The Throne of Shirou!
(Produced by Arrixam)
The King of Swords, performed by Gabriel Blessing
The King of Steel, performed by Marcus Galen Sands
King Apeiron, performed by James D Fawkes
The Ash of Miracles, performed by Third Fang
Sir Emiya of the Round Table, performed by TypeMoonFreak
Troper!Shirou, performed by Satire Swift
Chief Editor (Beta 1)
Assisting Editor (Beta 2)
A message from the author!
Ten minutes to write this agonizingly long note! I can do this!
RESPONSE TO GENERAL REVIEWS/PMS FIRST!
Where did Sir Emiya come from? He originated from a story by TypeMoonFreak called Timeline of Fate. However, after lurking through Sir TMF's forum I found out he removed it from his profile in order to redo it entirely. I don't know if he's posted the first chapter or not. It's been a while since I've looked into his profile and he doesn't respond to his PMs. So, TypeMoonFreak, if you're reading this, PLEASE put it back up!
Next, who is Shirou Black? His title is ArchDemon Emiya and comes from a crossover story of the Fate series and a particular video game. You could probably find it on my Favorites list if you're curious but if you can't figure it out I'm afraid I have no interest at the moment in revealing his identity just yet. But no, he is not a villain. Shirou Black is a powerhouse of the group. The Berserker without Mad Enhancement, if one will.
But I AM looking for a villain Shirou. And NO FOR THE HUNDREDTH TIME not Shirou Kotomine. I'm talking about a Shirou who is all for letting the corruption of the Grail leak into the world and destroy everything. The exact opposite of regular Shirou. This one is reserved for the title of Shirou Crimson. I believe someone mentioned a 'Mind of Steel' Shirou. I'm interested to see who this is.
NOW FOR EVERYTHING ELSE!
I apologize for the very long wait. Life has been a mess, but that's a shit excuse. Which reminds me. Here I am rushing to publish this chapter at a total 22k (without this author's note). Took me more than thirty days to do this, right?
In comes Master Marcus Galen Sands with TWO updates to his story... at a whopping 70k.
Seriously Marcus, what the hell? HOW do you type so much?
So this chapter is supposed to be the second half of the previous one, right? Put them together and we have about 32k words. Chapter 5 and this (Chapter 6) COMBINED is equivalent to ONE of your halves!
You deserve January's Golden Table of Flippitude. What is that you ask? It's a giant golden table I dump into your room, place all your valuables on top of it and decorate it all nice. And then flip the FUDGE out of it from frustration. Kudos Master Marcus. Kudos.
Ever since taking up Third Fang as my beta I've noticed he's been slipping in MANY extra things about his character. Yeah, I do talk about AoM in detail in the chapters, but he adds more fuel to the fire. So we're all clear, he is NOT my favorite Shirou. But I refuse to say which one is. Feel free to guess though; I'll let you guys know if you're right or wrong.
Hm? Oh don't worry. He only edits my story. He doesn't read the author's note! Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha!
(Third Fang I still love you if you're actually reading this)
Shiznits... my time is up. Pretty good for just ten minutes!
Now then, ON WITH THE SHOW!
Team Jupiter II
"I would not have believed you to have been summoned as well, Lucan," Arturia said to the elder knight she had known since her father's reign.
Sir Lucan was an elderly man long past his prime, with grayed hair and wrinkling skin. His face had been starting to sink in from his age. But he was no fragile cripple. Despite his age, Lucan still had a mighty figure and a stance of regality that rivaled any king's. But he was a humble man, having served the royal family since the time before Uther Pendragon. While a formidable knight with his rapier, Lucan was more of a nurturing grandfather to Arturia.
As the Royal Butler of the Pendragon name, Sir Lucan knew well of the secret of the king. To this day it bothered him how such a young maiden would surrender herself for what was deemed the greater good. Alas, he gave an oath to forever serve the Pendragons until his time comes and has never voiced his opinion to her. While technically this vow has already come to pass, he would still act as though nothing had changed.
"I know not why either, Your Majesty," Sir Lucan's voice was gentle as he continued to patch the wound on Arturia's shoulder. Perhaps it was because he was summoned as a Caster he had access to this strange Noble Phantasm called Medical Aid. He had been taught medicine and anatomy and had been known as the official doctor of the Knights, but he didn't think such a trait would be one of his Noble Phantasms.
Rather than using standard herbs and cloth to patch wounds, Medical Aid turned his own Od into prana strings to stitch close open wounds. But that was not the limit of its capabilities; it went as far as cleaning the wound and wiping away any blood surrounding the injury as well. Medical Aid even expelled the foreign substance that had been rejecting his healing from the inflicting Servant's spear.
It would seem he was to be only a support in this War. His other Noble Phantasm involved creating and repairing other Noble Phantasms. Combined with his Skills such as Territory Creation, Item Creation, and Librarian of Stored Knowledge (Medicine & Metalwork) he was fitting the ideal role of a Royal Butler.
Perhaps this was the only Class suitable for him. He wasn't known for his swordsmanship. But he never dabbled in magic one bit. No, no, he left that for Merlin and his shenanigans.
Then came a sound he could never forget, the sound of steps on grass coming from one clad full of armor reached his ears. This was most common in their time, but it was the way the person approaching made the hairs on his neck stand up. No person has the same pattern of steps as another. Everyone has their unique biorhythm— their own signature, if one will. This pattern of sound, though significantly similar to every Knight of the Round Table, was undeniable.
Arturia froze for a moment as the identity of the newcomer hit her like a hammer, but the sensation only lasted for that long as she steeled herself a moment later, rose, and gripped Excalibur with one hand. Lucan spun and placed a hand on the hilt of his rapier. His body tensed— no, it quivered before the Knight of Betrayal. The sheer presence of Mordred forced his body to recall what had become of their last battle on the Hill of Camlann.
His other hand could not help but move to his waist, where Mordred had delivered the crippling blow to Lucan what led to his death.
Mordred, in her crimson and silver devilish armor, raised the pristine and once beautiful Clarent at the two. Her voice, echoed through her horned helm, was potent with hatred. "How dare you… How dare you appear alongside I! You insult me with your very existence! There can only be one victor in this Holy Grail War and you once again come before me to be in my way?!"
"It would seem you have learned nothing, Mordred," Arturia bit back. "You are not my enemy at this moment. We may fight over the Grail or discuss matters at another time. For now, put down your sword so—"
"I refuse," interjected Mordred. "To lay down my arms before you is to insult my honor. Nay, we shall settle this now, Father!"
They felt the prana in the air spike. The helm of Mordred split in two and slid into her armor, revealing her face. She was the splitting image of Arturia in every way. She was just as beautiful, just as regal, just as immaculate. But her face was tainted with hatred in a deep scowl and a feral snarl.
In her hand, Clarent began to transform. Gone was the silver and red blade, only to be replaced with a surging wave of red mist. The red mist spun around the hilt, producing the illusion of an elongated blade.
But to Sir Lucan and King Arturia, they knew what this red mist truly was.
The blood of all of those slain by that sword. The blood of the Knights of the Round Table Mordred had betrayed.
This was her Noble Phantasm.
Arturia was devastated. This is what became of Mordred after rising to the Throne. Nothing more than an Anti-Hero still holding on to the grudge against her right to rule. For a moment Arturia wondered what would have become of Mordred had she indeed accepted her. Would Camelot have stood for another generation? Would Mordred have surpassed the likes of Gawain and Lancelot? Instead of rage and despair, would Mordred have grown into a compassionate Knight?
Though these were sins she will forever carry, such were thoughts Arturia could not afford right now.
She could not use Excalibur even if she wanted to. Sir Lucan had not completed mending her injury and thus could not use her full strength. Second, the full force of Excalibur will not just counter Mordred's attack, but it will surely destroy the surrounding area along with her fellow Knights and her Master.
If she could not overpower Mordred's Noble Phantasm, then she must strike before it can be unleashed!
Before the King could act however, a swift blow to the back of the betrayer's head forced her to cease her casting and stumble forward.
"I had thought you were better than that, Mordred," sighed the Knight who had snuck behind her. He was donned in the traditional Round Table armor, bearing the colors of red and white. His copper-toned hair was cropped short, and a pair of spectacles rested before his auburn eyes.
In his hand was a spear far too similar to the one the Servant who wounded the King bared. But instead of an iron tip, the spade was made of gold. Most notably, there was a fresh splotch of blood at the tip. The red liquid, rather than sliding down the spear by the angle the Knight held it, dripped off the edge towards the ground. And instead of it staining the grass, the drop of blood vanished before reaching the ground.
"P-Percival," muttered Arturia. Why was she not surprised? Sir Bors and Sir Bedivere were summoned into the War. Sir Gawain moments after and Sir Tristain with Sir Caradoc before that. Even *Dagonet* of all people was summoned. Why would it be strange if Sir Percival was summoned along with everyone else?
Because Percival did not ascend into the Throne. He ascended into Heaven along with Galahad.
Mordred snarled and swung her blade blindly around in Percival's direction. The Knight in question merely tilted his head back ever so slightly to avoid the slash.
"This is not how a Knight of the Round Table behaves," Percival shook his head in disapproval as he scratched the side of his head with the bloodied spear. Yet the blood did not leave a mark.
"This is as much your fault as it is his, Percival!" Mordred spat, consumed by her rage to listen to reason. "Who was it who advised me to reveal my identity? Who was it who advised I should tell him how I feel? Who was it who advised me to dedicate my all to earn his respect?! And do you know what it brought me? Absolute rejection!"
"Huh…" Percival twirled the spear once between his fingers before stabbing it into the ground. He crossed his arms and thought for a moment. "I… suppose it is. From a certain perspective, I am at fault. I see, I see." He then shrugged, "Then so be it. T'would seem I am to take the blame and bear responsibility for your doing. This I can do. For the sin and woe I brought upon you, I deeply apologize and ask for your forgiveness, Mordred."
Mordred's grip on Clarent tightened as she ground her teeth. She glared daggers at Sir Percival as the veins around her temples pulsed.
"Evening Lucan, Arthur," Percival greeted with a nod to Sir Lucan and a small bow to King Arturia.
Arturia could not help but give a heavy sigh, "Thank you for intervening, Sir Percival. Had you not I fear the damage would have been catastrophic. However, please address me and your fellow Knights appropriately."
"…You're sorry?" The Knight of Betrayal finally found the control to speak once more. "Camelot fell, the Knights disbanded and most dead, Clarent spoilt in bloodshed, and all you have to say is 'You're sorry'?!"
For a moment Percival thought about reaching for his spear. But it would be unbecoming of a Knight of the Round to behave as such and so shifted the twitch of his hand towards adjusting his glasses. "…Is there more I am to perform to your satisfaction?"
The veins on Mordred's brow thickened.
Arturia shook her head, "You needn't apologize, Sir Percival. What happened—"
"Was because of my own actions," Percival cut her off. He closed his eyes in thought before addressing Mordred once more. "You trusted me and my opinion on the matter brought nothing but ruin and shame. I had my doubts you would be my future sovereign, yet I let our friendship cloud my judgment and said otherwise."
He opened his eyes and said with clarity, "So yes, I am sorry. I'm sorry you suck at rejection and went bat-shit crazy—"
"HHRRAAAAHHHH!" screamed Mordred as she could no longer stand Percival's insults and swung Clarent at his neck.
The blow was disengaged as all Percival had to do was kick the end of his spear, plucking it from the ground and sending it spinning faster than the small gesture should have produced. He merely had to open his grip without moving his hand an inch to catch the spear. It landed at the perfect angle for the tip to block at the razor edge of Clarent before Mordred could even begin to swing.
Followed by Percival flicking Mordred's forehead with his gauntleted hand at a speed Mordred could not avoid. The miniscule blow snapped her head back and forced her to take a step to keep her balance. A small trickle of blood fell from her brow.
"But I take responsibility for my mistakes, Mordred," Percival fixed his glasses once more. Gone was his calm and collective behavior, replaced with a sharp persona of steel. "I am sorry things didn't work out. I had doubted you were going to be accepted yet I never said anything. I'm sorry I encouraged you to speak with the King with these doubts. Perhaps because of this the fall of Camelot was my doing. But though I had these doubts, I believed in you with all my heart. I believed you were a Knight more worthy than any of us. And if you were not to be king, you would always be my brother."
Mordred raised her sword, her grip tightening to the point the hilt would surely break. But instead of striking either Percival or Arturia, Clarent was stabbed into the ground. The Knight of Betrayal was silent as she bowed her head against the pommel in her thoughts.
"I should also apologize to you, Arthur," Percival sighed but never looked at the King. "I believe I've caused us all a great deal of grief. Even if I am not directly at fault, the start of the burden is mine and mine alone."
Arturia opened her mouth to speak, but no words could be found. She never thought she would be in this position. Always sitting on that mount of corpses of her Knights upon that Hill, she always swore on what to say on the day she was reunited with her comrades on the Throne of Heroes. But now, as the opportunity presents itself, she was at a loss. Whose fault was it truly for the downfall of Camelot? Was it Mordred for starting the rebellion? Was it Percival who led Mordred down the path of what she has become?
Or was it hers and hers alone? If she had been a better King, a better ruler, Camelot would have stood. 'The King does not understand his people' her subjects always said when they believed she wasn't paying attention. Perhaps if she had been more understanding of her people and of her Knights she could have prevented its downfall.
Yes, the fault was hers and hers alone. She should have been able to better handle Mordred. She should have been able to see the interaction of her Knights. She should have kept a better eye on Morgana. She should have been able to see behind the curtains with what transpired between Lancelot and Guinevere.
"ARtHur…" Like a ghost haunting her thoughts, an inhuman howl of her name came from the shed her Master still resided in.
Arturia's eyes shot wide open as a humanoid thing stalked its way out of the workshop. It was shrouded in a black mist with nothing to identify it but a humanoid figure with glowing red eyes. She didn't need anything else to already know what this thing was. This Servant… she had met before.
In the previous War years ago, she had confronted this Servant— the Berserker of an unknown Master. Always it assaulted her, going out of its way even if engaged with another Servant such as that detestable Archer. It screamed bloody murder as it did all it could to ensure her death.
She remembered when the black mist had faded, when its helm had split open, when it revealed its Noble Phantasm to her.
"Lancelot," her voice came in a whisper as the dread returned to her.
Percival and Lucan eyed the newly summoned Servant as its identity was revealed. They watched with mixed feelings as it slowly moved through the field, muttering in bestial rage King Arthur's name. Steadily as to not alert the creature, Lucan drew his rapier. Percival, however, only turned his body slightly to have a better look.
But even his brows could only furrow as he observed his former equal.
Lancelot stopped, eyed the group, and immediately spotted Arturia. The sudden pulse of killing intent radiating from the black knight was more than powerful enough to put everyone on edge.
Violently, his body shook. And then he howled.
"Sir Lancelot as a Berserker, huh…" Percival twirled his spear before setting it in a battle stance. "So be it. I brought you back from madness the first time. I think I can do it again."
Lancelot charged, sprinting across the field and to make contact in nearly a second. Percival would have been ready to knock him back if he didn't have to dodge Mordred's cleaving blow at the last second. Off guard with his legs bent, Percival was victim to Lancelot's heavy shoulder tackle. The Knight of the Spear could not help but crash onto Sir Lucan.
And it was a moment needed for Mordred to be alone with Arturia. While Percival fumbled around protecting Lucan after Lancelot picked up his released rapier, Mordred sent her powerful blows at the King of Knights. Arturia attempted to block with both hands, but the pain from her shoulder was crippling her ability.
Mordred saw through this and continued to bombard on her right side, where Arturia would have to rely on her wounded side more so.
"Stay behind me!" shouted Percival as he pushed Lucan back.
Without a weapon the Royal Butler could only comply.
Normally, a rapier was used for dueling, parrying, and disarming ones opponent. Disarming was only possible if the user had a close combat instrument such as another sword or club. Against a mid-range weapon such as a Roman pilum, the rapier was useless. Such a spear was made for dealing with infantry and, as it was used mostly by its original wielder, for crowd-control. Even if the user of a rapier was a level better in skill than the spearman, nearly every odd was still in favor towards the mid-range user. So long as a distance was kept, the spearman will always win the match.
It spoke leagues of Lancelot's skill for being able to push Percival back with Lucan's rapier. Dozens of flicks with the rapier forced Percival to use his spear in creative ways as the principles of the duel were reversed. Rather than keeping Lancelot back with his advantageous reach, Percival was forced to twirl the spear like a baton in order to deflect the rapier's stabs. A Berserker Class Servant was supposed to give up their mentality and grace for reckless power. Yet Lancelot was moving with the same level of skill as he had alive.
Was his Mad Enhancement at a certain Rank that rendered him only angry? Or was this perhaps a Personal Skill of Lancelot's? Was Lancelot even a Berserker or was Percival incorrect in his assumptions?
Another blow from Mordred forced King Arthur to take a knee as their Lord hissed in pain.
Lancelot locked his rapier with Percival's spear. Rather than following with another stab, Percival was surprised by the sudden sideways kick Lancelot delivered to his waist. The Knight of the Spear was only pushed aside thanks to his balance and most of his armor absorbing the blow, but it was a second too long for Lancelot to break free from the battle.
Only meters away from the other battle, Lancelot fired off like a bullet with the rapier extended. His killing intent spiked, drawing the attention of both King Arthur and Mordred. The King's eyes were wide as she realized this was a strike coming too fast for her to avoid. Mordred grew a smile wider than her face.
"No!" shouted Percival as he tried to intercept Lancelot.
"Goodbye Father!" sang Mordred.
If Lancelot could be considered the speed of a bullet, King Arthur's saving grace could be compared to the speed of a heated laser.
Yet one more a Servant Knight came from the shed at a speed beyond the limits enforced by Gaia. It came so fast and so fierce the wall of air that should have hindered his movements was pierced like an arrow through a sheet of paper. The laws of Gaia could not even follow as the being did not so much as move as he did teleport.
"Dynamic~" a kick to Mordred's cranium from the suddenly appearing Knight flying through the air forced Mordred off of the King.
Yet this Servant continued to move even when the strike had yet to produce results. Once again Gaia was too slow to register the events following. Flying once more, the Servant moved away from Mordred and appeared before Lancelot.
"Entry!" Even Lancelot's skills were not fast enough to him to fully understand what transpired. Though he had sensed an assault coming, he could not move swiftly enough to put up any guard. All he knew was something in the shape of a boot met his helmed skull.
Suddenly the World that is Gaia acknowledged the chain of events. Two simultaneous shockwaves struck Mordred and Lancelot, sending them flying in different paths away from the group. Mordred crashed onto the estate's walls and gasped at the force of the blow as well as the collision. Lancelot was sent skidding across the lawn like a flat stone across a body of water. He rolled and tumbled aimlessly until he could dig his gauntlets into the dirt to slow his flight.
Meanwhile, the savior landed gracefully on his feet. The winds howled as they finally caught up with his movements, blowing leaves around him in a cyclone as his Holy Shroud blew behind his back. He stood with his back to the King, heroically, as he stared off into the distance with his hands at his waist. Power and triumph radiated from this Knight as he—
"Oh. Holy. Fuck. It's you," Percival swore without hesitation.
The wind suddenly died, as though having been put down like an animal by his words. Even the heroic Knight flinched.
"One day," raged Percival as he shook his fist and screamed to the heavens. "One day without her! Is it too much to ask of you?!"
"Percy…" pouted the Knight as she slouched heavily enough for her arms to dangle. "Uncharitably with me have you dealt, and shamefully my hopes by you are butchered. Dainamikku Entorī doth be hexed!"
As dramatically as— no, more dramatic than what Dagonet would do— she went as far as to pose obscenely to add emphasis to her technique. It involved her legs split apart, her right arm tucked at her waist, and her left arm pointing diagonally at a fifty-degree angle towards two-o-clock.
Even Arturia could not help but give in to the usual reflex to this Knight. Her friend, her hand, was reunited with its long lost lover, her forehead.
"Galahad," she was not the only one to groan out her name.
Sir Galahad, daughter of Lancelot, was donned from head to toe in unique armor not even the greatest of Knights could obtain nor the greatest of blacksmiths could forge. Every ounce of armor, both light and heavy, was of draconic origin. Pauldrons, greaves, gauntlets, ribcage-shaped breastplates, faulds, and cruisses were forged of dragon bone. Underneath the bones were tanned leathers of dragon skin tailored for both protection and comfort. Somehow, she had even been able to dye it all to the colors of red and white.
Above her neck, where the scarlet scarf-like shroud hung, was her dragon skull helm. Its mouth had been torn open so the upper fangs hung just at the tip of her brows while its lower jaw rested against her collar.
Over her face covering the lower half from her nose-down was a part of her Holy Shroud.
Which was a useless tact since everyone knew who she was.
The sound of rubble, metal grinding, and groaning brought their attention towards the distance of Mordred. The Knight of Treachery was using Clarent as a crutch to stand up once more. Blood trickled from her brow, forcing her right eye close, and dripped heavily down her chin.
"No more…" she grounded out. "I'll not be humiliated any longer. All of you can just DIE!"
Clarent transformed once more as the swirl of blood mist spired from the hilt.
If only she had been of right of mind. Even Sir Lancelot, reduced to nothing more than a mad dog of a *Berserker*, had the tiniest shred of mentality to at least listen to his instincts. Even he was keeping his distance from the group since Galahad had arrived.
"Clarent," Mordred rose her Noble Phantasm and invoked its full name. "Blood Arth—"
Across of the distance of the lawn, Galahad flickered out of existence and appeared before Mordred. Before the crimson Knight could finish her strike, a gauntleted hand gripped around her face and shoved her back into the wall. Mordred groaned in pain as Galahad's speed and strength matched that of the dragon she slew. Her grip was unbending and tightening with each passing second.
Sir Galahad pulled Mordred out of the wall and then shoved her back in with just as much force as before. Mordred could not help but release Clarent by the shock of pain.
Galahad did so a third time for good measure.
"Sir Galahad!" Arturia nearly shouted and was even startled by her reaction. She stilled herself and spoke with the clarity of a King, "That is enough."
The female Knight released Mordred and turned around to face the group. Her back was completely exposed and her guard was down. Yet there was a feeling lingering in the air that told others she was capable of defending herself.
"Fear thee not, Your Highness!" Galahad slammed a fist onto the breastplate of her draconic armor. "The brain may devise laws for the blood, but a hot temper leaps o`er a cold decree. Hoh hoh hoh hoh!"
Arturia shook her head. "No, Sir Galahad. I am saying you needn't punish Mordred." Her face became solemn as she chose her next words carefully. "Mordred is my responsibility, as is Sir Lancelot, and as is you, my Knights."
"Rubbish," interrupted Sir Percival.
"Percival!" spat Sir Lucan. "Mind your tongue—"
"I will not, old fool!" roared the Knight of the Spear in anger. He pointed an accusing finger, "You've had your chance— nay, we've all had our chance to speak but never did any of us step forward. There is much we all must take responsibility for. You, I, Galahad, Mordred, Lancelot, everyone. The King is not the only one at fault."
"Your Majesty!" Heads turned towards the gate entrance as the Knight Gawain appeared with two strangers behind him. Worry seeped across his face as he spotted King Arthur on [his] knees. "Are you hurt—"
And then he spotted Galahad.
"Oh…" Worry immediately became annoyance. A sudden surge of pain to his right temple forced his hand to rub the general area. "She's back," he muttered to himself.
"Hmph," Percival picked up his spear and treaded lightly towards Galahad and the fallen Mordred. "We'll finish this later, old oaf."
Gawain's brows furrowed as he heard Percival's words but could not follow. But his attention was diverted as the black thing lurking far away vanished into its spectral state. "W-what was—"
"You needn't worry yourself about him, Sir Gawain," King Arthur spoke with a heavy sigh. "It doesn't seem he will cause us any problems for the time being."
His eyes lingered around the area where the mystery Servant vanished. He dismissed it since he could do nothing about it at the moment. Gawain came a little closer with the two following behind him. "No matter. Your Majesty, where is our Master? We have guests."
"In this there can be no dismay, Sunny!" Galahad smirked and puffed her chest out in pride. "Now are our brows bound with victorious wreaths! Evil is defeated and thoust King is safe! The heavens bruit again in the waking of this Siege Perilous! Hoh hoh hoh!"
"…" Gawain tried his best to not summon his sword.
Arturia stood and examined the individuals Gawain brought with him. The first was a young maiden still young and green. Though she held herself proudly, there was an obvious air of inexperience surrounding her. She did well to mask her fears, but it was obvious to the perception of Arturia the girl felt like she was being tossed into the lion's den.
She noticed the single red splotch on the back of her hand with two more marks faded. This girl was a Master. And she had used two Command Seals so early in the War.
But who was the individual standing beside her? He bore the regality of a king, but a weak and foolish one at that. No, better fitting of one pretending to be a king. Despite this foolishness, he was at complete ease without a trace of fear. He was neither brave nor was he arrogant. He approached them as though assured no harm will reach him. But it was so strange; this boy was not a Servant nor did he radiate any power. And his eyes were still green with just as much inexperience as—
This must be a trick. She had less than a minute to ask her Master the question of servitude— less of a minute to capture his appearance in that dark shed. But it was more than enough time and there had been plenty of light for her to make out his features. He had been young, rather tall, toned in muscle like one of her squires, with golden eyes and red hair.
The young man standing behind Gawain did not just resemble her Master. The boy was her Master.
"Gawain, withdraw from those two," she ordered as she raised Excalibur at the two. Sir Lucan picked up his rapier and readied himself should a fight bring about. Sir Percival merely stopped walking and turned his head towards their direction. He seemed less on edge and more annoyed by the situation.
Sir Galahad, on the other hand, was more interested in Mordred. She pushed Clarent a few inches away from the crimson Knight when she had tried reaching for it once more.
But it was Gawain who defended them. He raised his hands and pleaded, "Forgive me, Your Majesty. But I understand your confusion. Please allow these two to explain themselves."
Arturia gave a nod. "Very well. It must be quite the explanation if you place good faith on them."
The girl was about to speak before the young man in appearance of her Master placed a firm hand on her shoulder. The two looked at another. Already Arturia was examining every small detail between the two. Their eyes spoke of trust— or at least the boy wanted the girl to trust him while the maiden was skeptical. And then there was the hand on her shoulder. It had been firm in a friendly manner. Not like a business associate or an adviser of the court, but that of honest friendship.
But even these small tactics had been used against King Arthur to have her believe there were no hostile intentions. Manipulations and espionage were no strangers to her.
The boy spoke up with the same voice as her Master's. But the tone was different. Perhaps she was wrong; the boy she knew had been in frenzy and confused when she was summoned. Perhaps this was what he was like when in a controlled environment.
It didn't mean she ruled out it was all a trick.
"Greetings Your Highness," he gave a bow of respect. "Let me first introduce myself and my Master."
Brows were raised. This boy could not possibly be a Servant. It didn't… feel right. Even Assassins with their Presence Concealment would tug at the back of her mind, letting her know an enemy Servant was nearby. This boy gave no such feeling.
"This is my Master, Rin Tohsaka," his hand gestured to the maiden at his side.
She gave her greeting and performed a somewhat adequate performance of a curtsey.
"I, as well as my teammates outside, am a Servant of the Holy Grail War. Unfortunately, due to the nature of our summoning, only one of us was granted a Class— that of the Archer."
His... Master, this Rin Tohsaka, gave him a dark look. Alas, Arturia knew not why.
"I come before you not as your enemy, but as an envoy to discuss terms of an alliance. King Arthur Pendragon, my name is Emiya Shirou and I am the same being who has made a contract with you and your Knights of the Round Table. The Servants of Tohsaka Rin are one in the same identity, merely summoned from different potential paths the one known as Emiya Shirou may, can, could have, and shall experience. Therefore, we see no reason to be his enemy, and therefore, to be yours."
Somehow, in some way, with the old fool tossing in his grave from laughter, she could feel Merlin had something to do with this.
"But… But how can that be?" Sir Lucan sheathed his rapier and withdrew a handkerchief from his pouch. He wiped his brow at the thought.
Arturia paid closer attention to the Master rather than this supposed-Servant. The girl, Rin, had turned her eyes towards her partner. Eyes deep with curiosity. It would seem not even she knew of the specifics due to either a lack of general information or because the 'Servant' had withheld it from her.
"I apologize but I would rather prefer to discuss this further with your Master present," he replied with the politesse and grace of a king. "Where is the current Emiya Shirou? Is he hurt?"
"He is here," came a light-hearted voice coming from the shed.
Arturia knew that voice. What was she saying? Of course she knew that voice. Everyone who had come out of that shed this evening she had known most of her life. But everyone summoned as a Heroic Spirit had been a Knight of the Round Table. Every Knight had a seat at the King's side and had at one time fought alongside her. This voice, however, was no such case.
Assisting their Master out of his workshop had been none other than the former Queen of Camelot, Guinevere.
His name had been Takashi. Her name had been Ayame.
In a few years young Takashi would have entered the University, graduated in five years, join a reliable corporation and start a career as an automobile engineer. Within a few years after that he would have proposed to Ayame. The two would live happily together in a small house raising their two children. It would have been a quiet life, and quite boring in Artorius' opinion, but they would have been completely happy together.
It was a pity they had to die so soon.
The two had been walking home together after leaving a small farewell party for one of their friends was heading out of the country to study abroad. The celebrations had stretched out until the landlord of the apartment complex had forced everyone to return home… after being more than tolerant of their underage drinking and late-night partying. Takashi, a little more sober than his girl, had insisted on escorting Ayame home.
It would only be moments later when Artorius had their blood drained by Dux Legionum. It was a crude method and somewhat of a loophole in easing her Bloodlust. And it was *very* unsatisfying. There was also a gamble when using this upon the mundane. If she were to kill one there was a chance the second would just give in to despair.
Luckily, for her anyways, Takashi had the wits to flee in terror as he saw his beloved turned into a hollow husk. It was from that will to live Artorius was able to ease her Bloodlust. For what other reason would she fight with Heroes? It was to understand why they fight. Why they desire to live.
Ending that reasoning always sent chills down her spine.
But ending a mundane's life like this was equivalent to snacking before a meal. It may curb the hunger, but it does nothing against starvation.
Regardless, Artorius had an extra day before the madness starts to consume her.
Artorius turned towards the hollow husk of the boy. Her eyes glared as it was not the white corpse who had said a word. But it was his voice without a doubt.
Takashi walked over his own corpse as he looked down in grief. His fists shook as tears began to fall. "Why would you do this to me?"
She stared at the… apparition. No, that wasn't correct. She could feel something coming from within him. She could hear his heart beating, his blood flowing through his veins, his soul grieving over the loss of life. This was no vengeful spirit.
This was something taking the form of the boy. Taking his corporeal form, his feelings, his aura of being.
"And why… God why- why would you do this to Ayame—"
A flick of the wrist transformed a Dux Legionum into a straight sword. There was nothing fancy as the sword cleaved his head off his shoulders. It was such a clean cut the head had even remained attached a few seconds after the body collapsed to the floor.
"Takashi-san!" cried a similar apparition of Ayame.
Artorius watched as this girl ran up to the severed second corpse of her beloved, fell to her knees, and cried out in woe. She watched as the girl screamed for someone to help her save Takashi, screaming in hatred for Artorius killing her lover, and screamed, as it would seem, just for the sake of doing so.
Annoyed beyond words and no longer amused by this illusion, Artorius flung the straight sword through the girls head. It pierced through it without resistance and dug into the street behind her. The false Ayame fell over her lover in their last embrace.
Artorius made sure she was not hallucinating. From one end of the street was a sunken white corpse formerly being Ayame. At the other end, on his back and face frozen in horror, was a similar corpse of the being formerly Takashi.
So, who were these two then?
"That was not the way we do things, Praepositus."
In a flash of rage, Artorius struck down the apparition that dared to say those words. A zweilhander Dux Legionum crushed the body of a Roman legionary as well as shaking the earth below. She did not question who or what could be causing these things to come forth. She was more annoyed by their presence. But now? Now she was furious whosoever was orchestrating this dared to make a copy of one of her former subordinates.
To force this copy to call her by one of her ranks… the conjurer must know her.
"Marcus was correct," another appeared behind her. "What has become of you, Praefectus?"
The zweilhander became a scythe that spliced through the next Roman's armor like paper. Blood soaked the street as he fell.
Now, Artorius was losing her patience.
"Praepositus/Praefectus," came not just one voice but several surrounding her.
Appearing almost out of a blanket of mist were more of these damnable apparitions. They wore the armors of Roman legionaries with the crest of the Artoria on either their breastplates or shields. Not only that, but they dared to share the same voice and faces as the young men she had led to death in her career.
Every one of these men had died in her raid of conquest for Rome.
The scythe becoming a sickle attached to a chain, Artorius decapitated every last one in a few fluid moves.
"Praepositus/Praefectus," more and more came out of thin air.
Artorius was becoming furious. Whosoever had the gall to bring these men before her was assured to die. Every soldier she knew by name. She knew of their families, of their stories, of the reasons why they fought and died in her name. They were her brothers in arms— her family— and the mageling or Servant who brought this to the field was lower than any barbarian she had ever crossed.
And like before, she cut down every one of the false beings.
"Show yourself!" she shouted. "Or if I need to I shall decimate this area until I stumble upon your broken corpse!"
Her prana was spiking as she was about to summon Vincitore. A Dux Legionum orb floated over her shoulder. If the enemy did not reveal themselves then she shall have Vincitore destroy everything with a Broken Phantasm until—
"My, my," a man stalked down the streets, appearing into reality as though made of smoke. "The white rose, turned red by war, has thorns as sharp as swords."
Artorius could not help but glare daggers at the man— no, the Servant. He was different from the apparitions. He was… whole.
He was garbed in Roman attire such as a black steel vest over a purple silk cloth, a black and purple cape over one shoulder, black dyed armor similar to a centurion's battle skirt, and black greaves and sabatons. On each hip was a gladius sword as well as another pair to his back.
He was tall with a great deal of muscle but not overbearingly so. His jaw was square, his nose was narrow and sharp, his eyes large but calculating, and his hair as black as his armor was cut short and curly.
His voice was mighty, fitting that of a commander such as Artorius, yet it was whimsical as he continued on with his sonnet, "The white rose, now red in bloodshed, starts to wilt.
"The white rose, turning black, has lost its beauty.
"The white rose, now black, starts to lose its petals.
"The white rose, now naked—"
The unnamed Servant retched forward as Artorius flashed before him, drilling her Dux Legionum gauntlet through his chest and ripping his heart through his back. He coughed blood all over her exposed back but she did not mind. Knowing he was in pain and was more than satisfying. He was a fool to believe spewing nonsense would have lowered her guard to his level. This Servant, a Caster it would seem, could never hope to be a challenge to the Servant of Slaying even with such mud-flinging tactics.
"—has lost its way."
Artorius tore her arm out of the hole and let the false Servant fall. Behind her, keeping his distance at five meters, was yet another replica Servant. He smiled and said the last line of his poem, "The white rose, no longer red or black, is white once again."
The Dux Legionum straight sword she had left in the middle of the street flew into her hand. No matter how many times this Servant eluded her, she will cut him down always.
With a flare of the theatrics, the Servant brushed his cape over his shoulder with a grand gesture and gave a bow. "You may call me Flavius, the False Servant of the Assassin."
She at least let him finish his introduction before flinging the straight sword to his head. However, he had been prepared and had deflected the strike in a swift move that even caused her brow to rise. His handling with a gladius was… remarkable. She almost didn't see him draw it— as he was sheathing it to his hip at the instant the sound of deflecting metal was heard.
The Dux Legionum flew through the air, turned its trajectory, and returned to her hand a second later.
The Servant, Flavius, was not bothered by her or he did not show it. He resembled more of an actor than an emperor of Rome anyways. "It is an honor at last to meet with you, False Servant Rider."
Artorius said nothing.
"Forgive me. My performance was a little… rushed. Here, let me rid us of any distractions."
He snapped his fingers. The bodies Artorius had cut down from the legionaries, to the false Flavius, to the mundane teenagers, shattered like glass and became golden dust. Prana particles. In a matter of seconds they vanished into the air.
He huffed with a proud smile across his face as he moved his hands behind his back. He stood tall with his guard lowered completely, almost daring her to attack him again. Was this another false body or was this but a bluff?
Normally Artorius would gut him, but she was more interested in his ability than anything. It greatly resembled her future bride's…
"Were you not instructed to return to the mountain?" Flavius' voice was… fickle. He sounded both amused and agitated at the same time. "I trust by my performance your Bloodlust has died down, has it not?"
He too shattered like glass when Artorius drove a stake through his skull as soon as the sentence was finished. So his previous display of defending himself was not a bluff. A pity; Artorius really wanted him dead.
"Our Master ordered me to have you return by any means necessary," another Flavius appeared as he strolled close to her. His entire demeanor was unchanged as though nothing had happened. He leaned forward to get closer to the bloodthirsty girl. "Adams-sama wants you secluded from the War as much as possible. And I agree with him. You draw too much attention from not just the other Masters and the public, but you might force the hand of the Church and Mage Association.
"Should that happen then the War will be forced to an inconclusive result. Fuyuki will be purged to hide all evidence and we Heroic Spirits will be expelled from the world. None of us shall have a wish, shall gain the Grail, and, what I believe you are most interested in, will not be able to battle another."
"…You are not a Servant of mi Maestro."
He stood and smiled, "Ah! But I am. I am indeed. In our time of summoning you might not have met me, but be assured I have met you."
Her eyes narrowed. Including her, there were four Servants Cain had summoned. The first was the Primary Lancer, the second was the empress in equal identity to Artorius, and the third was…
Ah. Artorius understood now by what he meant. This was, in a manner of speaking, Cain's Third Servant.
"Adams-sama wishes to apologize for not instructing you himself," Flavius turned and began to stroll towards the direction of Ryuudouji Temple. "He is occupied at the moment dealing with the matter of collateral damage you left behind as well as observing the Master you're sponsoring."
"This does not mean I forgive your actions, Assassin," Artorius' tone was dry. "Do not forget your performance achieved my ire. Tell that to your master."
"False Assassin," Flavius corrected chummily. "Your ire I welcome! What is a Holy Grail War without matching the might of these we couldn't have met? Why, I missed you, oh beautiful and deflowered white rose, by but a generation. Alas, Adams-sama forbids confrontation that endangers the team's success—"
"I was not speaking about mi Maestro," Artorius' eyes turned murderous. "I was speaking of your… burattinaio."
For a moment, Flavius froze. Not akin to a shock of surprise one would experience when a secret is revealed, but it was as though he had lost all manner of… life. His body, like a statue hardened to pose for all eternity, was suspended through Time.
It was but a fragment of a second and Flavius returned to normal. Mundane eyes would not have been able to see it. Even most Servants would be skeptical if they had seen it. But it did not escape someone like Artorius, who feeds off of one's will to live.
He chuckled, "I'll think about it, Great Artorii. For now, shall we return to the mountain?"
"Flee," Artorius ordered in irritation. "Disperse from my sight else I hunt you down, permanently. I happen to have an idea of where to start looking."
The smile never escaped Flavius' face. But it was there again— that flicker of absence of life as soon as she said those words. Nonetheless, he turned with a flourish of his cape and disseminated into prana particles as he turned to his astral form. Whether it was the real him or another replication she did not know.
Artorius stood there for a moment. Flavius had delivered a wound deeper than any sword could pierce. She was forced to remember the faces of her fallen brethren. Forced to remember why they died. Why they died without cause.
She grimaced, but began picking up her feet and treaded lightly back towards the mountain.
The young man known as Emiya Shirou was very familiar to pain. Almost every day he converted his nerves to makeshift Circuits— a process in which was similar to sticking a red-hot iron rod into his spine.
But that was just for one Circuit.
Now, Emiya Shirou was on his back as his entire body was burning. His vision was but a black tunnel as his voice was caught in his throat, unable to let out a single shriek. His skin was burning red as neon gold circuitry glowed through his veins. His Od was being drained too fast for his body to cope with.
And this was with Avalon subduing most of the damage.
"Y-n-g Mas-r!" he thought he heard someone cry for him.
He thought he saw someone over him, shouting at him with words he could never hope to understand. He also thought he was seeing streaks of tears falling down her face.
But he would never be sure. The pain was too great for him to focus. It was a blessing Avalon was keeping his body from falling apart, but it was as much of a curse when it was keeping his mind conscious, forcing him to bear the pain.
"N-No… I… mustn't…" he heard the person a bit more clearly. But he could not hear what else she said after that.
A pair of soft hands cupped his face. The tingling feeling of her fingers were like millions of needles stabbing into his cheeks. His body jerked at her touch.
"F-Forg-e me…" she said.
Suddenly, his lips felt like they were on fire. And then, just as quickly as the sensation came, a cooling presence came over him. Gradually, the pain died down and his body no longer burned. He could only gasp and sit up in a burst. His clothes were sticking to him due to the gallons of sweat his body had produced in a failing attempt to keep him cool.
His body was still warm and his hundreds of new Magic Circuits were still flaring angrily. Their florescent glow still pierced through his skin.
But the pain had been reduced significantly. His skin still tingled and his body felt stiff, almost rejecting his commands, but he could move if he did so slowly and steadily.
His attention was forced away when he heard a small gasp beside him. Kneeling beside him was a woman with cascading blonde hair, eyes as blue as a sapphire's, fair and flawless skin, rosy pink lips, a white and yellow gown, and a crystalline tiara on the crown of her head. A small hand was pressed against her chest, the other gently placed over her lips. Her eyes were locked on his before averting her gaze and her pale skin turned red.
Heavy breathing, tears in her eyes, a flushed face…
Emiya Shirou, the dumbass that he is, thought she wasn't feeling too well.
"H-Hey," his voice was shaky after who knows how long in pain. A hand reached over for her shoulder, "Are you okay—"
"Eek!" she squealed as soon as his hand touched her arm. He instantly retreated. "…K-Kiss was… first…"
Shirou blinked. "Ah? Sorry? I didn't quite catch—"
Her eyes flared in fury as she stood in haste, catching the boy by surprise and having him fall backwards. With great charisma and an aura that crushed his spirits as a man, the woman as old as Fuji-nee placed a hand on her bosom in emphasis and declared, "By your summons have I come forth and do I decree the establishment of this contract. Harken, young one, I am the Servant As—"
She paused for a reason Shirou could not understand.
"Nay, behold by my grace, I am Queen Guinevere of Camelot. Thy pact is made by thine k-k-kiss and it shall be upon thee to t-t-take r-responsibility."
To not lose her composure, she had to close her eyes and pretend Shirou wasn't in front of her. The boy would never understand, as he did seem rather dull— more so than the young uneducated lads in her time.
She had used her Noble Phantasm to transfer the burden of 'pain' onto herself. The conditions of activating her Noble Phantasm were… a little extreme for her tastes. Who comes up with the rules for these things, honestly? To activate it through a kiss? Really?
Contrary to the stories and rumors spread, she had never kissed anyone. She loved Arturia dearly, as she did Sir Lancelot, but she had kept her lips to herself. A kiss was to be the most sacred of rites before bedding. She believed one day such a wondrous Knight will sweep her off her feet to take her away. She will at first despise this Knight for kidnapping her, but then find out his reasons for taking her hand against her whim, learn to love him, and be taken by his warm embrace as Sir Unnamed Knight carried her up the stairs of the tower to—
"Um… Miss?" questioned the boy. "Are you… are you okay? Your face is turning all red…"
Oh confound it all! She had done it again!
"T-There is nothing wrong!" she blurted out as she turned away from him. Her hands cupped her face as she performed the usual breathing exercises for keeping her heart down. After an awkward moment to herself, she turned once more to face her Master. "There is nothing wrong," she said to assure herself more than the boy.
She had even forgotten her speech decorum.
Shirou on the other hand had no idea how to react. Who could blame him? Never before did he have the urge to find the nearest coffee table and flip the fudge out of it.
The entirety of the day had been just that: a massive coffee table flip. First, he gets killed after running into some anime-ish bash between two super-powered beings. Then, being revived by some angel/reaper and somehow finding his way back home. Moments after that the same person who had killed him appeared at his doorstep, announced her presence in the same manner a maintenance worker returning to fix a problem they messed up around the house would, and tried to kill him again. Honestly, he had no idea what he was thinking when running to his shed. There were nothing in here to protect him and this was nowhere near an adequate workshop of a Magus.
Then, a magic circle had started to form in the center of his workspace. He had felt his Od pump, drawing into the circle, making it glow brighter. In a flash of white light and screeching sounds, a young woman clad in a blue and white dress and steel armor stepped out of the circle. She asked if he was her Master, whatever that meant. But he was too dumbfounded at what had happened to answer. She said something about dealing with the enemy and bolted out of the door with something in her grip.
That was when the pain started to climb. It first hurt his chest, forcing him to press himself against the wall and hyperventilate. More Od pulsed through his Circuits as a second individual stepped out of the circle. It was another man/woman(?) in similar armor. She looked around for but a second before hearing the clash of steel and stormed out in the same manner.
By then the pain tripled when another person stepped out. Shirou was forced to slide down the wall and grip the areas that ached the most— his chest in particular. Every time someone stepped out of that circle the pain escalated to new heights. It was after the eighth individual did Shirou lose his perception of time.
Leaving him up to this moment between he and this person claiming to be 'Queen Guinevere'. Let's not even mention the meeting with the Divine Spirit and gaining some hundred and two Grade-A Circuits.
"What the hell is going on?!" he shouted as he stood, causing her to take a few steps back. In frustration he could not help but tug at his hair.
"W-What do you mean?" she tried to smile for him. It was a minor tact she had been taught when appealing to the commoners. Supposedly, if one smiles even in a time of strife, those looking will feel at ease.
Sadly, it was ineffective.
"What do I mean?!" Shirou was starting to lose himself. "I get it. I really am dead. Ha ha… It's nice to meet you, Guinevere. My name is Emiya Shirou. Now where can you tell me where to find Emiya Kiritsugu?"
He then laughed to himself as his eyes turned distant. "Oh, when Fuji-nee finds out I died at the school… she'll probably kill me. Eh? How would that work if I'm already dead? She'll find a way, she'll find a way."
Like a child, Guinevere puffed out her cheeks in an attempt to hold back the awful words she wanted to say to the boy. But she was a Queen and it would be unbecoming of one such as herself to say what was on her mind. So, she held it in. Even when her face was turning red from too much concentration.
"I-I-Idiot!" Her focus never could last very long. "Are you not a Magus? Do you not know what is going on? You are still alive and are a Master of the Holy Grail War, are you not?!"
But Shirou could not hear her as he was quietly laughing himself into madness, wrapping his arms around himself and rocking back and forth on his heels. His eyes were glazed, staring blindly into the great beyond as his smile curled unnaturally across his face.
Guinevere had enough. Her Master was clearly a Magus, but he was nowhere near a proficient one if A: he was suffering from extreme prana consumption having one Servant and B: he was losing his mind after witnessing a summoning he clearly had no idea about. What a troublesome Master she had. It was going to be a long and hard War if this was what she had to work with.
She had half a mind to smack him but thought against it as it was a little cruel for her tastes. During her upbringing no one had ever laid a hand on her and she swore she would never do the same with her children. She shouldn't do the same towards her Master. But then she thought… would he do the same for her? Her mind began to wander astray. What if he was a cruel Master? He was a young man, and who was to say he didn't have needs? She was a Servant, and he the Master. With but a Command Seal he could order her on all fours, head stuffed into the pillows with her tail high into the air as he—
'Focus Guine!'* She ordered herself. 'Foooooooocus!'
Shaking her head and then slapping her cheeks, the light shock brought her thoughts back into reality. She had a detangling Master to deal with and now wasn't the time to fantasize. With better assurance, she reached for his shoulders and decided the best action was to gently shake him.
"Ahn~" a moan escaped her lips as soon as her fingers touched him. The pain she had been carrying from her Master had been swept away by a wave of euphoric bliss. It sent her body tingling, locking her knees in place, and forcing most of her weight tumbling forward onto him.
They both fell to the floor, groaning in pain from the hard wood and bodies clashing. The feeling of bliss of Guinevere and growing madness of Shirou had been overthrown by new pain. Reality wasn't kind to bring them back.
It was even more vicious when the two found themselves invading the other's space. Her breasts pressed against his hard chest. His hands on her hips and hers on his shoulders.
And their lips less than an inch away.
"Kyah!" screamed Guinevere like a teenage girl as she leapt off of Shirou as though he were on fire. So close… She had been so close to him and nearly had her second kiss in but the span of a few minutes from the first.
Alas, losing contact with him meant the pain was returning without deferment. The embarrassment was quickly shunned as her face flinched. God! This was what it must feel like to have her hymen broken.
And from that thought triggered a new set of ideas for her to fantasize about…
Meanwhile, Shirou was starting to recover from his moment of lunacy as he began to recollect his bearings. He realized that, no, he was not dead. This was not a dream. He was still hiding in his little shack of a workshop and had suffered through who knows how many hours of pain. His Circuits flaring through his skin were proof enough.
He had, apparently, used some sort of spell he wasn't aware of to summon something out of a circle he never knew was there. Magic Circles don't just magically appear, as silly as it sounds.
Which concludes: Shirou was alive and this 'Guinevere' was most likely another one of the people stepping out of the circle.
She and the first person had called him Master and had mentioned something about a Holy Grail War. He needed answers and perhaps she had some explanations on what was going on around his life lately.
"Um… Miss?" He sat up. "What exactly is going on? What is this Holy Grail War? And who are the others?"
"Others?" she questioned. "What others do you speak of?"
Shirou scratched his head. "Well… You came from that… summoning spell, right?"
He received a nod.
"So then you should know the others who were summoned before you, right?"
"B-Before me?" she stuttered in confusion. "Tis not possible. Speak boy! What others are there!"
"Ah… W-Well… the first one who appeared as a girl in a blue dress and armor. She asked if I was her Master and then charged out to…"
It was by then Shirou realized the situation he was in. He didn't know if the girl was safe or not. The Roman soldier who had nearly killed Shirou (twice) wasn't human in any way. She was fast, fierce, and strong enough to send him flying out of his kitchen window with just a flick of her spear. The short blonde girl could be dead for all he knew!
Wobbly rising to his feet, Shirou urged himself to leave the shed. "I-I don't know if she's safe or hurt or dead! Or the others! I need to…" He stumbled to his knees as his legs gave out.
"Young Master!" Guinevere came to his aid.
Only to squeal in ecstasy, tackle over him, and repeat the previous performance.
It had been a near unanimous decision to have the King of Steel, King Emiya the God Slayer, provide the explanations to this world's Shirou, the King of Knights Arturia, and, almost indirectly, to their Master, Rin. The reasons were unclear as each alternative had discussed this silently with but a few gestures and nods.
The Ash of Miracles in particular asserted himself to be the one to enter the Emiya estate at first. Given that he had somehow managed to pull off the ideal resolution to his War and proceeded to maintain a semi peaceful relationship with the Clocktower, the Church, and a good portion of the other Apostle Ancestors, several of the others had agreed to it as well.
Unfortunately he had been turned down when the King of Swords pointed out his weak stature from prana exhaustion mixed with his vampiric nature clouding his judgment. After it was brought up, the vampire stepped back with only minor reluctance while warning the others not to show their hand to everyone else too soon.
The second option was to send King Apeiron, their strongest member, but he had declined as he had lingering feelings for his version of Saber and it too would have clouded his judgment.
Thus, it was in everyone's best opinion to send in the God Slayer. This Shirou could understand their way of thinking and he agreed as he could see it as the best choice for his reasons. Though not a real King like Saber, he was still a Campione and had gained a level of charisma capable of challenging the world. His version of Saber had been captured by the Shadow and corrupted. His Saber was more of a close friend than a previous lover as compared to many of his other selves. He would be able to think clearly around her.
He also had all of Archer's memories. Archer had not just fought in one War, but at least three. His knowledge and experience was invaluable, even if this Grail War was far different than any of theirs. At the least he could explain the conditions of the War as well as the contents of the Grail itself. Hopefully this world's Shirou will be able to understand and be beneficial to their cause. And hopefully Rin will forgive them for keeping this all a secret from her.
But Saber had sold her soul for a chance to achieve the Grail. Who knows how she will react to the information? Well, if push comes to shove, he was the best suited of the group at the moment to protect Rin. King Apeiron was the most powerful of them, but he had the most diverse abilities that suited the widest range of situations.
Speaking of his Master, even the thick-headed Shirou could tell Rin was greatly upset about everything. She was practically leaking frustration enough to pollute the air. Ever since he swore to protect her she had been fuming (his foot still hurt). It grew worse as they entered the Emiya lawn and they saw even more Servants scattered everywhere.
Who would have thought the black Berserker of the previous War was a member of the Round Table? Archer had made a deal with the current Lord El Melloi II when he was a wandering hero for a favor in exchange of gaining the memories the former Master witnessed in his War. As Shirou had Archer's arm and memories so too could he recall every Servant participating in the Fourth War. The King of Steel had only been able to catch a glimpse of the black-shrouded Servant. He nearly froze as the figure reminded him of his encounter with the Heretic God Mordred.
Getting back to the point, Rin was starting to lose her composure when he stepped forward in her place and announced themselves. Not to mention she almost tripped when she muttered the total count of Servants this world's Shirou had been able to summon. A whopping sixteen. Her curtsy was not as elegant as the perfect persona 'Tohsaka Rin' was in school and starting to show. Her smile was even strained.
Hopefully Saber won't be able to sense the dark presence Rin was exhorting.
In short, the God Slayer had chosen his words carefully, not revealing too much too quickly, and had showing the utmost respect Saber and her Knights deserved. As he did so he made sure to measure the distance between each Servant and he and Rin, judge the conditions of the field as well as play out the sort of scuffle they must have had with Mordred, and have several Noble Phantasm blueprints as well as Authorities at his call. He did so without breaking the façade of the False King persona and emit any hostile intentions. He really was here to make friends with everyone, not start a battle he and his teammates weren't at all ready to face.
"He is here," announced an unknown presence coming from the toolshed.
Seventeen. The King of Steel blinked as he saw this world's Emiya Shirou was almost carried by a young woman nearly ten years his senior. Yet without a doubt this woman could be a Servant for the amount of power she radiated, though significantly weaker than any other the Campione had ever faced. Shirou was leaning against her as she had both her hands wrapped around his arm— noticeably her fingers were digging into his sleeve. A strong blush tinted her cheeks and ears red as she did her best to present herself strongly. She may have done so if her face didn't give her emotions away.
A regal gown, beauty beyond measure, and a tiara of crystals fitting that of a fairytale princess… As this Shirou had summoned the Knights of the Round Table, the King of Steel could only guess this was Lady Guinevere of Camelot.
The two Knights near Mordred fell to their knees and bowed. The rest, however, remained on their feet and nearly *glared* at her. Even Saber's face was crossed with mixed feelings.
"Seventeen…" he heard Rin mutter. She started to giggle. "Seventeen Servants and mine are versions of him… He technically has twenty-four, then, doesn't he? Heh heh… this War is totally his…"
The King of Steel's attention, however, was absorbed by this Shirou. His complexion was pale and his body was drenched with sweat. But worst of it all were his Magic Circuits. The King of Steel could see them. Even as a Campione, Reinforcing his body as well as channeling Authorities against Heretical Gods, even being forced to near-death exhaustion against Mordred, the King of Steel never saw his Circuits flare like that before.
And why were there so many?
Saber approached Shirou with worry, "Master, what has happened to you? Are you well?"
"My word…" muttered the elder Knight under his breath.
The one in draconian armor pouted like a child, "Tut! One fire burns out another's burning…" He rose to his feet, shook his fists, and looked up to the heavens. "Mine better doth breathe upon this earth! This Siege Perilous shan't fall till mine grace shine brighter than his! Hoh hoh hoh!"
That tone… those words… that laughter… It was understandable why the Knight with the glasses and Mordred were pinching the bridge of their noses in perfect unison.
This Emiya Shirou in question could not answer the inquiry, nor could he place his own as to what happened to the Roman who tried to kill him. He could not ask questions regarding why the school idol was at his doorstep or why his lawn was in ruins.
Instead, his eyes were locked into place with the King of Steel. Emiya Shirou stared into the eyes of Emiya Shirou.
…He started to smile.
"W-What is it, M-M-Master?" the woman in question's blush intensified as she tried to call him by his title. Her head turned away from his direction.
"Can you do me a favor?"
"Great. Can you catch me? I feel like… I'm gonna…"
"M-Master!" shrieked Guinevere as she was able to catch at least his head and place it on her lap.
The King of Steel watched as Saber and the elder Knight rushed to their Master's side. This was another reason why it was a better option at first to send in the Ash of Miracles. Not only did the Apostle Ancestor possess more information than the King of Steel did even with his memories from Archer, but his appearance resembled more EMIYA's than this world's Emiya Shirou. The King of Steel was only a few months older than this world's Shirou and aside from a single strand of white hair every now and then there was nothing to differ to the two.
None of them ever thought Shirou would go into shock seeing his double, though.
"You!" accused Guinevere as she pointed a shaking finger at the God Slayer. "Do you know how hard it was to ease his mind and to come outside?! Look at what you have done!"
The King of Steel wasn't sure if he should apologize or stay quiet.
"Sir Lucan," Saber looked at the Knight examining Shirou, "what is the manner of his health?"
The elder Knight, Sir Lucan the Butler, gave his opinion. "His body is as fit as can be, Your Majesty. I am no mage so I cannot give a proper analysis in that field. I believe his mind is at fault. The lad is only in shock. Give him a moment, for he shall awaken once more quickly. For now, let us move him to his quarters and away from the cold environment."
"Pardon me, ma'am," he knelt down and swept the body into his arms.
It was spotted by nearly everyone how Guinevere flinched as soon as Shirou was no longer in contact with her. It raised the question as to why.
"There are some smelling salts in the bottom cupboard of the bathroom, beside the sink," the King of Steel. "Go down the hall and enter through the third door on your right. It's a white sealed box with blue stripes and red letters in the far back."
Heads turned towards his direction.
"I see…" nodded Sir Lucan. "Thank you. I shall look into this…" With long strides he entered the house.
"You actually have smelling salts?" questioned Rin. "Even among Magi that's such an archaic method of waking people."
"You'll never know when you need it," he shrugged. "…Like when Fuji-nee passes out on the couch after bringing booze over and is too drunk to wake up when she teaches the next morning," he added quietly to himself.
Saber approached him with the resolve of a King, with steel in her eyes surpassing even the aura of a full-fledge Campione. She stopped a few meters away from the two and stared at the God Slayer, judging his every detail such a ruler would when confronted with a potential threat.
"Was there truth when you claimed to be an… indirect vessel of my Master?"
"Every word of it," the God Slayer replied without batting an eyelash, his resolve matching hers without question. "I am a Shirou nearly half a year advanced compared to this one but an Emiya Shirou nonetheless. I too was a Master of the Holy Grail War but a parallel King Arthur was my Servant alone and my current Master had only summoned one Archer. I cannot say I know the reasons for multiple Servants being the standard for this War."
"Then what can you say?" approached Guinevere as she stood beside Saber, albeit a good measure away. Despite her fairy-like grace and beauty, there was a level of charisma which equaled theirs. Such was the former Queen of Britain. "We will ponder on the fact of a replication of my Master but for what else may you provide for us? Surely this is not just a friendly visit or to reminisce with the past. What may we do for you, Servant of an opposing Master?"
"Pardon, but we're never going to get anywhere like this," Rin spoke up. She gave a glare that challenged the King of Steel when he tried to say something. Him backing down with a nervous chuckle that shattered his kingly image, she continued. "My Servants and I are here because we believed Emiya-kun was in trouble. There was a Servant who kidnapped him and threatened to end his life if my Servant and I didn't meet her challenge at this location."
Her eyes narrowed as she studied the King of Knights. "Come to think of it… She looked exactly like you, Your Majesty. Would you happen to have a knight who looks like you in white armor?"
"Compare her face with that I do say Sir Mordred," said the draconian Knight in the distance before holding the semi-conscious traitor up by the scruff of her armor like a weightless cat. "Be this thy Knight oft compare?"
"Enough," the Knight with the blood-trickling spear sighed as he fixed his spectacles. "There has been no sign of deception in their words and both their natures sing of radiant virtue. They are noble and honorable individuals whose words should be taken in value. Therefore, it is an impossibility Mordred was the one to reprimand our Master as he was present during the summoning rather than at the assumed time of capture."
With a small twirl of the spear between his fingers, the Noble Phantasm vanished. He approached the group but kept his distance between them and the others he was with before. "I am most eager to hear what you have to say. If I am correct, you have information regarding the conditions of the War and found it in your best interest to make a pact with my Master for whatever profitable gain there is in this. A wish does not seem to interest you, therefore," his eyes narrowed, "there is an ulterior motive for you coming here. You sing virtue in your being so malice against my Master is not an option.
"You claim to be a former Master of the Grail War but did not specify if you achieved the Grail or merely survived. That indicates your War was either inconclusive or there is information you wish to not share… at least aloud, if my assumptions are correct. Furthermore, you speak of making an alliance with us so therefore not only do you not have a reason for claiming the Grail but you have no reason for others to claim it as well. How else can the War conclude if Servants are not defeated and you wish to align yourself to a large quantity of such? Therefore…"
His eyes closed in thoughts. None spoke to disturb the Knight. The King of Steel nearly blanched at his next words.
"…The problem then must come from the War itself. No, you would not be approaching us if it was the War itself or would be approaching us in a different manner— regardless if the conditions of your War and ours are different, such as the multiplication of Servants. If it is not the rules, the players, or the pieces of the board, then the fault must lie in with what remains at the end… the prize."
With just a shift of his glasses, his eyes transformed from intrigued to cold focus. "Tell me I am wrong, former Master."
"S-Sir… Percival," Saber clenched her fists. "Are you saying… there is something wrong with the Grail?"
Sir Percival was silent, staring off at his King for agonizingly long seconds… almost as though he was waiting for something to—
"EHHHHH?!" came a shriek from inside the house.
"Oh look," Percival gave a half-smile as he waved in the direction of the shriek. "It would appear our Master has awakened at last. T'would be most wise to not keep him waiting, would it not? He reeks of inexperience and deserves a bit of light, does he not? It would be in everyone's interest if he were to be divulged in the manner that is a Holy Grail War. I suggest this former Master and his 'Master' be accompanied by our most gracious King in the lectures.
"Meanwhile, your most loyal Knights, that is, Galahad, Sunshine, and I shall continue our watch over the traitor Mordred."
Gawain grimaced at his nickname, probably more annoyed Sir Percival had said it aloud in such a serious tone.
Saber's brows knitted together in frustration for Percival obviously ignoring her question. But no doubt her ire would be turned towards the original source, the King of Steel.
"Very well," it was Guinevere who spoke. A hand rested on her chest as she spoke with the authority of a queen… who was trying her best to hide her blush. "And I shall see to it the needs of my M-Master is—"
"No one cares," Percival interjected.
Her fluster turned from one of embarrassment to one of rage. She opened her mouth to bark at the Knight, but Sir Percival returned the look with one of his own. That of a predator spotting a prey in the cold terrain. Guinevere could only close her mouth and walk away.
Following her was Saber, the King of Steel, and Rin.
"So, King Emiya," Rin began once they were inside and starting to head towards the dining area. Saber gave the smallest of twitches at his title. "I take it you've thought about what you're going to say?"
He nodded firmly. "The others and I have considered this event and knew it was going to happen sooner or later. We didn't take into account how this Shirou would react when meeting one of us, however. If we can get over that hurdle then we can explain everything in a calm manner. If this Shirou is the same as how I was starting off, then he will have no knowledge about the War whatsoever."
"Oh fun," Rin rolled her eyes.
"I can tell him what I know about it and I was hoping you could fill in the gaps I may leave. After that… well, then we can go into the *finer* details of the War."
She gave such a vicious smirk that nearly stopped him in his tracks, "Good, because even I'm dying to know what you and the other *Idiots* have been talking about behind my back."
She entered the kitchen ahead of him. The King of Steel, who had faced a fair number of cataclysmic Heretic Gods capable of wiping an entire civilization off the map, was left speechless by the natural disaster that was Tohsaka Rin. They had managed to buy a few hours of her… tolerance with the last parting words from Troper (of all people). But, perhaps it was because she finally realized there was no way she could have won the War from the start, her patience was spent. The King of Steel could only brace himself for what might transpire afterwards.
Secretly, he gave thanks for having a Campione's grand Magic Resistance.
Nostalgia hit him as soon as he entered the dining area that was connected to the kitchen. Though it had only been a few months since he was thrown into that parallel world, he had missed being home so much it ached when everything he saw was right where he had left it. He was glad to know this Shirou was the same in terms of keeping his holy shrine organized and pristine. A smile crept through as he realized even in another world he could use this kitchen blindfolded.
"I would have never expected you to be a Magus, Tohsaka," Shirou stated.
"Honestly Emiya-kun," Rin sighed as she used her magic to repair the shattered window using a small incantation and a trickle of her blood. "You can't even use a simple technique to do this?"
Seated on a cushion at the low dining table was this world's Emiya Shirou. Some of his complexion had returned but his Circuits were still glowing brightly through his skin. Standing against the wall at attention was the Royal Butler, Sir Lucan. Standing close to the table was Saber with her eyes locked on the King of Steel more so than Rin. And sitting beside Shirou was the former Queen Guinevere. The King of Steel took notice she was sitting a little too close to her Master, enough to have their arms connecting. Though she sat sieza style with her back straight and at as much attention as Sir Lucan, the strong blush could not be ignored.
Shirou was once again staring at his counterpart, the King of Steel. The God Slayer could understand; he wouldn't know how to react if he were placed in this situation. Although now he would probably blame a certain Wizard Marshal… although he wasn't sure that he was aware of Kaleidoscope at this point in his life.
"I apologize for bringing more conflict into this already complicated evening," the King of Steel started with formality.
"Uh…" Shirou scratched his cheek as he looked from the doppelganger to Rin and then back again. "Well, with everything that's happened tonight, I'm pretty much open to just about anything right now. What's the worst that can happen?"
The Campione felt a shiver run up his spine from those words.
Guinevere cleared her throat to get the attention of all, "Perhaps this must be cleared up first before matters of an alliance are discussed. If you may kindly take a seat we would appreciate to hear your story. But let it be known we are not shrewd hosts. Sir Lucan, if you will be so kind, please prepare us some pleasantries. I believe our gathering may take some time."
Rin and the King of Steel took their seat directly in front of Shirou and Guinevere. Saber took her seat at the head of the table. However, Sir Lucan did not move from his spot.
It infuriated Guinevere, but she had the control to not let it show. Except for a small tick-mark pulsing near her temple.
Sensing an uproar from the queen about to leave her lips, Shirou insisted upon himself. "Here, I can prepare some tea while—"
Sir Lucan stepped forward and placed his hands on the boy's shoulders, pushing him down before he could stand. "Do not burden yourself with mundane matters such as this, Master. One of the duties of being Royal Butler is to bare drink and spirit to my lord. I shall prepare the tea."
Guinevere meanwhile had something between joy and irritation. She seemed glad Shirou had managed to convince Sir Lucan (unintentionally) to serve while being upset at the elder Knight for not listening to her request.
"You don't have to do that," Shirou tried to argue. "This is my house and I am the host. I don't want to be a poor one and not serve them."
"Ah but you are, my Master," Sir Lucan had a very grandfatherly smile. But his grip on Shirou's shoulders was tightening. "I insist. Though it may not be my duty as a Servant, it is the duty of the Royal Butler to serve my King and my liege. To refuse my services is to rob me of my job."
The King of Steel shivered again. The look Sir Lucan had was the same one Asuka had when she took over the kitchen duties back in the other world. There was going to be no room for arguments.
Seeing someone else go through it, it made him realize how much of a pushover the being known as Emiya Shirou could be.
The kettle was placed on the stove a few seconds later.
"Now if I can ask," began Shirou as his mentality and confidence began to climb back to normal. "Who exactly are you? You look like me, but are you really me? And does this have anything to do with what's going on with me?"
It was a start, the King of Steel supposed. He nodded and answered, "In a manner of speaking, I am you. Kiri— Dad saved me from the fire and raised me in this house before passing away from his injuries. I am Emiya Shirou, but one of a parallel dimension— and of one from the future, it would seem. I can only assume I am six or seven months older than you."
"You can only assume?" questioned Saber. "If you are indeed from… where you claim, should you not know the date?"
And here was where it started to get complicated. So quickly into the conversation…
"Towards the end of my War I was thrown into a wormhole with Ilya-chan and sent into a completely different world. A world in which the Age of Gods never left and these gods descended from their metaphysical legends into the mortal plane. Doing so causes great catastrophe wherever they descend, depending on the power the god— a Heretical God— projects. But that's another story. The date of this world was different from the one here. When I arrived there, the year was 2012."
Already he had made a mistake. He thought nothing when he let Ilya's name slip through his lips and had continued without a skip to hide it. However, Saber had noticed— he saw her blink the moment he said that name. He could feel her thoughts start to escalate.
Luckily this world's Shirou didn't notice. He and Rin were both transfixed on his rather vague description of the world Angra Mainyu had escaped to.
"Gods…" Shirou muttered below his breath as something began to gather in his mind. His eyes darted down to the back of his hand, where the motherboard pattern of Circuits continued to glow.
From there he saw the sword-shape marks of a Command Seal.
"To answer your other question, you can thank my Master for having me here," he gave a light chuckle. "If it wasn't for her botched summoning neither I nor the others would have been here."
Rin gave him another leveled glare.
"Right… summoning…" Shirou thought to himself for a moment. "So I'm not the only one who performed some sort of summoning ritual. I wonder if that means someone else summoned those two things at the school— Wait! Others?! Y-You mean there are more of me with you?!"
"Just outside the gate, yes," answered the King of Steel. "There are a total of seven of us, each person being another 'Emiya Shirou'. Every one of us are versions of you from potential futures."
He paused for a moment as he recalled that the Knight was most likely warped to the past by now, and the Apostle had already been trained correctly by Kiritsugu. "Or alternate worlds…" He added as an off thought.
"Potential… futures…" Shirou thought aloud again. The King of Steel let him think to himself, to give him time to collect the information and process it. "So then… even six months from now, you seem so different from me. What kind of future did you come from?"
"From defeating a Heretical God with my last dying breath I was granted a second chance by the Goddess Pandora," he answered with a proud smile. "A second chance as a heightened being known as a God Slayer, a Devil King, a Campione. With the defeat of each Heretical God I inherit a fragment of their power, their Authority, and obtain it as my own.
"I am Emiya Shirou, the King of Steel, Eighth Campione and ruler of Japan alongside Seventh Campione Kusanagi Godou. I am the slayer of Angra Mainyu, Perseus, Hades, and Mordred and have taken a bounty of their Authorities for my own."
Only the sound of the kettle steaming was heard.
A moment after Sir Lucan attended to serving the tea, Guinevere spoke up, "In what manner could Mordred be a deity?"
"As civilizations migrate, are conquered, or advance, so too do their gods," answered the King of Steel. "The black knight of Artus was formerly worshipped as Mars. Before that he was Ares. And before that he was Laran. Finally, at the earliest of his origin, he was a nameless African earth deity who desired to become a god of steel."
"Hm," Guinevere laughed into her hand at his explanation. "If such were true, then surely King Arthur, or Artus, as you had put it, would be one of these pagan deities, would he not?"
The God Slayer merely shrugged. "He was known as the King of the End, from what I heard. As far as I know, he was a Heretical God who descended from his legend whenever the world was at a turning point or about to end. And the story of King Arthur was supposed to be inspired by him."
"…What?" Saber gave him a Rin-worthy glare.
If she were to react like this then it would probably be best to not even mention the Witch Queen Guinevere. Who knows how the Queen of Camelot would react when learning about her loli counterpart?
The King of Steel answered hastily, "Y-You see, that world's history is different from ours. King Arthur didn't exist in that world just like how Artus doesn't in this one."
"…I see," Saber acknowledged without emotion.
But Guinevere was full of curiosity, "So if Arthur and Mordred were gods in new skins, what could that mean for the other Knights of the Round Table? Were any of them gods as well? Oh my! What of me? What was the deity of Guinevere?"
The God Slayer refused to make eye contact as he used his tea as a distraction.
Thankfully this world's Shirou saved him with a different question. "That's cool and all, and don't get me wrong it really is, but that doesn't answer my question really. You were summoned with… six others, right? I also summoned a number of people. What I'm asking is… is there something going on that I should know about?"
"Master," Saber turned her head towards him, "are you not aware you are a participant in the Holy Grail War? What were you thinking when you performed the summoning rite?"
"Shirou," he corrected. "My name is Emiya Shirou. I don't want to be called 'Master' and would prefer if you, and everyone else, to call me by my name. And no, I really don't know what's going on and wasn't trying to perform any sort of summoning magic. One minute I'm running for my life from some Roman lady with a spear and the next I'm on my back in pain like someone was pumping molten steel through my veins. The pain subsided when I met Guinevere-san."
Eyes turned towards the queen in question. Her face was calm and collective, and her eyes were closed. She looked like an immaculate statue. That is… if her face wasn't beat-red and her hands shaking enough to make the cup and plate clatter as she tried raising it to her lips. Given enough time and some more pressure surely steam could release from her ears.
"The Grail mostly takes care of the summoning as well as supports the summoner during the duration of the War," said Rin. "However, keeping Servants in their physical form requires prana from the Master. Even with my reserves I could probably only carry two; three normal Servants or a Berserker Class Servant would have me reeling in pain. But you, Emiya-kun, can support seventeen-"
Both Shirou and Guinevere spat their tea out at the number… all over the King of Steel.
"—And the pain comes from prana depletion. Supposing you can keep the flow going, and it looks like you can, the pain doesn't go away. In theory it should, but only at a great deal of time."
"The Einzbern Master needed almost a month to fully control a Berserker without the support of the Grail before the pain was practically nonexistent." King Emiya wiped the tea away with a towel Sir Lucan had fetched for him.
"Without the Grail?" Rin repeated slightly in shock. "Still, that's a full month of endless pain. Emiya-kun, something like that doesn't just go away. What happened?"
"They did what most established magus Masters do during the War." The King of Steel frowned. "They cheated, or at the very least did whatever they could to tilt the scales in their favor."
"I hardly understood any of that," Shirou deadpanned. "From what I remember… There was pain… and then it felt like dry ice had touched my li—"
"N-N-Nothing happened!" interjected Guinevere, slamming both hands onto the table. Her brow twitched and lips puckered for some reason. Quickly regaining her composure, she reseated herself at the same closure as before with her arm rubbing against Shirou's. Her entire figure lost its tension right after.
Even when Shirou moved away from her she used the excuse of fixing the seams of her dress to discretely close the gap.
Which wasn't missed by anyone.
"Regardless," the King of Steel restarted the topic, "there is the concern of supporting so many Servants. Without a doubt each and every member of the Round Table, including Saber and Guinevere, are Heroic Spirits. The reason why Tohsaka-san can support so many Servants is because only one of us is a Heroic Spirit. The rest of us are still alive and don't require excess prana to stay in this world."
"Uh huh…" Shirou nodded, dumbfounded as he could not keep up with the conversation.
"I was wondering why you do not feel like a proper Servant," said Saber. "I assume it is because of this… 'botched' summoning you spoke of earlier?"
Rin calmly sipped her tea.
"That's what we all believe. But we also feel that there is more to it. It is a bit more personal and between my teammates and my Master, so forgive me for not elaborating." The King of Steel returned towards Shirou. "Back to the point, as Tohsaka-san said, supporting so many Servants is a ludicrous idea. When I was a Master, though our contract wasn't… complete, I know I could only support my Saber— that is, one Servant. Supporting at least two Servants without lowering their stats requires a Magus with a bountiful amount of Circuits and Od. Before becoming a Campione, if I had two Servants, their stats would be cut in half at least, and I would be having the same health condition as you are now.
"What I'm asking is how you are able to support seventeen Servants? And why do you have so many Magic Circuits? And why are they of such high grade that I can *see* them?"
"At first…" Shirou bowed his head in thought while gazing once more at the neon gold circuitry. "I thought it was all just a dream. But then when I wake up I find myself having over two hundred Magic Circuits and…" his eyes lingered towards Saber's direction for a second before returning to the back of his hand. "A-And now I'm not so sure. But then I see you," he lifted his head to look at the King of Steel. "And you told me about being a… a God Slayer. I probably wouldn't have believed it— no, I still have my doubts about everything, I'm sorry. It's just that seeing another me is so… unexpected.
"But if what you say is true, then I guess my dream wasn't as farfetched as I thought it was. Maybe it wasn't a dream after all. You say you faced and defeated gods in a world where the Age of Gods still exists. Just, what if, since you're here, maybe one of those gods followed you?"
Suddenly his words made sense. Grave tension swam through the King of Steel as he realized what had happened. Thoughts and possibilities flooded his mind in numbers surpassing the amount of artifacts he had in Unlimited Blade Works.
"You met a god," he stated more so than asked. "In exchange for your Circuits what did you give up? Did you make a deal with him? What did he say?"
"Really, Shirou," Rin badgered as she elbowed the King of Steel in the ribs. "It's one thing to share your stories but it's another to say they're real. Maybe in your world but not in this one. The gods are all gone. If they weren't don't you think they would be influencing the world with a bit more… I don't know… flair?"
"You mean like altering the Holy Grail War?" the God Slayer countered tersely, for once not retreating from his Master's pushing. "Rin, think about it. What if this explains why the War of not just mine but of the others' is so different? Why most of your Servants are still alive. Or how there are multiple Servants at once, which defies the rules. Why this Shirou has a plethora of Circuits that can put the Queen of the Clock Tower to shame. Or why…"
She narrowed her eyes. "Why… what?"
He refused to talk about the Rule Breaker incident in front of her.
She sighed, "The idea itself could be the answer. But it's far too ridiculous to be the answer. I'm sure there's a much more reasonable explanation for these things that we're not seeing."
"Once you eliminate the impossible, whatever remains, no matter how improbable, must be the truth," he countered.
"He has a point," supported Shirou. Which earned him one of Rin's death-glares. "B-But maybe we should go over that some other time. Right now, I'm a little lost and you two keep using words and phrases I can't follow. Can we go over what this Holy Grail War is about? That seems to be the thing causing all this hoopla."
Rin sighed as she rubbed the side of her temple, "Alright, alright. You might as well make yourself as comfortable as possible. This will take a while, even when I'll only be giving you the basics. Afterwards we'll need to have you registered for the War. After my explanation you can decide if you want to participate or not."
The King of Steel said nothing to correct her. He wanted to tell her that they will not be heading over to Kotomine Church. Not with so many versions of him more than willing to kill the priest on sight, himself included. But doing so would have started another argument with her and they had wasted more than enough time with just introductions. When this was all over and Shirou would walk outside to meet with the rest of his Servants and alternative selves was when the King of Steel will tell her of the real destination the group decided on.
"So the first thing we should go over are the Servants themselves," Rin began as she got into lecture pose #2.
"Got any threes?" Shouted the miniature Knight in mismatching armor, Dagonet, as he faced the group of Shirous from his side of the street.
"Go fish!" Troper shouted back with a megaphone he pulled out of nowhere, his voice still muffled by his frilly white mask.
"Shut up!" Shouted half the Knights and a few of the Shirous.
This exchange had been going on as soon as the two Comic Relief characters noted each other's existence… for three hours now. The two groups had been silent as they awaited the results of sending Sir Gawain, the King of Steel, and their Master for almost an hour before both Troper and Dagonet recognized each other.
It wasn't that they knew each other's identity or had met another through the shenanigans via Second Magic. It was closer to a feeling one gets when running into an old high school classmate or the kid across the street of a previous address (both of which you pretended didn't exist).
Simply, the two had similar characteristics in 'breaking the fourth wall'.
Not that anyone will understand what it meant when they were shouting something from a Go Fish game. Only the readers, and a small handful at that, will truly be able to appreciate the hidden meaning behind their exchange. Other than that, their obscure conversation was nothing but gibberish to both parties and had quickly grown intolerable.
"I got what I wanted," giggled Dagonet as the 4'9 Knight drew a Three of Diamonds from seemingly nowhere. "Boo ya, Charles St. Cline."
"Got any—" Troper began to shout back before Archer had enough. The Counter Guardian took the megaphone and broke it over his knee.
"Troper," King Apeiron dragged his counterpart back into the huddle of the Shirous by the collar of his jacket. Despite donning such… armor… Troper had the right mind to have his usual long coat over the white and pink lace. "I think it's time you stop dodging the question that's been on our minds all night. What… what exactly are you wearing? And why?"
Finally came the moment of truth. Every Shirou— from the wounded Sir Emiya and King of Swords, to the Ash of Miracles who had been sleeping against the wall, and even Archer who had no interest in the group prior— had turned their heads to listen.
Troper removed his shades, breathed into them and yet they fogged despite the mask, and cleaned them on his sleeve. "Well first, how long have I been gone? A day? Two?"
"…Four hours since you left the house and was summoned by Rin's Command Seal," answered King Apeiron with a hint of unease. Whenever people asked how long they've been gone, it normally didn't lead to anything comforting.
"Oh, well, truth be told, I actually forgot about you guys," Troper began telling his story as he adjusted one of the shoulder straps of his… chest guard. "See, I was on my way over to the same internet café back in Chapter 1 on my trusty HeleTroper when all of a sudden a tornado strikes! It sucked me in this spiraling vortex of an Inconvenience Summoning. I mean, seriously? I was on my way to finally be The Face character of this story and no longer demoted as the Comic Relief dubbed by the fanbase. I was awesome in my own story, dammit!"
"Do you know what this is?!" Troper pulled out a rectangular device no bigger than his whole hand with an in-built screen and keypad. He began fiddling with it. "This is a palm pilot! Does anyone even remember what these are?! We're in 2004 and there's no such thing as WiFi yet. Cell phones suck and I have to use this piece of garbage at the internet café to hack into the military database in order to fill out the requirements of my plan. And let me tell you, I am not Tech Savvy."
Only the exhausted vampire seemed to take genuine interest at this part of the rant given by how his eyes narrowed mildly. He was fairly familiar with technology, enough to set up his own small slew of spy cameras all over Fuyuki during the War much like his father did, but not enough to actually hack into other computers, let alone a military hardware.
Likewise, the ranting male did not miss his counterpart's look of curiosity.
"Right, right," Troper put the device away and waved a hand. "So my plan was put on hold as I was tossed into this strange world of… bakers. Seriously, bakers. By the way, on the way home can we stop by a convenience store or some late-night diner? All I had there were baked goods. Meat does not exist in that world. I almost bit off Clarence's leg because of it. Oh, Clarence was the captain of the Royal Guard and a serious Butt Monkey throughout our adventures.
"So this princess, Muffin— seriously that's her name, a really annoying Incorruptible Pure Pureness girl— dragged me from this world into hers in order to help defend her country against the Jack Spicer Villain, the king of another baking kingdom by the name of Crumbles. I was in that hellhole of *Song Tune Villages* for over a year… 419 days, 13 hours, 47 minutes, and 29 seconds of pure hell…"
"Uh huh…" King Apeiron decided it would be best to have Troper spill everything in his rant rather than trying to persuade him in answering his original question.
"So Princess Muffin declares war finally against Crumbles and chooses me as her champion. Crumbles and I meet up on Pie Mountain for our final duel, which is on a Rope Bridge over a bloody active volcano. Yeah, she forgot to mention that and here I am fighting some guy over something that may turn into a Chekhov's Volcano. Then, Just in Time, here I am, suddenly remembering you guys and all that. So, what I miss?"
"Troper… the… ah… uniform?" Apeiron pushed this time.
"Oh… that…" Troper opened his coat to expose his armor to everyone. Over his normal clothes he was wearing an old Victorian era white girdle/brassier combo with garter belts, a lace choker, and a common pair of panties over his face. "Right, well… It's Kind of a Funny Story…"
"We're all listening," urged Apeiron.
"Against our better judgment." Archer muttered under his breath.
"It originally just started as a pair of briefs. Princess Muffin marked me with her magic and said it was the seal of the Royal Family. And presto: briefs over my pants! Apparently Old King Baker himself was a pervert or had a twisted sense of humor. But as time progressed, it began to evolve to what you see here today. What sucks the most is I CAN'T TAKE IT OFF!"
"Yes you can," the Ash of Miracles looked at Troper with one open Pure Eye. "The magic weaved into the fabric is still there, but the binding curse is severed since the link between the artifact and a member of the royal family is too great a distance between worlds. But I recommend— Wait don't!"
The Ash of Miracles tried to stop him, but it was too late. Cheering for freedom, Troper tore every piece of his underwear armor into shreds. Rather than falling into clumps or blowing away into the wind, the fabrics disintegrated as the ancient magic of a primordial era escaped into the air.
Only to be crushed by Gaia.
Leaving the vampire to stare at the open air where the last trace of forgotten power with a petrified look, horrified beyond the means to speak. His body was frozen on his knees with both hands stretched out.
Meanwhile, Troper was hopping around in merriment as he continued his dance of freedom.
"Care to tell us why you're freaking out over a set of cursed out of date undergarments?" The King of Swords raised an eyebrow as he took in the vampire's extreme reaction. It slightly unnerved him that this was the greatest reaction anyone had seen from the Vampire outside of when they were dealing with a pissed Rin and when they were practically fighting to the death for the kitchen.
"Ultimate armor…" they barely heard the Ash of Miracles as he spoke in a low volume. "Anti-magic level resistance, invincibility to the properties of wood, fire, and metal, an anti-inertia field, and instant-regeneration of cellular restructure and prana… Ultimate armor and he just… just…"
The Ash of Miracles began beating a fist to the street as he began to sob.
"What has you down in the dumps?" asked Troper while he still had his arms waving in the air.
"We could have studied and replicated that!" The vampire shouted back. "We could have sent it off to this world's Sirius and he could have made us Mystic Codes! The old drunk would have skinned himself all over again to experiment with what you just threw away!"
"I don't think you realize what it meant to me when I heard I could take it off," Troper countered as he crossed his arms, keeping his charming smile. "Going to the bathroom with that on was a three hour adventure. And please, Sirius McGinty is an Original Character designed by—"
"I think what Troper is trying to say," the King of Swords cut off his counterpart before any more damage could be dealt onto the already depleted Ancestor. The familiar of Louise was already scarred from his parallel world travels through a certain fanfiction based on the King of Swords' 'creator'. Learning about the truth was not something he'd wish upon anyone, including someone he couldn't trust such as the Ash of Miracles.
It took him a few days to not shriek in terror whenever he saw a magic girl… which was about a good third the populace in Halkegenia, including Louise.
"…Is that there was no Sirius McGinty in either of our worlds," he concluded. "Under the theories Zelretch gave my Rin, who in turn tried to tell me to vent some… agitation, I believe your Sirius was a special case in which he only existed in your world as well as certain branches from your timeline."
"Theories?" The Ash of Miracles perked up. He was always interested in more potential ways to twist and abuse his magic. Unlike many of the other Shirou there, he experimented with the blades he copied to expand his repertoire.
His Rin had given him hell once she had found out that he could theoretically perform any branch of mystery in existence so long as the "source" and "function" of said mystery came from one of his swords. All he had to do was "guide" the spell a bit and supply a "body" for it, so to speak. Granted it was a bit harder done than said for some blades, but it was well worth it in the end.
"Really now? Like what? Please, kindly explain to me in what way Sirius-jiji exists only in my world when he was born ages before my timeline, and happens to be drinking buddies with Zelretch as well. I've talked to Kaleidoscope on occasion about his magic but this has never came up before."
"Ah… Well…" The King of Swords was at a loss of words. He had completely forgotten that the vampire, as one of the Apostle Ancestors, must have likely encountered the infamous Zelretch at least once by the time he had been summoned. He scratched his head in thought.
"Ha," laughed his trusty sword. "What's'a matter, Partner? Cat got yur tongue?"
"In practice," Troper interrupted as he switched his sunglasses for a pair of thick-framed glasses, "based on the quantum inner-matrix of alternative dimensions: that which may affect a previous event shall create a ripple which spreads in every direction positive, negative, and/or absolute. In this case, the birth of Sirius McGinty was a result of an event based on an act performed at a plane beyond our means of reach with a sentient being of collective intelligence similar to ours but limited and unbound in restrictions simultaneously. Kind of a lazy slob. For now, let's call him [Third Fang]. Actions there, as it is a higher plane from our own, rippled in every direction *downwards* with endless 'what ifs' and resulted in countless endeavors such as the birth and existence of the being known as Sirius McGinty."
"…Quantum inner-matrix?" questioned Archer. "You have no idea what you're talking about, do you?"
"As a matter of fact, I do," Troper replied smugly as he swapped his glasses. "Cascading through countless dimensions and being thrown through endless holes through the fabric of reality, you tend to pick up on a few things. Or you die, simple as that."
"…[Third Fang]?" Meanwhile the Ash of Miracles could not help but question the mystic sounding name. There was a certain… nostalgia? Clarity? Tenderness? *Something* in that name.
In reality, the name had been hushed out as though the entirety of the world was rejecting the sound Troper had tried to make. Yet the name had in practicality *invaded* the vampire's mind— no, more like it imprinted itself into his soul. [Third Fang] was a name he *knew* yet he knew without a doubt in his mind, with as much certainty as he had a Reality Marble, that he had never heard of the name at the same time.
It felt more fatherly than what Kiritsugu had been. More protective than Fuji-nee. More passionate than Sakura, Rin, Illya, Saber, Rider, *everyone* combined.
He also wanted to strangle the supposed higher being for some reason… he somehow knew that it tended to laugh frequently and relentlessly at his misfortune…
"This was what I was trying to avoid, Troper," the King of Swords groaned.
"I wasn't," the Breaker of the Fourth Wall deadpanned. "It got him to stop talking about the Panty Armor, didn't it? Trust me, some things are never meant to be obtained by—"
He suddenly shivered and broke out into cold sweat. "No… How could he…?"
Everyone had half a mind to just ignore him. They had a feeling whatever he was about to say should be avoided else it may lead to potential harm in their mentality.
"…What?" Archer was the one who asked after realizing Troper was purposely pausing for someone to say something.
"Someone in that house spoke the unspeakable words that must never be spoken," his eyes were bloodshot, wide open, and his pupils were dilated. "What's the Worst that Can Happen?"
While the other Shirous shivered, sans the Ash of Miracles due to him still going through his mental breakdown, Archer could only facepalm his forehead from the sheer stupidity coming from his counterpart. He might become the first Heroic Spirit in existence to grow a tumor at the end of all this.
"…Who are you people?" Sir Bedivere could not help but ask after examining the other party for three hours. True to their word, it would appear each of these Servants were copies of the same identity but carried diverse burdens and had different responses to the same topic. However, there were also strong similarities between each one, comparable to several reflections coming from a looking glass.
By no means were they a team, despite their identities. There was strong personal conflict coming from every member. Simply, they could not trust another. They may work together in order to achieve the same goal, but there was heavy doubt in their eyes for another. It was a pity. Even Bedivere had to acknowledge they had potential to surpass the brotherhood of the Round Table.
"We are the Knights Who Say… 'Ni'!" Troper spun around to answer him, having recovered instantaneously from his previous worry.
"No!" Dagonet took several steps back in fright until the miniature Knight bumped into Sirs Gareth and Sagramore. "Not the Knights Who Say 'Ni'!"
"How strange…" A voice coming out from the gate caused heads to turn. The regal form of King Arthur stepped out of the estate with curled fingers around her chin in thought. "I've the sudden craving to hunt an Assassin in red and black spandex…"
"Your Majesty!" Several of the Knights whispered in awe at the presence of their King as every member kneeled.
Following him was their Master with a heavy look of thought, a slightly pale and clammy complexion, and Circuits glowing through his skin. Perhaps he was too deep in thought, for he was not away the former Queen Guinevere was having him escort her in one arm. Aside him was the female Master and shadowing her was their Master's alternative self. The former looked… annoyed while the latter had a solemn look in his eyes.
Behind the group was Sir Lucan in his sharp posture, Sir Gawain with his stoic yet somewhat tired expression, Sir Percival with Clarent in his grip and a bloodied and bruised Mordred too close to his side, and—
Every Knight on the street broke formation and protocol at the sight of Galahad. Many groaned, many cursed, some beat their fists on the ground, some threatened to commit suicide (even drawing their own swords at the ready), and one Knight (Sir Bors) broke out in tears.
"She was summoned as well?!" Cried out Sir Kay. "Seriously?!"
Galahad struck a heroic pose with much flourish and theatrics before all parties. Her scarf blew as a wind out of seemingly nowhere added emphasis to her heroic aura. "Harken queer Knights of mine brethren! This Siege Perilous is happily arrived for his own good and ours! Hoh hoh hoh hoh!"
"Ugh…" every Knight continued to groan.
"That… is definitely not my Galahad," said Sir Emiya.
"That's Galahad? Who wears a scarf like that? It's not like it successfully hides their identity," King Apeiron rested a hand on his hip as he measured Sir Galahad, especially his holy shroud covering the lower half of his face.
Troper turned his head to give a knowing smile to the Ash of Miracles.
"Pst," in the distraction of woe still ongoing through the Knights of the Round Table, Sir Dagonet took the chance to crawl through the crowd to approach the Shirous. In his hand was a large script with the pages opened only one-tenth into it. "Miracles-tan, your line is either 'I make it work' or '(insert long pause) shut up' while being tsun-tsun about it."
"B-Bazett-N-N-N-Nee… was she… was she really… and the legs… or was she… What about Illya? Was Illya… or was she… maybe she… N-Nii… Waver-N-N-Nii was… was he… is he… J-J-Jiji… D-Dad… you mean he didn't… and that he didn't actually…?"
However the Ash of Miracles was entering the next stage of his mental breakdown as he was rocking himself on the floor. His eyes were switching from gold to steel gray but could not focus on anything in reality.
"Huh…" Dagonet mused. "Something tells me we just barely missed a spoiler right there…"
"Shit…" Troper rubbed the back of his head. "He's broken. Well this is what happens when you say things that are not on the official script. We have no choice but to skip the crack scene."
"A shame," sighed the jester. "[Third Fang] might not mind given how bad he messes around with those nuts from his other story, but I'm sure [Arrixam] will be pretty upset about it. They planned this since the start of this chapter."
"[Third Fang] and who?" asked Troper.
"[Arrixam]? Oh don't worry about him. He's just some no-name loser who doesn't have any of his works acknowledged by Fictionpress, Wattpad, Quizilla, and numerous other sites' viewers. He doesn't even have his own a mention on TVTropes. And it's super easy getting in there too."
"Wow," Troper fixed his shades as he whistled. "Makes you wonder what heavy hitters like us are doing here. Anyways, let's resume the story. The chapter is kinda dragging on."
Sir Dagonet nodded, tucked the script back into his armor, and slithered back into the crowd of Knights.
"Form up men!" Barked King Arthur with his rightful authority. At his command the Knights of the Round Table formed up in ranks with Sirs Kay and Bedivere at the front.
Saber could only frown. Her orders had been an automatic reaction after two and a half generations of ruling. Just the same, her Knights had listened without question like a flock of sheep. Even now, after everything that has happened because of her, they still listen to her word without pause. These men, who constantly whispered vices behind her back, followed her to the ends of the earth.
But why? They had all died because of her foolishness. Sir Balin was exiled from Camelot for beheading the Lady of the Lake who in time died at the hands of his brother. And it was from the actions of Sir Balin that would start the quest for the Holy Grail. For the sake of obtaining the holy artifact, Sir Bors and his brother were conflicted with another. Percival lost his beloved sister. And Galahad never obtained the love and pride of her father.
Which reminds her in turn the events of Lancelot and Guinevere. Sir Gareth was slain by Sir Lancelot at Guinevere's burning, and Sir Gawain left the Round Table in order to avenge his younger brother. Many of her best Knights supported Lancelot and went with him in exile. Saber, in her greatest foolishness, left Camelot to wage war against Lancelot, leaving Britain in the hands of Mordred…
Excalibur should be just as tainted in bloodshed as much as Clarent.
Saber looked at every member standing outside the domain of her Master. Knights, former Knights, members fallen before the fall of Camelot, betrayers, and her most dearest friends stood united just as they once did in their days of glory. Despite their history, despite the darkness lingering in their past, they *still* acknowledged her as King.
It made her heart ache.
So swept up in her follower's reactions that she did not notice the summoned version of her master… save for the one writhing on the ground muttering nonsense to himself… look at her with varying levels of understanding and insight, as if they knew exactly what was going through her mind.
"There has been new development in the conditions of the Holy Grail War," she began to announce. "It has been decided we shall align ourselves for the time being with the Master of Archer and her Servants until further details of the War can be determined. We will all discuss the matter of the final outcome of the War and which of us shall inherit it at a later time. For now, we are to treat the Archer and his comrades as one of our own. They have agreed to share all information about the War they possess with us in exchange for our cooperation. And we shall honor that on our oath as Knights. Are there any who object?"
No Knight spoke.
Meanwhile, Apeiron blinked as he looked around from his teammates to the Round Table members. He had just watched the exchange between Troper and Dagonet yet no one seemed to have paid it any mind. It was like everyone paused in whatever they were doing in order to let the two have their moment. "Wait, what just—"
"Nothing happened," Troper interrupted, already knowing somehow what he was going to ask.
"Nothing. Happened." Troper fixed his shades just enough for his eyes to pierce through.
A steady hand of the King of Swords rested on Apeiron's shoulder. "It's best you not know or…" He gestured towards the twitching, drooling Ash of Miracles.
Low on prana for days on end. Then summoned into another war. Then worked to do menial labor by Rin. Then sent into a spiraling identity crisis. The poor Apostle Ancestor couldn't catch a break.
Saber turned towards the King of Steel, "Now, I understand there was information regarding the Grail itself you withheld. If you are a man of your word, King Emiya, I would like to hear what you have to say about it."
The God Slayer nodded but instead of indulging her replied, "It would be favorable for the both of us if you, your Master, and mine learn of the nature of the Grail. However, I don't believe this is the right scenery…"
His eyes darted to the flock of crows resting on the electric wire several meters from the group. At the distance hearing the conversation was impossible and one would need a spell or Skill equivalent to a D-Rank Clairvoyance to look onto them. The King of Steel would have paid them no mind whatsoever if not for the fact he had noticed them resting there three hours ago and had yet to move. Though some were asleep, he could see one of them with its head turned towards them.
A Traced Dirk was launched at the flock. The familiar was killed while the rest, whether they were familiars or not was unknown, fled in haste.
The King of Steel continued, "If I were to tell you now there would not be any proof. If you will take the time to walk with us, I can show it to you."
"…Huh?" Rin turned to glare at him. "Emiya-kun, what are you talking about? We're supposed to register for the War."
"…I had the feeling you had no interest in heading to the church," said Saber. "I trust this is another event of your War you are withholding?"
"With good reason," assured the King of Steel. "Everything will be explained. I can only ask for your patience a little longer."
"…" Rin was doing her best to keep herself calm. The temptation of learning what the idiots were holding against her was the only thing keeping her from using her last Command Seal.
Guinevere inquired, "This must be exclusive information if you deny the privilege of the War's proctor. Tell me, Sir God Slayer, where is our destination?"
"Across town, over the bridge," the King of Steel answered without hesitation. "The site where the previous War concluded."
He saw Rin's expression change. She knew what he was talking about. But her eyes were still full of curiosity as she could not figure out the meaning behind his reasons.
"…I believe the choice lies in with our Master," said Saber.
The Master known as Emiya Shirou had been quiet for the time being. He had listened to the explanation of Heroic Spirits, how they fit in Class Containers of seven categories, his role as a Master as well as the Command Seals of three marks, and the general rules of the Heaven's Feel ritual also known as the Holy Grail War. Correction, the Fifth Holy Grail War. This bloodbath of a children's spat between Magi that involved the innocents of Fuyuki was not the first. A secret war in which not just Magi but the Church manipulated the media to fool the public into believing nothing was wrong. He knew the strings of murders and 'gas leaks' going around was the cause of something and had taken it upon himself to wander around late at night to see if he could find the perpetrator.
But he was told this one was different. He was told, by himself, who had experienced this very War, everything about it was wrong in every way. Lancer was not Cu Chulaiin but was identified by Rin's Archer as Saint Longinus— the very same who assaulted and killed Shirou. Then there were the multiple Servants such as the Knights of the Round Table and still living alternative Shirous; and the interference of a Divine Spirit, possibly more than one. Last, there was the white Servant called Artorius who is an ancestor to Saber. The one who issued a challenge to Rin but was nowhere to be found once arriving at the Emiya estate. The one who saved Shirou from absolute death that not even Avalon could heal without a given reason.
All Shirou knew was that he had no clue about anything. As of five to six hours ago, all logic was thrown out the window.
Well, couldn't get any worse than this now, could it?
He barely paid attention to the version of himself with sunglasses cry out in despair and weep on the walls that bordered his home.
"I've already decided I will be in this War to minimize the casualties," he said. "If there is more to this War that puts people's lives at greater risk than it already is, I think we should listen to what they have to say. I say we go with them."
"…Very well," Saber nodded with respect to his reasons.
She waved her hand and made a signal to her Knights to 'mount up' to travel. At her command, the Knights dispersed into hundreds of thousands of multicolored prana particles as each member ascended into their astral form. At the same time, the glow of Circuits from Shirou died down until his skin returned to its normal hue. The only ones who remained in their physical form were Percival (who had to keep Clarent in his grip), Mordred, King Arthur, and…
And Guinevere. At the sweet release of such a heavy burden on her Master's Circuits, a wave of euphoria flowed through her as the pain receded. Her grip on her Master's arm tightened as most of her weight toppled onto his. Unbalanced by the sudden shift, Shirou and Guinevere fell in a tangled and awkward mess of limbs. His hands reaching too low for decency while she breathed heavily at the nape of his neck.
"…What the hell am I watching?" asked Rin.
"…The unfortunate luck all Emiya Shirou have, Master," the King of Steel sighed, knowing full well what was going on. He didn't need an authority to have irregular luck with women.
"…" Saber said nothing as she looked away from the shameless display of her former wife. She had a feeling it wasn't Guinevere's fault, but could not hold back the bitterness at the bottom of her heart.
"Kyah! No!" Guinevere shrieked as she broke free from Shirou. Rather, she pushed against him strong enough to force his upper body down onto the hard concrete, creating a small crack on the ground. This should have killed him.
Unknown to everyone else, it did cause his skull to fracture. But with Avalon and the amplifier of the god's essence, the damage was fixed and Emiya Shirou only blacked out for half a second.
"We should get a move on," said Troper of all people. "Dawn's in a few hours. Can someone pick up the Tenth? He's still out of commission."
Still twitching in the fetal position, the Ash of Miracles continued to question on the actions of the being beyond his comprehension known as [Third Fang].
This was something planned for her for a full decade. Her body having going through alterations for this Holy Grail War specifically, forever trapped in the form of a child with the mentality of a grown woman. Her surplus of prana exceeded even the Queen of the Clock Tower's and her magic core was capable of storing all seven Heroic Spirits. At the cost, however, her internal organs had aged to that of someone multiple times her age.
She was expected to live for little more than a year if she survived the War.
But she did not care about surviving. She did not care for the Grail one bit. She listened to the elders of the Einzbern family and allowed them to alter her body. She summoned her Servant, a Berserker, the most expensive in prana cost of the Servants, months before the Grail would start supporting her. It was the fire of her hatred for this day to come that led her through the frozen terrain her grandfather threw her into in order to prepare for the War.
Because that man lied to her. That man let Mama die. That man abandoned her. That man chose someone else over her, his daughter.
"Ouji-sama," Berserker walked alongside her. The Servant's head tilted ever so cutely to the side with concern. Getting her to call her 'Young Lord' rather than 'Young Lady' was worth it with such a molestable appearance and voice combo. "Is something wrong?"
"No, Berserker," Illyasviel von Einzbern gave a carnivorous smile as she felt the presence of two Masters start to approach from across the bridge. "I've never been better."
They had wandered around Fuyuki ever since she felt the final Servant was summoned hours before. She had thought it would be best to wait for her target near the Kotomine Church but she couldn't resist the temptation any longer. Even when they had crossed paths with an Assassin in modern day clothes who refused to fight (foolish) and some slutty dressed red Servant pretending to be Saber, Berserker was more than capable of sending them fleeing. Berserker was hardly even winded at the end.
It helps that she had a Noble Phantasm that grants her an endless supply of mana.
Still, Illya couldn't help but continue to ponder on those parting words of that Assassin. What he said almost made her believe he could have killed her and Berserker without any effort. Definitely not arrogance but… truth. No matter. If the fool didn't want to participate then that was his problem.
It was unfortunate, but Illya never noticed the crows hidden in the dark skies.
Finally, they were at the right distance. With but a small command from her Circuits, the Bounded Field she had set up nearly an hour ago was activated, sealing off the real world from the bridge. Berserker said nothing as she continued to stand at her side and keep her doll-like face emotionless as it always was.
Servant stats! Wise up!
Identity: Unknown "Flavius"
Servant: (False) Assassin
[Lack of Presence]: N/A (The Servant is capable of 'hiding in plain sight' and avoid detection of any manner. Also, the Servant may be presented as a mundane human when acknowledged. The effect is lost once direct conflict is made. It is unsure whether this Servant contains this ability or it is a factor of the Servant's insignificant presence- those around the Servant tend to forget he exists after a short while outside of combat)
Valor: A (Augments the Personal Skills of a Servant when confronting Mental Interference of A Rank or higher, the cause of death of their previous life, or when facing a crippling personal fear. At this rank, the Servant's Personal Skills are enhanced to their highest potential when Valor is activated)
Military Tactics: C- (The Servant is capable of organizing small assaults with a small group for a short while) [A+ with Valor. The Servant is capable of leading several groups through simultaneous assaults. This includes warfare of ground, sea, air, and espionage]
Charisma: E- (Any attempt to lead has a high probability of confusing troops) [A++ with Valor. Charisma at the level of one who defies the realms beyond the reach of Man. At this rank, all troops under the Servant's command gain a significant boost in moral)
Mental Pollution: B (Interacting with society is exceedingly rare and twice as difficult, but not impossible. The Servant sees reality as something beyond their comprehension or of alien origin. Though not completely insane, the Servant can only interact with their peers through mimicking their actions, never truly learning the 'whys' behind the 'hows'. Any form of Mental Interference is ineffective against this Servant) [Valor does not augment this Skill]
Magecraft: D- (The Servant knows next to nothing regarding magic. However, they specialize in one particular craft and are incapable of learning any other branch) [Valor does not augment this Skill]
The Imperial City of One: N/A
The stat sheets for the Round Table Knights is still in production. I would like to remind everyone I HATE MATH. Hm? Couldn't I just wing it? Sadly no. Because there are 16+1 Servants I have to use a certain system for calculating everyone's potential. At the least, however, I can provide you all with the list of members. The stats WILL be published before the next chapter is released (which will come out MUCH sooner than this one)
Breunor le Noir
...That's a lot of stats to work on...
Till next time people!