Author's Note: First off, this is a story where Shirou will wind up eventually being very strong by Merlin's tampering and other happenings. I know that's not everyone's thing, so warnings in advance. I've also tried to acclimate myself with more Fate and will keep doing so, but my knowledge isn't absolutely 100%.

Fate is inconsistent of Artoria's age and the original VN simply says 1500, so I'll just say that Arthurian Legend happened in the sixth century. I'm also estimating the rough timeframe of the Fourth Holy Grail War as taking place during two weeks in January 1994. This is because the year is said to be 1994 and because Tokiomi gives Rin a pendant as 'an early birthday present' in Fate/Zero. Rin's birthday is known to be February 3rd. We also know the Fifth Holy Grail War that takes place in early 2004 to be "ten years after" the previous one.

The Fate/Zero anime, however, isn't consistent with this. Rider seems to have a game in a Japanese Sega Saturn CD case, which was launched on November 22, 1994. The "Date of Issue" for Irisviel's ('Maria Thompson') and Saber's ('Elise Watoson') passports are August 8, 1995, meaning that the Holy Grail War happens in that time frame in the anime. Saber is likely summoned no earlier than August 3, and their plane ride is likely between August 8th and August 13th. This would mean that it was less than eight and a half years between Grail Wars, so I've disregarded Fate/Zero's anime timeline. All that being said, I'm hardly an expert in the Fate timeline and may be in error.

(EDIT: I have since learned that the correct timeframe is November 1994. This resolves all previously stated concerns within reason and this story is now retconned to reflect these changes. Ages of characters will also be adjusted to reflect this.)

I was also torn between including Japanese honorifics/name order and Western name order. It seems to be a hodge-podge of the two in practice because honorifics are retained by those likely to employ them and the Japanese names are used in Western order for consistency with the Western characters' own. I may flip-flop depending on the speaker and situation, but will likely lean toward Western naming schemes for consistency.


Chapter 01: The Fallen King and the Reforged Sword

Early Sixth Century AD

Britannia

"Shirou – I love you..."

After saying those words, the grieving Artoria had faded away with the mere blink of a tearful eye. As the scent of the morning was replaced with that familiar and acrid odor of the fresh battlefield, she found herself back on that accursed hill at Camlann. The wounded girl slowly looked down at the nearest body with no anger nor fight in her soul. The tired king simply acknowledged her fallen foe. She had seen too much death today, particularly the death of one boy who was dear to her. With no one in earshot among the living, she elected to allow her rebellious Knight one singular mercy.

"...If you can somehow still hear me...I've done this not of malice but of duty. Your actions were merely the culmination of my own failings." She could almost convince herself that she saw the figure twitch, but the depressed sovereign noted that her tear-stained vision was getting hazier. "Thus, I forgive you...Mordred..."

The pain she felt from her wounds made itself known as the limits of her flesh reasserted themselves, making her fall to her knees and collapse. Without a wish to pursue the grail further, the young woman blacked out rather than continuing to pursue her contract with the World. The young woman did not even feel herself being lifted up and moved by horse to rest under the shade of a tree away from the battlefield. Upon finally waking again, she vaguely pondered in confusion.

"Your highness, please stay here. I shall bring our troops. Please endure until then!" A loyal and concerned knight in white stated, not expecting a response from his hitherto sleeping master.

"Bedivere?" A gentle voice responded from the King of Knights, uncharacteristic and weak.

"You have regained consciousness?" The knight was surprised by the wakefulness of his King, but doubly so at the sound of that voice. That tired voice.

Weakly, Artoria spoke to Bedivere with a small frown on her face. "Yes. I dreamt for a time...more a nightmare. I do not dream often. To have the chance stolen...in such a way..." Artoria's mind was plagued by the grief of the last cycle. Though she had defeated Gilgamesh, Shirou had been exhausted and mortally wounded by Kirei Kotomine while lacking Avalon's care. As he started to falter, Shirou used a command seal to strengthen and compel her to destroy the Grail. Shirou and Kotomine both perished in Excalibur's light.

Shirou had been sacrificed by her sword, her own arms betraying her by swinging down the executioner's blade unbidden. Her own hands were stained in the blood of her loved one...

"Then...please rest and try to dream anew while I get aid. If you close your eyes, you will receive a chance for a better dream." Bedivere did not know if King Arthur would live or perish, but this last chance at a fleeting pleasure was something the man did not want to deny. The expression of sadness on Artoria's face was greater than he had ever known and was almost more than Bedivere could bear.

"Another dream?" Artoria sleepily asked. "Will I...have a second chance to dream?"

Bedivere's face clenched in grief for a moment before he pasted a kind smile on his face for his King. "Yes. If you strongly desire it, you will be able to forge a new dream to banish the old. I have had that experience as well. " Bedivere knew that it was unlikely. He hoped that he could be forgiven because this lie, this trespass against his master, was done from a place of mercy.

Artoria pondered and noted Bedivere's words, vaguely understanding his kindness. "I see...you are very knowledgeable..." The sovereign's wound had been mortal. Both knew it, though Bedivere had no desire to say so. He could not easily admit to himself that he was watching his King die. Sadly, this moment of denial could not be allowed to last. "Bedivere. Take my sword." Ignoring his distressing change in expression, she continued. "Cross this forest and that bloodstained hill, then throw my sword into the deep lake beyond those hills."

"Your highness, that is…!" The stunned Knight did not want to obey. To throw away his King's protection...

"You must go...Bedivere...Once you have accomplished my order, return here and tell me what you have seen. " The weakened voice demanded.

The loyal knight rode twice to do his duty and twice found himself unable to obey his King's will. Each time he reported back success, however, Artoria knew it to be a lie and merely urged Bedivere to follow her final command. Finally, on the third time, he obeyed. The hand of the Lady of the Lake rose from the waters and caught the sword, much to his surprise. Upon his return from this deed, Bedivere's words rang finally with truth. "My King. I have thrown your sword and witnessed the hand of the Lady of the Lake rising from the waters to claim it. It is done." The man spoke with thinly restrained grief and lament.

Gently, Artoria regarded her knight's words with the same expression of praise she wore in court. It was never quite a smile. "I see. Be proud, you have obeyed my orders." A moment of silence passed before the King of Knights spoke once more. "Bedivere?"

"My King." The compassionate and grieving man said, attempting to maintain his stoicism. Already he could see that the eyes of his King were unfocused...

"I am sorry, Bedivere. My slumber this time...will be...long..." Slowly, the eyes of the King of the Britons closed and only silence remained.

Bedivere spared a moment to mourn the loss of the one who he knew as Arthur Pendragon. The expression on his King's face bore signs of sadness even now. With a quiet whisper, he dared to speak. "I pray that you receive a new and pleasant dream." Sir Bedivere would then pick up his King's body and lift it back onto his horse, in compliance with the instructions of the Lady of the Lake. King Arthur's body needed to be delivered not to her divided people, but to her allies amongst the Fae...


"Awaken, Artoria..." A gentle and slightly inhuman voice managed, calling upon the girl to open her eyes. Gently and carefully, Artoria's eyes complied and a beautiful and untainted morning sky greeted her sight. Raising her head from the soft grass in confusion, she was greeted by a green and flowered landscape that spread across her view. Not tainted by the influence of man, the scene held a beauty unlike that which she'd ever seen. The ambient prana she felt here was also positively immense in capacity. Her eyes traveled to the one who roused her from her sleep, greeting none other than the Lady of the Lake.

"L-Lady Vivian?" Artoria asked in surprise. "S-surely such a place is not for those among the living! Why are you here? Did one of my knights seize your life?" Artoria was immediately worried for her benefactor, only for Vivian to smile and place her hands on Artoria's shoulders to calm her and keep her from rising.

"No, child, I am well. You are also mistaken. Thanks to the scabbard, you still live. It healed your injuries enough for you to survive until your knight brought you to us. We then brought you here to Avalon." Vivian smiled gently and kindly at Artoria, knowing of her burden. "We were vague to Bedivere as to your fate so he would not have a false hope of your return."

"...who do you mean by 'us' and 'we'?" Artoria asked, looking around herself with care. At least Bedivere had survived. That was better than most of her men...and Shirou...

"Hello out there! Greetings, my King! Be wary of the cold woman out there, she may just imprison you as well!" Merlin's voice echoed out from a white and gold tower nearby, upon which a sign read 'only the innocent may pass'. Artoria blinked, distracted from her musings by looking to the tower. Vivian, however, called back to the construct.

"Silence, knave. You read the sign and entered of your own accord. In this one thing, Morgan and I are in agreement: Such is the price for your philandering and wounding the hearts of maidens." Vivian stated in a cold tone while glaring at the tower, the confused Artoria trying to follow.

"You would profess yourselves as maidens to me? A man who has cause to know better?" Merlin's playful retort made Vivian's eyes turn dark and Artoria stare in surprise. The latter came to understand the reason for the imprisonment of her mentor.

"...Ah." This was all Artoria was able to voice upon realization.

After a moment of consideration, Vivian gave a gentle, dangerous smile. "Shall I flood the tower with water and allow you to drown for a time? That would surely silence your crass tongue," she sweetly inquired, the Lady of the Lake knowing that the man wouldn't perish from that. Not here in Avalon.

"N-no! My documents! We need them to help her! Do not play around in such a way!" Merlin said urgently, the claim rousing Artoria from her thoughts.

"...Help whom?" Artoria inquired.

"You, of course." Vivian turned her head back to her newest guest and smiled more kindly at Artoria. Some said fairies were beasts of Gaia who merely wore human emotions and identities as emulated masks, but the King of Knights was never one to fully believe this. Vivian's feelings were different, but not lacking. "We know, Artoria. We've been watching you chase the Grail to find a way to save Britannia and its people. Even if to find another King better suited for the role. We know of your suffering...and your recent loss." Artoria lowered her eyes, recalling Shirou's death. She fought to remain stoic. Before Artoria could respond, the voice in the tower rang out again. It was serious, however.

"Artoria, let us say for just a moment that he could be saved." That got the young woman's attention immediately. "Would you be able to wait a millennium and a half for his rebirth, knowing he may not come? Could you watch from afar as he grew and possibly fell in love with another woman? Could you wait a near-eternity for his heart to form, and pursue that heart endlessly until it falls for you?"

Artoria hesitated for a time before a choked sob left her body at the thought, leaving even her surprised. "I-it is not a question of 'if I can', Merlin...if that possibility exists...I must."

Merlin smiled from within his prison. "To wait endlessly upon a dream. That is the weight you will have to bear to be in his embrace once more. That effort may yet even serve you as King in those distant years as well..." Artoria felt a distant light of hope beyond that given by this land's nature, but then she felt mortified just as quickly when he mentioned her being in Shirou's embrace 'once more'. Looking back toward the tower, a shudder went up her spine.

"...Did you...dare to watch?" Artoria asked, never dreaming that the Magus of Flowers might be privy to her and Shirou's sessions of prana-recharging intimacy. He was a philanderer, but also a man closer to being a father to her than most. This doubled the potential blow.

"Tempting as it may be to my fundamental nature, Artoria, I would be in a far worse state of being had I dared. The chance to decide if I should observe was never mine to make." The Once and Future King looked to Vivian and gave her silent thanks. Vivian smiled knowingly and shook her head, pointing to the person who was truly responsible.

Off to Artoria's right, about ten meters away, sat the veiled and darkly-dressed form of Morgan le Fay upon a flattened stone. She watched with a look most would interpret as anger, but that Artoria recognized as something closer to consternation. Morgan gave her younger sister a nod before resuming work on a scroll in her hands. She used water Magecraft to apply ink with precision to parchment and to rearrange the ink at her leisure to make corrections or adjustments to her work. Vivian simply gave a light laugh. "I think she believes you've suffered enough, Artoria. She helped me bring you here, after all."

Artoria was suspicious but gave a nod of equal measure back to the woman who had hated and sabotaged her at every turn. If Artoria was the sword that created Camelot, then Morgan was the dagger that struck at it from the shadows. However...those days were done, were they not? Politics, territory, power, none of these things mattered any longer. Morgan's vengeance was complete and Merlin was imprisoned. She'd achieved her goals.

Both sisters knew that eternity was a very long time to wage war when there was no reason left to fight. For prudence rather than love, Artoria suspected, Morgan chose quiet civility.


The coming days were hard for Artoria to adjust to. To go from a King in war-torn Britannia to an effective exile in a land of peace and plenty on the Reverse Side of the World meant there was little to do initially. There was no one to fight aside from the Fae who enjoyed that sort of thing, no other means by which to practice the advanced techniques of her blade, no business of state, and no duty. There was only the occasional Phantasmal Beast hunt, as most left the Fae alone in peace. The Fairies were a people who mainly regarded her kindly, her very presence in Avalon proof enough for them that she was not a danger. Beings mostly interested in play and their own natural Mysteries had little need for technology or infrastructure. One exception was the tower 'Garden of Avalon' that Merlin was trapped within. Fairies tended to either live in underground dens or sleep on the open grass, and Artoria partook of both depending on mood.

While she loved the peace and hope this land carried and conveyed into her very soul, it made her feel...unnecessary. Idle. Superfluous. Worst of all, she felt guilty that Shirou wasn't here to enjoy it with her.

"Of course you feel that way, Artoria," Merlin said after she told him her thoughts on the matter during the second week. "A utopia, being maintained in a perfectly ideal state, is stagnant by definition. Those who would correct for flaws in governance or advance its borders cannot do so to a system without flaws to correct or a need to expand. Indeed, there isn't even a need for governance to begin with. This is a land that lacks normal humans, and thus lacks the need for a King. Why would you be the Once and Future King if Avalon alone satisfied you? Surely you will leave someday to claim Kingship once more."

The expression on Artoria's face betrayed her thoughts, subtle as it was. She'd put that life aside. "No, Merlin. My time as a King has run its course. The legend is concluded. Now I must wait for Shirou."

Merlin gave the girl a sad smile and shook his head. "I am afraid that is not possible. As you still draw breath, you are a King. You would be free of that role had you died, but that did not happen. Still...I believe you can now be a King and still be human due to the lessons you've learned and the love you've felt. There is also nothing dictating how and when that role must be reclaimed. So instead of casting it aside, let us exploit it for your own ends!"

Artoria almost twitched. 'This man...' She thought to herself. Still, she knew what he was referring to. It seemed that her returning with the future's scabbard had formed a new timeline. As such, two scabbards existed and things were somewhat out of sorts. Their only options were to guide events in such a way that Shirou would still exist with Merlin's Clairvoyance and dream walking acting as a guide. Not that Merlin wouldn't advise their limited assets to do unnecessary things for his own entertainment as well.

"Besides, this place is much nicer to visit than to live. Avalon is far more akin to a weapon than a home for me." Merlin followed with, to distract his King and avoid chastisement for his reckless attitude.

"A weapon?" Artoria inquired as she looked around his ten-meter in radius prison and saw all manner of chests and closets housing space-distorting Bounded Fields. These effectively maximized the internal space of the cell to the point where it was merely the hub for a large complex. Vivian had assured her that she could enter and leave freely, even if Artoria did not consider herself to be 'innocent'. The inside was not something she would prefer to live in for fifteen centuries, even with the sunlight and warmth. Avalon's ever-present sense of hope was here as well.

It was anathema to one like Merlin, who thrived on watching people struggle with their own imperfections to forge a new and better path. There was no better path to have in this place. It was like analyzing Artoria's problems and guiding her in this endeavor gave him something to do with his eternity.

"Indeed. Can you not feel it in the air? The prana here is so dense that a single breath is sufficient to make a normal living human explode from the inside. If used as a power source or a weapon, it would be insurmountable. That is one of several reasons the sheath, which is a protective conduit of that power, cannot be defeated by any known Magecraft or Magic." Artoria's eyes lowered. She wondered how she might bring Shirou here safely if it was such a deadly place that he couldn't hope to survive in. Merlin, however, seemed to understand her thinking.

"Worry not, Artoria. I have an idea that would make it work for Shirou. His very existence is rare and bends the rules just enough to where it may be possible...and even if what I plan doesn't work, there are several other options. He's a complicated Mystery with all sorts of moving parts to poke and prod until I get it right for you~" While Artoria did not like Merlin's cavalier attitude about Shirou, he was her best hope in this matter. Merlin spoke again before she could protest.

"I would recommend that you take the opportunity to sleep and rest. Not for all of your years here, mind you, but enough to heal from the trials of your life and shorten the time you feel passing. When you are not doing so, perhaps I should spend time teaching you Magecraft. Whether you have a talent for it or not, the centuries will surely grant you further Mystery. Not only will it be a fine distraction, but I may be able to find a way for us to project ourselves outside of Avalon from time to time to influence the World into a form more ideal for you and your intended." Artoria wasn't sure if honoring these requests would be a violation of his imprisonment, but it had been somewhat cruel to trap a man like Merlin here alone. Her original response of 'Magecraft is not the way of the King' failed before it even left her lips when she realized this was a plea for release from his boredom. Whether she had any skill or not, perhaps she should give it a try. She gave her Court Magus a kind smile.

"Very well, Merlin. Training in Magecraft sounds like a suitable endeavor, particularly if it allows me to aid Britannia from time to time." Artoria wasn't looking forward to learning Magecraft as much as other possibilities, but perhaps she could be of better use to protect Shirou and her people. Merlin had also hoped to test Artoria's destructive powers in various 'accidents' on the tower's structure. Once Morgan and Vivian learned that Merlin was going to teach Artoria, Vivian immediately elected to supervise and Morgan tended to observe from afar. It wouldn't do for him to trick Artoria into learning a spell to let him out, after all.

"Must you get between a father figure and his child?" Merlin had said to the pair, only for the women to reject his plea for private training and insist on supervision.

Sadly, his efforts to test Artoria's limits didn't accomplish much in the way of breaking him free over the years. This was partly because he couldn't simply ask her to use Excalibur on the wall, but even the ample explosions that occurred while she initially tried to process her massive prana reserves into more refined techniques failed to damage the tower enough to free him. This, however, did not mean she lacked potential for Magecraft. Her origins, elements, and affinities were all over the place thanks to Merlin's meddling in her youth. They would serve her well now.

As he watched his King practice, Merlin decided that Shirou would need some added help to survive at Artoria's side. It meant a lot of extra work, but Merlin had nothing but time...and it would be a fun little experiment.


1986 AD

Almost fifteen centuries. That was how long Artoria had waited. Her waiting wasn't complete, but the regal girl could at least see the light at the end. She was seated in the grasses of Avalon with her scabbard stored inside her as a Conceptual Weapon. It had been long modified with additional Fae Script for its eventual purpose, and she conveyed power and will to the scabbard so that it would enact one of its duties. Her focus was intense as she worked to carry out a critical part of the plan which had been constructed all those centuries ago.

The Avalon within her was the one that Morgan le Fay had given back in the sixth century, but a second one existed. This was the scabbard that Shirou had returned to her before their battle with Gilgamesh and Kirei Kotomine in 2004 AD. The presence of two Avalons and the group's actions with them had made a new Parallel World branching off from the sixth century rather than a mere time loop. A World that had been carefully maintained by Merlin's machinations and their mutual efforts to bring Shirou into existence. And now, she was focused on the Avalon from 2004 which had been similarly modified and linked to her own. Artoria did not know by what means Merlin managed it, but that scabbard had since been implanted with the soul of her Shirou and placed into the womb of Shirou's mother in its Conceptual Weapon form.

The goal? To implant her deceased Shirou's soul into his counterpart's unborn body which would otherwise perish before birth in this particular World, to prevent that death by way of the scabbard's powers, and to allow him to live again. To have a chance at a childhood. To, in good time, regain his memories and meet her once more. The young woman did not know if it was ethical, but the child would otherwise die unborn. Merlin assured her that acting in this manner was not wrong and simply saved a life. If Artoria had known that Merlin orchestrated this accident explicitly so Shirou wouldn't have a past to complicate things when his memories returned, she would be absolutely livid with the man and feel profound guilt.

What she did know was that now two Avalons existed, linking her to her love. She could feel his heartbeat, accelerated by the stress of the event which would have claimed the unborn life in other circumstances. Focusing, the healing energies of Avalon allowed Shirou to survive through the car accident that would have killed him along with its stressful aftermath. It was strange, feeling the connection to the developing life through the scabbard within her. Almost as if she were carrying that life herself...

"You certainly seem happy." A playful voice said, approaching Artoria. The King noted Avalon's most junior inhabitant. Of course, 1603 was by no means a recent year. King Elizabeth I smiled, though the so-called 'virgin king' was more rowdy and promiscuous than history would ever tell...especially given that the woman-of-fortune preferred to be known by the name of Sir Francis Drake. They had met in 1588 when Artoria had been summoned briefly to assist in the destruction of the Spanish Armada to maintain Merlin's account of history. The idea that Artoria's actions and legend had made it so that the title of 'King' was bestowed upon any monarch through whom the authority to rule flowed, be they male or female, was simultaneously strange and pleasing.

"I am, Sir Francis. He lives. After all these years, he lives. I can feel his heartbeat through Avalon inside me..." Artoria smiled widely while knowing that though their personalities clashed, the woman was family. The House of Tudor was descended from the Tudors of Penmynydd, who bore ties to the Kingdom of Gwynedd...the 'Kings of the Britons' who succeeded her as her kin through Gawain. While the crown did not always follow blood, it had a habit of coming back around. In time, most British nobility became descended from her family's blood in one way or another.

"Careful, Artoria. You're speaking more like an expectant mother than a blushing bride." The busty privateer grinned, the look on Artoria's face shifting to surprise and a little bit of mortification.

"S-Sir Francis! That is wildly improper! I-I am merely relieved that he lives, I am not attempting to-" Francis smiled, placing a finger to Artoria's lips. Shushing the King of Knights was not something most had dared to do, but her fellow monarch didn't seem to care.

"That was not a criticism, dear. That was a warning. If you cling too much in his early years, you might find your feelings for him changing when the time comes. We have to be careful not to muddy such things with misplaced parental feelings. It's important when planning on taking notably younger lovers. You don't want your Hikaru Genji plan falling apart, do you?" Francis was blunt about such things, enjoying the freedom Avalon granted away from the burdens of royal court and politics. In spite of her carefree attitude, Francis was a fine confidant and sparring partner. Brutal with the truth as well as with the blade and the pistol. She only regretted that there was little to battle, plunder, or seduce here. She had been kept far from Merlin, just in case she felt the urge to do any one of the three...

"I know not who 'Hikaru Genji' is. The Grail did not see fit to grant me that knowledge." Artoria said, wary of the woman's reference. She feared that it was related to the volumes of questionable tomes stored on Francis' ship, the Golden Hind. She wasn't initially sure how the vessel itself had manifested in Avalon, but she eventually learned that the woman could summon it by way of her Noble Phantasm.

"Don't worry about it, then. My point is still clear. Don't raise the person you're expecting to marry. It gets strange." It seemed almost like Francis was speaking from experience, but Artoria had the tact not to inquire. The advice was sound and that was enough. Artoria found herself forced to avoid monitoring the child's every move through their link regardless of her personal wishes.


November 9, 1994

Fuyuki City, Japan

228 hours to Zero

"See you tomorrow, Enjou!" Shirou Enjou waved back to the classmate, who still held the cat that Shirou had just gotten down from a tree. The helpful boy was on his way home to the orphanage from helping tutor a different classmate, after which he'd assist with dinner. He'd never known his parents, who had died soon after the car accident which triggered his premature birth, but it wasn't something he really knew to miss. There was always something to do to keep him from exploring such thoughts.

Shirou's skills were among the things he retained from his previous lifetime, his abilities with the bow and the sword quite formidable and his skill in the kitchen impressive. He also had a very firm grasp on his classwork, easily far ahead of where he should be. No one really understood how he managed to attain these skills, but he would have been adopted several times over by now were it not for his red hair and non-traditional appearance. And Merlin's meddling, of course.

The night was already starting to fall, the eight-year-old being out a bit later than he would have liked. The adults kept speaking about how they should be home sooner because it was dangerous, but they wouldn't elaborate on why. If they had, Shirou might have been a little more suspicious of the man dressed in purple who was approaching from behind him. Sadly, he did not notice even as the man palmed a stun gun in his pocket...


Avalon

Artoria was aware of the burst of pain on the back of Shirou's neck immediately, and then additional intense stabs of pain in his torso. Alarmed and fearful for the boy's life, she went to the Garden of Avalon and barged in without grace or decorum.

"Merlin!" She started to exclaim, but he was already at work. He was making a magic circle in the room which looked much like the one Irisviel had made in the shed of the Emiya estate. It wasn't identical, but her training in Magecraft allowed her to see the similarities in function.

"I know, Artoria, I know! This was a possibility I'd hoped wouldn't happen. Honestly, that boy of yours is a magnet for trouble! Quick, Emergency Plan S! The clothes are in this bag and are contemporary give or take a quarter-century, change into them quickly!" Artoria felt a bag shoved into her arms and looked down into it, her eyes widening. The warrior did not protest, however, quickly summoning the strange and less-than-ideal attire onto herself.

Knowing Shirou's penchant for getting in trouble, they'd come up with various emergency contingencies. Plan S was one of the most serious responses. Given what the man was currently doing with Shirou's blood, it was also quite necessary...


Fuyuki City

"Damn, kid. You're a walking blood bank. I guess it just means I'll be able to make the circle in just one stop instead of milking another family dry. Not like I can just go down to the local hardware store and use red paint for this, you know?" Ryuunosuke Uryuu spoke from the alley he'd dragged a bound and gagged Shirou into, though the man had a limp and some damage to his clothes for his trouble. He had no idea or care that Avalon was working to heal Shirou, including replenishing the child's blood. The serial killer just knew that he could stab Shirou again and get more 'paint' for the magic circle he was making with his bare foot.

"Let's see. Fill...fill...fill...fill..." He uttered, reading from an ancient tome. "Repeat four times...or was it five times? Um...then I have to destroy it each time it's filled...wait, is that right?" He checked the book again skeptically as Shirou bled out on the ground nearby, breathing heavily. "Fill and fill and fill and fill and fill. That's five times. Alright!"

Looking to Shirou, who glared at him angrily in spite of the damage to his body, the man smiled. "Watch closely, kid! This demon might just be the last thing you'll ever see! Best to go out with a bang, right? I mean, you might just live long enough for it to kill you instead of the blood loss! How many people get to say they went out that way?" The jovial madman laughed, Shirou not understanding what was happening as his anger shifted to fear.

"Wait a minute...what's that?" Ryuunosuke asked as the circle he made started to glow. Feeling a burning sensation on the back of his hand, he noted the appearance of red marks. The circle started to crackle and glow before a gust of mist rushed out, filling the alleyway. A figure materialized in the circle, the fish-eyed being in robes regarding the man who had summoned him.

"I ask you, you who calls to me. O, Summoner, who manifests me within the vessel of a Caster. I ask you your name. Who? Who art thou?" The creature seemed underwhelming to Ryuunosuke, who rubbed the side of his head and began to introduce himself in a somewhat tired manner.

"Um...I'm Ryuunosuke Uryuu and I'm currently working odd jobs...my hobby is murder of all varieties. I really like kids and sometimes young women. Like the one behind you." Ryuunosuke added, pointing behind Caster.

"Hmm?" Caster turned, looking to the one who stood with him inside the magic circle. He was stunned to see a familiar-looking face. He didn't see the modern dress nor the glare that stared into his very soul. No, all he saw was her appearance.

"...Jeanne? Jeanne d'Arc! Oh, Holy Virgin! You have come to me!" Caster said in jubilation. He rushed to embrace her, but she easily jumped back and rushed to Shirou's side. As much as she wanted to utterly destroy Caster right now, tending to her Master was her first priority. She knelt to his level and verified that he was healing, Avalon thankfully doing its work quickly, before freeing him from his restraints.

The child, command seals on his hand and confusion in his eyes, saw the blonde-haired and smiling woman bear relief on her face. Light from the moon entered the alleyway, shining upon her kneeling form and accentuating her features. She had knee-high boots, black shorts, a zipped-up blue jacket with gold trim, a matching blue and gold muffler around her neck, and a black baseball cap with an errant sprig of hair escaping the junction of the cap and the brim. On her back was a gleaming metal baseball bat. Even at a glance, he could somehow tell that something was different about it.

Artoria felt the contract between them complete even without words. Such was the compatibility between them. "Worry not. I, Mysterious Heroine X, am now at your side...my Master."