Chapter 64: The Stirred Beasts

I do not own Fate/Stay Night and stuffs.

o. o. o.

"So, this is what qualifies as the services of the exceptional in this era." Caster hummed curiously as she inspected Touko's equipment and makeshift lab.

"I'm sorry if it doesn't meet your standards. Ever since the gods left, the options and resources left available to humanity have grown progressively limited and scarce," Touko retorted blandly while puffing on her latest cancer stick.

"On the contrary. I find the means and methods of your services quite intriguing," The Princess corrected absently as she inspected the large cylindrical chambers that held puppet bodies of varying sizes. "The craft of my era was without question more powerful, efficient, and versatile. However the equipment and mysteries you possess are more… refined. Exact. It is a curious approach that contains a purposeful and meticulously calculated precision that does not exist in my time. Not without our mysteries and craft performing the bulk of the work. Or the Gods."

The best way to put it was comparing enchanted swords from their respective eras. One from Caster's time would be somewhat sharp and durable, but the mysteries ingrained into the metals would turn it into a powerful tool. Conversely, one from the current era would be made with remarkably refined metals and meticulously sharpened into something truly notable, and yet the innate quality of the mysteries and materials in its making would still render it inferior to the "simpler" and older tool, even if it was made with superior technique and skill.

"And then some, if the results of our efforts are anything to go by," Touko noted. "The craft of masters today pales in comparison to what was possible even by children in yours."

"True. But many of the subjects that have been mastered today have yet to be even imagined or put into words in mine." Caster examined the computer next to the chambers with a wistful curiosity. "We are in a curious predicament. Being requested to utilize our respective skills to achieve a peculiar goal."

"That boy doesn't do things by halves, does he?" The redhead smirked.

"You don't know the half of it."

"Haha. Sounds like someone's held a fair bit back from the official reports. Not that it's surprising. Nobody ever tells the whole truth on the paperwork." Touko pushed herself up from the wall and walked closer to the Heroic Spirit. "That said, this walkthrough's all you're going to get until you agree to my terms. Can't let my secrets get exposed anymore than the kid's. If you understand."

"I am well aware of what you are insinuating, magus. I am more than aware of what someone with that look in their eyes is after and capable of." The Princess of Colchis frowned. "A word of caution though. It would not do you well to try any games here."

"I should hope that I won't. I've played around with a few peculiar and unkosher fields of study, but nothing enough to take on seven Servants at once."

"I was alluding to the boy." Caster ignored the halfhearted joke.

Her correction spawned a spark of curiosity in Touko's eyes. "That so?"

The Servant glanced momentarily at an empty chamber. "I have seen that peculiar mystery of yours before. The one you currently utilize to preserve your soul in another body in case you die. It's a curious piece of work without question and your approach is unique to be sure. A perfect copy of your original body… if it still exists. An artificial self-propagation to ensure an anchor to the soul is always present. Such methods were occasionally recorded and utilized by a few fools in my time, though none as meticulously as what you have achieved. In that regard, you have already exceeded my peers, and you have my utmost respect for such a feat."

She shook her head dismissively, paying no attention to Touko's missing smile. "Such a trick won't work with the boy."

"You sound rather confident about it. Don't tell me this job was nothing more than some trap."

"No. He is honest in ways that would sicken most magi. Which only makes him more vexing to deal with." Caster denied with a sigh. "One of the magi that dwelled in this town, Zouken Makiri I believe, relied on a similar themed branch of thaumaturgy to ensure his survival, though far more, vulgar in comparison. For quite some time too."

"Rumor was the worm's been around for more than a few centuries." Touko hummed absently, more interested in Zouken's magecraft than the threat Shirou supposedly posed to her. "So he really was using his familiars to keep himself around. That poor bastard must have been falling apart and mad long before going through with it. Only the desperate would ever consider to keep on going as a crest worm of all things."

"A sentiment that most would share." Caster nodded.

"Still, Zouken was a name that was passed around every now and then. A crafty old bastard if nothing else. Not the sort of guy that gets caught off guard easily. Or one that just anyone can find a way around his mysteries." Touko puffed out a ring of smoke into the air absently. "The kid must have prepared something pretty nasty for the worm."

"From what I understand, it was less a matter of preparation and more ensuring that the right conditions were met to deal with the worm without consequences."

"Ah. Now that sounds more realistic." Touko finally got the full picture. Shirou had some means to screw with her soul readily at hand. Something that would likely prevent her from jumping bodies like a familiar user could fully possess their puppets if put into a bad spot. Probably a sword, knowing him. Zouken probably was holding something over the kid's head to keep him in line. And then the war came, and that something fell into place without the bastard knowing better, leaving him open for a double-cross that was probably long overdue.

Simple, and to the point. Just like the kid.

"What I've come to realize over the past few weeks is that the boy is most certainly not. Conventionally at least. Don't fall for the same trap that virtually everyone else has. His tendency for being horrifically underestimated should be considered a genuine curse at this point."

"Pfft. That's certainly a new one. Kid must be driving everyone and himself up the wall with a disposition like that." Despite her genuine amusement at Caster's clear irritation, there was no hiding the sharp glint of curiosity in her eyes. "But telling me ghost stories about a brat that hasn't finished puberty isn't getting you any closer to my work until you sign the same paperwork he did."

"It's because of those headaches that I am warning you. They're not exclusive to any party save for those that deal with the fool, and are prone to spreading. I have no intention of risking agitating them if given the opportunity to curb it." Caster scoffed. "As for your need for your work's privacy, I have already agreed to your accord… and just now so has my Master." Slipping a hand into her clothes, she withdrew a geass parchment that had not been there moments before.

"You know you could have started with this." Touko took the document and gave it a brief lookover. Three signatures, written with blood and mana, and it didn't look like it was altered in any particular way. A quick wordless spell that ran a subtle integrity check inside the work itself showed that it was unaltered.

Couldn't be too careful when dealing with Caster class Servants after all.

"A curious tool, those Geass scrolls," said Caster mused. "In my time, a vow to the Gods would have served the same purpose, but having proper records and documentation of the agreement has its uses despite the extra steps. More of the latter era's meticulousness to overcome their loss of power I suppose."

"True, but I'm guessing that more than a few idiots have made vows after one too many drinks back then. Give me the slower and more idiot resistant method anyday." Ignoring Caster's faint blush and inability to look her in the eyes, Touko stored away the document where she kept her other agreements and began to stretch her neck. "Well then, now that we're done gossiping and playing mind games, shall we get to work?"

"Mmm. I admit, your craft and the goal of this project is mildly intriguing." Caster turned to the chamber where a small human mannequin doll was floating. "A slightly altered, but otherwise perfect artificial replica of a natural born half homunculus. A fake of a pseudo imitation. Disregarding the redundancy, it should be quite an enlightening venture in some ways."

o. o. o.

"And you claim he's been in his workshop since yesterday?"

"Since around ten in the morning, yes." The current overseer of the Sealing Designates nodded, looking over the documents for the chambers. "He claimed he had a breakthrough, and, to summarize it without the extra language, needed privacy in order to complete his latest project."

Lorelei Barthomelloi had a strong idea what that "extra language" was, given that they were speaking about Sirius, but kept it to herself. It was not like the old drunk's vulgar tongue was a secret.

Waver had been abducted this morning, but the old man had already been locked in his hole for nearly a whole day before that. Either it was a coincidence, or the bastards were still planning something, and before she left for Japan she would tie up this loose end.

"Open it."

"I, Lady Vice Director, protocols state that its only in extreme situations that the workshop to a designate can be forcefully-"

"I know what the protocols are. Open it." Her cold tone didn't change in the slightest, and would broker no argument.

With a grimace, the Association overseer relented himself to his fate and hesitantly walked up to the doorway, placing a hand on it. With a brief aria, the door and all the security seals on it unlocked, a fail-safe that all magi designated to his position are taught for this very purpose.

The sound of a hammer on steel could be heard before the chambers inside had even come into sight. The feeling of a wall of raw dry heat pouring over them like the opening wave of a flood overwhelmed their senses next.

"CLOSE THAT BLASTED DOOR YA PISS FOR BRAINS! YER LETTIN THE HEAT OUT!" A clearly irritated old man's voice bellowed from deeper in the workshop.

Knowing that there actually was magecraft taking place in here despite her suspicions, Lorelei put up a quick bounded field of her own to prevent the magically charged heat from escaping and walked inside, closing the door behind her completely ignoring the man that had enabled her to enter in the first place.

"McGinty," she spoke strongly as she delved further into what could only be described as a furnace with every step she took. In fact, she instinctively cast a wind spell to protect herself before she made it halfway through the first room.

"Tch. Of course. Only you'd be able to barge in here when I had a "Do Not Enter" sign and fields up," the old man grumbled from the other room. "For a prim an proper noble, yer as subtle as the lad sometimes, ya know that?"

"Time and circumstance dictates our actions, blacksmith. And your circumstance dictates little formality."

"That would hurt if ah was actually one of your boot lickers," he scoffed, never looking up from his current job. "That said, I suggest ya stay out of my room if ya want to stay comfortable."

The Vice Director frowned at the suggestion and was about to comment on his lack of faith in her abilities until she actually saw the smithy he was pounding metal in.

It was on fire. Literally.

Instead of working out of a kiln or over a pit, the old man and half of his equipment was literally situated IN a burning pit. Hammers. Anvils. Tongs. Everything on hand was situated either inside a molten inferno or on the outskirts of it.

Virtually every piece of hardware had their concept of "fire" removed to ensure that they would not be damaged, or even conduct heat in what would otherwise qualify as a massive crematorium.

And in the middle of it all, sitting on an equally not on fire bench, was a massive, jacked, shirtless old Irishman whose body was littered with countless runes dancing over his skin, and hammering relentlessly on a blade in the process.

How he was capable of breathing, let alone functioning in the blaze could only be attributed to the runes on his body.

"I don't suppose your current setup is your recent breakthrough," she mildly inquired.

"Feh. This? Lass, any blacksmith worth their salt knows some tricks are done best when the heat's at its best and uninterrupted. Ah've been doin this trick decades before ya were even planned," Sirius barked out a laugh, hammering on the white hot blade in his possession all the while, molding it like clay without a chance for it to cool off or congeal like it would if made conventionally.

It was a shortsword, from what Lorelei could barely tell from its length, and it was glowing with a white intensity that did not appear from normal metals in the forge. Clearly it was of a substance and process that she was not familiar with.

And yet, it felt familiar all the same, somehow.

"Your breakthrough is a sword?" She asked dismissively, keeping her thoughts to herself.

"Aye. A plain. Simple. Basic. Sword." The old man's smile widened at some inside joke, hammering at it between each word. "Nothin' but pure foundation for this one and the twin. No, it has ta be nothin' but pure, quality, foundation for it ta work right."

"Twin?" She frowned, briefly looking around to find it in the inferno but failing.

"Only gonna be two of them," the old man clarified. "Been workin on this project for years and only just found out what ah was doing wrong. These ones, they're gonna be special."

There was no need to judge the concept. It is a Sword. It will only ever be a Sword.

The Basic structure was the foundation of all Swords. The shape and intent that they are all based off of. The Bone of all Swords.

The Composition material is right there in his hands. All of it was there. All of it would always be there.

The skill of its making would be from a Blacksmith and Hammer. Fire and Anvil. All of quality. All of simplicity.

This blade's growth was for the future to decide. What it would be at any given time was not for him to dictate, but for the memories it holds at any given time.

The accumulated years it would obtain would not be reproduced. Only recalled.

Excelling every manufacturing process of a Blacksmith, of the processes that ALL Blacksmiths possess and use to deem themselves the title in the first place, and further to ensure a true, quality product…

The hypnotizing sound of a hammer on white hot metal rang through the workshop.

That's right. He was making the best two plain vanilla short swords he could possibly make with the skills and resources he had in his workshop. The methods may differ for far greater results than what probably should be possible conventionally, but at the end of the day, the end results would still be "two simple swords".

"What are you doing here, lass?" With a heavy grunt, the old man struck down on the rough edge of the blade one final time before finally standing up and moving towards her. No, moving outside the literally burning room where much of his other equipment resided. The entire time carrying the burning metal with his bare hands. He didn't slow down for her to move out of the way before he went to the quenching trough and dunked it in the peculiar compound.

At first Lorelei thought that the coolant was comprised of oils from its looks, but upon the boiling fluids' scent reaching her nose, she detected another substance.

Blood.

The old man was quenching a blade in a concoction of oil and blood.

And for some reason she had a strong suspicion she knew where it had originated.

Dozens of questions and comments were on the tip of her tongue, but she held back, if only to keep her priorities in check.

"Lord El Melloi II has been abducted."

Sirius flinched and turned to her so quickly he almost neglected his latest project. Almost. "Wha the, the hell do ya mean the lad's been nipped off?! Weren't ya supposed ta be keepin an eye on him so he wouldn't be caught in another shitshow?!"

If he was faking his reaction, he was doing a passable job of it. "He was abducted by Altrouge Brunestud."

"Altrouge… the bloody fuck?! Are you havin a piss at me, Lass? Brunestud?" the old man balked.

"Had you not isolated yourself, you'd have been informed alongside the rest of the Tower this morning. The entire facility is on lockdown, given that she was accompanied by Primate Murder and Fina Blood Svelton at the time of sighting." True to her position as a Noble and Vice Director, she didn't flinch, falter, or show any emotion at delivering the news.

"And?" Sirius took a step towards her which would have made him an imposing sight with all the runes still circulating madly around his body if they both weren't aware of just how powerful she was at any given moment. "What of Waver? Do ya know where he is? Alive or dead?"

"We're uncertain. Lord El Melloi II's signature and tracers vanished from the island shortly after the report, no doubt due to the Eighth's maritime origins and nature." She answered calmly, while taking out her rarely used cell phone. "However, I received this peculiar message earlier that might be related to the matter."

For a brief moment, it looked like the old man would turn away the device as though it was cursed. Carefully, slowly, he took it from her hand and glanced at the words on the screen, followed by who it was from.

The room was eerily silent save for the sound of burning flames and boiling blood and oil.

"... Ya should be able to tell as quickly as I can, Lass. The Lad's proper pissed this time. Whatever he's got planned, it ain't gonna be quiet or clean." He wasn't alarmed, scared, angry, or concerned. Instead, Sirius' tone was as grave as they came.

"So you didn't know about Brunestud?"

"Don't give me that. Lad's tight with Solomon, and we all know how much he hates attention from monsters like her. And you for that matter. Your guess as to why she's doing anything is as good as mine. This is the first time I've heard of her and the lad being mentioned in the same damn sentence. Would have been more believable if it had been old White Wing makin' the move."

Ignoring the mentioning of her prime target, Lorelei conceded to Sirius' point. There really was and shouldn't have been any reason for the Princess of the Apostle Ancestors to get involved, much less now of all times.

She had surmised as much already herself. Unfortunately, judging from the old man's reaction, he truly was as caught off guard as she was on the matter and the participants. Whatever secrets he was still hiding from her were completely independent from the current turn of events.

They were missing a key piece to make sense of this disastrous collage. "And you don't suppose this is some trap for me? It would be rather convenient for him if I was out of the way."

"Him and loads of others. Yer not exactly the easiest person ta get on with ya know." He gruffed, ignoring the dry look she gave him. "It would also be a right pain in the ass for him to deal with the fallout if he did manage to pull it off. And not worth the risk. Better the bitch you've built a rapport with that you can still work with than one you haven't."

How peculiar. The drunk was still under the impression that she was willing to work with Emiya even after learning of his vile, corrupted condition.

She gave him an unimpressed skeptical look that could mean a million and a half consequences.

He gave her one of his own that could mean a million and half unimpressed retorts.

And then he turned around to pull the cooled off blade from the trough. "... That said, regardless of what happens, it doesn't have anythin' to do with me outside of association now. That shitshow's the Lad's problem. Not mine… though it is Waver's now I suppose. Bein' kidnapped does tend ta do that."

"I'll keep that in mind when I speak to Lord El Melloi next. I'm certain he will appreciate the sentiments." She did not like being dismissed, much less so rudely, but that much was to be expected from the old man. "I suppose you will manage to find out what occurs on your own time then, McGinty. Just as how you may or may not find out what the dog desires by the end of this madness and his paltry negotiations."

Sirius, contrary to her expectations, gave her a dry look. "If yeh go to the lad with that sort of expectation, it's not going to end well lass. Yer reading him completely wrong."

"Is that so? Do elaborate on how I misread my dog?" Her eyes narrowed dangerously.

He scoffed before shaking his head and inspecting the metal in his hands. Straightness. Hardness. Integrity. He would not accept a single flaw in it, as any true blacksmith and maker of mystic codes should. "Yer treatin' him like any other magus. We're a greedy folk, without question. Never satisfied. Always wanting more. The lad though? He's always been a tweaked one. We all knew it. And this war? This piss festival that everyone's cleaning up? That was all he ever focused on the entire time, for better or for worse. And it's done. The lad won, and bloody well got everythin' he wanted from it."

"Your point?"

He gave her an annoyed glance. The sort that any magus gives whenever they feel like they are explaining something obvious. "My point lass, is that he doesn't want anythin'. He's the madman that, believe it or not, has what he wants and is perfectly happy with it. From the moment the trial ended and the heat got off his back, he became a man that wasn't aiming to gain a damn thing, but to protect what he has. As the head of your house, you should know that's a whole different game and beast of hell ya have ta deal with, and one that can get worse than messy if ya don't play it right. Especially if the lad is as right pissed as I think he is with these damn blood suckers makin' light of what he considers his."

A man that desires nothing but protects what he already has? What… an absolutely revolting notion for any self respecting magus to possess. The very idea that the boy was perfectly happy stopping where he was and remain stagnant was nothing short of insulting to the one that put so much effort into sponsoring him.

"He's actually satisfied with where he is?" She didn't hide her disgust.

"Haha. Yeah. We love the lad, but as magi both Waver and I couldn't help but get a bit green ourselves when we found that out." Sirius smirked, still inspecting the metal. "Best way ta work around that is ta give him projects that quirk his interest. Or outright give him a job that'll force him ta work on his craft more. He's a mule like that. The Tohsaka girl had the right idea when she put him to work makin' artificial jewels as kids, even if she was a brat about it then."

Returning his attention to the blade in his hands, the old man's amusement dropped with a click of the tongue. "Damn. Half degree curve third of the way down. Thought I had it this time. Have ta fix that quick or I'll need ta start from scratch again."

"You are doing a remarkable job of eroding any reason I have to give him a chance to explain his poor decision making." The Queen scowled.

He waved her off and turned to his kiln. "Quit playin' ignorant, lass. You're not going to do a damn thing until you see him shank an Ancestor with something nasty. Same reason why you took him in the first place when he made Louvre flail around like a freshly made monster. You'll make your decision after that."

She desperately wanted to refute the old man to the point that she almost expressed a desire to end him right then and there. However, that would all but be an admittance from her that he was right. And she would not allow him that pleasure.

Even if they both knew he was right in the end.

"If that is all you have to say on the matter, then I believe our discussion is concluded." Not wanting to deal with the rude man any more than she already had, she turned around and made her way out.

She was almost to the door when the old man spoke up again, as if waiting for the last moment before springing his thoughts on her. "Ah. That's right. One last thing. If you're headin' over ta see the lad on time, I'd ask ya to wait a couple of days before headin out. It should give me enough time ta polish n' finish the twins here."

She glanced back at him, not bothering to hide her look of irritation and disgust. "I am not a courrier, McGinty."

Sirius barked out a laugh as he walked back into the room sized kiln, not at all bothered by the heat that would reduce a human to ash in minutes. "Hah! Who said both were for the lad? One's yours! And they ain't gonna be complete until the lad puts the final touches on 'em anyway!"

o. o. o.

"Shero's done something again."

A chorus of groans filled the living room.

"What did he do this time? And do I need to call the police and or local civil engineers?" Rin held her face in her hands. They really needed to have a system in place to stop this from happening.

"I don't know." Luvia shook her head. "He wouldn't tell me the specifics, but he strongly insinuated that it had to do with the Association. Possibly related to Lord El Melloi II's kidnapping."

"Which means it could be anything from calling in favors to something to do with the Vice Director for all we know." Bazett grimaced.

"You don't think he's called her for backup, do you?" Sakura paled.

"Please don't tempt the world, Sakura. He's not that insane, but after what's happened you might as well have just set the bar," Rin lamented, still not daring to move her hands from her face.

"Speaking of which, where is Shirou?" Bazett asked with understandable worry.

"He just left with Illyasviel to meet with the Einzbern envoys," Luvia answered while avoiding everyone's eyes.

"Another lit match flying to a powder keg." Rin was genuinely crying now.

"He's starting to lose himself to the pressure." The blonde grimaced, biting her thumb unconsciously. "This isn't like the war. He knew all the factors involved then, and all the participants were there for their own reasons. Even when he was caught off guard and surprised, it was within reason for them to happen. Now though? Not a day is passing by before someone new appears and intrudes specifically into his business on a whim. He can't take much more of this. You can see it in his eyes. He's going to retaliate viciously soon."

"Honestly, I can't blame him," Lancer scoffed as he materialized on the couch.

"Lancer. Not now," Bazett ordered half-heartedly.

"I'm serious." The Irishman frowned, his tone harder than normal. "Kid's nice and reasonable to a fault. Problem is that the idiots out there don't see it, and we're about to see what's on the other side. If anything, it's a good thing."

"You think Shirou reaching his limit and going ballistic is a good thing?" Sakura balked.

"On the right target, yeah." Cu Chulainn smirked.

"Wait. Are you actually suggesting that Shirou should lose his temper and assault the vampires when they get here?" Luvia had heard of plenty of deranged and suicidal plots over the years, but this one simply was insane.

"If he hasn't played with the idea already. At this point it's either them or Archer." Lancer shrugged.

"I can hear you!" Archer shouted from the roof.

"Kid's a walking bomb of stress ready to go off like a Noble Phantasm," he continued, ignoring Archer's reminder. "So there's only two real ways of calming him down at the moment. He murders the hell out of whoever's annoying him, or someone finally screws him."

"..."

"..."

"..."

"Seriously, Lancer?" Bazett shot her Servant a dirty look.

"That's my line. It's not my fault that this era's full of prudes. Fucking your brains out was the best way to calm the troops down before they headed off to battle and war. Or stop them from killing everyone around them after it. Man or woman. Otherwise the jitters would practically triple the number of runaways and fights that broke out before anyone made the field." Lancer scoffed shamelessly. "Half of the Servants here are Greek, and everyone knows how freaky that lot is. I'd bet, even with my luck, that they're wondering why half of you girls haven't jumped the kid yet."

"Sakura's already engaged with him several times during the War," Rider "helpfully" added her two cents, not denying Lancer's statement in the slightest. So long as he didn't compare her to Zeus, she didn't take it as an insult.

"Rider!" Sakura blushed neon red.

"Just her? And only during the war? I could have sworn you would have joined in by now Rider." Lancer smirked.

"The right opportunity hasn't appeared yet." Her completely flat and unashamed opinion on the matter didn't help her Master's embarrassment in the slightest. "Privacy is a large factor in this era, and it's difficult to obtain it with everyone in the compound. Saber also needs to be consulted first before anyone can bed her Master."

Luvia clicked her tongue in annoyance unconsciously. She forgot about Saber.

"Pity. She's clearly the type that has annoying standards. It might be hard for you to get past her."

"I've been working her over slowly since the War ended."

"You what?" More than one female gave Rider a double take.

"Rider. Please stop." Sakura couldn't look anyone in the eyes anymore. As such, she missed the faint smile of amusement on her Servant's face.

"Shirou's more akin to a brother to me than anything. I helped train and raise him since he was a kid." Bazett glared at her partner.

"Eh. Wouldn't be the first time someone screwed their sibling in history." Lancer picked at his ear with a pinky, clearly not caring for his Master's logic. "Come to think of it, Berserker's Master's been trying to play the game something fierce from what I can see."

"Grandchildren." Irisviel whispered excitedly from the hallway with stars in her eyes.

"Nope. Nope. I'm stopping this right now. We are NOT talking about banging Shirou when he's off doing who knows what, and liable to blow up said 'what' as we speak." Rin crossed her arms in denial.

"Thank you!" Archer shouted from the rooftop.

"Speaking of the other grump, any of you want to give Archer a pity romp to see if he'll lighten up?" Lancer asked.

"Lancer, I can make a copy of Caladbolg! Do not tempt me to test if I am Ulster-born!"

"Shirou was born with red hair. It had to have come from somewhere," Bazett mused thoughtfully.

"Tch. Fine. See if I try to do any of you a favor again," Cu Chulainn grumbled.

"Grandchildren?" Irisviel asked with watery eyes as though she was a kicked puppy.

"No Irisviel. No Grandchildren." Rin stared at the latest Servant with dead eyes and no pity.

"Aww."

At least not until they graduate high school and complete a degree in the Association.

"Grandchildren?" For some reason Irisviel seemed more hopeful again.

"You're supposed to be a healer, not a mind reader!"

"If everyone doesn't mind me deviating the conversation." Bazett cut in, taking out her cell phone and began inspecting it for any relevant messages. "Shall we discuss what Shirou might have done so we can prepare for it?"

"We'll need Illyasviel to ask Assassin to search the area for explosives more frequently." Sakura noted.

"Again." Half the room added absently.

"It likely has something to do with the Association… come to think of it, he was constantly looking at his phone ever since I told him about the kidnapping." Luvia frowned. "He was clearly anticipating a message of some sort. And when it supposedly did arrive when we were in his workshop, it didn't particularly appeal to him. It was only then that he sent a message of his own… he looked like he was walking towards another war when he did it."

"Damn it. That idiot. He promised he wouldn't do anything reckless anymore." Rin clenched her fist in rage.

She ignored the smug feeling akin to "I told you so", coming from Archer.

"It could be anyone to be honest." Bazett sighed, dashing their hopes. "Shirou's been thrown all over the place the past few years and has met with members of nearly every major active thaumaturgic organization. Everyone's shown interest in the 'Queen's Silver Dog' at one point or another. Not just some nobles and vampires. He could be calling in who knows how many favors right now."

"Come to think of it, where has Shirou gone on missions?" Rin asked skeptically. "He's always vague about what he does."

"Honestly, it's mostly Apostle extermination and Sealing Designate retrieval missions." Bazett shrugged. "Same as me. Only with a little more politics and interacting with foreign parties since he represents the Barthomelloi. I wasn't aware of everything he did, but I do know he was mostly deployed to Europe, North America, and occasionally parts of Africa and the Middle East."

"Not parts of Asia or Japan?" Sakura blinked in confusion.

"The Association's influence in the far East is limited. If he did have a job in that area, outside of current circumstances, it would be a rare event," Luvia stated factually. "He was sent for diplomatic purposes in conjunction with hunting targets. His trips were likely planned with optimal returns during his stay. Particularly given that he is still a student in an untenable location and unable to travel as freely as others. His schedule had to be utilized efficiently."

"Haaah. So we're stuck with either a disaster from the Association, or a disaster from someone else." Rin scratched the back of her head. "Not sure which one is worse at this point. Honestly, the safest and easiest thing to do is to just wait and ask him when he gets back." She paused briefly before looking at Luvia. "... We DO have time before everything starts exploding, right?"

"He seemed more resigned than anything when we spoke," the blonde relented. "Saber would have been more agitated had there been little time. She's the only person that he can't hide anything from. Or afford to for that matter."

"She's spoiling him if anything," Lancer scoffed.

"As crude as his statement is, Lancer's right. Saber doesn't fight against his ridiculous plans often. No matter how insane they are." Rin grimaced.

"It doesn't help that most of his plans do work out in the end," Sakura noted, though she did so in a way that made it hard to tell which side of the argument she was on.

"I'd prefer they 'work' with less explosions and potential disasters. Outside of Fuyuki too if at all possible." Rin glowered at her sister.

"That does seem to be his preferred method of taking down larger problems. Controlled chaos," Luvia noted. "Instead of throwing known factors into the mix, he barges in with wildcards to keep everyone confused and guessing to free up his own actions. Enough to deliver a killing blow. Akin to blowing up a facility with high yield explosives in order to assassinate the real target with a mundane dagger undetected in the confusion."

Everyone in the room nodded in agreement with the analogy.

"In any case, we should at least prepare for whatever's going to happen… if that's possible with that vampire pirate bastard coming in two days," Rin resigned herself to the situation at hand. "Securing Aozaki's safety is near the top of the list. I don't even want to imagine what would happen if something happened to her before Illyasviel's body is made."

Literally everyone in the room shivered at that hypothetical scenario.

"We should probably add to Aozaki-san's protections. Just in case," Sakura suggested.

"I already have Caster keeping an eye out for any potential notable individuals entering the city limits, but that's a stopgap measure at best," Luvia lamented. "I'll reach out back home and have my resources look for any suspicious activity or individuals that intend to go to Fuyuki. However, given that there is still a great deal of interest in recent events…"

"It's like checking to see if water's wet." Rin grumbled, clearly irritated. Truth be told she already had at least a dozen meetings with "visiting" and "concerned" magi from the Association that were more than a bit interested in Shirou, Servants, the Grail, and a dozen different other annoyances.

"For once I share your pain. It is difficult to find a message from home that isn't tied to a request for Caster's services." Luvia sighed. "I've marked up the commission fee seven times already and yet the requests still don't stop."

"How terrible." The sarcasm in Rin's tone could choke a Servant.

"Archer. You've been around Shirou long enough. Have you picked up how to make passable gemstones yet?"

"I'm not breaking the jewelry market for you Rin. Get the idiot you already have to do it."

"It's called diversification."

"It's not diversification if you're pooling everything into the same market. Learn from the Middle East and spread out your income sources."

"What does the Middle East have to do with anything?"

"... Ah, nevermind. Another future memory slip."

"One day I'm going to sit you down and wring you dry on that future knowledge of yours. If that cow gets to profit on the past, I sure as hell am doing the same with the future."

"And somehow I fear I've enabled another danger to humanity to spawn."

"Shirou's dealing with the Einzberns as we speak, so we'll figure out what to do with them when they come back regardless." Bazett yawned and glanced outside. The sun was starting to set. "And for better or for worse, Solomon is still behaving and working to our benefit, so whatever he does will probably be to keep the peace. He can't risk stirring the pot any more than we can."

"At least we have that going for us." Rin agreed. From what her sources in the Church had claimed, the Vampire's recent actions were as stressful to the Vatican as they were to those in Fuyuki. "Damn it. It's like for every fire we put out another two pop up. How is it that we're having more problems with Seven, no, Eight Servants on hand than we did just trying to kill one another?"

"Because humans are inherently greedy and stupid. Education and legacy just reinforces it." Archer drolled in her mind.

"Now's not the time to reminisce on your terrible experiences as a Counter Guardian, Archer."

"Who was the one that literally just wanted to use a Servant to break the precious jewel market again?"

"Shut up! That's who! And need I remind you that half of our headaches are vampires so your argument is null and void!"

"That just means the other half consist of humans that are insane enough to match said vampires."

"Damn it, Shirou!"

"I thought we agreed that you wouldn't-"

"I'll call you whatever I damn well feel like when you piss me off!"

"She looks like she's thinking pretty hard," Sakura noted as everyone watched Rin slowly build her temper while in deep thought. It was getting to the point that she was unconsciously leaking mana in her rage. "Best leave her alone for the moment."

The others in the room nodded in agreement.

"Lancer and I will try to finish the runestones we talked about earlier." Bazett stood up and stretched, popping some of her joints in the process. Fortunately, they had brought back loads of suitable rocks from the rubble of the Einzbern Castle earlier that day.

Even more fortunately, they weren't caught by the Einzberns.

"Caster is already aware of the recent developments and is preparing accordingly," Luvia stated proudly, rubbing it in everyone's faces that she's ahead of the game. "I on the other hand will reach out to my contacts at the Association to try and see what the situation is, and what Shirou has potentially done this time."

"Rider and I… will go out," Sakura evasively stated.

"Should we be concerned?" Bazett asked.

"It's one of Shirou's fallback plans," she admitted with an uneasy smile.

"Haaaah. Of course it is. Fine. Go. Rider is more than capable of protecting you in case something does happen."

"Thank you. We should only be out for a few hours. Shirou should be done with dinner by then." Sakura got up.

"You know that all depends on how the meeting goes." Bazett waved her off. "Shirou's cooking speed is directly proportional to how stressed he is."

"And yet the quality of his work doesn't falter in the slightest." Luvia sighed aridly. "If the Vice Director didn't have a hold of him, I would have offered him a generous wage to be my personal butler."

"Like hell you are!"

"Ah. The shrew is back. Pity."

"Care to say that again, cow? I didn't hear you clearly through all that vulgar moaning you call talking."

"How dare you!?"

Bazett and Sakura sighed and pretended to ignore the fight taking place.

Hopefully Shirou was having better luck, for once.

o. o. o.

It was a meeting long overdue.

And quite frankly, Shirou wouldn't have minded if it had been put off for another decade.

"Shirou Emiya." The Einzbern homunculus that wasn't Illyasviel stated neutrally from the other side of the table.

On one side was Shirou, Illya, Saber, and a dematerialized Berserker.

On the other were half a dozen near identical crimson eyed, platinum haired Homunculi in suits and maid outfits.

Kiritsugu was, most likely, either setting up explosives around the base of the building, or getting a bead on the most dangerous looking artificial human in the room, most likely from that rented out high rise office in the middle of the city a kilometer away from where the meeting was taking place.

Wait, no, he was on the office building a little to the left of it. Slightly less tall than the high rise, but less obvious of a perch.

It somewhat concerned Shirou that he wasn't worried by the fact that Kiritsugu could drop the building he was in at a moment's notice, but he pushed it down for now. He could have another minor existential crisis later.

"And who do I have the pleasure of speaking with?" Shirou just as evenly replied.

"The owner of this vessel is inconsequential. You are speaking to Jubstacheit Von Einzbern. Eighth Head of the Einzbern family," the clearly not old man stated. The body in fact looked barely older than in its mid twenties.

"Hoh?" Shirou was impressed. Controlling a familiar and using it as a mouthpiece wasn't too terribly difficult a craft. He could do it himself given enough time. It was another matter to do so from literally the other side of the planet. "To go through the effort of speaking to me under such conditions. You must be under quite the pressure from the Association."

The puppet of the Einzbern head remained impassive. "You have stirred our ire enough as it is, child. Interfering with our ritual and absconding with our work. Setting the Clocktower's dogs on our doorstep. Had you not the protections you enjoy, we would not bother with this superfluous conversation."

"I agree." Shirou frowned. "Had that not been the case, we'd already have skipped to the part that I happen to be rather apt at, if the common consensus is any indication."

"Shirou," Illya cut in. She was certain of it now. The perpetual and accumulating pressure of Altrouge Brunestud and her ilk was getting to her brother, fraying his temper into something far more combustible than normal.

"I know. We're here to properly manage and navigate how to finally clean up the Einzbern's mess, not fight." Shirou's steel cold gaze never strayed from the possessed artificial human. "None of us would be here otherwise."

"I fail to see how this immature child ever managed to navigate the competition and accomplish what has been claimed." The "old man" turned to Illyaviel, completely dismissing Shirou's existence. "Where is the supposed recreation of your predecessor, and Tohsaka for that matter? This meeting would have yielded results with them."

Illya schooled her features, ignoring how her grandfather dismissed her relationship with her mother. "They are currently attending leftover tasks and maintenance from the War, using Shirou's home as a base. Mama is contracted under Merem Solomon in order to ensure neutrality due to her unexpected arrival, and it has already been proven that she is influenced by the malignancy in the Grail. Caster's bounded fields on the property significantly hamper the corruption into something manageable, and she is constantly supervised by the other Servants on top of that for additional security."

"You did not kill her?" he asked with zero sentimentality or concern.

"Given the circumstances regarding the multiple Lesser Grails and systems in place, it was deemed too risky." Illya didn't hesitate or falter to his heartless question in the slightest.

"A Servant in the hands of an Apostle Ancestor… what sort of joke has this ritual come to?"

Shirou barely held back the urge to point out that Zelretch was the one that helped make the ritual possible. Barely.

"Do not pretend you're not one yourself." Saber mentally chided, almost amused.

"Semantics." Shirou poorly dismissed his own current situation, knowing that it was an argument he would have lost at any given time.

Pride and hypocrisy. Those were the two words he associated the most with Magi as a whole, and it was no different here. It was almost enviable in a way. The ability to ignore one's faults and sacrifice anything in order to reach one's goals, sacrificing virtually any and everything in order to reach them.

"Before the conversation has another chance to devolve into an argument, I was hoping that you would satisfy a minor curiosity of mine," Shirou spoke up before the other two could resume business.

"We came here to discuss how to address the Grail, not to address your petty interests." The German scowled.

"Well then we're fortunate that it has to do with the Grail then." The teen smiled, pretending to not notice Illya's look of concern. This wasn't something they had discussed, but he felt it was something that needed to be reviewed before he made any further deals with the family of artificial humans. "Tell me, what exactly happened during the Second War?"

Almost everyone in the room paused at the question.

"The Second War?" Illya frowned in confusion.

"The First was an accident." Shirou counted on his fingers. "The Second was the test run of the War system itself. The Third was the disaster where Avenger was summoned. And Nazis were apparently involved from what I've heard, but they don't matter. It was where you resorted to tweaking the system to try and desperately called a Servant that wasn't supposed to be summoned."

The teen leaned back in his seat, not breaking eye contact with Jubstacheit. "The Einzbern, Tohsaka, and Makiri originally devised the Greater Grail system and ritual together to reach the Root and manifest Heaven's Feel. The War itself was merely a formality to keep the resources barely organized. If that was the case, and the three of you shared the same goal, then why didn't the three main families conspire together during the Second War against the four outside parties and be done with it all? The First War can be excused due to being unexpected and confusion running rampant, but there is sixty years between each battle. It's plenty of time to get your prerogatives in order."

In hindsight it was a rather curious question. It was common enough knowledge that nobody followed the rules if they could help it. Having the three main families conspire for an easy victory ahead of time should have been the obvious move to make if they were after the same thing.

"... Humph. If you have managed to put together that much already from conjecture, then you should be able to produce the most likely answer if I told you it was the fault of the Church." Surprisingly, the head of the Einzbern family merely glowered and seethed at the question. Not at Shirou for asking it, but at the mere memory that it dredged.

"The Church? But they only started to supervise the War during the Third War." Illya blinked in surprise.

"They didn't get involved as Overseer. They had a participant. Like in the Fourth War." Shirou nodded in understanding. The Second War was when the rules were implemented, but not enforced or ironed out. Those of the Faith barely tolerated Magi on a good day, and it was well known that their actions were far more radical in the past. Even if it wasn't the true Holy Grail, having a ritual named after it probably would have caused more than a few tempers to flare. Given that the Second War took place during a time when the Church was aggressively trying to expand its influence in Japan…

"The Tohsaka representative at the time was a weak minded and desperate coward. He betrayed the Einzbern and Matou Servants near the end of the event, while the Church had sneaked in their own Master to try and win the Grail for themselves. They almost managed to achieve their goal had the idiot not checked to ensure the defeat of their last Master, and the latter party killed the traitors in the final moments. The Einzberns cut off any futile hope of directly cooperating with the other families after that, but relented to the fact that the venue for the War could not be changed with the resources available, and the rare occasion where major rules were altered or finalized. In order to prevent a repeat disaster and interference, the Church was granted territory in Fuyuki and bestowed the role of overseer in exchange for a permanent ban on any representatives from participating in any future wars. Should any member of those fools be chosen by the Grail, they were to either give up their responsibilities as Masters or as members of the Church. No exceptions. Ironic, that the partnership forged in duplicity lasted longer than one in supposed comradery."

"Yeah. That would do it." Shirou sighed, closing his eyes and debated whether or not he should bring this bit of history up with Rin later.

… Or Luvia. Especially Luvia.

Probably best he should keep quiet about it all for now. At least until he was a safe distance away from the two.

That said, it's not like he couldn't relate on some level. Being frustrated enough to do something incredibly stupid.

Come to think of it, the Tohsaka Residence was where the Grail supposedly manifested during the Second War. More conjunctive evidence to support the story. Though Shirou strongly suspected there was more to events than just that. It was never that simple.

He could see what happened next. The Einzbern, infuriated at their so called allies, yet still confident in their knowledge of the Grail's system, tried to bend the rules to get an edge over everyone to show that they didn't need the help, and wound up with Avenger in their frustrated greed. And it all snowballed from there.

And considering that their faith in Kiritsugu was quite literally blown up a decade ago, it really was understandable why the German magi had such a poor impression of Japanese in general.

"Ideally, this meeting is intended to rectify that perspective," Illya cut in firmly.

"Ideally." Shirou nodded with a heavy sigh, taking out several missives that had been delivered to him over the past few days from the Association. "Several parties have wasted no time expressing interest in 'aiding' the cleansing and relocation of the Greater Grail."

"Vultures." Jubstacheit wasted no time expressing his opinion.

"On that we can agree." Wordlessly, Shirou altered the tip of one of his fingers to that of the tip of a nameless fire enchanted blade and tapped the pile casually, immolating the pile in front of everyone. At best the action garnered a raised eyebrow from the others, but it was enough to betray their interest in what he had in mind. "Which is why I've spent some time vetting them and their sources to see if any are worthwhile or capable at being even remotely capable scavengers."

"And you deem yourself capable of determining a suitable party for this?" the other party scoffed.

"Not in the slightest. Illyasviel and the head of the Edelfelt family vetted those that made it past my poor standards." Shirou shrugged casually. That said, he doubted any of the other Magi families and organizations would ever meet the standards of Luvia "most elegant Hyenas above ground" Edelfelt, but whatever. That merely implied if someone did meet said standard it would leave the Germans less ground to stand on. "Fortunately or not, right now not a single party's met the grade, but sooner or later we will have to pick someone, or else they'll be picked for us. Too many are looking this way as is, and everyone knows magi get impatient at the worst possible times these days whenever the opportunity presents itself."

"Impatient fools. Incapable of anything themselves, they make a game off of the work of others. One you enabled."

"The game is over. In case you haven't noticed, it's been played five times already, and you lost each and every one." The teen crossed his arms defiantly. "The Tohsaka wanted victory for the sake of duty. Zouken twisted himself into a literal monster that merely desired immortality. And you got frustrated to the point of merely wanting to win, to prove your so called superiority over the others, and literally fucking up the system for everyone. All three of you lost sight of what you wanted from the damn Grail in the first place, original intentions and creators be damned. Is it any wonder that it devolved to this state? I thought that obtaining a True Magic required more dedication than that."

As one, the dozen or so homunculi in the room save for Illya and Acht took out their alchemically enhanced weapons and pointed them at Shirou.

Saber had hers out faster.

Illya on the other hand, remained quiet as Berserker somehow materialized behind her, his massive head and hair touching the ceiling of the room.

"You seem quite confident in yourself boy." Jubstacheit growled dangerously. "Victory has made your tongue careless."

Which meant that the white haired foreigners had established some sort of bounded field or trap to cripple the Servants in the building at a moment's notice if desired.

"I would know, wouldn't I?" Shirou leaned forward, not at all concerned about rubbing salt in the wound. "Tell me, do you truly think you're able to break that streak right now? And do you truly want to give up the opportunities that come with being on the winning side, for once?"

Jubstacheit scoffed. "Winning side? And what would that provide us that we could not obtain already?"

"A Caster class Servant from the Age of Gods that's already halfway towards mapping out a way to cleanse the Greater Grail, for starters." Shirou deadpanned as though it was obvious.

The room was dead silent for several long seconds. It was admittedly quite difficult to come up with a counter argument for something like that.

He went on, counting on his fingers. "Official support from the Magus Association with minimal red tape. Minimal interference from the Church, which admittedly isn't much seeing as the current overseer is borderline a member in name only. Protection and security of the Grail system's framework in order to ensure its mystery. An out in this entire shitshow. An opportunity to still obtain your original goal in the future without dealing with any potential apocalyptic side effects. And, of course, my cooperation."

"You speak as though the latter means anything." Jubstacheit frowned.

"I got this far laying low, didn't I? Imagine what I can do without the handicap." The teen leaned back in his seat. "Allow me to clarify a few things. Believe it or not, I am not against you reaching the Root and obtaining Heaven's Feel. The opposite really. The amount of time and sacrifices the Einzbern put into it deserve no less. But not at the cost of unleashing a literal God of Evil on the damn planet. You got sloppy in your desperation, old man, and nearly dragged down everyone with you because of it. What you have right now, is your chance to fix this disaster, and potentially get back on track without pissing on Justease Einzbern's grave."

"By leaving you in charge?" The old man looked disgusted at the prospect.

"If babysitting the lot of you like children is what I need to do in order to ensure that nobody risks the apocalypse, again, then yes." Shirou held his ground. "I don't care about the Grail, the Wish, True Magic, or any of your goals or politics in the slightest. That also means that so long as you aren't getting in my way or screw up, I won't interfere either. Rather, I simply want this nonsense done with. The sooner the better. Getting involved personally is just the fastest way to do it to spare everyone the bullshit."

The two stared one another down in tense silence, completely ignoring the weapons drawn about them.

"And if the new Grail requires that the War be resumed?" The old artificial human's question rang ominously in the room.

"If it comes to that, that's what happens. However, I'm confident a different outcome will make itself known with the time and resources available. Finding loopholes in the system are practically a tradition at this point." Shirou spoke carefully, knowing he was on fragile even ground. "And if we can trigger the Greater Grail to its full capacity without sacrificing the Servants?"

For a moment, Jubstacheit looked like he would spit out something derogatory in response to the question. "... The Servants are a means to an end. Nothing more. Heaven's Feel has always been our prerogative. What becomes of them is not our concern so long as we obtain Heaven's Feel."

Shirou nodded slowly before taking out some documents. "These are some more reports regarding the damage to the leylines here and their setup for your investigation. I take it you have already investigated the Greater Grail to an extent, and the corruption."

"We have." The terse reply was ambiguous. The stress could be from Shirou's dressing down, or from what he had gathered from the investigation itself.

"Then there is little point underscoring just how foolish it is to directly interface it as is." Shirou licked his lips carefully. "Caster is preoccupied with several significant tasks for the next few days. Ranging from the Grail itself to branching issues that are best investigated now before they can be a true problem. Her services can't be deviated during this time. The rest of us are contributing in our own ways, as is the Church's representative. Afterwards, however, she and Edelfelt will be available to assist in the purification, preparation, and modification of the Greater Grail while we decide and finalize on what will become of it."

"You are certain that the War cannot resume in Fuyuki."

"The machinations of the second Caster, alongside my father's efforts and the corruption have heavily damaged and warped the Leylines here, alongside the system itself. That's not counting the Three Lesser Grails that need to be supervised. Caster claims that the entire system requires the equivalent of a full system reboot before it can be safe to use it for anything, after its relocated away from the warped leylines here and risk a repeat disaster. As capable as I like to sound at times, I assure you I have no idea what that process would entail and have zero confidence in making decisions regarding it."

"And here everyone assumed you would be capable of that as well." The white haired old man let out a rare sarcastic quip before taking the documents. "Further investigation is required before any plans of relocating the Greater Grail can be drafted."

"Mmm." Shirou nodded. "We will keep you updated and supplied for the endeavor, but nothing starts until a suitable location and sponsor is identified."

"We will also be taking back Illyasviel."

And they were back to square one. Illya's body stiffened, Saber frowned, and Shirou's face went completely blank.

"Not happening."

"This is not up for discussion. The Einzbern Lesser Grail is our property."

"You make one of them every sixty years, and Illya's in ten. Just cobble another."

"Do you truly think it's that simple to manufacture a Lesser Grail, boy?" Jubstacheit growled. "Don't you dare compare those imitations to what we produce. Each Lesser Grail is excruciatingly customized for each War and the current era for maximum efficiency and integration with the Greater Grail."

"And so you simply want to save time to take back Illya and what, recycle her?" Shirou's tone was ominously even.

"If necessary." The old man impressively didn't so much as hesitate with his response. "If you are as meticulous as you claim, then you are aware of Illyasviel's limited lifespan."

Shirou's eyes narrowed slightly. He almost made a quip about how the care she was given resembles that Jubstacheit had given the Grail itself, but stopped himself at the last moment. "What are you getting at? You don't strike me as the type that would be willing to try and give back what you took from her. If you could to begin with."

"Don't look down on our craft. Replacing the organs and circuits tied to the Lesser Grail in her body with functional imitations is child's play. Even with her unique body, we can easily extend her life by decades should we feel like it."

"A crippled life with a stunted body that they could no doubt control at will if they so choose." Shirou mentally scoffed to Saber, who agreed but showed no physical reaction. "And the reason why you want her Lesser Grail in particular?"

"It, and its mysteries, are the Einzbern's property. We cannot risk more of our craft and mysteries being exposed than what has already been divulged. I presumed that much would be obvious."

Shirou held back a minor grimace. As far as reasons go for magi, that one was pretty cut and dry. The "general functions" of the Grail system was more or less an open secret now, but the "hows" were still more or less a black box that neither party desired to let out under any circumstances.

Still… it was a paltry excuse at best considering the Greater Grail's mysteries in comparison were, well, 'greater' than Illya's.

"And you believe that you are more capable of securing her protection than Seven Servants?" Shirou asked skeptically, knowing that his words were more than a bit cold. "If Illya truly is on a clock, then waiting her out shouldn't be too hard for you. It's not like we are particularly interested in anyone making off with her as much as you are. If that's possible with Berserker as protection."

And Assassin, but they didn't need to know that.

"There are ways around Servants. Or did you think that the powers that govern our world simply turned a blind eye to the powers thrown about each and every War?"

Shirou scoffed. "Of course not. I've been to Atlas and work with Merem Solomon. I know Servants aren't the strongest or infallible. However what these parties have to contest with is time, secrecy and power. If they run out of time. They lose. If they get noticed, they lose. If they are not strong enough, they lose. More than half of the Servants' identities and abilities are still unknown, and that's not factoring in that they are working together. The amount of time and resources needed to deal with one without notice is already a trial, but all seven? Plus an Apostle Ancestor? Anything prominent enough to deal with such a force would have to be considered an act of war. And from what I understand, most of the powers that be are more content with diffusing the current situation. Not escalate it."

"So that's your plan then? To wait and hope things turn for the best?" Jubstacheit could not hide the disgust on his face.

"I may have some alternatives in mind, but those don't require your input." Nor did they require the Einzbern to know that they were currently already in motion. "That said, like you, I have no intention of the mechanics and secrets of the Grail spreading and causing more headaches, so at the very least be assured that whatever I choose, that information will remain secure. And if we can decide on a new location and purpose for the Greater Grail before they can move, even better."

"Should or when I die prematurely though, are we in agreement that my body will be delivered to the Einzbern family?" Illya asked firmly, finally getting a word in.

Shirou frowned, clearly not appealing to that decision. "... So long as there is no evidence that they are responsible for it, I will concede to that much."

This however, was the wrong thing to say. "That is enough. I don't know what I was thinking, negotiating with children as though they are our peers. You have no right to dictate what to do with our property, Emiya. It is bad enough that we must negotiate the fate of the Greater Grail, but I will not allow the Einzberns assets to be haggled on a whim for convenience. As Illyasviel has failed in her task of obtaining the Grail, she has no right in determining her fate. She will return with the Einzbern with or without your approval."

With a flare of mana, the bounded field in the room set up earlier by the Einzbern activated. Instantly, Saber and Berserker grimaced and fell to their knees, robbed of their strength and their very souls under assault. It was clearly a mystery crafted specifically to attack Servants at their very cores, their Spirit Origins, designed by one of the families that knew the frameworks of Heroic Spirits the best.

"We have wasted enough time with this farce. Kill the boy and take Illyasviel. I'll deal with the Association's complaints as they-"

Ping.

Crack.

Splat.

The old man's orders were interrupted by the sound of something piercing through the glass windows of the building to the side, and the explosion of one of his guards' heads into nothing but meat, flesh, and bone. The hole in the glass was perfectly circular, piercing through it and leaving not a crack more.

The same could not be said for the bullet's target. Or what was left of it anyways.

"I suppose this is as good a time as any to inform you that Assassin is also supervising our discussion." Shirou calmly informed the other party, not at all surprised or bothered by the turn of events.

While it is to his benefit this time, Shirou was getting a bit annoyed at being underestimated so often.

With a dramatic sigh, he stood up out of his chair and casually walked to the side of the room, ignoring both his disturbed allies and enemies alike.

One of Jubstacheit's guards rushed him with a meticulous and massive battle axe made of an alloy that was produced exclusively by the Einzberns. A normal human wouldn't have a hope of even standing the massive tool upright, let alone wielding it like a weapon, and yet the artificial warrior rushed forward at speeds that almost rivaled that of a generic Servant…

BOOM!

He didn't make it halfway to Shirou before he was impaled by a perfect copy of his own weapon and thrown back across the room. The reversal happened so fast that none of his companions didn't realize what had happened until he was nailed behind them.

"Blugh?!"

Judging from the victim's shocked expression and bewilderment as he coughed out blood and bits of internal organs, he didn't either.

The alchemically enhanced body and clothes did nothing to prevent him from being literally skewered and nailed to the wall.

"Fair warning, I'm not weak." In his right hand, Shirou materialized a copy of Rule Breaker in a reverse grip and haphazardly stabbed the wall.

The results were immediate, as both the Servants and Jubstacheit felt the bounded field break down.

"What on… the bounded field was destroyed?" The homunculus grimaced, very well aware of his lack of standing and the death glares he was receiving from the two most powerful Servants in the Fifth Grail War.

"Saber, Illya, are you alright?" Shirou ignored him in favor of his partner and sister while the dagger dissipated in a matter of seconds.

"I'm fine." Saber grimaced, getting back to her feet. Her body tingled all over from the almost unexpected assault, but otherwise she was still fully functional. Had she been kept under for longer though, she suspected the aftereffects would be far more unpleasant.

"Same… the field only affected Servants." Illya trailed off, not sure how to interpret her brother's aggressive actions.

"Boy!" Jubstacheit yelled, standing up in anger.

Shirou pointed to another one of the other homunculi in the room without warning.

Pink!

Splurt!

The targeted guard's head exploded from another one of Assassin's bullets, causing the other party to immediately be on guard.

Wordlessly, Shirou returned to his seat, licked his lips, and looked around as if trying to figure out the right thing to say.

"... What is your role, Jubstacheit?"

"I don't see why I should even bother to humor-"

Shirou pointed to another homunculus.

Pink!

Splurt!

The stunned artificial woman's chest exploded before she fell to the floor.

"Allow me to change the question then." Shirou evenly continued as though he wasn't responsible for another person's death. "Do you know how easy it would be for me to destroy the Einzbern family and legacy?"

Other than the ominously hollow whistling that came from the recent holes made in the windows, not a sound could be heard.

"You know how obnoxious and conceited magi are. It wouldn't be inaccurate to claim that the majority perpetually have their heads up their asses with their antiquated beliefs and standards. The only reason why half of them are still around and hold power is because their ancestors made good investments early on that are paying dividends to this day. It has nothing to do with thaumaturgy. All it would take to end you, is to spread word that the Einzberns are being run by a defective puppet to get the ball rolling. A puppet that has forgotten the family's original purpose. One that has actively and frequently sabotaged efforts to achieve its creators' own dreams due to incompetence and pride."

If looks were murder, Jubstacheit's glare would at least be mystic eyes by now. Given another minute it might actually reach Noble Phantasm level.

"You have reduced the Einzbern 'family' into a perpetual 'do nothing' machine, old man. A self-contained factory of homunculi to make homunculi, and literally nothing more. Everything else you make, you design to fail far short of its supposed goal." In opposition to the elder magi, Shirou held his ground, his tone emotionless and flat. "All it would take is to propagate your incompetence, and not only would the Einzbern's never achieve their goals again, but their names would be reduced to a joke. Enough that you would be perpetually hounded by lesser and obnoxious families convinced of their superiority over a factory run by its own products."

Jubstacheit's fists clenched tightly, and his normally pale ash complexion was marred with a vicious scowl and red from increasing blood pressure.

Shirou went on. "Any chance you are given to achieve something greater, you sabotage with intention or incompetence. The Grail War? You tainted with Angra Mainyu, and failed to provide maintenance afterwards. Kiritsugu? He WON, you idiot. This nonsense could have been over with a decade ago. He actually had it in his hands, but because you couldn't uphold your responsibilities, the final product, your product, was defective and deemed unsuitable. Dangerous. Not just for him, but for anyone with a fraction of common sense."

The old man stood up and inhaled to yell something…

Only to stop as a simple dagger flashed past his head and embedded itself into the wall behind him, cutting his cheek slightly.

"Sit down." Behind Shirou were at least a dozen weapons floating ominously. None shone with gold or radiated with power like with Gilgamesh, but there were a few nameless Noble Phantasms there, mixed in with copies of the weapons that armed Jubstacheit's entourage.

Slowly, albeit begrudgingly, the offended party lowered himself back down, never taking his eyes off of the boy he had dismissed as merely "lucky", and upgraded him to a genuine threat.

"I like to consider myself a patient and kind person. However, even I have begun to reach the limits of my generosity as of late with those that assume I am just an ignorant child. That I will stand by and let others walk over me and harm those I care about due to their pedigree and worthless history." Silver eyes bored into dull gray.

"We don't need the Einzbern to move the Grail. To filter it. To operate it. Or anything relevant to it. This meeting? This request for cooperation? It is a formality. An offer of overoptimistic good will that ideally would benefit all of us. But it is not necessary. Not necessary for the Grail. Not necessary for Heaven's Feel. I am serving it to you on a silver fucking platter, and right now? You are the one having a pissing fit because everything is not going your way. Again."

Shirou leaned back in his seat and exhaled slowly. "You have three options. You can cooperate with the management with the Greater Grail, its cleansing, and don't interfere with Illya's life unless it is to her benefit. And in exchange, we will support your efforts into achieving Heaven's Feel with the Greater Grail, either via resuming the War at a later date, or by alternative means of our own creation. Should there be opposition, we will support your side of the issue until the matter is resolved, or you obtain the Third Magic."

"Second, you resume antagonizing us under the pretense of superiority, and the Einzbern will fall. One way or another, and all under your name. It is as simple as that, and something I assure you I can easily accomplish myself without the assistance of a Servant. Taking on the War was not the only outlandish scenario Kiritsugu prepared me for before he passed."

The howling from the holes in the window was ominous, a chain of notes that felt more akin to a curse than anything.

"... And the third?" Jubstacheit asked darkly.

"You leave and return to Germany." Shirou's reply was succinct. "You abandon any and all responsibilities and relations to the Greater Grail, the Servants, and Illyasviel. Whatever happens and becomes of it will not be accredited to the Einzberns in any way, for good or evil. Heaven's Feel included. We will not speak again, nor hinder the others' efforts outside of truly exceptional circumstances that may warrant them. No fighting. No spells. Nothing. You will merely continue to do as you have, and we will resume our own lives. It will be as though the other does not exist."

"How generous of you."

"The idea of forcing cooperation does not appeal to me if I can help it. If you care to remember, I tried being reasonable and mutual and was met with aggression. To be quite frank, I desire as much from you as you I. However the current situation dictates otherwise unless we agree to it."

The two stared one another down, as if daring to make the first move.

"We still require Illyasviel's body be secured, regardless of the outcome."

"So long as you are not the aggressor and cause of her death, you will have her body upon her passing. Including the Lesser Grail. Should you betray that agreement, she will be cremated and buried next to Kiritsugu. The Lesser Grail will be disposed of in its entirety in that case." Shirou's answer was firm.

"The Tohsaka and Matou will have no say of what will become of the Grail upon its relocation."

"Tohsaka merely provided the land, and will be preoccupied with other matters. Her role will be relegated to that as a participating Master. The Matou family was responsible for the Servant Master system, and the current Head is a Lesser Grail. She will be consulted in some capacity regardless of your request."

"... An unfortunate concession." The old man frowned, but didn't escalate the issue further. "And the Church?"

For some reason, Shirou felt that there was more to the question than insinuated. "Still regulated to an observing third party. Imitation or not, the Grail is still the Grail. And a wish potentially powerful enough to reach the Root is still something to warrant attention. Unless they are involved in the relocation of the system, nothing has changed."

"Hmmm. No doubt the vampire will be moved elsewhere and replaced before long. A monster like that is too valuable to be made a guard dog." Jubstacheit glanced to the side, out the window to the Fuyuki city skyline where Assassin was hiding, somewhere, with his rifle scope aimed at him. "I presume you don't anticipate a decision to be made this instant."

"We have time. Though I suggest you keep your attention to the task at hand and don't make any excessive actions while here." Shirou nodded. "I admittedly am quite busy these days with noisy parties that believe themselves to be above respecting my wishes for a quiet aftermath. I had to personally address one of the prospective heirs to a Middle Eastern family just the other night. The fool had the gall to assume he could trick me into giving him Avalon."

"Tch. Sand rats. As if you neck cutting fools weren't bad enough. This wretched land is infested with vermin, one way or another." The old man grimaced, letting his racism slip.

"I would take offense to that if Zouken hadn't been here for five hundred years." Shirou on the other hand laughed bitterly.

"This meeting is strenuous enough as it is, Shirou. There's no need to unsettle my stomach further by bringing up the worm." Illya flatly chided him.

"Mind your words. Deplorable as he was, Zouken was still the head of the Matou family. Even Emiya couldn't dispose of him without the aid of a Servant." Jubstacheit lectured mockingly, as if to underscore how helpless the opposing party was without Saber.

Shirou shook his head. "Killing Zouken was a simple task. I could have done it years ago. Killing him without consequences though, that required a select set of skills and abilities that were not available until the War took place. Much like contacting Illya."

The girl allowed herself to smile slightly in satisfaction in direct contrast to her grandfather's growing irritation. "You sound as though you can penetrate the Einzbern's bounded fields."

"I can show you some of the field plans and maps if you want." Shirou smirked. "If Dad hadn't been cursed by the Grail, he would have probably collapsed half the castle and the ritual Citadel years ago to get Illya."

Which had been plan C-5. The letters identified the general approach to the territory. The numbers indicated what and how many parts of the castle would have been destroyed in the process of their infiltration.

Some of them almost reached triple digits. Just in case.

Judging from the slightly glazed look in Illya's eyes followed by some minor twitching, Assassin had likely just told her as much.

The old man was notably less amused. "That will not be necessary."

"Very well." Shirou shrugged.

"Is there any further point in this discussion? Or do you intend to try and harass and waste my time?" Jubstacheit made it clear that he had no more interest staying with them.

It was as much as a tell that Shirou was going to get what he wanted. For now at least. "At the very least, we should make this meeting weekly in order to update one another on the progress of the Grail and any potential developments with the Association and Church. So long as we stick to our own objectives and plan accordingly, we should be content staying out of one another's way. And if matters prove otherwise, hopefully we can discuss and come to an accord on how to address them. No need to further agitate the current setup when we both intend to profit from cooperation. So long as you do consent to cooperate, of course."

Consent? The very word of treating the boy like an equal in any capacity made the head of the Einzbern want to rage and leave the meeting that very moment. To abandon that abysmal island hell that wasted so much of his time and resources and be done with them all.

But he stopped himself at the last moment. As much as he wished to dismiss Fuyuki in its entirety, there was still too much at stake. Illyasviel. The Greater Grail. Heaven's Feel. Too much was invested in Fuyuki. Too much could be discovered. Now was not the time to be rash. He would have to wait. He doubted that this endeavor would bear fruit, but if it did… well, he would deal with that embarrassment when the time came.

If not, well, he was planning for that regardless.

If the boy had to blame anyone when the world collapsed around him, it should be that traitor Kiritsugu for putting him on such a ridiculous path.

"You will have our decision by the next meeting." Wasting no time, Jubtsacheit stood up and looked down at Shirou imperiously, ignoring the imitation weapons still floating behind the boy. More copies of Einzbern work. More insults he would have to stomach for now. "Unless you have anything else to discuss."

"By your leave then." Slowly, the weapons hovering mid air faded away. The two stared one another down for several long seconds before Shirou glanced behind Jubstacheit curiously.

Specifically at the corpses of several homunculi that littered half the room. "Do you need any help cleaning that up?"

o. o. o.

Touko clicked her tongue in annoyance as she crossed out another gene and muscle structure design from her notes.

This wasn't the first time she had made a puppet body for a client. Or victim. But it was the first time she was getting so stumped so frequently across the board.

Illyasviel Von Einzbern was a mess.

A beautiful, artistically magnificent mess. It was as if a highschooler tried to "improve" Beethoven's fifth symphony to include an electric guitar and take out half the percussion and literally all of the second violin section. It worked. Far better than it had any right to, but all the forced changes and alterations twisted its very core into something that simply… wasn't.

Alterations before birth. Alterations after birth. And then there was that magnificently complicated piece of work that was her heart. And that didn't even include her magic circuits. Truthfully, Touko was astounded that the girl was as functional as she was.

That still didn't stop her from wanting to curse out the Einzbern and Emiya for this job. She knew it was too good to be true when she was offered to inspect a Justease model homunculus.

And yet, there was still something… missing.

She had worked on homunculi before. She had worked on modified humans. Hell, she had even worked on a phantasmal species or two. So when she had a feeling that something wasn't adding up, she followed her gut.

Illyasviel Von Einzbern wasn't just a human homunculi mix that's been heavily played with. There was something else in the genetic makeup that Aoko wasn't aware of. Something that she had a sinking suspicion that even Emiya wasn't aware of.

It didn't mean that she couldn't make a body. Far from it. But it did mean that whatever she did produce would be imperfect, and cause a conflict between the girl's soul and new vessel. It would make her degrade and fall apart. Nowhere near as fast as she was now, but far faster than what Emiya would prefer.

More importantly though, it would annoy Touko for months until she figured out what the hell it was she was missing.

"Haven't seen you this tweaked by a job in a while." Shiki yawned as she got up from the couch that had been borrowed by the Yakuza family upon her request. No questions asked.

"That obvious?" Touko looked up skeptically.

"You took off your glasses."

The Aozaki blinked and looked to the side to see that yes, she did take them off unconsciously. It was a habit she had whenever she felt particularly aggressive. "Huh."

"Regretting the job I take it?"

"Annoyed with a hangup. It's like knowing you're missing a step or two on a text exam or equation, but you can't figure out what the hell it is." The redhead leaned back and reached for her cigarettes. She needed the stress relief. "We'll figure it out eventually, but I'm not looking forward to the possibility that Caster will get it before me. Age of the Gods or not, this is supposed to be my specialty. My pride as a professional is at stake."

"Say that again when we get back to the office. Mikiya has needed the extra help cleaning it for the past six months."

"Haha. Like you're any better." Toukou laughed as she lit the end of her cancer stick. "Fortunately, my pride as a professional also prevents me from meeting clients in the office as standard procedure."

"Right." Shiki scoffed and was about to lay back on the couch… before immediately jumping to her feet and taking out her combat knife.

"Is now a bad time?" Merem Solomon asked with his usual fake gentile smile, waving with the lone arm he currently has.

"Who are you?" Shiki didn't lower her guard against the boy. Touko's makeshift lab was protected by dozens of bounded fields made by that Caster woman, and inside the property owned by a Yakuza. There weren't many strangers, let alone boys, that could simply enter the building unannounced.

"Hooh?" Toukou, on the other hand, was less surprised and more interested. "Judging from that choir boy outfit and that twisted smile you have, you must be the current local Church representative. Merem Solomon in the flesh. It's an honor to meet you in person, though I expected one of the oldest Apostle Ancestors to be bigger."

"You are not the first person to say that." Merem played along, still standing at the door. "May I?"

"Let him in, Shiki." Touko waved with a smirk. "If he wanted to start trouble he would have done so a hundred different ways by now. I've seen the aftermath of his work. Solomon's not subtle when he gets dirty. We'd know if he was after us."

"Fascinating… Rainbow Mystic Eyes." Merem took no heed of Touko's words, far more enamored with Shiki's Mystic Eyes of Death Perception before she turned them off once more. "And here I thought I had seen the end of the entertaining surprises once the War had concluded."

"I hope you didn't come here to gawk at my bodyguard. Sorry to break it to you but she's already got a suitor." Touko snapped him out of his stupor lazily, not at all concerned with his distraction.

"Should I congratulate or pity the poor fellow?" Merem didn't look away from Shiki.

"Haha. That's still up for debate." The redhead grinned, taking a jab at her assistant's expense. "Now then, care to tell me what you know about the Einzbern girl that you don't want Emiya to find out?"

"Straight to the point I see." The vampire kept his focus on the bodyguard still. "I would prefer it if this discussion was private."

"Shiki stays. She doesn't particularly care about most of the affairs of magi to begin with. This is just a job for her." She waved him off.

"And should it involve more?"

Touko paused for a moment before nodding slightly and picked up her glasses. "Shiki, I think I remember the old man wanting to talk to you about some underworld matters earlier. Could you care to give him some company?"

Shiki frowned and looked like she was about to argue for a moment before clicking her tongue and sheathing her knife. "Your funeral."

The pair waited until the young woman closed the door behind her before resuming.

"I'm listening."

Merem nodded for a moment before slowly walking around the room with mild curiosity, examining the bodies and puppet parts that littered the benches and tubes around it.

"Lets say, you offer your services to a party." He starts off slowly, not once making eye contact with her.

"You don't care much for the project itself. However, it offers the slight potential to yield you something enticing. With minimal input or risk on your part. The project fails the goals that you want, but not what the other party desires and you move on. They still possess a meager sliver of your work, an easily dismissible amount really, as it is required as its foundation, but otherwise you don't pay what is done with it any mind at all."

"Sounds like the beginning of a fantasy novel of the month." Touko hummed as she put her glasses on. That said, her eyes spoke of anything but amusement.

"Now imagine, quite some time later, that the project has been… changed. For lack of a better word," Merem continued.

o. o. o.

In Fuyuki city, in a cornered off alleyway that would escape any and everyone's notice, a discussion was taking place.

"The ones responsible for it are gone. The original test subject is too. And yet the material still remains."

One side of the conversation consisted of a handsome, yet irate man with dull gray eyes and bone white hair. Surrounding him are four men and women of similar builds and dispositions armed with weapons and tools that could tear a human apart in a single swing.

"The goal of the project has been… degraded. And led by what could be best described as an incompetent and senile butler that has forgotten his place."

On the other was a smiling and kindly looking old man in priest's garbs.

And they were all surrounded by rats.

"A butler that has forgotten himself in his attempt to keep his household's name aloft, mistaking and melding his petty desires and responsibilities to the goals of the ones he served. One that has come to see himself as its leader, using and degrading the materials left over from his masters to produce imitations in their image, ordering them about as their superior."

As the old man spoke and his smile widened, the other party inversely grew more agitated and irate.

"Now imagine, some time later, by pure coincidence, you make an acquaintance that you are particularly fond of, and discover their relationship to one of these half-hearted products by this Butler. One that actually had the potential to also be something interesting, but was liable to whither away prematurely or be disposed of halfheartedly, all to hide the Butler's incompetence."

o. o. o.

Merem turned to look at Touko in the eye, stopping in front of the chamber that held Illyasviel's new body.

He wasn't smiling. He wasn't frowning.

His expression was blank to the point that the flesh on his face might as well be a mask attached to his skull.

"Even if you had dismissed the original project. Even if you had left it alone for the fates to decide. Would you get annoyed too, seeing the fruits of your contributions be treated so poorly when they, despite the odds, did somehow matter?"

Touko knew what she was missing now.

And what she needed in order to fix it.

She couldn't say that she was particularly thrilled about it though.

o. o. o.

Omake: Leaving a mark:

Fina didn't know what exactly to think at the moment.

When he had let his latest "guest" free access to the ship, he had expected the Lord of the Clocktower to act, well, like a Lord of the Clocktower.

Investigating. Experimenting. Researching. Possibly even interrogating a member of the crew for information or trying to escape.

He didn't expect…

"HIGH SCORE!"

This.

"This is the fourth game he's obliterated tonight, sir." The sailor reported somewhat nervously next to him, both watching Waver Velvet input his name on the top of the arcade machine's electronic list of top scores from the entrance to the ship's game room.

The Lord himself didn't seem to mind the attention he was getting, donned in nothing more than his slacks and an undershirt with his hair tied into a loose ponytail.

"The fourth?" Fina didn't know if should be surprised, impressed, or horrified by the feat. He wasn't exactly enthralled by the entertainment devices that had spawned over the past century, but it was near impossible to take in a sizeable ship these days without one or seven coming with them and distracting a good quarter of the crew in their down time. Because of that, he was quite literally instinctively aware of how difficult, if downright cheap and unbalanced, many of these games actually were.

And his guest was going through them like he was Nero Chaos at a local zoo.

"Hahaha. He really is an interesting one." Altrouge laughed from right behind him. "Although it does make you wonder why he's doing this. Do you think he is trying to perform some peculiar mystery?"

"Maybe." The soldier shifted uncomfortably. "But when we did ask him what his intentions were, his answer was, and I quote, "If everything goes to hell and I die from this nonsense, I'm making sure I'm leaving a mark that even you won't be able to get rid of with or without magic to carry through the centuries."

"Snrk! Pfft! Hahahaha!"

Fina tried to ignore his mistress' failure to hide her amusement.

"HIGH SCORE!"

"How the hell did that happen?! He just started playing that one!"

"King of Conquerors and weeks of pent up stress!"

"AHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!"

He didn't do a good job at it.

o. o. o.

A/N:

As always, thanks Wayfarer for betaing.

Yeah, Waver's unwinding while Shirou's getting riled up. Truth be told, I wanted to do a small side bit regarding Waver on his trip to Japan where Altrouge orders Fina to take a detour at the "sea at the end of the world" just to mess with him and lure him to her side, but it would take too long and it honestly feels a bit shoehorned in. Maybe I'll make it omake material later, but it was just another one of my random brain spawns that didn't make it to the story proper.

Admittedly, I have some mixed feelings about this chapter. Lots of recapping stuff we know along with some real progress, finally. Shirou "doing something" is a bit of a gag joke at this point, as is everyone reacting to it, but it needed to be done in some capacity. Probably not as long as it was here, but still had to be done.

Shirou is reaching the end of his patience with all these surprises constantly popping up though, and he's starting to put his foot down about it. The real problem is that he's not exactly used or familiar with where he stands on the global monster totem pole now, both in terms of authority and in terms of actual power. Truth be told, pretty much everyone is for one reason or another, which leads to the confusion and increased tension. It is something that needs to be addressed and isn't ignored by the bulk of the cast.

Touko gets some more screen time as well, focusing on her own craft and headaches trying to make Illya's new body. Realistically, i know that to make a customized body for anyone it probably takes more than a few days or weeks to pull off, but I'm just going to hand wave it and say it's possible with Caster's help. Lazy? Yes. Possible? Also potentially yes so long as there aren't many interruptions… crap.

As for the whole Merem, Illya, Einzbern bullshit lore I've made up, let me put it this way:

Red eyes. White hair. Where does that combo show up in the Type Moon universe?

Seriously though, I am taking liberties here. It's what I do. I don't know how this should surprise anyone by now. And with that bit with the 2nd War. So for the love of all that is reasonable people, don't treat this shit as lore or have a seizure that I'm trying to connect dots together again to make up a world history that makes the barest amount of sense even if it's wrong in the end. I still get shit about the whole "Incarnation" thing by people that take these things way too seriously for their own good.

In other news, ORT is apparently not Type Mercury after all lore wise, but something from the ORT cloud in our solar system. Fun. Still going to treat it as Type Mercury in FFD, but it's nice to know that now.

Not much irl happening atm. Getting tickets for winter break. Got a wedding to go to early November. Working. Eating. Sleeping. Writing. Playing. Rick and Morty-ing (season 6 is starting strong). And all in all just trying to not fall pay attention as the world falls apart.

Oh, right, also sold my apartment in Connecticut. That's done and done. Got the money and everything, which is nice. Also getting sued in small claims court by the psycho (and quite frankly stupid as fuck) tenant for not returning her deposit because she trashed the place and ruined two of the doors, which isn't nice.

But, my mother is a horrifyingly capable and vindictive bitch when she wants to be that happens to work in property management and finances, so odds are I'm going to be making more money from the counterclaim by the end of it all because we kept all the receipts of all the bullshit the Karen put us through… which is nice.

Yay nice things.

Just make sure to ignore the evil smiles and laughter coming from those with my genetic lineage in the next couple of weeks.

Nothing says family bonding time like mutually plotting and enjoying the justifiable and legal downfall of someone that pissed you off.

Not much else to talk about atm. Waiting for Film Red. Starting to work out a bit more to lose some weight. Just running a bit really.

Ah, and as always, look up Third Fang and donate to the big Pa-eon to get lore, pictures, and chapters early. I have a pic of Crypt finishing up soon so that will be posted in the next few days… hopefully.

SO REVIEW! WORSHIP THE LOG! WAVER'S THREE LETTER SIGNATURE ON ARCADE GAMES IS LML FOR LORD EL MELLOI! AND REVIEW AGAIN!