Another update?! Good Lord!
1. Berserker uses Lancer's spear to Surprise Buttsecks Kayneth.
Lancer: I swear this isn't what you think Milord!
2. Kariya & Berserker are scouted by Assassin.
Sayokozero: Come with me if you want to live.
3. Shit gets blown the fuck up.
Rider: (Listening to Night of Fire as he cracks the reigns) This music is fitting!
Waver: How're you even getting that?!
And now, on with the show!
Fourteenth Night: Lordship.
"ALELELELELELELELEI!" Rider bellowed, cracking the reins to drive the bulls onward, his eyes locked firmly on the ever-growing light at the end of the tunnel that represented their escape from fiery crushing death, an escape that came just as the flames were literally licking at their heels, the Gordius Wheel blazing out of the tunnel and into the night sky, just as flames belched from the tunnel like the breath of a dragon defending its lair.
"Ha! Now that's more like it!" the Servant proclaimed, grinning from ear-to-ear as he watched the flames die down below "An ingenious tactic, and a fitting requiem for Caster and his Master wouldn't you agree, Boy?"
"How can you be so cavalier about this?!" Waver demanded hysterically, his voice cracking with emotion as he gripped the side of the chariot for deer life, the sound of his heart thundering in his chest a dim comfort "We almost died in there!"
"Indeed we did." Rider confirmed, looking unbothered in the slightest by said brush with death, unsurprising really "But any tactician worth his salt knows that sometimes you must take risks to learn more about your enemy."
"And just what did we learn from that?" Waver demanded, his fear and anger slowly giving away to curiosity now that his life wasn't in immediate danger "And what do you mean by 'Requiem'? I can't see how blowing up his lair would inconvenience Caster for long."
"Indeed, it probably wouldn't inconvenience him much, seeing as how neither Caster nor his Master can be counted amongst the living." Rider declared, earning a look of shock from his Master "From what I know of his character as a Servant, and what little I saw of their Gods-Forsaken lair, it's easy to determine that Caster and his Master like to play with their victims, and think of themselves as artists. With that in mind, it's easy to determine that they wouldn't allow their lair to be destroyed simply because it was discovered…if anything, the layout of the lair was set up so that anyone who stumbled upon it would be forced to see what they had done."
Waver grimaced, forcing down the bile that threatened to rise up in his throat at the memory of what he'd witnessed down in the dark. He wouldn't be eating meat anytime soon that was for certain "I wish we could have checked for survivors…" he muttered, his voice dim, knowing that if there HAD been any left, they would surely have perished in the flames, and if not, the collapsing rubble would've finished the job.
"Your compassion does you credit, boy." Rider applauded, a smile tinged with bitterness adorning his abnormally stern features "However, it would have been a cruel kindness, far better to grant them death than to force them to continue to live in their condition. Yet further proof that Caster and his Master no longer count themselves amongst the living."
"What makes you say that?" Waver wondered, peering up at his Servant curiously. Unlike him, Rider had possessed the senses of a Servant, and so had been more than capable of seeing the entirety of Caster's Lair without the aid of light. He shuddered to think what his normally boisterous servant could have seen down there in the dark, to have made him so serious.
"Do you not recall what I discovered about the Child's corpse?" Rider demanded, his expression expectant, as if he honestly thought better of Waver's memory, earning a scowl from the boy "The manner of death differed greatly from the methods Caster proudly put on display." He elaborated with a sigh "They were far too clean for a monster like Caster, who most likely took pleasure in making his victims suffer. No, whoever killed that child did so quickly and efficiently, with neither joy nor desire to needlessly prolong his suffering. That is not the action of a madman, but of a trained soldier…or an Assassin."
Waver froze, his eyes widening in alarm as he gazed around in fear, his disgust at Caster's decorations forgotten in the face of how menacing the shadows that had surrounded them now appeared thanks to Rider's words. "But…Assassin DIED." He stammered, his voice trembling, his faith in those words contested by the look on Rider's face "I mean…you sensed it…right? He was the first Servant to fall!"
"I sensed a servant passing that night, true." Rider muttered, slowly rising to his feet, his expression unreadable as he glared down at the corpse "But that is all I sensed. I can no more distinguish one Servant's presence from another's unless I've faced them first, that is a privilege unique to the Caster Class."
"So what are you saying?" Waver demanded, looking up at his Servant desperately "Are you saying Assassin is still alive? But that doesn't make sense! Archer said…!"
He trailed off, eyes going distant as he recalled their meeting with Tohsaka's Servant, the same Tohsaka who was on good terms with the Church, and had taken the son of the overseer on as an apprentice despite his training as an Executor, only to release him once he'd been confirmed as a Master.
'It all seems…too convenient…' he muttered, brow furrowing as he held his chin 'Even if he WAS on good terms with the Church, why take on an Executor as an apprentice? For that matter, why dismiss him simply because he became a Master? If it were me I'd have kept him at my side-!'
"I see you have come to the same conclusion that I have." Rider noted at Waver's sudden silence, his tone laced with approval as he placed one massive hand on his Master's head to ruffle his hair "Indeed, I do believe there is much more to 'Archer' than either of us were led to believe."
"Wha-stop that!" Waver exclaimed, batting the offending hand away, all the while blushing furiously at being reminded once again of his short stature compared to his massive Servant, who merely laughed uproariously as he steered their chariot through the air.
"Now then, I dare say we've seen enough of the darkness for one evening." Rider declared, yanking on the reins to direct his oxen towards the shoreline once more "Let us find a alehouse, that we might make better memories!"
"…Let me say one thing first. I have no intention of drinking with you." Waver deadpanned, his expression slightly green as he recalled the one time he'd watched Rider try Sake, the smell of the rice wine making the poor boy sick.
"Feh, as if I'd expect a child to be able to understand the meaning behind a good drink." Rider scoffed, ignoring his Master's impotent spluttering, his brow furrowing as an idea came to him "Hmm…yes, that might work actually!" he declared, releasing the reigns to tap his fist into his palm, Waver's terrified shrieking filling the air as the chariot dipped violently downwards in response.
Kiritsugu scowle0d, the Magus Killer's expression unreadable as he sat at his desk in the room Maiya at their HQ near Fuyuki Station, glancing over the information they had managed to compile over the course of the Grail War, all the while shovelling hamburgers into his mouth with all the efficiency of a self-fuelling machine.
As a 'guest' of the Einzberns, Kiritsugu had been granted the privilege of dining at the main table of one of the few remaining Magus Bloodlines who could claim to be only a hair's breadth removed from royalty. Over the course of nine years he had been exposed to dishes of such excellence and opulence that most people couldn't even dream of, and had summarily grown to loathe it.
As such, the first thing he'd done in Fuyuki, other than buy a packet of smokes, was to stop by the nearest burger joint and stuff himself with as many of the cheap, greasy, heart-attack inducing patties as he could manage without impeding his effectiveness in the field, and indeed, had gone out of his way to avoid eating in the Einzbern Castle specifically for that reason of late.
It wasn't that Irisviel was a bad cook, far from it, he simply didn't want her to use the dinner as a means of bridging the gap between him & Saber, which would most certainly arise the moment she invited the Servant to dine with them.
Besides, as things were, he could effectively refuel whilst organizing his thoughts, something that wouldn't be possible whilst caught between Irisviel's disapproving pout, which was as arousing as all hell, & Saber's annoyed glare, which had a proportionately opposite effect.
Stuffing the last of the grease-laden ambrosia into his mouth, the Magus Killer turned his attentions to his markings, his brows furrowed as he tried to determine the direction of the 4th Heaven's Feel.
The primary concern, of course, was Archer. From the get-go, the Servant of the Bow had provided the most immediate threat to his goals by simple virtue that they still didn't know anything conclusive about him. What few abilities he had displayed thus far, coupled with his unsettlingly similar mind-set to the man Kiritsugu had once been & struggled to become once more, only served to cement his position as the most Dangerous Servant in the Grail War.
Rider, while not as immediate, was still a pressing concern. Despite his arrogant, seemingly idiotic behaviour at the docks, Iskander was still a powerful force to be reckoned with. The Gordius Wheel granted him a level of manoeuvrability that Saber couldn't hope to compete with, even at full strength. And that was assuming he only had one Noble Phantasm, something Kiritsugu highly doubted. Buffoon or not, as the who once conquered the known world, it wouldn't pay to underestimate the King of Conquerors.
Next on the list was Berserker, who up until recently had kept out of sight, no doubt recovering from the wounds he received from Rider. Normally Kiritsugu wouldn't have placed the Mad Servant so high, considering Matou Kariya was easily the weakest Master in the Grail War, but what little he'd seen of Berserker's abilities more than made up for the man's deficiencies, as evidenced by the result of their ambush on Kayneth & Lancer.
'Idiot…' Kiritsugu muttered, shaking his head as he recalled Maiya's summarisation of the clash between the Archibald heir & the Matou's black sheep. It had been an amateurish attack, the kind any two-bit thug off the street could have pulled off, and yet Kariya had been forced to waste a command seal in order to save himself.
'Not that I'm one to talk.' Kiritsugu muttered, glancing down at the sole remaining mark adorning the back of his hand, yet another example of the danger Archer represented, only compounded by his actions following Lancer's strategic retreat.
Had Kiritsugu himself not been approached by the Masked Servant, the sight of Archer seemingly co-operating with Berserker might have given him cause for alarm. As things stood, he was merely wary, and for good reason, as while it wasn't uncommon for a man of Tohsaka Tokiomi's caliber to devise countless plans for every possible scenario, the odds of him extending an olive branch to both of the other founding families was monumental.
It was only to be expected really. Setting aside Caster's Master, who was likely dead along with his Servant if Kiritsugu's suspicions held water, from the intelligence obtained it was clear that neither Kayneth nor Rider's Master, whoever he was, held any particular desire to obtain the Grail itself & were merely participating in pursuit of personal victory.
While Matou Kariya's involvement raised some questions, given his past history, with the Einzberns obsessed with reversing their losing streak the Tohsaka were the only Founding Family honestly competing in the ritual for its original intended purpose: gaining access to the Akashic Record by restoring the Third True Magic.
A romanticist would probably have seen such dedication as admirable. Kiritsugu personally felt the whole ritual was flawed from the get-go. The entire situation could've been easily resolved by simply having the Servants kill themselves upon summoning, allowing all those involved to witness The Root. The fact they had failed to even consider this, and indeed had immediately turned on one another, proved beyond a shadown of a doubt that, for all their knowledge & power, the one thing Traditional Magi tended to lack, other than morals, was common sense.
Naturally, he had never voiced this opinion aloud, nor dared think it in Jubstacheit's immediate presence or any other Einzbern for that matter, as contrary to popular belief, he wasn't suicidal. He had far too much to lose to court Death like he used to. Besides, it wasn't as if he hadn't taken advantage of that lack of sense in the past, nor would he abstain from doing so in the foreseeable future.
But for now, his primary concern was solidifying their position, and in order to accomplish that objective, he would first have to restore Saber to full strength. In this regard, the confirmation of Lancer's continued existence was a blessing in disguise, as it added weight to his theory that the Overseer was supporting Tohsaka, if not completely in his pocket from the get-go.
Given how Saber had managed to press Archer during their brief exchange on the docks, it was more than likely Tokiomi had conspired with the Overseer to use Caster's Death as a means of preserving the Curse of Gae Buidhe, thus reducing her combat ability. It was an effective stratagem, one Kiritsugu would have employed himself given the circumstances, which made it all the harder for him to consider Tohsaka's offering of an alliance as anything but a trap.
'Then again, it would fit his character to make such an offer from a position of strength.' He noted, brows furrowing as he tried to make sense of it all 'Though why would he extend the same courtesy to Matou Kariya? From what I gathered the two of them were never on good terms, even before Tohsaka's marriage.'
"Maiya." He murmured, answering his silently vibrating Cell-phone on the first ring & pressed the receiver to his ear, is eyes never leaving the maps as he continued his attempts to formulate a plan of attack "Any luck?"
"I tracked Lancer to an abandoned factory." Maiya confirmed, her tone hushed & her breath steady as she gave her report "There's a bounded field over the area, not as impressive as the one at the Hyatt, but similar enough that there's no-doubt it was created by Archibald."
"Hold your position, I'm on my way." Kiritsugu muttered, his features hardening into cold, impassive mask of the Magus Killer as he hung up, stashing the phone away before turning to the arsenal lying on the bed behind him, his thoughts turning cold & methodical as he picked out the tools he'd need.
'Seriously,' Kiritsugu muttered, briefly dropping his mask with a disgusted sigh as he holstered the loaded Thompson & walked out the door 'A little common sense & none of this would've been necessary.'
Casa del Kayneth...
Kayneth awoke with a jolt, the sounds or raucous laughter and the scent of roasting meat and smoke vanishing into the ether as he pulled a ragged gasp of air into his tortured lungs.
As an experienced Magus, he knew all-too-well that what he'd witnessed had not been a dream, but rather a memory of Lancer's past, made available through the bond they shared as Master and Servant. While the reason for such a mechanic had never been properly documented, popular theory was that it had been devised to allow the Master's to relate to their Servant's, in order to better understand their motivations for obtaining the Grail.
If that were indeed the case, then it had failed miserably, as the only thing Kayneth had come to understand from the vision was that it was imperative that he ensure Lancer and Sola remained as far apart from one another as he could manage at all times. If not longer.
'Honestly, what was Fionn thinking, bringing a man with a reputation for charming every woman that lays eyes on his face to his wedding?' he muttered, his derision palpable as he took in his surroundings, releasing a breath of relief as he recognised the interior of the abandoned factory that had become their second base of operations, only to scowl once more at the ensuing memory of the loss of their first.
'First Einzbern and now Makiri…' he muttered, venom roiling in his stomach as he glared up at the ceiling 'To think a backwater lineage like Tohsaka could outshine such prestigious lineages…the world has truly gone to hell.'
Shivering slightly in the chill due to his undressed state, he attempted to rise from the bed only to gape as he found himself incapable of doing so, his arms and torso having been strapped to the metal gurney by thick leather belts. Even more worrisome was the fact that, despite his struggles, he couldn't sense anything from below his waist.
"Oh, you're awake." Sola noted from somewhere outside his field of vision, Kayneth's struggles ceasing as he turned his head in the direction of her voice "Don't try to move, I just managed to get you stabilized."
"Sola?" Kayneth croaked, shocking himself with how weak he sounded, Sola looking on impassively as the Archibald heir cleared his throat with a raspy, painful sounding co cough before trying again "What is going on?"
"You're lucky you know." Sola opined, stepping into view with a detached expression, as if her thoughts were somewhere else "It's a good thing Lancer managed to get you here when he did. Any later and you'd have died of shock, if blood-loss didn't get you first."
Kayneth stilled, his eyes widening in horrified recollection as the entirety of the events from the rooftop came rushing back to him, how he'd cornered the heretic like the vermin he was, only to be impaled from behind by his own Servant's Spear.
"Settle down." Sola ordered, the touch of her fool fingers against his arm snapping Kayneth out of his thoughts "I administered a painkiller, but you won't be getting up for a while, if at all." At his look of alarm she elaborated "I managed to restore your internal organs, but there's nothing I can do about the damage to your spine. Even if something could be done, I highly doubt you'd be able to stand or even walk without support." She smiled a strange, detached smile at his look of alarm "Look on the bright side, at least you're alive. If it had been Gae Buidhe Berserker had gotten his hands on, the damage would've been much worse."
"NONE of this would have happened if Lancer hadn't been so incompetent as to lose his Weapon to the enemy!" Kayneth snarled, missing the look of anger on Sola's face as he collapsed into a coughing fit "Where is he anyway?"
"Outside, standing guard." Sola replied, her tone unnervingly cool, "You're lucky he got you here when he did." She opined, gesturing towards a nearby beaker "A second later and I wouldn't have been able to preserve your Magic Crest."
Kayneth sagged, all his vitriol evaporating at the mention of his family's legacy. To a Magus Lineage, their Magic Crest was the culmination of countless generations of research and development, passed on from parent to child to ensure that their descendants were the ones to lay their hands on the Akashic Record.
As the Archibald heir, Kayneth was proud to bear the embodiment of Nine Productive years of his family's research on his back. However, had he known then what a debacle the 4th Grail War would turn out to be, he'd have taken steps to ensure its preservation & that the next-in-line was prepared to accept it before leaving for Japan.
"Indeed, you are quite fortunate." A familiar, but by no means comforting voice agreed, Kayneth's eyes widening as Archer stepped out of the shadows like something out of Bram Stoker's admittedly in-depth novel "Had Gae Buidhe been lost due to your posturing, I would have been most vexed with you, Lord El-Melloi."
"Archer-!" Kayneth choked, the crippled Magus struggling to activate his circuits, only to curse as whatever sedatives Sola had given him prevented him from doing so "Run, Sola! Call Lancer-!"
"That will not be necessary." Archer assured him, his tone calm, composed, yet carrying an undertone of mockery as he inclined his head towards Kayneth's Fiancée "After all, we're all friends here, isn't that right, Sola-Ui?"
"As you say, my Lord." Sola acknowledged, Kayneth's eyes widening as he realized that, despite her casual manner & smile, her eyes were distant, almost dazed, the look of someone under an incredibly powerful Mental Compulsion.
"You bastard!" Kayneth snarled, vitriol returning like an oncoming tide, spittle flying from his teeth as he glared up at the Knight of the Bow, only to bite off a curse as Sola's fingers dug into his arm like daggers.
"That will be enough, Sola-Ui." Archer commanded, the redhead stepping back with a bow, leaving Kayneth wincing from the pain "Now then, let's try to be civil about this, shall we?" the Servant continued "I think we can both agree that any further unpleasantness would be detrimental to our shared goals."
"What goals?" Kayneth demanded, his expression torn between fury, wariness and concern as he glanced between his fiancée and the Masked Servant "What have you done to Sola?"
"Just a little precaution." Archer assured him, his tone placating "After all, I needed something to ensure you didn't try summoning Lancer before I had the chance to talk." He nodded at the beaming Sola "To that end, Sola, if he shows any signs of doing so, kill yourself."
"Yes, My Lord." Sola acknowledged, her expression positively enraptured as she raised a scalpel to her throat, Kayneth's eyes widening in horror as he realized the Servant was kidding around.
"Now then, Lord El-Melloi." Archer intoned, drawing Kayneth's attention back to him "As I'm sure you've deduced from the presence of Berserker & myself, Caster is very much dead, his Master too for good measure." He sighed at Kayneth's look of shock "No? It seems I overestimated you then…oh well, no matter, it won't be a concern of yours much longer."
Kayneth grit his teeth, wanting nothing more than to curse at the man, but the threat of Sola's death stayed his tongue, though his eyes promised vengeance the first chance he got.
"That being said, I'm sure even you can deduce from this that the only Servants remaining are Saber, Lancer, Rider, Berserker & myself." He lowered one finger, "Rider has already stated he will not challenge either Knight until their contest is settled, though this limitation does not apply to Berserker or myself." He lowered another "On the other hand, Saber's Master is likely to prioritise Lancer's extermination in order to release her from the curse of Gae Buidhe."
Kayneth shivered as he felt the Servant's eyes, hidden behind that damnable mask, trail over his helpless form, shame and anger warring behind his eyes as he clenched his teeth.
"Given your current…condition, I find it highly unlikely that you'd present much of a challenge to him." Archer opined, further igniting Kayneth's fury "And since losing Lancer at this juncture would prove detrimental, I'm afraid I'm going to have to step in. Sola?"
"Yes, My Lord." Sola acknowledged, stepping forward, Kayneth flinching as she stabbed the scalpel into the gurney dangerously close to his eye, before those lovely hands gripped the sides of his head, turning him to face the Masked Servant just as a small hole appeared in that formerly featureless mask, revealing a single, glowing crimson eye.
This just isn't Kayneth's week is it?
On the one hand, he isn't as badly off as he is in Canon. His Crest was preserved & he's only crippled from the waist down.
On the other hand, Zero. Enough said.
Not a lot of action in this one, but things should pick up next time.