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ChristmasForJuan

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  • Birthday 12/03/1996

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  1. Post deleted because of continuity errors.
  2. ??? - Mion River / January 20th, 03:02 The silence of night had overtaken the world, yet the domain of moon and stars brought with it a melody of its own. Not an eerie stillness, but rather a somber orchestra of subtle melodies. The river’s ebb and flow set a peaceful rhythm for the nearby forest to follow, leaves mimicked the sound of rushing water as they were ruffled by the seaside breeze, and branches stretched and groaned as the first inhabitants of the forest began to wake from their nightly slumber. It was here, where nature was left to prosper due to the negligence of the people, that Archer was taken by the presence that had appeared in the water. Truly, a place that had yet to be touched by humans was were she felt most at ease, and likewise would it grant them a chance to converse. Away from the machinations of Gods and Men, away from their schemes and wiles, and away from the war that seemed to be fought in the city’s center. War. War. The children of men seemed so fond of their wars and squabbles. War had taken him away from her then, and it had taken him away from her now. The entity carefully placed Archer on the riverbank deep within the forest. The water around them took on a gentle glow which illuminated their dark surroundings with a soft blue iridescence as the entity made certain that Archer was free from physical injury. Once done, passed the time while she waited for Archer to wake. She entertained the school of fish that had trailed behind her. They were curious, fascinated, strangely nostalgic about her presence. Like a memory that eluded their grasp, like a childhood friend they had forgotten and had reunited with. She smiled somberly at the fish. It seemed that nature had never forgotten them even after they had left. Soon enough the creatures of the forest noticed the commotion and approached her with the same wary curiosity that had overcome the fish, and within a span of minutes, the riverbank had had transformed from a lonely meadow into a scenery commonly illustrated in fairy tales and children’s books. Deer gave themselves to her gentle careers and hummingbirds fetched colorful flowers to adorn her hair. A family of squirrels curled up next to were she sat while nightingales accompanied her enchanting voice as she sang them all a lullaby. For the first time since that fateful day, she smiled. ------------------------------ Archer - Mion River / January 20th, 03:28 Archer woke to a melancholic melody sung by a voice too beautiful to be human. It was dreadful. The song was lovely beyond compare, but the performer’s own sorrow permeated each and every note, dyeing an otherwise lively song with the gloom of mourning. It was dreadful precisely because it was beautiful, it was a song that laid bare a maiden’s grieving heart, a melody reminiscent of the ballads performed by Orpheus himself. Unwilling to continue listening to this desolate performance, Archer rose from her sleep and opened her eyes to regard the source of the singing. There, a few paces left to where she had been put to rest, a woman faintly sang her lullaby to the animals that had gathered to listen. She didn’t wear any clothes, yet seemed comfortable in her nakedness, so much so that it would seem unnatural for her to be covered in the fabrics woven by men. She had seated herself comfortably beside the river, at the edge where water intersected with land, and had arranged her unnaturally long hair in such a way that some of it floated playfully on the river’s shimmering surface. In fact, her earthen green hair seemed almost indistinguishable from the vibrant plant-life growing out of the river, so much so that it was impossible to distinguish where her hair ended and vegetation begun. Similarly, her skin appeared to be glistening wet yet dry at the same time, like the reflection of the stars catching themselves on running water, almost as if this woman was the embodiment of a water itself. Truly, she seemed transcendent in every way, and as such, it was impossible for Archer to mistake her for anybody else. “Why did you help me, Oenone?” Oenone’s eyes flashed towards her now awake companion and continued to unhurriedly bring an end to her performance. Most of the animals had dozed off by then, most notably a family of swans that had chosen to move closer to Archer before curling up into feathery pillows and awaiting the coming of day. At the sudden return of silence, Oenone turned to look at Archer, her eyes as deep and tranquil as a forest pond. “I had found you at the center of a war fought by Heroic Spirits, should I have not brought us to a place were we could talk in peace?” Archer held her gaze for a full second before releasing the breath she had been holding and relaxing her tense shoulders. At the very least Oenone showed no hostile intent towards her. Reaching out to the swans beside her and caressing their soft bodies, Archer continued in a more relaxed tone. “Last we met you regarding me with nothing but scorn, so please forgive me for being surprised to see you carry me out of harm’s way after showing me such an honest display of a woman’s fury.” Oenone responded with a gentle smile. It was as if her face was made for nothing other than displaying such a lovely expression, yet for Archer it was easy to discern that it was simply a mask she wore to protect her wounded heart. “True… there was a time when I was incapable of feeling nothing but hate for you, but those were the emotions of a younger me. I am embarrassed of my own irrationality I showed you back then, but eventually it became clear to me that we were both simply pawns. Small pieces of a distasteful game played by the Gods, you and me, victims and casualties alike.” Archer’s eyes briefly widened in surprise to her companion’s confession, “I never expected to live the day that you would come to like me.” “No you are correct, I never have nor do I now, but at the very least do I sympathize with you now that I have reflected on the events that lead to his death. I might not harbor hatred towards you anymore, but neither can I bring myself to like you. Surely you understand.” “Your dislike of me is easier to understand than your continued longing for that man. Even now I reek of his stench. I had thought to annihilate every last shred of his existence, but it seems he is unwilling to keep his lecherous fingers away from me even past his second death. At the very least his stench isn’t as pervasive now as it had been then, so I suppose it should disappear before long.” “…that is surprising.” “What? My distaste for my captor, the man who tore me from my true husband and child simply so that he could satisfy his youthful urges? You seem to be sorely mistaken if you ever believed that I felt anything but contempt for the man who turned my own people against me.” Oenone made a hollow attempt at a chuckle, “How ironic. A tragedy more akin to the Rape of Philomela rather than the romantic union of star-crossed lovers. To think that the greatest of Greek’s Heroes died for a lie.” “And yet it doesn’t seem like you bear hatred towards the man who caused the Slaughter of Troy.” Oenone’s movements froze for a brief second, though her hesitation was immediately covered up by her unfailing mask of a smile. “You are wrong, daughter of Zeus. I felt nothing but love for my unfaithful husband, but the man you have described to me is a monster, a beast in human skin that has as much become a victim of our God’s wiles as us. That man is abhorrent and sickening, which is why I let him die on that day as he came crawling back to me, seeking out my skill as a healer rather than looking upon me as his wife. My husband is dead. He died the day he was put under Aphrodite’s spell, the man who existed after falling to her temptations was Paris no longer.” “Then why is it that you came?” “…” “Even despite our shared hatred for that man, neither of us could resist this opportunity, could we not?” “As I said, my husband is dead. He chose the life of a Heroic Spirit instead of returning to the Underworld… yet the time we spent together in our youth remains dear to me. Don’t misunderstand, were he to return to me now I would abandon him just as I had in life, but I cannot deny nor forget the blissful dream from which I have now awoken. While I care for him no longer… I could not resist the chance to lay my eyes on him one last time. To see what had become of him in his years of service as a Heroic Spirit.” Archer furrowed her brow as she listened to her companion’s honest reply. It seemed the two of them were fundamentally different in the end. They were identical in every aspect but one: Oenone had allowed herself to move on and rid herself of the hatred for her husband, whereas she could never allow herself to forgive him. Not in life, nor in death. Oenone noted Archer’s silence and encouraged her to speak. “So this was your final goodbye then, Oenone? One last look at our wicked prince before leaving his memory behind you?” “A goodbye that you have deprived me of in your haste to give shape to your rage, but yes, I see no reason to linger now that this opportunity is squandered.” “Even if it meant forfeiting you chance at the Grail?” “…I see. This explains your unexpected willingness to subject yourself to the call of the thaumaturgy that had managed to penetrate into the Reverse Side of the World. Even after ascending to Godhood you lack the power to change your fate, is that why you now rely on the tools of Men to do it for you?” “I don’t expect you to understand Oenone, to you Paris was no more than an unfaithful husband. To me he was the kidnapper that tore me from my husband and daughter, my country and and my people. He was the rapist that ravished my body day after day, the coward who chose to hide himself from the wrath of my lawful husband and incited a war simply so that he could keep his prized treasure. I was despised Oenone! Hated by Troy for bringing the armies of Greece to their doorstep and detested by Greece for ‘being an unlawful wife’. If you care to remember, it wasn’t the Trojans that killed me. No. I died at the hands of Greece’s jealous wenches and the soldiers who believed me to be the cause of their companion’s deaths. I answered the call of this Grail because our Gods are nothing but incompetent fools who would gladly incite a war amongst men for something as insignificant as a contest of beauty. No Oenone, I have lost my faith in the Gods and must now place my trust in the hands of Men.” “Are these truly the words befit of a Goddess?” “Goddess or not, it is a fate I am willing to change at any cost. For that I would gladly lower myself to the status of a Servant.” “I see… in that case I must apologize, I had greatly misjudged you. Had things been different we might have even become friends.” “Don’t make me laugh, what would an Oread of Mount Ida ever have in common with the Queen of Sparta save for a mutual hatred for an unfaithful Prince?” Both Oenone and Archer exchanged a playful look before breaking out into soft chuckles. Archer was right. Had Oenone laid eyes on her back when she was alive she would have undoubtedly been overcome by jealousy due to Archer’s blessed beauty; such was the childish way of Mount Ida’s nymphs. This uncommon friendship, the fragile bond the two of them currently shared was an unprecedented friendship borne out of a single man’s selfish acts. “In that case I assume you will be returning to the Reverse Side of the World soon, Oenone?” “Correct, I have no more business in this era. Besides, as an elemental this foreign land is strange and new to me. It seems this territory belonged to a dragon long time ago, so my continued presence would be seen as a breech in etiquette if I lingered for too long. This Grail you seek is yours to fight for, I will have no part in this war.” Archer nodded in assent as she rose to her feet. “One more thing, daughter or Zeus. After you fell from the bridge his bow remained. I had assumed it was merely an echo of his existence and would vanish soon enough, but it has yet to disappear. What do you think of it?” Archer regarded the royal bow offered to her with a critical eye before taking it into her own hands and examining the quality of the craftsmanship, weighing it in both hands and testing the spryness of the wood before returning it to spirit form, much to Oenone’s surprise. “Why are you surprised? My dear husband took everything from me, yet he forgot that in marriage we share everything. It is quite simple really, what is his is mine.” Oenone simply responded with a complicated smile before turning away and disappearing into the river, her physical form seemingly melting away until it was indistinguishable from water. Following her example, Archer left the meadow they had shared and headed back towards the city from whence she came. The night was no longer young and she could already feel her existence waning without an anchor to keep her in this world. She had until roughly 3 hours after sunrise to successfully bind herself to this era. She could not fail in this task, she wouldn’t allow herself to. This was her only chance to change her fate and return to her the happiness that was pried away from her by the Gods.
  3. Archer Camp - Semina Apartments, Shinto District / January 20th, 02:51 Death. Helmut could see nothing but death. The breech in reality that Lancer had opened up was one of unimaginable proportions, a direct link to her very own realm of the dead; her fabled Land of Shadows. Helmut couldn’t believe it. He refused to believe it. After all, in the hands of this mythical Servant was held the answer to dimensional travel, a form of thaumaturgy closer to the 2nd True Magic than anybody in the modern magi community had ever and could possibly ever achieve in this lifetime or the next, a true miracle made form. What mattered wasn’t so much the fact that this apparent Noble Phantasm of hers opened a gateway to her Land of Shadows, what was even more important was the placement of this realm. The World of humans had long since rid itself of the mythical and the divine, all traces of the phantasmal have been eradicated long since the coming of the Age of Man, but this didn’t mean that they no longer existed. In a layer one step removed from ours existed the Reverse Side of the World, the spiritual counterpart to our physical dimension in which we reside in, which was become home to all creatures of myth. Gods, Beasts, and Elementals, all phantasmal beings that had lived freely on Earth in the Age of Gods had sought refuge in this realm and generally didn’t interact with the world of men anymore. It harbored all existences and regions, all the Heavens of the Divine and all the Realms of the Demonic, and was such the eventual destination of the deceased and forgotten. Yet, against all odds, Helmut was offered a view straight into this mysterious realm… a view that was priced to high for a mortal human like himself. “You can’t be serious… this can’t be real…” Helmut’s mind was thrown into a panic. The ecstasy of being granted a sight most magi would kill and die for was transformed into raw fear and terror. That was only to be expected, there was no other way he could have possible reacted. Death. He saw death, his own imminent death. “No… not like this! Not now…”, tears welled up from his blood-shot eyes, his body already too weak to struggle simply by being close to the gate. Continuously and without pause, the gate sapped away any and all magical energy, nay, his very life force like a gluttonous void. It feasted on the loose rubble first, then came the rocks and boulders until the unending void gnawed on the foundation of the crumbled Semina Apartment Building itself; all the while Helmut could merely hopelessly watch on the brink of losing himself to the overwhelming and crushing presence exerted by the mythical gate. In a matter of seconds his body lost all warmth. Starting from his limbs the numbing cold relentlessly ate its way towards the core of his chest, depriving him of any sensation and leaving him slumped over on the ground; his collapsed posture almost seemed like he was kneeling before the mistress of death before him. His sight came next, starting with color he was slowly deprived of his view of the world, each passing second making him realize how much he missed the vibrancy of something so simple as color, something he had previously spent nary a thought on and had taken for granted. Soon he finally felt his body caught in the forceful pull of the gate’s unending suction. It would be over. Just a little longer and he’d be freed of this nightmare. Just one more- Helmut’s fading thoughts stopped as he saw something swallowed by the Gate out of the corner of his eye. It was a person. Brown hair, fair skinned, and clothed in simple pajamas as if she had only just left her bed minutes prior. She was unconscious, but that frailty didn’t suit her. Full of life, strong, stubborn, an occasional hint of sadness as if she was missing somebody important to her. That is how he remembered her. She was human, so painfully ordinarily human, yet she deserved to live more than himself, more than anybody. “Archer…”, Helmut whispered, his cracked voice dry like dust and faint as a breeze, yet somehow dripping with emotion he didn’t know he still had, “…I refuse for it to end like this… for her… but this is a power you cannot overcome…”, his body was dragged across the ground and lifted into the air closer to the source of the devouring vortex, “…by all the gods… anybody who is listening…”, his body made contact and slowly disappeared into the Gate of Skye, only his arm now remained in the world of men, flaring to life one last time in a brilliant flash of crimson red, “…any god who is close to Paris, I am offering you all three of my Command Spells… please… help him win this War and-” don’t let her death have been for naught. Helmut ceased to be before his final plea, yet his Command Spells had received their order before his mind stopped functioning. In a massive surge of magical energy, three crystallizations of high-thaumaturgy exploded to life at the same time and sought to fulfill the last command of their caster. Under normal circumstances, Command Spells could accomplish feats that bordered on miracles, imitations of True Magic that could be expended for a single-use. Things such as teleportation and the restructuring of one’s cognitive functions were easily achievable, yet these pocket-sized miracles had a limit. The broader the order or the more unrealistic the goal, the weaker the effects of the Command Spell. There were some things that were simply outside the realm of possibility, and such commands would usually end with the Servant in question simply receiving the expended energy as additional mana reserves or a temporary boost to their ranks. However. There was more than one miracle at play this time. Not one, not two, but three Command Spells were activated simultaneously with a single shared objective. While this still wouldn’t have been enough to accomplish something as extraordinary a feat as calling upon the Gods that no longer existed in this realm… against all odds, a “Gate” had been opened. A breech that shattered the divide between this and the Reverse Side of the World, and while only temporary, a link could now be established. The compulsive might of the Command Spells recognized this and crossed into the phantasmal realm of the deceased and forgotten. From one afterlife to the next, they traveled until they finally encountered the olympian pantheon. The Command Spells entered this realm… and woke a God. ------------------------------ Archer Camp - Fuyuki Bridge / January 20th, 02:56 “What… what is this?!” Paris looked upon the city in pure shock as he witnessed the activation of Lancer's second Noble Phantasm. No doubt had this been a response to his flurry of blows he had assumed to be undodgeable, yet this magnitude of power was breathtaking nonetheless. He knew Scathach to be killer of Gods and ruler of the Land of Shadows, yet even then he would have never expected her to possess a Noble Phantasm that very well might just be at EX Rank. Furthermore… “How ironic. In my attempt to protect him from Lancer I instead was the one who caused his death…”, Paris muttered with a remorseful scowl. True, they had last parted on rather bad terms, the last conversation he would ever have with his Master being a small fight, yet he couldn’t deny that he had found Helmut to be rather agreeable. He wasn’t unpleasant, nor was his naivety off-putting. If anything, Archer regretted the death of the girl that had become their neighbor. Given time, she might have grown into a fine warrior indeed. Paris shook his head. Forget it. The battle wasn’t over yet, he couldn’t afford himself to be distracted by sentimentality. He was used to loss, so he needed to ignore it. Ignore the welling heat of his blood. The urging of his pumping heart. The itching of his fingers longing for an arrow to give shape to his feelings. No. Rushing in now would be suicide. In face of such power he was nothing more than a pebble in Lancer’s path. He couldn’t. He shouldn’t. Yet why hadn’t he run yet? “Damnit, and here I had thought I was above it all…”, Archer hung his head as the last trace of his Master’s bond vanished into thin air. Then. Suddenly and out of nowhere, a light shot out of Scathach’s Gate of Skye. A single brilliant luminescence that lightened up the night like the descending sun. The shadow of darkness was washed clean with the brightness of day wherever the light traveled, as if what had emerged from Lancer’s gate was the sun itself. The light moved at blinding speed, like a soaring comet it cut apart the sky like a burning sword, and far away the forests bordering Fuyuki City rejoiced in glee. As if every tree celebrated the emergence of the light, every sapling and every full-grown oak groaned and rustled their leaves to welcome the grace of the sun that was their God. “What the-”, Archer exclaimed in surprise, yet his words were cut off at the realization of what this entity was, “…no, not you. Why is it you?” Baffled and frozen by the absurdity of the situation, Paris could only look on as the light darted across the city until it finally found its destination; Fuyuki Bridge. It wasted nary a second as it collided against Paris’ body and seeped into his skin, the very heat of its existence burning and melting the steel beams around them. The process was painful. Excruciatingly so. The existence did not hold back, or rather, it purposefully caused as much pain as it could as it took over and reshaped the Servant Vessel Paris had inhabited to make it its own. To summon a Servant one needed a Vessel. 7 empty Servant Vessels were provided at the start of the Holy Grail War. Those were the simply truths on which the foundation of the Fuyuki Grail was built upon. To summon these Servants the empty Vessels needed to be filled with Heroic Spirits... yet what was filled could alternatively be replaced. While it was commonly unheard of to force one existence over another, there was one precedent for this phenomena. A True Assassin was once summoned into the Vessel of a fake summoned by another Servant. In both this case and the last, the Servant itself had been the catalyst for such an irregular invocation since a strong link was required for such an irregularity to even be possible. In the past it had been the Vessel that had allowed for it to happen, the designation of Assassin itself, yet in this case it was the opposite. The Heroic Spirit, or rather the person itself, had become the anchor to which this existence was bound, the bait to lure in a God. Screaming and writhing in pain, Paris could feel his mind and body fading away, his essence being annihilated by the painfully bright light. Not just his physical body was being replaced, even his spirituality changed considerably. Archer’s aura lost its golden shine and instead took on a much more earthen color. The brown of tilled fields, the richness of nutritious earth. The warmth of the sun’s touch, the solace of a mother’s embrace. While it still kept a hint of golden glamour, Archer’s aura was now almost unrecognizable, and neither were his physical features what they once were. Paris was gone and a new Archer had taken his place. A new Servant. A God. Now unconscious due to the strenuous process of possession, the new Archer stumbled and fell off the bridge, plummeting headfirst into Fuyuki River. There a new presence, a third-party that hadn’t been there a moment ago, caught the body in bubbling water to break the surface tension and reduce the damage of the impact before disappearing upriver; a faint shimmer on the water’s surface the only proof of its existence.
  4. Archer Camp - Fuyuki Bridge / January 20th, 02:54 His last arrow had only just left his grasp when Archer noticed a presence sneaking up behind him. “…hooves?” Though the hard sound of hooves clacking against the cement of the road below him was the most noticeable, Paris could also feel soft thuds resonating on the metal beams he himself was using as a vantage point. More of Rider’s beast? Archer turned to see a pair of panthers balancing across the steel beams, their fangs bared and their sharp eyes monitoring his every movement. They had been steadily sneaking up on him while he was distracted by his own assault on Lancer, yet now that he had spotted them they dropped any pretext of stealth and approached him more aggressively. They were not alone. Paris could spot a small group of deer below him, though contrary to his knowledge of these docile creatures, they seemed to exude a bloodlust on par with the predators that stalked him above. However it wasn’t just the intent to kill which added potency to their aura. “Magical energy. I see, so these are more of Rider’s pawns.” While none of these animals had mana as potent as the beast Rider had summoned to block his arrow, they seemed to posses a faint wisp of magical energy regardless, enough to dominate their minds and instincts and to slightly enhance their physical capabilities. If that was the case, they would have no trouble killing humans, even docile species like deer or pigs, and would no doubt sow chaos if let loose in a city as dense as Shinto. Wait. One thing didn’t add up. These animals came from Miyama, yet Paris had exchanged blows with Rider in Shinto only minutes prior. Closing his eyes and focusing his mind, Archer attempted to search for Rider’s signature but found himself chasing elusive remnants of his aura, like the smoke of a dying flame dispersing into the air. In other words, Rider had left the battlefield, yet the last trace of his presence was undoubtedly found in Shinto, so why did these animals originate from Miyama? Could this have been a contingency he had set up to ensure his victory had their battle dragged on for too long? No matter. For now Archer needed to eliminate these threats. Paris strung a single arrow and aimed it at the skull of the panther closest to him. Both beasts, responding in kind to their opponent’s open hostility and leapt across the beams to close the distance between them in a matter of seconds. However, they were simply enhanced animals in the end, whereas their prey was a Heroic Spirit. Archer released the arrow he had strung and watched it pulverize the skull of the targeted panther before side-stepping the second beast as it lunged at him midair, his second arrow already resting at his cheek. To slow to react, the panther was skewered by the arrow in its hind leg and failed to catch itself on the opposing beam. Desperately scratching at the metal in an attempt to save itself from slipping off, the panther eventually fell after seconds of squirming only have its head impaled by the shaft of another arrow held in Archer’s hand as he leapt off his own beam and nailed the animal into cement below himself. The carcass of the dead beast now stood between the advancing deer and Shinto as a warning, though Archer knew that it would do little to convince them to halt their march. The deer charged and Paris drew his blade, each swing cutting deeply into their flesh and sawing at their bones, yet one swing wasn’t enough to kill them. His jabs were clumsy and his footwork left him open for an experienced fight to exploit. It took him two or three swings to sever the head of just one animal despite his superiority in all aspects of combat, such was the elementary application of his technique. Either way, animals were just animals in the end, none could stand up to a Heroic Spirit. Even if this particular one greeted them with a clumsy mimicry of swordsmanship. But even then… “…I cannot afford to swap Hera’s boon for Athena’s over such simple foes.” This was simply trash he had to dispose of before returning his attention to Lancer who should be fighting off his arrows by now. The longer he took the more he left himself open to a counterattack, but that was precisely why he preferred Hera’s gift over Athena’s. She was best equipped to deal with long-ranged bombardment, and as such, should be his preferred state when combating Lancer over long distances- Suddenly. Without warning, Archer’s eyes widened in shock. Caught up in his mindless disposal of the deer, Paris had failed to detect the presence of a single cobra. An animal was merely an animal, an existence ten leagues removed from the might of a Heroic Spirit, a creature that could never topple a crystalized legend that had existed in the Age of Gods… yet for every rule there was an exception. Archer’s body was in the middle of performing a predictable straight-forward swing aimed to bury his sword into the skull the last deer, and as such, was ill equipped to react to the cobra that had mingled with the herd. It’s body coiled only for an instant before releasing the tense power built up in its muscles and launching itself at Paris’ exposed neck. It’s fangs were bared with the expectation of digging into it’s victim’s exposed flesh, the venom dripping from them itching to be released into Archer’s bloodstream. Time seemed to freeze for that one instant. Paris followed the cobra’s attack with trembling eyes, his rapidly beating heart pounding against his skull. His dry lips were momentarily glued together before they finally parted to give voice to his panic. “Athena I beseech thee!” His existence was rewritten once again, his body and mind restructured to be the vessel for another goddess’ blessing. His muscles tensed and his grip around his blade tightened. There was no more clumsiness in his movement, no wasted effort and no openings in his footwork. With a single-minded goal his body moved as one, though it’s unnatural haste was nonetheless fueled by fright. One second the cobra existed, the other it was completely wiped out. A shattering blast resounded in the dead of night as a moderate scar was carved into the cement road of Fuyuki Bridge. Taking a deep breath to calm himself despite his body perfectly capable of handling this level of physical effort, Paris instinctively took a step back as his free hand reached for his neck. Even though he had expended more magical energy than necessary to obliterate the snake that had come for him, a single drop of venom had slipped past him and splashed against his neck. While this cobra hadn’t seemed particularly venomous, it’s poison would normally be harmless if it simply touched non-bruised epidermal skin, Paris could already feel the side of his neck blistering after having only come into contact with a single drop of venom. “Curse you and your wicked poison…”, Archer muttered agitatedly as he sheathed his blade. The animals were gone for now so he leapt back to the top of Fuyuki Bridge, but he had wasted no insignificant amounts of precious time. Thankfully he as alone and nobody had witnessed his shameful flailing. Worse than hurting his pride, his unsightly panic could have potentially revealed a critical weakness of his if only Lancer had closed the gap between them fast enough to see him. Angered and annoyed by his own carelessness, Archer gazed back at Shinto to react to Lancer’s next move.
  5. Archer Camp - Fuyuki Bridge / January 20th, 02:50 In the darkest hours of Fuyuki’s wintry night, a single icon remained illuminated even after the sporadic lights of the local households have been all snuffed out. Streetlights may have remained in the early dawn, but all of them paled in the majesty of the bridge that connected the two districts of Fuyuki. Painting a stark contrast against the midnight blue color landscape of forest and sky, the Fuyuki Bridge stood tall and proud, a bright red beacon in a sea of navy. At its apex stood a golden light. The figure itself was not golden, it turned out to be a mere man in fact, yet the aura surrounding him dyed him in an unmistakably golden radiance that sat upon the massive bridge like a royal crown. The man held a bow, and strung upon it, three arrows quivered with the unbridled magical energy contained with them. It took a mere instant to release these warheads into the darkest shadows of the city. One more second to restring the bow, yet another to ready the projectiles and guide them upon the intended course. But the man had not one second, nor two, but ten. Ten long seconds to unleash his assault, five crucial chances to fire his bow, fifteen shadows sneaking along the darkest alleys of the city in their attempt to seek out their targets. Had his enemy not started to burrow her way towards his Master like a mole, then Archer would not have had to resort to such an unsightly tactic, one that so blatantly drew upon the offering of his Master. It was a coward’s strategy, an exploit used by the weak to topple the strong. While it was true that he was thus most suited for such a lowly blow, the act of doing so brought him no joy nor satisfaction. He didn’t detest if of course, it was but another tool to secure his victory, but neither did it bring a smile to his lips. He had to resort to his most powerful attack. His Master was in danger, so this was simply something he had to do. And so his calculating eyes followed the path of his elusive arrows as they snuck upon their target from all directions, each salvo a brief two seconds behind the other. Ten were meant for Servant, while the remaining five fell upon the Master. And so Archer observed as his fifteen Noble Phantasms cut apart the night.
  6. Archer Camp - Semina Apartments, Shinto District / January 20th, 02:47 The Kurokizaka District in Shinto was known for its high-end apartments and recreational facilities. With close proximity to Fuyuki Central Park and Mion River, those living in the Kurokizaka District enjoyed the luxury of nature at their doorstep whilst still benefiting from the convenience of living in the midst of the city, and thanks to being quite a distance away from Fuyuki Central Station, it counted as one of the quieter Districts within Shinto on top of that, though a daily rush of traffic could not be avoided by virtue of being close to Fuyuki Bridge. That being said, in the dead of night, this District should have ordinarily been bathed in the silent hum of the city, the occasional rushing cars and drunken laughs setting the pace for the city’s nightly rhythm. Today would prove to be an exception. A deafening shrieking of birds and the thunderous collapse of the Semina Apartment building jolted the inhabitants of the Kurokizaka District awake in a state of panic, and soon one could see windows light up one after the other, illuminating the streets in their soft glow. The city had awoken, but it had yet to pinpoint the cause of its disturbance. Hidden in the shadows, beyond the reach of the populace’s eyes, Heroic Spirits continued their battle while Archer remained underground. While he belonged on the battlefield like the rest, he had another matter to attend to before his bow could add to the ongoing carnage. “Master…”, Archer called out, looking down at his collapsed Master, “…we need to talk.” Having only just been released from his Servant’s ruthless dash for safety, Helmut was still in the process of calming himself from the adrenaline going rampant in his body, and while he would have ordinarily chastised his Servant and asked to discuss the topic at a later time, Archer’s words now carried a weight that he couldn’t easily run from. He had acted cordially enough ever since their arrival in Fuyuki so Helmut had almost forgotten, but he was talking to a Prince, and as such, he could not be refused. “Archer, at least give me a warning the next time you-” “How many people do you think have died for the sake of securing the entrances of our hideout?” “Excuse me?” “I asked you a question Master. How many have given their lives so that we might spend this moment safely buried under tons of rock and cement?” “…I do not know. The building is 15 stories high with two apartments on each floor, so at the very least 28? Why should that matter?” “There were 54 casualties Master, 4 families and a number of shared apartments, as well as two outsiders sleeping over for the first time.” “My thanks for clearing up the facts Archer, but I ask again, why should the exact numbers concern us?” Helmut knew he was treading on dangerous territory, but the rush from their earlier flight was still pulsating in his veins, his mind denied the chance to realize that he was no longer in battle. While it was just the two of them down here, he could not ignore the fact that he had still been the recipient of an assault only minutes prior, so his actions continued to be rushed by a sense of urgency. Wasting time on pointless discussion thus agitated him in his haste, yet precisely because of his current state of mind, Helmut failed to notice the silent fire that burned beneath his Servant’s seemingly neutral expression. Paris responded by slightly raising his voice, “They mean nothing to me. I simply ascertained their numbers when securing the building, yet the same does not apply to you.” Helmut was about to voice a reply but was shut down by his Servant’s dominating presence. “Master, you might have conveniently forgotten since it was me who had commanded you to activate your thaumaturgy, but it was you who made the choice to kill those people. Consciously or not, to you the lives of 54 humans were a cheap price to pay for a single girl.” “That again? As I said-” “Let me finish. In that moment you had the opportunity to take out the Master of Rider. Thought at a cost, I could have distracted Rider long enough for you to kill his Master and ensure our victory. Yet instead you left yourself open to an attack by rescuing the girl instead. Had our opponent not been Peter, had they been any other Master, that precious window of opportunity would have doubtlessly been exploited. In case you had forgotten, just as I am able to occupy Rider, so is Rider capable of preventing me from protecting you. Had the enemy Master been one adept at offensive magecraft, you would have died.” “Archer, Ayako’s strategic value-” “Does not extend past these trinkets”, Paris finished for his Master as he held out his hand, displaying a pair of obsidian earrings. Helmut’s eyes widened momentarily as he turned towards Ayako’s unconscious body to affirm the absence of her accessories. “Just like that she has lost her value, the price of 54 is now too steep to pay for a single life. Furthermore she is now involved in your secret game and as such she must die.” “Archer… why are you doing this?”, Helmut ground his teeth together as he stared into his Servant’s expressionless face, but he could find no clue to explain Archer’s behavior. Paris was neither seething in anger, nor was he wearing a sadistic smile. All he said he stated with an unreadable expression, yet all that did was cause his words to cut even deeper. After all, they were not spoken in senseless rage, but in cold and unadulterated truth. Retrieving his sword and tossing it towards his Master, Archer motioned towards the motionless body between them. “The question should rather be, why shouldn’t we? Her worth lay in the Mystic Code given to her by the Tohsaka, meaning that it would only make sense that without them she is reduced to no more than a liability. Kill her Master. Unless you have a reason not to?” Archer’s words were calm yet cold, spoken with an edge that was far from being impartial. To those that had known him, it would be clear as day that Paris was furious. His Master however, who knew nothing about him, was left helplessly grasping for words. “I…”, fumbling at the sword in his hands, Helmut had trouble formulating a response. “Do you find difficulty in taking a life Master? Do not worry, it is only slightly harder looking your victim in the face as you deprive them of their life. Only a little more challenging to witness the agony of death firsthand, instead of saving yourself the trouble by closing your eyes to the nameless 54 that fell to their own deaths with no additional input of your own.” “Again with those damned 54! Why are you so obsessed with mere tens of lives when millions more will die at the dawn of our victory?” “Don’t evade my inquiry Master. Why do you refuse to take Ayako’s life? Why do you hesitate?” Helmut’s brow furrowed as his grip tightened around the hilt of Archer’s sword. What was going on? What did his Servant want from him? Why on earth was he suddenly so insistent on the lives of the innocent? “…Ayako is a civilian. By using her as cover to infiltrate Miyama we can-” “You care for her Master.” “What!?” “You desire her for her humanity just as I desired Helen for her beauty. Raised as a magus and denied a human life, you crave the normalcy that Ayako has shown you in these past two weeks. Don’t attempt to refute my claim, I have seen the way you act around your sister Veronica. Though only briefly, I had been guest at your estate, and the manner in which you care for you sister is not unlike the way you now look upon this woman.” “…” “There is no need to confirm or deny my claim, it is clear as day. Neither will I reprimand you for your desires, it is a perfectly human instinct to care for others, yet I feel the need to remind you of the consequences that such a longing holds.” “…so what?”, Helmut harshly muttered, irritated by the fact that his Servant laid him bare seemingly without much regard, “What does that have to do with your constant reminder of this building’s inhabitants? We set up my daggers with the precise intention of blocking of the entrances in the case of an attack, why are you so insistent on reprimanding me about our plan now that Ayako is with us?” “I feel obliged to remind you of your oversight precisely because of her presence, Master. Without her the Rider Camp could have been defeated. Without her there would have been no need to use this plan so soon when we could have instead focused on the battle at hand without the burden of a hostage holding us back. What I want for you to do is to stop looking at this woman as a woman. From this point forward she has ceased to become a human. She is now the product of every man, woman, and child that has died to keep her alive. Stop ignoring those that were sacrificed and carry that burden with you every second you dare to spend in her presence despite that knowledge.” “Where the hell is this coming from Archer? Why are you making such a big deal about this? You caused a War over a woman, what would you know-” It took a mere instant. Had Helmut been more attentive he might have noticed the trembling in Archer’s muscles or the sudden spike in killing intent, all of it directed solely at him. Paris disappeared from sight, and a mere moment after, Helmut’s vision turned black as he was slammed deep into the nearest wall, causing an indentation several centimeters thick, the mere force of it fracturing his ribs and causing minor tears in his lungs. With his body still rearing from the aftereffects of the sudden impact, Helmut coughed up a combination of saliva and blood as his limbs hung limp and lifeless from his side. Looking upwards, he glimpsed at wrath. With his earlier composure thrown into the wind, Archer’s face was contorted into ugly rage. “My brother died for my selfish whim!”, Paris did not shout, yet his voice seemed to fill the entire underground parking garage regardless, “Every second of every day I lament his death, and every night I spent with Helen was a reminder of the day he chose to give his life for the sake of his reckless brother. Don’t you dare cheapen his life any more than you already have!” “Ahhh”, Helmut came to the realization. That was why Paris had been so adamant about reprimanding him. Helmut had prioritized a woman over a shared objective and endangered their lives in the process. Furthermore, he had thoughtlessly sacrificed the lives of 54 without consideration, and while he likely would have done so without Ayako’s involvement as well, the fact remained that these deaths were now pinned onto her survival. Helmut neither knew the faces nor the names of the families that had resided in the Semina Apartment Building, just as Paris was not aware of every soldier that had fought in the Trojan Army for his sake. It only took a single sacrifice however, for the accumulated lives to crush you under their combined misery. For Archer it had been his brother, for him… Helmut lost his body’s strength as he allowed the wallowing self-hatred to take residence in his heart. Naturally it wasn’t as if he had suddenly started caring for a nameless group of 54, just as Paris cared little for every single Trojan soldier that had lost his life, yet merely the thought of his sister’s death unsettled him more than he could have ever imagined. If the apprehension of her death was this crippling by thought alone… just what was the extent of the weight that Paris carried with him? To see somebody slowly retrace the footsteps of one’s life… Paris’ earlier behavior now become painfully clear, “I’m sorry…” While his words were simple, Archer could finally spot the sincerity in them. Annoyedly clicking his tongue, Paris tore his Master from the wall by his neck and discarded him on the floor, causing him no shortage of pain. “Consider this the price of cheapening my brother’s legacy, and don’t you dare repeating your insult. There should be enough mana in those barrels to heal yourself”, Archer stated drily with the remnants of his earlier outburst still lacing his words. In that moment a deep tremor shook the underground space, reminding Helmut that beyond the boundaries of this space, a war continued to be fought. “What is…?” “Rider seems to have engaged another Servant in battle, the one whose presence continues to elude me. Such an ability seems unbecoming of a Saber, so it is likely the Berserker of this War. In regards to the tremor, it was ripe with the essence of Lancer. Rider has chosen to flee in response to her appearance.” “…” “It seems the bait worked, though it will be all for naught if we allow Rider to escape. I’m heading out to observe the conclusion of this fight, you stay put and heal your injuries.” Archer started walking towards the western end of the hallway as he slowly dissolved into a shower of golden sparks, though he slowed his step to ask a single question. “Do you care for her?” Only silence greeted his inquiry, though the lack of a response was answer enough for Paris. “Then consider Ayako included in my contract to you. I hope you understand the consequences of your choice.” Helmut watched his Servant’s departure with heaving breaths, the underground garage losing its shine as Archer’s presence disappeared completely.
  7. Helmut Boltzmann von Aigentler (Archer Camp) - Semina Apartments, Shinto District / January 20th, 02:46 Archer noted the muddled presence of a nearby Servant, yet the signature was… odd. While it undoubtedly revealed itself to be close by, it seemed nigh impossible to pinpoint its exact location. Like a light source shining through thick cloth or a blurred smear obscuring one’s vision, the Servant that had chosen to enter the battlefield remained elusive and unaccounted for. However. Archer did not have the luxury to worry about the presence of a third party as his eyes picked up movement from within the lingering dust cloud. Out of nowhere an incomprehensible mass of birds burst forth and chased away Rider’s protective veil with the erratic flapping of their wings, their deafening cries soon taking to the skies and filling the desolate streets of Shinto with both their screams and the constant rumbling of their beating wings. They were loud. Perfect lures to attract any nearby Servants to their current location, though it was one Servant in particular Archer wished to attract, one who would recognize his sent. As if on cue, the volatile arrow he had shot previously had circled around the city, leaving traces of his magical energy in its path, and returned to detonate against its intended target. As Archer hadn’t previously been able to lock his sights directly on Rider, he simply aimed at a piece of rebar that had jutted out from amongst the dirt and rubble close to his general location, yet with the constant mass of birds obscuring it from sight, the arrow was caught by one of the numerous flying pests. A short flash heralded the thunderous explosion that followed, as the unstable mass of magical energy forcibly crammed into a single projectile erupted violently against the root of the beasts’ outpour, briefly halting their flow, if only momentarily. Archer didn’t miss the chance, “Master, we are retreating! Head for the elevator!”, Paris commanded over their shared mental link as he unceremoniously kicked Helmut off the roof at the same time as he leapt forward and dove for the ground. “Archer, what are you doing-” Paris disregarded his Master’s complaints and simply focused on the task at hand. An arrow was still placed on his bow after all, and despite his initially shock, Helmut had begun to desperately fight off the bird’s violent descent with the magecraft stored within his many daggers. It wasn’t much, but at least he could slow them. That was enough. As his bow trembled in agony from the force Paris exerted on it, a fatal phrase left his lips as he feel headfirst towards the street. The dust was gone, and amongst the uncountable flapping wings, Archer spotted a single brief window of opportunity. A hole barely the size of a finger. But it was enough. Archer spotted his enemy and chanted, “Intervention of Apollo: Guided Arrow of Fatal Weakness”. A streak of pure light darted across the short distance between himself and his opponent on a perfectly horizontal trajectory, though Archer immediately lost visual as his body picked up speed during his descent. Not that he could allow himself to wait around and witness the result anyway. Deftly rotating his body in midair, Paris confirmed the presence of his Master who had already landed, launching the last of his Azoth Daggers at an eagle that was barely two meters away from him, all while still somehow maintaining his grip on Ayako. “Relax your body Master, and prepare the detonation process.” “Wait, what-!?” Dematerializing his bow, Archer charged forward as he yanked his Master by the collar behind him, breaking the entrance door of the building without care as he rushed into the lobby area and tossed his sword at the elevator door. Breaking apart without resistance, Paris leaped into the tight space, severely damaging the wall he caught himself on to absorb his inhuman velocity, before turning on his feet and rushing into the dark abyss below him. The elevator door at the lowest floor blew apart by the mere pressure of his landing, through which Archer tossed the his two passengers immediately without hesitation. “Master, now.” “Archer… give me a second to-” “Now!” Helmut cursed underneath his breath as he took a second to reorganize his thoughts, yet he quickly scrambled towards a Magic Circle set up not far away from the elevator door. The place they had currently found themselves in was the lowest floor of the Semina Apartment’s Private Parking Garage, though curiously enough it was devoid of cars except for one, a black Audi Q7, as well as a myriad of equipment and suitcases. This was the safe-house that the Archer Camp had prepared for themselves in the case of an eventual ambush. Placing his hand atop the Magic Circle, Helmut channeled his mana for a brief moment and reached out to the large number of Azoth Daggers he had placed at the entrances of the garage and near the structural pillars of the Apartment Building. His magical energy resonated briefly as the media that held his magical energy sang the symphony of destruction, before the Semina Apartment Building was crushed from the inside by a sequential invocation of implosions and collapsed in on itself. About to be buried under tons of steel and cement, Paris laid his palm upon the nearest wall and closed his eyes. Like a dry sponge the structure around him hungrily soaked up his abundant storages of mana and spread them throughout the entire lower parking structure, effectively mimicking the Prince’s most cowardly act. “Siege of Troy…”, Paris dryly whispered as he was assaulted by a brief dizziness, steading himself soon after as his link to the Church’s basement replenished his spent supply. Shaking off his light-headedness, Archer turned towards his Master who himself was in the process of catching his breath. They had managed to avoid a disadvantageous situation for now, but they couldn’t know for how long. He had spread his presence over the city and marked his presence with the shining beacon of his Noble Phantasms, but that didn’t mean that other Servants would take the bait and gather at their location. While they had momentarily found safety, they needed a plan. Furthermore there was the issue of the girl… “Master…”, Archer called for Helmut’s attention, “…we need to talk.”
  8. Helmut Boltzmann von Aigentler (Archer Camp) - Semina Apartments, Shinto District / January 20th, 02:44 The gale Helmut summoned clumsily propelled the unconscious body of Ayako into his arms, though it seemed Archer’s efforts weren’t as successful. The attack he had launched sunk into a massive grizzly that had materialized out of thin air to serve as Rider’s shield, and while the arrow’s entire length dug deeply into the animal’s flesh, it seemed that it couldn’t fully penetrate the bear’s flesh; a testament of its toughness. However. Helmut had achieved his objectives. His Azoth Daggers had littered the ground on the opposing side and the hostage was secured. He had been blessed that the opposing Master, whose identity remained obscured in the dark, had chosen not to act when Helmut exposed himself to attack by choosing to save Ayako. Helmut would be loathe to capitalize on this moment on inaction. “Archer!”, he commanded over his mental link as his Magic Crest flared to life and flooded his circuits with mana, the chant for his spell silently passing over his lips. Knowing what his Master was about to do, Paris let go of his bow’s string with his right hand and drew his blade, charging at the wall behind him beside his Master who had elected to do the same. While their enemy had responded by sending more animals and a thrown spear after them, neither posed an immediate threat and would be taken care of regardless of his interference. Master and Servant leapt towards the wall Helmut’s thaumaturgy activated. Archer’s sword flashed in the darkness. A deafening explosion rang out as the wall was blasted into smithereens at the same time as the Azoth Daggers littering Ayako’s apartment imploded in a massive chain reaction, crushing the floor, walls, and support beams alike and bringing the floors above crashing down onto Rider and his Master, the weight of the collapsed floors breaking through the two apartments below until the avalanche of dust and debris finally came to a stop. With a light-footed tap Archer landed deftly on the opposing roof, while Helmut’s landing caused a large cratered impact as he dispersed the weighty force of two people onto the ground he landed upon; such was the one-directional brutality of his manipulation of the 3rd Law of Motion. “Are they alive?”, Helmut wasted no time in confirming the status of his enemies. Archer sheathed his blade and took up his bow again, the metal tip of his drawn arrow guiding his sight, “The dust proves too thick for me to confirm visual. That being said, the mana signature of the enemy Servant has yet to dissipate, though that could merely be him holding on to life after his Master’s demise”, Paris’ bow groaned in pain as he drew it to its limit and charged the loaded projectile with pure magical energy to the point of bursting before releasing it before it could explode in his face. However, just as he did when fighting Caster, Paris sharply pulled up his bow with a jolt to cause his aim to miss by a mile, yet the arrow would return to meet its target soon enough. Archer prepared another arrow and scanned for movement. “That Servant… the Archer, Lancer, Caster, and Assassin Classes have already been accounted for, and neither did that Servant strike me as a Berserker.” “Which leaves Saber and Rider.” “What do you think Archer?” “Considering he had yet to pull his blade, even when faced with an unexpected attack, it is highly unlikely that it is a Servant that places his trust in a sword, which marks him as the Rider of this War.” “Rider huh… be on your guard, we won't know what mount he will summon forth if he finds himself in an unfavorable situation.” “I can protect myself Master, my concern lies with you, or rather, the burden you have taken upon yourself.” “…we will discuss this once once the battle is over. What about the Master?” “His appearance matched the description of Peter El-Melloi, which would explain his lack of a response on the battlefield.” “El-Melloi? This is is a chance too favorable to pass up…”, Helmut briefly glanced at Ayako as he considered his next step, “…so long as you can keep Rider at bay, I can hold my ground against El-Melloi. Bringing Ayako to the garage can wait.” Archer remained silent, his expression focused yet cold. “You don’t approve, Archer?” “Nothing of the sort, I simply would have preferred more optimal conditions.” “El-Melloi is not a fighter, against him I can protect myself as well her. We still need her.” “I will do as you wish, but ready yourself for battle. I doubt the enemy will remain silent any longer.”
  9. Helmut Boltzmann von Aigentler (Archer Camp) - Semina Apartments, Shinto District / January 20th, 02:43 “Master!” Helmut awoke from his Servant’s strained whisper. His forceful grip on his shoulder pressed him for urgency while the finger at his lips reminded him to to be quiet. “A Servant and Master have just scaled the wall of the building, we are under attack!”, Paris conveyed over their mental link once his Master’s mind was conscious. “What!? Now!?”, Helmut flushed his body with magical energy to instantly dispel the sluggishness of sleep and applied basic reinforcement before he jumped out of bed towards one of his suitcases containing his Azoth Daggers, his bare body exposed as he wore only a pair of sweatpants to bed, “Can you make out who it is? Why haven’t they attacked yet?” “They seem to have entered the neighboring room for some reason. They gave up the opportunity of a surprise attack, might they be friendly?” “No, treat them as hostile. They have invaded our territory without warning at night, they must be aware of the consequences of their actions. Archer, who is it?” “Neither Caster nor Lancer, this signature is new to me.” “Call for Hera then, we need to hit them hard.” “I cannot string my bow fast enough to prepare for a second attack, not when drawing it back to the maximum of my ability.” “I will take care of the wall, shoot the moment you can confirm a visual.” Helmut opened the clasps on the suitcase and tossed it into the air, casting minor air thaumaturgy to make its contents float beside him. Archer materialized his armor and bow, pulling back the arrow he nocked on his string to its utmost limit. Master and Servant locked eyes for a brief second. They nodded in unison. “Ursprung”, Helmut chanted after throwing three of the Azoth daggers in his vicinity at the wall connecting them to the opposite room, each spread out evenly from each other, while using his free hand to grab a handful of more daggers and raising them above his head. “Arbiter of the Gods. I declare thee, Queen of Heaven, as the pinnacle of beauty!” As Archer’s words left his lips the activation of his Noble Phantasm surged to life; Aphrodite’s blessings was faultlessly replaced by the gift of Hera. The effects were apparent immediately. This room, this building, the very land they stood upon he now claimed for himself. The power of worship filled his body with each breath as his very existence was restructured to adapt the changes caused by his Noble Phantasm. The attack that should have normally been a Rank C attack now carried the weight of a blow at Rank A. “Master, now!” Helmut activated the thaumaturgy contained in his daggers and released it into the world, causing an immediate reaction as the air around the three Azoth Daggers was suddenly pushed outwards by an abrupt force, slightly denting the wall and creating a near-perfect vacuum around the point of origin. With a burst of mana, the thaumaturgy collapsed in on itself and caused an erratic chain implosion as the opposing differences in pressure violently crushed anything within the magical vacuum and instantly tore down the wall. Then, as if on cue, Paris unleashed his attack the moment he confirmed the presence of the enemy Servant, his eyes scanning the rest of the apartment the second his arrow took flight. “Master, the enemy Master is near the kitchen, I shall keep the Servant at bay.” Helmut moved without bothering with a reply and flung the projectiles he had prepared across the broken wall without taking proper aim in an attempt to disperse them evenly across the room. Their combined assault was faultless and swift. Everything want according to plan until- “Ayako!” The pair spotted a woman at the feet of the enemy Servant. “Focus on the enemy Master. The conflict is over as soon as you can kill him.” “No Archer, they can use her as a civilian hostage, our actions will be limited if they use her as a shield.” “Master, my aim won’t miss even if-” “Cover me.” “Master!” Helmut channeled his mana once more and invoked a basic thaumaturgical spell aimed at Ayako meant to invoke a powerful gale to propel her body towards their side of the room. However it was a rushed attempt, one made after they had already lost their element of surprise, giving the enemy plenty of opportunity to interfere. All he could do now was to await his opponent’s response.
  10. Helmut Boltzmann von Aigentler (Archer Camp) - Homurahara Academy, Miyama Town / January 19th, Early Afternoon An arrow traced a beautiful arc in the air as it swiftly crossed the full length of the shooting-range, deeply embedding itself into the very center of the circular target set up at it’s very end. Nearly two weeks had passed since Helmut and Archer had set up their new home in the Semina Apartment Building after their previous hideout had been discovered and destroyed by the enemy Caster. Following the two consecutive public incidents, both of which Archer was involved in, Helmut received an order from the Association to stand down until the damage could be fully repaired, seeing as they could not afford Archer instigating yet another scandal that could potentially overwhelm the limited capacity of the clean-up crew sent by the Association. As such, Helmut and Archer remained holed up in their apartment for two full weeks. Two weeks spent on expanding on their arsenal. However, this change in environment also brought with it an unexpected change, an uncertainty taking the shape of their neighbor Mitsuzuri Ayako. Having somehow managed to penetrate Helmut’s establish Bounded Fields by means Helmut had yet to figure out, Ayako proved to be exceptionally social, and with no other choice but to remain at home anyway, made fast friends with the Master and Servant of the Archer Camp. Earlier that day, a Sunday, Ayako invited her neighbors to accompany her to her weekly exercise for which she would cross the river over to Miyama Town. Restless from their inactivity, Helmut and Paris agreed to come along with the intention of getting a first look at the territory that remained yet unexplored by them, considering themselves protected by the company of a civilian. Unexpectedly, Ayako’s destination turned out to be the local high-school, or more specifically, the the shooting-range utilized by its Archery Club. Ayako had promptly changed into fitting attire and calmly performed the precise bodily movements iconic to Kyūdō, each step placing her into a serene meditative state. When she finally released the arrow, Helmut suddenly realized that he had held his breath for the entire duration of her performance. “Just like a magus…”, Helmut contemplated as he admired the beauty of her technique. Her cool yet focused expression was very unlike the carefree smile she would usually wear in his presence, but it was nigh indistinguishable from the trance he himself would go into when performing high thaumaturgical rituals. What he witnessed was a human who had achieved what magi were trained to master from early childhood, yet with martial technique alone. Not because she was forced to by her parents, but out of unadulterated passion for the art. For a magus like himself, it was hard not to be captivated by her performance. Next to him, another person likewise sounded his approval with a soft whistle, not loud enough to disturb the bow-woman, but enough to make his thoughts known. “That woman. I had a hunch after spending seeing the way she carried herself, but she’s got talent. More importantly, she got the will to capitalize on it and allow for it’s growth. What a waste, if only she had a proper mentor…”, Paris whispered solemnly for his Master’s ears. “Is that jealousy I hear? How unbecoming of you Archer.” “Not jealousy. Rather I lament the fact that she wasn’t born in my era when Troy lacked for mighty heroes. You might joke, but were she just 10 years younger, would you even so much as hesitate to take her as your disciple?” “…”, Helmut merely kept his eyes looking forward, his silence answer enough for his Servant. “Either way, an interesting specimen she might be Master, but we are in enough danger as is. We use her for cover, nothing more.” “I’m a magus Archer.” “Then don’t let it get to your head. That’s all I have to say.” Before Helmut had the chance to reply, Archer had already jumped to his feet to receive Ayako who had just finished with her exercise, cordially voicing his admiration and interest for the art of Kyūdō. Pointing Paris towards the rack of bows and arrows, Ayako casually seated herself next to Helmut and relaxed herself against the wooden wall serving as their backrest. Her focused expression had now molten away to reveal her usual smile. “Ahhh that was pretty embarrassing, having you guys watch me after being alone for so long~”, Ayako joked, though it was clear that she wasn’t bothered by their presence in the least. “Embarrassed? I was under the impression that we ceased to exist the moment you picked up your bow.” Ayako’s eyes briefly flashed, “Right, it’s easy to forget myself when I’m going through the motions, I’m surprised you noticed. Do you…?” “No, my family was never one for the arts, but I guess it would be correct to say that I meditate from time to time?” “Hm, by the way, while we’re on that topic…”, Ayako lazily stretched her arms above her head as she kept her eyes on Paris, making sure that he didn’t mishandle any of the equipment he was technically borrowing without permission, “…you said you went to school in Europe, right?” “Yes. Why?” “Well… do you happen to know a school called Clocktower?” Helmut’s body tensed at the mention of the name, the back of his neck assaulted by a slight shudder as his mind reacted to the suspicious question posed by the bow-women beside him. “Is she a mage? Or the heir of a dying household like the Matou?”, Helmut carefully considered before formulating a safe response. “…I went there to complete my studies. How do you know of it?” “You went there!?”, Ayako’s body perked up at his reply, her eyes now widened and filled with desperate hope, a show of emotion very uncharacteristic of her usually composed demeanor, “Then have you heard of somebody called Tohsaka? Tohsaka Rin?” “!?” Helmut had to suppress the urge to reach for the Azoth Dagger in his inner pocket as Ayako carelessly dropped the name of the missing heir of the Tohsaka; even Archer, who had been merrily mimicking Ayako’s previous movements as he strung a borrowed bow, halted his actions and carefully listened to what came next. “She knows about the Tohsaka, so she must be a mage, or rather a descendant of a dried up bloodline. A Master then? If so, then she could have attacked me at any time in these past two weeks, so does not seem hostile. Not yet at least. More importantly, I don’t sense a shred of magical energy from her…” His eyes narrowed as he warily continued the conversation. “What is the heir of the Tohsaka to you? Were your families allies?” “Allies? What do you mean, Tohsaka was my friend back in high-school.” “Wait… friends?” “Yeah, I’d even go as far as to say that we hit it off pretty well, but 10 years ago she just up and left. Not just her, Emiya and the Matous just disappeared from one day to the next as well. Sure they were close, but without saying a word… and in the middle of the year too, it just didn’t make any sense you know? But Tohsaka always said that she wanted to go to London after she graduated, a pretty costly private university called Clocktower, so I had to try and ask… I’ve tried everything else already…” Helmut opened his mouth but no words came out. He didn’t know what to say. She just outed herself to be a civilian after all, though by chance she seemed to have befriended one of the foremost players in the previous Holy Grail War that was held in this country. The worry she now showed for her friend’s disappearance was only too relatable. Almost painfully so. But what could he tell her? As a civilian he couldn’t tell her the truth, not that the Association had any idea what happened 10 years ago anyway, so he simply had to lie to her… so why did he hesitate? “She… our parents used to work together…”, Helmut finally forced out, eliciting another hopeful gasp from Ayako, “…but I don’t think she ever enrolled at Clocktower, I’m sorry. I know as much as you do in that regard.” Ayako momentarily froze, then leaned back while brushing the hair that had fallen into her face behind her ear, “Oh, no that makes sense. I guess I just got my hopes up after remembering that you’re from Europe and all.” A melancholic smile graced her lips, her shoulders now slightly slumped and tired. Unnoticed by the two of them, Paris had continued his mimicry of Ayako’s display of Japanese Archery. Neither of the two said a word and simple let the sound of whizzing arrows fill the practice hall. “You know, you kind of feel the same.” “...what do you mean?”, Helmut still felt a little awkward from their earlier conversation and could only respond accordingly, that being evasively. “Don’t get me wrong, I’m not flattering you or anything, it’s just that you and Tohsaka are… similar, which is probably why I find it so easy to talk to you about all this. Both of you are pretty distant but don’t shun others, and both of you seem like you carry yourself with a higher purpose but still bother with listening to the problems of others. Some may call it high-and-mighty but I’ve always admired that about Tohsaka.” Ayako chuckled softly, but her eyes still carried a tinge of sadness. “And it certainly helps that the two of your are loaded. Just look at this…”, Ayako tucked her hair behind her ear to show off an obsidian crystal stud, a simple accessory previously concealed by her trimmed haircut, “…she gave these to my on the birthday after we started getting along, not everybody does that you know?” While Ayako dismissed it as a joke and continued talking, Helmut was hit by a sudden realization. The earrings. Crystals. The fact that the Tohsaka were adept at Jewelmancy. Ayako’s apparent immunity to his Bounded Field now made perfect sense, the earrings gifted to her by Tohsaka acted as a magical amulet powerful enough to nullify the effects of Bounded Fields targeted at the mind, the subconscious, and with a mage as adept as a Tohsaka crafting the amulet it would go without saying that a simply ritual like Helmut’s would be instantly overpowered. But that raised another question. Why? Why would Tohsaka Rin give a civilian like Ayako such a powerful amulet? It was then that Archer returned from his attempt at pretended Archery. “You’re not too shabby with the bow Paris. Your form was terrible, but you’re a deadly shot”, Ayako explained with a faultless smile, the shift in atmosphere caused by Archer’s appearance perfect for lifting the mood for everybody involved. “There is more to Japanese Bowmanship that I had initially thought. It seems my Western style is almost brutish in comparison to your artistic performance.” “Oh please, I’m still mad that you managed to outperform me just when I thought that I finally managed to surpass a rival underclassmen of mine. But if you want to I can show you the basic steps. It normally takes years, but you’re clearly adept with the bow already, now it’s just a matter of stringing it without brute force.” “Of course, I’ll look forward to learning from you.” “…”, Helmut watched their interaction with a concealed frown, the scene of Archer pretending to be a humbled student too bizarre for his liking. Obviously Paris meant what he said in jest, but it was odd regardless. Either way, Helmut needed to discuss his findings with Archer as soon as possible. “Are we even allowed to do that?”, he chimed in, “To use school facilities on Sundays?” “As long as we clean up it’s fine. On top of being an alumni I’m also a former president of the Archery Club, plus I’m good with the teachers”, Ayako dismissed his worries just like that, “But that being said, I’m only done with my warm-up so I should probably get back to it. I don’t mind you staying, but…” “It’s fine, it was time we were on our way anyways, I’d feel terrible if we continued to interrupt.” “Don’t bother, it’s more fun with more people, it brings back memories of the old days.” Helmut nodded and Paris said his farewells beside him as he left for the door. Helmut took a second longer to change into his shoes. “And Helmut…”, he stopped at the door as he heard Ayako’s voice coming from the dojo, “…thanks for listening. It’s been a while since I talked to someone about this.” “…anytime”, he promised and closed the door. ------------------------------ Helmut Boltzmann von Aigentler (Archer Camp) - Semina Apartments, Shinto District / January 19th, Half an Hour Later “Are you sure you are alright with opening yourself up to her like that? Your conversation was not hard to overhear, Master”, Archer chided Helmut on their way back home, having taken time to scope out Miyama Town on their way back to no avail. “I’m not opening myself up Archer, I gathered information, valuable one at that. If that means that I must befriend her then so be it. What about you, since when has a Prince subjected himself to the role of a student that easily?” Archer merely shrugged at this Master’s reply, “Spare me your retort. That woman has fire in her heart whereas you are merely an empty husk of a magus. I find that playing the role of a mortal human is rather amusing, but you are too young to separate your emotions from your actions just yet.” “I’m a magus, Archer. I know where my priorities lie.” “If you say so. Then what of that information you gathered? Of what significance are those earrings?” “They are defensive amulets crafted by the last surviving Tohsaka heir. It’s more than a dwindling product, it’s an access key to their manor. While the Association might have raided the mansion for thaumaturgical knowledge, they kept the Bounded Field intact to prevent non-magi from accidentally stumbling into one of this city’s precious leylines. Do you understand now? We don’t know for how long we can rely on the Church, and the leyline at the Fuyuki Park is too risky to access in our current condition. That leaves Ryuudou Temple and the Tohsaka Mansion, but the Temple is too open and exposed and doesn’t suit itself to your ability, whereas the Tohsaka Mansion is the perfect hideout. With the help of that amulet we’ll be able to secure a better defensible leyline.” “I see, then how do you propose we use these amulets? You don’t plan on stealing them from her, no, I’ve watched you long enough to know what you intend to do with her.” “I don’t believe I am in the wrong.” “Your family would disagree.” “They would disagree with a lot of things, especially if they were to find out about my wish for the Grail. No, this is the right choice. You yourself have appraised her.” “As a skilled martial artist. Not a warrior. Not a killer. While her skill with the bow and the spear might be exemplary for human standards, it was perfected for the purpose of meditation and aesthetics, not killing. Don’t argue with reason when what you seek are excuses, Master.” “…then would you disagree with my choice?” “I am impartial to a matter as small and insignificant as this one, though I would be loathe to lose a competent sparring partner for no other reason but my own Master’s sentimentality.” “It might be necessary in the future, Archer. We are fighting a losing battle, and must make use of whatever means we can get our hands on.” “Then that is what we must do. This is your choice, I will leave it up to you to make it when the time comes. That being said…”, Archer and Helmut had just arrived at the lobby of their apartments when they were met with two large aged barrels deposited next to the wall designated for the residents’ mailboxes, “…what are those?” “Wine.” “Excuse me?” “It’s wine. Wine that has been aged by my family for multiple generations, each time filled with more and more of my ancestor’s magical energy. We could hardly justify an art as expensive as Jewelmancy, so my family used the next best vessel. Whether wine was truly the best option, or whether by ancestors simply wanted to find more use for their cultivated vineyards, this is my family’s treasure, or at least as close to one as we can get. It’s what I would have originally used to attempt to break through to this land’s leyline.” “You would have performed the ritual to leech this city of it’s energy… with wine?” “Stop your mockery and help me out. The barrels are old so you need to be careful in handling them.” “As you wish… Master.”
  11. Helmut Boltzmann von Aigentler (Archer Camp) - Semina Apartments, Fuyuki City Day had progressed into late night as the first stars slowly became visible even in the crowded city-center of Shinto. While it was generally known for it’s high-rise skyscrapers and large shopping malls, Shinto was also home to a number of apartment buildings for those that preferred the city-life over Miyama’s quiet suburban environment. Amongst them all, one L-shaped apartment building stood out in particular. It’s rooms were rather luxurious considering that each floor housed only two apartments, each taking up the entire wing and boasting four bedrooms, two bathrooms, one kitchen open to the dining area, and a large communal living room connecting them all. In other words, the Semina Apartment Building easily qualified as a high-end living destination due to the sheer convenience of its location and the spacious construction of its rooms, yet curiously enough, one apartment always remained empty throughout the entire year. It wasn’t that the apartment was out of order or that the owners themselves refused to rent it out. In fact, its pricing has been considerably lowered over time and has constantly been kept in optimal condition to attract any potential customers, yet even then, the second room of the eleventh floor remained unoccupied until this day. The reason was as simple as it was superstitious… “…so you are telling me that people refuse to live in this apartment because of something as ridiculous as a ghost story?”, Archer asked Helmut with a skeptical expression as he set down the last of their belongings in his Master’s study which had previously been one of this apartment’s four bedrooms. Following their run-in with Caster, Archer and Helmut had recovered as much as they could from the rubble and proceeded with their move as fast as they could, fortunate to have avoided another Servant confrontation along the way. While it initially wasn’t an easy task to find the perfect location to serve as their hideout, Helmut happened to run across an ad for Room 2 on the 11th Floor of the Semina Apartment Building for a curiously cheap price. While money wasn’t the issue, the rooms were large and spacious, much to the satisfaction of Archer, but more importantly it possessed its own private parking garage, a crucial benefit considering Paris’ final Personal Skill granted to him by the Goddess Hera. That being said, it came with one more added benefit. “Whether a ghost story or a rumor, what’s important is the fact that the story is relatively well known by the inhabitants of Fuyuki. Even though it’s a given that not every grown adult is going to believe it or be scared by it, the fact is that this apartment has been subconsciously ‘avoided’ by the people, and considering that the suicide murder actually happened, the conceptual aura tied to this location is only strengthened. I’m not a specialist in Bounded Fields, so it is a blessing to be given a prime location that has already established its own Bounded Field by natural means. True, the effects of it may be minuscule, but by strengthening it with a Field of my own I can enhance the effect many times over and thereby effectively deter people from wanting to enter this place. This isn’t a direct effect or a blocking of their actions mind you, it simply places a subconscious fear, or rather, a desire ‘not to want to approach’ this room into their minds and thus keeps us protected. Of course magical amulets are going to annul this effect so it’s not like this is a defense meant for Masters or Servants, but it should keep us under the radar for the time being.” “Alright, alright…”, Archer motioned for his Master to stop talking as he dropped himself onto the living room couch, relishing in the luxury he had been craving ever since arriving in Fuyuki City, “…enough of your explanations, let us go over our battle-plans. This is the first time in a while that we are granted the opportunity to talk in peace, it would be unwise to waste it.” “You are right”, Helmut yawned as he headed towards the kitchen to prepare and pour himself a fresh cup of coffee. Fortunately the apartment had come pre-furnished, so Helmut simply had to head to the supermarket across the street to pick up the most basic amenities. Heading back into the living room and tossing his Servant a bottle of soda, Helmut sat down opposite him and prepared for their discussion, “Now then, where to begin?” “Let’s start with the most recent event. Caster’s attack. Do you believe it to be deliberate?”, Archer inquired with the serious demeanor of a Prince. “An attack on our hide-out as soon as we left it unattended is curious indeed, though without the two clues left behind by our assailant we couldn’t have been absolutely certain.” “Exactly, were it not for the fact that our Priest had curiously decided to go for a walk mere seconds after Caster’s appearance and his attempt to lie down an array of jewels apparently meant to explode, this clearly eliminates the choice of it being simply a recon mission nor a friendly greeting. This was a deliberate attack. Somebody knew we were there, and what’s more, they knew when we were gone.” “But how…” Helmut leaned back on his cushioned backrest and ran his hands through his hair as he stared at nothing in particular. “…I sensed no familiars and our Priest couldn’t have given out our location this quickly without us noticing, much less giving our enemies an up-to-date status update of our movements. Could we have been spotted leaving the Church then? Assassin remains unaccounted for, and we know Caster’s Master is working together with Saggitarius, whose Servant is that woman I saw on the recording. I trust in your perception Archer, if any Servant was watching us you would have noticed. So if she was watching us regardless of that, that would mean that she is likely to be the Assassin Servant, thus proving herself to be the one to provide Caster with information.” “Do you still have the video?” “Oh. Yes, just a second”, Helmut responded as he fingered a small flash drive from his pocket and plugged it into the built-in TV occupying the entirety of the opposing wall. Opening the copied file containing the bar fight and enlarging it, he allowed his Servant to watch the recording from start to finish in silence. “That woman…”, Paris said once the video had stopped playing, “…is she really an Assassin?” “What do you mean Archer?” “I met many warriors in my life. The greatest heroes of my era slaughtered each other outside my city’s walls, all for the woman whom I have taken as my plaything.” Helmut shot his Servant a sharp look, but Archer merely shook his head without changing his expression. “Obviously I have grown since then, and like any child, have come to regret my spoilt behavior… but my point is that I have seen the greatest of warriors as well as the most beautiful of women with mine very own eyes. That Assassin personifies both. She does not strike me as a mere woman. She never once lost control of the situation, as chaotic as it turned out to be, while still casually engaging Caster in a conversation. Charm Skill or not, she is capable. And dangerous.” “You disagree then? You don’t believe her to be the Assassin Servant?” “…no. All evidence points towards it so I am inclined to believe it, I am merely cautious of a warrior woman like herself being summoned into such a threatening Class. There is not much we can do to prepare for her Presence Concealment, and using a Command Seal might be our only way of surviving a surprise attack.” “An alliance between Caster and Assassin then, both Classes that excel at trickery and schemes. This doesn’t bode well for us. We can’t even be sure that we weren’t followed…” “Even if we were, chances are high they might not attack us unless we leave this place. Caster went out of his way to spare the life of an innocent after all, despite it being a needless waste of his time that he could have otherwise spent preparing his trap. These Masters are very unlike Othinus, they care for the lives of those uninvolved in this War. As such…” “…we can use the residents of this apartment building as our hostages. I am surprised, I wouldn’t have expected such an underhanded strategy from the great Prince of Troy.” “…”, Archer merely regarded his Master with a cold glare as he unscrewed his bottle and took a hearty sip; it seemed he himself was slightly irked by the idea of having to stoop to such a low level simply to guarantee his own safety. “Either way…”, Helmut continued to move the topic along, “…with that matter solved, next we have the issue of this recording. I am going to be honest with you Archer, if forced into a direct confrontation with either of these two Masters, I would lose. The Enforcer of the McRemitz outclasses me both in physical combat and magical warfare thanks to his family’s runic lineage and his vast experience on the battlefield. Saggitarius on the other hand boasts military experience and an unnatural combat sense, as much has been proven from his impressive feat of taking down multiple opponents at once without blinking an eye. His battle instinct is palpable, and while I haven’t managed to find out whether or not he is capable of any usable magic, the fact remains that the Grail chose him to be worthy to fight as a Master in this War, so we cannot exclude that possibility. Meanwhile, I am adept at Air-based Thaumaturgy, but none of it is particularly suited for fast-paced combat. I can act as a supporting mage, but the only tool I have to help me out in the heat of battle is my ability to alter vectors to a degree, but even then I have a clear limit that can be easily overcome by my opponent's own magic. Lastly, look at their movements.” Helmut picked up the remote and rewinded the video to the beginning of the fight. “While they don’t seem to practice any specific from of martial arts, it wouldn’t make much of a difference if they did. They have found a way of battle that suits them perfectly, whereas I simply move my body without purpose. I am a mage, a researcher. I’m not a fighter like they are.” “So you fear meeting them in battle? It is an ill-omen that the first two Masters we lay our eyes upon already outclass you in combat ability.” “…yes. I might be able to hold them off at range, but I doubt I will survive an encounter… sorry.” “Incompetence is not a sin Master, though I admit that it does not bode very well for us, especially now that we have measured ourselves against two Servants, one whose might equaled that of mine very own brother, and the other who escaped the grasp of my Noble Phantasm in an instant. A Command Seal might have been wasted in the process, true, but the fact remains that we were unsuccessful on both accounts.” “Which places us at the bottom of the food-chain… damn it.” Both Helmut and Paris fell silent at the painful utterance of the truth. However. It was then. In the silence that followed, the presence of a third person in the room suddenly became apparent. Neither of the two had payed much attention to their surroundings due to being completely invested in their discussion, their carelessness worsened by the trust they had placed in the barrier they had set in place to deter any mages or non-mages who weren’t protected by a magical amulet. The door now creaked deafeningly loud in Helmut’s adrenaline rich mind as him and his Servant immediately jumped to their feet to face the sudden intruder. Archer’s hand grasped behind his back to reach for his materializing sword when- “Oh my bad, I didn’t mean to startle you. I just came back and heard that I finally got a neighbor after 8 years of living on this floor alone, so I wanted to check out the competition. The door was open so I thought you were still in the middle of moving in, seeing how quick everything went from you buying it to coming over to live here. Thought I could give you guys a warm welcome, but I probably should have figured that bursting into someone else’s room in the middle of the night wasn’t the best idea, sorry”, the woman explained apologetically as she raised a hand before her face to further emote her honest apology. She was clearly rambling, pressured by the suffocating pressure of the two men that simply continued to stare at her with a dumbstruck expression. But what else could they possibly do? The “intruder” was a mere woman that appeared to be in her mid-twenties. He brown hair was cut short at her neck and nicely complemented her amber eyes, though they currently seemed to be slightly clouded over. Her cheeks were slightly reddened, but considering that it wasn’t cold enough yet, it was likely that she had been drinking, and while far from drunk, was enjoying a pleasant buzz. She dressed rather plainly in fitting jeans and a casual blouse of a light blueish color, yet it seemed complete as an outfit and fashionable in its own way despite its simplicity. All in all, she was a normal human. “H-how…” “…how did you bypass our barrier? Who sent you? Are you a Master? What is your purpose for coming here? Do you know who I am? Who told you we were here?” Helmut’s mind was flooded with a plethora of questions, but none of which he could possibly ask if this woman was truly a mere civilian. However, he had broken the silence, and the woman’s oddly captivating eyes were now focused on him. “…who are you?”, he eventually managed to mutter. “Oh me? I live right next door. My name is Mitsuzuri Ayako, nice to meet you.”
  12. Helmut Boltzmann von Aigentler (Archer Camp) - Forest behind the Church, Fuyuki City Helmut dashed across the undergrowth at breakneck speed, each step he took propelling him past trees and shrubbery at a velocity that would otherwise paint him a blur, yet his skin and clothes remained unblemished from the snapping twigs and branches that obscured his path. The reason for that was the cocoon of air that currently enveloped his body. The continuous circulation of the sharp wind pushed aside leaves and sticks and redirected most of the air resistance Helmut would have normally been exposed to by accelerating his rapid pace. A human body wasn’t aerodynamic, so by casting Air-based Thaumaturgy to circumvent the forces that would otherwise act against him, Helmut could solely focus his attention on finding the safest yet quickest path through the forest. He tensed his muscles and leaped off a rock jutting out proudly from the mossy earth, yet unfortunately this simply propelled him straight above a wide forest stream whose current was too fast and it’s shallow rocks too slippery to secure a safe foothold. Scanning the air for a brief moment, Helmut adjusted his posture and aimed for a floating leaf carried by a gentle breeze. His right foot reached out for it. His magic circuits flared to life. In an instant the motion vector directed downwards into the leaf, or in other words the force his inertia exerted onto the unsteadily floating foothold, was reversed and directed back upwards towards Helmut’s own body which had already tensed up to prepare for the next jump. The force was released and his body was catapulted safely across, the leaf itself merely swerved slightly in the wind as it was spared the weight of Helmut’s descent. It didn’t take long for him to reach the Church. Archer had informed him that the enemy Servant had escaped immediately after being hit by his Noble Phantasm, which were at least some good news amongst their sea of failure, so they had agreed to meet up in the shambles of their destroyed hideout to formulate their next steps. “Quite the sight, isn’t it?”, Archer’s voice heralded his appearance as his body took shape amongst a glimmer of golden wisps, “Our first home reduced to a pile of dust and ash.” “Archer, what about your mana supply?” “It remains uninterrupted, it seems the explosion did not penetrate too far into the earth. From the looks of it was an unfocused blast, not one aimed at a specific objective, but one with the simple goal to catch us unawares if we hadn’t known of it’s existence.” Helmut breathed a heavy sigh of relief, “So he didn’t find out about our ritual in the basement. I had feared what a Caster Servant could have done if he created his territory right on top of a nigh inexhaustible syphon of energy.” “So it was Caster who aimed to eliminate us then. In hindsight it makes sense. Even before his use of Jewelmancy, we should have eliminated the possibility of him being Assassin the moment you managed to discern his presence by means of your Bounded Field. Had this Servant been an Assassin, we would have never even known he was there.” “Exactly…”, Helmut muttered in agreement as he crouched down to examine the rubble at his feet, spotting faint shards of crystals amongst the rock and cement, “…Jewelmancy, huh? This would make sense considering what he said…” “Master?” “Right, sorry I was caught up in my own thoughts. The familiar that I sent to the Church ahead of me managed to hear Caster mutter a single phrase, something that we might use to discern his true identity. I sent the familiar in order to communicate with him in the first place, but it seemed his Master is of the cautious sort, going so far as to force his return with a Command Seal. In any case, the words my familiar picked up were ‘O’ Heavenly Stars, Macro Cosmos’, does any of that ring a bell?” “…not to my knowledge, no. At the very least this wasn’t his Noble Phantasm, yet it seemed to be a powerful shield nonetheless. While my arrows were at their weakest, they were repelled like they were nothing more than air, so it is possible that only attacks of Rank A may penetrate his defenses.” “So it was a chant to cast a defensive shield? My, what a troublesome opponent. In that case all that we are left with are his general time-frame and profession.” Archer perked up his ears and regarded his Master with an interested gaze, “How so? Did those words mean anything to you?” “Not to me personally, no, but the idea of macro- and microcosms is relatively recent… in comparison to you Heroic Spirits at the very least. I am not too sure about the specifics since it didn’t particularly fall into any of the fields of science I studied, but I believe it was generally associated more with the practices of Astrology, Alchemy, and Symbolic Geometry. Normally that alone wouldn’t have been much help, but thanks to you confirming his proficiency at Jewelmancy we can be rather certain that we are dealing with an Alchemist, in which case figuring out his identity should only be a matter of time.” Archer whistled in approval, “It seems your family’s focus on the sciences despite being mages proved useful after all. Now if only I could say the same for your combat ability.” Helmut allowed himself a smile, though he faced away from Archer so that his Servant might not know of his joy at being praised by a Heroic Spirit, “Either way, we don’t have time to waste on idle conversation. The link between you and the leyline remains intact, but we don’t know for how long. Regardless of that however, it’s not like we can continue to use this place as our hide-out, so we’ll have to salvage what we can leave… though I fear only my equipment in the basement has survived the blast.” “Mere cloth can be bought with gold, your weaponry on the other hand takes time to re-create and craft anew, Master. I imagine this to be a fortunate compromise.” “Yes you are right... In any case, try to find a way into the basement so that we can recover our equipment. Be sure to remove the Azoth Dagger closest to the exit when you leave, we don’t want anybody else stumbling into our secret. Destroy the entrance once you’re done. Don’t leave a trace in this wreckage.” “What about you Master?” “I’ll have to call my family and ask them to deliver my heritage to our new location, but before that I will have to find a place for us to live first.” “…I’ve lived in the wild before Master, and while I didn’t particularly dislike it, it’s not a way of life I’d rather return to.” Helmut pinched the bridge of his nose as he pulled out his phone and dialed the number of his father, “I know, me neither Archer. We’ll… have to figure something out.” As if on cue, both Master and Servant exhaled a tired sigh. Hopefully their next location would prove just a little less troublesome.
  13. Helmut Boltzmann von Aigentler (Archer Camp) - Shinto, Fuyuki City “!?” Helmut had only just broken his mental link with Archer when his senses were suddenly assaulted by the sharp pain of his Bounded Field’s alarm system. Like a knife wedging itself into the back of his head, the magnitude of the response was unlike anything he had ever felt. A Servant. “Archer, our base is under attack!” “What? Now? Are you certain?” “Yes, the signature is unmistakable! It’s definitely a Servant, but he seems to be alone”, Helmut shouted soundlessly and started sprinting towards the nearest alley. How did he find out? For how long had their hideout been compromised? Why would he act exactly when him and Archer had left the premises? Was it coincidence or was it all on purpose? Cursing the string of unfortunate events that had followed them ever since they had arrived, Helmut hurriedly summoned a basic familiar to his side, a pitch black eagle holding a sickle and hammer in it’s chained talons, and tossed it into the air whilst it had yet to properly stretch it’s wings. Catching itself mid-flight, the mindless eagle moved to fulfill it’s given task and dived towards the church above cloud-level. Closing one eye while running out of the alley, Helmut sprinted towards his hideout as fast as he could while simultaneously muttering the spell that would link his closed eye and right ear to the sight and hearing of his familiar. Meanwhile Archer promptly materialized his bow and quiver, nocking a single arrow onto the string as he quickly glanced across the far-reaching distance separating him from the detected enemy Servant to confirm the presence of the enemy at their doorstep. Delicate. Fair. Almost too gentle. The man that threatened to break into their home was the complete opposite of his previous opponent in almost every regard. Paris split his attention between his two targets, the Master in Shinto and the Servant at the Church, “He seems nothing like a fighter Master, his robes are white and soft, garb that is meant to comfort, not protect.” “I will trust your judgement until I can see that Servant for myself. So you don’t believe him to be one of the Knight Classes?” “Saber is out of the question, and neither does this frail man strike me as a Rider.” “So it’s either Assassin or Caster then.” “Most likely, yes”, Archer agreed as he tested the grip on his bow. The arrow he had laid into it’s embrace was itching to be fired, yet Paris was painfully aware that his current attacks would carry little weight. “Then what do you propose, Master? Should I engage or should I leave the enemy free to pillage our home as they please?” Helmut bit his tongue in self-loathing as his mind raced to consider the correct plan of attack. Archer’s arrows would be at their weakest in his current state, and while they still carried enough force to pierce a Servant if they landed, it also made them much easier to defend against if one knew that they were coming. In that case he needed a way to bypass the handicap placed on his Servant, for which there were only two ways. One was to have Helen herself care for Paris to cure him of his ailments, but such as thing was obviously impossible, while the other was to perform an attack that was not affected by Archer’s Physical Parameters. “Archer… what is the status on your Noble Phantasm?” “The energy I am currently receiving is more than enough to replenish Apollo’s Arrows. It is a rather cost efficient Anti-Unit Phantasm in the first place, much unlike the act of begging the Gods for their favor. Seeing as it redefines my physical abilities and Personal Skills, a massive amount of magical energy is needed to perform this task, which is why my original limit for this Noble Phantasm were two consecutive activations in a single day. As I am now however, I am free to open fire as I wish. Just say the word and it will be done.” “No. Wait Archer. There is still the other Master to consider.” “Is it not likely that Gatling is the Master of this Servant?” “It’s not impossible but… it makes no sense why he would show himself in public if he was going to attack our base anyway. He would be putting himself needlessly at risk, so the possibility is higher that he belongs to another Camp.” “Which would put us right between two enemy Servants, not counting Lancer who could still be hiding in Shinto.” “…” A Servant at the door, and possibly two others at their back. Archer’s only effective attack was his Noble Phantasm yet the act of firing it would be akin to launching a bright beacon into the sky and alerting everybody of his existence. However. If they let the Servant be, he could uncover their secret ritual in the basement, and securing another leyline of such quality would hold too much risk now that most Masters seem to have arrived. Alternatively, were they to attack, the Master they were currently tracking would elude them. “Master, decide now or I shall take your silence as approval of my actions.” "…you are free to use your Noble Phantasm Archer”, Helmut reluctantly commanded as he turned on his heel, heading for another unpopulated area before creating a second familiar, “My familiar will take over tracking the enemy Master, so focus your attention on the Servant. Escape into the forest after your first shot, we will meet up again after the heat has subsided.” Paris nodded in consent, a self-satisfied smile on his lips. His previous defeat had been weighing heavily on his mind, so being given the chance to initiate an attack from a preferred distance was refreshing, almost dangerously so. He could feel himself becoming careless, but his pride wouldn’t allow him to pass up a chance as ripe as this one. Even though his current condition was sub-optimal, he couldn’t help himself for wanting to give the intruder a rough welcome. Taking his eye off the enemy Master after confirming the presence of Helmut’s familiar in the clouds above him, he finally dedicated the entirety of his focus on the fair-haired Servant. All relevant details related to the distance between himself and his enemy were subconsciously picked up by his mind as his years of experience as an Archer finally bore fruit. The varying wind currents and air pockets between himself and his target... The nearby flocks of birds and bugs that posed a risk to his shot’s trajectory... The movement of his target’s body... how he carried himself.. the instant he would expose himself... And most importantly, the environment around him. “Good…”, Archer muttered thoughtlessly to himself as he spotted a sizable patch of forest separating himself from his prey, “…if I spread out the trajectory of my arrows he won’t know from which direction they came from. Yet more importantly…” “Intervention of Apollo…” Paris held his breath as he channeled a tremendous amount of mana which he continued to imbue into his arrow. Magical energy, much like sound, heat, or any physical or spiritual particle for that matter, was bound by distance just as any other substance existing on the physical plane was. Much like a thunderclap chasing lightning, the outburst of magical energy which accompanied the activation of any Noble Phantasm would be just slightly behind his arrow's tip as it would chase it’s divine velocity. As an Archer, this was the greatest opportunity, his greatest advantage over the other Classes. Paris waited for the instant the Servant’s back was completely turned to him to release his arrow… “Guided Arrow of Fatal Weakness”, and released it with all his might. Stumbling back two steps due to the powerful feedback which his current body could barely handle, Archer quickly regained his footing and leaped off the building towards the forest before any nearby Servants could converge on his location. However, just as his foot pushed off the building’s edge, Paris spun his body around to face the Church once more, this time four arrows were neatly lined up on the arch of his bow. “Right Palm. Left Palm. Right Foot. Left Foot.” Archer’s eyes remained cold and focused as he concentrated to target each limb individually, yet when it came to releasing the arrows he purposefully pulled his bow upwards with a sharp jolt, forcing the arrows to miss, activating his Personal Skill to correct their flight path in the process. Due to them being shot wildly off-course, each arrow would come at the enemy from different directions in an attempt to confuse him, though their main task was to pin the Servant down in case his Noble Phantasm managed to hit. That alone would not kill him, even an ordinary human would survive this assault, but the value was in the conceptual effect imbued in his Noble Phantasm, not it’s physical striking power. Having done all that he was able, Archer caught himself on the roof of a suburban house and leaped towards the forest. All the while, his eyes never left his opponent’s back.
  14. Paris (Archer Camp) - Shinto, Fuyuki City The wind was playful yet rough in it’s attempt to ruffle Archer’s brown locks, his loose fitted clothing violently fluttering in the wind while he himself remained calmly seated at the very edge of the rooftop. In his hand was a cheap plastic tumbler filled with some carbonated drink he had picked up on the way there, the contents themselves were unknown to him nor did he care. It was simply the intoxicating prickling sensation he sought as the beverage burned it’s way down his throat, the flavor was merely a secondary benefit. However, despite occasionally sipping from his cup, Paris himself did not give off the appearance of a slacker. His eyes remained pried open, observant of every rooftop, every street, every alley and every window. In his mind he counted the passage of the masses, noted cars that passed him by, and followed each and every individual that seemed to head into the direction of the Church back to their very homes, or at least until he verified that they were no threat to himself and his Master. For the entire duration of his watch Archer didn’t blink a single time. While his body still required basic physical needs when in it’s tangible form, any injuries or inconveniences could be remedied with a small expense of magical energy, and so that’s what he did. While his Personal Skill granted him immediate insight into the lay-out of the city at a glance, he now pushed this ability to the limit by imprinting the very essence of this city’s architecture and infrastructure into his mind. As an Archer, this was the role expected of him. “Archer, report”, the voice of his Master resounded in his head. They had established a mental link before leaving their hideout after witnessing the consequences of a lack of communication, the only reason they had not done so before due to Paris’ dislike of sharing his senses with another person. Now, of course, he had no choice but to begrudgingly accept the benefits of instant telepathy. “The wind is quite violent today, the mark of a true coastal city. Were it not for the lack of Greek ships on the horizon I would have mistaken this place for home.” “Archer…” “Leave me my jests. This task of mine is monotone and uneventful, deny me this simple pleasure and I might throw myself off this roof to try my luck with my next summoning.” Archer could feel his Master sigh on the other end of their mental link. He allowed himself a slight grin, it seemed his joke was not well received. “So there is nothing to report then?” “Nothing at all. No sign of Lancer and her Master yet, nor have any other Servants made their presence known. At least not on this side of the river.” “What about Miyama?” “…Master, I might be a Servant, but I am by no means omniscient. Shinto is densely packed with this city’s peasantry, and looking out for outliers demands my full attention. If you want to know the state of Miyama, we must first cross the river.” “No. Not yet. We’re already exposing ourselves enough as is, and Miyama is host to valuable locations. Not only did it host the Three Magus Families that used to reside in Fuyuki, it also holds two of this city’s leylines. It is quite possible that the other Masters have taken residence there, and would thus be difficult to infiltrate in your current state. For now let’s focus on Shinto. What of the traffic on the bridge?” “Busy. I noted the presence of foreigners, too many to narrow it down to a single Master… except for one.” “Please elaborate.” “I noted the presence of one Mark Gatling. His physical appearance matched the pictures and descriptions of the other Masters you have provided me with, and he has since taken residence in a café, performed magic, and received a phone call. He has only just left the establishment, yet his Servant seems nowhere to be found.” “Wait, so is he part of the clean-up efforts mobilized by the Association?… Can you not detect anything? Not even a Servant masking itself in Spirit Form?” “Nothing. So either this Master has left his Servant behind or is keeping it at a distance, both scenarios painting him as a fool…” “…or he is the Master of Assassin”, Helmut concluded ponderously, “…either way, track his movements while staying out of sight. If his Servant is Caster you would be left vulnerable to long-ranged attacks, while Assassin would pose a much more credible threat.” “You can save yourself the worry, Master. I have taken residence on the southernmost ivory tower to the east, practically on the other side of the city. Without a Personal Skill similar to mine, spotting me would be next to impossible. That being said, in the case of an attack, I have the forest at my back to disappear into.” “Will that be enough?” “I was raised in the wilderness of Mount Ida, I trust you believe me when I say that I know how to make myself disappear in a forest.” “…my apologies.” “I’ve taken no offense. Had I been in your shoes I would not have taken myself as a herdsmen either, though my fondness for cattle has remained unchanged.” “…” “What is it Master? Is there anything you would like to comment on?” “I-… no, nothing at all.” Archer shrugged and took a sip from his tumbler, he didn’t care enough to address any misunderstanding his Master might have had. “I hope you haven’t been idle after putting me up to this monotone task, Master?” “Quite the opposite in fact, I’ve been unexpectedly fortunate.” “Oho~ is that so?”, Archer leant back while keeping his eyes on the enemy Master’s back and lazily fished for the straw in his cup as he awaited his Master’s entertainment, “Please, feel free to boast to your humble Servant.” “Is it just me or are you more agreeable when you are bored?” “Talk.” “Right, of course. In any case, while I was interrogating the populace to find out who witnessed your fight, I learnt that there had been a bar fight nearby, apparently caused by a pair of foreigners.” “Foreigners, huh? Nothing to bat an eye at under normal circumstances, but consider the timing and the fact that all confirmed participants are foreigners and…” “Exactly, it is very likely that the incident could have been caused by Masters, though I cannot fathom why anybody would ever be so stupid as to cause such a public scene without cleaning up after themselves.” “…” “Oh, my apologies. Though at least you weren’t the instigator in your case-” “Just move on, Master.” “Right. So I went to the aforementioned establishment and compelled the current owner to show me the security footage of the scene, and it is just as we thought. The two parties involved were Michael Sagittarius and Alastor Fraga McRemitz, the former being a veteran soldier with extensive military experience, while the latter is… ironically, another expert in Runic Magecraft.” “Are you cursed, Master?” “Believe me, at this point I’d consider it. In any case, I have made a copy of the footage before erasing it both from the system and the owner’s mind. This is information I’d rather keep to myself for now.” “Then we are dealing with a possible alliance.” “Yes, their cordial treatment of each other would suggest so.” “What about their Servants?” “While their Classes weren’t very clear, there were two individuals that seemed to belong with the group, yet remained passive to their surroundings. A woman and a man. The woman clearly knew how to use her femininity as a weapon, she was the instigator of the fight it seemed, and it’s an opponent I’d rather not face.” “Are you weak to the opposite sex, Master? Don’t tell me you have never shared a bed with a woman?” “I’m wary of the possibility of her possessing Charm as a Personal Skill, something that would bode very badly for yourself if you were to face her.” Archer burst out into a throaty chuckle, one which he was very particular to convey to his Master in it’s entirety, “So it’s true then! But regardless, there is naught for you to worry about. I have been in the presence of True Divine Beauty, appointed as the judge to determine the fairest of the Gods, and even then, I was rewarded with the pinnacle of mortal perfection. I look forward to a woman that make my knees tremble!” “…even if you are immune to beauty, I am not. I will continue to pose a threat to you if she truly holds the ability to charm men… either way, that remains to be seen. We cannot know for sure until we lay our eyes on her ourselves.” “Then what of the man? The other Servant?” “That one remains a mystery. I couldn’t glean any obvious details from his behavior, but both Servants seemed perfectly capable of reason and speech, so that eliminates the possibility of either of them being Berserker. The Archer and Lancer Classes have also already been accounted for, so that leaves either Assassin, Rider, Saber, or Caster… though it’s nigh impossible to tell by physical appearance alone. While it is unlikely that the Master of Assassin would not take advantage of Presence Concealment and instead display him for the entire establishment to see, we cannot eliminate that possibility either. We are, after all, talking about a pair that started a public fight without erasing the evidence of their shameless parade, so we can’t count on them possessing common sense. In any case, I am heading back to the Church, there is no reason for me to expose myself any longer. Keep watch and continue to track the enemy Master.” Archer breathed a reluctant sigh as he scrunched up his empty cup. “Your wish is my command, Master…”
  15. Illyasviel von Einzbern - Ten no Sakazuki, Ryuudou Temple All her eyes could see was an unending expanse of blackness. It was as if she were blind, her eyes were useless in this unforgiving void. It was dark. And frigid. Her body was shivering against the cold hard rock that she found herself on, the only sound that echoed in this vast space being the noise of her fingernails as they scraped against the rough surface of the rock in an attempt to lift her shaking body up. Where was she? How long had she been here? No matter how hard she tried, the girl could not remember anything about herself. As if this nothingness was all there was to “living”. As if she was never truly alive. The girl attempted her first step forward, but fell just as soon as her foot met the uneven surface of rock, causing her to helplessly tumble down a steep slope and bruise her fragile body. It hurt. Her body hurt. Feeling pain not seconds after being born into existence, the girl started sobbing, the act of which only caused her eyes and chest to constrict and hurt her more. She could feel the blazing trails of tears as they ran down her cheeks, and in her attempt to wipe them away she learned that they were salty. She could taste them. Of course she could. So why was she so surprised to learn that tears were salty? The girl continued crawling forwards even though she didn’t know where to go. She was confused. Terrified. Alone. She moved stubbornly into one direction, scraping her knees and elbows in her haste, but she didn’t care. She wanted to move faster still, to get out of this place as soon as she could. “…ve me…” The girl’s voice was hoarse, her throat dry and hurting. She knew how to speak, but it was as if her body spoke for the first time. The girl continued her frantic movements. At some point she realized that she was running, but in this endless darkness she didn’t know how or when. So she ran. The soles of her feet were soft as silk, tender to the touch, so it didn’t take long for the sharp edges of rock to cut deep into her flesh. But she continued running. Because that was the only thing she remembered to do. She ran. And soon her eyes glimpsed at light. It was far away and barely noticeable, but to a girl who had only ever seen darkness it was as bright as a shining beacon. And so she pushed her trembling body even further to reach that light, to make it to the outside, to escape whatever darkness was lurking in the depths of this cave. “…save me..” The girl pleaded in a horse whimper as her eyes were suddenly blinded by the intensity of the sun’s glare. Deprived of her eye-sight once more, the girl lost her footing and fell, yet this time her body was caught by the soft embrace of grass, the scent of it as pleasant as honey in comparison to the crude smell of rock. She was tired. Her body was hurt. She had no more strength to keep herself awake and could feel her body succumb to it’s fatigue, yet the thought of losing the life she had just so recently gained terrified her. As her body was about to shut down from over-exhaustion, the girl could barely sense an approaching figure from the corner of her vision. Somebody. Someone was there! The girl weakly extended her trembling arm towards the presence. Whoever it was, she didn’t care. “Please… help me.”
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