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Archive for June 20, 2015

Kariya’s Legacy 9: The Last Servant Summoned

Chapter 9: The Last Servant Summoned


Leaving her home, Rin Tohsaka felt a myriad of feeling at the moment.

First and foremost was a sense of accomplishment and pride. Like her father before her, she had managed to summon a Servant… albeit not the one she wanted. Still, the summoning in itself was a success and the Command Seals on her hand were proof of that. Now all that was left was to claim the grail that should be hers, even though she didn’t have a wish that needed to be granted.

But not all of her feelings were so pleasant.

Her servant infuriated her. There were some people who could get under her skin, but he was special considering he managed to antagonize her to the point she had wasted a Command Seal on him. Oh, he’d better prove his worth or so help her….

Rin came to a stop partway down the hill leading to the school, looking down at where the Matou Residence was. There was a foreigner there, blond hair and red eyes, muttering words that she couldn’t hear at that distance to her sist—to the Matou heir. As he walked away, she saw that Sakura looked dejected for a moment, her violet eyes clouded with dark thoughts as she reached up to touch the decoration in her hair.

It was odd. Rin thought that she had crushed whatever remained of her storge affection, but now she wanted to say something to soothe whatever had been said to make Sakura look like that. Her hand was already moving to reach out for her and the words were forming in her throat. All that stopped them was when she caught sight of the Command Seals on her hand.

The Holy Grail War was beginning, and there was no way that the Matou didn’t have someone fighting in this war. That meant she was possibly an enemy that had to be defeated. The thought made her hand drop, leaving her to watch as Sakura walked towards the school with her back to Rin.

It was then she made a call, seeking to soothe her curiosity and steel her resolve if necessary. “Archer,” she whispered. “Can you see if that girl has Command Seals on her hands?

His response was swift and dutiful, contrary to his behavior to this point, leaving her presence for a mere moment to fulfill her request. “She does not.”

Rin let out a breath she didn’t know she had been holding. “That’s good I suppose.”

May I ask why you suspected she would have one?” Archer asked.

“Her family is one of the three involved in the creation of the Holy Grail,” Rin said, keeping her distance as she trailed behind Sakura. They were heading in the same direction, but she didn’t dare approach her side as she had when they were children walking with their mother between them. Those days were gone. “She’s the only known Magus of her line, so it seemed like she would be the prime candidate.”

I see.” She could practically hear the wheels turning in Archer’s head. “The fact that she doesn’t seems strange, in that case.

“It’s probably because the war is starting earlier than it should have,” Rin guessed. “If I wasn’t contacted, I wouldn’t have known. So either she isn’t entering or….”

Archer finished where she trailed off. “She hasn’t summoned her Servant yet.

Rin’s lips pursed into a thin line at that thought. There was one Servant left to be summoned: Saber. That was what Rin had hoped to get when she performed the ritual, because they were known for their balanced stats according to the records her family had of the war.

Master,” Archer said, making Rin realize that they were closer to the school than she thought. The gates were practically upon them. When did she get distracted? “What will you do if she does become a Master?

That was the question then, wasn’t it? She didn’t know how well-trained Sakura was, meaning that if they got into a conflict she couldn’t predict the odds…No, Rin would win. The real question was would she be able to claim victory without permanently injuring her?

The smart and pragmatic thing to do would be to capture her brother. With a hostage, she could force her to surrender her Command Seals after having her Servant kill itself, removing them both safely from the war. But Shinji would no doubt suspect something if she called him out.

They were never seen remotely near one another after the last time they had met. While most people still suspected it was because she’d rejected him, she knew it was because she had thrown away the chance to reunite with Sakura for the sake of upholding the tradition of the Art. Though, to her surprise, a decent number of those girls who would speak to her actually said they pitied Shinji when the rumors spread of her turning him down.

Honestly, they painted her as the villain—what with how the frail and weak Matou heir, taken by her beauty and grace, put his heart on the line for a confession in private. Yet, he was turned down and crushed by her brutal denial, slinking back to his classroom and looking as though he was ready to keel over. Supposedly he’d been so disheartened that he gently turned down every effort to console him, leaving other women to want to heal his broken and reasonably wealthy heart.

He may not have been a magus, but he was crafty. That was partly why she doubted she’d be able to get him alone to actually capture him. Even if she did, the thought of Sakura looking at her with hatred in her eyes for taking her brother away left the bottom of her stomach feeling as though it was about to drop. It was stupid that she felt this way after so long, but that was something she couldn’t erase.

She came to a conclusion after an elongated pause. “…You should be good enough to deal with whatever Servant she summons if you pick them off at a distance, right?”

Of course,” Archer said. “I’m an Archer, after all. I wouldn’t be much of one if I couldn’t pick a target off before they realized it.

How smug he sounded annoyed her, but in this case it also bought some comfort. If he was this confident, then he could probably do it. That made her glad that she had gotten the ranged-specialist in the end.

Stepping through the threshold of the gate, she watched as Sakura met up with the Emiya boy and her brother. The latter of who glared at her when he noticed her standing behind Sakura. He placed a bandaged hand over her shoulder and whispered something in her ear while Emiya looked on confused for a moment. When Sakura shook her head, he guided her inside the building with Emiya following behind.

“Is he still angry about that rejection last year?” Rin heard from behind her. The voice was one she recognized and warranted her attention, leading to her looking over her shoulder to see Ayako there in her uniform. She looked a bit concerned and sheepish. “I don’t think I’ve seen him looking that mad before.”

“Who knows?” Rin shrugged. “That being said, was that a lovelorn gaze I saw coming from you, Mitsuzuri-san?”

“It’s not like that.” Her denial would be more believable if her face wasn’t turning a sanguine hue. Of course, after the moment, passed she stared at the door he went behind wistfully and sighed. “I’m just worried about him since he injured himself while helping Emiya last night.”

Rin raised an eyebrow. “Is that right?”

“You saw the bandages on their hands, right?” She nodded. “Sakura called me last night and told me the three of them were at Emiya’s place cooking when Shinji had a coughing fit while they were handling the ceramic plates. They broke and cut their hands in the process, so Shinji and Emiya weren’t going to attend the club today.”

“Isn’t that a bit inconvenient for your club?” Rin pointed out. “They’re both important, aren’t they?”

She could only shrug. “Losing both the Vice-Captain and Substitute Vice-Captain leaves me short-handed, but I’ll manage until then. Sakura said she’d help out, so there’s that. Either way, I should head there now.”

With that, Rin allowed Ayako to walk towards the club without further commentary.

With Archer

Archer had been summoned once more, as he usually was, only this time he felt somewhat more at peace with himself than the usual bitterness that made up his ethereal existence. He had parted with Rin after saying he would do his best, and hadn’t been subjected to another bout of being a Counter Guardian between the usual lags in the summoning, meaning that for this brief moment he had some measure of relief from his eternal Hell of condemnation.

But, while he was familiar with the how every time he was summoned things were different, he took the time to try and spot differences within the dimension that he was now a part of. Normally there wasn’t much—a misplaced stone, someone new when they hadn’t been before, or Rin actually being a cup size larger than usual. The point being, it was usually something small and inconsequential, making it easy to miss.

Other things were more apparent. Like the fact that Rider’s boundary field was missing. That either meant she hadn’t been summoned, or that Sakura was the one holding her reins instead of Shinji. Given that she didn’t have Command Seals, he found that scenario unlikely and would have to make a note to see what that meant later down the road.

Oddly enough, the minor changes were what seemed to bother him the most. When an assortment of minor changes piled on top of one another they often caused for major changes. And, in this case, they all seemed to stem from Shinji Matou.

Shinji Matou was a prime example of someone who couldn’t be saved, no matter what. In his life as Shirou Emiya, he was arguably Shinji’s only friend and the only one besides his sister who genuinely liked him. At least before what happened with Sakura came to light and the resulting Grail War of his time, which was arguably the first time his idea of saving everyone was proven to be impossible. Every time they had met after his indoctrination into being a Counter Guardian, it had always been simpler to kill him to save more lives.

The fact that Sakura had another hair decoration that she treated fondly, as though drawing comfort from it in the wake of Gilgamesh appearing to tell her to kill herself, meant that she had another pillar to support herself. Given her circumstances, the fact that she had another supporting figure meant that there was another chink in her armor that could be exploited. That was troubling in its own way, and may result in him having to kill Rin’s sister somewhere down the road—which may not be as much of a mercy as it usually would.

And then there was the fact that Ayako had been staring at Shinji Matou with a look that was both fond and concerned. Rin’s teasing, and the subsequent denial, only further hinted at a budding relationship. As she would never consider such a thing given his usual personality, it meant that he most likely wasn’t as vile as he could have been due to some intervention in the past.

That meant he wouldn’t be as likely to lash out at others for the sake of his ego. And because he wasn’t abusive, he and Shirou Emiya wouldn’t have as much animosity between them. That meant that when he summoned Saber—which was another constant, even if the Saber in question could vary from Nero to Mordred to Okita Souji—Shinji would not be an enemy to be defeated by him.

What change this would bring about would depend on what happened next, but Archer was already putting plans into place to ensure the least amount of casualties should the worst case scenario come about.

With Shinji

“We’re going to try this one more time,” Shinji said as he set down the bag he brought with him from his workshop. They were in the shed that Emiya called his own, having left the school-grounds thirty minutes ago to get things done as soon as possible. The walls were lined with runes, meant to prevent prana leaks and sound, leaving it somewhat secure in addition to being within the boundary field of the estate he lived on. “One more time, and then we do the summoning.”

“Shinji, if we didn’t find out the last few times, what will be different this time?” Shirou asked. It was a fair question. Why waste time on something when there was nothing further to gain?

Shinji ran his hands through his hair and shook his head. “My pride demands I make one more attempt.” He set down a towel and two cups that he filled with bottled water. “After this we’ll summon your Servant. Now cast Reinforcement on this.”

Shirou sighed as he grabbed the slip of shenfu paper Shinji handed him. Shinji had a better understanding at magic comprehension and explained that elements acted as a modifier to spells in a subtle sense, such as if someone with an Imaginary Numbers element were to use Reinforcement then the object that was affected would be able to interact with spiritual entities on a more efficient level. They were trying to figure out what his element was through an abstract method, since they didn’t have an exact test to determine what it was because he didn’t correspond with any of the basic ones.

“Trace: On.” The magic circuits in his right hand grew luminous and then slithered up the slip of paper. The shenfu became rigid and took on a metallic sheen. Shirou waved it around to see that it had also lost its flexibility.

Shinji took the paper and examined it. Then he pulled out one of his shenfu with the fuwen for ‘Metal’ on it and channeled his own prana into it. It took on a similar nature to Shirou’s, but he recognized the differences. “It looks like the Metal Eastern Element at a superficial level, but it’s not the same. The texture feels different… maybe metal is too broad and it’s something more constrained, specialized at its core within that frame. We’ll try the water method next.”

Shinji stuck one finger into one cup filled with water and cast Reinforcement on the water itself. The volume of liquid in the cup rose until it overflowed and spilled down the sides onto the towel. He pulled his finger out and the water followed, until he held the finger up with a sphere of water the size of a soft ball loitering there. “I have a Water element, so if I perform Reinforcement in a broad sense, it simply gives the water more volume and makes it easier to manipulate.”

“So if I do the same….” Shirou stuck his finger inside and cast Reinforcement on his water. Like the paper it took on a metallic sheen, but that was all at a glance.

Shinji stuck a finger inside to see if the temperature had changed, such as if the Fire Element had been introduced. He pulled it back after he felt a sharp sensation and watched blood mix into the water. He frowned. “Did you just make the water sharp enough to cut me?”

“I guess?” Shirou shrugged. “It’s not like there’s been a need to cast Reinforcement on water of all things.”

Shinji grumbled under his breath about how it was even more confusing now as he put up the things for the element testing and started drawing the circle for the summoning. “Since we couldn’t get a catalyst we don’t know what Servant you’ll get, but it will definitely be in the Saber class.”

“Shouldn’t yours be here too?” Shirou asked.

Shinji scoffed. “I left Rider to his own devices for the day. I didn’t want Rin’s Servant to detect him around one of us and he tends to rub people the wrong way. I’ve checked on him through our shared senses every now and again today, but he’s mostly lingered in astral form around the base of the mountain.”

Shirou’s inquisitive expression asked the unspoken question.

“I’ll explain after you summon your Servant.” Shinji stood up and stretched his back, cracking bones audibly within the shed. “Now, I think you understand how the whole system works when it comes to the Command Seals and Servants, but I want to tell you about it in greater detail since it could mean life or death.”

He unwrapped his hand and showed Shirou his remaining two seals. “Of the three families who worked together to make the system of the war, the Matou were the ones who made the Command Seal system. Because of that we know how to utilize it better than anyone else.”

Each of the three families had, in some form or way, cheated in the previous wars using the advantages they had garnered. The Tohsaka had local allies and laid claim to the nodes where mana gathered since they provided the land, giving them access to the most resources. The Einzbern made the grail itself and were the ones who could use it for the Third Magic, according to the Old Worm’s notes. The Makiri themselves gamed the system through the Command Seals.

“The Command Seals utilize mana gathered over the decades between the wars and compacted them into these markings,” he continued. “Most competitors see it as a means of manipulating a Servant for short-term compliance, or compiling their effects by using more than one to enforce a rule, but with it you can actually interface with the grail system itself.

“For example, let’s say that you summon a Servant into a class but it could have fit in multiple classes at once. With the seal you can install an additional class, reopening the connection between the Throne of Heroes and downloading that class information. A Servant would then be a Double Class.”

“Double Class….” Shirou scratched his head. If it was possible to enter more than once class, then what was the point of constraining them into a single one? It did seem like a cheat being exploited, but the practicality of it was questionable. “When was the last time someone used it?”

“Not since the Second War,” Shinji said. “It requires two seals to enforce the Double Class—one to make the initial change and one to interface with the grail and stop it from auto-correcting the change after a set period of time. And, despite being able to have both sets of Class Skills, their Noble Phantasms and Personal Skills don’t change.”

“And if you’re using a catalyst, then you’re summoning a Servant in what would be an ideal form,” Shirou reasoned, crossing his arms in thought. “So there’s no need for a shift in the class then, since it wouldn’t be worth the cost.”

Shinji nodded his head. “We don’t have a catalyst for you, so if by some chance you get a Saber that was also a renowned spell-caster then you can invoke the Double Class and give them access to skills they wouldn’t otherwise have because of the system constraints. That’s why I’m tell you now.”

Lancer would be a perfect example. If Cu Chulainn had been summoned under the Double Class system as a Lancer-Caster, then his Rune Magecraft would have been more effective. It would have probably plowed straight through Rider’s level of Magic Resistance.

“Another use is as an external battery,” Shinji went on. “You can burn the Command Seals as a power source for magecraft that goes beyond your limits. I don’t think you have any spells that would require that kind of power, and in most cases anything you can do a Servant can do better, but keep it in mind as a last resort.”

“Right…” Shirou didn’t think he would need a Command Seal for that. His Rune Magecraft was limited after all, and Reinforcement didn’t require that much energy itself. Still, he wouldn’t hesitate to burn it if he could use it to save someone else.

With that explanation out of the way, the two began the process of summoning his Servant. Blood was shed for the sake of power as Shirou stood with his hand outstretched and his circuits opened. Shinji stood off to the side to stay out of the way.

He closed his eyes when there was a flash as the fifth element composed itself to take on the form of the Servant. When he opened them again, there was a woman clad in silver armor that glinted in the evening light, with a blue dress beneath it. Matching gauntlets and greaves covered her hands and feet, though she lacked a helmet as one would expect, leaving her blonde-hair and green eyes on display for all to see.

Standing proudly, the Servant spoke to Shirou and asked, “I ask of you: Are you my Master?”

“I am,” Shirou stated, revealing the Command Seals fixed on his wrist as a shriek of surprise left Shinji’s mouth while he pointed to the regal woman. “Shinji, what’s wrong?”

“Arthur Pendragon,” he said, barely above a whisper. “King Arthur.”

“Who are you?” she asked with her invisible blade in her hands. Shinji couldn’t see it, but he knew from the memories of Waver what it was like. The gleaming, golden blade of Promised Victory being raised to slay the monster that once loitered on the bay was something that had been deeply entrenched onto both Waver’s, and subsequently Shinji’s, minds.

“Forgive the rudeness of calling you by name, King of Knights,” Shinji said, putting on a diplomatic face when he gathered himself. “I am the Master of Rider for this war, Shinji Matou. Your Master and I have entered into an alliance for the duration of the war, as we’ve been friends for some time now and there are other matters that must be addressed.”

Shirou held up his hands. “Wait, wasn’t King Arthur….” He trailed off when Saber turned her eyes on him. “I mean, you’re really King Arthur?”

“You were unaware of my identity?” the Servant asked her Master.

Shinji spoke for him. “Your Master didn’t have a catalyst so we were uncertain which Servant would be summoned, and I had recently come across memories of the former Master of Rider, from the last Grail War ten years prior. During that time, a previous template of yourself had been summoned, so I became aware of your identity through those means. It was pure circumstance that these facts aligned.”

The Servant stood silent for a moment, before replying, “If those are the circumstances, then it cannot be helped. However, I ask that you keep silent on my identity from this point onwards.”

“Of course,” he said. “In exchange for any perceived slight, and as a token of goodwill, I will give you the names of Caster, Assassin, and Lancer.”

“You’ve already fought them, Shinji?” Shirou asked. “And you didn’t tell me?”

“Lancer attacked my home after I summoned Rider,” Shinji explained. “He’s an incarnation of Cu Chulainn, an Irish folk-hero. In addition to his speed and the use of a spear, he’s capable of summoning dogs in a limited number, and the use of Rune Magic. More than him though, Caster in herself is the largest problem.”

He reached into the bag he brought to produce a smaller box. He removed the lid to showcase the sphere of swirling violet. “Recently there have been a number of people slipping into comas from what is perceived to be gas attacks. In truth, it’s because of this.”

Shirou leaned in and caught the scent of it. “It’s laced with prana.”

“I analyzed it and found that it’s used to steal od from people who aren’t capable of magecraft,” he explained. “It also has the side-effect of rendering men impotent, so even if the victims wake they won’t be able to have children. She’s doing some major damage while amassing power, making her a credible threat the longer it goes on to anyone without sufficient Magic Resistance.”

“Such an act is intolerable,” Saber spoke, more than a note of disdain in her voice.

Shirou nodded in agreement, happy that his Servant shared the same idea. “We have to stop her.”

“Rider and I already attempted to confront her.” Shinji put the sphere back into his bag. “However, the Assassin of this war is a skilled warrior named Kojiro Sasaki. His swordsmanship managed to hold back Rider, and Caster assisted him by binding Rider in place. I had to use a Command Seal to retrieve him before he could be eliminated.”

“So their Masters are in an alliance as well,” Shirou figured. “Do you know where their base is?”

Shinji rubbed his eyes. “The Ryuudouji Temple.”

Shirou tensed. “That’s where Issei stays. If she’s been there for a long time then—”

“He’s probably under her control already,” Shinji stated factually, having already reached the same conclusion. “I was careful talking to him today, since there’s no telling if there’s a trigger on him or anyone else from there. He seemed normal, but we can’t be sure he hasn’t been made a sleeper agent of some kind.”

“And there’s no telling what will happen if we try and check on him in school,” Shirou said through his gritted his teeth. “Damn.”

“That’s why we need to work together.” He looked between Saber and Shirou. “The mountain has a barrier around it that weakens any spiritual entities that try to enter it from anywhere but the front, where Assassin guards the gate. Working together, Rider will deal with Assassin while you bypass them and eliminate Caster. If we do this properly, we can end the threat they pose to the city tonight.”

“Certainly, they must be made to cease this at once,” Saber acknowledged.

“So, do we go there now?” Shirou asked.

“No, you need to go register for the war within the next two hours or so,” he told him. They had decided to hold off on the registration until now because Shinji wanted to operate on the principle it was better to ask for forgiveness than permission, and doing so belatedly like this prevented Rin from finding out prematurely. “I’ll meet you on the road there afterwards with my Servant—and wear a mask so that you don’t end up being accidentally outed to Tohsaka.”

Shirou nodded, albeit reluctantly. “Okay, we’ll meet you there soon.”

With that said Shinji left the shed and made it halfway across the yard before his face tightened up and he clenched his fist. He couldn’t help but wonder why Emiya got that Servant of all the possible ones? A loyal knight with a blade made to slay evil would be so much better in his hands than Emiya’s.

It just seemed like Shirou kept upstaging him at every turn—first having circuits and then having a better Servant. What next?

Shinji took a deep breath and drove away his reservations and jealousy for the moment. There was work to be done tonight, and he couldn’t let these feelings ruin his chances. For Sakura’s sake, he had to do this right.

With Saber

Saber found it strange to be riding behind the son of the Magus Killer, her hands wrapped around his waist as they drove near-silently on the streets of Fuyuki. They were still on Shinto side of the Miongawa, having just come from the Church after Shirou completed his registration. Nothing seemed amiss as she waited outside of the Church, but he did come back with a small frown courtesy of whatever discussion he had with the moderator of the war.

In the short time they had known each other, Saber found him to be a strong contrast with his father. Her former Master was a cold man whose betrayal had cost her chance for the grail, yet the boy who bore his last name didn’t seem to have that cold and calculating nature that Kiritsugu did. Rather than stony silence, he offered her food once their discussion had abated.

Unfortunately, her inability to go into astral-form left her with little recourse but to don a cloak to hide her appearance. At least it was night, so they didn’t draw too much attention. The search for clothing could come later, preferably a suit of some kind like the last time she had been summoned.

“I think I see something ahead,” her Master said with his voice slightly muffled. He had a black cloth wrapped around his face, covering his hair and mouth, and his sword was nestled in a bag over his shoulder. He slowed the motorcycle to a crawl as a silhouette came into view ahead, a masked man wearing a Chinese Opera mask.

Next to him, a Chinese General materialized while welding a polearm weapon. He was a Servant, that much was clear. And bloodlust was wafting off of him as he stood there, despite his calm façade.

Saber’s response was to stand in front of her Master as he came to a stop and hold her hidden blade at the ready. The opposing Servant’s grip on the haft of his weapon seemed to tighten, and a challenging smile seemed to etch itself on his face. She could tell he would relish the challenge.

“Enough,” said the masked figure next to the Servant. The voice matched the Master she had met before. “We’re on the same side for now, remember?”

Shirou tilted his head. “Shinji?”

“Idiot, don’t use my name!” Rider’s Master said. “We don’t know if she has familiars listening in. Call me something else!”

“Like what?” her Master asked.

“I don’t know, think of something!” The masked boy shook his head. “We don’t have time for this! We need to act fast if we’re going to take out Caster tonight and—”

The vibrating of his phone cut him off as he pulled it out and looked at the screen. It must’ve been rather important considering how he was the one expressing the severity of their clandestine activities tonight. It certainly made him tense, his fingers wrapping around the handle of the case he carried in his left hand as he listened to the response on the other end.

“Okay, got it.” Rider’s Master hung up the phone and then he opened the case he was carrying and pulled out a bow. “That was a warning that I had set up. There were at least a dozen signals, so it’s a toss-up between Caster’s minions or Lancer’s hounds.”

Her Master reached for the sword slung in the bag hanging over his shoulder, as though he was getting ready to fight. Another contrast to his father, though one that was rather foolhardy. She stopped him.

“Master, there’s no need for you to fight,” she told him, removing her cloak. Her armor glinted in the moonlight. “This War is for the Servants to clash with one another. The Masters need only to concern themselves with the other Masters. You and Rider’s Master should take shelter somewhere safe.”

“I mean no disrespect, Your Majesty,” Rider’s Master told her. “The closest safe-house that I’ve established will take ten minutes to reach, and if we split up we’ll risk being overwhelmed after separating, or picked off by the Servant.”

“Take Rider with you then,” she said. “If we’re in an alliance, then he should be able to keep you both safe.”

“I do not coddle those who seek to ride into battle,” the Servant spoke for the first time that night. The tone was heated, as if he found her suggestion reprehensible. “Only those who resolved to fight under their own strength and die have any right to stand on the battlefield. If the boy cannot do so, then he doesn’t have the right to call himself my Master.”

“… It’s exactly as he said,” the masked boy said bluntly, looking towards his Servant. “His strength is for fighting other Servants, not on enemies beneath him. I wouldn’t ask him to, nor would I expect him to defend me.”

Saber spared the Servant a glance, as if rebuking his words. It was clear that the dynamic between the two was not the same as the previous war’s pair. Though their Masters had entered into an alliance, she felt that she couldn’t trust hers to his care. Then there was no more time to talk as snarls reached their ears.

Clad in a hunter’s garb, Lancer appeared at the top of a lamp post with his spear on his shoulder. “Well, tonight is turning out to be productive,” he said, half-amused. “First a sword-wielding Archer, now a woman clad in armor masking herself as a Saber without a sword. I hope you’ll put up a better fight than he did?”

And, with that, she determined that he was nothing like the Lancer of the war prior. “We shall see if your tongue is so brazen after I’ve cut you in twain, Lancer.”

She didn’t get the chance. Rider had already lunged for the Servant, his halberd now an axe. With a war-cry, he cleaved the light pole in two and forced the lance-wielding hero to abandon his perch.

“Well, that was rude, don’t you think?” Lancer said, the hounds circling him in a defensive manner. “My business tonight is with Saber.”

“You fled from our last encounter,” Rider stated, baring teeth in a feral smile. “I will not be denied my battle a second time! Even if I have to cut through her to do it.”

Her grip on her sword tightened at the admission. Rider’s Master placed his hand to his mask and shook his head.

“It’s a bit rude to deny the woman her due in battle,” Lancer mused, “but since you insist then let’s take this somewhere private. I’ll be back for her once I’ve dealt with you.”

He whistled and snapped his fingers. The hounds moved to follow him as he took up his spear and jaunted over the concrete wall towards the south were there were woodlands to be found for their duel. Naturally, Rider chased after him.

That left the three of them to their own devices. There was an unnatural silence to be found for a moment as they processed what happened. Then, the remaining Servant spoke.

“Forgive me for speaking out of turn, Master,” Saber said to Shirou, her tone restrained while carrying an underlying fury in it. “But I do not think this alliance will be very successful if he cannot rein in his Servant’s behavior.”

“I… I’m sorry about him,” he said. “He’s… well, I’m not going to make any excuses. But the Command Seals can’t—”

She moved before he finished, leaping into the air as Hero’s Instinct spoke to her and swinging the invisible blade in her hand. It clashed with a red streak that suddenly appeared, roaring as the steel met with the sheath of churning wind, only to shatter in the wake of her blade. The shockwave of the impact rustled the Masters behind her, sending her own a step back and Rider’s to his knees.

“What was that?” he asked, slowly rising to his feet and reaching into his case for something out of her view.

Pressed for time, she summed it up in one word. “Archer.”

Then she brought the blade around to deflect another shot.

With Archer

Standing on top of a building closer to the bridge, Archer fired another sword-turned-arrow at Saber. He knew she could block it, but his objective wasn’t to kill her expressly. Not that he could with the arrows he was using, since they were in the middle of the street and an arrow that could do so would level the surrounding area.

“Master,” he said. “I believe I have Saber’s attention.”

So what happened to not being much of an Archer if you couldn’t pick off a target before they realized it,” Rin said through their shared sense of hearing, throwing his earlier words back in his face. “Lancer was forgivable given you couldn’t get the distance, but I’m starting to question if you’re really worthy of your class.

“Your words wound me, Master,” Archer said, his tone lacking sincerity in it. Even if circumstances changed, Rin would still be Rin. “If it’s any conciliation, Rider will probably deal with him… or the other way around. Besides, isn’t this why you came up with such a reckless plan?”

Just lure her away!” Rin demanded. “I’ll deal with the Masters.

“As you wish.” He nocked his bow and drew back the string, taking aim at his younger counterpart’s Servant. He let go, and the arrow flew across the distance uncontested until it met the invisible sword. When she moved, leaving the two Masters at a calculated distance to see whether or not he would prioritize her or them, he fired at her again.

She smashed it as prana-laced fog was conjured to blanket the area while the two Masters stealthily disappeared behind an alley on the enchanted motorbike. She burst out of it then and advanced at inhuman speeds, no doubt having learned the trajectory of his arrows and coming to attack him. He gave her three seconds before he fired again.

“Their Servant has left them,” he said. “Proceed with your plan, Rin.”