A/N: Oh, I hope I can support this momentum…

...

Fate/War of the Great Grail

by Shadow Crystal Mage

Chapter 2: Cluster H-Scene

Disclaimer: The Fate series belongs to Type-Moon. I'm making no money off this. A certain idea was shamelessly inspired by the Fate/Nuovo Guerra Secundus character page. I plead having no way to communicate with the author of the idea for why they were not informed when it was first used. Sorry.

...

Illya woke and and knew from the feeling of utter dread in her stomach as she did so what she would see. She seriously considered staying in bed. The Magical Girl kept her eyes firmly closed as she felt Kuro moving around…

Illya's eyes snapped wide open as she felt a pair of lips on hers, felt the full-body tingle, heat and thrill as prana was drawn from her body via her mouth. She heard someone moan against her…

There was the semi-distinct sound of glass breaking.

"KURO!" Illya cried, power-slapping the other girl off the bed. There was a thump as Kuro hit the floor. Miyu sat up from the other side of the bed as Illya panted hard, her hand stinging. Kuro lay on the floor, her rear sticking out in the air, lying on top of the weird circle she'd drawn on the floor. "What the heck do you think you're trying to pull?" Illya demanded.

"Sorry…" Kuro said groggily. "It's just that my prana levels were kinda low this morning, and I needed a recharge…"

"That's no reason to sexually assault me in my sleep!" Illya cried.

"You weren't really asleep, you were just faking," Kuro grumbled. "And seriously, I need prana. Why are my levels so low? I haven't been using magic lately…"

"Of course they're low," a kinda condescending, male voice said. "You've been supporting a Servant since last night."

Miyu pulled Illya back as a man suddenly appeared in the room, standing in front of Kuro. The girls screamed.

There was a panicked scrambling, the door burst open. "Illya!" Shirou cried, barging in dramatically. "Kuro! Are you all right–?"

That was a far as he got before a morally outraged Sella came up and hogtied from behind him.

Hilarity ensued.

The man in the room had disappeared.

...

Illya sat through most of class in a sort of wide-eyed, horrified daze. Itoshiki-sensei's voice was a drone in the background on their English class as he lectured about the 'Undynamic Entry'. Part of Illya wondered what the heck this had to do with English, but most was locked in a hell of absolute terror.

Miyu was blank faced and expressionless as ever, and Kuro was just staring out the window, bored. She had to wonder what was going through those girls heads. It came to her that, despite possibly being the only friend Miyu had, she still didn't really have a grip on what went on in that girl's head…

"I do not believe you understand exactly what you have gotten yourself into…" the disembodied voice of Archer had said to them on the way to school. "Allow me to explain…"

And he had. He had explained the concept of the Holy Grail War in great detail.

And it was then Illya knew with crystal clarity that she was going to die a virgin. How were they supposed to fight insomething like that? They could barely beat the Class Cards, now they had to fight, like, 24 of them?-!-?-! All at once? In the real world, without the convenience of the Mirror World? They couldn't fight in–

Her thoughts paused. They couldn't fight! If they didn't fight…

If they didn't fight, they couldn't get killed! You can't die if you're not killed!

Marveling at how simple it all was, Illya resolved to tell Miyu about her idea as soon as she could…

...

The Emiya breakfast table was a council of war. Again. Sakura was cooking, since all the sempai had gotten into an argument over which of them would cook, and by the time they noticed she'd already started it was kinda too late to stop her. There was a distinct division around the table. The Shirou with the Red Saber sat on one side. Red Saber faced the table on her side, reclining on her elbow against a bunch of pillows she'd appropriated for that purpose and pretty much taking over all that side of the table. Not-onee-san, not-sempai and Blue Saber sat opposite him, the Sabers watching each other warily. Her own sempai sat with Caster next to him, the Servant as far away from Red Saber as she could while still being on the table. Her lyre leaned against her side, and sometimes her hand would reach down and dance lightly over the strings, drawing out a pleasant, sunny tune that seemed to crash like a falling piano whenever Red Saber looked at her. Sakura firmly quashed the beginning stirrings of jealousy as she looked at Caster. No, jealousy bad. Onee-san sat opposite them with Rider. The TV was on, but no one was paying attention to the news report about the serial killer who had been found beat up and drugged with his right hand cut off…

Their identities of the two new Servants had been something of a surprise, although considering who the Saber they knew had turned out to be, it was hardly unprecedented. Still, Caster looked nothing like the only other legendary Greeks they knew (Rider technically didn't count, since she wasn't that kind of hero). For one, she was a bit too quiet and moody. It made Sakura feel bad for feeling jealous, especially since intellectually she knew Caster would hardly be a threat. Still, the heart tended to be unreasonable…

"All right!" onee-san said, slamming a hand on the table. "Let's get this Holy Grail War strategy meeting in order! We need to take stock of what we have and what we're facing." She held up her hands. "Numerically speaking, I doubt anyone else in this War is starting with the power advantage we have. Saber and Rider, as Servants summoned outside this system, are invaluable trump cards, allowing us twice the number of Servants that we otherwise would."

The not-onee-san Rin glowered a little at not getting to speak first, but coughed. "Still, in the current context, that's not much of an advantage. Factoring in the altered system of this Grail War, even with 4 Servants on our side, we are still fighting 6 to 1 odds. I think our first order of business would to scout around for the potential locations of the other Masters and to see what has changed in Fuyuki."

"Is that really necessary?" not-sempai with the Red Saber said. "I mean, I understand we need to find other Masters before they hurt people, but why would Fuyuki change?"

"The last time I checked, there wasn't supposed to be three of you," onee-san pointed out. "Or two of me."

"Last time I checked, Saber was the only Servant left alive," the other Rin agreed. "Obviously, this all has something to do with the Grail War. The Second Magic might be involved somehow. Regardless, we need to reassess what we think we know about the battlefield. For all we know, Gilgamesh might be out there somewhere! Or Kotomine!"

"A chilling possibility," Saber agreed.

"Then our way is clear," Red Saber said lazily. "We need to send scouts to assess the lay of the land and find our enemies so that we may crush them. We approve of this stratagem." She snapped her fingers imperiously. "Scullery girl, where is that food? We hunger!"

"Saber!" her Master Shirou admonished.

Onee-san glared at Red Saber. "Don't you ever call my sister that again!"

Shirou, Shirou and Saber blinked, and looked at the other Rin, who was looking a bit red. "Your sister?"

"Rin, I believe you need to explain…" Blue Saber said. "You neglected to last night. I doubt the story is as long as you'd have us believe…"

...

In Fuyuki, life went on.

Few noticed the changes to the city. After all, the panorama of the city tends to blur together after a while, and a building is a building, even if that building was a hotel bombed to the ground years ago by terrorists. No one noticed it being there. It just was. No one noticed how some streets were subtly different, or not there at all, or had new ones in their place. The sunken boat in the river disappearing was completely unremarked upon. No one noticed there was now an absurdly large manor house and attached green house among the western houses of the neighborhood not far from the Tohsaka estate.

Some noticed small peculiarities, though. Emiya Shirou wondered who his class's new homeroom teacher was. Everyone acted like they knew her, but he didn't remember her. Why did everyone think it was funny when she fell and hit her head?

Little things. Tohsaka Rin, fresh from a long stint abroad and the new queen of her school, wondered who that new girl was who looked oddly familiar and everyone referred to as 'Matou-sama'. And why no one seemed to think she was new.

And most especially, no one paid attention to a little café called Ahnenerbe…

...

It was a perfectly ordinary day at the Café Ahnenerbe. The sun was shining, the birds were singing, the cute dojjiko-esque waitress was going from table to table taking orders, the news on TV reported how a strange man in blue full body tights had been killed in a freak accident where a metal girder had fallen on him mysteriously, the smell of good food filled the air, and Neko Arc hummed happily to herself.

"So, that will be one coffee, and a slice of the Chocolate Overkill Omnicide cake?" Satsuki confirmed before dashing off to place the order.

For her, I had been something of a stressful day. There were living quarters above the Ahnenerbe, and her bosses had generously allowed her to stay. There'd been mentions of pay cuts to make up for it, but her Servant– she was still trying to wrap her head around what that was supposed to be– had stepped in and cowed them from doing that. She'd had to sleep on a couch though, since there weren't any extra beds. Lancer-sama hadn't said anything to her since he'd disappeared magically. She wondered if he was sleeping or something. She knew she was kinda sleepy, and she didn't think he'd gotten much sleep last night.

In his corner seat, Seihai-kun was sitting as usual, purple stuff dribbling from his mouth…

...

Team Shirou (there'd been talk of calling it team Tohsaka, but the Rins had been outvoted in a fit of masculine ego finally asserting itself) had come up with a relatively simple plan. They'd send out someone as a stalking horse, and when some enemy Master and their servant took the bait, the rest would come in and attack. As plans go, it was straightforward, easy to remember, played to their strengths, and most importantly, incited little in the way of moral quandaries. Saber, as a knight, was opposed to the idea of ganging up on someone, but understood that given their odds, it was not the time to be picky. Besides, as her Master reminded her, given the enemies likely to be found, it was not unlikely they'd run into someone against whom even 4 on 1 odds wouldn't be enough.

Which was how Shirou and Red Saber found themselves sitting outside of a café along one of the city's major thoroughfares not far from the park, eating cheesecake in the light of the setting sun. It was as close to an ideal situation as they could manage. Pretty soon some Master would have to pass by, and given the people around, it was probably sufficient to discourage even Masters of Assassin from making a move right away. If some Master wanted a fight, they'd have to move anyway.

"Will you not try some, Praetor?" Red Saber said, as she broke off bits of the confection with her fork and popped it into her mouth. People stopped to stare at her and her red dress. "Though common fare, it is quite palatable."

"No, thank you, Saber," Shirou said, trying to keep a watch out and wondering at the sudden profusion of Cafés. It seemed wrong to him to watch the woman eat when she wasn't inhaling it like it was her first meal in weeks.

Red Saber quietly put down her fork and gave him a level look. "Praetor, do I offend you in some fashion?"

Shirou blinked. "What? No!"

"Then why can you not bear to look upon me?" Red Saber said. "You avert your eyes as if I repulse you, the other Saber clad in blue even more so. Do you perhaps harbor a dislike of the fair-haired?"

"No! Of course not!" Shirou said.

Red Saber made a contemplative sound. "Then why do you act as you do around us? It cannot be because this circumstance discomfits you."

"It's… personal," Shirou said evasively.

"That is hardly a sufficient excuse, praetor," Red Saber said. "It is an excuse for the weak-willed and cowardly who do not have the strength to exorcise themselves of their failings."

Shirou glared at her. "We've barely known each other a day. Isn't it kind of early for you to be calling me a coward?"

Surprisingly, Red Saber laughed. "Ah, well-spoken, praetor. Very well then. I shall reserve calling you a coward until after I have seen your merit in battle. Still, rid yourself of this weakness. If you cannot even bear to gaze upon my magnificence, how will you fare against the glory of battle itself?"

"I've fought before," Shirou said, a might defensively, wishing something would happen to end this conversation, like a ninja attack. He didn't have a very good track record of winning verbal sparring with women.

Red Saber looked over his shoulder. "Well, I shall have a chance to see your mettle soon, then, praetor," she said, and stood up, her cake unfinished. Shirou had a moment to stare at it disbelievingly. Its continued existence seemed an insult. He was about to chide her for wasting food when she spoke, still looking behind him.

"Well met, stranger," she said, and Shirou turned. Standing not far away was a man wearing a white silk shirt and dark trousers. He reminded Shirou of nothing so much as a male model, the almost feminine kind who were too good looking for one's peace of mind. "I hope you do not think that the charm upon your face is all you require to be victorious. Else you are sadly mistaken."

"My apologies," the man said. "It is a curse I was born with. I'm afraid there is nothing I can do about it. You can blame my birth or the fact you were born a woman."

"I choose to do neither," Red Saber said as Shirou moved to stand behind her. "Such excuses are a sign of weakness. While the rules of this Grail War prevent us from exchanging our names, I would have your Class, stranger."

He nodded. "I am of the Class of Saber, my lady."

Red Saber smile. "What a magnificent coincidence. As am I."

"Then this shall be an interesting encounter," the male Saber said. "A true test of skill and prowess between warriors of equal advantage."

Shirou, meanwhile, was looking around in confusion. "Saber!" he called out to the man. "Has your Master done some kind of spell to the people around us?"

The male Saber– Shirou was privately thinking of him as Calvin Klein Saber– tilted his head. "My Master has worked a magecraft around us, stranger. It surrounds us in mundanity and as long as we restrict our actions to speaking, no one will notice anything amiss."

Red Saber smiled widely, and her eyes flicked to the park. "Then perhaps we should retire to somewhere private, where we may do more than speak."

Calvin Klein Saber made a gracious nod and turned to lead the way, Red Saber close behind. Shirou had a moment to feel like a third wheel horning in on someone's date (not that he knew that was what the feeling was), before moving to follow, keeping a wary eye out and hoping the others were listening…

…...

Two blocks and a rooftop away, Caster opened her eyes, the hand dancing over her lyre slowing slightly as she finished narrating the events around Shirou and the Red Saber. It had been difficult to understand the perspective of the spirits she had called upon with her music, but she had much practice in this.

"An enemy Saber," the Rin who wore her hair long mused. "So this war really is different. Did he say anything that might have hinted as to his identity?"

Caster shook her head, and Rin was slightly amazed to see even that moved in time to the music from her harp. Even her hair was rhythmic. The other Rin made a frustrated sounded.

"I know who it is," Saber said. She was a little away from them, standing at the roof's edge, a pair of binoculars in her hands. She lowered them now as she turned to face the surprised group of Shirous, Rins, Caster and Rider.

Shirou blinked. Rin was still sometimes surprised how lifelike his artificial body was. "You do?" he said incredulously.

Saber nodded. "Our opponent is Diarmuid Ua Duibhne, first of the Knights of Fianna."

"How do you know?" Rider asked.

Saber smiled, somehow managing to be both fond and bitter. "We've fought before."

"Well…" Saber's Master breathed. "Well. Imagine that. I guess this is our lucky day."

They moved to follow and spring their trap…

…...

"I don't want to fight in the Grail War," Illya said suddenly.

They were walking home from the shopping district, after their friends– technically, Illya's friends, since Miyu didn't acknowledge anyone but Illya as a friend and Kuro didn't know them that well– had dragged them off there to pick out a cell phone for Kuro when they found out she didn't have one yet. It was all warm and fluffy right out of an episode of a popular magical girl anime. Illya had even heard the telepathic voices of her Servants commenting on it as such.

Kuro and Miyu looked at her sudden declaration. It had come completely out of the blue as they'd walked through some of Fuyuki's busier streets to a bus stop that would get them home. Illya looked determined as the two gave her bewildered looks.

"Come again?" Kuro said. "I was thinking of something else."

"I said I don't want to fight in the Grail War," Illya repeated. "And I don't think you should either. It doesn't sound worth it."

The other two looked at each other. Illya could feel the ineffable sense that her Servants were close, and the similar sense that told her Miyu's and Kuro's were about as well. She took a deep breath, preparing her arguments. About how this would be a pointless battle. About how they were just kids, and had no business fighting in something like this (fighting the Class Cards had been different. That was a Magical Girl thing). About how they could get killed. She would–

"Okay," Kuro said dismissively.

Illya blinked, her train of thought slamming into an unexpected landslide blocking the tracks, surprised at how accepting Kuro was in her ingenious plan not to get involved in the Grail War. "Huh?"

"Eh, it's not going to be any fun anyway," Kuro said, waving her off when pressed. "I'll find some the else to do with Archer-kun. Maybe we can set up a detective agency, fight crime. I'd probably look pretty good in a trench coat…"

Illya decided to ignore that as she looked towards Miyu.

Miyu shrugged. "If that's what Illya wants."

"Um, so, you're okay with not joining a stupid fight to the death?" Illya said.

Miyu nodded.

Kuro sighed. "Well, I don't suppose a wish is going to be worth it anyway," she chirped, holding out her dark-skinned arm and admiring it. "I already made the only wish I want."

Oh?Kuro heard Archer say. Is that so, Master?

You would abandon the war? Saber directed at Miyu.

"If that is what Illya wishes," Miyu repeated.

Then I would ask you to release me, Archer said, so that I may take my chances to find another Master and prosecute the war further.

Kuro tilted her head. "How do I do that?"

Kuro heard Archer sigh.

Archer, in his deepest, darkest heart, began to consider the possibility he might have to kill this girl…

…...

The park was like a lot of city parks. Walkways interspersed with trees and open grassy areas. Streetlights were wildly spread, leaving dark shadows between them. There was a fountain in the park. Shiro sat on a bench on one side, staring at the red-haired woman at the opposite end. She hadn't responded when he'd greeted her other than a curt and dismissive nod, before she'd settled in the bench farthest from him. He'd vaguely considered talking to her, but what would he say? Please surrender and let me kill your Servant? Hello, what is your wish, and could you please forfeit it so I could get the woman I love back?

They'd stewed in more or less awkward silence for the last half-hour as the sky darkened and other people began to vanish. They'd been expecting this. Tradition and practicality held that the war was held in the shadow of night and in secrecy, or as secret as a fight to the death among legendary heroes using weapons and magic as subtle as Excalibur could be. Rin had guessed there was a good chance that any master who'd take their 'invitation' to fight would wait until nightfall. It would make setting a Bounded Field to keep normal people away easier. Had the Master rashly decided to fight right away, Rider would have arrived already to nudge the odds in their favor. As it was, they were making their way slowly to catch the Master by surprise. For all Shirou knew, they were already in position and just waiting for the fight to start.

Saber had taken the opportunity to take off her boots and hike up her skirts, sitting on the rim of the fountain with her feet in the water. Occasionally, she'd kick it in the general direction of Calvin Klein Saber with a childishly petty smile. He'd just smile back at her, looking amused.

"Well," Calvin Klein Saber's master said, standing up from her bench. Shirou, surprised to hear her speak, took a moment to scramble to his feet. "I believe enough time has passed. Let us begin."

"You would fight one who is unprepared?" Red Saber said, her eyebrow arching. "At least let me put my boots back on."

There was a flash of light, and Calvin Klein Saber's clothes changed. He now wore a teal garment, a sword hanging from his waist, another longer one at his back. He drew the longer blade, but made no move to attack. "By all means, lady knight," he said. "Prepare yourself. I would not have it be said that I struck down a helpless woman. My lady Sola, please remain well back behind me."

The red-haired Master– Sola, Shirou supposed– looked torn between stubborn annoyance and willingness to obey as she took several steps back. From Calvin Klein Saber's look over her shoulder, that didn't seem as far as he'd like.

"I would advice you to do the same, Praetor," Red Saber said, as she shook her feet free of water and slipped them into her footwear. "A battle such as this is not for mere mortals."

"I can't promise that, Saber," Shirou said. Calling her just that felt wrong to his mouth. He needed to think of a nickname for her. "If I see you in trouble, I'm going to step in. I'm not going to let you be struck down either."

She laughed, her strangely shaped crimson sword appearing in her hands. It was long, its length almost equal her height. "You would interfere in a maiden's amusement, master? How brave and bold of you. We might just get along after all." She faced Calvin Klein Saber, her sword held in both hands before her. The other Saber faced her, matching her stance. His weapon seemed slightly shorter than hers, but with a broad, heavy blade and a reddish tinge. Shirou had to wonder where all these red swords came from. There seemed to be a warp in the air around it. Even at a glance, Shirou could tell it was a Noble Phantasm, and one of great power. The Master felt the first streaks of nervousness. Powerful as it was, Red Saber's blade wasn't anything like it. The wide sword seemed light in her enemy's grip though, and he spun it easily in one hand before taking a stance that mirrored her own. He looked cool, confident, and unafraid. Shirou didn't let that get to him. He'd seldom met a Servant who acted anything else in the moment of battle, with the possible exception of Rider, and probably only because he couldn't read her face very well.

There was a brief, awkward pause, then both Sabers took a few steps sideways to get the fountain out from between the two of them. The look they exchanged clearly said they were telling no one that had happened.

Shirou evened his breathing, keeping one eye on the enemy Master, who was watching her own Servant intently, and began preparing to Trace something when he saw an opportunity. There was a familiar moment of stillness as the Sabers eyed one another, and Red Saber subtly adjusted her grip. Then they both blurred, and there was the ring of metal and a shower of sparks as their blades met.

His Saber nearly died on the first blow.

Red Saber's wide, sideways swing met Calvin Klein Saber's coming the other way. Her blade stopped cold but his didn't, powering through and pushing her weapon out of the way. Red Saber, off-balance, nearly fell victim to a sudden thrust as the other Saber changed his attack into a stab. Red Saber contorted, using the very momentum that had destabilized her to roll out of the way of the blow. Her sword flickered, dismissed, only to reappear again in her hands no longer outside his guard. The other Saber danced sideways, slashing at her the opposite way. This time Red Saber held her sword for a block, one palm resting on the flat of the blade. Her opponent's swing struck in the middle of her weapon, and her feet ripped twin tracks in the cement before she was sent flying back.

"Saber!" Shirou cried.

Red Saber flipped in midair, landing lightly, blade already raised at her side and pointing at her enemy. Her teeth were bared in an excited grin. The other Saber was already charging for her, blade held high, but she didn't wait for him. She charged, her profile low, a noticeably faster red blur. There was another pair of swings, another ring of metal and a flash of sparks, and Red Saber was flying again, batted aside by the blade as if she weighed nothing. Once more, her lithe, agile body let her recover, faster than before, and she darted at her enemy, his blade still not recovered from its attack. She leapt over him, spinning, her blade gripped in both hands in was what sure to be a powerful downstroke.

Calvin Klein Saber spun, turning his blade in a complete revolution to parry aside Red Saber's attack. Once more the sheer force of the blade sent her spinning, easily diverting her own sword, and she barely recovered in time to leap back and over the fountain as he swung again. His sword cleaved through the fountain's central portion like it wasn't there, and it exploded in a spray of sparks, shattered cement and water, dousing him and Saber both. Red Saber landed lightly on the rim opposite him, then backflipped away, falling into a wary stance.

"Such monstrous strength!" she proclaimed. "Are you perhaps the great Hercules?"

"No," Shirou said quickly. "No, he definitely isn't."

"And how would you know, praetor?" Red Saber said, getting ready to attack again as Calvin Klein Saber stepped out of the spray of the water, completely soaked and wearing a rueful, amused smile.

"Because I've killed Hercules. If he was Hercules, you'd be having more problems," Shirou said.

Red Saber's eyes widened. "Praetor, after I defeat this one, you will tell me this tale! I refuse to believe it is anything but a boast until you have spun it for me to judge."

"If we live, I will, I promise," Shirou said assured her.

"No! You will tell me for nothing less than our victory over this warrior!" Red Saber declared. She grinned at Calvin Klein Saber. "My apologies, sir knight. But I WILL hear this tale!"

"Come at me, then, little sister," he said, raising his blade.

Letting out a battle cry like a lion– Shirou thought he heard the word "Gao" in there somewhere– Red Saber charged once more.

…...

When you were trying to be subtle, things took time. Sure, they could have gotten down from the roof by leaping down and having Caster carry them safely to the ground, or arrived at the park on Pegasus' back, but that would have been a big neon sign that said "OTHER MASTERS HERE!". Thus, getting to the ground floor involved the stairs and elevator, and getting to the park involved walking. All in all, it took maybe half and hour, maybe a little more.

The Bounded Field that came up just as Rin– the one with her hair down– was about to enter the park struck Saber as mildly funny. The fact that it hadn't been any of them that had activated it was less amusing.

"What the heck?" Rin swore, holding her nose and looking affronted. She rounded on Caster. "What's going on?"

Caster frowned, but closed her eyes and began to play her harp. She began to sing, the words like nothing Saber could pronounce, much less recall. It was a haunting song, both beautiful and, in some indefinite way, powerful. Saber had only ever heard anything like it once, when facing the Caster Medea. They sounded little alike, but the sense of unreality was identical to the High Speed Divine Words Medea had used in her own spellcasting.

The music slowed, the song ended. "There is a problem," Caster said.

"That doesn't surprise me," Saber's Master muttered. She raised her voice. "What is it?"

"It appears someone has beaten us to the stage," Caster said. "Another Caster has sealed the battlefield. And they are not alone." Caster paused. "I sense at least two other Servants with her, and as many Masters."

"An alliance?" the other Rin said, aghast. "So soon?"

"Who'd be so without pride they'd beg for an alliance so early in the war?" Saber's Master agreed.

Shirou, Shirou, Sakura, Rider, Caster and Saber all opened their mouths to respond. The Rins glared. Shirou, Shirou, Sakura, Rider, Caster and Saber all closed their mouths.

"Caster, can you get us inside?" Shirou said. For a fleeting moment, Saber wished he'd been as decisive during their own war. Ah, well.

Caster frowned, strumming a quick tune on her lyre and singing a few quick words before turning to her Master. "I believe so. The Bounded Field does not seem to have any effect beyond forbidding entry into this park. I believe I can open a small hole in its structure that will allow us to enter without being detected by the Caster that made it.

Shirou didn't even glance at the Rins before giving the order. "Do it," he said.

Caster nodded, closed her eyes, took a breath, and began to play her harp once more. Her voice slowly rose in song…

…...

Shirou didn't notice anything change midway through the fight, but he saw the other Master react to something, sudden shock filling her face and she looked about wildly. Calvin Klein Saber, about to launch and attack, paused, as did his own Saber. A part of him was annoyed how this kept happening. He had magic too, darn it! Why was he always getting left out of the ominous magical feelings?

"Well, well, well," a familiar voice that made Shirou's hackles rise. "What have we here? Emiya? A Master? This must be my lucky day!"

Shirou whirled towards the direction of the voice. "Shinji?-!" he exclaimed. Then he paled. And it wasn't because he was looking at who he knew was a dead man.

Walking nonchalantly down one of the walkways, still in his school uniform, Matou Shinji smirked. "Speaking the obvious… ah, classic Emiya. Wouldn't you agree, Rin-chan?"

The Rin standing next to him glared, her deep purple eyes flashing in anger. "Don't call me that," she snapped, her hair an angry curtain the color of her eyes. Her fist clenched, dark, blasphemous words erupted from her lips, and a wobbly globe of liquid appeared between her hands.

Shinji cringed back, and turned his attention back to Shirou. "Well, this certainly is a surprise, Emiya-kun. Who'd have thought that–"

Rin rolled her eyes and backhanded him in the mouth. He let out a girlish cry of pain as he fell on his back. "Stop wasting time, you moron," she spat. She pointed at the Sabers. "Lancer! Rider! Caster! Kill them!"

A cloud of dark purple, nearly black specks of light; another golden haze; and a third tan shower came together, forming three Servants. Standing in the darkness between lampposts, their forms were obscured. That was all Shirou had time to notice before Rin threw the wobbly globe at him.

Red Saber threw herself in its path, the spell striking her and dissolving harmlessly as the three Servants approached. In Shirou's peripheral vision, he could see the other Saber moving between the newcomers and Red Saber and his Master.

The golden Servant in the lead reminded Shirou of Gilgamesh. The arrogant air about her, her golden armor, the way she looked down on them, they all reminded him of the King of Heroes. The spear she held hinted as to her class, but Shirou couldn't be sure. The Servant next to her, a tall woman with long dark hair and a regal bearing, clad in dark armor of overlapping scales that reminded him of a snake and black robes that hung from her shoulders also carried a spear. It was a deep, blood red, the length of its shaft beneath the head seemingly wrapped by vines covered with long, nasty thorns. There was an aura of blood and death about her. Shirou was beginning to find those terribly cliché. Either that or he was in shock.

The male Saber gasped as he saw the dark woman. "You!" he gasped, drawing the short sword at his side and falling into a defensive stance. Shirou recognized that look. It was the same "Oh Crap" look Rin had gotten when Illya had revealed her Servant was Herakles.

The dark woman paused. "I know you…" she said slowly, her eyes dull, lifeless. They were completely apathetic to those around her, not even taking pleasure in being recognized. The empty eyes of a doll. "I know those blades. I suppose I shouldn't be surprised to find a warrior from the lands of my life." Her lips twisted slightly as she said that. "Well met, warrior. I see the geis has also been placed upon you."

"Saber, who is this woman?" his red-headed master asked.

"She is known as the Shadowy One, master," Calvin Klein Saber said. "The Goddess of Battle who dwelled in the land of death, within a fortress of shadows. The warrior-witch Scáthach."

"And now you have just made it imperative that you all die," Rin said blandly. "Caster, kill him first."

The dark woman– she was a Caster, it seemed– stepped forward, her spear in hand. "Gae Blog," she said, and threw the spear.

Shirou had no time to shout a warning, or even a quick and highly condensed summary of the spear's abilities– though he did wonder why she had it– before the spear glowed, becoming crimson light that zig-zagged wildly before coming for the Saber's chest. It feinted sideways, than dove down and stabbed at his heart from below. Saber's chest burst, a hole opening through his heart and straight out his back even as he swung his sword, deflecting the streak of light that had been the spear. It ricocheted sideways, the hole in his chest closing in a split second, only for the hole to burst open again as the spear turned, zigging around his body to attack him from behind. He spun, deflecting it again, and it honed in on him once more as Caster stood with one hand outstretched, palm up, her thumb guiding a little ball of red light.

"I don't remember Gae Bolg doing that," Shirou found himself saying.

"I'd worry about other things if I were you," Shinji sneered. "Rider! Kill his Servant! I'll deal with the Master myself!"

Rider turned out to bear a passing resemblance to Shinji. He wore black Grecian armor, tan hair sticking out from beneath his helmet. A mirror-bright shield was strapped on one arm, and he held a pole-arm in the other with a wickedly hooked blade. There were wings on his sandals, Shirou noticed, and a cloak hung from his shoulders. He spun his weapon lazily and leveled it at Saber. "Another one? Why am I always sent to kill women? This is hardly a fighting challenge for a hero of my great stature!"

Red Saber grinned. Well, she showed all her teeth, anyway. "Interrupting my battle… such impertinence will not be forgiven! I will make you beg to be sent to the circus!" With a cry, she charged, leaving Shirou by his lonesome.

"Well," Shinji said, moving to step around the Servants. "Looks like it's just you and me, Emiya-kun. Look, I don't really want to have to kill you. Tell you what, why don't you use your command seals to kill your Servant and promise to serve me faithfully as my familiar, and I'll speak on your behalf to Rin and my grandfather. I'm sure I can convince them to let you live, if you beg hard enough to convince me. Just get on your stomach and– " Shinji cut off with a yelp as he barely ducked the arrow that Shirou had shot at his head.

Shirou just Projected another arrow into existence and fitted it into his bow. "No deal, Shinji," he said, and loosed again.

"Gah!" Shinji cried, making a gesture and a shield snapped up in front of him. He turned to Rin. "Are you just going to stand there?" he demanded.

She sneered. "Clean up your own mess," she said, turning towards the male Saber's master. "I have work to do."

Snarling, Shinji turned and made a slashing gesture. There was a rushing blur that streaked at Shirou, but he easily side-stepped around it. "I gave you a chance, Emiya!" he screamed, making more slashing gestures.

Shelving the question of how this Shinji knew magecraft for later– he wasn't exactly one to talk– Shirou devoted his time to trying to survive long enough for his allies to arrive…

…...

"Hmm," the tall man said, his deep, gravelly voice rumbling. "This is starting to look interesting…"

It figured, the Master-but-servant next to him thought, that they'd be standing on a high place again. There was probably some sort of large thematic significance there. They stood on high places because the King was high above his subjects, or something like that. He'd gotten over being nervous of heights many years ago– he'd gotten over a lot of things many years ago– but still, he seldom found himself standing alone in places like this. It reminded him too much of times past. Of course, given circumstances, he hardly needed the reminder now…

"I recognize some of them, your Majesty," he volunteered. In truth, he'd been very much surprised. It all added to the intriguing mystery this war was becoming.

"Oh?" the tall Servant-but-master said, sounding piqued by this little tidbit. "You can see them from all the way up here?" 'Up here' being one of the many tall office buildings that had sprung up in Fuyuki in the intervening years. The height brought with it a constant wind that made the Servant's cape flap dramatically, which was considerably better how the other man's scarf seemed to be trying to strangle him.

"Simple magecraft, your majesty," the magus replied. "Childishly simple, really. They enhance my eyes." Well, simple in theory, anyway. In execution, not so much. But he didn't have to know that.

The tall man made a neutral rumble. "And what do they let you see?"

The magus pointed. "The two girls clad in red and black bear a resemblance Tohsaka Rin. Her family is the administrator of this land. A talented girl, and while I am not sure as to why there are two of her, I have no reason yet to assume these are not the same." His finger shifted. "The male warrior with the two swords is Diarmuid Ua Duibhne. Beware his weapons, your majesty. From my research, I believe at least one of them inflicts wounds that do not heal."

"Hmm…" That thoughtful rumble again. It was strangely comforting, like riding in the car and letting the engine rev. "Go on."

He pointed at the the two blonde women, one in a red dress, the other in blue with armor. "I am also at a loss as to why there are two of her, but its easier to understand considering she is a Servant. That is the King of Knights, Arturia Pendragon. Her sword is powerful enough to destroy your chariot in one blow, your Majesty."

"Oh?" the tall man rumbled. "Is that your opinion, magus?"

The magus shook his head. "No, your majesty. It is fact. Though there is a short delay before she can unleash it, that delay is not long enough to attack her in." He allowed himself a small, wry smile. "That is also fact." He sighed. "She's the sort of enemy you like to conquer, I believe."

"And how do you know what sort of enemy I like to conquer, magus? Somehow, I doubt that much is remembered to my name."

Another wry smile. "Call it… intuition, your majesty. A good servant must know how to anticipate his master's needs, after all."

The Servant-but-master let out a loud, booming laugh. "Is that so? Well, I've never really paid attention to servants. Very well, magus. I'll keep those in mind. For now, let's see where this all leads to. Pass the chips!"

...

They noticed the Bounded Field. They'd have needed to be blind and deaf not to. Archer, Saber and the Magical Girls brought it to their Masters' attention, and even Ruby and Sapphire had picked it up. Once it had been explained to Illya, the choice was simple. They'd turn around and pretend they noticed none of it, which was pretty easy, because Illya really couldn't tell it was there. And it would have gone so well, if it hadn't been for Kuro.

"Hey," she'd said as they'd been about to turn around and go. "Isn't that onii-chan?"

Illya's head snapped around so hard she nearly got whiplash. She was just in time to see someone who certainly looked like her onii-chan disappearing into the park.

"Huh?" Ruby wondered curiously, hiding in Illya's hair. "How did he get in?"

"I don't know," Illya said dully, though the dullness was swiftly being overrun by fear and panic. "But we're going in after him. Ruby, can you take down that… whatever it is?"

"Leave it to me, Illya-chan!"

Kuro turned away so that no one saw her smile. Only Archer did, and he had a feeling she meant him to…

...

Emiya Shirou was not a useless person.

Sure, he was a bit of an idiot and had less self-preservation instinct than a concussed emotionally impaired lemming (apologies to any emotionally impaired lemmings), but he was an excellent cook, a decent repairman, was apparently very good in the sack once you managed to convince him to get in, and was harder to kill than a gamma-ray bombarded giant green cockroach with his own comic book. Plus, given the situations he found himself in, his idiocy actually managed to bring his chances of survival up from 'absolutely nil' to 'wow, that actually worked!'.

Oh, and he had this magical power thing that worked well with swords. Though to be honest, that cooking thing seems more useful. There was, however, little opportunity to make use of it in this instance unless thier Servants won and he needed to cook up a victory feast on the spot. So he was planning to use the sword thing.

Finding the fight required no fancy magic, just listening for the noise. Caster played as they moved, her magic dampening their steps, keeping them from being detected. Saber had changed into her armor, leading the way, Excalibur invisible in her hands. Sakura and Caster bought up the rear, Rider keeping a wary eye out (so to speak) around them. The Rins were right behind Saber, their hands already in the pseudo-gun shape for Gandr, though Shirou knew each had a few smalls gems ready just in case. The Rin with her hair down was carrying a wrapped package over her shoulder, its shape vaguely but instinctively familiar to him, not that it helped him identify it.

He eyed his doppelganger (though, he wasn't actually using that word), who was walking on the other side of the group, looking around as well. Shirou wondered about him, him and the other one. On a more shallow level, he wondered how they managed to get proper Servants and he didn't. it couldn't be skill, or lack thereof. He'd been there when the other two had summoned their Servants, and done exactly the same thing they'd done. A bit better, in his opinion. At least he hadn't stuttered.

Saber stopped, raising a clenched fist to signal that they do the same. Shirou could see the fight now. A golden-clad Servant stood watching impatiently, acting as either lookout or backup. The Red Saber was fighting an armored man, flipping and spinning acrobatically and using the momentum from that to add extra power to her strikes. Her master was fighting… Shirou had to take a moment to blink and rub his eyes. No change. He was fighting Shinji, and was apparently having a surprisingly difficult time of it. This Shinji was using rushing waves of darkness to attack, and from the way the other Shirou was seriously avoiding them, they were obviously dangerous. The other Saber, Diarmuid, was being attacked by a line of red light. There was a hole open on his chest, one that closed and opened intermittently. A woman stood not far from him, hand outstretched in his general direction, obviously directing the light.

Off to the side a redheaded woman was fighting… Shirou had to blink again. Still no change. Her opponent was a purple-haired version of Rin.

His Rin swore as she saw it too. "Another one?"

"An enemy one," the other Rin with them said, voice grim. "She's carrying the signs of Makiri magecraft." There was a gasp from Sakura. "I guess this is the other way it could have gone…"

"Onee-san…" Sakura said softly.

Rin shook her head. "No time to consider it. And it's hardly relevant anyway. She's an enemy. We need to take her down." The Rins shared a look and a nod.

Rider, who'd been watching behind them, finally turned to look at the circumstances and gasped. Everyone turned towards her, surprised at the normally steady Servant's distress.

"Rider? What is it?" Sakura asked.

"That man…" Rider said, her voice low and shaking slightly. "I know that man…"

The Rins' eyes were narrowing, but for once, Shirou didn't need this particular tidbit explained to him. Rider had likely met few people who lived to tell of it during her stint as Shinji's hijacked Servant, and she was likely to react that way to Shinji, of all people. That left people from her past. And even Shirou knew Medusa had only met one man that could possibly have this sort of affect on her.

"They summoned Perseus?" the other Shirou blurted out, clearly having followed the same trail of thought.

"This is bad," his Rin said. "Perseus is a hero armed with multiple powerful Noble Phantasms. It will be difficult to–"

"I'll take him," Rider said. Her voice was grim.

"Do not be a fool Rider," Saber cut in. "Both your myths are intertwined, and he's already killed you once. One can say he is the worst match for you in battle."

"I can take him," Rider insisted. "I'm not the same person he fought. The tactic he used to defeat me won't work now."

There was a pregnant pause, and Shirou saw Rin look at her sister. Sakura nodded once, and Rin did as well. "Keep hold of yourself," Rin warned. "We don't want you getting killed out there."

"I will counter their Caster," Caster said, voice low, her lyre echoing with a sharp, pulse-bounding tune that reminded Shirou of those spy movies starring Tom Cruise.

"And I shall attack their lookout," Saber said volunteered. "I believe there is a good chance I can also convince Diarmuid to a temporary alliance, if his master does not opt to retreat." She smiled briefly. "He was always willing to parlay with me."

Her Master briefly twitched. Shirou recognized Rin's jealous look.

"Shirou," Rin said, pointing at him. "You stay here and act as our sniper. We need someone to keep an eye on the whole battlefield. Matou-san, stay with him and watch his back."

"You," the other Rin pointed to the other Shirou, "back yourself up. I mean, back up your other self."

Everyone nodded. Sakura did as well, though she seemed discomfited at the rather impersonal way Rin had referred to her.

Shirou readied his bow and waited as they moved out.

...

A sudden wave of music rolled through the battlefield, making everyone start. This was nearly fatal for Diarmuid, but the Saber managed to rally, swatting the red light of Gae Bolg away. The red light collapsed, and a crimson spear was sent flying as Scáthach found her spell suddenly broken. Only Red Saber took things in stride, letting out a delighted laugh as she danced and parried. "Finally! Music to accompany our merrymaking! Play louder, minstrel! Play on!"

The purple-haired Rin swore, dodging an attack from her opponent and retaliating with her own acidic glob. "Lancer! Shouldn't you have been keeping an eye out?"

"I am not some mere watchman, witch," she snapped. "I am the godlike A–"

That was as far as she got before a sudden hammer of wind slammed into her, sending her flying.

Scáthach gestured, Gae Bolg levitating from where it had fallen. It returned to her hands in time for her to block Diarmuid's swords. Like Red Saber, she was pushed back by the blade, but unlike her she went with the force, giving enough to keep from being overwhelmed before launching into an attack of her own, the crimson spear flashing. "Gae Bolg," she invoked, the spear seemed to lunge of its own accord. The sudden hole in his chest didn't slow Diarmuid down as he parried. The warrior witch reversed her grip, using the butt of the weapon to try and trip the Saber, but his own sword clipped down in an uninterrupted arc, parrying the spear away. "Gae Bolg," Scáthach repeated, twisting to slam the spear into his chest back-handed. She tried using magic, but found herself blocked. The music that echoed through the air seemed to make the very world cringe back from her, bleeding away the magic she tried to form into spells.

Matou Rin risked a glance away from her opponent. Lancer was fighting a woman in blue and armor, her spear being repulsed by some kind of invisible weapon. She put that out of her mind. Unless Lancer got extremely unlucky, she'd be able to deal with anything anyone threw at her. When she looked back, two woman were flanking her opponent.

"Hi," the Rins said as she started. Both raised their hands, shaped like guns and pointed at her. "Gandr!"

Shirou started as another Shirou charged up behind Shinji, wielding a pair of blades he vaguely recognized. A cry from Rider was all the warning Shinji had, barely letting him twist out of the way of the killing stroke. He sent a panicky wave at the other Shirou, which was nimbly dodged back. Shinji loked around wildly, realizing he was sandwiched between two Shirous, both armed and not looking their usual idiotic, doormat-y selves. "Rider!" he called out. "Save me!"

Rider blurred suddenly, disengaging from Red Saber. He appeared at Shinji's side, his shield protecting Shinji from one Shirou as he faced the other. Red Saber swore and moved to stand beside her Master, and Rider turned to her, his weapon ready.

A black and purple blur streaked from a fold in the ground at his back, a silver streak aiming for his neck. It was now Shinji's turn to repay the favor as his sudden panicked shriek prompted Rider to turn, barely managing to get his shield up in time.

Rider bared her teeth at his shocked face from scant inches away. "We meet again," she said as Shinji stumbled away, before lashing out with a hard kick.

Shinji, turning, broke into a cold sweat as he found himself facing both Shirous and a Servant.

"I leave this to you, praetor," Red Saber said lazily stepping back. "'Tis would not be sporting with such odds. I believe I will amuse myself elsewhere."

"Eh-Emiya…" Shinji quavered. "H-have mercy! Look, I was only kidding about killing you. Come on, we're best friends, aren't we? I was j-just joking! Ha-ha, do you r-really think I'd have it in me to do that?"

"Yes," the Shirou with the bow said. An arrow appeared in his hands, and he fitted it to his bowstrnog in one quick, efficient movement, drawing back the string. The other one had already fallen into a combat stance, brandishing those blades of his.

Time seemed to slow for Shinji. He saw Rin, fighting what looked like two other Rins and the red-haired Master. He saw the Red Saber had joined the fight against Lancer. He saw Scáthach fighting against the male Saber, defying her class by fighting with a spear. He saw the woman in the tunic playing the harp away from the general area of the fighting.

The woman, he thought wildly. She must also be some kind of Servant, probably strengthening these two weakling. A Caster! No other Class fits. If I can remove her, I can weaken these two– why are there two Emiyas?– back into the pathetic doormats they are!

Shinji, whatever faults he had– and there were a lot of them– was magus. He had been trained as one as soon as he potential was confirmed, groomed to inherit the Thaumaturgical Crest of the Matou clan. He'd been trained, very harshly trained, to Zouken's quite insane standards. If he managed to keep his faults from getting the better of him, he was actually competent. Dangerously so.

Faced with a life-or-death moment, he spun, managing to dodge the loosed arrow and throw a cutting wave at the Emiya who charged at him. Emiya dodged, getting clipped as Shinji threw a spell at the lone and defenseless Caster. The spell flew like an arrow, crossing the intervening distance in the blink of an eye… only to be deflected sharply to the side as the very air around the woman seemed to ripple, his spell bouncing aside…

Straight into the path of some children.

"ILLYA!-?-!" the Emiya with the bow cried in shock and horror as it flew at the silver-haired girl in the lead…

...

Illya, clad in her Magical Girl outfit in the lead (and what a surprise that had been to her Servants), had gotten a bit turned around, and she'd sorta lost track of Shirou. Fortunately, before she'd needed to wave Ruby to produce some kind of Onii-chan-Finder Spell, they'd heard the sounds of fighting. It was a lot similar to the sound of hell being raised, only a bit more organized and subdued. "This way!" she declared, flitting over the ground.

Miyu flew after her, a dark and silent wingman– or should that be wingwoman? Wing-girl?– while Kuro ninja-bounced after them, touching the ground ever so lightly and muttering to herself. "Yes, it's not like we can tell on our own," she grumbled, her short, near-mini school skirt flapping. Definitely not designed with this sort of thing in mind. They'd left their school bags hidden near the entrance, freeing themselves of any distractions.

She felt her Servant close by, his astral-presence at tingle against her senses. Interesting… he said conversationally. I thought it was a fluke the three of you manage to summon us. It seems you weren't so… normal after all.

Kuro smirked but didn't reply. Already, her prana stores were running just under ninety-seven percent, a significantly increased drain considering she'd 'topped up' on Illya that morning. If she didn't watch out, this Servant of hers would burn through her stores and she'd need to recharge again.

The thought was not unappealing.

Kuro saw bright flashes ahead, heard the ring of weapons that resonated familiarly with the part of her that was more 'Epic Spirit' than 'Illya'. Music drifted over them, and she could feel the tingle of magic in the air. Illya halted near the edge, staring. Miyu joined her, though the girl prudently stood half-behind an obscuring tree, and looked like she wanted to pull Illya back with her. Kuro was still some ways back– she couldn't fly, after all– but with better eyes than them, saw what had given them pause, and it made her slow down just a little.

There was a battlefield before them. And it was filled with Shirou-nii-chans.

Okay, if you wanna get technical, there were only two Shirou-nii-chans, but given that that was twice as much Shirou-nii-chans than Kuro had thought the world possessed, she could be forgiven a little hyperbole. There was, disturbingly, also twice the previously known number of Rins in the world, as well as a girl who looked a LOT like Rin that could easily bring the number up to three.

"ILLYA!-?-!" one of the aforementioned Shirou-nii-chans cried.

Kuro realized too late that it was a warning. Her eyes saw with crystal clarity the spell coming at Illya from the side. Illya wasn't reacting, but Miyu was. even then, Kuro could see she wouldn't be on time. The spell was to close, she'd never be able to swing Sapphire enough to–

"Auto Guard: Defenser."

"Auto Guard: Protection."

The twin voices rang out, and the spell slammed into a rippling pink shield on top of a steadier golden one. Illya yelped and stepped back in surprise at the sudden light show. She bumped into someone who hadn't been there previously.

To either side of Illya stood her Servants. The words 'Class: Magical Girl' came to Kuro as she saw them. Their relative strengths came to Kuro for comparison. The blonde one in black was fast, but had little endurance, the one in white was slower, but with greater magical power.

Down below, a lull seemed to come over the fighting at the sudden appearance. Kuro saw one of the Rins swear. She distinctly heard the name 'Einzbern'.

"What?" the sour-faced teenager with the blue hair exclaimed. "More Masters? Damn it Rin, can't that bitch of yours even do a Bounded Field right?-! I thought she was supposed to be a legendary witch?-!"

"Are you afraid of having to deal with children, Shinji?" the purple-haired girl who, Kuro realized with mounting horror, did look exactly like Rin said. "They can't be very strong, not at that age. Weak Masters with weak Servants."

I believe that's my cue, Archer whispered. A cloud of red sparkles congealed behind Kuro, forming her red and black-clad Servant. He spread his hands, Kanshou and Byakuya appearing in them. "Weak is a relative term," he said smoothly.

Below, the two regular-looking Rins and the Shirou-nii-chans gaped. "Archer?-!" came the rising chorus.

Archer raised an eyebrow. "Um… yes?"

Next to Miyu, a black cloud was coming together, forming the shape of a tall, armored knight, his metal plates stained deepest black. The image wavered as a black fog rippled around him, obscuring his form, then outright distorting it, making him look blasphemously, chaotically unreal. A helmet hid his face, the visor glowing a hellish crimson.

Across the battlefield, Saber felt a familiar force and darted back from her opponent, slamming her with Invisible Air– little good it seemed to do– to give her some breathing room. She turned in the direction of the sensation.

Even from across the battlefield, even through the helmet and the Noble Phantasm he was using, Saber knew their eyes met.

"Lancelot…" she breathed.

…...

"Ohoho!" the tall man bellowed, rubbing his chin. "More are appearing! Interesting, interesting! Ah, it looks like we'll have to join in soon, if only so they don't end the fun prematurely."

Somehow, Lord Waver Velvet El-Melloi thought he felt an oncoming sense of déjà vu…

...

- To be continued...

...

A/N: well, that's a wrap. And yes, he IS his Servant. A lot of Masters and Servants haven't appeared yet, but given there are 4 times more here than in Fate/Zero, I hope you understand how I'm going to stick to a relatively small circle of perspective characters. People ARE going to die, after all, and I'd rather not get attached to too many of them.

Oh, and I've decided not to give Perseus!Rider Hades' Helm of Darkness. For one, it doesn't make much sense in the context of his myth in the Nasuverse, since Stheno and Euryale were already dead and he supposedly used the helmet to escape their pursuit. For another, he never used it against Medusa either, so that's out. Clearly, it has no reason to exist. Also, such a thing would be way too broken to have, since it probably has powers beyond mere invisibility. I'm going to go with the use of the term as a figure of speech. If you wanna find out what that means, search Wikipedia.

For some reason, as I wrote this I kept hearing Shinji's lines being spoken in Starscream's voice. Any Starscream's voice but the Bay one. That was NOT Starscream, darn it! He wasn't backstabby enough!

So, currently revealed Servant's identities (so fast!) are: Diarmuid, Scáthach , Lancelot, and Perseus. These are only those whose names have been outright stated and isn't counting the ones who are implied very, VERY strongly.

...

Seihai Dojo!

"Hello! I'm Seihai-kun!"

"And I'm Irisviel von Einzbern!"

"And welcome to another session of Seihai-kun Says, the part of the fic where we say things straight out because the writer is too lazy to wait until next chapter to explain it and doesn't want people asking him to confirm the half-assed hints in the chapter!"

"Such a lazy writer! Why does he bother, anyway?"

"Apparently, he gets high by drying, brushing and smoking reviews intravenously."

"… how do you smoke something intravenously?"

"No idea. I'm the moe personification of the corrupted grail, not a review addict. Anyway, on to our first review FROM THE FUTURE! It says: 'OMG, OMG, OMG, you know I think it would be really cool if EMIYA used Unlimited Blade Works and Lancelot used the weapons inside them, they'd be like so totally invincible!' Wow! Why didn't the writer think of that? Isn't it incredibly lucky that EMiya and Lancelot are on the same side and they could do EXACTLY THAT THING? Good thing you pointed it out, future reviewer, because the writer would have been too dense to realize what a good idea it was."

"Seihai-kun, you're being too sarcastic again. Flames FROM THE FUTURE, remember?"

"Eh, you're no fun. Okay, next review FROM THE FUTURE! It says: 'OMG, OMG, OMG, is the rest of the Nanoha cast going to show up? Is Signum one of the Saber's who was summoned? I think Precia should be a Caster, since she can use the Grail to wish Alicia was alive, and Nanoha can totally wail on her, because she's a complete monster!' Wow–"

"No sarcastic comments, Seihai-kun!"

"You know, all this protecting the readers from sarcastic comments you do totally makes it seem like you don't think they're smart enough to realize sarcasm when they read it."

"Have you ever been to a forum thread? Better be safe. No, dear readers, no one else from Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha is going to show up in this fic. The only reason those two are here is because they appeared in an official crossover manga, even though it was non-canonical. And all the slots for Saber and Caster have been accounted for, even though you haven't seen them all yet. The writer is trying to cut back on the crack this fic beyond a gag cameo or two, as he is trying to dispel the widely held mistaken belief that's all he's good at. He would also like to direct you to such works as Temptation, Digimon: The Final World, Love Stories, Mother's Day, Falling In Love, and Confessions of a Lolicon as other examples of works that contain no crack."

"Having only those examples isn't very convincing, Irisviel."

"Well, it's all we have to work with!"

"Ah, Irisviel. So stupidly stubborn. Okay, on last review FROM THE FUTURE! It says: 'Shinji? A magus? What kind of sh*t is this? Seriously what the f*ck are you trying to pull? Shinji's not a magus, you dumb*$$! Get it right! Argh! This fic sucks! FLAME! FLAME!'"

"Wow! How unexpectedly restrained."

"Again, it's all easy to explain, Irisviel-chan! You see, this is what is called a 'fanfic'. And in 'fanfics', the story can be completely different from the source material. Dumbledore can be gay, Tom Bombadil can be completely gone from the story, Shirou can have sex, that sort of thing! In this 'fanfic', other things are different. Do you understand?"

"You've already used that explanation, Seihai-kun."

"Oh, yes, I forgot. Suffice to say, this Shinji is from an alternate route where he actually has the potential for magecraft. And yes, we KNOW that basically means Rin didn't need to be adopted, because the Matou had an heir, thought Kariya is probably still dead, only for Shinji's sake. What part of 'Fate/Hollow Ataraxia cobbled together Fuyuki' didn't sink in? They're from different timelines, okay?"

"Ah ha ha ha… well, that's all the time we have today on Seihai-kun Shippuden. Join us next chapter– if he manages to make one– same FFNET Story ID, same FFNET author!"

"What, he's running out Type-Moon dead end omake names?"

"Shut up and end the segment, Seihai-kun."

...

Coming up next!

"Halt, evil doers! Penetrating the darkness of night with the light of her justice, the fierce warrior Tiger Mask appears!"

"Here I go! Magic Circuit Full Count! Don't trust over 30! Mouth and hands at the ready, a flower blooming on the face of the moon! I am the White Moon Princess, Phantasmoon!"

"We are the gorgeous protectors of Fuyuki! In the eye of the tiger, we will punish you!"

T-T

"I'm going to win the Grail! Depletion Garden!"

O.O

"Worship, for you stand before the god of the new world! He who will bring forth the rapture as the new Rizal! With the power of the grail, he shall become a true divinity!"

Π_ Π

"This was all within my calculations. Behold the power of the Black Barrel."

"In Brightest Day, in Blackest Night, no evil shall escape my sight…"

Ō

"I am the chaos that crawls up to Shirou-kun with a smile! Traveling the stars with the tears of millions on my back, I am the Space Vampire Crusader, Nyarko-san!"

T-T

"We don't serve Mapo Tofu! Oh, wait, we do? No problem then!"

β

"All of you, sheathe your blades! You are in the presence of a king! I am Iskander, King of Conquerors, of the Ruler class in this Grail War! Join my army, and I shall treat you all as my friends, and we shall share in the joy of world conquest together!"

Π_ Π

"Talk! To me! Gather, light of the stars…"

O.O

"And now, to protect the rights and lives of decent citizens, rides THE GREEN HORNET!"

...

Practically none of these and more, in the next chapter! Hey, if I have to hold back the crack in the main story, I sure as heck am going to cram it in afterwards! Please review! And remember, eyes on the grail!

Until next time, this is Shadow, signing off.