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Thread: Melancholy of One (A Grail Works. LTD. Story)

  1. #1341
    死徒二十七祖 The Twenty Seven Dead Apostle Ancestors pureauthor's Avatar
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    Chapter Sixty Three: Contr/Act/ors

    *~*

    Delays are all attributed to me rediscovering why I love Disney's Tangled and Rapunzel/Eugene.



    *d'awwwwww*

    *~*

    In another world, another time...

    The fire that raged through Fuyuki City devoured all in its path. Under the unnaturally intense heat, stone seared and cracked apart, metal softened or melted altogether into twisted, grasping shapes.

    And flesh. Soft, fragile and frail, the flesh of the living was seared and charred beyond recognition, blackened shapes strewn about bearing mute testimony to the destruction that had transpired.

    Transpired, due to the words of one man.

    Amidst the raging flames, a single dark shape could be seen. Had there been anyone to observe it, they might have said that it looked very much like a man kneeling on the ground.

    The shape shuddered violently once, and amidst the roar of the flames, one might have heard a sound that seemed very much like a cry of despair.

    No one. Not a single one alive. Even this boy...

    He had seen the boy struggling feebly. A black, writhing shape barely visible through the choking smoke, one hand reaching ever forward.

    He had rushed there, as fast as possible. Heedless of the danger and destruction around him, his eyes afixed on the small, dark shape.

    Just one, even just one. Even if it had been... just one...

    But even as he neared, he could see the reason the boy was struggling. He was crushed under a slab of rubble, with only his arm and head not covered under the rock. Even as his pace slowed, he could see the arm lower, finally lying still.

    And Kiritsugu Emiya was alone, amidst the sea of flames.

    “This is pretty much your fault, you know.”

    The voice, spoken in a low, conversational tone, was nevertheless perfectly clear in his ears and he whirled.

    A dark shape was walking towards him, heedless of the raging flames. As the figure approached, it became more apparent that it was in the shape of a man. Or at least, someone who looked like one.

    “Now, I'm not saying there weren't extenuating circumstances,” the figure stepped lightly over a charred corpse in his path. “And yeah, you were working off incomplete information. But, breaking the Grail? Yeah, that was all you.”

    Kiritsugu remained silent.

    The figure was closer now, and some of his features could be made out in the gloom. He wore what appeared to be a cloak of deep grey. Arms that were spread open in a manner that appeard to invite open conversation revealed that his arms were bare and featureless, save for a single shining silver ring of his right hand.

    The same cloak that he bore also had a hood that obscured most of his features, save for one – a unpleasant green light gleamed where his right eye would have been.

    “So then,” coming to a halt in front of Kiritsugu, the cloaked figure spread his arms ever further. “What are you waiting for?”

    This time Kiritsugu did look up at the figure, and although he didn't say anything, he knew that his expression made the question plain.

    “What?” the person – if it was a person – shrugged, an casual made all the more bizarre against the backdrop of death all around them. “I've been watching you for a while, and unless I have your personality pegged completely wrong, you aren't particularly happy that this fire started.

    “And so,” the figure crouched lower, and now Kiritsugu could see what appeared to be an unpleasant white-toothed grin under the darkness of the hood. “I am here, on behalf of our mutual benefactor, to offer you a deal.”

    Kiritsugu's eyes narrowed.

    “Ah, confusion,” the figure stood. “I refer, of course, to the guardian angel that sits perched on all of humanity's shoulder, always ready to mete out their harsh discipline on their more... deletorious aspirations. Alaya. Perhaps you've heard of it?'

    Amidst the carnage around him, Kiritsugu suddenly found himself struggling to his feet. Struggling to stand.

    “And what they are offering you is – wait for it – a genuine once-in-a-lifetime opportunity! They stop this fire, fix this mess, and make it so this stupid little Holy Grail War might as well have never. Ever. Happened.

    “And, I know, I know,” the figure raised a hand, as if to forestall any arguments that might be forthcoming. “You're asking what's the catch, right? What's in it for them? Well, nothing much. You just become one of their pet guard dogs, sent to pounce on anything or anyone they find undesirable. And the way I see it, that's what you'd want to do anyway, huh?”

    Kiritsugu was silent.

    “Oh come on. Kill one to save ten. Kill ten to save a hundred. Kill a hundred to – Well, you get the idea. Really, it's what you do anyway,” the figure paused and shrugged. “Of course, you're not going to get the Grail to make your dream of world peace or whatever a reality, but nobody ever said all dreams come true. Right, Kerry?”

    An instant of silence -

    And then Kiritsugu lunged, one hand reaching to seize the hooded figure, but he was wounded and exhausted and the figure stepped back, easily evading his grasp.

    “Look at yourself. Be reasonable,” the figure continued. “I'm giving you a chance here, you know. To make something out of this mess you got yourself into. Because if you say no, I'll go away. And just like that, everything you'll have done, all that hard work, all those deaths, all those sacrifices... will have been for. Absolutely. Nothing.”

    Despite the raging fire all around him, the world seemed to have stilled and fallen into silence.

    “Or you could make something of it. Save some lives. Be the hero,” the cloaked figure took one deliberate step forward and stood directly in front of Kiritsugu. “All it takes is one word.”

    The hand bearing the silver ring was extended, the universal gesture for an invitation to a handshake.

    “Well? What do you say?”

    For a single, endless moment, nobody moved.

    *~*

    There were times where Kiritsugu wondered if the universe had gone out of its way to play a giant, sick, cosmic joke on him. Times where, as he stood and surveyed the bodies strewn all around him, he wondered if this was actually a hell of his own personal making.

    They'd called him the Magus Killer, back when he had still been alive. And he didn't know if it was a sick joke on the part of the powers-that-be, or just the natural tendency of magecraft-practitioners to go poking where they had no business doing so, but it appeared most of his assignments were against those ilk.

    He was also pretty sure he'd once killed the exact same person twice.

    “Only makes sense, doesn't it?” the cloaked figure never appeared very often, which Kiritsugu considered a small mercy in a universe with far too few of them. “You know how many different universes are out there with with complete and utter screwups that occur every single day? Having you police a single one would be a waste of your prodigious talents, and believe me, you have quite a few. Mostly involving murdering people. But hey! It's for the greater good!”

    This is what you wanted, isn't it?

    “Who are you?” once, in a moment of lucidity, standing on the rooftop of what had been some sort of dark ritual just minutes before, he'd seen the figure crouching there again, cloaking billowing about him in the night sky.

    “Who, me?” the figure had shrugged. “I'm a go-between. A message delivery boy. Nobody special in the grand scheme of things.”

    “And yet you come here to mock me,” he was taciturn most of the time, but once in a while, the bitterness and bile spilled out.

    “Oh, you wound me. Sometimes I just like to do a check up on the people I've helped. What can I say? I'm a bleeding heart.”

    Silence, but for the wind in the distance. And Kiritsugu tensed as he felt the unmistakeable sensation at the back of his head.

    “Oops. You're being summoned,” though the figure's face was hidden, Kiritsugu could not shake the impression that it was grinning at him. “Well, what are you waiting for? Time to go play hero.”

    *~*

    Moon Cell, Proving Grounds

    This assignment was new.

    For one thing, he was left mostly autonomous to fulfil his objective however he wished. A far cry from Alaya's usual MO of 'burn everything to the ground. Yes, including that.'

    Secondly... well, for once, he wasn't too sure what his objective was.

    He could guess, simply by the fact that he had been called here, that there had to be something catastrophic for humanity's future waiting in the wings if he failed to prevent whatever was going to happen.

    Of course, the more information he drew in about the circumstances he found himself in, the more he found himself wondering.

    A Holy Grail War. Yet another blasted one. Once again, he revised his estimation of the universe playing a sick joke on him up another notch.

    This one was different from most, though. Here the War was held in a digital landscape. Here, unlike the magi' that he was familiar with, most appeared well-versed in the ways of technology.

    Still this was all largely irrelevant detail. The first real issue was getting to participate in the war.

    And that meant finding a worthy Master.

    He would have laughed at the horrible role reversal had he not mostly been very upset with it instead.

    Still. There was work to be done.

    Yes, he mused grimly. Work.

    Most of the candidates he discarded out of hand. Selfish dreams of glory, chasing ethereal visions and grandiose plans to reshape the world – he'd have sooner shot himself again than work under them.

    Of course, he reflected with a somewhat bitter smile, King Arthur might have once thought the same about him.

    One candidate, however, caught his eye. Not due to her wish for the Holy Grail, but her lack of one. She seemed to treat participation in the War itself as a goal, something that would help her further her true desires.

    And that made two of them.

    The introduction hadn't been a particularly warm one. In fact, Kiritsugu had gotten the distinct impression that she had been rather unimpressed.

    “Assassin, huh?”

    Kiritsugu hadn't bothered to reply. She well knew his Servant class, and he saw no reason to indulge her in repeating facts they both knew.

    Marie – his Master – had sighed and flopped lazily onto a chair once they were safely in the privacy of their own room.

    “So, going to be on the level with you here,” the woman had said. “I'm not particularly enthused by the whole wish-granting grail thing. Sure, it'd be nice to have, but...

    “I'm actually bothered way more by looking for someone,” she made a face. “Something? Someone. Haven't found out much yet, but what I do know is that I need to make it pretty far into this mess before I'll even get a shot at reaching my target. As in finals-round far.

    “Now, if that's not your cup of tea, then... honestly? Feel free to break the contract,” Marie had shaken her head. “It won't kill me, by the way. And I'll miss out on what I'm looking for, but only for this round, I guess. I'll get another shot at it soon enough.”

    Kiritsugu had simply shaken his head once, which Marie had apparently taken as consent, because she nodded in reply.

    After all, they both had jobs to do.

    *~*

    Moon Cell, Digital Tsukimihara Academy, Storage Shed

    He settled back, taking a lazy drag from his cigarette before stubbing it out.

    He had to be honest – he missed being able to do this. It had been a very long time since he'd been in a position to just honest-to-god enjoy a smoke.

    But now he had the downtime to do so, so... why not?

    And on the note of downtime...

    He raised his knife and began cleaning the blood of it.

    The body of the Master whose throat he'd slit had faded into nothing shortly after he'd disposed of him, but for whatever irritating reason, the blood on his weapon had remained.

    Probably just to make life more difficult for him, he supposed.

    “Assassin!” he heard Marie's call. In response, he stepped slightly further out into the sunlight, letting her catch sight of his robes.

    “I thought you were supposed to be looking for – oh,” her voice trailed off as she caught sight of the blood on his knife.

    A silence settled on both of them for a long while before Marie spoke again, her voice noticeably catching in her throat.

    “So... did he give you any real trouble?”

    The Master had been an idiot who had decided to walk out here to an isolated area of the compound without even bothering to bring his Servant along. Kiritsugu simply shook his head once and left it at that.

    Marie seemed to gaze off into the distance for a while before she sighed.

    “Fine. Whatever it is, I just need to progress in the war. I guess this is how an Assassin would do it or something? Just let me know if there's anything you need me to do as a Master that a Servant can't.”

    Marie's back was turned, so she hadn't seen Kiritsugu raise a single eyebrow.

    What may have been a sad, humourless laugh was forced out the back of his throat.

    Saber hadn't been half as accomodating, all those years ago.

    Then again, neither had he.

    He stood up, and without a word, began to head back to their shared room.

    There was still work to be done.

    *~*

    Present Day

    Out of five completed rounds in the Grail War, Kiritsugu had only had to face an opponent in the Coliseum once. On all the other accounts he had managed to live up to his name by employing judicious use of explosives, traps, ambushes and general combat pragmatism before it ever came to a deathmatch with the actual Servant.

    Of course, now he was forced into another straight fight.

    Against Saber. King Arthur.

    Because the universe, as far as Kiritsugu could tell, really had done all this as a sick joke.

    The one advantage of fighting in such an enclosing space as the elevator that was intended to take them to the Coliseum was that King Arthur would not be able to use her Noble Phantasm in such a tight spot. Kiritsugu, meanwhile, was free to use his own.

    Of course the unfortunate corollary was that quadrupling his combat abilities would barely allow him to keep pace with King Arthur as it was. His body was enhanced far beyond what he had been capable off during the Fourth Grail War so long ago, but still.

    Facts were facts. The rules didn't change no matter how unfair they were.

    King Arthur was just better in a fight than him. Kiritsugu wouldn't be able to beat her in a straight fight.

    It was that simple.

    Equally simple: He didn't need to defeat her.

    At this point, Kiritsugu had to assume that Leonard was the only one left who posed a large enough problem that Alaya had forcibly injected him into the Grail War. If only because all the other Masters (his own included) seemed utterly ambivalent towards the Grail itself. Meanwhile the boy had gone on and on about becoming king and providing 'order' and all that nonsense.

    So, defeating King Arthur would not be the goal. She was an obstacle, to be maneuvered around.

    Unfortunately, Leoanrd had proven to be slightly harder to kill than he would have liked. He possessed some sort of magecraft that enabled to boost his speed vastly for a moment – enough that he could avoid a point blank shot from Kiritsugu.

    Given the look on the boy's face, however, the spell had obviously been a taxing one.

    One more shot... if I can get one more clear shot...

    For now, though...

    Twisting, and barely avoiding a strike from King Arthur that would have cut him in half, he fired. Not at Leonard – King Arthur was doing too good a job of placing herself between the two of them and she'd have blocked any shots that Kiritsugu could have made.

    But at the doorway. The bullet, coded with a disruption signal, did two things – firstly, it jammed the doors closed. And secondly, the elevator began its long descent to the Coliseum.

    The three people within the elevator paused for a brief moment. Slowly, with deliberate movements, Kiritsugu began to reload his guns.

    King Arthur made no move to stop him, save for tightening the grip on her own weapon. Her eyes were narrowed in concentration as she stared at Kiritsugu.

    Different world, different time, he almost shook his head. Same old honourable idiot.

    Well, so much the better if she let him get away with that.

    He had a job to do.

    He raised his hand.

    And then battle was joined.

    *~*

    Chapter End

    *~*

    Thanks for reading! Hope you enjoyed it, and comments are welcome.

  2. #1342
    Jester of the Moon Cell's Sovereign Kieran's Avatar
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    It might the universe's sick joke - but I can't stop laughing . . . !
    “Love will be cruel to who it entices — love will have its sacrifices.”

    — Carmilla Theme




    "Evil isn't the real threat to the world. Stupid is just as destructive as Evil, maybe more so, and it's a hell of a lot more common. What we really need is a crusade against Stupid. That might actually make a difference."

    ―Jim Butcher, Vignette

  3. #1343
    死徒二十七祖 The Twenty Seven Dead Apostle Ancestors pureauthor's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Kieran View Post
    It might the universe's sick joke - but I can't stop laughing . . . !
    Pretend I inserted an image of Kerry looking grumpy here. Which is honestly most of the scenes he's in.

  4. #1344
    Drunk Anime Is The True Path. Mattias's Avatar
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    So that's who Assassin is. Archer got summoned somewhere in this War, didn't he? That would be an awkward confrontation, seeing your father but him not knowing who you are.

    Other than that only thing I noticed was a small spelling mistake:

    Unfortunately, Leoanrd had proven to be slightly harder to kill
    Atlus: Just Make an Eroge Already.


    Gundam-a-thon Status: 0079 Zeta ZZ Char's Counterattck War In the Pocket F91 Stardust Memories Victory G Gundam Wing Endless Waltz 8th MS After War X Turn A SEED IGLOO 00 Unicorn AGE Reconguista The Orgin Thunderbolt S2 IBO


  5. #1345
    Jester of the Moon Cell's Sovereign Kieran's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by pureauthor View Post
    Pretend I inserted an image of Kerry looking grumpy here. Which is honestly most of the scenes he's in.
    You forgot to add "anywhere, ever."
    “Love will be cruel to who it entices — love will have its sacrifices.”

    — Carmilla Theme




    "Evil isn't the real threat to the world. Stupid is just as destructive as Evil, maybe more so, and it's a hell of a lot more common. What we really need is a crusade against Stupid. That might actually make a difference."

    ―Jim Butcher, Vignette

  6. #1346
    死徒二十七祖 The Twenty Seven Dead Apostle Ancestors pureauthor's Avatar
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    Chapter Sixty Four: Ri/Sk/ill

    *~*

    I really feel like I should pick up the pace on these.

    Disclaimer: I own nothing.

    *~*

    Exploring the 2nd Chimeric Lunar Sea

    “I don't like this.”

    “Don't like what?” Marie glanced over her shoulder at her Servant. He was almost always silent, and he was never the one to initiate a conversation, so having Assassin speak up out the blue was honestly pretty jarring.

    “This competition. This war,” it was only the second week of the war, and Marie wasn't too sure they were on their way to developing a real relationship. If anything he appeared unwilling to ever entertain the thought of them becoming more than a Master and a Servant. Not even partners, not really. They'd do what they needed to do to survive the week and move on to the next, and that was that.

    But now, apparently something was riling Assassin up enough to speak up about it.

    “You don't like the tournament format?” she hazarded a guess as they rounded the corner, continuing to scout out the Arena and to find the Triggers.

    He hesitated, and Marie got the distinct impression that no matter how close Assassin was trying to hold his cards to his chest, something about the War conflicted with him on a deep, fundamental level.

    “Trying to make rules and honourable duels out of a battle to the death,” an Arena guardian lunged at them from the shadows. There was a loud report from Assassin's gun and the guardian fell to the floor, its body already dissolving. “It's ridiculous.”

    “You'd prefer it was a free-for-all with no holds barred?” This was the longest Assassin had spoken without being prompted for information, and Marie wondered briefly if it was okay to continue to dig deeper into his thoughts and views.

    “The only thing those rules and restrictions accomplish is making it look like there's supposed to be some honour or fair play to be found in murder and death. Killing is killing.”

    “Strange words for an Assassin.”

    Her Servant fell silent, but she could tell that he hadn't expected what she had said.

    “I mean, unless I have completely misread the situation, you're way weaker than most of the fighters here, and you're definitely outclassed by any of the actual heavyweights. What you do have going for you is that everyone else is trying to play by the rules, and you're good at bending them.

    They passed by a chest, and Marie palmed it after a glance. No Trigger, so she continued walking forward.

    “Yeah, so maybe you're upset people see it that way and try to glorify it. Well, you do you. But you should be glad not everyone does, because right now, that's what's giving you a fighting chance.”

    Assassin was silent for a long moment, and Marie wondered if she had possibly offended him somehow.

    “That's for this war. What about the next?”

    “You aren't ever going to change human nature like that,” Marie shrugged. “There're always going to be people who want things, and if they want it badly enough, they'd be willing to die for it. They'd be willing to kill for it. That's the way the world is.”

    At this something changed in Assassin's demeanour and Marie realized she had struck something of a nerve. Despite his thick garb and attires, she got the sensation that her Servant was somehow closing in on himself.

    “I suppose,” was all he said, and he left it at that.


    *~*

    Moon Cell, Digital Tsukimihara Academy, 1st Floor Foyer

    It had been two minutes since Marie's Assassin and King Arthur had vanished into the elvator.

    The doors had slammed shut, leaving the others to stand there and wonder about the battle on the other side of the doorway.

    “That was unexpected,” Father Kotomine had said after a moment, his face completely impassive as usual. “It appears the controls for the elevator are malfunctioning. We won't be able to interfere in the match between Saber and Assassin until it is over.”

    Marie, who had been pacing back and forth near the entrance of the lift, folded her arms and flopped next to the lift with an irritated sigh.

    “Damn it” she muttered to herself, but loud enough that Shiki couldn't help overhearing. “This was supposed to be clinical. Efficient. Over quickly.”

    “Assassin most likely won't be able to match Saber in a close-quarters fight, especially without the Master there to provide support,” Kara was speaking in the voice that Shiki knew only he could hear. “It... doesn't look good for her, Praetor.”

    A heavy silence feel upon all present, until Marie raised her head, giving a crooked smile.

    “What is this, a school or a cemetery? Both of you look like I'm already the walking dead.”

    “You appear awfully blasé for someone who risks death,” Kara said as she flashed into visibility in the guise of Nero. “Will you do nothing now?”

    “Doesn't appear to be much left to do,” the girl shrugged. “Win or lose, it's all up to Assassin now, isn't it?”

    “But still – your Command Seals -”

    “How do you think I set up the ambush at all?” Marie's laugh was humourless as she pulled herself to her feet. “I needed to give a Command to allow Assassin to set up preparations in the first place. Now I've just the one left.”

    “Tch!” Kara turned away at that, obviously unhappy at what Marie was saying.

    Shiki frowned. Something about the way Marie carried herself...

    “You don't seem like someone resolved to die, though,” he finally said, his voice low. “But it can't be ignorance at this point; you know what happens if Assassin fails.”

    “... Don't you worry your cute little head about me,” the female Master turned away for a moment. “Still though, you're right. Best to cover all our bases.”

    But instead of turning to face Shiki, she walked over to Kotomine.

    “Hey, Mediaator. Got any pen and paper?”

    Kotomine raised an eyebrow but held out a hand. With a flash of blue light, the requested items appeared in hand.

    The woman turned back to face Shiki and Kara as she started scribbling on the paper. “You're right. I might be gone within the next ten minutes. Which means the past six weeks were all for a big pile of nothing.

    “But...” Marie trailed off. “You're hunting her too, aren't you? Or at least your friend is.”

    Out of the corner of his eye, Shiki saw Kara's eyes narrow. Trying to keep his own expression calm, he took a step forward.

    “What do you know?”

    “Oh, enough,” Marie's smile was enigmatic. “More than you or that earth spirit hanging around you, I'd wager. But if this really is the end of the line for me, then I suppose you'll have to do instead.”

    Shiki wasn't quite sure whether to feel insulted by Marie or not, but a moment later the female Master had folded a piece of paper and thrust it at Shiki.

    “Here. If worst comes to worst, pass this on to the earth spirit. She'll probably want to know everything she can about what – about who she's trying to hunt down.”

    (X)

    Moon Cell, Coliseum

    Deep-Seated Grudge – Assassin vs. Saber

    Excalibur flashed with golden light as King Arthur stabbed forward with it, seeking to limit Assassin's movements. Kiritsugu whirled, barely avoiding the strike, and fired off a shot at point blank range from his gun.

    A slight twist of her wrist, and Excalibur flicked up and down, deflecting the shot easily like she had the past two ones. Before Assassin could move away the sword came down again, a flicker of light that held the power to easily cut him in two.

    Time Alter – Quintuple Accel

    He moved back – just enough now to avoid the strike. He couldn't keep his Time Alter at such a high level for long without damaging his own body, but activating it for brief instants as he evaded and struck back was enough to, just barely, keep him ahead of her precise strikes.

    His improved body as a Counter Guardian allowed him to fight for extended periods at quadrupled speed without significant drawback. But any more than that was seriously pushing his body beyond its limits, and it was only that fact that they were within the Moon Cell's virtual playground instead of the 'real' world that had saved him from the most deletorious effects of constantly messing up his own time against the rest of the world.

    Of course, that he had bought more than half the Commissary's stock in mana gems, crushed them and mixed them into a solution that he had soaked his clothes in afterwards also helped. Even now he could feel the residue of those crystals working to repair damage his body sustained.

    But it wouldn't last for much longer.

    The elevator was still hurtling downwards to the Coliseum, and Kiritsugu knew that once they reached wherever they were supposed to go, things would probably get worse for him. Yes, he would have more room to manoeuvre, but right now the lack of space for Leo was his best shot at targeting the would-be king. In the more open space of the Coliseum, he doubted the ability to find more angles of attack would outweigh Leo having more space to move, and King Arthur being free to move as she pleased as well.

    Of course, if he were really lucky the Coliseum would be a dark maze-like area that would afford him plenty of chances for ambushes and sneak attacks, but his life had taught him better than to rely on luck.

    He suspected King Arthur knew this too, which was why she was fighting more defensively than not. She had surmised almost immediately that Kiritsugu's main target would be her Master and now she was focused on preventing him from reaching him by any means necessary. Offensive actions on her part were limited, far below the level he knew she was capable of.

    As he shifted his position, he saw Leo moving as well, King Arthur matching pace with his movements to keep Leo covered. Kiritsugu resisted the urge to sigh. As it was, he was unlikely to be able to deal a fatal hit to Leo. At least, not without putting himself at undue risk. King Arthur was covering him too well and in the confined enclosure of the lift, there wasn't any real space to move.

    Good thing he'd taken the liberty of planting explosives in the place earlier, then. And with his shifting of position, he'd managed to bait Leo into moving right above where they were.

    The explosion caught Saber completely by surprise, and she stumbled forward slightly from the force of the blast pushing her away. In the enclosed space of the elevator, it was only Kiritsugu remembering to brace himself for impact and throwing his cloak, enchanted with protective runes, up, that allowed him to completely ignore the force of the blast.

    Not wasting time, Kiritsugu leapt forward, once again using a quintupled Time Alter to dash past King Arthur. He couldn't be certain that the explosion had done the deed of finishing Leo – and he couldn't afford to fail at this juncture.

    Abruptly he caught sight of a flash from the corner of his vision and he twisted away, feeling his back slam into the wall of the elevator as he once again narrowly avoided an upward strike from Saber's weapon.

    Of course she was able to recover that fast. I had to get Marie to spend a Command Spell to give me access to the elevator too.

    He almost let out a hiss of irritation – and then he had spent too long at once at five times Time Alter and was forced to release it again.

    Saber took a deep breath, blade still pointed at him. Stumbling behind her, he could see Leo with an ugly, bleeding wound down the side of his face and neck – but still very much alive. A brief flickering around him told of a magic shield that had absorbed the majority of the blast.

    It's never that easy. Assassin had to resist the urge to sigh.

    Another brief pause in the combat as everyone involved took stock of the situation. And then, a low voice from Leo.

    “King Arthur. Do it.”

    Her gaze and her blade never wavered. “Master Harway. Are you certain?'

    “Yes.”

    Saber's impassive mask shifted into a determined glare, and suddenly golden light flared across the blade of her sword as she brought it back above her head, preparing to swing it down.

    “Ex...”

    Assassin's eyes narrowed. He knew from firsthand experience that her Noble Phantasm would manifest in a raging torrent of divine light capable of obliterating nigh-anything in its path. She can't use it in such close quarters without risking it harming Leonard as well. Unless -

    His grip on his weapons tightened. All right. Time to bet everything I have as well. Body, don't fail me now.

    Time Alter - Sextuple Accel

    With gun and dagger in hand, Kiritsugu charged forward.

    “ - CALIBUR!”

    Excalibur: Sword of Promised Victory

    *~*

    “Shiki? And Saber?”

    From behind the two of them came Hakuno's confused voice.

    “I thought I would late after I decided to perform and Alteration first, but... you're both still here?”

    Her Master blew out a breath of air and turned to look at Hakuno – no, at their opponent – with a slight smile. “Well I guess we got distracted.”

    “Young Master Kishinami,” Kotomine's voice sounded. “And Young Master Tohno. Are you ready for your own match? If you are, I shall open the gates to the Coliseum.”

    Kara frowned as she turned to regard the Mediator. “Did you not say the elevator's code had been disrupted?”

    “Yes, of course. But it would be a poorly designed system that did not have sufficient backups on hand. Rest assured we are fully capable of delivering you and your Servants to the Coliseum.”

    “All right then,” a look of calm resolve came across Hakuno's face. “Then I supposed there is no reason to wait any longer.”

    This time, both Masters stepped forward as one to present their Triggers.

    “I wish you the best of luck and pray for your safe return,” Kotomine said, his voice soft and a mocking smile on his face as he addressed the both of them at once. “And remember, it's kill or be killed.”

    Hakuno stepped into the doorway as it opened first, but her Master hesitated, casting a worried glance in Marie's direction.

    “You're a regular bleeding heart, you know that?” she didn't look in his direction. “Whatever happens, happens. Go worry about your own deathmatch.”

    At this Shiki seemed to gather himself as he gave a hasty nod. “Come on... Saber.”

    “Very well, Praetor.”

    They stepped forward to the sixth match of the Holy Grail War.

    *~*

    The End of a Dream

    The moment the boy stepped through the lift, Marie gave a groan and slumped further down against the wall.

    “Well... damn,” she muttered. Took everything I had to hold it together while there was still an audience.

    The shortness of breath she had felt for the past few seconds abruptly became a clawing tightness in her chest, and a bolt of pain lanced through her heart.

    “Guess... this is it...” she managed to squeeze out through gritted teeth as she felt the world dim around her.

    She'd no doubt that Assassin had fought to the very best of his ability, just as she'd no doubt that in the end, he'd found himself outmatched.

    Well, that was that. She'd always known this was a possibility right from the very first day.

    Not that it didn't sting that this had to come after five rounds in the war. So close, and yet so far...

    “I suppose this is the end of your excursion to this world,” the Mediator's voice, seemingly from very far away.

    “And... what... if it is?” she said through increasingly laboured breaths.

    “... Harbouring you has proven very inconvenient. If, in the future, you should attempt to enter the Moon Cell again, I would request you do so in a less intrusive manner.”

    She couldn't help but let out a smirk as he took a last breath.

    “Go suck a brick, jackass.”

    As darkness closed in on her, Marie found herself smiling.

    *~*

    Chapter End

    *~*

    Thanks for reading! I hope you enjoyed it.

  7. #1347
    Jester of the Moon Cell's Sovereign Kieran's Avatar
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    Well, that went about as well as could be expected - congrats!

    . . . No, seriously - we all knew that Kiri was unlikely to beat Saber (it's only the general Fate tendency to subvert expectations that makes it more than absolutely impossible), but you managed to handle the scene admirably, giving him a worthy send-off.

    . . . Of course, now we have the protagonist vs. protagonist event - and that's going to be a mess, I'm sure . . .
    “Love will be cruel to who it entices — love will have its sacrifices.”

    — Carmilla Theme




    "Evil isn't the real threat to the world. Stupid is just as destructive as Evil, maybe more so, and it's a hell of a lot more common. What we really need is a crusade against Stupid. That might actually make a difference."

    ―Jim Butcher, Vignette

  8. #1348
    死徒二十七祖 The Twenty Seven Dead Apostle Ancestors pureauthor's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Kieran View Post
    Well, that went about as well as could be expected - congrats!

    . . . No, seriously - we all knew that Kiri was unlikely to beat Saber (it's only the general Fate tendency to subvert expectations that makes it more than absolutely impossible), but you managed to handle the scene admirably, giving him a worthy send-off.

    . . . Of course, now we have the protagonist vs. protagonist event - and that's going to be a mess, I'm sure . . .
    Well, everyone loves an underdog. And people don't think very much about the fact that for the underdog beating the champion to mean something, the champion must have steamrolled plenty of underdogs in the past... Regardless, the next chapter will also show the fight's conclusion from the perspective of those participating directly in it... as well as the inevitable clash between Shiki and Hakuno, of course.

  9. #1349
    Jester of the Moon Cell's Sovereign Kieran's Avatar
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    I'll look forward to it.
    “Love will be cruel to who it entices — love will have its sacrifices.”

    — Carmilla Theme




    "Evil isn't the real threat to the world. Stupid is just as destructive as Evil, maybe more so, and it's a hell of a lot more common. What we really need is a crusade against Stupid. That might actually make a difference."

    ―Jim Butcher, Vignette

  10. #1350
    死徒二十七祖 The Twenty Seven Dead Apostle Ancestors pureauthor's Avatar
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    Chapter Sixty Five: Loy/Al/one

    *~*

    I know my work was never the most popular one, so I hope this isn't taken as a response about my work per se, but...

    Wow the place has really slowed down a lot from when I was a young, starry-eyed fanfictioner writing my Shiki/Arcueid fanfictions.

    Anyway!

    Disclaimer: I own nothing.

    *~*

    The End of a Dream

    There was a silence in the Coliseum, aside from the ragged breathing of all the participants.

    All the warriors were sprawled about the floor, looking uncommonly like the afetrmath of a car crash. Distantly, Leonard supposed that in some ways, that was not too inaccurate a descriptor, if one regarded that elevator they had been fighting in as a vehicle of sorts.

    The was the stamp of metal against the hard stone of the floor, and out of the corner of his eye he saw Saber slowly clambering to her feet.

    Slowly, deliberately, her right hand reached up and yanked out the dagger that had been embedded in her left shoulder. Only a slight narrowing of her eyes betrayed any pain.

    Her opponent, meanwhile, lay in a crumpled heap on the floor, with only a slight wheezing sound to show that he was even still alive.

    And not for much longer, from the looks of it.

    He had attempted to evade at the last moment, but the raw power of King Arthur's Noble Phantasm was that even a glancing hit had torn straight through him, leaving his body a broken heap. And anyway there hadn't been any room to properly evade in the cramped elevator.

    And for that matter, there was only one reason the backlash of the attack hadn't killed him on the spot. Leonard grimaced as he felt a burning sensation travel up his palm.

    Should I praise you for your skill, Assassin? The first opponent that forced me to use a Command Spell to save myself during this War?

    “The next use of your Noble Phantasm will not harm me, no matter what.” The simple statement had caused King Arthur's sword to twist down in an awkward movement he might have found amusing in any other circumstance. Even that hadn't been entirely enough – the stray energy that should have be all accounts killed him instead warped around him, leaving him stunned but very much unharmed.

    He had to admit he was somewhat surprised by the lack of the wall that had sprung up to separate the victors from the defeated. But then this fight had not been a standard one, for many reason.

    Pulling himself to his feet, Leonard watched as King Arthur stepped over to where the crumpled form of Assassin lay. Her sword was drawn, and her grip on it was tight.

    “King Arthur?”

    “His wounds are fatal,” she said by way of explanation. “But he won't die just yet. Not unless I end it quickly.”

    Two steps. Her own movements were halting, and it was obvious that King Arthur was still in some pain.

    “There is... no need to make him suffer.”

    At this the dark shape on the floor shifted slightly, and a harsh choking sound that might have been an attempt at laughter came from Assassin.

    “You haven't changed. Not one bit.”

    The words werea harsh rasp forced out through an uncooperating throat. Leonard took a deep breath but remained standing where he was.

    “You obviously hate me very much,” King Arthur said after a long moment of silence. “I cannot begin to guess why. And this Grail War will not allow me the luxury of sorting out whatever it is you believe I wronged you about.”

    Another deep breath.

    “I will not apologize for a responsibility I know nothing of,” the gleaming blade was raised, blade angled to stab straight down. “But I still do hope that you will find some measure of peace – one day.

    “Farewell.”

    (X)

    Moon Cell, Digital Tsukimihara Academy, Coliseum

    The ride down the elevator was mostly silent. Folding his arms, Shiki let his gaze roam across the other members of the room.

    His opposing Master, Hakuno leaned against the far wall of the room, her face impassive but focused on Kara, as if she were trying to puzzle out something. Rider too, had his arms folded across his chest, an expression of supreme confidence on his face. Yet he too gazed steadily at Kara as if she were a mystery to be solved.

    If she felt the weight of their gazes, Kara gave no outward sign of it. She stood straight as an arrow, eyes narrowed and hands resting lightly on her sword as she regarded her opponent across the wall dividing them.

    After a long moment, the elevator slowed and the two of them turned to step into the Coliseum.

    The area this time was patterned after an underground sea. Schools of fish swam through the clearing they found themselves in, and all around them coral grew large, almost like colourful, leafless trees.

    As Shiki walked forward to the centre of the arena, a thought flashed through his mind; how the ritualistic nature of their combat now seemed even more surreal when contrasted with Assassin's desperate attempts at assaulting King Arthur.

    Well, when it came down to it, killing was killing.

    And then, on some unspoken agreement, everyone stopped and turned to face each other.

    Still there was no movement, no sudden attacks. Iskandar and Kara regarded each other evenly for a long moment, and then -

    “Saber,” the King of Conquerors said. “I still don't know all that much about you, but I know this; whatever else you can claim to be, you are no king.”

    *~*

    The Ruler, The Ruled – vs. Rider

    For a brief moment, Kara wondered if she should keep up the facade.

    But really, what was the point now?

    “Indeed?” she let a smile cross her face as she raised one hand in a gesture of ambivalence. “Well, good for you to have figured out that much, at least.”

    “It is only natural for Servants to hide their identity,” Hakuno spoke up now, her own voice soft. “But why would you hide yours behind two different layers? Simply to make it harder for anyone to find your True Name?”

    I have no identity to hide. I had no pride in who I was. “I have my reasons, and I have no reason to say anything more,” she kept her voice clear as she levelled her blade against Rider. “... Lady Hakuno. It was... pleasant, knowing you.”

    The female Master's eyes grew hooded, “Yes...” she said after a moment.

    There was a flash of light as Rider's chariot was called into existence. Shifting her attention from Master to Servant, Kara settled into a combat stance and waited calmly, looking up at Rider as he stepped into his seat.

    “Yes, it was.”

    And the battle began.

    The speed that Rider charged her at was absurd – he'd seemed fast before, but clearly he'd been holding back all this while. Despite the immense size of Rider's chariot, he handled it with a grace that spoke to years of experience with the vehicle.

    Briefly she flashed back to Lady Arcueid's insane speed as a Berserker, even as she skipped to the right, bringing her sword up in arc to defend against the possibility of the large blades affixed to the sides of the Gordius Wheel cutting into her.

    Barely fast enough, she whirled again to face her opponent as he likewise swung his chariot around to confront her.

    One slight advantage that had been afforded her – they had started the battle at relatively close proximity to each other. This meant that he didn't have time to build up much momentum as he charged with his chariot.

    Not much of an advantage, especially against someone of the Rider class who'd naturally be very very good at making whatever he was riding do what he wanted, but she would take anything she could get.

    “Come, Saber!” Rider's voice thundered across the arena. “This is the proving grounds! Let's make this match a good one!”

    Faster than should have been possible for such a huge contraption, he was already thundering towards her once again. Lightning flashed across the ground as the divine bulls pulling the chariot snorted and thundered towards her.

    The arena around her was of a tropical sea – no, closer to an underwater forest, filled with coralline trees. She pursed her lips as the beginnings of a plan formed in her mind.

    Again, she dodged the side – except this time her sword clipped against the very edge of his chariot, almost throwing her to the ground. As it was, she staggered several paces and risked a quick glance over her shoulder to see that Rider had once again arrested the momentum of his charge and begun to turn around.

    Now! Breaking in the dead sprint, she headed for the thickest area of the trees around her, barely clearing the forest line as she heard, much to her relief, Rider thundering after her once again.

    She took a deep breath of air. She had been correct in her assessment that Rider would not go after her undefended Master. Good. Next thing to do -

    The sound of cracking wood from behind her alerted her that she had a second, maybe less, to evade or get trampled. Using as much strength as she could muster, she jumped straight up, one hand reaching to grasp at a branch of brightly-coloured coral.

    A jolt and a tearing sound let her know that Rider had torn straight through the tree she was hanging on to, and so she dropped down, sword already striking downwards, heedless of any danger to herself.

    A blur of motion, and she felt her back slam into another tree as she was tossed away, but even as her vision swam, she could see a line of red being drawn down Rider's shoulder.

    I suppose I should be grateful that Nero's sword is so long. Willing herself to ignore the pain, she pulled herself to her feet again, and held her blade out once more.

    Rider had come to a halt as well. He took a quick glance at the shallow cut on his shoulder before returning his gaze to her.

    “What's wrong, Saber?” a frown had crossed his face. “This cannot be the extent of your power.”

    Kara fought to keep her expression calm and her breathing steady. “Fine words. I've already drawn first blood, or did that pass your notice?”

    His brow furrowed. “You're struggling this much just to keep up with me, and I'm holding back.”

    Well, shit. Putting on a mask of confidence she did not feel, Kara smirked slightly. “Well then, King of Conquerors. Show me what it is you're truly capable of, and perhaps I'll indulge you as well.”

    Inwardly, she wondered if she really should keep goading him like this. But then again, did she have any real choice?

    Silence. And then -

    He was rocketing at her now, nearly twice as fast as before, but Kara had anticipated this happening already. He was charging in a straight line, if only she timed it right -

    She jumped.

    Her form was that of Hassan now. One who had sacrificed his arm and allowed it to be cursed in order to gain the power needed to become leader of the ancient sect. She could only imitate his form, and so there was no demon dwelling within her, no curse for her to use.

    But the mutated, extendible arm was still pat of her body, and as she jumped her fingers reached down, grabbing onto the back of the divine bull passing under her.

    She felt rather than heard her fingers snapping like twigs, but the momentum of her grab propelled her in an arc – straight towards Rider.

    She had just enough time to catch the look of surprise on Rider's face at her transformation before her formed shifted again, into that of the gorgon Medusa. In her hands, Old Iron changed once more, morphing into a long chain with hard spikes at the ends.

    Whipping her arm out, she let the chain fly, the weighted spike at the end providing the leverage need for it to wrap halfway around Rider. Even as he moved his arm to throw it off, she collided into him, shifting her body as she did so so that she had rammed into him with her shoulder.

    The next few seconds were a confused jumble of movement, noise, and hard impacts against her body. Pain exploded through her arms and back, and as she tried to push herself to her feet, she realized that her arms were almost certainly broken.

    “Damn it...” no choice now. Silently, she shed any of her guises, feeling the pain melt away as she once more returned to being an insubstantial shadow.

    Rider had also been thrown to the floor, the surprise of her ability to change forms and weapons having bought her the crucial time needed to carry out her plan.

    A small victory for her.

    Of course every 'victory' in the fight thus far had come at the cost of getting badly injured herself.

    And of course, now he knows. Behind Rider, she could see her Master and Hakuno, both of their eyes wide. And of course he could summon that damnable chariot again. I need -

    “So,” Rider's voice was slower now, a new tone – respect? - in his voice. “This is your true form?”

    Kara paused to gaze down at herself, still dressed in torn robes of tattered grey. “Such as it is,” she answered, her voice soft. Already she could feel her self-confidence, borrowed from the red Emperor, melting away, and she felt even more exposed under his piercing gaze.

    Slowly and deliberately, Rider reached up one hand to wipe away blood from his lip. “You like playing at being a queen, then, do you?”

    Kara's eyes narrowed.

    “A good bit less than you do, I would say.”

    “Oh?” she caught a gleam in Rider's eyes.

    Should I push him?

    I don't really want to... but...


    “King of Conquerors,” she said, her voice soft. “Iskandar the Great. What does it matter? Here, in the Moon Cell, you fight using your own abilities and nothing else.”

    Her eyes narrowed as she brandished Old Iron once more, although of course it was useless without a face to hide behind. But he didn't know that.

    “In the laws of the Moon Cell, you fight and die with none to aid you but your Master. Should you run into one of your own subjects from life, you can do nothing but kill him to move forward. No matter how great a king you once were, in this realm you stand as one man. Alone.”

    She could see the fiery spark in his eyes now.

    “That's what you believe, girl?” once more he folded his arms.

    I can feel it. Power, gathering...

    “That is what I know.”

    Rider laughed. A deep, booming laugh that seemed to echo through the entire Coliseum. A smile appeared his face, one that combined his boundless confidence – arrogance? - and a nostalgic wistfulness.

    “Saber, girl, or whoever you are. Know this.

    Ioinian Hetairoi: Army of the King

    “The King is never alone.”

    A sphere of energy swept out across the Coliseum, and Kara instinctively screwed her eyes shut against the blinding glare of the light.

    A long moment passed, and all of a sudden, she could feel the heat of the sun beating down on her neck. Opening her eyes, she gazed around at a vast, arid desert stretching as far as the eye could see.

    So... this is his Reality Marble. Is this how he will....?

    She paused, feeling a shudder run through her body. Yes, there was no mistake. They were approaching.

    “Kara!” she heard Shiki's urgent call from behind her, and she turned to face her Master.

    “Master,” she said, running over to seize him by the shoulders before he could say anything else. “Promise me. No matter what happens next, you won't come close. Stay as far away from me as possible.”

    Her Master blinked in confusion. “Kara? What are you -?”

    Promise me,” and then she realized there was no time to extract a verbal agreement. They were already approaching.

    And so she turned, running straight towards them as fast as she could, as far away from her Master as possible.

    She could see Rider standing on the crest of a dune, and further behind him, the wrongness approached steadily, a low rumble coming from they don't belong here.

    “Saber!” Rider's voice roared across the vastness of the desert, even as she ran to approach him and approach the distortions. “Behold my peerless

    Abominations

    - bodies may turn to dust -

    They don't belong here

    She felt her body stumble the irregularities were closer now across the loose sand but still she urged herself on they are already dead

    already

    - loyalty that breaks time and space -

    dead

    DO NOT BELONG

    Keep moving.

    -treasur-

    DO NOT BELONG HERE

    DO NOT HAVE – PERMISSION – ACCESS

    Hands. Burning. Hot sand.

    Veil Not pierced

    All fours.

    Vanish

    -right to-

    Disappear

    Disappear

    -Ioni-

    Darkness

    YOU

    DO

    NOT

    BELONG

    HERE


    *~*

    Chapter End

    *~*

    Thanks for reading. Commentary and reviews would be appreciated!
    Last edited by pureauthor; May 8th, 2017 at 11:38 PM.

  11. #1351
    This and occasionally Create-a-Servant is my reason for being here. I'm thrilled to see Kara vs Ionian Hetaroi; she'd have a kinda bad guy vibes from Rider's perspective, wouldn't she? :V

  12. #1352
    Jester of the Moon Cell's Sovereign Kieran's Avatar
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    . . . Yeah, it has seemed slower of late (and not just in regards to my update speed . . .).

    In any case, it seems like Kara's using a twisted sort of "Denial of Nothingness" - "Denial through Nothingness," perhaps? Either way, I suspect Iskander's going to be surprised by what happens next - I certainly can't want to find out.
    “Love will be cruel to who it entices — love will have its sacrifices.”

    — Carmilla Theme




    "Evil isn't the real threat to the world. Stupid is just as destructive as Evil, maybe more so, and it's a hell of a lot more common. What we really need is a crusade against Stupid. That might actually make a difference."

    ―Jim Butcher, Vignette

  13. #1353
    死徒二十七祖 The Twenty Seven Dead Apostle Ancestors pureauthor's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by PBlades View Post
    This and occasionally Create-a-Servant is my reason for being here. I'm thrilled to see Kara vs Ionian Hetaroi; she'd have a kinda bad guy vibes from Rider's perspective, wouldn't she? :V
    Hm, well thanks for the vote of confidence.

    Well, I wouldn't say 'bad guy' vibes, but from Rider's PoV she's being sneaky and evasive above and beyond a regular Servant's attempts to keep their identity secret, and of course most Servants are actually proud of their accomplishments in life as opposed to Kara, so yeah, there's just that little bit of suspicion and hostility there that Kara pressed to goad him into using Ionian Hetairoi.

    Quote Originally Posted by Kieran View Post
    . . . Yeah, it has seemed slower of late (and not just in regards to my update speed . . .).

    In any case, it seems like Kara's using a twisted sort of "Denial of Nothingness" - "Denial through Nothingness," perhaps? Either way, I suspect Iskander's going to be surprised by what happens next - I certainly can't want to find out.
    Well in any case I'm grateful for you always being there to consistently provide commentary for my work, so thanks a whole lot!

    And the details of what Kara's doing will of course be revealed next chapter. Of course I've already dropped small hints earlier about what this is all about... *slight chuckle*

  14. #1354
    Kamen Rider fan-writer Xamusel's Avatar
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    Where, exactly, did you drop those hints? I'm confused.
    Xamusel's Fanfiction Profile

    For those that don't necessarily care if my fics aren't all Type-Moon related.




    Hmm... this is a bit of a surprise these days.

    An archive of my works on the forum that's pretty accurate.




    Note that I don't wish to be seen as an idiot any longer. I can't always promise better works than before, but I can sure as hell try, alright?

  15. #1355
    死徒二十七祖 The Twenty Seven Dead Apostle Ancestors pureauthor's Avatar
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    Well it's kinda tied to Kara'a general existence as Dying, and the biggest overt hint would be on her current profile.

  16. #1356
    Jester of the Moon Cell's Sovereign Kieran's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by pureauthor View Post
    Hm, well thanks for the vote of confidence.
    It's deserved, trust me.


    Well in any case I'm grateful for you always being there to consistently provide commentary for my work, so thanks a whole lot!
    You are, of course, quite welcome; I certainly enjoy both doing so, and the work itself.
    “Love will be cruel to who it entices — love will have its sacrifices.”

    — Carmilla Theme




    "Evil isn't the real threat to the world. Stupid is just as destructive as Evil, maybe more so, and it's a hell of a lot more common. What we really need is a crusade against Stupid. That might actually make a difference."

    ―Jim Butcher, Vignette

  17. #1357
    死徒二十七祖 The Twenty Seven Dead Apostle Ancestors pureauthor's Avatar
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    Chapter Sixty Six: Vani/Sh/atter

    *~*

    Disclaimer: I own nothing

    *~*

    Forevermore – Vanishing World

    “Kara!” Shiki's cry died in the air as he saw his Servant charged forward across the scorching desert sands.

    He vaguely recalled Shirou once explaining the concept of a Reality Marble to him, and he supposed that even if this wasn't exactly the same thing, it was close enough. And he was no mage, but he had been in life or death situations often enough to be able to sense the immense danger all around him.

    Kara's final warning was still ringing in his ears as she continued to charge, her insubstantial form rapidly becoming smaller as the distance between the two of them grew.

    Stay far away from her? What's she playing at? Almost as the thought came into his mind, it was blasted away by a low rumbling that seemed to shake the very earth.

    “Stay back,” a soft voice from close to his side and suddenly Shiki realized that Hakuno was standing there, close to him instead of further back behind Rider.

    “Wait, when did you-?”

    Hakuno's own gaze was distant, staring out at the horizon even as she spoke, “It's Rider's Noble Phantasm. When summoning it, he can – I don't know, move people where he wants them to be within it, to a limited extent. And – no matter what happens, he doesn't want the Master to get caught up in it.”

    From the horizon, dark shapes appearing, slowly growing and morphing into recognizable shapes – countless men astride warhorses, clad in armour and bearing weapons, slowly marching in formation. An army of warriors, marching into battle.

    Ahead of them all, Rider stood, arms folded and a proud smile on his face. Shiki could see the shape of a massive warhorse coming up alongside him.

    It was towards this seething wave that Kara charged.

    “SABER!” his voice thundered across the land, a booming cry that seemed to rally the army behind him to start moving faster. “Behold, my peerless army!”

    If anything, Kara only picked up her pace, a lone grey speck in front of a roiling tide.

    “Though their bodies may have turned to dust, their spirits still heed my call! These men are my truest followers – with loyalty that breaks time and space, these men are my priceless treasures within treasure – they're my right to rule!”

    Just then Kara appeared to collapse mid-stride. As if she were a puppet with strings cut, she tumbled towards the ground, hands barely arresting her fall at the last second.

    “Kara!” Shiki called out again and he took a step forward, ready to break into a run.

    Promise me. Stay as far away as possible.

    His fists clenched. The summoned army was almost level with Rider now. Even if he burst into action, there was no way he could reach her before they did.

    Mounting his horse, Rider looked down at Kara, his expression unreadable. Whatever he may have felt about Kara as a person, in this arena she was an enemy, to be defeated.

    “And together, they make Iskandar the Great's mightiest Noble Phantasm – IONIAN HETAIROI!”

    At this a war cry came up from the army around him, a sound like the crack of thunder except that it carried on and on with no end, and they began to charge.

    Kara screamed.

    Impossibly, her single wailing voice drowned out the combined roars of the charging arm, an agonized shriek that seemed to pierce straight through one's ears, driving a spike of pain straight through your head.

    Shiki fell to his knees, finding his hands had somehow been clapped over his ears without him having consciously done that. Forcing his eyes open, he looked over at Kara, trying to see if she was all right, to see what had happened to her.

    She was still hunched over on all fours on the desert sand, even as the first of Rider's soldiers had almost reached her. But her body...

    As Shiki watched, horrified, Kara's body appeared to twist and fray. Her back hunched, and even from this distance he could see something twisting and writhing through Kara's body, almost as if there were something alive, something struggling to get out.

    And then the closest soldier had reached her. With a mighty thrust, he plunged a spear down through her back –

    And staggered, unbalanced, as the spear instantly vanished, crumbling away to dust.

    Kara jerked, convulsed in a manner no human body could have managed, and with a sound like shattering glass, it broke free.

    Her body appeared to tear as an ink-black substance spilled out from it, pooling on the ground around her. More poured forth, far, far more than her body could have held, and the darkness began to spread.

    As the black pool surged forth, the soldiers it touched were frozen mid-charge. Their bodies turned grey – and an instant later the men simply vanished, as if he they had never existed at all.

    Faster and faster the blackness seemed to spread and now from the darkness what appeared to be coiling tendrils reached out, grasping onto the men now trying desperately the avoid the dark waves. It seemed to be hunting them specifically, seeking out the soldiers to drag down into the darkness.

    Screams now, mist rising up from the centre of the black mass, obscuring Kara from view and moving to blanket the rest of the army around them. Within moments, it seemed, the entire landscape beyond was hidden from view, and all he could hear were shouts of alarm that seemed to grow fainter and fewer with every passing moment.

    After a moment, he realized that the blackness was spreading in his direction too.

    Stay as far away as possible. Kara's warning to him.

    Almost instinctively, Shiki begin to back up, to move away from the darkness reaching out. He kept his eyes trained on the pool as it spread, and for a moment he saw –

    BA-DUMP

    His heart hammered hard and pain surged through his chest.

    Shiki collapsed onto the scorching desert sand, feeling all his strength draining from his body.

    “Shiki! What's going on? Are you okay-” he heard Hakuno's frantic cry but even as she scrambled towards him he saw her eyes widen and her body convulse as well before she likewise crumpled to the ground.

    You. Died.

    And then suddenly he was no longer in the desert of Rider's Reality Marble. He was in the gardens of the Tohno Mansion, staring into Akiha's wide, frightened eyes.

    He coughed, a wet sputtering sound, and felt tasted coppery blood pooling in his mouth. He felt a clawed hand, stabbed through his chest, wrenching itself free and he fell bonelessly onto the grass, blood pooling around him.

    Return. Beyond.

    Darkness began to cover his vision, and Akiha's panicked screams now sounded muffled and distant to his ears.

    Amidst the dimming world around him, he suddenly felt a pressure on his shoulders, as if hands were grasping at it, trying to push him somewhere.

    Vanish.

    “NO!”

    Another sound of shattering glass and the world fragmented around him again.

    “Gah – hah! What-” Shiki stumbled back, coughing and sputtering for air as he realized he was suddenly standing upright once more. He was no longer in the Tohno mansion, and for that matter, no longer in Rider's summoned desert. He was in -

    The Coliseum. The arena styled after an underwater forest.

    Frantically, he swept his gaze around the area. Kara! Is she all ri-

    And then he saw them.

    Rider was standing there, arms folded, still as a statue.

    Lying on the ground about two meters away from him, was Kara's motionless form. As he broke into a stumbling job towards her, he saw that she was twitching slightly, body shaking with slight convulsions.

    And despite that, despite Rider still standing and Kara looking for all the world like a broken, discarded doll, Shiki realized from deep within that –

    Rider had lost this match.

    “Kara!” he broke into a sprint to her side, and as he reached her he crouched down, gently trying to get her sit up, to look at him. “Kara, are you all right?”

    “gk – hr” Kara's eyes were wide and empty, staring at nothing. As he held her thin frame he feel her body shaking and jerking involuntarily, and he tightened his grip on her.

    “Kara! Kara, look at me!”

    “hah – gh –” her head rolled to the side, and Shiki swallowed. She was unresponsive, mouth hanging open and her face blank. He could only hold her body close to him and pray she recovered soon. He almost began to reach into his pocket for a mana crystal, but he knew, somehow, that it would do nothing for her.

    “Curious,” Rider's voice, slow and laboured, as if he were fighting for breath as he spoke. “Such a fearsome power... but involuntary, on her part. No wonder... she was so afraid of it.”

    Afraid? Kara was... afraid?

    “Hmph,” Rider closed his eyes. “You have won, little shade. You, and your Master. But still, such a pity. So hard you have fought, so long, you have struggled. And yet, you cannot find something about yourself to truly cling on to.

    “Hakuno,” he did not turn to face her, and Shiki suspected that he simply did not have the strength to do so. “I am sorry. Your dream... only goes this far. I can carry it no further.”

    “I understand...” Hakuno's voice was soft and melancholic. “Thank you... Iskandar. For everything.”

    A gentle smile came upon Rider's face as he closed his eyes. A moment later, his body became ashen, and like his soldiers before him, he vanished like dust in the wind.

    “... Hakuno,” Shiki began to speak, but she shook her head.

    “It's all right,” she said, and suddenly he realized that she was crying, tears rolling down her cheeks as she smiled tearfully at him. “I... finally understand.”

    There was a grinding noise, and the ominous wall of red light began to slide into place.

    “Understand?” Shiki glanced down at Kara, who was still unresponsive. “Understand what?”

    “I...” she closed her eyes and sank down to her knees. “I died. Or at least, the person I was died. Long ago. This is – I'm just a cyber-ghost created in someone's image. I didn't have amnesia – I never had any memories in the first place.

    “I didn't even realize it until Saber – Kara, created that blackness. And it spoke to me and finally I understood. My life... wasn't really a life at all. It ended a long time ago.”

    Horror and revulsion almost choked him to silence, but Shiki found it in him to shake his head, “No. That's not...”

    The miasma grew over Hakuno's body even as she took a final, shuddering breath and nodded, “So, Shiki. Go. Fight. And survive. You still have... something to live for.

    “Go.”

    The last thing that could be seen on Hakuno's face before she was covered completely was a gentle smile.

    And then, nothing.

    Shiki hung his head.

    For a long moment, he was still.

    And then, standing, he moved to leave the Coliseum, carrying Kara's body with him as gently as he could.

    *~*

    Chapter End

    *~*

    And with that, we come to the end of the longest week in the world, one that spanned over two years in real time. The chapter itself is short but given everything I felt this was the best place to end it.

    Kara's profile will be updated in about a day's time at the latest.

    Thanks for reading! I would greatly appreciate any comments or criticisms you might have.
    Last edited by pureauthor; May 30th, 2017 at 12:52 PM.

  18. #1358
    Jester of the Moon Cell's Sovereign Kieran's Avatar
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    *Shakes head* Has it really been that long . . .?

    Either way, congratulations, and well done!
    “Love will be cruel to who it entices — love will have its sacrifices.”

    — Carmilla Theme




    "Evil isn't the real threat to the world. Stupid is just as destructive as Evil, maybe more so, and it's a hell of a lot more common. What we really need is a crusade against Stupid. That might actually make a difference."

    ―Jim Butcher, Vignette

  19. #1359
    Kamen Rider fan-writer Xamusel's Avatar
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    Well... given what you've said about how long it's taken this in-story week, pureauthor, I hope it takes considerably less to get through the next one.
    Xamusel's Fanfiction Profile

    For those that don't necessarily care if my fics aren't all Type-Moon related.




    Hmm... this is a bit of a surprise these days.

    An archive of my works on the forum that's pretty accurate.




    Note that I don't wish to be seen as an idiot any longer. I can't always promise better works than before, but I can sure as hell try, alright?

  20. #1360
    死徒二十七祖 The Twenty Seven Dead Apostle Ancestors pureauthor's Avatar
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    Kara's Profile has been updated.

    Misc. Author Notes: Back when this story was in the concept stage, I was toying with the idea of 'someone who could effortlessly defeat Gate of Babylon and/or Ionian Hetairoi, but without being ridiculously OP in general' and came up with the idea of an attack that was otherwise weak but specifically targeted something based on age or how long ago they had passed on. Ideas changed as they go on, and it ended with Kara's Vanishing World - which rejects and destroys things that are supposed to have died or been destroyed already.

    It's therefore worthwhile to note that Iskandar was always intended to be a Servant that Kara would face late in the Grail War, although the idea of pairing him specifically with Hakuno didn't come until way later.

    Quote Originally Posted by Kieran View Post
    *Shakes head* Has it really been that long . . .?

    Either way, congratulations, and well done!
    Well I went back and checked and actually I took over 3 years, because of another long gap near the start. Late 2014 to mid 2017. Sheesh.

    And thanks for the encouragement!

    Quote Originally Posted by Xamusel View Post
    Well... given what you've said about how long it's taken this in-story week, pureauthor, I hope it takes considerably less to get through the next one.
    Well, no worries there. Unlike the 6th Week I've already a pretty good plan for everything I want to do over the next 7 days, and the final round of the Moon Cell Grail War. I hope what I do write will be to your satisfaction.

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