Chapter 3: Local Priest Isn't Your Friend
*EDIT* Thank you Vandenbz for pointing out some typos!
Within the grounds of Ryudou Temple, Caster believed she knew all. That there was nothing that she could not discern within the bounds of her 'temple'. That no current magi of this age could pierce her barriers or Servant that could enter without her knowing.
But throughout the entire battle, from her botched attempted at murder to Assassin's and her unexpected Master's escape, there were observers. Familiars, to be specific; worms and various winged insects to be more so.
The magus behind the familiars was ancient by the terms of normal human life, with all the knowledge and experience such an existence would imply. With patience and selective sacrifice of familiars, he had been able to position a fair few within the grounds of the temple. Not as many as he'd like, but it was nothing worth exposing the few that were there, and they provided enough information to keep him comfortably informed on the Caster.
He had never felt too comfortable with the Class. Why summon a more powerful magus than oneself? There was too great a chance for them to discover the true purpose of the War and try to hijack the ritual for themselves. There were also ways to get around the problem of Command Spells. He should know, he had designed them.
So as Zouken Matou watched Caster begin the ritual to summon her own Servant, he couldn't help but feel vindicated that some of his worries had become realized.
'I will have to watch this one closely.' he thought. Indeed, this Caster seemed to be unknowingly set on justifying all his concerns over her Class. First the consumption of prana from the citizens, barely towing the line of exposing the War, and now this.
Although, he was curious what sort of Servant she could summon. It had obviously never occurred to either Justica, Nagato, or himself at the time, that a Servant would try to summon their own Servant when a slot was still available, so the researcher in him was curious of the results.
Zouken was only marginally disappointed when the boy his familiars had informed him of had interrupted the Servant's ritual. He would admit being curious as to why the boy was visiting the temple; perhaps a tourist?
'A school project? Neither Shinji or Sakura have mentioned anything. He must be from a different town.' Not that he really cared much about that worthless boy's or Sakura's school life, but he liked to know what they were doing and where they'd be. It made keeping track of them easier. Essential given the times.
The Holy Grail War starting so early was a nuisance that had disrupted his plans for his vessel. She still wasn't broken. There were cracks for sure, and given time he knew he could whittle Sakura down, build her back up into a perfect vessel for his purposes, but the Grail manifesting early ruined that. His plan to make himself immortal would have to be adjusted now, there may even be a chance of it not happening...
'But it will happen. This setback is minor at best.' It really was, in the grand scheme of things, but even the smallest of errors can ruin the whole. And regardless, he had waited for far too long, worked too hard, to let something as minor as an early start stop him.
Sudden movement catches his attention, and looking through the familiars placed by the gate, he sees that the boy had dodged a stab from the Caster.
'Surprisingly bold, given the lengths she's gone to keep herself hidden.' Zouken thought, committing the Servant's peculiar dagger to memory. 'Most likely a Noble Phantasm.'
More interesting than Caster's spontaneous attack and dagger was that the boy had actually dodged. Caster may have been the weakest of the Servants physically, but a Servant was still beyond human capability. Just who was this boy?
Again, the boy evades death, instead getting a likely crippling injury. Still, it was more than what most could manage. But the maneuver spoke of experience...
"Hehe." The ancient magus chuckles, seeing the boy punch the witch. Truly this boy was one in a million. A shame though, that he'd likely be killed now. A Servant's pride is not to be taken lightly.
As he guessed, the witch no longer held back, and incanted a spell he could not recognize. Zouken watched the boy get up and yell out his defiance of fate with a smile. 'Such fire... He'd have made a good host.'
Then the light of a summoning shone and the circle from before reappeared. Caster's yell of 'impossible', the look on the boy's face...
"Hehehe... Hahaha!" Zouken's laughter echoed throughout the catacombs, the sound dry and sharp, steeped in vindictiveness. The absurdity of it all was too great. What were the chances of some random boy hijacking a ritual to summon a Heroic Spirit, especially from a legendary magus? And by a fairly ordinary boy at that! Getting over his laughter, he watches the new Servant appear.
'…Interesting.' The Servant was... peculiar. A prepubescent girl, Assassin no less? He was almost ready to write her off as a fluke, for surely this was not one of the Old Men of the Mountain, when the skeletons rose and she leaped into action.
'Adequate.' Not a complete loss for the boy then. But this was still no Hassan-i-Sabbah. Who was this little girl, to have earned the right to be a Heroic Spirit? To overcome the Grail System and be Assassin?
And then the fog appeared. Zouken had seen her materialize the lantern that was its source and had immediately had his worms burrow into the ground, leaving the remaining few Blade Wing Worms to test the capabilities of what was no doubt Assassin's Noble Phantasm. That the worms died almost immediately after being enveloped was no great loss, and merely left Zouken curious about the fog's properties.
'Their destruction was delayed upon contact, so perhaps it is designed to slowly weaken targets? And those too weak simply perish.' reasoned the ancient magus, using another Wing Worm outside and above the temple to keep an eye on the fog. 'And being Assassin, the Noble Phantasm no doubt helps conceal her. But that could not be all. You would simply have to keep out or escape. Can the Servant manipulate it somehow?' Zouken questioned.
He received an answer when a bulge came out of the fog, moving erratically before retreating back. 'So Assassin can manipulate the fog. No doubt Caster trying to escape.'
And then the fog dispersed into a faint mist before disappearing altogether. Bringing the Wing Worm closer and unearthing his other familiars, he saw Assassin standing over the remains of Caster. 'Several deep lacerations across the torso. Smaller ones across the face, arms, and legs. Skill, or possibly another Noble Phantasm?'
The ensuing fight with what he believed was one of the teachers at Shinji's and Sakura's school was of interesting note, if only for the fact that Caster had obviously reinforced his body. 'Another unusual Master for the War then.'
After the escape of the Assassin and her Master, Zouken chuckled at the oaths that Caster swore. As he moved his familiars back to their hiding places and retreated his senses from them, he began to draw up all he had seen of this War's Assassin. But...
'Gone; Nothing. I know I had just seen Servant Assassin, and I know I had speculated on its possible Noble Phantasms. But I recall nothing. I have no idea of what the Servant looks like, how they fight...'
And in the face of this impossibility, even as Caster herself began to realize this and swore newer, more torturous oaths, Zouken only laughed as he left the catacombs under the Matou Manor.
"A most interesting Servant indeed."
"Gah!" What happened? Where am I? For moments I simply can't think, the grogginess of sleep contending with my brain's sudden reboot.
But it's because of that I notice I'm in a bed. Taking deep breaths, I wait a little longer to calm down. After my heart stops hammering, I sit up and look around. I'm in my hotel room, and had been under the covers of my bed. Must have thrown them off in my panic. It's dark, the faint red light from the nightstand clock's digital screen dyeing the room dark red. On the other side of the room, I see the white lights of street lights behind the closed blinds.
What time is it? Looking at the digital clock, I read '7:06 PM'. I don't remember getting into bed, but I guess the trip took more out of me than I thought.
"Was all that a dream then?" I ask myself aloud. I've never really been one to remember my dreams. If they've all been like that, I can't say I regret it. Witches? Loli super-soldiers? Kung-fu business men?
"Seems like something Orihime would come up with..." Either I have a mini-Orihime directing my dreams, or being a Shinigami screwed me up in the head something fierce. And I'm not sure which is worse.
My stomach decides to end the debate, growling out to be fed. Fine, I'm fairly sure I saw a burger place around here when I came in. Moving to get out of bed, my knee knocks into something.
Weird. Looking at the spot on my left, I see a lump under the covers. I give whatever it is another tap of my knee, pushing it a little as I try to think of what it feels like. Absently, I also lean over to the nightstand to turn on the lamp sitting there. With a click, tinted yellow light fills the room, and after a brief moment for my eyes to adjust I give the lump a harder push.
"mmm..." The lump murmured, and from the pitch I knew it was a girl.
Okay... What the hell?
I reach out with my left hand to tear the covers off whoever is next to me, ready to grill them about why they're in my bed, because I'm sure I came in alone. "Who the-" The yell catches in my throat and dies, as I get a good look at my hand. Rather, what was there...
...top of the palm is glowing... some sort of tattoo...
...all my focus was on that hand... the glowing red tattoo atop its palm...
On the top of my palm was a red tattoo, glowing faintly with its own light. It consisted of three images. The first was something I would always remember, no matter how different it looked. The Substitute's Badge skull. The lines of it were smoother and ended in points, and the teeth were connected to the rest of the skull by a jawline now. It looked more than anything like a Hollow's mask, but the shape of it, the eyes, the crooked smile I always thought it had... They were all the same. Along its left and right side were two butcher's knives with curved grips, poised to cut the non-existent neck of the skull.
I nearly rip the blanket off the bed, and see the little girl. My hand drops in my shock, not quite believing what I had just thought a dream to be actually true. Not sure what else to do, my eyes take in her form, examining her every feature.
She was curled up like an unborn baby, her back facing me, revealing that her waistcoat was backless. Her knees brought up and held in place by her arms that she had wrapped around them, head tilted forward so that her forehead kissed her knees. Both her glove and hand wrappings, as well as her boots, were gone, revealing more of her pale skin than before. I also notice that on her shoulder is an ovular tattoo the color of a fresh bruise, a purplish red. She was also missing the lower, larger plates of armor she had been wearing before. Her white-silver hair was mussed-up, implying she had been here for awhile.
I was struck again by the sheer innocence of her appearance, her outfit, or serious lack of one, doing nothing to diminish it. It was hard to comprehend her as the cold and capable fighter that she had been at the temple.
But some things couldn't be ignored, at least for long. My brain seems to finally process that not only is the girl wearing less than she had been before, but she was in my bed.
"Gah!" I yell, practically leaping out of the bed. Unfortunately, the covers impede this and I end up falling to the floor head first.
I let out a groan of pain, just as I hear the girl moan a little and movement on the sheets. Quickly I turn around as I sit up and see that the girl has also sat up, rubbing the sleep from her eyes with the side of her hand. It also put me eye-level with her bare thighs and panties.
My face heats up and I quickly look away, embarrassed I had looked there, no matter that it was accidental. But my indignation quickly swells. "Put on some clothes!" I order her. And after a moment's thought, "And get out of my bed!"
There's no immediate reply, only more rustling of sheets and the creek of the bed frame, then more silence. I'm debating looking at her to see if she heard me, when I hear her speak.
"Father?" she asks softly, the odd way she says it once again registering as both 'Father' and 'Master'. It also came from behind me.
Yelping in surprise, I lunge to the side, toward the door to the hotel room. Turning around to face the girl, I yell "Don't do that!". Never mind that I had no idea how she did it.
"Do what?" she asks back, tilting her head to the side.
"Sneak up on me!" I answer, then remember her state of dress. I cover my eyes with my hands. "And put on some clothes already!"
The girl looks down at herself, as if to confirm whether she is indeed wearing clothes or not. She even goes as far as lightly pulling the ends of her waistcoat and strings of her panties to make sure her eyes aren't lying to her. Trying to look at anything else, I notice on her other shoulder an exact duplicate of the tattoo I saw before, color and all. The silver haired girl turns her gaze to me next, her eyes and face showing she was confused. "But I am wearing clothes."
"You're just wearing a coat and your freaking panties!" I shouted before pointing at her black panties with my right hand. Now seeing them in full view once more, I could feel a blush begin to light up my face.
"Is that a problem Father?" She asked once again, not even comprehending what was wrong. What the Hell was wrong with her? Of course it was a problem!
"I'm a guy damn it!" I shouted as I covered my right eye once more. "You're not supposed to wear that type of thing in front of a guy!" I peaked through my fingers for a second and saw that she kept staring at me curiously, as if the concept was new to her. As if this common sense was something entirely new to her. Growling to myself in frustration, I lift myself off the floor and go to my bag, rummaging through it before throwing her a random shirt.
"J-just put this on!" I waited for a second, the heat of my blush subsiding as I hear the ruffling of cloth. Once it stopped, I turn around. The girl was wearing one of my older t-shirts. A white shirt with gray sleeves and a red skull that kind of looked like the one on my badge. Huh, I never really noticed that before. Anyway, the shirt was baggy and it came down to the middle of her thighs, thus covering her exposed panties and bringing some peace to my mind. She still stared at me blankly, still not understanding why I gave it to her.
Oddness aside, at least she wasn't like Yoruichi and Matsumoto
"Okay…" I breathed out before pulling up one of the chairs in the room and sitting down on it. I then looked at the girl with the most serious expression I could make and asked, "You said you'd answer my questions, right?" When she nodded and gave a 'yep' in agreement, I continued. "Who are you, who was that witch, why did she try to kill me, and what's the deal with all this 'Master' stuff?"
"So..." I began with closed eyes as I crossed my arms over my chest. "You're a 'Servant' called Assassin…" 'Assassin' nodded in confirmation. "That woman was Caster, and the guy who beat me up was her 'Master'…" She nodded once more. "You brought me back to my hotel room after you looked at my room key and followed my scent..." Her shoulders tensed slightly. Did she think I was angry at her over that? While it was certainly an odd way to follow a trail, I wasn't going to complain. I'd take waking up in a bed over on the ground in some forest any day. "It's fine." I tell her, and the girl's, Assassin I remind myself, tension disappears. I can even see the beginnings of a smile on her lips. "And now I'm in this 'Holy Grail War' as your Master, and me and you need to fight against six other Servants and Masters and beat them to get the 'Holy Grail', which will grant us any wish we want."
"Yep, that's right." Assassin replied instantly, now looking into my eyes with her gray ones. She was really serious about this whole thing, and I couldn't really pick up any lie from her throughout her whole story. But really, who could make up something so elaborate as practically raising to life spirits in what amounts to a battle royale? Probably Orihime, but I really doubt anyone else has that warped an imagination. So either this was just a delusional Plus, whom I shouldn't be even capable or seeing or hearing anyway, or she really was a revived 'Heroic Spirit' summoned to fight in this war of wizards, witches, and other famous heroes.
"Alright, I believe you." I sigh out, "In all honestly, this isn't the craziest thing I've ever heard."
"What do you mean Father?" Assassin asked curiously as she tilted her head once more. With her eyes wide open, she reminded me of an owl. But her name for me brought to mind the title for the wizards fighting this war, the 'Masters'. Her title rubbed me the wrong way.
"Stop calling me that." I tell her, earning me another blink. "Why do you keep calling me 'Father'? I'm not your dad."
"Father is Father." Assassin proclaimed, as if that was the most obvious answer in the world. "You are the one who summoned us, thus you are our Father."
I pinched the bridge of my nose in frustration. What kind of logic was that? "Look, just call me Ichigo okay?"
"Father is Father." She insisted, this time with a hint of stubbornness in her soft voice. Okay, so I wasn't going to win this argument right now. Well, might as well move along…
"Look." I said, making Assassin look back at me. "I'm not a magician, or whatever you said these other Masters are." I briefly wondered if being a Shinigami would have counted. Not like it really mattered anyway, I hadn't bothered with spells back then. "I'm just an ordinary guy. So are there any special rules or something for this?"
"The overseer of the war should have the information, Father." Assassin mentioned as she stepped off the bed. "If you wish, we can bring you to where they are located."
Well, at least I won't be flying blind into this… "Sure, we'll go. Just let me get dressed."
It was as I passing the mirror that something odd caught my attention from the corner of my eye. Going back to take a closer look, I nearly jump and yelp in shock at what I see.
There was a new addition on my body. Several, in fact.
The injuries weren't too surprising, since that fight hadn't been a dream after all. That Caster lady had done quite the number on me with that cutting wind of hers. What really surprised me were the stitches. Black threads had been weaved through all the cuts, and from my own experience of watching my father work on some of the more serious cases that had come through my family's clinic before they headed to the hospital, I could tell that the stitch work was haphazard and sloppy. Some of the wounds hadn't even been fully closed.
I freaked out of course, who wouldn't?
"The hell is this?!" I demand, looking to Assassin for answers. The girl adopts the look of a child that had been caught red-handed. Her head lowered, silver hair hiding her eyes, as she uses her left hand to hold her opposite arm to her side.
"Father was hurt, so we fixed him up." She said bashfully. "Is Father... angry?" The question was barely heard, her voice was so soft; steeped in worry and fear of my response.
I calm down. I wasn't angry, just surprised and reacted like I usually did. I sigh, "It's fine Assassin." I tell her. "Thanks."
Assassin quickly looks back up, surprised. "Really?" she asks, and I can see a hint of a smile on her lips.
"Yeah." I assure her, fiddling with the ones on my hand. Turning to face the mirror again, I begin to stretch, testing the stitching. I bring my arms across my chest and extend them above my head, twist my abdomen left and right, and bend over a bit, but the stitching holds. Standing upright, I turn to Assassin and tell her, "You did a good job." And I meant it. Despite looking terrible, the sutures held. I didn't even feel any irritation from the stretches. Part of the reason I was surprised at all from seeing them was because I don't feel them. If not for seeing them or brushing my hands over them, I would have never known they were there.
"Yep! We're good at stitching." Assassin says happily with a nod, a smile on her face.
Seeing her so happy brings a small smile to my face. Looking down at myself though, a thought occurs to me and I can't help but chuckle.
"What is it Father?" Assassin asks.
I shake my head. "It's nothing Assassin." I tell her, but to myself I mutter, "I just feel like I should check for missing organs."
I didn't expect Assassin to hear me. "We didn't take anything Father, we promise."
I couldn't tell if she was making fun out of the comment, or actually assuring me she hadn't.
I guess Dan Brown was right, the church is part of a conspiracy cover-up. Just not over a Jesus bloodline.
The walk to where the overseer was hadn't been too bad, considering I hadn't known where we were going. At least we hadn't had to cross the river.
At first I had been worried about anyone seeing her, but she simply slipped into what she called 'astral form', and simply faded out until she looked like a plus without a chain of fate. That led to asking her how she got me to my hotel room undetected, because I knew she couldn't have carried me like that. She then told me that as an Assassin, she had a skill known as Presence Concealment, which hid her until she attacked.
Anyway, I let her lead, seeing as she had brought it up to begin with and seemed to know where to go.
And here we are, standing outside before a church on a hill.
"You're sure this is where this 'overseer' person is?" I had to ask, not quite believing a church, Roman Catholic if I had to guess, was involved with magic of all things. Weren't they all 'do not suffer a witch to live'?
"We are sure Father." Assassin replied. "The Grail gave us knowledge of the overseer. They will be the priest here."
"Good enough for me then." I reply with a shrug of my shoulders before walking toward the church, Assassin right behind me.
But as we drew closer to the building, an anxiousness welled up in me with each step closer to the building I took. There didn't seem to be any reason for it, nothing about the building stood out to me to cause it. Thinking on it, trying to discover the source, brought up the memory of a place that had also made me anxious. A white palace in the middle of a vast desert, in a place of eternal night; Las Noches.
This is not that place, I tell myself. It's a church, and there wasn't going to be a megalomaniac living there. But, there was no harm in being cautious.
As we reach the doors, I look to Assassin. "Keep to spirit form. We can't be sure about this priest, even if he is the overseer."
"Yes Father." the Servant replied with a nod.
I had noticed through the windows that the lights inside were on, so I didn't bother waiting outside and entered.
The inside of the church was very... church-y, I guess. Rows of long, wooden pews, nice white walls, and a place in front of the pews where the priest would preach. I've never been to a church before, so I didn't have much to compare it to, but I'd say this was a nice building.
But I didn't come here to admire this place.
"Hey, priest! I need to talk to ya!" I call out, walking up to the altar. There was no one besides me and the astral Assassin.
A few seconds pass before one of the doors by the altar opens, and out walks who I assume is the priest I'm looking for. He's tall, a little taller than me, with long arms to match and sharp physique. The priest wore what I had seen similar priests wear back in Karakura, black vestments with matching black pants and shoes, with an ankle-length robe that was a dark, navy blue. I vaguely recall it being known as a cassock. Hanging from his neck and resting on the man's chest was a golden cross. He wore his brown hair in the beginnings of a mullet, and his matching eyes were dull.
Dull like Caster's Master.
The priest also has a presence about him that made me wary and on edge. The best way to describe it was to say it was heavy, but there was no intent behind it. It was simply there. It reminded me of my first exposure to an enemy's spiritual pressure, but weaker. It made me label this man 'dangerous'.
"Welcome, I am Kirei Kotomine." He introduces himself, his deep baritone almost echoing in the empty chapel. "By what chance do you come to this house of God?"
I set aside my feelings on the man. He probably needed to be dangerous to handle something like a secret magic war. And while dangerous didn't necessarily mean enemy, I'd keep him on my watch-list. I lifted up my left hand, wrapped in bandages I'd gotten at a twenty-four hour store on the way here, and unraveled them enough so that the priest could see the no longer glowing, but plainly red tattoo under them.
"I'm here to see the overseer." I tell him plainly, silently hoping this was who I needed to see and not some other, uninvolved priest.
I notice his eyes narrow by the smallest of margins, and a glimmer in his eyes that I can't quite identify, it being so brief.
"I see." He says once he looks back up. "So you are to be the fourth Master. What is your name?"
"Ichigo Kurosaki, and I've got questions." I reply.
"Oh? But do you not know what you've entered into, young magus?" he asks, a hint of a smirk on his face and condescending amusement in his his tone.
My scowl gets a little deeper at that. "That's the thing, I'm not a magus, wizard, or whatever you want to call it. I'm just an ordinary human."
Kotomine's only reaction is to blink, as he no doubt goes over what I just said. Then his smirk changes to a small smile. "Truly?" he asks. I only nod to answer him. "Well then, this is most interesting. And how did this come to pass?"
I gave him a brief summary of what happened at the temple. By the end, he seemed even more amused.
"So the Caster attempted to bend the rules and summon her own Servant? And you somehow hijacked the ritual and managed to escape with your life intact with your Servant." He chuckles after saying it.
"Very well, wait here a moment. I will back shortly." So saying, he heads back to the door he had appeared from.
As I wait, I look to the still astralized Assassin. She had taken to standing to the left and behind where I was as I had talked to the priest. Nodding my head, I directed her closer and in front of me. I didn't really think the priest would try anything, but having Assassin close wasn't a bad idea.
Just as Assassin settled into her new spot, Kotomine came back through the door holding a rather plain, leather-bound book. It look like a day-planner more than anything. He moves to stand by the altar and gestures me to come closer.
Laying the book on the altar, the priest speaks first. "Normally it is standard procedure to keep civilians out of the War, and it is the responsibility of the Masters to make sure that the War is kept secret by any means necessary."
I tense up at this, and I see Assassin tense as well.
Kotomine sees my reaction and smirks. "Do not worry Ichigo Kurosaki, the fact that you bear the Command Spells exempts you from this." I relax a bit as he continues. "To begin, how much has your Servant explained what the Holy Grail War is?"
"That it's pretty much a battle royale between seven resurrected spirits and magicians for any kind of wish they want."
Kotomine closes his eyes and gives a brief chuckle. "An apt enough description, if terribly simplified."
I cross my arms and deepen my scowl again. "So? What more is there to it then?" It seemed pretty self-explanatory to me.
"The purpose, the participants? Would you not want to know who you are fighting and why?" The priest asks, his eyes locked onto mine.
"The purpose is obvious: for a wish. And I don't think everyone's just going to write down their names somewhere like its a tournament."
"The wish is merely a byproduct of the prize, the Holy Grail." he tells me, and I have to pause as I mull that over.
The Holy Grail, as in Jesus Christ, King Arthur, and all of that. That Holy Grail? I ask as much.
"Perhaps, perhaps not. It is one of many artifacts the church has investigated. But the fact there are even Servants, that heroes from the past have been nearly resurrected and controlled by mere mortals proves the Holy Grail's existence and power."
I nod, but one thing he said bothers me. "What do you mean by 'heroes from the past'?"
"Did your Servant not tell you? A Servant is a spirit that was so revered, or so feared, by humanity that their souls ascended the natural cycle, coming to reside in a place referred to as the Throne of Heroes."
My eye widen at that. How could that be possible? Souls lingered here in the human world until either a shinigami came and performed a soul burial, or were either eaten by hollows or became one themselves. I'm fairly sure Soul Society would know of this throne place. I briefly think of Assassin; who was she then? If her name was anything to go by...
Kotomine interrupts my thoughts. "They are empowered by those that believe in them, and their own deeds in life. Even so, the seven Servants are divided into their own classes, to protect their identities from enemies. For each legend lays out how these heroes fell."
The priest then reaches down and opens the leather-bound book he'd brought. Looking down at it, I see what look like a thin deck of cards that had been between the cover and the first page.
Flipping over the first card onto the table, Kotomine begins describing what is shown: a knight wearing full plate armor and bearing a sword. "The Saber, masters of the sword. They are regarded as the best of the classes."
Another card is flipped next to it, showing a man dress in leather armor and nobleman's clothes. "The Lancer, among the fastest of the classes. They are masters of spears and pole-arms."
Flip; a woman wearing bits of steel armor and a red dress, wielding bow and arrow. "The Archer, masters of the bow. They are noted for possessing particularly powerful Noble Phantasms."
I ignore the new term for now as the priest flips another card, this one showing an old man with a long, white beard in obscuring robes and carrying a book and staff. This one I think I know. "The Caster, masters of great and often lost magic. Though they are physically weaker than most Servants, they are still beyond human standards and can be quite crafty."
The next card showed a figure that was more beast than man. Heavily tattooed and wearing little more than rags, the creature wielded a massive sword and had a head like a wolf's. "The Berserker, heroes that went mad in life and trade their sanity now for more power. They are powerful, but are hard to maintain and control."
Next was an armored figure and black robes on some kind of chariot and holding the reigns for something not shown. "The Rider, masters of mounted combat. The steeds that helped them through life now give them exceptional power as Noble Phantasms."
Finally, the last card depicted an equally chilling sight as the Berserker, but more because of what it meant. The figure was a man wrapped in black leggings and gauntlets wielding wicked, black daggers. His head and face were covered in black cloth and a bone white, skull-shaped mask. I shouldn't have been too surprised, given the girl's title. "The Assassin, masters of stealth and killing from the shadows. Because of their lack of legends, Assassins are more suited to dealing with Masters than Servants."
"What do mean by that?" I immediately ask.
For some reason the priest looks pleased. "Just as I said. Assassin class Servants do not have great legends, and are thus naturally weaker than other Servants."
"But why target the Masters?"
"Because they are the only thing linking Servants to this world."
I look down in thought. It makes sense; a team is only as strong as its weakest link, and naturally that would be the human partners. I may have slayed hollows, but that was really purifying them and sending the souls to Soul Society or to be reborn. I'd never fought humans with the intent to kill, and this was too close to cold-blooded murder than I was comfortable with.
"Does this frighten you, Ichigo Kurosaki?" Kotomine breaks through my thoughts again, and I look up sharply. "Do you fear for your life?"
Hearing that, I remember the advice of a dear friend.
"Abandon your fear. Look forward. Move forward and never stop. You'll age if you pull back. You'll die if you hesitate."
"No, I'm not afraid." I cut off the priest from whatever else he was going to say, glaring at him. "I may not have had a choice in this, but I'm not backing out. Besides, those 'gas leaks' and murders have been really Servants right?" Kotomine nods at the question. "Then I can't let them or their Masters have the Grail, can I?"
"So you would fight to protect innocents?" The taller man asks. Again there's a look in his eyes I can't quite make out.
"It's my name, isn't it?" I ask rhetorically, smirking.
The priest chuckles, but it seems condescending. "Indeed it is. Very well, I acknowledge you as the fourth Master of this Fifth Holy Grail War."
"The Fifth?" I ask. There's been more than one of these?
"Indeed, Ichigo Kurosaki. The first War took place nearly two centuries ago. The last was merely a decade."
Interesting, I guess. "Anything else?"
Oddly, he seems disappointed about something. "Two things. The first is this." He closes and hands me the book on the altar. "As a civilian, I find you may need this more than the others. As you encounter and learn more about your enemies, the information will be recorded here and available for review. You will find it needed as you try to learn the identities of the other Servants."
As soon as I take the book, a tingle runs through my arm. Opening it to a random page, I find a photo of the witch, Caster. Huh, magic book. Closing the book, I look back up. "Okay, what's the other thing?"
"Masters are required to reveal to me the Class of their Servants."
I debate lying, but decide to be honest. "Assassin."
Kotomine actually looks surprised to here that. "Interesting. Before you leave, I must state again that the War must be kept secret. There are to be no witnesses."
I glare harder at him, understanding what the priest is implying. "That shouldn't be too much of a problem then, should it?" Of course, I'm referring to Assassin's stealth. There was no way I was killing innocents.
"Very well. Rejoice then, for your wish shall be granted."
I ignore the question I want to ask to that. "Whatever. I'm leaving." And with that, I leave.
Once outside and a fair bit away from the church doors, I look to Assassin, who had been walking beside me silently. Who was she? How could a little girl like her become famous enough to be known as a killer? Who did she kill, and why? The fact that she was summoned as Assassin more than likely meant that she was viewed negatively. Not many people thought of assassins kindly. Looking at her though, I have a hard time picturing it. I was like trying to picture Yuzu with Kenpachi's blood lust...
I shiver at the mere idea.
So as much as I want to ask now, I'll wait. Maybe tomorrow. "Let's go to hotel, I'm beat."
Assassin nods. "Okay Father."
Sigh. "I told you not to call me that."
"Father is Father."
We watch the men as they go about their routines. Some stand around with guns, others are laughing, others are drinking. Still more are snorting or injecting, others are taking advantage of the whores and desperate. All of them are covered in tattoos, and all them have the same stink on their souls.
None of them are like Father.
Father is kind and warm and pure. We haven't known Father long and Father doesn't always show it, but we know. Father's soul is warm and tries to wrap around us, protect us, but it can't. It's too small. It used to be big, but Father did something to Father's soul that made it smaller. We think Father protected someone else, because that's what fathers are supposed to do. They protect the mother and children.
Not like the fathers from before, when we were alive. Those fathers drank and smoke in the bars, and they beat the whores and stayed away from their families, cheating on wives. Like the men here.
Not like Father.
Father is kind, because Father gave us a treat after leaving the dark church. It was sweet and good and didn't taste like the garbage we ate before. Father let us share the bed, even though we don't need to sleep. We've never had a bed before, only the alleys.
Father makes us feel safe.
We didn't know fathers could be like this, like mothers, but that's okay because we like Father.
But... Father is pure... and we are not.
We are dark and tainted. We resented and hated the Mothers, and we killed them. Just like we're killing the men here.
"Ugh... I, I can't... breathe..."
"S-Someone! The door! Get the door open!"
They stumble and crawl and cry and choke as The Mist finds them and hides them and hurts them. We find the first one easy, because The Mist is us and we are The Mist, and we slit his throat and cut into the chest and pull out his heart and then we eat it and his soul. And now we move to the next.
"Shit! It hurts, it hurts! Shit!"
"H-Help! Someone help me!"
Because Father can't keep us here, Father's soul can't feed us. We have to eat others souls to stay. Stay to protect Father because Father would protect us. Protect us from the War when we should protect him.
But Father can't know, mustn't know what we do. Because Father will be angry at us, hate us, despise us, and we don't know how to handle that. Don't know, can't know, won't know because Father will never find out. About what we're doing, will do, and who we are. Father can never find out that. If Father knows we are we, Father will hate us and be cold.
So we'll protect Father. From the Servants and Masters and Truth.
*Gulp* "Prana replenished."
A/N: Hello everyone, long time no see! Yes, I FINALLY updated. For those of you hoping for another chapter for my other stories... I got nothing, sorry. I'll be sticking with Stitches for the foreseeable future. Hope you enjoyed the chapter! Don't expect another chapter anytime soon, but I'll try to update soon than I did this one. I'm also working on a one-shot for Corvus' "Across the Throne of Heroes" titled 'The Colors', so keep an eye out for it!
If you review, be sure to point out any typos I might have missed! I've already went through the last two chapters.
Good Luck in Life and Writing!