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Matou Shinji stood near the door to the basement with his hands balled into fists as he muttered to himself, sending glances toward the basement every few seconds.

In truth, he could barely make out the outline of the opened door as the lights had been turned off when the owner of the house had left the room while expecting him to follow soon.

It had only been an hour since his grandfather had emerged from the room he had sequestered himself in. Evidently the ritual had taken much longer than expected, but the results had been…well, very different from anything Shinji had expected; an awe-inspiring result that had dashed his hopes as surely as if the old man had berated him instead of praising the two of them for their vigilance.

"Shit." Unaware that his nails were biting into his flesh, he only pressed harder. "If that's what he was planning, what was the point of everything he said?"

"Well, I assume you realized you've been used."

The bluntness of the words was only slightly less surprising than the presence of the man who stood in the shadows of the door, having passed by Shinji undetected to look into the basement.

"Hey, what are you doing?! That's our family's workshop, you know? You don't have the right to go there."

"Oh, is that what that nasty place is?" Without even pretending to obey, the man shamelessly continued to look down. "Not that I particularly want to go down there, but if you talk about not being allowed, wouldn't that include both of us?"

It was probably fortunate for Shinji's pride that the man wasn't looking at him to see the shade of crimson that he had become, rage and humiliation sharing the spotlight.

"What did you say?!" He winced as he spread his hands, finally noticing the faint trace of blood on them. "Don't compare me to a tool like you! I'm the heir! That place is basically mine."

Finally turning back toward the teenager, the man lifted his armored arms in surrender.

"Right, right. It'll all be yours when the old man dies. That should be any moment now right? He's pretty old."

Gritting his teeth, he barely restrained himself from ineffectively striking the black armor.

"What do you want? And don't tell me you were just curious!"

"I was, though." With a harmless smile that couldn't be seen in the dark, the man stepped past Shinji. "But alright, let's say I passed by to give you a tip. If you're angry about being used, think about those that are still tools."

The meaningless words faded in the darkness as he disappeared around the corner, leaving the teenager to his ruminations.

"What the hell is that supposed to mean?"

Without considering the words, he wondered what it would feel like to shake a straight answer out of the man. Certainly he would be doing so right now if it wasn't for the fact that grandfather had told him, along with the other, to prepare for the night; apparently he had yet another task that had to be done. He hadn't even bothered to pretend that Shinji would get anything out of it this time.

…Along with the other.

That's right, thinking about it there was still that girl. Grandfather had used him, but there was still Sakura.

Without another thought, Shinji ran out of the room toward the library.

There might still be time.

He was still the heir.

The six of them spread throughout the city unnoticed, identical siblings wearing common clothes. Under the silent command of the creator, they took position near the most likely battle sites.

He was the second, taking position in an alley near the site of yesterday's clash between the ones identified as Archer and Caster. According to the data, there was a 53% chance that he would be called on to accomplish his duty tonight.

The pale, almost white, blond hair that he had been created with shifted as the wind blew, and his eyes were drawn to the darkening sky. All that was left was to await further instructions from the creator.

The uneven footsteps that had been trailing behind him for the last five hundred and fifty seven seconds reached his ears again, and he turned around only to find the alley empty. That course of action had been repeated six times since he had first detected the sound, and he wondered if he should perhaps send a report regarding a malfunction in his hearing. However it posed no obstacle to his mission so he discarded the concern again.

"Sorry about that, Two, but I don't want to be recorded."

The female voice brought an image to mind; slightly shorter than his model, with slightly darker blond hair, wearing clothes of an unusual and eye-catching blue color. As she addressed him by the moniker "Two", the chances that it was the same individual that he had encountered the previous day were high.

He contemplated for an instant that the desire to not be recorded might mark her as an obstacle before dismissing the notion; his mission was not to observe and detect threats.

"Please state your purpose."

"Purpose? Ah, I'm here to watch." There was a faint sense of amusement in the tone. "You know it too right? Everyone does, I think, even if they don't realize it. The coin isn't going to land on its edge this time, and no one can change that."

The words were nonsensical, but he dismissed that; it was probably a custom that hadn't been important enough to be included in his knowledge. From the first sentence, it was likely that she was here for the events of the Holy Grail War.

He considered pursuing his inquiry when a shift occurred in the air behind him. A silent shift without any perceptible physical difference; even when he activated his circuit, he could sense nothing more than the one presence he knew to be behind him.

"You are not alone."

With only the unconscious tensing of his slight muscles as evidence, he pronounced the statement as fact. Why was that? He couldn't understand his own action. Perhaps it was a flaw in his awareness or knowledge? It was possible this was information the creator had deemed should not be shared with the models.

"You can sense it already?" He detected a faint note of apprehension, or perhaps awe? He couldn't clearly identify the emotion simply from her voice. "Do they really know what they made? I can't wait to really talk to you."

She chuckled and he felt his fingers curl up slightly. He didn't know why, but he felt like turning around suddenly even though it would be pointless.

"You're right; we're not alone, even though there's no one aside from the two of us here." Suddenly serious, her voice seemed to come from much closer than before. He deduced that she had moved closer to be able to better respond to any attempt on his part to turn around. Analyzing her words, he was unable to puzzle out their meaning. Once more, she appeared to contradict herself. Was his incomprehension linked to the lack of completion she had mentioned before? "Well, don't worry about it; there's no time. Can you hear the storm? The battles are about to start again."

A command from the creator told them to be prepared for immediate redeployment, and he set aside any thought of the presence at his back.

With the setting of the sun, the seven Masters and Servants would soon begin the night's battles. In all of Fuyuki, the place that was the least likely to be home to such things was the Church that served as the base of the war's supervisor. Yet the solemn place that had remained untouched until now was now filled with the buzzing and screeching of countless insects that lingered outside.

There was no need for the priest in charge to question the unusual phenomenon as it had obviously been caused by someone, nor did he feel the slightest curiosity about the identity of the culprit. To begin with, the number of individual that could reasonably be the cause for this numbered only one. Having no desire to waste his time questioning the motivation behind it, all that remained was to determine his response to the unwanted intrusion.

It was unlikely that the old fool would actually wander into the Church of his own free will, therefore the constant and irritating noise was his way to lure the supervisor outside. Just like the old monster, to use treachery where simply announcing his presence would work just as well.

Taking his time, Kotomine Kirei retrieved what he would need before heading into the night, closing the door to the holy place behind him. The presence of an old man supporting himself with a cane confirmed his suspicions.

"Matou Zouken, is there are a reason for your presence? Perhaps you had decided to join this Holy Grail War and have already been defeated?"

This was the one person in front of which the priest made no effort to hide his hostility; there was simply nothing in the old man that deserved anything beyond scorn. For his part Zouken did not move, and when he spoke his voice seemed to come from their surroundings more than the old man.

"Why, can I not simply make a visit to our esteemed Supervisor?" Narrowed eyes staring at him were his only response, and he sighed. "Very well, I am here because I will have you retire, Kirei."

The harsh glare vanished as the priest's lips twitched in amusement.

"You must be joking; under what authority would you make such a demand? There is a limit even to senility."

Before a reply could be made, his hand lashed out to send a blade toward the old man's heart. Naturally there was no way for someone of Matou Zouken's age to avoid it, and just as naturally the only result was for him to scatter as a swarm of insects; Kotomine had never thought that the old man would simply walk up to his front door.

His amusement wasn't false, but neither was his confusion; the old monster wasn't the sort to take center stage, having remained in the shadows of the Holy Grail Wars until now. For him to interfere with the role of the supervisor was incomprehensible.

Before he could wonder any further, a whistle came from behind him and he reflexively jumped to the side as a black shadow landed where he had been standing. Despite having missed its target, the curse did not relent as it consumed the grass and left it a withered and black thing.

Strength came to Kirei's limbs as he tensed, alert to the next assault. A curse that consumed life? Such a thing wasn't opposed to what he knew of the Matou magecraft, but something was strange. Zouken was a withered and dying shell, so who-

The ground shook beneath him and he leaped an instant before a worm that had swelled to gigantic size emerged, the monster exploding into a torrent of insects that were more teeth and claws than flesh, reaching out to devour him. Heart racing as adrenaline filled him, he drew ten black keys from his coat and began to strike those that came for his unprotected head; though the blades had never been meant as close-combat instruments, they were more than a match for such primitive assailants.

When he landed on the ground, dozens of bugs fell with him as the remnants of the swarm retreated after the failure of their surprise attack. From the darkness of the night, hundreds more came to surround him, forming a cage of whirling flesh. Bees impossibly possessing a stinger half their size, worms tipped with an oversized claw, open maws filled with teeth; the gallery of abominations displayed themselves openly, daring him to attempt to escape.

"Interesting." His voice betraying nothing of the tension in his body, the Executor did not falter before the gnawing horde. "I had been under the impression that this was beyond what the current Matou generation could manage."

"It is." The skittering of insects lessened as a strong voice pierced the night. "Don't get me started on those youngsters, they're so averse to reaching their potential. Fortunately, their predecessor is here to show them the way."

A section of the swarm parted, revealing the figure behind it; a tall man with sharp eyes and curly hair wearing a kimono who stared at the Executor.

"I hope you will forgive me for taking my time with this, young man. After centuries of suffering merely from walking, I wish to savor this moment."

With a bloodthirsty smile, the impossible existence called Makiri Zolgen snapped his fingers as the swarm converged on the priest.

Screams and crumbling walls could be heard coming from a nearby street as Rin ran toward its source, Lancer keeping her pace with ease. Their nightly patrol had proven surprisingly successful as Lancer had quickly detected the nearby presence of another Servant, yet the sound emanating from the direction they had begun to move toward indicated that something more was happening than simply someone waiting for a challenger.

"Are you sure there's only one Servant?"

"Yes, even Assassin would have to reveal his presence when directly engaging another Heroic Spirit. Perhaps the second warrior is a summoned beast of some kind?"

Lancer's voice was as clear as always, and Rin couldn't help but feel a bit envious at the fact that he could be so relaxed when she had difficulty maintaining this speed while talking. His suggestion wasn't without merit; even if no other Servant was present, that didn't make it impossible that they were responsible for whoever the second combatant was.

How inconsiderate of them to fight in such a public place! It was possible that even the police had already been called, and there was a limit to the scale of what could easily be hidden from the general populace. As the Second Owner, she would have to harshly punish those who had exposed themselves so shamelessly without taking the precautions that Caster had.

Yet when she turned the corner and reached the scene, she felt that outrage vanish from her mind, taking with it any energy to move.

Beheaded, mutilated, impaled, torn apart and dismembered, corpses that seemed countless in their grotesqueries were strewn across the street, hanging from streetlights or had been struck into the walls of the surrounding home with such strength that they had become embedded in them.

It was not a battle that had resulted in civilian casualties as she had assumed.

How had things reached such a state? For Rin, who had stumbled into the scene, this was incomprehensible. Even as she averted her eyes, her stomach lurched from the mere memory of the glimpse she had innocently taken.

Amidst the carnage, heavy boots splashed in the blood that had flooded the street as the figure of a man stepped forward, tall and imposing. In his hand the corpse of a child, which he threw to the wind like a broken doll.

"You are not the ones that I mean to challenge." Standing inside a nightmare, Rider's voice filled the night. "Nonetheless, my enemies shall not be allowed mercy. Young girl, forfeit your claim upon the Holy Grail and kneel; only through that path may you keep your life."

Behind him, her blurry eyes made out the presence of sobbing and panicked civilians, their escape prevented by a tornado that had risen on the other side of the street.

"Why…why would…"

Eyes wide in horror, her voice failed her as the man stopped his advance.

"Because it is what must be done. I had only intended to slay a dozen, but it seems the people of this country do not know their place; I ordered them to be still, yet they fled after I killed the first. In the future, the next group will know better. Still, with your arrival I must cut things short."

As he spoke, the raging wind moved forward to engulf those that had been trapped behind the one who sought to kill them and the unnatural force of nature, becoming tainted red as they were torn apart within it.

"I ask a second time, and will not do so again. Young girl, will you forfeit your life, or your status as a Master?"

The answer was clear; she would simply order Lancer to kill him, a man like that didn't deserve to live.

She would…

The flow of blood reached her feet, and she felt her strength leave her as she fell on her knee, the silhouette of the man growing larger into the night, staring down at her like an insect.

She would die if she refused. It didn't matter that Lancer would fight for her, it didn't matter that this man's actions were utterly repulsive, it didn't matter that he would continue to kill even if she accepted.

She would die if she refused, that was the only thing that reached her consciousness, an absolute that stole her voice and resolve.

Next to her the thin frame of Lancer stepped forward, nothing more than a match against a forest fire.

"I apologize, but it seems your presence is affecting my Master, I find myself forced to remove you."

How could he speak so calmly? No, how could he speak at all?

"You are a fool to challenge me. It was out of mercy that I offered you and your Master the chance to peacefully surrender." The harsh, overpowering voice rose again. "I am the one who reveres the great gods, the merciless champion who shatters resistance, the glorious king, the word of whose mouth destroys mountains and seas."

With each word the volume of his voice and the wind rose, until it became a howl that gathered that blood of every man, woman and child rose into a great wave that crashed against Lancer.

"I am Ashurnasirpal, be honored that it is by this hand that you will fall!"

With the declaration of hostilities, Lancer shot forward like an arrow with enough force to part to the tide of blood that was about to fall on his Master. In the same motion, his right hand became a blade as it aimed for Rider's throat, but a great sword was now in the king's hand and with it he parried the blow.

The tremendous crash forced Ashurnasirpal back despite his size, and he could only grit his teeth as he met the smaller man with everything he had, their blade exchanging blows relentlessly as he attempted to stand his ground. However, it was only a farce; the moment they clashed for the fourth time, Enkidu's left hand moved forward, becoming a spear that would take the king's heart.

The heavens roared and lightning struck the shapeshifter, sending him flying back toward Rin as electricity coursed through his frame. He shook his head to clear his vision as Rider took the lull as an opportunity to regain his balance.

What had happened? A quick look confirmed that there were no others nearby, and his opponent's prana had remained stable with no sign of being used.

Seeing his confusion, Rider offered a bloodthirsty smile.

"I am the glorious king, the shepherd, the protection of the whole world, who holds the favor of Ashur, the lord who called me by my name. To oppose me is to stand against the world, Lancer. I judged Herakles, the hero who lifted the heavens, to be worthy of that task; if you wish to take his place, then cease this folly and display yourself to the fullest."

Lancer frowned; by now, Rider must have had some suspicion as to his true identity, since there weren't many heroes who could turn their arms into weapons. For him to be unshaken despite that must have meant that he was still holding back another trump card, or was he truly that arrogant?

No, staring into those cold eyes Enkidu understood Rider's nature. The man had truly intended to face the most renowned hero in a straightforward battle, and now that he had an inkling of Lancer's identity considered him an adequate substitution.

It wasn't arrogance, and it wasn't purely a matter of pride either. It was simply the application of the rule by which Rider declared himself a king; that all should bow, or be made unable to stand.

"You hesitate still?" Impatiently reaching a conclusion from Lancer's lack of attack, Rider raised his sword before him. "Then I shall take the initiative. Ashur! To you I dedicate my blood, my life and my rule!"

The sky shook as the harmless clouds that floated through the night sky gathered, becoming a storm in the heavens. And behind Rider the raging winds that had torn apart the fleeing crowd reignited, nature's rage rising against Lancer.

"Rin!" Turning back to his recovering Master, Lancer shouted for the first time. "Leave, now! I can't shield you against this!"

He didn't have to see if she listened to him, as an instant later a great beast emerged from the storm behind the king; one of the two divine guardians that had opposed Saber.

Very well, two could play that game. As the lion's claws reached for his throat, Enkidu became a great beast of stone, his growing horns drawing blood from the beast as they emerged from his head while its claws harmlessly struck against him.

Yet nature's wrath wasn't so easily evaded, lightning incomparable to a natural occurrence struck him directly, blasting apart his stone skin and briefly disrupting his control of his body as the guardian used the distraction to retreat.

There was no time to play, he realized; this battle was a question of enduring the assaults long enough to end Rider.

Yet the moment he raised his head to search he found himself in a great maelstrom of wind and was forced to thicken his limbs merely to control his movement and stick to the ground, and he was made to throw himself to the side to avoid another lightning strike. His eyes were wounded by the sheer pressure of the wind, and he found himself having to keep them shut to avoid losing them entirely.

That was fine, he had no need for eyes; he could clearly detect Rider's presence hovering in the air above his position.

Turning his feet to steel so that they would better transmit the lightning into the ground, he began a greater transformation even as the storm attempted to rip him apart, his body thickening and growing large as two wide appendages emerged from his back, finishing the destruction of the houses at the side of the street.

When the lightning came, it was a great dragon that received it, and he roared at the night's sky as the beat of his wings blew away the storm meant to pin him down and brought him high into the air.

As he had known he found Rider in the sky but the chariot that the man rode was not made of iron or wood; rather it was in the form of a great storm, drawn by two guardian beasts. The man could not possibly have foreseen this form, yet he showed nothing but grim determination as he raised his sword to the air once more.

A great voice bellowed, coming not from Rider but the heavens themselves as lightning began to gather high above, individual bolts gathering together into a great mass that shone like the sun.

An uncontrolled discharge, the likes of which should never occur in these wars, but Enkidu understood quite well; at the moment Ashurnasirpal wasn't a man who fought an opponent, but a disaster that crushed everything in its path.

Moving to prevent the calamity, he flew as fast as his hastily made wings could, and from his throat emerged a great torrent of flame.

Opposing his roar with their own the two guardians beasts bellowed as they generated a great gust that blew the flames back toward him. He continued unfailingly, pushing through flame and wind, blowing apart the chariot through raw physical might.

Yet as the two beasts escaped on opposing sides, he saw that his target was no longer in his sight.


Overshadowing even the raging wind and crackling lightning, he heard a great bellow as Ashurnasirpal, brandishing his blade, completed his leap above the dragon that Enkidu had become, and the calamity in the heavens fell with him as he struck his blow.