The prelude, Noir.
Since it would be a real shame, I have taken it upon myself to scour the internet and repost this excellent fanfic so that it is not lost to the void of interwebz. Time to do everyone a service here.
I am not the original author of this story. I am merely re-posting all of the story that has been written up to this point. Credit does not go to me.
Neither I nor the original author (Burnout) own Fate/stay night, Type-MOON, Phantom of Inferno, Nitro+, or any of their affiliates. This was written and reposted for non-profit entertainment purposes.
Is this real?
Someone, somewhere, is screaming. The world becomes a swirling prism of color; Shimmering fire bursts across the spectrum, purple and blue blemishes that gyrate, then fade to black. A riot of percussive madness tearing at the eardrums: Angry chattering that pounds the air.
I can't feel my legs.
So. Gather information. Analyze your surroundings. Commit details to memory.
The mind has been prepared for this. It is a fortress, impregnable and implacable. Use it.
Colors are uncertain- A lifeless melange of pastels and blacks, phasing in and out of the pain fog. Shadows and icicles. Maybe grey. Maybe blue.
More gunfire. The familiar strobe of a barrel, flickering nearby. The distant report of detonating shells, finding nothing. Smoke and ashes, fire and pain.
Details. Focus on the details. Fight it.
The gun is a black, ugly hammer of a weapon, unchanged by the alien hues playing across its surface. It is a tool of destruction, of oblivion｡Yet it is not complete. It is a copy-
'The Black Barrel', whispers a voice in my head. A weapon requisitioned from the vaults of the Association, far away in London. It is a gesture of trust, of competency; For one to be granted such a device, even as a shadow of the original, shows the faith the Association places in him.
-No, not the gun. The hand that holds it. Remember.
A sigil in three parts, lifeless and dead now. How faint it is, merely silver lines against my flesh. Another symbol.
More confusion. More mad, jumbled chaos. Somewhere, a voice calls for order, but is swept away.
The sigil. It means...
Agony, scourging and hideous. Every nerve ignites with fires.
So there's pain. So what? Ignore it!
-It marks the owner. It marks the owner as a Master, in the War of the Grail!...And I woke up.
I forced open my eyes, inhaling. Dormant lungs cobweb-choked and oxygen-starved returned to life, slowly inflating. Motes of distortion roiled insistently through the air above, twisting and turning in odd patterns.
I was lying on the floor of a long hallway, the tiled surface feeling deliciously cool to the touch. My heartbeat returned to normal by degrees, the blood rushing in my ears diminishing in force. Fingers shaking minutely, I clambered to my feet, leaning against the wall for support.
The ground was littered with glass, a dozen shattered fragments catching and holding the moonlight, turning them to shards of quicksilver. A chilling breeze wafted into the room through a shattered window; Outside, the air rippled like a living thing, a faint reddish haze barely visible in the light.
This was Fuyuki city. Or rather, this was a school in the city...The school. Where it had all began.
Outside, the haze- No, the barrier field- Still seethed. Someone had warded this place thoroughly; The field was powerful enough to keep most out, and scourge with those who attempted to pass with nightmares. It was as if they knew the importance of this place...
...Maybe they did. Maybe it didn't matter.
Still leaning against the wall, I began to limp down the corridor, the Black Barrel Replica in my right hand. I was taking no chances..Penetrating the field had weakened me, far more than I cared to admit.
Tap, tap, tap.
With each step, I felt clearer, slowly shrugging off the horror. Not much longer...I was nearly there. As if in agreement, the sigils ignited. They glowed with a faint, unhealthy illumination, one that did nothing to light my way.
It was an insane risk, coming here. The ritual could be conducted anywhere, as long as the conditions were met. But for this hero｡It had to be here. It had to be now.
2-I passed by overhead, followed by 2-H and 2-G.
-A noise. A scraping, shuffling sound, of dragging feet.
A dark shape came into view at the other end of the corridor, a canine form with two blazing red eyes. Its jaw hung low, a thick fluid spilling from its hooked teeth to the floor. Padding forth on three legs-The fourth didn't work- It raised its muzzle to the sky, releasing a long, mournful howl.
I raised the Black Barrel and pulled the trigger.
There was an explosion of noise and light. White flame burped from the snout and the slide banged back and forth, flinging out the spent case with a chime like loose change. The buck-recoil wrenched my wrist, jerking my aim off.
Such force. Such monumental destructive force.
The monster jerked back four or five meters, its face missing. It hit the floor and moaned and shifted, going still. I raised the gun to put a bullet in its head-
-And a terrible weight slammed into me, an overwhelming scent of wet fur and rotting meat. I collapsed under the weight, half-twisting under the impact...
It was the same damn dog.
It was the monster's twin, another filthy hellhound, snarling and spitting as it tried to maul me. Somehow, I jammed one arm between those massive jaws, fumbling around for the gun.
-It wasn't there. Knocked aside in the rush, maybe.
A memory swelled abstractly from my mind. I remembered the first time he'd given a lesson in hand-to-hand fighting. With no sense of irony at all, he'd stared me down and said:
｡ｰThe first rule of unarmed combat is: Don't be unarmed."
Too late for that. I wrestled to move, but the creature｡ｯs grip was too strong, bony claws scraping my chest, shredding flesh and fabric. It pushed its head close, canine features surmounted by tall antlers of velvet and chitin, perplexed by its ability to get at my head.
I had a knife, but I couldn't reach it. Seeing no other option, I pushed my free hand directly into a gaping hole in its guts, grabbed a handful of slippery vertebrae, and pulled
It roared. It roared and squealed and shrieked, tortured nerves sending contradictory messages through its form. It jerked and twitched and snarled, howling with enough force to shudder my brain, but I held on with all my dwindling strength-
...Vaguely, I realized I was shrieking and howling too.
Finally, mercifully, the beast flopped to one side, in a tangle of rictus-stiff limbs and matted gore. I shoved it aside, groping for my weapon...
There! I scooped up the Black Barrel Replica, comforted by the familiar weight. Just then, the hellhound decided it wasn't dead at all, rising up with a roar. With a snap-shot, I blew its head off. Barely.
A third loped in from the same end. And then more.
With a curse, I turned and ran. 2-F, then 2-C flashed past, the insane analogies I'd heard about these...things...echoing in my head.
Familiars. A low-level artificial being, created from the union of a fresh corpse and a magic circuit.
Yet, combat ability is fairly high- A feral intelligence, in vaguely humanoid form.
A human without combat experience would be killed immediately with no resistance. With ten years of training, one could put up a fight for several seconds...Assuming favorable conditions. The best method of destruction is through the usage of firearms, or magic...
Words to live by. I'd already tried the 'firearms' part...Now for the magic. Turning the corner, I snatched a talisman from my shredded coat, fingers crinkling the yellow paper. A potent spell, this; It'd taken me a week to transcribe, longer to master-
...But what the hell.
I hurled it toward the advancing crowd, speaking the release word. Lei...The Chinese word for thunder.
The air erupted in lightning, wild bolts of power searing everything within reach. Electric-blue energy dispersed and dissipated across chitin and flesh, gouging stone, splitting muscle and sinew. Something small and chittering exploded with ichor splendor, a damp detonation of black and purple fluids that boiled away to nothing.
In an instant, the corridor was an abattoir. Debris was everywhere; Scattered and blasted. Hanging from walls and ceilings. Charred remains on the floor.
I had to tear my eyes away from the spectacle, willing my feet into motion. Whoever had summoned them...He was expecting company. Another Master? Some interloper, hoping for an advantage?
I had to hurry.
At the end of it, 2-B beckoned. I tried the door; It wasn't locked. Shutting and locking the door behind me, I slumped, releasing a breath I didn｡ｯt remember drawing.
The classroom was wide but cluttered, with row upon row of desks blocking off at least half the space. At least I wouldn't be forced into the indignity of manual labor...
I am twenty-three years old, in my prime by human standards, young by those of the Association. All my life, I've had a reputation for being cold, unfeeling. Some have even called me heartless, or ruthless.
I am not. I am not beyond emotional response or compassion. Truth be told, I was terrified and excited all at once, wired to the teeth with adrenaline and shock. Part of me still gibbered of the horrors behind; The rest dreaded the impossibility of what lay ahead.
But I possess- And he used to consider this my paramount virtue- A singular force of will. To accomplish the objective, whatever the cost.
So, covered in filth, my brain still jarred from the violence of combat, I began the ritual.
So, there you have me, pictured. Ichiro Tanaka, Association mage, Master, twenty-three. A fully authorized magician for four of them. I've already told you of my strength of will, and you have noticed my prowess (or lack thereof) with gun and magic.
How do I look? Am I clean-shaven? Yes. I have black hair, and large brown eyes...Generically handsome features, things that matter little.
But this is not my story. Nor is it the story of the battle for the Holy Grail.
Where to begin? This is a story, I suppose. Hence the need for a Grand Opening...
People have skewed views on what makes a story. They forget that everything we do, every day, every second of our small lives, is part of a story's middle; It's guts, if you like. You're born. You do things. You die. Where's the beginning? Where｡ｯs the end? It｡ｯs never as simple as it seems.
There was a beginning two days ago, when I met the Church's representative. There was a beginning three weeks ago, when I contacted the Association to volunteer for what was, for all intents and purposes, a suicide mission.
There was a beginning yet before that, five years ago, when a city was set aflame. Then, there was an army. A black army, a tide of death that snared all it touched in a web of chaos. It toppled buildings, murdered hundreds, laughing at the sanctity of churches, crafting statues of blood and meat.
...But again, I get ahead of myself.
Even before that, a full thirty years ago, there was a man, who lived in this very town.
He was, for want of a better word, my father.
I finished the circle, clumsy hands slowing me down. More than once, I had to begin again, botching the runes beyond recognition. No rest for the wicked, as they say; As I tried to fix my mistakes, I inadvertently created more, till the entire diagram was ruined.
But I kept at it. Again. And again.
An hour passed, without me realizing it. So much time, and so little progress: Scrawling in the dark, not daring even the light of a candle, intent on avoiding hostile attention. More than once, I heard the soft pad of feet past the room, as well as the tick-tack of claws on tiles. Mercifully, none noticed me.
There. It was done.
I sat back on my haunches, examining the pentagram minutely. Nothing broke the chalked surface, the boundary forming a perfect separation between this world and the next. Try as I might, I couldn｡ｯt find anything wrong with it...
...And it was time to begin.
I pulled my knife, trying to keep my hand steady as I held it against a vein. This was going to hurt...
There are rules, you see. You can stand and chant, render the dispel icons and arrange the tools perfectly. You can strike at monoliths with holy swords and shatter gems on the altars...But you still need a gesture. Sorcery, especially sorcery of this magnitude, has a high cost. It's paid in blood and souls and suffering.
Blood drizzled, but it didn't fall. Where the chaotic spatter effervesced into the air it hung immobile, as if spraying across some invisible barrier. Like water falling on glass.
The incantation...The summoning itself...It had to be said now, or all would be undone. One hand clamped over the deep, draining cut, I spoke the words. Or rather, they spoke themselves, tumbling out all at once through my lips.
Wayward soul, twisted by strife,
Heed the Call, return to life.
Be remade in thy chosen form,
Begin once more, through blood reborn.
Driven from the endless path of fate,
Hail thy Master, Awake!
Silence. For long moments, nothing.
I closed my eyes and allowed myself, tentatively, a moment of despair. Whether I had really failed. Done with. Over.
I heard: Drip.
A droplet at a time, parting from my arm with slow gravity, thin strands of blood ran together in a long rivulet, curling and twisting in its course toward the star's centre.
I watched in morbid fascination, frowning as the blood touched the base of the pentagram, pooling softly. It crackled, a silverfish glow racing back along my bloodstream, stretching out tentacles of light into the floor and walls, snapping and hissing and spitting sparks.
The stigmata...The three sigils of binding...They gained vibrancy and color, shifting from transparency to a deep, living red. It was as if they were drinking the blood, gaining vitality as I lost it-
And then the storm hit.
The ground shook. The room flashed white and red and green; I tumbled, falling onto hands and knees with a strangled cry, shielding my eyes from the maelstrom of light and heat.
It was a cloud, briefly. A thing of tendrils that shook with internal spasms, rarefied features contracting and warping. The translucency of the flexing vision was like a luminous heart, bisected by an energy spike at the centre. Endlessly shifting, the chaotic riot of shapes and forms still somehow contrived to form a whole, like the teardrop of shadow in the core of flame. It was a wraith, rising up in an ethereal parody of a figure, drawing all into itself.
There was a final, vengeful blast of colliding energies. Another false dawn.
I lowered my arm, wound forgotten. Illuminated by the pale, ghostly light of the moon, I saw.
It was a black specter, ragged cloak swirling about it in an unseen breeze. A wide-brimmed hat perched atop its head, casting its face in shadows. I caught a glimpse of weapons somewhere within that cloak; Bulky, angular shapes shifted as it moved, dropping to one knee in a fluid motion.
A white skull-mask turned to regard me, the expression betraying nothing.
Yes, it was a Phantom. I glanced at the flames licking at the floor, shuddering slightly.
...A phantom of flames. A phantom of the Inferno...
Astonishment, exultation and disappointment warred within me. This was a powerful Servant indeed...But not who I wanted to call. Not the person I had prayed to call...
All the planning. All the pain. All the effort to reach this place. All wasted, through an accident of fate.
I could feel the magnitude of the failure in my bones, even in that moment. Already, I knew the answer.
Yet, the question had to be asked. Some things must be said.
"I am Zwei, Master. I am Assassin."