Escalation (IV)

Shirou and Caster, along with Tohsaka and Saber, circled the charred remnants of the Kotomine church. It had truly burned to the ground, save for the stoneworks that still stood like a charred skeleton of its former self.

"This is definitely the work of Magecraft," said Caster, as she hovered above the ruins. "A Noble Phantasm, most likely."

"Yes, but whose?" asked Tohsaka. "From what we know of Lancer's, it doesn't look like his work."

"Then it must have been the other Servant that Shirou saw fighting him," concluded Saber. "I would exclude the Assassin Class if that's the case."

"I wouldn't be so fast in assuming anything of the sort," protested Caster. "I'm sure there's been plenty of Heroes that would qualify for the spot of Assassin whose Noble Phantasm isn't necessarily the subtle sort."

"Whatever the case, why would they attack the church?" asked Shirou. "What could they possibly have to gain?"

"The Church was never really neutral to being with," observed Tohsaka. "Maybe someone wanted to get rid of a potential enemy?"

"It could be, but it sounds like a stretch. In the last War, the Church had their own Servant so they posed an actual threat," Shirou objected.

"Do you have a better idea, then?"

"The leftover Command Seals from all the previous conflicts would be a good reason to kill Kotomine. I don't know how many there were, but even a single additional Sigil is a game-changer."

"There is that," Tohsaka conceded, crossing her arms over her chest.

"The real question is, where would Kotomine hide after this?" he asked.

"You speak as if you were absolutely certain he's still alive," Tohsaka observed.

"Until I see a body? You are damn right I do. And even then I'd keep an eye out in case it was a decoy of some kind. When it comes to the Moonlit World, what is apparent isn't necessarily what is true. With the likes of Kotomine even more so."

"Then you have more sense than I gave you credit for," Tohsaka acknowledged. "However, I have no clue as to where he might have gone. He never really confided in me, even though he was my mentor."

"We could try with Caster's divination," Shirou suggested. "Caster, do you think you could scavenge something that could be used as a catalyst for scrying?"

"That's unlikely. Everything is burnt to a crisp," she said, shaking her head.

"I might have something that could help back home, but I don't see much point doing it now. If he's still alive, he's going to stay that way until morning. It would be better if we spent our time patrolling the city, trying to bait the missing Servant into coming at us."

"Agreed. Rider, do you have news on that front?" Shirou asked, pushing a finger on the earbud connected to the radio they were all outfitted with.

"None, Master," she crackled through the connection. "Everything's quiet. No traces of supernatural activity that I can tell."

She had been sent to watch the city center from the top of a skyscraper. It was unlikely that she would be attacked, but there was a chance she could spot something amiss.

"That's how it is then. Let's all split up and keep an eye out. If nothing happens we'll convene again tomorrow afternoon."

"Alright," agreed Tohsaka. "Give us a heads-up if anything goes on. Please, don't do any more heroics on your own, Emiya-kun."

"I'll try," he said in reply.

Tohsaka just shook her head at his noncommittal answer. They left the hill and went to patrol their respective areas, hoping that the mysterious Servant would target any of them so that they could rope the sixth Heroic Spirit into a ceasefire as well. Unfortunately, the night passed without anything amiss taking place and come dawn they all returned home without having slept a minute and without anything to show for it.

Sometimes, being the good guys was a frustrating task in and of itself.


After breakfast, Shirou went to school as if he hadn't been awake the whole night. He was starting to get used to sleeping even less than normal. Avalon helped in that regard as well. In fact, it seemed to be more effective than ever, though he wasn't sure about the reason.

Once at school, he saw Issei in passing, who just nodded to him, and also ran into Mitsuzuri.

"Oh, Emiya, there you are," said the captain of the archery club upon coming up to him.

"Mitsuzuri-san. How are you doing? Did you recover well enough?"

"Yes, mostly. Thank you. I wasn't hurt too badly to begin with. It was more scary than anything else."

"Oh? I was under the impression that you didn't remember what happened," replied Shirou.

"I don't. Not really. I just recall being extremely scared. Still, it's weird. What kind of maniac would just steal my blood? And don't give me any crap about vampires."

"I don't know, though it seemed he wasn't trying to kill you, at least."

"I know, right? The doctors said that the creep stopped just short of doing permanent damage, like he knew exactly what he was doing. He probably just wanted to avoid being wanted for murder, instead of just assault. The police are already dropping the case."

"Oh, really?" Shirou asked, although he already knew about it through Dojima.

"Yes. They said they have nothing to work with. It's already been a few days and there hasn't been another case. They think that the perp got scared and decided to drop it."

"Or maybe he realized that what he did was wrong?" Shirou suggested.

"That's just like you to suggest something like that, Emiya," Mitsuzuri snorted. "If you keep thinking that highly of everyone, you're going to be the next victim. Though I suppose that's why I - that's why you get along with Matou."

"Hahaha," Shirou laughed. "Shinji isn't that bad."

"That's exactly what I'm talking about," she said, wiggling a finger in front of his face. "Although maybe you weren't exactly wrong either."

"Hm? What do you mean?" he asked.

"He's been showing up to practice every day lately," she explained. "He stopped dropping his duties on the underclassmen too. He's still rude to his sister, though. Even if..."


"No, it's nothing. It's not really polite talking about other people behind their back anyway, but I suppose there's more to him than meets the eye."

"I'm glad to hear that," said Shirou, relieved.

"Yes, well. We'll see how long it lasts," Mitsuzuri said somewhat derisively. "Anyway, I should probably get to class before I'm late. Drop by the club sometimes, alright?"

"Sure. I'll do that if I have the time," he replied. "I'll see you later, Mitsuzuri-san."

Mitsuzuri nodded and went to class and Shirou too headed towards his own.

'Rider,' he said through his connection with the Servant.

'Yes, Shirou?'

'Thank you.'

She didn't acknowledge his gratitude in any way, though Shirou had the weird impression that she wasn't being dismissive as much as she was feeling bashful. It looked like she didn't know how to handle praise, but that was fine too.

Without wasting any more time, he reached his classroom and sat at his place. War or not, he had to pay attention if he wanted to keep his grades up.


After classes, unlike what he had said previously, Shirou headed straight home. Tohsaka would be coming over to his place soon. Being tardy wouldn't win him any points.

On his way back, however, he felt that something was amiss. He looked around the crowd of students leaving the building, but he saw nothing out of place.

'What's wrong?' asked Rider.

'Nothing, just... keep your eyes open. I have a strange feeling. Like I'm being watched.'

'An enemy?'

'Who knows. Let's just keep our guard up.'

'Of course,' she agreed. It was improbable that a Magus would attack in broad daylight with all these people, but it was exactly that kind of assumption that Kiritsugu exploited to take down some of his targets. Their trip back was fortunately uneventful, however, and the feeling of being watched receded the closer he got home.

Maybe he was just being paranoid, but paranoid was better than dead, so he didn't let his guard down at all until he was safely inside Medea's Boundary Field.


Tohsaka arrived about an hour later, with Saber in tow, of course.

"Have you brought the Catalyst?" Medea asked.

"Of course," replied Tohaka, pulling out of her school back a paper-wrapped object. She put it on the table and revealed its contents.

It was a knife. The Azoth knife to be precise. Shirou's eyes narrowed upon seeing it and his throat went dry as he processed the history engraved inside the ritual weapon.

"Kirei gave me this knife as a graduation present not too long ago," Tohsaka said, holding it up for everyone to see as she explained. "It's been in his possession for longer than it has been mine. I believe it could work."

"Tohsaka... put that down," Shirou warned.

"Huh? I'm not going to stab you with it, Emiya. Even if you make me feel like it sometimes."

"It's not that. Just... put it down please."

"Alright, what is it?" she asked.

"Can you please just do as I say?" he begged.

"Not until you tell me why."

"Look… as a side effect of my Origin and Element I can tell everything about a sword the moment I see it. Like blade-only psychometry that works on sight. That knife... Kotomine used it to stab your father in the back not five minutes after he got it as his own graduation present."

"Emiya, if this is your idea of a joke…," Tohsaka warned.

"I would never joke about something like that," he replied grimly.

There was a tense moment of silence and then the blade flashed down. Tohsaka stabbed the Azoth knife into the living room table down to the hilt, where she held it with a whitened grip. Her eyes were unfocused, but they looked positively murderous.

"Rin... please calm down," said Saber. Although her Master had been completely silent for several moments already, it was obvious that she was about to explode.

Her eyes turned to Saber, and though she spoke in a low voice, it was cold and sharp as ice.

"That bastard… He betrayed my father and took me as his own apprentice. He had the guts to give me the murder weapon as a graduation present. That son of a bitch has been playing a sick joke on my entire family the whole time. I'll rip his heart out with a rusty spoon and feed it to him slowly."

"You already suspected him, didn't you?" Shirou asked as he processed her words.

"I... yes. Since I knew he was the Master of Assassin in the previous war. I thought he could have killed dad in the War but..."

"But they were allies, and your father trusted him," he concluded.

"Are you absolutely sure?" she asked. "I swear if you are lying to me about this, I'll…"

"Tohsaka, please. I would never say something that hurtful if it wasn't the truth."

Tohsaka nodded and took a few breaths, calming herself down. She managed to get her emotions under control for the most part, but the dark fire burning in her eyes had not subsided in the least. No one present could really blame her.

"Caster, can you track him with it?"

"I can try, but considering what we just learned, using the knife as a catalyst is more likely to point towards you than to him."

"Please, give it a try all the same."

"Of course," Medea agreed, and begun the scrying ritual right there and then.

The inside of the scrying tool filled with a shapeless mist, which whirled and swept. Glimpses of images peeked from the gray smoke every now and then. Shirou was able to recognize some of them. The Tohsaka mansion, a grave with her father's name, but also something that he felt like he should recognize but failed to.

A wreathing black mass, seemingly uniform except where it was broken here and there by flashes of pink and purple.

Next to him, Rider took a sharp breath through her nose, but when Shirou turned to look at her she looked her usual self. He had probably imagined it, so he returned is attention to the ongoing ritual.

Eventually the image cleared up and they found themselves looking at their own image at that very moment.

"Nothing, as I feared," sighed Medea. "This knife is literally soaked in the blood of your family."

Tohsaka clenched her fist but said nothing. "Saber, let's go."

"Hold up. Where do you think you're going, Tohsaka?" Shirou asked.

"Where else? To look for that backstabbing fake priest. Even if I have to turn every single rock in this city I'll drag his slimy face out."

"Wait, wait, wait. Look, that guy knows what he's doing. He won't come out unless he has to and don't forget he still has the leftover Command Seals from the previous wars. He could use them to bribe the missing Servants against us if he feels threatened."

"I'm not going to pretend nothing happened and let him get away with it, Emiya!"

"And I'm not asking you to," he agreed. "But you are not thinking clearly right now and Kotomine is a crafty fox. If you are careless, you are the one who'll wind up dead."

"He's right, Rin," Saber pitched in. "I'd be more than glad to help you getting revenge, but we don't know what happened at the Church yet. We would be dancing at someone else's tune."

"I... I can't believe that I would be taking advice about carefulness from the like of you, Emiya."

"That just goes to show how out of it you are right now," he said, taking full advantage of the foothold he had been given. Tohsaka even snorted in amusement.

"Look, Emiya. I fully give up on the Grail but no matter what it takes I want Kotomine found, do you get me?"

"Of course. I'll help you find him if that's what it takes."

"You would do that?" she asked. "Even though you know what I'll do when I find him?"

"I... honestly didn't like Kotomine from the beginning. It was a visceral feeling, like we're natural enemies. I don't know why and I wouldn't have followed through with it without an actual cause, but now that you are set in hunting him down, you can count me in."

"Huh. It seems your instinct is better than mine then," Tohsaka admitted, begrudgingly.

"That's hardly something I should be praised for", he protested.

"That's nice and all," said Medea, sounding annoyed, "But there's still the matter of tracking him down. It's safe to assume that he'll be on the lookout for any Master or Servant searching for him at this point."

"He'll hide from us, that's for sure since there should be no reason for us to be looking for him in the first place," Shirou pitched in. "Strictly speaking, the supervisor can be a thorn in the side of all Masters, so he should be wary of all of them equally. More so now that one has tried to kill him."

"Then what do you suggest? That we just sit around and do nothing?" challenged Tohsaka.

"Nothing of the sort. It's at a time like this that it's useful to have a contact inside the police."

"You want to have Dojima look into it? You do understand how dangerous it might be."

"No more dangerous than being Servant bait," he concluded. "But seriously, there's nothing out of place about the police looking for a missing person in a case of arson. In fact, they are probably looking for him as we speak."

"That's pointless. Kirei is a Magus," she objected. "Even if they do find him, he's just going to hypnotize them in forgetting about it. That is if he doesn't just kill them."

"Yes, because they don't know what they dealing with. However, if they were to receive orders from their higher-ups to report any sighting of him but not to approach him..."

"Then the information would come back to us and we could get a trail on him," Tohsaka finished. "Emiya, that is pretty clever."

"It's nothing much. Besides, the police are going to do all the hard work, not me."

"Nonetheless, at least we have a plan now," said Saber. "One much better than scouring the city on our own. Our time and efforts are better employed elsewhere right now."

The last part of her statement was clearly directed to her Master, who sighed.

"Alright, alright. We'll go with your plan Emiya, but when we find him, Kirei is mine."

"I was not going to put myself between you and him for his sake. Kotomine had it coming at this point."

"I didn't expect you of all people to say something like that. I thought you were a full-time pacifist."

"Look, I would like for nothing more than everyone getting along and living peacefully, Tohsaka," Shirou sighed, "But if there's something I've learned from my father's mistakes is that even with the Grail there isn't such a thing as a world without conflicts and that a hero can only protect the people he sides with."

"That would be obvious," said Tohsaka.

"Is it, really?" he asked rhetorically. "I will always pick the solution in which everyone comes out alive and happy, and I don't really like the idea of people killing each other, but when I decided to tell you about Kotomine's betrayal I knew that you wouldn't have just let him get away with it."

"If that's how you feel, why did you tell me in the first place?" she asked, frowning.

"What else was I supposed to do? Not telling would have been the same as deceiving you. We don't always see eye to eye, Tohsaka, but I'm not in the habit of lying to my friends."

"Well, I appreciate it," said Tohsaka, and for once it didn't sound like she was saying just to be polite. Then she added "This time, at least. I don't really approve how you dealt with Issei."

"I know," Shirou replied.

"You just don't care," she accused, though there was no bite to it.

"It's not that. Look, most Magi have their own entourage of non-Magi that are in onto the big secret. I don't tell just anyone that magic is a real thing, you know?"

"You better not," Tohsaka mumbled. "Fine, I'll let it slide because you seem to know what you are doing most of the time, even when you set yourself up to seemingly suicidal plans."

"I prefer to call them high-risk, high-return investments," he said jokingly.

"I call them being an idiot, but they do seem to work out for you, against all logic. Who am I to talk?"

"Well, I appreciate the show of faith," said Shirou.

"Yes, yes. Don't take it as a blanket permission to get into additional troubles now."

"Oh, Tohsaka. Trouble has no problem finding me while I sit quietly in my own home."

"That's called karma, Emiya. Anyway, I should probably get home and have a look at my financial situation. Kirei is still my legal guardian and therefore in charge of the Tohsaka estate. I need to make sure he didn't pull any more tricks on me."

"You think he messed with your finances?"

"At this point, I wouldn't put it past him. We'll meet again tonight for the usual patrol, alright?"

"Sure. I'll get in touch with Dojima right away."

"You'll let me know as soon as they get any sighting on him, do you hear me?"

"Of course, so long as you promise not to go after him on your own. That guy is dangerous as they come."

"Is this coming from the guy who went to Berserker's place alone?" she asked, mockingly.

"That wasn't the same thing."

"Oh. Is Kirei more dangerous that Herakles in your opinion?"

"Yes, and not just a little, but a lot."

"Are you serious?" she asked, looking genuinely baffled.

"Of course. The sheer threat of Berserker can't possibly be overestimated, but in many ways he's like a crumbling mountain. If you aren't under it, you'll do just fine. Kirei is the type of guy that plays people against each other from the shadows. There is a high chance that the moment you finally get to him you are exactly where he wants you. Also…"

"What?" she insisted.

"I didn't go to Illya's place looking for a fight."

"Yes, fine. I'll give you that much," she admitted. "Alright. Since there's nothing left for me to do here, I'm going to head back. Saber, let's go."

"Yes, Rin," Saber concurred, standing up as well and bowing slightly as a greeting.

"I'll see you out," said Shirou, following after them. Tohsaka basically marched out, hardly stopping with Saber just a few steps behind.

"Hey, Saber. I know I don't have the right to say this, but please, make sure she doesn't do anything foolish."

"You do have that right," Saber replied with a faint smile. "We are comrades, are we not?"

"That we are," he agreed. "I will only say thank you, then."

"You are welcome Shirou, and do not worry. Protecting Rin is my sworn duty. Rather, make sure to stay out of trouble yourself. You are quite adept at finding yourself in them at every twist and turn."

"Eh, I guess you got me there," he admitted. "I'll do my best."

"Doing your best is what gets you in trouble more often than not, isn't it?" she asked rhetorically.

"Ha ha ha," he laughed awkwardly, rubbing the back of his head.

"I suppose that every virtue has a fault to match," she sighed good-naturedly. "You are doing good work, Shirou. Do keep it up, but be careful," she said, and turned to follow after Rin who was already quite a good distance away.

Shirou watched her leave and muttered his answer only when he was fairly sure she would no longer hear him.

"... yes, Your Highness."

Then he turned around and went back inside where his two Servants awaited his return. There were plenty of things that needed to be done.


At the police station, Dojima's phone rang several times before he deigned to pick up.

"Dojima speaking," he said in the receiver. "Oh, Shirou. I was wondering when you'd call. Let me guess. It's about the Kotomine church, isn't it? Yes, I've already started looking into it. I asked to have the case assigned to me," he took a drag from his cigarette as he listened.

"Oh, so you think Kotomine is still alive? Uh. Sure. That's actually for the best now that you mention it. I'll put up a notice to be on the lookout for him. Yes, I'll put this at the top of my list. Actually, it's probably best if I do this myself. Can't trust these people farther than I can toss them anyway. Uh-uh. I've had that on me all the time, you don't need to worry about it. Alright. I'll get back to you as soon as I find something. Later, then."

As soon as he put down the phone he got up from his chair, grabbed his coat, and dashed out of his office.

Finally something that he could help with other than being bait. This was detective work, right up to his alley. Kotomine Kirei thought he could hide from him in this city? He had another thing coming.

The truth was that ever since he was introduced to the Moonlit World, he had his informants keep their eyes peeled for the whereabouts of all the relevant people he knew about, Kotomine Kirei among them.

Now it was time to reap the benefit of that early work. If he didn't find out where the priest was hiding within forty-eight hours, he'll seriously consider changing career. He wasn't worried though, as he knew his own ability extremely well.

Of course, Kotomine Kirei was much more dangerous than any regular perp, but Dojima had no wish to get up and close with him. However, if by some reason it happened, he had insurance up his sleeve.

He honestly hoped he wouldn't have to use it. After all, he did not trust magic in the least. No amount of assurance from Shirou and Caster would convince him otherwise.

Saber would have said that he was a wise man. However, if she did, she'd have to take those words back all too quickly.