By Golden Lark
A [Fate/Zero] + [Fate/Stay Night] crossover.
Author's note, 2/29/2012
Hey guys. Just got this up on yesterday, and this morning I tweaked a lot of formatting issues. This story is initially released on spacebattles' creative writing forum, and the newest chapter will always be there first. Chapters there are 'soft,' still susceptible to crazy editing or corrections for canon, etc. My thanks to all the spacebattlers that have helped so far, and will help in the future.
If you catch any screwed up spacing or first-person thoughts here on FFN that aren't italicized, please let me know via review or whatever. I even found spots where random spacing and characters were dropped wholesale from my import. Ugh. I think I caught them all just now but I can't be sure.
Anyways, thank you for reading.
The Throne of Heroes, being what it is, can only be described in metaphor. As such, the hero Emiya sat and read. His 'room' consisted of a single hallway with rows and rows of bookshelves, and piled books stacked here and there on a tatami-mat floor as far as he cared to look. He sat on the floor, unmindful of any discomfort, and finished the last few pages of his current book. Without words or expression, he tossed it onto a growing pile somewhere in front of him and reached behind his back for another.
He felt a 'ping' in the back of his head, and glared as another two dozen books materialized on the distant shelf across from him. As he existed outside the flow of linear time (from the perspective of any place he would be summoned), so too did he exist inside it (from the perspective of the Throne of Heroes). As he read each 'book' and 'lived' another mission, he gained some small scraps of knowledge or experience. Normal Heroic Spirits were 'volunteers' as it were; if Alaya saw fit to summon them, they were free to reject the offer. As such, they were offered jobs very rarely- jobs that they would either be able to complete with perfect efficiency, jobs they would be very personally interested in doing, or both.
As a contracted Counter Guardian, his will didn't even enter into the equation. If a mission came up that he was the most qualified for, he was copied and deployed. When the mission completed, the copy would dissolve and a new book would appear. As he read more books, he slowly became more 'qualified' for more missions. Even he could find some small amount of black humor in the fact that he was now a mindless RPG protagonist, endlessly grinding levels. Having eschewed such distractions as 'pointless wastes of time' as he was growing up, it was fitting he was locked into such a cycle now.
Arrayed on the floor around him were many stacks of 'finished' books. At first glance they seemed scattered haphazardly, but if one had asked Emiya, he'd have (almost proudly) explained his organization scheme: each pile of books represented a similar time and place. As he was summoned into infinite possible parallel worlds, he had mapped out the general 'distance' from his own native point of origin, and arranged the books relative to his 'spot' as such. Missions from possible futures from a world like his own were all in his direct field of vision. To his left, missions from less likely futures. To his far right were two large piles; probable pasts and improbable pasts. Directly in front of him, a conspicuous empty spot lay bare; a place for a hope he dared not have and a wish he dared not make.
He grabbed the next book and sighed. It would never end. He was keeping count of how many innocent vs. guilty people he had killed so far since his ascension. Accounting for statistical significance and margins of error, that ratio actually held at 100%. He opened the book.
He closed a book, heard a pinging sound, and all was black.
Here we go again.
But instead of being 'dropped' to his deployment point, he was . . . handed off. And then the oddest sensation. As if he was a liquid in a pitcher, and he was being poured into a series of bottles and being placed into a six-pack. However, he didn't quite fill four bottles, and the sixth bottle was already full of . . . something else. The 'machine' handling him didn't hesitate, and proceeded to fill the 5th bottle and the rest of the fourth bottle with the 'other' liquid, cap the bottles, and stamp the box 'Archer'.
Suddenly he 'knew' what was going on. The rest of the deployment, no, summoning went on, and he was kneeling in a circle crackling with power. He stood, eyes still closed, and was compelled to say-
"So, you're my Master?"
Well, that's not what he was compelled to say exactly, but it was what he allowed to come out of his mouth. He opened his eyes, and made eye contact with . . .
. . . a man in red. His mind kicked into gear immediately.
That whole time might be a blur to me, but I doubt I'd have forgotten . . .
A well-dressed man in red, who was giving him a slightly quizzical look without quite meeting his eyes.
. . . a joker with that kind of fashion sense. Who dresses like that here in -click- the 90's? Wait.
A well dressed man, in red, who quickly reassumed perfect composure and graciously bowed.
This can't be. But it is. And if this guy summoned *me* then the only person he could possibly be is-
An impeccably dressed man in red, bowing, while discreetly palming a gem and charging it with what was ostensibly a one-shot defensive spell. A man wearing a very particular ruby pendant, who said-
"Indeed. I am but a humble magus, one Tokiomi Tohsaka of the three founding families of the Holy Grail War ritual. If I may have the honor of knowing how to address . . . "
Emiya -Wait, no, Archer now- had a thousand thoughts at once.
The 4th War.
Hundreds of possibilities, dozens of potential courses of action. He frowned and looked down, and saw . . . a small container with what appeared to be a snake's shed skin in it.
He had done his research. And now he knew what Tokiomi had been expecting.
Well, you don't always get what you want. This will be fun.
He looked back up, and gave Tokiomi his best bow right back at him.
"Servant Archer, at your service, Master." - In a form of politeness to match Tokiomi's, no less.
"Ah." Tokiomi straightened up. "Actually, I was merely attempting to confirm . . ."
Apparently Tokiomi was completely psyched to grovel before the Servant he had expected to summon. All the way down to the level of not daring to presume to make direct statements and implications to his face.
Amusing, in its way, but a waste of time. I had planned this for Rin, but if the daughter takes after the father enough, it should work.
"Actually, Master, I can't seem to remember my name." Archer smiled slightly. "Perhaps there was some mistake made in the ritual?"
Tokiomi did not flinch, but bowed once again.
"That is certainly a possibility, as I am less than worthy of invoking your presence."
Archer had already seen the pendant, but now he made a point of noticing it.
"Ah, there it is. Look."
Tokiomi stood again, and saw Archer pull out his own ruby pendant. He blanched slightly.
"But that is-"
"Indeed. The catalyst that you intended to use was centered in the summoning circle, but the one that was actually activated was off to the side, around your neck. A mere coincidence, and no mark against your abilities. The location probably corrupted the ritual, slightly. I feel as powerful as ever, but there are many things I cannot seem to recall."
If he buys that, he is every bit as Tohsaka as . . . Tohsaka. Right, that made sense.
Tokiomoi's subservient act wavered just a bit as he considered what he had been told. As he had never previously done the ritual or seen it before with his own eyes, he had no way of knowing for sure if that was actually the case. He mentally grimaced. Once again, at the most important time . . . no matter. Maintain composure, maintain control, and no one will even think to question.
"In that case, I apologize. Please, allow me to lead you to the quarters we have prepared for you for the duration of the War. Do not hesitate to point out anything that is not to your liking." He went on as he moved to lead Archer to said room on the top floor.
Well, he kept his head better than Rin would have if I used that line on her. If I have the time, I'll try to make him lose it, just once. Actually . . .
"Master, you should relax. You look as if you just narrowly escaped death." Again in the same overly polite tone.
Tokiomi was measuring his response, but before he could speak-
"I mean, who were you expecting? Gilgamesh?" In his normal, ruder casual mode of speech.
The almost inaudible choking sound Tokiomi made as he walked past made this entire Grail War nearly worth it for that alone.
"And finally, this is my apprentice and assistant, Kirei Kotomine."
"Kirei . . . Kotomine, is it?" Archer let the name gently roll off his tongue.
And then, slowly, he smiled, as if he had just opened the most wonderful Christmas present.
Kotomine began to sweat.
After leaving the summoning chamber, Tokiomi had lead Archer on a short tour, stopping by his room, the living room, the library, and the various doors of the house. He made sure to mention in passing which magical defenses Archer would need to worry about in human form and in spirit form. Lastly, he groveled a bit and verified everything was to Archer's liking. After that he called in his apprentice.
"I assume, Master, there is some reason why you have a rival Master here in your home?"
Kirei flinched slightly at that, as his hands had been folded behind his back, and Assassin was in spirit form.
"Indeed, Archer. We are to be allied for the duration of this War."
"This changes things. I had already developed a preliminary battle plan based on what I gleaned from you and your home. Now, half of that is wasted. Allies can be compromised, bases can be infiltrated.
He gave Kirei a critical glance.
"What Servant did he summon, and do you have any more surprises for me? I want to get on reconnaissance as soon as possible."
"Ah, well, in that case, allow me to explain in detail." Archer shifted his gaze at the new voice as Risei walked into the room.
Archer stood with his arms crossed, frowning.
"That . . . is your plan?"
Tokiomi shifted slightly, expecting the worst. Risei just stood as serene as ever. Kirei held his tongue.
"Kotomine-kun, do you have any input?"
Kirei exhaled, inhaled, and responded.
"It is not my place to-"
"Nonsense. You are a Master in this war. Your tactical opinion and input are every bit as valid and necessary if we are to cooperate. For that matter, so is your servant's."
Kirei sighed. From a cloud of darkness emerged Assassin, who promptly bowed. Kirei considered what he knew so far.
"If there is a flaw in this plan, it lies in the assumption that Archer would detect Assassin's infiltration attempt at all. There is no need for Assassin to be in physical form at the point in the plan where he is to be killed. Assuming I am the Master of Assassin, I wouldn't have made such a tactical error. It would have clued in the more savvy of our opponents that something was -" Kirei stopped mid-sentence and tore his faze from the ground. Archer was smiling and nodding, Tokiomi looked as composed as ever, and Risei's smile seemed to have toned down a bit, just as he had feared. "Father, I-"
"No, Kirei. Archer is right. It's our fault for not considering both your experience and erstwhile reputation. Assuming the enemy can't get information about -you- is a mistake that falls into my hands. As it is, Archer, do you have any alternatives?"
Archer's smile turned slightly predatory.
"You mentioned you had multiple Assassins?" He glanced at the present one.
"Yes, Servant Archer," it replied.
"Let's move to a big enough room." He started walking.
Tokiomi hesitated, then asked "Big enough for what?"
"I need to see the Assassins. All of them."
A few minutes later, after the Assassins all were recalled from various recon duty, the all found themselves standing in a line in the main hallway for inspection. Archer walked down the line, considering each, finally stopping as he came eye to eye with one. A glance up and down, and he nodded his head.
"You'll do. Keep this one around, plus another one of medium build. The rest can go back to recon. Now, I need to know, what happens when you take that mask off?"
A few hours later, and it was the next morning. The modified plan was in place, and Kirei made his 'official' exit from Tokiomi's care. Archer had a free day to scout the town (and get some civillian clothes) without running into too much trouble. He had given Tokiomi some homework to do, and Kirei was busy being scarce. Risei had informed him that Berserker, Rider, Saber, and Lancer were already summoned. Saber and Lancer were still 'out of bounds.'
Good. The Berserker class being what it is, I won't run into him during daylight hours. That leaves Rider. At this stage, with virtually zero possibility of ambush or surveillance, if it comes down to it I could probably just pull out all the stops and use a modified Operation Hercules. I doubt it will come up, but for a first battle it would be quite convenient.
He had, over the course of his "time" on the Throne, assembled a series of plans to almost certainly defeat each enemy Servant from the 5th War. These plans were not directly applicable to the 4th War he found himself in currently, but with some modification the strategies were all still valid. For example, his original plan for dealing with Hercules. He knew he had virtually zero chance of winning that fight in a one on one battle. However, Archer had no qualms about immediately playing his trump card in that situation. It was how he usually operated as a Counter Guardian, after all. A Holy Grail War usually made that move less than tactically sound, but the opportunity cost of revealing his identity would have been more than made up for by removing that player from the field. This, of course, followed the assumption that any Servant nearby while he fought Hercules would have joined in on his side.
Now dressed in a snappy black dress shirt and pants he picked up during his trip, he walked the streets, trying to reconcile his memories of his hometown with the decade-earlier version he was submerged in. It was harder than he'd thought. His favorite perch on the tower didn't exist yet. There were still plenty of high spots, however.
Operation Arturia is still possible in some form, then.
The one plan that was still perfectly applicable in this War was his framework for dealing with Saber. It was no exaggeration to say that she was the primary yardstick he measured himself and all physical threats to himself against. Over his years of life he slowly gained experience and power, but it wasn't until after his contract with the World that he finally gained the insight into himself necessary to say he could defeat Arturia without fail.
Ah, he was getting off track.
He reflected on the last few hours and shook his head. He always had trouble poking fun at (or, as he preferred to think of it, performing psychological reconnaissance on) people when they were grouped together; at least, before he had enough dirt on them to jab at mental sore spots. Tokiomi was nigh unreadable; however, he knew Rin well enough that he was sure he'd pry the father open in time. Father Risei was . . . dangerous. A vetted mediator of the War, one who showed no nervousness whatsoever in the presence of a Servant.
Kirei seemed to have no idea what was going on. He was nervous, vaguely insecure, utterly unwilling to contradict his master or father, and pretty much out of his depth. More importantly, he lacked any obvious sign of the elements Archer would have considered key aspects of the man he knew as Kotomine Kirei. The piercing insight, the mullet, the callous commentary, and above all else, that damned smile.
This Kirei was still just a kid, compared the the Kotomine he remembered. A real piece of work, if his initial impression held, but still just a kid, mentally. Totally subservient, without any will or drive of his own. Any dreams he may have had were crushed out of him- or never existed in the first place. The perfect environment for . . . whatever Kirei eventually became, to take root and grow.
Yeah, Kirei would be fun. But for now, he had more important things to do.
In any case, none of those obsolete plans (but Saber's) were relevant until he knew the current roster of Servants. He had originally planned to do serious searching for whatever Servants were available, but Assassin was a welcome helper in that regard. That left him free for more 'casual' activity, and one more important thing: he needed to get used to the idea that he was Tokiomi Tohsaka's personal video camera. As Tokiomi happily acquiesced to his demand that he stay safe at home for the duration of the war (he apparently already planned on doing so), so too did that mean he'd literally be watching through Archer's eyes the whole time he was awake. Since the war was fought in earnest at night, Tokiomi was going to be sleeping during the day, if much at all.
One wrong move, one right -misunderstood- move, and a command seal would hit him.
With utterly no chance to react. He wouldn't even see it coming until it was already done. Thankfully, Tokiomi didn't seem the hasty sort. Double thankfully, he thought of a perfect solution for the second problem. That was Tokiomi's homework. A little something Rin had shown him a long time ago- in-ear synchronized crystal amplifiers. Specifically, ones that would phase in and out with his body as a Servant.
Basically, walkie-talkies with gems and magic.
Tokiomi was surprised by the suggestion but saw no problem with it; by the evening they would have reliable two way audio communication. He already had such devices on hand, he just needed to tweak them so Archer's gem would phase out when he went into spiritual form due to his connection to his Master.
Finally, he needed to secure a method of transportation. He had no doubt he'd be visiting Einzbern Castle at some point, and he really didn't want to run. Unfortunately Tokiomi's cash budget was limited; he mostly relied on his pre-existing stock of reagents and gems. Liquid assets were, as with Rin during his youth, scarce at best. The existing cars were also not options, as they were properly licensed and registered in Tokiomi's name.
Oh well, nothing that a few projected swords and some seedy pawnshops couldn't handle.
The real fun would start soon.
Evening approached and his new mental map of the town was more or less complete. He had taken a minor risk by keeping his Structural Analysis magic active for a good portion of the day; anyone trying to sense magic would have noticed him, but in return he got a wonderfully complete map of the current state of the sewer system and other indirectly accessible places. He had his basic recon finished, and now had a list of potential sniping spots. As the sun set he started heading back towards the Tohsaka estate. On his way there he took a detour and swung by his old home.
It was a wreck.
Not one to be completely irrational and clean up the mess, he nevertheless felt the urge to do something. Mow the lawn. Re-tile the roof. Fix the windows- No. NO. It's not my home.
And if I have any say in the matter, it never will be.