Agatha's mind whirred with plans and designs as she locked the joints into place. She had gotten to work as soon as Rin and her 'Servant' had left, and the blonde had the feeling that she would be at the bench all night. Her workshop typically had a decent stock of raw materials for her to use when inspiration stuck, but now she was finding herself at a loss as most of it wasn't suited for building weaponry. To be sure she could (and would) jury rig something together, but considering the people she had met tonight, Agatha knew that she would need something better as soon as possible. For the moment, she was contenting herself with making a basic surveillance system using camera's attached to waldos.
Something was different than when Agatha usually pulled all nighters though, as this time there was a person in the shed with her. The woman, Saber if she remembered correctly, stood in the corner watching over her. The armored woman hadn't said anything since their meeting with Rin, instead simply keeping a vigil while the other girl worked. Normally Agatha would have been antsy over this, but as she had almost been killed twice that night, she was more admissible to having her stay close.
Agatha didn't know how long she worked before she finally felt relaxed enough to indulge in some conversation with the strange woman. Without turning from her work, she asked "So, just who are you?"
There was a pause before the woman answered "As I said earlier, I am Saber."
"And while I am sure that there's an interesting story behind that name, I was asking about who you were when you were… alive." Oh, this is going to take so long to get used to, she thought to herself.
There was another pause before Saber replied "It… may be for the best that you do not know."
"What?" Agatha said incredulously, turning to face the woman. "What is that supposed to mean? Did you do something unspeakably horrible back in the annuls of history?"
"What? Of course not!" The other woman yelled, causing Agatha to lean back and raise an eyebrow. A moment later Saber collected herself and continued. "What I mean is that it seems you are very much unversed in the way of magic. It is very possible that you could be captured or controlled and forced to give up my identity. When a Servant's identity is known, their weaknesses can be exploited."
"Wait, controlled? As in like mind control?" Agatha interjected.
"There are magics that can be used to bend a person to another's will." Saber confirmed. "I will tell you what I am capable of, but since you do not know how to properly defend yourself against such methods, it would be prudent not to take unnecessary risks."
Agatha gave a huff at this. Wonderful. Now I have to deal with psychic nonsense in addition to the perfectly reasonable physics breaking nonsense. She thought blithely to herself. Worse was that she had no idea what to do about it. Maybe I could wear a tinfoil hat.
"Master…" Saber said hesitantly as Agatha mulled in though. "May I take your contemplation that you now believe magic is real?"
"No!" The bespectacled girl snapped before she calmed herself. "I mean maybe. I mean…" She gave a long, drawn out sigh. "Look, do you have any idea what it's like to have someone up and tell you that everything you believe is wrong? Or at the very least you missed something massively important your entire life? If you do, I think you can understand why I'm so reluctant to take this at face value."
"I suppose so." The other woman said evenly. "I imagine that most commoners go their entire lives without seeing magic, and as such believe that such fantastic things cannot exist-"
"No, no, it's more than that." Agatha interrupted. "I don't know when you were… around, but in the last few centuries mankind has been making great strides in finding the laws of universe. We've mapped the globe, gone to space, and split the atom among many other things. And in all of that time, with everything that had been learned and experimented with, not a single claim of anything supernatural was ever conclusively proven. It's just… where the hell has all this been hiding?" She gestured wildly.
Saber shifted uncomfortably. "I am afraid that I cannot give a reliable answer to that. I am not from this time after all." The woman then paused, staring off blankly into space for a few seconds. Agatha was about to as her if something was wrong before Saber shook her head, her eyes refocusing as she continued. "All I can say is that the supernal seems… less than what it once was. It is possible that with the advancement of man and rise of artifice, the power d magic has waned."
"Really?" Agatha said cocking her head to the side. "Why would that be the case? I mean, I could understand it if expanding civilization trampled over some things, but surely we would have noticed some dead unicorns and dragon lairs."
Saber's mouth twisted at this, but she said "I believe that at some point the supernatural world decided to keep itself secret from the mundane world. At the very least I know for a fact that modern magi hold the secrecy of their craft above all else."
"But why?" Agatha insisted. "Think of everything we could accomplish if magic was to be used for everyone. And it's not like they wouldn't get anything out of it. Given what little I've seen tonight, I can think of at least five different ways that a mage could make pretty much all the money."
The other woman gave a sigh. "Master, I am afraid that my knowledge on the subject is tapped. If you wish to know more, then perhaps you should ask that other Master the next time you see her."
Agatha sighed, but nodded. Rin did seem to know what was going on, so it was probably the best to see her again about this as soon as possible. Oh lord, I'm actually starting to take this seriously, she thought herself. Still, what else could she do? She had observed some pretty spectacular things that night, so now the best she could do was gather as much information as she could and start experimenting. Well, home defense first of course. You couldn't experiment if you were dead.
She turned to the computer at the end of the bench and started typing, coding the algorithms she would need for her surveillance cameras. Agatha never considered herself a true programmer, but she had certainly learned enough to get her creations moving when she wanted to. She was lucky that she wouldn't have to do too much physical work to get them installed though, as she had repeated altered her house to take such mechanical modifications over the years. Agatha couldn't count the number of times Dad or Taiga had found her in the walls installing wiring and servos. As she typed, she said "So, I've asked you a few questions. Is there anything that you want to ask me?"
There was a pause before Saber said "It is unlikely, but do you know of a way to strengthen the connection between us?"
Agatha's mouth twisted as she glanced back. "Maybe. Could you tell me what this connection is and how it works first?"
"As was said before, our connection as Master and Servant are symbolized by the Command Seals on your hand. In more practical terms, it means that you need to supply me prana in order for my existence to remain in this world. I assume that you did not know how to summon me properly, and that is the reason I am currently only receiving enough from you to just barely sustain myself. I will need more if I am to fight."
Agatha turned around fully. "What's prana?"
Saber looked completely at a loss for a few moments before she composed herself. "It… is the raw energy and force from which magic is possible. Magi use it to form their mysteries and release them to the World."
"Alright. So it's MP." The other girl said, mulling over how to collect a source of energy she'd never heard of before. "Well, I'll see what I can do after I have that talk with Rin, but I can't promise much more than that."
"Thank you, Master. I imagine that if you learned to properly use your own magecraft-"
"Wait, wait." Agatha stopped her. "I thought I made this clear. I don't have magic powers."
Saber raised an eyebrow. "But you are clearly creating artifice greater than anyone else is capable of making in this time. Furthermore, it is highly unlikely that a non-magus could be selected as a Master for the War."
The bespectacled girl scowled. "Firstly, I'm not magic. I am a genius and very good at making and discovering things, but that doesn't mean I have superpowers. Secondly, highly unlikely? Doesn't that mean it's possible for a normal person to be a part of this?"
The armored woman shifted uncomfortably. "It is possible. In the past a non-magi was selected when no other candidates presented themselves, but-"
"Well, then that's what happened." Agatha said curtly before turning back to the screen. It may have been unlikely, but it still made more sense than that she could somehow do magic and not know it. Because if that were true, what if everything she had ever done… everything she had made…
She shook her head to rid herself of such thoughts. No, she couldn't accept that. She wouldn't. "Anything else you want to ask?" She said a little more gruffly than she intended.
"…Have you reconsidered your position on fighting in the War?"
Agatha paused at that. Actually trying to fight a bunch of super powered heroes and mages seemed like a fine way to get her fool-self killed… and yet, if there was even the slightest chance… "This Holy Grail. You said it can bring back the dead?"
After a long moment Agatha set her shoulders and resumed typing. "Then I suppose we're going to have to start making some plans. Tell me everything you know about this Holy Grail War."
The streets of Fuyuki were quiet save for the soft footfalls of Rin Tohsaka, and her not so soft grumblings to herself. Any who watched the girl would have likely stayed out of her way, and probably would have considered leaving the area when the noticed that she was occasionally talking to thin air. Of course, these people couldn't have known that she was speaking to an incorporeal spirit which she had bound into her service, but that was just one of the burdens of being a magus. "I still don't see why you are so agitated." The astralized man said. "If anything, we've learned that the girl is far less competent than you are. I would think my master would be happy that she could flaunt her superiority in front of someone else."
She gave a sour glare at the space she knew he was occupying. "I don't recall giving you permission to presume anything, Archer. Besides, if Agatha is so incompetent, why is it that she was somehow able to summon a Saber where I only got a smart-ass, insolent Archer?"
A smirk played over his nonexistent mouth. "Well, luck is a fickle mistress. I am sure a magus of such high breeding as yourself will be able to weather such small inconveniences." He paused for a moment to savor her irritated grumblings before he continued. "Such as it is, do you think that the girl will actually try for the Grail?"
"Hard to say." Rin remarked. "I can't say that I know her too well, but the girl is… weird. When she gets an idea in her head there's no telling what crazy dohicky she'll whip up. As for the War, I give it even odds that that she writes the whole thing off." She gave a huff. "Of course it doesn't matter. The War is happening whether she believes in it or not." Rin subsequently resumed her gambling.
Archer remained silent as he followed Rin. As fun as it was to poke fun at her, he did not want to provoke her in her current agitated state. Besides which, he had his own things to mull over. Things… weren't happening the way they were supposed to. He knew this deep in his core, even though he didn't have all the details why yet. His memory had been spotty ever since he had been summoned, no doubt due to the fact that Rin had done a less than stellar job summoning him. Still, it had been slowly coming back.
And he knew that Agatha Emiya was not supposed to be here. She shouldn't exist. He still wasn't sure how he knew that, but it didn't make it any less true. Hopefully more of his memory would return as time passed. He had felt it jog itself a little when Agatha had made that comment about saving her, but he still wasn't sure why. Saving everyone is a naive, idiotic and suicidal dream, he thought to himself. But why am I so certain of that?
Archer shook his incorporeal head to clear his thoughts and said "So, just how are you going to handle this girl?"
"I suppose that depends on what she decides to do." Rin replied. "If she decides to try to ignore it, I'll strip her of her Command Seals, wipe her memory and that will be that." She paused for a moment. "In fact, in that case I might be able to convince that Saber to join me too. Having two of the Knight classes would make this War a breeze."
Archer was doubtful that even a prodigy like Rin could supply enough prana to keep two Servants, but instead said "And what if she decides to join the War?"
Rin's mouth twisted, but she said "I could probably use her to my advantage. She clearly has no idea what's going on, and I'm the only master is willing to explain it to her. She'll have to work for me if she wants to survive this."
Archer chuckled. "Not bad, but I hope you're not being soft. If she refuses, you know what you need to do."
Rin closed her eyes for a moment, and only the slightest hitch in her voice indicated that she wasn't completely sure when she said "Of course. Then we'll just do it the old fashioned way."
What does a priest do when he is not speaking to his congregation? For most normal Churches, the priest's duties would include maintaining the building, planning for upcoming events, and of course some quite reflection on the nature of God and the way to bring his message to the world. Kirei Kotomine was not an exception to this (except for the last part in any case), but in addition to these things the priest had another task occupying his time: The administration of the Holy Grail War. It was a task that the Church had performed for centuries, and one which Kirei had inherited from his father, after the man had been tragically murdered during the last War.
The fact that Kirei didn't care about it one bit was not something other people needed to know.
And so Kotomine waited in the Church, mulling over the possible outcomes of this War and waiting for the Masters to come to him to let themselves be known and registered. In his current position he was capable of monitoring the status of the Grail, and therefore knew when and which Servants were summoned. This night there had actually been two, Servant Saber and Servant Caster. Usually a Master would come to be registered as soon as possible (though not necessarily), so Kotomine waited in the Church proper for if and when said person arrive.
Let's see, he thought to himself. Six Servants have been summoned, and only Assassin remains. I can likely start making my plans more concrete now. I still need to know the identities of the Servants to make things as interesting as possible though. There were a number of reasons that Kotomine was not taking the neutrality part of his job seriously; a sense of finishing what he had started when he was a participant in the previous War ten years ago, a general boredom with life…
However, when it really came down to it, Kirei Kotomine was just a horrible human being.
The priest was disturbed from his thoughts when a woman appeared before him. That was not to say that someone had walked into the Church. Rather, the image of a woman had appeared out of thin air in the middle of the pews, looking at him with a coy smile. He could tell from the ethereal quality that it was merely a projection, but it had surprised him nonetheless. Before he could respond, the apparition asked "Might I assume that you are the Administrator for the War?"
The priest approached the image cautiously. The woman was stout with blonde hair and a wide mouth, but it was the eyes that he paid the most attention to. Some of the detail was lost but he could tell that there was a great deal of cunning and intelligence in this one. "Yes, though I must ask who and perhaps what you are."
The woman tittered. "Oh please, I should think that it is not too hard to guess. I am Lucreiza, and I am here to register myself as a Master." She said as she raised her ethereal hand to show the Command Seals etched into it.
Kotomine paused for a moment to consider this oddity. "I see, though I feel obliged to point out that you technically aren't 'here'." In truth, such a thing shouldn't be possible. While the projection of a magi's entire self without any kind of medium (though difficult) was possible, she shouldn't be able to do so into the Church itself as the place was warded against such things. There was also the fact that Masters were forbidden from spying on the neutral ground, by he had no illusions that the magi were bothering to follow that particular rule. "To be honest, I am not sure I should allow this."
"Oh, don't be so stiff." Lucrezia said with a wave of her hand. "Besides, I have no intention of coming to your Church tonight. I had the foresight of checking to be sure that there were no surprises waiting for me between me and there, and it turns out that one of the other Master's happens to be patrolling the area outside your building. The cute little girl is probably waiting to ambush some hapless Master who's only trying to register like myself."
The priest grunted in annoyance at this. It wouldn't do to have a master taken out this early for such a reason. He would have to put a stop to this Master. Unfortunately for him, he had enough information already to be reasonably sure who this 'cute little girl' was, and stopping her would be easier said than done. "I will look into that. In the meantime, I will make note of your participation, but you will have to come here in person at some point."
A sigh came from the woman. "Very well, but I can promise nothing."
"If you could tell me where you are, I could perhaps come to you and make the verification that way." The man suggested. "It is improper, but if you feel that you can't approach the Church safely…"
The woman raised an eyebrow. "And let others know where I am? I think not."
"Very well. Could you inform me of what Servant you have summoned then for future reference? It will make things easier to keep track of in the event I do not speak with you again."
"You are asking a lot of questions." The woman narrowed her eyes suspiciously. "That is not something you need to know, Administrator."
"If you are implying that I will not be impartial between Masters, I assure you that I will give no party an advantage over the others." It was technically true. He did expect any of the Master to survive this War.
The woman looked at him for a moment longer before a smile split her face. "You… certainly have a way with words. I should think we'll be seeing more of each other before this War is done." And without another word, the woman vanished.
Kotomine looked at the empty space with a sense of apprehension. He had a feeling that he would need to keep an eye on that woman as well.
Lucrezia sighed as the image faded from her mind. Her respite was short lived though, as a moment later a voice echoed in her head. 'I do not trust that priest. There is something off-putting about him.'
Lucrezia tilted her head slightly and back, though it was more a motion of acknowledgement than to actually look at the source of the comment. Kneeling and facing away as she was with Caster's hands on her head made looking at the other woman difficult, but that was hardly necessary for them to communicate in their current state. 'Agreed. It seemed like he was fishing for more information than a mere Administrator would care to know.' She left it unsaid that the man reminded her of a pathological liar. She had become very good at the art of deception over the years, and could tell that the man seemed to do it as naturally as breathing.
She did see so much as feel Caster's scowl. 'He has probably already deduced that I am a Caster given your wish to contact him like this.' The robed woman stated, once again expressing her displease with this course of action. The Servant had been surprised when Lucrezia suggested that she use a form of mental projection to send her to speak with the priest, but had eventually conceded.
'Perhaps, but that is not much to go on at this point. Besides, this way the other Masters who are undoubtedly spying on the Church do not know about us yet, and that is saying nothing of that monstrosity the homunculus has summoned. Unless you suddenly feel like trying to eliminate it at this very moment…'
'No, no it's fine. We'll just have to make due.' Caster thought. A small bit of apprehension slipped through the crack of the Servant's control. 'While those that have been cruelly manipulated by the gods have my sympathy, I should think I will not feel remorse should someone else kill him.'
Perking up slightly, Lucrezia replied 'Oh? I did not know that you could feel any camaraderie with a man after what happened with you.'
There was a spike of irritation. 'Do not think that I simply hate all men because of what happened to me. It is a foolish overgeneralization. Besides, in the end that idiot Jason had little to do with it. It was the gods who robbed me of my will and ruined me.'
'Perhaps, but were these gods really that bad-'
The irritation turned to anger, and pain laced through Lucrezia's head. She toppled forward and the connection between the two was broken, causing the pain to cut off immediately. She turned to glare at her Servant, who was giving her a serpentine smile. "I am sorry, my Master. It seems that I lost my concentration. I hope that you were not injured by the termination of the spell."
The magus looked at her for a long moment before she said "Just… go finish setting up your territory." She said with a small bit of edge.
"Of course Master." Caster replied before fading from view.
Had she stayed for a few moment's longer though, she might have noticed the triumphant smirk forming on her Master's face.
A/N: No, I haven't forgotten about this fic either. I've just been finding it really hard to come up with good narrative for this one. I have scenes, ideas, and characters, but stringing it all together has just been really difficult. That's why this chapter is shorter than my usual, so I'm sorry for that.
On a side note, I did some small edits on the last chapter based on some of the feedback I got. It's not much, but I hope that it makes the characters a bit more believable.
Edit: Turns out I completely mis-remembered who killed Kirei's father. It was Kainith, not Kirei. *Facepalm*