"Fate/rider phantom"

Chapter 4: "Lest I Become"

Disclaimer: Fate/stay night is the property of Type-Moon and Kinoko Nasu. Ghost Rider is the property of Marvel Comics. I make no money off this story and I have nothing to do with Type-Moon, Nasu, or Marvel except as a consumer.

Author's note: All right, last chapter was basically one big fight scene. I'm gonna try to tone that down with some more character interaction. Here you will meet other Servants, but not all of them will necessarily be affiliated with Shinji or Ilya. You will also see in more detail what has become of Sakura's and Shiro's lives ever since Rin's death. Anyway, that's enough rambling from me; it's time to continue the story.

"Last night, police found 42-year-old Tsukume Aomura dead six miles south of Gakuen from a gunshot wound to the left ventricle of her heart. According to the autopsy, death was almost instantaneous. Mrs. Aomoura is survived by her husband, 53-year-old Shun Aomura, her daughter 19-year-old Rihoko Aomura, and her son 14-year-old Touma Aomura.

"The body of the perpetrator, 23-year-old Ryuku Daimon, was found six miles west of where Mrs. Aomura's body was located, albeit in a strange, almost petrified condition. According to police records, Daimon was a delinquent during his high school years, with his crimes escalating from truancy to disorderly conduct to armed robbery and automobile theft as he aged. Forensic scientists have no immediate way to explain or discern how Daimon was placed in his present state, although they are certain he is dead. . . ."

There was more to the report, but the homunculus known as Shinji Matou was not concerned. He knew very well what had become of Ryuku Daimon, what became of anyone who dared stare into Rider's unshielded eyes. A chuckle of grim satisfaction escaped his lips, but he did wonder what was taking his perfect Servant so long to return to him. Had she not accomplished her mission already?

Indeed, the Servant known as Rider had found her way to a graveyard, feeling her transformation reversing. She was changing back into Sakura Matou, and the reversal of the change felt like fire running through her veins. She staggered into the graveyard, feeling her body shrinking in its height and proportions, the power retreating into some hidden place within Sakura's soul, the soul that was taking over right this moment. As the last bits of Rider gave way to Sakura, the woman-child fell in front of a grave marker with the name "Rin Tohsaka" inscribed.

The plum-haired girl didn't know how long she'd been unconscious, but a not-so-gentle foot nudge stirred her to wakefulness. She rolled over onto her side, tilting her head to look up at what appeared to be a young blonde woman with her hair tied in a bun and garbed in a black noblewoman's dress with a black corset snug around her waist. "Who are you?" Sakura asked.

"I should be asking you that question," the blonde replied almost emotionlessly. "Now, get up."

Sakura rose awkwardly to her feet, brushing the dirt off her dress. "Is this place yours?"

"No. I just haunt these grounds," the blonde replied. "You may call me Saber."

"I'm . . . Sakura . . ."

"Sakura Matou?"

Sakura almost jumped out of her skin, so startled she was. "How do you know my family name?"

Saber's expression became grim. "I can feel you. As all Servants can feel each other."

"Servants?" Sakura repeated. At the mention of the word, her forehead began to burn as though someone had placed a hot poker on it. Saber moved toward her, gently parting Sakura's bangs to reveal the crimson mark of Rider.

"I see. The contract . . ."

"Contract? What contract?"

"You made the same mistake a woman named Arturia Pendragon did. You trusted the wrong person to make your dreams and wishes come true. And you will pay for it . . ." Saber's eyes narrowed. ". . . for eternity."

Sakura staggered back. "Get away from me! I don't know what you're talking about!"

"Do you remember last night?" Saber asked.

"Last night . . ." Sakura repeated. Memories came to her in a whirlwind, the demonic motorcycle, the battles with Assassin, Kuzuki, and Caster, turning the Mystic Eyes of Penitence upon that carjacker . . . She staggered back further from Saber. "What . . . what did I do?"

"You'll be normal during the day," Saber explained. "But Rider will awaken within you at night and when you sense evil, she will take over."

"What's going on?!" Sakura shouted. "Tell me!"

"You know," Saber answered. "You know already. The Servant within you is the indelible mark of your contract."

"I didn't make any kind of contract!"

"You did. You just don't know you did."

Sakura ran past Saber, finding the Black Pegasus, reverted to a normal sport bike, and getting on it. She didn't know the first thing about riding motorcycles, but then she didn't need to know, she just needed to get away from this place. As though sensing her terror and angst, the motorcycle revved up automatically, riding away from the graveyard with Sakura as its passenger.

Saber watched, only to be confronted by a specter she had become quite familiar with in the last year. The specter wore a red blouse with a golden crucifix sewn into it and a black miniskirt with thigh-high black socks. Her long black hair was tied in twin pigtails and her green eyes locked on Saber's.

"Did you have to scare her like that?" the spectral girl asked.

"She needs to know, Rin," Saber replied. "She needs to know the truth about Shinji."

"That he's the Devil?" Rin drawled, the sarcastic edge belying her complete seriousness.

"Not quite the Devil," Saber amended. "But a Devil, nonetheless."

"Do you really think Shiro can help?"

"Yes. His heart has been true to Sakura all this time. He may very well be the key to saving Sakura from Shinji."

Rin smiled slightly.

Shiro walked down the streets of his neighborhood, thinking about Sakura. He thought about her smile, the quiet warmth in her eyes . . . so completely unlike her brother Shinji's, which were cold enough to freeze Hell. He remembered the pain in those beautiful violet eyes at Rin's funerals, the tears that were fighting to get out. He cursed himself for being so cowardly as to not approach her, too paralyzed by his own sorrow. He damned Shinji for not even having the courtesy to put a comforting hand on her shoulder, for keeping Sakura from him after the funeral.

So caught up he was in his thoughts that he didn't even notice the platinum blonde young girl he was passing until he bumped into her. The two ended up collapsing on the sidewalk, Shiro accidentally pinning the young girl. He flushed from embarrassment. "Are you all right? I'm sorry I . . ."

"I'm all right, Shiro Emiya," the little girl replied, her smiling red eyes looking into his brown eyes.

Shiro helped the little girl up, as startled as he was that she knew his name. "How do you know my name?"

"I know a lot of things," the little girl answered. "Call me Ilya."

"Ilya . . ."

"I'm on my way home. Would you like to come with me?"

Shiro was about to refuse, but Ilya looked so innocent that it was impossible to him that any harm would come of her request. ". . . Why not?"

When Sakura returned home, she placed the motorcycle in the garage and let herself in. Shinji was waiting for her, a relaxed, vaguely amused expression on his face while he leaned against the wall. His lips quirked into a slight smile as he asked her, "How was your night?"

"It . . ."

"Did you enjoy yourself?" he went on, his smile deepening into a dark smirk. "I did."

"What do you mean?" Sakura asked, flustered.

"I understand." His smile was almost benevolent, ruined only by the gleam in his eyes. "It was your first time . . . the first time is always a whirlwind." He sauntered closer to Sakura, placing his hands on her shoulders. "But you were beautiful . . . absolutely beautiful, my sister, my Servant . . . my only."

"Shinji . . ." She felt the burning sensation on her forehead again, only to be soothed by a kiss from Shinji, who shushed her gently.

"It's going to be all right, Sakura. Once our enemies are gone, we can make this world better."

"You mean I'm going to go out there again?"

"Yes. And you will go out there and fight until they are all expunged."

Elsewhere, Ilya had led Shiro to her mansion on the outskirts of Fuyuki City. It was beautiful, Shiro found, but there was something positively unnerving about the d├ęcor. Maybe it was the crucifixes that hung everywhere, both small and large, both the standard and its variants. Maybe it was the paintings of Crusaders violently and graphically clashing against each other. Maybe it was something less tangible than those images.

"Do you like it?" Ilya's voice cut in on his musings.

"Yes," Shiro replied. "It's beautiful."

Ilya beamed at Shiro. "Thank you. Now, about you . . . are there any special girls in your life?"

"Uh, I don't know what you mean?" Shiro answered bashfully.

"Silly Shiro!" Ilya giggled. "Of course you know what I mean! That pretty girl with the purple hair. Sakura, right?"

"How do you know about Sakura?" Shiro inquired, starting to get suspicious. "Are you stalking me?"

"Does that upset you?"

Shiro stared at Ilya, his eyes beginning to harden. "How do you know about Sakura?"

"Even a blind old fogy could see what that jerk Shinji's doing to her. He's no brother at all! He hurts her!"

There it was, the truth Shiro hadn't dared to speak aloud. But he had known, known deep in his soul just what kind of monster Shinji was. To think of Sakura suffering in his grip filled Shiro's heart with a rage that pumped through his veins like cold fire. He looked at Ilya with a dark expression. "Even knowing that he hurts her, what can I do?"

"There is nothing you can do, Shiro. But there is plenty my Servant can do. Become my Servant, and I will give you the power to save Sakura."

"How? Are you some kind of witch?"

"Something like that." Ilya's smile, as cherubic as it was, took on horrifying new dimensions simply by the look in her ruby eyes. "And if I am a witch, you will be my familiar." She tilted her head. "Well?"

Shiro swallowed. He thought of Sakura, the girl who'd been his closest friend for so long, the girl he hadn't realized until almost too late that he . . . He gritted his teeth. It wouldn't be too late, not if he could help it. He still had a chance to save her, and it was being laid out in front of him like a seven-course meal. He looked Ilya in the eye, his decision made.

"I will be your familiar."

Ilya's face brightened and she looked angelic for a moment. "Good. Come with me."

End Notes: There you have it, Shiro's made his own Faustian pact here, and rather knowingly at that, whereas Sakura was pretty much tricked. Now that Shiro is bound by demonic contract to Ilya, what particular Servant will he become? Those of you who've played through the Unlimited Blade Works route of Fate/stay night will probably not be surprised. But what happens when the transformed Shiro and Sakura meet, and what exactly do Shinji and Ilya want with them? And just how will Saber and Rin factor into this? For the answers to those questions and others, read on and, in the meantime, let me know what you thought here.