Fate/Final Dark (Game Thread)

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Chapter One: Pieces on a Game Board

The waiting was always unbearable...

It had been the better part of an hour since his seven guests had arrived. The aged but fit figure of Father Matthias was standing vigilantly within the congregation hall, awaiting the reemergence of his gathered group. Each had made their way to a separate office, ready to make a deal with the devil, so to speak. The tension was palpable with a host of the "enemy" within their walls yet the Father always had had a soft spot for even the stranger in his flock. The traditions of the Grail ran deep through both organizations and he had come to see it as a bridge between them. He was the caretaker and the sheppard, sent to deal with these arcanists as punishment for his more liberal views. Yet there was nothing he could imagine to be better than to involve himself in one of the greatest endeavors mankind had dared to achieve, despite his fellow priests' opinions.

His eyes wandered towards his newly assigned deacon, Miles Mathewson, shuffling back and forth between the pews. The boy was twenty-five yet looked almost as fresh faced as a teenager. His mop of blonde hair was messy and unkempt, strange for any other church other than Matthias'. His emerald green eyes sparkled with curiosity and hope much the same as the gems they were typically likened to. His black cossak looked pressed specifically for this evening which brought hidden smile to the priest's face. He wondered how the boy viewed him, an outcast of their order sent to the farthest reaches to handle those that were viewed as heathens. Was he a curse upon the boy or one with views that express wisdom beyond his years? Their eyes locked for just a moment as the boy smiled in anxious worry and the priest returned one back that beamed reassurance. 'It's always worse than you make it out to be...' he reminded himself.

Deep down he wished he could believe those words yet something nagged at the back of his mind. This summoning seemed so out of place, coming upon them so suddenly unlike any other war to date. The magi he had taken in seeme unphased by this, as if they had been expecting this honour to be bestowed upon them their entire lives. Maybe it was the unease of simply being a figure head when the Church had retained much more control in past competitions. Ruler had been ordained to oversee the Grail War to its bloody conclusion which didn't sit well with Matthias. The grasp of the congregation was slowly slipping away on the activities of Mage's Association and the servants of a realm no mortal could comprehend were beginning to take their place. Suddenly this entire endeavour seemed to have much farther reaching implications than once believed back when the Grail was first concieved and the Father had little time to prepare for a conflict that would be waged not only across Fuyuki, but could very well be waged across other worlds as well.

The aging priest had no time left to ponder his predicament before large plumes of prana suddenly forming into existance could be felt within the rooms out back. Father Matthias showed complete retraint from giving away his aforementioned knowledge immediately. He waited as anxiously as his protege, yet showed none of it save for the tightening of his grip upon his cane resting just in front of himself. Seven beings slowly formed out of sight yet not out of sight, their power so immense that he could feel the prana pulsate outwards and also see their figures as plain as having them stand before him. An experience of a lifetime was unraveling before him and it unnerved him to the core.

"Miles!" he shouted, showing a fraction of the tension that was building within him by mistakenly raising his voice.

The boy instantly stopped dead in his tracks and looked towards his eldar with an almost terrified expression to ask the impending question. "Yes, Father?"

"Steel yourself boy. They're here..."

As the young deacon rushed to the side of his mentor a cold sweat began to form on the priest's brow. He couldn't shake the feeling that something terrible was about to happen, yet kept his worries to himself. And so they stood there, admist the soft glow of the candlelit hall, each man filled with worry and dread of the events to come. This was the war to end all wars and it would begin the moment the seven emerged from their rooms with heroic warriors from all ages in tow. All that was left was the waiting.

And the waiting was always unbearable...

Red.

She was told there would be red.

A glimmering circle of mercury, the form of seven petals folding within themselves, and pointing to their center, within which rested a fragment of clay, retrieved from ancient Babylon. A fragment of the first statue ever constructed by man rested here. A summoning circle, constructed to call forth a spirit from beyond the reach of time and space. The Grail was born, and bearing its gift. All she had to do now was draw it forth. A young woman stood before this circle, clad in dark cloth beneath, and white above it. Her brown hair fluttered about her face, green eyes fixated on the hand she extended forth. A contract was to be made, and its terms declared. She let go of the grim feeling in her gut, the acidic fear sliding away as prana lowed beneath her skin. The circle attuned itself to the smell of magical energy, and began to glow. The priest's office was a small, enclosed space, and not an inch of it was spared as it was filled with red light. Daria Orihara would be the first to summon her Servant, and declare her intentions in the Holy Grail War. She would be the First Master. The red-tinted air smelled foul to her. She had been warned of the red.

A quiet breath escaped her, recalling the words she had been instructed to recite. The precise structure was unimportant. The weight behind them mattered. A strong voice rang out, but lacked direction, speaking the aria and signing her contract.

"Fill, fill, fill, fill, fill!"

A bolt of red shot across her arm, tickling and singing her skin. Though her teeth ground she continued.

"Repeat five times. But destroy each when filled."

Another breath swelled in her chest, and the voice began again, stronger. Confident. She had been chosen. All that was left was to claim what was hers.

"A base of stone. A foundation of stone and the Archduke of Contracts.
And my ancestor, my master, Schweinorg.
A wall to block the falling wind.
The gates of all directions close.
From the Crown come forth, and follow the forked road to the kingdom."

The light changed, and red became blue and white. She felt blind and helpless in the raging torrent of energy flailing about her body. A hurricane that she would be swept up in should she lose her footing. But she was grounded now, and her nerves steeled. Daria couldn't stop if she wanted to. In the bright light she called:

"I hereby propose!
My will shall create thy body,
And thy sword shall create my fate!
Abiding by the summons of the Holy Grail, if thou dost accede to this will and reason, answer me!
I hereby swear: I shall be all that is good in the eternal world. I shall be the disposer of evil in the eternal world.
Though, who art clad in the Great Trinity, come forth from the circle of constraint.
Guardian of the Heavenly Scales!"

And the light was too much. Whiteness engulfed the room, as if a flash of lightning had come and struck right in its midst. Daria was overwhelmed, and shut her eyes else she go blind. She could feel the prana flying around her halt, and coalesce, taking shape before her. The maelstrom she had found herself within was gone within the instant. A powerful silence weighed upon her, and beckoned her to open her eyes. She did as she was compelled to do... and found herself speechless.

Within the remains of the circle, smoked billowed from the feet of a figure that had not been there before. Moonlight peeked in from stained glass and illuminated the spirit that had appeared before her. A man adjusted his stance, and the clanking of plate armor broke the silence. It was a young looking man that stood in front of Daria, clad from the neck down in ornate, silver armor. The undersections were a rich and stunning red, and from the faulds of his armor came a skirt of that same luscious hue. His face was graceful, beautiful even, with ivory skin and striking red eyes. Snow white hair fell from his head down to his hips, wisps of it gently fluttering in the breeze flowing in. The pelt of a great wolf rested on his right shoulder, a wild edge to a gentle countenance. Daria was bewildered, beholding this man. Was this really what they looked like? The Servants she had been told of, the Heroic Spirits born of mankind's greatest legends. She had never imagined someone of such renown could look so... mild.

The young man--the Servant, she corrected herself--looked upon her and, after a moment's confusion, smiled. His armor clanked as he bowed before her, and a gentle voice questioned:

"I ask of you, are you my Master?"


Silence gripped the small office. Rider watched his Master react to his presence. She was a lovely young lady, it seemed, who was taken aback by seeing him. Was he not what she had been expecting? With a jolt the white-haired man realized it must be very confusing for a magus as young as she. She couldn't have much experience, and this was likely her first time seeing a Servant. He needed to salvage this. Quickly, Rider bowed to her and frantically said,

"I'm sorry if I surprised you! I am the Servant Rider. I've come to fulfill the contract you've made. Please, what's your name?"

He glanced up at her, hopeful for a change in her demeanor. She watched him curiously. A mixture of awe and bewilderment behind her eyes. He recognized it well. He wasn't what she had expected. The girl hesitated, but bit her lip and announced with authority.

"Daria! My name is Daria Orihara. And..."

She pulled back her sleeve. On the back of her left hand, a red sigil softly pulsed. A small ring, within two sharp, unfinished larger rings, two lines jutting from its sides. A Command Seal, and the mark of her status.

"...and I am your Master."

She rushed to mimic his bow, overextending herself and nearly kissing the floor. Rider reached forth and grabbed her as she lost balance, pulling her back upright. A goofy smile on her face acknowledged the misstep, and made him laugh on instinct. "It's a pleasure, Master."

"Uh... Daria works fine. Just call me that. Too weird to hear someone call me 'Master'."

"Okay," Rider said with a smile. "Thank you, Daria. I think I like that name for you better. It suits you."

"Heh, thanks!" Daria took a step back, giving her Servant a once-over. "So you said you're the Servant Rider, huh? Pretty decked out. I'd have thought you were one of the Knight classes if you hadn't told me otherwise."

A sheepish laugh escaped Rider as he tried to brush it off, rubbing the back of his head in embarrassment. "Well, it's like they say, friends in high places, you know? All the armor's a little much for me, but it suited me in life... hrm?" Rider tilted his head, watching his Master work. The woman was deep in thought, fingers wrapped around her chin. "Is something wrong?"

She ignored him, unblinking eyes flitting around the room as her brain raced. Just as he tried to ask again, she snapped her fingers.

"Got it," she declared, pride in her eyes. "Your real name is Enkidu!"

"Wah--" Rider's mouth fell agape, and his eyes grew wide as he stared at Daria for a moment, whose chest began to swell. She could see she was right, but demanded confirmation. "Eh? Did I get it?"

"...Ha!" Enkidu crossed his arms and threw his head back in a burst of laughter, shaking back and forth. "Yeah, you got it! How did you know? The way you said it you must've already known, or else you were guessing."

"Nah," she told him, dusting her knuckles on her white vest. The smug satisfaction on her face was oddly becoming of her. "Between the super-old statue piece I used for the summoning, and your fancy dress, talkin' about friends in high places, you're the only hero that fits."

"Wow, that's amazing." Rider announced, impressed. "Are you always this good?"

"Well, I've got a pretty good teacher, so, I have my moments. Now c'mon."

"Eh?"

Daria had in the intervening moments sunken into a fighting stance. "Come at me!"

Now it was Enkidu's turn to be stunned. "...You're joking, right?"

"Hell no I'm not! If we're fighting this War together, that makes us partners! And I need to know what my partner can do!"

"But... but I'd kill you."

"Fine, I'll start!"

Enkidu tried to protest further, but Daria was already off. The girl spun in the room, and as she came around lashed out with a deadly kick, all the force she could muster right into his cheek. Her boot impacted his flesh at full-speed, but it was her that felt the brunt of the force as she stopped dead in her tracks. Looking particularly worried, Enkidu was staring dead-on at her. Her kick hadn't moved him more than an inch.

"A-are you okay, Daria? You didn't break anything, right?"

"--"

Daria's breath caught in her throat, and her eyes bugged out. Slowly, her leg lowered back to the floor. Her heartbeat was racing. That kick should have killed a man as meek-looking as Rider. Snapped his neck right in two. He took it like she was a toddler. He was asking about her health, for Pete's sake. This was unreal. Bro wasn't joking, then. These Servants were something completely inhuman.

That got her blood pumping, but good. The girl immediately threw herself back at Rider, fists clenched and roaring out a battle-cry.

"KYAA--"

"Wait, stop!"

A left hook, followed by a haymaker. Three jabs and a spinning back-kick. Daria threw every move she had right into Enkidu's face, but the Servant was having none of it. It was like striking at water, his form effortlessly gliding around her every blow. "Come on!" she yelled, frustration and excitement building up at once. "You've gotta fight back, quit running!"

"Please, just calm down!" Enkidu pleaded, hopping back and avoiding his Master's uppercut. "You'll get hurt if you're not careful--" he was interrupted when a brutal jumping kick rebounded off his armor as if nothing had even happened. Something twitched on Enkidu's face. "Daria, stop."

All he got for his efforts was another deftly dodged punch. His brow furrowed, and Servant got a little more forceful in his tone. "I'm serious, cut it out or you're gonna get yourself hurt!"

He ducked, avoiding another kick. The wall wasn't so lucky, and lost a chunk to the blow. "Quit it, you're breaking stuff! What the hell's wrong with you?! Why won't you stop?!"

"FIGHT BACK!"

"Fine!"

It happened so fast, Daria couldn't follow it. The bull had been provoked, and charged. Two arms swept her up before she couldn't even think of dodging. And before the mere notion of escape had entered her mind she was lifted up above his head, and brought straight down to the floor. A shock of pain coursed through to her fingertips as she was pinned from above by Enkidu. The Servant was breathing heavily, more from annoyance than real exertion. It had only taken one move to incapacitate the girl, and end the farce. And it still took that long to get him to even do that much.

"There!" he cried in a raised voice. "Happy?!" It was funny, she thought. When he got upset, he almost sounded like a child. To the Servant's shock Daria actually began to laugh. Her whole body shook in fits of giggles.

"Wow, man, you're good! Exactly like I was told!" She reached up as Enkidu released her and slapped a hand on his shoulder, taking leverage to pull herself up.

Needless to say, Rider was speechless. "Wh-what was that about? Why are you acting like that, weren't you just trying to fight me?"

Daria looked at him like he was stupid. "Yeah. I wanted to fight you. I did, so I got what I wanted. You seem like a pretty good guy, so I decided I'm happy being your partner."

"Pretty good--what's that supposed to mean? How could you tell that from fighting me?"

The girl shrugged, sweat dripping down her face as she leaned against the wall. "You can tell a lot of things by fighting people. It's an under-appreciated form of expression."

Daria tried to make it a point to fight anyone she was meeting for the first time. There were few better ways to look into a person's soul than through combat, and watching how they treated both friends, foes, and themselves in a fight. Enkidu had been slow to start a pointless fight, but ended it decisively when he saw it was the only choice. That got him a passing grade in her book. She extended a hand to him, which he took. They shook hands, Daria beaming and announcing, "It's gonna be fun working with you, Enkidu!"

Though he smiled in appreciation, Enkidu shook his head. "Uh, Rider will be fine. No need for anyone else to know who I am, right?"

"Fair enough. C'mon, Rider." She opened the door and started to speed down the hallway. "We have to go meet the others!"

"Coming!" Enkidu followed at a slightly more subdued pace, marveling at the thoroughly odd woman he'd been paired with. He certainly hadn't received a boring Master.

Yuri sat on the old and dusty desk. He had pushed it to the side of the room awhile ago, as he created his circle. He lifted the instrument to his eye's again. A dead chicken, of all things to use. Yuri threw it to the side as he moved towards his circle. The Crimson was fresh, the circle contained 4 arrows facing inwards, interconnected with weaving lines that reminded Yuri of veins. More lines created a border between the arrows and the great circle surrounding it, and what looked a spearhead at it's center.

He let out a small sigh, as he held out his armor clad hand.

"Fill, fill, fill, fill, fill." A tiny but sharp feeling, like something was being carved into his skin. He smiled, never stopping with his chant.

"Repeat five times, but destroy each when filled." He felt prana surge in him, yes, he was doing this correctly. He swept a foot back and continued slightly louder as his circle began to crackle.

"Let silver and steel be the essence.

Let stone and the archduke of contracts be the foundation.

Let red be the color I pay tribute to.

Let rise a wall against the wind that shall fall."

The grin stretched when the circle changed it's color, the crackling started to look like red lightning, as the circle's color shifted to white. The room was lit with it's dazzling grow, and Yuri continued louder, to hear himself and make sure he did not make a mistake.

"Let the four cardinal gates close!

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

Let it be filled. Again. Again. Again. Again!

Let it be filled fivefold for every turn, simply breaking asunder with every filling!"

There was a small shockwave, forcing Yuri to move his hand to shield his eyes. The storm of light and electricity vanished suddenly, as did the color. He was pushed back almost a foot, but managed to regain his balance, grabbing onto the desk and leaning on his heels. He moved his arm down and took a step forward, looking at the kneeling silhouette in the center of the room.

"Are you my Assassin, Cassius?" Yuri spoke in Russian, fluent but without accent. The figure snapped it's head up, and sprung to it's feet. The voice that responded was more feminine than the armor and descriptions implied...

Nay, I'm the Legate Cassius, conqueror of Caesar's navy. And I will not bend knee as your servant! Yuri cocked an eyebrow, and moved towards her, standing within three feet. His smile dropped, his face returning to impassive.

"Oh? Then what are you doing here?"

"... I am not your Servant. Your command spells, their power over me I can't deny. But remember how weak you are against others of my kind, the many that accept their positions as Servants. I will be your partner in this war, your equal and protector." Yuri looked into... her eyes. She was a female, it would seem, the legends and history were incorrect? She would not falter, her beautiful eyes remained resolute. Moments passed before Yuri spoke again.

"I accept." Cassius blinked then took a step back.

"That easy?"

"Heh, yes. I need your protection, and tactical knowledge, Legate Cassius. I trust you, Madame." The Legate blushed, then laughed.

"You've already managed to catch onto a thing seven Romans knew about. Or am I to be insulted?" She gave a wry smile, as she seemed to be enveloped in light. She returned to normal in an instant, in a suit that showed her more... womanly features. Yuri offered the crook of his arm, and after a moment she accepted, and the two moved into the main chamber. She released him when the Priest and her boy could see them, and the two sat on a pew, waiting to see their allies.

Wump

The plastic bag, empty save for a few crimson dots that stubbornly clung to its interior, thudded wetly to the ground, just to the right of a similarly depleted sack. A series of Japanese characters were scrawled across both bags, labeling each of them as a pint of blood (A+, to be exact) that belonged to the Fuyuki City General Hospital.

Well, they had belonged to the hospital, anyway. Up until the point the young man had purloined them, along with a pair of latex gloves and a surgical mask. There was no sense in getting blood all over his hands, after all, and the liquid's metallic scent made him feel lightheaded.

With a sigh, the boy stood up, taking the opportunity to stretch his cramped legs as he peeled off the pair of now scarlet gloves and the mask, tossing them into the corner alongside the empty blood bags. Allowing himself a few, deep breaths of the room's cool air (and gagging slightly at the now ever-present smell of iron. His clothes were going to reek of blood until he got them to a dry-cleaner, weren't they?), he paced around the edges of the small storage space, doing his best to slow his racing heartbeat down to a more reasonable tempo.

Still, at least he was alone. He didn't dare imagine what it might have been like, being forced to perform the ritual under the judgmental gaze of all the other Masters, and the priest and deacon as well. Odds were he wouldn't have been able to even draw the Circle correctly, let alone get any of the other steps right. No, things were about as ideal as they were going to get.

...So why was his heart still racing along at a mile a minute?

Snatching his suit jacket off of a wall hook, the youth slowly shrugged it on, letting the stiff, well-made material gently slide down towards his shoulders. Wasting a few more seconds, he adjusted the garment impercepibly, tugging at it and straightening it until he was satisfied with the way it rode his torso. Idly, he patted at the jacket's pocket, feeling the familiar weight tucked away inside. Shutting his eyes, he imagined the cold chunk of iron and steel as it steadily ticked away the seconds, minutes, and hours. He let the constant beat invade his body and mind, focusing on it and blocking out everything else, all the fear, all the worry, all the... excitement.

Tick, tick, tick, tick~

thumpTHUMPthumpTHUMPthumpTHUMPthumpTHUMP~

Tick, tick, tick, tick~

thumpTHUMP, thumpTHUMP, thumpTHUMP, thumpTHUMP~

Tick, tick, tick, tick~

Thump, thump, thump, thump~

With one last exhalation, Matt Heller opened his eyes. Turning on his heel, he fixed his eyes on the fruit of his labors, the magic Circle that now took up a good portion of the room's floor space.

Nearly seven feet in diameter, the device was a dull crimson color. Two large circles, with just barely an inch between them, formed the perimeter of the loop, with four smaller ones at each of the cardinal directions. Within these smaller spaces, four arcane symbols, remnants of a long dead language, were written. The main body of the device was taken up by two intersecting triangles, arranged in a pattern reminiscent of a Star of David, with two more small circles tucked away in their center. Scraps of the mysterious language were liberally sprinkled throughout the Circle; though he could not read them, Matt at least had an inkling of their intent and purpose.

From what he could see, he had done a good job for once. The device looked just like the diagram he had copied out of the ancient tome, and he knew for a fact it was oriented correctly. Unless he had made some error too small to be detected by the naked eye, the Circle was, well... Perfect.

"Heh..."

Dragging a hand through his messy hair, Matt tucked away the scrap of parchment he had been working off of. He wouldn't be needing it again. Instead, he pulled a small notebook, a thin pen tucked into its binding, out of his chest pocket, and flipped to a particular page. Soundlessly, he ran his eyes over the rows of text that he had been memorizing over the past two weeks, ensuring that he really, truly knew them by heart.

Honestly, it looked like he did.

Replacing the notebook inside his jacket, the boy stared at the Circle for a few more seconds, idly wondering what would happen if he chose to just turn around and walk away. If he was quick, maybe he could get out of the church before the priest noticed, get a taxi back to the airport, and then...

"Yeah right," he muttered, tiredly rubbing the bridge of his nose. Christ, he hated jetlag.

With an air of resignation, Matt reached into his slacks' pocket, wrapping his right hand around the thick golden band within it. It was far too large to fit around one of his fingers, and somehow seemed to weigh more than it should, as though the gold had been replaced by a far denser metal.

Not that it mattered, really. He wasn't intending to wear the ring, after all; it was a summoning catalyst, nothing more.

Striding forward, the young man placed the band at the very edge of the Circle, just in front of its most easterly point. Then, taking a few steps back, he cleared his throat for the final time.

"Fill, fill, fill, fill, fill.

"Repeat it five times. As each is fulfilled, so must it be destroyed."

There was a sudden shift in the air. A sudden influx of power, centered above the center of the Circle, that altered the room's small air currents ever so slightly. The ritual was working, at least so far.

"A foundation of iron and silver. Upon it rests the cornerstone and the Archduke of Contracts. Above them, my ancestor, the great Master Schweinorg.

"A wall to block the falling wind. The gates of all four directions close. From the Crown come forth, and follow the winding road that leads the kingdom."

A bright, otherworldly light began to pour forth from the Circle, its brilliant rays chasing away the shadows that lurked in the storage room's corners. Though he had to squint, Matt kept his eyes open, staring in wonder at the Circle as it began to suck in mana from the air. Instinctively, he raised his right hand, the one emblazoned with a trio of red markings, pointing his open palm at the gleaming shapes before him.

"I hereby propose!" he called out, barely heeding the echo his voice made in the small chamber. "My will shall create thy body, and thy sword shall create my fate! Abiding by the summons of the Holy Grail, if thou dost accede to this will and reason, answer me!"

The small gusts of wind grew in power, becoming stronger and stronger until they lashed around the room with all the fury of a storm. Clouds of dust that had lain undisturbed for God knew how long was suddenly kicked up and tossed about, but the boy paid it no heed. Bracing himself against the small gale, he grasped his right wrist in his free hand, struggling to keep his palm open and facing the Circle.

"I hereby swear: I shall be all that is good in the eternal world! I shall be the disposer of evil in the eternal world!"

The now roaring wind grabbed at the lab, snatching at his shirt, jacket, and pants and making them billow about wildly. The light likewise grew ever brighter, until it felt to Matt like he was staring into the noonday sun. Still, he kept his eyes pried open, determined to see this through to the very end.

"Seven Heavens, clad in the three holy souls, cast aside your shackles and come forth, oh Guardian of the Scales!"

With one last shout, the boy finished his incantation. In response to the call, the brilliant gleam surged with power, finally forcing him to squeeze his eyes shut, lest he blinded.

A great burst of wind, stronger by far than any that had come before it, burst forth from the Circle, actually picking Matt up off the ground and carrying him back a few feet. With a muffled grunt, he slammed back onto the floor and, unable to keep his footing, stumbled back into the wall. Relieved to have some support, he tried desperately to shake the sparkles from his eyes, but before he could...

Thud.

A single footstep.

Thud.

Followed by another.

Thud, thud, thud, thud.

Instinctively, Matt knew that there was somebody standing in front of him. Even if he couldn't sense the inhuman amount of prana condensed before him, even if he couldn't hear the clink of iron links or the figure's steady breathing, there was no way he could have possibly missed the sheer and absolute strength of their presence.

This...

This was...

This was a Servant, wasn't it?

"So."

The boy was unable to keep himself from stiffening slightly. Though the voice that had just cut through the silence like a knife had a strong, rough quality to it, there was no mistaking its, for lack of a better word, femininity.

But... If he had summoned that Heroic Spirit, then how-

"I take it that you're my Master?"


Saber was unable to hold back a slightly disappointed sigh as she stared down at the boy before her. Instead of standing upright, facing her with boldness and determination, he was leaning against a wall, his breathing haggard, his hair a wild mess, and his eyes half-blind, if the way he was rubbing at them was any indication. A hell of a first impression, and not in the good way.

Grunting and shaking her head in disapproval, the Servant silently watched as the young man pushed himself back to his feet and stared at her with bewildered, half-open eyes. She could feel his gaze sweeping over her, slowly taking in her long hair, her rough, but strangely youthful, like someone in their late twenties, features, and the curve of her chest, noticeable even underneath a coat of iron chain mail. Oddly, his eyes didn't longer long at any of those spots; rather, his scan only halted when it ran into the sword sheathed at her waist.

"But if that's..." he muttered to himself, seemingly trapped in a daze, "then..."

Slowly, the boy's eyes rose back upward. Saber saw no reason to move, and matched his shocked expression with one of annoyance and disinterest. Her hard, hazel eyes stared into his wide, blue ones, and she wasn't surprised in the slightest when he was the one to break the stare first, biting at his lower lip.

"Are you," he began hesitantly, raising his head up again but not quite meeting her eyes. "Are you really Beo-"

"Ah, ah, ah," Saber cut in, clicking her tongue and shaking her head before the boy could finish his sentence. "Come on now, you have to at least know that much, don't you? You can call me Saber. That makes things easier."

"Saber..." he numbly repeated. Then, standing upright as though struck by a bolt of lightning, "Saber!"

The Servant smirked as the boy looked around wildly, half-jumbled mutterings wildly flying past his lips. Not a happy smirk, mind you; it was a smirk laden with disbelief and just a hint of despair.

"So," she said, cutting off the lad's words simply by laying a hand across his shoulder, "let me ask you again: Are you my Master, boy?"

After taking a moment to steady himself, the kid gave quite the succinct answer. "Yes."

"Yes?" Saber repeated, allowing her eyes to fall shut for just a tab longer than a standard blink. Then they were open again, and flicked between the boy's face and the trio of Command Seals upon the back of his right hand. "Well then," she continued, backing up a step and crossing her arms across her chest, "aren't you forgetting a little something?"

"Eh?"

Just barely repressing the urge to drag her hand across her face, the Servant spelled it out for him. "You know, the Grail may have given me enough prana to form a body, but I can't maintain it forever. If I want to do that, then I kind of need, you know..."

"Oh," he replied. "Oh! Right! The pact!"

Saber watched as the young man hurriedly brought up his right hand in a fist, extending it towards her even as he struggled to find the right words. "I, Matthew Allan Heller, a Master in this, the sixth Holy Grail War, ask you, Saber, to fight by my side, to be my protector, and to use your blade to create my fate."

"Well, at least he knows what to say."

Clearing her throat, the Servant responded in a disinterested tone. "I, Saber, the knight of the sword, pledge to fight by your side, to defend your body and your fate."

A slight prickling stole over Saber's body, not unlike the pattering feeling of a light rain. As a small, but steady, stream of prana flowed into her, the Servant cracked a grin as she threw her arms upwards, taking a moment to once again enjoy the feeling of a physical form. Ah, it was nothing short of glorious!

"Well then, boy," she began, an undertone of delight just barely present in her words, "the Pact is complete! Now come on," she continued, dropping her arms and striding towards the doorway. Already, she could sense the presences of other Servants solidifying and forming Pacts of their own; it was time to check out the competition. "Let's get going, boy!"


"I... Saber, wait-" Matt began, struggling to get the woman's attention, but failing utterly to do so. She had already charged through the door, and was making her way to the chapel with long, even strides.

Turning his gaze back to the remains of the Circle, the boy took note of the golden ring still lying there on the floor, its gleaming surface slightly tarnished. Hesitantly, he picked it up and placed it in his pocket once more, before following Saber out in the church's courtyard, just in time to spot her making her way into the main building.

"Wai-wait up!" he called, charging after her. "Saber!"

Clay wiped the sweat from his brow as he finished inscribing the last of the summoning circle. An intricate web of circles, lines and runes greeted him as the stepped back, allowing himself a brief moment of pride as he admired his work. Summoning may still not be his forte, but he was still amongst the best when it came to general magecraft. He took a deep breath to focus himself and collect his thoughts - there could be no room for error. His spirit fell back to earth as he recalled the true challenge - the invocation.

Ten years ago, he stood where he did now, over an inscribed circle with catalyst in hand. Reaching into his pocket, he produced the fruit of his last five years of effort - a gnarled black thing hardly larger than a grain of rice. He carefully placed it in the circle's center, at the exact spot where the lines interspersed across its area intersected. He took his spot at the circle's perimeter, careful to not disturb any of the chalk lines.

"So... this is it?" Diana looked on with a mixture of fear and awe, holding a small stack of books in her arms as she stood in the doorway. He nodded in response to her question, though he didn't look back - like her, his gaze was firmly affixed on the circle. "Yes." His voice cracked a bit - whether from fear or stress, he wasn't sure. Diana seemed to pick up on it, giving a reassuring nod. "Remember what Maria said last time? She was right, you know. If anybody were qualified to be a Master, it'd be you."

Clay gave a slight scoff at Diana's words. "And I'll tell you what I told her - that's what scares me."

The result of ten years work laid before them. Taking a more composed posture, he began to speak.

"Fill, fill, fill, fill, fill. Repeat it five times. Destroy each when filled."

He felt the familiar sensation of prana running through his Circuit as he finished the first verse. Making careful note of his current reserves, he continued.

"A foundation of silver and steel. Upon it rests the cornerstone and the Archduke of Contracts. Above them, my ancestor, the great Master Schweinorg."

An invisible bolt discharged from his hands, a current of prana connecting him bodily to the summoning circle. As soon as the channel opened, it began to glow with an eerie red light. He took a deep breath and continued. His focus had to be absolute - the was no turning back now.

"A wall to block the falling wind. The gates of all four directions close. From the Crown come forth, and follow the winding road that leads the kingdom."

Clay was almost knocked to his knees as another current of prana shot through his body, this one as strong as a surge of electricity. The light began to intensify, becoming almost blinding. He heard Diana take a step back, though he dared not chance a look as to why. 'Deep breath. One step at a time.'

"I hereby propose! My will shall create thy body, and thy sword shall create my fate! Abiding by the summons of the Holy Grail, if thou dost accede to this will and reason, answer me!"

As if responding to his order, the circle began oscillating with power. Each line carried a current of prana, the circle coalescing into a temporary and highly specialized Magic Circuit.

"I hereby swear: I shall be all that is good in the eternal world! I shall be the disposer of evil in the eternal world!"

Were he not struggling to keep the spell afloat, he would have balked at the irony of his words. 'Good'? There was one word he never thought he'd ever have the right to call himself. 'Good' men died. 'Good' men couldn't do what was necessary.

The circle continued to pulsate with power, becoming almost overwhelming. Clay had to struggle to fight the urge to turn away - even with his eyes firmly shut, the circle was emitting enough light to dazzle. 'One more verse. Just... one... more...'

"Though, who art clad in the Great Trinity, come forth from the circle of constraint - Guardian of the Heavenly Scales!"

A pulse of wind echoed throughout the office, almost knocking Clay clean off his feet. Taking a second to right his balance, he tentatively opened his eyes.

In the place previously occupied by the circle stood a massive figure, at least a full head taller than Clay himself. His face was angular, almost simian in nature, with vibrant gold eyes and a large tail protruding from his back. For a moment, the two were silent, simply staring one another down.

"I assume you're my Master, then." The Servant broke the silence first, keeping his expression neutral and unreadable. Clay, with his breath now caught, righted his exhausted figure. "That would be correct. You may call me Clay. I presume you are Lancer, yes?"

Lancer stared him down for a brief moment before letting out a howl of laughter, reminiscent of a monkey's screech. In the blink of an eye, he was at Clay's side, Lancer's face inches from Clay's. "I don't know, you tell me! You're the Master, after all!" He gave an impish chuckle as he retreated, pleased at the indignant reaction his invasion of his Master's personal space had achieved.

"Oh, lighten up! If we're going to work together, we're going to need to lay down some base rules. Rule one - I like my peaches fresh and raw. Rule two... wait. No rule two." He snickered, pacing in circles around his Master. Though Clay had managed to regain his composure, the frown on his face was still evidence of his mounting annoyance. Must every Servant he summon be difficult? Luckily for him, he had first-hand experience in reigning in uncooperative spirits.

He reached into his satchel and produced a ripe peach, juggling it a bit between his hands. "Like this? Well, not completely fresh. I mean, it's perfectly ripe, after all." He couldn't help but smirk a bit in amusement as Lancer froze in place, his stare affixed very firmly on the fruit. Clay tossed it into the air, and in a flash it was gone. By the time Clay located it again, it was already half eaten, Lancer having forced it down in a single bite. Lancer bolted over to Clay and wrapped his arm firmly around his neck, much to his chagrin. "You know what?" Lancer sputtered out in between flecks of half-chewed peach. "I think you and I are going to get along just fine."

Lancer released his grip, only to rush over to an increasingly bewildered Diana. "And who's this, then? Surely a pretty girl like you has no business with a boring stick in the mud like that guy." She flushed as Lancer leaned in, his grin widening...

Until he howled in pain, reeling back. Clay was pressing down on his seals with one finger while quietly chanting under his breath, his face seething with anger. As Clay ceased chanting, Lancer grasped his head, still visibly reeling. "To answer your question like a civilized man - that would be my sister."

"Oh. So... off limits, then?" Clay placed his fingers back on his seals, his eyes reflecting his growing annoyance. "Alright, alright! I get the message! No need to be pushy." He lept back to his feet, striding down the hallway. "Let's go meet the others, yes? I think it's time to have some fun."

Clay cocked an eyebrow at his Servant's enthusiasm. "We still need to finalize our pact, before we do anything else." Lancer let off an exaggerated groan. "Oh, that thing. Well, let's get it over with. I do solemnly swear yada yada I'm your Servant. There, we're all good. Let's go!" Lancer bolted down the hallway, cackling with glee as he went.

Clay rolled his eyes, moving to follow. "I accept, I suppose."

The old clutched at the past, no they clawed at it desperately, like trying to climb a endless tower that stretched from the present to the past. For Yi, the old had a strange obsession with what had gone before. Nevertheless, Magecraft reached out to the past, anyway. Why should she be any different? Was she any different? The bloody ritual circle lay before her, ready to bring the past to the present. Of course, it wouldn't be as easy as simply snapping her fingers. Fingers which were covered in blood. She wiped them with a white cloth, disgusted at the smell and the sight of the stuff. Even if it was from a simple animal. Why her grandparents had chosen to use a cow, she didn't know. Anything would do, after all. Part of her suspected that it was a precaution if she messed up the circle and had to start again. Wouldn't want to run out of blood, right?

Still, there it was. An intricate mass of spirals and lines, no blotches. As neat a circle as can be. Nevertheless, pretty circle or no, the weight on her shoulders was a large one indeed. Her family were banking on winning the Holy Grail War, and many other magi were as well. Summoning a strong Servant was of utmost importance. A botched summoning would bring only the weak. Not something she particularly wanted. Yi sighed and placed the catalyst in the center. A fragment of a tell, from Tel Tzora. She remembered her trip to Israel fondly, all that history in one place. However, now wasn't the time for reminiscing of her travels. She needed a clear mind for this. Yi closed then opened her eyes, the thoughts disappeared.

Now was the time to start, "Fill, fill, fill, fill fill."

Yes... This feeling. The familiar feeling of the prana starting to flow. Yi continued on, unfazed on by it. She would not lose herself in that feeling, to do so would spell failure for the campaign before it had even begun. "Repeat five times, but destroy each when filled."

The surge of power continued, the circle began to spark. There was no time nor room for fear. On the other hand, this was a sign that the ritual was working. Nevertheless, there was no time nor room for feelings. With a resolve of steel, she uttered the rest of the words.

"Let silver and steel be the essence.
Let stone and the archduke of contracts be the foundation.
Let red be the color I pay tribute to.
Let rise a wall against the wind that shall fall.
Let the four cardinal gates close.
Let the three-forked road from the crown reaching unto the Kingdom rotate."

At this point, Yi was nearly overcome by the pain. Pain that had turned from a dull throb into burning stabs. Nevertheless, pain was a normal side-affect. Yi bit her lip and continued. She would not mess this up. Not because of a simple thing like pain.

"Let it be filled. Again. Again. Again. Again.
Let it be filled fivefold for every turn, simply breaking asunder with every filling."

First pain, now blindness. Endless white was all she could see. As if to mock her lack of vision, a shockwave erupted from the circle, almost sweeping off her foot. However, Yi's hand reached out in hope of something to grab onto. It found the a nearly table that hung As she clutched the surface, a scratching sound joined the cacophony of chaos. Her nails were digging into the wood itself as she tried to steady herself. She refused to let go and end the pain and fall over. What would the Servant think if he arrived to see a Master sprawled on the floor? Then again, bits of her bun were already askew. Yi gave a sigh, it was a simple thing of pride, but she wouldn't let a simple ritual like this leave her collapsed on the floor.

The calm came all too soon.

She pulled herself up and tried to tidy up the bun somewhat, only to be met by a laugh, deep and rich. Yi turned and examined the source of the laughter through the remains of the chaos. A large man with an even larger amount of hair - seven long dreadlocks and a bushy brown beard. The man in question was busy giving his body a stretch. Loud clicks echoed through the room as he did so. The ring of metal sliding the floor accompanied this. Her eyes shot around to spot the source of the sound and came across shackles with broken bits of chains on them. Inside, Yi wondered if that would be a hindrance in combat. Then again, it would be best to see if the Servant in question was the right one.

"Are you --" Servant and Master said in unison, cutting each other off.

Yi stopped herself from sighing again and said with an authoritative glare, "Yi Yu Yuen, and you are?"

"Berserker." He replied. Nevertheless, he just couldn't keep it in, "In other words, Samson, vanquisher of over a thousand men! Now, I'm guessing you're my Master. Is that right?"

"Yes," She replied and cursed herself for forgetting the part of the pact. Quickly, she added in, "Let us form a pact that. I. Yi Yu Yuen, a Master in this, the Sixth Holy Grail War, ask you, Berserker, to fight by my side, to be my protector, and to use your might to create my fate."

"Not wasting time, huh?" Berserker mumbled. Why was this so formal anyway? Then again, without the Pact, he would simply fade away, so he couldn't complain. He responded with, "I, Berseker, the mad warrior, pledge to fight your side and defend your body and your fate."

As Berseker muttered those words, "the mad warrior", his enthusiasm took a nose dive. How long until his Master would make him go under the Mad Enhancement? How long until those chains of his were replaced with chains of insanity? Well, at least she was somewhat pleasing to the eye. But, she was too tidy. Too prim and proper. How long until the rod up her back broke? He dismissed those questions and began walking towards the pews.

Yi sighed, controlling this one would be difficult. Then again, this was Berserker...

Grunts of exertion filled the room beneath the chapel proper. A dark, blue area that once housed a shrine of some sort. Within this room, a colossal man painted with liquid metal. Clad in simple workman's clothing, eyes narrowed and focused on his work, the man created a true work of art. This summoning circle was something to behold. In fact, it was not a circle at all. Satisfied, the man stood on the stairs coming down to this room and admired his creation.

"There. That should do it."

The floor. The walls. The ceiling. Every inch of this room was coated in liquidized metal, elaborate circles within circles, brilliant patterns with great subtlety, and grandiose gestures. A true work of art, created to exist only for a moment and then be swept away. And suspended by thin wire, between six of these great works, a sliver of copper was suspended in the air. Oxidized and all but destroyed by time, this sliver of a spear's head was the most important piece of the ritual. This was to be his catalyst, from which he would summon the greatest hero that the lost city of Troy had to offer him. This massive magus flexed his muscles, popping bones and stretching out in preparation. There were to be no errors in this ritual. His pride as the Head of the Mustang line depended on it.

Stretching his hands forward, he began to speak in a booming, growling baritone that echoed off the walls of the empty room, and grew in power.

"Let silver and steel be the essence.
Let stone and the archduke of contracts and my great ancestor Schweinorg be the foundation.
Let red be the color I pay tribute to.
Let rise a wall against the wind that shall fall.
Let the four cardinal gates close.
Let the three-forked road from the crown reaching unto the Kingdom rotate.
Let it be filled. Again. Again. Again. Again!
Let it be filled fivefold for every turn, simply breaking asunder with every filling."

Blue light flushed the room, and its power threatened to overtake all with its madly fluctuating prana. The magus only redoubled his efforts, and spoke with greater authority over the din.

"I hereby propose that my will shall create thine body,
And thine sword shalt create my fate!
Abiding by the summons of the Holy Grail, if thou dost accede to this will and reason, answer my call!
I hereby swear: I shall be all that is good in the eternal world, and I shall be the disposer of evil in the eternal world.
Though, clad in the Great Trinity, come forth from the circle of constraint.
Guardian of the Heavenly Scales!
Come forth, Hector of Troy!"

A rush of white light blotted out the room, and the prana in the air halted, collecting into a single form. The patterns on the walls were swept away by the force, leaving behind a single form within the smoke and clutter. A face looked up, and beheld the magus above him. And quietly he asked, "Are you my... my god."

The magus' eyes were fixated on the Servant, shot wide and confused. A gasped "What?" escaped him. "This cannot be--"

The Servant was barely half his size. Two feet shorter, and of slender build, the difference made greater by the elevated position his Master held. His boyish face was framed by curly brown locks of hair, and his large eyes trembled apprehensively. His armor was boiled leather, bedecked of one with high station over an olive green tunic and trousers of black. His sandals wrapped around the full height of his calf, and on his back was strapped a curved bow and a quiver of arrows.

"Are you my Master?" asked the timid Archer, trembling. But all he got in response was a man fuming, nostrils flared and brow furrowed.

"You stand before Alexander Jean Luc Valjean Mustang, Average One! But I am not your Master, because you are not my Servant! On your knees, coward, and tell me your name! I was to summon Hector of Troy, not a child!"

The bowman did not hesitate, dropping to his knees and bowing before the magus. What does this psycho mean, "average"?! From this position Alexander could not notice the confused tears dripping from the Servant's face. "I-I'm sorry Master! I'm not Hector, I'm Paris, his brother!"

A massive hand clenched the boy by his curly hair, and with a scared yelp he was lifted into the air to stare eye-to-eye with Alexander, who examined his face closely and with barely restrained fury. The man's entire body shook with confused, undirected anger. "I can see that much! What I don't understand is how in the world you were summoned when I used a piece of your brother's--"

The hand released, and Paris dropped down to his knees again.

"Oh, no. It wasn't a spearhead. An arrowhead."

The Master's shoulders slumped, and in distress he stare at the ruins of his circle. It was far too late to take back the contract now. He had entered the Holy Grail War as a Master. The red mark he could feel burning on the back of his hand told him this much. And this... this child was his Servant. A footnote in history, known through the ages for one lucky shot of a bow. A weight heavier than the world itself pressed on Mustang's shoulders, and he felt the need to just fall over.

"Unbelievable," he whispered. "What kind of sick joke is this? I try to summon a respectable figure, and I receive a coward. A parasite of true glory."

Archer could only keep kneeling at his feet, soaking in abuse. So this is how he's thought of, he mused. Just a pathetic runt who scrounged up the excess glory of greater men's legends.

It's not like I deserve much better. For all I've done...

The pity party was broken by Alexander's voice addressing him. "You, boy. I take it you're an Archer class?"

He didn't dare look up at the furious magus. "Y-yeah. I'm an Archer."

"I can see your abilities," Alexander declared. As a Master, he could see all there was to know of his Servant. The results were disappointing, to say the least. "Your parameters are sub-par. Your skills are unimpressive. And..." He paused. Not good; Paris already knew what he was observing. "Tell me there is a second Phantasm you possess that I cannot see."

Archer defied possibility. His head sunk even lower to the ground. "There isn't." He managed to stop groveling so thoroughly, and sat Japanese style before his Master, but still avoided eye contact. "I'm sorry, Master. I'm..."

"Useless," Alexander finished his thought for him. The gigantic man finally lost his will, and sat on the floor, rubbing his tense and stressed brow with a few large fingers. This had all gone so wrong. Specially selected to serve in one of the momentous turning points in the history of magic itself. And he'd summoned this.

Archer felt the gloom of a man thoroughly devastated purvey the room. All of it his fault, for appearing when someone else was called. Chewing his lip, he tried to amend the damage as best as his feeble words could. "I'm sorry, Master. For coming instead of my brother."

He was stopped from talking any more by a hand pushed out, ordering him to stop. Alexander was still rubbing his brow with his fingers, and was looking at the ground. "Stop that. The fault lies with me, so don't apologize for someone else's mistake. I should have been more careful, and ensured I'd found the proper catalyst. I didn't do my research, and here we are. This was the mistake of a student. You are my punishment for that mistake, and I deserve it."

Taking a deep breath, the bigger man leaned back and looked up at the ceiling, before finally coming down and observing Archer again. The Servant saw the bearded, dark-haired man and thought him odd. He wouldn't have been so out of place on the battlefield at the gates of Troy, really. Even Ajax couldn't measure to his stature. Yet there was a gentleness to his features that was hidden beneath his frustration, an odd gentleness that was now pushing forward. "So you are an entirely useless Servant then. That's fine. I'll just have to perform your duties."

"M-Master, what do you mean?" asked Paris.

Alexander declared, "I shall be both Master and Servant."

"Wh-what?!" Paris was thrown off balance and almost fell right on his face from shock. "How are you supposed to manage that?!"

"It is simple," the magus told him. He crossed his arms, and Archer spotted a proud sparkle in the man's eye. "I shall be the strategist and shall perform the duties of magecraft. And I shall also fight our battles. You, Archer, have no respectable combat skills to speak of!"

...You don't have to be so frank about it...

"However, you may have talents in other fields that we can exploit! Your Independent Action allows you to move far from my position, even in spirit form. And your bow will permit you to fight from beyond the boundaries of our battlefields. Reconnaissance and combat support: those will be your roles! Yes, I believe that will suffice!"

A hand shot out to beneath Paris' chin, waiting for him to shake it. He hesitated, looking from the hand, to the expectant face of his Master. "Well?" Alexander asked. "Are we in agreement, Archer?"

The Servant was flabbergasted. "B-b-but... you said... I'm worthless."

"I said you're useless, fool, don't misquote me! But you are still of worth, so long as you fight your battles and perform your duties to my expectations. Can you do this much, Archer?"

The Servant breathlessly took Alexander's hand and shook. "I'll try, Master."

"Good!"

The behemoth of a man stood upright, taking Archer along for the right, shrieking as he was pulled straight off the ground, dangling like a fish on a hook. He was set down, and quietly followed Alexander. The Master turned his back on the mess and ascended the stairs to the ground level of the church. "Then let us be off. We still have other Masters to meet with, before we can begin this War in earnest."

Saber, ignoring her Master's pleas to slow down, swiftly made her way through the small courtyard behind the church proper. Unceremoniously shoving the back door open, the Servant walked into the chapel, her sharp eyes drinking in the sight of the poorly lit pews, the pair of priests attending to the alter, ...and the two other pairs of Masters and Servants that had made it her before her.

Assassin. A woman dressed in a form-fitting, pinstriped suit, her smile full of confidence. The killer.

Lancer. A rather hairy man (at least, Saber believed he was a man) wearing a well made set of pure white robes. An aura of mischievousness rolled off of him in waves, but Saber could still detect the unmistakable sensation of pure, physical power and skill. The knight of the lance. She'd have to keep an eye on this one; undoubtedly, he'd make for a good fight.

Before she could take a good look at the Masters, however, a shout dragged Saber's attention elsewhere.

"S-Saber!" Glancing back, the swordswoman stared at the boy coming up behind her. It had taken him long enough, and she could only hope that he would prove to be a bit quicker on his feet in the future.

"Ah, there you are, boy!" she said brightly, forcing an air of false cheeriness into her voice. Clapping her Master on his back and sending him staggering a few paces forward, Saber jerked her head in the general direction of their new compatriots. "Now come on; our allies are already here! Now's not the time to be hanging back."

Striding forward past her wincing Master, the knight's words dropped any false pretenses of camaraderie. This was the real deal. "Ho!" she exclaimed, slamming a fist against the armor protecting her chest. "Saber, the knight of the sword, at your service!"

Yuri watched with mild confusion as a hairy Buddhist entered the atrium, with a frustrated looking man and woman lagging behind a bit. He stood up, and moved to greet... well, the man. He seemed more reasonable than the one who smelled of peaches and prana. Assassin seemed to glow as her Roman Armor was replaced by a nice pinstripe suit. Yuri smiled at her, turning back to the Magus.

"Добрый вечер. Меня зовут Юрий." Cassius sighed, and stood up as well. The Monkey man towered over both of them by quite a bit, she noticed, but he looked simple minded and brutish. Her favorite type of ally. Yuri sighed, and stayed silent, watching his Servant cover for him with impassive eyes.

"He says 'good evening, my name is Yuri.' And I am the Legate Cassius. Pleased to meet you three." The face was androgynous, her suit was form fitting, and her voice was feminine. Her smile turned wry as she sized up the mage(s?). Nothing too impressive looking, simply an annoyed looking man, aging rapidly from stress it seemed. She held out her arm in a classic Roman Salute.

"Ho! Saber, the knight of the sword, at your service!"

Assassin turned to meet the loud mouthed Woman, who seemed to already have her master on a strict leash. She held in a laugh at the pathetic boy and addressed her ally, dropping her arm.

"Ave. And I am Legate Cassius. Pleasure to meet you, as well." Yuri bowed, but remained silent. It seemed English was the preferred language around here. He sighed, he was out of practice with that one.

"Come on, hurry up slowpoke!"

Daria tugged on Enkidu's arm, but the Servant shook her off. "Hold on a second, I wanted to look around." Rider's eyes were jumping around, his body struggling to keep up. Tasteful paintings and tapestries hung from the walls, and the room they were in possessed multiple books. Rider had pulled a couple out and was flipping through them, beaming all the while. It was his first taste of the modern world, and he intended to soak in as much as he could. His exasperated Master sighed, and snatched the book out of his hand. "Hey!" he cried, but got ignored for his trouble. Daria redoubled her pace and waved for him to hurry up.

"You can look at all that later," she told him. "But right now we have somewhere else to be. So let's go!"

"Can't it wait a little longer?" he pleaded, holding up another book. "This one looked cool."

Thwack, went Daria's hand against her face. She eyed her Servant with a tired, malicious look between her fingers and took the book from him, sliding it back into the shelf.


"Wow," whispered Rider. The white walls and pews weren't like anything he had ever seen. Such simple design, yet effective and pleasing. A crowd seemed to be gathering at the other end of the chapel. Daria shouldered past him and threw up a hand approaching them.

"Yo! My name's Daria, pleased to meetcha!" Like a flash of lightning, she'd gone from one end of the building to standing amongst the others like she'd always been there. She rocked back and forth on her feet, examining the multiple new faces. So this is the team, huh? She examined the Servants already present, sizing them up. Assassin seemed impressive, if lacking in the skills an actual Assassin should possess, and Saber seemed a little too terrifying to approach. Wonder if she'd punch me if I asked for her number? Lancer caught her eye though, and she made a mental note to ask him later how someone with so much speed could move around in a huge body like that. Though, his Master was noteworthy as well. Something about the face. It seemed vaguely familiar to her. She tilted her head and asked, "Do I know you from somewhere?"

Rider sidled up beside her with a little less fanfare, but gave a small wave to the others. "Hi, I'm Rider. It's great to meet you all." He glanced over at Saber, and his eyes shot up to her face, towering over him.

"You're tall," he said admiringly.

Lancer bolted headlong into the church atrium, cackling and hooting as he went. He rushed to the center and suddenly stopped, taking a quick look around to take in his surroundings. The church was impressive, certainly - white marble covered the walls, immaculately carved pews lined its halls. Almost impressive enough to be worth of his presence, even. He took note right away of the pair standing near the entrance, a man and a woman. Lancer could sense that the woman was a Servant - Assassin, if he had his guess - and if an Assassin was revealing herself to him so easily, he assumed she was on his side. 'Assassin, eh? And who's this? That boy looks like he could use a stiff drink, not that he hasn't tried.'

Before Lancer could do anything, Clay strode into the hall, still maintaining his grumpy demeanor. He shot an annoyed look at Lancer before moving to greet the pair. "I take it you're one of us. You can call me Clay. As I'm sure you've guessed, this one..." He gestured to Lancer, making a point of not turning to meet his mocking gaze, "Is Lancer." Clay took this brief moment of relative calm in Lancer's behavior to size up his allies. A man he could peg as a magus and a Master the second he entered the room, so the woman to his side must be a Servant. Assassin, perhaps?

The man to Assassin's right replied in Russian, to which Assassin responded. "He says 'good evening, my name is Yuri.' And I am the Legate Cassius. Pleased to meet you three." Clay quirked an eyebrow. While it was refreshing to have a Servant be straightforward for once, giving away their respective identities so quickly posed a serious security risk. That... and did she say Cassius? Clay supposed stranger things had happened, given the Grail's history. "A pleasure. Assassin, I presume?"

"Ho! Saber, the knight of the sword, at your service!"

Clay napped his attention towards the voice, finding the source to be a woman easily a head taller than himself escorting a another man he pegged as a Master. Not much of a magus, though, if his prana was anything to go by. Before Clay could respond, Lancer bolted over in a flash, leaning in towards Saber with a grin on his face. "Saber, is it? Oh, I can already tell you're going to be fun." He disengaged with a howl of laughter before zipping behind the Saber's bewildered Master. "And who's this, then? A little mage trying to aid bigger shoes?" With a flick of his tail, Lancer caught Matt's legs and tripped him, causing him to stumble about.

"That's quite enough, Lancer. There's no need to be rude." Clay responded with a frown, his voice firm. "Aww, already? Fine, Master. Your wish is my command." With an exaggerated somersault, Lancer leapt back to Clay's side, his grin not leaving his face.

Another pair then filed into the chapel, this one a young girl and a man with long white hair. Come to think of it, the girl seemed familiar, like he'd seen her before. Where...

"Yo! My name's Daria, pleased to meetcha!"

Daria? Clay sighed in response - his suspicions were true. Orihara had sent her instead of finishing this war himself. They had never met in person, but he had seen Dirk's apprentice in photos during their brief periods of correspondence. Before he could respond, Daria had ran up to him, seeming to stare him down. "Do I know you from somewhere?"

"No, but I suppose you could say we have a friend in common. I am Clay Marks."

"A pleasure. Assassin, I presume?"

Cassius raised her hand, and her pugio appeared in her hand. Deep red, like it was bathed in blood... she looked at it for several moments before turning a cold gaze to Lancer's Master.

"I ask that you use my name. This is the last time I'll do so politely. I am servant to no one; Man, woman, or mage, and I will not let the murder of one arrogant and dangerous man define me." Yuri sighed, and stepped in front of her.

"Excuse us." He turned around, and muttered something under his breath. He raised his leg, and stood on some invisible platform, holding a hand out for Cassius. She sighed, and shook her head, her smile reappearing while her dagger did the opposite.

"No, no, it's fine, really. I'll behave." She smiled, and turned to the new arrivals. Rider and his partner. Yuri stared at the side of Cassius' head for a moment, before sighing and stepping down, the platform disappearing. He looked to the new arrivals, the girl seemed about as powerful as Yuri and Clay. The boy, so far unnamed, was the weakest here. Yuri hoped the kid had a talent of some sort.

"Yo! My name's Daria, pleased to meetcha!"

"I am Yuri Matou. Master of... Cassius. The pleasure is ours." He bowed to her, though his face still showed no emotions and his voice was an accentless monotone. He raised an eyebrow when the two recognized each other.

"No, but I suppose you could say we have a friend in common. I am Clay Marks."

"So that's the name." Yuri looked back to Cassius, who nodded and approached the group again with a smile. "It seems we're missing our Mad Warrior, Archer, and Caster. Should we be worried yet?"

Swallowing nervously, Matt took a look around the room as Saber proudly introduced herself. Even with only half the participants here, it was apparent to the boy just how overshadowed he was; the Servants aside, it was more than clear that the other magi were far more capable then he was.

"Ave. And I am Legate Cassius. Pleasure to meet you, as well."

Assassin was the first to respond to Saber's greeting, and Matt tossed a quick glance in the Roman's direction. She was really introducing herself so quickly? Not that he particularly minded; knowing a Servant's identity meant knowing their associated skills, and also gave some hints as to their Phantasm(s). While Saber busied herself with Lancer, Matt reached into his jacket pocket, fumbling around for-

And who's this, then? A little mage trying to aid bigger shoes?"

Suddenly, a large, rather hairy visage was shoved into his own, its overly eager grin sending a worrying shiver up Matt's spine. Instinctively, he tried to back away from Lancer, but distracted as he was...

Thud

He had no way of seeing the Servant's tail snaking around behind his legs.

"Owwwww..."

With the monkey-man's hooting laughter echoing in his ears, Matt shakily pushed himself back up to a sitting position, tenderly rubbing at the back of his head. The church's floor was anything but soft, as it turned out; he wouldn't be surprised if a lump started swelling up soon. Luckily, however, it looked like Lancer's Master was kind enough to call him off. As the Servant retreated, chuckling all the while, the young man struggled back to his feet, and irritably resumed his rummaging. He walked over to a corner of the chapel as he did so, slouching a bit to avoid attracting undue attention.

Grumbling to himself, and mostly ignoring the sounds of conversation around him, Matt eventually pulled out his notepad, with its pen still thankfully attached. Flicking it open to a blank page, the young man readied his pen, and looked up. The first one to meet his gaze was... Assassin.

Assassin, he began, etching shorthand symbols onto the page before him.
True Name: Legate Cassius. Female.
Master: Yuri ?.
Parameters:
.
.
.
Skills:
.
.
.
Phantasms: ?

Glancing back up, Matt found himself staring at Lancer this time. Flipping to another blank page, he repeated what parts of the process he could, marking down Lancer's title and parameters. The other sections, however, were blank for now. If he could at least get the Master's name...

"Yo! My name's Daria, pleased to meetcha!"

The sound of the church door flying open caught the boy off guard, and he nearly dropped his pen and paper to the floor. Spinning around on his heel, he spotted another Master-Servant pair (Daria and Rider, apparently) making their dynamic entrance. Focusing his attention on them, Matt switched to yet another page, titled it Rider, and got back to work.

As he scratched a few symbols onto the page, he noticed the Servant in question approaching his own. Even from halfway across the room, he could hear Rider's almost awed tone, "You're tall."

And, just as easily, he could also hear Saber's teasing reply. "Nah, you're just short."

Grunting to himself, Matt continued to focus on his work. He still kept half an ear open though, just enough to pick up his Servant's continuation. "But jeez, that's quite a head of hair there, isn't it? Heh, I think you might be giving Lancer over there a run for his money?"

It was apparent from her words and happy tone that Saber was enjoying herself. Matt, on the other hand, made no effort to join in on the conversations. Even when he had filled in all the information he could at the moment, he simply flicked to a few other pages, labeling them with the other classes' titles and formatting them for future use.

"No, no, no. This doesn't look right at all!"

Machiko Tsukino couldn't help but express her exasperation with a very vocal sigh. It had been over four hours since she had first arrived, books and supplies heaped under her arms, filled with diagrams and incantations aplenty. She had been the first of the seven to arrive, eager to show what she had studied over the past weeks. Maybe she wasn't some master of the arcane arts, or a student, or even a single circuit to her name, but she had the determination of ten magus combined. All she needed to do was to complete this stupid ritual and she would be well on her way to becoming the master of a legendary hero.

Yet from the commotion without she could only surmise that she was the last to complete the summoning. None of the scriptures she had brought made any sense to her. Something to do with breathing and walking, various designs for multiple summoning circles which apparently gave varied effects and intimate knowledge of what words to encant to manipulate her hero's abilities. It was all so overwhelming and yet she needed to understand the scriptures quickly before the war began in earnest. Looking back at the floor, despair overtook her as she glared at the crude etchings she had smeared across the wood. Her version looked more like a practical joke or mimicry of a summoner's circle than copies of the diagrams in her books. Four hours of painstaking work and this jagged mess was the best she could come up with? Regardless, she still needed to try, or else she might lose her chance!

Taking a deep breath and exhaling slowly to calm her nerves, she flipped through her tomb to the incantation she required. Next she produced a photograph of herself from her school trip. It was taken at Tokyo's National Museum of Ancient History next to an exhibit of an ancient blade. She gingerly placed the photo at the center of her shoddy circle before returning to her original place. Holding the book up in front of her, she outstretched her free hand, splaying her fingers and widening her stance to brace herself. It was her moment now, to reach into the Third Magic and draw forth a true hero of ages long past. She would succeed no matter what the cost.

"Fill, fill, fill, fill, fill..."

She began the chant, closing her eyes as she concentrated on each word.

"Repeat five times, but destroy each when filled,
Let silver and crimson be thy essence,
Upon it rest the cornerstone; the Archduke of Contracts,
And above them, my ancestor, the great Master Schweinorg.

Let rise a wall against the wind that shall fall,
Let the four gates of cardinal direction close,
Let the spirit come forth down the winding path I make,
Let the kingdom be the one true path forward.

I hereby propose,
That my will shall create thy body,
And thy sword shall create my fate,
If thou dost accede to this will and reason, answer me!

I am all that is good in the eternal world,
I shall be the disposer of evil in the eternal world,
Though who art clad in the Great Trinity, come forth,
Guardian of the Heavenly Scales!"

Had she done it? Was she now a master in the Holy Grail War? Was that tingling feeling in her legs the magical energies of the Third Magic or them simply falling asleep from being in an uncomfortable position? The tension created by anticipation throughout her body was almost unbearable yet she needed to know. Slowly, she opened one eye to catch a glimpse of the glory of her new Heroic Spirit.

Yet there was nothing to behold.

Nothing within the room had changed even a fraction. No handsomely rugged swordsman or majestically lithe archer or even some unnatural grotesque prepared to devour her whole. Despair overwhelmed her as she slid down to the ground, knees knocking and slumped over. Despite her study, her diligence, her sheer determination she was left with nothing but a few scribbles on a wood floor. She had failed and it left a hole where her heart was.

"But I tried...I tried so...so hard..." she sobbed, tears beginning to well in her eyes.

Removing her glasses she began to wipe her eyes feverishly to try and rid them of the tears trickling down her face. She wasn't sure why she was getting so emotional over something so trivial. Maybe it was that success had always been an absolute for her. Maybe it was the hope that she could prove she was stronger than she tended to believe. Or maybe it was that she just wanted to escape her dreary life for something greater than herself. Whatever the reason the tears continued to flow, crying out her frustration of being too little and too late.

"Why won't this work!?" she yelled at the top of her lungs, slamming her fists upon the floor to accentuate each word. "God damnit, what the hell is wrong!?"

"God damnit, what the hell is wrong!?"

"Hrm?"

Alexander held out a hand, stopping Archer dead in his tracks. They were in the lower halls of the church, a strange place that had no right being in a place of worship. Archer could only guess what all these lower rooms and catacombs were once used for. The priests here must live well for men of the cloth.

"Did you hear that, boy?" asked the giant of the pair, ears perked and eyes locked in a thousand-yard stare. Archer turned his head and muttered, "You could at least call me 'Archer'."

"What was that?"

"Uh-I-I said, y-yeah! I heard it!" Archer quickly corrected. He settled down, and looked off to his right. "Sounded like a girl. I think it came from that way."

"Say no more."

Silence. Alexander stood still. Archer thought that he looked rather like a statue in that position. For several seconds nothing happened, before two perturbed eyes found their way to glare at him. "Well?"

"What?" asked the perplexed Servant.

"Did we not agree mere moments ago that reconnaissance was your duty? Go on ahead and see what's the matter! I'll catch up shortly."

"Uh... right." Archer took off at a run, even with his meager stats a sprinter far beyond human limits. His feet pattered with only the lightest noise in the halls, moving like a shadow until he came to a door. He heard frustrated sounds coming from the other side... crying? A pang of worry hit him straight in the chest, and Paris could not help but throw caution to the wind. He opened the door wide and stepped inside to find a young girl on the ground, sobbing above a rough circle. He was caught off-guard at once. Archer hadn't expected such a lovely girl to be on the other side. A blush overtook him, and doing his best to hide his face in the darkness of the room he announced (in a voice deepened half an octave), "Miss, what is the matter? Are you hurt?"


"I am Clay Marks."

"Ooh!" Daria's snapped her fingers, and a knowing smile took over the majority of her face. "Yeah, right I do remember you! You're the other guy from the last War, aren't ya?"

Rolling her eyes in thought, she rubbed her chin, trying to recall a buried memory. "Bro always said something to me whenever your name came up. What was it?" She mulled it over a few seconds before she recalled it. "Oh, yeah. It was: 'Don't trust him. If you have to trust him don't be alone with him. And if you have to be alone with him, take something important of his as insurance first.'"

Even her Servant had to shuffle away from her after that one, but the oblivious girl didn't stop grinning. "Kind of a mouthful, ain't it?" she shrugged, and threw a hand out for him to shake. "Nice meeting you, Mister Marks. And I guess that makes you... Maria? Diana?" she said to Clay's sister. "Bro didn't say much to tell you apart, sorry."

And that, of course, left the Servant. "Lancer, right?" she asked. "You seem pretty fun."

Rider was busy with other things, laughing at Saber's playful taunt. He ran a hand through his hair in a pose, and sniped back "You're just jealous that I have better hair." But before the taunts could continue, Rider paused and looked at Saber's hip. A sword hung there that stirred up old memories.

"I've seen that sword before..." his tone was reverent, truly surprised to be seeing that blade again. To be able to run across one specific treasure from his dear friend's vast arsenal was a rarity akin to blessings of the gods. He couldn't help but marvel at the coming War, and the hope that it would bring similar novelties. He hadn't even noticed his mouth drop open.

Yuri was glad his serv-... Partner was better with people than he was. Though he believed he heard something, off in the distance. Likely enough the rest were too busy with conversation, so he sighed and walked towards the noise, hands dug in his pocket. He jumped up, and landed on his Air Stair, and began jogging on that, to avoid noise and things getting on his shoes.

It seemed a person was already at the door when he got there. He reacted quickly, and jogged the whole way... was this a servant? Where was his master? Yuri followed him in, dropping off his air stair as he reached out his hand. He looked at the boys hand, and then to the crying girl. He was not a Master...

Yuri drew his sword, and crept up on the Servant, Archer judging by his quiver and bow. He was partway through a swing when he heard the boy speak, stopping the blade about half a foot from his naked throat.

"Miss, what is the matter? Are you hurt?"

"Ah. Ally." Yuri drew back and sheathed his blade, and looked at the girl. A crude parody of a circle, but there was at least some effort put into it. He sighed, and knelt down beside her, showing his Command Spells.

"Do you need help? I am good at summoning."

"Do you need help? I am good at summoni--BFFFFFFFF"

Paris had hesitated in shock, seeing the man appear from nowhere, weapon in hand. That hesitation wore off right around the time it was already apparent Yuri was no enemy. That thought reached his nerves far too late, and with the strongest kick he could muster Archer struck. Yuri took the brunt as he was kneeling, careening straight into the wall. Archer realized what he'd done far too late, and could only watch in terror as the man dropped down the wall.

"Oh, jeez, I'm--"

"WHAT IS GOING ON IN HERE?!"

Archer practically jumped out of his skin as Alexander burst into the room, clearly ready for a fight. He must have heard the commotion and come running. Though a few snorts of angry breath escaped him, he calmed down quickly when he saw the other scene playing out. The now very bewildered young girl kneeling above a summoning circle, and stains on her cheeks and around her eyes. The reddened skin that told him of recently shed tears.

She must be one of the other Masters then. But no Servant? She must not have summoned it yet.

Alexander did not hesitate to fall to one knee and bow his head to Machiko. He spoke in a much gentler tone, "I'm so sorry, young miss. Have we interrupted you?"

Berserker and his Master continued their walk onwards. Berserker had decided to tidy himself up a bit, just for the sake of appearances, and for the look on the other Masters' faces when they saw the Mad Warrior dressed in a rather casual fashion - an Hawaiian shirt was left open, revealing a white vest underneath; shorts and sandals completed the casual look. Yi didn't seem bothered by the change of attire, but then again, was she just hiding the fact that she was? Then again, Master and Servant hadn't a lot of time to get to knew each other. Then again, the silence between them was suffocating.

"So," Berserker whispered, "Ready to meet our teammates?"

"Teammates?" Yi responded in the same fashion.

Berserker stretched, "Yeah. This Grail War is a team deathmatch."

"I see..." His Master replied. Was that a sigh of relief?

Servant and Master reached the atrium and a crowd of other people, other Masters and Servants by the look of them. More relief washed over her. Yi's previous silence was that of trying to stay upright in the presence of magi far more powerful than herself. Berserker seemed not to have such worries, though that was probably pure confidence. He was a Heroic Spirit, of course he had plenty of strength to defeat everyone here. Nevertheless, she was somewhat glad that she wouldn't have to fight the individuals gathered here, at least not in the near future.

Even though it seemed somewhat inappropriate, she announced her identity to those crowding around the atrium as she entered. An act to show boldness, nothing more, "Greetings. Yi Yu Yuen, Master of Berserker."

"You're just jealous that I have better hair."

"Heh, you've probably got me there," Saber agreed with a chuckle. "What can I say? Hair care's never been that high on my list of priorities."

Lapsing into silence for a second, the knight allowed herself a quick glance around, drinking in Lancer's shenanigans, the interaction between his and Rider's Masters, and the pair of priests who, thus far, hadn't said anything to anyone. Frowning slightly, she stared at the older of the two men, trying to see past the thin veneer that was his face. Rider's next comment, however, brought her back to their conversation.

"I've seen that sword before..."

"Hmm?"

Following Rider's awestruck gaze, Saber glanced down at the blade sheathed at her hip. "Ah, dammit," she muttered, fiddling with her belt until the scabbard fell free. "I was summoned with this one?"

It wasn't that the short sword, with only its ebony hilt sticking forth from the crimson sheath, was a poor one. Quite the opposite, in fact; though she'd only used it in battle once, Saber knew that the weapon was legendary for a reason. Light yet incredibly sturdy, incredibly sharp with an edge that never seemed to dull, and forged by arts that had been long forgotten by the modern world, there was no doubting the sword's strength.

Still... She had hoped that she would be able to wear a certain other blade in its place.

But there was no reason to complain about such a meaningless detail. Her other sword would come when it was needed.

Turning back to Rider, Saber raised a questioning eyebrow. "You recognize the sword, do you?" she questioned, unable to keep a hint of confusion out of her voice. 'Hmm'ing to herself, she took a good look at her compatriot's snow-white hair, piercing red eyes, and distinctive style of armor. "Unless there was some part of its legend I missed, I doubt that you used to wield it," Saber continued, idly spinning the sheathed blade around in her palm. "Which makes me wonder just who you are..."

But before she could hazard a guess-

"Greetings. Yi Yu Yuen, Master of Berserker."

Turning towards the doorway, Saber took a good, hard look at the man and woman who had just entered. "Never mind," she said to Rider without turning her head. "That guy's the hairiest one here."

Then, clearing her throat, Saber called out to her Master, the boy still scribbling away in the corner. "Hey! Boy! Be civil and introduce yourself!"

It was a deplorable scene indeed. The young schoolgirl was slumped over in the middle of the room, sobbing until her eyes were red and puffy. She had given up on cursing her inability to cast magic and simply cried her frustration away. Her first onlooker could have been plowing through a china shop for all the noise she was making but his footwork made him glide across the floor. It was also fortunate for Archer that the schoolgirl was too preoccupied with wallowing in her sorrow for her to pick up the bashful expression the servant had had upon entering the room.

"Miss, what is the matter? Are you hurt?"

"Huh...?"

Wiping her face one last time and straightening a few loose hairs of her chestnut coloured hair before she sliding her glasses back on, she slowly turned to look at the stranger standing in the doorway. The young man didn't strike the most brilliant of silhouettes as he walked into the room but he certainly wasn't any regular person. Curly locks of brown hair and a lithe but fit physique poured into the room with haste. His clothes were of another era, boiled leather armour and an olive green jerkin with velvet black pants. The girl blinked twice in disbelief of who or what was standing before her. Had the ritual actually worked? Her heart swelled with anticipation but as she opened her mouth she found the words difficult to form.

"Are... are you my...?" she managed to whisper before her eyes refocused behind the youthful hero.

Another man had taken station behind the supposed heroic spirit standing before her. What was more frightening was that the creeper had a blade already drawn and positioned to strike the servant's neck. Machiko could do nothing but stammer her last thought unintelligibly, her left hand subconsciously slowly raising itself towards her mouth to cover her inevitable gasp of terror. She wasn't sure what sorts of punishment a servant could take, or even if the spirit had heard their intruder sneak up on him, but a decisive swing of that sword didn't register as being something even a hero could shake off without consideration.

"Ah. Ally," he mentioned casually as he withdrew with weapon and began sheathing it. Machiko began to relax a little as the tension of the situation began to melt away. "Do you need help? I am good at summoni--BFFFFFFFF!!!"

As quickly as her nerves had relaxed they had been put en guard once again with the young hero delivering a swift and decisive blow to the other man. She knew it would be painful, the heroes of the Grail War having strength of at least ten times that of any regular person. Even the most experienced and talented mages could hardly keep up with the quality of physical prowess they displayed. To say that the girl winced when the blow was struck would certainly have been an understatement for the sheer revulsion she experienced when witnessing the act. She could only hope the man was fine and that he would be standing in a few short moment.

"Oh, jeez, I'm--"

"WHAT IS GOING ON IN HERE?!"

Yet again Machiko found herself caught off guard when the largest man she had ever seen in her life came barreling into the room. In the commotion of the entrance the girl suddenly felt her legs moving beneath her as she began to stand up and dart towards the table with her possessions upon it. Her hand shot out like a rocket and grasps out desperately towards the shoulder holster she had placed a very intricately embossed pistol in. Whether out of panic or intuition, she couldn't have said why she had moved, but the moment her hand wrapped around the familiar grip of the Endless Trace she was glad she had done so. With the instincts of a sharpshooter she brought the gun to bare at the three strangers and began quickly training a bead on each, shifting through the wealth of targets to keep herself active and aware of each person's movement.

"I'm so sorry, young miss. Have we...interrupted...you?" the giant had asked, his speech slowing down as the three men began to piece together the position they were in.

"D-d-d-don't move another inch!" she almost screamed, her voice uncontrollably raising itself as it wavered in conviction. "I'll fire! I will!" She didn't seem to convinced herself of her words, much less the crowd that had gathered.

"I'll fire! I will!"

"Ah-buh-buh--"

The entire room froze, the hairs on Archer's neck standing on end. He'd come here trying to protect what sounded like a young woman in danger. And now that young woman had a weapon in his face. Truthfully, the weapon was all but useless against a Servant. But there were two much squishier humans that were also in her sights. That meant if she fired, there was a 66% shot that whoever she fired at was going to die. He couldn't allow that, but how was he supposed to handle this? He was no negotiator. Hell, he'd started more wars than he'd ended. Luckily, his Master had jumped onto the diplomacy side of things, and he was slowly waving his hands disarmingly.

"P-please, young miss!" he pleaded, sweat dripping down his face. His bulging, panicked eyes were transfixed on the little girl. "We don't mean any harm! My Servant and I were simply investigating the sound of a young woman in distress!"

He gulped, and added, "I believe we've gotten off on the wrong foot. Please, my name is Alexander. What is yours?"

Archer could only stand in silence and watch, trying to retrieve an arrow without drawing attention to himself. Diplomacy was good, but a backup plan was better.

A lot became a grey haze of pain for the Russian master. His arm took the blow from the kick, and the kick itself managed to rotate Yuri enough to make his armored arm bounce of the wall as well. However, the whiplash of getting his head both grazed on the floor and then banged into a wall knocked him out cold for a second. He groaned after a second, and looked around.

What he saw was a giant cowering in front of a girl, while some kid pulled out an arrow. Perhaps he was right, but then he noticed the girl was holding something. Upon closer inspection, it was a gun of some sort. Yuri mumbled something and raised his arms, making air stairs under each. He used them to pull himself to his knees, and felt his head swim.

"I believe we've gotten off on the wrong foot. Please, my name is Alexander. What is yours?"

"Urgh. I'm fine, by the way. I'm Yuri Matou, a fellow master." Yuri blinked hard, and rubbed his eyes with his unarmored hands, getting himself to his feet. He looked at the girl, and smiled.

"I heard a cry, and thought you needed help of a sort. If you'd allow, I can help with your summoning." He took a step forward, holding up his hands and smiling as innocently as he was capable of. Then he frowned, and looked between the girl and giant. He felt the big man held big power, but he couldn't sense much of anything from the girl. Was she even a mage?
______________________________________________________________________________________________

Cassius noticed the hairy giant enter the room. He looked strong enough, though it seemed it was another muscular giant. She was getting tired of those, at least one more with actual thought could be nice. She sighed, and looked at the Mage's assembled. The new mage, partner of Berserker, was official looking. The two named Clay and Daria were chatting about old times... the boy was writing.

She snuck up on him, and read over his shoulder. "It seems odd to me that so many pick up on my gender so quickly." Cassius muttered, though the kid could likely hear her.

"You're the master of Saber, right? Why are you writing about me, first?" She cast a glance over at the giant of a woman, talking to a man more of Cassius' stature than the rest of these leviathans of history. Though it seemed everyone here was infinitely more hairy than Assassin.

"Hey! Boy! Be civil and introduce yourself!"

As he etched the last of Berserker's parameters into his notebook, Matt noted Saber's words, shouted at him from across the room. Glancing up, he noted that, immediately after telling him off, his Servant had already gone back to her conversation. There wasn't any real need to listen to her, especially not when it came to something as pointless as conversing with the other Masters and Servants. If Saber wanted to spend all night talking, then he wouldn't stop her, but Matt had no intention of leaving this meeting without an idea of what the other Servants could do. And if he knew their Masters as well, then that was all the-

"It seems odd to me that so many pick up on my gender so quickly."

"Gah!"

Unable to hold back a startled shout, the boy spun around, reflexively scrunching his hands into fists. His heart pounding away in his chest, Matt stared wide-eyed at Assassin's amused smirk, his frantic thoughts attempting to piece together how he'd managed to entirely miss her approach.

Ah. Right. Presence Concealment. So this was how effective Assassin could be at stealth.

If the Servant was at all put off by his reaction, Matt couldn't tell. As the young man raised a hand to his chest in an attempt to slow his racing heartbeat, Assassin simply continued on, showing no reaction to his little outburst. "You're the master of Saber, right? Why are you writing about me, first?"

Staying silent, Matt took a few long, deep breaths, exerting strict control over his lungs. The pattern helped to calm his body down, and the youth took a few seconds to ensure that he was in a steady state of mind.

Heh. Of course he wasn't in a steady state of mind. He was terrified out of his wits; it took all his concentration just to put on that calm facade, and apparently it only took one good scare to tear the whole thing down.

Tonight was going to be great.

"I can see it," Matt said, after taking a bit longer to find his voice again. He glanced in Assassin's general direction as he spoke, not quite making eye-contact, but looking somewhere in the general vicinity of the Servant's face. "Your gender, I mean. Being Master and all that." He believed it was neither necessary nor polite to explain to the woman how a Servant's stats were available to any Master within eyesight. She already knew that information, obviously, by virtue of being summoned by the Grail.

"And yes," he continued, stuffing his now slightly crumpled notebook back into his jacket's inner-pocket, "I'm Saber's Master."

His voice's wary, guarded tone made it quite clear that he was intentionally not answering Assassin's final question.

"Oh, yeah. It was: 'Don't trust him. If you have to trust him don't be alone with him. And if you have to be alone with him, take something important of his as insurance first.'"

Clay couldn't help but chuckle. Some things never change, it would seem. "Orihara's still scared of me? I don't know if I should be insulted or flattered." He accepted Daria's outstretched hand, giving it a firm shake. "I'll tell you what I tell him - 'trust' is unnecessary with me. If I mean you ill, you'll be the first and last to know." The current line of conversation had, against all odds, managed to perk up his dour mood. Perhaps these people wouldn't be such a chore to work with after...

"Nice meeting you, Mister Marks. And I guess that makes you... Maria? Diana? Bro didn't say much to tell you apart, sorry." Clay's rising mood fell straight back down with Daria's followup greeting. His end of the handshake tightened as his smile turned to a frown. Diana, for her part, reacted with a small modicum of grace. "It's Diana, dear." She shifted her attention nervously to her older brother, as though she expected more of a reaction. Eventually, he calmed down, releasing his grip on Daria's hand. Taking a cigarette from his coat pocket, he sat on one of the pews on the far end of the church, lighting it with a snap of his fingers.

Diana gave Daria an apologetic look, making sure to keep an eye on her brooding brother. "I'm sorry about that. Family's a touchy subject with him."

She couldn't stop her hands from shaking. It was the only thing she could focus on. Despite needing to keep scanning each target for movement, to keep her senses sharpened for any sort of quick movement, all her mind could revolve around was her unsteady hands. Of course they weren't steady - she was in the middle of a Mexican stand-off with a beefcake mage, a heroic figure brought back from the dead and a swordsman who had just been kicked through a wall and seemed relatively okay. Compared to her they were gods amongst men! Yet for all their capabilities they still had some sensibilities. Even the towering behemoth seemed genuinely worried about the handgun the schoolgirl was brandishing about in a flustered manner.

"P-please, young miss! We don't mean any harm! My Servant and I were simply investigating the sound of a young woman in distress!"

It was a lucky break for master and servant that Machiko was a far more empathetic and trusting individual than your average magus. Where as the latter were raised to mistrust those around them, likening those of their creed to nothing more than petty thieves that wished only to horde power, she had never experienced what it was like to be on this side of the fence. She was about as normal a child as one could be in this world, worrying more about her next exam and if the school soccer star had just winked at her rather than if the person sitting next to her was attempting to swipe her magic crest to add her family's cumulative knowledge to their untold amounts of previously questionably achieved library of reality shattering talents. In fact, this entire scenario would have been a figment of her imagination six months ago, before she had stumbled across a dark secret she knew was never meant for her to uncover. She shook her head slightly, her eyes closing shut before lowering her weapon. She felt dizzied from the rush she had just experienced and staggered to her left a step before catching herself on the table. How had she gotten herself into all of this?

"O-o-oh... Okay..." she resigned, her fear reverting back into her shell of unassured shyness.

"Urgh. I'm fine, by the way. I'm Yuri Matou, a fellow master."

Machiko's eyes fluttered open a moment later as she watched the third man enter the room behind the pairing. The shame of leaving that poor man to pick himself back up was almost unbearable and she immediately looked away. The teenager couldn't imagine what he thought of her right now. She tried to say something in her defense, explain the situation but when she opened her mouth the words simply wouldn't take shape. The only noise that she could produce was a weak formless stammer that went on for several seconds before she decided to cut her loses.

"I heard a cry, and thought you needed help of a sort. If you'd allow, I can help with your summoning."

"That-that would be nice," she said, still avoiding eye contact with the man named Yuri. She had already begun fiddling with the shoulder holster she had purchased for the Endless Trace, sliding it safely back inside before twirling around and taking a deep bow. "Thank you Alexander-sama, Yuri-sama, Servant-hakase..."

"Thank you Alexander-sama, Yuri-sama, Servant-hakase..."

"You're welc--"

Archer was cut off by his Master raising a hand and telling her, "Think nothing of it. And 'Archer' will do referring to my Servant." Archer glared at him in silence, returning his arrow to its quiver, but said nothing. He crossed his arms and patiently waited as Alexander stood back up and walked over to her circle, kneeling down and examining it.

"Hrm... shaky construction, and a few of these symbols here are meaningless." He pointed at the corresponding runes in her construction. He quietly instructed, "I believe you were trying to use an archaic version of "gate", but you've forgotten a piece of the rune. It's just gibberish as is. Be that as it may..." he rubbed his chin, baffled by the situation Machiko seemed to find herself in. "The Grail is responsible for the summoning, not the Master. So long as you have a stable circle--and yours is sufficient, albeit rough--all that is necessary is to perform the ritual, and supply prana to your Servant. It shouldn't be failing like it is."

A low groan of some sort rumbled up for his gut, and his eyes, too small for his tough face, drifted over to the girl. "It seems impossible to think, but..."

"Young miss," he said, addressing her seriously. "Do you possess a magic circuit at all?"


"I'm sorry about that. Family's a touchy subject with him."

Daria looked at Diana like she was speaking in tongues, and confusedly asked "What do you mean? Did something happen?"

I should have noticed that earlier. Dirk always mentioned Clay had two sisters! But only one of 'em is here... what happened to Maria? What did the dossier say again? She was supposed to be the head of her family, but something went wrong. So Clay took over instead. Yeah, she should definitely be here.

"Did she...?" Daria hesitated to finish her sentence, catching on at the last possible second that it might be best left unsaid.

Rider, for his part, was letting her deal with the Marks on his own, and was still chatting with Saber. He introduced himself to Berserker cordially, and turned the topic to the massive woman's Master.

"You seem to have been paired with an interesting magus, Saber. What's his name?"

"That-that would be nice."

Yuri noticed she wouldn't look him in the eye. His entrance WAS him drawing a sword on someone then getting kicked into a wall. Perhaps he scared her? He took off his sword and placed it on the table as she turned to the rest and bowed.

"Thank you Alexander-sama, Yuri-sama, Servant-hakase..."

"[It's no problem, truly.]" Yuri said, in Japanese. He didn't want her to be forced to use a language he barely used, anyways. He watched as Alexander went about his inspection. It seemed the giant was also knowledgeable on these matters. Then he made the suggestion that she had no magic circuits...

"Hrm." The Russian slowly and silently strolled up to the circle. He did another quick once over before stretching his hand out, and circling the rough shape.

"... Fill, fill, fill, fill, fill. Repeat five times, but destroy each when filled." He began, feeling the familiar flow of Prana. He looked over to Machiko, wondering if she wanted him to continue.
________________________________________________________________________________________________

"I can see it, Your gender, I mean. Being Master and all that."

"Hm. Good to know my life and skills are on display for anyone to see." Cassius said, a bit bitterly though with a sarcastic edge. She found that little ability... invasive, but not much she could do about it aside from eye removal. She noted his inability to look her in the eye. Seemed the cowardly and weak sort to her, and that wouldn't do in her ranks. His tone turned quite guarded as well, and he didn't even answer her final question.

"And yes, I'm Saber's Master."

She stuck her hand under his chin, forcing him to at least look at her face. She had to note just how much she was holding back to not accidentally snap his neck.

"We're to be allies, here. As such I think we should make a few things clear. Look me in the eye when I speak to you. Refer to me by name, not by title, even if the enemy have us surrounded." Cassius removed her hand and gave her usual wry smile,

"And please, if you need anything at all, ask. I'll see what I can do to help you. You've no need to truly fear me, I promise I will not kill you." She held out her hand for him to shake, to cement the truce.

"You seem to have been paired with an interesting magus, Saber. What's his name?"

"Hmm? Oh, him?" Saber replied, jerking a thumb over her shoulder in her Master's general direction. "Umm... Shoot, he told me his name, now what was it..."

Stroking her chin thoughtfully, the Servant tried to remember a few minutes back, when she and the boy had formed their pact. He had introduced himself formally, with his full name as she recalled, so she'd certainly heard it. It was just that she couldn't remember it off the top of her head.

"Well, this is awkward," she muttered, mostly to herself. Then, to Rider. "Mmmm-something Heller. Started with a M, I know that much. Mark maybe?"

The swordswoman didn't deign to comment on if she thought the boy was interesting or not. There was no need to take the conversation in that direction.

"And you seem to have quite the handful yourself, Rider," Saber commented, glancing over at Daria as the girl conversed with Lancer's Master. "Daria, right? Heh, looks like you're stuck with a bit of a live wire."


"Hm. Good to know my life and skills are on display for anyone to see."

It was all but impossible for Matt to miss the biting sarcasm in Assassin's words, but he was wise enough not to comment on it. It was just a part of the Holy Grail War, as intrinsic to the ritual as, well, the Grail itself. And a good thing it was; without such a tool, Masters would be demoted to mere batteries for their Servants.

The boy felt Assassin's eyes sweeping over him, analyzing him, judging him. Well, it wasn't like there was much he could do to stop her, or anyone else for that matter, not unless he was willing to just vacate the church. And that would hardly make for the best impression. No, for now the best course of action would simply be to avert his gaze and wait for Assassin to-

"Ghk!"

-Grab him by the chin and wrench his face around.

"We're to be allies, here," Assassin said plainly, much to the boy's chagrin. "As such I think we should make a few things clear. Look me in the eye when I speak to you. Refer to me by name, not by title, even if the enemy have us surrounded."

The instant the Servant let go of him, Matt retreated a few steps, and his glare was full of disbelief, fear, and just a bit of anger. What was he supposed to do in a situation like this?

The young man continued to glower at Assassin as she kept speaking. If she was reacting at all to his actions, she was doing a stupendous job of hiding it. "And please, if you need anything at all, ask. I'll see what I can do to help you. You've no need to truly fear me, I promise I will not kill you."

"Well, that's good to hear," Matt muttered in reply, lowering his eyes once more. He didn't want to keep looking at Assassin, not until he could keep the worry and ire out of his gaze. "So I guess it's true that we're all on the same team. Good, I was almost certain you were going to tear my head off there."

Damn. Apparently he was still too off-balance to keep his voice level. He had to fix that before he made the situation even worse.

"The legate Cassius, right?" the youth finally continued, his words empty and devoid of emotion. "Can't say I'm too familiar with Roman history myself, but I take it your full name shouldn't be too hard to find. I'll try to use it from now on."

A lie. Completely and utterly false. He didn't care what kind of an egomaniac decided to simply upend the advantages of the class-system simply because she didn't like being referred to by a title, but Matt refused to be the one to reveal one of his "ally"'s identities to the other faction. Once they were out in public, he had no intent of ever calling her anything but Assassin.

Of course, she didn't need to know that just yet.

Reaching forward, Matt took Assassin's proffered hand, shaking it a few times before letting go. "And as for requests," he simply continued, his voice artificially calm.

Don't go around revealing your identity to anyone and everyone with ears.

Don't sneak up on me, or anyone else on the team for that matter, like that.

Don't you ever touch me like that again.

"I don't have any. Please, just act as you see fit."

"You're welc-"

"Think nothing of it. And 'Archer' will do when referring to my Servant."

"[It's no problem, truly.]"

Machiko nodded quickly in response to all three men, noting the name of the first Servant she had ever met. So that was the great knight Archer? She supposed that Saber would be the knight to cut that classic manly figure atop a hill rather than the lither and more agile Lancer and Archer classes, but even still she was starting to notice that this particular Servant wasn't as blindingly majestic as she had imagined them to be. Her mouth screwed itself a little at the realization, now speculating upon how much of reality was going to bog down the epic grandeur she imagined the heroes reborn to have.

"Hrm... shaky construction, and a few of these symbols here are meaningless. I believe you were trying to use an archaic version of 'gate', but you've forgotten a piece of the rune. It's just gibberish as is."

The schoolgirl looked a little more relaxed as Alexander went over the construction of her circle. This was her element, the role of a student, and she played the part immaculately. Every word Alexander said was absorbed like a sponge by the teenager as she listened intently, hanging onto them like precious gems. Nodding adamantly a few extra times, she even had the confidence to respond back to the behemoth mage.

"The gate symbol might be a bit older but it was said to be a much more stable grounding rune," she piped in with the tone, presence and stature of a professor. "You might be remarking the sequencing line to the focus being poorly executed..." Suddenly that presence of mind slipped away as Machiko bashfully looked towards the ground, fiddling with her skirt. "...I'm a poor artist."

It would be the comments to come from Alexander that would fill the girl with absolute dread.

"Be that as it may... The Grail is responsible for the summoning, not the Master. So long as you have a stable circle - and yours is sufficient, albeit rough - all that is necessary is to perform the ritual, and supply prana to your Servant. It shouldn't be failing like it is. It seems impossible to think, but... Young Miss, do you possess a magic circuit at all?"

"I-I-I..."

This was it - they both knew. All Machiko could do was stammer out the same sorry letter, trying to conjure up some sort of plausible excuse as to why she was having trouble casting spells. But there wasn't one, simply the hard truth and it was that she couldn't. She hadn't been born with circuits, the vital network of ethereal connections to channel prana through her body. Her lineage was mundane, as muddled and plain as a commoner's could be. She had no idea what would become of her now, knowing secrets that she had no right to bare.

"Hrm."

Yuri seemed to have other plans, already heading towards the summoning circle she had crudely drawn on the floor. He inspected it with the scrutiny of a veteran detective, tracing over each line with his eyes. She could tell just by his movements that he disapproved of the handiwork but agreeing with Alexander's original statement of it being serviceable enough. As he rounded the blood stain pattern a second time he outstretched his hand, muttering to himself words that brought about the most revile sense she had ever experienced, as if each one was some perverted form of their former selves.

"...Fill, fill, fill, fill, fill. Repeat five times, but destroy each when filled."

"NO!!!"

With an uncanny speed the young woman dashed at Yuri and tore his hand away from the spell circle and tossed it back to his side. Before she knew it she was standing in front of him, breathless and confused at her sudden reaction. The young man seemed just as puzzled for a moment before nodding awkwardly and backing up a step to create some room between the two. Machiko could only stare straight ahead, almost horrified with herself as her arms closed in on her chest, becoming very guarded. As her eyes finally tore themselves away from the man, her pained look was cast to her side. She wasn't sure what had come over her but that longing inside her heart, to be a Master in the Holy Grail War, was far too powerful a force to let another magus steal her Servant away.

"I just... No..." she finally said, shaking her head for emphasis in response to Alexander's question.

"Did she...?"

Diana looked away, seeming to be holding back tears. "We don't know." She shook her head, trying to dispel such unpleasant thoughts - such things could only be a distraction. She had to be strong, if only for her brother. "In any case, it's nice to meet you. He'd never admit it himself, but Clay speaks highly of Dirk, so I hope you are as skilled."

Lancer, seeming to grow bored with pacing about the chapel, then rushed over to Diana's side. "So, you're Rider's Master, eh?" His face was mere inches from Daria's, looking her over with a blank expression. "You don't look anything special." He concluded, before leaping back with a cackle. "And that makes it all the more interesting! I wonder how long it'll be before you get yourself killed!"

"I just... No..."

Alexander leaned back from her a bit, nodding. "I see." He was silent and let the thought linger in his mind, fresh for a moment longer. A girl with no magic circuit, attempting magecraft of such a high caliber. In theory, any magi would be able to perform the ritual, but at least a pittance of innate talent was still necessary. This girl lacked even that. An anomaly, he might say. Someone with no right to know of magic, yet still attempted it. Academic questions cropped up, questioning what might occur if she attempted the more accessible, ritual-based magecraft that witches and the like once preferred. Alexander set them aside to ponder another time, as the current conundrum demanded his attention. He got down on one knee and came eye level with Machiko. He spoke to her in a firm, but friendly tone.

"There's no need to be so defensive. The fact of the matter is, if you have no magic circuit, then you are incapable of magecraft. No matter how perfect you make your summoning ritual, it will never work. You simply lack the fuel it needs to run."

Carefully, he placed one hand above her circle.

"That means if you're going to summon your Servant, you'll need to borrow prana from one of us. I can supply the ritual with the amount it needs, if you wish. But you'll still need to recite the aria."


"Daria, right? Heh, looks like you're stuck with a bit of a live wire."

"That's certainly one way to put it," Rider said with a nervous chuckle. Right now, his Master seemed to be busy alienating the others through an astounding lack of social skills. And unlike his last companion, she lacked the natural charisma to make up for her inability or unwillingness to read social cues. Rider crossed his arms, and his face straightened up. "Still though, I think her heart's in the right place. I'm looking forward to seeing what she can do." He smiled, completely earnest in his expectations. A moment passed, and his eyes drifted towards Saber again, lingering for a moment until she caught him looking.

"Erp--" his face reddened, and he turned away. "Sorry! It's just, I've never seen a woman as tall as you! Do you have giant's blood, or maybe a demigod's?"

It was tough keeping himself on his feet when she pushed him, but he managed. It took a bit to regain balance, and back up for her as well. She was very shy, it would seem.

"I just... No..."

"[Yes. That would be the problem.]" Yuri tried to look her in the eyes with his usual blank expression, but gave up and looked back to the circle. Having a normal person in their ranks seemed more trouble than it was worth, but this one might have some talent. Normal people shouldn't have even known of the war...

"[Hm. Assuming you can handle the war... I can-]"

"That means if you're going to summon your Servant, you'll need to borrow prana from one of us. I can supply the ritual with the amount it needs, if you wish. But you'll still need to recite the aria."

"[Yes. That one.]" Yuri said with a smile. "I believe both of us can supply a second servant, Alexander, though don't you plan to use Archer here? I have no idea if Cassius will ever be forced into combat, but an Archer can be useful."
________________________________________________________________________________________________

"I don't have any. Please, just act as you see fit."

"If you could assert yourself just once, I think you'd find it liberating." Cassius deadpanned, before simply shrugging and moving on. She decided to go talk to the other so called Servants, to see if any of them were worth writing home about. The tall woman was saber, he remembered, and the hairy one of her stature was Rider.

"Sorry! It's just, I've never seen a woman as tall as you! Do you have giant's blood, or maybe a demigod's?"

"I can only hope no one here is arrogant enough to think themselves a god of me..." She muttered, more to herself than anyone else. She looked up and smiled warmly at the two, "Hello you two."

"Still though, I think her heart's in the right place. I'm looking forward to seeing what she can do."

"Mmmmm," Saber grunted in reply, keeping her tone vague and neutral. While she could certainly appreciate Rider's sentiment, she couldn't exactly sympathize with it herself. It wasn't that she was unsatisfied with the boy who'd summoned her (though, going by first impressions and her instincts, he was a far cry from impressive). No, he'd done his job admirably, drawing her here and providing her with a host. But that was really all she needed from him; all he had to do now was just sit back and let her do her job.

Her job, for the record, consisted of thoroughly crushing any foe that might try to stand between her and the Grail.

The swordswoman was shaken from her brief reverie by Rider's sidelong glances. A little awkwardly, she cleared her throat, hoping to break the silence.

"Erp-- Sorry! It's just, I've never seen a woman as tall as you! Do you have giant's blood, or maybe a demigod's?"

"Eh?" Caught off guard, Saber could only stare, bewildered, at Rider's reddening face for a moment. "...Heh." Then, as a smile stretched across her face, she began to laugh. "Hehe, jeez, haven't heard that one before! Sorry to disappoint, Rider, but my blood's nothing special. I'm pureblooded human through and through, nothing but ordinary flesh and blood!"

Chuckling, the knight clapped an open palm into Rider's back, wordlessly telling him to calm down a bit. "But if I'm the biggest girl you've ever seen... Heh, I'm guessing you haven't gotten around too much.

"But speaking of blood." Saber ran an eye up and down Rider's slim frame, noting his perfectly sculpted looks, blood-red eyes, and snow white hair. On their own, his features wouldn't have been too suspicious, but when combined, "...It's probably safe to guess that you're a bit more than human yourself, eh?"

"Hello you two."

"Hmmm?" Turning her head, the warrior noted Assassin's sudden appearance. Jeez, the Servant had gotten this close without her noticing? Apparently her class-title wasn't just for show. "Ah, Assassin. Hey yourself."


"If you could assert yourself just once, I think you'd find it liberating."

...What did she just say?

Matt could feel his already unsteady grip on his emotions shredding more and more with each passing second. It took every ounce of his not inconsiderable self-control to keep his face expressionless as Assassin waltzed away, and even then he was unable to keep a slight tremor from running through his hands.

But he refused to lose control completely. Not here, not now, not ever.

Yes, he was terrified. Yes, the simple fact that a Servant had talked to him was enough to set his body trembling. Yes, he was unbelievably far out of his depth.

But none of that mattered. He was a Heller magus, dammit, and he would conduct himself with all the poise and ceremony that his position demanded.

He could not afford to disgrace his family in this Holy Grail War. Surely death would be preferable to that.

So, instead of running outside in a panic, Matt reached back into his pocket, his still slightly shaking hand wrapping itself around his notebook. Instead of professing his desire to immediately forfeit the War, he flipped the notebook back open to Berserker's page.

And he kept writing.

"Hmph."

Yi sat down on one of the pews. Most of the others had rushed towards the commotion. Far too many in her opinion. One seemed enough for the problem, after all. Then again, there really much to do here in the church, apart from waiting for the priest to finally arrive and announce the start this Grail War. That was how it worked right? At least, she knew that much. Here Yi was standing beside magi that probably had spent years preparing for this moment - no doubt the other team had as well. Nevertheless, after the, as Berserker had put it, 'team deathmatch' who would get the Grail? Regardless, that was hardly the question to be asked at this point in time. She would cross that bridge when she came to it.

Berseker, on the other hand, remain standing. He had been busy walking about and scratching that scraggly beard of his around and at the boy who kept writing stuff down? What for? A Servant he assumed to be Assassin had been talking to him. Whoever that was seemed to think highly of themselves. From the looks of the Servant, he couldn't make out whether it was a man or woman. He decided to assume Assassin was a boy of some sort, from his appearance and his voice. This led to another question: what sort of kid would murder so easily. However, with his deeds, Berserker probably wasn't the person to ask that particular question. His approach wasn't nearly as silent as Assassin's. He stood over the shoulder of the boy whose head was buried in a notebook.

"What are you writing there, kid?" He asked.

What with his prodigious bulk and "interesting" fashion choices, it was a little hard not to notice Berserker as he wandered around the church. Even if he hadn't been recording the hairy behemoth's stats at the moment, it would have been all but impossible for Matt to miss the Servant's approach.

"What are you writing there, kid?"

"I... It's just a record of the basic stats of you and the other Servants," the boy mechanically intoned, adjusting his grip on the notebook to make it easier for Berserker to read. It seemed that the youth was actually willing to carry on a conversation, so long as his potential partner didn't try to startle the daylights out of him. "As of now, it's not much more than class titles and skills, details like gender, height, and weight, and parameters. I don't know any of your identities, so that's all the information I can see at the moment.

"Honestly, I doubt that I'm going to keep it. It'd probably be safest to just destroy the notes once I finish writing them, before we even leave the church tonight. But writing things down helps me to remember them better, and I believe that knowledge like this is going to be pretty critical later on."

Finishing his notes on Berserker's Luck, Matt flicked the notebook closed. Assassin, Lancer, Rider, and Berserker. Four of the seven, six not counting Saber. Neither Archer nor Caster had made an appearance, but their Masters should be here tonight... Perhaps they were just running late.

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