Escalation (VIII)

Ten years before, during the fourth Grail War, The King of Knights had crossed blades with Diarmuid Ua Duibhne.

The end that the honorable Lacer had met was one of the worst things she had the displeasure to witness in that conflict, even with the likes of Bluebeard around.

The Knight of Fianna deserved better than that. However, if she thought that was the end of the ignominy she had been clearly mistaken. It appeared that even death would not spare Diarmuid from humiliation.

The image of him that Saber was crossing blade with now, was nothing but a distorted reflection of what the man had been. The skills were there, but his speed and strength were greatly diminished. More importantly, his mind and his heart weren't present. All that Saber felt from him was unbidden hatred.

Saber's mind was full of questions. What was this treachery? Was this a Servant or something else? Would it stay dead once she killed it, or would another take its place like the many lesser shadows before it?

The disruption of the Wind King around Excalibur caused by the blackened Gáe Dearg was proof enough that the Noble Phantasms was the real deal, although it clearly just as diminished as the ghost wielding it.

Beyond that, all she knew for certain was that she was angry. Angry that the Grail she wished for was really such a nefarious thing. If she hadn't already made up her mind to destroy it, she would have at this moment.

"Fear not, Diarmuid. I shall put an end to this farce soon enough."

The Wind King around Excalibur roared.


"Yaah!" Rider shouted as she swung her chain at the chariot.

Although she managed to land a hit, it didn't seem to have much of an effect. When it charged forward, the chariot emitted powerful bolts of lightning that prevented her from getting too close and clearly even stripped her chain of much of the force behind it.

Bellerophon was wounded and could no longer display the might of its full speed. It was still faster than the chariot, but not so much that she could run circles around it.

She still had the advantage, but defeating this thing wasn't really her objective. The task given to her was to stop the advance of the swarm down below.

Which seemed to have slowed down on its own, to some degree. It looked like there were far lesser of those beasts down there. They were pouring out of the black lake at a much slower rate, in any event.

Rider was no Magus but she could more or less guess what was happening.

This manifestation before her was much more powerful than those scurrying on the ground beneath her. If the output from the hole in the sky was still the same, then it was obvious that it had less energy to give to lesser manifestations.

She didn't know what this thing really was. It felt like she was fighting a Servant, except it didn't seem it had any personality of its own. No, in fact it seemed to want nothing but to charge at her with inhuman rage.

She could deal with it, even with a wounded Bellerophon. However, there was no time to lose. Even though the swarm had slowed down, it had not stopped.

Her Master told her to prevent them from reaching the city and that was exactly what she would do.


"What's going on?" asked Tohsaka. "Is it ending?"

The sudden drop in the pressure they were getting from the swarm made her believe that maybe things were finally getting under control.

However, the sudden thunderous crash coming from Saber's position didn't really seem to suggest that. In fact, it looked like she had pulled out all the stops short of using her Noble Phantasm.

"I don't think so. Look!"

He pointed up at the sky, where Rider was squaring off with another flying figure.

"What is that?"

"That's Iskander! The King of Conquerors. Servant Rider from the Fourth Grail War."

"How do you know that?" she asked, before shaking her head. "Forget it. Are more Servants being summoned then?"

"It doesn't look that way. It might look like a Heroic Spirit but it doesn't feel like one. It's more similar to these things."

Yes, he had a point about that, considering that it was black from head to toe just like these other beasts. Just what was the Grail up to, exactly? Forget about malfunctioning. It had gone on a completely new tangent.

All the contingencies they had made, would they still be of any use now?


Saber was like a storm. With every swing of her sword, she sent shadows flying in the air like a bunch of leaves. Only the fake Diarmuid in front of her was much more resilient than that.

With Lancer's skills, it somehow managed to survive her assault. In fact, it even managed to put a few scratches on her, even though it was weaker than the original. The reason for that was simple. It had no consideration for his own existence.

Servants weren't into suicide tactics. For whatever reason they fought, they wanted to be left standing at the end of it all. Unless they absolutely had to, they would not just lay down their life. Save of Berserker, they would all exercise restraint and maybe even flee if they couldn't win.

This shadow had no such needs. It wanted her dead at all costs. Disregarding its own safety it could display a much higher level of ability.

It would only take a single mistake for her to destroy it for good, but the same could be said about her.

Against Gae Dearg her armor was useless and Gae Buidhe left cursed wounds that would not heal until it was destroyed. Their combined threat alone made her inevitably cautious.

Even so, the upper hand was definitely hers.

So long as she didn't underestimate her opponent, victory would be hers.


Despite having a flying Noble Phantasm, Rider wasn't exactly proficient at aerial battles. Bellerophon's supremacy in the sky was because of its astounding speed, not its maneuverability.

Insultingly enough, the chariot wasn't any less agile. In these conditions, their mounts were pretty much evenly matched.

Actually, Bellerophon might have been at a slight disadvantage in its wounded state. The lighting generated by the chariot charge was nothing to scoff at, so Rider kept Bellerophon well away from it.

However, while Rider's chain gave her sufficient reach to fight without getting too close, the man on the chariot was no slouch and batted it away with his short sword.

Everything was made much worse by the sheer intensity at which they came at her. They charged straight ahead almost mindlessly. Even a Berserker would have a bit more forethought than that. They didn't seem to care much about their own safety.

Well, Rider could make that work in her favor.

"Let's go. One more time, Bellerophon."

The white steed neighed and charged at the black chariot and its rider, which was already coming at them after turning around, following their previous exchange.

However, before they clashed, Bellerophon turned upward, heading further high into the sky. The black chariot did the same, chasing after them.

They rose and rose, piercing through the clouds.

Because of the slight difference in speed, Bellerophon managed to get some distance between them. Just enough so that they could turn around and change in the opposite direction before the chariot reached them.


Rider shouted as it pushed Bellerophon back down like a falling star aimed precisely at the black creature.

The mindless thing didn't even slow down and would have surely doubled up its own charge if it had the ability to do so.

Black and White clashed with the roar of thunder.


The Fake Diarmuid was forced on the back foot. Not because it wanted to, but because whatever remained of the real Lancer's skills and instinct made it receive her sword in the only way it could without being obliterated. That is to say by taking a step back when the power of the exposed Excalibur hit his spears.

If there was any intelligence left behind those hollow eyes, it should have known by then that they wouldn't be turning things around. The Saber class was hailed as the strongest of the seven, and while that might not have been an absolute truth, a pale imitation of a Servant was no match for her in direct combat.

Even the real Diarmuid had gotten the upper hand on her only by fooling her into making a mistake, rather than overwhelming her through skills and raw strength. This thing possessed nothing of his wits and intelligence, but even if he had them, it was still an opponent that Saber had already fought. In short, it had drawn the short stick on almost all fronts.

As for the lesser shadows, they couldn't even get close to Saber now. She had removed the Wind King from around Excalibur, but it still roared around her, wiping anything that tried to get through it. If the Grail believed that adding the fake Servant to the mix was going to make any difference, Saber intended to teach it better.

Suppressing her with numbers? A laughable concept.

And stealing the Knight of Fianna's appearance and abilities? Absolutely contemptible.

The King of Knights wasn't one to be easily angered, but the Grail had certainly succeeded in the foolish endeavor.

The steel-like resolve of the King to put an end to this mockery was obvious even to the mindless creature at the receiving end of her wrath. Perhaps that was the reason why, when she came in for a powerful thrust, it did not dodge or parry, but rather threw itself right on her blade.

Excalibur pierced its torso back to back, right to the hilt. The fake Diarmuid's arms fell to its side and dropped its weapons to the floor.

Saber looked up to his face, perhaps hoping to see a glint of the long-dead rival in them, hoping that being released from this existence would somewhat restore its sanity like it had happened with Lancelot.

Instead, she found that its hollow eyes were smiling predatorily.


Diarmuid inflated like a balloon and exploded, creating a bubble of mud that wrapped itself entirely around Saber and swallowed her whole.


With the assistance of gravity, Bellerophon's charge had gained a slight boost.

Not enough that it would make any real difference, but that wasn't what Rider was aiming for in the first place.

Oh, the black chariot was expending a hell of a lot of energy trying to charge upward against an opponent coming downward. An intelligent being would not have made such a blunder, choosing instead to regain an even ground before attacking. There wasn't much intellect to be found in this creature.

As result, they were both rapidly falling to the ground. Not enough that the impact would kill either one of them, but that wasn't Rider intent either.

It was all just a distraction, after all.

The blinding light of Bellerophon made it extremely hard to see through it. Rider's form was entirely invisible to anyone looking, even and especially the Black Rider. Still, he wasn't so incompetent that he would not expect her to attack at that moment so when her chain came whirling at his face, he batted it away just as he had done all the times before.

Still, it had done its job, namely taking away his attention from its surroundings.

One of the main perks of the chain as a weapon was that when wielded properly, it was possible to make it strike from any direction, and not just from that of the user.

The Black Rider's mistake was thinking that Medusa was still on Bellerophon's back simply because her chain had come from that point. It realized its mistake when the nail at the end of her chain pierced his neck from behind.

Rider had long since jumped off, taking advantage of the fact that they weren't falling as fast as gravity required, to sneak behind her opponent and deliver a fatal strike.

The Black Rider went limp and the chariot began to lose power. Rider quickly dismissed Bellerophon lest she was crushed to the ground in the next two seconds by her own Noble Phantasm.

That was her mistake. Lowering her guard too soon.

Rather than disappearing like a Servant would have, the black mass exploded into a giant blob of mud.

Had she been on the ground, Rider might have perhaps been able to move out of the way, but in free fall she couldn't possibly dodge. The mud engulfed her and the entire black mass crashed ruinously to the ground.

The lesser shadows at the point of impact were crushed, adding to the mud which had swallowed Rider, completely submerging her.



There was an explosion and the mud which had covered Saber was immediately swept away. In a split-second reaction that only a Servant could have, Saber used her Mana burst to wipe away the bubble of mud that had tried to swallow her.

"Was it trying to devour me?" she wondered.

As it had been revealed, the Grail was fueled by the souls of the defeated Servants. Was this event nothing more than an attempt to do that?

That would explain why they were attracted to them more than Shirou and Rin.

Further contemplations were to be put aside because, on the other side of the park, a tower-like- pile of mud was rising toward the sky. Inside it a human figure struggled to get free.


"Uuuk!" Shirou groaned as an intense pain went through his body.

"What's wrong? Are you hurt?" asked Tohsaka.

"No… Something is draining all my Mana. … Rider?"

He looked in the direction where Rider had crashed.

To his horror, a huge pile of mud had started to rise toward the sky, like a dark, twisted tower. All of the shadows that were attacking the two Magi halted on the spot and turned around heading in that direction. Even at a distance, it was obvious they were throwing themselves into it, adding even more mass to the pile.

'Shirou!' Caster warned. 'Rider's being devoured by that thing.'


Sure enough form of Rider could be seen struggling to emerge from the dark substance. However, she slowly went limp and her head fell to her chest, unmovable. A moment later, she disappeared behind the surface again.


It was everywhere. Inside her mouth, her nose, her ears, and her eyes. It was under her skin. crawling, biting, eating away at her.

'So cold.'

It was like ice, burning her bones, stripping her flesh.

'So cold.'

It went down her throat, filling her lungs and her stomach.

'So cold.'

It ran through her veins, freezing her blood, seizing her heart. Stretching and compressing every part of her being.

'So hungry.'


The whole point of training, for humans, is to be able to react without thinking, falling back on known behavior.

In the case of Emiya Shirou, no amount of training could override his ingrained reaction of rushing ahead when someone was in danger.

"Emiya, wait!"

He did not wait. There was no time to. Kanshou and Bakuya where already in his hands. But the distance was too great and there were far too many obstacles in between.

He needed to get there in a single moment, disregarding all the shadows that were still rushing to join the feast and save Rider before she was eaten.

He had the means to.

He crossed Kanshou and Bakuya behind his back like he had done hundreds of times in training, in preparation for the moment he'd have to use it.


Flooded with Mana, the Married Blades stretched out like huge metal wings. Each protruding feather-like shard threatened to explode at any moment.

Which they did.


Shirou took flight on flaming wings, propelled forward by the consecutive explosions of the feathers on his back, zipping above the frenzied shadows and on a course of impact with the black tower in which Rider was trapped.


He swung the Broken Mystic Codes, burying them into the construct and sending a last drop of Mana into them.

The structure of the Married Blades, already tethering on the edge of total collapse finally gave in.

For a brief moment, their mutual attraction effect was magnified to the utmost, to the point that they appeared to implode into each other. That only made the resulting explosion all that much stronger.

The conflagration blew the pile of mud from the inside out and threw Shirou up into the air. He had inclined his body in such a way that he would be sent upward, rather than back in the direction he came from.

Spiraling without control, his eyes searched for Rider and found her falling, seemingly unconscious some meters below him.

Beneath her, the shadows were already climbing on top of each other in order to reach her and resume devouring her.

He wouldn't let that happen.

Projecting a random blade under his foot, he kicked and propelled himself at Rider, He took her into her arms and summoned yet another blade using it as a foothold to change direction to the side.

The explosion of the Married Blades had cleared a sizeable area, which the shadows didn't bother covering in their mad rush to get at Rider.

Twisting his body in mid-air he managed to land successfully, skidding to a halt with Rider in his arms.

"Rider!" he called out. "Rider!"

There was no response. She didn't so much as stir. She simply laid in his arms as if she was dead, not even breathing.

Shirou felt a cold hand grip his spine, almost as if they had poured a bucket of ice on his head.


Tohsaka's voice was distant, and not just because it came from far away, but rather it seemed to be coming through some kind of wall.

It wasn't drowned out by the inhuman screeches of the creatures now rushing at him from all directions either.

"SHIROU!" Caster called out in alarm, up in the sky.

No, it wasn't a wall, that muffled their voices. It was a loud beating in his ears. His own heart beating like a sledgehammer against his own temples drowned out the other sounds

"Medea," he said. "Reverse Mana flow."


High above the battlefield, Caster was about to dive down to Shirou's side, even if that would mean undoing everything she did to seal the breach until now.

However, she was stopped in place by Shirou himself before she could follow through.

"Medea. Reverse Mana flow."

He spoke calmly. Not at all like a man about to be overrun by a horde of monsters.

He didn't use a Command Seal but he might as well have.

It wasn't a tone of voice that brooked no argument. Medea was all too familiar with it. Her own father used it very often after all.

Medea found herself doing exactly as instructed before she even realized it.


His hands were full. Rider's limp body laid in his arms. He could not hold a weapon without letting go of her.

He wouldn't do that. They would have to pry her off his cold corpse.

However, he wasn't afraid for his own life. Not because he lacked a reason, but because he was pissed. No, not just pissed. He was absolutely furious. Ever since this thing started he already felt murderous.

He was beyond even that now. That burning rage in his chest had turned cold, but it wasn't any less consuming.

He felt the Mana from Caster hit him with the weight of a huge waterfall.

Normally, it was the Master that provided the Servant with Mana, but Caster could gather more on her own than he ever could do for her.

As far as being a Master went, he only acted as her anchor. That meant that their roles could easily be reversed, and thus Shirou had access to the mana pool of a Magus from the Age of Gods.

As for the way in which to use it, there was no reason to ask. He wanted only one thing.

The complete and utter annihilation of these vermins.

His hands were full, but so what?

Was he a swordsman? An archer? A Magus?

He was all of those things at once.

"Trace: Bullet!"

The longsword that materialized at his side exploded forward as if shot by a cannon. It went through at least twenty shadows before it finally lost momentum and hit the ground.

By the time that happened a dozen more blades of all sizes and stripes had done the same things, followed by another dozen and another and then another.

In the span of five seconds, a hundred blades were shot in all directions and a thousand shadows were cut down.

Yet they kept coming, not even remotely slowed down. There were just too many and Shirou was but one man.

Indeed, the issue wasn't with how much Mana he had. Even with an unlimited amount, he had a finite amount of channels through which to express it.

He was born with twenty-seven Circuits, an already higher than average amount. But even using all of them simultaneously, as he was already doing he could only Trace twenty-seven blades at a time.

A paltry amount compared to the numbers of the horde.

But if there was one thing that anyone who knew Emiya Shirou could say about him, it was that he never let his limits dictate what he was allowed to do.

If there wasn't a path he only had to make one. If there weren't enough circuits, he only had to make more.

"I am the bone of my sword."

"Iron is my body and glass is my heart!"


Saber carved a path through the swarm. Having seen Shirou go to Rider's rescue and then land in the middle of the horde she knew they needed her help. Even if his hands weren't busy holding the fallen Servant, he would be hard-pressed fighting alone with his back unguarded.

A glace in Rin's direction let her know that her Master was safe. All the shadows had gone after Rider. Rin could deal with the few stragglers on her own.

It was Shirou who needed help the most. He would be overwhelmed if she didn't rend assistance.

At least that's what she thought until she looked above his position and saw it.

A wall of blades had appeared, hovering in mid-air.

She stopped in her tracks. Even though there was no gold halo behind them, it was just like…

And at that moment, swords rained in front of her once again.



The act of creating even a single Nerve Circuit was best described as injecting a scolding iron rod into one's own spine. If that didn't end up killing a person foolish enough to try it, it would at the very least drive them crazy.

But what if that person was insane to begin with?

It had taken Kiritsugu several months to realize that Shirou didn't use his own natural Circuits and instead made a new one out of his nerves each time.

He corrected him, but he failed to realize how broken his son truly was. No sane person could do what Shirou did. But Emiya Shirou wasn't sane. He had not been since that day in which hundreds perished and he lived.

The pain of turning a single nerve into a Magic Circuit did not deter him from trying to learn Magecraft.

Why would it deter him from doing the same to save a life? It didn't.

Not even when he made several dozen of them at once.


Was it a scream or was it a roar that sound that came from his mouth?

Either way, it seemed to completely drown out the screeching of the shadows. That and the sound of hundreds of swords raining upon them in all directions simultaneously.

It wasn't at random either. Each blade flew true, nailing at least five shadows at once.

The advance of the swarm wasn't just halted. It was actively being pushed back in a circle with Shirou at its center. A circle that kept spreading as more swords and more fell to the ground, stretching out toward the black lake from which they were coming.

Had he been in any condition to, he would have heard the sound of several blood vessels breaking inside his body. A drop of blood from Shirou's eyes made its way down his face, falling on the lips of the unconscious Rider.

In the midst of his rage, he didn't see her twitch briefly.

He just kept pushing blades out from ███████████

The additional pain of his body breaking in countless places didn't deter him. Rather it was only an outlet for the rage that had taken hold of him.


The energy from the Grail was finally running out, particularly because it kept trying to generate shadows at a faster rate than they were being destroyed.

Caster too was doing her part in funneling a good portion of that energy toward the sky where it would dissipate harmlessly, like the system she had implemented was meant to do from the start. Without that, there would have probably been twice the number of those things down there, and probably those fake Servants too.

Slowly, but surely, the breach started shrinking, going from being as big as a building down to the size of a truck. The flow of mud too diminished, turning into nothing more than a drip by the time the hole had become the size of a fist.

Then, with a strangled gurgle, the breach closed and the sky was whole once again.

After making sure it would not open again the moment her back was turned, Caster descended toward the battlefield.

The few shadows that had survived were quickly being mowed down by Saber and Rin. With the breach close, they should lose their power altogether and vanish into thin air, like the lake of mud down below was already doing. Soon enough there would be no trace left of the battle that had taken place at all.


Rin surveyed the destruction that surrounded her. The swarm was gone and the sky mended. However, not everything was back to normal.

In front of her stood a graveyard. There was no better way to describe it than that.

Countless swords stabbed into the ground like tombstones to all the people who had fallen in this place, ten years ago.

The oppressive feeling that came with the breach was gone, but there was a lingering sadness. She advanced toward the young man standing in the middle of the graveyard, holding the unconscious woman to his chest.

There was smoke coming off his body. It didn't take a genius to realize that it was his own body fluids that were rapidly evaporating from heat generated by the excessive use of Magecraft.

As she proceeded, the swords around her started to break down and disappear.

"... Projection?"

It was ludicrous to even think about. Projections were nothing more than tangible illusions. They could barely perform the purpose they were shaped after, but they were more fragile than glass. It was not something that could be weaponized. Not to this degree anyway.

Except it had happened, right before her eyes.

"Are all of his weapons Projections?"

She didn't see him use his weapons in real combat before tonight. When he brought out those black and white swords she had thought he simply summoned them from a pocket space. That was how the Mystic Code she was wearing under her clothes worked, so why would she think differently?

Reinforcement and Projection. Two of the three most basic forms of Magecraft, along with Structural Analysis. If she speculated that he had developed that spell to such extremes as well, in combination with his aligned Element and Origin, then….

"Rin!" Saber called out as she approached. "Are you alright?"

"Yes, I'm fine. Not a scratch on me. Just a bit winded."

At that moment, Caster descended from the sky next to Emiya.


"Shirou, what's wrong?" Caster asked the moment she touched the ground. He was down to one knee, gently shaking Rider.

"Medea. Rider won't wake," he replied, looking up at her.

Medea took a step back.

"What have you done to yourself?" she hissed.

The sclera of his right eye was of an uneven dark red and blood was dripping down his cheek.

"I'm fine," he said dismissively.

"You are not fine, you idiot. You could have given yourself a stroke."

"I'd heal," he told her in a voice that was meant to shut down the argument right there and then. "What happened to Rider? She's not dead but it's like she not taking in Mana from me anymore."

Medea moved her attention to Rider, casting a diagnostic spell on her.

"This is… true incarnation?" she muttered.

"What? How's that possible?"

It was Rin who asked that question, having finally arrived upon the scene.

"We should talk about this back home," Shirou suggested. "There's no point staying here any longer."

"Agreed," said Saber. "You seem to require medical attention as well."

"And a good scolding too," promised Medea. "Come on, let's get moving."


The Emiya household was exactly as they had left it, with the lights still on. When they touched the ground, Saber took Rider off Shirou's arms and deposited her on a futon in a room adjacent to the kitchen, while Medea all but dragged Shirou to get treated.

The bleeding eye was the least of his worries.

When he took off Twisted Embrace there was a smell of burned flesh. And no wonder. Beyond the ludicrous risk involved with making Nerve Circuits, the issue of overheating only got worse the higher the output of Mana.

Shirou had very nearly cooked himself from the inside out.


Sitting in the living room, Saber and Rin had the pleasure of listening to Caster's half of the conversation from two rooms away.

Rin had her elbows propped on the table and her face buried in her hands.

"Are you okay, Rin?" asked the Servant.

"I'm tempted to go there and give him a piece of my mind as well," she sighed.

"I'm afraid that won't be of much use. If the Witch of Betrayal can't scare some sense into him, I don't think you'd fare any better."

Rin growled into her hands.

Even for a Magus like herself, there were things that just weren't possible, or at the very least so highly unlikely that she shouldn't bother considering them.

Emiya seemed to live and breathe for the single purpose of making those things happen under her watch.

Fighting and beating Servants in direct combat? Check.

Making reliable constructs through Gradation Air? Check.

Creating Nerve Circuits in the middle of combat, without crippling or killing himself? Check.

And those were only the things she knew of. How many other ludicrous things did he get up to when she wasn't around?

Oh, yeah. He even brought a pet vampire home before.

Rin wanted to quit. Right there and then, she wanted to go to sleep and not think about him anymore.

Unfortunately, she couldn't do that yet. There was a lot to talk about.

A few minutes later, Caster joined the two of them in the living room, with a mummy in tow. The only indication that it was Emiya beneath all of the bandages was the mop of red hair sticking out from the top of his head

There was no other visible hole.

"Can he even breath like that?" Rin asked.

"He doesn't need much oxygen since he clearly doesn't use his brain," she replied scathingly.

No one spoke in his defense and so she dragged him along and made him take a seat next to her.

"So, what happened out there?" asked Rin.

"The Grail has used my own countermeasures to spew out that black mud, is what has happened."

"You didn't know it could do something like that?" asked Saber.

"Of course not. In the first place, my countermeasures would only turn on if the Grail accumulated too much energy which needed to be purged. Which they did, in a fashion."

"But where does the energy come from?" Rin pressed further. "Has a Servant died?"

"Not that I can tell," Medea replied. "The last Servant has yet to be summoned. I'm certain of that much, at least."

Three Servants were right there. Lancer had been warned about the problem with the Grail and should have ceased all hostilities. Nothing they knew could put down Berserker for good and he too should have stayed out of any fight.

That left the sixth Servant which Shirou saw fighting with Lancer from a distance, but regardless of his Class and identity, how could he have died if all the other Servants had not killed him? Unless his Master used a Command Seal to force him to take his own life, that just wasn't possible.

There had to be another explanation. They all silently concurred on this.

"What about Rider? How could she have achieved true incarnation?"

"My best guess is that the mud from the Grail is so highly impure that it… weighs down spiritual constructs like Servants in such a way that they become their own anchor."

"That's… convenient?" said Rin.

"A mere side effect. In truth, it was just trying to consume her. If Shirou had not gotten her out quickly enough she would have been digested completely."

"Hmmph! Hmmmph!" he said through the bandages.

"You should have used a Command Seal, you dolt! What you did was reckless and stupid. Next time think before you act."

"Hmmph!" he said, hanging his head in shame.

"Take it easy on him, Caster," said Saber, amusedly. "The point of training is also having something to fall back upon without having to think. Command Seals aren't so common that they would come to mind in a pinch. Also, you might consider this to be his Achilles' heel. If someone is in immediate danger he is incapable of properly taking into risk and consequences of going to the rescue."

"I know that! It doesn't make it any less stupid. It will kill him one day. Him and the people he's trying to save as well. So he better learn to stop and think things through."

"That he should," Saber agreed. "However-"


The unmistakable voice of Dojima rang through the building.

Everybody looked at each other, minus Shirou who couldn't see anything, and rushed to the door. Shirou tried but stumbled onto the table and fell down face first. With a growl, he pulled the bandages off his face and went after them.

It seemed like that night was far from being over.


In the other room, Rider's body twitched. Her long hair began to slither around her, like a bunch of live snakes, gathering together to form thicker strands that darkened and hardened at the tip, almost forming fang-like protrusions.

A moment later, they loosened up and went back to their normal state, only to repeat this cycle after several minutes. Every time, that altered state would last a little bit longer.

It was an entirely silent process, which was why no one could have noticed. Perhaps, if Dojima had not arrived at that moment, someone would have checked up on her and something could have been done to put a stop to it.

Alas, events often conspire for the worst outcome to take place.


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