A Fate/stay night fanfic by tesculpture
(Kudos to Nerroth for the title)
It was rare that Archer experienced urges as strong as this, but such was the magnitude of the emotion connected to the urge, it was all he could do to keep himself from carrying it out.
Since this urge was the urge to kick himself, this was probably lucky.
The risk had been blatantly obvious. After what happened to Saber last week, he should've known better than to comply to Rin's request for assistance with her latest jewelry magic experiment. She wouldn't have been happy, but he was sure he could've thought up an at least semi-plausible excuse. But no, he had allowed himself to be sucked in by her assurances and insistence that nothing could go wrong.
“Look, there's nothing to worry about. I've figured out what went wrong the first time, there's no chance of it happening again.”
She had been half right. The explosion that happened wasn't the same one that happened when Saber was present. It was still an explosion however, and this time, it was Archer who caught the brunt of it.
Now, as he stood coughing, barely able to see an inch in front of himself from the smoke, he began vigourously patting himself down, anxious to make sure his body was still the same as normal.
After a few seconds of checking, he had confirmed (with a not tiny amount of relief) that he was still in one piece, and that that piece had not changed in any obvious way.
“You were saying, Rin, that there was no chance of this?” he said ruefully as he ran his hands over his boots.
There was no response.
Still nothing. Archer's anxiety suddenly returned – had something happened to Rin? But before he could look up, he noticed as the smoke cleared that the floorboards on which he was standing had changed. They didn't look like the ones from Rin's house; more like...
As he looked up from his feet, his suspicions were confirmed; he wasn't in Rin's house anymore. Somehow, for some reason, he was now standing in the Ryudo Temple. It was a couple of hours after nightfall, and everywhere was dark and empty of people.
“Well, of all the things that could've happened,” he thought as he began walking through the Temple to the front. “This isn't that bad, if a bit inconvenient. I just hope Rin hasn’t sent herself to another countr-”
Suddenly he froze where he was, and took a step back. As he had been walking, he had casually glanced in the door to someone's quarters. Whoever lived there had stuck a calendar up on the wall, and something he had spied on it had set off alarm bells inside his head. Now as he took a proper look, he confirmed what he thought he had seen before.
The date on the calendar was wrong. According to it, the date was more than a year before what it should be.
It could have been, of course, that the calendar’s owner had neglected to keep it up to date. Nonetheless, unable to shake the uneasiness rising in his stomach, Archer searched the surrounding rooms (quietly to avoid waking the sleeping occupants), looking for anything that might confirm it was just a mistake.
In the end he managed to find a yearly planner and a clock radio. Despite being in different people’s rooms, both of them supported the calendar’s assertion of what the date was.
Archer didn’t have to concentrate to remember what he had been doing on that date.
“Brilliant,” he sighed as he supported his head with his hand. “She’s sent me back to the damn Holy Grail War.”
Sitting down on a step, he mulled over the implications of what he had deduced, and what the hell he was going to do next. While there was always the chance that the explosion had just reset all the devices for showing the date within a twenty meter radius of where he had been transported to, he didn't fancy his chances to getting off that lightly. If he had gone back in time, he had no idea what he was going to say to the Rin of this time if she saw him. Or more importantly, he suddenly realized, what he was going to say to himself, who was probably still intent on killing Shirou.
Should he dissuade himself?
Warn himself about what’s going to happen?
Then there was the issue of the other Servants and Masters, who would almost certainly treat him as an enemy. Including, he realized with sudden foreboding, Caster, who at this moment had probably become aware of his presence and was wondering how a Servant managed to sneak inside her defences.
In the end, he decided to just make a break for the front entrance and try to escape into the city. At least there he wouldn’t have to worry so much about someone interrupting his thoughts. Standing up again, he resumed his original path.
At first, his luck held. He encountered nobody, human or Servant, as he moved through the temple. As soon as he emerged into the courtyard however, he found Caster waiting for him. At least, he thought she was waiting for him at first. But closer inspection revealed she was actually facing away from him, looking down the stone steps.
This struck Archer as odd; normally it was Assassin who occupied that space, while Caster ventured no further than the front of the temple.
What was more, she seemed to have changed her outfit. Her trademark hood and cape were missing, while her normally purple dress was now orange and grey.
Archer was about to retreat back inside and reconsider his options, when she turned and saw him.
“GAH!!!” she yelled in fright. “How did you get in?!”
Surprised by the intensity of her reaction, Archer hesitated before responding. “I snuck in. It doesn't matter; I am merely scouting and I'm leaving now anyw...”
He trailed off as Caster started shaking like a leaf and looking up at the temple with a fearful look on her face. “Oh god, if Master finds out I let someone in, I'm going to be in such trouble...”
Archer was starting to get confused. Surely Kuzuki wouldn't care that much if someone got past the gateway, as long as they didn't cause trouble? Since when had Caster been this scared of him? And where was Assassin?
Deciding it wouldn't hurt to seek an answer, he turned back to Caster. “Why will your Master care? I haven't interfered with anything.”
“Because I told her not to let anyone past the gateway,” said a voice to Archer's right.
Archer turned, and to his surprise found himself looking at Assassin. He too, had changed his attire; his kimono and hakama were black and yellow.
With Assassin's appearance, Caster cowered away, her arms wrapped over the top of her head.
Archer, not grasping what was transpiring before him, asked, “Why would she care what you want her to do?”
Assassin put on an annoyed look. “Like I just said, I'm her Master. Is that so hard to understand?”
Archer's confusion was rising fast. Was this some sort of obscure trick? He didn't remember Caster and Assassin doing anything like this before.
Well, if it was a trick, he wasn't interested in playing along with it.
“An Assassin class Servant, with a Servant of their own? That would be an impressive feat, but isn’t more likely that Caster’s your Master?” As Archer spoke, he walked slowly across the courtyard, in an effort to get closer to the gateway and possible freedom.
Assassin frowned. “Maybe, but that isn’t the case.”
“I don't recall you being able to do anything like this in any of your stories...”
Assassin's face showed surprise, then suspicion. “And who do you think I am?”
“Well, you always claim to be Sasaki Kojiro...”
As he spoke, Archer glanced at Caster out of the corner of his eye, making sure she didn't suddenly try to jump him. Caster however still seemed to be more worried about Assassin, despite Archer having moved less than eight meters away.
“Well done, you are correct,” Assassin said lividly. “But what do you mean 'I claim to be'?”
Archer considered, then decided it couldn't hurt to tell the truth.
“You claim to be Sasaki Kojiro, when in fact he never existed. You are just a nameless wraith who assumed his form based on the stories about him.”
As Archer finished speaking he realised Caster was moving. Quickly glancing around, he found that she wasn't getting ready to attack. She was staring at him in horror and desperately swiping her hand across her throat in a “Don't say that!” gesture.
When Archer looked back at Assassin, he found himself staring at a face dark with fury. He had never seen Assassin look so angry before.
“First you question my abilities. Then you mock me by showing you know who I am. And now top of that, you have the audacity to scorn MY VERY EXISTENCE?!”
Assassin's voice elevated to a shout, prompting Caster to wrap her arms over her head and shrink away.
“Well let me tell you. I AM Sasaki Kojiro, Servant, and now I am going to punish you for suggesting I am not the genuine article!” Stepping down into the courtyard, Assassin unsheathed his weapon.
Now Archer was completely confused. Either Assassin was a really good actor, or something was seriously amiss. Regardless of that, however, he now had a bigger and more immediate problem. “I am not here to fight, but if you leave me no choice, I will wipe the floor with you.”
Assassin hmphed. “We'll see about that.”
Not bothering with further talk, Archer sprinted towards the stone steps. If he could take the fight there, Assassin wouldn't be able to get proper footing to use Tsubame Gaeshi. Passing under the gateway, he leapt down the first fifteen or so steps, then turned and readied himself, tracing Kansho and Bakuya.
As he watched, Assassin appeared at the top of the steps and paused, his sword handing casually by his side. Eying Archer, he moved down the first three steps, prompting Archer to retreat three as well.
Then, with a burst of speed Archer had never seen him achieve before, Assassin shot forward, his weapon suddenly up and flashing through the air. In what seemed like an instant he was within striking distance, while Archer barely managed to think, let alone react in time.
Archer had hoped that having to fight on the steps would stop Assassin performing Tsubame Gaeshi properly, reducing the number of simultaneous slashes Archer would have to deal with.
To his shock however, he found himself being hit not by three slashes, but so many he couldn't count them all.
Kansho and Bakuya were shattered and torn from his hands, while innumerable lines of pain burned across his raised arms and chest, propelling him backwards with the force of their collective impact.
Yelling in surprise as much as agony, Archer landed on the steps, his momentum carrying him head over heels down them. Waves of pain continued to assault his senses, both from Assassin's strike and from collisions with various hard objects. As he scrabbled desperately to stop his tumbling, he heard Assassin call out from above him.
“That should teach you not to mess with me. Thus is the fate of any and all, who get in between me and the Holy Grail!”
Archer's half lucid mind struggled to understand what had just happened to him. In a matter of minutes, everything he knew seemed to have gone completely crazy.
“Congratulations Rin,” he thought just before he lost consciousness. “Your experiment in which 'there's nothing to worry about' may have just killed me.”