An old man wearing a white toga sat on the tallest point of a mountain stretching past the clouds. He wore sandals with straps that clung up to his calves, and a brown belt was warped around his waist.

The old man was living a hermit's life. It was only recently that he'd sent a child he'd been looking after out to experience the world with the noble goal of picking up girls in a dungeon.

The thought would have brought a crooked smile to the old man's face, but recently, his mood had grown tumultuous. Happy at one time, angered in the next, and then bitterly sad at the end of it all.

The confusion and doubt was what was confounding the old man and testing his decision to remain in isolation after he'd carelessly let his Familia die. He took solace in his self exile as a means of retribution, but now, dreams and visions kept him perpetually awake at night.

Opening and closing his hands, he channeled his divinity and lightning crackled as the scent of ozone permeated.

Beside him, mist had gathered and formed a tiny corridor where a letter addressed to him was dropped off urging his return to Orario in light of a sensitive matter that had to be said in person.

From the familiar use of mist, Iris was the likely sender. Hermes would have otherwise come in person.

Electricity crackled within the old man's eyes before he turned his head in the direction of the dungeon city.

His name was Zeus.


Gods were fickle and their grudges reached unbelievable levels of pettiness. Congregating them to a single location and expecting them to collaborate solely for bragging and deciding names for adventurer's without tension was a fool's gambit. There was no greater meaning in convening the Gods for such a simple matter other than entertainment.

Orario's gathering of Gods was both a social event, and a stage of shared topics and aspirations since the beginning of the Grand Quests. It was a coalition that garnered the support of all Familias seeking to contribute to the subjugation team of Behemoth, Leviathan, and the One-Eyed Black Dragon. At least, that was how the gathering was initially conceived.

Ever since the first subjugation team's annihilation and the One-Eyed Black Dragons retreat, the banquet had merely retained its social facet to grant titles to aspiring adventurers. Gods could still flaunt the power or wealth of their Familia and quarrel with other Gods they had conflicts with, but the overall completion of the Grand Quest was never brought up. Most were content with the One-Eyed Black Dragon's inaction, yet few could stomach that peace only lasted for as long as the Dragon remained recluse.

The Zeus and Hera Familias were the strongest Familias in Orario by a wide margin to the point that it was rumored that their influence was what dragged Freya into the Dungeon city. Armed with Hephaestus-made equipment, and with the support of numerous affiliated and friendly Familia, it was a subjugation team that none thought would fail after Behemoth and Leviathan's success.

They were annihilated.

The survivors were left shells of their former selves, confidence broken and thoughts horribly cynic. There was even word that they became destructive and quarreled about the outcome.

Most Gods were still trapped in the prior failure, and fear of losing their Familias made many drop the initiative or refuse to even consider it.

Iris's declaration was essentially a bolt of lightning that struck through the clouds, the revelation of Demi-Gods, the spark that began to re-ignite the flame.

/-/

Weapons floated in the air, each radiating with a uniqueness that few Gods would be unable to discern as magic.

"...Magic weapons."

A single voice broke the silence of the hall; a scant whisper uttered from the representative of the Hephaestus Familia, Tsubaki. Her eyes grew bloodshot, immediately trying to scrutinize every detail of what was in front of her but nearly wailing when it all disappeared.

As quickly as they appeared, the weapons vanished, overshadowed by Rider and Archer who then stepped forward.

If access to divinity was a measure of a God's strength in the Lower World, then a Demi-God who's mortal body could withstand his or her divinity without shattering was a pinnacle existence.

A God's arcanum was their ultimate power that trumped all else, but the cost was the end of their existence in the Lower World.

But what about Demi-Gods?

As planned, Rider began channeling his mother's divinity in full. Prior to arrival, she'd wasted no effort to pour into him as much of her divinity as she could muster. Her determination to deliver a warning to those who would seek her son harm had her exerting everything she had and more, much to Rider's chagrin as she was pushing herself. She had glared at him, daring him to say anything about being excessive.

They'd been experimenting back in the abandoned church, and had discovered that due to the divine nature of Rider's blood and his affinity with his mother's authority, she could exert the weight of her arcanum through him.

Here and now, Rider's eyes shone with a captivating navy blue.

The sound of flowing water, the scent of seasalt, and the rage of a flood coursing through him manifested in a divine aura that emanated from his body. The aura integrated with his class skill, 'Affection of the Goddess B' to take on the illusory form of his mother embracing him.

The silent rage of a sea nymph and river Goddess dwelled within.

"I am my mother's son," Rider's voice was piercing in the muted din, all manner of gazes focused over him, analyzing and creating inferals. "Through me, her power flows unhindered."

Rider was acting as his mother's conduit due to a near perfect alignment of affinity. As it stood, his mother's divinity flowing through him was packed with only a single intent- A vested claim and an unconditional warning to all.

"I am Achilles."

With the redeclaration of his name, the symbol of a star and dolphin emblazoned in water menacingly towered over the Gods in the gala. It was a sign of a mother's affection and an unwavering promise to drag to death anyone who harmed her boy. The maternal instinct was inherent in the divinity. Thetis was dead serious. Just like legend, she would do anything if it was for her son's sake.

Injury upon her son would create mortal enemies, and death would be a pyrrhic war to the last breath.

Rider opened his palm, and divinity gathered in the form of water to create a flowing tide that if released would propagate into a tsunami. Thus was the power of a God's arcanum.

Closing his palm, Rider's momentum vanished as he reeled in the divinity his mother stored within him, feeling slightly breathless. The amount of power was staggering to handle, but the point was made.

Rider stepped back and away, silence creating a greater impact than any boast. Rather, it was because attention was no longer solely focused on him but on Archer.

Rider's display left no room for doubt regarding heritage, yet that didn't ease the air at all.

Thetis's power coursing through Rider was one thing, but what if it was Zeus's instead?

Archer remained aloof, neither going out of his way to make a showing, nor raising his gaze to stare at any God in particular.

His very demeanor with crossed arms, and the air of a hero naturally exuded confidence. Unlike Rider though, Archer's godly parent wasn't around to channel his divinity into him, so he found it pointless to show off unless it was for battle.

"Well then!"

Iris clapped her hands, exploiting the gap Rider and Archer made to draw attention back to herself.

"Shall we discuss the terms of subjugation?"


Whether or not the announcement was a success was still to be determined, but at the very least, the effects would show as the subjugation party was reformed.

Already, there were heated discussions in small groups and gatherings between close associates. The air was rife with a charged furor that hadn't been present in the gala of Gods for years.

Immediately after the meeting, Iris did not instantly create a mist door for her and her associates to return. Rather, she strategically allowed a short time for mingling, especially for Gods who were still skeptic or had their curiosity stroked.

Archer and Rider were prime targets to approach, and knowing this, Shirou headed to a more secluded corner to prevent any unexpected variables. Hestia was supposed to stick with the group by this point, but she'd retired to a waiting room after some sort of quarrel with another god.

No, actually, wasn't she still around?

Shirou scanned his surroundings and quickly found the buxom Goddess vehemently blocking Apollo from approaching Archer and Rider.

Whatever Hestia intended, Archer and Rider were nearby to help her. It was more important for Shirou to focus on himself here.

It wasn't that there was no interest in him, but rather, he'd prefer not be surrounded within arm's reach. He could conceal his true origin by using the divine nature of many of the weapons he kept stored in his inner world, but eventually the inconsistencies would add up and create a bigger mystery. He'd already gambled with Hestia, but he had no idea if other Gods would see the same thing, or more importantly, react the same way.

Hestia was the Goddess of the Hearth and Family, a boon so easily exploited because the origin of the Servants presently in Orario were tied to the Greek Mythos. Hestia's own misunderstanding with Hephaestus only further complicated matters in a good way. Shirou was the sole recipient of the condition to remain ambiguous, and the more chaotic or cemented his 'identity' became, the easier it would be to maintain the condition.

However, just because Shirou chose to isolate himself didn't mean that no one sought him out. Rather, he actively avoided them by determining their intent through their expressions and body language.

He'd been successful so far, but it wouldn't last. He was in a gala filled to occupancy. It was possible to isolate himself, but impossible to fully avoid interaction unless he walked out, and that meant losing his easy ticket home with Iris's mist door.

Shirou paused while lingering in the bar area, making use of the attention Archer and Rider were garnering to reduce his overall presence.

For one however, Shirou's presence stood out far more radiantly than that of the others.

"You, hold a moment."

It was the Goddess Freya, and behind her trailed Loki.

With the fall of the Zeus and Hera Familia, it was Freya and Loki that filled the void in the power gap. Their cooperation and influence in Orario would prove a boon if properly handled, and rickety bridge if mishandled.

"Is there a problem?" Shirou asked, turning his full attention to the Goddesses.

Freya didn't answer after she'd initially called. The way she just kept staring in silence the moment she and Shirou made eye contact, her mouth opening and closing, was far too uncharacteristic of her.

Loki quirked a brow at Freya's odd reaction. By now, Freya should have already straightened her back, and craned her chin up to present an elegant front, but instead she nearly dropped the hand fan she was holding.

Loki didn't know what Freya came for, but Loki had her priorities set with facilitating the earliest meeting with Caster. Iris was the one she and Freya had initially moved in pursuit towards, so it made no sense for Freya to pause here just because they encountered Shirou.

In Loki's opinion, Achilles or Heracles looks more appealing in contrast to Shirou. The weapons he displayed were profound in that they harbored magic without the use of a Falna, but if he was a child of Hephaestus that was only expected.

What would truly change everything was the moment any God managed to discern the nature of the origin of the weapons brought out; a place where even the personal weapons of the Gods could be found and potentially used.

"If there's nothing, I'll be on my way," Shirou said, breaking the awkward silence Freya was making and snapping her out of her daze.

"No, no, hold a moment longer," Freya spoke with a fluster as if realizing her error, and now Loki was starting to pay more attention.

Freya offered her hand in greeting. "Esteemed warrior, I am Freya."

Shirou stared at Freya's hand, then back to the subtleness flickering in her eyes, and realized she'd sensed something from him. What it was, he had no clue, but if it was anything like what Iris had done, she needed direct contact for certainty.

From the way her features gradually strained, it appeared as if she wouldn't be taking no for an answer. It was Freya's pride that was keeping her from just reaching out and touching him.

Loki watched from the side, doubtful of Freya's actions, but curious enough not to intervene the first time she'd seen Freya go for an 'aggressive handshake.'

Although Shirou's luck was the worst, sometimes it wasn't always that bad.

A member of the Hephaestus Familia Shirou had been actively avoiding, locked in on him from behind Freya.

"Y-You!" Tsubaki ran up to Shirou and wrapped an arm around his shoulders, indirectly nullifying Freya's efforts. "We need to talk!"

Freya was suddenly glaring murder, but Tsubaki was too flustered to be polite.

"Apologies, he and I have business!" Tsubaki dragged Shirou away faster than the wind.

Left on their own, Loki was the one least affected by what just transpired. Rather, she sported a smug grin at the first time in years Freya had been openly ignored.

"Freya?" Loki teased, but soon lost her amusement when she stared at Freya's face.

A vein was popping over her temple before she smoothed it over and stared at Loki with the most impassive expression she'd ever made.

"Do you think I've been too lenient lately?"

Loki started sweating.


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