Fate/Infinite - Game Thread

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With his master asleep from jet lag, Assassin thought it would be a good time to scope out the perimeter. He had already picked this spot because he knew it would be frequented, but just far enough out of range that the others couldn't sense his movements. He slipped on his cloak, announcing proudly "Haunting guise", hiding himself from all and began his patrol.

Hiding in a large city is harder than one would think conventionally. People try and fill every corner and getting bumped was always a problem. If that happened, Assassin usually just had to bolt it and try to get away. Food was sent to be delivered, it would await him and his master when Assassin came home. He was excited, the thrill of waiting always kept him on edge. Pepperoni, cheese, pizza was simply amazing. Assassin lamented having to kill, but with the grail, at least some of his wrongs could be made right.

Finishing up his patrol was one last landmark, the bridge. This was the main reason for everything. He knew people would cross the bridge and as long as he stayed far enough away, but within walking distance, his plan could work. Walking closer he could feel a presence nearby, impossible to tell where but it made a smile creep along his face. He was correct. The presence was still, unmoving, taking camp there by the looks of things. This was more perfect than he could have dreamed for. Assassin went to a good place to sit, a fountain nearby the bridge and waited.

Rider sat in the room Clay had prepared for him the previous night, his eyes glued to a computer screen. As a heroic spirit, he didn't need sleep, let alone a room of his own, but it was only natural for a warrior of his stature to demand such a basic luxury. If he couldn't have a place of his own, why, he was no better than the common rabble! Though, he had to admit - provoking the rabble proved to be an ample source of entertainment.

'big spear L cmpnesate much? Lol'

He snickered to himself as he pressed the enter key. This 'internet' the maids showed him as they prepared his room was intriguing, so he made a MyFace account and decided to have a little fun. He snapped to awareness, however, when he heard somebody tapping on the door, likely one of the maids. This suspicion was confirmed when he heard a soft voice swiftly follow. "Master Rider, Master Clay requests your presence in the parlor."

"Very well. You can tell the peasant I shall be there shortly..." he grumbled, "...after I respond to these 7256 friends I have now made."

--------

The parlor was too small and stuffy for Clay's tastes, but he supposed it would do. He lit the fireplace with a wave of his hand and started to clear out the furniture, creating a large space in the center. Producing a piece of chalk from his pocket, he started to draw a ritual circle on the ground. It wasn't as intricate as the summoning circle used to summon Rider, but it was carefully crafted all the same, a web of strange runes and eldritch shapes. He stood back as he drew the last line, examining the circle to find any flaws. Satisfied with his work, he produced a binder of notes from a bag to his side and started to read them.

'Hm. The mental warding ritual will require a silvered soulblade, if I remember correctly... Ah yes, here it is.' He laid out the notes on a table next to him and read the first section of the ritual, concerning the preparation of the soulblade. He produced a small, silvery dagger from his bag and placed the blade in the palm of his hand, drawing it across in one smooth, slow stroke. A trickle of blood spilled over the dagger's shaft, and Clay then placed it, blade first, into the ritual circle. He extended his bloodied hand towards the ritual circle and began incanting. He wasn't certain of which language his mother used for this particular spell, but he suspected it was an obscure dialect of ancient Greek. As he finished the spell, he saw the dagger's blade begin to glow with a dim blue light. He couldn't help but smile at this result - the ritual had been a success.

"Well done, little brother. Mum would've been proud." Clay turned to see Maria enter the parlor, carrying a roll of bandages. "Hm. Have you seen where Diana ran off to?" Clay asked, turning to his sister. "I need her to gather some materials."

"Already done, Clay. I sent her off with a list earlier today. She should be back shortly."

Clay nodded in affirmation, nursing his cut hand. Maria took it and bandaged it, taking care to put pressure on the wound to stop the bleeding. As she finished, Clay saw Rider's imposing figure enter the parlor. "Boy! I have discovered something intriguing while on the informative roadway. I had several merchants offer very credibly sourced male enlargement products. I myself would never need such things, however I thought you might be interested, considering-" Rider cut himself off mid-sentence, shooting a look at Clay's injured hand with a sneer. "What is the matter, peasant? Can you not handle a simple blade?" Clay refused to dignify the insult with a response, instead gesturing with his uninjured hand to the ritual circle, the bloodied dagger still buried in the center. "A tribute required to ward you properly. You're going to have to make a much larger one, I'm afraid."

Clay stood up and moved to the circle's edge, removing the dagger with his uninjured hand. "Sit in the center of this circle and extend your dominant palm outwards." Rider did as he was told, sitting with his back straight and his face stoic. Though he didn't relish the thought of inflicting pain on his fellow man, Clay couldn't help but feel a bit smug as he raised the dagger. "I'm not going to lie - this is going to smart." He plunged the dagger down into Rider's outstretched hand, the blade making a dull sound as it buried itself into the wood below.

Rider focused his mind to block out the coming pain, but was alarmed to find it was for naught. No matter his concentration, his mind seemed drawn back to his right hand, as though the dagger where dragging it there. Keeping his face as stoic as possible, he grunted out, "What... vile sorcery is this, peasant?"

Clay scoffed at his Servant's comment, dipping his finger in the blood pooling around the dagger's shaft. "This, Rider, is a soulblade. A weapon enchanted to cut directly into a person's soul. The tug you feel is your mind rushing to fill in the gap the dagger has created. You'd be able to resist this pull, where your magical defenses not so... lacking." He drew runes in a circle around Rider's hand in Rider's blood, the power of the spell turning them an otherworldly blue as he finished each one. Clay had performed the ritual once before, on himself, and he could recite the following words by heart.

"By a bloodied soul and a fractured mind, I bind unto thee a bridge between the ethereal aspects. The blood of the body shall serve the soul, the welt of the soul shall serve the mind, and the fractured mind shall bind the body." Clay began to withdraw the dagger, now glowing with a ghastly white pale. He could see Rider visibly struggling to resist calling out in pain, his eyes fixated on his injured hand.

"The tribute of blood has been paid in full. Let the ward seal, as all three become one." Clay withdrew the blade fully, and the flesh around Rider's wound slowly knit back together, leaving a large, garish scar in its wake. Clay examined the gore-stained dagger and was pleased to see the blade had lost its ethereal glow. The mental ward had been placed. That only left one matter to attend to...

"Diana. I see you've returned." Clay turned to the parlor's entrance to see a girl, no older than 20 and with Clay's dull brown hair, standing with bags around her arms and an awestruck look on her face. "Is that... him?" She stammered, her eyes still wide with amazement. Clay nodded in affirmation. "Yes. Rider, this is my younger sister, Diana." She dropped her bags on the floor and rushed to give a bow. "Uh... yes. Hello. Nice to meet you."

Mordecai woke up to the sound of someone knocking on the door. He looked around, dazed, before getting up. He opened it up a crack and opened it all the way when he presented his pizza boy credentials. By that, he said he was a pizza boy. Mordecai sighed, and supposed he didn't sense any magic. He took the pizza, and sat on the bed.
"... I don't even like pepperoni." Mordecai muttered, and put it on the nightstand. He turned on the TV, and sat back.
'This war thing is going well, so far...'

"They won't think of that."

Saber kept watch through the night, the witching hour long past and still he sat across from his Lord Dirk. The small fire had descended to little more than small embers holding out feebly against the cold night and occasional breeze that found its way into their small crevice underneath the bridge, bringing with it the smell of the water and the slight chill a winter sea brought. He laid his head back and watched the entrance, though nothing was ever seen, nor heard, as early as the day was.

So went the night, though Saber felt something within him stir, the instinct that had kept he and his brothers alive while on campaign in Arabia, that nagging feeling of being watched. It couldn't be a Servant or Master, because he felt neither, however, should one of the Servants be Asassin...The implications brought with it many emotions, some negative, mostly a nagging doubt however, and that instinct could not be banished. As the sunlight of the morning began streaming in, he waited for Dirk to awaken, at which point he told him of the feeling he'd had somewhere around the midpoint of the night.

"This may be nothing, but you may want to know it anyways...."

"Is that... him?"

The words had barely registered in Rider's mind. His attention was already preoccupied with the scar that now blemished his perfect hand. Luckily his rudimentary knowledge of Servants assured him that it would simply vanish given enough time and mana, but for now it was a stark contrast to the rest of his flawless self. Satisfied with the eventual results of the ritual, Rider straightened himself out, cutting quite the imposing silhouette with the glow of the fireplace behind him. It was then that the realization that a fourth person had entered the study had caught his attention.

"Yes! I am the great Heroic Spirit Rider!" the servant boomed in the same pompous manner he had when first summoned. "Bow down before...my...great-..."

Rider suddenly trialed off, his gaze dead locked upon Diana. His skin flushed suddenly as his posture became completely relaxed contrasting his usual tense and alert nature. His eyes were glossy and hazed, his attention obviously fluttering off to its own world. The servant had been reduced to a babbling, sheepish mess at the mere sight of the girl. But it was so obvious as to why! She simply radiated with a sparkling presence no woman could hope to match. Her plain brown hair seemed to move in slow motion, dancing wildly as she bowed before him. Such elegance in her modesty.

"Uh... yes. Hello. Nice to meet you."

Rider was taken aback by the sweet and timid voice Diana possessed. It was a chorus of angels singing in a whisper. The resemblance was too striking, yet it felt so perfect. Clearly it was a sign. Despite the bumbling arrogance of his supposed master and the cold and distant reception of their sister Maria, she was the reason for him being in this entire mess of a family. One last glimpse at perfection and -but no. It was simply impossible for them to be the same person. Thousands of years separated the two. Yet...

"I-I-I-I-I-I-Hiiiiiiiiii~" Rider finally managed to sputter out, waving awkwardly with his newly scarred hand. He then quickly spun about, staring into the fire, desperately grasping at his former composure to gain some of it back. "Why yes, um, it must be such, er, an honour to, m-m-m-meet someone such as myself! Of course!" he stammered out, laughing afterwards in a volume not befitting of the exchange, both of his hands at his sides in fists.

"Why yes, um, it must be such, er, an honour to, m-m-m-meet someone such as myself! Of course!"

Clay cocked an eyebrow at this unusual response. Rider showing anything but utter confidence? How uncharacteristic. It was almost as if he where a schoolboy seeing his first... crush...

'Fuck.'

Clay silently cursed to himself, his teeth grinding together in displeasure. He'd gotten his wish - with Diana's cooperation, Rider shouldn't be too difficult to control. But at the cost of involving his family even further with the Grail War... looking over his sister, he saw her exhibiting behavior similar to Rider's - her face flushed, averting her gaze with an embarrassed expression. His better judgement told him to leverage this opportunity - Diana's an adult, after all, she can take care of herself - but his pride as her older brother made it a hard pill to swallow.

Shaking off his displeasure at this turn of events, he strode over to the bags Diana dropped and started rooting through them. 'Powdered silver, diatomaceous earth, leadened charcoal, a coil of copper and gold wire... yes, it's all here. Excellent.' He loaded the reagents into his satchel and turned to Rider, his gaze hardened. "Rider. Night will be falling shortly. Prepare yourself to leave within the hour. And Diana," he said, turning to his younger sister, his expression softening, "Please, stay here. This is my battle to fight."

"Rider. Night will be falling shortly. Prepare yourself to leave within the hour."

Rider snapped back to reality at the mention of finally heading towards battle. His eyes flickered with fiery passion, reflecting the bright flame in the fireplace perfectly. His soul was ablaze at the prospect of finally being able to unsheathe his blade. A stern look replaced his boyish embarrassment as he turned his head to return Clay's stare. A simple nod was all he gave. It was all that was needed. And so Rider left, turning bashful once more as he waved a cute goodbye to Diana, rubbing the back of his head with his free hand before going off to make preparations of his own.

* * *

It was exactly 17:00 when Clay shut the door connecting the garage to the manor. Though the lightless room did everything to conceal his less than faithful servant, he could sense the presence of Rider within. His fingers lightly rapped across the light switch and the garage was flooded with a florescent glow. Rider shielded his eyes for a moment before facing the mage, his look dead serious for a brief moment before that smug smirk crossed it once again. Though he tried to hide it, it was apparent that Rider was eager to do what he did best.

"A little ostentatious for a drive, don't you think?" Clay remarked, looking over his servant still within his battle armour.

The Heroic Spirit had yet to change out of his battle regalia since he had been summoned to this age. It was a mark of pride, not comfort, that had kept Rider in his robes and armour. He was a warrior about to ride into battle and only the best would do if he were to be facing opponents as skilled and infamous as himself. However, it had been explained to him multiple times that this war he was about to conduct would need to remain secret from the commoners of Fuyuki. While he was not terribly afraid of this association of sorcerers and soothsayers, the repercussions for disobeying the rules seemed terribly inconvenient.

"I suppose you are correct," Rider commented. He then stretched out his right arm to his side and snapped his fingers. The armour quickly dispersed into golden sparkles of mana to reveal a clean cut purple collared shirt, a pair of black pants and a pair of black gucci driving shoes. "Is this more appropriate to be consorting with peasants?"

Clay, once again, ignored Rider's imaginary pedestal and motioned for his servant to follow. The pair walked to the opposite end of the three car garage to stop in front of a beautifully crafted Aston Martin convertible. The car was a simple royal purple finish with a red horse racing across each side of the car as an honourific for his chosen class of servant. Knowing the class he would summon gave Clay the idea to bring a little bit of home over to Fuyuki in hopes of placating his servant's more brutish and haughty outbursts, though he wasn't much in the giving mood at the moment after what had transpired thus far. Rider, on the other hand, was too busy marveling over the sheer beauty of the car. Even having been born thousands of years ago, he could appreciate the fine craftsmanship of modern technology, especially in the area of transportation. His composure almost matched that of when he had first laid eyes on Diana. Almost.

"I was going to let you have this little present if you had behaved, but..." Clay remarked, ending the statement with a casual shrug. Rider looked at him with the sourest of expressions, as if his master had threatened to take away the air he breathed itself. Clay smiled to himself as he tossed the keys to the hero, realizing how simple it was to wrap him around his finger with a few bribes.

Rider was too ecstatic to pay any mind to Clay's self-satisfaction as he caught the keys while simultaneously hopping from the passenger's side door to the driver's seat. He landed snugly on the red leather interior and shifted in his seat for a moment before resting his right hand around the steering wheel. Suddenly the hero was bombarded with information pertaining the the car. Everything from limitations to complete interior specifications were burned into his memory in an instant. The experience left Rider a bit dazed as he closed his eyes tight and re-opened them. Then that cocky smile curled up onto his lips again as the key turned the ignition and the car roared into life.

Clay slid into the passenger's seat far less like a roughian and more like a normal human being. The Heroic Spirit was enjoying the sheer power of the machine as Clay hurried to strap himself in, not able to do so quickly enough with how vigourously Rider was revving the engine. As Clay nodded to Rider to signal he was ready, the servant took out a pair of aviator sunglasses with golden frames and slid them onto his face. The car then peeled out, Rider riding the clutch heavy as his smirk turned to an outright grin of delight. Then he shifted the car and the car surged forwards at an incredible speed, far beyond anything Clay thought possible out of the car. Rider's handling was flawless, however, and the vehicle moved as naturally as if it were crawling in his hands. As night began to settle upon Fuyuki, the pair sped off towards the bridge linking Shinto and Miyama in search of their first battle.

17:30 - Fuyuki Central Park

Lancer took a few breaths as his eyes listlessly wandered around the surrounding trees and structures. The chill that filled the air would have bit at his throat and lungs, had he still been human, but as a Spirit he hardly felt the cold; he knew it was there, but it did nothing to hinder his movements or impede his blood-flow. Its only effect was to crystallize his breath, turning the vapor into so many tiny shards of ice. Pretty, he supposed, but otherwise quite useless.

Now Ilene and Micheal, he mused, would likely be much more susceptible to the evening chill. When he had last seen them a quarter of an hour ago, he had noticed his young Master shivering quite a bit... though, in hindsight, that could just be because of her excitement. Heh, whatever the cause, undoubtedly she was being cared for by her guardian; there was no way the old man would let his charge die of cold.

Sighing, the Servant scanned his surroundings once again, hoping against hope that the monotonous scenery would have changed somewhat in the past few minutes. He knew that his Master's strategy made sense, using himself as bait to lure out other Servants and Masters while she hung back to offer support, but damn if it wasn't boring! He'd already been standing out in the middle of this deserted park, still dressed in his modern clothes, for close to half an hour, and had yet to see hide or hair of anyone else! Chewing on his bottom lip, Lancer grumbled to himself for a few minutes, seriously considering marching over to his Master's hiding spot and demanding that they go search somewhere else.

No... She'd probably just get mad at him, possibly even using a Command Spell to make him comply. He may not have liked it, but staying here and simply waiting was probably the best course of action, at least for the moment.

Surely competition would be coming by eventually.

Mordecai had made a pile of discarded pepperonis, and polished off a pizza. He felt like a glutton, and decided to wander around town, perhaps go shopping or something. He opened the door and went on his way, casually waving to the receptionist. He kicked himself for not getting a rental car, though he might have caused suspicion when it comes back torn apart and melted through magic. He sighed, and walked towards the Shinto, or whatever the hell they called it. Perhaps his niece would like a Teddy bear? Mordecai checked his hand for his command spell thingies, all were there, and he walked onwards into the night.

"This may be nothing, but you may want to know it anyways...."

"Hashshashin..."

Dirk sat at the far end of the alcove, his eyes fixated on the crackling remnants of their fire. Saber sat to his right, the three o'clock position from the boy's point of view. Dirk had not chosen to sleep long. The night was still young, and opportunity called to him. However, he was thankful for the nap. He felt refreshed, even from such little rest, and was confident it would give him at least a small edge on this first night. But he had awoken to grim news. A faint feeling, perhaps only the whisper of a wind. Or perhaps it was more.

The most likely answer was that it was old memories playing tricks on the mind of his Servant. Dirk was well-read, and knew what the bearded man had encountered in his past life. And living in a world where magic was real, where entire generations of dozens of clans fought tooth and nail for mythical cup?

Words like "likely" went flying out the window.

"Of course, the first Servant we pull would be the one we can't detect."

Orihara rubbed his chin, focusing on the image of still orange embers. An Assassin may not be detected... but they may be fooled.

The teenager snapped his fingers suddenly, though his expression did not change. "We can get him out of the way. Simply, even. Here.."

Dirk opened a duffel bag, pulling out a spare set of clothes and handing them to Saber. The instructions were short, "Fray these, make them look like they're my only pair. Homeless, worn."

As his ally began to work on that, the Master then pulled a pair of black socks from the same bag, along with a small knife from his pocket. He pulled one of the socks over his hand, to test where his fingers rested, before removing it once more and going to work with his blade. He cut five small holes at the end of the sock, and then did the same to its twin. Not a minute had passed, and he had already created a serviceable--if unattractive--pair of gloves for himself. He slipped them on, and was handed his new set of homeless clothes by Saber.

"These should serve your purposes."

Dirk accepted them, changing quickly. This late in the year, the light was all but gone from Fuyuki city, and he would need to strain his eyes in a moment. He was already preparing himself, thinking over any clues that might be given at a Servant's presence.

He'll be hiding where no one has gathered. Unless he's visible. Then, he shall be within a crowd, or a frequently traveled spot. Look for the conspicuous one.

Once he had finished changing, he asked, "Does it look convincing?"

He was wearing a ragged pair of jeans, a hole exposing the back of his left calf. His shoes were so worn that the soles were all but scraped away. No less than two shirts, one long-sleeved covered him, and above that a gray hoodie with an entire sleeve eaten away by time and misfortune. The illusion was almost complete.

Dirk pulled a woolen, gray stocking cap over his head, with a tiny white smiley face fixed upon the center.

"Be on alert." Orihara whispered to his companion. "The Assassin may choose to strike earlier than I intend."

He took a deep breath. The image had to be perfect.

With slow, shambling steps, Dirk limped and crept out from his hiding place. His left leg was the damaged one, he had decided, and favored it heavily. Shivering, or at least appearing to shiver in the evening air, he worked his way to the river below the bridge. When he reached the edge of the water, he slowly shifted himself down to his knees. His left leg shook violently from the effort. He reached his hands out, safe inside of their gloves. Not even the slightest hint of the seals underneath the right glove were evident. His hands dipped into the river water, cupping up a mouthful and dragging it up to his face. He leaned back and up a bit, drinking in the water.

His eyes darted right as he drank. Everything on that side of the bridge, to be checked in only a couple of seconds.

Nothing.

He leaned back down, getting another sip.

He looked left this time. He could see a fountain on that side. The water was rippling silently in the dark, blue air. His eyes narrowed, and he focused on it. Something seemed... strange, in the ripples.

His vision blurred quickly, and he looked away. He hadn't been awake long, and was slow to rise from slumber. His eyes were likely playing tricks on him.

He took a few more sips, sating the thirst he wished to present, before struggling back to his feet. He nearly fell into the river from the effort. Turning around, he limped back up towards his hiding place. Not ten steps before he was out of sight, for just a brief moment, he lost the limp. He took a strong, obvious stride, but was back to his pained gait a moment later.

No need to make it obvious. I'm trying to hide... but I slipped up. I'm not as careful as I think I am.

Come and get me, you bastard.

Once he was back in the alcove, he stamped out the last embers of the fire, immediately reaching into his second duffel bag. Books, ingredients, anything he could think of to help was yanked out. He could barely make out the words on the yellow pages in such darkness, but his work required it. And it required him to do it quickly. "Stand back," he told Saber. "I need to make a circle."

He took a piece of chalk, quickly marking a circle about three feet in diameter, in the section just out of the alcove, where they had created the makeshift fire pit. He then made several markings, adjusting the magecraft to his needs.

Feed the prana in now... do it slowly. Don't overload it like the last time. No room for failure... none.

Dirk sat at the edge of the circle, charging his creation as he chanted words beneath his breath. As he did so, punctuating each word, he reached out to the edge of the alcove, marking a sigil into the dirt and fueling it.

"By divine will and sacred insight, lord of this castle, I stake my claim. None shall pass, lest I know. Bounded Field: Sentinel Aura."

When he was done, the barrier he had erected coated the entire entrance to the alcove. The sigils darkened, hidden from view. Dirk slowly backed away, until he was certain he was entirely out of sight again. He immediately moved away the signs of their camp, both the cooler and the bags, into a corner of the alcove, crouching alongside them and reaching within their contents. He whispered to Saber, on the opposite side.

"They have two options now: they may ignore us, and we shall be safe. Or they may come for us, we shall detect them..."

He drew his own blade from the bag, carefully unsheathing it and keeping it steady at his side. Even the weakest of Servants was stronger than he.

But I will NOT be unarmed in this war. They call me 'swordsman', and I shall not discredit that title...

"...and we shall kill them. If they pass that barrier, you shall hear a sound as if a rock were being skipped across the water. Follow the sound of their footsteps, then. And gut them."

Assassin was calmly waiting at the fountain. He hardly expected anyone to show up yet, but when they did, he would figure out who they were. He hoped that if another master and servant showed up that he could simply observe the fight and pick off both masters, netting an easy two removed early. Reality suddenly came crashing back in, what the hell was he doing? Assassin had already spilled enough blood, why even join this? Could the grail really fix anything anyway? What if it was just imaginary and this was all a clever ruse to trick him out of his pizza? What if they took his pizza? What if the pizza wasn't pepperoni?

Assassin's tangent was suddenly broken by an even more shocking development than a mismatched pizza order. As he had walked closer to the bridge he had felt the presence get stronger, thus he had assumed they were somewhere near, but then one of them stuck their head out and stared at him for a few seconds. The Haunting Guise was never perfect, but Assassin was surprised it was seen through so easily. Either way, the presence wasn't that of a servant. Assassin almost dismissed the thought when something crazy popped in his head. What if that was the master?

"No way." Assassin let a small whisper eek out and quickly be consumed by the surrounding darkness, even a highly trained dog would have missed the whisper it was so quiet, but Assassin heard it. The killer immediately threw his crimson stained hands over his mouth, this had never happened before. Whenever he was on a mission, he always remained dead silent, this however, the sheer stupidity put out by this group almost made him burst out in laughter. The master instead of hiding himself, went to the most wide open and traveled place in the city. Was he not aware that at some point someone would find him? What if it really was just a hobo? Assassin shook his head and stood up. His shoes were made for moving silently and he was more than capable of using them to their full potential. The robed stalker crept up to the bridge and quickly eyed where he had seen the man.

Picking out where people were hiding was one of the first skills he had picked up in his line of work. It was especially important when one considers the secondary effect of his phantasm gives him the power to walk through walls and other objects. He remembered his first kill with the Haunting Guise. A poor old fool who had skimped out on debts. Assassin used to love killing, but now it just reminded him of his past. This wasn't the time to reminisce about old times passed however, now he had to focus. The spot was marked in his vision, a light post was slightly further, its glow providing one of the few lights on the bridge. Assassin gripped his gladius, unsheathing it and preparing it for a singular strike. He jumped right at the spot and phased right through the bridge, anyone who could have possibly seen through his disguise would have sworn he was a ghost.

Stone after stone flew by at what seemed to be lightning speed. The experience lasted for less than a second and Assassin was soon in the darkness of the bridge's underside. The robed figure landed silently on the flooring, just as a ghost would and looked around. Close to him was the master, further away was undoubtedly the servant. The robed figure almost reconsidered when he noticed that the servant was a saber. Any mistakes would almost certainly be fatal, but then he noticed the runes at the entrance, they might be overconfident with those around. Assassin looked down at Dirk and threw himself down at the man gladius pointing out. The strike was aimed directly at the master's neck.

Dirk sat in silence with his Servant. He could barely stand the pressure eating at him. Actually, no. Not pressure. Excitement. Something tugged at the edge of his lips, for the briefest instant. He'd almost wanted to smile.

What will you do, Master Assassin? Will you take my bait, or keep your distance?... Or will you find a way through?

The question was so exciting, he could barely contain himself. For the next few moments, Orihara had absolutely no idea how events would play out.

The time passed slowly, his eyes retaining their focus, and his breath controlled to the quietest of sounds. His vision settled on the Field he had established.

A sound, faint as the whispering of the wind hit the air. It wasn't the sound of his field. But it did not sit well to the young master. Don't panic, stay still.

His eyes, slowly, scanned the space between he and Saber. Something deeply upset his gut. A patch of grass, specifically.

Something looks odd... grass doesn't fall that way. Was I sitting there?

Without the slightest noise, the grass stood up once more. Whatever had been pressing it down had moved. Dirk's eyes bugged out, and his muscles clenched.

Shit!

"GRADATION AIR!"

Dirk's empty right hand seemed to pulsate in white, as the air itself coagulated around it. A German Katzbalger, within the instant, was held tightly in his grasp. Grunting as he put his full exertion into the strike, Dirk leaned left and away from what he hoped was an incoming blow. His blade hissed as it cut up from Dirk's waist, and mid-air struck Assassin's unseen Gladius.

Orihara was a mere human, and the Assassin was a heroic spirit. Many times beyond his strength.

But battle isn't ABOUT strength.

The Katzbalger shattered, its weak composition no match for a blade such as that. But the blow was diverted, all the same, ripping along and down Dirk's right sleeve.

Orihara was determined to get away from him, and seeing what he believed was an opening, he rolled forward. The cold dirt was hard on him, and he felt his skin--unused to combat--bruising on the hard impact. He ended by his Servant's side, turning back in the direction of his previous position. He clutched his blade tightly.

"Saber!" he called, his nerves not reflected in his calm voice. "He's here! Watch the grass!"

"He's here! Watch the grass!"

"Yes,"Was all the answer Saber gave as he reached inside his coat and pulled forth his sword, a giant thing, many hands long, with a single blemish on the blade, straight across, four inches from the hilt, the man stood with it in his hands a moment before closing his eyes. They would deceive him in this fight, just as they had before. The sound of Dirk's breathing behind him was causing problems though.

"Calm yourself, young Lord,"He whispered, barely audible,"'Tis only an Assassin"

They both knew how dangerous they could be, but this one had made his presence known quite early and had failed to kill either of them.

"Leave now or surrender friend,"Saber continued to speak barely audibly, "Your invisibility is not as useful in this venue as you would think. Look around you, surrounded by water and grass, above you a bridge, and nowhere to go. You picked the wrong place to make yourself known."

His eyes still closed, he heard the grass to his left crunch with the cold, and swung his sword, from right to left, at a downward angle, where he used his great strength to stop it and instead kicked out. He felt the impact of flesh, though if his plan to knock this Assassin into the water worked or not, he was unsure.

*Clang*

What?

The bastard had a defensive mystic code. It seemed he was prepared for everything including a nuclear apocalypse. Assassin quickly backed up and yelled "Haunting Guise." Becoming invisible and ethereal at the same time. Saber made a slash at him, cleverly following the grass footprints being made. Assassin saw no hint of a phantasm and allowed the saber to run right through him. Using the advantage of time, he quickly turned around and reached into his left tunic pocket. He could feel the hilt of his infamous blade.

This was the blade that did it. The blade that had set his whole life into motion, brought him here. Assassin could feel his red hands oozing blood, returning to liquid as he wielded its cold iron grips. The knife was too short to be fatal in most cases, but that wasn't the point. The blade glowed a crimson fury as Assassin deactivated his guise and lunged at Saber's back yelling "Emperor's Bane!"

Beneath the Bridge: Assassin vs Dirk and Saber

After taking an instant to steady himself, Assassin lashed out, his blade drawn and lusting for blood. At such close range, missing was out of the question; Dirk's neck would soon be opened, his lifeblood whetting the gladius' appetite. With precise, almost perfect timing, Haunting Guise fell away, bringing both Assassin and his sword into blessed solidarity.

"GRADATION AIR!"

What?! Tch... The boy was good, Assassin had to give him that. Somehow, Dirk had sensed the incoming attack and managed to block the worst of it. The Magus' weapon, hardly a strong looking thing, shattered upon impact with Assassin's, but it served its purpose. The lad's neck remained whole and unharmed, though he was not entirely undamaged; a long red line ran down the length of his arm, the crimson fluid that seeped from the wound further staining his already ragged clothes.

But such a wound was hardly debilitating, and Assassin bit back a curse as his target rolled to his feet. Dirk's shout had done more than just assure his defense; Saber had heard his Master's cry, and was already moving to defend him. In a flash, the Servant stood between Assassin and Dirk, blade drawn and senses focused on tracking down his opponent.

There was no way he could possibly win in a straight fight, not against a Knight class. Falling back as fast as he could, Assassin prepared to fall back into the protective embrace of his Guise... But not fast enough. Saber's foot, traveling at a speed far beyond anything a human could emulate, slammed into his side like a freight train. The blow shook Assassin to his core, hurling the Servant back a few paces and sending pain flaring across his body.

The pain may not have been ideal, but at least Saber's attack had put quite a bit of distance between them. Assassin didn't waste an instant, shifting back into his invisible, ethereal form as fast as he could. One second, he was there, wincing in pain. The next, Saber found himself staring at empty space, with no sign of his foe.

Taking a moment to allow the pain to fade, Assassin glared at his foes, reflexively clutching at his side. Hmmph. If they thought a blow like this would be enough to stop a warrior of his caliber, then they were sadly mistaken. This was nothing, nothing to a man like him.

When he had recovered, Assassin carefully stepped forward, hardly making a sound as he brushed over the gravel and grass underfoot. Dirk, though he may be a skilled mage, was clearly no soldier; even now Assassin could hear the boy's pained breaths. His wound may not be particularly lethal, but apparently it was still quite painful. By patiently waiting, Assassin was able to mask his footsteps with the mage's panting, and in a matter of moments he stood between Master and Servant.

Hmm... He could take a chance and attack Dirk once more, or he could use this opportunity to try and get the drop on Saber. What to do, what to do...

The Servant. If Saber fell or became incapacitated, then he could finish off Dirk with ease.

As he slashed out with his blade, Assassin's Haunting Guise fell away once more, revealing the man and his gladius, which gleamed with a crimson light. "Emperor's Bane!"

"Emperor's Bane!"

No!

The battle was flowing at a frantic pace. Dirk was not a stranger to combat, but he was only a whelp. Never before had he fought for anything but sport, and the blood that sighed from his wounds was a fresh experience. He almost relished it. This was new, this was good. An opponent who could hurt him.

This war... may have been more than I could ever have wished for.

But that mattered little now. The Assassin had appeared once more, directly between Dirk and his Servant. And the Noble Phantasm was hard to miss in his hand. Orihara steeled himself. Kendo training. You are Kenshi. Show it.

With the Spirit's back turned, it was hardly an opportunity that could be passed up. Shouting at the top of his voice, lined with gravel from pain, he called out a warning. "Behind you!"

At the same moment he ducked, his unscratched arm clutching a blade. His pocket knife. I've never tried this on something so urgent. Please, work...

He thought of his blade, and its components. The metal, the steel, the grip, and the bolt that held it all together. He had possessed it for years. He knew how comfortable it felt in his grip. The blade was sharp, not sharp enough. He could fix that.

"Reinforcement..."

Prana fed the blade. What once was dull became like a razor. What once was weakly hinged, and liable to snap, became supple and strong. Would it be enough? Dirk hoped desperately that it would be.

Assassin, become the assassinated!

Lunging from the ground, Dirk roared as he drove his knife upwards towards Assassin's spine.

Mordecai felt... odd, enough so to stop mid gait, stumbling over himself ever so slightly. Assassin was in trouble, of what kind he was unsure. Mordecai took boxing for pehaps a week or two before this, but he knew damn well going against a servant would be suicide. He couldn't die, not yet. He sighed, and broke into a jog, hoping to get there before anything truly bad happened to his comrade.
'Why must I worry? He can take care of himself.' And he knew this for a fact, fame equals power as far as his books told him. And damn was Assassin famous. Still, it could be something stronger than him, a saber, or a lancer. Or an archer, that one would be the worst. Worst thing would have no master to take out while Assassin was down. Mordecai checked his pocket, his surgeons scalpel still there. Not the most effective, but it'd work as far as slicing up his fellow man was concerned.
He needed to stop thinking about his enemies that way, it made war harder. He afforded a few thoughts to how the Allies thought of the nazis. They were evil, though they didn't know to what extent. He supposed he felt this way, kind of. Not really, but hey, thoughts were going through his mind too quickly to judge himself. He sped up, he didn't want to be there early though. That would be worse than not going.

"Emperor's Bane!"
"Behind you!"

Saber did what he could to block or direct the strike away from him as he turned, but it was in vain. The two blades sparked and the gladius ran down the length of the greatsword, and skipped on the blade's blemish, carrying the weapon into Saber. Luckily, his beard caught the blade slightly, angling it into his shoulder instead of his heart. Pain blossomed as the weapon was pulled out, a chunk of beard brought back with the archaic weapon.

"Kin Guard. By the grace of God, I call for your aid in my quest for the Grail."

The blemish on Saber's blade brightened enough to rival the sun in brilliance for a moment before four lights, each slightly dimmer than the next shot out from it and gathered around Assassin, Saber, and Dirk, who was currently lunging for the Assassin's back with...a penknife?

Time slowed down and the four lights became two men, and a women, all armored from head to foot, each geared differently. The tallest of them wore his hair short and light, sword and shield in his hand, in a stance ready to fight, his cousin. The next was the woman, looking remarkably like Saber himself, but much shorter and not as built, his daughter, the once empress of a great land, herself wielding a hammer with a wicked spike and hook on the back. Next was his cousin's son, axe and shield, again looking much like the tallest and broadest of them. Each had a slight outline of light around them, and were the slightest bit transparent, but looked solid and moved the same as the other three "real" people there. And all four struck as one at Assassin, cutting off any escape he should have.

Saber stabbed straight towards Assassin, his cousin beginning to slice downwards as the once king began his extension, his daughter's hammer whistling through the air at his legs, again staggered with the cousin's strike, then with the axe-wielding cousin's son attempting to take the man's head finally, and Saber was already back and waited for him to dodge all of the blows, just in time to line up with Dirk's desperate lunge and his own thrust into the Asassin's chest and heart.

Beneath the Bridge: Assassin vs Dirk and Saber

Tick, went the hands of an imaginary clock.

There was a clash of steel against steel, the sound of flesh being torn and blood spurting forth. There was a flash of crimson light, followed by a blinding golden gleam.

Tock.

Dirk found himself hurtling backwards, bouncing off of the hard, rocky ground and into the icy cold waters of the Miongawa River. Gasping for the air, the boy staggered to his feet, his left hand clutching at his opposite, dislocated shoulder. Gods, Assassin's foot had just barely brushed him, and he was thrown this far back!? This was way beyond anything that was humanely possibly. What had he been thinking, trying to take down a Servant with just a pocketknife of all things!?

...Then again, it wasn't like his strategy had been for naught. Lowering his gaze, the Master stared at the blade still clutched in his right hand, its magically enhanced blade dripping with thick, scarlet blood. A Servant's blood. Assassin's blood.

Heh. Maybe it hadn't been such a bad idea after all.


Assassin, meanwhile, found himself hanging from the underside of the bridge, his nimble fingers hooked onto one of the supports. Panting, the Servant took a second to take stock of himself and his surroundings as he clambered up, securing his feet for a better grip. Blood, only some of it his own, stained his robes, oozing forth from a sizable cut in his lower back and several smaller scratches on his arms and chest. His blade, still glowing a light crimson, was dripping with the liquid as well; Saber hadn't been fast enough to dodge the attack after all.

Still, the Knight-class' Noble Phantasm was proving to be quite troublesome. Turning his gaze downward, Assassin took a second to glare at the quartet of armored figures standing or kneeling on the ground below. If he was only going up against Saber, he could probably take him at this point, but with those other three fighters it was quite a different story. He had barely been able to dodge the worst of their attacks and escape to up here; going against them head on would be nothing short of suicide.

As he raged, Assassin's gaze fell across Dirk. The boy was truly an annoyance, first blocking his attack with a hastily summoned sword and then trying to harm him with a mere toy. Growling, the Servant clutched at the wound Dirk had dealt him. It might look bad to the untrained eye, but he knew that the cut was fairly shallow, even if it was bleeding heavily at the moment. Assassin had been hard pressed to escape Saber's Phantasm, but he had still managed to find time to pay back the lad for his scratch. All it took was a simple kick to send the Master bouncing off the ground and into the river.

Rrrrgh... Assassin knew that he had the high ground for now, but that probably wouldn't last for much longer.


Saber gasped as he fell to his knees, a terrible numbness creeping throughout his body. Assassin's Phantasm, his Emperor's Bane, must have done this; apparently it didn't need to hit anything vital for it to be deadly. A small amount of blood seeped from his wounded shoulder, and his beard was in horrid disarray.

Still, the Servant reflected, things could have been worse. Apparently the paralysis did not keep him from activating his own Noble Phantasms, and he was currently defended by the ghosts of his most trusted allies. They were his to command; at an instant's notice they would leap to either attack Assassin or defend Dirk, he only had to speak the word.

Hopefully they'd be able to defeat or drive off Assassin soon. Already Saber could feel his mana reserves depleting as he maintained the spirits; there was no way he could keep them here forever.

Saber saw Lord Dirk kicked back into the water. He clutched at the wound in his shoulder, as the numbness seeped into his arm, causing him to lose grip of his sword, which he caught with his other hand as it fell, taking it off the wound. He already felt he was losing control of his entire body, he only had a few heartbeats before he became too slow to fight effectively.

"Cousin, fight, you two, defen-" he lost control of his tongue, but the three understood enough to do their parts. Saber's cousin threw his shield at the man hanging above them by his fingers, slamming into the man's fingers. The man then took up a position to fight. He had always been the best of them after all, Saber had simply been the most loyal to family and what the right thing to do was. And this was the right thing for the moment. The other two took their positions, one to guard Dirk, his daughter to guard him. He was having trouble standing now, but he kept a grip on his sword and willed himself to remain up, despite the wound in his shoulder, the paralysis threatening to crumble him every second if he let go of his concentration, and the threat to his charge's life.

"Tch."

Dirk spat a wad of saliva into the dirt, his heel rubbing it into the ground as he considered his position. Above, the Assassin was watching them. How he'd moved that fast, he wasn't sure... He had been certain that he'd caught the thing off guard.

The blood flowing down his blade, now dropped to the ground, assured him that he actually had. That was just the level a Servant fought at. He was out of his league.

At least, I'm certain they think so.

Dirk tenderly put a hand on his shoulder. He was useless with it like this. This would be the worst thing he'd done in a long time. And if he didn't do it right he'd just make it worse. He clenched his teeth, and...

"GYAAH!"

The arm was back in its place, but it wasn't particularly happy about it. Dirk was certain that he'd felt his joint warning him. Never try that again. He collapsed to his knees, from exhaustion. By appearances. He watched the Servant above, weighing his options. His right hand dipped into the water, letting the frigid liquid caress his skin. It felt refreshing. More refreshing than his drink had been. The taste of salt still lingered on his tongue.

This river connects to the ocean. Maybe not much, but just a little salt is all I need.

He looked towards his Servant. Saber was collapsed, unable to move as his guardians surrounded him. One of them was moving his way. As he came to his side, Dirk whispered, "Do not block if he charges me. I have something for him."

Okay then. I just have to stay alive... until that paralysis wears off. Easy.

"Stay down, Saber." Dirk announced. Even as his panting breath seemed to convey exhaustion, an idea was forming. "I'll protect you."

He's stronger than me, and he's faster than me. I wonder what he knows about momentum?

The assassin was hanging from a ledge, three knights ready to rip him to shreds the second he landed. Assassin thought for a moment, paused and said. "You know, I really was hoping not to have to go all out yet. But no, you guys had to be so freaking stupid that you come and poke your head the hell out. I could be eating pizza right now but instead I am going to be busy dressing this wound! Do you know that my pizza has to be cold by now? This is so ridiculous that I do not feel bad anymore. I can't believe I am doing this but...Withered Chaplet."

With that, Assassin reached under his hood and grabbed his chaplet. It was an olive branch, but it seemed close to death. Invincible and in that state for all time, it seemed to suck the light out of everything around it. The room got darker and Assassin cast his hand down. A circle formed around the entire bridge and Saber as well as his knight pals all felt their weapons become heavier than they had known. Their legs felt stiff and it was difficult to run. Their weapons fell to the ground with a thud.

"And that folks, concludes our performance, I hope you enjoyed it. Come again real soon. Haunting Guise." Assassin donned his haunting guise and made himself Ethereal, rushing at Dirk with lightning speed, golden gladius in hand. This battle was over, underestimating one's opponent never ends well, even for a Saber class.

"Gah!"

Dirk's hands and feet sunk into the ground as if heavy weights had been bound to him. His lungs and esophagus tightened, the air itself seeming to press down within him. His eyes felt strained, and ready to burst.

"What... the hell... is this?" he gasped in horror. It was a struggle just to keep his head aloft. He could see the knight who had come to his aid, flat on the floor, pain written on his features. Further away, the others had fallen just as quickly, Saber included. They were trapped, then.

His body seemed to tremble with pressure, as if a single wrong move could trigger a painful end. The Assassin appeared a final time to mock them. "And that folks, concludes our performance, I hope you enjoyed it. Come again real soon."

He disappeared again, clearly coming in for the final blow.

That... bastard...

A memory pulsed through Dirk's mind. He, and his father, in their study. Dozens of books, images of hundreds of weapons and objects lay sprawled before them.

"Your Projection magic has improved much. Your Reinforcement as well..."

"Then why don't you seem happy, Dad?"

His father buried his face in one cupped hand, sighing deeply. "Son, you are the smartest boy I've ever seen. And your skills show promise, if slow-coming."

He reached out, and clasped a hand on his boy's shoulder. "But this war isn't something we prepared you for. It's worse than anything you could be imagining right now. You need more than intelligence, skill. You need a reason. Why do YOU fight for the Grail, Dirk?"

The boy paused, before averting his gaze. "I don't have a reason. I'm fighting because I've been told I must fight."

His father grimaced. "That reason won't stay by your side for long."

Dirk's face soured, in pain and frustration. A reason to fight a pointless war...

A red fleck in the night sky caught his eye. A swelling sense of something he couldn't describe came from his gut. He's bleeding! I can track him by his blood!

Another memory of his father echoed in his mind. It had only been a few hours ago. A simple request: come home. The silver cross pattered beneath his shirt and against his chest.

I will!

The invisible silhouette of Assassin was approaching. Orihara had only an instant to react. The boy gritted his teeth, all the pain demanding he stay down. I won't die like this! I won't, I won't, I WON'T!

In a single jerk of motion, screaming in effort, he braced one knee in the dirt, a foot in front of it, holding out his hands. "GRADATION AIR!"

The strongest, most reliable spear he could recall to imagery flowed from the winds, and into his hands. His hands gripped tightly around the weapon of mighty Odin, Gungnir.

My reason to fight, Dad... I'll take the Grail, to keep it from bastards like this!

Tears from the effort flowed down Orihara's cheeks. The pain was unbearable. He told himself again and again, it was better than death. With a bellowing cry, he jabbed his spear into the oncoming Servant, and with a final jerk threw himself backwards, aiming to catapult the Assassin straight into the frigid waters.

Maria and Caster both slept through the night without much trouble, each in their own way. Caster sat in the living room on the sofa, listening in to the different pictures and the stories they told emanating from the television device. His amazement at the device was only rivaled with his disgust towards the culture of this place. Maria warned him before that they would be travelling to a land where Christ held little to no power, but those who lived here disgusted him. They had no morality or love for him, and the glimpses of the Kami worship he saw seeded deep hatred in his heart. He knew of his purpose coming here, but maybe he could try and change something before he left... anything, just so they could feel the pain and repent.

Maria did sleep in her bed, but she only spent a few hours napping. She was already used to sleeping less than five hours a night when she was locked away and spent most of her time reading ancient tomes and listening to the bones around her. She knew she was in a disadvantage, which is why she was certain her spells could return her the lead. Many different materials were laid out to her on the desk as she took each and grounded it into a fine powder. Some she used for other things, while others she had already prepared. Spells of deceit, spells of prana and most important of all... spells of an all-seeing eye. She imagined Caster would appreciate the irony.

Those spells of deceit would be in place to mask anything it comes into contact with from an untrained eye. Maria hoped she could compensate for Caster's incompetence at that field and use spells of an all-seeing eye to monitor the city as much as she could. The spells of prana, on the other hand, would prove to be something of an entirely different nature. She finished tying up all of the spells she made just before noon, when a vibrant smell snuck under her door and into her nostrils. She snapped out of her trance and reminded herself she hadn't eaten a thing in hours. After opening the door she found Caster sitting at the table in the kitchen and waiting for her.

The table was set with simple plates and plastic cutlery. In its center was a bowl with what appeared to be purple mush, and two small plastic boxes. Caster was staring at the television from his seat and looking at another uninteresting news report. Nothing about them or this tournament, just some new legislation the Japanese parliament was about to pass.
"What is this?", Maria asked Caster in her native Hungarian.

"This is lunch", he answered Maria, "I didn't want to disturb you but I couldn't have you starve. I spoke in this new language and asked a man to give up food on this thing. I paid him some of the money I found in the kitchen counter", Caster pointed at the telephone on the sofa and then the change he received from the delivery-man. "You said I couldn't come out. ", he added.

Maria wasn't sure if she should be mad at Caster or thank him. "You could speak Japanese?", she asked Caster. He nodded in agreement. She walked to the kitchen table and sat down at one of the empty seats. Maria smiled at Caster, "Why aren't you eating?", she asked him.

Caster pushed his plate away, "I'm not a man, like you said. I don't need to eat". Maria shrugged and then proceeded to taste whatever was on her plate. She was frozen for a moment before she spat out the food and ran to the kitchen sink to try and wash the terrible taste away. "You tasted it, didn't you?", Maria asked Caster after she cleaned her mouth of that foul taste.

"You didn't like it? I thought this is how food tastes today", Caster answered innocently.

"No, only in this crappy country."


Maria left the apartment after Caster had found a small treasure chest of books and decided to read them all. She already slipped into her shadows when she left the apartment, but this time she chose a different appearance. That young, 17 year old girl the photo captured would prove to be an interesting mask to hide behind.

It was afternoon when Maria walked through the streets of the old city and planted small cloth bags in street corners and parks. Those concentrated spells would prove to be useful when they would detect magical activity of any kind. Her glasses couldn't see everything, but her spells could compensate for that.

Beneath the Bridge: Assassin vs Dirk and Saber

Grinning like a madman, Assassin dropped to the ground and charged towards his target. Heh, with Saber and his cohorts all but petrified, there was nothing, nothing that could stop him from collecting the boy's head. And without his Master to maintain his body, Saber would have at most seconds before disappearing back into the aether he had been summoned from. Tonight may have gotten off to a rough start, but things were certainly going his way now!

As he dashed forward, the Servant made sure to keep a close watch on the warriors behind him. It never hurt to be careful, after all; he wouldn't make the same mistake of underestimating his foe as Saber had done.

Saber, for his part, was forced to watch as his foe, only made visible by the blood leaking through his mantle, charged towards Dirk. Gritting his teeth with effort and exertion, the warrior tried to rise to his feet, tried to move his arm, tried to do anything to defend his Master. All for naught, as it turned out; the combined effects of Assassin's Phantasms made it nearly impossible for him to move a single muscle, let alone his entire body.

His companions weren't doing much better. Though they were not detained by the effects of Emperor's Bane, Assassin's latest trick was weighing heavily on them as well. The one that stayed close to Saber seemed to be alright, at least he could stand up without too much trouble. The other two, however, were clearly feeling the strain. They seemed to take an eternity to move towards their respective targets, as though their bodies were trapped in molasses; there was no way they could reach either Assassin or Dirk in time to make a difference.

Shouting out an agonized cry, Saber looked on as Assassin's silhouette drew closer and closer to Dirk...

"GRADUATION..."

"AAAAAAAAAAIRRRRRRR!"

A flash of divine brilliance filled the air, nearly blinding those beneath the bridge. Assassin, Saber, even Dirk, they were all forced to clench their eyes shut, to try and blink away the stars that danced before them.

Unfortunately for the latter two, it was Assassin who first managed to clear his vision. Shaking his head to clear away the last of the dots, he let out a ferocious growl as he charged the last few feet towards his target. Said growl turned almost immediately into a howl of pain, as the Servant managed to impale himself on a massive spearhead that had not been there a second ago.

The force of the impact nearly shattered the lance's shaft, but Dirk's Projection Magic managed to hold fast. The copy of Gungnir, little more than an illusion given solidarity, lived up to its namesake's legend, its tip passing through Assassin's side like a hot knife through butter; the Servant was forced to come to a stop, lest he manage to fully skewer himself on the great spear.

Roaring out in agony, Assassin wrenched the spear from Dirk's grasp. Reflexively, he tore the weapon out of his side, worsening the massive wound that the Master had dealt him.

As pain and blood loss numbed his body, the Servant turned to stare at Dirk with a look of absolute hate. The boy had the nerve to injure him, not once, but twice?! And to deal such a grievous wound?! Oh, he would make this lowly Master suffer for his hubris; he would make Dirk scream and beg for death before he was done.

Reversing the grip on his gladius, Assassin charged towards the now unarmed boy, ready to cleave him in two. Dirk barely had time to throw out an arm and begin an incantation before the Servant was upon him and striking out; even if his prana was not all but depleted, there was no way he could summon another defense, not now. Watching as Assassin's blade whistled toward him, it was all the lad could do to keep his eyes open.

CLANG

...Well, he certainly hadn't seen that coming.

His eyes bulging with disbelief, Assassin stared at the warhammer that had managed to block his blow, tracing the weapon back to its owner. It appeared that Dirk's tactic, in addition to dealing a gruesome blow, had the added effect of slowing Assassin, just long enough to allow for Saber's companion to catch up and defend the boy.

...Wait, hadn't there been three spir-

Yet another pained roar escaped Assassin's lips as a sword nearly tore his back in two, courtesy of the spirit Saber had instructed to attack. Gasping out in agony, the Servant tried to back away, tried to find an escape route, but the two spirits seemed to dance around him, keeping him from lashing out at Dirk or leaping away like he had done the last time. He had to get away. He had to run.

An hour after Maria returned to the apartment to get some rest after covering nearly all of Shinto she felt a slight tingle. It only took a second for the tingle to grow into something much larger as more prana was being released. At the time she was trying to finish her inedible food, but to no avail. She got up and witnessed Caster lying on the Sofa and watching another Japanese channel. She couldn't understand a word they were saying, yet Caster knew it all.

"Get up Caster, we have to go", Maria ordered him to move. She grabbed her coat and waited for the behemoth of a man to stand up and pull himself away from the television.

"There's a fight at the bridge. If we go quickly we might catch it", she added.

"Yes master", Caster spoke. He was disappointed he couldn't finish listening to the television ramble on about the religious war that was going on in the Middle East.

"Did you know the crusades were again at full swing? I never imagined Jews would do such a thing", he seemed excited at the new world events that were unfolding.

"Shut up Caster, lets go", Maria barked at her pawn. She closed the door and walked outside wearing her new 17 year old shadow. She pulled her glasses on to try and find the source of the prana she felt.

Assassin was shocked. He had beaten a Saber pretty easily, but gotten beaten by a master? What backwards looopy town logic was this? The knife and the kick might not have hurt, but that spear sure as hell did and the grazing blow by that sword wasn't helping. Assassin quickly tumbled away and flared his cloak, becoming entirely invisible and ethereal to those around him. He was debating which target to strike when all the sudden he felt another servant charging in.

Not good, Master is close too. I had better take an exit, I think I have earned a pizza.

Assassin rushed through the guardian spirits and through the wall, though as far as Dirk and Saber know, he might still be hanging around. Either way, this wasn't a fight that could end well for him and honstly, he prefered the others killed people in his stead. Makes the whole job easier and... He quickly broke off the tangent and ran faster. It was easy to tell where Mordecai was, he was running to the battle and Assassin spotted him quickly.

"We are getting out of here master. There is not any time."

Assassin scooped up Mordecai in his arms and headed west. He did not know how far he went but he ran for a minute or two at top speed. Finding a dark ally way, Assassin dropped Mordecai and sat on the wall. It was now obvious that his wounds were pretty brutal, bleeding from one massive hole and two cuts and on top of that a nice bruise from Saber's kick. Adrenaline faded and Assassin coughed out "Mind healing these wounds? Sabers hurt like hell."

The amount of rage and anxiety on Rider's face was beyond description. His hands were tight around the steering wheel, causing it to shake violently under the pressure. His foot was against the floor of the car, the speedometer having reached the peak of its measurements long before. He could sense the battle - they both could - and still he had yet to reach the battlefield. If the clash of powers ended before he reached the epicenter, there would truly be hell to pay this night.

The vehicle was a literal blur as it raced down the empty streets of Fuyuki yet its movements were slick and precise under the expert control of the noble warrior behind the wheel. They had set out towards the bridge, seeking an advantage in gathering information when the first flares of prana had come forth. Now the battle was raging, the levels of power easily identifiable as Noble Phantasms. However, Rider had not witnessed anything that could be considered magecraft on the horizon. It was more than likely that the two combatants were of the noble knight classes. The boy had been aware of two servants of that nature currently within the war - Lancer and Saber - so it was undoubtedly a clash of swords and spears that had caught their attention. This was perfectly fine for Rider as he considered his specialty to be dueling with what were considered the more physically capable classes.

As the car was approaching both its destination and its limits, Rider glanced over at Clay with determination in his eyes. The rage had cooled and was tempered into battle ready steel, prepared to strike with a fiery passion at a moment's notice. Both his mind and body were prepared for the confrontation ahead but he was unsure of the peasants own constitution.

"My only concern is to engage the Heroic Spirits of this war," Rider casually mentioned, looking back towards the road as the bridge was fast approaching. "Ensure my approach is successful by distracting the enemy. You may then deal with the masters as you see fit. However, I would ask you ensure they have no where to fall back. Ending this war swiftly would be our best course of action."

Rider didn't wait for a response from his master. He knew war better than anyone and the tactical advantage they had been presented couldn't be squandered. As the car cleared the crossing into Shinto, Rider swung the car into a sharp turn, rolling the car into a jack-knife maneuver, slamming on the emergency break before grabbing his master and leaping out of the vehicle back towards the bridge. The car slid to an abrupt halt despite its momentum, locked in park and steaming from the stress its driver had placed upon it. While pitiable, this was no time to be considering the shape of a mechanical mount. Rider needed to be focused on the task at hand. He landed gently on the walkway above the battlefield before hopping over the railing. With his feet firmly planted against the craggy wall the guard rail protected pedestrians from the Heroic Spirit sprung off the wall to give him an extra boost of speed. His clothing melted away in a cloud of golden sparkles as his battle armour and halberd returned to him once again. With on deft spin, Rider twirled his halberd around his body before pointing directly towards the intended target of his madman charge, rocketing through the sky down onto the parties below. Saber would be his victim this night.

"Mine is the spear that would pierce the Heavens and in its tip you shall see your demise!!!" his war cry wrung out for all to hear. He could only hope that Clay would do his part.

When Assassin ran, Dirk could hardly believe his luck. A reprieve from the madness gave his mind precious time to clear, and consider an escape plan. He and the spirits gathered around Saber. Dirk's face was creased, disappointed.

"Remember next time, Saber. Chivalry is dead."

He sighed, looking at all the blood spilled. This camp hadn't worked to his advantage. "We're leaving this place."

That was when he heard the car. Ridiculously fast, going by the sound of its engine. The silent shock on his Servant said everything he feared.

"Rider."

He pointed at the boy with the axe. "Carry Saber." The woman was next. "Take the bags, cover Saber and I."

Last was the tallest man. Orihara's face was cold. "You're the decoy. Follow my orders as if you were him." He pointed at Saber.

The spirits scrambled, gathering everything quickly. Dirk led them north, out and moving towards the city proper. They could hide there. But they had moved too late, and Rider came leaping over the side of the bridge, calling his strength to the heavens. Dirk narrowed his eyes at the haughty thing.

How big can an ego get? Let's hope the darkness works to this ruse's advantage.

As the spirits moved away with their cargo, silhouetted in the night air, Dirk lingered behind with the doppelganger.

"Once I've gotten Uncle to safety, find us. Sir. Lancelot...
Saber... I'm counting on you."

The spirit nodded to his charge, placing himself between Rider and Orihara, who fled with the others.

Mordecai felt more than saw his servant approaching, he was fast and it was dark. Perhaps he got caught in an assassination attempt?
"We are getting out of here master. There is not any time."
"Wait, wha-" Mordecai felt himself get picked up, something that made him look and feel ridiculous considering he was slightly taller, and if a person saw it looked like he was floating ass backwards. He noticed something get splashed on him, it smelled coppery. He recognized it as blood, though he didn't know Servants bled like men. Odd.
"Mind healing these wounds? Sabers hurt like hell."
Mordecai noticed the blood, but he didn't see the extent of the wounds before.
"Holy crap, what happened? A Saber did this? Did you at least finish the master?" He spoke as he got up and checked, a few bruises and nicks, a shallow wound that looked like it was caused by a small weapon like his scalpel, and the thing that made him worried.
"Hold on a sec." Mordecai raised his hands, a creeping mass of pure prana formed around his hands. Hard to believe such a coagulated mess had the effects of HEALING. Still, it was tried and true, and it wrapped itself around the servants wounds, forming a psuedo-skin and some magic equivalent to flesh. It felt hot, he was told that much, but it slowly cooled down to body temperature, and looked like a normal part of his body. No scar or anything. This only covered his major wound, and Mordecai spoke when this was finished.
"I don't want to release more energy than I have to. Some minor suffering now, and I can treat the rest normally later." He grinned, and stood up straight.
"Let's go home, there's a pizza waiting for you."

Saber was awake, but tired at the same time. His reserves of prana were slightly lower than he'd expected them to be with this Assassin, but he held his concentration, it was the only way he and Lord Dirk could survive. This new Servant, Rider, would be a problem, but he felt confident that his cousi- Launcelot du Lac, could hold him off long enough for them to make their escape into the night. He would be better by tomorrow night, and much better off against Assassin at the least. He must've used every Phantasm he had to reach the cusp of defeating the two of them, and Saber had forced Dirk to fight a Servant alone. Something that must be avoided at all costs.

"Remember next time, Saber. Chivalry is dead."

No, it is simply slumbering, awaiting a true master to wield it and spread it across the world once more. The masters of old simply were unable to pass it on.

But for the remainder of this tournament, he would no longer hold back his strength, it was a liability he, but more importantly Dirk, could not afford. Life and Death were nothing to a Heroic Spirit, but to the still-breathing and living humans of this world, it was all they would hold onto until the bitter end. He was determined to not make the Master struggle and fight for his own as hard as he had this night.

Despite the numbness pervading over his body, he was able to keep his hand tight around his sword. That was all the strength he was able to summon in his disabled body as he was carried away, Dirk running beside him. It was never supposed to be this way, the Servant was never to have to be carried away by the Master. He steeled himself and was resolute in his desire to keep his family's spirits here as long as possible. There was no alternative.

He would have to change his clothes as well now, they were bloodsoaked, dirtied, and torn from this skirmish. He should've conjured his armor. It might not have ended this way.
________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

"Once I've gotten Uncle to safety, find us. Sir. Lancelot...
Saber... I'm counting on you."

Lancelot bowed his head to the Master that had summoned his friend and cousin, one of few that had stood with him in the war. His severe face and hooded eyes stretched a bit as he smiled at the Master.

"I will protect you Master."

He then pulled his helmet out of...somewhere and set it on his head, a single slit in an otherwise seemingly solid suit of armor. He turned to Rider, who had landed on the ground with a great *thump!**whoosh!*

Lancelot then got into an aggressive stance. This man was dangerous, but so was he. Even though he lacked the Phantasms a truly summoned Heroic Spirit had. He was still a master of any weapon or thing he could get his hands on. His fists if it resorted to that with this, though he doubted it. He wasn't as fast as this Spirit could be.

"Who would trespass upon this ground?,"He said,"Regardless, Man or Spirit will be stopped here. Go Master, I will deal with this Noble Combatant. I ask for forgiveness for allowing the Assassin to escape. Now go."

Nearly ten minutes later the duo was already watching the finished battle. They saw what appeared to be a master and his servant...and three others, underneath the bridge. An automobile came crashing through the street on the other side of the bridge and smacked right through it only to turn around and stop in a screeching halt. From it came a man - a servant, no less, who jumped out of it and rushed out to meet his injured foes.

Maria peered through her glasses and noticed that three of those who were on the bridge were already on their way away from the newly arrived rider - they managed to sneak past the cocky warrior undetected.

"Call a pact.", Maria whispered, "Or... do it yourself. I'll be watching".

Caster nodded and made his way through the city streets on his left to try and meet the servant and two other spirits on their path. He pulled his necklace out and began praying on the run with his eyes open - it made no difference to him. All around him flashes of light came into the scene followed by the appearance of small demon-spawn. They were eighteen in number and each of them looked very similar, if not for a small change of their horns or tail. Caster stopped before a street corner when he heard the others run past the parallel street.

"Go after them, my minions. Show them no mercy, for they are heretics that must be expunged from this earth."

The Demons were upon them soon enough, their screeches of joy at the thought of consuming human flesh were heard before they came into contact with the band of warriors.


Back with Maria, she was worryingly watching the two fights unfold. Unable to fully trust her feeble servant, she quickly walked away from the scene at the bridge towards her eager servant.

I can't let this fool lose my youth

Clay sensed a sudden shift in the air around him as Rider approached the bridge. There was no mistaking this feeling - there was a battle going on. He looked to Rider, whose expression turned to one of grim determination as he strained the car to its absolute limits. Time was of the absolute essence - they could not afford to waste this opportunity to ambush the enemy when they were at their weakest.

As they began to cross the bridge, Clay could see figures - several of them - battling in the darkness. One lept off and bolted into the city, leaving... what appeared to be a boy, surrounded by several large, imposing men. Focusing his mind, he glared at the men below, and clicked his tongue in approval as he saw the Servant below to be Saber, hunched over and clearly injured. 'Perfect. We have an opportunity to eliminate the most dangerous Servant right off the bat.' Clay removed the coil of wire from his satchel and started stringing it around his fist, careful to make sure it was tightly secured.

"My only concern is to engage the Heroic Spirits of this war. Ensure my approach is successful by distracting the enemy. You may then deal with the masters as you see fit. However, I would ask you ensure they have no where to fall back. Ending this war swiftly would be our best course of action." Clay nodded in approval, seeing the wisdom of these words. "See the large one being carried off by those three? That one's Saber. I don't know what those other things are, but focus your efforts on him. He even appears to be injured..." Rider made a sharp turn as they finished crossing the bridge, heading to cut off the enemy Master. The car was on its last legs, however, and Rider made a motion to bail out. Clay complied, unstrapping his safety belt and letting Rider hoist him from the now-smoking vehicle. He landed on his feet a few meters away from the face of the cliff overlooking the river, Rider engaging in a flying charge towards the men below. "Mine is the spear that would pierce the Heavens and in its tip you shall see your demise!!!" he cried, the world seeming to slow at his words.

Quickly scanning the battlefield, Clay saw what appeared to be the boy and two ethereal beings carrying off a large, wounded man. 'Saber. Are you trying to run? I thought a true gentleman stayed to finish his fights. No matter. You aren't going anywhere...

Raising his hands, he took in a deep breath, letting prana fill his lungs, ready to release. One word, that's all it would take... one word to see them all burn. A single Word of Immolation.

"EXURO." The air around him stopped dead... then the opposite bank burst into a massive pale of flames, cutting off Saber's retreat.

Fuyuki Bridge: Saber & Dirk vs Rider & Clay vs Caster...

Things were certainly tense, to say the least. On the western side of the bridge, cutting off the streets to Shinto, a massive conflagration, light blue in color, raged for all to see. The heat given off by the flames was nothing short of incredible, melting the asphalt beneath it into a sticky substance with the consistency of rubber, yet it didn't seem to bother the small swarm of hellspawn that scampered through the flickering tongues with ease. If anything, the demons seemed to be right at home within the inferno, as though its searing temperatures reminded them of their usual place of residence.

On the bridge itself stood one Clay Marks, his prana levels still quite full. Slowly, step by step, the Master advanced towards his prey, making sure to keep a close eye on them lest they spring some kind of trick. He had every advantage here; he was uninjured, unencumbered, and backed up by a Servant who was raring to leap into the fray. There was no need for Clay to hurry. Haste would only invite the chance of an error.

From beneath the bridge, there came a few clashes of steel against steel, the sound of a blade cleaving through armor and flesh, and a single pained scream. Then, after a few seconds of silence, Rider clambered up onto the bridge itself, a bit of sweat on his brow and a ferocious smile stretched across his face. Striding forward, the Servant slowed as he drew close to his Master, taking a few seconds to study the situation. Now that he was all loosened up, it was time for him to really get serious.

Dirk, Saber, and their small entourage were smack dab in the middle of it all, standing about a snowball's chance in hell. With a mostly paralyzed Servant, an exhausted, half-drained Master, and only a couple of spirits to act as their defense, things clearly weren't looking up for the team.

Gritting his teeth, Dirk looked in front, and then behind. Which would be better? Braving the wall of mystical flames, populated by demons, or trying to take on an untested Servant?

A screech of pain filled the air, jarring the lad from his thoughts. Jerking his head around, Dirk noticed that a few of the demons had... disappeared?

"You see? I told you they were over here."

"Yes, yes, Lancer; you're right, I was wrong. Come on, let's just get this over with."

WHUMP

A massive concussive blast tore along the length of the bridge, nearly knocking both pairs of Servants and Masters off their feet. The shock wave had managed to rip quite a large hole in the conflagration, leaving a passage wide enough for three people to pass through unmolested. Chittering and chattering, the hellspawn shied away from the newcomers, clearly unsure of what to do.

"Thank you, Micheal," the young girl leading the party spoke up. "I think that we can handle it from here."

"But of course, Miss Ilene," the older man replied, holding back as his two companions continued to march forward. Straightening his collar, the gentlemen braced himself, using an umbrella as a makeshift cane. "I will be back here if you need me."

"No need to worry, my good man," said the last newcomer, a grin dancing across his features. Golden flecks danced around him as his pinstripe suit faded away, leaving him cloaked in a tight, crimson and black garment. Grasping a six foot long halberd in his right hand, the Servant stepped protectively in front of his Master, his words echoing out for all to hear. "She's in quite capable hands."

...vs Lancer & Ilene

Assassin looked at his wounds close. The pain faded for the most part and he could probably run at mostly full speed again. At least Assassin could say he was doing better than Saber. It was hard to believe that he had fought and won against a Saber, if only that master was as deft as his servant. The robed figure stood up and said, "I am going to ask you put the pizza on hold for a moment. If I go back I can gather more information, I could feel at least two other servants closing in on Saber's location."

Mordecai sighed at this, determined, but that would get him killed. Especially because his wound wasn't fully healed yet, it'd take a bit before his spell repaired his internal bleeding. Still, it looked okay on the outside, though it didn't quite match his skin tone. A well, magic wasn't perfect. In the end, Mordecai sighed, and held up his hand showing his command spells.
"Please, let me put it this way. We go home for the night, lick our wounds, and attempt to try scouting again tomorrow by choice, or I can use one of these. Please, let's just go home.... We still have pizza." Mordecai attempted a weak smile at the last part.

Assassin felt himself stiffen at the masters command signs, and he held his masters gaze, hoping for a sign of weakness. He found none, and sighed. A wry smile formed on his lips at the mention of pizza, though. "Fine. Shall I carry you home?" Mordecai shook his head, grinning now. The two started back home. There was always tomorrow...

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