Mistakes Were Made
1: I never asked for this!
"Fight in the fourth Holy Grail War for us," they'd said. "We've got the catalyst to summon the King of Knights," they'd said. "With King Arthur on our side, we can't lose," they'd said.
"It's foolproof," they'd said.
Emiya Kiritsugu waved his hand in front of his face, futilely attempting to rid the room of the smoke caused by the success of the summoning ritual. He was curious to see his Servant, the legendary King Arthur. The stories and depictions were so varied (he'd even seen some crackpot espousing the theory that Arthur had actually been a woman; what a joke) that the reality would hopefully be somewhat amusing.
Finally, his Servant began to appear, and alarms instantly started to go off in Kiritsugu's head. The figure was not clothed in the colors of royalty. Where the blue and gold of royal heraldry ought to have been, instead there was red and black. The man's skin was a dark bronze, rather than the white of European ancestry. His hair was stark white, and not the blonde that it ought to have been.
In short, all signs were pointing away from King Arthur. Kiritsugu didn't know how to respond to this. The catalyst had been present and used correctly in the ritual, and yet here was something else entirely.
"Yo." The figure said. "So you're my master, huh?"
Kiritsugu paused, not expecting such a familiar greeting. Yeah, this definitely wasn't Arthur. "I suppose I am. Who are you?"
The figure seemed to start at the voice. It took him a moment to respond, and Kiritsugu's brows furrowed at the hesitation. "Saber, at your service." The figure bowed. "If you want my real name, as much as I'd like to help you, I don't seem to know it myself."
Kiritsugu's eye twitched. "You don't know?" A glance over at Irisviel showed her to be equally confused with this development.
"Can't remember a thing." Saber replied.
"I see." Kiritsugu stood stock still for a moment, before sighing. "Very well then. Make yourself at home in this room. Iri, come. We need to report to the Einzbern."
Irisviel nodded, taking another look at the Servant, who seemed to be regarding Kiritsugu with some measure of apprehension, before following after the new Master as he left the room.
As the door shut behind them, Kiritsugu heard Saber mutter "What the fu-"
A steady pace carried them towards another room, where Kiritsugu kept the single-line telephone that ran to the secluded Einzbern family. "Iri, who in the world is that person? We used Avalon. There shouldn't be anyone else that the Grail network could have selected."
Irisviel shrugged helplessly. "Maybe he's connected to Arthur and Avalon somehow. You know as well as I do how vague and contradictory those legends are."
Kiritsugu's frown deepened. "Get a list of everyone connected to Arthur. We're going to find out sooner rather than later who this man is." As Irisviel nodded, they stepped into the room with the phone. He sat down, and took a moment to calm himself. Then, finally he reached out to the phone and picked it up.
Almost immediately, the phone was answered. "We felt the surge of magic." The voice was distorted, purposely so. "The summoning was successful?"
"About that." Kiritsugu hesitated. "I have summoned Servant Saber, but I do not believe that it is Arthur."
Silence came from the other end of the line. Kiritsugu waited. At long last, the voice came back. "Would you like to try that again?"
"Servant Saber is not King Arthur."
The voice sharpened. "How can it not be King Arthur? We searched tirelessly for Avalon, sent it to you, and now you are informing us that despite using the most obvious catalyst to summon the King of Knights, you failed and instead have summoned…who did you summon exactly?"
Kiritsugu grimaced. "I don't know. The Servant is claiming amnesia."
He reactively pulled the phone away from his ear as the Einzbern contact began to scream. He could only make out bits and pieces of the dialogue, but were he a lesser man his ears might have burned at the language pouring forth from his benefactor's representative.
After roughly thirty seconds, the tirade seemed to die down, and Kiritsugu brought the phone back to his ear. "Are you done yet?"
"I won't be done for years, you pathetic worm. We hired you on the assumption that you could do your job at least half-right, but right from the start you've already ballsed it up."
"That being said," Kiritsugu cut in, "I will continue the operation."
"You're goddamn right you will, and you'll get on your knees and thank us when we spare your miserable life for this gross ineptitude after winning the Grail for us."
"Is there anything else that went wrong that you'd like to report?" The voice snapped.
"Only that even with your voice distorted, it's painfully obvious that it's you, Jubstacheit."
"What the fu-" Kiritsugu hung up.
He looked over at Irisviel, who was in the middle of looking through several books. Her eyes scanned the text with machine-like speed and precision, flipping pages after a mere glance as she tried to hunt down any information.
He watched as she went through volume after volume, cross-checking references and descriptions, hoping to find some lead.
After an hour and some hundred books of Arthurian literature and analysis, Irisviel finally looked up at Kiritsugu and solemnly shook her head. "Nothing. Not even a mention of anyone like this man."
Kiritsugu sighed. "That's fine, Iri. Maybe there's another connection that I haven't thought of yet. Not between him and Arthur as a wielder of Avalon, but between him and Avalon itself." He frowned as Irisviel started, and then shook her head. "What is it?"
"Well, it's a silly thought, but we know that the Grail works outside of time. Logically, then, if the Grail can recall heroic spirits from the past, it should also be able to-"
"Summon them from the future?" Kiritsugu finished. Irisviel nodded. He shook his head. "I don't believe it."
Irisviel shrugged. "It was a silly thought, I told you."
He rose from his seat, and Irisviel rose with him. "Do you think it's worth using a command spell to see if he's telling the truth?"
Irisviel glanced at him, a small smile on her face. "Are you admitting that you can't see through him?"
He winced. "He's got a good poker face."
"So do you."
"I'm not supposed to be playing against my ally, Iri."
"Then maybe you need to show him that you are allies."
Kiritsugu frowned. "I'll take that into consideration."
Happy to have been of some help, Irisviel nodded and skipped ahead toward the room they had left Saber in. The door was ajar, and there was a distinct giggle coming from the room. Kiritsugu raised a brow as Irisviel opened the door. There was his young daughter, playing with Saber, who seemed to be genuinely entertained by the child's antics.
As the door opened, Ilyasviel caught sight of Kiritsugu, and immediately separated from Saber, running over to him. "Daddy!"
He smiled and knelt, scooping her up into his arms before standing. Out of the corner of his eye, he noticed Saber standing there smirking. He turned a questioning look at the Servant.
And then Saber smiled the biggest shit-eating grin he could and said, "Daddy."
"What the fu-" Irisviel clamped her hand down on Kiritsugu's mouth.
Saber woke up with a start as the plane touched down. He glanced at the woman next to him, who would probably need to be surgically removed from the window she was staring at. "It's amazing, Saber! I never expected Japan to look anything like this!"
Japan, Saber thought. It feels like it's been some time since I've been here. He waited as the private plane chartered for them taxied, before the pilot came on to let them know that they could depart at any time. He rose, and exited the plane. Irisviel followed after him, still exuberant.
"Have you ever seen anything like it, Saber?" She seemed so excited, Saber wondered if she even remembered that he had told them about his amnesia.
Either that, or it was a surprisingly subtle attempt at getting him to cop to some memory.
"I couldn't say," he responded, looking around. And then he decided to throw her a bone. "It does invoke a sense of nostalgia though. Maybe my home resembles this place a bit."
She hummed thoughtfully, and then shrugged. "Oh well. I heard from Kiritsugu that Fuyuki is really beautiful year-round, so I want to see everything I can!"
"My lady, you do remember we are here for a specific reason?" Saber restrained the grin that threatened to spread. After spending the time between his summoning and the overtures of the Fourth Holy Grail War making vague plans and discussing potential strategy with Kiritsugu (something of a joke, both men knew, but as a thought exercise there was a purpose to it), spending time simply enjoying being back in his hometown with Irisviel was refreshing. He found it mildly worrisome that he found the company of the man that had shaped his entire life to be so dreary.
Then again, maybe it was something that happened here that turned Kiritsugu into the man that Saber had come to know as a child.
Saber simply sighed, and decided it wasn't worth thinking about right now. He'd have time to see things develop in this war.
He picked up their luggage, and carried it to the car that had been purchased for them. He was about to take the keys when they were snatched up by Irisviel. "Nope. I get to drive, Saber."
Saber blinked. "Haven't you lived on Einzbern territory your entire life? How do you know how to drive?"
Irisviel grinned. "Kiritsugu taught me!"
Saber paused, and then shrugged. "All right." He had never actually driven with Kiritsugu before, but he imagined that the calm older man was a patient and steady-handed soul behind the wheel. Doubtless, he had taught Irisviel well.
By the time they arrived at the Einzbern mansion that they would be staying at for the remainder of the war, Saber had recalled that Kiritsugu had never actually been all that great a teacher, and was determined to never let Irisviel drive him anywhere ever again.
He had never felt so glad that Riding was a Class Skill until then.
He put a shaky hand on the frame of the door and pulled himself out, not letting go until he felt his legs stop trembling. With as much dignity as he could muster after screaming like a child during several of the power slides Irisviel had put the car through and then gingerly stepping back onto terra firma, he stood upright, and went to go unload the luggage.
"That was fun!" Irisviel exclaimed. "We should do that again."
Saber immediately turned to her and held his hand out. "The keys, my lady."
Irisviel paused. "Eh?"
"If I want to live long enough to participate in the Holy Grail War, I can't allow you to drive anymore. The keys, my lady."
She pouted. "You're no fun."
Saber did not back down, keeping his hand where it was. Finally, Irisviel succumbed to his silent pressure and placed the keys in the palm of his hand. "Thank you. From now on, I'll drive."
Irisviel looked him over. "You don't look like a car person."
Saber restrained the urge to tell her that during his time, he had worked on (and, if he were being totally honest, secretly traced) several cars. Bar working on a track as a mechanic, it was hard to be more of a gearhead than he had been.
That, and he'd seen every single episode of the newer Top Gear series ever produced, but that wouldn't have any meaning for another eight years. A moment of silence for Stigs lost before their time. "It's like going back to the stone ages." He muttered to himself.
"What was that?" Irisviel tilted her head.
"Nothing. I…as a function of my class," Saber corrected himself, "I know how to operate any mechanical form of transportation."
"That kind of driving doesn't sound like much fun." Irisviel pointed out. "You make it sound so…clinical."
"My form of driving means that we survive from point A to point B." Saber returned. "I have a duty to myself and my master to keep both of us safe."
"You aren't fun at all." Irisviel sighed, and then turned to the mansion. "Well, let's go greet my husband."
"As you wish." Pocketing the keys, he hefted the luggage, and began his walk to the mansion, trailing behind Irisviel.
As she opened the door, he heard the subtle sound of a gun being cocked. Years of combat experience and instinct completely overrode reason, and he dumped the luggage, grabbing Irisviel with one hand and instantly tracing Bakuya in his other, the white sword moving to intercept a projectile that never came.
Saber stared at Kiritsugu, who stared back at them, pointing a Thompson Contender in their direction. Then his brain finally kicked into gear, and he dropped his arm, allowing Bakuya to fade out of existence. He released Irisviel, and the breath that he had been holding. "Do you always greet guests like that, master?"
"I do if it means I learn something useful." Kiritsugu responded. He pointedly ignored the look on Irisviel's face as she began to understand what had just happened. "We need to discuss strategy."
"Again? It'll do us as much good as it has every time before us." Saber sighed. "And I don't feel like talking to you after you pointed a gun at me just to try and learn something."
"The situation has changed." Kiritsugu said. "Assassin made its move, and Archer destroyed it using some form of attack that involved the use of weapons as projectiles."
Archer. Saber's eyes narrowed. Fortunately, Kiritsugu didn't seem to take it as anything other than a reaction to the news, which certainly was surprising for such an early moment in the War, but Saber had a number of other things on his mind.
He had entirely forgotten about Gilgamesh. That fight was not one he was looking forward to.
"All right, we'll discuss strategy." He moved the luggage inside, and then gave Irisviel an apologetic look as he followed Kiritsugu out of the foyer.
Maya was waiting inside the room, which already had a map of Fuyuki laid out. The Tohsaka household had already been marked, a red pin and a yellow pin, and the Matou household had a red pin as well. A building near the center of the town – a hotel, it looked like – had also been marked with a red pin. Noticing his gaze, Maya gestured. "The yellow pins represent locations of battlefields. Red pins represent confirmed locations of Masters, for when we're ready to move."
"Assaulting a Master's stronghold directly? That's ballsy." Saber paused. "Sorry."
She smiled thinly, one of the few reactions he had managed to provoke out of her. "Well, we've got plans for how to move against Tokiomi and the Matou master, at least." She sighed. "Assuming we can ever find the Matou master."
Saber blinked. "You mean he isn't at the mansion?"
"We assumed he was, but our surveillance has shown nothing. It's not like the Tohsaka household where Tokiomi's presence is patently obvious; we have no idea who the Matou's master is." She frowned. "We also know that Lord El-Melloi is one of the Masters. In any event, the reason we're gathered here is because Kotomine Kirei-" this time Saber managed to control his reaction, "-Assassin's Master, is now removed from the War."
"I wouldn't be so certain of that." Saber said softly.
Maya and Kiritsugu both looked at him, expressions sharpening. It was Kiritsugu who asked. "What do you mean by that? We have video evidence of Assassin being killed by Archer."
Saber frowned, taking a moment to choose his words carefully. "I can't explain it, but if he's Assassin's Master, he has to be smarter than that. There is no way that he simply threw his Servant at Archer's Master's estate with no plan for if he got caught."
Kiritsugu shook his head. "He has exited the Grail War. He is under the protection of the Church now, and that means he cannot move."
Saber scowled at Kiritsugu. "Do you always believe that the rules will be followed to the letter? I thought you were a man of the battlefield."
Now it was Kiritsugu's turn to scowl, but before he could retort, Maya cut in. "You're suggesting that Assassin's death was faked to allow Kotomine to do as he pleases?"
Saber shrugged. "I'm saying that if Masters are supposed to be fighting for the Holy Grail, would you let someone who breaks his toys as soon as he gets them be a competitor?"
His Master's face shifted from scowl to thoughtful frown. "I suppose you have a point. It is never a good idea to underestimate someone like Kotomine. Maya, intensify surveillance of the Church." Maya nodded, and left to go perform her task as ordered. Kiritsugu looked at Saber again. "We need to discuss you and your abilities."
"I told you, I don't know who I am, so I have no idea what I can do." Saber shrugged.
"Ah, but you gave me a hint." Kiritsugu closed his eyes. "You performed magecraft in the entryway. Projection. High-level projection, at that. Unfortunately, there aren't any magicians famous for projection in history, especially connected to Arthur and Avalon. And that sword that you pulled out was Asian in origin."
Saber narrowed his eyes. Kiritsugu was very good. "And your conclusion?"
"As I said, I don't know anything. Nothing about you makes any sense." Kiritsugu sighed.
"Then keep this in mind, Master." Saber allowed his expression to relax, and a small smile to curve his lips up. "If you don't know who I am, and I don't know who I am," and he paused, to make certain his Master was listening before he continued, "then I can be anyone."
Kiritsugu looked at Saber, before nodding. "Disinformation."
"If I'm someone different every battle, they'll never know how to approach me."
"Devious." Kiritsugu gave another nod, this time of approval.
"Fitting, for a Master like you." Saber responded.
"Then get ready to put on the performance of a lifetime, Saber."
"I am, my Master."
"So for your first impression, who are you going to be?"
"I'll give you a hint." Saber said as he moved toward the exit. "He's not someone you pursue." He thought the line was clever, but Kiritsugu simply looked confused.
"I am Lu Bu! Bow down before me!" Saber had no way of knowing that Kiritsugu was facepalming from his vantage point some distance away. He stood across from an elegant-looking man wielding a pair of spears, one red, and one gold. He could tell at a glance both of them were Noble Phantasms, and already had a good idea as to their purpose, though he'd need confirmation first.
"Sorry, I only kneel before my lord." Lancer replied.
"Pity. Well, it was worth a shot." Saber shrugged.
"Quite. Well, would you like to prepare yourself for battle, or are you planning to make it easy for me?" Lancer gestured to the clothes Saber was wearing. Lancer himself wore a tight-fitting battlesuit, but Saber was still wearing the rather immaculate Armani suit that Kiritsugu had provided him.
Damn if Kiritsugu didn't have taste.
"Oh, if you insist." Saber sighed, and with a moment's concentration, the custom-tailored suit disappeared, replaced with his usual red and black armor. Lancer seemed to pause, noting the curious-looking material, but when Saber traced an enormous double-bladed halberd into existence, his attention was diverted to other matters.
"My Noble Phantasm." Saber intoned, fake awe in his voice. "God Force." He smirked. "Like the six arms of Chi You, it has six forms. Like this one. Or, like this one." And then he tore the weapon in half vertically. Now matching Lancer's armament, he mirrored Lancer, shifting his profile slightly and hefting one of the two halberds onto his shoulder, while he hoisted the other one and pointed it at Lancer. "Now then, shall we battle?"
Lancer simply shook his head with amusement. "Now I've seen everything."
"Oh, you haven't seen anything yet." Saber grinned. And then, just like that, he was in motion. Rapid footsteps closed the gap between the Servants, and then Saber was airborne, dodging a thrust from the golden spear. He twisted, trying to avoid the follow-up upward thrust of the red one, and grunted as it impacted against his armor before being turned away.
Lancer had apparently expected the spear to pierce, and seemed surprised to suddenly note the downward arc one of the enormous halberds Saber wielded. He twisted to bring the golden spear in line and caught the blade only a few inches from his face. As Saber landed, he nodded thoughtfully. "Okay, now I know which is which."
He saw Lancer's frown, and shrugged. He melded the two weapons back together, and then began to shift it again, the blades themselves unfolding and then arcing backward to form the curve of a bow; no, an extremely long crossbow was a more apt description for the weapon's new form.
"I hope you can dodge." He said, before God Force's Cannon Force mode unleashed a single short blast.
And then Lancer thrust the red spear, and in an instant the discharge vanished with a burst of displaced wind. As Saber watched, Lancer set the gold spear back on his shoulder. "Color me unimpressed."
Saber raised a brow. "Okay, that didn't go like I thought it would. All right then, let's try this." He angled the Cannon Force at the ground in front of him and fired again. The ground erupted and smoke obscured Saber from vision. He could hear Lancer's startled outburst, but now that he had a moment to himself, he calmly pieced together the construction of his new toys.
Then he let go of the Cannon Force, dismissing it immediately.
When the smoke cleared, he stood wielding identical copies of the red and gold spears his opponent carried. As equal measures of disbelief and anger overwrote the shock on Lancer's face, Saber grinned toothily. "Hey look!" He called to Lancer. "I'm you!"
From his position, watching over the battle through the scope of his rifle, Kiritsugu raised a brow. He was certainly glad he had been there to see this, because it was at least lending credence to his belief that Saber had absolutely nothing to do with Arthur's legend.
To wield what he claimed was the God Force, the Noble Phantasm of legendary Chinese warrior Lu Bu was one thing, but to be able to seemingly reproduce his opponent's Noble Phantasms so quickly…he had never seen anything like this before. Perhaps he hadn't gotten screwed by not summoning Arthur, as he'd originally thought.
Still, there was only so much that a simple replica could do. He had no idea what Saber was planning to do. The gold spear's ability was still a mystery to him, but the red one seemed capable of dispelling prana, judging by the way he had simply gotten rid of the blast. A strike from the red one would be enough to destroy the projected weapons. If Saber wasn't careful, playing his game would get him pushed back into a corner.
All the more reason for Kiritsugu to focus on his task of hunting down Lancer's Master. "Maya, has Assassin given any indication that it knows we're here?"
"Negative." Maya replied. "Although I don't doubt it knows I'm here now that I'm watching it. Have you located Lancer's Master?"
"I have an idea of where to look, but I can't be worrying about getting jumped by another Servant."
"I'll keep a close eye on him." Maya responded. "For what it's worth, at least."
"Appreciated." Kiritsugu dipped into his jacket and checked to make certain that his Contender was loaded and ready, in case he needed it. "I'm going to move to a different angle."
"Understood. Be careful."
"Affirmative." And then he was on the move, hauling his gear along with him as he moved along the walkways of the series of dockside towers, moving toward the next determined vantage point.
Then he noticed that Lancer was charging, and swore, bringing his gun in line to see what he could do to help Saber.
And then he noticed that his prediction that the red spear would instantly destroy Saber's projections had not come true. "Who the hell is he?"
Indeed, as Lancer drove Gae Dearg forward, even he expected to see the obviously fake version of his spear to shatter under the effect of the Crimson Rose of Exorcism. He was certainly not expecting Saber to meet the point of Lancer's Gae Dearg with his own, and the surprise only compounded itself when the fake Gae Dearg didn't crumble. "How?"
"It's a mystery to everyone!" Saber called out as he thrust forward, overpowering Lancer and pushing Dearg out of line with his body. He brought Gae Buidhe into play, thrusting the gold spear at Lancer, and forcing the other Servant to parry again with his own. They separated, and Saber alighted atop a tall beam near the water. "You know, the whole prana negation thing Gae Dearg has is some serious bullshit."
Lancer's blood ran cold. "How do you know the name of my weapon?"
Saber hummed. "Not really important." He dropped the two weapons, and they faded into nothingness. Lancer tensed as another weapon formed in the Servant's hands. This time, it was a bow. And shortly after, a black sword, one that swiftly changed its shape, becoming a dark, wicked arrow. As Saber nocked the arrow and raised the bow, he called out. "By the way, I still hope you can dodge."
Lancer felt the sudden coalescence of prana and moved immediately. The instant after he lept, the air he had been standing in was rent asunder with a deafening roar as whatever the hell it was that Saber fired tore through the space he occupied, and slammed into the ground, tearing up the earth and causing an enormous explosion. The wind force caused by the projectile's passing and the explosion buffeted Lancer, and he grunted as he was thrown into and through a nearby warehouse.
He winced as he pushed himself to his feet. "What was that? Why does a Saber have something so ridiculous? What kind of knight is he?"
"Lancer, I do hope you aren't done yet. I've got as many of these as I need!" He heard Saber call. He shook his head, trying to clear the cobwebs from his mind. What kind of monster had Saber's Master summoned? This was, quite frankly, unfair.
He made his way back out, and found Saber standing in the same place he was before. However, Saber's attention was directed to the left, and Lancer followed his gaze to the entrance to the warehouse complex where a blonde man in golden armor stood, his hands on his hips, surveying the battlefield with a scowl on his face.
Finally, the golden man's eyes settled on Saber, and he called out in a disgusted voice. "So you're the one."
Saber seemed startled, before calling out. "So you remember me?"
The golden man laughed, cold and arrogant. "Should I? I never notice the ants beneath my feet as I walk across my world."
Saber seemed to relax, and nodded. "Fair enough then."
Lancer shook his head. This was getting weirder by the minute. He pointed Gae Dearg at the golden man. "This is a duel between knights. Do not interfere."
"Oh, don't mind me." The golden man replied. "I'm just here to watch a pair of lowlifes attempt to kill each other."
"Oh blow it out your ass, Gilgamesh." Saber called.
The golden man – Gilgamesh, apparently – looked at him, startled beyond words. "You know my name?"
And then, after a moment of silence, Saber called back. "Oops."