Author's Note: My Editor would like it known that this chapter took so long because he was going through brain surgery. That's a pretty poor excuse, right? Everyone ready for the finale finally? Here we go.
Fate/Heroes of Justice: Child's Play
Chapter 6: In Full Bloom
The sky darkened around him, and the clouds built up and formed underneath him, but Mordred didn't care. He could smell burnt flesh, feel the heat on his back from where Excalibur had just grazed him, his clothes and body now in tatters. The Llamrei Mark III rattled and creaked underneath him. It was ready to fall apart any moment. A runner had been sheared off by the blast as he'd recalled the sleigh to himself in the last moment. It had swept him and Mash out of the main path of the blast, but both he and the sleigh had still taken much more concentrated energy than was healthy.
Cradled in his once again tiny lap was the petrified head of Mash, her expression frozen in determination. This friend he had never met but had always known, effectively dead. He and the Llamrei had shielded her from taking any damage, her form unchipped, but there was really nothing left he could do for her. Healing such a condition had been outside the realm of his powers even when he'd known what his powers were. In this state, she was as good as dead. And so was he.
"This sucks. Guess hopes and prayers can only get you so far…," muttered Mordred weakly. He could feel his vision fading around the edges, going to black. He wanted to fight it but couldn't find the energy. Instead, he stroked Mash's stony hair and hummed a lullaby that his mother used to sing to him. He couldn't remember the words, they didn't matter. Llamrei Mark III lurched, it's death fast approaching. His vision was gone completely, and he could feel the strength leaving his body. As it did though, he never faltered in his humming, keeping the sound going. If nothing else, he wouldn't go quietly; that was just who he was.
The blackness in Mordred's vision turned to blinding white. After a moment the brilliance faded just enough that he could make out the faint outline of an unfamiliar figure. A woman who's bearing belied just how short she really was, confidence and power radiating from her. An amused smile and piercing golden eyes were framed by a head of short, ash grey hair. She was dressed in a black shirt and white pants like what he had been wearing after his recent transformation. The shirt was sleeveless, and she instead had black arm-sleeves covering from fingertip to most of her arms. Around her wrists were fluffy, white bracelets. Around her shoulders was a simple white shawl. It wasn't all boring colors though, as she had red streaks running down the sides of her pants, cut as if nestled inside the white folds. Her shawl was clasped with a green and red ribbon, with similar, smaller ribbons in her hair on either side.
Mordred blinked, unable to comprehend what he was seeing. Death finally claimed him, and he was greeted by a strange woman he'd never met before? That was a disappointment…
"I am sorry to disappoint you," said the woman cheerfully. She smiled brightly at him. "Since you were borrowing some of my power, I figured I should have a little chat with you before you die."
"What are you talking about?" asked Mordred.
"The Santa Force," replied the woman. She gestured to him, and he realized he was back in his untorn Christmas clothes. "I am the current guardian and bearer of the Santa Force, and any who use the power of Santa and can claim the title are borrowing it from me."
"You're making that up," said Mordred. There was no way any of that could be true, right?
A laugh. "It is very true. You are talking to the Once and Future Santa." She locked eyes with him, her expression hardening. "So, Santa Mordred Lily, I have these questions to ask of you. First, what is the meaning of Christmas?"
The question was so cliché and absurd, Mordred couldn't even process a proper response, instead replying without thought, "Family and friends."
The Once and Future Santa nodded. "Interesting. And what is the role of Santa?"
"Uh," said Mordred, his thoughts finally catching up to the absurd conversation. He thought for a moment. "To bring presents."
"And what are presents?"
"And why does Santa grant these wishes?"
Mordred was feeling frustrated by the rapid-fire questions. He found himself shouting. "Because I freakin' feel like it!"
He thought he saw a slight smile for a moment, then it was gone. "Is that the only reason? Why do you grant wishes?"
"Because doing so makes people happy."
"And why do you want to make people happy?"
"Because doing so makes me happy," replied Mordred. "Do you have a problem with that?"
"Not at all," replied the woman, breaking into a large smile. "That's an important quality in a Santa. Santa must be the most selfish person in the world, don't you think? If Santa isn't selfish, if Santa doesn't get satisfaction and goodwill from granting the honest wishes of others, then that Santa is living a meaningless, inauthentic life. Goodwill and cheer for all includes Santa as well, after all."
The woman walked over to him and put a hand on his small head. "Oh, little Santa, I judge you worthy of a blessing. I have seen that you are in your darkest hour, and I have seen this to be a worthy cause." A large smile. "Plus, I feel like it. Now, borrow a fraction of my power, the power of the Santa Force. I am unlocking your true Noble Phantasm. Know its name and unleash its power. The name is…"
"Are you ready for round two?" asked IRSS, landing gently on the ground. Around her the Justice Ranger's Servants lay, near dead from their previous attempts to kill her as a Ruler. But now, with this monstrosity before them, they could hardly move. Ritsuka stood, surrounded by children, and a chill went down their spine. It was hopeless.
"This reading," said Da Vinci, fear in her voice. "It's that of a Beast of Humanity. Designate it as Beast X and figure out a way to get Ritsuka out of there!"
"It's no use," said Ritsuka into their communicator. "If I can't stop this, she'll destroy reality. Why bother running?" There was no reason to do so, especially with Mash…
"Will you surrender to your inevitable fates now?" asked IRSS, sneering at them with her crystal mouth.
"Of course not," yelled Rin, taking a step forward. So small, yet still so fierce. But how could she expect them to fight back against this? Both her and Ritsuka had lost their Servants, and the others couldn't even stand. Of course, they needed to regardless, Ritsuka understood that well. "You are the one person I can never allow to defeat me."
A sneer. "I could say the same about you."
"But she has," replied Sakura, moving to her sister's side. "As your sister, I won't allow this either."
"None of you get a choice in the matter," yelled IRSS, the world shaking at her voice. "This choice is mine and mine alone."
"And what gives you that right?" asked Illya. "You don't get to decide on reality ending genocide. No one does."
"No one else could imagine or go through with this plan," replied IRSS. "Only I have the power, knowledge and vision."
"Regardless," said Shirou, cradling an unconscious Chloe. "You are us, and that means it is us who will stop you."
IRSS stomped her foot on the ground and the dead land warped under the blow. The ground sunk, the crystalized IRSS now in the center of a perfect bowl-shaped crater a hundred feet in diameter. Ritsuka and the others who were standing found themselves losing their balance and falling over. Looking up from the ground, they saw IRSS, standing there, furious. "You are just fragments! I am whole. I am the only person who has ever managed to become whole. The only one…"
Ritsuka stood and glared down at IRSS. They pointed at her with their right hand, Command Seals visible on the back. "If you're going to decide for humanity that it should end, then I'm going to decide that reality should keep going as is."
"Stop your meaningless babble you stupid children," said IRSS, lifting her hand. Magical energy started to collect in her palm as she pointed it right at them. "This. Ends. Now. No miracles to save you. Be destroyed by the collective hatred and sadness of humanity."
"On the title of Santa," said a voice from above the clouds. Small and weak, it nevertheless carried, reaching the surprised ears of everyone on the desolate field. IRSS's eyes narrowed and she looked around for the source of the voice as it continued. "I invoke the most sacred of chants and oaths. What all hope and wish for. I call on the True Noble Phantasm of all Santas, Good Will and Cheer for All!"
A red glow washed over the entire world, and as it passed, colors that had been dulled by IRSS' entrance brightened once more. The clouds changed from black to a fluffy white. Then, from the clouds something started to descend. Ritsuka could hardly believe it as they realized what it was. "Snow," they muttered, holding their hand out and taking one of the small flakes onto their hand. Strangely, as it melted it was warm to the touch and they felt stronger than they had in a long time.
"Chloe?" asked Shirou. Ritsuka turned and saw the small Servant stirring in Shirou's arms. Her eyes fluttered open as her wounds healed and disappeared completely.
"Master?" she asked, sounding confused. "What happened?"
"I don't know," he said. "A miracle?"
Ritsuka could only agree as they looked around and saw Heracles and Medusa standing as well, their wounds also healed. Somehow, the snow had healed their wounds. But who had done it? Could it be…
"There's no such thing as miracles," yelled IRSS. She looked back to them and with a cry the energy in her hand shot towards them at a blistering speed. "Die!"
"Lord Camelot!" said a familiar voice. There was a purple flash and Ritsuka could hardly believe it as the armored form of Mash landed in front of them and stuck her shield into the ground. A white castle formed around them, shielding them just in time as the magical energy ball hit. There was a loud explosion, the world shaking around them, but the walls held. Ritsuka looked at Mash and saw on her face determination stronger than they'd seen on her before. It was clear, her will at this moment was unwavering, and that meant so were the walls of her castle. The walls never fell as she yelled out. "Do it!"
"Gladly," said the familiar cocky voice of Mordred. Ritsuka watched through the translucent white walls as from out of the clouds tore the Llamrei Mark III, Mordred 'steering' it. Straight towards IRSS.
IRSS looked up and saw the incoming attack. She crafted another massively concentrated ball of magical energy and pointed it at Mordred. "I don't know how you survived before, but you won't be so lucky this time."
The blast shot out towards Mordred. His tiny form leapt out of the Llamrei and out of the way of the attack as the two collided in a large explosion. The Llamrei Mark III was obliterated, but Mordred was safely out of the way and free falling towards IRSS. She took aim once more at the falling Mordred, nothing between them anymore.
"I'm not the one dying today," he yelled. There were twin blurs of motion next to IRSS. Heracles and Medusa flanked her to either side, one with a powerful kick, the other with her scythe. IRSS leapt over the scythe blade and blocked the kick with her arm. Suspended in midair for a moment, she was unable to dodge as a rainbow-colored arrow shot from the top of the castle walls and struck her dead on. The blow sent her tumbling away from the Heroic Spirits.
Chloe leapt down from the wall, her red cloak billowing around her. After landing, she ran over towards the other Servants, meeting up with them as Mordred finally landed. Smiles and greetings were exchanged, but the Servants quickly reoriented towards their enemy as IRSS stood, the amethyst on her torso cracked. At least, for a moment. As Ritsuka watched through magically enhanced senses her wound healed, the cracks disappearing as if they had never been there. The Servants might all be healed and together again, but that didn't mean the battle was won.
IRSS let out a loud cry and leapt into battle, the ground cracking underneath her feet. The gathered Heroic Spirits were barely able to duck, dodge and block as she lashed out with vicious magically enhanced physical attacks. Her attacks were fast and powerful, never allowing the four Servants to retaliate.
"She's still too powerful for them," said Sakura simply. To others, she might have sounded completely calm, but Ritsuka noticed the hint of fear in her voice. Not for herself, but for the others.
Shirou nodded. "You're right. We need to do something."
"Mash," said Ritsuka, turning to their Servant. They gave the knight a grateful smile. "Thank you for the save, I'm glad you're okay."
"And me you, Senpai," replied Mash, returning the smile. She glanced out to her fellow Heroic Spirits. "They need my help. Of course, I can't leave you unprotected…"
Ritsuka shook their head. "Go. We'll be fine. I mean, it's dangerous, but if she's not stopped, we all die, so I guess we should put all of our effort into that?"
A quick nod. "Of course. I won't let you down," said Mash, pounding her fist against her breastplate.
Ritsuka finally noticed that there was something new about their partner. "Mash, where did that sword come from?" At Mash's side, instead of her usual plain, unadorned sword was one completely different. It was much larger, for starters, with a much wider blade. The hilt was blue, and the guard golden. "Is that…?"
"It is," said Mash, a bright smile on her face. "Mordred pulled it out from a sack and handed it to me. He told me it was a gift. I think his exact words were 'This is from the annoying woman. She said it was from a shifty old man.'"
Rin looked over and her eyes went wide. "That's Arondight," she said, awe in her voice.
Mash blushed. "Yeah, my 'father's' sword. I'm not really a swordswoman, but I will gladly take the gift."
"I guess we're not the only ones working to defeat the Beast," said Ritsuka. "We've got our parents looking out for us." They let out a heavy sigh and glanced at Rin. "We can't let them down. Mash, go assist the others."
"Roger," said Mash, unsummoning the Castle and preparing to join the battle. Before she could though, she was stopped by a shout.
"Wait," said Illya, walking to her side. She held out a small hand and held up an arrow longer than her arm. "Please, give this to Heracles. He should know how to use it."
Mash took the arrow from her. "I will." Mash crouched and then sprinted off; dust left in her trail. As she neared the battle, Mordred found himself being knocked away by a powerful kick that he barely blocked in time. "Mordred!"
Mordred sprung through the air towards Mash. She planted her feet and raised her shield. Mordred landed on the shield feet first, his momentum stopping for a moment. Then, Mash thrust her shield outward and sent Mordred flying back towards IRSS. He shot over Chloe's head as IRSS tried to strike at the girl but instead found herself being struck with a loud crack by Mordred's candy cane. At the same moment, Heracles swept out IRSS's leg, throwing her off balance. As she fell, Medusa brought her scythe down in a vertical slash. IRSS hit the ground right as the scythe hit her with the shattering of crystal.
Unfortunately, IRSS had reacted too quickly and had gotten her arm up in the way to block. The tip of the scythe poked out from her arm, just inches from her face. As she'd hit the ground, she'd slapped her free hand against the ground, kicking up dust and lessening her impact. Recovering quickly, IRSS twisted around like a break dancer, her legs striking out at the gathered Servants. All four of the Justice Ranger's Servants were hit, being knocked in various directions. As her spin finished, IRSS was back on her feet, a bright glow of magical energy as she summoned her Jeweled Sword to her hand.
Before she could find a target to attack though, Mash made it to her. The Shielder struck out her large shield, trying to catch IRSS off guard. She blocked with her sword, sparks flying between the pair as metal ground against metal. IRSS leaned back, trying to throw Mash off balance as she unleashed a powerful side kick. Mash was ready for her, planting her shield on the ground and using it as a platform to flip herself up and over IRSS. As she did, she threw something from her hand towards Heracles. An arrow stuck in the ground next to the Assassin.
Shield abandoned for the first time that Ritsuka remembered having seen, Mash landed behind her foe and pulled out Arondight. She swung the large sword in a vertical slash at IRSS. Her foe just managed to twist around and get her sword up in time to block the blow. She was pushed back towards the planted shield.
Magical Crest lines glowed over IRSS' body and she repelled Mash's blow. She swung in with attacks of her own, trying to hit Mash. Ritsuka knew that regardless of how unfamiliar she was with the weapon; Mash would never allow anyone to hit her. Falling into a defensive stance with practiced ease, Mash planted her feet and refused to yield ground as she blocked and parried the Jeweled Sword. No matter how hard or fast IRSS' magically enhanced attacks were, the Shielder never moved, keeping her foe trapped between her and her large shield.
As this exchange happened, the other Heroic Spirits weren't idle. They picked themselves up off the ground and circled around, trying to get a good angle. Ritsuka saw Heracles pick up the arrow and examine it for a moment. As he moved into position, he summoned his bow and held the arrow up for Chloe to see. The little red cloaked Servant summoned her own bow as she ran in the opposite direction. Medusa moved to behind Mash, scythe in hand and halting, waiting for something.
That something happened when Mordred moved behind IRSS and tackled Mash's shield with his tiny body. The impact was enough to send the shield into IRSS' back, throwing her off balance for a moment. That moment was all Mash needed to break off from her, backing up for a moment before charging back in, Arondight held tightly in both hands. The blade started to glow with a purple light.
"Arondight Overload Alternative!" yelled Mash, swiping her sword vertically. A trail of purple light followed the blade of the weapon as it cut through IRSS' crystal skin. The woman let out a cry of pain as a large gash was left in her chest. She struck out with her sword, trying to cut Mash in half.
Luckily, a chain flew out, wrapping around Mash and yanking her out of the way of the weapon. Mash landed safely on her feet next to Medusa, the smaller Servant's weapon unwrapping from around her ally's waist.
IRSS's wound was slowly healing, the woman panting in pain. Heracles pulled back on his bow and sent his arrow flying at her. As injured as she was, IRSS' reflexes were still lightning fast and her free hand snatched the arrow from the air, a sneer on her lips. "Did you really think I would let you hit me with a Hydra poison arrow?" Her eyes widened a second later as she looked at the arrow.
"Not from me, I did not," replied Heracles with a cocky smirk. "That was not the poisoned arrow. It was just a cheap replica."
There was the whistling of an arrow and before IRSS could respond a second arrow flew from Chloe's bow. The arrow struck IRSS' wound, burying itself deeply inside of her. From the point of impact, a sickly green started to spread through her translucent body, replacing the bright crystal colors that made up her body. She took a staggering step, the amethyst of her torso completely gone. Another step, and the pearl and citrine colors of her body disappeared. Fire burned on her gaze as she glared at the Heroic Spirits, the green overtaking her ruby features.
"This means nothing," said IRSS. "You have nothing left that can kill me. Even if I don't have my immortality, you're out of Noble Phantasms."
Medusa cocked her head to the side in a show of feigned confusion. "Who ever said that was our final Noble Phantasm? Did you assume that none of us were able to keep any out of view while fighting your Servants?" Medusa scowled and her eyes started to glow with a bright violet light. IRSS' eyes widened in comprehension, but she wasn't able to move out of the way fast enough as a massive burst of concentrated magical energy shot from Medusa's eyes. "Eyes of the Medusa!"
The magical energy washed over IRSS and she was instantly turned into cold, grey stone, her features frozen in pained hatred. Once the light subsided from her eyes, Medusa staggered slightly before falling backwards onto the ground, landing hard on her bottom.
The world of the Reality Marble dissolved around Ritusuka and the others. In an instant, they found themselves standing in the dark flagstone courtyard of the Einzbern Castle, a place very familiar to them. The castle was cold and dark currently, much different from the warm, welcoming, well lived in place from their childhood. The Justice Rangers and Ritsuka were on the far side of the courtyard with the petrified IRSS in the middle. The Servants were between them, looking exhausted.
Da Vinci's voice crackled through Ritsuka's communicator. "The readings for Beast X are gone. It seems it's over."
Ritsuka let out a sigh of relief. "That's good. It's finally over."
Mordred walked over to Medusa, Mash's large shield in hand, and he let out a laugh. "You look wasted."
Medusa glared at him. "You are one to talk."
"I'm doing fi-," started Mordred, before tripping forward and landing inside Mash's shield, his head connecting hitting the metal with a hard thump.
Medusa let out a laugh of her own. "That serves you right."
"I for one am not too proud to admit that I am tired," said Heracles, sitting down next to Medusa. "That was probably the hardest foe I have ever fought."
"But your idea came through in the end," said Chloe, walking over. She sat down next to him, looking drained.
"It was not my idea but my Master's," replied Heracles. "I merely put aside my own pride for a moment to discover what she wanted me to know. It was your impressive skill in replicating my Hyrda Arrows after seeing them only hours prior that should be commended."
Chloe laughed. "I'd say that we both deserve praise. Sound good?"
Heracles nodded. "I will gladly take the accolades. Pushing aside my pride has its limits, after all."
"I would say we all deserve praise," said Medusa. Mash helped Mordred off her shield, and then the pair sat down next to each other, the shield buried in the ground behind them. "Especially you. That was a swift rescue on your part. Thank you."
Mash blushed. "Thanks. You saved me as well."
"How was it using the old man's sword?" asked Mordred.
Mash thought for a moment. "It felt right. Not as right as my shield, but still like it belonged in my hands."
"Hope he doesn't expect that back then. Steal it from him," said Mordred, laughing. He glanced over to Medusa. "Hey, why didn't you do that sooner? You could've saved us a lot of trouble."
"It would not have worked," replied Medusa. "With her godhood and healing ability, her chances of being able to just break free were too high. It was only once her godhood was taken away by the arrow that I could do so."
There was a cracking sound that drew the attention of the gathered Servants. Ritsuka followed their gaze to the statue of IRSS, cracks all along the stone surface. Da Vinci's panicked voice burst out so that everyone could hear her. "A new signal has appeared. A powerful magical signature is coming from that statue."
"Oh crap," said Mordred, trying to get to his feet. The others tried as well, but they were too slow as the statue shattered and IRSS stood before them. Her stone body was gone, once again replaced with pale white skin and coal black hair. Around her neck was her four-gemstone necklace. The scariest part to Ritsuka though was her eyes, the familiar eyes of Rin, but filled with hatred and loathing. IRSS didn't hesitate as magical rings surrounded her arms. A yellow disk appeared before her and she punched her arms through the disk. A beam shot out from the volatile magical reaction and hit all five Servants, sending them to the ground, smoke rising from their unconscious bodies.
"What the hell," said Rin, fear in her voice. "How did she survive all of that?"
"Is she unkillable?" said Illya, fists clenched.
"I see," said Da Vinci, her voice surprisingly calm. Her voice came through the communicator for all to hear. "There were some strange background readings, but until the stronger readings of a Ruler and Beast respectively were removed, I couldn't get a proper understanding. She has the attribute of the snake."
"Of the snake?" asked Shirou. He looked to Rin. "Do you have that?"
She shook her head. "I don't think so. That's the first I've heard of it."
"It must be something she did to herself," said Sakura. Then, to Da Vinci, "Is that why she's so hard to kill?"
"Very likely," replied Da Vinci. "The attribute of the snake gives a level of rebirth to those with it. Your Servant, Medusa, has it, which allows her to take more punishment than you might expect, and change her form at critical moments. With this latest rebirth, IRSS' reading has faded."
"So, if we kill her now, it should stick?" asked Rin.
"Probably. Although how do you plan to do that?"
"Yes Rin," said the mocking voice of IRSS. She started to walk towards them. "How do you plan to kill me yet again? You're out of Servants, and in the bodies of children. I might be weakened, but I can still take on a few children and a low-level mage in a moment."
Ritsuka wracked their brain. There had to be something they could do, if only they had the time to think…
"How did you gain the attribute of the snake?" asked Rin, taking a step towards IRSS.
The older woman stopped and studied her small counterpart. "Why would I tell you that?"
"You know us," said Rin. "I'm about to die, but I'm also curious. I've just got to know how you did it."
"You're stalling," replied IRSS, taking another step towards them.
"Wait," yelled Rin, hands up. IRSS did so, and Rin lowered her hands. A sly expression covered her face. "I think I know how you did it."
"Oh?" asked IRSS.
Rin pointed to IRSS's body, the glowing lines of her four Magical Crests on her. "It's supposed to be impossible to do what you did with those Crests, to take so many into your body. Even if you had a connection to the former owners, that should've killed you. But it didn't, why is that? It's because you found a bonding agent. Something to allow you to graft those Crests onto your body without killing yourself. To allow a sort of rebirth, into the Witch of the End."
"But wait," said Shirou, moving next to Rin. He frowned. "I don't get it. You're saying she did that to herself before getting the Crests? What did she use?"
"It would need to be a powerful magical catalyst," said Sakura, joining them. "Something linked to a snake. And the aspect of rebirth."
"Do you know of something like that Rin?" asked Illya, her tone oddly pitched. All their voices were oddly pitched. After a moment, Ritsuka realized why. They were stalling for time and were acting along. But why? Did they have a plan?
Rin nodded. "I do know of something," she replied. "As a teen, I found a magical puzzle box from my father. On solving it, I found three things." She started to count on her fingers. "First, a magical formula for a powerful magical dagger that has been a generational project of the Tohsakas. Second, a gemstone that he had poured a little magical energy into each year, enough to cast all but the most powerful of magecraft. The third and final item was an old, used catalyst. A dried snakeskin, what he'd used to summon his Archer in the Fourth War."
"So," said Shirou, "not just a regular snakeskin?"
Rin shook her head, a smile on her face. "Nope. It was the first snakeskin. Even having been used as a summoning catalyst, it would likely have magical properties, especially if consumed."
"She ate it?" asked Illya, sounding honestly disgusted.
"I did," said IRSS, looking both amused and bored. "Now, are you done with your stalling? I don't know what you expect to get out of this, your Servants are all completely drained and won't be coming to your aid. I've let you live this long because I was curious, but do you actually have anything to show for it?"
Did they, wondered Ritsuka. What has Rin been hoping to achieve. As they wondered this, a voice came through Ritsuka's communicator just so they could hear. "Scan complete," said Da Vinci. "All data on the enemy and Justice Ranger capabilities collected and analyzed."
"What do you have?" whispered Ritsuka, realizing just who Rin had been counting on. They should've done the same, there was no one more reliable in a life or death scenario than Da Vinci after all.
"The attribute of the snake has faded, she should be killable now," said Da Vinci. "In addition, your Command Seals are still functioning. You all might be able to get your Servants up at partial power. IRSS' levels are at those of a regular Servant, although she herself isn't a Servant anymore. She's just a regular human, if a very powerful one."
"That sounds like a risk," replied Ritsuka. "Anything else?"
"Just a strange reading from your Command Seals," said Da Vinci. "It says you're currently linked to five Servants. But I don't have any of these Spirit Origins logged except for Mash's, and the signals are very faint."
"Wait, didn't my previous summonings fail?"
"That's what we had thought, but the readings are here. Kind of."
Ritsuka wracked their brain to figure out what that could mean. Four Servant readings to correspond to their previous four failed summoning attempts. It had been over a day, why had the Servants not arrived to help, and who were they? The only ones here were them and the Justice Rangers, and they had summoned their own Servants… Wait, could it be?
"Any last words?" asked IRSS.
Rin glanced back to Ritsuka. "Have you gotten anything yet?" she asked, desperation in her voice.
"I…," said Ritsuka, hesitating. Could it really be? Was this possible? Well, if it wasn't, they were dead, so there was really only one option. They nodded. "I do."
"Wait, really?" asked Da Vinci and Rin at the same time.
Ritsuka held up their hand, Command Seals glowing on the back. "I cast this order on these three Command Seals. Keeper of Balance, release the power of my Servants, the Justice Rangers!"
A wave of shock washed over everyone as Ritsuka's Command Seals disappeared from their hand and a red glow surrounded the four Justice Rangers. Large cocoons of red light obscured them from view. IRSS' surprise disappeared quickly, instead replaced by anger as she took a powerful leap towards Ritsuka, closing the distance in an instant. "No, you don't!"
"Yes, they do," said a deep female voice. A pink and gold blur shot between Ritsuka and IRSS, protecting them by catching IRSS's arm in a powerful grip. Ritsuka blinked and realized who stood before them. "Justice Rose Pink…"
"At your service," said Justice Rose Pink. She was in a standard Justice Ranger outfit from head to toe, the color of her suit matching her name. Around her waist she had a large studded leather belt from which a metal plated skirt came down, covering her legs except for the front which was blocked by a long pink cloth. To Ritsuka, she had always looked the most like an ancient warrior.
IRSS tried to break out of her grip, but Justice Rose Pink was stronger as the glow of a mana burst covered her. Grabbing IRSS with a second hand, she threw her into the air away from them. IRSS flipped through the air, righting herself with a burst of magical energy, and then summoned several portals behind her. Magical bolts fired towards them but were blocked by a barrier.
Ritsuka glanced to the side and saw three more uniformed figures. Justice Purple had her hand out, magical energy glowing around it. Visible on the back of her hand was a glowing Command Seal, a fully bloomed lily; just like what now shown on the hands of all four Justice Rangers. Along the arms of her suit were golden scales, given freely from her wife.
Justice Orange moved forward, a blue and gold katana sheathed at his hip. Ritsuka had never seen him use the weapon before, but he'd always smiled when holding it carefully in his hands. The other defining feature of his Ranger suit was that the helmet was shaped differently than the others. Two cat ears were shaped onto the top of the helmet. He had never explained to Ritsuka why that was, but whenever it was brought up Rin had broken into a fit of laughter.
He summoned a longbow into his hands. The weapon was formed of a swirling pattern of black and white, with both ends stamped with the yin-yang symbol. An arrow appeared in his hand and he quickly loaded it, before letting it fly. With unerring accuracy, the shot found its target and IRSS was just barely able to get a barrier up to block it. The arrow exploded, knocking IRSS out of the air.
While that was happening, a magical formula appeared on the ground around Justice Red as she chanted. Magical lines glowed from underneath her full body Sentai outfit. At her gloves and boots glowed the four gemstones embedded into her suit. "In the name of the Tohsaka, I call upon the power of the five elements; fire, water, earth, wind and Æther. Combine and destroy."
A beam of multicolored light shot towards IRSS. The falling woman summoned her Jeweled Sword to her hand and with a cry cut the beam of light in half, deflecting it around her. The halves shot past her, one clipping a tower of the Einzbern Castle and disintegrating it, while the other went harmlessly into the night sky. IRSS landed on the ground and tried to move to attack but found herself occupied by another foe. Justice Rose Pink hadn't been idle during the actions of her companions, instead summoning her own sword to hand. Ritsuka knew the weapon well, having grown up seeing it and many other times in their adventures through the singularities. Excalibur, the Sword of Promised Victory, not a copy this time but the real article. Resting in the hand of its successor.
Justice Rose Pink slashed out with the blade, her skill and magically enhanced physical abilities forcing IRSS back, sparks flying as the two powerful weapons clashed. Whenever IRSS seemed like she would score a hit, Justice Rose Pink managed to get out of the way, as if time was moving slower around her. Amber lines glowed underneath her suit as she drew on the power of her Magical Crest. Again, and again, golden blade struck rainbow blade, neither fighter managing to gain the upper hand.
But Justice Rose Pink wasn't alone. Justice Orange unsummoned his bow and held out his hands. "Einzbern ultimate technique, Golems of the Round Table, heed my call!" His Magical Crest flared for a moment and then the ground around him started to rise. Seven mounds of earth, each forming into an indistinct but still very knightly figure. Even with expressionless faces, Ritsuka knew well who each golem was shaped after. King Arthur with her lance in hand and surrounded by her loyal retainers. Gawain, Tristan, Agravain, Lancelot, Merlin and of course Mordred. Once they were formed, Justice Orange pointed to where his sister was fighting with IRSS. "Go to Justice Rose Pink's side!"
The knights ran, closing the distance in obedient silence. IRSS found herself surrounded, nowhere to escape. Nowhere except up that was. Breaking away from a sword clash with Justice Rose Pink, IRSS leapt up, the air beneath her feet hardening into platforms beneath her. After making some distance, she held up her sword and it started to glow, a powerful blast being prepared. But before it could be released, a voice shouted out.
"Void Out," said Justice Purple, releasing a powerful magecraft she had been building up. In an instant IRSS' Jeweled Sword disappeared, leaving her weaponless. The next moment, a portal opened above IRSS and a powerful rainbow hued magical bolt shot out of it, knocking her out of the air. She fell to the ground and was set upon by Justice Orange's golems. Stony swords came down on her, flickers of a fading barrier around her accompanying her cries of anger and frustration. She was unable to fight back properly, the knights covering each other in a perfect rhythm of attacks and blocks.
Justice Rose Pink took a step back for a momentary breather, looking for a place to re-enter the fight. Before she could though, IRSS let out a bloodcurdling scream. Ritsuka watched as she clawed at a point above her head and ripped a small gash in reality. Hundreds of glittering gemstones fell out of a pocket dimension, landing at her feet and around the golems. Justice Orange let out a shout of warning. "Illya, get out of there!"
Justice Rose Pink leapt backwards, her magical crest glowing as she increased her movements with time magecraft. As she did, IRSS ignited one of the gemstones and it created a powerful explosion. The blast set off a chain reaction on the other gemstones, stones that Ritsuka realized each held a massive amount of stored magical energy. A blast tore out from where IRSS knelt, heading towards them. Justice Red and Justice Purple moved quickly. The gemstones on Justice Red's arm glowed and created a barrier around herself, Justice Purple, Justice Orange and Ritsuka. While she did so, Justice Purple crafted a barrier around the pile of still unconscious Servants, saving them from destruction.
There was a brief moment where time seemed to slow and Ritsuka believed that Justice Rose Pink had been left to die. But she quickly planted her feet and held out her hands. A blue and gold scabbard manifested in front of her, Avalon. A personal barrier surrounded her, the heir to the twin artifacts. The blast from the gemstones engulfed her, blocking her from view until a few seconds later it engulfed them as well and everything went white. Ritsuka shut their eyes in response, but was still blinded and deafened, if unharmed.
After the explosion dissipated, Ritsuka opened their eyes and surveyed the battlefield. All of their allies were alive, but Justice Red and Justice Purple each looked ready to collapse, the toll of stopping such a blast almost too much. Justice Orange was looking around and Ritsuka followed their gaze. There, Justice Rose Pink was alive and unharmed, Avalon recalled for the moment, Excalibur still in hand. It took Ritsuka a moment to realize what wasn't there.
"Where's IRSS?" asked Ritsuka.
"I don't know," said Justice Orange slowly, sounding concerned.
"Is it possible she blew herself up?" asked Ritsuka.
"Maybe," replied Justice Orange. He didn't sound like he believed it.
Ritsuka activated their communicator, trying to reach Da Vinci for a scan of the area. Unfortunately, all they got was static and garbled voices. The magical energy in the air was still too dense and was blocking a clear reading. It would take precious moments for it to clear, and who knew what would happen in that time?
Ritsuka noticed something strange and was barely able to shout out a warning. "Beneath you!"
Justice Rose Pink reacted to the call, trying to move out of the way as the earth underneath her rippled. IRSS leapt out of the ground, dirt spraying out around her, a crazed expression on her face. She let out a powerful spin kick and Excalibur went flying from Justice Rose Pink's hand, flying off to the side away from anyone.
Justice Red and Justice Purple tried to react, but both found themselves too weak, falling to their knees, gasping for breath. Ritsuka's mind raced, unable to know what they could do. The answer seemed to be nothing. IRSS planted her feet on the ground and thrust out her hand which was glowing with powerful magical energy. Justice Rose Pink tried to leap backwards, her magical crests glowing, and her speed increased, but it didn't seem like she would be able to avoid the attack.
"Illya!" yelled Justice Orange. There was the twang of a bow string and something flew through the air towards the two combatants. Ritsuka had only a moment to realize what had been fired wasn't an arrow before Justice Rose Pink reached behind her back, grabbed the weapon out of the air and stabbed it through IRSS.
Time froze for a moment, no one moving or seemingly breathing. Just Justice Rose Pink, arm out, sword in hand, and IRSS, glowing hand stopped an inch from Justice Rose Pink's heart and the sword blade poking out her back. Blood dripped down the weapon, which Ritsuka realized was a blue and gold katana. Finally, a sound, a wet cough. Blood dotted Justice Rose Pink's uniform and dribbled in a small line down IRSS's chin as she coughed out blood. Her hand stopped glowing, the magecraft breaking apart.
"I can't believe it," said IRSS, the fury gone from her voice, just amused disbelief. "Killed by a weapon I don't even recognize."
"It's my mother's sword," said Justice Orange, moving towards them. "Justice Gold's sword."
A laugh. "Well, that's just absurd." Another wet cough followed by a frown. "I can't believe I lost to you. You're alone."
"No," said Illya, unsummoning her helmet and removing the sword. IRSS let out a grunt as she fell to the ground. "We had each other. We were a team. You were the one alone."
A scowl. "I. Am. Never. Alone."
Shirou removed his helmet as well. There was a sad expression on his face. "Look again." He pointed to her necklace. The four gemstones on it were all grey, lifeless. "You've been alone this entire time."
"Why…," said IRSS. Tears started to roll down her face. "Why was it always me who needed to be left alone?" Rin and Sakura joined the other two rangers, their helmets removed as well. "My sister, my father, my uncle, and my mother were all taken from me. I regained a sister, only to lose her again, and having to do so myself. I lost my only two friends who could possibly understand what I was going through. Everyone else either drifted away or died while only I lived. I followed all the rules, and lived the proper life of a mage, as a Tohsaka, but that was only a road to sadness. I had to deny myself of so many people who I loved, hide my sexuality, and bury my feelings deep inside. Do you know what that's like, to love but know that you can never do so? Because the prestige of the Tohsaka's, carrying my family line into the future, was the only thing I was supposed to live for. The only thing I could live for. And what I got in return was nothing."
Rin knelt next to IRSS, their eyes locking with each other. "My life has been full of ups and downs. The Fourth Holy Grail War took my Father and Uncle, but I regained a sister and kept my mother. I gained friends who became my family. A large family, people who love me for who I am, and who I love in return. I married the woman I love, and together we had a beautiful child, a child who will grow up to be a talented mage and hero."
IRSS scowled. "Rubbing it in to a dying woman?"
Rin shook her head. "No, I'm not. When we beat you before, I promised I would never become like you. As you can see, I haven't. I didn't become the Witch of the End, destroyer of a world. I became Rin Tohsaka, respected mage and hero. I became Justice Red of the Justice Rangers. And all of this, is because of you. Your actions are what led to my life becoming like this. So, thank you."
"We are both Rin Tohsaka, even if our lives split off into different directions. I could've become you, and you could've become me. I hate you for what you became, what you represent. But I also love you, because you led my life to being as wonderful as it is. You did it, despite what you intended, you created a world's worth of happiness. It won't wipe away your sins, but I hope it gives you a measure of peace."
"I hate you, so much," said IRSS between pained breaths. The air left her lungs at that final word, her body going slack. The light in her eyes dimmed, a haunting stare. What fascinated Ritsuka was the smile that was on her face, filled with a complex mix of emotions.
There were groans and moans from off to the side, and Ritsuka saw that the Servants who had been knocked out prior were coming too. They ran over to Mash's side and helped her up. She offered a grateful smile to them before looking around the courtyard. "Senpai, what happened?"
"IRSS has been defeated," they said, gesturing to the unmoving body. "For good. Good job."
Mash frowned. "But who did it?" she asked. Her gaze fell on the Justice Rangers and her jaw dropped open. Her expression changed to an excited smile a moment later. "I can't believe it; the actual Justice Rangers are here. How?"
"Long story," said Ritsuka. "I'll tell you everything later, promise. Before then, we need to find the Grail and right this Singularity."
"I'm getting a Holy Grail reading," said Da Vinci. "Hmmm, that's interesting. It's right next to you."
The air next to Illya rippled for a moment before shifting and solidifying into the form of the Holy Grail, floating right before her. It didn't even have time to fall as she snatched it out of the air and studied it for a moment. Her expression turned sad, and she hugged the Grail close to her chest. "Mama…"
The Singularity itself started to break apart at that moment. The ground, the castle, and the woods around them started to let off golden motes of light, signs that things would soon be finished. The rest of the Servants pulled themselves off the ground, looking around in surprise. Mordred looked at Rin and let out a short laugh. "What, you saw me become an adult and decided you would copy me?"
"I figured if you could do it, it would be easy for me," replied Rin, getting a playful scowl from the little Servant. "Good work on defeating her Beast form though, left me some nice easy clean-up."
Meanwhile, Chloe and Heracles walked over to their Masters, surprise and awe on their faces. "Big Brother?" asked Chloe.
Uncle Shirou smiled at her. "Yep. How're you feeling?"
"Tired, but good," replied Chloe. She smiled and laughed. "I guess you're really 'big' brother now."
"I guess," said Shirou with a laugh. He reached out and put a hand on Chloe's head, patting it. "Good work defeating her. You saved us several times. I'm glad you were the Servant I summoned."
A blush. "You're welcome. I'm glad you summoned me as well."
"You did good as well," said Illya, smiling at Heracles. "You really are the strongest Servant."
Heracles frowned. "I am not sure that my performance in these battles warrant that praise. Especially with all the other great heroics performed today."
"Well, I think your teacher would be proud of what you've done," replied Illya, "and so am I. To me, you will always be the strongest, and that's a fact."
The Servant inclined his head in acknowledgement, a smile on his face. "I will take your praise then. Thank you."
Illya's smile turned mischievous. "Since I'm tall enough now, would you like a head pat like Chloe? You deserve it."
Heracles blushed for a moment. "I…I will accept your reward…"
Ritsuka could only marvel as Aunt Illya gave a gentle pat on the head to possibly the most famous hero in all of history.
Medusa walked over to Sakura; her tiny arms open wide. "I am not too proud to accept a reward," she said to her partner.
Sakura giggled and then knelt to sweep the small Servant into a large hug. "This is nice, but I can't wait until you're big again."
Ritsuka was used to seeing their Aunts be affectionate with each other, and while this time was rather strange looking, it warmed their heart like every other time. While this was going on, Rin and Mordred joined Mash and Ritsuka. The two Servants slugged each other on the shoulder, Mash kneeling to do so. A fit of laughter ensued. Meanwhile, Rin and Ritsuka just stared at each other, both unsure what to say. As they did, the world around them faded, leaving just their immediate surroundings, and only moments left before the Singularity disappeared for good.
"Roman," said Rin. "Thank you for saving us. That was some quick thinking."
"You're the ones who beat her," replied Ritsuka, feeling embarrassed. "I just realized about the Command Seals. I wish I had done so sooner…"
Rin put a hand on their shoulder, giving them a comforting smile. "You figured it out when you needed to, and that's all that matters. Good job, mission complete."
Ritsuka returned the smile. "Thank you."
Rin started to fade, her body turning to golden particles. Her expression turned sly for a moment and Ritsuka had a flash to every childhood memory of getting caught in a lie. "When you get home, tell me and your mother that I said hi. I'm sure they'll be just as proud of you."
Then the world faded, Da Vinci Rayshifting Ritsuka and Mash back to Chaldea. There was a lurching sensation as the world corrected itself back to it's proper for around them. They awoke in the tight Coffin, taking a moment to catch their bearings. Regardless of how many times they did that, it was disorienting. Once they felt comfortable moving, they opened the Coffin to find Mash and Da Vinci waiting for them.
"Good work you two," Said Da Vinci with a radiant smile. "The Singularity has been corrected and everything is fine again. And in time for the Director's return. Look sharp, she's not in a great mood."
Ritsuka barely had time to react as Olga Marie Animusphere, Director of Chaldea walked into the room looking annoyed. Behind her was her Caster Servant Solomon, an amused smile on his face. Both similar but different, it was pretty common for them to have contrasting expression. Especially when they came back from a meeting with the board of directors.
"Welcome back Director," said Da Vinci brightly. "Did you have a good summit meeting?"
"It was several days of torture," replied Olga. She gave a heavy sigh and looked to Ritsuka. "Your mother is an utter terror; how do you deal with her?"
"She's not that bad when you get to know her," replied Ritsuka, laughing. "Just don't get on her bad side."
"It's too late for that," muttered Olga. She looked around the room, confused. "Anything interesting happen while we were away?"
Mash, Da Vinci and Ritsuka exchanged glances. The trio laughed. "Nothing really," said Ritsuka. "Just the same as always."
Author's Note: And that's it, the end of Book 4 of the series. I hope everyone enjoyed this short farce of a fan fic, it was a lot of fun for me to write. I enjoyed getting to write something utterly absurd but also deathly serious.
For those reading as I post this, Books 2 and 3 are plotted out already and I will be getting to them shortly. Probably. Get some other projects out of the way, build up a buffer, then get to posting. If you read this first, there are dozens of contextless spoilers, so I hope you enjoy theorizing and guessing what's to come.
Thank you for reading.