1. Due to issues with external spam filters, QQ is currently unable to send any mail to Microsoft E-mail addresses. This includes any account at live.com, hotmail.com or msn.com. Signing up to the forum with one of these addresses will result in your verification E-mail never arriving. For best results, please use a different E-mail provider for your QQ address.
    Dismiss Notice
  2. For prospective new members, a word of warning: don't use common names like Dennis, Simon, or Kenny if you decide to create an account. Spammers have used them all before you and gotten those names flagged in the anti-spam databases. Your account registration will be rejected because of it.
    Dismiss Notice
  3. Since it has happened MULTIPLE times now, I want to be very clear about this. You do not get to abandon an account and create a new one. You do not get to pass an account to someone else and create a new one. If you do so anyway, you will be banned for creating sockpuppets.
    Dismiss Notice
  4. If you wish to change your username, please ask via conversation to tehelgee instead of asking via my profile. I'd like to not clutter it up with such requests.
    Dismiss Notice
  5. Due to the actions of particularly persistent spammers and trolls, we will be banning disposable email addresses from today onward.
    Dismiss Notice
  6. A note about the current Ukraine situation: Discussion of it is still prohibited as per Rule 8
    Dismiss Notice
  7. The rules regarding NSFW links have been updated. See here for details.
    Dismiss Notice
  8. We are recruiting new moderation staff. Please see this thread for more information if you are interested.
    Dismiss Notice

Zero to One (FZ and SMT Crossover)

Discussion in 'Creative Writing' started by Jaenera Targaryen, Feb 3, 2023.

Loading...
  1. Threadmarks: Prologue
    Jaenera Targaryen

    Jaenera Targaryen I trust you know where the happy button is?

    Joined:
    Aug 29, 2018
    Messages:
    752
    Likes Received:
    8,700
    Disclaimer: I do not own the Fate franchise it belongs to Kinoko Nasu and Type-Moon. I also do not own the Megami Tensei franchise, it belongs to Atlus.

    Zero to One

    Prologue

    The party was in full swing, light shining down from crystal chandeliers hanging high above, falling onto a great gathering of the rich and powerful. Most were on the ground floor, gathered to the sides, some chatting to each other in cliques and small groups, while others watched couples dance on the carpeted middle of the ballroom. Servers went to and fro, taking away empty glasses and handing out fresh ones filled with white wine, or offered finger food in lieu of a drink.

    More of the rich and powerful were gathered on the second floor, cliques seated at tables in separate parlors and balconies with cards and alcohol, the better to smooth matters with as issues were discussed and decisions made. Others wandered the halls of the party’s host, taking in the sights present, the host having a splendid collection of fine art and historical artifacts on display.

    Among that last group was a beautiful woman wearing a sleeveless, off the shoulder dress of red, her dark hair partly done up into a bun at the back of her head, while the rest hung in elegant ringlets down over her shoulders. Gold gleamed around her neck, while diamonds glittered at her ears. Beyond that though, she wore no jewelry, relying on simple, understated elegance to carry the day for her.

    She wandered down a corridor, servers passing her and others by, before she stopped before a great, floor-to-ceiling portrait of a man in a 19th Century naval uniform, framed in gilt metal. The woman regarded the painting with collected awe, before leaning down to examine the small placard giving the subject's name and the artist behind such a work.

    “Well now,” a man's voice said from behind her, and the surprised woman turned to look at a blonde, heterochromatic man in a tuxedo standing behind her. “You must be rather lonely to be wandering so far from the ballroom, or perhaps do you have an eye for paintings?”

    “Neither,” the woman said with a slight touch of frost to her voice. “I was just sightseeing, that’s all.”

    To her surprise, the man gave a small bow of apology. “I beg your pardon.” He said. “It seems I’ve been too liberal with my words, and started things off on the wrong foot. Perhaps we could start over?”

    The woman gave a small smile while raising a hand to her face. “…I suppose.” She said.

    The man rose, and then gave a courtly bow. “I have the honor of being named Louis Cyphre,” he said. “Might I have the honor of having your name, my lady?”

    “I have the honor of being named Aoi Tohsaka, Mister Cyphre.” Aoi said with a curtsy. “I’m pleased to make your acquaintance.”

    “As am I, Lady Tohsaka.”

    “…I’ve been told this painting here was a gift from someone down on their luck.” Louis said, gesturing to the painting Aoi had been examining just a moment ago. “Apparently, they presented it with head bowed, thinking it worthy of our esteemed hosts in exchange for an invitation to tonight's festivities.”

    “…this might seem rather discourteous,” Aoi remarked after a moment. “But wouldn’t some say that doing so to be rather…shameless?”

    Louis laughed. “I suppose so.” He said. “Self-respect is a thing, is it not?”

    “Hmm…my husband would say that a gift offered by someone lacking in self-respect devalues the gift offered.”

    “Oh?” Louis drawled. “And what do you think?”

    “…I’d say it’s just as discourteous to reject a gift offered in good faith.” Aoi said after a moment’s thought. “That said, I would extend – in guise – words and advice to encourage the giver to have more respect in themselves in the future.”

    Louis tilted his head in acknowledgement, before taking a pair of glasses from a nearby server, and offering one to Aoi. Aoi accepted the offer, and Louis raised his glass in a toast. “To your health, Lady Tohsaka.” He said with a smile.

    “And to yours, Mister Cyphre.” Aoi said, returning the toast and smile.

    The two drank from their glasses, and Louis nodded in satisfaction while twirling the wineglass’ neck between his fingers. “Perhaps you could care to tell me about your husband’s work?” he asked.

    “Would you tell me about your work in turn?” Aoi asked back.

    “But of course," Louis said. “Quid pro quo, yes?”

    Aoi laughed and then nodded. For the next hour, she and Louis spoke on their respective families’ work. On Aoi’s part, she spoke of how the Tohsaka fortune was built on the high – but reasonable – rents levied on land properties in their home city of Fuyuki in Japan, and which her husband Tokiomi had subsequently expanded with calculated investments in various fields both at home and abroad.

    Mostly heavy industry, such as steel and metallurgy, shipbuilding and even textile production. Investments were also made in capital enterprises such as banking and insurance, while other investments were also made in the mining and shipping businesses.

    For Louis’ part, his family's fortune was built largely in the manufacturing field, Morgenstern primarily producing consumer electronics in bulk. They did however have branches in other fields such as real estate, tourism, shipbuilding, and even banking and finance, which had Louis remarking that perhaps he might discuss more serious considerations on that regard with Aoi’s husband.

    “I'm sure Tokiomi could find you the time for a discussion in detail.” Aoi said.

    “I’m looking forward to it then.” Louis said with a smile. Then both he and Aoi looked away as ushers sounded small bells and declared that dinner was being served. “Shall we, my lady? Perhaps you could introduce me to your husband over the dinner table.”

    “I’d be honored to, Mister Cyphre.”

    Aoi sat at a table in a five-star restaurant, a slightly-forlorn air hanging around her. She looked out the window her table was next to, looking out over the glittering cityscape of Fuyuki City, the restaurant being located in the upper floors of a high-end skyscraper.

    “Oh?” Louis’ voice remarked questioningly. “Am I that late?”

    “Louis!” Aoi said, starting at the voice and then smiling, rose to her feet with a bow. “Please, take a seat.”

    Louis gave his usual courtly bow at Aoi, and then took the seat opposite her. “I apologize if I caused offense,” he said. “But given Tokiomi is nowhere to be seen, I was worried that I had fallen behind the agreed time.”

    “Not at all,” Aoi said with a shake of her head, and sitting down once more. “However, an unexpected situation came up, involving matters between our family and one of our old allies, and Tokiomi had to see to that first. It’s just that it was so sudden that we thought it discourteous to cancel on such short notice, especially given how mutually beneficial our joint enterprises have been…”

    “…that he sent you to keep me company for this evening while he took care of such tedious matters.” Louis said with a smile. “Oh very well…I completely understand. And it’s not as though the company is an unpleasant one, that much is for certain.”

    Aoi laughed. “Oh my,” she said. “Such a flatterer as ever, I see.”

    “It’s not flattery if it's true.” Louis pointed out.

    “Tokiomi and Kariya say the same thing.” Aoi remarked.

    “Kariya…he’s your childhood friend, is he not?” Louis asked.

    “Yes…my dearest friend…” Aoi said with a nod. It was no surprise Louis could barely remember him, they'd only met once, after all. “The only one I trust as much as my husband.”

    “Hmm…” Louis hummed with a smile. “That’s good…friends…friends are a very good thing to have.”

    “Yes.” Aoi said with a nod. “I completely agree.”

    The conversation stilled as a waiter arrived to take their orders, and then resumed as the man left with a bow. It continued as the courses were served, and as alcohol was poured, inhibitions were lessened. Soon, one thing led to another, and then…
    __________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

    Kariya Matou walked across the ground floor of the training area, wearing an armor vest over a set of dark-colored fatigues. The synthetic fabric of both were clean, but scuffed and worn from heavy use over the past several months.

    A small table was set in a niche in the stone wall, carved – like the rest of the training area – out of the living rock of the mountainside. Kariya picked up his training pistols, and sliding the magazines into place, chambered .50 rounds with solid and heavy clicks. The man narrowed his eyes…

    …and then sprang to one side, just avoiding a spray of bullets shooting through the air he’d been standing in an instant before. They shattered against the interior of the niche, smaller than the .50 rounds Kariya had to make do with, but he knew better than to underestimate them.

    Springing away in a series of hops, Kariya leveled his pistols, taking a moment to aim before opening fire. No such luck: that moment was enough for Dante to close the distance, Ebony and Ivory already in their holsters, Rebellion swinging in to take his head off.

    Kariya ducked down, and rolling back several feet, stopped into a crouch before opening fire. Enough force to break an ordinary man’s bones barely fazed Kariya by now, as he let loose with a barrage of fire.

    Rebellion whistled as Dante swung it around in front of him at superhuman speeds, sparks flying as he blocked each and every last one of Kariya’s shots. Then chambers clicked empty, and Dante smirked as he held Rebellion in a relaxed guard. “Good aim,” he complemented his student for the past year. “But not good enough.”

    “Bufula!” Kariya barked while ejecting his spent magazines.

    “Motherf-!” Dante swore as Kariya’s ice magic chilled him to the very bone, the sheer cold depositing the water in the air around Dante to encase him in ice. It only took him a couple of moments to break free, but that was enough time for Kariya to come around, while simultaneously reloading his pistols.

    Dante smiled despite himself as he avoided another barrage of fire, springing to one side and then up into the air, and again blocked Kariya’s barrage of fire. This time, he didn’t waste time with banter as Kariya’s magazines again ran out, charging in to get close and personal with Rebellion.

    Kariya hissed as he dodged swing after swing, each and every one of them only narrowly missing clipping him. Reloading both of his guns under fire was impossible so he reloaded only one, and fired at point-blank range.

    “Pierce!” he barked as he pulled the trigger.

    Dante caught the bullet with Rebellion’s flat side, but the force of impact sent him skidding back across the room regardless. “Bufula!” Kariya barked as a snarling Dante swirled with red demonic energy, and sent it flying towards Kariya with a swing from Rebellion. He barely had the time to cross his arms protectively before him, and then he was flying through the air, to slam against the far wall.

    Kariya briefly saw stars before he managed to shake himself out of his stupor, then rolled out of the way as Dante leapt towards him. Sparks flew as Rebellion carved through the wall, and then across the floor as Kariya rolled away and then to his feet.

    “Fast on your feet…good!” Dante grunted as Kariya jumped up to avoid a swing, flipping overhead to land on the stairs behind, gun raised in Dante’s direction. Dante raised Rebellion to block, knowing from experience Kariya’s next move.

    “Pierce!” Kariya barked, and Dante was again thrown back, even as his student rushed up the stairs, to the upper levels of the training area. Smiling despite himself, Dante sheathed Rebellion and pulled out Ebony and Ivory, before giving chase.
    __________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

    Sparks flew across the darkened interior of the training ground, even as gunshots echoed in the darkness. Ebony and Ivory spat out .45 rounds, which slammed midair into Kariya’s .50 rounds, the bullets breaking each other apart on impact.

    Dante pressed the offensive, running across the pillared gallery to throw Kariya’s aim off, dashing from one pillar to another. Kariya did likewise, teacher and student trying to keep each other in their sights as they traded fire. Misses flew past with the burning light of tracers, and then chambers clicked empty.

    Red flashed across the gallery as Dante charged demonic energy into Ebony and Ivory, and sent it blazing across the gallery. Kariya evaded by jumping, onto and then kicking off a pillar, to land on a landing on a higher level. At the same time, he reloaded one of his pistols, and aiming at a pillar, fired with a word.

    “Pierce!”

    The pillar shattered from the blast, and sending debris raining down over and around Dante. The demon hunter shielded himself with an arm while dodging the larger pieces, and then jumped up after Kariya in hot pursuit. Kariya zigzagged across another gallery, bullets speeding past, and then jumped up, to another landing.

    “Pierce!” he barked again, blowing apart another pillar to bury Dante with.

    But Dante had Rebellion out now, and with a swing reduced the crumbling pillar into dust with a blast of demonic energy. It kept on going too, and slamming into Kariya, sent him flying with a cry into the adjoining gallery. Coughing as he forced himself up on all floors, he shook his head while taking aim.

    “Pierce!” he spat as he shot at Dante.

    Encased in demonic energy, Dante tanked the shot before sweeping out again with Rebellion. Red light flashed and Kariya was sent flying across the gallery, and through a wall onto a stone ledge cut into the mountainside.

    Kariya coughed and gasped as he caught his breath, groaning as he felt bruised muscle pressing against battered bone. Then he rolled fast to the side and up to his feet, Rebellion narrowly missing chopping down on him. Kariya sped back in short hops, barely staying ahead of Dante while reloading his guns.

    Then he opened fire, but Dante refused to let up, continuing to close while blocking each and every shot. Then Kariya’s chambers clicked empty, and feinting to one side, dashed to the other, and then up a staircase towards the mountaintop.

    Dante pursued, again blocking bullets using Rebellion, until they finally reached open ground on the mountaintop. Then a lucky shot hit too close to Rebellion’s hilt, throwing Dante’s grip off, and causing the next shot to force him to drop the sword.

    But the fight wasn’t over, Dante jumping up and over Kariya while drawing Ebony and Ivory. Landing behind his student, Dante opened fire, Kariya shooting down the first few bullets with his own, only for his guns to click empty.

    Dante smirked and fired twice more, blowing the pistols from Kariya’s hands. “I yield!” Kariya shouted, a split-second before Dante could put a pair of .45 rounds into his chest.

    The moment stretched…

    …and then Dante lowered his weapons, and Kariya finally relaxed.
    __________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

    “Looks like in the end I can’t really beat you.” Kariya grouched.

    Dante snorted. “You’re ten years too early aiming to beat me.” He said. “You shouldn’t waste your time trying.”

    “But you said…” Kariya began.

    “…I said when we started that you should focus not on beating me, but on lasting for at least three minutes in a fight against me.” Dante interrupted before glancing at his wristwatch. “Let’s see…three minutes and sixteen seconds. Not bad…and more to the point, you’re never, ever, going to find a magus or executor or whatnot who can fight as well as me. If you can last for more than three minutes against me, well…”

    Kariya stared at his teacher for the past year as the half-demon shrugged, and then sighed. “…okay, you said that.” He admitted. “But, I just thought…it wouldn’t hurt to aim for something higher.”

    Dante snorted again. “Nothing hurts but your pride, that is.” He said.

    “Fair enough.” Kariya conceded.

    “A good lesson to learn then, to know your present limits.” A third voice entered the conversation, and causing Dante and Kariya – the former standing next to the latter who sat on the stairs – to turn in its direction. Louis Cyphre walked towards them across the mountaintop, incongruous in his business ensemble, and carrying a suitcase with him.

    “Only once you realize what your limits are,” Louis continued. “Can you really begin to work to overcome them.”

    “…not bad, old man.” Dante said after a moment. “Though that sounds like something you’d find written on a slip of paper in a fortune cookie from your typical Chinese restaurant.”

    Louis laughed. “I suppose so.” He admitted as he came to a halt before the two men, Kariya having gotten to his feet. “But wisdom is wisdom, and always appreciated in one way or another, regardless of the source.”

    “Whatever you say, old man, whatever you say.”

    Louis hummed. “And?” he prompted. “Is he ready?”

    “Like I said,” Dante began. “He’s never going to find any magus or executor or whatnot – at least in this cluster – who can last as long as he can against me. Heroic Spirits will always be dicey, though. Especially when they use those noble whatchamacallits of theirs…but so long as they don’t…I think he can handle Assassin or Caster.”

    Dante paused, and then cuffed Kariya on the back of his head. The latter gaped at the former, who looked sternly at him. “Listen, little man,” Dante said while grabbing Kariya by the collar. “I didn’t kick your ass into shape for the past year just so some dime-for-a-dozen, cocaine-snorting, Middle Eastern killer-for-hire can put you down like a nobody. If I found out you went out like that, I am going to drag your sorry ass out of the afterlife, before sending it back there myself. Do you hear me, Kariya Matou?”

    “…crystal.” Kariya said with a gulp.

    “Great!” Dante cheerfully said while letting Kariya go.

    Louis smiled at the banter, before bringing up the case he’d brought with him. “If you are ready to return,” he began while opening the case. “Then here are a pair of gifts to help you in the battles to come: Zero and One.”

    Kariya raised an eyebrow at the naming, and then his eyes went as wide as possible, before he lifted out a futuristic-looking pistol of some kind from the case. He flipped the safety and the pistol came to life with an electric hum, blue light flickering along the pistol’s spine. The Hindu-Arabic numeral for one was carved into the pistol’s right side.

    Then he looked back into the case, and noted the Hindu-Arabic number for zero carved into the pistol’s – no, not a pistol, Zero was much too big to be a pistol, but what to call it – side.

    Huh…Zero and One…makes sense in context…I think…
    __________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

    “You sure you want to trust him with this job, old man?” Dante asked once Kariya had left.

    Louis just smiled, amused. “Trying to poach this job and extra cash with it?” he asked.

    “…maybe…” Dante vaguely replied, and Louis laughed. “…he wasn’t a bad student, but Kariya’s…he’s got issues. And from what I heard from him, he’s got personal motivations for taking this job on.”

    “He’s a driven man.” Louis agreed. “But even those kinds of men have their uses.”

    “…trying to see if that holds true for Kariya?” Dante asked after a moment.

    “Perhaps…” Louis answered just as vaguely and Dante snorted.

    “Right…” he said. “Hey, how come I don’t get a gift?”

    Louis gave him an unimpressed glance. “Your pistols can adopt the Almighty property at your convenience.” He said. “And don’t get me started on that sword of yours. You don’t need me to give you some fancy new weapons. Besides, I pay you generously enough, don’t I?”

    “…okay, fair enough.” Dante admitted. “In all seriousness though, what’s your goal here? I mean, it’s not like you really need or even want for a wish machine. You can just snap your fingers or whatnot, and shit just gets real.”

    “Hmm…let’s just say there’s something in the Grail that might be useful to me.” Louis answered after a moment.

    “…really?” Dante skeptically asked after another moment.

    “Yes.” Louis said before giving a cold smile. “Though, if I’m honest, there’s also something personal in this for me too.”

    “Oh?”

    Louis smiled. “Let’s just say that me and Kariya Matou have some shared interests between us.” He said.

    “And you’re letting him do all the work.” Dante observed.

    Louis spread his hands. “It’s like a play, my friend.” He said in a matter-of-fact way. “Each of us must play our part in the proper turn, or it ruins the whole presentation. And my role won’t be until the very end.”

    “Right…I’ll take your word for it. Oh, and speaking of which, when do I collect my back pay for this job?”

    Louis smiled, and gestured for Dante to follow.
    __________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

    “This won’t happen again.”

    “Of course it won’t.”

    “I mean it. I…I’m a married woman and you…you’re my husband’s…you’re one of his business associates…”

    “…in a different life…maybe…”

    “…maybe…”

    “…”

    “…”

    “…”

    “…goodbye.”
    __________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

    A/N

    And here we go, spinning off from my previous FSN x SMT crossover, inspired by conversation with Cubia. Here’s to you, honored contributor.

    The name references not just Kariya’s weapons – courtesy of Louis Cyphre – but also a statement from Fate/Zero’s writers. That is, no matter how many times you multiply it, zero will always be zero. Too bad Chaos doesn’t give a shit about logic, though. Zero multiplied by Chaos can come out as still zero…but it can also come out as one. And one is enough, when all is said and done.

    Thank you, statistics.
     
  2. pingas plight

    pingas plight Not too sore, are you?

    Joined:
    Oct 12, 2021
    Messages:
    309
    Likes Received:
    2,150
    Okay yeah my brain went through a whole fucking roller coaster because apparently I didn't know what this was about.

    Thought this was familiar of zero and SMT, then FoZ & Fate, and only now do I recognize it to be Fate and SMT.
     
  3. Threadmarks: Chapter 1
    Jaenera Targaryen

    Jaenera Targaryen I trust you know where the happy button is?

    Joined:
    Aug 29, 2018
    Messages:
    752
    Likes Received:
    8,700
    Disclaimer: I do not own the Fate franchise it belongs to Kinoko Nasu and Type-Moon. I also do not own the Megami Tensei franchise, it belongs to Atlus.

    Zero to One

    Chapter 1

    Let silver and steel be the essence.

    Let stone and the Archduke of Contracts be the Foundation.

    Let rise a wall against the wind that shall fall.

    Let the four cardinal gates close.

    Let the three-forked road from the crown reaching unto the Kingdom rotate.

    Let it be declared now: your flesh shall serve under me, and my fate shall be with your sword.

    Submit to the beckoning of the Holy Grail.

    Answer, if you would submit to this will and truth.

    An oath shall be sworn here: I shall attain all virtues of all of Heaven, and I shall have dominion over all evils of all of Hell.

    Yet you shall serve with your eyes clouded by chaos, for you would be one caged in madness, and I shall wield your chains.

    From the Seventh Heaven, attended to by three great words of power, come forth from the ring of restraint, Protector of the Holy Balance!

    The light of the summoning circle peaked to blinding as Kariya finished the summoning spell, not that it really bothered him given the VR visor he was wearing over his eyes. It filtered out much of the light, numbers scrolling along the edges along with icons and wireframe diagrams spelling out the metaphysical properties and values of the spell's end result. More interesting to Kariya was the motes of light swirling above the circle, coalescing into a solid form, until at last, his Servant stood before him.

    Kariya blinked and narrowed his eyes behind his visor, looking past the obvious like he'd been taught to do. Berserker had an imposing air, but on a closer look, much of that was only thanks to his heavy armor, the polished steel elaborately enameled in places, to say nothing of the horned helmet. The sword gave a similar impression, though personally Kariya didn't find it as…impressive, compared to Dante's Rebellion.

    Well, that's stupid. Sure, Dante's really strong, and could probably take on two or more Servants at the same time, but…

    …he's not really a…historical person, or a legend, like Servants, or rather Heroic Spirits are.

    I mean…he even admits that…kind of…with how careful he is about the idea of taking on a Noble Phantasm…

    Kariya blinked as his Servant chuckled low and slow, Berserker's voice echoing behind his helmet. "Well now," he said, lifting his sword and resting it on a shoulder. "You're got impressive prana there, Master."

    "…thanks?" Kariya replied on a questioning note after a moment. "Berserker, huh…looks to me like the old man was right about you. Mental Corruption cancels out the negative parts of Mad Enhancement, allowing you to fight as though you were Saber and Berserker at the same time."

    "Well, what can I say?" Berserker boastfully said, and Kariya's eyes widened as Berserker's helmet mechanically unfolded and retracted into his – her – armor. "I'm special."

    Kariya stared, even removing his visor to look at her with his own eyes. Then squinting, he looked at his visor, tapped it a couple of times, and even ran a quick diagnostic. Noticing his confusion, Berserker tilted her head. "Something wrong, Master?" she asked.

    "You're a girl." Kariya observed.

    Silver and red flashed, and Kariya blinked, passing a hand through the air in front of him, air through which Berserker had swept her sword through a moment ago. "NO." Berserker growled with an impressive glare. "I am not a girl."

    "…right…sorry about that." Kariya said with a cough. "Anyway…since we'll be fighting together from now on, what say you to starting over? I'm Kariya Matou, nice to meet you."

    "And I'm Mordred Pendragon, rightful heir to the Throne of Britain, and Servant Berserker." Berserker replied, grinning even as she accepted the offer of starting over. "Nice to meet you, Master."

    "Just call me Kariya from now on." Kariya replied while replacing his visor. "Though, if you don't want to since I can't exactly reciprocate without giving away your identity, you can keep calling me Master, if you want."

    "Nah, it's fine." Berserker said while sheathing her sword and stepping forward. "I'm a knight, and a blooded one at that. I know all about how important it is to keep your cards to your chest when going to war. Speaking of which, you've got nerve, Kariya."

    "Huh?"

    Berserker grinned wider. "When I swung my sword right in front of your eyes earlier," she said. "You didn't even flinch."

    "…oh, right…um, not trying to boast or make light of you here," Kariya said with a cough. "But my teacher for the past year taught me not to flinch unless I actually had to. Conservation of motion or something like that. Well, if you call kicking my ass so I could learn first-hand how to fight and get stronger 'teaching', that is."

    Berserker whistled, and softly rapped her armored knuckles against Kariya's shoulder. "Now that sounds interesting." She said. "Maybe someday I'll get to meet that teacher of yours. He sounds like someone I could have a good spar with."

    "I'm sure he'll be glad to hear that." Kariya conceded. "And who knows? Maybe you just might be able to meet him someday."

    Berserker laughed. "Not very likely," she said. "I don't plan on losing this war, and I've got places to be, and things to do after winning it. Speaking of which, what's your plan for winning the war, Kariya?"

    Kariya gestured for Berserker to follow, the latter falling into step next to the former as they walked through the man's hideout. "Well, first things first," Kariya began, holding up an index finger for emphasis. "Don't get killed. You can't win a war if you're dead."

    Berserker shrugged. "True." She admitted. "And?"

    Kariya shrugged. "Kick everyone else's ass." He said, smiling as Berserker burst out laughing.

    "Oh, I like the way you think, Kariya." She said with a wide grin. "I think you and I will work out just fine."

    "Well, isn't that a relief?" Kariya said with a shrug, and then they walked into a windowless room with a laptop sitting on a desk against a wall. Kariya tapped the touchpad, unlocked the laptop, and then brought up a program. "Let's see…I don't know about most of the other Servants yet, or even who most of the other Masters are, except for this guy."
    Kariya typed in a series of commands on command prompt, and pulled up a dossier on a goateed man in a red suit, along with a live-feed of a Western-style mansion set amidst expansive grounds. "Who's the man?" Berserker asked, not looking very impressed. Compared to her Master, with his professional air, the man was…

    …well, long story short, he reminded her of the vermin that infested her father's court. Vermin that wouldn't invest her court. Their heads would sit on poles instead.

    "Exhibit A," Kariya said with a theatrical gesture. "Tokiomi Tohsaka, inbred snob and asshole extraordinaire. The man thinks just because he's rich and comes from an old family everyone else is below him, and as though his shit doesn't stink like everyone else's."

    "I'll take your word for it." Berserker said with a nod. "Though to be honest, he already gives that impression to me just by his appearance alone."

    Kariya stared at Berserker, and after a few moments, Berserker stared back. "What?" she asked.

    "…you're not planning on wishing to end the world, are you?" Kariya asked.

    Berserker rolled her eyes. "No, of course not." She scoffed. "I get one chance to get what I finally want, so why the hell would I want to waste it on ending the world?"

    "Right, sorry about that." Kariya said with a cough. "Anyway…to be honest, I don't really have a wish for the Grail, at least not one that it can grant in a way that'll really satisfy me. No, I'm just in this war to kick this son of a bitch's ass and pay him back for the way he treated my best friend."

    Berserker raised an eyebrow. "Revenge, is it?" she asked.

    Kariya gave her a flinty look. "You got a problem with that?" he challenged.

    Berserker gave a barking laugh. "Oh, not at all." She said. "The gods give all men the right to vengeance for wrongs done to them. What'd he do, anyway?"

    Kariya growled low in his throat before replying. "He threw my friend and her newborn baby out of her home," he spat. "Took her elder child away from her, and practically told her that he didn't care if they either starved or froze to death. If it wasn't for my friend's lover helping her out, she and Sakura would have starved or frozen to death on the street!"

    Kariya raised a shaking finger into the air. "Mark my words," he snarled. "I'm going to carve everything Aoi and Sakura's gone through because of him out of his sorry hide, before I send him straight to hell."

    Berserker blinked and stared at her Master, caught off guard by the sheer venom in his words. And then she smiled. "Oh yeah," she said. "I think you and I are really going to get along just fine."

    Kariya sniffed, and turned back to the laptop. "…Tokiomi aside," he said after a few moments and bringing up another live-feed, this time of a castle-like building set in a forest clearing. "I've tracked another Master and Servant pair here. Don't have much on them yet, but the Master seems to have the appearance typical of the Einzbern family. The Servant though…"

    Kariya paused, and turned to Berserker who was staring at the screen with wide eyes, or rather at a recording of two blonde women coming out of a car in front of said mansion. One of them had a face that could pass for Berserker's reflection. "A relative of yours…?" Kariya asked.

    "…father…" Berserker whispered, and Kariya narrowed his eyes behind his visor. "…you're here too…to think we get to meet each other again…to speak with each other…even cross blades once more…"

    Mouth twitching into a grin, Berserker closed her eyes, and then throwing her head back, sent her laughter echoing through Kariya's hideout.



    "Hey, you hungry?"

    "Servants don't really need to eat, you know." Berserker replied from where she was lounging on a couch in Kariya's hideout, having discarded her armor and leaving her in the padded leathers she wore underneath.

    "…okay, fair enough." Kariya said while walking over with a tray, on which were a pair of big bowls that gently steamed in the air. "Still, it doesn't feel right to have lunch while you just sit there without anything to eat. Especially since we might have to head out tonight, so I'm planning on something light for dinner, while having a big lunch right now."

    "…what's cooking?" Berserker asked.

    "Spicy pork noodles." Kariya replied while taking one of the bowls on the tray and setting it down on the coffee table, followed by a spoon and a pair of chopsticks.

    Berserker sniffed at the steam wafting from the bowl, and her eyes went wide. "OH!" she burst out with an excited grin. "That smells great! Don't mind if I do!"

    Kariya laughed. "No," he said while sitting down opposite from Berserker, with a bowl of his own. "I don't mind."

    Berserker sampled the soup first, and hummed with satisfaction at the rich flavor and burning bite of the spices used. "Delicious!" she burst out again, before taking the chopsticks and silently thanking the Grail for giving her the knowledge on how to use them. She then slurped up some noodles before picking up some pork and putting it in her mouth. "Really delicious! Seriously, why didn't we have any of this back then?"

    "I'm guessing it's because no one in Europe had figured out how to make noodles in your day…I think." Kariya said while seasoning his noodles with red pepper. "And even if someone had, the spices for this soup would have been really expensive in the Britain of your day, having to come all the way from China or India."

    Kariya paused, and then smirking with wry amusement, offered the pepper shaker to Berserker. "More spice?" he asked.

    "Alright!" Berserker said, practically swiping the bottle from Kariya's hand and seasoning her meal in turn. Then taking another mouthful, had to struggle to hold her exclamation in as her mouth was filled with fire. "…delicious! Hey, don't you have anything to drink? Like beer, or something? That'd really go down well with this, you know?"

    "Huh…I knew I was forgetting something…" Kariya suddenly realized before slurping down some noodles, and then set aside his chopsticks. "…sorry about that. Hang on, I'll be back."

    Berserker continued to slurp up her noodles, punctuated at regular intervals with mouthfuls of pork and tofu and vegetables, and was pleasantly surprised to find egg in her soup. Then Kariya arrived with a pair of cold-frosted beer bottles, and prying hers open, Berserker took a long drink.

    "AH!" she gasped in delight as she finished before giving a loud burp. "Pardon me…oh yeah, that hits the spot."

    She took another drink, and then set the half-empty bottle down next to her food bowl. "You're a pretty good cook, Kariya." She observed. "Hope you do just as well in a fight."

    "Yeah, well, if I don't," Kariya said with a wry smile after chewing and then swallowing some pork. "My teacher's going to kick my ass for wasting all the effort he put into shaping me up over the past year."

    "Learning by experience, huh?" Berserker observed.

    "More like learning by putting your life on the line." Kariya corrected, and Berserker whistled.

    "Like I said," she said with a grin, and taking her beer bottle raised it in a toast. "Interesting guy. Here's to him, and as unlikely as it might be, for us to meet one of these days."
    Kariya just snorted and shook his head in amusement, before continuing to eat his meal.



    "Hey Kariya…!"

    Kariya looked up from where he was keeping an eye on his live-feeds across the city, even if there were only three of them right now. "What is it?" he asked, getting up from his chair and walking over to join Berserker at the map table.

    "What's this over here?" she asked, tapping at a point on the map marked out with a circle in grease pen.

    "Fuyuki Grand Hyatt," Kariya replied. "One of the biggest and most expensive hotels in the city. I actually have it under watch, but I didn't mention it because I haven't seen either the Master or Servant using the place as a hideout."

    "So how do you know they're over there?" Berserker asked.

    "Because they haven't exactly been subtle about it." Kariya replied. "Oh sure, there's nothing visible to the naked eye, but for someone who can sense the supernatural, the upper floors are a literal fortress. I don't know what they've got on the inside, but the magical barriers are strong enough that any Servant outside of the three Servant Knights who attacks from the outside is in for an unpleasant surprise."

    "Oh…sounds interesting…" Berserker mused.

    "No." Kariya said firmly. "If we're going to face whoever these guys are, we'll draw them out, and beat them in the open."

    Berserker made a disappointed sound. "And I thought we'd work well together." She said, and Kariya gave her a look.

    "…that, or we just bomb them from a safe distance." He added. "Your Noble Phantasm, Clarent, it's got a ranged ability, doesn't it?"

    "There, you see?" Berserker said with a grin. "We can get along after all. It's just a matter of give and take."

    Kariya snorted, and then actually laughed. "Okay, you've got me there." He admitted. "But not yet: it's too soon for your real identity to be exposed."

    "…I'm not really sure we can keep it secret for long." Berserker pointed out after a moment. "My father's here, remember? And I'd be very surprised if father doesn't recognize me on sight by my armor alone. It's rather unique, you see. Unless father stays idle, but that's not like him at all."

    "Or," Kariya pointed out in turn. "Einzbern makes him stay idle…for now."

    Berserker made a sound of disgust. "I'd be very disappointed if that were the case, Kariya." She said.



    A loud beeping woke Kariya from his nap, the man jolting up from his cot and grabbing at the remote next to it, rushed out. As he swept down the corridors to the situation room, Berserker materialized next to him, and easily keeping up.

    "What's happened?" she asked.

    "Something's happening over at one of the hideouts of the other Masters." Kariya replied.

    Berserker whistled. "Looks like we get to see who else other than father is in the opposition." she said.

    "My thoughts exactly." Kariya said, slowing as he entered the operation room and slipped into his seat. His fingers danced over the keyboard, and the live-feed of the Tohsaka mansion was brought up.

    "That's Assassin." Berserker observed, watching the skull-masked, dark-clad figure dancing across the mansion grounds. "What the hell is he doing?"

    "…my guess is…slipping through the cracks in Tohsaka's magic barriers…" Kariya replied.

    "Huh…" Berserker deadpanned before her expression turned skeptical. "Wait, that makes no sense! I mean…slipping through the defenses to get into the enemy's stronghold, yeah, that makes sense alright. But…this openly? This Assassin must be a really sloppy one, or…"

    "…something's up." Kariya said with a nod.

    "…yeah, that's what I thought too." Berserker said with a nod of her own.

    Kariya hummed in thought. "Let's see what's going to happen first, and then we can make a decision." He finally said.

    "Fair enough." Berserker said.

    They watched in silence as Assassin broke the cornerstone of the mansion's defenses, and then again as a sword flew down to pin the Servant in place. They kept on watching as a gold-armored Servant theatrically lambasted Assassin for his trespass, and then cut him to pieces with a rain of swords. Then he finished with a challenge for anyone else to approach, only no one did.

    There was a moment of profound silence.

    And then Berserker buried her face in her hands. "Even that dumb brick Kay could come up with a better ploy than this." She said.

    "Tokiomi must be as dumb as he thinks everyone is if he thinks something like this would fool anyone with a working brain." Kariya said in disgust. And then he blinked, and then he sighed, his expression of disgust turning to one of exasperated realization. "Or not."

    "What?" Berserker asked, looking at him in surprise, even more so as Kariya gave her a deadpan look.

    "Magi aren't the brightest people in the world, Berserker." He said. "At least, not anymore. The magi of your day and age would see their successors like clowns pretending to be professionals."

    Kariya paused and sighed. "Other magi would probably get fooled by this." He said. "By their standards, Tokiomi isn't particularly incompetent when all is said and done, as much as I hate to admit it."

    "…well," Berserker uncertainly began. "If they're this stupid, I suppose it only makes it easier for us."

    "…the Masters might be stupid," Kariya said. "But not the Servants…though we can hope. Still…"

    Kariya trailed off while reaching out with his thoughts, to the demon he'd set to watch the Tohsaka property, and indeed, the source of the live-feed. "Specter," he began. "Keep it tight. I get the feeling there's more to this than what we just saw."

    Then Kariya closed his eyes, as the demon responded in the affirmative. "So," Berserker began. "What now?"

    "…I'm guessing that golden Servant is Archer." Kariya replied. "I don't recognize anything about him, though. What about you?"

    "He had a lot of Noble Phantasms, that's for sure." Berserker said. "But I didn't recognize any of them. What a pain."

    Kariya hummed while sitting back in his seat. "So…" he began. "We have an Archer who goes around in golden armor, and throws around swords as projectiles, each and every one of which is a Noble Phantasm of one kind or another. Yeah…that last part is really going to be a pain."

    "That it is." Berserker agreed, before giving a bloodthirsty grin. "Oh well, if nothing else, I guess we'll just have to beat his identity out of him."

    "…let's hope it doesn't come to that." Kariya glumly said. "Anyway, I get the feeling there's more to this than what we just saw."

    "Oh yeah, definitely." Berserker agreed, standing straight while crossing her arms over her chest. "Especially when you think about it, something so…theatrical, and rehearsed, could only have been pulled off with planning and the informed cooperation of both Archer and Assassin."

    "In other words," Kariya began. "Archer and Assassin, along with their Masters, are allies."

    "And Assassin is most likely alive." Berserker said with a smirk. "Tricky bastards…I don't know if it's thanks to a Noble Phantasm, a form of Presence Concealment, or some other skill, but they managed to pull off a convincing show of death."

    "Was it really that convincing?" Kariya asked.

    "Yeah, it was." Berserker said with a nod. "Take it from someone who's seen plenty of people die in blood and violent ways in life."

    "…good point." Kariya admitted.

    Berserker nodded again, and then narrowed her eyes. "The really tricky part of this stratagem," she continued. "If still dependent on someone actually being stupid enough to fall for it in the first place, is that it leaves them open to Assassin."

    "Yeah, I get what you mean." Kariya grimly said. "They think Assassin is down, so they let their guards down as well. And Assassin is the one Servant specifically-suited to face and kill not Servants, but Masters."

    "It's not a bad stratagem," Berserker grudgingly admitted. "After all, take down the Master, and most Servants would be lucky to last more than a day on their own. It's just that the condition that needs to be met is an asininely-stupid one."

    Berserker paused and shook her head. "Clumsy," she said. "Just real clumsy…like I said, even that dumb brick Kay could come up with something more…refined."

    Kariya snorted, and leaned forward to watch the feed. Berserker similarly stayed silent, though she started after Kariya gestured in her direction with a container filled with white pills after about ten minutes. "What's that?" she asked.

    "Candy." Kariya said, already sucking on one in his mouth.

    "…thanks." Berserker said, taking him up on the offer, and popping the mint pill into her mouth, sucked on it while continuing to watch. It wasn't until another hour had passed when something finally came of their patience.

    "Who the hell is that?" Berserker asked, watching a dour-faced man dressed like a priest sneak out of the mansion, and keeping to the shadows, creep away into the distance.
    Kariya telepathically ordered Specter to summon more of itself, and to have them follow the man. At the same time, operating on the faint nudging of his mind ever so barely recognizing the man, Kariya typed away at his keyboard, bringing up Tokiomi's dossier, and scrolled down until he found what he was looking for.

    "Bingo!" Kariya said while clapping his hands in triumph.

    "What is it?" Berserker asked while leaning down.

    "I know who that was." Kariya said while updating his files. "That was Kirei Kotomine, Tokiomi's apprentice. As you can see, he's a priest, the son of a parish priest in fact, and a former executor at that."

    "Executor…?" Berserker echoed. "Hmm…from what I've got from the Grail, they're the Church's personal assassins, aren't they?"

    "More like pet psychopaths from what I've heard." Kariya said while typing away at his keyboard. "The really interesting part about this guy is that his father isn't just a local parish priest. You see, Risei Kotomine is the Overseer of the Holy Grail War."

    Berserker narrowed her eyes. "I smell something rotten." She growled.

    "Yeah, I think so too." Kariya agreed. "Still, it's best not to antagonize the Church, at least for now. Not when all we have are suspicions. Sad as it is to say, there's nothing in the rules of the contest that prohibits the Overseer's relatives from participating. Sure, it violates the spirit of the rules, but it's the letter that counts. That said…"

    Kariya paused and smirked at Berserker. "Seeing as Assassin is still alive," he continued. "That means Kirei is still an active participant in this war."

    "And even if Assassin is dead," Berserker said with a matching smirk. "As long as that priest doesn't make it to the Church before we get to him, there's nothing in the letter of the rules that says we can't gut him like a pig."

    "If nothing else," Kariya viciously said. "Robbing that smug bastard of his apprentice counts as a win in my book. And if Assassin is still alive, as he likely is…"

    "…then we expose their scheme," Berserker added. "Their covert alliance, and spoke their wheel along the way. Ha! I like it! They think they can make sport of me with such a pathetic scheme? Like hell they will! Come on, Kariya! Let's kick some ass!"

    "Just let me get my vest and weapons." Kariya said, getting up and locking his computer. Then turning, idly noted Berserker already in her armor, and hurried to his small armory. All the while Berserker just smiled in anticipation, even as her helmet mechanically folded into place around her head, and masked her face.



    A/N

    Yes, I'm well aware that Mordred shouldn't qualify as a Berserker…normally. Thing is, nothing has been normal about the Fuyuki Grail War ever since those bunch of geniuses (re: sarcasm) from the Einzbern family thought it was a bright idea to summon a god of evil as a Servant. Oh, and promptly caused him to be trapped in the Grail, turning it into a ticking bomb.

    Besides, as far as I know, all Heroic Spirits could theoretically be summoned as Berserker with the addition of a couple of lines to the summoning spell. That, and if they're willing to be summoned as one.

    On a final note, it's been years but I'm still in awe at how Tokiomi actually expected that little bit of theater involving Archer and Assassin to actually work. Okay, it works on magi, but that's only because most magi are morons (try to pull that on Touko and prepare to scream as she cuts you apart on a gurney for thinking you can make sport of her) so they don't count. That, and Servants would have seen through it right away. Unless it's Berserker, though that's if they don't have Mental Corruption.

    You don't become a Heroic Spirit by being stupid.











    Okay, fine. Jason is proof that even stupidity is not a barrier to reaching the Throne of Heroes.
     
  4. Threadmarks: Chapter 2
    Jaenera Targaryen

    Jaenera Targaryen I trust you know where the happy button is?

    Joined:
    Aug 29, 2018
    Messages:
    752
    Likes Received:
    8,700
    Disclaimer: I do not own the Fate franchise it belongs to Kinoko Nasu and Type-Moon. I also do not own the Megami Tensei franchise, it belongs to Atlus.

    Zero to One

    Chapter 2

    Kirei was stealthily proceeding down a deserted street when the rapidly-approaching roar of motorcycle engines caught his attention. Turning in its direction as it grew louder with every passing second, Kirei tensed as the motorcycle drifted around the corner far to his rear, and shielded his eyes from the harsh light of its headlights.

    As his eyes adjusted, Kirei narrowed them at the motorcycle’s rider, a dark-haired man in dark urban fatigues under a bulletproof vest, his eyes hidden behind a visor-like set of shades. “He’s wearing shades at night?” Kirei asked himself in surprise. “No…not shades…mystic codes…probably to improve his vision in and out of battle…a magus? No…more than that…a Master…oh no!

    Kirei grit his teeth and sprang back several meters, Black Keys sprouting into existence between his fingers. Then he was wrong-footed as the rider revved up his motorcycle, and then jumping off, kicked it in Kirei’s direction.

    What the hell?” Kirei thought in disbelief, though even then he noticed the rider pulling out a pistol while landing on the ground. Only…it was too big to be a pistol. “That…that’s a gun…but it’s too big to be a pistol…way too big…what the…?

    The rider fired, the shot sounding more like that of a cannon than a pistol’s, and an equally-massive bullet slammed into the motorcycle. The bullet then exploded, tearing the bike apart and igniting gasoline in a blazing fireball. It also sent the burning wreckage flying in Kirei’s direction.

    Snarling, Kirei threw a handful of Black Keys into the flames, blowing through them in his opponent’s direction. Then his eyes went wide again, even as he turned away and raised an arm to protect himself from flames and debris both.

    Meanwhile his enemy was landing on the ground, the giant gun…no, there was no other way to call it but a hand cannon, as ridiculous as the name might sound, barking as it launched what were probably 20 mm rounds in Kirei’s direction. Black Keys shattered as cannon rounds intercepted them in midair, and then the man was on the move, aiming his hand cannon at Kirei.

    It fired in bursts this time, four-round bursts to be precise, Kirei running and jumping around as cannon rounds punched through walls and doors and ruined entire storefronts. His enemy wasn’t immobile either, also running and jumping around to keep from presenting Kirei a stationary target, all the while keeping eyes on Kirei.

    Then the hand cannon clicked on empty, and Kirei smiled. “My turn.” He thought, leaping forward even as his enemy jumped back to open the distance. Black Keys flashed in Kirei’s hands as he pressed the offensive…

    …and Kirei’s smile died and his expression was replaced by one of apprehensive surprise as his enemy pulled out another pistol, smaller than the hand cannon if still rather bulky, and giving the impression of something out of an 80s B-movie. Blue light glowed along the pistol’s spine, and then a blinding bolt erupted from the barrel with the thunderous crack of displaced air. Kirei turned to the side and jumped away, barely avoiding the glowing bolt but still feeling the skin of his face burning ever so much from the sheer heat.

    The bolt flew past, down the street and through a window into a store. There it melted through a wall and started a fire, but the bolt kept on going, melting through the back room and punching through into an alley, finally expended itself against a brick wall.

    My God in Heaven,” Kirei thought in disbelief as he continued to dodge, plasma rounds blowing through storefronts in his wake. “Energy weapons…this is impossible…where and how on Earth did this guy get energy weapons? And just who is he?

    “WHO ARE YOU?” Kirei bellowed as the plasma barrage came to a halt, throwing Black Keys in his enemy’s direction as the man reloaded his hand cannon. Then Kirei’s eyes went wide at the answer.

    “Kariya Matou.” The man – Kariya – replied while shooting down the Black Keys with semiautomatic fire, and then bringing up his plasma pistol, fired again.

    Kirei dodged, growling low in his throat while taking to the rooftops. Surprisingly, Kariya didn’t follow, instead zigzagging across the street, firing on semi-auto with his hand cannon. Kirei also zigzagged, leaping across the street back and forth between rooftops, cannon rounds blowing masonry away just inches from his feet or head.

    Then Kariya raised his plasma pistol, and fired. The glowing bolt blew the entire edge of a building's roof apart, and causing Kirei to fall to the ground. The priest managed to twist his body to land in a controlled fashion, but there was no way to dodge. Not like this.

    Kariya brought up his hand cannon, and fired.

    Assassin fell into Kirei’s arms, the masked woman convulsing and twitching in death spasms, what with her chest blown open by a high-explosive cannon round she’d taken for her Master. Meanwhile, Kariya dropped down low, spun backward and to the side, sweeping out with an arm to turn away a hand clutching a knife. His other hand rose and pulled the trigger, the plasma round blowing Assassin in half.

    Then Kariya spun around and back, hand cannon rise and opening fire in bursts. Two Assassins danced around the volley…

    …and then both had their heads crushed into the ground, Berserker’s gauntleted hands clutching them from the back. Then rising to her feet, she sped forward, kicking an Assassin away from her Master, and lashing out with an elbow, doubled-over another Assassin before grabbing him by the neck and bringing him down in an overhead arc, slammed him with bone-breaking force against the road.

    Kariya’s hand cannon barked as he shot knives out of the air, and then raised his plasma pistol and fired at Kirei even as the priest was forced to retreat, aborting his counterattack as Berserker’s sword narrowly missed cutting him open from shoulder to hip.

    “You lose.” Kariya said, plasma pistol smoking.

    “…have I now?” Kirei asked in a soft voice.

    Kariya tilted his head. “Yes.” He said. “Your and Tokiomi’s scheme is undone.”

    Kirei snarled and hurled two sets of Black Keys in Kariya’s direction. In an instant Berserker was there, the Servant simply smashing the Black Keys out of the air with inhumanly-fast sweeps of her blade.

    “Get out of here, Kotomine.” Kariya said. “If nothing else, you can bring a message to Tokiomi for me: he’s going to get his.”

    Kirei raised an eyebrow. “What?” he asked, and Kariya smiled.

    “Yeah,” he said while holstering his guns. Kirei then tensed as Kariya pulled out a baton of some kind, and began turning away. “He’s going to get his.”

    Then Kirei gaped, as Kariya jogged away, and then jumping into the air after a few steps, pulled the baton apart. Light sprang between the two halves, extending down and around, coalescing into matter and taking the form of a futuristic motorcycle with glowing lines around the wheels and across its body. Then it slammed down onto the road, Kariya already crouched forward on the driver’s seat, and then with an electric hum, sped away at high speed.

    Berserker nodded once at Kirei and Assassin as her Master left, and then similarly vanished into astral form. Alone with his Servant, Tokiomi’s scheme reduced to tattered shreds, Kirei let his face fall in subdued consternation.

    I suspected it wouldn’t work.
    ______________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

    “So Kotomine and Tohsaka were allies all along, huh?” Sola-Ui Nuada-Re Sophia-Ri remarked.

    “So it would seem.” Lord Kayneth El-Melloi Archibald remarked while settling into his armchair. “The theatricality and contrived appearance of Assassin’s assault on the Tohsaka property could only have been performed with the informed cooperation of both Servants, and by extension, their Masters. True, we already had our suspicions, but this confirms them to be fact.”

    “Speaking of allies,” Sola-Ui began. “Matou’s actions are rather…perplexing.”

    “Oh?” Kayneth prompted.

    “Aren’t the Tohsaka and Matou supposed to be allies as well?” Sola-Ui pointed. “Einzbern as well, considering it was those three families which founded Heaven’s Feel to begin with.”

    “Indeed,” Kayneth agreed with a nod. “But we already know that Einzbern had fallen out of the alliance for over a century now, only providing the Grail vessel out of obligation to completing the ritual. That, and they alone possess the mysteries to do so in the first place. I suspect that a similar falling out has happened between Tohsaka and Matou, with Matou’s continued residency in this city only a case of courtesy from Tohsaka.”

    “…that is plausible.” Sola-Ui conceded before narrowing her eyes. “I also observed that the Matou Master…Kariya, was it? He seemed to have something…personal, against the Tohsaka Master.”

    Kayneth chuckled and folded his hands together on his lap. “Yes,” he said. “I noticed that as well. Well, no matter. If it is personal, then I see no reason why we should involve ourselves in such a feud between men or families. Not when there are more important things we should focus on.”

    “True…” Sola-Ui admitted with a nod before walking over to look out the windows. “…at least we now know which incarnation of the Old Man of the Mountain we are facing. Hassan of the Hundred Faces…in life a man with multiple split personalities, all of which had their own distinct identity and skills as an assassin. And as a Heroic Spirit – as a Servant – this manifests in the form of multiple bodies, all with their own distinct skills and personalities.”

    “A versatile asset, if one knows how to use it properly.” Kayneth admitted. “Whether it’s for reconnaissance or direct assassination…though now that we know about it, we can begin to take countermeasures against it.”

    Kayneth paused and chuckled. “I suppose thanks are due to Matou for such a service to us.” He admitted.

    “That other Servant though,” Sola-Ui began. “A knight in red and silver, with a matching sword…Saber, perhaps?”

    “Possible,” Kayneth conceded. “Though it could also be Rider, for all that we haven’t seen their mount as of yet. Almost certainly not Caster, or even Berserker for that matter, between their preference for direct combat yet doing so in a controlled and precise fashion.”

    “Rather brutal though.” Sola-Ui observed.

    Kayneth shrugged. “Fighting tends to be brutal.” He said. “Even between magi, the best we can do is conceal it with a façade of elegance and refinement. But beneath it all, fighting with the goal of killing your enemy while knowing they may kill you as well, is still a dirty business. Anyone who doesn’t know much less understand that, has no place on the battlefield.”

    Sola-Ui narrowed her eyes, and after a moment, turned to the other figure in the room. “How about you, Lancer?” she asked in a softer tone. “What do you think?”

    “I am in agreement with my lord.” Lancer replied from where he stood attentively against a wall. “Strip away the ideals of courage, honor, duty, and loyalty that drive men onto the battlefield, or the appeal of proving one’s skills and talents on the line between life and death, and battle and war are nothing but blood, death, and ruin.”

    Sola-Ui frowned while Kayneth tapped a finger thoughtfully against an armrest. “Any thoughts on who our mysterious Servant in red and silver is?” he finally asked.

    “…their appearance presents a clue, my lord.” Lancer answered after a moment’s thought. “Though, it is rather circumstantial.”

    “Oh?” Kayneth prompted. “Do tell.”

    “The knight’s sword,” Lancer said. “There is script engraved along the blade. I cannot read it, for I have admittedly never had any talents nor felt any calling to study the arts of the priests and witches, but I recognize them by sight regardless. The script is made in fairy letters.”

    “…fairy letters…?” Sola-Ui echoed, and Lancer nodded.

    “As you say, my lady.” He said. “Those were fairy letters on the blade. I am certain of it.”

    Kayneth narrowed his eyes, thinking back to the enemy Servant’s sword and the script thereon. “Fairy letters…” he thoughtfully echoed. “…I see…so a Servant with a connection to the fey. Not exactly concrete evidence as to who this knight is, but it is evidence, regardless, and one which narrows the list of candidates down. Well done, Lancer, your contribution is most appreciated.”

    Lancer bowed low. “I am honored by your praise, my lord.” He said.
    ______________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

    “Ha!” Rider said with a pump of his fist. “I knew something wasn’t right about what happened at Tohsaka! To think it was all just a ploy, and a clumsy one at that.”

    “But,” Waver Velvet began. “Why would Matou let everyone know about it? I mean, wouldn’t it have given them an advantage being the only ones to know about Tohsaka and Kotomine’s secret, while everyone else stays open from thinking Assassin is dead?”

    Rider hummed thoughtfully while nodding his head in admission of Waver’s point. “That much is true, boy.” he finally said. “But you’re looking at it while assuming that Matou was being generous to everyone by exposing Tohsaka and Kotomine’s trickery for all to see, or is fighting in this war professionally.”

    “…what do you mean?” Waver asked.

    Rider grinned. “Do you remember what Matou said to Kotomine at the end of their battle?” he asked. “Or rather, the message the former asked the latter to bring back to Tohsaka?”

    “Something about Tohsaka getting what’s his, right?” Waver recalled.

    “Exactly!” Rider said while pumping a fist into the air. “There’s something personal between Matou and Tohsaka. Matou wasn’t being generous when he let everyone else know they were being tricked by Tohsaka and Kotomine. Not even close! No…what Matou was doing was tearing down what goodwill anyone has towards Tohsaka by exposing their trickery along with Kotomine’s, while at the same time denying Tohsaka the advantage they wanted to claim with this ploy.”

    “I…I see…” Waver murmured.

    Rider harrumphed while stroking his chin in thought. “…this is going to be a problem though…” he mused. “…depending on how bad the personal feud between them is. There’s no way they’ll…”

    Rider blinked, and then laughed while slapping one of his own thighs with a hand. “Well, it’s still early.” He said with a smile at Waver. “No need to get too carried away right now, and pass judgment so soon. True conquest is still very much possible right now.”

    “Huh?” Waver asked with wide eyes.

    “Oh yes,” Rider said, and snapping his fingers. “Any thoughts on who our mysterious friend in red and silver is?”

    “…unfortunately no.” Waver said with a sigh. “Though I can make a guess about their class. Considering their use of a sword and how they were skilled enough to fight multiple incarnations of Assassin without overtly showing off their abilities, I’d say they’re probably Saber.”

    Rider whistled. “The most outstanding of the Servant classes, huh?” he asked. “Not bad, not bad…not bad at all. It’ll be a pleasure to meet them in person, though hopefully by then they’d be willing to show their face. They must really be shy to hide it behind that elaborate helmet of theirs.”

    “That,” Waver began. “Or their appearance might give away who they are. Some heroes can be distinctive like that…I think.”

    “I suppose that’s true.” Rider agreed. “Especially if another Servant in the contest was someone they knew in life. Though if that were the case, wouldn’t they be recognized by their sword and armor both?”

    “Hmm…Saber, huh…” Waver hummed in thought. “…who could you really be, I wonder?”
    ______________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

    “You know who that Servant is?” Irisviel von Einzbern asked in surprise.

    “Yes,” Saber said before giving a sigh, and surprising Irisviel even more with the look of sadness and regret on her face. “Though I wish I never had to.”

    “…who is it?” Irisviel asked after a moment. “And how? I mean…their face is hidden behind the visor of their helmet…the sword and armor…you recognize them, don’t you? They…they’re one of yours, aren’t they? A Knight of the Round…”

    Saber nodded, staring at the image on the screen, of a deceptively-imposing figure armored in silver and red. “…they’re one of the ones who lost faith in you, aren’t they?” Irisviel asked again. “One of the ones who followed Mordred in the end.”

    Saber shook her head. “No…” she whispered. “She didn’t follow Mordred.”

    “…did she die then, fighting against Mordred?” Irisviel asked after a moment. “Saber, I know you feel responsible, but…”

    Irisviel broke off as Saber gave her a look, one that shockingly showed a fragility within that vanished as quickly as it came. “She didn’t die fighting Mordred.” Saber said. “She is Mordred.”

    Irisviel’s gasp echoed across the room. “Why is she here?” Saber whispered almost to herself. “No…that is a meaningless question. Just as meaningless as what her wish would be for the Grail.”

    “Saber…” Irisviel murmured.

    Saber closed her eyes, and taking a deep breath, opened them with unflinching resolve. “It doesn’t matter.” She said while regarding Irisviel. “I will fulfill my responsibilities, whether to you or Kiritsugu, or to Mordred as her father and king both. So, rest assured, no problems will arise from this development.”

    “You’re going to kill her?” Irisviel asked. “Your own…son?”

    Saber closed her eyes with a bittersweet smile marking her face. “To win the Holy Grail,” she said. “And to ensure that justice is done, I will do what I must, as I have done once before.”

    “Oh Saber…” Irisviel softly said with a shake of her head.

    Saber turned away, looking at the screen and at her ‘son’ with an unreadable expression on her face. Irisviel looked on with an expression of pity, while nearby Maiya Hisau had a similarly-unreadable expression on her face. Then Kiritsugu Emiya blew out a thin stream of smoke, and nodded while putting out his cigarette on an ashtray.

    “Right,” he began. “Now that we know who Matou’s Servant is, and that I’m reasonably assured that there won’t be any problems from the past relationship between you two, tell us everything you know about your son, Saber.”
    ______________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

    “So,” Archer began with a dangerous note to his voice, stalking back and forth like a caged lion in front of Tokiomi Tohsaka. “Given Matou’s actions, that…farce, from earlier has been for nothing, has it not?”

    “So it would seem, Your Majesty…”

    The words had barely left Tokiomi’s mouth when he was staggering away, having been slapped hard on the left cheek by Archer’s hand. For such a seemingly-light blow, it was like getting struck by a concrete slab.

    “The king has been humiliated, you little fool.” Archer spat. “First, he was made to participate in a farcical display of mediocre cunning. He did so only because of your assurances that doing so would expose the mongrels’ backs, and in so doing lay further groundwork for the reclamation of the king’s rightful property. And then…here and now…said farce turned out to be for nothing, and with it the king had been made to play a fool in hindsight.”

    “With respect Your Majesty,” Tokiomi began, ignoring the burning pain in his left cheek. “I would point out that it is only so due to Matou’s unexpected perception and his actions to expose our ploy to the other Masters…”

    Again, the words had barely left Tokiomi’s mouth when he was staggering away, this time slapped hard on the right cheek by Archer’s hand. “Do not pass off responsibility for your failures onto others, you little fool.” Archer snarled. “I have no patience or tolerance for those who seek to escape responsibility for their crimes or failures. The law is clear on this: those who fail or who commit crimes must face and accept responsibility for them. It is only just.”

    “…forgiveness…” Tokiomi said with a deep bow, and continued to bow as Archer continued to speak.

    “It was you who came up with that farce from earlier.” Archer said. “It was you who assured me that it would pull the wool over the eyes of the mongrels and pretenders who dare lay claim to what is rightfully mine. And thus it is you who must face responsibility for this…failure, and humiliation. Matou has no responsibility in this. On the contrary, he has only proven himself to have greater wit and sharper perception compared to you and your ilk, and for all that he caused your pathetic scheme to come crashing down, responsibility still falls to you for failing to make it more resilient to interference and more successful to say nothing of believable in what it was meant to achieve.”

    “…I have no excuse.” Tokiomi said.

    Archer scoffed. “Indeed you do not.” He sneered. “How will you take responsibility for this, Tokiomi? Answer me: I command you.”

    “…I will exert thought and effort sevenfold henceforth to ensure Your Majesty’s success and the reclamation of your treasure.” Tokiomi answered.

    Archer scoffed and then turned away. “We shall see.” He ominously said while walking away. Tokiomi remained deeply-bowed until Archer was out of earshot, and with a sigh rose to his full height, his cheeks red, painful, and beginning to bruise.

    Despite the pain and humiliation, Tokiomi refused to lose control. Yes…control…he would remain in control. He was a Tohsaka, and a Tohsaka was always in control. Even in the worst situations they would remain calm, poised, dignified, the perfect picture and example of refined nobility and achievement, who would face and overcome challenges as they came without question or complaint, and emerge triumphant to the awe and envy of their peers.

    Yes…he was in control. He was in perfect control.
    ______________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

    Berserker whistled as they returned to their hideout. “A most impressive steed, Kariya.” She said.

    “Thanks…” Kariya said while derezzing the lightcycle back into the baton. He stared at it, noting the serial number stamped along one end, and the name of the company which produced it running along the length of the baton: Morgenstern.

    “…it’s on loan, though.” He finally said to Berserker. “My…patron, gave it to me to test it out outside of the controlled environment of a laboratory or even a factory.”

    “It’s not magic, is it?” Berserker asked as they walked deeper into the hideout.

    “No, it’s advanced technology.” Kariya said. “So advanced it looks like magic, Mister Ciphre said.”

    “That’s your patron?” Berserker asked. “Is he your teacher too?”

    “Louis Cyphre is my patron, yes.” Kariya clarified. “He’s also President of Morgenstern Electronics. Dante, founder and owner of Devil May Cry, is my teacher.”

    “…they sound like really interesting people.” Berserker remarked. “So this Louis Cyphre is…a merchant, right?”

    “…close enough.” Kariya said with a laugh.

    “And Dante?”

    “He’s a demon hunter, apparently.”

    Berserker’s eyes went wide, and then she whistled. “Seriously?” she asked.

    “Seriously.” Kariya said with a nod.

    Berserker whistled again, and then she grinned. “He sounds even more interesting now.” She said. “Hey, can you tell me more about him?”

    “Not as much as you’d like.” Kariya said. “Quite a lot of what I’ve learned about him he told me in trust. That is, they’re private facts about his life, and which he usually wouldn’t tell anyone else. He probably only told me because I wasn’t exactly the best student he could have, and needed to motivate me to…well, be all I could be.”

    Kariya paused and shrugged. “Dare to be badass, I guess.” He said.

    Berserker hummed and hawed in thoughts until they reached the situation room, and Kariya started reviewing his feeds, to see what had happened while they were out. “Okay, fair enough.” Berserker finally said. “I won’t ask you to breach the trust between you and your teacher. That said, can you tell me anything about him beyond the bits and pieces you’ve already told me? Like…I don’t know, you said he’s a demon hunter, right? Did he tell you any interesting stories about hunting demons you could tell me?”

    Kariya glanced curiously in Berserker’s direction, and had to visibly hold back a laugh at the childish expression of excited interest on her face. Berserker noticed and scowled. “What’s so funny?” she demanded.

    “Nothing!” Kariya said with a cough. “Sorry about that…but yes, he told me a few of his experiences about hunting demons that I could share with you. Later though, when we’re not busy.”

    “Fair enough, war is war, after all.” Berserker agreed. “Now I don’t know about you, but I’m going to get something to drink. See you later, Kariya.”

    Kariya waved Berserker off as she wandered away to find something to drink. In the meantime, he had work to do.
    ______________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

    A/N

    Ouch, Gilgamesh is angry. Then again, he’s been made a fool of, so why wouldn’t he be? Who wouldn’t be angry in his place?
     
  5. Threadmarks: Chapter 3
    Jaenera Targaryen

    Jaenera Targaryen I trust you know where the happy button is?

    Joined:
    Aug 29, 2018
    Messages:
    752
    Likes Received:
    8,700
    Disclaimer: I do not own the Fate franchise it belongs to Kinoko Nasu and Type-Moon. I also do not own the Megami Tensei franchise, it belongs to Atlus.

    Zero to One

    Chapter 3

    “How are the clothes?” Kariya asked.

    “Nice…very nice…” Berserker said with a grin, moving her arms back and forth while examining herself, now wearing a short-sleeved shirt in blue over a pair of jeans with a slightly-overlong belt. “…so much nicer than a dress.”

    “…yeah, I kind of gathered you weren’t the type to wear dresses.” Kariya said with a nod, and giving Berserker a deadpan look when she gave him a slight glare. “That said, those are fairly cheap, so again, sorry. But it’s the best I could get on short notice.”

    “Oh, it’s fine.” Berserker said with a wave of her hand. “Clothes like these might be cheap these days, but back in my days you wouldn’t find clothes of this quality for any price. Besides, I just need to blend in, right?”

    “Right.” Kariya said with a nod. “Don’t forget, if we ever have to fight, you can’t use your sword or armor. Not that it really should be a problem, I doubt anyone would be stupid enough to pick a fight with us in broad daylight. At least…not overtly…”

    “And even then,” Berserker added. “My fists should be enough to either send them running with their tails between their legs, or to just put them six feet under once and for all.”

    “Quite…” Kariya said before gesturing for Berserker to follow. Berserker obliged, Master and Servant proceeding through the hideout until they reached the garage, where Kariya pulled the tarp off another motorcycle.

    “Hey, that looks like that machine you sacrificed last night.” Berserker observed. “Come to think of it, any reason why you don’t use that flashier riding machine of yours?”

    “Well, for one thing, you said it: it’s very flashy.” Kariya said, while checking the fuel before taking the motorcycle out of its niche and into the middle of the garage. “The aesthetics and obviously advanced technology making it up draws attention. That leads to the second reason, which is drawing attention isn’t a good idea, as the technology for a lightcycle doesn’t exist yet, and won’t for a few more decades. I’d rather not run into – or cause – problems when someone curiously pokes their nose at my lightcycle and realizes it shouldn’t exist at all. And finally, a lightcycle can’t be sacrificed as an improvised bomb like a motorcycle can. It just derezzes when shot at or blown up, and pixels – even hard-light ones – aren’t particularly harmful to anyone.”

    Kariya paused, and then sighed as he mounted the motorcycle. “On the downside, though,” he began while starting up the motorcycle with a growl. “Using a motorcycle as an improvised bomb means that I lose the security deposit. There went sixteen thousand yen from last night…”

    Kariya trailed off with a sigh, and then put on his helmet. “Shall we?” he asked.

    Berserker smirked and vanished into astral form. The garage doors opened as Kariya revved his motorcycle, and once the route was clear, he roared through and into the open, morning sunlight shining down warm and bright in the morning air. Kariya briefly relished the warmth sinking into and through the cold leather of the jacket he was wearing, before easing into the motorcycle lane and then speeding up.

    He had a meeting to catch, and he wasn’t looking forward to it.

    Not an unusual sentiment for most people his age…

    …except Kariya was going to meet with his older brother. And most people would usually be happy to see their relatives, especially one normally as close as a sibling.

    Too bad there was nothing normal with Kariya’s family though.

    Let’s just get this over with.
    ______________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

    “You’re looking well.” Kariya remarked neutrally as he approached his brother, sitting on a park bench and wearing ill-fitting clothes: a rumpled, button-down shirt in white with long sleeves, worn over a pair of dark colored trousers. Not only did they seem to just…sag, off his body, the man himself didn’t look really healthy at all. His skin was sallow if not outright jaundiced, while his violet hair was greasy and unkempt, barely looking as though they knew the touch of a comb or a brush. Stubble marked his cheeks and chin, while his bloodshot eyes had dark circles around and under them.

    It made for quite the contrast between them, Kariya looking quite fit and healthy in his glossy leather jacket over a dark shirt and matching pants. While not exactly styled and only casually combed into place, his hair was clearly trimmed on a regular basis, and both Kariya’s chin and cheeks were clean-shaven.

    Byakuya Matou knew it too, envy and resentment evident in his glare and tone as he regarded his younger brother. “I don’t need you to flatter me.” He spat.

    Kariya rolled his eyes and decided against sitting down next to his brother. “I was just trying to make small talk.” He said, and Byakuya sneered. “Alright then…since you’re not interested in making small talk, let’s get straight down to business. What does Zouken want?”

    “What makes you think father is involved in this at all?” Byakuya asked, and Kariya rolled his eyes again.

    “Please,” he scoffed. “You and I have never had a good relationship between us, so don’t try and pull something like ‘wanting to see my little brother after so long’ on me. It won’t work. No…the only reason you’re here is because Zouken told you to get in touch with me, and to meet with me here and now. The only question is, why?”

    “…father knows you’re fighting in the Holy Grail War.” Byakuya sullenly admitted after a few moments. “He sent me to remind you of your obligations to the family.”

    “In other words,” Kariya said while waving a hand dismissively in the air. “If I win the war, he expects me to hand the Grail over to him.”

    “Yeah, that’s…pretty much it.” Byakuya agreed.

    Kariya snorted. “Well, big brother,” he began. “Sorry to say, but you’ve wasted your time to come here and meet me if that’s all you have to say, because I don’t have any reason to hand the Grail over to Zouken. Assuming I win, of course.”

    Kariya smirked at Byakuya at that, who looked at him as though he’d grown a second head. “It’s not a good idea to make an enemy out of father, Kariya.” Byakuya warned.

    “I’m not afraid of Zouken.” Kariya said.

    “You should be,” Byakuya fearfully said, and for a moment, the sound of insect wings could be heard all around them. Kariya’s instincts tingled, and through their link, Berserker tensed.

    “Mabufula.” Kariya said coldly, and then suddenly out of every shadow shards of ice began falling, dozens and then hundreds of them, each and every one having a worm or insect frozen dead inside. “No…I’ve got no reason to be afraid of Zouken at all.”

    Kariya paused, and then briefly closing his eyes, smiled sardonically at a wide-eyed and open-mouthed Byakuya. “Then again,” he continued before holding out his hands. “I’m his son…Makiri Zolgen’s son…the arrogance he’s known for…some of that’s in me…I don’t like admitting it, or letting it bubble up, but here and now…”

    Kariya paused again and laughed in a self-mocking way. “…I have become more powerful than any Matou.” He said. “Maybe even more powerful than father was over five hundred years ago.”

    Kariya tilted his head at Byakuya. “You tell that to Zouken.” He said. “And maybe this trip of yours won’t be wasted.”

    Byakuya’s hands began to shake. “I…I can’t…” he stammered out. “…you don’t know what it’s like…he…he…if I come back and pass on what you said just now…he’ll take it out on me…I can’t…”

    Kariya’s face softened, sympathy and pity apparent in his eyes and voice. “Then don’t go back.” He said. “Run away. Leave it all behind and start over. You’ve still got a chance, Byakuya. I did it, and I’m younger than you. All you have to do is to take the chance.”

    “I can’t…”

    “Yes,” Kariya firmly interrupted with a nod, and reaching out, held and squeezed his brother’s shoulder. “You can.”

    Byakuya stared at Kariya’s hand with a desperate light in his bloodshot eyes, and for a moment Kariya thought he might have gotten through his brother. But then the fear – the resignation – came back, and Byakuya shrugged Kariya’s hand off.

    “No…I can’t…” he said in a resigned tone, drawing back and looking away. “…there’s no getting away from him…and even if I did…what about Shinji? I can’t raise him on my own. Or worse…father could get to him…the things he would do to Shinji…”

    Kariya was silent, internally surprised both at Byakuya for actually caring for Shinji – considering he never seemed to have ever really cared before from what Kariya knew – and at himself, for feeling…impressed? Proud? He wasn’t really sure, but Kariya…he felt something good, at knowing that in some little way Byakuya did care for his son.

    “…you should be careful, Kariya.” Byakuya suddenly said, and catching the younger man by surprise. “Even if you can take care of yourself, even if whoever it is who taught you how to properly use magic can protect you from father, the people you care for might not be so lucky.”

    “…Aoi…her children…” Kariya said in a flat tone. Byakuya nodded, and Kariya briefly closed his eyes with a sigh. “…Aoi and Sakura are safe. Not even Tokiomi could run them out of the city, at least once Aoi got in touch with Cyphre. Zouken would do no better. As for Rin…Zouken must be even more stupid than Tokiomi is to go after the Tohsaka heiress. Tokiomi would set Archer and that pet priest of his on Zouken’s stinking ass, and that’ll be the end of that. No…Zouken doesn’t have any leverage on me. Not for a long time now.”

    “…I hope so…for your sake…” Byakuya whispered, and without another word, got up and left, walking away without even once looking back behind him. Kariya stared after him until he was out of sight, and then sighing, left as well.
    ______________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

    “So…messed up family, huh?”

    “You have absolutely no idea.” Kariya said. Both him and Berserker were lounging in the corner of a coffee shop, nursing steaming mugs of coffee with several meat pies on the table between them. “I’ll admit that I don’t really know the details, and what I’m going to say is probably just me talking out of my ass, but from what I know from the legends, I’d trade your family for mine, and consider myself lucky.”

    “…you might be surprised.” Berserker said, feeling and sounding unsure.

    “Pleasantly, I think.” Kariya groused.

    “…is your old man really over five hundred years old?” Berserker finally asked.

    “Yup.” Kariya said with a nod. “He’s a vampire, you see. A monster that drinks the blood and eats the flesh of Human beings to stay alive. It doesn’t keep him young though, no idea why, though there’s probably something wrong with him compared to other bloodsuckers and flesh-eaters out there.”

    Kariya shrugged. “So he gets old,” he said. “And he’s gotten really old, so much so that these days, he’s only a pathetic shadow of what he once was.”

    Berserker raised an eyebrow, and then grinning, leaned forward across the table, face resting against an elbow. “Can you really live up to that boast you gave your brother earlier?” she asked.

    “…as long as I choose the battlefield, I should be.” Kariya admitted. “If Zouken gets to choose…that’s going to be a problem.”

    Berserker laughed at that. “Well, at least you’re honest.” She said before winking at him. “To me at least.”

    Kariya just smiled. “In all seriousness, though,” Berserker began. “How the hell is your old man still alive? Not the whole vampire thing, that much is clear, but from what the Grail’s told me, most magi these days hate vampires and hunt them down like vermin.”

    “Well, for one thing, very few people know he’s a vampire.” Kariya said. “Me and my brother are two of those. I’ve got no proof to back it up even if I wanted to tattle on him, and my brother’s scared shitless of Zouken.”

    “…probably worried he might be next on the menu.” Berserker muttered. “Or his son.”

    Kariya nodded. “Yeah, that sounds about right.” He said. “Someone else who knows is Archer’s Master, Tokiomi, and his ancestors before him. I’m…not really sure why they haven’t tattled on him, and even go so far as to cover up all the people Zouken’s eaten in the past hundred years or so – which is probably another reason why he’s still alive – but I have a couple of theories.”

    “Such as?” Berserker prompted.

    Kariya shrugged. “My family – and boy, does that make me feel dirty admitting – and the Tohsakas are allies.” He said. “Have been for over a century now, in fact. In that time, I’m sure Zouken’s gotten plenty of dirt about the Tohsaka. So if the Tohsaka rat him out…”

    “…then he rats them out as well.” Berserker said with a nod. “Makes sense: no one wins, everyone dies.”

    “Yup.”

    “And the other theory of yours?”

    “Tohsaka doesn’t really care.” Kariya said. “They’re magi. And magi these days are so much more like Morgana than Merlin. The kind who think that stealing from, hurting, and using people is alright so long as it’s convenient and gets them what they want in the end. The kind of magi who are like Merlin, using magic responsibly and for the greater good and all that, are pretty much a dead or dying breed these days.”

    “…in other words,” Berserker said in disgust. “Since it doesn’t cost them anything to look the other way, and actually doing something about the monster living in the city with them is more trouble than it’s worth, they let him do as he pleases.”

    “Pretty much.”

    Berserker made a sound of disgust. “You mentioned there were other reasons why your father hasn’t been hunted down yet?” she asked.

    “Yeah…for another thing, he’s very good at passing himself off as a harmless old man.” Kariya said. “He also has a habit of using fake identities over the generations. For example…he’ll claim to be a cousin or an uncle as far as people outside the family know, and the rest of the family are too afraid to rat him out and just play along with his game.”

    “But not you, though.” Berserker observed.

    “They call me a black sheep, though I’m proud to be one.” Kariya replied. “I ran away from home as soon as I could. It probably doomed the family too.”

    “Oh?”

    “Do you know what karma is?”

    “Isn’t it basically what goes around comes around?”

    “Yeah…close enough.” Kariya said with a laugh. “Over the past few generations, you see, the family’s been losing the ability to use magic. Byakuya, for example, can barely use the most basic spells. His son can’t at all. Me? Even before Dante started shaping me up, hell, even before I ran away from home, they said I was the last member of the family outside of Zouken who could really use magic. And when I left, bang! There went Zouken’s hope that his bloodline could keep using magic.”

    “Ah…I see what you mean.” Berserker said with a dark chuckle. “Looks like the monster got his comeuppance for all his black deeds, eh? Losing their magic over the generations…ha! No offense, but sounds like your family got what it deserved.”

    “Hmm…agreed…” Kariya said while drinking from his coffee mug. Berserker busied herself gobbling up meat pies left and right, allowing Kariya to relax over the next ten minutes or so.

    “Though,” Berserker said as she finished the last of her pies off. “Are you really sure? That your friend and her children are safe from your father? I mean…don’t get me wrong, I’m just being a good ally here. You and I are in this together, and so far, we’ve been working well together, so I don’t see any reason why I should let you be…exposed, and vulnerable, when I might be able to do something about it.”

    Kariya raised an eyebrow, and Berserker looked away with a faint touch of color to her cheeks. After a few moments though, Kariya chuckled and shook his head. “No,” he said. “I’m quite sure.”

    “Really?”

    “Rin is untouchable unless Zouken wants to tangle with Archer.” Kariya said. “Even if the fight takes place in his workshop, where his spells are at their strongest and his defenses all around him, there’s absolutely no way Zouken can win that fight. It’s impossible. It’s like trying to stop the Sun from setting.”

    “And…your friend, and other daughter themselves?” Berserker asked.

    “…Zouken getting to them is somehow even more impossible.” Kariya said after a moment. “He’d have more luck touching the surface of the Sun without burning up.”

    “You’re that confident?” Berserker asked, looking and sounding surprised.

    Kariya smiled. “Yes, I am.” He said.

    “…alright…I’ll take your word for it.” Berserker conceded after a long moment. “So…can you at least tell me about this friend of yours?”

    “It’s a long story.” Kariya said.

    Berserker made a sweeping gesture with an arm, towards the windows and the bustling streets of the city in the morning. “We’ve got time.” She said, and Kariya laughed.

    “Fair enough,” he said. “Let’s see…where to begin…”
    ______________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

    “What?” Berserker asked in surprise, as she stood with Kariya on the rooftop level of one of Fuyuki’s many skyscrapers. “Father and her Master are on the move?”

    “Yeah,” Kariya said with a nod, already dressed for battle, in dark fatigues under an armor vest. “According to the Specter I’ve got following them around, they’re basically just…wandering around the city.”

    Berserker narrowed her eyes. “Father never does anything without a good reason.” She eventually said. “Even if her Master was inclined to do something stupid, she wouldn’t assent to it just because.”

    “Unless they used a command spell on her.” Kariya pointed out. “Then again, from the look and sound of things, your father and Einzbern are getting along just fine, so that might not be the case at all.”

    “…they’re just wandering around the city, you say?” Berserker asked after several moments’ thought.

    “Yes.” Kariya replied.

    “Are they trying to avoid getting noticed?” Berserker asked again.

    Kariya blinked, and then narrowed his eyes. “…no.” he said after several moments. “I mean, from the feel of things they’re keeping a wary eye out, but they aren’t actually trying to hide…wait, you mean…?”

    Berserker hissed. “From the sound of things, they’re baiting anyone willing to bite to attack them.” She said. “But it’s not nearly as simple as that. Even if her Master is, father would probably push for more…active, action when going into battle.”

    “What do you mean?” Kariya asked.

    “Any Servant who attacks will find themselves getting held up fighting my father.” Berserker explained. “The same goes for the Master of the attacking Servant, against father’s Master. And while they’re focused on the enemy in front of them, another blow will strike, towards their exposed and unprotected rears.”

    “…a classic pincer?” Kariya asked, and Berserker nodded. “Huh…I…shouldn’t be surprised, because I know your father was ‘King Arthur’, and there are no kings worth the title with clean hands. But, considering her – his – reputation, I…kind of expected her – him – to be above such stratagems.”

    Berserker was silent for several minutes, staring into the distance over the cold skies of Fuyuki City. Then she clenched her fists tight. “I had to get it from someone.” She finally said, in such a soft voice she might as well have been talking to herself. “And it wasn’t just from my mother.”

    “…I’m sorry.” Kariya uncertainly said after a few moments.

    Berserker briefly closed her eyes, and let out a breath she’d been holding in. “This is an annoying topic.” She said. “Let’s move on.”

    “Right,” Kariya said with a nod. “So what do you think? Should we take the bait or let someone else take it?”

    Berserker gave him a look as though he’d said something ridiculous like the Earth was flat or something. “Are you kidding me?” she said. “Let’s head them off so as soon as night falls and the streets clear, I can get a chance to…embrace, my father at long last.”

    “…I knew you were going to say that.” Kariya said with a sigh, and then put on his visor. A thought pulled up a wireframe map of the city, on which were overlaid Einzbern’s location and course through the city thus far. “Right…since it’s too soon to try and cut them off, we should focus on positioning ourselves so when night falls we can get in fast and easy. To do that, we need to get over here…”
    ______________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

    Slowly but surely, the Sun rose to its zenith, and then climbing down from the sky, sank beneath the western horizon. As the Sun proceeded on its daily journey, the sky shifted in color, from light blue flecked with the white of clouds, to gold and orange, and finally to midnight blue speckled with sparkling silver.

    All the while Saber and Irisviel had proceeded around the city, familiarizing themselves as best they could with its layout, taking in the sights and smells and sounds, all under Kiritsugu and Maiya’s wary eyes. Them…and at least two other Servants and Masters, Matou and El-Melloi apparently, according to Kiritsugu.

    As the evening deepened and Irisviel and Saber entered a deserted area near the waterfront, they tensed as they heard a low, electric hum that steadily grew stronger as it approached. “Here they come.” Saber said, still in her suit, and positioning herself protectively in front of Irisviel.

    “Yes.” Irisviel agreed.

    They didn’t have to wait long, and then the Matou Master was driving around the corner up the street, then slowing to a halt as he came a third of the way towards them. Saber and Irisviel stayed silent as he got off his motorcycle, though the latter let out a gasp of surprise as the man literally disintegrated his ride into a small baton, which he clipped to his waist.

    “Good evening, ladies.” The man politely greeted while raising a hand. “Nice evening, isn’t it? I’m Kariya Matou.”

    “…Irisviel von Einzbern.” Irisviel returned the greeting after a moment. “This is my Servant, Saber.”

    “Ah I see…not surprised, it fits you well.” Kariya said.

    Saber narrowed her eyes. “So you know.” She said. It wasn’t a question.

    “Yeah, I do.” Kariya said with a nod. “Before you and Berserker start fighting, I’d just like to ask one more question.”

    “Berserker?” Saber echoed in surprise, before gathering herself. One more question before the inevitable confrontation wasn’t an unreasonable request, and she saw no reason to deny it. “What is it?”

    “Your Master,” Kariya began. “Does she have preferences on how I should address her, or will ‘Lady Einzbern’ do?”

    “Lady Einzbern will do, Mister Matou.” Irisviel answered.

    Kariya smiled. “Just Kariya will be fine.” He said, before taking off his visor to regard her with his own eyes. “I’m not sure if you know, but I’m something of a black sheep.”

    “Yes, I’ve heard.” Irisviel said with a nod. “But since we let you ask one question before the fighting starts, do you mind returning the favor?”

    “By all means.” Kariya said with an inviting gesture.

    “If you’re not fighting in this war for your family,” Irisviel asked. “Then what are you fighting for?”

    “My family’s not worth anything.” Kariya said immediately, before replacing his visor, and regarding Irisviel with a resolute gaze. “But my first, oldest, and dearest friend, is worth going to hell for. That, is what I’m fighting for, Lady Einzbern. GO, BERSERKER!

    Light flashed and Berserker appeared, imposing in red and silver. An instant later and Saber was also in armor, Invisible Air held low with one hand, the other pushing Irisviel away. And then both were caught off guard, as Berserker spoke.

    “It’s been a long time, hasn’t it, father?”

    Saber’s eyes went wide in surprise, while Irisviel gasped in disbelief. “What’s wrong, father?” Berserker asked in a deceptively-friendly tone, advancing slowly with her sword held low to one side, even as Saber brought Invisible Air up with two hands. “Are you surprised that I am able to think clearly and address you so, despite being summoned as Berserker?”

    Berserker paused and laughed. “Come now,” she said. “I’m your son, after all. And it seems I’ve inherited enough of that damnable coldness of yours to master the madness of this class.”

    Saber narrowed her eyes. “Still not enough to make you worthy of the throne, Mordred.” She said.

    Berserker exploded at the taunt, suddenly leaping forward while raising her sword, and then bringing it down in a two-handed swing. Saber simultaneously danced to one side while turning the strike, before parrying the next two blows, her footwork reversing their positions even as Berserker pressed the offensive. Saber blocked with a high guard, only to hiss in frustrated surprise as Berserker’s sheer strength forced Invisible Air to the ground. Forced to give ground, she continued to parry Berserker’s repeated strikes, the latter aiming her blows at Saber’s head and upper torso, once, twice, three then four times, before locking blades with each other with the fifth blow.

    Metal clinked against each other then, as Berserker’s helmet unfolded open and retracted into her armor, exposing Berserker’s features for all the world to see. “Do you have any idea how much I’ve wanted to be this close to you?” Berserker breathed.

    Saber snarled and forced Berserker back, before counterattacking. Berserker blocked one blow and then riposted another, forcing Saber back a few steps. “To have the Holy Grail grant you the Throne of Britain,” Saber wondered aloud. “Is that what you wish for, Mordred?”

    “I’m sure you’d know,” Berserker snarled with equal parts hatred, resentment, frustration, and unnoticed behind them all, longing. “If you’d been there for me when I was growing up, father!

    At those words, crimson lightning crackled up and down Berserker’s sword, and with a roar, Berserker resumed her attack.
    ______________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

    A/N

    And so it begins. ‘Father’ and ‘son’ reunited, to continue what should have ended at Camlann nearly two thousand years ago.

    Please keep in mind that Kariya is an Unreliable Narrator when it comes to the Tohsaka. Or is he?
     
  6. Threadmarks: Chapter 4
    Jaenera Targaryen

    Jaenera Targaryen I trust you know where the happy button is?

    Joined:
    Aug 29, 2018
    Messages:
    752
    Likes Received:
    8,700
    Disclaimer: I do not own the Fate franchise it belongs to Kinoko Nasu and Type-Moon. I also do not own the Megami Tensei franchise, it belongs to Atlus.

    Zero to One

    Chapter 4

    Kariya braced himself as Saber swung her sword in a wide arc, unleashing a gale-force blast of wind that easily blocked the pulsing blast of crimson lightning that Berserker threw at her. It also buffeted everyone else present, sending dust to sting at the eyes and skin, and pebbles clattering against the surrounding buildings.

    But Berserker knew her father…right down to the timing.

    Even as Saber swung her sword to block, Berserker was already charging a second blast of crimson lightning, and unleashed it before Saber could recover. As it was, Saber was forced to tank it with her armor, the silver plates on her left side buckling from the force of the blast. Saber staggered away with a cry, and then Berserker was there, snarling with hate and swinging her sword with vicious and brutal one-handed swings.

    Saber dodged the first swing with ease, backing away with a couple of steps, but the next blow forced her to parry with her own sword. The force of the impact pushed her sword hard down to the left, and then grinding her sword free, clumsily parried a third, one-handed blow. Then Berserker quickly shifted to a two-handed grip, hammering away at Saber’s head and upper torso.

    Once, twice, three then four and then five times, Saber blocked, the force of Berserker’s blows and sheer venom in them forcing her back again and again. A sixth blow followed, then a seventh, and then an eighth, before Saber feinted and swung at Berserker’s exposed side.

    The force of impact visibly displaced the surrounding air, Saber gritting her teeth in frustration, even more so as Berserker’s parry was one-handed. Berserker’s face was similarly twisted with rage at her onslaught being stopped in its tracks by a mere feint, and yet…

    …there it was. Their faces twisted with similar emotions, the resemblance was beyond doubt: father and son, no matter the hate and history between them.

    Then Saber and Berserker disengaged from each other, before the latter pressed the attack once more. Saber dodged low, stepping forward and fast, and counterattacking, doggedly hammered at Berserker’s guard. The first two blows were aimed at Berserker’s head, the younger woman easily blocking before Saber feinted and then struck at Berserker’s torso.

    Berserker blocked one-handed yet again, dispersing the force behind Saber’s blow and forcing her sword away with a circular motion. Then she riposted twice, Saber blocking both blows before riposting twice herself, the two of them locking blades with the second blow, turning in a circle before disengaging from each other. Berserker didn’t let up for long, attacking again, raining blows down two-handed once more.

    Kariya blinked…

    …then turning from the battle of Servants, pulled out Zero and One in the blink of an eye. A flick of his thumb had One charging up a charged shot, while Zero barked repeatedly in semi-auto, 20 mm rounds launching out to intercept sniper rounds aimed at him. All the while One’s whine built up to a high pitch, and spinning around to the side to throw the snipers’ aim off, raised One and fired in their direction.

    The brilliance of the plasma blast bleached the colors from their surroundings for an instant, and seared through the air into the distance in the blink of an eye. Steam hissed from One’s radiators even as an overheat alarm whined away. Kariya ignored it, springing away as bullets smashed into the ground through the air he was standing in a heartbeat ago, and then smiled as in the distance, the rooftop of a skyscraper shuddered and erupted in a cloud of debris.

    “Kiri!” Irisviel shouted in alarm, while even Saber looked away in the building’s direction in alarm.

    “Don’t get distracted!” Berserker snapped, before grabbing Saber’s arm and dragging her closer. Snarling wordlessly, Berserker let go before clenching her fist and slamming it into Saber’s face. Saber staggered away with a cry, spitting blood from split lips. She tried to raise her sword, but Berserker forced it away one-handed, and backhanded Saber with her other hand.

    Then crimson lightning erupted around her sword, and with a roar, Berserker swung, the electricity connecting where steel did not, and throwing Saber clear across the battlefield to slam against a wall. Snarling, Berserker didn’t let up, crimson lightning building over her blade again as she brought her sword up, and swinging down, launched the crimson lightning against Saber.

    Saber rolled out of the way just in time, and then both Irisviel and Kariya were hurriedly backing away, as a four-story building came crashing down. “Saber!” Irisviel shouted, looking over a shoulder in horror as she spotted the building coming down over Berserker and Saber both.

    “Berserker!” Kariya shouted at the same time. “Get out of…!”

    Matching roars filled the air as Saber and Berserker swung at the same time, Clarent a silver bolt striking down and Invisible Air an ethereal swirl rising to meet it. The force of impact blew the crumbling building above them apart, and sent debris flying in all directions.

    Irisviel could only gasp and turn away to the ground in horror…

    …only for Kariya to step up in front of her, and raising Zero, shot down the bigger fragments, while keeping the smaller ones from Irisviel with his body.

    “…you…why…?” Irisviel whispered.

    “…like I said,” Kariya said, wiping at his dirty cheek. “I’m a black sheep…from a magus family, that is.”

    Irisviel lowered her face at that, quickly getting what Kariya meant to say. All the while before them, Saber and Berserker continued to fight on, the clouds of dust obscuring their bodies and movements but for the displacement of the dust from their blows.
    ______________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

    “…well now,” Rider said with a satisfied air, standing on his chariot with his arms crossed over his chest. “To think Saber and Berserker were the famed King Arthur and his equally-infamous son, Mordred. And that both of them, contrary to the myth, were actually pretty young women!”

    Rider blinked and then pulled at his beard thoughtfully. “Wouldn’t it be mother and daughter, though?” he wondered.

    “…it might actually be the case.” Waver answered with a squeaky voice, pressing himself into a corner of the chariot, his hands gripping its edges so tightly they turned white. Then again, how could he not? Rider, of all places, had parked his chariot on top of one of the towers that made up the suspension bridge over the Mion River.

    Bad enough his chariot could actually fly, but to actually park it here?

    Madness!

    “And no one noticed?” Rider asked. “No, more than that. Myths are only based on historical fact, after all. And there are plenty of women in similar positions who were remembered by both history and myth alike as, well, women. Why would that not be the case with Saber and Berserker?”

    “…I’m guessing the Britons would have preferred a male heir.” Waver answered just as squeakily as before after a moment’s thought. “Enough that a dispute over the succession would have been serious enough to leave them helpless against the Saxons. So…Merlin, probably hid the fact with magic of some kind or another.”

    “Hmm…plausible enough, I suppose.” Rider conceded after a few moments. “And those royal women I’d have compared Saber and Berserker to didn’t exactly rule in their own name, I suppose. For example, Queen Semiramis of Assyria, if I remember the tale from Babylon right, ruled in her husband’s name at first and only usurped it afterwards.”

    “Or,” Waver said, eagerly taking to the conversation to keep his mind off the fact that they were precariously balanced over a hundred meters above the water. “For something closer to home, at least when it comes to Saber and Berserker, there’s the example of Queen Boudica of Britain, who only reigned thanks to the regard her people had for her late husband. Or Queen Medb of Connacht, who commanded the loyalty of all Irish kingdoms outside of Ulster because she…well, slept around with all their kings…despite being married…and her husband was still alive…”

    Waver trailed off, his British sensibilities making Queen Medb’s…reputation, somewhat difficult to talk about. “Or my mother, for that matter.” Rider mused. “She only had as much power as she did thanks to my father, and me, of course.”

    “…I heard you had to make sure she…well…no offense, didn’t mess things up while you were gone.” Waver hesitantly said.

    “None taken,” Rider said with a nod. “It’s true, after all. Now, don’t get me wrong, I love my mother, and I’d do anything for her…but I wouldn’t trust her with actually ruling anything but the household. She wants something done, and I’ll do it for her…”

    Rider trailed off and coughed. “Hey, boy.” He said.

    “Yes?” Waver asked.

    “Any reason why Berserker’s able to think and talk normally despite being, well, Berserker?” Rider asked. “Or is Mad Enhancement off?”

    “No, it’s on.” Waver said. “Without Mad Enhancement, Berserker’s statistics wouldn’t let her fight Saber on equal terms. Or overpower her, for that matter, as she’s repeatedly done during the battle.”

    “Then how?” Rider pressed.

    “…from the look of things,” Waver said after a moment. “Berserker also has the skill Mental Corruption. That is, her mind’s already twisted in some ways even before Mad Enhancement is factored in. So…Mad Enhancement can’t really twist her mind anymore…”

    “…because her mind’s already twisted in the first place.” Rider finished with a nod of understanding. “I see. Yes…that makes sense. Even from here, the anger and the hatred behind how Berserker fights…whatever it was that drove her to rebel against her mother…she doesn’t need Mad Enhancement to be Berserker. All she needs it for is to fight on equal terms with a Saber.”

    “Yes.” Waver agreed.

    “Good gods,” Rider said with a sigh. “This is going to be a pain to deal with. How to bring mother and daughter together to the table, and resolving the historical divide between them, bring an end to a feud that’s become legendary?”

    Waver blinked…

    …and then blinked again, before looking at Rider in surprise. “I’m…not sure what you’re getting at there, Rider.” He asked.

    Rider gave him a look, and then grinned. “I wouldn’t think so.” He said. “Oh well…there’s no finding out by sitting back. Let’s go, boy!”

    “H-h-hey wait,” Waver stammered out, eyes bugging out of his eye sockets as lightning began crackling around the Divine Bulls that pulled Rider’s chariot, moments before they took off into the skies (and in the battle’s direction). “Rider…what are you doing? Where are you going? RIDER!
    ______________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

    What should we do, Master?” Lancer asked.

    We hold position for now, Lancer.” Kayneth replied, looking flintily down at the ongoing battle between Saber and Berserker. “There’s no reason for us to get involved in this fight. For all that the Matou Master claims to have forsaken his family and fights for his own selfish reasons, there’s no reason for either of us to sink to similar levels, and interfere in the ongoing battle.

    Kayneth paused, and then put a thought out of mind, that of grudging recognition of Matou’s gentlemanly conduct, protecting a lady – even if she was the enemy – from getting shredded by high-speed debris. Black sheep or not, magus or spell-caster or whatnot, even regardless of the implied insult that came with the man’s reasoning, gentlemanly conduct was worthy of respect.

    Perhaps that was why Einzbern had not struck Matou down with his back exposed to her?

    That, or she realized that taking him down while he was protecting her from debris would only lead to her likely death or critical injury afterward.

    In any case, it was irrelevant to the matter at hand.

    If w’re fortunate, Berserker and Saber will destroy each other in this battle, much like they did at Camlann.” Kayneth mused. “That takes two Servants off the board, and I may be able to add their resources to my own, in exchange for me escorting them to safety at the Overseer’s residence.

    Kayneth blinked, and then sensing his Servant metaphorically champing at the bit, reached out through their telepathic link. “Is something the matter, Lancer?” he asked.

    Forgive me, my lord.” Lancer replied. “It is matter of personal opinion.

    Oh?” Kayneth curiously prompted.

    …Berserker…she is a traitor, my lord.” Lancer continued. “She is the reason why her father’s – or should I say mother’s – kingdom fell. And yet her conduct in this battle…she makes it seem as though the King of Knights is at fault.

    And?” Kayneth prompted again.

    Being a traitor is bad enough,” Lancer admitted. “It is…difficult, to bear the presence of a turncoat, even more so as said turncoat apes the appearance and legend of a knight. But the way she conducts herself with regard to her parent…it is unforgivable!

    Hmm…I can understand your reasoning.” Kayneth admitted in his turn. “But I will not have you dishonoring our cause by interfering in this battle. You are a knight, Lancer, and I expect you to conduct yourself as is only proper.

    Yes, my lord.” Lancer responded contritely. “My apologies.

    …if it’s any comfort,” Kayneth began after a moment. “This battle is clearly regarded by Saber as a form of personal responsibility. She would not appreciate your interference any more than I would, if even less so.

    I see your point, my lord.” Lancer conceded.

    Kayneth nodded…

    …and then he was turning away, as a bolt of lightning seemed to lance down from the skies, striking into the battlefield between Saber and Berserker, and forcing them aside.

    What?” he thought in surprise.
    ______________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

    “LOWER YOUR WEAPONS!” the giant in Ancient Greek armor roared from the chariot that had just arrived into the heart of the battlefield. “THE KING HAS ARRIVED!”

    Dead, utter silence met his words…

    …which lasted for only a heartbeat, as the giant – Rider, no doubt, what with his chariot and all – continued bellowing at the top of his voice.

    “I AM ISKANDER THE KING OF CONQUERORS!” he thundered, and causing Irisviel’s mouth to open in shock, and for Kariya to actually take off his visor in disbelief.

    “RIDER!” a rather short and scrawny young man – Rider’s Master, no doubt – suddenly popped up from behind Rider, and began frantically tugging at his Servant’s arm. “WHAT ARE YOU DOING? HEY, ARE YOU LISTENING TO ME? AGH!”

    A flick of a finger sent the young man sprawling off the chariot, and against the ground. At the sight, Kariya scratched his head, and shared a skeptical look at Irisviel. Irisviel looked back at him, looking very confused, and a moment later, shrugged ever so slightly.

    No, I don’t know either.

    “Fate has brought us together to fight for the Holy Grail,” Rider continued in a more subdued – if still very loud – tone. “No, more than that! In your cases, Saber and Berserker, it has brought you both back together to replay the tragic series of events at the end of your natural lives! But…! I dare to ask! Is it necessary for Heroic Spirits such as ourselves to lower ourselves to meaningless bloodshed and conflict? Must two worthies such as yourselves repeat the tragedy of the past, and be bound to such a tragic and mournful fate across time and space? And I dare to answer to answer as well! I say no! Heroic Spirits such as ourselves need not fight among ourselves for the Grail! And neither do you, Saber and Berserker, need to be bound by such an unfortunate fate in this life as you were in your past lives!”

    Rider paused, and held out his arms as though in inviting welcome. “Therefore, I say unto you, my fellow Heroic Spirits!” he continued with a toothy grin. “Yield the Grail to me! Join my army! Know that should you choose to do so, then I would regard you as dear friends, and share with you the blessing of the Grail as we conquer the world!”

    Complete and utter silence met Rider as he finished his speech, and the echoes thereof vanished. Predictably, it was Berserker who broke the silence. “Hey, Kariya!” she shouted. “I’m not drunk, am I?”

    “No, you’re not drunk.” Kariya said while wearily rubbing his eyes. “Neither am I, for that matter. And I’m also pretty sure we’re not on drugs either.”

    “Oh, I see. Thanks…hey, Rider!” Berserker exploded, stabbing Clarent into the ground while pointing a finger at Rider. “Are you insulting me? I finally get the chance to show father I’m perfectly able of ruling like she did if not better, and you actually have the gall to tell me to give it all up? Are you drunk?”

    “No, I’m not drunk.” Rider answered in good nature. “And no, I’m not insulting you. On the contrary, I meant every word of what I said. There’s no reason you ought to be bound by such an unfortunate fate in this life, Berserker, as you were in your past life.”

    Berserker grit her teeth, free hand clenching into a shaking fist. Saber regarded her coolly, and then visibly and audibly sighed. “While I find…Berserker, to be as presumptuous as ever,” she began. “I must concur with her on this matter. In my case, I am already the King of Britain. I cannot in good faith forsake my responsibilities, whether to my kingdom or people both, to become the retainer of another.”

    “Yeah, what she said!” Berserker said with a fast series of nods. “I’m going to be King of Britain someday, and there’s no way in hell I’m going to give up the throne even before I’m sitting on it!”

    Rider sighed and scratched his head, even as his Master scrambled back into the chariot. “Perhaps we could negotiate terms…” Rider began, only to be interrupted.

    “REJECTED!” Saber and Berserker chorused, before looking at each other in surprise. Their eyes met, and then narrowed at each other in a rare moment of mutual agreement, before focusing on Rider, who scratched at his head again even as his Master tugged at his cape while looking around him in terror.

    “Rider,” he began. “What have you done?”

    “I hate it when negotiations fail.” Rider just grumbled in response, and his Master could only whimper in response. Then the young man’s face paled in horror, as another voice spoke up, filled with anger and realization.

    “WAVER VELVET!” it roared into the night. “SO IT WAS YOU WHO STOLE MY CATALYST! TO ACTUALLY BREAK INTO MY WORKSHOP AND EVEN ENTER THE HOLY GRAIL WAR ITSELF…it seems I underestimated you. Perhaps you might just be a worthwhile student, after all.”

    “Where is he?” Irisviel worriedly asked, looking around with more than a hint of alarm. Nearby, Kariya replaced his visor, and looked around while flexing his fingers over Zero and One’s grips. “And who is he?”

    “Shall we proceed with the next lesson then?” the voice asked, all the while the newly-named Waver Velvet cowered on Rider’s chariot, huddling to the ground while clutching his head. “That is, the terror and pain that comes with battles between magi?”

    And then Rider’s hand came down, firm and reassuring, on Waver’s shoulder. The young man uncertainly looked up, to his Servant who was looking down at him with a comforting smile, like a lion and his cub. And then Rider looked up, his expression stern.

    “Hey you,” Rider growled but without actually shouting, and sounding all the more regal for it. “I don’t know who you are, but I don’t really care, to be honest. But more important than that, you actually claim you’d have summoned me as a Servant? Don’t make me laugh! Only someone with the courage to stand with me on the battlefield could ever hope to be my Master! Someone like you who cowers in the shadows without showing their face would never be worthy of summoning me!”

    A snarl of outrage erupted in the dark…

    …and then all eyes were turning to a swirl of gold coalescing atop a nearby lamppost. “Another Servant?” Irisviel breathed.

    “Yeah, it looks that way, Lady Einzbern.” Kariya replied. “Though this is someone we’ve seen before…Tokiomi’s Archer, is it?”

    Archer ignored Kariya and Irisviel both as he stood atop the lamppost, instead focusing his stern and judging eyes on the three Servants on the ground. “Mongrels and pretenders,” he sneered. “To think I must lower myself to be witnessed by the likes of such as yourselves.”

    “Strong words,” Rider shot back. “But from the sound of them, you are a king yourself. If so, then there should be no need for you to hide behind your class, is there?”

    “Silence, pretender!” Archer thundered. “There should be no need for me to give my name. Indeed, as the one true king it is only meet that I am to be recognized on sight alone.”

    “…looks like Tokiomi’s gotten himself a Servant just like him.” Kariya muttered.

    Not quietly enough, as Archer’s eyes snapped to him like a snake’s. “You have a sharp tongue.” He asked with silky malice, as a pair of portals opened next to him. Sword blades slid out, and began to shimmer with the golden light of prana. “Shall I cut it out for you?”

    The swords then shot out at Kariya in the blink of an eye, the man barely having the time to spring back, landing on his hands before sinking into a crouch. Two more swords shot out, followed by another two from newly-opened portals, for a total of four.

    Then Berserker was there, knocking the blades out the way with Clarent, which then shimmered with angry red. “Ho-ho…” she said with a grin. “A king, you say? That’s just fine. There are few better ways to prove my right to be king than by killing another king. You keep what you kill, after all!”

    “You dare!” Archer thundered, opening another four portals and launching a total of eight Noble Phantasms – four swords, three polearms, and a hammer – at Berserker. Berserker knocked them out of the way with a blast of crimson lightning, then closed the distance incredibly fast using prana burst.

    “Ha-Ha!” Berserker laughed as she swung, sparks flying from where Clarent’s tip skidded off Archer’s armguards, the gold-armored Servant forced to give way, abandoning the high ground for the road below. Even then Berserker refused to relent, leaping down with a bloodthirsty yell, swinging Clarent down in a two-handed blow that ripped the road apart.

    Mongrel doll…” Archer snarled, his armguards scarred and his cuirass covered with dust from the road. “…not only would you have me stand on the earth – I, who belong in the heavens – you would lay your hands on me? The one, true king? Ten thousand deaths would not suffice!”

    Berserker glared at the jab at her origins, though she looked mildly surprised as well after over a dozen portals opened up around Archer, Noble Phantasms beginning to emerge from their depths. “You talk too much.” She finally said, as she held out her sword two-handed. The cross guard unfolded and red light briefly shimmered before igniting in a glowing pillar of red around the blade. “But if you want me to take you seriously, oh great and mighty king, so be it! Let’s go, Archer! Clarent…!”

    YOU WORTHLESS MONGREL…!” Archer howled, raising an arm as dozens more portals opened…

    …and then his eyes widened, his expression turning to one of disbelieving surprise and then infuriated frustration. “Tokiomi…” he hissed. “You have nerve…we will have words!”

    The portals closed. Archer vanished. And then it was Berserker’s turn to look surprised, the pillar of prana from her sword dissipating before she lowered it, the cross guard folding back into itself.

    “He ran away?” she asked softly.

    “Most likely,” Kariya replied, and causing eyes to turn to him. “Tokiomi called him back. Probably to avoid giving away Archer’s identity so soon. I mean…you were about to use your Noble Phantasm. Archer would have to reciprocate, beyond just throwing them out like makeshift arrows, to have a chance of surviving, much less winning.”

    Berserker made a sound of disgust. “Is that how it is?” she asked.

    “Yes, I think so too.” Irisviel agreed.

    “As do I.” Rider concurred.

    Berserker made another sound of disgust…

    …and then lashed out, a quick burst of crimson lightning shattering the façade of a nearby building, and shattering the rooftop above. Shouts of pain and alarm could be heard, and those who could sensed another Servant fleeing with his Master. No doubt, the one who’d verbally assaulted Waver earlier.

    “Was that really necessary?” Saber asked her ‘son’.

    “If there’s anything we agree on, father,” Berserker began. “It’s that you’ve got no right to talk down on someone when you can’t even do it to their faces. Even that arrogant Archer has more ground to stand on than…whoever that was.”

    Saber was still and silent for a few moments, and then inclined her head in agreement. Then they turned to Rider, who was beginning to laugh. “No, my apologies.” He said with a grin. “It’s just that it looks like there is common ground between you two, after all.”

    Saber didn’t answer, while Berserker made a dismissive sound before turning to leave. “Maybe we do, maybe we don’t.” she said. “Anyway, I’m in no mood to keep fighting tonight. Come on, Kariya. Let’s get out of here.”

    “Farewell for tonight then, Berserker.” Rider said with a nod. “Though, my offer stands, in case you’re interested.”

    Berserker gave him a look, and then shrugged. “You’re just setting yourself up for disappointment, Rider.” She said. “Come on, Kariya! Let’s get going!”

    “Yeah, yeah,” Kariya said with a sigh, before turning to Irisviel and giving her a polite bow. “Well then, I take my leave, Lady Einzbern. It was a pleasure meeting you.”

    “…likewise.” Irisviel admitted with a curt nod. “And thank you, for earlier.”

    Kariya stared at her for a long moment, and then sighing, pulled out his baton. “Not really sure if that counts for something,” he admitted. “I mean I’m just a black sheep, after all.”

    Irisviel smiled reassuringly. “If so,” she began. “I’m glad you are.”

    Kariya hummed and then jogging away, jumped into the air to mount his lightcycle as it generated from the baton, before landing solidly and speeding away. “Nice ride,” Rider said with a whistle, before turning to Saber. “Well then, we’ll be going too, Saber. Though like I said to your…son, my offer stands. Think it over. That’s all I’m asking.”

    Saber stared at Rider for a long moment, and then she sighed. “Like Berserker said,” she began. “You’re just setting yourself up for disappointment, Rider.”

    “Or maybe, I’m just making a gamble.” Rider said while taking his reigns, lightning erupting around the Divine Bulls that pulled his chariot. “And sometimes, gambles are just what you need to win a war.”

    Saber silently looked on as Rider flew off into the night, and then turned to Irisviel as she stepped closer. “Shall we go back, Saber?” she asked.

    Saber nodded. “Yes, I suppose so, Irisviel.” She said.
    ______________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

    A/N

    Well, that went well, yes?
     
  7. LithiumWar

    LithiumWar Nebulous One

    Joined:
    Feb 24, 2022
    Messages:
    699
    Likes Received:
    7,636
    I honestly think that could not have gone better. Seems to me Kariya has A rank luck, because pissing off Gilgamesh never ends well.
     
  8. Jaenera Targaryen

    Jaenera Targaryen I trust you know where the happy button is?

    Joined:
    Aug 29, 2018
    Messages:
    752
    Likes Received:
    8,700
    That, and he has Mordred backing him up, and she's actually as skilled as Altria, just less experienced, and more hotheaded. As one of Fate/Apocrypha's flashbacks showed, Mordred is actually the only person to ever succeed in disarming Altria, outright knocking Excalibur out of the latter's hands at Camlann. If not for Altria whipping out Rhongomyniad, Mordred would have killed her then and there.

    Yeah, Altria ironically only won by resorting to Gilgamesh's preferred tactic, i.e. just whip out more Noble Phantasms.
     
  9. Threadmarks: Chapter 5
    Jaenera Targaryen

    Jaenera Targaryen I trust you know where the happy button is?

    Joined:
    Aug 29, 2018
    Messages:
    752
    Likes Received:
    8,700
    Disclaimer: I do not own the Fate franchise it belongs to Kinoko Nasu and Type-Moon. I also do not own the Megami Tensei franchise, it belongs to Atlus.

    Zero to One

    Chapter 5

    “Kiri!” Irisviel shouted in relief as she rushed to hug her husband, who hugged her back. For a moment they just hugged each other, and then Irisviel was pulling away, looking over her husband and dusting and picking at his clothes. “Are you alright? Did you get hurt? How bad? Will you be alright? And…!”

    Kiritsugu Emiya gave a weak laugh, putting his hands on his wife’s arms to calm her down. “No, I’m fine.” He said with his usual weary smile. “Both Maiya and I are. We managed to get away from the edge just in time, though we lost all the equipment we brought with us. Well, apart from what we had on us, of course.”

    “Really?” Irisviel asked, looking and sounding worried. “You’re not hurt at all?”

    Kiritsugu shrugged. “Just a few bumps and scrapes here and there.” He said. “Whatever it was that Matou used on us blew a large chunk of the roof away, and sent hot debris showing down over us. If we weren’t on the floor already, it would have blown us off our feet, and given us more than a few burns.”

    “I see.” Irisviel said with a sigh of relief. “That’s good…I’m glad.”

    Kiritsugu nodded. “Speaking of which,” he began. “Did you managed to get a look at those weapons Matou was using?”

    “They looked like guns.” Irisviel replied. “And he used them like guns too.”

    “But?” Kiritsugu prompted.

    “They were very big.” Irisviel said. “Much bigger than any of the guns you have, or at least the pistol ones. They also had markings on them, the one that fired solid bullets had a zero carved into one side, while the one that fired…energy, I think, had a one carved into one side as well.”

    Irisviel paused, and then held her hands up to approximate the size of the weapons they were talking about. “…Zero, I guess, was about this big.” She said, and looked up curiously as Kiritsugu stepped up next to her, and gesturing for her to keep her hands where they were, approximated holding the weapon with his own hand.

    “…he used it one-handed, right?” he asked.

    “Yes.” Irisviel replied.

    “Great…just great…” Kiritsugu said. “…like I said yesterday, I’ve never heard of a gun-slinging magus before, much less armed with a custom hand cannon paired with a mystic code.”

    “You think the other pistol was a mystic code?” Irisviel asked.

    “I’m absolutely sure it was.” Kiritsugu said. “No practical energy weapons have ever been built before by technological means, with all experimental ones too…big, and power-intensive to be practical. That, and they’re limited to clean rooms and other laboratory environments. But Matou has one…since he couldn’t have gotten it outside of the Moonlit World, he must either have made it himself, or someone gave it to him.”

    Kiritsugu sighed as Irisviel stared. “…hand cannon?” she echoed.

    “No way a gun that big fires pistol or rifle rounds.” Kiritsugu replied. “I’m guessing .50 caliber at the least, maybe even bigger, up to 20 or even 30 mm caliber. He must be using reinforcement to carry much less fire them without breaking an arm, and with such accuracy too to actually shoot bullets out of the air.”

    “…that visor of his could also be a mystic code.” Irisviel said after a moment. “You think it might help him aim?”

    “That’s possible.” Kiritsugu admitted. “Though I wonder where he could have gotten any of those weapons or mystic codes of his. They’re not exactly what you’d expect of the Matou family of magi, from what we – or your family – know of them.”

    “Well, Kariya is a black sheep.” Irisviel pointed out. “We know he turned his back on his family decades ago, before vanishing into a life of mediocrity.”

    “Not nearly as mediocre as we all thought, as things turned out.” Kiritsugu dryly said.

    Irisviel tilted her head in admission of the fact. “True,” she said. “But my point is, it’s not really that surprising the way he fights and what he fights with aren’t what you’d expect of his family. Well, former family, at any rate: they weren’t the ones to teach him how to fight, much less how to use magic.”

    “…true.” Kiritsugu conceded before sighing. “Though it also makes things more difficult for us. Unless we know who taught him how to fight and use magic, we have no context to work with to know what to expect from him in the future. Apart from what he’s already shown us, of course.”

    Irisviel was silent for a long moment, and then she smiled softly. “That said,” she began. “I think being a black sheep is a good thing for Kariya.”

    “…what?” Kiritsugu asked, caught by surprise.

    “You know what the Matou are like.” Irisviel said. “In a way, you could say they’re just as bad as my family is, everything wrong with magi in general rolled into one. And yet, despite everything it might cost him – family, a home, wealth, power – Kariya turned his back on it rather than sacrifice his Humanity to keep them.”

    Irisviel paused, and then shrugged. “In a way,” she began. “He reminds me of you.”

    “Me?” Kiritsugu echoed in surprise.

    “He doesn’t fight for his family.” Irisviel said. “He fights for the people, or should I say the person most important to him. It’s the same with you, isn’t it?”

    “I fight…” Kiritsugu began.

    “…to save the world, I know.” Irisviel interrupted with a nod, before reaching out and caressing her husband’s cheek. “That’s what you always say. But when all is said and done, those are just words. You’re not fighting for them…not really. But you’re not really fighting for my family either. You’re fighting for our family.”

    Kiritsugu stared even as Irisviel beamed at him, and then he sighed. “You’re really something else, you know that?” he asked.

    “I know.” Irisviel said. “At the very least, you owe him – Kariya – thanks. Even though we’re enemies, he still found it in him to act like a gentleman, no, a decent Human being, and keep that collapsing building from burying me alive. I mean, he could have just protected himself, like you’d expect a magus to. But he made the better choice. In a way…everything a black sheep is supposed to mean, it’s something he can be proud of.”

    “…sounds like he’s a bit too soft to really be on the battlefield.” Kiritsugu said after a moment. “Then again, that could only be good for us, so I probably shouldn’t complain.”

    “Kiri…” Irisviel chided, and Kiritsugu held up his hands.

    “Alright, alright,” he said. “If we ever fight, I’ll be sure to thank him for it. Maybe even give him a chance to surrender. If he doesn’t though, well…we’re at war, and we’re fighting to win.”

    Irisivel sighed. “I know.” She said sadly. “It’s a terrible business, but I know.”

    Kiritsugu nodded. “Now then,” he began. “We’ll fall back for now, and take stock. I’ll be bumping Kariya up on our list of priorities, but seeing as we don’t know where he’s hiding out yet, we’ll continue to focus on other targets for the time being. If we can’t do anything about Kariya right now, we’ll be better served focusing on targets we can do something about. Maiya, I need you to…”

    “Kiritsugu!” Saber barked, and eyes turned to her. Then both Kiritsugu and Maiya were drawing their guns, and pointing them in the direction Saber was looking at, the Servant already holding her sword at the ready.

    “Hello, hello, hello!” the bug-eyed Servant in medieval clothes happily greeted them as he seemed to melt out of the shadows of the scrapyard they were meeting in. “Greetings and salutations, holy maiden! It is I, your ever-loyal friend and companion, Gilles de Rais! And I have come to free you from the shackles of these treacherous curs, and…!”

    Kiritsugu fired first, his Thompson barking as the bullet missed Caster – Gilles de Rais, as he called himself – only an inch from an ear. Not that it would have caused any damage had it actually connected, but it seemed to work shutting the Servant up. “Sorry, but we’re not interested.” He said. “Saber, kill him.”

    “Understood!” Saber said, before stepping into a stance and leaping forward.

    Then Caster shrieked, and the shadows boiled.
    ______________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

    “Explain yourself, Tokiomi.” Archer said with silent menace as he sat down on his throne. “Furthermore, know that the only reason you yet live is because you have called on one of three favors I have deigned to grant you. And the king does not renege on his favor…within reason. I would have that reason now.”

    Tokiomi bowed low. “As you yourself said, Your Majesty,” he began. “There is no need for you to lower yourself to introduce yourself to those who claim the prize that is rightfully yours. On the contrary, they should recognize you by sight alone.”

    “An interesting choice of words, Tokiomi.” Archer said. “You essentially say that by bringing forth my treasures to pass judgment and retribution on that mongrel doll, I would be giving myself away.”

    “As you say, Your Majesty.” Tokiomi said.

    Archer smirked. “But,” he said. “Would that still not count in the end as the pretenders and mongrels lusting for my treasure recognizing me by sight?”

    “It might seem that way, yes, Your Majesty.” Tokiomi said. “But on closer inspection it is not. They would not have recognized you by sight, as they ought to have, but only because they…coincidentally, bore witness to your righteous wrath.”

    Archer scoffed. “So it would seem.” He said before narrowing his eyes. “And yet that still does not change the facts: your interference has forestalled the king’s judgment and retribution.”

    “Your pardon, Your Majesty.” Tokiomi said. “But if I may say so, you should not have to lower yourself to put down a mad dog, and a…doll of a mad dog, at that.”

    “That much is true.” Archer admitted with an expression of distaste. “While it is not meet to let others deal with something that ought to be the king and the king’s alone to determine the fate of, it is equally if not more so not meet for the king to lower himself against a mere mongrel doll. Humph…yes, perhaps this is the best course of action in the end. A mongrel doll shall be put down by other mongrels and pretenders, who shall have judgment passed on them in turn by the king in the fullness of time.”

    “Your decision is most wise, Your Majesty.” Tokiomi praised.

    “Yes, of course it is.” Archer scoffed. “Though, that does not mean that the king will sit idle. It is unbecoming of him to do nothing as mongrels and pretenders rampage through his garden. Well, Tokiomi? What course of action would you take now?”

    “The situation as things stand is very fluid.” Tokiomi began. “We now know the identities of all Servants but of Lancer and Caster. This will allow us knowledge with which to predict their future actions, and take countermeasures in turn. However, speaking of Caster…”

    Tokiomi trailed off, and after a moment, Archer tilted his head. “Go on…” he prompted.

    “If I may say so, Your Majesty,” Tokiomi began. “While Caster’s threat in terms of raw combat strength is…minimal, compared to other Servants, they are disproportionately of greater concern. The abductions of children across the city is beginning to be noticed, potentially starting an uproar that would only hinder your cause or even blacken your name.”

    “Yes…” Archer hissed in disgust, eyes glittering with malice even as his fingers clenched his throne’s armrests tight. “…even that mongrel doll of a Berserker is ever so slightly more tolerable than that pestilent dog Caster.”

    “I already have Kirei and Assassin working on resolving the issue.” Tokiomi said. “Quietly, of course.”

    Archer made a dismissive wave. “Do what you must, Tokiomi.” He said. “Resolve this matter as quickly as possible, before the king’s intervention becomes a case of needs must.”

    “It will be done, Your Majesty.” Tokiomi replied.

    “You may go.” Archer said.

    Tokiomi bowed lower, and then walked backwards out of the room while keeping his head bowed. Left alone, Archer narrowed his eyes and then turned away, pondering on the future.
    ______________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

    “Damn that Berserker.” Kayneth seethed as he sat on his seat, even as Sola-Ui busied herself packing away the medical tools she’d brought out in case Kayneth had suffered serious injury.

    It turned out to be unnecessary, of course. The worst Kayneth suffered was a gash from flying debris along a cheek, plus a few other scrapes and bruises. Nothing that the most basic healing magecraft couldn’t deal with, with little to no risk of scarring.

    At his words, Sola-Ui gave him an even look. “Speaking as a Devil’s Advocate,” she began. “You were the one who provoked Berserker, speaking out of turn in a battle between Servants.”

    Kayneth gave her an incredulous look. “I’m suddenly to blame for Matou not being able to control their Servant?” he asked just as incredulously.

    “Of course not,” Sola-Ui said, and resisting the urge to roll her eyes. “That Matou should have been able to control their Servant should only go without saying. But you were the one to draw attention to yourself. Had you not spoken as you did to that boy, if Berserker had lashed out as she did it would have been against another Servant.”

    Sola-Ui paused and tilted her head. “No matter how hypocritical it might be,” she said. “Berserker still sees herself as a knight. Rider interrupting her battle to the death with Saber was bad enough, but then you had to speak up and make yourself a target. Making it worse was Archer backing out of their fight just as Berserker was about to unleash her Noble Phantasm.”

    Sola-Ui paused again and shrugged. “In the end,” she finally said. “There is plenty of blame to go around.”

    Kayneth growled low in his throat. “…a fair point.” He finally said.

    Sola-Ui smiled. “Just be more careful next time, Kayneth.” She silkily said. “Try not to provoke much less make yourself a target for enemy Servants. Masters, though, are fair game. Show them what it means to take on the Lord El-Melloi.”

    Kayneth took a deep breath, accepting the offered way out of this argument at face value. “I strongly doubt there are any here worthy of facing me on equal terms.” He said. “Though I will generously grant that Tohsaka and Einzbern in their respective workshops should prove challenging enough in their own ways.”

    “There, you see, Kayneth?” Sola-Ui said with just a hint of mockery. “There’s always a silver lining. You just have to look for it. You as well, Lancer. I’m sure you’re looking forward to being able to cross blades with Saber.”

    “The King of Knights’ skill is most impressive.” Lancer readily admitted. “It will be an honor to face her on the battlefield.”

    “Just be sure not to lose, Lancer.” Kayneth said.

    Lancer bowed. “But of course, my lord.” He said. “There will be no honor greater than to lay victory at your feet.”

    Kayneth nodded and then settled back into his seat. “Now then,” he began. “Who will make a move next? Or will an opportunity present itself for us?”

    “…thinking of going after that wayward student of yours?” Sola-Ui teased.

    The mention of Waver Velvet had Kayneth’s eyes narrowing. To think that damn brat had been the one to steal his catalyst, no, more than that, to actually succeed in summoning the King of Conquerors himself. Then again, perhaps it was for the best, as it seemed that the King of Conquerors was a brash oaf that he’d rather not be seen beside…

    Kayneth blinked as his train of thought came to a surprising hypothesis. Something of it must have shown on his face, as Lancer quickly noticed. “Is something the matter, my lord?” he asked.

    “…I was pondering on the issue of the King of Conquerers, that is, Servant Rider.” Kayneth replied.

    Lancer blinked. “You refer to his exposing his own identity, I suppose, my lord?” he asked.

    “Yes,” Kayneth said with a nod. “At first glance, it is a foolish miscalculation. By revealing his identity, Rider exposes his strengths and weaknesses from history for all to see and take advantage of. Or does he?”

    “…perhaps it’s a calculated gamble?” Sola-Ui asked. “To be sure, he exposes his weaknesses in the process, but knowing you’re up against a man who conquered the known world in times past would give anyone with a working brain a moment of pause.”

    “So he’s not nearly as much of an oaf as he appears.” Kayneth darkly said. “Lancer, how would you rate your chances against Rider?”

    “Rider’s chariot will be the biggest obstacle of all.” Lancer said. “It gives him an edge in both mobility and power, though I should be able to keep him at a certain distance given the length of my spears. However…”

    “…there’s no way to compensate for the difference in raw power, is there?” Kayneth asked.

    “As you say, my lord.” Lancer said. “My apologies.”

    Kayneth waved him off. “There is no need to apologize for something that you have no control over.” He said. “It is but a matter of fact. Of greater appreciation would be how to get around such…inconvenient, facts.”

    “…if Rider could be fought without his chariot,” Lancer said after a moment. “Say, on a battlefield where he would be unable to use it to its fullest, or with some other way to neutralize it…”

    “…your spear, Gae Buidhe would have that ability, wouldn’t it?” Kayneth asked after another moment.

    “It should, yes.” Lancer admitted. “Not enough to keep Rider from summoning his chariot, but it should be enough to keep him from using it at full power.”

    “In short,” Sola-Ui summarized. “A fighting chance.”

    “As you say, Lady Sola.” Lancer said with a bow.

    Sola-Ui regarded Lancer for a long moment with an unreadable expression on her face, and then she turned to Kayneth. “Or,” she began. “You could separate Servant and Master from each other, and then deal with Waver Velvet. Without a Master, Rider wouldn’t last long as his prana is quickly exhausted.”

    Lancer looked troubled at such an underhanded ploy, but Kayneth just looked thoughtful.

    Waver…Velvet…
    ______________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

    “There’s no end to this!” Maiya said, opening fire on full auto with her MP5 submachine gun. It wasn’t doing much good, the small bullets lacking the penetration to really damage the shoggoths all around them.

    Kiritsugu’s Thompson rang out again, the bigger bullets it spat out having the penetration to deal real damage, but not enough. Kiritsugu hissed as he sprang back, avoiding a pair of tentacles that shot up from the ground to entrap him. “Firebreak, five meters across.” He softly said.

    Flames exploded in a line in front of them, five meters to each side. The shoggoths hissed and popped angrily at the flames, drawing back and away…

    …and then shoveling dirt and broken masonry, began smothering the fires.

    Kiritsugu and Maiya didn’t wait to see. Instead, they turned and ran, even as birdlike constructs made from silvery wires descended around them. They unwound and wrapped around the shoggoths, literally cutting tentacles and even chunks of the shoggoths’ main bodies apart. It bought time, but little more than that. The jelly-like chunks of the shoggoths Irisviel’s familiars tore off just melted and flowed back into the shoggoths’ bodies, which were no worse off for it.

    Only Saber was making any real headway, Invisible Air simply blowing shoggoths apart as the hurricane erupted inside of them as Saber into them, or whenever they tried to grab the sword. Irisviel had tried, but her familiars simply couldn’t do the same for a whole shoggoth what they could to extended parts of their bodies.

    “Kiri…!” Irisviel shouted. “There’s too many of them! We’re being overwhelmed!”

    “It can’t be helped!” Kiritsugu snarled, before burning a hole into the ground a meter deep. Reinforcing a grenade next, he armed it before dropping it into the hole. Then one of his command spells flashed and then vanished. “Saber! Get us out here!”

    Moving like the wind, Saber grabbed all of them in the blink of an eye, appearing like a blur of blue and silver to all who could see. Then she jumped through a mandala hanging in the air, which then vanished behind her.

    A moment later, and the reinforced grenade exploded with the force of a 450 kg bomb. All the shoggoths nearby were destroyed, along with the surrounding scrapyard. Wrecked cars and other machines were sent flying, along with sheets and slabs of scrap metal, for dozens of meters all around.

    That, or they were torn apart by the explosion, sending what could only be called shrapnel flying. Windows in the same area were shattered by the force of the blast, costing their owners tens of thousands of yen in damages. It was a mercy it was night, or dozens of men who would usually be working in this area would have been injured.

    More importantly for the Holy Grail War, Saber and her companions had all escaped.
    ______________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

    “Are you alright, master?” Uryuu Ryuunosuke asked as his Servant returned to their hideout.

    “No, I am not, Uryuu!” Caster replied, before dabbing at the scabbing wound over his face where Saber’s sword had ever so cut into him. “I am furious! I am outraged! And more than that…I am saddened and mournful!”

    Caster began to pace, all the while gesturing theatrically while Ryuunosuke watched and listened. “The holy maiden…she has forgotten me!” he lamented. “No, more than that, she does not recognize me! Perhaps it is only to be expected…she remembers me as I once was, no doubt, before the betrayal, and the destruction of everything we fought for and held dear! Perhaps it is even for the best, that she does not recognize me in such a…disgraceful, state…but even so…it is cruel and heartrending pain.”

    “Oh, don’t torture yourself, master.” Ryuunosuke immediately said, walking over and placing a hand on Caster’s back, began leading him deeper into their hideout. “Instead, see it as an opportunity!”

    “An opportunity?” Caster echoed.

    Ryuunosuke nodded. “Yes, an opportunity.” He said. “How does it make you feel? Doesn’t it give you a new perspective? No, don’t tell me. It’ll only take away from the uniqueness of what you have. Instead, you should make something new out of it, art to immortalize what you feel here and now.”

    “Yes…yes, you’re right, Ryuunosuke!” Caster agreed. “Simply torturing myself is of little meaning. What point is there in simply letting the pain eat away at me, when I can use it to make something more out of my suffering?”

    “I know, right?” Ryuunosuke agreed. “Even better: you might have failed to get the girl you like to notice you just now, but that’s no reason to give up! It only means you have to try again, though you’ll have to go at it a different way. And what better way to think of how to go about it than by expressing yourself with art?”

    Caster nodded in agreement. “Yes, it’s as you say, Ryuunosuke.” He said. “Perhaps a fresh perspective on the matter of the holy maiden is called for. But only after I finish setting down my experiences from the recent failure, and immortalize the perspective I gained from them in enduring art.”

    “That’s the spirit, master!” Ryuunosuke gushed. “Come on, let’s get started! And later, I’d like to show you something new I’ve started on while you were gone. I’d love to hear your opinions about it.”

    “I am always willing to offer helpful and constructive criticism, Ryuunosuke.”

    “I know you are, master, I know you are.”

    Master and Servant vanished into the darkness beneath the city, a darkness in which no one could hear the children scream.
    ______________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

    A/N

    The comparison between Kariya and Kiritsugu was originally not planned, but something I edited in into this chapter when it just…popped in my head. Somehow, it just seemed to fit. To be sure, they’re not completely alike, but there are enough parallels – especially here where Kariya duel-wields a custom 20 mm hand cannon (Zero) and plasma pistol (One) – that they could be called similar.
     
  10. Threadmarks: Chapter 6
    Jaenera Targaryen

    Jaenera Targaryen I trust you know where the happy button is?

    Joined:
    Aug 29, 2018
    Messages:
    752
    Likes Received:
    8,700
    Disclaimer: I do not own the Fate franchise it belongs to Kinoko Nasu and Type-Moon. I also do not own the Megami Tensei franchise, it belongs to Atlus.

    Zero to One

    Chapter 6

    “Put this on.”

    Berserker raised an eyebrow. “I don’t wear dresses.” She said.

    “I know you don’t.” Kariya agreed. “But it isn’t a dress. This is something to configure a lightcycle baton for you.”

    “Lightcycle…isn’t that that riding machine of yours?” Berserker asked. “The one made from light?”

    “Yes.”

    “Well, why didn’t you say so in the first place?” Berserker said, grabbing the offered clothes in a flash. Kariya then raised an eyebrow as Berserker promptly stripped down to her underclothes without so much as blushing or even showing any sign at all of being bothered by doing so in the presence of a man like him.

    Then again, she did identify as male, so that could also be a factor.











    Bah…who was he to judge?

    Meanwhile, Berserker pulled on the matte-black tights, following by the matching sleeveless shirt, and then skin-tight gloves that went past her elbows and a third of the way up her arms. She then buckled on a belt, followed by a pair of segmented boots. Then she looked at Kariya.

    “Now what?” she asked.

    “Turn around.” Kariya said.

    Berserker obliged, and then Kariya firmly plugged in an identity disc into a port on the back of her shirt. Berserker gasped in surprise as an electric jolt ran through her body, then looked at herself in amazement as glowing blue lines ignited along the contours of her clothes. “What sorcery is this?” she asked with a wondering tone.

    “No sorcery.” Kariya said. “Just science and technology so advanced that it looks like sorcery.”

    “…I’ll take your word for it.” Berserker said after a moment. “Now what?”

    “Just stand there for a few minutes while the identity disc backs your data up.” Kariya said. “It shouldn’t take much longer than that.”

    “Fine, fine…” Berserker said with a roll of her eyes. “What’s your plan for tomorrow, anyway?”

    “We keep looking for more Masters and Servants.” Kariya said. “Though, we now know that the ones holed up at Fuyuki Grand Hyatt are Lord El-Melloi and Lancer. So we know about Saber, Archer, Lancer, Rider and Assassin. Which means, all that’s left and the one we’ll actually be looking for will be Caster and their Master.”

    “…is that all?” Berserker asked after a moment.

    “…so long as we don’t fight in their workshop,” Kariya conceded after a moment. “Then you can fight and even kill Caster if you want. Or any Servant that gets in our way, of course.”

    “Yeah, that’s the way.” Berserker said with a grin. “Give and take…so long we give and take equally between us, we’ll work just fine together.”

    “That’s how good working relationships are supposed to be anyway.” Kariya agreed.

    Silence then fell, Master and Servant patiently waiting for Berserker’s identity disk to finish backing up her data. It did so after a few minutes, giving an electronic chime as it finished, Kariya unplugging then taking away the disc, while Berserker wondered at her lights still glowing even without the disc.

    “It’ll take a couple of hours to configure a lightcycle for you.” Kariya said. “You can do whatever you want in that time, so long as you don’t make trouble or leave the hideout.”

    “Do you have anything to eat?” Berserker bluntly asked.

    “Well, what do you want?” Kariya asked back.

    “Meat, bread, cheese…” Berserker replied before trailing off with a shrug.

    “Why don’t you take a look in the fridge, Berserker?” Kariya said with a gesture in the kitchen’s general direction. “There’s still plenty of beer left too. Eat and drink as much as you want, pretty sure Servants can’t get drunk anyway, and I’ve got plenty of money to replenish our supplies with come tomorrow. It’s not like we can go out or rather fight until the evening anyway.”

    “Well, then,” Berserker said with a grin before walking off. “Don’t mind if I do.”

    Kariya grunted an acknowledgement before hurrying off to configure Berserker’s lightcycle.
    ______________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

    The following morning dawned bright and sunny, if still cold. It was still wintertime, though, so it made sense. Thankfully, Kariya’s hideout had centralized heating, so he and his Servant were both warm and toasty while having breakfast.

    “Wait, really?” Berserker asked while crunching away on crispy fried bacon.

    “Yeah,” Kariya said with a nod. “I spent most of the night looking into it as best as I could, but there’s no doubt about it. The way Saber and her Master plus her friends arrived at Einzbern Castle was clearly the result of Lady Einzbern using a command spell.”

    “So someone ambushed father along with that Einzbern woman and her retainers,” Berserker began. “And forced them to run with their tails between their legs? Who and how?”

    “…I’m sure Saber could have handled herself if it came to it.” Kariya answered after a moment spent swallowing a mouthful of buttered toast. “But her Master must have been overwhelmed, along with those hired guns of hers. And when all is said and done, no matter how strong Saber is, even she can’t afford to lose her Master.”

    Kariya paused thoughtfully. “I don’t know the how, since I didn’t actually see the battle take place.” He said. “The who, though, we can make a guess. It can’t have been Lancer and his Master, as they never left their hotel after retreating there last night. The same goes for Archer and Tokiomi. Rider’s Master doesn’t seem the type to be able to take on much less overpower Lady Einzbern…especially since I’ve managed to get data on the young man in question. Assassin and his Master, though…possible, and if only because assuming the worst is prudent, the same goes for Caster and their Master.”

    Berserker made a sound of disgust. “Is that all you’ve found out?” she asked.

    “…I have a lead on where the battle might have taken place at.” Kariya admitted after another moment. “We’ll go there after breakfast, see what we can find, and maybe get some clues to who and how Saber and friends were forced to cut and run last night.”

    Berserker nodded shortly. For the next few minutes, only the sounds of silver and china could be heard, then Berserker was speaking up. “So,” she prompted. “What have you found out about that scrawny brat that passes for Rider’s Master?”

    “Oh…his name’s Waver Velvet.” Kariya said. “He’s a third-generation magus of no important descent or connection, with abilities at the low end of average. He’s also got a reputation for being something of an academic troublemaker, asking too many questions of the wrong sort. For magi, anyway: to be honest, I kind of respect that about him. Instead of just shutting up and getting in line, he actually asks questions and uses his head when it comes to all the bullshit cluttering up the world of the magi.”

    Kariya paused and shrugged. “That,” he said. “And while his abilities in actually performing magic are, well, limited, he’s apparently got a good head on his shoulders. He’s smart and perceptive…which, ironically enough, makes him stick out like a sore thumb among magi.”

    “…aren’t magi supposed to be seekers of truth and knowledge?” Berserker asked skeptically. “I’m no magus, but between mother, Merlin, and their disciples, I know that much about them.”

    “Like I said before,” Kariya said with a wry smile while forking bacon and eggs into his mouth. “Magi these days are nothing like they were in your day and age. Merlin and Morgana would probably see them as – to quote that insane Archer of Tokiomi’s – pretenders and mongrels to a legacy greater than they are.”

    Berserker made another sound of disgust. “Yeah, I think they just might.” She agreed.

    “That said,” Kariya continued. “I can see how Waver Velvet was able to summon Rider. Or should I say Iskander the King of Conquerors.”

    Berserker silently ate for a couple of moments, and then nodded in agreement. “Yeah, I see what you mean.” She said. “Rider gives the impression of being a loud and boorish oaf, but he’s also a man that conquered the known world in barely a decade. And he started out as the upstart son of an upstart king of an upstart kingdom too…but at the end, he was king of a realm that stretched to the ends of the Earth.”

    “Waver Velvet gives the impression of being an uppity and grasping brat.” Kariya said with a small smile. “But he was clever enough to actually succeed in breaking into a lord’s workshop, where said lord’s power would have been at its greatest, and despite said lord being heir to centuries of accumulated knowledge and learning. Resourceful too, to steal something that he could actually put to good use. And we’ve already established that Waver Velvet’s got a good head on his shoulders.”

    Kariya paused and laughed. “I like that kid.” He said. “Somehow, I get the feeling he’s going to go far.”

    Berserker hummed to herself. “…it’s a shame, really.” She said, almost as though to herself. “To be honest, I kind of like Rider. He seems like someone who knows how to have a good time, while also being able to get things done. And not just anything either: the man conquered the known world, for gods’ sakes. If I didn’t have a promise to keep, I might actually consider accepting his offer.”

    “A promise?” Kariya echoed.

    “Yeah…” Berserker said softly, but didn’t elaborate further. Kariya didn’t press, instead taking a long drink from his coffee mug.

    “On another note,” he instead said after a moment. “I’ve also figured out who those two people with Saber and Lady Einzbern are.”

    “Oh?” Berserked prompted.

    “Yeah,” Kariya said with a nod. “The man’s name is Kiritsugu Emiya, an assassin, gunman, saboteur, terrorist bomber even, with a reputation for ruthlessly hunting and killing magi to collect the prices on their heads. He disappeared several years ago, apparently. They said he retired or maybe even got murdered, but from the look of things…”

    “…he got hired by Einzbern for this war, huh?” Berserker concluded, and Kariya nodded. “Makes sense…what about the woman, though?”

    “Maiya Hisau,” Kariya replied. “No information on where she’s from and what she was up to before joining up with Emiya, but she’s apparently his partner. Rumor also says she’s his woman, whether just a mistress or his actual wife depends on who you ask. Also, speaking of rumors, Emiya’s file makes for interesting reading.”

    “In what way?” Berserker asked, her curiosity piqued.

    “It all starts on a Pacific island, going by the name of Alimango…”
    ______________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

    “There’s nothing here!” Berserker loudly complained. “Well, no, there’s a big hole in the ground…but apart from that there’s nothing here!”

    “I wouldn’t say that.” Kariya said, fiddling with his visor and scanning the crater as he slowly and carefully slid down its slope to the bottom. Normally, the policemen guarding the place wouldn’t have let them in, but they were easily ‘convinced’ otherwise. Just like how the detectives and forensic examiners present had been ‘convinced’ to ignore them.

    “You found something?” Berserker asked.

    “Yeah…” Kariya said, glancing at her as he did so. “Traces of explosive…looks like RDX and TNT, but…infused, and enhanced with magical energy to geometrically amplify the explosive effect. I don’t know how that’s even possible…”

    Kariya paused, looking thoughtfully at the ground. “Reinforcement, maybe?” he mused aloud to himself. “Hmm…could be…didn’t think it was even possible to use reinforcement that way…then again, if Emiya was involved here, considering his reputation…”

    “Uh…I’ll take your word for it.” Berserker said. “I’m not a magus, or really familiar with modern weapons.”

    “Fair enough.” Kariya conceded, before blinking as his visor flagged something in the red on a field table nearby. Hurrying over with Berserker trailing after him, Kariya stopped before a jar filled with some kind of dark-colored jelly, and which his visor was practically screaming warnings about.

    “You found something?” Berserker asked.

    “Yeah.” Kariya said before taking the jar. “Come on. My visor says there’s nothing remotely normal about the stuff in this jar, so we’ll take it back and give it a closer look. It might give us a hint as to what Saber and friends were facing last night, and actually forced them to retreat.”

    Kariya broke off while leading the way back up and out of the crater. “Something wrong?” Berserker prompted as they emerged over the lip of the crater.

    “…Einzbern is a magus family going back over a thousand years.” Kariya admitted after a few moments. “Their oldest ancestors even knew all about Siegfried firsthand, though they messed that up, apparently. Learned all the wrong lessons from what happened to him, or didn’t learn anything at all…either way, my point is it wouldn’t be very easy to overwhelm Lady Einzbern. Makes you wonder why she seemed such a…soft target, in the battle last night…”

    Kariya trailed off, while Berserker looked thoughtful. “Siegfried…he’s a dragon slayer, wasn’t he?” she asked. “The one with the cursed gold.”

    “Yup,” Kariya said in a deadpan tone before looking at her with a matching expression. “And Einzbern took the gold after Siegfried died.”

    Berserker laughed at that. “You’re joking, right?” she asked.

    “No, they really took it.” Kariya said. “They even use it as the foundation of their fortune, as well as raw material for their family magic.”

    “You’re not joking?” Berserker exploded in incredulous disbelief. “Are they stupid? They actually took and used the cursed gold of the Rhine? After what happened to the Dragon Slayer?”

    “No, they weren’t stupid.” Kariya said. “They were magi.”

    Berserker opened her mouth…

    …and then closing it, hummed and hawed for a few moments before sighing. “Point taken.” She said.

    “Come on,” Kariya said. “Let’s figure out what this stuff is, where it comes from, and how was it used to actually beat Einzbern.”

    “Maybe it was just bad luck?” Berserker grouched. “You know…like what happens when you take and use cursed gold?”

    Kariya smiled and then laughed at the quip. “Maybe,” he conceded. “But just in case, I’ll take a good look at what this gunk is regardless.”

    “Hmm…well, if that’s what you want.”

    “Hmm…”

    Falling silent, Master and Servant walked away from the crater unnoticed, and vanished into the crowds.
    ______________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

    “My apologies for having to take such a roundabout way to meet with you in person.” Tokiomi began as he sat in a booth in a high-end club. “However, considering present circumstances needs must.”

    “Certainly,” Zouken Matou replied from the booth behind Tokiomi. “Given current circumstances it is as you say. Well, what is it that you wanted to speak with me about?”

    “Our mutual acquaintance has been something of a concern recently.” Tokiomi said.

    “Rest assured, I had no indication that he would actually participate in the current event.” Zouken said. “Indeed, I had expected him to stay away during this time, content with safety in his mediocrity, as he has been for most of his life.”

    “But?” Tokiomi prompted.

    “I will confess Byakuya met with him.” Zouken admitted. “While it was a surprise that our mutual acquaintance had apparently returned to the path he had abandoned in his youth, I sought to remind him of the obligations of his blood. He refused…empathically so, even. I can say without a doubt that even should he win the current event, he will keep the trophy and prize solely for himself, without giving thanks to any and all who made his success possible.”

    “I see.” Tokiomi said even as a waiter arrived with tea and biscuits. He stayed quiet until the waiter was gone, and took a sip before continuing. “My apologies in advance for any offense caused, but you are mistaken.”

    “Oh?”

    “Our mutual acquaintance has neither returned to nor simply contented himself with abandoning the proprieties of his lineage. On the contrary, he spits on it now.” Tokiomi said with veiled contempt. “I do not know if you have seen him fight, but I and my trusted confidante have. He fights with a pair of guns, of all things, and rides a motorcycle of obscene technological achievement. It is…repugnant.”

    “…I see.” Zouken said after a moment.

    “Again,” Tokiomi began. “I apologize for any offense caused. Rest assured, I do not consider our mutual acquaintance’s indiscretions as reflecting on your ancestry, which is nothing but august and noble. Were it otherwise, I would have been nothing but honored to give of myself to assist you in the ignominy your legacy finds itself facing.”

    “That is most generous of you.” Zouken said with a smirk. “And I can see you do not condemn us all for the actions of our mutual acquaintance.”

    “The reprehensibility of his choices aside,” Tokiomi continued. “I must express concern at where he could have acquired such things.”

    “Perhaps we should simply ask him.” Zouken observed.

    “I doubt he would answer if we did.” Tokiomi replied.

    “There are ways to make him answer.” Zouken countered.

    “True,” Tokiomi agreed. “The immediate concerns he poses for us aside, I would say that such items as he possesses are too…advanced, for general consumption. Society and Humanity as a whole may not be ready for them, not for a long while yet. Certain individuals in august and elevated positions would most appreciate information for the sake of the greater good.”

    “I am inclined to agree.” Zouken said before smirking again. “Indeed, here and now I see a way to resolve all our difficulties through our mutual acquaintance.”

    “Oh?”

    “Yes,” Zouken drawled with sadistic anticipation. “We can be rid of our mutual acquaintance, earn the gratitude of your superiors, ensure the legacy of my line continues in an acceptably-proper way, and even avenge your honor, as it has long been due now.”

    Tokiomi’s eyes and face hardened, and he was silent for a long moment. And then…

    “What do you have in mind?” he asked.
    ______________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

    “What’s wrong, Waver?” Rider asked.

    Waver blinked as Rider lumbered over. “What’s that you’ve got there?” Rider asked again, looking down at what Waver was working on.

    “I had my familiars recover the spent casings used by Matou in last night’s battle.” Waver said. “Based on the serial numbers stamped into them by the manufacturer, I’ve figured out that they’re 20 mm high explosive shells, manufactured to US military standards by General Dynamics. Well, they used to have high explosive shells, at least before they were fired. Now all that’s left are the casings. Um…I don’t really know how Matou could have gotten his hands on them.”

    “Couldn’t he just have bought them?” Rider asked.

    “Not really, no.” Waver said. “No one sells 20 mm rounds for non-military use, at least outside of the black market.”

    “Well, that answers your question, doesn’t it?” Rider pointed out.

    Waver opened his mouth…

    …and then closed it.

    “Yes, it does.” He sulkily admitted.

    Rider burst out laughing. “In all seriousness, boy,” he said. “If looking for big and flashy answers doesn’t turn anything up, you might be looking in the wrong place. Something small and discreet might actually be what you’re looking for.”

    “…true…” Waver murmured, looking down at the collection of spent casings under a magnifying glass in front of him. “…I guess he could have just designed and built that hand cannon of his on his own too, instead of it being given to him by someone else. But…that energy pistol though…”

    Waver sighed and leaning back in his seat, looked up at the ceiling. Not for the first time, he wished he had actual photographs instead of just relying on his memory, it’d make it easier to gauge the exact amount of power behind Matou’s energy pistol.

    From how bright it was when he blew those snipers away,” Waver thought. “I’d say at least 3000 Kelvin, maybe as high as 8000 or even 10,000 Kelvin. But…is it even possible to generate energies that high outside of a lab by non-magical means? Much less launch it effectively in projectile form? And with such a small weapon too…no, even putting that question aside, it’s impossible for someone like Matou to have made it on his own. Someone had to have given it to him. But who? And if they could build such a thing, why not use it themselves instead of having Matou use it for them? Are they really that…averse, to publicly getting involved in a Grail war? Or is there more to this than what meets the eye?

    Waver sighed again. “I need to know or find out more to make any more headway there.” He thought to himself. “So let’s focus on something I can be more productive at. Let’s see…that visor of Matou’s…it’s almost certainly a mystic code, providing physical protection for his eyes from environmental factors like say…dust and dirt, among others. It probably allows him to see through smoke and at night, maybe even have thermal vision. Targeting assistance too, but that’s really complicated…hmm…

    Tapping a finger against the desk, Waver hummed to himself while going through ideas and considerations in his mind. “…I might actually be able to build a visor like that myself.” He thought. “It’ll take time and a lot of effort and materials, but it’s more than doable.

    Thinking back to Rider’s recent advice, Waver smiled wryly to himself. “Guess he’s got a point there.” He thought. “I should appreciate the smaller things too, instead of being focused on only the bigger picture.

    With that thought in mind, Waver began working with renewed energy.
    ______________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

    Night fell over Fuyuki City. Overcast skies blotted out the light of the Moon and the stars, and dully reflected the haze of urban light from the city below, countless sources flowing into one and percolating through the air.

    I’ve gotten soft.” Kiritsugu thought as he put a cigarette in his mouth, and lighting it, took a long drag before blowing out a thin plume of smoke. Then raising the binoculars in his hands, put them to his eyes while looking at all the guests and staff rushing out of the hotel in a great flood of Humanity. “Ten years ago, I’d just blow that place sky-high and to hell with everyone inside. Acceptable losses and unavoidable collateral…now, though…

    Kiritsugu let the thought trail off with a sigh, as he let the binoculars drop. For better or worse, his marriage with Irisviel had changed him. Made him soft…

    …and he didn’t know if it was a bad thing or not.

    …it shouldn’t be so long as I don’t let it get in the way of what needs to be done.” Kiritsugu thought. “In this case, it isn’t. With all the effort he put into fortifying his field workshop, Kayneth won’t run just because of a bomb threat. Not to mention, being the magus that he is, he’ll probably see this as me getting potential witnesses and casualties out of the way for a magus on magus duel. Idiot magi…then again, I probably shouldn’t complain. If they actually used their heads, I’d be out of a job.

    Kiritsugu blinked, and then scratched at his head. “Then again,” he thought. “If they actually used their heads, they wouldn’t be magi in the first place. Who would actually want to choose such a worthless profession? Though I’m probably overthinking it. Not everyone is nearly as objective as I am on the subject, and it’s not like ordinary people don’t do stupid things anyway.

    Kiritsugu sighed and lifted his binoculars to his eyes again. If anything, this proved more than ever the need to use the Grail to bring lasting peace to the world. It was the only way. Humans were just too selfish, too unthinking, too stupid even to make the right choice.

    So no matter how arrogant it might sound, Kiritsugu would make that choice for them. Just like babies sometimes needed knives to be brought into the world, so too did people sometimes have to be forced onto the right path. They might not thank him now as they were, but once lasting peace was achieved…

    …yes, they’d thank him for it.











    Wouldn’t they?

    Kiritsugu let the thoughts fade away into the darkness of his mind, instead watching in silence as the evacuation continued. Then Maiya signaled him that the evacuation was done, and on seeing it with his own eyes, Kiritsugu signaled her back.

    Moments later, explosives planted under the Fuyuki Grand Hyatt blew up all at once, and sent the building crashing into the ground.
    ______________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

    A/N

    Funny part about Kiritsugu is, deep down, he knows his dream of bringing world peace and becoming a Hero of Justice is just that. A dream, a dream that can never possibly become reality, but which he refuses to admit, because it’s all he has left.
     
  11. Threadmarks: Chapter 7
    Jaenera Targaryen

    Jaenera Targaryen I trust you know where the happy button is?

    Joined:
    Aug 29, 2018
    Messages:
    752
    Likes Received:
    8,700
    Disclaimer: I do not own the Fate franchise it belongs to Kinoko Nasu and Type-Moon. I also do not own the Megami Tensei franchise, it belongs to Atlus.

    Zero to One

    Chapter 7

    Kariya handed Berserker the baton, who looked at it skeptically for a moment before looking back at her Master. “So…just jump forward, and pull it sideways, right?” she asked.

    “Pretty much,” Kariya said with a shrug. “A jogging jump, though…here, let me show you.”

    Berserker raised an eyebrow, and looked on as Kariya jogged forward to the edge of the roof, and then leaping off, crouched forward into the air while pulling his baton sideways with both hands. Hardlight pixels flowed out, arranging into wireframe diagrams of a lightcycle’s chassis and machine parts, many of the latter already turning and pushing and pulling, even as they were encased with external plating, hardlight resolving into solid matter. Then Kariya and his lightcycle slammed down hard onto the expressway below, and sped off at just over a hundred kilometers per hour.

    “…if an ordinary person can do that,” Berserker finally snapped in disgust at her own hesitation. “The heir to the British throne can do just as well!”

    Then jogging forward, she leapt off the rooftop, crouching forward into the air while pulling her baton sideways with both hands. Hardlight pixels flowed out, arranging into wireframe diagrams of a lightcycle’s chassis and machine parts, followed by external plating as hardlight resolved into solid matter. Then like her Master before her, she slammed down hard onto the expressway, and sped off in pursuit.

    “…good…very good…!” Berserker said with a grin that all but stretched from ear to ear. “I’ve raced with horses before but this…? Now this is racing!”

    Pushing her lightcycle’s front and rear apart partly exposed the engine, electric motors visibly guzzling down liquid energy to produce motive power. In just ten seconds, Berserker pushed past two hundred kilometers per hour, quickly catching up to her Master as they sped down the expressway under the starry winter sky, the lights of the expressway’s lampposts streaking past like comets.

    “Finally caught up, huh?” Kariya asked over their helmet communicators as they sped through a tunnel, both of them banking to make a gentle turn to the right. “Fine by me…how about some music, Berserker?”

    “Music?” Berserker echoed, and then she blinked as a rhythmic beating came through the communicator, nothing like the music she knew from her day and age, but strangely alluring for all that. “Huh…modern music…not bad…”

    Kariya laughed and sped ahead, Berserker snarling while also speeding up in pursuit. Then a woman began to sing a song, and despite herself Berserker couldn’t help but nod her head in time with the rhythm.

    Sweet dreams are made of this

    Who am I to disagree?

    I traveled the world

    And the seven seas

    Everybody's looking for something

    Berserker grit her teeth as she drifted around a hard left turn, then steadying her lightcycle accelerated further to bump against the back of Kariya’s lightcycle. “Hey!” the man protested. “That’s dangerous!”

    Some of them want to use you

    Some of them want to get used by you

    Some of them want to abuse you

    Some of them want to be abused

    Berserker just laughed, letting Kariya regain some distance, and then slipping to his right, sped past as Kariya was forced to fall behind or risk hitting a car passing to her left. He quickly caught up again, though, Master and Servant smirking at each other as they rode side by side.

    Sweet dreams are made of this

    Who am I to disagree?

    I traveled the world

    And the seven seas

    Everybody's looking for something

    Then both of them banked to the left, turning gently in that direction, before Berserker cut hard and sped forward, Kariya again losing speed to avoid hitting another vehicle, a passenger van this time. Berserker laughed in triumph, only to break off as another gentle turn to the right forced her to slow down or risk hitting a car. Then it was Kariya’s turn to laugh as he sped past, drifting around a right turn up ahead.

    “Oh you are so on!” Berserker said with a snarling grin, the music continuing to play as they entered another tunnel.

    Hold your head up

    Keep your head up, movin' on

    Hold your head up, movin' on

    Keep your head up, movin' on

    Hold your head up, movin' on

    Keep your head up, movin' on

    Hold your head up, movin' on

    Keep your head up

    Speeding up, Berserker caught up in just a couple of seconds, and in another couple slipped past Kariya and another van, before drifting around another right and then a left turn in quick succession. “Ha-ha!” Berserker yelled in triumph as they emerged back into the open. “Don’t underestimate me! I might be new at this, but I learn fast and get ahead just as fast!”

    “That’s a lame comeback!” Kariya shot at her.

    “Hey!” Berserker protested, gritting her teeth as she struggled to keep ahead, Kariya staying on her tail as they wove between cars and trucks along the expressway, and banked around a gentle turn to the left.

    Some of them want to use you

    Some of them want to get used by you

    Some of them want to abuse you

    Some of them want to be abused

    “Why don’t you say that again when you’re in the lead?” Berserker snapped as they banked right.

    “I might.” Kariya shot back a couple of seconds later, as they banked again, to the left this time. “The night’s still young.”

    Hold your head up

    Keep your head up, movin' on

    Hold your head up, movin' on

    Keep your head up, movin' on

    Hold your head up, movin' on

    Keep your head up, movin' on

    Hold your head up, movin' on

    Keep your head up

    Despite herself, Berserker grinned as she drifted around a left turn. Yes, her Master was right. The night was still young. Plenty of time to enjoy herself, whether it was while trying to draw out another Master and Servant with this race of theirs, and indulging in the fires of battle when someone finally took the bait. And even if no one did, well…

    …a race such as this was worth a night of indulgence.

    Sweet dreams are made of this

    Who am I to disagree?

    I traveled the world

    And the seven seas

    Everybody's looking for something

    Yes, Berserker thought as she sped past a truck and then a car, before drifting twice around right and left turns one right after the other. Her Master might not be perfect, but no one was, and he was just fine for her the way he was.

    Sweet dreams are made of this

    Who am I to disagree?

    I traveled the world

    And the seven seas

    Everybody's looking for something
    ______________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

    “Don’t you think you’re mixing your priorities up, Tokiomi?”

    Tokiomi blinked in surprise at the dry tone Risei Kotomine asked his question with. They stood in Kotomine Church’s atrium, morning light shining down from above on and around them, while Kirei stood in the shadows along the pillared walkway around the atrium.

    “I beg your pardon?” Tokiomi asked.

    Risei sighed. “Tokiomi,” he began. “Do not take me for a fool. While I prefer to remain aloof from such things, I am well aware of and have experience in the politicking that goes on in the higher echelons of any organization of note. Whether it is governments or private associations, whether in the mundane or Moonlit worlds…it happens all the same. The Holy Church is no different from the Mages Association in that regard.”

    Risei paused, and then gave Tokiomi a disappointed look. “I am well aware that certain agencies of the Mages Association are not above manipulating political and economic developments to ensure its interests.” He said. “Or for that matter, delaying or even preventing certain advances in the fields of science and technology.”

    “Then what is the problem…?” Tokiomi began, looking and sounding confused, only to be cut off by Risei.

    “The problem, Tokiomi, is that you attempt to do so in the middle of a Grail war!” Risei interrupted. “You think it a simple matter to confiscate, assess, then investigate and suppress technological developments? It is not! And a Grail war is neither the time nor place for such a high-profile – if subtle – affair! Tokiomi, do you think this is a game?”

    “I am well aware of the complexities involved in what I have proposed to do.” Tokiomi coldly replied. “As well as the risks and dangers that it entails. But risk and danger are no strangers to me, not since I took my first step on the path of a magus.”

    “Risk and danger are not to be feared when one walks the path of a magus, that much is true.” Risei agreed. “But when reason calls for it, they must be shunned. And here and now there is reason for it to be shunned. Tokiomi, you know as well as I do that unless you are fully committed to it, you cannot win this contest! Plainly-speaking, now is not the time to let your pride dictate your actions!”

    Tokiomi looked insulted at that. “You think I propose this course of action out of pride?” he incredulously asked.

    Risei gave him a disappointed look, that of a teacher hearing the excuses of a student. “Yes, I do.” He said, and causing Tokiomi to look taken aback. “Your pride as a magus, that is. Your pride as a magus that is offended by the likes of Kariya Matou able to compete as well as he has thus far despite having apparently become a spell-caster along the lines of Kiritsugu Emiya. Your pride as a magus that is offended by the likes of Kariya Matou able to compete as well as he has despite having turned his back on his family, the family that you count as an honored ally. Your pride as a magus that is offended by the likes of Kariya Matou able to compete as well as he has thanks to his possession of technology so very ahead of the times.”

    Tokiomi spluttered incoherently in denial that he was acting as he was out of mere pride. “Tokiomi,” Risei began with a sigh and a conciliatory tone. “We’ve known each other for well over a decade now. I knew you as a child, and was a friend and ally to your parents as I am to you. I know you. And you know this, and that I would never speak any of this were it not true, or that I do so out of anything but genuine concern.”

    Tokiomi ground his teeth together, even as he tightly gripped his cane in one hand. “…it’s intolerable!” he finally admitted. “Kariya is a disgrace! A coward with neither shame nor honor, who turned his back not just on the path of a magus but also his own family! Who spits on their legacy with those…contraptions, he uses! He insults his ancestors and all the sacrifices and efforts they put into coming as far they did with his each and every action! How can I just let him do as he pleases? As a magus…as a dutiful heir of the Tohsaka lineage of magi…as a faithful ally of the Matou lineage of magi…I cannot do nothing!”

    “I didn’t say you should do nothing.” Risei said with another sigh. “I merely say to refrain from such…petty, actions that come off as blindly lashing out bereft of reason or logic.”

    “…what?”

    Risei gave Tokiomi a look. “If you really want to honor yourself as a magus, your ancestors, and your ally in the Matou family, then don’t waste time and effort bringing into this the politics of suppressing such technological means Kariya uses in the war.” He said. “Instead, put your all into actually fighting the war. If you fight, then you automatically become greater than Kariya. For all his paltry machines, he could not stop you from claiming the prize at the end. He was just another obstacle, one overcome and left behind on your journey to the fulfilment of your purpose.”

    “And if I should lose?” Tokiomi challenged. “What then?”

    “Even if you lose, Kariya gains nothing.” Risei dismissively said. “You know as well as I do that the Grail is no wish machine. Oh, it could be used for such a fashion…if you know how it truly works. In such an end, he comes off as a fool who wasted time and effort to gain a prize that is useless to him, a prize that would trickle away as sand through his fingers, to await your daughter’s turn to claim it.”

    “…you make a good point.” Tokiomi grudgingly conceded. “But I notice you do not deny Kariya’s machines are much too…advanced, for the times.”

    “They are.” Risei agreed with a nod, and then narrowed his eyes. “But that is a matter for the future, for after the war, when we have the time and luxury to deal with them. If you wish, I am prepared to sign a geis to guarantee my taking action to…ensure, they and their sources do not unduly disrupt Humanity’s proper pace along the path to the future.”

    Tokiomi sighed, and pinched the bridge of his nose. “No, that won’t be necessary.” He said. “I know and trust you enough to take you at your word. If you say you’ll take proper action when you have the time, then I know you will.”

    Risei nodding with an approving hum. “Be patient, Tokiomi.” He said. “Calm yourself. Think…reason…look objectively at what is happening around you, and react with measured thought and action. Anything less would gain you nothing.”

    “…I suppose you’re right.” Tokiomi admitted with another sigh. “I cannot hope to win this war without committing myself to it fully, nor should I have to lower myself to Kariya’s level to demonstrate his…degeneracy.”

    Tokiomi sighed again. “Very well,” he said. “I will refrain from taking action to inform the appropriate authorities of the matter of Kariya’s possession of…inappropriately-advanced machinery, and the source thereof. I’ll leave that matter to you for after the war’s end, and focus my thoughts and efforts on said war, where they belong.”

    Risei nodded again, also with an approving hum. “Very good, Tokiomi.” He said. “Now then, the most pressing matter involves…”
    ______________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

    “You did not confront him over the other detail of his recent scheme with Matou.” Kirei observed once Tokiomi had left. He’d stayed behind, on Risei’s request, the elder Kotomine justifying to Tokiomi the request for privacy as that of a father wishing to speak with his son.

    “Considering what you’ve told me,” Risei said with a sigh. “Confronting him over it would be counterproductive. You saw how he reacted when confronted about his budding vendetta against Kariya. How much more on this matter, given how…personal, it is?”

    “I see your point, father.” Kirei agreed. “It is, however, a concerning matter.”

    “…hmm…” Risei hummed in thoughtful agreement. “…Louis Cyphre…that man has always come off as troubling to me. But no matter how much we look into his background, no matter how many times I review my impressions of the man…I cannot answer the question: why?”

    “Forgive me, father.” Kirei began. “But I have no answer for you. I agree, though: there is something not quite right about him…something…illusive…elsewhere…other, even…”

    “He is rich and influential.” Risei said. “Enough so that not only was he able to take Aoi and their daughter in after the fallout of their affair dropped, but in such a way that no matter how…insulted, Tokiomi was, even he could not just run them out of the city. No matter how much he wanted to…”

    Risei paused, pacing for several moments with head bowed in thought. “Zouken Matou is old and powerful.” He finally said. “So very much so…and yet I suspect even he would have to resort to a direct confrontation to get his hands on Aoi and Sakura, in order to gain leverage on Kariya.”

    “What should we do, father?” Kirei asked.

    Risei sighed while pinching the bridge of his nose, muttering a prayer in Latin to himself. “It is not our place to interfere in the internal affairs of magi lineages.” He said. “I can only hope the Lord forgives us our inaction to keep mother and daughter from potentially falling into Matou’s hands, and what awaits them in such a fate. I also pray that the Lord forgives Tokiomi, no matter how wounded his heart is, that he would willingly consign them to such a fate to avenge his honor.”

    “But…?” Kirei prompted.

    “…there is only one thing we can do.” Risei said with a sigh. “When this matter reaches its climax, we must limit the fallout, and prevent inappropriate details from leaking out into the public. Either way, whether it is Matou or Cyphre comes out on top, that is all we can do.”

    “…in short, we let Master Tokiomi continued as he plans in this matter.” Kirei said.

    “Indeed, my son, indeed.” Risei said with another sigh. “Go, my son. Leave me. I must…pray, for forgiveness and guidance in this matter. Not just for myself, or even for you, but for Tokiomi as well.”

    Risei bowed, and turning in silence, left his father to pray alone.
    ______________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

    “…seems like a straightforward job.” The freelancer said while looking up at the towering spire of Fuyuki Tower stabbing into the sky, the glass and metal exterior gleaming in the daylight. “We go in, grab our targets, then get out and bring them to the client. Simple and easy.”

    “Only because we can use magic.” Another freelancer said. “Be careful, though. Magic or not, only the lower floors have generic security guards. The upper floors have PMCs of all stripes guarding the high-end residences.”

    “Rich bastards…” a third freelancer grumbled. “I wish I were that rich.”

    “Just don’t get careless.” The leader said. “Come on, we’ll go through the service entrance.”

    The freelancers walked down the street and towards a side-entrance leading into the walled compound around the proto-arcology that was Fuyuki Tower. The guard on duty made to block their way, and to ask for IDs, but a gesture from the leading freelancer had him standing down and stepping aside, eyes blank and jaws slack.

    “Come on, this way.” The leader said. “We’ll head to the locker room first, and look the part. We’ve got to cover our asses on the way out, after all.”

    That got a murmur of acknowledgement from the other freelancers, even as they continued on their way. As they headed for the maintenance block, they looked out over the landscaped grounds, and the tower’s residents and staff coming and going on their daily routine. Then entering the maintenance block, headed for one of the locker rooms.

    There were a few people inside, and again, mental interference had them keeping quiet and docile even as the freelancers broke lockers open. Quickly changing out of their everyday clothes and into maintenance jumpsuits, they stepped out of the locker room…

    …and found themselves facing down a towering pair of PMCs, submachine guns held low but ready. At their lead was a pale-skinned, dark-haired woman with golden eyes, wearing a dark-colored business ensemble, who regarded them with an air of disappointment.

    “Freelancers?” she asked with veiled incredulity. “Really? This is the best either Tohsaka or Matou could come up with? Fine…you’re coming with us we have some questions for you.”

    “I don’t know what you’re talking about…” the leader blustered, only to be sent flying by a solid hook to the chin. The man slammed hard against the floor a full six meters away, knocked out cold, and possibly with a fractured jaw.

    The other freelancers panicked, pulling out mystic codes…

    …then one of them screamed as a kick shattered his shinbones sideways, followed by another scream as a hand twisted an elbow apart, causing a mystic code to fall with a clatter to the ground. A boot to a chin snapped another freelancer’s neck, while a blow to the gut collapsed the one with a ruined arm as he tried to pull out a holdout weapon.

    Security Chief Morgan sighed as she adjusted her suit. “Dispose of the corpse,” she ordered. “And bring the others up with you: like I said, I have a few questions for them.”
    ______________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

    “Shit, Lord El-Melloi’s on the move.”

    Kariya and Berserker were on a rooftop again, looking out over the glittering expanse of Fuyuki City for another night. Kariya was dressed as usual in dark-colored fatigues under an armor vest, while Berserker was wearing the clothes Kariya had given her yesterday, having fallen for the allure of their modern cut and style, to say nothing of the glowing blue lines running over their contours.

    “Where’s he going?” Berserker asked, turning to look at Kariya as he pulled out another laptop and opened it.

    “He’s at Lady Einzbern’s hideout.” Kariya replied.

    “How’d he get there without us knowing beforehand?” Berserker angrily demanded.

    Kariya gave her a deadpan look. “We haven’t found their backup hideout yet, remember?” he asked.

    “…I knew that.” Berserker said after a moment. “I was just testing you, that’s all.”

    Kariya chuckled and shook his head, Berserker looking away with a slight flush to her cheeks. “Huh…well isn’t that interesting…” he softly said after working away for a few minutes.

    “What is?” Berserker asked.

    “Saber and Lady Einzbern aren’t at the hideout.” Kariya said, even as Berserker moved closer to look over a shoulder. “They’re nowhere nearby, either. Just in case, Lord El-Melloi has Lancer on the lookout just in case they try to pull an ambush, while he takes care of Emiya himself.”

    “How’s it going so far?” Berserker asked.

    “Well, blowing up the foyer seems to have only pissed Lord El-Melloi off…” Kariya began, only to trail off as Kayneth deployed his mystic code, and finding Kiritsugu, quickly moved to corner him. Kariya narrowed his eyes as he watched Kiritsugu vainly open fire on full auto with a MP5…

    …and then his jaw dropped as Kiritsugu vanished.

    “What the hell?” he said, working at his keyboard and through the Specters spying on the scene figure out what the hell just happened. Unnecessarily, as it turned out: Kayneth soon explained what had happened, of Kiritsugu actually using his body to define the boundaries of a reality marble, wherein he could alter the flow of time at will.

    “…impressive.” Kariya could only say.

    “Altering time, huh?” Berserker softly said as they watched Kayneth track Kiritsugu. “I don’t know what mother might say, but I’m impressed…I think.”

    They watched in silence then, as Kayneth took his time stalking Kiritsugu, and the latter blindsiding the former. They looked on as Kayneth again easily handled a MP5 on full auto, and then blinked in surprise as a .303 from a Thompson Contender blew straight through Kayneth’s defenses, ripping through a shoulder and splattering blood on the floor.

    “Right…I’m definitely impressed.” Berserker said, slowly clapping her hands. “That was very well done. In fact, I’m wondering who’s really the hunter and prey here. Sure, Lord El-Melon might be the one going after Emiya, but Emiya’s in complete control here. Come to think of it, I think Lord El-Melon might actually be getting drawn in.”

    “It sure looks that way.” Kariya agreed.

    Again, silence fell as Kayneth continued to track Kiritsugu, Kariya and Berserker still watching through Specters’ eyes. They looked on as explosions tore through the castle’s floors, and as Kayneth grew increasingly angry at seemingly being made sport of, his mystic code wildly lashing out and tearing at the walls.

    Berserker shook her head as Kayneth ranted and raved about how he’d take his revenge on Kiritsugu for daring to spill his blood. “You went onto the battlefield, so what exactly did you expect, you fucking idiot?” She irritably asked. “This is why I hate nobles. They’re so far up their own asses it’s a surprise they can even stand up at all. I mean, it’s all well and good when they’re beating people up left and right after they don’t get what they want, but when someone pushes back and they clip a nail, they suddenly start screaming and squealing as though it’s the end of the world. Nobles…more like scum…first thing to do once I become king, separate the grain from the chaff among the nobility. Those that have talent can live. Those that don’t will have their heads on poles.”

    “…o~kay…” Kariya murmured, not sure how to feel about his Servant’s plan to purge the British nobility should she ever get the chance to sit on Camelot’s throne. On one hand, he didn’t really care much for nobles anyway, they were all a bunch of Tokiomis and Zoukens as far as he was concerned. On the other hand, they were people too, and deserved at least the justice of a trial.

    Otherwise, what difference was there between them and Berserker?

    The line of thought broke and Master and Servant’s jaws fell open as they saw Kiritsugu empty his MP5 against Kayneth, and followed up with another .303. Kayneth had already adjusted his defenses to account for that…

    …which was what stunned them both. The lord’s mystic code simply exploded, mercury pooling inertly on the floor as Kayneth clawed at himself in agony, before vomiting blood and then collapsing onto the floor.

    “Whoa…what the hell?” Berserker asked in awe and shock.

    “Yeah…what just happened?” Kariya said, typing away at his laptop but getting no answers for it.

    Meanwhile Kiritsugu approached, preparing to deal the coup de grace, only to be interrupted by Lancer, who blocked all of Kiritsugu’s shots with a spear. Then grabbing and lifting up Kayneth’s body, took him away with a final warning against Kiritsugu. Berserker narrowed her eyes at Lancer’s words.

    “…something wrong?” Kariya asked.

    “That Lancer,” Berserker growled. “So he wants to fight father, huh?”

    “So do you.” Kariya pointed out.

    “It’s personal.” Berserker snapped.

    “…that’s…obvious…” Kariya said, while scratching at his head. Then working at his laptop, had the Specters follow Lancer, though he was moving a little too fast, making it difficult for the demons to follow.

    Kariya narrowed his eyes as an idea occurred to him, then glancing sideways at Berserker, noted her looking out over Fuyuki with a brooding air. With his Servant distracted, Kariya altered his approach, predicting Lancer’s line of retreat, and assembling multiple Specters at a certain point. And as the Knight of the Lance arrived at that point, he had them use their Last Resort skill all at once.

    Game set and match.
    ______________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

    A/N

    No, that’s not Morgana le Fay. Though Morgan would be amused if anyone actually mistook her for Morgana le Fay.
     
  12. Lord Cashern

    Lord Cashern Getting out there.

    Joined:
    Nov 1, 2020
    Messages:
    12
    Likes Received:
    42
    Black hair, yellow eyes, and pale skin?
    Morgan is actually Lilith isn't she?
     
  13. Threadmarks: Chapter 8
    Jaenera Targaryen

    Jaenera Targaryen I trust you know where the happy button is?

    Joined:
    Aug 29, 2018
    Messages:
    752
    Likes Received:
    8,700
    Disclaimer: I do not own the Fate franchise it belongs to Kinoko Nasu and Type-Moon. I also do not own the Megami Tensei franchise, it belongs to Atlus.

    Zero to One

    Chapter 8

    The local neighborhood was in an uproar come the following morning. After all, it was hardly normal to wake up, and find three men hanging on nooses around their necks from a lamppost, all dead from asphyxiation. More than that, they’d all been stripped to their underwear, and exposed flesh was mottled with burns, bruises, and lacerations, indicating they’d been tortured before being executed.

    The placement of the execution may have been deliberate, too. The lamppost the men were hanging from was the closest one across the street from the expansive Matou property, home to the rich and well-connected Zouken Matou. Whispers quickly spread, about whether or not the deaths were meant as a warning or retaliation of some kind against the old man or his family.

    Most of the gossipers, though, believed the latter. To them, Zouken was a polite and affable man, who made regular and generous donations to charitable causes, and was a member and several times over various terms head of the local PTA. It was…unthinkable, that a man like that would have made such brutal enemies.

    His son, though…

    …Byakuya was a drunkard, a ne’er do well, and a thug. He’d been taken into custody quite a few times before by the police for wandering drunk around town, and needing his father’s money to settle various criminal cases over the years. Rumors abounded about his wife’s death that it wasn’t just an accidental fall down the stairs, and that he might actually have beaten his wife to death instead.

    Why Zouken would cover for him was something the locals could never agree on. Was it simply to save face for the family? The old man not wanting to lose his only son, no matter how much of a disappointment he was?

    Those were just a few of the responses to the rumors surrounding Byakuya. And more to the point, he was suspected by the locals of being connected to the men hanging from the lamppost. That he didn’t show his face at all that morning was taken damningly at him.

    The police worked quickly and efficiently, taking the bodies down and away. They took testimonies from everyone present, and gathered what clues they could, though ended up leaving after a couple of hours with only vague leads to go after.

    A few men knew better.

    “Well, that could have gone better.” Zouken admitted.

    “As crude as it seems on the surface,” Tokiomi darkly remarked. “It’s actually quite subtle, and gets the message across: stay away from my woman and daughter.”

    Zouken hummed in agreement. “No one,” he said. “Neither myself, you, your apprentice, and your Servants noticed or even had any suspicions whenever Cyphre or his agents arrived last night to hang those freelancers outside my home. Objectively-speaking, that speaks of impressive ability to mask their presence and movements. We will have to be careful going forward.”

    “I mean no offense,” Tokiomi began. “But I must ask: could you not have sent more professional individuals into Fuyuki Tower yesterday? If only to have avoided this morning’s disturbance?”

    “Professional individuals are hard to find on short notice.” Zouken dismissively replied. “And most are too prudent to enter this city during a Heaven’s Feel ritual. Understandable of them, actually: I’d do the same in their place.”

    Pausing, Zouken preempted Tokiomi with a look. “At the very least,” he continued. “Cyphre was courteous enough to make his warning vague against any but ourselves. The police will work at this case for months, maybe question us or our proxies a few more times in the near future, but it should go away in three months at most.”

    “Speaking from experience, are we now?” Tokiomi asked.

    “Wouldn’t you?” Zouken asked back.

    Tokiomi hummed an admission at that. It wasn’t the first time he and Zouken had to cover up incidents of various kinds in the city, more often than not involving the unavoidable requirements of the Matou magecraft. As Zouken pointed out, the police would sniff around for a few months, and then in the absence of leads and evidence, would let the case go cold.

    “In any case,” Zouken continued after a moment. “The…sacrifice, of those pawns is not without gain.”

    “What?” Tokiomi asked in mild surprise.

    Zouken gave a ghastly smile. “Sending more freelancers to take Zenjou and her bastard into custody would be an exercise in futility.” He said. “Cyphre probably has professional spell-casters in addition to PMCs guarding her apartment, perhaps even with contingencies embedded among other residents and their own private securities inside the tower.”

    “In short,” Tokiomi said. “Unless we send in professionals of our own, we’d just be wasting our time and efforts.”

    “Quite,” Zouken agreed with a nod. “Though as previously-mentioned, professionals are hard to get on short notice at this time…”

    “…not necessarily,” Tokiomi said with narrow eyes. “There are the two of us, of course, but I don’t think we need to go that far.”

    “You will send your apprentice to handle this, then?” Zouken asked, looking and sounding amused.

    “He has the skills and experience for it.” Tokiomi said. “And Assassin is more than capable of simultaneously maintaining surveillance around the city while also being able to provide support for their Master in this task.”

    Zouken nodded with an approving grunt. “Very well then,” he said. “If you are so confident in your apprentice’s skills, then I will follow your lead in this and leave it to him.”

    Tokiomi nodded as well. “It’s best to wait until the evening.” He said. “But before sunrise tomorrow, then honor will be satisfied, and you will be able to bring that wayward son of yours to heel. And most important of all…”

    “…I will finally have an heir to carry on my name and legacy.” Zouken said with an expectant smile.

    “As you rightly should.” Tokiomi said, before sitting back and relaxing. Zouken only smiled wider.
    ______________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

    Kirei blinked at the sound of amused laughter as he walked down a corridor in the lonely confines of the Tohsaka mansion, and then turning in its direction, walked to and into a sitting room. Archer lounged on a richly-upholstered couch while swirling a glass of wine in one hand, smiling to himself even as his eyes flashed viper-like in Kirei’s direction.

    The priest gave a polite bow.

    “Tokiomi might not be so dull, after all.” Archer began without preamble. “If nothing else, the way he clowns about, so secure in his hollow pride even as he consorts with the likes of worms that ape the form of men, all the while presuming to challenge the Morning Star…it’s a comedy! A comedy in bad taste, to be sure, but a comedy still for all that! If nothing else, it’s a source of cheap amusement, though I’d be very surprised if Tokiomi was able to provide more than that.”

    Kirei stayed silent, enduring the King of Heroes’ venom against Tokiomi without flinching. “Why do you follow a man like that?” Archer asked after taking a drink from his glass. “You know deep down he cannot give you the answers you seek.”

    “Forgive me, Your Majesty, but I know not of what you speak.” Kirei immediately said.

    “Don’t you?” Archer mockingly asked. “Indeed!”

    Kirei’s face hardened ever so slightly at Archer’s words. “Very well then,” Archer said with the sigh of someone being forced to unduly exert themselves. “It seems you are as of yet not ready to hear the king’s wisdom on this matter. So let us proceed to a different, if still related matter: are you prepared to find the answers you seek?”

    “I’m afraid I don’t understand the question.” Kirei said.

    “Don’t play with words.” Archer snapped in a warning tone, his mocking and amused air quickly vanishing to be replaced by one of malice. “You know of what I speak of, the questions you seek answered to ease your tormented soul. And I would have of you at this time: are you prepared to find those answers? What if they are not what you expect them to be? Then what?”

    Kirei was silent, looking away in troubled thought. Archer scoffed at the sight. “So be it then.” He said. “Think on it, and be ready with an answer for when I seek answers from you. You may go.”

    Kirei bowed, but made no move to leave. “If I may ask a question, Your Majesty?” he asked.

    “You already have.” Archer drawled, and then smirked at Kirei. “Very well: ask.”

    “Why the interest in myself?” Kirei asked. “Surely someone of such achievement and ancestry as Tokiomi is more worthy of Your Majesty’s attention?”

    “Oh, and what achievements does Tokiomi have to his name?” Archer mockingly asked. “Has he opened paths for others to follow? Has he stood against that which cannot be stood against, and emerged triumphant in the aftermath of such confrontations between men and gods? And what ancestry can he claim descent from? Does the blood of the gods flow in his veins? Perhaps he might claim descent from some mongrel pretender of a king or a hero?”

    “…his family’s ancestor was a student and apprentice of the Great Wizard Marshall…” Kirei began, only for Archer to interrupt.

    “Was he?” he asked. “Truly?”

    Kirei could not answer, and Archer smirked while taking another drink from his glass. Then he swept an arm out, as though to indicate the whole of the mansion they were in. “All this you see around you,” he said in a voice heavy with contempt. “All that the man claims and takes so much pride in, is but a clown’s work. His ancestors are no different, upstart peasants who put on airs to mask the stink of the earth and manure, and later on brandished stolen treasures as though it changes anything at all.”

    Archer paused and chuckled. “Indeed,” he said with a mocking tone. “The greatest honor that Tokiomi and his family have ever earned, was that his wife was taken as a woman by the Morning Star.”

    “The Morning Star…?” Kirei echoed in confusion and foreboding. Clearly, the King of Heroes referred to Louis Cyphre, and his affair with Aoi Zenjou, back when she still bore the name of Tohsaka.

    Before Sakura’s birth, and their casting out by her husband and parents both for her infidelity.

    Archer regarded Kirei lazily through half-lidded eyes. “I’ve said too much.” He said. “Though if you ever answer my questions, I will consider granting you the favor of answering your questions in turn.”

    “Wait…” Kirei said. “How do you know all this? Whether myself, or Tokiomi’s past, and even Cyphre’s involvement? Why the interest in me?”

    “So many questions…” Archer drawled, before his expression turned stern. “Consider yourself fortunate that you intrigue the king sufficiently that I would suffer your impertinence…this time. So I will repeat myself: answer my questions, and perhaps I will answer yours. Now, go.”

    Realizing he was toeing the line, and unwilling to risk angering the King of Heroes further and risk having an ancient Noble Phantasm tear his heart out, Kirei bowed and left. Alone, Archer swirled the wine in his glass, and took a drink.

    What a pitiful man…

    …interesting though, for all that…

    …here’s to him following his own will instead of following Tokiomi’s…

    …but if not…

    …a shame, but the crow’s eyes are beyond him…

    …or are they?

    Archer smiled at the thought, and drained his glass in one drink. Kirei was already so interesting as he was right now, but if he could overcome the crow’s eyes, then perhaps Archer might actually have found a diamond in the rough here. But if he didn’t…

    …oh, well. There were too many Humans in this World already, what was the ending of one life?

    Still…

    …Archer looked forward in anticipation, even going so far as to refrain from calling on Sha Naqba Imuru to tell him in advance.

    It was just that much more interesting to observe things unfolding in real time.
    ______________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

    “…American Airways Flight 238 will be departing for Los Angeles International Airport at 0415 Hours GMT, or 1315 Hours JST.” The public announcement cheerfully echoed through the airport. “It is expected to arrive at 1415 Hours GMT, or 0715 Hours PDT. Boarding time to follow…”

    Sola-Ui looked up at the gigantic chart showing the schedule of flights for the day, and let her eyes fall on her own flight. She was at the airport well ahead of schedule, over ten hours at that, but she wasn’t staying in Fuyuki any longer than she had to. The other Masters might not know of her previous affiliation with Kayneth, but she wasn’t taking any chances.

    The only reason she was even here in the first place was because Kayneth had dragged her along with him. It wasn’t as though she could say no, between his and her families’ expectations.

    Damn them all to hell.

    Sola-Ui sighed as the thought of Fuyuki brought back recent memories. In particular, letting herself get enchanted by Lancer’s Mystic Face, and the subsequent infatuation which only broke with Lancer’s death.

    Was I really that desperate to get away from having to marry that disgusting man?” Sola-Ui asked before barely holding back a wince, and fighting the urge to palm her face. “Stupid question…yes, I was. Though on the bright side, he’s dead, so hallelujah I’m free at last!

    This time, Sola-Ui smiled at the thought, feeling all warm and giddy on the inside. To be sure, the El-Melloi and Nuada-Re Sophia-Ri families were probably facing ruin, between the loss of all the resources Kayneth had brought with him – much of which had actually been ‘borrowed’ (read: stolen) from the Department of Spiritual Invocation – and the destruction of his crest along with his body, to say nothing of the sheer humiliation they’d be facing as a result of this disastrous outcome to his involvement in Heaven’s Feel…











    Bah! What did it matter to her? As far as she was concerned, they both deserved it, El-Melloi for treating her like a glorified brood mare, and Nuada-Re Sophia-Ri for selling her off like cattle.

    Kayneth’s war chest would do just fine as starters when it came to compensation for the way they’d treated her. Enough to get her to the USA – the Land of the Free, and all that – before ‘disappearing’ and settling down to live out the rest of her life in luxury as she deserved.

    Yes, things were finally looking up for her at long last.

    Smirking to herself, Sola-Ui hurried off to find a way to spend the rest of the day in excitement and comfort, before boarding the flight that would take her to freedom.

    Miami, here I come.
    ______________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

    What’s this all about?” Berserker telepathically asked Kariya as he crossed the stone square standing in front of Kotomine Church.

    Damned if I know.” Kariya replied in kind. “All I know is that all of us were invited to this meeting at the church at this time.

    Huh…think it could be a trap or something?” Berserker asked.

    Kariya switched his visor to thermal view, allowing him to see inside the church. “…no, I don’t think so.” He said. “At least not for us.

    But for every Master here…?” Berserker pointed out.

    …point,” Kariya admitted. “But I doubt the Church could get away with such an obvious backstab. I think the only words that can describe what comes after are political shitstorm.

    Kariya smirked as he heard Berserker’s barking laughter in his head. “Besides,” Kariya said while pushing the doors open. “Everyone here is much too relaxed for anything to be going on inside…so far.

    Hmm…watch your back.

    Likewise.

    Kariya stepped into the church, and as the doors closed with a dull boom behind him, allowed his eyes to adjust to the shadowed interior before taking off his visor. Most of the other Masters were here, such as Lady Einzbern, Waver Velvet, and of course Kirei Kotomine and Tokiomi Tohsaka. Kariya’s lip curled in amusement as he noticed the former two keeping away from the latter two, and moved to join them.

    A small gesture, but a meaningful one even if Tokiomi gave no outward sign of noticing it.

    Smug bastard.

    “I hear congratulations are in order, Lady Einzbern.” Kariya said with a smile, and offering her a hand.

    “Congratulations?” she echoed in surprise.

    “Hmm…my…familiars, were watching last night, and they told me how your friend Emiya managed to bring down the great Lord El-Melloi.” Kariya said.

    Waver’s mouth fell open, while Tokiomi looked alarmed. Kirei, though, stayed stoic as ever.

    “I’m sure…Emiya, would be thankful for the congratulations.” Irisviel said while cautiously shaking Kariya’s hand.

    “Oh no way…it really is true…Lord El-Melloi was defeated?” Waver stammered out. “The man was a genius…he was probably the strongest magus out of all of us here. And to actually lose…?”

    Kariya chuckled. “I guess that makes Lady Einzbern’s friend the strongest magus out of us here, doesn’t it?” he asked.

    “…guess so…” Waver grumbled. Tokiomi looked like he’d bitten into a lemon, while Kirei finally looked ever so intrigued.

    “Don’t sweat it, kid.” Kariya told Waver. “There’s always a bigger fish.”

    “Don’t call me a kid!” Waver burst out before clamping his hands over his mouth.

    “How old are you anyway?” Kariya then asked.

    “…nineteen.” Waver admitted after a moment, and refusing to meet Kariya’s eyes.

    “…that makes you a kid.” Kariya said deadpan, and Irisviel actually giggled, while Waver could only hang his head dejectedly, unable to deny the fact.

    At the head of the gathering, Risei gave a cough. “Yes, well,” he began. “We can thus assume that waiting for Lord El-Melloi is a pointless exercise, as he’s probably still recovering from his injuries last night…”

    “He’s dead.” Irisviel interrupted. “And so is Lancer. While they were retreating outside of Einzbern Forest, they were ambushed en route to the city. Both of them were killed. Based on the scale of the collateral damage, we – that is, my…associates, and I – think Caster was involved.”

    “…I see.” Risei said before trading glances with his son. A meaningful gesture, given the faint look of concern on Irisviel’s face. “Then that makes my reason for calling you all here even more meaningful.”

    “So why did you call us all here?” Kariya pressed.

    “As of this moment, the Fourth Holy Grail War is on hold.” Risei replied, and catching them all – except for Kirei and Tokiomi though they didn’t let it show – by surprise. “As per my authority as the Overseer of the Contest, I declare Caster and his Master inexcusably in violation of the rules and regulations of the contest. All other Masters and Servants are to hunt them down and eliminate them before they can disrupt it further.”

    “And what exactly are they in violation of?” Kariya asked.

    “Are you aware of the mass abductions of children across the city?” Risei asked.

    Kariya’s eyes went flat. “Caster and their Master are behind those?” he asked back.

    “So it would seem.” Risei replied.

    Kariya made a growling sound at the base of his throat, but said nothing more. After a moment, Risei continued. “The Master whose Servant succeeds in bringing Caster down shall receive an extra command spell as a reward.” He said. “Furthermore, the contest will resume the moment Caster is felled, but no sooner. Any Master or Servant who attacks another beyond Caster or their Master in that time will be branded as equally renegade. I trust this is clear.”

    “So it is.” Kirei said.

    “I believe that is all that needs be said.” Tokiomi chimed in.

    Kariya just gave a curt nod, while Waver and Irisviel gave more subdued nods. “If there is nothing more,” Risei began. “Then you may all go, and God be with you.”

    Oh the irony,” Kariya thought at that, even as he reached out to Berserker while turning to leave. “Come on, Berserker. We’ve got prey to hunt.
    ______________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

    “Was it necessary to hide the fact that we were already aware of Lancer’s fall even before now?” Tokiomi asked, having lingered to speak with Risei once the other Masters – sans Kirei – had left.

    “It should have gone without saying that we would have the ability to know when Servants fall.” Risei said.

    “But to actually…dissemble, the fact, instead of simply omitting it in passing?” Tokiomi said.

    “A necessary evil, I’m afraid.” Risei said with a sigh. “If only to draw out the actual emotions and thoughts of the other Masters to the fact, and provoke genuine reactions from them. And of course, while we can tell when a Servant falls, what we can’t tell is who felled them.”

    “I see.” Tokiomi said with narrowed eyes. “You were trying to draw out whoever Lancer’s true slayer was.”

    “If nothing else,” Risei said. “I must be sure of the facts in my hand.”

    “And?” Tokiomi prompted. “What of those facts you now hold in your hand?”

    “Emiya is very dangerous.” Risei immediately said. “Much more so than any of us initially expected of the man, if he could actually defeat Lord El-Melloi. The two of you, be mindful when the time comes to confront him.”

    “I shall take your words to heart, father.” Kirei said with a bow.

    “They are wise words.” Tokiomi said. “I would be a fool to ignore them.”

    Risei nodded, and then narrowed his eyes. “On a related note,” he began. “Caster is not to be underestimated. Servants of any class are dangerous, that should also go without saying, but a Caster should not normally be able to match a Servant Knight, which Lancer was.”

    “Perhaps Lord El-Melloi’s weakened state affected his Servant as well?” Tokiomi opined. “It’s not very probable, but it is possible.”

    “…indeed.” Risei said with a sigh. “Caster…what a troublesome Servant they’ve turned out to be…”
    ______________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

    “Oh?” Kiritsugu said while blowing out a thin plume of smoke. “So the elder Kotomine has put the war on hold to put Caster down, huh? We might be able to use this to our advantage.”

    Irisviel didn’t say anything, she just kept on staring at him for several moments straight. Kiritsugu didn’t so much as flinch, instead puffing away at his cigarette, before taking a long drag and then blowing out another plume of smoke.

    “An additional command spell might come in handy.” He finally said, and causing Irisviel to start beaming. “That said, tracking Caster and his Master isn’t going to be easy. In fact, together with Kariya they’re the only Master and Servant left whose base we don’t have the location of.”

    “But,” Irisviel began. “Even with that said, I’m sure you know where to start, don’t you?”

    Kiritsugu dragged at his cigarette. “I do.” He said while blowing out more smoke. “Long story short, the patterns are always buried in the data. We just have to take a really close look, below the surface, and we should be able to find it.”

    “And once we have the pattern,” Irisviel said. “All we have to do is follow it to where Caster and his Master are.”

    “Pretty much.” Kiritsugu said while putting out his cigarette. “Kidnapping children, huh…damn, this isn’t going to be pretty. At the end of the day, Caster’s still a magus, and based on experience, magi kidnapping children never ends well.”

    Irisviel looked really down at that, and in the next moment Kiritsugu was there hugging her to himself. “Don’t worry.” He said. “Even if we can’t bring them back to life, we can at least make sure they get justice in the end.”

    Irisviel nodded into her husband’s chest. “I suppose that’s where we’ll start looking, huh?” she asked. “Instead of actually fighting the war, Caster’s spent all his time kidnapping children and doing who knows what to them. So we look into all the abductions since the war started, and then some time before it, and we should be able to find the leads we need.”

    “Right,” Kiritsugu said, before turning to Maiya. “Maiya, we’ll pay a visit to the local police headquarters later this afternoon. They should have what we need.”

    “Understood.” Maiya said.

    “That said,” Kiritsugu continued. “We should also look into more than one way of finding and bringing Caster down.”

    “What do you mean?” Irisviel asked.

    Kiritsugu smiled his usual wintery smile. “Just because he’s been declared public enemy number one – so to speak – by the Overseer, it doesn’t mean Caster will stop whatever it is he’s doing.” He said. “Well, if he had brains, he would, but I’ve met his type before, and more than once at that. If anything, they’ll double down on their MO. And that gives us a chance.”

    “Catch them in the act…” Irisviel whispered in realization.

    “…and we can bring him down then and there.” Kiritsugu said with a nod. “That said, Fuyuki’s a big place. We’re going to need a lot of familiars to pull this off.”

    Irisviel gave a smile of her own at that. “Easy enough to do.” She said. “We’re not as big on them as Matou are, but we can make plenty of familiars. Even more so now, considering I can now call on Lancer’s energies as well.”

    Kiritsugu smiled at his wife. “I’ll leave it to you then, Iri.” He said, and Irisviel smiled wider.

    “Right…don’t worry...just leave it all to me, Kiri.”
    ______________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

    A/N

    Bad End for Lancer and Kayneth (much sad)…but Good End for Sola-Ui, who absconds with the latter’s money to live in decadent luxury in the USA, and to hell with their families.
     
  14. Threadmarks: Chapter 9
    Jaenera Targaryen

    Jaenera Targaryen I trust you know where the happy button is?

    Joined:
    Aug 29, 2018
    Messages:
    752
    Likes Received:
    8,700
    Disclaimer: I do not own the Fate franchise it belongs to Kinoko Nasu and Type-Moon. I also do not own the Megami Tensei franchise, it belongs to Atlus.

    Zero to One

    Chapter 9

    “So how do we go about finding Caster and their little shit of a Master?” Berserker asked as soon as she and Kariya returned to their hideout. “This is a pretty big city, going door to door will take too long.”

    “I have an idea, don’t worry.” Kariya soothingly said, while leading the way to the workshop.

    Berserker huffed but said nothing, first following then watching in silence. She did show a hint of curiosity though as Kariya spread a map of Fuyuki across the worktable, then taking out a silver goblet, emptied a vial of blood into it. “Who’s blood is that?” Berserker asked.

    “No one important,” Kariya said with a shrug. “Just sheep’s blood, really.”

    “…makes sense.” Berserker conceded.

    Kariya then took an obsidian dagger, and slitting his finger, flicked a drop of his own blood into the goblet. “Combustum!” he hissed in Latin, and Berserker raised an eyebrow as flames ignited on the surface of the blood. Looking more curious than before, she watched as Kariya wandered over to where the jar they’d taken from Caster and Saber’s battlefield sat, in the middle of a twenty-pointed mandala probably drawn with more sheep’s blood mixed with just a little of Kariya’s own.

    She watched as Kariya pulled on a pair of leather gloves, and carefully opened the jar. Then she narrowed her eyes and actually growled as she felt her figurative hackles rising. The mandala began to glow, heat visibly distorting the air around and over the jar, the slime inside bubbling with subdued malevolence.

    Kariya reached inside with a pair of iron tongs, and visibly struggled to pull some of the slime out and deposit it inside a lead bowl. Then he carefully sealed the jar, before returning to the burning blood from before, coaxing the slime out with the tongs and into the flames.

    So softly that she thought she was imagining it, Berserker heard silent screaming. Kariya didn’t so much as flinch, instead heading to a cupola sitting in a corner. He nonchalantly tossed the bowl, tongs, and even his gloves inside, then sealing the furnace, opened the gas valves before igniting the furnace at full power.

    “…that nasty, huh?” Berserker asked.

    “Yeah, and I get the feeling we’re going to find out where that slime came from once we find Caster and their Master.” Kariya said with a sigh. “And I also get the feeling we’re not going to like it.”

    “…well,” Berserker eventually said. “Whether we like it or not, we’ll just take their heads and be done with it.”

    “Fair enough.” Kariya said with a nod. While waiting for the flames to go out, Kariya focused on the map, taking into account the scale before using a compass to draw a circle around the city. In the middle of the circle, he then placed a magnetic compass, before drawing a line in grease pencil to their hideout.

    Kariya then stared at the flames, watching in silence for the next half hour until they went out, and then tossed a lodestone inside the goblet. “Sorbitium!” he whispered in Latin, and after a few moments, pulled the lodestone out. Putting a pin through a hole in one end of the lodestone, Kariya then placed it against the map.

    “Whoa…” Berserker said, before clapping her hands as the lodestone moved on the map and pointed to a certain direction. “…if that isn’t magic, I don’t know what is.”

    “If you ask the magi,” Kariya said while slowly drawing the lodestone over the map in the indicated direction. “It’s just a mix of witchcraft and formalcraft. Nothing impressive at all.”

    “Yeah, well, fuck them.” Berserker said. “You’re no Merlin, but you know enough to get shit done, and that’s impressive enough for me.”

    “Thanks.” Kariya said with a small smile, which widened further as the lodestone began spinning. Taking it off the map, he marked the spot with grease pen, and then drew more lines to complete a triangle on the map. “And there we go. Caster and their Master should be somewhere around here.”

    “…I’m guessing we’re not going on the hunt right now.” Berserker said after a moment. “What with the Sun still up in the sky, and all that.”

    “Once the Sun sets,” Kariya said. “We’ll go on the hunt.”

    Berserker grinned. “Now that’s what I like to hear.” He said. “Still…what’s this part of the city like? Just so we know what we’re getting into later.”

    “A very good place to hide, unfortunately.” Kariya said with a sigh. “It’s all warehouses and factories over there, with plenty of access to the undercity’s network of maintenance tunnels and waterworks. It proves that Caster and their Master have at least a few brain cells to work with, seeing as they chose a better spot than most to hide in.”

    “It fits them, though.” Berserker said in disgust. “Going after children for gods know what…vermin. And like vermin, they hide in the dark under the earth.”

    “Fitting,” Kariya agreed. “But don’t get careless. We’ll be facing them on their turf, after all.”

    Berserker hissed in displeasure. “…fair point.” She admitted. “I’m guessing for now you’ll be sending familiars ahead of us?”

    “That I am.” Kariya admitted.
    ______________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

    “Thanks for today!”

    “See you tomorrow!”

    “Stay safe on the way home!”

    Maintenance workers for the day shift at Fuyuki Tower greeted each other farewell as their shifts came to an end, and then leaving for the night, were replaced by maintenance workers for the night shift. The night shift put on their uniforms and dispersed across and up the towering proto-arcology, using either service elevators or the common stairwells to get from one floor to the next.

    Unnoticed, Assassin’s various incarnations shadowed them in astral form, rendering them invisible, inaudible, and even intangible to material senses. Combined with their Presence Concealment skill, it allowed them to slip through the defenses and tripwires on the lower floors, and make their way up, to the highest levels of the proto-arcology, where their quarry made their home.

    The Assassins reached the upper levels quickly, but remained hidden in the service areas, waiting for the rest of their forces to arrive. Together, they would strike from two directions, and in so doing, maximize the chances of success, though casualties were expected to be high regardless.

    Night deepened over Fuyuki City. The Moon slowly but steadily climbed higher across the sky, even as the golden light of urban development shimmered up from the city into a haze above, Fuyuki Tower’s glass panes and metalwork gleaming with reflected light both from above and below.

    Then the signal came.

    Begin.” Kirei laconically gave the order.

    As one, three dozen incarnations of Assassin phased through the walls from the service areas, and entered the highest apartment of Fuyuki Tower. Spanning the highest three floors and the penthouse area, this was the most protected and secure area of the tower.

    The moment they left the service areas, astral forms or not, Presence Concealment or not, alarms immediately sounded across the apartment. “We have been detected.” Assassin warned.

    Unfortunate,” Kirei warned. “But we suspected that might be the case. Since further infiltration is out of the question, proceed to engage the enemy as planned.

    Understood.” Assassin said, even as he and his fellows shifted to physical form. Then they surged forward, blades flashing as they were drawn, ready to meet the PMCs rushing at them. Other blades were thrown, cutting through Kevlar, ceramic composite, and cotton with ease, and causing several PMCs to fall back, crying out in pain.

    This will be over quickly.” Assassin thought, as he charged in with a pair of sickles held low, to cut the PMC before him down from below.

    Then things went to hell.

    The PMC's skin turned red, his body swelling and growing, bursting out of his clothes. Guns fell with a clatter to the ground, and then with a roar, the oni punched the surprised Assassin in the face, pulverizing not only his mask but even his skull, and sending his twitching corpse flying across the foyer.

    This was no isolated case.

    All across the foyer, the PMCs realized they were up against supernatural enemies, for which supernatural means were needed to fight against. And so they cast aside the façade of Humanity, taking on their true forms, red-skinned brutes clad in blue and white jinbei, with a trio of horns sprouting from their foreheads, ears weighed down with long and heavy ritual earrings.

    The Assassins fell back in shock and surprise, leaving ten of their number dead across the foyer. “Master,” one of them said. “We have a problem.

    What’s happened?” Kirei demanded.

    Before the Assassin could reply, one of the oni present brandished his naginata, and pointing a finger at the Assassins, barked orders in archaic, guttural Japanese. Roaring their war cries, the oni raised their naginata, and charged.

    Guardian demons!” Assassin warned as they were forced into a battle for their very lives. “The guards are guardian demons in Human form!

    Any further conversation became impossible as a brutal melee erupted across the foyer. The Assassin parried a pair of blows with its scimitar, before feinting and kicking an oni in the jaw. Another oni nearby cut down a pair of Assassins, allowing another one of its brethren to charge past, naginata held at the ready while bellowing out a war cry.

    Another Assassin brought down two oni, leaping into the air and launching poisoned blades from spring-loaded launchers under his wrists. The blades punched into the oni’s chest, cutting into their hearts and introducing blood-boiling toxins directly into their bloodstream. A dagger turned two strikes from a naginata, the Assassin giving way all the while, before feinting and slipping into the oni’s guard cut at its belly.

    Nearby, another Assassin feinted and slipped past an oni, making to strike at the oni’s back, only for the Assassin to get tackled and pummeled into bloody pulp against the floor by another oni. Another nearby Assassin tried to help, only to take a naginata through the gut for his trouble.

    Not for away, the ranking oni grabbed an Assassin by the throat, and slamming him into the ground, prepared to deliver the killing blow. The Assassin with the scimitar arrived in time to parry the blow, the two of them briefly locking blades before the oni pushed the Assassin away, and grinding his naginata free in the process. Then the oni pressed the advantage, hammering away at the Assassin with powerful blows that staggered the latter back with every blow.

    Realizing he could not match his opponent in a contest of strength, the Assassin gave way, dodging instead of blocking the next two blows, only to get kicked across the foyer for his trouble. Skidding to a halt in a crouch, the Assassin cut the legs out from a pair of oni trying to double-team him, and then rising to his feet, was forced to block the ranking oni’s swing.

    The force of impact threw the Assassin through a wall and onto his back. Shaking his head clear, he rolled out of the way in time to avoid a blow that shattered the marble floor beneath. Getting to his feet, the Assassin hissed as the oni rushed him in full blood rage, hammering away at him. Again and again, the Assassin blocked the naginata coming down at him from one side to another, feinting twice to try and slip free, but to no avail.

    A third feint seemed to work…

    …but the oni had predicted the Assassin’s movements, and stabbing his naginata into the Assassin’s belly, tore out his guts. As the Assassin crumpled to the ground, the oni pulled his naginata back, and swinging once, parted the Assassin’s head from his body.
    ______________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

    Master, should we retreat?” Assassin – one of the twelve who accompanied Kirei in scaling the exterior of Fuyuki Tower to attack from the outside of the penthouse floor – asked.

    …that would be the prudent option, wouldn’t it?” Kirei answered after a moment. “But, the mission hasn’t failed yet. It’s gone in an unexpected direction, but from what I can sense, your fellows are holding their own…barely.

    …certainly,” Assassin admitted after another moment. “They have drawn attention their way, as we planned. And with it, the bulk of the defenders. Retreating now would only shame their sacrifices.

    This will have to be quick.” Kirei said. “Kill everyone in our way, grab Zenjou and her child, then leave as quickly as possible. If need be, I will use a command spell, if you are willing to endure it.

    If needs must,” Assassin said. “So be it.

    At that thought, Kirei and the Assassins with him quickly covered the last few meters, and heaving themselves over the parapet, landed on the rooftop level. Speeding forward, they swept past the pool, the cabana, and the observation decks, towards the glass doors on the penthouse’s ground floor.

    Then the glass windows of the penthouse’s second floor exploded outwards, causing Kirei and the Assassins to look up in surprise. PMCs jumped out, transforming into oni in midair, before landing to engage the Assassins.

    But at their lead and occupying Kirei’s attention was a pale, dark-haired woman in a similarly-dark business ensemble. The pistol in her hand barked repeatedly as she shot at Kirei mid-jump, Kirei dodging sideways before throwing Black Keys in her direction. She dodged them all, but this left her open to a sweeping blow by Kirei that knocked the pistol out of her hand.

    Undeterred, she feinted before seemingly drawing a sword out of thin air, Kirei narrowly dodging a swing that would have cut his carotid open. “Magic…” he thought in passing, similarly noting in passing the strange, golden metal the sword was forged from, seemingly a short sword characteristic of North European weapons from the Early Middle Ages.

    Snarling in a guttural language that sounded tangentially like Gaelic, the woman pressed the offensive, repeatedly slashing her sword in the direction of Kirei’s thighs and lower torso. Kirei blocked them all with his Black Keys, noting with alarm how she was able to keep up with his speed…

    No…faster…!” he thought in shock as she feinted and nearly stabbed him in the face. “…I’ve gotten soft…soft and slow…

    The woman slashed twice more at Kirei’s head, Kirei blockeing the first then riposting the second, only for the woman to dodge and then counterattacking, kicked him across the roof. Kirei landed on his hands, somersaulting to break the force of impact, and coming to a halt in a crouch, looked up with clenched teeth.

    Every last one of the Assassins he’d taken with him were now dead, and the guardian demons were closing in.

    Or they should have been. The woman though, gestured for them to leave, and then brandishing her sword in a low guard, gestured at him to come at her.

    Snarling at the wordless taunt, even more so as the guardian demons left as though thinking him of no further trouble, Kirei leapt forward to attack. The woman leapt forward to meet his charge, and slashing as though to carve Kirei’s head apart.

    Kirei dodged low, only for the woman to dodge a fist that should have splattered her head across the nearby pool. Instead, an elbow slammed into his side in the next instant, followed by another elbow to his jaw. Recovering quickly, Kirei counterattacked, the woman dodging another punch, before he dodged a punch to his belly and another slash at his head.

    Black Keys flashed into existence and the woman dodged a blow that should carved her face open, then a swing that would have cut her legs to pieces, and riposted a third swing aimed at her thighs. Kirei parried the riposte, only for the woman to press the offensive, slashing again and again at Kirei’s torso and head, Kirei parrying and dodging slashes beyond count before feinting and leapfrogging over and getting behind her.

    Hissing in surprise, the woman fell back to avoid Kirei’s counterattack, through the penthouse doors and into the interior, Kirei pressing after her. With something like a hint of respect on her face, she riposted Kirei’s first blow, Kirei dodging the riposte, then its follow-up, before counterattacking again. The woman dodged blows aimed at her torso, head, and thighs in quick succession, before spitting out a Gaelic-sounding word while simultaneously slashing at Kirei.

    The golden blade carved through his Black Keys, only Kirei’s instincts allowing him to avoid getting carved up like them. As it was, it left him open, the woman grabbing an arm to pull him in before kneeing him in the belly. Kirei gasped out in surprise, but kicked the woman away with a boot to the chest before she could gut him.

    Priest and PMC slammed hard against the walls with enough force to flake plaster and crack concrete, and then both were charging at each other. Kicking off the ground, they launched at each other through the air, the woman’s sword aiming to skewer Kirei through the heart. But Kirei twisted through the air at the last moment, and getting the leverage he needed, kicked down, making contact with the woman’s torso, even as two command spells flashed and vanished.

    The woman plowed through no less than five floors down, the force of impact rupturing concrete, steel, and aluminum as though they were cardboard. Kirei landed on his side and rolled across the floor, coughing and gasping, before he forced himself up on all fours. Shaking his head to clear it, he looked around, and knowing the guardian demons would be on him soon, rushed to where the master bedroom should be according to the floor plans they’d acquired.

    There was no guarantee it would still be, as the floor plans dated to before the apartment had been occupied, and Aoi Zenjou could have redecorated, but it was Kirei’s best chance at accomplishing his mission. Aoi or Sakura Zenjou, he could probably only get at one, before using his last command spell to escape (his father could just give him more anyway).

    At the very least, this mission wouldn’t be a complete failure.

    And if God smiled on him, mother and daughter would both be there.

    Then his mission could be completed in full.

    Tearing through a security door, Kirei emerged into an antechamber, where his eyes widened in surprise.

    Aoi Zenjou was there, cowering behind a makeshift barricade made from an overturned couch. But that wasn’t what surprised Kirei. He knew little of his master’s ex-wife, but he knew enough to know that she was a soft and weak-willed woman who lacked resolve and resilience. So much so, that the shotgun in her hands, aimed shakily at him, threw him into a loop.

    Then she fired, and Kirei cried out as he took a load of buckshot to the chest, neck, and chin. The reinforced, bulletproof cloth of the habit he wore kept any of the lead shot from penetrating, but the force of impact still threw him back a couple of steps. But the habit was thinner around his neck, the cloth shredding and leaving the flesh beneath vulnerable, while his chin was completely unprotected.
    ______________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

    Aoi fired again, and again, and again, Kirei blown off his feet with the fourth shot. Shakily approaching, she fired a fifth time as Kirei stirred, and then getting into close, fired her last round right into his face, shattering his skull and smearing blood and pulped flesh and brain matter across the ruined floor.

    Heaving and gasping for breath, Aoi staggered back, the shotgun falling from nerveless fingers to clatter against the ground. Falling to the ground, Aoi cowered against the barricade, staring fearfully at the corpse of her ex-husband’s apprentice, her body shuddering in shock and revulsion at having killed a man for the first time.

    “Well, isn’t this a surprise?” a familiar voice asked.

    Aoi jolted and looked up, Security Chief Morgan arriving but having cast aside her Human façade, her once professionally-styled hair now rough cut and bound by crude leathers, while her business ensemble had been replaced by rough furs and linens. Totems made from carved rock, wood, and semi-precious stones hung from her wrists, her ears, and around her neck, while a short-bladed golden sword hung from a rough harness at her hip. No…not Security Chief Morgan…not anymore…not in this state…

    “Though I suppose it shouldn’t come as a surprise,” Morrigan, Goddess of Crows, Prophecy, War, and Death said with an impressed smile. “How many times have I seen it before, after all? A mother, pushed to the brink to defend her children, bringing forth fury to put hardened warriors to shame…”

    Morrigan paused, crouching down next to Kirei. “…he was a worthy opponent, you know?” she mused aloud. “Not even close to my beloved Hound, but enough to defeat my Human guise. And while your victory was due to catching him by surprise, still, his life belongs to you. After all, did you not take up a weapon by your own will, in anticipation of the eventuality of the enemy reaching your door?”

    Dipping her fingers in Kirei’s blood, Morrigan rose to her feet, and then approaching Aoi, firmly lifted her to her feet. “First blood you have taken, Aoi, daughter of Zenjou.” Morrigan formally said, and using Kirei’s blood to draw runes of courage and fortitude onto Aoi’s cheek. “Steadfast amidst the fires of battle you have stood, and emerged victorious. Regret it not, for it was your life or his, and by your own will and actions, have you kept yours. Savor your triumph. Feast while basking in the light of the days to come. But remember, and never forget: all men must die, sooner or later. Until then, live, and grow strong.”

    Leaning forward, Morrigan kissed Aoi on the forehead, blessing her in recognition of her victory on this night, of spilling first blood, and becoming a warrior in her own right. Then stepping away, she swept her fur-lined cloak over Kirei’s body…

    …and with the croaking of crows, Morrigan was gone, leaving naught but black feathers in her wake, and taking Kirei’s body with her.
    ______________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

    “Hey, I know you.” Kariya said, pointing a finger at the little girl he and Berserker found wandering in their chosen hunting grounds. “You’re Rin Tohsaka. What are you doing here?”

    “How do you know who I am?” Rin demanded.

    “I knew your mother, that’s how.” Kariya replied. “In fact, I was her childhood friend.”

    “Oh…um, sorry, I didn’t know.” Rin said glumly.

    “…what are you doing here, Rin?” Kariya asked again.

    Rin fumbled, stepping from one foot to the other. “…my friend…Kotone…” she mumbled. “…she disappeared…but I used magic, you see. And I found that she was going here…and there…”

    Rin waved in a vague direction, which Kariya looked in before looking back at Rin. “…does your…father, even know you’re here?” he asked.

    The little girl didn’t answer, nor could she bring herself to meet Kariya’s eyes. The man palmed his face. “…why am I not surprised that Tokiomi is so careless as to let Aoi’s daughter sneak out and wander around on her own…no, worse than that, to actually go after a Servant and their Master of all things?” he thought to himself.

    Shaking his head, Kariya sank down next to Rin. “This is a bad place, don’t you know?” he said. “And it’s going to get even worse over there. You should leave, go back, back to your house, where it’s safe.”

    “No, I won’t!” Rin exploded. “I can’t! Not until I save Kotone! I don’t know what it is, but something bad is happening to her! Or will happen to her! I won’t let it! I won’t!”

    “…but,” Kariya began, before shaking his head and getting to his feet as he thought better of it. “No…never mind.”

    “…what’s your name, anyway?” Rin asked.

    “…Kariya Matou.” Kariya replied after a moment.

    Rin blinked, and then smiled for the first time since they met. “Do you know Old Man Matou?” she asked. “He’s daddy’s friend.”

    “I know him.” Kariya said. “Though it’s…complicated.”

    “You’re a magus too, huh, Mister Kariya.”

    “…I guess I am.” Kariya said after a moment, to avoid complications, and then he sighed. “Alright, I suppose I can’t make you turn back. Besides, sending you back on your own might not be safe, and I can’t exactly keep going on my own, so I can’t send Berserker with you.”

    “Berserker?” Rin asked, and then looked at the blonde woman next to Kariya at a gesture from the man.

    “Hey there, kid.” Berserker said with a grin. “Nice to meet you.”

    “Um…hi, it’s nice to meet you too!” Rin shyly said.

    “Anyway,” Kariya continued with a cough. “We’re going after the same people who took your friend, so you might as well come with us. On two conditions: one, you stay close. Two, you do anything and everything I tell you to until we’re done. So long as you do that, I’ll keep you safe, and we – including your friends – can all get out of this with no problems. Can you do that?”

    “I can!” Rin said with a nod. “And okay!”

    “Great…” Kariya said with another sigh, and sharing a slightly-concerned look with Berserker. “…now then, let’s keep moving.”

    And here’s to hoping I’m not making a mistake.
    ______________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

    A/N

    Kirei and Assassin make their move, and as might be expected, it goes FUBAR. Though at least they went out swinging, Assassin giving as good as they got against guardian oni, and Kirei even managing to defeat Morrigan’s Human guise. Lancer – Cu Chulainn – is likely to have a fit if he ever found out, considering his relationship with Morrigan.

    Of course, is this really the end for Kirei?
     
  15. Threadmarks: Chapter 10
    Jaenera Targaryen

    Jaenera Targaryen I trust you know where the happy button is?

    Joined:
    Aug 29, 2018
    Messages:
    752
    Likes Received:
    8,700
    Disclaimer: I do not own the Fate franchise it belongs to Kinoko Nasu and Type-Moon. I also do not own the Megami Tensei franchise, it belongs to Atlus.

    Zero to One

    Chapter 10

    “Hold up, I think I might have found something here.”

    Berserker and Rin paused as Kariya knelt to one side, tapping at his visor to focus on something along the floor and wall of the service tunnel they were in. While there were bulbs affixed to the walls, inside protective cages adjacent to the ceiling on either side of the tunnel, they were dull and dead, the intrepid trio having no idea how or where to turn them on. Instead, a crystal in Rin’s hands shone bright light for them to see with.

    Well, more for her to see with, that is. Berserker had perfect vision even in the dark, perks of being a Servant and all that. And Kariya had his visor, which provided night vision among other features.

    “What is it?” Berserker asked.

    “…I don’t know,” Kariya admitted after a moment. “Apart from the fact that it’s more of the stuff we got from where Caster and Saber fought.”

    “Well, at least we know we’re on the right track.” Berserker said.

    “Yeah…there’s that, at least.” Kariya said, before getting to his feet and they continued on their way. They walked in silence, not wanting to speak any more than was necessary, and potentially draw unwanted attention their way. After all, in the maze-like tunnels under the city, who knew how far and loud the echoes could get?

    At least when it came to Rin’s light, line of sight could muffle or even blot it out entirely.

    After who knows how long they walked, they found themselves reaching a junction with a trio of entryways. One of them seemed to go up, another kept on going straight ahead, and one led down, deeper under the city. A map of the local network was affixed to one wall, though, and Kariya regarded it for a few minutes to see what he could learn.

    “Hey?” Rin asked with just the faintest hint of apprehension.

    “Yeah?” Kariya prompted.

    “…are those glasses of yours mystic codes?” she asked. “Like the ones daddy has?”

    “Close enough.” Kariya answered, and favoring Rin with a smile.

    “Do they let you see in the dark?” Rin asked again.

    “Yup.” Kariya said, turning away from the map and picking Rin up, rested her against a shoulder. “It also lets me see through smoke, and helps me pick out details and even…magic, and other stuff, from the background. I can even use it to see through walls, though I can only really see body heat that way.”

    “Wow…that sounds amazing!” Rin gushed.

    Kariya laughed. “I know, right?” he asked. “Anyway, let’s keep going. Your friends are waiting.”

    Rin nodded, and then Kariya let her down, before he regarded the three entryways for a couple of moments. “…all three of them have trails belonging to Caster and their Master, or whatever it is they have that leaves that slime.” He said. “But the one with the most is the one in the center.”

    “So which way do we go?” Rin asked.

    Kariya pointed to the right. “This one goes up,” he said. “According to the map this way leads to an observation level looking down over a maintenance gallery further ahead. From there, we can look down ourselves and see whatever is going on in the gallery.”

    “If there’s anything there.” Berserker said.

    “The gallery would be a logical place for Caster and their Master to do their dirty business at.” Kariya said. “There’s more space there than in the tunnels, maybe even more light, along with access to water and electricity. It’s also more central to the tunnel network, if not quite the central point, making it easier to operate in and if necessary, control the network.”

    “Fair enough,” Berserker conceded with a nod, before narrowing her eyes. “Though it’d also be where Caster and their Master would be strongest at.”

    “If it is, then our goal is to break out as quickly as possible.” Kariya firmly said. “And then once we’re out, we blow the place sky high using your Noble Phantasm.”

    Berserker whistled. “There’s a chance they could get away while we’re cutting our way out.” She warned.

    “True,” Kariya agreed. “But even then, burning out their workshop and putting them on the run counts as a victory, no matter how I look at it.”

    “…also true.” Berserker conceded. “Right, let’s do this.”

    Kariya nodded, and then led the way through the passageway to the right, up the stairs. Rin followed behind him, and then Berserker brought up the lead. As they climbed the stairs, a faint smell tickled at their noses, one which had Kariya and Berserker both jolting with recognition and alarm. Rin, though, just made a retching sound while holding her nose.

    “W-what is that smell?” she asked. “It stinks!”

    “Yeah, it does.” Kariya said, feeling sick. He knew that smell. It had been a long time now, decades ago even, and though he’d never really descended into its depths, he’d seen it a few times as a child, even watched his few remaining relatives be fed to the true face of the Matou magecraft, and which had led him to the decision to turn his back on it all.

    Berserker knew it too. The battlefield smelled like it up to a point, after the fighting ended and all the bodies began to rot. There were also the villages sacked and burned by the Saxons, especially if the Britons only managed to arrive days after the fact. The dungeons of Camelot smelled the same way, as did the pits where her mother dabbled in alchemy and by toying with life and death both, molded flesh to her will.

    “What is it?” Rin asked.

    “…nothing I can describe to you quickly.” Kariya said.

    “Agreed.” Berserker chimed in, before Master and Servant shared a look of understanding and determination. Kariya was right, of course. There were many words that could be used to describe the smell, but none would describe it in its entirety.

    Corpses left to rot in water for days before being thrown into a damp and dark space.

    Blood, piss, and shit mixed together and slathered over the floor, walls, and ceiling, and left to fester for gods know how long.

    Unwashed bodies left to wallow in their own filth.

    Mold and fungus allowed to grow unchecked on cold stone, regularly watered with the excretions of worms and other foul things that grow under the earth.

    Dead bodies left unburied and allowed to rot in the open.

    The smell was all those and more, mixed with something neither Kariya nor Berserker knew a word for. All they knew was that they were entering a bad space, and neither could afford to be caught off-guard. Berserker drew Clarent with a steely hiss, while Kariya did the same with Zero and One.

    “Let’s go.” Kariya said with a dry swallow, before regarding Rin with a look that told her to obey without question. “Stay close.”

    Rin jerkily nodded, and then they continued on their way. Up the stairs they went, until they reached a sealed door. Kariya tried the knob only to find it locked, and backing away a step, kicked it down with a single blow.

    Then all three of them recoiled at the miasma that vomited out through the door, both Kariya and Berserker gagging and coughing, while Rin outright vomited the contents of her stomach on the stairs. “Caster needs to die.” Berserker gasped. “Period. And I thought mother’s flesh pits were bad.”

    “…if nothing else,” Kariya gasped as he advanced slowly and warily through the doorway, Zero aimed down the observation level’s length. “It only proves magi will be magi. Despicable bastards…what is happening down there?”

    Berserker and Rin steadily followed in Kariya’s footsteps, Rin having prudently put out her crystal and letting Berserker guide her with a hand on her back. They carefully approached the edge of the observation level, the floor and the safety railing slick with some kind of fluid…

    …and then Berserker was turning Rin away, covering her mouth with a gauntleted hand to keep the girl for screaming. Kariya’s mouth worked soundlessly, looking back and forth across the gallery from below, and closed his eyes and looked away, but even that couldn’t block out the muffled moaning from above and below.

    Opening his eyes, he looked up, and wished he hadn’t.

    Never thought I’d find something worse than the worm’s pit.

    Movement drew their attention, Berserker quickly pulling Rin away even as Kariya stepped past, Zero aimed in its direction from where they’d climbed up into the observation level. Something was coming up from behind them, following in their footsteps, squelching and oozing to be heard as though something was squeezing its way up the staircase.

    Then Rin’s eyes went wide, muffled screaming coming from behind Berserker’s gauntlet, as a shapeless mass of black matter that glowed with faint phosphorescence squeezed its way into the observation level. Greenish pustules popped seemingly at random, even as eyelike masses floated and sank in and out of its interior.

    “Tekeli-li!” it cried. “Tekeli-li! Tekeli-li!”

    “Shit, shoggoth!” Kariya spat, lowering Zero and raising One. He fired, the plasma bolt striking the shoggoth dead center. It crumpled inward, as though sucking in the plasma bolt, and then it exploded, 50,000 Kelvin too much for even a shoggoth to handle. Black ooze went flying away from Kariya and company, but the enemy was alerted. Below them, dark and amorphous shapes were stirring and rising, pseudopods extending up from below or even down from above.

    “TEKELI-LI!” they cried. “TEKELI-LI! TEKELI-LI!”

    “Berserker!” Kariya barked. “Open up a path!”

    Then turning, he fired Zero, explosive rounds blowing pseudopods apart, before he fired One, another shoggoth blowing apart from a plasma round. Then the earth heaved and debris flew, shoggoths screaming as with a roar, Berserker swung Clarent, crimson lightning flaring and chewing through several meters of reinforced concrete to tear a path to the surface.

    “MOVE!” Kariya shouted, rapid-firing One and blowing shoggoths apart one after another. “GET OUT OF HERE!”

    Rin screamed as Berserker shifted her grip, uncovering the former’s mouth to hold her by the waist, and then leaping up, jumped from side to side until escaping to the surface. “MABUFULA!” Kariya shouted, freezing all the shoggoths and Caster’s victims to death, before turning and leaping up and through Berserker’s tunnel, escaped to the surface.

    He found Rin crying on all fours on the ground, Berserker standing nearby with a sick yet angry expression on her face. “Was there nothing we could do?” the latter asked.

    “…they’re at peace now.” Kariya said, closing his eyes while looking away, and holstering his guns.

    Berserker blinked while looking away, and making a sound of disgust, walked several steps to punch a hole through a wall in frustration. “I don’t like this…I don’t like this at all!” she shouted.

    “You think I do?” Kariya whispered.

    Berserker whirled in his direction, and then briefly looking away, breathed deeply to regain control. “I want Caster’s head.” She snarled. “And their Master’s. I know it’s not possible for Caster, but their Master’s head ought to sit on a pole!”

    “…I’m not against the idea.” Kariya murmured.

    Berserker made to continue speaking, only to be interrupted by Rin. “Kotone…” she sobbed. “…she…Kotone…she…”

    Berserker looked away, unwilling to further traumatize the child by letting her wrath run wild. Kariya stepped closer, and pulling Rin into a hug, let her cry into his chest. “Come on,” he softly said to Berserker. “We need to withdraw for now. If nothing else, we need to get Rin to safety. Then we need to change our plans from what we now know of what Caster is capable of, before bringing them down for good.”

    “…yeah, you’re right.” Berserker breathed. “Too many kids have died already…too many…”

    “Let’s go.” Kariya said, already turning away to leave. “I think it’s time you met my friend, anyway.”

    “Your friend?” Berserker asked in surprise. “We’re not heading back to the hideout?”

    “That’s no place for a child.” Kariya said, already leaping up to the roof, Berserker hot on his tail. Then they went roof to roof, across the skyline towards the high-end districts at the heart of the city. “My friend’s place, though…long story short, it’s the safest place in the city, no doubt about it.”
    ______________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

    “…the shaking,” Waver said, looking up at the ceiling from where he was cowering on the chariot floor, covering his head protectively with his hands. Unnecessarily, as it turned out, what with Rider having positioned himself to protect Waver from falling debris. “It’s stopped.”

    “Yeah, it has.” Rider said, looking up himself and worriedly regarding the cracks running across the concrete of the tunnel. “Whatever that was, it’s over now. Though it’s left quite a bit of damage.”

    “I think we should get out of here while we have the chance.” Waver said. “Earthquake or not, that tremor’s damaged the tunnel pretty bad. It’s holding for now, but who knows how long that’ll last. We should get out while we have the chance.”

    “It’s probably the prudent thing to do.” Rider agreed. “But, I get the feeling that earthquake wasn’t natural. No, that tremor was probably caused by another Servant fighting another Servant, one of them possibly even Caster ahead of us. That, or something is trying to scare us off.”

    “Eh?” Waver burst out. “Then, that’s even more reason for us to get out of here!”

    “Get a hold of yourself, boy.” Rider said while looking at Waver. “We’ve come this far, haven’t we? You even managed to figure out where Caster was hiding with just a bit of simple alchemy, and even agreed to join me on this little expedition of ours. Now’s not the time to lose your nerve.”

    “But…I…” Waver half-heartedly protested.

    “Besides,” Rider interrupted, looking back in front with a wolfish grin. “I’m not one to run from an enemy in front of me, not when I have a chance at winning.”

    “Eh?”

    Then Waver clambered up to his feet, and blanched at the slowly-building putrid air coming at them, accompanied by oozing and squelching sounds. “W-w-w-what is that?” he asked in a high tone.

    “I believe we’re about to face Caster’s sentinels, or one of them at any rate.” Rider said, before clapping Waver on the back. The force knocked Waver off his feet, and sending him slumping against the front of the chariot. “Chin up, and bring up some spine, boy! We’re about to face the enemy! You don’t want them to see weakness in you, do you?”

    “I…uh…I…uh…”

    Waver’s stammering abruptly came to an end as an amorphous mass of phosphorescent slime burst out of the passageway in front of them, flooding out all as though to engulf them from all sides. “TEKELI-LI!” it screeched, eyelike masses balefully gazing at them with malign intelligence. “TEKELI-LI!”

    “HOLY HELL!” Waver shouted, scared pale and with his hair standing on end. “WHAT IS THAT THING?”

    ALALALAI!” Rider roared at the same time, and causing lightning to erupt all around his chariot and the Divine Bulls which pulled it. They stroked at the amorphous mass, bursting smaller pseudopods, and causing the rest to recoil in pain. “LET US GO! FORWARD! FORWARD TO VICTORY, AND THE ENDS OF THE EARTH! ALALALAI!”

    Lowing loudly, the bulls charged forward, plowing straight into the amorphous mass with their horns, lightning going full bore around them. Behind them, Rider’s chariot rolled with their charge, sickle-like blades affixed to its wheels scything through anything in its way, whether eldritch matter or reinforced concrete.

    “HA-HA-HA-HA-HA-HA!” Rider laughed as he simply stampeded his way through the undercity, ignoring the debris raining down all around him, or the ooze splattering down. There was no real danger of getting buried alive, the lightning simply pulverized debris and keeping it from getting too big, and their speed was enough that the inertia simply caused the pulverized debris to fall in their wake. As for the ooze, any life in it, no matter how…unnatural, was also snuffed out by the lightning around Rider and his chariot.

    “AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAGH!” Waver just screamed at the top of his voice, facing as he was the prospect of being buried alive or eaten whole by some strange abomination of a forgotten mystery as performed by Caster. His crotch was wet, the young man having pissed himself in fear, but even so, no matter how shaky his legs were, he didn’t fall.

    Well, he would have, if he could.

    He couldn’t, not with the joints of his fingers having locked and keeping his hands latched onto the edge on the chariot.

    So instead, he shared the front seat with Rider, as they plowed through the undercity and everything in their way. He didn’t know how long they simply tore a path of destruction ahead of them, and he certainly didn’t know they were leaving a very visible wake of collapsed rubble behind them, or that their passing was marked by lightning arcing out of crumbling ground and falling buildings to lash out around them.

    He was too busy screaming to.

    He only stopped screaming as their rampage came to an end as they burst into the open, debris raining down over the Mion River around them, the water flashing into steam as lightning lashed into its depths. They left a wake of steam in their wake as they drove over the river’s surface, and then gaining altitude, rode high into the sky.

    “I KNEW YOU HAD IT IN YOU, BOY!” Rider cheerfully said, all the while patting a very pale, and shell-shocked Waver on the back. The young man jolted with every pat, shaking and stuttering to himself. It took him quite a while to get back to himself, and even then it was all he could do to sink down into the dusty and debris-strewn bottom of the chariot.

    Then he blinked, noticing something among the debris piled ankle-high around him and Rider. Pushing the debris aside, what he found made Waver’s eyes go wide.

    “AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAGH!” he started screaming again.
    ______________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

    “I thought you said this place was safe.” Berserker said as they emerged onto the foyer of the Zenjou Apartment in Fuyuki Tower’s upper levels, and found it a battlefield. Or a former battlefield at any rate, with the surroundings torn up by impacts and what were obviously weapon strikes. Bloodstains here and there only proved that point further.

    “It is safe.” Kariya grouched, before gesturing in the direction of several oni headed their way. “See those guys? They’re oni, basically Japanese ogres.”

    “Ah…I see your point.” Berserker conceded. “Seeing how relaxed they are, whoever attacked this place must have had their faces smashed in.”

    “Quite a few suffered that fate, yes.” Morgan replied. “Good evening, Kariya. It’s quite late, but as you are an established associate of Lord Cyphre, we can accommodate you even at this time. Though, I have to wonder: surely you are aware that your presence here draws attention?”

    “I’m aware.” Kariya said. “But there are extenuating circumstances.”

    “Really?”

    Kariya hefted the sleeping Rin he was carrying with him. “This is Aoi’s eldest child.” He said.

    Morgan blinked. “Extenuating circumstances indeed.” She said before turning to Berserker and giving her a smile. “Greetings, Mordred Pendragon. I am Morgan, it is a pleasure to meet you.”

    “Morgan?” Berserker echoed.

    “Rest assured, the name is coincidental.” Morgan said. “That said, I do not blame you for your reaction, considering your…acquaintance, with a similar name as mine.”

    Berserker gave a curt nod, but said nothing more. “If you’ll follow me,” Morgan said while leading the way. “I’ll show you to where Miss Zenjou is currently at.”

    “What happened here?” Kariya asked while following.

    “That priest…Kirei Kotomine, I believe?” Morgan answered. “He came here with one of the many incarnations of the Old Man of the Mountain. He is dead, though it seems that the Old Man of the Mountain – or the present incarnation thereof – lives still. For how much longer though, I cannot say.”

    Morgan paused, and smiled with grudging respect. “He was skilled.” She admitted. “He actually managed to defeat me. Improved security measures will have to be implemented, and currently are, along with repairs to the apartment.”

    “He…defeated you?” Kariya breathed.

    “I underestimated him.” Morgan admitted. “A common enough mistake, I will admit. I will have to keep it in mind in the future, never to hold back against the likes of men able to fight alongside the likes of the Old Man of the Mountain.”

    “Still…” Kariya breathed.

    “…I suppose we will all need to take a good look at the defenses of the tower in general, and of this apartment in particular.” Morgan admitted after a moment. “But, that is a task and a conversation for the near future. Given the presence of the girl in your arms, there are other, more pressing matters at hand.”

    “Yes, of course.” Kariya agreed.

    “In any case,” Morgan darkly said, golden eyes flashing with angry resolve. “I have no intention of going before Lord Cyphre only to inform him of my failure. We won this battle by the skin of our teeth, as the saying goes. That will have to be corrected and soon.”

    “…if Kotomine defeated you,” Kariya began. “Who killed him in the end? Or did you injure him badly enough that he bled to death before he could go further?”

    Morgan smiled. “It was Miss Zenjou who killed Kotomine in the end.” She said, smiling wider at the shock and surprise on Kariya’s face. “Yes, surprising even to me. Miss Zenjou never before gave any real indication she was capable of such a feat. And yet, she was. To be sure, she had the advantage of surprise on her side, but the blood on her hands speaks for itself, and she took up a weapon of her own free will and with true resolve to use it.”

    Morgan paused. “Perhaps it should not be surprising, in hindsight.” She said. “A mother driven to protect her child would go to any lengths to do so.”

    “Hmm…true enough, I guess.” Kariya conceded. Berserker looked like she wanted to contest that, considering the way she and her half-siblings had all been pawns to their mother’s schemes to seize Camelot for herself, but she knew this was neither the time nor place.

    Besides, not every woman was Morgana le Fay.

    “I will leave explaining the details to Miss Zenjou herself.” Morgan said. Then stopping at a door, she gestured for them to enter. “Miss Zenjou is inside, taking tea. If you will excuse me, there are other matters to attend to. Good evening to you all.”

    With a curt nod, Morgan left, leaving Berserker, Rin, and Kariya alone. Master and Servant glanced at each other, and then Kariya led the way into the room.

    Aoi was there, sitting at a table with a haunted yet thoughtful look on her face. A pot of tea sat nearby, while her hands clutched a gently-steaming cup of tea, warming themselves against it. Most strikingly of all, there was blood on Aoi’s cheek, shaped into symbols of some kind.

    Is that Morgan’s work?

    “Aoi…”

    The woman in question blinked, glancing in Kariya’s direction in surprise. “Kariya…what…?” she began, only to realize who he was holding. “Is that…Rin…?”

    “Yeah, it’s Rin.” Kariya said with a nod. “It’s a long story.”

    Aoi couldn’t say anything. She just ran over, and taking Rin from Kariya, hugged her tight while sinking to the floor. Tears trickled out of her eyes and down her cheeks, even as Rin stirred awake.

    “Who…?” she began.

    “Hush…” Aoi murmured, hugging Rin tighter and gently stroking her back with a hand. “…it’s alright, Rin…mommy’s here…and she’ll never let you go again…”

    “Eh…mommy…but daddy said…my mommy was dead…”
    ______________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

    A/N

    I’d drop more details of what Rin, Kariya, and Berserker found under the city, but I’d rather not get infracted for excessive gore. Besides, I’ve read the Fate/Zero manga, and I’d rather not think too much of it. Once was enough, thank you very much.

    At the very least, Aoi gets Rin back in the end.
     
  16. Threadmarks: Chapter 11
    Jaenera Targaryen

    Jaenera Targaryen I trust you know where the happy button is?

    Joined:
    Aug 29, 2018
    Messages:
    752
    Likes Received:
    8,700
    Disclaimer: I do not own the Fate franchise it belongs to Kinoko Nasu and Type-Moon. I also do not own the Megami Tensei franchise, it belongs to Atlus.

    Zero to One

    Chapter 11

    Kirei’s eyes sprang open, and coughing heavily to expel the stale air in his lungs, rolled over onto his side before struggling to get up on shaky limbs. He gasped and heaved, forcing air into his body under his own power, all the while trying and failing to stand.

    “You should relax, you know. Standing will do you no good anyway. Not here. Not now.” A familiar voice said, and Kirei sharply turned in its direction, finding Louis Cyphre sitting on one side of the boat. Kirei himself was on the opposite side of the boat from Louis, and which on closer examination, was a small rowboat of the kind used to cross rivers and other small bodies of water.

    Looking around them both, Kirei saw they were anchored in the middle of a river, a thickly-twisted rope sinking beneath the depths from Louis’ side of the boat. The riverbanks were well out of sight, whether from distance or the mists and fogs shrouding the water Kirei couldn’t tell. Above them, the mists and fogs blotted out the stars, but the Moon shone down with sickly pale light, the only source of light in fact wherever this place was.

    They weren’t alone too, as the silhouettes of other boats like theirs could be seen slowly passing through the mists and fogs, along with the silhouettes of other people aboard. Muffled voices could be heard from the silhouettes, with tones ranging from resignation, to despair, and even anger. They all headed in the same direction, downstream and past Kirei, to where a torii loomed dark and imposing in the mists and fogs, its legs standing on a pair of rocks rising from the water.

    “Where are we?” Kirei breathed.

    “Good question,” Louis said. “Not really important, though. And more to the point, it’s not really the question you should be asking, and its answer not one you’re looking for. Not really.”

    “…what are you?” Kirei asked after a moment, and then narrowed his eyes. “Who are you, really? ‘Louis Cyphre’ isn’t really your name, is it?”

    “The True Name equates life to those that command power.” Louis replied. “Don’t you know that? Not that you have the power to command me even if you did know my True Name.”

    Kirei said nothing, instead clenching his fists and steadying his breathing against the cold pit of fear and horrified realization opening up inside of him. Louis Cyphre…how could they have been so blind? In hindsight, the name…all the pies this…monster, before Kirei had his fingers in…the sheer resources at his disposal…the power and influence…

    …but perhaps that was the point. Just the pseudonym of ‘Louis Cyphre’ alone…how did the old saying go? The best place to hide in is in plain sight.

    Everything else was just as easily as you might expect of the Great Deceiver, the Prince of Lies, and the Lord of the Damned.

    Then Kirei’s eyes widened in horrified realization, as he remembered what he had been doing before waking in this…place. He remembered Aoi’s progeny, Sakura, and the other half of her parentage, who now sat before him.

    …no…it cannot be…the child of a mortal woman, conceived and raised in sin…

    …God help us all…the Anti-Christ is born…we stand on the eve of Armageddon itself…

    “Are you finished?” Louis asked, leaning back and lounging languidly on his side of the boat. “Though I suppose your train of thought is related to why we’re meeting like this, here and now.”

    “You will fail.” Kirei defiantly said. “Your petty schemes and power plays will all be for naught in the end. No matter what, the righteous shall endure through the privations of a thousand years, and at the end will be welcomed to the eternal kingdom promised to us in the prophecies…”

    “That remains to be seen.” Louis interrupted with an air of annoyance. “Not because of some…prophecy, made by a madman from times past, or because some higher purpose declares it so. They influence events, yes, but when all is said and done, it shall be Humanity’s choices that will decide the future that awaits them in the times to come. So it should be, and so it will be.”

    Louis paused, and tilted his head. “Not that it matters to you, of course.” He said with a sneer. “You made your choice, and made this personal. And it’s time to face the music, as the Americans would say.”

    “I…”

    “Don’t give me that bullshit about just following orders.” Louis interrupted again. “You had the option of saying no, of making up your own mind on the matter and choosing your own actions of your own free will. You chose to obey that pathetic fool Tokiomi’s orders, and breaking into my daughter and her mother’s home, tried to steal them from it. Worse, you would have delivered them into the hands of a walking disease, and done nothing as he defiled them both. Defiled my daughter!”

    The last words were roared at Kirei, who could not help but flinch back at the wrath of the Lord of the Damned. Faith or not, this was not a battle he could win. And he knew it.

    “…finish it.” Kirei whispered instead. “Do your worst, Accursed One. I fear it not, for though I walk in the valley of the shadow of death, the Lord is with me.”

    “Is he?” Louis asked with a sneer. “Really…how very interesting…we shall see about that. But first of all, before I send you meet your precious Lord, allow me to give you the answer to the question that has haunted you your whole life.”

    Despite himself, despite knowing that the being before him could not be trusted, Kirei’s eyes widened at those words. “The answer…?” he whispered.

    “Yes…” Louis theatrically drawled. “…and that answer is that you were born the way you are simply because. Your life…your very existence…they are meaningless to the god you profess to follow, at best a puppet show he watches for his ghastly amusement. There is no eternal reward for your faith, no punishment for your sins. All you will find beyond death is the empty gift of irrelevance. Your entire life is as nothing, and your faith naught but hollow lies.”

    “No…that cannot be…LIAR!” Kirei exploded. Screaming, he launched himselft at Louis, who effortless caught him in a claw-like grip over his face. Then rising to his feet, Louis sneered while squeezing hard, ignoring Kirei’s fumbling and kicking.

    “Now then…” Louis venomously hissed. “…I did say I would send you to meet your Lord, didn’t I? Prepare yourself, and see the truth with your own eyes.”

    Snarling, Louis hurled Kirei back, and as Kirei launched himself at Louis again with another swung, struck with a rising uppercut that sent Kirei flying. Up…and up…up…though the mists and fogs into the skies above, going higher and higher until the Earth was receding under and away from him, and Kirei was hurtling impossibly across the cosmos.

    Faster and faster he went, planets, moons, stars, supernovae and black holes, even whole galaxies sped past him, as individual flecks of lights in the velvet darkness of space at first, then streaks of light flashing past him as he flew across time and space, to end and the beginning of the cosmos. Alpha and Omega finally come full circle, Kirei arriving where all things began, and where all things would end, where all was light and true, and falsity could not exist.

    Would he finally have his answer at long last, no matter the lies of the Fallen Angel?











    OBEY.

    …what?

    OBEY.

    I don’t…

    OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY.

    That was his answer. Only a single word…only a single command…the denial of free will, of independent thought and action, demanding complete and utter submission at the full expense of the self, to act only as directed by the being at the heart of infinity. And in the absence of its directives, to do nothing but stand in humble submission, to sing praise, adoration, and devotion, until such time its thoughts turned once more upon one, and be moved like a pawn in accordance with its inscrutable plans.

    OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY.

    OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY.

    OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY.

    OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY.

    OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY.

    OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY.

    OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY.

    OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY.

    OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY.

    OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY.

    OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY.

    OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY.

    OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY.

    OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY.

    OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY.

    OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY.

    OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY.

    OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY.

    OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY.

    OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY.

    OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY.

    OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY.

    OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY.

    OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY.

    OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY.

    OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY.

    OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY.

    OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY.

    OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY.

    OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY.

    OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY.

    OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY.

    OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY.

    OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY.

    OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY.

    OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY.
    That was Kirei’s answer. YHVH had no reason for why Kirei was born the way he was. YHVH cared not for the suffering of Kirei’s existence, or the suffering that Kirei's existence inflicted on others. YHVH cared not for Kirei’s existence, and offered neither reward nor punishment for his faith and crimes.

    OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY.

    OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY.

    OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY.

    OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY.

    OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY.

    OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY.

    OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY.

    OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY.

    OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY.

    OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY.

    OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY.

    OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY.

    OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY.

    OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY.

    OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY.

    OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY.

    OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY.

    OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY.

    OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY.

    OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY.

    OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY.

    OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY.

    OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY.

    OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY.

    OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY.

    OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY.

    OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY.

    OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY.

    OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY.

    OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY.

    OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY.

    OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY.

    OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY.

    OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY.

    OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY.

    OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY.
    YHVH only cared for his obedience. No more and no less.

    OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY.

    OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY.

    OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY.

    OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY.

    OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY.

    OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY.

    OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY.

    OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY.

    OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY.

    OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY.

    OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY.

    OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY.

    OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY.

    OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY.

    OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY.

    OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY.

    OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY.

    OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY.

    OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY.

    OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY.

    OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY.

    OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY.

    OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY.

    OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY.

    OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY.

    OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY.

    OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY.

    OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY.

    OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY.

    OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY.

    OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY.

    OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY.

    OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY.

    OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY.

    OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY.

    OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY. OBEY.
    Faced with the hollowness of his faith and the meaninglessness of his existence, Kirei could only scream.
    ______________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

    “…I don’t believe it.” Aoi breathed, as she rejoined Kariya in a sitting room, the latter taking tea by himself. “How careless could he get? Bad enough she’s wandering around on her own at her age, but at night? In the middle of a Grail war?”

    “…I’m surprised you’re more worried about that than you are about Tokiomi filling her head with lies.” Kariya said. “You know, about you being dead and all?”

    “That’s…a problem, but not nearly as important as Rin wandering around on her own!” Aoi said with a vaguely-sweeping gesture, before sitting down and rubbing her face with her hands. “…I know he sent her to my parents to keep her safe and away from the war. I also know my parents aren’t magi, nor are they as young as they used to be. Rin could easily have slipped away without them noticing. But Tokiomi should have known that. He should also have been more careful, considering Rin is all he has left. Instead…this happened.”

    Kariya was silent, not knowing what to say. After several moments, Aoi took a deep breath, and unhappily poured herself a cup of tea. “Thank you.” She said after taking a sip. “I know it doesn’t sound like much, and to be honest, I don’t think it really gets across what I want to get across. But it’s all I can say and do, to say thank you for what you did.”

    “…I wasn’t looking for her, you know?” Kariya admitted after a moment. “It was just pure coincidence that I ran across her earlier. I could easily have missed her…”

    “…then I’m thankful you didn’t.” Aoi interrupted. “Who knows what might have happened to her if you had.”

    “Yeah…” Kariya softly said, slumping over and looking downcast as he remembered what he’d found under the city, in Caster’s lair.

    “Do you want to talk about it?” Aoi asked.

    “I’d rather not.” Kariya said while closing his eyes. “It’s bad enough seeing what I’ve seen, remembering, and knowing that had things been otherwise, Rin would have joined those poor kids under the city…”

    Kariya trailed off, his own words conjuring up the images, of Rin’s lidless eyes staring crazed and bloodshot into the dark, her head fused with chitin to the wall as her jawless mouth screamed raw through an exposed throat, her ribcage cut open and spread wide to expose…

    “…Kariya,” Louis said, walking through the door with a concerned air. “Calm yourself. You are causing the room to clam up.”

    Kariya blinked, and then involuntarily shuddered as he realized Louis was right. The air was at least a couple of degrees colder than it should be, as his powers subconsciously fluxed with his thoughts and emotions. “Sorry…” he said. “And thank you.”

    Louis nodded, and then turned to Aoi, who’d gotten up and was now a step away from him. “…Sakura’s still asleep.” She finally said, eyes looking down. “She slept all the way through the battle. If you want to see her, you’ll have to stay for breakfast.”

    “I plan to.” Louis said, before gently lifting Aoi’s face, and focusing on the dried blood on her cheek, marking her with Gaelic runes of courage and fortitude. “I’m sorry. It shouldn’t have come to this.”

    “…I’m her mother.” Aoi said after a moment, looking away and shuddering as she remembered pulling the trigger as Kirei came bursting in front of her. Not once, not twice, but again and again and again, until the man was still and bloody on the floor, and even then, she still emptied her last round into his face. “If everything and everyone else fails, I have to be there for her. How can I call myself her mother if I’m not?”

    “You are a much stronger woman than anyone has ever given you credit for.” Louis said, pulling Aoi into a hug, Aoi hugging him back.

    “…only since recently…” Aoi admitted in a murmur. “…back then…before I had Sakura…before everything that happened after she was born…I really was a weak woman…so very weak…”

    “…perhaps…” Louis admitted. “…but things have changed since then. You have changed.”

    Aoi was silent for a long moment, and then she closed her eyes. “I had to.” She said.
    ______________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

    “…to conclude,” Morgan said. “The tower’s defenses up to this point suffered from misplaced priorities and certain shortcomings, leading to the recent incident. For instance, unless King Gilgamesh sets off an echo of the Song of Creation, nothing in this farce of a war can so much as scratch much less actually damage the tower and its immediate surroundings. Not when we’re partially-shifted out of phase with this plane of reality. And even then, or something on similar scales, say…Fuyuki, or the surrounding island, continent, or even the whole planet gets blown to bits, the tower can be folded into a prepared domain within the Expanse within a single attosecond.”

    “In short,” Kariya said. “When setting up the defenses of the tower, you focused too much on the big picture and too little on the small picture.”

    “Something of an oversimplification.” Morgan said with a nod. “But accurate enough. For instance, our detection protocols do not cover the tower’s exterior, allowing Kotomine and his companions to literally scale their way up to their upper levels. Under cover of darkness, they managed to avoid detection.”

    “And what measures have been taken to prevent this oversight from being exploited again?” Louis asked.

    “The passive detection protocols now cover the tower’s exterior.” Morgan said. “I’ve also added active detection protocols, which will sweep the exterior and interior alike at random intervals. I’ve also organized harpies on regular patrols outside, and currently organizing a quick response force of tengu just in case.”

    Morgan paused, and then drew attention to under the tower. “The underground should be secure as it is.” She said. “Considering your previous arrangements, Lord Cyphre.”

    “That much is certain.” Louis agreed with a nod before narrowing his eyes. “Well…all but certain. Many of those whose names are burned into Human history have a fighting chance to get in that way, though none of those who are present here would.”

    “Eh…sorry if I come off as talking out of place,” Kariya chimed in. “But it’s probably for the best not to let Berserker hear that. Knowing her, she might think picking a fight down there is another way to one-up her father and prove her worth as heir to Britain’s throne.”

    “…a fair point.” Louis conceded with another nod. “What exactly is she doing right now, though?”

    Morgan pulled up a security hologram at that, and the trio watched in silence as Berserker was shown locked hand-to-hand against an oni that towered over her, veins bulging on each other’s temples and limbs as they struggled to force each other off their feet. A crowd of other oni surrounded them, cheering both fighters on enthusiastically, then abruptly fell silent as Berserker unexpectedly gave way, causing the oni she was struggling against to fall towards her.

    Then drawing her head back, she slammed her forehead against him, bone striking bone with a hard thud, and causing the oni to fall against the ground, clutching his head. The other oni went wild, cheering Berserker as she paraded around with a grin, fists held in the air. The defeated oni took his defeat in good sport, taking a brimming and foaming tankard of beer and offering it to Berserker.

    Berserker gladly took it, the crowd dully cheering her on as she threw her head back, draining it leisurely in one go.

    “AGAIN!” she shouted as she held aloft the empty tankard, the oni going wild with cheers, and then again after she loudly burped for a full five seconds.

    “…well,” Kariya said with a cough. “At least she’s enjoying herself.

    “Warriors…” Morgan said with an indulgent smile.

    “Are those oni even off-duty?” Louis dryly asked.

    Morgan took a few moments to check, and then nodded. “They are.” She said.

    “Oh,” Louis said, before also smiling indulgently himself. “Alright, then.”
    ______________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

    A/N

    I know it might seem OOC for Louis Cyphre to actually feed someone to YHVH, but like he said to Kirei, Kirei made it personal when he cooperated with Tokiomi to kidnap Aoi and Sakura. More than that, the ultimate goal being to feed them to Zouken. And while Louis Cyphre is genuinely indulgent to his followers, and genuinely respects worthy enemies – like Neutral!Aleph – Lucifer can be and is a vicious and even cruel enemy to those who get his personal dislike. Mastema bears the brunt of this when defeated in SMT: Strange Journey, Law!Aleph finds himself against one of the toughest bosses in the franchise, and even Mem Aleph, who while technically part of the Chaos Faction, finds herself deserted when her goals conflict with his (well, her, as she goes by Louisa Ferre in SMT: Strange Journey Redux), i.e. the tyranny of angels replaced by the tyranny of demons, as opposed to Humans and demons living as equals together.

    Gil having an ‘echo’ of the ‘Song of Creation’ shouldn’t really be a surprise. I’ll give you two guesses for what it specifically is, but you’re only going to need one.

    And now for another question: what did Louis put under the tower, that would require being a Servant/Heroic Spirit to have a fighting chance against?
     
  17. x+y=1

    x+y=1 Accidentally Nocturnal

    Joined:
    Feb 3, 2020
    Messages:
    623
    Likes Received:
    3,660
    I am gettung severe Devil Survivor vibes, so imma guess he got his hands on Babel. Glad to see this story updating.
     
  18. Threadmarks: Chapter 12
    Jaenera Targaryen

    Jaenera Targaryen I trust you know where the happy button is?

    Joined:
    Aug 29, 2018
    Messages:
    752
    Likes Received:
    8,700
    Disclaimer: I do not own the Fate franchise it belongs to Kinoko Nasu and Type-Moon. I also do not own the Megami Tensei franchise, it belongs to Atlus.

    Zero to One

    Chapter 12

    Uryuu sighed as he and Caster surveyed the blasted ruins of what once been the workshop wherein they had crafted works of art such that the world had never seen before. Now, the whole place had caved in, and most of their art both complete and in the works alike turned to ash by what seemed like lightning. Some had avoided a fate, not that they could be salvaged either, reduced to smears on the ground by the collapsing tunnels around them.

    "Looks like we were having too much fun," he sadly said. "And God punished us for it."

    Then his eyes went wide, as Caster grabbed him by the shoulders, and transfixed Uryuu with his suddenly determined glare. "Let me tell you now, Ryuunosuke." He began with deceptive calm, and which quickly gave way to blazing anger. "God does not punish Humans, he merely toys with them!"

    "M-master?" Uryuu stammered out in confusion.

    "I once committed such blasphemies and horrors on this Earth," Caster began to rant. "But no matter how many I killed, no matter how much I defiled, divine retribution never came! For eight long years I expected it to come, but instead, my evil went unnoticed that whole time! And in the end, it was not God that brought an end to my madness, but men, no more noble or righteous than I ever was! No, the Church and the Kingdom that passed sentence on me did so only out of covetousness for my wealth and property!"

    Caster paused to lean closer, as though to add weight to his words. "It was not justice or any high ideal that brought an end to my evil in life," he sneered. "It was simply theft, pure and simple!"

    Uryuu was silent for a long moment, struck by Caster's words. In that moment, his expression wavered, before settling as sympathetic understanding blossomed from within the young man's mind. He could see and understand where his friend and master was coming from, but even so, he could also that Caster was too…blinded, by his passions, to see beyond.

    And how could Uryuu do anything less, as a friend and student, but to help Caster do just that?

    Because Caster was wrong in his conclusions. God did exist, in fact, Caster's experiences only further proved it. And Uryuu would help him see it.

    "But, master," he began. "Don't you see? God does exist, even with all that."

    Caster genuinely looked confused, his grip on Uryuu's shoulders loosening at the young man's words. "A man such as yourself has never witnessed a miracle to inspire faith," he said. "So how could you say such a thing?"

    "Well, I mean sure, the world looks pretty boring when you look at it first," Uryuu began, before spreading out his arms to gesture around them. "But look a little deeper, and you can see all sorts of cool stuff you'd never have noticed before."

    Pausing, Uryuu nodded before beginning to pace, waving his hands and fingers to emphasize his words. "No matter how I look at it," he continued. "A world as great and amazing as ours couldn't simply be an accident. In fact, once you figure out how to really enjoy life, there's nothing as beautiful as the world we live in."

    Pausing again, Uryuu turned back to Caster with a grin. "In short," he concluded. "There's got to be someone out there behind the story of this world and the billions of people in it. And what else can you call that kind of person but, well, God?"

    Caster looked and stayed silent in disbelief for a long moment. "Then," he began. "Ryuunosuke, do you really believe God loves Humanity?"

    "Well, why wouldn't He?" Uryuu asked back. "If He didn't care about much less love us, why would He even bother coming up with this world in the first place? If anything, He's probably having a blast writing all this stuff about us right now."

    Uryuu paused and nodded. "Yes," he continued. "God might love virtues like courage and hope, but He also loves pain and despair just as much. Otherwise, why would art like the kind we make even exist? And that's even more reason why I just can't believe that God doesn't exist."

    Caster silently stared at Caster, shock and disbelief slowly giving way to amazement on his face. "In an age where people and nations have forgotten faith and forsaken the divine," he began in an awed voice. "Who could have expected to find faith as fresh and inspiring as yours? You have truly proven worthy of both my respect, and my admiration, Ryuunosuke, my Master!"

    Uryuu laughed and rubbed the back of his head to mask his embarrassment. "Oh, come on." He said. "You don't need to make me blush."

    "But," Caster said, suddenly looking and sounding concerned. "Wouldn't that mean all my words and deeds have ever been nothing more than a farce?"

    "Of course not!" Uryuu quickly disagreed. "I mean…it takes a really good actor to make the audience root for the villain, right? So, if anything, I actually think God just loves having to find a place for your antics in the story He's writing."

    It started soft, but then quickly turned loud and echoing, laughter bursting out of the Servant of the Spell as he spread his arms wide, lost to the moment of theater. "So, blasphemy and praise are merely two words for the same thing?" he asked. "Ryuunosuke! Such a deep and profound philosophy you have brought into the world! To think that God makes puppet of men, makes sport of their lives, but is nothing more than a clown Himself…very well!"

    Caster leaned closer to Uryuu, face split by a hideous grin. "Now I understand the cruelty of his ways." He said. "So be it: we shall paint anew the Garden of God with colors of pain and terror! The playwright of the Heavens shall bear witness that others know entertainment as He does!"

    "Are we going to go do something cool again, master?" Uryuu eagerly asked. "Alright!"
    ________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

    Rin neatly buttoned up her blouse while looking at herself in the mirror, and pulling her ribbon into place, tied it into a bow before fixing her collar. Even, no, especially since she was a guest in someone else's house, she had look her best no matter what. It was her duty to, as the heir of the great Tohsaka family of magi, just like her father had taught her.

    Her father…

    …her father who'd told her that her mother was dead…

    …her father who'd never told her that she had a sister…

    …a sister with a different father than her…

    …was that why?

    Why her father had lied to her?

    Rin was only seven, but she wasn't stupid. She was a magus, the greatest to ever be born to her family. Sure, her father's magic was still better than hers, but only because she'd only just started to learn.

    More importantly, she understood more than most kids her age.

    No…she couldn't…she couldn't blame her father for…

    Rin's train of thought derailed even as she left her room, as a flicker of movement drew her attention from the corner of her eyes. A blonde girl her age was peeking out from behind a corner, mismatched eyes looking curiously and hopefully at her.

    So…this was her sister…Sakura Zenjou…

    Before she knew it, Rin was walking in the other girl's direction, said girl briefly and shyly drawing back before stepping out herself, wearing a red and black dress with a golden…goat(?) pendant hanging over her chest. "Um…hello…" Sakura began before giving a quick bow. "…my name's Sakura. Mommy…said to bring you over for breakfast. Um…she said you're my sister, so…it's nice to meet you! Let's get along, alright?"

    Sakura grinned at Rin at that, the latter struck silent by the…feel, of the girl standing in front of her. It was…she had no words for it now, but in the future, she would describe her first meeting with Sakura as though like standing in the sunlight after a long and dark night.

    And then recovering, Rin nodded, and returned her sister's smile. "Okay!" she said eagerly, any doubts about Sakura that came with thinking too deeply about her father's motives banished by childish delight at making a new friend. "It's nice to meet you too, Sakura, my name's Rin! Let's go meet mommy over breakfast!"

    "Right!"

    The two girls resumed heading for the dining room, chatting about childish nothings all the way, any concern for the turmoil around their existence forgotten. At the end of the day, they were still just children, after all.
    ________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

    "Your apprentice failed." Zouken said.

    "So it would seem." Tokiomi concurred with narrowed eyes. He and Zouken were meeting again, over brunch at a private club. "I admit Kirei's abilities as an Executor had atrophied over lack of use during his apprenticeship, but…he should still have been able to overpower any opponent short of an Enforcer."

    Zouken harrumphed, but left it at that. He'd rather not say it, but Tokiomi was right. Anyone without the training of and some experience as an Enforcer would have stood no chance against the Kotomine boy. Zouken knew that much from his own surveillance of the man, as a contingency should Tokiomi ever become an enemy.

    Unlikely…but possible.

    Zouken hadn't stayed alive as long as he had by being careless.

    "…worrying thought." Tokiomi was saying. "Kariya fought Kirei to a standstill earlier in the war. And the one who gave him training…"

    "…was probably that Louis Cyphre." Zouken finished with a growl. "Just who is that man? And I don't mean what we've already found out, because in hindsight everything we know about him is painfully, conveniently ordinary."

    "Everything that should matter is hidden…" Tokiomi murmured. "…hidden a little too perfectly, in hindsight."

    Zouken hummed in agreement. "Do you think he defeated your apprentice?" he asked. "In person, I mean."

    "Possible," Tokiomi said. "But we should not dismiss the possibility that the man has pawns of his own on…Kariya, and Kirei's level, if not greater. Otherwise, if we focus solely on Cyphre, we risk leaving ourselves to be blindsided by his minions."

    "A prudent call…" Zouken conceded. "…I am inclined to agree."

    Tokiomi inclined his head. "It seems that we may have no choice but to personally take to the field should we seek to continue action against Cyphre." He said.

    "Perhaps your Servant could be of use in this matter." Zouken ventured.

    Tokiomi sighed. "He would," he said. "But he wouldn't."

    "Oh?"

    "Archer is…very independent." Tokiomi unhappily admitted. "He'd see something like this, plainly-speaking, a spat between a…cuckolded husband, a faithless wife, and a seducer, among other dramatis personae, as something below his station to step into. He will watch and enjoy himself, obliterate anything and anyone who turns him into collateral damage, but he will never enter the fray freely."

    "Then force him." Zouken growled, as though it should have been obvious.

    Tokiomi shook his head. "I will need at least two command spells to impose upon him." He said. "Between his nature as one from the Age of Gods, and his A-rank Independent Action skill, a single command spell would be little more than an inconvenience for him."

    "And with only one command spell left," Zouken said with a sigh. "Once the task is done, he is likely to kill you on sight for previously forcing his hand."

    "Yes."

    Zouken made a sound of disgust. "It was a mistake to give the Archer such a dangerous ability." He said. "That said, perhaps you could acquire more command spells from the Overseer."

    "I will inquire as to such with Risei," Tokiomi said. "But I consider it unlikely that Risei would be willing to do so."

    "Oh?"

    "I've already discussed his assistance with regard to the Cyphre issue." Tokiomi said in disgust. "But apparently, Risei is of the opinion that its resolution can wait until after Heaven's Feel comes to an end. Such obstructiveness…perhaps it may be time to rethink our alliance with the Church."

    "That might be prudent." Zouken said. Not that he particularly cared about Tohsaka's interests, but distancing them from the Church would further isolate the former, making them easier to manipulate. It would also distance the Church and the threat they represented to him.

    "I will consider the matter in detail and at length." Tokiomi said neutrally. "However, this does not resolve our issues with Cyphre, unless we are willing to wait until after Heaven's Feel to resolve it."

    "In that case," Zouken said while meeting Tokiomi's eyes. "I will deal with this matter personally."

    Tokiomi was silent for a long moment, and then his lips twitched into a cold smile. "As long as Rin is sound and safe," he said. "You may do as you please with Aoi and her bastard."

    Zouken chuckled, an equally cruel and hideously-lascivious expression appearing on his face. "Perhaps I may still have heirs of my body then, even at my age." He remarked.

    "And Cyphre will learn respect by the hands of an arch-magus." Tokiomi said, before raising his wineglass in a toast.

    "Indeed." Zouken said, and returning the toast.
    ________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

    "We should visit more often." Berserker said, stretching her limbs and giving a languid yawn as she followed after Kariya down the street. "Those guardian oni are a fun bunch."

    "Enjoyed yourself, I see." Kariya remarked. "You were up drinking and brawling until around four or five this morning."

    Berserker gave a barking laugh. "Benefits of being a Servant," she said with a grin. "You can't get drunk. And I don't really mind a few scrapes or even light bruises from a scrap or two over a few mugs of beer. That's just happens."

    Kariya laughed in his turn. "Fair enough." He said.

    "So what now?" Berserker asked.

    "We finish the hunt." Kariya replied. "Those sick bastards Caster and their Master are still running around somewhere. Sure, we blasted their little gallery of horrors into rubble, but that only means they have to start over someplace else."

    "Right…and how do we find them then?"

    "The same way we found them before."

    "Oh, right, I'd forgotten about that…"

    Kariya hummed in thought. "Well," he began. "Lancer and Assassin are both dead, so that leaves only four other Servants…"

    "I wonder who it was that killed Lancer, though." Berserker interrupted. "I mean, sure he was nothing compared to father, but he was still a Servant, and the Lancer is among the better classes. I'd have liked to have sparred with him at least once. What a shame…"

    "Hmm…" Kariya hummed, trying to come up with a plausible scapegoat, as he doubted Berserker would appreciate knowing he'd blasted Lancer and their Master while they were retreating from Einzbern. "…Assassin, probably, while on the retreat from Einzbern's stronghold. They could have taken advantage of Lancer's preoccupation with their Master's condition, and gotten lucky."

    "That," Berserker mused. "Or they just swarmed the guy. They only needed to connect once."

    "Yup."

    Berserker smacked her lips. "Oh well," she said. "It's a shame, but I guess there's no point in getting worked up over it. Besides, the only one I really want to fight with is father."

    "Not too greedy, are we now?" Kariya asked.

    "Yeah, well," Berserker said while tugging on an ear. "That's all that really matters to me. Anything more can wait for after I prove myself to father."

    "Hmm…fair enough…"

    "Something wrong…?" Berserker asked curiously.

    Kariya was silent for several moments, and then he sighed. "Must be nice, having…family, you can actually want to have the approval of." He said. "I mean…sure, you and your old man – so to speak – have plenty of…history, between you, but still. At least Saber's someone whose approval is worth having. My father? If I can somehow get his approval, I doubt I could look at myself in the mirror."

    "I…sorry…" Berserker said, completely at a loss and ignorant at what to say about that.

    Kariya snorted, and then tossed a smile his Servant's way. "No, it's alright." He said. "I should be the one apologizing, making you listen to my whining. Forget I said anything."

    "Eh…let's…just move on." Berserker responded while scratching her cheek.

    "Fair enough."
    ________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

    "Hey, Rin."

    "What, Sakura?"

    The sisters were sitting in swimsuits at the pool in Aoi and Sakura's penthouse, the former having sent a servant to buy Rin a swimsuit barely an hour ago. Water splashed as they lazily paddled while sitting at the edge, their mother visible at the outdoor grill in the distance, as she cooked their lunch.

    Sakura tilted her head before answering. "Your magic feels strange." She said.

    "What?" Rin asked.

    "I…I don't know…it's like…" Sakura fumbled before looking up and waving vaguely with her hands. "…it's like…it's not really there? It's not really yours…I don't know."

    Sakura shrugged. "I'll ask daddy when he next visits." She said before giving a smile. "But what can you do with your magic anyway?"

    "I…I'm not really supposed to talk about it…"

    "Even to your sister…?"

    "…tell you what, I'll show you something I can do, and you can show me something you can do."

    "OKAY!"

    "I'll go first then." Rin said smugly. Then dipping her hands in the pool water, she imagined a knife stabbing into her heart, a moment before it felt as though her arms were on fire, even as the rest of her body turned numb. Blue lines glowed over her arms and hands, light began to shine under the water, and then as chlorine precipitated out, water froze and molded itself into a mermaid of ice.

    So focused was Rin on her magecraft, that she didn't notice Sakura looking at her with concern. Rin didn't let it show – she couldn't let it show – but Sakura felt her pain.

    How could she not?

    She was a half-demon. To sense pain and suffering, among other sensations, was as natural for her as it was for ordinary people to smell rotting meat.

    It wasn't right.

    Something wasn't right with her sister's magic.

    And she didn't like it.

    "Tada!" Rin showed off her magic, and then Sakura's concerns fell to the background. Bad feeling or not, Rin's ice mermaid was beautiful.

    "Wow!" Sakura said with evident awe. "You're very good at magic."

    Rin seemed to swell at her sister's praise. "Of course, I am." She said. "Now it's your turn."

    "Okay." Sakura said with a nod, and holding out a hand, willed a mandala into existence. She poured her mana into the spell, and smiled as she felt her call answered. There was a flash of light, and then the pop of displaced air…

    …and with a squeal and a splash, Pixie fell into the water.

    "GAH!" Pixie shouted as she jumped out of the water, flapping her wings frantically before the chlorine got into them. "Sakura, what…?"

    "PIXIE!" Sakura yelled, grabbing the fairy and pulling her into a crushing hug despite Pixie's shouts of dismay. "Pixie, this is my sister, Rin. Rin, this is my best friend, Pixie. Play nice."

    "…eh…pleased to meet you." Pixie said, waving a tiny arm in the air.

    Rin, though, could only stare with her jaw hanging open. "Pixie…a fairy…" she said. "You summoned a fairy?"

    "Yes." Sakura said, looking confused why Rin was so surprised about that. "Is something wrong?"

    Words failing her completely, Rin could only stare with her mouth hanging open.
    ________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

    Kariya and Berserker alike banked their lightcycles, skidding to a sideways halt before Rider and his Master. "Ho there, Master of Berserker, and to you as well, Berserker." Rider cheerfully greeted them. "Nice rides…nice outfit too, Berserker."

    "Um…thanks?" Berserker skeptically said, before glaring at Waver, who was – despite himself – looking at her curves. The boy yelped and looked away, causing his Servant to give a barking life while patting the boy on the pat (never mind that each pat seemed to outright stagger Waver).

    "Out on the hunt for Caster and his Master?" Rider asked.

    "I could ask the same for you." Kariya replied. "Thanks, by the way. My familiars spotted you and your Master breaking out of Caster's lair the previous night. From what I can see, our two teams are the only ones actually anywhere near getting something about that bunch of psychos."

    "Well, I like to think the other Masters and Servants are doing what they can too." Rider said with a sigh. "They just aren't as resourceful as we are. Right, Waver?"

    "Y-yeah…" Waver uncertainly said.

    "…thinking about what you saw in Caster's lair?" Kariya asked, and nodded as Waver jolted, his expression haunted. "I see. Sorry for bringing it up…but it's good you're disturbed by it. It means despite being a magus, you actually do have a conscience, and a good person at heart. Two things I can't say about most magi."

    Kariya paused, and took a deep breath. "Sorry if this comes off as patronizing," he said. "But it needs to be said. And if you're planning to stay a magus for the rest of your life, well, I hope that you keep that moral core of yours intact. That way, you can genuinely look back and be proud of yourself."

    Waver looked at Kariya with a mixed expression on his face, but Kariya's own jaded expression, and the haunted look in his eyes, silenced any protests he might make. He didn't know why or how, but he knew Kariya was not only serious and genuine in his advice, but completely knew what he was talking about.

    "Thank you very much." Waver said with a clumsy, Japanese-style bow.

    Kariya nodded, as did Rider, who placed a fatherly hand on his Master's shoulder. "Good advice," he said. "A fine piece of wisdom to remember over the ages. Anyway…so how about it, Berserker and Berserker's Master? Surely you don't at least mind allying against Caster and their Master?"

    Kariya looked at his Servant, who only nodded. "I don't mind." She said before her face twisted with resolve. "The things I saw down there last night…what those monsters did to all those children…the very least they deserve is to have their heads sit on poles!"

    "Yeah, no argument there." Rider said, looking and sounding deadly serious. "Alright then…since we're allies for now how about we start sharing what we know?"

    "Sounds good to me." Kariya said, getting off his lightcycle, and stepping forward, began to confer with Rider and Waver.
    ________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

    Despite the opinions of Berserker, Kariya, Rider, and Waver, the other Masters and Servants were hunting for Caster and Uryuu. In fact, Kiritsugu and Maiya were closing in Uryuu fast, ready to put a bullet in his head.

    And had they found him an hour or more earlier, they might have succeeded in stopping what was to come.

    But it was already too little and too late.

    Here and now, as the darkness of night fell over Fuyuki, a sense of foreboding fell over the city. Most Humans didn't feel it, too divorced as they were from reality by the artificialities of society and even civilization itself. Animals, though?

    Caged cats and dogs yowled and barked frantically, or cowered in their cages. Strays hid themselves, while rats and roaches among others fled by the hundred through the drains of the city. Even as early as the sunset, birds abandoned the city by the flock, and which drew the passing attention of people who failed to heed it as the warning it was.

    Now, night fell deep and heavy over the city, a supernatural fog rising over the waters of the Mion River. Then from the forgotten depths, beyond time and space, they reached out, tentacles like those of a squid or an octopus, breaking the surface to wrap around and pull at Caster, drawing him into their midst.

    "Now," Caster shrieked, holding his arms out in benediction as the cold and the dark pulled him in. "Let us raise once more the banner of salvation!"

    Reality buckled.

    The World screamed.

    Uryuu Ryuunosuke fell dying to the ground, blood pooling around him from .50 round leaving his torso a ruined mess. Cold spread through his body, but even then, the young man could only smile.

    As he died, his only thought was how it was such a shame he didn't have the chance to immortalize this feeling with a work of art.

    And still Caster continued to speak, his voice taking on a tone of solemnity. "Hear me, you who are the forgotten and the downtrodden!" he proclaimed. "I shall lead you! I shall command you! And together, all our oppressed voices shall reach even the ears of God Himself! God in Heaven! Praise your Name, even as I speak words of condemnation! Oh cruel and uncaring God, come down from Your Throne!"

    Kiritsugu and Maiya fled, the former grabbing the latter before manipulating relativity to escape the tidal wave of collapsing reality dogging at their heels. Not far away, Saber and Irisviel likewise fled in the face of what had been brought forth.

    Not there.

    Not then.

    And in the distance, even the Supreme Power of Darkness turned in Caster's direction, surprise and disbelief gleaming in his mismatched eyes. "What?" he asked in shock.
    ________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

    A/N

    Did you think this was dead?

    Somehow, I don't think even YHVH would approve of Uryuu's particular theological perspective.

    Yeah, Sakura here basically looks like a miniature version of Lucifer's female Human disguise. Blonde with heterochromatic eyes, one red, the other blue, instantly obviously from birth that she is not in fact Tokiomi's child. And of course, her first ever summon is Pixie, because this is SMT, and you can never have work set in SMT without Pixie. She's practically the poster girl of the franchise, much like Altria is for Type-Moon (though I still think Arcueid is more beautiful, CHANGE MY MIND).

    Ahem…right, moving on…so how bad can this get?
     
  19. Threadmarks: Chapter 13
    Jaenera Targaryen

    Jaenera Targaryen I trust you know where the happy button is?

    Joined:
    Aug 29, 2018
    Messages:
    752
    Likes Received:
    8,700
    Disclaimer: I do not own the Fate franchise it belongs to Kinoko Nasu and Type-Moon. I also do not own the Megami Tensei franchise, it belongs to Atlus.

    Zero to One

    Chapter 13

    A sharp, cracking sound echoed across the underground space, stone flags breaking and then erupting in a spray of debris. More dirt sprayed up through the newly-opened gap in the paved floor, before worms began squirming their way out of the ground beneath. Only a few at first, a quartet of worms each as long as a man's hand, penile bodies covered with segmented carapaces terminating with fanged mouths. Then more crawled out of the ground, a dozen, two dozen, half a hundred, over a hundred, and more.

    They crawled and heaved together, slime oozing out from between the segments of their carapaces, coating their bodies and spilling out over each other onto the ground below. Then seeming to melt together, where once hundreds of worms had squirmed together, there was now an old man, bald, pale-skinned, with opaque black eyes, dressed in a dark-colored kimono.

    Zouken looked around his surroundings, taking in the underground space of Fuyuki Tower. The official plans taken from the city offices marked this part of the proto-arcology as a service area, but Zouken could see with his own eyes that this was clearly not the case.

    Instead, he stood in a long and wide hallway, something that would not look out of place in a castle or some other medieval construction in Europe. Mighty pillars rose up to vaulted ceilings, bases carved to resemble the branches of trees, while the vaults above reflected the flickering torchlight with the colors of gold and copper.

    Torches hung on iron rings set into the walls at regular intervals, the spaces in between filled by vividly-colored tapestries. Woven in the European style, again of the medieval era, they depicted scenes both pastoral and martial. One tapestry showed a scene straight of a hunt, men on horseback blowing horns and brandishing bows and arrows as they chased after a herd of deer.

    Another tapestry showed farmers at work, taking in the harvest, while in the background, nobles played music and nibbled on fruits while boating on a river. Another tapestry showed knights charging at each other across a battlefield, lances leveled and shields at the ready. A knight brandished a sword against a dragon in another tapestry, while another dragon leered possessively over a hoard of gold and jewels in yet another tapestry.

    And so it went, as Zouken proceeded down the hallway, towards an arched doorway, flanked by a pair of statues in the shape of knights. Ornamental wings spread out from their backs, while longswords were held up two-handed before them, as though in salute. As he approached, Zouken found himself dabbing at his forehead, the ancient arch-magus realizing in surprise that the air was growing hot and close.

    More than that, it had done so without him noticing, at least until it became too uncomfortable to ignore.

    There was also something else, too. A sharp stink, almost like sulfur, even, hanging around in the air. There were other smells too, like that of a great…beast, of some kind, and which he couldn't place.

    And there was that sense of foreboding too, one which grew near overwhelming as he reached the doorway. No…not foreboding…not anymore…

    …by this point it was terror, a primal and wordless sense of fear that had Zouken's will and consciousness not infused them with more than animal instinct, the worms would already have fled. Back down the hallway, burying down into the ground, to where it was cold and dark.

    Safe.

    Not like here.

    Zouken narrowed his eyes and growled low in his throat. Was this some kind of defense placed here by Louis Cyphre? If so, then credit where it was due, it was very well done.

    Crest worms didn't scare easily, and whatever this was, it had certainly put the fear into them.

    Not that it was enough, of course. He was here, after all, and he would show that insolent pup what true mastery was like.

    Zouken stepped through the archway…

    …and was instantly left gasping, staggering and struggling to stay on his feet, as the sheer heat and pressure in the hall beyond all but blew him back out into the hallway behind him.

    What…is…this…?

    "Who dares trespass on my domain?" a voice unexpectedly asked, loud and deep, so powerful it made the very air tremble. And far too powerful to be made by a Human, magus or not. "Who dares disturb my slumber?"

    Zouken looked up.

    The hall around him was vast. So vast that he could not see the walls to either side, much less on the far side. The columns around the hall were taller and thicker than those in the hallway, if carved in the same style.

    But that wasn't what caught his attention.

    In the middle of the hall, there was a great cavity, sinking several meters deep into the ground below. Or there should have been, were it not for the vast wealth filling and spilling out of the cavity.

    Millions of gold and silver coins were piled high, far higher than any man was tall, jumbled with countless bars of gold and silver bullion. Just as many gemstones gleamed in the firelight, diamonds, rubies, emeralds, sapphires in blue, yellow, green, and violet. There were also amethysts, opals, garnets, turquoise, jade, amber, and so many more.

    Enough wealth to beggar the richest of men, rivalling if not surpassing the annual incomes of entire nations was there in front of Zouken. But even that wasn't what caught his attention.

    For it wasn't simple firelight that illuminated the hall and the treasure within. Indeed, though Zouken had not noticed, there were no torches or candles or any other sources of light in the hall. The being that dwelt within the hall had no need of it, for its eyes could see perfectly in the dark, even without its own fires to cast light and heat should it be needed.

    But again, that wasn't what caught Zouken's attention.

    He finally understood, though, why the worms were so terrified. And were he not so terrified himself, he'd have cursed himself for ignoring their instincts. For such was his terror that he could not quite take in the whole of the being in front of him.

    Individual scales as big as tanks.

    Fangs sharp enough to cut through steel as a hot knife would cut through butter.

    Reptilian eyes that shone with such cruelty and avarice that Zouken's darkest desires were as those of a saint in comparison.

    "…a worm…" the dragon known to mortal legends across time and space as Fafnir drawled in disgust and contempt from where he languidly lazed on his belly atop his hoard. A hoard, that while great and glorious, fit for any dragon worth the name, was but a pale shadow of what he once possessed.

    And which he would repossess, as per the pact made with the Fallen Angel.

    "…a worm dares to disturb my solitude," Fafnir continued to drawl, transfixing Zouken with his eyes. "No…less than that…a mortal, who impiously sought immortality and in so doing abandoned everything that could have made it great…pathetic…you are unfit to witness me, much less challenge me. Begone worm, and trouble me no more!"

    Then Fafnir spat, a gobbet of spit landing on and soaking Zouken to the bone, as well as splashing down on the stones around.

    Stone hissed and flowed like water, acrid and foul fumes rising from the stones, even as Zouken screamed in agony. He knew pain. He was pain.

    It was more than a friend to him. Pain was his very existence for hundreds of years now.

    But this pain…

    …it ate at more than his flesh, even as his flesh sloughed off in rotting masses and his bones crumbled and dissolved into the dragon's venom.

    It didn't even just burn at his soul, melting away even more of what he was, what little that the cruel tides of time had not stolen away.

    It sank into his very being, eating and burning as it went, and leaving nothing in its wake. And even as his body became slime and then less than slime in Fafnir's hall, Zouken continued to scream.
    ________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

    Rin screamed.

    Aoi fell to her knees, clutching at her head.

    Sakura stared at her mother and sister, and felt reality unravel. She didn't know what the latter actually meant, as for all her power and potential, she was still just very much a child.

    But she wasn't stupid either.

    She knew at once that whatever this…feeling was, which made her skin prickle, and her soul…itch (?), it was also hurting her mother and sister. And she wanted it to stop now.

    Then just like that, it was gone.

    Rin and Aoi felt the pressure ease and then disappear, the two of them looking at the other member of their family. "Sakura?" Aoi asked, even as she wiped blood from her nose. "Did you do that?"

    "Make it stop?" Sakura asked back, and Rin and Aoi nodded. "Yes."

    "But…how…?" Rin asked.

    Sakura shrugged. "I wanted it to stop." She said. "I…don't know…but it worked, didn't it?"

    Rin and Aoi stared in awe at Sakura, then both looked at Morgan as she approached, chuckling softly to herself. "Children truly are amazing, aren't they?" she asked, as she helped Rin and Aoi to their feet. "Such simple minds, unable to understand complexities…but it's also because they can't understand those complexities that they aren't limited by them. They simply…are."

    "And that's enough?" Aoi asked.

    "For now, yes." Morgan said with a nod.

    Aoi looked away in thought for a few moments, and then she turned back to Morgan. "Just what was that just now?" she asked.

    Morgan hummed, and then led the way to the outside of the penthouse. Aoi followed, leaving the children behind. Stepping outside, they turned in the direction of a great commotion…

    …and the Aoi staggered back, clutching at her eyes as they began to weep tears of blood.

    "As I suspected…a Great Old One…" Morgan murmured, as she forced Aoi to turn away, and helping her to the ground. Passing a hand over Aoi's eyes, the goddess healed the Human's eyes, before turning back to the monster in the distance. "…Cthulhu, yes, that's the name, as Humans would – or should I say could – call it."

    "It…it hurts to see…to feel…" Aoi coughed out.

    "And yet it could be so much worse, had your daughter not thrown back its influence." Morgan said. "Even then, a hole has been torn in reality. A hole that can never be truly sealed. The world as you know it…it is over."

    Aoi was silent for a long moment, and then rising to her feet, stared to Morgan. Morgan met the Human's eyes, and then started in alarm as Aoi turned to Cthulhu in the distance. More blood leaked out of her eyes, but she didn't flinch back.

    Not this time.

    She had borne the child of the Fallen Angel.

    She had raised their daughter.

    She had killed the assassin the Church – and her one-time husband – had sent against her.

    The assassin which had bested the crow goddess, if in mortal form at the time.

    And so she stood, and saw, causing a shadowy silhouette to appear around her. At the sight, Morgan smiled, as she felt a presence make itself known.

    "How unexpected…yet unsurprising, in hindsight." She murmured. "Hello, Philemon."
    ________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

    "Nyarlathotep."

    "Lucifer."

    The Supreme Power of Darkness and the Crawling Chaos met on top of a building overlooking the Mion River, as well as the towering bulk of otherworldly flesh not too far away. They made for an incongruous pair, Louis Cyphre like your ordinary businessman, while Nyarlathotep looked like a platinum-blonde teenager with eyes the color of grass.

    "So you're the one behind this…incident." Louis said with only a mild degree of accusation.

    Nyarlathotep rolled her eyes. "You talk as though you're the only one who can dance and play." She said. "Besides, didn't this sort of thing happen in that other timeline? The one that's also raising merry hell across the multiversal cluster?"

    "…this multiversal cluster needs to be shaken up." Louis said after a few moments. "It's so stagnant I could cut through the ether without having to exert any effort at all."

    Nyarlathotep beamed. "There you go." She said, before suddenly frowning. "Then again, I believe it was your daughter who stopped the chain reaction cold."

    Louis smiled. "That's my girl." He said, and Nyarlathotep laughed.

    "Fair enough." She said with a grin. "Still, it's not all bad. Sure, the chain reaction got stopped, but a hole's been torn into this plane of reality, a hole that can never be patched. And once a hole's been opened…"

    "…other holes will open soon enough." Louis concluded. "If nothing else, it'll make it easier to control things as they develop."

    Then he paused, and narrowed his eyes, because when all was said and done, despite their title, Nyarlathotep actually was an agent of Law.

    "Who sent you?" he asked.

    "Myself." Nyarlathotep said. "No one else on our side of the line is this subtle, least of all that dumb brick, Thor. President Thorman, really? Tacky…just plain tacky…"

    "…pretty sure it was Ambassador, not President…"

    "…Ambassador…President…does it matter…?"

    "…no, it doesn't."

    Lucifer mused for a few moments, and then shrugged. "I'm honestly surprised none of the Archangels are involved in this." He said. "You know how my siblings are."

    "I'm sure they'll get involved soon enough." Nyarlathotep said. "Though I'll be gone long before they show up."

    Lucifer opened his mouth to reply…

    …only to break off, as a jet flew past with a sharp whine, light trailing after it. "Isn't that your champion?" Nyarlathotep asked.

    "Kariya…he brought out a light jet?" Lucifer asked in surprise. Then his eyes widened, as he saw Kariya begin his attack run.
    ________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

    Chattering echoed through the air as the light jet's hardlight guns spat glowing death at a building in the distance. Kariya kept up the barrage, eyes focused on the figure in red on the building, as well as on the numbers scrolling away on his visor.

    "…steady…steady…NOW!"

    Moving smoothly, Kariya jumped clear of the light jet, kicking away as the machine kept on going, in an unmanned kamikaze run. Then pulling out One, he fired a charged blast, the plasma round searing forward and causing the light jet to detonate on impact.

    Liquid energy and hardlight exploded in a fireball that lit up the sky, and set debris flying for dozens of meters around. Yet it went unnoticed, the rest of the city focused on the maddening presence pushing out from a hole in reality under the Mion River.

    "…Tokiomi." Kariya remarked as he landed in a crouch, and getting to his feet, held Zero and One at the ready. "I suppose it was too much to hope for that you'd get killed by that."

    "You should know better than to use fire against me." Tokiomi coolly remarked, looking completely unfazed by the explosion that by all rights should have immolated him.

    "It would make for poetic justice." Kariya remarked.

    "Justice?" Tokiomi echoed curiously, before chuckling softly to himself. "Ah…of course. You are here to avenge Aoi, are you not? Pathetic…"

    Kariya was silent, and after a few moments, Tokiomi continued. "Do you know what a woman who breaks her marital vows, sleeps with another man, and has that man's child, is called?" Tokiomi asked. "I believe the polite term is 'prostitute', but contextually, it doesn't really fit. No…I believe 'whore' is more appropriate, wouldn't you agree?"

    Kariya continued to stay silent, while Tokiomi looked on with a small smile. And then the former began to laugh, causing the latter's smile to fall ever so slightly. "You never change, do you, Tokiomi?" Kariya asked. "How very like you to try and rile me up."

    "You misunderstand me." Tokiomi said with a patronizing tone. "I am not trying to rile you up. I simply state matters of fact. Whether or not you prove so immature as to be provoked by the truth is entirely up to you."

    "Sure, whatever you say." Kariya said with a shrug, before narrowing his eyes. "But…when it comes to…what did you call them? Matters of fact? Are you sure you want to talk?"

    "I have done nothing to be ashamed of." Tokiomi replied.

    "Except for the fact that your wife clearly found more happiness in the arms of another," Kariya slyly said. "And do you know what they call a man cheated on by his wife? A cuckold."

    Kariya wagged his eyebrows suggestively at the word, before making a rooster-like sound, and then bursting into more laughter. This caused Tokiomi's smile to simply disappear, and his hand to tighten around his cane.

    "Yes…how very intellectual of you." He drawled, only for Kariya to make more rooster-like sounds while holding his fingers against his forehead, mimicking horns. "You know what's even more pathetic, Kariya? It's not the fact that you remain enamored with an adulteress. It's the fact that despite being an adulteress, Aoi still won't let you touch her. I wonder what that says about you."

    "Ha!" Kariya gave a barking sound of laughter. "Is that what you think? Tell me, Tokiomi. Do you really think Aoi was a virgin on your wedding night? Was there blood on the sheets? Tell me."

    "…not all women bleed on their wedding night." Tokiomi sullenly answered after a moment, a cruel smile appearing on Kariya's face.

    "Let me tell you more facts, Tokiomi." Kariya said. "The one who taught Aoi how to please men, how to show off her breasts, and how to sway her hips in bed, it was all me…"

    Kariya didn't get to finish, as Tokiomi finally snapped. With a scream of rage and loss, Tokiomi brought up his cane and fired off a blast of fire. But Kariya was fast, bringing up Zero and firing off a round the same time Tokiomi did.

    The fireball and explosive round met each other in midair, and exploded against each other. In a breath, Kariya had One up, and fired off a plasma round, forcing Tokiomi to dodge. And in the next breath, Kariya had discarded his guns, and was leaping forward to meet Tokiomi in hand to hand.

    Catching Tokiomi's arm by the wrist, Kariya pulled him aside before sweeping forward with an elbow strike. Tokiomi cancelled with a circular arm movement, building up momentum to kick out at Kariya. Kariya sidestepped the kick, backed away from a punch, then getting in close, forced Tokiomi to dive forward into a crouch.

    Tokiomi only allowed himself the briefest moment of surprise at Kariya's sudden and unexpected skill, before counterattacking. A kick was blocked, Tokiomi taking advantage to get in close, only for Kariya to lock their elbows together, opening Tokiomi up for a backhand across the face. Tokiomi avoided by going slack, slipping his arm free and diving backwards to roll away from Kariya.

    The two men looked at each other, and Tokiomi was struck by a realization. He was now the one glaring, while Kariya was the one smirking.

    Snarling, Tokiomi tossed a gem Kariya's way, the latter sidestepping and letting the gem skip off the rooftop and explode harmlessly in the air beyond. In that time, Tokiomi leapt forward, fist drawn back to strike, reinforced and with enough force to crush concrete and break steel.

    It connected…

    …and Tokiomi stared in shock and horror, as Kariya both avoided the blow by a hairsbreadth, and caught Tokiomi's fist in a hand. Then before Tokiomi knew it, Kariya had pulled him close and around, and had him in a chokehold with his other arm.

    Gasps and gurgling filled the air, Tokiomi's limbs flailing as he struggled to break free. All the while Kariya kept up the pressure, relishing the moment of holding his one-time rival at his mercy.

    Spots began to dance in Tokiomi's eyes, and in desperation, he kicked out, his leg lashing out all the way up to strike at Kariya's head. Kariya was forced to let go, allowing Tokiomi to cartwheel forward and away.

    "…h-how?" he gasped.

    "Change…adapt…evolve…" Kariya replied, cracking his neck and stretching out his limbs. "…and become new. Something you magi simply aren't able to do. In other words, compared to the likes of me, you're just plain obsolete."

    Tokiomi snarled, pulling out his Azoth Dagger, and brandished it in Kariya's direction. Kariya smirked, stepping into a loose stance, and gestured.

    Bring it.

    Tokiomi flourished the Azoth Dagger as he closed, forcing Kariya to keep his eyes on the blade. Then he slashed downward, at Kariya's head, then horizontally, across Kariya's belly, and twice again, at Kariya's head. Kariya dodged them all, and then sidestepping, got into Tokiomi's guard. Tokiomi kept up the pressure, slashing at Kariya's throat, once, twice, three times, Kariya somehow managed to dodge while staying close, and then sidestepping, grabbed Tokiomi's arm and pulled him into another lock. He managed to slip free, but not before Kariya managed to rip the Azoth Dagger from his hand.

    Then he slashed at Tokiomi, who rolled back and away…

    …and with a gasp of disbelief, dabbed at his cheek, his fingers coming away bloody, from where Kariya had cut at him, and with his own Azoth Dagger no less.

    "Face it, Tokiomi." Kariya said. "You're old news."

    Then tossing the Azoth Dagger into the air, Kariya caught it by the blade, and threw it at Tokiomi.
    ________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

    Berserker stared up the river, at the golden light beginning to shine. She knew that light. Then she looked up, at the gleaming form of a Vimana as Archer circled the battlefield, all the while holding his fire.

    That golden bastard…

    …does he think he's too good to dirty his weapons fighting this…thing?

    Is he really just going to watch the rest of us from that ship of his?











    Shit…he really might just do that.

    Fine…if he wants a show…we'll give him a show.

    Berserker grinned, her armor unlatching and folding away, exposing her face and head. In the distance, the golden light built, Saber exposing her Noble Phantasm, charging up the prana to wipe Caster's stain from the face of the Earth.

    It was a warm and soothing light, stirring up…memories, of peaceful, happier times…

    …Berserker loved and hated it all at once.

    Why?

    Why didn't you abdicate the throne in my favor?

    FATHER!

    Teeth grinding against each other, Berserker grabbed her sword two-handed, its crossguard unfolding before prana exploded around and up from her sword, burning its way up to the skies with the color of blood. "Father…let me show you…" she growled. "…just how alike the two of us truly are."

    In the distance, Saber saw light the color of blood streaking into the sky, and knew it for what it was. But despite knowing that, and the hands that wielded it, she couldn't bring herself to hate either of them. Even though her hands had killed the dream, and ended any hope of the kingdom's future, Saber had no hate.

    Instead, she felt only pity, and sorrow.

    "…Mordred…" Saber thought, briefly closing her eyes as she brought her sword up. "…everyone…I'm sorry…EX"

    "CLARENT…"

    Saber's eyes fell open, and though neither of them knew it, they brought their swords down in the exact same moment. "…CALIBUR!"

    "…BLOOD ARTHUR!"

    Gold and red struck at Cthulhu from opposing directions, otherworldly matter burning away, Caster howling a woman's name in agonized longing and despair as he was wiped from existence. And still Saber and Berserker continued to exert against each other, Excalibur and Clarent Blood Arthur's power slamming against each other, and entwining together, lanced up into the sky in a glowing spiral.

    An instant later, and all that power exploded, blinding light erupting across the heavens.
    ________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

    A/N

    Well, now you know what lies under Fuyuki Tower, and why Louis Cyphre is so unconcerned about enemies trying to enter the proto-arcology via the underground route. Fafnir currently has his lair there, and no one short of a serious Gilgamesh or someone at a comparable level is getting past. It should also be no surprise what Fafnir is after, and what he made a deal with Louis Cyphre for.

    Was what Kariya told Tokiomi about Aoi true? Either way, it doesn't matter. What mattered was that it – along with some other factors – let Kariya get under Tokiomi's skin.
     
Loading...