Sapporo, Hokkaido, Japan

Takeru Family Estate

March 10, 1999

~11:00 AM

"You're absolutely sure there's nothing I can do to convince you otherwise?" Sato Takeru asked worriedly, following after a younger man along the porch of the house.

"For the last time, no. I'm doing this, and you can't stop me." The young man who responded turned to look at his senior, a confident smirk on his face. He was dressed in a typical Japanese hakama, with the top half being red, and the lower half being black with a red dragon design running across it. He was also sockless, as he was wearing a pair of slippers, though he would normally be wearing geta shoes if he was outdoors. His chocolate brown hair was rather wild and unkempt for the most part, save for the short ponytail he had in the back, along with his bangs being slightly parted to the right, to keep them clear of his ruby red eyes. However, those two things did little to hide the rather long sidebangs his hair naturally fell into. In addition, around his neck, he wore a seemingly decorative necklace, looking like a brightly colored feather of some kind. His skin was rather tanned, and he also had numerous freckles all across his body. The young man was also in remarkable physical condition, sporting plenty of muscle in his arms, legs, and chest.

"Raijin, please listen to me," the older man protested. "I know that you are remarkably talented and strong. I know that you wish to prove that strength. But a Holy Grail War is far more than a simple test of strength."

Raijin scoffed lightly. "Please don't act like I don't already know that, old man. I've done my due diligence in terms of research."

"I'm not accusing you of not knowing," Sato corrected. "But there's a very good reason the Takerus have never participated in a Holy Grail War."

"If you ask me, I still think that 'very good reason' is just plain old cowardice," Raijin responded snappily, rolling his eyes.

Sato let out a deep sigh, collecting his thoughts. "Please, listen to me. The Grail Wars of Fuyuki became naught but petty squabbles between the Three Families. And look where it's led them. They've invested so much of their lives preparing for just one singular event that it drove them mad. Even after the Grail disappeared, they continued to fight whenever a Lesser Grail showed itself, leading to first, the collapse of the Matous, quickly followed by the sharp decline of the Tohsakas. They do not have heirs, and they've set themselves so far back that there is little hope of ever recovering. If the rumors are to be believed, their young boy was made to participate in desperation."

Raijin narrowed his eyes. "And what's the point? They made mistakes, so they're paying for them. Seems natural to me."

"My point is, Raijin," Sato continued, matching the young man's gaze. "You may think you understand the Holy Grail War. But what you fail to understand is that, even if you survive, you will not come out the same. You will be changed, and it will hurt. If anything could be learned from the course of the magical world over the past century, it is that. I know that I lack the power to stop you. But I will ask that you think at least a bit more on if this is truly something you wish to do." Without waiting for a response, the old man turned and walked away, leaving Raijin alone on the porch.

What's his deal? he thought with annoyance. He of all people should know that I'll have no problems; that I'm easily strong enough to win. But he doesn't want me to participate? Raijin shook his head angrily, huffing a bit. If he won't believe in me, then I'll just have to show him. I'll show them all. I will make my mark! And then the world will know my name, and know me as the strongest swordsman to ever live!

Taking a deep breath to calm his sudden surge of vigor, Raijin set off towards the estate's shrine. He had quite a bit of preparation to do.


Sapporo, Hokkaido, Japan

Takeru Family Estate

March 12, 1999

~2:45 PM

Opening his eyes, Raijin slowly rose up from the bow he was in. He had just finished a prayer to Amaterasu; a final request for blessings in his upcoming fight. Most people in Japan practiced Shintoism, and Raijin was no such exception. However, he felt that his family was closer to the gods than most.

Slowly extending his hand, he took the Amaterasu medallion from the shrine. The medallion itself had been passed down the Takeru line through the ages, all the way back to his distant ancestor: Yamato Takeru, the 12th Emperor of Japan. Such an important artifact will surely allow me to summon a powerful Servant, Raijin reasoned to himself. Perhaps I can even summon Yamato himself? Well, only one way to find out, I suppose.

Making his way out of the shrine, Raijin headed to the part of the forest in which he had set up the summoning circle, which took him through a good part of the estate.

The estate itself was a beautifully designed traditional minka, complete with everything one would expect, such as the tatami mats, sliding doors, and even the genkan entrance way for guests to take off their shoes. It was also nestled in the woodlands that covered nearly all of the rather mountainous western Sapporo, also near the Toyohira River.

To Raijin, the amount of woodland surrounding the house was his favorite part of it. During autumn, the vibrant colors of the leaves seemed to put on a brilliant fireworks display, and in the winter, the snow-covered forest became a soft haven of tranquility. The peaceful forest was also a great place to finely tune his magecraft, due to how relaxed he felt in it.

It was for that reason that he had set up the summoning circle in the woods, where he could freely relax his mind for the summoning ritual. However, he was soon interrupted while making his way there.

"Raijin! Wait!" He smiled as he turned to face the source of the voice. Running towards him was Misaka, his younger cousin. Being two years younger than him, she was quite a bit shorter, and had green eyes instead of red, but they still shared the same chocolate brown hair that was commonplace in the Takeru line, although hers was much longer than his. The girl was out of breath, clearly having ran to catch up to him.

"What is it, Misaka?" Raijin asked, looking down at his cousin who was currently hunkered over, hands on her knees, trying to get her breath back. The girl held up one finger to him, signaling that her breath was still not back. The sight caused Raijin to let out a small laugh. "Why'd you run all the way here? It's not like I left yet."

Pouting, his cousin stood up straight, looking him directly in the eyes. Or at least as close to directly in his eyes as she could, being six and a half inches shorter than him. "Jeez, you don't have to be a jerk about it. Grandfather told me that you were doing your summoning today. I just came to wish you luck!"

Raijin chuckled, reaching down to ruffle his cousin's hair. "Well, I guess I should thank you, huh? But don't worry, there's no way I'm going to mess this up."

Misaka smiled brightly back up at him. "Of course you won't. It's you after all, heehee!"

"If you knew I wasn't going to mess up, why did you feel the need to wish me luck?" Raijin asked teasingly, arching an eyebrow.

His cousin pouted again, folding her arms. "Jeez, you're really mean sometimes, you know that? Maybe I just wanted to make sure, hm?"

Raijin laughed again, which only served to deepen Misaka's pout. "Are you sure you don't just want to watch?"

"Maybe…" his cousin huffed out, glancing to the side. "Is that a problem?"

"Not really, but I'd really rather do this alone," he responded, shaking his head. "I just have a feeling that would be better, alright?"

Misaka's pout somehow grew deeper. "So you think I'm gonna mess you up, is that it?"

"No, not at all," Raijin assured her, "I just think it would be better for me to summon and meet my Servant first, alone. I promise though, I'll let you meet them afterwards, ok?"

"Fiiiiine… I'll be waiting back at the house. Don't keep me too long, alright?" With that, his cousin turned and raced back through the woods towards the house, her brown hair trailing behind her.

Raijin watched her go with a smile. Despite the fact that they were cousins, it wasn't a stretch to say they were as close as any normal pair of siblings would be. And unlike Gramps, she actually thinks I can do this… But I suppose the old man has always lacked a bit in sense.

Setting off deeper into the woods, Raijin soon came to the clearing in which he had set up the summoning circle. It had taken him a good deal of time to make the circle itself, but now, it was ready. And so was he. He had decided to try and summon a Saber-class servant, and with his amulet, he had no reason to think he wouldn't be able to. Carefully placing the amulet in the center, Raijin held out his arm, prepared his mana, and began to chant.

"Elements of silver and iron. Foundation of stone and the Archduke of Pacts."

"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!"

Wind began to swirl wildly about the forest, shaking the leaves of the trees. The circle also began to glow a brilliant blue, practically oozing mana.

"Heed my words. My will creates your body, and your sword creates my destiny!"

"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 three great words of power, come forth from the circle of binding, Guardian of the Scales!"

The light of the circle exploded upwards, momentarily blinding Raijin. His right hand began to sear in pain as his command seals, crimson marks in the shape of three swirls of wind, took their place. The blinding light eventually dispersed, a pale blue steam seeming to flow out of where the circle used to be. Soon, the smoke cleared, revealing the Servant that Raijin had summoned.

She was a beautiful woman, clad in an ornate blue, gold, and black kimono that exposed her bare shoulders and quite a bit of her rather impressive bust. Her pink hair was tied into two tails that reached just past her shoulders by a pair of almost comically large blue ribbons, leaving some hair to drip down the sides of her face to her shoulders. She was also wearing blue thigh-high stockings that left a slight gap between them and the bottom of her kimono. On her feet, she was wearing a pair of black sandals, the bottoms of which seemed to add an inch or two to her height, but she was still rather short, almost as short as Misaka.

The strange thing about her was, however, were the large and bushy fox ears that protruded from her head, along with a similarly bushy fox tail extending behind her. When she opened them, her golden eyes seemed full of mischief, but also of some sort of elegance, strangely enough.

"Servant, Caster," she spoke, smiling at Raijin. "Your reliable shrine maiden fox, Tamamo-no-Mae, has now arrived! Don't worry, Master, I'll always be there for you!"

Raijin would be lying if he said he wasn't surprised at the appearance of his Servant. Tamamo-no-Mae? The wicked fox spirit who tricked and poisoned Emperor Toba? That's who I summoned as my Servant?

Swallowing slightly, Raijin stepped forward to introduce himself. "Hello there, Caster. My name is Raijin Takeru, current head of the Takeru family line, and descendent of Yamato Takeru. It's good to meet you."

Strangely, Tamamo pouted, resting a hand on her hip. "Jeez, what's with the super stiff tone? You don't need to be so formal around your devoted wife, you know."

"Devoted wife?" Raijin questioned, now thoroughly confused. "Where is that coming from? And…"

"And?" Caster asked back, tilting her head.

"Well, I'm sorry if this seems really rude, but… aren't you a… well, villain? I seem to recall reading about a fox spirit named Tamamo-no-Mae that poisoned the emperor. That's you… right?"

His Servant continued to pout, glancing angrily to the side. "Why do the history books never get that right? Seriously, it's really annoying."

"So, you didn't do any of that?" Raijin asked hesitantly, still unsure what to make of his Servant.

"Nope, none of it," Tamamo responded, her tone sounding slightly bitter. "You see, I was actually created from one of Amaterasu's tails, making me a goddess of sorts. I was never an evil fox spirit, despite what everyone tries to say about me."

"W-Wait. You're a goddess? Born from Amaterasu?" Raijin questioned, his eyes widening. Tamamo nodded, and almost immediately Raijin bowed respectfully.

"Master? What's with the bowing?" she questioned, quirking an eyebrow.

"I-I'm so sorry! For me, one of the Takeru line, to call a scion of the great goddess, Amaterasu, evil? Ah, I feel like such a fool right now!"

Raijin's rambling apology did nothing to end Tamamo's confusion. "What does your family have anything to do with it?" she asked.

"Well, my family was one to receive gifts from Amaterasu, signifying our right to rule," he explained, still bowing. "And my family received…" Raijin paused, focusing his mana. In his mind's eye, a small gateway appeared. Reaching into it, he drew out the object he was looking for: an ornate jade katana, sheathed in silver leather with a matching hilt. The katana appeared in Raijin's hand as if he had pulled it from nowhere, a rather useful application of his magecraft. "Kusanagi-no-Tsurugi. The Grass Cutting Sword," he finished, holding out the blade to Tamamo. "Amaterasu gifted it to my ancestor, Yamato Takeru, the 12th emperor of Japan. Since then, it has been passed down through the generations."

Caster tilted her head to the side in confusion. "Hmm, alright. But why are you…" she trailed off, before her face lit up in excitement. "Unless this is your wedding gift! It is, right?"

"Um, what?" Raijin asked, clearly perplexed, causing Tamamo to sweatdrop. Is my Master really this dense? she thought in annoyance. Well, whatever. That'll just make our eventual union all the better!

"A-anyway," Raijin began, finally coming out of his bow. "Since you're the Servant I summoned, this means I have Amaterasu's blessings, right? Heh, there's no way I can lose this Holy Grail War now!"

Tamamo was about to respond when she suddenly took notice of their surroundings. "Umm, Master, if I may ask, why are we in the woods?"

"Oh, right," Raijin responded slightly awkwardly. "We're actually sorta in my backyard. The house is this way," he said, pointing back towards the house. "C'mon then, Caster. I'll introduce you to my grandfather and my cousin. And show you around, if you want."

"Oh my. Taking me to meet your family already? You move faster than I thought, Master, hehe~" Tamamo giggled out as the two of them set off through the woods.

What's with her? Raijin thought, sweatdropping.

xxx

If Raijin wasn't confused about his life already, he certainly was now. Earlier that day, things had made sense. He was going to summon a legendary hero from the past using magic, fight with said hero in a battle with six others to win a cup and prove himself the strongest Magus. Simple enough.

Having a fox shrine maiden (that he summoned, no less) trying to force-feed him homemade udon was NOT supposed to be part of anything. Or so he thought.

"Open up, Darling~" Tamamo cooed, holding out her chopsticks.

"I told you already, Caster. I can feed myself," Raijin grumbled, pushing Tamamo's chopsticks away. "Why do you think I can't?"

His Servant pouted, placing her chopsticks back down on the table. "Jeez, can't a wife take care of her beloved?"

"I still have no idea what you're on about, Caster, but thank you for dinner," he responded, turning his attention back to his food. "Regardless, we should start making plans for the Grail War, no?" He took a few bites of the udon, trying to sort out the whirlwind of confusion surrounding his mind. As he ate, Raijin had to admit: for as strange as Caster was, she definitely knew how to cook. The noodles were cooked to perfection, and the beef had just the right amount of tenderness to it, each bite practically exploding in flavor in his mouth.

Suddenly, Tamamo let out a giggle, followed by another. And then another. Raijin looked at her curiously. "What is it, Caster? What is so funny?"

Tamamo didn't respond, instead continuing her giggling. She then conjured an ornate mirror, seemingly out of nowhere, and held it up towards her Master. It was then when he realized why his Servant was giggling so much. Raijin's face around his mouth was absolutely coated in soy sauce and other dribble from the udon. He always knew that he was a messy eater, but never to this extent. Blaming the mess on how good Tamamo's cooking was, he scrambled for a napkin to wipe his face, ignoring the giggling still coming from Caster.

Clearing his throat, Raijin attempted to steer the conversation back in a manageable direction. "Anyway, Caster. I should probably let you know; I intend to leave for Paris tomorrow. For now, you should probably assume spirit form, as to not waste our collective mana reserves. We'll still be able to communicate that way, as to make our plans."

Tamamo's face once again fell into a pout. "You know I'm a Caster, right? That means I should have more than enough mana to stay in physical form, as long as I'm not recovering from a fight. Do you just want to get away from me, Darling? Is that it?"

Raijin shook his head. "No, Caster. I'm aware of your class' advantages when it comes to mana consumption. But I still would rather avoid wasted magical energy, wherever it can be helped. Please, just take spirit form, ok?"

Rolling her eyes, Tamamo complied, seemingly vanishing into blue light. "So, what now, Darling?"

"Now, I do the dishes," Raijin responded, standing up and beginning to collect the bowls. "And while I'm doing that, we make some plans. Shall we begin, Caster?"

Tamamo rematerialized almost immediately, quickly taking the bowls from Raijin. "Darling, surely you realize that your devoted wife should be the one to do the cleanup, no?" she asked, giving him a wink.

"Caster!" Raijin snapped, clearly annoyed by his Servant's antics. "I told you to stay in spirit form!"

"I'll go back in once the dishes are done, ok? Besides, it'll be easier to talk in person, won't it?"

Raijin groaned. How can a Shinto goddess be so… this? Despite asking the question to himself, he had no hope that he'd find the answer any time soon. For now, along with the fact that he was about to enter a Holy Grail War, it seemed like his life was only going to get weirder. And that thought quite honestly sent a small chill down his spine.


Paris, France

Roussel Household

March 18, 1999

~7:40 PM

Hugo Roussel had been through many difficult things in his lifetime. Countless obstacles and hardships; he'd fought through them all. No matter how hopeless his situation seemed, he'd always find a way through.

But now? Now, he was on the cusp of what was likely going to be the most dangerous situation of his life. One that would no doubt test him to the very limits of his being.

"I'm sorry, Clara. We're out of dinosaur chicken nuggets. Besides, I'm making something else for dinner tonight."

The entire world of the little girl in front of him seemed to shatter into tiny, bite-sized, dinosaur-shaped, pieces. With an incredibly intimidating (not really, but Hugo was fine with humoring the kids) stomp of her foot, she turned and ran up the stairs back to her room. Nearly immediately, the tell-tale signs of a dinosaur chicken nugget withdrawal tantrum began, in the form of a rather large slam of a door, followed by a good deal of angry stomping.

Hugo sighed, smiling slightly. At present, there were 5 total kids in his care, each one of them their own little bundle of problems. None of them were his biologically, but he cared for them as if they were. Still, he wouldn't have his life any other way.

More than others he knew, Hugo was well aware of the fact that he wasn't getting any younger. Already, he was sixty-seven, and that number would continue to grow in the future. His once black hair was now more grey than black, and his skin was wrinkled all over, tell-tale signs of the time he had spent on earth. Plus, even with all the perks being from a mage family provided, Hugo went a while without ever finding anything to do with his life. And thus, he figured, if he wasn't going to do anything with his, he could at least make others' lives better. Hugo knew he wasn't saving the world, or even anything remotely that crazy. But this was something that he knew he could do, and knew he wanted to keep doing for as long as he could. To that end…

Hugo mentally slapped himself, returning to preparing dinner. There would be time for those thoughts later.

"Um… Papa?" The elderly man turned around to the source of the voice, coming to face one of the children he took care of: a meek ten-year old boy named Louis. "Do you have time to help me with my assignments? I don't understand them…"

"I'm afraid I can't right now, Louis. Can you wait until after dinner? I promise I'll help you then," Hugo responded, giving the boy a smile.

Louis gave a quick nod, before rushing off, presumably back to his room. That's the third straight day he's needed help, he thought, frowning. I hope everything's alright in school, for him. Anyway, back to dinner.

Or so he thought, until Andre, another of the boys he was housing, and the eldest, came up to ask him to look at his science project. And so it went: cook, answer a problem, cook, answer, cook some more, answer some more. It looks like another late night for me… Hugo thought, sighing to himself.

xxx

Eventually, dinner was cooked, eaten, cleaned up, homework was helped with, science projects were looked at, and 5 kids were put to bed.

Hugo collapsed into his armchair, thoroughly spent from the evening. Sure, he was happy with what he did, but he'd be damned if it wasn't exhausting. And it's only going to get more tiring soon, he thought, directing his gaze to the back of his right hand. There, a dark red blotch was making itself known.

Hugo wasn't an idiot; he knew what that meant. When the mark had first appeared, however, he was admittedly confused. Why would an artifact like the Holy Grail choose him? A random old man? Still, he decided to take it as a sign. If he could win the Grail War, then his goals would not be as far fetched as he thought them to be.

That's assuming I can win Hugo reminded himself, standing up. Besides, first things first, right? Taking care not to make too much noise, he made his way to the stairs leading to the very dark and very cluttered basement of the house. At the bottom, he had created a summoning circle, in preparation for the war he was to fight in. making the circle had been a bit of an ordeal in and of itself. After all, creating a magic circle made of blood in the basement of a house that held 5 children required a great deal of planning, secrecy, and some plain old dumb luck not to be spotted or questioned. There was also the matter of the almost ridiculous amount of time he needed to spend on the children each and every day. Because of these admittedly self-inflicted problems, the creation of the magic circle had taken him the past four days. But now, it was finally ready.

As he readied himself for the actual summoning, Hugo had to lament the fact that he did not have any catalyst. Normally, in a Holy Grail War, Masters would use them to attempt to summon a specific Heroic Spirit, but he had no such luck. Whatever Servant the Grail decided to send him would have to do, one way or another.

Taking a deep breath, Hugo held out his hand to the summoning circle, focused his mana, and began the ritual.

"Elements of silver and iron. Foundation of stone and the Archduke of Pacts."

The circle began to shine a pale blue, illuminating the dark basement, revealing just how messy it was. Even mid-ritual, Hugo winced at how messy he had let it become.

"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!"

"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!"

Pale smoke was now oozing out of the circle, further casting the basement in a pale blue glow.

"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 words of power, come forth from the circle of binding, Guardian of the Scales!"

Light exploded forth from the circle, momentarily blinding Hugo. His right hand burned and pulsed with mana, his Command Seals taking their shape: a jagged face forming into a frown, a pair of J shaped tears curling outwards from the eyes. After a few moments, the light dispersed, allowing Hugo to view the Servant that he had summoned.

It was a green-eyed woman, clad in a fancy dress in a lighter shade of the same color, with a black and gold design around the chest area. Silver-iron gauntlets covered her hands and wrists, and she wore long thigh-high black boots with forest green designs running up their front. Her hair, in the front, was a slightly darker green than her eyes. However, as it moved down her back, the shade gradually shifted to a gold, and then finally to platinum blonde at the very bottom. In addition, she had tied a braid in her hair that wrapped around the back of her head.

In all respects, his Servant had the appearance of a beautiful young woman, as if out of a fairy tale (and considering the nature of Heroic Spirits, Hugo reasoned that could very well be the case). However, two things stuck out to the man. Well, three. On the top of her forehead, just above her braid, a pair of bushy cat-like ears were visible, as well as a matching tail extending from her lower back, both the same golden color as parts of her hair.

"Archer, Atalanta," she spoke, her voice clear and firm, "Are you my Master? If so, best regards."

Hugo chuckled lightly, stepping forward. "Well now, I didn't expect to summon such a pretty young lady for my Servant."

Archer's eyes narrowed dangerously. "And I didn't expect to have a dirty old man as my Master."

"Well now, that's rather rude, don't you think?" Hugo replied, offering his Servant a smile.

"And I personally think it's rather rude to open conversation by making patronizing remarks," she retorted, her voice taking on an edge.

Hugo held up his hands in mock defense. "I assure you, I wasn't trying to be patronizing. Just offering a compliment. I suppose I know better than to do that now."

Atalanta was about to respond when suddenly, a voice called out from the top of the basement stairs. "D-Dad? Who's that lady?"

Two sets of eyes quickly flicked to the source of the voice. There, Clara, the young girl with the chicken nugget addiction, stood, her eyes wide.

"C-Clara! What are you doing still up?" Hugo stammered out, his brain whirling to try and come up with an excuse. Sure, he expected to have to reveal his Servant to the children eventually, but he had hoped he wouldn't have to mere moments after the summoning.

"I c-couldn't sleep. I-I'm sorry… I came downstairs a-and saw all those lights from the basement a-and…" the poor girl whimpered, clearly on the verge of tears.

Hugo struggled to find a response, not wanting to upset the girl further. Then, something happened that he did not expect.

"It's okay, little one. I'm just here to help your dad for a little while," Atalanta said, kneeling down and beckoning the child closer. Her voice was now soft and warm, a smile making itself known on her face; a sharp contrast from her previous disposition. "There's no reason to be afraid."

Hesitantly, the girl crept down the stairs to where the Servant and her Master stood, doing her best to hide behind Hugo once she reached the bottom. Despite the girl's obvious fear, Archer's smile did not waver.

"I'm sorry if I scared you," the Servant said lightly. "So how about I tell you a story? Do you think that would help you sleep?"

Clara's eyes lit up, clearly excited by the prospect of a rare bedtime story. But, as if she was trying to hide her obvious excitement, she snuck further behind Hugo, who still stood with a baffled expression. "...what kind of story?" she questioned, putting on her very best intimidating voice.

Atalanta let out a small laugh. "Any kind of story you want."

Clara's eyes shifted up towards Hugo, practically begging to be allowed to get a story from the mystery woman. Giving her a smile of his own, he nodded, causing the girl's excitement to become readily apparent once more.

"Why don't you head back to your room?" Hugo suggested. "She'll be right up to give you your story, okay?" Clara nodded eagerly, before racing back up the stairs and to her room. Hugo watched her go, and then turned back to Archer, a slightly bemused expression on his face.

"What?" she asked, her voice slightly hardening again. "Do you have something to say?"

"Nope, nothing," Hugo responded, chuckling slightly, prompting Atalanta to roll her eyes.

"Good. Now if you'll excuse me, I have a story to tell." With that, the Servant began to walk up the stairs, before suddenly stopping.

"Is something the matter, Archer?"

"I-I don't know… where her room is…" she replied, glancing away.

Hugo chuckled lightly. "Up the stairs, second door on the right." His Servant nodded, and then continued up the stairs, likely to tell a story about dinosaur chicken nuggets, leaving Hugo alone in the basement. Well, I certainly didn't expect that, he thought, smirking to himself. But I think things will work out between us.


Paris, France

Roussel Household

March 19, 1999

~7:00 AM

Hugo yawned loudly, pulling on a shirt as he headed downstairs, still half-asleep. The first rays of sunlight stemmed in from the windows, only adding to his tiredness. He had barely slept the previous night, what with having to summon his Servant and all, along with the creeping doubts about his participation in the Grail War. It was almost enough to make him want to do nothing but crawl back into bed and stay there the entire day.

Hugo shook his head angrily, clearing the thought away. While the kids didn't need to be up for at least another half an hour, and he may have a literal goblet of additional problems on his plate that needed sorting out, that didn't mean he could get out of making sure everything was ready for the kids he took care of. Furthermore, now that he had summoned his Servant, there were many more things he needed to sort out.

At this rate, I'll be getting less and less sleep every night, he thought glumly, heading towards the kitchen to make coffee, and then eventually breakfast. However, when he reached the kitchen, a surprise was waiting for him. Atalanta was already there, seemingly making a batch of pancakes. Hugo blinked a few times, unsure if he was still dreaming or not.

"I see you are awake, Master," she said, not turning her attention to him. "I trust you slept well?"

"U-uh, not really, no," he answered, still very much confused. "What's all this?" he asked, gesturing to the pancakes his Servant was making.

"You are running an orphanage, correct?" she asked, still not looking at him. "The least I can do is help you take care of the children."

"Well, it's not really an orphanage, per se," Hugo explained, moving to the counter to begin making a pot of coffee. "Foster home would likely be the better term to describe what I do here."

One of Atalanta's ears twitched, or so it seemed. "Ah, I see. Regardless, taking care of children with nobody else is a noble endeavor. I will admit, I may have been a bit harsh in my first assessment of you."

"Well, thank you for that, Archer," Hugo replied, smiling. "And also thank you for helping without me even asking. Truly, it means a lot. But…"

"But?"

"The kids don't need to get up for a little while. By the time they do, the pancakes will be cold, won't they?"

Atalanta frowned, turning off the stove. "Hm, I see. In my time, children rose with the sun. I suppose that too, is different now." The Servant proceeded to place two of the pancakes she had already made onto a plate before holding it out to Hugo. "Here. You may as well eat what has already been made. Wasting food is something I'd rather avoid."

Hugo graciously accepted the plate, sitting down at the table with his coffee cup in hand. "I must say, Archer. At first, I was worried that summoning a Heroic Spirit without any sort of catalyst could prove disastrous. But it seems like we'll make a pretty good team, don't you think?" The man said, giving his Servant a warm grin.

The huntress smiled back, if only slightly. "Yes, I do believe working with you will suit us both just fine. After all, it seems like our goals for this Grail War are fairly well aligned, no?"

"Indeed. Now then, we still have some time before the kids have to get up. Shall we begin making plans?"

Atalanta nodded. "Yes, let us begin at once. We shall win this War, Master. I will make it happen, I swear it.


Chapter Three: The Huntress and The Fox

Summoned Servants and Masters:

Saber: Susano-o, Master: Tatsuya Horibe

Archer: Atalanta, Master: Hugo Roussel

Lancer: Arthur Pendragon, Master: Ophilie de Laval

Caster: Tamamo-no Mae, Master: Raijin Takeru

Rider: Kiyohime, Master: Emilia Lugnica Yggdemillenia

Assassin: ?, Master: ?

Berserker: ?, Master: ?

-7 Servants remain in the fight to answer the Grail's call-


A/N: Before I begin, I want to give a HUGE thanks to JCW18 for creating Raijin for this story. He's a fantastic character, I can't wait for you all to see what's in store with him. Additionally, I would like to make a small announcement. Next chapter will be the final set up chapter, so to speak, including this rather short chapter style. After that, the real fun begins :)

Please, if you can spare the time, leave a review with any thoughts, criticisms, reactions, theories, etc. Feedback truly does help my writing be the very best it can possibly be, which I feel is a win for everyone.

And that is it! Thank you all for reading, and I shall see you in Chapter Four: Free Birds and a Shadow.

-MudkipOfDespair