Disclaimer: I don't own Fate or anything associated with it.
Author's Note: Welcome back, it's time to get serious again! For those who don't know, this is a sequel to my fic Fate/Zero: Heroes of Justice. I would suggest reading that first before this, or you will be very confused. Thanks like always to Blind_Seer0 for editing this chapter for me.
Updated Author's Explanation: This is Book 4 of a series, and as a month-long April Fool's joke/reveal, I kept that secret. For those reading after the fact, that's what's up. For those currently reading, I'm hoping you're pleasantly surprised. Books 2 and 3 are already planned and will be written up after this. Book 4 can be read independent of Books 2 and 3, although there are contextless "spoilers" throughout this fic. Please continue to enjoy the wackiness of this fic.
Fate/Heroes of Justice: Child's Play
Chapter 1: Falling Sakura Petals
Wrapped in the gentle darkness of a comfortable slumber, Shirou came to slow awareness with the soft hum of the television, an old episode of Heroic Spirits of the Holy Grail. He kept his eyes closed, nuzzling his face against the soft cushions of the couch. The sound of a turning lock, a door opening, footsteps as someone entered. It must be Shinji, coming home from work. Then, a greeting.
"Shirou," said a familiar voice. "I'm home."
"Welcome home," muttered Shirou sleepily. Something seemed different. Both he and Shinji sounded strange, but that wasn't his concern at the moment. He just needed a few more moments of sleep. The couch was comfortable.
Steps as Shinji walked across the apartment to him. "Oh, did you get tired while watching your show? Would you like to help me prepare dinner, or do you want to sleep a bit longer?"
"I can help," said Shirou sleepily. Shinji was a good cook, so he didn't need Shirou's help, but cooking together was fun. It reminded him of the times he had done so with his-, "Mom!" yelled Shirou, bolting upright into full awareness. He looked up and saw his mother, red hair and gentle smile, just like he remembered from his childhood. As his mind came to awareness, he also realized that he was physically different, once more in the body of a child instead of an adult.
"What is it?" asked his mother, reaching out and putting a hand on his head, gently petting him. "Is there something wrong?"
"How?" asked Shirou. Was this once more an illusion? A very real dream? "Are…are you Heroic Spirit?"
His mother frowned. "Like in your show?" she asked, looking over at the television. She picked up the remote and turned it off. Shirou noted that the room he in wasn't his current apartment, but the one he had spent his childhood in, before it had been destroyed. Before his mother had died… "I don't think I could ever become something like that."
Shirou stood on the couch and wrapped his tiny arms around his mother's neck, leaning in close as he fought back tears. "Of course, you could. You'd make the best Heroic Spirit. That's fact."
His mother returned the hug. "Thank you, that means a lot to hear." They stayed like that for several moments before the doorbell rang. They broke apart and his mother turned to look back at the door. "I wonder who that is?"
She started to walk over to the door, but there was a sick cracking noise as the door splintered and exploded into pieces, showering the room in front of it. Luckily, he and his mother hadn't been in the way of the blast, but in front of them the area looked like a bomb had gone off. A sickening feeling filled Shirou's chest. This all felt much too familiar. A large form, shrouded in darkness, lowered himself through the doorway of the apartment, shattering the safe boundaries of the sweet dream Shirou had woken into. His blood went cold and his heart sank.
"Berserker," he said, unable to believe the words as he said it. This couldn't be, this particular Berserker, one made from Lancelot the Knight of the Lake, had been dead for over two decades. Felled by Arturia after he'd killed Shirou's mother. But here he was again, looking once again like a figure from Shirou's nightmares. Berserker entered the room and turned to look directly at Shirou's mother. Fear filled him. "Mom! Run away before he kills you!"
"What?" asked his mother, looking over her shoulder at Shirou, then back to Berserker. Her hands balled into fists. "Who are you and what are you doing in my home?"
"We are looking for something that was stolen from us," said a new voice. A white-haired man, who looked to be in constant pain. Shirou recognized him as Shinji's uncle Kariya, a man who had been dead just as long as Shirou's mother had been. The man who had ordered her death. Kariya glared at Shirou and his mother, hatred twisting his features. "Give us Sakura now!"
"I don't know what you're talking about," replied his mother. Shirou saw her glancing around quickly, and together their eyes fell on a wooden baseball bat, still left out from the last time they had gone to the park. He knew what she would do next and was powerless to stop her as she moved quickly to grab the make-shift weapon.
Unfortunately, Berserker was much faster. A few steps away and suddenly she was lifted off the ground, choking and sputtering as Berserker held her up by her neck. She tried to free herself, but her hands clawed at his metal gauntlet to no avail. Her feet kicked wildly, one even hitting him, but did nothing but clank uselessly against his breastplate. Kariya moved to stand next to Berserker, glaring at Shirou's mother.
"If you don't tell us where you took her then we'll kill you."
"Leave her alone," yelled Shirou from the couch. He held out his hand and focused on releasing his magical circuits like he always had. Just one spell and he would blow these guys away and save his mother. But nothing happened. He could feel it as his magical circuits didn't activate. It was at that moment that he really understood what was going on. He was a child once more, before IRSS had opened his magical circuits, before Irisviel had trained him. He was powerless.
Kariya turned his gaze to Shirou, his eyes narrowing as he took notice of him. "Kid! Where did you hide Sakura? I know she's in here, now give her to me!"
"Sakura's not here," replied Shirou. He felt anger growing inside of him. "And even if she was, I would never hand her over to a monster like you!"
"A monster?" asked Kariya. "You call me a monster? No, I'm no monster, I'm a savior. I'm the one who is going to save Sakura from her fate. That's why I became the Matou Master in this Holy Grail War. That's why I accepted the burden of controlling this beast."
Kariya's eyes widened and his fists clenched as madness covered his expression. "I was supposed to be the one to reunite her with Rin and Aoi. To save her from Zouken. But someone else beat me to it. They killed Zouken and took Sakura. A child took her. Was it you boy? I was told to look in this apartment, and now, I find a boy, of the right size. It's clearly you who is the culprit."
Shirou realized that this man was beyond reason. He was as mad as his Berserker. His mother had gone limp in Berserker's grip, her struggling ceased. Noticing this, Berserker threw Shirou's mother across the room at him. The body struck him, bowling him over and carrying them both to the opposite side of the room where they struck the television stand.
Looking up from underneath the unconscious body of his mother he saw Kariya scowling at him. "Berserker, kill them and then search the house for Sakura." A darkened sword appeared in the black knight's hand and in several quick strikes he reduced the couch separating them into tiny shreds. He walked slowly over the remains, his sword dragging against the floor behind him and digging a furrow into the wood.
"Come on," muttered Shirou, struggling to stand. His mother was too heavy for his small body to lift. He would need a magical power boost. He focused once more on activating his magical circuits, to give himself a burst of strength or to create a weapon. Anything. He attempted to flip the switch in his mind, but nothing happened. "Come on…"
Berserker stopped a few steps away from them and drew his sword up so that it was perpendicular to the floor and held it tightly in both hands. Shirou focused on his magical circuits again. This time he thought he felt something, but still nothing happened. "Almost…" Again, same result. "Please…just let me be able to do this…I won't let her die yet again. Not a third time…"
With a whoosh of air Berserker's blade came down towards them, ready to cleave him and his mother in half in one strike. Time seemed to slow for Shirou, the blade moving as if through water. But even in this slowed down state, he was still powerless. He tried his circuits again and nothing. Frustration boiled inside of him and he yelled into the room. "Someone, help us!"
It was at that moment that he felt the switch to his circuits finally click on. More power than his child form should have had access to flooded him. Instead of being directed to a mana burst or creating a weapon though, the mana went into the ground and a red ritual circle surrounded them. There was a flash and time once again asserted itself. Berserker's sword sped up and Shirou expected to die at any moment. He was surprised as something red imposed itself between Shirou and Berserker. There was the sound of metal clashing and grinding against each other and Shirou realized that there was a person there, blocking Berserker's attacks.
"Who are you?!" screamed Kariya, his eyes going wide.
"Raaaahhhh!" yelled Berserker, trying to crush the newcomer. Half buried, Shirou was having a hard time making out concrete details, but he did see crossed underneath Berserker's blades were two twin teardrop shaped short swords, one black and the other white, like Ying and Yang. The red figure twisted and brought Berserker's blade downward, burying it into the ground to the side of them.
They didn't hesitate to launch a counter attack, bringing their twin blades around and sending a flurry of blows into Berserker's armor. Amazingly, with each blow Berserker was pushed back until he was right in front of Kariya. It had taken only a matter of moments. Berserker finally managed to recover and swept his blade through the air, but the red figure just managed to backflip gracefully out of the way, leaving them right in front of Shirou.
"Are you okay Master?" asked the red figure, not turning away from her foe and Shirou finally registered that they were a young girl with pink hair. She was wearing thin black body armor, a red shirt covering her arms and the upper part of her torso, a hood hanging down the back. A long red hip cloth currently rested against her, falling halfway down her lower legs which were covered by long black pants that seemed to be strapped into place with gray belts at odd intervals.
"Who are you?" asked Shirou, trying to process everything that was happening.
"I'm the Archer Class Servant you summoned, of course," said the girl good naturedly. From her height and how she sounded, Shirou figured that she couldn't be older than twelve. She looked over her shoulder at him, a smile on her face. "Are you slow or something-," her smile fell, and surprise covered her face instead. She swiveled around completely, ignoring Berserker, and her jaw dropped. "I-I can't believe it. Big Brother?"
Shirou stared into the girl's pink eyes and struggled to figure out why she looked so familiar. There was earnestness there and he had a memory of a young girl, this one with white hair and red eyes, looking up at him and calling him Big Brother while they ate ice cream on a park bench. "Illya?"
That word had apparently been the wrong one to say as the girl's face darkened in disapproval instantly. She frowned. "Oh, calling her name first again…"
Shirou saw a blur of motion and realized that Berserker wasn't waiting for them to finish their conversation. "Look out!" he shouted, drawing the girl's attention back to the situation at hand. She turned quickly and her swords transformed, forming together into a bow and arrow. She pulled back on the string and fired at Berserker at point blank range, a deafening explosion filling the air. Berserker was blasted out of the apartment, the wall crumbling as he passed through it. The apartment around the impact was scorched, nearby furniture wrecked from the blast. Shirou and his mother were unharmed, protected by the mysterious Archer.
"Thanks for the warning," said the girl, her tone still stony. She gave out a heavy sigh. "Of course, it couldn't be that easy. And there's no good place to really use my bow while protecting you, is there?"
Shirou saw that past Archer Berserker was standing, looking uninjured. The Black Knight let out a growl and moved to get back into the apartment but Shirou wasn't going to let him. "Get him out of here and away from any people!"
"Understood Master," said Archer, leaping into action. "And the name is Chloe von Einzbern, don't forget it!" Her twin blades appeared in her hands once more and she threw them at her enemy. Berserker dodged to the side, halting in his advance slightly as he did. Shirou blinked and Archer was gone from her spot in front of him and was suddenly behind Berserker, her body coming out from her black sword. As she reformed, she plucked her white sword from the air and slashed at Berserker's back. He started to turn to face this new threat, but Chloe leapt off air that Shirou could see hardened underneath her feet and backflipped so that she was crouched behind him once again, both swords in hand. Energy swirled around her as she let out a mighty cry and tackled Berserker once more out of the apartment. Their momentum carried them off the balcony and the pair toppled over the rail to plummet towards the ground.
Shirou trusted that the new Servant he was apparently commanding could handle a fall like that and he focused on getting free from beneath his mother. He activated his magical circuits once more and found them still working. He wasn't as good at the spell as Illya, but he was proficient enough to be able to give himself a burst of strength and crawl his way from underneath his mother. Once he had he scrambled to check her pulse and found it steady. As he did, he also noticed a Command seal on his hand, a closed flower bud. He was once again a Master of a Servant.
"How?" yelled Kariya, drawing Shirou's attention back to him. He was limping slowly over to them, veins pulsing angrily on his face. "How could you summon a Servant when they have all already been summoned?"
"Rules don't mean much in a Holy Grail War," replied Shirou. He gently plucked a strand of hair from his mother's head before standing and facing the man. He probably didn't look very intimidating as a child, but he wasn't going to let that stop him from protecting his mother. Never again.
He held out his hand parallel to the ground and activated a familiar spell. Like he'd hoped, the ground next to him rippled and distorted. A wooden bow rose out of the ground, leaving an indent from where the mass had been siphoned. A burst of mana through his mother's hair strand and it left his hand, elongating and becoming the bowstring of his new weapon. He grabbed it out of the air and held it tightly. Then, holding out his other hand he did a similar spell, drawing a wooden arrow out of the ground, the tip and fletching constructed from wood as well. He drew the weapon back like he had done thousands of times in Archery club and on the battlefield and pointed it at Kariya.
"Sakura isn't here," said Shirou once more. "I wouldn't give her over to you even if she was. Call off Berserker and leave before I need to hurt you."
"I won't let anything stop me in rescuing Sakura and making Rin and Aoi happy," yelled Kariya, holding out his hand. Mana flowed around him, and insects started to crawling out of his hand and arm. Little rivulets of blood came out with them, but he didn't seem to notice. As the insects met the air, they spread out wings and seemed to grow. In a matter of seconds, he was surrounded by a cloud of insects, much more than should have been able to fit inside of him.
"This won't make them happy," replied Shirou, frowning. "Rin and her mother would never want Sakura back like this. Not if it meant hurting other people. Separating other families."
"Don't talk about people you know nothing off!"
"I know them much better than you ever will!" yelled Shirou. "Rin is my best friend and the leader I've sworn an oath to. You would destroy them if you did this. Now stop!"
"Never!" yelled Kariya. The insects reacted to his anger and started to fly towards Shirou.
Shirou didn't know yet if he had his full mana reserves yet, but that didn't matter. His mother was behind him, alive for now, and he would use everything he had to keep her that way. He sent a flow of mana into his weapon and it started to glow with a white light. He released the arrow and it flew, hitting the lead insects after a few feet. There was a flash of light a dozen insects were vaporized. But it wasn't enough. He felt drained, but he knew that he should be able to do more. The insects were still coming towards them and he was already breathing heavily. He created another arrow and quickly loaded it, charging it up as he did so. He fired a second time, another dozen insects destroyed with the attack.
It wasn't enough. He could tell that there had been near a hundred insects summoned and he was barely anywhere near destroying all of them. He needed more. He needed his old power. His breathing had turned to gasps, but he knew he couldn't stop. The insects were continuing their approach, so he created another arrow from the floor and filled it with his mana.
This one was different though. A blue glow radiated off the arrow and the flow of mana from him to it felt different, easier. His breathing evened out and his muscles relaxed. This was a familiar feeling, one he'd had for over a decade. He knew that with this power everything would be fine. Not hesitating, Shirou released the arrow, a blue explosion sweeping through the insects, destroying every last one and leaving nothing between him and Kariya. His foe looked shocked at what had just happened, his jaw slack.
"How?" asked Kariya. "How could a child like you have a magical crest? Which family's is that? Who are you?"
"I-," said Shirou, feeling exhaustion creeping over him once more. This body wasn't used to the pressure of maintaining a magical crest. Even if the crest had more power in it, there was a limit to how much his body could bear. "I am Shirou Manjome. Heir to the Einzbern family and Justice Orange of the Justice Rangers. Regardless of your reasons, I will not let you hurt my family or friends ever again."
"You don't need to worry about that," said a new voice from behind Kariya. It was a young girl's voice but spoke like that of an adult. Shirou and Kariya both looked, and their eyes widened at who stood there. "Justice Purple will take it from here."
"Sakura?" asked Kariya. He took a step towards her, but she brushed past him, stopping next to Shirou. She once again had dark black hair that had a purple sheen to match the color of her eyes. It was a coloration that she hadn't had for over a decade, but it was just like how he remembered first meeting her. Sakura put a hand on his shoulder, and he felt her healing magecraft curing his exhaustion, his muscles stopping their aching and his breathing evening out.
"Better?" she asked. He nodded. She then knelt next to Shirou's mother and used her magecraft on her as well. "She should be stable now. From my experience, it will take a while for your young body to get used to your adult mana, so don't push it too much right now."
"So, you're the Sakura from my time, correct?" asked Shirou, keeping one eye on Kariya as he talked. The man's eyes were fixed on Sakura and his mouth moved through the motions of speaking soundless words. "What's happening to us?"
Sakura stood and shook her head. "I don't know. I came back to this time a little over a day ago." Her expression became dark. "I found myself being led into the worm pit. As I was being led down, I managed to activate a Servant summoning somehow. Medusa saved me and we've been in hiding ever since."
"Sakura," said Kariya, drawing their attention back to him. He started taking unsteady steps towards them. "Is that really you Sakura? You were taken the other day by Zouken's killer. I was worried that you would be killed as well. He deserved it, but I'm glad to see that you're unharmed."
"I'm sorry Uncle Kariya," said Sakura, holding her hand out before her. Mana started to swirl around her as she channeled it into a spell. "You don't deserve any of this. I don't think you even know what you're doing any more. This was for me, but I just can't find that I appreciate any of what you've done, since it's only hurt my friends and family. Maybe, maybe this time you can find a better ending."
Kariya frowned, looking confused. "What are you talking about Sakura? Now, come with me and I will return you to your mother and sister. They'll be overjoyed to see you again. You can be a family again. We can be a family."
"Please, find some peace in this," said Sakura right as she released her spell. A massive wave of mana, concentrated into a healing form, washed over Kariya. He let out a scream of unearthly pain as brown steam hissed out of his pores. He fell to his knees, screaming for almost a minute as Sakura kept the spell going. The steam stopped and so did his screaming. His eyes rolled up into his head and he collapsed to the ground, unconscious. Sakura released the spell, breathing heavily.
"Are you okay?" asked Shirou. She nodded. "What did you do to him?"
"Uncle Kariya was infected by Zouken's worms, just like I was as a child. I cured him of them." She frowned. "It probably wasn't very pleasant, but hopefully it undoes most of the damage they did to him. Or at least halts his deterioration. I know he killed your mother before, but…"
Shirou put a hand on her shoulder and flash her a gentle smile. "But he's family. I understand. I came to terms many years ago that the whole thing was an unfortunate accident, one done to save you. One that definitely wasn't your fault."
She returned his smile. "Thank you."
Something occurred to Shirou and he glanced worriedly out the busted wall of his home. "Wait, Chloe was fighting Berserker. We need to go help her."
"Don't worry," replied Sakura. "We probably wouldn't be too much help in this state, but I already sent Medusa to go assist her. She's in good hands."
Chloe ducked under a sword strike from the Berserker she was fighting and tried to get in close enough to hit him. Unfortunately, his reach was much longer than hers, and his armor much tougher. Plus, as the fight went on, he seemed to be learning and adapting, more like a proper swordsman than the Berserker he was supposed to be. She didn't know who this black knight was, she just had the strange sense that he was the type of person to sleep with his superiors' wife and trigger the collapse of his nation. It wasn't unusual for her to get empathetic bursts from those around her, it was a minor magical talent she had and made dealing with others, in battle and outside of it, much easier. Right now, every action Berserker made was accompanied by a complex burst of emotions. She was unable to properly parse through everything, so she didn't, instead just using the bursts as a sense of when he was going to act.
Their battle had ended up in a mostly empty parking lot, a street lamp flickering sporadically. It had taken all she'd had to push Berserker this far and she was tiring out trying to keep him here. Every time she made a move that took her from in front of him, he ignored attacking her and attempted to head back to the apartment. She couldn't allow that though. Regardless of if he knew of her or not, that was still clearly her big brother there, and she would do whatever she needed to keep him safe.
Berserker charged once more, trying to break past her and she leapt over him, guessing correctly that he would adapt to all the ducking she had done and swung low to try to catch the inevitable duck that never came. That took him off balance for a fraction of a second, which she took to strike at his back. His armor held up, but the blows brought him to his knees. She was not prepared as, instead of trying to get up and attack her, Berserker did an awkward runner's start, heading towards the apartment.
Chloe swore, running after him. Since they were in the middle of a city, she couldn't use her bow to try to take Berserker down. Any attack powerful enough to do so would also level at least a city block, and even in an empty parking lot, she was likely to hit something she shouldn't. Which is why she ran, desperately trying to catch up and know that he had too much of a head start on her. Even if she was only a second behind him, that would be too much time.
Berserker was only a hundred feet from the base of the apartment when a dark form appeared from nowhere. The form tackled Berserker with impressive force, knocking him back towards Chloe. She had a fraction of a second to dodge to the side before Berserker flew past her, stopping only when he hit a car, crumpling it. The dark form leapt to Chloe's side and she realized it was a girl, younger looking than her, wrapped up in a dark cloak. From inside the hood she made out piercing purple eyes that looked like they were almost made of crystal. It took Chloe a moment to notice that she was also wielding a scythe that was longer than she was, an equally long chain hanging off the end.
"I am here to assist you," said the new girl. "I am Lancer."
"Archer," replied Chloe, holding out a hand. Lancer did not take it. A stiff one. Chloe could sense that she was all business, focused on defeating Berserker. Although, there was also something else there, concern for a specific person and longing to return to their side. It was all very human, and that made her like the new Servant instantly. She put her hand down. "I'll ask questions later, I guess. Got anything that can pierce that armor?"
Berserker stood up from the car wreckage, giving an audible growl. Lancer studied him as he did. "One way. But I want to save it, as it will drain me almost completely in this state. This Scythe, is less effective against an enemy like this, since he is not divine or a Beast."
Chloe whistled. "Sounds like you've got a god killer there." She glanced at Berserker and pulled out her swords. "We need to figure out something quick though, we can't let him get to that apartment."
"Never," replied Lancer, readying her own weapon. "Do you not have a bow to use?"
"I do, it'd just cause too much damage if used here."
Berserker charged, sweeping at them with his large sword. Chloe leapt over the attack while Lancer just blocked with her Scythe, taking the powerful attack without moving any. Chloe struck at the Black Knight's back with both of her swords, finally managing to cause a crack in the tough armor. She only had a moment to savor the victory until with a mighty yell Berserker's blade glowed blue, the miasma around it fading away for a moment and revealing the sword underneath. Chloe had an eye for swords, and she could tell that this was a powerful sword. That fact was proven as the weapon broke through Lancer's defense and cut her in half.
Not even waiting for the halves to slowly fall to the ground, Berserker charged forward once more. Chloe was knocked back, landing on her feet in a crouch. She prepared to give chase again, but Berserker was knocked off balance by a chain wrapping around him and pulling taut. Lancer was now to the side of Berserker, her cloak laying in pieces next to her. She was a little girl with long braided purple hair, wearing sleeveless leather armor covering her chest and ending in an armored skirt. She was wearing sandals, leather armor strapped to her thighs and covering her legs from knee to ankle. On one arm she wore a leather bracer, while the other was left bare.
"Prepare your bow," yelled Lancer. She tugged hard on her scythe, miraculously actually pulling Berserker off his feet. Chloe jumped back as Lancer started to twirl around, Berserker being pulled along into the spin. Round and round they went, surprising strength in her tiny body.
Chloe summoned her bow, quickly crafting a sword and twisting it into an arrow. Lancer stopped her spin and flicked her wrist. The chain released Berserker, sending him spinning end over end into the air. He flew up above the buildings of the city, and Chloe took aim. She focused in on the crack in Berserker's armor she had made before. She had one shot at this, and everything needed to be perfect.
"Single Hawk Shot!" She released the arrow right before Berserker reached the apex of his ascent. The arrow struck the crack perfectly, just like she'd planned. There was a large pink explosion on impact, engulfing Berserker completely. She pumped her fist. "Got him!"
"A job well done," said Lancer, glancing up. Chloe looked as well and saw Berserker falling, his body breaking apart into golden motes of light. He hit the ground, and instead of causing an impact, his body broke apart completely.
Chloe held up two fingers in a peace sign and flashed a smile at Lancer. "Piece of cake."
Lancer finally let out a small smile. "I guess. We had better return to our Masters now."
"Oh no," muttered Chloe, paling. "I forgot about him. We need to hurry before that creepy guy hurts him."
"No need, my Master has everything under control." Lancer held up a hand, stopping Chloe before she asked another question. "Hold until we get to them. Then you can ask questions to your heart's content."
"Whatev's," said Chloe, stretching her arms above her head. "I wonder if little Big Brother will praise me for beating this guy?"
Lancer gave her a strange look, and Chloe felt a sense of sympathy and fond nostalgia coming off her. Something about what she had said had clearly resonated with the little Servant, but before she could ask about it, Lancer was leaping away, back up to the trashed apartment. Full of questions, she followed, easily leaping the distance.
She landed on the walkway through the hole she had made knocking Berserker off, and saw her new companions exchanging greetings. Lancer and a new girl, dark black hair with a purple sheen, were exchanging a hug. She felt affection coming off the two girls, a comfortable one that she often felt between her parents. The little orange haired boy who was both clearly her Master and Shirou Emiya was watching with an amused smile. He was obviously used to this, it was comforting and familiar, and there was a sense of pride in him. Such raw, honest emotions, someone able to be happy in two people finding each other, this was clearly her big brother. Likely not the same big brother, but still him regardless. The creepy man was on the floor, although he seemed…fresher, somehow. He was also unconscious. Also on the floor was the woman who Shirou had been buried under, and he bore a striking resemblance to her. A relative from before he had ended up in the Einzbern family? She was unconscious but seemed otherwise unharmed. That was good.
Shirou noticed her and waved her over. "Welcome back Archer," he said. "Good work."
Chloe puffed out her chest in pride. "Of course. I'm a top tier Archer and your Servant after all, there's nothing I can't handle. Can we please avoid city battles from now on though? That really hampers me."
A laugh. "I don't think I've ever been that lucky, but we'll try." He pointed to the other girl and Lancer. "These are my comrades, Medusa and Sakura Tohsaka. And I guess I'm your Master, Shirou Manjome. Nice to meet you."
"Manjome?" asked Chloe. "Not Emiya?"
A frown, a sense of minor sadness and some confusion. "No, I kept my family name when I was adopted by Irisviel and Arturia. Illya took on the Emiya name, to honor her late father."
Now it was Chloe's turn to frown. "Late father? Dad died?"
"In the fourth Holy Grail War. He was dying from a fatal wound and gave his life to save Arturia."
Chloe thought about that for a moment. "In my world, the fourth Holy Grail War was prevented from ever starting. Mama and Papa sealed everything related to it and gave us a normal life."
"And adopted me?" asked Shirou, clearly thinking through the series of events. Chloe got the sense that he had dealt with other universes and timelines before. Much more experience than a child his age should have, which she could relate to. Her own being was linked to the Holy Grail, and that came with a level of knowledge she was too young to even fully fathom. Plus, everything else she had experienced…
"Yep. Although, I was young at the time and not fully aware of the circumstances, for…reasons…" admitted Chloe. "But in the world I'm from you're my big brother."
The girl with Lancer, Sakura, walked over, studying Chloe. "And who are you?"
Chloe flashed her a peace sign. "Archer Class Servant, True Name Chloe von Einzbern. Nice to meet you. You look a lot like the Sakura I know, although, her name is Sakura Matou, not Tohsaka."
Sakura's face darkened and Chloe could tell that she'd hit a nerve. Medusa was the one to speak. "That is also a long story. We might want to focus more on the current moment. Why are we here and how are we here?"
Shirou nodded in agreement. "Yeah, why are we children currently?"
"Are you not usually?" asked Chloe.
"I don' know about you," said Sakura. "But we're in our thirties."
"And this seems to be our childhood," said Shirou. "But it's also different."
Sakura nodded. "I agree. There was something wrong with Uncle Kariya and Berserker. They weren't the most stable pair in the original timeline, but they weren't like this. I felt some strange magic on them, a type of madness enhancement affecting both of them. Something strange is going on."
Shirou considered something for a moment. "I wonder if the others are here as well?"
"Others?" asked Chloe, feeling left out of the conversation.
"My sister, Rin," said Sakura. "Plus, if Medusa is here, then maybe Mordred is here as well?"
"Or what about Illya?" asked Shirou. "Or Shinji?"
"Illya and Shinji were both overseas during this period of time, correct?"
Shirou nodded. "Yep. Illya was in Germany, where we found her. Shinji was traveling around with his father and only returned at the end of the War."
"So then finding them seems unlikely," concluded Medusa. "Even if they are here, which we cannot know for sure, then finding them will take too much time."
Chloe felt it as Sakura came to some sort of conclusion. "Then we find Rin. We know that she's in town, and where she must be. She was staying with our grandparents at this time, so that's where we can find her."
Shirou gestured to the two unconscious adults. "We can't just leave them."
Sakura shook her head. "I'm unable to lift the madness off Uncle. As soon as he wakes, he'll likely continue single-mindedly following the same course of action." She walked over and knelt by him, putting a hand on his forehead. She cast a quick spell, before turning back to everyone. She didn't feel like she was happy with what she had just done, but Chloe also felt a sense of resolve. "I have put Uncle in a magical coma. He will be fine until we can lift the madness on him."
"Are you sure?" asked Shirou, concerned.
A nod. "I am. The last thing either him or I want is for him to hurt someone else. This is for the best."
"I understand," replied Shirou. "Can we do something different for my mother though?"
"I cannot carry her like this," said Medusa. "I am strong enough, but it is awkward carrying an adult in this small body."
Shirou considered that. "Could we make a stretcher or something?"
Chloe stepped forward at that, waving a hand. "Ooh! I've got this!" She took out her two swords and concentrated on them. They fused together and elongated into the frame of a stretcher, which she laid on the ground. "Now we just need some blankets and we're in business."
"Good work Chloe!" complimented Shirou. It wasn't a head pat, but she'd take it. She had no clue what was going on, but she had a good feeling about this summoning. Things were about to get exciting.
Author's Note: So…what the heck is even happening here anymore?
Chapter 2: A Rose's Thorns
Disclaimer: I don't own Fate or anything associated with it.
Thanks like always to Blind_Seer0 for editing this chapter for me.
Author's Note: All according to keikaku…
Fate/Heroes of Justice: Child's Play
Chapter 2: A Rose's Thorns
Rin dragged her mother across the wooden floor of the house, her magical circuits straining to strengthen her. There was a thin trail of blood left behind them, but she tried to not think too hard about that. The steady sound of footsteps as their pursuer took his leisurely time following them. Kirei Kotomine rounded the corner, bloody knives in hand and a sadistic smile on his face.
"Oh, there you are Rin," he said, sounding more cheerful than Rin ever remembered him being. "Are you trying to run away from me? It might help if you left the dead weight behind."
Rin's response was to use a mana burst and pull her mother the last of the way into her room. Kirei readied a knife to throw as Rin moved to slam the door shut behind them. As she grabbed the door, Kirei threw his knife and time seemed to slow for her, the knife headed right towards her. She slammed the door shut and the next second the knife pierced through it, a solid foot of it hanging right above were her head was. She ignored her beating heart and threw the lock and bolt on the door, securing it from the outside. At least, for a while.
"Are you still alive in there Rin?" asked Kirei. "It sounds like my knife missed. How unfortunate. This would have been so much easier for you if you had just died." A pause. "Although, that would've been less fun for me. Will you keep entertaining me for a while Rin?"
"Go to hell Kirei!" yelled Rin, her rage finally exploding. She knew the man was crazy, but this was extreme, even for him. That was something she would worry about later though. She had other tasks she needed to deal with first.
Moving to her mother, she checked on her wounds. A stab wound to the side, one which luckily seemed to have missed anything important. There was also a head wound, from where Kirei had knocked her against a table. That was much more concerning, and the fact that she was unconscious probably meant head trauma. She focused on her magical circuits and cast a healing spell, soft green light filling the room. Both wounds closed and Rin hoped that her magecraft had been powerful enough to deal with the internal issues. If not, she would need to find a specialist who could help.
"Is that magecraft I see from in there?" asked Kirei from behind the door. "It looks to be an advanced spell too. She was right, something interesting is happening here. I'm glad I followed her orders and came here to kill you. With Master's blessing, of course."
Rin tuned out Kirei and sat down on her bed. She needed to think. First, she was a child. Specifically, she was in the body of her child self from the middle of the Fourth Holy Grail War. Second, Kirei was trying to kill her, but was also treating it like a game. He was being sloppy. Not too sloppy though, anything he did could kill her or her mother. There was also the third fact, outside she had seen an army of masked Servants, this War's Assassin Servant. The house was surrounded, so Kirei could take all the time he wanted hunting her down. Not sloppy, confident.
Fourth, she still had her magecraft. It was weak now, but she could feel it getting stronger as she acclimated to her child body. She had only been conscious for a few minutes before Kirei had arrived while she'd been eating dinner with her mother. Luckily, her Grandparents were out visiting friends, it made the situation simpler. Fifth, there was a 'she' who was commanding Kirei. Rin had no idea who this could be, and she would need to worry about that later. Before anything else, she needed a plan to defeat Kirei.
"Hello child," said a menacing voice. Rin turned and let out a cry as one of the bone masked Servants peered into the room through the window. The Assassin let out a laugh and leapt away from the window, giving her a clear view of the starry sky outside. He had clearly been trying to intimidate her. But, as Rin calmed her beating heart, an idea came to her.
"It's got to be around here somewhere," said Rin, rummaging quickly through her room. She quickly found what she needed, the tools to create a magical circle on the floor. Specifically, one meant for summoning a Servant. She had everything she needed, except for a catalyst. Her experiences had taught her that anything could be used, if sufficiently magical in nature, but she had nothing like that in her room. There might be an object that could work somewhere inside the house, but with Kirei outside she had no way of retrieving it.
"Have you prepared whatever little spell it is you're doing in there yet, Rin?" asked Kirei. The knife in the door wiggled a little and then slide out easily, leaving a slit. An eye peered through it. "A summoning circle? Advanced magecraft from a child your age? I am going to enjoy extracting the truth from you."
There was a kick at the door, shaking it in its foundations. Kirei was clearly still playing with her, there was no way that the door should've been able to hold up if he really wanted to break it down. He wouldn't continue playing for long though. Rin looked around for something, anything, that she could use. Her gaze once again fell outside, and she saw a streak moving across the sky. A shooting star. It was perfect.
Rin pricked her hand with a pin and let drops of blood fall into the summoning circle as she spoke, eyes on the shooting star. "Oh light of the dark sky, I call on you. Lend me your power in this my darkest hour. As Justice Red, I promise to be all the good of the world of the dead, and to defeat all the evil of the world of the dead. I take this oath on this night, vanquish those who would do harm and thus harness your power. Now, I command thee, hero of legend, answer my call and fight by my side!"
Bright red light filled the room as the ritual activated. Familiar with the process, Rin allowed herself a smile. It was working! Command Seals formed on the back of her hand, taking the shape of a closed flower bud. Kirei kicked the door again, this time more urgently, but Rin ignored whatever it was he said. In front of her golden motes collected and formed into a shape, her Servant.
"You finally got around to summoning me," said a childish voice. "I was wondering when that would happen, Master." Familiar green eyes stared at her, a cocky smile on the Servant's face. She knew exactly who this was. "So, what do you summon Caster Mordred to do?"
Silence filled the room as the magical light faded away and Master and Servant processed what had just happened. Rin looked over her Servant, something rather easy since he was shorter than her. Mordred, a Servant she was quite familiar with, but not in a form she was familiar with. He was dressed like a child from a Christmas special. Red shoes with woolen balls at the end of the laces, and fuzzy lining at the tops of them. His pants were floofy, drawn to a close with string just below his knees. He was wearing a short sleeve button down red shirt, a Santa-esque shroud over his shoulders, also fittingly with strings ending in more woolen balls. He had on red earmuffs and his messy blond hair was drawn back and held by fuzzy hairs ties. If there was a word to describe his outfit, fluffy would be it.
"So cute!" exclaimed Rin.
Mordred frowned, looking himself over. "Oh, come on!" he complained. "Why can I never be summoned properly to these things?"
The door slammed again, the hinges popping slightly, causing it to hang loosely in the frame. Rin focused, she could laugh at her Servant another time. "I don't know. Everything is unusual right now. But what I do know is that if you don't stop that man and his Servants outside, we're all going to die."
Mordred gave a predatory smile. "Got it. That's something I can handle Master." He held out a hand and a weapon appeared in his hand. A large candy cane with tinsel wrapped tightly around it. He stared at it for a moment. "Fuck it. I'll figure everything out as I go. It's worked for me in the past, it'll work now."
Rin nodded. "Good luck. Be careful, I'm not sure how much support I can give while in this body."
"Sure," replied Mordred. "Just do me a favor."
"When we get back to our time, please don't tell Fran about this. She'll never let me live it down."
"No promises," replied Rin, cracking a smile. "You're too cute for that."
"You're the worst Master."
There was another kick and this time the door collapsed into the room, broken completely. Kirei appeared, knives in hand, and ready to attack. Unfortunately for him, he wasn't just dealing with a helpless with girl anymore. Without even asking, Mordred leapt the distance between them, and body slammed Kirei. The priest was faster than a regular human, but even he couldn't dodge a Servant on short notice. He did manage to get an arm up to block, but Mordred still hit him like a cannonball. There was a sick snapping sound as Kirei's arm broke and he was thrown down the hallway until he final hit the wall. He collapsed to the ground in a heap, but still conscious.
"Damn," said Mordred admiringly. "That's one tough priest."
"He is," agreed Rin, watching Kirei stand, his right arm hanging limply at his side. She had a memory of his dead body, covered by a blanket in the Einzbern Castle, so long ago. She also remembered the satisfaction her older-self had expressed at the sight. It was with that thought in mind that she called out to Mordred as he headed down the hall to engage Kirei again. "Don't kill him. Just take him out."
"Seriously?" asked Mordred, stopping short and glancing over his shoulder. "Why do you always make these things hard for me? This dude might as well be frothing at the mouth with how crazy he is."
"It looks we have a strong little child here," said Kirei, sounding intrigued. "A Servant? How could you know how to summon one of those? Something interesting is happening here, and I'm going to enjoy torturing you for all that you know."
"See?" asked Mordred, gesturing to Kirei. "That's not normal. At least, I assume it's not. Also, super freaky. Can I please just kill him?"
"No!" said Rin. "That's that. Just use you magecraft to put him in a slumber or something."
"Easy for you to say," mumbled Mordred. "It's not like I know which spells this form was summoned with knowing…"
Kirei lurched forward, throwing several knives as he did so. Mordred turned to face his foe and swept around with his candy cane. The weapon perfectly stopped the knives, shattering them into pieces. Kirei created more knives and attacked Mordred at close range, but the little knight was too fast, and too small, to make an easy target. He ducked around Kirei and leapt up into the air as Kirei turned around and swept low with his weapons. Mordred was safely over the attack and reached out to his over extended foe. He had miss judged the length of his small arms and needed to reach out with his fingers the last bit. When his fingertips brushed against Kirei's forehead he released a spell.
"Holy Night Slumber!" said Mordred, the spell reaching out to Kirei's mind. The priest tried to pull away, but it was too late for him as the spell took hold. A sleep spell more powerful than any modern mage could cast surrounded him. He collapsed to the floor with a hard thump as Mordred landed gracefully next to him, a proud smile on his face. "There we go Master, one nutso priest taken out. Super easy."
"That's good," said Rin, taking a step towards her Servant. Suddenly behind her the window shattered and a dark form burst into her bedroom. She let out a cry, turning around and falling onto her butt as a dark figure wearing a bone mask stood before her, knife in hand.
"Play time is over," said the Assassin. "Master got the first turn, now it's ours. Prepare to die!"
"Oh no you don't!" yelled Mordred, charging the Assassin from down the hall. He wasn't going to be fast enough though. He waved his candy cane and shouted an incantation. "Holy Light!"
A string of electric Christmas lights shot out of his weapon, quickly wrapping around the surprised Assassin and inhibiting his movements in a flash of pretty colors. That gave Mordred enough time to close the distance and strike the Assassin with his candy cane. There was a sick crack and the Assassin fell to the ground, disappearing in motes of golden light.
"And there's a Servant down," said Mordred, flashing Rin a smile. "Give me more of a challenge, why don't you Master?"
Rin groaned, looking out the window. "Please don't say that…"
Mordred frowned. "What're you talking about?"
"The little girl is talking about us!" yelled a second Assassin, leaping through the window. Mordred swung with his weapon and hit the Assassin, knocking them into a third Assassin, and flinging them both back out the window. Mordred pointed out the window and looked at Rin, a look of shock on his face. "What the hell was that?!"
"Kirei's Servants," replied Rin. "Plural. This one is weird and has multiple bodies. There's somewhere around a hundred of them out there, and you need to beat all of them."
Mordred's shock quickly gave way to a look of excitement, a vicious smile on his face. "Now that's more like it. Done with the tutorial, now onto hard mode. Just how I like it."
"Be careful," said Rin, standing from where she'd fallen. Her gaze drifted to her mother, still unconscious. "You're in an unfamiliar body against a superior number of foes. I won't be able to properly back you up until I figure out this child's body."
As she spoke, Mordred turned and started walking to the window. He waved a hand lazily over his shoulder. "Yeah yeah, I've got it. You just sit back and pray or something. This will be over before you know it."
Mordred leapt out the window into the front yard and Rin followed, walking to the windowsill and peering out. It was dark outside, but Mordred glowed like a Christmas light, illuminating the area around him. There were dozens of shadowy figures milling about, each muttering under there breath and creating a humming sound. None of the Assassins stopped talking, even as they charged at Mordred. Instead, their murmurings turned to yelling.
"For the Master!"
"We will kill you!"
"Secret assassination technique!"
"None are prepared for Hassan-i-Sabbah!"
"Why are we doing this?"
"I want some shawarma…"
Mordred held his candy cane above his head. "Shut the fuck up! Jingle All the Way!" The light jingling of sleigh bells tolled out from Mordred and caused the nearest four Assassins to stop in their tracks. Their heads lolled to the side and they started to laugh, a merry sound that became slightly creepy when Mordred started beating them up with his candy cane.
He was forced onto the defensive quickly as the other Assassins surrounded him, taking turns to jab at him. His size once again helped him, making him a smaller target. He was too hard to hit among the crowd. Unfortunately, his reach was much to short to properly retaliate, and getting into the thick of things would've been too dangerous. As Rin watched, he managed to take out three Assassins, but took several cuts, including one to the cheek. Managing to get out of the thick of things, Mordred backed up and healed himself, a verdant green light covering him.
The respite didn't last long as the Assassins closed in on him again, forcing him to furiously defend himself. One enemy was wrapped in light like Kirei, and another was put to sleep. But he wasn't able to finish off either of them, needing to block with his candy cane. Rin realized that Mordred was more skilled, and stronger, than any of the Assassins, but their numbers would eventually overwhelm him. In her current state, any support she gave would be more likely to put her in the sights of the enemy than do any good. So, she took Mordred's advice. Kneeling at her windowsill, Rin looked out at her Servant, a bright star in a dark night, and she prayed.
Clasping her hands, she chanted, "Oh Knight of the Star, hear my prayers and borrow my strength. I believe in your skill and virtue and rely upon it in this dire hour. Please, prevail, like I know you will."
As she spoke, Rin thought that Mordred's aura of light seemed to grow brighter. His movements became crisper, and his attacks hit harder. Three more Assassins were felled in quick succession before they managed to force Mordred on the defensive again. They were too adaptable, able to take loses to figure out an opponent's strengths and weaknesses. Rin realized that the gap was just too wide.
But before she could despair, she heard screams of pain and terror coming from the edge of the forests. Faint motes of lights glittered in the air as several Assassins faded away into nothing. Mordred wasn't anywhere near to that area though and couldn't have done whatever was going on. So then, who was?
Assassin stood at the edge of the forest, watching as his comrades took turns harassing the tiny Servant in groups. The child was putting up a good fight, but it was only a matter of time. Soon, he would be defeated, and they could overrun the house, having fun terrorizing the inhabitants once more.
The faint sound of footsteps came from behind Assassin. He turned, knife drawn and ready to kill. He was taken off guard though as instead of an enemy he saw a charming, handsome and unassuming young man. There was a bright smile on the youth's face and for a brief moment Assassin lowered his weapon, considering him. That was a mistake though, as in the next moment his instincts started screaming at him that this boy was dangerous and much more powerful than could be imagined. Assassin tried to bring his knife back up, but the youth was already rushing towards him. It was over in a second as the youth grabbed Assassin's neck and twisted, snapping it.
As Assassin hit the ground and started to fade away, he finally got a full picture of just who stood before him. His initial impression had been accurate but also misleading. He was handsome and young, but also powerfully built, an athlete's figure. His tan skin and well-developed muscles were shown clearly by the lack of clothing he had. Things were kept simple with open sandals, armbands, short tights with a belt and blue hip cloth. The only adornment on his chest was a large lion pelt, hanging down his back and tied around his front. His demeanor and bearing were strong and regal, one who knew little peer. His black hair was kept short except for a small braid hanging down the back. But it was his red eyes that revealed to Assassin what the boy really was.
Not fair, thought Assassin, fading away for good.
Mordred was pissed. That wasn't an unusual state of being for him, but it was one he'd managed to avoid in recent years. At least, with any frequency. Life had been good until he'd felt himself being pulled from reality to yet another summoning, something that shouldn't have been possible. Now, in the body of a child he found himself having to deal with a nutso priest and his gibbering horde of Servants. Not his ideal way to spend his time.
A knife flew toward him and he rolled to the side, bringing his candy cane up to block a different attack. The Assassins' attacks were coordinated, but not too coordinated. They were each screaming incoherently about something, but he didn't care to actually pay attention. It seemed to him that whatever madness had affected their Master was also affecting them. Chanting a quick spell, he wrapped yet another Assassin up in lights, but instead of separating the lights from his cane, he attempted to pull the Assassin to the ground. Like he'd expected, his body was too small to be able to do such a feat, but the Assassin tugged back, and Mordred let himself get lifted off the ground. He flew through the crowd and struck the entangled Assassin, killing him. Only a bajillion more to go.
Suddenly, there was a commotion from the far side of the battlefield and Mordred saw several Assassins die one after the other. Something was making its way through the crowd, and towards Mordred. Now, a lesser man might have decided that was a bad omen and taken the chance to run. Mordred was definitely not a lesser man, regardless of his current stature. He smiled to himself and charged towards the incoming disturbance. He kneecapped a distracted Assassin and blinded another with a flare spell as he went.
Then he was through, and face to face with a young man who was much taller than him. He didn't recognize the youthful features, but he knew that this was a Servant like him who had been summoned at a young age to this War. And it didn't matter that he didn't recognize the Servant, he very much knew the Master riding piggyback on him.
"Hello Mordred," greeted the white-haired little girl, friendly like always. "Need some help?"
"Nope," replied Mordred, flashing her a smile. He flicked his wrist and shot a string of snowballs out of the tip of his weapon, striking an Assassin that had been trying to sneak up on the newcomers right in the face. "But you're free to join if you want. If you're going to sit out though, you can join Rin in that house over there and watch the show."
The new Servant pivoted around, Illyasviel Emiya giving a squeal of frightened delight as she held on tightly, and he kicked an Assassin, destroying her with the blow. He flashed Mordred a confident smile. "I believe if you will have me, I would love to join. It has been a while since I have been able to have this much fun."
Mordred shrugged. "Suit yourself. More the merrier. Just don't get in my way."
"I would never dream of it," said the Servant, sounding serious. "You are more than I feel like handling at the moment."
"Smart," replied Mordred. He already liked this new Servant. "What's your Class?"
"Can you not tell?" asked the Servant, laughing. "I am clearly an Assassin Class Servant."
"And I'm a Caster Class Servant," replied Mordred sarcastically.
Illya frowned. "Aren't you though? I love the Christmas theme."
"Thanks, I hate it," said Mordred.
"Sneak attack!" yelled an Assassin, rushing them.
Mordred fired several snowballs, stunning him. He then charged in, smashing in the maniac's worked as a trigger, snapping the other Assassins out whatever funk Illya's Assassin's appearance had put them in. As Mordred blocked a knife slash and kicked an Assassin in the shin, he made a mental note to as for this new Assassin's name as quickly as possible, to make distinguishing between them easier.
With backup, Mordred found the fight much fairer, but there were still over half of the Assassins remaining. They were like an overwhelming wave. He took special note of the fact that as each Assassin died, the movements of the others became crisper. Their tactics more devious. Knives were hitting him and his Assassin with increasing frequency. Illya was fine so far, hanging from her Servant's back, holding on with mana boosted strength, but there were definitely hits he was taking to protect her. He wracked his brain, trying to figure out the best way to give them some breathing room.
"Cover your eyes!" came the yell. Mordred didn't need to be told twice, closing his eyelids as tight as he could and holding his candy cane up in a defensive stance. As soon as he closed his eyes, there was a bright flash of light from directly above him and cries of pain from around him. He opened his eyes and looked around, seeing the Assassins clutching at their eyes. Past them he saw Rin, standing with a smug smile on her face.
Mordred didn't need to be told twice. He held his cane out before him, parallel to the ground and chanted. "On the Third Day of Christmas My True Love Gave to Me: Strength, Speed and Mental Acuity!" His cane glowed with a green aura that covered each of his three allies.
None of them needed to be told twice what was happening, as Illya dropped to the ground, landing gracefully, and projected a sword similar to Excalibur in form, but smaller and without any of the extra powers. Meanwhile, Assassin was charging into the throng of Assassins without hesitation, his movements even quicker and more powerful than before. The Assassins tried to fight back, but they found gandr blasts from Rin striking them in the head and distracting them for the second it took Illya's Assassin to kill them.
Four Assassins tried to chase after Rin to remove her as a distraction, but Mordred had his Master covered. He caught three of them in a string of lights, tripping them to the ground. The fourth Assassin ran after Rin, but while boosted by Mordred she was just fast enough to keep away, using some of her own magical ability to keep them off guard unable to gain on her.
Several of the Assassins decided killing Mordred was the best option to success, but they were surprised as Illya came in low with her sword, forcing them in to focus on her as she used controlled mana bursts to match them for brief moments. The few Assassins who failed to notice or react quick enough found that the little girl's sword was deadly enough to do what it needed to.
Of course, Mordred wouldn't allow the Assassins to forget about him either. It took some mana and focus to keep up the empowerment aura, and it might not affect him but, even if he was Caster Class currently, he was also still a Knight of the Round Table. His candy cane staff was just as deadly as any sword in his hands. The area around him glowed like a Christmas display as Assassin after Assassin died and faded away. In a matter of minutes, the battleground fell silent as the final Assassin gave a strangled cry and fell to a powerful mana burst kick from Mordred. He landed easily and looked around, finding all his companions scratched up, but not severely injured.
"Piece of cake," said Mordred.
Illya smiled brightly at him. "Christmas cake. How did you get like that anyways?"
Mordred groaned. "I have no idea."
"That would be my fault," said Rin, walking over to join them. "I was being chased by Kirei and had to think on my feet. I was able to rig a Heroic Spirit summoning, but I didn't have a catalyst." She pointed up to the starry sky. "But shooting stars are magical enough in nature that I figured I could use one as a catalyst, regardless of distance. I'm glad to see that it worked, even if the results were a little weird."
"But why did it need to be me?" asked Mordred. "You couldn't have summoned someone a little more naturally Christmas themed? Like maybe the actual fucking Santa Claus?"
Rin thought for a moment. "Maybe it's a joint summoning? I don't have the materials to examine you currently, but it's possible that you were summoned with the joint powers of another Heroic Spirit, in this case Saint Nicolas. We're linked, so it's not too surprising that you were pulled through as the one I summoned. A fusion may have occurred. Of course, this is all speculation."
"Just great," replied Modred dryly. He turned to Illya and her Servant. "Thanks for the assist. There were a lot of those punks. I'm still trying to figure out this body."
"You're welcome," said Illya with a small bow. "How long have you been in this time?"
"About half an hour," replied Mordred. "Max."
Rin nodded. "I've only been here a little bit longer. My mother woke me up for dinner and before I had a chance to register what was going on, Kirei attacked, injuring her. How long have you been here?"
"About two days," said Illya. "It took me some time to figure out when I was and to sneak out of Einzbern Castle. Unfortunately, the barrier was set to keep me inside the grounds. While trying to force my way through, I accidentally summoned Assassin, and he helped me through."
The Servant smiled proudly. "Breaking through things that are not meant to be broken is a specialty of mine."
"What Heroic Spirit are you?" asked Rin, curious. She gestured to herself and Mordred. "I'm Rin Tohsaka and this is my Servant Caster Mordred."
"Master has told me a lot about both of you," replied Assassin. "I am proud to fight together with you. My true name is Heracles."
Rin gaped at that. "The great Greek hero? Son of Zeus?"
"The same. Although, currently I am just fifteen. I will do all I can to assure our victory in this War, whatever this War may turn out to be."
"Thank you," said Rin. She turned back to Illya. "If you woke up in Germany, how did you get here?"
"We took a plane," replied Illya. "Heracles is very convincing and got us tickets. We pretended to be siblings on a trip to visit our parents in Japan." Illya frowned. "That's not really a lie either. There were also a few times that we needed to sneak past people, but that wasn't too difficult. We visited my home first, but there was a barrier around it. A powerful one. We decided it was too dangerous to try to break through, so we went looking for you instead."
"I'm surprised you found this place," said Rin.
"I went to your compound first, but it was empty. No one had moved in yet. I don't know where big brother or Sakura were living at this point either, but I remembered that one time we visited your grandparents and you said that was were you had spent the War. Once we got close enough, it was simple enough to figure out that we were in the right place from all the noise Mordred was making."
Mordred smirked at that. "Being quiet is for losers. You've gotta go loud."
"So," said Rin, "you haven't seen the others yet?"
Illya shook her head. "No. I was hoping you would know where they might be."
Rin considered that for a moment. "Maybe…"
Bored by the conversation and unsure of where anything would be in this time period, Mordred looked around lazily for something, anything, of interest. That was how he noticed something approaching from the edge of the tree line. Three figures…no, four figures, two of which were carrying something white between them. He was annoyed to realize that all of them were taller than him. He turned back to his companions. "Hey Master, it seems we've got company."
"Hmmm?" asked Rin, glancing over. Her eyes widened as the group approached and a smile appeared on her face. "Sakura?"
A dark-haired girl ran up to Rin, practically tackling her to the ground. There was a broad smile on her face, her purple eyes shining with tears. It took Mordred a moment, but he realized that this girl was his Master's little sister, although looking much different than how he knew her.
"Rin," said Sakura, "I knew you'd be here."
Glancing back, Mordred recognized what was clearly a young Shirou and Medusa, although she was less snake-y than he remembered, a large scythe in her hand. She was also carrying a stretcher, a woman on it who he didn't recognize, but who looked very similar to Shirou. Balancing the other shide of the stretcher was a girl that Mordred didn't recognize, but who was also clearly a Servant. She was also glaring at Illya as Shirou and her embraced.
"Big brother," said Illya happily. "I was hoping you would be here."
"Same," replied Shirou. "Although, I'm surprised to see you here and not in Germany."
"You can explain later," said Rin, interrupting the reunion while still being held tightly by her own little sister. "Now that the Justice Rangers are back together, we've got to figure out why we're in the past as children. Any ideas?"
Everyone shook their heads, thinking but having no answers. Mordred didn't really care about the how or why, he just wanted to know how to get back to being an adult. As he wondered this, the ground started to shake. There were cries of surprise and everyone looked around for the source of the rumbling.
"What's that?" asked Rin.
Not finding anything, Mordred waved his candy cane over his head and yelled, "Up the Chimney!" Motes of golden light surrounded him, and he lifted gently off the ground, floating into the air. He stopped once over the tree line and quickly saw the source of the commotion. A monster, as tall as a sky scrapper, waving around massive tentacles and wrecking the city. A building collapsed and Mordred felt his blood go cold. He released the spell and dropped to the ground quickly, leaving an indent in the soft grass as he did so. "There's something destroying the city. A giant monster."
Rin frowned. "I don't remember something like that in the Fourth Holy Grail War." She came to a decision instantly, looking around the group. "No time to waste then. Heracles, could you carry Shirou's mother into the house with mine? Sakura, please check quickly to make sure that they're okay."
Sakura released her sister reluctantly and nodded. "Understood."
Heracles knelt next to the stretcher and looked to Shirou. "May I take her?"
The boy nodded. "Yes. Thank you."
"My pleasure," replied Heracles, lifting her easily. "Anything for my Master's older brother. She had much to say about you."
Heracles and Sakura ran across the yard to the house, entering from the busted window Mordred had left though. Rin wasn't done issuing orders yet though. "Ok, while they do that, we need to figure out how we're going to get there. And fast." She looked at Medusa and Shirou's new Servant, who was turning the stretcher back into a pair of short swords. "Neither of you happen to be a Rider, do you?"
They shook their heads. Medusa answered first. "While I am qualified for that Class, this time I was summoned as a Lancer Class Servant."
The new pink haired girl shook her head. "I'm an Archer. The most I can make is a stretcher. Sorry."
Mordred thought about that stretcher and considered for a moment. He raised his hand. "I think I might have a solution," he said, drawing everyone's attention to him. He turned around, waved his candy cane staff at an empty spot and chanted, "Dashing Through the Snow!"
The area he pointed at glowed and sparkled. A large red sleigh appeared, sans reindeer. He turned around, a broad smile on his face. "I knew that would work! I bring you the Llamrei Mark III!"
"Very nice," said Rin. She frowned. "But how do we get it to move? Does it move on its own?"
"Um…," replied Mordred, unsure.
"I believe I can assist with that," said Heracles, returning with Sakura in hand. He put her gently on the ground. "I should be strong enough to pull everyone in that vehicle. You are all so small and light, after all."
"Then let's get going," said Shirou, climbing into the sleigh. He held out a hand to Illya and helped her in. Then, he held out his hand to Archer, helping her in as well, even though she was taller than him. There was a broad smile on her face as she climbed in, like she'd been given a present.
Mordred climbed in last and Heracles picked up the reins, wrapping them around his waist. "Everyone in and holding on?"
"Yep!" said Illya brightly. "Mush!" Her Servant complied, dashing through the night like a bullet, everyone hanging on to the sleigh for dear life.
As they went, Rin looked at Mordred. "Why Llamrei Mark III?"
He shrugged. "No clue. It just felt right."
Author's Note: Keikaku means plan!
Chapter 3: Among the Branches
Disclaimer: I don't own Fate or anything associated with it.
Thanks like always to Blind_Seer0 for editing this chapter for me.
Author's Note: When your D&D party are all eight-years old…
WARNING: This chapter contains spoilers for Fate/Grand Order's Camelot Singularity. If you care about that, please play or watch that first, then this.
Fate/Heroes of Justice: Child's Play
Chapter 3: Among the Branches
Illya held onto a handle in the Llamrei Mark III, her heart beating in excitement. There was a lot of uncertainty in their current situation, such as why or how they were where they were, but it was moments like this that she lived for. Heracles dashed through the snowy streets of Fuyuki, moving faster than any car. This was demonstrated quite handily as he sped past a car, the confused driver looking out as Illya and Chloe waved at him. When the Archer noticed that Illya was doing the same thing, she stopped, going back to being sulky in her spot in the sleigh.
Rin had made sure introductions were done quickly and efficiently. Most of the group knew each other already, there had just been the quick need to verify that everyone, but Heracles and Chloe, were from the same future. Then, once that had been sorted out, they had introduced themselves to the two new Servants. As he had been focusing on getting them to the center of the city, Illya had introduced Heracles for him. She had already told him all about everyone else on the long flight to Japan from Germany, so he had a good idea who they were.
She had been very surprised though when Shirou had introduced his new Archer as Chloe von Einzbern. Chloe had given them a quick explanation, that she was from an alternate reality where the Fourth Grail War had never happened and that through some means she had split off from Illya, making them twins in a sense. Illya knew there was more to the story than that, like how Chloe was also somehow a powerful Servant at a child's age. An age that seemed to be her actual age, unlike everyone from the future.
It was all confusing and complicated, so Illya focused on what was important. Chloe didn't like her much. She wasn't sure if anyone else noticed, but the young girl refused to be anywhere near to Illya and spent most of their sleigh ride glaring daggers at her. If looks could kill, Illya would be a pincushion by that point. She had no idea why the girl might feel that way, and she knew she didn't have the time needed to sort through why.
The sleigh swerved suddenly as Heracles moved to avoid and incoming car that was trying to head out of the city as fast as it could. Illya didn't blame them as she heard shattering glass and concrete. A thick fog had spread throughout the city, blocking the view of the creature and making travel through the city more treacherous. Her stomach fell at the thought of the destruction, and the death, that were probably being caused. But that's why they were here. This was clearly a job for the Justice Rangers.
"So," said Illya, focusing back to her fellow Rangers. "What's the plan?"
"To take note, I'm only at maybe twenty-five percent of my power, is everyone else the same?" asked Rin.
Illya nodded. Her arms glowed amber with her magical crest, although not as strongly as they should. "Yeah. I spent several hours meditating on the way here, but this was all I could manage."
"Same," replied Sakura.
"Yep," agreed Shirou. "That will make it difficult for us to do anything in a battle against Servants. We'll be more liabilities than anything else. Especially considering the non-magical abilities of these bodies."
Rin nodded. "And that's why we'll stay in the back. Let the Servants do the dangerous work and support them as strategically as possible. Maybe do some rescues in areas we can if possible but stay out of trouble."
"It'll make it hard to save anyone if we die," said Sakura. She tightened her grip on Medusa's hand. "And I don't plan to die here regardless. I want to go back home."
Illya saw her brother clench his fist, staring at it for a moment. "Same." Then, he looked around and smiled at Chloe. "So, I'll be counting on you again, okay?"
"Of course," said Chloe brightly. Illya couldn't help but be reminded of herself as a teenager, switching from being moody to bright and cheery depending on who she was talking to. She'd had a lot of issues to work through. Pent up frustration against people who hadn't deserved it and had put up with her regardless. The girl resembled her in so many ways, both physical and personality wise. Illya vowed to be as patient with Chloe as Arturia had been with her, it was only fair.
Heracles turned a corner and the Justice Rangers burst through another layer of fog. They finally had a clear view of the monster that was tearing through the city. Taller than any of the skyscrapers around it, with massive writhing tentacles that swept up from below the monster, partially holding it off the ground. The tentacles were still long enough to reach out and smash the surrounding area to pieces. As a tentacle headed towards a building, Illya realized that there were still people on the street trying to escape.
"Chloe!" said Shirou, pointing. "Cover those people."
"On it," said Chloe, jumping out of the sleigh while it was still moving. She hit the ground running, creating a bow as she did so and pulling back the arrow. Taking careful aim, she hit the tentacle dead on. The blow wasn't enough to destroy the tentacle, but it did divert it enough so that it missed the building, tumbling down slowly to hit an empty road, trashing it. Chloe landed next to the people and started helping them up and ushering them away.
The tentacle didn't halt on the ground though. It started to move towards Chloe, trying to go through the building. It started to dig into the foundations, shaking it. There was a purple blur as Medusa had quickly followed Chloe and jumped over the tentacle. As she did, she twisted around and materialized a large scythe. She attacked the tentacle, digging the blade of the scythe into it. The head and body of the scythe separated, a chain sliding out and keeping the two connected. The chain dug into the top part of the tentacle as Medusa landed on the other side and pulled. There was a large fountain of blood as the scythe dug into the tentacle and ground it to a halt.
"Mordred!" ordered Rin. "Restrain that thing's movements."
The tiny Caster held up his candy cane, an excited smile on his face. "Right! Let's see what this form can do. Wreathes of Holly!" His spell activated, three large bands of light appearing and circling over the monster's head. The light transformed, turning into massive holly wreathes that slid down the body of the beast, tightening and inhibiting its movements. One wreath was hovering just above the ground while the second was a little over two-thirds of the way down the body of the monster. Due to how the tentacles protruded from the bottom of the beast this meant that the tentacles that had been stretched out were drawn back in towards the main body, severely limiting how much they could extend outward. The third was about half way down from the top and wasn't restraining much except for a few tiny wriggling tentacles that didn't extend that far, but it was definitely making the thing very uncomfortable.
Illya decided it was her turn to act as well. "Heracles!" she said, drawing his attention as he raced in an arc around the creature. "Halt the sleigh and assist Chloe in evacuating people from the area."
"Understood," he replied, reaching around his waist while still running and untying the sleigh reigns. Untethered, he started to outpace the sleigh for a moment before quickly turning around, planting his feet into the road and reaching out to the sleigh. His sandaled feet slid against the road as the sleigh continued moving forward and pushing him with it. In a surprisingly gently process, Heracles brought the sleigh to a halt within seconds. The road was torn up behind them, but Illya figured that that was an acceptable price to pay for stopping a monster who was doing the same on a greater scale.
"Thank you," said Illya.
Heracles bowed. "You're welcome, Master. I will be off now." Without saying another word, he did a powerful leap away, making it to the second floor of a building to rescue someone who was trapped underneath a filing cabinet.
Illya turned to her comrades. "Now what? Do we just keep our Servants on rescue while Mordred holds that thing?"
"I'm not sure yet," said Rin, considering. "We don't know what that is, how it appeared or what it can even do yet. We should operate on the assumption that it can do more than we think it can."
"Which means getting everyone as far away from this area as quickly as possible before engaging," concluded Sakura. "Anything else will get people mixed up."
"Agreed," said Rin. She glanced over to her Servant. "Mordred, how long can you hold that thing?"
"As long as I need to," said Mordred, grimacing. "I'm not letting this bastard take another slithering step anywhere. I'm not sure how much else I can do while holding it though. Likely just a spell to buff everyone in our group, but nothing more active than that."
Rin nodded. "Okay, we'll save that until we start engaging."
Shirou glanced over the monster. "The fog makes it hard to tell, but I'm not seeing any obvious weak points. Do we have any Noble Phantasms able to cut through that thing's hide? How tough is it anyways?"
Illya considered that question quickly, glancing over to where Medusa had released the tentacle and was carefully cutting out the crushed door of a car to rescue the people inside. She then glanced to the tentacle that Mordred's wreathes had pulled back and saw that the damage done by the scythe had healed completely, leaving not even a scratch. "This monster can heal. I wasn't watching how fast, but we should assume that repeated weak strikes won't be able to do much. Medusa's scythe didn't dig in too deep either, which makes me think that it's super tough."
"What's that leave us with then?" asked Shirou, frowning. "I know that Chloe can fire a powerful arrow strike, but she's already done so once today. I'm not sure how many times she can do it again. Want me to have her try?"
"Maybe," said Rin, considering. "Mordred, do you know your Noble Phantasm's name?"
"Not a fucking clue," replied Mordred Instantly, grimacing and holding his candy cane staff tighter. It glowed, increasing the tightness of the wreathes as the monster tried to break out of them. "And I don't think I'll be able to figure it out while doing this. I'm also guessing low odds that it's anything offensive based, considering my current theme."
Rin sighed. "That's what I was worried you'd say." She glanced at Sakura. "Medusa still has her eyes, correct?"
Sakura nodded. "She does. We could try to petrify it, but it might be too large. And I want to keep that as a last resort, if possible. It's area of effect tends to stretch past where it's used, so we would need to be very careful how we angled it."
"Agreed." Now it was time for Rin to look to Illya. "You've got an unfamiliar Servant; do you know what he can do?"
Illya shook her head. "Not sure. His myth is so varied it could be anything really. I could think of a few possibilities. If nothing else, he's talented at killing monsters, so he should be useful somehow."
An otherworldly scream of fury radiated out from the monster, causing everyone to grimace in pain. All the windows in the area shattered, raining glass down around them. Shirou scowled. "We need to do something soon. This is only going to get worse if we wait.
"Then what is your command?" asked Chloe, rejoining them. Next to her was Medusa and Heracles. Once the group's attention was on her, she gave them a sloppy salute, smiling. "Archer reporting for duty. All civilians have been evacuated from the nearby area."
"Good work," complimented Shirou. "I was wondering, do you think your Noble Phantasm could kill that thing?"
Chloe considered for a moment. "I think so. But more than one shot would be tough. No real way to know without trying though."
Rin groaned. "I don't like those odds."
"Heracles?" asked Illya, looking at her Servant. "What about you?"
"This is my Noble Phantasm," he replied. He held out his hands and a bow appeared in one, with a quiver in the other. In the quiver rested three finely crafted arrows. "These arrows are dipped in hydra blood. Each arrow is able to kill a mortal being upon contact, or render an immortal being mortal. I do not know what manner of creature this is, but if it can die, these can kill it."
"And you only have three?" asked Rin.
Heracles nodded. "Indeed. So, we would need to be careful in their use."
"How about we have Chloe strike first," said Shirou, "and go from there?"
"Hurry up!" said Mordred, sweat running down his brow. His tiny form shook as his staff glowed brightly. The monster let out another scream and its tentacles pulsed violently. The wreathes strained, looking ready to break at any moment.
Illya couldn't wait any longer. She turned to Heracles. "Shoot it."
Before he could respond, Chloe was leaping forward, pulling out her bow as she did. She landed in a solid stance and aimed at the heart of the creature. "Don't worry," she said. "I've got this. Single Hawk shot!"
A powerful pink light shot from Chloe's bow up to the creature. It struck the monster's chest and burst through it, disintegrating large chunks of flesh. The air smelled of burnt seafood as the monster sagged forward, a large hole in its chest.
Chloe pumped her fist in triumph. "Down in one! I'm two for two tonight."
"No," said Medusa solemnly. She pointed up to the hole. "Look again. The damage is healing, and there is something moving in there."
"What?" asked Chloe, squinting for a moment. Her eyes went wide. "There's a Servant inside of there!"
Chloe loaded another arrow, but before she could fire the monster pulsated and the wreathes finally broke, causing a shockwave of magical energy. The Master's were all knocked off their feet, with the Servants teetering slightly. Chloe fired, her aim thrown off, and the shot went wide, just missing a building and going off into the fog shrouded night. All of the tentacles gathered together and then crashed down towards the Justice Rangers. Illya knew that there wasn't enough time to escape, the tentacles were covering too wide of an area, so she braced herself for the impact.
But the impact never came. There was a shout and then a purple figure leapt in front of the Rangers. Another shout as the newcomer shouted something, massive amounts of magical energy gathering around them. "Lord Camelot!"
Illya watched in amazed surprise as a massive barrier of blue light sprung up between the newcomer and the tentacles. The tentacles struck the barrier and were repelled completely, being knocked backwards or safely to the sides.
The tentacles deflected, the newcomer lowered the large cross shaped shield Illya realized that she was holding. A young woman, maybe in her early twenties, turned to face them, a worried look on her face. "Is everyone safe?" While she talked, Illya noticed that the barrier still stood between them and the flailing tentacles.
Illya nodded. The woman let out a sigh of relief, a small smile on her face. "That's good. I was worried I wasn't going to make it in time."
The young woman was strange, and that was saying something based on the people just in Illya's immediate family and not everyone she knew. She had short lavender hair and similar colored eyes. In her hand, carried easily, was a shield taller than she was, and at her hip a simple sword. She was covered in full plate armor: flat footed metal greaves, standard curved breastplate and metal gauntlets. The only exposed skin she had were her shoulders and her head. She had a purple hip cloth at her waist, longer on one side than the other. Around her shoulders was a flowing dark purple cape, a hood hanging down currently. She was also clearly a Heroic Spirit.
"Mash!" yelled someone, running up from behind them and to the newcomer's side. This person was wearing black combat boots, dark grey pants, and a black shirt which was tightened with grey belts around their waist, and across his chest and shoulders. It looked to be a powerful defensive type mystic code, not something a regular person, or even a standard mage, would be running around in. On their lapel, there was a symbol embroidered, but Illya didn't recognize it. They had gloves on, but the backs of them were open to reveal a set of red Command Seals on their right hand. A young man, with black hair and blue-green eyes. "Sorry, I wasn't able to keep up."
"No worries, Senpai," said Mash. "What are your orders?"
"Well," said the young man, considering. He looked around, as if finally noticing the gathered Justice Rangers, staring at them in surprise. "Oh, right. Uh, hello there."
"Who are you?" asked Rin, staring intently at him. "Why do you look familiar?"
Mordred took a step towards the woman, surprise on his face. Mash noticed him and her eyes went wide. The pair spoke at the same time.
The young man looked back and forth between them, before his gaze stopped on Mordred and his eyes went wide. "Mordred? That Mordred? You're so tiny now!"
"Don't call me tiny!" demanded Mordred, glaring at the young man.
He held up his hands defensively. "Sorry, I didn't mean any insult, you're just not how I recognized you."
"I'm not?" asked Mordred. He pointed at the young woman. "What about this? Galahad, what's going on here?"
"Galahad?" asked Rin. "As in, the Knight of the Holy Grail, son of Lancelot and fellow Knight of the Round Table member. That Galahad?"
The woman who was apparently Galahad nodded. "Correct." She looked shy for a moment. "Uh, well, it's kind of hard to explain, but put simply; I'm a Demi-Servant borrowing Galahad's powers. Although, it's a little more than that. Kind of like his…reincarnation I guess?"
Mordred looked at her for a moment before smiling. "Makes sense."
The new pair looked confused for a moment. "Makes sense?" asked Mash. "Really?"
"Of course," said Illya. "It's not like we haven't met Demi-Servants before. We understand the concept."
Mash looked to her companion. "Have they, Senpai?"
The 'Senpai' thought for a moment before snapping his fingers. "Right! Yeah, they have. I remember that story now. That makes it a lot easier. If only everyone we came across were the Justice Rangers."
"You know of us?" asked Sakura curiously. Illya recognized it was the tone she took when questioning something she was curious about.
"Of course," said the young man. "Who doesn't know about the Justice Rangers? They're super famous heroes."
"Even though we're children currently?" asked Sakura.
Sakura's expression turned serious. "Thank you for the assistance, but who are you really?"
"I'm Mash Kyrielight," said the young woman, trying to get between Sakura and her flustered companion. "And this is my Senpai and Master R-"
"Roman!" interrupted the young man, surprising Mash. Then, he said slightly calmer. "Roman Archaman. Master of the Demi-Servant Mash Kyrielight and agent of a secret mage security organization that I can tell you nothing about."
Illya prided herself on her good hearing, so she caught it when Roman muttered under his breath, "because I'm not sure if you'd recognize the name yet or not…"
"So," said Chloe, drawing everyone's attention. "This is an interesting conversation and all, but shouldn't we be, like, dealing with that giant squid thing?"
As if to agree with her, the monster slammed a tentacle into Mash's barrier, shaking the ground around them. Roman looked relieved for an out. "Yeah, we should." He noticed Sakura, Rin and Mordred giving him looks of distrust. "I promise I'll explain more about who we are and why we're here, but first we really should deal with this thing, right?"
Rin gave out a heavy sigh. "You're right." She looked at Mash. "What Class are you? Do you have a Noble Phantasm that could harm this thing?"
Mash shook her head. "I'm the special Class Shielder," she replied. "Unfortunately, my Noble Phantasm is what you saw already, an ultimate defense, but not anything more."
"Then plan B," said Rin, thinking. She glanced to Heracles. "Everyone else will distract and restrain the monster. You'll fire at it. All right?"
Heracles nodded. "Understood." He turned to Illya. "I will make you proud."
She smiled at him. "I know you will."
Rin looked to Mash and Roman. "Would you be willing to assist us against this monster? If not, then we just ask that you drop the shield and run. This will be getting messy."
"Of course, we're going to fight besides you," said Mash, smiling. A flicker of uncertainty, she glanced at Roman. "Right Senpai?"
Roman nodded. "Yep." He started to look very anxious for some reason and slapped his face lightly with both hands. "One second." He closed his eyes and held out his hand.
Illya recognized a type of transformation magecraft, like what she did to get into her ultimate form, but this one was clearly not combat focused. Roman's hair glowed for a brief moment and transformed from black to orange. His features softened and changed ever so slightly. She opened her eyes, blue-green changed to orange. A bright smile appeared on her face. "All right," she said, her voice ever so slightly higher pitched. "I'm ready."
Before anyone could say anything else, Mash stepped in front of Roman, glaring sternly at everyone around her. "Senpai is genderfluid, they/them pronouns. We would be highly appreciative if you could do so properly. Ready for me to drop the barrier?"
Rin didn't hesitate or falter as she responded. "Of course, we'll remember that. Drop the barrier."
"Thank you," whispered Roman softly in Mash's ear. So softly that Illya was pretty sure that only she and Mash heard.
Everyone prepared themselves as Mash, a bright smile on her face, held up her shield and yelled out, "Now!"
The barrier dropped and all the Servants leapt into action. Mordred held out his candy cane staff and shouted an incantation, Christmas light chains sprouting out from the ground around the monster and wrapping around each of its five largest tentacles. Chloe and Medusa each circled around to the side, pulling out their weapons and getting in close to stop chopping up the smaller tentacles. This served both to keep them from reaching out and attacking, and to keep the monsters attention divided. Mash charged down the center towards it, showing surprising agility as she ducked around and slammed her shield into tentacles, never allowing the thing to entrap her.
While everyone else did this, Heracles leapt backwards to the top of a small building. With his new vantage point he loaded an arrow into his bow and aimed. He breathed in, and then breathed out slowly. As he did so, his fingers released the arrow and it flew true, straight into the center of the monster where they had seen the Servant before.
The arrow struck, burying deep, and the effect was immediate. The area around the impact point started to blacken and decay. The infection spread out quickly, taking over a car sized portion of the monster in the blink of an eye.
But then, the monster let out another ear-splitting cry, and its body glowed with an eerie green light. Slightly away from the edges of the infection, the flesh of the creature started to move. Illya magically increased her vision and saw as the flesh transformed into people sized monstrous starfish things. The starfish creatures grabbed the chunk of infected flesh and pulled, pushing it out of the creature's mass. Together, the entire thing slogged out, falling several stories before hitting the ground with a wet thud, pulverizing the starfish as well. As soon as the infected part was gone, the monster's body started to patch itself up once more.
Shirou didn't hesitate. He yelled out to Chloe. "Chloe! Fire the most powerful shot you can at it as soon as possible."
Chloe nodded, leaping away from a swinging tentacle, cutting at it as she disengaged. She ran to the foot of the building Heracles was on and ran quickly up in, taking a spot next to him. With a quick wave, she materialized her bow and took aim, charging her attack.
"Fire immediately after her," ordered Illya. Her Servant nodded, loading his second arrow.
Time seemed to slow down as Chloe prepared to fire her Noble Phantasm. Before she could fire though, a quick moving blur appeared next to the two Servants. There was a flash of red and gold and Chloe and Heracles were jumping back down the building, retreating from the new threat, their attacks unfired.
As they landed next to Illya, she let out a gasp as Heracles' right arm dangled uselessly at his side, a long bloody slash running down it. "What happened?" she asked, looking between the Servants.
"We misjudged our enemy," said Heracles, sounding grim. "My arrow was destroyed. Master, can you heal me?"
"Sakura?" asked Illya, looking at her comrade.
Sakura held out her hand and green energy surrounded Heracles' arm. Nothing happened. Sakura frowned. "That's not right. I'm casting the spell, but it's not working."
"That's right," said a calm voice. Illya looked and saw a man jumping down from the building and landing in front of them. A handsome man in green leather armor, with a spear in each hand, one red and the other golden. He had a piercing gaze and a mole on his cheek. He pointed his golden spear at Heracles' arm. "That wound can not be healed by modern magecraft. Not as long as my curse stays on it."
"I know who you are," said Rin, taking a step towards the man. "Lancer Diarmuid Ua Duibhne of the Knights of Fianna. Celtic hero and wielder of the twin spears of Gae Buidhe and Gae Dearg. Your weapons can pierce any magical effects or leave unhealable wounds."
Diarmuid nodded. "That is correct. You are well informed for a child. You have my respect." He fell into a fighting stance. "I don't agree with it, but my Master ordered me to wait to for the right moment to strike, and now you will find me as your enemy. Who will face me?"
"Archer, Assassin," said Shirou. "Work together and defeat him quickly. We need to stop that monster before it runs wild through the city."
Chloe nodded. "Understood."
"No," said Heracles, surprising the group. He looked to Illya. "Master, please allow me to fight this man by myself."
"But you're injured," insisted Chloe. "It makes no sense to fight by yourself."
"But it does," replied Heracles. He reached out a hand and put it on Chloe's head. He smiled sadly at her. "It is my way of apologizing for my earlier mistake. You were trying your hardest to defeat this foe, but I did not. I lied and lazily tried to defeat this monster. My teacher always told me that my overconfidence in my abilities would lead to grave mistakes, but I never took his words seriously. Now I am paying for it. I wasted your efforts so please, allow me to make it right."
"An honorable decision," said Diarmuid. He pointed his golden spear to a point behind them. "Of course, I am still not your only foe."
"Hey Master!" yelled Mordred, causing everyone to turn around. He was still straining to hold the monster. "Things are about to get nasty."
Illya let out a gasp as she realized that hundreds of the starfish monsters from before were breaking off from the body of the monster and trying to spread out into the city. Medusa and Mash had switched from attacking the main body to trying to destroy as many of the creatures as possible before they got away.
"We need to stop those things," said Shirou, clenching his fists.
"We do," said Illya, reaching a conclusion. She faced Rin. "I think Archer should assist Lancer and Shielder. Assassin can defeat Diarmuid and then go assist everyone else in defeating the monster." A pause. "He can do this. I know he can."
Rin considered her words for a moment before nodding. "Understood, Justice Rose Pink. I'll trust your judgement in this matter." She looked to Shirou. "Are you okay with this?"
Shirou nodded immediately. "I trust my sister. If she believes her Servant can win, then so do I." He looked to his own Servant. "Archer, please go assist the others. You're the best person for making sure that none of those monsters escape into the city."
"Gotcha," said Chloe. She reached out for Heracles' hand, holding it in hers for a moment. "Don't let me down."
"Never again," said Heracles seriously.
Chloe leapt away, throwing her swords at two starfish trying to escape, killing them. She teleported to her weapons and repeated the process, flying quickly along the entire outline of the battlefield, picking off what Medusa or Mash couldn't. Mordred continued to hold the monster, sweat dripping down his brow.
"Thank you for waiting," said Heracles, turning to Diarmuid. "I appreciate the gesture."
I would just rather fight one foe than two," said Diarmuid. "An honorable battle against a powerful foe, that is what I seek." He held his spears at the ready. "Will you be the one to satisfy this desire?"
Heracles laughed. "I satisfy no desires but my own." He fell into a combat stance of his own, one hand held out before him with his injured one as far away from his enemy as possible. "But maybe I will make an exception with this battle. I have those who I have promised to win this for, after all."
"Then let us begin!" yelled Diarmuid, charging towards him.
Heracles leapt forward as well and skillfully dodged several spear strikes, but never quite able to return with a blow of his own. Illya could see that it was a fight of intense skill on both sides, but that Heracles' intention wasn't to land a hit, not quite yet. Instead, he led his foe away from the Masters, allowing for more space for them to properly fight in without endangering anyone. It was only once they were a significant distance away that he started truly fighting back. He kicked down with an ax kick, but Diarmuid leapt back, dodging it. The kick hit the ground and the area around it shattered from the power of the blow, chunks of concrete flying towards his enemy. Diarmuid easily cut the debris, an excited expression on his face.
"That lunatic is enjoying this too much," said a smug voice. Illya and the others turned to face a trio walking slowly towards them. Two men and one woman. She didn't recognize either of the men, but she did the red-haired woman. So did the rest of her companions.
"Teacher Sola-Ui," muttered Rin, her expression grim.
Sola-Ui sneered at the children. "That injured Servant will be no match for Lancer."
"If that idiot actually takes the fight seriously," said a blond-haired man who stood in the center of the trio. He was the one who had spoken before. He had a look of superiority on his face. "But just in case, we should end the lives of these children first. They will put up little challenge to a Master magus such as myself."
"This will be so cool," said the third person, a young man with red hair and a sadistic smile on his face. He pulled out a long knife and brandished it at them. "I've always enjoyed killing children the most. This is like a dream come true."
"Contain yourself," said the first man. "Just continue listening to my orders like you have been up to this point and victory will be assured. Then you can indulge yourself once we all have our wishes granted by Ruler."
"Yeah, yeah," said the young man. He held up his hand, and Illya saw a bruise indicating where there had once been Command Seals. "You already made me use up all three of these."
"Ruler can give you more. It was necessary to use them to preserve Caster's life. By using your Command Seals like I ordered, he was bolstered against that first attack, and able to expel the rot of the second. He's almost as mindless as a Berserker in that state right now, just trying to reach some Saint that does not exist in this era. If we didn't use those Command Seals to order him to release his minions, he would have just flailed uselessly about."
"Right, right," said the young man, clearly tuned out from the conversation.
"Can we remove these children already, Kayneth?" asked Sola-Ui. "While you talk to this fool, you're wasting precious time that could be spent assisting Lancer in victory. Nothing else matters."
"Hey," yelled the young man, sounding offended. He pointed the knife at Sola-Ui. "The name is Ryuunosuke, remember it. No serial killer will be more famous by the time we're done." He smiled, looking back at the children. "But I also agree. Can we please kill them already?"
Kayneth sighed. "As long as neither of you get in the way of my glory, then we will be fine. Proceed like I planned, and victory will be ours. Now, attack!"
Before the Justice Rangers could manage a retort, the trio was jumping into action. A silver liquid surged around Kayneth's feet and sprouted several spikes that tried to impale them. Illya reacted by crafting a sword and parrying, deflecting it just enough. Sakura brought up a personal barrier that stopped hers just in front of her. Shirou and Roman each just simply dodged away, neither having a good way to defend otherwise.
Rin's defense was the most impressive though. She waved her hands, activating a very specific type of magecraft. Before the spike could reach her, it broke apart into liquid particles, falling to the ground. Kayneth scowled at this, looking surprise. "Volumen Hydrargyrum will never manage to touch me," she said, sounding personally offended by the attack. "I know it too well."
"Then how about this?" asked Ryuunosuke, suddenly appearing right in front of Rin, knife coming down towards her.
"No, you don't," yelled Illya, empowering herself with a mana burst and blocking the knife with her child sized sword. He tried to stab at her again, moving with super human speed, but was forced to retreat as an arrow flew towards him. Illya glanced over her shoulder and saw Shirou, metal bow in hand that he had crafted from a crushed car. He was reached out, turning the destroyed metal into yet another arrow.
"You will not get the better of me," said Kayneth with a grimace. He held out his hand. "Pulse!" The liquid mercury started to form into knives to slash them into pieces, but several magical bolts headed towards Kayneth, forcing his mystic code to switch to defending him. The bolts were blocked easily, but the Justice Rangers were able to make distance between them and their enemies, retreating to Roman's side. They had their hand out, smoke rising from where they had fired the bolts.
"What do we do?" asked Shirou, keeping his arrow pointed at the enemy trio.
"Teacher is magically increasing the physical abilities of that man," observed Sakura. "Not to Servant levels, but enough to be a threat to us."
"And Volumen Hydrargyrum is much too powerful for us to ignore," said Rin. "Even if I can counter it briefly, it will reform. Plus, any mage able to create something like that is dangerous in their own right. We can't ignore him either."
"So, we hold out until our Servants can help?" asked Illya, considering their chances. "These bodies just aren't made to fight."
"I'll help," said Roman. "I've mastered all the basics, although as you've seen my specialty is a non-combat transformation spell. My skills are mostly geared towards assisting Servants."
Rin nodded. "Thanks. Then, we'll make use of that. Illya, you engage Ryuunosuke and Sola-Ui, with Shirou and Roman backing you up. Sakura and I will engage Kayneth and Volumen Hydrargyrum."
Illya nodded. "On it. Let's go!" then, brandishing her sword, she leapt into battle once more.
Heracles moved his head to the side, narrowly avoiding being decapitated by Diarmuid's red spear. With a shift of his wrist, the spear started to move towards him to slice off his head. He responded by ducking under and sending a powerful kick towards his foe. Diarmuid leapt back to avoid the blow, only pausing for a moment before leaping back in.
"Your movements are very skilled for one your age," said Diarmuid, striking out.
"Thank you," said Heracles, parrying with his functioning arm along the shaft of the spear. "It is exciting to fight one like you as well. It gets boring to just fight monsters all the time. There is no excitement like that of fighting another warrior."
Another attack, another parry. "Then will you name yourself, Assassin? I am at a disadvantage since you already know who I am, but I do not know you. Although, I have a few guesses."
"I will save you the suspense," said Heracles, getting in close and attempting to crush his opponent with a headbutt that did not land. "I would wish to announce myself by a greater name, but due to my childish error earlier, I feel I must instead go by a childish name. Alcides."
Diarmuid's eyes widened at the announcement, and Heracles tried to grab the man's wrist to disarm him of his spear. The other spear came in, aimed at Heracles injured side and he was forced to retreat once more. With some space once again between them, the two fighters sized each other up after the initial clash.
"The Greek Hero Alcides, childhood name of Heracles," said Diarmuid, sounding impressed. "The greatest hero in Greece, his name and fame known throughout the entire world. It is truly an honor to fight someone as accomplished as you are, even if this a younger you."
"The honor is mine as well," replied Heracles.
He glanced over to where his Master was facing off against a red-haired man in a purple jacket. They were on equal footing, to the point that a single mistake could spell defeat for either of them. The newcomer Roman and his Master's brother Shirou were working together to assist her and to fight a red-haired woman. The woman's spells weren't the most powerful, but she clearly had great potential that was just starting to shine through as she kept them from getting the upper hand on her.
Next to that battle was an equally intense fight with Rin and Sakura fighting a man who was clearly a master magus. His talent was impressive as he wielded the liquid metal around his feet deftly, bolstering its attacks with his own precisely aimed magical bolts. It was only the well-practiced teamwork between the sisters that allowed them to keep from losing their lives. But he could tell that they would be unable to defeat that man, he was too much for them in their current state.
"I hope you will not take it as an insult if I say that I will be ending this fight now," said Heracles, returning his attention to his foe. He fell into a combat stance, his good arm up and ready. He tried to move his injured arm and found it unable to do anything. The cut on it had been very precise, slicing through the muscles in a way to cripple his movements. Even if he could open the distance between them, he would be unable to properly fire an arrow like this. For a moment he entertained using his other Noble phantasm, but he heavily suspected that even that would be unable to fix his arm. It wasn't worth the risk to try.
"Of course not," said Diarmuid, taking his own stance. Golden spear, the one that had sliced his arm, held out in front. Held back was the red spear, the one that had sliced his arrow. Both were equally dangerous, and he weighed his options.
He reached a snap decision in a moment. There was only one way to defeat a foe this skilled. By taking him as seriously as possible. "Then let us end this, Lancer."
A smirk. "Same, Assassin. Just two nameless warriors, putting their all and fighting to the death. The honor I have craved to claim for so long!"
Lancer charged forward on that last word, swiftly twisting and striking out with his red spear. Assassin moved as well, engaging his foe. He dodged the red spear by a hair's breadth, his right side sliding along it. That brought him directly into the path of the golden spear, and the weapon pierced his side, sliding through him. He didn't hesitate at the pain though, instead carrying through with his own blow, stabbing out with his left arm and making a direct hit on Lancer's heart.
Diarmuid let out a wet cough, blood leaking out of his mouth, as the pair stood, bound together through their attacks. His mouth twisted up into a sad bloody smile. "It looks like I have failed again. How pathetic…"
Heracles leaned in, speaking softly into his honored foe's ear. "There was no failure here and no disrespect in this loss. The only reason I was able to do what I did was because it was you I was fighting. Any other foe would have wavered through a lack of skill and heart. Their spear would have moved a fraction to the side and instead of passing harmlessly between my organs, my insides would have been destroyed. Thank you, for being the one I got to fight. You have taught me a lesson I will not soon fight."
"Thank you…" said Diarmuid, his form breaking apart into motes of light.
Heracles looked to the wound in his side, blood leaking out of it. He had more important things to worry about though. Glancing to his fellow Servants he saw them barely managing to contain the ravaging hordes of starfish monsters. Mordred was on his knees, his tiny body shaking wildly as he strained to keep the main body rooted to the ground as it screamed and flailed about.
Trusting that they could handle for at least a little while longer, he made a powerful leap towards the blond man. The silver liquid quickly interposed itself between his attack, but the force of the clash caused a shockwave that knocked the man onto his back. Now between the liquid and his Master's friends, he turned to Sakura. "Diarmuid has been defeated. Please, heal my arm."
She nodded, holding out her hand and doing so quickly. Her magecraft took hold and the wound healed instantly, patching itself up. He moved his fingers, once again able to feel them.
"Thank you," he said.
"Your side?" she asked, preparing to heal that as well.
He shook his head. "It can wait. I still have to correct my mistakes." He leapt away once more, landing on the side of the same building as before and running up it. Once at the top, didn't materialize his bow yet, instead reaching around his waist for the lion pelt he wore. His final Noble Phantasm. He took the belt and through it around his shoulders like a cloak, the lion's head a hood covering his head. Massive amounts of energy started to swirl around him, waiting for his final words to be activated. He finally took out his bow, loaded his final arrow and took careful aim. "I call upon the power of the gods through this Noble Phantasm. Activate, Nemean Pelt!"
On his command power started to flood every part of him. His physical shape didn't change, but an aura surrounded him, making it seem to any observers that he was much larger than he truly was. The effect was so powerful that everyone in the battlefield below stopped what they were doing, man and monster alike, and gazed upon him. He ignored the attention though, looking at the point that he knew the enemy Servant to be.
He released his arrow and it covered the distance between them in an instant. It entered the body of the monster and there was a momentary pausing of time, as if the world was taking a deep breath. Then that breath was released, and the monster exploded, it's steaming flesh raining down over a five-block radius of the city. And there, falling from the center mass, was a cloaked Servant, falling to the ground with his arrow buried in his heart. The unnamed Servant hit the ground and his body broke apart into purple motes of light, his form broken apart completely by the hydra blood.
Heracles released the breath he had been holding, and as he did the strength from the Pelt fled with it. He leapt down from the building, going to rejoin his Master. As he fell, he saw the other Servants leaping into action and quickly taking down and apprehending the enemy Masters. He landed heavily to the ground, cracks forming underneath him. He walked over to the group as Mordred put the enemies into a slumber to be lifted later like that of the other Assassin's Master.
"Heracles," said Illya, greeting him. "'Good job."
He smiled with pride. "Thank you, Master. It was a tough battle, but I am glad I could pull through in the end."
"How is that an Assassin Class Servant?" muttered Rin.
"Let me heal that," said Sakura, aiming her magecraft to the wound in his side. It too was healed, as it he had never been injured. "There."
"How come you got to take out two Servants?" asked Mordred, sounding sulky. "Meanwhile I get stuck holding that thing in place for freakin' ever!"
"That was an impressive display," said Medusa. "What was that Noble Phantasm?"
"The Nemean Pelt," replied Heracles, taking the depleted pelt off his shoulders and wrapping it around his waist once more. "It is something I can only use once, but it greatly boosts my abilities. I am sorry for hiding its existence from you." He felt a blush of embarrassment form on his cheeks. "I had this idea in my head about hiding its existence until the right moment, earning praise. I deeply regret not revealing it sooner. If I had, that fight would have gone much smoother."
"Damn right you should have," chastised Rin. "That Noble Phantasm didn't just 'boost your abilities', it raised all six of your parameters to EX rank. Your Divinity turned to EX as well, for that moment you had true Divinity. You were a god."
"This pelt is a symbol of my myth. By wearing it, I tap into that fame for the briefest of moments and obtain the level of a god through belief alone."
"That's amazing," admired Shirou.
"Yeah, yeah," said Chloe, walking to stand right in front of Heracles, a frown on her face. She pointed to the ground. "Kneel."
He did so, lowering to equal height with the small Archer. He inclined his head in apology. "Once more, I am sorry for the trouble I put you throu-." His sentence was cut off as Chloe put her hand on his head, patting him.
Author's Note: …But they're all tactical geniuses. Also, thank you to the person who corrected me on Magic vs Magecraft. That's one of those weird Fate specific vocab things that's easy to miss. That has been corrected in the past two chapters. Below are the stats for this fic's Heracles.
Heracles Lily (Assassin)
Parameters - All B Rank
Presence Concealment C - (Fresh Faced Youth) At first impression, Heracles Lily appears to be a charming, handsome and impressive, but unassuming young man. On second impression, there is something almost other worldly about him.
Divinity C - A small amount of Divinity "granted" by Hera.
Hydra Arrows - A small supply of special arrows dipped in hydra blood. Each arrow is able to kill a mortal being upon contact, or render an immortal being vulnerable.
Nemean Pelt - The pelt of the Lion killed by Heracles. This item that symbolizes his legend and deeds also grant's him great power for a short time. By using it, Heracles gains Divinity through the sheer power of his myth. His parameters and Divinity all become EX Ranked.
Blind Seer *As Diarmuid*: This guy is going to destroy me!
Blind Seer *As Kayneth*: Nah, you've got this.
Blind Seer *As Diarmuid*: He's pretty much Greek Cú Chulainn, Kayneth!
[Can you tell my brother and I just discovered UBW Abridged? For all of you who were making "Actually Satan" jokes in the comments of Fate/Zero: Heroes of Justice, I finally get those now. I thought people were just using bad grammar. Sorry. (Also, he was Actually Lucifer. I feel like the 'Actually Lucifer' part is very important. That has been corrected in the main story.)]
Chapter 4: Autumn Winds
Disclaimer: I don't own Fate or anything associated with it.
Thanks like always to Blind_Seer0 for editing this chapter for me.
WARNING: Contains spoilers for Fate/Grand Order's Final Singularity.
Author's Note: Reminder, the only true way to experience Fate/Heroes of Justice is through the original Visual Novel*. Every other way is clearly inferior. (*Visual Novel to be released June 21st, 21XX)
Fate/Heroes of Justice: Child's Play
Chapter 4: Autumn Winds
Sakura sat in the Llamrei Mark III, studying their newest companions. The sleigh was even more cramped now as Mash and Roman had joined them in it. The odd pair seemed to be fitting in with the group quite well, and there had been no question from anyone that they were traveling with them to their next destination. Mordred and Mash sat next to each other, talking like old friends and complimenting the outfits of the other. Roman was chatting with Illya about transformation magic and their different uses of it.
Now that there were no giant monsters to deal with, it was finally time to investigate Einzbern Castle. Sakura had suggested to the group that they head there, but she hadn't yet explained why. Before she could, she needed to get some things out of the way. "Mordred," she said, drawing the Christmas Servant's attention.
"Yeah?" he asked, sounding annoyed. Nothing new. "Need something?"
"Can you protect us from scrying?"
"We already are," he said, gesturing to the sleigh. "The Llamrei Mark III comes with an anti-scrying feature built in. It extends to the interior, area around and to the reindeer."
"Is that a compliment?" asked Heracles, pulling the sleigh once more.
"It is," said Illya. "They're powerful and tough. You don't want to fight one, even if they seem cute on the outside."
"I approve of the comparison then," replied Heracles.
"Are you worried about someone spying on us?" asked Shirou.
Sakura nodded. "Kind of. It's less of a worry and more of a certainty. I've felt it since I arrived here. Medusa and I were hiding under the influence of a spell before we went to help Shirou."
Morded scowled. "That's freakin' important. You didn't want to mention that earlier when we were going around using our true names?"
"It wouldn't have mattered," said Roman. "The enemy leader is a Ruler Class Servant."
"Which means that they can see our Servant's True Names," said Rin. She thought for a moment. "Do we know the identity of this Ruler?"
Roman shook their head. "I don't. We've been tracking her for the past several days. We narrowed it down to Einzbern Castle." They paused for a moment. "This Ruler has somehow taken control of this Holy Grail War's Servants and Masters. She's using the Castle as the base of her operations, but I don't know what she's doing otherwise. It was while Mash and I were scouting that we saw some people fleeing from the castle."
"Us," said Medusa. "And you then followed us. In secret."
Roman looked embarrassed. "Well, yeah. We were unsure of how to approach you or what was going on. You figured it out and gave us the slip though."
"We're very good at that," said Sakura. She turned to her sister and friends. "The first place Medusa and I checked for everyone was the Castle. There we found all the War's Servant's plus Ruler. We quickly ran. When we did, someone followed us." She looked back to Roman. "After you lost us, you waited around, saw the monster, observed it, saw us fighting and helped us, correct?"
"That is correct," said Mash, sounding impressed. "You're like Sherlock Holmes."
Sakura shook her head. "If I was Sherlock Holmes, I would know what Organization it was you worked for, and what you were really doing here."
"Chaldea," said Rin, drawing surprised looks from Roman and Mash. "I recognized the symbol on your clothes."
"What's Chaldea?" asked Shirou.
"A joint project between the Mage's Association and the United Nations," explained Rin. "I'm on the board of directors."
"Wait," said Roman, looking surprised. "I never knew that you were on the board."
Rin shrugged. "It's an anonymous position. Not surprising since it's a secret organization that only those high up or inside of it should know about."
Sakura considered that, running through what she'd just learned, both by what had been said and what hadn't been. "I remember you mentioning that. It's only a year old, right?"
A nod. "Yep. And they don't have the place running yet. It's more like a magical research facility currently under the head of the Animusphere family. Like us, they became more prominent after The Fall. I assisted them with the Fate System."
"What's that do?" asked Illya.
"It's for the summoning of Heroic Spirits," said Mordred. He pointed to Mash. "Like Mash. Although, it's end goal is supposed to be more in line with summoning Spirits like me, not Demi-Servants."
Everyone gave Mordred surprised looks, and he scowled. "What? I helped with it too. It's not like there's anyone more experienced with Heroic Spirits than Rin or I."
"What's the goal of Chaldea?" asked Shirou. "Just magical research?"
Rin shook her head. "Of course not. They're our replacements."
"Wait," said Illya. "Replacements?"
"You created an organization of Justice Rangers?" asked Shirou, sounding excited by the prospect.
"That's the idea. They have the ability to monitor the state of Humanity into the future and can work to prevent any calamities that might present themselves. Agents of Chaldea are intended to be able to go to a danger zone, summon temporary Heroic Spirits and solve the issue. Anything that poses significant threat to our survival."
"It's not like we're going to be alive forever," mused Sakura, following her sister's line of thinking. So, this is what she had been working on over the past year. It made sense, although she still had questions. "Can Chaldea agents time travel?"
"That would be impossible without a True Magic," replied Rin. "They only operate in our realm of reality."
Shirou pointed to Roman and Mash. "Then how are they here?"
Rin frowned. "I don't know."
"We can't tell you that," said Roman.
"Yes, you can," said Sakura, locking eyes with them. "You're clearly from the future, and not just from our time, but further. You're a type of Chaldea agent that doesn't exist in our era, at least, not yet. How far ahead are you?"
Roman frowned, a similar expression to that Rin made. They were quiet for a second before adopting a confused look for some reason. Sakura was curious, but before she could ask, Illya spoke up.
"Who's that you're talking to?" she asked, surprising Roman.
"Uh, what are you talking about?" Roman was as bad of a liar as Rin.
Illya pointed to her ears. "I have enhanced hearing. I heard a woman taking to you. She's been advising you this whole time."
"You have a magical communicator?" asked Rin. "Let us talk to her as well. We need answers."
A moment of resistance, but then a blue hologram appeared in the middle of the Sleigh. A beautiful woman, a bright smile on her face, looked around at them. "Hello Justice Rangers, Caster Leonardo Da Vinci here. You wanted to talk?"
Rin nodded. "We did. I was expecting an Animusphere though."
Da Vinci frowned. "Unfortunately, that's not possible right now, for reasons I'm not sure are safe to divulge. I'm acting director of Chaldea currently, I hope that suffices."
A sigh. "It'll need to," replied Rin. I've got questions, but I'll leave it to the most pressing. What year is it for you?"
"No exact dates," replied Da Vinci. "But somewhere around two decades from your current estimated mental age."
"So," said Illya. "They can time travel? Do they have a True Magic?"
"We don't," said Da Vinci. "It's not quite time travel. Right now, you're in a Singularity. A pocket of space-time that is acting weird due to outside influence and is currently separated from now the normal flow of things. The Chaldea of our day monitors these singularities, sends in agents through a process not yet developed for you, and corrects the errors."
"With only two of you?" asked Shirou. "That's impressive."
"It's not supposed to be just us," replied Roman. "Normally, we're able to set up on a leyline and use Mash's shield as a catalyst to summon Heroic Spirits to fight with us."
"Sorry Senpai," said Mash. "We tried several times, but I failed each time."
"It's not your fault," replied Roman gently. They frowned. "When we arrived two days ago, we tried to summon a Heroic Spirit. It didn't work. That's never happened before."
Subsequent attempts didn't work either," concluded Da Vinci. "It's possible that's because of your presence here. You've all clearly been able to summon your own Heroic Spirits. Your existence might be blocking the summoning. This is your era, so it would make a strange sort of sense if your summoning Servants took priorities over Rit-Roman's summoning attempts."
Sakura took note of the slip up. Like she'd thought, Roman was using an alias. For some reason. Curious. None of the Chaldeans were lying, but they were clearly keeping secrets. Well, she had her own secrets. Maybe divulging what she knew would reveal something.
"I know who the Ruler is," said Sakura, drawing surprised looks from everyone but Medusa. "She's cloaking herself, but that only stops people who don't know her from recognizing her. A simple soul cloak."
Rin groaned. "Please don't say it…"
"Welcome back to my Castle, Justice Rangers," said a voice, ringing loudly through the forest surrounding Einzbern Castle. Sakura recognized the haughty voice very clearly. "And new mystery guests who I couldn't care less about. Are you so eager to die that you would come here to face me directly?"
"IRSS," said Shirou with a grimace. "How's she back?"
"Not sure," said Sakura. "But she's a Ruler now."
"Not Caster?" asked Illya.
"Caster was that creature you just fought," said Da Vinci. "The readings match with Caster Giles De Rais, also known as Bluebeard."
"He never fully materialized in your Fourth Holy Grail War," explained Roman. "I read the records, but it seems like he was replaced by IRSS as Caster for that."
Shirou nodded in understanding. "But since she's the Ruler now, he gained that spot."
"Hey!" yelled IRSS again through the forest. "Can you losers hear me? If you can, answer. Don't just ignore a woman."
"She can't scry us," said Mordred. "She's fishing. There's magic in her words and acknowledging them with an answer will alert her of our presence."
"I believe that we are almost at the Castle," said Heracles. "What's the plan?"
"Rin?" asked Sakura, looking to her sister.
"Hm," said Rin, thinking. She looked to Roman and Mash. "IRSS is definitely related to this Singularity, so that makes her your target, correct?"
Roman nodded. "Yep." He exchanged glances with Mash. "If you'll have us, we would love to work together with you to set things right."
Rin smiled and held out her child sized hand. "Mordred trusts you, that's all I need to hear."
"I never said I trusted them," said Mordred, scowling.
"You never said you didn't either," replied Rin. "That's good enough for me."
Roman took her hand and they shook. There was a bright smile on their face. "This is a dream come true. I get to work with the Justice Rangers."
Mash smiled at Mordred. "And I get to work with you again. Galahad is always happy whenever that happens. And I am as well. This will make the third time."
"I guess Mordred is just that reliable of a Heroic Spirit," said Roman.
Mordred blushed, looking torn between being bashful and happy. "Of course I am," he said. "No matter what body I'm in, I'm always up for a fight."
"We are here," said Heracles.
Sakura looked away from her companions and saw them emerging from the forest into the familiar grounds of the Fuyuki Einzbern Castle. She had spent a lot of her life on these grounds and every bit of it was familiar to her. Standing in front of the castle was a young woman with pale white skin and coal black hair. She had on a blindfold, but there was a clear expression of hatred on her face. Around her neck was a gemstone necklace, four glowing gemstones strung on it. Pearl, ruby, amethyst and citrine.
The woman held out her arms wide. "Welcome Justice Rangers," she yelled as they approached. Massive magical energy started to build up her around her. "Now prepare to die!"
"Brace yourselves!" yelled Mordred, holding up his staff and projecting a barrier. He got it up just in time as a wave of blinding white energy radiated out from IRSS. The energy struck Mordred's shield and engulfed it, and them. The world dissolved around them and Sakura felt her stomach lurch as they were torn from their physical reality to somewhere else. Details came into focus around them and Sakura realized that they were floating in the air above a bizarre, but not unfamiliar, landscape.
"We're going to fall!" yelled Roman, holding on tightly to the sleigh.
"Stop panicking," yelled Mordred. "The Llamrei Mark III is a magical sleigh. Of course it can fly. And that goes for any attached reindeer as well."
"I appreciate that feature," said Heracles as he floated over the landscape, little motes of light underneath his feet.
"Where is this?" asked Mash, peering over the side of the sleigh.
"A reality marble," replied Rin. "IRSS's. I've been here once before, although it was slightly different then.
Sakura studied the landscape and noticed the difference as well. "Einzbern Castle, Tohsaka Manor, a field of flowers, those were all here before." She pointed to one area. It was her home, the compound that her family had lived in since their previous home had been destroyed in the Fourth Holy Grail War. "That wasn't here before."
"No," agreed Rin. "It was a dark void for some reason."
"Maybe it's because IRSS has four gemstones this time?" suggested Illya, drawing curious glances. "Didn't you notice? When I met her before, she had a pearl, a ruby and an amethyst. Now she had a citrine as well."
"She had that when I first met her," said Shirou. "But she lost it at some point."
Sakura thought for a moment, remembering a certain event she rather wouldn't. "When Berserker attacked your home originally, you were injured. Before fleeing, IRSS used her gemstone for something. I think to save your life. When Rin and I visited this place before it was after that event."
"She's made up of bits of all four of you, isn't she?" asked Roman.
Rin nodded. "Yeah. Which means our house represents her Shirou. Somehow?"
"You can figure it out later," snapped Mordred, "We've got incoming!"
Heracles dashed forward, moving them out of the way as several golden swords shot through where they had been. Sakura looked and saw a small golden figure down at the grounds of Tohsaka manor. More swords came their way, but Heracles managed to easily avoid them, running circles across the sky.
"What do we do?" asked Chloe, looking around. "Do we go down there and fight back?"
"It's not just him in here," said Mordred, frowning. "I can sense three powerful enemies. Archer, Saber and Rider. They're each in a different area." He pointed to the Tohsaka manor, the samurai compound and the field of flowers. "Father is down there."
"We can't just stay up here," said Rin. "We'll split up into three groups. Mordred, Sakura, Medusa and I will go down and deal with Archer. Everyone else will deal with Saber."
"No," said Mordred. He clenched his fists. "I want to deal with Saber."
"And I want to fight Saber as well," said Illya and Shirou at the same time, drawing surprised looks from each other.
Rin let out a heavy sigh. She glanced to Sakura. "You want to fight Archer, don't you?"
Sakura shook her head. "Not Archer, but that's where Tokiomi will be."
"And I go wherever Sakura goes," said Medusa.
"I would not mind switching places," said Heracles, bringing them safely out of the way of a spear flying at them. "Mordred can go with Illya, and I will go with Rin. That makes the most sense, since everyone else has somewhere they want to be."
"That sounds good to me," replied Illya. "Mordred?"
"Just great," said Mordred with a smirk, pounding his fist against his palm.
"Then that's what we'll do," concluded Rin.
"And we'll take Rider," said Roman. They pointed to the flower field. "Rider is the most mobile Servant, correct? If we leave him alone, he'll manage to attack one of the groups before the other can defeat their enemy and come back up the first group."
"But if Senpai and I can hold him off, then everyone can come to our rescue," concluded Mash.
"No way," said Mordred. "That's too dangerous."
"I'm a defensive Servant," replied Mash. "This is nothing."
Rin looked at Roman. "Are you sure about this?"
Roman and Mash both nodded. "Of course," they responded. A cocky smile. "Just don't forget to come rescue us."
"Never," replied Rin. Her expression turned serious. "Everyone get ready to jump. We're abandoning the Llamrei Mark III and going in fast."
"I've got this," said Mordred, holding out his candy cane. "Down the chimney!"
Each person was surrounded by a glowing aura that resembled a Christmas ornament. The next moment, the Llamrei Mark III disappeared and the ornaments shot downward. They split off into three groups like planned. Sakura quickly lost sight of the other groups and turned her focus to her landing. Golden swords flew towards her, but the ornaments zigged and zagged to the side, safely dodging.
They struck the ground, shattering like glass and freeing the inhabitants. A sword flew at her, but Medusa was in front out her in an instant, parrying the sword with a swipe of her scythe. Heracles landed and immediately dashed towards the glittering, golden form of Archer. Archer smirked and leapt into the air, golden portals glowing around him.
"You dare try to touch me, mongrel?" asked Gilgamesh, King of Heroes. Weapon tips pointed out from the portals. "You will regret that decision."
The weapons shot out towards Heracles. He dodged and ducked several before twisting around, grabbing ahold of one of the swords and throwing it back at Gilgamesh. The weapon was intercepted by another sword, but it also caused the barrage to halt as Gilgamesh scowled at him. "You will pay for that."
"I do not fear you," said Heracles. "You may be powerful, but I am more than a match for you."
Medusa leapt to Heracles side, brandishing her scythe. "I will be joining as well."
Heracles smiled. "I will gladly fight besides you."
"Archer!" yelled an aristocratic voice. A man in a red suit stepped out from behind a statue in the manor courtyard. Sakura's heart beat wildly as she recognized him. "Finish off these fools quickly. Do so and Ruler will grant us our wishes."
"Do not try to order me around, Tokiomi," growled Gilgamesh. "I do what I want, how I want. Why do you not just stand back and stay out of my way? Or better yet, make yourself useful and remove those children from my sight."
Tokiomi looked directly at Rin and Sakura, his gaze cool. Rin took a step forward. "Father, it's me, Rin. I've brought Sakura."
"Ah," said Tokiomi. "The escaped Matou child. Unfortunately, you do not have a mage family to return to anymore since those fools all died. Truly a waste of mage blood. Maybe someone else will adopt you some day."
Sakura felt the words like a knife through her heart. She hadn't expected any words from this man to be able to hurt her anymore. He wasn't her father and hadn't been for a long time, but still, she felt every word squeezing tight around her.
Rin moved to stand between Sakura and Tokiomi. "Why would you say that to your own daughter?"
"She is not my daughter," replied Tokiomi. He frowned in disappointment at Rin. "And if you do not obey me and give up your Servant to Ruler, then you will not be as well."
Tokiomi held his hands out to either side of him in a grandiose motion. "The Tohsaka family's dream has been to reach the Root, and finally, that is within my grasp. By using the Holy Grail under the supervision of Ruler, I can achieve this dream. And all I need to do is remove any obstacles."
"Reaching the Root isn't worth giving up on your family!" yelled Rin. "You have a chance at a happy life, with mother, Sakura and I. Will you just throw that away?"
"Family is just a means to an end for a mage family," replied Tokiomi. "Have you failed to learn anything as basic as that? Reaching the Root takes time and many generations. It is important to keep the bloodline strong and to pass on the teachings needed to thrive. Sacrifices must be made, because to balk at such an opportunity is to dishonor those who sacrificed themselves for this dream."
"I refuse to accept that as a way of life!"
"Stop being such a child!" ordered Tokiomi. "This is what being a mage is. There is no other way about it. Either you have the resolve, or you fail like that fool Kariya."
"Uncle Kariya has more resolve than you could ever understand," said Sakura, breaking into the conversation. She moved to stand side by side with Rin and looking Tokiomi dead in the eye. "He ran from his family not out of fear, but out of an understanding of what they really were. You were so blinded by your ideals of what a mage family was, and your disgust at Uncle that you failed to consider what it might mean if he was right. You gave me away to the Matous, and for that year my life was hell…"
Rin's hand reached out and took Sakura's, squeezing it comfortingly. Sakura took a deep breath and continued. "I know that you did what you thought was best. Based on what it meant to be a traditional mage, that must have seemed like the only way for you. An ideal solution to a second daughter. But it wasn't. You ruined many lives. And you know what? You deserve the death you got. Killed by your own apprentice and betrayed by your Servant. Your ambitions crushed. I can understand you, but that doesn't mean I need to ever forgive you!"
"I don't need forgiveness from someone like you!" yelled Tokiomi, his eyes going wide with madness. "The Root is right in front of me. When I have it, the Tohsaka's long dream will come to completion and the happiness and prosperity of my family line will be assured!"
"Father," said Rin, softly but forcefully, drawing his attention. "Just because you're correct, doesn't mean that you're right. If you continue down this path, then I'll be your enemy as well."
"Then so be it," said Tokiomi. He held up his staff and the gem on it started to glow. A fireball flew from the staff towards Rin and Sakura.
Gathering up her mana, Sakura used her magecraft to form a shield that protected them from the inferno. Rin raised up her hand and fired several magical bolts, forcing Tokiomi to bring up a shield of his own. Sakura stomped her foot onto the ground, sending magecraft into the earth. Small foot long spikes shot up around Tokiomi's feet, threatening to impale them. He leapt upwards and hardened the air under his feet, creating a platform. As soon as it was created though he found himself defending from yet another barrage of magical bolts. At no point in the fight did Rin and Sakura release their clasped hands.
Their Servants weren't sitting around idle either. As soon as the conversation had broken down, all three had launched into action. Golden portals formed behind Gilgamesh and more weapons shot out of them. Lancer leapt up onto Assassin's shoulder's and held on with her legs while her hands wielded her scythe. The blade of the scythe flew to meet the first few weapons, directed by the chain still attached to the haft. It cut through two of the weapons and knocked another into a fourth.
While she cleared a path, Assassin charged forward, dodging easily around weapons. He once again grabbed a weapon, but instead of throwing it immediately, he kept ahold of it. He used it to destroy a spear and deflect an ax, all while steam rose up from the weapon trying to reject the foreign owner.
Gilgamesh scowled and portals opened behind the Servant pair. The weapons that flew out found themselves colliding with a sturdy wall of earth that rose up to intercept. Lancer's free hand glowed with earthen based magecraft. The moment bought by that defense was all they needed to close the gap. Heracles was just mere inches away from Gilgamesh, striking out with a powerful unarmed attack.
Chains shot out from portals that appeared around Assassin, halting his movements right before his attack could land. They also caught Lancer, chaining her to her companion. A sneer formed on the golden Archer's face. "Did you Mongrels really think that you could ever touch me?"
He started to circle the chained pair, ranting as he did so. "My chains can hold anyone still, especially those with divinity. I was not sure at first, because your origins are so ramshackle, but you are both divine beings, are you not?"
Gilgamesh pointed to Lancer. "Especially you. An earth goddess, not yet fallen into becoming something sad and pitiful. Neither of you will ever again move that spot. At least, not while alive."
Dozens of portals opened around them, surrounding them in a dome. "Any last words?"
"Behind you," said Assassin, appearing right where he said he was. Gilgamesh was forced to summon a sword into his own hand and use the flat of it to block a brutal kick from Assassin that sent him flying backwards regardless. He flew through his chained foes, finding them both earthen replicas that shattered against his golden armor. His chains fell to the ground in a heap as they had nothing to hold on to.
With quick agility, Gilgamesh righted himself and landed on his feet, blocking a follow-up strike. This time he managed to hold his ground, but his teeth were grit in a combination of effort and fury. "How?" he demanded.
"I am an Assassin," replied Assassin simply. "It was easy enough."
"Easy?" asked Gilgamesh, sounding infuriated. "You will not get away with this insult!"
Gold portals surrounded Assassin, trapping him yet again. Before they could fire though, Gilgamesh felt a rush of air, and he had a moment to look at his feet and see the small form of Lancer, scythe in hand. She swung upward, bisecting him. He had a fleeting moment of consciousness to notice Tokiomi being tackled to the ground by his brats before he faded away, pulled towards the Holy Grail.
How could this ever happen to me…
Illya braced herself as the ornament she was riding in struck the ground around the samurai compound. Her brother, Chloe and Mordred all landed as well, unmolested by any attacks like what was happening to Rin and the others. In front of them, she saw two calm figures. A familiar knight in an armored blue dress and a man in a black trench coat smoking a cigarette.
"Dad?" asked Chloe, surprised. She looked to Shirou. "What's my dad doing here?"
"Kiritsugu Emiya," said Shirou. "The Mage Killer and Master of Saber in the Fourth Holy Grail War."
"You children know quite a bit," commented Kiritsugu, taking another drag. He breathed out slowly, dropped the cigarette to the ground, and then crushed it against the dirt with his shoe. "Unfortunately for you, you're my next job. Bad luck kids."
"Dad…," said Chloe sadly.
Arturia held up her arm and the glowing golden form of Excalibur appeared in her hand, pointed right at them. "I will set right what I broke. I will not allow anyone, be they monster or child, from getting in my way. If your death will help save thousands, then that will be the path I choose."
"Finally," said Kiritsugu. "Something you've said that I can agree with." He pulled out a gun from his coat and pointed it at them as well. "For the good of the many, it only makes sense to sacrifice the few."
"Father/Papa!" yelled Mordred and Illya at the same time. They paused, glanced to each other and nodded. They each took a deep breath and continued. "Stop being such an idiot!"
Both fathers looked very surprised and confused. So did Chloe, but Shirou had a smile on his face. Illya glanced to Mordred again, and he gestured for her to go first. She glared at Kiritsugu. "Your dream is to create the ideal world, right?"
"To undo all of the mistakes you've made," continued Mordred, glaring at Arturia. She was stony faced as he spoke, as if trying to not acknowledge his existence. "But that's never going to happen."
"Dreams are a great thing."
"But completing one doesn't erase what happened on the path towards it."
"You can't just erase the past. Your mistakes will stay, and the price you paid for that dream will always be there."
"Our actions have consequences," said Mordred sadly. "But our choices also have value."
"Because we made them," said Illya, brightening. "It's easy to regret what we've done, harder to accept and make amends."
Mordred gestured to their companions. "And that means relying on others, and not just yourself."
Shirou took a few steps towards the pair. "Thank you, both of you, for everything you've done for us. The sacrifices you've made, and the guidance you've given us has been invaluable. Thank you for raising us, in your own ways."
"But we're not going to let you stop us from moving forward," yelled Mordred.
"And we have something we need to correct," said Illya. She looked to her father. "Papa, you gave me a future and risked your life to save me. Thank you." She then turned her gaze to Arturia. "You taught me everything I know about magic and combat. Even when I didn't want to learn and didn't want to have anything to do with you. You kept doing your best with the life you had been given and that I think that was the greatest lesson you ever taught me. To me, you were the best father I could have ever hoped for."
"Hey," said Mordred to Chloe. "You got anything to say to either of them?"
"Um," said Chloe, thinking for a moment. She pointed to Kiritsugu, a frown on her face. "When I get back, I'm going to yell at you for never being home! Stay awhile and spend some time with your kids for once!"
"I don't know what any of you are talking about," said Kiritsugu. Like Illya had feared, none of their words had reached him. "But this nonsense ends now. Saber, finish them quickly."
Arturia shifted her sword to rest in both her hands. "For the sake of my people, I will gladly do so." A large mass of mana burst out from her, threatening to knock over the children just from the pressure. "I will make this quick! Excalibur!"
In an instant, Chloe was leaping in front of the group and holding out her hand, massive magical energy collecting around her. "The seven petals of heaven, Rho Aias Alternative!" A violet seven petaled flower spread out before Chloe. Excalibur's blast struck the shield and the ground around them shook from the collision. Cracks appeared and the very earth around them was in an upheaval. Four petals broke on immediate contact, with a fifth breaking seconds later as the powerful Noble Phantasm attempted to engulf them.
But still, the little Servant held strong. Her feet dug into the ground as she projected the shield in front of her, connected by invisible magic. Her whole body shook as the sixth petal broke apart, leaving just one between them and the coming death. Chloe was starting to be pushed back, tracks being dug into the ground. Illya and Shirou sprung forward together, putting their hands on the girl's back and bracing her, pushing back against the force of the blast. Mordred joined them, the tiny Servant turning around, putting his back against hers and digging his feet into the ground.
"Don't let them win!" yelled Mordred.
"You can do this!" yelled Illya.
"Chloe," said Shirou gently. "Show them who the strongest Servant in this War is."
"Roger!" said Chloe. She started screaming at the top of her lungs and petals started reforming. One, two, four, six and with a flickering the seventh petal reformed. As it did, the blast from Excalibur was halted in place. "I am Chloe von fucking Einzbern, and no one will hurt my friends!"
And as quickly as it had started, the struggle ended. Exaclibur and Rho Aias faded simultaneously, leaving the battlefield scarred and torn up. Chloe and Arturia both stood gasping for breath and staring each other down. Arturia had a look of surprise on her face, Chloe had a look of well-earned pride. As Illya tried to catch her own breath, she realized that there was something missing though.
"Look out!" yelled Illya, summoning a miniaturized Excalibur copy into her hand. She brought it up and around, protecting Shirou just in time as a pistol shot rang out. The bullet struck the sword, shattering it's form completely. Illya was thrown backwards, falling to the ground. As she did, she saw her father, smoking gun in hand and a determined expression on his face. He took aim at Shirou once more.
"Don't even think about it!" yelled Mordred, appearing next to Kiritsugu in an instant and swinging with his candy cane. The staff hit the grown man in the shins and sent him reeling forward. Mordred reached out and touched Kiritsugu's head. "Holy Night Slumber!"
An unconscious Kiritsugu struck the ground. As he did, Arturia let out a vicious cry and charged towards them. Chloe summoned her twin swords and charged to meet her. It was all the smaller Servant could do to duck and dodge the vicious barrage of sword strikes. She tried several times to attack back, but Arturia was too skilled, parrying easily and returning with her own strikes. Each attack carried the very real threat of death, pushing Chloe to her limits.
Luckily for her, a Justice Ranger never fought alone. As Chloe's next attack was repelled by Arturia, an arrow zipped through the spot that she had been. The arrow struck Arturia, exploding. The attack didn't do a lot of damage, but it did throw her off for a moment as Chloe leapt back to make some distance. Shirou shot a second arrow, but Arturia deflected it easily.
"Stop making this so difficult for yourselves, you fools," yelled Arturia angrily.
"We'll never go down easily," replied Chloe. She threw her swords in mirrored arcing patterns towards Arturia. Chloe disappeared, teleporting with the weapons. Arturia reacted quickly, closing her eyes and holding her sword out before her. As the weapons moved towards her, time seemed to slow.
"A simple trick," muttered Arturia. She opened her eyes and swiftly ducked under the path of the twin blades. As she did so she twisted around, swinging her sword in a low arc. Chloe appeared right in the path of the attack and barely managed to create a weapon to block the attack, the projected weapon barely formed before it shattered. Chloe went flying backwards, Arturia preparing to give chase.
She was interrupted though as Mordred dashed towards her, firing a string of snow balls. Arturia blocked that by bringing her sword around and then slashed out at the small Christmas Servant. Mordred leapt into the air and did an overhead strike with his candy cane. Arturia dodged to the side to avoid the attack.
"Too slow," she said, rolling to her feet.
"Think again, old man," said Mordred, smiling wickedly.
"Caladbolg III," yelled Chloe, releasing her hold on the special spiral arrow that she had made from twisting a projected sword. The arrow closed the distance between them in an instant, piercing through Arturia. There was a look of strange contentment on her face as her form broke apart and dissipated into motes of light.
"We did it!" yelled Chloe, collapsing onto the ground and holding up a victory sign.
"Of course we did," gasped Mordred, using his candy cane to prop himself up. "Who do you think you're dealing with?"
"Good work," said Shirou. "Both of you."
"Thanks for the arrows, Master," said Chloe.
"We should head over to help Mash and her Master," said Mordred, sounding worried.
"Right," said Illya, standing up. She glanced over to her father, lying unconscious on the ground. She walked over, knelt by him and whispered into his ear. "I love you. Stay safe." With that done, she stood up and smiled at her companions. "Let's get going. We have work to do."
Author's Note: I really like Mordred's Father. I wish someone would make an anime about her.
Chapter 5: Spring Showers
Disclaimer: I don't own Fate or anything associated with it.
Thanks like always to Blind_Seer0 for editing this chapter for me.
Explanation: Got sick and busy, took a while to write.
Author's Note: Dashing through the sky…
Fate/Heroes of Justice: Child's Play
Chapter 5: Spring Showers
Rin ran across the yard of the Tohsaka manor; Sakura, Medusa and Heracles next to her. They transitioned from poorly maintained lawn to a seemingly endless field of flowers. Up ahead she saw a flash of lightning and heard the crack of thunder. She hoped that Roman and Mash were holding their own and that she hadn't agreed to sending them to their deaths.
Cresting a small hill, flowers being kicked into the wind underfoot, Rin saw a small French church building, a fierce battle raging in front of it. There, a large bear of a man in a fur lined red cloak was laughing as he swung his sword at Mash. Lightning cracked with every impact, keeping her on the defensive. Roman and another mage stood behind their respective Servants, offering support spells instead of trading back and forth. Rin recognized the other Master as Waver Velvet, looking just like how they had first met.
"Hurry and assist Mash," said Sakura. Medusa nodded and bolted ahead of them.
Heracles glanced at Rin. "Your orders?"
"Do the same," she said.
He smiled and shot off as well, easily catching up to the smaller Servant. The pair split off in opposite directions, circling around the Servant Rin knew to be the Rider Iskandar, King of Conquerors. She'd heard all about him and his abilities throughout the years, but she still wished to be careful. What she had heard were only stories, the real deal could be much different. Medusa swung her scythe, the blade stretching out on its chain to try to remove the large Servant's head.
Iskandar reacted quickly, bringing his sword up to block and bracing it with both hands. There was a broad smile on his face as he did so. Rin wondered why that would be as he left himself open for Heracles to come in behind him, kicking at him. There was a flash of lightning on Iskandar, knocking the other three Servants back a few feet. When the thunder boomed out, it was accompanied by the cry of a pair of large oxen. They shot out of the lightning, a chariot pulled behind them and carrying Iskandar with them to safety.
Another laugh. "Good attempt!" yelled Iskandar, his voice booming across the field. "But you will have to try better than that if you want to catch me up here."
"Get out of my skies!" yelled another voice. Everyone turned to see Mordred and Chloe, running together through the sky, motes of light underneath them as the small Servants pulled the Llamrei Mark III behind them. Two projectiles shot from Shirou's bow as Illya crafted a pair of swords for him to shoot. Iskandar easily deflected those, but it gave the sleigh the time it needed to close the gap.
Chloe and Mordred gave fierce yells as they shoulder checked the chariot. "Raaaaaaaaaahhhhhhhh!" The oxen let out cries of distress from the unexpected impact. They weren't quite knocked out of the sky, but they were forced lower in the air. They tried to correct and rise, but found the Llamrei Mark III was always just above them, harassing them and forcing them back down.
Rin and Sakura finally made it to Roman's side. "Are you okay?" asked Rin, concerned for their newest companion.
Roman nodded, a smile on their face. "Yes, thank you." They pointed into the sky. "What do we do about that?"
"I've got an idea," said Rin, smiling. She glanced to Heracles. "Assassin!" she said, getting his attention. "Get Medusa up there."
He gave a nod. "Understood." He held out a hand to his fellow Servant. "Is this okay?"
She took his hand. "Do it."
Heracles gripped tightly and started to spin in place like a discus thrower as he lifted Medusa off the ground. As he rotated around once he planted his foot and stopped his rotation. He released his grip on the small Lancer and she went flying through the air. It looked like she was going to miss, but Mordred's assaults pushed Iskandar directly into her path. With a neat flip, Medusa landed on the front of the Chariot, scythe in hand. She twirled her weapon around and cut the part connecting the oxen to the chariot. The Oxen ran free, thunder under their hooves while they were chased by Mordred and Chloe. The chariot continued forward a bit more before starting to fall. Iskandar swiped at Medusa, but she leapt off, grabbing ahold of the runners of the Llamrei Mark III as it passed overhead.
As the chariot fell, Iskandar climbed to the top of it and leapt off. He landed on one of his oxen that had gone to his side. With the Llamrei Mark III still controlling the skies though, he was forced to guide his ox to the ground. The chariot struck first, breaking apart into spiritron particles. Iskandar landed next by the side of Waver, his second ox doing the same.
Medusa climbed up into the sleigh as Mordred and Chloe led it to the ground. They landed next to Rin and the others. Once they did, Mordred and Chloe started to unbridle themselves from the sleigh. "How's it going, Master?" asked Mordred with a grin.
"Perfect, of course" replied Rin. "Your battle go well?"
"We gave the old men a talking to," replied Mordred. "Wiped the floor with them."
"Strange Servants," yelled Iskandar from across the field, gaining everyone's attention. He had a smile on his face. "And your Masters, of course. Are you ready to engage in combat with Iskandar, King of Conquerors?"
"Don't announce yourself you idiot!" yelled Waver. "Just defeat them and stop making me look like a laughingstock."
"You should try to enjoy yourself more during these battles," replied Iskandar. "They are training for what will come next."
"No," said Waver. "These are how I will get my wish granted. Win this battle, Ruler grants our wishes, and no one will question my theories or my lineage ever again. Now stop being an idiot and take this seriously."
Iskandar let out a heavy sigh. "Fine. If you insist, boy. Then I will take this fight seriously. Are you ready for my full might, mysterious Servants? Ruler has graciously offered me permission to use my full power within this space of hers, I hope you are prepared."
"Bring it," yelled Mordred.
Iskandar laughed. "You have much fire in you little one. You may have beaten me in the air, and for that I congratulate you, but how will you do on land against the full might of the greatest army to ever exist?"
The large Rider held up his sword and cried out. "Ionioi Hetairoi!" White light surrounded Iskandar and then started to surge outward, much like the light IRSS had released prior. Rin braced herself as the light surrounded her and could only gape at what she saw after opening her eyes again. Where once there had been an empty field of flowers, now there was an entire army. Ancient warriors, armed and armored, stood at the ready. Rows upon rows of them. Swordsman, spearman, archers, cavalry and more. Hundreds. And at the back of it all was Iskandar, on a sleek black horse and Waver behind him.
"Well?" he asked, a proud smile on his face. He gestured widely towards the vast army. "Are you not impressed by the force of those who answer my call? This is what it means to be a King!"
Rin couldn't believe what she was seeing. "Each one is capable of being a Heroic Spirit," she muttered. She had heard the stories, but she had never seen this ability for herself in the previous version of this War. How had anyone managed to defeat a monster like this?
"So what?" said Mordred dismissively. Rin looked to her Servant, and he had an excited look on his face that was at odds with his childish features. He pointed through the crowd towards Iskandar. "King of Conquerors! I am Mordred, the Knight of Treachery and killer of Kings. I hope you're ready, because I'm coming for your head!"
"An exciting proposition," replied Iskandar, his voice booming merrily across the field. "My loyal warriors, does that challenge not excite you?"
A deafening cheer rose up as the warriors roared with excitement. They stamped their feet and weapons, kicking up a storm of flower petals.
"What do we do?" asked Shirou, looking to Rin.
"We take out the head," replied Mordred. "If we do so, that should disrupt his ability."
"But how do you expect to do that?" asked Chloe, nervously eying the army. "I could try to hit him, but if we go into the air they might just shoot us down."
"And there is no sneaking through that," said Heracles. "They know where and who we are. That would mean a frontal assault is our only option."
"Agreed," said Rin, her mind racing. She took stock of what they had to use. Any moment Iskandar would call the attack and they would surely be overrun. They were outnumbered and tiring from the continuous fighting they had done. Their forces included fives mages, an Assassin, an Archer, a Lancer, a Shielder, a Caster and a sleigh.
"Well," asked Iskandar. "Are you prepared to come for my head yet? Because if not, then I am sad to say that I am coming for yours. My army, to victory!"
Another battle cry and the army was moving towards them as one large mass. Rin made a snap decision.
"Everyone! Into the sleigh!" she ordered.
"Heracles," said Illya, being helped over the side by her Servant. "Please, may you pull our sleigh this fight?"
"As you wish, Master," replied Heracles, hurrying around to the front where Mash and Roman helped to bridle him up. Once they were done, they climbed in quickly, Iskandar's army just moments away from them.
"Forward!" yelled Rin. Heracles complied, moving with a lurch towards the enemy. As the distance quickly closed, she shouted orders to the packed sleigh. "Mordred, Chloe, Shirou, use ranged to keep anyone from getting close. Illya and Medusa, if anyone gets close to us force them away. Sakura, support Heracles."
Everyone yelled in confirmation, jumping to their duties. Arrows and snowballs flew from the sleigh, striking the first line of warriors. Shirou's attacks were mostly an annoyance as he collected air from around him and shot arrows made of wind, but Chloe and Mordred's strikes felled a dozen warriors before they had a chance to proceed any further.
"What do you want us to do?" asked Roman, looking around.
"You can fire magical bolts, correct?" asked Rin. Roman nodded. "Support the others at keeping the enemies away."
"Got it," said Roman, holding out their hand and firing at a warrior that was closing in. The bolt didn't kill the soldier, but it did stun him for a moment. It gave enough time for Chloe's's arrow to fly through the air and strike the man, breaking his form apart into motes of golden light.
"And me?" asked Mash.
"Can you make barriers?" asked Rin, unsure of what a Shielder Class Servant could do exactly.
Mash nodded, smiling broadly. "Of course." She faced forward and held up her shield. Powdery snowflakes started to drift out from her shield, surrounding the sleigh. They were encased in a barrier, just in time to meet the first line of warriors head on. They stabbed with their spears and swords, but as their weapons struck the barrier the tips were stopped and frozen, becoming brittle and cracking. Medusa's scythe blade flew through the air around the sleigh, beheading warrior after warrior like so much grain being harvested. Illya joined in with a weak imitation of Excalibur, her own weapon and short reach not doing much more than parrying weapons or destroying completely the ones frozen by Mash's barrier. Every little bit helped.
But it wasn't enough. Heracles fought his way through the summoned army, taking out warrior after warrior. Sakura was constantly healing the small wounds that were inflicted on him, but the toll was already visible on her face. Rin fired several magical bolts into the crowd around them while she took stock of everything. It had only been a few seconds, and everyone was already tiring from the strain. While the Servants were all stronger than the summoned warriors, their enemy still put up enough of a fight that each kill was a strain, with the possibility of mistakes just pilling up. They had only gone a few feet forward, and Rider loomed at the back of the army, a clearly dangerous foe in his own right.
"We need to do something different," said Rin, firing another bolt.
"But what do you suggest?" said Shirou, glancing at her. "No one is able to get through that, and it's not like we've got an Anti-Army Noble Phantasm that we can use."
"Our Servant's abilities were well suited for taking out our previous foes, but not this one," commented Sakura, her voice strained. "And our own abilities are much weaker like this."
"If we were at full strength I could get through," said Illya, loping off another spear tip.
"This is all your fault for summoning me as a Caster," said Mordred, frustrated. "If I was a Saber, I could just blow these shits away, or bust through and get to their leader. Smash the head."
"But you can't currently, right?" asked Shirou. "As much as I would like for that to be possible, it's nothing more than a wish currently."
"A wish," muttered Rin, an idea coming to mind. Mordred had been summoned on a wish under a shooting star, said to be a powerful wish granter. That in itself had been a miracle. But then, there had been what had happened against Assassin… "Everyone! I need you to wish and pray!"
"Have you gone crazy, Master?" asked Mordred. He fired off several more strings of snowballs and whacked a warrior over the head with his candy cane staff. "What are wishes and prayers going to do?"
Rin smiled. "Everything. I just need everyone to trust me. Please?"
Shirou fired off an arrow, halting an attack on Heracles and allowing the Servant time to back kick his for into oblivion. "Of course. I've never really been one of praying, but I can get behind wishes."
There were nods of agreement from everyone else. Rin pointed past the crowd of warriors to Rider. "Ok then. Mordred, go beat up Rider!"
Mordred looked surprised for a moment, before smiling. "I knew it, you've gone crazy." He cracked his knuckles and fell into a kneeling position. "Of course, I like the crazy plans the best. You'd better be right about this. I'm trusting you."
Rin nodded. "I would never let you down, partner. Now, go take down the King of Conquerors!"
"That's my specialty," yelled Mordred, leaping from the sleigh. He landed on a warrior and used them as a springboard, going from one to the next. As he did, Rin clasped her hands together and offered a short prayer. "You can do this. Win and return to us."
For a moment, Rin thought she saw her Servant glowing, his movements increasing in speed and strength. Then it was gone. The warriors further back started to catch on as Mordred was now several yards out from the beleaguered sleigh. They started to slash and swipe at him, and it was all he could do to keep moving.
"Brother," yelled Shirou and Illya at the same time. "Kick his ass!"
Several arrows flew at Mordred, but he knocked them out of the air with several precise snowballs. A warrior got a spear up to hit Mordred, but the small Servant let himself fall into the crowd of warriors, dodging the strike. His candy cane hooked onto the shoulder of a warrior, and he leveraged himself back up over the crowd, flying into the air as the warrior as pulled face first onto the ground.
"We believe in you," said Sakura, healing the wounds of her allies.
Medusa's scythe swept around the sleigh, clearing some breathing room. "I will protect them, so go without fear brave warrior."
"Go, go, go," chanted Chloe and Heracles, fighting with their own groups of warriors. Heracles knocked one down, freeing a line of sight that Chloe took. She sent an arrow into a warrior about to attack Mordred, taking him out.
Mordred was now just mere yards from Iskandar, a bright red aura surrounding him. Waver looked panicked at the proximity, cowering behind the rest of the army and his Servant. The King of Conquerors looked on fearlessly, an excited smile on his face. From his horse he pointed his sword at Mordred. "Come little warrior, I welcome this fight, if you can make it."
Iskandar's warriors rallied to his voice, forming a final line of defense before their King. Mordred leapt off a warrior and found himself falling into a ring of warriors, no escape visible. From behind Rin rang out the loud from not just Mash and Roman, but also Ritsuka's magical communicator, an entire crowd able to be heard. "Show them who the most reliable Servant in history is!"
Mordred fell into the gap between the warriors and they closed in, blocking him from sight. There was a moment where time seemed to stop, all hope apparently gone. And then, a red glow suffused the entire battlefield. Electricity started to crackle and spark, originating from where Mordred had disappeared. Iskandar's smile broadened and Rin's heart raced as there was a sudden explosion of red lightning and golden spiritron particles. The pile of warriors disappeared in an instant, leaving a singular figure. Standing there was no longer a child, but the adult Mordred Rin knew so well, now covered in a full red Santa Claus suit, complete with hat. The only thing non-standard were the high-top reindeer boots he was wearing, complete with antlers and red noses.
"King of Conquerors," yelled Mordred, pointing right to Iskandar, the area between them clear. "I am Mordred Pendragon of Camelot. Knight of the Round Table, and proudly known as the Knight of Treachery and Rebellion. I crush kings like you, drowning in their own power and pride. I hope you're ready, because your empire is about to fall once more."
"I welcome the challenge brave knight," replied Iskandar. "To prove my right to rule, I acknowledge that there is none more worthy to challenge me. Let us see who's lightning wins. Charge!"
Iskandar's black horse charged forward, leaving Waver behind. Mordred fell into a runner's crouch for a moment. Warriors tried to close in around him, a last-ditch effort to protect their King, but they were all thrown back as Mordred leapt off from his position and ran towards his foe. The pair covered the distance between them in the blink of an eye, lightning surging around both. Iskandar swung with his sword while Mordred put all his weight behind his fist. They met, and Rin was temporarily blinded by the flash of lightning and deafened by the crack of thunder.
When her sense returned to her, she realized that the entire field had frozen, everyone stunned and watching the outcome of the clash. Mordred stood, balanced on the head of Iskandar's horse, Iskandar's sword next to his face. Blood ran down from a cut on his cheek, but there was a triumphant smile on his face. Iskandar gave a wet cough, blood running down the corner of his mouth, which was turned up in a smile.
"It looks like you win this one, Knight of Rebellion," said Iskandar, Mordred's arm buried up to the elbow in his chest. "I guess, I will not get to see Okeanos this time either."
"No," said Mordred, ripping out his arm. "I guess you won't. Sorry."
Another wet cough. "I guess that will need to do. You know, my mind feels clearer now than it has since my summoning. The fog of madness has lifted. Be careful." And with that warning, his form broke apart into motes of light, his horse disappearing with him. Mordred landed easily on the ground and looked towards where Waver cowered. The knight walked over to the young mage.
"How could this happen?" asked Waver, despairing. "This was supposed to be my chance to prove to everyone at the Clock Tower my worth and that of my theory. But I lost, to children. It can't be… I'm ruined…"
"Calm down professor," said Mordred, reaching out a hand and putting it on Waver's forehead. "You'll be just fine." There was a flash of magical energy, and he fell to the ground, unconscious.
"He'll be fine," boomed a voice, "but what about you?"
Mordred barely managed to leap to the side as a jewel encrusted sword cut through where he had been standing moments prior. He leapt backwards several yards, to make distance, but his assailant followed with equal speed, closing the distance once again, gemstones glowing brightly on her gloves and boots. She swept her blade at Mordred and he ducked the strike. Four different hues and patterns of magical crests glowed from under the tight bodysuit of the enemy Servant.
Of course, Rin knew exactly who this was. It was IRSS, it was her. She cupped her hands and yelled a warning to her Servant. "Just keep dodging. That sword can cut through anything."
"Easy for her to say," taunted IRSS, her voice booming through the reality Marble from all directions. She took another swipe at Mordred, forcing him back towards the sleigh. "She's not here, fighting. Afraid to get her hands dirty until the end. Of course, I'm not afraid of that, of anything."
Rin could feel IRSS's gaze piercing her, even through the blindfold the woman wore. Despite that, her assault on Mordred was dangerously focused. Her jeweled sword came down, and Mordred was just barely able to craft a candy cane sword that he used to deflect the attack. While he avoided getting hit, the candy cane was cleaved in two long ways. IRSS lashed out with a powerful kick and the candy cane shattered, Mordred being pushed back to just a few yards away from the sleigh.
IRSS halted in her assault for a moment and smiled. "This has been fun, but now that you've done me the favor of killing all of these Servants, I can use their energy to fuel my grail and end this miserable reality."
"What did you do to everyone?" asked Rin. "Why is all of this happening? How are you a Ruler, or alive?"
"It's simple really," said IRSS. "The Caster me you killed before was just one me that I sent into this world. This time, I sent in a second me, this one with the powers of a Ruler. I corrupted the summonings of this Holy Grail War, inflicting the Servants with my special brand of madness enhancement. They become deliriously focused on granting their wishes and desires, unable to see past what needs to be done to get what they want."
"And the madness enhancement then went through the Master-Servant link, didn't it?" asked Sakura.
IRSS nodded. "Correct, dear sister. Didn't want to be fighting for control against the Masters either, did I?"
"But why didn't you kill everyone immediately?" asked Shirou.
"I had something I needed to prepare, this is still a ritual after all," replied IRSS. "But then annoying flies started to pop up and I decided to use my new tools to exterminate them."
"Us," said Roman. "Then the Justice Rangers. You were worried we'd stop your plan."
IRSS shrugged. "I wouldn't go that far. I still had preparations to do, and my Servants would need to die eventually. Either you would do it, or I would. It makes no difference to me."
"And that's why my fathers tried to kill us?" said Illya, her voice angry. Shirou reached over and put a comforting hand on her shoulder, but he also looked about to explode.
"Fathers?" asked IRSS. She gazed over them for a moment, then shrugged. "Hmm, it's not like I know which timeline you're from or what has happened in it. I don't care either. Soon, all timelines will end, so why should I bother wasting the time and energy thinking about it?"
"You're ending nothing," yelled Mordred, dashing forward, lightning sparking around him. He punched and IRSS failed to block in time, the hit connecting with her head and sending her spinning to the side. He followed up by chasing her, bringing down an axe kick. From next to Rin there was a rush of wind and a purple blur. IRSS rolled to the side, coming up on her feet, her free hand on her blindfold.
"I guess you'll just be the first to die," yelled IRSS, her voice unhinged. Mordred tried to close the gap between them, but there just wasn't enough time. The blindfold slipped away, and Rin felt her breath stolen away, even though she wasn't in the woman's line of sight. "A Melancholy Present!" A purple flash shot out towards Mordred, but before it could hit him someone interposed themselves in front of him.
"Lord Camelot!" yelled Mash, holding her shield before her and Mordred. The area around them rippled as a giant white walled castle filled the space between and around them, protecting the pair. The wave of magical energy from IRSS's eyes struck the walls and were deflected around them. Rin couldn't see inside the castle to see the Servants, but the energy washed around the castle, turning the ground to stone.
After a moment the magical energy from IRSS's Noble Phantasm ended and with it so did Mash's Castle. As the walls fell, Mordred was revealed, holding Mash and yelling her name. "Mash, Mash, Mash!" Rin let out a gasp as she realized what had happened.
"I guess petrifying one is still something," said IRSS, contempt in her voice. "Not my intended target, but I guess that means there's no one left to protect you now. I'll take it." She held her free hand behind her and dropped the blindfold. An orange glow surrounded her as she chanted. "Come, the Sword of Promised Victory, A Doomed Future!"
The familiar form of Excalibur appeared in IRSS's hand, stretching out behind her. In a single powerful motion she twisted around, swinging the sword in an arc towards Mordred and the petrified Mash. Golden energy flew out of the sword, tearing across the petrified ground between them and engulfing Mordred and Mash completely. As it did, the Llamrei Mark III disappeared out from underneath them, dropping everyone roughly to the ground. As Rin stood, she could hardly believe what she saw. A giant molten rift in the ground, with nothing remaining of Mordred or Mash. IRSS's Excalibur shattered, turning into golden motes. On her face was a satisfied smile.
"There we go. It took two Noble Phantasms, but now two pests have been removed. I wonder, will the rest of you be as easy?"
"No," said Heracles, appearing behind IRSS. He grabbed her head and with a quick easy jerk snapped her neck. There was a loud crack and he let the body fall to the ground. He looked to them, a sorrowful expression on his face. "I am truly sorry that I could not make it before she killed them."
"Get away!" yelled Shirou, his voice panicked. "She gets back up!"
Heracles didn't have time to react as IRSS's Jeweled sword came up and stabbed through his side, a fountain of blood erupting behind him. She lashed out with a powerful side kick and sent him flying away from her, the snap of bone ringing in Rin's ears. From behind Rin came a cry of anguish and Chloe leapt forward, summoning her bow into her hand. She crafted and arrow and yelled, "Caladbolg II!"
The spiral arrow shot out in a rainbow corona of light and pierced IRSS's head, blowing it clearly off. Her body didn't fall though, instead it raised a hand. Five portals of light; red, blue, green, white and yellow appeared around her hand. Energy lanced out of them, converging into a powerful magical blast. The blast struck Chloe dead on and she went flying backwards, landing in a heap away from the group.
"Chloe," cried Shirou, turning and running to his Servant's side. As he did, IRSS's head reformed, that damned smug smile the first expression on it.
"That's two Servants for two lives," she said, laughter in her voice. "The math isn't in your favor."
"We shall see about that," said Medusa, landing in front of IRSS, her Scythe out and ready. "There is no one better to kill a monster than another monster."
"That goes both ways," replied IRSS, holding her jeweled sword before her. "My Noble Phantasm A Sorrowful Past gives me two more lives; can you really manage to defeat both alone?"
Medusa fell into a crouch. "We will have to see. I will not let you hurt Sakura any more than you already have."
IRSS's face twisted in anger. "I am the only one who has ever protected Sakura," yelled IRSS. "You had your chance when you were summoned as her Servant, and you just went and worked with Shinji. You never fought to stay by her side or protect her. I did! You do not get the right to say anything."
"Maybe that was true for the me you knew," said Medusa. "But the me now is different and will make that pledge. Despite having your eyes uncovered now, you seem to be quite blind to the truths before you."
"My eyes see much more than yours ever could," said IRSS.
"Do they?" asked Medusa. She leapt into action, swinging with her scythe. IRSS blocked with her sword but found herself being thrown off as the scythe blade detached from the long body, revealing a chain. The chain wrapped around the sword and with a powerful tug she sent it flying into the air. Before IRSS could even attempt to recover the weapon, an arrow struck it, shattering it into pieces. Rin glanced behind her and saw Chloe, bow in hand being propped up by Shirou. She had a triumphant smile on her face as she collapsed against her Master.
"I don't need that to kill you," said IRSS, her fist glowing with multicolored energy. Before she could attack though, she found a fist through her chest. Heracles stood behind her, holding his bleeding side with his other hand. He pulled out his fist and promptly fell over without a word.
"Get her," yelled Sakura.
"Understood," said Medusa, bringing her scythe around as IRSS's wound healed. IRSS tried to escape, but she wasn't able to make enough distance as she was cut in half at the hips by Medusa. Both pieces fell to the ground, unmoving.
"Is it over?" asked Shirou. As he spoke, Illya ran over to Heracles side, checking on him.
Rin nodded. "I think so. But I don't know what needs to be done now?"
Roman stepped up, his eyes red from held back tears. "Usually, a Singularity is ended by killing the source of the disturbance and collecting the Holy Grail or similar object causing the changes. If we find that, this all ends."
"But where is that?" asked Rin, looking around. Something occurred to her. "We're standing in the field of flowers…"
Sakura's eyes widened as she realized what Rin was saying. "We are, which means the reality marble hasn't collapsed yet."
"Which means IRSS is still alive," said Rin, looking over at her body. Nothing was there anymore.
The sky darkened around them and the flowers at their feet started to wilt and die. A voice boomed through the clouds. "And yet again, you manage to kill me. Unfortunately for you, preparations for my arrival were completed within time. It was foolish of me to rely on mere projections prior. If you want something done right, do it yourself."
The clouds above them started to swirl and form a vortex. From the center of the vortex emerged a large humanoid form. Twice her normal size was IRSS, except that her entire form was warped. No longer clothed, her entire body was made of multicolored gemstones. Her feet and legs were milky white pearl, her arms burning orange citrine. Her body was a bright purple amethyst and her head a blood red ruby. Underneath all the crystal was visible the outline of a black skeleton. Despite the inhumanity of the image, her eyes were still the same, Rin's eyes.
"Are you ready for round two?"
Author's Note: …In a two Servant open sleigh!
Chapter 6: In Full Bloom
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.