Chapter 41: Just Rin's Luck


Nothing has been going my way this night. Nothing has been going my way. From the clocks in my house to the very moon that sat up in the sky, the world was mocking me.

Night erupts and light disrupts behind me.

The moment we had Sakura subdued Emiya senior picks a fight with Archer and Emiya junior blows Sakura's card into the River Mion with a gust from her sword. Acht, I chuck a topaz with a preloaded spell to counter that gust, but either my timing was off or the wind the Saber Card granted was a Noble Phantasm itself. The sounds of ongoing battle resounding behind me are drowned out by the sound of my own heartbeats. Once the pieces were conveniently coming together for once, the world throws another curveball. I should have suspected something was up; I was never so lucky.

Sakura's Gilgamesh Card.

The Card wasn't something we could allow to get away and Leysritt dives into the river head first without thinking, but something was clearly amiss as her body gives out almost immediately after hitting the water. Sella goes after her to fish her out with threads while I chase down the Card on foot. The small girl must have prepared a last minute counter measure to stop us from taking it.

Anfang.

By both its size and its signature, the Card wasn't something I could miss, but the current was turbulent. The ley lines practically flowed into it and that certainly wasn't good. My mind was racing and my familiars frantic, but I wasn't fast enough. It shouldn't have been something that could escape me and my familiars give chase only to be shattered. I draw my weapon, but with a flash of red my eyes couldn't follow, the Gem sword leaves my hands, but not before I overcharge it to the limit.

Welt, Ende.

In a blinding light where not even the prismatic dust remains, I create an opportunity. It was enough to kill anything short of a hero, but that's why I had to run. Projections were ultimately disposable and retrieving the Card was my top priority.

Es ist groß, es ist klein. Vox, Gott Es Atlas.

I lighten my body, reducing gravity's influence, putting power into my legs and reinforce them to the cusp of shattering and dive. I dive into the river and let the current take me. For a moment, the world above the water's surface shines in gold. How many times have they used that Holy Sword? I see it. The Card is within my grasp, but my fingers fail to reach. Just as a tip scratches its surface, it disappears in a puff of bubbles and in the following seconds, something grabs me by the collar and the world blurs.

*cough* *cough*

"What do I have here? Quite the catch it would seem," was a voice I could barely make out as my ear drums drain and my vision returns. I could only make out the glint of red feral eyes and the adrenaline gets the better of me.

"By my Command Seal, retrieve that Card, Archer!"

"Tch," my assailant spits out as he blocks an incoming blade with one hand on his spear as space distorts to bring my guardian by my side illuminated by the moon. Lancer had ample time to kill me, but within Archer's free hand was the Gilgamesh Card that was originally in Lancer's.

"I'm surprised you haven't killed her yet to get rid of me, Lancer," was the point Archer makes.

Adorned in blue with a red spear in his hands; if that small girl proved formidable enough to wound Berserker by borrowing his visage, then there was no question what the real thing could prove. Infuriatingly enough, Cú Chulainn was the worst match up for any Archer and my Archer was...

Lancer's piercing red eyes and feral grin wakes me from my stupor. I had to muster all the confidence I had left to continue functioning. Nothing was going right and just as soon as I thought I had a clear picture, something else comes into view, but I had to focus on what was in front of me. I was out of gems except for the pendant on my neck.

"How bout we trade, the piece of cardboard for the woman," Lancer says that leaves me in disbelief.

"Sounds like a bargain, though what stops you from slitting her throat once I give you this card?" Archer quips.

The frail human Master is the weakness of any Servant; its common sense for anyone participating in the Holy Grail War, so who was Lancer's Master?

"Fight against everyone. But do not defeat them. Survive your first battle against any opponent. Those were my orders by a Command Seal no less," was what Lancer admits.

"Malicious compliance?" Archer reasons.

"Don't lump me in with the likes of you. Funnily enough I fought two kids who seem to take an awful lot after you and people called me a horn dog, but seeing how you are, something must be wrong with the world if something like you is popular with women," was the curse Lancer makes.

"This card may say Archer, but it isn't mine," Archer answers as he tosses the Card at Lancer like throwing knife.

In my mind I was screaming. Archer, what are you doing!?

Catching it between two fingers without losing a grip on his spear, Lancer grins. He releases his hand from my collar as I gasp for air.

"So you won't miss it?" as Lancer gently lets go of my collar only to put both hands on his spear.

"Considering what it did to its previous owner, it's something like a cursed item. So as long as no one is using it doesn't matter to me, unless your Master would like to gamble on using it?" was Archer's reasoning for abandoning the Card.

"So as long as Sakura doesn't have it, huh?" I mutter.

Archer smirks as he prepares his swords and Lancer looks bored, uncertain that his enemy could entertain him. The Card has left our hands, but fighting in itself seems to be Lancer's personal goal.

"You're being awfully casual about this considering your Master wasted a Command Seal for it," Lancer observes.

"She's still better than yours. It must be convenient to have a Master you can blame all your faults on," Archer sighs.

A red point flashes and Lancer was no longer in front of me, but in front of Archer instead. I could not follow the movements of clashing weapons, but it was clear to me that Archer was in trouble. If I try to create an opening at this distance, Lancer may go back on his order and skewer me; if they had any validity in the first place.

*clang*clang*

"Come on, even those kids had more fight to them than you!" Lancer complains.

Archer does not speak as he puts everything in order to defend against the spear. There was no question who was superior and who was inferior. As skilful as Archer was with blades, blades were not his optimal weapon while Lancer was wielding his. Despite that inferiority or precisely because of it, Archer was the one in control. Leaving fatal openings that guide the red spear, the red knight holds off the blue knight's advance. Lancer could be holding back, but this was taking it too far.

"I guess it's only natural for you to be stronger than that kid, but even he had some pride," was Lancer's admonishment.

"Pride? Don't lump me in with you kids," Archer quips.

Archer is disarmed of his white blade as the black blade does double duty, but this was nothing more than buying time.

The earth shakes.

The ground erupts as Lancer narrowly escapes being squashed under Berserker's oversized foot.

"Two on one?" was the proposition that causes Lancer to bloom into a smile before the space disrupts around him in the same way Archer was brought here.

A Command Spell?

There was no trace of our enemy. There was no trace of the Card. There were plenty of traces of violent battle from the scarred concrete and mounds of dirt. Floating down in front of me in a pink dress with that accursed wand was more bad news.

"Shirou cut up the familiar that was on him. He's no longer on that roof," was the news Illya casually delivers to spite me.

A week ago, I would have screamed, but it seems I have become accustomed to losing, but not all was lost. Illya fans out 7 Cards she had pilfered from her enemy. In Berserker's good hand was the little Emiya at our mercy.


The morning comes...

I wake up to an unfamiliar bedroom; a guest room of the Emiya estate. Having the choice between 4 legged beds on hardwood or futons on the floor with tatami mats, this place could accommodate a range of visitors. No Servants and no automated defences; just an elegantly simple alarm sipping power from the ley lines. This place was a poor choice for a base of operations in a Holy Grail War, but the perfect clandestine meeting place between magi. Any overt form of security would probably be taken in bad faith by the clients I presume the Magus Killer would meet with. If he needed a proper fortress to hole up in, he had the Einzbern Castle after all.

The clock in the room says 9AM.

I recall the events last night. Emiya picks a fight with Archer. Sakura was subdued only for Miyu to come crashing down to free her. Me and the maids chase down the Card only for Leysritt to come down with a severe case of poisoning that would kill an ordinary human. Saber gets caught in Sakura's shadow, stabs her own Master in the chest before proceeding to kill Rider. Just as Shirou was about to do something stupid, Archer beats him into the pavement. Just as I was about the claim the Card, Lancer interferes and I waste a Command Seal to bring Archer to me and Shirou takes the opportunity to escape. For whatever reason, Miyu's chest wound wasn't fatal, so much so that Miyu doesn't even register what happened at all and goes on to save her would be murderer from Berserker. Lancer escaped from us with a Command Spell; two so far if Lancer was being honest. Only Shinji remained on top of the Center Building whom we put under Sella's care along with Leysritt. After turning away one Fujimura Taiga with a bit of hypnosis, I had simply gone to bed and shut down.

I should have gotten more than enough rest by now, but my head was still groggy and I felt something wet on the pillow; Emiya Miyu.

I stare at the little sleeping terror with both frustration and pity. I wasn't so much a monster to be fine with a child's tears. We both had our hair down and in a mess. To someone else, we could probably pass as siblings, though her magical reserves were at the level where her humanity was something to question. Hair pins and ribbons were useful tools to store magical energy, but were superfluous in the grand scheme of things, but she wears them all the same presumably because Sakura does. Pinned down by Berserker, a single Gandr was all that was needed to knock her out in the end, but I'm sure Saber was the one who did the most damage. She wasn't a Master anymore. She didn't know anything, but if anything, I was just as lost in this Holy Grail War.

At the very least, she was easier on the eyes than the other brat I have to deal with.

I could have left her in Illya's hands, but in the end, I couldn't. She was the one who insisted on keeping her awake between Berserker's fingers. I didn't need to know what Illya was planning with the power drill marked "Makita" she took from the shed last night as Sella tended to Leysritt in the living room.

"I want to see if that healing factor of hers is a trick or not," was Illya's excuse last night with that power drill in hand.

For all the trouble small Emiya caused last night, I couldn't bring myself to hate her because looking back, if anything I knew someone worse. I knew of a clueless girl who thought she knew everything. With nothing like a Class Card, a Servant or a healing factor, a small girl who wore her black hair in twin tails ran around the streets of Fuyuki with the 4th Holy Grail going on searching for her missing friend.

It wasn't cute at all as much as Ruby would argue otherwise.

On that night five days ago where Archer wasn't with me, Emiya Shirou had no qualms about cutting me if I was in the way, but this girl had stopped him. I was only returning the favour and nothing more. At the very least, doing anything that destroys Sakura's sense of rationality will only hurt me in the end because that's what those shadows of hers were. Things that defied rationality were universally troublesome; I learned that from Ruby and that was her cue.

"Good grief. You fought so hard to keep Illya away from her, but in the end you didn't actually do anything," the defective magical wand says with disappointment.

"Thanks for watching over us the entire night," I say behind a fake smile.

"I can't say why I even bothered recording it," it says before dodging my swipes.

I let out a sigh as Ruby was the least of my worries in the Holy Grail War. As I try to get up, the small girl tries to stop me, but ends up copping a feel.

"Y-you're not Sakura...," she says as she opens her eyes which were as red as Lancer's.

I'll forgive her just this once because she has a cute face.


At the breakfast table...

"Nice, nice, nice," was Ruby's voice accompanied by the flashes of her built in camera.

"Installieren: Rider," Illya invokes, taking on the visage of someone who wasn't in this world any longer.

With an eye patch and overly mature black dress that didn't suit her small stature at all, with an outstretched hand wagging her index finger with a sultry gaze, she tries to get a rise out of our little captive whose hands were restrained in solid quartz. Strutting around the living room like that, I wonder how old that Einzbern brat thinks she's supposed to be.

"The gap moe is strong, but I guess whoever made the cards didn't have the same appreciation for proper transformation sequences," was Ruby's one complaint as Illya cycled through the various Class Cards.

I turn to the other girl with her hair done up in twin tails; Miyu. She hasn't said a word since waking up and she probably doesn't know that we no longer have her brother. She didn't even bother doing her own hair and I had to do it for her; so she has nothing to complain about if I style it in the way I'm used to. She hasn't taken a bite out of the potato omelette Sella insisted Archer make. Cooked in butter, sprinkled with salt, the potato mash in the center couldn't be called healthy. The egg mixed with milk that served to wrap the whole thing was sprinkled with green onion. It was the closest thing to a German breakfast food with the ingredients on hand. Miyu only continues to stare at the other people at the table. The one armed Leysritt happily eats whatever Archer cooks and legless Shinji was completely listless after last night's ordeal as if he was the one who was poisoned last night. Must be all that screaming.

"Installieren: Berserker," was the invocation that gives Berserker himself some pause, but those fears were unwarranted.

Though Berserker himself was shirtless and only wore furs, the Class Cards must have had some rudimentary modesty function as it seemed to know that its user was a girl and had the decency to cover the important bits with a top. Strange considering how incomplete the Class Card's version of Lancer's outfit turned out to be. The Class Cards were a complete mystery despite the power they granted being so obvious. Whoever made the Cards must have been one peculiar and dangerous individual because...

"Wait, this thing is just something we cut from Berserker's temple!" as Illya exclaims about the crude oversized instrument that the Class Card should have no knowledge of.

"Maybe the Second Magic is involved? Forget that, Father-Daughter pose!" Ruby demands as Miyu's eyes make a complicated expression.

Second Magic? It would be preposterous for actual Magic to be involved, but such a thing does conveniently clear up a lot of inconsistencies. As far as I'm aware of, the Holy Grail Wars up until now had no victor, but the Holy Grail itself was capable of reaching the realm of Magic. The recovery of the Third was the thousand year dream of the Einzbern family. The idea someone out there in a parallel Fuyuki claiming the Holy Grail wasn't out of the realm of possibility considering the Edelfelt family were supposedly able to summon two different versions of the same Saber in the 3rd Holy Grail War. Normal logic tends to go out the window when a wish granting device is involved.

The television in the background continues to play.

"...the cases of comas are on the rise, authorities attribute such cases to gas leaks however..."

Kirei was still doing his job, though it seemed like he was giving the bare minimum. Ordinary people were in the dark about what happens in this city at night, but I had little confidence I had a better picture. It's always one thing after another.

"Installieren: Lancer," Illya invokes once more, dawning the form of that cocky spearman.

I stare at the girl who continued smiling, prancing around in outfits Heroic Spirits clad themselves in.

"You're awfully cheery with everything going on. Is there something different about the Cards compared to installing a Heroic Spirit directly?" I ask.

"These come with some sort of mental filter though not that it helps ordinary magi anyway. This way of using Heroic Spirits does come with some advantages over Command Seals and Class Containers I suppose," she notes.

"Not like any of that applies to you," I say.

Normal Masters are limited to 3 Seals and normal people can't contain the power of another soul in their bodies without becoming something akin to a bomb let alone a Heroic Spirit. Class distinctions exist between containers because a Heroic Spirit is just too massive to be contained in its entirety. A Grail Vessel is special in that it can contain multiple of those souls.

"Look on the bright side, whoever Lancer's Master is, they used up two Command Seals," was the silver lining Illya looks towards.

I turn to the unfamiliar voice.

"Two?" is what escapes Miyu's mouth.

"You faced Lancer before too?" Illya inquires.

"...that priest used one two days ago...," was a whisper that felt like a bomb, but my heart didn't react at all to it.

Priest? The fake priest?

Lancer was subjected to 3 Command Spells already, but he did not disappear. The Einzbern had their own method of circumventing this limitation at great cost to the Master's health, but someone from the Church authorized to oversee the Holy Grail War had no need for such a thing. Kirei was technically my legal guardian so my mind always brushed it off, but my heart was always telling me that he was suspect. I always had to tell myself that he was my father's student and I should trust him because my father did, but after seeing the Matou basement, I had to admit that my father was not the best judge of character. I honestly need to reevaluate my entire life.

Miyu's demeanor was bereft of any confidence, but she didn't seem like a child that would lie. Like Sakura, she was the type who would bottle everything up instead. I already failed Sakura by trusting father's will over my gut feelings. I had to do what I couldn't back then and reassure the younger girl in front of me.

"I expected as much. Considering the Church collects all the unused ones at the end, Command Seals must not mean much to him."

The annoying little wand starts buzzing around as if holding back laughter.

"Still pretending to be cool at that age huh?" Ruby quips.

I grind my teeth. Thinking about it, I was probably the only one who qualified being a "normal" in this whole sham.


After breakfast...

With prisoner in tow, I tour around the Emiya estate. I make my way to the outdoor garden that was at the center of this place taking in the fresh air that isn't possible at the house I lived in. The sun was still rather muted. This place was supposedly where the Magus Killer once lived right under my nose. He could very well be the man who killed my father and crippled my mother, but this house was downright ordinary.

Well, maybe it was a little too big to ordinary.

I walk through the garden and I check on the shed that was filled with all sorts of junk, but only junk. Old appliances, mannequins, wooden dolls, wrenches, oils and tarps were all over the place. Someone took all the power tools. Barring the summoning circle, this place was just a regular old shed. I kneel on a piece of the floor making note of the lack of dust. If anything, this place was well kept. Miyu feels tense as I snoop around, but she was in no position to act because as far as she knew, Shirou's life was still in my hands. His escape was something we needed to keep for ourselves. I feel for a spot of concrete that was more recent that the rest and it breaks apart in my hands with a little bit of magical energy. I feel for a rim and I am rewarded. I undo the latches and open the briefcase.

Some sort of gun with room for but a single shot and some custom made bullets.

A part of me expected more of the Class Cards that Illya confiscated from our little troublemaker. The Emiya family dated back just a few centuries and specialized in Time Manipulation with one Norikata being significant enough to earn a Sealing Designation from the Mage's Association. All the Class Cards conveniently corresponded to a Servant summoned in our current Holy Grail War, except for one.

Assassin.

The nodachi wielding Assassin that Archer defeated in the Matou basement was certainly not one of the Hassasn-i-Sabbah or even a member of the Hashshashin which the word "Assassin" is derived. The Assassin we fought was non-standard and it was something our card maker overlooked. At the very least, I could rest easy knowing that our card maker was at most someone who rigged the summoning process of our Grail War and not someone who could literally see 10 years into the future. I hold up the gun in front of Miyu, but she only winces at the sight of it. She didn't know what it was. I show her the next item.

Bullets.

Playing around with the bullet in my hands I note that the density of the bullets didn't quite match lead or steel, indicating that they were adulterated with something; something malicious. Such a Mystic Code wasn't unheard of among freelancers, but this was especially atypical for a magus operating in a country with such strict gun control laws. For me whose fingers were a gun that fired Finnish curses, an actual gun seemed like too much of a liability. A magus using a gun was a magus admitting magical impotence.

"Careful with that if you value your Magic Circuits," Archer scolds me.

"So you know what these are?" I ask Archer.

"The ideal tools of an assassin are disposable and hard to trace. The fact an assassin carried around such an elaborate single shot going against that norm screams trump card," Archer reasons.

"Personal experience? Is that why you're so good at housework? Posing as a butler is one way to get close to high value targets I suppose." I tease.

Miyu's eyes wander towards the life sized mannequin that sat in the corner that was riddled in writing. The names of muscle groups and organs adorned its body, but I couldn't sense anything magical from it. I couldn't get a read of what she was thinking, but I had the means to stop her if she got out of line.