2 Months Ago
The girl rose from his bed with a loud yawn. Sun peeked in through the windows of the room, signifying the start of a brand new day. Groaning, she made her way towards the closet to get dressed when suddenly, a fierce pain erupted forth from her right hand. The girl screamed as her hand glowed crimson, the pain growing stronger with each passing moment. Finally, after what seemed like an eternity, the glow faded, as did the burning sensation that came with it. Panting heavily, the girl stared at the back of her hand. Where previously there had been normal skin, now a dark red blotch was present. The girl's eyes widened. Surely, this was a mistake. What she was seeing, it couldn't be real. But there it was, right before her eyes. The girl collapsed back onto the bed, staring up at the ceiling. She had no choice. She had to accept this fate.
-3 Days Later-
Clock Tower, London
March 16, 1999
Tatsuya Horibe was many things.
He was a mage, for one. He wasn't the best by any means, but he certainly wasn't the worst. And when you can do things "normal" people can't, being in the middle of the pack isn't as big of a deal as it could be. For another, he was a student at the Clock Tower branch of the Mage's Association. This again, was something he could not complain about. Given the high monetary requirements and needed influence to learn there, the fact that he had a chance to attend should be extraordinary in its own right, regardless of his standing in his class.
He also had the benefit of being fairly normal looking. While in the same uniform as every other student; a white dress shirt and blue tie underneath a red sweater and black cloak, Tatsuya's black hair and dark brown eyes helped him slip easily into the background. The only part of him that stood out was that annoying strand of hair at the back that refused to stay put, no matter how he brushed it.
But now Tatsuya was two more things. He was a Master, one chosen by the Holy Grail to fight in a battle for his life, and his wish. However, he was now also a pawn.
His Command Seals had begun to manifest just three days ago. They appeared as a dark red bruise on the back of his right hand, searing his body with pain as they took their place. When he reported this to his instructors, he was ushered back to his dormitory and told to await a summons from the Department of Summoning and to not leave the room unless absolutely necessary. While he was brought food, he otherwise was kept in the room. Now, three and a half days later, he had been called to the office of Rocco Belfaban, the elderly man in charge of the Department of Summoning.
Tatsuya paused briefly as he extended his hand to knock on the door to the office. The red mark- actually, it was far more like a red blob- was still present on his hand. An unfamiliar piece on what was supposed to be the most familiar part of the body.
They say that being able to remember something incredibly well is knowing it like the back of your hand, Tatsuya thought. But now, I'm not sure that I know the back of my hand like the back of my hand. Suppressing a light chuckle at the ridiculousness of the saying and his thoughts, the boy finally knocked.
"You may enter," came an elderly voice from within. Opening the door, Tatsuya stepped into the office. If you ignored the shelves and their contents, the office was fairly normal. A fancy carpet covered the floor, all the way to the large desk that sood in front of the window at the back of the room. A small table and two sofas were also present in the center of the room, likely for guests to sit on as they talked with Rocco Belfaban.
However, the shelves on both sides were jam packed with all sorts of strange objects and papers. Over-stuffed binders, jars of eggs, books as thick as a table, and containers containing samples of any number of dangerous creatures all took a spot in the massive wooden structures that lined the walls.
Sitting at the desk, facing Tatsuya, was the man himself. Rocco Belfaban, head of the Department of Summoning. Face old and wrinkled, eyes sunken and dark behind the round glasses he worse, Belfaban almost looked like a living corpse. "Please, have a seat," the man said, gesturing to the sofas. Tatsuya sat down, expecting Belfaban to begin talking to him. However, the department head simply sat and stared at Tatsuya, as if he was waiting for the young man to say something.
"Uh, what is it, sir?" Tatsuya asked hesitantly, scratching quickly at his nose. Belfaban sighed, resting his chin on his hands. "When I heard Command Seals had manifested on one of our students, I did not expect it to be you, Mr. Horibe."
Tatsuya looked down at his feet. "I.. I'm sorry, sir." Belfaban shook his head. "No, do not apologize. Rather, I should be the one apologizing to you." The man wheeled around in his chair, sighing again as he gazed out the window. "I'm sure you've reasoned this already, but the Director wishes for you to win this Holy Grail for the Clock Tower, calling in your family's debt to this institution. To the Director and the rest of the higher-ups, I doubt you are little more than a disposable pawn."
Tatsuya's gaze remained at the floor as his thoughts raced. I knew this was coming, but… Do I really have no choice here? Either I win the Grail and give it to the Clock Tower, or I lose and die. The boy slapped himself lightly on the head. He couldn't think about that now. Still, he had a question that needed answering. "Sir, if I may, didn't the Holy Grail War system collapse, 55 years ago? After the Third Holy Grail War of Fuyuki, when the Greater Grail disappeared?"
Belfaban wheeled his chair around to face Tatsuya once more. "While it is true that the Greater Grail did go missing after the Third Grail War, it did not mean the end of the Holy Grail War system. There have been numerous pseudo-Grail Wars, too many to count, but never over an actual Holy Grail. But, in the years since, a total of three wars have been fought over Lesser Grails, all in differing locations. These "Lesser Wars", as they have come to be known, were kept secret from a large portion of the magical world, with only a select few knowing of them. Each time a Lesser Grail has appeared, the Clock Tower has sent a representative to participate, but each time they have failed to return with the Grail. In fact, Lord El-Melloi II himself was one of the participants in the previous Lesser War, five years ago, in a not so different situation than you find yourself in now, Mr. Horibe. It was only due to a good piece of luck that he managed to survive."
"Only five years ago?" Tatsuya questioned, looking up at the old man. "If I understood my studies on this topic correctly, isn't the normal gap between Grail Wars 30 to 60 years? If that's true, how have four Grails appeared in just 55 years?"
Belfaban shook his head. "While that pattern held true for the fights for the Greater Grail, the Lesser Grails have been much harder to predict. Like I said, each of them have appeared in a completely different location, very suddenly as well. This lack of the normal preparation time is what led to the Clock Tower sending mages like you after the Grail, instead of someone more experienced. Additionally, the unpredictability of these Lesser Wars has put two of the Three Founding Families of Fuyuki, the Matous and the Tohsakas, into a situation where they cannot participate in these Wars due to a lack of an heir. Only the Einzberns, by way of their homunculus Masters, have been able to participate in all three of the Lesser Wars."
Tatsuya thought for a moment. "So the war I'm going to be fighting in will mostly consist of independent mages?" Belfaban nodded. "That should be the case, yes."
"Five mages who have little to no idea what they're getting themselves into, eh?" Tatsuya tried his best to keep the bitterness from his voice. "And my job is to kill all of them, along with their Servants."
"You must kill their Servants, yes. But not necessarily the Masters as well," Belfaban corrected. Tatsuya gave a mirthless chuckle. "I doubt that's going to make me feel any better," he responded.
Belfaban let out a long and heavy sigh. "Mr. Horibe, it gives me no pleasure in having to be the one to inform you of these developments. Unfortunately, you were chosen by the Grail. As such, you are being made to compete."
"Forgive me sir, but doesn't the Grail War system allow for a Master to give their Command Seals, and their rights as a Master, to another?"
"Usually, yes, but I was informed that the Director will treat you giving up your Command Seals as a failure to return with the Grail," Belfaban answered flatly, his expression dark and unreadable.
Tatsuya frowned, the storm in his head exploding into a full-fledged hurricane of thoughts and emotions. "Um… why do you think that is, sir?"
"If I had to reason a guess, perhaps the Director believes that you can only win the Grail if chosen by it. After all, they've sent their best mages to participate five times already. Not once have they returned successful."
The black-haired boy fell quiet for several minutes. "How much longer before I need to leave for Paris?" Tatsuya finally asked, breaking the silence.
"Your flight, which was already booked by request of the Director, is slated to leave in two days," Belfaban answered. "I imagine you want to use this time to prepare?"
Tatsuya nodded, standing up. "If you'll excuse me, sir," he said, turning to leave the room. "One moment, Mr. Horibe," Belfabn called, before Tatsuya could leave. "I assume you've deduced this on your own, but you will be provided with a catalyst when the time comes to summon your Servant. That is all."
Nodding again, Tatsuya left the room, closing the door behind him. He wanted to collapse to the floor, right there and then, but he somehow managed to drag himself back to his dormitory room. After fumbling with his room key for far longer than he normally did, he made his way inside. Paying no attention to anything else in the room for the moment, the black-haired boy collapsed face-first into his bed. He so desperately wanted to curl into the covers and stay there, but he knew that he couldn't. Not yet, at least. Still, a little nap couldn't hurt, right? Tatsuya's eyes slid closed slowly, dragging him slowly and surely into a badly needed rest.
"Hey, are you really gonna sleep now?" Tatsuya's eyes opened at the sudden noise, drawing him away from slumber. Lifting his head slightly, his eyes met those of his roommate, Alexander Matthis. The blonde's deep green eyes were sparkling with his usual mischief, a playful smile on his face.
Groaning, Tatsuya pushed himself up to a sitting position. "What do you want?" he asked tiredly. "Come now, is that any way to talk to your friend who you haven't seen in three days?" Alexander replied, swinging his short legs back and forth over the edge of his bed.
It is true that we haven't spoken in a while, but does he really need to poke his nose into my business all the time? "Alex, now really isn't the time to sit and have a chat."
The blonde pouted childishly. "I would think now is the best time to have a chat, actually. After all, you're going off to participate in the Holy Grail War soon, aren't you?"
Tatsuya sighed. "Yeah, that's right, in Paris. What about it?"
"What about it? Tatsu, do you even know how big this is? A Holy Grail War! And you get to be a part of it!"
"Oh gee, I guess I should be more excited that I get to risk my life for a cup that I won't even get to keep," Tatsuya deadpanned, cringing slightly at the nickname his friend still insisted on using.
Despite the cutting retort, Alexander's face still bore his trademark "I find this not funny situation funny for some reason because I'm Alexander motherfucking Matthis" grin. "C'mon Tatsu. At least be a little excited at the possibilities! You get to meet a legendary hero from the past! I'm sure there's at least a hundred people who would give anything for a chance like this."
Tatsuya raised his head to meet Alexander's eyes directly. "Alex, it is very likely that I'm not coming back from this trip to Paris. You understand that, right?"
His friend nodded, but the grin hadn't left his face. "Oh, I'm well aware that I could lose my best friend within the month. However, I'm choosing to focus on a more exciting possibility: my best friend getting his ultimate wish granted after fighting alongside a legendary hero. Now, I don't know about you, but I personally find that to be a much better scenario to imagine. Plus, Paris is always a win, eh?"
Despite the grimness of the situation he was facing, Tatsuya couldn't help but crack a light smile at his friend's zeal. If there was one thing Alexander Matthis had, it was optimism. Almost annoyingly so. "Alright, alright," he yielded, raising his hands in mock surrender, along with a wink. "I'll choose to believe that I won't get murdered brutally, and that I won't have to give the Grail to that dried-up rasain Belfaban."
"That's the spirit" Alexander cheered, giving a thumbs up. "Now, I'll get out of your hair for a bit. Get some sleep, my friend. And then, go kick some ass, alright?" With that, the blonde jumped up from his bed, humming a tune as he made his way out of the room.
Watching his friend go, Tatsuya couldn't help but feel a pang of regret. The two of them had become fast friends after being assigned the same dorm room. Since then, they'd helped each other again and again through classes, taking turns prodding the other awake during lectures or during all-night study sessions before exams. And now, all of that could be over. Stupid Grail. Stupid War.
Forcing himself to push those thoughts out of his mind, Tatsuya laid back onto his bed. Sleep was the only thing he needed to worry about for now. And with no other interruptions, the boy drifted off to slumber, not noticing the faint glow emanating from his hand.
When he awoke, he was lying in a field of fallen cherry blossoms. Each petal on the ground looked so delicate, as if they would shatter like glass. As he stood, more petals blew by on a warm and gentle wind. This field, this wind, everything about this world felt right. As he felt the breeze blow across his skin, he simply stood there and drank in the blissful feelings this field brought.
Suddenly, he felt a cold chill run down his spine. The warm air became frigid. All around him, the petals rapidly turned black and crumbled to dust. Turning around, he was met with the sight of a monstrous shadow, as tall as a mountain. Despite the haze surrounding it, he could make out eyes, blood red and practically oozing malice, and fangs, polished silver and razor-sharp.
He tried to run, to get away from the monster. But his legs would not move. He could not unroot his feet from the ground. He could only stand there, shaking from the cold, as the beast opened its jaws and lunged at him, fangs ready to devour him whole.
Tatsuya woke with a start, sitting up quickly as he fought for breath. Looking around the room, he realized it had to be fairly early in the morning. The first rays of sunOn the other side of the room, he could make out the faint outline of Alexander, fast asleep and curled up in his blankets. He must've returned while Tatsuya was sleeping. Looking at the clock, it showed the time as 6:30 AM. Early time to wake up indeed.
The black-haired Master brought his hand to his forehead, finding it slick with sweat. Whatever dream he had been having, it must've been pretty intense. Sighing, he laid back down and attempted to go back to sleep. However, no matter how he tried, he could not seem to fall asleep. Resigning himself to an annoyingly early start to the day, Tatsuya quietly got dressed and left the dorm, careful not to wake his friend.
Tatsuya wasn't sure where he was going as he walked through the dim halls. But perhaps he didn't really need to know. Wandering did have its merits, after all. Yet, as he walked through the many halls of the Clock Tower, the negative thoughts and worries about the upcoming war crept up on his mind. One doubt, one question, stronger than all the others.
Why me? Why did the Grail choose me? I had no reason to fight in this War, and every reason not to. So why was I given Command Seals? Tatsuya shook his head angrily. He wouldn't solve anything by going around in circles with himself. Looking up, he realized his feet had carried him to the doors leading to the training hall. Shrugging, he headed inside. If he was going to be up at this hour, he may as well make use of it.
The spacious training hall reminded him of a theater, in some ways. Multiple large, circular areas were laid out for practicing magecraft and/or basic combat. Rows of grandiose marble pillars held up a high-arching ceiling. While there were no designated seating areas, Tatsuya imagined it would not be hard to use this room for a performance or the like.
Making his way to the console next to the nearest practice area, Tatsuya entered the code he'd seen countless times. A soft whirl was heard, before a number of practice dummies popped up from underneath the floor. Each one was affixed with a combination of gems and blessings, allowing them to be used for target practice without sustaining damage that wouldn't be repaired automatically in a matter of seconds. Definitely helpful when they faced the wrath of mages not yet able to fully control their castings.
Stepping into the center of the ring, Tatsuya readied himself. He took several deep breaths, before slowly beginning to channel his mana through his fingertips. A swirl of wind formed, ruffling his sleeves. Tightening his focus, he raised his hand towards the dummy, before splaying his fingers. The shapeless wind formed into a crescent-like blade, edge pointed out at his target. With a final flick of his wrist, the wind blade shot towards the dummy like a rocket, slicing through the air as it struck.
Wind's Edge, the first-ever combat related spell he had learned. Simple, yet marginally effective. Going through each dummy, Tatsuya practiced the wind elemental spells he knew over and over again. As he continued to train, the voices in his head continued to grow louder, practically screaming at him.
"You have no chance." A dummy's arm flew off into the wall. "There's no way to win." A dummy clattered to the floor in pieces. "You won't last a day." A dummy's head exploded into splinters. "You're too weak." One dummy became two as a blade of wind cut it in half. "You're going to die." With a shout of frustration, a massive blast of wind swept the area, crushing all of the dummies that were set up.
Tatsuya panted heavily, having spent a good deal of his mana reservoirs. He didn't usually train with this much intensity, but he supposed the looming threat of the Grail War was serving as a swift kick in the butt. Gazing over at the clock on the wall, Tatsuya realized with a start that he had been in the training room for over two hours. No wonder he felt so spent.
I might as well go get some food. The dining hall should be open by now. After allowing himself some time to catch his breath, Tatsuya quickly cleaned up the mess he had left, before exiting the training hall. Already, tired-looking students and staff were in the hallways, on their way to breakfast or an early meeting.
When he reached the dining hall, he found it unusually abuzz with chatter. Everyone there seemed to be focused on the large television that was present at the center of the dining hall. As a rule, mages generally frowned upon the use of technology, so the TV acted as an exception, even if the only thing it ever had on was the news. Seeing as he often had other things to worry about, Tatsuya didn't normally pay attention to it. Today would be no different. Now it was time to get some pancakes.
After purchasing his meal, he sat down at a table in the back corner of the dining hall, where he hoped he wouldn't be bothered. Five minutes later, his hope would be dashed by, who else, Alexander Matthis. His friend was out of breath, clearly just having raced here from the dorm room.
"Tatsu! Have you seen the news!? You must've, right?"
Tatsuya sighed heavily. "In the time we've known each other, when have I ever paid attention to the news?"
"Geez, you don't need to be an ass about it," Alexander replied, pouting. "Anyway, you should hear this. Apparently, a weird disease has broken out in Paris, leaving hundreds bedridden. Nobody knows what it is, but it's causing tourists to cancel their vacation plans. Weird, right?"
The obvious wink Alexander gave him told Tatsuya everything he needed to understand. "You think the Grail has anything to do with it?" he asked his friend, taking a bite of his pancakes.
Nodding, Alexander took a seat across from him. "What else would it be? Unless you want to believe that a disease nobody has ever heard of before has suddenly and coincidentally broken out in the very city a Holy Grail War is happening in, thus warding off witnesses in the form of tourists?"
Tatsuya chuckled slightly. "Clearly, that is what's happening here. Pure coincidence. Definitely no shady actions on the part of the Grail."
"Yep, I thought so too," Alexander joked back, his mouth forming into his trademark grin. "You know, I never noticed how much syrup you put on your pancakes. Don't you find it gross?"
"I don't think it's that much," Tatsuya protested, taking another bite of syrupy goodness.
Alexander quirked an eyebrow. "Really? Dude, it's like a syrup man nutted all over your plate. And I don't think I'm exaggerating there."
Cringing slightly at his friend's crude joke, Tatsuya quickly finished off the rest of his breakfast. The Clock Tower may be an annoyingly snobbish organization with stupidly high tuition costs, but damn could their chefs make a good pancake.
"Anyway, by the look of your face, you have something else to tell me. What is it?" Tatsuya asked, giving Alexander a smile.
"Oh, right. I guess I should tell you that I'm coming with you to Paris," the blonde replied nonchalantly.
"WHAT!?" If he hadn't finished his pancakes already, Tatsuya was sure he would've choked right then and there. "Why? How? Since when?"
Alexander giggled at his friend's reaction. "Old Man Belfaban let me know that the higher-ups want someone to go and keep an eye on you. Since there's no rule against getting outside help in a Grail War, he figured having me along would help you. Unless you'd be so cruel to reject the help of your best friend?"
"That… That's not it," Tatsuya stammered out. "It's just that… the Grail War is going to be dangerous. I'd rather not drag you into it."
"You're not dragging me into anything," the green-eyed boy replied flatly, still smiling. "I'm choosing to help my friend. Nothing more, nothing less."
"But…" Tatsuya tried to find a counter-argument, but every reply died on his lips. Finally, he relented with a long sigh. "Fine. If you really want to come, then come. But if you get hurt, remember that it's not my fault. Got it?"
"Whatever you say!" Alexander responded cheerily.
Before he could say anything more, Tatsuya noticed someone walking towards their table. Said person was Rocco Belfaban, holding something in his right hand.
"Mr. Horibe," he said as he reached the table. "It's time."
Nodding, he stood up, as did Alexander. As they followed Belfaban through the halls, the knot in Tatsuya's stomach tightened. The shapeless blob on his right hand tingled, as if it knew what was coming.
Finally, after what seemed like ages, they arrived at their destination: the summoning room. It was a simple, small room, barely larger than a walk-in closet, but large enough to serve its intended purpose. On the ground, a summoning circle was already prepared, ready to be used. And in the center of that circle, a small chip of wood sat.
"What catalyst is that?"Tatsuya asked, observing the circle.
Belfaban smiled. "You'll see soon. I don't want to spoil the fun."
Tatsuya frowned. He could feel Belfaban's gaze on him, expectant. The time was now. Steeling his nerves, he stepped forward and raised his right hand out towards the summoning circle. Taking one final deep breath, Tatsuya closed his eyes and began to recite the chant he had gone over countless times in the past four days.
"Elements of silver and iron. Foundation of stone, and the Archduke of Pacts."
The circle began to glow a brilliant blue light, signaling the start of the ritual.
"Raise a wall for the wind that should fall. Close the gates of the four directions."
"Come forth from the Crown, and follow the forked road leading to the Kingdom."
The blue glow grew in intensity, pale smoke beginning to swirl about the room.
"Heed my words. My will creates your body, and your sword creates my destiny!"
"If you heed the Grail's call, and obey my will and reason… then answer me!"
The piece of wood serving as the catalyst began to glow with the same light as the circle, flashing a brilliant blue.
"I hereby swear: that I shall be all the good in the world. That I shall defeat all evil in the world."
"Thou Seventh Heaven, clad in the great three words of power, come forth from the circle of binding, Guardian of the Scales!"
A massive flash of light exploded forth from the circle, causing the room's occupants to cover their eyes. Tatsuya felt his right hand burn as his command seals took shape. When the glow finally died, he looked quickly at his right hand. The blob had formed into three distinct shapes. Two of them looked like crooked staves, or shepard's rod, complete with the curved head. Between them, three diamonds were present, laid connected at the tips. Suddenly, a loud *clang* echoed through the room, prompting Tatsuya to quickly look back at the summoning circle.
In the center of the circle, where the catalyst once stood, there was now a man. He had long black hair that reached down his back, with bangs falling over a stern-looking face. He wore a simple white kimono, exposing a small bit of his muscular chest. His hands gripped the top of a jade-green sword, who's tip hitting the ground was likely the source of the clanging. His dark blue eyes stared directly into Tatsuya's, almost as if he was trying to pick him apart.
"In accordance with your summons, I have been called," the Servant spoke, his voice deep and commanding. "I am the Saber Servant, Susano-o! I ask just one question of you:" Tatsuya swallowed a gulp as his Servant's eyes narrowed. "Do you deserve to be called my Master?"
Chapter One: Unneeded Call
Summoned Servants and Masters:
Saber: Susano-o, Master: Tatsuya Horibe
Archer: ?, Master: ?
Lancer: ?, Master: ?
Caster: ?, Master: ?
Rider: ?, Master: ?
Assassin: ?, Master: ?
Berserker: ?, Master: ?
-7 Servants remain in the fight to answer the Grail's call-
A/N: Whew! Here it is! Chapter 1 of my first trek into the Fate series! Truthfully, I've been hooked on this series since I got into it, back in November-ish. I fought off the urge to write a story for it for as long as I could, I swear. ^-^
Anyway, I'm doing this for two reasons. One, I wanted to, so I am. Two, I honestly need to take a break from anything Danganronpa related. I was getting kinda burned out, and it was contributing to CC's slow pace. I'm sorry to all who were reading it, but it's gonna be on the back burner for a bit.
With that out of the way, I hope you enjoyed this! More is coming soon, and don't worry, future chapters are going to be longer than this one. I just felt like a shorter chapter to start things off would be a nice way to "dip my toes" so to speak, haha.
Anyway, if you want, please leave your thoughts in a review. I'm always looking for feedback, so if you've got any, don't be scared to give it! See y'all soon! (Hopefully not in 4 months XD)