The slurp of the tea being poured into a clay mug was echoed in the polite sip that the lady in the tight catsuit let out, the sigh of her breath creating ripples. Shirou was watching her cautiously, sipping on his own cup and leaning back on his countertop.
"I told you, you aren't coming." Shirou said, resolute.
"I believe your exact words were 'cannot'." The answering tone came.
"Don't argue." Shirou declared, remaining steadfast. "I don't need to fight during the day. Every time there has been a battle it was at night. There is no need to follow me to school."
"If that is what you declare, I will agree not to follow you."
Shirou sighed in relief, heading for the door. "I'll be back before sundown, Lancer."
"Of course, Shirou." With one hand behind her back she crossed her fingers. Like she would trust Shirou to not get into trouble. Every single day of this war has led to her master getting injured or hurt. She couldn't allow him to die on her watch. The moment he left, she looked over at the third member of the breakfast table. "Miss Taiga, is this what you deal with on a daily basis?"
"Hmm?" The woman seemed easily distracted, inhaling a bowl of rice at a rate worthy of any Pict after a march. "Oh? Shirou? Yes, the boy has always been that way. Won't listen to reason, won't stop for anything."
"I want to go to school and make sure he is alright." She gave the woman her full attention. "You are an educator there, are you not?"
"Oh, of course I am! I teach English there."
It was the work of but a moment to carve the runes she needed. "Do you ever call in a substitute? A replacement? A private tutor?"
"I suppose if we get sick we can ask for a replacement…"
Her hands glowed as she chanted a few words in the old tongue. "Can you ask for any replacement?"
"No, the school has a list of people." Taiga waved off, too calm. "But I always run late, so the aide gave up on me!"
"You know," Lancer mentioned, "I am a capable teacher. I am from an English speaking country, too." She traced another rune in the air. "You look rather pale, are you sure you don't want me to do you that favor?" The word was pronounced with inflection.
Taiga's eyes slackened. "Now that you mention it, I don't feel so good." Taiga yawned. "Can you fill in for me? My lesson plan is right here. A day off sounds really nice."
"Do you mind if I borrow some clothes?"
When she entered the school, it was in the clothing that Taiga had on hand. Granted, her curves were not as generous, and the clothing had to fit a much more capable form. The skirt was barely able to be buttoned, and it did its job. Barely. The blouse? Two buttons from giving up the ghost. But it was modest and decent for the occasion. A set of 'indoor' shoes were stolen from the Emiya household and brought in the convenient book bag. The last and most difficult hurdle left was actually getting to the school. Taiga had offered her scooter to use, and without thinking she had agreed.
"Bassa!" She barked at the vehicle. She had no riding skill to even count on here, and the handles would just twitch one way or the other and it would lead to her careening all over the road! She tried to drive the damned device as directed, but the daft thing wouldn't comply! Every other part of her plan to protect Shirou was working perfectly, except for this thing! She could scream it was aggravating her so much. She barely parked the device on a platform next to the school without injury, but it was close.
Shirou had taken her by the school once, and she knew exactly where to go. His room was exactly one floor down and two doors to the left. Now she could finally protect her Master. A cool smile turned her lips upward, and there was a loud clang as a young man slammed into a row of lockers nearby. He must have trouble focusing. Lancer's eyebrow couldn't help but slide upwards as she slipped on her indoor shoes, entirely cognizant of someone else running into a doorframe. "Perhaps I will need to substitute for physical education as well," she muttered.
Now all she had to do was teach some children how to speak English and everything would be fine. Her classroom held twenty five youths of varying resilience and eagerness. "Stand! Bow! Sit!" One of the students bellowed, as the entire class rose to greet her. She only recognized one of the students, the young Rin she had confronted in her first few moments in this war. She didn't sense Archer in the room, but the man was fairly rude. She had no intention of starting anything here.
"My name is Alison Haig, and I will be your English and homeroom teacher today while Fujimura Sensei recovers from her illness." She said in perfect Japanese. The Grail imparted knowledge unto her, knowledge enough to teach these children. "I will teach you the English lesson that was prepared for you by Fujimura-sensei."
She wielded the chalk like it was a polearm, with wide sweeping gestures that carved white lines into the chalkboard and left a clear word on the board. 'KNOW' was carved into the black surface, and she turned back to the class fast enough to catch most of the young men still staring at her ass. Not that she could blame them. This skirt was a bit tight, after all. "This word is the English expression to understand, to learn, to become familiar, and to be at one with an ideal. It is pronounced as follows:" She explained in Japanse. Then she cleared her throat and switched to English. "Repeat afta' me!" She pointed at the board with the chalk, vigorous. "Ken!"
"Sensei?" Rin raised her hand. "Aren't you forgetting a consonant?"
"I pronounced all of them." She explained in Japanese. "Again! Ken!"
The class copied her, seemingly confused. "Sensei, isn't it pronounced with an 'oh'?" Rin asked.
"Miss Tohsaka. Could you please step forwards and pronounce this sentence correctly?" She started drawing more words on the board, her hips swaying from side to side as she took up the entire board space with a statement. 'To prepare a hare you remove the hair, skin and bone. With hair gone the hare is bare and gone!' She wrote. "You may begin."
Rin seemed to stand up straighter, and spoke clearly and concisely. "To prepare a hare-" Lancer cut her off with a hand.
"Terrible pronunciation! Where is your dipthong? You actually rolled your tongue around that 'r' like it was a cucumber!" Rin colored red in the cheeks, looking somewhere between angry and humiliated. Lancer had to keep from smiling. This was just too much fun! "Now repeat after me, class." She stood off to the side by the windows, watching the male half of the class give her words no attention, and the female half stare at the board rather than her. "Tae prepah' a hae ya remove ta hae, skein and bone. Wid hae gun ta hae is bae and gun!" She said in clear pronounced proper English. Not the language of the oppressors, but the language of the Picts and Celts.
She made the class practice this one by one for the next hour, until every single one had given their best and their all. But tongues got tired, and eyes got lazy and would rather stare at the two buttons that barely clung to life on her blouse rather than tongue twisters on the board. Shinji Matou, one of the less subtle students, could barely focus at all during the lesson. Rin managed to do the best out of the lot, by the end. By the time the lunch bell rang, Lancer could recognize the look and sounds of mutiny in the room.
"Grae' work ya heid-weppin' kleggs. If'n ahm tekkin ya termarra I ken kenned ya. Tae ter quiz on propah spek, or ah'm 'avin yer wors bassa's ettin Haggis!" She said in the respectful mother tongue, to see how many understood what she was trying to teach them. As a group, the students looked pale and wan. Afraid, almost. She switched back to Japanese for their benefit. "I will quiz you on this tomorrow if Fujimura-sensei has not recovered."
Scáthach grinned at the look of abject terror the entire class was in. The boy Shinji had buried his head in his hands, whimpering. "What does klegg mean?" He asked the young man next to him. The poor boy had no clue either.
"You are now free to go to lunch, students. You have all done well."
"Stand! Bow! Sit!" She really liked this practice, and bowed back to the students promptly. Shinji nearly seemed to have a conniption at his front row seat, as Scáthach came back to a standing position. The students filed out in rows, their chatter carrying out into the hallway. Scáthach had to leave the room along with them, as another teacher was coming to teach the students after lunch. She would have to teach another class English. "Fu fu fu." She laughed to herself. For the few days she would have here in the waking world, she would at least have a lovely time. It felt so fulfilling to teach children. It had been so very long since she had taught little Cu that she had almost forgotten what it felt like.
She should have been heading to the teacher's lounge, but one look at the cramped room and she decided it would be more entertaining to go look at her pupils. She went into a bathroom and dematerialized, laughing to herself as she glided downstairs to where Shirou's classroom was. She could see cute little Rin Tohsaka blushing and waiting for her Master, foot tapping and sexual tension plain to see. She even bought the boy a bento box! The Grail didn't tell her what that meant in this culture, but to her eyes it was plain to see. The girl liked Shirou. Even if her Servant attacked Shirou, the girl was sweet on him. It reminded her a little bit of Cu. Of course, Cu could understand when women were interested in him. Shirou was a brick that could only feel uncomfortable when women expressed interest.
Shirou joined Rin, the pair heading for the stairs. Scáthach didn't need to protect the boy from her. If he had a chance to sow his wild oats with the girl, it might calm him down some. Laughing to herself, she settled at the top of the stairwell leading to the roof. She could guard the boy and keep anyone from interfering with his very nice lunch with Rin. Her good mood disappeared instantly once a bonded field went up over the school, the entire area turning into a red mist. Students gasped as one, falling to the ground all around.
Scáthach stood up so quickly that the skirt burst. It was a lost cause, now. With a whispered word of magic the blouse and other borrowed items shredded, and she was surrounded by her catsuit. At the top of the stairwell, the door burst open as Rin led the way. "Lancer!" She blurted, surprised. "Were you listening?"
"Master!" Scáthach greeted. Shirou had arrived at the stairs, and was giving her a look with real emotion. Anger simmered behind his eyes.
"I told you, Lancer." Shirou said harshly. "You weren't supposed to come to school."
"Taiga told me I could substitute for her." Scáthach said with equal aloofness. "I told you, Master. Trouble follows you. I chose correctly." He wanted to be a Hero, and the world itself seemed to answer that call.
"Be that as it may, Lancer. I don't want you to be like Archer." Shirou said, clearly. "When we first made our agreement we swore never to tell each other anything less than the full truth."
"We did." She admitted. "But as your Servant I am entitled to protect you. This war is what your heart called out to me for, to find someone that could protect you." Scáthach summoned her dark obsidian spear, permanently colored red from runecraft and blood spilt. "The land of shadows heard your cry, and whatever darkness holds sway in the shallows of your heart was enough to drag me from my slumber. That, Master, is why I cannot follow your order to stay away from the conflict." Shirou seemed to go quiet, letting her keep talking. "You wanted to become a Hero, Master. I am a mentor and trainer of heroes like yourself. That night, your soul called for me to come and teach you. Keep that dark part of your heart from taking over your life and making you into a villain or worse."
"Worse?" Rin piped up.
"The same heart that can make a hero also makes their equal and opposite. Conviction and intent make a heroic spirit. Training and experience prove their worth. Divine Gifts and powers only amplify. They cannot replace those things." Scáthach folded her arms. "Your lack of magic circuits would insult a normal Servant. But for me, I appreciate the added layer of challenge. I look forward to skewering your foes with this handicap."
"Shirou, I am still convinced you summoned Lucifer or someone like that." Rin muttered from her place in between them. "Shouldn't we turn off the barrier before people start dying?"
Shirou and Scáthach stopped their staring match at that. There were foes to break over her knee. Her purpose was clear. Teaching these pupils and taking the time to be her own person were pleasant distractions; Yet it was never enough. Her wish must be fulfilled. There was nothing else to do for it. She wanted her life to end. Shirou didn't believe in living his own life for it's own benefit. He was a man born into a world that held no value for such. The era of fealty and nobility had long gone, and in its place a gilded era of lies and deceit had arisen.
How entertaining it would be to live in such a place. "I can sense a Servant is nearby." Scáthach said, smiling. "I will go to stop them. You and Rin should stay here, where you can be safe."
"Excuse me? Everything bad that has happened at school during this murder-spree has happened on the roof. I would like to say for the record that I prefer to be down on the ground where running away is a valid strategy." Rin spoke up, her pointer finger more expressive than a man painted with Woad. "No, Lancer. Lucifer." Rin corrected herself. "We will go for the first floor. Where we can escape out a window, or run away, or signal Archer or something."
"You cannot speak to him?" Scáthach asked, curious. "Perhaps we should kill you now and then the master downstairs. Then two masters and servants will be out of the war…"
"That won't work, Lancer." Shirou insisted, stepping down the stairs and rolling up his sleeves. As if that would help him. "Archer can act independently. Killing Rin would just mean we would get killed by her vengeful servant. And Archer is enough of a cruel personality that he would do it just to prove my point."
"I was joking, Master." Scáthach assured.
"You summoned the devil, Shirou. Let's face it." Rin said, keeping her distance. "Though it is true that I had to use a command seal to make sure he didn't carpet bomb the school."
Shirou decided not to comment on that. "Let's go. Before whatever this spell is supposed to cause finishes."
Scáthach nodded, using her runecraft to draw upon the walls. From the steel within, she drew upon the metal and called it forth. "Master." She insisted, handing him the cooling metal. "Take this." Shirou accepted her gift, the crude blade enough in his hands. He ripped off his own sleeve to make a wrapping around the hilt.
"Thanks, Lancer. Good luck." His tone had shifted. Being reminded of their deal, and why she served him had warmed his heart. The heat of battle is where a soul like Shirou's belonged. She leapt over the stairs, pivoting her spear through a few walls and stairs to wind her way from the fifth to the second floor of the building. It took a couple of seconds, but by the time her boots cracked the concrete foes were already rising. From the dust bones were coming together, forming some kind of necromantic familiars.
To her, it would barely register as a threat. To Shirou and Rin they would be somewhat more serious. Before the familiars could finish forming her spear cleaved through the ones within range. Somewhere amongst them a Servant was moving. Three swings of her spear and one side of the hallway was completely cleared of enemies. The bones returned to the aether and left nothing behind to show for her efforts. Without delay, the other side of the hallway filled with the rest of her enemies. They gathered into a single body, rising from the floor into something much more challenging.
"This is the work of Caster." Scáthach said clearly. "A bounded field to keep us in, and kill all the humans. Then familiars to do the actual dirty work." Wait, that didn't add up. The familiars weren't needed. The field was draining magic from the world around them. Everyone would die in under an hour. "The familiars are too expensive to summon without cause. They are from Caster. Which means the bounded field is from someone else."
Which meant that these familiars were nothing but a waste of time. Caster was here to attack another Master. Or was trying to kill Shirou. "I can see through your charade." She spat. "Take your concerns elsewhere."
"Oh?" The voice of the accursed witch carried through the hallways. "The sweet little Lancer believes she knows what concern is." Her laughter chortled through the hallway. "Don't you want to stop this, too?"
"What I want doesn't matter. This is the Holy Grail War." Scáthach stated."It is normal for others to be caught up in the war. To be killed in the hails of arrows. Only the sword and spear can accurately decide who should die. Arrows and fire have no care or concern for old or young. This is just another kind of fire."
"How cold of you, Lancer." She said, taking things more seriously. "But I didn't come to stop the bounded field. I only came to talk to you. I know that your Master is weak. Not able to support you. When you realize that you'll never win this war with him weighing you down, you know where to come find me."
She had heard enough. Twisting around, she located the source of the voice. It was the gathered familiar. Scáthach sliced it into pieces, sprinting past it and up the stairs again. There was no sense in leaving a foe where it could flank them. Voices were heard. Scáthach came to a complete stop. "-what we found!"
"My Servant is going to destroy you all!" She recognized these voices. Rin and Shinji were up there. Her grip tightened on the spear, sensing the opportunity. Shinji's voice was especially grating. "She's coming right now to end you all, and there is nothing any of you can do before you both die!"
Scáthach could feel a prickling as someone cleared their throat behind her. She turned, seeing another Servant at the bottom of the stairs. "Well? Where is she you blubbering walrus baby?!" Rin decried, screeching. "You're nearly wetting yourself here, Shinji!"
"Hello." Scáthach greeted. The newcomer had hair longer than her own, and a brighter purple. Her taste in clothing was similarly pushing the boundaries of modesty beyond what Scáthach was comfortable with. "Nice hair."
The newcomer tilted her head. The cloth over her eyes had some kind of runecraft over it. Nothing she was familiar with, "Lancer." She mentioned casually. "Your English is shit."
A weapon appeared in her hands. A dagger on a long chain. "You heard me."
"Tha' ah did." Scáthach cleared her throat. "Ya gen fehl tha'."
With that, battle was joined. Spear met dagger and Scáthach had to admit that her strikes carried power behind them. The air thrummed with it, the power she had being drawn from the entire school like a plague of locusts. A plague that strengthened every strike she made. Meanwhile she was surviving on the scraps of magic that Shirou was able to provide. She was strong, and fast. But somehow this Servant was able to match her. That wasn't supposed to be possible. The Grail clearly was designed with each class of Servant having distinct advantages. The Lancer class was supposed to be the fastest, but somehow she was matching her pace.
With a burst of Prana, she finally went beyond mortal levels of power. "Oh Master, you give me a worthy challenge." The little burst of prana she took from him was all he could give right now. She couldn't even afford to begin her mantra to activate Gae Bolg. Other Servants might panic or demand more prana from their Masters. She prided herself on winning even under the worst of circumstances.
Just that burst was enough to punch through whatever speed her foe had gained. The enemy's breath hitched, and the small chain she used was ill suited for fighting a spear. It could jam a sword or blade easily, but the long pole of the spear darted out once, twice, and then a third time before she could compensate, jumping back away from the spear. Both shoulders and her ear had been taken by Gae Bolg.
"I won't fail her." The other woman said, ignoring the blood. "I cannot fall until her dream is realized."
"Sorry." Scáthach said softly, prana gathering in the balls of her feet. "I don't care. You have lost."
"Cybe-" One of the other Servant's hands tried to remove her blindfold, but it was too late. Scáthach struck like a missile, shoulder buried so deep in her sternum that the other Servant coughed blood. The force of her blow carried both Servants into an exterior wall, the steel beam buckling inside of it. With knee buried in sternum and shoulders ruined, Scáthach brought down the tip of her spear and ended the life of the other Servant.
"Not even a challenge." She scoffed, standing back up. As the other Servant started fading away, Scáthach turned around. The walls had English carved into them from where the other Servant's dagger had been. Her hands traced them. 'Save Sakura.' Scáthach's eyes widened. The other Servant knew she was going to die the moment she cleared her throat. Her knife strikes were never to wound Scáthach, but to plant this message. "You died for this." She whispered. "You could have run. Perhaps won. You had a bounded field killing everyone…" Her gaze went to the last vestiges of the Servant as she crumbled. "I apologize for my unkind words. You really were a hero." She flicked her spear, getting some blood on the English writing on the wall.
"Taegwyl." She chanted, the blood igniting and burning the wall of the writing upon it. The fire burned a perfect square, and with a whisper she ended the effect. She blinked as she heard someone clapping behind her. Rin, Shirou, and Shinji were all looking at her, dumbfounded.
"Good English, teach." Rin muttered.
"The only ones who would have benefitted from that lesson were you mages." Scáthach stated, looking around at the battlefield. "I was teaching you the basis of Gaeic runecraft."
Rin looked in awe, while Shinji looked terrified. "We heard the fight…" Shirou said, taking a deep breath as he looked out of the windows. The bounded field was coming apart, the blood red magic fluttering away into nothingness. "Thank you, Lancer."
"Do not thank me. I should be killing Rin and Shinji, as Masters opposed against you in this war." Scáthach said.
"I think that's enough." Shirou said, clearly. "You could have worked with me once you got to school. Or told me that you were here. Instead you go behind my back and use magic on Taiga. You say it is to protect me, but you threaten my friends at the same time. No, Scáthach, I won't have you act like Archer." Shirou held up his left hand. "By the power of my command seal, I hold you responsible."
Scáthach held her hand out at first, before her body was gripped by the energy of his force of will. The will of a Hero. "Don't-"
Shirou held up his right hand, and that was enough to silence her. "I hold you responsible for executing my ideals as a hero. My ideals will be your ideals. My moral code your own. So long as you are my Servant, I hold you to this. In this war, you will be an extension of my will. You may not betray my allies, and I promise that I will fulfill your wish." Shirou said, every word hitting the core of her connection to the mortal world. Shirou's face was resolute as a third of his power over her faded. As soon as his words ended, they took effect in her body. Every inch of her was filled with Prana, restoring her reserves as well as placing such restrictions upon her.
Rather than feel pain or agony over this, she was in fact impressed. "Master." She stood. "I will not attempt to kill Rin Tohsaka or Shinji Matou. Your ideals will be mine. Though in my heart of hearts I may believe differently." Perhaps Shirou would be the one to finally kill her. He certainly had the heart for it. He lacked the skill and experience to land a hit on her. And yet the boy had potential. "I hold myself responsible for lying to you and protecting you without your consent." Just because she had to keep to this command did not mean she would do so without complaint.
Oh yes, this boy was going to be woken with whiskey and bagpipes in the morning. There would be no sweet Sakura to greet him early in the morning. It would be his Servant, sworn to fulfill his ideals. Which meant saving everyone that Shirou could. With a glance around the school, as she watched the ambulances show up she could feel a slight flutter in her heart.
"Master." She spoke up, as Rin and Shirou were having an argument. Shinji had run off, hopefully to die and no longer threaten Shirou. "Does that mean I can continue to come and teach at school to protect you?"
Shirou's face skewed up. "Uhm." He looked over at Rin, who was nodding her head emphatically. "As long as you don't bring attention to yourself, I guess. Taiga could use a few days off." Scáthach arrogantly preened. She would make sure that the woman did. Teaching these youth was just too much fun!
Original author's note as follows:
My muse woke up very quickly thanks to your kind reception. I will take all of your suggestions into account. Not all will be used, but all of them are useful.
Thanks for reading.
Rewritten by Aberron on 11/30/19.