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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 IBO (UTD)


  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

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