I do not own Fate/Stay Night and stuffs.
o. o. o.
Shirou woke up later than normal the following morning. Usually he'd start to feel the weight of the sun's very existence like an uncomfortable blanket around sunrise. However, it was surprisingly absent this time around.
That said, having Rin resting on one arm and Sakura on another with Luvia on his chest did constitute a different sort of weight though, and not uncomfortable either.
Or at least, when they had been there earlier that night. Now though…
"Did you sleep well Onii-chan?" Illya smiled as she, the only other individual present in the room, picked her head off his chest with a cheshire like grin. Fortunately, she was dressed in a simple set of pink pajamas, while he… yes, while shirtless still had a pair of sweats on. Fortunately.
"... I did, actually," he replied slowly, trying to pick his words carefully before he said something that would be held over his head for the rest of the month. His eyes darted to the nearby table where his clock said it was ten in the morning. Much later than when he normally woke up. "I suppose you had something to do with that?"
"Hmhm. Why? Don't you remember what happened last night in better detail? I thought most boys your age would be more attentive to something like that." The albino giggled in a way that really shouldn't belong to someone her apparent age and body type.
"Don't make me bring Dad into this." Pushing himself up with a tired grunt and blinking out the sleep in his eyes, Shirou's mind slowly started to boot up. He wasn't ungrateful for their thoughts. He really did need the rest now that he was feeling the results. He hadn't felt this relaxed in a while.
But, time wasn't a luxury. They had wasted most of the last day goofing off, and there was a Vampire to deal with soon.
"Humph. Clearly you're not a morning person." Pouting, Illya's demeanor also matured just a bit as she sat up on her side. "Luvia, Sakura, and Rin got up early and set up some bounded fields so you could sleep in before getting to work. You're easy to predict at times like this, Onii-chan. I can already tell you're planning preparations for tonight for everyone already."
Shirou smirked and shook his head. "It's not that hard to predict if it's only the most natural thing to do, Nee-san."
"With you around, some would beg to differ. It was a coin toss between that and you obsessing over what to make for breakfast for everyone." It almost hurt him when she gave him that deadpan stare.
"Now that one was uncalled for." He chuckled, getting to his feet. "So? What are everyone's plans?"
Illya shrugged in a lackadaisical manner, as though it was of no concern of hers. "Rin and Luvia managed to agree on something by themselves for once, and are off working on some project. Bazett is off with Lancer setting up all those runes you had them make earlier for tonight. Sakura is making breakfast to save you some time. Caster is off making and double checking the bounded fields she's made on Mt. Enzou so that nobody tries to pull a fast one on the Greater Grail while we are busy with the Vampires, which includes said Greater Grail. The rest of the Servants are where you'd expect them to be. And we have not seen or received word from the Vampire we barely tolerate since you left with him last night."
Seeing that he felt Saber right outside his doorway through their connection, he'd take Illya's word on that.
Nodding, Shirou started to do some basic stretches to loosen up his body. It was good that everyone was already busy with their own tasks and saving him time. The fact that they weren't hovering over him meant that they trusted that he would be using his time and not cause any problems. "What about you? I'm up now."
"Mostly keeping you out of trouble."
He spoke too soon.
"But other than that I'm to relay any instructions you have to the others in case something does happen so you aren't distracted," she continued, blatantly enjoying the frustrated expression he had just made.
Shirou frowned at that. Not because she was mocking him, but if Fina showed up early and she was with him, it might cause problems. "You're not coming with me to the docks."
That had her attention. And ire. "What? I thought we were past the suicidal decisions, Shirou. You're giving up on the idea of having Berserker back you up in an emergency?"
"We can't have all our eggs in one basket." He rolled his shoulders. "At best I'm only taking two other Masters with me, and one of them is likely going to be Tohsaka since she's the Second owner of Fuyuki. We need you to stay behind to ensure that Fina doesn't pull a fast one on us with something big. Luvia's out too. We can't risk losing Caster in case things go south."
"Which means you're taking the Enforcer and Lancer as a show of strength. There's no way you're bringing Matou to the front and gaining attention." Illya sighed knowing where this was going. "The three Knight Class Servants. Well, if you did want to make a grand welcome, that's certainly one way to do it… although I highly doubt that's all you have in mind so far."
"I may or may not have a few other ideas," Shirou mused teasingly, although his amusement flickered slightly at his sister's cold calm expression. "None of which involve blowing you or anything around you up."
"That said, I wasn't mindlessly playing either," he acknowledged reluctantly. "I do have a few plots for the rest of you that everyone might not exactly find appealing. Especially given the circumstances."
"Which is why you're going to try and keep them a secret from us even now." She knew where this was going.
"I need to keep you all focused," he admitted shamelessly. "And one of them needs to be kept quiet for other reasons. I'm playing with a whole different brand of Greek fire with that plan, and it's far too late to stop it now."
"Too late to…" Illya froze at the ominous statement. She was familiar enough with her brother to know that whenever he said something like that, it was likely far worse than what he implied. "Shirou, what did you do?"
"My gambit with the Association." Surprisingly, he didn't hesitate at all in his response. "After Waver-nii was kidnapped almost immediately after the trial and the indefinite pause on the War, questions were being asked. People were starting to poke their noses into places that they shouldn't be. Dangerous suspicions were being made. And it would only get worse once we in particular manage to rescue him. Steps had to be taken to mitigate the damage."
"And how bad can this gamble potentially get?" Illya got closer to him. If this was some sort of cartoon, her head would be comically enlarged to take up half the screen looking down on him.
In turn, Shirou sheepishly made it a point to avoid all eye contact with his sister. "Bad enough, but even then what happens afterwards will be far less likely to spill out of control than if we had done nothing."
"'Bad enough,' he says. After everything we just went through and all the nonsense he's pulled." Illya grimaced and tried to mitigate the headache she was already developing. Was it too much to ask that she go through one minor series of trials with her brother without feeling like the world was about to come down on them?
She wanted to yell at him. She wanted to curse out in frustration. She wanted to smack him upside the head for making more problems for his adorable sister.
Instead, she just sighed deeply and groaned loudly. "Fine! I give up! What do I have to do?"
This time, Shirou did pause in his morning routine and looked at her skeptically. "Really? That fast?"
Illya turned to him with an ominous stare, her eyes glowing like a certain Servant of hers'. "What. Do. I. Have. To. Do?"
"Okay. Okay." He lifted his hands up in surrender. "Just make sure that the Einzbern contingency here stays hidden for the time being. Either wherever they're staying or at the Greater Grail site. Make up whatever story you have to in order to make them cooperate. Other than that, I just need to borrow Dad for the afternoon."
"Is that all? Please don't disappoint me, Onii-chan. I was certain you'd have everyone running around non-stop until the vampires arrived, and then some." She wasn't convinced.
"N-no. That's it. I mean other than staying at Aozaki's side and making sure she doesn't get involved in anything." He shook his head in denial before remembering something. "Actually, that alone might be a trial in itself."
Illya frowned in confusion. "Something I should know?"
"Touko Aozaki has a bit of a reputation. She doesn't go back on deals, but she does have a habit of twisting events into chaotic directions whenever she gets interested in something. She's rumored to qualify as a Grand rank Magus if her Sealing Designation wasn't in place." Shirou sighed. "If that wasn't bad enough, there's her assistant Shiki Ryougi."
"You know of her?" Illya pressed.
"No. She supposedly comes from a yakuza family like Fuji-nee, albeit one with a history on our side of things. But Merem took me aside a little while back and told me that she's, and I quote, 'An interesting surprise'."
"Lovely. And here I thought we could go one night without one of those taking place." Illya's tone was as dry as her stare.
"Listen. Everyone has a role for tonight. Some are worse than others. I know it's not as exciting as you'd hope, but yours is to keep an eye on Touko while helping her get your new body up as quickly as possible. Tell me, are you able to use the Einzbern Magecraft to accelerate its development?" He knelt down and looked her square in the eye.
The girl grimaced and looked away. "I'm not sure. The Einzbern excel in making homunculi. Not puppets. I would have to see what their process is and how far they are into it before I can tell either way. My knowledge of Heaven's Feel won't be of much use other than to check my compatibility with it so my soul transfer goes smoothly."
"Then that's what you'll focus on when you're with her." Shirou sighed. "I know it's technically par the course for most magi, but we really are pushing it. Aozaki will without question notice something is off by now. The last thing we need is for her to run away or put her own spin on an already delicate situation."
Illya puffed her cheeks out in frustration before huffing and crossing her arms. "Humph. Fine. I suppose I'll trust you on this. You really are an unreasonable brother."
"Heh. Yeah. I guess I haven't practiced as much as I should have." Shirou smiled tiredly and stood back up. "I'll try and make it up to you when all this is over. Promise."
Crimson eyes glared at his own silver for several long moments. It was as though Illya was looking for something in him and making a decision based on what she saw.
"Focus on dealing with that stupid vampire first." She sniffed, and turned away.
"Which one?" She didn't need to see him to see the self mocking smile on his face.
To be fair, he almost did make her laugh.
"I'm starting to think the one with silver eyes is the biggest headache right now." She drawled aridly.
"Owch. I better get on it then." Her brother laughed while standing up again. "Just let me do a quick warmup and clean myself first."
"Really? I thought we spent enough time in the bathroom last night?" She looked at him with a faux innocent look.
"Don't make me tell dad what you tried to pull last night, nee-san." He walked past her while rubbing the top of her head affectionately.
"Onii-chan privileges. We got them too, you know."
"That's not true. You have no privileges. There's no such thing. Only imouto privileges exist." The albino pouted in frustration, having her usual method of teasing Shirou used against her.
"Try telling that to Rin and Luvia." He took a step out of the door before pausing. "... Huh. I guess all three of us are actually older siblings, aren't we?"
"Not for long…" Illya grumbled. Soon she'd be the older sister again. And the rightful order shall be restored with Shirou as her toy once again.
"Shirou?" Saber asked from the hallway where she had been waiting.
"Just getting cleaned up. We're leaving afterwards. Assassin's coming with us." He informed his right hand.
"What are you going to do with Papa today anyways?" Illya followed him out of the room.
"Nothing special really." Shirou headed to the bathroom. "Just set up the battlefield to my advantage and plot a dozen and a half contingency plans for tonight. Standard Magus Killer stuff."
Saber and Illya stood next to one another in the hallway as he disappeared into the next room.
"Did you also just get chills when you realized that Onii-chan and Papa were working and planning together for tonight's disaster?"
"... I felt some discomfort, yes."
"Maybe it's for the best that I don't join him on the docks after all."
o. o. o.
"So tell me, how do you like an Apostle Ancestor's hospitality? Not quite what you were expecting, were you?"
Waver didn't react to Fina's sudden boisterous question from behind as the former stood on the front deck of the boat with a cigar in hand, watching the waves and water rock by.
"Actually it is the opposite. Given the company, it is quite what I had anticipated once I managed to stop panicking at my irregular situation," he replied calmly, blowing out some smoke. "Believe it or not, this is not the first time I have been catered to in some form by one of the Twenty Seven, Shirou notwithstanding."
"Oh? It's not? Don't tell me you actually wasted your time and money at one of the dozen pits that ancient bore Van Fem owns." The Pirate Captain walked to the Teacher's side.
"I don't gamble, but I did have some business that led me to the Rail Zeppelin some time ago."
"Hah. Of course. Rita's whimsical attempt into proprietorship to hide her obsession with mystic eyes. Forgot about that one. Got a good laugh when I first heard about it." Fina snorted.
"If I recall, rumor is that you are on particularly poor terms with her," Waver noted absently.
"That harlot's just sour that I may or may not have ruined the original debut of her little business and absconded with some of her prized collection. From what I understand, she took a bit of a loan from Van-Fem to get it started too." The Pirate laughed with an underlying maliciousness that indicated that he clearly enjoyed agitating his peers.
"Original debut?" Waver suspected that he had just heard something he was probably safer not knowing.
"Let's just say that there's a reason why that toy of hers doesn't do coastal routes anymore." Shrugging haphazardly, the vampire took out a flask from his coat and proceeded to take a swig from it. "Mmm. That said, perhaps you can enlighten me on some matter, being a man of the current era. Tell me, what in the name of Crimson Moon is it with younun's this past century and trains?"
"... Pardon?" Waver was not ashamed to say he gave Fina a double-take to make sure he heard that right, not that the latter had noticed.
"Boats I can understand, clearly, but it's like some grand mystery happened this past hundred years and every lad can't help but go crazy over the damn things at some point. I don't get it. They're nothing but giant metal phallaces stuck to rails and making god awful noise. There's no elegance to them. No sense of adventure." Clearly this was a topic that the vampire had more than once discussed, and his opinion on the matter was clear for anyone to see.
It was probably fortunate that Fina was a more carefree individual than those at the Clocktower. Looking back, Waver was quite certain that there would have been more than enough incentive to kill him on the spot for the look he had given the vampire during his tirade.
"I, ehem, I suppose I can conjure some suspicions and factors involved in that particular change in culture with my limited knowledge." Waver coughed while trying to recompose himself. "With regards to the sudden rise in appeal specifically, I suspect it has to do with global development and exposure in the past hundred years."
"Development and exposure?"
"Mmm." Waver slowly began to fall back into his comfortable position as a teacher. "Railway systems themselves have origins in causeways dating back to beyond three thousand B.C., and mechanical trains we are more familiar with came into being roughly around the sixteenth century if memory serves, the more commonly imagined version of the locomotive, the giant powerful diesel and steam variants that towed commodities and people in bulk around the world didn't take form until the turn of the twentieth century."
"Makes sense so far. The world's more or less gone sideways ever since all those gas guzzling disasters were being made in bulk. Small wonder everyone's turned away from boats." The vampire nodded to himself as if confirming something he had suspected.
The man clearly had a bias on the topic.
Waver pointedly ignored him. "Once they reached their prominence and humanity saw their use, the railway systems of every country in the planet spread to the point that they can be considered secondary veins to society as a whole, alongside the common roadway and the occasional riverway. Both traveling deep within the mainlands and granting everyone living in what would be isolated locations nearly full access to the wealth that would normally be reliably obtained in ports and major trading hubs. There's only so many major boats that can be found deep inland. While a train could very well be considered the key and opportunity to the rest of the world in rural areas."
Fina stilled before turning to Waver with an enlightened look in his eyes. There was a madness there that the Lord had only witnessed a handful of times in individuals just as peculiar and unique as the Captain. "So, you mean to say that trains these days, are the new boats? That they symbolize freedom to the boys of today? Opportunity?"
The Lord suppressed a chill down his spine. For some reason he suspected that he had just made a cruel and critical mistake. "In a sense. Unlike a standard automotive, trains, while restricted in where they can go, are usually not owned by any individual. Between that and their size, they can be considered the modern symbol of impartial opportunity for humanity as a whole. For children who have yet to learn or care to understand the more complex intricacies of modern society, trains are some of the simplest, most blatant, and easiest accessible examples of wide scale human ingenuity worldwide. Hence their popularity. As for boats, well, outside of freighters which are restricted to television and specified docks, most of the more robust and notable variants of their kind are relegated for either military or luxury use these days. Appealing yes, but not particularly available to the bulk of the population."
"I see. It's all making sense now." Rubbing his chin while staring off into the night hewn horizon. "World's changed since I was a brat. Used to be that this sight here was the universal definition of endless potential and adventure."
"To some it still is." Waver acknowledged, the dreams of Oceanos that were not his own still plagued his nights at least once a week. "The world has changed. With it, humanity and its perspectives as well. As a magus and a teacher, it is my obligation to keep those in mind to educate the future generations adequately."
"Humph. You don't seem too thrilled about it compared to most other magi I know."
"It is also my duty to ensure that future generations grow up with their heads out of their asses." Waver allowed himself to let loose some dry humored thoughts that he'd rarely be able to speak without severe repercussions.
"Hah! If ever there was a Sixth True Magic! And from a Lord of the Tower no less!" The pirate slapped Waver on the back with a cheerful, yet predatory grin. "You're not so bad for a stick in the mud magus, you know that? Pity we met under this pissfest of a pretense. And to think I had half a mind to throw you overboard."
"Pity." Waver inhaled his cigar, showing no reaction to the threat on his life. He knew he wasn't in danger even if Fina wanted to carry through with it. Altrouge gave her word to ensure his safety, and he doubted that her White Knight would do anything to void that verbal contract. "Judging from your words and how you carry yourself, I doubt we will be able to meet and converse under such amicable conditions again after matters are settled."
"Hah. Perhaps I spoke too soon." Fina's smile turned into something more disturbing and the hint of an unidentified accent slipped in his speech. Either a subconscious slip of character or a something more deeper to his nature was to be determined as of yet. "Aye. You're close to that frustrating lad, aren't you?"
"He is my first student. I'd be a poor example of a teacher if I didn't possess some form of attachment to him." Waver pretended to not be put off by the suddenly insane and hungry look in his host's eyes. "And while I do admit his education was a curious and unique experience, I don't suspect it is for the same reasons that plague your impression of him."
"Heheh. Probably. Probably not. Truth be told, even I don't know why that one rubs me the wrong way." The Vampire's eyes were now glowing red and his canines were exposed. Not a good sign when it came to dealing with their kind. "All I know is that whenever I'm around him, I have the urge to… play with him. Push him. Do anything to make him move. Something about that lackadaisical existence of his just drives me mad on principle. Like a ship out of water, or a coastal town without a single dock. It's something that needs to be fixed. One way or another."
Waver frowned, picking at the words and terminology used and trying to apply it to Shirou in some way. "I'm afraid I am at a quandary regarding your disturbed impression of Shirou. While he does prefer to live the slow life if given an option, I don't see how that differs him from the many other humans that chose to do the same."
"No. No no no. You don't get it." It was as though the captain was losing more of his sanity by the second, shaking his head so frantically that a normal human's neck would have suffered traumatic injuries at a bare minimum. "That boy is unnatural. Well, he's supposed to be one of us, barely, but no. He isn't one of those lame, slowed folks. Sheep and cattle, the lot of them. No, that one's something else. Something worse."
For once, the professor of the clocktower notorious for investigating magecraft so thoroughly that he could copy more basic mysteries just by witnessing them once was at a near complete loss. Shirou? Slowed? To the point of driving an Apostle Ancestor mad just by contemplating it? That didn't sound like the boy at all.
Something had clearly changed. Or worse, missed his observation.
"... Unless you are alluding to the Emiya family's magecraft of time manipulation in some capacity, your guess is as good as mine at the moment. Your description of Shirou and this, affliction, of his is if anything a recent development that I was not present for. I'd need to at least see it for myself before making any hypothesis." Waver chose his words carefully. He was treading in dangerous waters, no pun intended.
Fortunately, his savior came in the form of a greater devil.
"Fina. What are you doing, disturbing our guest? I thought we had assured him hospitality." Altrouge approached them from behind on the deck with an unreasonably adorable Primate Murder behind her.
Judging from the way the pirate stilled, and even the ship itself momentarily lurch slightly, her appearance had been completely unexpected.
"I, er, my apologies, my lady. I lost myself for a moment there." Fina coughed, straightening himself out and looking away with a faint blush of embarrassment.
"Hm. I suppose I can let you off this one time. Boys do tend to get excited from time to time. I expect it won't happen again." The seemingly fourteen year old girl walked up to the bow of the ship without a care in the world. "If you don't mind, I'd like a private conversation with our guest."
"Of course." Showing no signs of irritation at being interrupted, the captain of the ship bowed and nodded to both parties before returning inside the ship without a further word.
"My apologies for his behavior. Fina has a tendency to become overzealous wherever something, or someone catches his eye." Altrouge took the freshly vacant position next to Waver's side as though it was her's the entire time.
Back to Shirou it was then. "I maintain my earlier statement. Shirou has a multitude of curious factors that has caught even the eyes of Apostle Ancestors, but slowness is not one I have witnessed or should be attributed to him to the point of driving one of your kind to such lengths. To be frank, I find myself concerned and curious as to the reason behind this recent display as you supposedly do, though likely for different reasons."
"Fufu. Aren't you the curious one? It's rare for an educator to show such wholehearted dedication to their student these days. Enviable truly."
Waver didn't like the way she was complimenting him. He felt like a roast that was being seasoned and treated before being put in the oven. "It's a matter of pride if anything. With the amount of effort put into Shirou, into the recent War itself, having an unidentified factor that could drive one of the Twenty Seven to such lengths should at the very least warrant a proper investigation."
"Indeed. Indeed. You may be a stick in the mud, but you are not wrong in the slightest." The Princess of the Apostle Ancestors nodded in agreement. "Even as blatantly weak as you are, you don't shy away from speaking the obvious truths that need to be looked at to even myself or that ridiculously violent Barthomelloi of the current generation. We could do with more people like you around."
"I believe we were in consensus that I have prior commitments, m'lady." Waver pointedly didn't look at the woman at his side. Best not show any behavior that betrayed weakness.
"Unfortunately. Unless an accord can be met, I suppose the best thing I can do is kill you to ensure your talents aren't squandered against me." She sighed with a pout, as though talking about potentially poor weather in the next few days.
The terrifying thing was that she was being completely genuine and good natured about her thoughts. His connection and loyalty with Rider would not be affected at all by his premature death. Just his own life and the education of future magi at the Clocktower.
"Sadly, I must decline your offer once more. I'd make a terrible Apostle regardless. My constitution and circuits are moderate at best. It would take forever for me to regain my mind enough to educate anyone adequately again."
"For a Lord of the Clocktower, you sound oddly proud of your supposed incompetence."
"I have had a lifetime of experience and a decade of practice in the most trying of environments," he chatted whimsically. Being someone forced into his position and given constant unreasonable demands, he's had to hone throwing his weakness into everyone's faces to snag as many handicaps as possible to get anything done.
"If you keep going like this I'm going to start assuming that stealing you from the Tower would be an act of pity if anything." She wasn't even trying to hide her thoughts now.
"Don't tempt me."
"Fufufu." The girl giggled, clearly amused. "You know, it might not be such a poor distraction having a plain human as a subordinate for a change."
"Please don't. I barely survived being a Servant's Master for two weeks. I doubt I'd last half that being an Apostle Ancestor's minion."
"Fou." The disguised Beast of Gaia nodded in agreement.
"Hmmmm." Waver didn't like that sound. It was eerily familiar to the one Reines gave whenever she pretended to listen to his advice only to blatantly disregard it a short time later. "Fine. I suppose I'll humor you for now."
"If that is all, I shall return inside. My apologies, but there's only so much of the winter air I can take." He turned to leave the Apostle Princess outside. Rude yes, but he had a strong suspicion that if he prolonged this particular conversation something bad would happen. As though he was a piece of meat hanging on a hook and Altrouge was the disaster tempted to bite onto it.
"I wonder if you could satisfy a mild curiosity." Altrouge didn't turn to look at him or move from her position, but her voice was heard crystal clear.
Waver was helpless but to stop in his tracks and turn around to glance at her once more. "And that would be? Given the nature of your inquiry, I may be of less help than you anticipate. In spite of my reputation, I am not particularly exceptional or revolutionary with regards to anything regarding True Ancestors."
"Oh rest assured, we would be having a completely different sort of conversation if that was the case, Professor." Even though Waver had had several of his female students try to approach him with that very tone, the fact that Altrouge Brunstud of all people was using it sent a whole different classification of chills down his spine.
"Fortunate indeed." He still didn't like where this was going. "Then your question?"
"It is with regards to the new Tenth. This, Shirou Emiya, and Fina. You have already witnessed our escort's curious impression on the boy. It would not be irrational to presume that such feelings and instincts are shared in kind." Altrouge stared off into the distance. "Tell me your thoughts on the matter. Will this prove to be more than just a mild curiosity?"
That… was a good question.
"Truthfully, m'lady, it depends on how negotiations turn out." Waver picked his words very carefully, knowing that Fina was in a way listening to the conversation as well. "Shirou is fundamentally a calm and peaceful person. One of the last people you'd ever see to go out looking for a fight or conjuring some scheme that would result in controversy if left to his own devices. That said, he is also his father's Legacy. A Magus Killer in all the ways that truly matter. If our escort does rile him up for the same inexplicable reasons we have witnessed, then it would not be surprising if more aggressive measures and preparations have been made."
"Oh? In what sense?" Altrouge gave him her full attention now.
"In the sense that Shirou would be prepared to fire the first shot without so much as a blink, should negotiations turn unfavorable. And he would make it count, one way or another." Waver stated firmly.
"How peculiar. When you speak, you sound as though you are speaking of his personal abilities, and not of the Servants and resources at his disposal." Her crimson eyes glimmered with curiosity.
Waver allowed himself to scoff slightly. "Is he not now one of the Twenty Seven? By your own words? I was under the impression that newcomers were expected to have at least that much potential."
"By that fool Solomon's dictation. Not mine. And even then it holds little meaning. Those inducted in these recent eras are little more than placeholders to distract the Church and Association."
That caught Waver by surprise. "What?"
"Humph. I forgot that knowledge of what truly makes the Twenty Seven has been forgotten by you short lived fools." Altrouge shook her head in frustration. "Suffice to say that those of the older generation are of different quality than these newborns that have yet to see even a third of a millennium. As far as we are concerned, anyone that cannot tolerate a mere millennium's worth of our will and history may as well be a decoy for the rest of us. A child that hasn't even experienced two decades of life is not likely to last long, regardless of their supposed talent."
"I shall take your superior knowledge and experience on the matter into consideration," Waver slowly replied while internally worrying something fierce at this unknown factor that was being alluded to. "Nevertheless, I feel obligated to request, for all party's benefit, that at the very least you help enforce the premise that whatever happens between the Eighth and Tenth stays between them."
"Oh? A peculiar request given the ones involved." Altrouge hummed. "I almost would have presumed that you would plead for a chance for parlay with the boy."
"As far as I'm concerned, we are heading for one right now." Waver shook his head. "Regardless, Shirou is currently tied to the Vice Director, and has notable resources in the form of seven materialized Heroic Spirits. Would you not prefer to have some of that potential directed somewhere other than yourself and your assets in the scenario that those two cannot control their impulses?"
"... I am starting to see why you have such a curious reputation, Lord El Melloi II. You certainly have a way with dealing with children."
"I heard that!" Fina shouted from the inside. "Slip up one time three centuries ago and they never let you hear the end of it! I'm your knight, not your bitch! This is why I don't do women!"
Well that confirms one rumor at least.
"I assure you I haven't the slightest notion what he's raving about." The Brunstud smiled sweetly.
"Say that to someone that doesn't regularly do parent teacher conferences with magi nobility. I assure you, that is a brand of nightmare even an apostle would have trouble fathoming." Waver dryly huffed, shaking his head while mentally patting himself on the back for avoiding a potential disaster and mitigating several potential future multi Apostle disasters.
"Oh? Now THIS sounds more like a topic I would certainly enjoy delving into." Altrouge's eyes glimmered with renewed interest. "Droning on about boorish Magi and their investigations is worth less than their blood, but the absolute disasters that children can accomplish with access to these powers is always a delight to regale."
Waver hid back any and all forms of celebration.
It was a trick he had learned early on in his education career when conversing with others. People are ALWAYS interested in the nightmares that children conjure on a whim. Politics and thaumaturgy or not. Really the former two just make it all the more interesting.
Hopefully this would buy him enough points and time to tilt things in his favor for tonight.
For once though, he was thankful that Flat was such an oblivious pain in the ass.
o. o. o.
Crouching down on the cement docks, Shirou rested a hand on the course ground underneath for the tenth time that day.
First analyze the composition of the ground.
Select and establish the area of mystery for application.
Establish temporal bounded field.
Decompose the material to make it permeable.
Lower vertically into loosened concrete.
Time Alter: Revert.
Check concrete integrity.
Concrete integrity restored. Good.
"Hoooh? Didn't expect to see you here. Then again, we probably should have." Shirou looked up to see Lancer and Bazett casually walking towards him from the far side of the docs.
"Hey. How far are you guys on your side?" The teen stood up with a grunt, popping his knees and back in the process. It was a little past noon, so they still had plenty of time to get everything done for tonight.
The newcomers didn't miss how he was flexing his right hand when standing up, as though he was trying to regain feeling in it.
"Almost two thirds." Bazett sighed, shifting her backpack loaded with homemade rune stones. "It is a good thing that we started early. The coast and river are fairly linear, but the construction and private property makes it a bit annoying to get a solid bounded field set up without getting noticed."
"Could have told us that you were planning on setting up something special of your own." Lancer hummed, glancing down at the spot where Shirou had just buried one of his projections. "The dock's not going to go off on us if we make a wrong turn now, is it?"
"Even if I could set it up for that, it wouldn't do much against the Pirate." Shirou shook his head. "No, it's for another trick of mine. I dabble a little bit in mixing bounded fields with mystic codes."
"Hoh? Scary scary." Lancer already had an idea of just how messed up this "dabbling" could be. "No wonder those fields around your place always led back to your workshop. How many different Noble Phantasms and nasty effects do you have to choose from to defend your place?"
"Don't overestimate me. I got most of my Noble Phantasms only recently, remember? Even if I wanted to add any of those monstrosities into the mix, I'd practically have to rework the fields from scratch in order to handle the influx of power and distortion they'd make. Compared to home, what I'm doing here's downright trivial and basic, if effective." Shirou shrugged helplessly.
That said, he did have a copy of Kiritsugu synced to his home's defenses as well, but only as a means to sustain a barrier against curses. From what he had been told in private, if raw power wasn't an issue, his home was damn near immune as far as that branch of magecraft was concerned.
Not that either would help in the current situation.
"Trivial and basic, he says." Lancer scoffed. "What are the odds he's gonna make at least two of the vamps flip their shit tonight and make things worse for everyone?"
"Grow up. At least he's not setting up anything against you." Bazett elbowed him, making a point to not reply to his question one way or another. "Well? Anything we should know about for the time being?"
"Not much. You're joining Rin with me tonight. Everyone else's got other jobs to do so that we're less likely to have a fast one pulled on us."
"So we can pull a fast one on them?" Lancer crossed his arms.
"So I can make a point," the teen corrected with a frown.
"Oho. Scary. Think what you want, but I'm actually starting to look forward to this shitshow."
"Lancer. I expected more from you." Saber shook her head in disappointment.
"Please, like I'm the only one interested in seeing the kid cut loose and mean it for once," the Irishman scoffed. Shirou may have fought seriously on several occasions over the past few weeks, but there had always been a line that he couldn't cross with them. Killing Servants would only serve the Grail, and killing Masters would more or less do the same thing. Only Saber had been around for the entirety of his fight against Gilgamesh, and every one of his other kills in the War had been assisted and with several other dozen factors and conditions at play.
In short, they all had a solid idea of what Shirou could do. But they wanted to see what he could really do.
"I don't know whether to be honored or demeaned." Shirou rolled his eyes as he walked over another dozen or so yards and repeated the process of setting up his bounded field.
"Aren't you worried about your setup being found out?" Bazett frowned slightly. "My bounded field is just for concealing the vampire and the fight. If you go overboard with yours it might cause problems."
"Don't worry. You can go around the docks to isolate it along with the coast. It'll take a little longer, but not much." He shrugged.
"You could have suggested that earlier considering you clearly had your own plans in mind." The Enforcer crossed her arms in frustration. "Fine. Around the docks it is. Any other last second changes I should be aware of?"
"Make them water and wave proof?" Shirou asked with a hesitant smile, getting a snort out of Lancer.
"Cute." His sister figure rolled her eyes. "We're dealing with multiple Ancestors with a load of potential Noble Phantasms going off. I'd have to resign from my position if I didn't take that into account when I started."
"If you're prepping for that, I'm kinda curious as to what you could be setting up. If these bounded fields are so useful in a fight, I sure as hell didn't see it when I was smacking you around a few nights back at your place." Lancer scoffed.
"That's because I didn't use them." Shirou had the decency to blush in embarrassment. "I was more focused on beating you up myself."
"You got heated in the moment and forgot about them, didn't you?" Bazett deadpanned with Saber having the near exact same look.
"Indeed." Saber nodded.
"Some magus." Lancer chuckled. "Though I doubt they would have made much difference."
"Odds are Saber would have had to jump in sooner to stop us from destroying the house." Shirou casually thought otherwise. "... I really should get to reinforcing the place itself properly one of these days. I focused too much on the property bounded fields and workshop too much. Especially with the guests I'm attracting."
"Your guests can hear you." Bazett stared at the back of his head with intent.
"Heh." Shirou couldn't help but let out a small chuckle.
"... Haha." Bazett in turn could only hold a straight face for a few seconds before letting out one herself. "It's about time you loosened up a bit. We busted our asses yesterday to get you to relax and a cheap back and forth was what broke you down in the end? I'm almost insulted."
"Who knows? I might just be getting numb to all this nonsense at this point." Shirou shook his head as the concrete under his hand turned into gravel. Once again a small unremarkable sword that was barely larger than a dagger materialized in front of him and sunk into the mix before the ground solidified once more.
"I genuinely hope not. You have enough trouble trying to have that peaceful life you want as it is. Let alone maintain it." The Enforcer shook her head with some pity.
"I'll try to worry about the future once the present gets the slightest bit manageable." Shirou sighed, standing up again.
"Future, huh?" The woman hummed with an unreadable expression before coming to a decision.
"Master?" Lancer skeptically looked at her as she reached for her side.
No, reached for the container on her side.
"And that is?" Saber frowned in confusion, getting Shirou's attention.
"Huh? That is wh-wait. Nee-san, what are you doing?" He watched in genuine astonishment as Bazett took out the cylinder and popped the top off.
"Not sure myself. A reward for saving me from possibly getting killed by Kirei. A gift between students of that old drunk. Acknowledgement of your strength. Whatever you want to call it if anyone asks later." The woman dismissively brushed off his shock and tilted the container to let a slightly larger than fist sized lead ball roll out into her other hand.
One of the few Noble Phantasms that could still be manufactured and existed to this day, if only under extremely limited circumstances.
The Answerer. The ultimate counter blow. The Ace Killing Joker. The Sword of Retrograde.
Shirou had always known she held it, and Bazett had always known that Shirou had the potential to copy it if he ever saw it. As a result, the two had an unspoken agreement to never broach the topic and respected one another's privacy on the matter. Shirou never asked or even tried to look at the Noble Phantasm, and Bazett never asked or offered to show it to him.
Until now at least.
"Not sure if you can even use it to be honest." Bazett sighed, tossing the seemingly useless sphere in her hand casually as if it was a toy. "This Noble Phantasm is only supposed to work for my bloodline. But with what's at stake and what you have already, I felt that I might as well add another drop to the bucket just in case."
"... Actually, I think I might have a workaround."
"That's what I… wait what?" The Enforcer faltered, almost dropping the orb in the process. "How do you suddenly have a workaround for not having the Fraga Clan's Sorcery trait?"
Shirou sheepishly smiled and lifted up his right arm, his flesh slowly rippling into a lattice of dull lead colored scales.
Fragments of Fragarach.
The feat by itself was not surprising by this point since everyone had seen his arm mutate several times by now, but it was what Shirou was alluding to that caught her by surprise.
Fragarach was a disposable Noble Phantasm. One that Bazett had to make herself in a process that took nearly a whole month per orb.
One that started by pouring a sufficient amount of her own blood over it. And since Unlimited Blade Works was a reality that supplied and produced every and all resources and mysteries required to make the weapons in its repository…
Bazett stared, slowly pointed at him, opened and closed her mouth several times, and blinked. "... That will actually work?"
Shirou frowned for a moment in introspective contemplation before an orb identical to the one in Bazett's hands materialized over his right fist.
Almost instantly, the orb began to mutate and glow an ethereal blue, a dagger with runes spawned from the top, and a ring of ether and more runes surrounded its base…
But it was blatantly apparent that something was missing. The blade itself lacked a keen refinement, and the runes in the ring, and the glow in the blue core was erratic and unstable.
Shirou sighed and cut off his projection, allowing the orb above his fist to burst into errant scants of mana.
"It didn't work?" Saber noted curiously.
"No. At least not yet. It was a haphazard attempt at best to be fair. It was just the arm that carried traces of her blood after all. The conditions were tentative at best." From what he could tell, it would take him years to get it down right, and even then it wouldn't be anywhere near as easy or smooth as how Bazett made it look. Grimacing, Shirou looked at his arm with his silver eyes and saw another peculiar drawback past his flesh to this particular workaround.
Makes sense. He did just turn his arm into a giant mesh of lead to copy Bazett's blood after all. The irony was not lost on him.
Avalon or not, there was a reason why the Fae didn't like iron and the like in their myths. He didn't want to test how far that went with metal based poisons. Probably shouldn't practice this trick too many times unless he absolutely had to.
Or tell anyone about this drawback. He'd never hear the end of it. Especially from Rin. And Sakura. And Saber…
Probably best not to try or talk about this trick ever again period.
"Hahahaha!" Lancer burst out laughing. "Looks like that albino brat's got competition! Kid's literally made himself your little brother! Or should I start calling you an Emiya too?! Hahahaha!"
"Shut up, Lancer! You know that's not how it works!" The embarrassed woman shouted at her familiar.
"Yeah yeah. My half assed experiments are hilarious. It's not like I get enough of that from Rin as it is." Shirou rolled his eyes and walked further down the docks.
"I'm quite certain that your attempts are reckless and outright suicidal by magus standards." Saber corrected.
"That's what I have you and Avalon for, Saber." Shirou waved it off. "To make sure I don't accidentally kill myself."
"To be fair, that's more accurate than he'd ever admit." Bazett chuckled. "I doubt there are many Servants that he'd mesh with as well as you, Saber. Avalon or not."
"Preferably with Avalon." Lancer added. "If he didn't have some medium on him, odds of him summoning tall dark and Archer are pretty high, all things considered."
Everyone understandably shivered at the thought of that happening.
"Lancer please, one nightmare at a time." Bazett shook her head.
"Right, right. Sorry. That's a bit too much of a shitshow for me as well," the Irishman agreed.
The three watched as Shirou went to another unmarked spot on the docks and began working on it. Clenching and unclenching his right hand all the while.
"So." Bazett spoke at a slightly lower volume. "How is he? Really?"
"Perpetually running scenarios to me and asking for my input." Saber replied with a straight face. "He was intimately familiar with most of the factors he opposed during the War and had plenty of preparation time. These Vampires though, especially this Brunestud woman, he likens them to high end Servants at bare minimum like myself and Gilgamesh, with barely any rumors on them at best. No legends. No Noble Phantasms. Just hearsay."
"But he has a plan set up. He wouldn't be here if he wasn't." Bazett hummed.
"He does. And several contingencies. More than a few I disapprove of," Saber trailed off as Shirou knelt down and pressed his hand on the ground. "But I cannot blame him for any of them. His position is unreasonable to put it mildly. So he has been conjuring unreasonable answers, if only because they are the only ones that have a feasible chance of success."
"It's not going to be a quiet night, is it?"
"The odds are negligible."
Bazett smirked. "Sounds like fun."
"And we got front row seats." Lancer for once was on the same wavelength.
"You don't get it." Bazett shook her head. "It's been a while since I last saw Shirou cut loose when it came to outright taking someone out. He's as bad as his father if he gets angry and pushed enough. And that was before his arsenal included tens of thousands of Noble Phantasms." She gave Saber a glance. "So? How messy is he planning on getting tonight?"
Saber grit her teeth and looked to the side. "Enough that we will call him 'fool' more than his actual name for the foreseeable future. If he manages to survive."
"Hoh? You don't say?" Lancer grins. Sounds like something Scathach would say about half of the shit he pulled when he was alive. "Any chance we're getting a piece of the action?"
Saber's mild annoyance fell into a pained grimace. "Do not tempt fate. We are in a dire enough situation as it is."
"Humph. Don't act like such a bore, Saber. You know that when it comes to these ancient bastards, not throwing down at all during negotiations is worse than a few murder attempts."
"You're serious." Bazett looked at her Servant skeptically.
"No. He's right. A show of force and might is necessary in negotiations like this. Words without the means to reinforce them are meaningless when dealing with world powers. Especially when working with a new factor like Shirou. Myself and other Servants are indeed a boon, but Shirou himself will not be taken seriously unless he proves himself to be… interesting."
"Well, it's a good thing his hate boner for the pirate is almost as big as the one he has for Archer then."
"Yell at me for something I'm wrong about." He held his ground against his Master's chiding. "Speaking of which, any idea why the monster rubs the kid so badly the wrong way?"
"I…" Saber paused in deep contemplation before frowning and shaking her head. "Have a few suspicions, but the exact reason still eludes me. And Shirou for that matter. Had the situation not called for extreme caution and negotiations, I am certain that he would have roped all of us into plots removing the monster in its entirety days ago."
"Good to know he still has a head on his shoulders." Lancer's amused smile dropped into a far more serious expression. "I'm all for a good fight and making drinking buddies, human or not, but I draw the line at those idiots that can't tell the wild beasts from the monsters that need to be put down."
"I didn't know you had such notions towards vampires." Saber hummed with mild curiosity.
"Fuck him being some named blood sucker. This goes beyond that. Just looking at that guy makes me nauseous. He's the kind of freak that I'd put down on sight out of obligation to my teacher."
"Your teacher? The Witch of Dun Scaith, if I recall correctly."
"The Immortal Queen of the Land of Shadows. Scathach," Bazett supplied warily. "Word is she takes her responsibilities over the dead and departed quite seriously, but you're making it sound like Fina's gone a step beyond the usual Apostle gone mad."
"Because I am." Lancer grimaced. "Don't know how, but what he's done with that 'crew', or 'troops', or 'slaves', or whatever you want to call them, turns my stomach just looking at them, even through a familiar. They aren't alive, but they aren't dead either. I can tell you that much. Master would have murdered him on the spot the second she saw just one of them. I'm gonna have to put off eating dinner after this shitshow if I have to spend all night keeping an eye on the freak."
In hindsight, it really said something about his teacher's abilities when he spoke with absolute certainty of Scathach killing an Apostle Ancestor just like that.
"I didn't know you held such thoughts on the matter, Lancer," Saber noted.
"Yeah well, didn't want the kid to get any more motivated than he already is. Politics is more your thing, not mine." He glanced at Saber with an unusually sharp glare. "The kid's gonna at least make that monster suffer for being a cocky shit, right?"
"... That is his intention," the King of Knights replied tentatively, clearly unwilling to share much more than that.
"Good. Because if he had tried to weasel out of getting his hands dirty now of all times, I would have left as soon as this nonsense with the Grail was fixed."
"Wait? What?!" Judging from her reaction, Bazett clearly was not privy to this.
"Don't give me that. If I stay, the kid's going to have a say in what goes on one way or another. As someone that's spent more than enough time ordered damn near everywhere, I'd rather it be by someone with a brain and some balls for once. If he can't stand up for himself when it's his problem for once, then don't expect me to do it for him."
Saber's lips twitched, though whether it was in amusement or frustration was anyone's guess. "I assure you, the real trick would be to get him to sit down the way things are. Although, he likely would appreciate it if you finished your task of the day."
"Humph. Well at least the two of you keep us busy." With a mocking laugh, the Irishman turned and walked inland. "Come on, Master. Let the kid do his thing. Don't want to spoil the surprise, do we?"
The woman opened and closed her mouth several times before groaning and apologizing quickly to Saber before following after him.
"He has a peculiar charm, doesn't he? I didn't think Lancer would be won over so soon." Saber sighed quietly. She knew he'd play along for the most part just because the current situation looked interesting, but the Irishman genuinely seemed motivated to help Shirou in his own way now.
"One less concern to be distracted by." Assassin materialized next to her. He had hidden himself when he sensed Bazett and Lancer approach earlier, not wanting to cause any concern.
"For Shirou, or you?" She asked knowingly.
"Does it matter?" Soundlessly, the first Magus Killer turned around and approached his son, outright dismissing anything else she might have said in response.
Saber wanted to chide him for his behavior, or for stating the obvious, but she didn't. Instead, she wordlessly followed him to where her Master was and aided in the preparation. It was going to be a long day.
o. o. o.
"You want me to what?!" Luvia hissed almost frantically after Shirou had taken her aside to discuss her role in the night's events. With everyone else he had firmly stated what he expected of them when dealing with Fina and Altrouge, but her task was important and confidential enough that he had to tell her in private. And now she knew why. "No, more importantly, why on earth did you think orchestrating this turn of events was a remotely good idea in the slightest?!"
"Because it's something we can control and predict the timing of. If only marginally. The more questions everyone will be distracted by, the more valuable we will be. At least, from their perspective." He shook his head. He didn't think it was a good idea either, but it was a necessary one. The fact that it was extreme enough to break Luvia's near perpetual "noblesse oblige" act only underscored just how bad it was.
"I can't believe I'm saying this after what you requested of Matou, but are you trying to kill me?" Luvia held her own position on the matter.
"No. You know better than almost anyone that nobody's going to do that. You're too valuable to kill as far as half the world is concerned. Not when you still have Caster and maintain your influence. Besides, everyone is still too busy deciding whether or not to kill me right now."
"All you are doing is making it more likely you will die tonight!" Her counterargument was not without reason.
"As opposed to drawing things out and all but guaranteeing it later on?"
Luvia flinched as though she was slapped and looked away. "..."
"You know what would have happened if I tried to simply run."
"It is a foolish game you play regardless. The bulk of the power and influence you possess is tentative at best. What remains is only a tempting lure. What you have is dangerous, but neither unsurmountable nor worthless."
"Which is why I need to put conditions on myself, and set up the stage to make agreeing to those conditions more invaluable than the alternative." Shirou sighed deeply and shook his head. "Like I said, it's a matter of control. You should know better than me how difficult it would be to make a definitive move tonight without the right information or preparation. Too many factors at once..."
"Don't you dare lecture me about political maneuvering, Shirou Emiya! I'm the one that taught you how to deal with the half of the Clocktower that didn't buy that embarrassing 'mysterious quiet foreigner' act you pull!"
"I thought you liked that embarrassing 'act' of mine."
"Don't change the subject!" She snapped, grabbing the front of his shirt and slamming him into the wall with deceptive strength. Next to himself and Bazett, Luvia was by far the physically strongest Master of all of them. "I did not play around with this nonsense after the war just to watch you orchestrate the world's most ridiculous way to kill yourself! And neither did the others!"
"Then it's a fortunate thing that I don't intend to." He looked down at her dead in the eyes. There was no fear or uncertainty in his gaze. Just a steel cold resolve.
"... Tch." With a heavy shove, the blonde let go of what she considered the biggest fool in the world next to Rin, and now herself for actually playing along with this disaster. "I hope you don't assume for me to accomplish your ridiculous request from scratch starting now. Something like this takes time, planning, information, and resources."
"You'll find the latter three next door. Hopefully enough to minimize the former requirement." He gave her a small smile.
"Say that tomorrow if you manage to somehow survive this disaster of your own making." She sniffed as if detecting something disgusting. She really was in a bad mood this time. At the very least, he had supplied her with sufficient means to accomplish what she was tasked. There should still be at least four hours before she needed to act in earnest, and two more after that before the Vampire was expected to arrive. Give or take. "Don't expect me to protect you from the others when they find out about this."
"I'd be surprised if you did." With a heavy sigh, still leaning against the wall, instinctively making a fist with his right hand and relaxing it the entire time. With any luck, they won't succeed where the rest would hopefully fail tonight. "Please. You're the only one I can trust to pull this off, Luvia."
"Don't." She pointed at him, the beginnings of a Gandr curse hovering over her finger for the briefest of moments before fading away again. "You do not deserve to address me in such a familiar way. Not after this. Not now. You have indebted yourself too much for that leisure."
Shirou blinked for a moment, as though he had just been slapped hard by her, before his face dropped into one of genuine sadness and apologetic. "I see. Well then, I hope one day I'll be able to sufficiently make it up to you, with interest."
"I fully expect you to. Or else." With that she turned around, not to leave the building but towards her room, entering it without another word moments later.
"... She is rather cross with you." Saber approached him from the other side.
"As she should be. I asked for something really unreasonable this time. At the last second, no less." He didn't turn to look at her, still facing where Luvia's room was. If he made it out of this mess alive, she was going to hold this over his head until one of them died. Probably after that too.
"The others heard her yelling. They no doubt have their own concerns."
"As they should," he almost repeated himself. "But I won't tell them why. And neither will Luvia."
"Is it truly necessary to keep it a secret from them?"
"Sometimes you need to keep everyone in the dark for the best results. Unfortunately. And my odds aren't the greatest they are right now. Other preparations or not."
"So you don't have the greatest confidence in your chances of success then."
"Depends on what your definition of success is." He held out a hand and started to count. "Staying the actions of the head of one of the Apostle Factions. Staying the reaction of the Clocktower. Maintaining the secrecy of my condition. Keeping Fuyuki intact. Ensuring the Grail isn't completed and is properly addressed. Rescuing and keeping Waver-nii alive. Keeping everyone else alive. Oh, and keeping myself alive. There's only so many of these that can be done seamlessly and for the life of me I don't see a path where all are possible without extraordinary risk or divine intervention at bare minimum. This isn't something that can be properly maneuvered around with some well placed promises, threats, and a geass scroll or two. Or the threat of a well placed Servant with an Anti-Fortress Noble Phantasm."
"Pity. And here I was hoping to get some exercise tonight," the King of Knights scoffed.
"If only it was that easy." Shirou agreed with a similar laugh. "You're not particularly fond of my plan."
"I'd be a poor confidant if I said I was. I understand what you aim for, and agree to it to an extent, but the risk you place on your shoulders… I'd hesitate to burden my own Knights with such a weight."
"Just another thing we have in common then I guess," Shirou joked.
"Ngh?!" Only to get a quick and light (for a Servant) jab to the side for it.
"Fortunately, many of my knights have been known to be fools at times, so I am not unused to them running off to accomplish unreasonable tasks," Saber continued, completely ignoring her Master's distress. He was fine. He was still standing.
"Noted," he grunted, hunched over and facing the floor. Thank god he had Avalon, otherwise he'd have a nasty bruise before any potential disasters even started.
"You didn't answer my earlier question. What do you think of your odds of success?" Saber gave him a wary look.
"Mmmm." The Master barely managed to pick himself up again, still rubbing his now tender side. "It depends. If it's a matter of simply dealing with Fina in some capacity, I'd say around one in three. Not the best, but not terrible all things considered. If I can't do that, everything else is moot regardless. That's not the only real problem I'm worried about tonight though. Fina's not the one I'm trying to convince in the end."
"... I see. So that's your plan. That is quite audacious of you. And in turn…"
"Exactly. If I succeed at one, the odds of the next working in my favor increases drastically. A domino effect."
"One whose pieces you have been lining up right in front of everyone's eyes. Impressive. You may have some talent in politics after all."
"Don't be. It was the only way I could pull it off to begin with. I don't have the ability or the means to 'push them over' individually. I really would have been killed if I tried something as stupid as that." Shirou sighed and watched as Luvia wordlessly left her room without sparing him a glance and passed through the backyard.
"The only questions left are: are the pieces really in the right place to topple the next, and if I can manage to knock over the first one to begin with?"
o. o. o.
"Looks like our hosts are up to something tonight." Touko hummed absently as she worked at her desk.
"Looks like it." Shiki yawned from the couch she was napping on.
"So long as they don't bug me, they can do whatever the hell they want."
"For the life of me I can't tell if Mikiya would be amused or hurt if he heard you say that."
"For the life of me, I can't tell whether or not I should stab my boss."
"Good thing you're not in the will then."
"If you're so curious as to what's happening outside, why don't you just go already?"
"Please. I am a professional. I know better than to personally set off my employers."
"So you're indirectly making me piss them off."
"Of course not." Touko lit herself a cigarette. "I'm just saying it looks like it would be a nice night for one of your moonlit strolls. You still do those, don't you? And if you happen to come across something interesting to gossip about, all the better. And if you so happen to be useful, who are they to complain?"
"Aren't magi supposed to be the petty sort that would complain regardless in general?"
"Yes, but these brats seem to still have some of their common sense and humanity remaining. Most of them at least. I for one find it a pleasant change for once. Gives me a tingling sense of hope for the next generation." Touko turned a page on her notes.
"Didn't you say the same thing when you met that teacher on a job a year back? Some wimpy guy that lucked up the ranks that happens to be a good teacher or something?"
"What can I say? I'm a sensitive woman."
"Sounds like you've been sitting on it for too long. Might want to get up and get the blood circulating. A walk's perfect for that."
"Tch. Fine. I got it already." With an annoyed huff, Shiki got up and made her way to leave, only to pause as she found Illya on the other side of the door with her hand outstretched. "You need something?"
"... Just a checkup on things. It is my new body that's being made after all. Can you blame me for being curious? You could say that I'm akin to a child staying awake on Christmas Eve."
"Cute," the unamused young woman deadpanned before pushing herself past the albino and walked off into the Fujimura property.
"She seems pleasant."
"Hah. Don't worry about her. Shiki isn't one for socializing." Touko waved off Illya's concern. "Just leave her be to get some fresh air. She can take care of herself."
"Not worried I'll do something stupid?"
"Not unless someone far more concerning than you and your Servant is around. Shiki's good, but she can't handle what you're packing on the fly," the redhead scoffed. "You in a rush or something? I thought I told you I'd ask for your input if I needed it."
"That depends. Do you think you know of all the ways I could help? I didn't know that the Einzbern family's Alchemic research and secrets had been leaked." Illya's confident response only served to further entertain and amuse Touko.
"Hooh? Someone's eager for an early present." Touko chuckled, sitting up straight and stretching. "Alright. I'll bite, little girl. What have you been holding out on me and what extra service do I have to provide for it? Since this is supposed to be used for your body, I hope you know that I'm going to skim more than a bit off the top."
Illya's smile matched Touko's. "I believe we can come to an arrangement."
o. o. o.
It had been a long trip. The flight and the drive had been laborious in their own right.
The traffic into the city had not done much more to temper her mood.
That did not dull her sense or prevent her from noticing when her identification at the checkpoint had triggered a reaction.
Nothing grandiose, but there was little to hide the rushed call on the radio or the peculiar request to wait at a small parking lot on an adjacent road just a few meters away for a "minor discrepancy".
Had she detected any magecraft or vermin nearby, she would have allowed herself to express her displeasure as soon as she was out of sight of the masses.
The wait for the emissary to arrive was not long. Ten minutes at the most, though it did little to assuage her irritation.
A pristine Cadillac of similar if not more affluent value than the Lexus she was in rolled up a short distance away, the only other vehicle allowed in the lot it seemed.
Moments later, a well cut Japanese man in an immaculate suit and tie with glasses stepped out of the vehicle and opened the backseat door professionally.
One of her eyebrows raised slightly as the passenger stepped out.
"Driver." Her order was firm and final, needing no other excessive commands to get the point across. Soon enough, her own door was opened, allowing her to step outside.
Lorelei Barthomelloi calmly assessed Luviagellita Edelfelt standing in front of her with a mix of mild curiosity and slight annoyance.
"Where is he?" No greetings, formality, or requests. Just a demand.
Luvia bowed politely, her face an unreadable blank mask. "Preparing. In earnest."
No doubt their current situation was part of it. "I am expected."
"You are. At the docks tonight." Luvia agreed, noting that they still had a little less than an hour of daylight left. "Until then, I am to entertain you to the best of my ability."
"I see the Edelfelt's reputation for confidence is well deserved."
"I assure you, I am not confident enough to conjure this audacious itinerary." Luvia's tone became ever so flat, a clear indication as to who was responsible for this conversation and her thoughts on the matter.
"That will be kept in mind." Lorelei could not see it, but she could without a doubt detect the Caster Class Servant nearby. "Have the vermin arrived?"
"We will be informed on their approach. We are trying to approach the matter with a deft touch should the Black Princess be present. We believe her sister is present in this country and do not wish to risk invoking further complications."
The Queen of the Clocktower frowned at the reminder. As much as disaster the current situation was, provoking an encounter between the two daughters of Type Moon would be a disastrous outcome for all parties involved. "And you believe the matter at hand can be resolved adequately?"
Luvia this time did falter slightly. "... If nothing else, he does. And he does have a history of surpassing expectations consistently in unreasonable circumstances. Even if it is at the risk of being a completely reckless fool."
Lorelei closed her eyes in mixed thought and frustration for at least ten seconds. Whether it was to regain control over her temper or dwell over the matter at hand was anyone's guess. "... I presume you have a suitable establishment in mind to occupy our attention until it is time?"
The blonde let out a slow and shallow breath of relief that she didn't know she had been holding. "I possess a list of suitable facilities in the area that should pass muster. Samples of eastern and western fare are present, though admittedly I have not partaken in some as they have only been recently made known to me. Treasured secrets of the local elite, if you will."
"I shall take your word for it." The Head of the Barthomelloi sniffed before looking over towards the ocean with a distant look. "Just so long as you do not forget why I am here."
Luvia suppressed a shiver. "I assure you, I couldn't even if I tried."
o. o. o.
Omake: Fina notices a change:
It had been a day like any other.
The Sun had set, and the nightlife on the port town was in full swing.
And the Eighth Ancestor was indulging himself on a personal pastime…
"Nighttime ship rides!" The handsome pirate vampire advertised at his stall with some of his men. "Romantic for ladies and men. Fun for the children and families. What more could you ask for?"
While there was much activity around the street that day, the crowd and interest he had garnered as of late was smaller than he was used to…
"Trains! Get your locomotive memorabilia, accessories, tickets and toys! Right here!"
Of that asshole train vendor across the street taking all of his prey… and customers.
"Pedro…" Fina growled in a menacing way, making an angry fist.
"Mama! Papa! I wanna see the trains!" A young boy dragged his parents to the stall.
"No. My lunch." The Ancestor whimpered.
"Your what?" A confused man standing right next to him asked.
Fina snapped his fingers, and one of his men appeared from the shadows and literally yoinked the unfortunate victim into the shadows behind the stall, never to be seen again.
"... Pedrooooo." Fina resumed his irritable glaring at the train man with a fist held up again. "I will discover your secret, train man. And I will destroy you."
Unfortunately, Fina could only make good on half that promise as he was asked to relocate several days later for disturbing the peace with his constant malevolent contemplating and disturbing the peace. So he had to make do with killing Pedro and taking his stuff, which he tossed overboard soon after he left the city.
But he would never forget the insult and loss he felt, invoked by the hateful train man named Pedro.
o. o. o.
Omake: Not thinking things through:
Kirschtaria Woodlime sighed deeply as his message was played throughout the world. It had begun. The Alien God's plan was in effect and the Fantasy Trees were taking root as he breathed. The assault in Chaldea was a success and they were now fleeing Antarctica with minimal resources. They would still remain a threat, minor as they were, until dealt with, but victory was all but assured at this stage.
"Someone looks relieved." The effeminate Scandinavia Peperoncino, or Pepe for short, chuckled as he sauntered over to the meeting table.
"You know as well as I that the first step is often the most critical." The leader of the Crypters all but chided lightheartedly.
"True. Especially with that curious faculty member from another Chaldea." Pepe smiled. "He must have been reeeeealy something to make Rasputin and Koyanskaya curious."
"It doesn't matter at this point. Chaldea has fallen and only a fraction of their forces remain. They won't be able to do much other than run at this stage. We can focus on cultivating our Fantasy trees at this point."
"Hooh? How boring. No celebration? No farewell drinks and snacks? I thought you were supposed to be a generous host." The tall man pouted in mock disappointment, before noticing something on the table." Oh? What's this?"
"We're receiving a weak signal." Kirschtaria hummed curiously at the display. "From, how curious, Chaldea's vehicle. I'm disappointed. Do they truly think that they can negotiate now?"
"I'm not sure… but the signal is blasting on all channels instead of trying to get back to us specifically. Either they're really confident we will listen or they don't care who hears their message. They might be looking for survivors."
"Disappointing. And here I thought they would last longer before hitting the point of desperation." He shook his head.
"We might as well hear what they have to say, even if we don't reply. It's the least we can do to hear their last words." Without waiting for permission, Pepe happily played with the console to play the message…
"WHO WAS IT?!"
Judging from both their stunned expressions, the rage filled rant was not was what they were expecting.
"WHO WAS THE OBLIVIOUS SHIT BRAINED IDIOT THAT THOUGHT IT WAS A GOOD IDEA TO SET OFF A TRANS DIMENSIONAL ALIEN DISASTER RIGHT ON TOP OF FUCKING ORT'S NEST?!"
"Wait… what?" Both Crypters went absolutely rigid as the man's infuriated words sunk in.
"DO YOU FOOLS HAVE ANY IDEA WHAT YOU'RE ABOUT TO SET OFF?! FUCK AGE OF THE GODS! IF THAT MONSTER STARTS MOVING IT WON'T MATTER WHAT LOST CAUSE BULLSHIT WORLD WINS THIS STUPID PLAN OF YOURS, BECAUSE EVERYONE WILL BE FUCKED EITHER WAY!"
"Uh, Kirsch-chan?" Pepe pretended to not notice the fact that he was breaking out in a cold sweat. "Did you happen to know that…"
"Everyone claimed that the Crystal Spider's dwelling was in South America. But its exact location was never specifically made public knowledge." The blonde teen swallowed heavily, looking at the map of the world where Daybit's Fantasy Tree was clearly situated in Central America.
"Then how did…"
"I DID NOT SPEND OVER A DECADE OF MY LIFE DEALING WITH ALTROUGE'S BULLSHIT, MANAGING SOLOMON'S HALF ASSED MISTAKES, TEARING THAT BASTARD ASS PIRATE FINA APART SEVERAL TIMES, BABYSITTING PRIMATE MURDER, AND WORKING MY WAY THROUGH THAT DISASTER OF A RITUAL OF ORTENROSSE'S TO GET STUCK DEALING WITH THAT NIGHTMARE AMONG ALL NIGHTMARES ON TOP OF ALL OF THIS!"
Those… those were certainly some pretty big names to throw out so casually. Names that would and could explain quite a few things.
"Sh-shirou, please calm down."
"I AM CALM!"
"What the hell?! Is that Priest shooting rockets at us?!"
"WONDERFUL! SOMEONE I CAN BE EXTREMELY CALM WITH!"
"We're trying to get away in one piece! We can't risk any damage to the NEVER MIND! NEVER MIND! PLEASE KEEP DOING WHAT YOU WANT!"
"SO HELP ME THESE IDIOTS BRATS BETTER GET THEIR HEADS OUT OF THEIR ASSES BY THE TIME I GET MY HANDS ON THEM OR THAT BLASTED CRYSTAL SPIDER WILL BE THE LEAST OF THEIR PROBLEMS! THAT INCLUDES YOU HINAKO! DON'T YOU DARE THINK I DON'T KNOW WHAT YOU ARE YOU LAZY SHIT!"
Pepe and Kirschtaria looked at one another with unsettled expressions as explosions and roars of pure frustration and rage played out in front of them.
"... Emergency meeting?" Pepe asked with a shaky smile.
o. o. o.
As always thanks, Wayfarer for betaing the chapter.
There's only so much an Emiya Shirou can take before he snaps, omake or not. Sometimes, ignorance truly is bliss.
Anyways. Shorter chapter out this time, all the setup for a major epic chapter… right after I do another GAIWP chapter. Sorry. Shoutout to masked spider's: "I'm too sober for this". He's making essentially a DXD crossover between GAIWP and ADLH. It's a pretty solid start so far.
Regardless, rest assured, it will be worth the wait though. LOADS of explosions and epic epicness of amazing super epics coming up. I've been saving a small closet's worth of twists, ability and WTF's for this fight in particular. The Fate fandom's definitely going to go for my head for this one. Muwahahahahaha!
Ha… eh. Sorry. Truth be told, I'm a bit beat lately. Work's been really nuts lately. Plus a few other private things that's eating up more of my personal time than expecting.
Oh, and I'm laughing at this whole, Harry Potter game bullshit. Or I was laughing. Now it's just annoying.
Seriously, when was the last time anyone looked up to British culture as a role model for anything other than pretending to be "posh" and "upper class"? Rowling isn't a role model for life lessons. Nobody's at threat for the nonsense she spews save for morons that are glued to twitter, and those people are an issue with or without the woman. She's just a children's book writer that happened to get very fortunate with her franchise. Calm the fuck down people.
And no, I'm not getting the game, because I simply don't care about it one way or another. And I don't care if anyone else gets it or not. As far as I'm concerned, the sooner everyone stops bitching about this mess the better. If it's a good game and sells well, good. If it's a shit game, oh well. Not my problem.
Just for the love of Log stop flooding my youtube algorithm with this already.
What else? Eminence in Shadow is hilarious, but still doesn't compare to the manga. Pissed that the Nier anime's getting hit by issues and being delayed. One Piece is still amazing.
Oh. And ORT was shown in its full (technically) glory. Terrifying, haunting, magnificent glory.
So help me if they don't make Lostbelt 7 into a Movie or chain of Movies at some point, someone isn't doing their job, which I will rectify with sharp pointy objects. TV is NOT enough to do it justice.
That's about it. If you're interested in getting my work at least a week earlier than when I post it, commissioned artwork of my stories, hidden lore, and other neat bits and bobs of what I do, check out my pa-eon. Just look up Third Fang.
Until next time.
REVIEW! WORSHIP THE LOG! ORT IS FUCKING BULLSHIT AND WE LOVE IT FOR IT BUT FROM A SAFE DISTANCE! AND REVIEW AGAIN!