And I'm back.

On with the chapter.


Rin released a sigh as she slumped in her sofa after a long night of research.

It was clear that she would have to find a way to output more power more consistently if she wanted to stand a chance when another Ancestor finally decided to show its face in her city.

Beyond that, she also had the Grail War to worry about. Sure it shouldn't be for another fifty or so years but if she wanted to truly hold her ground in it, she would need a way to survive fighting a servant long enough for her own to save her.

Her mind shifted to the idea of asking Shirou for help before dismissing it.

Relying on Shirou was not something she should do, not when his presence could be a potential risk to her own position.

Beyond that he had his own things to worry about now that he was getting more involved in the politics of the Apostles.

Her heart nearly leaped out her chest when her phone rang. Calming herself, she picked it up, ready to put it straight back down should it be spam.

"Hello, Tohsaka residence, Rin speaking, may I ask who is calling?" she said formally.

"Hello, this is Lord El-Melloi of the Clock Tower," her heart skipped a beat at that, "I will admit, I'm surprised you actually have a phone."

What was a Lord of the Clock Tower calling her for?

"For what reason have you decided to contact me?" she knew there had to be a reason, Japan was considered backwater to the Lords after all.

"We recently discovered some… disturbing information," he declared and she felt a sense of dread well up in her being, "it would appear that the Twenty-First Dead Apostle Ancestor has taken an apprentice. One of our teams in Norway had a run in with it."

"And what exactly does this have to do with me?" she asked.

"It was reported to speak Japanese, so we're looking for any possible information you may have concerning an Apostle that has replaced its entire body with blades," he said.

She released a sigh.

"I will see what I can do to assist your investigation," she declared. She couldn't help due to the geass, however she wasn't actually lying, she just couldn't do anything.

"Thank you," the Lord of the Clock Tower responded, "oh, and another thing, if you do find it, try to avoid fighting it… it seems to be relatively benign unless provoked so as long as you don't attack first, you should be okay."

"Understood, thank you for your concern," she said, "is there anything else you need me for?"

"No, that's all," he replied, "I hope to hear good news from you, Tohsaka."

And with that Lord El-Melloi hung up.

She swallowed nervously as she put her receiver down. It would appear that Shirou was making waves now that he'd been exposed to the wider world.

She just hoped it wouldn't cause her too many complications.

XXX Tainted Steel XXX

Kotomine Kirei stared in mild amusement as he processed the information he had received.

Sumire's apprentice had gotten himself a title already.

Aleph Damascus, the Beast of Blades.

Quite the impressive title for one so young.

He idly wondered if Emiya Kiritsugu was rolling in his grave at his adopted son becoming such an existence before pushing it out of his mind.

There was no point in wondering what the man would think, what mattered was that his decision to ignore the Water Bottle's presence had resulted in such a thing happening.

Despite that however he was left with one question, what was the exact nature of Emiya Shirou?

The boy had apparently replaced his body with a mass of blades that reproduced without end, so where did the blades come from and what could they do if the boy put his mind to pushing his abilities?

He could simply ask Gilgamesh to investigate, the Golden King had a form of clairvoyance that could only be described as impossible. One look at the boy and he would understand what the brat's deal was.

But that would be boring.

Instead he would simply have to wait and watch for any potential battles that may occur in the future.

That didn't seem unreasonable.

Especially given the boy had been encountered near a lake in Norway, obviously attempting to find the Apostle of the Lake.

If he was searching for Louvre then it was plausible for the older apostle to come to Fuyuki to fight the boy when he's off guard instead of waiting for him in his castle.

Of course, it was just as plausible for the Apostle of the Lake to wait and claim the homefield advantage.

He hoped the older apostle arrived in Fuyuki and tried to strike when the boy was least expecting it. That would give him the best chance to witness the boy in action.

But he did not expect that scenario to play out.

It would be foolish for the apostle to give up the advantage of his castle in exchange for a small surprise.

Unless the older apostle was cocky that is.

Oh well, he supposed he should probably inform Rin of this development.

Slowly he made his way towards his phone and proceeded to dial her number. He hoped she was asleep, waking her up would make her irritable and more entertaining.

Soon the phone was picked up and she offered a formal greeting over the phone.

"Hello Rin," he said.

"Oh… it's you," she replied, her dissatisfaction with that knowledge seeping into her voice even over the phone, "what do you want?"

He closed his eyes and smiled.

"Oh, I just felt I should share some information with you," he declared and she released a sigh.

"Let me guess, it's about the Twenty-First Dead Apostle Ancestor's apprentice getting into a fight with the Clock Tower in Norway," she said and he frowned.

"Oh? And how exactly do you know of that?" he asked, wondering if she would come clean to knowing about the boy.

"I got a call from a Lord of the Clock Tower asking for my cooperation given the apprentice apparently spoke Japanese," she stated.

"Ah," he replied, that made sense, "did they tell you it's official designation?"

"… It has an official designation?" she sounded surprised.

"Indeed, the information was shared with the Church and they convened to discuss it," he explained, "it was given a title and recorded as 'Aleph Damascus, the Beast of Blades'."

Rin went silent after that.

"Now, I believe I shall allow you to go to sleep now," he declared and before he could continue, she hung up on her end.

Oh well.

He shook his head.

He probably should get some sleep himself.

XXX Tainted Steel XXX

Shirou had to admit, learning about forging swords was interesting.

Not on a practical level, that was something he already understood. But hearing the philosophy of a swordsmith who used the traditional methods was interesting.

The lesson had ended a few hours ago but he was getting what he wanted out of it, even if it wasn't yet advanced enough to truly make a difference to him.

But as he had discovered with Kiritsugu's sabotage of his tuition, a solid foundation was the most important thing you needed if you wanted to learn properly.

So he would be returning in a few nights time, the man had a living to make after all and his interest wasn't professional in the same way the smith's was.

Walking along the street on his way to school, he finally met up with Rin, who simply gave him a blank stare.

"Is something wrong?" he asked, wondering what could prompt her to offer him such an expression.

"Is anyone within listening distance?" she asked.

"No, it's just us," he confirmed and she took a deep breath.

"Aleph Damascus, the Beast of Blades," she stated and he tilted his head, "that's what the Church has officially designated you as."

He did not know how to respond to that.

"They've… given me a designation?" he asked, he hadn't expected such a thing. He'd expected to be left as merely unknown until his name was discovered.

"Yes. Since they don't know who you are, they've given you a title to represent what you are," she declared, "I actually got a phone call from a Lord of the Clock Tower last night wanting information on you since you were witnessed speaking Japanese."

That wasn't good.

"I'm guessing you didn't reveal anything due to the geass?" he asked.

"Of course I didn't reveal anything about you," she confirmed, "but again, you're not even twenty-years old and have already earned yourself a title."

He nodded.

That wasn't really all that surprising.

"I guess that fight really made people concerned," he said.

"Yeah… you're an apostle that's almost unkillable," she said, "they're rare and usually somewhat ancient."

He nodded in acceptance.

This wasn't unexpected but it was still worrying. He wasn't yet ready to fight most beings.

There was one good thing to come out of that confrontation however.

Fragarach.

He was honestly surprised it classified as a blade for his marble given how impossible it's construction was.

But the fact that female magus possessed such a thing made him wonder just what other objects of impossible nature there were… and more importantly, just where his limits lay?

The knives in Rita's castle were one thing, they were just regular knives that were retroactively imbued with magecraft. This weapon however was forged with nothing but magical means, to say it was made of metal was questionable… it was closer to being pure magecraft in the form of a weapon.

A weapon that had a harsh activation condition and was liable to result in the death of the user instead of the enemy.

At least for her.

For him, it was a perfect addition to his defences. A one-hit-kill weapon that could either stop his opponent from using their strongest attack, or die immediately after trying to strike him with it was purely a benefit for something as difficult to kill as he was.

But it wasn't something he was going to reveal yet.

He needed to keep at least some mysteries to himself after all.

"So, what are you going to do now?" Rin asked and he abandoned his thoughts, "the magi in Norway were a scouting team hunting for Louvre right?" he nodded, "so now that they know you're stalking that area, they're probably going to speed up their search for his castle."

His mind stalled.

That was one thing he hadn't actually considered.

Would his hunt for the Castle of Louvre actually make the Clock Tower find the older Apostle sooner?

It was certainly a concerning matter.

"I don't know," he admitted, "I wanted to avoid going after him until I could control my appearance more easily… but if they're intensifying their search for him…"

She nodded.

Perhaps he would have to put more effort into hunting down his prey.

At the very least, he could now say that he was confident he could record whatever weapon Louvre tried to use against him.

And if Louvre had anything that was actually dangerous to him, he could probably survive whatever it was and kill him in the process.

Time would tell just how their battle would go.

All he knew was that he wouldn't let himself lose. He needed the power to fight beasts like Chaos and he wasn't going to fall to an apostle that the Ancestors called 'not ready for the position'.

XXX Tainted Steel XXX

Louvre stood in the hall on the top floor of his Castle, his back turned to the entrance as he waited for his guests to arrive.

He heard the door open as he felt his power swell.

A smirk graced his lips as one of his children entered the room.

"You called for me father?"

The voice sounded young and feminine, unsurprising given the girl he had turned had been less than two decades old but possessed impressive magical potential. No actual training or lineage, but potential.

Not enough to make her strong enough to fight the Queen of the Clock Tower one on one despite having spent the past hundred years learning, improving and growing in mystery.

"Yes I did daughter," he replied, keeping his back to her even as he rubbed his beard, "however, it can wait until your brother has arrived."

"Of course father," she responded obediently.

He truly had been lucky to find the pair, both with so much magical potential yet no training nor lineage. It truly showed how antiquated the Mages Association had become over the millennia.

That such potential was discarded due to not being born into a respected family.

An hour passed by in silence before he finally heard the door open once again, and he felt his power swell to even greater degrees.

"I apologize for my tardiness father," the voice of his son called out, "I arrived as soon as I could,, however I had to avoid a camp of magi on the way here."

He nodded.

He trusted his son to avoid drawing their attention and not lead them straight to his front door.

Turning around he faced the pair and spoke.

"You are not aware yet, however recently a new apostle has appeared under the tutelage of the Water Bottle," he declared, earning a tsk of irritation from his son.

"Are we to make him submit father?" his daughter asked and he shook his head.

"This is more important than that," he admitted, "lord Chaos sought the boy out and tested him."

His children's eyes widened.

"Are you telling us that this new apostle actually managed to survive a confrontation with the Tenth?" his son asked.

"… Lord Chaos has informed me that one day, I shall have to fight this new apostle," he admitted, "the winner shall become his successor for the position of the Tenth."

His daughter's expression turned hostile.

"So your dedication and strength is being discarded for some upstart?" she asked, her anger evident.

"This upstart recently had an encounter with a group of magi that were scouting for this castle," he informed them before rubbing his beard once more, "that encounter has been reported to the Lords of the Clock Tower and Church."

He turned around and took several steps away before looking up.

"According to my informants in both organisations, he is now being referred to as 'Aleph Damascus, the Beast of Blades'," he said, his own distaste of that title clear in his tone.

"This brat… this upstart not even two decades old has already earned himself a title!" he shouted. When he was the age of the boy he wasn't even an apostle, only being turned into one in his thirties because one of the True Ancestors wanted to treat him like an art exhibit while feeding on him every now and then.

It had taken him over a century of torment to finally escape his sire and become his own vampire.

Yet this brat was already being chosen as a potential successor over him despite barely being out of the crib!

"What do you require of us, Father?" his son asked, his tone serious.

"… We are going to destroy this brat before he becomes a bigger problem," he declared as he faced them, his eyes narrowed, "when Lord Chaos went to test him, he was located in a city in Japan named 'Fuyuki'."

His daughter's face turned into a frown.

"Fuyuki…" she practically tasted the name on her lips, "is that not where the Holy Grail War is located?"

He nodded.

"Indeed, though it is not for another five decades," he declared, "now, one of my servants shall arrange for travel there."

"My apologies father, but if this new apostle is the apprentice of the Water Bottle, will they even still be there?" his son asked.

"I do not know, however we can at least investigate for any indication of where he may have made his permanent base of operations," he declared.

After all, even if the boy was searching Norway for him, he had to be returning somewhere to rest.

"Now, prepare yourselves for travel," he commanded, "we leave tonight."

"Yes father," and with that, his children left to do as instructed.

He glanced to the back of the room before slowly making his way to a case that took centre stage in his grand hall.

Cautiously he opened the box, revealing a mace of intricate design that radiated mystery. Whether it was a mystic code or a genuine Noble Phantasm, he could not tell even with his age and mastery of magecraft.

All that mattered however, was that it was an artefact that would make the Demon Summoner jealous.

"It appears you shall get to taste blood," he whispered to the mace.

It gave no reaction as he moved to wrap it for transportation.

Aleph Damascus was going to regret challenging him.

XXX Tainted Steel XXX

Sumire had to blink even as Taiga stared in disbelief.

"You have a church designation already?" she asked, unable to process the fact that the child already had a title.

"W-what the hell is with that name though?" Taiga asked, her voice strained.

She simply shrugged in response.

"That's what the Church does," she stated, "if they don't have the proper name for an Apostle, they'll just come up with one that they think fits."

"They just come up with one?" Taiga said, her tone somewhat strained, "how do they even decide that?"

"Well… I know Nero's name is an allusion to Nero Caesar, what with the whole 'made up of six-hundred and sixty-six beasts' schtick Chaos has," she replied.

"… What?"

"It doesn't matter Fuji-nee," Shirou cut in, "what matters is that they've put me on record now."

"Yep, you're moving up in the world real quick now,' she declared, prompting the boy to stare at her, "… what?"

"It isn't a good thing," he stated and she blinked.

"Uh, yes it is," she rebuked, "with an actual name you are now your own entity within the magical community… which means that you are no longer just 'my apprentice'."

He tilted his head.

"… It means they'll start to attribute your actions to yourself instead of me," she explained.

"Why does that matter?" Taiga asked, her tone confused.

"Because now if he decides to join Altrouge's faction, Ortenrosse won't start hunting me down," she stated.

"… So you're happy about this because it means any trouble I cause won't fall on your head?" Shirou summarized and she nodded.

"Good to see you understand."

"That is the most dismissive and selfish reason I've ever heard," Taiga said, her tone bland.

"Thank you."

"It wasn't a compliment!"

Shirou however simply sat there. He wasn't like Taiga, he already knew just what she was like and her reasoning was unlikely to concern him.

"I think I'm going to have to meet Van-Fem again," he declared suddenly.

She blinked.

"Eh? Why?"

"Because I need to learn as much as I can about the world and you're not a reliable source of information," he replied and she blinked.

"I never claimed to be one," she pointed out.

"I know. But it doesn't stop it from being a problem for me."

She frowned.

It wasn't really right that she was so lacking in knowledge, but she was technically his teacher… so was there anything she could help him with?

Oh, wait, of course!

"Or you could save yourself some money and ask Rita-"

"No."

She flinched at his immediate refusal.

"I'm sure she'd teach you if you wanted," she shot back.

"And you know full well that I can't stand her," he responded coldly.

"You didn't get into a fight with her when I went to sleep," she reminded him.

"That was because I had something to distract myself with."

"Which is the whole reason you'd be going to learn from her in the first place!" she said, her tone victorious.

"… do you really want me to kill her that badly?" he asked.

"Oh come on… I'm trying to be a good teacher and give you a better option, one that won't cost you an arm and a leg to learn from."

"I can regrow them."

She slammed her head into the table in front of her.

He really was stubborn wasn't he?

Oh who was she kidding, she'd known that for more than long enough.

"Fine… go and see Van-Fem, don't say I didn't give you an alternative," she said as she returned to an upright position and taking a long swig of her sake before crossing her arms.

Sure it may have been the action of a petulant child but she was old enough to not feel any shame over it.

XXX Tainted Steel XXX

Monte Carlo was just as he remembered it.

Bustling and vertical.

"All right, Van-Fem's casino boat is still harboured," he stated, "I will try to make this quick-"

"Don't bother, I'm coming this time," Sumire shot back, her tone petulant.

Raiga had agreed to transfer the money he had gotten from his previous visit to his own account so he wouldn't have to come.

He wasn't surprised his surrogate grandfather didn't want to return so soon, especially not when he was clearly uneasy with the sensation of teleportation.

"Don't expect me to pay for your drinks," he stated and her eye twitched.

"Do you want to walk home?" she asked.

"… Fine," he really didn't have time to waste doing that.

Walking down towards the harbour he found himself making much better time without Gramps there to slow him down.

The man may have been quite healthy for his age but he just didn't compare to two undead abominations in that regard.

Soon they found themselves at the entrance and encountering the bouncers.

"Halt," one of them stepped forward, "this boat is invite only."

"My name is Emiya Shirou, I should be on the list," he stated firmly.

Prompting the other bouncer to check a pad-like computer.

"The name is on the list but he's different from his picture," the other bouncer stated.

"I got a tan and dyed my hair," he replied, "if you don't believe me then at least contact your boss."

"Look kid, don't try to pretend to be someone you're not, it's not going to work," the first bouncer said, "get lost before we need to get rough with you."

There was no malice in the man's tone, if anything he appeared reluctant.

So he was just being a professional rather than itching to fight someone supposedly 'weaker' than him.

"So… uh… am I on the list anywhere?" Sumire asked.

"And who are you?" the bouncer asked.

"Sumire."

The other bouncer checked and soon enough his face paled.

"I think we should let them in," the bouncer checking the computer said, his tone suddenly very wary.

"What?"

"According to the system… she's like the boss," the paling bouncer said.

"Shit… fine," the first bouncer responded, his voice nowhere near as confident as it started out, "feel free to board… should the boss want you to leave, he can deal with you himself."

Soon Shirou found himself once again within the walls of the ship he couldn't analyse.

"Ah, Sumire, it's been a while hasn't it?" Van-Fem's voice called out and she looked around the hall before her eyes affixed themselves to the bar.

"Yeah, yeah… I'm just here with my apprentice… now put my drink on his tab," she dismissed before striding straight past the broker.

"Well, she's not changed at all in four thousand years," the vampiric businessman said, his tone almost amused, "now this is interesting, you certainly look far healthier than before Fujimura-san."

Shirou tilted his head.

"Oh, my apologies, I assumed that given what you mentioned about your distaste of Emiya Kiritsugu, you would likely prefer I called you by your sponsor's name," the man explained and he nodded.

"Thank you for the consideration," he responded with a shallow bow, "however I am not yet a Fujimura so it doesn't feel right to be called that."

"I see…" the broker responded calmly, "so would you prefer I call you Emiya or Damascus?"

Of course the information broker would know about that.

"Emiya, I'd rather not be outed yet," he admitted.

"Of course Emiya-san," the man responded with a friendly tone, "now, for what reason have you decided to return so soon?"

"I wish to learn as much as I can about the magical community," he stated bluntly, "not necessarily secrets… but the common information that most magi and Apostles know."

The ancient being nodded.

"Yes, I suppose Sumire is a terrible source of information that is actually relevant," Van-Fem acknowledged.

He nodded in agreement.

"Well… I suppose I could provide you a particular special purchase I have ready just for these occasions," the businessman responded and he tilted his head the other way. "Do you think you're the first being I've encountered that's managed to achieve magecraft without a true mentor? First generation magi do pop up regularly enough though it is becoming less common as the years pass."

That was certainly good to know.

"Usually they're found by an enforcer and taken to the Clock Tower… but the Clock Tower has taken to buying my guides so they don't have to actually dedicate anyone to teach new magi," the businessman declared, "I suppose you could say that I cornered the market in magical textbooks."

"And what is in these magical textbooks?" he asked.

"Nothing specific to magecraft, just about the different organisations, the notable figures in the world and so on," the response was rather vague, "honestly, the only reason I charge as much for them as I do is due to the amount of 'old money' flowing through the Clock Tower."

Shirou could certainly tell why the man seemed to talk down about the concept of 'old money', after all, he likely used the oldest form of 'minted' currency if he was as old as his comments indicated.

"How much for three copies?" he asked, prompting the old apostle to quirk an eyebrow curiously, "I want one for myself, one for Gr-Raiga and another for Raiga's granddaughter given she's aware of this stuff too."

The Sumerian merchant gained an understanding smile.

"Ah, very well," he calmly stated, "in that case it shall be ninety-thousand yen."

That… was not as much as he had expected.

"I thought you said they were aimed at old money?"

"Indeed, however there is a limit even old money is willing to pay for such basic information," the response was simple and Shirou nodded.

"Will you ship them to me in the mail or do you have copies lying around here?" he asked.

"I will arrange for them to be mailed to Fujimura-san's house," the apostle declared, "do not worry about secrecy… the books have it built into them."

Well, at least he could be safe in the knowledge that he wouldn't have to worry about it being left out for everyone to see.

"In that case, thank you for your time today," he said, "I may see you later but for now… I am going to leave before Sumire drinks me into bankruptcy."

"An understandable concern," the ancient apostle declared.

"I almost forgot," Shirou said, prompting the apostle to return his focus to him, "Raiga transferred the money you transferred for my secret to me, so can you use the money in my account instead of his for any further interactions?"

"Very well, simply provide me with the IBAN for your account and I shall do as you request."

Shirou nodded and the arrangements were made.

XXX Tainted Steel XXX

Returning to the Emiya residence was the same as always.

Though they were a fair bit earlier than he had expected due to Van-Fem's stock.

"So… what's next?" Sumire asked as Shirou put his bank card away.

The clock showed that he had a good several hours left before he would have to be at school. So he nodded.

"Back to Norway," he declared.

She released a sigh at that.

"I guess you're planning on finding Louvre as quickly as possible huh?" she muttered and he nodded.

She shook her head before placing a hand on his shoulder.

Soon he found himself once again hitting a Lakebed.

"I'm going to go and check now," he stated before turning and making his way to the closest edge of the lake.

Hopefully this time he wouldn't get into an unintended fight.

XXX Tainted Steel XXX

Louvre hated this.

Waiting in an airport was torturous.

Getting through customs was simple enough, he just had to hypnotise a few random clerks after all, but the risk of the flight being delayed and forcing him to sit in the sun was no pleasant.

Not immediately lethal but certainly not pleasant.

However the true torture was all the fresh bodies that bustled around him and his children.

All that fresh blood, ripe and ready for the taking, so many potential ghouls and yet more possible children.

And all of it worthless because he needed to get to another country.

His fist clenched and then relaxed as the announcement indicating it was time to board his plane called out.

He and both his children rose from their seats, each carrying one bag.

Each bag magically enlarged inside to carry everything they needed.

Soon they would reach Fuyuki City and then he would be prepared to destroy Aleph Damascus.

XXX Tainted Steel XXX

Yet again another lake was free of any indication of special distortions.

Shaking his head, he wondered if he would ever close in on Louvre's castle. He had already tried eight lakes and the only sign he had encountered was a camp of magi that had been searching for the same thing he had been.

But that was just more proof that the Clock Tower was closing in on the Apostle of the Lake.

Slowly he waded through the lakebed before Sumire swam up to him.

"No luck?" she asked and he shook his head, "time to go back?"

He nodded.

And without a moment of hesitation, the Water Elemental touched his shoulder and they were once again on dry land inside his house, no trace of having been submerged on their bodies.

"So… Do you think you're on the right track?" she asked.

"I don't know," he admitted, it wasn't like he was using state of the art methods to try and find Louvre, he was just trying to narrow down his search.

She deflated at that.

"Well… he has managed to avoid being found so far," she acknowledged, "I guess there had to be a reason for that right?"

Naturally.

An apostle's castle wouldn't remain hidden for so long if it wasn't near impossible to find.

But he still had quite a few lakes left to go before he ran out of ideas.

"All I can do is keep searching," he stated.

Sumire released a sigh before taking a swig.

The night was nearly over and outside of his meeting with Van-Fem, nothing of note had really happened.

XXX Tainted Steel XXX

Waver couldn't stop himself from releasing a tired sigh as he finished dealing with all the contacts he needed to.

For as much as he hated to have to deal with it all, he was still a Lord of the Clock Tower and had to attend to his duties until Reines was of age to take over.

He shook his head before resting it in his hands.

Ever since King Pendragon had revived everything had just gotten more and more complicated for him. Not to say that things weren't complicated before her revival, but they were more manageable than they were now.

A new Superior Dead Apostle, the return of an ancient king with a dragon core and ending up having to deal with both.

At least with the 'Beast of Blades' he only had to contact others about the matter.

Releasing a sigh he glanced to the side and frowned.

Was it possible?

Sure the Clock Tower lacked information on this apostle due to a lack of exposure, but was it possible that an Apostle would be a better source of information?

Picking up the brochure, he studied it for times and dates.

Yes, that should be easy enough to get to.

Rising from his seat, he left his classroom and walked through the halls, his sights set on a single matter.

He soon reached the dorms and found the one he was looking for, knocking before waiting.

"You may enter," the owner said and he proceeded to open the door and stand before the girl he was currently sworn to serve until his debt was repaid, "oh, this certainly is a surprise. What brings you here big brother?"

Her tone was playful but he ignored it.

"I seek your permission to leave the country," he said.

She blinked, looking at him curiously.

"And why would you seek to leave the country?" she asked.

He took a deep breath before speaking.

"It has come to the attention of the Lords that a new Dead Apostle has appeared. It got into a fight with an Enforcer and two freelancers, according to the Fraga the only reason they survived was because it wasn't interested in killing them," he explained.

He saw her eyes widen.

"Denied," she said without hesitation, "do you really think you stand a chance against this Apostle if the Fraga said it was too much for them?"

It was his turn to blink.

"… I'm not trying to fight it," he said, "I want to see if Van-Fem has any information on him, and he's currently located in Monte Carlo."

"Oh," she sounded almost abashed at that.

"I'm not stupid, I would rather not meet this apostle if possible," he admitted, "from what was said, it's plausible that it might be trouble for King Pendragon, let alone me."

Reines frowned.

"I thought you said it was a new Apostle?"

"It is," he replied, "it's Sumire's apprentice and was only recently discovered."

She worried her lip in response.

"Are you telling me that there's a chance this apostle might become more dangerous?" she asked and he nodded.

"All we really know about it is that it's the Water Bottles apprentice, is extremely dangerous and is being called 'The Beast of Blades' by the magi that fought it."

She glanced away before a resolute look came over her face.

"Very well, you have my permission to leave the country," she agreed, "however, you must take both Gray and King Pendragon for protection."

He nodded.

It would have been preferable if he didn't have to go with either of them but orders were orders.

"And what about financial limit?" he asked.

Knowing what his limit was when purchasing information from the businessman apostle was vital.

She glanced to the side, obviously unsure of what to do.

Finally she released a sigh.

"Whatever is necessary," she declared and he stared in disbelief, "if this apostle is truly as dangerous as you say it is, the more information we can get on it the better."

He nodded.

So he didn't have to worry about spending too much and being chewed out for it. But he would definitely not be frivolous with it.

"Understood," he responded, "if that is all, I will arrange for a flight to Monte Carlo immediately."

She nodded and he left the room.

He took a deep breath and pulled out his phone.

The sooner he could arrange everything, the better.

XXX Tainted Steel XXX

Arturia would not openly admit it, but modern baths were a thing of beauty. Such easy access to hot water, clean clothes and more.

After training in the Land of Shadows she had forgotten just how pleasant a soothing bath could be.

Bvvv bvvv

She blinked before looking at the newest phone Waver Velvet had provided her, this one possessing the word 'Nokia' on it, as it vibrated against the small table that stood next to the bathtub.

Releasing a sigh, she proceeded to pick it up and answer it as she had been taught.

"Hello?" she spoke into it.

"Hello Sir Pendragon," Waver Velvet's voice spoke from the other side, "something has come up and I was told to bring you with me."

She frowned with a sigh.

"I see…" she admitted reluctantly.

"Get yourself ready, we need to be at the airport in about two hours," he declared and she blinked.

"So… does that mean I will have time to finish my bath?" she asked.

"… as long as you don't take much more than half an hour," he replied.

"Very well, I shall be with you soon," she declared.

"I'll leave you to your bath then," and with that, the modern magus hung up.

Slowly she proceeded to end the call on her end too.

She supposed it could be worse.

XXX Tainted Steel XXX

Waver walked towards a room he probably shouldn't be going to.

But it was something worth considering even if it didn't go so well due to personal philosophical differences.

Plus, while he may have held different beliefs, he represented a family that aligned themselves with the same belief the target did.

Taking a deep breath, he knocked on the door.

"Enter," the voice was both tired yet cold.

Opening the door he walked into the room, purposefully ignoring the rest of the room and instead focusing on the person sitting behind a large mahogany desk.

Dark brown hair, a tired glare marring his face and most importantly, only one arm.

"Lord El-Melloi two," the man spat out. He was more than happy for the man to add the 'two' at the end, it was preferable to being referred to with just the title, "come to mock me for my loss?"

He released a sigh and shook his head.

"No," he replied, "I'm actually here to speak with you about The Beast of Blades."

The man tsked in response.

"What is there to say? We thought it was a golem and it ate my arm before leaving," the man declared, "you've already heard everything in the Lord Chamber."

"I know. I am going to Monte Carlo to see if the Dark Lord of the Business World has any information on it," he declared.

Lyons proceeded to narrow his eyes.

"From my understanding, the Archisorte family is lacking in funds courtesy of your actions nearly a decade ago," it appeared that Lyons had picked up on the reason for his visit.

Waver released a sigh.

"That is correct," he admitted.

"So you wish to gain access to my wealth in order to go digging around an Apostle for more information," the magus stated.

"That's correct," he admitted, "given your personal issue with it, I thought you might be willing to lend your aid in this endeavour."

The magus closed his eyes.

"Very well," Lyons opened his eyes before speaking again, "under one condition. You must share all information with me that you discover about the Beast."

Waver nodded.

"I expected as much."

"When do we leave?" Lyons asked and he blinked.

"The plane is scheduled for a couple of hours," he stated.

"Then I shall prepare for travel," Lyons stated before rising from his seat, "I assume you have no qualms with me attending your meeting, given you wish for my financial aid."

"I wasn't expecting it," he admitted, "but I suppose it won't hurt."

"Then take your leave, I must prepare."

"Understood," with a short bow, he proceeded to leave the room, once again purposely avoiding looking at anything in the room.

You could never tell what was dangerous in a magus's office.

XXX Tainted Steel XXX

Taiga released a sigh as she walked along the road.

Shirou's new appearance was still hard to get used to. Sure it was just a change in skin and hair colour but she hadn't realised just how pale he had been before until she saw him like that.

Then again, his skin was literally dead before, so it should've been obvious.

But she had been with him pretty much every day while he was getting so pale, so she hadn't noticed.

Now the boy looked healthy for the first time since he had started to replace his body… but that was just because he now no longer had a concept of health.

The school had taken to trying to encourage him to cease his rebellion and let his hair recover and stop tanning himself.

Naturally he refused.

Apparently Tohsaka's homeroom teacher had suggested that she stop seeing the boy, but of course she had rejected that suggestion.

Silently she mourned for Shirou's lack of human emotion. If he had them then perhaps he could have connected with her properly.

Shaking her head clear, she glanced at her watch before her eyes widened.

She was going to be late!

Pushing her melancholy out of mind, she rushed along the road, no longer mindful of anyone that might be there as well, she had more important things to worry about at this point.

Someone walked out directly in front of her and she failed to stop in time.

The result was her crashing into them and falling to the ground when they refused to budge.

"O-ow…" she muttered as she looked at the person she had crashed into and freezing.

It was a young woman, probably no older than twenty-five. She possessed long black hair tied into a ponytail and wore clothes that looked like they had gone out of style with the end of the Victorian era of England.

However, it was the girl's eyes and skin that truly stood out to her.

Crimson eyes that screamed of callous hunger, and skin so pale that snow looked dirty by comparison.

There was only one possibility.

This woman was a Vampire.

But why?

Why would yet another vampire appear in the city?

Pushing those thoughts out of her mind, she stood up as fast as she could.

"You're so pale!" she said, "do you need help getting to the hospital?"

She knew the girl wouldn't have a reason to go and hoped that the woman would refuse to go… but she needed to pretend to not know what she was.

The woman spoke in a language she didn't understand.

She frowned.

"Do you need help getting to the hospital?" she asked again, this time in English, prompting the woman to blink before looking around the area and seeing the bystanders watching.

"No, I am good," the woman responded in awkward English, "thank you."

"Are you sure?" she asked again.

"Yes, I am sure," the vampire replied before moving away.

She shook her head before checking her watch yet again.

Shit… she was definitely going to be late.

XXX Tainted Steel XXX

Louvre didn't understand exactly what had happened.

The sunlight wasn't too dangerous so she had left to get a lay of the land in Fuyuki.

She knew that causing a scene would be counterproductive, having the Overseer of the city aware of their presence would complicate matters.

Especially since according to father, the priest at the church had been put forward as a possible addition to the Burial Agency should a member die.

If such a person got involved then that could seriously complicate matters.

So the goal was to find Aleph Damascus, get him away from Sumire and then destroy him before leaving.

If Damascus's death was easy enough to attain, then perhaps they might destroy the priest and magus.

But until then, their goal was to lay low and not get into unneeded conflict. Which meant avoiding eating humans when there's a risk of being witnessed.

Even so… to find a civilian who asked if she needed a hospital was strange.

Was it normal for humans to ask things like that? She honestly didn't know what modern culture was like, having become a vampire over a hundred years ago. All of her experiences with humans since then had been to feed.

Oh well, it didn't matter.

She had that woman's scent now. She would be a decent snack before their departure.

XXX Tainted Steel XXX

The day passed by painfully slowly for Taiga as she waited for the chance to speak with Tohsaka about the vampire she had met earlier.

Shirou already had his own issues to deal with and had a rather hectic schedule these days, telling him about a vampire nearby would simply cause him to postpone his own problems to deal with it.

Besides, Rin was the overseer of the city, dealing with such things was actually her job.

Eventually the bell rang and she moved.

Soon she was almost dragging Tohsaka into an abandoned classroom once again.

"What's the problem, Fujimura-sensei?" she asked.

"Is it possible to do something to stop Shirou from listening in?" she asked, prompting the girl to frown before doing some esoteric hand gestures, mutter a load of gibberish and make her arm glow a bit.

"There, Shirou can't listen in on us now," she declared, "now, what is it you wish to speak about?"

Taiga took several deep breaths.

"On my way to school… I literally ran into a vampire," she declared.

Tohsaka stared at her blankly and she realised just why that meant so little.

"I mean, I was running because I was going to be late… and I ran into someone," she explained, "they had red eyes and pale skin, wore out of date fashion and spoke some type of European."

Tohsaka frowned as she rubbed her chin.

"So you're telling me, that there's an unknown vampire in town and you just so happened to run into it without dying?" the girl asked and she nodded.

"There were others in the street," she said, "I think it didn't want to start a panic."

Tohsaka nodded.

"Now for the most important question…" Tohsaka said, drawing it out before staring at her, her eyes cold, "why are you keeping this from Shirou?"

"Because he's got so much on his plate right now… I don't want to distract him," she admitted, "plus, it's your job to hunt vampires isn't it?"

"Technically it's Kirei's," the girl responded, "but close enough."

She nodded.

"So will you do anything about it?" she asked.

"I will do what I can, but don't expect a miracle," Tohsaka replied, "is that everything Fujimura-sensei?"

"Yes, thank you for your time Tohsaka-san."

XXX Tainted Steel XXX

Rin felt her heart race as she returned home.

There was apparently yet another vampire in her city.

She released a sigh.

This was just getting ridiculous.

First Sumire, then Emiya, then Chaos and now another?

What next? Strout showing up to compete in the Grail War?!

She deflated.

She didn't want to drive Shirou out of Fuyuki but she wondered if he was responsible for this case too?

Even if he was, Fujimura-sensei had gone to her about it, not him.

Which meant it was her role as the Overseer of the city to ensure that the problem was dealt with properly.

Picking up her phone, she rang Kotomine.

"Hello, this is the Fuyuki-"

"Cut the crap Kirei," she interrupted, "we've apparently got bigger problems to deal with."

"Oh? Whatever has gotten you so flustered?" he asked.

She took a deep breath.

"You know how my English Teacher is connected to the Yakuza?" she asked.

"Of course," he replied.

"She informed me that this morning she ran into a vampire on the street," she informed him.

"Oh? Which one?" he asked and she frowned.

"She doesn't know."

"I suppose that is to be expected," her legal guardian admitted, "well, I suppose you seek my aid in discovering their location and slaying them?"

"Yes," she admitted.

Silently she wished to inform Kirei of Shirou and Sumire's presence and reveal that they were not the vampire that Fujimura-sensei saw, but that would break her geass.

"Very well, I suppose this will be a good opportunity to teach you how to hunt vampires," he said and she felt her eye twitch.

Hopefully this vampire wasn't a minor one, Kotomine was certainly a powerful combatant from everything she was aware, but an older vampire had both mystery and experience on their side.

"Indeed, let's just hope it isn't too problematic," she said before hanging up.

Next stop, the church.

XXX Tainted Steel XXX

Shirou found himself concerned as Fuji-nee ate quietly.

It was obvious that there was something bothering her but given she had gotten Tohsaka to hide their presence from him when they had met during school, he doubted she would be willing to speak to him about it.

"Well, I suppose it's time for me and Sumire to leave for the night," he declared and Fuji-nee nodded.

"Yeah," the brown-haired teacher replied, her tone tired.

He nodded to the Water Elemental who proceeded to put a hand on his shoulder yet again.

Immediately he found himself once again feeling the pressure of a lake's worth of water crushing down on him before nodding and making his way to the edge.

Now he would just have to search yet again, hoping that he could discover the castle that his quarry called home.

XXX Tainted Steel XXX

Rin took a seat in the office almost immediately after Kotomine.

The office was white and utilitarian, with folders and files lining shelves, a computer resting on the desk, a corkboard attached to a wall and even a whiteboard ready for use.

"Greetings Detective," Kotomine said to the owner of the office.

The detective was a rather plain looking man, probably no taller than Shinji and with short black hair and a plain business suit.

The most notable trait was that he seemed nervous.

"Kotomine-san," the man responded before looking at her, "may I ask who your companion is?"

"This is Tohsaka Rin," the priest declared, "she is the magus official overseeing this city since her father's untimely demise."

"I see… so that must mean you're here on business," the man's voice was filled with a clear sense of dread.

"Indeed," Kirei declared, "now Rin, would you care to explain the situation to the detective?"

She nodded, it wouldn't do to shy away from such matters after all.

"It came to my attention earlier today that there is an unknown vampire currently roaming the city," she declared.

"A vampire?" the detective released a sigh, "why do I get the impression this is going to get complicated?"

"Anything involving magecraft typically is," Kotomine declared, "now, given the situation, I will be needing a list of all missing person reports filed recently."

The detective nodded.

"Is there anything else I can do to help?" he asked.

"Gather any information you can from public transportation to and from the city," Kotomine stated, "there are a list of names that may be flagged by the Church, if they are, then the passengers are likely vampires."

The detective nodded.

"And if there are none?"

"Then there may have still been a vampire aboard, using a name we are unaware of," Kirei stated calmly, earning a nod from the detective.

"Should I check the number of passengers who left planes against the passenger lists?" the detective asked and Kotomine nodded.

"That would be best."

Rin frowned.

It was possible that these searches may come up with something, but how exactly would they discover where the vampire was located?

"Is there anything else I can do to help?" the detective asked and Kotomine shook his head.

"The only other thing you can do is report to me should anything strange be reported," he declared, "something I am certain you already know to do."

"Of course Kotomine-san," the detective responded.

"Then we shall take our leave," Kotomine said as he rose from his chair, Rin following suit.

"I hope you have luck with your hunt," the detective responded as they proceeded to leave the office.

Slowly they walked through the precinct, police performing their daily duties while ignoring them.

It was only once they had left the building and everything was quiet around them that they spoke again.

"That Rin, is the first part of any apostle hunt," he declared, "you need to spread your net as far as possible and try to narrow the search if possible."

She nodded.

This wasn't something she had considered when she had been attempting to find whatever Kotomine had discovered herself.

But at least now she was getting the basics explained to her.

"And what next?" she asked.

"Next, we wait," he said, his tone casual, "until we have the information we need, there is little we can do."

She frowned as she stared at him.

"And what if someone dies because of that?" she asked.

He simply released a small chuckle in response.

"Rin, if you wish to be an effective magus, you must push such notions out of your mind," the priest declared, "a few casualties are nothing to concern yourself with."

She internally bristled at that.

How could a priest be so callous about humans being preyed on by monsters?

Silently she questioned her own morals, after all, she allowed two vampires to remain in town without repercussion.

Which one?

She almost froze in place as Kotomine's question returned to her mind.

He wasn't surprised that there was a vampire in town.

Did he already know?

And beyond that, why did he think it was possible that Fujimura-sensei might know which vampire she had run into?

Was it possible? Did he know about Shirou and Sumire?

Damn this geass.

If it wasn't there she could question him.

But for now, she would simply have to pretend she hadn't noticed anything unusual.

Hopefully the search for this vampire wouldn't take too long.

She continued walking with her legal guardian towards the church.

Hopefully she would get the chance to sleep tonight.

XXX Tainted Steel XXX

Shit.

Louvre couldn't stop himself from gritting his teeth as he listened to the Clock Tower overseer and the priest talk after leaving the police station.

They knew.

He didn't know how they could possibly know but they did.

Attacking them now would be counterproductive.

He would report to father first.

Just him and his sister should be more than enough to slaughter the pair, but alone, he would likely fall against two foes.

The magus and the priest would die.

That much was guaranteed.

Father would make sure of that.


And that is all for today.

Shadow Out.