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Thread: The Hearts of the Suffering

  1. #601
    Beats By Matthew ft. Dr. Para Rafflesiac's Avatar
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    Thanks, Arashi.

    Looks like Saber's gonna have a bad time.
    Supports:


    Quote Originally Posted by Arashi_Leonhart View Post
    canon finish apo vol 3

  2. #602
    A bisexual mecha-lover who enjoys the anime aesthetic naschyamamoto's Avatar
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    So Fayden's basically triggered a genderbent Kirei route, looks like. That should be fun.

    Shirou proves that being EMIYA is suffering once again, walking down the path to Counter Guardian without even realizing it. I wanna hope that Saber can cure the guy one of these days, but-
    Quote Originally Posted by Rafflesiac View Post
    Looks like Saber's gonna have a bad time.
    Waver being a badass normal once again, Iskandar really would be fucking proud of this guy. And then the Apocrypha leftovers are realizing they're a liiiitle bit screwed. Yeah.
    I mean, I'm still only about a third of the way through Apocrypha but I'm still feeling the feels for Fiore.


    Quote Originally Posted by Elf View Post
    There was contributing. And suggestions and . . . okay a bunch of people demanding me to write this.

    Quote Originally Posted by Aiden View Post
    Well yeah, that last one always happens.

  3. #603
    Unpromised Victory, isn't it sad? CG-3m1y4's Avatar
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    Welp, looks like Alruna would be as broken as Brynhild in power despite having a lackluster Master.

    The Matous are soooo gonna wreck the party later... the questions are when and how.
    Quote Originally Posted by My F/GO Collab Dream Never

  4. #604
    Don't @ me if your fanfic doesn't even have Shirou/Illya shipping k thnx ItsaRandomUsername's Avatar
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    I'm the sort of nerd who found Shirou's conjectures on Zoroastrianism's perennial connection with the Association and magi, to a degree as a whole, and the thematic implications of that to be the most compelling part of this update. Thanks a million, looks like this next arc is going to hit its stride in due time.
    McJon01: We all know that the real reason Archer would lose to Rider is because the events of his own Holy Grail War left him with a particular weakness toward "older sister" types.
    My Fanfics. Read 'em. Or not.



  5. #605
    吸血鬼 Vampire Andaeus's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by ItsaRandomUsername View Post
    I'm the sort of nerd who found Shirou's conjectures on Zoroastrianism's perennial connection with the Association and magi, to a degree as a whole, and the thematic implications of that to be the most compelling part of this update. Thanks a million, looks like this next arc is going to hit its stride in due time.
    Same, that was a fascinating idea.

    You're doing a great job portraying Waver, by the way. It's hard to make someone seem like a badass in a settling like this when they're not actually much good in a fight. And portraying someone like that actually holding their own through preparation, wit or circumstance is even harder.

  6. #606
    Drunk Anime Is The True Path. Mattias's Avatar
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    An update, Yay! Now to remember what's been happening.

    I do like the Sakura-Rider dynamic that's sort of happening with Little Sister. I'm interested to see where it goes, and when the inevitable split happens.

    Gundam-a-thon Status: 0079 Zeta ZZ Char's Counterattck War In the Pocket F91 Stardust Memories Victory G Gundam Wing Endless Waltz 8th MS After War X Turn A SEED 00 Unicorn AGE Reconguista The Orgin Thunderbolt IBO

    DONE!!!!!! 4 years, 1 week.

    Bonus Rounds: Gundam-san Escalflowne Build/Try/Divers

  7. #607
    Bitchin' Arashi_Leonhart's Avatar
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    Whelp, dunno when I'll be free to get a chance to update this, so might as well. I'd been sitting on this for a while, but wanted to finish editing earlier chapters before posting it since I'd guess people might reread earlier stuff to remember what the fuck is going on. Oh well.


    Chapter 21
    Cleanup



    It had been eight days since the first Servant was called and the battle to stop the ritual from completion had begun. If history was any indicator, it meant that they might have less than a week: either to endure until the ritual cycled past, or to ensure that they were the only ones left standing when the ritual was completed. Up until now, while the odds had been stacked against them, things had yet to feel “impossible.”

    Now Rin felt like she was being pulled in multiple different directions. Association magi that wanted to recover the ritual. Association magi that wanted to carry out the ritual here and now. Nobodies appearing out of the woodwork wishing to claim things for their own.

    And now, out in the open after night had fallen, using herself as bait upon the plans of the men in her life. If she survived this, she was going to grind her foot into their nether parts.

    If she survived being key.

    Fewer and fewer people were out and about, either driven off by the spells of magi or due to the unusual and unnerving things happening around town—hotel fires and church gas line explosions and mysterious murders happening at an alarming frequency. Distantly, Rin hoped that the people she knew in town were those that had taken to the relative safety of their homes, and tried to push out of her mind the idea that some of the victims from others in the area could still be said friends and acquaintances.

    Wary of exposing themselves or their Servant, it was clear now that the Archer team was maneuvering her. Rin had spotted a semi-autonomous Mystic Code, a spell given form not unlike the El-Melloi maid. To a normal observer, it was easy to miss, as it looked like a shadow and could disappear into the darkness of the evening. Rin was quick to diagnose it, but engaging it even amidst the lights of the city and waxing moon might prove to be a challenge.

    It appeared like a swarm of insects flittering about their nest at the height of season, but the swarm took form and shape, appearing when idle almost in a humanoid form, then shifting to a sort of hovering isosphere or comb-like shape that swirled in on itself when it moved. It took form at the extreme range of Rin’s senses, seemed to take in its surroundings, then moved closer at a pace not much faster than a human taking a brisk stroll.

    Rin thought it was a weapon of Einon’s favorite apprentice who was known to have an obsession for new and innovative weapons and tools. In many ways, this reminded Rin of Waver’s Volumen, which, as she thought about it, might even be the point. Regardless, she could make out that the “insects” were actually metallic particles and that getting close to them would be a mistake. As mobile as they were, blasting them away with a gem or large-scale spell might not even work.

    She was downtown, north of the largest cluster of skyscrapers where things were still lit next to the street but darkness concealed the dingy back alleyways. Businesses had long closed and there were no pedestrians—even at this late hour, the first hint that she was nearing a destination created by magi.

    Well, that was fine. When the swarm neared one of the trees that lined the street in decoration, Rin swiped a finger across the image before her. The tree suddenly tipped over, crashing evergreen-branches first into the swarm and dispersing it briefly like a mist.

    “Heh. You might have better attack power than grouch-face’s Code if you’re what I think you are, but you lack in defense.” Rin raised a hand, directing it at the fallen tree as the swarm converged once more. “
    Das schließen. Vogelkäfig. Gewittersturm
    Close. Birdcage. Storm of lightning
    !


    From the upended roots of the tree, tiny bolts of lightning made an arc from tree root to the particles flying about. To the naked eye, it looked almost like a net of electricity were now reaching out toward her. But the particles buzzing about halted in mid-air, as if frozen.

    “I don’t think you have quite the improvement ability Lord Angryface does,” Rin said aloud. “You’re just substituting one idea for another. Improvement means taking it to the next level!”

    She fired Gandr at the currently-stuck Mystic Code, which seemed to dissipate the moment it touched the metal particles.

    Yet the effect was quick to show. Like a marionette with its strings cut, the floating metal collapsed all at once, leaving a layer of soot-colored dust on the street. Rin could not hit the target directly, but her Gandr was strong enough to physically damage a target like a bullet. The effects of the curse would still reach out to its target through their magical energy at that level of power, and while it would not kill the person at the other end, it would be strong enough to make them feel the spell.

    Like being hit with a punch to the gut, the magus on the other end lost concentration and the prana feed cut off momentarily, ending the Mystic Code’s activity.

    The loss in concentration also gave Rin a chance. She had felt the focus and magical energy signature of the user in a vague way before, but now, as they attempted to regain their centering and establish another connection, their circuit use would spike. And Rin was sure now that she was close enough to pick that out—

    She found what she was looking for a block away, from a five-story building’s uppermost level. As fast as she could, Rin ran through the angles the different windows had on her location, sizing up which one would give the best view of both her and the Mystic Code’s location, then raised her arm to direct a Gandr that way.

    An arrow embedded itself fletching-deep into the pavement a mere millimeter in front of her left foot. Rin reflexively jumped back, seeking out the source of the attack, although her heart raced as she knew it would be an exercise in pointlessness to defend herself.

    Archer stood on a building rooftop lip above her, opposite the building she had been targeting. The city lights highlighted the red and gold in the Servant’s appearance, standing out in the otherwise cool city coloring. Rin cringed, the chant for a spell on the tip of her tongue, but she held it as Archer’s gaze met hers.

    You know what to do, it seemed to say.

    Rin carefully pulled out her phone, sure not to make any sudden movements. Archer waited patiently, bow in hand, with no sign that she would suddenly fire down and end the life of the human she had dead to rights.

    “Saber, they’re downtown, three blocks north of the hotel we were at. Archer has a shot on me but is waiting—I think for you.”


    []==|{::::::::::::::::::::::::::>


    Saber got a nod from Shirou, and from where they had holed up in observation of the magus they had followed, she took her leave.

    They were not far from that position themselves, and it was only a leap across an avenue and traversing the distance of one rooftop in the direction Rin had pointed them to when Saber detected the presence of another Servant. Leaping across more rooftops like stepping stones, Saber crossed the distance fast enough that even if the enemy Servant chose to engage Rin, Saber would be able to move to the Japanese mage’s defense.

    Not unexpectedly, Archer was waiting in the open rather than poised in a hidden location hoping to take a concealed shot. No killing intent came across, only the sharp gaze of a being of supreme focus and awareness. Atop one of the taller buildings that was not what people called a “skyscraper,” the red-haired Servant stood proudly, her bow in hand although no shot was nocked. Saber ascended to a rooftop across the street, Invisible Air once more wrapped around a blade provided by her Master.

    Saber could find no sign of Archer’s Master or their support, clearly in a similar position that Shirou had placed himself as a distant observer or agent working to undermine the other non-Servants. For Archer and hers, it would be what the Holy Grail War was supposed to be—of Servants engaging one another while the Masters attempted to kill their fellow magi. Saber, however, had a different concern.

    If more Servants continued to appear and were defeated, then they had the very problem of the ritual nearing completion and Angra Mainyu’s curse flooding into the world. But if Saber could not convince the other Servant to peacefully back down, what choice did she have but to vanquish them?

    “View not the concerns that have yet to pass, Saber,” Archer said from across the way. Despite the distance, her voice carried pleasantly without shouting. “I can see it is part of you to have one eye always upon the future. Your immediate concern, however, should be right here.”

    Saber almost felt a faint smile curl her lips. An eye on the future—that was certainly true. Right now, this very moment, it was “the future” to her in more ways than one. “One more time, I ask that you stand down. There is no future for you or your Master with this tainted ritual. It must be destroyed, for the sake of even those you profess to serve.”

    Archer brought an arrow to hand and Saber’s stance deepened. No further words were apparently necessary for the red-haired hero.

    They crossed the skies over the street as if soldiers were exchanging mortar fire, striking at each other the moment they crossed paths. Archer’s point-blank shot deflected off a shallow angle on Saber’s breastplate while Saber’s sword swing slashed by and Archer twisted over it like a pole vault. Saber landed in the very spot Archer had stood and had to turn and immediately deflect fire from Archer, who in the same span of time made three shots—two at center mass, one at the head. Saber darted left and right along the rooftop to make her next move less predictable. Another trio of shots went completely wide as Saber expanded Invisible Air’s boundary, a torrent of air flinging the arrows about like debris in a tornado. Before Saber could decide on retaliation, Archer was flying back across the avenue, sword drawn.

    Saber was not in the kind of fight she either excelled at or preferred. While testing out an opponent was a staple of the Holy Grail War, deliberately holding back from taking that step to unleash anything was galling and ran contrary to her sense of honor. Doubly galling with Archer’s knowing look each time they exchanged blows.

    The blow Archer lined up was swift and strong, although Saber held her ground as she blocked it, using pure force of power and pivoting in place to keep where she was and force Archer’s forward momentum to carry them further across the roof. Saber then shot forward like a full-body spear, catching Archer just as she was the most off-balance in footwork. The enemy Servant caught the blow but was sent tumbling further and she rolled behind the protrusion where the stairway was located.

    Saber watched for where her opponent would reappear, then had to once more plant herself. Five arrows shot up into the sky from different angles and then sharply turned to zero in on her. Wary of this being her Noble Phantasm, Saber made a wide arc with her blade, making sure to slash apart the shots rather than deflect or dodge them. They made miniature explosions as they did so, bursts of flame jetting down over her in the process.

    In the blind spot caused by flames erupting around her and the opening from her wide swing, Archer moved in and jabbed with her own sword.

    This time Invisible Air was completely released, blasting fire back up toward the sky and battering at Archer before her blade struck. Saber used the extra push to turn in place as well, swinging in the same direction as before, making a complete circle and coming back around. The wide blow caught Archer diagonally across her chest but went shallow, only just breaching her breastplate. Archer leapt back a handful of paces.

    Both parties sighed. Saber absently brushed her gauntleted hand across her shoulders where her sleeves were singed by flame. Archer felt how deep the cut had penetrated her armor.

    Archer had a pleasant look upon her face. “But a handspan closer and I would have your head, yet by the width of a finger closer and you would have had my heart.”

    Saber did not spare time with the praise of her opponent. Once more, the identity of an Archer baffled her. The arrows that had exploded into fire were not an evoked Noble Phantasm, Saber could tell as much. That she could even fire them blindly was not beyond the talent of an expert bowman. But there was something strange in the way they behaved, much more like the shots were bound to the will of the shooter rather than independent once fired—which was more like a Noble Phantasm.

    Saber had crossed to the building Archer had stood, but Archer had not attempted to maintain complete distance, instead returning after their initial exchange and remaining within close range. Disadvantage. In melee Archer was competent, even an expert, but not exceptional in it like a Saber or Lancer. Disadvantage. But now she sought to keep Saber in close range where Saber had a chance to deliver killing blows even without the use of a Noble Phantasm. Disadvantage.

    It felt like setup for something else. Oddly contrary to her earlier desires, she wished Shirou were present—these choices seemed like something he might do, desperate maneuvers that stood on the precipice of death for a greater chance to do…what, exactly?

    “But I have also uncovered your identity, King of Knights. No hero would ever mistake even one of the lesser of your swords—regardless if it is a forgery. In your hands, it might as well be the real thing.”

    Lips pursed, Saber quickly glanced about the building around them. Her identity exposed while Archer’s still remained a mystery. While she had no particular weakness attached to her legend, it did mean an opponent could make estimations of her offensive capabilities and the effects of her Noble Phantasm—even if, as Archer had said, it was a forgery.

    As such, unleashing it had fewer drawbacks. Yet still, the fact that she would be weaponless afterward and the potential damage she could cause if such a weapon were not aimed skyward were still present.

    Archer moved back in, jabbing once more experimentally with her sword. Despite the calculated, testing nature of the attacks, Saber still felt like Archer had stepped up somehow. Was Archer under the compulsion of a Command Spell? Or was something else at work, once more maneuvering Saber into a position despite the disadvantage Archer had in close quarters?

    “I can see your strategies and tactics as they flash before your eyes,” Archer said. Her strikes gained in strength, gained in speed, and Saber’s own blade moved in a flurry to bat them away. “As I close the gap between our strength, should you not be aiming higher yourself, if you are to stop me?”

    Saber wondered at that. The unspoken rule of this modern era was for things of a fantastical nature to be hidden away. The war, Servants, magecraft and myth—the public was not to know of it. However, as they chipped away at those concealing the existence of magic to Fuyuki, it became clearer and clearer that people would start to catch on. Their worlds could be turned upside down in an instant. They could find themselves existing in a constant state of fear.

    She had caught Hakuno voicing something to that effect quietly to Shirou before they had left that morning. He had said that he would rather ruin a lot of people’s daily lives than let his opponents do things that would kill those uninvolved.

    Archer locked blades with her and leaned forward, as if casually initiating a conversation. “I see that your concern for the wellbeing of those in this era is weighing upon you. That is fantastic. Certainly deserving of the Saber class.”

    Forcing a pass, Saber sprang up into the air and came down atop Archer with a blow aided by her centrifugal force, smashing hard into the sword Archer raised to block. Amidst this, she scowled, but did not voice her thoughts. It seemed that in addition to any similarities in personal annoyance, Archers also had a penchant for seeing into their opponent’s thought processes. Which was an odd experience for Saber, compared to a certain archer she had once known in life.

    Unlike the self-centered Archer of the 4th and the sardonic Archer of the 5th, this Archer seemed to have thoughts that, if they did not run completely parallel to Saber’s own, at least had a common direction. In many ways, she seemed to be fighting in a similar fashion as Saber, delaying rather than seeking victory. Once more, the frustration of not being able to come to some kind of conclusion without destroying her bubbled up—all the more for Saber, who knew all too well her own inaptitude toward communication.

    “I imagine you are of the kind that believes your side is just, and your opponent is not? You, the protector; they, the attacker. It is fine to have such a mindset, of course, just as it would be to believe you are not in the right but must continue onward regardless, trampling over enemies that deserve to live.” Archer slashed low, forcing Saber to leap over the blow, and in the process the redheaded hero finally took the opportunity to draw back out of immediate melee range and take up her bow. The woman set her firing position so naturally it might as well have been like taking a breath. “But would it not be a perfect world if both you and your opponent are in the right, so that no matter who perishes, the one left behind can claim their victory in purity?”

    Saber deflected the shot that came, batting the arrow out of the sky like one might swat at a fly, utterly disintegrating the bullet with the pure force of her swing. Yet Archer’s reset was so fluid that it was as if she had not moved at all and Saber was not certain she could approach any closer and still be able to completely protect herself from a shot. If Gilgamesh’s way was of overwhelming mass and superiority, this Archer was through strange and esoteric precision—yet again like a hero Saber had known in life.

    “There is no such perfect world,” Saber said. “Nor should there be. One tramples over another and purity is not what is left behind. It cannot be.”

    The perfect king who did not make the wrong choices—but she now knew what she carried with her in the end. The path was correct, and she would take with her and exist with the sorrow of what had been lost in the process.

    “I see. And does your Master share your views?”

    Saber wondered just how far she would indulge the Servant’s curiosity. But despite her reservations, she found the answer on her tongue. “As his sword, that is the truth I will slay by.”


    []==|{::::::::::::::::::::::::::>


    At the Ryuudou Temple, data was beginning to stream in regarding the battle that had started.
    “Downtown unit four.”

    Much like a computer monitor or television screen, the glowing image produced by the various strange gems on the table flickered, switching from a view of the park by the river to an image of the top of skyscrapers looking on from ground level. Just within sight were the faint flashes of light and visible plumes of dust and debris as two Servants engaged in battle.

    Roche Frain, the slight young man at the controls, shook his head in dejection. The golems deployed for observation were like in appearance to humans to blend in, but had similar perception-based limitations. The speed of the Servants was too great for them to easily track even when their vision was spelled to be greater than average human. He turned to glance over his shoulder. “There’s not much else I can do.”

    “It’s fine.” Fiore waved it off. More and more she had to rely upon Roche’s golems and dolls to keep appraised of the situation in the city as their own forces dwindled. Roche, however, still did not look pleased: a fight between such vastly superior familiars only heightened the limitations of his own creations, his own familial figures.

    The unknown Saber that served the El-Melloi and Tohsaka faction was deserving of the title “strongest.” Even in the jittery images that could not quite keep up with everything, she seemed mighty and fast at once and even when bathed in flames it seemed as if no harm could come to her. Einon’s Archer was no slouch either, with skill and craftiness that kept pace even if her presence did not exude that same uncanny sense of power.

    “Downtown unit seven.”

    Comparatively, the fight between Tohsaka and Einon was easy to see, although intermittent. Tohsaka would risk moving, briefly exposing herself both to enemy attack and the sight of Roche’s golems, engage her opponent, then take cover once more. There was no sign of Einon or her people in all of this, although they had to be nearby to direct control of their weapon which did not have senses to share for remote viewing. The way the Japanese witch seemed to be shouting suggested she was not happy with her own progress.

    “Direct Shishigou that way. With Saber engaged it might be the best chance he has at tackling one of our problems.”

    As Roche worked to send out that communication, the doorway to the room slid open. Enforcer Jane held a piece of parchment and flicked it over to land right in Fiore’s lap. “We caught a familiar intruding on the field here. It left this message.” Even his blonde hair seemed to darken. “It isn’t the good sort.”

    Sighing, Fiore read.

    I, Rolland Storr, will on this night be summoning a Servant and taking my place in this Holy Grail War.

    To you, Lady Fiore Forvedge of the Yggdmillennia, I offer an alliance. I will not attack agents acting under your orders and will not attempt to dissuade you from the attempts you may make at dismantling the system. I will merely carry out my attempts leading up and until your objectives are fulfilled, then withdraw. In return, I would politely ask for intelligence gathered regarding those who have taken the step to participate. Information on El-Melloi in particular would be of great value to me, placing me in your debt. Please consider this carefully.
    Fiore let out an unladylike curse as the spirit board, situated next to Roche’s desk, lit up once more as if it had been waiting for her to read the letter.

    With only one gap and three names still clearly scrawled out, Rider joined the list.

    “And that sucks more,” Jane said.

    At this point it seemed more likely that the ritual would go on completely unabated. With a dwindling force, Fiore no longer had the resources to safely recover the spell circle if the currently deployed Servants did not mutually eliminate each other. With only two left to be summoned, if she was going to hope for a mutual kill amidst the Servants, it might as well be toward the completion of the current ritual.

    That, however, meant one thing: considering Rin Tohsaka’s word that the ritual itself was tainted. Before, Fiore had simply ignored such claims as it was irrelevant to her task. Now, if she was to pursue an end to this with the grail in her own grasp, it meant she had to consider them.

    Did she believe the claims? They were, in fact, even secondhand—Tohsaka admitted that she had not been physically present upon this revelation and her “trusted apprentice” was the one to witness the event. The Church could not even report one way or another on it as their agent in Fuyuki was killed during the fighting.

    Nobody within the Association worth their salt believed the claim, but Fiore, as someone without great influence there, did not always take what they had to say at face value. The previous head of her clan had regularly chafed under their rule and had taught her to likewise resist just as much as was appropriate without painting a target on her back. Yet at the same time, he had eventually pushed too far, his welcome within the Clock Tower overstayed, and had been eliminated.

    She was inclined to at least be curious over Tohsaka’s claim. But now, with things in such disarray and the opportunity that had presented itself…

    “What a mess,” Fiore said. “Sorry, Roche, but belay that last order. Get everyone not currently in observation or information control back here.” She turned back to Jane, who waited in the doorway, looking as solemn as she felt. “We have strategy that must be discussed with everyone.”


    []==|{::::::::::::::::::::::::::>


    Progress, if it could be measured, was terrible. Saber had enough of an upper hand in melee that each time she engaged Archer in close quarters, Archer was eventually forced back. However, each time Archer was forced back, she used the momentary distance to reveal novel abilities with her bow that gave Saber just enough pause, concerned over whether the next blow would be Archer’s Noble Phantasm. The red and gold Servant could fire blindly from around obstacles, manipulate her shots mid-flight, and even set up delayed shots that acted more like traps, sprung when Saber walked into their line of fire. None of them seemed to be particularly deadlier than the other, but it gave no clue to Archer’s identity nor did it seem as if she was going to run out of abilities to demonstrate.

    The only thing Saber could note that was strange was how Archer did not attempt to gain further distance, moving away from their current location when she had a chance and taking a shot from a relatively safer distance. In that, Saber thought she might have been either setting up use of her Noble Phantasm or had already deployed it. There was no obvious sign if it were the latter, however, and the former seemed unlikely with how much magical energy Archer was already expending.

    While she was struggling with strategy, she felt the presence of another Servant. Archer must have as well, as she momentarily stopped and glanced away in the same direction Saber felt the presence expand in her mind—

    If Saber had been concerned with subtlety before and maintaining the secrecy magi strove to protect, it quickly went out the window the moment her gaze turned in that direction.

    While her battle with Archer was a localized event that none would be able to see unless viewing from an airborne vehicle or the upper floors of adjacent buildings, this was not. A great vessel the size of modern airships moved in from the east, soaring through the skies hardly any further aboveground than the tallest skyscraper in the city. Anyone from ground level would be able to view it, and anyone that was not a magus would be bewildered and perhaps frightened by the image.

    An ancient ship swam through the skies, propelled by the motion of oars like the legs of a centipede. A grand mast billowed over its bow despite the cool winter breeze moving against the ship.

    Saber and Archer turned at the same instant, as if by some unspoken pact. For other classes it might have been a different story, or even by different heroes—certainly Saber knew that such a thing would never have come to pass with the spirit known as Gilgamesh. But neither she nor this Archer was a dishonorable type, and what pragmatism they had that could override honor was oriented to wariness of a new, unknown threat.

    If deducing Archer’s identity was difficult, this would be in the opposite direction. Saber already knew just by the make of the ship that this hero was Greek, and while there were quite a few Greek heroes that captained or crewed a vessel such as this—

    “I see that my fellow Heroic Spirits have already started this competition in earnest. But stay your swords for but a moment so that I may speak!”

    —only a few preferred words to action, and fewer still had this kind of arrogance.

    He stood rather on the bow of the ship, looking at once both traditionally heroic and yet pompous at the same time.

    Saber appraised the vessel, attempting to discern what it could be capable of. She thought Archer did the same, as the other Servant’s gaze did not hold on the person standing atop the ship but along the vessel’s lines.

    “Feel free if you must to bow before the splendor of this vessel. I do not doubt that your eyes feast upon a grand treasure. And know its captain, Rider of this contest, is one who commands it to the utmost limits.” The speaker was tow-headed and had an air of a leader, but he wore nothing that could be considered armor and looked more like a political nobleman than a general. “But that is what I would speak with you about.”

    Saber already knew she was not going to agree with what was said.

    This Rider did not seem to read anything from her, however. He raised his chin and spoke as if addressing a crowd. “I give you an offer: join with me, allow your powers to become mine, and I promise you the Grail. I will willingly share it with my companions. For I am the hero that knows only camaraderie.”

    Saber wondered if the Rider class had a predisposition toward fools that espoused friendliness in what was supposed to be a death battle. Or ones that readily named themselves—even if she had not already understood his identity, the rambling he had given earlier could only have been from one such figure. Sighing, she raised her voice to let it ring clear. “No. This system is already broken and the Grail is tainted. I have no desire for it and my intention is to destroy it—and anyone that will get in my way.”

    Archer likewise said, “I have no intention of being behest to the whims or desires of another Servant. Your willingness is nothing but capricious frivolity.” She eyed the man with a keen look. “I am certain that those who rode with you held their own goals in their hearts, and you were merely a convenient companion.”

    The gallant look upon Rider’s face fell to disappointment, then flattened to a sinister stare. Saber wondered briefly how close to the mark Archer had struck. “Then I give you an ultimatum: If you will not know your place as my allies and comrades, then you will know it at my heel.”

    The ship turned as if to preen or present itself. Then, as a display of force, a rain of light issued down from it like cannon fire. Saber weathered the torrent of energy, her Anti-Magic shrugging it off. Archer fired into the storm, each arrow meeting a flash of light, causing the spell to disperse by the time it reached the shooter.

    Well, that was that.

    Not a minute ago they had been enemies. Yet here, now, both Servants that had been fighting responded like a team and threw an attack into the air: Saber with a burst of wind that drilled the ship’s belly, Archer with a flurry of arrows that painted an arc in the sky and rained down atop the deck.

    And both made dull sounds the moment they touched the ship’s body.

    The laughter that drifted down to them was loud, grating, obnoxious despite its pleasant tenor. The golden-haired figure once more peeked out from over the vessel’s deck lip, locked into a grandiose stance and expression. “Perhaps I should tell you of the secret behind this mighty vessel. It is not the finest construction ever to touch water. It has not the mightiest of hulls nor the grandest mast. It is, however, famous for the greatest of heroes to ever be assembled on a journey together!”

    Saber and Archer exchanged a look.

    “The keen instincts of Atalanta, the strength of Herakles! It moves as if driven by the tactical acumen of Nestor with the winds of Calais and Zetes at its back! Wisdom from Dodona surges through it and the songs of Orpheus can be heard upon it!” Rider waved his arms as if conducting a musical score. “Yet it is my Noble Phantasm to command.”

    But that did explain something of its power, something Saber recognized instantly. Rider was not a magus, but that had been top-class spellwork. The way the ship was completely unharmed by Archer’s arrows and Saber’s own spell was reminiscent of a certain hero’s iron skin. If it did what Saber suspected, it was possible Saber did not have the capacity to defeat Rider in a single battle.

    “Behold the power of the mighty
    Argo
    Fifty Oars and Fifty Heroes
    .”

    The spellwork of a certain witch and the mass arrow fire of a certain huntress began raining down on Saber and Archer, forcing them to scatter.


    []==|{::::::::::::::::::::::::::>


    As Saber and Archer confronted Rider, Shirou too changed his plans.

    Originally, Shirou had intended to manipulate the enemy magus himself. He was clearly one of the Association-allied spellcasters, manipulating information and controlling the media in some form or another. In lieu of the Church no longer allying itself with the Association in such matters, he might even be the only person doing such a job. And while Shirou had nothing against him personally, they were in a tight spot, outnumbered and potentially surrounded on all sides. If Shirou could dictate certain actions be taken, he could make sure that this target began acting in a manner that was beneficial. Even as they had earlier followed after him, making the man aware that he was being observed would dictate certain actions. Shirou wanted to use that predictability to generate his own choices and circumstances.

    Now, however, that was of a lower priority with another Servant-Master pair making their presence known. Additionally, it forced his hand otherwise—if this Servant was with a Master in service to the Association, it meant one less Association magus in charge of maintaining the illusion of normalcy in the city, and Shirou had to do whatever possible to further whittle away the opposing side and force them toward difficult solutions. If this Servant was not connected to the Association, then even more efficiency: now the Association would be split between dealing with him and controlling information, so removing the current media agent backed them up even more.

    But it also meant neutralizing rather than stringing them along.

    It was a disorganized attack in comparison to the plans he had been thinking up if it came to combat before this new circumstance arose. With the possibility of a new Servant, Shirou could not afford to seek a peaceful way to subdue the mage he had been following. He also could not afford to simply let the man go—letting an enemy get away and re-strategize was bad, and Shirou already had the freelancer Shishigou to consider in that fashion. If an inordinate amount of time was spent pacifying him, the more time the enemy Master and his Servant had; Shirou needed to start working on the enemy Master as soon as possible. And Saber, despite her overall efficiency in producing magical energy, was beginning to tax Shirou’s own energy as she fought an extended battle with enemy Servants.

    Shirou also had to worry about concealing his own location. The last battle with Lancer had exposed him greatly, and with this Servant flying through the sky, it did Shirou little good to be clearly visible on a rooftop someplace.

    To conceal the location of his shot, he had an entire building between them. He stood at a large facing window, peering at another building, with his target located in the building behind that. Any closer examination would find where the shot had come from, but that would buy him the time necessary to move even if someone went to investigate right away.

    He had the location of his target singled out, in a room on the building face closest to him where a local news station held offices. The building between them had a long corridor that cut almost all the way through the level one story above the target’s level. The structural analysis Shirou did on the building gave him the ability to single out the least resistive path, sending his shot through two windows, a laminated floor, a ceiling that had water damage, and nicking the corner of a wall, all avoiding thicker steel and major framework construction.

    Shirou took the shot, piercing a small hole through the window of his building. A moment later, the distant sound of a faint explosion, not much more than a car backfiring by the time it reached his ears.

    Crow’s feet formed briefly at the edges of his eyes.

    At that, he dismissed his bow and quickly moved to exit the building, taking the stairwell down as he pulled out his phone and brought up a map of the city. Now, he had to find the likely locations Rider’s Master would be considering as a base of operations. Luckily, from what Shirou knew of Rolland Storr, his sense of inferiority toward Waver for the mystique he had earned by surviving a prior war as well as Waver’s part in keeping him out of this battle until now would be in overdrive. That made him predictable to an extent. He would have to rendezvous with Saber to get her impressions of Rider, which would also help narrow things down.

    Yet, at the back of his mind, he could not help but feel a sense of irritation.

    Once again, compromise in the face of adversity. Once again, he was too late to find an answer that would surrender a better solution. And now, someone paid for it with their life, while even more lives could still be in jeopardy.

    Once again, all he could do is clean up after problems kept spilling out into the world.


    []==|{::::::::::::::::::::::::::>


    Saber. Assassin. Lancer. Archer. Now Rider is called.

    Only two more remain to fulfill the ritual.

    As if in its third trimester, that which wishes to be born becomes more and more aware.

  8. #608
    闇色の六王権 The Dark Six
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    It's back!~

  9. #609
    Beats By Matthew ft. Dr. Para Rafflesiac's Avatar
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    Cool Argo ability; hopefully it doesn't need to get blown up 12 times.

    I'll freely admit not remembering most of the humans in the story. Now to read the OP to remember more about Archer besides king-killing arrow.
    Supports:


    Quote Originally Posted by Arashi_Leonhart View Post
    canon finish apo vol 3

  10. #610
    Inactive Imperial's Avatar
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    Good spin on the Argo and the Argonauts that's not just "summon a bunch of dudes"

    I'm happy to see this back, even if the next chapter may be long in coming.
    Spoiler:
    Originally Posted by You
    when all the evils have given up their waifus, all the greats have left for med school, and there are no more at least 3 day battles to be fought what is left is

    not Tsukihime 2
    not DDD3
    not even Girl's Work

    but f/go

    and now f/go english

    that is what is waiting for you at the end of schadenfreude


  11. #611
    闇色の六王権 The Dark Six SpoonyViking's Avatar
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    Very nice story, Arashi!
    My fanfics:
    The Gift (F/SN): The last duel between Cú Chulainn and Scáthach.
    Passion Acknowledged (F/SN): Shinji X Shirou lemon
    He Was a Good King (F/SN): Was Beowulf a good king?
    A Fairy Tale of Love and Death (F/SN): A meeting between Scáthach and King Hassan.
    Palingenetic Descension (Tsukihime): The origin of the Tohno family's hybrid nature.

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