KL ~Chapter 4~
Chapter 4: Preparations for War
Note: For Shinji’s combat outfit, basically imagine Shinji looking like The Hood from Arrow, but with a deep blue shade and mask.
That Italian Restaurant
Close to a year had passed.
Shinji had finally gotten Ayako to agree to go with him to that restaurant he frequented after much more effort than anyone would expend in repaying a debt, as he claimed. So, dressed in casual clothing, they both enjoyed the cuisine and made small talk.
“This place is nice,” Ayako said while waiting for dessert. “I can’t believe it took so long for you to talk me into it—but this doesn’t mean we’re going out or anything!”
“Fair enough,” Shinji said simply, hands interwoven and hiding his smile like he had taken lessons from Gendo. “I can be patient until I’ve won you over with my charm.”
“Sure, sure. In the meantime we’re just the Captain and Vice-Captain of the Archery Club. You keep the pressure off your sister and I keep my brother off of you.”
“What is his problem with me?”
“It’s because he doesn’t trust you and you’re with Emiya-kun all the time,” she explained. “Do the math. He likes Sakura-chan. She obviously likes Emiya-kun. You keep trying to push the pair together.”
Shinji feigned innocence. “Whatever do you mean?”
“Even I can see you’re trying to set your sister up with Emiya-kun,” Ayako continued. “You always have him help her, despite telling me that someone as natural as him at it couldn’t teach someone normal. You try and have them eat lunch together, let her go to his house in morning to learn to cook, take care of him after he had that burn on his arm…need I go on?”
“You’re quite perceptive,” Shinji admitted as someone brought Gelato and set it on the table. “That’s one of the qualities I find attractive in you to be honest. Still, I can’t figure out why you’re so hesitant to go out with me?”
“Well, for starters, I don’t see what you like about me,” Ayako said. “I’m kinda a tomboy and I know it. There are plenty of others who would be more attractive and submissive to a guy like you.”
“Most of the girls who throw themselves at me are only interested in the wealth I have and cover up who they really are. You don’t and I find that endearing,” Shinji admitted. “You don’t try to hide anything behind make-up or a false mask. Emiya and you have that quality in that you’re both honest in who you are, making you trustworthy.”
“Huh…” Ayako tried to keep the color off her cheeks as her Vice-Captain admitted something so frank honestly. “Uh, back to the second reason. You’re wearing a mask yourself. You and Tohsaka are alike in the fact that both of you seem to have two sides. ”
“Who knows?” Shinji said, not bothering to deny it. “Maybe one day you’ll see the other me. But there’s no guarantee you’ll like what you find.”
Ayako shrugged. “Well, if we ever get to that point, we’ll see.”
They finished their dessert in silence and then departed the restaurant, with Shinji escorting Ayako her home as they made their way through the collection of buildings that lined the illuminated streets that stood out from the spacious and vast manors in the foreigner’s district that he lived in, on the opposite side of the bridge.
Passing them were others of varying ages, some working salarymen and women coming from a tiring but well-paying job that kept them fed. Others were youngsters around their ages, dressed in variety of outfits, going to the still-present arcades, or singing Karaoke. The few that were most likely to cause trouble were deterred by the warding talisman he had hidden inside his jacket.
Eventually they stopped in front of a modern apartment. In the second story window there was figure watching, just beyond the curtains and trying to remain unnoticed. He failed in that aspect.
“Looks like my brother is waiting for me,” Ayako said exasperatedly. “Thanks for the meal and dessert. Whatever debt you owed has been paid.”
“Then the next time it’ll be a date between us,” Shinji said wryly, getting a small laugh from her as she grabbed her doorknob. He gave her small wave. “Good night, Mitsuzuri-san.”
“Good night, Matou-kun,” Ayako replied warmly.
Shirou’s Home – Dojo
Crimson flared as the Dojo was filled with the harmonious clashing of wooden blades.
“RAAAAHHH—” Overwhelming bloodlust consumed the hero-wannabe, a strange and foreign sensation he’d never in his memory experienced. He bit down the bloodlust slightly, but it doubled as his opponent blocked his blade. How dare they!
He swung, blade in hand, against the opponent who he couldn’t seem to beat. She was always a step ahead of him. It was as if she could read the way his body moved and how it would react.
Pain flared in his shoulder as the enemy struck with a thrust that made his own strike come up short. Moving like a fearsome beast, the enemy’s blade was its claws. It used them to great proficiency in tearing apart his flesh.
Head, ribs, thigh, side of the knee, shoulder, and chest—the claws struck so fluidly that they flowed as one and brought Shirou to his knees. The final strike to the forearm made him relinquish his blade…
And the bloodlust was quelled inside his mind.
“He-heh…” The childish voice of the enemy chuckled. Prowling over to the defeated swordsman, his guardian and expert kendoka, Taiga, retrieved her favorite blade from the floor and rested it on her shoulder. “I win again, Shirou. This time you have to make me triple portions.”
“As agreed, Fuji-nee…” Shirou stood up and fought down the desires to scrub his body and mind clean after using that…that thing called a shinai. How she could wield it or ignore the blatant bloodlust coming off of it in waves, Shirou had no clue. Perhaps she was a psychic or somehow removed from the logic of fearing such a thing.
“But you really were copying me,” she stated. “I don’t brag, but keeping up with me is really good considering you didn’t have any formal training. Kiritsugu would be proud.”
Shirou had been wielding the fearsome Tora- Shinai while his sister-figure wielded a normal one and they had a match. The third one this week. How did this oddity occur, you ask?
Well, after the fiasco that led to him drawing knowledge from the blade accidentally, he asked to borrow it and purposely delved into it. Taiga obliged as long as they could spar as a stress reliever for her. Shirou made for an excellent punching bag, after all.
“Ah, but maybe I should have went a little easier on you.” Taiga said as an afterthought. “Sakura-chan won’t be happy if she finds out you’re too bruised to enjoy her date.”
Once again, Shirou’s ignorance of the female mind reared its ugly head. “Huh?”
Taiga looked at him as if he grew a second head. “Well, you’re cooking for Sakura-chan tomorrow right?”
“Yeah,” he said.
Taiga asked, “And you’ll both be alone?”
“I guess…” he admitted.
“And there’ll be candles, right?”
Shirou still didn’t see where it was going. “Shinji said it would be good for her to relax after trying so hard in the Archery Club and improve her mood.”
Her eyebrow arched at the sheer magnitude of ignorance. She’d suspect that he was lying about not realizing where it was going, but he wasn’t that good at it. “And you don’t see what any of that implies? Really?”
The answer to that was obvious. “…That he’s worried for her health?”
“…” Taiga closed her eyes and shook her head. When she opened them, there was steel in them and she attacked with renewed vigor. “Shirou, you idiot!”
The tiger pounced and unleashed its claws once again on the hero-wannabe. “Ow! Fuji-nee, what’d I do!?”
“I’m going to beat you over the head until you get it!”
The beating—I mean lecture on how not to undermine a girl’s feelings continued well into the night.
The Next Day – At the Matou Manor
“Emiya, you idiot,” Shinji said as he read the text message on his phone from Taiga.
It was Sunday night, and he had just finished up his notes on an onmyouji magecraft ritual he had appropriated not too long ago. When he had orchestrated this date as a part of his long-term plan, he needed to get her out of the way for them to be alone. To his surprise, she was on-board the ‘Sakura and Emiya Love-Love Plan’ as she called it.
He briefly considered hypnotizing Shirou into getting a clue. “No, Sakura would never forgive me for toying with his brain. Plus, with his head being so thick, it might be impossible anyway.”
“Nii-sama?” Sakura called as she entered the living room while dressed in a white dress with a blouse over it. In her hair was the decoration charm Shinji had given her, inert and undetectable to a magus until within the presence of magecraft or Shinji activated it to track her. That way Rin couldn’t sense it and find out what he was. “Is something wrong?”
“Nothing at all,” Shinji said as he texted Taiga to give the pair more time by having the idiot meet her halfway. “Give it your best and enjoy yourself, Sakura.”
A blush crossed her face. “Alright. Then I’ll be leaving.”
Shinji watched her leave out as the sun set and then headed to his workshop.
To Sakura’s pleasant surprise, her senpai was waiting to meet her halfway while slightly winded after his guardian had booted him out the door. He held her hand as they walked, as per the orders of Taiga, who silently cheered on the pairing before heading out to eat—all expenses paid by Shinji Matou. Sakura was worth any cost.
Neither of them noticed the plain, white van trailing them.
The men inside the van were just a nameless father and son in the grand scope of things. They happened to be at the wrong place at the wrong time and had a vehicle that could get the job done. So they were hypnotized and given a mission:
“Retrieve the Matou Heir once she was far from home.”
Inside the van were three hounds that slept in waiting, to ensure the secrecy of his task by silencing any witnesses. Then, when they saw them standing outside the Emiya household, the road all but deserted, the two pawns saw an opening and took it. Blowing the dog whistle they’d been given, the doors of the van opened and the hounds moved.
The suddenly flux of magical energy wafting from the hounds caught both parties off-guard as their attention was focused on the imminent threat. Moving swiftly as the hounds circled the boy to separate them, the passenger managed to get out and cover the girl’s mouth and nose with a rag. The chloroform on it was given to him since using magecraft on a magus would be far more difficult compared to holding a drugged rag to her face until she stopped moving and he shoved her into the van.
With abnormal strength and a howl of rage, the boy managed to reach the side of the van and lay a hand on it as the hounds seemed to struggle to tear off his legs and other arm. One of the hounds settled for body-checking him into the entrance of his home and away from the truck. The rest chased after him to tear out his throat.
The pair took off with the girl inside.
A hound lunged for his throat.
He saw it coming and was prepared, having applied Reinforcement to his body the moment the hounds jumped him originally. He blocked with his forearm and winced as it managed to barely break the surface of his skin that was as hard as iron. These creatures would have destroyed and devoured an ordinary human with ease.
“Get off!” His reinforced fist quickly smashed down on its skull and the familiar ceased functioning. The second and third ones attacked from the left and back. They met with hands of steel as well and fell as quickly. Shioru looked up to see that the van was gone…and with it Sakura.
She had been kidnapped.
He didn’t chase after the van since the rune he managed to place before being thrown into his own home would lead him to her. He could tell that they were long gone, heading towards the more distant coastline between the temple and his home, and he wouldn’t catch up on foot.
The biggest problem was the fact that those familiars indicated he was facing a magus. Therefore he couldn’t just rush in stupidly. He needed to arm himself first. Then, he could rush in stupidly and save Sakura as quickly as possible.
He grabbed a bokken and rushed to his workshop to don the coat of the late Magus Killer, lined with enchantments to protect his flesh. It was not because he was afraid to get hurt. It was because if his body broke then he could not save the one who needed saving.
Shirou then tore away a veil covering his means of transportation. It was a motorcycle that he received for his birthday after all the hard work he’d done for the Yakuza without asking for anything in return in keeping up their vehicles and equipment. He did not ask for it, but he did not refuse it.
Mentally thanking his big sister-figure and her family for the gift, he tore after them.
It was time to be a hero.
Shinji’s charm, which he had given to Sakura as a hair decoration, was tripped at the presence of magecraft and set him into a state of high-alert. The first thing he did was try her cellphone. There no response.
So he activated the tracking array on the table with a map of Fuyuki.
The manikins that marked the four directions lifted themselves off the table and began to spin in place as a luminous glow radiated from within like lanterns. The light speared from one to another to create a boundary and then each shot a ray into the center of the map of Fuyuki that pinned itself down at a single point that began moving. That point was the decoration he gave Sakura.
She was moving to a point between the coast and temple, the thin lining of forest making it ideal for a private coastal home. Before Shinji could mobilize, Zouken’s voice came from the outside of the closed door to the workshop.
“It would appear that you noticed Sakura has been kidnapped,” Zouken stated. Shinji never once doubted he had a method keeping track of her. “It is the work of another magus.”
“Why would a magus kidnap her?” Shinji demanded an answer. She should have been with…Shirou! “What happened to the boy she was with?”
All he got was a flat, “Who can say? Given the abruptness of the kidnapping and usual behavior of magus…”
Shinji knew what he was implying by trailing off. Shirou was most likely dead. The only consolation was that it had been quick. Shinji focused on who could be saved at the moment: His sister. “Why haven’t you done something yet?”
“The only means of rescuing the girl I possess would be to unleash the worms that swim in her body,” he lied to Shinji. “The damage done would be…immense and a last resort. Therefore, you get one chance boy. Go and bring her back.”
Show me that you would be capable of the coming war, boy, Zouken thought with a smile. Fail and die as your uncle had, widening the cracks in the girl. Succeed and become a more useful pawn.
The sound of his footsteps and cane on the wooden floors echoed in the hall as he left to go back to his worm-filled basement that he used to practice his craft as Shinji howled. “I should have expected nothing else from you!”
The arrow was fired within his mind and hit the mark. The artificial magus let his magical energy roar as the circuits came to life. Activating a mystery known as ‘Armament’ he formed his armor.
Construction paper that had been enchanted and inscribed with fuwen came to life and swarmed his body, clinging like glue had been applied and changing as Alteration was performed to link them together and give them a fabric like quality as they took the form of a pants and a leather-like hoodie with a deep hood to cover his hair and obscure his face.
Next he armed himself, forging the bow, the quiver, and arrows using magecraft and fuwen to blend them together so seamlessly they looked as if they were a single object instead of many. Looking over his larger shikigami, Shinji grabbed the small container holding the origami manikin of the phoenix to aid him.
Finally, he reached out for the mask he had received as a so-called graduation present form Fang Yin. Fixing the mask onto his face to hide the tears of rage at the presumed death of his sole male friend, he grabbed the knife he used when preparing his medicines. He was going to shove it into the magus’ heart after putting a dozen arrows into his body.
Running to the rooftop he filled the container with prana and crimson flames swallowed the origami. He tossed the bottled flame over the edge and jumped after it. “Come, Zhuque!”
The window of his workshop burst opened as the paper constructing the shikigami dissembled itself and reformed around the flame. Beneath his feet, the vermillion bird—the phoenix of the south that resembled the evening twilight—took flight. The magecraft would render it unnoticeable to non-magi, so he didn’t worry about the majestic bird taking to skies and rushing towards the horizon that was dyed the color of twilight as well, the colors matching its own.
It was time to rescue his sister.
Sakura awoke with a splitting headache and her arms tied around her back. The worms and circuits in her body could break down foreign elements true enough, but it took time and something was hindering them. Her mind raced as she took in surroundings and noticed she was in a parlor that was lavishly decorated.
“You’ve finally awakened, have you?” a rather smooth voice came from behind her. She sat up and came to see a man dressed in a suit with a glass of wine between his fingers, swishing the contents around. “That’s good. For a second I was worried you would be damaged and useless for my plans.”
“Who…are you?” Sakura asked, keeping her cool.
“My name is Reginald Adeliz, Matou Heiress,” he gave a slight bow to look into her eyes. A smirk carved itself onto his face in short order. “A first-rate magus with blue-blood circuits and your new master.”
Now, Sakura was by no means weak of heart. True, Shinji’s affection had softened her experiences when around him, but he was a spellcaster. To this man, who was a magus like her sister who ignored her, like her father that threw her away, and like her grandfather who abused her, her heart was sealed up and her will indomitable.
She became cold as ice. “What exactly are you implying?”
He pulled out a piece of parchment and unraveled it, before releasing it and letting it drift down in front of her. “A Self-Geas Scroll of sorts, modified to fit my standards. I’ll save you the trouble of reading and just skip to the point. The contract will have you serve as my loyal servant during the Holy Grail War.”
A geas—a curse of coercion that binds one to their word, on top of that a self-geas scroll leaves them with an unbreakable contract enforced by their own circuits. The nature of the contract would not allow her to escape should she sign it of her own will.
After glancing over it, Sakura stated, “The Holy Grail War won’t start again for decades. Why now?”
“Could it be that you really don’t know?” Reginald asked in mild amusement, before revealing his Command Seals. “If you require further proof, allow me to introduce my Servant. Caster, appear before me.”
Inhuman—in every sense of the word, this sensation was unmistakable in that it wasn’t even remotely human. The worms in her body became active in the wake of the air rippling, distorting from the inhumane magical energy of a legend that had ascended beyond space and time to a throne, her deeds having become renowned as the Age of the Gods passed. Her appearance matched that of a witch reminiscent of fairy tales, and not the nice ones.
The Servant appeared with a small smirk on her face, superiority lacing her voice as she spoke. “Good evening, young lady. I look forward to working with you in future.”
Gathering herself mentally, as much as she could under circumstances, Sakura shook her head. “I won’t sign.”
“Ah, defiance rears its ugly head,” the magus shook his head, “Caster will take her time in breaking you until you willingly take on the Geas. As history has shown, she has her…ways, of doing so. I sincerely urge you to reconsider your predicament.”
The room was silent for a moment as he awaited the girl’s consent that would not come. It was only broken prematurely when Caster felt her field being penetrated and conjured her crystal ball.
“Master…” Caster called. “It would appear we have an intruder. A magus coming from the skies on a construct that appears to be a rather large…shikigami, is the term in this age I believe.”
Sakura had a good poker face. It was one not easily seen through. But, her brother was heading into what amounted to a fortress guarded by the bane of modern magi everywhere—a creature that could weave spells from the Age of the Gods. The mask broke for a moment and it was all Caster needed to forge a plan.
“Master, the girl’s reaction indicates she knows the magus approaching,” Caster warned. “Should you go and capture him, he could be leverage and speed up the process of coercing her into the Geas. You may even gain two pawns rather than one.”
“Can’t you handle that?”
“I need to prepare my domain for the ensuing ritual,” she stated. “Surely you are not frightened by such a meager magus? With one of such blood as yourself, any backwater magus in this land cannot match your skill. After all, you had enough talent to summon myself before the two families that reside here, only behind the Einzberns.”
Step one in getting a noble magus to do what you want: Feed their ego. Medea would admit the man she reluctantly called Master had a decent plan, but it was far from enough in her eyes. And besides, after spending time under the whims of the Gods, she had just about enough of being controlled.
“Very well!” Reginald stated as he rose to his feet. “Bestow upon me my weapon and I shall bring them to my heels.”
With a mere wave of her hand, the air distorted yet again. Within her grasp rose a sword that seemed beyond the elegance of a man such as him, a blade adorned in an inhumanely golden decoration and a pure-white hilt. She presented the blade to him, a mystic code he had found but was unable to use as anything but a symbol of his supposed authority.
He flourished the blade, the air weaving itself around him. Satisfied with the result, he walked off to ready the defenses of his workshop and welcome the fly to his parlor.
“Now then, young lady,” Caster ran her fingers across Sakura’s cheek as her Master vanished, “I can sense something inside you that’s very interesting. You will…”
She trailed off as she sensed her field being penetrated again. Another person had entered the field and Caster watched her crystal ball as it showed Shirou Emiya getting off his motorcycle some distance from the manor and hiding it before rushing towards the home. I may as well keep him entertained while my Master is hopefully being driven into a corner. Either way, today will be productive.
Shinji frowned beneath his mask as he crossed a boundary field and his sense of hearing became a liability. Like nails on a chalkboard the constant scraping of magical energy dampened his ability to sense it. It was only because the shikigami let of a shill warble as it sensed the incoming danger that he noticed the almost invisible rippling of air blades that attempted to slice Zhuque apart.
“Avoid them!” Shinji ordered as Zhuque flapped its wings to avoid the barrage of wind blades. When it became obvious that the shikigami couldn’t keep up on its own, he took the reins by placing a hand to where its control talisman was. The shikigami turned on a dime, making sharp right angle turns to clear the blades.
Nature and physics dictated that such a movement was impossible. A sharp turn of that nature should have been impossible. But because he was a Matou, it was. The Matou were blessed with the water element, which held much versatility, including altering and manipulating the flow of prana.
His shikigami was a mass of stored prana, fed through a ritual over time and allowed to sit within a field that prevent it from diffusing at the world’s will. Thankfully his armor had charms on it to deal with the whiplash and g-forces, so he didn’t black out. But his concentration did lapse as his head felt the strain of maintaining the flow and his consciousness wavered a bit. One of the blades clipped his shikigami’s rear section as they went over the manor.
Leaping off the back of his shikigami as it fell at an angle to the forest below, he nocked an arrow and fired towards the glass of the skylight. The arrow pierced through, the force spreading out and shattering the area around it, and kept going until it embedded itself into the floor and the fuwen on the arrow’s head was triggered and inscribed itself on the floor.
Gravity was distorted in a narrow perimeter around the arrow, expanding as a pillar of light that blew the rest of the skylight’s glass into the air and, within that boundary, gravity lowered to the extent he landed safely. It was not simply lowered, but spread out with the area outside the immediate perimeter was surrounded by a boundary field that contained the excess gravity. When the mystery faded and the world crushed the boundary field as unnatural, the weight that had been spread snapped back beneath his feet and dug into the floor around it as glass rained down like a glimmering shower.
Standing within the domain of the enemy he did not know, Shinji Matou nocked another arrow and prepared to kill anything that got in his way of rescuing his sister. Starting with the familiars that burst through the door…
“RAAGGHH—” Shirou swung the bokken down, his muscles tensing and releasing as they brought the reinforced wood about to smash inhuman bone with a hardy crunch. His hands and arms reverberated as the impact resounded through the practice blade.
Then he fell back and prepared to deal with the rest that had gathered, refusing to let them surround him as he face a number of Dragon Tooth Warriors—golems made of, well, dragon teeth. He would admit that he was taken off-guard when he saw them originally and that nearly got his head cut off.
He quickly learned from that mistake. Through the trees that line the ground he fled, refusing to hang out in the opening where they could surround him. At least forcing the numbers to file through the trees would give him—
Shirou ducked into a knee slide as he narrowly avoided losing his head again from when one of the warriors swung a blade from behind a tree that was in his path. It had the privilege of shattering two that were following behind, while he spun and slammed the blade of the wooden sword onto the assailant.
He gritted his teeth, lamenting that his magical sense, filtered through smell, was faulty due to the strange boundary field that had been erected. He was fighting blind, but that wasn’t enough to deter him. He would smash every one of them in his way and then make his way to Sakura, defeat the magus behind them, and get his charge home safe.
He would be a hero who could save everyone.
He swore it!
Fueled by belief, he forced himself onwards until and through a dozen more until the sound of crunching wood spelled the end of his weapon as it rained splinters and the force of the strike knocked him back against a tree.
A single Dragon Tooth Warrior closed in for the kill and swung down its blade, the hunt over and intent to kill obvious…
Yet there was still steel in Shirou’s eyes.
Shinji found himself, after leaving the dissipating corpses of hound familiars in pieces from explosive arrows, facing a man adorned in expensive garbs that introduced himself in a pompous manner and let loose an arrow the moment the magus’ name left his lips. After all, all he needed something to label the corpse as he dug up information on why the deceased bastard abducted his sister. To his mild surprise, the arrow was deflected by what seemed to be a barrier of air weaving itself around the man like armor, constantly moving and spiraling.
The man then outstretched his hand and a bulwark of wind was turned into a bludgeon that knocked him down the hallway, to the corner, and embedded him into the wall that began to crack under his weight. He pulled himself out of it and fired arrow after arrow, before running down the turn and out of the magus’s sight.
“Stop prolonging the inevitable,” the magus declared, his pace slow and glacial as he took mere steps while believing in the solidity of his defenses. “Surrender now and I shall keep you in one piece.”
Shinji’s response was to pull out an arrow that’s head was an explosive talisman and filled the tip with prana before nocking it and aiming straight ahead. He let it fly and it approached the opposing wall, before pulling a sudden right angle turn and curving around the bend to reach the magus.
The magus’s smirk stayed on his face as he extended his hand and defenses…right until the arrow hit the spiraling defense and ruptured with a deafening explosion. The shock wave and force displaced the air and created an opening that Shinji decided to take the straight path to by shooting through the wall, nocking another paper arrow.
This one has a spiraled head that was designed to make the arrow spin as it flew. It would drill through such meager walls. Closing his right eye and reinforcing the concept of ‘sight’ in his left—he didn’t reinforce both since there was a chance he could blow out one—his vision penetrated the walls and showed the magus, looking disheveled and less than pleased that his defenses were circumvented and focused his defenses to the front, where he was certain that attack would curve from again.
The arrow was released.
The air let out a minor shriek as it was spun and forced apart, sprays of drywall and plaster following a wet sound as meat was punched through and a dry shriek escaped from the magus’ throat. The drill arrow borrowed through the man’s left shoulder after catching him off-guard, having only prepared a defense to the front, where the arrow had curved from before.
Shinji clicked his tongue in mild anger. He was trying to pierce the brain, but the use of reinforcement in only one eye and the multiple walls themselves threw him off. He would have to compensate for that the next time.
The magus thought otherwise as he gave an indecipherable yell and thrust out both hands. If the previous attack was mere gust of wind, then this one was a gale fueled by the power of a cheat sheet known as a Crest.
It was easy for people to ignore the wind on their back, but impossible to run from a wall of death coming from the front. And that’s what it was, Shinji recognized as he inscribed a fuwen into the air in front of him with his own mystic code as wind plowed through the rooms and walls, crafting a billowing wave of pressure and shrapnel that consumed everything in its path and turned it into a weapon. Taking the straight path despite the obstacles, it was clear the enemy had lost his temper and decided to resort to killing the younger spellcaster.
The defensive fuwen was torn apart after withstanding roughly a third of the force that blew out half of the top floor. The armor he wore lined with defenses blocked another third. Unfortunately for Shinji, the final third left a large piece of wood embedded in his thigh as he was blown through another wall and into a large study that was now missing the back wall, exposing the cold moonlight that shone down on him.
There was pain, but compared to having circuits engraved on his soul, it was nothing. Still it would hinder his ability to move. Behind his mask, his eyes darted around to find his bow knocked over in the corner and crawled to it, only for a squall to blow him into the wall and keep him pressed there as the magus arrived.
“You backwater magus”—he increased the wind pressure and buried Shinji further into the wall that was about ready to give way—“dare to draw the blood of one whose family is…”
Shinji tried not to smile behind the mask as the wind drowned out the man’s rambling while he applied further pressure as he closed in. Even as he fought not to blackout from the pressure, he saw the magus in front of the missing section of the wall that exposed moonlight into the room. Just where he wanted him. “Zhu…que!”
There was a shrill and the shikigami appeared at the opening, blocking the moonlight. The talismans that made up the tail end of its feather seemed to glow an ominous hue as it readied itself to unleash the sole curse it possessed. The swelling magical energy brought the magus’s attention to bigger threat, and he stopped his assault in order to shield himself.
“Rain Hell,” Shinji ordered, grabbing his bow and plowing through the weakened wall to escape the blast range. “Curse of the Crimson Plumes!”
Stating the words of release as he weaved another gravity-lessening fuwen to take the landing, the shikigami unleashed its curse and hell did indeed rain down and sound as though bombs were being dropped. The bombardment was merciless, every blast alternating between pressure and flame as they blew away the floor itself…
The bone sword was swung down like a blade of execution.
A reinforced left forearm blocked beneath the wrist made on inhuman bone, halting the execution, as his right fist smashed into the bones of the arm and they crumbled beneath the weight of his conviction. There was no hesitation as he took the blade of bone in hand.
“RAAHHH—” With the stolen weapon he unleashed a fearsome strike towards the closest opposition and pilfered their weapon to arm himself further. His empty hand was now filled with another blade.
And it felt right.
The two blades flailed in a frenzy. There was no grace or elegance in the strikes, merely a means to crush and smash bones rather than cleave flesh. A means to survive the overwhelming numbers presented before him. That ceased when one of them grabbed the sword and held it so that its hand that brandished a weapon could be swung.
“You can have it!” Shirou abandoned the weapon. His foot shot out to meet the ribcage and mass of the golem. Reinforced, the blow shattered the golem with the sound of bones breaking as he continued to fend for himself, claiming another enemy’s weapon as his own.
Fire stirred in his lungs and limbs as he struggled to keep up the Reinforcement and continued to fight. Somehow, it was enough. Somehow, their numbers dwindled to the point where he could see an end.
Of course, Shirou had no idea that Caster had simply decided to test out her new pet project on the magus in light of his efforts and refused to summon more. Instead, watching from her crystal ball, she chanted in a language that held power itself and the bone graveyard that had been built over the course of mere minutes became picked clean as the bones gathered up into the shape of a legendary creature long gone.
The False Dragon of Colchis—a failed attempt by Caster in an effort to once again work her Argon Coin noble phantasm. It took only one swipe of its mighty claw to create a shockwave that tossed the son of the Magus Killer aside like a rag doll and sent him tumbling to the ground after having broken something or other as it approached with a low rumble.
He knew some healing mysteries suitable for combat first aid, courtesy of his father’s lessons—being an assassin and all—but he lacked the skill for anything spot on in such a short time. Weaponless and outclassed, Shirou stood on shaky legs regardless in the face of such a creature…
Then came the sound of bombs dropping from the rear of the manor and from the sky fell salvation in the form of a blade that pierced the ground, the white hilt angled up to greet the warrior who had lost his only weapon.
It was obvious that a mere blade would not make a lick of difference against the enemy before him. It was bigger, stronger, and from an age older than him. It was a mystery that Shirou Emiya could not defeat.
“I am—” However, he could not fail. There was someone who needed to be saved. To do that, the enemy in front of him needed to be defeat. Without knowing the meaning of the words he began to utter, he started the spell so that he could continue down the path he walked.
For that reason, he forced his aching body to grab hold of the sword’s hilt as the dragon clawed its way forward. “—the bone of my sword…”
The hammer of a gun came down and the history of the blade was revealed as he attempted to draw from it the same as he did the Tora-Shinai. However, this time the blade demanded his undivided attention and told an untold legend of a king to the magus whose body was made of blades.
A magus and king, who hailed from Wales and bore the title of ‘the generous’ one, wielded this blade originally before his death and it was stolen from his grave and held onto by the Adeliz family, with the current owner being a magus named Reginald Adeliz. This sword was a mystic code, whose mystery lay hidden in the method of which prana was inserted, only known to the original owner. It bore a single technique, with a few minor variants—one for which the blade was renowned for and only capable of being used by the swords original wielder as he knew the key method to unlocking its potential.
The sword’s name: Dyrnwyn (White-Hilt).
Raising the blade and injecting his prana properly, he declared the name of the technique: Urddasol Ffagl (Noble Blaze)!!
White fire erupted from the blade as it was swung down and the creation of bones burned.
The dragon wailed in agony, despite the lack of vocal cords, as flames so hot they melt steel with ease, yet never once touching the flesh of the wielder or anything other than the ‘enemy’ that must be defeated were unleashed to swallow the faux dragon, consuming every ounce of it.
Victory indeed lied in the sword in his hand that sang at being used once again for a noble purpose.
“Master, do you need assistance?” Caster asked as she appeared in front of the man who held her Command Seals. Reginald survived the bombardment, a downpour of explosives that used concussive shockwaves and heat to decimate the section of the upper floor he was on. However, it couldn’t stop it all and with the building giving way before his defenses did, he wound up having enough of it dropped on him that some shrapnel had eaten into his skin and buried his legs.
He was not amused. “Kill him. Bring me his corpse. NOW!”
“Master, you’ve kept my reserves fairly low,” she said. “Even if this magus used such filthy tactics rather than an honorable duel, he still outdid you. May I request that you provide me with as much prana as you can?”
Now, here’s the thing about magi when they get mad. They make some mistakes and become so focus and driven on a sole thing, they lose sight of the wide perspective. So, he did what she asked without question, seemingly forgetting that despite appearing submissive towards him, she was the Witch of Betrayal and he was on her shit-list.
Thus it was no surprise that, while filled with her master’s mana, she drew her dagger and plunged into the man’s heart. The contract was severed by Rulebreaker and the piercing of his heart gave him a few moments to realize what just happened, before his head slumped down, never to rise again under his own power.
“Well, now that that’s out of the way, I really should deal with the children gathered here.” Caster sheathed her dagger and looked into her crystal ball as her pet project burned. To be honest, the dragon was a failure because it was too frail and weak, nowhere close to the strength of the real dragon. It was basically an oversized Dragon Tooth Warrior with much more mass to throw around.
Still, to think that young magus somehow managed to figure out the trick to that mystic code—which she admittingly did not reveal to her former Master as he had the audacity to try and command her so brazenly—so suddenly and was starting to make his way towards the building while on his last leg…it couldn’t be a coincidence.
Switching to the masked magus, she noticed he was struggling to move as well, clutching his head and chest with some kind of medicinal paste applied to the wound on his thigh to stop the bleeding. It seemed as if there was something off about him…ah, his Magic Circuit seemed to be different from his soul, as if welded on forcibly. How amusing.
Lastly was the girl, who was wandering around the ground floor in an attempt to escape now that someone wasn’t watching her, arms still tied around her back. Cute. There was definitely something dark about her, not to mention the fact that her element was such a rarity.
In all honesty, things were better than Caster hoped. Of the three that were present within her territory, at least two could be seen as potential Masters in the upcoming war and a third who could be useful in some manner or another. All she would need to do was bring them under her thrall. How hard could that be, considering two were half-dead on their feet.
She would start with the girl, of course. Out of all of them, she held the greatest interest and the greatest potential. The air distorted around her as she vanished, leaving her former Master’s corpse where it laid.
There was nothing left in his body after unleashing such a blaze. He had to resort to using the sword as a makeshift walking stick just to keep advancing. But he wouldn’t give up, despite the fact that every single thing in is body ached as he forced himself forward towards the door that led into the manor.
When it opened, he was prepared to face whatever came out to save his kidnapped friend, despite barely being able to stand on his own two feet. Thus it was a pleasant, but unexpected surprise when said friend emerged from the door, hands still tied behind her back and looking just as surprised as he was.
“Senpai…?” Sakura said, shocked at him coming.
“Sakura,” he huffed, tension giving out and his body wavering at the sight of her safe…and then, for reasons completely beyond his control, his and Sakura’s bodies seized up completely. “Wh…at?”
“You did well in defeating my dragon,” a voice carried in the air and reached his ears alone as the air distorted as Caster appeared. “I shall make good uses of your talents soon.”
The last thing he heard before the world went black, as if his brain was unplugged, was Sakura screaming for him.
Zouken watched in amusement as the son of the Magus Killer went limp and the crack in the girl widened substantially. Still, he couldn’t let a mere Servant get above her station. He may as well eliminate her now and speed up his plans.
So, with a snap of the finger, the girl’s consciousness was drowned in black.
It all happened in an instant.
The girl was paralyzed by Caster’s arts; only for it to be broken as…well there was no better way to explain it other than that she changed into something unnatural, even by one such as her. Black mire poured forth from every orifice, swallowing her and encasing her in a shroud of black with a red-outline that screamed dangerous, like poisonous animals possessed such markings in bright colors to warn potential predators.
Splat! After that, something sliced clean through the barrier she possessed around her and impaled her deeply through her abdomen. Caster looked down to see it was one of those tendrils that were almost as thin as paper.
Filling her to the brim with an unholy agony that surpassed anything she had known in life, Caster screamed. The single piercing seemed to erode a part of her being, miraculously missing her core by chance…no, not by chance.
The creature was hungry, seeking to devour her inch-by-inch in order to savor her flesh, bone, and essence. It was an abysmal void of emptiness that hungered for an infinite amount to fill it up, a being that would swallow everything on the planet before it swallowed itself into oblivion. With a wet and raspy breath from the creature, something dark and alien to even a magus of ages past, the other tendrils lashed out.
It took a great deal of Caster’s pilfered energy to teleport as far away as she could before the razor thin, paper-like tendrils pierced her further, shattering the barrier that formed her territory. Everything she had to spare would be needed to heal from…whatever the thing did to her.
Without knowing what was happening or if she would be chased down and devoured, Caster lost consciousness, right around the time that a man found her outside the steps to the temple.
That disturbing magical energy deafened Shinji, the boundary field surrounding the manor rupturing as something even more horrible took its place. It hammered at his head, constantly battering the connecting point of the soul to the body and his transplanted Magic Circuit. Shinji fell to his knees and clutched his head in agony at being so close to that thing.
Bile rose to his throat and expelled itself into his mask as he began to claw at his own flesh to stop that feeling inside his skull; unaware that a familiar of his grandfather was watching him suffer in the presence of the thing that was born of the girl until Caster had vanished. Only then did it retreat and the girl returned to her human shell, easing the sledgehammer striking at his mind relentlessly and mercilessly.
It took everything he had to stand again and start moving, the world tilting as each step was unbalanced and his mind still throbbing in pain. Using the words of release in a prana-laced voice, the mask fell and Shinji breathed in the air that was slowly returning to normal rather than a chill that originated from a void. It was like he was walking on knives the entire time as he forced himself to move…until he found Sakura and Shirou unconscious on the front porch of the manor, both still breathing and with minor injuries.
The tension that kept him strung up out of hatred and fear was severed like a string. Relief took away his legs at the sight of both of them, knowing that his best friend and sister still lived and not caring about anything else at the moment. Since the boundary field was shattered and that ominous presence vanished, the thought of safety briefly crossed his exhausted mind and it shut down.
Shinji passed out.
With Zouken- Some Time Later
Zouken looked down at the sight of his grandson before he thrust his cane into Shinji’s wounded thigh, which awoke him with a startled scream.
“Son of a bitch!” Shinji grasp where the sealed off wound was, ignoring the sudden bombardment to his senses that he had passed out next to his mask that reeked of dried vomit, to find his grandfather. “Why?”
“Because you’re pathetic,” Zouken grumbled with a crooked grin on his face. To be honest, he was very pleased with the results of last night when it came to gathering information and testing his control over the thing, but he still had to criticize the fact that Shinji failed to make it back on his own while still in enemy territory. “If that magus hadn’t been a joke, you would have accomplished nothing.”
Shinji ignored the dig as his head still throbbed, expecting nothing less from the aged worm that refused to die. “Sakura…did her and the boy make it out already? Did Sakura say why she was kidnapped and what happened here?”
“The girl is fine,” he said gruffly. “As is the boy…I’ve seen to it that they both were returned to his household by re-hypnotizing those two men who I found out front in their van. They should have been dropped off by now and then have gone about their business.
“As for what happened here, it was the first battle in the upcoming Holy Grail War,” he stated, carrying his old body around to the basement of the building and not waiting for Shinji to keep up. “The magus wanted her as a pawn to be used during that war as she is technically the heir. You can ask the girl for details later, for now make yourself useful.”
“You knew this was happening?” Shinji asked incredulously as he opened the door to the basement, noting that the enchantments on it had been broken already—probably on the magus’ death. Then he remembered who he was talking to, a worm past his prime and had participated in the last four wars. “Nevermind. What are we looking for in particular?”
He shot the boy a glance of disapproval. “Isn’t it obvious? We’re searching for a clue as to what Servant was summoned.”
The younger spellcaster flipped the switch to the lights and revealed the contents of the room. The lab reminded Shinji of an animal shelter, with cages lining one of the walls with dogs. None of them had been turned into familiars yet, and they all looked well-cared for. There other wall was filled with tomes on shelves. On a dais in the back was book that looked old and musty, despite the presence of magecraft preserving it.
“Colchis literature…” Zouken mused darkly as worms surged from his flesh and entered the gaps in the cages, feasting on the dogs that had yet to be turned into familiars with sickening crunches and dying yelps. Shinji did his best not to flinch at the gruesome scene of unnecessary violence. “A spirit from the Age of the Gods summoned as a Caster and commanding warriors made of dragon teeth…Medea, then?”
Shinji made a mental note to look up that name on Wikipedia later. “The Grail War, you’re not going to make Sakura fight, are you?”
“That depends on you, boy.” Zouken stood in the center of the summoning circle in front of the dais as the worms slithered towards him and tapped it with his cane. “You want the girl to be free, I want the Holy Grail and it just so happens that the catalyst I have procured for your summoning has been found and will be delivered shortly by your aunt. Other than that, I won’t provide you with any help, much like I did Kariya.”
Shinji’s eyes narrowed. Someone who wants the grail as much as him not assisting or taking the stage was disturbingly offsetting. “Why aren’t you entering it yourself?”
“There is something off with this war,” he admitted, “an anomaly, if you will. I can just as easily wait until the next one to claim the grail, but I will use the girl to create a suitable Master for the next war, and you most certainly will not be around.”
Shinji grimaced. Knowing the old worm, he wouldn’t hazard a guess as to how he would force Sakura into making him another Matou heir or heiress. Sakura would either have to watch as her child went through what she did or…no, way in hell would Shinji let that happen. He swore he would protect her! He fucking swore he would free her from the old worm’s grasp!
But he couldn’t go into the war blind.
He needed information. Zouken would keep the information pertaining to the last war to himself, in his mind, since he didn’t participate or keep records. But wasn’t there at another source he could access?
“The previous war,” Shinji started, “was there anyone who survived and would be willing to trade for their memories of the last war?”
“Hmph, a fairly reasonable idea,” Zouken consented as he started walking again, “there are only two survivors to the last war, and only one of them will aid you as the other should be the Tohsaka’s guardian and maintain impartiality as the moderator of the next war.”
Zouken knew about Gilgamesh and that Kotomine would probably keep an eye on things for his own amusement. They were alike in that aspect. But, there was no need to go into specifics, much like he neglected to mention the identity of the other boy as a magus—partly because Shinji’s suffering amused him, and partly because it would be another step towards his goal.
Zouken didn’t think the boy could win the war. But the girl on the other hand, she would break regardless. As long as she, her sister, her crush, and her brother were involved, it would suffice. If her brother died fighting for the girl, she would break for certain. If her crush or sister were the ones who did it, there would be nothing left to hold her together.
“I shall make the necessary arrangements for a meeting later. For now, go and collect the magus’ corpse and anything useful to have your creation bring back home…”