Chapter 7: Rider Vs Lancer
Within the Catacombs beneath the Matou Residence
Sakura let a tense and long breath she didn’t know she had held out as the Servant they called forth relaxed his halberd-arm and the tension seemed to fade. She had been so worried that she would have lost her brother…
But now that they had a Servant they were actually in the Holy Grail War as active combatants. Well, more like her brother. He was the one taking to the field as a Master, along with her Senpai and her… her sister….
They were going to be trying to kill one another.
Sakura couldn’t help fear that they would end up like her uncle Kariya, dying to try and save her. Between Shinji and her Senpai… even if they had strong Servants, would they be able to fight and defeat Rin’s? Even if they managed to defeat whatever Servant she summoned, she would keep fighting to win the grail for the sake of the Tohsaka name.
She would keep pressing them, maybe even attacking them to get rid of them directly. Would they actually kill her in the attempt? Would she succeed in killing one of them?
Her chest tightened at the thought. No matter what she would lose someone close to her. No matter what she would turn one or more of them into killers. How could she let it get this far?
She had to call it off somehow, but when she turned towards where the elderly magus had been Sakura noticed the amalgam of worms she called a Grandfather was missing. Then again, even if he was here, what would it have mattered?
Zouken made it clear that he didn’t consider her human. Her feelings and thoughts never mattered, only her body and its use for his sake. Her wishes were her own. They never mattered to anyone else in the end… No, that wasn’t right.
Shinji heard her wishes and was doing his damndest to grant them, even putting so much strain on his body and facing their grandfather. Yes, her loving and strong brother who knew just how to hold her and comfort her after they—
Her breathing tensed and her body shuddered as she banished the thoughts. The Servant’s presence was already starting to tire her out after what was spent for the summoning and so the worms fed and her lust grew. She need time to adjust before the carnal impulses grew and she became driven to sate it, defiling her brother once more. She had already done so too many times.
There was a flutter in the corner of her eyes that caught her attention. She turned towards the exit of the catacombs, atop the flight of stairs that hugged the wall, where she spotted paper cranes fluttering towards her brother, origami keyed to his magecraft. “Nii-sama, why are they…”
“We’re under attack,” Shinji explaining the unfinished question. “I set up a small ward system of my own using a few shenfu after the debacle with Caster. It reacts to the presence of foreign magical energy and sends out one of my battle shikigami to deal with the threat while alerting me. ”
He looked around to see that Zouken was gone as well. “Then again, it probably tripped the main boundary field before it reached my array. The fact that we’re just finding out means from this point on we’re on our own.”
“A challenger appears already,” the Servant mused. A grin etched itself across his face at the thought and his halberd-arm tensed. He was ready for combat, eager for a chance to prove himself the strongest of the summoned warriors.
“Wait,” Shinji said, before Rider went gallivanting off. “You should return to your astral form so we can assess the threat first. We shouldn’t reveal you until we can be certain the enemy is worth your might.”
“You think you understand my might?” Lu Bu asked in a low tone, his steed turning its burning gaze once more towards Shinji.
Shinji silently shook his head. “Not the full extent. We have yet to take to the battlefield so I can observe it for myself. However, I do know that only another Servant would provide an adequate challenge for a warrior such as yourself and I know that the Caster of this war is capable of summoning minions who would not be worth your time and would only allow her to observe your abilities. Giving up an advantage isn’t pragmatic if we are to take the prize, especially if the battle that follows won’t prove you as the strongest out of all the summoned Servants.”
“…Very well,” Lu Bu consented after a moment. Then both he and his steed vanished, as though turning into motes of light and then fading away. Despite being in astral form, Sakura and Shinji could feel the warrior’s presence about them through the contract.
“Sakura,” Shinji called, keeping his voice level as he pulled the opera mask he had from beneath the clothing he wore. “From this point on it’s my fight, not yours. Grandfather won’t help, he’s made that clear.”
“But…” she trailed off, unable to say what she wanted to after they came this far. I don’t want you to get hurt for my sake.
“Just go to my workshop and stay safe,” Shinji stated as he ran up the stairs to get back into the mansion, heading out to the first battlefield and leaving her by herself.
Sakura felt the weight in her heart of being useless once he was out of sight, only serving as an anchor of the Servant they called forth. But it was all she could do, tie Rider down to Earth and hope for the best.
That and try to curb the growing lust she felt courtesy of those damnable worms inside of her.
Outskirts of Matou Residence
The blades of grass barely sounded as they crunched beneath argent steel boots and soft paws. Thick roots jutting out of the ground failed to hinder the hunter or his hounds as they advanced through the woodlands for the manor that rested between them. They noticed when the crossed the first and secondary boundary fields and were prepared to expect opposition.
Still, there was a brief moment of pause when countless sheets of paper followed some invisible current only to take the form of a humanoid giant.
The hunter whistled at the sight, his four hounds baring their fangs and tensing their muscles to pounce. The giant moved without grace, merely brute strength backing it as it swung its arms and fists around like clubs to mow the blue-haired hunter down. The trees hindered it more than the hunter and his hounds, all of whom avoided the hammer strike that knocked over the nearest tree and scattered thick splinters that failed to penetrate his bandage-wrapped greaves and the gauntlet on his left arm.
A short and high whistle left the hunters mouth, a trained command to yield the hounds while he stood up the shikigami that bore down on him. Vicious blows were unleashed, empowered by the source deep within the construct that acted as a battery to keep it moving for a short but effective time. But the hunter avoided them with a smile on his face, every movement sharp and crisp while he enjoyed the brief interlude before getting serious.
When the shikigami, Fangfeng, sought to deliver a crushing overhead strike it met with the sharpened edge of a blade and was severed. The tanned giant stumbled back a step in response and glared at the hunter, now wielding a weapon. The long shaft was deep green in color, tipped by a sharp blade that looked like a wolf’s head if you squinted. Fangfeng let out a low growl from its throat as strings of prana connected from the severed limb and darted to the undamaged sigils on the sheets that were severed, dragging them back into place to reclaim its arm.
The spear-wielding hunter pressed his attack, striking with sharp thrusts into the giant and severing its limbs over and over.
Fangfeng reconnected the severed parts that could be salvaged, but it slowed down at a steady pace. Reattaching what was lost cost the power source, The Seal of False Life, even more of its reserves of prana. To compensate for the loss, it became sluggish and its strength lessened.
The hunter noticed that and decided the brief distraction needed to come to an end. Setting the forefinger of his gauntlet-covered finger aflame with prana, the blue-haired hunter crossed the distance between them in the span of a heartbeat and risted the rune of flames onto the shikigami.
Fire was born from the rune, a gluttonous blaze that swallowed up the giant and ate through whatever defensive enchantment it had bestowed upon it against the flames of one who knew the Original 18 Runes. Fangfeng took another step forward, trying to fulfill its duty, but the flames devoured it and left ashes behind.
With that out of the way, the hunter motioned towards the manor with two fingers and whistled for the hounds to advance.
The four moved to do so. Their legs crossed the distance with their master following, only to be intercepted by a streaking flash that cleaved through the four hounds in a single stroke as a second figured appeared.
Now impeding the way of the hunter was the warrior adorned in the armor of an ancient Chinese general. Twirling his halberd into a fighting position, red copper pupils were fixed on the similar set that were the hunter’s and something unspoken passed between them. It was a challenge.
The hunter took up a fighting stance. His legs spread out, muscles tensed, and the spear-head pointed down so that it could ascend with ease to pierce the heart from below. A grin stretched across his face in acceptance of the challenge.
The two sped forth and clashed.
Shinji stood atop the tree limbs that rested beneath the canopy, watching through the emblem of an eye on a shikigami as prana forged a connection from his left eye’s optic nerve to it. He couldn’t hear anything that would be said between the two, but he doubt he would be able to hear anything anyway as the two weapons continued to clash in the storm of steel.
His first thoughts when he observed the Servant was that it was a Lancer. The deftness of its speed and the use of a spear made that much clear. Although he didn’t expect to see the Servant utilize a rune to burn Fangfeng to ashes, so he would expect it to use Magecraft as well and compensate for it later.
He would be more upset about that, but ultimately that was Fangfeng’s role in the grand scheme of things. For ground transportation he had Baihu, for aerial he had Zhuque, Genbu was for pure defense, Qinglong and Bashe had more esoteric uses, but Fangfeng was made to hit hard and fast to wipe out minions like Caster made in droves. It was never meant to be used against a Servant, not even for an adequate distraction.
Shinji had to admit that he would have preferred to observe the fight from his workshop, so he could note the effects the fighting was having on Sakura. She was already tired from the initial summoning. The fighting wouldn’t help her at all.
But he had to come out and witness this for himself for two reasons. The first was to observe the battle between Servants with his own eyes and possibly kill the enemy Master. The second was to keep Lu Bu’s respect.
The Servant was a warrior and, for the time being, they needed to work together. Hiding away with his sister while his Servant fought wouldn’t send a positive message and, considering the Servant tried to kill him once already, he needed to show he wasn’t a coward. Although he wouldn’t interfere in Lu Bu’s fight unless he deemed it necessary enough to use a Command Seal.
Turning his attention back to the fight, he watched as Lancer and Rider tried to kill one another.
With Lancer and Rider
The air reverberated with the clashing of steel against steel as the two pole weapons smashed against one another. In a single session more than a dozen lethal attacks were released between the two warriors as they fought in one of the first battles of the Holy Grail War.
Letting out a roaring battle cry, Rider twirled his halberd around in arches as he tried to take off the hunter’s head. The powerful swipes of the halberd were followed by spinning motions of the body that added to the momentum. Like a raging inferno, the fierce motions were deadly to both the opponent and the surroundings.
Lancer avoided the swipes with sharp and direct motions that brought him just outside his opponent’s range, looking for an opportunity to strike. When he found it his spear was sent forward, stabbing with fierce thrusts that punctured to inflict death by a thousand cuts should he fail to pierce the core of his opponent. Like lightning he struck with unparalleled accuracy, only to be thwarted by mere centimeters as the armor of the Chinese general was scraped and scarred from the sudden twists that preluded the incoming halberd smashing down.
The initial session consisted over twenty exchanges, both assessing their opponents. Then they changed it up, Rider switching from a swipe to planting his feet on the ground with his legs spread as he began a barrage of thrusts. Lancer avoided the thrusts with narrow twists of the body, following up with his own attacks all aimed at the fatal spots that Rider’s halberd deflected.
“Not bad,” Lancer said. Then he poured on the speed of his thrusts, increasing the number of attacks to overwhelm the opposing spearman. “But challenging me to a fight with spears was suicidal!”
The influx of the attacks soon overtook Rider’s defense, his war paint marred by blood as the blade of Lancer’s spear grazed his cheek. The arms and legs follows, the armor chipping as the strikes that were meant to kill were the only ones that could be blocked successfully. With no other choice, Rider leapt back.
“Not a chance!” Lancer advance, using his speed to close the distance and sending forth a thrust aimed for the heart. Rider’s halberd was coming around to guard, but it wouldn’t be nearly fast enough…
Which is why he was he surprised to find that his spear was deflected, Rider sliding in with a fist chambered. Halting his advance and bringing his spear around he used the shaft to guard against the impending strike. The fist snaked past the shaft and grabbed his collar, lifting him up and throwing him around with it enough force to send Lancer skating off his feet as he touched down. Following the motion he leapt back and noted that his opponent was now missing his halberd, a set of bracers now taking its place.
Of all the classes, Lancers were the fastest. There was no doubt about that. Utilizing their speed they could strike down their opponents with precision attacks faster than most other classes could defend against as long as they were in range.
However, Riders were known for their Noble Phantasms and their versatility. Lu Bu’s God Force was no exception. Possessing multiple forms that he could exchange on the fly, Rider could approach combat from multiple angles and catch his opponent at a disadvantage.
Exchanging Thrust Force for Blunt Strike Force, now Rider closed the distance while intent on invading the range of the spear, the point where it would lose its effectiveness. Facing the storm of demon-like thrusts, the bracers caught and deflected the majority as he moved his arms to block them until he passed the effective range of the spear. The bracers vanished in an instant, replaced by a Jian that had appeared in the left hand, and the sword was thrust forward like a viper’s strike, aiming to pierce the skull.
Lancer tilted his head to the side and then spun his spear around to knock the shaft against the blade before it could come around in a follow-up swipe. Pain flared in his stomach and the hunter was sent back, skidding along the ground once more as the right fist of the general smashed into his unprotected gut.
“Tricky, huh?” Lancer mused as the general advanced, before setting the tip of his spear alight with prana and risting a set of runes on the ground. Calling upon his knowledge of runes, taught to him by the witch, Lancer brought the earth now under the runes to life. It rose up to form a defensive bulwark, hardening to be unyielding stone that stood between the two.
God Force shifted once more. Parry Force was replaced by Slash Force. Bringing his full strength to bear and twisting with all his might, Rider cleaved the bulwark in half with the war ax now in his hands. But Lancer was nowhere to be found…
The sound of parting air reached Rider’s ear before the ominous glow that radiated from above. He looked up to find the hunter in air, his spear twirling in his hands above his hands. Lining the head of the spear was a set of runes that left a luminous trail of prana as he began to fall to Earth with the intention of using it like one would a hammer. The war ax was replaced with the bracers once more and guarded against the strike with both arms as the prana-wrapped spear head was brought down.
A thunderous roar filled the woodlands on impact. The shockwave that was unleashed as the rune-enhanced blade smashed down against the bracers, the force alone caving in the earth surrounding them, stripped trees bare and their branches torn asunder. There was nothing that could be heard over the howling of magical energy as the two forces continued to push one another, until finally the sound of shattering steel rang out.
Lancer disengaged, retreating to safety and sparing the broken weapon in his hand a single glance. It couldn’t be helped that the spear broke under the force of the battle. It wasn’t the real Gáe Bolg after all; his new ‘Master’ had sealed his original one away and replaced it with this facsimile.
“We’ll call this one even,” Lancer said bitterly, the displeasure in his voice apparent as he reverted to astral form at the beckoning of his Master through their shared perception. “Next time, we finish this…”
Shinji made his way back into the Manor once it had been confirmed that the enemy Servant had left. Rider was obviously displeased at his battle being cut short and had gone off to see if he could pick up the trail while in astral form or find another Servant to do battle with. Shinji thought it to be pointless, but didn’t argue with the Servant on the grounds of not wanting to stress their newly formed alliance as long as he stated in astral form to avoid stressing his sister.
However, the moment he entered his workshop he found Sakura already collapsed on the floor. Her breathing was heavy, hard and hoarse. Sweat had laden her body to the extent that her gown was soaked enough to be seen through. Her fair skin was feverish red as she burned from the inside out with desire and pain as the worms were the most active they’d been in so long from both the summoning and the combat.
Tossing the bow and mask aside, Shinji kneeled onto the floor and took her into his arms. “Sakura! Are you okay?”
“Nii-sama…” she whispered, reaching up and touching his face. “I’m sorry, but I can’t hold out anymore…”
“I know,” he said as he lifted her up and carried her onto the bed. “I… I’ll take care of you…”
“I’m sorry,” she said again, knowing once more she was going to defile him for her own sake.
Shinji said nothing, merely steeling himself to do what was necessary. He simply told himself it would be just a little while longer. Once the war was over and they had the Holy Grail, he could do something to rid her of the worms once and for all. It could grant any wish, right?
Then, after that, he would kill Zouken for everything he had done…
Well, that’s the first fight of the Holy Grail War between the Servants. Now, as you can imagine, this was mostly a scouting battle as Lancer had been sent by Kotomine to assess each Servant.
You’ll also notice that this Lancer is a different version of Cu Chulainn, a younger version like the one in Fate/Prototype, and as such he has a different set of Noble Phantasms and stats. The biggest change is that Lancer no longer has Gáe Bolg’s heart-killing, instant-death curse. One of the main reasons I did this was I would have to have a legitimate reason not to use it in combat.
Besides, despite having personal skills in Runes, it seems a shame he rarely used them.
Servant Stats: Lancer
Spirit: Cu Chulainn
Master: Kotomine Kirei
Alignment: Lawful Neutral
Strength: B – ((A) while under Warp Spasm)
Endurance: C ((B+) while under Warp Spasm)
Luck: E ((B-) due to the protective amulet that he carries his luck is raised.)
Agility: B ((A++) while under Warp Spasm)
N. Phantasm: A
Magic Resistance C (B+): This version of Cu Chulainn carries on him a protective amulet that further enhances his Magic Resistance beyond his class skill.
Rune Magic (B ): capacity to use the 18 original runes.
Battle Continuation (A ): The strength of vitality for predicaments. Also, the ability to withdraw from combat and reach allied territory alive after being defeated. At this rank it makes possible to fight even with deadly injuries and can remain alive so long as one does not receive a decisive fatal wound.
Battle Frenzy (A ): The flaw of losing oneself in the midst of battle. During combat, when damaged a Luck Check is performed. Because of the protective amulet the Luck check keeps the Battle Frenzy from activating with a 1/10 chance. Should the amulet be lost, the chance becomes 1/4 and should it fail Warp Spasm is activated.
Protection from Arrows (B ): An inborn ability of Cu Chulainn; as long as the shooter is within his line of sight, he can track down ranged weapons with his eyes and defend against them. Does not apply for attacks made from super-long-range or with a great area-of –effect.
Disengage (C ): The ability to break away from combat. At this rank it has the bonus effect of returning battle conditions to what they were at the beginning of the match.
Warp Spasm: Last Riastrad (Anti-Unit) – The berserker state that he was renowned for, it is not manually accessed, but done via Battle Frenzy. Once it reaches a tipping point, all his stats become enhanced but he loses the use of any other Noble Phantasm to enter a state similar to Mad Enhancement.
Hounds of Ulster (Anti-Squad) – The ability to summon hound familiar based on the legend of rearing the replacement hound of Chulainn. He can only summon up to twenty per night with the amount of mana available to him, in groups of four.
Gáe Bolg: Soaring Spear that Strikes with Death (Anti-Army) – The true use of Gáe Bolg, is the largest and most powerful attack delivered using the spear. It is the “attack that unleashes countless darts at the enemy” that is spoken of in the legends. It is the attack that made him a hero which utilizes the full potential of the lance’s curse, converting all of Lancer’s prana into energy and releasing the accumulated power after the spear is hurled, detonating on impact with enough power to blow away a multitude of enemies.
Better late than never, here’s my review of All-New Ultimates #3!
Our story begins with Jessica being treated for her poison. It turns out that that mixture was meant to be lethal if her body wasn’t different from another person, so it was a close call in the end. Good thing Jessica knew someone willing to help an ex-SHIELD member. As she and Kitty make their way back, Kitty agrees to go patrolling with her next time.
While this is going on the masked dude from the last time goes out to buy a newspaper to see if he made the headlines putting bullets into gangsters. When the newspaper gets it wrong and assume it’s gang-related he decides that everyone would know his name, one way or another. Ego maniac on top of everything else does not make a good vigilante.
Meanwhile school’s out and Lana goes about asking around for her boyfriend, Poey, who should have been killed in Cataclysm or Lana was dating Sid at the same time she was dating Poey. Leaving the plot hole aside, it turns out he’s a drug dealer and Lana manages to sweet talk him into bringing her along for a re-up while Miles looks on.
At a coffee shop two of the minor characters who I didn’t pay much attention to are discussing the Skulls and the fact that Cloak and Dagger have been taking them down around the Westside Church. The only other thing of importance to note is that someone who supposedly got killed apparently walked out of the autopsy room.
Jessica and Kitty are out on patrol in the rain when they encounter the skull dude from before spray painting his name, Scourge, at the site of a kill. Jessica is still woozy, so she’s in no condition to help, leaving Kitty to go after him while she calls for back-up. Unfortunately the call comes in while Miles was spying on the deal with Lana there and grabs their attention. I’d like to point out how it was both stupid of him to have his phone on and question why he wasn’t in his camouflage mode. Did the writers just forget this or what?
Cloak and Dagger arrive to help Kitty chase the guy after he blinded her, but the sneaky bastard gets away. At the same time, Miles pretty much solos the drug bust, although he does get knocked around when some dude gets on his back because he seems to have forgotten his Venom Strike. Lana has to get her boyfriend out before she gets involved and helps him wrap things up before leaving with Poey to maintain her cover.
The comic ends with them all meeting up again and resolving to stick together.
Okay, review time….
So far I can’t really say I like the comic. The art is… stable, so I won’t take points off for that. But at times the characters do things that they should know better on and continuity errors. Poey, for example, should know about her powers since he was the one who wouldn’t let her come over when she was being chased by Cloak and Dagger in Ultimate Spider-Man when Miles got back in the game.
It gets a 3 out of 5.