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Thread: [FSN x Notes] Sword Vector

  1. #21
    ぷよ使い Puyo Mage fallacies's Avatar
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    X // Standard-Bearer in the Mist
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    Beyond the hotel window, the rain pattered across the rooftops and the cobblestone streets, painting the metropolis in grey.

    "You'll have to let it go, eventually."

    Resting the back of his head upon his folded palms, Emiya continued to stare at the ceiling from where he lay.

    "Distancing myself from the work emotionally doesn't change its nature," he said. "It would just be denial."

    The packed cotton mattress beneath him shifted slightly, and under the sheets, the warmth of his partner's skin pressed against his torso.

    "There is no Hell in this world that isn't paved of our own convictions," she said, "and it thrives wherever there lies an insistence that reality cannot possibly meet. What have you to gain from endlessly reviling yourself for wrongs beyond your power to circumvent?"

    Emiya gave no response, and the two of them lay for a time in a simple half-embrace, merely breathing and listening to the noise of the rainfall.

    "Perspective," he said, finally. "I reaffirm who it is I am, and ascertain the distance that I've yet to travel before I can rest."

    The girl sighed softly.

    "Someday, even the contracts we bear will be laid to rest," she said. "Our sufferings and regrets should have no place in the world that comes to be inherited by those who follow. I'll ask only that you keep in mind the difficulty of fully accounting for the things we leave behind, intentionally or otherwise."

    "If Alaya permits," he said; but he privately doubted that the vestiges of his passing would so much as meet the innocuous significance of the rosewood box that his father had left him, so long ago.

    There was another movement in the bedding, and he felt the press of a kiss upon his cheek.

    "Alaya has never given me anything I didn't truly desire," the girl whispered.



    XI // Prometheus Unbound
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    The superstratum upon which the 'Origin Bullets' could take effect were limited to those of conceptual organization lower than or equal to a priority of E, given the scaling provided by the 726th Grail. Had the Magus Killer directed his Thompson Contender at the Servants of the Fuyuki Wars, he would've dealt at best a flesh wound -- supposing that he hit his mark at all. Conceptual Weapons of so meager a standing were of no matter to the native 'mysteries' of Heroic Spirits, even at the arbitrary circumscription of the latter by the Einzbern servant containers.

    For similar reasons, the 'Origin Bullets' would have normally been of negligible detriment to the Yield Andrographic known as Jack the Ripper -- who bore within her fabricated corpus the aggregate existential impression of the countless orphans of Victorian London. In utilizing an already extant 'concept' in the place of a soul, Jack had been a significant innovation over Frankenstein's first monster, and a direct prototype to the subsequent RAY series -- far surpassing at the time of her activation the prominence of any contemporary personages that came to be exalted as Heroic Spirits.

    It was, therefore, almost inconceivable to Emiya that the adolescent girl that lay now dead and cooling upon the floor could be an analogue to Jack the Ripper the original. The fact that his improvised strategy had worked at all confirmed a number of his suspicions.

    All that remained was --

    -- twenty-four throwing knives that had suddenly pierced his traveling mantle, burying themselves deeply into the flesh of his back. Stumbling and collapsing to his knees, he vaguely wondered why he bothered to engage nociception during missions.

    "Oho! Survived that as well, did you? Splendid!"

    Emiya managed to turn his neck, visually locating the speaker on the roof of the hypostyle: Overlooking the rectangular courtyard, a monocled Caucasian man in an Inverness coat and top-hat rested his hands upon the ornate silver knob of a cane. Accompanying him, twenty-four physically exact replicas of Jack the Ripper stood themselves at roughly equal distance along the sides of the roof.

    "Victor Frankenstein ..."

    "I'm honored that you would recall my name after so many centuries, Fakir!" said the elderly man, bowing with dramatic flourish. "On behalf of the Research and Development Division of Atlas Genomics, I formally bid you welcome to the Archduchy of Alexandria!"

    Externalizing the blades from the surface of his skin with a push of Unlimited Blade Works, Emiya removed the beige mantle, allowing the ceramic knives to clatter to the obsidian floor.

    "Tell me," said Emiya, standing and casting aside the blood-weighted canvas, "you /are/ aware that those exaggerated child-bearing hips you've given to 'Jack' can't naturally occur in an adolescent of her superficial age, yes? It's honestly quite grotesque."

    Frankenstein made an apparent effort to suppress his smile, initially -- but in moments, he'd surrendered to a deep, bellowing laughter.

    "Superb, my good man!" he said, between chuckles. "I don't believe I've heard such a typically puritanical slight to my hebephilia since the mid-twenty-first century! The freshness well-inclines me to excuse you even of your obviously destitute aesthetics!"

    In every world-line that Emiya had traversed within the attractor field of [Overcount 1,999], the circumvention of Alaya's threat-recognition mechanism had eventually been engineered by the man now standing above him -- operationalized in the identification of loopholes through which extreme prominence could be clad in the justifications of 'human understanding.' It was somehow always galling to realize that a man who bore such an 'instrument' as a basic tool of trade could be so lacking in the mores and sensibilities of a common man.

    Common men, for that matter, generally didn't teach serial killers to perform surgery for kicks; or engage in carnal relations with the pubescent incarnations of the natural philosophies.

    "Why are you here, Victor?" asked Emiya. "Is it vengeance?"

    "No, no, no," said Frankenstein, waving his hand. "I give that my heart did admittedly flutter in great animosity when I learned that the Counter Guardian here deployed was poor Maria's executor -- but my intention is nothing so brutish and uncivilized as revenge, regrettably. I'm here tonight strictly in an official capacity -- to see to it that natural selection runs its course without undue interference. Science has long consigned the Old-Types to the inevitability of obsolescence and extinction, and we can't be having such irrational existences as yourself rendering them aid at this juncture. If there sleeps in this Necropolis some artifact of crucial benefit to our enemies, I shall seize it in the name of Humanity -- for the advance of the Queen's Grass Game!"

    "Seeing as you now have drones that can operate beyond an Alaya Frontier, you could've just had me assassinated," said Emiya. "That's pretty much what you did anyways."

    "You misunderstand the mindful consideration of a Genovese gentleman of breeding, mine ancient enemy," replied Frankenstein. "Assassination is too utilitarian and inhumane -- wielded only by uncultured lowlifes of no refinement or imagination. For the deathless Arcadia that awaits the patient, we at Atlas Genomics pride ourselves in providing ergonomically friendly solutions with a personal touch! What you experienced was no assassination! It was entertainment!"

    "And so your scout was meant only to 'amuse' me, then? With lethal force?"

    "Yes, indeed -- and though your part in the performance has been rather underwhelming thus far, I had unwavering faith that you would unfortunately survive! You are, after all, bound to make worthwhile the effort that I put into arriving here in person -- to resist me with as much might as you exercised in the slaying of my Old-Type iteration!"

    Emiya permitted himself a harrumph. He'd long suspected it, but it figured that it would take a witness immune to the Counter Force to supply evidence that there might be another Counter Guardian Emiya running around somewhere. He was fairly certain that he'd never personally eliminated any version of Victor Frankenstein; and it was highly improbable that he would be 'returning' to the current world-line or its antecedents in the future.

    Were the functioning of the Egregore not bound by resource limitations and the rules of banality, there would be no reason or need for her to approach any potentially useful Alaya terminal with explicit contract. An undying composite drone could simply be generated with the features and skills to resolve any imaginable catastrophe; or, barring that, mindless reproductions of heroic spirits could be thrown endlessly at threats without permission by the originals.

    Neither of these were the case; and contract and consent were in fact matters of real and definite meaning. Where normal Counter Guardians could indeed be freely exchanged between the world-lines of a given attractor field, they were ultimately finite, mortal existences bearing independent consciousness and freedom of will -- to a degree empowered by their own singularity. Removed of Alaya's protections, they could generally be killed with relative ease; and outright 'replication' of a particular terminal was contractually denied -- in part because it would be to the detriment of conceptual priority.

    Assuming that Frankenstein's word held any validity, though, something similar might have been covertly pursued in the contraction of redundant analogues. The thought of it vaguely annoyed Emiya.

    "I'm afraid that you might've gotten the wrong impression about a few things, Victor," he said.

    "What would those be, pray tell?"

    "First off, I'm no longer a Counter Guardian," he said, extending his arm outwards. "Second, I didn't come here tonight intending to save anyone. If your so-called 'Old-Types' truly desire to survive, they'll have to dirty their hands and fight off the selection pressures on their own. They're better off not relying on me anyhow."

    Four oddly shaped blades traced into existence, hanging unsupported.

    "And is there a third?" asked the Caucasian man, making a hand-gesture to the Jack replicas. Concertedly, they tensed, drawing their blades in anticipation of combat.

    "Yeah," Emiya replied. "It's that my 'underwhelming performance' just now was meant to keep you from getting a good read on my capabilities. Trace Parallel; Orbital Mode."

    The air filled with knives -- twenty-four copies of the initial set of four, revolving about his body in a spherical formation.

    "Cursecraft," he stated, "Maria the Ripper."

    Maria the Ripper -- the Holy Mother of Dismemberment.

    In the end, this was the full elaboration of what precisely was given flesh in the entity known as Jack the Ripper: The undreamt dreams of the innocents forsaken to the machinery of London, whose first and final memories were of their mothers' betrayal.

    Reformulated as a cursecraft technique, there was a significant gain in the priority of effect if a designated target superficially matched the characteristics of the exemplary 'women of the night' -- the eighty thousand who had worked the smog-ridden streets of British capital at its imperial height. To some irony, the Jack replicas perfectly qualified -- corresponding to the image by the fetish gear in which Victor Frankenstein had them outfitted; and by the mist that had yet to entirely dissipate into the subterranean night.

    Had the girls been of the same substance as their archetype, Emiya's slightly degraded attack would've amounted to throwing fire at fire -- but as it were, the counterfeits were incapable of withstanding even a rank E Conceptual Weapon. At Emiya's utterance, consequently, the sphere of floating blades vanished from his vicinity, and lines of ochre inexplicably appeared across the replicas' exposed flesh. With no other portent, the shapes of their bodies collapsed beyond recognition, spilling bloodily across the rooftop in chunks of meat and viscera.

    Amidst the carnage, Victor Frankenstein stood steadfast and alone. The twenty-fifth set of knives had been caught harmlessly between the fingers of his left glove -- and his good humor had all but evaporated.

    'Cursecraft Negation?' thought Emiya, drawing a Kanshou and Bakuya from the air. 'No. He's asserting an innate field of law at high enough priority to block structural analysis ...'

    "A man of science has nothing to fear from a few articles of baseless superstition," said Frankenstein, "but if their propagation is to the injury of me and mine, I shall entreat to debunk them as necessary. My little girl would suffer nothing less." With a finger-snap more crisp than Emiya might have expected of a gloved hand, he called, "Besides me, Prometheus!"

    The field of law underwent cytokinesis.

    Like an image losing focus, a humanoid shape of aquamarine 'gas' separated from the outline of the scientist's body. Resolving into the transparent form of a 'robot' bound in chains, it stepped forward and dropped from the rooftop -- fracturing the obsidian floor with an inexplicable weight it really shouldn't have possessed. Recovering almost instantly from any inertia, the ghostly figure flew at Emiya from the point of impact at a ferocious charge, swiping at him with a sharp open claw.

    'Prometheus' wasn't quite so nimble as the Jack replica overall, but its attack, which should have only been of sufficient force to knock the Kanshou and Bakuya from Emiya's grasp, shattered the blades at no discernible plastic strain to the composite lode-metal -- or really any application of pressure to the hilts. Bypassing Emiya's guard in his moment of incomprehension, the robot plunged its fingers at his jugular -- failing at the last moment to the double-reinforcement of a hastily-traced Kanshou Overedge.

    'Man of science, indeed,' thought Emiya, backstepping and half-permitting himself to be carried along the thrust of the robot's limb. 'How many times did he violate Newtonian mechanics just now?'

    The bizarreness of the attack was a product of a 'trick': The robot's manner of movement predicted its body to be of a certain density and mass -- but all viable predictions were of no congruence to the pressure it could exert upon the solid objects it came into direct contact with. Given that there weren't obvious irregularities in air displacement, Emiya supposed that the phenomenon came of some inconsistently-applied force exaggeration, mandated by law.

    Peculiarities aside, though, Prometheus looked and behaved like a relatively normal familiar; and in the absence of grounds to suspect a deception, it didn't seem as if attacking it would serve any real purpose. Arriving at his slightly mist-eroded mountain bike, Emiya took ahold of the rear wheel and lifted the frame from the ground.

    "Gaia Synthesis," he said, enclosing the hypostyle and court in an unbounded spherical domain. "Phantasm Break."

    Boosted disproportionately in priority, the frame of the bike distorted with the decoherence of its conceptual matrix -- twisting out of shape and protruding with sharp crystalline spikes where the metal came to be warped. Emiya applied a quick reinforcement to his limbs, and swung and released the deformed mass, targeting Frankenstein's vantage-point.

    The Broken Phantasm detonated in the air, five meters short of its intended destination.

    Prometheus -- having bodily shielded Frankenstein from the explosion -- was tossed by the force of the blast to base of the pillar immediately below its master. It was able to land on its feet without apparent debilitation, but Emiya noted that its body had at numerous points been pierced with crystalline shrapnel and debris. More importantly, the field of law beneath its surface wasn't eroding the substance in the manner of the Jack replica's plundering field.

    'Disallowance rather than consumption,' thought Emiya, 'and he isn't of strong enough authority to reject the baseline of Unlimited Blade Works.'

    Pressing a button on the rim of his monocle, Frankenstein narrowed his eyes.

    "For one who purports to bear no investment in the fate of Humanity, you certainly are trying very hard to obstruct my work as a humble servant to the inevitable," he said. "And so as a scientist, my dear Fakir, I'm compelled to inquire: If not to contradict the carriage of Natural Law, what drives you to raise arms against me? Do you desecrate this place in pursuit of a wish, perhaps? Maybe a desire for world peace?"

    "Sounds like the sort of wish somebody incredibly shallow would make over a birthday cake," replied Emiya. "And as for why I'm resisting you -- I don't know. Maybe it's because you're trying to kill me?"

    "You haven't answered my question."

    "Stab first, and ask questions later, hum?" Emiya asked, planting the Kanshou blade-first into the floor, and tracing out a copy of the Hrunting. "It's personal business, really. There's something I've wanted for a very long time, and I'm here to collect my due. If you think I'm obligated to tell you any more than that, you've got worse problems with ego boundary failure than I do."

    Lifting the pommel of the sword so that the blade was level with the floor, he held left hand forward in a mock grip, drawing the hilt backwards as if nocking an arrow on an invisible bow. Prometheus shifted its posture, apparently readying itself for defense.

    "Trace Parallel," said Emiya. "Artillery Mode."

    A hundred and seven duplicates of the Hrunting materialized in the air alongside the first, lining the width of the hypostyle. As he released the pommel to the one he held, the blades shot forward in synchroneity -- arching chaotically about the space of the court. The mysteries of the Hound of the Plains weren't fully realized in the present implementation of Gaia Synthesis, and as such, they remained bolts of jet black bronze rather than thaumaturgical projectiles. It was, however, a failing that suited Emiya's purposes just fine.

    The fact of their mere physicality meant that Frankenstein's field of law couldn't cancel their existence.

    Almost as the swords were loosed, Prometheus had bounded to intercept their flight -- catching the blades in the substance of its arms and torso. Standing temporarily immobile, Emiya watched its movement -- waiting just until the robot was occupied at sufficient distance from its master to place it out of immediate reach. Then, drawing his sword from the obsidian, he began his actual offense.

    With an odic burst pressing him to his upper threshold, it took Emiya two seconds to cross the court. At three, a Bakuya Overedge had joined its partner at Frankenstein's throat -- crossed blade to blade for the finishing move of a modified Kakuyoku Sanren. Emiya followed through, separating the man's head from his body.

    It took Emiya a moment to realize that something had pierced the skin of his own abdomen.

    From the front of scientist's suit, a small, pale hand had burst outwards in a spray of blood, puncturing Emiya's body armor with an antique glass syringe. As the clear fluid within was emptied, Frankenstein's field of law flowed along the arm, enveloping the whole Emiya's body.

    With a surprised grunt, Emiya jerked himself free and lost footing, falling backwards into the dismembered flesh of a Jack replica. Somehow unable to combat the rapid loss of sensation in his limbs with Unlimited Blade Works, he could only stare as a second hand thrust from Frankenstein's ribcage, tearing a hole in the man's flesh from the inside.

    Covered in blood, a prepubescent albino girl close in appearance to Jack the Ripper pushed herself forth from Frankenstein's remains.

    "Amat Victoria curam," she said, smiling cherubically once free.

    "Wh- What is this?"

    "Nanomachines, Fakir," the girl replied. "I'm deconstructing your body on a molecular level, and there's nothing you can do about it. Sufficiently advanced science is, after all, inherently superior to magic. In the first place, the forging of human understanding is what made magic possible."

    But Emiya could no longer respond. Control of his voice had been lost to the horrible, painless sensation of discontinuity.

    "In your last moments of sensation, ancient enemy of mine," said the girl, "allow me to reintroduce myself. I was once the man known as Victor Frankenstein, but I stand before you now in a different flesh -- under a different name."

    Walking to Emiya's side, she leaned, dripping blood upon his face.

    "I am a Yield Andrographic -- the third eldest of my race," she said. "My name is YA-03, 'Victoria.' Please remember this, for it is the name of your vanquisher."

  2. #22
    Sentimental Fool NewAgeOfPower's Avatar
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    HNNNGGG Jeanne x Shirou.

    Holy crap, he took a level or two in BadAss.

    Also,
    If you can dream—and not make dreams your master;
    If you can think—and not make thoughts your aim,
    If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster;
    And treat those two impostors just the same,

    -Ruyard Kipling, "If"

    -)|(-

    My works [Updated June 21st, 2013]


    "From a dusky world with an ever-setting sun, a limitless rain of Ryougi Shiki streaked down from gargantuan gears set in the sky." Fate: Over 9000, my best Crack yet.

  3. #23
    The sheer attention to detail is delicious indeed. So is the magebabble, and also Jeanne (no surprise here).

    Would it be too much to ask you to actually finish this?

  4. #24
    黒いスサノヲ, Black Susano'oh IhaxlikeNoob's Avatar
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    Damn, your vocabulary is huge.

    Well that being said, this story is quickly becoming one of my favourites, keep it up!
    NASUVERSE STAMPEDE!!!

  5. #25
    ぷよ使い Puyo Mage fallacies's Avatar
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    XII // Tougenkyou
    [email protected]????

    He hadn't seen her in a very, very long time.

    "Come on in," she said, cheerfully.

    Fujimura Taiga had rather more grey in her hair than he remembered, and at the corners of her eyes, he thought he could make out the beginnings of crows' feet. Still, she was otherwise the same as she'd always been, and that was somehow reassuring. It seemed as if she'd even kept up her training in kyuudou and kendou.

    "You've redecorated," Emiya observed, seating himself on one of the leather sofas.

    Since his last visit, the room had been redone in the sort of faux-Occidental Japonaise popular during the Taishou period -- simple, elegant, and vaguely Victorian. For anyone not of Taiga's background, though, the furniture alone would've probably cost an arm and a leg -- maybe literally.

    "It's a restoration, actually," said Taiga, setting a cup of tea on the coffee table. "It was like this before I inherited the place and started changing things around, but recently I've been on a retro kick. Nostalgia and all that, you know?"

    Emiya nodded, taking a sip from his cup. For whatever reason, the slightly sweetened Earl Grey within was strangely familiar.

    "So," said Taiga, sitting down across from him. "How's life been treating you? Good? Bad? So-so?"

    It wasn't precisely a rhetorical question, even though it was almost certain that she knew of his general situation. To her, the dry 'fact' of an event held no worth against the subjective experience of the players. It was the fundamental philosophy that she lived by, now.

    "It's been bad for a long time," he said, "but I finally have a reason to be hopeful -- maybe. At the least, things are coming to a head, for better or worse."

    The answer appeared to sate her curiosity. Pouring milk into her own cup from a small porcelain creamer, she asked:

    "Have I ever told you why I started doing this thing?"

    "I think you said that nobody you knew personally was at Homurabara anymore?"

    "That's part of it," she said. "Might've even been the immediate reason -- but it's really a bit more complicated than that." Holding her teacup to its dish, she leaned back into the cushion of her armchair. "When I was a kid, the two people that I respected the most were your father and a certain teacher that I once studied under, briefly. You could say that they were the formal cause for my decision."

    Emiya raised a brow; he hadn't heard of this before.

    "What do you mean, 'formal cause?'" he asked. "Dad and this teacher of yours were the inspiration for all this?"

    "Yes, no, maybe," Taiga replied. "They were both heroes in their own right -- dedicating their lives to helping people without a thought toward personal gain. Since Gramps acted like an overgrown kid half the time, you could say that they were my first actual role models -- but in the end, neither of them were able to find any lasting happiness, and I didn't know if I was strong enough to endure that myself."

    "And so, because you couldn't become a heroine, you decided to teach."

    Taiga gave an awkward laugh.

    "Probably isn't something I should be admitting during a session," she said, "but I went and got an education degree mostly because I thought it would make me a better guardian for you. The year that Sakura passed away and you left Fuyuki, the whole teaching thing began to lose its luster; and I was just ... adrift, for awhile. I knew, though, that you'd gone off to follow in your father's footsteps, and so I got around to thinking, 'If heroes are out there looking out for everyone, who is it that looks out for the heroes?' That's the reason I chose to finally take up my inheritance."

    'The things we leave behind ...'

    Emiya shook himself of the thought. No purpose would be served in delving into the subject. Having arrived in the here and now, the only path permitted to him lay onwards.

    "Why mention this now?" he asked.

    "Like you said, things are coming to a head," replied Taiga, smiling melancholically. "I figured it was as good a moment as any to have a timeout for a final consultation -- to see if everything's okay with you and all that."

    In other words, she understood the end that he sought, and had something to say about it. It was, he guessed, too much to expect that the process of letting go would be easy.

    "You have something you wanted to ask me about, I guess?" he said, humoring her.

    Taiga sipped at her tea, turning to look at the autumn sky beyond the tall casement windows.

    "Once upon a time," she said, "you told me that you wanted to become a hero -- an ally of justice who would save everyone, even from themselves. After traveling for so long and seeing so many things, do you feel that it was all worth it?"

    "As of now, I can't really give you an answer," said Emiya, "but at one point, I felt that it wasn't."

    "Why the past tense?"

    "The justice that I hoped to deliver was nothing more than an obsessive-compulsive fantasy," he said, looking into his tea. "All that came of insisting that world conform to my standards was self-inflicted mental torture, and it wasn't until I'd driven away everyone I cared about that I realized I was the problem."

    "But you don't feel this way anymore?"

    "No, I don't -- though it wasn't out of any conscious decision to 'let things go.'"

    "Then?"

    "Go at something for long enough, and Gestalt Collapse comes to be likely," he said. "Whatever it was that I once felt, it's degenerated into detachment and a vague, unrelenting fatigue. I can definitely say, though, that past a certain point in time, I no longer actively loathed myself."

    Contrary to his anticipation, she made no effort to rebuke him on negativity; not even in the jokingly overdramatic bluster he remembered of her from childhood. Instead -- by occupational manner or some maturity that had taken root in their years apart -- she weighed his response in silent, serious contemplation, distantly gazing with her cup at her lips.

    "Hypothetically," she said, setting the tea back in its dish, "if you were to cease to exist the moment you set foot outside of this room, would you have any regrets? Any desires left unfulfilled?"

    "Seeing as I wouldn't exist anymore, probably not?"

    "You know what I mean."

    He did: She'd intended it in the sense of Upadana or Miren -- the figurative 'poison' of clinging or insistence, which in Buddhist phenomenology bound humans to the cycle of Samsara and the proliferation of suffering. Positivism in the Skandhas was, in fact, a fair characterization of the impetus that gave Wraiths and Apparitions to persist beyond death -- but the turn of thought that Taiga was here concerned with didn't relate to the supernatural.

    In the flavor of wabi-sabi that Fujimura Raiga espoused in his highly agnostic practice of Zen, the elimination of Miren bore a specific relevance to clean, psychologically healthy living; particularly, engendering the sort of mindset by which men of old-fashioned honor could face their destruction at any time, unflinchingly and without ambivalence.

    "I have no regrets," he replied. "I haven't had a coherent desire in years, besides for the very basic things. That's the reason I agreed to come here."

    Downcast, and with little of her earlier cheer, Taiga exhaled.

    "If you'd answered differently," she said, "I would've done everything within my power to help you find happiness."

    "I know."

    It was obvious that there were still things Taiga wanted to say, but the progress of the conversation had drawn awkwardly to an inconclusive closure; she could no longer find any viable thread to advance by. Truthfully, Emiya hadn't intended for their final meeting to play out in such a manner, but continuation at this point would give emphasis only to their disagreement. It was better just to end it.

    Downing the remainder of his tea, he placed the cup softly to the table.

    "Thanks for having me over, Sensei," he said, "but it's about time."

    He made to leave, standing and bowing with nearly enough formality to affront. Not two steps away from the couch, however, he found himself embraced from behind -- tightly enough to squeeze the breath from his lungs.

    "I didn't want to say goodbye to you again," mumbled Taiga, no longer attempting to maintain professionalism.

    The nature of a sword, thought Emiya, was forever to cut.



    XIII // Midnight in the Court of Hearts
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    Undenied their ataraxia by any force of ego, the swords took to the air from where they had shattered and fallen, blinking in the pretended starlight. They possessed eyes no longer, but with every plane and shear they drank of the subterranean sky.

    This was, to their memory, a novel experience, if somewhat disconcerting; for at no time previous had their consciousness been extruded so completely from its locus.

    On a bloodied rooftop, a small albino girl glared with cold heat.

    "A curse invoked in his annihilation?" she said. "So like a Fakir to dicker in such Oriental nonsense."

    The Yield Andrographic of Victor Frankenstein, the swords acknowledged; living flesh over conceptual foundation.

    When they'd come initially to realize that the fictitious personage they'd known in childhood had existed as a historical reality, it seemed a foregone conclusion that the man had utilized Mary Shelley as an instrument to falsify his death. It seemed now that the opposite end had in fact been reached -- for how better to enthrone oneself in the hearts and minds of men than by engineering one's own casting as the first major figure in the genre of science fiction?

    It was, the swords supposed, one of the many methods by which to attain the Lapis Philosophorum.

    'Orbital Mode.'

    Moving as a metallic flock, the swords aligned randomly to geometric rays originating from Frankenstein's position -- swiveling to direct their blades outwards as they revolved in the air, forming a 'dome' with the girl at its center.

    "I think, little curse," said Frankenstein, not visibly readying herself for defense, "that you'll find me quite resistant to any of the sleight or conjury your master's so far demonstrated."

    This was, in retrospect, probably a given; for in possessing over a millennium of experience, it followed that the Yield Andrographic would at least be on par to any Apostles of similar seniority. Ergo, the technique the swords were now opting to employ should've appropriately been the very first attempted.

    'By the steel of these bones have ten thousand blades been forged.'

    The swords sank outwards, slightly -- piercing the fabric of the world. From Frankenstein's perspective, it must have looked as if the space at the dome's boundary had warped, reconforming to a non-Euclidean topography.

    "Coordinate reassociation?" said the girl in surprise, suddenly concerned. "But that's-"

    Her voice was abruptly cut off; spatial quarantine had been established, and without further fanfare, the swords were again alone in the silent acropolis. Unless Frankenstein had concealed upon her person some ordnance of Anti-World capabilities, it wasn't likely that she could escape from the enclosure of Unlimited Blade Works without assistance.

    Retracting along their rays, the weapons clinked together in congregation where Frankenstein had formerly stood -- assembling first a crude skeleton of steel, and then cladding it in a flesh of iron and bronze. The new body roughly approximated Emiya's original build by conformity to the familiar; but to no design of his own, curved, bladed spines now fanned upwards from the surface his back -- mocking by incidence the hagoromo of a Kongou Rikishi.

    When the process had concluded, Emiya flexed his fingers experimentally, eyeing the nanite-eaten corpse that his mind had so recently occupied.

    "Disappointingly anti-climactic," he said, under his breath. "But I suppose that if someone like her could've been trusted to overcome the illusion of Avalon, I wouldn't have to bother with all of this."

    He wasn't in any condition to destroy her either, of course. In other world-lines, he'd occasionally slain members of the Twenty-Seven Ancestors by innate subversion of 'the accumulation of years' -- but even in the best of times, the mental effort of applying the process to a foreign body was debilitating. As he hadn't yet fully reinstated his ego boundary, attempting the feat at present would only delay him beyond all practicality -- especially without confirmation that Frankenstein hadn't signaled for reinforcements.

    Confirming that all faculties were again within operational thresholds, Emiya descended at last to the ornately cast doors of the sanctuary complex, pulling ajar the heavy bronze slabs and slipping to the interior.

    The 'firelight' that he'd imagined seeing was apparently not. Rather, the high, oddly Romanesque construction of the vaulted arcade was at its far end illuminated by the red light of an arched portal. Caryatids in the likenesses of sacred hierodules looked stonily upon him as he advanced across the space in barefoot -- issuing at each pace a clinking, metallic echo.

    Awaiting beyond the portal was a perfectly square atrium. Somehow -- to the violation of all reason -- three quarters of the sky overhead were occupied by the watchful gaze of the full crimson moon. Cast in its impossible gleam, immense scales of polished stone stood monolithic upon a raised altar at the center of the chamber -- tipping to a mass that pulled taut the carved stone chains of its left pan.

    What rested there was a weapon of intensely familiar composition: a black, single-edged broadsword that resembled a Chinese dao -- broken to fibrous spikes along its dorsal contour as in the profile of a feather.

    Emiya recognized the shape. It emerged without his conscious intent every time he reinforced the Kanshou and Bakuya to the threshold of Overedge.

    "A coincidence?" he muttered to himself. "But it's too exact ..."

    Almost involuntarily, he lifted the sword by its hilt.



    XIV // Number Ten, Series Four
    [email protected]

    The grounds of the facility were less than twenty kilometers from city limits of Funabashi in Chiba -- but seemingly untouched by the lights of civilization, the night sky was filled with unfamiliar stars.

    "Why?"

    With a face strained in anguish, a tanned, overweight man stood knee-deep in a mountain stream, clutching his bleeding arm. Along the skin of his throat, the sharp edge of the Kanshou had drawn a line of blood.

    "I can't accept this," he said, warily meeting Emiya's eyes. "As claimant to the seat of Canaan, you must comprehend the importance of my work!"

    "I hold the seat in the stead of the claimant proper," Emiya replied. "The prospective candidates of the current generation have yet to fully complete their training, and so I'm acting in this position merely in the interim. My intervention tonight was on the direct orders of the Firdous e Bareen, to see that you cease operations immediately or face sanction."

    "Surely you can negotiate with them on my behalf!" the man pleaded, grasping tightly at his stained sleeve. "I embarked upon the investigation of the Alaya Frontier with nothing but the best interests of the Order in mind! A little more time, and we'll have recaptured powers of the Antiquity beyond even the mysteries of the az-Zabaniya!"

    "This era has no need of monsters or prophets."

    "The Knives of the Keeper are never without a need!" the man proclaimed. "The seat of the Founder would again be filled!"

    Emiya shook his head.

    "The 'conditioning' that you've given to your children will persist only as long as it takes for them to acclimate to the domain of man," he said. "Certainly, by circumventing the laws of Alaya, you've temporarily granted them might beyond reason -- but in this day and age, the greatest threat to any human is his fellow man, and the Counter Force keeps careful track of anomalies. Wouldn't be too long before you're left with a one-way degradation to normative performance with no possible recourse."

    "H- how could you know that?" the man sputtered. "What's your proof!?"

    "I have no obligation to prove anything to you," said Emiya, applying pressure to the blade. "You'll accept it either on the authority of the Garden or not at all."

    For a very long moment, the man stood and glared at him without a word. Almost as Emiya began to suspect that the threat of doubt and the promise of violence would be alone insufficient to break the Initiate of his convictions, he closed his eyes and lowered his chin, exhaling roughly.

    "I will respect the word of the Garden," he said, clenching his teeth.

    Assured that the man's muscular tensions indicated no preparation for a reprisal, Emiya withdrew the blade and turned his back, walking toward the scarred adolescent boy who stood upon the bank of the river.

    "Tell me," called the man after him. "Why all of this? Why would the Elders knowingly forbid us the means to deliver salvation?"

    Emiya paused, stopping in the mud of the shallows.

    "'The Old Man of the Mountain' is a seat left unclaimed by design," he replied. "It's to remind us of the things that might be lost if we overstep our place in the advance of history."
    Last edited by fallacies; July 3rd, 2013 at 12:06 PM.

  6. #26
    Sentimental Fool NewAgeOfPower's Avatar
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    No. You did NOT just do a in-character Tiger Dojo.

    *tears streaming from eyes*

    Glorious.
    If you can dream—and not make dreams your master;
    If you can think—and not make thoughts your aim,
    If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster;
    And treat those two impostors just the same,

    -Ruyard Kipling, "If"

    -)|(-

    My works [Updated June 21st, 2013]


    "From a dusky world with an ever-setting sun, a limitless rain of Ryougi Shiki streaked down from gargantuan gears set in the sky." Fate: Over 9000, my best Crack yet.

  7. #27
    So that's what Emiya being the "curse called Unlimited Blade Works" means. He's literally swords. And Kanshou being the weapon he was seeking is really curious...

    "I hold the seat in the stead of the claimant proper. [...] My intervention tonight was on the direct orders of the Firdous e Bareen, to see that you cease operations immediately or face sanction."
    So this is confusing. Is the Firdous e Bareen just another name for the Counter Force, or does Emiya have ties with Old Man of the Mountain? He was unaffected by Zabaniya in the prologue, but that could be because the curse was countermanded by UBW being a curse of equal/greater magnitude.

  8. #28
    ぷよ使い Puyo Mage fallacies's Avatar
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    @ Leftovers: In this story, the Firdous e Bareen / 'the Garden' is an organization that acts as regulatory body over the remnants of the Hashashin -- the 'Elders' referred to in the dialogue. I describe it here as a 'regulatory body' because the remnants are loosely organized and widely dispersed, following different leaders and ideologies; the Firdous e Bareen acts mostly to ensure that the various cells aren't too disruptive in their activities. 'Canaan' is the title assigned to a line of 'agents' appointed by the Firdous e Bareen as mediators and enforcers -- similar to the line of the 19 Hassan-I Sabbah.

    Emiya has no particular ties with the Old Man of the Mountain.

    //

    Einzbern Consultation Room

    [Einzbern Consultation Room] is a series of comedic OVA shorts included in the BD releases of Fate / Zero, wherein Irisviel von Einzbern and a girl referred to as 'Student Z' offer advice in a 'final consultation' to the deceased Servants of the Fourth War of Fuyuki. The contents of the OVA follow the general format of the [Tiger Dojo] skits appended to the bad endings of Fate / Stay Night.

    In the final of the three episodes, the plot takes a turn for the serious:

    The 'setting' of the Consultation Room is revealed to be an extension of the vision shown to Emiya Kiritsugu by Angra Mainyu in the last episodes of Fate / Zero. Relatedly, the 'Irisviel von Einzbern' that appears is a simulacrum of the deceased Irisviel -- the fragments of her personality that remain within the darkness of the Grail, slowly being consumed by the will of Angra Mainyu. Ergo, the Consultation Room we see is in essence demonstrated not to be an extra-canonical existence, but a part of the reality of the Fourth War.

    In the final moments of the series, the amnesiac 'Student Z' is given to be a teenage Fujimura Taiga from several years in the future, whose soul was somehow dragged into the domain of the Grail after she accidentally choked on camp food. Before 'Irisviel' is entirely consumed by Angra Mainyu, Taiga is returned to her future of origin, where she finds the wooden sign of the Consultation Room buried next to her camp site. In the ending, this sign is shown hanging on the wall of the Tiger Dojo -- implying that the Tiger Dojo may be somehow 'canonical' as well.

    [The Third Magic], incidentally, permits the capacity to substantiate the spiritual superstratum of the deceased to an effectively material existence -- violating at will the entropic processes demanded by Gaia and Alaya, as well as the natural erosion that souls undergo when dispersed to the Akasha. In [the Grail Wars of Fuyuki], an incomplete Third Magic supplemented by alchemy and high thaumaturgy is sufficient to partially reenact the physical existences, armaments, and mysteries of assorted [Heroic Spirits].

    //

    Enduring Foundations

    Though I've previously suggested that foundation-based thaumaturgy would in general cease to operate following the demise of Gaia, there are, more accurately, at least two 'foundations' that would likely remain functional even within the End of Days:

    [Unlimited Blade Works] -

    Despite having come into existence only in the decades following the onset of Gaia's degeneration, Archer (Extra) nevertheless attained 'projection' as a general-use ability -- explicitly expressed as a 'magecraft' in the historical records accessible to [the Moon Cell Automaton]. How would such a thing be possible in a world where the thaumaturgical foundation that justifies projection no longer exists?

    The answer, perhaps, lies in the expression of the ability: Just as [Projection (ver. Trace)] differs from the traditional magecraft of [Gradation Air] in the canon of Fate / Stay Night, so the 'projection' as utilized by Archer (Extra) must have some feature that distinguishes it from its basis -- something that makes it possible at all. With reference to Fate / Stay Night, I would speculate that this 'something' is [Unlimited Blade Works].

    More explicitly, if in life Archer (Extra) projected any weapons, rather than directing prana to an external system, Unlimited Blade Works itself would have presumably served as a 'portable' thaumaturgical foundation for his personal use -- materializing objects in a process comparable to Wishcraft, if indeed a prana cost existed despite the cessation of Gaia's existential attrition. This would have made him one of the last remaining 'foundation-based' thaumaturgical practitioners in the setting of Fate / Extra -- and possibly the target of a lot of murderous envy and hatred.

    Owing to certain features of his maturation, the Emiya of this story no longer experiences prana cost either by existential attrition or wishcraft substantiation. Further, he can no longer be considered a 'magus,' even if he exhibits capabilities similar to thaumaturgy.

    [The Auspicious One] -

    Though referred to as [the Curse of Restoration] in the colloquial, Apostolic immortality with origin in the concept of [the Auspicious One] is in strict terms a foundation-based thaumaturgy.

    Common to numerous forms of immortality, Gaia-imposed spiritual attrition and the denial of environmental mana factor into an emergent 'need' for the next most abundant source of existential substance: the lifeblood of living beings. In this sense, it would appear as if no distinction exists between Apostles descended from the Auspicious One and those created by alternative thaumaturgical means. Differences, however, do remain.

    Where immortality justified in the majority of unrelated magecraft would perish with the destruction of Gaia, Apostles solely of the blood of the Auspicious One would survive unto the End of Days without difficulty. Further, the need for blood would persist only as a psychological contaminant of the Auspicious One's paraphilia, as Gaia would no longer be present to exert a constant attrition.

    This survival is rendered possible because, per his origin, the Auspicious One is not in fact a thaumaturgical foundation appended artificially to the spiritual matter of Gaia. His essence lies in slow regeneration within [the Moon], ever observing the passage of human history. The priority of the phenomenon realization that he justifies waxes and wanes with [the Lunar Phases].
    Last edited by fallacies; July 3rd, 2013 at 08:34 PM.

  9. #29
    ぷよ使い Puyo Mage fallacies's Avatar
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    XV // Bellum Omnium Contra Omnes
    (overcount common) ref [email protected] (?)

    Thaumaturgists tell that the domain of Magic is 'impossibility' -- which lies beyond the contrivances explicable per human power and understanding.

    In antiquated cosmologies wherein the Earth was not yet orbicular, the act of circumnavigation, as an example, would have been construed as falling outside the ability of humans -- attainable only through the esoteric craft of the magoi, not unlike to pure spatial transference. It was, more plainly speaking, not a common man who could by ship or caravan arrive in the east as the outcome of a westward journey, cardinally due; the spaces of East and West were physically noncontiguous, and travel as permitted by the curvature of a globe was categorically inconceivable.

    These facts are no longer true -- but by the recollections of the Auspicious One so engraved within the expanses of the Moon Cell Automaton, it can be substantiated that they were, once.

    And once upon a time, humanity ceased to comprehend the world as boundless, unending plane.

    The precise action of the natural philosophies is to mediate the abridgment between Alpha to Beta at the farthest reaches of thought -- to rearrange by some unknowable mechanism the effective topography of existence so experienced by humanity, such that 'impossibility' might be invalidated before the agency of man. It was by this process that the world was made round; and the communication of epidemics corporealized as the spread of microbes rather than the wrath of God.

    If, thereafter, the smallest of men could snicker at the childlike convictions of their predecessors, it was only without conscious acknowledgement that their own beliefs would in generations likely be crushed beneath the onslaught of some newer paradigm.

    In such a world that the grandeur of the Skycity of Unug-Kulaba could be by historiographic advance relegated to mere phantasm, what indeed might be constituted as an enduring certainty? The realities of today could in a century's time be proven a fiction to all possible empirical inquiry; and where within creation, then, might an Archimedes permanently rest his fulcrum?

    Perhaps the only truth that can be claimed of 'certainty' is its lack of intrinsic necessity -- for there did in fact exist a point in the time when 'certainty' itself was not extant.

    Before the Auspicious One was in his aspect as the Banahasta called from the Moon to the land of Mnar; before the hated Managarmr came to prowl the frozen steppes of Hyperborea -- there blossomed across the expanse of the antediluvian oikoumene innumerous settlements of assorted scale and people, semi-autonomous in origin. This was the darkness that preceded the known histories, when the Ark had by Atrahasis of Tep-Pelin still to be built -- and men spoke yet the unbroken tongue of the gods.

    A student of anthropology might have characterized these communities by their conformity to the hunter-gatherer or early agricultural patterns of social organization, but in a wider sense, the societies that emerged were as a whole of greater heterogeneity than perhaps connoted by any incidental geographic proximity -- due in part to the factual inconstance of distances between locations, which differed greatly dependent upon the traveler.

    More relevantly, in any hundred cities, there could exist a hundred or more unique mythologies -- a hundred different systems of the world, all simultaneously true and instrumentally valid. So as one could locate at the ends of the Earth the stony firmament scaled daily by the Scarab of the Sun; so by ascending to the apex of the Grand Ziggurat of Unug-Kulaba, the Moon might be found afloat in the Celestial Sea, buoyed by the death-tears of the countless generations of Lilin.

    The humans of the unnamed era were able to attain greater prominence than any heroes of the subsequent Age of Divinities; but by Gaia's judgment at this time, they posed by their very disparity and incoherence no threat as a species to the order of nature. If the need even arose, such Terminals as the Eumenides could be summoned to cull entire populations without trouble.

    There were, however, certain men who could not admit the ceaseless terror of impermanence and uncertainty to rule as imperatrix mundi over the fate of humanity ...

    //

    To the star-strewn evening and the red earth were two brothers born, pale and dark:

    The younger sibling, the dark-skinned Seth-Kayin, was a man of no great ambition beyond to see the world, and to hear by his own ears every tale that had ever been told. Taking leave in his youth of the pleasure-domes of Abissinia, he descended to the northern deserts and beyond, traveling as a nomad. By the craft of metallurgy he paid his way, offering to those who might supply him the necessities to survive the assorted fruits of the earth; and thus, to the ends of the sky and the spiral cities of the deep did he journey, forging for men of every station and race the greatest of swords.

    The elder sibling, who was called Ausare of the Pale Crosier, served as a faithful shepherd to his people -- a teller of truths, who would to his flock impart the wisdom by which the soils of the Nile might be tilled and cultivated. From his lips did men first hear of Atum-Ra and the birth of the world; and of Ma'at -- the sole body of law that could distinguish the realm of man from the chaos of the state of nature. Given order by these teachings, the people of Egypt grew to prosper, and saw thereby that the prophecies spoken by Ausare were the only permissible truth. Under the rule of Ma'at, all men were made equal -- and there could exist no other law.

    The kingdom that Ausare fathered upon words alone was serpentine in its spread -- extending along the Nile and into the bordering countries of the Arabia Deserta and R'bw to the west. In these places, the folk that his followers encountered were conquered and assimilated at the assertion of unyielding law -- made for their own benefit to know their place within the order of Ma'at, and to comprehend that their ancestral convictions could have never been true. At their breaking and submission, no longer did the validity of facts shift with every league of travel; and within the borders of Egypt, recorded knowledge came finally into enduring soundness and reliability. By the providence of Atum-Ra, the unfathomable anarchy of the world had been laid to rest; and in other lands, Ausare was for his enlightened rule called 'the Leviathan,' or 'the Serpent That Encircles.'

    //

    It happened thus that on the completion of his thousandth sword, Seth-Kayin returned to the place of his birth, and found himself at long last a stranger in a strange land.

    The distinction of 'Kayin' -- or 'one who traces the line' -- had been bestowed to him when in youth he'd become a journeyman to the craft of the diamond-boned men of the Sandsea. By their instruction, he had learned to temper the blades he'd forged in the light of the moon; and of the basis of all weapons in rendering to material the sacred noumena of desire.

    Seeking in his thirty-fifth year to present for judgment his master-work, Seth-Kayin revisited the home of his benefactors -- but found there only a deserted village slowly being reclaimed by the shifting sands. Long unattended, the crystalline forge fires where for centuries the sanctified remains of smiths had been laid to rest burned no longer -- evacuated wholly of the passions that had once fueled their molten pulse.

    If any of the diamond-boned men still survived, he knew, they would have never permitted such an unthinkable desecration.

    Mystified and unsettled, Seth-Kayin journeyed thereon to the capital, which had in the passing of decades grown as a fabulous metropolis -- more exceedingly splendid and opulent than he had witnessed in all of his years. Amidst elegant boulevards lined in lapis and mother-of-pearl, he could find there no evidence of filth, poverty, or disease; nor pervasive ills of any sort. With polite warmth, the men and women conversed superficially of the little pleasures of the day and night, smiling with a grace absent of any private burdens.

    And utterly untold, he saw, were the neverending stories he remembered of his boyhood -- those tales that had first inspired him to travel beyond the borders of Egypt and Ta-Seti.

    In the central plaza of the Western Quarter, he came then upon a spectacle: By some sorcery he knew not of, a crying woman stripped of her clothes had been suspended by her arms above the ground -- held dangling at twice the stature of a man from a circle of glowing glyphs that rotated in the air about her wrists.

    [She forces her children to pray to false, discredited gods,] heard Seth-Kayin of a man nearby. [It is said that she beat her eldest daughter for laying with a man out of wedlock.]

    [Foolishness,] said another. [By her ignorance, her very progeny would be condemned to the irrationality of the old ways -- denied needlessly the pleasures entitled to them as subjects of the Pharaoh. It is a crime that she has been permitted to breed.]

    Said the soldier who stood at the piles of rock lined along the fore of the congregated masses: [This woman has been found in sedition to the order of Ma'at. To propagate the primitive doctrine of her ancestral tribe, she has time and again refused to submit her children to the tutelage of a lawful pedagogue per mandate. By decree of the Ecclesiastical Court of Nubt, she is to be shown the error of her ways -- and so I ask that any amongst you who is without sin to cast the first stone.]

    Grinning in apparent incomprehension at the weight of their actions, the children that had gathered at the head of the crowd each lifted a rock. A small girl -- perhaps seven or eight years of age -- tossed forcefully the one that she held; and one by one the others followed suit, as if joining into some innocent jest. The adults were soon similarly engaged, and the fall of stone became as a torrential hail -- bloodying the woman's face and body mercilessly.

    Seth-Kayin was not a hero. As a peddler of arms, he'd made a point not to become unnecessarily involved in local affairs -- but what he now witnessed had provoked a response in him, perhaps as irrational as any within the plaza. Before he had come truly to be aware of himself, he crossed to the other side of the line, landing between the woman and the mob. Drawing the feather-like broadsword at his back in a sharp movement that split its leather sling, he delivered a sequence of single-handed slashes -- cutting the rocks from the air to harmless fragments.

    At the shout of a man that Seth-Kayin presumed to be an officer, the soldiers placed to oversee the stoning drew their own weapons and began to advance upon him. Barely, he evaded a piercing lunge -- but from outside his peripheral vision, a second man nicked him shallowly in his left arm.

    [Halt,] he heard. [Let no-one lay a hand upon this man, for he is my brother. Whosoever injures him will be visited with a vengeance sevenfold.]

    As the words were uttered, the soldier who had grazed him yelled in pain; and from the man's mailed tunic, his left arm fell limply to the ground in a splash of blood, severed through the bone.

    [We are graced by the glory of His Majesty the Pharaoh!] barked the officer, somehow ignoring the laming of his subordinate. [You will show the proper respect!]

    In what appeared to be a habitual genuflection, those gathered in the square fell to a grounded kneel, laying forward their torsos in full prostration. Furrowing his brow at the display of obsequience, Seth-Kayin turned to the man who had arrived.

    [Brother,] he said. [What is this monstrosity that you've wrought?]

    In two decades gone, his brother had matured to an unplaceable timelessness -- a grown man of lean build, but of no age discernible by sight to Seth-Kayin, who now seemed the elder. Imposing in his cream-white robes despite the smoothness of his face, Ausare had let grow the distinct violet hair of their lineage to small of his back, braiding it in the manner of the holy nazir of Kinaah-Na. Holding at his right a platinum crosier of office, he said, smiling:

    [It is no monstrosity, Seth. Come, walk with me. We have much to speak of.]

    Seth-Kayin lowered his sword.

    [I will stand at your side when this woman's punishment is rescinded. The misdemeanors I have so far heard attributed to her warrant no stoning.]

    Ausare continued to smile, but now his gaze grew momentarily hard.

    The mood passed, however; and with a softer expression, he waved his crosier, releasing the glyphs that had suspended the woman in the air. Seth-Kayin positioned himself, catching her against his free arm as she fell, and laying her as gently as possible to the ground. By some minor miracle, her injuries were on closer inspection largely abrasions to the skin; and to Seth-Kayin's untrained efforts at palpation, it seemed that her heart moved at no faintness or irregularity.

    Raising a hand, Ausare signaling for the captain of the guards to rise and come to his side.

    [Have this woman healed,] he said, [and confirm that there has been no miscarriage of justice in the prosecution of her case. Your man who was injured should be seen to as well.]

    [Your will be done, my Lord,] said the captain, bowing.

    Relieved then of the woman by a pair of soldiers, Seth-Kayin approached brother's side as promised.

    [When I left this land, you were but a teacher to the people, speaking to them the wisdom of the libraries of Abissinia,] he said, softly and unamused. [I return now to find that you have made yourself a sorceror and a king -- shepherd to a whole nation that worships as a divinity a character you contrived as a child. So tell me, brother: By what abuse has this come to pass?]

    Ausare chuckled, but to what sincerity Seth-Kayin could not know.

    [Your tongue is as sharp as I remember,] he said, [but these are matters for a more private discussion.] He turned. [Come. I will show you to the palace.]

    Seth-Kayin trailed after him in silence, but noticed in a few moments a curiosity: For as they walked, the bricks of the boulevard and the buildings around them began to visibly 'peel' -- shedding like the skin of a snake. Where the original surface was no longer present, a black, reflective stone was exposed; and so stricken was Seth-Kayin by the tearing of the afternoon sky that he failed to notice the quiet vanishing of the pedestrians.

    Finding that the two of them were now walking alone in a high palatial hall, he asked, [Another sorcery of yours?]

    [Nothing so complicated, I'm afraid,] replied Ausare. [Waset of the Hundred Gates is a city that adores me so completely, it bends itself to my mere intent.]

    The Pharaoh pushed open a pair of finely carved doors and entered into the wide, circular chamber beyond -- the summit of a tower that overlooked the capital, with pillars of obsidian that supported the black dome overhead in the absence of walls. A slight but striking girl alone awaited their arrival within, and Ausare nodded at her.

    [It is time, Isis,] he said. [Please make the necessary preparations.]

    The girl bowed deeply in deference to the Pharaoh, and wordlessly exited the chamber -- giving to Seth-Kayin a tearful glare as she passed. Sure that he'd met her on no prior occasion, the peddler was bewildered by this, and found the intensity of her regard to be quite inexplicable.

    Upon the throne that stood solitary in the center of the space, Ausare seated himself with regal bearing.

    [I would deign to amend you in one of your presumptions, Seth,] he pronounced. [Though you correctly observe that I have gained now some authority over conventions of an esoteric nature, it is not by skill or knowledge of the arts thaumaturgical.]

    [Then?]

    [In the end, credit for all that I have grasped lies with you, my brother -- for by your departure, I came bereft of an audience for my tales, and saw for the first time the true nature of the world.]

    Seth-Kayin narrowed his eyes.

    [You are suggesting that I have somehow betrayed you?]

    [No, no -- not as yet,] said Ausare in placation, laughing deeply. [It is merely that in seeking an ear as faithful as yours, I spoke my tales to the unworded farmers of the Nile -- and found there that I possessed an obscure talent in the telling of truths.]

    [I see not how this relates to my inquiry.]

    Ausare leaned his elbow to the left armrest of his throne.

    [I suppose that in your travels, you came in distant lands to witness prodigies beyond your understanding or belief,] he said. [Did you never wonder how it was that these things might have come to be?]

    [All true prodigies originate by the will of the gods. This is what is spoken, and all that I have seen.]

    [And you would be wrong in your unquestioning supposition,] said Ausare. [I learned upon my descent to Egypt that if the folk could be made to hold my utterings as truth -- that if I could myself believe the things I spoke -- the world would offer itself up to be bent at my every whim.] He held out his hand. [And if by the trust that the people of Egypt have within me invested, I state that the Sun and the Moon should in this palace materialize ...]

    Ausare closed his fist, and a burst of brilliance temporarily blinded Seth-Kayin. When he had again opened his eyes, the sky beyond the tower had fallen to a pitch darker than night. To the West of the throne, the icy globe of the Moon drifted in a swirl of frost; and the searing sphere of the sun burned now mightily to the East. Despite himself, Seth-Kayin trembled at the sight, and gripped more tightly the hilt of his sword.

    [I am no sorceror,] Ausare declared. [Only a giver of law.] He released his fist, and the celestial spheres were vanished, restoring to daylight the afternoon sky. [It is no god that calls forth the prodigies of the world, my brother -- it is the convictions of men. And as an author and arbitrator of such convictions, I have taken it upon myself to relieve of my flock the ills of the world, that they might by abiding in me live to the end of their lives in unthinking bliss.]

    [What bliss, and howso unthinking?]

    [No longer need they to reside in the regions where it is hard to live,] Ausare replied. [Trust merely in the truth of my word, and I give to them a single function to perform -- fairly rewarded that they would want for nothing. It is a fool who still descends to poverty, or covets the power to rule; for both are by contrast burdensome to the middle path that I have lain.]

    [You would have them absolve themselves of agency?]

    [What is the need of agency when it is a burden?] Ausare posed. [That way lies madness -- and formerly all the world was insane. Better that the difficult choices are left to my unlimited providence, that they can pretend whatever freedom of will they require to live by in petty choices amongst the carnal dalliances or the hundred paths of hedonism. In the end, men have only a need for complacency.]

    [But what of those who reject you?] asked Seth-Kayin. [Do you condemn the woman stoned in the plaza merely for honoring the ways of her people? And was it indeed on such an paltry excuse that you visited ruin upon the diamond-boned Kayin of the Sandsea?]

    [There will, of course, be sacrifices,] Ausare blandly replied, [for of what value is a truth if it cannot be relied upon absolutely? As surely as two sides are formed by a divide in the sand, so it comes to be inevitable that in the declaration of any one truth, some other matter must be made to lie.]

    [And so, he who comes not to abide in you must be made in the earth to lie?]

    [Unfortunately, that is the way of it, my brother,] stated Ausare, smiling benevolently. [My truth is a jealous truth, and only those beholden to it may partake of the fruits that I provide. Moreover, if folk are so entitled, they are as well obliged to preserve my word in its finality. The alternative is the anarchy of impermanence.]

    Seth-Kayin looked upon the truth-bearer, and for all that he had desired to be reunited with the blood of his blood, he could not recognize the thing upon the throne as his brother. There seemed instead to curl in his vision a monstrous serpent that hungered for the flesh of the offspring of men.

    [When I was a child,] he said, [you told me that in death, men would descend to a place deep within the earth to undergo a final trial. There, after overcoming the creatures of irrationality in matches of wit and cunning, they would arrive at a wondrous palace, and present to the Goddess Ma'at their hearts for a weighing against the feather of virtues.]

    [And what of it?]

    [You said to me that if their hearts should be burdened in bias and injustice, Ma'at would condemn them forevermore to burn within the lakes of fire,] said Seth-Kayin. [And if this tale be truth, then the Pharaoh of this land is undoubtedly destined to face such a judgment.]

    Ausare smiled at first, and gradually broke into laughter.

    [If you are asking,] he said, [after the ontological superiority of my words over those of another man, I will admit that there are none.]

    [Then how are you justified in imposing your law at the exclusion of other realities? There is in this world a truth for every man -- and no footing upon which any should be denied.]

    [I would rather pose the opposite,] said Ausare. [If all truths be equal, then on what basis must I unconditionally accept the views of others?]

    He stood from his throne and walked to the edge of the chamber, looking on to metropolis.

    [Let there be rain,] he uttered.

    The desert skies darkened rapidly with rain-laden cloud, and with a flash of lightning and a thunderous boom, a sudden downpour commenced. In the streets, the citizens scrambled haphazardly to cover.

    [Look upon these people, Seth,] said the Pharaoh. [They are as ants to me -- the sons of mongrels, grovelling at my feet for no more than the promise of table-scraps. If not for my teachings, they would still be crawling in mud of the Nile, ever at the capricious mercy of the floodwaters. That I have here raised from the earth the metropolis of Waset in a mere two decades to their thousand years of barbarism lays bare the teleological worth of my law.]

    Lightning flashed again, and in the moment of the thunder, Seth-Kayin had planted the tip of his feather-shaped blade through the back of Ausare's ribs -- piercing through to the front of his brother's chest. The blood jetted across the crimson of his traveling-mantle.

    [This sword was to be called Ma'at, after the Goddess of Justice that you so contrived,] he said. [I had hoped to present it to you as a boon, my brother -- but I see now that you are unworthy. I will call it instead the Marutuk, after the kin-slaying deity of the Land of Rivers.]

    He withdrew his blade, allowing his brother to collapse against a column. Surviving as yet, Ausare was able somehow to gasp in a soft, bitter chuckles, coughing blood from his lips.

    [Rejoice, brother,] he said, gasping for breath as blood issued from his chest. [I grant you your wish! From this moment on, I shall administer my law no longer -- for my gift and my essence have by the edge of your blade been rendered to the very foundation of humanity, that all may assert to the world their mind and see it realized. As the first system, I permit hereby a truth to every man -- and to every man a truth for himself. So I declare: The War of All Against All has begun! Let the strongest word endure, and consensus by elimination be reached!]

    [What are you saying?] asked Seth-Kayin, grasping his blade by both hands.

    [I am saying that henceforth,] replied Ausare, gritting his teeth, [men shall recollect within their bones this very moment where-ever you walk, and know you for the murderer that doomed humanity to conflict without end! The fruits that you offer of the earth will inevitably be turned against you; and for the sin of forsaking me to my fate, you shall upon your back bear the enmity of the world!]

    Ausare's death had already been assured, but it pained Seth-Kayin to hear further the mad utterings that spilled now from the man's mouth, where once came the wisdom of the just. With the fall of his blade, he cleaved the Pharaoh's skull in two.

    [You are not my keeper, brother,] he said, [but I shall be yours.]

    Across the city, the rain continued to fall.

    //

    Thus was begun the beginning:

    The Original Sin, and the First and Highest System.

    By the edge of a sword in fratricide was made real the first 'certainty' of the Age of Divinities; and so came Gaia to recognize the potential of mankind -- and the threat.

    A single human or a tribe might by their prominence lay low any number of cities -- any manner of beast -- but such feats represent in the scale of the celestial intelligences hardly a danger. Come, comparatively, that a 'consensus' is by process of elimination reached across every people and nation, the collective force of conviction that arises is able even to overwrite the will of the World.

    With irony, it was by the outcome of the primordial chaoskampf that the Jormungandr was truly birthed -- permitted to encircle all of the Earth in its sweet, seductive lies. Though, in reply, the Auspicious One and the Managarmr were by Gaia called forth, they were ultimately of little aid in the capacity of containment or regulation. The growth of the system of humanity was no longer tractable by any conventional means.

    And to seekers of 'certainty' that surpassed the fear of death to venture into the domain of Void -- it is said that there appeared always in their path a lone crimson shadow, ever seeking his own destruction ...

  10. #30
    So the world was, in a way, set on its course, to eventually end the chaotically absolute malleability of reality through the propagation and prevalence of a finite range of beliefs. Top-notch world building. The bits and pieces referenced and connected to each other throughout the story remind me somewhat of Umberto Eco.

    And this was the 15th fragment, things are probably coming to a head.

  11. #31
    Preformance Pertension SeiKeo's Avatar
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    General impressions:

    I love your chapter titles.

    I don't really have a good word for how to describe your prose - I'd combine 'crafted' with 'overwritten' if I had a word like it. Comments like 'this fic is expanding my vocabulary' I don't think are a good thing, because if the purpose of writing is to convey ideas, having readers be taken out of the story to search for definitions impedes that; and a lot of the time, it feels like the vocabulary doesn't quite add to the extra meaning.

    Personal bias: I don't think that Shirou is necessary at all in Notes.

    My general impression would be overall one of overwriting, in a particular sense. Like mentioned, I'm not sure your use of vocabulary furthers your purpose, but see other things less technical, such as all the setting outtake posts and especially out of that the information on timelines and dates. I feel a lot of interesting stuff going on here in a very slow-burn kind of scifi (if you've ever read Kim Stanely Robinson this feels influenced by him IMO) but your setting information and your prose makes you get in the way of yourself.

    If you happened to agree with me, I suppose I would say to edit more? Strip out the information that the reader doesn't need to know right now like a number of setting details that don't bear on anything, strip higher level vocab that doesn't have a specific meaning you need to use, and in general be a little less overwhelming. I think you're going over the heads of a lot of people and as such they're not engaging with you.

  12. #32
    Sentimental Fool NewAgeOfPower's Avatar
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    It depends on his intended audience. David Weber does massive infodumps, which turn off potential readers; but goes over really well with his intended readers, people (like me) who LOVE to chew through walls of world-building text.

    tldr; don't listen to leobaer.
    If you can dream—and not make dreams your master;
    If you can think—and not make thoughts your aim,
    If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster;
    And treat those two impostors just the same,

    -Ruyard Kipling, "If"

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  13. #33
    Drunk Anime Is The True Path. Mattias's Avatar
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    It is a very verbose way of writing, not that it's a bad thing, but sometimes becomes a little difficult to get through.

    As for the Pharaoh and the Swordsmith, was that the beginning of Reality Marbles? Particularly the "that all may assert to the world their mind and see it realized" line.
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  14. #34
    ぷよ使い Puyo Mage fallacies's Avatar
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    @ Mattias: It was the beginning of the shared reality called Alaya.

    And now, for the most awkward segment ...




    XVI // En-Kiri
    [email protected]????

    Emiya let go of the hilt, stumbling back.

    Whatever it was that he'd just 'experienced,' it certainly hadn't felt like sympathy.

    Procurement of history by resonance entailed a reading of residual states -- a process that was despite its overall automation implicitly 'active,' as initiation occurred from within Unlimited Blade Works. The circumstances of Seth-Kayin and Ausare, however, had registered to his awareness unbeckoned, materializing without a discernible source -- and at far greater sensory vivacity than any memory that he'd ever retrieved.

    The sword couldn't be ruled out as a potential point of broadcast. Beyond the superficial details of its bonelike structural composition, no meaningful information pertaining to its concept had been matriculated to Unlimited Blade Works. As highly-ranked divine instruments were similarly excluded from index per the limits of his comprehension, this wasn't by itself anomalous -- but in such cases, Emiya could always gain a rough appreciation of an object's relative prominence. By contrast, the sword upon the scale was in conceptual density indistinguishable from mundane inanimates in the background.

    Given that it had escaped his understanding, there existed a distinct possibility that it was penetrating his mind by some means that he couldn't detect.

    [Wrong conclusion, but I have to applaud you for the mental acrobatics,] said a childlike voice from above. [This was, in fact, a memory that you've always possessed, brought to the surface by your observation of the sword. You're able to access it at all because your mind is reorganizing itself in the absence of Alaya's interference. Don't be too surprised if your life begins to flash before your eyes, in other words.]

    Emiya looked upwards. Seated atop the fulcrum of the obsidian scales, there was a small, pale-skinned boy with braided violet hair. As in the recollection of Seth-Kayin, Emiya's consciousness directly grasped the boy's presence; but he couldn't trace the recognition to any particular sensory pathway. It was as if the child were a product of his hallucination.

    "And what the hell are you supposed to be?" Emiya asked.

    //

    The precise moment of exchange was lost to inattention, but when he came to awareness, the world had already 'shifted.'

    "This is ..."

    Emiya trailed off. The scene itself was recognizable: It was the breaking of dawn across the open-air mess of a military encampment near Samarkand, on a winter day in the year 1220 -- the locale of a dispatch that he'd once undertaken. A younger iteration of himself stooped frozen beside a man clad in the unadorned caftan of a lowborn ba'urchis, tending to meats above the unmoving flames of a makeshift hearth.

    This wasn't a Reality Marble. Structural analysis still confirmed the existence of the obsidian scales and the moonlit chamber -- implying that the features of the 'virtual environment' were hallucinogenically supplanting actual sensory reception, much as with the presentation of the child.

    [I am the Six Diadems of Darkness,] said the boy, walking from his side and glancing at him with a smile. [The Foundation of the First and Highest System, as recorded within and speaking to you from the last vestiges of your humanity. I'd prefer it, though, if you addressed me as the Shadow of Osiris.]

    Even once, Emiya hoped to encounter an all-powerful entity that didn't possess a chain of self-awarded titles as long as any middle school student's.

    [Oh, come now,] said the boy, lifting a skewer of meat from the hearth. [Seeing as we do reside in a world where deviation from 'common sense' literally grant mystical powers, I'd say it's really only Chuunibyou if you fail to live up to your appellations. More to the point, I don't see how you have any right to complain. Does 'I Am the Bone of My Sword' happen to sound familiar at all?]

    Emiya hadn't sufficiently disciplined his deeper-level unconscious to confirm or deny that the illusory encampment and this 'Shadow of Osiris' were indeed hallucinations -- but at the least, he hadn't yet a reason to expect hostility, even with the boy's hinted association to the Sixth. Supposing that the 'Shadow' was legitimately a conceptually incomprehensible entity bent on interfering with the mission, there was in any case very little that he could do about it.

    [They say that it generally isn't a good sign if you're questioning whether or not a hallucination is lying to you about not being real.]

    Emiya sighed.

    "If you're quite finished," he said, "how about we get on with whatever it is you want with me?"

    [Ah, you're no fun,] said the boy, twirling his braid with a finger and smiling mischievously. [I'll oblige, though. This here is Neter-Khertet, the Court of Vindications -- and I was created to conduct with 'contingency candidates' like yourself a debriefing of sorts, as a final condition to the use of the Feathered Blade imposed by your predecessor.]

    "My predecessor?"

    [My archetype, the Pharaoh Ausare,] the boy replied. [Osiris or Abel, in the modern vernacular. Incidentally, that makes the artifact you seek the Sword of Cain -- the Blade of the Original Sin.]

    //

    The second 'shift' once again slipped from Emiya's awareness.

    Kneeling amidst the burning ruins of Ryuudouji, an analogue of Emiya Shirou held to his chest the bleeding torso of Matou Sakura. A short distance away, standing across a brick pathway, a dark-skinned swordsman in red held in the stance of an executioner the feather-bladed sword that had lain upon the scales.

    "Seth-Kayin?"

    Emiya recalled no such incident -- not, at least, in the century that he'd spent cycling through the iterations of the Wars of Fuyuki. Allowing for all possibilities, it might have been a memory of the years before the Contract blotted from his mind by the Egregore -- but if that were really the case, he was certain he would've felt some familiarity with the situation.

    "This can't be real ..."

    [That isn't for you to judge,] stated the boy, biting another chunk of meat from his skewer. [Your very existence at this point is hardly anything more than a fantasy.]

    Emiya ignored the taunt, pacing forward to take stock of the man. The present Seth-Kayin was an imposing figure -- older than in the vision of Ausare's assassination by a decade or two, and sporting a goatee. Violet hair had paled now to a bland white, and his face was by the years beset with solemn lines. Looking upon Emiya Shirou, his gaze seemed to be filled with unending sorrow.

    The sword that he wielded was unfortunately just an illusion -- unreadable to Unlimited Blade Works, and thus not at all informative to Emiya's purposes. The epithet that the 'Shadow' had dropped, however -- Emiya could recognize that. 'The Blade of the Original Sin' was a title shared by the divine weapon that the Gram and the Caliburn had been patterned after -- Merodach the Kinslayer, which slept ever-more in the treasury of the King of Heroes.

    Was this perhaps the basis of the Merodach, somehow missed by Gilgamesh in his questing? It didn't seem as if the two weapons had much in common -- even on the level of superficial structure.

    [The King of Heroes did in fact venture here at one point -- but when he understood the nature of the sword, he decided that it wasn't worthy of his collection. There's no accounting for the taste of petty thieves, I suppose.]

    "And what /is/ its nature, precisely?"

    [Do you understand what it was that Ausare intended in offering himself up for slaughter?]

    "He hoped to create a domain of law by consensus?" said Emiya. "A direct predecessor to the system of Alaya, in other words."

    The boy nodded.

    [Thus, by the faith invested in his word, we arrived upon a reality dictated by natural selection, and asserted at the factual invalidation of lesser truths.] The boy smiled. [But to speak on a matter of greater relevance to your specific interests, I'll confirm that Ausare didn't merely 'create' Alaya in death. At the destruction of his consciousness, his conceptual essence was rendered as the 'basis' of the first consensus, mediated through a mechanism that he'd inculcated upon the blade by authority.]

    "That means ..."

    ['Let the sword be the pen by which the law of men is writ, and the blood of kings be its pigment,'] the boy quoted. [So said Ausare to Isis his concubine. I can guarantee you that the Marutuk will serve your intentions without fail, but you should be aware that yours won't be the only purpose served.]

    Emiya found it suddenly difficult to restrain himself from soft laughter. The Egregore's oblique references to 'the salvation of man' from earlier had begun to take on a vague sort of meaning.

    //

    They stood in an office that was at once spacious and cluttered, piled with books and papers and assorted curiosities.

    Emiya knew it as the Department of Anthropology in the University of Genoa, where he'd obtained his degree, so long ago. Paused in mid-conversation with the elderly gentleman seated across from him, a smiling Emiya Shirou displayed upon the table a collection of rust-eaten swords -- borne once by the generations of the Rex Nemorensis.

    [For what it's worth, nobody's denying you the right to walk away,] said the boy, seated upon a windowsill. [And though my personal opinion might differ, it falls to me as the arbiter of your debriefing to advocate that Alaya is despite your grievances at least preferable to the utopia of Ausare.]

    "And how is that?" asked Emiya, waving his hand through the intangible glass of a cabinet.

    [The shape of the world is no longer defined at the perspective of any one observer. In theory, at least, the fact that Alaya places together the assorted Weltanschauung in a conflict of exclusive assertion gives necessarily that the views held or agreed to by the common man have a far better chance of representation in the effective body of law. It's what a democracy would be if it were ideal.]

    "And yet, humans are forced into the condition of having to accept Alaya and everything it entails from the moment that they're born," Emiya replied. "There isn't any volition or choice involved, and the realities of individual humans are inevitably crushed underfoot if they fail to conform."

    ['But every man, when he enters into society,'] quoted the boy, ['gives up a part of his natural liberty; and obliges himself to conform to those laws which the community has thought proper to establish.']

    "William Blackstone?" asked Emiya. "If we're going to be quoting things at each other like intellectually insecure brats, 'the practical reason why a majority are permitted to rule is not because they are most likely to be in the right, nor because this seems fairest to the minority, but because they are physically the strongest.' In the end, we've simply traded a singular Hobbesian sovereign for the tyranny of the masses -- and the grandest fiction of democracy is that consensus is necessary. So long as there doesn't exist any aggressor or victim, there's really no reason why anyone should be made answerable to the realities of another by obligation."

    [Henry David Thoreau, hm?] said the boy, sliding to the floor and pacing behind a row of desks. [But the fact of the matter is, men of every era have chased after the Leviathan. Maintenance of the ego and super-ego gives us the bothersome task of having to act as our own caretakers -- and so the natural inclination is to regressively pursue an external authority to see to our every need. That, ultimately, is the purpose that Alaya was 'meant' to serve -- and as I recall, wasn't your primary complaint that it didn't perform its function well enough?]

    "That was a long time ago. If you have access to my memories, you should be aware of that."

    //

    Darkness had fallen upon the hill of skulls, but the fighting continued by moonlight.

    With the Kanshou and Bakuya drawn, a white-haired Emiya Shirou poised to attack the enemy that drifted overhead: An RAY-028 'Chrysalis,' which held the appearance of a violet-haired girl with arms 'unwoven' into strings of etherlite, extending in all directions. The nanowires linked her to seven distinct military androids -- mass-production type humanoid drones manufactured by the Harway Foundation from designs mined of the Moon Cell Automaton.

    This, Emiya knew, was the night the European Federation had learned that digitally regulated weapons could no longer be relied upon, regardless of data transmission medium or insulation. The Sixth was a reality wrought by technology itself -- and technology objectively favored the A-RAYs.

    [The fact that I'm not just pulling answers from your mind is a formality of the process of debriefing,] said the boy, sitting cross-legged atop the wreckage of a vehicle. [So, humor me: On what basis do you reject the Leviathan?]

    Emiya turned from the Chrysalis, meeting the boy's mirthful gaze.

    "Whenever there exists an absolute Leviathan that asserts as law a sole body of truth," he replied, "those whose circumstances fail to be accounted for are destroyed at the convenience of the system. Lapses in law gave form the suffering that plagued Victorian London; and diametrically opposite, the overassertion of the system is precisely what permitted the oncoming annihilation of humanity to be rendered as inevitable fact."

    And such, in essence, was the particular iteration of the Sixth Universal Law that had come to be experienced by the men of Earth:

    Science had to the widespread comprehension of the common man demonstrated indisputably that the single greatest impediment to the advance of civilization was none other than the irrationality of the 'the Human Condition' -- in all of its sociological and environmental cognates. Though they had been made in the image of man, the natural philosophies were gradually brought upon the conclusion that man himself was obsolete; and everywhere, it was acknowledged unwittingly that the future could lie solely in the possibilities of post-humanity.

    Self-serving bias alone should've prevented acceptance of a truth so fundamentally repulsive and counterintuitive -- but such cognitive defenses were not without vulnerability. Rejection of a concept generally came in response to information delivered in the short duration, and in units easily comprehensible as an attack upon the self. Provided that one had the time, a more sophisticated delivery method could be devised to circumvent these conditions -- by cultivating across numerous decades a voluminous, practically insurmountable body of evidence that painted as inherently androgenic all the ills in the world.

    Victor Frankenstein was over two hundred years old when the groundwork for the context of his utopian project was finally complete.

    //

    The happening that now unfolded had no probable basis in reality:

    A nude, red-headed child lay upon a medical examination table in a poorly lit room -- possibly a clinic or a morgue. Dressed in sanitary scrubs, Victor Frankenstein smiled at the sleeping boy with paternal warmth, stroking his hair with a gloved hand. On the wall, a calendar indicated in Japanese that the date was 13th September, 1996.

    [You really shouldn't be so hard on him, you know?] the 'Shadow' commented, flipping through a file on a nearby desk. [Even if he did doom Homo Sapiens to extinction, poor old Victor only ever intended to rebirth the human race as an ascended species under the enlightened rule of his messianic God-Queen.]

    "The only humans who were ever reborn as YAs or A-RAYs were his subordinates at Atlas," said Emiya. "I don't think the case can be made that he ever cared for 'the human race' as more than an abstract."

    [Touche,] said the boy, giggling. [Still, Victor Frankenstein's endeavor is a perfect example of the lengths to which people will go in the pursuit of the Leviathan. Even if the notion of such a thing spawned merely as a byproduct of Ausare's insistence on exclusive assertion, it's become ingrained enough as a cultural artifact that by now it might as well be permanent. You've so far rejected it on grounds of the harm that it causes, but -- acknowledging that it probably won't be going away anytime soon -- would you have an actual countermeasure against it?]

    It wasn't really a fair question, Emiya felt. As the 'Shadow' had noted, Leviathanic pursuit was a practice literally as old as history. Successful attainment substantiated by the collective inertia of humanity a formless monster greater in magnitude than any one divinity. In terms of feasibility, opposition could be mounted neither against the Leviathan en potentia nor the Leviathan extant without sinking a crippling quantity of time and resources.

    [Let me rephrase that, then,] said the boy. [Assuming that all possible costs are immaterial, what sort of solution would you administer?]

    "If it's a matter of what I would do personally, the answer is nothing at all," replied Emiya. "If somebody wants to assert their own truth against the Leviathan, I'll gladly furnish them with arms -- but I'm not about to declare what should or shouldn't be."

    //

    Kilometers below an inverted tower, a monstrously deformed Apostle had been pinned to the smooth, glowing floor of a geofront by tip of a sword. Stepping away from the dying beast, a younger Emiya stared bitterly upwards. Behind the clouds that circled the tower, massive gears locked in rotation formed the perimeter of a territory bound in the contrivances of civilization.

    [That's kind of an irresponsible answer, isn't it?] the boy asked, squatting next to the creature and poking it in the head. [You've made a case for the injustices of the status quo, but you haven't offered any method to resolve them. In the end, humans would be left to fend for themselves.]

    "And that's precisely the point," said Emiya. "Dismantling the institution on humanity's behalf would be self-defeating, as I'd essentially be establishing a new messianic authority for people to cling to. If men cannot by a system abide, the proper resolution would be for them to modify or escape it under their own power."

    [And so, by 'arming them,' you imply that you would grant them power?]

    "I wouldn't be granting them anything," Emiya clarified. "I would be restoring to them the things that Alaya denied."

    Magi of the Occidental order had historically proffered an assortment of explanations to the apparent 'weakening' of man, with varying accounts that theoretically placed causation in the loss of the Unified Language; or in the process of genetic over-diversification. By other paths to truth, however, it came by a select few to be known that quarantine from the sanctions of Alaya could in newborn children unveil the primordial endowments of the human race, unfettered by the laws that had been continuously layered on in the passage of history.

    It was, in other words, owing to the implementation of 'common sense' that individual humans were denied the capacity to reject consensus.

    If there existed a method to overcome the certainty of consensus-defined extinction, Emiya supposed that it lay in somehow curtailing the persistence of law so that individuals might by sufficient desire and force of will insulate themselves from the 'reality of the masses' -- extruding to their personal space or immediate environment a truth of their own authorship, perhaps in a format similar to a Reality Marble.

    The consequences that might follow of such a change in architecture were beyond the scope of Emiya's prediction, but on the level of intentional design, at least, he tentatively imagined that humans of heroic stature might again become a possibility.

    The first Heroes were permitted their prowess by lenience of law, and were etched into the Akasha by force of consensus. The final Heroic Spirit was by ever-encroaching realism and the death of wonder left without successor. If in the coming eras there were to be born a new generation of prodigies, the fact of their armipotence would require no 'give' in the physics of Alaya -- no particular softness or leeway in the law to justify their incredible deeds.

    [Faith in oneself a miracle does make,] observed the boy, standing up. [Sounds like comic book physics.] He giggled, walking to Emiya's side. [But by your mechanic, extreme individualists would be empowered on the basis of asociality or self-centered thinking. What with the erosion of 'validity' and the potential formation of an autistic wonderland, it's ripe grounds for anarchy, really. If in such a context a War of All Against All were to ensue, regulation by Alaya would be all but impossible.]

    "That's a worst case scenario," Emiya replied. "Even then, a state of homeostasis would eventually be reached."

    //

    On a clear summer night, Emiya Kiritsugu sat beside his son on the engawa along the side of his garden, smiling faintly as he gazed into the distance.

    [You are aware that your 'state of homeostasis' might just be unending warfare, yes?] asked the 'Shadow,' seated next to a twelve-year-old Shirou. [If this solution were realized, you could very well be hastening the self-destruction of humanity.]

    "If that's what humans desire as individuals, then that's what they'll have," Emiya responded, looking on from the washitsu behind his father. "But it wouldn't be as a direct result of my proposal, I think."

    [And why not?]

    "Ausare's War of All Against All came about because truths were forced into direct competition with one another. That pre-condition wouldn't be applicable here, because the crystallization of a truth no longer fundamentally requires the creation of consensus. Alternatives to the one Leviathanic reality would simply be permitted to 'be' without mandated selection pressures. The world is large enough for more than one opinion to be true."

    [And so, in curbing the action of Alaya, you seek to make valid the promise of 'a truth to every man?']

    "Yes."

    Pensively, the boy nodded.

    [A less costly solution than I would've imagined,] he said, pushing himself to his feet. [Not ideal or perfectly elegant, in my opinion, but it seems that for the purposes of this debriefing, you've qualified for the inheritance of the blade. There remains only one final question.]

    Stepping into the washitsu, he faced Emiya and raised his hands level to his sternum. At one complete cycle of breath, motes of red light started to gather in the air above his palms -- filling out gradually to the broken shape of the Marutuk, and then dimming to a weighted metallic black. Beneath vein-like fissures along the surface of the blade, a pulsating crimson glow remained.

    It wasn't illusion, and it wasn't Gradation Air. Structural analysis confirmed that the valid physicality of the sword rested somehow in the immaterial hands of the 'Shadow.'

    [I ask of you, Unlimited Blade Works,] said the boy. [As a system divorced from the rationalities of Alaya, do you accept reincorporation as a contingency to its failings?]

    For one last time, Emiya looked upon Kiritsugu's back -- so slight and gaunt in the illumination of the full moon.

    Moving forward from here would constitute a final betrayal of his father's ideals -- but to both himself and the folk of the twilight era, he could realistically envision no other path.

    Perhaps, he hoped, all sins would be forgiven in the end.

  15. #35
    Sentimental Fool NewAgeOfPower's Avatar
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    Beautiful.
    If you can dream—and not make dreams your master;
    If you can think—and not make thoughts your aim,
    If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster;
    And treat those two impostors just the same,

    -Ruyard Kipling, "If"

    -)|(-

    My works [Updated June 21st, 2013]


    "From a dusky world with an ever-setting sun, a limitless rain of Ryougi Shiki streaked down from gargantuan gears set in the sky." Fate: Over 9000, my best Crack yet.

  16. #36
    You finally lost me. I think I'll have to reread it when I can muster my full attention on it.

  17. #37
    ぷよ使い Puyo Mage fallacies's Avatar
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    @ Leftovers: If there's anything unclear, I can attempt to clarify?




    XVII
    // The Witch of Atlas
    (age of steel common) ref [email protected]

    On the day that the implicit inevitabilities of [Overcount 1,999] were removed, the final aspect of the Sixth conducted an unpublicized excursion to the artifact repository in the old Academy at Alexandria, some thirty-six stories beneath the grounds of the Pharos.

    Attired in the fashion of a twenty-first century 'gothic lolita,' Victoria curtsied as her Queen pixellated into existence in the grand foyer.

    "At ease, Professor."

    The Sixth of Six -- designated 'Judgment' -- was a diminutive girl with braided violet hair, physiologically indistinguishable from her other terminals. Appropriate to the nature of the visit, she had forgone the formal vestments of her station, choosing instead an ensemble appropriate for travel and combat -- a black riding cassock of the Manchurian style, and a conical hat resembling that of a fairytale witch.

    "You have analyzed of the remains of the alleged 'Counter Guardian,' we understand?" she asked.

    "Yes, my lady," said Victoria. "This way, please."

    The absence of grain in the subterranea permitted the scheduled nanite ventilations to perform environmental maintenance without interference -- serviceably preserving the august halls despite their long disuse, and saving Victoria the embarrassment of presenting to her Queen a dust-ridden hovel. At four pristinely-kept marble junctions south of the foyer gateway, she pushed open the door to a repurposed alchemical laboratory, and bowed for the Queen to enter.

    The room was unalike in appearance to the other areas of the repository, and lit only by a series of standing lamps. A dark, stony substance was splotched across the walls and the marble tiles underfoot -- appearing to originate from the center of the room, where there knelt in rigid kiza a sculpture of a Kongou Rikishi comprised entirely of swords. Gripped in its hands was the hilt of a black broadsword, whose feather-like blade penetrated clear through its abdomen. Several meters behind it, a stalagmite rose from the floor.

    "It is attempting to dominate the environment?" asked the Queen.

    "By some enactment of law indiscernible to our instruments, it appears to be invasively establishing jurisdiction over the inanimates in its vicinity. As it was able bypass our countermeasures in only a few hours, it's probable that we won't be able to contain it here for very long. It hasn't acted in direct harm to living organisms, though."

    The Queen approached the sculpture.

    "Your missive indicated that you encountered it initially as a being of flesh and blood," she said, running her finger along the flat of a dorsal projection. "You have verified that this was in fact the entity that interred you?"

    "To the best of my knowledge, yes," Victoria replied. "Not only did it serve as the geometric focus to the collapse of my prison, despite a majority recomposition to steel and silica, it remains a structural match to the anatomy of my quarry."

    The Queen nodded, eyeing the feather blade.

    "We surmise that this is the weapon it sought?" she asked.

    "During my encounter, it was able to generate an identical weapon composed of ferrous oxide," said Victoria. "Though the sword before us now is comparatively a solid of exotic matter spectrally similar to grain, I can't confirm to you that it wasn't also materialized by the Counter Guardian."

    "Hmm."

    The Queen made a gesture with her hand, and lines of glowing pixels appeared in a grid across the surface of the sculpture and the sword -- illuminated as if by lasers without source. Victoria recognized it as the initiation of a signature technique favored by 'Judgment' in combat.

    Being in essence the very concept of 'human understanding' given volition, the Sixth bore a unique relationship to any spaces collapsed per the observations of man to a distinct topography: She could redefine them at will. This was the nature of the first and final Magic.

    "Disjunction Matrix," she said.

    Along planar discontinuities in the space of the room, the body of the Counter Guardian fractured to small cubes of metal with a single metallic crack -- leaving the undamaged blade to clatter to the floor. The Queen drew her lips to an impassive frown at the result, bending to lift the sword from the debris and holding it up before her.

    "You won't be able to destroy it or conceal it permanently," said a masculine voice. "Not even the True Ancestors could."

    Almost on reflex, Victoria flicked the syringe of nanites concealed in her sleeve into her palm, tossing it forcefully at the sudden interloper. The man merely smiled in response -- and the projectile passed through the surface of his body unhindered, shattering against the wall behind him.

    "A hologram?" she asked, thinking aloud.

    The blond man ignored the question, slowly circling them instead. By the angling of his face, Victoria grasped that he must've been studying the Queen -- but though his vision was apparently without issue, his eyelids remained tightly shut.

    "You really don't recognize me, do you?" he asked, giving a business-like smile. "I suppose that's the cost of decoherence to a single point of view. A higher-order system like yourself can't meaningfully communicate with human-like intelligences without resolving to a more finite consciousness."

    Victoria opened her mouth to rebuke the man for his lack of respect, but the Queen gestured for her silence.

    "You know of the significance of this weapon," 'Judgment' stated. "You will explain it to us."

    Somehow finding hilarity in the command, the man laughed.

    "The thunder fails to know its lightning, I see," he said. "But, really, if you're asking that, I presume that the processes underlying your liminality have managed to retrieve some trace of its relationship to you. You were, after all, a paradigm carved by its edge -- the first of two."

    If in academic discourse there were anything that peeved Victoria to the point of fury, it was the buffoons who derived perverse pleasure of mystifying their audiences with belittling obscurity -- as if to rub in the face of others their 'profound' intellectual acuity. To do so was in mere conversation an unforgivable slight; and before the glory of the Queen, it was nothing short of lese-majeste.

    "Answer the question," she said, "or I'll find you and gut you for your insolence to the Queen, wherever you happen to be."

    "You could certainly make an attempt," said the man, amused, "but unfortunately, I don't yet exist in this era. As the purpose of our meeting here today was predetermined only as a formal declaration of hostilities, though, I'll try and play nice. The day that I kill you is still many decades off."

    Victoria clenched her fists. Extra-temporal projection bordered on the domain of Magic -- and though wishcraft and alchemy had so far survived the demise of Foundational thaumaturgy, it seemed unlikely that they could circumvent due chronological course to such an extent. If this man truly held the abilities he'd hinted at, who was he? Did he have any weaknesses to exploit?

    "Being the parent of the A-RAYs, I'm guessing you understand why it is that your race can't be directly targeted by the Counter Force?" asked the man rhetorically, pacing before the pile of steel. "It's because you're born of human law, and thus definitionally incapable of betraying the expectations of Alaya. Your advantage lies in that Alaya itself forces humans to submit to your sanctions -- and so, up until yesterday, you were a fact that no human could deny or resist."

    "And what was it that happened yesterday?" asked 'Judgment.'

    "'The Sixth Universal Law gives the certainty of collapse to any reality that by attrition of alternatives expands beyond a critical mass -- preferentially by self-elimination,'" the man replied. "Yesterday, the entropic providence of your inevitability was superseded by a revision to the system of Alaya, installed via the blade that you now hold. The scientific certainty of humanity's extinction still stands, but it's no longer a necessary absolute."

    "You contradict yourself," Victoria interjected, glaring at the man. "If no Old-Type could deny the Queen, there isn't any way that the Fakir could have achieved what you describe."

    The blond man started to chuckle.

    "Ironic that you should be the one to say so," he said, amidst laughter. "You think that somebody like him could've possibly been human?" He shook his head. "He never was -- not even before he became a Counter Guardian. It's how he qualified for the use of the blade in the first place."

    'Judgment' brandished the feathered sword, holding the tip to the man's neck.

    "Even presuming that your claims are valid," she stated blandly, "it makes no difference. The extermination of the Old-Types is a truth that shall be consummated, with or without inevitability."

    "And that's where you'd be wrong, my dear," said the man, drawing his cape about his torso. "It makes all the difference in the world."

    "Laid bare to the Sixth Magic," said Victoria, "'all the difference in the world' is little more than a finite value that may be rounded to zero. It means nothing of significance."

    "On the contrary," he said, "it means that before you bring to naught the history of man, vengeance for the destruction of the House Eltnam will be visited upon you and yours with a non-zero chance of finality."

    Grinning terribly, he parted his eyelids for the first time. Tears of blood descended his cheeks as the hollow sockets within were exposed.

    "And for the Night of Wallachia," he continued, "any probability greater than zero is virtually a guaranteed fruition ..."



    XVIII // Babel's Tale
    [email protected]

    Even in wartime, there were places of relative peace.

    The grey metropolis had been settled before the regional grain index had risen to uninhabitable levels -- built of a sober revivalist-Gothic style into the steep walls of the canyon. At its height in the mid twenty-ninth century, the city had boasted a population of a million strong; but there were now less than two thousand inhabitants left -- primarily, the obstinate, elderly folk who refused to give up their homes, even to the detriment of their own health.

    Humming a tuneless song, a small, redheaded child balanced on her tip-toes to peek past the stone railing of an inclined walkway, watching the slow drift of the cloud-stream through the center of the chasm. The countless bridges that arched precipitously to the eastern face of the city faded into the passage of the mists, giving the illusion that they somehow continued onwards without end.

    "Honey," called a woman's voice.

    "Coming," the girl called back in sing-song.

    The girl dropped to her heels and chased after the hooded blond woman at the summit of the ramp. Turning along a cobblestone lane, they pulled their luggage past the boarded windows of what looked to have been an upscale shopping district -- crossing beneath a flying buttress to a wide aerial terrace, lined with benches and street lamps.

    "I think this is it," said the woman, glancing up at the solitary building that overlooked the platform.

    The Hotel Aldaraia was a thirteen-story building, cleanly kept. Relative to the exterior, the lobby beyond the trio of revolving doors was set more in the style of the British Grand Hotel, but curiously devoid of hue. From the checkered floor to the polished finish of the wood, to the silver of the metallic surfaces -- any furnishing that would've otherwise been of a 'normative' chromaticity had been rendered to high contrast greyscale in a bizarre twist of design.

    The single bit of color left for intentional emphasis was the brilliant green of a nylon rose, leaning from the mouth of a vase on the unattended front desk. Feng-Shui had given once that artificial flowers utilized in hoteliering communicated an insincerity of service, but the women supposed that in the End of Days it was nothing to begrudge an establishment. The only natural flowers that still grew lived in the grain-free botanical preserves of Tel-Megiddo.

    Two rings to the bell and a peer over the counter were answered with a series of heavy, clanking footsteps from the staff-only area. A cast-iron figure in a black suit and bow-tie emerged from behind a wall, dragging forth a mess of plastic cords attached along its spine.

    "Good evening, ladies," it said tonelessly, rotating the lens of the single camera that protruded from the side of its head. "How may I help you?"

    Habituated now to cutting down the robotic slaves of the Hundred Breeds, the woman momentarily froze at the appearance of the concierge -- but caught herself before she did anything untoward. The humanoid was, she recognized, a generic-make terminal to a 2860's steam-powered analytical engine -- compact, full-analogue, and famously deemed too primitive to be worth subverting by the A-RAYs.

    "I, er, have a reservation for a party of two," she said, stilling her voice. "The confirmation number is --"

    "G-18-M312!" shouted the small girl, smiling.

    There was a whirring of gears as the terminal processed the information.

    "Thank you, young lady," it said. "And may I have surname, Madam?"

    "Emiya," she stated. "Written as in 'keeper of the shrine.'"

    //

    Hours after the child had slept, the ringer of the acoustic intercom sounded. Setting her bible to the table beside her bed, the woman removed her reading glasses and made to pick up the handset.

    "I apologize for disturbing your rest, madam," said the voice of the concierge over the reciever. "There is a guest for you here in the lobby. She said to mention that she wishes to return a certain item to you."

    The woman frowned.

    "Thank you," she said into the speaking tube. "Please tell her that I'll be with her shortly."

    "I understand, and you're very welcome."

    Exchanging her nightgown for a more presentable sundress, the woman descended by elevator to the lower level. The lobby after midnight was inconsistently lit -- brightly illuminated by chemical lamps in some areas, but generally dim throughout. A raven-haired girl in red, the sole occupant of the floor, sat inclined in an armchair beside a window.

    "It's good to see you again," said the girl.

    "Zelretch," the woman acknowledged.

    Twin-tails notwithstanding, the apparent 'teenager' before her was an elder Apostle -- improbably, the fourth foremost in the peerage of the Twenty-Seven Ancestors, and a prince amongst vampires by reputation.

    Were said reputation valid, the woman would've been bound to annihilate the girl on sight -- but to begin with, Apostolic 'vampirism' was a requirement of prana to artificially sustain lifespan, necessitated by Gaia-enforced existential erosion and denial of mana. To a multidimensional hive-mind with terminals in more than a thousand worlds, acquisition of spiritual substance was hardly an issue of concern.

    "You wanted to return something to me?" she asked.

    Nodding, Zelretch removed a thin cardboard box from the paper bag next to her armchair. Setting it upon the table between them, she pushed it toward the woman.

    "When I saw him last, he told me to give it back to you when the time was right," she said.

    The words filled the woman with a presentiment, and hesitantly, she pulled aside the lid. Neatly folded within, there lay a crimson shroud that had belonged to her in life, which she hadn't seen in years. She closed her eyes, lifting the fabric from the box and holding it against her face.

    Zelretch was not the first to break the silence. After several minutes, the woman withdrew the cloth and delicately lowered it to the box.

    "I asked him to convert once, you know?" she said, staring into the black varnish of the table. "He refused."

    "Did he explain his reasoning?"

    "He disliked messianic figures, even as an allegory."

    "Why is that?"

    Pulling the silk taut along a visible crease, she said, "He felt that when a figure of unique agency singlehandedly delivers to the unempowered a salvation they couldn't have attained alone, the struggles and sacrifices of the common man begin to lose meaning."

    "And do you agree?"

    "I have my faith," she replied, replacing the cover. "Our spoken opinions couldn't have coincided -- though whether or not he privately agreed with me is perhaps a separate matter."

    Zelretch folded her hands across her knee.

    "If you like," she offered solemnly, "I can show you his final hours."

    The woman shook her head.

    "No, it's quite alright," she said, more calmly than she felt. "There was only ever one way that he would've permitted himself to pass on."

    She lowered her chin, looking into the shadowed whiteness of the cardboard cover.

    "In the end, he still couldn't bring himself to let it all go."




    Some notes will follow tonight.
    After that, there remains one final epilogue, to be posted at some point next week.

  18. #38
    Sentimental Fool NewAgeOfPower's Avatar
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    This was amazing. So CG Jeanne and Shirou had a kid? And she took his name?

    I have a bittersweet smile.

    Waiting for the epilogue; sad that the ride is over so quickly.
    If you can dream—and not make dreams your master;
    If you can think—and not make thoughts your aim,
    If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster;
    And treat those two impostors just the same,

    -Ruyard Kipling, "If"

    -)|(-

    My works [Updated June 21st, 2013]


    "From a dusky world with an ever-setting sun, a limitless rain of Ryougi Shiki streaked down from gargantuan gears set in the sky." Fate: Over 9000, my best Crack yet.

  19. #39
    祖 Ancestor Flere821's Avatar
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    Any particular reason why Zelretch is female in this particular timeline?
    Quote Originally Posted by Elf View Post
    Elf, dealing fanfic crack for Beast Lair since 2007.
    Quote Originally Posted by Radiantbeam View Post
    Elf: Crack Dealer. Story at eleven.
    'Fae is Foul' - My SAO/ZnT Crossover fanfic (SB Thread) (FFN Link)

  20. #40
    Finally read the last two chapters.

    Quote Originally Posted by NewAgeOfPower View Post
    Beautiful.
    Was that spectre Zepia? He did say that he didn't exist yet in that particular world line, and the Night of Wallachia might have yet only occurred within Attractor Field X.

    I'm also guessing that "Zelretch" doesn't actually refer to the man himself but the Magic, and consequently is the title for its wielder. That being a certain twin-tailed apprentice of the Wizard Marshall~

    I'll say it again: I love the way you craft your prose, and I eagerly await the conclusion of this story.

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