilgamesh. None would prevent any real attack, but they were enough to stall Archer for a moment or two if he wanted to get close.

"What on earth… what is that boy doing?" Caster couldn't comprehend what was going on.

Merem's expression didn't change. "I've never seen him so worked up before."

Five of the spears shot at Archer like bullets, spread widely so that he wouldn't be able to dodge them all. The speeds they traveled at were almost akin to what Gilgamesh used on average. It wasn't that great of an accomplishment since they both used the same simple method to do so. All it took was the application of a small but densely focused amount of prana behind the tools.

The Servant blurred to the right, deflecting the closest spear with Bakuya by hitting its shaft when it got close and making sure not to touch the spear's tip.

With the attacks out of the way, Archer continued his path around the boy at speeds no human or average Magus could follow, let alone match, until he was behind the makeshift bulwark and darted forward.

"Ngh!?" He jumped back just in time to avoid getting speared by more copies of Gae Dearg that instantly materialized behind the boy.

"He kept up with Archer?" Caster blinked in surprise. True, Archer was nowhere near the fastest Servant, but still a human should not be able to follow one in terms of speed.

"His eyes did." Merem corrected her, noting that Shirou was turned in Archer's direction and looking at his opponent. Archer may be leagues faster than the boy, but Shirou's eyes enabled him to at least track of his opponent.

No, that wasn't exactly it. It was more Shirou's eyes were merely cataloguing what and where everything was at any given moment. The action of seeing and following Archer's movements was beyond him, but it didn't matter because his eyes still obtained and processed the data that was Archer's location and direction.

It was much like being stuck in a room with no light, but your eyes were still able to send signals to your brain to tell you where everything in its line of sight was. You couldn't see anything, technically, but the knowledge was still there and valid.

"You're obnoxiously attached to that spear." EMIYA noted with some annoyance as the weapons that missed him dissolved into nothing. Gae Dearg's anti-magic properties were a perfect counter to traced weapons. Any projection that encountered the tip of one of those things would instantly fall apart.

He wouldn't admit it, but the Servant was slightly impressed. The longer he was around the kid, the more their memories leaked into one another. He could tell that Shirou had left his back open on purpose, that the moment anyone attacked from that direction, the kid's magic would trigger automatically and fire on anyone that approached from that direction.

It was obvious if you looked at how they fought. Archer used his weapons like weapons. Shirou used them like spells. Quality and Reality Marble aside, the kid was far more akin to a magus than he was and it showed.

"What's going on here!?" Caster finally found her voice and approached the pair.

"Surprisingly, I didn't instigate it this time," Archer casually replied, not once taking his eyes off of Shirou as the latter turned around. "He woke up earlier. Came down stairs. And went nuts as soon as he saw me. Just in a different way this time."

"Trace. On." Shirou's eyes narrowed as three copies of Kanchou and Bakuya materialized around him, spinning like saws and fired at the Servant.

Archer's eyes widened in surprise, instantly knowing what the boy's plan of attack was and threw his own swords at the kid as if he was getting rid of a bomb before dodging once more to the side. Had he kept hold of his own blades, the attraction properties of his blades would have literally pulled Shirou's to him like a magnet, making them far too distracting to deal with while the kid fired on him with more spears. "Not bad. He has a brain after all."

The oncoming blades would have cleaved the teen into pieces had he not moved some of the copies of Gae Dearg in the way to dispel them on contact, but the focus it took to defend himself properly gave Archer enough time to get his own strategy made.

Jumping back, the Servant made his trademark ebony bow and took aim. Shirou braced himself for an attack, but his eyes widened an instant before shots were fired as he saw his enemy's real target.

Arrows impacted the ground in front of Shirou with the force of small bombs, kicking up grass, dirt, and stone in equal measure, blinding and unbalancing him in the process.

Shirou jumped back unsteadily in turn, attempting to get out of the way of the dust and the arrows, but for each foot he retreated, another bomb went off in front of him, disorienting him even more.

"Dirty, no pun intended." Merem watched with curiosity. Shirou couldn't match Archer in strength, speed, prana, or experience. That much was obvious. The only thing the boy had going for him was his magic, which was for the most part identical to his opponent's. No, if what he learned and deduced is true, then Shirou's proficiency with it might even surpass Archer's save for the fact that he hasn't fully manifested his Reality Marble yet.

In terms of spell weaving, Shirou had more tricks to use and knew how to use them. Traps and spells that he could enact, with strategies that optimized their uses. Throw in the fact that he had the Emiya thaumaturgical crest and it could be easily deduced that the boy had the wider range of mysteries than his opponent.

But that was all he had.

Versatility was fine, but it didn't mean much if the enemy was too fast, strong, skilled, and experienced to let it get to him. Not to mention that Archer wasn't exactly a one trick pony either.

Shirou had been pushing himself in this fight because he had to. He couldn't match Archer's prana, speed, and power. Close range was suicide, and both fighters excelled in mid to long range combat, but that once more put things in Archer's favor. It was a fight that Shirou simply couldn't win if he hadn't prepared for it beforehand.

"You're not terrible," Archer spoke from the top of Rin's home. "But, even you should be able to tell what will happen if you keep pushing this. You're wasting too much prana to protect yourself, and you clearly didn't start this in ideal condition either. You're going to run yourself dry pretty soon."

Shirou clicked his tongue in annoyance as he took stock of the shields and spears around him. With a mental trigger, the spears vanished, but the shields merely repositioned themselves around him.

Archer took aim and smirked. "Oh? Interesting."

A copy of Kanchou and Bakuya slammed into the shields on either side of the teen, making him flinch, but not enough to take his attention off of his opponent above, just through the dust.

"You're not as gullible as I thought."

Shirou managed to get a bow up and fired off a counter volley of arrows just in time to intercept Archer's. Small concussive blasts that sounded like cannons went off as reinforced shaft met shaft.

Archer's eyes focused on Shirou and could not hold back his amusement. It was impossible for a normal human to match this rate of fire. He wasn't going all out, but he had assumed that it would be enough to overwhelm the kid.

Instead, he watched as Shirou released his arrow with unreal accuracy, let his projectile leave his weapon's influence, then without moving or uttering a spell, partially deconstructed and reconstructed his bow such that the taut string was once more in his back hand with a new arrow in place in a fraction of a second, took aim just as quickly, and let the new tool loose.

"Not bad. It's not often that Shirou Emiya of the Fifth Grail War manages to figure out that trick. Or did you just get that from me?"

"No. He's known it for a while. I've seen him use it on a few jobs. It's pretty useful, but not that accurate for long range," Merem commented to Caster. "Although I am surprised that Shirou's bow is giving him enough force to match Archer's in the first place."

"He's using prana to increase the power and velocity of his shots," Medea absently answered him, figuring out his trick with a glance, more distracted by the fight itself than the mysteries involved. "Archer's taking him lightly."

"Mmm. I see. I see." Merem nodded in understanding as both bowmen continued their stalemate. "I understand why Archer wouldn't go all out against Shirou with the vast difference in power between them, but I don't think it would be wise to get comfortable or complacent."

"Time Alter. Double Accel."

Shirou's rate of fire and the velocity of his arrows doubled instantly.

Had EMIYA expected Shirou's time magic, he easily would have been able to adjust in kind, but the instantaneous change in rate of fire and power caught him off guard. Just before the first shaft hit him, he dodged to the side. With his footing off, he couldn't match Shirou's following bolts, making the Servant continue to move across the roof of the building while countering the most troubling of the lot.

"He forced Archer back." Caster blinked in surprise. True it wasn't an outstanding feat by a Servant's standards. Even she could put up a solid fight against EMIYA, but for a human of this era without aid to do so was beyond belief. The boy had apparently fought toe to toe against Gilgamesh, but she had trouble digesting it until seeing the boy's combat aptitude personally.

"Changing weapons. Range control. Alternating combat tempo. Traps. Shirou uses and switches between all of these whenever possible to open up his opponents' defenses." Merem nodded, as if expecting this to happen. "There's a limit to how fast a person can react to major changes in a fight, more so when it comes to conjuring an answer to it. Shirou's general approach to things it to make the biggest opening possible with these factors to open his targets up, and then strike them with either the hardest or most effective attack he can set up at the time for a one hit kill. Truth be told, he hates using tactics that wear down his opponents. He says it gives them too much time to come up with a counter."

"But he supposedly killed Gilgamesh. Shouldn't Archer be easy to deal with?" Caster asked.

The vampire looked at her briefly with an unreadable expression. "Shirou prepared for Gilgamesh. Extensively. He planned for the War months if not years in advance, and Gilgamesh was one of the factors he focused on the most. Locations. Tactics. Spells. Traps. Behavior. Habits. He took it all into consideration. He couldn't afford not to. The belt he wore when he arrived had gems that he had charged for two years with prana just so he could stand his own in that fight for more than a few seconds. In comparison to Archer, Shirou probably didn't know anything outside the bare minimum about him until today. He isn't prepared. He didn't set up a battleground. He isn't even fully healed from what I can tell. And the most he knows about Archer is what he knows about himself plus anything that's leaked from them being Shriou Emiya. That's not even taking into account the differences in how Archer and Gilgamesh fight, personalities, weapons, and so on. The circumstances are as contrasting as night and day."

Medea appeared to look like she was going to say something else when a gust of wind distracted her.

"That's enough!" Saber stood on the lawn in between Shirou and Archer in full armor and sword post swing. It looked as if she used the wind mystery around her blade to blow away the next salvo of arrows from both bowmen.

"About time you came." Archer sighed, but didn't put his weapon away seeing as Shirou didn't either.

"Saber. Move. This doesn't involve you." Shirou all but ordered, not looking at her at all.

He probably should have. That way he would have noticed the Fin shot that passed by his Servant and smashed into his skull, sending him crashing to the ground, courtesy of Rin.

"It sure as hell involves me you insensitive ass! That was my living room you totaled, in case you forgot! And that's my Servant you're currently trying to kill!"

"Huh. All this time I thought his constant concern about the girl killing him was metaphorical." Merem tilted his head to the side and looked at Rin curiously.

Archer remained quiet. Seeing Shirou get nailed with the curse dredged up several unwanted memories that were best forgotten.

"I hope you didn't knock him unconscious again. He just got up." Illya sighed as she appeared next to the very angry Tohsaka.

"For all the help him being awake did us." Luvia sauntered over out of the hole that Shirou had made, brushing dust off of her clothes as she did so.

"Shouldn't we be more concerned as to why Shirou wants to kill Archer in the first place?" Sakura looked around confused.

"Before anyone assumes I provoked him in some way, I didn't," Archer shouted from the roof. No one bothered to reply or react to his claim.

"The first time they looked at one another, Shriou went catatonic. The second time he went into a murderous rage. I shudder to think what would happen a third. It is best to keep them separate first before any explanations are made." Luvia shivered.

"Would that even work?" Illya frowned. "Onii-chan went straight for Archer after he remembered everything."

"It can if you have the right distraction." Merem suggested, causing everyone to turn to his direction and finally notice he was there. "Hello everyone. I'm Merem Solomon."

"Caster. When were you going to tell us we had company?" Luvia asked slowly.

"I was going to, but then, well, this happened." The Servant nodded her head to Shirou and Archer.

"It was very interesting to watch." Merem clearly had no qualms with making everyone there feel more than a little uncomfortable.

"I'm going to need so much aspirin after this," Rin muttered under her breath. "It's just one thing after another these days."

"How do you think I feel?" Illya looked at her with some annoyance. "Ever since I first met Onii-chan my grasp on what is rational and what isn't has been all but nonexistent. And he's supposed to be the one that's taking care of me when all of this is over."

"Given what your life apparently was in Germany, is that really such a bad thing?" Sakura probed.

"At this moment, I'm still debating it," the Albino answered with a dead tone.

The immortal couldn't help but laugh in amusement. "Hahah. How interesting. You certainly have attracted an entertaining lot, Shirou."

"Shut up, Merem." The clearly not knocked out teen picked himself up and cradled his aching head. Rin did not hold back with her curse and it sure as hell felt like it. He didn't know what hurt more, the initial impact of the lingering residue that was playing tricks with his skull.

"Have you calmed down yet? Because if you haven't I will plug your skull again. Unlike everyone else, I am fully aware of how hard it is." Rin glared at the redhead and charged another curse.

"I allowed you that first curse out of respect and courtesy given my Master's actions, Rin. I am not so generous to allow you more without due process." Saber warned tersely. She did not say it, but she was a bit miffed that the girl used her distraction to land what could have been a lethal blow to Shirou.

"Don't stop me, Rin. He has to die. That… thing isn't me. Don't listen to his bullshit." Shirou tried to stand up, but was pushed down again by the owner of the house and was forced to stare down a black orb several inches from his face.

"I. Don't. Care." She spoke slowly, her curse pulsing with each word and actively ignoring any and every warning she was given. "Let me make something clear, Shirou Emiya. After all that I've learned. After all that I've been through these past few weeks. After all the shit that I've endured dealing with TWO of you, I have decided to stop being nice. I'm not going to humor you. I'm not going to let you do whatever the hell you want anymore. I'm not giving you the carte blanche. You don't like Archer? Too bad. He's my Servant, so I decide what happens to him. Not you."

"Ri-" He tried to argue, only to be cut off as she grabbed his shirt with her free hand and pulled him dangerously close to her curse.

"No Rin's. No but's. You lost your right to use those until I say otherwise. At this point you'll be grateful that I am allowing you to breathe without my permission, and it's going to stay that way until I say otherwise. Do. I. Make. Myself. Clear?"

Under normal circumstances, such treatment would cow most people, including Shirou. However, even with her hold on him, he still refused to submit to her demands. What Archer represented, what he had done, what he simply was, was something that Shirou simply could not ignore and let exist so easily.

He grit his teeth and glared at her. He didn't want to fight Rin. He didn't want to cause her more trouble than he already had. It was something inconceivable to him… but then again so was Archer.

Rin's eyes narrowed and her grip tightened. It appeared she'd have to use her ace to deliver the final blow.

"Follow my rules. Or I take back the kitchen."

Shirou's face turned ash white and his heart fell through his stomach. "What?"

"You heard me. I'm part of the Church, remember? I giveth. I can taketh just as easily." Her expression didn't change in the slightest.

Illya blinked in disbelief. "She didn't just… the kitchen? Seriously?"

"You wouldn't." It was more of a plea than a statement.

"She would." Sakura dropped her head and sighed, partially in embarrassment, partially in relief seeing as Shirou was being forced out of his erratic state.

"We don't speak of this to anyone. In fact, I suggest we purge this memory from our heads as soon as Caster is dealt with." Luvia covered her eyes with a hand. She and her family would never live it down if word got out that Shirou was being cowed and manhandled by an angry childhood friend threatening his kitchen of all things.

"I have a future you as my Servant. The Ritual my family has dedicated centuries to is a flop. The world is at risk of an apocalypse because of it. You've been hiding this shit from me for two years. And I have a fucking Apostle Ancestor watching all of this on my front lawn with a grin on his face like this is his new favorite afternoon tv drama. Try me."

"I'd compare it more to a multi-part play. I'm not really a fan of television," Merem threw in his two cents.

"You're not helping." Caster glared at him.

"Was I supposed to?" His innocent smile completely contradicted the situation.

"Wasn't that your reason for being here in the first place?" She pointed out skeptically.

Her words seemed to remind him of his original purpose for coming over, as he flinched slightly, although that too may simply have been an act to appear innocuous. "Right. You got me there."

"Rin. But, Archer. He's…"

"On our side. Unlike Caster. Who is still likely to kill us all if we don't get our shit together ASAP," Rin cut him off again. "Whatever it is you have against Archer, stow it until after we deal with that bitch. We don't have time for you to get hurt doing something stupid again. We don't know when she'll attack us next."

"Three days," Merem spoke up, causing everyone to pause and turn to him in confusion.

"And how would you know that exactly?" Saber all but ordered him.

"Because I saw her this morning, and told her that if she didn't agree hold back for three days I'd attack her with everything I had. Which would all but ensure that you'd win once you did make a move." The Vampire shrugged.

The entire lawn was awkwardly silent for several moments before Rin turned to Shirou once more and seemed to talk just by making eye contact.

A long and reluctant sigh of annoyance escaped his lips before his body went lax. "Let's get inside. It'll be easier to organize and plan everything if we have some maps and notes on hand."

"And Archer?" She frowned.

His expression momentarily flashed to one of indignation and fury before calming down again. "We'll discuss that after the Witch isn't a problem anymore. Don't let him anywhere near me until then unless I say otherwise."

She stared at him with an unreadable expression before letting her curse die off and letting go of his shirt. "You're so unreasonable, you know that?"

"I've been told." He picked himself up before wincing as he recalled that he had just taken a Fin Curse to the head just a few minutes earlier. "Damn, could you have at least hit me somewhere else?"

"I picked the part of you that would be damaged the least." She turned away without shame and walked to her home again. "I expect you to clean up my living room before you decide to get put into a coma again."

He threw her a dirty look but refrained from saying anything. The bow next to him shattered like glass as he started to the building. "… Just keep him away from me. I don't want to deal being around him any more than I have to."

"I was going to do that anyways. Having one of you in a room is bad enough." She shot back.

"He's not me." Shirou ground out with a surprising amount of venom before forcefully tearing himself from one headache to another. "What was the deal you made with Caster?"

Merem took it as an invitation to come inside as he walked away from Medea and to his friend. "Three days of ceasefire starting this morning. If she breaks it, I will fight with you. If she doesn't, I'll stay an observer."

"And if we break it?" Shirou probed.

"Still an observer. The deal wasn't with you."

"What constitutes premature nullification?"

"Unrestrained combat and assassination. Spying and covert operations and the like are permissible."

"That includes her setting up bounded fields and traps, and our dismantling of them?"

"Of course. Caster wouldn't take it otherwise. Plus it would be boring."

"And you're free to do as you wish until then." Shirou paused and looked down at his friend with a knowing glint in his eye.

"Indeed I am." Merem smiled back.

"… Caster's an idiot." The teen shook his head. "When the Princess goes out to dismantle Rider's Bloodfort Andromeda, you'll escort her. Make yourself visible as she works. It'll piss off the Witch and cause her to make mistakes."

"Hmhm. You're quite an obnoxious brat aren't you? I don't know what's more ridiculous, the fact that you came up with that approach so quickly, or that you're so comfortable ordering me around like you're my superior." Merem chuckled.

"You make it sound like you're against your own setup. Old Geezer." Shirou aimed low, not bothering to hide his own amusement.

"Now that's just rude. After all I've don't to help you out, the least you could do is show a little gratitude." The oldest one there didn't sound offended at all as they entered the building, ignoring everyone watching them. "Kids these days are so impatient. You're not even going to wait the full three days are you?"

"Of course not." The boy grunted. "Whoever attacks first has the advantage. There's no way we're going to risk losing that. Everything's going to happen on the second night."

"I thought as much. You really are an impatient brat." The conversation was muffled by the building as they disappeared inside.

"I'm not the only one that got chills listening to that, am I?" Illya looked around hopefully.

"I'm beginning to see why he's so comfortable around other Servants despite our difference in power." Saber's expression was unreadable, her eyes never leaving the building.

"The Vampire is certainly powerful. I understand why everyone is so concerned about his being here." Caster crossed her arms. She could instantly tell that his limbs were not what they seemed. That they possessed ancient and unmatched mysteries that were rarely rivaled even in her time.

No one followed the pair into the building, whether it was because they didn't want to be around them, because they wanted to talk with the people outside, or because they didn't want to help Shirou clean up the living room.

"They certainly do look like they acknowledge one another," Sakura noted. "I wonder why Merem is so accepting of Shirou in particular. From what I understand, Apostle Ancestors don't really make that many friends… other than that one that I heard runs a human company for fun."

"I could care less about him so long as he doesn't destroy my home." Rin didn't want to bother dwelling on Merem unless she had to. She already had enough headaches to deal with. She still didn't understand why Shirou is reacting so violently to his Servant counterpart. "Archer, did you really have that hard of a time dealing with Shirou?"

The man on the roof remained quiet for a few moments. "To use an analogy, he's like a very venomous wasp. He's too weak to warrant me going all out, but if I am careless he still has the potential to kill me for certain. Trying to fight while keeping damage to a minimum is frustratingly vexing. I can see why the Servants he's fought against are wary of him if they didn't know anything about his abilities. Underestimating him is just as potentially lethal as underestimating another Servant. Unlike other Masters, he's actually a threat to us."

"That makes sense, I suppose." Luvia crossed her arms and looked at Rin. "How are we going to deal with this new development, Tohsaka? Shirou's proving to be even more of a handful than we first thought."

"He's not a problem. Not so long as Archer stays away from him and Rin keeps them both in line," Illya interjected.

"Why didn't you try to stop him when he woke up?" Rin looked at her.

Illya rolled her eyes. "Yes, because Onii-chan is the kind of person that tells others that he's planning on killing someone on their side in the immediate future. Saber and I barely managed to realize that he was going for Archer in the first place before he managed to get downstairs, and even then we didn't think he was going to go this far."

"I don't know why, but Shirou's thoughts are surprisingly clouded and blurred whenever Archer enters the picture. I'm sorry for not preventing this sooner. I should have anticipated it." Saber bowed her head in shame.

"Still… I've never seen him act like that before." Sakura looked at her sister as if asking for confirmation. "This is the first time he's ever lashed out at anyone. Especially like that, and unprovoked."

"I guess I just bring out the worst in people in this world." Archer helplessly shrugged.

"Something tells me it's not a unique occurrence." Rin glanced at her Servant. "Archer, stay up there and keep watch for the night."

"No surprise there. If I see an easy shot against one of the other Servants, should I take it despite the ceasefire?" He asked curiously.

"Do not joke about such things Archer." Saber chided. "You know as well as the rest of us that doing so could easily put us in a position we do not want."

Archer waited for a moment for someone else to add their two cents, but when that clearly didn't happen, he shook his head and snorted. "Fair enough. I'll just bark if something happens then."

With that he turned spiritual, exiting everyone's line of sight.

"He certainly seems to be taking things well." Luvia didn't look away from where he vanished.

"Please, just don't go there Edelfelt. For all our sakes. Just don't." Rin sighed and rubbed her temple to reduce her migraine before looking at Caster. "Did the vampire say or do anything that we need to worry about?"

Medea shook her head. "No. He seemed to be content just watching the boy and Archer fight. Anything important he's said was heard by everyone else here."

Everyone there glanced at one another as they started to recall just what Merem had said not even a few moments earlier.

"Three days." Sakura crossed her arms and looked at the ground.

"Two. Shirou doesn't intend to wait that long." Saber corrected her.

"Does he even have a genuine plan of attack?" Caster frowned.

"Knowing him, he's already come up with a few even though he's just woken up. Whether or not they'll work is another thing." Rin shook her head.

"I know he doesn't deserve it, but should we help him fix the living room? It'll get him to work on strategizing faster," Luvia suggested.

"No. He needs time to cool off, and cleaning helps him relax almost as much as cooking even if he'll never admit it. It's a good distraction." Sakura knew Shirou's personal habits better than anyone else there since she's spent the most time with him at his house. Rin was just as frequent, but she was more active whenever she was around him, so she saw the relaxed side of Shirou less than her sister.

"A powerful male that enjoys servant work. As if this era wasn't confusing enough." Caster shook her head in defeat. She'd never get used to this time or its customs.

"Please don't assume that Shirou is an accurate representative of our world's male population. I'd have nightmares picturing such a thing." Luvia shivered as she let her mind wander, followed by many of the others there.

"None of you would come close to being as traumatized as me if that ever came to pass." Archer mentally quipped to Rin.

"I wonder why," she shot back reflexively before giving up. "Let's go inside. We're not going to get anywhere just standing here and wondering how messed up everything is going to be in a few days. Since half of us haven't eaten yet, Sakura can start on dinner. If Shirou finishes before she does he can help out there as well."

"And what will the rest of us do?" Luvia followed her. "I refuse to sit idle on anyone's behalf any longer Tohsaka."

Rin looked back with cold azure eyes. "We get everything we have together, start mapping out the battleground, and start to plan. Then when everything else is done, we see just how Shirou acts and thinks when he's planning to destroy someone completely."

o. o. o.

"Your thoughts?"

The captain of a nameless regiment of the SS army stood at attention as Fina lounged in his chair and casually sipped some blood from a glass. "I have observed many of your interactions with your peers over the years Sir, but even now I can never be certain as to their thoughts and motivations."

"Toss certainty to the latrines. Nothing's ever certain. Certainty's useless and predictable. Come on. Out with it." Fina brushed off the excuse with a lazy wave.

A minor shift in weight was all the German did to display his discomfort. "I suspect that Solomon is hiding something in regards to the War. Given the limited contents of your conversation and what I know of him, I can only assume it may have something to do with the Emiya boy because of their relationship. Perhaps the child's Servant is more prominent than we anticipated, or more specifically its Noble Phantasm."

"Mmm. That does match my suspicions as well." Fina nodded as he looked aimlessly at his drink. "Merem's always been a bit peculiar compared to the rest of us, even if you don't take his relationship with the Church into account. His idolization with the White Princess has been a problem for us. He's helped, or rather, led her to one or another of us Ancestors every time she's woken up, leading to their unfortunate end. He does so not out of duty or for the sake of a reward, but simply because he believes that it is only natural that he should do so, even if it ends in his own death eventually."

"And despite all that, he's announced a new Ancestor recently. Something he's never done before." The SS noted.

"Not directly." Fina corrected. "He's been there for a few declarations, and even supported a few claims, but he's never hoisted one up himself. And to do so when the Aylesbury Ritual so close… there's a reason why everyone's scrambling to find the new Tenth. Even if he is a supposed weakling, there's no desire to let an unknown X factor free to do as they wish now. Not when that other brat Enhance is betraying his kin and rank in a pitiful childish rebellion."

"He is rather attached to the boy. Do you think perhaps…"

"Pfffft! Ha!" The pirate laughed loudly at the unfinished question. "Barthomelloi is like a bloodhound when it comes to us. If the boy was an Apostle, let alone an Ancestor, she would have torn him to pieces before wiping his name from every book and record on the planet by now. Even if it was in her favor to employ him, she'd still murder his ass just for suggesting such a thing. No, the brat's human. Interesting and very easy on the eyes, but human."

"But that still doesn't change the fact that he's the first human outside of the Church that Solomon is involved with to a notable degree."

Fina drank some blood with a wide grin on his face. "Hmmm. True. Very true. That one doesn't grace others in person that often. Normally he uses that disgusting rat arm of his to deal with others. To be honest, I was expecting the rodent showing up earlier for our meal, not him."

"He's comfortable here." The soldier frowned. "Enough that he believes that exposing himself won't be a significant risk. In his mind, the boy isn't just a friend…"

"He's a genuine ally. One that will fight beside him without asking questions. Showing up like that was his way of saying 'I am not alone here.' Not just that, but it also states the capability of those that he believes are backing him up. That little bastard was mocking us the entire time." Fina's smile widened, only this time it was one of vicious hunger. "The Queen's Silver Dog. The Ash of Miracles. In such a short period of time Crown has made himself quite the diverse circle. I'm beginning to see why my Lady was so concerned. Hell, I'm surprised that dusty old bastard White Wing hasn't made a move yet."

"All the more reason to be careful here. Solomon can be pushed back with the right tactics and resources, but we would be frantic to spare enough firepower to hold off a Servant as well. Much less several." The German honestly assessed the situation. He was part of the greatest military force on the planet, but that did not mean it was undefeatable.

"And that is what reconnaissance is for, captain." Fina raised his glass in a toast. "For what is life but a series of battles that may or may not be fought? With cities ripe for pillaging or avoiding? Are we to hunt or stay our swords and guns for another day? Is the day where our grand illustrious march continues yet again upon us? My friend, you must remember that oft times these questions and the preparations that lead to them are as marvelous to behold as the show itself."

"Sir!" The captain stood at attention, agreeing completely to his leader's proud statement and command.

It had been almost sixty years since he and his squad had been enlisted in this army, and while it was rough and confusing at the beginning they got used to it quickly. A new leader. A new life. A new everlasting war. But they never forgot their origins. He and his comrades were part of the Third Reich, and they proudly represented their homeland and ideals.

Much like the Corsairs of the Spanish armada.

And the Navy Seals of the United States Army.

The Soviet Union. The Chinese Communists. The Jagiellion dynasty. Roman-Catholics. Kalamars. Ajurans. Ethiopians. Khmers. Samples from every great power, known and unknown all ended up presenting themselves in line eventually.

For their honor. For their pride. For themselves. For their homes. For power.

For War.

For the Parade.

o. o. o.

Everyone was in the living room doing one of two things.

They were focusing on the table with the map of Ryudou temple and the area around it, complete with little gem statues placed in seemingly random locations.

Or they were watching Shirou as he did the former.

Walking around the table, the Emiya's eyes were never still. His gaze would dart back and forth between the entrance to the temple and the city itself. Small jewel statues that represented what appeared to be everyone in the war were frequently and constantly moved to one location or another, then back as the boy seemed to second guess his decision. More often than not, he'd turn to a bulletin board that had also been moved to the room that was already covered in notes to either write something down or look up a fact.

He had also restarted his simulated attacks more than a few times, clearly not liking where they led in his mind. Enough that most of the people there had given up trying to keep track of the number of repeats.

"Why did you abandon that approach?" Saber spoke up as soon as Shirou silently gave up on his latest strategy and reset the map, taking Saber's statue out of the temple grounds. "You were applying solid pressure to Caster and had managed to get me inside without issue."

"Too much pressure." He shook his head as he placed Lancer's replica back at the gate of the shrine from where it had been with Berserker at the base of the stairs. "Caster can't be allowed to have time to realize and react to the fact that she can no longer win. She'd set off the mountain before you'd be able to deal with her. Plus there's no way to keep the other Servants in place with that setup."

"Keep them in place?" Medea tilted her head in confusion.

Shirou paused as he reached for the crystals that represented the Masters. "We have a major weakness going into this that Caster doesn't. Us."

"The Masters." Luvia understood. "We can't fight Servants. Not directly. And we'd be easy targets against them, more so against Assassin and Caster."

"And Rider." Sakura frowned. "No. Especially Rider. Caster won't hesitate to have her use her mystic eyes with us around. Just being around her when she uses them would be a major risk. Or Bloodfort Andromeda. If any of us get stuck in there, our deaths would be a question of "when" not "if"."

"And keeping us separate and away from the fighting would only leave us open and undefended for Assassin and Caster to pick off." Rin grimaced.

"That means that the best solution for us would be to kill Rider as soon as possible," Illya evenly stated, not caring how her brother or Sakura would react.

"No it's not," Shirou countered her, much to everyone's surprise. "Or rather, if this was a normal war and a normal siege that may have been the case."

"Oh? You really are cruel if this is going where I think it is." Merem's eyes lightened with anticipation.

Saber, on the other hand, didn't seem to agree. "You don't mean to say…"

"Bloodfort Andromeda is Caster's first line of defense, but it's also a trap designed to hold back and separate as many of us as possible." Shirou crossed his arms. "The more of us she has in there, the safer and more confident she'll be. In contrast, if we completely get rid of it with minimal damage, her hopes of victory will be reduced to almost nothing. Nothing else available to her has the capability of holding us back and keeping us apart outside of her Temple en masse, and the temple itself should be considered her last line of defense. We don't want her to rely on that staring down all of us. She'll panic for sure."

"You intend to use it as a false lead. A distraction." Luvia's eyes widened. "Some of us are going to be stuck in there to give the illusion that we're split apart against our will."

"Not some." Shirou grimaced as he placed Caster's, Archer's, and the majority of the Master models in the bounded field.

"You're kidding me." Rin glared at the setup, only for Shirou to put Rider's and Assassin's statues inside as well.

"This is the only setup that makes sense if we want to keep the non-fighters safe. We'd start off with this group dismantling Rider's Bloodfort. It would only be obvious for Assassin to place traps around the sigils, while at the same time setting up to take out as many as possible from a distance with a sniper rifle. It would also give him a perfect setup to attack anyone gunning for the Temple directly. Not only that…"

"But it would also trap Assassin inside as well should Rider enact the field, eventually killing him along with everyone else and eliminating a risk for Caster. Three birds with one stone." Saber frowned, instantly understanding where he was going and clenching a fist in frustration.

"That does sound like something she'd do." Merem nodded in agreement. "Good catch, but how will endangering yourselves be in your favor?"

"Everyone here is adept at thaumaturgy and powerful in their own right. Plus Medea has been mitigating the field's progress for the past few days. With those and a few pre-emptive spells, they should at least be safe from the field until the fighting is over. Her summons can provide an extra measure of protection for everyone." Shriou elaborated as he pushed the Servant pieces together. "… Between Archer and Medea, Assassin's location should be found pretty quickly. She can handle him from there. Archer would then take Rider. He's the only one of us that can reliably hold her off at all ranges of battle. Ironically, if Rider sets off Bloodfort Andromeda, the Witch won't be able to teleport in or out of it using her spells, meaning we wouldn't have to worry about her trying to catch everyone off guard in person."

"It's true. I've inspected Rider's bounded field and its properties while I dismantled it. Once activated, being able to warp in without using extensive measures such as the Command Seals will be beyond myself or my counterpart." The Princess nodded, though shooting Shirou an annoyed look. She understood why he referred to her by name and her other by their class in order to avoid confusion, but she still disliked it.

"Can you create an opening in the field once activated? In case we need to get everyone out?" He probed, never looking up.

"Given time, yes. Had it been at full strength my answer would be less favorable. However that's not the case," she replied. "Though my other may as well. If that's the case, I may be able to use it to our advantage."

"Good. That makes things better for us." He nodded before putting down his, Saber's and Berserker's pieces right in front of the mountain itself, and paused. "… I don't like it."

"Don't like what?" Sakura leaned forward and looked at the setup, as did several others.

"The raw power balance is too lopsided in our favor." Saber frowned. "Berserker, Shirou, and I against Caster and Lancer. Even if there were traps, getting through it all would be too easy if we simply charged through, and it's too easy to set it up that way."

"There's a trap somewhere that we're not seeing." Luvia came to the same conclusion that Shirou did. "You think we are missing something."

"Bloodfort Andromida's a powerful and useful tool in this setup, but it's still easy just to walk around. Caster can't risk completely crippling the leylines that lead out of the mountain." Shirou traced his hand around the stairway all the way up to where Lancer was situated and stopped. "… It's been bugging me ever since the idea of just having Saber and Berserker bowling over Lancer came to mind. Something's telling me that it's simply not going to happen if we try it, and only make things worse."

"I don't see how that's the case." Illya looked at Lancer's statue, unimpressed. "Cu Culainn is an impressive Servant, but we have King Arthur and Heracles. You might as well have him try and hold back an entire army by himself with those odds."

"An entire…" Shirou mulled over her words before his face went ash white and he focused on the map again for several moments. "… Son of a bitch."

"That doesn't sound promising." Merem crossed his arms and looked at the map, trying to see what Shirou saw. It wasn't often that the teen swore out loud.

"I take it you figured out what the trick is." Luvia noted, looking at Lancer's piece as well in confusion.

Shirou tore himself from the map and looked at the girls. "My notes. My thaumaturgy books. Where did we put them?"

"Most of what's not on the board are right over there." Rin nodded to the small trunk by the window. "Any of your more sensitive thaumaturgy related materials and books I put in my workshop just in case."

Shirou wasted no time rushing over to the trunk, opening it, and then ruffling through all the files and binders until he got to Lancer's data.

"No. No. No." He muttered to himself in annoyance as he went through the pages, clearly looking for something specific. "I know I at least made a note of it… here."

"Care to share with us what exactly you're so worried about?" Luvia voiced the question that was on everyone's minds.

"We horrifically underestimated Lancer's potential as a guard. In a bottleneck, he's worse than Assassin by far. No. He's possibly the best Servant to be summoned for such a role." The redhead absently replied as he read his notes with a deep frown.

"The best Servant? Isn't that a bit much?" Caster felt slightly insulted by that statement. Her thaumaturgy and Noble Phantasms were mostly defense oriented to the point that she could hold off multiple Servants at once if she needed to, even if she was weaker than she should be since she was summoned as part of a pair.

"Ath n'Gabla," Shirou all but snarled as if it was the source of all his problems in the world. "His version of Ath n'Gabla to be specific."

"Ath n'Gabla?" Sakura frowned in confusion, not familiar with Cu Culainn's legend. "What's that?"

"The deathmatch curse. Originally made by and passed down by the Knights of the Red Branch, a military force under King Ulster." Putting a hand to her mouth, Luvia frowned in thought. "It forces the caster and the intended to fight one another one on one without interruption at that location. Neither is allowed to leave until one is dead, and it prevents outside parties from interfering. Lancer in particular made it famous when he…"

"When he used it to hold off an entire army by himself. For seven years." Rin's face turned ash white, as did many others. If they tried to rush through the front gates, Lancer's spell would stop them in their tracks, and Lancer himself was durable and powerful enough that even Berserker would take a while to finish him off for good, which was something they wanted to avoid.

"Part of it was in conjunction with geass work." Shirou turned a page. "The leader of the enemy Army agreed to certain conditions to prevent Lancer from obliterating huge portion of her forces by himself, but he still would have lost in the end. They originally agreed to one fight a day, but she didn't hold her end of the bargain for long and exploited some loopholes in the agreement. Still, there's no telling just how nasty it could end up if Caster decides to put her own twist on things. Lancer's one of the three knight classes, but his skill in runes was naturally high enough that it was downgraded to B rank, which is ridiculous if you think about it."

"Couldn't you just use Rule Breaker once it's activated?" Illya went to the seemingly obvious solution at hand. When it came to thaumaturgy based issues, there was little that Rule breaker and Gae Dearg couldn't solve.

"No. If anything that would just make things worse." Shirou shook his head. "The only ones that should be fighting Lancer are Servants, and Rule breaker would not only get rid of the curse, but their contracts to us as well. Plus, Ath n'Gabla is notoriously easy to enact and use. I wouldn't be surprised if Lancer could just reenact it as soon as the original spell was broken. His priority it to keep Bazett alive. So long as Caster has her, he won't go against the Witch."

"If it's so easy to use, then why is would it be so potent?" Caster frowned. "Wouldn't everyone knowing how to use it lower its efficiency in this era?"

Shirou turned a page. "It would if it weren't for two things. First is that runes aren't used that much these days. Second is that the rule you're referring to is not based on the knowledge of the mystery, but on its use. Bottom line is simply nobody ever really uses Ath n'Gabla even if it is easy to cast. There's no real use for it as far as research goes and there are safer ways to kill your opponents without risking yourself in the process."

"And how many times have you used it?" Rin asked knowingly.

"Twice." He didn't hesitate. "One designate. One Apostle. Both were pains to chase after and would have likely gotten away if I didn't use it to tie them down. They weren't that strong in the end."

"Figures." Luvia sighed.

"This is a problem." Saber frowned, acknowledging the situation. "It is good that Shirou managed to catch onto this possible trap, but it still puts us in a dire position if we can't do anything about it. Should Lancer, her greatest defense, fall, then there would be little to stop us from entering her Temple. She would probably be confident should only one or two of us enter, but if both Berserker and I manage…"

"She wouldn't have a chance in hell for victory and she'd know it." Shirou slammed his book shut. "And then we'd be left with a crater where the mountain would be. Rin, I'm going to the workshop for a moment to see what I brought over. There's a chance I might have to go home if what I'm looking for isn't there."

"Your rune research and books, right?" Rin glanced at him, knowing where his mind was leading him. "I have some in my library as well, though it's probably not as extensive as your collection since McGinty is your teacher. Feel free to go through them if it might help."

"Thanks." He didn't waste time as he speed walked to the stairs that led to the Tohsaka basement and vanished quickly.

"My my. I've seen Shirou focused before, but never as a magus. It's quite a show, seeing his mind work like this." The only way Merem could look more content was if he had a bucket of popcorn and a soda in his arms. He was promptly ignored by everyone else there.

"Tohsaka. I hope you noticed what he was attempting." Luvia looked at her rival with a sharp glance before looking down at the map again.

"After everything he's done, how could I not?" She shook her head and focused on their replicas on the map.

"He's keeping us in the least amount of danger possible and himself in the most again." Sakura sighed, noting that Shirou's model stood with Saber's and Berserker's at the base of the mountain.

"Idiot." Illya shook her head in frustration.

"He does have a point that you are probably safest with Caster and Archer, but… no, he must have some idea he's trying to get to work." Saber walked around the table, inspecting the battleground from all sides before reaching for the largest piece there. "Raw power isn't going to ensure victory. It is a delicate situation that requires a careful approach to work. Victory has to come in a single unseen stroke. Odds are likely he needs to be in Caster's territory in person in order to enact his plan. As for Berserker, yes, it's likely that he's going to be used to trigger a trap of Caster's. Or force a reaction from her. He's too great of a presence on the battlefield to approach like everyone else."

"Does it have to be him? Or is he just being stupid again?" Rin countered with a frown, reached forward, and swapped Saber's and Archer's pieces. "Unless you've forgotten, Archer is Shirou. They have essentially the same skillset other than a few small differences. Berserker can still be the muscle, and Saber's innate instincts can be just as useful in defending against Assassin. Plus she much more suited for holding off Rider than he is."

"What if he wants Archer up there?" Sakura suggested, putting the bowman's piece back where the buildings are. "Archer is a long distance fighter. Maybe Shirou knows he can help out from a distance."

"Both of them have insane eyesight, but neither of them can actually see through Caster's bounded fields. Shirou managed to pinpoint her location though a loophole last time, but he was practically behind her then and it didn't work," Rin countered. "As soon as anyone gets through the gates, they're on their own."

"What if you're wrong about that though?" Luvia added. "What if he intended to do something that Archer couldn't do, that a Servant couldn't do?"

"He already attacked Caster through her bounded field from the natural bounded fields of the mountain once. She won't fall for it a second time." Saber frowned.

"Maybe it has something to do with the Command Seals?" Sakura added. "Maybe he intends to teleport Saber, or enable her to do something that she normally couldn't to get Caster quickly?"

"Then why would he have to be there in person?" Merem saw a flaw in that plan. "He's capable of observing everything through Saber's perspective."

"My counterpart's defenses could interfere with that connection. Bloodfort Andromeda can do something similar from what I've discerned." Medea replied.

"That's… too simple." Saber didn't take her eyes off of the map. "If both Shirou and I are there, I doubt that Caster would reveal herself in person. She'd likely try to kill Shirou as soon as possible once he was within the grounds and not give us time to react properly. It's an unreliable way of getting her, not when she's prepared for us and not when she has as many resources as she does."

"She has the extra Command Seals too," Illya reminded everyone. "If things get too hectic, she could literally summon all of the other Servants under her control to her and overwhelm the small force that've gotten in."

"Splitting us apart and then picking us off one by one with numbers. It's a very likely scenario," Luvia agreed.

"And yet we still have to not overwhelm what she has or else she'll try and take us down with her." Sakura slumped in her seat. "This is a harder setup to get around than I thought."

"What about Kizuki-sensei and Assassin? I thought he was going to do something with them, but so far Shirou hasn't done or said anything to indicate otherwise. The notes said that Sensei with the right enchantments from Caster could hold his own against a Servant." Rin was confused by that fact in particular since the very beginning. It was almost as if Shirou was purposefully avoiding using them.

"If he has then he hasn't told any of us." Illya shrugged helplessly. "Saber?"

The Servant closed her eyes for several moments before shaking her head. "I managed to glean a few hints from his mind from our connection, but if what I'm guessing is right, then I believe it may be best to keep quiet about it, lest we ruin the odds of it working."

"Ugh. So it's one of those plans." Luvia grimaced, knowing exactly what the Servant was getting at. It was much like the fact that Shirou was trying to stop the War from the beginning. The more people knew of it, the more likely the people against him would find out about it.

"This is getting more and more complex by the second. Isn't there some sort of rule that the more steps a plan has, the more likely it is to fail?" Illya glared at no one in particular. Military and ambush strategizing wasn't her strong point.

"We do not have much choice if we wish everything to end in our favor," Medea relented, admitting that the situation was looking bleaker for them by the second.

"Well, we could always have Saber nuke the mountain with Excalibur before Caster sets off the prana she's stored there, but I doubt that would be much better." Rin shook her head while pretending to ignore the dirty looks that Luvia, Saber, and Sakura shot at her.

"Caster, couldn't you do something about her bounded fields? Like take them over or something along those lines?" Sakura knew that it wasn't impossible to usurp control over other mysteries if you knew how they worked, but those from the Age of the Gods could work in a completely different way for all she knew.

"Not without a great deal of time and preparation. Things we have in little supply, even if I wasn't apparently going to be preoccupied with fighting Assassin and keeping you all alive." Her skills in bounded fields vastly outstripped the Witch's, but it didn't change the fact that her opponent had had almost a week to prepare and set herself up.

Rin was about to say something else when Shirou rushed up the stairs again. "I need to get to my house. Tonight."

"You didn't find what you were looking for?" Illya asked.

"Not everything. And there's something else I wanted to do while I was there anyways." He admitted. "Luvia, I'm going to need to borrow Caster for the trip. Saber's coming too."

"Why me?" The Princess frowned, not liking spending any more time with Shirou Emiya, either Shirou Emiya, than she had to.

"I haven't been home for days. Your other has likely put familiars and traps all over it since then. I need you to flush out the entire place and secure it so she won't see what I'm doing." He admitted. He liked his home and was confident in its defenses, but not against a Caster class Servant. He'd be insane to assume otherwise.

"I'm coming too." Rin's tone left no room for argument. "You cause trouble wherever you go. I'm not letting you out of my sight until this mess is settled. I'm tired of playing catch up."

"I should as well. Caster is my Servant after all. There's no telling what he will do with her without supervision." Luvia stepped in with just as much authority.

Illya and Sakura were clearly about to claim the same as well when Shirou rose his hands up in alarm. "Wait! Wait! Don't overdo it! We still need enough people here to protect the house while I'm gone. I'm fine with one or two more people coming but that's it!"

"Someone's popular." Merem chuckled, clearly amused.

"You. Not helping," the younger vampire snapped, causing his elder's grin to widen more.

"I'm still going." Rin wasn't budging. "Sakura can manage the house while we're gone. Archer can watch the house, but he can't protect it alone."

Illya pouted at the unspoken ultimatum. With Saber and Caster gone, the only Servant they had left was Berserker, and there was no way that he would leave her side for long. "I guess I'll have to stay too."

Sakura too was rather put out by Rin's order, but the sharp look her sister gave her prevented any argument. There may have been some sort of resolution between Rin and Shirou recently, but that certainly didn't mean that everything was water under the bridge. There was no doubt more things that her older sister wanted to talk to him about.

That only left Luvia, who wasn't backing down either. The two girls glared at one another for what seemed like a good minute before Shirou decided to risk his life and stepped in. "If it's just you two as well, you can come."

"Good." Both girls leaned forward with eyes that dared him to go against the decision in any way.

"I'm starting to see why you're such a pushover," Merem mused out loud.

"Shut up, Merem!" More than just Shirou shouted at him.

"Just saying." The vampire was not intimidated in the slightest.

"Is he normally this annoying?" Illya looked at her brother.

"Only when he's enjoying something way too much." Shirou shook his head, turning to the front door. "Come on. We don't have much time to work with as it is."

Saber was the first to follow him outside. Luvia was next after glaring at Merem, with Caster in tow. Rin was last.

Before she exited the building she turned around and seemed to inspect every person there. "Sakura. You're in charge. Don't let anyone anywhere or touch anything they shouldn't. As for you…" She glared pointedly at Merem. "Just don't touch my stuff in general."

The accused blinked several times in confusion before looking down at the chair he was sitting on and inhaled to make some sort of statement.

"You know what I mean." Her eyes narrowed dangerously, as if daring him to proceed with his train of thought. "And no rats!"

He exhaled slowly with a disappointed expression on his face, giving up on what he was going to say.

Illya looked at everyone in the room expectantly as she left. "… So how long do you think it's going to take for her to realize that she just treated a Dead Apostle Ancestor like a five year old?"

o. o. o.

"I just treated a Dead Apostle Ancestor like a five year old. I'm so dead."

"Don't worry. Somehow I doubt it's been the first time that's happened." Shirou sighed as he rested back on the passenger seat of the Einzbern Limo. Saber was at the wheel with Rin and Luvia in the back seat. Caster had opted to be spiritual for the trip.

As of that moment though, Rin was berating her own stupidity and having a small panic attack.

"I don't want to hear that from you. This is your fault. Idiot. Jinx. Liar. Moron. Fool. Demon."

"Hey, hey. I've done a bunch of stupid things so far for work or other reasons, but I haven't done anything demon related… so long as you're not counting Merem's limbs. Tone it back a bit." Shirou grumbled.

"Shut up. It's your fault I'm going to have to plan my funeral as soon as we get back. I'm too young and full of life to be a vampire." Rin seemingly ignored him and curled up into a ball.

Shirou and Saber shared a brief glance at one another before deciding not to go down the obvious route. "Rin, Merem drinks blood, but most of the time he just uses the local wildlife to keep himself sustained. I don't think he's fed on humans directly since he started working for the Church. I wouldn't be surprised if it was part of the agreement he has to work with them. Any human blood he does get these days are from donations."

"Really?" Rin's head popped up hopefully.

"Obviously." Luvia flipped her hair. Personally she had hoped that no one would remember that bit of information for a few more minutes, if only to enjoy Rin's spectacular performance for a while longer. "You're affiliated with the Church. How could you not take that into consideration?"

"I'm sorry. I was a bit too busy dwelling on the fact that I potentially pissed off an Ancestor!" And like that, Rin was back to anger.

"You didn't piss him off." Shirou sighed. "We'd probably be fighting for our lives if you somehow did piss him off."

"He's that powerful?" Saber inquired.

"Outside of the real monsters like Primate Murder, Crimson Moon, and ORT, he's easily one of the top Ancestors in terms of raw firepower. There are plenty of others that are tougher to kill, but there's a reason why he's still alive despite working for the Church. Each limb of his is as strong as an Ancestor itself."

"Minus the rat. That thing wasn't scary at all." Rin grumbled.

"Rin?" Shirou evenly spoke up.


"The black plague."

The car was silent for several ominous seconds.

"You're joking." All warmth and life had left Luvia's body.

"Nope." He didn't bother to humor her.

"I stand corrected." Rin's azure eyes had dilated into tiny dots, much like Luvia's.

"Why is he only ranked Twentieth again?" The blonde shivered unconsciously. The Ancestors were numbered by their threat level to humanity. Seeing as Solomon had apparently wiped out roughly half of Europe's population, one would think that he'd be a bit higher on the list.

"Because he actually likes Humans as a whole and doesn't want to kill us all, and because he only transported the disease with rats. He can't make them from scratch or make new strains." He shook his head. "He'd be a pain in terms of biological warfare, but with the technology and regulations humanity has these days he wouldn't get the same results as he did seven hundred years ago."

"Lucky us." Luvia muttered under her breath, leaning back into her seat. "Shirou… speaking of Vampires, what are you going to do about your condition. You can't hide it forever."

She had a point. Even though Barthomelloi had yet to notice it before, there was little doubt that his body had changed since the beginning of the war. Even if he wasn't immediately pegged as an Apostle, it was only a matter of time until someone noticed something was off with his body.

"Mmm. Probably fake my death. Then hide for a while until everything blows over and my skin and hair finish changing colors. Five years tops. Maybe go to Hokkaido. Not much happens up there." Shirou answered her without hesitating.

"Wh-what? Fake your death?" Rin nearly choked at his admission.

"I wouldn't be the first person to do it. Actually it's pretty easy if you know the right people and steps to take." He shrugged. "The Association has little influence in Asia. I've probed the system myself a few times to see where the flaws in their searching methods are, and they're pretty glaring. I can think of a dozen or so places that I can hide for the rest of my life with Illya without getting caught. It's not like I'm obsessed with researching thaumaturgy, and I don't have to feed for blood."

"You're serious." Saber gave him an unreadable look.

"I have a Reality Marble and I work directly under Barthomelloi. I was going to have to vanish sooner or later whether I wanted to or not. She already knew I was an incarnation to begin with, and finding about Avalon didn't help. Personally I'd rather do it in a way that doesn't end up with me being vivisected," h reasoned as if he was talking about the weather. "I have more than enough money and resources in locations that can't be traced, and a few of the designates I've "killed" over the past few years owe me a few more favors on top of that."

"You actually got one past the Association? How did you do that?" Luvia probed.

"I turned in the designates' research, and a body that may or may not have been the product of a certain Vampire's miracle related abilities. Normally that's enough for the Association bookies to close the case. The guys in England care more about the research than the bodies. So long as what they're wanted for isn't ingrained into their flesh, it's pretty easy to get people to overlook certain minor facts." He yawned. "Most designates don't really deserve to be out and about without supervision, but there are a few that don't deserve the shit they go through."

"You've been planning this from the start. You've been playing everyone." Rin glared at the back of his head.

"I've been playing the Association the moment they decided to play me. You honestly think I expected the Queen to rope me into this shit, or for Louvre to go after me? Or that I'd actually become some Not-Really-Apostle?" Shirou shook his head. "Rin, I just wanted to deal with this mess of a War and keep everyone safe. All this shit that's constantly being thrown around at us from halfway across the planet is everyone else playing politics and being greedy bastards. I'm just trying to ride the wave whenever I can."

"And Solomon?" Luvia had a point. For all intents and purposes, Merem was considered a friend, but was an outside force.

He didn't immediately reply at first, which was a tell that Shirou was clearly trying to word his answer carefully. Which meant that whatever it was wasn't going to make people happy. "He wants my help with something. I won't lie, if it ends poorly, it will put me in a terrible position that will force me away from everyone, but it can also end up being nothing in the end with no one being the wiser."

"So we're all going to have to fight for our lives, after fighting for our lives, because a Vampire is making you do something," Rin summarized dryly.

"There's not going to be any fighting. And you're not having any part of it." His voice grew hard.

"And how long were you going to wait before springing this on us? Was this also part of your long term plans?" Luvia accused.

"Luvia, I learned of this shit as I was passing out from blood loss after fighting Gilgamesh last night. As far as excuses go, I'm pretty sure this one gives me some leeway." Shirou didn't falter. "As far as I'm concerned. There's no fighting. Saber and I go in. We make sure everything goes smoothly as a neutral party. We ignore any and all insults that get thrown our way as if I was in the Clocktower. And then we leave… Please park the car here, Saber. We're walking the rest of the way."

The girls blinked as they looked outside. They were a block or two away from his house at the most.

"Why here?" Saber frowned as she parked the vehicle on the side of the road.

"Traps. Spells. Bounded fields. Familiars. You don't need to get inside a person's home to use it against them." Shirou opened the door and looked around. "Medea, do you sense anything?"

Caster hesitated before materializing on the other side of the vehicle. "No. Nothing here at least."

"Keep an eye out as we get closer. Cloak the car so no one notices it until we get back." He closed the door and began to walk, not at all waiting for the others.

"O-Oi! Shirou! Get back here!" Rin scrambled out of the car and rushed to catch up, as did everyone else.

"Shirou. It's not wise to go out on your own without protection," Saber chided as she almost instantly was at his side and keeping pace.

"We don't have much time." His attention was on his surroundings, his eyes never staying still for more than a few moments. "You know as well as I do that what we do now is just as important as the fighting itself."

"That doesn't mean that you have to rush." The King's eyes narrowed as she glanced at his hands in his pockets, almost hiding their minute trembling. "You are in no shape to do so anyways."

He really should not have fought Archer. His body and circuits weren't in any condition for combat, for how brief it may have been. Not only that, but while his trick to rapid fire his bow was useful, it also was too much for his fingers when he accelerated himself. Had it not been for Avalon and self-reinforcement, he would have shredded off the flesh of his fingers at a bare minimum. Even now he was having some trouble with his nerves. It would take some time to get proper feeling in them again.

Though he had been resting far more than normal and it was night. His body felt like lead. His limbs were dead weight, his joints were stiff as if rust was in them, and his Circuits felt like throbbing first degree burns. His mind was doing somewhat better, but the stress of the situation wasn't doing it any favors. Had it been any other situation, he really would have just stayed in bed for the night.

"What shape I'm in doesn't matter when it comes to figuring out how to deal with Lancer so long as I'm still able to work properly." He sighed. His words may have argued against her, but his body language said the opposite as he slowed down slightly for the others to catch up. "Keep an eye out for any attacks. You've seen more broken ceasefires than any of us."

"Mmm." Saber didn't want to admit that it was true, but followed through with his advice regardless. Her body stiffened just slightly to show that she was ready to intercept any attack that could come.

"If I didn't know you better I'd think that you were doing this on purpose." Rin muttered as she, Luvia and Caster caught up.

"I agree. That was quite rude," Luvia agreed. "Just because we lack time does not mean that proper decorum needs to be abandoned. I expected this sort of behavior from Tohsaka."

They had approached the corner to his property, and Shirou stopped, holding his arm out for everyone to halt as well. "I'll apologize later. Medea. Please go ahead of us and look for anything out of place. Deal with them if you can. We'll follow as backup in case you are attacked."

"How comforting, but I have a better idea." The Princess' tone was anything but grateful as she stepped forward and began to look around herself, muttering in her native tongue. After a few seconds, a small flock of birds no larger than swallows materialized from just as many ritual circles and scattered into the air.

"That's useful." Rin nodded in approval as the flock circled around Shirou's home and began darting to specific locations. "I doubt they're as powerful as your bulls, but how strong are they?"

"Each one easily has enough potential to kill a gathering of humans in a single charge if I wished, though I would prefer otherwise. They do not deserve to be stained with the taint of senseless murder," the Servant admitted, shooting Shirou a look that clearly told him to not go down that route. She cared for her oxen and dragon greatly, but the birds were among the few summons she had that were by nature innocent and peaceful. She'd rather keep them that way.

"We don't have any human targets. At best they can be used as recon or as a distraction." Shirou shrugged without turning away from the sight. He had witnessed something similar before once when Merem talked to a flock of pigeons in New York, but it still was something to behold.

The Greek shot him an unreadable look before getting back to her task. It took less than a minute for her summons to apparently complete their job. "All the familiars around your property have been dealt with. I also detected a few bounded fields near the entrance, but I can manage those soon enough."

"Mmm." Shirou nodded before walking across the street, his eyes darting everywhere again.

"Shirou, I thought Caster told you that she found everything." Luvia chided.

"She found everything that her counterpart set up. Thaumaturgic traps. I doubt she's as experienced with what Assassin could set up." He corrected her before stopping and looked at a tree that was across the street, eyes narrowed.

Before anyone could ask what he saw, a small dagger materialized in his hand, which he almost reflexively threw with expert accuracy at a tree branch. The sound of metal on something not organic was heard.

"What was that?" Rin blinked.

"Camera." He shrugged, as if the one word explained everything.

"How did you even see it in this darkness?" Caster blinked in mixed annoyance, confusion, and some impressment.

He looked back at them, silver orbs reflecting what little light there was, and then blinked. "Secret. Remember?"

He didn't want them to talk about his Pure Eyes. Caster didn't know of them just yet, or at least what they were capable of doing, and there was no telling who or what might still be spying on them and with what means.

"You're enjoying this," Rin accused darkly.

"Yes. I'm enjoying the fact that I am essentially debugging and untrapping my home," he dryly retorted.

"Shirou your home was rigged before the War even started. I helped you set up some of your bounded fields," Rin accused.

"Yeah, but those were my traps. Not Caster's," Shirou pointed out as if it was obvious. He wisely didn't mention the bombs he had set up in the building in case he was ever attacked and needed a last ditch trick to fall back on.

"At the very least, do try to not use any more of your magic for tonight. We need you in as good condition as possible when we do fight." Luvia sighed and shook her head, before pointing a finger at another tree a bit further away and shooting off a Fin curse.

"Oh?" Shirou rose a curious eyebrow. He was going to take that camera out next.

"You aren't the only one with experience with these things you know." The blonde shrugged as if her actions weren't a big deal. "I know what to look for."

"And you're not supposed to be using any spells Mr. 'I spend more time unconscious than awake'," Rin accused.

Shirou wanted to point out that he could manifest a dagger for less prana than Rin needed for her Fin shots, but he thought better of it and held his tongue. There was no point arguing with her. Instead he simply continued to walk forward and scanned his surroundings before pointing at another tree near his front door. "Luvia."

"Got it." A black orb that was near invisible in the night shattered another piece of technology.

"Don't think our earlier conversation is forgotten Shirou. Not in the slightest." Rin crossed her arms and glanced at the destroyed plastic and wires.

"Work takes priority. Don't relax." Shirou chided her as he ignored his front door and continued around the perimeter of his property. "This is going to take a while."

It took over an hour.

Shirou not only meticulously went over the area around his home, but the complex itself and the bounded fields that protected it. He had Caster go over any and every defensive mechanism he had already set up to check and see that his home's defenses wouldn't be used to kill them all.

He had been right.

Three of his detection fields had been linked to several nasty curses.

The walkway from the main entrance hid four claymore mines.

The doorways to half the bedrooms led to alternate dimensions.

The showerhead in his bathroom was hiding a vicious water familiar that melted flesh.

More mines were hidden in the back yard, and one under the cushion of the couch in the living room.

They had to all but get rid of the entirety of the defenses to his workshop.

But by far the worst of the traps was…

"They will die. Slowly. Painfully. I will show no mercy."

"They just had to rig the kitchen. As if they didn't give him enough reasons to be pissed." Rin sighed, ignoring the aura of pure murder hovering around Shirou as he held the brick of C4 in his hand, diffused thanks to a few cut wires.

"Well given who Assassin is, it does make some sense." Luvia laughed nervously, slowly edging away from the teen.

"Molesting a chef's kitchen. Such sacrilege was not tolerated even in my time." Saber seemed to be on the same wavelength as her Master, though that may be simply because if Shirou lost his kitchen he wouldn't be able to cook anywhere as adequately for her for a while.

"Emiya." Caster coughed nervously. "Weren't you the one that claimed that we were short on time?"

The dark aura around him seemed to flare as if it had detected the scent of flesh blood. "You're right. I must prepare."

He then proceeded to make a beeline straight to his workshop and tossed the bomb over his shoulder, where Rin happened to be.

"Wha? Whoa!?" She juggled the clay for a few moments before finally getting a solid hold on it. "Watch where you're throwing these things you idiot! You gave me a heart attack!"

"It's a dud. The thing's useless unless you shoot the thing with a high pressure high temp charge. Even a Fin shot wouldn't do anything since it doesn't have heat." He absently brushed aside her argument as he went outside.

"That's not the point you insensitive dumbass! Normal people don't react well to being tossed explosives without warning, primed or not!" Rin bellowed, stomping after him, followed shortly by Caster, Saber and Luvia.

Shirou just ignored her and went straight to the modified shed that held all of his research. He had hid the bulk of his materials and data away in safes and on the computer, but he still had some books out in the open for quick access.

"So this is your workshop." Luvia looked around curiously. This was the first time she had been allowed even near the building, let alone inside of it. "It appears just as I thought it would."

"Mhm." Shirou turned the page, seemingly ignoring her before looking up and at his bench for something as if just remembering a minor chore. He put the book to the side and went through a few shelves and cabinets before finding what he was looking for… which was an iron rod.

"What's that?" Rin asked curiously. "Looks like a piece of scrap to me."

"Same here." Luvia nodded.

"Medea, a quick experiment. Can you detect anything from this?" He tossed the cylinder to her, which she caught with both hands.

It was a bit heavier than she anticipated, but otherwise it didn't appear to be anything special. She looked at it warily, as if it was another one of Assassin's explosives before uttering a single word of power.

… Nothing.

She frowned. More unpronounceable words were spoken, but the result was the same every time. No reaction. No information. Nothing. "Boy. What is this material?"

"Scrap metal." He looked pleased by her reaction. "Specifically, scrap metal that had the concept of ether removed from it. Meaning it's completely unresponsive to direct applications thaumaturgy, and apparently that includes your spells."

"Unres… wait, wait. You mean to tell me that that new branch of alteration that you and McGinty came up with a few years ago actually allows you to make anything essentially magic proof?" Luvia blinked in disbelief.

"Yeah. Directly at least. Anyone that's gone pretty deep into the course at the Clocktower knows that too. The stuff still gets hot and melts if you try to burn it. It freezes, breaks, cuts, and all that, you just can't do it directly with thaumaturgy." Shirou shrugged as he reached for one of several different sized piles of unfolded cardboard boxes. "It's actually pretty useful for smuggling things past magical defenses. Make a sealed up box of anything that has the concept of ether removed and you could get away with almost anything. Messages. Technology. People. Explosive charges. Dad would have gone nuts over this stuff."

"So that's how you managed to sneak that bomb into the Borgia compound!" The Finnish girl shouted and pointed at him accusingly. "My cousin was tearing out his hair for weeks trying to figure out how the hell you pulled that off! We were trying to find a flaw in that place's defenses for years!"

"The more established a Magi is, the more money they have to waste on their habits. All I did was slip in the box in their latest shipment of weed, cigars, and taxidermy, wait for everything to smell like a Bob Marley concert before setting off some more charges at one of the main entrances." He shook his head as if what he did was obvious. He then made way to his small collection of books and took out a couple to hand out to the girls. "Rin, you look up Curse Theory. Luvia, you and Caster experiment with the boxes to see if they can be used to reliably get objects past the Witch's defenses without detection."

"Bob Marley?" Caster tilted her head in confusion, completely missing the reference. Ultimately, she decided better than to press her curiosity and focused more on trying to fold the cardboard into the shape of a damn… box… blast the infernal overcomplicated trinkets of this era!

"You know, I probably have more curse related material back home. You should have mentioned it then." Rin did little to show her displeasure on his oversight but opened the book regardless. "Anything I should focus on in particular? Nullification. Alteration. Relocation. Curses are pretty flexible things."

"Anything that can prevent or stop Lancer from using the spell to affect all of us at once. Stick to the basic foundations for curses though. Between Lancer and Caster, we won't have any hope of pulling off anything elaborate once it's all set and done." Shirou looked through more pages of text. "The problem is in Ath n'Gabla's simplicity. It's done with just three runes, but its effects are instant and ironclad. It's hard to get around them."

"If that's the case, then adding any additional rules or parts to the curse may weaken it." Medea pointed out as she took a piece of cardboard and looked at it curiously. "They don't have the time to cover every weakness in such a setup."

"But they have the power at hand to make it less simple to deal with even if there is an easy weakness. We don't have the time to try and unravel such a setup either. Our best hope is to somehow counter the core of the trap and let everything else fall around it." Shirou shook his head.

"Wouldn't my Magic Resistance be enough?" Saber asked curiously.

"It would save for two things. The first is that Caster has more than enough power available to possibly overwhelm it." Rin shook her head. "The second is that, if Lancer does have a version that can affect us all at once, it could still affect you in various ways. It can either by using everyone within the vicinity of the curse as an anchor for the established rules, or it could be a simpler bounded field that forces the two individuals to fight according to its rules and prevents anyone else from entering until there is only one. Or it could be something completely different that we don't know about."

"How vexing. Magecraft is a peculiar and annoying art indeed." Saber sighed. "I am glad that I turned down Merlin's offers to teach. I would not have the time to hone it with my duties and my training."

"Pity. With your reserves, you have the potential to be a nearly unstoppable mage." Luvia curiously looked at the cardboard box in her hands as if it was a puzzle, trying to figure out how to fold it properly.

"So I've been told. I am capable of accessing my Magic Core, but I doubt that I am able of any craft of this era. The only active applications I have for it are enhancing my body, Prana Burst, my armor, and my Noble Phantasms." The King of Knights lazily inspected a ten speed bike in the corner of the workshop. "Though that matters little now. I doubt there is any spell that I could have learned in the time we have that could be useful."

"Right. You have a dragon's lineage." Rin looked at Saber curiously for a moment. "Dragons are all but extinct these days, so we don't know much about them unfortunately. Caster? What about you? You have one as your Noble Phantasm."

The Princess shook her head as she finally managed to put her box together, apparently frustrating her Master as she managed to get hers done first. "Saber and the Sleeping Dragon are of different breeds and purposes. At best, I am more capable of healing and tending to Saber better than most of this world, but I cannot teach her much."

Rin couldn't help but allow herself to laugh as her mind wandered. "Medea's Dragon Daycare and training center. Drop them off for a day and we guarantee a new trick when you come to pick them up. You could make a killing off of it if they weren't all but extinct."

"Not surprising that you would instantly go to money of all things." Luvia shook her head as she placed a gem inside the box she had made, closed it, and began to see if she could detect the contents in any way. "Although, considering how you exploited Emiya, that shouldn't be outside the norm."

"Oi. I gave him his fair share and taught him some of my family's craft as a bonus. Isn't that right, Shirou?" Rin's eyes narrowed for a few moments before the lack of Shirou either running away from the conflict or trying to downplay it caught her attention. "Shirou?"

He didn't seem to be paying attention to the conversation anymore. Instead he was focusing on a slew of pages in the book he was reading.

"Shirou. Did you find something useful?" Saber reached out and touched his shoulder, snapping him out of his focus.

"Hm? Oh. Saber. Right. You could… this could work. It might… Rin." He didn't seem to pay attention to everyone looking at him, instead rushing to the girl and pointing to a certain point in the texts.

"What is it?" She leaned forward and began to read. "This just looks like a detailed passage that describes Ath n'Gabla and the runes that make it up with their definitions."

"Yeah, but look here. It's a curse, right? But look at the requirements and how it's set up." He pressed.

"Mhm. Yeah. Ok. That's a pretty basic and standard set of prerequisites, but I don't see where you're going…"

"But what if there was something there first?" He pressed. "Something that they couldn't build off of?"

"Something there first? What you mean like a… wait. Wait, yeah I think I see where you're going with this. But in order to pull it off someone would have to…" Rin's eyes slowly shone with comprehension and excitement before suddenly stopping in place and began to glare at him with violence that surpassed what she managed earlier that day. "Shirou… if you think you're going to be the one that…"

"I'd be lucky if I lasted a minute against Lancer. He's practically the anti-Archer with his skills." Shirou didn't falter under her accusation. Instead he merely grinned predatorily. Pieces were moving in his head. A feasible battle plan was coming together, one that even the Witch would have trouble countering. "Don't worry. I have a better person in mind for this."

Luvia coughed loudly. "Care to share with us what insane idea you had in mind?"

"Hold on." Shirou looked at Rin and held eye contact. "Rin. Tell me. Do you think this will actually work? You know modern thaumaturgical theory better than anyone else here. Caster's more skilled, but she doesn't have experience with this branch."

She took a step back in surprise. It wasn't like him to be this forward. She had forgotten how highly he recognized her abilities and knowledge when it came to Thaumaturgy. Despite being a genius like everyone claimed, it seemed more and more apparent that Shirou's practical knowledge and abilities held greater weight in the grand scheme of things these days. Research and theoretical knowledge were her specialties, not war. "I-I'm pretty sure. Back up a bit will you? You know more about runecraft than I do, but if this book is accurate, then I'm sure it could work. But, how would you get it around Lancer's Magic Resistance? His is B ranked. Not as high as Saber's but still high enough to be a problem."

Shirou lifted the book up again and pointed it to a certain passage. "Here's one example, but I have a couple more ideas if that won't work."

Rin's eyes narrowed as she took in the information like a sponge. "Okay… Okay, yes, I see that happening, but that still doesn't explain who is going to do it."

Shirou sighed in relief and pulled the book back. An "okay" from Rin was as good as gold in his opinion when it came to thaumaturgic theory and application.

It was the execution bit that always made him constantly look over his shoulder in morbid terror.

He turned his eyes to a specific person in the room. "Who else?"

Saber looked around in confusion as everyone stared at her. "… Shirou, you know I don't like it when people make plans for me to do something without my knowing or permission."

o. o. o.

"This is really good. You have excellent taste." Merem smiled as he sampled the tea that Sakura served him.

"Thank you. It makes me glad to hear that. Rin has her usual blends, but every now and then I manage to convince her to get something a bit different." Sakura matched his expression with one of her own.

"I can taste a mix of eastern and western styles in this. It's always nice to see such unusual components working together so well." He meant it too. It kept things new and refreshing.

"I agree completely." Sakura nodded as she sat down with her own cup, but didn't drink it as she was distracted by the third person in the room. "Is something wrong, Illya?"

The girl in question had not touched her tea and was busy glaring at the vampire. "… I don't trust you."

"And you shouldn't." Merem didn't take offense to her statement and took another sip of his drink.

"But Shirou does," she pressed.

"Indeed he does. He's quite childish like that. Then again, I find it's one of his more endearing qualities. He's quite dedicated to those he's attached to."

"Onii-chan's an idiot." Illya pouted. "Even if someone likes him, it doesn't mean they won't use him. He's too nice."

"I agree. Sooner or later he's going to find himself in a tough spot due to his generosity." Merem nodded. "He's rather guarded to most people at first, but it's easy to get around it if you know his personality well enough.

"Like you for example?"

"Illya!" Sakura flinched.

"Yes. Like me for example." Merem didn't so much as bat an eyelash to the accusation.

Much like he didn't seem to notice when Berserker materialized behind his Master.

"What do you want with him?" The albino asked, her tone as cold as the mountains she was raised in.

"What? Friends do favors for one another every now and then. Is it really so difficult to imagine that I would occasionally wish for his assistance with a task or two? If memory serves, Shirou asked for my aid just recently. This is merely something of a similar nature." He didn't seem to see the girl, or Berserker as a threat in the slightest.

"He's not like you. Onii-chan's weak and stupid. He can't walk one step without getting into trouble. He's barely managed to survive this War, and it is only supposed to last a few weeks. A lifelong friendship with you would put him into an early grave." Illya didn't back down. "You didn't answer my question. What do you want with him?"

"Funny how you speak of Shirou as if you've known him longer than I, seeing that you only decided to trust him a few scant days ago. It appears that the Einzberns were remiss when it came to your education. How disheartening." Merem rose a skeptical eyebrow and observed the girl's fraying temper, and the increasing bloodlust of the demigod behind her. "I did not tell you, child, because it is none of your business and does not concern you. If Shirou wishes to let you know, that is his choice to make. However I asked for his aid based on the respect and trust we have for one another, as bizarre as that may sound to you."

"And what will come of it?" Her fists tightened.

"He helps me for a night. Oversees a small event. We say our parts. And then we go our separate ways until whim or fate brings us together again." He shrugged, as if it was as simple as that. "Were you expecting something else? Some nefarious ritual? The assassination of another Apostle Ancestor? Delivering secret information about Barthomelloi and betrayal of the Clocktower? As humbling as your active imagination is, I'm afraid I must disappoint you."

"Illya," Sakura spoke up before the other could. "That's enough. There's no point in antagonizing him. He's helping us."

"Papa trusted me to protect Shirou from himself. That means stopping him from doing things that are stupid and reckless." Illya didn't turn away from Merem. "Tell us the truth. Is what you are asking from Onii-chan stupid and reckless?"

"When you put it like that, you make me feel like I'm some irresponsible monster that goes out of his way to hurt people for the sake of hurting others." Merem couldn't help but laugh at her question. "Yes. In some ways I am asking Shirou to do something unreasonable, but the same could be said for what he is asking me to do now. Rest assured though, I have no intention for your brother to fight or antagonize anyone. I wish, desire, and intend for as much harm on him as he does me."

Illya glared at him for several moments. Crimson orbs peered into deep ocean blue.

And the moment was over. The girl stood up and walked out of the room, taking her tea with her.

"Well, that could have been less stressful." The vampire chuckled, as calm and cool as can be.

"Please forgive her." Sakura bowed, silently wondering why she was playing the adult when the two arguing parties were older than her even though they both appeared to be fourteen at the oldest if she was being generous. "These past few days have no doubt been stressful for her. For everyone really. The War itself is a good distraction, but we will have to deal with many of these lingering issues and emotions sooner or later."

"Think nothing of it. Honestly I find it more refreshing than anything. I've spent nearly all my time around sycophants, religious fanatics, general fanatics, shut in's, wild animals, and monsters akin to myself for the majority of my existence. I find it nice to converse with more grounded individuals of the world every now and then."

"Shirou's grounded?" Sakura rose a skeptical eyebrow. It was a mean and awkward thing to say and admit on her part, but it did need to be said.

"More than most of the people I deal with on a daily basis. Take that as you will." Merem muttered under his breath in some self-depreciation before drinking some more tea.

"When you put it like that, I wonder how the world is still intact and human society is remotely functional," Sakura admitted before partaking in her own drink.

"Best not to dwell too much on that bit. I learned that the hard way." He wasn't a normal individual by a long shot, but he was still more capable of being relatable than the average immortal powerhouse on the planet… somehow. Maybe it was simply because he didn't care that much about his position in the grand scheme of things.

"I'll take your word for it." She had undergone enough traumatizing experiences for a dozen lifetimes. She didn't feel like experiencing a few more just to sate a mild curiosity. "… You will ensure that he's safe, won't you?"

"Of course. I intended to undertake that responsibility before you even said anything." He was telling the truth. The moment he decided that Shirou would be the next Tenth, he had known that he'd be the one that ensured that the boy would either grow enough to meet that name, or accumulate enough power in some other way to match it.

It would have been a nice way to pass the next couple of decades in quiet. Shame Altrouge had to dig where she wasn't wanted. If everyone was lucky, she'd leave Shirou alone, but he wasn't holding his breath.

Odds were likely that she'd try to get the boy to agree to one of her blasted contracts.

Just like Tatari.

"Good. Because, and I do mean this with the most respect…"

Half the room was engulfed in pitch black. The crimson outline of dozens of two dimensional ribbons slowly hovered from the abyss that had once been part of the building, and was now a portal into a realm that didn't exist.

And yet, the girl that sat on its fringes didn't seem to notice the change behind her in the slightest as she drank from her cup.

"Shirou is my only reason for living. I love my sister, and my friends dearly, I really do. Sadly, I really don't see myself continuing on without him. And the one thing I find more intolerable than a world without him is a world that has the nerve to permit the existence of any and everything that allowed him to be taken from me."

Merem curiously looked at the eldritch corruption in front of him and silently praised the girl's control over it. By all means, she should be falling apart by now. Her mind faltering under the strain of so many curses and vile corruption. More so seeing as she was still unstable from absorbing Gilgamesh's spirit.

The look in her eyes though told him the truth. The girl really would burn the world should Shirou die. She would take the role of Angra Mainyu in its entirety.

A small smile played on his lips. "Rest assured child. I will make sure that you two, and maybe more, live a long and happy life."

Shirou really did attract the most interesting of individuals.

Who knows? With the Servants, this girl, and his Reality Marble, he might even manage to be worthy of the Tenth by the end of the decade.

Not just in terms of power, but also as a genuine threat to mankind.

Wouldn't that be interesting to see?

o. o. o.

"This is reckless. Even for you."


"Seriously. I can't even begin to point out all the parts where this can go wrong."

"Partially because I found them before you did."

"Don't patronize me."

"Hey, I caved into your demands for the plan."

"Only after I force fed you how stupid it was to do all of that alone."

"And pointed another Fin curse between my eyes."

"What was that?"

"Do you have a better idea or not?"

Rin grimaced as Shirou gave her a flat look before looking down at the crude drawings and small stones that represented the battleground.

She was being honest. It was a stupid plan that banked heavily on predicting the enemy's movements. It was risky, reckless, and insane.

It also, despite her arguing otherwise, had a very good shot of working. Much better than she thought it would at first.

She had always thought that she'd be able to at least keep up if not match Shirou's ability to plan once she started from the same spot he did but… really, he was on a completely different level when it came to this sort of thing.

She almost felt sorry for Caster. The Witch wouldn't know what hit her until it was far too late to do anything about it.

Hit them hard and hit them fast. She had always thought that she knew what such strategies entailed, but she had been woefully mistaken.

The idiot masses assumed that it meant a general blitzkrieg assault right from the gates.

The smarter ones did things differently. They waited until everything was set up in their favor before unleashing all hell.

And then there were the bastards like Shirou, who always had a hidden card up their sleeves that blindsided anyone that would come with expectations. He would fight with one approach, and then switch to another one completely with a factor that no one had anticipated to completely crush his targets without mercy and no hope to adapt.

If the Witch thought she was the only one that could twist and warp the rules to her favor, she was horrifically wrong.

Rin huffed in annoyance and looked around. Luvia and Medea were finishing up on their experiments with the thaumaturgically inert cardboard, but the end it looked like the stuff was just as effective at sneaking things in bounded fields from the Age of the Gods as they were from modern methods.

Granted, there were some ways of detecting the containers, but unless the Witch knew exactly what to look for and set up her fields to exploit those minor traits, the odds of her discerning anything were slim to none.

Saber on the other hand, was working in the corner of the room, practicing on her own small project. With any luck, she should have it down perfectly by the time everything went down.

And Shirou… Shirou had finished sending out a few texts ten minutes ago. Since then he had been writing down something on a piece of paper, with an envelope right next to it while carrying on with his conversation with her.

Everything was coming together. There was no backing out of things now.

"They're not going to like it." She relented, diverting the subject slightly. "What you're asking some of us to do isn't going to spread warm feelings around."

"They'll deal with it. It's not like we're in a position to negotiate or make demands. It's not like what's planned is permanent." He sighed, looking over the paper a few times before folding it and stuffing it into the envelope.

"It's a matter of trust, not reversibility. Unless you haven't noticed, there's a distinct lack of it between all of us recently."

That was an understatement. With Archer's recent reaming of Caster, Shirou's instinctual murderous compulsion to kill Archer, her rivalry with Luvia, and Luvia's frayed relationship with Shirou for roping her into all of this, they were all barely tolerating one another.

The only person that didn't seem to be in conflict with anyone else in their group was Saber, and even then she wasn't all that approachable with several sensitive topics seeing as she was clearly one of Shirou's biggest supporters in this endeavor.

Shirou looked up at her with a frown and began to say something, but her annoyed and worried face caused him to back down and think on her words. He didn't know of everything that had transpired when he was unconscious, but it was clear that tensions were high. The only reason why they weren't worse was probably because he had kept everyone busy with his plans and small projects.

He looked at his watch. He still had some time left before his next task came along.

Getting up, he stretched a bit. "You're right. I'll try to smooth things out. In the meantime, can you set up the next bit for me? Just get some folders and fill them with random schoolwork. It can be anything, but make it look believable."

Rin gave him a dry look. "Out of all the absurd parts in this plan, I really think this is the most bizarre and stupid."

"I'll take that as a yes. Thanks for the help." He brushed aside her insult and walked outside to his workshop where Luvia and Caster were, pretending to ignore the none too polite words that were being muttered behind his back.

If any normal magus had known that he had given a rival magus and a Caster Servant full access to his Workshop without supervision, they probably would have killed him out of pity for being so stupid.

"How's it look?" He knocked on the door as he entered the shed, getting only brief looks from the two women before they got back to work.

"You terrify me sometimes. You really do." Luvia shook her head in exasperation as she held one of the smaller boxes in her hand. "This… something this simple, cheap, and utterly worthless shouldn't be as devastating as you make it out to be. It shouldn't. But somehow you actually turned this useless material into something that will screw over a magus from the Age of the Gods."

"Technically, old man Sirius made it. I just order the stuff." Shirou shrugged casually. "Not a lot of people out there with high level of skills in structural grasping and an Ether element, and most magi that do exploit it focus so much on custom equipment that they don't think about more practical applications."

"You were probably the one that came up with the idea regardless." Caster shot him an unreadable look before handing him a completed box. "It will work. I needed to make a few adjustments so that the container made from this material doesn't leak or betray the contents, but it's a minor task. Even I can do it though I do not have an Item Creation skill."

"Good. That's really good. I was right to trust you guys with this. Thanks." He smiled and took the container.

It was that last word that seemed to pull at something in the girls. They each gave him a skeptical look, as if trying to see something that should be there.

He tilted his head, confused. "Something wrong?"

"You're different," the Princess spoke first. "You're not like Archer."

The reaction was instant. Innocent curiosity gave way to cold rage, and for a brief moment the girls actually thought that he would actually attack them for some unknown insult.

As quickly as it came though, it was pushed back, though not without clearly a great deal of effort and hidden behind a mask of apathy. "He's not me, and he will never be me. Don't ever compare me to that mistake."

There was no mistaking it. No matter how much of a pain the Witch was, Shirou's hatred for Archer vastly outstripped what the boy had for her.

"Sorry. We didn't mean it like that," Luvia apologized. "The situation is just… well, you're taking it as well as the rest of us."

His expression softened and he cooled down, looking away in some frustration. "No. No, you're right to be confused. I shouldn't have snapped at you like that. I… just don't bring him up in front of me unless it's important, okay?"

"I am fine with that, but will he be a problem? He'll be fighting with us in the end," Caster warily probed.

Shirou's body tensed for a few moments before he forced it to relax again. "So long as he sticks to the plan and stays away from me, I'll be able to deal with it."

"The plan? You came up with one?" Luvia asked with some excitement and hope.

"I had to drag a seal of approval from a kicking and screaming Rin, but yeah. We have a plan and it looks like our best shot." He shifted uncomfortably.

"Seeing as you are reluctant to share it, I am already beginning to express my doubts," Caster dryly noted.

He decided to bite the bullet. "Look, I'm not going to sugar coat it. I'm not fond of it. Rin sure as hell doesn't like it. Saber isn't thrilled about what she's going to have to do, and I am fairly confident that Illya and Sakura are going to try and throttle me as soon as they hear it too. But out of everyone, I'm certain that you two are going to like it the least, and you don't deserve it after everything you've been through because of me. I owe you two. I owe you more than most people could owe a person in their lives."

"Owe us? Shirou you used us. Me. My sister. Caster. Sakura. Rin. You used everyone." Luvia stepped forward, her voice full of so many mixed emotions that even she didn't know what she was right now. "I am not an optimistic and blind child. This ritual was intended and expected to be a bloodbath. We all went in expecting that. But the reality was completely different. We didn't have to fight one another. We shouldn't have. You not only hid that from us, but used it against us. There was a certain level of unspoken trust that most of us had for one another Shirou, and you betrayed that in spades. I could have accepted some of us, even myself, dying in the War in order to achieve victory, for an unlimited wish, to reach Akasha or a True Magic. What we did was risk our lives for nothing. For a lie."

Her hands clenched tightly as a tear threatened to fall from her cheek. "You almost let me and my sister die for nothing Shirou. How are we supposed to go back before after this?"

The workshop was deadly silent for a good while as the two teens maintained eye contact for what seemed like an eternity.

Shirou broke it first with a deep sigh.

He didn't say anything. Instead he walked past the two women and kept going until he reached the corner of the room where a slew of random containers sat stacked on one another.

It took him a few minutes to move them all out of the way, revealing a hidden safe embedded into the ground, which he opened with a few words.

He then uttered another spell, which from their perspective, revealed a secret compartment in the safe, containing a slew of documents and files.

Shirou didn't bother to clean up after himself after withdrawing the papers. Instead he simply made for one of his work benches and examined the files one by one. There weren't many, but it still took him a short while to filter out whatever it was he needed to.

And then what was left was in her hands.

"And these are?" She asked skeptically.

A tires smile made its way onto his face. "Everything you need to destroy me."

The two blinked in confusion. "Come again?"

"My Reality Marble. My magic. My Noble Phantasms. Avalon. Me being an incarnation. My Apostle condition. Even my dad's swords. Anything I took out was only to protect you and the others from any potential backlash." He elaborated, nodding at the stack. "It's all there. Show that to the Association and even Barthomelloi wouldn't be able to protect me if she wanted to… though with the Apostle bit there she'd probably be first in line to tear me apart."

"A-Are you mad, boy?" Medea couldn't believe what she was hearing. He was a reckless fool, everyone knew that. But this… this was simply suicidal. Even with the limited information of the modern era she gained from the Grail, she knew that what the boy had just done was nothing short of giving Luvia the authority to execute him.

Luvia didn't say anything. She had simply stood there with an ash white complexion, staring at the power she now held.

"It's not everything, technically," he went on as if apologizing for not giving her more. "It would take me years if not decades to put down every Noble Phantasm I got from fighting Gilgamesh. And to be honest, even I don't have the slightest idea with what's up with my body after these past two weeks of healing itself from multiple grievous injuries, but it's still more than enough to get the point across."

"Why?" Luvia whispered, her eyes shadowed as her head was bowed and obscured by the nighttime darkness.

"Hm? Why what?" He honestly didn't know what she was talking about.

"Why are you giving this to me?" Her hands clenched, crumpling some of the documents. "Why are you mocking me like this, Shirou?! Is this another one of your cruel plans?!"

He stepped back in surprise and raised his hands in surrender. "I'm not making fun of you at all, Luvia. It's just… I really don't know what else I can do to show that I am sorry about all of this. Offering money is pointless. We're practically rivals as mercenaries. I'm limited in what favors I can give you since Barthomelloi has me on a leash. And even then, I don't know how much longer I can hide my condition from everyone. I was serious when I said that I brought up faking my death in the near future. I just never said how near it was going to be."

"And you thought that me selling you out would somehow make things better for everyone?! That doing so would make me feel better in the black and twisted heart I have?!" she all but snarled.

"I thought that you selling me out could save you!" he shouted back before calming down.

"Save her?" Caster echoed incredulously.

He took in a deep breath and let it out slowly. He lifted his right hand and allowed his "normal" flesh give way to the scale like patterns that took dominance. The left side of his face soon took a similar pattern, ending around his cheekbone.

"I thought I could give you the option to take advantage of when, and I do mean when, I do have to go. This… I really don't know if I'm able to hide this from the Association in the first place with the security they have. I might not even be able to make it to the front doors for all I know. Even Merem doesn't know what I am, and that was before I looked like this. You could claim you raided my place in my absence and deliver it. You can decide however much you want is in there to reveal to everyone to make things look good for yourself. I don't care." He smiled bitterly, as if admitting a truth he didn't want to speak of.

A few seconds later, he looked perfectly normal again save for his sad silver eyes.

"But… but how would that help me? I'm exposing you. Throwing you to the wolves. Turning you into nothing more than a target!" Luvia's arms began to tremble. It didn't make sense. Just when she finally was starting to understand Shirou, he threw this curveball from nowhere. She didn't know whether to be horrified, terrified, or enraged in her confused state.

"You know better than I do that not a lot of people exactly approve of me being where I am. Anyone that's close to me will be under scrutiny and be targeted the instant I'm no longer a factor. Sakura would rather disappear with me. Illya coming along is a given. And Rin… at first I thought of suggesting this to her, but knowing her she wouldn't do it no matter how much she would claim otherwise. I'm planning on holding out just long enough for the Queen to make good on her deal with me to support Rin's enrollment in the Tower. No one would dare make any serious moves against her once the ink dries on her paperwork, and Barthomelloi would keep her end regardless if only because of her pride. But you… you have your family, but even that probably wouldn't be enough if people started to dig deep into my history. Not unless you're the first one to strike gold. You're the only person I know and trust that can and would benefit from me vanishing like this."

"And how long were you planning this? Planning to use my Master?" Caster stepped between the two teens with fire in her eyes.

He laughed in self-depreciation, his face momentarily turning back to its unnatural state. "Planning? It's been more of a vague idea for months. Something to play with in my spare time. I doubted I'd even have to go through with it until this War began screwing with my body and everything's gone to hell. I thought I had at least a few more years to decide on it all, if I could fix things so that I didn't have to go to such extremes, but that isn't the case anymore. Honestly, I'm flying by the seat of my pants more often than not now."

"So you just decided to give this all to me in the hopes that I'd go along with another one of your stupid plans?!" Luvia all but snarled, shaking the papers in one hand.

He didn't look away. He didn't flinch, retreat, or look guilty. Instead, he just shook his head. "No. I gave them to you because I trust you. I trust you and I've been a horrible friend this whole time. This entire War has been one clusterfuck after another for all of us and I thought… I don't know, maybe if I gave you all of that, then we could at least start to mend some of the bridges that I burned down in my stupidity. If I gave you everything I had, maybe you'd start to stop looking at me with suspicion every time we're together again. That you'd see that I really am sorry."

Even the Princess, in all her suspicion of the boy, could tell he was being genuine. There was no fallacy in his words. He meant everything he said.

Luvia could tell too. Tears fell from her eyes, however no words escaped her lips. It was all she could do to not break down right then and there.

He really meant it. He was going to throw everything away soon, and the worst part was that she could tell that he wasn't even doing it for himself and didn't care in the slightest.

He was doing it for them.

He was doing it in a way so that they wouldn't be caught in the storm that would be made as a result.

Sighing, Shirou turned around and started to leave. "I'll leave you for now, but we really don't have much time unfortunately. You can use whatever part of my home until then to rest or do whatever you wish. I'll explain the plan when we're ready to go, but I have to warn you guys again that you aren't going to be warm to what we have set up. It's our best shot though, and I hope that you can work with us on it. We will beat Caster, and we will save your sister."

"… We will take it into consideration, Shirou. Thank you for your generosity." Medea allowed herself to use his name, if only for that time.

"Mmm." He was halfway across the yard before stopping. "Luvia. I just want to let you know… I never cursed Kiritsugu's name more in my life than when I first heard that you were a Master for the War. And I never thanked him more after that for not passing his dream down to me."

Luvia really didn't know what to say to that. She really didn't.

o. o. o.


Again. Thanks Wayfarer for betaing.

Another month another chapter. I'm doing one more before I go back to TTRT for 6ish months… Right before the finale of the series… or maybe a cliffhanger. I'm seriously considering rushing the events of the next chapter so that the fighting starts and I give you all a taste of the fight on the mountain. Meh, we'll see where it goes.

I wanted to put in a scene with the Princess and Shirou, but I ran out of room. Also wanted to put in another particular scene, but again, not enough room. It happens.

Shirou hates Archer… like, really hates Archer due to pure instinct. As in, Gilgamesh would probably step aside so Shirou can have first shot at the guy out of courtesy if the situation ever had them in the same room. There's a good reason for this, but that's not going to be delved into until later.

To put things into perspective, if EMIYA was not Rin's, Illya's, or Sakura's Servant, Shirou would be actively planning to kill him, even if they were on the same side. There's probably only a handful of people that Shirou would ever possibly despise or mistrust that severely to actually go out of his way to kill without provocation.

Gave more of a peek into Fina's RM and how he operates, but I repeat from my previous chap's notes, there is more to it than most people assume, and it makes Parade, and Fina by extension, broken as fuck.

Merem's taking things in stride, death threats and all. He really does consider Shirou a good friend and does try to help, but the vampire has his priorities. If it weren't for the deal with Fina and Altrouge, he likely wouldn't have told Shirou he was a DAA for another few decades or until Shirou was more comfortable with his condition.

Monster hunter… god I love that game. The number of hours I put into it is proof enough.

Mob Psycho 100 is a great anime series. Watch it. Like… now. That's my piece there.

Politics wise… yeah, the election is coming closer and whoever wins… we're all fucked. If the US economy doesn't screw us all, they will.

On brighter news, I play MTG, and some of the cards spoiled for Kaladesh look broken and beautiful as hell. I want that Chandra. I wants its bad.

And… That's it I guess. Not much to talk about now… other than a vague idea I have for a Highschool DxD fic that I made for fun, but that's more something akin to my YAWALEH series. The anime is crap with way too much fanservice, but the light novels are actually pretty good and the world and powers and systems in it are well thought out.

I'd call it… "Go away. I'm watching porn."

Yep. That's the title. Catchy, no? Right up there with my idea for a Harry Potter fic called "Hey cool. A free baby."

… I let my brain wander far more than I should.

So, that's pretty much it. Not much for me to gripe about in my life all things considered. Hope this chapter is more agreeable than the last one and all that.