You're probably wondering... another story? Well... yeah.
Thanks to Slayer End for betaing, and I obviously do not own any character of this story, unlike Type-Moon.
This is what was had in front of the man. Death incarnated. A monument to destruction, ruins, and pain… Lives consumed by a fire brought by a man-made devil, Angra Mainyu itself.
Brought to earth by Emiya Kiritsugu, after a foolish attempt at saving the world…
And here he was, searching for people that survived the disaster he had unleashed. Desperate to save someone. Desperate to save at least one person. Desperate to prove his life wouldn't be one of darkness and tragedy.
It was the will of the Grail that granted the man's wish for salvation, in the form of a boy, buried among rubbles.
It was at this point that history changed. Diverged.
That is the law of the universe. Fate isn't a road, but a crossroad. For each choice, there is a new possibility, a new world to be born.
One of these roads would lead to a Counter Guardian. Another would lead to a hero. Another would lead to death.
But the present crossroad is one full of wonders and whimsies. Imagine for a second that the one that would later be known as Emiya Shirou… What if he had been graced with the Grail's darkness before Kiritsugu found him? Finding the boy screaming in pain and dying, his body ravaged by a cursed mud, the Magus Killer implanted the King of Knights' most sacred relic in him, barely saving his life.
As a result, the course of history would change. Emiya Kiritsugu would bring the boy to the hospital to be cured. Due to the mud's damages, he wouldn't stay a few weeks in the care of doctors, but two whole months. As such, it allowed a few curious people to locate the boy's protector, Emiya Kiritsugu.
The following discussion would lead to a new world, one of strife and pain, but also one of happiness and valor.
It would lead to a world where the Grail shall grant a wish, at last.
It was a white hospital room – much like bones, really. Kiritsugu didn't like that, but he still preferred it over the red of blood. He had seen enough of it.
So, yes, white was more than fine.
The boy, Shirou, was still sleeping like a baby, in a simple bed. The doctors said he would be able to leave after yet another week. Kiritsugu hated that he'd never thought about learning advanced healing magecraft. It would have accelerated the process and maybe allowed him to see Ilya sooner. But even Avalon's power had it limits, especially against that… curse, that the boy bathed into.
But he wouldn't complain. This boy was the world's gift to him, and he would wait for him.
The door of the room slowly opened. Kiritsugu stared at it, thinking it would be another member of the hospital's staff.
But the man in front of him was someone else entirely.
It was a man in a black suit with brown hair and eyes. Caucasian… an average European…
…And he was obviously a magus. Kiritsugu could almost feel the man's prana, as if he was breathing it. He had no doubts. This was most certainly a lord.
"Emiya Kiritsugu, also known as the Magus Killer," the man said, offering his hand, "Enchanted to make your acquaintance." His Japanese, Kiritsugu noted, was stunning, like listening to a native speaker.
Kiritsugu didn't even move. He had a gun under his suit, just in case… he could always take the man by surprise. Of course, the chances were slim, and making a fight erupt in such a place would probably end with Shirou's death. "Who are you?" he simply asked.
The man wasn't even fazed. "Ah, I see. I forgot to introduce myself first – such impoliteness from my part, I plead for forgiveness. My name… well, I don't think it has any importance, for any of us. Like you, I am better known by a title… I am the Messenger. Don't worry, I wish you no harm. If I wanted to kill you or capture you, the expert magi waiting at the door would have attacked already." He was still presenting his hand in an offer of peace.
Kiritsugu reluctantly shook it. "Who are you and what do you want?"
"How blunt… I am a messenger of the Association." The man stared at the boy. "I didn't know you had a son… it surprised me when the staff talked about Emiya Shirou, with his guardian being known as Emiya Kiritsugu. Did you, maybe, adopt him a short time ago?"
"He lost his parents in the fire," Kiritsugu said, his emotionless façade not breaking at all. "He has nothing to do with me. Please, leave him alone."
The Messenger smiled. "I didn't expect such words. The reports on you presented a killing machine, not a man."
"How did you track me down?"
"Why, by looking at the patients' names of course! I thought maybe a few people had survived the fire, and I wanted to interrogate them. After learning about the boy, connecting the dots was relatively easy." He lowered his head, in order to better observe Kiritsugu's face. "Did you know you are one of the only three surviving masters I can interrogate? Velvet Waver is a kid who knows nothing about this disaster, and Kotomine Kirei is a spawn of the Church, and as such, untrustworthy."
"I suppose you are involved in the cover-up?" It was obvious that such a magical catastrophe had attracted the attention of the Association… and now they wanted to cover their tracks in order to keep the existence of magecraft a secret.
"I am in charge of it," the Messenger replied. "This is causing us problems, and forces me to ask myself questions. All the Servants are reported dead, a Master should have won, and the vessel has vanished. The Holy Grail should have appeared. Obviously, it hasn't, and I want to understand why." He smiled. "Don't worry; I don't intend to silence you as long as you answer all my questions. If you do not, you and the boy shall vanish, never to be seen again. But, and I say but, if you prove yourself useful, the Association shall leave you in peace. Deal?"
Had he even a choice? Kiritsugu frowned. Maybe it could also encourage the Association to destroy the whole thing? "The Grail… no, Angra Mainyu, is responsible for what happened. A dark force is lurking inside the Grail, an insidious will that wants to destroy everything. I had my Servant destroy the Grail with my Command Spells before it could be born… and the result was the fire."
The Messenger stayed silent a few minutes.
"So… does that mean you saved the world?"
The voice on the phone was distrustful. "Are you sure he isn't lying?"
"Affirmative," the Messenger replied, grinning ear to ear. It had taken him years, but he had had finally convinced his rather traditionalist superior to try using phones – an achievement in itself, considering the average technological level of the Clocktower was at least a century behind the rest of the world. "You should have seen him, milord. He has obviously been broken by his experience. His adopted son is maybe the only thing he has left. He isn't the Magus Killer anymore, in my humble opinion."
"I see." The voice became angry. "So it means the Fuyuki Grail has become a failure?"
"I prefer the term of danger, milord," the Messenger replied. "I managed to get my hands on remnants of the… mud… that the Grail unleashed. My men confirmed it was a pure curse, given birth through the Grail's power. Kiritsugu's version of the events appears to be confirmed, but I'm pursuing the investigation, just in case."
"I guess I should thank him for having prevented world-wide destruction," the voice chuckled, "Shut down the Grail, if it is confirmed."
For a few seconds, the Messenger's mind stopped working. "Wait, what?"
"You heard me well. Disable the Fuyuki Grail, if your investigation confirms Kiritsugu's version of the events. The Association cannot tolerate such threat, no matter what a few idiots might and will say. Any use of the Grail would only end with destruction and our secrets revealed. There are other ways to reach the Root and I am not sure if this Grail would open the way at all in its current state, or simply blow up. We can always reconstruct it, once Angra Mainyu is purged from it. At least, that's how I will present things. I'm sure Lorelei shall agree. A few fools might suggest we try to harness that devil's power, but fortunately, the higher-ups will be on our side."
"I understand," the Messenger said. "What about the people involved?"
"I don't care about Velvet or Kotomine. The Tohsaka have lost their head, and Tokiomi's daughter doesn't know most of her family's secrets. She is a nonentity. The Makiri worms shall be left to rot, and the Einzbern… they will have to surrender their new vessel and find themselves another land for their goal. They might be tempted to use the corrupted Grail. As for Emiya… is his son aware of his identity?"
"According to my spies, he has informed him about being a magus, but I doubt he told him about his gruesome past."
The voice laughed lightheartedly. "I can understand why. Hmm… very well, I might have a proposal for him… after you finish your work."
"Come on, please teach me!"
"I already told you no, Shirou," Kiritsugu replied to his son, as they installed the TV. Now that it was finished, they needed to personalize it for themselves. "I refuse to teach you magecraft."
His son looked depressed, but someone ringed at the door. "Excuse me," Kiritsugu said, as he left to open.
His visitor was… rather unwelcome.
"Hello again, Emiya Kiritsugu," the Messenger said, smiling. "May I enter?"
"No," the Magus Killer replied, almost closing the door at the man's face. A foot in the way prevented him from doing so. "What do you want?"
"To discuss with you, and make you a proposition for you and your son," the Messenger shot back calmly. "May I enter? After our discussion, you won't see me ever again, unless you want to."
Kiritsugu frowned, but made a gesture, allowing the man to enter. Shirou looked at the newcomer, raising his eyebrows. "Who are you?"
"A friend of your father," he lied, making Kiritusu glare at him. "I want to speak with him alone for now."
"Shirou, leave us," the Magus Killer ordered with a tone leaving no place for contradiction. Half-heartedly, the boy obeyed. As they sat in the kitchen, Kiritsugu never lost sight of his guest. "So?"
"My work is finished," the Messenger said. "Well, almost, I should say. The official reason behind the fire is a gas leak – Nothing more, nothing less. As for the real reason… my investigation and the study of the few remnants of the Grail we managed to secure more or less matched what you said. The Fuyuki Grail has become corrupted." He smiled. "And this is why my team is currently disabling the system."
For a few minutes, Kiritsugu said nothing, amazed. "This is the truth?"
"Yes. Fuyuki's wars end now. Angra Mainyu won't be born, ever." The Messenger stared at Kiritsugu's face. The Magus Killer couldn't know if it was a lie or not. "Aren't you happy?"
"What about…" Ilya… "What about the Einzbern?"
The Messenger joined his fingers. "Vanished. We have occupied their castle, and it is empty. I think they heard we wanted to secure the new vessel, to prevent them from repeating their mistake. We found no one. When we tried to interrogate the Makiri about it, we discovered their home empty as well. They even left their archives and gold inside." The Messenger smirked at Kiritsugu's face. "You seem… perturbed? Don't worry, Fuyuki is under supervision. It won't be used for another war."
"What about the vessel?" Kiritsugu finally blurted.
"Vanished as well," the Messenger said. "We are trying to locate them, and… We hoped it might interest you."
Kiritsugu clenched his fist. "I won't serve the Association again."
"Who asked you to? We just told you about it, as a gesture. Whether or not you participate in our investigation is of no concern to us. Your time is over, unless…" He deliberately left the sentence hanging, waiting for the Magus Killer's reaction, in vain.
The sick bastard… was he aware of Kiritsugu's bond with Ilya? "Is that all?"
"…no," the Messenger said, with a hint of disappointment in the voice. "My superior would like to thank you for preserving the existence of magecraft as a secret through your sacrifice. Not many would have done the same."
"I don't care."
"He does," the Messenger replied. "We know your son is aware of our existence. Do you intend to take him as your apprentice?"
"No," Kiritsugu replied. "I don't wish to shape another Magus Killer. Why ask such a question?"
"Well that's a darn shame," the Messenger said. "My superior would have offered to allow the boy to study at Clock Tower. Or offered him a private tutor, allowing you to both pursue your daughter and give your son a proper upbringing." The man noticed the Magus Killer's glare. "Why so hostile? Surprised? Of course the Association knows! The Einzbern boasted quite a lot about their 'perfect vessel'."
"It is kind, but I still refuse," Kiritsugu said.
The Messenger didn't hide his disappointment. "Truly a shame, but… the door is still open. The Association has a debt to you. You can ask for a single favor whenever you want." The man then rose up, saluting his host, and left.
A hand prevented him from going on. "I am dying," Kiritsugu stated. "My body is in pain. I have not much time to live left in my bones. So you are going to grant me this favor now, with a promise." He lowered his eyes. "When I die, leave Shirou alone. I want him to have a peaceful existence, far from the path of the magus."
The Messenger said nothing, but finally nodded. "I promise," he said, before vanishing. Only the slightest hint of prana in the air could have ever proven he was ever there.
Kiritsugu hoped to never see him again. But what he had told him about Ilya was genuinely disturbing. If only he could find his child again…
"Old man," Shirou asked, under the moon. Kiritsugu couldn't even see him clearly anymore. His body was weak… so weak. "If you want to sleep, you should do it in your bed."
Kiritsugu didn't move. "Right now," he chuckled, "I'm fine." It was a lie. The pain was increasing. He didn't have much time left. He stared at what he knew was the moon, now a pure, shapeless light. "When I was young… I wanted to be a hero…"
"Wanted?" Shirou asked. "Did you give up?"
"Yes…" he trailed off, feeling weak. The pain was slowly going away. It was sure now… this would probably be his last conversation with the boy. But… could he truly set him on the same path as his own? "I found it not worth to achieve. Because I took this path I lost someone dear to me. Now… she's somewhere in this world… and I can't find her."
"Old man…" Shirou whispered. "What is her name?"
"Ilyasviel…" Kiritsugu trailed off. "She was my daughter… but was taken from me. I don't know where she is. My life is now one of regrets… if I could… I would redo it from the beginning."
As Shirou stayed silent, Kiritsugu saw the moon's shape becoming clearer. "The moon is beautiful tonight…"
"Yeah," his son whispered. "You know what, old man? I will grant your wish."
Kiritsugu stared at his son, who smiled. "You're an adult," Shirou said, determined. "Now, it's my time to help you. I promise it… I will allow you to relive your life. I will find your daughter. I will make your regrets go away. I will make your wish come true."
"My… wish…?" Kiritsugu repeated. He smiled, and closed his eyes. "You already granted it."
At that moment, Emiya Kiritsugu died peacefully.
You would be surprised how special words from the right person can change the wheel of history. Different advice, a differently worded offer to rule the world, rage-induced curses… all have shaped the fate of this world.
And so, Shirou's route changed again, having gone through a new crossroad. The other roads he could have taken, some terrible, often incredibly glorious… they do not matter. Let us focus on this one, new road, instead.
Kiritsugu's words led to his son having a different goal in life, both similar and dissimilar from his father's dream. It was one that would lead him to death and tragedy, but also to true heroism. Truly, the path of those who bear the name of Emiya is an interesting one. It is both a curse… and a blessing.
And so, five years after saving someone and having found salvation, Kiritsugu died peacefully.
And as for his son, he never forgot the promise he made, under the full moon.
The world was on fire.
It was a powerful inferno, one where death rules almighty. Smoke and ashes were swirling around a dark structure; atop of it, a dark sun was calling him.
This call was nothing like he had ever felt. He desired it. He wanted it. He was drawn to it.
His hands raised, he tried to snatch the sinister sun, even as his body was melting.
And when he finally seized it…
"SHIROU! MAKE BREAKFAST!"
Groaning, the teen left his futon and rose up onto his feet. That was the power of a tiger's call. "Yes, yes, here I come Fuji-nee!" Here we go again…he thought, quickly getting clothed. I guess I will have to take my shower after I feed her.
"SHIROU!" His teacher roared, as he entered the kitchen. She was already waiting, flatware ready. "You let me wait? I'm hungry!"
"Yes, yes, calm down," Shirou smiled gently, beginning to prepare the breakfast. The rather brutal awakening had left him with a severe headache, but he didn't care. He was almost used to his sensei's quirks. "Here," he said, giving her what to eat. "Enjoy yourself."
"Yes!" Taiga chuckled, starting immediately. "You really know how to make me happy, Shirou-kun!"
"Right…" the boy smiled, leaving to take a shower. His dyed hair stayed black, and he took his uniform. When he returned to the kitchen, Taiga stared at him in surprise. "You aren't going to eat anything?"
"I'm not hungry," he replied with a laconic tone.
His sensei frowned. "Shirou, when are you going to stop trying to be your father?"
The teen stared at her. It wasn't the first time they'd had this conversation, but it was still surprising. Why couldn't she understand? "Why should I?"
"Because it's creepy," Taiga whispered. "You have the same hairstyle, you dye your hair black, you act like him… I have the feeling of seeing Kiritsugu again when I see you. I know you respected and loved him, but isn't this is a bit too much?"
"It is my way to honor his memories," Shirou replied emotionlessly. "It's just the way it is, Fuji-nee."
They said no words after that. Shirou left early; being the vice-captain of the archery club, he had lots of work ahead of him. A thick, dense fog was covering the city that morning.
On the way to school, Shirou thought about Taiga. She had a point; most people would see his behavior as unhealthy. The teen himself wasn't sure why he was still doing it. He had begun acting like that after his father's death. It was the method he'd found to make his father live again, and it started becoming natural. He had almost forgotten the original goal. Now, it was just the way things were.
Taiga couldn't understand how he was feeling on the inside. That emptiness was beyond words. He had no personal dream or goal, just the promise he made to Kiritsugu. His hobbies didn't bring him any special joy. It was just a way of killing time.
Emiya Shirou was desperately looking for any purpose in life, beyond granting Kiritsugu's last desires…
Arriving at school, he went on to greet his captain, Ayako. She was a nice girl and an obvious tomboy, and the two went along rather well. The captain noticed her second-in-command and nodded at him politely. "Good morning, Kohai."
"Good morning, Ayako-Senpai," the teen replied with a warm smile. "How are you today?"
"Fine, fine," she said. "I still have funding problems, however. We have too many people this year and not enough bows."
"I am sure Issei will correct the problem in time," Shirou pointed out. "The students do not complain much, however. Your work pays off, Senpai."
"Thanks," Ayako smiled. "By the way, have you seen the news? Another person has been found dead this morning with her blood sucked."
"I didn't," Shirou frowned. "It's the tenth victim this month. As if the gas leak incidents weren't enough, we have that serial killer in town. Still no info on him or her?"
"No, the police are completely helpless," Ayako stated. "I am a bit afraid for the students. The night isn't safe anymore. The astronomy club's activities are suspended as a result."
"It's a necessary evil," Shirou said, smiling. "Once that 'vampire killer' is caught, everything will go back to normal."
"I hope…" Ayako suddenly seemed to remember something. "By the way, Ciel-senpai told me we have some new transfer students coming today, and Issei is currently making her visit the building. Would you kindly talk to them? They might be interested in archery."
"No problem," he smiled, before frowning. "Ciel-senpai, you said? Who is that?"
"A senior student," Ayako raised an eyebrow. "You don't know her?"
"I don't even know how she looks like," he shrugged. "No big deal. I will go see the newcomers."
Leaving Ayako, Shirou entered the school's building. It didn't take him long to find Issei. The blue-haired monk in training was talking to two people, both wearing the standard uniform. One was a dignified young lady with blue eyes and long black hair tied with a white headband. The other was a boy with short black hair, icy blue eyes, and glasses. He was the first to see Shirou coming, the girl and Issei quickly noticing him later.
"Emiya, how are you?" Issei asked, before turning to the newcomers. "This is Emiya Shirou, the vice-captain of the archery club."
"Nice to meet you all," Shirou gently greeted them. "Are you the transfer students? Welcome to Fuyuki, in that case."
"Thank you," the girl said. "I am Tohno Akiha, and this is my brother Shiki."
"Nice to meet you," he added.
"You come in handy, Emiya," Issei began, coughing. "Sorry to ask that of you, but some furniture needs repair. Could you take care of it? I'm sorry to ask that, but I have no one else to rely on."
"No problem," Shirou nodded, before stopping and staring at the two new students. "By the way, are you interested in archery?"
"I excuse myself, but no," Akiha said, while Shiki simply moved his head in a negative gesture.
"Too bad," the magus replied. Issei showed him the room with the broken objects, and Shirou asked to be left alone to focus better. In fact, he was going to use the little magecraft he knew, and didn't want to be disturbed.
Fortunately, even if Shirou was a complete and utter failure as a magus, he was surprisingly good at analyzing objects and reinforcement. These basic abilities were useful… and the only ones he had.
On his way out of the room, Shirou heard an argument in the corridor. Issei was groaning at Tohsaka Rin, with an unknown girl trying to play mediators. Rin was the honor student and the daughter of the prestigious Tohsaka family. A pretty girl with long black hair and blue eyes, Shirou had almost never talked to her. He sort of admired her from afar, like all guys in the school safe Issei, but knew she was way out of his league and would never befriend someone like him.
The other girl, however, was a total unknown. She had short dark blue hair, probably dyed, cyan eyes, pale skin and a kind smile. Shirou was sure he had never seen her before.
"Issei," he interrupted the argument, attracting everybody's attention. "I have finished." He stared at Rin and the unknown student. "Good morning, Tohsaka, and… whoever you are, miss."
"Good morning Emiya-kun," Rin nodded politely, but she had stiffened. "Don't you remember my friend?"
"I'm Ciel-senpai, Emiya-kun," the blue-haired girl smiled. "Don't you remember me?"
"Absolutely not," he shot back, making her raise her eyebrows. "I have no idea of who you are, and I never saw you before."
Both Ciel and Rin were frowning, while Issei shrugged. "Don't worry, it's just Emiya… he has trouble remembering people." That was an obvious lie, but as it helped him deal with an embarrassing situation, Shirou simply lifted his shoulders. It wasn't that important, anyway.
The rest of the day happened without any other noteworthy event. Shiki and Akiha were introduced to the class without much problem. Shirou listened attentively, learning they were part of a rich family, and decided to install themselves in Fuyuki after their father's death. They seemed to make fast friends with the rest of the class. Ayako and Akiha went along rather well, in particular.
After school, Shirou left without a word. Night was falling, and most people, afraid after the recent murders, were fewer in the street.
Surprisingly, the fog didn't lift during the whole day, much to everyone's amazement. It was still as thick as ever at night.
"Excuse me, mister," a Caucasian-looking teen with green eyes, short blonde hair told him in the street. He was wearing a red jacket with a black shirt underneath, and white boots. He was accompanied by two people: an old man with a grey beard and black eyes, wearing a green mantle and brown pants; and a dark-haired man in his twenties, with cold black eyes and a suit of the same color. "Do you happen to know the way to the Kusaku hotel? I'm afraid our GPS doesn't work anymore."
"I know the way," Shirou nodded, happy to help people in need. The GPS problem wasn't surprising. Wi-fi and cell phones were working badly recently. The students talked about interferences and the like, among other suppositions. "Take the street at your left, then the next at your right. It is the biggest building, you can't miss it."
"Thank you," the teen politely said, presenting him his hand. "I forgot to introduce myself. I am Leonardo Bistario Harway, and this is my retainer, Dan, and my bodyguard, Julius."
"Pleased to meet you," the old man smiled, while the dark man simply nodded.
"Don't worry about Julius, it is in his nature to always be focused on protecting me," Leonardo said almost monotonously.
"The name is Emiya Shirou," the teen said, shaking hands with the blonde. "By the way… why do you need a bodyguard, Leonardo-san?"
"My family has many formidable enemies," the young man replied. "And please, just call me Leo. I was happy to meet you, Shirou. I feel we will meet again very soon."
After parting way with the blonde's group, Shirou went back home. Reaching his district, he noticed someone on the road he thought to be empty. There was a little girl with red eyes and silver hair wearing a blue outfit.
She noticed him, and smiled. "You will die if you don't summon it soon, onii-chan," she told him with a warm grin, before leaving the astonished teen behind.
When he returned home, he wondered what the hell was happening in his town.
It was in the middle of the night. A phone was dinging.
Slowly awakening, Shirou stared at his surroundings. He was in his room, yes… and the house's phone was dinging. Shirou tried to ignore the thing and sleep.
For more than fifteen minutes, the phone kept dinging nonstop.
Getting up, tired as hell, the teen went into his house's main room, and took the phone. "Who is it?" he asked, still half-asleep.
"Emiya Shirou," the voice was monotone, mechanical. It was obviously digitally modified. "Do you want to have your dearest wish fulfilled?"
Shirou frowned. "Is this some kind of joke? It's past midnight."
"Do you wish to find Ilyasviel?"
The teen's blood froze in his veins. "What?" he whispered in surprise.
"Do you wish to fulfill Emiya Kiritsugu's final, selfish desire, to find his daughter Ilyasviel?"
"Who are you?" Shirou asked, deeply unsettled. "How do you know that?"
"I await your answer, Emiya Shirou. Do you wish to find Ilyasviel?"
"Yes, I do," the teen said. "Now, answer to-"
"Are you ready to gamble your life for this wish? Are you ready to do whatever it takes to win your wish?"
Shirou frowned. What kind of sick game was it? But his answer was obvious. "Yes, I am."
"Then, you are now a Master of the Holy Grail War. Congratulations. I expect great things from you, Emiya Shirou. Do not disappoint me."
The call ended at that moment.
A few seconds passed where Shirou didn't move, perfectly still in his incomprehension. What was it? He wondered, putting the phone back in its place. That was really strang– IT HURTS!
Compulsively, Shirou grabbed his right hand. It felt as if its back was burning… and it was shining in a red light? "What the…" the teen muttered, as red tattoos began to etch themselves onto his skin.
In a few seconds, it was over. The pain went away. Three crimson marks, adopting the shape of a sword, were carved on his skin.
Then, they shone with the brightest crimson.
The flash of red light blinded Shirou temporarily, forcing him to close his eyes. When the light weakened, he opened them again…
… only to see an angel.
It was a petite, pretty woman with blonde hair and green eyes. She had a pale skin, and was wearing a blue and white armor. There was an aura of dignity surrounding her, and her face was shaped into an expression of majesty.
"I ask of thee," she started. "Are you my master?"
Shirou had only one answer in stock.
With a smile, Makiri Zouken sat in his old seat.
During his exile, he really missed his mansion. Fortunately, the Magus Association didn't destroy it. They had plundered what he hadn't taken with him when he left, but the place was mostly intact. Maybe they were waiting for him to return?
"Magus," the deep voice of Assassin reached his ears. "The signal has been sent. All Servants have a Master now. The war has officially begun."
"So soon?" Zouken smirked. "That was most unexpected. It truly is fast. I would have liked to rest a bit, but it seems the new Grail is hungry for blood."
Assassin stiffened. "Magus, something isn't right. That artificial fog wasn't planned. Some contestants I have located and identified do not fit in a war of magi. I fear for our victory."
The Makiri patriarch shrugged. "You worry too much, old man in the mountain. We, the Makiri clan, have prepared this war for the last ten years, as have the Einzbern family. The fog is just an unplanned, ignorable side-effect. And so long as we have Sakura, we cannot lose."
"Mark my words, magus: overconfidence will get you killed in time."
"Anyway, has Shinji finished preparing the material?" Zouken asked. The killer simply nodded. "You seem a bit disturbed."
"Pointless pain does not fit in my profession," Assassin replied. "I would prefer what the girl is going through did not happen."
"It has to."
"Your grandson does not have to be this violent with her," the killer shot back. Then, he decided to switch subjects. "The priest has taken another Servant. His former Master is now feeding the golden Archer in the Church's basement, like a dozen of tortured children."
"We will deal with Kotomine in time," Zouken said. "For now, we will accelerate the war's development. Order Shinji to empower Sakura's Servant with souls."
"I will," Assassin said, vanishing.
Zouken, now alone in his manor, allowed himself a brief sleep.
In spite of the Association's best efforts, a new Holy Grail War had just started, one that he would win.
Sitting in the kitchen, a cup of coffee in front of him, Shirou massaged his temples. "So… your name is Saber, right?"
"This is the name of my class, Master," she replied, touching her own cup with her armored gauntlet. "My real name… revealing it might be dangerous to you, as another magus might probe your mind and use it to gain the advantage."
Shirou frowned. "Could you… stop calling me Master, Saber? I'm not your boss. Just… just call me Shirou."
Saber frowned briefly, but then smiled a bit. "Alright… Shirou."
The teen stared at his hand. "So… this is the mark of a Master? That I participate in a war for a legendary relic?"
"The Holy Grail we are talking about isn't the recipe of the blood of the son of God, Shirou," Saber replied. "It is… an omnipotent device, able to grant any wish made by the one touching it. Only one can do it: the winner of the Holy Grail War. This is a trial with an absolute prize in sight. The winning Master and his or her Servant gain everything, while the losers have all their hopes destroyed."
"So…" Shirou drank half his cup. "Servants, heroes from the past, are summoned to work with a partner, the Master? Then, they fight each other?"
Saber nodded. "There are seven Servant classes: Saber, the swordsman, my class. Lancer, the spearman. Rider, the cavalier. Archer, the bowman. Caster, the mage. Assassin, the killer. And Berserker the mad warrior. Normally, only one is summoned for each class is summoned, but it doesn't seem to be the case."
"What do you mean?" Shirou asked with worry.
"Well… to be honest, I already participated in a previous war ten years ago, the fourth one," Saber stated, attracting Shirou's undivided attention. "Today's war is the fifth. The rules are… different."
"Different? How can you know?"
"All Servants, when summoned, receive information on the modern world to better adapt, alongside an innate understanding of the war's rules," Saber explained, drinking her cup. "The rules imprinted in my mind are different from the ones of the previous war. From what I understand, seven Servants for each class are now summoned… which means that there are a total of forty-nine Masters in this war."
"All in Fuyuki?" Shirou blinked.
"This is the battlefield chosen for the war," the lady nodded. "The fog covering the city appears to be a powerful spell set to keep the city isolated from the outside world, until a victor is designed. I can't say for sure, its existence wasn't imprinted in my mind. No one can leave Fuyuki City as long as the war lasts. This is probably why all your means of communications do not work well, anymore."
"I see…" Shirou trailed off. "But… isn't it possible to settle the matter peacefully, instead of slaughtering each other? I mean, maybe we can choose the one making the wish."
Saber shook her head. "Shirou, would you accept it if one Master's wish was to take over the world? All Masters have different wishes that oppose each other. To make things worse, one of the new rules outright prevents any peace between Masters."
The teen stared at her with gravity. "What do you mean?"
"Formerly, the rule to win the war was: only one Servant can remain standing," Saber stated. "All Masters could live, as long as only one Servant remained. Some Masters could even withdraw. Whoever made the new rules decided to make it an impossible resolution."
"So what changed?" the magus had a bad feeling, suddenly.
"Now, all the people branded by the Command Seals must fight for only one can remain standing." Saber stared into Shirou's eyes. "Because now, the Grail will only appear when all Masters save one are dead. No matter what happens, in the end, forty-eight people will die for one person's wish."
At that moment, not even the sudden arrival of a half-asleep Taiga in the kitchen changed Shirou's horrified expression.
1: 49 people are designed as Masters after voicing their wish. The only criteria is the will to have a wish granted. As such, even non-magi or non-humans can be chosen. A member from the Tohsaka, Makiri and Einzbern lines is automatically chosen as their representative. A Servant can become a Master, if there are still unclaimed places.
2: Each Master automatically receives a Servant as protector and partner. The Servant summoned depends on either the use of a catalyst present during the summoning, or on the Master's nature, needs, and personality, in order to increase the chances of teamwork. The class is chosen among Saber, Archer, Lancer, Rider, Caster, Assassin and Berserker. There shall be seven Servants for each class.
3: A Master receives three Command Spells, each able to give one absolute order to the Servant, that cannot be removed by modern means or redistributed. The Command Spells stay on dead bodies. Cutting the body part where the Spells are situated cause them to reappear somewhere else on the main body, if the Master is alive. Use of all Command Spells results in instant death for the branded Master.
4: A contract between a Master and Servant can be cut or established by mutual consent, breaking or making a prana connection between them. As such, a Master can get rid of a Servant without any harm, and a Servant can find a new Master. However, the Command Spells do not move. A Master having severed a contract with a Servant will keep them and still be considered a servantless Master, even if unable to use the Command Spells on its former Servant, unless a new contract is established. A Servant can only have one Master, but a Master can have multiple Servants.
5: The Grail shall only appear when only one person with Command Spells on the body is still alive. All Servants not having formed a contract with the winning Master shall instantly die. Even if the winning Master is servantless, the Grail shall still grant its wish. The Servants of the winning Master will have their wish realized as well.
A/N: So, before you start a rant on the Nasuverse logic:
- the 'Master kills Master' rules has NOTHING to do with powering the Grail. The reasons behind are very, very different (because yes, there are more than one reason behind). And it's NOT going to be a bloodbath, if that's what you're afraid of. Actually, the story is overall light-hearted, except when bad guys enter the picture.
- the unusually high number of Servants also has an explanation in-universe, as well as many other strange things like the fog.
As you have maybe guessed, this war's is full of mysteries. Uncovering the truth on what is happening and how is one of the main plot. On a side note, I always wondered why the Association didn't launch an investigation... I mean, the Fourth War was maybe the deadliest of them all, with Mr. Gilles de Rais and the fire...
Also, you will see multiple characters from the Nasuverse and Servants from all Fate continuities (except Fake and Prototype...), including Fate Zero, Apocrypha, EXTRA... and fights like you have never seen before, like Arturia vs Gawain or the like. However, having not played Fate H/A, the Melty Blood series, and the newest Visual Novel on Aoko's backstory, don't expect characters like Sion or Caren to appear on-screen, as I don't think I will be able to make them in character.
The pairings will probably be a love triangle between Shirou, Saber and the EXTRA!Caster, although the resolution isn't set in stone. Other pairing include: Archer/Rin, probably Shiki/Satsuki, and others.
Why is the story rated M? Well, first due to Nasu's... prana regenerating rituals, and second, because the main bad guys will have a few nasty moments under their belt.
Finally, please review! It's my first Fate fic and I need some input. Plus, it helps with the motivation.