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[Fate x Grand Order] To the Other Path

Discussion in 'Creative Writing' started by fallacies, Jul 31, 2020.

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  1. Index: Index
    fallacies

    fallacies Getting sticky.

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    To the Other Path
    by fallacies

    Bereft the sword he was to wield, Emiya Shirou strayed from the hero's path.

    Notes:

    This is a series of snippets intended to lay forth a hopefully amusing departure from Heaven's Feel.
    The circumstances herein aren't necessarily valid per the canon.
    For a version of this fic in its original formatting (inclusive of Rubytext), please refer to the Spacebattles edition.
     
    Last edited: Jul 31, 2020
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  2. Threadmarks: 01 : Eve of Divergence
    fallacies

    fallacies Getting sticky.

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    Without, it was just past midnight, but the dawn had here already arrived. Consumed in an azure blaze, the shadowed cavern had minutes ago given way to a windy grassland — scored with countless blades that pierced the earth upright, as far as my eyes could see.

    The eye of the full Moon gazed upon the land — stationary above the vast cherry tree that occupied the horizon.

    This was the unlimited forge; the Boundless Creation of Blades — a testament to the histories that were, and the histories yet to be. If I could help it, the sword that was Saber would be herein laid to rest.

    I had in deploying my Reality Marble intentionally excluded Rider — letting that she move on ahead, as saving Sakura was our top priority. Dealing with Saber was the task to which I could most contribute, and as such my responsibility alone.

    Though I did intend to hold him here, this wasn't precisely a stalling tactic.

    Unlimited Blade Works was in many ways the least favorable environment within which to engage him. Rin had earlier in the evening clarified that Saber's legend — his inherent nature as a thief — permitted him the capability to acquisition and engrave within his being the Noble Phantasms of other Heroic Spirits. This World of mine was so to him as an open armory; and while I'd as of entry reclaimed as mana the Projections available in our immediate vicinity, Crazy-Trip Drive-Idol would given sufficient time let that Saber's unrestricted proliferation of clones arrive upon the weapons still extant a kilometer from our current position.

    Nominally, there wasn't any impeding him, as his iterated corpora were for all that they could render Noble Phantasms legitimately manifest themselves about as physically substantial as holograms — able even to permeate the thresholds of Bounded Fields that blocked the passage of normal Servants in astralization.

    This strategy that Rin devised had consequently gambled on the hypothesis that a Reality Marble could achieve what a typical Bounded Field wouldn't. For the time being, it seemed that she'd been right. Saber could seemingly bypass anything in the World — and so, I would here attempt to obstruct him with the very circumference of a World itself.

    Imitating Archer's skills with Kanshou and Bakuya in Overedge; with Saber's sword projected in double, I weaved between my opponents — pushing my body to dodge as possible; to parry as not. The default shape of these weapons didn't quite resemble Chinese dao, and I had to slightly compensate in their handling — but for defensive purposes, they were adequate.

    Defense was for the moment all that I required of them, as Saber's clones were effectively invulnerable. Offense could wait until the conditions were right.

    If Saber were more tactically minded now than prior his staining, defeating him could easily escalate beyond my means — never mind that indefinitely fending off a mob of Heroic Spirits was in the first place hardly sustainable.

    At present, the several dozen copies of him that had me surrounded wielded in uniform the lance known as the Trap of Argalia — not particularly notable in its features, aside from the matter that it could forcibly render my legs to incorporeality. Merely in the capacity of a weapon wielded by a Servant, though, the lance was more than capable of running me through — and if by its Mystery, I happened to be immobilized, it would be the easiest thing in the world for Saber to follow through with a killing blow.

    This was him at his least lethal — and in the days since the Shadow had claimed him, he'd absent of his Evaporation of Sanity already thoroughly demonstrated the frightfulness of his arsenal.

    Per a single use of La Black Luna, plants, humans, architecture — the very ground itself — all became as grains of Ether. This had been the fate of Ryuudouji — of a significant number of the monks that had inhabited the temple.

    More directly relevant to my present circumstances, there hung from Saber's belt the Luna Break Manual — which had just by virtue of its presence negated from acting against him the majority of Caster's magecraft. It couldn't as of its passive state disperse my Projections, but Archer had early on mentioned off-hand that if the tome were brought to True Name Release, the revocation of Grand Thaumaturgies and Reality Marbles were well within its grasp.

    Saber had prior to his staining not been able to recall the name of the Casseur de Logistille, but there was no guarantee that that was still the case. Disregarding that the mana supplied to him by the Shadow vastly dwarfed the quantity that I could obtain via my connection with Rin, the longer I dallied here, the less I could take advantage of Saber's poor skill in melee combat — the more of a threat he would become to Rider and Rin.

    Unlimited Blade Works would itself serve to arm him — and as his skirmish against Archer had demonstrated, the Projections that he claimed to his Spiritual Vessel could no longer be cancelled by their creator.

    My only choice was to therefore see to Saber's elimination here and now — but that being the case, what rationale was there to allow for the possibility that Unlimited Blade Works could contribute to the level of threat that he could bring to bear? Was briefly containing his proliferation worth the risk that the scenery of my heart might be wielded against the outcome of Sakura's salvation?

    It wasn't, of course — but Rin's initial suggestion that I snipe at him with an arrow crafted of Caster's Noble Phantasm had failed on attempt, even that the blade had properly penetrated his breast. There hadn't been a contract for it to cancel, as Saber was no longer a Servant. He was a Heroic Spirit enfleshed — effectively an extension of the Shadow itself, for all that his Spiritual Core was sufficiently distinct that the World persisted in furnishing him with the Mysteries of his legend.

    The boy who had seemed so harmless and silly at our first encounter was without a doubt qualified to the strongest of the seven classes.

    Between Rin and me, the plan that I now enacted was the only contingency that had come to mind; and if it happened that even the boundary of a World couldn't hold him, then all that I was doing here was meaningless.

    "Found you," I said — readying myself to bring to bear the true strength of the blades at my side. "Trace, on."

    The giant Caligorant had in Orlando Furioso once stolen from the priesthood of Osiris an artifact crafted by Hephaistos — a net of adamant, made to capture the Divine Spirits Ares and Aphrodite in the act of adultery. By fortuitous accident, Saber had in life come unto the ownership of the net; and seeking for himself a sword of pedigree on learning of its history, he'd returned to his native England to seek out the hermit Völundr — the legendary smith who had from the spear of Hector of Troy created the sword of Roland.

    By the exchange of a certain favor, Völundr agreed to Saber's request — incorporating the net in the forging of what might now be termed a jabara-ken; else, a so-called 'Galient' sword. Being though that the sword came subsequently only to be of slight repute, it was rather with emphasis upon its original form that it was eventually engraved upon the World in association with Saber's legend.

    As a weapon crafted by Völundr's hand, it was on a technicality not an armament of Divine make — placing it somehow within the comfortable replication of Unlimited Blade Works. More importantly, a read of the original's properties had confirmed that it even at present retained the strength to immobilize immaterial beings of the likes of Divine Spirits.

    I hadn't any clue if Crazy-Trip Drive-Idol could be so suppressed; but if aside from the boundaries of a World, there existed a way to contain the uncontainable, this was my best bet.

    The True Name Releases of the swords that I held were the prerogative of Saber alone — an exceptional privilege committed by the faith that he'd accrued as a Hero of legend to the body of Law that was the World; bound to him now by the World's recognition of his person.

    It was however the nature of my Reality Marble to falsify histories — and irrelevant of deceit, the World had effectively let that I could in a limited capacity assume the mantles of my betters.

    Therefore, I would here defeat Saber with his own weapon — or die trying.

    "— Vulcano Caligorant," I intoned — swinging the swords outward, in imitation of Saber's technique; in imitation of Archer's Kakuyoku Sanren.

    They extended — cast by the momentum of my Reinforcement to detach as segments strung along wire; a storm of blades with myself as the epicenter. Then, with the crossing of my arms, the wires drew taut — constricting about the limbs of every clone in sight.

    "What? This is —"

    Breaking the uncharacteristic muteness that Saber had adopted since his staining, the clones clamored in distress as they toppled to incapacitation. I tuned them out — throwing the twins hilts of my Projections to the earth, where they sank beyond possibility of interference. Without turning, I advanced — pacing past the downed bodies of my former Servant.

    The quarry that I sought sat before me — a clone alike to the rest, bound in bloodied wires that cut into the fabric of his black stockings; his monochrome dress.

    It was said that there existed in every counterfeit a distinction from its original — but that didn't here apply. In appearance; in structure, Saber's reiterations were legitimately identical, one and all — and his actual flesh was nowhere amongst the bodies that I'd felled.

    I'd known this from the start.

    Assimilating the nature of his mount, Saber could per the True Name Release of Crazy-Trip Drive-Idol submerge himself without the World manifest — to a continuum of Imaginary Numbers, beyond physical or thaumaturgical interference. This was a realm that was not; a plot of coordinates that couldn't be — identical in composition to the space of impossible geometries that lay beyond the surface of the Shadow.

    Rin had theorized that in forcibly holding him to a state of trespass unto the inextant, Saber's Noble Phantasm did on account of some instability inherent to its implementation somehow oscillate to discrete iteration the intangible specters of his probabilistic states.

    It happened that the pale-haired counterfeit at my feet would if rendered to a frequency distribution be as equivalent to the very apex of a figurative bell curve — the corpus to which Saber bore the greatest association; the strongest tie of Nidana.

    Conventionally, there wasn't any striking at Saber merely with this — but as Rin had explained, magecraft was fundamentally an exercise of pulling upon the bindings of Nidana as to bring to realization those miracles yet within reach.

    So long as there was a vehicle and a pathway to my destination, the set of possible outcomes was mine to draw from.

    "Trace, on," I said.

    The blade that I selected — brought to hand, but not Projected anew — had long ago been crafted by the Bicchuu Aoe. The technique that I'd thought to employ was by Assassin wielded against Archer at the gates of Ryuudouji — a restricted use of the Multi-Dimensional Refraction Phenomenon, arrived upon by a normal man who for half a century committed himself to the mastery of a single feat of swordsmanship.

    Had I not witnessed Illya's memory; projected the crystalline dagger that was the Tohsaka heirloom, Assassin's technique would've been entirely without my comprehension. Even now, my grasp of it was rudimentary, and performing it would've normally been impossible.

    Here, however — in this World that was all my own — I could at the very least attempt to imitate.

    I raised the blunt back-side of the tachi to the clone's neck.

    "Yield," I said. "Cancel your Noble Phantasm and surrender. There's no need for this."

    The clone grinned, baring his canines.

    "You know that I can't do that, Shirou," he replied.

    No understanding could be reached, it seemed.

    "I see," I said, withdrawing my weapon. "In that case —"

    "Akhilleus Kosmos!" he shouted.

    What appeared in the air between us was the shield of Achilles — extensively detailed in The Illiad — though its history offerred no clues as to how it had come into Saber's possession. Not merely the rounded aspis that it appeared to be, its nature was as a Bounded Field that unto itself contained a World. To penetrate its defense was to war against an entire Kosmos.

    It seemed that Saber thought to turn my logic against me. At this point, though, it hardly mattered. It wasn't the clone before me that I intended to cut. Even that the protections of the Akhilleus Kosmos here iterated extended to Saber himself — what was the weight of a World, compared to Sakura's salvation?

    Unlimited Blade Works reenacted the history of every weapon; prosecuted in acceleration the endless proliferation of histories. A sword of fifteen hundred years of age that I'd only just now seen would be to the World's acknowledgement crafted by my own hand one-and-a-half millennia prior.

    If Saber had divested himself from the 'now' that was here before me, the obvious solution was to cut down every possible 'now.'

    Beneath the sentinel gaze of the Moon overhead, there was within this World no present that I couldn't reach.

    A World alive within the current era wouldn't lose to a World merely of record.

    "Swallow Reversal Imitation."

    — as ■■■・■■■ had practiced it, gazing down across the rice-fields of Miyama from atop Mount Enzou. If it had once been accomplished, there wasn't an issue in its reenactment.

    I cut; I cut; I cut; I cut ...

    There was but a single weapon within my grasp, but in a thousand heres; ten-thousand nows, its blade penetrated Saber's flesh.

    In a possibility far removed from the World manifest, his Spiritual Core was shattered. The clone behind the Akhilleus Kosmos widened his eyes — but broke then into a chuckle.

    "I was right to trust in you, Shirou," he said. "For what it's worth, I'm sorry."

    Along with his shield; along with the blood upon my tachi, his iterated corpora dissolved to motes of golden light. I released the deployment of my Reality Marble, and with its consumption to a blaze azure, I was again within the empty cavern — alone with the knowledge that I'd by my own hand slain a person that I'd considered a friend.

    I had chosen this path. For Sakura's sake, I had killed someone who had at my side stood until the end.

    Once upon a time, Emiya Shirou would've forced himself to forget — to kill the memories; to cast them aside; to bury them, that they would never again surface.

    I was no longer that person.

    My confrontation with Archer had at its culmination crystallized within me the conviction not to regret the path that I walked — not to look away from the tragedies that I'd witnessed; that I'd wrought. The sin that I'd committed couldn't be forgiven — but at Sakura's side, I would for the rest of my life endeavor to make amends for the things that I'd stolen away; that I would continue to steal away, in acting as Sakura's hero alone.

    "Thank you, Astolfo," I said to nobody — pacing deeper into the darkness of the cavern. "I've learned a lot from you."
     
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  3. Extras: SABER : Astolfo Alter
    fallacies

    fallacies Getting sticky.

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    SABER : Astolfo Alter
    Male : Lawful Neutral : 164cm : 56kg

    STR B
    END C
    AGL B

    Mana B
    Luck C​

    :. Class Skills
    • Thaumaturgical Resistance : A
    • Riding : A
    :. Personal Skills
    • Monstrous Strength : C
    • Evaporation of Rationality : —
    :. Noble Phantasms

    Down With A Touch!
    : Trap of Argalia
    Rank D : Anti-Unit

    The jousting lance of the knight Argalia. Bears a tip of gold.
    Though its lethality is certainly inferior, with a mere wound would it be possible to render an opponent's legs to spiritualization; or to otherwise fell them.
    Being as restoration from such a fall would require a LCK check, in the circumstance that [a saving throw] is failed, the Bad Status 「Fallen」 persists.
    However, being that for every 1 turn, LCK is [in this capacity] upwards-revised, success becomes more probable.
    Phantasmal Horse Not Of This World : Hippogriff
    Rank B+ : Anti-Army

    Said to [bear] the forebody of a griffin and the hindbody of a horse, a Phantasmal Beast of an existence that was in the first place 「inconceivable」.
    Though he would be inferior in Rank to the beast of the Age of Gods that is the Griffin, the pulverizing attack come of his charge is comparable to a physical attack of a Rank of A.
    However, the true worth of this Phantasmal Beast does not lie there.
    Being that it came about as a half-breed between a horse and a griffin originally rendered as 「inconceivable」, his existence is extremely indefinite, and he is for just a moment capable of consigning himself to the interstice of (between?) the Dimensions.
    In consequence, he is capable of phasing through all manner of attacks.
    Hooked Dragnet of Fortuity : Vulcano Caligorant
    Rank B (EX) : Anti-Unit

    A net laid forth by the giant Caligorant, capable even of capturing a God.
    ... but be that as it may, by Astolfo's horn did Caligorant fall to a panic and take flight.
    In self-destruction [was he] captured within this net.
    Per various vicissitudes, the net was as of the change in Astolfo's Saint Graph which rendered him to the Saber Class reforged as a sword.
    Called as a whip sword or a jabara-ken (蛇腹剣, "snake-belly sword"; 蛇腹, commonly "bellows" as in an accordion), it is as a romantic weapon for all warriors. (Declaration)
    Indiscriminate Idol Rampage : Crazy-Trip Drive-Idol
    Rank B+ : Anti-Unit (Self)

    Something come of activating the power of the Hippogriff.
    Extant everywhere and nowhere, he becomes as an existence wrought of Imaginary Numbers, plunging enemy formations to chaos.
    To speak it in more concrete terms, beyond [the circumstance] that Astolfo is rendered to multiple bunshin, irrelevant of whether the legitimate article is present or absent, attacks are not received.
    Worse, after the passage of a certain amount of time, Astolfo proliferates as per the manner of a doubling game.
    A rampage of near a hundred Astolfos incessantly chattering is said to be something akin to a nightmare to certain Servants. 
    All-Purpose Thaumaturgical Subjugation Manual : Luna Break Manual
    Rank C : Anti-Unit (Self)

    A volume inherited from a certain witch, which records therein the procedures by which to shatter every thaumaturgy.
    Merely by the possession of such, it is possible to automatically cancel all thaumaturgy beneath a Rank of A.
    Though Reality Marbles or Grand Thaumaturgies asymptotic to such are without the boundaries of this [effect], if in such a circumstance, the True Name [of the Noble Phantasm] is released, by way of reading and comprehending the book, the possibility of the shattering of such may likewise be grasped.
    ... however, Astolfo has completely forgotten [the book's] True Name.
    "All-Purpose Thaumaturgical Subjugation Manual" is likewise [just] a name attached of suitability.
    The Noble Phantasm Name is in actuality 「Abolition Proclamation」 — Casseur de Logistille, it is said.
    The Magic Horn That Calls Forth Panic : La Black Luna
    Rank C : Anti-Army

    A horn that emits an aberrant noise akin to the roar of a Dragon, or the neighing of a Divine Horse.
    Existences within range are assaulted with the impact of an explosive noise.
    In the circumstance that a target's HP is exceeded by the damage, they disperse to dust.
    Granted to Astolfo by the good witch Logistilla, it was used to drive off a large flock of harpies.
    Though under normal circumstances, it's of such a size [as to permit] that it can affixed below the waist, in use, it expands to such a size as to encircle Astolfo.
    The Small World Enclosed By the Azure Skies : Akhilleus Kosmos
    Rank A+ : Boundary Field

    A Boundary Field Noble Phantasm of the variety of defensive armaments, comparable to『the Seven Rings That Cover the Heavens』.
    A shield said to have been crafted by Hephaistos, the God of the Forge.
    A Projection of the very World that Achilles witnessed, its periphery swirls with ocean currents come of the God of the Sea.
    To oppose this shield is to make an opponent of a World — and if activated, it wholly obstructs Anti-Fortress; Anti-Nation; and even Anti-Divinity Noble Phantasms.​
     
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  4. Threadmarks: 02 : Cutting & Binding
    fallacies

    fallacies Getting sticky.

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    As time was of the essence, Rider and I had agreed that she would be the one to evacuate Rin and Sakura to safety. Angra Mainyu was soon to be born, and the tremors of nativity threatened to collapse the Ten-no-Sakazuki upon itself.

    As the last one here and standing, there remained for me a single task.

    So long as the contamination of the Grail persisted uncontained, Sakura would know no peace. I hadn't the means to incinerate the Grand Ritual as a whole — but once upon a time, the deity Hephaistos had forged a certain net.

    What was Angra Mainyu but merely a God?

    "——— Trace, Fractal."

    Compression without limit; dilation without limit; proliferation without limit. Fantasy became as a chaos borne of law; and that which was birthed of nothingness was not of nothingness birthed, but as numerous similarities that surfaced as of dilation.

    "——— I am the bone of my sword."

    I wrote unto the World a legend falsely Tracedto its root — the sword forged at Wayland's Smithy, by the hand of Man become again as the relic once enshrined at Canopus-Upon-the-Nile.

    About me, wires sprung forth from a provenance unknown — tensely drawn to terminals unseen in the shadows of the cavern overhead. The pattern that unfolded was perhaps alike to a spider's web, presenting as bait the remains of my carnality; alike to the roots of a sacred fig, awaiting the arrival of the Moksha.

    Here on out, there would be no further use of Rin's mana.

    She'd mentioned before that the taint of the Grail could likely transmit across a Master-Servant bond. Whether the same applied to the fragment of her Crest that bound me to her mana supply, I couldn't know — but in the circumstance that a worst-case scenario came to pass, it would fall to her as the Master of Rider to serve as Sakura's protector. I couldn't risk her contamination.

    Once against calling forth the jagged dagger of Caster's Divinity, I pierced the bicep of my left arm — severing the contract there inscribed.

    With the dispersal of the dagger, my preparations were complete.

    I opened my mouth — and nearly unbidden; as if on instinct, the words came to me.

    "As the victor of the Grail, I here declare.
    Mine flesh to thee submit, that mine sword be thy Fate.
    I am the one who shoulders all the Evils of the Eternal World.
    I am the one who consumeth all the Evils of the Eternal World."

    In the distance, the monstrous fetus shifted within its womb; momentarily turning its gaze to me as if in curiosity — closing and opening its nictitating membranes. Then, along with its vessel, it abruptly contorted — collapsing in upon itself to the form of an origami flower, the size of a human; a sakura in bloom.

    Above the crater of the Ten-no-Sakazuki, it drifted momentarily before evaporating to motes of crimson light.

    A pain shot through me — far more intense than that of the wounds that I'd so far sustained. Involuntarily, I grimaced — glimpsing through the growing splotches of black that consumed my vision a surfacing upon the skin of my arms Command Seals in the manner that Sakura had borne, encroaching across my body as an intricate tattoo.

    The battle wasn't yet concluded. There was still a little ways to go.

    "——— the False Dragnet of the Lame God."

    Binding my arms, wires of adamant did within the space of a breath tightly constrict about my torso; drawing blood as they ground against the mesh of blades beneath my skin. There wasn't of course a guarantee that this would stay the descent of the God that was wished for, but so long as my will endured; that I remained myself, I would attempt to hold out for Rider's return — that with her eyes, she could seal me to petrification.

    Merely a moment on, however, I comprehended that I'd strayed from my mark.

    In the agony that had overwhelmed my being, something alien had been roused — of frightening familiarity, as if I'd known of it all along.

    My field of vision diminished to a featureless dark as I collapsed to my knees.

    "Welcome home, ■■■," said a woman's voice.
     
  5. Extras: "Shirou is excessively OP in this fic!"
    fallacies

    fallacies Getting sticky.

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    Capabilities attributed to Shirou in this fic, to present:

    Chapter I -
    • Projection of Rule Breaker; Reinforcing it as an arrow

    • Projection of an incomplete replica of the Jeweled Sword of Zelretch, based on blueprints provided by Rin and the memories of Justeaze Lizrich von Einzbern, supplied by Illya; deriving from observing Kojirou's Tsubame Gaeshi a rudimentary comprehension of Multi-Dimensional Refraction Phenomenon

    • Deployment of Unlimited Blade Works; intentional exception of a nearby person from inclusion into the territory

    • Reclaiming Projections within Unlimited Blade Works as mana

    • Projection of Vulcano Caligorant x2

    • Imitation of Emiya's skill in wielding Kanshou and Bakuya in Overedge

    • Imitation of Astolfo's skill in wielding Vulcano Caligorant; applying it to Kanshou and Bakuya

    • Deriving the history of Vulcano Caligorant

    • Reinforcement of own physical performance

    • True Name Release of Vulcano Caligorant, binding all Astolfo clones created in his deployment of Indiscriminate Idol Rampage

    • Utilizing Unlimited Blade Works to analyze Astolfo's deployment of Indiscriminate Idol Rampage; identifying the clone most associated with Astolfo by tie of Nidana

    • Projection of Bicchuu Aoe

    • Utilizing the nature of Unlimited Blade Works as a World to observe Adjacent timelines within its context

    • Imperfectly imitating Kojirou's skill with Tsubame Gaeshi to circumvent Akhilleus Kosmos; making use of a rudimentary comprehension of Multi-Dimensional Refraction Phenomenon and the observation of Unlimited Blade Works to cut at Astolfo in multiple Adjacent timelines
    Chapter II -
    • Altered Projection of Vulcano Caligorant, per Caladbolg II; the Diktuon Amphigyeis

    • Projection of Rule Breaker; severing of the transplanted portion of Rin's Crest from Rin
    "Shirou is excessively OP in this fic!"

    Yes, he is. Because, I couldn't stand that all the Shirou-wank fics out there wank him so poorly.
    That said, quite a number of the feats that I attribute to him are in fact canonical, or nearly so.
     
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  6. Threadmarks: 03 : Inheritor of Wishes
    fallacies

    fallacies Getting sticky.

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    There was a woman who loved her husband dearly; who, alotted the fate of death, desired that he could in her absence yet endure. Unto her final moments did she pray his deliverance — that in her passing, he would find again a light to sustain his heart.

    He took upon himself the Wishes of the White Grail.​

    ... Illyasviel?

    There was against the Grail once drawn a certain blade — the hopes and wishes of Man, crystallized in a prayer for a future unchained. Thus did the Evils of the Eternal World sup upon the dream of a Promised Victory — upon the oath of a salvation unsullied.

    He took upon himself the Wishes of the Last Phantasm.​

    Thus did it recall the vows of a boy who was long ago sacrificed.

    He took upon himself the Wishes of the False Messiah.​

    What?

    There was a girl raised as a sacrifice to the wishes of an ancient house. In the absence of salvation; in answer to the atrocities upon her inflicted, she gorged herself on the tragedies of others — driven merely of an innocent wish that somebody could stand beside her; could hold her as she cried.

    He took upon himself the Wishes of the Black Grail.​

    Why are you showing me this?

    There was a boy who wandered through a burning city, so selfishly focused upon his own survival that he'd turned his gaze from those still ravaged by the flames, yet alive.

    He took upon himself the Wishes of the Fallen.​

    There, he met a man who'd cried, even as he smiled. Amidst the ruins of a dream, the man had found at last a ray of hope — and the boy, glimpsing his expression, wondered if he could one day know such solace.

    He took upon himself the Wishes of the Hero of Justice.​

    You're saying that I'm a vessel for the wishes of others?
    That I fight for an ideal not my own?
    I'm well aware.
    You're just reiterating what Archer already established.

    The boy had sealed away the memories of his home; of the smile of the kind woman who had once been his mother. But as far removed as he was — in space; in time — these recollections were ultimately unforgotten, even that he rarely called them to mind. There was nothing uncertain about this, he thought.

    Thus, he didn't notice that something had slipped his grasp.

    He had forgotten that he too had died — within the arms of his father, beneath a house collapsed. He'd died in terror; in agony — and then he'd lived again, reborn from the burning mud as the facsimile of a human being; a perfect fake.

    The Grail sought the granting of a wish. This was its nature.

    In the War for the Grail ten years prior, a victor had emerged that refused his bounty. Such an outcome was unpermitted. Therefore, something had been born within the cauldron of Greater Grail; had sought out the former Master of Saber, as to inherit his dream.

    To save the child before him, forth from his flesh did Emiya Kiritsugu draw a wondrous sheath — the catalyst that had as his Servant summoned the King of Knights. The Mud of the Grail was so consumed by the Garden of the Ever-Distant Utopia —

    Thus had Emiya Shirou come to be.

    What-

    Rejoice, my son — for the Curse called as the False Inscription of Ten Thousand Phenomena was from the very outset the salvation of all that you hold dear.
     
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  7. Threadmarks: 04 : Cardial Realm
    fallacies

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    Again amidst the field of swords, I could only gaze upon the inferno of ten years prior.

    Behind me, a man chuckled — but cast now in a flesh of steel, I wasn't able to turn my body.

    "To think," he said, "that the child whose birth I sought to bless was before me this entire time. Truly, the Lord is mysterious in His grace."

    At the edge of the Circuitous Coronary Corridor — the Cardial Realm of Ten-no-Sakazuki — the man here with me had frankly expressed a desire to witness for himself the birth of Angra Mainyu; that he might determine if the Evils of the Eternal World would in self-regard lament its nature.

    "Tell me, Emiya Shirou," he said. "It was the hope you gave to Matou Sakura that opened the way to the tragedies of this War. Do you regret your actions? Do you feel remorse for the deaths that you've wrought?"

    Something cracked — not without, but within my skull.

    "I needn't ask, of course," he continued. "I already know your answer. You cannot regret giving her hope, as that was the only permissible choice. You merely abhor the outcome, even that it was entirely beyond your control. The deaths of innocents were neither of your intention nor design, but an inevitable consequence of your nature."

    The rusted mesh of my muscles shattered, rendering that I could once again of my own volition move — if torturously, emitting a metallic screech as I turned.

    It dawned on me that I objected to his characterization — sufficiently that even if I didn't dislike him in particular, I had within my heart not the slightest desire to give him the satisfaction of a last word.

    Maybe it was pride. Maybe it was spite.

    "Angra Mainyu is no longer," I said — machine-like in my articulation. "Emiya Shirou has concluded his purpose."

    Meeting his eyes, I pulled a katana from the ground beside me. From the point at which the blade withdrew from the grass-covered earth, a shallow black fluid spilled forth — racing to the horizons with unnatural speed.

    Glass-like — smooth and flat — the viscous black reflected the golden hues of the dawn; the vast cherry blossom that bloomed upon the horizon; the full moon overhead.

    "The one you sought was never here," I said, readying my sword before me. "The only answer I hold at hand is the future yet unwritten."

    As if he'd anticipated my reply, Kotomine Kirei smiled amicably.

    "I suppose it's time for a rematch, then?" he asked.
     
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  8. Threadmarks: 05 : The Culprit Takes the Stage
    fallacies

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    Tohsaka Tokiomi had been born of the joining of two distinct thaumaturgical traditions. The transplant of the disparate protocols that respectively comprised his mother and father's Crests rendered that his early life as a magus interspersed the grueling training demanded by his father's martial art with the torturous labor of integrating foreign spiritual organs across periodic bouts of deathly illness.

    Inspired by his childhood experiences, perhaps, one of Tokiomi's primary contributions to the family Crest had been a revamp and expansion of the restorative functionality it engaged as of the critical injury of its host — an automation of physiological vitalization and reinforcement per the Oriental practice of optimizing the circulation of mana along the meridian channels of the soul and the corpus.

    Really, it amounted merely to a ramping up of the body's inherent healing capabilities. As an addition to the regeneration the Crest enacted by invocation of external Foundations, however, it guaranteed that Rin could with sufficient mana rapidly bounce back from any injury that wasn't immediately mortal — at the least, relative to magi of lineages comparable in age and history.

    Being though that her father had held perseverance in adversity as the very cornerstone of the elegance with which a magus of proper birth should conduct themselves, the Crest was thoroughly scrubbed of any features that had in its prior iterations blunted the sensation of pain, or fatigue come of the accelerated consumption of nutrition. Consequently, whenever Rin had had to rely on its faculties for emergency healing, she ended up feeling absolutely horrendous in the aftermath.

    "Ugh," she groaned, pushing herself from the ground to a sitting position.

    The tear in her clothes where Sakura's attack had penetrated her abdomen revealed unblemished skin — but in exchange for mended intestines and a whole kidney, Rin felt as if she'd taken unto her body a year's worth of Monday mornings; the muscular ache of falling asleep in the wrong position, thousand-fold. At the least, the color of her shirt would somewhat conceal the red of her blood until she gathered herself enough to restore it.

    "The tremors have ceased," said a woman, a distance away.

    Blearily, Rin surveyed her environs — a forest clearing, lit by the waxing crescent overhead. The Jeweled Sword that Emiya-kun had projected was in the grass beside her — still extant, but presently inactive. A meter or so away, Sakura lay unconscious — restored to her normal coloration, but clad in a torn, bloodied dress.

    Nearby, Rider stood upon a boulder, 'gazing' into the shadowed woods with blindfolded eyes.

    "Rider," she said. "How long was I out?"

    "Several minutes at most," the woman replied. "Sakura is no longer bound to the Curse of the Grail, and upon the energy supplied to her from the Far Shore, her body has begun to repair itself. It would seem that she's out of danger."

    That answered a few questions, but introduced several more. Given how hyper-focused Rider was on Sakura's safety, though, if she believed that Sakura would be fine, Rin would trust in her assessment for the time being. That said —

    "Why is Emiya-kun —"

    "Emiya Shirou has elected to remain within the cavern, as to attempt a suppression of the Curse. Besides to observe that the portents of the Evil God's nativity have ceased, I can't from here determine if he succeeded. As in the circumstance of his failure, we agreed that I would clean up after him, it's my intention to investigate."

    Now that Rider mentioned it, the escalating malice of Angra Mainyu was no longer a palpable presence in the atmosphere. It didn't necessarily mean that the threat was resolved, though — and even that Sakura was at present seemingly bereft the influence of the Curse, so long as the Evil God's elimination wasn't confirmed, Rin couldn't afford to rest. As the Second Owner of the Land of Fuyuki; as a sister, she was obligated to settle the matter.

    Wincing as she stood upright; forcing herself to overcome her vertigo, Rin patted the loose grass from her clothes — taking note that her mana capacity was despite her healing seven parts full.

    It was two parts more than she would normally keep in accumulation; but having already expended her store of jewels in the past few days, if she hoped again to be of use tonight, she'd likely have to rely on her restricted use of the Kaleidoscope once more.

    "I'm going back in with you," she announced.

    Rider turned to 'stare' at her, through her blindfold.

    "And leave Sakura here alone?" the woman asked. "No. You'll only be of hindrance to me. If I don't return within a quarter of an hour, assume that I've been claimed by the Curse, and immediately retreat with Sakura. Your duty as a sister comes first and foremost."

    Before Rin could reply, Rider had spiritualized — rapidly distancing herself from the clearing, to Rin's grasp of her mana signature.

    Frowning, Rin looked to the two remaining Command Seals on the back of her right hand. If she wished, she could attempt to continue the conversation via telepathy — but given Rider's mood, it was doubtful that the woman would even reply.

    Closing her eyes, she sighed.

    "I have the worst luck with Servants," she muttered aloud.

    Tilting her head to release the crepitus built up in her neck, Rin retrieved her Jeweled Sword from the grass and knelt at Sakura's side — initiating a spell to confirm that Rider's reading of her sister's condition wasn't off the mark.

    Excepting the use of Gandr, Curses hadn't been a primary focus of Rin's self-study; but as to fulfill her duties to the Land of Fuyuki — to periodically survey and contain if necessary the malevolence of the Central Park in Shinto — she'd refined her diagnostic protocols as to pick up expressions of Curse-asserted distortion that her senses couldn't directly grasp.

    Said protocols informed her at present that Sakura's soul and corpus were seemingly clear of malignant information — inclusive of the residual contamination that typically survived her own efforts at Curse displacement.

    "Caster's Noble Phantasm, hm?" asked Rin. "This whole mess would've been a lot easier to deal with if anyone at all could True Name Release Emiya-kun's Projections ..."

    Ignoring for now the solid block of nonsense that was Emiya Shirou, it did seem that the mana that now accumulated to Sakura's body was rather inefficiently coercing her flesh to repair itself — but from where was she deriving the energy?

    Illya had several nights prior grudgingly permitted Rin a glimpse of the workings of the Lesser Grail incorporated to her soul. By the comprehension Rin had arrived upon in the time allotted, she'd earlier this evening presumed that the unending mana Sakura had brought to bear was come of the vast pool of energy within the Greater Grail — previously employed by Illya to power the engine of destruction that was Berserker.

    Not so long ago, perhaps this might've been the case; but with Sakura's severance from the bondage of the Grail — absent any discernible use of environmental mana; of any clearly-defined channel to external mana provision, she was at present rapidly replenishing her energy to capacity regardless.

    "... a perpetual motion machine of the first kind," said Rin, softly thinking aloud. "Energy supplied from the Far Shore ..."

    Ergo, the instantiation of the soul. A vestige of Heaven's Feel, remaining in the wake of All the Evils of the World — which would independent the capacity to actually wield the 3rd attract nevertheless precisely the wrong sort of attention from the Clock Tower.

    Rin could feel the beginnings of a headache.

    "I'll deal with it when I deal with it, I suppose," she said, sighing.

    Removed of the resources of her atelier, no solution could be had in short order; and so it could wait until the situation with the Grail was properly handled — if indeed it was. But rather than worrying after the what ifs beyond her immediate control, Rin elected to busy herself with a more tangible issue.

    The removal of Matou Zouken's Heart Worm was apparently come of a physical breach of Sakura's rib cage — violent and self-inflicted, accounting for the pattern of tissue damage and the internal bleeding that remained. The psychological state of her sister aside, the injury would per the present progress of its recovery likely hamper physical activity for days to come — and considering that the threat of Angra Mainyu was still potentially imminent, these were days that certainly couldn't be afforded.

    Mana was fundamentally vital energy, and provided an abundant supply — not in extreme excess — a living organism would 'naturally' tend toward an optimization of corporeal wholeness and functionality. This wasn't however a process of particular economy; and purged now of her Crest Worm infestation, Sakura's healing — accelerated as it was — wasn't helped along by the enactment of any restorative Mysteries. Further, the mana in circulation actively obstructed external interference — in theory, opposing curative magecraft with a Thaumaturgical Resistance perhaps on par to a Servant's.

    To overcome obstruction, then, the mana committed would need to exceed the quantity in circulation. The problem was in essence of a similar character to the unlimited proliferation of shadows that Rin had faced down in the Ten-no-Sakazuki — if not quite on the same scale.

    "You've already handled this once," she said to herself, holding her Jeweled Sword before her. "How hard could it possibly be?"

    As it turned out, it wasn't difficult at all; merely time-consuming. Whereas cleansing and restoring clothing to a semblance of decency took a mere matter of seconds, making headway with her sister's internal organs required considerably longer. Torn musculature was mended just to a point of functionality around the time that Rider finally returned — a body in tow.

    "That's ... Emiya-kun?" Rin asked, terminating her spell and warily approaching.

    The person that Rider deposited to the grass of the clearing didn't much resemble Emiya Shirou in silhouette; but beneath the criss-crossed wire that tightly bound their torso, Rin could make out what remained of the raglan sleeve jacket that Shirou so frequently favored.

    Moreover, she could vaguely sense the fragment of her Crest transplanted to Shirou's shoulder — cleanly severed from her soul, but recognizable nonetheless.

    "He asked that I return and petrify him if need be," Rider replied. "But, given his condition, I'm not certain that there's a need. When I returned to the cavern of the Greater Grail, Angra Mainyu's presence had entirely vanished. Tentatively, I would presume that Emiya Shirou was successful in his endeavor."

    Was this a trap? It didn't seem that Rider had been blackened in the brief time she'd been gone — but to the matter of misapprehension, Servants were of no more immunity than humans. Was Angra Mainyu merely lying dormant beneath her notice — plotting to make use of Shirou the way that it had Sakura?

    The changes in his appearance suggested such a likelihood — but if possible, Rin didn't want to be responsible for his elimination.

    "He's safe, if that's what you're wondering," said the voice of a man.

    Rider tensed, turning her head to the woods nearby. Footsteps approached, and there emerged from the shadows of the trees a pale-haired Caucasian man in a white Inverness cape and suit; a magus, by the clear activity of his Circuits — surfacing to her senses not a moment before he'd announced himself.

    "I've been observing Mister Emiya for some time now," he continued — speaking in shockingly fluent Japanese, akin to a Servant. "It was by my design that the Paladin Astolfo came forth as his Servant — yielding him the victory of the War."

    The confidence with which the magus carried himself had to be justified in a reasonable certainty that Rin and Rider wouldn't be able to overcome him if things went south, regardless that they hadn't detected a Servant in the vicinity. Further, considering what he'd just now stated —

    Was he tipping his hand that his area of thaumaturgical expertise was highly precise augury — possibly predetermination?

    And why was it that his lips didn't quite synch up to the words that he spoke?

    "... Why would you do that?" Rin asked, unwilling to relax her guard.

    "It was necessary, you see," said the man. "If Emiya Shirou had summoned a Servant sans my interference, he would've obtained a different outcome — a different solution to the Problem of Evil, and a Greater Grail consumed to ash."

    Setting the foot of his cane upon the ground before him, the man smiled disarmingly.

    "For what it's worth, I do apologize for the abrupt intrusion," he continued. "My name is Marisbury Animusphere — the head of the Faculty of Astronomy at the Clock Tower, and the Master of Caster."

    "Caster!" Rin blurted. "But, Medea of Colchis was —"

    "— was despite her low standing as a figure of myth amongst the most capable of the magi born of distant antiquity," said Animusphere. "On the merit of her thaumaturgical skill alone, nobody would question her standing as the proper Caster of the War. Rather, so long as she herself could be led to the comprehension that her Saint Graph hadn't been tampered with; hadn't been summoned by way of Caster's manipulation of the Grail's Reserve System, there wouldn't have other than Makiri Zolgen been a single participant of the War capable of noticing otherwise."

    He chuckled.

    "It's a shame that even the greatest are brought low by the calcification of old age. Blinded by urgency, he either took no notice of my plot, or thought it below him to directly confront me. It's unfortunate, as it robbed me of the opportunity to thank him for the favor of fundamentally adulterating the Saint Graphs of every Servant come of the Grail of Fuyuki."

    "I assume you're referring to the Servants' Spiritual Vessels?" asked Rin. "How were they adulterated?"

    "The Command Seals that mark you as a Master aren't merely a Curse as to bind Servants unto obedience," Animusphere replied, "for even a Curse crafted by the hand of the legendary Makiri Zolgen is in the end merely a clever artifice constructed by a modern magus. It would've been imprudent to trust that such a thing could ever contend against the sheer force of will that a Heroic Spirit could bring to muster. Therefore ..."

    He left the words dangling, but Rin was able to complete the thought.

    The Servants of the War in Fuyuki were uniquely acquiescent to Command Seals, even that modern magecraft shouldn't have carried the power to compel the Heroes of antiquity. As the Seals could despite this operate as advertised, it stood to reason that the Servants they bound were from the moment of inception borne of built-in vulnerabilities.

    But, if that were the case, wouldn't a Caster Class Servant notice, and —

    Ah, thought Rin.

    "You're saying that on account of your tampering, Medea of Colchis was unable to recognize that she wasn't in fact the Caster of the War?" she asked.

    "I'm saying," said Animusphere, "that from the start, the Grail of Fuyuki was built to compromise the mind of every Heroic Spirit it summoned forth. Thus, if a Caster of abilities sufficient to reverse-engineer the Grail's construction were to be granted direct access to its Grand Ritual —"

    — to some extent, the War could be orchestrated, like a play.

    Medea of Colchis was reputedly one amongst the five most capable magi of antiquity. Pulling the wool over her eyes required at the very least a Caster of greater qualification — and that yielded a very short list of Heroic Spirits. Somewhere amongst them was the Servant summoned forth by Marisbury Animusphere.

    "... Medea's participation in the War was just a ruse?"

    "Indeed, Miss Tohsaka. Falsifying her status as the proper Caster of the War permitted that my Servant and I could act with impunity — dodging even the notice of the Overseer of the War."

    Hence, he'd outright stated his intention to 'produce' Emiya Shirou as the victor of the War — a fiction wrought of truth, for the consumption of any interested observers. Presumably, Rin thought, he hoped to steal away the prize unnoticed, and abscond into the night without a trace.

    But if that were the plan, why reveal himself now?

    Was it that secrecy needn't be kept in the face of a loose end soon to be disposed of?
    Or had something unanticipated forced his hand?

    "Why are you explaining this to me?" she asked, clenching her hands into fists.

    "I'm a pacifist, Miss Tohsaka," Animusphere replied. "A teacher first and foremost. I intend at present nothing of harm to you and yours, and hereby approach you with a truce. My request is merely that you consign the Greater Grail of Fuyuki to my care. Recognizing that to yourself, Matou Sakura, and Illyasviel von Einzbern, it's as an inheritance of incalculable import, I'm willing to compensate you as my ability permits."

    Theatrically, the man bowed with a flourish — but in this gesture, there was nothing of deference.

    "As a token of goodwill," he said, "I've taken the liberty to acquire the rights to the various properties and businesses lost to the House of Tohsaka per the mismanagement of Kotomine Kirei. These will be returned to your ownership irrelevant of whether or not you accept my proposal."

    At his pronouncement, it took Rin a moment to recover enough to speak.

    "... just how much were you willing to give us, exactly?"
     
  9. Threadmarks: 06 : Of the Descent of Morgan and the King Unsigned
    fallacies

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    But still the heat of the golden sheath was not to be quenched.

    So long as the King endured in his hubris — in his quest for the Holy Grail — it would evermore stand an attestation to his place amongst the living, and so persist in its wondrous faculties.

    Removed of its bearer legitimate, the sheath would answer yet the King his sword; answer yet the kin of his blood. Come thus upon the Fifth War in the land of Fuyuki, it awoke first to the light of Excalibur that ten years prior tainted the Holy Grail; and then again to the blood of Morgan —

    — what flowed the veins of Aelfthrith of Crowland, child of Cynethryth, once the betrothed of Aethelbert the King; known upon the Continent by the name of Astolfo.

    By his ties to Aelfthrith and the Grail was Emiya Shirou cast by the sheath as a sword to be wielded; and thereafter, twice delivered from the embrace of death. Revealed then for the Curse that he was, his life as a human came to an end.

    It was ever unto 'perfection' that the sheath endeavored to regress its holder; to a state of optimized functionality, determined of a parametric accounting of the holder's very soul. Such a thing could be lifted even of a Lesser Grail — a replica of a Maiden of the Rhine, crafted by the hand of Man.

    But if to begin with, nothing so much as a blueprint could be had; if the holder was itself but a Dream of Promised Victory — what was the sheath to do?

    Per the orders writ within it by the Faeries of the Lake, it could default only to its highest priority — the reenactment of the Once and Future King.

    The blade drawn from the sheath was neither Arthur nor his son; nor his kin amongst the Franks; nor amongst the emperors of Rome. Nor was it the swordsman of the cherry blossoms, who had served once the final Shogun of the Rising Sun — of the blood of Claudia Augusta, daughter of Rome.

    Bound within the net of Hephaistos was a sword unsigned — a Once and Future King unprophesied; as yet Undesignated.

    Perhaps, it was even a Love of Man in infancy.
     
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  10. Extras: SABER : Astolfo Alter : Historical Personage
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    SABER : Astolfo Alter

    :. Historical Personage

    A fictitious paladin of Charlemagne, attested in the Matter of France and related literature.

    In Canto VI of Orlando Furioso, Astolfo is given as a prince of England, son to a king by the name of Otho or Otto. This is likely Offa of Mercia (? - 796) — a contemporary of Charles the Great (748 - 814).

    However, Offa's only son, Ecgfrith (? - 796), matches little of Astolfo's figure in legend, and was notable only inasmuch that he was the first English king consecrated at coronation; a man rejected by Charles I as a betrothed to his daughter Bertha (779 – 826). Following his father's death, he was seated as a king of Mercia for a mere 141 days before dying himself to unknown illness.

    Offa's queen, Cynethryth — attested to in Beowulf as a reformed sinner by the name of Thryth or Thritha; the only Anglo-Saxon queen known to have coinage issued in her name — isn't of known descent, but Vitae duorum Offarum poses that she may have been of the continent; set adrift at sea for unspecified crimes. Making landfall in Wales, she was brought to Offa, and eventually wedded to him — bearing to him a son, Ecgfrith, and several daughters.

    Amongst Offa's daughters, Aelfthrith (? - c. 835) was once engaged to Aethelberht II (? - 794) of the Kingdom of East Anglia — then a client state of Mercia. For reasons uncertain, relations abruptly soured, and Offa ordered Aethelberht's death — arranging for the young man to be beheaded when he came to visit his betrothed.

    Medieval accounts of this event give that Cynethryth may have either personally performed the assassination, or otherwise influenced Offa to order the death; but recent archaeological evidence paints a rather different picture. In particular, the existence of coinage issued in the name of Aethelberht II suggests that prior his execution, he had plans to maneuver East Anglia toward a political independence.

    Circa 794, Aelfthrith is said to have retired to the marshland of Crowland Abbey, where she was built into a cell — living there as a recluse to the end of her life, circa 835. In death, she was beatified as a virgin saint by the Roman Catholic Church; but in 870 — only a few decades subsequent — all relics that remained of her were lost to a Danish raid upon the monastery. In modernity, no evidence remains of the cell she inhabited in Crowland —

    — if in fact she was ever there at all.

    Let us for a brief moment entertain a Fantasy entirely unjustified in historical fact:

    Ecgfrith was the first-born son to a royal house in a turbulent era — strictly raised from birth to fulfill his duty as an heir to the Mercian throne. Of a maternal love, had Cynethryth bore to Offa another son, she might have desired to spare him a similar fate — perhaps obtaining from her husband consent to raise the child as a girl.

    If at his coming of age, there was then an expectation within the court that a daughter should be married off as to further bind a political ally, Cynethryth would to preserve her child's secret seek for him a husband firmly obligated to the royal house of Mercia — for example, the king of a neighboring client state.

    Polygamy once allowed that a single barren wife wouldn't conclude a chain of succession. However, with the gradual adoption of Christianity across the British Isles, such a practice was no longer permissible. To a Christian king suborned as a vassal on the threat of military force, commandment by a political patron to take a man as his bride wouldn't have merely been an insult. It would've been tantamount to an ordered termination of lineage.

    But such a situation could be turned around. For example, if it came to the attention of the Holy See that Mercia intended to make a mockery of the sacred institution of marriage by forcing upon the monarch of a client state a man as a bride, censure was certain to come. And if in arrogance, the vassal king thought to so extort the Crown of Mercia; to threaten them with embarrassment before the Pope —

    — why, it wouldn't be strange at all if they ordered him beheaded; making use of his death as a pretense to retire their child to a convent — away from the machinations of their court.

    At Crowland Abbey in the final years of the 9th century, perhaps there stood an empty cell — never once inhabited.

    And perhaps in distant lands, riding free upon a hippogriff's back, a nameless knight sought his fame and fortune ...
     
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  11. Extras: Figures of Marginal Import in 1st Century Rome
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    Claudia Augusta (January 63 – April 63)

    Daughter to the Roman Emperor Nero (37 - 68) and his wife, Poppaea Sabina (30 - 65); the last known direct descendant of the Julio-Claudian dynasty of Rome. A sickly child said to have died of illness a matter of months after her birth. Thereafter, Nero declared her a goddess.

    Supposing, however, that Nero was in fact a woman, it's a mystery as to who Claudia Augusta's father might've been, as her physical traits are said to have reflected Poppaea Sabina ... ?

    Sporus (? - 69)

    A freedman; formerly a puer delicatus. Said to have borne a close resemblance to Poppaea Sabina. On account of this physical similarity, Nero arranged after Poppaea Sabina's death that Sporus be castrated — taking him as a wife.

    At Nero's death, Sporus entered into the care of several men — including Nymphidius Sabinus (c. 35 - 68), who'd persuaded the Praetorian Guard to abandon Nero to suicide; and Otho (32 - 69) — the 2nd of the Four Emperors, and Poppaea Sabina's former husband. At Otho's death, the 3rd of the Four Emperors, Vitellius (15 - 69), expressed his intent to make use of Sporus as a victim in a gladiatorial reenactment of The Rape of Proserpina. To avoid such a fate, Sporus committed suicide.

    Sporus' name derives of the Greek spora, which refers to "seed" or "sowing."

    Maes Titianus

    A traveling merchant of Roman and Macedonian extraction, documented to have been granted audience with Emperor He of the Han Dynasty (88 - 106), circa the year 100. The travels of Maes Titianus attest to the existence of Sino-Roman contact in the approximate era of Nero.
     
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  12. Threadmarks: 07 : Cast in the Name of God
    fallacies

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    I awoke to the distinct sensation that something was off — but not yet having collected myself, I couldn't quite determine what it was.

    Exhaling, I propped myself to a sitting position, and squinted at my surroundings — brightly illuminated by the sun that entered through the windows. I was home, it seemed, and not particularly in pain — but instead of my washitsu, I'd for whatever reason been put up in the western-style guest room that Rin had at the start of the War commandeered as her temporary quarters.

    Somewhere in the distance, Illya shouted, "Onii-chan's awake!"

    She'd keyed the Bounded Field to inform her if I woke up or something? Of all the casual uses of magecraft ...

    Not that I really had the right to complain. Since Tohsaka had opened my Circuits two weeks prior, I'd lost tracks of the number of times I'd applied a thaumaturgical shortcut to practical convenience — reinforcing my body to ease the burden of crossing the city on foot, for example. A proper magus would likely take issue with that sort of thing.

    Pulling my legs from beneath the comforter, I brought them to the floor — seeking out the pair of slippers that had been placed beside the bed with my tanned feet.

    Wait.

    I stared — wiggling my toes, just to be certain that the feet before me were definitely mine. Somehow, they were.

    The skin was deeply tanned — perhaps to a darker shade than Archer's. From both sides of my face, long, pale bangs hung floorward.

    "What in the world ... ?"

    The voice that emerged from my lips wasn't mine. In fact — scrutinizing myself a bit more closely — the shape of my body was entirely foreign. I'd been vaguely aware that the way the fabric of my pajamas settled on my skin wasn't right — but it wasn't until now that I began to comprehend the full magnitude of the issue.

    In the corner of the room opposite the bed, Rin had placed a standing mirror that she'd brought from her place. An unfamiliar girl stared back at me from the pane — dark of complexion, with extremely light hair, and features that were despite their coloration distinctly Caucasian. In build, she was slender, but —

    — rather more pneumatic than Tohsaka, if not to the level of Sakura or Rider.

    "Trace, on," I said — committing my flesh to Structural Grasp.

    That was the intention, at least — but in the milliseconds that followed, my mind was opened instead to the False Inscription of the Ten Thousand Phenomena.

    Akin to deriving the history of a sword, what surfaced to my consciousness were memories not my own — a vast archive of information firmly extraneous my subjectivity, for all that arbitrary records could apparently be drawn to recollection at the speed of thought.

    What I'd spoken to the final embers of Kotomine Kirei hadn't been a lie.

    I wasn't the God that was wished for. I wasn't the Heroic Spirit Angra Mainyu. However, I was likewise no longer the human called as Emiya Shirou — even that the decade that I'd lived in this house still defined the boundaries of my mind.

    It wasn't that my personality had changed, or that my objectives had altered. The wishes that to this point informed my course were of principal priority; and it was therefore that I wasn't become an omnipotent Chalice as to realize all the wishes of the World. On account of bias could I continue to function on a human scale; as a coherent, finite personality, rather than a process unthinking.

    Merely, the doll of mud once salvaged from the burning city had finally lost its shape.

    The features appointed to implement the dying wish of Irisviel von Einzbern had with the death of Emiya Kiritsugu concluded their purpose; and with my resolution to become the hero of Matou Sakura, so fallen away.

    But, if that were the case, what was it that now defined my form, aside from obligations unresolved?

    The sole feature that I recognized of the girl in the mirror were her golden irises; and Structural Grasp had confirmed that —

    — that despite appearances, my reproductive apparatus was distinctly masculine ...

    The last bit made an embarrassing sort of sense, given Sakura's wishes for the future; but if it were her desires alone that acted now upon me, there wasn't a reason that I couldn't have remained as Emiya Shirou — if, per her tastes, more idealized in physique.

    No; it wasn't a wish that had resolved the cast of my flesh. I'd have recognized it if it were. Rather, it was something that obscured its presence as of a thorough pervasion — which I'd long ago forgotten; never known; taken for granted.

    "Release deployment," I ordered.

    From my Circuits — illuminating at my word as an intricate pattern of tattoos that occupied a majority of my skin — there issued forth a mist of gold, which coalesced before my breast as a beautiful sheath, replete with Mystery.

    This was Avalon, the scabbard of the Ever-Distant Utopia — one amongst the Faerielands that lingered yet upon the Surface. Enclosed within was a paradise of milk and honey — perfect, just, and absent of sin.

    Curses could be displaced; diverted — but breaking them was the sole prerogative of those capable of bringing the severance of karma. It wasn't thus in this capacity that Avalon had acted against me, but merely to bleach me of the Directionality of the God who was wished for — of the six billion Directives not of Emiya Shirou.

    A Curse I remained, nevertheless; but rendered to a potential unallocated, six billion strong, I could thereon only asymptotically regress to the ideal embodied within the sheath itself — to the Once and Future King, of a place that could never be.

    Therefore was I cast as a Sword of Justice.

    "This is the face of Arthur ... ?" I muttered.

    In the corridor beyond the entrance of the room, feet pattered in approach, and the door was flung open. Flustered, Sakura met my gaze with tear-reddened eyes.

    "S- Senpai?" she asked, hesitantly.

    Holding the sheath to my lap, I smiled weakly at her.

    "Sorry that I worried you, Sakura," I replied.

    Closing her eyes and shaking her head, she lowered herself to the bed and embraced me tightly.

    "I thought that you —"

    She broke off, quietly sobbing into my shoulder.

    "I'm a little different now," I replied. "But I'm still here, and I'm still me. I promised that I wouldn't leave your side, no?"

    Without voicing a reply, she nodded — and the sleeve of my top was wet with droplets of moisture.
     
  13. Threadmarks: 08 : Preparations for the Masquerade
    fallacies

    fallacies Getting sticky.

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    Rin and Sakura had spoken while I was unconscious, and reached an understanding of a sort — at the least, a tacit agreement not to broach the more intimate issues that had yet to be resolved between them; to put these off till later, when things were properly settled to a stable status quo.

    Before that, though, there were a number of practical concerns that needed to be addressed. Thus, the Saturday the weekend subsequent the War — after the girls had finally gotten over the novelty of my new body — Rin decided to call a formal-informal debrief. Voicing an utter lack of interest, Illya had for the afternoon departed with her maids to assess the damage the War had wrought upon the Einzbern property. As Rider had likewise seen no need for her presence, it was in the end just myself and Sakura in attendance.

    "So, this is it, hm?" asked Rin — seated across the table from me and Sakura, looking upon the artifact that rested before her. "The sheath of the Excalibur? I have to say, Lord Animusphere was really underselling it when he told me what to expect. The weight of Mystery is physically palpable."

    Apparently, Avalon might've served as a catalyst to the summoning of Arthur Pendragon; but on account of the tampering of True Caster, the Formalcraft array chalked upon the floor of my storehouse had brought forth Astolfo as the Saber of the War instead. Hearing of this, I was vaguely relieved that I hadn't had to accommodate a legend so intimidating as the Once and Future King on my limited means.

    Of course, Astolfo was prior his staining quite the headache as well, if for different reasons. He'd synergized far too well with Fuji-nee; and whenever the two of them were simultaneously present, it felt as if my sanity were on the verge of evaporation.

    ... I'd miss him, for all that he was frequently insufferable — girlishly flirting with me in Mount Miyama, in front of shopkeepers that knew me by name. I wondered if it would amuse him that my body was now objectively more feminine than his had ever been.

    "... it would be irresponsible of us to keep it around where it could be stolen and misused," said Rin, "but I'm not certain that there's anyone trustworthy enough to take it off our hands. Lord Animusphere specifically recommended against the Clock Tower, and didn't want it for himself. In that case, maybe we can contact the Church ... ?"

    "If it's a problem, I can just put it back inside me for the time being," I offered.

    Rin visibly winced.

    "That sounds incredibly wrong," she said. "But, putting that aside — considering the effect that the sheath's already had on you, I really don't think it's a good idea to further expose yourself to its influence."

    "I agree with Nee-san, Senpai," said Sakura, chipping in. "So long as we all stay vigilant, there shouldn't be a need for that."

    Personally, I didn't have the sense that Avalon would continue to act on me without a regenerative, defensive capacity; but for Sakura's peace of mind, I clarified:

    "I meant that without activating it, I can stow it away until we find a place to dispose of it," I said. "For the past week, I've just been keeping it in inventory."

    Sakura blinked.

    "You can just summon things out at will?" she asked. "That's a lot more convenient than my Shadows ..."

    "We can talk shop later if needed," said Rin, "but if you're certain that you won't be affected, I'll leave it to you until we figure out something more permanent. Switching gears for a bit —"

    With purpose, she turned to Sakura, very intentionally meeting her gaze.

    "I understand that it isn't something you want to hear, Sakura," she said, "but ... even though I can't agree with his decision, Father truly did have the best of intentions in fostering you to the House of Matou."

    Sakura looked ready to interrupt, but seemed to calm as I grasped her hand beneath the table in reassurance.

    "What I'm saying is," Rin continued, "he felt that you were far too naturally endowed with thaumaturgical talent. If left as you were without a Crest — without training as an heir — you would've been defenseless before the more unscrupulous elements of the thaumaturgical community. I'm not saying the way that Father went about this was the best. It's just that the threat posed by other magi isn't something that we can wave off even now."

    "But I'm already perfectly capable of defending myself," said Sakura. "I'm not certain where you're going with this?"

    Removed of Angra Mainyu's influence, Sakura had nevertheless retained the instinctive ability to manipulate Imaginary Numbers — earlier in the week, demonstrating to me her skill fabricating tiny shadow creatures to act as her familiars. She was hesitant to recreate the large one that we'd engaged later on in the War — but if push came to shove, I was confident that she could reasonably ward off the majority of conventional opponents.

    "That besides," I said, "if I'm aware of a potential threat, I wouldn't leave Sakura to defend herself alone."

    Rin frowned.

    "Nonsensical combat performance notwithstanding," she said, "the two of you are hardly omnipotent. If the Clock Tower were to issue a Sealing Designation to either of you, you'd be up against the resources of a vast organization for an indefinite period of time. At some point, you'd have to rest — and that's all the opening they would need."

    She shook her head.

    "No," she continued. "The best defense would be to altogether preempt the existence of a threat. Outside of standard policies enforcement — unlikely a problem, provided that we go about things carefully — the usual justification that the Clock Tower employs in issuing a Sealing Designation is a reasonable certainty that a highly unique Mystery is beyond inheritance or replication. This wouldn't be a concern to magi of generic stock, but for Sakura ... Without a Crest of Makiri to communicate your abilities to an heir, you'd be flagged for Sealing the moment anyone catches wind of your Shadows.

    "That's why I'll be constructing a Crest for you — so that you pass on your Mysteries when you eventually have a child."

    My knowledge in matters without the mundane had significantly expanded as of the conclusion of the War — if mostly in relevance to items pertinent to my composition. Absent of directly accessing the Clairvoyance of Verg Avesta, though, I was still very much unfamiliar with the cultural practices of thaumaturgical society.

    "Isn't that kinda, like, difficult?" I said.

    Tohsaka nodded.

    "Normally, it would be," she said. "A Crest is generally anchored to the spiritual quintessence of some fragment of a Phantasmal creature, transplanted to the soul of a magus. However — do you recall what I said about Crests the last time we discussed them?"

    Thinking back, I put a finger to my lips.

    "That they're a bit like a Curse that's passed down through a bloodline?" I asked.

    "Yes," Rin replied, "and in lot of ways, that's literal. It isn't a common practice anymore, but there was once a tradition amongst the Russian Kabbalists to bind the inheritance of Mystery to a genetically communicable Curse — the Curse of the Grand Order. The transplanted Crest would in essence merely become a shibboleth to unlock the function of the Curse."

    "I see ... ?"

    I didn't, really — but Tohsaka's habit was to sum things up in an easily comprehensible manner once she'd had her fill of rambling. If we just humored her a bit more, she'd eventually get to the point.

    "As Curses aren't my area of expertise," Rin continued, "actually going about this would take a bit of research. Thankfully, rather than developing from scratch, I would only need to adapt an existing Curse for the task — and there's one sitting right in front of me."

    Ah.

    "What are you talking about, Nee-san?" asked Sakura.

    "You, Emiya Shirou," said Tohsaka, looking to me. "As of now, you're an Incarnated Demon — and Demons are ultimately entities akin to Curses. It's understandable that Sakura isn't interested in living the life of a magus, or training an heir — but if things go as expected, she won't have to. I can just commit the inheritability of her use of Mystery to a Curse of the Grand Order. Your cooperation is the only thing required." She paused. "Or rather, one of the two things that I require."

    I could trust that Rin wouldn't go entirely mad scientist on me — putting me on a dissection table like some kind of lab specimen or so forth. I might've now become a Demon, but she wasn't the sort to deny me my dignity as a sentient being. Probably.

    "What's the other thing you need?" I asked.

    "Babies," said Rin. "At least one. Or, well, actually — preferably one. With an Incarnated Demon on hand — functionally male — the easiest way to commit a Curse to genetic heritability would be for the Demon to father a child."

    "Nee-san!" said Sakura, flushing.

    "D- Don't take it the wrong way, Sakura," said Rin, slightly stuttering as she waved her hands before her. "I'm not telling you to immediately go at it like rabbits or anything. To begin with, I'd need to devise a way to adjust Emiya-kun for the process — and that's likely to take a couple of years at the very least!"

    Deciding to spare Rin the awkwardness of topics best left for another occasion, I said:

    "So, if Sakura and I have a kid, I'd also be safe from a sealing designation?"

    Rin's lips drew into a line.

    "Mm — about that," she said. "I told you that Lord Animusphere intended to 'produce' me as the victor of the War?"

    Shortly after I awoke, she'd explained the basics of the agreement that she, Sakura, and Illya had reached with the man. The Master of True Caster, she'd called him. It seemed that he'd participated in the War solely for the purpose of physically dismantling the Greater Grail and extracting the Core for his own use. All three girls had conditionally assented, abdicating claim to their birthright in exchange for favors.

    Not that I couldn't understand, really. Sakura and Illya had every reason to want the Grail removed; and Rin wasn't keen on having a potential disaster sitting on her property.

    "Yeah?" I asked. "What about it?"

    "I'm still not entirely sure that we can trust him," Rin replied, "but — at the end of our negotiations with him, his recommendation for you was to go with a multi-layered fiction."

    "Multi-layered?"

    "Emiya Shirou died at the end of the War," said Rin. "You're somebody entirely unrelated to him, who I hired to take his place. That's the top-most layer of the lie."

    "Okay?" I said. "What's the next?"

    "Lord Animusphere's willing to assist in falsifying the outcome of the War. If people arrive in Fuyuki to poke around, any attempts at divining the past would end up confirming that the Grail did in fact grant my wish — recreating you as a kind of thaumaturgical construct bound to Sakura. Ergo, Emiya Shirou died, and wasn't somehow resurrected." She paused. "To properly convince the Association of this — if push comes to shove, you think you could pull off Saber's trick with the bunrei proliferation and the submersion in and out of Imaginary Numbers?"

    Emiya Shirou wouldn't have been able to, but the me at present wasn't so restricted.

    The Avesta was as a Noble Phantasm nothing less than a perfect record of the World — incapacitated in its satiation to act upon the World without.

    As a record equal in fidelity — if comparatively less complete — the Verg Avesta embodied in the Avenger of the 3rd could as of bodies colored in its Primordial Curse reflect a perfect reenactment of outcomes observed.

    In contrast, Unlimited Blade Works was a mechanism as to overwrite the World without; to over-paint it in the Otherworldly Common Sense of a Demon. Comprehensiveness and fidelity were reduced per a bias unto melee combat, but phenomena committed to record could be externalized forthright; unadulterated.

    By the action of the Ever-Distant Utopia, I could no longer become the Archer of the 5th; the Avenger of the 3rd; the God that was wished for. The records that I now expressed were as yet restricted in comprehensiveness — less on account of Elemental Affinity, and moreso the boundaries inherent my composition. Fidelity was on the other hand no longer compromised; and by the appraisal of the World, there wasn't any distinguishing a reenactment from its original.

    To put it simply, I was unalike to Emiya Shirou unrestricted to the Projection of swords; or in the reproduction of a Noble Phantasm, to any penalty of Rank come of fidelity insufficient.

    This was only to be expected. Even that in Avenger's use of the Verg Avesta, nothing at all was physically manifest to the World without the coloration of its Curse — so as to perfectly reenact the outcome wrought by a Noble Phantasm, the Noble Phantasm in question had to be perfectly committed to record.

    The complete use of Indiscriminate Idol Rampage was well within my grasp.

    "I think so, yeah," I said.

    "In that case," said Rin, "we'll have the Clock Tower discover that you're a familiar to Sakura. If we publicly establish her command of Imaginary Numbers, it'll be a known quantity that she's able to fabricate familiars at will. More of the same on a larger scale shouldn't be a surprise to anyone."

    "Won't the Association suspect that I'm a Demon, though?" I asked. "I assume that they'll have ways to detect Curses."

    "Familiars animated by Curses aren't uncommon," said Rin. "Meanwhile, fully Incarnated Demons are so exceedingly rare that certain demonologists have voiced their doubts on the legitimacy of the documented cases. More likely, you'll just be seen as a high-performance golem or homunculus; something akin to a Ghost Liner."

    Pretending to be a Servant, hm? That was ... well.

    It wasn't unacceptable, as fictions went. I'd never really minded the reputation I'd acquired as 'a Brownie' or 'a Fake Janitor.' Being regarded in the same light as 'a golem' or 'a homunculus' was really just more of the same.

    "This Animusphere guy wants the Grail without advertising himself as the victor," I said, "so — I guess it'd eventually be discovered that the Greater Grail somehow evaporated after you made your wish?"

    "Something like that, yes," Rin replied

    "... given that Kotomine was posted here specifically to act as the Grail's caretaker, wouldn't the Church complain about it? Or the Illya's family, for that matter?"

    "I'm on good terms with the Church," said Rin. "They'll let it go — particularly as the Grail was to begin with never actually theirs. As for the Einzberns — Lord Animusphere said that he would go and have a chat with them."

    That sounded like the sort of euphemism Fuji-nee's grandfather would use when talking about work.

    "Anyways," said Rin. "You're both on-board with the plan?"

    Sakura didn't seem entirely happy, but hesitantly nodded — turning to me.

    "If Senpai's fine with it," she said, "I'll consent as well, tentatively. Though, I don't really like the idea that the Clock Tower wouldn't regard Senpai as a person ..."

    I squeezed her hand.

    "I don't have any issue with it," I said. "And it's not as if the opinion of a bunch of politicians informs my sense of self-worth."

    Rin nodded.

    "I'll begin making arrangements, then," she said. "And while we're on the topic, Emiya-kun — there's also the matter of your new appearance, and what to do about your legal identity."

    Reflexively, I looked down to my body.

    Short the energy or leisure for a proper shopping trip, Illya and Sakura had made a morning ritual of using me as a dress-up doll. I'd ended up this morning in an older hand-me-down that Sakura had received from Fuji-nee — a button-up dress that was a little tight around the chest.

    I'd have liked to just put on my usual sweater and pants, but Sakura had been strangely insistent.

    "I don't think it really matters what I look like," I said. "Can't I just pretend to be a maid that you hired from overseas or something? I mean, it's kind of a shame that I wouldn't be able to say goodbye in person to Fuji-nee or her grandfather; but I can probably exchange letters with them, postmarked from overseas."

    Closing her eyes and sighing, Rin pinched her brow.

    "Do you honestly have zero attachment for your life until this point?" she asked. "Emiya Shirou has a social identity — a standing in the community here in Miyama. If he were to vanish, questions would be asked, and the Fujimura-gumi would move to investigate. That just complicates everything — and we wouldn't be able to obtain the necessary paperwork for your new persona without their scrutiny."

    Vanishing outright didn't seem like a terribly complicated solution to me, but it sounded as if Tohsaka already had a plan in mind.

    "In that case, what do you propose?" I asked.

    "Mental Interference," Rin replied. "Specifically, a Mystic Code that forces people to perceive you as Emiya Shirou. I don't know that it'll necessarily work on Fujimura-sensei, though. She's inconveniently sharp when you least expect it, and once she recovers from her hospitalization ..."

    On account of an unspecific something that had transpired in my absence the day that Rin had commandeered her current bedroom, she'd more than once expressed an incredibly high evaluation of Fuji-nee's instinct for Mystery.

    Lacking the details, I didn't know if her opinion was entirely warranted; but Fuji-nee had in the decade past never once noticed anything unusual about my work in the storehouse. It was possible that Rin was being paranoid.

    Still, working within the confines of her plan ...

    "Dad implied before that Fuji-nee's grandfather isn't entirely in the dark with regard to magecraft," I said. "Maybe we could go and speak to him? Have it so that Fuji-nee is present, and just spill the beans. They could probably help us out with relevant paperwork and so forth."

    A Mystic Code as to maintain my identity as Emiya Shirou would be immensely useful; but if Rin's suspicions were accurate, and Fuji-nee was likely to see through the ruse — the obvious solution was simply not to keep the Fujimura in the dark.

    It'd been on the presumption that the scary magi that enforced the masquerade would otherwise threaten the people that I cared about that I'd for so long kept my magecraft to myself; but it never really sat right that I'd had to keep secrets from Fuji-nee and her grandfather. Now that it had come to light that the individual locally responsible for the masquerade's enforcement happened to be a certain Tohsaka Rin, secrecy didn't seem so urgent a need.

    At my proposal, the girl herself seemed skeptical — but relented with a sigh.

    "I suppose we'll have to deal with the Fujimura sooner or later," she said, "and it's better that we take the initiative. Though, are you really certain about this? Seeing as we're literally going to be making the case that, yes, humans can in fact completely transform overnight, I'm not sure how you're going to convince them that you're actually Emiya Shirou."

    Per my years of experience dealing with the Fujimura, I'd be surprised if they didn't just look at me sympathetically, and tell me that they wouldn't judge my sexuality. That said, we couldn't afford to be overly optimistic.

    "Wish for the best, and expect the worst, I guess," I replied.

    Hopefully, Fuji-nee's grandfather knew me well enough to recognize that I wasn't an impostor.
     
  14. Extras: Reference Image for TtOP "Shiro"
    fallacies

    fallacies Getting sticky.

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    [​IMG]

    Not with that particular outfit, or that precise coloration, but basically Okita Alter.
     
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  15. Extras: Avesta as a Perfect Record of the World
    fallacies

    fallacies Getting sticky.

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    In modern psychoanalysis, neurosis designates the category of psychiatric conditions whereby ego defenses are expressed in response to trauma absent of a complete incapacity to functionally model reality. Ergo, in Freudian terms, the mature ego is still intact, and the boundary between the self and the other is maintained.

    By contrast, psychosis designates the category of conditions where capacity to functionally model reality is noticeably compromised. If in Freudian terms, the solidification of the ego — of the distinction between the self and the other — is comprehended as a milestone in the growth of the mind out of infantility, psychosis comes about by way of a regression backwards through that threshold, to an infantile state of mental functioning. Thus, when psychiatrists speak of a 'psychotic break,' what's 'breaking' is in a sense the solidified ego of maturity. Psychotic behaviors are therefore not to be designated as mechanisms of 'ego defense,' as the condition of their manifestation is the collapse of a functional ego.

    Per the context above, catatonia is in some schools of psychoanalytic theory comprehended as a psychotic response wherein the absence of distinction between the self and other prevents the individual from acting at all. To rephrase, the catatonic isn't able to move because they can no longer recognize the distinction between themselves and the environment. They themselves have become one with the world.

    Clinical psychology recognizes that catatonia may arise of a number of different causes, including drug use, physical injury to the brain, and schizophrenia. However, psychogenic catatonia appears with some frequency in response to traumatic loss of control over one's life or environment. As an example, resignation syndrome — apparently endemic to Sweden — is a condition resembling catatonia that generally manifests in "traumatized children and adolescents in the midst of a strenuous and lengthy migration process."

    ... thus, existences recorded to the Avesta cannot be externalized to the World without.
     
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  16. Extras: Circuitous Coronary Corridor
    fallacies

    fallacies Getting sticky.

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    Randomly, in reference to the crater of the Greater Grail in Fuyuki:
    The Circuitous Coronary Corridor; the Cardial Realm of Ten-no-Sakazuki.
    Ten-no-Sakazuki (テンノサカズキ) can render as:
    • 天ノ杯 - The Cup of Heaven
    • 天ノ逆月 - The Reverse Moon of the Heavens
    Meanwhile:
     
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  17. Extras: Clarification on the Primordial Curse of Verg Avesta
    fallacies

    fallacies Getting sticky.

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    As a clarification, "sustaining an injury that just barely fails to kill" is not an absolute condition to Angra Mainyu's use of the Verg Avesta. Merely, use of the Noble Phantasm isn't particularly meaningful unless it's specifically made to act against the opponent's strongest attack.

    For the purposes of this fic, not necessarily applicable to the canon:

    The Primordial Curse of the Verg Avesta colors an opponent's flesh almost instantaneously, but this hasn't any obvious function aside from rendering the bounds of the target's anatomy as a canvas for the reenactment of Angra Mainyu's injury. In the case that injury is rendered by a Noble Phantasm, what's reenacted is effectively the outcome of the use of the Noble Phantasm, rather than the Noble Phantasm itself.

    The coloration of the Primordial Curse is an extension of Verg Avesta's [RUBY=territory]jurisdiction[/RUBY], distinct from the World without. Whereas the True Name Release of a Noble Phantasm would typically require explicit acknowledgement from the Human Order, as in the manner of Emiya Kiritsugu's Time Alter, Verg Avesta strictly acts within the bounds of its domain — circumventing the necessity of eliciting the World's recognition. Furthermore, though outcomes are reenacted, it's explicitly the case that nothing is extruded from the records of the False Inscription.

    Comparatively, the Primordial Curse of Shiro's Verg Avesta reenacts the very existence of the assorted phenomena committed to record. Thus, if a mundane sword were to be Projected forth, the Curse would move to actualize the physicality of the sword as of the World without.

    This variation in performance comes of the fact that Shiro isn't directly an iteration of the Heroic Spirit Angra Mainyu. Rather, the doll of mud that was Emiya Shirou was an organism born of the God That Was Wished For — invested not with the faith of a single people, but the Curses of humanity as a whole.

    That is to say, 「Unlimited Blade Works」 has in a certain sense always exceeded 「the Verg Avesta」.
     
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  18. Threadmarks: 09 : Victory is the Absence of Opposition
    fallacies

    fallacies Getting sticky.

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    He walked past abandoned galleries; through corridors pristine in their cold splendor.

    Even that he was unlearned in the arts, he could appreciate still the high Baroque of the architecture; the care to detail that extended to every visual element. But there was to this place a lived-in quality that marked it apart from the historical landmarks of much of the Old World — endowing to the pervasive silence a tragedy that would otherwise not apply.

    Seated at tables; on couches — holding each other's hands, as if in mutual reassurance — the doll-like inhabitants of the castle were as of a deep, unwaking slumber become inanimate; resigned to the finality that their dream would never come to pass.

    It was injust, thought Marisbury, that they would hereforth sit forgotten — excluded to the oblivion that was the destiny of all manner of Fantasy.

    It was, however, an injustice by his own hand wrought, to the end of preserving the Human Order.

    More precisely, in foreknowledge that the fall of the House of Einzbern was sans his intervention probable still, he'd taken it upon himself as to render it certain; not caring at the time that he'd incur the enmity of the remnants of the line, as their dream was in any case a threat to the enduring agency of Man — due inevitably to be confronted.

    In retrospect, absent a completed TRISMEGISTOS, it was still too early to trust in the simulations of Systema Animusphere. Circumstances unanticipated now defined that there was yet a role for the House of Einzbern to fill, if indeed they were so inclined.

    Mentally cuing the spherical astrolabe mounted atop his cane, Marisbury shifted the augmented reality output to his senses by the artificial Photonic Crystal at its core; dismissing from his field of vision the overlay of the mana signatures of forecasted hostiles — presently inextant, per local calculations — and bringing to the fore the projected position of his quarry — still a ways without the effective range of his Mystic Code's sensors, but not too far distant.

    Via an arched doorway off a side-corridor, Marisbury arrived at his destination: the grand reception of the castle — a vast hall with an atrium overhead, and a raised platform opposite his entry for a curiously unornamented throne. There seated was Jubstacheit von Einzbern — the homunculus that had served as the communications interface of the Golem Jubstacheit; the very image of a sage in repose, leaning against an armrest with his chin propped up on a knuckle.

    Facing the throne from the foot of the steps before it, there stood a gaunt, elderly man in a formal suit; and at his side, a young albino girl in a maid's uniform, who peered curiously at Marisbury.

    "Come you here to mock our folly, Stargazer?" the man asked. "Have you not already robbed us of our legacy?"

    "That isn't my intention," Marisbury replied. "I haven't any interest in the attainment of the 3rd, and I'm not so shameless that I would steal for myself a path to the Root forged by another. Rather, I come at present as an agent of Illyasviel von Einzbern, to negotiate on her behalf."

    "The failure wishes emancipation, then? Access to our funds?"

    "She wishes to remove from herself her function as a Lesser Grail, that she can survive unhindered as a human being with a normal lifespan. To this purpose, I'd like to secure your assistance."

    The old man scoffed.

    "Our assistance," he said, "for an objective already within your means? You're a poor liar, Stargazer. Don't think that we're unaware of your trespasses; your ventures into our domain. What was it that you called it again? The Demi-Servant Project — Kyrielight?"

    The man wasn't facing him, but on the off-chance that he was being observed — perhaps via the girl's eyes — Marisbury schooled his expression. He'd known of course that the Einzberns were frighteningly capable, but it was worrying that they'd so extensively compromised Chaldea.

    "Our results," Marisbury replied, "are far too unreliable for use in —"

    "I said, you're a poor liar, Animusphere," the man interrupted. "Giving the failure what she desires would merely be a matter of transplanting her psyche to another corpus. Don't pretend that you haven't the knowledge or the means to furnish her with a spare. The creations of your project would hardly suffer so high a rate of mortality if not for the foreign elements you've intentionally incorporated at their coining."

    The main shook his head.

    "No," he continued. "That isn't the reason you've approached us. Rather, you wish to have us on retainer for our other area of expertise — the administration of the Gold of the Rhine; the Curse of Andvari. You wish our aid in containing the threat that you've inadvertently unleashed — the iteration of Fafnir come most recently of the Grail; the Master of Saber, Shirou Emiya."

    The assessment wasn't wrong, but it likewise wasn't entirely correct.

    Illyasviel von Einzbern desired her flesh removed of the features that compromised her lifespan, but not a removal of her ability to function as a magus. While it wasn't without Chaldea's means to furnish her with a corpus bespoke, complying with her wish could tip to the Clock Tower Chaldea's facility to manufacture first-rate magi essentially on demand. As the Faculty of Policies would hardly allow for such a thing, Marisbury had thought to employ the Einzberns instead. In that regard, the request that he'd just now voiced was in no way illegitimate.

    On the matter of Shirou Emiya, however — the Einzbern hadn't been off the mark.

    Two centuries prior did Justeaze Lizrich von Einzbern sacrifice herself to become as the Core of the Greater Grail in Fuyuki — but it wasn't she alone that comprised the Grail. Its substance was of the Gold of the Rhine — an endless treasure borne of the power to bestow worldly, temporal authority; a totem to Mammon itself, forever cursed to be coveted — to become as a seed of strife.

    It was therefore as a homunculus of the Einzberns — a reenactment of the Faeries tripartite of the Rhine — that Justeaze administrated the Grail as its steward; allowing that in concert with the 3rd Magic, she could call forth the Heroes that in death bore yet a greed within their hearts.

    This was the truth of the Wars of Fuyuki — of the House of Einzbern, who had for two whole millennia safeguarded the Rheingold absent of calamity; absent the complete reiteration of the Curse so commonly come to surface in the coveting of treasure — even that they had as an impetus by which to open a pathway to the Root made use of the avarice of men as to reenact the Nibelungenlied.

    As to suppress the Dragon become as Evil itself, the Einzberns seemed to Marisbury the foremost choice for an ally.

    "In that case," he said, "I apologize for approaching under false pretense. To begin again: I'd like your assistance in suppressing the calamity come of the Ten-no-Sakazuki. As the present holder of the Greater Grail, I offer in recompense the totality of the resources at my command as to restore to you the Miracle of the 3rd, uncontested."

    Humorlessly, the old man chuckled in response.

    "You claim for yourself our highest creation," he said, "and offer to return it for the price of indefinite servitude?" Again he laughed, void of humor; and then turned — pacing away to exit the hall. "Come, Nona. Let us quit this place, and leave this charlatan to his just deserts."

    Breaking gaze, the girl politely curtsied to Marisbury before turning to scurry off after the Einzbern. Alone with the slumbering form of the Golem Jubstacheit, Marisbury sighed.

    "LAPLACE," he called. "End simulation."

    In square panels distributed at random, his field of vision blanked away to the termination of the Serial Phantasm. There was per the usual a momentary paresthesia as the unsummoning protocol evacuated his being from the memory of the DREI-KÖNIGE — the trio of Photonic Crystals that presently served as a placeholder to the yet-to-be completed TRISMEGISTOS.

    In one amongst the seven Klein Coffins situated in the 4th Simulation Room, Marisbury Animusphere opened his eyes to the pneumatic hiss of a hatch release.

    Exhaling, he stepped forth from the cylindrical pod — taking a moment to recover from disorientation; the vertigo come of his ironic incompatibility to the implementation of rendition to a Spiritronic body that he himself had pioneered.

    Unalike to a legitimate transposition via Rayshift, matriculation of the flesh and soul to the controlled environment of a Serial Phantasm wasn't to Marisbury's constitution a significant ablative threat. Owing, however, of an aversion to the visceral discomfort that inevitably accompanied a dive's conclusion, in augury of the future, he much preferred the instantaneous writ of outcomes to his working memory, calculated as of his astrolabe.

    Predictions, though, were only as accurate as the information they were extrapolated from, and a portable Mystic Code could only carry so much memory. Any scenario that demanded active engagement or input was furthermore not so neatly encapsulated to a single data package.

    As to anticipate a human personality; a matter so finely textured as a social interaction; a negotiation of terms, it was necessary to engage the full faculties of LAPLACE — of the Systema Animusphere.

    All things considered, Marisbury supposed that a bit of personal inconvenience wasn't too high a price to pay so to accurately model the conditions to the Einzberns' cooperation.

    Unsteadily making his way to the unmanned terminal before the entrance, he reset the scenario data with a few keystrokes. Normally, this would be the work of a dispatch operator; but as the records pertaining to the House of Einzbern were accessible only at the highest security clearance, he had in his authority as Director of Chaldea released to himself a verbal command of the terminal from within the simulation.

    "No luck?" asked a voice.

    Marisbury started — but then relaxed as a pink-haired man emerged from the corner of his vision. Scandinavia Peperoncino had a penchant for sneaking up on people — amusing himself in eliciting a reaction from his colleagues. Despite this, he was a reliable man for business on or off the table; worthy of trust — for the time being.

    "No luck," Marisbury confirmed — closing out of the program. "I'll take a break for now. Maybe try a different approach in the afternoon."

    "You could maybe take me along, as I haven't anything better to do," said Peperoncino. "I'm certain that with my wiles and beauty, we can get those stuffy old Alchemists to see things our way."

    Privately, Marisbury would rather avoid unnecessarily provoking a prospective ally; but accepting Peperoncino's goodwill, he nodded. Even that completely eliminating the availability of information on the Grail was no longer an option, a show of force inevitably had its use.

    "We'll see how it plays out," he replied.

    Retrieving his already-cooled coffee from the counter, he took a sip and paced with mug in hand to the side of the chamber the console faced — hitting a switch on the wall to withdraw the ceramic radiation shutters into the ceiling.

    Without the reinforced glass, the vast chamber to which the CHALDEAS would soon be relocated sprawled before him in its half-constructed state — notably, still missing the floor that would conceal beneath it the housing of the 0th Thaumaturgical Energy Reactor; the spherical structure formerly known as the Greater Grail of Fuyuki.

    The staff of Finis-Chaldea would come to know of it as the foundation to the Guardian Hero Summoning System, FATE.

    Five stories below, approximately thirty percent of the Grail's volume had here been brought to transposition — to the primary observatory of Finis-Chaldea, at the heart of Antarctica.

    "It's been running since a little after you started up the simulation," said Peperoncino, approaching. "The good professor's projected that it'll finish by nightfall — supposing that everything goes as expected."

    He leaned himself against the medical station, window-ward from the seventh coffin at the center of the room.

    "You've been holding out on me, Maris-kyun," he continued, crossing his arms with a mischievous smile. "Caught me by surprise that Rayshifting's already implemented — and for something so large in scale. Didn't you say that Ajima's still working out the kinks for personnel transport up in Seraphics?"

    Rayshift.

    The adoption of the designation had been the decision of Ajima Hideyasu — the man Marisbury had entrusted with the task of raising the survivability of Spiritron transposition to a serviceable level.

    It was amongst Marisbury's numerous regrets that he simply hadn't the command of the spoken word to acquire fluency without the Romance languages; but according to Ajima's explanation, thaumaturgical researchers in Japan had rendered the term 'Spiritron' as 霊子 (ryoushi), or 'spiritual particle' — of the same pronunciation as 量子 (ryoushi), or the 'quanta' of quantum physics. It was of incidental interest that 霊 (ryou) — the character connoting 'spirit' — could alternatively be pronounced as 霊 (rei); letting that 'Spiritron transposition' could be written in Japanese as 量子転移 (reishi ten'i) — or rather, 'reishi shift.'

    Being as the Spiritron transposition technology was to begin with devised to the purpose of shifting field agents into Adjacent Realities; and Adjacent Realities were as of the standard three-dimensional representation of the Greater History expressed as 'rays' that extended along the time dimension, Ajima's choice of terminology consequently invoked a double pun — terrible and silly enough that Marisbury had felt it obligatory to permanently enshrine it to official documentation.

    "He is," said Marisbury, "and technically, it isn't yet safely implemented. We're losing far too many test subjects, and Mister Ajima isn't confident that results will improve until the TRISMEGISTOS is at seventy or eighty percent completion. As to what they're doing down below — it isn't something that we can put to general use."

    Rayshifting was akin to Gradation Air a thaumaturgy that reenacted an original — but the output was rather than a replica the original itself, converted to a Spiritronic body and displaced to a remote locale.

    Being that the intended subjects were live personnel, accurate structural grasp across an original's constituent Aspects was an absolute precondition to reenactment — not merely as to preempt destructive, potentially lethal transcription error, but to permit that by the confirmation of machine-assisted observation, a subject as of a state of transposition could be preserved from the rejection that the World exerted against Spiritual entities absent of yorishiro.

    To the recognition of the Human Order, therefore, a reenactment had to be brought in real-time to reconciliation with the corporeality of its original. Far exceeding the computational power of a single Philosopher's Stone, such a feat required hardware of performance sufficient to emulate the very granularity of the World's perceptions.

    Comparatively, nothing so complicated was requisite if in a one-way transposition to the present day of the same timeline, the subject were to begin with a spiritual existence granted exemption by the World to indefinitely persist, and the preservation of life wasn't of concern.

    "The Holy Grail of Fuyuki," Marisbury continued, "is as an incarnated Faerie a spirit permitted by the World to express itself to physicality merely by existing. Committed to Rayshift, it doesn't in the manner of a Spiritron Projection of a living human manifest a need for a physical anchor; or otherwise for the confirmation of a living observer to serve as a substitute."

    Peperoncino 'hmm'd' in contemplation.

    "So," he said, "the TRISMEGISTOS would provide to living humans something akin to the self-observation come of Asavakkhaya-nana, so as to permit a motility akin to that granted by Iddhi-vidha-nana. Someone has to see you to your destination, in other words?"

    He smiled maliciously.

    "You know, Maris-kyun — I did wonder why you were so keen on having a conversation partner to discuss the ins and outs of Buddhist philosophy. If I were of the mentality of a Clock Tower noble, I might accuse you of prying into the Mysteries of my House."

    Marisbury chuckled.

    "If you were a man of that ilk," he replied, "we wouldn't be having this conversation."

    Peperoncino laughed.

    "Still," he said, "the Grail of the Einzberns, hm? If we're to monopolize its capabilities, returning it is out of question. That being the case, how do you intend to proceed?"

    Marisbury sipped his coffee, gazing down upon the golden hemisphere incrementally growing to completion stories below.

    "It isn't actually that I've from the Einzberns stolen the Grail," he replied. "They relinquished claim to it of their own accord, deeming that the futility they've so far encountered comes of exhausting their every last resort. However, this isn't the conclusion that I would draw."

    "They didn't try their best, you mean?"

    "Sending alone a candidate to the succession of the 3rd, the components of a Lesser Grail, and a single Servant hardly counts as trying, if Makiri Zolgen is amongst your known opponents. If they truly desired to obtain their objective, they shouldn't have permitted that another party could reasonably mount an opposition."

    "Victory in the absence of opponents, then," said Peperoncino. "You intend to offer them that? I don't know that they would even be receptive, if they've given up a fully functional Grail. That's millimeters short of an outright surrender."

    Marisbury shook his head.

    "That wasn't the impression I received of the man that I spoke to a week from now," he said. "On some level, he should still desire the 3rd. Therefore, I'll give it to him."

    "How, exactly?"

    "I've been granted stewardship of all the leylines upon the continent of Antarctica. The weaponization of the Heroic Spirit Summoning System shouldn't be necessary for another decade yet. Provided that the Einzberns agree to give assistance in properly rigging the ritual, we'll have long before then collected sufficient energy as to summon forth seven Servants as sacrifice."

    "A 6th Grail War, here?"

    "Not a War for the Grail. Merely a 6th Heaven's Feel — premised upon a dismantling of the Reserve System, as to avoid the hypothetical fate of poor Darnic Prestone. With the Grail at hand, and therefore endless wishes — endless monetary resources — I have no particular desire to challenge the Einzberns for their prize."

    Stepping to the window, Peperoncino peered over the ledge.

    "Even so, it seems like an awfully large investment to secure them as an ally," he said. "Is this mysterious threat that's gotten your panties in a bunch truly worth the effort? If, after all, it isn't due to immediately surface —"

    "Dormant as it is at present, it's precisely the sort of threat that Finis-Chaldea was built to counteract. Therefore, every resource must be mobilized. It isn't the Einzberns alone that I've approached."

    Turning his back to the window, Marisbury regarded the Klein Coffins arrayed across the room.

    Long ago, a certain magus had of an interest in environments removed of the Counter Force assisted Chaldea in its home-brew implementation of Serial Phantasms — releasing the use of the technology from the sole appointment of its creators at the Academy at Atlas. By an accident of Nidana, it seemed that he bore of his person a tie to the problem at hand — perhaps to serve as a shackle for a Beast.

    "Given his sacrifices the decade past," said Marisbury, "I suspect that Mister Adashino would take offense — regarding it as a betrayal, perhaps. However, if you're free to deliver a message for me, there's a certain individual that I'd like for you find."

    "Oh?" asked Peperoncino, interest piqued. "And who would that be?"

    "In Japanese, you would refer to a senior in your trade as a 'senpai,' I believe?" asked Marisbury. "In that case, the man in question would be your senpai's esteemed father ..."
     
  19. Extras: Reference images for Chapter IX
    fallacies

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    :. Marisbury Animusphere

    [​IMG]

    :. Scandinavia Peperoncino

    [​IMG]

    :. Reference image for "the Tuner of the Einzberns"

    [​IMG]

    Source is Princess Principal.

    :. Reference image for "Nona"

    [​IMG]

    Source is Persona 5.

    :. Reference image for the Spiritron Calculation Engine TRISMEGISTOS

    [​IMG]

    TRI-HERMES, the predecessor to Finis-Chaldea's yet-to-be-completed supercomputer, the TRISMEGISTOS.
    Situated in the Academy at Atlas.

    :. Klein Coffins

    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]

    The versions used for rayshifting are perpendicular.
    The one used by Animusphere in this chapter is an older model, which more resembles the cryofreeze beds from Passenger (2016). Rather standing upright, they're positioned at an incline.
     
    Last edited: Jul 31, 2020
  20. Extras: Scandinavia Peperoncino & the Abhijñā
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    Shugendou (修験道) is a Buddhist ascetic practice that originates of Japan — possibly descended of pre-Buddhist traditions. Scandinavia Peperoncino is a practitioner of such.

    In the context of Buddhism, the Abhijñā (神通, jintsuu) — "the Divine Comprehensions" — are a set of six capabilities that approximate the 'Divine Authorities' acquired by those of substantial attainment upon the path to Enlightenment. Please note that 'Divine' doesn't here refer to actual divine beings, but rather to Buddhas and Bodhisattva.

    The three Abhijñā attained by Scandinavia Peperoncino are as follows:
    • 神足通 (Jinsoku-Tsuu):the Comprehension of the Divine Foot : Iddhi-vidha-ñāṇa
      A supernatural motility, which can in some circumstances become tantamount to teleportation. Used by Peperoncino to circumvent his own annihilation in Arjuna Alter's cycling of the Mahapralaya; and possibly to independently escape the collapse of the Lostbelt of Olympus.

    • 他人通 (Tajin-Tsuu):the Comprehension of the Hearts of Others : Ceto-pariya-ñāṇa
      An instantaneous reading of intent, even from inhuman existences. Peperoncino claims that he's only able to distinguish surface-level emotions in an individual he's interacting with — but combined with cold reading, his accuracy in determining the thoughts of others is extremely high.

    • 漏尽通 (Rojin-Tsuu):the Comprehension of the Extinction of Poisons : Āsavakkhaya-ñāṇa
      An intimate comprehension of one's own state of being — of one's eventual annihilation; though, in Buddhist literature, it's rather described as "a complete freedom from preoccupations," attained upon arriving at Buddhahood. Also, apparently the capacity to remove oneself from the cycle of reincarnation.
    It's said that practitioners of Buddhist ascetic traditions can bring themselves closer to enlightenment; but if in so doing, they mire themselves in the attainment of supernatural cultivation — for example, in acquirement of the Abhijñā — they run the risk of falling outside of the Six Paths of Incarnation, to "the Path of the Tengu" (天狗道, Tengu-dou) — an immortality without salvation; without the possibility of reincarnation unto the eventual objective of Nirvana.

    In this fic, it's presumed that the Comprehension of the Divine Foot is conditional to the self-awareness obtained as of the Comprehension of the Extinction of Poisons. That to say, the supernatural motility that Peperoncino exhibits is in essence rendered by way of "observing" himself unto a destination. Further, it's presumed that Chaldea's rayshifting functions on a similar basis — or perhaps, that it's founded on something akin to the Comprehension of the Hearts of Others ...
     
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  21. Extras: Timeline : Section B : 2004
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    12/?? ??? - Heracles summoned
    01/12 Mon - Medea summoned
    01/23 Fri - Cu summoned
    01/26 Mon - Kojirou summoned
    01/?? ??? - Medusa summoned
    01/31 Sat - EMIYA summoned
    02/02 Mon - Astolfo summoned

    02/15 Sun - Chapter I-VII
    02/21 Sat - Chapter VIII
    02/?? ??? - Chapter IX

    03/23 Tue - End of 2nd Year, 3rd Trimester for Shirou & Rin
    04/01 Thu - Beginning of 3rd Year, 1st Trimester for Shirou & Rin
     
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  22. Threadmarks: 10 : Gray & White
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    The first she heard of it was on a Monday afternoon mid-September, shortly after the Michaelmas term had begun at the Clock Tower.

    "My cousin?" she asked.

    "Yeah," Flat replied. "She's practically a 2P color of you."

    "A 2P color?"

    "Like a Luigi."

    "I don't know of this Luigi that you speak of," she replied — though, in truth, the name sounded vaguely familiar. Was it one of Teacher's acquaintances, perhaps?

    "Like, there's this girl who's a maid or something to the two Asian chicks that just enrolled, and she looks exactly like you — except that her color palette's different. Dark-skinned, with her hair in a bun like the one you wear. For a second, I thought that it was you, except that you'd gotten yourself a tan over the weekend and ditched the hood; but on a second glance, she's, like — well, taller and more developed than you, you know? Va-va-voom, and such."

    Gray tilted her head, frowning. Was it somebody related to the village?

    "I'm fairly certain that I haven't a cousin who looks like me."

    Flat shrugged, lackadaisically folding his hands behind his head.

    "Well, they do say that everyone's got a couple of doppelgangers," he said. "Heard that it's lucky if you happen across them."

    The two Asian girls that Flat had spoken of were Rin Tohsaka and Sakura Matou — close acquaintances from the same city in Japan.

    Tohsaka had been due for enrollment at the Clock Tower one year prior; but being as she was the designated Second Owner of a top-tier spiritual ground, complications in securing a competent caretaker in her absence had significantly delayed her entrance.

    Gray's attention was piqued when Lady Reines mentioned off-hand that the spiritual ground in question was in fact the land of Fuyuki — the site of the Grail War that Teacher had participated in, twelve years prior; the one that he'd barely missed, just two years ago.

    It was the place where Teacher had encountered the King of Conquerors, as well as the King of Knights.

    Mashiro Watson — the maid in the service of Sakura Matou — hadn't been hired in Britain, even that she'd apparently been born to a British doctor. Rather, she had at her mistress' side arrived in Heathrow, having entered into her service in Japan. Given the recent history of the War for the Grail, Gray thought it more than a coincidence that the dark-skinned woman would closely resemble the Once-And-Future King.

    She also thought it somewhat amazing that Lady Reines had divined her interest in the subject — proactively catching her up with the relevant gossip, even that she hadn't asked.

    "I've said it before, Gray," said Lady Reines, reclining upon Teacher's favorite couch, arms folded — smirking as she recrossed her legs. "I do pay attention to my friends, and your face is far too much an open book. If you intend to act as Brother's adjutant in any formal gatherings, you'd do well to school your mannerisms a bit more. Reading into your thoughts didn't even require that I make use of a spell."

    Gray didn't feel that her expressions were truly so easy to read. It was likely just that Lady Reines was excessively gifted in social awareness.

    "How was it that you decided to look into this, though?" she asked.

    Lady Reines laughed.

    "Gossip is the very lifeblood of the polite society, you understand?" she replied. "It'd be remiss of me not to have an up-to-date apprehension of the lay of the land. A pair of students descended of the notables of the Orient — one of whom happens to be the rumored victor of the Grail? It's only natural that I would investigate. It is of course convenient that I happen to attend symposium with a certain Miss Matou."

    Said symposium was held twice a week at a lecture hall in the University of London. Finding that it was scheduled an hour before lunch the day subsequent, Gray meticulously plotted an ambush — seating herself on a bench in the courtyard, just outside the sole entrance of the building that was open to students. As camouflage, she armed herself with an Agatha Christie novel, and Add within his covered cage to keep her company.

    "I don't know how you expect to catch them, given the sort of crowds that inevitably turn up when the weather's as nice as it is," he said, loudly enough that passer-by could potentially hear. "Are you even certain that the maid is due to pick up this Matou girl for lunch?"

    In reply, Gray held a finger before her lips and shushed him.

    At a quarter past, the students began to exit the building. Focusing her eyes upon the door over the spine of her paperback, she caught sight of her quarry only a few minutes in — rather obtrusively standing out amidst the crowd. It wasn't difficult to spot them, as to begin with, there weren't too many students from the Orient; and dark skin with pale hair wasn't a frequent combination of features.

    Tohsaka and Matou didn't seem to notice her peering at them from the distance — but for just a moment, Mashiro Watson met her gaze.

    Gray found herself staring at the King of Knights — several years older, and of a different coloration, but recognizably the girl that she unavoidably encountered in the mirror every morning.

    Unable even to think, she quickly ducked her face behind the covers of her novel — hoping that Watson hadn't seen her.

    Footsteps approached.

    "Good afternoon," said a woman's voice — speaking with a vague accent that she couldn't place. "Sorry that I've approached you like this out of the blue, but if you don't mind, I'd like to ask you several questions — perhaps over lunch?"

    Hesitantly, Gray lowered her book. Mashiro Watson stood just without her arms' reach, holding a picnic basket before her skirt.

    Recalling that she'd been too worked up about the ambush to stomach breakfast, Gray warily nodded. Perhaps it'd be safe just to humor the woman?
     
  23. Extras: Mashiro's name
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    真白 (Mashiro) — "Pure White."
     
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  24. Extras: Timeline : Section C : 2005-2006 & Notes
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    2005 Mar - Rin & Shirou graduate from Homurahara
    2005 Apr - Beginning of 3rd Year for Sakura
    2006 Mar - Sakura graduates from Homurahara
    2006 Sep - Rin & Sakura enroll at Clock Tower; Chapter X

    Michaelmas refers to the Feast of Michael, or the Feast of the Archangels — a Christian festival held on 29 September. In the United Kingdom, Michaelmas term is the autumn term in an academic year.

    :.

    Unrelatedly, in Fate Zero, the identification arranged by Kiritsugu for Saber included an American passport:

    [​IMG]

    Elise Watoson, age 15.
     
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  25. Extras: Clarification regarding Shiro's Mystic Code
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    The Mystic Code that Rin prepared for Shiro after Chapter VIII was a gemstone pendant that interferes with the minds of those who observe her.

    Supposing that the Mystic Code is active, and Shiro enters into an observer's field of awareness, the gemstone declares to the observer that Shiro's perceptual characteristics are those of Emiya Shirou — enforcing that the elements that comprise her image are superseded; overpainted by the image of her former self. The observer's unconscious mind accordingly adjusts their percepts of environmental detail for consistency — automatically; independent of the Mystic Code's interference.

    That is to say, the Mystic Code isn't at all involved in correcting the minutiae of an observer's perceived environment. Rather, the majority of its resources are expended as to identify and target human observers that establish line of sight with Shiro — even across fairly long distances.

    To further explicate, if an observer were to witness Shiro carrying a grocery bag, the declaration of the Mystic Code would render that they perceive the person carrying the bag to match the characteristics of Emiya Shirou — glossing over differences of figure, limb proportion, attire, and even pitch of voice. However, the Emiya Shirou within the observer's percepts would roughly match the posture and gait that Shiro expresses — down to the manner in which her fingers grasp the grocery bag.

    Despite the recent change in her center of weight, Shiro consciously maintains a masculine gait when using her Mystic Code. If the Mystic Code isn't engaged, however, she naturally defaults to walking in a feminine manner.

    That said, the two options for "choice of attire" pre-set within the Mystic Code at its time of creation were "casual wear" and "student uniform."
     
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  26. Threadmarks: 11 : Black Blossom Bladeworks
    fallacies

    fallacies Getting sticky.

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    Housing in central London was expensive. If Rin had been left to her own devices, Sakura was certain that she'd have gotten a cheap, tiny place in the outlying suburbs.

    To preempt unnecessary hours of commute, Sakura had thus insisted on footing the majority of the rent for a shared flat in the downtown — a small percentage of the money she earned renting out the spiritual grounds her Grandfather had managed; and putting on loan to the Clock Tower the library of the House Makiri. The only reason she didn't pay it all was so as not to impinge on her sister's pride.

    They'd ended up getting themselves a place at the southern end of the Borough of Islington — a five-bedroom duplex that occupied the top floors of a converted townhouse.

    Rin had been reasonably certain that there wasn't another magus that operated in the immediate vicinity; but as London was a major hub for the thaumaturgical academia, thoroughly securing their home against threats without broadcasting the existence of Rin's atelier had been a challenge. For all that magecraft was on the decline, there yet remained a Mystery in every imaginable domain, and preempting potential threats was a race against the inevitability of one's own ignorance.

    The Blood-Fort Andromeda might've been useful, but it was far too costly; and deployment would've rendered moot the mechanism that Rin had developed as to suppress Rider's presence as a Servant. Shiro's Reality Marble was for similar reasons impractical, even in the circumstance it could've been adapted as a normal defensive boundary.

    Taking conspicuity as her central concern, Rin had settled for safety in obscurity — a sensory-type Bounded Field barely noticeable from without, which aside from obstructing observation and the trespass of lower-order Mysteries merely signaled the incidence of any intrusions that it couldn't directly impede.

    This wasn't to say that it lacked any means of retaliation against intruders. The inclusion of Shiro's Directionality as of the boundary let that any Circuit-borne entity that crossed into the flat unauthorized would be contaminated by her Primordial Curse — causing blades to manifest within their flesh; and in the case that the intruder was merely a familiar, remotely communicating the Curse unto the magus responsible — permitting that Shiro could locate and identify them.

    The trouble was, if there occurred a trespass by means entirely mundane, the Bounded Field offered about as much direct protection as an open window.

    Closed windows absent of physical reinforcement were no protection at all against non-thaumaturgical projectiles of sufficient force.

    As the cups on the drying rack overhead exploded into a hail of glass, Sakura bit her lower lip — crouching against the cabinet doors of the kitchen island as to avoid her attacker's line-of-sight. The thing that had shot its way in through the window-panes was a machine of some sort — somewhat resembling a remote-control helicopter, but with four propellers; maybe half a meter across in total. Whether it counted as a familiar or a puppet, Sakura couldn't properly tell; but there wasn't within it any Mystery she could immediately discern.

    It was hard to imagine that something so unusual would be employed by a run-of-the-mill criminal scouting for a prospective break-in, or something of the like. Sakura could only conclude that it was the work of an enemy magus, probing the building's defenses.

    'Or maybe they're looking for information?'

    Rin had explained that a duel between magi could be decisively won on an acquisition of knowledge — a thorough comprehension of an opponent's Mysteries, as to circumvent them. If this were the enemy's objective, giving them a show of the thaumaturgical capabilities she hadn't publicly demonstrated wasn't the brightest idea. On the other hand, completely concealing her magecraft didn't leave her with a lot of options ...

    The shattering of the glassware ceased. Sakura didn't know if the machine had run out of the ball bearings it used as ammunition; but hearing the soft whirring of the propellers approaching her location, she scrambled, ducking away through the door to the hallway nearby — right as the rapid-fire resumed.

    The third shot cleanly penetrated the calf muscles of her lower left leg, and she toppled to the hallway floor with a brief, involuntary shriek.

    Compared to her grandfather's tender mercies, the pain that presently blossomed through her leg was hardly anything at all; it had merely taken her by surprise. Therefore, clenching her jaw, she pulled herself to her feet and limped a ways onward — seating herself on the floor behind a bend in the corridor.

    Summoning Rider from her job at the library wasn't an option. It would moot the time, effort, and resources Rin had expended in concealing the woman's nature from the Clock Tower. That besides, Sakura was reluctant to treat her as a Servant anymore, for all that the woman insisted; for all that the Command Seals that circled her navel were a persistent reminder of the nature of their bond.

    Calling at all for help felt too much as if she were sinking back into Shadow — making use of another person as an object, for purposes entirely instrumental to her own ego. Therefore, in her practicals at the Clock Tower, she'd endeavored at the start to train her self-sufficiency in combat, with minimal use of magecraft.

    For a time, she'd neglected even to access the Foundation provided to her use with the Crest that Rin had devised.

    Naturally, Shiro had objected.

    'Isn't it a matter of ego as well that you don't take advantage of the help that we offer you of our own free will?' she'd asked. 'How do you think we would feel if you were injured, and we couldn't save you — merely because you never asked for help?'

    Love was an acceptance that the person most important to you would inevitably disagree with your opinion. In the end, they'd reached a compromise.

    Muttering under her breath the incantation for a healing spell that her sister had forced her to learn, Sakura carefully peered past the edge of the wall as her leg began to mend — just in time to catch the machine as it drifted into the corridor.

    Sakura mentally switched gears, moving to the offensive.

    "Trace, Radial," she said.

    Equidistant to their target, seven blackbody daggers manifested in a perfectly circular array, perpendicular to the floor.

    'If revealing too much is a concern,' Shiro had said, 'show them something that they'll end up seeing anyhow.'

    This was the compromise they'd reached. Shiro would trust her to fend for herself, except as a final resort; and wouldn't insist on attending to Sakura's safety around the clock. In exchange, Sakura wouldn't refrain from making use of the resources at her disposal —

    — of the Thaumaturgical Foundation called as Verg Avesta.

    "Shoot!" said Sakura.

    As one, the daggers penetrated — eliciting a shower of sparks as the machine crashed to the floor, just without the sunlight cast from the kitchen entrance. For a brief moment, Sakura sensed from it an enactment of Mystery, but it was gone before she could determine what had happened.

    'I'll know what it was once I get a closer look, I guess,' she thought.

    There was no guarantee that the wreckage wasn't still dangerous; and so, rather than exiting cover, she gambled on the assumption that the enemy was no longer observing — grasping ahold of all the shadows in the corridor. Unlike Shiro, she couldn't structural grasp at significant range, but objects in immediate contact with her inner sea were always at zero distance.

    "Trace, On," she intoned.

    A deluge of data flooded her mind — barely retained to her conscious awareness. The composition; the physical structure — this information readily coagulated; but at the end of it all, she arrived upon an unexpected absence.

    "A tabula rasa?"

    Until the machine had fallen to the floor, it hadn't any history at all. It was as if it had only begun to exist the moment it was destroyed — as a perfectly blank slate.

    Whatever the magecraft enacted, it had wiped the machine clean of any information on its creation; on its recent use. Sakura wasn't entirely unfamiliar with countermeasures to information derivation, as Lord Animusphere's falsification of the events of the Grail War had entailed a spell along those lines. Per Rin's explanation, however, it wasn't a feat easily accomplished, or even commonly practiced within the Clock Tower.

    For a spell like this to be enacted here and now, it was almost as if —

    "... it was used specifically to foil Shiro's Structural Analysis?"
     
  27. Threadmarks: 12 : The Time of the Father
    fallacies

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    It was different in the States, but the magi of the Old World weren't so keen to keep themselves in pace with technology at the cutting edge. The Tohsaka and the Matou weren't exceptions to the rule, it seemed.

    The dead man walking, on the other hand — he hadn't much a choice. There would be complications if a Sealing Designate long thought deceased were discovered enacting spells in walking distance of the Clock Tower's administrative offices.

    Deprived the convenience of magecraft, therefore, the solution was merely to do things the hard way. Thaumaturgy was at the end of the day little more than a circumvention of the due process compelled by the Law of the World. Money was in a certain sense much the same — and with funds sufficient, even Grand Rituals could be substituted by contrivances wholly mundane.

    The quadcopter he'd deployed was nothing so elaborate, of course — merely a custom refurbish of a small-scale experimental drone, mounted with pneumatic weapons light enough not to interfere with maneuverability. He had a dozen of the same spread out between his assorted safe-houses; and while the units weren't quite disposable, they likewise weren't of note.

    What were of note were the thin wafers of crystal set within — machine-etched with Runic arrays too small to be seen by the naked eye.

    Shapes alone did not a Runic spell enact; and though temporal magecraft couldn't as of the manifest World directly act upon the passage of time, conditionally keying the enactment of a spell to a future event was well within the realm of possibility.

    So to bypass conventional thaumaturgical defenses, the crystalline wafers carried nothing of discernible Mystery at rest; and served strictly as physical anchors to a Conceptual purge of historical qualia — a contingency actualized only as of the termination of a drone as a coherent whole, automatically; independent of his control. Inclusive of ammunition, all elements of the drone would be subject to the purge.

    To assist in his plans prospective, he'd purchased a handful of such crystals from a certain puppeteer.

    As an acquaintance; as a friend, the puppeteer had oft-admonished that if he'd taken just a bit more interest in the training of an heir, perhaps the Association wouldn't have been so quick to judge that he'd strayed from the replicability of his Mystery — to issue him with a Sealing Designation.

    Being that in addition to furnishing him with a body double borne of a convincing replica of his Crest, she had for the very reasonable price of a fifth of his total wealth committed the time and energy to care for his son, the dead man felt it owed that at the very least he should take her advice to heart.

    It wasn't motivated of any particular loyalty to the main house. The puppeteer was herself estranged from them now, and hadn't any lost love. Rather, his relationship to her was one of equals, regardless that she was only two years older than his son.

    For those committed to the heretical path, goodwill amongst peers was a thing to be cherished.

    The dead man walking had once regarded his son an utterly indifferent student of magecraft; but where he'd eventually lapsed in pedagogy, the puppeteer had fostered the boy's sense of justice as a motivation to better himself as a user of magecraft. Solely on her account, Emiya Kiritsugu had done improbably well for himself, disregarding his youthful death — accruing to his person a worldwide notoriety as 'the Magus Killer' before the age of twenty, and thereon marrying into the House of Einzbern.

    Kiritsugu's biological daughter — half a homunculus; inhabiting at present a prosthesis provided by the puppeteer — was a successor to the incomplete 3rd, and the acting Second Owner to the spiritual grounds of Fuyuki. His adoptive daughter was by some accident of Nidana a Demon enfleshed — mature enough in her exercise of power not to catch the notice of the Church.

    The dead man would've preferred it that his prospective successor were of his own blood — but as his sole living descendant had been co-opted for the Einzberns' solution, and the Reality Marble embodied in his adoptive granddaughter was far more compatible to the Mystery of temporal manipulation, the sum of his hopes lay now with the latter's offspring.

    As the patriarch to the House of Emiya, was it not his duty to test the mettle of his granddaughter's wife?

    Seated at a mostly-empty cafe in Regent's Park, an elderly Asian man chuckled, taking a sip of his cappuccino as the touchscreen on his phone went black.

    "Hopefully, the girl will be a bit more attentive next time," he said aloud to nobody in particular.

    Necessity was the mother of learning. A threat to survival was a wonderful incentive to self-improvement.

    It had been the wish of his late wife not to force their son into the life of a magus against his will. The dead man walking hadn't any disagreement with that sentiment; but perhaps on account of his preoccupation with research at the time, he hadn't put in an honest effort to appeal to his son's sensibilities.

    It was decades past due that he saw to his obligations long-neglected — in the immediate future, to lay the groundwork for the pedagogy of his heir-to-be.

    Undoubtedly, Lord Animusphere had in bringing him up-to-date on the circumstances of his grandchildren roped him into another of his plots-within-plots; but taking into consideration the friendliness of their business relations past, the dead man felt that the noble could be trusted not to act in malice against parties with whom he directly initiated conversation.

    Nobody should fault a grandfather for doting upon his descendants, after all.

    In a jovial mood, he placed a generous cash tip within the receipt jacket his waitress had left, and gathered his belongings to depart the cafe — pacing himself with the aid of his cane against the cool autumn breeze.

    "Tohsaka next," he thought aloud. "The Ghost Liner after that — supposing that she can be made to bear a child ..."
     
  28. Extras: Timeline : Section A : 1960's-1980's & Notes
    fallacies

    fallacies Getting sticky.

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    Dates are as applicable to the continuity of this fic alone.

    1963 - Birth of Aozaki Touko
    1965 - Birth of Emiya Kiritsugu
    1967 - Birth of Aozaki Aoko

    1977 - Death of Emiya Norikata

    1983 - Death of Natalia Kaminski
    1984 - Events of Mahou Tsukai no Yoru
    1985 - Emiya Kiritsugu enters into the service of the Einzberns
    1986 - Birth of Illyasviel von Einzbern

    1994 - Events of Fate/Zero
    1999 - Death of Emiya Kiritsugu (age 34)

    :.

    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]

    Touko smokes a particular brand of cigarette manufactured in Taiwan.
    It isn't in the novel, but in the anime of Fate Zero, Natalia somehow smokes the exact same brand.

    Mahoyo is given to be set in the late 80's by Takeuchi, but he refuses to confirm the exact year. In this fic, Mahoyo is assumed to have occurred in 1984.
    Touko is stated to be 4 years older than Aoko in Mahoyo.
     
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  29. Extras: Timeline : Section D : Grand Order Canon
    fallacies

    fallacies Getting sticky.

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    1950
    Completion of the Phenomenon Recording Cyber-Daemon LAPLACE

    1990
    Announcement of the completion of the Proximate Terrestrial Environmental Model CHALDEAS

    1999
    Lev Lainur formally enters into employment at Finis-Chaldea​
    Completes the Near-Future Observation Lens SHEBA

    2000
    Mashu Kyrielight is born​

    2004
    1st Grail War of Fuyuki​
    Subsequent to eliminating the 6 other Masters, Marisbury Animusphere — the Master of Caster Solomon — becomes the victor of the Grail,​
    Subsequent to Animusphere's acquisition of funds via his wish upon the Grail, the Proximate Terrestrial Environmental Model CHALDEAS reaches its actual completion​
    Announcement of the completion of the Guardian Hero Summoning System FATE
    Allegedly, Solomon becomes the first Servant to be summoned via FATE​

    2007
    Romani Archaman enters into employment at Finis-Chaldea​

    2010
    Galahad is summoned via FATE, and made to inhabit Mashu Kyrielight​
    Roman learns of Chaldea's Demi-Servant project, and encounters Mashu for the first time​

    2012
    The actual completion date of the Guardian Hero Summoning System FATE
    Leonardo da Vinci is summoned​
    Marisbury Animusphere dies​

    2013
    Olgamarie Animusphere becomes the Director of Finis-Chaldea​

    2014
    The approximate projected year of Marisbury Animusphere's death, forecast as of 2004 (at latest)​
    Mashu Kyrielight is named as a Master candidate, designated for the A Team​
    Lev Lainur becomes Mashu's instructor in thaumaturgy​
    Fou-kun appears in Chaldea's Antarctic Observatory​

    2015
    Completion of the Spiritron Calculation Engine TRISMEGISTOS
    Fate / Grand Order begins​
     
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  30. Threadmarks: BAD END : Another Eschatology : I
    fallacies

    fallacies Getting sticky.

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    [​IMG]

    "And what if I were to tell you that every injustice could be set aright?"




    Shards of stained glass fell, raining as a hail upon the floor-tiles of the chapel interior.

    Having briefly glimpsed the bearing of the three-story drop the moment she'd been driven through the rosace of the cathedral's northern transept, Aelfthrith braced herself as possible — making use of the angle of descent as to impact the floor at a tumble; coming to rest thereby in a northward-facing crouch, sword in hand.

    It was fortuitous that she'd halted herself where she had. A little further, and her skull might've impacted the sculpture that occupied the recess to her rear.

    Slightly turning to take stock of her environs, she blinked.

    The figure of marble she'd narrowly avoided bore her own visage — accurate to her likeness at fourteen years of age, still maidenly slight and unacquired the voluptuousness of maturity; more chaste and pious than ever she recalled.

    Upon the stone of the plinth beneath, there was engraved: 'Etheldrith, Virgo et Martyr.'

    "Hello, love," she said to herself. "Fancy that I'd meet you here."

    But this wasn't unexpected, and the virgin in prayer wasn't in truth a representation of Aelfthrith the Knight. At large, her conduct and exploits to date merited nothing alike to beatification; and a life of chastity devoid the embrace of a woman seemed to her a punishment cruel and undeserved.

    Here and thus, centuries subsequent the sculpture's erection, she was to the Etheldrith here honored of no significant relation — a stranger merely, journeyed hither from the farthest shore.

    Aelfthrith's own was a history of nothing adjacent. Alone amongst the she who might have been, she had in distant Corbenic quested triumphant — procuring to her keep the One True Grail, and coming to bear its Mark.

    By the blessings of the Grail was she qualified therefore a Champion of Man — charged by Myrddin Emrys with the august task of restoring the Banality of Evil; to stand as a final recourse against the Light of Salvation.

    Most certainly, she was not a saint.

    This, likewise, was not the Crowland Abbey of her youth; was not the place to which she'd been brought at Aethelberht's death, on the cusp of womanhood.

    Seated at the junction of four rivers upon the island of Crowland, this was the abandoned Basilica of Saint Guthlac — so-called 'the Sinking Cathedral' by the people of surrounding Lincolnshire; long ago let to the reclamation of the Fens as its foundations unevenly subsided to the soils underfoot.

    Here had first a ring of bells tolled in all Britannia — perhaps in all the World.

    This was the Garden of Absolution from which she'd once escaped — by Myrddin's machinations, recreated as a stage for her final battle.

    Should she here come to fall, the future would evermore refuse to change.
     
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