Author's Note: Sorry for the delay on this one. It was especially bad because I had two/three contents worth of stuff written, and then the file got corrupted. I managed to recover what I could so I could post this to show I'm alive, but my betas didn't really want to reread stuff I had already created once.

If you guys notice anything bad, let me know. Sorry I had to return with something that's a bit subpar.

Kirei's duty was to render judgment. Staring down at the heretical mage, Kirei declared her fate. "It's time to take away your toy, magus." Kirei said, "Then we'll find out how you made a mockery of this Heaven's Feel." Of course, their execution had already been decided long before Sakura and Assassin had crossed paths with the enforcers.

The alchemist's weapon turned night into day as it roared and unleashed a crackling sphere of bluish white energy. It shone like a miniature sun as it sped towards Sakura and Assassin, it left a trail of fire as it flew across the night sky towards them.

Kirei observed it quietly, appreciative of the weapon's power, half covering his eyes from the glare, his assistant Misaya mimicking his gesture to protect her eyes. Even some of the alchemists who had built the weapon remained rooted in place, overwhelmed by the power of their creation.

Assassin nodded - recognition in her eyes. Now she knew why the Other hadn't used her weapon back in the mansion. She moved ahead, wind whistling in her ears as she threw herself towards the sphere. The possibility of retreating by herself wasn't even acknowledged. 'Please don't follow after me, Mother.' she thought, bearing her teeth and glaring at the light. 'Lets meet again someday.'

The sphere was unable to maintain its shape as it collided against the Servant, and ruptured into an expanding wave of electricity. A sound that nearly split everyone's eardrums ripped through the area, like a chainsaw tearing through metal. Many of the gathered alchemists threw their hands up to cover their ears, trying to escape the infernal noise, others collapsed, and one even vomited.

Sakura closed her eyes to ignore the world, and tried to clench her ears shut. She was frozen though, so the magus was forced to listen as her Servant died: Helpless like she always had been throughout her life. 'Then I'm next,' Sakura woodenly thought, briefly picturing her uncle Kariya. She wondered if he would have been proud with her.

She doubted it.

Fate/Stay Night and its spin offs are properties of Type-Moon, Nitroplus, Image Epoch. All additional references belong to their respective companies.

Chapter 15: Evaluation - Tools of the Matou

Immediately after firing, the alchemists' weapon shuddered.

"Get out of there, it's running too hot!"

"I'm trying to calm it dow-"

"Hit the deck!"

Several more shouts followed, and the men and women closest to the cannon hit the ground. Metallic shards flew through the air when part of their weapon was breached by an internal explosion.

"Get it under control!" Misaya barked, spinning away from Kirei to try and regain order. The priest kept his gaze focused on their targets, one which was lying still. It had appeared that the attack wasn't enough to annihilate the Servant. "You managed to tame a Noble Phantasm, don't cower from it now!"

'Not without sacrificing some of its killing potential,' Kirei thought. He wondered if the unaltered Noble Phantasm could have taken care of the Spirit in one shot.

A few bold alchemists tried to approach the device, but froze when the entire frame trembled in protest. "We're trying!" One of them answered Misaya, ducking to avoid her glare. "But it's like it's got a mind of its own, now!"

"That's impossible. Wasn't it shielded to resist manipulation from anyone else? This is simply an error on your part!" Misaya said, denying it empathically with a sharp chopping motion of a hand. "Shut it down! I don't want it backfiring on us."

The cannon's compromised frame groaned, coming apart at the seams. Misaya's warning came too late.

Several generators feeding it noisily whined before going off-line, smoke rising from them. Lights burnt out along the river, cut off from their power.

"...too late."

Moonlight reclaimed part of the river's bank.

Sakura wasn't exactly a genius, but she knew something had happened - a sensation like prickling pins were racing down her back. Assassin had unintentionally returned feeling back to her body. She looked towards her attackers, trying to gauge their intentions towards her.

Kirei caught the look the magus was giving the body of her Servant. His body tensed, and he focused on the girl's eyes. They were too alert.

"Hey, wait. Where are you going?" Misaya asked, but caught the old man moving away. She acknowledged the looks of shame she was getting from her colleagues with a dismissive wave. "Lucky for all of you - looks like no speeches from him tonight. Get that thing cleaned up, and figure out a way to make it more reliable."

Misaya dashed after the priest.

'They noticed!' Sakura thought, chilled to the core. She furiously tried to squirm free. Whatever had happened to her shadow allowed her enough mobility to slam her cheek into the ground, and arch her back, but not enough to regain total control.

"Not so fast!" Misaya had caught the motion, and was smiling. "You're not getting away from the law, heretic! Stop or we'll have to shoot you again!" She was practically chewing the surroundings with her bombastic performance.

Kirei sighed, and shook his head.

Sakura's pulse thundered in her ears, she realized she was caught before she could even escape.

Misaya paused in mid-stride.

'That's sad. She'd probably curl up if she could.' Misaya thought, frowning at the other girl. 'That's pretty pathetic. I wouldn't bow my head to anyone.'

The priest didn't react at all - his neutral expression caused visible distress to Sakura. Underneath Kirei's stare, the girl desperately cast her gaze around. Sakura finally settled on looking intently at Misaya.

'Fluttering your eyelashes doesn't work on all your problems, sweetheart.' Misaya thought.

An anemic whimper was Sakura's answer to the cold look Misaya flashed her, but only when Kirei and the alchemist had walked past Assassin. The Heroic Spirit hadn't even moved at all, remaining still all this time.

'That Noble Phantasm really was impressive.' Misaya thought, nudging the girl. She was still dead to the world. 'You're not getting up anytime soon.'

At least not without their help. But by that point their analysis of the magus and spirit would be well underway.

Sakura flinched when Assassin was nudged. A look of devastation appeared on her face when the little girl didn't move.

'Ah, so that's what it was.' Misaya realized, realizing Kirei was patiently waiting on her. He was focusing on Sakura's face. 'Damn, the old man is sharp. He caught onto her before I did.' The fawning act was to make them lower their guard.

The priest drew a Black Key from inside his cassock, and flung it towards Sakura without further ceremony. There were no last minute rescues, not for the heretic.

Misaya was flabbergasted.

'Weren't we going to interrogate her?' She thought, unable to stop the line of thought.

Misaya wasn't a fighter. She wasn't trained to analyze a fight, nor was she able to read the intentions of other in combat scenarios. That's why she wasn't able to tell that Kirei had seen Sakura breaking down his binding, so he was going to reinforce it with another Black Key. The one he had just thrown would just barely miss Sakura's head and pierce her shadow.

It was unfortunate for Misaya and Kirei that Sakura wasn't able to read the flow of combat Sakura, the attack was nothing short of a deathblow. All consuming fear rushed through her, and raged through her mind like wildfire. Higher order thought was shut down before the primal realization of death.

There were places that one wouldn't venture unless there was nothing else to lose. To Sakura, who had never possessed much, falling to the bottom of the barrel didn't take a large , several options - many which had seemed beyond her moments ago, seemed within reach.

Unbidden, the words that grandfather had made a part of her surfaced, and she realized that she was speaking only after opening her mouth.

"I pledge ... to your sword ... my fate and destruction."

It came out in a raw, scratchy rasp. Almost immediately, her body was enveloped in a cool, moist robe of mist. Heat rushed to Sakura's throat and escaped her mouth, spraying out and dusting the earth. For the first time in years, the sensation of the tenants within her flesh was somehow alien. The worms and the rest of her body were disastrously going out of sync.

The sword pinning Sakura's shadow vibrated violently from side to side. The ground heaved upwards, and the blade was spat out.

Tendrils of darkness erupted out of the spot that the weapon had occupied, and the countless threads swept up and down the weapon was grasped. The Black Key seemed to rebel at the contact, and the blade began to disappear, but the darkness swiftly wrapped around the blade like a spider webbing up an insect.

The blade was trapped within filthy darkness.

This only took moments, so the shadow was able to swing the confiscated weapon, and batted away the twin which Kirei had thrown at Sakura. Repelled, Kirei's Black Key wound up biting deeply into Misaya.

The teenaged alchemist nearly collapsed with a howl as she was impaled, her eyes wide and expression growing slack and pale.

The shadow rushed towards Kirei.

Kirei didn't bother to look back at Misaya, bringing his arms up to block a wild blow from the Black Key manipulated by the shadow. His armored cassock was his salvation, because the force behind the blow was great enough to send him staggering backwards.

The shadow stabbed at him, and Kirei was forced to sway and dodge wildly as the Black Key went for several of his vitals.

"Get up Misaya, you can still move." The priest said calmly. The look of disbelief she flashed him was answered with a matter of fact statement. "Shut off your sense of pain. Bind the steel so it doesn't rip you open. Then help me subdue the heretic."

Kirei ducked, and attempted to strike back at the shadow. His fist swept through it, growing cold and wet. The priest winced as he was punished with a hammering blow from the side of a Black Key in return.

"Fuck you! You don't have six inches of steel in you!" Misaya hissed, clutching at the Black Key in her stomach.

The priest simply answered by moving away from her, exposing her to the wildly rampaging shadow.

"F-fine, fine! I'll help you, don't throw me to the wolves." Misaya groaned. She bit her lip, and forced her trembling body to stand up. Etherlite poured down her fingers from the inside of her yoyo. "Ugh, that witch."

The shadow pulled back from Kirei, and reoriented itself towards Misaya. Metal clashed again - Kirei blocked a stab to Misaya's neck with a fan of Black Keys.

"Stop complaining." The priest said.

Misaya gingerly laid a hand on the side of the Black Key. She tried to hold it in place while the etherlite wound itself tightly around the sword. It crawled up Misaya's body, wrapping around the exposed blade in several places before wrapping around her ribs. The fibers tightened and lost their luster, turning transparent when they secured the object.

The shadow towered over them, and brought the Black Key down on Misaya and Kirei's heads. They scattered in different directions, and the ground itself paid the price as the shadow cut deeply into it. The force of the blow was such that the priest and alchemist were left stunned, and a brief silence descended on the area.

Sakura took advantage of that lull, and staggered up to her feet. The magus flashed them a bloody grin, eyes flashing with desperation and something else. She wore a crazed half smile as she focused on Misaya in particular.

"Why do I even bother helping you?" Misaya said, in a remarkably cool tone of voice. Her knees betrayed her, and trembled a little.

"God's ways are mysterious." Kirei answered.

A pair of men charged at Shirou and Berserker.

They were sent flying away with a casual toss by the teenager, surprising both adults with her strength.

Their bodies slammed into and knocked over a generator behind them. This pulled a large light to fall over. Smoke and small flames spread, feeding off the grass next to them.

One of several that were already burning through the area.

Shirou approached Berserker from behind, and took in their surroundings.

Several burnt out generators and overturned lights were littered around the area. They were the husks of what Berserker had fed on while swinging the humans around so casually. Shirou worried that his Servant was losing power even faster.

Once he confirmed they were alone, he moved towards the two fallen alchemists.

"Be careful, Master." Berserker trailed after him. "Don't move too far away from me."

"I know, no need to worry about me." Shirou said, and knelt down next to the adults. He put a hand on them, and made sure they were truly unconscious. Once he confirmed they were knocked out, he then rooted through their possessions, removing any possible weapons. "I have a way of defending myself now."

A satchel he had pulled off another of their attackers was filled with a steadily growing pile of strange objects.

"Throwing strange objects at people isn't defending yourself." Berserker said, crossing her arms in front of her with a pout. "Just rely on me, and not on these silly things."

Shirou pulled out a small bottle from his satchel.

"I'd normally agree with you, but at least I know what these are." He responded, shaking the bottle of cleaning solution towards Berserker. It bubbled with the motion. "It just needs a spark from me, and it'll be enough."

Berserker silently nodded, but she didn't look very happy about it.

"Just don't breathe it." She warned, finally dropping her argument. "Do you think we'll find your friends soon?"

"We're making enough noise." Shirou shrugged. He wasn't sure if this was going to attract whoever had invited them, but they'd have to keep going until they found Sakura and Shinji. "Let's keep looking."

"Why don't I just help you both?" Asked an unfamiliar voice.

A middle aged man, elder to Taiga by at least twenty years, walked out from the underbrush. He looked harmless, his round, beady eyes only showed a healthy amount of interest in the two intruders.

"Were you the ones that caused all this?" The older man asked, but he had the air of someone that already knew the answer.

The older man knelt down next to a burnt out generator, tracing its surface with a finger.

"Who are you?" Shirou said, choosing to ignore the man's behavior. "No, that doesn't matter. What are you people trying to do?"

True to Shirou's observation, the man didn't look offended.

"We're running an experiment." The older man smiled, exposing yellowed teeth. He stood up, grunting as he stretched his arms behind his back. "It seems one of our leaders invited you, so I came out here to send you to them."

Berserker found her nostrils flaring, and her fists clenched before her.

Shirou was nodded, too swept up in his own thoughts to notice. "Where are they?" His asked, voice strained and body tensing.

The youth's restrained energy made the older man grin. It grew wider when the girl next to him mimicked the younger boy's posture.

"Quick, aren't you? Don't you know that only fools rush into danger?"

Shirou glared at him.

"They're down by the riverbanks, and they have our experimental subject there." The old man held a hand up, immediately surrendering. He sounded mockingly gentle. "Maybe you can get there before they finish with her?"

Shirou was already racing down the hill's slope, ignoring the man.

"Well, at least he knows what he wants."

Berserker immediately took a step backwards and to the side, standing in between the older man and Shirou's exposed back. The girl's fierce look was dampened, her eyebrows lowered slightly in thought.

"What is it?" He wondered. When Berserker kept looking at him, he frowned. The man's composed tone took on a slight edge. "Have you forgotten how to speak? If so, I'm done here. Farewell, and make sure to keep that boy alive."

"...why would you even say that to me?" Berserker blinked, a flush of anger on her cheeks. "Don't you dare threaten my Master."

He brushed his shaggy hair back, and started walking away. He vanished into the woods, but his words still reached Berserker.

"And that's why."

Berserker was left staring after him in confusion.

"Berserker, Sakura is in trouble!" Shirou's voice called up towards her. "I need your help! Let's go."

Berserker spun and followed after her Master, her body vanishing in a shower of sparkles. She didn't need to get tangled up amongst the brushes down the hill.

The older man returned moments after Berserker left.

"Much too naive, the pair of them." He said, and promptly coughed to clear his throat. "Still, it seems that the boy can exert a fair measure of control over the Servant. It should be fine if I leave things in his care."

The confidence he showed before vanished, and curiosity took its place as he knelt to inspect the men.

One of them groaned when he picked up one of their arms, inspecting it closely. The musculature seemed to be above the level suited for his needs, but further investigation showed that the man's body just wasn't that good.

No reason to use it, then.

He pulled out a knife, and set to clean up the mistakes of the children.

Once it was over, the old man wiped the bloody weapon against the grass.

'It's good to see that her abilities fare well in practical applications.' He thought, thinking of the girl by the riverside. 'I'll just have to make sure she survives the night.'

And to do that, he was going to have to inspect a certain weapon.

Sakura swayed on her feet, staggering down the riverbank.

Each step was laborious for her, and alternating flashes of heat and cold assaulted her. The sounds of combat raging behind her were ignored, or she would lose the tentative grasp she had over her circuits.

The worms' raging caused a flutter in her chest.

Sakura's surroundings blurred, drunkenly fading in and out of sight. She stumbled, stopping for a moment.

"Don't erode," she muttered. "Don't disintegrate."

Capitalizing on her distraction, Kirei dove towards her, bringing down a fan of blades.

Sakura flinched and lurched onwards while her shadow met Kirei in another clash of Black Keys, trying to direct him away from the magus' slow retreat.

Kirei - the priest's arms were a blur, deflecting her attacks.

Sakura shuddered.

'He's keeping up with us.' She thought disjointedly. 'How?!'

The other girl, Misaya, was trailing far behind him. Several strings of silver were stretched out between the two of them, making Kirei seem like nothing more than a puppet.

Sakura's ribs ached when she thought about how the girl had struck her down earlier in the night.

'No,' she thought to herself. 'Don't be distracted. Him first, then her.'

The wind swept through the riverbank, sending ripples along the tree tops and whipping through Sakura's hair.

Misaya was the first to feel the shift in the area. The strings trailing from her towards Kirei trembled. She could feel a swell of power was surging through the area. "Kirei, that magus is going to-"

Kirei grunted, acknowledging her.

Birds swept over them, their cries loudly echoing while the shadow crashed into Kirei again.

Kirei deflected the blade, and dove into the shadow itself. The temperature dipped as the world around him briefly went pitch black. He came out on the other side of the shadow, bringing up his fan of metal over his neck.

The possessed Black Key scrapped against its surface, throwing up sparks of light.

Kirei turned as he completed his twisting motion, and struck at the passing weapon with all of his in a single, furious blow. The counterattack thundered, and the girl's Black Key's surface cracked. Pieces of it fell to the ground even as shock swept across Sakura's face.

"We did it!" Misaya cheered, and her relief could be felt through the strings connecting the priest to the alchemist.

Sakura froze in place, and looked downwards.

"Assassin, wake up." Sakura said, her voice warbling its way out of her throat. Rocks shifted beneath her feet, and the magus drunkenly lurched towards the ground.

A fresh bout of pain helped Sakura focus, and made her hazy surroundings sharpen. Her lips peeled back in a pained scowl, and a quiet hiss escaped between her clenched teeth.

"I need you."

A pale arm thrust itself out of the shadow holding onto the broken Black Key.

Kirei was sent flying off towards the woods, stretching the strings between Misaya and him to their limit. Bushes and branches were snapped beneath his body, each blow carrying through his tie to Misaya. 'Her Servant?' He thought.

His body crashed into the ground with a sudden, bone jarring crash.

Misaya collapsed to her knees, clutching at her head with a low keening cry. Her vision shook, and she found herself slumped over on her side. The alchemist tried to work through the pain, but her etherlite limply fell from her hands as she passed out.

The strings connecting her to Kirei released their hold on the priest, no longer held in place by Misaya's will.

Another arm joined the first in pulling itself free out from the shadows.

The strip of darkness widened, and mist flowed out. It poured onto the ground, growing and thickening enough to cover Misaya's body. Tendrils of mist rose from the river to join the fog, helping it spread out quickly.

Kirei tried to rise to his feet, but his legs gave out. The priest winced as his hands fell to his sides.

"Heh," He laughed. "And that sets the stage."

Sakura looked up, breathing deeply and desperately to catch her breath. She took a step towards the woods to finish things, and get away before she was burnt out.

"Sakura," Shirou called out, alarm in his voice. "What are you doing?"

'Emiya?' she thought. 'He's here for Brother?'

She fell back a few steps, shuddering.

'But he helped us,' insisted another.

A sharp pain pulsed through her skull.

'He is the enemy,' concluded a third.

More and more voices flooded in, until possibility of consensus was lost. In the cacophony within her mind, nothing could be heard beyond the roar of a million voices.

Her body grew cold, and the pain vanished.

Sakura's hair flowed up on a phantom gale, and she shook like a leaf in the midst of it. Her shadow drew close, and more arms pulled themselves out from its depths. She gave an inhuman scream, the shadows coalesced and rushed towards the nearest target - a defiantly smirking Kirei Kotomine.

"It seems that you are unrepentant, Magus," he said, moving minimally to dodge the first onslaught. "I shall have to show you the mercy of the Lord."

If he were honest with himself, Kirei was nearly spent - but bodily exhaustion was never a concern when placed against the importance of the plan.

Shirou gasped, reaching into the satchel at his side. A glass jar filled with kerosene was extracted from within.

A spark of prana surged from his fingers into the jar as it was thrown at the shadow.

Upon shattering, it unleashed a firestorm. Kirei dove behind cover at the last moment, but the shadows weren't so lucky. The flame unnaturally clung onto the shadows, making them rage as they pulled up into the skies.

It twisted on itself, trying to smother the flames.

"Stop getting in trouble when I'm gone! You're only supposed to get in trouble when I'm here with you!" Berserker shouted behind Shirou, while a large chunk of a tree flew through the skies like a spear.

It struck true, and the shadow was sent crashing towards the ground. The flames that hadn't been smothered out yet fed anew on the wood, causing pained squeals.

"Something about that seems backwards, Berserker."

The Heroic Spirit bound over next to Shirou, looking between him and the shadow. "What did you do this time?" She asked, ignoring his statement. "It looks like the old timer needs help, right?"

Kirei, who had gotten away from Sakura in the moments of distraction, could be seen quietly mouthing 'old timer' to himself.

"Tell me what happened!" Shirou demanded, pointing towards Sakura. The girl was ghastly, blood soaking the front of her blouse. She pointed towards them. "We have to hel-"

The rubble exploded, and the shadow was unleashed once again.

"Cover yourselves!" Berserker threw herself on Kirei and Shirou, briefly crushing them under her weight. "No complaints!" She blushed, angry when she heard their groans.

The shadows clipped Berserker's back as they swept over her, freezing her in place as she felt death wash over her. She shuddered as she was pressed down into the humans beneath her. The pressure was so great, she feared she was going to turn them into paste.

Yet she felt her dress and hair were being pulled on, and the light tugs instantly turned into irresistible force.

Berserker cried out in alarm as she was ripped away. Three tendrils broke away from the main part of the shadow that carried her upwards, and started to slam themselves into the Heroic Spirit over and over again.

"Fran!" Shirou leapt to his feet, out of breath as he tried to pull another bottle from his satchel.

Kirei reached up and pulled him down, just in time to avoid having his upper body get ripped off as the shadow carried the struggling Berserker past them.

The near miss carried enough force to scatter them like leaves. Both men were sent into the depths of the river, and carried away from the battle.

"Master!" Berserker screamed, flailing around in mid-air. "I'll kill you!"

Sakura remained in place, dully staring up as her shadow wrapped itself around Berserker's limbs and began to pull.

Misaya, still concealed beneath the fog, stirred to life.

"Where's everyone...?" She groaned, looking around her surroundings with watering eyes.

On falling into the river, Shirou immediately opened his eyes and cast his gaze around.

He found himself disoriented, and his body upside down. The young man struggled to right himself, whipping his arms and legs furiously.

Further downriver, Kirei was almost out of sight. The older man was trying and failing to break through the surface.

Shirou eventually managed to right himself, and began to swim upwards to join Kirei. Just as both men were reaching the surface, a large shadow swept past them. A large tree, partially burnt and broken - the same one that Berserker had thrown earlier, crashed into the river. Water briefly swept down Shirou's throat as he opened his mouth in shock.

The pull from the tree's descent pulled both men downwards, and branches batted them. One of them struck Kirei in the temple, causing the priest to slump unconscious. Several gashes formed on Shirou's face and arms, bleeding out into the water.

His body temperature dropped.

Shirou desperately tried to swim towards Kirei, but couldn't quite reach him.

Another sizable piece the tree broke away from it, and slammed into the side of the river. Rocks and stones were overturned in a chain reaction. One of them rolled into Kirei's path, and caused the priest to bounce off its surface, but this bled off a significant amount of the lead that Kirei had over Shirou. The younger man grabbed one of Kirei's arms, and tried to pull him close.

At first, the priest was immobile, but Shirou swam closer to Kirei and took a look to see what was happening.

One of his legs were stuck between the rock and several chunks of wood. Shirou used the unsteady boulder as a platform to work himself against, digging his legs against the surface of the stone.

Bubbles escaped from Shirou's clenched teeth while he pulled with all his strength.

Kirei's foot finally gave way, and both men began to ascend.

They broke the surface, a somewhat blue Shirou desperately gasping for breath. He gripped Kirei's arm onto his shoulder, holding him close. Shirou kicked his legs furiously to carry them away from mid-river, taking uneven breaths when pieces of wood brushed past them.

Halfway there, a large piece of wood drifted into reach, and Shirou used it to help him prop more of Kirei's body out of the water.

Shirou glanced up at the sky, and went pale as he saw the clouds swirling over where they had been fighting Sakura's shadow.

Kirei found himself coming back to consciousness violently, shooting up and hacking out water from his lungs. The younger Emiya sat on his haunches next to the priest, looking down on him with concern.

Both men were completely soaked, and were lying on the ground next to the raging river. The wind over their heads was moving quickly enough to cause their bodies to instinctively tremble with the cold.

"You saved me?" Kirei inclined his head, bemused.

Shirou tried to nod, but his trembling caused him to stop his attempt. "I couldn't let you die." He instantly answered, no doubt in his inflection. The boy's teeth chattered when he asked a follow up question. "Can you help me save Sakura?"

'Interesting,' Kirei thought, studying the boy. 'Most would ask for help first.'

"The magus is rampaging right now. Just like a berserker, she's going to either kill herself or someone else. It will be very difficult to bring her under control without harming ourselves." He said, rubbing at his arms to try and get warmth in them.

Shirou's purpled face glanced down, but when he looked up, defeat wasn't in his eyes.

"I see." The younger man finally said. "Then there's a chance. Do you think you could stop her if I went in first?"

Kirei blinked, and the smile that spread was somewhat bittersweet with familiarity.

"It's possible."

Before both men could continue along those lines, Kirei felt the earring in his pocket vibrate. The older man blinked in surprise, pulling the object out of his cassock. Shirou stayed silent as he observed Kirei tap the device twice.

"-Kirei! Are you alive? Answer me!" Misaya barked, almost sounding frantic. "I swear to God-"

"I was saved only through the charity of another. Please learn from your emotions right now, and strive to become a better person." Kirei responded, drawing a disapproving look from Shirou. "You're pleasantly hardier than I expected, Misaya."

Misaya responded in equal cheer.

"It's questionable if something of those dimensions can fit down there, but I will take it into consideration." Kirei quipped, adjusting the device so any future shrieks wouldn't be loud enough to hurt Shirou's ears. "What's the status on the heretic magus?" He asked, glancing up river.

A group of clouds were swirling overhead, in a fashion that was could only be considered aesthetically pleasing by a child.

"She's trying to break apart that other Spirit." Misaya responded, heat having given way to cool professionalism. The alchemist's report caused Shirou to practically leap up to his feet in alarm. "The magic surging through here is insane. I'm not sure how she's still alive. Any other magus should have burnt out long ago."

Kirei caught Shirou's arm as he passed by him, holding him in place.

"Wait." Kirei commanded.

"I have to go!" Shirou declined, trying to shake the older man's grip. Both of them were half dead, so neither was gaining any ground on the other. "Both of them are in danger if we don't do anything!"

"Is that the Emiya boy?" Misaya asked, sounding interested. "You made it to the party after all!"

Shirou stopped struggling, recognizing the voice. "Wait, you said Shinji was here!" He growled, taking the earring from Kirei.

"That was a lie." Misaya said, pitching her voice upwards cutely. "I just wanted to see what you could do! Thanks for saving Master Kotomine, tee hee."

Kirei rolled his eyes.

"Tee hee?" Shirou muttered, disgust on his face. He willingly gave back the earrings Kirei silently requested.

Kirei released Shirou's arm. "Can we use the cannon?" He glanced over at Shirou.

The teenager looked confused.

Kirei noted the reaction and mentally filed it for later consideration. He'd initially imagined that the boy would have taken after his adoptive father in applied ruthlessness, but the effort Shirou had spared saving him in the river lowered the likelihood that he was the saboteur. It was, in any case, a matter he could return to once the present crisis was concluded.

Misaya hummed. "From what I'm seeing, it seems more like a curse than anything really tangible." She grunted. "I think the cannon could break it apart. Probably."

"So we can save Sakura and Berserker?" Shirou asked, eager to get the plan started.

"But there's a problem with that, the saboteur picked most of the people closest to the cannon off." Contrary to Kirei's expectations, Misaya didn't take the opportunity to rub reality into the young man's face. He wondered if she was slipping. "I'd have to remotely access it from here using one of their corpses."

"How long will that take?"

"Two, three minutes?"

Kirei grunted, brow slumped in displeasure.

"Hey, I'm not perfect." Misaya defensively replied. "And I'm wounded here. Give a girl a break."

"So, we're back to where we were." Shirou observed, the truth getting a quiet nod from Kirei. "How do we hold down a curse?"

"Light slowed it down, before I mean." Misaya observed. "Do either of you have anything over there that can make a flash of light bright enough?"

"I lost my satchel in the river." Shirou answered, glancing down in frustration.

Kirei considered, and reached into his cassock.

A thoroughly waterlogged Bible, and three hilts for Black Keys were placed on the ground between him and Shirou. Not the greatest of arsenals, unfortunately.

"I have an idea." Kirei explained his plan to Shirou and Misaya.