View Full Version : [FF] Truth and Consequences (T-M/Whedonverse X-over, Trinity Zero)

March 19th, 2011, 10:35 AM
DISCLAIMER: Lunar Legend Tsukihime, Fate/Stay Night, and all related characters and concepts are the creation and property of Kinoko Nasu and Type-Moon, along with anyone who's happened to license them, like Geneon or Funimation. Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Angel, Illyria and all related characters and concepts are the property of Joss Whedon, 20th Century Fox, and licensees like IDW Publishing and/or Dark Horse Comics.

This is a not-for-profit, just-for-fun project.


The old wizard scowled. “You always assume I can fix everything - all of you. For the last time, my magic deals only in what might be, not in what will. I don’t control the light which shines through the gem - I can only turn the gem to see what the light looks like through a particular facet. It won’t alter the effects of the light when it shines through the facet I was looking at before.” He sighed. “What will happen here, will happen. I can’t change that, without interfering directly - and giving others license to do the same.”

“The energy in Ciel has to go somewhere. Either we keep it bottled up until it finally explodes - or we open the path it’s supposed to take, and give it to the Grail.”

“That will kill Ciel!” Shiki snapped.

“And not doing it, I keep hearing, will kill all of us, her included,” Avenger snapped right back. “I have faith in the strength of Ciel’s magic - she came back from the dead when all she wanted was to die. Do you think Ciel would want to wake up surrounded by her dead - again? Do you think she could survive seeing the bodies of her husband and child - assuming the explosion leaves anything at all behind for her to mourn? Give her power to the Grail, and pray there’s enough left for her, or use the Grail to revive her. It’s the only choice left.”

“But why won’t you let me help you?” Takara insisted. “Why just throw your life away like this?”

“Do you remember the contract we made?” he asked softly. “I said I would fight for the Grail, in your name. ‘I will serve thy cause, on my honour, until the end.’ The end is here, at last, and it’s time for me to live up to my end of the oath, Takara. It may be impossible, it may be suicidal, but I’ll try anyway, because giving up without a fight is just not in my nature, nor is it in Saber’s. She understands that, and so do I. As to why I choose to fight alone, and not endanger you . . .

“I’ll keep my promise to you, because I said I would - and because I love you.”

Fast as he seemed to be, Avenger didn’t register Saber’s true intent until it was too late. He saw her move, instinctively leaped right to avoid it - and slammed shoulder first into the wall he’d forgotten to account for. The shock of the impact made him drop the stainless steel gun, even as her wind blade sliced into his legs. His second gun dropped, and Saber leaped, her revealed sword swinging back to deliver the final stroke . . .

As his right hand pushed Melpomene up, to fire one last, wild desperate shot.

It was a one in a thousand shot, the kind only true, pure luck - or maybe destiny - could account for. Saber’s left shoulder guard exploded under the impact of the Glaser safety slug, and the knight buckled in mid-air. But if the shot had been one in a thousand, Saber was one in a million, and without more than a heartbeat’s pause, she’d shifted her two-handed grip to throw her sword with her right hand, like a spear - and impaling the other Servant where he lay.

“I know that you are not an Epic Spirit,” Saber agreed. “However, I believe that for what you have tried to accomplish, what you have chosen to do, and why - you are a hero.”

Saber watched Avenger’s life flicker out, literally, dissolving into motes of light that flew upward to where Ciel waited to receive them, and fulfill the purpose of the War. Left behind was a transparent version of the Servant, his true soul - but with the shell that contained it removed, that thinned away like morning mist, vanishing back to whatever fate awaited it in the place it had been called from.

Saber stood, retrieving her sword. The War was over, the Grail won. All that remained was to make her wish - and decide the path of the legacy that wish would leave behind.

Light enveloped Ciel’s mortal form - first bathing it, then consuming it in literal blaze of glory that no one present could look at directly, for fear of being blinded. When it dimmed, an object of indescribable beauty stood before them, floating above the ground as though it feared to sully itself with the touch of the earth. It glowed as though bathed in moonlight, and the air itself seemed to lighten, tinged with a freshness unlike that of the dark tower.

The silver-clad knight’s breath caught in her throat. The pure Grail, the true Grail . . . After all this time, all this effort . . .

For a moment, she was tempted. This was the culmination of all her efforts since the fall of her kingdom. Every word and deed, for good or ill, she had done in pursuit of this goal, this moment - and the temptation to use it for herself, and finally be at peace, was strong. But no, that was the path Sakura and Shirou had trod. She had seen the destination it led to, and it was nowhere she wished to venture. Neither did she wish the blood of these people to be sacrificed on the altar of her goal.

Besides, there was another consideration. Before she was even a king, she was a knight - and she had given her word of honour to fulfill a dead man’s last request.

Taking a deep breath, Arturia stepped forward, and reached out to clasp the Holy Grail . . .

Takara rubbed her hand absently, her eyes focussed on the blonde Servant and her goal. Thus, she gave an audible start when Rin asked, “Why are you doing that?”

“Doing . . .? Oh.” She lowered her gaze. “The back of my hand is itching, sorry.”

“Itching?” Rin said, her eyes going to the area in question, where she could see white lines, like scar tissue, near the girl’s wrist. They seemed to form an odd pattern, like part of a written character -

Or, she realised suddenly, a Command Seal. But it should’ve disappeared . . .

The partial symbol flashed with blue light.

“Saber!” she called. “Something’s wrong! Don’t - !”

Too late. The Grail flared alight at Saber’s touch, with a sweeping radiance that was blinding - and brilliantly blue.

And as the light swept over the tower, it washed the world away . . .

March 19th, 2011, 10:36 AM
DISCLAIMER: Lunar Legend Tsukihime, Fate/Stay Night, and all related characters and concepts are the creation and property of Kinoko Nasu and Type-Moon, along with anyone who's happened to license them, like Geneon or Funimation. Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Angel, Illyria and all related characters and concepts are the property of Joss Whedon, 20th Century Fox, and licensees like IDW Publishing and/or Dark Horse Comics.

This is a not-for-profit, just-for-fun project.

Chapter 1

Rin jolted back to awareness, as if from a nightmare, and stared in puzzlement at her surroundings. She didn’t recognise the place she found herself in - but it was stocked with her things, including things she’d never had but which had to be hers, like a picture of Sakura in a plain gilded frame that stood on a cherry wood bedside table.

Bedside. Yes, she was in bed. Her bed, from the Tohsaka mansion - but this wasn’t one of its rooms. Nonetheless, her favourite jacket was strewn across a chair in the corner of the room, and a print that had hung in the mansion’s sitting room was on wall directly across from her. In fact, despite its unfamiliarity, the room was decorated much as she herself would’ve done, if she’d had a hand in it.

The magus frowned. Whatever this place was, it was a far cry from a sealed dimensional pocket containing a wizard-turned-phenomenon’s sanctum. Was this some kind of last illusion, a defensive mechanism designed to capture intruders? She stretched out her senses, backed with all her mystic training, trying to ascertain the true nature of the place . . .

She felt herself hit a barrier - as though her body was wrapped in cotton, muffling her ability to clearly discern things. That wasn’t unusual for such defences, nor was the corresponding weakness she felt in her magic circuits - but what was a surprise was that the mystic signature of the barrier. It had apparently been created by herself!

Why would I . . .? Rin asked herself, before a flash of memory came back.

Blue light flashed from Takara’s hand like a lightning bolt, directed at the Grail - which exploded in a tsunami of blue light. Rin drew up her barriers before it ever struck the target, using her Jewelled Sword to bend the forces directed at her across a thousand different planes of existence . . .

And, she realised, she was still maintaining that shield. Somewhere in the back of her mind, some part of her regarded it as essential.

The question was, why? What was so horrible that she was working, even unconsciously, to protect herself from it?

A sudden knock broke her through her musings, causing her head to snap towards it in surprise.

“You’d better wake up soon, Rin-chan,” advised a voice on the other side. “If you miss this meeting, they’ll have us translating the Sumerian section of the archives - in triplicate.”

“. . . Shirou?” she asked.

“Who else?” he said in an exasperated, yet undeniably fond tone. “Now hurry up, will you? I can barely follow this ‘Queen’s English’ that they use around here - I really don’t want to have to learn Sumerian, too.”

Rin stared at the door, knowing that on the other side was a man who’d nearly killed her - and died himself - less than an hour ago.

What was going on?

A lower plane

This was not foretold, or even considered, said one of the three - at least, inasmuch as they used words to communicate. This - incident could upset all our plans.

But it is exploitable, countered the second of the three. We are presented with multiple opportunities here, if we are careful in how we handle them.

How so?

In addition to providing us with a host of new resources and potential clients, the bulk of Her power has gone through this fissure. The capitalisation, and the wary respect it engendered, was impossible to miss. Her presence is causing it to conform to a reality matrix favourable to us - and Her nature will drive Her to thin out potential competitors to the territory among the natives, hopefully rendering Her vulnerable in the process.

And if nothing else, it weakens Her on our home grounds, added the third of the three, and it may be possible to send what remains of Her here to that power - and seal the fissure behind Her. At the very least, the damage she was poised to do here will be inflicted beyond our domain.

The first of the three considered that, and agreed that it was a strategy that held multiple points for them to profit, for minimal work and risk. That was always their preferred method.

Your proposal is accepted, the first of the three told the second. Now, is there any other new business to discuss before we adjourn?

Takara Aozaki gazed out the window as the car passed the city limits. Thus far, Misaki didn’t seem too different from Fuyuki, aside from being wholly unfamiliar. Japanese urban architecture was pretty much the same everywhere. Still, she didn’t care for this place. It might have been the rain. It might’ve been the fact that her parents had run away from here before she was born so that she could be born. Or maybe, she decided, she was just upset about having to leave everything she knew behind. It could be that this wouldn’t be so bad.

Just the same, she asked her parents doubtfully, “Are you sure about this?”

Her father glanced at her in the rearview mirror. “Well, given what happened in Fuyuki, we came up on a lot of people’s radar. Moving away from that gives us the chance to try and keep living quietly. It just wasn’t safe in Fuyuki - especially with two new babies coming.”

Takara didn’t quite wince at the reminder. While she was excited over a new sibling, and pleased at her mother’s joy over being able to be pregnant again, she was still adjusting to the idea that her father had knocked up this “old friend” of his, and that said friend would also be living with them in this new place she’d inherited. And on that thought, she recalled who Hisui-san had inherited it from.

“Yes, but didn’t half the people who tried to kill us come from here? And now we’re moving into their house?”

“The driving force behind that attack died in carrying it out,” her mother responded, surprising both of the car’s other occupants - they’d thought she was asleep. “Without the main branch, the lesser houses of the clan will be scrambling for position for a while, hopefully long enough to establish ourselves. And your father has friendly contacts among the moderates - by the time the dust settles, we can hopefully negotiate a cease-fire that lets us all live peaceably. And we do have friends in Misaki, Takara-chan.” Ciel smiled into the mirror at her daughter. “It will be nice to see them again, after so many years.”

“And what if we can’t come to a nice, peaceful agreement?” Takara countered sullenly.

“Then we’ll convince them,” her father said, in a flat tone that sent shivers down the girl’s spine.

Silence reigned in the car for a few moments, before Takara said. “So, how long before we get there? I suspect that Arcueid-san would really like to get out of the trunk.”

A higher plane

The Enemy would move to take advantage of the situation. They knew that. Just as They would move to counteract the Enemy’s influence. The battleground was different, but the circumstances had not changed. The war that had been fought since long before the rise of humanity would continue to be fought. That was as deeply ingrained in Their nature as the Enemy’s.

The difference in this case was a question of the appropriate and acceptable method by which to fight. Using the local resources was difficult under the circumstances - but using Their practised methods would reinforce the problem, and open up an entirely new front for which They were not yet prepared.

Finally, one of Their newest conscripts spoke up, and pointed out that the source of the problem could also be its solution. After consideration, They approved the strategy, and set things in motion.

In the darkness, a figure rose. Undeniably female, she examined her surroundings with a critical eye, noting that the scale of things differed from her former perceptions. She seemed to have lost height - one more thing about this world that displeased her. Nonetheless, this place held several advantages over her former abode, among them the fact that her assassins were nowhere to be seen. And that her new form was far more durable than her prior one. She was still less than a shadow of her former glory, but this body was a more suitable vessel altogether, accustomed to containing great strength.

“Yes,” she said, repeating words she had said before. “This will do.”

He was drowning in a sea of sensation. Images, sounds, scents - and pain, ohsweetGodthepain - ran riot through every cell of his body. It was a whirling kaleidoscope of impressions that bordered on synaesthesia, and he couldn’t keep it straight, couldn’t hold on to anything . . .

Then the torment whirled away, and resolved itself into cold concrete, pressed against his cheek, and warm rain spattering over his hair, against his clothes. The roar of sound muted into traffic noise, and conversation in . . . Japanese. Definitely Japanese. So he was probably in Japan.

He searched his still-pounding head for answers, but his brain was still trying to curl into a ball and shrink in on itself. No help would be forthcoming without either an economy-sized bottle of Tylenol, or an equal-sized bottle of whatever the hell he’d been drinking to give him this kind of hangover.

With a groan, he levered himself to his feet, bones and muscles protesting all the way. Vertigo had fun toying with him for a couple of minutes, before the world stopped spinning long enough for him to stagger out of the alley that he realised he’d been lying in.

He leaned against the corner of the alley mouth long enough to catch his breath, and make another attempt at putting the scattered pieces of what he assumed were memories together. There had to be something . . . There. A girl. It had to do with a girl, a pretty girl. OK, that wasn’t a hell of a lot, but it was a start.

Another throb from his skull sent him around the corner, hoping to God that he could find a pharmacy, and that he had cash - but the highly reflective window on the building made him stop searching his pockets, stop moving along the sidewalk, and quite frankly, stop breathing.

The image it reflected was of a Japanese teenager, a boy almost too pretty to look male, with dark, wavy hair that had oddly errant locks in the front. The front of his outfit, a school uniform, was spattered with a dark brown substance (old blood, his mind informed him), but it was the face that drew his eyes. Because, despite the scrambling his brain had taken, he recognised that reflection.

“You have got to be kidding me,” Shinji Matou muttered.

London, England

The meeting room was much as Rin expected, from what she saw on the way - tastefully done in a Victorian style, dominated by a large mahogany table and straight-backed chairs of the same wood. This was not a comfortable room, but that was understandable, as it was here that work was expected to be done, decisions made and carried out.

Rin scanned the room for familiar faces. She saw Luvia - who didn’t seem to see her (or at least acknowledge that she did). A number of people she knew from prior gatherings at the Clock Tower, some she did not. One she did know caught her eye - an old man wrapped in a faded red overcoat. Her intermittent mentor and sometime master, the vampire Magic User, Zelretch. His presence surprised her - normally he was unwelcome at the Clock Tower. His titles within the Mages’ Association were an acknowledgement of his accomplishments and power, but that didn’t mean an Association magus wouldn’t attempt to seal Zelretch if they ever crossed paths.

Watching Zelretch cough, suddenly, she realised that things were obviously a great deal more serious, and stranger than she knew.

“We are gathered to determine something of grave importance,” said one of the older-looking men in the room - someone Rin didn’t know, but from his accent, was definitely upper-crust British. Elocution lessons, and all that.

“A new Slayer has been Called, but as yet she does not know her destiny,” he went on. “It falls to this gathering to determine the appropriate person to serve as her Watcher. Traditionally, this falls to the most senior and learned on the Council, but some . . .” He didn’t glance, exactly, but a twitch on the side of his face where the man in question was sitting told Rin that Zelretch had been meddling again.

“Some feel that a younger Watcher would be better able to instruct her,” he finished after a moment’s pause. “As a personal matter, I feel that young people being what they are today, a younger Watcher would serve as a distraction, a reason for a nascent Slayer not to take her duties seriously. However, I am required to put the decision to an open vote regarding available candidates.” He paused. “All hands in favour of Andrew Carson?”

About a third of the hands in the room went up. Rin held off voting until she had a better idea of what the hell was going on. What was a Slayer, and how was it called? What was this Council, and why did they watch Slayers?

“. . . And Rin Tohsaka?” the speaker continued.

Rin didn’t bother to count this time - her brain was too deeply in shock. As such, she missed the closing remarks, and only registered the weight of a file folder in her lap when she realised the room had been emptied of people - save for one other person.

“What the hell is going on?” she demanded of Zelretch.

Zelretch coughed again, and her anger was momentarily pushed back. Zelretch was a vampire - they didn’t get sick.

“Entirely my fault,” he wheezed. “I . . . “ Another cough. “I’m old, Rin, and there’s very little left of me that’s human. I cling to what’s left, for as long as I have left, most fiercely. That humanity is nurtured by my contacts with two people in particular.” He looked at her, and said softly, “One of them is you. The other is a girl who calls me ‘grandfather.’

“Some years ago, I saw a time might come when he who is most precious to her - and has been, in almost all the times and places they’ve encountered one another - would be in dire straits, at a time and place when he might save the world. I worked out the how and why of it, and sought a preventative measure, or at least a countering one. To do that, I had to go beyond even the normal range of Jewel Magic, considering possibilities on the edge of madness . . . But I found one. It was the unlikeliest of chances, but it had a chance, because the entity in question had the perverse knack for failing under normal circumstances, and succeeding when it was most impossible. I laid the groundwork, and I waited.

“Days ago, the circumstances I foresaw passed from possibility into fact, and I aided where I could - by guiding the Grail’s seeking hand to where it needed to be to reach that solution. I made a tiny crack in the fabric of our reality, because the necessary element was so far away. Just a tiny crack, so that what was needed could come in, be bound here, and return . . .

“And when it was gone, before the crack fully sealed, with the Grail descendent through an opening to the Root of All Things, something else came through.”

“Something else?” Rin repeated.

Zelretch nodded. “Something ancient, and powerful - powerful enough to overwrite the very nature of our world just by being here.” He let out a tired sigh. “And the longer it stays, the more deeply the infection can take root. If it isn’t expelled soon, there may be no going back. This will be our world.”

“I don’t understand all that’s going on with this world,” Rin admitted.

“In short: supernatural creatures such as vampires, werewolves and demons - such as the Burial Agency or Clock Tower would normally deal with - exist in different forms here. They are combatted by Slayers - chosen, supernaturally gifted warriors, and the rare supernatural entity. The Watchers’ Council -“ he gestured around the room - “locates, trains, and supports these Slayers. The you that exists here would know this, if your shielding wasn’t preventing your prior existence from being replaced.”

Zelretch’s face turned serious. “Give me your hand. I may be weakened here, but I’m still powerful enough to maintain that shield for you, sparing you the mental and magical effort.”


“Because you’re going to need everything you have - and probably a lot more - to handle this. My shields are requiring more effort, because vampires here are so very different in nature. And I need to keep up several glamours that give me the illusion of humanity, as I don’t fancy a stake through my heart. But I have power enough to do that much for you - and perhaps temporarily shield some few others - while you go handle this situation.”

His face softened. “I am sorry, child. This, I suppose, is the proof of the old saying about good intentions.”

Rin considered, then shook her head. That one, she’d never heard.

“That they pave the road to Hell,” Zelretch said, as though he’d heard her thoughts.

Rin considered the situation. “Who do suggest I enlist to help?”

“If by ‘help,’ you mean ‘shield,’ not young Emiya,” the wizard replied. “While he may be of help as he is now, knowledge of his actions in the prior timeline might unhinge his mind, assuming he survived at all.”

Rin frowned at the reminder that he was dead.

“The Slayer, on the other hand - she might be a wise choice . . .” Zelretch added.

“But the Slayer’s a novice!” Rin protested. “I’m supposed to train her! What help could she be?”

“Open the folder,” Zelretch said, flashing her a ghost of his usual impish grin.

Rin remembered its presence, and raised it up to view. The picture that was bound to the pages within by a paperclip answered all her questions.

“Aozaki Takara . . .”

Shinji Matou stared at himself, and remembered - remembered the Shinji Matou was a spoiled little asshole who’d spent a lot of time abusing (often sexually) his adopted sister. Granted, he was warped under the influence of his grandfather, and must have been a worthwhile human being at some point in his life, to have made friends with a straight arrow like Emiya Shirou - but by and large his only use to society was through his right to be the winner of the world’s most creative Darwin Award. There was a long list of people who would happily spend hours, maybe even days thinking of ways to help him achieve that.

He was one of them. And he was also Shinji Matou.

He staggered back into the alley as his gorge rose, fighting the urge to vomit. When he realised that considering the notion of raping Sakura had given him a partial erection, he stopped fighting, but nothing came out.

All but lying on the asphalt, panting and shuddering in revulsion, he realised that something else had failed, too: his heartbeat. He stopped breathing, and realised after several seconds that he didn’t have to - at least, not as much as a living human did.

He wasn’t just Shinji Matou, he was an undead Shinji Matou - and that realisation saved his sanity. He could deny being Shinji, and believe it, since Shinji was dead. The reaction to those thoughts had been muscle memory - he could probably draw a bow without thinking pretty well, now, too - and the fact that he was a hormonal, teenaged boy.

“Oh God,” he muttered. “Puberty, again. Shoot me now.”

The knife that was suddenly laid against the back of his neck wasn’t exactly what he’d had in mind.

“Get to your knees, slowly, and hand me your wallet,” instructed a voice.

If the knife had been point-first, he might’ve worried - zombies had a heck of a time surviving spinal cord injuries or the decapitation that could result. But the blade was length-wise, in a slashing position. And all of a sudden, he had a lot of anger to work through.

He got to the required position, reached back as if to go for his pockets, then grabbed the arms holding the knife and pulled.

A man’s body flew over his head and bounced off the alley wall in front of him. A quick punch to the face broke his nose and seemed to render him unconscious - or dead. Right now, Shinji (it irked him, but he couldn’t remember another name to go with his identity, so it had to stand) didn’t actually care which.

He also couldn’t tell if he had combat training, since that had pretty much been a brute-force manoeuvre. But he must have some measure of undead super strength, and maybe speed, to throw a guy who looked to weigh at least the same as he did over his head from a kneeling position.

He wasn’t burning in the sun, so Dead Apostle wasn’t likely. He wasn’t mindless, so the traditional zombie wasn’t on the “what-the-hell-am-I?” list, either. No need for brains (well, hunger for them), either, so movie zombie was out.

. . . And damn it, why could he remember this stuff and not his own name?

He searched for some hint, some clue . . . Nope. Pretty girl. That was it. OK, what kind?

Blonde . . .? he considered.

. . . A little girl, standing behind a giant, who swung his club, then blackness . . .

His mind retreated from the memory - no, from Matou’s memory. OK, there were fragments of memories in there from his body, too. The “chemical” portion of the electrochemical system that made up memories. All the impulsive, visceral reactions.

But if that was what came up when he thought “blonde,” it was probably the wrong girl. Though it did remind him . . .

Shinji stripped the unconscious (or dead?) would-be mugger, and changed his shirt. No blood stains - the guy’s leather duster had absorbed them, and it was dark enough in hue not to make them easily visible. His gray pants no longer matched his now-scarlet top, but he thought it still looked good.

OK, redheads?

A little Caucasian girl with red hair, blue eyes, a prosthetic arm and two prosthetic legs sprang to mind immediately, but the image lacked any sense of rightness connected with the “pretty girl” memory that put him here. It definitely wasn’t a Matou memory, though - proof that Shinji wasn’t him.

Brunettes . . .?

A Japanese girl with blue eyes . . . And a house by a lake. A sense of home.

It wasn’t much to go on, but it was all he had. Without information, he’d have to trust to intuition to guide him, until he found something or someone capable of telling him who he was, or what was going on.

Shinji got up and started walking out of the alley, grimly resigned to the idea of finding his way by relying on what “felt right” . . . And on that thought he paused, then turned around and went back into the alley.

He emerged a moment later, wearing the mugger’s duster.

That felt much better.

March 19th, 2011, 10:36 AM
DISCLAIMER: Lunar Legend Tsukihime, Fate/Stay Night, and all related characters and concepts are the creation and property of Kinoko Nasu and Type-Moon, along with anyone who's happened to license them, like Geneon or Funimation. Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Angel, Illyria and all related characters and concepts are the property of Joss Whedon, 20th Century Fox, and licensees like IDW Publishing and/or Dark Horse Comics.

This is a not-for-profit, just-for-fun project.

Chapter 2

Misaki, Japan

Takara stared at the house on the hill as they approached. She couldn’t help it - she hadn’t seen many mansions in her relatively short life, given the premium in which the small island nation of Japan held land. And this was definitely an honest-to-God mansion. It was easy to see why her parents had chosen to move here instead of staying in Fuyuki - barring the arrival of two sets of quintuplets, there was room enough here for her family, Hisui, Arcueid, new babies, and maybe a baseball team.

“You used to live here, Father?” she asked in a tone of disbelief.

“Twice,” he admitted flatly. “Very briefly.”

Takara saw her mother’s head turn, but couldn’t see her face. The hand reaching over to squeeze his shoulder was visible, however, and she was surprised to realise that her father had been clenching the steering wheel hard enough to turn his knuckles white. Nonetheless, he relaxed at his wife’s touch.

“Hmph,” he said suddenly. “A buzzer at the main gate - that’s new.”

“Takara,” her mother decided, “why don’t you get out and go buzz us in? Your father and I will drive the car up and start unpacking.”

“What about Arcueid-san?” Given that she was sandwiched in the trunk with most of their baggage, and it was still daylight, it was a valid question.

“We’ll worry about the stuff in the car after dark,” came the answer. “Hisui will have started arranging the things we shipped earlier, but she probably didn’t empty the boxes yet. We can get our rooms and household things set up while we wait for sundown.”

“All right, Mother.” As the car pulled to a halt, she unbuckled her belt and pulled herself out of the car (actually some old-style car of Arcueid’s, with a large, specially light-proofed trunk). Takara walked up to the gate and hit the buzzer.

“Yes?” came the lightly-accented, mechanically-distorted reply.

“It’s us, Hisui-san. May we come in?”

For answer, the gate swung open with an electronic buzz. Takara waited until the car had gone through, then followed, taking care to close the gate behind her. It shut with a heavy, satisfying “clunk,” obviously re-locking itself.

Security-conscious, these Tohnos, she thought as she walked across the yard, though what else could be expected from a family of demon hybrids? She wondered if they had any mystical defences . . . Then she decided that if they had, surely they’d have reacted to Arcueid’s presence, or her mother’s - or her own.

She was still new to this “destiny,” as people kept terming it. Only in the last few weeks had she developed the powers of a Slayer, and she occasionally had trouble with them, given that she was now far stronger and faster. Her martial arts training gave her some control over them, but she occasionally slipped - like the last time Momoko had dropped her pen in class. Takara had intended to catch it, but she’d accidentally crushed it to pieces - and nearly had Momoko’s head bounce off her closed fist, since she’d moved too quickly for the other girl to realise she was there.

Her mother had stepped up her hand-to-hand training, so she could learn better control - but even there, she had to be delicate. Ciel might be a Slayer, but her unborn child wasn’t, and in a few months sparring would be out of the question. Arcueid was the better sparring partner, but she was only sporadically available - and her new instincts had her fighting harder, not gentler.

The worst aspect so far, though, was the dreams. Takara shivered, remembering the one that had during her nap in the car.


Takara heard the shouted order - she bet Okinawa heard it - and watched as something similar to a solar flare lashed out to engulf Lancer with a roar like that of an enraged dragon. It was too bright for her to look at . . .

Until, with an equal roar, a shroud the colour of midnight erupted to answer the challenge. She watched, awed and terrified, as the powers of light and darkness did battle. Somewhere in the middle of all that was the only hope she had for ensuring her father’s survival.

Then a cracking sound, like the breaking of a glacier, was heard, and the darkness faltered. Almost at once, the dragon’s roar echoed out again, followed in tandem by a cry that was part wolf’s howl, part human scream. The blade shattered into a dozen glittering fragments, and the tide of Excalibur’s fury - much diminished, but still potent - washed over the inhuman form it had been seeking to swallow. The wave carried onward, collapsing the front half of the school building.

She stared at the smoking ruins of her school, too numb to do anything else. For a moment, all was dust and silence. Then a cry arose, a scream of fury and terror so wild and pained that it didn’t seem as though it could have come from a human throat. She wondered at its source - and then she recognised the voice as her own, crying a single word.


Takara shuddered despite the warm afternoon sun, banishing the spectre of the nightmare . . . Or was it? Slayers were supposed to be prescient, she knew - was this a vision of things to come?

She couldn’t the reason behind her understand dreaming about it, otherwise. But why her school in Fuyuki? They intended to live in Misaki now - what in the future might bring her back?

It made no sense . . . But she couldn’t shake the feeling that, really, it made all the sense in the world.

With a frown and a shake of her head, she moved faster towards the house. Her parents would want her help unpacking - and if Slayer strength was good for anything, lifting packing crates had to be on the list.

Fuyuki, Japan

Shinji sneezed abruptly. Then paused, as undead really shouldn’t get colds or have allergies.

“Somebody must be talking or thinking about me,” he decided, wondering how he’d figured that out before adding to his “List of Stuff I Cannot Yet Comprehend,” which included:

1) How he knew the name of his body, but not himself

2) How he’d become undead, and what type

3) How it was he could speak Japanese, but not read it.

4) Why this damned house by the lake was so bloody important

And so on. He’d managed to figure out where to go inside of two hours, by asking directions to the public library, and from there, for an Japanese-English dictionary and a map of the city. It had taken him almost forty-five minutes to find the only lake in town, and a route to it, but now he was on his way - he thought. Not being able to read street signs, he was depending greatly on guesswork.

Well, that and the odd skull-throb that checked in every time he took what he assumed was a wrong turn. The lingering effects of that hangover (whose cause he couldn’t remember), or divine guidance to the place of that memory/vision? He wasn’t sure. But, with any luck, he’d find people who could answer his questions soon.

Sure enough, after another half-hour of walking (which was really starting to make his legs burn, confusing him. Shouldn’t undead be tireless?), Shinji spotted the lake. The sight of it made him break into a run, praying that the house wasn’t on the other side - or if it was, there was at least a boat rental place. Just because he didn’t seem to need to breathe (and therefore couldn’t drown), he didn’t really want to swim across.

Ducking through a seemingly-familiar copse of trees, into some fairly thick forest, he eventually came out the other side and discovered that he was in a good news/bad news situation. The good news? The house was there, more or less as he’d seen it. The bad news? No car, lights, or any other sign of life.

With a sigh, Shinji resolved to knock on the door, anyway. Maybe there was somebody napping that he could wake up. Worst case, he’d just sit by the front door and wait for them to come home. After all, what else did he have to do? And barring somebody Up There really wanting to screw with him, how long could they be away . . .?

He paused. There was a sign on the front lawn. He couldn’t read it, but it had a couple of large characters, followed by a telephone number in Arabic (standard English) numerals. He wasn’t a hundred percent positive, but it looked an awful lot like a “For Sale” sign.

Shinji glared up at the sky. “Oh gee, thanks loads! This is just what I needed!” He gave a cry that was half-growl, half-scream before continuing, “It’s not paranoid if the universe really is out to get you . . . Anything else you want to hit me with?!”

He then realised that he shouldn’t tempt Fate - the woman had no self-control. But then his head blew up as somebody started stuffing images inside it, driving him to the ground.

The girl and four adults, packing boxes . . .

. . . A loaded car, driving off . . .

. . . A building - a high school? - with a connecting tunnel on the upper levels that seemed oddly familiar . . .

As the agony faded into dull razor blades prickling at his skull, Shinji heard a voice.

“Ah, yes, I remember those, man. Gotta admit, of all the things I miss about life, that ain’t even near the list. You’ll get used to ‘em. Either that, or blow yer brains out before they do.”

Then it continued, but only in his head - a memory of the same voice saying, “I get visions - which is to say, great bleeding migraines with pictures.”

Shinji uncurled his body from the fetal position and stared at a lanky, unassuming Caucasian man with short, dark hair and bright blue eyes. His features were stretched into a lazy smirk, as he took in the fallen youth.

“. . . Doyle?” he croaked at last.

The late Allen Francis Doyle’s grin widened. “Always a perk t’be recognised.”

“How the hell did I recognise you?” Shinji demanded. “How do I know this stuff? What the hell is going on?”

“I’ll show ya,” Doyle assured him. “Gotta warn ya, though - this is gonna make a vision-migraine feel like a gentle massage.”

He slammed his hand - his incorporeal hand - into Shinji’s skull, and had the younger man not been busy screaming immediately afterwards, he would’ve agreed wholeheartedly with Doyle’s assessment.

London, England

Rin skimmed the tome with the title VAMPYR embossed on the cover as she sat on her bed next to a closed suitcase. No doubt the native version of her in the new timeline would know all about the kind of things a Slayer had to learn, but she was woefully uninformed. Therefore, the same texts that were supplied for her lessons by the Council could also serve as informational sources for her. Fortunately, she’d always been a quick study - an advantage of being a genius.

In some ways, she was hopeful of being able to fix things - the Aozaki branch family, which she’d fought with only an hour ago (had it been just that long?) was powerful, with a number of formidable allies. If she could shield them, as Zelretch suggested, it was likely they could easily overcome whatever had caused her universe to turn into . . . This.

The problem was, she couldn’t take anything for granted. In her timeline, Shirou was dead. He’d died years ago, with some twisted version of him resurrected over a decade later as a potential Grail core. That Shirou had tried to kill her, and might have succeeded. Here, Shirou was alive, human, and judging by the glances he’d occasionally sent her way, closer to her than he’d ever been. Were they lovers? She didn’t know, and couldn’t find out without overwriting her own memories with the local version’s. If that happened, things could never go back to the way they were, because she’d never know they were supposed to be different.

And if her life was that different, what of the Aozakis? Apparently, Takara still existed - as a Slayer instead of a magically powerful Nanaya. What changes did that bode for her parents? Were they even still alive? And how many people could she restore with her shields, and for how long?

Lots of questions, and no answers, she grumbled mentally. And that’s not even considering whatever the hell did this to the world in the first place!

That was a terrifying prospect. The only thing in her native timeline with the ability to overwrite the physical world like this was a Reality Marble, and the sheer scale of this act put whatever was behind it beyond even the Types like ORT in terms of raw power. It didn’t give her confidence in overcoming the odds, this time - but what other choice did she have?

A knock drew her from her musings.

“Come in,” she called, and Shirou entered with a small trunk in his arms.

“Some of the Watcher diaries I could lay hands on,” he said. “I figured you might want to read them on your flight. I packed the first three and the last three - so that includes the one by Ortensia-san’s Watcher.”

“Of course.” Rin schooled her face to show no reaction to the name. That it was spoken so familiarly meant that he and she had crossed paths in this timeline, and that he expected her to recognise it, as well. She did, of course, but she wondered how much the Slayer of this altered timeline resembled the Burial Agent she’d become acquainted with over the years.

“If you’re ready to go, I’ll drive you to the airport.”

“Thanks, Shirou.” She closed her book, tossed it in her suitcase, and stood up. “Let’s go.”

A place between places

When the torture stopped, he knew the real torment was just starting.

It wouldn’t be that way if he played along, he knew. If he’d work willingly with them, he’d be far from tortured. Money, power, perks - everything was there for the taking, and they’d be willing to give it to him. Sometimes, he admitted, he was tempted.

Then he’d remember the last time he’d been weak - had given in - and what it had cost him. So far, that had been enough to keep him going.

But, he wondered, for how much longer?

The room which was his torture chamber didn’t have a locked door - in point of fact, the room had no doors at all. It was a featureless white, lacking visible boundaries of any kind, including a horizon. A room of endless, changeless white. Nonetheless, there was now a change - because there was a woman in the room with him, a woman he’d never seen before. She was a Westerner, from her appearance - with a stark, cold beauty. Had he ever heard the expression “femme fatale,” and understood its meaning, he would have used her as an example.

“I’m Lilah Morgan,” she introduced herself. “I’ve been - reassigned as your supervisor. And I’ve got to say - I’m not impressed.”

He considered ripping her head off, but realised that They would never allow it. Speaking was difficult, given the lingering agony his punishments had inflicted, but he still managed to gasp out, “Go - to hell . . .”

“I’m already there, kid,” Lilah replied. “And so are you. You’ve got to know there’s no point in this resistance. There was no double-dealing or deception on the firm’s part, you know - you knew what you were getting into before you signed the contract, and the minute you did, you became Wolfram and Hart’s. That means they own you, body and soul. Refusing to abide by those terms only wastes time and resources on the firm’s part, and risks damaging valuable property - to wit, you.”

“. . . Good.”

“Not good,” Lilah corrected. “See, they already made a significant investment in you, by fulfilling their end of your deal. By refusing to honour your contract, and forcing them to expend this kind of effort to try and make you into something worthwhile . . . Well, sooner or later they’re going to conclude that you aren’t worth salvaging, and decide to cut their losses. And there’s nothing they hate more than wasteful expenditures. If you think you’re in hell now . . . Well, things can always get worse.”

“. . . Don’t - care.”

“Well, fortunately for you, they do,” Lilah informed him. “And they’ve come across an assignment that should make even you happy with the work: a demon hunt in your old home grounds.”

“. . . Demon?”

“Something old, powerful, and very dangerous,” Lilah added. “The kind that not only considers conquering or destroying the world, they might actually pull it off. That’s counterproductive, to the firm’s way of thinking - the Apocalypse is on a very strict timetable. Rogue elements like this are bad for business.

“The objective,” she continued, “is simple. Find it and kill it, any way you can. Succeed in this, and the firm might decide they’ve gotten their money’s worth out of you. Fail, and you’ll likely be beyond even the Senior Partners’ reach - but I should point out that most, if not all, of your world would follow after you.” She made an interesting shrug, given her figure, and smiled almost warmly. “Not much of a downside here for you, either way.”

He considered for several minutes. It could all be lies, but could he take the chance? He knew they wouldn’t lie if the truth would serve them better . . .

“. . . I’ll do it,” he answered finally.

“Excellent,” Lilah replied. “I’ll have someone compile a brief for you on your target, and you can clean and arm yourself through there.”

She gestured, and a mahogany door appeared.

“Glad to have you on the team,” she added, before vanishing as suddenly and completely as she’d appeared.

In her absence, an Emiya Shirou who in another timeline would’ve been called Archer, child of the Senior Partners, wondered what he’d ended paying for this time - and in what manner of coin.

March 19th, 2011, 10:37 AM
DISCLAIMER: Lunar Legend Tsukihime, Fate/Stay Night, and all related characters and concepts are the creation and property of Kinoko Nasu and Type-Moon, along with anyone who's happened to license them, like Geneon or Funimation. Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Angel, Illyria and all related characters and concepts are the property of Joss Whedon, 20th Century Fox, and licensees like IDW Publishing and/or Dark Horse Comics.

This is a not-for-profit, just-for-fun project.

Chapter 3

Fuyuki, Japan

As the blood rushes through his ears, he imagines he can hear a scream - a cry for help, and of anger, as well. He wants to answer it, to ease the pain of the screamer. He wants to help. But as the road below rushes up to greet him, its imminent kiss bringing the promise of obliterating fire, he can do nothing at all.

Nothing at all, except die . . .

. . . He used the split second he had to hurl Saber away, with all the strength he could muster.

Then his world was consumed by flames . . .

. . . Two warriors stood firm in their resolve, one a gold-haired female with emerald eyes, the other a midnight-black beast-man with eyes of flame. Twin dragon essences battled, one born of light, the other of darkness, each terrifying in their power. The night sky was torn apart by dual roars and raging winds. For an eternal moment, the tableau froze - golden-white and vermillion-black, twisted mirrors of one another, locked in mortal combat.

Then a cracking sound, like the breaking of a glacier, was heard, and the darkness faltered.

The lichblade Vanir was more formidable than even its master, nearly indestructible.


Almost at once, the dragon’s roar echoed out again, followed in tandem by a cry that was part wolf’s howl, part human scream. The blade shattered into a dozen glittering fragments, and the tide of Excalibur’s fury - much diminished, but still potent - washed over the inhuman form it had been seeking to swallow. The wave carried onward, collapsing the front half of the school building . . .

. . . The arrow had speared his windpipe, inhibiting his ability to breathe, but the air itself had infused him once with its strength, enabling him to minimise the need for it. He could be sealed in a coffin and buried alive, and survive for hours, or breathe air through water, as fish did. Lack of air was not the problem. It was the cold - blades of ice that stole his strength even as they cut into the marrow of his bones . . .

. . . The pale thing snapped an arm out, almost casually, in response. Nearly quicker than Lancer’s eye could follow, a shower of shining lights cut across the distance between them - and agile though he was, in the air, there was nothing he could do but take the blows.

Pain exploded in multiple points across his body, all sensation leaving his limbs beyond a cold so deep it burned. He hit the ground hard, and found that he could no longer even force himself to move. It was as though his extremities had fallen completely asleep - but they shrieked, the white noise of pain blocking almost everything else from his mind . . .

. . . The tide of undead swarmed him, and he could do nothing. Blackness smothered him, and panic followed it - he couldn’t move, he couldn’t breathe! Being crowded triggered a claustrophobic reaction, and something primal in the back of his mind screamed and bony hands clamped on his limbs. Sharp jaws bit down on his throat suddenly, spraying arterial blood, and the world went red . . . Then black . . . .

The creature screamed, and the force of the sound drove Avenger to his knees. As his concentration shattered, so did the alleyways, revealing the roof of the obsidian tower - and the storm Berserker summoned to rage above it. Avenger couldn’t call the alleys back - his chest was vibrating with the force of the howl, audible even over the thunder, his ears bleeding from the pain . . . And still[/i] it came. Berserker screamed across the raging tempest, untiring, eternal. Sooner or later, the force of his cry would burst Avenger’s heart, or shake him to pieces.

He couldn’t move, couldn’t breathe, couldn’t[/i] think under the force of that noise. He hated sonic weapons, and this one looked nigh unbeatable. Hovering as it did in the darkness, there was no way he could reach the beast. All he could do was writhe helplessly, burning in his fury, unable to pierce the barrier of sound . . .

. . . Lightning flares through his chest, leaving a deepening chill in his wake. The wound is fatal, but he is not quite dead. He has time enough to try to raise his gun, to shoot before he disintegrates fully.

He lets it fall from his nerveless hand instead. Staring at Saber’s injured shoulder, knowing that he’d prevented her from achieving a flawless victory, he was content to fall - if he could only learn . . .

“How . . .?” He forces the question out, extinguishing nearly all the air left in his damaged lungs. “You . . . know . . .”

Her eyes are darkly serious, and he forces himself to concentrate on them, to hold on until he can hear her answer.

“I know that you are not an Epic Spirit,” Saber agrees. “However, I believe that for what you have tried to accomplish, what you have chosen to do, and why - you are a hero.”

And as he knew it would, her will overrode his own, but to banish his doubts instead of confirming them, allowing his Noble Phantasm to give him a fighting chance. It’s the finest compliment he’s ever received, and even if he was capable of answering it, he could not. But it does not matter, for life is nearly gone, and the world is darkening. The last thing he hears is Saber’s voice.

“Rest now, warrior. I will finish the task you have begun.”

The rest is silence . . .

“. . . And I thought it hurt when Rin did that to me . . .”

The still form of Shinji Matou uncurled itself from a fetal position, shaking his head repeatedly, squinting against the too-bright light of day and wincing at the pounding of blood in his ears - did undead have circulation like this. Rising steadily to his feet, he fixed Doyle with a glare and asked, “Is it an effect of the magic, or do they teach classes on the most painful methods of awakening traumatic memories?”

The spectre looked sheepish. “Sorry, man. I did try t’warn ya.”

He glared for a moment longer, then sighed. “Forget it. Why am I here? For that matter, why are you?”

“Well, turns out there’s a wee bit of a problem,” Doyle admitted. “Speaking in continuum terms, something nasty from my neck of the woods has slipped into here, and turned the whole place into a mishmash of both worlds. The higher-ups figure you’re a guy we can count on t’ fix things up.”

“. . . Is that because you have a vastly overinflated sense of my capabilities?”

“Hey, you did all right last time - “

”Last time, I nearly died about four times, actually did die once, and the only enemy I beat nearly killed me before I realised that I could beat him. As Champion material goes, I’m way below Angel’s weight class, or even yours - like somewhere around Atlantis?”

“Y’were a lot cooler and less pessimistic the last time.”

“Last time, I was roleplaying for the sake of a young, very pretty, and very frightened girl. You aren’t any of the above.”

Doyle frowned. “Hey. I’m no girl, but I didn’t die of old age, I ain’t homely, and at the moment I’m bleedin’ terrified.”

“One out of four is still a failing mark,” the other man pointed out. “Now, on with the details?”

“. . . OK. Well, to start with, you’re what’s called a ‘revenant’ - “

”Got it,” Shinji said instantly.

Doyle arched an eyebrow. “‘Got it?’”

“Own - owned the RPG. Revenant: body-jumping undead that can only be destroyed by being burned alive, kinda like the thing Angel fought at the Oblique club when he met Kate. Got it.”

“. . . OK,” Doyle repeated.

“So, why stick me in a body that has me wanting to shatter every mirror I pass and slash my wrists with the pieces?”

“First thing we could lay our hands on,” the half-demon admitted. “We had t’ pick a body the opposition wouldn’t be watching, but with some importance to the original timeline. That Shirou character would’ve been ideal, but they snatched him up quick - too much power to be left lyin’ around. You’ll just have to live with the face.”

Now it was Shinji’s turn to arch an eyebrow, and Doyle added sheepishly, “Or, y’know, not - seein’ as yer undead and all.”

“So, is that why you guys picked me? Because I wasn’t likely to be noticed . . . Or since it’s my fault in the first place?”

“Now, nobody’s sayin’ that - ” Doyle protested.

“But it’s kind of odd how anything could slip through your reality into this one, unless they managed to somehow sneak through the door I used to breeze in?” He snorted. “You must’ve picked up a thread of my home universe - it’s always my fault there, too.”

“Y’know, this much complainin’ is usually done over beer.”

“I prefer whiskey,” Shinji shot back, “but I get your point. You mentioned the opposition. Would that be everyone’s favourite multidimensional lawyers?”

“Yeah. They’re not the cause of the problem, but as usual, they’re just dyin’ to exploit it. Handle things fast, though, and they’ll be out of here, too.”

“All right, so who or what am I up against, exactly?”

Doyle told him.

Shinji considered that for a long moment, and then asked what was, under the circumstances, a reasonable and fully understandable question.


Misaki, Japan

Takara glanced up in sudden confusion, trying to locate . . . Nothing. The yard and surrounding block, as far as she could see, was empty of people, or traffic, or anything but the wind and her overactive imagination, apparently. But still, she’d swear that she’d heard someone yelling . . .

Mentally shrugging, the young Slayer continued carrying the two boxes of things into the mansion. Said boxes weighed around fifty pounds apiece, but no one looking at the girl without knowing who and what she was would have guessed that. While she was basically average for a Slayer in terms of strength, that was still pretty strong. She could’ve carried another box without much effort, but her hands could only hold so much.

Hisui was waiting in the foyer, hands folded demurely over the growing prominence of her stomach. At the moment, her maid’s uniform helped conceal her pregnancy, but Takara knew what she was looking at, and she guessed it wouldn’t be too much longer before anyone else did either.

“Kitchen stuff,” Takara told the older female.

The maid nodded, and gestured with her head, causing her close-cropped red-black tresses to bob with the movement. “Through the foyer, down the hall to the left, and turn at the first right.”

Of course, she mused as she walked towards the kitchen, if the proverbial anyone did look at Hisui, they might not even notice her stomach - the facial ridges that run under her eyes are awfully distinctive.

By now, Takara was used to them, but they marked Hisui for what she was - a demon refugee from the dimension of Oden Tal, from which her people took their name. She’d escaped the in-all-but-name lobotomy her people forced upon their women by escaping to Earth as a child, along with her sister Kohaku, where they were adopted by the Tohno family . . . Although considering what came of it, the lobotomy might have been kinder. Unaltered females of Oden Tal had the capacity to induce lust, and produce lethal amounts of heat - which the Tohnos had taken advantage of to sustain their own demonic natures.

Kohaku had been driven mad by the decades of abuse, and unleashed a plot that had nearly killed them all, but Hisui seemed sane enough. In fact, almost too sane, too submissive. If Takara hadn’t seen the ridged organ running along her spine - her ko, the source of Hisui’s powers and emotions - she might have suspected that Hisui had been lobotomised like the majority of her gender. But it was undeniably intact. Her subdued mannerisms just seemed to be part of her personality.

Takara set the boxes down on the kitchen table and considered. She knew her father had some trace of the Tohnos’ demonic essence in him thanks to his sister’s actions, which was what required and allowed Hisui to sustain his life. She’d been lucky enough to be spared its influence, but would the demon essence carry on to the new children? If so, would Hisui’s offspring be self-sustaining, having the ability to produce the heat they needed to survive? And what about her full-blooded sibling, who was going to be born through their mother?

Takara shook her head. She wasn’t a geneticist, or a metaphysics expert either. Demon blood traits weren’t something she could predict with any certainty. For that, she supposed she really needed a Watcher. As yet, none of them had come to try and make her work for the Council - but she knew it was only a matter of time.

And what then? she asked herself. Her mother had faked her own death to escape the Council’s reach, and spent Takara’s entire life in hiding. But with Takara’s own awakening as a Slayer, it wouldn’t be long before someone from the Watchers tracked her down to try and “guide” her. From there, it was inevitable that they’d find her mother. And then . . .

What would the Council do, she asked herself, if they found a Slayer who’d given birth to another Slayer - and who might be able to do it again?

And more importantly, what will I do in response?

She didn’t know, and she was more than a little afraid of finding out. But she knew that the more time passed, the less chance she had to avoid the discovery.

En route to Japan

Rin frowned as she closed the second-last volume of the Watcher diaries that Shirou had packed for her. A glance at her watch told her that she’d been arriving at the Tokyo International Airport within fifteen minutes - and from there, it was about an hour’s drive to the base of operations the Council had set up for her in Misaki.

She leaned back and closed her eyes as she waited for the plane to land, mentally reviewing all she’d learned while in the air.

First, that the Council had been around for at least several centuries, in one form or another, possibly even millennia. Second, that their approach to Slayers was not all that far off of the Association’s “obey us because we know best, or die” policy. They seemed to regard Slayers as valuable, though ultimately disposable commodities and never seemed to be able to bring themselves to provide anything like actual field support. despite having the resources to equip and field wetwork operatives to dispatch rogue Slayers.

The definition of what constituted a rogue Slayer, of course, was entirely at the Council’s discretion. Some of them actually were dangerous, others merely inclined to independence. Like the Slayer who’d preceded Caren Ortensia - from all accounts, Elesia Kitaoji was a traumatised girl who’d developed depressive and suicidal tendencies following the vampire attack that had killed her entire hometown. The notes of her Watcher indicated that had she not died shortly afterwards, he’d been considering having the Council try her for dereliction of duty - which would’ve likely meant her execution, had she been found guilty.

The diary of Ortensia-san’s Watcher was even more enlightening. While Rin had never met Bazett McFraga Remitz personally, her perspective on what, to Rin, had been the Fifth Holy Grail War allowed the younger magus to fill in some gaps about her own personal history - while leaving others frustratingly empty.

Zouken Matou, a priest of the entity known to lore as “the First,” and attempted to open the Hellmouth buried beneath Fuyuki. Rin’s ancestors, along with the Makiri and Einzbern familes had long ago managed to seal it closed, using the ley line points where (to Rin) the Grail would normally materialise. The seal was tied to specific people within the three bloodlines, positions passed down with each generation - so long as they lived, the Hellmouth remained closed.

Ilya had been the Einzbern seal, and Shinji the Matou one - or so it had been assumed. Zouken had killed Rin’s parents, and it was believed Sakura as well; but in fact he’d kidnapped her and mystically bound her to the Matou clan as its seal. His hope was to use her blood as a Tohsaka as a means of ending their portion of the binding as well as the Matous’ own, as Rin had been removed from the country by Kirei Kotomine of the Watchers’ Council after the death of her family.

When Sakura turned sixteen, she was old enough to come into her position and power as the Hellmouth’s seal. According to Bazett’s diary, she and the Slayer had come to Fuyuki due to portents of impending danger, to the ancient Greek sorceress Medea plaguing the city with hordes of monsters. It was only after Kirei learned of their whereabouts that it was understood what was happening. He and his apprentice, Rin, had arrived in Fuyuki to help.

It had been a close call. Medea was a demigod by nature, descended from the Titan Helios, in addition to being a powerful witch. She had nearly held off all of them long enough for Zouken to complete the ritual and kill Sakura, along with the also-kidnapped Ilya. As it was, without the help of Ilya’s half-brother Shirou and another demon hunter (whom Bazett did not name, but whose red coat allowed Rin to instantly identify him), he would’ve succeeded. And now Shirou held the Einzbern seal, Rin the Tohsaka, and the Matou seal within Sakura. Sakura remained in Fuyuki, Rin had gone back to England and the Council, and Shirou had been headed for America, according to Bazett’s report (which puzzled Rin, because she couldn’t explain how or why he was in England with her, then).

There was no mention of a Sixth Grail War in the diary. It tapered off in 2008, when Ortensia-san had presumably died. Rin hoped the last of the diaries held something relevant to that period, though - it would give an idea of how badly skewed the Aozaki family was in this timeline. Judging by the mess made of the Grail Wars in general, she’d guess “very,” but she couldn’t afford to guess. She had to know.

The plane began to descend, and Rin realised she wouldn’t have time to scan the last diary before she had to disembark, so she tucked both books into her carry-on, and prepared to exit the plane.

All the same, she wondered about two glaring omissions in the diary’s recounting. According to this world’s history, it seemed that Servants didn’t exist as such, though but the mention of beings like Medea, along with monsters like Medusa and the man who matched Archer’s description made her think that perhaps the people she knew were still around, though obviously altered. That said, the absence of two major players - in some ways, the two major players - in two separate Grail Wars seemed strange.

Where, she asked herself, quickly adding, and in what form, are Gilgamesh and Saber?

Tokyo, Japan
The offices of Wolfram & Hart, Attorneys-at-Law

He emerged from the shower room dressed for battle, though his white hair and bronze skin still glistened with the odd bead of water. The black vest he wore helped add definition to his chest muscles, even as it covered them with overlapping armour plates. The red leather duster hung loosely enough to conceal the brawn of his arms and back, without interfering with his movements, and only a close examination would revel the glyph patterns etched in its lining by ink of a matching colour, forming a barrier against hostile spells that was all but invisible to the naked eye. Black combat boots rose halfway up his thigh, making reassuringly solid thumps as he swept into the room like a storm.

“Well, well,” Lilah purred. “You do clean up nicely.”

“Save your breath - your charms are wasted on me,” he snapped.

She smiled archly. “So’s my breath, actually, seeing as I’m dead. It doesn’t mean I can’t appreciate a good view - in fact, that’s pretty much all I can do, so a girl’s got to get her fun in where she can. All work and no play, after all . . .”

Eyes the colour of polished steel narrowed. “Change the subject - now.”

She sighed. “Just my luck - you’re gay. I suppose the leather pants should’ve been a tipoff -”

Without warning, a silver blade sprang from his jacket sleeve into his hand and swept up in a decapitating stroke - that passed through the woman’s body without resistance.

The wicked smile returned to her face. “Quick with your hands, too - but not too bright, apparently. I said all I could do was look, didn’t I?” She shook her head slightly. “We’re stuck with each other for the moment, handsome - you may as well get used to it. Still, I suppose we should to get down to business.” Her tone went from teasing to professional as though someone had flipped a switch.

“The folder on the conference table contains a more detailed report, but here’s what you need to know,” Lilah said briskly. “Your target is currently believed to be operating in the area of Japan designated as ‘Fuyuki.’ The transfer between dimensions likely disoriented it, so it may be weak and unfocussed for a while - but that will change, so you need to find it quickly. It’s considered of the utmost priority to the firm that you eliminate it - anything you think you need, we’ll provide. But complete your mission, even if you have to sink the entire island to do it.”

“This target have a name?”

An expression of unease marred Lilah’s porcelain features for an instant, and her voice was soft with fear as she answered.

“Its name is . . . Illyria.”

March 19th, 2011, 10:38 AM
DISCLAIMER: Lunar Legend Tsukihime, Fate/Stay Night, and all related characters and concepts are the creation and property of Kinoko Nasu and Type-Moon, along with anyone who's happened to license them, like Geneon or Funimation. Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Angel, Illyria and all related characters and concepts are the property of Joss Whedon, 20th Century Fox, and licensees like IDW Publishing and/or Dark Horse Comics.

This is a not-for-profit, just-for-fun project.

Chapter 4

Fuyuki, Japan

“Illyria,” Shinji snapped, before Doyle could reply to the question. “One of the Old Ones, God-King of the Primordium Age. A being which, even when constrained to the relatively powerless shell of Winifred Burkle, could not only beat Angel and Spike simultaneously, but had the titular heads of Wolfram and Hart shaking in their proverbial boots. You expect me to beat Illyria - in the body of Shinji Matou.”

He glared at the spectre. “I could be the freaking Crimson Moon, and I wouldn’t give better odds than fifty-fifty - and that’s if Illyria happened to be drunk out of her mind - which your bloody bosses sure as hell seem to be!”

“No, just out of options,” Doyle said quietly. “No Champion we could call in this world would be able t’ fix the problem - because they’d never see it. Illyria’s influence is too strong, and they’d sabotage themselves unconsciously at every turn. Importin’ anyone from my world would just make the problem worse . . . But you aren’t. You’re the only one who knows the difference between what is, and what was. It’s gotta be you, man.”

“Then we’re screwed.”

“Well, y’ are a revenant - “

”Doesn’t matter. Even if we fought in a graveyard, which might give me hundreds of spare bodies to jump to, I’m not combat trained. I earned a white belt in karate almost fifteen years ago. I remember how to stand, block, throw a punch - but it’s a white belt. Give me a couple of centuries to brush up on martial arts, and maybe - “

”No good,” Doyle told him. “Y’ got days, maybe. The longer this infection sits, the deeper down it digs.”

“As I said - screwed.”

Doyle nodded towards the ground. “There’s those.”

Shinji glanced down to see a pair of crossed .45 pistols, one matte-black, and one stainless steel. The grips bore the stamps of drama masks - tragedy and comedy.

“Thalia and Melpomene,” Shinji murmured, picking them up and hefting their weight.

“Figured you could use some firepower,” Doyle said with a smirk.

Shinji closed his eyes and sighed. “Illyria’s skin is hard enough to shatter an axe on contact - I’m not sure what bullets might do. They do tend to be largely ineffective in your universe. But even so . . . I can’t use these.”

“What d’you mean?” Doyle frowned.

“I mean, I know even less about guns than I do about martial arts. All the stuff I did with them last time was based in my Reality Marble, which I don’t have any more. I’m more likely to shoot myself in the foot, now.”

“Hm - that is a problem,” the half-demon ghost admitted. “Well, I guess we’ll have to - look out!” he cried suddenly, pointing to a spot over Shinji’s shoulder. The undead teen whirled and kneeled in the same motion, guns raised and safeties off, poised to fire at -

. . . Nothing.

The edge of his duster swept around the ground as his mind caught up with the rest of him, and he could hear the smirk in the half-demon’s voice as the ghost went on, “Then again, maybe you’ve got nothing ta worry about.”

“What did you do?” Shinji asked softly.


The revenant rose, and turned, guns not - quite - pointed at the ghost. He answered as though biting off every single word.

“I’m a gamer. This -“ he gestured to the world at large “is a role-playing game, at least partly. I succeed at RPGs because I know at all times what I’m capable of, and precisely what my limits are.” His eyes narrowed. “I know, more or less, what Shinji Matou is capable of. I know exactly how much being a revenant would boost those capabilities. Shinji Matou is not that fast, and as far as I know, doesn’t know how to use a gun. What. Did. You. Do?”

“The Powers aren’t the only ones with an interest in seein’ things get fixed,” Doyle replied. “We got a little help from somebody who belongs here.”

Gaia or Alaya, Shinji thought. Aloud, he said, “Who?” Functionally, there was little difference between an Epic Spirit and a Counter Guardian - but each had limitations he needed to be aware of.

“Seek yer answers within, they said,” Doyle replied.

“Ah ha - now we get to the cryptic crap.” He hated the cryptic crap. Nevertheless, he decided to take a chance on its being literal and closed his eyes, seeking some psychic answer . . .

He found himself - as himself - in a similar landscape to the one his body stood in, standing on gray concrete at the heart of a maze of alleys. Faint stars shimmered in the sky, but weren’t bright enough to diminish the blackness. A blue-white crescent moon illuminated the piles of scattered autumn leaves on the ground, and the shimmer of frost that coated everything, casting odd shadows in the cold, clear, but undeniably dark night.

He’d been here before, fighting Count Dracula as an ersatz Berserker, what seemed like a lifetime ago. It was a place that brought to mind city streets as he’d seen walking in Toronto at night - or his own neighbourhood, on a cool, clear autumn night. An urban world of starlight and shadows, mystery and magic - revitalising and slightly terrifying. It was what he’d thought of every time someone used the phrase, “The Moonlit World.”

“But why here?” he asked himself. His usual mindscape was a sunlit forest.

“Because,” answered a surprising, yet familiar voice. He turned, and at the mouth of the alley, not quite touching the ground and illuminated from within like the moon itself, stood a pale girl of whom he had heard, but never seen. She was garbed, not in the purple clothes he’d seen in pictures, but a gown, as pale and lovely as herself. The Dress of Heaven, he surmised.

She looked at him, a child who had always been more than a child, and was somehow more and less than that now. Her crimson eyes were deep, and saw deeply, and on her face was a smile that seemed warm, sad, and ironic all at once.

Ilyasviel von Einzbern paraphrased an old line. “It’s time I took responsibility for creating you.”

He cocked his head to one side. “How so - and why?”

“I want to help. Takara Aozaki wanted you, and you chose to respond, but I’m the one who made the offer. I brought you into this world - I’m kind of responsible for what’s happened.”

“Fair enough,” he allowed. But you’re kind of limited at the moment, aren’t you? What did you have in mind?”

“Well . . . I could use your help, too,” she admitted.


“I need to renegotiate our deal,” Ilyasviel said. “I need you to do something, in exchange for my helping you now.”

He raised both eyebrows. “You are aware that I’m kind of useless, right? What do you think I could do?”

“Save me,” she said.

“The Powers kind of want me to save this reality - doesn’t that include you?”

“No - afterwards.”

He blinked, and reconsidered what he knew about her.

“Um, correct me if I’m wrong, but the Grail isn’t tainted anymore. That was part of why you died, wasn’t it? And the Grail War fulfilled its purpose - the Third Magic was obtained -“

”Why should that stop the Grail Wars?” Ilyasviel countered. “To fight for the Grail is to quest for a wish, not just the Third Magic. The system is in place, and has no reason to shut itself down unless those originally responsible stop the ritual.”

“The Matous are dead, the Tohsaka heir is likely out of the country - and the Einzberns still want the Third Magic, I’m guessing, so I doubt that’ll happen.”

“Exactly. And of the six Grail Wars that have taken place, fully half of them have been tainted by human interference.” Ilyasviel looked horrifyingly angry, for a child. “That’s not the purpose of the Grail or the Quest, and I don’t want it to happen again.”

“And you expect me to fix that, how?”

“Become a Heroic Spirit.” Ilyasviel smiled at his expression. “Neither Gaia nor Alaya will accept you, for their own reasons - but I am neither. I know you, and believe I can trust you. Be my wild card in the Grail Wars, my agent - to act against those who would interfere with its workings, and if necessary, judge those who seek it. Become neither Epic Spirit nor Counter Guardian - not a spirit of the Throne, but of the Grail.”

It was really tempting, but . . .

“I kind of have this thing against immortality. . . ”

“You don’t outlive your lifetime. I can use a copy, like I do for all the other Spirits, afterward. But I’d really like you to do this for me.”

Given that his lifetime was more accurately described as his afterlife, that wasn’t really a hardship . . .

She pouted cutely, eyes wide and almost glistening. “Please?”

Crap. The only power deadlier than the Mystic Eyes of Death Perception - the Mystic Eyes of the Sad Puppy. It figured that Ilya, of all people, would know it.

But more than that - while he’d always preferred Robin Hood over King Arthur, a part of him had always wanted to play the knight errant, questing for the honour of his lady fair. And he’d recognised long ago that to break out of the apathy that pervaded his life, he needed something - a cause, a code, something to belong to and believe in. Given that, he believed he could do great things, or at least decent ones. The episode as Takara’s Servant proved that had merit.

He smiled, gave Ilyasviel a sweeping bow, and said with an exaggerated accent, “An it please my liege lady, I shall serve thee to the best of mine abilities. Prithee, what title shouldst I bear, that they may know me as thine own?”

Anything has to be better than Shinji, he thought.

Ilyasviel smiled, and a chill shuddered down his spine as he saw mischief dancing in her eyes.

“An utterly appropriate title,” she assured him. “From now on, your class title is - “

”JESTER?!” he sputtered, coming back to consciousness. “Hey Doyle, can you believe what she decided I - “

The revenant glanced around, to find himself utterly alone.

“Damn it - I hate it when they do that!”

Misaki, Japan

Arcueid Brunestud waited and watched from the shadows. She was good at doing that, having had literally decades of practice over the last eight centuries. Sometimes, she had watched in anticipation of killing the people she saw - and sometimes, during the bad times, that had excited her. Now, she watched just to watch. She saw the people of the world around her, going on with their lives . . . While her existence just went on.

There was a prophecy, apparently, that she might become human if she existed long enough. If she survived enough crises, won enough battles, endured enough torments, she might be granted her life back to live over. Arcueid wasn’t sure she believed it. She wasn’t sure she wanted to - because it had happened yet, and if it was really going to be a reward, it would’ve happened years ago, when she first met him.

Shiki Aozaki - though his last name hadn’t been Aozaki then, or even the name they’d thought it was, either. Sole survivor of a clan of Japanese mystics who functioned as demon hunters, raised by his family’s mortal enemies to be their enforcer, his natural instincts and abilities suppressed by a combination of drugs and mystic sealing. But for all that, a normal Japanese schoolboy, until he was drawn into the machinations of Roa, an ancient vampire who’d discovered a limited form of immortality. The sole survivor of her own vampiric bloodline, created in those long-ago days before she was ensouled.

Arcueid had spent centuries hunting Roa, battling him across time and space, until Misaki, when she’d met Shiki . . . and her. Elesia Kitaoji. The Slayer - at least, she’d been so eight years before, when Arcueid had presumed her killed by Roa. Somehow, though, the little Frenchwoman had survived, and latched onto Shiki Tohno as a lifeline.

Elesia - or more accurately these days, Ciel - had eventually won Shiki’s heart. In her rational mind, Arcueid understood that it was probably the best possible outcome. As a vampire, she couldn’t have given Shiki what Ciel had - a beautiful daughter, and perhaps, in a few months, a son. Moreover, given the terms of her curse, it was entirely likely that a relationship with Shiki that went to any real depth would have eventually cost Arcueid her soul. Not that she didn’t think he was worth the price - but it wasn’t one that she would be paying. That cost would go to everyone around her, Shiki first and foremost. And that was a thought she couldn’t bear.

In all honesty, she shouldn’t even be here - but she felt compelled to watch Shiki and his family, especially since the girl - Takara, she reminded herself - was a newly-empowered Slayer herself. The lifespan of a Chosen was, more often than not, brief (Ciel’s resurrection notwithstanding), and bound by a “normal” life as they were, neither Shiki nor Ciel could spare the time and attention Takara’s training really needed.

Much as she envied Ciel her children - her life - Arcueid didn’t want to be the one to tell her that her daughter was dead, much less Shiki. So, for the time being at least, she was playing mentor to the rookie Slayer - though for how long, nobody, even Arcueid herself, could say. So far, it seemed to be working - she was no Watcher, but she’d been around a long time, she was just as knowledgeable as one in the necessary subjects. Maybe even more so. And while the girl was a reluctant Slayer, so far she’d been an apt pupil. To that end, Arcueid had found herself pushing the girl a little harder with every lesson. She didn’t want to live with the knowledge that Takara Aozaki was dead, either, when there could’ve been a way to save her.

If anything, Arcueid wanted to be her mother - to be Shiki’s wife. And perhaps it was only to keep the curse functioning - to ensure that she still felt love, and pain - that she stayed around. But she was becoming quite fond of this family.

And woe to the person, entity or force that tried to do them harm.

Illyria had found them easily enough - vampires were stealthy predators only when matched against the pitifully ignorant senses of humans, though barely above that level themselves. In her opinion, only the lowest of demons would willingly possess human flesh, which might have seemed an ironic statement until one considered that Illyria had never been given a choice as to her preferences in terms of a “shell” - she’d simply had to take whatever was nearest at hand. Not a situation befitting a former God-King of the Primordium Age, but she likewise saw no purpose in complaining about it. The circumstances were what they were, until she amassed enough power to alter them.

And she would. It was only a matter of time.

Already, she was well-pleased with this new shell. It possessed a level of strength and endurance far surpassing the worthless bag of sticks she’d been bound to. It adapted far more easily to her power - which was partially diminished thanks to that accursed generator, but still formidable enough to tear apart five of the rebellious creatures in seconds.

She was cautious, however, reminding herself that even the strongest of them seemed less skilled than her betrayers - her half-breed pet and the self-proclaimed ruler of the domain into which she’d been awakened, Angel. And Wesley, oh yes - that one would suffer especially once she’d regained all of her former glory. She would hunt him across all the worlds in existence, if she had to, but he would finally suffer her wrath.

In the meantime, she now had a supply of disposable minions and information sources in this world, among the surviving vampires. And first and foremost among her interests was the existence of two possible rivals to her rule over this world.

The first was a being known as a Slayer, endowed with power specifically to hunt down and destroy vampires - though its strengths could be turned against any demon, at need. While Illyria had never encountered one of these beings before, they sounded like a reasonable benchmark by which to measure her progress in regaining her lost strength. The second, however, was of far more interest to her - a local branch of the corporation that answered to the Wolf, the Ram, and the Hart. A branch which might well have access to another Mutari generator with which to hurl her across dimensions, weakening her further in the process. And a branch which might even have access to the world in which existed her betrayers.

And if nothing else, it might have items, or more minions, by which to further increase her power.

Illyria stretched her lips into what only a blind person could call a smile.

“Come,” she ordered her minions. “I believe I need to consult an attorney.”

The public high school in Misaki was not, on the whole, a bad institution. True, neither its academic nor its athletic reputation could match schools with the prestige and history of a place like Tokyo University, or even a corporate-sponsored school like Gekkoukan High - but it was far from the worst place to transfer to.

That said, the registration of a transfer student was enough to raise a few eyebrows, since it was so close to the end of the trimester - normally, students would come in the following month, and not try to deal with the exams at this time of the academic year. Still, the transfer was legitimate - one Takara Aozaki was to begin school the following Monday, a merely day and a half away. Her scholastic achievements were not especially remarkable, though far from poor. Her athletic records, on the other hand, had a number of awards attached to them - a fact which would no doubt cheer the faculty advisor attached to that department.

Of greater interest to the registrar, however, were the names of Aozaki-san’s primary caregivers, stated boldly in her file.

“Shiki and Ciel, eh?” the woman murmured. “It’s been quite a while . . . This could be a lot of fun.”

And no doubt, her husband would be interested, as well. She picked up the phone, and began to dial.

Misaki and Fuyuki were not, relatively speaking, close. Oh, they were near enough to be aware of each other - in the same way one might speak of Brooklyn and Manhattan. But getting from one to the other, or vice versa, was not as simple as crossing over a bridge, or taking a bus on a direct line. Fortunately, Rin had money enough to hire a car, after she left the airport. Having someone else drive her gave her more time to think about how she was going to approach her current situation.

In her original world, the distance between Fuyuki and Misaki had run in supernatural circles, as well - the magi and the demon hybrids had occasional contact, according to what Kirei (and later, her father’s journal) had told her, but generally they kept themselves to themselves, and didn’t interact. It was safer that way for all concerned.

Her recent adventures with the Aozaki family sort of proved the point - without the Tohno clan’s attack, it would never have gotten so desperate at the end, and there was every possibility that her sister would still be alive. Although, given Sakura’s mental and emotional state at the time, perhaps not . . . And perhaps it wouldn’t have been a good thing even if she had.

Nonetheless, everything she knew from her own world indicated that Misaki was not a territory Rin would - or should - feel comfortable in, and was in fact a place of considerable danger for her. She expected that the current version would be much the same.

Unfortunately, she had no way to determine the degree of danger. The Council had identified Takara-san as a Slayer, but there was little in the way of background available, save that she had recently moved into the Misaki area. None of the Watcher Diaries Rin had access to covered this area of Japan - Ortensia-san had been the only Slayer active in this country, and she had concentrated on the Hellmouth in Fuyuki unless something specific had drawn her attention. Kitaoji-san, while of Japanese descent, had been active in France - and the Slayer between them had been born - and very active - in South America.

Everything she had access to argued the existence of Japanese Watchers, so it might be possible to find a local contact with more information on the status of things in Misaki. She certainly hoped so - going in blind was not something she wanted to do, and in the current state of things, she couldn’t trust her magic to do her information gathering for her.

Rin bit her lower lip, considering the difficulty of the task she’d been given. She alone remembered the world as it was, and convincing anyone of that fact would be nearly impossible. Worse, she was going to try and convince a teenaged girl with the strength, speed and inherent fighting ability of a Slayer - without her own magic to Reinforce herself. This could prove painful at best, or downright fatal.

. . . Or, it could, at least, without Zelretch’s help. In addition to helping maintain the shield that protected her memories and identity, he’d given her a tool to awaken the identities of others. It would only function while the recipient held it - she’d have to erect and maintain a shield in order to sustain the effect - but it gave her hope. If she could just get to Aozaki Shiki with it - somebody with the Mystic Eyes of Death Perception on her side would give her a lot of confidence against whatever was behind this warping of reality.

Contemplating the artefact, Rin could admit to herself that she was impressed. She’d been studying Zelretch’s techniques for almost fifteen years, and she’d never even thought of creating something like this before. It reminded her, once again, that she still had a long way to go before she’d become a worthy inheritor of the Second Magic.

Still, she thought she was ahead of the game in some facets. Had she made this thing, she’d have given it a far more impressive name - or at least one less silly.

Honestly, “Kaleidostick?” It sounded like something out of a bad magical girl anime!

March 19th, 2011, 10:39 AM
DISCLAIMER: Lunar Legend Tsukihime, Fate/Stay Night, and all related characters and concepts are the creation and property of Kinoko Nasu and Type-Moon, along with anyone who's happened to license them, like Geneon or Funimation. Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Angel, Illyria and all related characters and concepts are the property of Joss Whedon, 20th Century Fox, and licensees like IDW Publishing and/or Dark Horse Comics.

This is a not-for-profit, just-for-fun project.

Chapter 5

Jester hated buses. He had several reasons, most of them filed under “experiences,” and all of them involving transfers. Most recently, a missed transfer and unfamiliarity with the neighbourhood that had caused him to walk for over three hours (most of it in blazing sunlight without benefit of hat or sunscreen) until he’d reached the destination he’d intended to travel to - which he’d found more by luck than anything else. The sunburn had taken over a week to heal, and his skin had been peeling in strips for days. He’d sworn that he was never going near that convention again, ever.

Therefore (upon his returning to the library and poring over the maps), finding out that the only viable way to get from Fuyuki to Misaki was via bus did not make him happy. Unfortunately, he now recognised the high school in his vision, and knew that was where he needed to be. It didn’t leave him with a lot of choices.

At least there was enough cash in the duster he’d “acquired” for the fare. He hadn’t really liked the idea of threatening the driver with his guns . . . Or of walking the necessary miles. He might be undead, but presumably even his stamina had limits.

Sitting in the rear of the bus, Jester closed his eyes and resorted through the vision’s imagery. What, he asked himself, would’ve caused the Aozakis to move back to Misaki? Granted, he could understand leaving Fuyuki - between the mess with the Tohno clan and the Grail War bringing them to the Association’s attention, moving was almost a requirement . . . But why go back to Tohno home territory?

The most logical answer was that in this changed reality, the timeline had been far different. The Whedonverse equivalent of a Grail War wouldn’t bear much resemblance to the real thing, and neither did vampires or demons. Their entire history, and natures, were almost certainly altered.

In fact, he realised, there’s a very good chance that they won’t know me at all, isn’t there?

It was entirely possible. He’d “died” at the moment of the Grail’s descent - and the Aozakis had literally moved on in the seconds between that time and the current setting. Seconds to his perspective, anyway. There was no way of knowing how much time, in-universe, had actually passed. But the variance suggested that this timeline was far different in more than just its underlying principles. For all he knew of both source materials, he was essentially clueless as to the fusion they’d produced.

He hated walking in blind. It had been hard enough to adapt to Takara’s existence, when he was used to thinking of Shiki Tohno as a high school student. Not that the brunette hadn’t proved worth it . . .

Wait. The vision had her hair as blue, not brown. Ciel’s colour. Her own Nanaya mode’s colour.

Why the change? Jester asked himself. The devil was in the details, as they said - and little things could often be critically important, or exploited to become so.

What does this universe give her that’s altered her hair colour? Something more Nanaya-like in her natural state? Buffy and Angel aren’t exactly unused to super-mode transformations, though. There’s no reason to have her hair that colour naturally unless there’s something here that isn’t in her universe of origin . . .

. . .Or, he corrected himself suddenly, something that isn’t. And that can only be Arcueid’s blood. Vampires aren’t the same here, so Arc’s blood wouldn’t have the same effect on Shiki’s - or Takara’s - system, assuming that she’s even a vampire here, and not some kind of demon. Is that why there’s such an extreme difference between the normal Takara and the Nanaya one? Something in the traces of Arcueid she inherited from Shiki that naturally divides the two? And if that’s the case, what other effects might it have?

It was an interesting puzzle, and something he’d have enjoyed musing on under less dire circumstances. At the moment, though, it didn’t seem very useful to consider - and blue hair brought to mind another problem.

Illyria . . . Tough enough to shatter axes swung against her skull, strong and fast enough to take on Angel and Spike simultaneously, empathic, capable of slowing time and opening dimensional portals . . . Yeah, I’m screwed.

This was going to be about as nasty as it could get. In the Servant battles, he’d managed to skate by on luck and the fact that he could potentially fake out anybody who didn’t know who and what they were really up against. He’d won - or at least survived - battles through creativity, force of personality, and strength of will.

That wasn’t going to work here. While Lady Ilya and the Powers had given him an internal “character sheet” to understand his new abilities and limits, it wasn’t much to hope for. In terms of power, sure, he was around the level of an average Slayer - Buffy with a season or two under her belt. His skills, however, were virtually nonexistent. He could probably match Gunn, or Riley, or any other athletic, highly-trained human - and Illyria wasn’t. Assuming she didn’t just bother to time-stop him and walk away, one good punch would probably splatter him across half of Misaki.

. . . Granted, that wouldn’t exactly kill him, but it wasn’t the outcome everybody really wanted. He needed an equaliser - preferably nuclear, but he’d settle for an army of Slayers. As neither was likely to be available, however, he’d have to resort to other options.

Part of his translation to this world had given him a vast knowledge of the occult, which including the option of spellcasting. While he lacked the energy reserves and talent of a true sorcerer, he could probably give Wesley or Giles a run for their money. And no one had actually ever tried using magic against Illyria. Maybe he’d get lucky, and she’d be vulnerable.

. . . Yeah, right. And maybe I’ll finally find a woman who’s interested in me. It’‘s possible, but death by falling meteor has better odds.

Nonetheless, as the bus travelled on he racked his brain for castings and rituals that might help him, because he had lots of time, and ultimately, little choice.

Tokyo, Japan
The offices of Wolfram & Hart, Attorneys-at-Law

He hated to admit it, but Lilah had been right: he would enjoy this job. Everything in the folder indicated that Illyria was Bad News for anyone and anything in its path - which, while including the law firm he was currently bound to, also included basically everything else. He’d learned his lesson regarding former gods. They tended to both still regard themselves as such, act accordingly, and generally had more than enough power to do so.

Granted, his current status as a Child of the Senior Partners probably put him in Illyria’s weight class, so to speak, but he hadn’t survived this long by being stupid.

On considering that thought, he revised it: years of stupid decisions and brutal consequences had finally taught him to play it smart.

The report Wolfram and Hart had compiled suggested that Illyria would be weakened and vulnerable from the shift to this dimension, having had to sacrifice some measure of its power in order to do so. Its current form was unknown, but there were distinguishing marks it bore in almost any form it might take. It was unlikely to wield weapons, preferring close combat. So he was best off fighting at range, if possible.

Another interesting notation stated that its ability to alter time could be negated by contact with pieces of the sarcophagus which had contained it for time beyond human memory. While said sarcophagus was not available on this plane of existence, he had Lilah work on reaching the Wolfram and Hart branch in the appropriate locale, as there was almost certainly one present. The damned law firm was everywhere - but more importantly at the moment, immunity to that kind of ability was the kind of thing only an idiot wouldn’t take advantage of.

While Lilah relayed the requisition, Shirou decided to loot Wolfram and Hart’s armoury. No sense in not using their toys while they were available. It was a shame he couldn’t get competent, trustworthy backup at the same time - but any of his former allies were liable to try and kill him, too, and with good reason.

Anyone knowing him that didn’t was either an idiot or completely ignorant of his history - and given what he was up against and what he’d done, the chances of running into someone that was either was very, very small.

Misaki, Japan

Rin disembarked from the cab at the Century Hotel, tired and frustrated with her present dilemma. Despite hours to research and consider how to approach the Aozakis, she had yet to come up with any viable scenarios. Some of this was due to jet lag, some to lack of information. She had to face the fact that she simply wasn’t that well-versed in this area of Japan - and neither, it seemed, were the sources the Watchers’ Council relied on.

She had the best lead they could give her: the addresses of two schools in the area. One was a public high school, the other a private academy - and while Rin thought Takara was more likely to be found in the former, she couldn’t rule anything out. Tomorrow, she would —

A sudden burst of noise startled her out of her thoughts, the raucous blast of a horn belonging to a bus. Chagrined, she scuttled out of the way to let the vehicle disembark, berating herself for her inattention all the while. The fate of all reality resting on her shoulders, and she’d damned near been run over by a bus. Of all the stupid . . .

“Rin?” asked a voice in surprise.

The magus looked up, and froze. Before her, just coming off the bus, stood a Japanese boy in a leather duster, with familiar blue-black hair. Surprise warred with recognition for a moment, before she settled on an appropriate response.

“Shinji,” she growled, with all the hatred and venom her tired self could muster.

Oddly, his eyes widened in shock, and then realisation of his imminently painful demise visibly bloomed on his face.

“Oh hell!”

The rooming arrangements had taken some arguing to finalise. Polite, quiet, and well-meaning arguing, but arguing nonetheless. Hisui had been insistent that the elder Aozakis take the master suite, whereas she would continue living in the servants’ building that had been her home for most of her life. Shiki, who had never been fond of the idea of having a servant in the first place, had countered that as this was her house, legally, she had every right to the master bedroom. Ciel had backed him on it.

Hisui had countered with a flowery phrase which said, in essence, “If it’s my house, then it’s my rules.” Ciel had argued that if Hisui absolutely insisted on maintaining her position as a maid in her own home, than it would be far easier on her - particularly in her current condition - to do so while living in the main building. Moreover, what did she intend to do with a newborn - or toddler - while she was cleaning the house? Would she walk it out to its own nursery every time it needed feeding, or changing, or to be put down for a nap? Did it not make more sense that it be housed here, requiring only the negotiation of a staircase or two, rather than entirely outside the building where she would be working?

It was a testament to Ciel’s experience as a mother that the tone she used was both gentle and chiding - and the argument sound enough that flaws were difficult to find. Hisui had some experience looking after children (in the person of the late and unlamented Shin Tohno), but that had always been peripheral to her cleaning duties, being largely left to her sister Kohaku. She had never had a child which would demand a hundred percent of her own attention. Ciel had, and the knowledge of what being a mother (especially a new mother) would entail for her was clearly visible in the Slayer’s eyes.

For his part, Shiki had fought dirty, noting that it would be unfair to deny a child a place in the home that the rest of his or her family resided in.

In the end, a compromise was reached. Shiki and Ciel had the master suite, while Hisui moved into the room that had been Shin’s - and long ago, Akiha’s. The servants’ building would become a guest cottage for Aoko or other visitors, and it was there that Arcueid presently resided. Takara’s room, on the other hand, had never been in doubt.

“It looks the way I left it,” Shiki noted, surprised.

“It is,” Hisui responded. “The only changes in your room are the addition of anything else in the house which reminded Akiha-sama of you - things she could not bear to look upon . . . Or to part with.”

The adults were quiet for a while then. Takara had heard the story of the exodus from Misaki, but she suspected that even after everything the family had been through, her parents had edited it for her consumption. She wondered how bad it had really been.

“In any case,” Hisui continued at last. “I cleaned it yesterday, but did not move anything, as I was unsure of what you might wish to keep, or put into storage. If you will make those decisions now, we can begin arranging the room to Takara-san’s liking.”

Her father turned to her. “See anything you like?”

Takara walked into the room, examining its layout carefully. A single-person futon on a box-spring frame, a four-drawer dresser, a writing desk by the window, and a single, small bookcase - all of it in the same dark-stained wood. A small closet held extra bedding materials and a small collection of shirts.

“This will do,” she assured them. “Maybe a few more bookcases, but I don’t see a need for drastic changes.”

“Are you sure?” Shiki asked. “It’s not exactly a girl’s room, and that bed’s kind of small.”

She glanced at her father and answered dryly, “I should want it painted bubblegum pink and get sparkly unicorn posters for the doors?” He winced, and she laughed. “I’m not seven any more, Father - or Momoko-chan, for that matter. This will be fine. And as to the bed . . .”

She threw herself onto the futon, splaying her limbs out to its four corners.

“There’s enough room for me to stretch out, so this is fine,” she confirmed. An impish grin tugged at the corner of her mouth as she impulsively added, “Unless, of course, I plan to have company . . .”

Shiki blanched at the statement.

“Father,” she sighed, “I’m joking. I didn’t leave a boyfriend behind, and I’m starting a new school tomorrow. Do you really think I’ll find someone I’m willing to have sex with in twenty-four hours?”

“It’s been known to happen,” her mother pointed out dryly, shooting her father a glance.

“In your case, you used hypnosis to make me think I’d known you longer,” Shiki retorted. “And in Hisui’s case, you insisted.”

“Point taken,” Ciel admitted, before turning back to her daughter. “Just - be careful when you say, and think things like that. In life, especially when you’re a Slayer, the impossible is often just around the corner, and you never really know what you’ll run into next.”

I never expected to run into her, here of all places, Jester thought, as he leaped away from an expertly-launched side kick, taking advantage of the shift in Rin’s perspective and her moment off-balance by stepping forward to try and restrain her arms. Unfortunately, the Tohsaka magus turned her recovery move into a full backflip, moving out of his range much as he’d done to her.

The fight (inasmuch as a battle where one person was almost completely defensive against someone determined to beat the living hell out of them) was pretty much a stalemate. Rin was a skilled martial artist, but not a dedicated one - she didn’t practise extensively on a daily basis. And while she was fast, she was, ultimately, only human.

Jester, on the other hand, wasn’t. What he lacked in skill and experience, he more than made up for in reflexes and agility, and thus far had managed to avoid all her attacks - by a hair, at points, but he had. Rin had blocked all of his rudimentary strikes, though she’d likely be nursing bruises later - he had the strength to go with his speed, even though he was trying to pull his punches (though with no real idea of how to do it).

Time was on no one’s side, here. Thus far, no one had noticed their battle, but the longer it dragged, the more likely someone would involve themselves or the authorities - and whatever Rin’s official status in this whacked-out world, Jester couldn’t afford to be arrested.

Explaining why I have a dead man’s identity would be hard enough. Add in “no pulse,” and the explanation gets a lot harder.

Rin was, possibly, one of the few who could understand why he was here, and help him. In the original world, she was a Jewel Mage, apprentice to Zelretch, and reasonably well-versed in the existence of parallel realities. It was possible she’d retained her own identity, or might be able to detect the changes Illyria had wrought. If he could just get her to stop and hold a civil conversation . . .

“I’m going to kill you, you son of a bitch,” she growled in a low voice. “And this time, it’ll stick!”

Yeah - it wasn’t going to happen as long as Rin had all her limbs free. Probably not as long as she was conscious. Still, while she was probably justified in her anger at Shinji - whatever his faults in this altered reality, the original had certainly earned death by angry fire ants - Jester found himself more than a little annoyed. It wasn’t like he wanted to be the little weasel. And given that he hadn’t gotten much sleep in the last two or three days, and what those days had put him through, was it really so much to ask that -

His musings were cut short by a bone-cracking blow that snapped his head back and sent him staggering back, clutching his bloody nose as crimson lights of pain flashed behind his eyes.

And that. Was. It.

Rin strode forward, ready to follow up with a couple of kicks that would have him on the ground, when Shinji glanced up. His eyes weren’t the aquamarine they’d been, or the vampiric yellow she’d half-expected, but a pale, white gold.

“Screw it,” he snarled.

As he stalked towards her, she launched out with the kick she’d planned - only to have him not dodge, as before, but grab her ankle and throw it upward. The resultant force lifted her off the ground and had her land - hard - on her back. But before she could even get her breath back, he was on top of her, pressing a circle of cold, hard metal into her chest - a gun.

“I realise things aren’t what they were,” he said. “However, in the last seventy-two hours or so, I’ve died twice. I’ve been shot, stabbed, poisoned, incinerated, deafened, and had my existence completely overwritten at least four times. I am done adjusting, I am done playing nice. I have one last chance to fix the mess I’ve landed this world in, and I am going to do it.

“Now, I could use your help. I even kind of like you, despite the fact that you nearly turned my mind into tapioca a while back. So I’m going to let you up. Make a single threatening move, however, and I will blow your heart into bloody chunks, walk away humming a merry tune, and damn the consequences. Am I clear?”

His voice was quiet, but it was the kind of quiet one used when there was a possibility of avalanches - tight with strain, and it held a familiar heat. It was his eyes that held her, though. This close, they were ecliptic, rings of white fire surrounding spheres of absolute darkness. His eyes looked through her as if she wasn’t truly there, as though they would burn through her to what lay beneath her body, until nothing remained but ashes.

Rin realised suddenly that she knew that fire, that darkness, and it didn’t belong to Shinji Matou. She’d walked his road before.

“Yes, Avenger-san,” she said, her voice weakened by a suddenly dry throat. “I understand perfectly.”

This was a lie. She understood nothing of his presence here, nor the sudden change in his nature - he held no resonance she recognised as a Servant’s, even a false one’s.

Those pale eyes studied her own for a moment, then relented. He climbed off her, and to his feet, asking as he did so, “What do you remember from before?”

She rose to a sitting position before answering, “My magic shielded me from being altered, and Zelretch has briefed me on some of what’s changed here. Apparently, I work for the Watchers’ Council, and I’m supposed to find your former mistress, who’s now a -”

“Slayer,” the ex-Servant finished. “Yeah, that figures. Closest equivalent to your mutual backgrounds.”

“And you, Avenger-san?” she asked, rising to her feet - and wincing as she put pressure on the leg he’d grabbed. That was going to be one hell of a bruise . . .

“It’s Jester, now - and at the moment, I’m doing some temp work for the Powers That Be,” he answered, his eyes darkening back to their original blue. His voice soured. “Unfortunately, this was the best body they could come up with.”

“I hope they’re paying you extra,” she muttered. Her eyes widened as she caught sight of the weapon in his hand - the biggest damned handgun she’d ever seen. “What the hell is that?”

“Desert Eagle,” he said, as if reading it off a page somewhere. “Loaded with .50-calibre Action Express ammunition. The bullets are designed to penetrate heavy cover - so hopefully they can punch through Illyria’s body.”

“That’s not one of the guns you had before - wait, who’s Illyria?”

“You don’t know? No,” he answered his own question, “if you weren’t rewritten like the rest of the world, you wouldn’t. It’s a long story.”

“Once I get checked in, I’ve got all the time in the world,” Rin assured him. “And the gun?”

“Ilya-dono seems to have made a few adjustments to my arsenal,” Jester admitted.

“Ilya? Dono?!”

“Part of that long story.”

“Grab my bags then - I can’t walk and carry them any more, thanks to you. And the sooner you get talking, the sooner I can get some sleep.”

March 19th, 2011, 10:42 AM
DISCLAIMER: Lunar Legend Tsukihime, Fate/Stay Night, and all related characters and concepts are the creation and property of Kinoko Nasu and Type-Moon, along with anyone who's happened to license them, like Geneon or Funimation. Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Angel, Illyria and all related characters and concepts are the property of Joss Whedon, 20th Century Fox, and licensees like IDW Publishing and/or Dark Horse Comics.

This is a not-for-profit, just-for-fun project.

Chapter 6

Misaki, Japan

Takara shouldered her the tote bag containing her school supplies easily, and began the long downhill climb from the mansion to her new school. A sheet of paper in her left hand contained hand-printed directions, including street names and building descriptions. Even so, she’d left a half-hour earlier than her father said she’d have to - better to be safe, she thought.

Unfortunately, she knew she’d draw attention to herself - and from more than just her usual appearance. The suddenness of the family’s move hadn’t left them time to get her an appropriate school uniform, she was stuck with the blue one she’d worn before. It looked better on her than the actual Misaki High uniform would (or so she thought, from the photographs she’d seen), but it wasn’t exactly an outfit designed to help her keep a low profile.

And a low profile was definitely desired. She wanted no reason for people to look into her home life. The wrong elements finding out that she was a newly-activated Slayer, that her mother was also a Slayer, or that there was a demon and a vampire with a soul at her new house could be literally catastrophic. Maybe even apocalyptic. Therefore, Takara knew that anything she could do to discourage attention was a good idea.

Unfortunately, while she’d spent some time in her life being ignored, it was rarely on purpose. So she wasn’t at all sure she could pull this off, and the idea worried her all the way to the school.

Upon arrival, she stared at the building - a multistoried structure with an overhead bridge allowing students to cross the upper level between portions rather than circularly navigate the entire area. It was kind of a pretty place, almost as welcoming in its way as the familiar form of her old school . . .

. . .The wave carried onward, collapsing the front half of the school building . . . She stared at the smoking ruins of her school, too numb to do anything else . . .

The young Slayer shook herself out of the daydream, scratching at the back of her hand. That blasted nightmare hadn’t gone away yet, and she still had no idea what had brought it on. If it was one of the Slayer dreams her mother had told her about, why was it about things that not only hadn’t happened, but since she’d left Fuyuki, would never happen?

She didn’t understand, and that was starting to really irritate her . . . As was this sudden, periodic itch on her hand. No amount of moisturiser seemed to stop it from flaring up - and she had no idea what might be causing it.

“Aozaki-san?” said a voice suddenly.

Takara whirled, to see a woman dressed in a light gray jacket and skirt combination, with a white dress shirt and matching high-heeled pumps (without which, the younger female suspected, she’d be shorter than Takara herself). Her hair was cut to just below her shoulders, but otherwise hung loose, and was the same hue as her chestnut eyes. The only ornamentation she seemed to wear was a plain gold wedding band.

“Yes, ma’am?” Takara asked respectfully, her Mother-trained manners automatically kicking in.

“You are Aozaki Takara?” the woman asked.

“Yes, ma’am.”

“I thought as much,” the woman said with a smile. “You’ve got your mother’s hair - and your father’s eyes, now that I’m close enough to see them. You’re a bit early, but we can finish up your registration easily enough.” She paused. “Neither of your parents came with you?”

“They’re still settling into the new house, I think,” Takara said carefully. “You know my parents?”

The woman’s brown eyes widened for a moment, then darkened. “They’ve never told you about me?” She shook her head. “I was one of the witnesses at their wedding, Takara-chan. In class, you’ll have to call me Inui-sensei. But for right now, Satsuki will do.”

Takara processed that over several minutes, before something at the periphery of her vision caught her eye.

“What is it?” Satsuki asked.

“I thought I saw . . .” Takara began, narrowing her focus to try and pick it out, before shaking her head. “Never mind. I must have imagined it.”

The older woman gazed at her, then out at the landscape, before shrugging.

“All right,” she agreed. “Let’s get inside and get you set for your classes.”

She unlocked the door, and walked into the school building. Takara followed, once again scratching at her hand.

“That,” Jester muttered to himself from around the corner, “was way too close.”

It had seemed simple enough when he got up - let the jet-lagged Rin sleep while he checked out Misaki High. The presence of a teenager, which he currently was, would hopefully draw less attention than that of a thirty-plus-year-old woman. But he hadn’t expected to see Takara actually arrive at school - nor to have her nearly spot him.

If worse came to worst, he supposed, he could always walk in to collect registration papers and come back as an official student . . . maybe with Rin as his “guardian.” It all depended on how strict security was in this time period - and given that there had been a number of school shootings before he’d died.

How old would I be now? Jester wondered idly. When he’d been pretending to be Takara’s Lancer, he’d acted as the druid would, some twelve years older than Takara. But as himself . . .

By 2018, nearly forty, he realised. Much too old for the girl . . . Like he had a chance, anyway. Even if he wasn’t undead, she hadn’t been interested in him before, wouldn’t recognise him with Shinji Matou’s face, and in this current timeline, wouldn’t remember him regardless.

And even if she had? He wasn’t going to get a reward for any of this. “Happily ever after” had been taken off the table when that car had run he and his friends off the road. He was dead, and he’d had one chance to do something worthwhile with his existence, and he’d screwed it royally.

“Zelretch can take all the blame he wants,” he muttered, recalling Rin’s story. “I was the reason the door between dimensions was opened, and kept open. Ilya made the offer, and Zelretch allowed her to - but I’m the one who said ‘yes.’ If you’d just let your worthless life come to its naturally worthless end and died off, this wouldn’t be a problem.”

He sighed. God, he needed a drink. Or at least a coffee. But no, revenants didn’t eat . . .

Are we done whining now? asked the damnable inner voice.

“For the moment.”

Good. Get back to Rin, see if she’s up, and get back to work. Moon over the girl later - you have promises to keep.

As usual, the bastard was right. If he had time to stand around and nurture his little crush on Takara Aozaki, he had time to finish the job he’d said he’d do - especially since time was of the essence. Besides, Takara was a dead end - no girl anywhere have ever been interested in him, nor ever would be. It was a fact as profoundly ingrained in the cosmos as the law of gravity, and crying over it was pointless.

Grimly, he stalked away. He knew where the Slayer was. That was a good first step. Sooner or later, he’d find Illyria - and then one way or another, this dream-turned-nightmare would be over.


The motorcycle wasn’t the fastest transportation he’d had available, nor the cheapest, the classiest, or the most secure. It was, however, cool - and all he really needed, besides.

And so the Japanese drivers, such as they were, were forced to deal with the slick movements and undeniable roar of the Harley as Shirou threaded his way through traffic, with only the reflective chrome surfaces of his shades to lock eyes with - and shades mystically charmed to give him all kinds of advantages in addition to his naturally acute sight, at that. Whatever else could be said of Wolfram and Hart, they didn’t skimp on equipping their special operatives.

According to the firm’s seers, Illyria was liable to be near the local branch very shortly. If he hurried, he could get there in time to prep any number of nasty surprises for the former God-King and end all this with the touch of a button. Granted, experience told him it wasn’t likely to be that easy - but why make more work for himself than he had to?

Heck, if he was really lucky, the local talent had already taken care of Illyria - though again, experience argued otherwise. Why call him in if they could do it themselves?

The explosion of a body from a seventh-floor window of the office building, to virtually liquefy on the asphalt below, said experience was right.

Shirou cursed. Whatever plans he’d had just got tossed out the window - Illyria was not only active, it was on the attack. Gunning the bike’s engine, he rode it up the wall, as high as he could push it, before leaping up to try and cover the remaining distance. His duster-clad form plunged through the ninth-story window, and from there, it was the work of heartbeats to trace the sounds of carnage to the invader’s location. He unlimbered his weapons in mid-run - not the rocket launcher or sniper rifle that he’d hoped to use, but the falchions, and a few other close-quarters surprises.

This wasn’t going to easy, the warrior knew, but if he could catch the demon by surprise . . .

Rounding the corner, however, the surprise was Shirou’s. The intruder was easily spotted - blue-haired, leather armoured, and currently tearing a seven-foot tall oni in half. But it wasn’t just Illyria that surprised him, but the face Illyria wore.

It was the face of a woman he’d killed.

Misaki, Japan

Rin sat in the hotel café, sipping lightly at a cup of tea, and occasionally nibbling on a pastry. It wasn’t a Japanese breakfast, but it wasn’t an English one, either - those always sat in her stomach like a rock. This, on the other hand, was light but filling, and could sit for several minutes at a time without degrading in quality. That was a good thing, as the magus-turned-Watcher found herself with a great deal to contemplate.

As a girl, she’d been focussed on being a magus, and consequently ignored a great many aspects of her surroundings - television being one of them. As a result, while she was vaguely aware that there had been a show called Buffy the Vampire Slayer, simply because it had been too popular not to have heard of it, the specifics were unknown to her. This was especially true given that it had been almost fifteen years since it ended.

What her new, ridiculously knowledgeable partner had told her, however, had her stomach tied in knots. This “Illyria” sounded like another Gilgamesh or Berserker - and this time, she had no Servants to send against her enemy.

This “Jester” didn’t count, in her mind. Under ordinary circumstances, she could never work with him - she knew too much about the way his Reality Marble worked. She’d be unconsciously cancelling his effects any time she was in close enough proximity. Assuming, of course, that Ilya hadn’t completely redesigned the nature of his powers in making him her Mediator.

Rin shook her head. After the disaster of the last three Wars, she could see the Einzbern’s point. Having a mediator who functioned completely outside human control, keeping the Grail system entirely self-contained, seemed the only way to make it work. And she supposed there was some merit to the girl’s choice - Jester had functioned adequately in the last War, even if it was mostly by luck. He was a literal dreamer, but she’d seen evidence of a ruthless streak in the guy that indicated he could make the hard choices when he had to. If Ilya hadn’t chosen particularly well, Rin at least had no evidence she’d chosen poorly.

All that aside, however, Jester was not presently an Epic Servant, but a “revenant,” as he called himself - and according to him, nowhere near the probable power or skill of Illyria. A frontal confrontation between the two would result in his dying very quickly. Whether or not it would take was another matter, but immaterial at this time. The point was, she couldn’t throw him at Illyria and expect him to last long enough for her to get her shots in - nor the newly-called Slayer that was Takara Aozaki.

She drank a little more tea with a sigh. She needed Archer or Saber for this, not a pair of rookie warriors. She missed the two knight-class Servants, as both of them would have decided advantages in battling Illyria.

And both of them would understand just what was at stake, here, and be able to help me plan.

Takara would know nothing beyond what this world expected her to. Jester did, but . . .

There was no way around it. She didn’t like dealing with him. Part of it was because he looked like that bastard Shinji. To his credit, the way he flinched every time he passed a reflective surface meant he didn’t, either, but it still made her uncomfortable, seeing the face of her sister’s tormentor. But more than that, he wasn’t a fighter. He was obviously creative and somewhat clever, for all his whining, but he had no innate gift or understanding for strategy, It was like dealing with Shirou all over again - trying to get him to stop and think, or plan, was next to impossible.

Thinking of Shirou hurt, especially given their last meeting, and the existence of his analogue here. She concentrated her thoughts back to her new partner, since if she dwelled too long on it, she might question if keeping this world as was might not be worth it, just to have Shirou alive and sane . . .

Focus! Rin scolded herself.

Jester’s combat skills were desperately substandard, and there wasn’t time to correct that - but he also had a will that would drive him to do anything he felt he really had to, which she knew might let him succeed against seemingly-impossible odds. Just the same, she knew better than to count on it. And there was one other thing that bothered her about the man . . .

Rin was a Jewel Mage, and a disciple of the wielder of the Second Magic, Kaleidoscope. As such, she was familiar with the concept of parallel realities, of possibilities unrealised, and even undreamed of. She had, she thought, a fairly broad mind when it came to accepting the potential twists and turns of what some might call Fate. But there was something in the way Jester spoke about the events of her home reality - the absolute certainty in how he described things, or made offhand remarks about something intimate, or secret. It was, she’d come to realise, exactly the same way he’d talked about the “Slayerverse” - and the potential reasons for that, her open-mindedness aside, sent a frisson of unease up her spine.

It was unsettling to even contemplate a world where she might be a character of fiction, her entire life some figment of imagination for a hack writer to toy with on a half-baked whim. And being Japanese, she knew of (but didn’t even want to think about) the potential legions of drooling otaku that could be driven to do the same, but with even less right or talent for it. For every decent story that might give her and Shirou (or Archer) a happy ending, there would be dozens written with bad command of the language, little understanding of their natures, or were just plain ridiculous to contemplate.

Rin snorted. She was sure that if her premise was correct, at least one idiot in Jester’s home reality was writing a story about her with an all-powerful character whose very existence ignored the supernatural laws of her world and expected anybody with knowledge of those laws, (or any native intelligence) to take it seriously - probably as the character in question romanced one or more of the women she knew, maybe even herself!

No, thinking about it was a clear path to madness - but every time he glanced at her, she couldn’t help but wonder.

Rin shook her head, and brought her attention back to the glittering crystal object on the table in front of her. Silly name or not, it at least gave her an idea for a strategy. If she could get the Kaleidostick into the hands of Takara Aozaki - or better yet, her father - its ability to restore their original selves would give them access to the Mystic Eyes of Death Perception. Illyria was a possessing entity, from Jester’s data, and either of the Aozakis would be fully capable of eliminating it at a literal stroke. Then things could be fixed.

It wasn’t much of a plan, but it was all she had with what little knowledge and resources were available. Until Jester had found the Slayer . . .
As if summoned by her thoughts, the leather-clad undead entered the café, eyes locking onto her almost immediately. He walked over to her table and said without preamble, “Found her.”

Rin tossed some money on the table, and stood.

“Then let’s go.”

The house was almost completely dark as Ciel let herself in. The sole light came from a small lamp burning in the main sitting room - the proverbial “candle in the window” that they always left on when one or more of the family was away. A light to guide them home.

She gently turned it off. Everyone should be home by now, tucked safely in their beds. As disappointing as Takara’s social life might occasionally be, one positive aspect was that they always knew where she was at night. The former Executioner slipped silently across the halls to her room, pausing only long enough to reassure herself that, yes, Takara was sound asleep, right where she belonged.

Ciel felt a guilty sorrow as she watched the sleeping girl. She wasn’t spending as much time with her daughter as she should - especially now, with Shiki so very ill. But this was part of the price she had to pay to keep them safe. As much as it hurt her to see Takara in pain, she’d rather be resented than see Takara hurt - or worse.

Shiki was dying. She could see it happening, a little at a time. The doctors had given him three months, but Ciel was too familiar with death not to know that there was even less time than that. Soon, those eyes that looked so warmly at her when they awoke, even as they saw the irrefutable evidence of her mortality, would go blank and cold, forever. The man who had been the pillar of her world for almost half her life would be gone. If she lost Takara, too . . .

If Ciel lost everything that tied her to this world, she’d never find the strength to keep living in it. She’d been an ethereal being before, and she couldn’t do that again.

You’re going to lose her anyway, she berated herself. You can’t abandon her like this and expect to earn forgiveness.

It had the bitter taste of truth. But that was why she had to do this. If she could pull this off - if she could make it work - then it could all be the way it was before. Shiki would survive, and she could make up for all the time she had lost with Takara. She would have a chance to try for her forgiveness - if her plan succeeded.

Her biggest enemy in this was time. If Shiki could just find the strength to hold out long enough, it would be all right - but this was the enemy no one could defeat. Ciel could only hope, and pray, that her husband could hang on until her reinforcements arrived. And that her reinforcements could do as she wanted.

Feeling every year she’d lived, Ciel padded off to her room, and curled up close enough to her husband to feel the reassuring warmth of his body, but without touching him so firmly as to wake him.

Shiki . . . Please don’t give up. As long as you’re alive, I can still hope.

Then, finally, she passed into the night’s embrace, and slept . . .

Ciel screamed her daughter’s name, and it echoed endlessly, but only within the corridors of her own mind, because she could not draw enough air into her lungs to produce a sound. If she could have, she’d have detonated her voice box trying to call to her child.

She was in danger - such terrible danger. In ordinary circumstances, Ciel would have had no idea of it, but Takara bore a Master’s mark, and that mark was, in an almost literal sense, a part of Ciel. Where it went, she could follow, and observe.

And so the Seventh Executioner entered the final stronghold of the True Ancestors, and felt numb with terror for her husband, and her child. She and Shiki had barely survived their encounter with Arcueid Brunestud, and now . . . Now Shiki was too weak. Even at his best, he’d bested the vampire as much through luck as anything. And Takara, no matter what powers she might wield, was untrained. She wasn’t ready to face Arcueid.

Ciel would have sold her soul at that moment to be able to reach out and pull her family away from there. But she was not yet the Grail, was currently incapable of granting heart’s desires. She could only watch as they drew closer to the white-and-gold spider at the heart of the web.

And pray, as never before, that the God she had never fully believed in would protect them . . .

Ciel convulsed again, not feeling the cold floor beneath her, or the presence of the others, but feeling the Servant Who Was Not dissolve, and the weakening of the one who would make her - it - complete. She drifted in a sea of sound, fragments of conversation, her ears hearing but mind uncomprehending of it all.

“ - Running out - ”

“ - Don’t know - ”

“ - can we -“

”Ciel . . .” That was Shiki. Shiki was -

Pain shot through her, blinding her to the outside world again. There was only the fire inside her, eager to consume, to explode, in all its glory.

Then, distantly, she heard a voice, a voice that reached through her with crimson hands to reach the failing one. To support him, strengthen him, and pull him away from her, to the source of the voice.

Takara’s voice, crying in desperate need.


Ciel bolted awake with a start, still disentangling herself from the snippets of nightmare. A voice in the back of her head continually repeated, That didn’t happen - it wasn’t real.

And yet, the part of her accustomed to the visions of the Slayer couldn’t shake an uneasy sense of certainty regarding the dream, as though it spoke to some long-forgotten, but deeply held belief . . .

She shivered, somehow certain that something very big was happening - soon.

March 19th, 2011, 10:45 AM
DISCLAIMER: Lunar Legend Tsukihime, Fate/Stay Night, and all related characters and concepts are the creation and property of Kinoko Nasu and Type-Moon, along with anyone who's happened to license them, like Geneon or Funimation. Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Angel, Illyria and all related characters and concepts are the property of Joss Whedon, 20th Century Fox, and licensees like IDW Publishing and/or Dark Horse Comics.

This is a not-for-profit, just-for-fun project.

Chapter 7

The offices of Wolfram & Hart, Misaki branch

They stared at each for a moment - one in disbelieving horror, the other in alien contempt - before, as though by unspoken agreement, the duo erupted into conflict.

Illyria cast a time-dilation wave which rippled through the air between them, catching Shirou in its grasp and forcing the red-clad warrior to move at a crawl - until Illyria got close enough for his arm to suddenly snap into normal speed, the falchion in his hand driving into the leathery carapace that surrounded the god-king’s form like a bolt of black lightning. Unfortunately, it failed to penetrate deeply, though it did dig a long furrow across her collarbone and down to within an inch of her navel.

Illyria’s responding punch cracked the armoured breastplate he wore, driving the demonic warrior upward into the railing of the twelfth floor, but Shirou managed to roll out of the wreckage and to his feet before Illyria’s leap carried her to his level. Seeing that she had hold of the black sword he’d dropped, he managed to parry her swing with the silver blade - though the effort drove him to his knees - and he was fast enough to spring up again. Using his free hand, he caught her in the sternum and heaved, redirecting her flight path across the open air of the upper lobby and through the elevator doors. The sounds of impact indicated that it was on the ground floor, because he could hear Illyria bouncing down the empty shaft and through the roof of the car.

Shirou grimaced as he raced down the stairs, hoping to reach his weapons cache before she recovered. This was not going well. From their single exchange, he knew that while he was actually faster than Illyria, her strength -

As he hit the second floor, overlooking the lobby, the ground floor elevator doors exploded outward, and the blue-haired demoness stormed from the darkness.

And endurance, he added mentally, are far superior to mine. That sword blow barely slowed her down, and if she gets close enough to -

The balcony shuddered, and to his horror, began to tilt.

The bitch took out one of the load-bearing columns! he realised, forcing himself to leap up, and grab the third-floor balcony. He hauled himself up easily . . .

. . . Just before the hum of a hurled sword pierced his left arm, above the elbow.

Shirou couldn’t remember being this hurt in a battle since he’d agreed to become a Child of the Senior Partners, but he couldn’t afford to surrender to the pain. Illyria would be taking advantage of his distraction to close the distance between them - and so he forced himself to run, deeper into the labyrinthine outlay of corporate offices. He needed to buy time to set this up.

With a trembling hand, he smeared the silver falchion in the blood falling from his arm wound. As the vermillion drops made contact, they stretched themselves into calligraphy patterns. Similar patterns were already crawling along the length of the black blade, and after he set the hilt of the silver weapon in his teeth, he pulled the former one free.

The cry that escaped his lips caused the silver sword to fall, but he caught it in his now-free left hand. And while it no doubt alerted Illyria to his location, by the time she’d caught up to him, he was ready.

“Power, uproot the mountains,” Shirou intoned. “Blades, part the waters!”

Snapping them outwards, he created a crimson-tinged shockwave that caught Illyria full force. Armoured as she was, her body size and mass were no more than human - and he’d decapitated dragons with this technique. Caught up like a leaf in a hurricane, the primordial demon was hurled through the building, collapsing several walls as she passed through them.

The thirty-foot fall to the parking lot outside the building seemed almost anticlimactic.

Shirou stared at the devastation. Illyria looked to have passed through at least four rooms, judging by the number of holes in the walls. Sparking cables from dangled from destroyed light fixtures. The shattered glass of a conference window showed an excellent view of the nearby Los Angeles freeway, and what looked like the beginnings of a multi-car pileup . . . oh crap.

He ran forward at top speed, thinking, Crap crap crap! If Illyria managed to survive and gets onto the freeway, she could go anywhere! Please don’t let her have escaped, please, don’t let her get a -

Shirou’s train of thought was interrupted by the sight of a tanker truck in mid-flight. He had a brief moment in time to consider its speed (way too damned fast), weight (way too damned heavy), and the fact that several of the aforementioned sparking light fixtures were in close proximity to an object that was likely filled with flammable if not outright explosive material.

The resulting fireball tripled in size upon hitting the gas lines, causing the central office tower to sag, and finally topple altogether.

A hundred yards or so away, Illyria, God-King of the Primordium Age, battered but unbowed, surveyed her handiwork.

One enemy dealt with. Now for the Slayer.

Misaki Public High School

“So, what’s the plan?” Jester asked as the pair approached the school gates. His eyebrows rose as he added, “I assume there is a plan?”

“Yes,” Rin said through gritted teeth.

Silence reigned for a moment.

“You have no intention of telling me what it is, do you?”

“No,” Rin said bluntly.

“This is payback for my throwing you around like a sack of potatoes last night, isn’t it?”

Rin flashed him her teeth. A blind person might have charitably called the expression a smile.

“You know,” he said conversationally, “I died rather suddenly and painfully, about five days back. What’s your excuse for being cranky?”

“Lots of practice,” she purred, quickening her steps as they entered the school.

Jester stopped and looked at her rapidly retreating back in shock, before he shook his head.

“OK - I admit it,” he said to himself. “That was a good one.”

He hurried to catch up.

“I’m sorry,” said the secretary to Rin a few minutes later, “but unless you can provide a valid identification and reason, I simply can’t hand out that kind of information.”

She didn’t reply, instead concentrating. The Mystic Eyes of Enchantment wasn’t her specialty, but she did know how to use them. The trick was using them well enough without compromising her shields, because it was almost certain the Watchers didn’t use them or an equivalent technique.

“I absolutely need to find Aozaki Takara, as quickly as possible,” Rin stressed. “It’s a very important police matter. Page her, please - now.”

For a moment, she thought it hadn’t worked - and then the secretary spoke into the PA system.

“Aozaki Takara, please report to the front office. Aozaki Takara to the front office, please.”

Takara froze. Why would she have been paged, unless . . .?

Visions of something horrible happening to her parents flashed through her mind, and she hit the corridor at a run, trying to remember the right way to the front of the building.

As she all but flew down the stairs to the ground floor, a man in a leather duster rounded the corner below. Even Slayer reflexes couldn’t stop the collision, and their two bodies went tumbling to the ground. She rolled to her feet almost instantly, and stared back at the other form, which was rising far more slowly.

“Ohmigod!” she breathed. “Are you all right? I’m so sorry -”

The scowl on the guy’s face (a boy about her age, and handsome enough to be almost pretty, she noted) suggested that she ought to be, but as his eyes met hers, he blinked.

“I’m fine,” he said, almost meekly, and then shook himself. “Sorry - you look like somebody I used to know.”

“I doubt it,” she muttered. Her appearance was too unique for her own good.

“They didn’t page you, did they?” he asked.

Takara blinked. “Yes - I’ve got to go! Sorry!” She darted off again.

Jester followed, trying to keep her in sight. He couldn’t afford to get lost again.

Upon meeting the girl, Rin dragged her to the empty vice-principal’s office - large enough and soundproofed enough for what could potentially be a loud and violent meeting. Jester slunk in behind her, shrugging sheepishly.

“What is this about?” Takara demanded.

Rin pulled the Kaleidostick from her purse. “It’s about this.”

“Is that - ?” Jester began.

Rin tossed it in Takara’s direction, and the Slayer caught it easily - as expected.

“Kaleidostick, activate!” Rin commanded.

As the item suddenly blazed with prismatic light, Jester cried, “NO!”

When it cleared, Takara stood seemingly unchanged, aside from having her eyes lowered. Jester gazed at her carefully, speaking aside to Rin.

“You didn’t tell me the plan was the damned Kaleidostick!”

“That’s what Master Zelretch gave me!” Rin fired back.

“Why? It’s semi-sentient, hates him, and works to actively screw him over!”

“Well, she looks fine so far . . . “ Rin trailed off, as the girl suddenly stirred, raised silver eyes to gaze at the magus.

“Nanaya,” Jester breathed, and those eyes snapped to him, seeing a pattern of brilliant green lines, limned with white, suddenly erupt across his form. The web of light illuminated an entirely different, but utterly familiar appearance.

“You,” she said, in that voice as soft as falling snow, and realisation (as well as a healthy dose of panic) crossed the revenant’s face.

“Bloody -“

Nanaya pounced.

The agony was unbearable. Burned to the bone in several places, bearing fragments of concrete, glass and steel from multiple lacerations, and leaking blood like a sieve . . .

He’d never wished to die so badly.

Even his patrons, the Wolf, the Ram, and the Hart had limits. Their Children were powerful almost beyond reason on this plane of existence, but even they could be harmed, killed - though it took a level of force almost beyond measure to accomplish it. A power such as Illyria embodied.

Body . . . Shirou thought weakly.

Even corrupted by Illyria’s essence, he knew the body she wore. He’d stared in awe at its face too often, for far too long, not to remember. She had been one of the mightiest champions of the Powers That Be. She had fought for him, bled for him, and even, long ago, loved him. To spare her from her fate, he had made the pact with Wolfram and Hart, and so he had, after a fashion. The Senior Partners had allowed him to alter her destiny - by using him to destroy her soul.

Shirou had forgotten that, when dealing with lawyers, you should really pay attention to the fine print.

And to see her again, like this . . .

Dimly, he became aware of footsteps. He struggled to turn, to open his eyes and see who approached him, but it was no use. His mind was too full of her to issue commands clearly, and his body was too badly damaged to obey his commands, anyway.

He might have said her name, in a dry, croaking voice that sounded like sand scraping over stone, but he couldn’t be sure.

Darkness took him soon after.

Ciel stared at her husband over the teacup, analysing his reaction. Shiki never liked her Slayer visions - not that she was all that fond of them herself - and this one was particularly disturbing.

Shiki, for his part, was quiet for several minutes, before he finally asked, “What do you think it means?”

Ciel shook her head. “I’m not sure. It didn’t feel like a vision, so much as a . . . a memory. But what else could it have been?”

“You said Takara was in the vision - but she hasn’t mentioned having them?” Shiki queried.

“Not to me,” Ciel admitted. “Then again, she’s still new to this - she could be getting the visions and not recognising them for what they are.”

“Or this is something else,” Shiki suggested. “Maybe just a run-of-the-mill nightmare? Pregnancy hormones working overtime?”

He sounded hopeful, and Ciel couldn’t blame him. They’d had enough trouble for any three lifetimes, and this vision (if it was a vision), implied that she was going to die. It wasn’t something either of them would wish for. On the other hand, their little family currently consisted of two Slayers, a Japanese demon hunter, an otherworldly demon, and a vampire with a soul. Much as they might wish otherwise, it was unlikely for the Powers That Be, or there opposite numbers, to leave them alone for any significant length of time. Still, they’d had almost eighteen years - and it was obvious that there was still interest owing on the payment for that.

Ciel sighed. “No, this is something mystical - but I can’t get a handle on what. It had elements of when you were sick, but the Hisui I connected with the vision was human, not Oden Tal. Arcueid was . . . More than she is. More powerful, more dangerous. Takara was there, but her hair was your colour, not mine. And . . .” She trailed off.

“And?” Shiki prompted.

“She called something, at the end. It wasn’t a plea, it was a command - one that couldn’t be disobeyed. And whatever she was calling, she believed it could save her. Save me.”

“Maybe if we knew what it was, we could make more sense out of this,” Shiki said. “Do you remember exactly what she said?”

Ciel said, very quietly, “‘Avenger, come to me.’”

The sky outside the kitchen suddenly darkened, as though a cloud had passed over the sun. The wind picked up as well, screaming like a damned soul. And Ciel could smell something in the kitchen - a blend of leather, cordite, and old blood . . .

And then it was gone, and the kitchen was as bright and cheerful as it had been.

“What was that?” Shiki’s voice and face were calm, but she knew her husband very well. He was deeply wary of whatever had just happened.

“I’m not sure,” Ciel admitted. “But in the dream, however Takara was calling it, I could feel it - like I was part of the mechanism to do it. Maybe I can somehow tap into whatever she was trying to reach?”

“Don’t try,” Shiki said. “You felt that. Whatever it was, that was not something you call on to save your life.”

“No,” Ciel agreed. Whatever it was she’d accidentally stirred up, it was dark, and angry. You didn’t call it to save your life - you called it to send your killers to Hell after you, in as brutal a fashion as could possibly be devised.

But Takara had called it, and her daughter had felt so certain . . .

It doesn’t make sense, she thought.

Shiki’s thoughts were similar. Was the whole thing a warning? Was Takara in danger of falling to dark or demonic influence if Ciel died?

“We need to find Takara,” Ciel said at last. “If she’s falling under the influence of - whatever this is, we need to find out and figure out a way to stop it, now.”

“Absolutely,” Shiki agreed. “It’s almost time for the lunch period - if we hurry, we should be able to find her.”

Ciel set her teacup down, and rose with her husband, unable to shake the sudden certainty that her daughter was in terrible peril.

Her body was pinned against his, trapping him between her and the wall. Her fingers tightened on the back of his skull like iron bands. Her arms tensed, as though she was about to tear his head from her shoulders..

Nanaya’s kiss had nothing of gentleness in it, or love. It was cold, and brutal, like the winter wind, with a savage passion that was echoed in the growl emerging from her chest - a feral sound that would’ve down a panther proud. She kissed him as though she was trying to choke him with her tongue, intending to weaken and disorient him before she ripped his throat out with her teeth.

To her credit, Jester couldn’t say it wasn’t working. He’d been certain that Nanaya was going to rip him into bloody chunks, not attempt to suck his lungs inside-out. If he’d actually needed to breathe, he might have passed out by now. As it was, his mind was still off-lined by the actuality of holding and kissing (French kissing!) a pretty, non-related girl. Takara Aozaki’s homicidal half, no less!

Finally, she withdrew enough to let him breathe, speak, although he was still trapped in her embrace, and the only sound he found himself capable of making was “Wha . . .?”

Rings of silver, like twin moons, locked on his.

“That,” she said in that whispery voice, “was for dying to save my family.”

He looked at her in surprise, and that surprise increased when he saw the greenish-white veins erupting over her face.

Why are her magic circuits - His train of thought was cut off as her reinforced knee connected with his groin with a sound like a small sonic boom.

As an undead creature with no pulse or blood circulation of any kind, it was physically impossible for Jester to turn any paler. He gave it a valiant effort nonetheless. His undead nature and prior life had given him some resistance to pain, but not enough to simply shrug off this. His mind was filled was white noise, unable, for several moments, to process anything outside of the agony.

Gradually, he became aware of a high, ragged keening. It took several more seconds to realise that it was coming from himself, trying to scream but not actually able to gather enough air or focus to do so. He remained like that for at least three minutes.

“And that,” Nanaya hissed. “was for making me watch.”

Rin sighed at the sight. As amusing as she found the scene, she reminded herself that she had a job to do.

“Kaleidostick, deactivate,” she commanded.

Takara Aozaki staggered, as a flood of new memories - or were they old? - flooded her mind. For several long moments, she struggled to understand who and what she was. The last descendant of the Nanaya clan, blessed or cursed with Mystic Eyes that allowed her to slice her enemies up like sashimi? Or the Slayer, blessed or cursed with the power to hunt vampires and other demons, as no other girl could do without her own death?

Both of these identities answered to the name “Takara Aozaki,” and while neither was far from it, both girls did their best to separate the nature from the name. She concentrated on that, on the schoolgirl rather than the hunter, and she found it easier. While there seemed to be some debate as to what she was, it seemed that the two answers to who she was weren’t so different.

Looking at the pair in the room now was quite a different experience. While she couldn’t activate her Mystic Eyes, or call up that cold warrior self, she recognised these two, remembered knowing them - and if she concentrated, she could even remember specifics. The woman was Rin Tohsaka, a magus - although here, Takara didn’t know what she’d be. And the cute boy . . .

Is still cute, she admitted to herself, feeling herself blush to the roots of her hair as she remembered what the huntress had started out doing. But she was also aware, now, that the boy was an illusion. The light of his lines had blown away that appearance in the way of the sun dispersing a cloud. While he looked the same as he had, she knew the truth of what lay under that face.

“I’ll keep my promise to you, because I said I would - and because I love you.”

Against her will, Takara found herself blushing harder. With some effort, she remembered the huntress’ feelings - the gratitude, yes, but also the anger at being set aside. At being forced to watch while two others fought for her family’s survival. At being told she was loved - but not until the man who said it was about to die, and beyond any repercussions of the words.

The colour in her cheeks then had little to do with embarrassment.

“What’s going on?” she demanded finally. “Tohsaka-san, why are you here? Why have - things - changed?”

“It’s a long story,” the woman sighed.

Takara sat atop a desk, focussing her full attention on the red-clad magus.

“I’ve got time. Tell me,” she demanded.

March 19th, 2011, 10:45 AM
DISCLAIMER: Lunar Legend Tsukihime, Fate/Stay Night, and all related characters and concepts are the creation and property of Kinoko Nasu and Type-Moon, along with anyone who's happened to license them, like Geneon or Funimation. Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Angel, Illyria and all related characters and concepts are the property of Joss Whedon, 20th Century Fox, and licensees like IDW Publishing and/or Dark Horse Comics.

This is a not-for-profit, just-for-fun project.

Chapter 8

Misaki, Japan

Jester paid no attention to Rin’s lecture - a fact which could be understood, given that A), he knew the facts already, and B), he was in a hell of a lot of pain. Which made no sense, given that the undead had no real use for the injured area in question, but there it was. As his primary thought processes attempted to dull the pain down to a manageable level (a task at which they had considerable practice), that damnable voice in the back of his head was considering certain elements and events of the recent past. Most specifically, his Desert Eagle.

Why did Ilya change our armament? the damnable know-it-all asked the rest of him. A difference of .05 calibre shouldn’t justify reducing me to a single gun - it’s not like we’re talking the difference between a +5 and a +10 weapon here . . . Are we? The ammo type’s new, but again, why limit me to one weapon? Especially one that I know has a tendency to jam?

It made no sense, but he continued trying to find some, anyway. Ilya was not an idiot, and wouldn’t have changed things unless it gave him a definite advantage. He closed his eyes and considered the gun carefully.

As with Thalia and Melpomene, the nameless gun was crafted to fit his hand precisely, and balanced to move swiftly and easily in his grip while limiting recoil. It could be summoned into his hands with a thought, without needing to be drawn. It transformed magical energy into ammunition - presently the .50-calibre Action Express rounds, but he could use silvered or phosphoreus bullets, for example, if he needed them. Those were the same abilities his last weapons had. So what was different here?

My original power was the Reality Marble “A Midsummer Night’s Dream,” Jester reminded himself. With that, I could recreate myself in any role, in any environment - and so long as I could convince my target, the illusion is as good as the reality.

As such, he’d been able to be “Lancer,” his favourite Dungeons and Dragons character come to life, and later “Avenger,” after being unmasked - but utilising aspects of the same power had allowed him to convincingly compete on a physical level with true Servants. It was sort of amusing to him - his personality was akin to Shiki’s in the Tsukihime anime, but his ability more closely mirrored Shirou’s.

It was the power of imagination and acting, given force - hence the designs on the stocks of his guns. Thalia and Melpomene had been stamped with the traditional masks for comedy and tragedy, representing the Muses for whom the guns were named. The goddesses of drama had seemed an appropriate symbol for such his melodramatic nature. Now, he bore an insignia more worthy of a fool, as this weapon was stamped with the image of a skull wearing a jester’s cap.

Like those wands that real jesters carried, a . . . What was it called? Ah, a marotte. A prop they used in their routines.

Prop . . .?

The silvery jingling of bells, such as a real marotte would bear, echoed in his mind, and he pictured a black, skull-topped rod from which trailed a trio of plaid, bell-tipped streamers.

That’s exactly what it is, he realised. A prop to increase the validity of the illusion! It looks like a gun right now, but if I had access to my original powers, it could be anything I needed!

Unfortunately, he couldn’t access those powers right now. It was a pity - getting the marotte to copy Excalibur for use on Illyria sounded really good right now . . .

A sudden fire swept through him, eliminating the last of the pain and driving him to his feet. It was a red tide of rage he couldn’t account for, coupled with the overwhelming need to go somewhere, tugging him towards . . .

And then it was gone.

He became aware of Rin giving him a wary look. “Are you alright? You looked like you wanted to kill something for a moment there.”

“I did,” he admitted. “It was like walking the Avenger’s Road again - I needed to be somewhere, to do something . . .”

“What?” she demanded intently.

“I’m not sure - ” He dropped to his knees suddenly with a cry, as a blinding headache staggered him, along with images . . .

. . . An office building . . .

. . . Blue and crimson figures clash . . .

. . . A raging inferno . . .

. . . A street address . . .

“Business district . . .” he croaked. “Something big’s about to happen - if it isn’t already happening. We need to hurry.”

“So what, you’re psychic, now?” Takara demanded.

Rin snorted. “No, just naturally omniscient.”

“I don’t know everything,” Jester groaned, getting to his feet again. “Just enough to fake it. Now come on, this is important.”

Shiki and Ciel were within sight of the school when they saw the car pull out - with Takara’s distinctive hair visible in the backseat window. Making a quick U-turn, they followed it to the burning wreckage of a collapsed office tower. Firefighters and policemen were already on-scene, but they seemed curiously reluctant to do more than contain the blaze.

The passengers of the car had no such qualms. They got out - Takara, a pretty-looking youth with a similar hair colour, and an older woman with dark hair - and raced towards the wreckage.

Ciel wasted no time in divesting herself of her seatbelt and racing off after them. She followed the trio towards the fallen tower component, and watched as the boy (?) began to dig through the rubble, unearthing what appeared to be a human figure carved out of beef jerky - or would, were in not for scraps of white hair that still clung to its skull.

The woman leaned closer as Takara stared at the body, presumably saying or examining something. Even Ciel’s hearing, however, could not make out anything she might have said, save for the last word - because it was yelled so loudly that no one could have failed to do so.


Rin stared at the figure of her former Servant - her former love - and wondered how he could still be alive, with such horrific wounds. She’d witnessed death before, and terrible injury, but his current condition resembled no living thing she’d ever seen . . . and he was apparently not only alive, but at least semi-conscious!

“Can you heal him?” the revenant said sharply. “Stored mana gems, healing techniques from your crest - anything?”

Rin shook her head numbly.

Jester glanced at Takara. “Can you . . .?”

“I . . .” Takara hesitated. “I have a little talent for magick. Mother’s taught me a few battlefield healing spells - but nothing that could handle this.”

“Try anyway,” Jester said. “I’ll try to get what information we can, just in case.”

He leaned over the area where Archer’s ear would be as the Slayer went to work, thanking the Powers that he didn’t need to eat - the roast meat smell would’ve made him a confirmed vegetarian for life, and resulted in revisiting any meal he’d had in the last week.

“Shirou,” he said urgently. “Who did this to you?”

Jester assumed Illyria, of course - the blurred figure of the vision had certainly had the requisite blue hair - but he needed to be sure. It was also a good way to focus the wounded Servant’s mind before trying to get more detailed explanation’s out of him.

Archer stirred at the question, and croaked the answer in a voice so weak that even Jester’s hearing wouldn’t have caught it, had he not been crouched next to his head.

“Arturia . . .”

Neither Rin nor Takara had heard the answer, and were startled to see Jester jerk back as though he’d been shot. His eyes were wide with something neither woman had ever seen in his eyes before . . . Though as it was Shinji’s face, Rin didn’t have to think too hard to recognise the expression.

It was raw, unadulterated panic.

“No,” Jester breathed. “Nononononono . . . “ He trembled for a moment, before a far more recognisable emotion flooded his face: rage.

“You knew,” Jester hissed, glaring at the sky as if it had mortally offended him. “You knew, and you never told me.”

“What are you babbling about?” Rin demanded. “What did he say?”

“Illyria did this to him,” Jester snarled, literally. “That wasn’t hard to figure out. But she’s not using the body I’m familiar with, the one capable of casually defeating two of the Powers’ most powerful champions.” His voice became a venomous whisper. “Oh no, she’s traded up, to be someone far more powerful and dangerous than Dr. Winifred Burkle.”



Rin blanched, and Takara’s eyes widened. Her other persona remembered the blonde knight well.

“No way,” Rin breathed. “You’re . . . You’re kidding, right?”

“DO I SOUND LIKE I’M JOKING?!” Jester roared, loud enough to rattle what remained of the office tower’s windows. He shot to his feet, and began pacing. “Illyria could do enough damage limited by the form of a moderately-conditioned lab monkey, and now she’s got the keys to one of the most powerful entities on the planet, and they expect me to fight her. The woman who kicked my ass in every confrontation and could’ve killed me in one stroke, except she wanted to earn the Grail, not just win it. She played fair, so she let me have a chance, and Illyria won’t.”

He was visibly seething, staring at the ground and trembling with fury he hadn’t felt since he’d killed that ersatz Berserker.

“My chances of stopping her just went from ‘almost none’ to ‘no way in hell,’ and the Powers knew it! And even if I thought I could, I still have to fight - and kill - a woman I respect. Who respected me. And they knew it, and they lied to me. If that ghostly bastard Doyle was here . . .”

A slender-looking man with sharp blue eyes appeared behind the leather-clad revenant. “Y’shouldn’t shoot the messenger, y’know. I - ”

Whatever the Irishman might have said was cut off as Jester whirled around and drove his fist into the other’s face with the force of a piledriver. Bone snapped as the other man was lifted off his feet - though he vanished before he hit the ground.

Takara stared, momentarily distracted from her work on the man her companions called Archer. “Was that . . . A ghost?”

“. . . Yes,” Jester said softly. Even though his back was turned, both Rin and Takara could see that he was staring at his hand.

“But - you hit him.”

“. . . Yes,” he said absently, as though his mind was somewhere else.

“How?” Rin demanded.

Jester was silent for a long time, before he turned and stared at the two women with eerily pale eyes.

“I’ve got an idea,” he said slowly.

“I’ve got a better one,” interrupted a new voice, and all three of them turned to see Ciel and Shiki glaring at them.

“Tell us who the hell you are, and what you’re doing with our daughter,” Ciel demanded.

Some time later, the six of them (counting Archer’s impression of a crispy critter) were sitting in the Tohno mansion’s parlour, contemplating the aforementioned crispy critter. Already, he showed signs of healing - though nowhere near the recovery levels of a Servant.

“What do we do with him?” Shiki asked the group at large. Takara’s vouching for them, in addition to a session with the Kaleidostick, had gone a long way to convincing the Aozakis the validity of their story. While he still couldn’t quite believe that underneath the pretty boy facade was the youth he’d seen before, the speech and mannerisms matched, as far as he could tell. And if that was indeed the case, this was the warrior who’d died for his wife. He was prepared to grant him a large degree of trust.

Jester scowled. “He’s Wolfram and Hart’s errand boy - I know it. One of them clobbered a weakened Illyria - but we’re dealing with the part of her power that was siphoned off - in Saber’s body to boot. I guess even one of their Children has trouble against a Servant.”

“Then we should use the Kaleidostick to restore his memories,” Ciel said, but to her surprise, it was Rin who disagreed.

“It’ll restore his memories, but it won’t change his base identity if he isn’t holding it. Zelretch thought I might be able to shield anyone I awakened, but I can’t. We need the stick in the hands of the person who’ll be able to do the most good with it.”

“Meaning the two Nanayas,” Jester murmured.

Rin nodded. “But if this Illyria can do that to him, we need him as a Servant, too. He’s too useful - and too dangerous - to ignore.”

It was a well-reasoned, logical conclusion. It was even accurate . . . It just wasn’t the whole truth. She didn’t want to just leave him like this.

Jester frowned. “Maybe there’s another way . . .”

Rin flashed him a look that said, “If you’re screwing with me, you will beg to die.”

Jester shook his head. “If he can be transformed back into a Servant, can you bind him to Takara? She’s got the reserves to support him - and if she’s holding the stick . . .”

Rin wasn’t called a genius arbitrarily, and her eyes widened in realisation. “The effect will cover him as well, through the Command Mantra! That’s brilliant!” Then the downside hit, and she added, “If we could sustain his Servant state long enough for the Kaleidostick to convert her. Unfortunately, it’ll release the moment he lets go.”

“. . . Leave that to me,” Jester said quietly.

She snorted. “In case you’ve forgotten, your little deus ex machina powers are gone.”

He looked at her silently.

“. . . Aren’t they?!” Rin demanded.

“I hit Doyle,” he answered. “A ghost, a being on a separate if not altogether higher plane of existence - and I knocked him on his immaterial ass. Why do you suppose that was?”

Takara glared at him. “How about just telling us? A little truth would be a nice change from you.”

Ciel chided her daughter, “There’s no need to be that harsh.”

“Well, I’m tired of these little games of his!” the younger woman snapped back. “A simple straight answer would be nice for once!”

“Fair enough,” Jester said grimly. “All of this,” he gestured, “is an effect of Illyria’s presence - her power and her will. But if I’m right, everything we were is still there - this existence is just covering it all like an oil spill on the ocean. it’s essentially nothing more than a planetary-scaled Reality Marble.”

“And another Reality Marble will break it,” Rin said in comprehension.

“More like a bubble than a breakage. I don’t have the power or the will to undo it all. But I think I can do this much.” He glanced at the scorched form. “And we’d better hurry, before he wakes up.”

“What can we do?” Ciel asked.

“Leave,” Jester said, not unkindly. “I have to convince Takara, Rin, and the entire planet to believe in this - extra people will just make it harder.”

The two exchanged glances, nodded politely, and left.

“Get ready, and stay quiet,” Jester instructed them. “I need to concentrate.

“Ilya, help me,” he whispered, closing his eyes. “'Would you mind if I killed this guy?'” He began to hum, a low tune.

Takara opened her mouth, remembered, and glanced at Rin, who returned an equally confused look back.

“I am the bone of my sword,” Jester intoned, in an exaggerated English drawl, at least an octave lower than it should have been, pantomiming firing an arrow. “Steel is my body, and fire is my blood . . .”

His hands flexed at his sides, as though grasping something, before a flick of the wrist sent the objects hurling forth - once, twice, thrice.

“I have forged over a thousand blades - unknown to death, nor known to life . . .” He switched, abruptly, to whispered Japanese, “'Power, uproot the mountains - blades, part the waters!'”

“Have withstood pain . . . To create many weapons . . .”

Strain began to show on his face, and the air seemed to ripple slightly. Takara paused. Did she hear a piano?

“But these hands . . .” The air was definitely, visibly in motion, as though something was trying to push through it. “. . . Will never hold . . . Anything.”

Jester dropped to his knees, and Takara almost went for him, but Rin’s hand caused to her to stop. The room seemed to darken, save for a single beam of light, like a spotlight.

“'Seems even the goddess of the moon isn’t on your side . . .'” came a distant voice, high and light, like a child’s, and Rin’s blood suddenly ran cold with recognition.

“Still, I pray . . .” Jester said, as if in answer, nearly roaring the final words. “UNLIMITED BLADE WORKS!”

Crimson light exploded, bringing with it the smells of ash and steel, the sounds of clockwork grinding and flames crackling, and Rin stared in disbelief.

“He did it . . .” she whispered. “Unlimited Blade Works - it’s impossible, but he did it!”

The response she got was unexpected, as both Jester and Archer began to scream.

Archer awoke, and remembered. Surrounded by the Reality Marble that was his soul made manifest, he could not help but know. What he’d been, what he’d done . . . All of it was returned to him. The Fifth Grail War, the Sixth Grail War - everything, from the moment he’d agreed to participate as a Servant. He remembered dying for Emiya Shirou, dying for Ilya and Sakura . . . Being resurrected after a fashion, trying to kill Rin and being killed by the girl he could see in front of him . . . And he remembered the other, as well - the Emiya Shirou who’d destroyed Saber and himself, trying to save her.

Which one was really him? He couldn’t be entirely sure, so he clung to the one thing he could be sure of - the one thing that had never changed in all his lives and varying states of existence.

“Hello Rin,” he said, as casually as he could. “It’s been a while.”

“Yes,” Rin said simply, tracing a glowing rune in the air before firing it forth and flinging a second copy to her left.

Archer stiffened as he felt the contract take hold. Pieces of information floated through his head, bits of her thoughts and memories, but not enough to make sense of this soon.

“It’s done,” Rin said. “You can stop now.”

Archer blinked. Stop what?

With that, Unlimited Blade Works collapsed, and to Archer’s astonishment, Shinji Matou pitched face first onto the floor.

“What the hell?” he demanded.

“It’s a long story,” Rin said shortly.

Archer said dryly, “I’ve just been re-contracted - I’ve got time.”

Resigning herself to yet another repetition, Rin sighed. “All right, it goes like this . . .”

March 19th, 2011, 10:47 AM
DISCLAIMER: Lunar Legend Tsukihime, Fate/Stay Night, and all related characters and concepts are the creation and property of Kinoko Nasu and Type-Moon, along with anyone who's happened to license them, like Geneon or Funimation. Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Angel, Illyria and all related characters and concepts are the property of Joss Whedon, 20th Century Fox, and licensees like IDW Publishing and/or Dark Horse Comics.

This is a not-for-profit, just-for-fun project.

Chapter 9

Misaki, Japan

Illyria gazed at her followers - vampires, less than even the ones who had hurt her, but numerous and devoted upon witnessing her power. At the height of her strength, Illyria would have destroyed them casually, likely not even noticing their presence or existence as she did so. They would have been simply crushed in her wake. Even now, numerous as they were, and reduced as she was, they couldn’t stand against her. But this was their world. She required - and it grated on her, that she should require anything, after aeons of being sufficient unto herself - information, and they were the easiest source.

Once, she had relied on guides to initiate her into the mysteries of this world, and the other like it. The failures and betrayals associated with the practice had caused her to rethink her approach. Knowledge was necessary, but understanding was not required. There was no law, custom, or condition Illyria could not overcome, if she so chose. And therefore, she would not repeat her mistake. In this time, this world, she would gain all knowledge available before acting, but her actions would determine the course of this world. It was her right as king.

Thus had she eliminated the champion of one of her greatest potential rivals, destroying much of their property, as well. Now, it fell to her only to eliminate the last of them in this region, before she could consolidate her power for strikes against the rest of the world.

“Have you found her?” Illyria demanded. “This . . . Slayer?”

“Not yet, Mistress,” the vampire said. “It should not take long, however - the whispers place her as new to town, and only so many people arrive each day. When night falls, we can begin hunting in earnest.”

“Do so diligently,” Illyria commanded. “I intend to destroy her by sunrise.”

The vampire nodded, bowed obsequiously, and fled her presence. Illyria considered reprimanding it for leaving without permission, but decided against it. It would deprive her of another hunter, come the dark.

And come the dawn, this world would be changed forever.

Even in his dreams, he was screaming. He was being torn apart by two people, two identities, and a world that couldn’t decide which one of them he was.

He was Emiya Shirou, who had yearned to be a hero and travelled the world in pursuit of that goal, going so far as to contract with Alaya to serve as a Counter Guardian, and with the Holy Grail system as an Archer, upon realising the true nature of a Counter Guardian. He was the man whose ultimate expression of self was the Reality Marble Unlimited Blade Works, the essence of weaponry.

He was also the man who’d contracted with the Grail not once, but twice. The first, to Serve in a Holy Grail War, and mark the mark in death that he’d utterly failed to achieve in life. The second, to serve as its protector and mediator. Lacking epic skills or powers, he chose to battle foes of that scale anyway, using guile and trickery - and for his folly, was called Jester. His ultimate expression of self was the Reality Marble Midsummer Night’s Dream, the essence of imagination.

The latter had brought forth the former, and the conflict between their disparate essences was driving him insane . . . Though he would’ve told you he could walk there just as easily.

A hand was on his shoulder, suddenly, steadying him - though given that he knew he was dreaming, how much steadying he actually needed was open to debate.

“Thanks,” Jester murmured.

“After that sock in the jaw, I shouldn’t’a bothered,” Doyle told him. “But the bosses wanted to talk.”

“I’m sorry I hit you,” Jester said. “If your bosses had been available, I would’ve gladly beaten on them, instead. Though it’s my own fault - I forgot that the Powers That Be can’t be trusted.”

“Hey, that’s harsh.”

“It’s true,” Jester snapped. “All that crap with Connor - did the Powers attempt to stop it? No, they let it run, even though it put Angel at the bottom of the ocean, and Cordelia up with them, allegedly. When Jasmine and her Beast showed up, what did they do? Oh, sent an image of Darla to Connor to plead with his better nature - that was the sum total of their work. They left Angel to fight a Power That Was - to all intents and purposes, their peer - alone. And when he won, and his son - the only thing left in the world for Angel to care about - was broken, did the Powers intervene? Give him so much as an ‘Atta boy?’ No. It was Wolfram and Hart who stepped in, and knowing who and what they were, Angel took their deal, because they were willing to give him what he needed.”

“You’re not seeing the full picture,” Doyle protested. “There’s a lot of circumstances - ”

“The last time they did intervene, Cordelia forced them to,” Jester continued. “She said as much, that she was able to push it through not because the Powers had any vested interest in Angel, but because they owed her.” Jester’s voice was dripping with so much scorn, Doyle felt he needed a mop.

“Cordy tends to exaggerate - ”

“She does - but it doesn’t make her wrong. The Powers That Be choose their champions, but they don’t seem willing to back them when push comes to shove. Ilya, at least, was willing to give me a shot on my own merits - your bosses just grabbed me up because I was convenient.” His eyes narrowed. “So offhand, I don’t think I have any reason to talk to them.”

“You sure?” Doyle said. “A guy with your fire could do a lot of good - “

”’Nothing in the world is the way it ought to be,’” Jester quoted. “‘It’s cold, harsh and cruel - but that’s why there’s us: the champions. It doesn’t matter where we come from, what we’ve done, or suffered - or even if we make a difference. We live as though the world was as it should be, to show it what it can be.’

“It was inspiring, Doyle. Give Angel his props - the man could rally a graveyard to war, if he put his mind to it. I’d even like to believe it . . . but it’s not for me. He can live with the world as it should be, I’ll deal with it as it is. Let Angel and those like him try to raise it up - I’ll keep it from sinking any further. And if by some miracle they pull it off, I’ll go quietly with the rest of the monsters, knowing I’m leaving a better world - for better people - behind.”

“Awful dark way to go, man,” Doyle warned.

Jester shook his head. “I’m a role-player, Doyle, and to do it well, I had to understand myself, first - and that means being honest. Whether or not I want to be - and given that I don’t trust the Powers, that’s arguable - I’m not a champion, and I never will be. And you can’t tempt me like Angel and Faith - I don’t want redemption, I want justice. I’d prefer to pay for my crimes than be forgiven them, balance the scales rather than wipe them clean. And if I end up burning in hellfire for eternity for what I’ve done, I can accept that. I can accept it because I will have earned it, and that’s fair.”

Doyle shook his head. “It’s a damned shame I can’t convince ya.”

“I’m stubborn that way,” Jester agreed. “If you want a champion, talk to Archer. Deep down, Shirou still wants to save everyone - that’s his problem. Me, I’d sleep better knowing certain people are dead. And if I’m one of them . . .” He shrugged. “It’s not like anyone should care, especially here. Even if I wasn’t a revenant, I’m just as dead as you are.” His eyes narrowed as he added, “And I’d only continue wasting my life if you gave it back, so the Shanshu wouldn’t tempt me, either.”

The man sighed. “Thanks for the save, nice meeting you - but I think we’re done here.”

Doyle looked resigned. “I suppose we are. Good luck, man - you’ll need it.”

Takara listened to Rin explain things to the red-cloaked man with half an ear. The Kaleidostick had granted her knowledge of what came before, and hearing Rin vocalise it was interesting - it filled in details she hadn’t known. Of course, it wasn’t the only thing. The symbol on the back of her hand itched and burned, as pieces of memory flickered through it.

Archer’s memory.

She wasn’t sure if she was going to be sick, knowing that this man was also the “Emiya-sempai” who’d tried to sacrifice her for the Grail, and failing that, had attempted to do the same to her mother. Thankfully, those specific memories weren’t available to her, but she had enough of them to figure it out. She was tempted to see if a Servant could handle a Slayer - or failing that, “borrow” the Kaleidostick and let her Nanaya side literally cut loose.

Rin thinks he’s important, a little voice in her head reminded Takara.

That was in Archer’s favour, but she’d gotten enough out of Archer to know that sentimentality clouded their relationship, on one side or both. As much respect as she had for the magus, her judgement was arguably - maybe even obviously - impaired where this man was concerned.

Jester thinks he’s important, that little voice in her head tried.

That carried a little more weight - she owed Rin for her actions during the War, but she undeniably owed Jester more. But it was counterbalanced by the fact that Jester was a proven liar. It was the very foundation of his abilities. If he was unable to convince her of something, even something as infuriating as this, he wouldn’t be much use. She could trust him to help her in any way he could - he was obviously trying, even now - but not to tell the truth.

“I’ll keep my promise to you, because I said I would - and because I love you.”

She shook herself at the recollection, and the little voice reminded her that Saber had been powerful enough on her own. If this Illyria was even stronger, she’d need all the help she could get just to survive, never mind win. And in that case, letting Emiya-Shirou-slash-Archer live was the only intelligent thing to do . . .

Her musings were interrupted by a groan of, “If I’m going to be this hung over, I demand to have been drunk first.”

Jester’s eyes were bloodshot, and he rose as if there were lead weights attached to his limbs, but he did get up, and sit hugging his knees, glancing back and forth between everyone.

“What did I miss?”

Archer gazed at him appraisingly, saying by way of an answer, “I hear you work for Ilya-chan.”

“Before you go into big brother mode, she picked me.”

Archer’s look was grim. “Well, if you can copy other Reality Marbles, I can see why she might’ve.”

Jester’s face - still alien to Takara - stretched into its familiar smirk as he said, in utter sincerity, “You wouldn’t believe all I can do.”

“Still,” Archer mused, “if you can negate whatever’s happened to the world, why not do it around Illyria? She’d be a lot easier to deal with as just Saber.”

Jester shook his head. “Even I’ve got limits. Tackling this thing at the source - in direct opposition to Illyria’s will, and more likely than not in a high-adrenaline combat situation - is out of my league. Even if you were distracting her for me, I wouldn’t put odds on it working in time. I have to be just too close.”

Hisui came in with a tea tray, and Jester stared at the pregnant maid - before his eyes lost focus. In a not quite casual tone, he asked, “Takara, what’s the last thing you remember before things went to hell?”

Takara frowned. “Rin told Saber not to touch the Grail, just before things went bright blue . . .”


“That’s right,” she agreed, and her eyes narrowed. “You’ve thought of something.”

“Where in Fuyuki was the Grail supposed to come down?” he countered. “I know it’s on a circuit.”

“Ryudoji Temple,” Rin answered. “Why?”

“I need to get there - now.”

“Why?” Rin repeated.

“Because in the real world, the Grail descended hours ago, not months. It might’ve appeared in Faust’s tower, but that was a dimensional overlap, much like Avalon. Its coordinates in real space would’ve been the temple - and I think it’s still there.”

Once they were alone, Archer looked at Rin for a long moment. Quietly, he said, “I’m sorry.”

She blinked, looking at him in surprise, before her face rearranged itself into a blank mask.

“Why would you be sorry?” she asked warily.

“Why wouldn’t I?” he muttered, considering some of his actions, before shaking his head and meeting her eyes.

“When that rip-off of Unlimited Blade Works hit my magic, it did more than just change me back, Rin - it gave me memory downloads. I think the world was confused, for a minute, as to which ‘me’ I was really supposed to be. I remember all of the Emiya Shirous of this timeline - including the one that tried to kill you.”

The bleached white features of that homunculus flashed across her memory for a moment, and then it was Rin’s turn to shake her head and say, “It wasn’t you.”

“But it was,” he insisted. “It was me without any morals or restraints of any kind, focussed only on what I want, and damn the consequences. In that state of mind, I would kill you - and I almost did.”

“Did you ask the Einzberns to raise you from the dead?” Rin countered. “Did you, personally, make the decision that I had to die?”

“. . . No, but - “

”But nothing!” the magus snapped. “There is a difference between you, and copies of you - memory downloads or not! If it was you doing it, you wouldn’t need to be informed of it - you’d already know! These memories come from replicas, creatures that are no more the real thing than any weapon you can image with your powers.”

Archer nodded in acknowledgement of the point. Intellectually, he understood it. Emotionally, on the other hand . . . Well, maybe Emiya Shirou wasn’t quite dead, after all. If nothing else, his sense of guilt had survived. Speaking of which . . .

“It must have hurt when I died,” he said. “I’m sorry about that, too.”

“Which time?” Rin asked, half-sardonically.

“Fifth War,” he clarified. “I was part of that Shirou for a while - or part of me was part of him, so the memories are a bit more detailed.”

Rin grimaced. “Yes. It hurt.”

“I am sorry.”

Rin looked at him carefully for a moment, and then said, “They must really have gotten to you with those downloads - the Archer I remember wasn’t quite so . . . What’s the term? Ah, yes - emo.”

Now it was Archer’s turn to grimace. “Blame nostalgia. The last time I saw you looking like this . . . The last time I saw you, you were trying not to cry.” He tilted his head, adding softly, “I never did tell you how good you looked at this age.”

“What happened?” Rin asked. She knew some of it - her link to Archer had given her pieces, but not much.

Archer’s tone was flat, as though he was describing something he’d heard rather than lived. “I happened - or human nature, maybe even Fate. They’d caught me, tried me, sentenced me to execution. You’d tried everything you could, short of physically attempting to break me out - but I couldn’t let you. They would’ve killed you for it. Besides, I was going to be an Epic Spirit, save humanity - if that was how it started, I was OK with that.”

Rin knew how well that had turned out.

“It’s why I came when you called,” he said. “The pendant helped, but if I’d known it was you, I’d have come anyway. You were the only person who never gave up on me . . . Well, at least the only one I knew about,” he added after a moment. “And after everything I’ve done - in every form - I wanted to make sure you were all right.”

Rin considered her answer.

“It hurt, for a long while,” she admitted. “There are still times when I see something, or hear something, and think of you - or him. But ultimately, I’ve had almost fifteen years to come to terms with your deaths . . . And unlike poor Sakura, I wasn’t broken enough to fail to.”

She considered him. Reconstituting him as Archer had healed his injuries - but as Takara wasn’t currently isolated by the Kaleidostick, he was still in his demonic warrior clothes. That said, there wasn’t much physical difference between the two incarnations, save that one was spiritual, and the other not.

Shiki-san had taken Jester back to Fuyuki, Ciel-san was training and equipping Takara, and the maid had gone for a checkup. They weren’t going to be disturbed for a while . . . And she realised it was unlikely she’d ever get another chance.

Archer tensed. While he couldn’t read her mind, he could certainly read her expressions, and Rin looked distinctly predatory all of a sudden.

“There is something you can do for me,” she all but purred. “If you’re feeling really guilty and all.”

He shivered. The last time he’d heard her say that, he was cleaning out the mansion’s rain gutters.

“Oh?” he said carefully.

“Mm-hm,” she agreed. “It’s been a problem for me since I was seventeen . . .”

Archer’s reflexes were still inhumanly quick. He could’ve stopped her darting form if he really wanted to. He might have claimed surprise, and it would be partially true - but it would be a lie to say that was the only reason he allowed her to all but tackle him onto the floor cushions.

It started with a kiss. A toe-curling, heart pounding, literally breathtaking kiss. A kiss loaded with almost fifteen years of suppressed hormones and fantasies. A kiss charged with the knowledge that the end of existence as they knew was dawning just on the horizon, and by the next day, they might have not simply died, but ceased to be. And, ultimately, a kiss between two people who, while never lovers, and perhaps never in love, nonetheless loved each other more than anyone else in their lives.

And it was only the beginning.

En route to Ryudoji Temple, Fuyuki

“Do you really think this will help?” Shiki asked.

“Yeah,” Jester answered. “Getting to the Grail will definitely help.”

“So you plan to, what - wish Illyria away?”

“No.” The vehemence of the response startled the older man. “If I blow its wish on that, then Ciel dies, remember?”

“Then why . . .?”

Jester sighed. “Illyria, by herself, is powerful - on the level of a Type at the absolute minimum. It makes sense that her presence would reshape reality - she was once, in her own words, ‘God to a god.’ But we’re dealing with only a fragment of her - excess power that was siphoned off in her home dimension. Even with Saber as a host, I can’t see that kind of fractional presence being enough to generate a Reality Marble than can cover an entire planet - by itself.”

Shiki wasn’t as well versed in magic as Rin, or even Ciel, but neither was he stupid. “You think the Grail . . .?”

“I know that Saber was holding it when Illyria possessed her. I also know that Illyria’s presence would’ve erased the Grail’s own, at least as it existed in its current state. So I think that Illyria’s just tapping the ambient magic its radiating as it waits - like cooking with the steam coming from a boiling pot of water, rather than dumping the food in the water itself. If I’m right, and if I can push back the reality surrounding the Grail, then I can connect with it, and sever Illyria’s booster.” His tone got grimmer. “And I can do my job.”

“Meaning?” Shiki asked.

“Ilya appointed me the Grail’s Mediator. I oversee the Wars, enforce the rules - and judge the outcome. And Illyria has violated both.” His eyes, as Shiki glanced over, were somehow both pale and dark at the same time.

“So you’re a Grail knight, then?”

“Oh, God no,” came the flat response. “That is entirely the opposite of what I am.”

“But you’re an Epic Spirit - of sorts, if I understand correctly. You certainly are acting like a legendary hero.”

Jester shook his head. “Grendel. The Minotaur. Sauron. Emperor Palpatine. The final trial of the hero’s journey - the test that will prove them worthy, or break their souls. That is what I am - the Grail’s judge, jury and executioner.”

He turned to look full-on at Shiki, and said, “I’m not the hero, Shiki-san - I’m the monster.”

The car was quiet for a long time, until Shiki said, without inflection, “And you love my daughter.”

Jester froze for an icy moment, realising he was alone in a car with the father of a teenaged daughter who happened to possess the Mystic Eyes of Death Perception . . . And then he relaxed.

“Yes, I love her,” he replied. “I’m not necessarily certain that I’m in love with her, but I doubt it would be hard to be. In any case, it’s nothing you need to worry about.”

“Oh, really?” Once again, absolutely chilling for the utter lack of feeling in it.

“Absolutely. To begin with, I have a chain of evidence going back over twenty years which conclusively proves the fact that no female will ever be romantically or sexually interested in me, with a level of immutability on par with the existence of gravity.”

Shiki blinked, so Jester simplified, “She’s never going to return those feelings, or anything like them, ever - and I don’t push.

“Secondly, even if she did, it wouldn’t matter. When Illyria’s gone, the crack that let her slip through will be sealed, and I’ll be on the other side of it - and dead. All the way dead. Even if, by some miracle, I managed to remain here . . . I have no legal identity, no resources, nothing that proves I exist, or can get me anything that could. Nothing to offer her, much less attract her. I am, in essence, a midsummer night’s dream.”

“Tohno-kun, I don’t exist. Ciel is a shadow, a ghost who haunts those the Church commands her to. Who she was before that died years ago - and I couldn’t resurrect that girl now if I tried. But there are no records of me otherwise, nothing to prove that I’m a real person, with a real life.”

“You’d be surprised what dreams can become,” Shiki said, lost in that memory for a moment.

“In my experience, nightmares,” was the flat response. “In any case, I’m not a problem, sir. I wouldn’t be, for you anyway.”

“What do you mean?”

Jester sighed, and rubbed his temples with the fingers of his right hand. “In another time and place, you asked if it wasn’t all right to be useless. If that which had no immediate practical purpose couldn’t still be of value. And I needed to hear that. I will always be grateful for it. And that’s why I will never willingly do harm to you or yours.” He paused. “Turn here, the temple’s up ahead.”

Shiki complied.

March 19th, 2011, 10:48 AM
DISCLAIMER: Lunar Legend Tsukihime, Fate/Stay Night, and all related characters and concepts are the creation and property of Kinoko Nasu and Type-Moon, along with anyone who's happened to license them, like Geneon or Funimation. Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Angel, Illyria and all related characters and concepts are the property of Joss Whedon, 20th Century Fox, and licensees like IDW Publishing and/or Dark Horse Comics.

This is a not-for-profit, just-for-fun project.

Chapter 10

Tohno Mansion, Misaki

“And you believe all this?”

Arcueid looked skeptically at the Aozaki women as they methodically began to uncrate weaponry, adding, “Both of you?”

Ciel glanced at the blonde vampire, whom she remembered as her murderer, her saviour, her rival, her mortal enemy . . . And the closest thing she probably had to a best friend, outside of her in-laws.

“Yes,” she said simply.

Arcueid frowned. “Why?”

Now it was Ciel’s turn to frown. “Because my Slayer dreams confirm it. Because . . .” She shook her head. “In the other world, I was connected to him, to Tohsaka-san, and to Takara, however tentatively - and part of me recognises that connection. I know, somehow, that it’s the truth.”

Arcueid’s look was flat. “You’re willing to end the world as we know it on a feeling.”

“Yes.” Ciel’s tone was equally flat. “And what does that tell you?”

The vampire with a soul sighed. Ciel didn’t work by impulse, or sentiment. Takara had tempered that about her, somewhat, but she was still a cool, rational being at her core. Dangers were to be eliminated, truths verified, innocents protected - just randomly believing in something like this was against her nature. And if Ciel was willing to disregard her ingrained patterns, there had to be something to it.

The blonde sighed, before asking tentatively, almost whisperingly, “Is it any better in this world?”

Ciel turned to regard the vampire, correctly divining the question she really wanted answered.

“. . . It’s different for you,” the elder Slayer said at last. “Very different. But no worse, I don’t think.”

Arcueid absorbed Ciel’s statement in silence. She existed in the other world, and Shiki was no more hers there than he was here. But her chances of a relationship with him were no worse - might even be better, depending on the nature of those differences.

“I wish you’d let me try out that crystal stick,” she complained.

Takara shook her head. “Aven - Jester said it would be bad to use it too often. Apparently, the thing literally has a mind of its own, and dislikes following its creator’s plans. It seems to be behaving at the moment, but let’s not tempt Fate if we don’t have to.”

“You sound like him,” her mother noted.

“He’s the one who said it,” Takara admitted, “Along with ‘the woman has no self-control.’”

That got a laugh out of the two older women - both of whom had experienced enough to agree with the sentiment.

“He’s made quite an impression, considering you’ve known him only three days,” Ciel said carefully.

“He’s died for us, Mother,” Takara pointed out. “When this is all over, he’ll die again, because it will keep us alive and safe. He’s lied through his teeth more than once, so I can never trust what he says completely - but I think I can trust what he’ll do. He’ll do everything he can to keep his word, if he gives it. He won’t let us come to harm if he can stop it. He’ll try to do the right thing, if he thinks he knows what that is.”

There are worse recommendations for a man, Ciel admitted to herself.

“Just be careful, kitten,” she said aloud. “He’s playing nice, but . . .”

“. . . But?” Takara prompted.

Her mother looked very serious. “I was part of the Holy Grail, and so was he. I remember feeling him, in his fights. I took him into me, when Saber killed him. He tries to be a good man, Takara - and he does love you, as much as he reasonably can, I think - but he has a lot of problems, too, some of them very serious. One of them is his temper. If there hadn’t already been a Berserker in the War, he could have become one. He didn’t choose the Avenger class by pulling it out of a hat, either.”

“You think he’d hurt me?” Takara said in surprise.

“I think he’d kill you, if he was angry enough,” she said flatly. “Not to mention any other living thing he could get his hands on. Mind you, you’d have to work at making him that furious - he’s high-strung and easily riled, but not usually that out of control. Still . . .”

“I’m a Slayer,” Takara pointed out. “And even when I’m not, I’m a Nanaya. He might hit me - once - but he wouldn’t survive to try a second time.”

She shrugged. “Besides, even if I was interested in him - and I’m not saying that I am - in a couple of hours it won’t matter. Either the world will be back to normal, and he’ll be dead . . . Or Illyria will kill us all. Whatever happens, it’s pointless to think about a relationship with a guy who won’t even tell me his name.”

A strange look crossed her mother’s face, and Takara stared in realisation. “You know what it is, don’t you? . . . You do! Tell me!”

An uncharacteristic smirk crossed Ciel’s face. “I think the least I can do is allow him to maintain his persona as a man of mystery,” she said solemnly.


Ryudoji Temple, Fuyuki

Jester flinched as he and Shiki passed through the temple gates, causing the older man to glance at him.

“Revenants aren’t vampires, similarities aside,” the younger man replied to the look. “Holy ground doesn’t bother me. The template for a revenant is loosely based on ‘The Crow’ - an undead avenger driven by passion.” He snorted. “Not too big a step from last time, really.”

“Then what - ?”

Jester scowled. “This close, Illyria’s influence is way stronger than it was at your place. She’s definitely using the Grail as a magnifier, even if she doesn’t realise she is. Breaking through to the Grail is going be a lot harder.”

“But you can do it?”

“I can feel her here,” he said grimly.

“Illyria?” Shiki began glancing around for an ambush.

“The Grail,” Jester corrected. “My Lady, my charge. Illyria can change the entire world, bury her existence until she’s hidden away completely . . . But not from me.” His next words were spoken in a deeper, harsher voice. “Never from me. (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u5FyRZbqfeM)”

As at the Tohno mansion, the air rippled in response to his words. Gradually, that effect increased, until they seemed to stand at the eye of a hurricane. The temple grounds grew hazy and indistinct, flickering in and out of view.

Jester cried out as though struck, dropping to all fours. Shiki moved to help him, only for the younger man to pull himself inward, as though gathering himself - and slowly, shakily, trying to stand.

Shiki was reminded of an old Western myth, suddenly - Atlas, the mighty Titan who bore the weight of the sky on his shoulders. The undead man’s posture was similar to illustrations he’d seen. And, he realised, that was almost the truth - he was literally fighting against the weight of the world, struggling to heave off the veil of what it had become and reveal what was hiding underneath it.

The task seemed impossible . . . But given what Shiki had seen the other man do, what he knew the man had done, “impossible” was an entirely arbitrary concept to apply where he was concerned. If it could be done at all, he would find a way.

And no sooner had the thought sprung into his mind, than his daughter’s former Servant began to rise . . .

This was agony of the highest order. Pain tolerance or not, there were no words for this level of torment because nothing had ever lived long enough to even try to describe it. If he weren’t undead, he’d have dropped from an aneurysm almost immediately - and as it was, he had a nosebleed, and would likely liquefy his host body’s brain if he didn’t either stop or win in the next few seconds. He had never imagined that it would be this hard. The sheer amount of psychic effort involved in this was ridiculous. He wasn’t trying to turn back the tide with a teaspoon, he was trying to halt the sunrise with his bare hands. And all this was still an indirect confrontation. This tactic would never have worked in Illyria’s presence - ever.

It wasn’t simply that he was at the heart of the effect, going almost directly against the will of a primordial demon, in all likelihood, predated the planet. It was that he was drawing on the power the Grail gave him, however diffuse it currently was, to effectively fight itself, because Illyria could no more access it directly than he could. And although as a revenant, his natural stubbornness was augmented to a literally inhuman level of willpower, he couldn’t keep this up forever. He had win, soon, or Illyria would do so by default.

Then, curiously, he felt something seep into him, like arms raising him up, filling him with new strength. Jester opened his eyes, and stared at . . . Shiki.

He understood suddenly. Like Saber before him, Shiki believed. He thought that Jester could - and would - win this fight. And in Jester’s case, the adage about faith being able to move mountains was quite literal.

He rose. It was slow, at first, but he kept going up, refusing to buckle under the pressure. His lady needed him, and his hero believed in him - and nothing was going to make him stop now.

“I am the guardian,” he growled, as much in strain as in anger. “And I. Will. Not . . . Be . . . DENIED!”

White light exploded from the air before them, revealing the Holy Grail in all its glory, awaiting the touch of its victor.

Jester reached out to it, and Shiki had the fleeting impression of a young girl, cocooned within the shining aura of the Grail, taking his hand, before the image was lost in a blaze of searing white light.

When it faded, an armoured warrior stood where Jester had. The armour was covered in a series of jagged, overlapping plates. While it was pure white in colour, but each plate seemed to reflect a different colour, creating a motley blend of prismatic hues. His left shoulder bore a patch of black and silver - a crescent moon. The symbol was etched, too, on the scabbard and hilt of the sword connected to his left gauntlet by way of chains. A sense of inexorable menace, like the sight of an oncoming tidal wave, or glacier, seemed to creep off his form, and Shiki was reminded that while white was a colour of purity in Western culture, in his own it was traditionally the colour for death.

The silent knight seemed to appraise and dismiss him at a glance - not that Shiki could see his eyes through the visor of his helm - before pathways of light spread out in a web beneath their feet. For a moment, Shiki thought it was the Avenger’s road he’d heard of - but realised that these paths were greenish-white in colour.

Ley lines? he wondered, before the pair vanished in a flash.

Tohno Mansion, Misaki

Archer and Rin had just finished tugging their clothes back into place when the light erupted at the centre of the parlour, leaving Shiki Aozaki and an armoured knight-like figure behind.

Shiki blinked, before turning to his companion, and saying, “We left the car back in Fuyuki, you know.”

The warrior said nothing, staring with a measuring gaze at Archer. Archer stared back in understanding. Who or whatever this was, it was similar to a Counter Guardian when deployed - a purpose given power and form, nothing more. It would never question, never think outside its parameters, never care about right or wrong. There was only the mission, and what it had to do to accomplish it.

Archer got the impression that this particular mission was “eliminate Emiya Shirou,” but before he could say or do anything, his garments changed to the vestments and armour he wore as a Servant.

The armoured killer immediately turned its attention away from him, and went through the parlour wall to the outside yard - where Archer could make out at least a dozen vampires, plus his Master, her mother . . . And Illyria.

He glanced at Rin for a heartbeat, and then leaped out to meet his foes.

Shiki stared at the gaping hole. “First my studio, now this - I really have to talk to that boy about unnecessary property damage.”

The odds weren’t in their favour, but given that they were two Slayers and an 800-year-old vampire, attacked while in their armoury, it didn’t take long to even them up.

The problem was, this was just the cannon fodder, and all three women knew it. Once it became clear that even a dozen vamps couldn’t take them down, Illyria would intervene, and then, from all reports, they’d be so far out of their league it might as well be a different sport altogether.

When Takara saw blue hair that wasn’t hers or her mother’s, she knew it was time. “Kaleidostick, acti -”

The primordial demon cast out her arm, and the air rippled . . .

. . . And broke apart like a wave crashing on rocks as it struck the rock fragments each woman wore around her neck.

“-vate!” Takara finished shouting.

Then she was submerged again, in the silver-eyed huntress, and she saw the blue-black corruption of Illyria, coiled like an infection around the lines which represented Arturia Pendragon’s life. Instinctively, she drew on her mystical reserves to strengthen herself, and coiled to spring . . .

. . . And blinked as Illyria was suddenly in front of her, fist in motion.

Her mother was between them, just as suddenly, and Takara reasserted herself in shock, losing her Mystic Eyes as she saw the demon’s hand emerge through broken pieces of her mother’s spine. Arcueid leaped on Illyria’s back, driving them both forward and away, fully demonic in her rage. Illyria casually reached back with the hand not buried in Ciel Aozaki’s body and wrenched the vampiress’ head from her shoulders, leaving the blonde woman to disintegrate in a shower of ashes. Takara felt some of them waft across her face as she stood, powerless and frozen as Illyria advanced again . . .

A sheathed sword, attached to a long chain, flew past the demon’s shoulder and around, looping across her neck - and hurling her back and into the gazebo-type structure’s roof, knocking it and Illyria to the ground. The chain retracted, drawing the sword into the hand of a figure in jagged-edged armour.

The presence of the armoured one felt familiar to her senses, but eerie for what she didn’t feel - any trace of humanity. Whatever Jester had become in donning that armour, there wasn’t anything of her Servant - her friend - underneath it.

“Takara . . .” croaked a gurgling voice.

She gazed down to see her mother, blood flowing from her mouth, eyes dull - but still alive.

“Mother!” She dove to her prone form. “What can I do? How can I - ?”

“This - didn’t - happen . . .” Ciel croaked, willing her daughter to understand. “Stop her . . . And it goes - away . . .”

Takara understood, or thought she did, maybe because she desperately wanted a way for her not to die. This world was Illyria’s creation - without her, it reverted to Faust’s tower, at the end of the Grail War. Without Illyria, her mother and godmother would be fine.

Always before, her Nanaya self had bubbled up on instinct, in response to an outside stimulus - or occasionally coming when she called, when she needed that strength. Always before, Nanaya had taken over from her normal faculties, placing what Takara Aozaki thought of as her “real” self in a passive mode - able to observe, but having no control whatsoever. This had caused problems, as a big enough shock had proved sufficient to overwhelm Nanaya’s control, and put her back in the driver’s seat, so to speak.

This time, however, both sides of her were in full accord. Illyria needed to die, would die - now.

Archer cursed as another Caladbolg II slammed into Illyria’s armoured carapace with about as much effect as the last two - which was to say, damned little. The demon definitely had Saber’s endurance, amplified to a ridiculous degree. The shots he was using threw her around like a rag doll in a tumble dryer, but didn’t seem to be doing much physical damage.

His armoured quasi-ally wasn’t doing much better. Despite some truly savage-looking blows from both the sword (still sheathed in its black scabbard, he noted), and his gauntleted fists, Illyria didn’t look much worse than she had when Archer had taken her on with Wolfram and Hart’s backing.

The same could not be said for them. While Archer was managing to avoid taking any direct attacks by virtue of distance, the knight was having to soak up every blow the enraged primordial dished out. His armour was battered, dented, and chipped to the point where he figured another blow in any single spot would shatter the whole suit. And still, he got back up. He had to grudgingly admitted it to himself: Ilya-chan had made a damned impressive choice. The guy reminded him of - well, him. But all the guts on Earth wouldn’t help him if they couldn’t stop Illyria.

Archer decided that since long-range wasn’t doing the job, it was time to switch tactics. His usual blades - or their equivalents - had proven not effective enough against Illyria’s armour, so it was time to bring out the big guns, so to speak. He closed his eyes and concentrated, on the most perfect sword he’d ever known, powerful enough to slay a foe that had seemed as equally invincible as Illyria . . . With a golden flare, Caliburn, the Sword of Kings was reborn.

His last fleeting thought, as he charged into battle was, Saber would approve.

Illyria glared at the white-shelled insect that refused to back down and acknowledge her superiority. It was obviously nearly broken, and yet it still persisted in its defiance . . . And it committed the further affront of refusing to bare its weapon! The blade, puny and ineffective though it would no doubt prove, remained sheathed, its edge contained, despite the brutal beating she had administered.

The insult was too great to bear.

With a bellow of wounded pride, she reached out to grip the armoured one by the shoulders, heedless of the biting edges it held, and wrenched, trying to tear both arms from their sockets. She was only partially successful - the left epaulette exploded, obliterating the sigil-etched plate, and the arm was severed, forcing the sword to fall to the ground as the arm connected to it via chain drooped lifelessly. Yet the warrior made no sound, no acknowledgement of his injury. He failed to even bleed.

Illyria bared her teeth in what the foolish might mistake for a smile. If he were not set against her, she would almost like this one.

Instinct forced her to roll out of the way of a golden blade as it sliced through the space her head had been. Illyria acknowledged the newcomer in a glance - both she and the memories of the shell she occupied recognised this one - not so mindless as the other, and more dangerous for it. The white one was a hammer, bluntly and brutally proceeding regardless of obstacles. This one was a dagger, seeking chinks in her armour to exploit, and thus, far more dangerous.

Still, despite that fact and the obvious power of his weapon, his fighting style was known to her, and thus vulnerable to countermoves. She read an attack as he made it, clasping the sword blade in her hands as it was brought down, and then added her strength to his momentum, driving it violently into the ground - and the pair of them equally violently into the air, as the sword exploded on impact.

Illyria staggered slowly to her feet, more injured than she cared to admit by the blast, although her foe remained nearly prone on the ground, lacking her resilience. He was nearly within arm’s reach, and she moved to deliver the killing blow . . .

The sound of shattering metal drew her attention, and Illyria’s eyes locked on the white-shelled one, who had retrieved his sword and unsheathed it at last. The black blade was limned in a thin white corona, like a solar eclipse, and lettering she could not read marked the flat of the blade . . .

Archer stared. While he could not copy it well without handling it, his nature imparted to him that of the sword.

Siege Perilous. Forged from the power of the slain Servants who had fallen in the War, and named for the legendary seat of the Round Table used by Galahad, the most pure and perfect knight, the last successful seeker of the Holy Grail. And like that terrible chair, its touch would destroy the unworthy.

It was truly the weapon of last resort - because even encased in armour, Archer could see the knight’s hand smoking as he gripped it, raised it above his head - and threw it, as though it was a lance and not a sword.

Archer stared in disbelief, then realisation . . .

Illyria sneered as she read the path of the flying blade - it would pass completely over her head! Obviously, the injuries she’d inflicted were more telling than they seemed. This battle was over . . .

Takara caught the blade in the hand not holding the Kaleidostick and drove it into the core of Illyria.

“It’s over,” she said, in that snow-soft voice, and the part of her that was still Takara Aozaki added, “Bitch.”

None of them needed Takara Aozaki’s Mystic Eyes to see the web of neon-blue cracks that erupted across Illyria’s form, or the white lightning that raced through them from the point where the sword had pierced her body. Both were powerful, and they increased in intensity as each of them realised what was about to happen.

Archer struggled to rise . . .

Takara, still in mid-fall, threw her arms in front of her face . . .

The ragged knight darted forward at inhuman speeds, as though trying to throw himself between the two and the incoming blast . . .

. . . And the world went white . . .

To Be Continued in Trinity I: The Stone