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Thread: Threads of Fate

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    Vigilant. Relied Upon. Vigilantia's Avatar
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    Threads of Fate

    Table of Contents:

    Prologue: Prelude to War
    Chapter 1: Deviation
    Chapter 2: First Blood
    Supplemental Material - The Dead
    Chapter 3: Complications
    Chapter 4: What is Burned In
    Chapter 5: Iceberg
    Chapter 6: Night Shift
    Chapter 7: Inductive Reasoning
    Chapter 8: Night Shift II
    Supplemental Material - Red Tape
    Chapter 9: Teach me, Mahou Sensei!

    =====

    Synopsis:

    Having fought in the war before, Archer thought he'd be ready for any surprises. However, with a new Black Key wielding Caster and a Dead Apostle on the loose skulking in the dark, he had his work cut out for him. Of course, those paled in comparison to the problem of Saber.

    Note: Despite the synopsis, this is not an EMIYA-centric fic.

    Definitions:

    Hibiki Hibino - Shy orange haired waitress that shows up in side Typemoon works.
    Shin’i Agency - A Japanese organization meant to deal with dangerous supernatural elements such as Dead Apostles or Demons. A relatively new organization, it utilizes more technological weapons and tools than its Church or the Magus Association counterparts. Originally introduced in the Nasuverse game Battle Moon Wars.
    Mike - Team lead of one of the sections of Shin’i. Originally from Battle Moon Wars.

    =====


    - Threads of Fate -
    - Prologue: The Prelude to War -


    - The Sinner -


    The rain poured around her as she forced herself forward. It was during a time like this that Caster truly cursed her abysmal luck and her idiotic master.

    “Former master,” she corrected herself.

    She had done well. Her Master had been a legitimate magus; a strong magus sent from the Mage's Association to win the Holy Grail. Although, there really wasn’t much to distinguish the 30 year old magus from anyone else, other than an overgrown case of arrogance mixed with egoism. However, though he dreamed of victory and claiming the Holy Grail, he had no plans to fight the war. He was perfectly happy to let all the other servants fight to the death as he sat and watched from the shadows. It was an excellent plan. But it would not win her the war. And it would not fulfill her wish. And that... that she could not allow. Not after everything she had been through.

    She had waited, patiently, while inflating the man’s already overflowing pride. She had bid her time while waiting for him to use his command seals.

    When he had wasted his final command spell on a frivolous order, she’d struck. He’d been blown across the room and into the hall. Approaching his still form, the room bathed in the light of her crimson orbs of magic, she could have ended his life right there. For what he had put her through the vengeance would have been delicious. It would have been easy; just a simple incantation. But her cooler self had persevered. In the end she erased his memories and healed his burn wounds. Although she did savor the kick to his ribs before walking away.

    And then... everything in her plan went wrong.

    ===

    Caster’s first hint that the attack was coming was a slight disturbance she felt around the boundary field she had placed around the house. They were almost unnoticeable, like hearing footsteps in a windstorm. She stopped and turned around, looking around the room more with her sense of magic than her sight. She could feel other intrusions in her boundary field.

    Four figured materialized themself at the opposite end of the room; each wearing a skull mask that concealed their face. With surprise, she realized each one was the Servant Assasin. However, their magical signatures were too weak for each to be a full fledged Servant. She theorized Assassin must have had the ability to split off into many forms... or perhaps they were clever illusions... She couldn’t risk testing the latter hypothesis.

    At once, Caster wielded two swords in each hand, their metallic blades reflecting the outside moonlight; she tightened the Black Keys between her fingers in anticipation. Although the short handles and foot-long blades of the swords she had summoned made them inappropriate slashing or stabbing, if the user was skilled enough the blades made for a powerful thrown weapon.

    She whipped all four blades towards the roof, impaling the Assassin that materialized from the ceiling above her; intent to ambush her. The Assassin’s body fell to the ground dead with the four blades through his chest. Almost simultaneously, she heard the faint whistle of a blade as it flew through the air; nigh impossible to notice for a normal human. Another two blades formed and they flew from her grip, impaling another assassin, before she arched her body backward. The edge of their throwing daggers passed by so close she could feel the minute rush of wind. The whistle of the daggers flew past her before embedding in the wall behind them. Instinctively, she brought her gloved hand to her cheek and looked. A single drop of blood dripped from the cut on her cheek and onto her hand. Too close.

    “Tsk, it appears we underestimate your abilities, Servant Caster,” said one of the skull-masked Assassins. Four more figures, each of their faces concealed by the same skull mask, materialized in front of her.

    “Leave,” she said; new blades held at the ready. Her eyes stared coldly towards her new unwelcome guests. She backed up nervously towards her unconscious master. As much as she hated him, she didn’t want to see him die and she needed his mana right now. She wondered if the Assassins had been waiting all this time, observing from outside, or if they had simply gotten lucky in their attack.

    “Not until we accomplish our mission,” he replied. The remaining three assassins ran towards her, their weapons raised. Muttering a simple incantation, a wave of fire washed over them and charred their bodies like tinder against an open fire.

    The sound of rending flesh shot a dose of adrenaline through her veins and she turned in time to watch another Assassin embedding his blade again in to her master. She could tell from the wound that her master was dead.

    “More Assassins?” she thought dimly. She cursed her stupidity. Of course there was more... You idiot. If there could be five assassins why wouldn’t he be able to split off into more forms? With a burst of anger, she screamed and hurled her last set of Black Keys with such ferocity that it impaled the Assassin through the chest and into the wall behind him. A wave of fatigue assailed her senses and her knees gave way.

    She held the wall for support and then slid to her knees as Gaia’s crushing presence tightening around her. Without her master to anchor her to the world, Gaia would immediately attempt to push out any elements it deemed to be an anomaly. The resurrection of an already deceased hero happened to be included on that list. Caster could already feel her preciously small reserves of mana draining away as she fought to stay in this world. She prayed she had enough.

    Her magic circuits tingled as she recited incantations within her head.

    The assassins surrounded her, each one ready to pounce; yet none of them moved. A masterless Servant still had time before they faded from the world. Until that time, they were still an extremely dangerous opponent. She considered herself lucky that they weren’t aware how little energy she had left. After a moment, one of them turned their head as if receiving an order from afar and began to approach her.

    “You’re an odd servant. You fight with skill befitting one of the knight classes.,” he said, “Shame. You might have made a good Servant.” The Assassin raised his dagger, ready to deliver the coup de grace.

    Unseen underneath her hood, she gave a knowing smile. “You haven’t seen anything yet.” Finishing her mental incantation, the house detonated in a massive explosion that turned the walls into kindling before the entire building collapsed on top of them.

    ===

    She sneezed violently and was brought to her knees; her long dark hair dripping ungraciously into a puddle. She always had the worst luck with her plans. It was bad enough she had had to spend her already limited reserves of mana to escape from Assassin. However, she wouldn’t have had this problem if her Master hadn’t been such an egotistical sexist. He couldn’t bear the thought that another Magus, let alone a woman, could be better than him so he limited the prana he supplied to her. Even if she hadn’t fought Assassin her magic reserves would have been dangerously low.

    Her breath was shallow, her body shivered and felt weak, and her joints ached but she had to keep going. She had to keep walking or else... was that the ground rising to meet her?

    Warm hands caught her before she fell and she unconsciously hugged the heat-source. It felt good to be held like that. Safe. As her mind finally fell into the darkness, her thoughts went to how she missed moments like this in her last life.

    ===

    As consciousness returned to Caster, the first thing she noticed was the softness of the futon on her back. Looking around she noted she was in a rather plain Japanese-style room and someone had changed her into a dry Yukata. “How long have I been unconscious?” she wondered. She could feel strength returning to her body. The fact she was awake and wasn’t slowly fading away meant two things. Firstly, someone had carried her here from the broken trail. More importantly, the slight tinge of aqua in the air and her recovered strength meant she was sitting upon a potent layline. If it had been anywhere else, she had no doubt she would never have opened her eyes again.

    “You are awake,” stated a steady voice from the side, “Your original clothes are cleaned and ready. If you need to leave, then leave. If you need time to recover, then you can stay here at the temple.” Kuzuki Souichirou closed the book he was reading and put away his glasses.

    “How long have I been asleep?” she asked.

    “Over a day,” said Kuzuki, reaffirming Casters hypothesis. She supposed she should be thankful to whatever deity was watching over her. If somebody else had found her, she would have disappeared.

    “You do not have to make your decision immediately. Dinner is in two hours in the main hall if you wish to attend,” said Kuzuki as he got up to leave.

    “I suppose I should thank you for saving me?” Caster asked from the futon.

    “No,” said Kuzuki, “it was a young student of mine that found you on his way here. His name is Emiya Shirou. ”

    “Waaaa!” she nearly yelled, “he... he didn't... um... eh... did he?” Though she wasn't making much sense, the fact she rapidly held the blankets above her already completely clothed body made her question abundantly clear.

    “No, I clothed you. I made sure to keep your privacy if that is what you fear,” stated Kuzuki plainly.

    “I see... Thank you,” she replied, her cheeks radiating a shade of scarlet. “If it is okay with you, I would like to stay here for a little while.”

    He responded by a curt nod and then quietly closed the door. Caster breathed a sigh of relief. Looking around the room, she noted Kuzuki had assigned her a room that would have been spacious even by Western standards. Without the usual amenities of life, the rice paper walls and tatami mats made the large room look more like a dojo than a bedroom. It wasn’t a workshop or the fortress she had hoped for but that was fine. She had time to prepare for the war. Pushing back several strands of hair, Caster pushed herself off the bed and reached for her belongings.

    =====

    - The Marksman -

    Smoke floated high above the remains of the once proud city. The sky was filled with dust and smog from the raging wildfires that dotted the cityscape. High above the once proud skyline, a lone figure stood on the few remaining skyscrapers that dotted the landscape; like tombstones on a barren landscape. He stood motionless, his crimson cape fluttering from the high winds at this altitude. His grey eyes looked down at the ground far below him; picking up every detail with his reinforced eyes without betraying any emotion.

    Down below, like the surface of the moon, innumerable craters replaced what had been structured city lanes and towering steel and concrete buildings. It had taken over three hundred years to create a city like this... It had taken him less than an hour to level it down into the ground.

    Shattered VTOLs, unmanned walkers and dead infantrymen were all that was left of the last desperate attempt by the humans to stop the Dead Apostle’s plans. They had failed, so he had been summoned. Millions lay dead in what was once a bustling metropolitan. He thought about how many people might have been saved this time around. If the Dead Apostle had been successful, the infection would have spread to a dozen other cities. Most likely, the Church and Magus’ Association would have been involved and even more people would have died in their attempt to contain the situation. What he had done here was the right call. And yet...

    On the ground, the survivors walked out from the temporary shelters they had sought. Under a collapsed girder, a woman cried in pain as two men tried to life the metal beam. She would need immediate medical treatment for the internal bleeding or else she wouldn’t survive. Others cried out in pain outside his vision. Two men helped carry a child outside a burning cafe with a gurney; the boy barely older than fifteen. There were burn marks covering the kid’s face and over half his body. It was unlikely that the boy would survive the night.

    He was killing thousands of people to save even more people. Anyway he tried to justify it, his “duty” was nothing more than wanton destruction and slaughter in the name of the greater good. Even the warriors of Valhalla would have grown disgusted with such rife carnage.This wasn’t what he had wanted. There were no warm smiles of relief, laughter or tears of joy to be seen or heard where he went. Only sorrow.

    A room materialized around him, with a warm stone hearth inserted into one side of the wall and an endless bookshelf on the other. Picking up his unfinished glass of wine, he took the newest book had been reading and placed it on the unending shelf adjacent to him. Though the room was a nice illusion, he knew exactly what it really was: a prison. One he would stay in until Alaya finally deemed his service complete. A Valhalla for his endless servitude.

    On the endless shelf lay over a thousand books, over a lifetime’s worth of experiences; each one similar to the desolate city he had just left behind.

    He contemplated reaching for another book when he felt something tug at his chest. Putting down his wineglass, he suddenly felt it again before he was pulled forward by some massive unseen force; his body dematerializing past the walls of his room.

    “Another mission?” Archer thought to himself.

    The pull became stronger and he felt his ‘essence’ tumble as if from strong winds. The velocity increased and soon he felt as if he was going to be ripped to pieces by the turbulence. Something with the force of a boulder smashed into his chest and he began to fall end over end, desperately trying to steady himself.

    “No... definitely not,” he concluded. “Alaya’s summon has never been this rough.” Listening closely, he heard a voice past the roaring wind. It sounded feminine and oddly... familiar...

    "I announce.
    Thy body shall be under my command, my fate shall be determined by thy sword.
    Follow the call of the Holy Grail. If thou wouldst obey this mind and this reason, then answer my call."

    “Rin?” Archer said with surprise before he was finally pulled into the world.

    =====

    - The Blade -

    She felt a slight tug at her chest and she awakened. As she tried to find the source of the disturbance in this immaterial plane she felt her body hurled forwards through the white abyss. Confused, she tried to identify what was happening. Information flooded her mind as she fell; Dates, times, and knowledge about a world familiar yet different to her. Her mind grasped at the pieces of information and tried to understand what was happening. This was different from before; her summon was rougher.

    A voice echoed through the void. It sounded self-assured and more than a little bit arrogant.

    "It's unlikely, but maybe you were the seventh one.
    Well, this is it for you even if that's the case."

    “Was that her... Master? No... that’s wrong...” she thought.

    Emotions ran through her mind, though not her own. She could feel her Master now, and he was in danger. She could feel his anger... anger at the world, at his lack of strength and ability to save himself.

    Sorrow... He was saddened over a duty... no... a promise he could no longer fulfill. He had promised him he would become a Hero of Justice and save everyone. Even though his father had simply smiled at the notion, it was important to him.

    Finally, he felt indignation at the world. Indignation over failing to fulfill an oath and duty to the people he wouldn’t be able to save. It was an injustice she knew too well; one she had experienced herself.

    Now she understood. She understood her Master’s summon. Ceasing her resistance, she let the “winds” pull her to her destination. This was her second chance; she could put things right this time. Closing her eyes, she could feel radiant light surround her as she was summoned into the world.

    =====

    - Paint the City Red -

    Makoto Takahata had just finished her late shift at work and began the rather lengthy walk back towards her car. Humming along to her music, she failed to see the shadow that had been trailing her on the rooftop for the past several minutes. She did, however, notice when the streetlights around her dimmed and then died all at once; leaving her standing in pitch blackness. She removed the earbuds from her ears and looked around nervously while a sense of dread began to grow deep within the pit of her stomach. Turning around behind her, she stood face to face with a woman with eyes of crimson red.

    “My... my... you’re a pretty one,” said the red-eyed woman mischievously. She bared a predator’s smile, her twin razor-sharp fangs sticking past her lips.

    The Makoto’s scream was cut off as a strong arm covered her mouth. Two fangs pierced her neck and Makoto felt herself growing weak as her blood was slowly drained out. She struggled for several moments before finally falling limp in her captor’s hold. If there had been anyone around, they might have helped the senior Homurahara Academy student. As it was, the predator had chosen her victim well. There was no one around to hear her screams at this time of night.

    “Mmm... you’ll make for a fine thrall,” muttered a voice in the shadows.

    Silently, the body was dragged out of sight into the darkened alley nearby. Crimson eyes looked out into the silent Fuyuki streets before those too winked out of existence into the darkness. Shinto’s street lights flashed back on, revealing the empty street where Makoto had once stood. The only clues to her death lay on the road; her handbag and the dropped music player.

    =====

    - The Agent -

    Just beyond the noise and bright shining lights of Shinto lay a remote roadside diner next to one of the lesser travelled routes into Fuyuki. Owned by an elderly couple, the restaurant eked out a living from the carriers, truck drivers, transporters and other people that drifted by the secluded route. At this time of day, only three drivers sat at the counter, enjoying their coffee and meal. The light jingle of the door turned their attention and kept it there as the tall blonde woman walked towards one of the many vacant booths; walking straight past the shy orange haired waitress. Wearing simple jeans and a white t-shirt, she continued past the diner’s two patrons with a simple suitcase in one hand and a backpack slung behind her shoulder. The two patrons continued to discreetly stare at her as she walked on by; her ponytail swaying behind her.

    Secluded in one of the further corner booths, she set her belongings down and opened her suitcase, revealing her laptop. Waiting for her connection to Shin’i Headquarters to complete, she fished through her jeans before retrieving a package of cigarettes and grabbing the end of one of the smokes with her teeth.

    Waving the waitress over, she surprised the young girl when she ordered a cup of coffee in Japanese; the girl stammering several times before nodding twice in confirmation. If she had to guess, the waitress whose tag showed the name “Hibino,” was probably a poor college student looking to pay off her loans and tuition. The computer was still in the “authorization” stages by the time she received the warm mug of coffee. With apathetic movement, she grabbed the cup and took a sip, cigarette still held lazily between her lips, as she watched the communication program finish loading.

    Finally, the screen switched to the Shin’i insignia and a voice spoke from the laptop’s speakers.

    “Good morning, Agent Sable. I take it you had a pleasant trip,” said the voice over the line. Sable simply raised one of her eyebrows in response as she grinded the smoke over in her mouth; not even bothering to vocalize an answer.

    “Good to see you’re saving all your enthusiasm and energy for your assignment,” the voice continued.

    “You still haven’t told me the specifics, Sir,” replied Sable.

    “I told you, Sable, refer to me as Mike. In any case I’ve sent you the files.” Numerous documents appeared on her screen as her team leader sent her a slew of papers.

    “Not really much to do on this one,” said the agent as she briefly perused the initial several pages.

    “I know it’s an assignment below your pay grade but headquarters wanted a senior member on this situation. With what’s at stake, we can’t afford to just sit back and just let the Church monitor by themselves; especially given what happened in the last war,” said Mike.

    “Yes... the Church did so well last time,” she muttered.

    The blonde-haired woman paged through the collection of photos that had been sent to her e-mail. Over 5 square miles had been scorched clean. Initial casualties figures were estimated to be over a thousand after the fire had finished running its course. A complete disaster for the Church and Magus Association. By all rights, the Grail should have been dismantled after the 4th war. However, the Holy Grail War was still a pet project of the Magus’ Association and the Church was hesitant to intrude on the Magus Association’s territory, especially since the Grail was not related to any activity from Dead Apostles. As such, despite the heavy loss of life, the two organisations had agreed to let the experiment continue on the seemingly unimportant island.

    She chewed on the end of her cigarette as she read through another file. “So it’s just a simple surveillance mission,” said the agent.

    “Indeed. There’ll be no fighting on your part. Just make sure you get as much information as you can on the Masters. While we can’t interfere, if something like the last war happens the Agency needs to have something to work with,” replied Mike. “Besides, think of it like a vacation.”

    “With an ‘all you can watch action and horror movie’ smorgasbord,” she said cynically behind her cigarette. She looked at the profile on the 4th Holy Grail War’s Caster and her eye twitched. Over twenty-five children murdered in ways that would have upset even a veteran soldier’s stomach.

    She switched to another document. “And what about all this surveillance equipment you’re sending me? I’m not a technical expert. You don’t expect me to...”

    “Of course not. We’re sending another agent to help you with that. He’ll be your partner for this assignment,” the logo on her screen said.

    “Oh?” she said with dull surprise. “Who is he and when will he be arriving?”

    “Actually, he arrived in Fuyuki several days ahead of you,” replied Mike. “As for who he is, I believe you'd remember your old partner?”

    She heard the jingle of the door at the other end of the diner and looked up. Clad in a black suit that looked more at home at Wall Street than this tiny family diner, he stood tall over the other patrons. Making his way towards Sable, he halted as the waitress, Hibino, turned from refilling a cup of coffee and almost collided with him. Looking up, the reflection from his sunglasses made her slightly nervous and her own petite frame compared to his made her feel more than slightly intimidated. They stared at one another for a moment, her looking upward into the demure reflection of herself in his black sunglasses before he suddenly moved aside.

    “Oh, sorry about that,” he said politely with a slight nod of his head before moving to let her pass.

    “Ah... Thank you,” Hibino said nervously, not expecting his reaction. She moved past him towards her next customer.

    Continuing on his way, he walked calmly towards the back booth. Sable simply stared wide eyed as he slowly made his way towards her before stopping at her seat.

    “It’s good to see you again, Agent Sable. It’s been a while,” said the man with a slight smile on his face. He took off his sunglasses and stored them into a side pocket. Sable let her unlit cigarette drop as her mouth opened in surprise and eyes widened in shock. “You should try the strawberry pancakes here, they’re quite good.”

    “McNab?” she said in disbelief; as if he had simply transported into place.

    “Last I checked,” he said, looking himself over. He had just enough time to instinctively back away nervously before she pounced onto him.

    “McNab-akun!” she said cheerfully before tackling him to the ground in a steel-bending hug and he groaned from the sheer force being exerted on his ribcage. “I thought you were dead! You idiot!” All heads turned in the diner to look at the commotion.

    “Well... I was close enough to death... Sable... could you let go, I can’t breath,” said Agent McNab, trying and failing to maneuver his way out of her vice hug. “Uh? Sable?” He tried wiggling and tugging himself free for several moments before giving up, the blonde’s head and arms firmly wrapped around his torso. He lay his head down on the floor in defeat.

    Giving a sigh, he admired the beautiful wood ceiling before saying, “As my current superior officer, I'd like to note what you’re doing is highly unprofessional.”

    “Duly noted,” she said with a smile, ignoring him.

    McNab watched the orange-haired waitress approached them, her height astoundingly tall from this particular vantage point. Failing to hide her smile of amusement behind the tray she held in front of her mouth, she said, “Uh... is there anything I can get for you or your... boyfriend there, Miss?” she said.

    “I’m not her boyfriend...” he replied, squinting his eyes in annoyance towards her. “Although... could we get two orders of pancakes?”

    =====
    Last edited by Vigilantia; June 3rd, 2013 at 04:09 PM.

  2. #2
    Jester of the Moon Cell's Sovereign Kieran's Avatar
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    Certainly a well-written setup, even if much of it is familiar - but then, there are only so many ways to do this kind of thing, eh? Nevertheless, I am intrigued. Pray continue.
    “Love will be cruel to who it entices — love will have its sacrifices.”

    — Carmilla Theme




    "Evil isn't the real threat to the world. Stupid is just as destructive as Evil, maybe more so, and it's a hell of a lot more common. What we really need is a crusade against Stupid. That might actually make a difference."

    ―Jim Butcher, Vignette




  3. #3
    Dapper Deathwing YeOfLittleFaith's Avatar
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    This sounds kinda interesting.



    Quote Originally Posted by RadiantBeam View Post
    Not my fault Shirou is an awesome bro to lesbians.

  4. #4
    Vigilant. Relied Upon. Vigilantia's Avatar
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    Chapter 1: Deviation

    Author’s Note: I'm going through the required storyline here (and retracing steps if you were with from my old fic). Hopefully, you’ll enjoy some of the alterations I've made to the F/SN plot. Also, I've added a synopsis to the top of the Prologue.

    =====

    - Threads of Fate -
    - Chapter 1 -

    Day 3: February 2nd
    - Once More, with Feeling -


    Shirou flew through the tiny shed’s open doorway before landing on his back.

    “Checkmate, kid. I guess this is how it ends,” said the man in blue, his crimson spear pointed in front of Shirou’s heart. Shirou lay on the cold wooden floor, his heart beating frantically in front of the spear’s deadly tip.

    "It's unlikely, but maybe you were the seventh Master. Well, this is it for you even if that's true. Goodbye, kid." said Lancer as he adjusted his grip. He lifted the spear back, readying the weapon to thrust forward.

    They say time is relative. As he stared at the tip of the crimson spear, Shirou lived a lifetime in that single moment.

    Images of the inferno 10 years ago seeped into his mind. The sky was painted bright orange and red from the flames that had engulfed the entire block. A fire so hot that each breath felt like you were skinning your own throat. He vividly remembered people walking down the streets with their heads in their hands. He wasn’t aware at the time, but it had been to ease the pain upon their burnt faces. To him it had made them seem like the souls of the damned as they walked to the underworld. It was an image straight from Dante’s Inferno. A catastrophe that took thousands of people's lives and yet he had been the only one saved.

    So he had to live. He had to live so that those lives meant something.

    Memories of his father came to him. On that final night on the porch, he promised Kiritsugu he would carry his ideal for him. He still remembered the sigh of relief Kiritsugu made before finally passing; he had seemed... happy. He still had a promise to keep.

    His thoughts shifted back to the school this night. He had died this night and yet... he was given a second chance when he awoke alone in the dark school hallway. So why was this happening? So much had been sacrificed so he could live... so why was he going to die once again?

    “This is bullshit! I reject this. I can’t die like this,” he thought. Anger bubbled and then exploded in him as he cried out.

    “Damn it! I won’t die here!” he screamed.

    Blinding light filled the room. The radiant light blinded his sight even past his arm and shut eyes. A sudden roar of wind reached Shirou’s ears and the lance that had been at his chest was battered aside with a sudden blow. The sound of metal on metal rang again in Shirou’s ears and he heard Lancer gasp in surprise. Faced with a real threat, he heard Lancer leap back to gain space.

    “So you’re the seventh Servant?” Lancer asked.

    When Shirou’s eyes adjusted, he saw Lancer with doubt and uncertainty on his face. Between them was a girl dressed in regal blue wearing brilliant plate armor. With one quick motion, Lancer fled back outside.

    Making sure to keep her guard towards the door, she looked at Shirou with her jewel-like eyes. At that moment, the clouds drifted past and pure white moonlight shone through the open door, highlighting her shining blond hair as if it were made of gold. The light reflecting off her pale skin and further heightened her elegant features.

    He was speechless. The way she was dressed placed her as a warrior; yet he couldn’t stop thinking of her as an angel. Such was her overwhelming beauty that his mind temporarily forgot the man still outside; about how close he had been to death mere moments ago. From the depths of his memories, an image of a woman in white glimpsed into his mind before disappearing.

    She spoke, her voice soft yet stern, “Servant Saber, answering your summons. I ask of you, are you my Master?”

    Caught by surprise at her question, he could only mutter, “huh... Mas... ter?”

    Cocking an eyebrow in amusement, she smiled in amusement before giving a sigh.

    “Truly, the world must have an odd sense of humor.“

    “Aack!” cried Shirou. An intense pain flared in his left hand as if it had been branded. As the pain slowly faded he could see an odd marking where it had hurt. He looked at the marking: two ornate blades, both pointed away from one another. Saber observed from her position across from him.

    “It appears our contract is complete then. Wait here, Master, I shall deal with the enemy Servant outside,” she said. Without another word she gracefully leaped out of the shed out towards the waiting enemy outside.

    “Wait!” he shouted but she was already gone.

    ======

    Shirou ran outside. In the yard sparks lit up the yard as the two servants met in battle. The man in blue, so confident and arrogant previously, was battling simply to maintain his ground, each attack of his met easily with the invisible weapon in her hands. Despite her petite frame, Saber was easily driving him back. After every parry, she advanced with a counterattack which pushed Lancer closer to the yard’s walls. Lancer had lost the initiative; it was Saber now that was controlling the pace of the battle.

    “Coward, show your weapon!” yelled Lancer as he thrust once more. More sparks showered the ground as she easily deflected his spear.

    Blade met blade as their two weapons clashed at dazzling speeds. In the time it took for Shirou’s brain to register even one of Lancer’s attacks, Saber would have already deflected the crimson spear and lunged forward with an attack of her own.

    Jumping back he swung his lance outward in a wide arc in the hopes of creating some breathing space. It didn’t work. With a lightning dash Saber closed the distance and met Lancer’s swing with a powerful slash that destroyed his guard. She brought her weapon down hard in the hopes of finishing this fight.

    Twisting his body with inhuman speed, Lancer tossed himself to the side and cleared the blade’s edge by a mere inch; her invisible blade impacting into the soft grass with enough force to embed itself deep within the ground.. Despite his great maneuver, the force of the swing was strong enough to tilt Lancers jump and disrupt the grace within his usual movement.

    Unsure of this new enemy, Lancer withdrew rather than take advantage of the slight opening provided by her heavy swing. He widened the distance between the two of them and she withdrew her embedded weapon from the earth. Silence descended upon the yard as they stared at one another with their respective armaments at the ready. Her olive green eyes squinted and met Lancer’s own as they waited patiently for the others movements. Both heroes breathed calmly despite the fierce skirmish mere moments ago. Time passed in uncomfortable silence as they watched one another. Only the sound of the soft wind could be heard tossing the bushes in the yard. With the moon out from the clouds, it was truly a cinematic scene.

    “Are we to stare at one another until one of us dies of boredom?” said Saber, finally breaking the silence.

    “I’ll come for you yet,” replied Lancer, “but let me ask you this first. Your Noble Phantasm, is it a sword?”

    Saber chuckled softly, a grin on her face. “Surely the Servant of the lance would know a bow when he saw one?”

    Lancer would have immediately brushed off this comment, however, he had just fought an Archer that had been wielding swords tonight. His face turned pale for a mere moment as he contemplated her words before breaking out in laughter.

    “I like you, Servant Saber,” he said with a wide grin, “which is why I’ll ask you this before going on. Do you want to call it even?”

    He motioned to Shirou near the house, “That Master of yours is an inexperienced fool and my Master just so happens to be a coward. Wouldn’t you say it's in the best of our interests to hold off until we’re both better prepared?” At the mention of her Master, Saber automatically took two steps to cover Shirou.

    Lancer lowered his lance as if to indicate he didn’t want to fight anymore. His body relaxed and the grip on the lance slacked.

    Shirou’s eyes, however, grew wide at that particular stance. It was the same one Lancer had before at the school. The finishing move. He had no idea what it may be but he had to warn Saber. He opened his mouth to shout a warning.

    “I accept,” she said.

    Lowering her weapon she placed one of her hands on her hips and relaxed her stance.

    “Hmph, I didn’t think you’d actually take up my offer,” said Lancer. “Perhaps you were truly afraid of being pierced by my lance?”

    “Your agility with your weapon is indeed great, Lancer,” she replied plainly, “but I knew a warrior that could wield two spear with better finesse and technique. You are a fine warrior, Lancer, but I have seen stronger and quicker men.”

    Lancer clucked his tongue. “Geh, I’ve never had the best of luck with women,” he said with chagrin before leaping back on top of the wall and retreating back to the night.

    Saber continued to look in the direction that Lancer had fled, as if in thought. Shirou slowly walked towards Saber and she softly turned her head towards him. Moments of silence passed by as Shirou tried to collect the swarm of thoughts and emotions that flew through his mind.

    “Thank you...” said Shirou finally.

    “It is a Servant’s duty to protect their Master. There is no reason to thank me for what I have done, Shirou” replied Saber.

    He recoiled slightly in surprise, “Wait, you know my name?”

    Her eyes widened slightly in surprise before shrinking down. “Servants are given all the knowledge they require about this age before they are summoned. It is the reason I am able to converse with you during this Holy Grail War. Do you understand, Emiya Shirou?”

    “I guess... But there’s still so much I don't. You keep on talking about Servants, Masters and a war but this if the first time of heard of all of this,” he said frankly.

    “Hmm... I understand” she says in a polite tone. “You are not a formal Master, therefore it is obvious there would be gaps in your knowledge. I would suggest...”

    Suddenly, her elegant demeanor changed. Focusing on a section of the yard’s wall, she stopped talking and materialized her invisible weapon in her hand. Around her was an air of hostility. Before Shirou could ask what was wrong, Saber puts her hand up to quiet him.

    “There are two enemies behind that wall. Judging by their aura, it shouldn’t take more than several moments for me to defeat them. Please wait here, Shirou,” she said. With that, Saber jumped high into the air, landed lightly on the yard wall and jumped behind it onto the streets.

    “Enemies?” he thought. So enemies like that Servant Lancer... Which meant she would be fighting again. With that realization, Shirou bolted at full speed towards the front door. Having just enough presence of mind not to collide into the main door in haste, he unlocked the sliding door and looked outside.

    The road was covered in darkness once again as the moon returned to its place behind the clouds. Looking around, he couldn't see Saber on the darkened streets anywhere. A sound of steel against steel caught his attention and he ran for its source. Rounding the corner, he saw Saber swing down towards a man in red.

    =====

    For humans, a fight between Servants could be considered an act of beauty. Lancer’s speed could dodge a storm of bullets. A Berserk could rampage through a city and tear it apart building by building with his bare hands. Such was the power of beings beyond the material plane of existence.

    Which was why when Saber swung her invisible sword downward, only Archer noticed her odd behaviour. Saber was a determined and driven warrior. Her first attack had shattered Kanshou and Bakuya with one deft stroke. By the time he had recovered, the invisible sword was already pointed at his neck. To a normal human observer it would have appeared that Shirou’s command spell had stopped her swing. But to a Servant, her attack was slow. Her attack had already begun to falter before Shirou cried for her to stop.

    Invisible Air was held unwavering directly at his throat. The sword’s fickle sheath wavered to and fro like an unending layer of ice over water. Diverting his gaze from the death that was so close to his neck, he looked at Saber.

    [Fate/Stay Night OST - Into the Sunlight]

    She was smiling.

    It wasn’t the face of a Servant ready to defeat her opponent. Rather, it looked more like she was seeing an old friend; friendly and warm.

    All at once, a memory came to the forefront of his mind. He was on his back just like now in the Dojo. They had been training hard all morning. He had tried to take advantage of an opening left by Saber and swung his Shinai. Of course, she was quicker and had swiftly knocked him onto his back on the wooden floor. Saber, with her shinai pointed at his throat, looked down at him. In the soft sunlight of the afternoon, Saber made a smile and offering her hand to him. He remembered the soft touch of the . After this, he would decide to make a simple western meal for lunch.

    “Shirou, it is noon. Should we not have lunch?” asked the Saber in the Dojo. “Hunger is the enemy, after all, Shirou.”

    He remembered this image from long ago; when he’d still held his ideal dear. These were memories he’d thought faded and vanished with the naive boy he’d once been. The memory disappeared from his mind, but Saber remained; still smiling towards him.

    “What..?” said Archer in a daze confusion. For the first time in his recent memory, he was speechless.

    Seemingly satisfied with Archer’s confused reaction, she turned her attention back to Shirou.

    “Are you daft, Shirou? We could have defeated Archer and his Master here if you hadn’t stopped me. Retract your order.” said Saber. The earlier warm feeling Archer had felt from Saber was gone; hidden under her iron mask.

    “Just what was going on here,” thought Archer. Something was definitely wrong with the war this time. Inching himself back, he returned to Rin’s side.

    “Are you alright, Archer?” Rin whispered. He responded with a curt nod. As he and Rin watched, Saber and Shirou argued back and forth. The pair fought like an angry couple while he and Rin watched awkwardly on the sidelines; apparently forgotten in the heat of argument. Just when it looked like they would both come to a head...

    “Perhaps I can help, Emiya-kun” said Rin. The Master and Servant both turned simultaneously to look at her.

    “Tohsaka... Rin?” he said, stepping closer to get a better look. Rin stepped forward into the light of a streetlamp.

    “That’s right, Emiya-kun,” Rin said with a grin, ”You mentioned you’re an amateur Magus, right? Since you spared my Servant and my life, I’ll help explain everything about the Holy Grail War to you. After all, it's the least I can do. We’ll see where we go from there. Does that sound fine to the both of you?”

    Shirou and Saber gave their assent by nodding. However, Saber’s invisible weapon was still raised in the air pointing at Archer. Her eyes were cold steel as she looked at him.

    “Very well,” said Rin, “Archer could you turn yourself into spirit form for a while? Saber won’t lower her guard while you’re still here.”

    He complied and disappeared. Floating to the top of the Emiya household, he reappeared and took up a familiar spot from long ago; one that gave the best view of the surrounding neighborhood. He took up his overwatch position on the tip of the roof and looked out at the twinkling of home lights in Miyama. As the group walked in to the Emiya residence, Saber glanced upwards. At the edge of her mouth, the slightest of muscle twitches gave away her well concealed grin right before she disappeared into the building.

    Watching the house perimeter, he mulled over the events of tonight. There was definitely a difference in this war. Of course, there would always be unknown variables in war... Each a calculated risk. However, in every calculation Servant Saber had been a constant. This definetly through his plans out the window.

    “This war is off to a very interesting start,” he thought.

    =====

    Their walk to the church had been eventless minus bypassing a drunk couple on the way to towards the bridge. When Archer thought about it, it was odd how the sloshed blonde had been wearing or how her tall partner had been wearing sunglasses at night... However, he pushed those thoughts aside. There was a certain small warrior that was giving him a larger headache.

    Archer waited in spirit form as Rin and Shirou headed off towards the church on the hill. After Rin had explained the initial rules, they had headed to meet Kotomine and explain the rest of the Holy Grail War to Shirou. Now, all there was left to do was wait until the two Masters returned.

    Saber, ever the patient guardian, stood like a stone statue looking in the direction of the church. Moments passed as the only sound of gently rustling leaves in the wind. He looked over at the Knight of the Sword on his right. She was different from the Saber he knew. His Saber would have given no quarter nor spared an enemy such as him nor shown any emotion other than her intent to kill. She certainly wouldn’t have spared him voluntarily like she had.

    Yet... he couldn’t ignore the facts right in front of him. Staring at her with his reinforced eyes, he could see every one of her beautiful features. Her golden hair shining in the moonlight, not a single strand out of place from what he remembered. Her olive green eyes. Her soft pale skin. The way she held herself in that dignified pose even with the ridiculous banana yellow raincoat over her petite form. This was definitely his Saber.

    “Enjoying what you are seeing, Archer?” said Saber as she grinned mischievously in his direction.

    He materialized with his arms crossed in annoyance; exhaling a sigh of annoyance. This Saber truly was an odd one.

    “Just who exactly are you?” he said. Like seeing Rin turning into a shy computer nerd or Shirou... not acting like some selfless idiot, this different Saber irked him; if only because he was used to being the one holding all the cards.

    “Hmm?” said Saber. She turned her head towards him, a devious smile on her face. Archer knew that look on Saber’s face; it reminded him of a lion looking at a wounded gazelle. He recognized another predator on the hunt when he saw one.

    “My identity is between me and my Master to keep. Surely it is the same between you and Rin, Archer,” replied Saber as she widened her grin into a smile.

    “How did she....? No... Just no. That was impossible. His paranoia was getting the better of him. The only person that had heard that conversation was himself and Rin. It’s probably just a coincidence she was saying that,” he thought, trying and failing to convince himself. He sighed again.

    Akasha help him, she was driving him insane.

    “You are a very peculiar Servant, Saber,” replied Archer. His face remained emotionless and concealed the surprise from her previous comment.

    “Oh?” said Saber, “In comparison to what, Servant Archer? Is there another Saber you’ve met to compare? Perhaps in a previous war? Perhaps you fought in the last war?” she said. Her voice stayed stern but the smile she had been sporting had turned into a smirk. “If our Masters ally together, Archer, I expect you to share that information with us. It could be important.”

    She was teasing him... Watching just how far she could push him. Archer’s face twitched. Veins bulged in his forehead. He was going to die. His attempts at restraining himself from strangling Saber would cause him to have a brain aneurysm. He would be the very first Servant to die from annoyance. His once chance at peace ruined because of this Saber!

    Calming himself down, the one single burning question returned to his mind.

    “Who was she!?”

    To preserve his own sanity, he returned to spirit form. Saber returned her attention to the Church and both Servants remained silent. Saber maintained her watch as Archer once again mulled over the events of the evening.

    ======
    Last edited by Vigilantia; May 22nd, 2013 at 05:09 PM.

  5. #5
    死徒二十七祖 The Twenty Seven Dead Apostle Ancestors lethum's Avatar
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    Erase your double post!

    I enjoyed what I read. And I want to know more about what's up with Saber, so you did something at least partially right.

  6. #6
    Vigilant. Relied Upon. Vigilantia's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by lethum View Post
    Erase your double post!

    I enjoyed what I read. And I want to know more about what's up with Saber, so you did something at least partially right.
    Arg! Really BL? This makes correcting grammer mistakes/adding bits and pieces a pain. T_T

  7. #7
    Dapper Deathwing YeOfLittleFaith's Avatar
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    I liked this story the first time I read this start, and now that you're back on track with it, you can be sure I'll be following it attentively!



    Quote Originally Posted by RadiantBeam View Post
    Not my fault Shirou is an awesome bro to lesbians.

  8. #8
    Jester of the Moon Cell's Sovereign Kieran's Avatar
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    So, we have a Caster that uses Black Keys (*cough*Ciel*cough*), and a Saber who is either a very good imitator, or she's done something similar to Archer - i.e., she's reliving this War with prior knowledge. I wonder which it is . . . Or if I'm completely wrong, which wouldn't be a surprise.

    Either way, I'll love to see more.
    “Love will be cruel to who it entices — love will have its sacrifices.”

    — Carmilla Theme




    "Evil isn't the real threat to the world. Stupid is just as destructive as Evil, maybe more so, and it's a hell of a lot more common. What we really need is a crusade against Stupid. That might actually make a difference."

    ―Jim Butcher, Vignette




  9. #9
    Vigilant. Relied Upon. Vigilantia's Avatar
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    Threads of Fate: Chapter 2

    Author Notes: Hmm, not completely satisfied with this chapter as its still in my older form of writing with less detail/completeness than I'ed want compared to my current form of writing. Bleh

    Definition:

    Ojōsan - Lady/Ma'am

    ======

    - Threads of Fate -
    - Chapter 2 -

    - First Blood -
    Day 3: February 2nd

    The nighttime streets were Shirou walked silently with Saber as the sound of his shoes and her metallic gauntlets echoed in the quiet night. There really hadn’t been much to say after Saber’s outburst against his choice in coat fashion, which was why when Saber spoke it caught Shirou off guard.

    “So... Shirou, what do you think of Rin?” asked Saber.

    Shirou’s brain froze at the surprise attack and had to reboot from the trauma. To any other regular person, they would have planned out their response in an organised structured format. In Shirou’s case, he simply said the first thing that came to his mind.

    “Well, she’s not as magnificent as I thought she’d be. err... I mean she’s not quite how I imagined her. Err... I mean she’s physically the same as I imagined but different from what Iknewofher. Uhh,letmeexplain. She’snormallydifferentinschool...”

    Because Shirou was too preoccupied digging himself a larger and wider grave, he missed the mischievous smile Saber had failed to suppress on her face. Hoping to put an end to his babbling, she placed both gauntlets on her hips and said. “I meant as a fellow Master, Shirou.”

    Shirou’s face went red enough to rival a tomato before he took a breath to collect himself. “Uh... From everything she’s told me today, she seems like a very experienced Magus. It seems like she’s been preparing for the war for quite some time so she could be quite a formidable Master in the war. I could see her being a strong Magus in the future.”

    “I see...” said Saber in thought. He wanted to ask her own thoughts on Rin, but stopped when Saber jerked her head to the front.

    Standing atop the hill before them was a towering behemoth. Without even asking, he could tell this thing was the same thing as Saber or Archer; a Servant. Its skin was the unnatural color of lead with every single inch of its body filled to the brim with rock hard muscles. He could imagine the giant shattering boulders between his biceps. He didn’t even have to guess, the only class this servant could be was Berserker.

    Standing beside the behemoth was the girl he’d seen two days ago. Wearing a purple winter coat with hair like pure snow, her rather small stature clashed with the great monster beside her. If he had to guess, she would have been five years his junior... Could she really be that behemoth’s Master?

    “Ah, you’re done talking?” said the small girl. Fear gripped Shirou’s stomach and stopped him from responding.

    “Good evening, Onii-chan. It’s the second time we’ve met like this,” said the girl with a cheerful smile. Lifting up the sides of her coat, she does a small curtsy. “Let me introduce myself. I am Ilya von Einzbern.”

    “Anyways, now that introductions are done, we can start. Go ahead, Berserker. Kill them,” she said, in that same sing-song like tone.

    Berserker screamed an inhuman roar. Bending his knees downwards, he launched himself high into the air. At the apex of the arc, he lifted the massive stone sword high above his head for a mighty swing.

    “Shirou! Get away!” yelled Saber. The petite warrior tossed the coat away, letting the wind take it into the darkness of the night. Tightening her grip on the invisible sword, she leapt and met Berserker in the air.

    Air compressed and exploded outwards as the two warriors traded their first blow. Trees limbs were bent back, cars shuddered and windows vibrated from the shockwave. Shirou himself was forced several step backs and he was forced to shield his eyes from the blast. When he could open his eyes again, he saw Saber flying backwards.

    Saber crashed backwards, not even her great strength could stand against this beast. Tucking herself into a ball, she rolled along the asphalt before stopping her roll in a three-point stance. She looked up from the ground and Shirou saw a fierce determination in her eyes. Even against a mighty beast like this Saber refused to show any fear. Gripping both gauntlets back on the sword, she launched herself at the great Servant once more.

    Metal met stone as the two Servants continued their battle. Each clash of their weapons sent out miniature blasts that he felt even at this distance. However, Shirou could tell even with Saber’s skill she could not win this. Each of Berserker’s attacks were easily driving her back. Despite her own agility, Saber was stuck on the defensive. The easiest way to describe Berserker would be a lightning fast whirlwind of death. Cars and lampposts were cleaved in twain where his stone sword struck. Saber was using her invisible sword to deflect the multitude of blows but not matter how many attacks she blocked she wouldn’t be able to pierce the barrage of attacks and stop Berserker.

    Yet even with such disparity in power, she still kept fighting.

    Shirou gripped his own hands tightly enough that he thought they might be red with blood. Instead of the fear any normal person should have felt, Shirou could only felt anger. A boiling anger at his own inaptitude. This was wrong... He had promised himself that he would help Saber win the war, and yet all he could do was stand here and watch.

    Berserker struck once again and shattered Saber’s guard. As he raised his stone sword to strike Saber down, over a dozen bolts of blue energy struck Berserker in the back. No, wait... It would be more accurate to describe them as fireballs. Each one detonated with the strength of a hand grenade that exploded with enough force to shake the ground and caused him to reel backwards.

    “Tohsaka?” said Shirou. He looked hopefully in the direction where the spell had been cast but saw only darkness. Whoever had casted the spell must have been content to hide in the darkness and watch.

    The smoke slowly cleared and revealed Berserker standing unscathed amongst the flames. The powerful spell had failed to even wound the Servant. However, it had allowed Saber to deftly propel herself backwards and gain some breathing space.

    “Ignore that weak attack! Kill Saber first, Berserker!” commanded Ilya.

    Listening to Ilya, Berserker continued his unrelenting charge towards Saber. With

    Racing at full speed away from Berserker, Saber used her momentum to race up the side of a house wall and then propelled herself backwards. Jumping above even the tall giant, she swung downward. Berserker responded by swinging his stone sword in a backward arc, Berserker swatted Saber backwards into the air. She landed; in between Berserker and Ilya. Bolting forwards the moment she touched the ground, Saber used all her strength to close the distance between her and Berserker’s small master.

    Shirou understood. Berserker was Saber’s superior in every way. The only way to win... no, to even survive would be to change the conditions of the battle. If you couldn't fight a powerful enemy one on one then you would have to take out the physically weaker master. So why did it feel like there was a hole in his chest when he imagined Ilya being slashed by Saber? Was this truly the only way?

    The monstrous Servant barreled after Saber. He didn't know if it was possible, but Berserker seemed even madder than before. However, even with all his anger and strength, it was clear the mighty Servant wouldn't be able to catch up with Saber. Running from the impending doom behind her, Saber raised her sword and gave a roaring scream as she swung with her invisible sword. The small albino girl raised her hands in fear.

    “Berserker!! Help!!” Ilya screamed.

    And then Berserker materialized in front of Ilya; his stone sword at the ready.

    “Ahh, of course. The command spell. I completely forgot about that,” thought Shirou dimly.

    Saber’s eyes widened almost to the size of monocles at the sudden teleportation. Unable to block Berserker’s blow, she took the attack straight on and was thrown like a puppet down the street. A sickening thud reached Shirou’s ears. A streak of crimson marked where Saber landed before grinding to a halt.

    “Saber!” screamed Shirou.

    He ran. With all the strength in his legs and will in his heart he ran towards the wounded knight on the ground.

    He slid the last several meters on his knees before cradling her head with his arms. He could see her breath was ragged and her half-closed eyes were vacant; still recovering from the earth shattering blow. He glanced downward toward her wound. What had once been immaculate shining armor was now shredded and shattered metal. Blood leaked continuously from her grave wound as she struggled to keep her breathing through the pain. Unable to do anything else, he took off his sweater and pressed it against the wound to staunch the blood. It wasn’t much, but it was all he could do.

    With nothing to stop him, Berserker advanced with impunity towards them.

    A stream of blue flames launched from the darkness and impacted Berserkers chest. The fire completely enveloped Berserker’s torso before flowing past him. On the brick wall behind him, bleed off from the heat was enough to sear the wall until the brick and mortar began to drip from the immense heat. The lead-skinned servant screamed in pain from the magical attack, yet remained standing. Even as the stream of fire withered and died, he stood tall. Fire that would have melted through steel plating simply slid against the Servant's lead colored skin.

    As the fire finally faded, he could see the spell wasn't completely ineffective. Sections of Berserker's skin had been melted and peeled away to reveal the flesh and muscle. However, it was clear the Servant was still ready to kill at Ilyas command.

    With the attack's failure, a shade retreated between two houses. Shirou caught a brief glimpse of a crimson and black cloak before the person vanished back to the shadows.

    Ilya gave off an innocent child-like laugh that could have sent chills up even Lancer’s spine. “Whoever you are, that was a good try; but your attacks are futile. There’s no way to defeat my Berserker,” said Ilya, “after all, he is the strongest hero of Greece. Hercules.”

    “Hercules” said Shirou; whispering the name in awe and fear. Beneath him, he could feel Saber stirring.

    “Shirou?” said Saber weakly. Saber’s eyes finally refocused and she grimaced from her wound. Grabbing a hold of her sword, she unsteadily tried to rise to her knees.

    “Saber, you have to run, I’ll hold Berserker back,” said Shirou with more confidence than he felt. He knew it was a stupid statement the moment he said it. However, the alternative was to let Saber continue battling. In her current condition, it couldn’t even be called a fight. But much more than that, he just didn’t want to see her get hurt. Her face shouldn’t have to bear such pain.

    Helping her up to her feet, Saber pushed him away with her remaining strength.

    “Idiot! How do you think you’re going to be able to fight a Serva... Argh,” Saber collapsed back to her knees before she could finish the sentence. It was evident even to a him that she was wounded really bad. If she couldn’t even stand then there was no way she could walk, let alone fight.

    “Anyways,” said Ilya growing impatient, “it was rude of you to attack me instead of facing my Berserker, Saber, so I think I'll have him kill you first. Then we'll deal with your troublesome friend. Berserker, be sure to dismember her after cutting off her head.”

    Hearing her command, Berserker charged towards Saber. Still struggling to stand, she tried to raise her sword against Berserker.

    Shirou ran with all his strength to Saber. Perhaps it was because he hadn’t been able to do anything to help her up until now. So at the very least, he might be able to do this small thing and protect her for these few seconds.

    The sickening sound of torn flesh and meat met his ears as he felt his body fly through the air.

    Something had sent him careening away and knocked him to the ground... Landing on the ground, he tried to breath but found out he couldn’t. He looked downwards towards his feet. His blood, parts of organs and most of his stomach were now strewn on the asphalt. Oddly... He couldn’t feel anything. In the back of his mind he realized that must have been the shock setting in.

    Several feet away was Saber; her face an expression of complete surprise and... sadness? She was saying something to him but his ears couldn’t hear her.

    He coughed up more blood. He only wanted to knock Saber out of Berserker’s attack. He couldn’t even do that right... How silly... Instead, he just shielded her body with his own.

    As his vision vanished and his consciousness faded, he realized that this was the end for Emiya Shirou. His final thought burned in his mind until that faded too.

    Was he really just that useless? Can’t he even save one person?

    =====

    “What...” said Ilya barely above a whisper; her eyes wide in amazement.

    Berserker, not being given any new orders, returned his focus on his original target and advanced upon Saber’s vulnerable form.

    Then, a voice pierced the night like a command from God.

    [Noir OST - Chloe]

    “Enough! This ends now! INDIGNATION!!!” came a voice from the shadows.

    Giant ethereal runes glowed and surrounded Beserker before a single massive thunderbolt struck the great warrior in the center chest. Lightning whirled around the Hero of Greece as if it were a windstorm. Electrical arcs shattered and discharged on the ground around him, each one powerful enough send asphalt and debris into the air. Finally, the spell’s accumulated power erupted and Berserker’s body exploded in a shower of gore. Dozens of tendrils of lightning arced from his back to the ground. With his entire backside blow open and his organs splattered piece by piece onto the ground, Berserker collapsed onto the ground dead.

    “Not even the Greatest Hero of Greece can deny his father’s power” said the caster.

    The voice came from a hooded figure standing on a nearby roof. Her tall figure was silhouetted against the moonlight. Wearing a broad black cloak, her hood covered all her facial features leaving only her mouth visible in the moonlight.

    “Ah, so you’ve finally shown yourself, Caster, “ said Ilya before introducing herself. She finished by bowing against her new enemy. Caster stood silently, her gloved hands stayed rested at her sides staring at the small girl.

    “Your spells are strong, Caster, but you’ll need more than that to defeat my Berserker,” said Ilya confidently as she did a small pirouette.

    Even as she spoke, the blood that had been sprayed all across the street was beginning to reform back towards Berserker’s destroyed body. His flesh began to re-knit itself and his organs began to regenerate. Soon, all evidence of the damage from before would disappear. Berserker rose up with a guttural groan; ready to unleash another whirlwind of destruction.

    “A curious ability your Berserker has, Ilyasviel von Einzebern. You are indeed correct, I would need more to defeat your servant. However, Master of Berserker, not even your Berserker could stand up against the power of three other servants” said Caster.

    “Three?” replied Ilya in confusion. Caster formed four Black Keys and embedded them into corner concrete sidewalk next to the truck Rin was hiding behind. The twin tailed Magus tumbled backwards from the sudden attack and ended up standing in the middle of the street. Archer materialized behind his clumsy master, trying to suppress a sigh.

    Berserker, his body still smoking and charred from its first death, returned to Ilya’s side. All around them was destruction. Trees and lampposts were torn in half, cars were destroyed, and sections of the road had gaping holes from Berserker’s furious blows. The place was a complete battlefield.

    She grimaced in pain as she pulled herself up with her sword. Blood still oozing from her horrific wounds, she stood in an act of defiance against the giant servant. Her crimson stained gauntlets gripped her wind-sheathed sword and she once again took on a combat stance. Although her breathing was ragged and her wound bled profusely, Saber’s grip upon her blade never wavered. The knight’s intention was clear; if Berserker came towards them again she would make sure he paid for it.

    Looking at Caster, Ilya made an unhappy face at her before turning away. “I’m bored again, Berserker, take me home,” she said before jumping onto Berserker’s shoulder, “you’re annoying, Caster. The next time we meet, I’ll kill you for certain.” With those final words, Ilya left the battlefield on her servants shoulder.

    =====

    With the looming giant gone, Caster hopped from her perch on the roof and gently floated down in front of Saber. Caster walked towards the wounded Servant and Saber shouted in pain as she pulled the invisible blade from the ground. The knight grunted and tried in vain to force herself back into a fighting stance, but only succeeded in collapsing to her knees once again. It was apparent to even the casual observer that she was in no shape to fight another servant. Caster gently raised her hand in a gentle halting moment.

    “Now really, Saber,” said Caster in an insulted tone, “if I wanted to kill your Master I would have let Berserker finish him. He’s in a bad state right now. Help me help him.”

    Continuing to walk past the bloody servant, she knelt at Shirou’s side. She tossed aside one of her dark tresses to see him better before wiping the perspiration from the boy’s brow. She could see breath was shallow and his heart rate beat like a jackhammer. Strewn about the road were the remains of his intestines and other internal organs Berserker had removed from his strike. There was a gaping hole so wide on the side of Shirou’s abdomen that she was amazed he hadn’t been severed in half.

    “Damn fool” said Caster before giving a gentle sigh, “most people only die once a night.”

    Putting her hand to his bloody wound she muttered a long incantation and her hand lit up with a light green hue. Sweat dripped from her face as she focused intently upon her spell. As she spoke, his body began to regenerate and repair itself. Blood returned to his body and his wounds sewed themself back together. Finishing the incantation, she slouched down towards the ground from obvious fatigue. The wound was far from completely healed; however, with proper treatment, he’d live.

    She gave a tired She looked at the blood upon her hands and an image of the past flashed to her mind.

    The sky was pouring. The ground she was kneeling on was stained with fresh blood. Her victim lay dead on the ground covered in red. Realizing what she had done, she gave off a terrible wail that echoed into the night. As she cried, the night rain mixed with blood and flowed into the nearby gutter; washing away the sins of her crime. She forcibly pushed the nightmare to the back of her mind. That was no longer important. Shaking her head to clear the memories away, she turned her attention back to Shirou.

    As if she were a mother treating a wounded child, she tenderly wiped the fresh sheen of sweat off his face. Checking over him, she found his pulse and breathing returning to normal. If Saber had been closer, she might have seen the look of relief on Caster’s face.

    “That’ll have to be enough,” she muttered. “Hang in there, kid. I need you to live.” She affectionately cupped the side of his face before laying his head gently on the pavement.

    Caster looked back at Saber and saw her finally standing with her own strength, the bleeding from her wound already beginning to stanch. Curiously enough, even standing, Saber was barely taller than the kneeling Caster.

    Saber narrowed her eyes at Caster when she looked up. Despite the aid she had given to Shirou, Saber grip never left her blade and, although her sword was lowered, Caster recognized the aggressive stance the knight had taken. If she made any threatening gesture towards Shirou, she knew the knight of the sword would be upon her. Still, the mere fact Saber stayed her blade against an unknown servant meant she had earned at least some trust.

    “Why are you doing this?” said Saber.

    Caster shrugged. “Does there have to be a reason to help someone in need?” she said dismissively.

    Saber continued to look at Caster with cold eyes.

    Caster gave a huff. “Fine,” she said with resignation, “you might say your Master saved my life. I was only naturally returning the favor. Don't expect this service to be infinite.”

    “Saved your life?” said Saber, tilting her head in interest. Her voice was still cold but her curiosity dimming the fires of her suspicion.

    She nodded. “Although, that story will have to be for another time” she said.

    Rin and Archer watched silently as Caster stood back to her feet and faced the duo. The terrain before them had been shattered and cracked with the results of the recent battle. The old asphalt road had been utterly torn and sundered from Berserker’s repeated strikes into the ground, revealing the bare earth underneath. Debris like battered cars, felled trees and lamp posts littered the road.

    “So what will you do now, Archer’s Master” said Caster. She crossed her arm and her mouth twitched in annoyance at facing the two.

    Archer stood facing her, his expression was stoic as usual.

    “You are a Servant in the Holy Grail War,” responded Rin. Her statement was obvious yet clear. There could only be one winner in this war and Caster was just another opponent. Adding to that fact was her Archer was fresh to the fight while Caster had already used her prana against Berserker. It only made sense to fight Caster here.

    “Indeed,” said Caster, “yet you would let your dear friend die?” Pointing with her fingerless-gloves, she motioned to the unconscious form of Shirou behind her. “If your Archer fights me, I will guarantee he dies before the night ends.”

    “Oh?,” said Rin, her voice like stone,” and what makes you think I care? Especially for an enemy Master?”

    Caster’s lips turned into an evil grin. A grin that would have sent shivers down the spine of even the most hardy of men. “Is that so, Master of Archer?” she said in a mocking tone, “very well, in that case, you won't mind if I remove one of your enemies now.” With a quick flick of her wrist, a ball of crimson fire formed in her right arm. Whirling her cape behind her, she thrust the mass of fire towards Shirou’s head.

    “Caster!!!” screamed Saber as she brought her invisible sword to bear.

    “Stop!!!” cried Rin.

    Caster halted. The orb of fire disappeared from her hand. Looking up, she saw Rin with her hand reached out as if to stop her. Though she may have hid it well, Caster saw the fear in the twin-tailed Magus’ eyes. That brought a genuine smile to her lips. There might be hope for that girl yet.

    Caster emitted a sinister laugh. “How romantic,” she said with amusement, “the little Magus is in love with another Master.” Satisfied with Rin’s reaction, she deftly jumped into the air before landing on the same building as she had arrived from.

    “You stupid Servant, that’s not it at all!” Rin screamed at her. Veins popped in annoyance as she shook her hand in anger at the cloaked servant.

    Rin’s outburst, however, only caused Caster to break out into further mocking laughter. “You should watch where you go lovey-dovey with your emotions, you never know who might be scrying on you. In either case, I’ll leave him in your care then, Master of Archer,” she shouted. Cheerfully waving goodbye to Rin, she leapt from building to building before disappearing into the distance.

    As they watched Caster fade into the distance, Archer sighed. “My... you truly are a difficult Master, Rin” he said.

    “Archer, shut... up...” she replied. His Master’s trembling fists warned Archer that he should probably keep quiet lest Rin use up another command seal on him.

    =====

    Day 4: February 4th
    - The Third Party -


    Standing on the roof of one of Shinto’s high rise buildings, a shadowy figure stood observing the situation. Dressed in his usual business suit attire, Agent McNab looked through the lenses of his binoculars at the aftermath of the battle.

    “Bloody hell, what a mess below. Construction crews will be in for one long day tomorrow. Looks like you were right, though. It appears Master Tohsaka her servant Archer will be taking care of the other two for the night, Ojōsan.”

    “Stop calling me that! I told you to call me Kitsune-kun when I’m talking to you,” said Sable. The drunk girl giggled before collapsing onto the leather sofa back at their base. She hic’ed several times before dropping the phone.

    McNab masked the receiver for his earpiece with his hand before giving a long drawn out sigh. He idly drummed his thumbs along the metal railing as he waited patiently on the line while the blonde fumbled with the phone. Several moments later, Sable finally held the phone upright and continued their conversation as if nothing had happened.

    “Besides, McNaba-kun, everything’ll be fine. Now stop worrying and come back here,” said the intoxicated blond as she slurred her words over the phone, “it's no fun being drunk alone.”

    “Ojōsan, the Agency’s goal is to monitor the war. Meaning we don’t relax… at least until I’ve got our observation posts around the city up and running. I’m also willing to forgive you for having several drinks too many in order to maintain our cover,” he said. Despite his partner’s dubious behaviour, he still maintained his respectful neutral tone. On the empty streets below, he watched as Archer followed Tohsaka as he carried Shirou within his arms.

    “Besides,” said Mcnab, “There are other issues at play tonight. I’ll be back in several hours so try to get some restful sleep. Good night, Ojōsan”

    ===

    “Whadaya mean?” she said. However, she found she was already talking to a dead phone. She grumbled to herself over his restless[D3] behaviour. It was barely the Third day of the war. There wouldn’t even be anything to worry about till days later.

    Yawning tiredly, she stumbled around the safe house until she ended up in the kitchen. The house was located in the Miyama section of Fuyuki and made a handy base when their business took them out of Shinto proper. Scrounging a sandwich labelled “McNab” from the fridge, she began munching down. Taking a seat at the main table, she looked at the large amount of folders, newspaper clippings and documents arrayed in an organised manner. McNab had helped her into the living room when they entered so she hadn’t entered the kitchen before now.

    “Odd,” she thought, “I don't recall these being here before.”

    Plopping the sandwich plate on top of a photo of a flayed corpse, she sat down and shuffled through the notes and reports on the top folder. The notes detailed the recent deaths and unusual events in the city. He had categorized them by people and causes.

    The victims of bizarre gas leaks and chemical spills were attributed to the Caster of this war. Oddly, there were no deaths in that category. He had noted the victims had only received minor symptoms like dizziness, heavy nausea and extreme fatigue. Nothing several days of rest wouldn’t cure. The most names were listed in this category.

    Under “Servants” were deaths inflicted by slashing or piercing weapons. Each name was referenced to a photo of a bloodied and slashed corpses. Under this heading were a dozen or so names. Minor in comparison to the other two categories.

    Finally, there was a heavy folder for the last category. Its category was “Unknown”. She leafed through the files. Dozens of case reports, probably stolen from the Fuyuki police department, of missing individuals in Fuyuki and other nearby prefectures.

    She rubbed her frazzled hair in annoyance, “couldn’t you have just copied them?” she muttered to the empty kitchen. She read the names: Hohki Ai, Hotate Yumiko, Ichikawa Misato, Higashikuni Kageyasu, Tsukasa Rkuemon, Kuroi Sadako, Ogata Izumi, Shinozaki Konata, Shiotani Ichi, Ishimura Yakamochi, Itami Senzo, Kuroki Izo... The list continued on.

    Each of them were listed as missing. The earliest was dated from last month but there was an increasing amount starting at the beginning of the Holy Grail War. She flipped the page and was met with the gruesome sight of an empty husk. Its skin was dried like paper and its shrunken mouth revealed the victims teeth as if it were a grim smile. Her stomach turned at the sight and she pushed the sandwich aside. On the corpses’ neck was a great gouging wounds on the upper neck. The police report mentioned how the victim had had all the blood in their body drained. This jolted her from her drunken stupor. How had she missed something as big as this?

    She flipped through the remaining case reports. There were twelve other cases of these vampire-type victims and they were all within the last week. Closing the case files, she looked at the large map of Fuyuki pasted on the wall. There were three different colored pins denoting different murders or events. The ones with vampire victims were all centered in Shinto.

    She crumpled her eyebrows in annoyance. “That fool is going to get himself killed,” she thought, while reaching for the phone once more.

    =====

    - White -

    She coughed and shivered in the evening air, from the lack of energy or cold she wasn't sure. She felt tired... too tired to even move. Collapsing against the cold stone. she let herself rest. Before her eyes slid shuts she saw a black silhouette approach her.

    "Uh... Hey. Are you alright?" the voice said.

    It would get no response.


    =====
    Last edited by Vigilantia; May 24th, 2013 at 04:18 AM.

  10. #10
    Dapper Deathwing YeOfLittleFaith's Avatar
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    Damn, Caster is badass.
    And she teased Rin. I can respect that.



    Quote Originally Posted by RadiantBeam View Post
    Not my fault Shirou is an awesome bro to lesbians.

  11. #11
    Vigilant. Relied Upon. Vigilantia's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by YeOfLittleFaith View Post
    Damn, Caster is badass.
    And she teased Rin. I can respect that.
    Psh, Rin is too easy to poke and tease. Even Shirou does it occasionally, and that says a lot :P

  12. #12
    Jester of the Moon Cell's Sovereign Kieran's Avatar
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    Which doesn't make it any less funny.

    And now I'm wondering if Caster is Caren - her style seems to fit what I know of the girl . . .
    “Love will be cruel to who it entices — love will have its sacrifices.”

    — Carmilla Theme




    "Evil isn't the real threat to the world. Stupid is just as destructive as Evil, maybe more so, and it's a hell of a lot more common. What we really need is a crusade against Stupid. That might actually make a difference."

    ―Jim Butcher, Vignette




  13. #13
    To read or not to read... Etcetera's Avatar
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    Dejavu this fic's name damn, just damn. A cookie to those who know what i am talking about....

    But the story it'self is good and I really like where it is going so far.

  14. #14
    Vigilant. Relied Upon. Vigilantia's Avatar
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    Supplemental Material - The Dead

    A82
    From: Agent Wash
    To: Agent McNab
    Date: 2010/01/28
    Subject: Re: Dead Apostles and The Dead

    Yo, how’re you doing Nab? Sable hasn’t been driving you too mad on her little errands has she? Anyways, like you wanted, here’s an intro on Dead Apostles and their “followers”. I know you haven’t had that much experience with these folk so I tried to keep it to the point. Just whatever you do, don't let your guard down. Some of these bloody sucking bastards have lived for over a century. You don't live that long while getting hunted by the Burial Agency by being sloppy. Trust me on this, I’ve seen them in action and they’re no slouch. Hell, I remember one time this nice Church lady called CDataExpunged had to help me out in a bind. Dunno how she did it but she could create and throw these mini swords outta thin air. Anyways, any undead or vampire that was impaled by them were immolated and burnt to a crisp. That doesn’t even get into the part where she wielded this giant staking weapon one handed. Musta weighed at least a tonne. Gotta say that Church has some pretty powerful people on their side.

    Anyways, I’m ramblin on. Just remember to watch yourself and good luck. Make sure Sable doesn’t drive you too mad.

    The Dead

    The Dead are familiars bound to the will of their parent Vampire (also known as Dead Apostles). Having no true will of their own, they move under their master’s will and consume the blood and flesh of the living in order to maintain their existence and syphon energy to their Master. Talk about laziness. Anyways, they’re most easily identified by looking like a walking corpse. Sometimes they may have illusions around them to hide themselves during the day, although, I doubt you’ll be hunting any of these guys while the sun shines. These familiars are what you might consider a classic in supernatural mythology. However, they’ve actually fallen out of use. You’ll mostly encounter them in low numbers of less than several dozen in total. That is unless the vampire has already turned the entire city and the area is overflowing with corpses. Of course, in that case you’ll probably be meeting an army of Executors and other Church agents as they proceed to clean and re-decorate the area.

    Don’t worry though. Vampires prefer to keep themselves hidden and having an army of corpses followin ‘em around like that would defeat the purpose. A vampire that reveals itself too much often dies within a short period of time. Most of the time the instant any mention of the Dead is found the Burial Agency sends out Executors to hunt said offending vampire. After that, the jigs up and the vampire either dies or runs to another city.

    If you do wind up fighting these undead you shouldn’t let your guard down though. These creatures ain’t mere corpses. They’re kept alive by the power of their vampire and whatever unfortunate humans they get their ruddy hands on. This means they’re actually several times stronger than your normal humans and almost as persistent. I’ve seen Dead break through steel doors as if they were made of plaster and dent a knight’s shield with its fingers alone; although in retrospect they probably broke their arms and all their fingers doing that. Anyways, whatever you do, make sure you watch your surroundings and make sure you always have a way out. As long as you have an exit, you can always run away faster than they can chase.

    Also, since they’re essentially kept alive by “magic” that means their more durable then your regular humans. If you stab ‘em a dozen times they’ll still keep commin at you. Think of these guys as if they were robots. Heavy trauma to the torso or severing of limbs will net you the good results. However, the most surefire way of keeping ‘em down is the destruction of their main body or head (Read: cleave and blow them apart) or the use of the Church’s conceptual armaments (Read: Holy weapons).

    The Dead actually have an interesting history. Many people in the Church believe...

    ...
    ......

    =====

    A82

    From: Agent McNab
    To: Agent Wash
    Date: 2010/01/28
    Subject: Re: Re: Dead Apostles and The Dead

    Thanks for the information, Wash. I do have to ask, however, is it completely necessary for you to translate your accent into print?

    Regards,

    McNab, Agent
    Shin'ai Southern Region, Hyōgo Prefecture
    (XXX) - XXX - XXXX

    =====

    Author Notes: More to come "soon," depending on whether I can get a new beta.

  15. #15
    Vigilant. Relied Upon. Vigilantia's Avatar
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    Chapter 3: Complications

    Author's Notes: To old fans, yes, this has been changed from the original for obvious reasons. I found our resident DA too weak previously.

    =====


    - Threads of Fate -
    - Chapter 3 -

    - Complications -
    Day 4: February 4th

    The streets of Fuyuki were deathly quiet. There were very few people on the streets of Shinto once the sun went down in these last few days. The recent grisly serial murders had everyone sealed in their homes early. Even the Fuyuki police only headed out on patrol in pairs now.

    That suited Agent McNab just fine.

    The Fuyuki night was cold. As he walked down the deserted streets of Shinto, he could see the vapor trails his breath made and felt the chill of winter even through his suit jacket. Plastered on nearby bus bulletins and lamp posts were warnings issued by the city. The pamphlets suggested all civilians should return home before night or avoid staying late within the city and walking in groups. It would have been good advice... if the killer had been human.

    McNab idly thumbed the butt of his sidearm, more as a habit than to check the weapon was still there. His thoughts returned to a previous assignment with the Church in east Europe. He had been ordered to work with Church agents to investigate a village with incidents linked to a Dead Apostle that had fled Japan. When they had finally arrived at the snowy rural village, all the inhabitants were already dead; many from the vampire but some by their own hands. Some had hung themselves or cut their own wrists rather than be taken alive; the blood freezing before it had even touched the floor. The only thing that had seemed alive were the flying specks of snow and the ever constant whistling of the wind that clattered window shutters back and forth. And there was the cold... temperatures that chilled him even past the warmth of his winter jacket.

    Though Fuyuki was thousands of miles from that small village in the north, he couldn’t help but feel that same sense of danger and dread. It wasn’t a feeling one could easily quantify, like the general sense of unease from being watched from afar; however, years of experience with the Agency had told him to trust that feeling when it appeared.

    He stopped at the entrance to an alleyway before taking a look around, though he wasn’t sure why he bothered; he’d been the only living thing on the streets of the city for the past hour.

    Walking into the alley, he spotted the target he’d been tailing for the last few minutes. The man stood silently beside a dumpster; seemingly drunk as he stood listlessly and teetered back and forth. Walking with care towards his target, he gently drew the sidearm under his suit.

    “Excuse me, I don't suppose you have a light?” McNab asked.

    Turning around, The man reveal his deathly white complexion and lifeless eyes; most likely due to the gouging wounds in his torso and the hole in his neck. Bloodshot eyes and taut dry skin completed the morbid visage. Emitting a raspy noise from its throat, it recognized a new source of blood for its master. With its unseeing red eyes focused on its new target, the Dead charged.

    Gunfire lit up the alley as McNab pulled back the trigger on his sidearm. The bullet penetrated through the corpses’ skull; brain matter trailing in its wake. The Dead, not noticing or caring about the wound through its head, simply continued barreling at him. This time, McNab aimed at the torso and pulled back on the trigger until he ran empty. Each bullet slammed into its chest causing it to recoil backwards; it’s body jumping to the tune of some unseen puppeteer as it spasmed back and forth.

    The Dead, now with several biologically redundant bullet holes through its body, collapsed back down onto the ground. Wordlessly, McNab reloaded a new magazine into his pistol and then gave a sigh of relief.

    Feeling his phone vibrate, McNab grabbed the wireless earpiece and placed it in his ear.

    “Hello Ojōsan...” He stopped talking as she yelled through the speaker. Her voice fluctuated from anger, to worry and then back to anger.

    “Look, I know you’re mad I didn’t tell you about this but there was no concrete evidence that a vampire was even...” Once again, he was interrupted by the voice that came across the line. On the ground, the Dead businessman emitted another strangled gasp as it began to rise again despite the twelve holes in its chest.

    “Hold on, Ojōsan” said McNab. Taking careful aim with his pistol, he unloaded three more rounds into its head. Looking more like hamburger meat than an unliving creature, it collapsed back to the ground. Still aiming down the sights, he counted his heartbeats and waited for any movement.

    The body lay still.

    He exhaled the breath he’d been holding. Kneeling down, he placed the barrel of the gun on its chest just in case. He was relatively sure the thing would be staying dead from now on but he’d experienced too many horror movies to let his guard down now. Fishing through his suit pocket he withdrew a wooden stirring rod, the ones you’d find in a coffee shop or cafe, and used it to prod inside one of the bullet wounds.

    It was dry, just like the other Dead he’d hunted down.

    The Dead were drained of blood before they became the familiars of a Dead Apostle. If the corpse was dry then the Dead Apostle wasn’t feeding. Hopefully the damn vampire would eventually get the message and finally leave Fuyuki.

    As he stood up, the corpse began to deteriorate. A macabre scene unfolded in front of him. Freed from its master’s magic, the corpse began to breakdown and disappear. Skin slowly dried and peeled away into the air while bone and organs liquefied. The eyes melted into their sockets and its teeth began to stain brown before falling into empty chasm of its mouth. It was as if the corpse was rotting and decaying in seconds instead of months. The body continued to evaporate before even the bones finally vaporized into a pile of dust. Eventually, even that too was blown away by an unfelt wind until all that was left were clothes. From his ear, Sable spoke once more.

    Casually pulling out a hip flask his suit pocket, McNab took a swig of the rather sweet contents of the milk tea inside. He’d have to remember to get a bigger one next time; this one was slightly too small to last the night.

    “Anyways, Ojōsan, there’s no need for you to come out. I’ve already wrapped up most of the city prop...” he paused as she went off on another rant, leaving him waiting as she finished her piece.

    Taking another swig from his flask, he walked out of the alley and returned to the yellow streetlights of Shinto; the streets as empty and silent as he had left them. Something from the edge of his senses left him weary and he glanced behind him back into the dark alley, arm at the hip ready to draw his sidearm.

    The alley lay empty and silent. Even the Dead’s clothes had disappeared with him. The agent shook his head before retracing his steps back towards the main road. Maybe going out on these patrols alone were finally getting to his nerves.

    The voice spoke in irritation at the tardiness of his response. “Alright, fine. Yes, I know that place... It’s near the cafe you’ve gone to these last few days. I’ll be there in ten,” he replied. With that, he stowed the earpiece back into his jacket.

    These nightly strolls had been a regular occurrence ever since he’d theorized there was a Dead Apostle loose in Fuyuki. However, this night... There was something itching in the back of his mind. An unsettling feeling he just couldn’t chase away even though tonight was the exact same as every other night patrol. Sighing with fatigue, he continued walking the empty streets of Shinto.

    His footsteps echoed off the building walls and added to the cold night wind. Despite Sable’s rather angry slurred voice on the other line, he appreciated talking to someone on these night patrols. He kept his eyes sharp on the corners and shadows while she went on about the dangers of patrolling alone. He had the heart to not mention to her the difficulties of patrolling the streets of Fuyuki when you couldn’t even stand up straight. Even so...

    “Perhaps I should have taken Sable with me. Having her magical sense would definitely help track down these Dead,” he thought to himself. “We are supposed to be partners after all.”

    As he continued walking, the lights around him slowly winked out one by one. Slowing his walk he stopped in the middle of the street. Glancing instinctively at the sky for any airborne attacks, he drew his sidearm once more. Past the blowing of the light wind against the cityscape came a chilling sound. At first he thought it sounded like chains banging against one another but the sound slowly changed as it multiplied in intensity. He could could only compare it to a horde of cicadas; a thousand voices that turned into a single giant roar.

    He took a pair of sunglasses from his suit and donned them, causing his view to be filled with static as the low-light vision from the glasses activated.

    The Dead filled his view. There were over three dozen of them as they poured from alleyways and adjacent streets. With worrying speed, they began to close the distance between them and their victim. Behind him, more Dead began to emerge to cut off his exit.

    “Looks like the Dead Apostle finally chose between fight and flight,” thought McNab.

    Behind him, he heard the whistle of wind and instinctively rolled to the right. He felt, more than heard, the blow that whistled by his head. The attack impacted against the road where he had been mere moments ago with the force of a massive sledgehammer that sent flying pieces of asphalt into the air. McNab came up from his roll, sidearm at the ready and aimed at the point of impact. Razor sharp claws still embedded in the asphalt, the small Dead Apostle withdrew her hand from the small crater in the ground. Her small stature coupled with her pale skin and crimson red eyes might have had McNab mistaking her for another Einzbern if it wasn’t for the vampire’s raven colored hair. Clad in a simple school girl’s uniform, although different from the local highschool, the Dead Apostle surprised him by giggling. Unlike Homurahara high school, the girl wore a sailor’s outfit normally seen in junior schools; about fifty years ago.

    She smiled at him before bowing towards him respectably.

    “So you are one of the famed agents of the Church?” said the girl, “The ones the others dare only discuss in whispers? The ones cause us to flee in terror? Consider me unimpressed.”

    Calmly and carefully, he calmly holstered his sidearm and wiped the dirt off his suit. Straightening his plain black tie, he said, “I’m sorry to disappoint you, but I’m not with the Church.”

    “Oh? Then do tell, human, who is it that you serve?” she said with a tinge of curiosity.

    “The Shin’i Agency. Though you’ve probably never heard of it. It’s not as ‘mainstream’ as the Church of Magus Association... but we’re getting there. Although, I have a minor caveat with your statement. I don’t serve Shin’i. I’m employed by them,” said McNab. The agent brought up his hands in a defensive posture, as if apologizing for his statement. “I know it’s a slight nitpick but Shin'i isn’t royalty or a part of the government. “

    “It matters not. All in this town will serve me soon enough,” she said. There was a confidence in her creepy kid smile that had him worried.

    “Well, if that’s true then I would, of course, have to know the name of whom I would be serving?” said McNab.

    “Ah, where are my manners,” she said, placing her hand on her chest, “I have gone through many names in my time here... Elizabeth... Eliza... but mayhaps you have heard of the name Amarante? I found it a suitable description.”

    “Amarante... from the Tochigi incident?” he said.” You’ve been quite the celebrity with the Church and Association. You left three knights dead and two magi wounded in your escape last time. Quite an impressive feat.”

    Idly, he brushed the lump on his belt where his cellphone was. Had Amarante been watching closer beforehand, she might have noticed the tall Agent’s hands had lingered slightly longer than they should have over his waist when he’d been patting his coat clean. She might have also heard the minute sound as his phone redialed a number.

    “It twas a mere fragment of my power. Let me demonstrate it to you,” she said. Lifting her arms up, she summoned forth an army of black smoke wisps that seemed to circle and surround the street. Hundreds of these wisps seemed to weave in and out between buildings before disappearing into the darkness.

    From the shadows of deserted alleyways and building corners came the silhouettes of unliving corpses. Dozens of the Dead appeared like an unending tide of flesh. More eerie than the numbers was their silence. Contrary to what the media showed, the Dead in this world didn’t moan, scream or mutter ‘brains’. More often than not, they were completely silent and were utterly relentless with their lifeless determination to bring their victim down.

    “Behold, my numberless army,” she announced, her hands triumphantly in the air.

    “This lady really needs to stop drinking her own koolaid,” thought McNab. If Amarante hadn’t been so caught up in her act, she might have noticed the condescending look he was giving her. Ever so slowly, he thumbed his sidearm underneath his coat.

    “Now... gratefully perish...” she began to say.

    He interrupted her, “actually, I have a question. What’s with the sailor school uniform? “I mean... It doesn’t really fit with the times. No one’s worn something like that for years. ”

    “What?” said the girl slowly; her face a look of confusion. The agent’s sudden comment caught her off guard.

    “From our intel and the fact several of your servants are wearing Victoria era clothing, I’m estimating you’re at least a hundred years old. Most vampires don’t gather this much power without being at least that old. No... what confuses me is that tacky uniform. Maybe you have weird tastes for young girls? Although I would say that’s slightly creepy given your age.”

    The girl narrowed her eyes at McNab as if she could burn him away just by her glare. If he looked closer, he might have seen a vein pulsing on her forehead.

    He continued talking calmly, ignoring Amarante’s withering stare, “that might be a Vampire thing though,” he calmly, “perhaps its something to do with infinite youth mixed with continuous mental aging. I’ll have to ask our...”

    “Shut up! Shut up you miserable piece of meat!” she screeched in her childish like voice. He could detect anger and outrage in her voice; exactly what he wanted.

    “Now that’s just plain rude. Surely a little girl like you would know better than to interrupt someone while they’re talking,” he replied casually.

    “Why you annoying little...” a single gunshot stopped her words. Moving with nearly Servant level speed, she twisted her body away as the .40 S&W bullet just barely grazed her cheek.

    On the ground, McNab held the smoking gun from his hand. In the blink of an eye he had drawn, aimed and fired the gun in one motion.

    “How d...” her words were cut off again as McNab fire another round towards her and the Dead Apostle was forced to dodge once again.

    Landing on another lamppost she looked down felt the blood from the bullet that had grazed her arm.

    “Kill him!” She screamed in anger to her Dead slaves. He fired another shot but this time she was ready. Jumping from the post, she disappeared into the shadows of the night.

    ===

    Gunshots echoed across the empty city of Shinto and lit up the pitch black streets. Four bullets penetrated through the front windowpane of a cafe before McNab decided it was simpler to kick the wooden front door down. Passing through the empty cafe, he sped past empty tables before vaulting over the counter. Turning around, he took the time to fire the rest of his clip into the first Dead that came through the door. Static washed his view as his glasses compensated for the sudden contrast in lighting.

    Rushing through the darkened kitchen, he kicked open the cafe’s rear door. Sidearm at the ready, he aimed the gun down both directions of the alley and breathed a silent sigh of relief when he found it empty. The alley held the distinct aroma of rancid meat mixed with the pungent smell of fish and weeks worth of used cooking oil. Despite his urge to gag, however, it was at least safe for these several seconds.

    Fishing out his earpiece, he activated it and spoke, “Sable. Did you get all of that? I’m going to need a ride out of here.”

    “I’m three minutes out. Where do you want extraction?” came Sable’s voice. Despite her general goofiness before, his partner’s tone right now was as cold and emotionless as steel. He wracked his mind for a nearby location even as he scrambled to find directions in his mental map. Picking a route, he headed down the right side of the alley; running past dumpsters and upturned cardboard boxes.

    “Head for the main street. The one that runs straight through Shinto through into Miyama. I’ll be the man running from an army of corpses. You won’t miss me,” he said.

    “Confirmed. 3 minutes,” reported Sable.

    Cutting the connection, he continued running through the aging brick alleyway towards the light. Sprinting from the darkness, he passed into the pale illumination of Shinto’s streetlights and was rewarded by a blow to the chest. With the sound of a sickening bone-snapping crack that echoed through the air, McNab fell on his back to the cold pavement; his lungs gasping for air. His head hit the pavement and for a moment his vision split to double. He forced himself to blink and the dizziness faded away although the rhythmic pulses of pain that were beating the back of his head remained. Looking upward, he saw what had hit him.

    The broad looking down towards him might have been beautiful once, if she’d still had her lower jaw and fixed the missing chunks of flesh from her neck. Skin tinged necrotic grey, her arm hung limply at a wrong angle; broken from her own attack against him. The Dead’s head tilted sideways to look at him, a seemingly impossible movement considering her left neck muscles were gone.

    He aimed his sidearm upwards and pulled back on the trigger until it clicked empty. Above him, the broad turned uglier with every bullet until she finally collapsed to the ground; body littered with bullets. A seemingly final breathe left the woman’s lifeless lungs before her body turned to black smoke and drifted to the breeze of some ethereal wind; only a faint pile of ash and dust left on the ground.

    McNab’s head still pounded in pain as he pushed himself from the ground. Looking around, he found his glasses and angrily shoved them in his suit pocket. When he’d left the alley, his glasses had washed white from the streetlamps; temporarily blinding him. It had taken half a second to correct the change but that had been enough to leave him gasping on the sidewalk pavement.

    “Damn novice mistake,” he thought to himself angrily.

    He kept running; each breathe shooting pain through his chest. Despite the protection provided by his suit’s kevlar padding, he felt the sharp sting of pain from his broken ribs. Running down the main road, he thought he heard laughter in the wind.

    “Time to die,” came Amarante’s voice. Her words echoed and resound across the skyscrapers and different buildings in the downtown corridor. From the sky came dozens of familiar shades of smoke that soon materialized a wall of shuffling flesh and bones that sealed his exit from the city and surrounded him.

    “Nice acoustics, kid. You know... I have a friend in the music business. I’m sure they’d love to hire someone with your set of skills,” he said to the air. Silence was it’s reply.

    For a moment, his brow squinted in annoyance; he felt snubbed from the lack of a response..

    All around him, the summoned endless horde began their endless advance. A man in his late fifties wearing a blood stained dress shirt. A brunette wearing a white sweater with blue eyes. Another man with long messy hair missing a section of his neck. A plethora of faces. Each of their eyes vacant and distant. Each one looking to consume his body for Amarante.

    “Huh...” said McNab. As the circle of corpses began to close around him, he began to regret not taking his partner with him today.

    Gunfire lit up the empty streets of Shinto once more as McNab opened fire against the mob. His targets danced like marionettes to his gun’s tune with every pull of the trigger: A man in his late fifties wearing a blood stained dress shirt, a brunette wearing a white sweater with blue eyes, another man with a macabre smile because the lower half of his face had been eaten away; his teeth stained black and yellow with decay. All of them laid to rest under the agent’s bullets.

    The slide to his gun locked empty and the final shell casing fell against the asphalt ground; ringing and echoing into the night like a wind chime. Before him, the horde seemed to have grown even thicker from his attempts to whittle them down. “Three down...” McNab thought, “a hundred to go...”

    He grabbed another magazine from his reserve holder and continued firing; the rhythmic report of his sidearm was a drumbeat for the shambling corpses.

    Sable’s voice came over the earpiece, “Get down, idiot.”

    “Huh?” McNab replied. He turned around, facing west towards Miyama, before a rush of hurricane force winds sent him hurtling backwards onto the asphalt road. He felt the ground tumble past him as he tried and failed to find any purchase on the flat road. His back collided against a street light and he bit down hard on his teeth from the pain resonating in his chest from his already broken ribs. Gripping his arm on the street light as support, McNab looked up just in time to duck as one of the dead flew past his head. The gale-force winds had blown all the Dead down the street along with anything else not nailed down. Dirt, trash, signs and anything else that hadn’t been properly bolted down were blown down the street along with the Dead in what reminded the agent of images from a recent tsunami.

    Coughing and stretching his back from the pain, the agent pushed himself off the ground. Before him, in the center of the road, was a pristine sports car parked in the middle of the road. Painted in a quicksilver, the car’s immaculate frame reflected Shinto’s city lights off it’s carbon fiber frame hood like some of the commercials he’d seen before. Retrieving his sidearm which luckily hadn’t been blown too far away, he groggily walked towards the car; hand clutching his wounded side.

    Leaning on the right side of the convertible, he greeted the driver. “Agent Sable, excellent timing as always.”

    “Get in, idiot,” she said, narrowing her eyes at him. Her cold voice and angry eyes belied the cheerful demeanor she had held before.

    “I guess the night air ain’t the only thing that got chillier since I last saw you...” he said.

    An ear splitting shriek split the night. He turned in time to see one of the Dead leap towards him. Unlike the others, however, this one seemed changed and mutated. Long jagged teeth closer to a shark’s maw replaced the woman’s mouth. Her body seemed drained of all excess fat and flesh, giving a gaunt look. What caught his attention, however, were the inch long flesh rending claws that replaced the Dead’s hands. McNab brought his sidearm up...

    “Down!” his partner yelled. Placing her palm outward, Sabler’s eyes narrowed in concentration and a beam of golden light shot from her hands and struck the Dead; vaporizing its body into ether and dust.

    “What the ...?” said McNab in surprise. None of the Dead he’d seen had shown that kind of celerity before.

    Around him, several of the undead began to morph. Their bodies spasmed and unseen energies warped the corpses into the creature that had just attacked them. A tingle went down his spine in fear and he felt the familiar tingle of adrenaline spiking in his system. He hurled himself into the rear seats of the sports car and bit back against the pain when he landed.

    “Ojōsan, I think it is time for us to de-ass the immediate area,” shouted McNab; aiming his gun and firing rounds into the horde.

    “Agreed,” she said. Sable decapitated one of the dead with another focused beam of light.before shifting the car’s gears and speeding away.

    Behind them, the mutated Dead ran after them on all fours like rabid hounds from hell. He watched as they disappeared from view from the car’s speed and he breathed a sigh of relief. He clambered into the passenger’s seat with care; painfully aware just how fast his partner was speeding down the city roads.

    Sable gave him a stare that would have melted steel. "Was this your plan? Go solo so I could find your corpse in the morning?" she yelled towards him, her ponytail flowing in the wind behind her.

    "Quite frankly, Ojōsan, I had it under control," he said.

    “Under control?” she said exasperated, “being surrounded and about to be eaten by the Dead is under control?”

    “Maybe,” he said rather quietly under his breathe.

    “Idiot,” she muttered.

    The car swerved as Sable took another sharp turn; its tires screeching in protest. McNab held on with all his strength as the car nearly tipped over from the acute angle. The dull thump of tires meeting asphalt once more did little to soothe his nerves. Streetlights whipped by at high speeds as they drove away. A sudden thought jumped to the forefront of his mind.

    “Wait, weren’t you drunk less than an hour ago?” he asked.

    “Maaaybe,” she answered, inebriation returning in her words. She gave a perky smile towards him that scared him more than the Dead they’d left behind. He put on the seat-belt and unconsciously gripped the car harder.

    Sable made another sharp turn, her hands a flurry of motion as she switched gears while holding the wheel. More prepared this time, McNab was able to hold on and prevent himself from accidentally headbutting Sable in the face from the whiplash; although with this wild driving he still felt like doing so. Drifting from the turn, he could see the buildings flying by as Sable sped up the sports car.

    “Ojōsan, can we please slow down?” asked McNab in a rather nervous tone.

    “But why?” she said with a slight whine, “there’s a perfectly flat stretch of road there.” She gestured to the completely empty and straight road ahead of them.

    “Because you’re one mistake away from a seven hundred and twenty degree rollover,” he replied bluntly.

    ===

    Several kilometers later, they finally stopped the car at the edge of Fuyuki bridge. It might have been the third time she smacked him in the arm while driving and called him an idiot that she noticed him wincing in pain longer than he should have. It was at that time that Sable realized he had multiple contusions and two cracked ribs. Stopping the car, Sable finally took a look at his wounds.

    “Hold still,” said Sable.

    “Ack!” said McNab

    “Look, if you don’t hold still it’ll only hurt more.”

    “Damnit, can't we do this at the safe-house? Its too cramped and cold in here.”

    “Oh quit your whining already and take off your shirt.”

    “What!!? Hey n.. now just wait... Gah...”

    “See? Now doesn’t that feel better?” she asked.

    A warm sensation spread from Sable’s touch. He could feel his cracked ribs slowly setting back into proper place. The pain ebbed away slowly until all he could feel were Sable’s hands on his body. “Does it hurt anywhere else, McNaba-kun?” asked Sable calmly. She stared upwards at him, her eyes almost level with his chin. He could feel her soft warm hands on his body. This close to his body, he could feel her warm breath gently tickle his skin on this cold winter night... Her face was close eno...

    “Keep professional... Keep focused,” he thought, “She’s already taken. So keep. It. Professional...” He pulled away from Sable abruptly, much to her surprise.

    After an awkward moment where they both stared at each other, he said, “Anyways, thank you for the help back there. I’ll admit I may have been in some trouble back there.” In an attempt to keep face, he started straightening his suit.

    She gave a mischievous chuckle at his odd reaction.

    “This is why I like you McNab. You’re always so amusing to have around,” she said with a sly grin. Failing to find a snappy line to throw back at her, he simply gave her an annoyed glance.

    “Why can I stand Vampires, Demons, and Eldricht abominations but not her,” he thought with annoyance. He forced himself to relax the fist he had unintentionally been tightening.

    Taking a long breath, McNab slumped into the leather seat of the car. Grumbling slightly at the lack of a headrest, he adjusted the seat downward and used the shoulder cushions as an impromptu pillow. Sighing with fatigue, he collapsed into the chair and closed his eyes. “You know... with that vampire staying here this entire war just got much more complicated.”

    “Mmhmm” agreed Sable. Reaching over towards the glove compartment, she pulled out the half eaten sandwich she had been chewing on previously. Like a kid eating a large bar of chocolate, she bit into the sandwich with a satisfied expression; happily munching into the Rye bread. Unfortunately, in her mad bid to inhale the tasty meal she inadvertently let a dollop of mayonnaise and mustard splatter on to her black pants. Her mouth sealed shut with Gouda and Pastrami, she made a series of “mumphs” and other anguished noises as she searched for something to clean her pants in the car; her one free hand flailing wildly in frustration. From the sounds she was making, McNab guessed she was failing.

    Not bothering to open his eyes, he took out a napkin from his suit and handed it to her which she took with an affirmative-pitched, “mmhmm!”

    Deciding to crack open half an eye, McNab rotated his head and looked at her with an accusing look, “isn’t that mine?”

    Halting in mid bite, Sable innocently stared back and forth between her meal and Mcnab. Finally making a decision, she held the sandwich towards McNab. The fact that in the span of several moments she had demolished almost all of the sandwich most likely hadn’t occurred to her.

    Rolling his eyes in disbelief, he pushed the meal away and leaned back once more into the seat. Shrugging her shoulders, she rapidly consumed the dwindling sandwich. Finishing the meal with glee, she opened and then leaned on the car door to enjoy the cool night breeze. They both stared at the darkened Shinto skyline in silence; wondering what the future days in this city would hold.

    “Ojōsan, I have a question,” said McNab, “Didn’t Shin’ai specifically tell you to stop leasing sports cars for missions?”

    “...”

    ======

    Day 4: February 4th
    - Jasmine with Serenity -


    Crouching atop one of the higher trees near the Tohsaka residence, Archer observed the situation in spirit form. First there was that odd Saber and then the new Caster. Looking into Shinto, it looked like now there was most likely a Dead Apostle in Shinto. He gave a mental sigh. Truly, this must have been Alaya’s bizarre attempt at humor.

    After Caster left the battlefield, Rin had ordered him to take Shirou back to her home. True to Caster’s predictions, Rin had decided to help Shirou rather than chase after her. Upon looking upon the damage, Rin had briefly turned pale before immediately setting to work. Despite Caster’s healing, the fool’s actions would still take a massive amount of time to heal. Unable to help Rin any further, he left her with Shirou and Saber to let her concentrate.

    He continued to observe Fuyuki bridge as the pair finally began to drive back into Miyama. As their car finally disappeared from view, Archer wondered who they might be. They didn’t look like any members of the Church or the Mages Association. Magi normally never used guns and Church Executors normally wielded holy Conceptual Weapons and wore clothes laden with cross insignia and holy paraphernalia. These two fit neither profile and he made a mental note to keep an eye on these two.

    In any case, he’d have to inform Rin of this new turn of events. A Dead Apostle sulking in the shadows while the Holy Grail War was going on could only mean trouble.

    “Archer, could you come back here?” came Rin’s mental order.

    Floating through the walls in spirit form, he materialized into the main living room. Rin was kneeling hunched over the prone form of Shirou.

    Surprisingly, he found Saber kneeling across from Rin. Though she still wore her armor, she had removed her two gauntlets for better control. In her hand was a damp cloth and she was gently wiping the sweat from Rin’s brow as Rin continued healing the hurt Magus. This continued for several moments as Rin healed Shirou while Saber assisted Rin in any way she could. Not wanting to interrupt their silent team dynamic, Archer said nothing. After all, he might be able to call upon thousands of Noble Phantasms but when it came to healing broken bones and internal bleeding Rin would be the better magical healer.

    The light from Rin’s hands faded and from his position, Archer could see Shirou’s chest was healed.

    “Huh... that was quicker than I anticipated,” Rin said. Yawning, the twin tailed magus stood up and started walking towards the house stairs. Both eyes appeared closed as she moved past her tall tanned Servant.

    “Rin?” asked Archer.

    “Sleep,” moaned Rin before slamming her palm into her approaching servant’s face and pushing him away. “Guard... stuff...”

    “There’s something you should know ab...” Archer said.

    “...morrow,” muttered Rin before yawning again. The raven haired master slowly plodded up the stairs, drained of energy, like the Dead he’d seen mere minutes ago.

    “I better make sure she doesn’t fall asleep in the hall,” thought Archer. Giving a quick glance towards Saber and Shirou, he followed Rin to her bedroom.

    ===

    Archer returned downstairs after tucking his troublesome master to bed; which had taken more effort than he’d intended. Rin had collapsed unconscious the moment she had been within sleeping range of her bed. It had taken all his agility and skill to position her to the head of the bed and tuck her in without her waking up. Unless you were prepared to dodge gandr and spells of mass destruction, you didn’t want to wake up Rin at night.

    Walking back into the living room, he saw Saber still in her seiza sitting position; eyes closed in meditation. Beside her lay Shirou, still unconscious from his wounds. Saber opened her eyes at his presence.

    “Is everything suitable for you, tonight?” asked Archer. The knight gently nodded her head.

    “Then if you are comfortable here, I shall return to watch over Rin,” said Archer. However, as he turned for the stairs, Saber spoke.

    “Actually, Archer, if it is alright with you, could you brew me a pot of tea? I would appreciate the warmth during the night,” she said.

    For a moment in time, both servants stared at one another in silence. On one hand, he should return to Rin to guard over her while she slept. Saber herself was also now a wild card; he couldn’t be quite sure just who she was. On the other hand, he was definitely sure this was the Saber he had known and it would be rude to refuse her request.

    Finally, Saber gave him a warm smile that finally broke his resolve.

    “Very well. I’ll brew you some tea,” said Archer as headed into the kitchen.

    “Thank you, Archer,” he heard her say through the kitchen doorway.

    He placed the kettle on the stove before heading straight for the left most cupboard for the tea. Inside it were dozens of different types of tea leaves, ranging in type from Oolong and Darjeeling to herbal tea. There were varying types of tea quality in Rin’s cupboard, ranging from the lower quality “dust” or fanning teabags used by low end cafes, which were just the minute particles on the bottom that were left after tea leaves were sorted, to the expensive real full tea leaves that could easily cost over two thousand yen for a cup. However, only the best could be given to the King of Knights.

    He moved aside several metal tin boxes before bringing out a certain ornate metal box; the one that held Rin’s exotic Chinese leaves.

    As he readied the tea on the kettle, he looked into the living room to see Saber moving Shirou to one of the couches in the room. Somehow, Saber had also acquired a thick comforter and carefully covered Shirou with the blanket.

    Taking the tea from the kitchen, he gently placed the fine china onto the table. With refined and precise movements, he carefully poured both of them a cup. Taking a seat across from Saber, he waited and observed as she took a quick sip of the exotic tea. Her face turned to one of surprise and her olive green eyes turned towards Archer.

    “It is quite good,” she said with a slight nod.

    “Thank you,” he replied with a satisfied smile. That made two out of two people that enjoyed his tea.

    Silence returned to the room as the two Servants drank from their china wordlessly; Saber sat on the ground while Archer lounged comfortably on one of Rins ornate chairs. Taking in a large sip, he savored the tea’s rich earthy flavor.

    “I don’t suppose you’re going to tell me who you are,” said Archer, breaking the silence.

    Saber smiled. “No, of course not. It is more amusing this way.”

    Rather than being annoyed, Archer simply returned the smile. Truth be told, he hadn’t expected her to. From the evening’s earlier conversation, he realized he wouldn’t be obtaining any information from her directly. Right now, this simple tit-for-tat was just a game for him; gaining any new information would be a bonus. Truth be told, he found it kind of fun.

    He chuckled in response. “My, you are an annoying one, servant Saber. Always fluttering between the truth,” he replied.

    “That is because I learned it from an old master. Perhaps you might know him?” she said. Saber brought the cup to her lips, hiding a smile.

    “Touche,” said Archer, “though I wonder what your master would think of you hiding secrets from him.

    “Perhaps the same thing Rin would be thinking. Though I dare say your ability to weather her wrath, compared to Shirou’s, would be... shall we say... inadequate. Perhaps if you had been a Saber-class Servant...” replied Saber.

    Archer chuckled. In this regard, he couldn’t argue with Saber’s logic; Rin’s firecracker temper would be difficult to control if she ever found out he’d been lying to her. Conceding defeat, he offered his concession by refilling their cups which she accepted.

    Putting down the teapot, he picked up the teacup and enjoyed the relaxing smell of tea; closing his eyes to enjoy the fragrance. Another reason he had chosen this tea was its rarity. He wasn’t sure how Rin had purchased it, but it had been impossible to find in his time after he parted company from Rin all those years before... or would that be in the next few years? Idly, he wondered if perhaps it was something originally purchased from Rin’s father, Tokiomi, before the 4th Grail War. He’d have to ask Rin when they had a spare moment. Opening his eyes, he saw Saber staring absentmindedly at her cooling tea; her eyes looking deep within the liquid’s orange reflection.

    “Is something wrong with the tea, Saber?” asked Archer.

    Her green eyes looked up towards him, “Hmm? Not at all. The tea is wonderful, it is simply that...” Saber paused and looked far into the distance outside the window. Her face showed her mind deep in thought; taking care to choose her words carefully.

    “We might be enemies tomorrow, Archer, but this peaceful serenity we have right now...” She paused as she took a small sip of tea.

    “I will definitely miss it,” she said.

    The room grew still as her odd words seemingly brought a peaceful lull after them. Outwardly, Archer simply continued to gently sip away at his tea. In his mind, however, his mind churned over her words. It was a rather odd thing for the King of Knights to say. He’d never known Saber to be quite so... sentimental. Making a mental note, he carefully stored these thoughts into his mind for later.

    Finally breaking the mood, Archer spoke. “My, that was quite poetic there, Saber.” said Archer in a slightly mocking tone.

    “Archer...!” exclaimed Saber. Her eyes narrowed in anger as she turned her face towards Archer. Her anger was tempered, however, when she saw Archer with the warm friendly grin on his face. She smothered her annoyance in an attempt to avoid Archer’s playful attempt at goading her. Exhaling a slight sigh, she returned to her normal controlled demeanor.

    Archer sipped his tea, “although, there’s no problem with a warrior also being a poet.”

    Giving his words some thought, she nodded in agreement. “Yes, I suppose that is true,” she replied before relaxing back into her seiza sitting stance. With hot tea to accompany them during the night, Archer and Saber both sat in silence; ever vigilant yet enjoying the quiet serenity that came with the night.

    =====

    - White -

    “Hey, kid? Do you remember what happened to you?” he asked. “Hey, kid... Kid? Oye, can you even hear me?”
    He snapped his fingers in front of the child’s eyes and the kid finally turned to look towards him.
    “Who are you?” he said, “can you tell me your name? Do you even know know who you are? Kid?”


    =====
    Last edited by Vigilantia; May 24th, 2013 at 04:24 AM.

  16. #16
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    >“The Shin’ai Agency. Though you’ve probably never heard of it."
    Hipster McNab knew about the band while it was underground.

  17. #17
    Jester of the Moon Cell's Sovereign Kieran's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Vigilantia View Post
    Archer sipped his tea, “although, there’s no problem with a warrior also being a poet.”
    No, indeed - the Japanese and the Celts both insisted on it, in fact.

    It's nice to have a better sense of McNab, now. *chuckle* I'd almost insist his co-workers come with him to the Works - but that's overkill, I know.
    “Love will be cruel to who it entices — love will have its sacrifices.”

    — Carmilla Theme




    "Evil isn't the real threat to the world. Stupid is just as destructive as Evil, maybe more so, and it's a hell of a lot more common. What we really need is a crusade against Stupid. That might actually make a difference."

    ―Jim Butcher, Vignette




  18. #18
    Vigilant. Relied Upon. Vigilantia's Avatar
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    4

    Threads of Fate: Chapter 4

    Author notes: Good news guys. Production has ramped up so the next chapter should be up significantly quicker (as in within one to two weeks). Yes, I'm as annoyed as you at the slow progress. Work and school are annoying like that.

    =====

    Day 4: February 4th
    - What is Burned In -


    Shirou coughed as the scalding hot air burned his throat and seared his lungs. He hobbled down the smoke-ridden streets looking for any help but, in this excruciating heat, he could barely walk; his arms and legs felt like logs. Not even the hottest summer in Japan could measure up to this heat. It was like standing over a gigantic bonfire with scorching pain that seared every inch of your body yet you couldn’t escape.

    It seemed as if the entire city had been hit by the fire. All around him were the burnt out husks of buildings. The sky was painted shades of red and orange as fire raged out of control across the landscape.

    The sound of cracking and splintering wood from a nearby house caught his attention. Looking at the house, it was an old brick building that held up against the fire; only the second floor seemed to have been destroyed. Perhaps someone was still alive there. Dried grass crunched under his feet as he slowly moved towards the building. Looking through a window he saw what he thought might have been a living room. On the floor unmoving was a child who he couldn’t be much older than he was. Over him was a man with a cloth wrapped around his mouth as he lifted the child with utmost care. Perhaps it was the father?

    Over the sound of crackling fire, Shirou could heard the wood giving way. The man must have heard it was well as he quickened his pace and made his way towards the door.They wouldn’t make it. Even as the man ran, Shirou saw the avalanche of wood, brick and mortar falling towards them. At the last moment, the man saw him looking through the window. For that one moment, he saw the fear and despair in his wide eyes.

    Shirou reached out with his arm as if his will alone could save them. He wished with all his might that he could save them but it was not to be.

    In less than a heartbeat, they were gone, buried underneath the rubble. Like a chain reaction, the rest of the brick house crumbled in upon itself and he stumbled backwards to avoid the rain of debris. Running as fast as he could, he saw the pile of rubble finally come to a rest; a giant tombstone to the two people inside. He wanted to cry for them but he was too tired even for that. The unrelenting heat stole even that small mercy from him. He stared for long moments at the spot where the father and son had been.

    There was nothing here now... only the dead. With what little strength he had in him, he forced himself to keep walking.

    It was the same dream again, the fire from ten years ago. In it he walked and he ran as he always did but the outcome was the same. Nothing ever changed. Death and destruction surrounded him no matter where he went. He continued onward but he knew there was no end to this hellfire. Even though it was a dream he could never find the end to the fire and death around him.

    In the distance, he could hear someone crying...

    =====
    - Rise and Shine, Emiya-san. Rise and Shine -

    Shirou slowly opened his eyes, the fragments of his dream fading like frost in the summer sun. He coughed as if to expel the smoke and ash from his lungs; still shaking the image of his dream away. Immediately, dull pain swelled across his abdomen with each cough and he grimaced. Looking down, he saw bandages across his chest and stomach.

    “Ugh, what happened yesterday?” he said to himself.

    Two things immediately registered in his mind. First, the light floral patterns on the roof indicated that he was definitely not back home. Secondly, the two feminine voices yelling at him meant he’d probably done something bad.

    “That should be the question I should ask you, Shirou,” said Saber sternly.
    “Idiot! You almost died, Shirou, that’s what happened,” yelled Rin.

    Beside him were Saber and Rin who were both staring at him with irritation in their eyes. A chill went up the back of his spine that spread to the front of his naked chest...

    Wait... Naked?!

    “Gah! Where’d my shirt go?” said Shirou as he reached for the blanket that had been covering his bandaged torso. He also noticed his regular blue jeans were splattered with blood; most likely his own. Giving a slight sigh, Rin picked up a bundle of clothes and handed them to him before looking away.

    “Here, Archer retrieved them from your home. The washroom is down the hall,” said Rin with a look of annoyance as she diverted her eyes.

    Almost comically, Shirou grabbed the clothes and rushed towards the washroom. Stumbling through the door, he locked it behind him with a click. With a door finally between him the girls outside, he breathed a sigh of relief and then felt the pain return in full force. He could feel nausea rising from his stomach and he stumbled onto the porcelain sink. With heavy breathes, he fought back against the pain in his chest and the bile within his throat. That was good though, the pain reminded him he was alive. After a moment, he could feel the pain eventually fade away and he breathed a sigh of relief.

    Searching his memory, scenes from yesterday flashed through his mind and he remembered what happened. He had tried to protect Saber by pushing her out of the way but instead he’d only taken the blow head on. Gingerly, he gently touched his bandaged abdomen as if to make sure it was still there. It felt slightly sore but he supposed that was better than having nothing there at all.

    Splashing water onto his face, he quickly got dressed and went out. Walking through the hall, he suddenly noticed the warm sunlight streaming through the old curtained windows. Stepping back into the main room, he could see both Rin and Saber sitting calmly waiting for him while drinking tea. On a central wooden coffee table lay a tray with an assortment of biscuits and fruit pastries as well as an ornate teapot; hot steam still rising from the mouth.

    As he headed towards his seat, he couldn’t help but notice the stark contrast between his home and Tohsakas. While his house had been built to model a traditional Japanese home with tatami floors and thin rice paper dividers, Tohsaka’s house looked closer to one you would find in Victorian London. Ornate wooden furniture adorned each room with slightly floral wallpaper design. There even had an old grandfather clock in the corner.

    Oddly, Archer wasn’t here although he supposed the red Servant was simply hovering behind Rin in spirit form.

    “Emiya-kun, I assume from your ability to run that you’re feeling all better now?” asked Rin as she calmly took a sip of her tea.

    Shirou patted his abdomen just to check once more. His memories of last night seemed surreal compared to what his body looked like right now. Rin truly was a master with magecraft if she could heal a wound like that.

    “I think so,” he said, checking over his body once more. “I guess I have you to thank for saving me?”

    “Yes, I healed you wounds... well, there was Caster before that... but mostly me, of course,” she said. He noticed her eye twitch at the mention of Caster.

    “I suppose I owe you my thanks for saving my life then... so... thank you, Tohsaka,” he said. He punctuated his remark with a bow of his head.

    “Uhh... heh...” she replied nervously. Her face seemed flustered from the compliment before she took a breath to collect herself. Rin exhaled before forcing her body in a rigid pose and giving him a serious look. “However, it seems like you didn’t remember from yesterday.”

    “Listen to me,” said Rin as her tone went serious, “you’re acting as if we’re friends. I told you yesterday but it seems like it didn’t stick into your head.” Rin paused and stood up for effect.

    “We. are. enemies.” She said by emphasizing each word, “You don’t thank your enemy. You’re still acting as if this was nothing but a game. Don't you understand? The enemy Master is just another obstacle to be removed even if they were your own family. If you refuse to take this war seriously then you will die!” she said, shouting at the end.

    He could see the anger mixing with her cold Magus demeanor. Of course it was natural for her to be mad. She had probably been trained for years to be the heir to the Tohsaka family. For an amateur to be chosen as a Master and only take it half seriously would have been a serious affront to any Magus. By not taking it seriously he was insulting her. Still... something seemed off.

    “I understand,” said Shirou after a quiet moment of silence, “but if that’s the case, Tohsaka, then shouldn’t you have killed me while I was unconscious yesterday? Doesn’t that just leave you with another Master and Servant to deal with?”

    As if her hand had been caught opening presents before Christmas Day, she froze on the spot. Quickly recovering, she gave a quick “hmph” before looking away at a distant point on the wall.

    “It’s not my style to kill someone in their sleep,” said Rin before twitching her mouth in annoyance, “besides, you helped reveal Berserker and Caster for me so I did owe you. Again... Anyways, that's enough chatting. I’m sure your Servant can fill in the details about what happened after your... idiotic actions yesterday.” She quickly ushered Shirou and Saber towards the front door.

    Walking outside, his eyes were blinded by the bright sunlight. Waiting for a moment for his eyes to adjust, he guessed it must have been sometime mid afternoon. A well trimmed lawn lay before him with grey tiling leading to the street. He inwardly chuckled at the thought of Rin tinkering and straining against a lawn mower to cut the rather large yard.

    Come to think of it, he’d never even seen the entire front of Tohsaka’s house let alone been inside of it. It really was an act of kindness from her to have taken essentially what was an enemy in for the night. Turning to look behind him, he saw Rin standing at the door, her Magus demeanor having returned. Her cold blue eyes stared at him as she watched them leave.

    “I suppose this is where we part?” he said, already knowing her answer.

    She nodded. “Emiya-kun, this will be my last warning. The next time we see one another we will be enemies. Remember that.” With that final message she shut the door on them.

    =====
    After leaving Tohsaka, they headed towards home. It was Sunday and sunny today so more people were out and about than normal. Saber received curious stares from several people. Given Fuyuki’s past as a city of commerce, foreigners weren’t completely rare but they did attract attention. Shirou was rather glad Rin had the foresight to provide her with clothing. Of course, that provided a new problem for him. It wasn’t that there was anything wrong with the proper white shirt she wore or that the dark blue skirt and obi around her waist might hinder her combat movement.Rather, it was the fact that even outside her armour she had a beautiful radiance that drew his eyes to her.

    “...And that is essentially what happened after... Shirou, are you even listening?” said Saber.

    “Of... Of course...” said Shirou, quickly turning his head to hide the fact he had been staring at her. He rapidly tried to come up with something to change the subject, “I was just thinking about those clothes Rin gave you...”

    “Yes?” said Saber as she waited for a response.

    “They look good on you...” he felt heat rise to his head as he realized the implications of what he said. “I... I... I mean, they’re good at hiding your status as a Servant.”

    “Yes, that is true. I would certainly have looked suspicious with my armour on,” she said while idly sizing up her own clothes. If there was any indication she noticed Shirou’s pause or the blood rushing to his face, she hadn’t shown it.

    Shirou took a breath. She was his partner and was depending on him to win the war. In order to do that they would have to communicate and work together. He’d have to get used to working with Saber inside and outside of combat. Steeling himself, he looked up to see Saber staring at him; a serious expression on her face.

    “Saber?”

    “Shirou, about last night,” said Saber. He nodded his head to signify she had gotten his attention. “Do you know Caster? She says the only reason she saved you was because you saved her life before.”

    As they waited for the light to change, Shirou searched through his memories. Nothing came up. Even before the war started he barely qualified as a Magus. He found the mere thought of an amateur Magus like him saving the powerful Caster ridiculous. “I don’t think so.” he said, “why do you ask? Isn’t it a good thing that Caster saved me?”

    “Shirou,” she said sternly, “Servants are summoned to win the Grail. There is no reason for a Servant to save another Master especially if she is not one of the Knight class Servants. If you don’t know her then she lied and that means you’re part of her plan to win the war. Now think hard, Shirou, is there anything no matter how small that might link you to Caster?”

    They crossed once the lights finally changed green.

    “I don’t think so... although...” his voice trailed off in thought, “I remember her voice yesterday, before everything blacked out. She was...” he wasn’t sure what to call it. When he thought about it, all he could think of was a memory. Before the fire had destroyed everything he remembered a young boy living a normal life. Thinking about it after all these years, it seemed as if it was someone else’s memories.

    He’d been unable to sleep that night. The heavy rain and wind had battered the windows and kept him wide awake as if there were a horrible creature outside. Thunder struck nearby and his nerve finally broke. With a loud yelp he ran out of his room. He finally found her out in the living room and immediately hugged her knees.

    “There’s nothing to be afraid of, Shirou. It’s just the weather,” she had said.

    She picked him up and gently lay him on the soft sofa. Holding him close to her body, she whispered comforting words to him as he drifted to sleep. Being around her felt like nothing in the world could harm him even as the loud wind continued fluttering the windows. Under her protective embrace he’d finally fallen asleep.

    He had been so caught up in the memory that he didn’t notice he’d stopped talking until Saber began shaking him.

    “Shirou! Are you alright? Talk to me,” she said with concern. “Did Caster put a spell on you? Shirou! Wake up!” She shook him a few more times for good measure.

    Saber’s sudden grave concern made him inadvertently chuckle, a gesture that annoyed the knight. Saber placed her hands on her hips as her brow scrunched in annoyance. Her narrowed green eyes told him she was not amused.

    “This isn’t funny, Shirou,” said Saber, “I was being serious. She could have easily cast a spell on you.”

    He finally stopped laughing and spoke, “I’m sorry, Saber. Anyways, I’m fine. I don’t think Caster used any sort of control spell. It’s just that I was remembering how Caster reminded me of my mother when I was small. I know it isn’t much but maybe Caster’s Heroic Spirit had a family?”

    “Oh. Hmm... it’s possible” she said while pondering. ”Regardless, if you feel strange in anyway you should tell me immediately. I am a knight class Servant and you are not a strong Magus. There’s no telling what enchantments she may have cast on you with her back turned.”

    “Alright... Alright, Saber, I will,” he said trying to reassure her. “Besides, if there was anything wrong with me I’m sure Tohsaka would have noticed it.”

    It appeared his comment only annoyed the small Servant even more. “Shirou, you should stop underestimating the enemy. Caster is a Servant, not a normal Magus. Have you not considered the possibility she may have hid a spell with her skills?” she said.

    “Saber really doesn’t like Casters, does she?” Shirou thought to himself. Maybe it was something to do with her legend. He’d have to ask her that later. Opening his mouth to reply to Saber a sudden nausea rose from his stomach. Collapsing to his knees, he felt dizzy as he willed the nausea away. He supposed it was only natural. Saber had said his healing was possibly due to an odd connection between their status as Servant and Master. However, even with this healing there was bound to be some lingering pain; wounds always took time to heal. Most people died after being stabbed in the heart. He supposed he should count himself lucky.

    After a moment the nausea and dizziness receded and he felt better. Opening his eyes, he saw Saber at his side. She was kneeling right next to him, her face was slightly pale as she looked at him; the same look she had right after he had taken Berserker’s blow.

    He broke a pained smile to try to reassure her, “Heh, don’t worry Saber. It’s just lingering pain from the wound. I’m alright now.”

    “Are you sure?” she said with concern. She had never been this close to him. At this distance, he could see she had really beautiful olive green eyes. Sunlight seemed to dance across her blonde hair. He felt a sudden uncomfortable heat flush through his body and his breath was caught in his throat.

    “Shirou?” asked Saber.

    Realizing just how close they were, Shirou immediately stood up and backed away to open the distance. Waving his arms in front of him to ward her away, he said nervously, “I’m perfectly fine, Saber. Really.”

    Saber tilted her head slightly in confusion. Unsure of what to make of Shirou’s condition, it appeared he had recovered so Saber simply took Shirou’s words as the truth. Taking a breathe, Shirou gave a sigh of relief before putting distance between himself and Saber.

    “Shirou, what shall we do now? It is still several hours before night falls,” said Saber.

    Thinking for a moment, he said, “Hmm, you’re still new to Fuyuki, right? How about I show you around the city?”

    “That will not be necessary. I already know this area well,” she said.

    “Really? You don’t look like you’re born here. Did you perhaps come to Japan in your past?” said Shirou. He wracked his brain for any famous Western hero that would have travelled to the Asiatic.

    Then Saber said something that surprised him. “No, Shirou, you misunderstand. The reason I know this area is because I fought in a previous Holy Grail War,” she said.

    “Eh!? Really? Did you survive until the end of the war?” he asked. When she didn’t respond right away, he turned to see her staring at the ground. Her blonde hair covered her eyes leaving him seeing only the frown on her face.

    “I... can’t remember...” said Saber. Her brow wrinkled in annoyance as she seemingly tried to recall distant memories. “I know every place we visit but I can’t place when I was there or what happened there during the last war. I’m sorry I cannot be more helpful, Shirou.”

    He sighed. Once again, he cursed his inability as a Magus to summon Saber correctly.

    A sullen silence descended upon them as they kept walking. Reaching the main road, Shirou decided to turn right and began heading in the direction of Shinto.

    “Shirou, should we not return back to your home?” asked Saber.

    “I was thinking we could walk around Fuyuki. It’s been ten years. Some parts of the city have changed since then and it’s best to have the most recent picture. Besides, the walk might refresh your memory and I could do with the air,” he said.

    “Hmm... I do not believe that is completely necessary, Shirou. However, if that is what you believe will be helpful...” she said with resignation.

    Without another word, Shirou continued onwards with Saber trailing behind.

    =====
    - You’ve got a friend in me -

    The sun began to set on the horizon as the archery club finally closed. Shutting the door behind them, Ayako, Sakura, Taiga and the rest of the archery members left the building.

    “Anyways, I have something to do in the teacher’s office,” announced Ayako before waving goodbye to the rest of the group, “I’ll see you all tomorrow.”

    Normally the club would stay open for another hour or so however with the recent grizzly murders the school had issued a mandatory time restriction on after-school activities. The sky was painted a warm orange as the students finally split off and headed their separate ways at the school gate. Waving goodbye to the others, Sakura and Taiga started heading in the direction of the Emiya residence.

    “I thought that was a good practice, don’t you think? Tanaka-san and Sato-san appear to be improving quite well since last week.”

    “Yes, that’s right,” said Sakura, “for being new to Archery they’re learning quite well.” Tanaka and Sato had recently joined at the beginning of this semester. Despite only have several weeks of training they had a natural talent at Archery. Sato herself was quite outgoing when she wasn’t shooting and often helped the other first years with their Archery chores before the club closed for the day. “I think they’re a great addition to the club.”

    “Although I am disappointed with Shinji performance. He’s the vice-captain,“ she said in a scolding tone, “he shouldn’t be skipping meetings like this. It’s really irresponsible of him. Just because the tournament is still several months away doesn’t mean he can simply shirk his duties like that. Don’t you think, Sakura?”

    Knowing what Shinji was doing and why he was skipping school, she kept silent and let Taiga continue. Unconsciously, she idly rubbed her left hand where her command spells lay.

    Taiga gave a loud sigh. “I wonder what would have happened if Shirou had decided to be vice-captain instead of Shinji. He was always so serious and focused when he practices with us.

    As they turned the corner they saw a cloaked figure, the person’s back turned to them, casually walking in the same direction. She was clad in a navy blue cloak, the edges embroidered with a lattice of white crosses. Approaching closer, Sakura thought she recognized the person.

    - - -
    It had been raining heavily for three days straight before finally breaking that morning. Before leaving the house, she had decided to take an extra umbrella just in case. Shirou had left in such a hurry she doubted he remembered to bring one in case it began raining again. Catching up with him during the afternoon break, he said, “That’s alright, Sakura. I have one in my locker.’

    “Oh...” she said glumly. She should have known. Of course he would have kept one at school; it had been raining for three days already. She felt so stupid.

    With a slight smile, he rubbed the back of his head nervously, “If you hadn’t reminded me this morning I would have forgotten to bring one,” he said, “thanks for looking out for me again, Sakura.”

    Warmth spread to her cheeks at his words. Thinking back, she did remember reminding him to bring an umbrella before he rushed off to school.

    The bell rang and signaled the end of lunch.

    “Anyways, I’ll see you after school,” he said cheerfully before heading off. She kept watching as his body eventually disappeared in the rush of students.

    “Bye, Senpai,” she said quietly as she watched him leave. She hoped he hadn’t noticed the redness on her face.

    The rain had begun pouring down after lunch before turning into a pleasant drizzle slightly before school ended. Shirou was busy helping Issei, the Student Body President of their school, with repairing one of the heaters in a classroom so she headed home alone. It was her turn to prepare dinner so she decided to stop by Miyamachou’s shopping district to buy groceries. As she walked in the light rain she was met by an interesting sight. Walking slowly along the road was a woman dressed in a navy blue cloak looking at a large unfolded pamphlet that Sakura recognized was for Fuyuki’s bus schedule. As Sakura walked closer she noticed her flipping the large sheet of paper back and forth and looking at the road signs in frustration. It appears she had been walking for a while as her cloak and dark hair were wet from the rain. Her curiosity getting the better of her, Sakura approached the woman.

    “Do you need help?” asked Sakura.

    Giving a sigh, the woman lowered the paper. “I don’t suppose you know which bus around here would take me to Shinto? I’m trying to buy food for a large dinner and can’t figure out which bus will get me into the city,” she said.

    “Shinto?” said Sakura, “that shouldn’t be necessary. There’s a shopping district nearby if you’re just looking for groceries. It’s only a few blocks away. Here, I can show you,” said Sakura motioning down the road.

    “Eh? I mean... I don’t want to waste your time,” she said hesitantly.

    “It’s no problem. I’m going the same way, anyways,” said Sakura.

    After hesitating for several moments, she eventually gave in and began walking with Sakura. Without a second thought, she pulled out the extra umbrella she’d brought for Shirou and gave it to the woman.

    “I... uh... Thank you,” she said. Her cheeks seemed to bloom red as she took the umbrella. “you’re a really kind person.” Opening up the umbrella, she then proceeded to remove her wet cloak hood, revealing her tangled dark hair across her face. Sakura gave a quick smile before pointing out her disheveled hair to the woman.

    “I forgot to mention,” said the woman as she moved the stray strands of hair aside, “my name is Elesia. What’s yours?”

    “My name is Sakura. It’s nice to meet you, Elesia-san.”

    - - -
    That had been over a week ago. It started as a chance meeting but now they had bumped into one another several times after school. Sakura discovered Elesia was staying at Ryuudouji temple and acted as the new cook in payment for the monks allowing her to live there. Every other day Elesia would come down from the temple for grocery shopping and walk with her before they parted ways. In many ways, she enjoyed it. She didn’t have many friends at school and enjoyed talking with someone during the silent walk back home.

    “Eh? Elesia-san?” called out Sakura.

    The cloaked figure turned around to reveal a young woman in her late twenties. Without the rain pouring down, her long raven hair flowed smoothly past her shoulders. Recognized Sakura, Elesia’s blue eyes softened as she gave a warm smile. She gave a gentle wave towards them. In her other gloved hands was an empty wooden basket for groceries.

    “Hello, Sakura. Good day,” said the woman politely as she bowed slightly towards them.

    “Hello, Elesia-san,” replied Sakura as she bowed in response.

    “Eh? Sakura, you know this person?” said Taiga in surprise.

    “Yep, I met her several weeks ago when I was going for groceries,” said Sakura. “I guess it’s kinda funny, but we meet each other occasionally after school. She lives with Ryuudou-san up in the temple.”

    Taiga perked up at Sakura’s comment, “I remember now. Issei did mention a nice woman living at the temple recently. He said she was quite beautiful with fascinating jewel-like eyes. Oh! Don’t tell him I told you that,” she said sheepishly.

    “Not a word,” said Elesia with a chuckle. “And you must be Fujimura-san, Sakura’s homeroom teacher. I’ve heard quite a lot about you from Sakura.”

    “Ooooh?” said Taiga as her she eyed Sakura using her peripheral vision. Like a predator smelling blood, Taiga moved in closer to Elesia. “And what exactly has Sakura said about me?”

    Alarm bells sounded in Sakura’s head. With her eyes wide, she waved her hands in a quick “no” gesture towards Elesia.

    “Hmm... well... lets... see...” said Elesia while feigning deep thought. Each purposefully strung out word only heaped more worry onto Sakura. Behind Taiga’s back, Sakura began silently waved her arms back and forth frantically trying to catch Elesia’s attention.

    “I do remember her saying you did like a good okonomiyaki. Come to think of it I did have a good recipe I wanted to share with her,” Elesia finally said. With the mention of food, Taiga’s investigation into Sakura evaporated. For a new set of reasons, Taiga leaned closer to Elesia.

    “Okonomiyaki? Are you good at cooking, Elesia-san?”

    “You could say that. I would like to think of myself an excellent cook,” said Elesia with pride, ”my most recent experience involved Indian food, but I would like to think my Japanese cuisine is still up to people’s standards here. Maybe I could cook you dinner one of these days.”

    “Really?” said Taiga, her eyes wide like a child waiting for candy. “Maybe you can come by in the future! We have a very good cook at our home. Maybe we could test your dishes side by side.”

    What was clear to Sakura and anyone else that was watching nearby was that Taiga was in a world of her own. Images of Han feasts and luxurious banquets flowed through her mind, each one greater and grander than the last. Taiga was on the verge of drooling.

    Standing politely while holding the basket, Elesia gave a slight chuckle before nodding slightly in agreement, “I would be honoured to cook for your house, Fujimura-san.”

    “I guess the quickest way to Taiga’s heart really is through her stomach,” thought Sakura with a sigh. Only when Sakura started tugging on Taiga’s shirt did she finally snap out of her stupor.

    “Oh, ahem. Anyways, I am curious, Elesia-san, your name is a bit odd. Are you not from around here?” said Taiga.

    “Taiga, it’s rude to ask those kinds of questions,” protested Sakura.

    “That’s alright, Sakura. You’re right, Fujimura-san. My parent’s moved to France before I was born and decided to give me a western name. I’m really lucky, in a way, as that allowed me to see the world,” she said, “and allowed me to learn many different types of cuisine.”

    Sakura smiled. She could already see the images of new foods forming within Taiga’s head. Her fantasy, however, was broken when Elesia spoke again.

    “In any case, it was nice meeting you Fujimura-san, however I believe this is the road where I leave. Good day,” said Elesia. With another elegant bow, she began to walk away.

    “Well, she seemed like a nice person, Sakura,” said Taiga cheerfully.

    Waiting for the lights to change, Sakura stared backwards at Elesia in thought. Her hands fiddled together idly as she debated something within her mind. Finally resolving a decision, she blurted out, “Actually, Taiga, I remember Senpai was really running low on food during yesterday’s dinner. I think it’d be a good idea if I bought some food home in case we run out today.”

    “Eh? Really? I didn’t think we were running that low,” said Taiga.

    “We are. And I wouldn’t want to bother Senpai with the shopping today. Especially since we’re quite close to the shopping district,” said Sakura speaking quicker than normal.

    After thinking it over for a moment, Taiga said, “Welp, I suppose you are the apprentice chef of the house.”

    “Alright, thanks!” said Sakura rapidly before rushing in the opposite direction.

    Turning around, Taiga called out, “Don’t forget to get some...” but found Sakura had already sped away into the distance.

    - - -
    Running towards Elesia, Sakura gave a shout to catch her attention. Explaining the situation to her, they both continued towards Miyamachou. An odd silence descended on them as they continued on the sidewalk. After several minutes, Elesia finally broke the silence by saying, “Hmm, it’s odd. I didn’t really expect to see you today given that it’s Sunday.”

    “Today wasn’t a school day,” said Sakura correcting her, “we met together for Archery practice.”

    “Ah, of course. I completely forgot. You haven’t really talked that much about Archery recently. How is everything going?”

    “It was fine...” she paused and thought for a moment, “well... Taiga did make quite a scene today.”

    “Fujimura-san? That doesn’t sound like her at all,” she said, her voice dripping with feigned sincerity.

    Sakura smiled lightly at Elesia’s comment, “She forgot to pack a lunch to the dojo. By the time it was noon she started crawling as if she was dying from starvation. In the end, Mitsuzuri had to go and buy her Bento because she was causing too much noise.”

    She stopped her tale to watch Elesia chuckle before continuing on, “But the rest of the day was fine. Even though the competition is still months away, Mitsuzuri is diligent and makes sure we train hard. She’s really looking forward to the competition this year. Oh! That’s right. I forgot to mention we also let some of the juniors finally begin practicing with bows this week. It looks like we have some very talented juniors this year; Especially with Tanaka-san and Sato-san.”

    Elesia’s eyes perked up at Sakura’s words, “Tanaka-san again? I remember you talking about him before... Something about challenging Shinji?” They moved to one side to avoid sidewalk construction before they continued walking on.

    Sakura nodded, “Yes. Despite being just a junior member, his technique is very good. I could see him being a great archer by his senior year. When I was watching him shoot it seemed like he could even beat Nii-san. Not to mention he’s only started using a bow for just over a week.” said Sakura. She wasn’t even boasting. Tanaka had a natural skill even she didn’t posses. It reminded her a lot of Shirou.

    “Oooh, ‘when you were watching him’? So you like watching him practice?” said Elesia mischievously. Nudging herself closer to Sakura, she asked, “Do you enjoy watching him practice. What’s Tanaka-san like? Strong muscles? Athletic? Maybe piercing blue eyes? Does your heart flutter when you think of him?”

    “Eh!?” said Sakura. She waved her hands in front of her with wide eyes. “It’s nothing like that! Elesia-san. He’s just a friend. Really!”

    “Ohh, he’s a friend now? Didn’t you say he was just a team member? Is this the one you’ve set your eyes on now?” said Elesia as she moved in for the kill. Sakura’s cheeks flush red at Elesia’s words.

    “I told you that’s not true! He’s just a teammate. He’s nothing like that. He’s not...” she was about to mention Shirou’s name but stopped in time. Her head felt as if it were steaming like a tea kettle.

    “The one?” said Elesia finishing her sentance.as she slowly stopped Sakura’s frantically waving hands. “I believe you, Sakura.” She gave a small dignified laugh before saying, “Don’t worry, Sakura, I’m sure you’ll find him someday.”

    They both stopped at a sidewalk and waited for the lights to change, Elesia with a slight grin on her face and Sakura with her still reddened cheeks. She stared at the older woman with an annoyed look, trying to hide her previously flustered demeanor. However, despite that, Sakura liked talking to her. There was a sense of normalcy when she was with her; the same sense of belonging as when she was with Taiga or Shirou. It made her feel less alone in this world.

    “What about you, Elesia-san? Did you ever find...?” Sakura stopped the question; unsure if it might offend her.

    The older woman stared off into the distance.. Deep within thought, Elesia looked far away at an image only she could see. They crossed the street without a word. Sakura looked idly down the road as several cars passed on by. Had she gone too far?

    Finally, Elesia spoke with a tinge of sadness, “I did. Once. But I gave that up long ago.”

    Sakura nodded silently in acknowledgement. Walking onwards, a gentle wind blew across them tossing her hair and rustled the Hiba trees leaves that grew nearby. Organising her hair, she looked at Elesia. It was the very first time she had seen her with such a sullen face. She knew she should keep quiet, let the conversation rest and leave Elesia’s past be. And yet... there was something that was bugging her. She wanted to... no, she needed to know...

    “Did you regret it?” said Sakura, breaking the silence..

    “Not at the time,” she said soberly. “But I was naive. Foolish. I made a mistake and then he was gone. I guess we were all different back then.”

    Sakura thought back to Shirou and the Holy Grail War. Lowering her head, she rubbed the spot on her left hand where her Command Spells lay. Even though she had given her right as a Master to Shinji, the decision still lay heavily on her mind. Maybe she was making the wrong decision?

    As they continued walking, glanced towards Sakura and saw the sad frown on her face. Elesia’s brow rumpled slightly before she broke out a big bright grin and put an arm around Sakura. “That includes you too, dummy,” she said energetically before shaking Sakura’s shoulder, “make sure you don't let life just pass you by either. Life isn’t just about school and clubs, Sakura. Take the advice from someone who’s lived it.” She finished by ruffling the top of Sakura’s head.

    Even though it was blatantly obvious Elesia was attempting to cheer her up, Sakura couldn’t help but smile at Elesia’s goofy behaviour. Still trying to fix her hair from Elesia’s rubbing, they stopped at an intersection waiting for traffic to pass.

    “Oh, I just remembered, Sakura,” said Elesia. Her demeanor turned serious. Turning to her, she withdrew a plum-colored umbrella from her cloak; the same umbrella she gave her the day they first met. Bowing down as if she were the Emperor himself, Elesia offered the old umbrella back to Sakura. “I’m truly sorry, Sakura. I should have returned it the day after but I completely forgot. Please forgive me.”

    Surprise was the first thing that came to Sakura. The umbrella itself was nothing special. In fact, it was the same as any normally umbrella you could find in Fuyuki. Then came the sound of muffled chuckling as Sakura tried to suppress her laughter at the lunacy of Elesia’s actions.

    “You’re an odd person,” she said with a smile, “I forgive you, Elesia-san, but please keep it.” Grabbing a hold of it, Sakura gently pushed it back into Elesia’s hand. “Think of it like a present. Besides, don’t you need it more than I do? You didn’t even bring a new one just in case it were to rain.”

    “Oh... I... umm... Thank you...” said Elesia. Her cheeks puffed red at the realization of her mistake.

    Clasping her hands behind her back, she continued walking, “Now why don’t you tell me about that recipe you mentioned to Fujimura-sensei. I’d like to surprise Senpai and Fujimura-sensei when it’s my turn to cook tomorrow.”

    Elesia recovered quickly and kept up with Sakura’s strides. Continuing their walk towards the supermarket, they continued talking, “It’s relatively simple really. I would like to think of it as a fusion between Japanese and Western styles but...”
    =====
    - Red -
    Rain soaked the soft grass and cloth hood that she wore. She looked at the white tulips she held within her hands. An insignificant recompense for the sins she had done. Taking the bouquet, she neatly laid the white flowers on the laminated marble on the ground.
    “I hope you like them” she said to the silent stones before her. The only response was the soft pitter patter of the rain around her.
    =====
    Last edited by Vigilantia; December 31st, 2012 at 02:34 AM.

  19. #19
    Jester of the Moon Cell's Sovereign Kieran's Avatar
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    Running late this morning - don't have time to read this right now. But I'll re-read it all, later, which will help me enjoy the latest.
    “Love will be cruel to who it entices — love will have its sacrifices.”

    — Carmilla Theme




    "Evil isn't the real threat to the world. Stupid is just as destructive as Evil, maybe more so, and it's a hell of a lot more common. What we really need is a crusade against Stupid. That might actually make a difference."

    ―Jim Butcher, Vignette




  20. #20
    Dapper Deathwing YeOfLittleFaith's Avatar
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    Bwuohohohohoho, UPDATE!
    Great job this time around too.



    Quote Originally Posted by RadiantBeam View Post
    Not my fault Shirou is an awesome bro to lesbians.

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