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Thread: Shattered Heaven

  1. #1
    Everything turns to tedium eventually... Tesculpture's Avatar
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    Shattered Heaven

    Back again, now digitally remastered! (i.e. I've corrected the paragraph layouts so it is actually readable.)

    Each chapter will be a separate post due the difficulty of sticking it in all together.

    Prologue:
    Down flights of stairs and along endless corridors, the person ran. His flight was careless and noisy; the slaps of his foot falls and the hisses of his exhalations echoed off the otherwise silent walls. In stark contrast to his storm of movement, the tower block seemed otherwise devoid of light or activity.

    But looks can be deceiving, as the person was all too aware of. Somewhere above him, in the hallways he had left behind, a Master and his Servant were tracking and hunting him.

    This wasn't how it had meant to have been. He had had a plan to lure his opponent into a trap, a trap that would have eliminated the opposing Servant and left his enemy with no choice but to surrender.

    But two fatal oversights had gutted his chance of victory. He had thought their Servants were equally matched, but as soon as the two clashed, it was obvious his opponent's would win a straight out fight.

    He could have found a way around this, but his second mistake was trusting his own Servant to have an once of common sense. He didn't know whether it was honor or simply being too stupid to see that she had no hope of winning, but as soon as his opponent had appeared, his Servant had ignored his carefully laid plans and stepped out into full view, challenging the opposing Servant to a head to head fight.

    His Servant never got the chance to regret her decision; her challenge was answered by instant obliteration, via the opposing Servant’s Noble Phantasm.

    And now he was on the run, desperately trying to escape this building that his enemies had turned into their hunting ground.

    He didn’t feel any fear as he ran. The only emotion that mingled with the feeling of blood pounding in his brain was desperate frustration.

    He had failed. His opponent was as morally bankrupt as they came. And while the person hadn’t thought about what he would do if he got the Holy Grail, he was sure that whatever his opponent wished for, it would not beneficial or pleasant for anyone.

    Rounding a bend in a corridor, the person slid to a stop and pressed himself up against the wall, peering round the corner the way he had come. There was nothing; no metal glinted in the darkness, nothing moved except the dust he had stirred up during his passage, and the only sound was his own anxious breathing.

    Closing his eyes and forcing himself to breath slower, he pulled himself together and tried to think out his next move. By his estimation, he descended over half the skyscraper’s levels. If he could just make it down to the ground, he could reach a public area where his opponent wouldn’t risk attacking him. From there, he’d have to head home; it would be utterly humiliating returning as a failure, but given the circumstances, it was his only-

    “Going somewhere?”

    With a start, the person spun to face the opposite direction. There, barring his retreat, was his opponent. He stood idly in the middle of the corridor, his weight on one leg, a calm smile on his face. The person backed away like a caged animal, his teeth gritted, his mind desperately searching for an avenue of escape. A drop of sweat fell of his brow and fell to the floor.

    “I know we’re long time friends, but I’d be lying if I said I was going to make sure this was quick or painless,” his opponent smirked. “Sorry.”

    Another face appeared out of the darkness to his opponent's right. In contrast to his opponent’s casual cheer, the emotion that showed on this face was the single minded determination of a hunter – and the barely contained malice of a psychopath.

    The person tried to dodge as the Servant lunged forward, but he was nowhere near fast enough.

    SHIIIIIING–

    “AAARRRGGG-!!!”

    The scream was abruptly cut off as the person’s wind pipe lost its connection to his lungs. Then there was a loud, soggy THUMP as he crumpled to the floor.

    As he lay on the floor, his life draining into an expanding crimson pool, his opponent regarded him for a second longer before turning away. “Don’t worry, Shinji. You will forever live on as a part of my legacy. Even if it’s a tiny, inconsequential part.”

    Unable to move, unable to speak, the person could only watch through glazing-over eyes as his opponent walked off, his Servant striding after him into the darkness.

    As the last of his being departed the mortal world, the person prayed to any higher power that was listening that someone stopped this pair of monsters before they reached the Grail.
    Last edited by Tesculpture; March 17th, 2011 at 05:22 AM.
    My contributions to the fanfiction melting pot:
    (not so) Shallow Shirou
    Shattered Heaven
    Shatteraxia - currently up to Part 16

    You can also find me stumbling around Spiral Knights as Overlockone. If you do though, tell me to STOP! I'm supposed to be working on my writing!

  2. #2
    Everything turns to tedium eventually... Tesculpture's Avatar
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    Shattered Heaven
    A Fate/stay night fanfic by tesculpture

    (Kudos to Nerroth for the title)


    Part 1:
    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.

    “Rin?”

    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?

    Encourage himself?

    Warn himself about what’s going to happen?

    Lie?

    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.

    CRAAASH!!!

    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.

    “ARGH!!!”

    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.”
    Last edited by Tesculpture; September 7th, 2011 at 06:55 AM.
    My contributions to the fanfiction melting pot:
    (not so) Shallow Shirou
    Shattered Heaven
    Shatteraxia - currently up to Part 16

    You can also find me stumbling around Spiral Knights as Overlockone. If you do though, tell me to STOP! I'm supposed to be working on my writing!

  3. #3
    Everything turns to tedium eventually... Tesculpture's Avatar
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    Part 2:
    When Archer awoke, he found himself staring at a ceiling that, although not immediately recognizable, seemed familiar.

    Realizing he was lying on a bed, he sat up, then cringed at the pain that rushed through his chest. Looking down, he found that someone had removed his breastplate and sleeves and wrapped his chest and arms in bandages. A quick check confirmed that whoever had done this had also used magecraft to heal some of the damage done, although his internals would still need more time to recover.

    The check also made him realize that he couldn’t feel his connection to Rin anymore, as if his contract with her had been severed. For moment he felt a pang of anxiety; not only did it mean only his Independent Action ability was the only thing keeping him in existence, but he also had no idea if Rin was okay.

    Curious as to his location, Archer looked up – then recoiled with a start as he realized he wasn’t alone. Sitting on stool on the other side of the room, was Lancer.

    Not that he recognized him as Lancer at first. Like Caster and Assassin, he had changed his clothes. His normally blue outfit was now white, while the grey shoulder plates and details had a deep blue finish. His ponytail was tied back with a long strip of fluorescent green fabric. The most noticeable and bizarre change however, was that he was now sporting a Fu Manchu style moustache.

    As Archer stared in consternation, Lancer gazed at him idly, his face indifferent.

    “If you’re wondering why you’re here, I found you at the bottom of the steps to the temple,” he said in a voice as impassive as his expression. “My employer had me bring you back so he could patch you up.”

    “His employer?” Archer thought. Then suddenly, alarm bells were reverberating inside his head. He remembered where this place was now – it was one of the back rooms of the Kotomine Church.

    At the same time, seemingly to confirm Archer’s death sentence, Lancer turned towards the open doorway and called out. “He’s awake, Kotomine!”

    Leaping to his feet on the bed, Archer tensed his body, looking around for a way of escape. None was immediately available; Lancer would easily be able to stop if he bolted for the door. There was a window above the bed, but it was too small to squeeze through, and he didn't fancy getting stuck with no way of defending his butt.

    Lancer meanwhile was still gazing at him, one eyebrow raised in inquiry.

    Then Kotomine stepped through the doorway. Like everyone else, he had changed his clothes; in this case, his dark blue jacket had been swapped for a white one. While he hadn't grown any facial hair like Lancer, his usual air of self confidence was gone, replaced by a look of cautious uncertainty.

    “You're a very strange Servant,” Kotomine commented. “Whilst I was tending to your wounds I noticed the nature of your existence is not like any other Villainous Spirit I have encountered. Your similarity in appearance to another Servant Lancer has encountered is also intriguing.”

    Pushing aside his curiousity about his present self, and what Kotomine meant by 'Villainous Spirit', Archer demanded “What do you want with me?”

    Kotomine took a second to think, then looked down at the floor and scratched the back of his head in an embarrassed fashion. “Well actually, I was hoping you had appeared specifically to help me.”

    Archer was about to voice his refusal very loudly and angrily, but then stopped himself. There was no point revealing to Kotomine that he knew all about him and having a repeat of earlier; perhaps a more covert approach would be better. “Why do you want my help?”

    “Because...” Kotomine seemed to hesitate, then released a worn out breath. “Because I need all the help I can get.”

    He dropped wearily onto another stool by the bed. “Despite my best attempts to prevent it, the Holy Grail War has once again begun. Ten years ago, I was a Master in the last War. During it, I barely managed to stop a Master called Kiritsugu Emiya from using the Grail to achieve world domination. Kiritsugu died some time ago, but it seems that his adopted son Shirou has become a contestant in this War in his stead.

    Unfortunately, Shirou is every bit the ruthless megalomaniac that his father was, and almost as capable. From what Lancer had established, he has managed to summon a Saber class Servant, and together they have already defeated the Servants from the Matou and Einzbern families and their Masters. It’s only a matter of time before he comes for the Holy Grail, and if he gets it, I fear the consequences for the free world could be dire.

    The only advantage I have managed to achieve is convincing Shirou that I am just the impartial judge of the War, ensuring he doesn’t treat me like an enemy. This advantage will become meaningless as soon as I try to stop him though, and there is little else I can do to swing the chances in my favour. Hence why I’m asking for your help.”

    Archer took a second to digest what he had just heard. While he didn't expect Kotomine to reveal so much about his past, he didn’t believe him for a second. Shirou, a megalomaniac? If it weren't for his personal feelings regarding Shirou's ideals, he'd find the suggestion laughable. Nowhere in his memory could he recall experiencing thoughts that could be even vaguely described as megalomaniacal.

    “You’re crazy for thinking I would ever help you,” Archer said, deciding he could longer be bothered hiding how much he knew. “And if you are that desperate, why don’t you just use your other Servant, Gilgamesh?”

    Kotomine stared at Archer, his face a mixture of shock, disbelief and exasperation. “How do you know about Gilgamesh?!”

    “Who’s Gilgamesh?” Lancer asked casually, still showing no emotion.

    Archer refused to back down. “You answer my question, then I’ll answer yours.”

    At this, Kotomine’s face darkened in anger. “Well, excuse me for being desperate enough to help you, in the hope you would return the favour,” he snapped. “And since you know about Gilgamesh, you should therefore also know that I haven’t heard from him for over ten years. And that we parted on bad terms. So even if I knew where he was and did manage to contact him, I doubt he’d comply.”

    With that, Kotomine stood up, moved next to the doorway and gestured through it.
    “If you don’t wish to help me, I won’t force you to. You’re free to go.”

    Archer had expected Kotomine to say many things, but for the second time in a matter of hours he found himself taken completely by surprise. Kotomine didn't know where Gil was? And why was Lancer acting so indifferently? It could be a trick just like everything else, but when he looked Kotomine in the eye, he saw the look of a man who honestly believed what he saying.

    Slowly, cautiously, Archer got off the bed and redoned his upper garments, which were lying folded on the floor. He kept an eye on Kotomine as he walked through the door, half expecting him to lunge the moment his back was turned. But Kotomine stayed where he was, watching him with an angry frown.

    As Archer made his way through the church, a suspicious look over his shoulder told him that Kotomine was following him.

    “I know the way out, you don't have to show me.”

    “Just taking precautions that you aren't a kleptomaniac.”

    At the front door, Kotomine waited for him to walk outside, then immediately and wordlessly shut it behind him.

    It was still night time, and as he stood alone in the church courtyard, Archer couldn’t shake a feeling of anti-climax. He and Kotomine had pretty much shown each other their hands, and yet nothing had happened as a result. They should have drawn weapons and brutally fought to the death, yet all they had done was talk and yell a bit.

    Archer’s mind returned to the question it had pondered at the Ryudo Temple. What was going on? Why was everyone acting differently? Why was everyone dressing differently?

    His mind buzzing with questions, Archer set off into the night.
    My contributions to the fanfiction melting pot:
    (not so) Shallow Shirou
    Shattered Heaven
    Shatteraxia - currently up to Part 16

    You can also find me stumbling around Spiral Knights as Overlockone. If you do though, tell me to STOP! I'm supposed to be working on my writing!

  4. #4
    Everything turns to tedium eventually... Tesculpture's Avatar
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    Part 3:
    Archer planned to head straight for the Tohsaka residence, so he could ascertain what was happening with the present Rin and Archer. But as he moved through Fuyuki, he noticed more and more things had changed. Most of the changes weren’t major; signs that were differently worded, vehicles that had changed colour, infrastructure that had suffered different wear and tear – while someone else might not have noticed these subtle discrepancies, Archer saw them all.

    Some on the other hand were not so subtle – Archer almost tripped and fell when he saw the lime green bridge connecting the sides of the river.

    In a vague attempt to avoid losing his mind, Archer tried to think of an explanation for his experiences over the last few hours.

    It could be a trick Caster AND Kotomine were working together to pull on him, but the idea of a truce between them seemed somewhat unlikely. At any rate, what did they hope to achieve by this ruse?

    Could the explosion from Rin's experiment changed the entire city? This didn't seem likely either. As powerful as Jewelry magic could be, he doubted Rin would've attempted her experiment if there was any chance of such wide spread effects.

    Unless, it had not only sent him back in time, but to an alternate reality where things were already different...

    This sudden possibility halted Archer in his tracks. Even as he tried to shove the idea away as ludicrous, it began to seem more and more rational to him.

    But if things were different, had the fire that ravaged Fuyuki at the end of the last War still happened? Archer wished he had asked Kotomine. He may not have been truthful about the cause, but he could've at least confirmed its occurrence.

    Unable to shake the worry, he abandoned his heading for the Tohsaka residence and made his way towards the fire ravaged area.

    It was still there. And from what he could see in the glow of the street lamps, it seemed like it was the only place in Fuyuki that hadn't changed, either radically or subtlety. The trees were the same, the ground was the same, and the paths and benches were unchanged too.

    Relieved that at least this part of his past was the way he remembered it, Archer began walking through the area, resuming his path towards Rin's house. He had not gone far however when he sensed the presence of another Servant.

    Damn.

    Archer still didn't feel in top form following Assassin's treatment of him, and after all the shocks he had received tonight, he wasn't in the mood for any further scraps.

    Preparing himself inwardly and looking around, Archer tried to located his potential attacker, without success. The only person he could see was a youth sitting on a bench further up the path.

    Archer was hoping that the other Servant would refrain from attacking in the presence of an outsider, when, without warning, the youth spoke.

    “If you're looking for fight, Servant, you're wasting your time. I am not involved in this War.”

    It was Gilgamesh. He was in civvies, but instead of his regular black jacket with white details, he was wearing a white one with red details.

    The main reason Archer hadn't recognized him from afar, however, was his manner. Instead of holding himself high, he slouched forward, his shoulders hanging down. As Archer continued watching, Gil slowly looked up at him, his eyes haunted and timid.

    Archer looked away.

    “I...I'm not looking for a fight.”

    “So, what do you want?”

    For a second, Archer couldn't think of anything to say.

    “.........Kotomine's looking for you.”

    “I'm not interested.” Standing up, Gil eyed Archer bitterly. “You're his new Servant, I take it? Well you go back to him and tell him I still haven't forgiven him.”

    With that, Gil turned to walk away.

    Normally, Archer couldn't have cared less about what Gil thought or did. But now, for some reason, some tiny part of him was moved by the pain and sadness he saw on his enemy's face.

    “My God,” Archer thought, “I'm actually feeling sorry for Gilgamesh. There must be something wrong with me after all.”

    Out loud, he said, “I'm not his new Servant.”

    Gil paused, then gave a baffled look over his shoulder. “Then whose Servant are you?”

    “Nobody's at this stage. If you don't mind me asking, what did Kotomine do that you find unforgivable?”

    Gil looked at the ground sadly and eased himself back down onto the bench.

    “I take it you know I am Kotomine's Servant?”

    “Yes.”

    “Before the last Holy Grail War, this area was like the rest of the city. Then Kotomine used a command seal to force me to use a Noble Phantasm I possess. He wanted me to destroy the Grail to stop a rival from obtaining it, but due to my inability to regulate my Noble Phantasm's power, I wound up destroying a lot more than the Grail.”

    Gil was growing visibly agitated, his fingers tensing into claws. “I warned him that this might happen, but he wouldn't listen! And now, because of him, the blood of all the people who lived here is on my hands!”

    He almost yelled the last words, pressing his hands to his face and beginning to shake uncontrollably.

    Finally, he relaxed. With a loud sigh, he rested his elbow on his knee, supporting his forehead with his hand. “He at least had the decency to let me leave after the War ended. I found it hard enough to live with myself; I don't think I could've stood living with him as well. That still hasn't changed now.”

    For a long while neither of them said anything. Archer, judging that Gil wasn’t an imminent threat, sat down on the bench as well. Gil smiled briefly. “I can't believe I'm telling this to anyone, especially another Villainous Spirit.”

    “What do you mean by 'Villainous Spirit'? That’s the second time someone’s called me that but I’m unfamiliar with the term.”
    Gil looked at Archer incredulously. “You're a Servant, and you don't know what a Villainous Spirit is?”

    “I've never heard it before.”

    Gil sighed again. “A Villainous Spirit is a soul that has, upon death, been elevated by the World to a near divine level of existence, due to the greatness of their acts in life. Generally they ascend because they have committed great atrocities or acts of evil, but you also get ones who're elevated for doing good things, so not all Villainous Spirits are villains in the traditional sense.”

    He looked up at Archer. “I would ask if you were the former or the latter, but I suppose that would be revealing your identity, wouldn't it?”

    Archer stared into the darkness in front of them as he digested what Gil had just said. “He just repeated the definition of a Heroic Spirit, only…backwards.” He thought. “I understand now. It’s the same as everything else. Things aren’t just different in this alternate reality, they’re… the exact opposite of normal.”

    With this realization, Archer felt a sick, leaden feeling start to develop in his stomach. “If that’s the case… could Kotomine have been telling the TRUTH?!”

    Gil meanwhile had kept talking. “Although…what happened here…in a way, it was as much my fault as Kotomine’s.”

    Archer dragged himself out of his thoughts. “Why?”

    “I didn’t manage to destroy the Grail on my own in time. I had a plan, but… I couldn’t implement it quick enough. In the end Kotomine couldn’t wait.”

    Suddenly Gil cringed, his face tormented by recollection. “Kotomine's rival… summoned an extremely powerful Servant. My plan had been to trick her into using her Noble Phantasm against me, but positioning myself so she hit the Grail as well.”

    Archer stirred uncomfortably; he had a feeling he knew exactly who Gil was talking about.

    “I have met none as lethal in combat as her, nor anyone as complete in their evil,” Gil continued. “All who stood in her path, be they Servant, Magus or innocent bystander, she trampled without distinction or mercy.

    Even ten years on she still haunts me. I can still hear her yell; 'Ex-”

    “-CALIBUR!!!” roared a female voice behind them, and Archer’s world was instantly overcome by blinding, burning light.
    My contributions to the fanfiction melting pot:
    (not so) Shallow Shirou
    Shattered Heaven
    Shatteraxia - currently up to Part 16

    You can also find me stumbling around Spiral Knights as Overlockone. If you do though, tell me to STOP! I'm supposed to be working on my writing!

  5. #5
    「 DESTINY'S☆CHILD 」 ItsaRandomUsername's Avatar
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    Still awesome.
    Mcjon01: [Fate/EXTRA]'s still a rock paper scissors simulator. The skills simulate the part of rock paper scissors where you get mad at your friend for obviously cheating all the time because you know it's impossible for you to just be that bad at rock paper scissors so you punch him in his stupid cheating mouth.

  6. #6
    Everything turns to tedium eventually... Tesculpture's Avatar
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    Part 4:
    “I can't keep being knocked around like this.”

    Slowly and painfully, Archer lifted himself from the ground where he had been thrown. His mind was fuzzy, and he couldn't remember how he got where he was. The ground felt hot underneath his palms, as if it had recently been on fire.

    As he looked up, he saw Gil, also lying on the scorched ground, and also trying to get to his feet. That was right; he had met him sitting on a bench, they had started talking...and then...

    Gil had managed to get onto his hands and knees. But as he raised his head, the grimace of pain on his face became a look of aghast horror. “Oh no………but……but how…”

    Slowly, Archer turned and looked at what Gil had seen.

    It was Saber. She was standing on a slight rise behind them, about ten meters away. Like everyone Archer had encountered before her, she had changed.

    Instead of blue and white with gold trim, her battle dress was now purple and black with bronze trim. Her armour was a much darker shade of grey, its finish marred by hundreds of dents, scratches and rust spots. The symbol that adorned her breastplate was larger, and painted on crudely at an angle. As Archer tilted his head, he realized that a pattern of scratches on the left side of her tasset were actually the words 'EVERPRESENT DYSTOPIA'.

    The change to her face, however, was by far the worst. Cutting down across her right eye, almost to the corner of her lip, was a massive, badly healed scar.

    “Well, if it isn't the King of Cowards,” she announced. “Are you actually going to stand and fight this time? Or are you going to lead me on a cat and mouse chase round the city like last time?”

    Gil, having managed to stand up, started to back away. “I...I am not a Servant in this War, y-you have no reason to-”

    “You think I care about reasons?! You still breathe, and that is reason enough for me to finish what I started!”

    Gil had managed to pull a sword out of Gate of Babylon and now held it out in front of him, the tip of the blade waggling around as Gil failed to either hold it steady or control his own shaking.

    With a snort of contempt, Saber readied herself, hulking like some sort of monster. “Well at least this time you're accepting your destruction. Now hold still while I fillet you!”

    With that, Saber charged forward, shooting past the still downed Archer, her weapon swinging down on the unfortunate Gilgamesh.

    CRAAANG!!!

    The force of Saber's invisible weapon slamming into his own blade forced Gil to his knees.

    Archer, still on his knees, watched in a sort of horrified fascination as the two fought, illuminated by the trees still burning from Saber's attack. Actually, to call it a fight was misleading – that implied that both sides dished out blows. Gil did his best to block the hailstorm of attacks that Saber imparted on him, but it was clear that he was barely managing to stop their force or keep up with their timing.

    Saber was attacking in a way Archer would've normally only associated with Berserker. She swung her sword one handed in brutal, random slashes, devoid of her normal discipline and precision. But as crude as her fighting style was, it was devastatingly effective.

    As Archer watched, it became clear to him that Gil's struggling was born not so much out of lack of skill, but simply because he wasn't pushing himself to the fullest of his capabilities.

    “It's as if he isn't trying because he doesn't think he's capable. And why doesn't he just sword spam her?”

    He could see Gil had initiated Gate of Babylon in order to arm himself, but no other weapons emerged, ready to fire.
    “Maybe here he's too honourable to use them?” Archer thought, recalling what Gil said before about being forced to use his Noble Phantasm.

    Finally, a particularly hard blow sent Gil reeling backwards, until his back thumped into a large tree. Saber thundered after him, and as Gil brought his weapon up, the two blades crashed together and locked. For several agonizing seconds the two Servants remained that way, Saber slowly forcing the two blades back towards Gil's desperate face.

    Then suddenly she raised her steel clad fist and thrust it past the weapons, hitting Gil with a deadly roundhouse punch.

    CRACK!

    The force of the impact slammed Gil's head back into the tree, and with a cry he fell to his knees.

    As he tried once again to rise, Saber drew back her foot and kicked him savagely in the ribs. “How something as pathetic as you came to qualify as an Epic Villain, I will never understand.”

    Archer hadn't moved from his position, he had become so caught up watching. But as Saber began to raise her weapon again, Archer felt himself moved to act.

    But why? Saber was his ally, and she was defeating Gil, someone who had always been an enemy. In any other situation, he'd most likely be helping her.

    But that was before a peculiar-little-Master-turned-mad-scientist had sent him to a backward alternate reality, where Gil was no longer a prick to have around, and Saber trash talked whilst kicking people when they were down.

    Saber’s invisible blade was now high above her head. “Please meet your end with dignity. I despise whiners.”

    For a split second her weapon stayed there, then it was hurtling down again, traveling in an arc to sever Gil’s defenceless neck.

    THUD!

    A spear shot through the air and embedded itself in the tree trunk above Gil, and with a loud CLANG, Saber’s weapon collided with it and stopped.

    “Okay, now I just saved Gil. There’s definitely something wrong with me after all,” Archer thought as he lowered his bow from the aim.

    Gil opened his eyes and looked in surprise at the piece of metal that had saved him. Saber glanced sideways at Archer, as if she had only just noticed he was there.

    Then, she was charging towards Archer, her mouth open in an enraged roar, her weapon raised to strike. Unable to trace his own in time, Archer held up his bow in an attempt to block. Saber's blade slammed into it, shattering it like glass and knocking Archer flying sideways.

    Landing on a piece of footpath some distance away, Archer managed to turn his velocity into a commando roll. While, through some stroke of luck, the blow hadn't cut him in half, it had scored a gash across his chest, reopening the wounds he had already sustained there.

    “She hits almost as hard as Berserker as well,” Archer thought, scrambling to his feet and tracing his signature falchions. “Surely…she can’t have low level Mad Enhancement?”

    He barely had time to look up when Saber attacked again, this time leaping high into the air and coming down from above. Archer dodged sideways, and like a lead safe Saber hit the footpath.
    CRAAACK!!!

    The concrete shattered, and as the ends of chunks underneath Saber were driven downward, the opposite ends shot upward, catapulting Archer into the air. “Ugh!”

    Not giving him a second to recover, Saber leapt at him again, attacking Archer in mid air and striking his block like a sledge hammer.

    “You dare get in between me and my prey?!” she snarled. “Fine then! You may have resurrected somehow, but I’ll rip you apart again just like I ripped you apart before!”

    Archer paused momentarily in realization. Shirou and Rin’s first meeting as Masters…she must have already killed the Archer from this reality!

    Well, that solved the problem about what he’d say to himself.

    But now, unless he found a way of escaping or fighting off Saber, he’d be meeting himself in the afterlife anyway. His strength was going fast, and every blow Saber landed came closer to breaking his guard.

    “Why are you attacking me?! Our Masters have formed a truce!” Archer called desperately, hoping that in this reality he was still telling the truth.

    “A trivial fact!” Saber shot back, swinging again.

    It was time for desperate measures. Drawing on his last reserves of his strength, Archer dodged away again, cleared his throat, and began to speak.

    “I am the bone of my…”

    But before he could continue, Saber's charge was suddenly and dramatically halted.
    With a yell of surprise, her arms were yanked outward, her body immobilized as a grey chain wrapped around them and became taut.

    “Gil...” Archer looked past Saber, and sure enough Gil was there, pulling on the other end of the chain to maintain the tension. This was strange to Archer, since he'd never heard of Gil needing to do it before.

    “RAAAAAAH!!!” Saber snarled in fury, wrenching against her bonds.

    “Hurry! It won’t hold her forever!” Gil called frantically.

    Archer didn’t waste any time. Running past Saber, he was about to leap off when he noticed Gil still hadn’t moved.

    “Wait a second. He's not pulling on it to maintain the tension, he's pulling on it because he's got his arm stuck in it!”

    It was true; no matter how much Gil tried, he couldn't dislodge the chain wrapped around his wrist. Slowly the anxiety on his face became panic, as he realized he was inseparably attached to his foe.

    Sprinting to his side, Archer grabbed Gil’s arm and examined the chain's tangle. Meanwhile, the chains holding Saber were creaking and groaning from the abuse she was putting them through.

    “Look, stop pulling!” Archer yelled at Gil. “It's your pulling that's making it go tight!”

    Archer shoved Gil in Saber's direction (much to Gil's horror), and immediately the chain on his arm slackened and fell off.

    “RAAAAAAAAAH!!!”

    CRACK!

    The chains holding Saber's left arm broke, and she lurched towards them, held only by the chains on her other arm and her body.

    “Let's get out of here!” Gil yelled frantically.

    Together, the two Servants ran, crashing through the trees with all the speed they could muster.

    Even after they had exited the fire ravaged area, and had moved another two blocks away, they could still hear Saber's screams of rage.
    My contributions to the fanfiction melting pot:
    (not so) Shallow Shirou
    Shattered Heaven
    Shatteraxia - currently up to Part 16

    You can also find me stumbling around Spiral Knights as Overlockone. If you do though, tell me to STOP! I'm supposed to be working on my writing!

  7. #7
    Everything turns to tedium eventually... Tesculpture's Avatar
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    Part 5:
    They eventually stopped in an empty alley, puffing and resting their hands on their knees.

    Archer took the opportunity to sit down. The run hadn't taken much out of him, but the fight with Saber had, and now the front of his outfit was wet with blood where he had been slashed. It would heal, but that would take mana, and with no connection to a Master, he wasn't getting any new mana from anywhere.

    Gil slouched against a wall. A large bruise was forming on his face where Saber had punched him, while a trickle of blood ran from the corner of his mouth. He looked badly stressed, and when he spoke, Archer could hear the effort he was putting into sounding calm.

    “Why did you save me?”

    Archer couldn’t come up with an answer. Somehow, ‘I normally wouldn’t have since I come from another universe where you’re evil and Saber is good’ didn’t seem appropriate at the moment.

    Having received no answer, Gil looked away again. He seemed to debate inwardly for a second, then turned to Archer again and gave a hollow smile. “You said before you have no Master. If you need a somewhere to go, you can stay at my place if you want. I owe you my life, so it’s the least I can do.”

    Archer’s first impulse was to say no; he still wanted to find Rin and find out what was going on with her. But then he remembered all the other shocks he had received tonight. What if Rin had changed too? It seemed likely in view of everything else, and if it was, he didn’t feel up to coping with it at the moment.

    Sighing, Archer said, “Thanks. That would be great.”

    Gil’s state didn’t improve as they moved through the city. While his shaky hands weren’t as obvious when he swung them as he walked, the upset look in his face was, especially as he now jumped whenever he heard a loud noise or something touched him.

    Archer half expected Gil to lead him to a run down student flat, but it turned out to be a normal, simple middle class apartment. Not the polar opposite of the sort of executive suite the normal Gil would want, but no more likely to satisfy him either.

    Reaching his front door didn't make Gil relax either. He dropped his front door key on his first attempt at using it, while the second attempt saw him spend several seconds trying to steady his hand long enough to get it into the keyhole.

    “Are you alright?” Archer asked.

    Gil gave a dismissive nod. “I’m fine. I just need a glass of water.”

    As soon as the door opened, Gil walked briskly through, barely pausing to flick the light switch.

    “Do you have a first aid kit I could use?” Archer asked, following him.

    “Pantry,” Gil said, his voice distracted and irritable.

    Finding the white and red box in the referenced place, Archer began sorting through the contents.

    Gil had gone to a cupboard and, wrenching it open, scrabbled for a glass, sending them clinking into one another. Grabbing one, he filled it at the sink, but his hands were shaking so much now that most of the water sloshed out as soon as it went in. He managed to get some in, only for it to spill out as he lifted the glass to his lips.

    As the water splattered down his already dirty jacket, the last shred of composure in Gil snapped.

    “DAAAAAAAAAH!!!” he screamed in anguish, flinging the glass at the wall. “WHY?!!! WHY HAS SHE RETURNED?! WHY I AM BEING PUT THROUGH THIS CRUEL JOKE AGAIN?!!!”

    Archer stopped what he was doing and watched while Gil continued his nervous breakdown. Finally, Gil collapsed against the sink and slid to the floor, his bruised and tear lined face in his hands.

    For several seconds Gil sat where he was, while Archer waited. Eventually, Gil managed a whisper. “I must look such a fool to you.”

    “Christ,” Archer thought. “First I feel sorry for you, then I save you, now I have to be your counselor too?”

    Patiently leaving the first aid kit, Archer got out another glass and filled it with water. “You’re not a fool. You're just suffering from post-traumatic stress.”

    Sticking a straw in it, he hauled Gil up from the floor and sat him at the kitchen table, setting the glass in front of him. “Drink.”

    Too burnt out to resist or question, Gil silently complied. Archer then found some Rescue Remedy in the first aid kit, and after giving Gil a dose, took a healthy amount himself.

    “Her Master is the son of her Master from the last War,” he said, opening the freezer and procuring a steak. “Hold this on your bruise.”

    Gil looked round in surprise. “You mean you knew she was here all along? Why didn't you tell me?”

    “I was about to say, but I got distracted avoiding being eviscerated. Do you know her true identity?”

    “Yes. Why, don't you know?”

    “No, I know it. She's the King of Knights, Arturia Pendragon.”

    “Don’t you mean the Tyrant of Knights? That’s what most people call her.”

    “Um, yes, that’s what I meant.” Having selected what he needed from the first aid kit, Archer began taking off his sleeves and breastplate. Underneath, the bandages Kotomine had applied had been reduced to blood soaked tatters, and he set about removing them.

    Gil pressed the steak to his face. “I wonder how father and son managed to get the same Servant?”

    Archer considered, then decided he'd revealed enough. Secret keeping problems aside, there was no point giving Gil a heart attack by suggesting Saber may have a Noble Phantasm that rendered her invincible. “That I don't know.”

    “I see.” Gil seemed to have finally achieved calm. Transferring the steak to his side where he’d been kicked, he went back to his water. “I desperately didn't want to be involved in this War. But now that Saber has returned, I feel I have no choice. The results would be unthinkable if she got the Holy Grail, I can't just sit here and let it happen! Besides, it’s only a matter of time before she finds me again. Once she picks a victim, she'll hunt them relentlessly.” Gil paused and let out a long breath. “Sometimes, I wish I were more like her.”

    Archer stopped and stared at Gil. “You’re not serious, are you? Why on earth would you want to be like her?”

    “Well, she has so many traits that I lack; she’s brave in combat, self confident, powerful…”

    Archer put on a disbelieving look. “You’re painting an overly flattering picture of her. Isn't it more likely what you think is bravery is actually being too psychotic to know better?”

    “Well, yes, but she is all those things,” Gil insisted, looking down. “At least, compared to me, she is.”

    Reaching across the table, Gil lifted the corner of the kitchen window curtain. “It’s starting to dawn. We should be reasonably safe during the day; we should get some sleep while we can.”

    Too tired to continue the debate, Archer nodded, and busied himself cleaning his wounds.

    What a night it had been, he pondered. Teleported to an alternate reality, beaten to a pulp, discovering he was actually in a mirror universe, then nearly incinerated and beaten to a pulp again. And to top it all off, he was staying with a former enemy, whose infamously immense ego had vanished as if it had never existed.

    His mind dwelled on how Saber had changed. If nothing else had been enough, She alone confirmed that it was a mirror universe he was stuck in. She was still a Servant that other Servants talked about. But instead of a leader and warrior that commanded respect, she was a nightmare incarnate that commanded only fear.

    He wasn't sure he wanted to know what sort of Master would call forth such a monster...
    My contributions to the fanfiction melting pot:
    (not so) Shallow Shirou
    Shattered Heaven
    Shatteraxia - currently up to Part 16

    You can also find me stumbling around Spiral Knights as Overlockone. If you do though, tell me to STOP! I'm supposed to be working on my writing!

  8. #8
    死徒 Dead Apostle ringlhach's Avatar
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    Should I expect Shirou with a goatee and a tiny moustache?

  9. #9
    Everything turns to tedium eventually... Tesculpture's Avatar
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    Part 6:
    “SHIROU!!!”

    Shirou was awakened early that morning by Saber’s voice bellowing from the other end of the Emiya residence. With difficulty, he sat up and wiped his eyes. Early risings weren’t his strong point; they were more Tohsaka's forte.

    “SHIROU!!!”

    As Shirou’s brain achieved full comprehension, it occurred to him that unless he did something fast, her yelling would soon wake the entire street.

    “SHIIIIIIROOOOOOUUUUUU!!!”

    “Hang on, let me get dressed!”

    “I WILL NOT BE KEPT WAITING!”

    Footsteps thundered down the corridor, and suddenly the bedroom door slammed open, revealing Saber still in her armour.

    From the moment Saber had appeared before him and introduced herself with the phrase, “You had better be my Master. If you aren't, you're dead,” Shirou knew he would not regret their time together.

    When the specifics of the Holy Grail War were explained to him, it was as if all his Christmases had come at once. All he had to do was defeat the other Masters - a job that was proving child’s play - and he could have anything he wanted.

    And what did he want? The answer was simple: EVERYTHING.

    That said, Saber’s lack of patience left something something to be desired, as was the case now.

    Putting on a long suffering smile, Shirou began dressing under his duvet. “Saber, you must understand that I require time to get dressed when I wake up.”

    Saber’s scarred face was irate. “I should not have to wait to speak to you because of something as minor as your lack of clothing! If I didn’t need you to keep me in existence, I’d make you pay for this transgression dearly!”

    Shirou’s smile switched to charming. “My apologies. Rest assured I will present myself promptly when you desire it in the future.”

    He knew all too well the dangers of Saber's temper. He had already expended a command seal once stopping her from killing him after a bad choice of words. And while she looked merely peeved at the moment, he knew a fully blown rage lurked just below the surface.

    Not that he minded. If anything, he enjoyed the intellectual challenge of keeping her under control.

    But as he pulled on a black and purple shirt and stood up, he found a more pressing concern. “Saber, who is that?”

    Saber looked down at the bloody corpse she held in her hand. “Oh. She was walking past the residence when I returned.”

    Shirou raised an eyebrow. “And so you killed her?”

    “No!” Saber gave an incredulous expression. “I don't go around killing people just because they're there! What do you take me for?!”

    “I'm sorry.”

    “I killed her because she gave me an awkward eye.”

    “Of course, how silly of me. Anyway, what were you calling me for?”

    “Um...ah, yes, right. There’s been a development.”

    Shirou frowned. “What sort of development?”

    “There is an eighth Servant.”

    “An eighth Servant? I understood there were only supposed to be seven.”

    “There are. He is an Archer class Servant that I fought in the previous Grail War. Somehow he is still in existence.”

    “Wait a second,” Shirou said. “You fought in the last War ten years ago?”

    Saber stared blankly at him. “Yes. Your father, Kiritsugu Emiya was my Master.”

    “Really?!” Shirou smiled and raised an eyebrow in interest. “So my father tried to do the same thing as me. I take it he didn’t succeed?”

    “No. The Grail was somehow destroyed while I was busy hunting.”

    “I see. So, is this new Servant a threat?”

    “No!” Saber sneered. “The only reason the runt survived the last War was he kept running away! As soon as I corner him, I will crush him like an ant!”

    Her expression morphed into an angry scowl. “I would have disposed of him already, had another Servant not interfered...”

    Without warning she spun on her heel and strode back up the corridor, the body in her hand leaving a trail of blood along the floor.

    “What? Wait,” Shirou hurried to the doorway. “Which other Servant?”

    Saber ignored him, disappearing round a corner towards the dining room. Shirou began to follow, when another door slammed open ahead.

    “Ah, Rin...”

    “Good mornAAARGH!”

    Rin's greeting became a strangled yell. Sighing and rolling his eyes, Shirou jogged towards the noise.

    He reached the dining room in time to see Saber, having hauled Rin up from the table by the neck, pin her against a wall.

    “Would you explain to me why you failed to inform me that Archer is still alive?” Saber asked with icy menace.

    Rin's eyes, bulging from asphyxiation and fear, widened even more. “Ar...Archer? But Saber, you killed Archer befor...” Rin was cut off as Saber tightened her grip.

    “But he has returned, hasn’t he? And you have declined to let me know.”

    Shirou frowned. “Is this true, Tohsaka?”

    Rin desperately forced some words out of her constricted wind pipe. “If he is alive, I don’t know how or why! Look!” She held up her hand in front of Saber. “No command seals! If I’d known, I swear I would have told you!!!”

    “Maybe so,” Saber responded, “but why should I let you live if you can’t even keep your own Servant in line?”

    “In all fairness Saber,” Shirou said as he regarded Rin’s purple face, “She could still prove useful. Besides, there’s only so much room in my cadaver hiding places.”

    Saber looked at Shirou with dislike, then reluctantly let go. Rin collapsed to the floor, gasping and coughing.

    “Thank you Saber!” She finally managed. “Truly, your compassion knows no bounds! But, I still don't quite understand. What was Archer doing?”

    Saber related her encounter in the fire ravaged area.

    “You poor, poor Servant! I’m so sorry!” Rin gushed, standing and bowing almost double. “I promise I will get to the bottom of what Archer is doing!”

    “I'm more concerned about this new Servant,” Shirou said thoughtfully. “People live when they aren't killed, which means he's still out there, and knows what to expect from us.”

    Saber snorted. “All it means is that he knows his demise is unavoidable. That weakling isn't even vaguely a threat.”

    Rin smiled, clasping her hands together cheerily. “Oh, there's no need to worry about that! You and Saber have got to be the most powerful Master and Servant to date! I have every faith that you two will go on to obtain the Grail!”

    Shirou smiled in satisfaction. Having his ego stroked was one of his favourite pastimes, and Rin did this exceedingly well. Of course, she'd say anything to maintain his favour. When they had first met following his summoning of Saber, she had been pretty sure of herself. But the moment Saber had smashed Archer aside like a ten pin, she had abandoned all dignity and thrown herself on her knees, begging for her life and sucking up for all she was worth. In the end Shirou had allowed her to live, on the condition she gave them her servitude.

    Saber however had no interest in ego stroking. “Enough of this insignificant banter. I'm hungry.”

    Looking down, she regarded the corpse in her hand with new interest.

    “Um, perhaps you could get something to eat from the kitchen Saber,” Shirou said quickly. The blood along the hall was bad enough; he knew from experience how messy an eater Saber could be.

    Growling in annoyance, Saber dropped the body to the floor and strode into the kitchen. Grabbing an unopened box of cereal from the cupboard, she tore it in half with her teeth and began stuffing handfuls of the contents into her mouth.

    Sighing slightly, Shirou squatted down and hoisted the body into a fireman’s carry. “I’ll dispose of this; that way I can check on how Ilya is doing as well. Then we’ll have to clear the blood up before Sakura gets here.”

    “Of course, Shirou, whatever you say! You do that and I’ll get started!”

    “After that I better head off to school. That’s unless Issei has tried burning it down again...” Shirou pondered this last thought as he made his way to the tool shed. He admired his friend’s tenacity and devotion to non-conformity, but the younger Ryudo sadly lacked the long term aspirations necessary to become anything more than a general delinquent.

    As he slid open the tool shed door and walked in, a voice called weakly from the darkness at one end.

    “On...Onii-chan?”

    Ignoring it, Shirou dropped the body to the floor and opened the chest freezer. Another of Saber's earlier victims was already in there, and he set about adjusting them to make some space. Inevitably, someone would come looking for them, but by then Shirou would have the Grail, and the consequences would become a moot point.

    “Onii-chan......please......please let me go...”

    Shirou sighed as he lugged the body in. “Why do you keep trying, Ilya? You know you’re wasting your breath.”

    The tearful voice continued to plead. “Please, Onii-chan……it……it hurts...”

    Shutting the freezer, Shirou turned towards the voice’s source. “You will be let down from there in due time.” His smile became smug. “Specifically, when I need you to call forth the Grail.”

    “No……Onii-chan……”

    * * * * *

    Back in the kitchen, Rin was watching Saber continue her breakfast. Having consumed half the contents of the cereal box and spilled the rest on the floor, Saber had found a frozen chicken in the fridge freezer and was chewing on it, trying to break off a consumable chunk.

    Although Rin had no idea how Archer had managed to bypass his destruction, or why she no longer had a connection to him, or what he was doing helping a complete stranger, she nonetheless felt pleased at what had transpired. It would have been better if Shirou and Saber hadn’t found out about his return, but since, as they were concerned, she had no control over him, this didn’t matter too much.

    Her Servant had returned, giving her an additional tool to use against Shirou.

    Her pledge of allegiance to him was a ruse, nothing more than a necessary act to avoid culling at the hands of Saber. But now that she had seen how quickly Saber had defeated the other Masters, she realized she was actually better off in her current situation than if she had won that first battle. Archer had shown some abilities while he was alive that were, at best, interesting, but they were nothing compared to the engine of destruction Saber was.

    Shirou was a fool. His success against Rider and Berserker had made him believe he was some sort of infallible god. And while he was remarkably talented in areas, Rin had spent enough time with him to know he was far from infallible.

    Not that she would point out the holes in his defence. Let the man follow his delusions of grandeur. Once he had disposed of the other Masters for her (or got himself killed), she would take his delightfully powerful Servant off his hands, and go on to claim the Grail herself.

    Of course, Saber might have some objections and prove a bit hard to control, but it would be nothing that a quick magecraft induced lobotomy wouldn’t fix.

    “RAAAAAAH!!!”

    Unsuccessful in her attempts to bite a chunk out of the frozen chicken, Saber flung it at the kitchen floor in a rage.

    THUD!

    Producing her invisible sword, she began demolishing the chicken, along with most of the kitchen floor.

    CRASH!!! CRASH!!! CRASH!!!

    Wary of becoming a target as well, Rin moved to a safe distance.

    “You may hold all the cards for now, Shirou,” she thought with a smirk. “But in the end, it will be me who produces the winning hand.”
    My contributions to the fanfiction melting pot:
    (not so) Shallow Shirou
    Shattered Heaven
    Shatteraxia - currently up to Part 16

    You can also find me stumbling around Spiral Knights as Overlockone. If you do though, tell me to STOP! I'm supposed to be working on my writing!

  10. #10
    Everything turns to tedium eventually... Tesculpture's Avatar
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    Part 7:
    Archer eventually woke to the smell of frying bacon and egg.

    “Ahhh, I hope Rin’s cooking some of that for me,” he thought, stretching his stiff limbs. “Hang on… why am I sleeping on the couch?”

    He struggled to remember if he had had some sort of fight with Rin.

    Then it came flooding back; the experiment, the explosion, the night from Hell…

    He opened his eyes, and his fears were confirmed; he wasn’t in the Tohsaka residence, but a middle class apartment.

    “Ohhhhhh shit.” Immediately a large chunk of Archer wanted to go back to sleep, in the hope that a second awakening would put things back to normal. But he knew it was no use. He was stuck in this backward world.

    As he sat up, Gil appeared at the kitchen door, wearing a floral apron. “Oh, you’re up. I was just making some breakfast. It’s actually almost lunch, but I thought I might as well.”

    “Yeah, I ascertained that,” Archer replied, praying to God that he wouldn’t have to do any more counseling sessions.

    Mercifully, Gil remained calm and silent while he served and they ate. The food wasn't bad either, which also helped lighten Archer's mood.

    Only once he began clearing the plates away, did Gil raise the issue haunting them. “Will you help me?”

    “What?”

    “If I'm going to fight in this War, I could really use your help. Will you keep helping me?”

    Taking a minute to think, Archer found he still wasn't settled on which side he should help. There was no question who, out of Saber and Gil, had the world's best interests in mind in this reality. But he still hadn’t accounted for everyone else, and the last thing he wanted to do was make an assumption that turned out wrong.

    Looking up at Gil, he asked, “I take it you're going back to Kotomine?”

    Gil looked surprised, then looked down, frowning bitterly. “I absolutely hate it, but yes, returning to my Master would be a smart choice.”

    These last words sent a sudden, unpleasant shock through Archer, as he remembered he was without a Master himself. If he was to have any hope of surviving this War, he needed a source of mana, and fast. Kotomine of course was out of the question. Even if he was good now, Archer still couldn’t bring himself to trust him, let alone form a contract.

    “I need more time to think, if you don’t mind.” Archer finally said. He almost said “There’s something I need to do first,” but decided against it. The last thing he needed was to give Gil the idea he was going to help him regardless.

    Gil looked surprised. “Oh…er, okay.”

    Wanting to avoid the inevitable awkwardness, Archer stood up. “I need to go now. Thanks for the bed and breakfast.”

    “Uh, you’re welcome.” Gil looked down at the floor.

    Archer turned and headed for the front door, but before he reached it Gil spoke again. “Archer?”

    Looking back, Archer found Gil was smiling hopefully at him.

    “Thank you. For everything.”

    Archer stared perturbed at him, then nodded distractedly and continued on his way. The way Gil had looked at him then… it was creepy.

    Almost like how Sakura used to look at him…

    It was past lunchtime when Archer reached the school and began searching for Rin. At first, he was without success. He did find to his disgust however, that the uniforms were now an ugly chocolate brown colour, giving them the appearance they had been dipped in timber stain.

    Archer was about to abandon the main building, when he spied a flash of blue cloth disappearing round a corner.

    “Saber? The normal Saber?”

    Archer sprinted towards the corner. Could it be?! The others had come to this reality to save him?!

    But when he rounded the corner, he found that he was wrong. It was Rin from this reality; what he had thought was normal Saber’s battle dress was her jacket, which was now blue instead of red. But while he had succeeded in his original objective, he still felt a little disappointed that his last minute hope hadn’t come true.

    Rin had sensed his presence, and since no one else was around, he risked materializing.

    “Archer?!” Rin’s eyes widened in surprise.

    Archer tried to think of something to say. “Hello.”

    Rin looked around quickly to see if anyone was around, then turned and moved off, waving Archer to follow. “Come, quickly!”

    She led him up to their usual meeting spot on the school roof. Once there, she turned back to him, her arms folded and her face serious.

    “This is normal,” Archer thought with relief. Of course, that did mean he was about to have a strip torn off him for going AWOL.

    Rin slowly began shaking her head, her eyes locked on his. Archer kept his eyes locked on her hands, ready to dodge if one of them lashed out at a sensitive place.

    Then a smile spread across her face. “Oh, you’re so sly, Archer! Tricking me into thinking you were gone for good? Very clever!” She reached out and slapped Archer on the arm.

    At first, all Archer could do was stare incredulously. Then, like poison tainting water, disappointment began to cloud through his being. “Please God, let this be a temporary lapse of personality she's experiencing,” he thought to himself.

    “It would have been better if you hadn’t let Saber see you, but otherwise, well done! Shirou doesn't suspect a thing!” Rin smirked and rubbed her hands together. “Following your ‘death’, I got him to spare my life in exchange for serving him as a subordinate. Little does he know that this couldn’t suit me better. All we have to do is sit back until he’s dealt with our remaining enemies,” at this point she leant towards Archer, her face intense with malicious glee, “Then we can off him, and claim the Grail for ourselves! Isn’t it brilliant?!”

    Suddenly the tiredness he had felt after waking up returned with a vengeance. The one hope he had held out, that against all odds Rin would be unchanged, had been shattered in a matter of seconds.

    As he forced himself to nod, Rin's expression became curious. “Just one question Archer; why were you helping that random Servant? Who is he?”

    Archer's reeling mind began to panic. He obviously couldn't tell Rin the truth, in case she used the knowledge for evil ends. But in that case, what was he going to say?!

    “Um… well…” he stammered. “I... have no idea who he is. My Noble Phantasm allowed me to come back to life in that area. He just happened to be there.”

    Rin raised an eyebrow. “So you have a Noble Phantasm that lets you resurrect! But why did you protect him?”

    For several horrible seconds, Archer's mind was blank.

    Then he remembered what Rin said a second ago. “Well, once Saber saw me it was useless pretending to be dead. So instead I did something that you would be unlikely to get me to do.”

    Archer waited anxiously while Rin considered his story. He had done his best, but his explanation didn’t fit with what he'd said to Saber during the fight. If Saber had told Rin about it, she’d know Archer was lying.

    Then Rin smiled and shrugged. “That’s a rather obscure method of deception, but it worked, so well done! That was very clever of you to keep up with my plan!”

    Sighing inwardly in relief, Archer decided he needed to find out more if he was going to stay one step ahead. “So, what's Shirou like?” he asked carefully.

    Rin sneered. “He's a fool who thinks it's his destiny to rule the world, using the Grail to achieve it. Not that we’re going to give him a chance.”

    Muttering “Er, yes,” Archer mulled this over. This confirmed that Kotomine had been telling the truth earlier. And that one of the other alliances he could possibly form was not an option.

    Suddenly Rin raised her arm and offered it towards him. “Now then, let’s reestablish our contract. Your Noble Phantasm must have severed it when it brought you back to life.”

    “Um, no,” He quickly poured out. “If you regain your command seals, Shirou might get suspicious! I can survive on Independent Action for a while, so we don't need to!”

    His displeasure at her change aside, forming a contract with her would be just as foolish as telling her the truth.

    Rin looked surprised, then smiled. “Yes, that makes sense. You're so clever Archer, you think of everything!”

    This time Archer's relief was visible. Feeling the need to get out while the going was good, he began to turn away. “Gee, look at the time, I better not keep you any longer.”

    “Yes. Just one last thing Archer.”

    Archer looked back at her, anxiety rising.

    “Your new outfit is fine, but I liked the blue and white better.”

    “Um... okay. I'll change back when I get the chance.”

    “Okay then! See you later!” Rin gave Archer a cheery wave as he leapt away over the roof fence.

    Archer went as far as the edge of the school grounds, where upon he sat down on a bench beside the road, put his head in his hands and let out a long, despairing groan.

    It was useless. There was not a single person he knew in this twisted world, only malevolent strangers with faces and voices that didn't belong to them. The closest thing he had to allies were a man he loathed to the core, and an under-confident doormat who fell apart after one round with another Servant.

    Being alone was bad enough. But without Rin, (a normal Rin) to help him, his chances of getting back to his proper reality lay somewhere between insignificant and nonexistent. As were his chances of remaining in existence much longer.

    The irony of the situation didn’t help his mood. There was a time when he would’ve given anything to get Rin to let him kill Shirou. Now that she had no qualms against it, he would give anything to have her back to normal. She might’ve not heaped praise on him like this one, but at least she had a good sense of what colours suited him.

    Finally, Archer pulled himself together. He would achieve nothing by moping around, believing the situation was completely hopeless.

    For starters, he didn’t know if he was completely alone; there was still this reality's Ilya. Kotomine had said she'd been defeated before, but he hadn't said what that meant specifically. Maybe she was still hiding out somewhere, waiting for a convenient Masterless Servant to come along. He didn’t hold out much hope for her being unchanged, but considering her demeanor during the war in his reality, surely here she would be morally inclined.

    Having made up his mind, Archer forced himself to his feet, pointed himself in the direction of Einzbern Castle, and started walking. He might be running out of mana, but until he did, he would put it to good use.
    My contributions to the fanfiction melting pot:
    (not so) Shallow Shirou
    Shattered Heaven
    Shatteraxia - currently up to Part 16

    You can also find me stumbling around Spiral Knights as Overlockone. If you do though, tell me to STOP! I'm supposed to be working on my writing!

  11. #11
    Everything turns to tedium eventually... Tesculpture's Avatar
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    Part 8:
    Kotomine sat in his makeshift study in the back of the church. He had sent Lancer out to maintain his vigil over the other Masters, and he was expecting him to return soon.

    He was wracking his brains for some way, any way, he could stop Shirou or at least gain an advantage over him. But in the absence of an immediate answer, his mind kept slipping back to the Archer Servant he’d encountered. Who was he? Why was he so similar to Rin's Servant?

    And how did he know, or seem to partially know, about the Last War?

    He had spent ten years trying to forget the memories of that period of his life. At the time, he had been desperate, to the point of beside himself, to stop Kiritsugu from achieving his goal. Kotomine had found a way, but it cost him both a valued friendship and the lives of hundreds. And while, to this day, he couldn't think of an alternative path he could've taken, it did nothing to alleviate the guilt.

    Suddenly, through the silent corridors, he heard the front door of the church open. Kotomine moved to investigate the noise, anxiety rising within him. Was it Lancer back? Or was it Shirou, aware of Kotomine's deception and intent on retribution?

    But was he slowly, cautiously looked through the door next to the altar, he was greeted by the last sight he expected to encounter.

    “Gilgamesh!”

    Kotomine rushed to meet the Servant moving up the aisle. “Where have you been? Are you okay? How long have yo-”

    He stopped as Gil suddenly looked up at him. The last time Kotomine had seen this face, it had been twisted in anguish and betrayal. Now all it showed was bitter enmity.

    “I still haven't forgiven you,” Gil said with spite. “Saber is back, and I heard you needed help. That is the only reason I am here.”

    Kotomine tried to say something, then sighed and looked away sadly.

    For a while neither of them said anything. Kotomine stood where he was, while Gil wandered past and sat in the front row of pews, staring straight ahead.

    Eventually Kotomine plucked up the courage to try again. “Did you find out I needed help through a Servant in red and black clothing?”

    Gil was silent for a second, then spoke without turning round. “Yes. I assumed he was your new Servant, but he claimed otherwise.”

    “That's right, I'm not his Master. Lan...” Kotomine hesitated, worried about how Gil would feel about Lancer replacing him. “...I found him injured, and I nursed him back to health.”

    “....Mm-hmm.”

    “Do you remember him from anywhere during the last War?”

    “No.” There was another long pause. “Why?”

    “He already knew who you were, and that I was your Master. But at the same time, he was surprised when I told him you weren't here.”

    Gil finally looked around, his face and voice gaining a hint of curiosity. “Really? He asked about me?”

    “Yes.” Kotomine gazed up at the altar in thought. “He really is strange, and not just because of what he knew. There is definitely more to him than meets the eye...”

    * * * * *

    Meanwhile across town, Archer was once again sitting on a roadside bench in a state of depression.

    His last hope hadn't paned out. Upon reaching the Einzbern Castle, he had found it reduced to rubble, the surrounding forest razed to the earth, and Ilya nowhere to be found. Not even Lysritt and Sella were there. Clearly when Kotomine had said Ilya had been defeated, he'd meant completely and utterly.

    Archer groaned again. This time, it was well and truly hopeless. With no Rin and no Ilya, the only other way he could think of getting back to his reality was to win the Holy Grail War and wish for it. He didn't bet much on the success of this idea however, and as wrong as this world was, dooming it to eternal suffering by unleashing the Grail seemed a bit harsh. Besides, with no Master, he'd disappear long before he got halfway close to winning. The only options left were either form a contract with Kotomine, which he desperately did not want to do, or start devouring souls, which he didn't think he could bring himself to do even if he tried.

    Gazing around himself aimlessly, he noted an increasing number of adolescents walking past, all wearing the ugly timber stain uniforms. School must be out; he couldn't see a clock, but it was definitely well into the afternoon.

    As his eyes continued wandering, he thought he saw someone he recognized. He looked again, then sat up; it was someone he knew. At least, he thought it was; the changes to her appearance were so dramatic, he couldn’t tell.

    So caught up was he in his debate, that he kept staring as the person walked up, stood in front of him, put her hands on her hips and yelled angrily. “PERVERT!!! What are you staring at me for?!”

    Archer jolted out of his reverie. “Oh, um, sorry, Sakura.”

    He hadn't been sure if it was her before because not only had her clothes changed, but her hair and eyes as well. Gone was the soft purple; in its place was bright, almost fluorescent red. On top of that, her hair was tied back with a cyan ribbon on her right, instead of a red ribbon on her left.

    “What?! How do you know my name?” Sakura demanded. Her face was a suspicious frown, her body readied as if for a fight. “You're a Servant, aren't you? Don't try to deny it, I can tell! Who is your Master?”

    Archer regarded the angry face in front of him with bewilderment. He had been so focused on Rin and Ilya, that he had forgotten to consider how she'd changed.

    Intrigued by the boldness of her question, he asked, “Why would I give up valuable information just like that?”

    “Tell me or I will force you to,” was the response, hissed through gritted teeth.

    “In front of all these people?”

    Sakura looked around, evidently having not considered the various witnesses around them.

    Finally, with a snarl of frustration, She turned and stalked off.

    “You better pray we never meet when there's no one around!” she fired over her shoulder.

    “Well, I've definitely seen it all now,” Archer thought, shrugging and slouching back on the bench. “Psychotic Sabers, backstabbing Rins, hostile Sakuras...”

    Then his ear caught the words Sakura was continuing to mutter as she went.

    “I'll send you to Hell…...along with Sempai!”

    For the second time in a row, Archer sat up. Surely he must have misheard...

    Standing up, he hurried after Sakura. “Wait!”

    Sakura whirled round. “Now what?!”

    “When you said 'Sempai', just now, you weren't talking about Shirou Emiya, were you?”

    Sakura looked surprised, then annoyed. “What does that matter to you?! Anyway,” she said with a curl of her lip, “Like you said; why would I give up valuable information just like that?

    “No! Wait, look,” Archer struggled with words as she began to walk off again. His mind raced; how was he supposed to get her to cooperate?

    If she was after a truthful answer, maybe honesty would be awarded with honesty. But how could he even consider that possibility? He’d judged telling the evil version of Rin the truth a bad idea; God knew what would happen if he told the evil version of Sakura.

    With difficulty, he decided it was time to take a risk. With his other options exhausted, he suspected that risks were the only thing that were going to see him through.

    “Look, if you want to know the truth,” he said, stepping in front of her and looking her in the eye, “I don't have a Master. The whole reason I was sitting here was because I haven't a clue what I should do or who I should help. I'm having what is shaping up to be the worst 24 hours of my existence, and I'm really starting to feel fed up.”

    Sakura seemed taken aback by this sudden change. Then the frown returned and she closed her eyes. “Fine. Yes, I did mean Emiya-san.”

    He could still hear anger tainting the edge of her voice, but it no longer seemed to be directed at him. “If you don't mind me asking, why do you want to send Shirou to Hell?”

    The response was a suspicious look. “You answer another one for me first! Why don't you have a Master?”

    Archer sighed. He was going to have to let some more of the truth slip. “......She... performed an experiment. But it went wrong. After the smoke cleared, I could no longer find her.”

    “Oh...” Sakura's expression was baffled. “And why are you interested in Sempai?”

    “His Servant attacked me earlier, and I'm curious as to what the Master of that Servant is like.”

    Satisfied with what she'd learnt, Sakura's frown shifted from suspicious to neutral. “I see.”

    She looked down, her voice bitter. “When I first met Sempai, I allowed myself to be sucked in by his inplacatable charm. When he asked me to help him clean his house, I happily complied, under the belief that my work would bring us closer together.

    But as time went on, I realized Sempai was just using me as a free cleaning maid, stringing me along without any intention of reciprocating.

    Admittedly, it was partly my fault. I keep doing things for him out of habit, and the faint deluded hope that he would change.

    But he never did. And now, he has done something completely unforgivable!” The fury was visible on her face now. “He murdered my Nii-san and my Servant!!!”

    Archer stared in disbelief. Surely, she didn't mean Shinji?

    His mouth began to open, ready to blurt out the question. Then, as his mind ticked over, he clamped it shut. He was still wary of the danger of forming assumptions on what people were like here (a precaution that Sakura was now proving worthwhile). Besides, the smoldering volcano look on her face told him he probably wouldn't survive making insensitive comments.

    Archer decided to play it by ear. “I'm sorry for your loss. What happened?”

    “The fool tried taking on Sempai!” Sakura snarled. “He begged me and begged me to lend him Rider so he could fight in the War and prove himself as a mage. In the end I felt sorry for him and gave in. Why did I make that mistake?!” She closed her eyes, her body shaking with emotion. “He was an idiotic, head strong, foolish MORON, but he didn't deserve to die!”

    If Archer didn't know better, he would've said it was normal Rin in front of him, complaining about Shirou's failings. The expressions, the body language, even the voice modulation, were so similar it was uncanny.

    “I know Sempai did it; I overheard him this morning talking to Rin-san about like it was nothing!” Sakura continued, holding up a shaking, clenched fist. “Well, it all ends tonight. Sempai thinks he's going to have his house made spotless, but the only thing he's getting from me is a lesson in what goes around, comes around.”

    Archer mulled over what he’d heard. Since it tied in with what he’d heard from other people, it seemed likely she was telling the truth. The emotion tied to the words didn’t exactly look fake either.

    Following her spiel, Sakura had gone silent as if in thought. Suddenly she turned to him again. “You have no Master, right?”

    “Yes...”

    “Well, why don't you become my Servant?” Sakura asked. “You help me kill Sempai, and I'll help you do whatever you want.”

    Archer was unsure. “Um...”

    “It makes sense; there's no reason not to!” Sakura said insistently, slight annoyance starting to show. “You’re a Masterless Servant, I’m a Servantless Master. We both have things we want, and we can help each other obtain them.”

    Archer thought hard. This decision was not as simple as when he had opted against contracting with this reality’s Rin. While Sakura was definitely not like herself in the normal reality, she didn’t really seem evil either, as far as he could tell. Regardless, she was still a more attractive option that Kotomine.

    “I have one condition,” he finally said.

    “Yes, what is it?”

    “If I do become your Servant, I won't hurt anyone not involved in this War. Will that matter?”
    It occurred to Archer that he should have asked Rin a similar question. Then again, if her willingness to backstab Shirou was anything to go by, it didn’t seem a far stretch to assume she wouldn’t have anything against harming innocent people either.
    Sakura frowned indifferently. “I don’t care about other people. All I care about is Sempai. You’re free to do whatever you want, as long as it doesn't get in my way. Does that answer your question?”

    Slowly, he closed his eyes, took a deep breath, let it out, opened his eyes, and smiled.
    “Okay, Sakura. I’ll be your Servant.”

    Sakura gazed at him, her cheeks reddening slightly before she blinked and frowned.
    “Good. Now, what class are you?”

    “I am an Archer.”

    “Okay, Archer-san, let's return to my house. We will need to formalize our contract and determine our plan of attack.”

    “Right.”

    They didn’t talk much for the rest of the journey back to the Sakura's house. Archer had the niggling feeling he'd forgotten something else important, but he couldn't put his finger on it. When the Matou residence came into view, however, his memory received an instant and unpleasant jog.

    Zouken Matou was most likely living there as well.

    “Uh, Sakura…” he began in sudden anxiety. But then he realized he couldn’t ask outright what he was like; Sakura didn’t know he knew who Zouken was. Perhaps if he asked a related question, he could lead her into telling him.

    “That’s an unusual hair colour you have, but it doesn’t look like it’s been dyed. Was it caused by something, or is it just genetics?”

    Sakura glanced in his direction. “That’s a rather personal question, but since you asked, it isn’t actually genetics. When I was younger, I was diagnosed with a faulty immune system. Faced with the prospect of being unable to leave the house if it deteriorated, I had special worms implanted in my body that keep it functional. My hair colour is the result of their influence.

    “I see. Do they have any negative effects?” Archer asked. This wasn’t moving towards the subject of Zouken, but if Sakura was in the same danger she had been in his normal reality, as her surrogate Servant he felt he should do something.

    “Um… yes, but… that’s not important.”

    “You should tell me anyway. If it becomes serious, I may be able to help you.”

    To his surprise, Sakura responded by blushing bright red, then glaring hard at him. “No, it’s fine, Archer-san, now drop it.”

    Archer's concern rose. Was she scared to tell him because of Zouken?

    “Look, Sakura, if this is causing you discomfort in some way, you should get someone to help you find a way around it. I happen to be here so-“

    “ALRIGHT!!!” Sakura suddenly yelled, her face going as purple as her hair normally was. “YOU’RE RIGHT!!! BECAUSE OF THE WORMS, MY LIBIDO HAS DISAPEARED! BUT IF YOU THINK I’M GOING TO LET YOU TRY ‘JUMP STARTING’ IT, YOU PERVERT-”

    SLAM!!!

    “GAAAAAARRRGH!!!”

    “-YOU’RE WRONG!!!”

    Archer crumpled to the pavement, his hands covering where Sakura’s foot had ploughed into his groin. Fighting through the waves of agony, he desperately tried to formulate a response to stop further retribution. “I’m sorry, I didn’t mean it like that! I thought they were causing you physical pain or something! I should have worded what I said differently!”

    “Hmph.” Sakura didn’t look entirely convinced. “Fine. No, apart from what-I-just-said-that-you’re-NOT-to-repeat-to-a-living-soul, they cause no trouble. Sorry, I thought you were being obscene. I appreciate the concern.”

    She waited impatiently while Archer recovered sufficiently to stand, then started walking again. Limping after her, Archer resolved never to go off on a tangent again.

    And he still hadn’t managed to find out about Zouken.

    “I assume you have a legal guardian?” he tried again, his voice still several octaves too high.

    “Yes; my Uncle Zouken-san.”

    “Is… he going to be a problem?”

    “In what way do you mean?”

    “Well, will he interfere with our plans or try to stop us?”

    “He shouldn't be a problem.”

    “He approves of you being a Master?”

    “He probably wouldn't, but he doesn’t realize.”

    Eh?” Archer had trouble believing it. Zouken didn’t know Sakura was a Master?

    Once they entered the Matou residence, however, it became perfectly clear how this was the case.

    Sakura, with Archer in tow, moved straight through to the lounge. “I'm home, Zouken-san!”

    “What? Speak up!”

    Archer stared at Zouken. He was barely recognizable, on account of a massive, wispy, white beard that obscured the lower half of his face, as well as most of his scrawny body. It was so long, that to keep it tidy, someone had coiled it up like a pile of rope next to the armchair Zouken was sitting in. He seemed to be watching a TV show about antique book ends.

    Sakura tried again. “It's me! Sakura!”

    Reaching into some unseen space, Zouken produced a massive brass horn, as large as his own head, and stuck it in his ear.

    “What was that?”

    Stepping over, Sakura yelled into the horn. “IT'S ME, YOU STUPID GIT!”

    Zouken gave a friendly, slightly vacant smile. “Oh, it's lovely to see you too, Sakura.”

    Catching sight of Archer, he squinted at him. “Is that you Shinji? I'd been wondering where you got to boy; been working late again?”

    “Er…” Archer stirred uncomfortably.

    Then Sakura grabbed his arm and dragged him toward the stairs. “Come on, we've got to discuss tactics.”

    “But how did he mistake me for your brother?”

    “Isn’t it obvious? He thinks every guy that comes here is Nii-san. Don't worry, he'll forget he saw you in a minute.”

    Glancing back as he climbed the stairs, Archer just managed to see Zouken waving cheerily to him before the edge of the ceiling got in the way.

    “I was wrong before,” he decided, shaking his head. “Now I have definitely seen it all.”
    My contributions to the fanfiction melting pot:
    (not so) Shallow Shirou
    Shattered Heaven
    Shatteraxia - currently up to Part 16

    You can also find me stumbling around Spiral Knights as Overlockone. If you do though, tell me to STOP! I'm supposed to be working on my writing!

  12. #12
    Everything turns to tedium eventually... Tesculpture's Avatar
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    Part 9:
    Hours past.

    As the Sun sank low on the horizon and evening took over from afternoon, the light filtering through the church's stained glass windows became less and less. Kotomine vaguely considered turning on the lights, but since he and Gil were doing nothing except sitting and waiting, there didn't seem much point.

    Instead he broke the silence. “There's no point waiting for him, Gilgamesh, that Archer Servant isn't going to come back.”

    “I think he will.”

    Kotomine sighed and rubbed his eyes. “He isn't, Gilgamesh, be realistic. He has his own agenda to follow, and it doesn’t involve us.”

    Gil's voice was stubborn. “He's a good person. He helped me before, he'll help us again, I know it.”

    “He only did so because it suited him at the time.”

    “So what you're saying is that we're doomed, is that it? Without him, we don't stand a chance against Saber!”

    “That wouldn’t be the case if you didn’t pussy foot around like you do!” Frustration began to creep into Kotomine's voice. “You’re more than capable of fighting her if you just pulled finger!”

    “And what logic tells you that? If I fight her, things will go the exact same way as last time!”

    “There is a way you can beat her, and you know it.” Kotomine said quietly.

    Gil rounded on Kotomine. “You haven't changed at all, have you?! You know fully well what will happen if I try using it! Do you not care at all about the lives of the people here?!”

    “Of course I care!” Kotomine was starting to sound angry. “But it's the only choice we have! You'll just have to try harder to control it!”

    “IT DOESN'T MATTER HOW HARD I TRY!” Gil almost screamed. “YOU COULD USE A COMMAND SEAL AND IT STILL WOULDN'T BE ENOUGH TO MAKE ME CONTAIN IT'S POWER! BUT THAT DOESN’T MEAN A THING TO YOU, DOES IT?!”

    “IF WE HAD ANOTHER OPTION THAT DIDN'T INVOLVE HUNDREDS SUFFERING AT OUR HANDS, I WOULD TAKE IT! BUT WE DON'T! AND UNLESS WE DO, IT WILL BE MILLIONS SUFFERING, NOT HUNDREDS! SUFFERING AT THE HANDS OF SHIROU!”

    They were both on their feet now, facing each other down.

    For a while they stayed that way, then, together realizing their foolishness, they sighed frustratedly and turned away. Kotomine sat back down, while Gil wandered to the far end of the room.

    “Okay look, perhaps we can offer a truce to Assassin's Master.” Kotomine said, attempting to sound calm. “From what Lancer has told me, he's still in the War and can be found in the Ryudo Temple. Assassin is apparently ambitious and competitive, but if we can convince his Master that Saber is the more dangerous enemy, maybe he can be convinced of the logic of a temporary alliance.”

    Gil thought, then spoke, his voice resentful but docile. “Okay. But if we do manage to defeat Saber, what then?”

    “I don't know; I haven't thought that far ahead. We'll just have to hope we can end the truce in a non-violent manner.”

    * * * * *

    Down in Fuyuki, the level of activity in the streets was lessening. Everyone was intent on returning to their abodes, having finished all major activity for the day.

    Everyone, that is, except a trio moving in a determined fashion across the city.

    Leading the group was a blond girl in a black blouse and a purple dress. As she moved along the street, her passage was marked by pedestrians staring in shock and revulsion, before turning to one another and gossiping.

    “My goodness, what happened to her face?”

    “She must have been in some kind of accident.”

    “I've seen scars before, but nothing like that!

    “You'd think they'd be able to use surgery to get rid of such things...”

    Some of the younger and drunker onlookers considered pointing and mocking the girl, but as she drew close, the air of menace she gave off was so strong, it suddenly didn't seem such a great idea.

    A small child, standing beside his mother, looked up at the girl as she passed by. Suddenly, the girl's eyes stopped staring ahead and fixed on him, giving him a look that could have melted through solid steel. Whimpering, the child backed away, trying to hide behind his mother's legs.

    * * * * *

    “Emiya and Saber are on the move.”

    Lancer's first words upon entering the front door of the church immediately brought Kotomine to his feet. “What direction? Here?”

    “No, the Ryudo Temple.”

    “He must be after Assassin. Damn.” Looking at Gil, he said, “You two better get over there. Assassin's Master may be easier to convince while Saber is there in front of him, and if he starts losing the fight, you'll need to help him.”

    Gil looked slightly pale. “How are we supposed to help him if he can't help himself?”

    “Never mind that! Just do what you can! Now hurry, we probably don't have much time!”

    * * * * *

    Caster knelt at the top of the temple steps, her hands moving around what appeared to be a scale model of a Greek villa, sitting in the middle of the gateway. She would have liked to build more, bigger, perhaps an entire life sized city, but the due to the limitation on her mana and her skill, it was all she could create.

    If she were a proper Villainous Spirit, her Territory Creation might have been of a higher quality, giving her a better shot at her aspirations. When that strange Archer suggested that Assassin was lying about his identity, he hadn't been completely wrong – he had just been talking to the wrong person. Caster was the exact being Archer had described; a spirit with no identity to call their own, who had inadvertently been called into existence. Upon seeing her Assassin had assumed that he had summoned the witch Medea. Caster was not associated with her in any way and hadn't intended to assume her form (she hadn't even heard the name Medea up until then), but he had been so utterly convinced, and there was no point saying otherwise, so in the end she hadn’t.

    With her continuing assignment to guard duty at the gateway, small scale Territory Creation was one of the few things she could do to amuse herself. Not that she minded; as a guard, she didn't have to go round mana-draining people. And while she didn't like incurring Assassin's wrath, she really didn't like hurting people either. Unfortunately, once her Master and his Master finished plotting and began their attack, she would likely be required to, and she’d have to choose between betraying her morals or putting her foot down.

    She was just putting the finishing touches to the last pillar of the villa, when she saw something move out of the corner of her eye. She looked up, and then a sliver of ice ran down her spine.

    There were people at the bottom of the stone steps. And it was far too late for tourists to be visiting.

    “Okay, Saber,” Shirou said, glancing behind him. “We're alone now, do your thing.”

    There was a flash of darkness as Saber quick changed into her armour. Raw power crackling over her body, she threw back her head and roared. “RAAAAAAH!!!”

    Caught up in her aggression, she cleaved a nearby rock in half.

    CRASH!

    “THIS TEMPLE SHALL BUUURRRN!!!”

    “Well, remember to deal with our targets first.”

    Pausing suddenly in her actions, Saber gave a withering look over her shoulder. “Are you suggesting I'd be stupid enough to let them escape, Shirou?”

    “Not at all. But fighting in a burning building is a tad on the difficult side, wouldn’t you agree? So it would be easier for all of us if the fight was resolved first, then the temple was burned.”

    “Yes.” Snarling in annoyance, Saber turned her attention forward again.

    Having watched all this from the top of the steps, Caster was now in a state of panic. Stuttering an incantation, she pointed her finger and fired a beam of orange light down the steps.

    Saber simply looked down, and watched as the crudely conjured beam failed to even scorch her breastplate. Her face twisted with contempt, she raised her own weapon in response, holding it out in front of her.

    Caster watched nervously, unsure what was happening. Then she began feel a strange draft. It was as if a breeze had started up, emanating from behind her and sweeping down the steps.

    Sensing the impending danger, she struggled to string the words together to try another attack, but it was already too late.

    WHOOMPH!!!

    Her sternum was nearly ripped out of her chest as the breeze suddenly became a vacuum, yanking her off her feet and down the stone steps at breakneck speed. Tumbling and wailing, she was dragged all the way to the bottom, crashing into steps and tree branches on the way, the crumbled remains of her model villa following close behind. Finally, she landed in a broken heap at Saber's feet.

    Saber regarded the quietly moaning form in front of her with disdain. “Pathetic.”

    Stabbing her sword downward into Caster’s back, Saber raised her fist and began charging it up with mana.

    CRACKLE…

    Once it was coursing with power again, she pumped the arm, unleashing a bolt of lightning that traveled down her weapon and into Caster, instantly blasting her body to pieces.

    BOOM!!!

    SPLAT!

    Shirou and Rin closed their eyes and recoiled as a wave of blood doused their clothes and faces, only to fade out existence a moment later. Not even pausing to contemplate her kill, Saber began leaping the steps toward the temple.

    As soon as Saber reached the top and passed under the gateway, the front door of the temple opened and two figures stepped out.

    “So you've already defeated my Servant?” Assassin observed. “Disappointing. I knew she wasn't powerful, but I still expected better.”

    “You're a fool if you thought that thing could slow me down, let alone stop me!” Saber shot back. “You're even more of a fool if you think you can!”

    “Oh yeah?” said Souchirou Kuzuki, bouncing on the balls of his feet. “We'll see about that! Me and Assassin, we're gonna teach you the meaning of being chewed up and spat out!”

    Assassin glanced sideways. “Don't underestimate her, Master. She's a Saber class Servant, and a powerful one at that.”

    “I'm not fussed,” Kuzuki smiled. “You've taught me everything you know about sword fighting, and I have my own repertoire of skills to draw upon! Together, we can take her easy!”

    Saber snorted. “You? Take me? An Assassin and a mere man think they stand a chance against me?! This is not wishful thinking, this is blatant idiocy!”

    “Is that so?” Assassin said softly. “A pity. I do so prefer unchallenging kills.” He unsheathed his weapon. “Oh well. If we must work for this victory, so be it. Ready, Master?”

    “And raring to go!” Kuzuki responded, producing a katana of his own.

    “Fine,” Snarled Saber, getting ready to charge, “We have talked long enough! It's time to make you see the fatal error you have made!”

    * * * * *

    The resounding crash of metal against metal greeted Gil and Lancer as they arrived at the bottom of the stone steps.

    Gil paused and swallowed nervously before moving forward again. “Okay. Calm down, it's going to be okay. You're going to head up there, help Assassin, and he's going to help you. Don't panic.”

    But as the two Servants began their ascent, they found their way blocked by two people also heading up the steps.

    “Ah,” Shirou said, turning around and smirking. “So our friend Lancer has turned up again. And he's brought the mystery Archer with him as well!”

    “Keep it together; they're not Servants, you can take this pair,” Gil thought to himself.

    Putting on as defiant an expression as he could muster, he called, “Step aside or suffer the consequences!”

    Shirou smiled in amusement. “Those are big words for a small man.”

    Surprised by how unfazed his opponent was, Gil tried to think of a come back. “Wh, what do you mean ‘a small man’?! I’m the Villainous Spirit here! What makes you think you stand a chance against me?”

    “Firstly, you're outnumbered three to one. Secondly, as Villains Spirits go, you’re not the most threatening looking I’ve encountered.”

    “Yeah, well, looks can be deceiving!” Gil snapped back. Seeing a way to get the upper hand in the verbal sparring, he tried to emulate the coolness of his opponent. “Anyway, your maths is off. Currently there are only two of you, not three, as Saber is occupied up at the temple.”

    The only response was a chuckle. “Who said anything about Saber?”

    Gil's expression faltered, but before he could ask what he meant, a blast of white hot pain punched through his awareness as something stabbed into his kidney.

    “ARGH!!!”

    As the thing shoved him forward, he managed to retain the presence of mind to brace himself against the step in front of him, then reach behind him and yank the object out. As he rounded on this new attacker, his face paled in shock horror.

    “L...Lancer?!”

    Lancer had taken a step back to obtain a solid foothold, spinning his spear round before aiming it again at Gil.

    “Wha... what are you doing?!”

    “Taking the logical course of action,” Lancer replied indifferently. “When fighting in a war, one should always join the side with the most chance of winning.”

    “Lancer came to see me while he was out 'scouting' for you,” Shirou elaborated. “He had all sorts of interesting things to say, mainly about what Kotomine's been up to recently.” Continuing to smile, Shirou let out a sad breath. “It's a shame, really. Kotomine put so much effort into this ruse; and he actually had me fooled, too! It seems so heartless to go and spoil it for him.”

    “There's no need to feel sorry, Shirou!” Rin enthused into his ear. “Finish this Servant, and we can move on, one step closer to -”

    “Shut up Tohsaka,” Shirou hissed, shoving her away. Looking down on Gil, he remarked, “Nonetheless, the fact remains that he's been plotting behind my back, and he will have to pay. Dearly.”

    Gil produced a weapon. “You leave him alone!”

    As loathe as he was to admit it, despite their strong disagreements, he still cared about his Master's well-being. Not just as a Servant, but as a friend, too.

    Lunging at Shirou and Rin, he swung the sword horizontally, only for his targets to dodge away to either side.

    “And what are you going to do if I don't?” Shirou leered. “You can barely defend yourself, let alone Kotomine.”

    Spinning, Gil just managed to block Lancer's next thrust as he chased him up the steps. But as Gil tried to recover, Lancer hit his hand with a kick, sending the sword spinning into the bushes.

    Shirou smirked as Gil leapt up the steps out of striking distance. “You know, this battle is only going to end one way regardless of what you do. You might as well just stand there and do nothing.”

    Gil's mind was a turmoil of anguish. He was wounded, his ally had betrayed him, and now his opponents were blocking his escape route. All before he had even seen Saber, who, at any moment, might finish her fight and return. But as hopeless and scared as he felt, as much as he wanted to just give up, he couldn’t do it. Even if he didn't owe it to himself or Kotomine, he still owed it to the people he'd killed to keep trying.

    Forcing himself upright in spite of the pain in his back, Gil flexed his injured fingers to get them working again, and pulled out another weapon.

    “Suit yourself,” remarked Shirou. “Tohsaka, Lancer, show the King of Zeros that he hasn't got enough blades.”

    “Sure thing, Shirou!” Rin said cheerfully, raising a hand and pointing a glowing finger at the stricken Servant.

    “Archer, I need your help again! Where are you?!” Gil thought desperately.
    My contributions to the fanfiction melting pot:
    (not so) Shallow Shirou
    Shattered Heaven
    Shatteraxia - currently up to Part 16

    You can also find me stumbling around Spiral Knights as Overlockone. If you do though, tell me to STOP! I'm supposed to be working on my writing!

  13. #13
    Everything turns to tedium eventually... Tesculpture's Avatar
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    Part 10:
    “Sempai's house is that way.”

    With little noise except for the swish of cloth, Archer leapt across the rooftops of Fuyuki, Sakura in his arms. He knew the way perfectly of course, but revealing that might raise unwanted questions, so he allowed himself to be guided.

    Archer wasn't feeling particularly well. His wounds from earlier weren't the problem; thanks to the contract he had formed with Sakura, he had enough mana to get himself back to fighting fitness. The problem was the mana itself; it was different in some way in this reality that his body wasn't used to. It was like eating a chocolate cake that had been made with salt instead of sugar. While he supposed he would eventually grow accustomed to it, in the meantime it was unpleasant to the point of distracting.

    A couple of blocks from the Emiya residence, Archer touched down in the street, letting Sakura stand on her own. She had changed out of her uniform, and was now wearing a cyan and black version of her normal civvies.

    Archer was in the process of tracing his bow, when he noticed what Sakura had procured to use as a weapon. “A cheese knife?”

    “Do you have a problem Archer-san?”

    “Wouldn't a chef's knife or a carving knife have been a better choice?”

    “It’s blunt, so it'll hurt more. Plus, the forked end is good for gouging eyes out.”

    Deciding he had made the right decision in not making an enemy out of Sakura, Archer nodded. “Ready?”

    “Yes.”

    They began separate approaches towards the Emiya residence. Archer moved over the roof tops, taking up a position just up the road from the residence, as close as he judged he could get without being detected. Sakura meanwhile walked along the street, heading for the front gate of the residence.

    They had spent a long time discussing their plan of action. Sakura would enter the house while Archer attacked from outside. As soon as Saber sensed his presence, she would invariably come outside looking for a fight, where distance would give him an advantage.

    At the same time, Sakura would attempt to blindside Shirou. As far as he knew, she was only there to clean, and with the attack occupying his attention, by the time he realized she was a Master it would be too late.

    It was a shaky plan at best. All it would take to fall apart would be for Saber to close the distance before he could get a shot off, or for Shirou to smell a rat before he could be backstabbed. Rin was also likely to be there, and while keeping Shirou alive wasn't high on her priorities, taking down other Masters probably was. Archer doubted that bonds of blood were going to make her go easy on Sakura.

    Worry had begun to eat away at him; he may be in better shape than to before, but it still wasn't going to be a pushover. If Saber opted to use Excalibur instead of charging him down (although he doubted she would), he'd literally be toast. In his opinion, they shouldn't be doing this at all, at least until they knew more about their opponents, or had obtained help.

    As Sakura reached the front gate and began walking up the path, he noticed the house's lights were all off. It was the evening, but it wasn't that late, so either Shirou had gone to bed early, or something weird was going on. He considered warning Sakura, but she was too far away to see him signal. Besides which, she must have noticed herself, and she didn't seem to be hesitating, so it must have been normal.

    The moment she put her hand on the front door and tugged, Archer leapt forward into the danger zone. His bow was up, the string pulled back, ready to lock on to and fire at any target that presented itself.

    But to his surprise, none was immediately forthcoming. He'd expected a freight train of an angry Servant to rush at him immediately, most likely smashing straight through the wall to meet him. But the house remained quiet; no lights came on, there was not so much as a flicker of movement. As he landed on a neighbouring house, it occurred to him that he couldn't sense her presence either, which he should have been able to do even if she remained inside.

    For a couple more minutes he waited, unsure what to do, the fatigue growing in his arms. Then Sakura came back into view, moving back down the front path so they could see one another. Looking straight at him, she shrugged her shoulders and shook her head, then waved him over.

    Archer raised an eyebrow. What was going on?

    Maybe her attack had failed, and now she had been hypnotized into luring him into a trap. But she didn't look like she was being controlled; just increasingly annoyed that he wasn't immediately complying.

    He began moving slowly in her direction, keeping his bow aimed at the house.

    “HAVE YOU NO BRAIN AT ALL? GET OVER HERE BEFORE I USE A COMMAND SEAL!!!”

    Surprised by the outburst, Archer very nearly let loose his shot up in the air.

    “What are you doing?!” he asked intensely once he'd moved to her side. “Are you trying to get yourself killed?”

    “You clearly don't have a brain!” Sakura interrupted. “What do you think I was gesticulating for? Sempai isn't here!”

    “What?”

    “The house is empty. They must have gone out for some reason.”

    Relaxing his bow string completely, Archer gave an exasperated sigh. All his worries had been for nothing (at least for the moment).

    An idea occurred to him. “Why don't we search this place? We may find something we can use against them.”
    He didn't bet much on the chances of this, but it would give him an opportunity to see whether the Emiya Residence had changed majorly on the inside.

    Sakura frowned disapprovingly. “You should return to the standby position in case they return.”

    “Relax, if they come back I can get outside and be ready in less than a second. Just pretend I was eating your soul or something. Also, if both of us search, we can be done and ready by the time they get back.”

    “Hmm.” Sakura looked livid. “Fair enough. But we’ll have to be quick. I want us ready to strike the moment Sempai returns!”

    “Got it. Any idea where he may have gone?”

    “No, but that's irrelevant anyway.”

    * * * * *

    SMASH!

    “EYARGH!”

    A blast of energy fired by Rin reduced the sword in Gil's hands to fragments. Seeing Lancer rushing at him and realizing he couldn't produce a new weapon in time, he dodged sideways, the thrust spear carving a gash into the side of his torso.

    Immediately Lancer flicked the spear upward, catching Gil under the arm with the shaft and using it to lift him off his feet. Jerking the spear, Lancer spin Gil round on the end of it, then slammed him head first back into the step.

    CRASH!

    Shirou smiled as Gil lay barely moving where he'd fallen. “It seems to be my destiny to have the strong rally to my side while the weak crumble before me. Not that I'm complaining.”

    Gil tried to stand again, but pain in his head was like a lead weight pulling him down, and he couldn't even get on his knees. How could it end like this? After the hardship of the fifth war, after what he'd done to all those people, after everything he'd been through to save the world... he was just going to fail and die here?

    Please Archer, help me!...

    Lancer backed off slightly, carefully aiming his spear at Gil's head. As the Noble Phantasm prepared itself, an aura like blue fire began to surround its tip, and Lancer tensed his legs ready to strike.

    * * * * *

    Saber's battle with Assassin and Kuzuki had carried her around the temple courtyard and back again, until she once again stood at the top of the stone steps. Already, the courtyard looked like a warzone, the flat, ordered flagstones carved into hills, trenches and craters by her unrestrained swings.

    As her two opponents fell back momentarily, she had glanced down the steps. Spying Lancer, she saw what he was about to do, and her face twisted in fury.

    “No! He's MINE!!!”

    Lancer had just enough time to look up in surprise before she aimed her invisible weapon down the steps and once again unleashed its power.

    WHOOMPH!!!

    The vacuum plucked Lancer and Gil from their positions and sent them barreling up the stone steps.

    As Gil careened end over end, his velocity deviated slightly to the side. About halfway up, he hit the trees by the side of the path, crashing through them and disappearing into the darkness beyond.

    Lancer meanwhile did reach to the top, and as he passed in mid air through the gateway, Saber punched him to one side, sending him smashing into a mound of rubble.

    THUMP!

    CRASH!

    Assassin eyed Lancer as he struggled to his feet. “It seems we have yet another intruder to our territory. Master, perhaps you could deal with that straggler?”

    “Gotcha! I'm all over him!” Kuzuki skipped around Assassin and sprinted towards his new target.

    Assassin meanwhile turned back to Saber. “Now then, I believe I was in the process of killing you.”

    Saber snorted like a bull and lunged forward, her weapon raised high. Assassin simply raised his own sword, blocking the strike casually. Parrying it to the right, he spun to the left, circling round Saber as she recovered. She struck again, this time a brutal horizontal swipe, prompting him to dodge backward out of the way.

    For a split second he hung in mid air. “This is getting tedious.”

    Then, the instant both his feet touched the ground, Assassin shot forward again, sword up and performing Tsubame Gaeshi.

    Saber brought her sword up to attack again, but once again she was too slow.

    SHIIING!!!

    “OOF!”

    Twenty seven simultaneous slashes slammed into Saber's body, sending her careening backwards into the temple's front steps.

    CRAAASH!!!

    Like a flock of startled birds, the steps dissolved into a cloud of wood pieces that expanded outwards before raining down, merging with the decimation already inflicted on the courtyard.

    Assassin regarded the gaping hole in the temple's ruined facade with grim satisfaction. “And so, you are just another obstruction swept from my path...”

    But even as he finished speaking, noises emanated from the hole, and a cascade of broken masonry pieces flew out. Seconds later, Saber strode out as well, largely no worse for wear.

    “A lesser Servant might be impressed by that attack,” she sneered. “But not me. You are only just beginning to reach my level of power.”

    The satisfaction on Assassin's face had been replaced by extreme annoyance. “Go ahead and talk Saber, you'll eat your words soon enough. I'll cut you down as many times as I have to to make you stay down!”

    “BRING IT ON!!!”

    * * * * *

    The moment Archer had stepped through the doorway of the Emiya Residence, he'd experienced a change he didn't like at all; the nauseous feeling he normally associated with Caster's lair or Kotomine Church. It combined with the sickness resulting from the strange mana, and it was all he could do to stop falling to his knees and vomiting.

    Well, it figured. This was the evil Shirou's home after all.

    Noticing his pale face, Sakura had allowed herself to show some concern. “What's wrong? Are you okay?

    “Yes,” Archer managed. “It's just...do you get a feeling that there's something not quite right about this place? Apart from Shirou living here?”

    “Apart from Sempai? No, I don't see anything else to worry about; why?”

    “Nothing, it just seems really humid and stuffy in here.”

    Sakura frowned irritably. “You’re a Epic Villain, what does a little humidity matter to you?! I’m going to look in Rin-san’s room.”

    Eventually recovering, Archer had made his own way through the house.

    The dining room of the Emiya Residence seemed largely the same as the one Archer had grown up in – save for a large hole in the floor of the kitchen where someone had attacked it with a sword.

    Saber's room he'd recognized instantly; partly because it was the same room she normally occupied, and partly because it was littered with pieces of ripped apart lion plushie.

    He was on his way to investigating Shirou’s room, when he noticed a slight discolouration in between the floorboards of the hall, as if a liquid had been spilled there and seeped in before it could be wiped up. He knelt down and examined it more closely, confirming what he suspected it was.

    Blood.

    Dread began to build in the back of his mind. Following the discolouration, he found it ended where the hall lead on the back yard. He looked around for a continuance, without success, until the tool shed outside caught his eye. There was no blood on the ground – he would've seen it while he was outside – but if the trail had originally led outside, then surely whoever had cleaned the patches on the floor would have done so out there as well.

    Stepping into the yard granted him a reprieve from the feeling of nauseousness, but as soon as he reached the tool shed and dematerialized through the locked door, it returned with a vengeance. Fighting against the bile rising in his throat, he tripped over a box of junk that was not in it's normal position, and narrowly missed slamming his forehead into the edge of a workbench that had also moved.

    WHUMP!

    “Shit!”

    Picking himself up, he located the blood trail again, now leading to a chest freezer in the corner.

    “Surely not... either he's even stupider than he is normally, or he's really confident he's not going to get caught.”

    Slowly, Archer approached the freezer, unsure if he wanted to see what was inside. Placing his hand on the lid, he braced himself, began to lift, hesitated......then threw it open.

    They weren't anyone he knew, but that did little to reduce his revulsion at the the two half frozen bodies stuffed in there. He'd deliberately avoid contemplating what Shirou was like, but what he was seeing was telling him everything he hadn't wanted to know.

    This Shirou wasn't just megalomaniacal, he wasn't just willing to kill other Masters... he was truly evil. Evil in the same way Kotomine normally was. Evil enough to kill two people wholly unrelated to the war, then dispose of their bodies like meat from a butcher.

    “How? How could he possibly be like this?” Archer closed the lid and turned to leave –

    - then froze, staring in aghast horror. The whole time he'd been in the shed, he'd completely failed to notice what was hanging from the opposite wall.

    Ilya.

    She hung limply, supported only by a pair of shackles that pulled her arms outwards as if she were crucified. The raw, blistered skin around her wrists was a testament to how long she had hung that way. Her breathing was silent; only the slight, almost imperceptible movement of her chest provided any indication she was alive.

    The worst part however was the additional precaution Shirou had set up to discourage her from escaping. Surrounding her was a ring of sharp metal spikes, angled inward to stab her if she moved so much as a centimeter in any direction. Her clothes were filthy and torn, while her waist was covered dozens of blood spots where she hadn't managed to avoid them.

    For a few seconds Archer remained where he was as if frozen in time – not even his heart seemed to beat. Then, a volcano bursting through the earth's crust, rage exploded through his system.

    Tracing a great maul he'd once memorized the form of but never thought he'd actually use, he began smashing the spikes, striking again and again until nothing remained but a pile of shards on the floor.
    Coming to her senses, Ilya raised her head weakly and stared in puzzlement at him. “Huh?...”

    Having smashed the shed door off it's hinges, Archer dropped the great maul and moved back to Ilya. One arm he wrapped around Ilya, supporting her, while with the other he traced Bakuya and hacked at the chains attaching her shackles to the wall. After what seemed like an eternity, first one, then the other separated, and hoisting Ilya into his arms, Archer rushed out of the tool shed.

    “Idiot!!! Keep the noise dow -” Sakura was angry as she emerged from the house, but her anger became surprise the moment she saw Ilya.

    “We're leaving!” Archer called. Racing toward her, he shifted Ilya onto his shoulder and held out his arm.

    “What?” Emotions conflicted on Sakura's face. “What about Sempai?!”

    Archer looked her in the eyes, his face making it clear that arguing with him was not in her best interest. “We're getting her to some medical attention. NOW.”

    Sakura allowed herself to be picked up, her indignance replaced by a hurt expression. “But... I'm supposed to be the Master here! You can't just...undermine my authority like this!”

    “I'll make it up to you later,” Archer responded shortly as he began to jump.

    * * * * *

    Lancer was in a bad way. While he still didn’t show a hint of emotion, his face had become flushed with pain and exertion, his Fu Manchu moustache drooping from the sweat it had absorbed.

    The combined effects of being dragged up the steps, punched by Saber and thrown into a rubble pile had taken their toll on him, leaving him too wounded to function at his normal capacity - a fact Kuzuki was taking full advantage of.

    CLANG!

    “HA! How do you like that huh?”

    The overenthusiastic swordsman kept bouncing and bounding round Lancer, his sword raining blows on the Servant's spear, each one closer to circumnavigating it.

    Finally, Kuzuki saw an opening, and immediately took it.

    SLASH!

    “UGH!” Lancer reeled from the blow to his stomach, his guard wide open.

    SLASH!!

    Finally, as his opponent staggered on the verge of collapse, Kuzuki drew back, imitating the start-up pose of Assassin's signature move, then lunged forward and delivered the killing blow.

    SLASH!!!

    Lancer crumpled to the ground, fading out of existence even as he struck it.

    “YEAH!!!” Kuzuki punched the air with both hands. “Victory is mine! Not bad, even if I say so myself, eh Assassin?”

    He got no response.

    “Assassin?”

    He was about to turn around to see where Assassin had gone, when a strong, metal-clad hand gripped his shoulder.

    “I have already killed your Servant, you fool,” Saber said as she stabbed her sword into the back of his head. Instead of completely running him through, she used the sword like a pole, overbalancing him forward and driving him face first into the ground.

    CRUNCH!

    As she extracted the blade and inspected the brain matter on it, Shirou and Rin arrived panting at the top of the steps and ran over to her.

    “What the Hell was that before?!” Shirou asked, his cool smile replaced by anger. “We had Gilgamesh, but now, thanks to your butting in, he’s gon -”

    Whirling round, Saber grabbed Shirou by the neck and lifted him off his feet. Rin stared, then stepped back out of range.

    “Gilgamesh is my prey, and my prey only,” Saber hissed. “If either of you dare try to kill him again before I do, I will make you wish you had never been born. Is that clear?”

    Unable to speak, Shirou manically nodded his head.

    “Good.” Roughly setting Shirou back on his feet, Saber strode past him. “We're done here. This place bores me; there is no point staying.”

    Shirou, massaging his neck, stared ruefully after Saber as she headed for the gateway. Rin meanwhile, turning so that he couldn't see her face, smirked and smirked to her heart's content.
    My contributions to the fanfiction melting pot:
    (not so) Shallow Shirou
    Shattered Heaven
    Shatteraxia - currently up to Part 16

    You can also find me stumbling around Spiral Knights as Overlockone. If you do though, tell me to STOP! I'm supposed to be working on my writing!

  14. #14
    Everything turns to tedium eventually... Tesculpture's Avatar
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    Part 11:
    The early morning saw Kotomine still in the church hall. While the need for food, and later, sleep had afflicted him during the night, he'd been plagued by the inescapable feeling that something terrible might happen to his Servants should he abandon his vigil.

    Constant worry had left him feeling haggard and fatigued, despite having done little except sit in one place. Had he been too hasty in sending off his Servants? Should he have waited? Should he have gone too?

    Should he have taken the opportunity to say something before they left?

    Should he have acted sooner?

    Should he, should he, should he, should he, should he, should he, should he, should he, should he, should he, should he, should he, should he, should he, should he, should he, should he, should he, should he, should he...

    So many things he should’ve done, before he lost the opportunity…

    CLANK.

    The noise of the front door opening sent a wave of adrenaline through his body. In a single movement, he jerked himself to his feet and a spun to see who was there, nearly tripping over in the process.

    It was Gil, and he looked terrible.

    His torn remains of his clothes were splattered with blood and mud, while his pale face looked barely conscious. For reasons that weren't readily apparent, he was also covered in leaves and tree branches, with a particularly big one tangled up in his hair.

    “Gilgamesh?!”

    Gil stepped through the door, took half of another step, and promptly collapsed on his face.

    WHUMP!

    “Gilgamesh!” Forgetting his own fatigue, Kotomine ran to assist his Servant.

    Ten minutes later, Gil, partially cleaned up and first aided, was propped up on a pew. Kotomine, having listened to Gil's account of the night's events, sat next to him with his head in his hands.

    “Well,” Kotomine said, “At least the situation couldn't possibly get worse. Assassin is dead, Lancer betrayed us, and Shirou knows I’m a Master. Lancer may have paid for his deception, but I can't say I get any satisfaction from that.”

    Gil's slightly bloodshot eyes moved in his direction. “That makes the two of us.”

    For a second both were silent. Then...

    “I'm sorry Gilgamesh.”

    Gil looked at him questioningly.

    “I didn't mean to force on you the responsibility for killing all those people,” Kotomine continued quietly. “I was...I was just so scared of what might happen if Kiritsugu got his wish. The fear was so strong, so all consuming...I couldn't think of anything else except stopping him as quickly as possible. That fear caused me to do something I still regret now...not just because of the guilt it made me feel, but the guilt I inflicted upon you as well. I know I can never repay you for this, and...and...I'm sorry.”

    “…………It's okay. I'm sorry I said you don't care about other people. I thought you cared more about just stopping them than the reason why, but I can see that isn’t true now.”

    Kotomine nodded. “I understand. I guess I do give that impression.”

    Gil looked away. “I’m sorry…I can’t be a better Servant for you.”

    “You don’t need to apologize for that.” Kotomine smiled. “I regret many things, but having you as my Servant isn’t one of them.”

    Gil’s gaze returned to Kotomine, his face covered in wry disbelief. “That I find hard to believe.”

    “You may not be the strongest, or fastest, or the most competent, but your heart is in the right place, which is more than I can say for Saber or any of those other Servants out there!”

    For a second Gil said nothing, then, at long last, a small smile found its way on to his face. “Thanks...it’s good to know that I lived up to your expectations…in at least one way…Master.”

    Melancholy spread across his features. “Although…I fear that won’t be enough to survive our enemies’ next move…”

    CLANK.

    For a second time, Kotomine reacted as if a self erecting tent had been released inside his body. As he stood up and spun round, his hand reached inside his jacket, ready to grab the white keys concealed there.

    But it was not Shirou standing in the opened front door.

    Looking over his shoulder, Gil smiled weakly. “Archer! I knew you’d come back!”

    Kotomine didn’t relax his grip on his blades. “So you’ve finally decided to return! If your intention is pressing the advantage of my Servant’s weakness, then rest assured I can and will fight you.”

    Archer raised hands in protest. “Don’t waste your time. I’m here to help, not fight.”

    “You’ve got a lot of nerve!” Kotomine yelled. “Gil just ended up walking straight into a trap with no one to help him! He was damn well lucky he escaped with his life! And now you have the audacity to offer your assistance?!”

    As Archer noticed Gil’s disheveled appearance, a pang of concern and guilt flashed across his face.

    Then his composure returned. “I see. I’m sorry, but there was something I had to accomplish last night that was very important; it was never my intention to leave Gil to fend for himself. If it’s any consolation, what I achieved while I was absent may help swing the odds back in our favour.”

    “Ours,” asked Kotomine suspiciously, “or yours?”

    “Both ours and yours,” said a commanding voice from outside the door.

    Kotomine and Gil watched in surprise as Archer stepped aside, and two new faces stepped into the church.

    The first was an adolescent girl, with bright red hair tied back on one side with a ribbon, cyan and black clothes, and a frown on her face.

    The second was a younger girl, with long, snow white hair and deep pink eyes. She wore an orange-red blouse and a yellow dress, both covered in stitch marks where various holes and rips had been repaired. Finishing her outfit were an orange-red neck tie, a pair of orange-red boots, and a band aid on the cheek of her smiling face.

    * * * * *

    “Don’t try to weasel me around! I and I alone will be the one to take down Sempai.”

    “Uh, of course, if that’s what you want…”

    “If the Grail is what you desire, then it’s yours, but if you so much as think of killing Sempai before me…”
    “N-not at all, I would never dream of getting in your way. But if I’m honest, Miss Matou I’m not after the Grail either…”

    Archer listened with amusement to Sakura and Kotomine converse. Sakura was trying to force Kotomine to accept her terms of alliance without condition. Kotomine was perfectly happy to accept them, but she wasn’t listening to what he was saying, and was continuing her aggressive negotiation pointlessly.

    “He-he!”

    A peal of cheeky giggling drew his attention to a figure who had climbed up and kneeled next to him.

    “Hi there,” He said wryly, giving Ilya a smile. “And what might you be up to?”

    “Nothing,” Ilya responded cheerily. Standing up on the pew, she raised her hands and spun like a ballerina in slow motion. After a couple of twirls, she faced him again and leant forward until their faces were on the same level. “I’m just happy to be here with you Archer-chan, my hero!”

    Archer couldn’t help but give a modest shrug. For reasons that weren’t immediately apparent, Ilya didn’t seem to be that different from her normal self. Her taste in clothing colour could use some work, but apart from that, she was still the cheerful, angelic snow fairy he knew and loved. He’d found a little relief from the culture shock of this reality in his partnership with Sakura and his…well, there was only one way to describe it…friendship with Gil. But when Ilya had recovered and demonstrated her personality to him, Archer had felt like a ship’s captain in a storm who had finally caught sight of a light house.

    “Archer-chan, where’s Gil-chan gone?”

    Gil had been left sitting where he was while Archer, Sakura, Ilya and Kotomine had started bringing one another up to speed. Not included in the group discussion, he’d succeeded in standing and had wandered off.

    “He must be out the back. Let’s go find him; there’s something I want to ask.”

    Archer and Ilya found Gil leaning against a pillar in the church’s internal courtyard. He was a more healthy pallor now, but his eyes were still hollow and fatigued.

    “Hi.” He waved briefly as the two approached. “You didn’t seem to need me so I got some fresh air.”

    “Greetings.” Archer took a second to clear his throat and gather his thoughts. “I’m sorry about last night. If I’d known what was going on, I would’ve done something to help.”

    Gil gave another weak wave, this one dismissive. “It’s okay. At least you actually achieved something meaningful.”

    “It wasn’t all bad Gil-chan!” Ilya said brightly. “Thanks to you, a traitor in our midst has been appropriately punished!”

    “Yeah, but only after he ran me through,” was the sad response.

    In an attempt to distract Gil from his mope, Archer asked his question. “Gil, during our first fight with Saber, why didn’t you just sword spam her?”

    Gil stared at him blankly. “Eh?”

    “You know, use Gate of Babylon to attack her.”

    The blank stare remained.

    “What a second. Are you saying you don’t know what I’m talking about?”

    “Not really.”

    “You don’t know how to use Gate of Babylon as a weapon?”

    “Well…no…”

    “The one ability that makes you an Archer class Servant?!”

    Gil looked embarrassed. “To tell the truth, I always thought that was some sort of mistake. Knowing me, it was probably something I did that screwed it up...”

    Archer rubbed his eyes and sighed. It was now clear why Gil wasn’t using the one of the abilities that made him so powerful in his reality.

    “Okay, listen. You know that force you use to push stuff out of the gate into your hands? You can also use it to shoot Noble Phantasms directly at targets, in a fashion not unlike a rocket barrage.”

    “…………I can do that?”

    “Yes.”

    “I’ve…never thought of doing something like that before.” Gil didn’t look entirely convinced. “But how do I do it?”

    “We’ll have to figure that out. But first, you need some new clothes and some rest.”

    The uncertainty persisted on Gil’s face, then morphed into a smile. “Even in the face of my most epic failure to date, you still have faith in me. I don’t understand why, but it makes me feel better to know that at least you do.”

    “Uh…well…” Gil was smiling at him that way again…

    Unease rising in his gut, Archer looked away and scratched the back of his head trying to think of a way to dismiss his concern as unimportant. Ilya, meanwhile, looked from one to the other of them, trying to understand what she was seeing.

    But before Archer could speak, he received help from an unexpected quarter.

    “It’s not a matter of faith, it’s a matter of common sense!” said Sakura. Having finished with Kotomine, she’d been listening to their exchange. “You are Gilgamesh-san, King of Villains! One of the greatest Villainous Spirits ever to exist! If you stopped wallowing in self pity for a second, you’d see that you have enough power and capabilities to give even Saber a run for her money! The only limits you have are those that you, in your stupidity, impose on yourself!”

    For a second, Gil stared at Sakura, stunned into silence by the unexpected and deeply cutting tirade.

    As the silence continued, Kotomine walked into the courtyard as well. “Is…everything all right?”

    “Everything’s fine,” Archer responded. “Gil, go get some rest. We can’t do anything until you’ve recovered.”

    “Your room is still made up, if you want it,” Kotomine added. “There are spare clothes in it and everything.”

    As Gil departed the courtyard, there was a clap of distant thunder, and rain began to pour down.

    “Oh blast,” Kotomine said exasperatedly. “You three, grab those cans and buckets in the corner there and follow me, quick.”

    “Eh?” Unsure what was going on, Archer, Sakura and Ilya complied.
    Kotomine kept talking as they reentered the church. “I didn’t summon Lancer; I bribed his original Master to give him up.”

    “But what has that got to-” Archer’s question was interrupted by a stream of water that started dribbling out of the ceiling and onto his head.

    “To get enough money, I was forced to use the Church Roof Restoration Fund. As you can see, I now have a completely different problem.”

    Already, a dozen other streams had started a various points, dripping off the pews and rapidly forming pools on the floor.

    * * * * *

    Ignoring the rain beating down him, Shirou Emiya contemplated the remains of his tool shed door. In the house behind him, the enraged roars of Saber mingled with the agonized yells of Rin. There was also the occasional crash of breaking furniture. It wasn’t strictly Rin’s fault Ilya had escaped, but Saber needed a scapegoat, and Shirou, in recognition of Rin’s unyielding support for his cause, nominated her first.

    He was thoroughly pissed off himself that his prize had been stolen away from him. But he didn’t let his calm visage slacken; getting angry would only hinder his efforts to rectify the situation. He’d made that mistake up at the Temple, and the only thing he’d got out of it was strangulation by Saber. If he was going to figure out what had happened while they had been away, he would have to maintain absolute control.

    His initial assumption was Kotomine as being responsible, but while the priest probably had some trick up his sleeve for smashing apart locked doors, it didn’t explain why the doors had been smashed outwards, as if they had been struck from within.

    A Servant dematerializing through the door was a possible answer, but he couldn’t think of which Servant could possibly have done it. Caster, Assassin, Lancer and Gilgamesh couldn’t have done it for obvious reasons. There was Ilya’s own Servant, Berserker, but he was long gone, felled by Saber during their first fight. And while Berserker could certainly smash a door off its hinges, Shirou somehow doubted he had the mental faculties necessary to dematerialize through it first.

    Then he remembered the other Servant present in the War. The one who had been killed, but had somehow returned to existence. The one whose Master was unable to account for him and his actions. The one that had already got in his way by stopping Saber killing Gilgamesh the first time.

    Shirou turned back to the house. Already he could feel his confidence returning, the likelihood of success once again guaranteed in his head. He would stall his attack for now; it was too risky doing anything during the day. But once it was safe to move again, he would reclaim what he’d lost and dispose of the last thorns in his side.

    “I don’t know what you’re up to, Archer,” he said to himself. “But we’ll see if your decision comes back to bite you. Yesss…”

    * * * * *

    As the two Masters, the Servant, and the Homunculus finally began to get the leaks under control, Archer found himself accosted by Kotomine once again.

    “We need to talk.”

    “Go ahead.”

    “You still haven’t explained; how do you know so much things about us, but not others? Sometimes it’s like you were here with us, during the last War, then others it’s like you’re a complete stranger.”

    Kotomine looked hard him in the face. “Who are you?

    Pausing in her work, Ilya moved towards them, wanting to hear the answer as well.

    Archer put on a dismissive expression. “No one you know. I have a certain Noble Phantasm that tells me information about other Masters and Servants. It isn’t very reliable though, hence the gaps in my knowledge.”

    He’d used this explanation when Sakura had probed him during their tactic discussion the previous afternoon. When in doubt, say magic did it.

    Kotomine didn’t look entirely satisfied. “I don’t suppose you’d be willing to give me some clue as to what this Noble Phantasm is, or why you have it?”

    “No. Trust me, you’ll be happier, and safer, not knowing.”

    There was at least some truth in that.

    Kotomine was silent for a moment. “Perhaps, then, could you tell something about Emiya or Saber? Does she have an Achilles’ heel we could exploit?”

    “No. She didn’t become a Saber-class Servant by having weaknesses. The only way to defeat her I can think of would be to avoid her completely and go after her Master.”

    Archer gave a sideways glance at Ilya as he said this; unsure how she’d feel about harm coming to Shirou. But she had gone back to playing with the buckets, and didn’t seem to have heard.

    “You’re probably right there.” Kotomine looked deep in thought. “But taking him down isn’t going to be much easier. He’s smart; he’ll know his best bet is to keep Saber in between us and him.

    That said, he’s neither a coward nor a pushover. He’ll fight if he has to, and while he’s had no formal training, he apparently has a degree of natural talent at magecraft. To underestimate him, even for a Servant like you, would be foolish.

    Kotomine suddenly looked around the church. “I think you really need to speak to your Master about that. Sakura is so determined to get her revenge, I fear she may do something that puts her in extreme danger.”

    “Hmm. You’re probably right there,” mused Archer. Looking around also, he realized Sakura was no longer present.

    He wondered for a second where she’d got to, then a wave of panic shot through him.

    “Um, excuse me,” he said hurriedly, spinning and rushing out the rear door, leaving Kotomine lost for words.

    The reason for Archer’s anxiety was an incident that had occurred at the Matou residence prior to their travel to Kotomine Church.

    * * * * *

    Following her rescue, Ilya had been confined to bed in order hasten her recovery, while Archer kept bedside vigil over her. As she’d woken up that morning, Sakura had appeared bearing a tray of food.

    “I made some breakfast. I thought it would be quicker if we just ate it here.”

    “I see. Tha…” But even as Archer spoke and took his plate from Sakura, a train of thought passed through his mind.

    In his reality, Sakura was an excellent cook. In this reality where every thing was the reverse of normal, Shirou got Sakura to clean for him instead of cook. Wouldn’t that likely be because this Sakura is a terrible cook?

    As this revelation sunk in, he watched in slow motion horror as Sakura offered a spoonful of stew to Ilya, who leaned forward to receive it…

    “WAIIIT!!!”

    In a frantic lunge forward, Archer knocked the spoon aside, moments before it entered Ilya’s open mouth, its contents splatting across the far wall.

    For a second everyone had been silent. Then…

    “Archer-san, do you have some sort of problem with my food?” Sakura asked calmly, her face molten with fury.

    Realizing what he’d just done, Archer desperately threw out words to stop the impending thermonuclear detonation. “Um, no, not at all, Sakura! I…um…I just…uh, remembered I wanted to make you both an extra special breakfast, to make up for my insubordinate behaviour earlier!”

    As the clock ticked loudly away, Archer anxiously waited while Sakura prepared to pass judgement.

    “Couldn’t you have let me know before I wasted my time on you?” Sakura closed her eyes and hmphed irritatedly. “This breakfast of yours better be pretty damn special! And don’t think for a second it’ll get you completely off the hook!”

    “Of course!” Not waiting for another chance to escape, Archer leapt up and ran for the kitchen.

    By the time he’d managed to assemble a breakfast that passed as at least reasonably special, he’d worked himself to the point of mana depletion, and the point of wishing ardently that he was back home.

    * * * * *

    It was the desire to avoid a repeat of this incident that drove Archer on as he sped through the church hallways, searching for the kitchen. He’d managed to worm his way out of punishment the first time, but he didn’t bet much on his luck holding out for a second time.

    At last he found the kitchen, and sure enough, Sakura was in there, trying to chop some vegetables.

    “You don’t need to do that, Sakura, I can do it for you,” he said, offering to take the knife from her like a police officer trying to persuade a weapon away from a mentally unstable person.

    Sakura looked at him suspiciously. “You’re wrong if you think you can work off your punishment just by doing meals, Archer-san! You’re going to doing a heck of a lot more for me before you’re finished!”

    “I understand. But I…like cooking for you.”

    Sakura blushed slightly, then looked away, frowning hard. “Fine. You did a semi-decent job last time, I expect the standard to be the same this time!”

    Archer resisted the urge to sigh in relief as Sakura surrendered the knife. Moving to the chopping board, he surveyed the pulped remains of the various veges she’d been attempting to dice, and as soon as he heard the door shut behind him, set about sweeping them into the bin.

    Suddenly the door opened again, causing Archer’s nerves to jump – but it was only Kotomine.

    “Um, as I was about to say before you left,” he said, staring questioningly at the chopping board, “There’s also Rin Tohsaka to consider.”

    Archer paused as he strapped on an apron. At first, he hadn’t had any problems at the prospect of fighting Rin. After all, she wasn’t his Rin, she was a amoral, backstabbing manipulator. But the longer he went without experiencing what she was like, the more unappealing he found the prospect of hurting someone who shared his original Master’s name, face and voice…

    Kotomine had kept talking as Archer had got wrapped up in himself. “…Well?”

    “Hmm? Pardon?”

    “Do you know anything that could help us defeat her? I know what I taught her but there’s no telling what other tricks she may have taught herself.”

    Archer remained still for a second, then finished tying his apron and spoke without looking over his shoulder. “I will deal with Tohsaka. You just worry about Saber and Emiya.”

    “Um…okay. Just…try not to hurt her too badly, okay? I spent a lot of the last ten years looking after her, so I…care a bit about her…”

    “…I’ll bear that in mind.”

    * * * * *

    Gil hadn’t reappeared by the time the others had eaten, so after judging the risk of another awkward moment, Archer finally acquiesced and took some lunch to him. As much as he hated it, it would seem there was no avoiding the role of teacher and mentor as far the Golden King was concerned.

    He found Gil in lying on his bed, staring up at the ceiling. He was looking considerably healthier now, and had replaced his ruined clothes with a fresh set.

    “Feeling better?” Archer asked as he entered.

    “A bit. I couldn’t sleep, despite my best efforts.” Gil shifted so his back was against the wall, allowing Archer to pass him the tray.

    “What Sakura said before is true, Gil,” Archer began. “I’ve watched you fighting, and you don’t strike me as a weak Servant. Every time you get in there, though, you never act to the fullest of your abilities. That’s why you can use Gate of Babylon as a weapon, isn’t it? You’ve never tried it, so you’ve never learned.”

    Gil chewed a mouthful while he considered his answer. “It’s true. But every time I get in a fight, I get so…scared that if I do use my powers to their fullest, I might cause something terrible to happen. And in all fairness, that has happened before, more than once.”

    “The Noble Phantasm you were forced to use. It’s Ea, isn’t it?”

    Gil glanced at him but didn’t question how he knew the name. “Yes. The first time I used it, I wiped out a fifth of my kingdom by accident. Thousands of subjects, all perfectly loyal and innocent, killed because one stupid king couldn’t control his blade.”

    This time it was Archer who paused to think. Clearly he was going to have to dig a bit deeper if he was going to pep talk some change out of Gil.

    “I won’t pretend to know what that feels like. But we all mistakes Gil. Hell, sometimes I wish I could go back in time and kill myself just to stop myself making the mistakes I made. But in the end, we’ve got to move on, and have the faith in ourselves that we can avoid making the same mistakes again.

    No one can use their power properly without having confidence in their own ability. That faith I had you pointed out in the courtyard earlier? You’ve got to have it as well. That is all that is holding you back; believe you can control your Noble Phantasms properly, and you’ll succeed at it.”

    Archer turned to leave. “Think about it, then bring the plate out when you’re finished and come to the basement. We’re going to work on your Gate of Babylon skill.”
    My contributions to the fanfiction melting pot:
    (not so) Shallow Shirou
    Shattered Heaven
    Shatteraxia - currently up to Part 16

    You can also find me stumbling around Spiral Knights as Overlockone. If you do though, tell me to STOP! I'm supposed to be working on my writing!

  15. #15
    Everything turns to tedium eventually... Tesculpture's Avatar
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    Sorry for Necro-ing this, but I have decided it's been sitting around half (re)finished for long enough. Let's see if I can get the remainder up in one go.

    Part 12:
    Upon arriving in the basement, Gil found Archer standing at one end, and a bulls-eye drawn in chalk on the opposite wall.

    “Feeling better?” Archer asked.

    “Yes, thanks. I’m trying to work on the faith thing, but it’s slow coming.”

    “Keep working on it. Right, before we go any further, you should change into your armour.”

    Anxiety showed on Gil’s face. “My…my armour?”

    Archer looked at him sardonically. “Don’t tell me you don’t have armour either.”

    “N-no, I do have armour, it’s just...I feel embarrassed wearing it.”

    Archer resisted the urge to facepalm. “Look Gil, as far as your armour is concerned, the only thing you should be worrying about is whether it’s going to keep you alive. And it sure as Hell won’t do that if you aren’t wearing it.”

    “Anyway, you don’t have to feel embarrassed, it’s just Archer-chan and me here with you!” Ilya called. She had taken a seat at the top of the stairs, where she could spectate out of harm’s way.

    Gil looked like he thought even that was too many, but Archer refused to back down. After fidgeting and looking around in vain for an excuse for a few seconds, Gil sighed and quick-changed.

    Archer wondered vaguely for a second if there was some unfortunate decoration on Gil's armour that gave him a legitimate reason to be embarassed. But once the light faded, the only change he could see was the colour; they had been swapped, so that the plates were cherry red with gold highlights.

    “Good.”

    Gil blushed and fingered the hem of his tasset cloth. “Really? You like this?”

    “Th-that’s not important. Come on, let’s get a move on.”

    He pointed Gil into position. “To begin with, we’ll just focus on getting single shots off. Once that’s nailed down, we’ll worry then about actually hitting something.”

    “Right.” Gil began stretching and working his arms, while behind him, the air began to fill with rippling, red miasma. “Er…which one should I use?”

    “Any which won’t blow up the basement when you use them. Or whiz around killing us all.”

    “Right.”

    Gil’s first attempt at shooting a Noble Phantasm resulted in it sliding out slowly and facing backwards, clattering to the floor as soon as it fully emerged.

    Archer rubbed his eyes tiredly. “Okay, remember to launch them business end first. You’re not aiming to grab them when they come out.”

    “Sorry, it’s just that I’m used to doing them the other way.”

    “I see. Forget what I said before; before we do anything, we’re going to have to break that habit. Pelting Saber with backward NPs will anger her faster than it kills her.”
    The mention of an angry Saber sent a wave anxiety across Gil’s face, but he nodded and kept focused.

    For the next forty five minutes, Gil simply practiced making things emerge and return to Gate of Babylon. Once he’d got the hang of producing his weapons the right way round, he tried again. The second attempt traveled forward only about half a meter - nearly stabbing Gil in the back of the head as it fell to the ground.

    He kept trying, firing one shot at a time, without much more success. Despite stressing and straining to put more oomph behind them, at the end of an hour the bull’s-eye was still bare, while the floor now resembled a pincushion. Soon Gil’s confidence began to waver again, and Archer was forced to once again resume his guidance counselor role in order to stop him descending into gloom.

    Finally, after two long hours of practice, Gil achieved the velocity to land a shot at the very base of the wall with the bull’s-eye.
    “Keep it up, you’re getting there,” Archer encouraged.
    Slowly but surely, the shots crept higher and higher up the wall. At last, after another half an hour, they were streaking inaccurately but with a flat trajectory across the basement.

    Ten minutes later, Gil hit the center of the bull’s-eye, prompting him to punch his fists into the air. “Yes!” Spinning, he looked expectantly at Archer.

    Ilya, long asleep from boredom, awoke with a start. “Hmm, what’s happening?”

    “See?” Rising to his role, Archer gestured at the bull’s eye. “This is what you’re capable of.”

    “Never did I dream I would ever be able to do something like this!” Gil looked like a kid who had just learned to ride a bike. “I’m actually shooting things, like a proper Archer!”

    “Well, you’ve still got a long way to go. Keep practicing until all your shots hit the center of that thing, then try to speed up your fire rate. I’m going up to prepare dinner.”

    As Archer exited the basement, Ilya followed him out. “Do you think Gil-chan will ever be good enough to take on another Servant?”

    Archer began to speak, but hesitated. Normally, he would’ve been brutally honest; while Gil had undergone a vast improvement, he was still unlikely to last long.

    But after acting as Gil’s counselor, teacher and mentor for as long as he had, some part of him had started to care about Gil’s wellbeing, making him want to say something else.

    “……I sure hope so Ilya.”

    * * * * *

    For the third time that day, Archer shouldered the responsibility of preparing the meal for the group. Having completed the complicated parts and left his concoction to simmer, he began clearing away the mess he’d created so far.

    As he dropped an empty packet into the bin, Ilya walked in.

    “Mmm, that smells good, Archer-chan!” she enthused. “You’ve been working so hard for all of us; why don’t you take a rest, while I watch the food?”

    “Okay thanks, but don’t try to serve on your own! Come and get me.” Archer didn’t feel tired, but decided to take the opportunity to check on Gil.

    Kotomine and Sakura were watching from the basement stairs.

    “It’s amazing!” Kotomine remarked as Archer came down towards them. “Before today, neither of us had any idea he was capable of something like this.”

    Archer attempted a modest shrug.

    Kotomine looked down and rubbed the back of his head. “Listen, I should have done this before, but I want to apologize for my hostile behaviour earlier. If I’d known you were going to help us this much…”

    Archer responded with a dismissive wave. “I understand. After what I said during our first meeting, you thought I wasn’t going to help you at all.”

    “What made you change your mind?”

    “Hm?”

    “That first time, you said I was crazy for thinking you’d ever help me. What’s different now?”

    “……” Archer was silent for a moment, then nodded down at Gil. “I changed my mind when I met him.”

    Kotomine smiled. “He can have that effect. He’s a good kid; just needs to believe in himself more often.”

    But as they watched, Archer couldn’t help thinking it was more than just belief Gil needed. He was pleased to see Gil was now consistently hitting the center of the bull's-eye, but was also worried that Gil’s fire rate was still only one every three seconds. While a single Noble Phantasm, carefully selected, might slow Saber down, only a fully fleged normal-Gil-style barrage was going to put her out of action.

    “Can't you launch them any faster?” Archer called down.

    Gil looked up, his face slightly sweaty. “I'm going as fast as I can!”

    “Try to push yourself harder! You need to go faster if we're going to take on Shirou!”

    Gil narrowed his eyes and pointed his hand at the bulls eye, as if trying to lift an object via telekinesis. But try as he might, the attacks weren't coming any faster.

    Ilya appeared in the doorway. “Um, I think the stuff on the stove is ready Archer-chan! It needs your attention!”
    “Ah, right.”

    “I’m just going to quickly change clothes. Please start dinner without me if I’m not ready in time!” With that, Ilya disappeared again.

    Sakura followed Archer as he went back up the steps and made his way to the kitchen. “Do you think he can really improve any further?”

    “I think he has the potential, but it's gonna take a lot longer than we have for him to reach it.”

    “I see.” For a second Sakura was silent. “Aren't you worried?”

    Archer glanced at her, surprised she’d cottoned on to his feelings regarding Gil. “Unless Gil finds it within himself to make a vast improvement immediately after dinner, he probably won’t get another-”

    “No, I mean, aren't you worried that if he gets too powerful they'll turn on us?”

    Oh, she hadn’t actually cottoned on at all. Realizing what she meant, Archer looked at her skeptically. “Does Gil seem like the sort of person who would turn on someone bonded as closely with as us? Does Kotomine?”

    Sakura looked away. “Well...they are a rival Master and Servant.”

    “Relax. I deem it extremely unlikely that that will motivate them to do any backstabbing.”

    By this stage they had reached the kitchen door. “Besides which, it’s in ours and their best interests to keep working together. The chances that our enemies would allow even late evening to pass without mounting an attack are extremely slim, especially as Lancer has told them exactly where to- Hey!!!”

    Standing on the counter next to the stove, licking the spoon he had been using to stir the dinner, was a vaguely mangy, collarless brown cat!

    As soon as Archer spoke, the feline looked up at them, then tore off out the open window. Running to the dinner, Archer quickly checked it over – and was relieved to find it untouched. Sakura meanwhile ran straight to the window, spouting a stream of abuse as she went.

    “There's no need to seem selfish,” Archer said, moving to her side and watching the cat as it ran away across the outside grass, “Still, if he was hungry it would’ve been better if you-”

    Suddenly he broke off. Together, Archer and Sakura stared out the window, their expressions perplexed and bewildered.


    Part 13:
    Several minutes later, Kotomine stepped out the basement door, followed by a sweaty, rather subdued Gil. “I tried my best, but I just couldn’t get them to fire faster.”

    “Don’t worry, you’ll get it eventually. Let’s eat, and then you can try again refreshed.” Kotomine tilted his head listening. “I imagine Archer will have put the dinner out now.”

    But instead of the faint clink of cutlery being laid out on a table, all he could hear was Sakura yelling furiously.

    Strangely, the noise wasn’t coming from the direction of the kitchen or the dining room, but the opposite direction. “Strange. We better see what the problem is.”

    They headed towards the back of the church, where the noise seemed to be coming from. But as they walked down the corridor, Sakura and Archer appeared moving towards them.

    “Have you seen Ilya?” Sakura asked curtly

    “No. Er, is something wrong?”

    “We have a situation; Ilya-san is missing.”

    “What?” Kotomine was instantly alert. “Shirou kidnapped her again?”

    “Unfortunately, no. It seems Archer-san has made a profound error in judgement.”

    Archer hung behind her silently as she spoke, his face downcast.

    Kotomine looked completely mystified. “What are you talking about?”

    “When me and Archer-san returned to the kitchen, we found a stray cat had snuck in the open window and gotten at the dinner.”

    Gil and Kotomine, clearly lost, both raised an eyebrow.

    “The cat escaped back out the window when we came in, but it barely got eight meters from the church when, for no apparent reason, it died. No warning, no outside interference; one second it was running away, the next it was on the ground with barely a twitch.”

    The mystified expressions facing her became incredulous, but before they could speak, Sakura held up an object for them to see. “Archer-san found this in the rubbish. Apparently it wasn't there when he left the kitchen.”

    It was a old fashioned looking glass bottle. The paper label on the front was handwritten in German, with a skull and crossbones roughly drawn on below it.

    Taking the bottle, Kotomine read the label, his incredulity becoming horrified understanding.

    Gil was wide eyed. “You mean...while you were out of the kitchen you think she...?”

    “Noone except Ilya has been in that kitchen between Archer-san leaving and me and him returning,” Sakura continued matter-of-factly. “She said she was getting changed, but when we went to the room you gave her to see if she could explain, she wasn't there. The door wasn't even locked.”

    Fury rose in Sakura's voice as she continued. “So there you have it. Allow me to apologize, Kotomine-san, for my Servant has done something almightily stupid. He assured me we could trust that girl, but as you can see, she clearly has an agenda of her own; one that involves KILLING US!!!”

    As Sakura yelled the final words, Archer turned his head away and gritted his teeth in frustration.

    Suddenly Gil stepped forward. “Now hang on! It's not Archer's fault; he found her chained to the wall of Shirou's tool shed! Why wouldn't he think she would want to help us?! Anyway, we were all fooled as much as he was!”

    Meeting his gaze, Sakura stared Gil down, and as his timidness caught up with him, he wavered and backed off.

    “He assumed the enemy of our enemy was a friend. Admittedly, I made the mistake of trusting his judgement; more fool me to think a Villainous Spirit would be above such amateurish mistakes.”

    “Well, what are going to do?” Kotomine asked.

    “We must catch her,” Sakura replied simply. “We are still at War, and through her actions, Ilya-san has demonstrated she is an enemy. Since she jumped the gun, she doesn't know we're still alive, something we should take advantage of.”

    “You mean, go after her now?”

    “Yes Gilgamesh-san, why would I mean any other time?”

    “Night is setting in! What if Saber and Shirou are out there?”

    “In which case, we need to grab her again before they do! And anyway Gilgamesh-san, you've had a pep talk and some training, so there shouldn't be a problem.”

    “Well, no, but...” Gil fidgeted and fretted.

    He looked at Kotomine, but he nodded in agreement. “She's right.”

    “Well, where are we going to look for her?”

    Archer spoke for the first time. “She could be at the Ryudo Temple-”

    “No-one asked for your opinion!” Sakura interrupted venomously.

    “Actually, I think he has a point,” Kotomine said. “My knowledge of the Grail is sketchy, but I do know it can be called forth even if more than one Servant remains. That was what you meant, wasn't it?”

    Archer nodded.

    “By my reckoning, there are only two things she could be doing; taking revenge on Shirou or, as Archer suggested, trying to get the Grail early. Seeing as she is Servantless, outnumbered, and not particularly physically able, I doubt she’s going to try the former.”

    Sakura gave a livid frown. “Fine. But he's the only reason I'm agreeing Archer-san! It'll be a cold day in Hell before I listen to your advice again!”

    * * * * *

    Archer felt like a man trying to catch loose pages of a book that kept blowing away in a strong wind. Desperately, feverishly, he struggled to piece back together his grasp on reality, trying to figure out why, when everything seemed to be going so well, Ilya had suddenly tried to kill them all.

    Sakura may not have been aware of his exceptional circumstances, but she was still right; he had acted stupidly. Once again, he’d let this cursed world blindside him. It had waved a carrot on a string, a vague piece of familiarity, in front of his nose, and he’d taken the bait without a thought to how too good it was to be true.

    But while his previous bungles had only cost him personal harm, humiliation and disappointment, this one had very nearly cost not only his own life, but those of his unlikely companions. Only a one-in-a-million occurrence, and the sacrifice of an innocent cat, had saved them.

    And not even that could repair the rift that had developed between him and Sakura. She sat in his arms without a word as the four of them headed for the Ryudo Temple, pointedly not looking at him. Surrogate Master though she was, her no longer trusting him still burnt a lot.

    Who knew what would happen the next time he screwed up?

    Feeling on the verge of losing his mind, he distracted himself by trying to work out Ilya’s angle.

    The more he thought about it, sadly, the more what had happened made sense to him. Ilya in his reality had immediately confronted Shirou and Rin when she found them, but had become an ally to them as events unfolded. This one had offered friendship the moment she opened her eyes after being rescued…then plotted behind her ‘allies’’ backs. No doubt, she had been pleasant and friendly to Shirou when they had first met, only to find Shirou was unreceptive to cute, giggly little snow fairies.

    But if she was the opposite of her normal self, why was she even doing this? Surely she shouldn’t be doing anything towards winning the War. But what else could she possibly to trying to achieve?!

    The temple courtyard was still a mess of rubble, though now sealed off by a length upon length of crime scene tape. Realizing that people still had to enter the temple, however, the police had marked off a park through the ruins leading to the front door, while some planks formed a ramp over the destroyed steps. Carefully, they made their way through, eyes and ears peeled for any sign of the white haired girl.

    They saw her as soon as they moved through into the temple’s inner yard. She was standing with her back turned, apparently presiding over the empty space in the center of the yard.

    The space that, in Archer’s reality, the Holy Grail normally appeared in.

    The moment he laid eyes on her, Archer moved in front of the others. “Ilya?”

    Whirling round, Ilya stared at them. For the briefest of moments, her face took on a look surprise, before reverting to a happy smile. “Oh, hello Archer-chan! Have you been looking for me?”

    “......” Unsure what to say, Archer spent a second staring grimly at her.

    “Archer?” Ilya pressed.

    Gil, Sakura and Kotomine gathered behind him, waiting for him to act.

    Finally, Archer sighed and closed his eyes. “We know you tried to poison us, Ilya.”

    Ilya's happy smile collapsed. “Oh.”

    Looking at her again, Archer gave her an imploring look. “Why? I rescued you......”

    Now a different expression came over Ilya's face. It was a look of mature, almost adult intelligence, coupled with an impassivity not unlike this reality's Lancer.

    “That was me being proactive,” she said, her voice now devoid of any childlike eccentricity. “I judged that I wouldn't be able to leave without you following me, and that if you found out I was planning to call forth the Grail, you would interfere. By killing you outright, I thought I could minimise the chance of that happening.”

    “But...why?”

    “If another course of action had been available that didn't involve you coming to harm, I would've taken it. When it became apparent that my Servant was no match for Saber, I allowed myself to be captured and imprisoned. Once Shirou was sufficiently distracted by something else, I planned to escape and blindside him. I would've done so after he returned from fighting Assassin and Caster, when he and Saber were weary.

    But you arrived first. I was rather surprised you fell for my innocent facade so completely; Shirou saw through it straight away, though I don't think he knew what I was up to.”
    Slight regret had found it's way into Ilya's voice. “Anyway, you disrupted my plan by 'rescuing' me, I had to work out an alternative. Unfortunately, to maximize my chances of success, you had to be out of the picture. I'm sorry.”

    Struggling to take this all in, Archer asked another question. “But, why are you...why did you do all of this? Why are you even competing?”

    Sakura gave Archer a contemptuous look. “What sort of stupid question is that? Ilya-san obviously has reasons for competing, or she wouldn't be in Fuyuki, would she?”

    Ilya however seemed to understand the question. “It's true. In the past Wars, the Einzberns have fought for little more than the bragging rights. More recently, however, our focus has changed; we now seek to actually use the Grail to achieve something.”

    “Why didn't you just say so that you wanted the Grail?!” Sakura yelled indignantly. “Neither me nor Kotomine-san want it, so why would we stop you?!”

    “Kotomine may not want it, but he is still hesitant to let anyone use it,” Ilya replied simply. “And while you may not want it, can you say the same for your Servants?”

    As Sakura turned and stared demandingly at him, Archer hesitated. He'd previously brushed off the idea of wishing his way home as impossible, but the circumstances at the time no longer applied. Could he use it to get home?

    But apart from Ilya wanting it as well, for a reason he now understood, there was the other barrier to using the Grail. The extremely major and important reason, one that threatened the whole world as much as Shirou and Saber, that had conveniently slipped his mind up until now.

    Gil meanwhile looked deeply troubled in response to the question. “Well...I've never really thought about it before...you said we have to move on Archer, but...I could wish to change the things that went wrong in my life...”

    Well, isn't this situation familiar.

    “Um...” Archer began, unsure how to break the truth of the Grail's corruption to the others. “Actually...”

    But before he could continue, another thought suddenly struck him that nearly bowled him over.

    What if the Grail was backwards too?

    Was this an Unholy Grail contaminated by all the world's good?

    Would it only do good things if it were unleashed?

    Despite the fact that the other three and Ilya were now looking at him waiting for him to say something, he took a second to think this new idea out.

    Considering how everything else was reversed, it was, in his opinion, extremely likely this Grail was good. On the other hand, both Assassin and Kotomine had refered to it as the Holy Grail, so if the name was the same, maybe the object was as well. But could he really judge however different something was based on whether its name had changed?

    And considering how wrong he'd been about Ilya, was it worth the risk of using the Grail only to find he was wrong again?

    “Hey!” Archer was dragged back out of his thoughts by Sakura smacking the side of his head. “Are you going to say something or not?!”

    But before he could say anything, Ilya chimed in again. “Regardless of what Archer says, it makes no difference to the situation. I cannot allow any of you to interfere with my recovery of the Grail.”

    It was Kotomine's turn to speak up now. “If you tell us what you are going to wish for, then we may not have to interfere.”

    “I am not at liberties to discuss that.”

    Archer considered revealing that he might know what it was, then decided in light of recent events, he probably didn't after all.

    “Well, I can't risk that wish turning out to be detrimental for mankind.”

    “You don't have a say in the matter. If you try to interfere, I will retaliate.”

    Kotomine put on a persuasive tone. “Ilya, face it. Your jig is up. Your attempt to kill us failed, and now we're here and know what you're doing. You may be a Einzbern Mage, but you still can't hope to overwhelm all of us.”

    Ilya merely turned away again. “That attempt failing doesn't matter. It was only an additional measure based on oppurtunity, not my primary one.”

    Suddenly Archer felt Gil tug on his sleeve. Looking at him, Archer saw he was not looking toward Ilya, but had turned around and was staring upward behind them, his eyes bulging, his face pale.

    Archer, Sakura and Kotomine followed the line of his gaze...

    ...then started and backed off rapidly, Gil scrambling to follow.

    “In her haste to capture me and move on,” Ilya continued, “Saber neglected to make sure my Servant was truly dead. His Noble Phantasm gives him twelve lives to live. Saber only expended ten of them.”

    It was true. Standing in front of the temple's main building, towering over everything else, was Berserker. His skin was still dark grey, but his tasset was a bizzare combination of light green and purple, while both his eyes where orange. Moreover, his face was now graced by an immaculately trimmed horseshoe moustache.

    “Berserker may not have been able to oppose Saber, but his more than capable of killing you,” Ilya carried on. “However, if you choose to leave, you may do so unmolested.”

    Sakura didn't need a second invitation. “Let's get out of here! If she wants the Grail, she can have it!”

    Archer once again hesitated, torn between retreating going against the wishes of his allies or potentially allowing Ilya to unleash all the world's evil.

    “DON'T JUST STAND THERE, YOU IDIOT! WAKE UP!”

    Looking at Sakura, Archer saw that while her words had their usual edge to them, her face was in a state of panic, her eyes fearful.

    Then, at last, his brain clicked into gear and he knew what he had to say and do.

    “You bunch can leave, but somebody has to stop Ilya. I don't know for sure, but according to that Noble Phantasm I told you about, nobody must call forth the Grail.”

    “What? Idiot, quit your drivel! You're my Servant, you're supposed to stick with me!”

    “If I don't do this, all the sticking together in the world won't save you.” Archer cast a grim look across his three allies. “I only became you Servant, Sakura, so that I could help you get revenge. This fight has nothing to do with that, so you shouldn't have to get involved. Gil, Kotomine? Please look after Sakura for me.”

    “Hang on,” Kotomine interupted. “Why can't anyone call forth the Grail?”

    “There is a flaw in the Grail. A flaw that causes a not inconsiderable chance that, instead of granting a wish when it is called forth, it will destroy the world.”

    That hopefully would get the message across – and explain why he was wrong if, indeed, nothing bad did happen.

    Kotomine took a step back. “Destroy the – are you serious?”

    “Completely.”

    Ilya moved over slightly and was listening to the conversation. “A flaw? I am not aware of any such thing. I think you are mistaken.”

    “Why...why should we believe you?!” Sakura interjected, though without her previous conviction. “You were wrong before...”

    “Believe if you want to or not, but that is the truth.”

    “But...” Gil looked horrified. “How can you possibly hope to take on that?”

    Archer just stood up straight and smiled heroically. “With a little luck...and a lot of GAR.”

    Moving away from the others, he positioned himself ready to fight. “I don't want to hurt you, Ilya, but if you try to summon the Grail, I will stop you.”

    Gil gazed after him, his cheeks going rosy. “Wow...”

    At first, Ilya regarded him silently. She had backed off again, moving so the ground was clear between Archer and Berserker.

    “Attack him.”

    Immediately Berserker moved. But he didn't roar, or charge forward, or even wave his axe club menacingly in the air. Instead, he held it out in front of him, the point aimed forward, whilst moving his legs apart and holding his other arm up in the classic pose of a fencer.

    For a second Archer lost his heroic composure and could only stare in astonishment – until he realized Berserker was lunging in to attack.

    “SHIT!”

    WHOOSH!

    The axe club rocketed forward in a precision thrust, Archer barely managing to jump out of the way in time.

    Landing heavily, Archer ran back a small distance, tracing Kansho and Bakuya as he went, preparing in dread the next lethal strike – only to find that Berserker wasn't chasing him. In fact, he wasn't even en guarde anymore – he was just standing, idly staring at him.

    Watching the spectacle, Ilya sighed and closed his eyes. “Keep attacking him.”
    With visible reluctance Berserker once again assumed his fighting stance.

    “Of course,” Archer thought. “Here, our favourite irrationally violent person is irrationally pacifistic.”

    Spinning the point of his axe club this way and that, Berserker skipped in again, but Archer was ready for him this time and kept his distance, at the same time throwing his Falchions.

    Kansho and Bakuya spun through the air in different directions, the trajectories curving in to strike Berserker on both flanks. He saw them coming but only managed to swat one away, the other burying itself in his shoulder.

    BOING!

    Instead of resisting the impact outright, however, Berserker's hide squished under it. The blade sank in, then popped back out, the flesh expanding and wobbling back into shape.
    “And of course, he's made of jelly instead of rock.”

    Halting his advance, Berserker positioned himself between Archer and Ilya. There was no need for him to do anything more, Archer realized; he just had to keep Archer away until time to stop Ilya ran out. Already, Ilya had sat down crossed legged in the center of the yard, her eyes closed as if meditating.

    Damn.

    Archer sprinted clockwise round the yard then dashed inward in an effort to get past, but Berserker was too quick. In an instant, he had moved into the way, forcing Archer to skid to a stop to avoid impaling himself on his waiting axe club.

    Archer backed off. “So it's like that, is it? Fine.” Tracing his bow, Archer took aim at the center of Berserker's chest. “Either let me past, or lose a life. Your choice.”

    To his amusement, this illicited a reaction; Berserker turned and contemplated Ilya, as if judging whether she was worth the risk.

    Seeing a chance at an easy end, to the fight, Archer traced a threatening looking Noble Phantasm and began charging it with mana. “Come on, run out of loyalty, come to daddy...”

    But Archer's luck didn't hold. Sagging his shoulders in resignation, Berserker once again faced him and got ready to fight.

    “I have no choice then,” Archer sighed. Taking up the last of the slack in his bowstring, he released his shot.

    WHOOOSH!!!

    With expert precision, Berserker twisted out of the way, the shot scraping along his chest. Before he could recover, Archer rushed past him, hand out to grab Ilya -

    - only for her to leap up as if struck by lightning and race away, shooting round behind Berserker before Archer could react.

    “What? How can she...oh, of course. Here, giving up her body to become the Grail empowers her, not weakens her.”

    Suddenly a strange sensation came over him. The air began to feel colder and drier, as if he were now standing at the top of Mt. Everest. A faint blue glow also permeated the air, emanating from a point several meters in the air above him.

    “And she doesn't need to be physically standing here to continue the process either. Damn!”

    Anxiously he considered his options. Hrunting or another Broken Phantasm would take down Berserker fast enough, but Ilya was now standing practically under his feet. She may not be the pathological but cute snow fairy he was used to anymore, but overall, she still didn't seem evil enough to warrant killing.

    But if he didn't do something fast...

    Tracing Kansho and Bakuya again, he lunged in on the attack. He didn't have to take Berserker down, just evade his strike long enough to get close and grab Ilya.

    But Berserker knew what he had to do and how to do it. Rather than aiming for a kill, he allowed Archer to block his thrusts, using his strength to push Archer away. He wasn't able to counter all of Archer's moves, but as soon as he got close Berserker just moved backward, restoring the distance between them.

    Suddenly, he had an idea. “If he's a pacifist, then maybe...”

    At the same time, Berserker threw out another stab at him. But Archer simply stood his ground, switching back to his bow. Realizing his opponent wouldn't be able to evade or block in time, Berserker deflected his stab downward.

    CRASH!

    The axe club ploughed into the ground, coming to a stop in between Archer's legs. In an instant his bow was loaded and pulled back, and as Archer once again launched himself forward, he aimed downward and fired his shot through Berserker's wrist, pinning it to the ground.

    WHUMP!

    His arm trapped, Berserker could only watch as Archer scrambled up his arm, then ran down his back, Ilya in his sights.

    Ilya had already taken off again, and with Archer hot on her heels, she fled round the yard, jinxing and feinting like a rabbit chased by a hound.

    She was fast, but Archer was faster. He pounded after her, and soon her trailing hair was brushing his outstretched hand, her shirt collar rapidly moving into grabbing distance.

    Suddenly, she dropped into a slide like a baseballer. Archer glanced up on reflex...only to find Berserker towering over him.

    There was no way to change direction in time.

    WHAM!!!

    Berserker had solved the problem of his tethered arm by simply stretching it like elastic, allowing him to move to intercept Archer while it remain where it was stuck. Now, he hit Archer with the flat of his axe club, sending him rolling and tumbling away across the flagstones.

    Finally uprooting the spear impaling his wrist, he yanked out the projectile, then once again took up his fighting stance (at the same giving Ilya a rueful look, as if to say “I just got myself skewered for you, and I don't think you truly appreciate it.”).

    Shakily Archer rolled the right way up and regarded the situation. Ilya had become fidgety, unable to hold her arms at her sides, while the temperature of the air seemed to have dropped even lower. Seeing Archer looking at him, Berserker gave an apologetic shrug.

    This was not good. With Berserker's new physical and mental agility, a close range snatch and run was not possible – leaving him with only the option of taking them both out at long range.

    Could he bring himself to do it?

    SMACK!

    From the far side of the yard, a small, blue and black sword shot through and hit Berserker in the cheek, causing his entire face to distort cartoonishly.

    “OY! BERSERKER!” Kotomine yelled, preparing another White Key. “YOU WANT SOME OF THIS?!”

    Another flying weapon appeared, shooting through the air towards Berserker's neck, forcing him to swat it away.

    “Uh......yeah! Take THIS!” Gil added.

    The pair continued to harass him with words and weapons, forcing him to face them in order to properly block.

    As Archer stared in surprise, someone grabbed his arm and tried to pull him up. “Don't just sit there, idiot! They're distracting him for you!”

    Understanding, Archer scrambled to his feet and kicked his brain into gear.

    Kotomine and Gil hadn't scored any more hits, but they were keeping Berserker busy, and he wasn't actively chasing after them. Was he busy enough to let Archer past? Probably not. His back maybe turned, but if his newfound competence was anything to go by, he'd still be aware of Archer in the back of his head. But there was something else they could try...

    Waving Sakura away to give him some room, Archer yelled to Kotomine and Gil as he raised his bow. “Aim for his joints!”

    Without waiting for an answer, Archer traced an arrow, aimed for Berserker's right shoulder and fired.

    As he predicted, Berserker was on to him, and managed to twist round to parry the shot. But then he made the mistake of trying to block one Kotomine's attacks, leaving a window of opportunity Gil promptly took.

    WHUMP!!!

    The halberd struck Berserker in the elbow, distorting the limb sideways until, at last, it ran out of elasticity and the weapon broke through it.

    RIIIP!!!

    With both his right wrist and his left elbow damaged, Berserker no longer had a good arm to wield his weapon with.

    “That's good! Keep it up!” Archer yelled.

    Ilya's fidgetting had increased, to the point where she was now jogging on the spot to work off the excess energy. She watched as Berserker struggled to keep knocking away the three attacker's projectiles, then, as Gil scored a second hit through Berserker's shin, she finally lost patience.

    Gil was waiting for a break in Berserker's concentration, when suddenly Ilya popped up in front of him.

    “Huh?”

    He didn't get a chance to figure out what she was doing there, for in the instant she made it clear.

    SMACK!

    “Ow!” Gil clutched at his punched nose.

    WHAM!

    “Ow!” The next blow hit him in the stomach.

    There was barely a heartbeat of delay before another punch hit him in the face. Then, as he staggered back, Ilya was upon him, landing blow upon blow, their speed and strength amplified by her condition. Thrown by the sudden turn of events, Gil could do nothing except cringe and hold up his arms in a bid to defend himself.

    Kotomine, having moved around the yard to hit Berserker from a different angle, was powerless to help him. Sakura, seeing Gil in trouble, moved to do something, but Ilya was now too strong even for her, sending her reeling and causing her to back off within seconds.

    With Gil no longer providing cover fire, Berserker was now able to keep up with Archer and Kotomine's attacks.

    But Archer didn't care. Ilya may be overwhelming Gil, but by abandoning her place next to Berserker, she'd made a fundamental tactical error.

    Berserker was expecting Archer's next shot – but what he didn't expect was the shot's reaction to being blocked.

    BOOOM!!!

    As the smoke cleared, Berserker was revealed to be still standing – but missing his left arm up to the elbow.

    “But wait,” Archer muttered as he aimed a second Broken Phantasm he'd traced and charged, “There's MORE!”

    ZOOM!

    BOOOM!!!

    With no weapon left to block with, Berserker took the next shot dead in the chest.

    Turning and seeing her mistake for the first time, Ilya broke off from her attack on Gil and scooted back towards her staggering Servant.

    “Nice!” Kotomine called to Archer.

    “It's not over yet!” Archer yelled back. Indeed, already the damage had disapeared from Berserker as his lives ticked over, while both his missing arm and his weapon reappeared.

    Meanwhile, Ilya had twigged her strategy of turtling was not working. “Kill Kotomine.”

    Berserker stirred uncomfortably.

    “Kill Kotomine.”

    “What?!” Trepidation crossed Kotomine's face as Berserker began to slowly advance on him.

    “You and your friends are proving too much of a liability, Archer! I have no choice but to eliminate you!”

    “Hey! Leave him alone!” Having recovered from Ilya's attack, Gil charged forward, producing his Enkidu chain and drawing his arm back to throw it. “Hang on, Kotomine, I'll...”

    Then a stray loop wrapped around his body, pinning his free arm to his side.

    “Ugh!”

    He tried to free himself, but as he brought the arm holding the chain round his body, the chain swung around him like a bolas whip, tying him up further.

    “No!”

    Then his legs were suddenly yanked together, and struggling and writhing, he fell over, completely immobilized. He continued to scrabble around with his free hand, but only succeed in making the chain bend his body backward, until his heels were nearly touching the back of his head.

    “SHIT.” Having watched this turn of events, Archer gave up his shot and raced to saved Kotomine. He'd starting moving towards Gil, but had hesistated when Gil had constricted himself. Now Berserker was upon him, and he had nowhere to go.

    Berserker took his time aiming at Kotomine, evidently not wanting to comply with his Master's command. All Kotomine could do was stare grimly at him, willing him not to go through with it.

    His willpower wasn't enough.

    WHOOSH!!!

    WHOOSH!!!

    At the same time Berserker's weapon shot forward, a red and black blur whizzed past his ankle, millimeters from Ilya's arm. It slammed into Kotomine, knocking him back and sideways a split second before the axe club reached him.

    “ARGH!” Kotomine roared in pain as a massive gash was torn into his arm, spraying blood across the flagstones.

    Rolling and grabbing Kotomine's jacket collar, Archer sprinted away, running to Gil, grabbing a loose end of his chain and using it to haul him away as well.

    “Kill them.”

    Hauling around the weight of two grown men was not Archer's strong point, and under normal circumstances, Berserker would've caught him in an instant. Fortunately, Berserker still wasn't down with ending his foe's lives, and so he settled for a slow jog, allowing Archer, digging in his heels, to put some distance between them.

    Dumping them at Sakura's feet, he sprinted back to face Berserker. “Help them out! I need Gil back fast!!!”

    Kotomine, teeth gritted in pain, was ripping strips off his shirt to make a bandage. Sakura moved to help, but he waved her away. “I can deal with this! Untangle Gil first!”

    WHOOSH!

    CLANG!

    WHOOSH!!

    CLANG!!!

    Archer was once again locked in close combat with Berserker. He was fighting like a madman, but even so, every second that passed saw him forced back, the distance closing between Berserker and his three stricken allies.

    By this stage, the temperature was approaching freezing, the air so dry it was like being in the Atacama Desert. The blue glow had spread throughout the yard, while at its origin, a point of bright white light had appeared, and was growing fast.

    Ilya turned and contemplated this spectacle. “The Grail is almost here. Keep holding them off.” With that, she ran to the point of light, standing underneath it and reaching up with her hands.

    Archer knew he had to stop her, but how could he? Even if he did get past Berserker, Berserker would kill his three companions the moment he went to stop Ilya.

    Once again, some must die to save the majority...

    Blocking with Bakuya, he looked momentarily at the blade, and in a instant that seemed to last seconds, he saw Sakura, Gil and Kotomine reflected in an unmarred area of its finish. Sakura had freed one of Gil's arms, now they were both frantically trying to untangle the rest of it from his legs.

    In that instant, he brain clicked into gear for the second time.

    “SAKURA! COMMAND SEAL! MOVING FASTER!”

    Looking up in surprise, Sakura took a second to process Archer's yell, then at last understood and initiated the expenditure.

    The Grail was growing quickly now. It floated a lot lower than the one Archer had encountered before; in mere seconds Ilya would be able to touch it.

    The moment the compulsion to go faster hit Archer's system, he threw himself into action. Backing off from combat, he turned and ran back to the other three, Berserker running after him.

    Gil was sitting on the ground, still trying to free his legs, when Archer drew up next him. “HOLD HIM OFF FOR A SECOND!”

    “Hm?!” Gil barely had time to respond before he was hauled up and placed on his conjoined feet. As he struggled to balance, Archer moved behind him and used his hip to prop Gil up – and Berserker continued to bear down on them. .

    “WHA!!!”

    Gil tried to get a shot off, but didn't get his aim right, causing it to plow into the ground at Berserker's feet. Nearly beside himself with fright, Gil resorted to grabbing a weapon manually again, holding it up and cowering behind it.

    But as Berserker prepared to attack, the sight of Gil in full panic mode in front of him caused his reluctance to rear its head again, and for a second time, he hesitated in his strike.

    Archer didn't need to be given a second opportunity.

    In a flash he had traced Hrunting, and grabbing the Enkidu chain lying in a pile on the ground, wrapped the end of it round the arrow head. Then, without pausing to charge it, he fitted it into his bow, aimed out past Berserker, and fired.

    ZOOM!

    The Noble Phantasm shot past Berserker and immediately began tracking towards its target – Ilya.

    Ilya looked down in alarm as the projectile streaked towards her, but then shot past, banking around her in a tight circle.

    She realized its purpose, but too late. Carried by the arrow, the chain wrapped around her, tightening before she could react. Then, as it went taut, the arrow's velocity was transferred to her body, sending her spinning and staggering, until at last, she fell over, too far away to reach the Grail.

    Watching this unexpected reversal of fortune, Berserker momentarily forgot he was in the middle of a fight. By the time he remembered Archer was already releasing his bow string.

    In the final moment before the impact, Berserker finally opened his mouth and spoke.

    “Bugger.”

    ZOOM-

    KA-BAAAAAAM!!!

    Riding on the last dregs of his extra speed, Archer ran past and the made a beeline for Ilya, still struggling on the ground in the chain.

    As Archer picked her up and carried her to one of the yard's trees, she gave him a dispassionate look. She had made the mistake of lowering her arms when she spied the shot heading for her, leaving unable to do anything except squirm like a fish.

    “This is not over, you know. If you don't kill me, I will find a way to escape.”

    “You're right, this isn't over,” Archer replied as he used the loose ends of the chain to tie Ilya to the tree. “But by the time you escape, it will be.”

    Unlike her previous predicament, he allowed her to keep her feet on the ground in order to support her weight. After tracing some swords and sticking them in the ground to build a fence around her, he went back to check on the others.

    The strain of keeping up with Archer's mana usage was showing on Sakura's face. She was in the process of helping Kotomine with his arm as Archer drew close. Slightly pale, he had taken off his upper garments, and was smarting at every attempt to move his arm.

    “Are you two okay?”

    “Yes.”

    “I could use a trip to hospital, but I'll live." Kotomine's face was sweaty and pain contorted, but he smiled anyway. "I wasn't about to walk away from something that could destroy the world, was I?"

    "Thanks.”

    "Don't mention it. Thanks Sakura, I can deal with this now.”

    Sitting back, Sakura glanced up at Archer, then looked away, her face cross and her arms folded. “I didn't come back because of you, Archer-san. It was just...because Gil-san and Kotomine-san wouldn't escort me...”

    “Even so, you still gave my judgement a second chance?”

    “What? No!”

    Archer gestured at the hand that held her command seals.

    Sakura's cheeks reddened. “Well...I...just came up with the same plan...before you did. You just butted in before I could say it.”

    Nodding in understanding, Archer left it at that.

    While Kotomine was coping well with his situation, the same could not be said for Gil. Having kicked himself free of the chain at last (losing his shoe in the process), he was once again on his knees, and as Archer moved close, he was promptly sick.

    Feeling slightly guilty about putting Gil in the line of fire, Archer tried to hold Gil's clothes clear of the stomach contents. “I'm sorry Gil. I needed some time to do what I had to do, and...”

    Sitting back up, Gil responded in a tearful voice. “It's okay. At least what you did actually worked!”

    “Eh?”

    “I screwed up!” Gil continued, seemingly on the edge of tears. “I got beaten up by a twelve year old, tied myself up instead of saving my Master, and couldn't even hit a
    two and half meter tall target less than eight meters away! I can't even keep my bloody footwear on!”

    Trying not to roll his eyes, Archer took a seat next to him. “Look, don't be like that. Yes, you screwed up a few times, but you still were a great help...”

    *Sniff* “You're just saying that.”

    “No, I'm not. If you hadn't decided to stay and hadn't acted as a distraction, it wouldn't be me and you still standing now.”

    “So that's what I'm good for? Distracting people?”

    Sensing the negative connotation in Gil's tone, Archer began to lose patience. “Look Gil, do you remember what I said to you before? About accepting mistakes and having faith that you won't repeat them?”

    “......”

    “Do you?”

    “Yes...”

    “Well it still applies! You made four mistakes; that's four things you know not to do anymore in battle! Now come on! Your Master's wounded and we still have the Grail to deal with!”

    Standing, the two Servants moved to their Master's sides, Gil looking at Kotomine guiltily and helping him put his shirt and jacket back on. Kotomine tested his arm a few more times, then resigned to let it hang limply, before turning to address Archer. “So what happens now? We've stopped Ilya from reaching the Grail, but what do we do with her and it?”

    “Well, Ilya's sole motivation seems to be obtaining it, and she doesn't strike me as the sort to bear a grudge. As soon as we dispose of it, she shouldn't try any more funny business.”

    “I'm willing to believe that,” Kotomine replied, looking at Sakura and receiving a disgruntled nod in response.

    Together the group moved to examine the Grail. It had stopped growing, and was hanging silently in the middle of the yard, glowing, but otherwise doing nothing. No black ichor flowed out of this one; instead, it wasn't quite a perfect circle, the outer edge undulating slightly as if something was under the surface was trying to get out but was being held in.

    “So, do you have any idea if it's going to go wrong like you said?”

    Archer stared hard at the Grail, like a police inspector trying to work out if a suspect was lying. “I can't see anything that would suggest it. But in all honesty, I don't know if the flaw causes some change you can see...”

    Turning to look at the others as he spoke, Archer noticed they were not looking at him or the Grail.

    In their investigation of the Grail, the group had moved around it until they could also the doorway they had entered by.

    It was at this that Gil, Kotomine, and Sakura were staring anxiously

    As did Archer when he looked.

    Shirou, Saber, and Rin were standing in front of the doorway.

    “Nice party,” Shirou said, his face an evil smile. “Mind if we crash it?”


    Part 14:
    “Well, well, well.”

    Shirou regarded the scene in front of him with satisfaction. “It must be my lucky night. The Grail, its vessel, and my enemies, all in one convenient spot.”

    Archer stared in horror. He'd assumed that hearing the others' testimony about Shirou would dull his own reaction to finally seeing him. But it wasn't like meeting his younger self in his home reality, nor was it like meeting someone else who had changed in this one – it was a whole lot worse. It was like looking into a mirror, only for his reflection to start moving independently, stretching and distorting into a grotesque parody.

    Having come to his senses, Kotomine had lead the others into a line, blocking the way to the Grail. Shirou made no move to stop them, watching the defiant act with idle amusement.

    Looking at Ilya's enclosure, he gestured to it. “So she actually had you fooled. I'm disappointed, Kotomine; I thought you'd be able to figure out her true standing before she got the drop on you.”

    “Judging others has never been my strong point,” Kotomine fired back. “But I do know where I stand. I care too much about the people of this world to let you oppress them!”

    “But why?” Shirou raised his hands in mock innocence. “By ruling the world, I can bring justice and order to it. That would be a good thing, would it not?”

    “When it's your twisted, self serving version of justice? No, it wouldn't.”

    “Suit yourself.” Having said all he wanted to his nemesis, Shirou looked at Gil. “You're still alive? Good. Ever since your little rendezvous in the park, Saber's been dying to meet you again, haven't you Saber?”

    “RRRRRR...” Unable to contain herself, Saber drove her fist through a support post next to her, showering Rin with wood splinters. “YOU'RE DEAD, YOU HEAR ME?! DEAAAD!!!”

    Gil gave a loud gulp, and looked desperately at the others for any indication the plan didn't involve standing and fighting.

    Noticing, Archer reached across and a gave Gil's shoulder a reassuring squeeze. “Just remember your armour. You can do it.”

    Shirou watched sardonically as Gil nodded and made the change. “So it has come to this. The gauntlet is cast, and the final competitors face off. In mere moments, battle shall be joined, Master and Servant fighting one another tooth and -”

    “RAAAAAAH!!!” Without warning, Saber charged forward and slammed into Gil, sending them careening together across the yard.

    “Okay, I stand corrected. Battle is already joined.”

    Taken by surprise, Kotomine's group scrambled into action. Archer began to move to help Gil, when he realized Rin was baring down on him.

    For a second he hesitated as his previous doubts resurfaced. Not obeying her was one thing, but fighting no-holds-barred against her – that was a different matter.

    But before he could come to a decision, Rin's hand whipped up, its index finger pointed at him.

    KA-BAM!

    “ARGH!!!”

    The Gandr shot sent pain exploding though Archer's leg, rising all the way to his hip.

    “You fool!” Rin yelled, firing again and hitting Archer in the opposite knee. Having gone down on one knee from the first hit, Archer fell over completely on the second, nearly going cross eyed from the agony.

    He tried to rise, but Rin wasn't finished. Increasing speed towards him, she planted one foot and brought the other up and round, aiming for his side. Archer braced himself for the impact -

    WHAM!!!

    - finding out the hard way that Rin had already reinforced her limbs, the force of the blow sending him flying and landing near the edge of the yard.

    He had barely sat up when Rin's foot hit him again, driving him onto his back once more.

    “Pathetic imbecile!” Rin hissed contemptuously, her voice lowered. “Where did my plan involve stealing Ilya? Nowhere! I never told you to do that!”

    “She still thinks I'm working for her-” Archer's moment of clarity was short lived as the foot that had kicked him planted itself on his throat.

    Leaning onto it, Rin continued speaking, her face twisted with vindictive hatred. “You think you're so important? I got news for you: YOU AREN'T. Saber will soon be under my control as well, and once she is, I won't need you anymore. You're nothing but a cockroach compared to her power; one I will crush if it steps out of line again!”

    Archer decided he didn't have a problem with fighting her after all. Testing his legs, he found they were still functional; Rin's shots had been meant to cause pain, not damage.

    “Now get out there and help get rid of Gilgamesh before I -”

    “Sorry,” Archer suddenly interrupted, grabbing the leg holding him down and shoving it away. “I got a better offer.”

    Regaining her balance, Rin stared at him incredulously. “You dare betray me?!”

    Rising and facing her, Archer stared back coldly. “Why are you so surprised? You're treacherous towards Shirou, doesn't it make sense for your Servant to have a treacherous personality too?”

    “Nobody turns against me!” Rin screeched. “NOBODY!”

    Bringing her hand up, she brought it round her body, the fingers spaced apart. Seeing what appeared to be chunks of gravel between her fingers and guessing their purpose, Archer dodged backward.

    Sure enough, Rin flung her arm forward, and immediately the spot he'd been standing in was peppered with explosions.

    BOOM! BOOM! BOOM!

    Landing with Kansho and Bakuya already in his hands, he gritted his teeth as a piece of gravel shrapnel gouged into his cheek. He tried to sneak a look at how Gil was doing, but he barely managed a sideways glance before Rin rushed at him again, teeth bared in petulant fury.

    “DIE!!!”

    KA-BAM! KA-BAM!

    CLANG!!! CLANG!!!

    WHOOSH!

    SLAM!!!

    It was like fighting Rin on steroids. Blocking her Gandr shots was like blocking a .50 cal round, while her punches and kicks had the strength of a grown man behind them. Not even her lack of a weapon held her back; weaving around Archer's falchions like a fly, she dived in at him, fingers extended to crush a vital nerve point.

    Retreating out of striking distance did little to improve the situation. As soon as he was sufficiently far away, Rin hit him with a barrage of gravel chunks, lobbing them continuously like an out-of-control pitching machine.

    CRANG!!!

    The noise of steel slamming together overpowered all other noise of battle in the yard, and at last, Archer got a big enough opening to look and see how Gil was doing.

    Following Saber's collision with him, Gil had tumbled to a stop with her over the other side of the yard. He'd avoided being grabbed, but Saber had got back on her feet just as quickly, and was once again pushing the limits of his defence.

    As Gil faltered and left an opening, Archer threw one of his falchions at Rin to distract her, and began to run towards the two Servants.

    “YOU'RE NOT GOING ANYWHERE!” Somersaulting out of the way, Rin fired Gandr shots from both index fingers. Registering her just in time, Archer raised his remaining weapon.

    KA-BAM-BAM!!!

    CLANG-RIP!!!

    “ARGH!”

    The first shot Archer managed to block, the force of it tearing his weapon from his hand and pitching him backward. The second, aimed at his heart, instead scored a glancing hit on his shoulder as he fell, ripping through the material of his breastplate and blotting out the feeling in his arm.

    Saber meanwhile had used the opening to punch Gil in the stomach, breaking the armour protecting it like a mirror. As Gil dropped his sword and doubled over, the same hand then grabbed him by the neck, dragging him up until his face was only millimeters from Saber's.

    Forced to keep fighting off Rin, Archer could only watch helplessly.

    “You're done,” Saber sneered, drawing her invisible weapon back to ram through Gil's midsection. “There is not a single thing you can do to stop me.”

    To her astonishment Gil's face was fearful but determined. Reaching up, he grabbed her fingers, trying to pry them apart. “No I'm not done! Archer... taught me... that I can do... more!”

    Enraged at being contradicted, Saber shook him violently by the neck. “DO MORE?! YOU INSUBORDINATE WORM!!! WHAT MORE CAN YOU POSSIBLY DO?!”

    “THIS!!!” Gil yelled hysterically, and suddenly, a sword appeared out of thin air and rocketed toward Saber's face.

    ZOOM!

    “HUH?!”

    CLANG!

    Letting go of Gil, she managed to block the shot. Taking advantage, Gil yanked another weapon from Gate of Babylon and swung it, aiming for Saber's side.

    Saber managed to block the hit in time, then used their weapon's contact to catapult Gil backward. “YOU RUNT!”

    Gil landed heavily, and not wasting any time, Saber once again charged in on the offensive. “Daring to strike me... I'm gonna make you PAY!!!”

    But as she raised her invisible sword to strike, Gil fired a second shot, forcing her to block again.

    ZOOM!

    CLANG!

    Gritting his teeth, Gil slashed with all the strength he could muster.

    “Yaaah!!!”

    CRANG!!!

    “RAAAAAAH!!!”

    CRASH!

    ZOOM!

    CLANG-CLANG!

    While all this had been going on, Kotomine and Sakura had been facing off with Shirou.

    Brandishing her cheese knife, Sakura charged forward. “You're mine, Sempai!!!”

    “Sakura, wait -” but Kotomine was too late.

    ZOOM!

    WHUMP!

    “AAAAAAH!” Sakura screamed as an arrow hit her in the foot, stabbing through it and into the ground at a steep angle. Her motion arrested, she toppled forward, landing painfully on her hands.

    Shirou lowered the bow he was holding, his expression long suffering. “Sakura, Sakura, Sakura. What am I going to do with you?”

    Then his smile became a leer. “Or rather, what am I gonna do to you?”

    Looking up, Sakura's pain flushed face became panicky as Shirou began moving toward her.

    But then he was blocked from view as Kotomine stepped in between them, face set. “You still have me to deal with yet.”

    Shirou chuckled. “Ever the benevolent priest, aren't you?”

    “No, just a decent human being.”

    “Whatever. Sketch on.

    CRACKLE!

    Power coursed through Shirou's body, and gigantic shards of metal, random in shape and composition, erupted out of his palms.

    GRIND-CRACK-SCRAPE...

    There was a delay as he decided on a form to give them. Finally, with a satisfied look, he began reforming the shards, until he was holding a blue, pattern-swapped version of Archer's falchions.

    As Kotomine took some white keys in his good hand, Shirou raised his version of Kansho and expertly spun it back and forth in his fingers. “I see you've injured your arm. Don't worry. Being the fair, sporting person that I am, I won't use one arm either.”

    “Hmph.”

    Shirou continued to stand where he was, spinning his weapon with his fingers. His eyes were shut, his smile nonchalant.

    Then he suddenly whipped his arm forward, sending the falchion spinning toward Kotomine.

    WHIZZ!

    Kotomine dodged the attack by millimeters, and turning his movement into a spin, he threw a projectile of his own back the other way. Without so much as bending his knees, Shirou leapt over it, spinning through the air like a rag doll before bringing a newly produced Kansho down in a vertical slash.

    CLANG!

    Their weapons struck, and without pause Shirou withdrew his falchion and immediately swung again at a different angle. “You're getting sloppy old man. If it had been this easy to reach striking distance for my father, you wouldn't have stood a chance!”

    Not to be outdone, Kotomine parried the hit then thrust his white key forward, forcing Shirou to constrict out of the way. “I'm just getting started!”

    Accompanied by the melody of weapons crashing together, people grunting and yelling, and the scrapes and cracks of breaking flagstones, the three battles raged on.

    Kotomine, sweating through the pain in his arm, was throwing himself all over the place, pushing himself to his limits and trying every trick he knew to gain an edge. Shirou by contrast was almost casual in his manner, moving and changing direction without a hint of effort, all the while keeping one arm dangling in a mockery of Kotomine's condition.

    Her technique as crude as ever, Saber piled into Gil, the need to block occasionally the only thing keeping her in check. Having faced the thing he feared most, Gil was starting to fight more like his normal-universe self. Unfortunately, far from making him a force to be reckoned with, it was the only thing keeping him from getting bulldozed.

    Archer meanwhile was still struggling against Rin. While his arm had recovered its feeling, the pain in his shoulder still dragged on his concentration, while Rin had managed to avoid everything he'd thrown at her up to now.

    On top of that, sensing she was doing well, Rin had gone from angry back to cocky. “What's the matter? Realizing you've made the wrong choice?”

    Avoiding another of Archer's swings, she leapt backward. Archer rushed forward after her – then noticed the gravel chunk she'd dropped in his path and desperately jumped to avoid it.

    KA-BOOM!

    “ARGH!”

    The blast caught him, buffetting him and sending him tumbling to one side. Pain from the shrapnel searing his legs, he landed and rolled on his shoulder blade, losing his balance and falling on his butt.

    “Oof!”

    “Toying with you has been entertaining, but I've had enough. You resurrected yourself last time you died, but that was after being cut in half. Will that Noble Phantasm of yours work if you're, say, blown to smithereens?”

    Raising his head, Archer watched as Rin held up another gravel chunk and began charging it with mana. Her face was etched with the same malicious glee she had shown on the roof of the school two days ago – only now it was directed at him.

    “So prone to making bad decisions...it's almost sad.”

    As Archer heard the words, something volatile in him burst into flame. While she was obviously talking about his forerunner's early demise, the mockery nonetheless hit him – in no less than the one spot he was sorest.

    And with the surge of anger, came the strength he needed.

    Rin finally threw her gravel chunk. “Allow me to make your last one for you!”

    Even as she spoke, Archer switched his grip with one of his falchions, clutching the handle like a pen. Then, with the skill of a master table tennis player, he returned the projectile, knocking it away before it could detonate.

    BOOM!!!

    “Ugh!” Rin shielded her face as the chunk exploded in the air between them. As the smoke cleared, she peered through it, only to find Archer gone.

    Suddenly she sensed a presence behind her, and immediately she dodged and spun, one of Archer's falchions whizzing past her ear.

    “Hah, you thought you could blindside me?”

    “No,” Archer replied, backing off. “But maybe I can double-blind you.”

    Right on cue, the thrown weapon arced around and flew back toward Rin. Hearing it coming, she spun a second time and pointed her finger.

    KA-BAM!

    TING!

    Hit by the Gandr shot, the falchion veered off course.

    “Double-blinding won't work ei-”

    “How about triple-blind then?” Archer said, punching her in the side of the head.

    SLAM!

    “ARGH!”

    Before she could recover Archer dropped low and swung his foot round, sweeping her legs out from under her.

    WHACK!

    “OOF! You little...!” The moment her body hit the ground, Rin twisted her legs and flipped herself upright again, dodging away and pointing her finger again. “You're gonna-AAAAAAH!!!”

    Reaching out, Archer grabbed the extended finger and twisted it 90 degrees in the wrong direction. As the pain made Rin hesitate for an instant, he grabbed the whole arm and judo rolled her.

    WHUMP!

    “Ick!”

    Immediately Rin rolled away and tried to stand up, tossing another gravel chunk at Archer as she did so. Archer's other falchion was still ready however, and with a flick of his wrist, he sent the chunk flying away to explode harmlessly...

    BOOM!!!

    ...at the same time, delivering the final blow to Rin.

    CRUNCH!

    Archer's extended knee caught Rin under the chin as she rose. Her yell of pain was stifled as her jaw was forced shut, her body tumbling undignified backwards until she came to a stop face down.

    Retracing his thrown weapon, Archer advanced forward.

    “Nooo!”

    Rin suddenly looked up him and raised her hand. The expression on her face had changed into desperate imploring, her eyes filled with tears.

    “I'm sorry I was so nasty; I didn't mean it! I just get carried away sometimes; being around Shirou all the time, it...does things to you. You know what he's like! He makes me do...things! Horrible terrible things! After doing them for so long my self control has...got skewed. I don't know why I do the things I do half the time! I swear I never would truly try to hurt you!”

    She crawled up to him and tugged at his trouser leg, continuing to grovel. “Please...you're my Servant, remember? We're a team! We're meant to help each other! And I really need your help...Please!” Wrapping her arms round his leg, she buried her face in it, sobbing.

    Taken by surprise by the sudden change, Archer stopped and stared.

    At the same time, Kotomine was finally starting to swing the battle with Shirou his way. The casualness was gone from Shirou's manner as he was forced more and more often into the defensive. Kotomine, detecting a chance at victory, was going all out, hacking, stabbing and throwing like a man possessed.

    Then, as Shirou narrowly avoided an especially powerful thrust, his eyes glinted and his smile intensified. “Heh-heh...”

    Suddenly the arm he'd promised not to use whipped up and thrust forward. Seeing it, Kotomine tried to block, but his good arm was still extended and the bad one unresponsive -

    SPLAT!!!

    “UGH...”

    Shirou's falchion buried itself in Kotomine's chest, the point going all the way through and emerging from his back. With a strangled grunt, he jerked to a halt, staring dumbly at the wound.

    Hearing the noise, Archer looked up and stared in horror. Gil, in the middle of forcing back Saber's sword, also turned and looked, his eyes going as round as saucers.



    Then, with a triumphant grin, Shirou ripped the falchion back out and spun, bringing it round horizontally.

    SHIIING!!!

    Time seemed to slow as Kotomine's head flew off his shoulders and tumbled through the air.



    Tears welled up in Gil's eyes. “KIIIREEEIII!!!!!!”



    Then Saber, wholly ignoring what had happened, sent Gil reeling with a punch to the face.

    “AAAH!!!”

    As he proceeded to flick the blood off his weapons, Shirou's grin faded back to a wry smirk. “Such a pity. All that hard work, all that fighting tooth and nail, and you had to go and lose your head now. Heh, lose your head! Oh, I'm terrible...”

    Sakura had gone a pale green. Seeing Shirou looking at her again, she redoubled her efforts to free herself, desperately yanking and bending the arrow in an attempt to break it. Smiling in amusement, Shirou resumed his approach. “Now, where were we?”

    He was a good man. He may have been the mirror universe copy of the most evil S.O.B. ever to walk the earth, but he himself was a good, kind, caring person...

    ...and the most evil S.O.B. ever to walk THIS earth just killed him.


    The fiery anger that Archer had felt a night ago in the Emiya residence tool shed returned with a vengeance. It was more slow burning now than explosive, but what it lacked in impulse, it made up for in magnitude.

    Rin meanwhile was still hugging his leg. She had paused in her groveling to watch the spectacle, and as Archer glanced at her again, she looked back up and gave a hopeful smile. “We're a team...right?”

    “Sorry...” Giving a short sharp flick with his foot, Archer extricated himself from Rin's grasp. “...but I have to help my true Master.”

    “Wha-”

    WHUMP!

    “ARRRGH!!!”

    Archer wasn't taking any chances with Rin and her motives. Tracing an arrow, he stabbed it down through her forearm. Then, with a more than slight flourish, he turned away, leaving the snarling screeching Rin pinned like Sakura.

    Whereas before the sounds of three consecutive battles had filled the courtyard, now the only backdrop of sound was that of Saber and Gil, still engaged with one another.

    Sensing Archer's approach, Shirou stopped, his eyes seemingly registering the white haired, dark skinned Servant for the first time. Folding his arms, he swapped his smile for a contemptuous frown. “You've caused me a lot of trouble up to now.”

    His own face dead set, Archer took his time responding. “......What a pity.”

    Shirou narrowed his eyes, detecting something strange about his new opponent, but unable to place it.

    Finally, he gave a dismissive sneer. “So you're going to protect poor little Sakura now? And maybe have a go at saving the world too?”

    Archer remained silent.

    “The strong, silent type huh? That suits me fine. I'm not fazed by a mere Servant. In fact...” the distorted, evil smile returned, “...fighting you could prove quite entertaining.”

    Archer bared his teeth and brought his weapons to the ready. “Sorry to disappoint you, but no fight is going to happen here. Just one penultimate ass-kicking: yours.”

    Letting his own versions dangle by his sides, Shirou snorted. “Whatever.”

    Suddenly he flung his arm out, sending a falchion shooting through the air – not at Archer, but at Sakura!

    WHIZZ!!!

    Reacting on impulse, Archer threw his own to intercept it – only then realizing the attack's purpose as a distraction.

    CLANG!

    In the blink of an eye Shirou closed the gap between them and swung a white, hexagon patterned weapon at Archer's shoulder. Only just blocking in time with his black version, Archer retraced his other falchion and performed a slash of his own.

    SHING!

    But Shirou was already out of reach, recreating his other falchion, then flinging both as he leapt high in the air. Archer blocked the two projectiles, but didn't manage to block Shirou's foot as he suddenly changed direction, turning his leap into a diving kick.

    SMACK!

    “UGH!”

    Pushing off from Archer's face, Shirou back flipped away, throwing another set of falchions as he went.

    WHIZZ!

    CLANG-CLANG!

    Frustration rising in him, Archer retaliated. Rin had seemed like she was on steroids, but Shirou seemed to be both on steroids and dosed up on P as well. Everything Archer did, Shirou matched him move for move, blow for blow.

    Feeling his mana supply start to ebb and determined not to be outdone, Archer tried to get some distance between them and use his bow. But Shirou was having none of it; chasing his opponent down, he continued his attacks, chopping Archer's bow in half even as it appeared in his hands.

    “Uh-uh-uh! We wouldn't want you utilizing your area of expertise now, would we?”

    “Why don't you let me?” Archer shot back, narrowly avoiding a slash to the chest. “Then I can settle once and for all which one of us should be regarded as 'mere'!”

    “Oh, so it's confirmation of who's the most powerful you want, is it?” Shirou grinned. “Okay then! I already know, of course, but since you don't, I'll correct your evident misconception!”

    Having re obtained Kansho and Bakuya, Archer dove in on the attack. “We'll see who has the misconception!”

    Blocking, Shirou continued. “Yesss, we will. Power is the bone of my sword.”

    “Spare me your boasts, they mean nothing to me!”

    “Steel crushes my enemies' bodies and fire boils their blood.”

    “What sort of stupid comment is that?”

    “I have created over a thousand blades.
    Unaware of conscience, nor aware of restraint.”

    “Okay, so now you've lost the ability to talk properl.........hey, wait a minute...”

    “Inflicted pain to create weapons, making haste for alls' departure.”

    “...he can't be...he already knows how to...?!”

    “Have every regret. There were other paths you could've chosen.
    Now your death shall be...UNLIMITED BLADE WORKS!!!”

    As the final words left Shirou's lips, a massive column of purple flame erupted from his feet, obscuring him from view.

    RUMBLE...

    As the column became a rapidly growing wall, Archer could only shield his eyes as it reached him in less than a second.

    For a second there was nothing but light and noise...

    ...then it was as if he'd arrived in Hell itself.

    Sweltering heat hit Archer like a hammer, accompanied by the same nauseous feeling from the Emiya residence. Light from the horizon, deep purple and flickering like flames, illuminated the barren plain he was on, causing everything to cast twitching, jerking shadows. The gears in the sky were rusty and intermittently jamming, filling the air with the screeches and groans of tortured metal. Weapons still dotted the landscape, but now they were embedded handle first, their points sticking up like a punji pit.

    Shirou, still standing nearby, gave a crazed laugh. “MWAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!!!!! WHAT ARE YOU GONNA DO NOW, SERVANT? DO YOU FINALLY SEE WHAT YOU'VE GOT YOURSELF INTO???!!!”

    Reeling and coughing from the assault on his senses, Archer watched appalled as Shirou posed like a ringmaster. “LADIES AND GENTLEMEN, BOYS AND GIRLS, WELCOME TO THIS ADVANCE SCREENING OF THE EMIYA EXPERIENCE! TONIGHT, WE SHALL TAKE A SNEAK PEAK INTO THE FATE THAT AWAITS THE WHOLE WORLD ONCE THE GRAIL IS MINE! SO SIT BACK, RELAX, GRAB SOME POPCORN, AND ABOVE ALL, PREPARE TO DIE!!! BWAAAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!!!!!”
    My contributions to the fanfiction melting pot:
    (not so) Shallow Shirou
    Shattered Heaven
    Shatteraxia - currently up to Part 16

    You can also find me stumbling around Spiral Knights as Overlockone. If you do though, tell me to STOP! I'm supposed to be working on my writing!

  16. #16
    Everything turns to tedium eventually... Tesculpture's Avatar
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    Mar 2011
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    Dammit. Too many characters; it'll have to be two.

    Part 15:
    Shirou continued to laugh, his maniacal guffaws competing with the noise from the defective gears overhead. Paralyzed by heat exhaustion and a churning stomach, Archer watched in revulsion, scarcely able to believe his face could look so horrible.

    “Heh-heh, excuse me,” Shirou eventually finished. “I can get a little carried away sometimes, what with my imminent Godhood and all.”

    With a pained grimace, Archer forced himself to get a grip and stand upright. Taking no chances, he kept one eye on Shirou and one on the sky, ready for any weapons that might rain down.

    “Well, no point in waiting around.” With enthusiastic glee, Shirou suddenly lifted a foot from the ground. “Let's get this show started!!!”

    STAMP!

    Shirou brought the foot back down, and immediately the ground in front of him exploded as hundreds of blades erupted through it, shooting up in a line heading for Archer.

    CRAAAAAAAAACK!!!

    “GAH!”

    Caught off guard, Archer had no time to do anything except turn and run. The line chasing him like a gigantic, demented snake, he fled across the plain, desperately looking for a way of escaping the erupting weapons.

    Shirou chuckled. “Is that it? I expected at least some attempt at an attack.”

    Archer realized he was right; the only way he could survive was to get back to Shirou and take him out. Hoping to circle back round, he headed to his right. The line cut him off instead of directly following, and with a defiant grunt Archer planted his boot and leapt over it.

    “Not good enough.”

    BOOM!!!

    Suddenly a new patch of erupting swords appeared under Archer's trajectory. But instead of remaining embedded, these weapons shot upward in the sky, speeding to collide with their airbourne target.

    “Oh SHIT!”

    In a mad show of twisting and turning, Archer tried to take evasive action. By chance, a particularly large sword shot up just in front of him, allowing him to push off it and somersault backwards.

    He wasn't so lucky however with a second blade that rocketed up past him, inflicting a deep gash on his side.

    “NGGGH!!!”

    Landing in the gap between the two lines, he barely had time to cradle his side and take a breath before he had to take off again, the new line surging after him as he ran back the way he'd come.

    Shirou meanwhile had started a third line of erupting weapons. “Let's add another to the mix, shall we?”

    Reaching the now motionless tail of the first line and jumping it, Archer raced to stay ahead. Starting at their front and a good ten meters down their length, each line was now shooting skyhigh, weapons tumbling and landing behind them like the clippings from a lawnmower.

    With the first line trying to block escape out into the plain, the second hot on his heel and the third menacing him from Shirou's direction, Archer was fast running out of options.

    “Well, this is just brilliant.”

    * * * * *

    Pulling and struggling for all she was worth, Rin tried to extricate the arrow from her arm, or even just from the ground, but even with her enhanced strength, it was to no avail.

    Looking up, she stared at the Holy Grail, still hovering silently in the center of the yard. She was so close to it, so close to achieving her ambition, but thanks to one stroke of bad luck, she was unable to get any closer.

    Desperately, she looked around, looking for any possible means she could escape – without success. Finally her eyes settled on her impaled limb...it was time for a desperate measure.

    Reaching under her shirt, she pulled out her Azoth Dagger, raised it in the air, and took a deep breath.

    * * * * *

    Archer was pushing himself as hard as he could, but the erupting weapons were just too fast. The wound in his side aggravated by his movement, he watched in frustration as the first line drew steadily ahead, then suddenly veered in towards him.

    RUMBLE!!!

    Immediately he did a U-turn and headed back the other way, but the second line was still following from that direction.

    “OH -”

    The line had him. But instead of reaching and killing him, it suddenly changed course, roaring past by less than a meter.

    “ARGH!”

    Shielding his head with his arms from the sharp objects clattering down around him, he backed away – only for the third line to rush past behind him just as closely, sending him staggering the other way again.

    ROOOARRR!!!

    Before he could recover, the first one then came round and did the same thing,

    Like a youth gang in cars, the erupting weapon lines harassed Archer, shooting towards him then turning away at last minute, sending him diving for cover in their wake. Before long the patch of landscape was nothing but solid swords, with three churned up areas moving around, and a slowly shrinking area of dirt in the middle containing him. Escape was impossible – left alone barely for an instant, flying clods of dirt getting in his eyes, and his sense of direction lost, he couldn't even search for an avenue, let alone take it.

    “OOF! UGH! ARGH!”

    Shirou sneered in satisfaction as he watched from afar the the sea of swords roll back and forth. He kept it going for about another minute before allowing the eruptions to subside and making his way over.

    The weapons began to disappear as he came close, clearing the ground and making the space in the middle visible.

    Curled up in a fetal position, Archer lay on the ground. He'd had to because some weapons had projected sideways into the space, leaving no room to stand. Blood from thousands of cuts and grazes soaked his attire, mixing with the dirt and glueing it to his body.

    “So?” Shirou called quizzically. What now?”

    Breathing heavily, Archer rolled onto his knees.

    “Are you going to give up at last? Or do you still possess some faint shred of hope that you can pull through and win?”

    Loaded with amused skepticism, the words found their way into Archer's awareness, Focussing his eyes, he stared across at his opponent.

    Took in the casual way he was standing, the way he was gazing.

    Took in the face he had stolen from his younger self.

    And took in the twisted, perverse smile he had forced that face into.

    That's it.

    Archer's tired expression hardened, the skin on the bridge of his nose creasing as the anger that had built within him began to burst through.

    My friends have become monsters. My arch enemy is crushing on me. I'm agrieved over the death of my other arch enemy. And, best of all, I have become everything I swore to fight against.

    I am completely, utterly, absolutely, officially, SICK of this world!!!

    Calling on his strength and receiving a positive responce, Archer planted a fist on the ground and pushed himself up.

    Okay, mirrorverse. It's time to introduce you to your evil twin.

    Calling out, Archer forced his voice to sound casual. “Your Reality Marble is impressive...”

    “Why thank you!” Satisfaction flashed across Shirou's gloating features.

    “...for an amateur.”

    The response was a snort. “For an amateur?! No amateur could achieve something like this!” He leered maliciously. “Clearly you need further convincing of just how great I really am!”

    BOOM!!!

    Weapons once again erupted at Shirou's feet, forming a line heading for Archer.

    “On the contrary,” Archer continued. “Let me show you...how the pros do it.”

    Turning, Archer once again started running away from the attack.

    “You're going to have to do better than that! Yesss.” With a twisted grin, Shirou snapped his fingers.

    Suddenly the weapons were no longer erupting straight up, but on a steep angle, their parabolic path carrying them to stab Archer from behind.

    Weaving slightly to the right, Archer continued to run. But while his previous flights were panicked and disorderly, he now moved with single-minded precision, ducking and dodging the projectiles without even looking behind him.

    Then, as crossed the hundred metre mark from Shirou, he began to chant.

    “I am the bone of my sword.
    Steel is my body and fire is my blood.
    I have created over a thousand blades.
    Unknown to death, nor known to life.
    Have withstood pain to create many weapons.
    Yet, these hands will never hold anything.
    So as I pray, UNLIMITED BLADE WORKS.”

    The reality marble did not destabilise or shatter. Instead, in an area around Archer, a strange change began to occur.

    The light on the ground stopped corresponding with the horizon; instead of flickering and purple, it was constant and dull yellow. Smoke and embers began to rise from it, while the upward pointing weapons faded and were replaced by identical ones, only pointing down. The stuffy, nauseous feeling went away like a foul odour in a strong wind, leaving only a slight warmth.

    Behind Archer, the area of difference grew until it reached a point halfway between him and Shirou, where it instead grew out sideways, creating a boundary between the new realm and old. Shirou's attack, reaching the boundary line, simply stopped, no further weapons appearing on the other side.

    In every other direction, the area of difference accelerated, growing off into the horizon, then, as it reached it, climbing up into the sky, changing it on Archer's side too. The purple flames on the horizon were replaced with a constant, warm glow, like a dawn. Additional gears appeared low in the sky, while up overheard, the rusty, decrepid ones became clean and shiny, their screeching changing to a relieved whirr as they began spinning freely.



    Shirou's smile vanished. “What...?!”



    Sliding to a stop, Archer faced him again. “And now...it's time you had a taste of your own medicine!”

    Weapons filled the sky above Archer, one second hanging motionless, the next falling at a steep angle, crossing the boundary and bombarding Shirou's position.

    WHAMWHAMWHAMWHAMWHAMWHAM!!!

    “GYAAAH!” Scrambling to avoid being hit, Shirou made a frantic gesture, causing a massive patch of weapons erupt in front of him.

    BOOM!!!

    CRAAANG!!!

    Shooting up like a metallic waterspout, Shirou's swords formed a wall against Archer's, the intersection of the two high speed streams sending stray weapons flying in all directions, scattering over the ground between the two combatants. As the wall was forced to spread out to provide full coverage, it became less dense, allowing the pair to catch glimpses of one another through it.

    They faced off, one standing in a purple and hellish version of their shared world, the other in a yellow and neutral one.

    “Im...impossible!” Shirou sounded as outraged as he was surprised. “Nobody can call forth this Reality Marble except me!!!

    “Why? It's not like it's hard.”

    “H...how?! How could you have done this?!”

    “Why don't you come over here and make me tell you?”

    This time the response was a growl filled with hatred. “What kind of fool do you take me for? Besides, I don't need to go over there in order to kill you!!!”

    Shirou flung an arm forward, and instantly a swarm of blades launched out at angle from his side of the boundary, heading straight for Archer.

    CRACK!

    “I don't think you're a fool at all,” Archer replied evenly, blocking the attack with Rho Aias. “If you are as great as you claim to be, find a way through this mess and attack me up close and personal.” Suddenly Archer lowered his head and launched himself back the way he'd come. “I'll do it if you won't!”

    WHOOSH!

    Entering the initial danger zone, Archer dodged around the landing spots of the falling blades.

    WHAM! WHAM! WHAM!

    His fury giving way to disbelief, Shirou gave the scene an perturbed look. “You're mad! Nobody could survive this!”

    “What do you mean, 'nobody could survive'?” Archer's nose creased in disgust. “You're not a fool, you're something worse: a coward. The Shirou Emiya from my universe wouldn't hesitate!”

    “Y...What?”

    Picking the least dense spot in the weapon eruption, Archer crossed the boundary, and shot into it.

    WHOOSH!

    RUUUMBLLLLLLE!!!

    Suddenly the direction of the lethal blades was dramatically reversed, exploding upward in geysers of dirt and dust. Everywhere they appeared without warning, sometimes less than a meter in front of Archer, making staying alive harder by an order of magnitude.

    But he didn't stop, nor did he slow down. Like a snow owl homing in on a lemming in a pine forest, Archer weaved through the pieces of metal, banking, jinxing, his eyes locked on Shirou. “You heard me. I come from an alternate reality; a mirrorverse where Shirou Emiya is a selfless hero of justice.”

    “An...an alternate...?!”

    “I always hated him for his deluded naivety of his ideals.” Keeping his hands trailing behind him as he sprinted, Archer moved his fingers together and began to trace. Shimmering with light, a falchion appeared in each hand, then continued to grow, the blades lengthening, the edges assuming a form like ragged feathers.

    BOOM!!!

    An erupting weapon burst forth in Archer's line of sight, hiding Shirou from view. Ducking low and throwing himself forward, Archer dived under the blade as it left the ground, busting through the bottom of the dirt geyser as he passed through the quarter of a meter wide gap. “But that was NOTHING, compared to loathing I feel for you!!!”

    Realizing his opponent was actually succeeding, Shirou began to lose control. “No!!! I will not be upstaged!!!”

    CRACKLE...

    With an angry flourish, he produced his own version of Overedge Kansho and Bakuya and held them ready to swing. “I cannot be stopped!!! I am SHIROU EMIYA!!!”

    “Big deal!!!” Archer fired back, breaking out of the eruption like a missile and rocketing towards him. “SO AM I!!!”

    WHOOSH!

    CRRRAAAAAANNNG!!!

    With a noise louder than a battleship's deck gun, the two sets of weapons collided.

    TINKLE!

    Shards of metal flew in all directions as both weapon sets shattered, ricocheting off the blades still buried in the ground and following up the initial crash with their pinging and rattling.

    “Ugh!”

    Shooting past Shirou, Archer staggered, lost his balance, scrambled to avoid impaling himself on an upward weapon, and took a dive, tumbling to a stop. In front of Shirou, both the blades raining from the sky and erupting from the ground ceased to appear.


    For a few seconds neither combatant moved; Shirou remained standing where he was, arms still extended from the moment of impact, while Archer remained on the ground.


    Then, as the last of the airbourne blades came to rest on the ground...

    “Heh...”

    A chuckle shook Shirou's frame.

    “Heh...heh...hahahahaha!”

    Straightening up, he put a hand over his face as the chuckles became a fully fledged laugh.

    “Ahahahahahaha! Ahahahahahaha!!! AAAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!!”

    Throwing back his head and raising his arms, Shirou kept laughing louder and louder. At last turning around, he began to stride towards Archer's prone form.

    CRACKLE...

    Raising his hands, he sent power coursing through them, crystallike chunks of material sprouting from them and slowly forming into Berserker's axe club.

    “AHAHAHAHAHAHA!!! BWAAAHAHAH-”

    SPLAT!

    Then he simply fell apart, sliding to pieces along two cuts arranged in an X through his body.

    Down on the ground, Archer gave a faint smile. “I hope you enjoyed the Emiya Experience, ladies and gentlemen. Good night and thank you for coming.”

    * * * * *

    “AAAAAAH!!!”

    Thrown by Saber, Gil hit the ground head first, the force of his impact leaving a crater in the flagstones.

    CRASH!

    “UGH! ARGH! AAAIIIEEE!!!”

    Bouncing, he flew through the air again, before landing on his back and carving a trench into the ground.

    Desperately scrambling to stand again, he opened up Gate of Babylon and tried to loose off some shots at Saber.

    But it was too late. Saber had already drawn back her weapon, now visible and glowing with sickly green light.

    ZOOM!

    “EX......CALIBUR!!!”

    WHOOOMPH!!!

    With a single handed swing, she sent a wave of the green light careening the other way, catching and vaporizing the single projectile he managed to launch.

    He threw up his arms to protect his face, but it didn't help.

    “EYAAAAAAH!!!”

    Burning pain was everywhere, picking him up again and hurling him back, attacking every cell, every fibre of his body, destroying its vitality...destroying its life.

    SMASH!!!

    Hitting the back wall of the courtyard and leaving a crater in it, Gil toppled forward onto his face.

    Slowly, painfully, he lifted his face. All tactile sensation was gone, replaced by an agony that made him want to give up and die. His vision swam, then, as it began to clear, revealed Saber, stiding towards him.

    “Your new skill is a waste of time,” she announced, contempt dripping from every word. “You still have lost dismally.”

    “No...no...” Gil tried to shake his head, but the movment was suddenly arrested as Saber grabbed him by the hair and hauled him up.

    “History may have branded you an Epic Villain,” she said, once again filling his vision with her grotesque face, “But that will never change the truth. You are not 'Epic'.”

    “No...” Gil tried to retort, but his response came out as a weak, strangled sob.

    “You are nothing but a weak, pathetic, ineffectual loser. You cannot lead, you cannot fight, you do not even have a decent Noble Phantasm.”

    He squeezed his tear filled eyes shut, but there was nothing he could do to keep out her words.

    “The only reason you survived this long is because you allies bailed you out everytime you screwed up. On your own, you are wholly incapable of anything resembling victory.”

    She had already destroyed his body, why did she have to destroy his mind too?

    “The fact that the world chose you as a Villainous Spirit is nothing but a bad joke. You are not worthy of the title of mongrel, let alone Villainous Spirit!”

    It wasn't fair.

    “Before you die, try to get that through your miserable little head, if it has the capacity.”

    It wasn't fair!

    “YOU.”

    It wasn't FAIR!

    “ARE.”

    HE DIDN'T DESERVE THIS!

    “DONE.”



    Gil opened his mouth and screamed. “NO!!!!!! I'M!!!!!! NOOOTTT!!!!!!”

    His despair subverted by anger, he called upon Gate of Babylon to open and launch one last attack.



    WHOOMPH...

    Suddenly the wall behind Gil disapeared, replaced by a deep, endless redness filled with millions upon millions of weapons.

    “Hmm-?”

    ZOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOM!!!!!!

    Then, filling the air with the whistling of their passage, the weapons rocketed forth, pummelling Saber and sending her reeling!

    CRASHWHAMTINGCLANGCRANGWHAMTING!!!

    “OOF! UGH! ARRRGH!!!”

    Released from her grip, Gil flopped back to the ground, watching dumbstruck. Saber tried to fight through the onslaught, but the impacts were too strong, and in seconds, she was knocked off her feet and smashed back across the yard.

    “RRRAAAAAAR -”

    CRASH-TING-WHUMP!!!

    Gil could only stare in shocked confusion. Where were the blades coming from? Was it something Archer was doing?

    No...he was doing it.

    Gil's eyes widened even further. He was doing it.

    He was shooting lots of blades at once, just like Archer said.

    He was doing it because...he had it within him to.

    He had it within him to be a proper Servant!

    And if he could do this, then maybe...

    The barrage was starting to peeter out. His face pained but determined, Gil put his hands on the ground and forced himself to push. “HNNNGGGH...”

    Slowly he rose, first on his hands and knees, then just his knees, then one foot, then at last he was standing.

    Not far from the Grail, Saber hauled herself out of the debris littering the area his attack had focused on. She was cut, grazed and bruised, her face stretched inhumanly by the enraged look on it.

    Throwing back her head, she vented her displeasure. “RRRRRRAAAAAAAAAAAAHHH!!!!!!”

    Teetering back and forth but refusing to fall, Gil calmly reached over his shoulder and plunged his hand into the red void.

    Charging up Excalibur, Saber found it within herself to speak intelligibly, the words hissing through her gritted teeth. “Any...last...words?”

    Withdrawing his hand, Gil produced a strange, ornately decorated weapon, with a red handle, and a blade consisting of three golden cylindrical segments, like a lance with the end snapped off. “Just...two.”

    Snorting in disinterest, Saber swung her weapon back.

    Supporting his own weapon's weight with both hands, Gil held it at head height, the tip pointing forward.

    “EX...”

    “ENUMA...

    “...CALIBUR!!!”

    “...ELISH!”

    Excalibur rushed round in an arc again, sending another wave of green light hurtling across the yard.

    WOOMPH!!!

    WHIRR...

    But at the same time, the segments of Gil's weapon began to spin, building up a swirling torrent of yellow energy on their surfaces before sending it blasting forward.

    BOOM!!!

    The two attacks collided in midair, the resulting shockwave ripping a trench into the ground out either side of the impact point.

    RUUUMBLLLE......

    For a couple of seconds the blasts of energy piled into each other, reduced to a standstill by their matched force...

    BRRRRRRRAAAAAAM!!!

    ...Then the torrent of yellow energy began to grow, rising up and around the wave of green light until it spilt over the top and swallowed it whole.

    “Huh?!” Saber's expression became surprise, then, as the torrent continued to bear down on her, actual anxiety. Swinging Excalibur wildly behind her, she tried to back off, but there was no escaping the oncoming oblivion.

    “RAAAAAARRRGGGHHH!!!......” Saber screamed in fury and agony as she was consumed, only for the sound to be drowned out in moments by rumble of the torrent.

    In the middle of the courtyard, Rin was staggering like a drunk toward the Grail. Cutting her arm off had been more difficult than she'd anticipated, and the blood loss was playing havoc with her consciousness.

    “Just...a little further,” she gasped, her face stretched in an expression that was half pained grimace, half insane grin. “The Grail...it's almost mine!”

    Letting go of where her arm should be, she reached forward, her laboured breathing evolving into a triumphant laugh. “Hah...haha! Ha...eh?”

    Then a strange rumbling noise found its way into her diminished awareness. Breaking out of her tunnel vision, she looked to her right -

    - and finally saw the yellow torrent of energy just before it hit her.

    “Uh–oh...”

    RUUUMBLLLE...

    She could only stand and gawp as she-and the Holy Grail-met the same fate as Saber.

    Gil meanwhile was screwing up his face in exertion. He tried to lower the weapon, but some unseen force seemed to be keeping it up in the aim. “No...stop...”

    The yellow energy torrent slowed, but it did not stop. It was now filling more than two thirds of the yard, its noise muting everything else. Sakura, still pinned by her foot, tried harder than ever before to get the arrow out of the ground, but it still wouldn't budge.

    Gil gritted his teeth. He spoke again, but his voice was starting to crack “Stop...”

    RUMBLE...

    Like a monstrous animal pulling on its bridle, the energy torrent continued to grind forward, slowed but refusing to halt, chewing up what remained of the flagstones as it went.

    RUMBLE...

    Vibrating and rattling together as it drew close, the swords forming Ilya's enclosure began to fall over.

    RUMBLE...

    Unable to free herself, Sakura closed her eyes and curled into a ball.

    RUMBLE...

    Panic was growing within Gil. It was happening again. He was losing control of his weapon and it was going to...

    No.

    Fighting against the panic, Gil drew on the power in every fibre of his being and tried to focus.

    Thinking back, he made himself concentrate on what Archer had said to him before.

    “...believe you can control your Noble Phantasms properly, and you’ll succeed at it.”

    “You can do it.”


    Gil's eyes snapped open, his expression becoming steely resolve. “STOP......NOW. I......COMMAND YOU TO!”

    The energy torrent was only four meters away from Sakura.

    Then three...

    Then two...

    Then, with a loud PSSSSHHHH, it dissipated, it's yellow tongues of destructive power suddenly thinning out into nothing. Back in Gil's hands, the weapon's segments slowly spun down until they stopped, the glow fading like cooling metal.

    Sakura tensed as the cloud of dust kicked up by the attack swept over her...then looked up in surprise as she realized she wasn't dead.

    Breathing hard, Gil watched in an adrenaline induced daze as the dust cloud filled the remainder of the courtyard, then began to settle down.

    His worn out face began the workings of a smile. “I did it...I...I did it!...”

    He wanted to throw his arms in the air and cheer, but they had flopped to his sides, while his voice was a hoarse whisper. He could only watch in wonder as the world rotated downwards, replaced by the night sky as he fell flat on his back...

    WHUMP!

    * * * * *

    Emerging from the reality marble, Archer found himself in a dramatically changed scene. Gil, Saber, Rin, and the Holy Grail were nowhere to be seen, while the ground on which they had stood had been reduced to a massive crater, the bottom a good metre and a half lower than the courtyard floor. With the noise of battle gone, normal nighttime sounds had taken over again, complemented by occassional clunks and bumps of shifting rubble.

    Spotting Sakura, he ran over and tried his hand at freeing her.

    “HNNNG-”

    CRACK!

    At last Shirou's arrow broke in half, and after giving Sakura a second to brace herself, he hauled her foot off the half in the ground.

    As he obtained a strip of cloth and began dressing the wound, she gave him a nervous, inquiring look. “Well...wha...did you...is Sempai...?”

    “......Yes.”

    Sakura looked down and let out a sigh of resignation. “Th…...thanks.”

    “It's okay.” Securing the bandage, it was his turn to look at her inquiringly. “What happened here?”

    Sakura swallowed. “Gilgamesh-san...used his Noble Phantasm. It destroyed everything - Saber-san, Rin-san, the Grail, and very nearly Ilya-san and me!”

    Sitting upright, Archer looked round anxiously. “So where is he now?”

    “Over there; he collapsed after he finished his attack!”

    Following Sakura's finger, Archer finally spotted Gil's prone form. He was lying motionless among the dust and debris in the hole in the ground, a layer of dust camouflaging his brightly hued armour – and mixing with the blood seeping from his various wounds.

    Some part of Archer turned to ice. “Oh no...”

    Rushing to the fallen Servant's side, he dropped to his knees, carefully lifting Gil's head. “Gil-Gilgamesh! Are you alright? Can you hear me?!”

    Slowly, Gil's eyes fluttered open, and seeing Archer's anxious face looming over him, he smiled weakly. “I did it, Archer!...I managed to shoot lots of swords...and control Ea!...Just like you said I could!...”

    Sighing in relief, Archer smiled back. “Told you.”


    Part 16:
    As the first glow of sunrise began to appear on the horizon, Sakura and Gil looked on as Archer arranged Kotomine's remains in a dignified position and covered them with a sheet he'd traced.

    Placing the final corners, Archer regarded it for a second longer before looking at the others. “To the end, he fought for what he believed in.”

    “Yes.” Tears running down his cheeks, Gil got down on his knees and placed a hand on the edge of the cloth. “If he knew...he was going to die...” -he needed a second to take a breath- “...he wouldn't have had it any other way.”

    “He did seem...a very kind person,” Sakura offered uncomfortably.

    “Without doubt.” Archer eased himself up. “Suffice to say, none of us will forget him.”

    “Never.”

    “Never.”

    For a minute, they sat and stood silently as a slight breeze blew through the courtyard and the glow on the horizon got a bit brighter.

    Well, Archer thought sadly as he looked the courtyard over. With the Holy Grail destroyed, he probably wouldn't last much longer. And even if he did, he still might as well kiss his chances of returning to his original world goodbye.

    Not that he minded. Maybe he'd been a bit judgemental with his thoughts before in Unlimited Blade Works; evil twins aside, this mirror reality wasn't really that bad. Should he remain in existence, it had all the amenities needed to build a life. It would be sad not seeing his original group ever again, but he still had a young, virile female as a Master. And while the question of his true identity would invariably crop up, he could always claim not to remember or make something up-

    Movement entered Archer's vision, and refocussing, he found Gil had stood up as well.

    “In just three nights, you have changed my life in ways I never dared dream possible...” Gil murmured.

    Raising his head, he smiled at Archer, his eyes soft and amorous.

    Part of Archer turned to ice a second time.

    “...Now there's something I need to say.”

    Nodding jerkily, Archer gulped. Please don't say it...

    Wearing a vaguely outraged expression, Sakura looked from one Servant to the other. “Hang on a sec! What do you think you're doing, Gil-san?!”

    Please don't say it...

    “Archer...”

    Oh God, he's going to say it.

    “...I...”

    OH GOD OH GOD PLEASE GET ME OUT OF THIS PLACE NOW-

    WHOOMPH!!!

    Suddenly the ground beneath Archer's feet exploded, and before he could react, some kind of whirlwind engulfed him!

    “WHAT THE?! AAAAAAH!!!” He couldn't see anything, just a spinning, whirling vortex. What was happening?! Had Shirou managed to get the Grail after all?!

    He tried to stick his hands out, grab something solid, but there was nothing there, nothing to stop him from being sucked down, spinning faster and faster...

    ...Until, at last, with a loud WHUMP, he slammed face first into what felt like a wall.
    “WAAAAAAAAAA-OOF!!!”

    Instantly the forces buffeting him were gone, replaced by smoke that filled his lungs, sending him into a coughing fit.

    As his mind caught up with his body, the direction of gravity told him he was actually lying on a floor, not pressed to a wall. He tried to ease himself up, but a bizarre sickly feeling suddenly overwhelmed him, as if he had eaten too much candy.

    Suddenly he heard a voice. “Archer!”

    Rolling onto his back, he struggled to stand.

    “Archer!” This time he recognized the voice–it was Rin's! She must have got the Grail after all!!!

    As this horrible realization hit him, Rin herself appeared, her face appearing out of the smoke...

    ...but she didn't seem to leering or smiling in triumph. Instead, she looked anxious, almost fearful.

    “Archer! Archer, is that you?!”

    Then the smoke began to clear, and Archer saw she was wearing a red sweater.

    Registering him, Rin dashed forward, sliding to a halt on her knees between his legs. “Archer, thank God! Are you alright? Say something!”

    The smoke meanwhile continued to clear, revealing the room they had been in during the experiment. Standing to one side was a Shirou with a blue and white T shirt, a Saber with a white blouse and a blue dress, and a Sakura with purple hair and eyes, all looking worried on Rin's account.

    In a state of numb shock, Archer took everything in, trying to adjust to this new development.

    Then Rin grabbed his face and forced him to look her in the eye. “Damn you, speak to me!”

    “.....Er......How long have I been gone?”

    Sighing in relief at the show of mental cohesion, Rin lunged forward and hugged him. “I've been trying to bring you back two days and three nights! I knew you'd been sent somewhere, I just needed to figure out how to reverse it!”

    Her hug tightened, her voice starting to sound tearful. “I'm sorry Archer, I promise I'll never do any of those stupid experiments again!

    Finally achieving mental reconciliation, Archer let out a long, relieved breath. He knew what the sickly feeling was now; it was the return of his regular mana supply, his body now unused to it after using the mirror reality's mana for so long.

    He was back.

    Putting his arms around Rin, he said, “It's okay, just...maybe wait until I'm in another room before you start the fun part.”

    Rin nodded, continuing to nestle against his chest. Shirou, Saber and Sakura, looking relieved, gave them some privacy.

    At last Rin sat up and looked at Archer curiously. “As a matter of interest...where did you go while you were gone?”

    Smiling and chuckling, Archer shook his head. “Trust me Rin, you DON'T want to know!”

    * * * * *

    Meanwhile, on the top of a building a block away, someone was watching the Tohsaka Residence. He had sensed the energy surge that had come from the house a moment ago, and knew full well what it was.

    Although he stood up straight, the man's head was tilted forward, leaving most of his face in shadow. He was dressed in clothes identical to Archer's, only with blue instead of red, and white instead of black. His skin looked as though the life had been drained out of it, it's pale, corpse like nature matching instead of contrasting with the light grey of his hair and goatee.

    As the shapes of people moved past the lit up windows of the Tohsaka house, the insane, demonic grin on the man's face grew wider, the corners of his mouth nearly reaching his ears.

    “Heh heh heh...”

    The End


    There, done, finished, finally off my list of things to do. Maybe now I can get some sleep at night...

    *remembers the planned sequel, starts sobbing quietly*
    My contributions to the fanfiction melting pot:
    (not so) Shallow Shirou
    Shattered Heaven
    Shatteraxia - currently up to Part 16

    You can also find me stumbling around Spiral Knights as Overlockone. If you do though, tell me to STOP! I'm supposed to be working on my writing!

  17. #17
    死徒 Dead Apostle amado's Avatar
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    I read this one in the old forums.

    im weirded out by the bits of yaoi here with gil but I can stand it. at least this much.

  18. #18
    Venus Swordman Ergast's Avatar
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    Still as funny as I remembered it XD

    You need to do that sequel one of this days.Evil!Archer promises to be the biggest SOB in the story of the alternates. Maybe even at Kyubei levels.

    Spoiler:
    Quote Originally Posted by shiningphoenix View Post
    Rin: "I wanted Saber..."
    Archer: "What? But Archers are all insanely OP, it's like a rule or something, why would you think Sabers were better?"
    Rin: "Sabers are more molestable..."
    Quote Originally Posted by Vigilantia View Post
    AC!Rin. Fixing problems one moan at a time.
    Quote Originally Posted by Sage of Eyes View Post
    Denizens of another dimension, meet Rin Tohsaka, Tsundere of Mass Destruction

  19. #19
    I'm not sure what praise I lauded on this story on the old BL, but hopefully the sentiments get carried over. This is one of the best fanfics about the Nasuverse that I've ever read. And you did an amazingly good job with this.

    Hope Rides With His Godly Ronin/Cowboy Brother In Law

  20. #20
    Obsessively signs all his posts chronodekar's Avatar
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    I'm really glad that you finished this story. Tesculpture! I started reading it a few weeks back and even bookmarked it, but forgot about it until today. I came in here to enable "post alerts" and to my pleasant surprise, you actually finished the entire thing up !!

    A really good piece of work. I enjoyed every moment of it.

    I don't understand your sequel though. The alternate-Archer shouldn't really be alive, now should he? Still, I'll leave that up to you.

    Thanks for the wonderful tale !!
    -chronodekar

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