A/N: Heyo everybody! Been a while hasn't it? I know I haven't exactly been active lately, but here's this to change that! During the school year I got heavily into Bloodborne, and recently I go into the Fate series. After watching Fate/Zero and Fate/Stay Night: UBW (and doing extensive wiki research) I thought it would be a great idea to make a Bloodborne Fate/Stay Night Crossover. While on the 12-14 hour road trip to my family vacation, I took the time to write most of this chapter, and I just finished polishing it today. I hope you enjoy it.
Now, just so you're aware, this story doesn't follow Rin or Shirou as main characters. Naturally they will play heavily into it, since the story can't function without them, but as you might expect, the story will focus primarily on the one who summons… well, I suppose you'll find that out at you read. I hope you enjoy it!
Fate/Beyond, Chapter 1
The Bell's Toll
Why things happened the way they did, he did not know. He did only as he was instructed. Everything else just seemed to fall into place really. "Kill a few beasts," the old man had said. "It's for your own good," the man had said. But somewhere along the way, killing a few beasts turned into something much, much more. How could he have predicted this? How…?
It was long ago, before the Calamity; that horrid wave that destroyed the world, he was. That was all he could say. He was and is. That was existence after all. There wasn't much more to say. He hadn't desired fame. He hadn't desired fortune. There was a problem, and an open position. He seized one and solved the other. It started out so simple… Yet it came to this…
The ringing bell symbolized the panic with which Tsukiko dashed madly through the school's spacious hallway. The bag slung over her shoulder slapped none too gently against her waist with every stride, the length of which only increasing the power behind the object's assault.
'Of all days to wake up late…!' She wailed in her mind, berating her early morning lethargy. Of course, that's what happens when one stays up all night doing researching. But that was no excuse to her. She didn't need an embarrassment this early in the day, which is what she'd no doubt get if she walked (or probably crashed) into class.
As she ran, she realized the halls were probably spacious because of the time; students were likely already in their home rooms. 'Shoot'! Don't be late, don't be late, don't be late…!' she chanted in her mind.
She turned the corner, room 303-A just up ahead. Her destination in sight. With a small cry, she threw herself at the door, sliding it open with an apology. "I'msosorryI'mlate!" Only to be greeted by the sound of the late bell. Now all eyes were on her, the twenty odd characters in the room staring at her. The teacher, a young brown haired woman, Fujimura Taiga smiled at her.
"Well, look who just barely made it by the skin of her teeth! You might want to start setting your clock five or six minutes earlier, eh, Tsukiko-chan?"
Tsukiko blushed as everyone seemed to regard her, many with amused smiled and suppressed laughter. Although she was a former student, Fujimura now taught English class in her home room. She wasn't a bad teacher either, and Tsukiko's difficulty with the language meant she and her had spent significant quality time tutoring. For that reason, she knew the woman wasn't deliberately out to get her, but that didn't make the fun poked at her any less embarrassing. As it was, she blushed and tried to shrink into herself as she moved over to her seat.
"S-sorry, Fujimura-sensei…" She laid her head down her desk and covered her head with her hands. This was going to be a long day.
Fortunately for her, it didn't last as long as she'd expected it might, and when the final bell rang, she made sure to have all of her things gathered and ready to rush out the door, which she did. While it may have seemed normal for her to rush in to school, to anyone who knew her, it was not normal for her to rush out. Mainly because she was almost always ready to fall asleep at the end of the day. She wasn't a morning person in any form of the phrase, and that grogginess always caught up with her at the end of the day; she'd go home, take a nap, do her work, maybe go out with friends. She would have liked to get involved with the clubs, but she never knew which one to join. The personal atmosphere of the club meant a lot to her, and she wasn't very good at determining such things.
Regardless, there was one thing she could say she was decent at.
Unlike other families who were well known for having generations of magic behind them, her father had learned magic from her grandfather, who had learned it on his own. As a third generation magi, the weight of refining the craft fell to her. Her brother was talented, but showed very little interest, even when pressed by her father.
'Lucky niisan,' she grumbled internally. He was the first born, and as it seemed with all stereotypes, he had been gifted with most of the prowess that existed in her family's genes. Sadly, it seemed very little was left for her. But what she had, she was determined to hone; she was a hard worker after all.
That was why, when she got the message from her father about an upcoming event, she couldn't turn it down. The Mages Association had informed her father of something called a "holy grail war." Apparently it was a big deal in the magic world. She didn't know why her father had passed it on to her and decided not to participate himself. She hadn't thought to ask, and at this point she didn't see a reason to. She was committed, she was going to win this competition if it killed her. Obviously if it was a bit deal then winning would bring a lot of fame to her family. 'That and I'd be recognized as the best mage in the world!'
When she'd agreed, her father told her someone from the Association would be in contact with her. She'd gotten a call not long after from a man named Kotomine, a priest from a small church outside of the city. Apparently he was a proctor of the event, and would offer the church as a neutral ground where those unwilling to continue might go.
'Not that I have any intention of losing,' she thought with a confident grin.
But before she could win, there were a few things she needed to do first. Thankfully she managed to avoid any of her friends and acquaintances on her way out and onward to home. She felt bad about trying to avoid them but she unfortunately didn't have time for them, today of all days. She'd apologize to them properly later.
Her mind raced as she did, thinking of all the things she needed to do to prepare. Because of this, the way home seemed shorter than it usually did, and before she knew it she was home. She was so surprised by the fact that she almost ran head first into her own flat's door. Looking both ways to make sure no one had seen her near blunder (and seeing no one) she hurried inside. It was a sparse little place; her family was neither well known nor especially wealthy, but it was what she could afford, with a little help from her parents.
She set her bag down and looked the wall mounted mirror near the entryway. She brushed her long, brown hair back into position with her hands, adjusting her outfit as she did so. She was a modestly sized girl, only slightly taller than average, with a thin frame that bespoke a proper, healthy diet and great care in maintaining. Her breasts weren't much bigger than the next girl's, nor were her waist or hips. But she did have one thing she was proud of; her eyes. She'd been blessed with a pair of quite striking emerald green eyes, bespectacled as they were. In fact, in that regard, both she and her brother had been lucky; his eyes were heterochromatic, with one eye a piercing cerulean blue, and the other a genetically improbable deep, faded red. Neither of their parents had such spectacular eyes, which made her wonder if it might have had something to do with magical genetic manipulation.
What? Every parent wants their kid to be unique, right? She certainly wouldn't put it past them.
Satisfied with the way she looked, she turned to the main living space. Where a coffee table, couch and television would be in any other house was instead a large, white circle chalked out on the wood floor. It would there that she would summon her very own servant.
A faint beep made her ear perk up, and she turned to the answering machine on the kitchen counter. Its little red light was blinking. Removing her shoes and walking over to it, she pressed the playback button.
"You have one new message and four old messages. Last message January 31, 1:24 PM," it began followed by a high tone, and the message began. "Hello Yasaharu Tsukiko. This is Kotomine Kirei, proctor of the Holy Grail War. As you're no doubt already aware, the deadline for participating is tomorrow. Only two slots remain, the Archer and Saber classes. Summon your Servant and establish your Command Seals immediately. If you decide not to participate in the Holy Grail War, I would suggest seeking shelter with the Mages Association. You know how to reach them. I look forward to your decision."
The tone repeated and the machine robotically restated the time it was recorded. Tsukiko sighed. 'I don't need you nagging me. I know I'm out of time.'
The only issue she had, besides the deadline, was the lack of a catalyst for the summoning. Summoning a Servant was almost always random. By knowing the correct modifications to make during the summoning incantation, one could increase the chance of summoning the class they desired. Even further, if one had a special item related to a specific hero of the past, they could use it as a catalyst to summon that very person. However, even with a catalyst, there could be drawbacks. If a one used a catalyst to draw out a lancer of the past, but all that's left is the Caster position, then you'd be stuck with a lancer who knows little to nothing about being a Caster. In short, you'd be handicapping yourself.
And she had neither a catalyst, nor knowledge of any incantation modifications. In short, whoever she got was bound to be random. There would be no guarantee of anything in her ritual. But she'd promised her father she'd fight, and that was what she planned to do; she would row up that creek, paddle or no paddle.
Letting out a short breath, she smacked her fist into the palm of her hand. "Alright, time to get started."
Reaching into her bag, she pulled out a vial of vaguely mercuric, crimson liquid. She wasn't entirely sure what it was, but her mother had told her it would help facilitate a stronger Servant summoning. "No time like the present I suppose."
Taking a deep breath, she unscrewed the cap and tipped the vial to the side. But before any of the liquid could fall from the rim, a loud knock at her door startled her out of her action. She almost dropped it. "C-Coming!" she cried as she recapped the thing and set it down next to the summoning circle. She didn't know who would be at her door, so to be safe she unfurled a large rug and slid it over the alchemic pictogram. That done, she hurried to the door, opening it quickly.
Outside was a man dressed in blue with a package in hand.
"One package for, uh," he looked at the brown box, no bigger than half a cereal box, "Yasaharu Tsukiko." The upward inflection at the end of his statement begged the question of her identity.
She gave a curt nod. "That's me."
He gave a polite smile and handed the package to her along with a sheet. "Sign here please."
A short scribble later and he tipped his matching blue ball-cap and departed, the door closing behind him.
Tsukiko turned back to the inside of the room and looked down at the package in her hands. It wasn't very large, nor especially heavy, and it rustled with the sound of popcorn foam pellets. It did have some weight to it though. She looked at the address label and her eyes widened.
"From papa?" she questioned in pleasant surprise. She reached over the counter hurriedly, grabbing a knife from the kitchen and set to work slicing the tape apart. It was carefully sealed, more so than usual packages. Finally she managed to flip the flaps open and look inside. Surrounded by the packing foam was an even smaller black case, metal and locked with several latches. On top of it was a folded envelope with her name delicately written in cursive on the front.
'A letter too?' she wondered. It wasn't often that she received letters from anyone, let alone her parents would just as soon call or email her.
She set the case down and slid her thumb under the envelope's flap, unsealing it with careful tugs; she never liked the way other people just tore into letters. Inside was a folded page of paper with a hand written letters on it. It was clearly drafted with care, if the neatness of the handwriting was anything to go by.
It read as such…
You can't imagine out much pain and pride we felt when you actually agreed to participate in the Holy Grail War. I know we pressured you to do so, but still hearing you agree to it gave us mixed emotions. I know… we know you are ready for this. You're as great a mage as any other in our family, even your brother if he ever got off his high, lazy horse. He says hello by the way; he wanted me to tell you that he's always watching out for you. He tells me you don't talk that often. I know you live in separate countries, but you should really try to communicate more often. Family is the most important thing to a mage. The older, more renowned families have forgotten that. They focus on bloodlines when they should focus on their own flesh. Your mother and I love you, and want you to be careful in the War. Remember, the Church is always there to help you if you lose your Servant.
Speaking of which, if you haven't already summoned one by the time you get this, then that's perfect. I should preface this portion of the letter by urging you not to tell your mother about this. She'd be very upset with me. Inside this box is a case. Inside the case is a catalyst for you to use. Our research has progressed exponentially, thanks to your brother. To think it was simply a hunch of his… But it has led us to this. Open the box and use the catalyst in your summoning. If all goes well, give it to your new Servant. They will hopefully know its significance. Be careful though, Tsukiko. This Servant will likely be different from ordinary Servants. The mechanics of the summoning ritual may have adverse side effects. We love you sweetheart. Be careful.
With all our love,
Family & Co."
Tsukiko smiled fondly at the words of affection and set the letter down. The abnormal label with which he addressed the letter was a commonality in their household. It had started when Tsukiko had naively written it on one of her first letters after seeing a small family store with a similar title. She'd been but a child then, and it had amused her parents so much they'd adopted it as their way of identifying themselves in every letter, text and email. Except her brother; he always had a penchant for ignoring their parents' antics and remaining down to earth.
She sighed wearily. The mere thought of her brother exhausted her. It was obvious he cared for her and their family, but he never made any great strides to spend time with them or things like that. His sense of humor was always high-browed and lofty, and rarely did she ever understand them until the joke hit her days later. But he was her brother, like it or not. Putting up with him was something she'd come to accept as a life-long labor of love… or something like that.
She looked down at the case, still inside its package. 'Father said it was niisan's hint that helped them find it…' Her brother, as lazy as he tended to be, was also extremely smart, and when it came to magic, there were very few who were as intuitive. It was that very nature that gained him admittance to the Clock Tower, the highest educational stratum for magi. How he'd managed to help her parents while he was learning in Britain, she hadn't a clue.
Reaching and pulling the black box out, she brushed off the clinging puffs of foam and held it in her hands. It felt weighty, though not exceedingly so. It was probably reinforced. If there was a catalyst inside, then it was no doubt very old and was of great value. She'd need to be careful with it. Unlatching the three locks on either side, she lifted the lid carefully. She blinked as she beheld the object inside.
It was small, silver bell. At least, it had probably once been silver. Now it was covered in caked dirt and grime that had petrified on the outside. Lifting the bell from its red velvet resting place, she blinked as it revealed a small piece of paper underneath. She lifted it to her face and read it. In the same handwriting as her father it read, "Don't ring, -Dad."
Strange that he'd tell her not to ring an ancient bell, but then there were forces in this world that behaved strangely around seemingly insignificant objects. If her father said so, she'd abide for now. Grabbing a small stand, she placed it at the forefront of the circle, flinging the carpet from atop it after. She picked up the vile she'd left on the floor and stepped into the circle. "Now, I think…" she looked around to make sure everything was in place. A diagram hung taped to the nearest wall which she used to crosscheck her work. "…I think everything's set. Circle, materials, catalyst even…" She ran through the short check list in her head nodding with each word. "Alright, everything should be ready. Oh gosh, this is nerve-wracking. "
Taking several deep breaths, she calmed her racing heart and focused on the task at hand. All the window shades were already shut and the dim light of what little sunshine made it through illuminated the room just enough for her to see what she was doing. With a gulp, she unscrewed the cap of the vial of liquid for the second time, holding it out at arm's length and tipping it to the side. As soon as the first drop hit the floor, she began the ritual.
She commenced the incantation, speaking each word clearly and carefully. The tipped carafe let drip the mucous-like liquid, and with each drop, the circle seemed to glow brighter, a deep, flowing crimson light pulsed, like a heartbeat. She could almost feel the pounding energy gather around her, slip across her skin.
"Fill, fill, fill, fill, fill," she chanted. "Repeat five times. But when each is filled, destroy it. Set. Heed my words. My will creates your body, and you sword creates my destiny. If you heed the Grail's call and obey my will and reason, then answer me." When the last drop of liquid emptied from the vial, she reached down and placed her hand in the pool on the floor. "I hereby swear that I will be all the good in the world. That I shall defeat all evil in the world. You seven heavens, clad in in the three great words of power, come forth from the circle of binding." She clenched her teeth as she managed to recite the incantation perfectly. There was but one more line and she would be done. One more. Just one, and she would be a Master. With a valorous cry, she finished.
"Guardian of the Scales!"
The light intensified greatly, a red, magic current crackling like electricity around the circle pulsing and exploding in a faint wave of power from the center of the circle. Anything lighter than paper was blown around, making Tsukiko flinch and close an eye carefully.
When the tumult died down. She blinked. The ritual was complete, so... where was her Servant?
"Don't tell me… I…" had she failed? Even if one performed the ritual there was no guarantee that one would get a Servant. She vaguely recalled her father saying that the Grail also chose which participants it would grace with a Servant. "Was… was I… not… worthy?" she wondered as tears threatened to form in her eyes. Her throat tightened and her heart sank, dropping to the pit of her stomach.
No. She wouldn't cry. She would try again. The liquid was still usable. The catalyst was still there. She could do it.
Sniffing back the thin mucous in her nose, she ran the back of her hand over her eyes, wiping away any tears that might dare to escape.
There it was, on the back of her hand. A strange symbol panted in red. 'Wait, are these…' Her heart soared. "Command Seals!" She leapt joyously as she cradled the precious system in her hand. Command Seals were proof of Mastery. She was a Master after all! But then…
She stopped her celebration short, confusion beginning to set in. 'If I'm a Master, then I did summon a Servant. But where…?' She looked around to room but saw no one. Had she messed up? Had she gained command seals but not summoned? Father had said that there might be side effects to using the particular catalyst. Was this one?
"No way… I'm a Master without a Servant? Right off the bat?" Thinking back on it, she'd never been the lucky child. And this was horrible luck. She'd as good as lost the war as soon as she joined it!
She took a step back from the circle, her legs threatening to give out beneath her. She froze as her back hit something… unsolid.
Blinking, she turned slowly, her eyes widening with both wonder and fear.
There it was. Her Servant. She backed away in shock, her startled orbs taking in the creature in several glances.
It was black; that was the first thing she noticed. The second thing she observed was its height. It stood head and shoulders above her. She considered it an "It," because it wore an intricately designed silver helmet that tapered to a point in the front. Over its shoulders flowed a strange cloak, made of black strips of cloth that in the dark looked like great opaque feathers. Its metal greaves were nearly hidden by a heavy leather trench coat that opened below the waist. Its arms were covered in striking ashen colored gauntlets, the fingers of which were wickedly pointed.
She breathed in awe of the imposing figure now standing in her living room. It did not speak. It simply stood there, observing her it seemed.
"A-Are you my Servant?" she asked uncertainly. She'd never done this before, and although there wasn't really any other explanation except that it was, she wanted to make sure.
However instead of answering, it merely cocked its head slightly. After a few short seconds, its neck straightened and it nodded. "…So it seems."
The voice was slightly muffled, less so than she would have thought, but it was deep and clear. "It" was actually a "he" apparently.
"I-I see," she said, not really knowing what to do now. Well, there was really only one thing she could think to do.
"My name's Yasaharu Tsukiko. It's a pleasure to meet you…?" She extended her hand and trailed off, realizing she didn't know either the class or the actual name of the person in front of her.
To her surprise, he didn't shake her hand. Instead he took it in his right, bowed at the waist and lifted her hand not quite to its face plate, as if he were about to kiss it. Seeing as he still wore his helmet, this was probably the closest thing to a respectful greeting as she would get.
"You may call me…" He paused uncertainly. She wondered why for a moment before he continued. "…Hunter."
Tsukiko blinked. She might not have been entirely familiar with the Grail Wars, but she knew the basics well enough. "Hunter?" she parroted, "Is that your name?"
"My class," he offered simply.
"Your class? But there are only seven classes, and I've never heard of a Hunter class before. Granted I'm not awfully familiar with the system, but I don't think there is such a thing." She placed a hand to her chin thoughtfully. What was she to do about this? Did the Grail decide this? Even with a catalyst, summoned heroes were stuck in whatever classes they fit best (out of the pool of remaining available classes). The grail never generated new classes… did it?
Her brain clicked and she remember what he father had told her. Firstly, about how things might go awry with the summoning, and secondly, what he told her about the catalyst.
"Oh, right!" she hurried over to the pedestal and picked up the small bell carefully. "My papa told me to give this to my Servant, if I got one."
She held out the instrument in both hands. To her surprise, the helmed man looked… surprised. Not that she could really tell considering his face was concealed, but his body certainly spoke it. Plucking it delicately from her hands, he held it up to his face. She wondered how he could even see; there were no eye slits that she could discern on the metal headpiece.
"Where did you get this?" he questioned, surprise evident in his voice.
"My family are archeo-magi. Have been for two generations! They look for ancient magic and learn about them. Even my magic is based on ancient techniques. I suppose they must have found it during one of their searches. Do you know what it is?"
He didn't respond immediately, but eventually looked at her squarely. "This is mine."
Tsukiko wasn't sure whether to be surprised or a smart-Alek. Of course it was his bell; that was why he was summoned. "You sound surprised."
He turned from to look at the bell and shook his head. "No, you wouldn't understand. There were once many of these bells. I suppose I'm simply surprised that it was mine you found."
Tsukiko smiled at him. Perhaps he had once thought it lost. "Is it precious to you?"
He gave a short nod. "In several ways, yes. In many others, no. When rung, one may summon allies from other planes of existence to aid you for a short time. Doing so however allows invaders from other worlds to kill you."
Tsukiko's eyes went wide. "Y-You're joking!" she exclaimed. The blank look he gave her (emphasized by the blank helmet) seemed to well enough indicate he wasn't.
"From what knowledge the Grail has imparted to me, time has advanced far beyond my era. By your calendar, I'm quite ancient."
"How ancient?" Tsukiko asked, unsure of how she would react to his answer. She'd never heard of such a trinket.
"I couldn't say for certain," he answered, remaining silent afterword. Apparently he didn't even have a guess.
"Then how can you be certain you are old?"
He looked off to the side slightly. "A feeling. Memories are returning to me. The Grail seems to be having difficulty."
Tsukiko looked down slightly. "T-that's probably my fault. I'm not the most well learned mage. I probably messed up something in summoning you."
He seemed to consider her response. "Hm, possibly. But I think there's something else at work here. I can… I…" He stuttered and went silent. Still.
She blinked and looked at him hesitantly. "Hm, Hunter?"
He didn't respond.
"Are you alright?"
Still nothing. She stepped away from him quietly, wondering if something bad were going to happen. Her mind ran through all conceivable "side effects" he could be affected by, from rabid madness or spontaneous explosion. Of course all of them were grim for her.
After several long moments he moved, his head lowered from where he was staring straight forward. His left hand clenched and unclenched idly. "…I see. So that's how it is." He turned to his Master. "My apologies."
Tsukiko smiled, relieved. He wasn't going to explode... probably. "So you're alright then?"
He nodded. "Your concern is welcome, but unnecessary."
Tsukiko blushed. ""S-Sorry," she apologized. "I've never really interacted with a Servant before, so I'm not really sure how… you know…"
He seemed to regard her words quietly. Taking a few steps forward, he placed a wickedly gloved hand on her shoulder. "The contest is for the Grail. If you want it, then I will get it, one way or another. Whether I do or don't should be the only concern you have regarding me."
Tsukiko nervously frowned. "That's not a very friendly thing to say. Servants may be stronger than Masters, but I still feel…" she hesitated slightly, thinking of a good word to use. "…responsible for you. A-Although you probably feel just as responsible for me…"
"The Grail compels me to do so."
The student sighed. She should have expected something like that. But there were more pressing matters to attend to at the moment. "So, if you're a Hunter, then you must have different skills than the other classes. Could you explain some of your strengths?"
He looked at her for a moment. "I'm a Hunter. I hunt."
The hint of amusement in his voice made Tsukiko sigh in exasperation. 'This guy'll kill me before anyone else can.'
Standing was becoming tiresome. "Seriously though, if you're my servant, then I need to know more about you. That's basic strategy, right?" she asked, as she found a seat.
He likewise leaned against the wall, crossing his arms over his chest. "It is. But more importantly, I need to know your skills. I'm a Servant and a… heroic spirit, as you call them. I can handle myself fine. I need to know you can do the same."
"M-Me…?" she started, not expecting the turnaround. "Well, I'm a mage, so I use magic." Realizing the simplicity of her own words, she elaborated. "My parents taught me to use astral magic. For example I can shoot a small star out of my hands, or I can make flash bombs with them."
Hunter regarded her for a moment before nodding. "Show me."
"Wha-? Show you? O-Okay… um… Here!" she struggled for a moment to think of something before stretching her arm out, a small bluish white light lifted from her palm, coalescing into a little orb, which she directed into the air and made it dance around them. "See? I can even control them after I create them."
Hunter watched as the light traveled around them. With lightning fast reflexes, he reached out and caught it, crushing it in his palm. Tsukiko jumped at his action. "H-Hey!" she cried.
He offered no apology as he looked down at his hand and flexed his fingers. "Stings, but no real pain."
"O-Of course!" she cried, cursing her short stutter. "If I wanted to I could make one that could really hurt, but what's the point right now?"
Hunter re-crossed his arms. "I asked you to show me your magic, not your party tricks." She grimaced at him but neither pursued the issue further. Instead he let out a short breath and pushed himself off the wall, feathery cape flowing behind him. "Regardless, I'll trust your words. For now I suppose I'll perform some reconnaissance of the premises."
He turned to leave, but Tsukiko wouldn't let him get off that easy. "Hold on a minute!" she ordered, pointing her finger at the man. "I still need to know what kind of fighter you are! What weapons you use, what your style is. You don't have to reveal your entire arsenal to me, but you can at least tell me that much, right?"
Hunter turned with a huff, which sounded oddly like there was a smile behind it. "See for yourself."
He spread his arms wide, shifting the bird-like cape to reveal his torso. On his left hip was a sword. It had an ornate steel hilt, intricately crafted with a copper or bronze cross-guard. The sheath was similarly designed, with burgundy leather strips thickly wrapped around the front and fixed to his belt with a single chain. The slight, downward curve of the sheath indicated it was some sort of katana shaped weapon. On his right hip was the handle of a gun; an old, sixteen, maybe seventeenth century pistol. The barrel, from what she could see was even longer than his forearm, and was likewise was intricately styled and molded.
Her eyes widened. The Servant before her certainly seemed to defy the classifications. If only for his sword, she would have thought him a Saber. If only for his menacing garb, she might have thought him and Assassin. If only for his gun, she might have thought him an Archer. But he was none of the above, and yet seemed to incorporate aspects of each.
The high school student couldn't help but wonder at him. 'A Hunter….' She breathed. 'It's certainly something to call home about.'
"So, which are you better at? Sword or gun?"
"Both," he offered lowering his arms. "In my life, being a Hunter was a profession, each one of us trained in both ranged and melee combat. Some of us, however, excelled at both."
"And you're one of them?" she questioned.
His response was to bow at the waist slightly, crossing one arm to the opposite side as he did so.
Tsukiko let out a breathy sigh. Why was she tired all of a sudden? Perhaps summoning took more out of her than she thought. "Well, I guess I'll eventually see you in action anyway. I'd still like to learn some more about you, and where you come from." She finished with a stifled yawn, which Hunter took note of.
"Tomorrow, perhaps. Tonight you should rest. No doubt summoning put a great deal of stress on your mana."
Whether it was the lethargy or the logic in his words that compelled her to nod, she wasn't sure. "Yeah *yawn*, I guess that's fine… Can I trust you to look out for me while I sleep?" Before he could answer, she blushed as she realized how one might take her words. "I-I mean, outside the house of course!"
Her blush seemed to amuse him and she heard a smirking breath from beneath his helm. "Of course, that's what I assumed." He bowed again and she relaxed. "Worry not," he assured, "I'll manage security for tonight. Rest now, Master."
She gave a nod and he dematerialized, foregoing his physical form. Deciding enough was enough for the day, she pushed herself out of her chair and went over to her bedroom. She fell asleep moments after she hit her mattress.
The fact that she felt far more alert today than other days had nothing to do with how she'd awoken. At least, Tsukiko wanted to think so; she hoped it was just her being more alert for enemies (even though Hunter had assured her he'd be watching from close by). But it probably wasn't the case. When she'd awoke, still in her clothes from the previous day, she looked to her clock only to realize she'd actually woken up early, which was strange since she wasn't a morning person. Strangely, she felt more energetic and refreshed than normal. Deciding not to dwell on it, she shimmied out of her clothes and jumped into the shower.
When she stepped out and into the kitchen clad in nothing but a towel, she was suddenly reminded why she'd fallen asleep so soundly last night. All of the furniture that had previously been moved out of the way of the ritual circle had been replaced atop the rug that usually covered the encircled hexagram. But it was the person sitting on the couch that caught her attention. Hunter was seated comfortably, book in hand, her laptop sitting on the coffee table in front of him. She'd frozen when she saw him, momentarily forgetting that he would be there, and with her in naught but her towel… Well, you get the idea.
He noticed her presence seconds after she'd arrived. He cocked his helmed head at her, giving her surprisingly nonchalant "Good morning. I've prepared some coffee for you," before returning to his book.
Her face blossomed pink and she nearly screamed as she dashed back into her room with a slam. If he'd been surprised or affected by her outburst, he hadn't shown it all morning. It was her fault of course for forgetting that he would be around. Several hours after dawn, Hunter had decided it would be safe enough to abandon over-watch and instead spend some time researching the world he was now in. But having experienced the near mortifying event, she was… not necessarily on edge, but certainly more aware.
As a Master, she was mindful of his presence more keenly than she would have thought possible, though the ability was apparently hampered by morning bleariness. Would have been nice to know before, but at least she knew now.
It also didn't help that as soon as her feet touched the school's grounds, she felt the effects of a field of some sort. But beyond the uncomfortable, lingering listlessness, she wasn't sure what to make of it. Was it set up by another Master? Or was it perhaps something set up by the Church to protect the youth during the war? She couldn't be sure, but she'd figure it out later.
Instead of focusing on classwork like she should have been, her mind was occupied with the small book in front of her. It was, for all intents and purposes, an abridged compendium of Holy Grail War goings on, rules, guidelines, and general information. Nowhere within did it mention a Hunter class. In fact, it seemed that heroes with guns were few and far between, bordering on nonexistence. According to the book, because guns are a tool of war so easy to use, few who wielded them ever became famous. A quick Google search of famous gunslingers revealed only a few by name who could even potentially be heroic spirits. And none of them looked anything like Hunter. During lunch, she'd eaten on the roof. Hunter was already there, in spirit, watching over the school grounds. Apparently, as a Hunter he was acutely aware of his surroundings.
"Hunter," she'd said, getting his attention, "who are you, really?" She didn't add any extra jammer about how he was being unfair by not introducing himself or how it frustrated her not know the name of her Servant, but her question seemed to hold more weight that way.
His only response was a moment of silence followed by a "If I knew, I'd tell you."
She'd meant to ask "what's that supposed to mean?" but the bell range for lunch to finish. She hadn't managed to broach the subject again since.
The brunette felt a tingle run down her spine at the shrill voice of Sasame as she sprang from the roof's doorway.
"A-Ah, Sasame. What brings you up here?" she asked, not really wanting to know; now wasn't the time to distract herself with friends. These Grail Wars were big deals, and each one more progressively brutal. If she were spotted with a friend, they could use them against her. Then again, maybe she was just worrying too much.
"What brings me up? You dummy!" Sasame said as she poked a finger at Tsukiko's nose.
Sasame was an average looking girl, but her naturally spunky attitude gave her an allure that made her popular with the boys in ways most girls weren't. "I haven't seen hide nor hair of you for a week! And here I thought we were supposed to be friends," she said with a mock pout, crossing her arms and turning away.
"Oh come on, it hasn't been a week," Tsukiko countered. "Like, a day and a half maybe. And even then, it's a normal thing this close to exams season."
"All the more reason to spend time together now," Sasame argued, planting her hands on her hips. "Besides, now that the extra stove's working in the cooking club, you can come by and help me make some treats!"
Tsukiko raised an eyebrow at her friend. "They finally replaced that thing? How long's it been? A month?"
Sasame shook her head. "Actually, it was that Emiya Shirou guy. He's always helping out with appliances and whatnot around the school."
"Emiya Shirou," Tsukiko repeated contemplatively. "You mean that red headed kid?"
"Yep! The very same! Turns out he does a lot of favors for anyone who asks him," she said while leaning forward with a leer. "I'm thinking of asking out on a date, just to see if he'd do it."
Tsukiko gave her friend a disappointed frown. "That's not very nice, Sasame. What if he thought you actually liked him? I've been on that side of the field; it isn't fun."
"What?" the girl asked innocently. "It's not like I don't think he's cute, or that it wouldn't go anywhere, but I would like to see if he'd actually do it."
She threw her hands up and sighed, relenting. "It can't be helped, I guess. If you like him that much, I guess I'll back off." She finished with a smirk and a twist as she turned away, the bell ringing for the next class.
"Sasame!" the young mage cried, picking herself up and chasing after her friend. "That isn't what I meant at all!"
Tsukiko sighed as the bell rang, this time for the last time. Like most days, it was stressful enough dealing with her acquaintances. Not to mention she was sure she bombed her English test. It may have been the easiest language to learn, but she certainly had a hard enough time with it. But it was necessary, especially as a mage. English incorporated lots of multi-cultural and multi-lingual idioms and subtlety's that, when grasped, opened doors to even more languages. If marijuana was a gateway drug, then English as the gateway language.
Her brother already knew it. 'I might have to end up asking him for lessons, though we're on such different wavelengths, I doubt it'd help any.' She'd have better luck with one of her senpai. "Oh well, until this war is over, I'll probably be too stressed out to even worry about schoolwork. But at least I can try to keep my perfect attendance record."
Not that it actually made difference on her grade, but she wanted to at least try to be as diligent a student as possible until she couldn't any longer.
"Forget about school," came the disembodied voice of her Servant, startling her with its sudden closeness. "Regardless of who's participating, war is war. People die."
"Oh, right. I forgot our spirits are linked…" she realized bashfully. Of course he would be able to communicate with her telepathically. "That reminds me, how is it you know so much about the Grail and everything? Did you have Grail wars in your time period?"
There was a slight pause before he responded. "Not exactly. However, when I was summoned as a Servant, the Grail imparted most fundamental knowledge I would need in order to function in this time and place."
'But weren't you researching things on your own earlier?'
"I said 'fundamental,'" he reiterated, emphasizing the word. But he offered no more. She'd half expected him to elaborate, but his silence continued.
She didn't pursue the issue. She hadn't forgotten his words from the previous day.
"Tomorrow, perhaps," he had said. But she wasn't so simple as to expect him to keep to those words. He seemed to be the noncommittal type, who, when faced with an action they didn't want to do, would simply brush it off until later, never intending to actually do it, later or at all. Her brother was the same way, and she knew from experience pestering him about it would only discourage him from complying. She had no choice but to let him come to her, so to speak.
'Actually, I could order him to tell me with a command seal,' she realized with a glance down to her hand. But even the idea was so wasteful she discarded it as soon as it popped in her head. 'Command seals can force Servants to do things they couldn't normally do, so they're exceptionally valuable. I shouldn't waste them on something like that…' But what she wouldn't give to have a fourth seal!
The Servant's call drew her from her thoughts. "What is it, Hunter?" she asked worriedly; his tone wasn't the one he normally used.
"I think it's best if we forgo any of your 'club activities' today."
She blinked in surprise. "But I promised Sasame I'd go with her. Actually I promised her a while ago, but the club's stove has been-"
"Even so, I think you should go home straight today." There was that tone again.
She narrowed her eyes thoughtfully frowning. "Hunter… are there enemies nearby?"
Her Servant's reply was slow. "Yes."
She wondered why Hunter didn't just come out and say so. What was he afraid of? "We should be ok. There will be others there with us, and no mage would dare expose themselves… Right?" she finished uncertainty.
Hunter's voice was uneasy, but calm, collected. "There's no guarantee. I don't know magi moral code, but humans are humans. As long as there aren't any witnesses, they'll be confident to do as they please."
"That includes eliminating any witnesses present."
The air hitched in Tsukiko's throat. "T-Then I need to warn Sasame!" if she felt embarrassed by shouting at a person no one else could see, she clearly didn't care at the moment, even though there weren't many around in the first place.
Hunter did not respond to her cry. She'd half expected him to tell her not to go; to wait and avoid contact with anyone who she wanted to be safe. He didn't and that made her nervous. Ordinarily she might not have concerned herself with her friend; of the seven Servant classes, the only truly malicious servants were Casters. They had a tendency to use humans to augment their prana and mana generation. Schools would be optimal target locations; pick off a few students here or there, and everyone would think they were sick or skipping. No one would start looking for them for several days.
Granted, there was a one in seven chance that the Servant lurking at the fringes of Hunter's senses was a Caster, but if there was even a one percent chance that her friend was in danger…
But what would she tell her? What would she tell anyone? For that matter, was it fair that she only tell Sasame? Shouldn't she tell everyone she could? That was her moral obligation, right? But she couldn't, not reasonably. She might be able to come up with some sill excuse to get Sasame away, but she had nothing to convince others-
She bumped into something, or rather someone, if the sharp cry that came from the other indicated anything. Tsukiko grimaced as her skull ached, their heads having collided during their impact. Rubbing it tenderly, she raised her head to address her bumpee. "Ouch ouch ouch…! S-Sorry I-" He eyes widened as she beheld Sasame rubbing a bump on her head as well.
"S-Sasame!"she cried in relief, only to question what her friend was doing here, rather than in her club room. "What are you doing here? I thought you had your cooking club?"
Sasame blinked at her friend. "What are you talking about? Didn't you hear the announcement after school? All clubs are canceled for today."
A wave of relief rushed through Tsukiko's body. She must have been too caught up with her conversation with Hunter to notice the broadcast earlier.
"O-Oh, is that so? That's a shame, I was looking forward to watching you cook today," she said with a forced smile. She'd eaten Sasame's cooking before. It wasn't something she wanted to repeat. Then again, that was a year ago…
"We could still go back to my place and I can whip something together!" Sasame offered cheerfully, not wanting to disappoint her friend.
"No no, that's fine," Tsukiko assured, waving off her suggestion. "I have things to do tonight anyway. Maybe next week."
"Aww, are finals hitting you too?" Sasame asked, surprisingly divining Tsukiko's next excuse.
"Y-Yeah," the young mage nodded, a bit more relief in her voice than she'd intended to reveal.
Sasame gave a sigh and a nod. "Oh well. Next week then," she promised with a pointed finger. "I'll make us a victory meal to celebrate your hard work!"
Tsukiko smiled at her friend and agreed.
Tsukiko fell to her back exhausted. The cushions absorbed her impact comfortingly, and she let out a long breath filled with stress. "If this is what every day for the rest of the War is going to be like, I might as well not even go to school." She placed the back of her hand to her forehead wearily. "On the other hand, nobody knows I'm a Master, and the odds of anyone at the school being a Master as well are pretty unlikely..."
She trailed off thoughtfully. Her Servant had been quiet for most of the trip back. Though he spoke when spoken to, was cordial and polite, he didn't seem to be interested in conversation. Then again, if he spoke to her, she'd probably respond, which would be weird for anyone else watching. She'd look absolutely crazy! But in the privacy of her own home however...
"Hunter, was there anything strange you felt around school? Anything out of the ordinary?"
Hunter materialized across from her, leaning against the wall. "Like the Bounded Field all around the campus? Obviously. Though what it does, I haven't a clue."
Tsukiko sighed wearily. "I was afraid of that. And I'm not very knowledgeable about such things. I could ask dad, but…" She didn't want to rely on any outside help. If she was going to win, she'd do it on her own. "I wonder if it would hurt to check it out myself…" she pondered aloud. She immediately dismissed the idea. What good would it do to tinker with things she had no experience with? Bounded Fields were beyond her capacity at the moment. No amount of late night cramming would change that.
'Even so, if it isn't the Church's doing…' That meant that there might just be a another mage at Homurahara high school, as unlikely as it seemed. Indeed, the strange sensation she felt at school didn't feel entirely comforting, which is something she would have expected from an organization of Faith. 'No, wait, the Church rivals the Mages Association. They don't use spells at all. So then… the Mages Association set it up? But why just the school? Why not anywhere else?'
The more she considered the evidence, the more she became convinced it wasn't any sort of benevolent Field. The implication therein was bad. Very bad.
"Hunter," she finally spoke. "If the Bounding Field is malicious, how would advise me to find out and/or destroy it?"
His masked face regarded her stoically for a moment before responding. "Not to."
Tsukiko gave the man an irritated look, but he quickly elaborated.
"I know a trap when I see one. Even going near it is a bad idea. You asked my advice, and there you have it."
Tsukiko hmm-ed and placed a thumb to her chin. Hunter, being a, well, hunter, certainly knew what he was talking about. But to not do anything about it would mean she'd be abandoning her friends and schoolmates to what might potentially be a trap.
"True it may be a trap… but I refuse to let my friends get hurt when I could have done something."
Hunter regarded her for a moment, his silence making him unreadable. Finally, after several quiet moments, he pushed himself to his feet. "Then it can't be helped."
She eyed him, surprised. "Y-You're not going to argue?"
He stepped forward, his frame towering over her. "You've made up your mind. No point in trying to dissuade you."
Her emerald eyes held his unseen gaze for a time, her surprise evident in her face. "Hunter… you're actually kind of nice, aren't you?"
A huff was heard from beneath his metal head. "I'm almost insulted. However…" he gave a pointed look at the young mage, making sure he had her attention, "I would wait until tomorrow, avoid school altogether."
She gave a small smile and nodded. "Fine fine, I'll take your advice, Hunter. But tomorrow night we investigate."
The man gave a short nod and vanished. With a dimming smile, Tsukiko felt fatigue hit her, heavier than it had the night before. She couldn't help but wonder why she was so exhausted. Granted, summoning Hunter should have taken all of her mana, but as tired as she'd felt the night previous, she'd slept relatively light, all things considering. Perhaps it had something to do with Hunter himself? Or maybe she was just realizing the exhaustion she'd actually had for the entire day. Who knew? But she wasn't about to turn down a soft, comfortable bed for the world.
She undressed and hit the bed.
The world was red. The dying light of the sun as it gazed it's last moments over the tops of the great city beyond. The streets were quiet, still. But they were not empty. All around, the cobblestone roadway was littered with corpses. Man and beast bled where they lay, the pooling river of life blood splashing sickeningly with each step taken. More enemies were ahead. She moved mechanically towards them.
More blood splayed across the buildings on either side, the bodies landing in pools of their own liquid life. The sun was setting, and with its departure came the moon. The pure, snow white moon.
Great beasts stood before her. She cut them down. The moon turned red. Monsters now; the night grew stranger. A man stood before her, old and withered. He spoke, but she did not hear. She spoke, but she felt no words come out. He stood from his chair, tall and unbelievably imposing. She readied herself.
They lunged at each other.
All went black.
Tsukiko blinked, once and then again. The ceiling stared back at her. She moved her arms slightly, feeling the warm, damp sheets of her own bed. A light sweat covered her body, which she could feel as she shifted on her mattress.
'A dream?' she blearily wondered. She sat up slowly, staring down at her hand, the same had that bore her precious command seals. 'No,' she affirmed. 'That was way too organized to be ordinary, and way too lucid too.' She never dreamt lucid dreams in her life, though she wished she could, nor could she remember them. But the dream she'd just had was still unnervingly fresh in her mind, each diluted second crystal clear in her mind's eye. 'What was that then?'
She thought blankly for several minutes, replaying the dream over and over in her mind. It didn't make much sense to her.
Turning to look at the clock, she realized she'd woken up several hours earlier than normal. In most instances she'd forget about going back to sleep and just get ready for the day. But, she wondered if she might be able to continue the dream if she slept on it. Laying back down, replayed the dream again, letting sleep once again consume her.
She would dream it again, only this time, all she could see were eyes.
She was unable to shake off the strange sensation throughout the day. She'd awoken in a sweaty dampness, her eyes blinking emptily at the ceiling as her mind tried to make sense of the abnormally vivid dream still flowing through her head. For her to even remember a dream was rare. To remember it so lucidly, even more so; nigh on impossible, if you'd asked her the night prior. She couldn't really explain why she felt it was important, somehow, but it did. No particular reason either. But as the morning dragged on, she couldn't help the unease she felt when Hunter spoke to her, even as rarely as he did.
Perhaps she was just over analyzing things, or perhaps she should mind her own instincts. She wasn't sure which the safer path was. She wasn't exactly known for being instinctive after all.
The day progressed smoothly otherwise. No one unusual stopped by, and Hunter noticed no other Servants or familiars in the vicinity, which with him being a "hunter" could only mean he was correct. She spent what time she wasn't trying to decipher the previous night's experience into preparing an anti-Bounded Field counter-measure. She'd been forced to call her father for help on the subject, but he'd been more than helpful in guiding her to material that could help her. Bounded Fields were a broad subject, and she only knew the basics when it came to functionality. Her father seemed certain that what she experienced was a Bounded Field, though he wasn't entirely sure what its purpose was.
As she'd thought, Casters were well known for using their magical prowess to collect mana from unsuspecting humans. Mana was to Servants like food was to humans. Some it good, more is better. However, other Servants could do the same if their mage Masters could utilize Bounded Fields of their own, which meant they might not be dealing with Caster. Tsukiko was thankful for that. Without knowing enough about Hunter to utilize him, she wasn't sure how they'd fair against a Caster class Servant. Hunter neither scoffed, nor confirmed her worry.
Her best hope was that it was Assassin or their Master. Assassins weren't well known for being exceptionally strong. From what little information was made available of the previous Grail Wars, at least to lower class mage such as herself and her family, the Heroic Spirit which most often took Assassin's role was Hassan-i-Sabbah, who was arguably the weakest of the Servants. Then again, it was always possible another Heroic Spirit could have been summoned. The Grail was bound to be unpredictable like that.
In fact, knowing as little about Hunter was beginning to aggravate her immensely. "How can I be expected to trust him if I don't even know his name?" she mumbled to herself irritably.
She hadn't expected him to respond.
"Because I'm of two minds on the matter."
Tsukiko jumped as Hunter stepped into the room, his black cloak flowing behind him. "O-Oh! You… could hear me, couldn't you?" she asked embarrassedly, hoping, though not really, that she hadn't offended him. It was a valid concern after all.
"Obviously. Though I understand your apprehension, ultimately. It's just… difficult for me to explain it to an ordinary human."
"Hey!" she cried indignantly. "I may be human, but I'm no ordinary human! I'm a mage of the Yasaharu family line!" She jabbed a prideful thumb into her chest in defiance.
"No, you're positively ordinary," he countered flatly. "What I speak of is not your magical prowess or your intelligence. It's your human comprehension."
She regarded him skeptically. "What, you're saying I couldn't understand who you are? You're just some ancient Heroic Spirit aren't you?"
Hunter turned the regard her with a quiet huff. "That's exactly what I mean." He turned and walked towards the door. "Anyway, we need to get going. The sun has set and it's time we off."
He opened the door and turned, holding it open as he waited for his Master. Tsukiko frowned and stuffed the many papers on the coffee table into her satchel bag. With a huff, she strode past her Servant, sticking a finger in his face. "Don't think I'll forget this."
She wondered if he was the sarcastic type who'd think, 'Of course you won't.' He was sarcastic, but his humor was very dry and spars. For all she knew, he believed her. 'Good for him if that's the case.'
She walked quietly after that, Hunter vanishing into the night. She felt his presence, so she wasn't concerned about him running off on her; he wouldn't do any good just standing around after all. But again, that was assuming his skills as a scout were capable. This was why she needed to find out who he was exactly as soon as possible. But his words intrigued her. He was of two minds on the matter? Her human comprehension separate from intelligence? Just what did he mean by that? She'd get her answers eventually, she was determined of that. If worse came to worse, she'd use a Command Seal to do so, though she hoped he was compliant enough not to force her to waste such a precious tool on something as mundane as a background explanation should have been.
The streets were dark, save for the sequential light from the streetlights on one side of the road. The twinkling of starlight could be sporadically seen between the thick, drifting clouds in the sky, silver lined puffs occluding the ambiguous moon. Hunter's invisible form traveled ahead of her, their distance never less than fifty meters, and never greater than eighty.
Their trip was silent, save for her footfalls and even breaths. The quiet gave her time to think, but for all the thinking she'd been doing the whole day, a distraction would be overly welcome. Still, her attention was solely focused, perhaps overly so, on Hunter. She only had so many pieces with which she could frame the puzzle that was her Servant's identity. A gunslinger slash swords man who lived in the fifteen to eighteen hundreds, crow-cloaked, helmed, armored, and indistinct. It wasn't much to go on.
When he wasn't looking however, she'd done some digging of her own. Unbeknownst to him (and most of her friends) her glasses were electronic, with a built in recorder camera. With it, she'd snapped some decent photos of his weapons and did an image search to try and find anything similar on the web. She'd found some references to old world weaponry and some Japanese sword smiths, but nothing distinctly familiar to him. It was entirely possible that he was the embodiment of some sort of legend that hadn't circulated as widely as others. Considering the bell was the catalyst that summoned him in the first place, she'd found only one reference to it, and that was in a picture uploaded on a popular image hosting site. The picture featured a dozen individuals all holding the bell, hand-under-hand beneath it. Their excited smiles bespoke a fortuitous discovery, and she quickly reverse image-searched the picture. It led nowhere.
A dead end, but if it had been uploaded, then it had no doubt been shared somewhere. She wasn't sure where to go from there. None of the major search engines had answers for her, and if they couldn't find the source, what could?
Perhaps father would know? She hadn't thought to ask him in the face of the looming threat of the unidentified Bounded Field. 'Priorities,' she reminded herself. She may have been a participant of the Holy Grail War, but she was also a mage, and her family had their own code of honor. Her duty was to protect the innocents who didn't even know magic existed. Then she could worry about winning the war.
"Hunter," she called. There was no answer, but she knew he was listening. "Is the Grail so important that it makes humans forget themselves? Forget their own morality?"
Hunter broke his silence, his words filled with aged knowledge and wisdom older than her. "Some hardly have any morality of their own. Humans have always stepped over other humans to achieve their own ends. An omnipotent wish granting device like the Grail is the ultimate prize that any human would sacrifice the world for. Those who seek power care little for the losses along the way, and those who do simply consider them the price of purchase."
She could feel his eyes on her, even as far ahead as he was. "Make no mistake, Yasaharu Tsukiko. Humans haven't once changed since History began. Selfishness is the first son of Pride, and Pride is the root of all evil."
"But what about heroes who stand against Human folly? There's good in the world too." She said it with a slight plea in her tone; there was no way every human was evil.
"Civilizations rise, advance, give birth to heroes, and inevitably fall. The heroes they spawned likewise fall with them. But even that desire is selfish. Protection. Salvation. Inspiration. Exploitation. Domination. The folly of man is the vice that dooms us all. We desire what we desire, and we desire it at the negligence of others' wishes. To pursue a want is to trample others beneath our pride."
Tsukiko blinked, his words making perfect, logical sense, despite her displeasure at hearing them. The fact that they made sense angered her. The world shouldn't work like that.
"And because our pride gives birth to want, which feeds our pride, we fuel the fires of evil like the sun produces flame. An endless burning circle of self-destruction. As long as Adam's sinful blood flows through our wretched veins, humans cannot break free from this truth."
This was the first time Tsukiko had heard Hunter speak so elaborately. So often he kept to himself, never speaking unless necessary. But yet all this time he harbored such wisdom. 'And hate…' she realized. His words were sharpened with derision; a subtle, but unmistakable disgust and self-loathing. He hated humanity. He pitied its feeble incapability. She wondered… what could have caused such cynicism in him? What had happened that affected him so?
"Hunter…" She held a clenched fist to her chest sadly. "Who are you?"
Her words were quiet. They held no authority, nor anger. They were pleading… Sad.
Her answer was a gust of wind as her body flew into the air. Her breath left her and she felt the cold, but firm grip of her invisible Servant around her chest and legs as he carried her away.
"H-Hunter?!" she cried as he slid to a stop some great distance away. He didn't respond, and she became aware of the presence of another. Turning her gaze to look down the street, she spotted the form of blue and white clad man. His hair was indigo and he stood strong with a confident smirk on his lips.
"Ho," he breathed in amusement. "A third Servant in a single night, huh? Looks like I'm just all sorts of lucky, right? My invisible buddy."
With a flicker, Hunter's form faded into existence, his arms dropping his charge gently to the ground. She landed on her feet, her surprise evident on her face. "This presence… a Servant!"
"Bingo. Though I wish I could fight you in earnest, I'm a bit burnt out. My Master's calling me back, so I can't play with you tonight. Another time, perhaps?"
Tsukiko's eyes took on a fierce determination and she planted her feet. "Hold it right there!" she demanded, bringing the enemy Servant to a stop.
"Huh? What's the problem?"
"If you think you can show yourself and then just expect to run away, you've got another thing coming!" she threatened, ready to give her Servant the order to attack.
With a bemused face, the man lifted both arms in front of him. "Oi oi, hold on now. Let's not get hasty. I showed myself as a gesture of good faith. You'd have sensed me before long anyway. I'm asking for a favor here. Of course that means you get one as well, barring any Command Seals to the contrary. What'd'ya say? It's a fair deal."
Tsukiko glanced at Hunter trying to gauge his reaction, but as always the guy was a stone wall. "How can we be sure you'll keep your word? We don't know who you are, or who you were. Your honor could be worthless."
The blue man's face darkened. "I can't blame you for thinking that, but don't you dare disrespect my honor." With a flourish, a streaking red blur spun around him until it came to a rest at his side. It was a long red staff with a tapered tip. It looked heavy, and easily sharp enough to cut through ordinary steel.
"Lancer," Hunter deduced quickly.
"That's right," Lancer replied. "As one of the three Knight classes, you can rest assured that my word is trustworthy. It's a little too early in the war to make enemies of too many participants in one night, don't you agree?"
Before Tsukiko could contemplate the deal, Hunter stepped forward.
"The nature of this favor… What does it entail?"
Lancer gave a friendly, if not warm smile. "Don't worry about the details," he said waving off their concerns. "I'm not much of a martinet. Anything within reason is fine."
Hunter cocked his head to regard Tsukiko. Her eyes narrowed knowingly; he was leaving the decision to her. She placed a finger to her chin thoughtfully. It seemed almost too good to be true, for the price or relatively nothing, she would get a favor from a hostile Servant, honorable as he appeared to be. But at the same time, leaving him go could come back to bite her. Perhaps he'd manage to take out some other Servants before that time came.
"I'll tell you what," Lancer continued, leaning on his pole arm lazily. "Since you two look to be out on the prowl, I'll throw in an opportunity your way."
His disarming smile was unnerving her.
"You're probably not too keen on letting an enemy Servant slip away so easily, not when you could at least try to kill me. So instead of me, there are two more servants near Homurahara High School. They're the ones I fought. If you're keen on killing Servants tonight, I'd head their way. Maybe you could pick off the winner."
He seemed agreeable enough. Tsukiko eyed the man. "And we have your word?"
"A favor for a favor," he affirmed, extending a hand. Hunter made no motion to take it.
For his part, Lancer didn't seem the least bit offended, waving off his apathy with flattering grace.
"Very well then. We'll accept your offer, Lancer. As you said, a favor for a favor."
Lancer's smile seemed to brighten. "You do me honor. There's more of this time period I'd like to see before I get taken out, not that I have any intention of dying," he commented offhandedly. "I'll take my leave then."
The man in blue faded away as he dematerialized, his presence diminishing as he retreated. Tsukiko let out a breath that had been collecting in her chest.
"You handled that well," Hunter praised uncharacteristically. She paid it no mind.
"Man I'm tired now. I was tense that entire time."
She got no comfort from her Servant as she regained her composure. Her mind returned to Lancer's ante.
"Hunter, what do you think? Can you take on two Servants at once, in the worst case?"
"What I think is irrelevant," he stated with unnerving ease. "A Hunter must hunt."
Without warning, he vanished in a blur of speed.
"Wha-?! Hunter!" she yelled after him.
"Remain hidden. I will confront them alone. If they team against me, I won't be able to defend you. If you wish to win the Grail, live to summon another Servant."
His echoing voice in her mind enraged her. "What the hell are you talking about?!" she stomped as she watched the small dot in the distance. "Do you want me to waste a Command Seal?!" she threatened.
Her response was silence, but it spoke as much as words might. If she really wanted him to cease, then so be it. Otherwise, he would do as he would.
"GrrrrRRRR! You big idiot!" She stormed after him.
The moment she'd arrived on scene, she'd been stunned. No that wasn't quite the word… enraptured really. She'd never seen a fight between Servants, and now she began to realize why Hunter had told her to stay behind. There were three distinct colors dashing in and out through the field. Blue, red and black. Her human eyes could barely track their movements. But as she continued to watch, she began to see more and more. And she saw him, her Hunter, dancing about like a dueling animal. It both intrigued and dazzled her.
The red one wielded dual blades, one black, one white. The other wielded no weapon whatsoever, or at least she thought so before she spied the traces of magical wisps of air surrounding the weapon, concealing it from sight.
And then Hunter, wielding a katana-like saber in one hand and elegant firearm in the other. He was… beautiful, for lack of a better word.
Terrifying might be that better word.
Rin could only watch as the deadly dance ensued. The fight was too close to a brawl to be called a battle, and too intricate to be called a scrap.
The moment Saber had revealed herself, Rin had been all but dumbstruck. Here was the Servant she'd meant to summon, fighting her Archer. But as much as she had wanted Saber, she couldn't well route for the other team, not with a War to be won. Archer immediately leapt into action, fending off each of her invisible attacks with relative ease, just as she did the same.
The trouble came when the third interloper decided to weave himself into the fight. The dark of night made it difficult to make him out, and with each move, she became more and more confused.
He'd appeared out of nowhere, standing menacingly over both combatants as they stopped to acknowledge his presence. Without so much as a word, he drew his sword and dove into the fray. At first she thought him to be Assassin, with the way he looked and his silence in the face of his opponents. But as the fight continued, she became more and more unsure.
Archer spun, slashing with both blades, blocked by Saber. She pushed him aside as the intruder swung his katana and was parried away.
With a toss, Archer threw his left blade at the crow-garbed fighter, and to Rin's utter surprise, the masked man withdrew from the shadows of his cloak a long barreled pistol. Without needing more than a quarter of a second to aim, he fired, the bullet shattering the offending blade with a shocking clang. Archer tch-ed and formed another, identical blade in his hand and dove back in.
Rin stood in shock. A gun slinger? And a swordsman at the same time? She wasn't sure what he was.
"Haaaa!" Saber swung with both hands, smashing through Archer's defense, even as he immediately summoned two new blades before the pieces of the last two hit the apex of their broken flight. A bang resounded as Saber raised her blade, blocking the bullet, which based on the way Saber grimaced and recoiled, must have packed significant punch.
But when did he have time to reload?
A second shot rang out almost immediately after the first, just as Saber lowered her weapon to charge. Her surprise was evident as she raised her armored left hand to shield herself. The gauntlet caved under the force, spider webbing dents appearing in an instant. Without giving time to repeat the action a third time, she attacked the crow, paying no heed to Archer right behind her. With a slash, the crow met her attack with a deflecting strike upwards, leaping away with surprising speed and agility. But he wasn't fast enough to escape Archer as he appeared behind him, both blades descending like a headsman's chop.
It was barely perceivable, a small, powdery dust spewed from his belt, and in an instant, he was gone.
Archer's strike met the earth, blowing it to smithereens. His look of surprise indicated a great deal and both he and Saber eyed each other's backside. Crow's reappearance was instant, blurring into existence even as his blade descended toward Saber's blindside. But the woman wasn't as blind as he might have thought.
With a flash of steel, his blade stopped still, grasped tightly in her gauntleted left hand, her sword, invisible as it was, pointed and stopped just short of his heart. The only thing that kept her from stabbing forth was the barrel of his gun pressed firmly to her forehead. Her gaze met his, hidden though it was. She could tell their wills were warring intensely with each other. And they might have continued to do so were it not for the whistling of metal streaming through the air. With a flourish, both separated and brought their blades to bear, deflecting the pair of short swords targeted at their necks, thrown courtesy of Archer. Not to be left defenseless, light lanced in his hands as another pair of twin blades replaced the last two.
A brief silence followed. Rin tentatively called to her Servant. "Archer, can you handle both of them?" If he couldn't, then there was no reason to stick around. She had no intention of losing the War on the second day.
"Likely, as long as they don't double team," he responded blandly, his eyes never leaving the two in front of him.
"You need fear no unfair play here, Archer," Saber spoke, her regal tone full of authority and confidence. "I have no intention of letting either one of you make it through tonight." She lifted her invisible blade to her side, her eyes shifting over to the crow-garbed Servant.
His only response was the flick his thumb over the hammer of his pistol, pulling it back with a click. His intentions seemed similar.
Rin clicked her tongue against the back of her throat, a grimace spreading across her face. Archer could take one or the other, but she wondered if he was being honest about being able to take both at the same time. If they turned on each other, his Archer class abilities would be more suitable, but it looked like aside from a single pistol, the fight would be a melee affray.
With a flash, Saber turned to her left, swinging the blade in a large horizontal arc. Without missing a beat, Crow flipped the blade upside down and intercepted the strike. Clearly though, he'd not expected the force the enemy Servant put behind her strike. He grunted audibly as he was thrown into the air, her swing rising and lifting him off the ground.
In a flash she turned and dashed toward Archer, her blade angled for a lethal blow on the red-cloaked bowman, the dust of the street kicking up behind her. She howled, a shrill battle cry that came with the swing of her sword.
Archer flipped his blades in both hands, bracing himself to somehow parry her.
A flash of red. A prickling sensation of magic. Saber stopped dead in her tracks, skidding to a halt some meters in front of Archer.
Rin blinked in surprise. She knew that magic from experience. 'A command seal?'
Saber turned her head to glance behind, anger evident on her face. "Are you mad, Shirou?!" she demanded indignantly. "I could have defeated them handily, yet you ordered me to stop!"
Hastened footsteps could be heard behind her as a young, red headed boy appeared. "Just hold on, Saber!" he complained as he came into sight. "I have no idea what's going on! If I'm your Master, at least fill me in!"
Rin blinked in shock. Was she seeing who she thought she was?
"You would demand such a thing when the enemy is before us?!" Saber protested, her body clearly straining to resist the boy's order.
Rin felt an ironic smile spread across her face, and she could feel Archer's questioning glance without even having to see it.
"Oooh? So that's how it is, my good novice Master?" she asked with a grin, drawing both Master and Servant's attention. "For starters, good evening, Emiya-kun."
The look on his face was priceless. "T-Tohsaka?! What are you doing h-"
He couldn't finish his sentence before a blast of air and light exploded from behind it. Rin covered her eyes in pain as the light flashed in her vision, thankfully mostly occluded by Shirou's form.
Both Masters turned to see the crow-garbed Servant, back step from a black scorch mark on the ground in front of him, directly behind Shirou.
Both blinked in surprise.
"You stupid idiot!" came a shrill, nagging voice from further down the street. "What kind of Servant are you if you force me to stop you like this?!"
The helmed man turned his head to regard the individual, a young girl, no older than they. Rin recognized her immediately, but she found herself dumbfounded. What were the odds of this? Another student?
"Yasaharu Tsukiko?" she asked, as if to confirm the girl's identity.
The brunette blinked, taking in the scene before her. Her previously commanding tone gave way to an (in Rin's opinion) adorable stutter. "T-T-T-Tohsaka Rin?!" she exclaimed in surprise before her eyes drifted to the other person between them
"E-E-Emiya Shirou?!" Clearly this was too much of a surprise for her. Not that Rin could blame her, three students from the same school who were also Masters. That sounded like some bad joke, but here they were.
The boy looked at her blankly for a moment before squinting at her. It seemed he didn't fully recognize her. "Erm… you're from class-B right? Was it… Yasaharu-san?" Whether he came up with it on his own or used her mention of the girl's name earlier, she couldn't tell.
The girl nodded, though she seemed to be dumbstruck. She was silent for several seconds as she looked between the four of them, both Masters and Servants. She caught herself gaping. "A-ah, s-sorry. I hadn't expected there to be another Master from school, let alone two."
Rin gave a short sigh. "Shall we call it a draw then? I don't really feel like fighting either of you, especially not when Emiya-kun doesn't even know what he's gotten himself caught up in," she commented with an amused smirk.
Shirou scowled at her, annoyed. "Of course I have no idea. One second I'm getting attacked by a guy with a spear, and the next, Saber appeared and saved my life. I'm a bit out of my depth here."
Rin gave a short nod and turned to her fellow female. "What about you, Tsukiko? How does a ceasefire sound? Or do you intend to try to knock us out of the war tonight?"
Tsukiko looked between them and gave a short pause before shaking her head. "I'd rather not kill my classmates if that's possible," she said, slightly repulsed by the thought. "I'm sure my Servant thinks differently." She added emphasis to the word and directing her gaze to the caped man.
He gave an audible huff and sheathed his sword with one hand while the other holstered his gun. That caught Rin's attention again. "Also, if it's not too much trouble, what class of Servant is that? I've never heard of a Servant who uses guns."
Tsukiko seemed to puff up in pride at having her Servant acknowledged. "Ah right. In this case, I guess it'd be rude not to reveal my Servant's class when I already know both of yours." She cleared her throat and stepped beside the man, gesturing to him with one hand. But before she could speak, he beat her to the punch.
"I'm Yasaharu Tsukiko's Servant." Placing his left hand to his chest, he extended his right hand out to the side, bowing slighty at the hip. Tsukiko noted the difference between this bow and the one he'd given to her before. "You may call me Hunter."
A/N: And there's chapter one! I have to admit, I'm pretty happy with how this pilot turned out! It ended up a lot longer than I thought it might be, but I think that's probably for the best. Pilots, be they comic, manga, book, or television, should be long; they need enough content to drag the reader in and make them anxious for the next installment. That's what I believe anyway, and I hope I did a good job of it!
There was a large section of this chapter that I cut out, the content of which is alluded to several times in this chapter, or at least, content surrounding a certain unnamed individual. I felt that it was best to exclude the character for now and save their appearance for another chapter. I don't want to force content to appear before it's thematically ready to do so (as so many other authors tend to do). I don't strive to be a common author on FanFiction. I want to be an author you all remember with fondness. I want my works to be the ones you compare others' to. Basically, as narcissistic as it may sound, I strive to be better than other authors. I don't know if that makes me look like a jerk, but it's how I push myself. That's just me.
And since I know many of you will complain about my other works being WAAAAY overdue for an update, I'd like to relieve you and say that I'm well aware, AND that I'm working the next chapter of Like a Fairy Tail, Konoha's Silver Shinobi, and I'm working on three new Destiny stories. One is a story called The Apostate, a non-crossover which follows the story of Atheon (a boss character which I feel deserves more lore considering what the evidence leads us to believe about it).
The other two are crossovers. One with Destiny/Mass Effect, where a fire-team of Guardians are banished by the aforementioned Atheon to the alternate reality of Earth known to us as Mass Effect.
The last one is slightly up in the air. I'm still constructing the idea in my mind, so I actually haven't written anything down about it. Supposedly it will follow Naruto, Sakura, and Sasuke as a fire-team in Destiny (I really like Destiny if you couldn't tell) and their adventures through our future Earth.
Oh yeah, and I'm also working on Legacy Eternal. I wish I had time to work on Other World, but my League of Legends hype is a bit down right now, though I think that's a good thing. When I first started writing Other World I could only think of the LoL universe in terms of the game, but by distancing myself from it, I can think of it as an actual world in which there are living individuals. The only side effect of doing so is that my League muse is pretty much in the pits. But! I won't abandon it to obscurity and decay. So you have that to rejoice about, O fans of mine!
So that's that; I hope you enjoyed what you read! If you did, I'd like to ask that you leave a review on your way out. It can be a short note, or it can be a lengthy, long winded critique of the content. I love both! If you're an author, than you know how much reviews can encourage and drive one to keep at it, even if the review isn't "good" on the surface. Believe me, it's appreciated regardless!
Thanks in advance!
Oh, and if you enjoyed this story, be sure to check out my other stories as well. I know several of them are in need of updating, reworks and the like, but the aforementioned stories above are my best, and I'd greatly appreciate your thoughts on them as well!
Now I have nothing more to say but this; have a great day, and always strive to be better than mediocrity! Be better than "normal." Be better than yourself!
Until next time!