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Thread: [FF] Phantoms (by Burnout)

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    [FF] Fate/Phantoms (by Burnout)

    Phantoms


    The prelude, Noir.


    Disclaimer:
    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.



    X-X-x-x-x-x-x-x-x-x-x-x-x-x-x-x-x-x-x-x-x-x-X-X



    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.


    Gunfire.


    I can't feel my legs.


    So. Gather information. Analyze your surroundings. Commit details to memory.


    Concentrate.


    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-


    ...A replica.


    '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.


    Memory stirred.


    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.


    "...Almost there..."


    -A noise. A scraping, shuffling sound, of dragging feet.


    Many 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:


    ¡°The first rule of unarmed combat is: Don't be unarmed."


    Too late for that. I wrestled to move, but the creature¡¯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-


    -And twisted.


    ...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.


    More.


    A blur.

    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.


    Bits.

    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¡¯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¡¯s the end? It¡¯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.


    ...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¡¯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.


    Peace.


    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.


    "Are you-"


    "I am Zwei, Master. I am Assassin."
    Last edited by ItsaRandomUsername; December 11th, 2011 at 09:32 PM.
    eddyak:
    IRUn is not a teenage white girl.
    My gast is well and truly flabbered.

    MJ01:
    You've clearly never been a little girl before but let me clue you in; it doesn't matter how mature you are, when you're a loli your body just sort of wiggles and does cutesy stuff all on its own.

    Dull:
    Kishwahili is beautiful spoken, but written down it looks like you're trying to summon Cthulhu.

  2. #2
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    "...Assassin..."


    The 'Assassin' class specializes in stealth and misdirection. Though they lack the combat ability of the three Knight Servants, they compensate with...


    Unpredictability.


    It is a flock, not an individual; Thus, it is the class most likely to display talents and skills outside of its specialty. Magic resistance, Summoning, and even the Mad Enhancement are equally possible.


    Assassin. A class where one specific Epic Spirit is chosen, but whose abilities change with each Heaven's Feel. As the title had been adopted by countless legends, a different one would become Assassin for each war.


    He hadn't moved an inch. How strange that tableau must have looked; A black wraith bowing in obeisance to a fallen man, both of us lit by the moon's silver glow.


    ...Just like that story I heard, all those years ago...


    "And she asked: 'Are you my Master?' "


    With a sharp shake of my head, I banished the memories, rising to my feet. Dignity, I chided myself. I had to appear strong, especially to this Servant.


    "Stand. You don't need to bow to me."


    He obeyed, noiselessly. The silence stretched for a long, uncomfortable moment, as we regarded each other. Absently, I clamped the wound on my arm shut, squeezing it tight. Perversely, the pain helped me focus; The unreality of the scene was shattered, forced back into terms I could understand.


    "Assassin. What is your status?"


    "I am...impaired. Until my reserves are renewed, I fear I cannot function at full capacity."

    Of course. When first summoned, a Servant tended to be weak, disorientated...Except in certain cases, without sufficient mana, they were severely disadvantaged.


    On reflection, I should've considered that before choosing hostile territory for the summoning...


    -But I hadn't been in my right mind, I realized. My excitement, no, my need for a reunion had been too great. If I'd summoned the Servant I intended, I would've been even less focused.


    First things first. We had to escape the school; My unknown opponent was likely aware of my presence, now. After that...Well, the War would continue.


    Yes, that was it. I had lost this battle, but I could still win the War-


    "Master."


    "Yes, Assassin?"


    "We are under attack."


    The classroom's door rocked, as something smashed it with a shuddering impact. The doorknob rattled back and forth in a sudden frenzy of motion, followed by a thwarted roar of wrath. Shapes were spilling towards us; Half-seen silhouettes, slinking down the corridor outside.


    I racked the Black Barrel, loading a new clip of bullets. Thirteen shots...Not enough. Not nearly enough. Unless-


    I was loathe to sacrifice one of the Command Mantras so soon. But if it was a choice between death and waste, I chose waste.


    Command Spell, Trigger On.


    Besides forcing obedience, the Command Mantras could be use to augment the Servants, temporarily boosting them beyond even their limits. In this case, Assassin would be renewed, his full strength returned to him.


    "Assassin. As thy Master, in accordance to the dictates of the Grail, I order thee! Empower thyself!"


    In a brief eternity, the first symbol crackled to ash, etching itself into nothingness. I felt more than saw the destruction of half my arsenal, talismans and artifacts turning grey and crumbling as the power, the magic drained from them. I wasted a fraction of a moment in disbelief, even as claws carved through wood and paint like knives through silk.


    Then the door caved in, the floor erupted in chaos and gunfire and death, and everything went straight to hell.


    *************


    The weight of the world surprised him, at first. He'd been too long without gravity, too long a shade of a shade, a wraith lost inside eggshell prisons of smoke and light.


    A single spatter of blood.


    That was all it had taken, eventually. The final sacrament to bring the walls crumbling down. The words of power had bridged the gap, and the drizzle of red fluid had opened the doors.


    There had been cracks already, of course. Imperfections growing by the moment, allowing him brief glimpses of the blocky, unfamiliar solidity of 'Real'.


    He remembered being surrounded by dozens, hundreds of his kind. Frothing and fizzing like spawning fish, running together in the ether, dragging their blades of nothingness against reality, with scant hope of ever breaching the distance between the two.


    In that place of madness, a memory was difficult to hold. Thoughts were unfocused, uncontrollable things, impossible to grasp and concentrate upon. Nonetheless, struggling against the tide of his fellows, he remembered- Or perhaps dreamed of the time he had been Zwei.


    ...Of the time he had been the Phantom.


    When the gates swung open, he'd lunged for it, leaving the others tumbling in his wake. They'd fought him for solidity, but it was meant for him, and he'd clawed and tore and struggled, until-


    A surge of energy crackled within him, a shifting beacon anchoring his spirit to this reality. It built within his soul, a cinder-point of heat that grew to needle-sharp intensity. He resisted the urge to cry out.


    With a crash, a door in this reality fell apart. More by reflex than by thought, his hands blurred for a weapon that was just a memory-


    ...But, somehow, it answered. The Colt Python was in his hand and spitting death, before he'd even registered the foe. They were true devils, with darkness for skin and knives for claws, and he felt only a savage triumph as his bullets sent them spinning and tumbling to their destruction.


    It hadn't been like this, before.


    He'd been horrified at the thought of killing...No, he'd wept over his first kill.


    -But now...


    ...It was like discovering he had a talent for murder.


    It was like discovering he was a skilled butcher.


    It was like coming to terms with a natural enjoyment of horror.


    It was like-


    Except...Except it wasn't 'like' any of those things.


    He did have a talent for murder. He was a skilled butcher.


    Wasn't that his very name, Assassin?


    The gun clicked empty, and Assassin spun, his cloak sweeping out before him as the next weapon found his hands. It was almost a relief, to be distracted from the clamor of confusion and memory and disorientation just below the surface of his mind.


    And so he abandoned reason, abandoned thought, and made himself the instrument. And he killed and killed and killed.
    eddyak:
    IRUn is not a teenage white girl.
    My gast is well and truly flabbered.

    MJ01:
    You've clearly never been a little girl before but let me clue you in; it doesn't matter how mature you are, when you're a loli your body just sort of wiggles and does cutesy stuff all on its own.

    Dull:
    Kishwahili is beautiful spoken, but written down it looks like you're trying to summon Cthulhu.

  3. #3
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    Assassin slipped into insanity.


    ...


    An eternity passed.


    ...


    The first thread of rationality returned to him with the beautiful, ugly thought.


    This. This is surrender.


    The Skorpion was far more graceful than the blocky Desert Eagle. He vaguely recalled prising it, sticky with blood, from Cal's fragmented grasp in the chapel. (Why was it here?) Its lines were smooth and crafted, its balance perfect. He thumbed the trigger and didn't let go.


    This is freedom.


    It was a living thing in his hands. A barreled lance that foomed breathlessly, churning out a strobefire barrage of destruction. Like hail, he thought. Like a water stream, filled with solid, metallic impurities.


    This is release.


    The thunder barrage of gunfire; The flash-lightning drumbeat of contact; A firestorm rumbling to life, shredding its target like a hungry zephyr, an invisible airborne claw raking spitefully at the targets. Long chains of gunfire rattled into the tangled morass where the entrance had once been, hopelessly miring down any stragglers.


    There had been a voice in his head. There had been commands, perhaps. An impatient growl in his mind, describing targets and vulnerabilities, warning him of the hulk terrors trying to slink past him. It was uncanny; The voice called him 'Servant' and sounded angry.


    He wondered why his madness should take such a precise form.


    He thumbed the trigger again, the grip tacky with half-dry blood. Recoil kicked in his hand, and he delighted in the shuddering pandemonium, biting and gnawing through the smoke and haze that seemed to have filled every last corner of this infectious, ruined chamber.


    Quiet.


    Suddenly, it was quiet. He might as well have been the only living being in existence, in that moment. A solitary figure, exhausted but untouched, death clinging to his limbs like a black shroud.


    A thin strand of redness parted company with the ceiling and fell, and syrupy teardrop that pattered lightly against the slick tiling.


    He couldn't guess how many there'd been, originally. The shreds of metal and clothing lying embedded amongst their pulped meat was silent testament to their multiplicity, a dozen different articles of fabric lying shredded within the gore.


    It was as if the chamber had decompressed, hurling the flesh from its helpless inhabitants across floor and wall and ceiling. Anonymous strands of gore dappled the interior, sluglike lumps of tissue and muscle that slithered glutinously with the pull of gravity, flopping obscenely to the floor to vent their liquid cargo.


    An arm, messily dissected at the elbow, grasped uselessly at the air, three fingers shredded to a pulp. A pink, clawed foot flopped from a fleshly stalactite above his head with a wet slurp and a squelch.


    It was flesh frenzy, made real. It was as if the room itself was a stomach or a womb, its arterial walls wet with warmth and blood.


    He heard a noise behind him and spun, Steyr-AUG (Yes, he was using a Steyr now.) brandished before him, a guilty smile smearing itself across his face.


    Clapping.


    The man behind him was applauding, his bright smile matching Assassin's own.
    eddyak:
    IRUn is not a teenage white girl.
    My gast is well and truly flabbered.

    MJ01:
    You've clearly never been a little girl before but let me clue you in; it doesn't matter how mature you are, when you're a loli your body just sort of wiggles and does cutesy stuff all on its own.

    Dull:
    Kishwahili is beautiful spoken, but written down it looks like you're trying to summon Cthulhu.

  4. #4
    Come on in, the C738H1166N812O203S2Fe's fine. ItsaRandomUsername's Avatar
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    What an artist this one was.


    What a perfect murderer, a natural-born killer.


    It was a masterful feat of slaughter...No, 'mass assassination'. In the space of a few abrupt moments, Assassin had-


    -He had...


    He...


    I made myself watch, until all the familiars were dead. It didnn't take long.


    Assassin stood tall amid the mound of twice-dead bodies, tensing as the unnatural vitality- And the rage- boiled out of him. Not the Mad Enhancement of the Berserkers; This was a cool, reptilian fury,
    something so dead, so displaced from reality that neither anger nor hate had any place in it whatsoever.


    I retched, fighting back nausea. I wanted to purge everything I'd ever eaten; No, at this moment, I never wanted to eat anything ever again.


    Strength. I had to display strength in all things.


    -Iron without. Iron within.


    Forcing a smile on my face, I started to clap. Assassin spun on the spot; His skull-mask met me with the same fool's grin. Did he even feel anything? Or was this the true embodiment of murder, distilled and focused in a human form?


    "Very..." I searched for the words, then found them. "Very,ah, impressive, Assassin. You- you are to be commended."


    He didn't answer. The rifle in his hands spun a circuit, vanishing back within the recesses of his cloak with breathtaking speed. I swallowed at the deadly efficiency of that motion.


    Had to keep moving. Had to think of the mission at hand.


    "We must withdraw," I managed, picking my way through the blended remains. My foot squelched against something, sinking deep into its surface.


    I didn't look down.


    Starbursts of gore flecked my clothes, a private constellation that dripped and ran as I moved.


    Assassin stalked past, wearing every shadow like his cloak. Prowling into the corner ahead, he had never appeared more dangerous, movements betraying a fluid grace no human could ever emulate. Despite the carnage mere moments ago, he was untouched, unmarred by the violence he'd wreaked.


    Absurdly, I wondered who he was. The guns marked him as a Heroic Spirit from this era, but the cloak and the hat...


    Later. Later!


    I drew the Black Barrel and strode out into the corridor. As my eyes adjusted to the waning light, I caught sight of my reflection in a polished illuminator; In that tiny, fish-eyed representation, I looked nervous and edgy, clothes crusted over with drying gore. Dappled white and black in equal measure, I was a lurching thing of soot and dust. A filth-slick revenant, unable to rest.


    Only-


    Only, I wasn't. I just looked the part.


    I took a deep breath, and forced myself to believe it.


    Focus; The first priority was now escape. To do that, I had to neutralize the still-active barrier. There were three ways to do it, none easy:


    One. I could try to penetrate it by force, the same way I entered. Considering how badly I'd been affected the first time through, I didn't relish the thought of trying again.


    Two. I could wait, and hope the caster's mana supply gave out before more monsters, or worse, a Servant, found me. That option didn't hold much appeal, either.


    Three. I could take the fight to the enemy, and either kill or incapacitate him. That would drop the barrier immediately. Of course, there was always the risk that I would lose...


    ...But the longer I considered it, the better option three sounded. With so much of his power invested in the creation of such a powerful defense, the enemy Master couldn't have had much left to protect himself. Furthermore, he was a coward, preferring to attack vicariously through familiars and servitors, than engaging in the infinitely more dangerous pursuit of personal combat.


    Finally, considering that the barrier was still up, he hadn't accomplished his goal yet. All the better to disrupt it now, before he gained some unbeatable advantage. Yes, I had to force a confrontation, and now.


    I drew an untouched talisman from my sadly-diminished supply. This was a simple spell: The creation of a Seeker, a low-level automaton that sought a specified target. Though prone to success, it was rarely used, considering how easily it could be traced back. After all, there was usually little purpose in betraying your own location.


    ...Still, needs must.


    ???, I murmured. Search.


    The paper quivered, reshaping and remolding itself. It expanded gradually, sprouting wings and dull feathers, rustling and shuddering-


    With a loud, raucous squawk, a bedraggled crow took to the air, beating awkward, graceless wings. It swooped off, shedding plumage as it did. It was searching for the nearest living human being; Mere puppets, the familiars would not register. More spirit than flesh, neither would any Servants.


    Racking the Black Barrel meaningfully, casting a glance at Assassin, I sprinted after it.



    *************


    A man, who was not a man, stood upon the roof of a building, and stared at the orb of matter surrounding him.


    The sensation of flight was still uncomfortable; Combined with the foul waves of sensation emanating from the barrier, he was left feeling off-balance and hazy. Since his summoning, he'd had little time to simply stand and stare.


    From his vantage point, his destination seemed serene; A perfect sphere of fog and crimson, hidden in the gloom, waiting for the morning.


    If he had his way, it would never come.


    "[Tartarus]" knowledge not his own informed him.

    "A Noble Phantasm of nightmare. When triggered, the location engulfed is...displaced...from reality. Dimensions-And time-Warp and shift within its confines. Anything entering or exiting is subject to the full effects..."


    So. He'd felt it on the way in; Dog-toothed jaws tweaking in the soft pulp of his mind, whispering at him to succumb to his own internal demons, to spiral away into madness. Except-


    -Except, he had banished them long ago. He'd fought himself-literally- And won.


    ("But it didn't happen like that," A small, cunning voice insinuated. "That never happened.")


    Growling, he shook his head, dispelling the errant thoughts. There was an odd sense of...duality...Within him.


    Two timelines.


    Two lives.


    Two worlds.


    No. Only one...


    He was a Servant. (But he'd been a Master.)


    This was his first summoning. (Yet, he dimly remembered a thousand battles, even one in these very streets.)


    He had a mission to accomplish, a duty to fulfill. That, at least was definite: The doubt slunk away, leaving him focused and centered once more. The symbol of his profession-The bow- Curved in his hands, reassuring in its weight and reality.


    Light flashed within the school, harsh and actinic. Again and again, punctuated by the breathless gasps of an automatic fired without pause. The throatier roar of a machine gun joined in, sending a cobweb of shatterlines scampering across the low line of windows.


    A battle. But against whom?


    Glass belched outward into nothingness, sudden rosettes of gossamer lurching into existence and, just as quickly, vanishing. Stop-motion images of falling bodies and frantic motion, lit by strobing flares.


    Flash. Flash. Pause. Flash. Pause. Flash-Flash. Pause.


    Flash.


    Pause.


    Silence.


    A conclusion, then. A decisive one...


    -He smiled at that, the subtle irony of fate. In his story, there was no beginning, no end. Only the moment mattered: For, when it came down to it, 'now' was the only thing he could trust. Reassured by that thought, he continued his vigil...


    ...And hoped.
    eddyak:
    IRUn is not a teenage white girl.
    My gast is well and truly flabbered.

    MJ01:
    You've clearly never been a little girl before but let me clue you in; it doesn't matter how mature you are, when you're a loli your body just sort of wiggles and does cutesy stuff all on its own.

    Dull:
    Kishwahili is beautiful spoken, but written down it looks like you're trying to summon Cthulhu.

  5. #5
    Come on in, the C738H1166N812O203S2Fe's fine. ItsaRandomUsername's Avatar
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    It got ugly.


    It got ugly so suddenly and so fast, till I wished that I'd gone with Option 1.


    The descent was taking far too long: Perhaps I'd taken a wrong turn, or lost my bearings amongst the snaking corridors and stairways that I'd traveled, unable to tell which would wend its way back toward the exit, and which coiled away in some totally random direction.


    It was true that my senses were senses were jarred by whatever foul energies riddled the area, but my magic didn't lie: Still active, the seeker ignored the distortions and flew ahead, as inexorable as ever. Being lost meant that someone was messing with my mind...


    -And it was working.


    The place was a maze of shadows and angles, asymmetrical clusters of agriculture distorting the expectations and unhinging the senses. It was a black brainstorm of metal struts, intestinal ducts, walls scored by dribbling rivulets of oil and water and stained-glass windows like staring eyes, glaring down on every area in a kaleidoscope of insane colour and surreal iconography. To walk through it unguarded was to be lost in an incoherent labyrinth, dissolving in the guts of some awful creature with concrete for teeth and cabling for sinews.


    This is insane, the voice of reason argued. You're in a school! A normal school!


    I closed my eyes for a moment, trying to disbelieve the scene. I opened them again: And it yet another hallway, lined with moistness and filth, vague suggestions of organic forms jutting from its walls, with slurping doorways pulsing every few moments. No, it wasn't my imagination...The building was growing more alive, the deeper we ventured.


    "Assassin," I vocalized, uncomfortable at the thought. "How far can you see?"


    "Forever." He sounded changed somehow, his reply thick with interference.


    "I meant in practical terms. Can you see anything?"


    It was then, right then, when the wall yawned open like a hungry mouth, wet edges slurping and sucking obscenely, malefic light blazing around its edges. I jerked my arm up to cover it; thumbing the Black Gun's trigger hungrily.


    With unreal precision, it shifted along the ceiling, ducking through and between coils of cabling and pipework. I had the faintest impression of something- Something midnight blue and clothed in lightning, long of limb and hunched of back, with eyes that glowed like rubies and claws like sabers...


    "Kill it!"

    I opened fire with a snarl, enjoying the Black Barrel's shuddering recoil. For once, Assassin was a split-second slower; It actually took a moment for him to join in, barking weapons hurling smoke and flame tears into the ceiling.


    The shape caromed and weaved, tumbling and dodging faster than any living thing could react. It swept from side to side, dipping low to the ground and then pirouetting upwards, coming to a dead halt, then streaking off without appearing to accelerate.


    The hallway surged. After five seconds of the useless barrage, the place was a wreck, shredded channels of craters spewing liquid metal and tight-knit cable bundles, raising crumpled mountains across the walls and floor and gouging shrapnel from every surface.


    -ratatatatatatatatatatatatatatatatat-


    There was a high-pitched whine, followed by a typewriter-chattering. Assassin held something long and silver, and it was a machine gun, suddenly the most beautiful thing I'd ever seen. An elegant sweep raked at the flyer with lead, forcing thick plumes of smoke and dust into sudden dances.


    Dazzled by the fireworks and the destruction, I realized too late that the object- Whatever it was- had evaded every last shell, every last explosion, and every bullet. It moved impossibly, a streak across the smoke and debris that anticipated every shot. It swooped down one last time-


    There was a muffled squawk, and I caught a glimpse of feathers in a clawed grasp, my seeker plucked effortlessly from the air as the thing barreled away. Without thought, I ran after it, still dry-firing the Black Gun futilely at the retreating form.


    "Master, wait!"


    I ignored him. There was no choice, no damned choice!


    A brief turn, leading right next to staircase. I had the impression of something darting into the shaft, a mere flicker of motion. With no other alternative, I ran after it, dropping the empty clip, slamming in another.


    Another squawk, cut off by an ominous snap. Then the sound of frantically beating wings, fading into limp silence. Low and sultry, a woman's laughter echoed mockingly through the enclosed space, seemingly coming from everywhere and nowhere at once.


    I cast a glance back over my shoulder, wondering whether Assassin had caught up. He was falling behind, which was odd; His movements had gone from unlabored grace to something approaching normal speed-


    Realization dawned on me then, an awful truth that made all the hairs on the nape of my neck shiver and stand on end.


    ...Old trick; Separate the Master from the Servant, then-


    And then something cried out in the dark, and on the crest of a premonition I swiveled my head up into the inky abyss and saw it; The winged monster, the flying predator, dropping its shoulders, lifting grasping boots like an eagle's claws, and swooping, disgorging a vile haze of arcane particles and miasmic smog in its wake.


    Ducking hardly seemed worth it. I did it anyway.


    A claw parted my shoulder like jelly, making me cry out. The impact dragged me forward, and briefly I was certain of tumbling over the edge of the railing, flailing downward into the pit. But the raptor-thing was gone in a flash, a sticky trail of crimson hanging threadlike in the air behind it, and I crumpled to the side, gasping and cursing through a haze of pain.


    With vindictive joy, I pumped a vengeful shot at it, ignoring the twin pains in my shoulder. It hit; Or at least, I think it hit, the thing yowling and screaming in fury. The dagger-shape rebounded off the far wall and came at me in a flurry, knife claws an iridescent smear of reflected light, fluted wedge beak keening and howling.


    I watched it with something like fascination, drawing myself up to my full height, and didn't shoot till the thing was almost upon me. Senses too overburdened to aim, I pulled-


    It screamed.


    The world shattered. Astonished, rocked by the force of the howl, I almost fell, vision blurring, teeth rattling and aching. Before I knew what was happening, I was on my back, the smooth ceiling looming over. Frantic, I shook my head to clear the haze, tried to move my arms, tried to rise up, tried to lift the gun but-


    But the beast was on me, pinning me effortlessly. The shot had blasted a hole right through its midriff, a needle-eye that emptied unspeakable fluids on my clothes.


    It was a sleek parody of a hulking knight, aerodynamic body tapered into fluted talons. An avian deathmask regarded me with an aquiline sneer, vapor steaming from twin grilles on either side of its helm. Standing on heavy boots, autoreactive claws flexing at their tips, greaves that tapered toward horn-like knees pistoning above, it was a vulture treading with care, the twin ridges of its cumbersome pack recalling furled wings.


    All impossibly ancient. Impossibly powerful.


    "Wannnnt to eeat your eeeyes..." it hissed, low and breathy and strangely intimate. Claws snapped down toward my face. With a surge of distant horror, I realized it was a girl's voice, distorted by spite and malice.


    I fumbled for a weapon, any damn weapon.


    The attack came from the side, the flash-flicker of a muzzle igniting a galaxy of sparks. The thing pounced aside even as the hail of lead drummed past me, armor whining in protest. Messy craters erupted on its filigreed surface as it spun to face the new threat, momentarily distracted.


    And then there was a hand on my collar, jerking me to my feet with implacable force. I went skidding back in a surge of motion, shoes barely skimming the floor's surface. A glimpse of white mask and swirling fabric-


    The enemy bounded vertically- rising on the wash of her crested engines-gashing at the railing of the spiral steps as it did. Metal bars and splinters went toppling; The rhythmic collapse- koom-koom-koom- like the pounding of a fearful heart. A dervish of blade and flight, it scuttled across the walls like some great spider, blue-black limbs impelled by silent streams of heated air; oozing from its back in superheated ribbons.


    "Rider," Assassin almost spat, the first trace of emotion I'd heard from him. Another gun slid into his hands from his infinite arsenal; I swear that the barrel was at least ten centimeters across. Yet, even the reassurance of more firepower did little to quell my sudden doubts.


    Rider? The Cavalier? The words evoked images of knights or horsemen...Servants who rode on beasts, not Servants who were beasts. Foolish of me to expect hidebound stereotypes; Yet another mistake on my part.


    Another strobing, useless burst of gunfire. From the thing's maniac laughter, equal parts delirious joy and fury, it seemed to be almost enjoying the novelty of being shot at. Mantis claws digging through plaster with the ease of razors through silk, Rider scampered towards us even faster, giggling at the sheer futility of our resistance.


    I rummaged through my mental warehouse, wondering if there was some spell, some sorcery, I hadn¡Çt used yet. What could stop a Servant? Lightning? Fire? Wind? Probably, but I didn't have enough mana left to conjure one of sufficient efficiency-


    Then the idea hit.


    I did have something. Enough to hold off a Servant. Enough, maybe, to slow a demon.


    ...But it had never worked before...


    I tried to be calm, to reach out from the cold centre of my soul, focusing all my will on the shape - but of course that was the wrong technique. I needed not calm, but rage: Sudden and impulsive- And to plan for such a thing was to immediately negate it.


    Now or never.


    Trace On.


    The world slowed and faded away, colors dulling. I fixed my gaze on Rider, feeling the familiar, searing ache as the circuits within my arm ignited. Obscene in its grace, the Servant tensed, muscles bunching and shifting with liquid fluidity beneath its armor. It tensed, cackling as it scissored twin sets of claws together...


    "...Trace..."


    Magic Circuit, Trigger On.


    Sweat beads pricked at my forehead. The barrier was there, as it had always been; In my mind, I fought it, lashing, striking, ripping out with immaterial fists at the gate again and again.


    Analyzing object. Physical data assimilated.


    It had seen me.


    It was coming for me.


    Theory of Sorcery; Recreating-


    Directly.


    Eyes blazing.


    Filling my world.


    Shrieking like a dying child.


    "...ON..."


    With crystal clarity, I thought: I'm dead.


    And then there was the energy I needed, there was the adrenaline and fear and mingled rage, and there was the crackling fist of sorcery, taking form, locking around the gate like a snapping maw, pulling with all its strength. Pulling so hard I felt my eyes fill with blood. Pulling so hard my ears popped and my heart roared in protest. Pulling so hard I thought my bones would shatter. I thought my veins would explode-


    "...RO AIA-"


    There was a violet glow, and something hissed through a convenient window. It was a thin streak of light, so brilliant it seared a glowing afterimage on my retinas-


    Then everything went outwards. There was no fire, no grandiose gout of flame or smoke roiling, mushroom-like, into the hall. There was just a wall- An expanding sphere-of black force, a silent, hungry void that blossomed briefly, drawing in anything it touched.


    Blink.


    The world collapsed upon itself, sucked into a maelstrom that bore down like the dawning of a dark sun. Almost, almost, it nearly brushed against me, so close I could touch it. I felt the stain rippling at the edges of my mind, seeing tiny, baleful eyes, feeling psychic winds battering me, glimpsing the thunderheads of emotion that towered within-


    Blink.


    I was on my knees, retching out clots of blood. The hungry plane of oblivion was drawing at me, inexorable and relentless; It would take all sanity with it, leaving the survivors gibbering and mindless.


    Mercilessly, I dug my fingers deep into the gash on my shoulder; probing and twisting till I was sure I would pass out, feeling fluid warmth spreading across arm and chest. Under such an assault the spiritual pull of the void fled, leaving me scrabbling aside and gagging-


    And it was gone.


    There was a sudden release of pressure, the oppressive atmosphere that plagued the school fading into nothing. An immense sphere had been bitten out of the building, extending from the surface down to the floor. It was a perfect space, cutting through layers of bricks, metal and plaster; Everything within five feet was just gone, erased from existence.


    There was no sign of Rider.


    ************


    The string had been drawn back. The eye had seen, and he had fired.


    The target had ceased to exist.


    The man lowered his bow slowly, muscles untensing in stages. He felt vaguely disappointed, disgusted even; It had been a skilless shot for one of his caliber, almost trivial.


    How ironic...


    He had always favored close-in combat, preferring the elegance, the purity of a blade to all else. Yet, his role-Even his tactics, now- fell back on the dealing of death from range.


    The first strike had served its purpose; Rider was dead. His duty had been discharged. But somewhere in the gaping cavity that had once been solid, his keen eyes glimpsed a second form. Ungainly in its motions, he- It was a male, barely out of his youth- He was barely on his feet, face florid, flushed pink by exertion, and stained by dried gore.


    Only human, the man mused. Just bone and meat, like all the rest.


    A second arrow found the bowstring, reshaping itself in preparation for its first- and final- journey. Again, the bow curved, drawing back into its lethal configuration...


    ...But the arrow never left it.


    There was something about this target-


    He hesitated, brow furrowing. Eager hands paused in their silent efficiency, still trembling in anticipation. A memory, a thought, a name...


    When he'd collected himself enough to take aim again, the target was gone.
    Last edited by ItsaRandomUsername; March 23rd, 2011 at 03:44 PM.
    eddyak:
    IRUn is not a teenage white girl.
    My gast is well and truly flabbered.

    MJ01:
    You've clearly never been a little girl before but let me clue you in; it doesn't matter how mature you are, when you're a loli your body just sort of wiggles and does cutesy stuff all on its own.

    Dull:
    Kishwahili is beautiful spoken, but written down it looks like you're trying to summon Cthulhu.

  6. #6
    Come on in, the C738H1166N812O203S2Fe's fine. ItsaRandomUsername's Avatar
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    I/One Day
    ______________


    Dream...Or is it a memory?


    Before me, a vast wasteland of jet cinders and blackened material, twisted, bulbous, shattered, crushed. The sky is domed, full of rushing, splintering cloud. A moon, as red as a bloodshot eye, rises, climbs across the flitting heavens, and sets in the space of a single breath.


    Buildings all around me. Towers and spires and cyclopean citadels, all ruined, all made of solidified night.


    Countless windows, row upon row, deadlights like empty sockets, giving no reflection, stained by a brush with the consuming darkness.


    Alone in the silence. The ruins all around, the air heavy with ash and decay. Broken glass underfoot.


    Underfoot.


    I remember.


    I start to shake. The crazed soil under my feet is covered in myriad shards of broken glass. Imperfectly, a deranged mosaic, they reflect-


    Something is coming. I can hear it behind me. Something heavy, something fast, skittering and crunching. I want to turn, but the air becomes solid, making thought an effort and every motion sluggish.


    I can see...


    I can see...


    -Eyes. Great, dark bottomless eyes; My father's scowling face filling the sky. Filling the world. Filling my mind with expectation and disappointment.


    "Flawed," the eyes say. "Useless."


    The thing behind me cackles and warbles and giggles, and its claws close around my waist
    .

    ****************

    I lurched awake with a hiss, hands clawing at the air to ward off the nightmares. Cool air brushed across my skin with a bizarre freshness; a sensation of newborn helplessness. I realized slowly that my coat was gone, my gun was disappeared, and I lay in-


    I blinked.


    ...On. I lay on a couch. Quite comfortable, really.


    As I levered myself upright, my feet made contact with the carpet, momentarily unsettling me with it solidity. Here and there, plush tapestries and drapes decorated the walls, spiderlike icons of meaningless heraldry blistering their surfaces. There was an impression of age and mustiness in the air, a staleness that had never left.


    This was the Edefelt mansion. It'd weathered the seasons well since its construction, now almost half a century ago. Like a brooding sentinel, it perched atop a hill directly opposite its twin, casting a wary eye on the city around and below it. It had been that way ever since...


    "...Now, how did that old story go?"


    Two sisters. Both gifted mages, they exploited the Grail system, summoning two sides of the same Servant. By all accounts, they should have won: But then, out of greed, one sister turned on the other, and all was undone...


    Anyway, this building was eventually purchased by the Association; It was a safehouse, a refuge for any sponsored mage in need of a place to stay.


    ...And until the War was over, it was my temporary home. Strictly speaking, I still wasn't quite used to it.


    Shaking off the torpor, I lurched to the nearest window, brushing aside the curtains and shoving it wide. Faint, wan sunlight filtered into the room, followed by a wash of cold air. It was nearing winter, and the first opportunistic flakes of snow were already drifting down from the sky; Thinking fondly of London, I inhaled a glad lungful of cold air.


    I could feel my brain coming back to life. The foggy, deluded thought processes were clearing, will re-exerting itself over the ego. The first traces of memory stirred; Last night, I'd gone to the school and...


    ...And...


    There was something there, something that my mind kept skirting around, unwilling to address directly. Something about a Servant...


    I became aware of a conversation going on, somewhere. At this distance, it was just a long, overlapping drone of indecipherable words, utterly incomprehensible. It was gradually growing in volume, seemingly drawing nearer.


    ...There wasn't anyone else here but me...


    The specter of paranoia loomed, suspicion roiling like black clouds in my mind. With a brief, sudden surge of panic, I straightened with a hiss, clouded thoughts racing, eyes seeking out a weapon, a hiding place, anything!


    With an ominous creak, the door swung open. Like a deer in headlights, I tensed in mid-motion, eyes flickering uselessly around the plush room. Gripping a heavy cut-glass pitcher, I wound up to throw-


    Completely oblivious of the danger, a teenager in a school uniform strode blithely into the room, gracing me with a questioning look.


    "Good morning, Master."


    The voice was calm and deep, oddly monotone; Like a run-down recording, in fact. It sounded like...Like-


    Assassin?


    "...Wait, who are you?"


    ****************


    An hour passed. Some explanations ensured.


    It'd taken me the better part of that time to understand that this-this, well, schoolboy- was the Epic Spirit Assassin, and that I had conjured him from...wherever Servants came from.


    Looking at him, I couldn't quite believe it; This quiet, calm boy bore little resemblance to the blurred god, the death-dealing phantom I'd seen mere hours ago. Judging from his appearance, he actually looked younger than me; If I tried to determine his age, I would say seventeen, maybe eighteen.


    I knew appearance meant nothing, of course. Epic Spirits had the nasty habit of looking nothing like what one expected. After all, according to some sources, King Arthur hadn't exactly been a 'king'...Not in the gender-specific way, at least.


    It was just that my mind had some difficulty of grasping the concept of a teenaged Assassin. With a Noble Phantasm of guns.


    Revived after several cups of coffee, I leaned against the doorjamb of the living room, spooning oatmeal into my mouth. Long stripped of both tapestries and wallpaper, the walls were rough, unvarnished wood, heavily dented and worn.


    The mansion's only television was on. The remote poised in one hand, Assassin was watching the news, sitting ramrod straight and unmoving. If not for the gentle tapping on a finger on the buttons, he would have seemed a living statue.


    "So you really are Assassin," I mused. "But which one? You aren't Hassan, are you?"


    He shrugged, still fixated by the flickering screen.


    "And on today's news...Prominent ecologist Van Fem was found murdered aboard his personal yacht last night. Witnesses say that a figure in bandages was seen leaving the scene-"


    Click.


    A feather-light touch. The television went dark.


    "So much has changed," Assassin murmured, setting the control down. "...So much..." Something flashed across his face; A spasm of some nameless emotion, too brief for me to comprehend.


    -If I'd been paying more attention, I would've called it fear. But of what? And why?


    So many questions...


    Who were you? How- and when did you die? Why were you made an Epic Spirit?


    "Reiji."


    Assassin- No, Reiji- visibly flinched at that word, looking up. I almost shied back at the sudden intensity in his eyes, so out of place in his youthful face. At that moment, I truly believed he was what he claimed; It was a certainty, as solid and undeniable as gravity.


    I didn't blink. Well, not much, anyway, and I had his attention.


    "-That's your name, right? Reiji Azuma? It's more pleasant than 'Assassin', at any rate."


    Slowly, Reiji nodded. He smiled-meaning, his mouth turned up at the corners.


    "Yes. That is my name. You have the advantage of me, Master."


    I exhaled a breath I didn't remember taking. The bowl of oatmeal was growing tepid and lukewarm in my hands; I set it down on the nearest surface, wincing at the slight ache in my shoulder.


    "My name is Ichiro Tanaka." No response. I felt an obscure satisfaction at the lack of recognition. "I'm a sorcerer of the Mage's Association- A warlock, actually, but enough quibbling. And you are?"


    "I am Reiji Azuma. Sometimes, I was called 'Zwei'."


    'Zwei'. German for 'Two'. A designation, a number. Not a name.


    I could have pushed onward. I could have, had I felt the need, forced his story from him with a command mantra. He knew that too; This was a test, a staring contest, too see how far one could push the other.


    There's a time to drive your victory home. There's also a time to quit when you're ahead.


    "Very well, Reiji," I repeated, smiling right back as I stressed the word. Again the nervous flinch, more violent this time. "I'll be out for a while. Is there anything you need?"


    "...Where are you going?"


    "Where else? To see the Manager of the War."


    "You mean...The Heaven's Feel has rules? It has a Manager?"


    "Of course. Where would we be without rules?"


    Reiji shook his head, obviously disbelieving. I watched his reaction with clinical interest, wondering how much of him was still human.


    "Who-who has that authority?"


    "Who else? The Sacred Church, of course."


    I left the words to sink in as I retrieved my battered coat from a hanger. It was much the worse for wear, sporting several new rips and tears; Dried blood crusted the fabric, flaking off as I brushed it. With an irritated sigh, I drew an identical copy from the nearest wardrobe, donning it absently. No weapons. No heavy artillery; After all, this would be a strictly casual visit.


    When I glanced up, Reiji was still staring off into space, lips working soundlessly as he tried to work it out. Somehow, I felt that I'd scored a point.


    "Goodbye, Assassin. I'll see you later."


    ****************


    Assassin sat, and waited without impatience. He waited until he heard the door close, and the lock click shut; He waited till he was sure his Master was gone.


    There. The mansion was quiet. once more. Nothing and no-one to disturb his train of thought. And yes, now perhaps he could reflect on the responses to his work. He could skulk here in this faded building, the floors long since worn into smoothness, and consider his options like a painter scheming to mix new colors.


    Since awakening in this world, something had eaten at him, gnawing at his psyche. The suspicion stole over him by degrees- A protracted wave of uncertainty and doubt-and he suppressed it over and over, pushing it down into his guts.


    He couldn't fool himself forever.


    Adrift upon the trance in the Grail system, he'd been resolutely unable estimate how long he had spent in silent incarceration. Time moved differently there; A day's slumber in its coiling belly could easily mean a month's passage in crude reality.


    Very slowly, on unsteady legs, he crossed over to the calendar dangling on the wall. Hung at a jaunty angle, the white paper glowed in the sunlight, almost winking at him mischievously.


    11th October.


    Two words. So simple.


    Reiji growled, absorbing this unwelcome information. An absence of six months was far greater than he'd feared; Anything could have happened in the intervening period. It had been far, far beyond his most fearful approximations, but that merely meant he had to move faster-


    And then an ugly afterthought arose, and he paused to turn back to the chart.


    1984. It had been 1984 when...'They' had arrived. When everything had happened...


    For a moment, so great was his hope, so great was his need, that he actually saw the elusive numbers in front of him. A momentarily flicker of relief, pure and unadulterated, arose within him-


    ...But then he looked again, and the truth was revealed.


    2036.


    11th October, 2036.


    The bottom fell from his mind.


    He fled, running blindly, mindlessly through the building. The power surged within him, and he was a phantom, a voiceless spirit phasing in and out of solidity at incredible speed. He vented himself through exertion, and when the violence overcame him, he ripped off one sleeve and began slowly, precisely, cutting grooves into the exposed flesh of his arm.


    It didn't help.


    Fifty years had passed.
    eddyak:
    IRUn is not a teenage white girl.
    My gast is well and truly flabbered.

    MJ01:
    You've clearly never been a little girl before but let me clue you in; it doesn't matter how mature you are, when you're a loli your body just sort of wiggles and does cutesy stuff all on its own.

    Dull:
    Kishwahili is beautiful spoken, but written down it looks like you're trying to summon Cthulhu.

  7. #7
    死徒二十七祖 The Twenty Seven Dead Apostle Ancestors Grant's Avatar
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    Great. I was worried this was lost. Now if only it got updated too.
    Puella Magi Madoka Magica is basically what Silent Hill looks like through the eyes of the Pyro.

  8. #8
    Come on in, the C738H1166N812O203S2Fe's fine. ItsaRandomUsername's Avatar
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    Dead fic is dead. :'(

    But at least I can re-post it for the reading pleasure of the masses!
    eddyak:
    IRUn is not a teenage white girl.
    My gast is well and truly flabbered.

    MJ01:
    You've clearly never been a little girl before but let me clue you in; it doesn't matter how mature you are, when you're a loli your body just sort of wiggles and does cutesy stuff all on its own.

    Dull:
    Kishwahili is beautiful spoken, but written down it looks like you're trying to summon Cthulhu.

  9. #9
    Come on in, the C738H1166N812O203S2Fe's fine. ItsaRandomUsername's Avatar
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    Something fluttered at the edge of my perceptions, pulling me from my memories and jolting me awake. I awoke sluggishly, reluctantly; The recollections had not been pleasant, and I was troubled to discover they had done little to calm me. In fact, meditation had merely stoked the flames higher...


    No more thinking, I decided, chiding myself. Time enough for brooding later; there were far more pressing matters to attend to, after all. Thus resolved, I went to stand-


    -Light. A searing bolt of brilliance, blinding after hours of gloom. I hissed at the sudden shift, reflexively clutching at my eyes. It didn't help: Even through the barrier of my hands, I could still feel waves of illumination beating at me, multicolored specks spotting my vision.


    "None may escape the brilliance of God's light," a voice quoted.


    "...For to do so means to embrace the outer darkness," I finished, feeling the worm of apprehension coiling in my guts. I was edgy, restless-


    ...That, of course would not do.


    The light dimmed with aching slowness, ever-so-slowly dulled to a mercifully faint glow. Blinking away spots, I rose, but did not turn. Not yet: Not till I regained my sight. Again the gentle rustling of fabric across tiles, drawing ever closer...


    -I turned.


    "Good morning, Ortensia-san."


    She inclined her head in silent acknowledgement, hands folded within the sleeves of her black cassock. Pale, white-haired, she seemed an alabaster statue, like the carved figures of luminaries that adorned the halls of the Academy. If not for the almost imperceptible motion of her eyes, I could have almost believed it.


    Silence.


    That distant, cold gaze fixed on me, and I almost quailed; there was something ominous, something almost reptilian about those luminous eyes, one that made my hairs prickle and my skin try to crawl. Vague, half-formed thoughts and nameless emotions bubbled in the back of my mind...


    "Enough," I spoke sharply, glancing away. "No more games."


    To my immense relief, the sensation faded away. When I looked back, the creeping unease was gone. So was the ominous specter I'd glimpsed, so thoroughly that I doubted its existence. Without it...


    Arisa Ortensia, Knight of the Church, Manager of the Sixth Heaven's Feel, looked just as I'd remembered her; A calm, kindly girl, with a gentle smile and a personality to match. Though somewhere around my own age (If the records could be believed), she looked younger than that, the lines of worry and experience not yet etched into her delicate face.


    "Ichiro-kun? Did you say something?"


    I blinked, the memory already hazy and receding. What, exactly, had I been doing? Something about eyes...


    "...No, nothing. Just...Just talking to myself."


    She glanced at the dark patch at my shoulder, where the bandage hadn't quite stopped the wound from bleeding.


    "You're hurt."


    "-It's nothing, Ortensia-san."


    "...Did something bad happen last night, then?"


    Last night?


    Did she already know?


    Of course she does, I answered myself. How could she not? The noise of battle; The shredded corpses I'd left in my wake...The remnants of my summoning circle and the dozens of bulletholes riddling the walls; Not to mention, of course, the utter destruction of part of the building.


    -Yes, I couldn't have left a more blatant trail if I'd tried. I felt a momentary surge of both awe and pity, wondering how most effort it'd taken her to cover that up.


    ...Now that you mention it..."


    Almost reflexively, I placed a hand on my arm, checking the Command Mantras. They were still there, of course; Two of them, at least.


    "I've summoned my Servant," I said, all at once. "I'm the last Master, Arisa-san."


    "Of course you are," Arisa murmured, a small smile tugging at her lips. What kind of smile though, I couldn't say.


    "The doors closed when you entered, didn't they? Congratulations, Ichiro-kun."


    "Was there really ever any doubt?"


    "No. Never in your case, Mage of the Association; You've been through worse, hmmm?"


    My breath caught in my throat at those sly words. There were hidden depths to the girl, I realized belatedly. Why would she- No, how did she know? Even the Association had tried their best to silence it-


    ...But the Church had been there on that day...


    "As a Sealing Agent, I'e seen a lot of bad things," I managed, trying to brush it off as nothing. "It comes with my position, you could say... "


    My voice trailed off to nothing, and I stopped talking, embarrassed. Some things don't bear description.


    "..So, uh...Yes, I've been though worse."


    Much worse, I added silently. Though not as an Agent.


    "If you say so, Ichiro-kun." To her credit, Arisa didn't laugh, nodding with what seemed liked perfect sincerity. "Now, about the Command Mantras... "


    Yes. Enough casual conversation; It was time to return to more pressing business. Obediently, I rolled up my coat's sleeve, revealing the twin sigils still emblazoned on my flesh.


    "Is this enough? I mean, I don't have to bring my Servant, do I? I..."


    Abruptly, I realized I was babbling, and shut my mouth with an audible click. Even at the best of times, I'd never been used to the irregular start-stop rhythms of conversation; My place was in combat, or behind a book. That, I could understand. That, I could deal with.


    With the delicate precision of a surgeon, Arisa gripped my wrist, slender fingers turning my arm this way and that. Suddenly, she leaned close, uncomfortably close, so near her hair almost brushed my cheek, so near I could smell her clean scent-


    All right. I had to admit, that by any standards of the word, Arisa Ortensia was quite attractive. If she'd been anyone else...


    I quashed the thought with an embarrassed cough; It seemed utterly inappropriate to even consider such things about the Manager of the War. Still, it didn't quite go away, lingering much longer than expected.


    "They're genuine," Arisa concluded, releasing my arm. She glanced up, giving me a curious glance. "But...Only two? I thought most Master have thr-"


    "Everything's in order, right?" I interjected smoothly, nothing but politeness in my voice. "I apologize, but the Association requires a daily report on my status. If there's nothing else..."


    I heard a soft, distinctively exasperated sigh.


    "Well, there was a package for you, Ichiro-kun, but I wasn't sure you would be interested...Seeing how you were in such a hurry..."


    "...I really have to be going, so-"


    "It's from Tohsaka-san.


    A beat. My mind finally caught up with my mouth, and I stopped in mid-sentence.


    "There's a what? From who?"


    *****************


    The package, such as it was, remained unopened.


    It was a case, of sorts. A blued-metal cylinder more than a half-meter in length, devoid of either scrollwork or decorations. Secured at either end by twin knots, a leather strap coiled around the tube, ostensibly for ease of carrying. The only flaw on its featureless surface was a thin line around the circumference of the whole container, neatly bisecting it, yet so fine as to be almost imperceptible.


    And, right at the spot where the two halves met, an official-looking seal clasped it shut, a seal that literally resonated with killing force. Ominous, crackling with baleful enchantments, it loomed like a thunderhead on my senses, unsubtle in its silent threat.


    I nodded, unsurprised; Anyone but the designated recipient would've likely met with brief, violent retaliation. But I wasn't the wrong person; It was meant for me, after all. My curiosity piqued, I reached for it-


    ...And stopped, the ugly shade of paranoia cackling in my mind.


    "It's from Tohsaka-san..."


    Tohsaka.


    One of the original three families involved in the creation of the Grail. If anyone was truly up for the Heaven's Feel, it would be them.


    -But then, why the gift to an obvious competitor? Was this a trap? I had a sudden, hideously vivid vision of my own death, flayed alive by unspeakable energies in the house of God, just another sinner struck down by divine judgement...


    I cast a sidelong glance at Arisa, noting her intense, almost expectant expression. Did she know what I was thinking? Another part of the trap, perhaps? I'd never heard of the Church interfering in the War, but-


    Don't think about it!


    With an almost convulsive lurch, I closed my fingers round the tube and pulled, involuntarily squeezing my eyes shut against the pain to follow-


    The seal broke.


    With a click, the segments slid apart noiselessly, with a whisper like oiled silk.


    ...And nothing happened. No arcing lightning bolts, no holocaust of unnatural flame. I exhaled all at once, awash with relief. Opening my eyes, I looked-


    "Ah."


    A soft sound, merging a creak with a sigh. My vision blurred; Dimly, with surreal awareness, I felt tears touch my eyes. I reached out trembling hands and, as if fearing the prize might be a dream- A cruel illusionist's trick-settled them upon the case's surface, testing its solidity.


    It was a sword, of sorts. A pitch-black length of mercurial metal, polished and undecorated, burning with an eerie non-light. To either side of its razor edge rose tall needles, jagged-edged and straight, saber-blades dipped in oil.


    A single teardrop of ruby-red was set into the sword's hilt, suspended above the wielder's hand by an intricate lattice of ebony. Smooth and unblemished, it looked almost organic, as if it had not been cut but grown, molded to glorious life in some secret garden.


    Despite the dismal lighting of the church, despite the shadows cast, it burned. It burned with an inner light, unconfined by sight alone. It flooded the visual spectrum, dazzling me without even passing my eyes.


    It bathed me in such peace, in such confidence and assurance, that the shivering of my limbs ceased, the furrow of my brow smoothed away, and I blinked aside a tear of serenity from my eyes.


    "Tyrfing," I whispered, fingers caressing the hilt. I felt the sword respond, blade purring to hungry life at my touch. Reality vanished, in that timeless instant. In a twilight world of endless calm, I was complete.


    Gently, almost hesitantly, a pale hand touched my shoulder.


    "...Ichiro-kun?"

    I didn't respond, still lost to a tranquil dream. My hand still held Tyrfing; I didn't want to ever release it, to divorce myself from the untremored serenity it imparted.


    "Ichiro-kun? Are you..."


    But I did. I let go, and felt the weight of the world pressing upon me once more, the burden of reality settling once more on my shoulders.


    I heaved a shuddering breath, fighting down a glad sob. Pressing a hand to my face, I rode out the tide of conflicting emotions, not trusting myself to speak. I could Arisa's eyes on me, wondering and a little concerned.


    What was wrong with me? I couldn't...Couldn't behave like this in front of the Manager...


    "I'm alright," I managed, past the lump in my throat. "I mean, yes, I'm fine...Right."


    No answer.


    I blinked. "Uh, is there something on my face?"


    Arisa shook her head, an amused tone entering her voice. "No, no...It's just that- Well, it's the first time I've seen you smile. It's a bit surprising."


    I laughed at that, good-naturedly. I couldn't help it. I felt unfocused, giddy...And happier than I'd ever remembered for four years.


    "Thank you, Arisa-san."


    "Hahhh...There's no need to thank me; It's Tohsaka-san who-"


    I snapped the case shut, sealing away Tyrfing once more. It rode easily on my good shoulder; It was a familiar weight, a good weight, though one that still threw off my motions somewhat. It didn't matter; I would learn to carry it again, as I had once.


    "No, really. This is important to me, Arisa-san. So...Thank you for returning it."


    "Don't-don't say such strange things..."


    Suddenly bustling with activity, Arisa turned away, busily polishing away at the already-sparkling altar. Bemused, I shrugged, rising to my feet.


    "Well, until next time, Ortensia-san. May your God be with you."


    I bowed a final time, and made my way back down the aisle. I'd almost made it to the door when Arisa spoke again.


    "Um...Ichiro-kun..."


    "Yes?"


    "That sword...It used to belong to you, right?"


    "Yes."


    "Did- Did Emiya Shirou make it for you?"


    I didn't answer. It wasn't a question, just a stepping-stone to the heart of the matter.


    "About that...I've been meaning to ask...But I never found the right time..."


    I knew what she was about to say. It was the same question everyone who knew me wanted to know, another fragment of the legacy that dogged my steps.


    Here it comes, I thought.


    "I've read about him, Ichiro-kun. I've reviewed all his cases from end to end, and I have so many queries. And other matters-"


    And there it came.


    "You don't have to tell me now...Maybe we could dine together and talk; There was so much about him that has been omitted. And, as you're-Well, you- I thought you could give me some personal insight."


    "Perhaps," I answered noncommitantly, uncomfortable at the direction the conversation was taking.


    "And, about 'that incident'..Five years ago..."


    I'd been waiting for that. Still, hearing it, I winced.


    The Incursion. That's what they all asked. Every last sorcerer I met; That's what they all wanted to know. I thought I'd forgotten, but still the questions came, and still they conjured the memories anew for me.


    Damn their interest, it was over and done with.


    Emiya Shirou was already dead.


    Like it or not, that was truth. Beyond that, the details no longer mattered.


    I stopped in mid-stride, looking back over my shoulder. For a moment, I considered whether or not to answer.


    But what harm could it do? Besides, it was already over...And I did owe her a debt for the sword...


    "Five years ago," I began, keeping my voice light and casual. For a moment, it was physically impossible to go on; I paused while shaping the words, ignoring how they stuck like barbed hooks in my throat.


    "...I wasn't there at the end. No-one was."


    There. I'd said it. I could sense the sudden confusion behind me, the white noise of uncomprehending surprise.


    Why? was the next question forthcoming. I answered before it came, beating her to the punch.


    "He wouldn't let me," I concluded, tightening Tyrfing's straps, doing anything I could to take my mind off the past.


    And then, with that sentence still ringing in the air, I left.
    eddyak:
    IRUn is not a teenage white girl.
    My gast is well and truly flabbered.

    MJ01:
    You've clearly never been a little girl before but let me clue you in; it doesn't matter how mature you are, when you're a loli your body just sort of wiggles and does cutesy stuff all on its own.

    Dull:
    Kishwahili is beautiful spoken, but written down it looks like you're trying to summon Cthulhu.

  10. #10
    闇色の六王権 The Dark Six lethum's Avatar
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    Is this all of it? Just when things began to get to the meat of the plot...makes me wanna learn fic necromancy even more...-_-

  11. #11
    The Jester Kieran's Avatar
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    He had a few bits on my old "Enishi" thread, after I let it go . . . I don't know if it's worth trying to find those too, or not.

  12. #12
    Come on in, the C738H1166N812O203S2Fe's fine. ItsaRandomUsername's Avatar
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    There's more, don't worry. I'm just gonna post more of it tomorrow~

    Or whenever I feel like it.
    eddyak:
    IRUn is not a teenage white girl.
    My gast is well and truly flabbered.

    MJ01:
    You've clearly never been a little girl before but let me clue you in; it doesn't matter how mature you are, when you're a loli your body just sort of wiggles and does cutesy stuff all on its own.

    Dull:
    Kishwahili is beautiful spoken, but written down it looks like you're trying to summon Cthulhu.

  13. #13
    Come on in, the C738H1166N812O203S2Fe's fine. ItsaRandomUsername's Avatar
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    [III/ Engage]
    ____________________


    The city at night.


    At this time, Fuyuki should have been a sea of illumination. With the hundreds of lights cast from every shop, every vehicle and every screen, the bustle of city life should have continued unabated even into the witching hours of the night.


    Instead, the tiny pinpricks of streetlights and lamps did nothing except to make the darkness dirty.


    Not a soul stirred. The silence was utter, complete, unbroken even by the nocturnal activities of night creatures. On either side, buildings lay dark and still, curtains drawn shut across windows like closed eyes.


    It was into this twilight world I ventured, seemingly the sole occupant of a dead world. Without conscious thought, without any effort at all, I slipped easily into the role of a Sealing Agent- One who operated outside the common sense of of the world.


    This patrol, a circuit of the city, was highly dangerous. Conventional wisdom would've encouraged a defensive approach; Holing up in a safe haven until only one other Master was left, then moving in for the kill. But...


    -The Grail War was about more than just survival. It was about worthiness, about who deserved the Grail, instead of who merely possessed it. Through combat, the Servants and the Masters proved their ability. In the fullness of time, the Grail would reveal itself to them...


    If they survived.


    Hence, this nocturnal excursion. I consoled myself by reasoning out its strategic advantages, too; It would serve to further familiarize Assassin with the layout of the city, and allow me to accurately determine the efficiency of my strategies and my equipment.


    I'd already made my preparations, shedding casual clothes for the safety of a reinforced vest. A verse of scripture, sealed in a gold reliquary on a chain- Supposedly an amulet of protection-hung around my neck, hopefully granting me a measure of protection from hostile magic. The inside of my coat was lined with a layer of wire mail, rendering it far harder to cut; In a tradeoff between protection and mobility, I left it half-open, instead of completely secured.


    My three main weapons were already with me. The Black Barrel Replica rested in its holster, a magazine already slid into the handgrip, with another six in the loops of my belt. Besides sheaves of paper talismans, touch-coded for easy access, the folds of my coat also concealed my AZOTH knife- Another gift from the Association.


    ...And, finally, Tyrfing. Never far from my grasp, the sword's weight was a constant presence at my side, the strap digging into my much-bandaged left shoulder. I didn ft mind; The discomfort kept me awake, kept me focused. Besides, what with the weight of the Black Barrel and my other equipment, it was the only way I could balance.


    Assassin hadn't approved. He hadn't said anything, not with words, but I felt his doubt through our tenuous linkage. Considering my fairly disappointing performance against Rider, I couldn't really blame him; It'd been five years since I last used a blade, even one as fine as Tyrfing.


    My skills had undeniably atrophied through lack of practice. I had been both embarrassed and dismayed at how clumsy, how awkward my technique had become. Still, he didn ft-couldn't-know about the blade fs potent enchantments, the spells that made it slice (admittedly with effort) metal and rock like cloth, and guided it unerringly when drawn and used in anger...


    I caught myself. I was trusting my life to an object? It was a tool, not a crutch; First and foremost, I had to rely on myself-My skills, my magic-instead of some ancient relic from a forgotten age. Briefly, I wondered what my father would have thought-


    ...He would have been ashamed...


    I shook my head, and blotted out the squirming shame before it hit. I was getting good at that.


    Master.


    It wasn't a very loud word, but it reached my mind directly, bypassing the medium of my ears. In belated reflex, I glanced around, trying to pinpoint the voice- But of course, there was nothing. I couldn't see Assassin, unless he wanted to be seen.


    As if in reassurance, there was a brief disturbance in the shadows to my left-Very slight, very subtle, but still present. I caught a glimpse of white-The ivory of a skull mask, perhaps?


    "Yes?" I inquired, my voice low, almost inaudible. For the benefit of any watchers, I cupped a hand to my ear, as if speaking into a handphone. It was unlikely that the display would've fooled anyone-Not that there was anyone, considering the curfew and rumors of an alleged serial killer stalking the streets-but best to be cautious.


    ...I can sense something....


    -It was troubling me, something I couldn ft quite put my finger on. Somehow, Assassin-No, Reiji's- very presence was a constant source of disquiet. Oh, he was unfailingly polite, and considerate enough not to intrude. His skills were impeccable, just as would be expected of a Heroic Spirit, but...


    But. That was the damnable thing...I just couldn't understand why he unnerved me, and I was rarely patient in the face of the incomprehensible.


    Master?


    His voice. That was it.


    Reiji Azuma, Assassin, or whatever else he was...He spoke with my inner voice, the narrative of my thoughts.


    "Continue," I suggested, biting down an edge of impatience. Calm, not haste...Focus was the key. Was always the key.


    A disturbance, nearby; A large one. Eight people. Except...


    The voice trailed off, sounding puzzled. Except? I mouthed, not voicing the words.


    ...There's only one heartbeat.


    One heartbeat, but eight bodies. That meant one human, and seven...What? Undead? Constructs?


    Servants?


    Do Servants have hearts? I wondered absurdly, reaching for the Black Barrel.


    "Where are they?"


    To the west.


    I glanced in the appropriate direction, and sighed. We fd made good progress through the night, cutting through most of Miyamachou and crossing the Miongawa river into Shinto. Behind lay the single bridge that connected both districts; I had insisted on crossing it early, to avoid exposing ourselves to the enemy. The only possible location left was-


    "The park, " I muttered, shaking my head with grim resignation. "It had to be the park.... "


    *******************


    In the morning, Fuyuki Central Park was a pleasant place for families, to while away the lazy afternoons. A pearl of serenity in the heart of the urban district, it was a usual location to relax and unwind, to enjoy the beauty of nature for all-too-brief moments. With its sculpted landscape and artfully manicured grass, it seemed somehow divorced from the reality around it, calling to mind images of a quieter, more pastoral time...


    At night, however, everything changed.


    At night, Fuyuki Central Park was entirely devoid of people. There was a sense of...Well, wrongness about the place, one that easily held the masses at bay. Never overtly, never noticeably, the good citizens knew well enough to avoid the place during the twilight hours.


    It was once said that the Park contained a single seed, taken from the Forest of Einnishae. Despite several attempts to prove this, there had never been any evidence - But it was true that pets (and sometimes people) went missing, and the place was always oddly clear of litter...


    Above, the moon, shining pearl-white; Like ice, like alabaster.


    Beneath, another circle; A perfect piece of metal, the centre ringed by the hungry barrels of weapons. Six golems, praetorian monstrosities with bodies molded in polished silver, bulging with stylized representations of muscles, faceless heads swarming with wires and aerials, twitching like antenna as they tasted the air.


    No ramshackle homunculi, these-Never human, their very movements spoke volumes of both their efficiency and their cost. Each iron-fused hand hefted a weapon, auto-racking at mechanical command. Optic-puckered faces twisted to track their target with soulless efficiency, ready to envelope the killing zone in a six-way pattern of fire and death.


    At their centre, two forms. Astride a cycle like a landbound torpedo, a figure sat motionless, the smoked-glass faceplate of a helmet revealing nothing. One gloved hand caressed the throttle in an idle gesture-The other hung open and empty to the side, as if beneath notice.


    Slowly, the rider's gaze panned back and forth, regarding the impressive show of force arrayed around it. As if in resignation, it nodded, ever-so-slightly, the leather of its bodyglove creaking at the brief motion. Utterly anonymous within the all-concealing suit, not a single centimeter of flesh was exposed to the night's chill.


    The hand twisted the throttle, and the cycle rumbled to life-


    And then a head appeared from outside the circle; An unarmored female, almost laughably fragile in contrast to the lethal array of automatons. The rider took her in with a brief glance- Then, dismissing her, its focus returned to the far more immediate threats, the rider tensed.


    "I know what you are," the woman said. Her eyes were wide, her skin bleached with cold and fear, but her voice sounded strong and certain. There was a certain quality in her elegant features; A determination, an arrogance that brooked no disagreement. It was as integral to her as her reddish-blonde hair, or the trailing robes she wore like a second skin...


    -It marked the lineage of the Edelfelts.


    Almost imperceptibly, the rider slumped. Something-the shadow of a sigh, perhaps-rustled just beyond hearing.


    She smiled at the response, gesturing imperiously at her silent guardians. In smooth, regulated motions, limbs bristling with firearms and blades lowered slightly, ready to rise again in an instant. With admirable composure, the woman crossed her arms, one hand rubbing absently at the unmarked flesh of her left arm.


    "So, what have we here? A wayward Servant, separated from his Master?"


    Silence. She shrugged, infuriatingly calm.


    "Lost...Or searching?"


    The rider started, faceplate looking up-then outward, into the gloom that enveloped the rest of the park. It caught itself, but too late.


    "...I see."


    Somewhere in the distance, fire flickered, a pinprick of unnatural illumination flaring, then fading. The woman noted this with satisfaction, turning back to the rider with a smirk.


    "It fs too late for your Master...But it's not too late for you."


    The figure cocked its head to the side, as if curious.


    "Even if you escape, you'll just fade away. This - this agnostic world is no place for an Epic Spirit. Without something, someone as anchor, the Heaven's Feel cannot be won."


    The cycle's engine faded from a roar to a low grumble, muttering grouchily to itself. The etching of a running hare on its side caught the dim light, seeming to shift and move-


    With the atmosphere of one driving a dagger home, she delivered her next words with the utmost reasonableness; "...Be my Servant, and-"


    -The first golem collapsed, diced by the casual swipe of a halberd. The second rotated like a spinning top, autoloaders funneling ammunition to eager weapons, but the blade hissed up from the floor, rising up within its reach like a wraith. Connectors severed, its own weight sliced it in two, and it clattered dead to the floor.


    From behind it...


    Retaliation came with frightening speed. Already locked on target, the remaining four sprinted clear, drawing new trajectories on the threat; With an eerie lockstep, they fanned out to surround and isolate it, rotating torso and eerily static arms quick to draw a bead.


    They opened fire, and the world became noise and light. Fusillades of coherent light and pearlescent tongues of luminous flame crisscrossed in a hideously efficient pattern, the tumult of detonating munitions dismantling the lone vehicle. Fire and shrapnel surged outward on a tide of broken metal and whirling sparks; At its heart, a sooty chrysanthemum blossomed, tumbling upward in a plume of greasy, foul-smelling smoke.


    And from the wreckage, before Edelfelt's dazzled senses could recover, there was the screech of tearing metal- Limned by a halo of flame, burning like phosphor, the errant Servant surged toward her. A black thing riling in agony at the heart of an inferno, it moved with the speed of agony, something sharp and deadly glittering in its hands-


    She yelped, backing away, arms held up in primal, useless warding.


    "Protect me! Protect me!"


    The machine-man tilted heads to regard their controller, and swiveled jointed legs toward her. Blessed with the vapidity of machines and the unimaginable strength of metal, the golems did not think- They moved, whirlwinds speeding to her defense. They were fast, these toy soldiers; Fast and well-made.


    "Kill it!" A trembling finger stabbed at the charred figure, proclaiming a death sentence. "Keep it away!"


    Without thought for dignity, all feelings of invincibility abruptly dispelled, Edefelt staggered through the machine's midst and ran for her life.


    *******************


    Noise.


    The crisp bark of gunfire. The acrid stench of ozone.


    I felt myself tense, muscles bunched and ready for combat. It was eerily familiar, all of it; If not for the unexpected prickle of cold air against my face, I would have been back there, in the convulsing, shuddering streets-


    Focus!


    Fuyuki, not-


    The present, not the past.


    Master, should I-


    "No!" I almost snapped. "Do not reveal yourself. Wait for my command."


    I felt Assassin's presence withdraw, leaving with but a single voice in my mind. Unaccountably, a sharp spike of relief flamed; There'd been far too much confusion, two wildly different conversations overlapping and running together. Being alone- Truly alone- seemed like a belated blessing.


    I sprinted forward, my footfalls muffled by the soft grass. The park was unaccountably bare, except for the occasional stands of trees or bushes- There was no cover, no concealment near the cobbled path that ran through the area; Following the yellow brick road would have been a suicidal act, especially in a hostile situation like this.


    Carefully picking my way through the undergrowth, I felt the familiar bitter tang of sorcery, and something else-Smoke? Fuel?


    Gasoline, I concluded, puzzled. There'd been no tire tracks, none that I could see. Then, why-


    One more scent. One unmistakable, overpowering. Coppery, rich in metal...The unique smell of spilt blood. I felt a strangeness descending, a feeling of unreality; The world both sharpened and receded at the same time, a veil withdrawing from my vision.


    A metallic chime pealed out in the darkness nearby-Something being dropped?- and with it came the sluggish retort of a body, collapsing to the ground. One hand reaching for the Black Barrel, I turned toward it, my pulse spiking in morbid anticipation.


    It'd gone quiet, an unnatural tranquility that enfolded the area. No birds cawed; Even the trees and the long grass failed to rustle in the night wind. My feet slowed, as if reluctant to proceed-Something unspeakable had happened, and the entire park had recoiled, like a vast, permeable membrane struck a heavy blow.


    I realized I was holding my breath.


    Another step, pushing my way through a particularly stubborn bush, and-


    My foot slipped, sliding on something moist and slick. Biting back a startled exclamation, I glanced down in absurd annoyance, noticing how a sticky, colorless ooze issued from my shoe.


    I stepped on something...Something soft and pink, already turning grey and dead in the night's cold...Curved in delicate, concave curls, like the inside of a seashell-


    It was an ear.


    Time did a slowing-down jig.


    With brittle calm, I looked up, tracing the fragment to its source...


    There.


    The spongy tissue was crushed under my shoe, forgotten.


    A form, or the suggestion of one. My steps, shuffling, inexorable.


    It was broken. Like the jumbled pieces of a puzzle- No, but a puzzle has a shape. This was so mutilated, so defiled, that only the furthest stretch of imagination could fve envisioned it alive.


    It had been a woman once, judging by what little of her clothing remained; Scraps of fine cloth, splashes of color amid the dullness of meat.


    Her hands were gone. An eye had been put out; Already glazed in death, one blue iris still stared from the cleft ruin of her face, untouched. One foot hung a single scrap of sinew, stopping short-just barely-of amputation.


    I had to turn away, choking down a rising wave of bile. When I could look again (and it took a while), I forced myself to see not the whole, but the fine details, minor as they were.


    Someone had done a hasty, but thorough job of looting the body. A wide strip of abraded fabric at the waist told of a belt; A ragged hole in the remaining ear once contained an earring. Even the broken fingers, scattered underfoot amid gears and rusting metal, had worn rings once...


    Gears and rusting metal?


    "A fine night, is it not?"


    A voice. Firm, composed, resonant; A voice of calm authority, of assurance.


    I switched around, cursing myself. I didn ft go for a weapon- The speaker had me, and he knew it.


    With ominous slowness, he strode into view; Displaying a flair for dramatics, he leaned back as he walked, appearing one piece at a time.


    The first glimpse I had was of shoes. Well-tooled leather, emerging from the shadows into the pool of light from the overhead lamps. Only one foot moved; The other lagged behind, scraping the earth like a trailing weight.


    The rest of the man revealed itself; A tall, sturdy frame, clad in a heavy overcoat. A leonine face, weathered but still powerful-His imposing stature was further enhanced by a mane of grey-streaked hair, a measure of age-granted authority.


    I didn't move, taking his measure. He moved with the stultified discomfort of the burdened, hampered by his limp. Still not used to it, I thought, my hands open and empty by my sides- His, I noted with a start, were thrust in his pockets.


    "A pleasant night," I answered, noncommitant. With measured caution, I half-turned, reducing my profile, the collar of my coat already upturned to conceal my face.


    He started, a stifled gasp, and I knew he had seen the body. I had expected shock, maybe accusing horror...


    -Not a low, dry chuckle. The slack lips curled in a smirk, and his eyes glimmered with secret humor. Stooping slightly, he glanced at the corpse's face, his amusement muted but evident.


    "Ah, so you've already started? " The gray-haired head waggled back, then across in mock sadness. "Poor Luvia...She's lost so many daughters. Whatever will she say?"


    Luvia? The name was vaguely familiar, but unimportant now.


    "You flatter me, good sir." I ventured, feeling the black gun's bulge against my hip. If I could just reach it...


    "I'm no perpetuator; Just a curious bystander, in the wrong place at the wrong time..."


    He laughed, a deep belly laugh. Overhead, the leaves rustled; Startled, birds took flight, shattering the quiet with wingbeats.


    "Whatever should I do, young man?" He held up his hands as if waving, displaying the thick blood that coated them. "I've already seen off one troublesome youth today...Still, what fs one more?"


    "Who are you?" I wondered aloud. He spoke in perfect, accentless Japanese, his features so grizzled and worn as to be impossible to place- Dangerous, certainly, but whether as a magician or just a conventional killer...


    "Abraham van Einzbern." He bowed, sweeping the duster of his coat back like a cape. "At your service, though I fear our meeting will be brief."


    Einzbern. Another one of the three families responsible for the Heaven fs Feel...Eternally seeking the Third Magic to restore their fortunes, they have participated in every War...


    Abraham von Eizenbern. The head of the Dimensional Physics research department. A scholar, a scientist; But not a fighter.


    "Ichiro Tanaka," I answered, inclining my head in a curt nod. Already, I was calculating ranges, percentages, angles, gauging my chances.


    ...I caught myself, just in time. I was still thinking like a lone fighter, forgetting I had Assassin to support me- But where was he?


    "...Tanaka, Tanaka..." Einzbern tapped his chin reflectively, lost in thought. "Your name sounds famil- Ah, I remember now. The family of puppet masters...You're Emiya's boy, aren ft you?"


    Always the same greeting...The same questions...


    I smiled, mirthless. "The very same."


    He dies, I concluded. It wasn't a conscious decision; It wasn't even a logical one. Yet, somewhere in the murky depths of my mind, I knew that Abraham Von Einzbern had to be killed. It was a certainity, a rightness that calmed my nervous hands and chilled my thoughts into calm.


    Once that choice had been made, there was really no other option at all.


    "Then don not be afraid, young man," Einzbern continued, somehow managing a benevolent expression. "If there really are souls, your family and your father's are still close. You could catch up."


    Sanctimonious bastard.


    All caution gone, I started forward, sweating fingers closing around Tyrfing's hilt. It was achingly familiar the way they closed round the grip, ready to draw and strike in a single smooth motion-


    "Berserker."


    The madness began.
    eddyak:
    IRUn is not a teenage white girl.
    My gast is well and truly flabbered.

    MJ01:
    You've clearly never been a little girl before but let me clue you in; it doesn't matter how mature you are, when you're a loli your body just sort of wiggles and does cutesy stuff all on its own.

    Dull:
    Kishwahili is beautiful spoken, but written down it looks like you're trying to summon Cthulhu.

  14. #14
    Wow, it's nice to see this awesome fic posted again. I actually have a copy of it saved too and was considering whether or not to post it, but it looks like you beat me to it. A lot of great fics were lost in the destruction, so it's good to see that at least some of them have been saved.

  15. #15
    Come on in, the C738H1166N812O203S2Fe's fine. ItsaRandomUsername's Avatar
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    In hindsight, I should have expected this - Even anticipated it.


    It was only logical, really, for Einzbern to have his Servant nearby; After all, this was the Heaven's Feel. This was hostile territory. No magus with any amount of sense would've chosen to walk around alone and unprotected- Especially when such potent aid was so readily at hand.


    Should have.


    Could have.


    But when it hazed into reality, slipping through dimensions like a bloodstained knife, all thought, all sanity, all logic fled in the face of the impossible. Corposant hissed, witchfire limning a point of painful illumination. The unholy light of oblivion sliding and capering from its limbs, Berserker breached the fragile walls of the universe, and was born into this world with an inchoate shriek.


    It was big. Words could not describe the thing's sheer size- Easily twice the height of a normal man, and almost as broad. The colossus moved with a speed and agility that defied its enormity, destroying all sense of scale. With tectonic slowness, it advanced, the ground shuddering at each weighty step-


    The giant's shell ate the silver light, casting back the dull gleam of tarnished brass. The surface of its high-crested helm was a smooth plane of gold, faceless but for a long, thin slit at the mouth...Like a sinister actor's mask, but with neither eyeholes nor inscriptions, without either the smile of comedy or the frown of tragedy.


    It can't - Impossible.


    Fractured thoughts raced in mad spirals through my mind, even as my feet tried to impel me into a backward shuffle, away from the primal leviathan. It's too big...


    -How does it see?


    Closer now, echoing strides effortlessly eating up the distance. One battering-ram arm was enclosed within the massive crab-claw of a great shield, articulated joints and bristling spikes making it both defense and weapon and once. The other-


    ...It was an executioner's axe, the huge, curved surface of the obsidian blade nicked and pitted with countless flecks of gore. The tiny barbs that lined the edge cycled relentlessly, eager to test their sharpness against my fragile outline.


    I was nothing before it. Insubstantial. A worm before a leviathan, existing only to quail or to perish underfoot. Paralyzed, my mind short-circuited by fear and awe, I didn't-couldn't move. An unnatural delirium fused my feet to the ground, left me standing like a sheep awaiting slaughter.


    With impossible fluidity, the axe rose, blazing with amber light. Its awesome limbs pistoned in time with each step it took, as Berserker took one long stride, than another, building up a ponderous, unstoppable momentum.


    It began to charge. Somewhere, van Einzbern laughed, a rich, rolling peal of laughter that didn't quite cut through the thick fog clinging to my mind.


    With the perfect clarity of disaster, my gaze locked on Berserker as it closed, a million winking points on its frame flashing on and off- As if opening, then closing...


    Gems?


    No. Eyes.


    Every inch of hammered plate had been set with eyes. Real, blinking, human eyes, in every color ranging from soft brown to steel-grey. They darted back and forth in mad astonishment, glancing back and forth seemingly at random; In gruesome disharmony, each glazed orb blinked at its own pace, rolling crazily in their metal sockets.


    A quiet voice at the back of my mind nodded that at least- At least- I now knew how Berserker saw.


    The sheer horror of that scene saved me, I think. I felt life return to my numb limbs, the unshakable instinct for survival overriding the cowering dread that fused my feet to the cold earth. I jerked my gaze away, just as Berserker's great cleaver swung skyward, the edges smeared into a grey mist of speed.


    Wait for it-


    I was shaking, yes. Trembling like a leaf in a thunderstorm. The thing's faceless deathmask and lurid armor was all I could see. With a wrathful shriek, the axe hacked down, laughing and delighting in its hungry arc-


    Now!


    I dove, and rolled and rolled and rolled.


    Something caught the trailing edge of my coat, macerating it in moments; Scads of wire-loops and rings of mail went spinning aside, shredded to pulp in the first moment of contact. For a heart-stopping moment, I actually felt the whining buzz in my bones, pinpoints of sonic chaos that vibrated them mercilessly-


    The chattering teeth gouged a metre-long furrow in the earth without slowing, sparks cratering the ground like miniature suns. The backswing was so close, the edge so sharp, that the air hissed as it parted, a small thunderclap resounding as noise rushed in to fill the sudden vacuum.


    Scissoring my back and legs, I half-sprang to my feet, one hand curling round Tyrfing's sheath. With a hiss, the cylinder snapped open at a touch, the hilt sliding easily into my clammy palms. The blade was shivering, aching to be drawn; It resonated with the violence washing about it, begging to participate.


    "Rei-" I started, only to drop flat as the axe revved round and swung again. I landed hard on the shingle, but sprang up fast; Berserker was stomping right toward me, merely gaining momentum with each evasion.


    Feinting past the slow-moving bulk, I somersaulted out of its path, just barely. Every muscle aching, breath hissing in anaerobic gasps, I sprinted away, footsteps crunching on dead leaves and slush; There wasn't even enough time to draw my sword, barely enough to stay one step ahead. I was one step from disaster, dancing on the razor's edge.


    Do the unexpected.


    The unexpected. I adjusted my angle, and, not slowing, darting right toward Berserker. Again the slab of its blade hammered the ground, a seismic impact; With more luck than skill, I vaulted the low sweep and kept going, circling wide towards the thing's left arm. The baroque shield awaited, but better the shield than the axe...


    -Too late, I glimpsed the dancing sparks of electric charge, crackling from one protrusion to the next. With contemptuous ease, Berserker pivoted and punched, his metal-clad bulk shifting with breathtaking fluidity. Like a brass-shod battering ram, the claw/shield came rushing toward me, the harsh stench of ozone tainting the air-


    It was like being hit by a brick wall.


    A brick wall studded with tasers.


    My feet actually left the floor, the discharging force powerful enough to hurl me bodily across the park. A moment of dizzying flight, and I crashed hard into a patch of bushes, dying webs of charge still flickering across my vision. My torso felt like it'd ruptured, burning with the brief, quickly-occluded pain of electricity; The amulet was a red-hot coal against my chest, the wards strained to overloading.


    Hurt all over, I managed a few feeble twitches, sprawled helplessly over a multitude of points; I could feel the brambles jabbing hard into my skin, sharp enough to draw blood. The world reeled, fading into a chaotic smear of crimson-flecked color. There was a ceaseless buzz in my ears, almost- but not quite- drowning out van Einzbern's curt command:


    "End him."


    I tried to get up.


    I couldn't. I couldn't.


    ******************


    Somewhere, in the fragment of consciousness that was still his, Berserker rejoiced.


    He'd been denied his rightful butchery for too long, sealed away within his infinite cell of emptiness, ordered and commanded by the sneering Master- Unable even to hack the grizzled head from its unworthy shoulders, called to heel like a hound on a leash. Him, the champion of the Philistines! The indignity made him shriek.


    And now...Like a blessing from ancient Gath itself, like a ray of light penetrating the endless clouds of tedium, a morsel of prey flesh had come his way. Once, his warrior heart would have spurned such a puny offering- But worthiness wasn't compulsory; Only his rage was.


    A brown blur to his right sent him spinning hungrily, murderous axe cackling and delighting in its silver arc. It bit dirt, not flesh, and Berserker delighted in the familiar shock of impact, the way the earth itself gave under his might.


    Abruptly the prey morsel was to his left, the elusive shape flitting across one of his many eyes. Grateful for its hardiness, he stepped at it and cleaved leftward, and again to his right, then a headman's measured chop, a spinning orbit slice, always chasing, always pursuing the tantalizing prey, prolonging his moment of grisly pleasure-


    ...Only to realize something was wrong. Again and again, the enemy darted across his all-seeing sight, ghosting effortlessly from one angle to the angle; Again and again, he struck, always a fraction too slow, unable to connect with the fast-moving target. It was almost as if-


    It dawned upon him then that the prey's bewildering speed was not merely its own; He could sense the weakness within himself, the way his mighty limbs labored to heed his commands. It was as if the breath had been taken from his lungs, stifling the unquenchable furnace of his heart; Worse, the berserker rage, the fury he'd once rejoiced in- It gnawed ceaselessly at the fragile shards of his sanity, threatening to turn his muscles to fire and his mind to steam.


    He was a shadow of his former self, and he knew it. He ground his teeth at the insult, still fighting the cloying fury that made it hard, so hard to stay sane- In futile effort, he roared, hurling sound from his hulking torso, the thousand eyes crazing like bloodshot balls of pus. He had to- Had to...


    But now the prey was down, riling like a swatted insect, and he hefted his axe, chain edge shrieking. With the morbid professionalism borne of a thousand butcherings, he advanced a single step, arrow-wedge shadow falling across the cringing shape. Somewhere within the faceless sarcophagus of his helmet, his lipless mouth curled in a sneer, the cackling werewolf growl of his weapon reaching a shrieking cadence-


    Light flared, a starburst of muzzleflash like the spite of a hateful dragon.


    The world exploded.
    eddyak:
    IRUn is not a teenage white girl.
    My gast is well and truly flabbered.

    MJ01:
    You've clearly never been a little girl before but let me clue you in; it doesn't matter how mature you are, when you're a loli your body just sort of wiggles and does cutesy stuff all on its own.

    Dull:
    Kishwahili is beautiful spoken, but written down it looks like you're trying to summon Cthulhu.

  16. #16
    Come on in, the C738H1166N812O203S2Fe's fine. ItsaRandomUsername's Avatar
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    There was a sound like the end of the earth, and a shattering force like the detonation of a hundred grenades. The first carefully gauged blast from the anti-tank rifle, positioned less than three hundred meters, smashed Berserker’s mask like a rogue meteor, bursting joyously in a fractured storm of shattered light.


    The beast’s wordless shriek filtered from within, the hammerblow impact wracking even its powerful frame. Every mad eye slammed shut in outrage at the abuse, the blizzard of razor fragments rupturing a dozen in their sockets- Like soft eggs, like overripe fruit, they burst, sickening fluids emptying from the punctured husks. Forced to one side, battling gravity’s undeniable pull, Berserker crumpled to one side like a dying whale, fetid red light guttering from the cracks in its high-crested helm-


    ...And then it fell, toppling like a centuries-old oak in a thunderstorm. I felt my diaphragm vibrate as several tons of protesting metal and packed muscle met the ground, struggling all the way. The concussive wave battered me, surging across and over- Caught on the cusp of the blast, I tumbled away, rolling over and over to a gasping stop.


    “Well done, Assassin,” I croaked, hands grasping feebly for support. Reality slewed and stuttered in a slow-motion nightmare, the echoes of Berserker’s fall not quite dying away; Pummeled by the swirling hail of debris, I willed myself to first my knees, then my feet in a single lurching motion. My ears still rang abominably, sharp fragments of shale and sleet slicing my hands and face like papercuts.


    Gunfire spat and popped- The constant rattle of an automatic weapon, merged with the deeper boom of something heavier ( A shotgun?). Like a ragged crow, the folds of his cloak sweeping out in billowing wings, Assassin descended through a tempest of bullets, glaring down on Berserker with triggers depressed.


    Through gunsmoke and airborne ash, shells detonated across the hulking monster fs armor-encased body, smashing against brass like hail against a steel sheet. Assassin didn’t stop, blurring overhead to vanish into the enveloping shadows- Only to reappear moments later, snapping off more shots from the cover of darkness.


    Ignoring the slugs pattering off its chassis, oblivious to the thunder of ceaseless ordinance, Berserker levered itself upright, an odd noise pulsing in its throat-


    Laughter.


    It was laughing, glad that someone could challenge it.


    With hideous speed, Berserker surged forward, renewed, axe whirring. This time, there was no holding back- In deadly earnest, it swung murderously for Assassin, the whirring saw spinning and twisting with serpentine grace. Effortless, he flickered aside, turning a one-handed flip that flung him clear. The black phantom and the brass titan turned and spun and dodged and struck, inhuman blurs, faster than my eyes could follow. It was relentless, extraordinary, a dizzying blur of dancing bodies and flame that rang on and on like a dream.


    I glanced up and away, tearing my eyes from the spectacle- Too late, I glimpsed Einzbern, jaw set in teeth-greeting concentration; Blue-white light drooled from his fingers, the same color of his mad eyes. I could feel the terrible intensity radiating from him as he fought to control his Servant, the throat-tearing syllables of command grating from his throat...


    I saw him.


    He saw me.


    There was a moment’s respite- A fractional widening of the eyes, a frozen instant of realization- and we moved, a frenzy of arcane madness that ripped reality apart. Fast, so fast I thought the effort would kill, my talismans spiraled through the air, torn from the folds of my coat. Impaled by my will, they ignited as they left my hands, the symbols peeling away from yellowed paper in crackling streamers.


    A pulse of force rippled from Abraham van Einzbern, a storm-force bow wave sweeping my talismans aside like dead leaves. I felt the guttural throb of his will as he surged toward me, hungry whorls of distortion slash-stabbing across the void- Trap lattices dragged shut, fitted together like the teeth of a fractal dragon. I could smell the sorcery, the reek of burnt blood and old bones, coiling ceaselessly round me in a geometric chain-


    I smiled then, even as the forms rushed in to grind me to nothing. The acid pain of Od pulsing in my circuits, I met Einzbern’s maniac gaze.


    Lightning seethed. Angry talons of electricity crackled from the earth, a snarling cage of eye-searing illumination- Harsh sparks banished the cool darkness, forking and spitting like a thousand agitated serpents. Grasping fingers of power fanned through the air in a teardrop of pure annihilation, azure bolts spearing down from above in an unfettered orchestra of destruction.


    Never flinching, not a hair out of place, van Einzbern struck- The ethereal lightning congealed like a phantom lens, alien colors and shades refracting in a kaleidoscope of light. The monstrous pulse of his will throbbed like a beating heart, bending the enervating jolts aside, forcing them back, back into the sizzling cage of electricity; I felt his iron control close over my sorcery, fighting to usurp control. The sheer ease of it was galling; Slowly, inexorably, the seething curtain parted, swirling aside into aimless tendrils.


    I couldn’t fight him like this. Overextended, I had nothing, nothing like his appalling power. Already, the vitality was draining from my hastily-created sorcery, the last jags of lightning fading to nothing- Another moment and he would escape, ripping through the cage like razors through silk.


    So be it, then.


    As the final ofuda crumbled to dust, I grasped Tyrfing’s hilt.


    It grasped me.


    Tiny spines rasped from minute holes, barbs needle-thin and cable-strong. I winced as the slivers transfixed my palm, a dozen stigmata marks riddling my flesh, spining my hand with steel. It was hideous, inhuman, beyond pain; I could feel alien matter probing into my veins, linking my circuits to theirs in the most brutal, most direct way possible-


    Then the spines retracted and the sword was in my hands, quivering in the backwash of power, Od streaming from the blade. It rippled along its length, catching the light with a diamond fs glitter, the promise within breathing icy calm into my soul...The promise, and the curse. Perfect steel, hungry, insolent, throbbing in time with the resonance of sorcery washing about it.


    The thousand prickling pains, the myriad of cuts and bruises I suffered...All went away as cold power flooded my mind. Vitality surged through my nerves in a quickening tide, drawing my lips back in a mirthless smile. The ache in my punctured hand died to tingling warmth, like the gentle caress of low-volt electricity-


    Something whispered past me, a quicksilver vector of space-time. Without thought, I turned and cut, Tyrfing’s edge growling in wicked approval- something parted before the perfect steel, a witchfire prickle of sparks kissing the snow.


    More dimension-warping sorcery; Somehow, he fd shaped minor spatial folds, the twisting rents of space granted edges finer than scalpels. A single slice would plane through skin, through flesh, through bone, so cleanly that the victim would never even feel the cut. Fast, undetectable. Effortless, for a sorcerer of his skill...


    -Then the realization struck, and I glanced up, caught on the cusp of a revelation. I felt my heart quail as a fanged mist descended, the storm-gloam rending apart the night; Dimensional vectors, raw funnels of parasite planes woven into killing blades. They rippled the air with the speed of their passage, blurred into a roiling agony-sphere- It would flay me alive, one ragged tissue at a time, disjointing and slicing and dissecting.


    The wake of its passage scoured a tapestry of lines across the earth, churning the fallen snow into a murky slurry. Sword held before me, hands sliding across the wire-wound handle, I forced reinforcement sorcery through my circuits. Every ounce of Od, willed into my form; It was acid, boiling through my nerves, leaving me shivering at the rush of adrenaline.


    I felt every muscle tighten. I felt the cords stand out on my neck. I felt the knuckles of my hands strain against Tyrfing’s hilt, my legs tensing beneath me, ready to spring. I could feel my senses sharpen, my will drawing itself into a single, diamond-hard point; A fortress of focuse, inassailable in its unswerving dedication.


    I lowered the sword, the flat sliding across the my wrist. My pulse throbbed in my ears in a song of death, vision shifting from the mundanity of the physical world to the stark purity of the
    concepts within.


    Slowly, I raised one hand.


    Beckoned.


    A razor-storm closed on me.


    ******************


    Running.


    Running ceaselessly, the wind whipping his hair, roiling his cloak in a billow of fabric. Casting out his senses, seeking movement, fleeing through the thickening forest, bounding from tree to tree, switching smoothly from earth to air.


    This was living.


    This was dying.


    This was real motion, the exhilaration of speed.


    It was thrilling, incredible, the effortless motion of wind over wind and shadow across shadow; No anaerobic poisons weakened his muscles, no fatigue clouded his mind. It was effortless, each soaring leap little more than an annoyance- He sensed strength, wellness, the inherent perfection of his form, powered by the furnace-heat of mana coursing through his veins.


    Assassin glided across the mingled earth with disdainful ease, spring-locked feet never touching the slush, swooping to snag a convenient branch; From his perch, he dared a brief glance back,
    hearing more than seeing the progress of his pursuer.


    The beast was a lumbering hulk, all blundering fury and impotent rage, bashing through trees to reach him. It was childish, almost spiteful, the way it fd hacked all obstructions apart- The bane-axe ripped through foliage and trunks without slowing, grinding teeth rendering hardwood to ground mulch and pulp.


    Shouldering its way through the quavering forest, Berserker rampaged from the cowering trees. Roaring and hissing and spitting in its ember rage, it barreled forward, ignoring the shattered lens of its eyes, focusing on the shrouded figure that meant; Enemy.


    The Ingram was in Assassin’s hand before he even considered drawing it, a magazine of red-tipped shells glinting lethally in the light. Without thought, he squeezed the trigger; The gun quaked in his hands, spent ammunition cartridges spinning past his head. Even braced as he was, the sheer violence of the ramshackle vibrations almost ripped it from his grasp, the satisfying detonation of each shell erupting in a thick blanket of choking smog and bittersweet stench, itching his eyes and clouding his nostrils.


    The magazine clicked empty, and he paused to reload- sliding a fresh clip into place, ejecting its predecessor on a tide of gunsmoke- daring to believe, masked by the debris cloud, that he fd beaten the beast...


    And then the smoke cleared, and he saw that he barely scratched the monster’s skin. Through boiling frost clouds and shifting shadows its bloody-red eye burned, and before Assassin had even registered movement, a great paw slipped from the smog and swatted him like a fly.


    He crossed the ground on his back.


    Berserker pounced, at a speed inconceivable in a creature so massive. With sadistic precision, the shield-claw barreled down, the spines pinning him like a butterfly to a card, sullen jags of lightning flickering between them. Assassin had a stunned moment to wonder why he wasn’t dead, how Berserker had somehow missed-


    Electricity flared.


    The furious current tore into him, spikes of pain ripping through his soul. It was concentrated insanity, a whirlwind of howling, snarling torment- Shivering talons raked along his spine, his blood boiled like churning poison in his veins and he frothed and bled and suffocated beneath an avalanche of all-shattering voltage-


    He convulsed, hands curled into claws, every bone in his wracked form fighting to tear free. Frothing, chattering teeth reducing his lips to bloody shreds, he screamed and screamed and never stopped.


    Thought fled. Only the agony of the ravening energies bit into him. He felt his self eroding, mote by agonizing mote, blown away on the wailing storm, turning him into a handful of ash. He was falling, icy-cold, a deadly sense of anger welling up within him, threatening to flood his heart. Something snapped, something hard, fast and invisible snapping into his forehead- The world swam, fading to background color and sound, and the cold talons released. The pain and suffering and striving didn’t seem to matter quite so much anymore.


    Maybe he wouldn’t find Elen after all...


    ...


    ...


    ...


    No.


    He would never give up.


    Reiji Azuma would not be beaten.


    The chains of his resolve caught the tiniest fragment of his resentment, and he felt it flicker and grow. He seized the bitterness, summoning his fury, willing his battered form to reform, to resist the onslaught; With dreadfulness suddenness, the void plunged away, his de-rezzing figure resolving into sudden solidity.


    Berserker forced its claw down, the shield fs fury sending serpents of gauss lightning gashing into the thrashing form pinned beneath it. The prey-morsel was dying, evaporating in tatters of shrieking darkness; Molten light leaking from its skull, Berserker growled in anticipation, tensing to crush the puny, quaking thing through the yielding ground-


    Then the prey’s hand snapped up, and something- A dark sphere, a whirling top- spun through the air. Intent on the kill, Berserker swiveled its helm up, too late, as the grenade glanced off its armored collar...


    -And exploded.


    The blast rose like a luminous bubble, fiery radiance rising across the entire realm. Shadows and highlights were scrawled across every surface, spumes of hooked shrapnel spraying outward, rendering naked eyes and exposed flesh to ragged mince. With a howl, Berserker recoiled, flash-blinded and reeling- For a mere moment, its grip faltered, and Assassin was gone, a ragged figure bounding for the safety of the trees, form merging seamlessly with the deeper darkness.


    It wasn’t enough. Roaring hard enough to shake the world, flexing and mewling at the gash on its front, Berserker broke into a barreling run. Sparks hissed between axe and shield in a crackling circuit; Raw mana- liquid gore that glimmered and dissolved even as it touched the air- geysered from the joints of its armor, melting to smoke and ether before it hit the ground.


    Furious and more dangerous than ever, the beast gibbered and crooned to itself, moving with the ponderous unstoppability of an ancient leviathan. Utterly feral now, Berserker clawed its way ever forward, making deadly, inhuman noises; Every remaining eye glared with mad light, bulging obscenely within their sockets as they bored through the darkness, compound gaze finding-


    A second Assassin.


    Another.


    More.


    Carnival-masked killers, spilling from the woods, surging from the night in a roiling tide of motion. Six of them, iridescent cloaks shimmering with the phantasmal colors of dreamstuff, the wooden stocks of assault rifles clenched in their arms.


    They blurred, swarming toward the brass warrior in a fractured tide, phantasmal forms spinning and whirling about it in a carnival of lurid motion. Illusion and reality alike fused into utter bedlam, ceaseless and incoherent; The slash-stab of gunfire punctured the madness, a blizzard of bullets chattering across gold and brass. With the wailing of a thousand damned souls, Berserker fs bane-axe joined the maelstrom, shrieking teeth and battering shield sweeping, striking, blasting at will-


    Then they burst through, into open ground, and the fury of their combat lit up the night like a lightning storm.
    eddyak:
    IRUn is not a teenage white girl.
    My gast is well and truly flabbered.

    MJ01:
    You've clearly never been a little girl before but let me clue you in; it doesn't matter how mature you are, when you're a loli your body just sort of wiggles and does cutesy stuff all on its own.

    Dull:
    Kishwahili is beautiful spoken, but written down it looks like you're trying to summon Cthulhu.

  17. #17
    Come on in, the C738H1166N812O203S2Fe's fine. ItsaRandomUsername's Avatar
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    The eye of the storm.


    I could feel the thick, oily texture of sorcery all around me, hear the snap-hiss as I sliced through von Einzbern's sorcery- But I could see nothing. Even enhanced, mortal eyes couldn't hope to glimpse the infinite sharpness of the rift between worlds.


    So, I didn't try. Instead, I let Tyrfling's bitter spirit lead, spinning the sword in a weaving dance; The blade responded with me, melting into the assault, flowing with the press of my muscles. Brief, tiny flares of orange sparks prickled at each parry, blunting the stab-slash of vectors into nothing- Curt, efficient, I switched between single and double-handed grips, working the blade like I'd been taught so long ago-


    The air boiled, whipped into a maelstrom by semi-real psuedopods of smoke and dark, and for long instants I slashed and stabbed, fending off questing vectors that pealed like razor bells. No thought, only effort; I found myself dancing between bloody-tipped blurs, leaping above vengeful thrusts and spinning through blows like hail, barely fast enough, never more than a moment ahead-


    And agony exploded through my skull.


    Something blurred past my ear, a razor gale slicing me to the bone; I felt my flesh part, the vector cleaving effortlessly through my cheek without slowing, stray strands of hair spiraling away from the cut. Reeling, I stumbled away, one hand clamping across my face, desperately trying to clutch the wound shut; Gummy blood oozed from the meat with a sickening slowness, dribbling down my chin, drooling its iron taste into my mouth.


    It was white fire- A single burning ribbon of pain that echoed forever, finer that a scalpel's incision. I whimpered as the pain continued to blossom, warmth pattering serenely down my face and across my coat. Knees buckling, I reeled back in blind agony, thoughts shattered in a single hideous moment, sword still swinging, arm jerking and twisting in spastic defense-


    Then a vector plunged into the back of my leg- A sudden spike of pain- And I crumpled to one knee, choking on a rising tide of vomit. I could feel waves of sick nausea radiate through my body, steaming blood pressing against my nose, my eyes-


    I faltered, just for a moment. It was enough.


    Talons of cold fire raked burning lines across my chest, lacerating flesh and fabric. The flaying wind hit me like a million blades, rending, cutting, searing- Spattered by my own gore, persipiration streaking rivulets through dust and thickening blood, I fell more fully into defense, exceuting masterful turns, sweeps, blocks and reprisals, circling and crossing, never putting a foot wrong, every motion exact and severe.


    The next vector flicked right at my skull, the air wailing as it was riven. Somehow, somehow, Tyrfing wrenched my burning arms up in a perfect deflection, slicing the speeding wisp right down the centre; Off-guard, I stumbled and almost fell, jerked off-balance by the sudden motion.


    "Oh, well done, young man!" van Einzbern's voice was cheerful, unconcerned, cutting effortlessly across the howling winds. "There's hope for you yet!"


    I snarled, angry now. My swordwork degenerated into an increasing desperate series of evasions and parries as the tempo of the slicing gauntlet rose, faster and faster. Damage slipped through, piece by piece; Edges nicked my flesh, ripped my coat, sliced my wristwatch in two. Scraps of bloodstained fabric fluttered past me, borne away on errant zephyrs; The wire framework rasped with every contact, sparks skidding from the surface in clear warning. Whatever protection I'd imbued it with were quickly fading-


    -Move!


    Twisting my body, wincing as wounds reopened and ribs crackled at the unpleasant contortions, I slipped away from the blades, and pounced at van Einzbern. Vectors lacerated my back, gashing me open, flooding my senses with fire and fear, but none of it mattered. Only Einzbern did.


    Somehow, I found the strength to run; A lurching, stumbling charge, smoothening as I compensated for the wounded leg, shutting it off, denying its presence. Shock, then annoyance pulsed across Abraham van Einzbern's face; His gaze flickered between me and Tyrfing's blade, eyes widening as he realized my intent.


    "Die," I whispered, and lunged.


    And everything changed.


    Even as the distance between us fell away, even as I imagined that smug face ripped to pieces, even as Tyrfing spun through my fingers in a lethal arc, light distorted the world. I felt more than saw it, a terrible illumination washing over me from behind, sudden heat brushing across my back.


    Stupidly, involuntarily, I glanced back. It was an impulse as old as humanity itself, strident and undeniable- It slowed my feet for that crucial split-second, checked my rush long enough for Einzbern to-


    Momentarily, I glimpsed a blur of nonsensical shapes, flitting from one to the next. Formless dark and flickering light gave way to panoramas of swirling color, all of it chipped and hardened by harsh-edged shadows. I found the source in an instant of nauseous focus, and- with a suddenness that stole my breath- I saw it.


    Six Assassins?


    -And von Einzbern vanished in a gust of energy and heat, space itself swallowing him in a smear of fluid distortion. The votive blade sliced through the ethereal mist, tendrils of fog curling from the edge. Denied, I whirled round, bringing the sword up; There was only one place he would go, and that was right-


    -behind me-


    "-rrraaagghhhhhhh-"


    My blood went cold.


    Huge, violent, Berserker tore through the trees like an angry god-It didn't attack, it detonated into its tormentors, spined shoulders glittering in constellations of darkness, muscles bulging grotesquely beneath its armor's bindings. Great cracks scuttled across its mask, like the fracture-web of an invisible hammer; Chips of gold flaked off at every stride, exposing the seething ruin of the flesh beneath.


    It was upon the Assassins in an instant, before even they, blessed with impossible grace and lightning reflexes, could react. One dodged the wrong way- Like a crab's claw, Berserker's clawed gauntlet surged forward, snapping shut in a vising, pincering grip-


    And then it squeezed. Red meat, then black ash, gouted from between its fingers, and an ebony skull-mask clattered to the ground. It was horrific, inhuman, the sickening noise of scissoring blades and parting meat; With a final wet rasp, something limp and crushed slithered to the ground, unrecognizable as anything ever human.


    Walling off the horror, I twisted my wrist, fingers closing on the red fu sliding from my sleeve; Already primed, the black zhi coiled across the paper, ready to unleash their stored potential. There was a noise like cloth tearing, the sudden pop of a pressure change- The trees shivered in an exhalation of cold wind as van Einzbern faded in, like an image from a mirror, one booted foot kissing the ground as he alighted. His face went from triumphant to pale to speechless as I let fly, the single talisman knifing through the air to meet him-


    Not lightning, this time.


    [炎の海]


    Von Einzbern ignited like an oil slick. Flames roared up, blue-hot, sour, fierce. I heard him scream, a tiny form riling in the heart of the inferno- Swallowed by the holocaust, he staggered, battling the flames, then fell. A sheet of fire vomited overhead, a geyser of burning vapor boiling from the firespout- Smoke and steam circulated all around, a opaque fog bisected by the burning gas. I scrabbled back, patting out the glowing speckles of singed fabric on my arms and legs; Briefly, I wondered whether anything had survived, or if he'd been completely consumed-


    But then he rose up from the flames, laughing his hateful laugh, a noxious, infernal light limning him in a sickly halo. The flames slid off him, harmlessly- He raised a hand, pointing an accusing finger at me-


    There was an odd, hard bang, painful to feel and hear- Invisible force stabbed at me with mutilating strength, scrunching my shoulder, almost knocking me flat. Another bang, a quick, concussive vibration of air, and something hit me in the chest like a sledgehammer.


    Air rushed from my lungs, and blood from burst vessels. I crashed down into the dirt, slush caking my face and hands, pasting itself across my coat. Groaning, winded, I couldn't move; For long seconds, I tried to remember breathing, making a gagging, sucking sound, trying to lever myself back up on Tyrfing-


    A jolt of force ripped the sword from my hands, and I fell again. No chance to rise, this time- Immediately, I felt a hideous, crushing pressure, like multi-tonne weights dragging me down. My lungs felt crushed; I managed a single gasp, then another, squirming under the inexorable weight like Atlas beneath the earth. I felt my bones creak alarmingly- My spine was a column of agony, reinforcement sorcery blistering my flesh, keeping it from snapping.


    Snow crunched underfoot, as patent-leather boots stepped closer. I heard the hiss as each step turned snow to steam- heard the slight scrape of one dead leg against the earth. Pain knifed down my back, as I fought to stand; It was relentless, unstoppable, a tectonic mass slowly being brought to bear.


    "It's over..." and oh, how I hated the smile in that voice, "Young man."


    I didn't answer.


    My will gouged against his sorcery, digging probing fingers into the cracks, tearing at the fabric. It gave, but not enough; my resistance meant I would be crushed in minutes instead of seconds, but I would be crushed all the same.


    -Unless-


    A thought, swift and urgent. A wordless sending along the Contract's bond, my will focused into that single, stark desire to pull free. Shunting aside the pain, I shaped a single word, a single concept, and sent it screaming into Assassin's mind like an errant warhead-


    Help.


    ****************


    For a moment, for a fleeting second, Assassin thought he'd taken Berserker's measure; Even as the thing moved in the treeline, crashing through bracken, splintering saplings, the combined firepower of four assault rifles raked it with shot after shot, lighting the gloom with vivid muzzle flashes, actually splintering slivers of brass from its armor.


    It stomped toward the puny things that annoyed it so, untiring, but Assassin's agility was no trifling thing; Always fleeing, always ahead, he rode the storm, howling round the gleaming titan like the black wind of winter.


    The AK-47 rose again, and he fired from the hip, blazing a tumult of shots through the night air. A fraction slower, the Zwerrenshvestain followed suit, the flash-flicker of their rifles glancing points of lights from their carnvial masks. Berserker jolted backward slightly; a casual sway, as if in response to a light breeze. Each subsequent shot repeated the ineffectual display, sparks blossoming at each impact, chips flying, but causing no real damage. It simply stood there and took it, leaning in its spot, absorbing anything thrown at it.


    How much does it take, Assassin wondered, swooping down, rolling aside. How much more can it take?!


    Just three rounds left in the clip. He put all three in the side of Berserker's helm, right beneath the glowing ember of the single fissure, as he backed away. Perfect head-shots, each one; Every bullet slammed home, buckling the mask, gouging scars across the gold-


    But it refused to die.


    Berserker shrugged, almost, and reared up with weapons raised. It pounced, chattering axe slicing the air in slivers of hissing sound. Assassin's fingers slid into his billowing cloak, gripped his last- last?- grenade. Raised. Threw.


    The blast hurled him off his feet, sending smoke-cloaked wraiths tumbling aside like dry leaves in a tornado. The many-eyed beast vanished in a volcano of fire and exploded earth, the explosion arising like a luminous bubble, scrawling its flickering radiance across the entire realm. A gout of oil-black smoke twisted with serpentine grace, like funeral incense-


    Berserker came on. He hadn't slowed it down. Not even slightly.


    Assassin squeezed the trigger, only to hear the click-click-click of a dry magazine. He spun the rifle like a staff, jabbing with the stock as the axe cut for him; Wood cracked against gold, jerking it back. Another swing right into the breastplate, and Berserker pulled back in reflexive surprise, long enough for Reiji to duck and roll sideways. Darting back, legs wide, braced, he spun the weapon a second time, spearing it at the renewed attack. Lunge, stab, block, sweep, matching the thing's every blow, every slice, fending it off, driving it back in a violent ballet-


    Until his luck ran out.


    The summons crackled through his skull in a shudder of sympathetic pain. The flash of a mind-image; Pressure, crushing and inexorable, suffocating him into oblivion. He reeled from the sensation, unsteady; Berserker's brass-shod paw lunged in for him, claws unclenching. He wheeled back, ready to block, and the rifle splintered, shorn to pieces by the murderous talons. All grace gone, legs pinioning, Reiji stumbled, hearing blades rip-


    A .50 caliber round hit the monster in the jaw and blew it sideways. Its head snapped up, wrenched aside by the impact- It abruptly flailed, landed on its face, less than a metre from his outstretched feet. Assassin scrambled up and back, not bothering to glance around, knowing how Funf was lowering the Remington, knowing how the last three Phantoms closed in like the descent of nightfall.


    He did not think.


    He did not feel conflicted.


    He felt a threat to his Master, and that was all. The memory of oblivion- Of his cell of nothingness- chilled him in a way death and suffering did not, impelling his body into furious motion and his mind into overdrive.


    He felt the cords stand out on his neck. He felt the knuckles of his hands strain against his gloves, the red rage blossoming behind his eyes. He felt the rush of boiling air as he left the ground, and the dizzying acceleration of flight.


    All without conscious thought. All at the whim of his fury alone.


    Assassin moved, and the speed of his passage ripped the branches from trees, and hurled contrails of loose leaves in his wake.


    ****************


    Abraham von Einzbern's control was staggering. I sensed that much, at least; How much it was costing him to grind me into the earth, to usurp the laws of gravity and physics into his weapons. We were locked, engaged in a freeze-frame tableau; I fought to stand, even as he knelt ten metres away, blood running from his nose and the corners of his staring, rancid eyes.


    The world narrowed. A small sliver of awareness, clutching at consciousness; Black spots reeled through my vision, spinning sight to nightmare. With a last, desperate effort, I inhaled once, sharply, stale oxygen searing my lungs; My fingers closed on the Black Gun's grip, trying- failing to drag it free.


    It was like trying to lift Everest.


    "Damn you." I croaked, clawing furrows in the dirt, scraping thin, petty scratches. "Damn you to hell."


    "That happened a long time ago, young man," von Einzbern answered, but I no longer cared. It was ridiculously difficult to breathe; Oblivion beckoned, and I wasn't far from the brink. The thick, cloying fog of unconsciousness rolled in like a fogbank, shading everything to grey as I shut my eyes-


    -To the stuttering coughs of a silenced pistol. Bullets zipped and whined overhead, like whispers, like mites; A stray round kissed the earth inches away, tunneling through the slush. I heard von Einzbern yelp in pain, his grip on me slipping; The force let up ever-so-slightly as he fought to retain control-


    -And I pulled free. It was sudden, effortless, rising from the mire of the trap he'd constructed, brushing aside the suffocating webs like paper. Control surged back to my limbs, every muscle tightening together; Somewhere in the crucible of my peripheral senses, I registered von Einzbern, standing agog, horrified. Beyond, I glimpsed Assassin, his cloak swirling like grey smoke, blurring his shape to nothing-


    Even wounded and staggering, my draw was as fast as ever. The Black Barrel left its holster in an arc of greased lightning, the explosive roar of its throaty exhalation roiling through the night. It didn't chatter, like the rifles of Assassin's servitors: It spoke, harsh and forceful, shell after shell lipping from the muzzle in gouts of white flame.


    The first shot creased his leg, sending his feet skidding from under him. The second hit von Einzbern's shoulder, detonating it in a puff of pink blood mist. At least four shots hit him, toppling him backward in a spray of gore, eyes wide and staring, one empty hand clutching uselessly at the air-


    -But he never hit. Even as he fell, even as the ragged figure began its final descent, von Einzbern dwindled. Something wrong was happening to his form; A bending, a folding, drawing his outline into a single blot, swallowing itself in a pinpoint of painfully bright illumination. A rift boiled up to meet him, and he was gone.


    I lowered the weapon, slowly. Frustration, bitter and acid, coiled within me, a dreadful frustration arising in my reeling mind; The urge to kill, the need for visceral, violent revenge, was strident and undeniable. My teeth ground audibly as I glanced up and away, already reaching for Tyrfing, needing it-


    "Master!"


    Assassin's voice cut through the mental fog, strained by exhaustion. His grinning mask was soot-streaked, a murky gray, and his cloak hung in limp tatters from his shoulders, charred and blackened. I winced to see him so diminished, belatedly realizing I didn't look much better.


    "Did you kill him?"


    "Not even slightly."


    "What's the point of making plans-"


    With a lung-bursting howl, Berserker tore out of the undergrowth and ploughed toward us. I felt the earth shake underfoot, each step juddering my spine, jarring me badly. Slowly, too slowly, I raised the Black Barrel-


    -And Assassin hurled me aside with a desperate body-throw. He went over backward, and I flew over him, landing face-first in the melting snow. Skidding and slipping, I rolled to a stop, just in time to watch the beast thunder past, foiled. It turned heavily, breath hissing raggedly through its throat, through the holes in its mask. The vicious teeth of its axe cycled once, bright and murderous.


    It saw me, crumpled on the floor.


    Keep it occupied, Assassin's not-voice suggested. I have a plan, Master.


    "Keep it occupied?" I almost shrieked, trying to rise.


    I'd lost Tyrfing somewhere, but I fired the Black Barrel at the hideous thing as it bore down, missing badly. I couldn't aim- My hands were shaking too much to shoot straight. Bullets whizzed past, hopelessly misaimed. Swearing, I rolled hard, to my left; Berserker's slash sent a huge wave of snow flying-


    Something else. Something that whined fractiously in the cold, something that glittered with a harsh unlight of its own.


    Risking decapitation, I dove for the sword, scrambling toward it on hands and knees. A final lunge, and my hands closed round the grip, just in time to meet the arcing backswing.


    I would never be quite sure what happened next. I remember a shattering clash as lacerating teeth met living steel, then a snap like breaking twigs as the haft slammed into my chest. All sensation vanished from my arms in one awful moment, even as my head smashed a bench hard enough to topple it. My teeth clacked together at the spark of impact, and I actually blacked out for an instant, blinking stupidly at the ruin around me. My ribs burned like slivers of white-hot flame, and I felt blood drooling from the still-bleeding gash, every drop burning like acid as it peeled away. Half-crippled, I jabbed Tyrfing into the ground, point-first, levering myself to my feet-


    Berserker was reeling aside in a fog of gore, a scalding, glowing rent seared through its armor. It stumbled, pawing at itself, at the long, thin line right over its heart, across the fissure gouged by Assassin's grenade. The cut edges glowed, crackled, fighting to seal over, trying to stop the pressurized jets of blood spraying from the wound. One mighty gauntlet clutched the smoldering remains of a burned-out saw, the smoking head riven cleanly from the jagged remnants of the haft.


    I did that. Me.


    I eyed the single nick along Tyrfing's length, fighting down the unnatural rage at the tiny imperfection. The cursed blade wasn't happy, rolling and twitching in my hands, straining to avenge the insult. It tugged me up and forward, ready to strike again, wanting to quench itself in Berserker's ichor-


    It would soon get the chance.


    "All right," I slurred, clutching the hilt reversed, like a long knife. My left arm didn't move, hanging limp and lifeless at my side. "All right, let's go."


    Assassin appeared from nowhere. He'd found more ammunition for his rifle, somehow; He darted forward, toward the reeling titan, and jammed the weapon's muzzle into the gap between neck and helm, right under the edge of the warrior's mask.


    He fired. An entire magazine, point-blank.


    The assault rifle shook as it emptied its clip, threatening to tap out of his hands with its gigantic recoil. He braced against it, locking his shoulder in place, till Berserker's helm began to deform and buckle and from within, till splinters of gold sliced into him like sharpnel-


    -The helmet burst, the placid facemask exploding outward in a thousand glittering shards. Berserker's mighty form swayed for a moment, masking smoke coiling up from the its neck-


    Then it reared, sudden and deadly, and a massive paw smashed Assassin across the clearing. A thunderclap of energies blasted him apart; I heard him scream as he vanished, banished to spirit form in an instant. With ponderous inevitability, Berserker swung round, muscles squirming beneath the surface of its skin-


    And I gazed into the mouth of hell.


    No face. It had no face. Just a single, terrible eye, glaring from entire realms of insanity,


    Bright. So bright.


    So cold. So terribly, terribly cold.


    I wasn't afraid. Not now.


    I tasted bile in my mouth. I hurt in a thousand places. I couldn't look away, not from that throbbing light, pulsing like a human heart. I felt my flesh began to smolder, the trembling light-forms stitching agony through the jelly of my brain. I was caught, and-


    The air opened up. Dimensions writhed upon each other, and in a rush of stale air and the bitter tang of ozone, a blazing hole crept open in reality. Not a hole. A door. A gate.


    It shimmered. Somehow, the world had folded up on itself to allow it to be-


    A figure strode from the swirling portal. A robed prince. A runic demigod, warlock-warrior and hierophant, banners and pennants fluttering at the speed of thought. Antlers ablaze with electric fire, staff-spear humming with unspeakable power.


    The staff flared across every spectrum, wyrd-lights flickering between glaive-pommel and antlered helm, so potent and focused I fell to my knees and bled and bled. It burned in my second sight like a phosphor lamp, robes of purple and gold laced by a billion billion engravings, a myriad of serpentine runes and glowing sigils. It dealt with Berserker with a single swipe, and the monster crashed to the earth and lay still and never moved. Gaussfire enveloped me in crackling agony, psychic horror guzzled me whole, and I fell to the floor like a dead man.


    It gestured


    (stabbed)


    at me.


    Flash, scream of particles.


    (oh god ith urts)


    and darkness.


    Oblivion.





    Prologue END
    eddyak:
    IRUn is not a teenage white girl.
    My gast is well and truly flabbered.

    MJ01:
    You've clearly never been a little girl before but let me clue you in; it doesn't matter how mature you are, when you're a loli your body just sort of wiggles and does cutesy stuff all on its own.

    Dull:
    Kishwahili is beautiful spoken, but written down it looks like you're trying to summon Cthulhu.

  18. #18
    Come on in, the C738H1166N812O203S2Fe's fine. ItsaRandomUsername's Avatar
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    [IV/ -Codutlore-]
    ________________________



    Falling.


    The void is fathomless, deep and dark and without end. It is a sunless ocean, bottomless like memory, warm and comforting and soft. Sinking into it, liquid night wrapping me in gossamer threads, filling lungs and veins and soul with oblivion, weighing me down.


    Down and down, deeper.


    Falling.


    Still falling.


    Dreaming. Here, the non-place, coiled within oneself.


    The void shifts. Black to purple, tormented clouds swirling, gathering; Acceleration, falling faster and faster through the churning skies. Borne on weird tides of light and dark, memory borne on the crest of each wave c


    Reaching out, grasping. Elephantine slowness, thoughts and memories looming like towers from the fog; Like glaciers, ice-cold to the touch. Probe and wait, marking time- Or fall forever, sink and sink, beyond the humming echo of white noise, and the surge of heart-sinking pain. Another soul lost, another crest in the hall of London c


    But the dream of the city calls, and the world melds and flows.


    Sleep, then, and perchance to dream ...



    ***************


    It was always evening, in the dream. Always evening when I walked out, and the light was always orange, though I never saw the sun. Leaves, twigs, crunching underfoot like dry bones -


    And then, the noise. The strange faraway rustling, the sickly light darkening to crimson as they neared, sweeping in from the ends of creation in a black cloud.


    A beat. Another.


    Red-black sky. The beating of a million million wings, the screams from a million million beaks; Drawing themselves up into a tortured cloud, defying the logic of what little breeze there seemed to be, till the sky was completely blackened by the flock-cloud.


    I would never see them. Not one-by-one, so it was never personal.


    Alone, I would draw the blunt ingot of my gun, charging handles drawn, snapping the safety off with a heavy, metallic click.


    No words needed, here; I did this every night of my dreamlife, the same dance to the same music. Rustling wings. Screaming beaks. Firing pins beating out a rhythm on percussion caps, lead gobbets hammering through the hellish sky. The finger-flex dance and the shoulder-jerk jive every time a round took off, every impact a thunderclap against my hands.


    I never had to aim, as I could not miss. Dead birds fell in a liquefied rain, like tears from the raging sky. The world unraveled in a slow, syrupy nightmare, till only the bright flares of muzzle-flash lit the shifting night. I could feel them, the grotesque warmth of the writhing parts, bones crunching and squelching against my bare feet, soaking me with gore, up to my ankles, my knees, my chest-


    I was dreaming, I knew, and that was the one comfort I could take; That no matter how awful, how sickening, how wretched, the things I witnessed were but phantoms, owing nothing to reality.


    But still - But still, as the noise of the dying and the maimed hammered into me, as the carrion-eaters pressed in, ripping and tearing with their beaks, swarming up my still-blazing gun, pinning my struggling limbs-


    And I would wake up, the scream boiling, bubbling in my throat, waking and sitting bolt-upright in my bed, the fans on at full blast, drying the tears of hot panic and fear, chilling me to the gut-


    -But never quite forgetting
    .


    ***************


    I opened my eyes.


    I sat up.


    Beneath me; A bed. Blankets. Sheets. Pressing my hands to my aching eyes, I swung my feet to the floor.


    The room; Old. Faded wallpaper, the original pattern nearly invisible from years of wear, drained of all colour except the anyomous brown of decay. A thin carpet, worn ragged, peppered here and there by splashes of color. A nightstand by the bed, and a bulbous lamp, the brass finish rubbed away in several places. Heavy, ornate furniture, the varnish glinting beneath a patina of dust in the orange light...


    I stretched, waited for memory to stir. My body felt strange, somehow- Numb, dull. Distant.


    A long moment passed, and I still couldn't recall where I was, or why I was ...


    "All right, " I murmured, and stood. "All right." My own voice sounded strange to me; Deeper, but less resonant, less vital, than before. Absently, I wondered if something was wrong with my vision, too; The strangely muted colors of the carpet, the wall, the furniture, even the lurid brown of wood dulled to gray.


    I pressed a hand to the bed, steadying myself- Again, the sensation was distant, as if through gloves; I wondered, briefly, if I fd been drugged, if something hadn ft quite worn off-


    Master.


    A beat. Fainter than a cobweb, softer than a whisper- But I heard it. I felt it, too, a sudden pulse of heat across my arm c


    I glanced down. Saw the red sigils- Like a jawless skull- etched into my flesh. My family crest...And-


    -And


    Pain stormed through my brain, I squeezed my eyes tight, pressed my hands to my head until it passed, until I dragged the agony into a confined ball of focus, until my defenses- Like great stormshields- slammed shut around my puffy, raw-edged mind.


    My fingers came away bloody. Without thought, I wiped them on the fabric of my coat, dragging a thin slick of crimson across the fabric. My clothes were clean, almost fresh, yet tattered and ripped, cut again and again, as if by-


    -Vectors-


    From-


    Recollections filtered into me, delayed consciousness working its careful way through the fog of sleep, and piece-by-piece I remembered. It stole over me in quiet degrees, fragments of impressions and sounds, easing me into wakefulness. I gripped them, struggling to remember.


    There'd been a battle, yes.


    Berserker.


    Assassin.


    Von Einzbern
    .


    Each name brought a complex rush of memory, of sensation. Dimly, I remembered the faint snap of my ribs, the deadly, scything murmurs of vectors as they sliced the air, the scent of ozone-


    -And I remembered, through the riot of gunfire and pain, in the rush of a churning maelstrom, the wizard. I remembered the blazing figure, bright helm arched and antlered, flares of gauss lighting turning night to day.


    I remembered falling. I remembered the babbling choir of confusion and pain, a fissure in my mind, sucking me down, devouring me whole. I 'd stumbled through restless dreams, grappled with nightmares, and-


    -And had awoken, here.


    But where was here ?


    Click.


    I whirled round, reaching for a gun that was not there; A door swung open behind me, shoved by an invisible hand, revealing-


    Nothing. Nothing but the carpet of the corridor beyond.


    I stared at the door. Stared at my empty hands, noticing, for the first time, how light my coat was, how every weapon and every cunning device had been prised from the sockets c


    Nothing to it, then. Carefully, I stepped out into the corridor, tottering slightly on unsteady legs; Not trusting my limbs, I rested one hand on the wall, supporting myself. The place was sparse, oddly bare- Nothing but red carpet beneath, and the smooth expanses of wooden walls all around. No doors, no windows; For a dizzying moment, I glimpsed a low, descending gullet, tumbling down the yawning maw into the darkness beyond-


    Always the long drop, the long fall and the fires below-


    That thought made me shudder anew, shaking my head to banish the vision. Finding my footing, I limped down the hall, noting uneasily now the corridor seemed to descend downward, a slight slope beneath my feet.


    -Behind me, the door shut, the locks clicking into place. Unsurprised, I bit back a laugh; It was so sadly typical, being watched. Clearly, someone was herding me...


    Every other door refused to open. I felt the resistance as I tried every knob, making my meandering way down the endless hall; The brass handles rattled back and forth, the mechanisms within jammed solid by an unseen hand. For a moment, I considered shattering one; Toyed with the idea, even as I willed a modicum of power to my hands, felt the sizzling charge of ozone within the enclosed space-


    But I didn't. It wasn 't polite, for one thing, and I wasn't sure whether, in my debilitated state, I had any chance. So, avoiding a painful reprimand, I strode away, counting the paces beneath my breath.


    Fifty-six, Sixty, Sixty-five, Seventy-eight-


    -Stop
    .


    -Because somewhere, somewhere near, someone was playing the piano. A classical piece, mellifluent and stirring, the notes filtering past brick and wood and mortar, to reach my ears alone.


    I glanced back, forth, stepping near to the double-paneled doors at the side. Yes, it was definitely music- The notes spiraling ever-upward into a crescendo as I neared-


    I shoved, hard, and the doors swung open, meeting the wall with clashing, throaty booms. At the exact same moment, the music stopped, leaving only abrupt, painful silence in its wake.


    Seated at the keyboard, the master of the house glanced up.


    He smiled, as if he had expected me all along.


    "And I wondered if you 'd ever wake," Matou Kazuya uttered, his hands still resting on the keys.


    "Welcome to my home. "
    eddyak:
    IRUn is not a teenage white girl.
    My gast is well and truly flabbered.

    MJ01:
    You've clearly never been a little girl before but let me clue you in; it doesn't matter how mature you are, when you're a loli your body just sort of wiggles and does cutesy stuff all on its own.

    Dull:
    Kishwahili is beautiful spoken, but written down it looks like you're trying to summon Cthulhu.

  19. #19
    Come on in, the C738H1166N812O203S2Fe's fine. ItsaRandomUsername's Avatar
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    [V/Shadow Out Of Time]


    Shane and the Man With No Name die together, fighting to the last, sent back as one to...wherever they came from. A last grim nod, the twitch of an eyelid as the guns thunder their last volley- Then nothing, just darkness.


    The man who created them runs. He tries to think, as his blood pounds in his ears, as his frantic footfalls thud against the pavement, of who else he can call to his aid. Another hero of old, perhaps; Not a myth, this time- Though the line between legend and reality is blurred, even to him. He has to think. He has to call...Someone *real*...


    Siegfrid?


    No, no. He tried that one already. Siegfrid is already dead, once again, his terrible sword rent in twain, sent howling back into the endless oblivion between worlds. He must think, and yet he cannot- His mind is frantic, racing and leaping from thought to fevered thought.


    (And behind him, Merlin screams as he is devoured, his subtle arts failing him at last.)


    King Arthur- But no, some names are beyond even his reach. Lancelot? Gawain?


    No, they've been killed again, too. Galahad, perfect even in death, hangs limply from the spines that impale him, his arms spread in a dreadful parody of salvation. Fragments of his shattered helm craze from his skull like a crown of thorns. The perfect knight dies as he has lived- Alone and always apart.


    The man's pursuer glides past the bodies of the fallen. The walk is graceful, assured, silent except for the whisper of fabric across stone...And the whispering. Always the whispering, buzzing, buzzing...Like a silent chorus. Like a hive...


    He has to try again. In vain he glances round for Lancer, for the one legend brought back in the whole cloth- But no, Lancer is gone, and only phantoms remain to defend him.


    Fafnir.


    Joan Of Arc.


    Musashi.


    Names from the past. These, and countless others, he's brought back this hour to defend him.


    All of them failed. All of them dead again. (A snarl, a curse spat between blood-flecked lips, and Great Achilles is gone. He was not finished. He was not finished yet.) Sent back to the great beyond...


    -Back to the Root of All Things.


    He has seconds left to live. He can't think of anyone else. No other name from fact or fiction, to match this...this...


    His mind tries to shape the words, to define this nightmare, this unspeakable horror, and fails.


    The night is cold. His breath puffs from his mouth in white clouds.


    One more name. One more who might-


    And his death is moments away, the first tendrils of gloaming wending their way toward him. He can hear it laughing, laughing. Laughing forever.


    There. The answer. He has it. That sorcerer who died, five years ago...*He* might be enough. Maybe.


    All he has to do is say his name. Say...


    "S-Shi..."


    A beat, and nothing.


    If it mattered, now, he would almost wonder why...


    And what is next, as the Shadow disjoints and tears, as needle-tipped mouths bite and rend and consume, is unspeakable.
    eddyak:
    IRUn is not a teenage white girl.
    My gast is well and truly flabbered.

    MJ01:
    You've clearly never been a little girl before but let me clue you in; it doesn't matter how mature you are, when you're a loli your body just sort of wiggles and does cutesy stuff all on its own.

    Dull:
    Kishwahili is beautiful spoken, but written down it looks like you're trying to summon Cthulhu.

  20. #20
    リビングデッド Living Dead giodan's Avatar
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    wow!! is truly dark but wery well story! but is a dead fanfic or not?

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