Chapter 7

A Showdown in Scarlet

When faced with the imminent threat of being stabbed through the head by an enemy Heroic Spirit, it is important for one to be able to think fast, if one wishes to avoid certain death. Thankfully, after five long, hard years of crime-fighting, Peter Parker had much experience in the art of thinking fast. In fact, it could easily be considered one of the most useful abilities he possessed - along with the proportional strength and agility of a spider, of course.

Peter quickly raised up his legs, slamming his feet into the red-coated Servant's chest with all the strength he could muster - which was quite a bit of strength, all things considered. The enemy Servant was sent flying back into the opposite wall, freeing Peter from his grasp. Landing with the grace typical of a human spider, Peter wasted no time in in restraining the Servant. Peter fired streams of webbing at the white-haired man using his web-shooters, covering his whole body in the substance and sticking him to the brick wall. The Servant's grey eyes had grown wide with shock. Clearly, he hadn't seen this turn of events coming.

His eyes burning with equal parts determination and terror, Peter turned his head towards Gwen, who still stood at the end of the alleyway, paralyzed by the events she'd just witnessed.

"Gwen! Run!" Peter shouted urgently.

"R-right!" Gwen nervously affirmed, nodding her head. "See you on the other side of this!" she yelled to Peter as she took off.

Assuming there's gonna be another side of this at all… Peter thought to himself. No. I'm gonna make it out of here alive. For Gwen, for Aunt May… for everyone I have to protect!

Sheesh. That was cheesy even for me… good thing I didn't say that out loud.

Just as Gwen ran away from the scene, one of the Servant's short swords pierced the coat of webbing, beginning to slice through the makeshift prison. Peter acted quickly, leaping up and rapidly scaling the wall behind him, making his way to the rooftop of the building.

Judging from everything Strange said, Peter thought, Chances are that Servant is only after me. Up here, away from the streets, there'll be fewer civilians in danger… and nobody to see me expose my secret identity. Then again, I did just use my web-shooters in my civvies… so that ship has sailed, I guess. Still, Gwen's safe, and that's what matters. Now, it's time to take care of Mr. Redcoat here.

Peter hurriedly discarded his civilian clothes, revealing his Spider-Man costume, and donned the mask, gloves and boots tucked in the pouches of his (surprisingly spacious) utility belt. Just as Peter finished changing into his super-suit, the white-haired Servant leapt onto the rooftop to challenge the web-slinger.

"Well, that explains your strength," the man in the red coat noted as he studied his adversary's new garb. "I take it you're one of those 'superhero' types?" He spoke the word 'superhero' with disdain, practically spitting the term.

"The amazing Spider-Man, at your service!" Spidey proclaimed with melodramatic bombast, taking an exaggerated bow. "Don't tell me you've never heard of me - I'm kind of a big deal 'round these parts."

The Servant scoffed, giving a smirk that expressed amusement and derision alike. "New in town, I'm afraid," he snarked. "I'm not supposed to be impressed by a little kid in his pajamas, am I?"

Spider-Man took a fighting stance. "Big talk coming from a guy who looks like he got lost on the way to the next Final Fantasy."

The man in red's smirk turned into an irritated scowl, as he brandished his twin blades in kind. "Are you gonna stand here and make jokes all day, or are we actually going to fight?"

"Why not both?" Spidey quipped in response. "It's kinda my signature."

"Suit yourself," the Servant groaned. Without warning, he dashed at Spider-Man, practically moving at the speed of light, slashing at the web-head with one of his short swords. Thanks to his spider-sense, Spidey managed to avoid the strike by a hair's breadth. The Servant, however, wasn't about to let up.

The man in red unleashed a flurry of slashes at Spider-Man. Peter narrowly evaded each and every blow, ducking and weaving out of the way, but it was only just barely enough. Some of the attacks were close enough to graze Spider-Man's costume, leaving tiny slash marks on the fabric of the suit. This Servant, whoever he was, was fast. Faster than any of the Sinister Six. He was as fast as Peter - maybe even faster.

After surviving the white-haired man's onslaught, Peter delivered a swift kick to the Servant's face. He was fast, but he could still be caught off guard. Good to know. In the instant that the man in red was staggered, Spider-Man shot a pair of web-lines at the Servant's blades, yanking them out of his hands and tossing them onto the ground.

Spider-Man rushed at the Servant, readying a right hook to the man in red's face. But in the blink of an eye, the Heroic Spirit recovered, catching the wall-crawler's fist mid-flight. Still processing the Servant's lightning-fast movements, Peter noticed the man in red's mouth moving slightly, as if he was murmuring something under his breath. Before Peter knew it, another black-bladed sword appeared in the Servant's free hand, an exact replica of the last one.

The Servant pulled Spider-Man in, thrusting the blade at his neck, but the web-head managed to break free of the man in red's grip, side-stepping the attack. Peter wasted no time in delivering a counterattack, throwing a swift punch at the Servant's face. This time, the man in red wasn't quick enough to dodge.

Spidey threw another punch, this time to the Heroic Spirit's gut. Another hit. Before Spider-Man could strike a third time, however, the Servant conjured another copy of his white blade in a burst of blue energy. He slashed at the web-slinger with his newly summoned weapon, interrupting the hero's attack. Spider-Man backflipped away from his opponent before the Servant could assault him with another combo of slashes and stabs.

"So, lemme get this straight," Spidey spoke, landing on the edge of the rooftop. "I have to spend good money on new web fluid every month, but you can magically create new swords? Now that just ain't right."

The Servant didn't respond, simply letting out a groan of annoyance. The Heroic Spirit dashed towards Spider-Man, preparing to slash at him once again, but the hero flipped over his head, firing a pair of web shots at the Servant as he flew through the air.

The man in red cleaved the web shots apart in midair, then rushed at Spider-Man once more. Spidey vaulted over the Servant yet again, unleashing a barrage of web-bullets on the white-haired man as he landed.

"You know, it's not polite to try to kill somebody without introducing yourself first!" Spider-Man quipped as the hammered the buttons on his web-shooters.

The Servant expertly cut the rapid projectiles to ribbons as they flew at him, then flung his white-bladed sword at the wall-crawler like a throwing knife. Spider-Man rolled out of the blade's way as it sailed by, while the Servant conjured another replacement sword.

Peter decided to put his adversary's reflexes to the test. Pushing his superhuman speed to the limit, Spider-Man darted and leapt around the arena, zigging and zagging all around the Servant, firing web-bullets at him all the while.

"At least tell me which Servant you are!" Spidey remarked as he made his erratic assault. "You seem awfully fond of swords, Red… what was that class? Blader? Slasher? Ah, Saber! You're Saber, ain'tcha?"

Without missing a beat, the white-haired Servant deflected each and every web-shot, before flinging both his short swords at the wall-crawler. The blades seemed to defy gravity, homing in on Spider-Man like heat-seeking missiles.

As the swords flew at him, Peter was immediately reminded of the Green Goblin's signature Razor Bat weapons. As such, he employed the usual technique he used to evade Razor Bats - he twisted around in midair, narrowly avoiding the blades, then caught the projectiles out of the sky using his webs.

With all his might, Spider-Man spun around in the air once again. Not to evade, however - this time, he was flinging the Servant's blades right back at him. As Spidey loosed the swords, however, the Servant quickly summoned another pair of replacement blades, effortlessly parrying the flying weapons.

Okay, thought Peter. This guy might be a problem.

"Y'know, I take it back," Spidey joked, "Everything about you is screaming Assassin to me. The throwing blades, the Matrix-wannabe look… that's gotta be it, right?"

Again, the Servant didn't bother responding. He simply threw another blade towards Spider-Man, which the web-slinger deftly sidestepped. The man in red seemed to have predicted that move, however, because the moment Spidey evaded the flying sword, the Servant was rushing at the web-head with another slash.

Crap! Peter thought as he ducked under the Servant's strike. That reaction was way too fast… he knew where I'd be before I even dodged. Either he made a lucky guess… or he has some kind of precognition. Just like my Spider-Sense…

The thought was worrying, but Peter's main concern right now was the battle. Forgoing any more elaborate maneuvers, Spidey went for a simpler, more direct kind of counterattack. Focusing all the spider-strength he could muster, Spider-Man rose up and readied his fist with a single, swift gesture, and delivered a tremendous right hook to the Servant's face.

The punch was a direct hit. The man in red was sent flying backwards, but he regained his footing, landing in the center of the rooftop. The Servant let out a frustrated grunt.

Suddenly, the white-haired man leapt up, dozens of feet in the air - a greater feat than Peter had ever accomplished. When the Servant finally landed, he perched gracefully atop a water tank several rooftops way. A burst of blue energy appeared around him, meaning he'd conjured another weapon. Using his superhuman senses, Peter just barely managed to make out what the Servant was doing.

The man in red had indeed summoned a weapon, but it was not another short sword. It was a long, slender, instrument - curved, and jet-black in color.

A bow.

Ah, thought Peter. Archer, then.

Archer summoned another weapon in his free hand. Long, silver, and pointed, it almost resembled a sword. But as the Archer readied his bow, the weapon's purpose became unmistakable. It was an arrow. An arrow aimed straight at the friendly neighborhood web-slinger.

Hoo boy.

Spidey made a mad dash off the rooftop, leaping off the side as Archer loosed his arrow. Spider-Man fired a web-line at the nearest building, swinging from it as he searched for a place to land. As the wall-crawler soared through the New York skyline, more arrows flew by him, leaving trails of blue energy in their wake.

All of a sudden, Peter began falling in mid-swing. One of Archer's arrows had severed his web-line. Before he could shoot another web-line, however, Spider-Man was assailed by a series of arrows soaring at him. Spidey managed to dodge the arrows as he fell, flipping and twirling in the air.

However, this all seemed to be part of Archer's strategy - Peter was so concerned with evading the arrows that he failed to notice that he was hurtling straight into the rooftop beneath him. Peter became astutely aware of this fact, however, the moment he felt the sensation of concrete slamming into his face.

Peter's Spider-Sense was blaring as he got up off the ground. As soon as he finished brushing himself off, he looked up to find one of Archer's arrows flying right at him. Just as he prepared to leap out of the way, however, something unexpected happened.

A blur of motion rushed into Peter's field of vision, and the arrow was struck down by a burst of golden light. Standing before Peter was Lancer, shield raised, holding her spear tight. Brunnhilde turned her head towards Spider-Man, and greeted her Master with a warm, confident smile.

"Spider-Man," Lancer spoke. "Pardon my saying so, but you look as though you could use some assistance."

"Lancer!" Peter exclaimed, both surprise and relief apparent in his tone. "Thanks for the help, but, uh… how'd you know I was here?"

"Funny story, actually," Lancer replied. "I didn't. Caster and I got bored of sitting around the Sanctum all day, so we went out in search of more exciting matters. And it would seem I've found one!"

The Valkyrie punctuated her final statement with a wide, toothy grin. Her exuberance was almost childlike, despite the fact that she was about to engage in a fight to the death.

"Well, far be it from me to complain," Spider-Man commented. "I'm happy to have all the help I can get with this guy. Where's Caster."

"I'm afraid I don't know," Lancer admitted, shaking her head. "We went our separate ways. But I shall devote all my strength to defeating whatever foe besets you!"

Guess Thor's sense of drama runs in the family, Peter noted mentally.

"Glad to hear it," Spidey responded. "We're going against Archer."

"Yes. I surmised as such," replied Lancer. "What with all the arrows."

Did… did she just use sarcasm? I didn't know Asgardians had sarcasm…

"I shall hold him off for now," Lancer continued. "I suggest you survey the area, in search of Archer's Master. I cannot guarantee that they will be nearby, but it's worth a try at least."

"Okay, but… you sure you can take care of him alone?" Peter asked, concern in his voice.

Lancer chuckled softly, giving an amused smirk. "Can I take care of him," she repeated. Brunnhilde twirled her spear, entering a fighting stance. "Have a little more faith in your Servant."

Peter smiled under his mask. "You're the boss. Well, technically I'm the boss, but hey, semantics!"

And with that, Lancer leapt high into the air, rushing towards Archer and drawing his attention away from her Master. Spidey took off as well, shooting a web-line onto a nearby building, and swinging high above the Manhattan rooftops.

C'mon, c'mon… Peter thought to himself as he climbed ever higher into the sky, looking down at the buildings below. If I were a mysterious wizard-type person who wanted me dead, where would I be…?

Suddenly, something - or rather, someone - caught Peter's eye. He sighted a bright flash of red in the distance, several buildings away from the dueling Servants. This figure in red was the only other person Peter spied among the rooftops - besides Lancer and Archer, of course.

Jackpot, thought Peter. Hello there, enemy Master… I think. I hope. Otherwise, this is gonna be awkward… so, business as usual for me, in other words.

Spider-Man descended, falling rapidly down to the rooftop below. He landed gracefully behind the figure in red - who, upon closer inspection, was clearly female. She was about five feet tall, dressed in a large red duster - not unlike the coat worn by her Archer. Her hair was long, black and wavy, with a pair of twintails tied by black ribbons. She didn't seem to notice the web-slinger's arrival.

"So, what's a colorfully dressed young lady like yourself hanging out alone on a rooftop?" Spider-Man asked, announcing his presence to the potential Master.

The black-haired girl didn't respond. She simply turned around, doing so with violent speed, and stretched her right arm out towards the wall-crawler. In the blink of an eye, an orb of amorphous, blood-red energy formed at the girl's fingertips, shooting out like a bullet towards Spider-Man and leaving red sparks in its wake.

"Whoa!" Spidey yelped as he ducked under the crimson blast, alerted by his spider-sense. Okay, Peter thought. Looks like I was right on the money. That's definitely magic.

The black-haired girl scowled, gritting her teeth in anger as she fired several more red orbs at Spider-Man in quick succession. Thankfully, Spidey had little trouble dodging the attacks - the Master lacked the inhuman speed possessed by her Servant.

"Sheesh!" Peter exclaimed, landing in his trademark three-point crouch after evading the magical barrage. "Do you greet all superheroes this way, or is your friendly neighborhood Spider-Man an exception?"

The Master in red raised an eyebrow in confusion. As she halted her offensive momentarily, Peter was allowed to get a better look at her. She was young - a few years younger than Peter. Only a high schooler, probably. She had blue eyes, and Asian features. Under the duster, she wore a red turtleneck sweater, emblazoned with a white cross design right below the neck. She was also clad in a black skirt, a pair of black thigh-high socks, and a simple pair of brown leather shoes. Peter couldn't help but be reminded of Gwen by her fashion sense.

"Spider-Man?" The girl repeated incredulously, her gone thick with disdain. "Archer said you were a superhero, but is that really what you call yourself?" The Master murmured something under her breath, inaudible to the web-slinger. Her English was flawless, but she had a slight hint of an accent.

Spidey stood up, shaking his head in exaggerated disappointment. "No respect… no respect, I tells ya!" He looked up at the young Master. "You know, you really need to teach that edgelord Archer of yours some manners… it ain't polite, trying to murder a guy in broad daylight before he can even change into his long underwear!"

The girl's eyes went wide as her face became ever-so-slightly redder. "Th-that wasn't my idea!" she protested, crossing her arms defensively. She was embarrassed. Somehow, Peter had managed to strike a nerve. "That idiot thought it would be a good idea to attack now… something about the element of surprise, stuff like that is normal in this city… I have no idea why I let him convince me!"

That idiot? Peter thought, replaying the rival Master's words in his head. Does she mean Archer? Or somebody else?

"Well, I'm willing to let bygones be bygones…" Spider-Man replied. "As long as you call off your Servant. There's no reason we can't all be friends here. We could all work together to win this War… but only if you and Stabby McRedcoat stop trying to kill me and my partner. What do you say, Miss…"

"Tohsaka," the girl answered, her flustered panic quickly replaced by an air of haughty confidence. She smiled smugly at Spider-Man, like a queen looking down on her lowly subjects. "My name is Rin Tohsaka. I am the woman who's going to win this Holy Grail War. And I'm not interested in associating myself with an undignified clown like you!"

Something about the girl's words - the proud condescension, the self-assured determination, the venomous disdain with which she spoke to him - it sent chills down Peter's spine.

Damn, this girl's scary… why is she reminding me so much of Gwen?

"Alright, Rin…" Spidey began, entering a fighting stance. "I really don't wanna have to hit a girl… but have it your way!"

Spider-Man leapt towards Rin, readying his right arm for a spider-strength powered punch. She may be a wizard, Peter thought, But she's still just a teenage girl. One good punch should be all it takes to knock her out… then I'm free to help Brunnhilde tackle Archer.

As the web-slinger dashed towards the girl in red, something unexpected happened. Spider-Man threw his fist towards the young Master, with the kind of force only spider-strength could muster… and then, the punch came to a sudden halt.

She had caught it. Spidey's fist was enclosed in Rin's own, as if caught in a vice. Rin's hand, and the sleeve behind it, were covered in glowing blue lines, like the circuitry of a computer. Rin looked at Spider-Man with a devilish grin, the kind that meant that further misfortune was sure to follow.

Before Peter could truly process what had just happened, he was suddenly struck with a massive blow, as if he had been run over by an 18-wheeler truck. But it wasn't a truck that had hit him - it was Rin's other fist, covered in the same glowing lines as its twin.

Peter's spider-sense blared like a siren as he was sent flying by the impact of the girl in red's strike. The punch had sent him hurtling off the edge of the rooftop, and Spider-Man now found himself falling rapidly towards the Manhattan street below.

Well, Peter thought to himself, It would seem that I've just gotten my spandex-clad butt kicked by a teenage girl in pigtails. If that ain't just the definition of the Parker Luck…