Chapter 53: Possession and Law
I do not own Fate/Stay Night and stuffs.
o. o. o.
Whispers echoed throughout the courtroom as the Prosecutor made his accusations.
It was to be expected, given the gravity of the supposed crime, on several levels.
Shirou was surprised. He didn't think that the Einzberns would expose themselves to this degree.
Avalon was a Noble Phantasm. An artifact of the Fae. A treasure of unmeasurable value.
Avalon was, in the wrong hands, dangerous.
An EX ranked Noble Phantasm, even if defensive in nature, was something that was required to be handled with the utmost of care in the eyes of the Magus Association. Under most circumstances, it would be impossible for those curious to even gain permission to learn of its whereabouts, let alone see or experiment on it. A controlled object of extreme speculation, akin to how world powers hoard and monitor weapons of mass destruction.
In context, Shirou had essentially just been accused of stealing and hiding the equivalent of a fully functional copy of the Tsar Bomba.
The Einzberns would get some flak for scrounging it up in the first place and not letting anyone know about it, but they weren't official members of the Association. Just a third party with sufficient resources and standing. The punishments they risked were relatively minor.
Shirou on the other hand, was a registered member. He was obligated to report of Avalon's existence.
He frowned, looking at the Homonculus on the other side of the world. They weren't trying to harm him by means of a trial.
This was a smear campaign. The Einzberns didn't care about their prestige anymore. They were out for blood, blaming him and anyone related to the Emiya name for the failure and eventual cancelation of the Heaven's Feel Ritual in its entirety.
"Shirou…" Judging from Saber's tone, she was not happy that they were using her property as an excuse to get her Master into trouble.
"I know. Just wait for now. We need to know what they have." He wasn't exactly thrilled with the turn of events either.
"Quiet! Quiet!" Animusphere shouted, trying to regain some order to the room, banging his gavel several times. "As if this event wasn't outlandish as it was. This is supposed to be a trial for Lord El-Melloi and a report on the Grail War by the participants. You realize that your accusations are also applicable to Emiya, who must I remind you is in Japan?"
"The fact has been brought to my attention. Yes." The smug Prosecutor held his ground. "However justice must be served. And Lord El-Melloi II is an accomplice to this crime."
"A crime without evidence," the defense attorney for Waver spoke up, some noble woman of respectable years that apparently liked Waver if the scant worried looks she gave him were any indication. "Lord Animusphere. This accusation is little more than a desperate reach to try and smear my client's name more than it already has."
It was unfortunate. Normally, someone in her position would be participating more in the matter of things, but Waver, Shirou, and Sirius had held so much information so close to the chest, and the fact that barely anyone in the Association knew what happened in the Fifth Grail War, that she was unable to do much other than stand to the side and let the others talk.
"Who says that I am without evidence?" The opposition sneered. "I have proof that the Einzbern excavated the Noble Phantasm from Camlainn, and lent it to one Kiritsugu Emiya for the Fourth Grail War as a tool and catalyst to summon Servant Saber. The same class that his son has brought forth."
"So that's how they're putting it," Kiritsugu scoffed to Illya. "Your grandfather did obtain Avalon, but in his words, it was a wedding gift to your mother and I. The old fool must be under the impression that since I was of the family at the time, even if it belonged to us, it was still their property."
"But if we say that, it's all but admitting that Onii-chan does have Avalon in the first place." Illya frowned. After all, there would be no need for Shirou to ever know of such things unless it had been brought up in conversation or been relevant at some point. It wasn't something that could be brushed off by saying "Oh yeah, Dad told me about this super artifact he had once but lost at some point".
"That's not proof. It's just conjecture. There are so many rumors in the Association about its members that what you accuse me of wouldn't even be considered in the top twenty percent of alarming crimes. And a good portion of those rumors actually do have credible evidence backing them." Shirou sighed loudly, taking the initiative. "If your next request is that I identify my Servant to the world as proof that I am or am not guilty, then you are a bigger fool than I thought."
Animusphere nodded in agreement, albeit with some trepidation. "Emiya is correct. As stated earlier, the identities of the Servants are to be kept classified for future operations. As of now, you have enough evidence for speculation, but not for any legitimate accusations."
"Well it's a good thing that I do have evidence then."
Shirou was confused.
He did not like being confused.
"You do?" Animusphere asked.
"Indeed." The Prosecutor took out a small file of documents. "What I have here, after a good deal of investigation and negotiation, are copies of several documents that combined make up an interesting picture of Emiya's biography. These copies have been marked, and verified for the court, with the standardized mysteries from the Department of Spiritual Evocation as proof."
"My biography?" Shirou blinked once. He didn't see where this was going. Even though his official profile was kept under the highly restricted section, it still wouldn't divulge anything that would put him in trouble. Avalon wasn't mentioned at all, and Origins were such a niche topic that few people ever bothered with them, so that section was left blank as well. People would question his sword Element, but it wasn't something that could be used against him…
Waver and Sirius weren't dumb enough to keep any documentation of Shirou's status in any form. Any research they had on him or his Reality Marble was either in Shirou's Workshop, or written in such a theoretical and obscure way that the paperwork looked more like a "what if" scenario that would only take place in theory and nowhere else.
The only other person in the entirety of the Clocktower that knew or had anything damaging about him was… oh.
He really hoped this wasn't going where he thought it was.
It wouldn't end well for anyone if it did.
Either way, his mind began to run through a worst case scenario and make assumptions on what it could mean as fast as he could. He barely even paid attention to what the people in the Tower were saying.
"For the sake of today's events, I will censor most of the irrelevant information that may prove damaging to Clocktower operations in the future." The Prosecutor smirked. "Agent Emiya. Estimated age: Seventeen. Genetic Birthdate unknown due to amnesia and lack of official records predating the events of the Fourth Grail War. Found and rescued by Kiritsugu Emiya in the midst of the Fuyuki Fire, the common term for the cataclysm that happened at the war's conclusion, and adopted soon afterwards."
He was building up suspense on purpose. Drawing things out. Everyone knew it. The bastard loved the attention he was getting.
"Twenty Seven natural born circuits of high quality, and an eight circuit crest from the Emiya Family. Three from his father. Five from the confiscated crest repossessed by the Tower from the Third Head of the Emiya Family, Norikata Emiya. It is noted that his body is susceptible to feedbacks from overuse of this crest due to the fact that he is not of the Emiya Bloodline. The fact that his body could accept the crest in the first place without heavily modifying his body or extensive ritual induced adaptation is suspected to be because of the young age the subject was at the time of inheritance, and the meager number of circuits he obtained. The remaining five circuits were deemed to be the maximum his body could adapt to, which still surpassed expectations. Most attribute this is due to the ideal physical and spiritual state the subject has kept himself in, and customizations that Lord El Melloi II and Sirius McGinty made to the transfer process during the first transplant. His circumstances have been used indirectly as reference material in related research regarding cross family circuit transfers."
Damn. Shirou didn't know if that bit about his circuits were in his profile or not. It was a bit of a grey zone when it came to private information. Something that he didn't want others to know if he could, but it also wasn't something that was terribly damaging. It wasn't uncommon for Magi to brag about how many circuits they had or how potent their circuits were or how big their crests were.
Hell, for the younger generations of Magi, it was almost a rite of passage to make innuendos regarding their "circuits" and "magic crests" for a few cheap laughs. If only to get it out of their systems before their work sapped any life they had out of them.
That, or they were scared mute when they made the mistake of musing about how "massive" the Queen's "Circuits" were only to find her standing behind them moments later.
They were getting dangerously close to territory that he really didn't want anybody to know about. Unfortunately, it was still merely toeing the edge of the cliff. If he spoke up now, it would only show weakness.
"Sword?" Animusphere blinked in surprise. He wasn't the only one that was curious if the looks in the room was any indication.
"Indeed. My resources and I were also doubtful of that as well. An unusually abnormal element to be sure. However in hindsight it does make sense. Agent Emiya's specialty is utilizing Gradient Air to produce swords to the point that he can even replicate innate mysteries associated with them. It is well known to the public at this point. At first we all assumed that he was an Average One, however this makes more sense in a way. If he is merely imitating weapons he has examined before, then his peculiar element could be seen as a sort of loophole that enables him to replicate the tools in their entirety, mystery and all. It's a rather convenient little trick."
"If you're done trying to scare me and reveal private information to the gossiping masses, do get to the point." Shirou coldly cut in. "I don't see how any of this is related to me possessing King Arthur's prized Scabbard."
If he let the man toe the line any further, he'd just be inviting the opposition to beat him via a thousand small cuts.
No one missed the Prosecutor smirk in victory, as if he had just verified something great.
"Is that an admission that what the Prosecution has stated is correct, Emiya?" Animusphere asked.
"… What he has stated from the document so far is valid. I will not comment on the endless meandering conjecture that he has wasted our time with," he relented, ignoring the looks that he was getting. "While I cannot speak for the court, I am more interested in the Prosecution getting to the point."
If this bastard did have what Shirou suspected, then it was best to rip the bandaid off fast. Letting the fool keep on talking at his own pace would only cause more problems.
"Shirou, if he knows too much…" Saber was clearly concerned if her tone was any indication. She knew very well just how bad magi could be at times.
"Then he'll have to face the consequences of assuming he knows everything. Wait for now." He cut her off, clearly knowing something she didn't.
"Emiya's words are true. Does this document prove that Emiya has the stolen item as you claim, or doesn't it?" Animusphere frowned, knowing that if things were left unchecked the only things that would be revealed would be more private information on the boy.
"I do. I just needed verification that this document was indeed correct, which the accused has so generously confirmed. As I have stated before, this form was copied in its entirety and then verified as such. No information has been added to it since it was initially penned. Thus it is impossible to tamper with the document unless it is to omit what is there." The Prosecution basked in his "victory", looking down at the form. "It was noticed during a physical examination of the subject in question that his body contained a foreign spiritual entity of Fae origin. Further inspection revealed it to be an artifact of unmatched quality when compared to the Clocktower's stores. It was soon discovered that said artifact was indeed King Arthur's Scabbard. However despite it being identified, it was never officially registered in the Association's annals."
The room was silent. Condemning.
"Emiya. Is there anything you have to say to your defense?" Animusphere asked, his tone firm.
Shirou's eyes were closed, obviously he was thinking hard about his response.
However, instead of answering the question, he asked one himself. "Prosecutor. Where by chance did you get that document? And, I'm sorry, my memory has failed me, what is your full name?"
The man's smug expression faltered ever so slightly to annoyance. "Disappointing. It seems that your memory is not up to expectations. I am Adalgar Istari, head of the Istari family. And I do not see reason to inform a defendant where I procure my resources from after they have been proven valid."
At that moment, Shirou did something he always hated doing. Something that went against nearly everything he stood for.
"You misunderstand, Lord Istari. I'm not asking as a defendant."
He went full Rin.
One could see him smile peacefully via his eyes.
"You see. That information about me you have in your hands? The one that you put in so much effort to verify? There are, forgive me, were, only three people in the entirety of the Association that knew of it outside of myself. And had access to it. And they are all currently in that room with you."
That was a lie. There were four counting Luvia after he gave her nearly every damning piece of paperwork from his workshop just a couple of days ago. But they didn't need to know about that, and Luvia wasn't the sort of idiot that would leave herself open like that even in the impossibly unlikely chance that she did betray him here and now.
Sirius snickered, looking at the opposition with a hungry look in his eyes. "Oh, ya stupid fool. Ya really stepped in it now."
"Two of them made it a point to never make or possess any detailed information about me in any form inside the tower. For obvious reasons. Any documentation of that nature they did make is secured in my Workshop. As you can guess, they are the accused, and one Sirius McGinty. Therefore, before you can even suggest it, no, the information you have was not obtained or deduced in some fantastical way from the research and files confiscated from their property," Shirou continued.
Waver shook his head with a dramatic sigh. He had been worried for a moment there, and was slightly annoyed that he was going to be found guilty about hiding Avalon, but… well, it looked like things were going to look far worse than the opposition in a few moments.
"As for the third… well, I am quite certain that she does not take well to being stolen from."
He said "she".
There was only one "she" in the entirety of the Clocktower that Emiya could be possibly referring to.
The Prosecution's confident and condescending stature didn't change immediately. It took a few moments for the man to slowly realize what Shirou was talking about, who he was alluding to.
It took twice as long for that realization to sink in.
Once could tell by the rapid vacation of color in his face.
He stood still, eyes fixed on the image of the young man in front of him. Whether it was because he was being strung on his junior's words… or because he was terrified of facing the woman lazily staring at him from behind was anyone's guess.
Shirou tilted his head to the side ever so slightly, his body posture completely relaxed. "As we have both verified that what you have in your hand is indeed highly restricted and highly classified information, 'in its entirety' we can deduce you are an accomplice or associate to the theft of property belonging to House Barthomelloi. And possibly murder as well."
The whiplash from that bit he added at the end seemed to snap Istari out of his paralysis.
"Wh-what?! Murder?! Where on earth did you come to that conclusion?!"
"Really? It seems that your memory is not up to expectations despite your position," Shirou mocked, echoing the man's words from earlier. "Do you not recall my statement earlier about my trials under the Vice Director's employment? How she mentioned the young woman that vanished soon after investigations started?"
The choking sound coming from the poor man's throat seemed to indicate that he was familiar with the topic.
"Objection! Lord Animusphere! You cannot seriously let us believe that he can be continue on like this!" One of the Archibalds stood up furiously, pointing at Shirou. "He is trying to distract the court from the fact that he has already admitted his guilt! He has every reason to lie about the origins of the documentation to protect the defendant and McGinty!"
"Except he doesn't," Waver spoke up calmly. "I will back up Emiya's claim that everything he has just said is correct. Any and all incriminating documentation regarding the item in question that I have ever made was either destroyed on site or left in Emiya's possession. Anything that was found in my possession that says otherwise is a forgery."
"Thirded." Sirius lifted hand lazily. "The lad could make more of the thing than either of us ever could. Fae magic's is a pain in the ass ta make sense of or experiment on safely. No way in hell I'm gonna try my luck fuckin around with that work of art. The most I ever did was take some notes on some of the fae runes for a rainy day, an even then I never mentioned the scabbard or the lad. What do ya take us for? Idiots that walk around waving evidence that link us to murder in the middle of a trial? Oh wait."
"Quiet! Quiet! All of you!" Animusphere shouted, clearly agitated by how restless the room had become. "Emiya! I hope you are not foolish enough to believe that you have distracted this audience from your confession of guilt earlier. While you have made some interesting points, one crime does not overwrite another."
"Oh no. I fully expect to discuss that particular bit in due time, sir." Shirou calmly replied. "However, as I said before, I am not speaking as a defendant."
"He's speaking as my dog," Lorelei stated coldly before Archibald could rebuke him. "Now. Let him bark, as he was trained to do."
The Judge frowned, quickly figuring out what the Vice Director was getting at, and reluctantly nodded to Shirou to continue with his "job". While he not expect a notably clean trial, he certainly did not offer his services for something this extreme.
Shirou couldn't help but smile bitterly. He may be her dog, but what did she see everyone else as?
"Lord Istari. From my perspective, there are two outcomes for you once today's events are concluded. Either you are arrested for the crimes that I have just stated, with the evidence convicting you literally in your hands. Or, you can cooperate with us, and tell us what we want to know. Starting of course with who you got such sensitive documentation from? And before you question the nature of my personal information, allow me to inform you that the Vice Director made it a point to store my files with that of the Chelon Canticle Brigade. For those that do not know, the identities of the Brigade are considered highly classified information that is only available to those directly involved in the Brigade's activities. Anyone that betrays or reveals information of the Brigade without authorization is automatically faced with... strict... repercussions. Even I am not privy to their members or activities."
The Prosecutor grimaced, as if he had just swallowed a frog. "I… can't."
The boy didn't seem surprised. No. Rather, he seemed to want that answer. "Ah. Yes. I understand. You probably received them from your, excuse me, a client of yours. I am somewhat familiar with standard lawyer client confidentiality geass scroll contracts. That is what is preventing you from speaking, is it not? I know you can at least answer that much. Protecting your clients is one thing, but I am certain that you have many of those. So long as you are not specifying which one in particular, you should be free to admit that "a client of yours supplied you with the documentation in your hand"."
"… Yes." He ground out, clearly not liking being led around as if he was on trial. "I'm afraid I cannot be of as much aid as you would like."
"Oh no. That is more than enough to get started in earnest." Shirou replied, his tone all too perky and cheerful.
Everyone knew better than to assume that was it. They were waiting for the bomb to drop.
"It just means that we, meaning Lady Barthomelloi's personal investigation team, will need to examine the families of all your clients for the past two years."
The room was dead silent. As if everyone there had needed the extra time to register what he had just said.
"Hooh?" The Vice Director's eyes momentarily brightened, as if she had just been handed a valuable gift with no strings attached that she didn't know she had wanted in the first place. The best way to describe her barely changed expression was "pleasantly surprised".
"Wh-what?" Istari's voice broke, not at all believing this turn of events.
"WHAT?!" "ARE YOU SERIOUS EMIYA?!" "WHY ARE YOU DRAGGING US INTO THIS?!" Judging from the sudden shouting, several of these clients were present for the trial.
"I know. I know. Lords and Ladies, I offer you my deepest apologies for this. I know it is a major breach in privacy. However, what are we supposed to do?" Shirou sighed, shrugging. "Due to the current restrictions, all we know is that the one that had the gall to steal directly from the Barthomelloi family itself has supplied Lord Istari with evidence and possibly other ill-gotten and highly sensitive resources. Unless we have some means of narrowing down the search, or a confession, I'm afraid that we will have to spread our net as wide as possible. Of course, your cooperation and assistance in this matter to expedite things will be more than welcome. Rather, if you are innocent, then logically speaking, we should expect your aid. The sooner we have our culprit, the sooner the investigation can be resolved."
Justice didn't exist in the Clocktower. It was simply the mask used in power plays. An excuse to get someone into trouble. To weaken and destroy enemies.
If Shirou had cried foul when Archibald had revealed he had Avalon, it would have gotten him nowhere. He would have just looked like a child with their hands caught in the cookie jar.
So he went the other direction with the narrow opening he had. He forgone any and all defense and went on the attack. As the Queen's Silver Dog, enforcer of the Vice Director's will and name.
Shirou's blood may still be in the water, but now? There was far more than just his floating about. And from a political standpoint, the others' was far, FAR tastier and easier to partake in.
That, and several of those involved now had a very good reason to tear apart one family in particular, regardless of how things went for him now.
As far as subtlety went, he had the grace of a sledgehammer. However the message and point had been made, if several borderline apocalyptic faces turning to the Archibald family were any indication.
In Japan, Shirou pretended to ignore the literal gobsmacked expressions that everyone was giving him. Well, almost everyone. The King of Rats was trying to hold back a good laugh, and Merem in the background had failed in that particular endeavor long ago if his failure to breathe properly was any indication.
Please. Stop looking like that. It's ruining his image. He needed to look like he was in control to pull this off instead of have anyone realize that he had just conjured up the mother of all ass pulls.
"In our defense, Master, none of us expected you to turn things around so deftly and quickly," Saber argued quietly. "More so, the… viciousness that you displayed is rather unlike you."
"Saber, please, not you too. I thought that you of all people would remember just how much of the War I've improvised on the spot. It's like the night we lost Rider all over again and I called Caster's bluff. I'm scared I might start to become an adrenaline junkie at this rate. I think it's gonna be a serious problem if this keeps up." Shirou certainly did not weep inside his mind.
"I'm more worried that Gilgamesh's decision to call you Faker may be more accurate than I am comfortable with."
"For the life of me, I cannot blame you."
Saber leered at the back of his head. "… Why did you expose my Scabbard so easily? You could have claimed that their documentation was false."
"The second Avalon's existence was revealed, even as a hypothetical, we were cornered. If they know about that, they probably know other things about me that will cause more problems if it gets out into the public, even as mere speculation. Going overboard in every way possible was the only path I could see out of the situation without things getting out of hand and getting them to keep quiet about anything else they have. I'm serious. I couldn't come up with a single other way out of this that had the possibility of leaving us with solid footing in the Association at the end of this. Sorry I couldn't tell you what I was doing. I didn't have enough time to ask for second opinions."
"Who said I disapproved? It was crudely done, but a brilliant play," Saber asked and remarked, a small twitch of amusement was on her lips. "Let the dogs tear themselves apart, drunk on the scent of their own blood. It is their own fault for giving themselves such an opening in the first place."
"That's a bit harsh, coming from you of all people."
"I am a kind and just King, to my subjects."
"You know that the Clocktower is in London, right? In Brittan."
"Do not question the King's judgement, subject."
"… I'm starting to think that this is how Waver-Nii felt with Rider."
On the other side of Shirou's living room…
"Before the idea even begins to form in your head, no. That was not me. I admit that it was impressive, but not at all me. That was you. Anybody with eyes could tell what just happened was your fault. He even used one of your lecturing poses unconsciously."
"Archer. Please be quiet for a moment. I'm still trying to come to grips with what just happened and determine whether to be flattered or enraged with Shirou."
"I thought you'd be used to that feeling by now."
"Archer! Shut up!"
Sirius stood up slowly, clapping his giant hands at a proud beat, his face so impossibly hard and stern it was almost hilarious.
"Sirius. Sit down you idiot," Waver deadpanned.
The old man slowly sat back down, his face unmoving, and a lone tear of manly pride slipping down his face and into his beard.
"Archibald! You bastards! Why are we getting dragged into this mess!?"
"It's obvious that you fools were the ones that were behind this! No one else was going after Emiya as badly as you were!"
"Barthomelloi's going to abuse this for all it's worth because of you! All of us are going to be investigated!"
"How foolish are you idiots?! They just talked about how there was a spy in Barthomelloi's organization, and the next thing you do is give them evidence that only the spy could have?!"
More and more clearly frustrated members of the Clocktower started to roar and ream into the Archibalds from the gallery in a growing fervor.
Quietly watching, Shirou was impressed. Not of the growing crowd or that his ass pull worked so well, but the fact that Prosecutor Istari had had so many clients in the past couple of years. The guy must be more popular than he thought.
In reality, it wasn't that Istari himself was popular. His sizeable law firm itself got good results, and catered to all levels of exchanges and arguments in the Association, for the right price. Istari only personally catered to the top paying clients, and let most of the other, ironically more experienced lawyers, cater to the rest.
"ENOUGH!" Animusphere roared, activating a bounded field to mute the gallery. "As enlightening as this has been, today's events are on the Grail War, Lord El Melloi II, and by extension due to the revelation of a high grade Fae Artifact, Emiya. Unless absolutely necessary, there will be no more accusations or announcements of investigations. Am I clear?"
"Crystal." Shirou nodded, perfectly happy with the turn of events. "Unless of course, the Prosecution has anything else, enlightening, about me to say to the world that is unrelated to today's events."
"Sir." The guilty party glared murderously at Shirou. There was no doubt that he had more sensitive information at hand, but pushing his luck now would only be the equivalent of shooting himself in the head to get his opponent in the foot. "No. Emiya. You and the Vice Director have made your positions quite clear."
"I have no idea what you're talking about." The young man sighed whimsically before giving the man a cold stare. "I'm just doing my job."
"Tch. So you say." It took all of the lawyer's self-control to not glare at his clients behind him. It was as he had said, they were the ones that had supplied him with the documentation as well as other resources, but not once had the idiots ever bothered to warn him that some of it may have been lifted from the Vice Director herself. If they had, he would have put in the extra effort to ensure that the papers could be traced back to either Lord El Melloi II or the old drunk. Now, it was going to take all of his cunning and resources to just keep his family's name intact once this mess was over.
He couldn't be distracted. He had to tear down El Melloi II and Emiya as much as possible.
"If you two don't mind," Animusphere butted in. "We have a trial to continue."
"… Emiya, you plead guilty to possessing the artifact in question?"
"I do." Shirou didn't hesitate. "Since you decided to obligate yourself in prosecuting those associated with this crime, with the evidence in your hand, you are also raising these charges against the Vice Director as well. Naturally."
"… Naturally." He literally had to force the word out of his throat. Even if it was unintentional, nothing good would come from making himself a direct opponent of the Barthomelloi. "Lady Vice Director? Do you have anything to say about this turn of events?"
"I do not." Unlike everyone else, Lorelei Barthomelloi seemed completely at ease with the turn of events.
"You were aware of the artifact?"
"I was." She nodded, saying no more than that.
Wonderful. Even if the boy had broken the rules, he had had the Vice Director's unofficial blessing to keep it. She wasn't sticking her neck out for the boy, but she wasn't abandoning him either.
Worse though, was that despite knowing about it, she had left in in Emiya's hands. Probably because…
"He was aware that the Grail War was starting prematurely and informed you at the time of discovery? Is that the reason why you allowed him to maintain possession of it?"
"Yes," she confirmed. "He was clearly aware of the War and planned on participating when he first arrived. He alluded to it, but never specified it directly. It, and his intimate knowledge of the artifact, was enough to persuade me to overlook his unofficial possession of it."
"Intimate knowledge?" He held back a snort. It did not do well to scoff at the Vice Director. "Can you clarify that for us please? I do not understand how a, while talented, child with limited resources could provide a more secure and optimal research facility for such an artifact."
"Oh come on…" Shirou mentally groaned. He had hoped that this particular fact wouldn't get out into the open, but he had clearly pushed his luck too far this day. At this rate he might as well tell everyone that he was the "mysterious" Ash of Miracles and get it over with already.
"The Artifact in question is spiritual in nature. It can be disassembled and sealed within its holder. Emiya, in particular, has held it within his body for a decade." Barthomelloi elaborated. "It was concluded that because of the long term exposure during his development growth period, his body has intimately memorized the artifact to an unexpected degree. Internal subconscious sympathetic kinesthetic memorization, I believe was the term that McGinty coined."
"Haaah. Yeah," Sirius confirmed her statement, also knowing where she was going with this though he clearly didn't like it.
"Are you insinuating that the artifact changed the boy in some way?" Animusphere leaned forward, his Magus side trying to piece together what she was saying.
"If it had, I am unaware of it," the Vice Director denied. "However, it did enable my dog to discover the necessary methods and requirements for perfect Gradient Air replications."
The room was dead silent.
"Perfect... replications?" Istari blinked, genuinely surprised. The Archibalds and Einzberns behind him just as much. "He accomplished such a feat?"
Shirou desperately wanted to take control of the conversation and speak up, but it would only make him look bad to interrupt Barthomelloi.
"To be specific, he managed to realize the idealized base concept of Gradient Parallel, the mystery that provides a replicated form to that which was already there, as opposed to Gradient Air, which provides form to that which is in mapped out in the caster's mind." Lorelei elaborated. "The original spell itself is so basic in concept that its origins predate the Association's records. However no one has managed to discover how to fully realize the original intended mystery until recently."
That was probably the closest thing to genuine praise Shirou would ever get from the Vice Director. And in public no less.
"However, with the discovery came limitations to the mystery that we were unaware of. To provide proper context, he can only accomplish the feat with the artifact in question. I have personally examined the original and the replication next to one another myself. The only difference I was able to discern between the two, even with the proper equipment, was that Gaia was attempting to correct the copy. It was for this feat combined with his notable breakthroughs in his branch of thaumaturgy that I bestowed upon him the Noble Color of Silver in the first place."
A bit out of order, but she was right. She didn't see and experiment with his copies of Avalon until after she gave him the Noble Color, but she had seen enough by that point that id didn't even matter.
"I… am confused. Lady Vice Director, if he has accomplished so much, and with a Noble Phantasm, then why does Emiya not have a Sealing Designation?" Istari's question was reasonable, even among the less hardline members of the Association.
"Because it's replicable," she bluntly stated, as if it was lecturing a child.
"It's… it is?" Animusphere voiced what everyone was thinking.
"As I said, Emiya is only capable of the feat with the scabbard. Repeating the mystery with even mundane tools and weapons is impossible, even for him and his talents. He discovered inadvertently, that the best way for our bodies and circuits to gain information about items that we wish to replicate is if said items are physically and spiritually integrated with our bodies. In that regard, one could say that "the mystery of replicating Avalon is restricted to the individual that physically possesses the artifact". Utilizing that logic, it would not be irrational to assume that the mystery itself would not lose much potency if utilized by the Association at large. As each magus would possess an individual tool or item to replicate, the mystery itself would be restricted to that item in particular. As far as contributions to the Association go, it has the potential to be quite beneficial."
Shirou ignored the looks he was getting. Yeah. Sure. His research apparently had the potential to contribute notably to mage kind in the future. Let's go with that.
"You're not convincing anyone that knows even the bare minimum about you like that." Saber stared at the back of his head accusingly.
"Don't make playing along with this nonsense harder than it already is!" He could tell that Rin and the others were going to tear him a new one once this mess was over. Why did everyone have to put him on such a stupidly high pedestal all the time? It had been amusing and useful for a while, but now it was getting ridiculous.
"Truly?" The Judge blinked curiously. "You mean to insinuate that it would be possible for magi in the future to be able to reproduce codes stored inside their bodies at will with little consequence? This is, rather enlightening. I can imagine several departments, and the Enforcers, would find this mystery unequivocally useful."
Lorelei nodded curtly. "With limitations, of course. McGinty has already written and submitted several papers on the subject shortly after the incident with the Apostle Ancestor. Some recently passed their final stages of review if I am correct."
The old man smirked dryly as everyone's attention turned to him. Lifting one of his giant hands, he held it open for everyone to see. "May I demonstrate?"
"… You may." The Judge nodded slowly, curious to what he was about to see.
"D'fhoghlaim me cleas, I dtalamh na lanna." The old man grunted out an aria of his own making, letting his circuits warm up a bit.
"The land of blades, eh?" Lancer chuckled at Sirius' Irish. "That's not subtle at all."
A few seconds later, an ornate, yet large dagger materialized in his hand.
"The handle's made from treant wood. The grip's silk, harvested from that idiot that turned himself into a spider Apostle, Marokov, a couple years back. Blade's made of a hybrid alloy that I've been messin with for a while, but laced with special runes that need to be applied in a very special way in order to function, and the whole thing's cured in phantasmal beast oils." The old man elaborated, lifting the tool up for everyone to see. "More importantly, it's a spiritual tool. The original's been in me body for a few years already."
He casually flicked his giant hand and fingers about, allowing the knife to dance about like it was alive before tossing it into the middle of the room without a care in the world.
With another casual flick of his wrist, the knife shot back to his hand, the runes on the blade glowing faintly as it did so.
"Advanced Gradient Air. Also known as Projection," Sirius elaborated, holding out the tool handle first to the Prosecution. "It's not my specialty, and I'm nowhere near as good as the lad, but I've done enough research to have a hand at it myself."
Istari looked at the knife skeptically. He had to admit, he couldn't find a fault in the so called imitation. "And this is a perfect copy as well?"
"Nah. Not yet." Sirius waved off the question. "I've only had that thing in me for a couple of years. And I'm old. Having the body literally grow up with the item expedites the process significantly. By my estimates, I need another decade or two at least for my body to fully memorize it an enable me ta make a perfect replication. It's possible. Just takes a long ass time, and, for anyone that doesn't know, there's limitations to what kind of spiritual bodies can be incorporated into your own. Ya can't just cram any item in ya and wait on a timer, or worse, stick a dozen tools in ya like some porn star, and assume that in a few years you'll be able to walk around with a portable lab at the ready. There's limitations."
"As fascinating as this is, forgive me if I have doubts. There is a difference between a rather, colorful tool like this, and a Noble Phantasm. The complexities and intricacies of the mysteries between the two are so vast that I feel insulted comparing the two."
"You'd be right, but you're over thinking one important detail." The old man smirked. "The Vice Director said it before. This is a kinesthetic and sympathetic procedure. The mind isn't doing the heavy lifting for processing this mystery. It's the body. Being adept at structural graspin is a necessary requirement to get things started, but just graspin the object will only get you so far. Minute details. Sympathetic intimacy with the objects and mysteries themselves is a necessity. I made the dagger with all those varying components for a reason. It was ta test just how well my body could learn and adapt to all those items of mysterious origins and replicate them. You're holding the results. I'm good, but I sure as hell can't think and process all those things in my head at once under normal conditions."
"But the body can…" Animusphere concluded, clearly impressed by such a simple approach to an intricate problem.
Sirius nodded. "It's a process of physical adaptation. The body doesn't care if it's a Noble Phantasm or not, or how complex it is. It'll adapt to it or reject it. The fact that the Scabbard in question has healing properties just means that it'll adapt to whoever has it without any negative repercussions faster."
Istari scowled, turning to Shirou's image. "Emiya. I don't suppose you can provide us with a demonstration, seeing as you have already admitted to possessing the artifact in question?"
Shirou stared at the man impassively for a few long moments, his expression unreadable.
Then, as if coming to a decision, he sighed, and held a hand out as if holding up a plate. "Trace on."
In a bright flash of light, a perfect copy of Avalon in all its glory was standing unnaturally straight on his palm.
Those in the room with him had all seen it at one point or another, but even then they couldn't help but take a moment to bask in its glow.
And then he held out his other hand, and manifested a second copy, also standing up on end with little to support it.
"Will this suffice?" He asked in a tired tone, as if the entire conversation was starting to bore him. "As the old man has stated before, it is the only object that I am able to replicate perfectly. Having one's body be intimately familiar with the object in question is a prerequisite for perfect replications."
"Fascinating." Animusphere, like many others, were mesmerized by the scabbard. "And you had it in you for a decade?"
Shirou nodded. "My father used it to save my life when he found me in the middle of the Fuyuki fire. It's been in me since."
"And you understand its properties completely?"
This time, the boy laughed. With a wave of his hands, the items he had manifested disintegrated into harmless shards of mana that faded from view. "That is akin to asking if I understand Fae magic, Your Honor."
"But you can make a perfect copy." Istari argued.
"My method is more of an unintentional shortcut than anything. It would be best to think of my relationship with Avalon as the Rosetta's Stone for Fae magic. I know what it does, its history, how it was made, the materials that compose it, and my body can replicate it, but I do not know why it works. To give an oversimplified example, thanks to Avalon, I know that in Fae magic, A plus B equals C, but the reason why it is so is not clear to me. The kinesthetic adaptation that McGinty mentioned earlier compensates for that."
Rin grit her teeth. Shirou was downplaying his abilities again. It always bugged her whenever he did it. Not because he hated the extra attention and did whatever he could to claim that what he did was not a big deal, but because he genuinely believed what he said. Regardless of whatever anyone said about his abilities or how special he was, Shirou naturally had a low self-esteem that always reared its ugly head whenever he was compared to others.
It didn't stop him from going out to kill anyone he was dead set on taking out, but it was enough to have some people doubletake whenever they caught onto it.
"I see. I see. The body learns the things that the mind does not process." Animusphere nodded, understanding what Shirou was getting at. "And when you do, project was it? The artifact, the blueprints you use is not supplied simply from the mind's image, but the body's natural comprehension as well… I assume that the strain of making the imitation is reduced because of this?"
Shirou nodded, impressed that the man had come to the correct conclusion so easily. "Exponentially. After a certain point, it becomes more instinct than an active thought. Even if it is a Noble Phantasm and the most complex item I have ever come across, it is almost comically easy to make an imitation now. Sometimes, I feel as if I can hold it in my hand without even thinking about it."
He hated to admit it, but Barthomelloi had done him a boon by bringing up the perfect projections. By going over the details of how to make them, she had given him the opportunity to show the Association that he was a capable and suitable custodian for the artifact. One that, more importantly, was extremely able to experiment on it and yield suitable results and research for the rest of the Association to tide their curiosity over.
It was the Magus Association after all. One could massacre a hundred babies if they wanted with no repercussions so long as they didn't risk exposing Thaumaturgy and got suitable results. Priceless artifacts were no different.
It forced him to expose another secret of his to the world, but it was a small price to pay to resolve this rather tremulous situation.
Judging from the glazed look in his eyes, the Judge's mind was working frantically on the possibilities. "If that's so, then theoretically one should be able to replicate their own body parts if lost. No, no no no, if the stability of your imitations are that ideal, it would not be impossible to say that one could in time be able to project their own body in its entirety, transfer their consciousness and circuits, and then remain immortal so long as…"
Shirou's genial expression turned sour. "Sir, the requirements to sustain a state of that nature are extensive. An existence like that is no different than an Apostle's. I suggest you stop that train of thought while you can."
The irony of Shirou's statement was not lost on those in the room with him.
In theory, it was technically possible, but Shirou had never been able to project functioning living body parts before… unless it was a living sword. And no, "Shirou Emiya", Sword incarnate, did not count in that regard.
But, that didn't mean that someone else could not, eventually. Someone that was suited to project living flesh like Shirou was suited to project swords.
"I… yes. You are right. I let my curiosity get the better of me. My apologies," Animusphere coughed sheepishly. "It is clear to the court that Emiya is capable and qualified to serve as custodian for the Artifact. However that does not change the fact that proper procedure was not followed. Lord El Melloi II, Sirius McGinty, were you two compliant in this crime?"
"Yes, Your Honor," Waver admitted freely. "I did not know of the artifact until after I started teaching the boy, but by then I was already occupied with preparing for the War and other issues that the court is already aware of. I saw the merit and benefits in aiding in their research, and cooperated with them. Observing and noting the long term effects of a high grade Fae artifact in his body was also among the tasks that I had imposed on myself."
"Same as the Lad." The old man nodded. "Plus, I wasn't gonna give up an opportunity ta have a look at the thing myself. Unrestricted and near unlimited access ta an EX ranked Noble Phantasm? I'd risk getting my designation all over again if I got that in exchange. And unlike all the other idiots here, I actually know what I'm doing when it comes to artifacts of this quality. Have enough material ta research and experiment on from studying that beautiful work of art ta last me the next half a century an I barely even scratched the surface... metaphorically speaking. If I ever did scratch the thing, I'd kill myself out of shame."
"Better that then allow giving me the chance to enact justice," Saber mentally growled. She was not particularly fond of the idea of anyone experimenting with her Scabbard.
Animusphere leaned back in his seat, frowning in deep thought. "And did the both of you know that the item in question was stolen?"
Sirius burst out laughing. "Hah! Stolen? What a load of bullshit. Yer honor. The scabbard wasn't stolen. Einzberns gave the thing ta Kiritsugu as a wedding gift that happened ta double as the medium for his summoning during the Fourth War. The only reason why they think they still own the damn thing is probably because Emiya was part of the family at the time, so they assumed what was his was theirs."
Shirou and Waver both facepalmed, not caring at all who saw them. Damn it old man. Why did he have to open his big mouth now?
"Great." Archer groaned, allowing himself to be heard by Rin. "Things just got more complicated."
"Married?" "The Magus Killer was married to an Einzbern?" "Did you know?" "Why would I know about that? The Einzberns are shut ins. They aren't even official members of the Clocktower." The gallery began to whisper frantically, clearly interested in the new gossip.
Judging from the sour faces on the Einzberns in the room right now, it was a fact that they didn't want to admit.
"It's true," Waver confirmed reluctantly. "I had a few brief encounters with her during the Fourth War. Irisviel Von Einzbern. A homunculus. She was kidnapped and suspected to be killed at the end of the event. Kiritsugu explained their relationship after he recruited me later."
More than a few scoffed in the gallery. "A homunculus?" "He actually married one of those things?" "I didn't know that Einzbern participated in the sex trade…"
It was a testament to Illya's self-control that she didn't show any anger or reaction to the gossiping.
Berserker on the other hand, didn't.
"What was that?" The Judge barely held himself back from jumping in surprise from the rather terrifying sound. Judging from the sudden silence in the courtroom, he wasn't the only one that had been caught off guard.
"That, was my Servant, your honor." Illya smiled kindly. "Berserker doesn't like it when I'm upset."
"Please don't upset, Berserker. I like my home," Shirou pleaded. It didn't matter how many servants he had on his side. If Heracles went nuts here and now, he'd be on the streets within ten minutes.
"Right…" The judge gave Illya a wary look before turning to Shirou again. "Emiya?"
"What he says is the truth. Kiritsugu Emiya was married to Irisviel Von Einzbern up until her death during the Fourth War. I never met, spoke to, or saw her in person. Avalon was given to both of them to summon Saber for it. They brought it with them to Japan due to some of the effects it gave the user while King Arthur was present."
"Not that they ever told me about it," Saber mentally added, giving Assassin a dirty look. They may be allies once more, but she still held a good number of grudges against Kiritsugu from times prior. Holding back Avalon from her was just another to the list. If there was one thing that she would be willing to hold a grudge against Irisviel for, it was that.
Animusphere nodded. "Einzbern? Do you have anything to say in response?"
One of the albinos behind the prosecution area stood up, stoic and firm, betraying no thoughts or emotions. "Emiya was invited and accepted into the Einzbern family with the expectation that he would obtain victory for us. We supplied him with everything he requested and then some, and yet he betrayed us. All that he received from us is the families' as compensation for his actions."
Shirou barked out a bitter laugh, clearly not convinced. "And yet you waited a decade to try and obtain it again? A decade for an artifact that is worth more than several of the noble houses in the Association combined? A decade, where you saw Kiritsugu Emiya spend the first half trying to contact you in person, repeatedly, warning you of the corrupted grail and received no response in turn? It was obvious that he was significantly weakened during his attempts. You could have easily used that fact against him then. And yet somehow, Avalon never came up in conversation until now? This day is tiresome enough."
"Watch your mouth boy. You are not even a real Emiya. Just a pity project adopted of convenience. If you did not have the artifact in question, you would not even have the authority to speak to us as the Emiya head," Einzbern growled.
"Please tell me they aren't doing what I think they are," Shirou mentally groaned. This was yet another can of worms that he had preferred to leave well enough alone, even if in the short run it was to his benefit.
"They are. Fools." Saber was of the same mind as him.
"Authority?" Animusphere blinked in confusion.
"They are trying to play a petty game with everyone here, Your Honor." Shirou was starting to show his exhaustion with all these curve balls being sent his way. He made a pointed effort not to look at Illya as he spoke. "It is true that I am adopted and not a blood tied inheritor of the Emiya name. However, as most should know by now, being a direct descendant of a family is simply the most common and efficient way to become the next head and obtain at least a portion of the family crest."
Most of the people listening nodded, knowing just how true that was. Magi walked the path of death. More often than not, death came for the next in line far before their predecessors did. And since many Magi families were wary of causing conflict by means of having multiple potential inheritors, it wasn't uncommon for an ancient house to wind up in a situation where they had loads of resources and a giant magic crest… but the only person that could have inherited it all had blown themselves up for one reason or another. Or ran away. Or killed by a rival. Etc. Etc.
Raising and teaching a kid was hard. Picking one up from another family or finding a promising one from an orphanage was significantly easier. And time effective. The only real headache from that approach was modifying or adjusting the new blood's body so that the magic crest they inherited didn't kill, maim, or cripple them too badly.
Of course, most of the oldest and most prideful families didn't resort to such "desperate" measures for one reason or another, but that didn't mean that many of the more recent ones didn't on occasion.
It wasn't a decision that was made lightly either. Once the proper procedures were in place, the new blood was officially the next in line. Even if a blood member of the family desired or claimed to be more suitable for the position, the mysteries and magics that were established made the decision all but permanent. It was only for the most extreme or irregular of circumstances that the decision be reversed.
"At the time of death, Kiritsugu Emiya unfortunately was not in contact with any direct or indirect relatives that could inherit what little he had left. I, adopted, but considered family regardless, was left to fulfill that role as a consequence of that. I assure you, Kiritsugu filled out all the appropriate paperwork and conducted all the required rituals needed to establish that I was officially next of line to inherit the Emiya name, as is standard procedure for these sorts of situations. Lord El Melloi II and McGinty collaborated in these efforts."
Waver couldn't help smile sardonically as the Judge looked at him. "It is true. Ironically, while much of the evidence of that in the Association is classified, the Prosecution has already conveniently procured it for us."
No one near Shirou missed the fact that he had skirted around the fact that Illya was Kiritsugu's daughter, or that she was technically supposed to be the next Emiya head.
It was for the best. There would only be headaches if that information got out. As far as the public knew, no, as far as anyone outside his home save for Sirius and Waver knew, Shirou was and played the role of an only child. No one outside of those he trusted was aware that he was aware of his relationship with Illya.
The Einzberns could reveal it. They had reason to, but then again… they had reason not to as well. Kidnapping and experimenting on the intended next head of another family wasn't exactly an endearing thing to be known for.
Surprisingly, despite their outburst earlier, they were keeping quiet now. The one in charge of the rest seemed to be glaring at Shirou, but every now and then his eyes flickered slightly to the side, as if waiting or expecting…
That conniving bastard.
Einzbern hadn't been trying to bait Shirou with his outburst and questioning his legitimacy as an Emiya.
He had been trying to bait Illya.
And by association, Berserker.
He was poking and prodding her with sensitive information and facts to get her to snap and lose her temper. Tricking Shirou to disregard her relationship with Kiritsugu. Intentionally slashing and twisting her pride right in front of an audience of just how lesser her relationship with her father meant.
If Shirou hadn't revealed everything to her, if he hadn't shown just how much effort he had put into trying to save her in the past couple of weeks, it would have worked too.
Across the table, he looked up at the King of Rats, who had remained silent for the majority of the day's events. It was a brief signal, but one that was conveyed instantly.
"As interesting at the Emiya family history may be, I do not see how it is relevant to the matter at hand today." The fake old man smiled patiently. "May we get back onto relevant matters, Your Honor?"
It was one thing if Shirou asked. It was another entirely if the representative of the Church did. Only an idiot willing to give up everything would argue against the request without a good reason that everyone could agree upon.
Judging from the glare that Einzbern had, he was in deep conflict with his inner idiot.
"Relax. Ignore them," Kiritsugu whispered to Illya. "They're baiting you. Let Shirou handle this."
"I know. It still hurts though, Papa." She had always been treated less than ideally by her mother's side of the family, but they had for the most part preferred to ignore her existence whenever possible. This was a new cruelty for them.
"Just a little bit more. They are showing their desperation. It means they're running out of cards to play."
"Yes. Yes, you are quite right." Animusphere nodded. "Einzbern, this is a penalty for disrupting this already frustrating case. Due to its nature and your ties to the events that have transpired, I am being generous giving you that much leeway. Interrupt again and I will have you escorted out of the room. Am I clear?"
"Crystal. Sir." Einzbern didn't take his gaze away from the images of the Masters in Japan.
"Einzbern. Is it true that the Artifact, which I may add your family also failed to register with the Association, was given to Kiritsugu Emiya for use in the Fourth War?" The Judge pressed.
"It was entrusted to him, mistakenly, yes."
"And did you make any effort to contact, confront, or engage Emiya…" There was a brief pause due to Shirou coughing loudly on purpose. "… The Emiya family, about the artifact after the events of the Fourth War?"
"We were preoccupied with other matters, your honor. And, due to limitations that were in place due to his position in the Clocktower, we found it difficult to find a way to establish a link, or locate either of them."
"Did you try talking to the Vice Director? Or Lord El Melloi II? Or Sirius McGinty?" Shirou deadpanned, his tone patronizing and sarcastic. "The three people in the Clocktower that everyone knew could contact me at a moment's notice?"
"Nope." The old man cleared out one of his ears with a pinkie before the German could respond. "Got a lot o' questions about you from a load of people lad, but none of them were Einzbern nor Homonculi. I made it a point to check."
"The same." Waver was clearly more interested in finishing his cigar. "I've only had two interactions with the Einzbern family over the past ten years. Both times were for completely unrelated events. The Emiya name never came up in conversation, though a few passing jabs about my involvement in the Fourth War did, which was to be expected."
There was a brief pause as everyone's attention slowly turned to the Vice Director, who was the third person mentioned.
"… Lady Barthomelloi? Have the Einzbern ever attempted to contact you regarding Emiya?" Animusphere finally asked, knowing that she would only respond if addressed directly.
Lorelei looked around lazily at her audience, as if they were children. "If they have, they did not go through the proper channels. If that is the case, then the request did not garner my attention. I don't waste my time on desperation."
"… Well, that was a rather insulting way to say no," Lancer deadpanned.
Bazett couldn't help but nod slightly in agreement.
"We were preoccupied with other matters at the time that took priority." Einzbern tried to recover the situation. "By the time our attention came back to Emiya, he had already made a name for himself. We did not feel it wise to raise such accusations and risk angering the Vice Director after such a display…"
"Since when was it everyone's business to know who interacted with the Vice Director for whatever reason they had?" Shirou rolled his eyes, tearing apart Einzbern's weak excuse.
Animusphere shook his head. "I've heard enough. The matter of the proper ownership of the item in question will be deliberated later. It was excavated, exchanged owners, and handled illegally with no official owner. However, the moment its existence was brought to light and became evidence in court, it became immediately under the jurisdiction and observation of the Association. As such, it will be in the care of a member of the Association until otherwise stated for said future deliberations. Agent Emiya. Given your familiarity with the artifact, you will fulfill that role."
"Well that was close." Shirou quietly nodded, complying with the Judge's decision.
"Indeed. I did not even need to reveal myself to your peers," Saber agreed. "You did well."
Animusphere was no done yet. "Lord El Melloi II's has already pled guilty to withholding information and unauthorized experimentation on a class EX Fae artifact. The punishment for it, however, will be mitigated to an undetermined fine and detailed reports of his research on the matter in light of the thaumaturgic advancements and discoveries he has contributed to due to his actions. McGinty and Emiya both serve similar penalties. All fines will be dependent on the quality and value of the research delivered. Am I clear?"
"Will the contributions that we have already given the Tower be counted to this penalty?" Waver asked reasonably.
"Depending on the nature of the contributions and your ability to prove that the artifact was a part of their development, yes." Animusphere nodded.
"No arguments here." Sirius shrugged.
"It is reasonable." Waver nodded.
"Agreed." Shirou joined them.
"Vice Director, we will discuss your part in this at another venue."
"Very well." Lorelei merely accepted his decision as if he was planning another arbitrary meeting for her to go to. In the grand scheme of things, that probably wasn't too far from the truth.
A fine. They had hid and experimented on an EX ranked Noble Phantasm for a decade, and their punishment was going to be a fine and revealing some of their research early.
Who said that the corrupted and twisted morals of the Magi system couldn't be helpful to decent people every now and then?
Shirou was genuinely playing around with the idea of revealing that he had been the one feeding the Department of Evocation his research on translating and comprehending Fae magic, but held off on it. Something told him that the researchers who focused on that field would never leave him alone if he gave away that bit of info right now.
"Now then, with the matter of the Artifact out of the way, we can finally get back to the original topic at hand." The Judge sighed. No doubt the events of the day were starting to get to him. He wouldn't mind it if the trial ended already.
Or at least, they got a break. After all the surprises that the Prosecution had been pulling and the ass pulls that Shirou had managed to conjure as if he was Zelretch himself, a break for both sides would not have been rejected.
"From what we have seen so far, Lord El Melloi II has broken several obligations to the Archibald Family. However, so far they have all pertained to either the Grail War, or Emiya, which were not unrelated to one another. These infractions were clearly not done out of malice, but out of perceived necessity… However…"
Shirou's eyes narrowed slightly. It was about time that the hard questioning started.
Animusphere was a surprisingly good Judge.
More importantly though, and curiously, was the fact he was clearly neutral party. A rarity for a Magi.
He had little doubt that the Vice Director was behind that turn of events somehow.
Animusphere didn't pick a side. However, that also meant that he would pick into the weaknesses of both arguments wherever he saw it. And there were weaknesses in the Defense.
"Lord El Melloi. I understand your reasons for trepidation regarding this war. The Magus Killer. The independent Servant. The irregular Grail. Your position. However, what I don't understand is why you restricted yourself the way you did. Why did you not inform the Archibald family that there was something amiss with the Grail itself, or bring up the topic of Servant Archer, without bringing up Emiya, and conjure a plan to address them? Why did you not address the Einzberns or the Association of these issues and work them in conjunction with Emiya's plans for a greater chance of success?"
Waver leaned back in his seat, thinking hard of the accusations. "Allow me to answer the questions out of order, Your Honor. I did not address the Einzberns' of the problem at hand because, quite simply, I did not believe they would listen. By the time I was aware of everything, Kiritsugu Emiya had already attempted to inform them multiple times, but with no reply. Upon doing further research into the aftermath of the Fourth War, I found that the family had put in literally no effort or resources into investigating or inspecting the Grail System in order to ensure that the cataclysmic ending that took place did not have any adverse effects on it. I understand that the Tohsaka were the ones responsible for performing initial checks, but after it was clear that the only one left of the family was the young Rin Tohsaka with us today, it should have been apparent that additional hands would be required. Had they even did a cursory check on the system, they would have easily been able to detect the contamination and put a hold on things in order to address, or even possibly remedy the issue."
The Einzbern party in the gallery remained stoic and silent, lest they be kicked out of the room by the Judge for interrupting the proceedings once again. That did not stop them, however, from giving him a range of dirty glares.
"The Archibald Family, my sponsors, unfortunately, were not well placed for such an endeavor either," Waver continued. "Had I attempted to do what you suggested, and they try to gather support to address the issue, I have little doubt that the push back would have been significant. Many would see it as the Archibald family trying to simply discredit the event that took their future away from them, blaming their failures on someone else. I could not squander the limited resources and prestige that they had left after the War, and hoped to spare them the hassle and headaches that were to come. No, rather, I had anticipated in an ideal situation that the prestige that I would gain from participating in remedying the situation would help elevate the Archibald name once more. Not to its previous grandeur of course, but enough to accelerate the process."
Judging from the looks that the Archibald Family was giving him, they didn't believe a word he was saying.
"The Association… I had considered informing those of higher authority what was going on, but decided against it after a great deal of deliberation. I did not make it lightly. I admit it, part of my decision was based on fear. Archer, no, Gilgamesh was an abnormal Servant. He was far too powerful to take risks against, or chance letting him know we were aware that he was still around. If the Association had tried to make it so that all the Masters and Servants were to group up and fight him together, I am quite certain that not only would the attempt fail, but that our world would be immediately exposed in the aftermath. The issue required a steady hand and a subtle approach to even think of having a chance of success, and I was deathly afraid that my warnings would fall on deaf ears in the Association at the critical moment. Or worse, betray my intentions to the enemy for petty reasons."
"And yet you entrusted everything to a boy." Animusphere frowned.
"A boy that listened." Waver frowned. "A boy that took to heart my warnings. That did not disregard what was at stake. A boy that was trained specifically for the role and was raised by the Magus Killer himself. One that had a set of skills that could actually contribute in taking out the King of Heroes. He was supposed to be seen as a non-factor before the war even began. A wildcard that no one expected. However, the incident with Louvre not only ruined that approach, but prevented me from directly participating in further preparing him."
"An unknown assassin, forced to work in the open," the Judge hummed, realizing the way things were supposed to turn out and how they eventually did go. "And with the artifact… no, Lord El Melloi II, did you have any other precautions set up? I find it hard to believe that you had put all your hopes on the shoulders of Emiya, regardless of how capable he may be."
Waver shifted uncomfortably. "Enforcer Bazett Fraga McRemitz was my backup plan."
Bazett stiffened in surprise. "Wait. What?"
Waver steeled himself as he continued. "We, McGinty and I, had enlisted her aid to train Emiya, get her familiar with the town, brush her up on some folklore and legends. Due to the makeup of the Grail system, it was well known that the Association was ensured to have a representative in the War. Our actions… improved the odds of her being chosen for the role, but we had reason to believe that she would have been picked regardless. Our efforts were intended to give her a better chance at dealing with the situation. The old man and I had several candidates in mind when we first started to fulfil the role, but she was the only one that we both thought was capable enough to contribute significantly, and one that we trusted with the role."
Bazett was stunned, unable to determine what to feel. She felt both betrayed and somewhat happy. They had led her into that hellish experience without her even knowing, but at the same time, they had done so because they had faith in her. They had trusted her. And… she had completely screwed it up.
She glanced at Sirius, but the old man was clearly making an effort not to acknowledge her existence, if only because of guilt.
"Enforcer McRemitz?" Animusphere frowned. "She, is also quite young. Lord El Melloi II. Around your age if I am not mistaken. Shouldn't you have picked someone with more experience?"
Waver sighed. "Fragarach, a Noble Phantasm uniquely available to her family, would have served as a useful tool against Gilgamesh. Her familiarity with Emiya was a boon that couldn't be ignored either. Ideally, we wanted her to work in conjunction with him during the War, but as stated before, we couldn't arouse suspicion. McRemitz… does not have a disposition for politics, so we couldn't ensure the whole story with her. However, we did warn her and Servant Lancer that something was amiss with the War and Kirei Kotomine, and to watch Emiya's movements to figure out the rest. Our hope, was that he would be able to kill Zouken Makiri early on, enabling him to act freely and enlist her soon afterwards."
"Enforcer McRemitz. Can you verify this?"
Bazett took a moment to realize that she was being addressed. It was clear to everyone that she had been caught off guard with the revelation she had just learned. "I… yes. Wa-the Defendant and McGinty informed me that something abnormal was going on, and to keep any eye out for what was going on, but to also appear to carry on with the War until I saw fit to otherwise. Since the start, there were some actions taken by others that had been irregular upon further investigation. I had expected Emiya would reach out to me at some point, but events took a turn for the worse before that took place. I didn't know about Gilgamesh until much later, but that was all. I never encountered the Servant in question."
"I have heard that you unfortunately were ensnared and controlled by the rogue Servant Caster for some time."
She looked away ashamed, crossing her arms instinctively. "That is correct. I, was heavily injured during my first encounter with Servant Assassin, who was under Caster. Enough so that the Witch used specimens of my body that were left behind to craft a mystic code with spells from the Age of Gods to ensnare me and fully control my actions during my next battle near her Workshop. I remained under her control until she was defeated and the item destroyed at the end of the War. It is, something I wish not to remiss upon."
"Don't worry mommy. The mean lady is gone now. We're safe here," her left leg consoled her.
"Yeah. And Uncle Shirou's food is really tasty too," the right supplied, trying to be helpful.
"I see. My condolences." The old man looked genuinely apologetic. "I will not press the matter if it is too much. However, I must insist on continuing. Can you verify what Emiya and Lord El Melloi II have claimed about the War and the Grail system itself?"
"I… that is a difficult thing to answer certainly, Your Honor. I was aware of everything happening at all times while controlled, but that does not mean I was able to learn of everything. Most of what I could provide is mere secondhand information," Bazett relented.
"That is fine. Please continue."
"I do know that the Grail System was corrupted. The Witch herself had spoken about it and spent much time occupied with its nature and qualities. What she discovered specifically I could not tell you, but its existence and adverse influence on the Grail system was unquestionable. She had surmised that without this alteration, she, and some of the other Servants here would not have been able to be summoned."
"Really?" Animusphere was curious.
Bazett nodded, glancing at the locations of where some of the other Servants were hovering in spiritual form. "Mmm. There are some Anti-Heroes here, a villain, and…" She glanced at Rin briefly with an unreadable expression. "One is even a Counter Guardian."
That last comment caught many flat footed.
"A… A Counter Guardian?" Animusphere stammered. "Is it… I didn't even know it was even possible to summon one of those as a Servant. They are heroic spirits on the Throne of Heroes, but the lack of any proper medium makes it all but impossible for them to be channeled."
"Preposterous," the Prosecutor spoke up. "Ridiculous. How on earth are we expected to believe that one of the Servants is a part of the Counter Force?"
"Because, Lord Istari, the Servant in question does not have a legend," Luvia answered the question before Bazett could answer. "My apologies for speaking out of turn your honor, but I felt I should be the one to answer this question."
The Judge frowned. He knew something was up, but could not figure out why just yet. "Please explain."
"It was my Servant who discovered this… trait, about the Counter Guardian in question." Luvia hedged around who the party in question was. "He had given us his name due to circumstances that I will not go into. However my Caster was unable to recall any legend or tale about him in particular, which was concerning. All standard Heroic Spirits, once summoned as Servants, are at least aware of one another, if only by name and general achievements. The only Servants that have their tales remain hidden even after being identified can only do so with the aid of a skill or a Noble Phantasm. The Servant we are speaking of in question possesses neither of those."
"Archer?" Rin asked just to make sure.
"I have weapons that can wipe out the memories of those killed from the minds of everyone in the world, and other tools that can hide my appearance and identity from others so long as I'm unknown to all that see me, but that's the closest I have. Nothing that's potent or niche enough to hide my history from others after my identity's been revealed." EMIYA mentally shrugged.
"Those… sound useful," She mused. "Why didn't you use them before?"
"As much as it pains me to admit it, my skills as an Assassin are lacking compared to my counterpart here. At best, they'd give me the equivalent of a C rank in Presence Concealment, and even then I'd fail to use it as adequately as a natural born user. Nowhere near enough to get close to an enemy Servant undetected."
"That so? Pity."
"A Counter Guardian…" Animusphere shook his head. "As if today wasn't full of enough surprises. Being able to summon one in any form without condemning an entire city or country is an astronomical feat in itself."
"Would you look at that, Archer? It almost sounds like you're more special than Saber."
"… There's a cruel irony in what you just said, Master. It would be best if you stopped there."
Rin blinked once, clearly confused at his bitter tone. "Archer?"
"Drop it. Please."
It wasn't often that Archer asked politely. She couldn't help but be worried.
Lorelei Barthomelloi frowned. She didn't know about the Counter Guardian. She looked at the Masters, trying to figure out who it was.
Saber was King Arthur. Lancer was Cu Culaiin. Assassin was Kiritsugu Emiya… it might be him in hindsight. The Casters were Medea of Colchis. Rider, Berserker, and Archer were unknown, but there was little doubt that the Einzberns would screw something up and conjure another abnormal and untested Servant in a gamble to win the Grail War.
So, it was either Assassin, Archer, or Rider… wait, come to think of it, who was Assassin's Master now?
The Judge frowned as he looked through his paperwork, looking for something. "Einzbern. As the Defendant stated, it was unlikely for Miss Tohsaka to fulfil her role as second owner and maintain any form of maintenance on her territory's leylines or the Greater Grail System. While the Makiri family was also present there, it has been noted to be on a severe decline for several generations, so it would not be surprising to assume that they too were unable to perform any form of supervision or maintenance on it as well. Somehow, I doubt that any of the Three founding families for the ritual would allow its intricate secrets to be known to the Church, even if they complied do everything they could to support it. So that leaves me with the question, did you, or did you not put any resources, personnel, or effort, into examining the Grail system after the Fourth War, in which Kiritsugu Emiya interrupted and destroyed the final product in its final stages?"
"… No," the German ground out. "The Greater Grail system is semi-sentient, self-adapting, and tied to the land's Leylines. It was designed to be able to repair and adjust itself as time went on in order to properly handle the immense amounts of prana that it was designed to contain. The idea that it could be corrupted still is an inconceivable impossibility to us. Even after Emiya's betrayal, the system's inbuilt procedures would lead to it repairing itself without any further input, so we saw no need to travel halfway across the world to do work that was not ours."
"And yet something clearly is wrong with it. We have all seen the evidence." Animusphere didn't give up. "Kiritsugu Emiya apparently tried to warn you, but you disregarded it. If that was all, I would understand your reaction, but if these notes are correct, there were other signs during the Fourth War that should have raised concerns. The accursed nature of the prana from the fallout of the War, for starters. Again, that could be written off as the results of a destroyed Grail in general, being mishandled and disposed of improperly… however the Caster of that War also proved to be an abnormality. Gilles De Rais, of France. Not a hero, but a genuine villain that actively slaughtered children in his dementia. The more I look at the signs, the more I am beginning to suspect that your family was not as invested into completing the ritual as you appear."
Something snapped in Einzbern. "How DARE you make such an accusation! This entire event was our design! It was our accomplishment! The Servants! The Grail! The Wishes! That was all the Einzberns! The only thing that the Makiri and Tohsaka provided for us were leashes to control those over glorified familiars and some dirt to conduct it on!"
"So it was not a lack of care, but irresponsible overconfidence then." Animusphere frowned. "I do not care what you did to set up the ritual in the first place, your contributions, or your goals, Einzbern. The fact of the matter is, the Grail System in Fuyuki as it is poses a risk that can expose thaumaturgy to the world, or even humanity itself, completed or not, and your family failed its obligations to preemptively address this problem before it even became one. If you had, we wouldn't be having this conversation in the first place. No, this entire trial would have been unnecessary."
"Are you insinuating that all of what has transpired is our fault?"
"Of course not, but it is clear that the Einzbern played an unequivocal role in enabling this mess by doing nothing." Animusphere held his ground. "You may not be on trial and your family may not be members of the Association, but that does not exclude you from the repercussions of your actions and abstaining from your obligations."
"Regardless of who is guilty of what crimes," Shirou spoke up. "The Greater Grail system as it is cannot be left alone. It will likely have to be heavily modified or in a worst case scenario dismantled in its entirety to prevent these issues from repeating. Either way, the odds of another Grail War being conducted here is miniscule at best."
There was a curious pause as Shirou's words were digested. "… I am confused, Emiya. If there is a possibility for the Grail to be fixed, why do you doubt that there would be another ritual in Fuyuki?"
Rin gave Shirou a dirty look. "What he is alluding to, is the fact that before Kiritsugu Emiya discovered that the Fifth War would start prematurely, he sabotaged the leylines of Fuyuki. An irregularity was made within the geographic faults in the area with high yield explosives shortly after the Fourth War. Within the next couple of decades, an earthquake is expected take place that will cripple the leylines through my territory, and in turn the Greater Grail System. It won't be able to recharge again."
Well, that was unless Caster helped out of course. But the Association didn't have to know that, did they?
Plus, the knowledge would immediately stop any power hungry Nobles from trying to take the territory away from Rin. By the time anyone realized that the problem had been fixed, she should have enough clout and skill to make the effort not worth it.
"By the way, Archer. Just how well did your version of me react to this information?" Rin asked her Servant sweetly.
"… I'm unsure if I was on the other side of the planet by that time, or dead. Either way, I consider it a blessing."
"She's already made her displeasure quite clear to me," Shirou deadpanned, clearly portraying that it was not a subject that he was happy to discuss. "I don't blame my father for leaving the task of addressing the Fifth War, but I completely blame him for this headache. I didn't even learn of this until I saw the notes he left behind after Louvre."
"You're in trouuuuuble," Illya giggled to Kiritsugu.
"… Still better than angering your mother," the Servant dryly tried to reason. Whether it was to comfort himself or his daughter was anyone's guess.
"I… are you certain of this?" Animusphere asked, surprised. "The Magus Killer's performed many acts of high collateral destruction during his tenure, but, to destroy a leyline?"
"It's there." Shirou sighed, resigned to his fate. "Lord El Melloi II and the old man inspected the site when they first heard of it years ago. It would be a massive undertaking to fix it in time, if that's even possible at this point. I had a look myself when I found out, and it looks bad. Unfortunately, tectonic and geological thaumaturgy isn't a field I'm particularly knowledgeable in, so my word doesn't mean much in the matter other than confirming that dad did do something in the first place."
Judging from the disappointed and annoyed looks of several middle aged men and women in the gallery, it seemed to be a massive undertaking and investment that was not worth the trouble of tearing down the Tohsaka name and stealing the territory from her.
"Lord El Melloi II?" Animusphere looked genuinely tired at this point with all the whiplash moments he was experiencing.
"It's there." Waver shrugged. "Sirius and I did a localized tectonic analysis ritual. Something that all Second Owners know how to perform in order to conduct maintenance and observation on their territories. Whatever Kiritsugu set off was big and hit deep. If it's left alone for much longer, the damage will be permanent, but the cost of fixing it all would be... extensive."
"Actually, I just set off almost everything I had left over from all my dead drop storage bunkers," the guilty party elaborated for Illya. "In truth, the hard part was getting it all in Japan in the first place. The custom checks here are actually good at their job, unlike other countries."
"It must be. You actually sound proud of yourself." Illya resisted the urge to roll her eyes. "… Wait, almost everything?"
"… I've worked on a lot of jobs. It's best if you didn't know what I once played with."
"I'm starting to worry that Tools of the Trade might actually be far more terrifying of a Noble Phantasm than I first thought."
"Don't worry. Tools of the Trade's unable to make them. There are physical size limitations."
"That doesn't make me feel any better, Papa."
"If the court is deliberating to take away my territory, I would greatly appreciate it if they did so before I decide to invest the majority of my finances into addressing this… issue." Rin smiled sweetly in a way that promised misfortune for anyone that made the mistake of trying to take advantage of her. "If not, then I am afraid that whoever will inherit the land will also find themselves with the costs for fixing it, in addition to a further cost for the effort of managing such a monumental task in the first place. As is my right as a Second Owner placed in an inopportune situation due to various factors that were outside of my jurisdiction."
That was a kind way of saying, "my property and my problems are a joint package. You take all of it or you take none of it."
"Knowing you, the money you'd squeeze out of any poor idiot that did try their luck would be enough to land you three more territories with enough cash left over to support at least two generations nonstop," Archer deadpanned.
"You're too kind."
"This is not the venue for such discussions, Tohsaka." Animusphere sighed, knowing that he was going to have to pop some pills after all of this. "McGinty, Lord El Melloi II, do you have reports of this information in the evidence?"
"I believe it is pieces 12-C through G, Your Honor," Waver supplied.
"Good. At least this won't send us into another wild goose chase." The man's grumbling's were heard by the entire courtroom, causing a few chuckles of laughter to follow. "Were these verified?"
"We had them inspected by independent Magi for an in depth analysis. The results were in line with our accounts, but nothing certified by an official source unfortunately. McGinty and I were working under the radar at the time and did not want to risk drawing attention to ourselves or Fuyuki prematurely."
Animusphere was handed the mentioned papers from the Bailiff and began to shuffle through them. Unfortunately, despite being a lord with a great deal of power, he was not a Second Owner himself and did not specialize in this branch of thaumaturgy, so he could only determine so much from what he had. Regardless, from what was written down and the images that were included, the damage seemed quite extensive. "Hmm… unfortunate but understandable. This evidence will have to be considered pending until an official source can approve of it. I recognize some of the signatures and people you took this to. They are capable magi. We will proceed under the assumption that this data is valid until otherwise stated."
"So… regardless of what happens to the Grail system itself, it does appear as if the Fifth Fuyuki War will be the last unless the leylines are addressed. No matter how you look at it, these were not the actions of a man merely out for revenge, but someone with a specific goal in mind. It's genuinely impressive what he accomplished in his crippled state, in a terrifying way."
"That was his initial intention." Waver confirmed. "It was only after he discovered that the War was starting prematurely and Gilgamesh was still around that he contacted McGinty and I and started everything."
"Yes. Fifty years, if I recall correctly. A result of the unorthodox conclusion of the Fourth War?"
"Yes. The Grail was unable to discharge most of the prana it had accumulated at the conclusion."
Animusphere tapped his finger on his desk in thought as he shuffled through the papers. "… Einzbern. Did you or did you not send anyone to inspect the Grail system when it was discovered that the Fifth War was starting prematurely?"
The German frowned. "The Einzbern family has a multitude of mysteries that monitor it from our home territory. There are few scenarios that would require us to directly interact with the System itself."
"Is that a no? Because I am confused. Most Magi would be concerned if a colossal project like this would suddenly initiate in a sixth of the time it normally takes. Most Magi would immediately inspect the project to make sure that nothing was wrong, or examine specifically why things have accelerated to this point to try and recreate the process."
"Do not trivialize our work!" The man's snap caught everybody off guard. "The Greater Grail System is not something that can simply be examined or inspected! It was created using Justeaze Von Einzbern, the greatest creation of our family outside of the Third Magic, as its core! Only a Homonculus modeled after her is capable of directly interacting and interfacing with it, and it takes time to fashion such precious tools! The only one we had on hand was that amalgamation, and we were too invested in preparing her for the next War to waste time using her to inspect the Fuyuki Grail!"
All eyes turned to Illya as Einzbern addressed her with loathing, as if everything was her fault in some way.
"… And yet," Shirou broke everyone out of their trance. "She appeared to have had no reason or inclination to inspect the Grail when she finally did arrive. No orders to see if she could discover if anything was amiss."
It took a great deal of self-control for Illya to hold back a very satisfied smirk. "My orders were to kill Emiya and achieve victory for the Einzbern by any means necessary. There was no mention of performing maintenance or examining the Greater Grail System unless the ritual itself was being threatened."
"Useless defect!" The fact that Illya was backing Shirou up instead of her "Family" didn't go over that well.
"Enough!" Animusphere slammed his gavel down. "It is apparent that the Einzbern family is more interested in achieving their own personal agendas than ensuring that their Family's ambitions are accomplished properly. The fact that you actively ignored the constant warnings that appeared and that others gave you is only further proof of this. Had you heeded them, there may have been hope of a Sixth Grail War taking place in the future, or your kin achieving victory in the Fifth without having to deal with the mess we are in today."
Judging from the crimson hue the man's face had taken, it wouldn't be a far guess to assume that Einzbern wanted to hold said Sixth War right then and there inside the courtroom.
He turned to Waver. "Lord El Melloi II. You have admitted your guilt to several crimes already. However, it is clear that you did so with the best intentions and what little you had available. For that you have my gratitude."
Next was Illya. "Miss Einzbern. Would you cooperate should the Association send inspectors to verify your claims regarding the Greater Grail?"
"To a degree sir. Despite our history of mismanagement, the Greater Grail is still our property and responsibility." She bowed. "I will go so far as to help prove and identify the corruption in the system. That said, I am still an Einzbern. If any of these persons would try to steal our secrets, I will act appropriately."
"▄▄▄." She made Berserker growl just loud enough for everyone to hear to prove her point. She didn't like her family, but she still had some pride in the name she carried.
"Understood…" He looked at the Masters in Japan. "If the Grail is fixed. If this corruption is somehow addressed, you realize that you are all obligated to resume the War. Correct?"
Shirou, Bazett, Illya, Rin, Sakura, and Luvia looked at one another with unreadable expressions before nodding in agreement.
"If that happens, then we will fulfill our obligations." Shirou nodded. "But only if that comes to pass, and we verify it ourselves. Understand that all of us are quite... wary... of repeating the same mistakes as our predecessors, and have no interests in fighting for a lost cause."
"There is nothing to rectify! The Grail is still functional!" Einzbern snarled. "Once enough Servants have been killed, a wish can be enacted! Any wish!"
"And perverted to an extreme with enough power to endanger all of us." Shirou frowned, ignoring Animusphere's call to order. "You would have us risk not only our lives, but potentially Humanity's itself to fulfil your own desires and aspirations. If you are still so desperate to reenact the Third Magic, then re-establish the Grail System somewhere else. I couldn't care less about an unlimited wish, or if you manage to succeed or not in achieving your goals."
"You… dare, belittle our one thousand year goal? Our accomplishments?"
"I belittle nothing. I am merely a lowly dog that does not care for things that do not interest me. The promise of an unlimited wish for completing this event held no value to me from the start." Shirou glared down at the seething man, ignoring the small gestures from the others to quit antagonizing the man while he still could. "As I said before. If you are that dedicated and confident in this ritual, conduct it somewhere else."
"Do not joke about this, boy!" The man was turning nearly rabid, slamming his fists on the railing in front of him. "An ignorant commoner like you does not have the capability to imagine just how valuable and unique Justeaze Von Einzbern was! How miraculous and paramount her existence! No matter how many times we may be able to copy her down to the circuits, it is impossible to replicate the magnitude and quality that was the original! An unrepeatable blessing!"
Regardless of how loud and viciously Einzbern was yelling, it couldn't drown out the poorly stifled chuckling that reached Shirou's ears. Judging from everyone else's expression, he wasn't the only one that heard it.
Not from one, but from two sources.
"Is something the matter?" Animusphere frowned, looking at one of the culprits.
"Oh. No. Please don't mind me." The King of Rats smiled, clearly more amused than he let on. Off to the side, Merem had to put some effort into stifling the clearly amused laughter. "I merely found Einzbern's reaction to be amusing. It's not often that a Magus is willing to announce their... inadequacies so viciously."
That wasn't it. That definitely wasn't it.
Shirou knew Merem long enough to be aware that it took more than a childish outburst for him and the King of Rats to loose composure like that.
The two knew something that everyone else didn't.
"What would some priest know of our craft?"
"Of alchemy, virtually nothing, but I do know that any self-respecting magi would rather die than admit proudly that they know next to nothing about one of their greatest accomplishments. Not unless they were trying to hide the truth from their peers at least." The Left Arm waved carelessly. "Either Justeaze Von Einzbern's reputation within her family is so grand that it is equal to their history wielding the Third True Magic, or, the secret of her making is something that the family does not wish to be known to their peers, or, the Einzbern simply does not wish to admit that, ironically, just like the Third True Magic, they are simply incapable of recreating a Homunculus like Justeaze. A poor habit to fall in, no doubt."
Shirou winced. Owch. Leave it to the immortal Vampire and his familiars to insult an enemy family so harshly that even he felt bad for them.
Judging from the other looks at the table, the others agreed.
Wait. Illya. Calm down. He's on our side. Please. This is the last house anyone has in town that's intact! Call back Berserker! Dad! What are you doing?! Get your daughter under control!
Shirou was so preoccupied with worrying about what Illya was going to do in the next five seconds that he didn't notice Rin nervously looking at the Priest.
"It is the second. Though, you already knew that from the start, Apostle."
The new voice spoke up before the Einzbern representative lost his temper explosively, killing the show before it even began.
Illya's eyes widened in surprise. "G-Grandfather?"
Jubstacheit Von Einzbern walked up to his family like a Lion on the prowl, his body language and stature full of power and authority, silencing whatever his kin would say just by approaching them. "My apologies for my family and my late arrival, Your Honor."
"This is rather unexpected," Lorelei voiced her thoughts. The fact that she had actually allowed herself to do so exemplified just how curious she was in the new turn of events.
"The head of the Einzbern. I was under the impression that you were going to leave representing your family to Gundolf here." Animusphere frowned, hiding his greater surprise that the old Homunculus had left the family property in the first place. He had yet to hear of a single event where the old Magus had ever done such a thing.
"The more reports I received, the more I was convinced that my presence would be necessary." The old lion didn't budge. "Due to the weather this time of year, my arrival was delayed significantly. Apparently, as was the missive for my arrival."
Judging from the flinch that the lesser Einzbern tried to hide, no, the missive didn't come in late.
"You spoke as though you've dealt with Solomon before," the Judge noted.
"Not personally. My family has been in the habit of collecting valuable artifacts of worth long before we acquired Avalon. The Apostle was but one of many that had interacted with us in an effort to access our stores." Jubstacheit admitted without the slightest bit of shame or guilt.
Shirou frowned. He had little doubt that the old Lion had omitted the vast majority of the truth in his explanation. The fact that Merem had interacted with the Einzberns at all in the past was completely unexpected for him, but in hindsight, not out of character.
He snuck a few moments to look at Merem directly, and could honestly say that he didn't like what he saw. The Ancestor wasn't angry, frustrated, giddy, or anything of the like. Rather, it was the genuine curiosity exposed on the deceptively young looking immortal that sent shivers down Shirou's spine. So much so that one could practically see stars shimmering in the Vampire's eyes, as if eagerly awaiting a mystery box to be opened but could only be done by someone else.
The idea that things could turn in a completely twisted direction now of all times that had even Merem's undivided attention quite frankly terrified the teen more than any other curveball and accusation that had been made during the entire event.
"Your family is never without harsh negotiators. The prices you demanded for your treasures were almost always too rich for my blood." The King of Rats sighed helplessly, not at all ashamed of appearing helpless before the court. No one bought it.
"… I apologize for interrupting. However, I request to speak to my representative in Japan." Jubstacheit asked, his face betraying nothing.
"Your family has already interrupted today's events by quite a margin." Animusphere frowned. "In fact, I was about to evict your stand-in from the room."
"Please humor my request, Your Honor. Me and mine will withdraw from the room and the proceedings without further prompting once done."
The request caught the Judge off guard. "Your representative here has requested that the Prosecution draw charges on the defendant and Emiya on stealing and concealing an artifact that your family excavated. Do you intend to drop that as well?"
"The trinket was only a tool to my family. The boy clearly is putting it to better use than we ever would bother to." Jubstacheit dismissed both the Noble Phantasm and Shirou's achievements with it in a single go.
"… Let him speak, Your Honor. The less we need to deliberate, the easier this mess can be sorted." Shirou didn't take his eyes off of the old man. He didn't know whether to be insulted or impressed. Saber… settled for being insulted.
Avalon wasn't an issue anymore. He just wanted for that guy, (Gundolf?) to leave the room so they could finish this already.
It was probably a mistake to let someone that wanted the Grail to be completed almost as much as Zouken take the stage, but fighting against a man they had not prepared for now would likely be worse.
The old man didn't turn his gaze away from Shirou. "… Ridiculous. The idea that Emiya would prepare you to this degree and not inform you of her… no. It was our fault for not anticipating such an obvious outcome."
"What is done is done," Shirou evenly stated, neither insulting nor placating the man without giving too much away.
Jubstacheit frowned, as if challenging the young man. "Did you mean what you stated earlier, boy? It does not matter to you if the Grail War is held somewhere else? If there is another victor? Do you not care of the idea of holding the power and potential of the Grail in your hands? True Magic. The Root. Prestige and pride. Do those have any value to a child like you?"
"None." His answer was flat and even. "I do recognize its worth and significance, and I acknowledge the efforts you and others have gone to achieve those goals. But, to me such things have little value. Such obnoxiously grandiose things can be put to better use in another's hands. I have been told I am rather peculiar like that. If you wish to continue perusing the Grail somewhere else, with a system that does not risk the future of the planet, then by all means, go ahead. So long as my interests do not overlap with yours, you will have no worries that I will do anything to intervene."
"Why the Grail chose you as a Master at all with such…" It looked like the old Lord was going to go off on a tangent before catching himself and getting back on track. "And those interests of yours are?"
Shirou lifted an eyebrow, as if to ask if the German thought he was really that stupid. Why would he tell anyone in the Association what his potential weaknesses were? The more ambiguous and unknown he was, the more room everyone would give him.
If Jubstacheit was insulted or amused by his mute reply, he didn't show it. Instead he just stared at the teen as if making a decision before dismissing the matter altogether to focus on Illya. "Illyasviel."
"Grandfather." She nodded slightly.
"You were supposed to obtain the Grail. Do not tell me that you were convinced otherwise."
"I encountered several notable distractions that required my focus."
"Distractions great enough to draw your attention away from your primary directive?"
"Distractions great enough to interfere with that, yes," she corrected. "By the time they were dealt with, I had witnessed enough to agree with Emiya's findings."
"I was under the impression that the Servant we obtained for you would be more than enough to handle any issue you might encounter." The old man gave the barest expression of displeasure.
"So was I." Illya didn't budge from her position.
"What of Sella and Leysritt?"
"They were killed by Caster, protecting me while Berserker, Saber, and Emiya were busy fighting Gilgamesh. Berserker was almost completely defeated in the fight." She vaguely alluded to her Servant's Noble Phantasm. Only those that knew of it already would be able to catch onto her double meaning.
There was a brief period of silence before the elder of the two let out a short uncharacteristic sigh if frustration. "It was a mistake to send you. We should have prepared another Homunculus for the role."
"The only difference that would have been made, Grandfather, is how many people would be sitting at this table after everything's calmed down." Illya gave the image of a tired woman. "By the time I had arrived at our property here, Emiya had already rigged the entire place to collapse should certain… conditions were not met. I saw him handle the explosives myself when I took him there."
"Assassin's staring at you," Saber noted, ignoring the fact that pretty much everyone was staring at Shirou. "For the life of me, I am unsure if he is proud or angry at you."
"To be honest? I don't know if he knows either."
To his credit, Jubstacheit restricted his reaction to the news to just a mere blink. There was little doubt that the "conditions" that Illya spoke of were that she be there in person.
Illya smiled bitterly. "In hindsight, moving into a building that has been abandoned for a decade that we own that everyone, including a professional Assassin that nearly everyone was aware we'd be targeting in particular, knew about at least a couple of months in advance, was a poor decision."
Shirou glanced at his sister, unamused. "You make it sound like your castle was the only place I rigged ahead of time."
An awkward silence permeated both rooms, save for the occasional nervous laugh. Not a single person had the nerve to look at Shirou in the eye.
"Assassin's still staring at you."
… Almost no one.
"What are your thoughts on the Grail?" The old man decided to completely ignore being called out for his lack of judgement. "Why have you decided to refrain from obtaining what is rightfully ours?"
Illya frowned in thought. The Grail? The Third Magic? The Einzbern's Legacy was important to her, of course. She had been raised with that fact literally imbedded into her body and soul. Even now after all that she's been through, it was something that would never change.
Assassin paused as he felt something… click, within his daughter.
"You." He frowned, but didn't do or say anything more than that.
Unknown to everyone, Merem's eyes flashed with recognition and curiosity. His expression becoming muted, and his attention fully focused on the Winter Fairy.
"The Holy Grail in Fuyuki, in its current state, is not the one that the Einzbern coveted, nor is it one that should ever be allowed to function." Some of the childish energy that had perpetually within Illya's voice had vanished, leaving her sounding more aloof and distant than before. "It functions, but using it as is will yield little benefits and many issues that are too significant to ignore. To persist with activating this artifact would only exemplify desperation and ignorance in those that demand it. An unfortunate turn of events. However, all is not lost. There is enough evidence to prove that the original system could provide us what was desired in future endeavors."
"You sound as if reproducing the original system is something that can be easily done. You know better than to assume that what we accomplished is so." Justeaze Von Einzbern sacrificed herself to form the core. To remake the Grail system somewhere else required someone of equal or greater value to her to serve that role once more.
"We are in the presence of a Caster Servant from the Age of Gods, and the original System, while tainted, is still here. Transplantation of certain vital components to a new system is still possible if done properly. Combined with the Einzbern's original notes, are you not rushing to conclusions with such resources available? Current head of the Einzbern?"
Jubstacheit frowned, as if just noticing something. "You…"
Caster looked at Illyasviel with some curiosity. "Oh? What is this now? That's not the girl speaking."
"Caster? Before we land ourselves in hot water, are you able to do that?" Luvia didn't miss the fact that a few eyes had turned her way, snapping her Servant out of her private observations.
"I… perhaps." The Princess hesitated, pulled from her thoughts suddenly. "I excel at bounded fields, healing, and summoning. I am also proficient in spells that manipulate the biology of others. Depending on the state of the Grail and the resources that Einzbern allow me to work with, I may be able to recreate a Homunculus on par with this Justeaze, as distasteful as it may be. I must admit, I am curious as to what made this specimen so peculiar and necessary for the fabrication of the Grail itself. I do not possess Item Creation, so my efforts may be hampered. Recreating the Master Servant contracts and the Command Spell system on the other hand is child's play. I have long lamented on how crudely it was established and implemented."
"Good enough. Somehow I doubt that Sakura will be disappointed that she will not be needed to participate in this."
"You sound as if I am thrilled by the prospect in contrast, Master." Caster's dry tone left little to the imagination.
"If worse comes to worse, you have my permission to add whatever sub functions you want to the Grail without the Einzbern knowing in case anyone tries something funny."
"I thought that went without saying."
The blonde couldn't help but smirk confidently, realizing that most of everyone's attention was on her now. "The Edelfelt Family has forsaken relations with the Archibalds. However that does not mean that we are unwilling to make a contract with the Einzberns, so long as certain conditions and prerequisites are met."
For good measure, she winked at Shirou without any discretion, as if telling him and everyone else that she had her own plans in mind regardless of what his thoughts were on the matter.
… Especially, in spite of what his thoughts were on the matter.
Jubstacheit grimaced in annoyance, clearly displeased by the situation he was placed in. The mere idea that he would have to admit to relying on such a "low class" family in public was not endearing to him. But, above all else, the Grail, the Third Magic, he couldn't turn away the offer to start anew with sufficient and reliable aid without looking like a fool. "… The Einzbern will consider the Edelfelt's offer, and send a missive and representative should we accept it."
A thought occurred to Luvia at the old man's tentative acceptance, causing her confidence to grow even further. She knew she was pushing it, but if it worked, nearly everyone was going to be in her debt for a very long time.
"Actually, Lord Einzbern, one of the prerequisites is that Illyasviel Von Einzbern be your liaison for communications. I feel that, seeing that this agreement would depend on the Grail itself, and the fact that we have worked together through this ordeal, things would progress smoother if we personally managed and facilitated the agreement."
Archer whistled, clearly impressed. "Nice move. She's increasing Illya's value to make sure they don't pull anything later."
Rin agreed, but her nerves were pulled taught. The topic of conversation had been edging dangerously close to something she desperately hoped would not be found out. "Of course she would do something like that. That woman's infuriating when it comes to negotiating deals and contracts. I don't know what the Archibalds had to do in order to make her sign that contract to kill Shirou in the first place, but it must have been significant."
"But she still signed it."
"… But she still signed it." Rin's mood soured.
The old man looked like he was biting into a raw lemon. "We will, discuss the details of our prospective arrangement later, at a more appropriate venue."
"Understandable." Luvia knew when not to push things too far. Conducting business during a trial was not in either of their best intentions.
Jubstacheit looked hard at Illyasviel and Shirou before turning to Animusphere. "The Einzbern tentatively withdraws their accusations for this case, though they may be reinstated in a future one depending on the outcome of future events. As per the contract established during the foundation of the Grail's establishment and subsequent participation of the Association, we will take responsibility for the long overdue maintenance and examination of the System established in Fuyuki in absence of any capable magi that are capable of doing so from the remaining two families."
Rin let the jab at her competency slide. This was a major hurdle that they were over. She could swallow her pride for this.
"Einzbern! What are you doing?! We had an agreement!" An Archibald yelled in disbelief, much to his Istari's futile efforts to shut the man up.
"We did. And I am breaking it." Jubstacheit passively dismissed the man as he turned around. "Our temporary alliance was based off the assumption that there was nothing to be gained from the situation should certain parties be left intact. That assumption has since been revised, and thus our partnership is no longer beneficial to me and mine. Gundolv. We are leaving."
"I…" The younger Einzbern looked around confused, as if unsure just how to interpret the turn of events, before surrendering to the situation. With heavy shoulders, he stood up, followed by the rest of his impassive entourage. "Sir."
"It appears that the Archibald family has issues maintaining alliances." The King of Rats chuckled. "Abandoned by two parties within the past two weeks, suspected of betraying a third, and this very event is them accusing a fourth. How unfortunate."
"You are just going to let Emiya get away with this?! After what that accursed family has done to both of ours?!"
"Do not embarrass yourself further, Archibald. The only thing that should have mattered during the Grail War was victory. Had the corruption that everyone seems to be making a grand fuss about not existed, victory would have been the Einzbern's a decade ago, by Emiya's hands no less. Your family would still be crippled, and you would be howling like a broken dog at us for your pathetic state instead. At the very least, my family has the sense to know when we have failed. You were a haphazard means to an end, and were replaced by a more suitable option. No more. No less."
"Kuh." It really didn't look good for the Archibalds. While the law technically may be on their side, it appeared as if that was the only thing they had going for them. Public opinion. Political support. Moral high ground. Finances. Resources. Every time they tried to take a step forward, the ground gave way, revealing a trap or misstep that did more harm than good.
There was just one small problem that prevented Shirou from going all out on them and destroying the family permanently.
The document that had proven that he had Avalon also indicated that he was an Incarnation.
No one would be able to protect him if that got out. No. Rather, it would be more accurate to say that from now on it was impossible for Shirou Emiya to visit any Association establishment with guarantee for his safety.
As much as he despised to admit it, there was nothing he could do other than make sure that none of the Archibalds got pushed past the brink… and let the Vice Director handle the rest behind closed doors.
"Is there anything else that needs to be discussed?" Shirou spoke up in a bored tone, as though he had not been fully aware of the situation. "I believe that we have covered pretty much every atrocity and crime that my father and I have committed in the past decade related to the Grail Wars."
"Huh. You know. I think that's the first straight up lie that he's told all day," Lancer mused, somewhat impressed by the fact.
"Sadly, I think you're right," Bazett agreed.
"That is a good question. Lord Istari. Have you anything else to bring to the court?" Judging from the look on Animusphere's face, the man was clearly hoping that the answer was no.
The lead Prosecutor clearly looked like he had seen better days, but that was still significantly more positive than how his clients appeared.
The King of Rats had a point. Regardless of what happened to Waver, the Archibalds were in a terrible position now all across the board. They had let their pride and ego get in the way of their common sense, and the entire family name was all but bankrupt now.
So far, the only crimes he had admitted guilt for had been… moderate. Not insignificant, but ones that could be ignored and forgotten within a year by the higher echelons of the Association if the right strings were pulled.
The big ones that had yet to be decided on though, were with regards to his actions that were "against the name, interests, and security of his endorsers". Broken contracts and more or less being flat out called a traitor that risked the security of the Association could easily land him in prison for life or even execution if things hit an all-time low.
If Waver was hit hard by the court, the Archibalds would lose not only a massive resource in Waver himself, but in the public reputation. The Magus world was cutthroat, but no one would want to deal with a family of failures that couldn't maintain a decent relationship with their peers, and the Vice Director for that matter…
… And then there was that matter of picking a fight with the current Magus Killer to consider. One with "most likely but not verified yet" King Arthur as his Servant and battle buddy, and was apparently rather chummy with several other Masters and Servants.
However, if the charges were dropped, they would appear weak willed and incompetent. Still, it was a position that they could recover from with slightly more ease over time…
… If done under the right circumstances.
… And said circumstances were followed through. One way or another.
As the Einzberns left the courtroom, Waver leaned over to speak to his quite understandably bewildered and unsettled defense attorney.
The poor woman probably had felt completely out of her depth as bombshell after bombshell had been dropped over the course of the day. She probably would have lost consciousness or broken down completely if she had been on the Prosecution's side. One had to give Istari this much, the man was still standing firmly, albeit his image was more akin to a knight making a last stand, knowing his inevitable doom was approaching.
Then again, it was hard to miss her double take at her client as if he had just grown a second head.
Shirou frowned in confusion. He thought that the original plan was to prove Waver's innocence while wrecking the Archibald's reputation in the process so badly that one of two things would happen. Either the Archibalds would realize that convicting Waver wasn't worth the damages and let him get off with some lesser agony, or the entire court would find the family so embarrassingly defunct that they'd realize that they'd be able to get more out of being on Waver's side than his host's and someone would cut a deal with him.
Jubstacheit's appearance and the revelation that he had Avalon were both unexpected, and had the potential to end cataclysmically badly at record speeds, but they had somehow managed to turn both to their favor.
What Shirou didn't know was that the plan apparently didn't meet the high standards of a certain person of significant power.
"Your Honor. Today's events have gone for some time. The Defense requests a recess until tomorrow for both sides to reorganize themselves."
Shirou wasn't the only one that was confused. The Judge. The Gallery. Sirius. Hell, even the Prosecution were all blinking in confusion. The momentum was clearly on their side. Why on earth would they ruin that now?
"A recess?" Animusphere echoed, his tone matching his expression. "Now? I… it is rather late, but is the Defense certain about this request?"
Judging by how nervous Waver's attorney looked, no, she wasn't. But a sharp look from her client prevented her from voicing her genuine thoughts. "Y-yes, Your Honor."
He turned to the Prosecution, who was making a rather impressive fish out of water imitation. "Does the Prosecution also agree to a recess?"
"I…" Istari fumbled with what was probably going to be an affirmation before one of the Archibalds whispered angrily at him from behind. No doubt they did not want to do anything that might play into Waver's favor, but from nearly every perspective, they'd benefit from the time to recoup than anyone seeing as virtually everything they had done had flown back into their faces spectacularly.
Istari, despite being for the most part full of hot air, had enough sense to know that despite probably being a trap of some sort, the recess was something that they desperately needed. Waver could still loose the case as a whole, but if the damage done so far wasn't mitigated in some way, but the Archibald family and the Istari name would probably be broken into ruins by the end of the year.
The quick argument with his clients none too kindly if some of the harsh words that could be heard were any indication, but apparently the simple logic of "Who is the Lawyer here" actually won out in the end.
"The Prosecution accepts." The man stood firmly for the first time in hours, probably because he had just won his first argument that day without something going wrong. Despite that, Istari didn't take his eyes off of the Defense, almost as if he was waiting for something.
He was right to expect something of course. He may have been put through the ringer, but the man did have several decades of experience in the courtroom. He knew when his opponents wanted to discuss something away from the Judge.
"… Very well. It is a bit abrupt, but I think we all can do with some time to digest what has been revealed and what we have learned today," Animusphere relented, banging his gavel. "Court is adjourned until tomorrow morning."
Waver wrote down something on a piece of paper then folded it so that no one could see the contents before handing it to his attorney. He gave her a few words of encouragement before she relented to his request, took the paper, and walked to the opposition.
Shirou looked at his elder brother figure with a questioning look, but knew better than to ask with so many people about. Waver, likewise, didn't say anything. Instead, he just took out a new cigar and lit it with a small but confident smirk on his face.
The teen relaxed. Waver didn't express himself unless he was absolutely confident that things were going his way… or he was impossibly nervous and trying to reassure himself that things were going his way. It was hard to tell the difference sometimes.
Judging from the looks, reactions and arguments that Archibald and Istari were having as they received the note and read it, the odds were high that Waver was going to be busy between now and the next time court restarted.
In that brief moment of distraction, the Vice Director had walked up to the table where his image was displayed, addressing him directly, surprising everyone in Japan.
"Lady Vice Director." Shirou nodded in greetings, getting several of the others with him to mimic his gesture quietly.
She looked at him with a scrutinizing gaze, as if trying to make up her mind to do with a trinket that was barely worth her time. "… You are on leave until otherwise stated. I expect you to supervise the Servants until we find a proper role for them."
Shirou's eyebrow twitched. The woman knew damn well that said Servants could hear her and more than one wouldn't take well to being spoken of in such a way. "… I'll see it done."
For the briefest of moments, the thought he saw the smallest smirks of amusement on the woman's face he had ever seen.
"Tohsaka. Edelfelt. Makiri. Einzbern. McRemitz. The Association will contact each of you individually in the future for further inquiry and inputs on recent events. Your Servants are considered highly valuable resources, and as such you, as their handlers, will be treated accordingly. Should you mishandle these resources, we will reserve the right to acquire them and your command seals, and distribute them to an individual of our choosing. Until otherwise stated, you are all expected to cease all hostilities with one another. Am I clear?"
"Ma'am." All the Masters nodded.
"Good." The woman didn't sound pleased. She had expected their agreement. "Now then, I assume Servant Assassin is present?"
There was an awkward pause at the sudden change in topic. Shirou, being technically the highest ranked there, hesitantly spoke first. "… Yes. He is."
"So he has a new Master."
"He does." Shirou nodded, worried where she was going with this, knowing that there were still other people in the courtroom that had not left yet that were watching with interest.
Lorelei Barthomelloi's eyes went over all of the Masters' images carefully before returning to Shirou's. "Assassin. A word."
Whatever they were expecting, it wasn't that. Everyone in Fuyuki turned to Shirou, but he for once was completely caught flat footed. He had absolutely no idea what the Vice Director wanted with Kiritsugu.
"Is it a wise idea to let him?" Saber asked warily.
"I... don't know." Shirou hesitated. "She knows its dad, but she's never really shown interest in him before. I have no idea what she'd want from him in particular. But if he doesn't appear, it won't look good for us."
"Papa?" Illya hesitantly asked Kiritsugu, seeing that even Shirou didn't know what to do at that moment.
Assassin on the other hand, had apparently made his decision, and materialized himself between Bazett and Sakura without warning anyone. He just stood there, his head and face covered by his hood, and made eye contact with the Vice Director.
People on both sides of the terminal instantly went quiet. It was understandable. Assassin was the first Servant that most in the Clocktower had seen, and he had been one that the head of the Barthemelloi Family had taken interest in particular.
Both parties stared at one another, measuring the other up in pure silence, making their own judgements and decisions based off of them.
"I know who you are, Assassin. Or rather, I have been told of your identity without proof," Lorelei stated firmly. "I have doubts, for obvious reasons. If you are who everyone believes, then I expect evidence. Show me your Noble Phantasm."
Kiritsugu frowned, a slight sign of displeasure marred his normally impassive face. "Why?"
Sirius, who had been listening to the conversation with some curiosity, froze.
"I need to know if the trouble you gave him was due to his ineptitude or your ability. I need to know if my dog was lying to me," she reasoned firmly.
Assassin turned his head slightly to Shirou's direction, who at least had the nerve to show that he wasn't enjoying this turn of events as much as anyone else.
Barthomelloi knew what his weapons and tactics were. Thus, she knew who Assassin was based on his weapons…
Or rather, one weapon in particular. A weapon that only a handful of people knew the existence of.
Slowly, the Thompson Contender was taken out of the Servant's coat and held out for all to see.
"A gun?" "An Assassin Servant with a handgun?" "Is he the Counter Guardian?" More than a few magi frowned in confusion, unable to think of how such a modern tool could be elevated to the heights of a Noble Phantasm.
Sirius was an exception, his hands planted so hard on the table in front of him that the thing nearly buckled under the impact. The old man's eyes were bloodshot and wide open, taking in every angle, nick, and aspect of the weapon in front of him. "… No. There's no fucking way…"
"Is that all, Vice Director?" Kiritsugu asked quietly, putting his weapon back into his stock.
"… Yes. That is all, Servant. Thank you for satisfying my curiosity. I look forward to seeing your future results." With that, the woman turned around and began to walk away, the small conversation done as far as she was concerned.
"Lad?" Sirius turned to Waver, clearly wanting a second opinion on what just happened, only to be met with silence as the addressed just sat there with a cigar in his mouth, ignoring the world around him.
"McGinty." The old man's head snapped to his other side to see Barthomelloi standing just a short few feet away from him. "Be quiet. You are embarrassing yourself."
"I… how?" For once, the old man was at a loss of words and no amount of swearing and crass language would be able to cover for it.
"I have been told that keeping one's mouth shut is the best method," she coolly answered, before leaning in, manifesting a small air based mystery that would prevent her lips from being read and her voice from being heard by anyone she did not approve of. "I believe that congratulations are in order, McGinty. It is a notable accomplishment to have verification that one's project has made it to the Throne of Heroes."
The Mystic Code Crafter's eyes blinked as the woman left him. Once. Twice. His lips twitched. His breath hitched. And then…
"A. Aha. Ahahaha. AHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!"
The drunk old giant leaned back and laughed so hard that the legs in the back of his chair gave way and he landed flat on his back. Even then, it did absolutely nothing to stop or even interrupt what had to be the loudest and hardest bellowing of laughter that wasn't magically or insanity induced in the Association in recorded history.
"This bullshit ain't over but fuckit! Party at my place tonight! Free McGinty's Moonshine for everyone! AHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!"
It was soon followed by the loudest and most severely inebriated party ever hosted in the Sealing Designated Quarters ever recorded in history.
Sirius was banned from hosting parties and distributing alcohol after that night. He had to sequester a third party to sell his reinforced booze.
It became the fifth most popular casual alcohol in the moonlit world. It would have been higher, but unfortunately, despite being a fantastic chef, Shirou's capability as a brewmaster was limited.
o. o. o.
On one side of the room sat Waver Velvet and his defense Attorney. One was calm and collected, the other was fairly nervous.
On the other side were the Archibald elders and their Prosecutor. The former were angry, disgruntled, and looked like they would rather do unspeakable things than be in the room. The latter, was fairly disgruntled, but looked slightly more willing to be there.
In the middle was Lorelei Barthomelloi, appearing as though it was just another day dealing with the myriads of chronic backstabbers and maniacal and fanatical scientists that made up the Clocktower.
"So then." The most important person in the room with a dry tone that brokered no arguments. "Let us discuss the terms for Lord El Melloi's plea bargain."
No one missed the fact that she said "discuss" and not "negotiate".
It was rare that plea bargains were made with the Prosecution side so angry and the Defense so amused.
Just as she had planned.
o. o. o.
The Captain of an untraceable ship off the coast of Fuyuki, Japan smirked as he read the report straight from his sources in the Clocktower.
That damn Solomon. What was he thinking, getting close to such an interesting kid like this? One that directly reports to the Queen bitch herself?
… Ah. Well.
He had promised that he wouldn't cause any trouble in town and keep away from the rest of the Masters and Servants.
No harm in just meeting up with the kid himself for a little chat in person. Was there?
o. o. o.
Omake: Breakfast is serious.
Shirou yawned as he walked into the living area. He had just finished with his morning workout and took a shower on time for once, so he was in the mood to cook breakfast for everyone. "Morning. Anyone up for breakfast?"
"Mmm. Sounds good. I was starting to get hungry." Illya didn't look up from the magazine she was reading.
"So long as you start with coffee," Rin grumbled, her head resting on the table with no energy at all.
"Mmm. Mmm." Saber nodded far too seriously. "Breakfast is an important meal."
"You say that about every meal." Luvia yawned. She wasn't as bad as Rin in the morning, but that didn't mean that she got up easily.
"Might as well join in. Not like he won't cook for us regardless." Caster settled down next to her Master.
Shirou looked around the room. Almost everyone was there, so he might as well get started. "What do you guys want?"
"Pancakes." "Waffles." Caster and Illya spoke at the same time.
For some odd reason, everything seemed to freeze in the building. As if an unspoken rule had just shattered, and Gaia itself had to take a moment to realize just how grave the situation had become.
The two slowly looked at one another. As if only just now recognizing the other's existence.
"… The fuck you just say?" Shirou had to double take to make sure Illya was the one that said that.
"You heard me clearly, child." Princess Medea of Colchis held her ground firmly, with a gaze of madness in her eyes that somehow rivaled Berserker's.
It was only after he spoke did anyone register that Assassin had materialized himself on the other side of the room where the hallway to the back yard, and a fast escape, was. His face was notably pale and full of terror.
That was how the Holy Breakfast War started.
Saber played the role of judge. Impartial, yet impatient for breakfast… no, a victor. Impatient for a victor.
It probably would have ended sooner if Shirou wasn't constantly being kidnapped and held hostage by either side so frequently that he was unable to cook anything.
Archer… probably could have done something about what was happening. But he didn't. He just enjoyed the show.
But he could have done something.
… It was probably for the best that he didn't.
At least the house stayed intact.
o. o. o.
As always, thanks Wayfarer for betaing this chapter so quickly. Hope your hunt goes well.
So yeah. Another exposition chapter. Not going to lie, it was a bit of a pain deciding just how far I wanted to take this after Avalon's reveal. Obviously, showing Saber to everyone and using her Charisma to own everyone was phenomenally tempting, but honestly? I thought that it would be a bit of a cop out. The easy way to deal with the situation. Plus, Saber's a Servant, and no matter how convincing she might be, Magi are pricks, and they'd just brush off whatever she'd say as the prattling of a familiar, or worse, hold a grudge against Shirou for "not keeping his tool in line".
I personally thought that Shirou's way of getting himself out of the situation was more entertaining and interesting, as it would show him interacting and dealing with Association politics instead of just saying "oh well, this thing belonged to my servant in the first place so using Gilgamesh logic, it's still hers." Plus, this way opened up a way for the Archibalds to be put in an horrifically bad position in the face of everyone else legally.
It also shows just how stupid Magi are at times with all their showboating. If the Prosecutor had gotten straight to the point and revealed the evidence right after the Avalon accusation, Shirou wouldn't have had enough time to think of a way to turn things around for himself.
That being said though, it wasn't as if things would have gone well for the Archibalds regardless after going down that route. It just meant that Shirou managed to look better in the end…
Also, so far, absolutely no one has correctly guessed Merem's true intentions. I think I gave everyone enough hints in this chapter to point most in the right direction.
As for Barthomelloi… well, she's not the Vice Director of the Clocktower for nothing. The woman knows how to pull strings to make a song that she wants.
Also. New Tshirts! I know I screwed up the links and format last time, but I think I got it down now. I think you guys are going to like these ones. Two new shirts, both FFD focused and both vastly superior to the previous two. So please check them out. If you feel like supporting me and what I do, or just like what I am offering, give them a look and maybe buy one. Links to the shirts are down below.
Also, thanks to Naj P. Jackson for letting me use your artwork for one of the shirts. I owe you man.
Teespring website /new-mcginty-s-mystic-moonshine#pid=2&cid=2122&sid=front
Teespring website /tools-of-the-tr-september-2018#pid=2&cid=2397&sid=front
Sorry I was late with all of this guys. A whole bunch of shit happened in RL. I got crazy sick for a while. My cousin got married (there was an after party and an After after party at that thing. My aunt is a social life monster with a Brooklyn accent to match). Work. Etc. But I'm all good now.
That being said, I have to let you guys know that FFD is going on break for a while. I haven't worked on my other main fic, TTRT for a while and even I'm surprised I haven't done so for this long. I'm moving straight to that next, right after I finish my next chapter of GAIWP, which, THANKFULLY, is almost done as well. So Rejoice! I'm going back to the crazy!
Wait, where did I leave off agai… oh. Shit. Well, I've got some work to look forward to.
Anyways! That's all for me right now!
Review! Worship the Log! In the battle of Waffles over Pancakes, I choose the side that has more chocolate chips! And Review Again!