/Disclaimer: The Fate series belongs to its makers, as well as all associated characters, concepts, events, etc.
DIVERGENCE TWO/[ anomalies ]: Witness
[ START ]
A battlefield. Bodies lay strewn across the plains – many covered in blood, others blackened to ashen husks. Some seemed to burn with black fire in place of normal wounds. In the distance smoke rose from a city into the sky like a great trail leading the dead into the heavens... which even now shone with the chaotic orange of battle and turned and rolled in conflict. Amidst this carnage knelt the form of Rider – of Raven – clad in the same armor and mantle as the day Sakura summoned her... but the hood was down and her eyes, leaking tears, were not scarlet – but blue. She lifted one of the fallen forms, a woman in white dress and mantle, both marred by blood and ash. Fallen one in hand, the sole living being on the field of slaughter, left the field of battle...
A great hill in a forest, topped with ruins of times long passed and a single massive tree that had likely witnessed them all. Raven toiled, digging a small trench into the ground with little more than a great branch taken from a fallen tree. Beside it lay the woman from the battlefield, dress cleaned and mantle repaired... completely whole, as if she had not died but merely fallen asleep. For some time Raven worked, and when at last the woman was laid into her grave the sun had set. Staring at the branch that now marked the tomb, Raven whirled in surprise as the tree suddenly glowed with a gentle green light. At its base was a child, little bigger than the warrior's forearm...
"Raven," Sakura spoke, upon waking. The servant inclined her head to show she was listening. Those eyes were distant, set on some impossible point, and Sakura hesitated before deciding to avoid bringing up the dream, "We don't have the funding to stay here again."
Raven didn't respond to that immediately beyond her posture tensing slightly and her lips turning down into a frown, eyes still set on something out the window. "Filth that's not only filthy, but useless. Why do you tolerate them? Fear?" A single eye, now violet, drifted over to Sakura, "It is the first step to losing any battle, fear. You will not succeed in anything while afraid of yourself. Have more confidence." Sakura gave a small nod, and the servant's gaze returned to the world outside. "I had a friend like that. We were almost sisters. She had a great potential... could do anything... if only she were not so afraid of her potential. So scared she would lose control over her power. In the end, when she could have done so much... she saved nothing, only destroyed..." Raven trailed off, gazing at her hand, "Confidence, Sakura. It is the key to success in anything, especially matters of the heart and soul. Simply command your soul – it will listen. No one, and nothing, can take that from you. Ever."
Sakura averted her gaze and set about cleaning the room the two had been staying in.
[ PERSPECTIVE SHIFT ]
Ilya was well aware of what the dream cycle entailed. In fact, she was looking forward to it. It would give her what she needed... information.
It was a storm. A dark night whence the only light came from the silent flash of lightning. Rain poured in sheets thick enough one could not see a single yard. A carriage rode alongside a cliff overlooking a river, and three horse-mounted knights rode alongside it. Enemies came from all about. One by one the riders split off to confront the enemies, until there was only one knight left aside from the driver. This last rider was clearly Amethyst – she held a broken sword and wore the same battered armor, though the glow in her eyes was far more intense... malicious... than it had ever been to Ilya. The driver shouted something, and Amethyst didn't bother to respond. Instead, she surprised Ilya (and the driver) by leaping off of her horse and into the throng of dark shapes that had been tracking the carriage. From there, Ilya saw a taste of the servant's abilities... and the reason she was a Berserker.
The broken blade seemed to sing. One stroke, and two shapes fell. Another, and two more followed... before the blood of the first pair had even hit the ground. Merciless, Amethyst carved her way through the throng, seeming to be searching for someone. It was not long before she found them... another knight in armor much like hers, but in better condition, whose eyes also glowed violet.
Amethyst was too late, though. The other knight had been impaled through the chest, held aloft in the air by the arm of the man she had fought – his hand holding her heart. The man released the knight... and Amethyst gave a cry of pure fury. The world vanished in a haze of dancing black and violet light.
Ilya woke with a start, having shared Amethyst's emotions throughout the dream. There was so much... anger. And regret. And guilt. And a thousand other things that she didn't care to even think about. But, in the short term... what was that sound? It was like someone had taken a hundred buzzing bees and tied them to jars, and then proceeded to place the jars on a slab of stone and have at them with a hammer... repeatedly.
Ilya found her servant in the forests in front of the estate... cutting through trees with her bare hands, which had been surrounded by the same black-violet light from her dream. Patiently, Ilya took a seat atop the wall and watched as her servant obliterated a vast portion of the forest. She might have been slightly irritated but, in hindsight, this was a given with a Berserker. It was just fortunate that Amethyst had not instead done this to the house. Eventually, Amethyst stopped and picked up her sword – the aura about her hands vanishing immediately. Ilya took the opportunity to call out, "Berserker!" Instantly Amethyst's eyes were on Ilya and her blade was in position to cut. Upon seeing Ilya, the servant relaxed her stance but still looked tense. "Are you familiar with the estate now?"
"Familiar enough." Amethyst responded bluntly. Ilya nodded.
"Good, then enter your astral form and we can explore the city..." Ilya trailed off as Amethyst showed no signs of entering the aforementioned state, or even recognizing that it existed. "Don't tell me... you don't know how?" In response, the servant simply nodded and Ilya could almost let out a sigh. "Then... your armor?" Amethyst looked insulted by that notion. "You'll look too conspicuous walking around in that. The other Masters will identify you immediately."
"And this is a problem?" The Berserker asked, "Do you lack faith in me?"
"No," Ilya replied easily, "but the war hasn't officially started yet, silly!" The air outside the estate, or the promise of wandering the town, appeared to do wonders for her mood.
The two proceeded to stare at each other in a battle of wills
[ PERSPECTIVE SHIFT ]
Upon waking, Rin was... confused, for lack of a better term. The dream cycle had shown her something last night but what it was she had no idea. A single, enormous rune pulsing faintly with light. Random flashes of a mural on the wall, a vast pool of water, a forest – a battlefield... and an aura of beautiful azure light. Temples both majestic and ruined by time... the small silhouette of a child being consumed by a vast light rivaling the sun. A pair of empty blue eyes.
Filing away the various tidbits for later reference, Rin set about her day in the usual manner... by shambling out of her room and to the fridge, obtaining a carton of something (either milk or juice) and drinking directly from it. After this, she set about preparing for the day and paused upon turning around to face the living area of her home. Blinking and rubbing her eyes did nothing to dispel what surely must have been a remnant of some sleep-induced haze...
The potted plant she kept by the window had tripled in size. The young girl Caster had summoned last night was sitting in front of it, staring at it intently... and before Rin's eyes the top budded and opened up into a large red flower, even though it was late autumn. "Feels nice, right?" The girl spoke and, as if in response, the newly bloomed flower twitched several times. "Hm?" She queried, before turning around. "Oh, morning! Can we go look for onee-sama now? And..." Here she glanced away sheepishly, "I don't know your name."
"I don't know yours either," Rin pointed out, "It's considered polite in this country to introduce oneself first before asking the name of others."
"I'm Saki!" She exclaimed immediately, "Saki of the Mystal Woods! And you're...?"
'An enchanted forest of some sort, I guess. It would explain her element.' Rin thought to herself before speaking, "I am Tohsaka Rin, heiress of the Tohsaka family and summoner of servant Caster... which brings to mind, what class are you?"
"So... you summoned Teacher?" Rin nodded. "I'm... I dunno. There are seven classes, right? Saber, Lancer, Archer, Rider, Berserker, Assassin, and Caster... the word that comes to mind doesn't fall under those but I'm Teacher's apprentice so I guess it would be Caster too, right?" All said in one breath, making Rin struggle to keep up. "But we can't call both me and teacher 'Caster'..." The girl trailed off thoughtfully.
"What word is it that comes to mind?" Rin asked curiously. Saki froze, and Caster answered for her as she appeared on scene.
[ PERSPECTIVE SHIFT ]
After some time, Amethyst was eventually convinced to (reluctantly) set aside her tried, battle worn armor and instead wear the long white tunic, pants, and boots that were beneath it (her sword was still present, but wrapped thickly in cloth). Oddly, but fortunately, the garments were free of blood and tears. Amethyst was surprised, and Ilya theorized that the armor was more tied to her legend then the clothes, hence they were repaired upon being summoned. The servant herself did not particularly seem to care, but it was faintly apparent that the lack of any marks on the garments she had worn since being gifted them, so long ago. It was surreal.
Passing through the Einzberns' forest did not take long with Ilya as a guide. After passing through the eerily empty woods, Ilya was only too enthusiastic to begin pulling Amethyst about by the arm and pointing out the various highlights of the city. It was fortunate that the ritual had at least succeeded in granting the servant knowledge about the modern era, otherwise she would most likely have had a heart attack and caused an incident of some sort several times over. Eventually, the pair came to a stop in a small park by a river – the other side of which was a burned wasteland. Amethyst glanced at it, and then made a point of focusing on Ilya as she ate an ice-cream cone, eyes closed as she enjoyed the treat. The small girl seemed to notice as one of her eyes peaked open. "What's wrong, Ame-nee?"
Ignoring the form of address, Amethysts' response was quick, "The burned land... the echoes of the fallen's pleas for aid still remain. It reminds me too much of home."
"Hm..." Ilya mused aloud, continuing to enjoy her treat. That was an interesting bit of information – it would help with tracking down the servant's legend. "You can hear them, still?" The servant only nodded. Ilya finished her ice cream quickly and noted that the sun was already mid-way into the sky.
"I have a question." Amethyst spoke suddenly, drawing Ilya's attention.
"...What's your name?"
Ilya blanched. "That's an... unusual question. Do most Servants care about their master's names, I wonder? Or do they just not bother to ask..." the girl trailed off upon noticing her Servant was staring at her. "It is only fair, I suppose, since you revealed your name... I am Ilyasviel von Einzbern."
"Then I would like to refer to you as such, if you do not mind."
Ilya stood up, letting out a small 'hm,' as she started off toward some other place in the park. "And you refuse to call me Master?"
"Then Ilyasviel-sama." The small girl offered.
Amethyst accepted the compromise as she set out after her summoner. The 'sama' suffixe meant very little to her, after all, and if it kept her from quarreling... all the better. "Very well then, Ilyasiel-sama... where now?"
The summoner's responding statement was full of as much mischief as cheer – "School!"
[ PERSPECTIVE CHANGE ]
'Keep an eye on the school. Interesting things are sure to happen there.'
With those cryptic words, Archer's master had vanished and left her to the assigned task of watching Homurahara for... whatever it was her master suspected would appear. On one hand, she did not mind at all. It gave her time to think. To wonder. On the other hand, she did mind, because she had time to think. Memories, or the lack thereof, haunted her mind in the manner of ghosts.
Never would Archer stop searching for those memories, for the held the key. The key to the door that would lead her to what she truly searched for... whatever that was.
Archer fingered the mask she wore over her face, contemplating its presence here. Had she really become that infamous? This mask, it seemed, had bonded to her very soul... for why else would it follow her here?
It was a means to an end, but it was also a symbol... for all she ever was-
'Puppet. An emotionless doll.' Words that had cut deeply, but lacked deception. They were truth, in their own ways. Archer had always been a blank page, and had always allowed others to write upon her as they pleased. To form whatever story. Even now. The mask was supposed to be her own control... but instead, even that half-formed identity had been brought under thumb.
Who was it? That girl who played the flute to the moon, upon the pillar in the sea? Who was it? That sat on the lower pillar and gazed up in longing, only to fall into the abyss? One must have been her, then who was the other; which was she?
From her place atop a house near the school, Archer let go of the mask and fingered the box upon her back. "And I who hunt that which can never be caught, sought to kill that which could not be killed... it all fits so well, in retrospect." She winced then, eyes still on the school and beyond. "And that angelic poison still continues to seep... even in death. What a cowardly method of courage." Depressing thoughts, these. Wait... was that?
Sharp teal eyes homed in on a familiar profile walking toward the school, even as Archer's more supernatural senses warned her there was a servant nearby... and then there was a brief tingle. 'Make that two.' A confrontation would likely occur soon.
Much as it irked her to do so... Archer made herself more discreet and prepared to watch. Those were the orders, after all.
[ PERSPECTIVE CHANGE ]
'Sakura didn't show up today... is she sick?' Shirou mused as he walked toward Homurahara. Sakura was almost always awake and in Shirou's house by the time he set out for school, in the kitchen cooking breakfast before he was awake himself. Today, however, she had not shown and – much as Shirou enjoyed having the kitchen for himself this morning – he was worried. 'I'll visit her later.' Self-Promise made, Shirou picked up the pace as the school came into view, scratching a persistent itch on his right hand...
"There, that should do it." Shirou muttered to himself after placing the last of many bows he had been working on into its proper place. Before setting out to visit Sakura (a decision only reinforced by her absence from school,) Shirou was ambushed by Ayako and asked to help with maintaining the bows in the school's archery dojo, 'Because Shinji's useless and bailed.' He didn't mind, really, but the sun was setting by the time he finished and he'd yet to drop by Sakura's house –
A loud crash drew Shirou's attention outside.
There were three people standing in front of the school. Tohsaka Rin, a child Shirou hadn't seen before (and Shirou had met most of Fuyuki in person) and... a knight? More concerning, perhaps, was the smoking trench that had dug its way across the ground, starting from the knight and ending beside Rin.
"Come on, Tohsaka," The girl jeered, "Call out your servant!"
Rin didn't say anything, only clutching something in her hand. Shirou was about to place himself in the line of fire for Toshaka when a small hand grabbed his wrist. Glancing down, the red-haired boy met a pair of sky blue eyes belonging to what appeared to be a smaller version of the knight... with pointed ears and a tiger-stripe marking on either cheek. "It's alright. Rin isn't in any danger." Not reassured at all, Shirou was going to intervene anyway... only to find himself unable to. Something was holding him place.
'Magecraft?' He thought, confused.
The girl released his hand and turned her attention to the confrontation between Rin and the knight. Frowning in concentration, she began chanting under her breath and Shirou noticed the air becoming filled with the overpowering smell of earth and nature. Rin and her opponents seemed to notice too, for all three turned in surprise – or some variation thereof. The knight was shocked, yes, but the albino girl smiled in triumph. "Caster, hm?" She noted, taking cover behind the knight. "Why are you in the open?"
The girl didn't respond, instead pointing to the air before her. "Spirit of the land, the holder of the contract calls you to come forward!" She declared, and the other girl's eyes widened.
"Berserk!" She cried, "Interrupt the incantation!" But the knight remained motionless, continuing to stare in shock. "What are you doing?"
"Pillar of Eternity, Cairn!" 'Caster?' finished. The earth shook and from it rose several large stones – the remains of what appeared to be a series of Greek columns arranged into a roughly human shape, all body and almost no leg with a single massive arm on one side – the other only bearing a broken stub. "The snow-haired girl, please" 'Caster' intoned pleasantly, and the golem almost seemed to nod before taking a single great step toward its target. Caster herself faded from view; almost like some great eraser had come by and simply removed her from the scene.
On cue, the golem charged its target at a speed uncanny for its size, single arm pulled back already for a crushing blow... only for that arm to fall off and to one side as Berserker appeared in the way, a broken sword in hand and violet eyes glowing eerily with light. "Non screta,"The warrior murmured in a distinctly female voice as her blade changed direction to cut off the rest of the golem's arm while it stumbled backward. The stone arm fell, and Berserker continued to drag her sword through the golem's body only to jump back in surprise, sword in hand. A moment later and the pieces of the golem's arm shot through the point Berserker had stood and hovered by the giant.
Berserker's eyes narrowed, and immediately her sword was snaking through the air and intercepting the stone pieces as they tried to strike the girl she was defending. One, two;three. The ground suddenly jerked to the side and threw her off balance, the last stone speeding by. Without pause, Berserker tossed her sword and, somehow, it flew perfectly. The stone was knocked aside just inches from its targets surprised face. "Lu Sol. En te Finis."
The golem gathered more stone. Berserker conjured a ball of writhing violet black energy in one hand, face wrathful. The stones were launched, and Berserker tossed the ball of energy in turn. "Noc Sol!" The ball destabilized and increased in size drastically before detonating, the blast hiding the golem and its weapons beneath a haze of black mist and dancing violet lightning. When the dark energy cleared, nothing was left save a deep crater. Eyes notably dimmer, Berserker nonchalantly walked back to the albinic girl and retrieved her sword. "You aren't injured, right, Ilyasviel-sama?"
The girl's red eyes blinked, as if not fully registering what had just happened. Shirou didn't blame her – he was gawking in awe himself, though that was almost to be expected given he was only a failure of a magus. That was... completely beyond him. "Berserker, why did you not tell me you could...?" She trailed off, waving a hand uncertainly.
"It is... hard to explain." The servant replied. "Mother taught me."
Ilya simply nodded, before her eyes drifted over to where Shirou was standing, and it seemed as if a great weight had set down on his shoulders. "Hm?" She queried, "Onii-chan... what are you doing here? School's out, you know."
"He's uninvolved. Leave him alone." Rin cut in coldly, frowning.
Ilya's eyes drifted off of Shirou and, with them, the weight. "Ho...?" The girl asked, smiling even as Berserker frowned, "You know the rules of the Holy Grail War."
"Yes, but this is a battle between us – is it not? He..." Rin trailed off, tilting her head at Shirou dismissively, "...can be dealt with later."
"Perhaps this means your servant will actually fight, hm? Berserker can clearly handle her more... indirect methods."