Week 1: Elimination Round 1
Remaining Evenings: 0
THE LAST DAY
"You will now enter the Coliseum and confront the opposing Master. Are you ready? Remember, the only way to leave the Coliseum is to win. If you are ready, I will open the gate." Father Kotomine stated.
Enter the Coliseum:
"The way to the Coliseum is now open young Master. I wish you the best of luck and hope that you will return. Remember: It's kill or be killed."
I inserted the cipher keys into the slots and the door became an elevator. I stepped into the darkness after activating Shared Perception and the doors closed. With a rumble I began my descent into the battlefield, with Lancer by my side.
Standing on the other end of a transparent wall was Baltr and his Servant. His cold eyes met with mine, never breaking or wavering. Our Servants were glaring at each other with far more killing intent than either one of us Masters had.
"…What's wrong, Chooser?" Caster sneered. "The face you are making hardly seems fit for one of such nature."
"Just preparing to send you where you belong, Caster." Lancer responded. Her killing intent was practically so thick you could cut it with a knife.
As we got closer to our destination, and the battlefield grew beneath us, I recalled what learned about the particular Caster before me.
Apprentice of Góttstalk, the author of the Red Leather, who raised him at a young age, Galdra lost his parents and devoted himself into the study of runes under Góttstalk. He saw the man as a father figure, but what he truly sought was Góttstalk's knowledge, since the man was reputed to be able to raise the dead via the materialization of souls. Góttstalk noticed this, but raised him as if he was his own son regardless.
Galdra began experimenting into raising the dead—starting with animals and moving up to humans; he committed horrible actions for the sake of bringing back his parents and falling into the depths of madness. When he reached his mid-twenties, he could raised Draugar in countless numbers, using a grimoire of his making called Grdskinn—The Gray Leather, but it was unable to match the ability and power displayed by his master and the grimoire he wielded, Raudhskinn—The Red Leather.
Galdra eventually confronted his master, but Góttstalk was unable to bring harm to Galdra because of his emotions, so he destroyed his grimoire and allowed himself to be killed, and his body was buried before Galdra could retrieve it by a few other followers of Góttstalk. Unwilling to give up, Galdra hunted down the other apprentices until he found the grave of Góttstalk and raised him as a Draugr.
Furious that his student went so far and killed those who were like family—and worse, he turned them into Draugar and moved them against their will—Góttstalk damaged his mind even further and broke the others free from his control.
The end result was that Galdra's obsession led him down a dark path, in which he was slain by those he raised.
Curious as to how such a man could stand to be partnered with someone so twisted, I asked Baltr his reasons for fighting.
"It doesn't matter." Baltr muttered. "One way or another, this match will be a victory for me."
The elevator stopped and we took our place on the battlefield.
Standing opposite of us on the grave battlefield, our enemies prepared themselves for combat. Baltr, closed his eyes for a moment to mutter a name that did not reach my ears. Caster was delicately fingering his grimoire, while Lancer's grip tightened on her spear.
"Noble Phantasm Activate: Gray Night!" Baltr muttered.
The atmosphere frozen and the world inverted. The natural order became distorted and the .PH seemed to pause, as everything halted. Countless figures appeared, transparent and lifeless.
"Cyber-ghosts?" I looked at the figures. "No…Servants!"
"Releasing a Noble Phantasm would normally burn out the brain of the Master…however inside of a Temple, that burden would probably be lessened…that's what he was doing in the Arena all that time…" Lancer assumed.
"HeehehheeHAHAHAHAHA!" Caster roared. "THIS IS THE POWER OF MY GRIMOIRE! I HAVE SURPASSED YOU, MASTER GÓTTSTALK!"
The Servants were drawn into the mad magician, as his form began to bubble and boil over. His arms and legs burst and were reformed into monstrous limbs that could match Heracles, his head popped like bubble, revealing dozens of them all in place of a single one. It twitched constantly, contorting occasionally in place. It could no longer speak in a language known to the living.
(A/N: Listen to Red - Already Over while reading this part for maximum effectiveness.)
This couldn't be called a Servant. It was an amalgam of Caster's distortion and madness—an abomination that spit on the living and dead. The abomination stood tall and glared at Lancer.
"So, this is the form your madness took, Caster?" she glared at him. "Such a thing perverts the entire Holy Grail War. It shouldn't even exist."
"As long as his Noble Phantasm is activated, it counts as a single Servant." Baltr spoke up. "You must defeat his Draugr Form—a gathering of all the Servants who have perished here and all their abilities."
The creature howled to the moon above, as if in unbearable pain. Of course, numerous Servants were forced into a single vessel. The twitching must be a sign of the different signals being sent, unable to take a single command unless it overpowers the others.
"Lancer, GO!" I yelled. "Put it out of its misery!"
She kicked off the ground and charged. The abomination followed suit, howling in pain its rebirth as a monstrosity of numerous Servants in one body. It thrusted its hand and grabbed the air, as Lancer performed a graceful leap into the air and swung her spear down. The abomination turned avoiding the strike and spun swing its back hand to intercept Lancer.
Lancer twirled her spear and held it horizontally, letting it absorb the impact with a Guard. Seeing as she was airborne, she was sent rocketing back, smashing through numerous gravestones before tumbling on the ground.
"Gub—" Lancer vomited a mouthful of blood onto the graveyard soil. She lost a lot of hit points between that single strike and the grave stones. She picked herself off the ground and wiped the blood off her face, before heading straight towards it one again. "Fylkir!"
"The second skill: Svanr Vaengr!" I called, accessing it. Lancer eyes flash before she arched over and sprouted translucent swan wings on her back. Getting into a sprinter's crouch, the wings flapped and scattered the ghostly feathers, signaling her dash. Surpassing a speed that the abomination could comprehend, it never saw her as she left a red arc that cut through its flank.
Lancer avoided its next strike with her boosted speed and delivered a series of light thrusts, piercing its body. Its gaping mouth took a deep breath before exhaling a rain of dark needles towards Lancer, who retreated. She formed a Guard once again and the shards ricocheted off the shield hexagons and littered the ground around her.
When the rain of attacks stopped, she charged. Her spear aflame and charging with magical energy, embers danced as she thrusted forward. "Hiti Bresta!"
The monster howled in pain, raising its arm and bringing it down on top of Lancer who shielded herself with her spear. The impact caved in the ground around them, when Baltr code cast, "loss_str(32);"
Lancer's arms began to buckle, so I raised the baton, "reduce_loss(16);" restoring some of her strength and then followed up with another code cast to the abomination's knees, "bomb(16);"
It howled and Lancer used the opening to free herself. It turned its attention towards me instead, glaring at me at as viable target, and taking a deep breath once again. Eliminating the Master is a valid tactic. Not that I approved of it, but still…
"The third skill—" the shards of darkness flew like bullets across the battlefield, all towards me. Lancer stabbed her spear into the ground, breaking the earth as the tip penetrated the surface. "—Bálkr Lind!"
A wall of large shields popped out of the earth around me, scattering the graveyard soil and graves stones. The sound of shards being shattered upon the shields over took everything, as volley upon volley kept raining down and dust clouds rose up. I stood in place, confident in my defenses.
Lancer used the opening and lunged at the creature's head, trying to impale it. She penetrated it, but all it did was moderate damage to the creature, which grabbed her by the leg, crushed it, and slammed her face first into a grave stone before it tossed her into another. Lancer's health dropped substantially and the speed boost from the second skill faded.
"Ether Shard!" I crushed a shard to heal some of the damage, mending her leg, but the damage was still substantial over all. "Svanr Vaengr!"
The wings reappeared and she took off again, leaping into the sky to avoid a crushing strike and countering with a diving thrust. The battle raged, with Lancer getting in quick strikes that went past the monstrosity's defenses, and it returned one powerful blow for every dozen or so hits. I would help out occasionally, using a strategically placed blast to divert its attention or using an item to heal her until I ran out, but in the long run things were bleak.
Lancer was bleeding from her head, her face bruised and swollen, only able to even support herself using her chipped and nearly destroyed spear (0073 HP). Glaring at the monster looming over her, she began to glow, tapping into her remaining magical energy. The monstrosity raised its arm to end the act of resistance.
"bomb(16);" I screamed. Roaring magical energy gathered into my outstretched hand and fired like a cannon ball, slamming into the monster's head. The smoke and flames from the resulting explosion clouded its vision, as Lancer rolled and avoided the fatal attack. Sending power into her legs, once again she took to the sky and soared above the monster, leaving a trail of blood and magical energy along the way.
"THE FINAL STRIKE—" she yelled, pushing her magical energy to the breaking point (0 MP) and putting it all into her spear. "Hiti Bresta!" Flames burst from the spear and spiraled, consuming her as she fell back to earth like a comet. The creature raised both of its arms and crossed the from above, forming a Guard.
The flaming spiral crashed into the hexagonal tiles that formed a shield and spouted a tower of flames.
"SHATTER!" Lancer yelled, before it pierced the final defenses that protected the monstrosity. It let out one final howl, as the attack literally drilled into the creature, tearing it into pieces that were scattered into the twister and burned to ashes. There were no signs of Caster left upon the death of the flames, as a red wall appeared between Lancer, myself, and Baltr.
The barrier before us halted with a loud locking noise, and the side of the battlefield that Baltr inhabited was shrouded blood red. He felt to his knees, looking at his hand that was turning black and slowly disintegrating. His body was being eroded, as his data was being deleted.
"So, I've lost," he said without any sign of fear or emotion. "Looks like I'll be going to see her instead of the other way around."
"What do you mean?" I asked, supporting Lancer's weak body.
"…I told you, one way or another, I would win this match," he smirked, but it held no arrogance or hostility. "I entered the war in hopes of seeing someone who died. The loss of mana made such a dream impossible on Earth, but here…"
That's right. Moon Cell holds the data of everything on the planet, living or not. Winning the war and gaining control over it would be tantamount to becoming God. Raising the dead wouldn't be impossible if that was the case…
Balter's body was almost completely black now; his left eye and mouth being the only places that retained their features. "Death is the fate of all things, our natural destination. Yet, it takes the things we treasure the most, leaving only a void that can never be filled. In the desire to take back was stolen from me, I became enamored by death…"
So, that was why he and Caster were partners. They both were fascinated, and yet, disgusted with death, leading to their distortion. One lost his sanity, the other lost his heart. Two incomplete beings fought for a dream that should've been all but impossible, except here, in Moon Cell.
With those final words, Baltr vanished from existence, and I can no longer turn back. My hands, along with the rest of the remaining Masters are stained with the blood of our enemies. The only path left for us is victory or death.
Lancer had faded from her physical form. Even though she was restored to full health by the system, she and I were mentally exhausted after the match. It was far harder than expected for a first round. To have faced an opponent who could bend the rules in such a manner…
As I stepped out of the elevator, the exhaustion caught up to me and I slowly fell to the ground, only to have my arms grabbed. Three figures appeared around me and held me up, keeping my body upright.
"Honestly," the male said. "You go through that match like a badass and now you pass out?"
"I will admit," a female said. "I didn't think your opponent was capable of such a thing."
"Myta…Liar…" I mumbled, weakly raising my head to see them both wrapping my arms around them.
"Just stay awake until we get you to the Nurse's office," a final voice said. I looked up to see the last of the group. "You've got quite a Servant to take a beating like that."
"Rachel…" I smirked. "About time you showed up."
So I survived the first round, but there was still six more to go. I would eventually have to fight these three as well, and that sank my heart. But at long last I can see the road towards the goal after overcoming my first obstacle.
This was…The Holy Grail War…
Alright, short chapter but I've been busy.