Chapter 25 – The measure of a monster
(Published: 10.30.13 - Beta: RavingScholar)
The sun was nearly setting over the city of Misaki as Shirou was making his way back to the hotel from his less than spectacular meeting with Tohno Akiha. That piece of business could have been definitely handled better, but there was no use crying over split milk.
As it was almost dinnertime, Shirou chose to eat something in town. He was in the mood for some classic Japanese cuisine, and the restaurant inside the hotel served exclusively western-style food because it catered mainly foreign visitors.
His feet soon carried him to the center of the city, filled with people returning home from work or school. The city, bustling with life, was so different from its nighttime self that it might as well have been a whole other place altogether.
Not familiar with the local restaurants, Shirou trailed after a group of high school students whom he overhead talking about eating out. Trusting them to know better about the area, he entered a small restaurant where most of the clientele consisted of boys and girls around his age.
He sat at a table and picked up a menu without paying any particular attention to the other patrons. Only when he placed his order and the waitress left did he look around, his eyes meeting those of a recently met, yet familiar person.
Two tables away, the Executor from the previous night sat with a spoonful of curry halfway to her mouth. Her eyes were wide with recognition behind a pair of spectacles that she hadn't worn the last time he saw her, while her mouth went to barely open in mid-mouthfuls to gape in surprise. Truthfully it was almost a comical sight for Shirou, though the teen was not all that amused, as his mind processed the scope of the scene.
The Executor was dressed in a school uniform and sitting among other students dressed similarly. It didn't take a genius to figure out it was a disguise, and the only reason an emissary from the Holy Church would infiltrate and get through the burdens of high-school life was to track her prey. Of course, that meant something even more disturbing: the Dead Apostle was somehow connected to the institution she attended, maybe posing as a student or as a member of the faculty.
Hiding in plain sight, like a wolf in sheep's clothing.
The establishment was filled with chatter but it might as well been dead silent for the two locked in a staring contest. There was but one message in the Exdcutor's eyes that even Shirou couldn't miss.
'Stay out of my business.'
An eternity seemed to pass in one moment, and then Shirou nodded in acquiescence, drawing a similar gesture from the disguised Executor.
Truth be told, while this new revelation was unsettling, it didn't change the fact that he was still under-prepared and under-equipped to deal with an opponent of the caliber of this Dead Apostle. All of his good intentions meant nothing if the only thing he could accomplish was hindering the efforts of those who could actually do something. Still, he kept his eyes open and scanned the students in her company, memorizing their faces just in case.
'Ah, damn,' she cursed inwardly. 'What are the odds?'
Seriously, it's not like she was hiding—well, not from this Magus at least, but while he agreed not to meddle with her operations she didn't want him snooping too close to where Roa was hiding.
"Ne, Ciel-san," one of the other girls turned to speak to her, snapping her out of his musing, "is there anyone you like?"
"W-what!" she shrieked, almost dropping her spoon. "Why would you ask that?"
"Oh, no reason, really. I just noticed that you've been spending an awful lot of time with the underclassmen so I thought you liked someone there."
She almost sighed. She should have seen the gossiping coming when they invited her out for dinner. She cursed herself for accepting the invitation when she should have kept her usual distance from her apparent age group, but the very mention that this restaurant was having "Curry Night" all but shut down her brain higher functions and she went along with them almost in a daze.
When she snapped out of it – three servings later – it was too late to do anything about it and now she had to deal with this situation. Great job, 'Yumi'.
"That's not all there is to it, is there?" she asked through narrowed eyes.
"Ah, seen right through me, have you?" the other girl chuckled. "I wasn't really curious, to be honest. It's just that my little kohai here," she patted the head of a twin-tailed brown headed girl at her side, "has a crush on that boy you've been often speaking with, lately."
"Eek!" the aforementioned redhead squeaked indignantly in betrayal. "S-s-senpai! What are you saying?"
"Bah, there's no use in hiding it, Sa-chan," the older girl said, "everyone knows about it by now. I think that the only person around the school who hasn't noticed it yet is the guy himself and maybe that odd guy he hangs around with."
The girl, Sa-chan—Yumizuka Satsuki as Ciel mind recalled—looked down in mortification. Ciel hadn't known that particular piece of information, to be honest, but she wasn't all that surprised about it. He was rather cute especially without his glasses and… no. That was wrong on all levels. Though there was still a chance he wasn't actually Roa's host, that simple thought was absolutely out of place.
"We're barely acquaintances," she explained, smiling in the pleasant persona she put up as Ciel. "He helped with something around the school and we chatted a bit a few times. I'm not going to steal him from you, Yumizuka-san."
The younger girl just gave the barest of nods without looking up from own lap, face still ablaze in blatant embarrassment. Ah, the things she had to deal with to maintain her cover were just barely less of a hassle than altering everyone's memories of her on a daily basis, and that was the only reason why she didn't do the latter.
That and the curry, of course.
Well, Shirou thought as he watched the exchange, nothing out of the ordinary here. He couldn't hear what they were talking about with his normal hearing, and he didn't dare use Magecraft needlessly in her presence, but it seemed like an ordinary late afternoon out between friends.
He shouldn't have been all that surprised since he, too, was an abnormal person living among normal people and even Executors were human beings…usually.
Finishing his meal, he paid for it and left the establishment, sending one last nod to the Executor, unseen by her companions. He stepped out of the building and walked in the direction of his hotel. Soon the sun would set completely and he would start his patrol with the cover of darkness.
Night fell, and with it darkness shrouded the city. Slowly, the number of people on the streets started to dwindle until only a few reckless or fearless individuals could be seen on the streets.
Yumizuka Satsuki counted herself as one of the former and certainly not one of the latter, considering she was shaking like a leaf and jumped at every shadow. Normally she would be the first person to lock herself inside her house at a time like this: she was quite the scaredy-cat and courage was not her strongest point. After all, she couldn't even confess her feelings to the boy she liked.
So, she asked herself to stave off the fear, what was a person like her doing out on the streets at night, a few hours past midnight and with a serial killer on the loose? What manner of madness had possessed her to slip out of her room's window after her parents went to bed?
A rumor. Nothing more than the simple rumor that he had been seen wandering around the city in the evening. She didn't know if it was actually true, if she could even stumble upon him by searching everywhere and nowhere in particular, nor even sure what she would do if she actually did found him.
Even just occasionally speaking to him at school, a safe and known environment, required her all of her courage. In fact she could barely manage to make him acknowledge her presence every day, and perhaps she hoped that outside of the usual setting he would see her in a different light, or at the very least actually see her.
So her legs carried her around for hours: searching, snooping in places she would have done better to stay far away from. As time went by there were less and less people around, until she found herself alone on that particular street.
The eerie silence suddenly felt heavy upon her, and though she couldn't see anyone she felt like a thousand eyes were staring right at her. Her heartbeat started to race in her chest as the shadows started to loom upon her menacingly.
She forced herself to swallow, convincing herself that she was just being paranoid. Perhaps… perhaps this was enough. She had been looking for hours and caught no glimpse of him or any other student from her school. She could go back home now. No, she should have been back home by now already.
Forcing herself not to turn back and not to run either, she started to walk a fast pace toward a safe place. Ten meters, twenty meters, thirty meters. The farther she went the heavier the air seemed to become, and the sensation of being watched grew in intensity with every single step. She was sweating now and she started glancing behind her back to see if she was being followed.
There was nothing but empty street and scary shadows, of course. She was just being paranoid, she told herself. There's nobody out there, she forced herself to think, but for all of her efforts she kept looking behind her back instead of in front of her.
That's why she never saw the human figure turning the corner, and she walked right into it.
Falling backward from the impact, she screamed her lungs out in terror.
"Oooff!" Shirou exhaled as the lithe body impacted against his chest.
"KYAAAA!" the girl screamed, staring at him utterly terrified while she scuttled backward.
"Whoa! I'm sorry," Shirou said hastily, taking a step back himself and raising both his palms in a placating gesture. "I didn't mean to scare you."
The girl still pushed herself backward, until her back was against a wall. Only then did she allow herself to pull herself up to a standing position.
"Are you alright, miss?" he asked after a moment, still keeping his distance from the obviously startled girl.
"I… I'm okay," she breathed deeply, one hand on her chest as if to slow her racing heart. "I'm sorry for reacting like that."
"No apology necessary," he tried to smile reassuringly. "I was lost in thought myself and turned the corner at the worst possible time."
The girl chuckled awkwardly, understandably still wary of a stranger at night. "I wasn't looking were I was walking either. I'm sorry."
"No harm done," he replied, finally lowering his hands. "Ah, I don't really mean to stick my nose into your business, miss, but it's not a good thing to be out at night alone lately. Especially for a girl."
"I- I was actually going back home right now."
"Hm," he acknowledged. "Then, would you like me to escort you? Oh," he said as he saw her expression steer toward the fearful again. "Sorry, that's probably the kind of thing a person you should avoid would say. You don't even know me."
"R-right," she agreed hastily, putting a bit more distance between them.
"Well," he sighed. "You should really head straight back home now. Be careful on your way."
"I will," she nodded, straightening up properly. "Thank you. And sorry about freaking out like that."
"It's perfectly understandable, miss…?"
"Ah, my name is Yumizuka Satsuki."
"Emiya Shirou," he returned politely with a smile. "Now we are a bit less of strangers, I guess. Good night, Yumizuka-san."
He crossed the road bowing once more when he was on the other side. The girl still didn't move and just watched him get farther away, probably fearing he would chase her when she wasn't looking. Only when he had turned the next corner, disappearing from sight, she resumed walking.
Well, at least she was being as prudent as she could in the circumstances.
Perhaps, he thought as he continued walking, it would have been better if he had insisted on escorting her home? No, she was understandably not keen on the prospect of walking with a stranger that could very well be the murderer she had to avoid. Besides, he had checked every nook and cranny for any of "The Dead" in the direction she was going.
The lesser undead weren't really fast on their feet and usually relied on surprise or numbers to overcome their preys. If an area had been cleared of them, it would remain so for the foreseeable future. It was better to focus his efforts into inspecting another places of the city.
With that decided, he continued on his way.
Satsuki looked behind her once more while she kept walking at a steady pace toward her house. The redheaded boy wasn't following her, of course. He was just a random person and not the serial killer everyone was so worked up over lately. She had reacted really badly over nothing, and she had been a tad rude to a person who simply offered to escort her home.
Ah, well, he said it himself that they were both strangers to each other, and it was generally a bad idea to for a girl to trust an unknown man in the middle of the night. He too agreed with that thought and didn't seem offended by her lack of trust.
He was also right about the fact that she should be at home, where she would be safe, instead of running around town chasing rumors. It didn't help the fact that she couldn't get rid of the feeling of being watched all the time.
She was just being paranoid again, just like earlier. Despite her best efforts she couldn't avoid glancing backward once more, just to be safe.
It wouldn't have really changed anything if she hadn't, but it was amusing in a twisted way how that caused her to completely miss the hands bursting out the shadows of an alley, wrapping around her body and mouth and dragging her without a sound into the darkness between two buildings.
The next thing she became aware of was blinding pain and the feeling of something sharp digging into her neck. She flailed her arms, elbowing her assailant as strongly as she could. She tried to bite the hand that was holding her mouth close but she couldn't even manage to open her mouth.
The pain continued and she felt her blood – her blood – being drained away from his body and into the mouth of the man, person, monster, who was sucking it with greedy, wet noises.
She was, she understood with dawning horror, being eaten, consumed, devoured. Her conscious mind couldn't muster an appropriate reaction to something like this; she could not comprehend the nature of the slithering cold that was being injected into her veins in place of her warm blood. All she knew was that it was wrong, that she shouldn't be there, that something like that could not happen to her.
She was not able to muster an appropriate response. She was a normal person who lived in a normal world and so, faced with a horror she could not understand nor deal with, she did the only possible thing she could when the hand on her mouth relaxed its hold just a little.
The night was silent.
The night was cold.
The night was still.
Just like a forest, this motionlessness meant that a predator was lurking somewhere in the darkness. To be honest, there was more than one predator and more than one prey, their roles fluid and ever-changing.
At different times in her life, Yumi had been both, and though many would consider her part of the former, the truth was that she still considered herself part of the latter, no matter how much stronger than most she actually was.
She longed for something to do, to keep her away from the memories, from the taste of blood that to that day still lingered in the back of her mouth, like a ghost that would never leave. Alas, she had no such luck. Not a single one of "The Dead" could be found anywhere she looked.
That was good, of course, because it mean that soon Roa would have to make a move personally and expose himself in the process. At the same time it made the wait excruciating. She never liked to be left alone with her thoughts. Even when she was being held prisoner and subjected to constant deaths, at least she had the physical pain to distract her.
Now, however… now there was only stillness and silence, and in that void she had only her memories to keep her company.
… This wasn't going anywhere, she thought. Roa would have to be pretty desperate to try something now of all times. With most if not all of his thralls destroyed, he would probably skip town and try to rebuild his territory somewhere else. In fact it wasn't impossible that he had already done so, abandoning the last few undead behind to give the impression that he was still somewhere in the city.
'Tch'. It wasn't like she hadn't considered the possibility. In fact, Dead Apostle preferred to avoid all confrontations if possible. There was little use in pursuing immortality if you stuck around when your would-be killers were almost at your throat.
Still, she knew for a fact that he had an obsession with that other bloodsucker currently in town. Quite frankly, one of the reasons Yumi disliked her so much was because Roa was all too fond of her: while the other reason was, well, that she was the reason why there was a Roa in the first place.
At least she would-
A desperate cry shattered the silence, echoing with despair. Without need for contemplations, Yumi run to the edge of the roof and leapt through the void, making a beeline toward the source of the scream. She was sure there were no more undead in the area from where she poinpointed the scream had come from. That could only mean…
Hindsight, Shirou knew all too well, is 20:20.
When the desperate, feminine scream tore through the night he knew that he had made a mistake in letting Yumizuka go home alone. He knew that he had to run back fast, faster that he had ever run. He also knew that it was likely too late to do anything.
What he didn't know was how close he himself had come to needing a rescue.
He was almost in front of his hotel when he turned around and sprinted back with all of the speed granted by his Reinforced legs. Had he continued on his path unhindered, he would have undoubtedly noticed the figure clad in a black coat, all other features of his body undistinguishable except for his head, hiding in the darkness of an alley on the opposite side of the road, staring with ominous intent at the fourth floor of the building.
If he hadn't turned back, he would have become entangled with something far too far out of his league to compare, and with no consideration whatsoever for human life.
Three hundred meters. Two hundred meters. One hundred meters.
Yumi leapt from rooftop to rooftop with blinding speed, cracking tiles and bricks with the accelerated mass of her lithe body every time she landed and took off again.
She was racing in the direction of the scream, hoping to get on the scene before Roa disappeared again. She was certainly already too late to save his latest victim, considering that it took mere seconds to get infected with the curse of vampirism, but she still could and would deliver the appropriate retribution.
Despite her personal dislike of it, Yumi used the Magecraft she had inherited from Roa himself to Reinforce her hearing. With her senses strengthened beyond human limits she heard the last strangled gasp of a young woman succumbing to the bite of the Dead Apostle.
"Let her go, you bastard!"
She cringed. The voice of the Magus was like a shotgun firing at close range compared to the small sounds Yumi had attuned her ears to perceive. She was only a handful of seconds from the scene now, but she could distinctly recognize the spike of Prana in the air, followed immediately by the sound of something sharp cutting through the air.
An annoyed grunt escaped from what sounded like a full mouth and a moment later the sound of a body - a corpse – hitting the ground reached her ears. Two pairs of running feet could be heard getting away from the scene, with just a moment's delay between each other, one in escape and the other in evident pursuit.
Yumi immediately steered on an intercepting course, vowing to return later to dispatch the unfortunate victim form the fate that had befallen her. She could not, would not, let Roa escape.
A moment later, from her advantage position from the rooftops she saw a figure disappearing in the darkness followed a dozen meters behind by the redheaded Magus who was holding a bow in his hand. She jumped down and landed a couple of meters from him, almost causing him to shoot an arrow at her.
"I'll take it from here," she told him in a matter that brooked no arguments, completely disregarding the conflict in his eyes. For a moment she thought it was a mixture of sorrow and guilt for the life neither of them had managed to save. "If you haven't done so already, go back and make sure the victim doesn't get up again. Now!"
Another moment of conflict crossed his eyes, then, "Got it! Be careful," he disengaged, going back on his tracks, leaving Roa to her.
And no else.
Focusing her rage she accelerated further, throwing herself into the darkness in hot pursuit of her long time nemesis.
Shirou was conflicted. As he doubled back on the scene of the last murder, Shirou wondered if he was yet again condemning a young girl to a premature death. It had been a difficult choice to let her go after the Dead Apostle on her own; he had been willing to do so only because he knew that he was underequipped, and therefore a liability, on top of knowing all too well that he would have had to go through the Executor herself in order to continue the pursuit.
He understood with a single exchange of glances that there was a personal grudge between this Dead Apostle and the emissary from the Church. With that knowledge and with the awareness that he had to attend to Yumizuka's body before it got up again and made more victims he forced himself to turn around.
Now, with the adrenaline in his body dropping considerably, his concerns for the Executor were replaced with an all too familiar sense of guilt.
Another life had been lost, he thought. One he could have saved had he just been a tad more insistent, more forceful. Just one small, seemingly insignificant choice had made had become the difference between life and death.
But now there was no way to change what had been done. The only thing he could and would do was ensuring that her body wouldn't be defiled any further by the curse of undeath that would make her into a mindless, blood-seeking monster.
In a moment he was again between the two rows of buildings. There, in the shadows, Yumizuka's body lay lifelessly with her face turned away from him. Shirou stood there silently, watching for a moment, struggling to accept the weight of the reality in front of him.
Then a moan came from the still unmoving corpse, soon followed by a twitch. A hoarse sound came from her dry throat. Her arm moved, a hand found the ground in an attempt to push herself – itself –up.
Shirou closed his eyes in resignation for a moment. When he opened them again there was no uncertainty to be found in them, and the bow he had been holding was gone, replaced by the length of Monohoshizao.
He stepped toward the still crouched form, sword lifted above his head to deliver a single, mercifully decapitating blow. He inched forward-
"It… it hurts."
- and stopped abruptly mid-blow.
"It… hurts." The corpse repeated. "It hurts…"
Shirou stepped back in shock, Monohoshizao shattered.
"It hurts… It hurts…. It hurts."
The Dead couldn't speak. They could only seek out blood, unaware of everything, unknowing even of their own miserable condition. The mindless thralls could not express themselves. The only undead that possessed the ability to speak were… the Dead Apostles themselves.
Her head snapped in his direction. Feral, hungry eyes locked on his, teeth bared in a silent growl. Her previously trembling body, seemingly weighted by an enormous weakness was now coiled and ready to spring.
Then just as rapidly as the first change, confusion and fear crossed Yumizuka's features and she scuttled awkwardly backward on all fours. A moment earlier she looked like a feline ready to pounce, and then she seemed to be a very scared teen with no understating of the situation.
She backed away until she was with her back pressed against the wall, her eyes never leaving Shirou's.
The situation was all too similar to their previous encounter, and yet so completely different. He was standing and she was on the ground, putting distance between them out of fear, but her fear was not directed at him as it had been during their earlier encounter…it was at herself.
She didn't know, couldn't know what had happened to her, not consciously at least; but her instinct was another matter altogether. As her eyes settled on him her new nature identified him as prey, as food, and her body reacted accordingly for the fraction of a second for her still human mind to process the wrongness of it all.
Shirou understood all of that in a single moment. In fact it was all quite clear to him, save for the impossibility of it all.
Dead Apostles didn't just "spawn" from one another. The curse was passed, yes, but the recipient was killed in the process, mind destroyed and soul trapped within the body. Only after years of sucking blood, retaining for themselves a small portion of the energy usually diverted toward their master, could a simple undead become something more, yet still bound in part to its progenitor.
Only True Ancestors, by virtue of being the originators of the curse, and Magi who turned themselves through purposeful Magecraft could create Dead Apostles without intermediate steps. Certainly, someone that had made himself into an undead could usually turn others as well through the same process, but Dead Apostle, and Magi at that, had usually no love for each other and were extremely territorial creatures.
He considered, for a moment, that the Dead Apostle could have wanted to produce an expendable decoy to throw the Executor off its trail, but a single, uninstructed fledgling vampire couldn't fool anyone; what's more, in its ignorance it would be more of a threat to itself than to others, at least in comparison to an ordinary undead.
Therefore there was a single viable explanation in Shirou's mind. Somehow, in a strange one-in-a-million chance, the Dead Apostle had tried to make a thrall out of a person with a natural potential that far exceeded its own.
But… that was far from a happy occurrence. Possessing her own free will or not, Yumizuka Satsuki had become a creature that fed on humanity, a monster, an enemy of mankind. By all accounts he should kill her now, before she could grow into her potential and become something that could be stopped only through countless sacrifices, if at all.
That was right, wasn't it? Killing monsters was a Hero's job.
"Stay back," she pleaded. Had her newfound instinct, somehow, told her of the danger she was in?
Shirou stepped forward, grim purpose reflected in his eyes.
"Stay back…" she continued to plead. "If you come any closer… something bad is going to happen."
He advanced silently, the shape of Monohoshizao ready to be pushed into existence once more.
"I don't want to hurt you," she cried desperately.
Shirou recoiled back as if struck in the face. Monohoshizao sunk in the background of his mind.
It was wrong.
It was completely and utterly wrong. Vampire or human, what had this person in front of him done to deserve death? Did she have to die for something that had been done to her?
Condemned… because of someone else's sin?
The image of Medea, unconscious under the rain, on the brink of vanishing with tears running down her cheeks flashed before his eyes.
Just… no. There was no way he could go through with that. He had sworn to become a Hero that could save everyone. Although he couldn't begin to fathom how to make things right, he knew at the very least how not to make them even more wrong.
Her body was wracked by pain the likes of which she had never even thought possible, much less experienced. She remembered being assaulted, wounded, bitten, drained –killed. Blackness had engulfed her but the pain hadn't relented. It had increased with each passing second, until it was too strong, too intense for unconsciousness to keep a hold on her.
She woke up and pain was the last of her concerns. There was a dryness in the back of her throat; a hunger stronger than anything she ever felt before; a black, boiling need to bite into something that she couldn't quite figure out what it was.
Her head snapped in the other direction, settling on a person, Emiya, who was looking at her with scared eyes.
Her body tensed at the sight of him, her hunger flared, and for a brief moment she could think nothing but burying her teeth into the soft skin of his neck to find the warm blood flowing underneath.
She recoiled. Her fear found new depths as she realized how intensely she wanted to rip his neck open and quench her thirst, satiate her hunger until there was nothing more to drink.
She backed away, pleading for him to keep his distance, to not get any closer because it took all that she had to refrain to give in to that black desire. But he ignored her silent pleas. Slowly, he made his way to her disregarding her pleas.
"Yumizuka-san," he called her from a few feet away. She forced herself not to look at him. Even at that distance she could smell him. "Yumizuka-san, can you understand me?"
Slowly she shifted her eyes onto his face. Her stomach clenched in anticipation.
"What is this?" she whispered to herself as much as to him. "What's happening to me?"
"Yumizuka-san," he said slowly, hesitating, "there's no good or simple way to put this. You have been turned into a vampire."
She almost laughed at the absurdity of that statement. Almost. The surrealism of it all was surpassed only the intense, vivid awareness on the undeniable truth of his words: her appetite, her thirst, the recent events of Misaki. The word vampire had been plastered across the newspapers in bold characters. She had found it scary in an amusing way just a few hours before
There was no amusement left now, though; just fear, pain and hunger.
"How…," she rasped, "how can I turn back to normal?" she asked in a pleading manner, seeking an exit to this nightmare. She was no stranger to tales of vampires and other bloodsuckers; there were plenty of tales in which a character had fallen victim a similar fate and returned to normality.
"There is no known cure for vampirism," he told her after a moment of hesitation, shattering the tiny hopes she harbored. "No cure has ever been sought either as far as I know. Vampires are usually to be killed on sight, no questions asked."
Her eyes flickered back to him. The gentle boy she had first met wasn't there. In his place, wearing his face, was a deadly serious young man with eyes of steel. A number of unspoken questions found answers in her mind. Why did he know of her condition, why was he out at night, why was he standing in front of there now.
"Are you going to kill me now?" she asked after a moment of silence. She didn't want to die. She didn't want any of this. She hadn't ever once wished for such a thing, and why would she? She only wanted to wake up in her bed and go to school like the normal teenager she was.
Again he visibly hesitated, measuring his words.
"I should, but I won't," he told her calmly.
"Why?" she asked, curious despite her immense relief.
"No one should pay any price for someone else's mistakes," he answered flatly, with no hint of uncertainty. His eyes darted to the side with a hint of embarrassment, then settled back on hers. "You feel the need to bite me, don't you?
She nodded, more than a little ashamed. "My body… hurts all over," she confessed.
"That's as secondary symptom of your condition," he explained. "Your body is… not alive anymore. It's decaying and it needs fresh human DNA to counter this process. Well," he sighed tiredly, running a hand through his hair, "at least you have a measure of control over your impulses, but that's not going to last. If you don't feed soon you're going to lose it completely and start feeding on just about anyone close by."
"I don't want to drink blood," she lied. She wanted to drink blood so very much. The thought of it wasn't as disgusting as it would have been a few minutes prior. She was, she realized, already becoming a monster. "But I don't want to kill anyone either."
"That's settles it, then," he nodded. "We have to get you fed."
"Where do we find- EEP!"
Two long katana appeared out of thin air in Emiya's hands. Faster than she could react, he sank them into the wall behind her a hair's breadth from her neck, parallel to the ground and with their sharp edges turned outward. He swiftly crossed them in front of her neck, trapping her head in position.
"E-E-Emiya-san?" she squeaked.
"Open your mouth," he told her in a tone that brooked no argument, bringing a small knife to his exposed wrist. The sharp edge found his skin and cut through effortlessly, causing blood to pour from the wound.
Satsuki's vision blurred momentarily at the sight, though she was called back to her senses a second later by the pain in her neck from the impact of the swords and the sound of her own coughing echoing in her ears. She had little time to process the cause of this sudden loss of consciousness as a hand gripped her forehead, forcing it backward. She gasped in surprise, but it lasted only a moment before her senses were swept over by the blissful taste of copper.
Emiya clenched his fist, forcing blood to pour from the self-inflicted wound. She had but a moment to contemplate the contrast between her rational distaste against the very physical craving for the same thing. Said contrast vanished when the first drop of the sweet, dark nectar met the tip of her tongue, overwhelming her with the novel, euphoric sensation spreading through her body.
Contrary to what one would expect, it didn't taste like spring water after crossing a desert on foot. Rather, it was closer to drawing your very first breath of fresh air after having lived for a century without knowing you had lungs.
She drank greedily, mouthful after mouthful, while being prevented from actually sinking her fangs into Emiya only by his iron grip on her head and the impromptu sword collar around her neck. Had she not been restrained like that, she realized with disgust a moment after she returned to her senses, she would no doubt have bitten and killed the redhead young man.
When the flood of blood stopped and full self-awareness dawned upon her, Satsuki shivered, caught between her own self-disgust and the afterglow of the most delightful experience of her young life. She almost didn't notice the two swords shattering and disappearing into thin air as she hugged her knees and rocked in place like a frightened child. She didn't even notice that her body didn't hurt at all anymore.
Shirou sighed and pulled back, tired and pale-faced. He had given Yumizuka as much blood as he possibly could while remaining functional, overcharging it with Prana so as to provide further nourishment for the fledgling vampire. It had taken a lot out of him, and he was perfectly aware of the fact that the entirety of a normal person's blood wouldn't have sufficed to quench the girl's hunger.
Again, he reconsidered his latest choice. Sparing Yumizuka's life was, in the best case scenario, a dangerous bet that had as a positive outcome "only" to not make things any worse than they already were. Truth be told, the existence of a vampire was a curse for someone who hadn't wanted to become one, and if things went pear-shaped and Yumizuka fell prey to her new nature, many other people would suffer a similar fate.
It was a risk. It was the biggest risk he had taken in his life so far. Even saving Medea, with all of her pent up resentment and bitterness, was not as risky. The Servant of the Spell had the means to hurt plenty of people but she needed at the very least a proper motivation. A vampire, no matter how good-natured, felt the need to feed on others by the simple virtue of existing.
It was engrained in their nature and would only worsen with the passage of time. Their bodies required progressively more blood to sustain itself and their minds were twisted and distorted by decades of feeding on living human beings and the isolation caused by their condition. For these reasons they were hunted and ruthlessly eliminated.
In this regard, Yumizuka Satsuki was a ticking time bomb; one with a countdown of several dozen years if they were lucky and careful, but a bomb nonetheless.
And yet, even knowing this, Emiya Shirou couldn't bring himself to think he had been wrong. No innocent person should pay the price for another person's actions, no matter how potentially dangerous they could be in the long term.
Ironically and unknowingly, a similar scenario with an opposite outcome had marked Emiya Kiritsugu's first steps down the accursed path of the Magus Killer. Without even realizing it, Emiya Shirou had further distanced himself from the spiraling madness that had followed his foster father throughout all of his life.
Steadying himself for a moment, and shaking his mind free of needless worries, Shirou addressed the vampire.
"Yumizuka-san, we should get moving. The other hunters won't be inclined to let you live, and the sun is going to rise soon as well."
Slowly, with tired eyes, Yumizuka turned to him. "I'm… I can't be in the sun anymore then? Will I turn to ashes if I'm caught in daylight?"
"Nothing so dramatic," he explained as he walked to help her stand back on her feet. "Exposure to sunlight is painful for and it accelerates the rate at which your body decays, but it's not outright lethal."
She nodded, standing up wearily. Shirou supported her by holding her arm, feeling the trembling and coldness of her body. Something like this shouldn't have happened to anyone, much less a young girl like her.
"Where… where am I going now? I can't let my mom and dad see me like this."
"I…," he hadn't thought about that. "For the time being let's go back to my hotel. We can come up with something once we're safe."
"They don't even know I'm gone," she said with tears streaking down her face. "I snuck out windows after dark *hic* I didn't want to make them worry. Uuhhh."
Shirou had no words of comfort to offer, and so he could only watch silently as the girl cried her eyes out. He couldn't tell her that things would get better either, for they could only get worse. Her life from then on would be a struggle to find nourishment without hurting living people while dodging the hunters from the several organizations that had made hunting down her kind their purpose in life.
But… that was not something that she had to deal with right now.
"I'm sorry. We'll work something out together, but in the meantime we must get to a secure location before we get into even more trouble."
"I'm afraid it's a little too late for that, Magus."
Shirou whipped around, fast enough to see something sailing his way, fast enough to push Yumizuka out of the way, yet not fast enough to dodge or mount a defense for himself.
Even with his reflexive Reinforcement, the Black Key, the Excutor's trademark weapon, cut through his shoulder like hot steel through butter.
"Kyaaa!" Yumizuka screamed in surprise and fright as she rolled on the ground.
"Gah!" Shirou groaned, clutching his shoulder.
From atop the building overseeing the ally of justice, the Executor known as Ciel stared down at him with impassible eyes.
It never failed to amaze him how quickly things went from bad to total shitstorm whenever he tried to make things better.
Wounded, weakened and with a scared vampire girl to protect, Shirou wondered exactly what manner of higher entity he had offended in a past life to have such a lousy luck.
Though her expression betrayed no emotion, Yumi was boiling with rage.
While it was not exactly surprising that Roa had managed to give her the slip, considering their mutual knowledge of Magecraft, it still frustrated and annoyed her to no end. Of course, the whole point about establishing Roa's current identity was to get the drop on him instead of trying to pin him down in random locations in the city. The vampire wasn't stupid enough to engage in combat with a formidable opponent such as her when he could avoid it, especially since he obviously wasn't at the height of his power, in which case all of these efforts, both hers and Roa's, would be completely useless.
But even knowing all this didn't help ease her annoyance, especially since she hadn't even managed to get visual confirmation on his current host's appearance. Moreover he had managed to make yet another victim, a girl she knew, if barely, who had at least a connection with Roa's suspected incarnation.
Was it just a coincidence that one of his classmates was Roa's latest prey, or had he lured her out at night to a specific location purposely? If that was the case, he could have done so without even using hypnosis, taking advantage of Yumizuka's feelings to have her meet him at a chosen location. It made her suspicion in his regards even stronger, but in the end there was still no actual proof, making it yet again another reason to be frustrated.
At least this attempt at reestablishing his foothold on the city had failed. In her last moments his victim had managed to alert her and the Magus of his presence thus foiling his plan.
Sadly, it was too late for Yumizuka. Her fate was sealed from the moment he sank his fangs in her, contracting the plague of vampirism with a small exchange of blood. At the very least Yumi had ensured that the girl's existence would no longer be profaned by Roa's by having the Magus dispatch her body before it could get back up again.
At least, she thought he had done as instructed. Instead, she found not only that Yumizuka's body was still intact, but also that the Magus had somehow managed to make her become a full-fledged Dead Apostle and was now feeding her his own blood.
Suddenly everything gained a new, more reasonable perspective. Far from being a good-willed Magus looking out for his fellow human being, this person was just another twisted individual experimenting on the curse for his own interests.
She would see them both dead at all costs: one out of mercy, and the other out of hatred.
"I admit, I am disappointed with myself," the Executor said as she dropped down from the four story building, landing gracefully on her feet. "There is a rule in the Church that says to distrust Magi on principle, but the peculiarity of this case made me lower my guard and I ignored what ulterior motives could you have in this business."
Shirou clutched the blade trapped inside his flesh. The damn thing didn't want to come out.
"I think there is some kind of misunderstanding here," he told her seriously. More Black Keys appeared between her fingers, probably extracted from within a folded space created by Magecraft within her clothes.
"Please, Emiya," she answered, causing him to wince. She must have overheard Yumizuka addressing him; he'd regret that, he was sure. "I will not fall for further lies. Both the Church as well as the Clock Tower consider experimenting on Dead Apostles cause for immediate execution."
"SILENCE!" She roared." I shall carry out the sentence personally. Be glad that I have no time to waste in turning you over to either group to torture all knowledge of forbidden practice out of your mind. But first…"
"W-what's going on? Ciel-senpai? Why are you dressed like that?"
"Tch," the Executioner scoffed at being recognized. "Don't worry, Yumizuka-san. Soon it will all be over."
Shirou took that statement as a warning and moved to the side as fast as he could, pulling the Black Key out of his body with all the strength he could muster. With a spout of blood he used the recently 'acquired' weapon to deflect another of similar make directed at the startled vampire.
"Yumizuka-san," he called out without turning. "Please stand up. This person is an Executor form the Church. She will stop at nothing to kill you. And you-" his eyes focused back again on the Executioner, Ciel, "I don't know what crazy idea you got in your mind, but I had no role in Yumizuka-san's circumstances."
"Do you expect me to believe that a mundane girl has become a Dead Apostle under her own power?" She shook her head angrily. "Even if it were true it makes no difference. As much as it pains me in this case, all Apostles must die. As for you, helping such a potentially powerful Dead Apostle is even worse than creating one on purpose."
"I won't let you harm her," he told her flatly.
"What you will or will not allow," she said as she raised her arm, "is irrelevant!"
Three blades flew toward him, but this time he was ready to receive them. With a single swing he swept them all down, but when his eyes returned to the Executor, she was gone.
Shirou didn't blink nor he stopped at considering his options. He let himself fall backward, barely rolling beneath a sideway blow from his left, deflected slightly by the sword in his hand, which was knocked out of his grasp by the sheer power behind the attack. He then pushed with his feet as soon as they touched the ground again, his Reinforced muscles propelling him through the air, giving him just enough time to take stock of his position, or rather just to see six other Black Keys coming toward him.
Instinct took over. His foe was faster than him by a wide margin. There was no time to think of tactics. The only thing he could do was the thing he seemed to do best. He imitated.
Six Black Keys, each a mirror of other six blades, materialized in his hands. He threw them with a foreign ease, with movements he hadn't even seen but that he knew perfectly all the same. They all flew on exactly the same path in opposite direction, and each met its twin halfway, tip-by-tip with microscopic precision.
Six blades clattered to the ground, six disappeared into thin air.
Shirou's feet touched the ground again and skidded to a halt. For a good moment everything stood perfectly still while those present measured each other carefully.
There was a bit of luck in being recognized as a Magus, as there were just two good ways of taking down one. The first was eliminating them before they could deploy their mysteries; the second after their mysteries had been unraveled. Everything in between meant exposing oneself to a number of possible traps as numerous as the stars in the sky and while Shirou knew he was outclassed, the Executor didn't. In fact there was a tinge of surprise on her face at his continued survival as her first tactic had mostly failed. Now she was stuck in that no-man's land where she had to test the ground as not to open herself to defeat by unknown means.
In that lull, Yumizuka had stood up and run toward Shirou. With a slight widening of his eyes, Shirou Traced another Black Key to fend off the one shot at the girl's back.
"Yumizuka-san," he whispered once she was behind him. "Take the wallet in my back pocket."
"W-what do I do with it?"
"There are documents with my address in there. If I fall, go to that place and explain your circumstances to the foreign woman living there. She'll help you in my place."
"Get ready to run as soon as I engage her. Don't look back."
He dashed forward, six Black Key clutched between his fingers. He didn't look back, but he heard Yumizuka's footsteps getting further away at high speed.
He smiled. His odds were nearly nonexistent if he took into consideration the history that he got from the Black Keys he replicated. The person he was about to face was stronger, more experienced than him and… apparently, she couldn't die. At the present conditions there was no way for him to kill her.
And that was perhaps the only thing that worked to his advantage.
The Magus charged with the Black Keys crossed before him. He advanced fast, but not fast enough to worry her. She was intrigued, though. While he was clearly inferior on the physical standpoint his skills so far were a match for hers.
Too much of a perfect match.
Even with her great understanding of Magecraft she didn't quite know how such a degree of mimicry was possible and she wondered how wide a spectrum such an ability had. Could he replicate feats of Magecraft as well? Did his ability extend to all fields or just physical combat? Would he grow stronger the longer she engaged him? Could he match only his current opponent or could he learn and store abilities to use later on? If it was the latter, the level of danger he posed depended highly on his level of experience.
However that wasn't what troubled her most.
Certainly letting the fledgling vampire run was a smart move if he wanted to preserve the specimen, but unless what he told her was true, that Yumizuka had become a Dead Apostle out of her own potential, then it made little sense to risk his life over a two-bit vampire that he could probably make another of on his own.
So Yumizuka was likely a very dangerous, and very unlikely, case of a vampire that hadn't gone through the ghoul stage. It was very impressive and extremely worrying. Something like that shouldn't be allowed to roam free, lest the tragedies Ciel had witnessed with her own eyes be repeated.
But there was the Magus, Emiya, to deal with first.
She realized, as she traded shallow blows with him, that he wasn't what she expected him to be. It was well known that Magi placed their research over their lives, but that just made them risk takers, not suicidal fools. Another Magus would not have let a specimen flee while he risked his life. She could have understood if he tried to run with the Dead Apostle, but staying back to buy time for her – it – to escape?
It made no sense at all.
"What is the meaning of this, Emiya?" she asked between blows. "Why are you protecting a Dead Apostle?"
"Why wouldn't I?" he asked back. "She hasn't done anything to warrant death."
"She's a Dead Apostle!" she replied forcefully, putting more force behind her attacks. "A monster that feeds on humanity."
"Human or vampire I will not let an innocent die before me," he said with a strange resolution. "There's no guarantee that she will become someone who kills in order to live."
"Are you willing to risk the lives of human beings on a wild bet like that?"
He ducked under her swords, countering with a vertical slash. She dodged by stepping backward.
"Of course I am," he replied as he pressed on. "No one should pay the price of someone else's sins. You of all people should understand this… Elesia."
For the tiniest of moments, her brain screeched to a halt and she was left gaping. Then everything was wiped out. Her guilt, her doubts and even her curiosity to his knowledge of her true name were swallowed by sheer, unadulterated rage.
"Don't! You! Dare! Call! Me! By! That! Name!"
She punctuated each word with a blow carrying such brute strength that she would have been surprised herself, if she had the clarity to acknowledge such things. The blades in Emiya's hands shattered one by one, and when the last was gone she followed through with a kick to his stomach so vicious that he was sent flying back several dozen meters.
"Guah!" Shirou would have thrown up at the blow that would have ruptured his stomach if it hadn't been Reinforced, but the sheer power of it sent him flying like a twig all the same.
He thought that by appealing to her own personal tragedy, she would see things his way or at least be confused enough for him to incapacitate her and then make his escape. That didn't go as planned by a long shot, and instead of slowing her down he managed to make her stop toying with him altogether.
'At this rate… I'm going to lose.'
He hadn't bought nearly enough time for Yumizuka to get to a safe distance, and running away was not an option against an opponent that outmatched him by such a magnitude. All he could do was hold his ground at the best of his ability.
No, that alone would not suffice anymore, but he had at least one more ace in the hole. Something he didn't think he'd have the opportunity or the need to use before the Holy Grail War.
'Medea,' he though regaining his balance midair as his body got closer to the ground again. 'Thank you.'
He directed a portion of the Prana he still had left to the bracelet on his arm and felt it warm up in response.
"Conceptual Armament: Deploy!"
Unknown to Emiya Shirou, Ciel was more than a just little upset. Her mind was shaken, both by the memories associated with her birth name, Elesia, as well as the sheer feeling of violation caused by hearing it spoken by a person who had no right to such knowledge.
Rage overcame her and she miscalculated her strength. A wide gap was formed between them and the Magus capitalized on that opportunity and made his move.
"Conceptual Armament: Deploy!"
The unnatural echo of those words revealed their nature as an Aria, but Ciel, not having followed through with her offence, was too late to prevent them from taking effect.
From his wrist, right beneath his clothes, bright lines of light shot out, twisting at odd angles and intersecting with each other as they climbed up his arm. The areas enclosed by the crossed lines darkened as they tightened around his body, assuming consistence, structure and presence.
When his feet touched the ground again those lines had reached all the way to the other side of his body and descended to his waist. As they continued to his lower body, outlining the form of two coattails, the hand from which they originated went for his face running over his eyes and through his hair, pulling them backward. By the time his hand returned to his side the lines had completely wrapped around his body and his face now donned a mask that hid the area around his eyes.
Emiya Shirou stood back on his feet again, draped in cloth as black as the night itself, lined with crimson red inserts to outline the detail of his body, with bow and quiver strapped securely to his back.
"Twisted Embrace: Deployment complete."
As the leftover power of the exchange washed away, Shirou went once more over the specification of the Mystic Code that covered his body. 'Twisted Embrace', as Medea called it, was the sublimation of his efforts and her otherworldly knowledge of Magecraft.
Created from the Materials he had gathered himself, soaked in a large amount of his blood for days and weaved together by Medea's slender hand, Twisted Embrace was a Mystic Code that existed because of and for Emiya Shirou alone, and while others could use it if they got their hands on it, it would never work as well for them as it did for him.
The Conceptual Armament offered no boost to his offensive capabilities whatsoever, but on the other hand it offered an increase in defense the likes of which he never thought possible. It was understandable, as it was meant to protect his frail human frame in a war between supernatural entities, each of which could be considered as a natural disaster in humanoid form. Of course Medea would go out of her way to give even the slighter edge to his survival chances.
Quite frankly he would have preferred something he could use to protect somebody else, but he figured that using his own body as someone else's shield was just as good. Maybe even better, really, provided that it didn't shatter at the first contact with the enemy.
He still couldn't win, but if he played his cards right he wouldn't lose either.
Ciel blinked through her anger at the sight of Emiya's new outfit. She wondered what was so special about it before really noticing the bow and arrow strapped to his back. Had she found the true identity of Fuyuki City's infamous Archer?
Ciel brought her rage under control, if only barely, just in time for Emiya – Archer – to Project a long sword, a nodachi right into his hands. She thought he would resort to long ranged attacks as his alias suggested, but he must have understood by then that she was no slouch in the department. After all she carried the operative name of Yumi (Bow).
The length of Archer's sword was an advantage in melee combat and the blade itself had an aura of danger that she couldn't miss or ignore. Despite her cursed immortality, she could still be harmed just as any other human being, so while she couldn't quite die, neither could she rush ahead blindly. This was an opponent she had to take down with all of her ability.
The comforting presence of Monohoshizao in his hands gave Shirou a minor boost in confidence. His skills lacked severely compared to his opponents but the same could not be said for the skill of Sasaki Kojirou recorded within the blade.
True, Shirou's replication of his abilities wasn't perfect and Kojirou had not faced opponents with supernatural abilities, but Shirou's own experience would make up for that.
Still, he had a feeling that even the combined experience of the deceased swordsman and himself would not suffice against the Executioner. Her immortality aside, he knew that her range of empowering Mysteries far outclassed his own and even with Kojirou's superlative skills he could only close the gap so much.
Then again he didn't have many options. He had to buy as much time as he possibly could, so he might as well get on the offensive, for a change. Lifting the sword to eye level he charged ahead.
Monohoshizao swung, again and again. Flawlessly, with clear purpose it cut through the air like it had done many times in the past. He caught a glimpse of surprise in his opponent's eyes as she fended off every single strike. The Executor was not caught unprepared, but she certainly didn't expect him to have such a high level of proficiency with a sword.
For few shorts moments he had the upper hand in their exchange, but it took only a moment for her to adjust and bring the fight to even grounds again. Which really wasn't even ground at all, as Monohoshizao was an inferior blade in structure compared to the Black Keys used by the Executioners. Soon enough it would shatter under the strain of their confrontation and when that happened Ciel would not give him time to Project another.
With that realization, inspiration struck him, and Shirou had to refrain from smirking.
The clashing of steel against steel marked the exchange of blows at superhuman speed for the next few seconds, each strike chipping away at Monohoshizao's existence. Three more blows, Ciel knew from the vibrations that came from the nodachi and her own combat experience, and the steel would shatter.
Emiya inched backward as if preparing for a retreat.
Ciel followed suit, not relenting in her offense, anticipating the moment when the sword gave in.
One blow. Monohoshizao shattered.
With his hands now free, Emiya punched at her, but his fist went past her face as she dodged point blank. At the same time she slashed at him with a set of three Black Keys. The hallowed blades found his arm in his path and her eyes widened when they didn't break through. They slid off the material harmlessly, causing runes to glow lightly in the area around the point where the swords had connected.
Any further reaction was denied when Shirou's punch curved behind her shoulders and struck the back of her head in a technique she had never seen before.
Her skull fractured but she didn't pass out. She wished she had, though.
She knew he was good with ranged weapons. She was surprised that he was excellent with a sword. She certainly did not expect him to surpass her at hand-to-hand.
Her blades were knocked out of her hands and the defense she brought up empty handed served no purpose. His blows connected viciously no matter what she did. Dodging was no good, and parrying did even less. He struck from odd angles, shattering bones with each strike.
It was like fighting against a damn snake. It would have been funny if it weren't so infuriating. She thought she was prepared to fight off snakes. It turned out she was wrong.
The thought filled her with rage. Boiling black. All consuming. All encompassing.
She wanted blood almost as badly as back in those days.
Gaia's curse kicked in almost in response to her wish and her wounds disappeared in a moment.
Like a rabid dog whose chain had been suddenly cut off, she lashed out, reaching out to depths of Roa's Magecraft she had willed herself to bury out of spite.
Saying that she struck back would be an understatement.
She ignored the blows still raining on her body, she ignored all the bones being rebroken, she altogether shrugged off her own throat being ripped out by Emiya when he realized that his superficial attacks were no longer slowly her down.
She struck and struck and struck again. Every blow connected, though she didn't know if they had any effect on her opponent since he stood his ground and retaliated in kind.
Soon, though, it became apparent that the advantage was hers. Even before their fight, Emiya was weakened severely and while her attacks seemed ineffective, so did his. Gaia's curse kicked in three more times, restoring her body, before she finally managed to overwhelm Emiya, slamming him against a wall on the other side of the street with a powerful punch into his abdomen.
The wall cracked and almost gave in when Emiya's body smashed against it. The Magus fumbled to regain his balance but slid onto the ground, seemingly unfazed despite the blow. Ciel had no intention of letting him get back on his feet.
With a flick of her wrist, a Black Key appeared in her hand at the same time as she covered the distance between them with a single jump. She straddled his body with her own, pinning both his arms under her knees, forcing him down on the ground.
She lifted the Black Key above her head, blade pointed down to pierce through her opponent's body with all of her strength, protective gear and all. She knew by the flicker of fear in his eyes that his Mysteries would not be enough to protect him from this kind of attack.
Without hesitation she swung the blade down.
Through the tension of the fight Shirou had felt his energies, both physical and spiritual, deplete with each passing second. From the very beginning he knew he could not win, not really, against an opponent he had no means to either restrain or injure for more than a few seconds.
Ultimately it came down to how long he could keep her occupied. It was a respectable amount of time, and with Medea's 'Twisted Embrace' that time had gone up significantly, all the more so with the use of 'The Snake'. It was the first time he had been able to use his teacher's technique without holding back…then again, it was the first time he had fought an opponent that could not die.
Funny, he pondered while on the ground with death staring him right in the face, how the first time would also be the last.
He didn't regret his choices. Even with his life about to end, he didn't think he had made the wrong call in siding with Yumizuka. But still, there was a bitter taste his mouth. He wouldn't be able to keep his promise after all.
'Medea…. I'm sorry.'
The blade flashed down.
She ran faster than she ever had in her entire life, faster than she thought possible.
It took her a moment to realize.
She had never been particularly good at physical activities, scoring average grades in PE. Running at this speed for so long should have left her breathless.
She stopped, leaning against a street lamp.
For a moment she chalked up her sudden physical prowess to adrenaline, but when she thought about it she felt no strain at all. Her breathing was even and while her heart was beating at an accelerated rate it was out of fear rather than effort.
Her body had changed, she realized. She was a vampire now, she told herself.
She drew her tongue over her canines, finding them unexpectedly unchanged. Would they grow out when needed, in the movies, or would she have to feed by mauling the throat of her would-be victims with blunt teeth?
She shuddered, images of herself chewing out a faceless person's neck flashing through her mind, repulsing her only because of the feeling of expectation they carried.
She chortled, though it almost came out as a sob. It was comical, really, because it was all backwards.
She was running away, escaping from the thing in the night that sought to kill her, but it was all wrong. Instead of the damsel being chased, she was the monster that should be lurking in the shadows. Even if she got away from this impending danger, where could she go where the monster couldn't reach her?
Nowhere. There was nowhere for her to escape the fate that had befallen her. No safe haven, no happy ending, no salvation, no cure. She could run all she wanted and it would still take her nowhere at all.
At the same time, a person she had met only briefly, a person who had shown her compassion instead of the disgust and disdain she probably deserved, remained back to fight for her sake.
A human fighting to his death so that the monster could live.
It was wrong.
Wrong, wrong, wrong, wrong-wrong-wrong-wrongwrongwrongwrong.
The groaning of crushed metal and the flickering of the artificial light snapped her out of her loop. The hand on which she was leaning had clenched around the lamp, squeezing and twisting the steel like it was barely tougher than some clay.
Thoroughly deformed, the lamp fell on the concrete and shattered on impact, clothing in shadows the area where Satsuki stood.
Monster, her mind accused, a word that required no further explanations.
Her humanity was lost, left behind in that alley where she had been killed.
'Then go get it back.'
The ridiculous thought almost made her laugh out loud. What use would it be to return there now? What could she possibly achieve by going back?
Even if by some strange twist of luck, something she felt she sorely lacked as of late, she managed not to make herself a burden and invalidate all of Emiya's efforts to allow her to escape what would that mean for her?
At the end of the day, she would still be a vampire. A blood sucking monster.
But what is the true measure of a monster? Who decides what is and is not a monster? If she were truly one, would Emiya have put his life on the line for her? By his own admission, he should have killed her on the spot, but instead he claimed that he wouldn't have her pay for being a victim. She hadn't hurt anyone yet; she hadn't killed anyone yet.
Did he mean that even though she was a blood-sucking vampire she had yet to become a monster? That he believed that it was up to her to make the difference? That it would be her choice to decide her true nature?
The thought was almost enough to give her relief, but it also brought forth a very undeniable truth: she was already standing at that crossroad.
And so it was with surprisingly little thought for one such as her, even though it scared her to her core, even though she wanted nothing but to return home and pretend it was all a dream, that Yumizuka Satsuki made the most important choice of two lives.
One shout tore through the night and Ciel's body was yanked away from Emiya's.
A street lamp, wrenched straight from the asphalt by the looks of it, hit Ciel with the speed of a running car, sending her tumbling away from her quarry.
She rolled on the ground, immediately regained her bearings, standing back on her feet with her guard raised. Her thought process reached a screeching halt for the second time at the nature of the interloper, a sentiment shared by Emiya who stared, as dumbfounded as she was, at the newcomer.
Yumizuka Satsuki stood in the middle of the road, trembling arms still stretched, shock and fear etched upon her features and tears pooling at the corners of her eyes. There was no doubt that just being on the scene was terrifying her beyond words.
Yet she had returned of her own volition.
"Yu…," Emiya choked as he stood back on his feet, "Yumizuka-san? What are you doing here?"
"I-I-I..," she stuttered switching glances between the redhead Magus and Ciel. "If I left the person who saved me to die while I just ran away, then I… I would really be a monster."
The vampire's words smacked Ciel in the face far less gently than a speeding freight train would have
There she was, a vampire, a creature that by all means should be hunted to death solely because of her nature, risking the cursed life she clung to. And for what? For a principle: for a concept of humanity that transcended mere words and could express itself through only actions.
A vampire, a monster that should feed on humanity hadn't run from death, but returned to save one of those people that should be no more than convenient food bags and would-be thralls.
Bitterness seemed to overflow from her heart. Bitterness and anger.
How could she dare to so blatantly cling to her humanity after becoming a Dead Apostle? What right did she have to be clean and free of sin while the same opportunity hadn't been granted to her?
'You of all people should understand this… Elesia.'
And she did understand. She understood all too well, damn him, but still… why hadn't be there someone to save her as well when she needed it most? Why hadn't there been someone, anyone, to grant her an opportunity to hold onto her humanity when Roa took over her body?
She blinked with sudden realization. 'Ah.'
Jealousy? Is that what it was? Her anger and bitterness at Emiya were because he hadn't been there for her like he was doing for Yumizuka?
As if any of it had been his fault to begin with, really…but even in light of this newfound enlightenment the situation hadn't changed though her perspective on everything had shifted greatly.
A man that was willing to fight to the death for a vampire, and a vampire who held onto her humanity by putting her life on the line for a human. What right did she have to pass judgment on either of them?
Before a vampire that that held onto her humanity, would she be willing to become a monster, again, for the sake of duty, or more basely, her own resentment?
What would she choose between becoming a human or monster?
- PotK Wiki –
(Also known as Infodump)
The Mystic Code developed by Medea is a Conceptual Armament. Besides being reinforced via extensive Magecraft during its creation, the clothing controls the Concept of "Surface" essentially redistributing the strength at the point of contact to all the surface of the Mystic Code. For that reason in order to break through the material it's necessary to put force superior to the sum of all threads that make the Mystic Code. This is made more difficult by its function to discharge most of the received force on the ground, provided that both of Shirou's feet are firmly planted on the ground.
The downside of this armament is that a blow strong enough to destroy it and kill Shirou (such as a blow from Berserker's sword-axe) would be distributed to all of the body making it lethal even if it just his arm. It's a very doubled edged weapon and it's not intended to be used in combat against Servants but only to grant protection in the general vicinity of their clashing with each other.
The mask, the bow and the quiver have different functions and control different Concepts.
The mask: "Identity." The bearer cannot be recognized unless the beholder is already aware of how is hiding behind the mask. A witness would not be able to describe the details of his appearance.
The quiver "Space". It's quite simply a folded space that can contain hundred of arrows. It also provides an area hidden from prying eyes where Shirou can Project projectiles he doesn't have in stock either because he didn't charge them or because he run out.
The bow: "Intent". Simply put it acts as a catalyst for the user intent. It strengthens Shirou already extraordinary aim and also offers a boost to his focus when using Magecraft. Because she lacked suitable materials, Medea wasn't able to complete this code therefore it has no active enhancements.
Many would argue that the Black Keys, being used as thrown weapon most of the time, are disposable and are therefore lost after use. Hence , there shouldn't be any History for Shirou to trace in Ciel's Black Keys.
I strongly disagree with this seeing how the Church, much like the Clock Tower, puts a lot of stock on secrecy. The area of an operation is swept thoroughly and all proofs are erased. As such there is no reason for the Black Keys not to be recovered. Seeing how members of the Burial Agency such as Ciel operates mostly alone there's little chance for them to be mixed up with someone else's.
For those who aren't familiar with Tsukihime (heretics the lot of you) Ciel was the previous incarnation of Roa, a vampire that pursued immortality by transferring his soul/memories to specifically selected hosts. Under Roa's possession she slaughtered her family and turned the inhabitants of her village into her slaves. She was killed by Arcueid but having an incredible potential for Magecraft her body was resurrected with her original personality while Roa moved to the next host (the current one).
However, since she's technically still Roa in the eyes of Gaia she's caught in a paradox for which she cannot die while Roa still lives. Every time she's wounded or killed, Gaia reverse her time and restores her to the starting condition. For this reason she doesn't age as well and she's much older (how much it was never specified) that what she appears to be.
I can't believe it's been over three months since the last update. Sure a lot of stuff happened to me in the meantime and this chapter had gone more revisions than any other thus far. Then again the plot is getting complicated, more characters are making their appearances and their actions are having longer lasting repercussion. It's a difficult phase overall.
I can't make promise about update rates at this point. Every time I do it takes more than the previous time to complete a chapter. The only thing I can guarantee is that I'm going to try my best to deliver high quality chapters as soon as possible.
Thank you for your understanding and continued support.
Until the next time.