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Today was going to be your first day at collegiate-level classes. You've made your way into an exclusive academy, and your father, who has worked himself to the bone to give you, his beloved daughter, the opportunity, has been showering you with gifts and praise ever since you got accepted. He really does care about you beyond your performance, but in the past he was light on money and gifts to keep you frugal, so this is a nice change of pace. Indeed, it's one of the most exclusive academies in the world- the Clock Tower, a place of power for the Mage's Association. To you, it serves as a way for your family to regain their long-since-lost influence, and regain some of your forgotten Magecraft.

Carrying in your hands a letter from your father to bring to McDonell Trambelio Elrod, a man from the powerful Trambelio family you branch off of, you're suddenly picked out of a crowd by a strange girl, pulled along as if she had the pressing need to do so. Despite your initial protests, you went along with it after finding out who was pulling you along: Olga Marie Animusphere, the Astromancy head's daughter. Making sure to keep the letter for safety, you tried not to make her too angry after forcing her to let go of your arm and letting you walk normally. No matter how powerful she is, she can't just persist in violating your personal space.

The more you follow her, the more tense you get, but she seems to be putting on a strong face. If you or she had been a man, you probably wouldn't go along with it, just because of what it would look like to strangers. Several flights of stairs later, you step into a dark cavern with five other figures present, lit only by a series of nearby candles.

"How can this be taking as long as it is?" she sputters impotently, tapping her foot. "I even brought along this dead weight, so hurry it up!" That hurts your feelings. If you're dead weight, why did she bring you along in the first place? Did someone else ask for you? You have half a mind to show her the letter just to make her realize you're not dead weight, but you get the feeling she would tear it up on a whim to prove she could get away with it.

"No need to rush, I've got experience with this sort of thing." Using expensive-looking chalk to drawing detailed summoning circles inscribed within a single greater circuit, he smoothly turns curves with detail any artist would be proud of, and smiles accordingly. "Rather than one summoning circle, this is seven circles with one overarching matrix. It's only due to my ability that I can do this at all."

"No need to brag," Olga turns away bitterly. What's her deal? She may be naturally beautiful, but her disposition and behavior towards you makes her seem like a real brat. Maybe that comes with the territory of being a direct inheritor to a major legacy, but you wouldn't know. To you, she just seems like a girl from a television show who tries too hard to be the student council president.
>>
"The circle will function as intended," another woman re-assures the girl that dragged you into the belly of the Clock Tower. Ooh, her hair is nice. Braided perfectly. If you grow yours out long you've got to try that sometime- just once, though, it seems like a pain to maintain. "However, it will be up to us to ensure the Grail War ends in our favor." You're not entirely sure what that means, but it sounds dangerous.

"To create a Grail War underneath the Clock Tower… How…" The pale-haired Marie nearly bursts a vessel containing her rage, throwing her arms out to the side. "How insolent! Who do those nobodies think they are?"

"You need to calm down," a tall, handsome man opposite her says firmly. "Mr. Woods is working as quickly as he can." He's just over six feet tall with long blonde hair- most women would date him even if he weren't a genius mage, you're sure. Based on their interactions, you immediately read into a connection. They don't look related… Are they friends? Lovers? Olga narrows her eyes at him with a contained jealousy that indicates they share some kind of a familial or competitive relationship. The plot thickens!

Soon, the circle is complete, with seven summoning circles enclosing a single smaller center, which is itself emblazed with a different image- a laurel crescent surrounding a crescent moon out of which a wave flows. Quite elaborate, and you can't read into what most of the other symbols mean in the dark.

"Well done," one of the other men says, nodding. A glasses-wearing fellow, he wears a coat evocative of a doctor. "We can begin now, I think." Two women and four men around the circle, not including you.

Woods suddenly brings a finger to his lips, as if he's trying to remember something. A slightly tan, ethnically ambiguous young man with brown hair and brown eyes, he seems like the kind of individual that would be selected as a sidekick. You make a mental note to limit your reference to cliches when meeting new people. He turns around, caught up in thought.

Doctor starts inspecting the circle again, detecting that something is off about the situation. "I don't see any issues. Is there something wrong?" he asks the sigil-drawer.

The braided-haired girl reassures him, "I've verified it myself, he's not trying to pull a fast one. This will work."

"I say it's this girl," Olga points at you. "We can't just pull strangers into this battle as if it's nothing." She prepares to walk off, and dismisses you, as if dragging you half a mile without asking wasn't bad enough. "Go. I'll get someone else."

"No, please." Blinking his eyes clear, Woods puts on an apologetic expression. "I... I was just trying to double check my work. This woman, Miss Klein... She's essential to this."

"Your instinct and my calculations finally agree on something," comes a curious reply from the woman who verified his circle. Is she hostile or friendly to him? These people are really odd.
>>
>"So you knew I was coming, then?"
>"...Thanks? I think?"
>"This is the second most bizzare hazing I've ever undergone."
>"I'll help, on the condition I get to punch Olga once."
>"Do I need to do anything special, or do I just stand on the outside of the circle and wiggle my fingers?"
>[Write-In]
>>
>>5312019
>"...Thanks? I think?"
>>
>>5312018
>"...Thanks? I think?"
>>
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>>5312069
>>5312077
"...Thanks? I think?"

Olga continues to offhandedly dismiss you. "With any luck, this will be settled almost immediately, and you'll be back in your dormitory watching television and eating crisps and whatever else you want to waste your time with. You're an extra body, so don't get in the way."

"What she means is that she doesn't want you to get hurt." Mister Sidekick butts into the conversation on purpose. "You're our best candidate under this notice, but you don't have our respective responsibilities, so please, be careful. Miss Olga does her best to seem harsh, but she actually just tries really hard." Woods's statement and his expression tell you that he's not only correct, but that he enjoys teasing Animusphere, who obviously sees herself as the leader of the band.

Her eyes close and she tenses up her jaw. When she re-opens them, she is apologetic for a mere half-second before turning and stepping in front of one of the sigils. "She doesn't need to understand anything as of yet, so shut your mouth."

The woman with braided hair addresses you with careful consideration. "I don't know why specifically you are a stand-out candidate, but among those available, the conclusion was the same every time. Just keep your wits about you."

"I'm not a killer myself," the doctor says, obviously concerned that you don't like the sound of a war. "If the two of us stay together, the seasoned fighters will settle this safely." He moves to a table in the dark and fumbles with a series of coffee cans. "Sorry, this is all we could supply given the dire speed of it. We should introduce ourselves over coffee."

"After the summoning!" Olga barks, stopping in front of a circle around the summoning area and pointing to you. "Select a circle and stand by it. Don't do anything, or you may mess it up. Wodime, I'm trusting you to cast this properly."

"Of course." the tall blond man is the one to reply. As ordered, the remaining mages circle up and expect you to do the same. Still, this seems like something too advanced for your tastes. You came here to study, but… this almost seems like too much, too quickly. How are you going to explain to your father that on the first day of school you fought in a magic war?

Still, you place yourself in front of a circle. After everyone assembles, you hear Wodime speak rapidly, and the air in front of you heats up. All of the lines that Woods drew in chalk turn a brilliant blue and it seems to burn the mineral up. When you close your eyes, you see afterimages… All of the other mages seem comfortable with this, but you've never participated in such an act... Is this really safe?

The glowing images seem to whisper to you, strangely.

>Stay exactly where you are, focusing on nothing but how to keep your composure.
>Step into the circle. You need to answer that call.
>Study the sigil, now that it's lit up and visible to you.
>Step away... this has to be some sort of nightmare!
> [Write-In]
>>
>>5312104
>Step into the circle. You need to answer that call.
>>
>>5312129
Step into the circle. You need to answer that call.
When you hear the siren call of whatever's in the circle, you instinctively respond. There's just something... Inexplicably luring about whatever's causing it to draw you in. You walk over the mystic lines, but Wodime is too caught up in his casting to notice. Olga Marie, who has her eyes open, yells at you, but you can't hear her over the roar of Magecraft. Out of one of the circles, the one that draws you to it, reaches an elongated arm with claws and a hairy palm. Despite the unusual appearance of the hand, and the sharp nails that extend from the fingertips, you don't feel alarmed... It's kind of nice. But after another moment, you're blinded by the light reaching its grand culmination and thrown back from the circle, your skirt flipping up for a second before you're pushed further across the floor. Thankfully, it's not a hard fall, so you can straighten out your clothing with minimal embarrassment.

"You idiot!" Olga screams. "What the hell were you thinking?" As she steps up, she feels a hand on her shoulder and turns to see a very, very tall knight with red hair. Suddenly, all that anger of hers goes away in the presence of such a charismatic man.

Thankfully, whatever you did doesn't seem to have prevented the summoning. Each magus has some sort of summoned figure next to them, yourself included. The being standing next to you is a man... A man with his face covered except for his nose, eyes, and mouth by a mask so tightly bound to his face you mistake it for horrible disfigurement at first. His clothes are those of nobility, but he's bound hand and foot with manacles and his clothing is dirty.

"Rider..." he says raggedly, looking down, and sighs. "My name is... Phillipe. There's no use in me hiding my True Name... I am the Man in the Iron Mask, body double of the Sun King... Promised his place, but returned to my rightful position in despair." He sighs and looks at you regretfully. "I am of no use to the likes of a Holy Grail War... My only victory was short-lived, and came at the hands of a more cunning man than I. I am a Rider because I have no heroic feats other than sitting on a throne on behalf of another, and that surrounding people wondering who it is I am." That would be the character from Dumas's D’Artagnan romances, who is as he says he is. The story doesn't end happily for him, as you recall. Rather than some sort of movie happy ending, he returns to his cell more restrained than before.

Rather than make some sort of jibe about your summoned ally being as worthless as you, Olga Marie is struck by quiet. It seems even she has a limit to her vitrol.

>"You've endured too much to call yourself useless."
>"I'm sorry, I must have ruined your summoning."
>Look pointedly at Marie. "Hm. It seems we have uselessness in common."
>Check the other summoned spirits to buy time to think of a response.
>[Write-In]
>>
>>5312233
>There's no use in me hiding my True Name... I am the Man in the Iron Mask, body double of the Sun King... Promised his place, but returned to my rightful position in despair

FUCK YES! That's rad!

>"You've endured too much to call yourself useless."
>>
>>5312233
>"You've endured too much to call yourself useless."
>>
>>5312252
>>5312261
"You've endured too much to call yourself useless."

You find this new summoned ally incredibly intriguing, and comfortingly step forward, declaring that you'll find some way to use his abilities to the fullest extent. You've summoned a fictional hero, and even if he seems a bit moody, this is exciting to you. Phillipe, seeing your enthusiasm, is somewhat embarassed and looks down, but is happy to be considered so valuable despite his opinion of himself.

The mood is promptly ruined by the man who has not spoken yet, stepping forward and yelling at Woods. "What the hell is this?" he points to his summoned Servant, who is a small-looking girl with a burnt-out gaze. "I asked for a Berserker, not a fucking orphan!" He grabs Woods by the collar and prepares to lift him. "Fix this shit!"

The child mumbles, holding out matchsticks like the girl from the Anderson story, murmuring to no-one in particular. Rider is shocked, standing mouth agape for a second. "W-What kind of war is this? A child is expected to fight?"

"My, my..." A cloaked woman passes by Woods and the other man, picking up the girl and cradling her like a mother would a child. She faces the man who's threatening Woods and spits hatefully, "What a horrible man you are, hm? Your first reaction to seeing a desperate child is disgust? You don't deserve to have her, give your spells to someone else and die screaming." The what-is-presumed-to-be-Berserker leans into the woman's grasp and begins sleeping quietly.

"Calm yourselves!" barks someone else. From behind Wodime approaches a man with a stave and some kind of tablet. He radiates power and focus, even more so than Olga's aide. "This was the natural outcome of the spell that was cast. You called heroes, did you not? The Throne of Heroes has responded appropriately. It is your duty, in turn, to make use of what you have been given. I will not allow you to toss aside your Servants like so much refuse."

Two other heroes are present, a past-middle-age Persian with a bow and a menacing-looking fellow in European nobleman's garb.

"So this is a Servant..." Wodime stares at the man who has responded to his call with awe.

Woods brushes off the grip of Berserker's Master with disdain. "The only way I could properly summon reserve Servants this late was to make the newly summoned spirits proximate Saint Graphs." While he was playing around before, face to face with this other man he's all business. "In other words, these Servants are similar to the Servants that have already been summoned by the Grail. Luckily, the others are fighting each other."

"Indeed. It would serve your interests not to fall to infighting as well," the magician-Servant nods.

>"So there's an exact duplicate of Rider, but an enemy?"
>"Who are you? You seem familiar."
>"See, Rider? There's no way you're useless."
>"Maybe we should have everyone identify themselves? That would help planning."
>[Write-In]
>>
>>5312288
>>"Who are you? You seem familiar."
>>
>>5312288
>>"Who are you? You seem familiar."
>>
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>>5312316
>>5312375
"Who are you? You seem familiar."

This caster-type Servant is only partly displeased you don't recognize him immediately. "Hm. It has been some time since I last walked the Earth, so I shall forgive it, just this once. Pay attention, for I shall not repeat it- I am Gilgamesh, Lord of Uruk, Supreme Wise King, the one who has seen everything!" Every mage in the room pales at that, and even Berserker's Master goes unsteady for a second. "That you were able to summon me at all shows great merit, so I will provide my guidance to the utmost extent possible!" He immediately turns around and demands of Wodime, "I shall need as much material as you can provide for the sake of Territory Creation, and will not take no for an answer, for within the walls I make, the people have absolute security from my enemies!"

"The very first hero of human record..." Olga says, and immediately jealousy covers her face, seeing that such a Servant is Wodime's 'familiar'. She moves to correct this immediately, by placing herself in front of the great Caster. "King Gilgamesh, I am in command of this group. I will do as you say- while Wodime is certainly a capable magus, the resources of the Animusphere family would be mine to provide." She also can't help but be intimidated by him physically, since he is, well, shirtless and cut, not to mention a powerful king.

"Hm," Gilgamesh raises an eyebrow, not convinced that she's taking the correct course. "But don't you have your own Servant to command? He is a ruler as well, by his bearing. That sword of his is proof of his kingship- I have it within my vast treasury, so I know its nature. Yes, I think you would be better suited to lead in battle. Fear not, you will always have the chance to return, for my city is prosperity itself!" His boasting is a bit much, but given that it's Gilgamesh, he can probably back it up completely.

"You see clearly," the man by Olga's side nods in response to the King of Heroes' statement, holding up a sheathed blade. "Too well, unfortunately for me."

"Hmph." Gilgamesh considers him for a second and speaks to Marie again. "Until you can learn to trust that man, you cannot unlock his powers. Take the example of Miss Klein and her Rider- Phillipe, was it?"

Rider nods immediately, afraid of angering such a powerful hero.

"Exactly the same. She trusted him immediately for good cause, so she will be able to draw out his full strength. Trust in your people, or you shall fail as a ruler. If you cannot trust them, it is because you have not made a land worth trusting within."

(1/2)
>>
(2/2)

"We have quite a few kings and princes, it seems," the lance-bearing warrior says, still somewhat blunted by Gilgamesh's flamboyant declaration. "While we are introducing ourselves, I am Vlad Tepes the Third, defender of my home."

"Sion Eltnam Sokaris," his Master says, the girl with the braided hair. "I have come to prevent something I have foreseen."

"I am Rostam, son of Zal and grandson of Sam," the Persian archer raises his bow. He is quite aged and experienced, seasoned of war, with sad eyes. "I have seen much tragedy in my life, and know better than to cause more with undue need- I have done enough foolishness out of pride. May God lead us to victory over evil and treachery." He is standing by the doctor, and Vlad regards him cautiously.

"Doctor Twice Pieceman," the doctor says, tenting his fingers. "I am not suited for this, but I can assist in the case any of you are harmed."

"Assassin," the shrouded woman says, petting Berserker's hair. "You may call me Medea."

Gilgamesh frowns, and her Master gets a disbelieving expression as well, but goes back to his playful self. "In that case, Princess, we shall do well as a pair. I am Samuel L. Woods, an Executor of the Church. I'm not here to kill any of you, just to make sure the relic of holy blood isn't abused." Executors kill rogue mages and supernatural enemies of the Church, and are allowed to perform nearly any atrocity in the process, even heresy, so even hearing that makes you go on edge.

"If Berserker won't give her name, neither shall I," the Master of Berserker says, but Wodime informs you anyway.

"Daybit..." he requests. "Please don't make this harder than it has to be."

"I will not reveal my identity either," the swordsman says. "You may call me Saber."

Gilgamesh is disappointed, but not terribly surprised. Even under such harsh conditions, magus tended to be paranoid and selfish. Worse yet, with an Executor in the mix, he could turn on you at any time.

You turn over your hand to see three squares inscribed within each other, one on diagonals and the inner and outer square parallel. "Those are Command Spells," Gilgamesh says. "Spend them wisely."

>"Do we have an initial target? I assume get the Holy Grail, wherever it is?"
>"Mister-uh-Lord Gilgamesh, can't you just tell us everyone's name?"
>"Saber, why would you decide to hide your identity? It can't be that shameful. You're not an Assassin."
>"Now that I'm a 'Master', what can I do with these magical markings?"
>[Write-In]
>>
>>5312428
>"Now that I'm a 'Master', what can I do with these magical markings?"
>>
>>5312428
>"Now that I'm a 'Master', what can I do with these magical markings?"
>>
>>5312428
>Now that I'm a 'Master', what can I do with these magical markings?"
>>
>>5312476
>>5312551
>>5312587
"Now that I'm a 'Master', what can I do with these magical markings?"

"Those Command Spells are among the highest grade of Magecraft, allowing you to empower, summon, or command even such powerful spirits as I- yes, even my glorious self. While certain commands odious to the Servant in question can be resisted or subverted due to ambiguity or going against a Servant's inherent nature, those that are most specific and least complex are the most effective. They cannot cure wounds, but they can knit them for a second, bring a Servant to peak fighting condition, and if you are alone, you may order your Servant to come to your aid. Speak the words aloud with intent, and the spell will be expended. You will most likely not obtain more, by any means. In any case, your Servant should respect you as their anchor to this world... but they may disagree with you, if you are being idiotic, or haughty, or disrespectful yourself. There are ways to change Masters, as well. Of course, someone as skilled as I is obviously able to do this."

The gravity of using such a precious and powerful resource is not lost on you. Three squares. Once they're gone, you're in peril, but not dead. And you confirm what you suspect, that it doesn't let you command anyone else's Servant, so Assassin won't take your orders unless you plead your case to her. You still can't see her face, but when you see her hands holding the sleeping Berserker, you notice she's wearing black gloves. Is she just a consummate assassin, or is her hidden appearance hiding some sort of distinguishing feature? You can see an easily-identified Servant as a weakness, and wonder if Saber is just trying to protect Marie from betrayal.

"A-Anyway," Olga says, "We need to scout out these other Servants, and coordinate the defeat of their Masters. Preferably alive, but-" she puts on a hard face. "-we can't assume they'll be willing to give up what the Grail can do. It's a source of functionally limitless mana, the sort of thing any developed mage dreams about."

"That's part of why I picked you," Woods tells you, as if he can't help explaining himself. "Even if you had a wish, you're not developed enough in Magecraft to achieve it, making you a safe bet. You also have a good heart, so there's that."

Boy, he seems to be going out of his way to piss people off, huh? Rider glares daggers at him, obviously not convinced by the backhanded flattery.

Sion, being one of the other ladies here, reassures you, "While he didn't say it, you also have good Master affinity for a magus of your power. Despite his opinion, you weren't selected because you wouldn't know how to betray everyone else. As of now, you're one of us, and have a say in our decisions."

>"Thanks, Sion. Want to form a group?"
>"Frankly, I don't give a damn what he thinks."
>"Rider and Twice seem like the soft-hearted kind of person too."
>"He's cute, so I'll let him get away with it this time."
>[Write-In]
>>
>>5313106
>"Thanks, Sion. So, what's the plan? Are we setting up hunting patrol teams? Or staging fake fight between us to lure some of those other Servants and ambush them as a full group? If this war that important we need to act quick while we have element of surprise on our side."
>>
>>5313147
>+1
>>
>>5313147
>>5313229
"Thanks, Sion. So, what's the plan? Are we setting up hunting patrol teams? Or staging fake fight between us to lure some of those other Servants and ambush them as a full group? If this war that important we need to act quick while we have element of surprise on our side."
Sion is elated you're taking this seriously, and puts on her glasses. "Indeed, that would be for the best. Based on the fact that all of these Servants are alternates of the remaining Servants, it would probably be for the best that we eliminate their Assassin, Caster, and the opposing Gilgamesh first, or convince them to eliminate each other. The Berserker will either be the most or least dangerous, depending on who summoned it and how effective they are at utilizing the class. To minimize deaths of enemy Masters, Assassin will likely need to be the first to go, but to minimize deaths overall, we need to know more about our enemies."

"Which is why I'm asking for a scouting group," Olga Marie sighs. "Well, if someone summoned Gilgamesh, they probably wouldn't make him an Assassin or another Caster. He would almost certainly be a Knight-Class Servant, or very possibly a Rider."

"Lord Gilgamesh," Caster corrects Animusphere.

Rostam speaks next. "My steed Rakhsh was a fine companion and was capable of killing a lion without my aide. Clearly, this summoning was hasty, because any summoner who would not choose to make me a Rider if able is a fool."

"Even with this kind of information, too much is left to ambiguity," Vlad declares. "Three of our band have not identified themselves, so we must go into the field to learn of their counterparts. I would not suggest pretending infighting at this junction," he says, looking pointedly at Assassin's Master. Woods is nonplussed, but does not comment.

"Lord Gilgamesh and I will construct a stronghold, as he suggests. Since Tepes was known for being a stalwart defender of his homeland, I would request he stays until the construction is complete." That seems to be amicable to Sion.

"Okay," Olga says, trying to steer the course of the discussion again, "Saber is one of the stronger classes attribute-wise, so I'll lead one party. For coverage, we will need range, but if I am in the group with Archer, that leaves our team lopsided. Yes, you would have three Servants, but only Rider has identified himself."

Twice opposes this distribution for different reasons. "I will guard the construction with Rostam. If I must injure, it must be in defense of others. These scouting parties will inevitably initiate combat instead of prevent it." Under that setup, either Rider, Berserker, or Assassin would be assigned to fight beside Saber, with the other group having Lancer.

>"Rider, we're going with Olga and Saber."
>"I think I would be best suited to group with Sion and Lancer."
>"Doctor, can we convince you to change your mind?"
>"I don't much like the idea of fighting either, to be frank."
>[Write-In]
>>
>>5313542
>"I think I would be best suited to group with Sion and Lancer."
>>
>>5313542
>"I think I would be best suited to group with Sion and Lancer."
>>
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>>5313572
>>5313598
"I think I would be best suited to group with Sion and Lancer."
Sion nods. "That works well for me. Lancer, Rider, let's get along. We need to hurry up. Like Miss Klein said, we need to use the time advantage we have while we have it. As far as I know, someone could have already detected us."

"We're at your disposal, Lady Sokaris," Phillipe says, making Sion smile.

"Just Sion is fine, though if it makes you more comfortable, Miss Sokaris works. Anyway, that's the sort of thing you should say to your Master, isn't it?" She looks at you with a grin.

"You're right, of course," Rider nods, and Vlad looks at him with a curious expression.

The Frenchman and the Wallchalian exchange nonverbal signals as Berserker's Master takes his Servant from Assassin. You can see the group arguing, and Daybit storm off with the girl in tow, but right now Phillipe's eyes are what grab your attention. Some fear stirs within them, but deeper within, exhaustion. He seems so tired, and he hasn't even done anything. A thousand-yard stare. The shackles on his hands must be heavy, and you think of feeling some of the chains and weights he's held with. At the size of some of them, it's a miracle he can move at all. Vlad moves on, apparently disappointed in what he sees. Sion, not paying attention to this particular issue, speaks to Olga and leads you to 'get some supplies'.

As Lancer and his Master walk away, the fear disappears, but the exhaustion stays. When Rider sees you're looking at him, he hurries after Sion and Lancer. It seems the only thing he fears more than being threatened is you thinking ill of him.

(1/2)
>>
(2/2)
---

As you walk out of the British Museum, Rider brushes his mask where bandages have been put on top of it, to give the appearance that he is in the process of recovering from injury. His bindings have been mostly concealed, and he wears a large, comfortable-looking hoodie, but if you look very carefully you can still see flaws in the disguise.

"If anyone asks, we're friends on an outing to make Phillipe here feel better after his recovery from a car crash," Sokaris says, obviously enjoying just walking around. London's streets are kind of tight, but there's a level of 'homeliness' to it compared to other cities, due to the low building height in a lot of areas. There's cobble, for instance.

Wodime's wardrobe proved sufficient for Vlad but not for Saber, and you had to come back to return the Astromancy expert's key. Rider's outfit had to be bought wholesale, so it's mostly generic off-brand name material. The reason why the disguises are needed at all despite the ability to take spiritual form is in the case they happen to be spotted despite that. Too many people live in London to take any risks, was what Olga argued. Part of you wonders if she just wants to play dress-up.

"Clothing has improved considerably," Phillipe addresses Vlad, who is in formal wear suitable for a higher-end mage.

He doesn't seem terribly impressed himself, saying, "I am not here to enjoy myself, I'm afraid. If there is 'another me' here, I'm not going to sit around and wait for his machinations to hatch." That puts a damper on the mood, and Phillipe's expression.

There's a man in an alleyway nearby, smoking and sizing you all up. He seems like a London native, but has an insidiously threatening aura around him. As you pass, you instinctively tense up and keep your eyes on him, but he winks and lets you be. That guy stays looking at the sidewalk, and there's a long bag suitable for something like a golf club inside, which doesn't seem like the kind of thing a normal person carries around. Rider is put off by him, and after you pass you notice he's placed himself between you and any further alleyways.

>"What's your problem, Lancer? Rider hasn't done anything to you."
>"You notice that suspicious guy too, right, Sion?"
>"Lancer, you mean Dracula, don't you? The fictional character?"
>"Hey, Sion, that guy seems like a mugger. Can we kick his ass?"
> [Write-In]
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>>5313674
>"You notice that suspicious guy too, right, Sion?"
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>>5313674
>"You notice that suspicious guy too, right, Sion?"
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>>5313714
>>5313733
"You notice that suspicious guy too, right, Sion?"

She nods, but acts as if nothing were going on. "Yeah. There's about a 60% chance that we see that guy again in the very near future, based on the way he was behaving. It's almost certain that the thing he's carrying is a weapon. If he's involved in the War, he'll appear soon, but if he's not, we won't see him again."

Before you can reply, Rider grabs you and pulls you out of the way, moving fifteen meters in a second. It's a bit thrilling to be carried by someone so strong, but at the same time disorienting and mildly embarrassing, being picked up like a child. There's a sound like a thunderbolt striking where you were just standing a moment ago, and when the dust clears, there's that man again, standing in a crater of his own making.

The thug throws his cigarette on the ground and steps it out. "Well, look at the brains on this bird..." Whirling a two-meter spear like a baton, the strange man grins and blows out the remainder of the smoke in his lungs. "That got your attention, I bet. Apologies, I was told by my buddy that I needed to kill anyone else associated with the War, so long as they weren't part of our alliance. He didn't say how I had to do it, so I figured I'd give you a heads up instead of gutting one of you out of nowhere. After all, it's always a shame to kill pretty girls." He looks at Rider and Lancer and perks an eyebrow bemusedly. "Boy, but you've got some hideous beaus."

"L-Lancer?" Sion asks, stuttering due to the shock but getting back under control instantly.

"You've got it!" winks the blond man, but gets moody after remembering he's still under orders to kill you. "Geez, this is such a shame, you know? Maybe Gil wouldn't mind if I killed you later. You seem like the kinds of ladies he'd like to have on hand, so maybe if you came quietly he'd be okay with that?"

"There will be no such agreements," Vlad states definitively.

The other Lancer throws his open hand up. "Damn, okay old man. Trying to be reasonable about a murderfest doesn't go anywhere, it seems."

"If you're willing to give us your Class, then what about your True Name?" Sion asks, eyes moving rapidly to see if there's anyone else present. "You seem like the... Honorable sort?" She doesn't seem convinced herself, but it doesn't matter.

"You've got me pegged wrong, lady," the Lancer begins walking around you both. The effect is that of a cat stalking its prey. "Would you believe me if I said I was Lancelot?" He pulls a cigarette out of his pocket, and then a lighter, all without losing eye contact with Sion, even for a moment. It's unsettling how coordinated he is. Most people couldn't do that without extensive practice.

>"Okay, 'Lancelot', what would it take to let us go?"
>"So you're allied with Gilgamesh, then?"
>"Rider, I don't know how much you like fighting, but..." [Attack]
>"We'll go with you, or at least I will."
>[Write-In]
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>>5313759
>"So you're allied with Gilgamesh, then?"
>>
>>5313759
>"So you're allied with Gilgamesh, then?"
>>
>>5313759
>"So you're allied with Gilgamesh, then?"
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>>5313789
>>5313813
>>5313838
"So you're allied with Gilgamesh, then?"

The enemy takes a huge drag on his cigarette that burns through a good portion of its length, and nods. "That's right, quite perceptive. Our great lord Archer is the join or die type, and since I had just been summoned, I didn't feel like dying just yet. Besides, I make a good advisor, or at least I think so. So playing second fiddle doesn't bother me. Not to mention-" he takes the cigarette out of his mouth and rolls an idea around in his head. "Nah, I don't think Master would like me talking to you about her. She's a good kid, so if you could find a way to spare her at least, I'd like that."

"You're going to have to tell us more about her if you want that to happen," Sion says, lowering her guard only slightly. There's not a single person walking about in this area besides you, which seems a bit odd, but maybe it's just a slow time of day.

"You say that, but I'm the only one who's really been talking. How about you, huh?" 'Lancelot' looks over each of your Servants in turn. "We got a... Some kind of ruler, and a cripple? Or maybe somebody who was set on fire, because hot damn that's a lot of bandages." He takes a moment to look over you, and when Rider steps between you, he looks back at Sion.

Rider has been awfully taciturn ever since he was summoned, and you read into the possibility that he doesn't think he can handle the foe in front of him. It doesn't help that he's not holding a weapon, so someone who's naturally fearful of battle fighting someone far outside his range to answer blow for blow must be awful for him. It shows, because the enemy Lancer doesn't consider him a threat at all. Regardless, Phillipe will make sure that that man needs to go through him to get to you. That much you're sure of.

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(2/2)

"86...55...84?" the blond man ponders aloud, and Sion looks confused, before realizing something. "No... 83." Those sound like 3D coordinates, so you immediately palm your phone, but Vlad attacks before you can bother, a single massive thrust that's almost instantaneous from your perspective. 'Lancelot' dodges the blow with some effort and comes to a stop raising his off hand. "Woah now, better slow down before you bust a hip, old man." His amicability drops as he throws the cigarette at Vlad and backs off, taking his lance with both hands. "Maybe I should do it myself. But why would I..." As he backpedals, you feel the presence of dozens of men out of nowhere, surrounding you and Sion. "Enjoy my Noble Phantasm, ladies. I'll be back to pick up the pieces, assuming there's anything left."

"Dirty coward!" Vlad attempts to impale the enemy twice more, but in the process of retreat, this man is quite agile. He uses a window to toss himself onto the roof, flipping in the air landing on his feet in a superhuman feat of agility.

The enemy waves off this insult as if it means nothing to him. "Whatever. If you're really interested in fighting Gilgamesh," he crouches and lights another cigarette, "You'd better bring something nobody's ever seen before." With a mocking blown kiss to you, he withdraws, and Vlad comes back to defend Sion. These thugs are literally faceless goons, an uncanny effect. They seem to be able to see and hear properly, but there are no distinguishing features. It's like someone forgot to finish modeling them. There are at least thirty, all with clubs or knives and some even with holdout pistols, so it seems battle is inevitable.

>"Rider, just focus on protecting me! Vlad can handle these things."
>"We need to get out of here, there are too many!"
>"Rider, if you have some kind of 'Noble Phantasm', now would be the time!"
>"We can't let him get away! Break through and follow him!"
>[Write-In]
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>>5314031
>"We need to get out of here, there are too many!"
Gotta report back new clues
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>>5314031
>"We need to get out of here, there are too many!"
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>>5314031
>"We need to get out of here, there are too many!"
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>>5314065
>>5314078
>>5314186
"We need to get out of here, there are too many!"

"Not the case!" Vlad says, butchering three of them in one swing while parrying bullets from another two. Perhaps he really does have this in hand. As the enemies approach, he cuts them down, tossing one foe and then battering another with the butt of his spear. Even Rider, unassuming as he is, is able to ward off the foes with huge strikes. One blow from Phillipe causes the target enemy construct's chest to cave in, and the creation to blow into magical dust that dissipates entirely. A human being on the receiving end of such an attack would surely die, but the thugs aren't afraid, merely piling on and attempting to grab at you or shoot at you. One pistol shot is literally caught by Rider, astonishing even himself. He has a slight change in bearing after that, suggesting he's become slightly more confident.

After a moment's analysis, Sion takes your side for different reasons from yours. She declares, "We don't need a direct victory here- we need information. These constructs are obviously expendable, we shouldn't waste our time on them. Getting rid of them isn't worth the possibility they overwhelm us or our being pinned down makes us a target. This could just be a distraction, after all."

"Understood." Rider picks you up again without asking, putting you under his shoulder and bolting past a small gap in the pseudo-men, blowing one of them away as he escapes their encircling. "Apologies, Master, but your safety comes before your comfort." He lets you go, and guards you as you return to the Museum entrance, carefully keeping an eye out to make sure you're not followed. You don't feel the enemy Lancer's eyes on you, but why he would show up only to flee bugs you.

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When you return to the Astromancy building, there's an additional door you didn't notice previously. At first, you think you just forgot about it because of your unfamiliarity with the Department's layout, but when it opens, you're invited in by Wodime, who stands aside to let you in. A radiant blue center room is the stronghold of the construction, which defies the architecture it lies within. So this is the power of a Caster Servant? Reality warping rooms?

"This is based on a few blueprints Malisbury Animusphere had for an organization known as Finis Chaldea, which he attempted to... No, it would take too long to explain. The important part is that this is the rekindled flame of my mentor's ambitions," Kirschtaria says, pondering a holograph display. "Lord Gilgamesh has exceeded any possible expectation I could have asked for. There are individual rooms for each Master, concealed within this special construct, accessible through doors that are available to those permitted to enter. Each one is created to reflect the psyche of the individual within, and meet their needs. It's a marvel even for an unbelievable situation like this. If not winning this war was an option, I would suggest staying here the whole time, in order to ride out the storm."

"While I'm certain you're excited, one scouting party has come back," Sion declares. "We know that the enemy has an alliance of at least two Servants. The way he was speaking, I would expect no less than three to be participant, and at least one of them is the enemy Gilgamesh, who is an Archer, it seems. If he's anywhere near as capable as your Servant, we have our work cut out for us."

"That alliance will fall apart as quickly as it formed," Wodime seems certain of this. "Based on what Caster has told me, his younger self, while more powerful, is incomprehensibly arrogant."

>"Maybe so, but that's no reason to let our guard down."
>"Lancer didn't seem happy to work for him, maybe we can turn him?"
>"Do we know anything about the non-allied participants?"
>"Rider, you're okay, right?"
>"Hold on, I want to see my room!"
>[Write-In]
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>>5314208
>"Rider, you're okay, right?"
>Ask Sion what she thinks about "bring something nobody's ever seen before" clue that supposed 'Lancelot' mentioned. It looked like he wanted to give honest advice about fighting Gilgamesh and hinted at his abilities.
>>
>>5314242
Ask Sion what she thinks about "bring something nobody's ever seen before" clue that supposed 'Lancelot' mentioned. It looked like he wanted to give honest advice about fighting Gilgamesh and hinted at his abilities.
She ponders, but she doesn't have to ponder for long. Caster emerges to answer the question himself.

"My Gate of Babylon is an access point for the great treasury I had in life," Gilgamesh says. "Every treasure is within it, past, present, and future, as befits the first and greatest king of human history. Therefore, a counter can be provided for any material item in human existence. No weapon is beyond his means to provide, and he has access to the unassailably powerful Ea, an item which would be pointless to explain beyond being impossible to overcome." He is dead serious when he says, "In order to defeat that other me, you would need 'something that does not exist in this world', or something that could not possibly be anticipated. There are situations in which he could be defeated by his own arrogance, but it would still require a uniquely heroic ability, one that is able to defeat him before he can believe he needs to use Ea." He cuts off a possible line of questioning by saying, "Ea is so destructive that using it here would be tantamount to sentencing this city to death, a minimum of three million people dying in disaster. Even if he is selfish enough to use it, I will not, so that is our handicap."

"There's another way to defeat him," Sion says, "Though it wouldn't be a true defeat. If he was denied a Master for long enough, he would run out of mana sooner or later, wouldn't he?"

"That is correct," Gilgamesh confirms. "But it would be long enough for him to dispatch of the majority of this War's combatants anyway. He could stay in this world a week, even if you dispatched his Master immediately and denied him the ability to restore himself."

Sokaris doesn't seem intimidated. "As someone who foresees the destruction of all things constantly, averting the unstoppable is my specialty. No offense, but even your apparently omnipotent self won't prevent our victory here," she says, trying to combing flattery with her own confidence with moderate success.

"If it did, I would begin to doubt my own guidance, which is of course impossible," Gilgamesh states.

(1/2)
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(2/2)

Rider is finding this all a bit much, and you feel a twinge of what is close to pity or protectiveness.

"Rider, you're okay, right?"

You're concerned for him overexerting himself, especially since he already looked like someone who's going to fall over from the beginning. Phillipe, for his own part, stands tall in response to your concern, saying, "Yes, I'll be fine. Thank you for your concern, Master." Still, he's got the bearing of someone who's been suffering for ages, which isn't surprising given his origins. Someone like that, who was taken out of his cell into a princely bedroom and taken back almost immediately to his prison to spend the rest of his life in darkness... It makes you wonder how he could have possibly survived. It feels like he should say something else, but he probably doesn't have any conversation topics to draw on. What would they do in prison, read books? In that case...

You ask him who his favorite fictional character is, and he looks aside, before saying, "Hector of the Nine Valiants. Defender of Troy. Despite the helpless situation, he fought bravely until the very end. His behavior was more admirable than that of Achilles, who was invulnerable but in one spot. Being defeated by Paris is an appropriate humiliation for the kind of warrior Achilles was."

Gilgamesh smiles, and Rider immediately tenses up, as if he was afraid he had insulted Caster by accident. However, it is this reflex of apology that Gilgamesh finds less palatable. "You fool! Are you going to change your opinion merely because I could be made irritated by it? That lack of confidence is less acceptable than arrogance or foolishness, for you are expected to fight. Yes, even if you are wrong, I would rather you be wrong with conviction than flounder about. If you are wrong, you can be corrected, after all, but someone who will never do anything cannot be guided."

Sion looks around, and says, "Hm. I was expecting Lancer to chip in there, but he seems to be disinterested. I guess I made him mad," she shrugs. "I'll make it up to him somehow. There's got to be something he likes."

Rider nods. "Ah, I see... Lord Gilgamesh. Thank you." He ponders those words, and asks, "Master, did you want to rest, or should we return to scouting? I am able to continue."

>"Let's get back out there. I think Vlad wants to impale some things."
>"Actually, I'd like to get my bearings here first. It's no use making this without putting it to use."
>"Maybe we should get to know each other a bit better before we continue."
>"What about the other group? Shouldn't we wait for them?"
>"Oh, I completely forgot about lunch, what time is it?"
>[Write-In]
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>>5314332
>Oh, I completely forgot about lunch, what time is it?"
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>>5314332
>"Oh, I completely forgot about lunch, what time is it?"
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>>5314332
>"Actually, I'd like to get my bearings here first. It's no use making this without putting it to use."
>>
>>5314341
>>5314362
>>5314383
Your stomach growls unceremoneously, killing any tension previously present.

"Oh, I completely forgot about lunch, what time is it?"

Sion, stunned that she's lost track of time, checks a mechanical pocketwatch. "Hm! It seems to be 11:43. Goodness, time does fly. We ought to take a break. There's no good in running ourselves ragged." Raising a finger, she says, "Come on, I know some good restaurants around here. You don't mind sushi, do you?" she asks, and her mind already seems made up about where you're going to be going for lunch. You get a mite uneasy for no reason in particular, and also wonder if there's a kitchen already in here.

"Actually, I'd like to get my bearings here first. It's no use making this without putting it to use."

"Then maybe we can do shopping," she says. "Cooking obviously takes a lot of time, but it's rewarding. I'm sure if this location adapts to its residents, it'll be able to accommodate cooking."

Now that her eyes are semi-pleading for you to go along with this half-baked plan, you're sure you're not going to be able to convince her otherwise and acquiesce. Miss Sokaris is definitely energetic, if nothing else. It's a wonder she's associated with Vlad of all Servants. You suppose the Grail does as it likes, with no regard for human opinion on the matter.

Before leaving, you promise to bring enough material for everyone else's lunch as well. Somehow you suspect Rider is going to be used as additional hands for shopping bags.

---

An entire sockeye salmon is selected for the cutting board, simply because of how close Scotland is. "Well, normally I wouldn't go overboard like this, but I'm in an unusually good mood. I'll pay for everything, of course, since you were dragged into this." The higher-end magus compiles a list of ingredients for 'easy' sushi and some miso soup. You don't know how she knows how to cook all of this, but you're not complaining.

While the total is being tallied up, you notice someone walking outside. It's Olga Marie, and she looks like she's been crying. Woods is tailing her, as he was part of her group, and while he's not crying, he looks pretty bummed out, probably by proximity to her. He does perk up, however, when he meets your gaze, and realizes that you're with Sion.

Wheels turn in his head, and you get the feeling all of a sudden that this was a terrible mistake. The Executor gets a menacing look, like he's just had an awful idea for a practical joke, and continues walking, but now seems to be in a better mood. Oh no. This can't be good.

Sure enough, when you arrive, he's there with an apron, sleeves rolled up and ready to prepare the meal. The room has prepared a kitchen as well.

>"Oh, it's this guy. Maybe if we ignore him he'll go away."
>"All right, Woods, what's your game? Planning to cheer up Marie?"
>"Cut the shit, what happened with Olga? Did you do that?"
>Continue as if nothing is wrong.
>[Write-In]
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>>5314479
>"All right, Woods, what's your game? Planning to cheer up Marie?"
>>
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>>5314517
"All right, Woods, what's your game? Planning to cheer up Marie?"

"Me?" he acts offended. "I'm shocked you would assign me an ulterior motive."

"You shouldn't be," Sion crosses her arms. "So you picked up we were making food, right?"

"Yes, which is exactly why I prepared." He sighs, and then asks her a question he already knows the answer to. "Sion, you don't actually know how to prepare sushi, do you?"

"It would have been a trivial endeavor to learn," she says defensively, and he looks at her flatly.

"Well, I do. Please, I understand what you're trying to do, but Olga has just been run through the wringer by the sins of her father. This is no time for a botched meal." He's surprisingly serious about this. You tell him he doesn't seem like the kind to care, and he doesn't like that one bit. "Look, even I know when to extend an olive branch. I would have let Sion botch this if I thought it would work out. It would have been funny, but... Putting her on the spot is a close second," he says, and Sokaris dumps the bags in front of him with a huff.

"I don't know why we recruited you. At least I'm in this to protect the world," she says, going to her own room.

"Because it takes a monster to kill a monster," he says. "I can do the sort of things you're too squeamish to."

You step into your own room, and find it's equipped the way you'd expect a dorm to be, complete with comfortable bed. Lying down on it for a few minutes seems nice, but you're soon too hungry to nap, and stand up again to go eat.

---

Once the rice is finished, Olga emerges, still shaken from whatever happened to her. She puts her head in her hands and just sits there, moping. Woods, who is still cutting the salmon to prepare it for the rolls, begins hurrying, sensing that if she isn't fed soon she'll sink into a worse sulk.

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(2/2)

Saber materializes, and while he seems to be less-than-optimal as well, the redhead considers the fish with curiosity. "What kind of food is this? I've never seen fish prepared this way."

"It's a Japanese way of preparation, called sushi," Woods explains obligingly, holding up the fish's head. "The fish is raw, but frozen to prevent it from going bad. I'm sure you know about eating fish raw."

"Only in desperate times," Saber admits. "So this is a warrior's dish? A warrior eats what they can, when they can."

"I suppose you could say so," Woods admits. "Is it going to be a problem? I can cook some if you want. It's not to everyone's tastes."

"Not my first choice..." Saber says, and takes the fish head from Woods' hand. At first you think he's going to inspect it, but then he turns away from the cutting board and puts it in his mouth, chewing and swallowing it as it is, skin and all. The Executor blanks out, horrified. You've heard of people eating fish head as a delicacy, but that's generally after it's been cooked.

Olga Marie looks at her Servant, baffled at his behavior, and then begins laughing uncontrollably. There's a hint of sadness in her voice, but she seems to be feeling better after that. "So... Even Heroic Spirits can be stupid, is that right?" She looks at Saber with amusement, and he tries to pass off a why-didn't-you-tell-me-glare off to Woods, who is still fairly shocked and can't respond. Sion begins stifling a giggle.

"Yes," Rider says, materializing next to you. "They can even be failures, like me. However... I don't see my Master as a failure. I don't know what happened to you, but given how awful this war seems to be, all I can ask is that you endure. It's the only thing I was ever good at, myself." He goes away just as suddenly as he arrives, and says nothing else.

Saber remains humiliated, but Olga seems to have resolved something in her mind. "We're speaking with Wodime and Caster," she demands of Saber, and he follows her, still trying to process what just happened.

"Alright, now will you finally spit it out?" Sion says, as soon as Animusphere leaves. "Something happened. Did she screw up or something?"

"No, it's much worse than that. One of her father's creations showed up to kill her. A designer baby, that had been made as one of the Animusphere's projects long ago. She was... Quite peeved. Good news is that we know her Servant is Frankenstein's Monster. That's Berserker nailed down for sure. Also, another created woman showed up, but thankfully she was made by the Einzberns. She's got Rostam as, you guessed it, a Rider."

>"Designer babies? You're kidding, right?"
>"...All of the shame but none of the glory of her dad, huh?"
>"While Saber's not here, have you figured out who he is?"
>"Are either of them allied with the enemy Gilgamesh?"
>[Write-In]
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>>5314582
>"Are either of them allied with the enemy Gilgamesh?"
The hell’s a designer baby ? I’m not familiar with fate
>>
>>5314595
>The hell’s a designer baby ?
Exactly what it sounds like: A genetically engineered child, in this created for the sake of performing experiments on. Why yes, it is as morally reprehensible as it sounds.
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>>5314582
>"Are either of them allied with the enemy Gilgamesh?"
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>>5314582
>"While Saber's not here, have you figured out who he is?"
>>
>>5314595
>>5314862
>>5314966
"Are either of them allied with the enemy Gilgamesh?"
You explain what you know to him, and he nods.

"The Einzbern homunculus appears to be," he says, and then gets mildly frustrated. "Which is quite unfortunate. 'All of the Founding Families are here to reclaim the Grail'- they didn't start this, but they'll stop at nothing to finish it, and that pits us against three magus bloodlines desperate for a renewal- the Einzberns, the Tohsakas, and the Makiri. Unlike what Wodime suggests, I think they'll hold off backstabbing just long enough to try and kill us first. They also have at least three powerful Servants, though based on what you've described, their Lancer is the weakest."

You ask to clarify what's special about the Einzbern woman. "The difference between a homunculus and a Designer Baby... I don't think it really matters what kind of person they are," he says. "The important part is the Einzbern lady has both a stronger Servant and significantly more magical ability."

"Awfully egalitarian of you," Sion grumbles, "But then again, what else would I expect of a literal son of a whore?"

"There's one other thing you need to know about the designer baby- She's a child. A moody teenager. Which makes the Servant she summoned doubly appropriate." Assassin appears by his side and gives him a dirty look. When she does, everything clicks in your head- Assassin is Frankenstein's Monster as well, no-one else meets the requirements. When he sees you realize the connection, he nods. "Yup. Such a Servant is too good for me, but she's here, so I'm grateful." You're not sure if he's just covering his ass or joking around, but either way he's playing with fire, so you change the subject to another identity question.

"While Saber's not here, have you figured out who he is?"

Sion answers this. "Oh, he's Mordred, of course." She seems supremely confident in her answer. "After all, the fact that he deliberately didn't give his name actually tells us more than if he gave an alias." She puts on her glasses and explains. "It tells us he knows his own reputation and his name would be immediately identifiable to almost anyone, so that makes our list significantly shorter than most. Count in the fact that the enemy Lancer mentioned Lancelot, and there aren't a lot of alternatives. After all, we know Lancer isn't Vlad, Gilgamesh, Rostam, or the Creation, and he doesn't fit Berserker or Phillipe closely enough to be someone associated with their stories, either."

"Show-off," Woods mutters, before saying, "But to think we're dealing with a non-evil Mordred..."

>"We should switch opponents, so that Olga doesn't fight that girl again."
>"If those three are allied, we have no choice but to go all out."
>"...Do we know Saber's not evil, though?"
>"Lancer seemed like he would betray the alliance for his master in a heartbeat, we need to leverage him."
>"I'm starving, are you done yet?"
>[Write-In]
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>>5315374
>"We should switch opponents, so that Olga doesn't fight that girl again."
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>>5315374
>"We should switch opponents, so that Olga doesn't fight that girl again."
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>>5315374
>"If those three are allied, we have no choice but to go all out."

Olga can go fuck herself.
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>>5315380
>>5315497
and integrating >>5315509, but only partly.

"We should switch opponents, so that Olga doesn't fight that girl again."

You feel a little peeved about fighting her battle, but since she's got Saber, there's no point in having her have a breakdown in combat. Still, feeling a little sorry for someone and risking your life for them are different things. You make a mental note to read her the riot act later. After all, it was her that got you into this, there's no point in her passing off more work.

"Your ire is merited, and help appreciated," Woods says, finishing the rolls and placing them in front of you. "Here." You're hungry, and soon polish off enough to leave you feeling over-full by the end. A bit queasy, you get over it by returning to your hidey-hole prepared by Caster and lying back on the bed again. Rider appears, though he only sits patiently in a small, featureless wooden chair which stands out from the rest of the room by how simple and non-modern it is. He places his hands in his lap and doesn't say anything while you prepare for the battle ahead.

Frankenstein's Monster as a Berserker... A female, at that. It only makes sense, because the Designer Baby is a female as well. There were several kills on the Creation's record, or at least you recall as much from the last time you read Frankenstein. The doctor wasn't much of a hero in that- the only thing he did was evade responsibility, which is kind of a sore spot now that you have to fight Rostam instead of Olga. Come to think of it, how does someone like that just happen to get involved in a Holy Grail War? Maybe it's just freak chance. It has to be.

You check to make sure Rider is able to continue, and he stands and nods. You're not sure how to make him open up more, so right now you just leave him be. Sion is waiting for you outside, and you head off the way Woods said they met Berserker and company. The streets of London are indeed quiet, before you come across the most unusual sight today. There's a man riding a horse that seems to give off sparks as it charges, and desperately clinging to the rider is what looks to be an albino woman. This must be what they mean by a homunculus? In any case, the rider is coming right at you, quite quickly.

Vlad prepares his lance defensively, planting his feet in front of Sion, but the rider continues his charge, preparing for a passing blow. If you remember your basic tactics correctly, cavalry tend to suffer against defensive pikes, so Rostam must be either cocky or quite powerful to rush recklessly in like this. You have a few seconds before the foe is upon you, so your Rider has the chance to prepare a counter-attack.

>Have Rider prepare for impact.
>You're expecting a trick- hide Rider to intercept it.
>You're tired of fighting defensively- Rostam's wouldn't expect you to counter-charge.
>Have Rider aim for the Master. If you dehorse her, then it doesn't matter how strong Rostam is.
>[Write-In]
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>>5315555
*Rostam's Master
Damn, that's what I get for cutting word count at the last minute. It had been a bit, so I was in a rush.
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>>5315555
>Have Rider aim for the Master. If you dehorse her, then it doesn't matter how strong Rostam is.
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>>5315555
>Have Rider aim for the Master. If you dehorse her, then it doesn't matter how strong Rostam is.
>>
>>5315555
>You're tired of fighting defensively- Rostam's wouldn't expect you to counter-charge.
>>
>>5315555
>Have Rider aim for the Master. If you dehorse her, then it doesn't matter how strong Rostam is.
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>>5315610
>>5315625
>>5315674
Have Rider aim for the Master. If you dehorse her, then it doesn't matter how strong Rostam is.
>>5315660

While you're tempted to face this opponent head-on, the smaller target is, as one might expect, the softer one. And since he's distracted by Vlad...

You whisper your order to Rider, who waits until the crash of Rostam against Tepes to try and pick the woman off of the horse. The success of your plan is heard in the form of a short gasp, and Phillipe holding up the target, stepping aside and tightening his grip as she flails in his hands. She's a woman of ordinary weight, but he's supernaturally strong, so it's not as hard as it might seem for their respective sizes.

She stops moving after she realizes the peril she's in, and seems unnaturally stoic for the moment. In fact, she doesn't seem to have much emotion at all. "Rider," she calls out mildly, as if inviting him to see something.

While in the background the clash of blade on spear is bright enough for you to mistake it for an arc flash, the trampling hooves of the horse wheel around, the charge blunted by Vlad's interception. Rostam's supernatural steed may be powerful, but the glowing surface of the horse's skin is torn with a huge gash where the point of the spear stuck into it. Vlad's arm shows a stripe of blood that soaks into his shirt and sleeve, but it's not a fatal blow by any means.

Holding up his hand to signal a request for time from you, Rostam obviously understands the situation. Despite being the attacker here, he has moved into a defensive posture immediately, and is stopping his fierce steed from avenging the blow struck to it. "So you intend to take my Master as a hostage? That's fair enough, given the nature of this war. If you let me go with her, I can make you a promise on her behalf." He seems much more reasonable and less inherently aggressive than the enemy Lancer.

"Do not speak for me, Rider," the woman declares firmly, obviously detecting that you're Phillipe's Master. Her red eyes are more like pools of blood than true irises. "What is it that you throw your life away for? We Einzberns will have the Third Magic returned to us- it is our right, as the magicians truly responsible for this opportunity. If I die, I will curse this war to end in despair, and Rostam will certainly slay you in revenge. Do not doubt this."

The Third Magic... Heaven's Feel. It's some kind of immortality through the manifestation of the soul, but the ability to do this was lost. There aren't a lot of people who can perform the reality-defying True Magic, so it's no wonder they want it back.

>"You're holding this whole city, my home, hostage."
>"I have a wish of my own, but I don't need to tell you."
>"I don't need a reason to fight someone as wretched as you."
>"Tell us more about the other Masters and we'll let you go."
>"I don't know what I was expecting. Phillipe, kill her."
>[Write-In]
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>>5315713
>"Tell us more about the other Masters and we'll let you go."
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>>5315713
>"Tell us more about the other Masters and we'll let you go."
A part of me really just wants to kill her and be done with it, however info is worth it's theoretical weight in gold this early on.
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>>5315743
>>5315829
"Tell us more about the other Masters and we'll let you go."

Her response is almost gloating. "You'd risk so much for so little?" Vlad is on the verge of turning his spear on her, but she averts it by speaking.

"Hm... Obviously, you'd want me to begin with Archer's Master. Miss Rin Tohsaka. Rather than her father, she was selected to handle Gilgamesh, but the King of Heroes is more of a force of nature than a human being. She's trying to reroute a river instead of steer a ship in the ocean." Rider keeps his hands on her as she tries to reposition herself to be more comfortable. "Saber's Master is dead. He summoned a premodern prince of Britain who had almost no heroic feats to his name, so, Lancer made quick work of the unstable Heroic Spirit. Lancer's Master is Sakura Matou, the adoptive inheritor to Zouken Makiri's dream. Lancer slew the withered-up Zouken and Zouken's useless descendant, so that Sakura could better align with the Tohsakas. The two girls are full siblings, so this was an inevitability." Having closed both eyes out of overconfidence, she adds, "You probably think I was allied with that Master of Berserker. Not so- she's far too obsessed with her own sense of justice to work with me."

"She is merely misguided," Rostam declares, insistent on this. "That girl, like the Heroic Spirit she possesses, has been consumed by revenge and a limited perspective."

"Let me finish, Rider!" Einzbern declares angrily. "I told you not to speak for me. Caster and Assassin have apparently gone into hiding. Interesting, because Caster was raised by Darnic Prestone Yggdmillennia, far prior to the War's start."

She puts on a smug smile when Sion looks at her with shock. "The Mage's Association is as myopic as ever. You didn't know, of course. I don't know who summoned Assassin, probably one of Darnic's lackeys." With that, she snaps her fingers as if Phillipe were a servant rather than a Servant, "Put me down, brute! I have done as your Master asked."

"I had assumed someone of your caliber would know much more," Sion counters, and Einzbern rolls her eyes.

"You said you wanted to know 'more'. I've told you 'more' than enough." Phillipe puts her down, unless you insist otherwise. "Besides, Archer will want me executed simply for speaking with you." She brushes herself off as if Iron Mask were covered in dirt, and calls out, "Come, Rider, we're leaving this rabble."

Rostam looks irritated, but does as she says, and he lifts her onto Rakhsh to ride away, petting the mystic stallion to make sure it doesn't attack any of you during the retreat.

>"That Berserker is still out and about, we need to handle her as well."
>"An Assassin on the loose is bad enough, an unaccounted-for Caster with time to prepare can't be allowed. We should find them."
>"You said Archer would kill you, why not join us?"
>"We've let you go 'more' than far enough..." [Attack]
>[Write-In]
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>>5315970
>"An Assassin on the loose is bad enough, an unaccounted-for Caster with time to prepare can't be allowed. We should find them."
>>
>>5315970
>"An Assassin on the loose is bad enough, an unaccounted-for Caster with time to prepare can't be allowed. We should find them."
Assassins and Casters are both brutally underappreciated classes, assassin especially if they have a master with a few braincells that decided to exclusively wait it out and gank masters when given the chance.
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>>5315970
>"An Assassin on the loose is bad enough, an unaccounted-for Caster with time to prepare can't be allowed. We should find them."
>"If you ever feel like not dying by Archer's hand, give us a call."
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>>5315970
>"An Assassin on the loose is bad enough, an unaccounted-for Caster with time to prepare can't be allowed. We should find them."
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>>5316003
>>5316140
>>5316152
>>5316178
"An Assassin on the loose is bad enough, an unaccounted-for Caster with time to prepare can't be allowed. We should find them."

Their Caster has been left alone for this long? He could have been planning for days! Weeks, even! Gilgamesh made a reality-defying chamber in hours... If they're anywhere near comparable, he might as well have the whole city under his influence.

Sion suddenly has an awful thought, and asks Lancer, "...Your Noble Phantasm, Kazikli Bey. I'd like to have you use it as a radar. If that Caster is who I think it is, you may get a victory over your opposite without even knowing it." You ask how on earth a Noble Phantasm is supposed to serve as a radar. "Kazikli Bey only works in Lord Tepes's homeland. That Caster has a fatal dependency on the soil of Transylvania. Perhaps he can detect his own home and thus the enemy."

"For the sake of eliminating that monster, I could adapt it to perform just as well here," Vlad says, snarling at the alternative version of himself, which you've assumed to be Count Dracula by this point, "But that would require as much preparation as he has been given, or perhaps within our own Caster's stronghold. The beast has done his best to make England his home, I'm sure."

You remember Dracula wanting to take over London, but not why he wanted to, except out of a vague powerlust. He hated the idea of buying a new house, which probably stuck with you because it seemed very magus-like. In fact, the more you think about Dracula, the more it seems like he wants something in the Clock Tower itself. For a megalomaniac, having the heart of Magecraft in your hand is an appropriate ambition, and he might be able to make good on it. Passing along the idea that he's chosen an appropriately ancient household, Sion finds that a bit incredible. "Really, he wouldn't have a lot to choose from. Even the oldest house in London uses electricity. It would have to be a magus's house." Yeah, it would, you agree, and that was your point. He's a Caster with a fetish for the Mystery that comes with older and nobler inhabitants. It seems radar isn't needed after all.

Taking that level of urgency into your own hands, you all return to the Clock Tower campus and proximate area, trying to figure out what kind of building would be best for the undead menace to hole up in. As you do, you notice a man in a fine suit, walking somewhere else. Even from here, you recognize him: It's Trambelio, Lord of the Department of General Fundamentals and the man you need to give that letter you were given by your father to. Can you give him this letter without blowing the cover on this secret war? Would it be better if he knew anyway? The packet of paper is heavy in your pocket.

>Ignore him, he can find out when everything is over.
>Give him the letter and explain your searching as orienting yourself.
>Give him the letter and try to communicate what's going on.
>[Write-In]
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>>5316539
>Ignore him, he can find out when everything is over.
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>>5316539
>Give him the letter and explain your searching as orienting yourself.
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>>5316539
>Give him the letter and explain your searching as orienting yourself.
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>>5316640
>>5316653
Give him the letter and explain your searching as orienting yourself.
>>5316615

Your father spent so many long years putting yourself in this position, so it feels sort of selfish delaying the crown jewel of his work, even for something as heavy and as serious as this. You have some time before you're actually expected to begin classes, so this is an off week for you, or it could at least be excused as such. Telling Sion to wait for you, you approach the Department Head and call out to him politely. He turns and faces you, and you hold the letter out to him. When he takes it, you almost expect him to open it right then and there, but after assessing the cover and who addressed it, he apologizes. "Ah, I'm afraid I have to attend a meeting soon. However, Miss Klein, it's always nice to see eager students, and if you're anything like your father, you'll do just fine. Don't let the imposition of those with 'more experience' who actually only rely on their bloodlines intimidate you."

Yeah, you've met Miss Animusphere, and you're not super enthused with how she acts either. However, you don't say that to him. You also don't mention the fact that you're accompanying Sokaris, and actually try to keep your mouth shut besides thanking him for his vote of confidence. As long as he doesn't ask anything of you, you don't have to be concerned about him being worried about why you happen to be here of all places. Thankfully, he's in a hurry, so the small talk dissipates instantly and you don't have to explain anything at all. Thank goodness, you've gotten through this without giving anything away. Hopefully any onlookers see your relief as simply that of speaking to a Department Head without incident.

Headed back, you and Sion explore the area without getting any good leads. It's a pain having to move around without committing trespass, and even then, Sion says she can search for things without actually going inside. However, by the end, she's frustrated. "I don't see anything around here that would give away where Caster is. I think there are some signs of Assassin, though. He's only scouting, but he's concentrated close to where we last saw the enemy Lancer. Actually, there are signs of enemy Lancer's shadows doing scouting too- Assassin probably destroyed some of those."

So while he's not here, he or at least Assassin doesn't want anyone to know he's not here? What the hell's his play? This is getting more and more irritating, and you have half a mind to throw in the towel. These stupid machinations might seem clever to whoever made them, but you're tired of dealing with layer after layer of concealment. Can't you just have a straight-up scrap and get it over with?

(1/2)
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(2/2)

Almost as if reality is mocking you, your boredom comes to a sudden halt as a rage-filled scream fills the air. A Servant emerges from the aether and prepares to swing an oversized club at you, but as she does, Rider materializes in return and grabs the handle. As a result, the howling... bride?... is halted in her tracks, and while electricity courses through the weapon and into Rider, he doesn't move or even hesitate, really. She presses forward with a hateful groan, but he's strong enough to keep her where she is. His hands start smoking from the current proximate to them, but he stays where he is, and Vlad assists by driving his lance into the girl's chest, tossing her back.

Dropping the weapon and letting it fall to the ground with a clatter, Rider awaits your orders quietly, with his hands still giving off a sickening burning scent. You don't know how he can stand there and focus on the enemy instead of the pain, but you're grateful for it. Berserker, as she obviously is, huffs and puffs, with the wound above her stomach leaking blood. She glares at you and Sion with a pair of mismatched eyes, and her Master emerges to support her. They actually look kind of similar, funny enough. Maybe, in another situation, you would feel more merciful or pitying of this girl, but this war has gotten pretty far up on your nerves at the moment. Olga owes you something big for dealing with this Designer Baby or whatever the hell she is, instead of doing this herself.

>"That makes three for three on 'attack before talking', I'm done playing nice." [Attack]
>"Look, I don't know what your beef is with Olga, but I don't really care. Drop out of this before you get killed."
>"If we give you Olga, will you fuck off? What is it, exactly, that you want to accomplish?"
>"Ally with us, you clearly can't win. One chance, and it expires the next time Berserker attacks."
>Compose yourself. This is no time to lose your head.
>[Write-In]
>>
>>5316711
Can we pick multiple options? If so
>Compose yourself. This is no time to lose your head.
>"Ally with us, you clearly can't win. One chance, and it expires the next time Berserker attacks."
I really don't want to get on a 1 V 1 fight, since we know fuck all about Rider's skills or his NP. I'd say we would have the slight edge, but the situation is way too volatile for us to be comfortable
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>>5316723
>Can we pick multiple options?
Yes, but specific beats general. If I have to pick between or integrate options, the more commonly picked or the more specific result will get stronger influence.
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>>5316723
>+1
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>>5316711
>>5316723
This
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>>5316723
>>5316761
>>5316765
Compose yourself. This is no time to lose your head.
"Ally with us, you clearly can't win. One chance, and it expires the next time Berserker attacks."

Your head is full of steam boiled on a stove of frustration, you need to calm down. Otherwise, maybe Berserker can exploit that rage. Taking some deep breaths, you make an offer to the girl, who is incredulous that you're offering peace at this junction.

"I... I thought you were with the Animuspheres, and that... Executor." she says, looking away. Wow, she really is a teenager, and on the younger end at that. She has the same insecurity and bearing as one, and she's not anywhere near as tall as you.

Sion is immediately both interested and concerned. "The Executor? Did Woods do something to you?" Does he have that bad of a reputation? Apparently not, because the girl nods, but not shamefully, definitively.

"He saved my life, and my father's." She turns angry, for reasons you don't quite get. "I thought he was a hero of justice, but it turns out he's just another hypocrite." She stands beside Berserker, and says, "So you are with them, then?"

You say that's somewhat true, but remind her that Berserker is injured and she's outnumbered. Additionally, you still have that weapon. Does she really want to have this fight? You're trying to be open-minded here, but it's hard when everyone you want to help wants to fight you.

"Mages are selfish..." she says. "Maybe it would be more accurate to say people are selfish? Maybe it's a bad idea to continue fighting you. But... I can't just... Let what the Animuspheres did go." She's hesitating, but still gritting her teeth and unwilling to back down completely. "Moreover! That can't be the only evil experiment that they've performed. I'm putting an end to this, even if it means becoming a murderer myself. After all, I'm someone who shouldn't exist, so dying is something I can do without shame."

She makes a counter-offer, trembling despite her conviction. "If... If I ally with you, will you help me punish those people? Perhaps it's wrong to take their lives... But after seeing what happened when I just wanted to be left alone with that man who became my father by choice, I can't help but wonder if offering her peace would just get me a knife in the back. Moreover... I want to win this war for my own wish. My lifespan is limited... If I can survive, I want to live a full life, to defy the people who designed me to die."

>"We'll make an alliance, but I'm not the one who makes decisions like that."
>"...You know what? I want to see her get that comeuppance as much as you do."
>"I can't do that. All I can do is offer you a chance to live out the life you have."
>"Of course." [Lie]
>"Did you see the way that girl you hate was crying? I don't think she was afraid, just ashamed."
>[Write-In]
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>>5316812
>"Did you see the way that girl you hate was crying? I don't think she was afraid, just ashamed."
>>
>>5316812
>"Did you see the way that girl you hate was crying? I don't think she was afraid, just ashamed."
>"I can't do that. All I can do is offer you a chance to live out the life you have."
I kinda feel sorry for her, but she's a dead woman walking and we got nothing from helping her. We're already been saint-like for psychopathic magnus-standards, no need to go full Shirou
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>>5316539
>Give him the letter and try to communicate what's going on.
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>>5316812
>"We'll make an alliance, but I'm not the one who makes decisions like that."
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>>5316812
>"Did you see the way that girl you hate was crying? I don't think she was afraid, just ashamed."
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>>5316826
>>5316834
>>5316862
>>5316838

What's happened to this girl must have been awful. Still, you can't help her. You don't know if the Grail can cure her, as she would need to know how to extend her own life, and she might not be able to do that. No, that's something she certainly wouldn't know how to do. She's a child, and unless she has some kind of inherent magical knowledge, she would just end up crying atop a pile of corpses. A death like that doesn't get anything done.

She demands a response, asking, "Well?"

"Did you see the way that girl you hate was crying? I don't think she was afraid, just ashamed."

That causes Berserker's Master to step back, and ponder the nature of her anger. Still, she responds believing her course to be correct. "Well, she should be! If she bears all of the benefits of her bloodline, then she should get all of the pain as well!" Stepping back and gesturing to her Servant, she asks, "What about her? She's someone who was denied a life and a love as well! She's wearing a dress for a wedding that will never take place? Maybe my wish is wicked, but what about hers?"

"Hmph. What makes you think she would enjoy a bridegroom that was summoned by a wish, anyway?" Vlad asks coldly. "Would she really enjoy loving someone who was created to answer a wish, like her creator wished for her?"

It's like a knife tearing through the air. Sion even flinches, expecting Berserker to retribute, but the Servant is unwilling to fight after hearing that, and slumps her shoulders. Using an electrical link that extends to the club, she pulls the metal item to herself before beginning to walk away, without checking to see if her Master is following her. "Berserker?"

Berserker, still bleeding, finds a flower on the side of the road and moves back towards you. "Mmmph," she gestures, before throwing the flower at Phillipe's feet.

Phillipe, not knowing how to respond, picks up the flower carefully, and looks at you with a curious gaze. Berserker then pushes her own Master towards you and Sion. "Nrrghk," she points at each of you in turn, and then at her Master.

It seems whether or not this girl is interested in allying, her Servant has made the decision on her behalf. "Fine," this Designer Baby responds with defiance. "But I won't allow myself to be manipulated. If any of you hurt me any further, I'll make sure Berserker kills you! You can call me Natalia, as if it matters."

Sion is relieved that the issue was resolved without death. "Very well. We'll make sure you'll survive, at least, even if we can't give you revenge."

>"Well, we need to head back in, so we don't overextend ourselves. I hope Assassin doesn't mind."
>"While we're on a roll, how about pushing forward? We've all got tension that could use venting."
>"Do you know anything about the other participants? You don't seem like someone who would know about this ahead of time."
>"Ehm, you've got a little..." Gesture to Berserker's wound.
>[Write-In]
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>>5316874
>Well, we need to head back in, so we don't overextend ourselves. I hope Assassin doesn't mind."
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>>5316874
>"Ehm, you've got a little..." Gesture to Berserker's wound.
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>>5316874
>"Well, we need to head back in, so we don't overextend ourselves. I hope Assassin doesn't mind."
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>>5316893
sorry, I think my 4chan-x shit itself
>>
This is genuinely the funniest shit I've ever read.
I literally cannot hold back my laughter.
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>>5316884
>>5316892
"Well, we need to head back in, so we don't overextend ourselves. I hope Assassin doesn't mind."

Sion realizes that Assassin might not be happy to see her opposite, and she does her best to assuage Natalia's nervousness about the idea. "It's fine. We can... We can work it out. If nothing else, you'll be able to vent your grievances directly, instead of just trying to kill someone you barely know." Despite embracing Natalia in such a way as to comfort the girl, Sokaris gives a questioning expression which shows that she doesn't actually know how to handle this kind of very possibly explosive situation.

Turning away due to the awkwardness, you gesture to Berserker about her wound. She ignores you, apparently not having any issues with it.

---

When you return, you brace for the worst. Thankfully, neither Assassin nor Woods are here. Unfortunately, that also means that you might not be able to break off a confrontation between the Creations if they come back and you're not here. The Designer Baby sits down on the seat next to Wodime, who's studying something, and looks at her after seeing her suddenly arrive. "And who might you be?" he asks politely.

"You mean you don't know?" she declares bitterly, and Kirschtaria blinks at her hostility.

"Ah, I'm afraid I'm a little young to have a child your... Oh." The realization slips over his features, and the bitter tone returns in force.

"So you were a participant. I thought so," Natalia says, and Sion steps up.

"No, he just... He must have found out after his teacher died," the representative from Atlas asks for help from you with her eyes, but you really don't know what to say. This isn't your business.

"Yes," Wodime nods. "That day, when he died... I received his orders to protect humanity at all costs."

"Well, have you?" asks the girl, making the situation increasingly worse. "You didn't protect me when Father and I were attacked."

"I didn't even know you were alive," he admits, but Natalia is still angry.

"Well, if you and Miss Olga are going to be the inheritors to that Animusphere man," she says, "and I'm not going to be able to kill you for what I've suffered," Natalia gets more and more assertive, and Wodime braces himself.

"We will do whatever we can to make it up to you. Olga actually brought this up to-"

Natalia makes her demand now, before Kirschtaria can finish. "I want to get the same as whatever you get, whenever you get it." It's a surprisingly modest request. "I'm going to die because of how they made me, and I'm not going to be old enough to get married when I die. So, in exchange, you will make me your younger sister, and I will not let you hide me. The whole world must know what your family did," she says, on the verge of breaking out into tears.

"That's fine," Wodime says.

>Leave this. It's not your business. You've got a war to fight.
>Ask Natalia more about herself.
>"Where's Olga and Woods? Did they leave?"
>[Write-In]
>>
This is like when you make Siri talk with another of those virtual assistants on another phone.
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>>5316991
>Ask Natalia more about herself.
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>>5316991
>Ask Natalia more about herself.
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>>5316991
>Ask Natalia more about herself.
>>
Sorry, I've been busy today. Since I know all too well what happens when quests just out and out die, I will do my best to update as long as this gets a response. The massive posts are my poor man's way of following the source material.
>>5317015
>>5317639
>>5317686
Ask Natalia more about herself.

"O-Oh," she looks aside, when you ask about things like her hobbies or background. She goes silent at first, so you start, to break the ice.

You yourself are the child of a... Financial advisor? Banker? To be honest, it's not quite clear what your father does, but he works for the Clock Tower and used his work to get you your position as a student of Magecraft. It's been so long for your bloodline that your Magecraft is basically open-ended, which lets you do most things, but doesn't make you good at anything in particular- that's what this was supposed to help you with. The best hint you got was 'counting', which is what your father said his grandfather spoke about with regards to Magecraft.

You've got an about-average number of Magic Circuits, specifically twenty-one main circuits, which is pretty impressive for someone who's got no Thaumaturgical Attribute.

"I... I like detective novels," Natalia says, keeping her hands in her lap. "I'm sorry, I haven't been able to do much since I was set free. My dad said it wasn't safe," she says, looking at Wodime. You suppose that makes sense, given they might try to cover up the existence of their experiments, but it's something, at least.

Rider stands nearby, and you're reminded that he was imprisoned as a child and re-imprisoned after being freed, because he tried to supplant his brother, Louis XIV. As a result, he's probably got a dog in this hunt. You don't know why you got him in particular, but he's pretty reliable: His hands are still burnt, but he doesn't seem to care. He's also tall... Was the Sun King that tall, or is that the effect of being a Servant?

>"Rider, did they have detective books when you lived?"
>"We're going, it's time to get back out there on the hunt."
>"I don't know how to heal a Servant's injuries, but we need to find out how."
>"Rider and I are swapping out with another Servant-Master pair..." [Specify]
>[Write-In]
>>
>>5318508
>"I don't know how to heal a Servant's injuries, but we need to find out how."
>>
>>5318508
>"Rider, did they have detective books when you lived?"
>"I don't know how to heal a Servant's injuries, but we need to find out how."
Last I remember from F/SN they mostly regenerate on their own but the MC obviously wouldn't know that.
>>
>>5318508
>"Rider, did they have detective books when you lived?"
>"I don't know how to heal a Servant's injuries, but we need to find out how."
>>
>>5318508
>"I don't know how to heal a Servant's injuries, but we need to find out how."
>>
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>>5318517
>>5318525
>>5318846
>>5318920
It's a little more complicated than that, but the important part is mana is capable of restoring most injuries a Heroic Spirit takes, unless said injuries are fatal (most of the time, anyway).
"I don't know how to heal a Servant's injuries, but we need to find out how."
Rider starts from his sullen state and looks up, before closing his hands and showing them to you. Once you see them again, they're clean of burns. "I'm sorry, I thought it wasn't important. I... My Spiritual Core... my appearance is not one-to-one related to it."

That seems odd to you, but Wodime confirms it. "Servants need to materialize in order to fight and defend their Masters, but their true form is a Spiritual Core, the mass of magical energy that serves as their ability to materialize. Damaging the body generally translates into damaging the Core, which can be fed and restored to some extent with mana."

As you recall, there are lots of ways to supply mana, though the most efficient methods tend to include blood or other bodily fluids, due to their life-bearing properties. Mages tend to have a reserve of Od, or life force, in an emergency, but the ambient mana of the world is usually good enough. The real chokepoint is your count and quality of Magic Circuits- you're middling. While you haven't needed to use any spells yet, Servants seem to have pretty high upkeep. To keep Rider in top form, you'll need to limit your use of him and keep him from being injured. Speaking of the quiet man...

"Rider, did they have detective books when you lived?"

"No," he says with haste, like he had been given an order and was eager to fulfill it. "The word detective wasn't in common use when I was alive. Edgar Allen Poe laid the genre's groundwork, and he lived over a century after my lifespan."

Natalia is astonished he knows this, which is probably because her Berserker's never spoken. That's right, Rider is French and from the 1600s... When summoned, he must have been given enough knowledge by the summoning to get by here. He must have answered so quickly because it was something he would be interested in knowing. He wants to know about literary genres, but is fine walking around with burnt hands... Man's got priorities, you suppose. Then again, that Berserker girl still hasn't fixed her appearance, standing around in a blood-soaked wedding dress.

You notice this Servant perk up when the door opens and Woods walks in. Instinctively, you go on guard, because that means... sure enough, Assassin enters after him, eyes falling on Berserker. There's a moment of silence, and both of them gauge the distance to each other.

>"Rider, you're under orders to stop a fight if it breaks out."
>"We got our info AND an ally, so I'm expecting good news, Woods."
>"Why do you hate yoursel..ves?"
>Place yourself between the opposed parties.
>Fuck that noise. "Rider! We're leaving!"
>[Write-In]
>>
>>5320027
>Place yourself between the opposed parties.
>>
>>5320027
>"We got our info AND an ally, so I'm expecting good news, Woods."
>>
>>5320027
>"We got our info AND an ally, so I'm expecting good news, Woods."
>>
>>5320027
>"We got our info AND an ally, so I'm expecting good news, Woods."
>>
>>5320066
Place yourself between the opposed parties.
Nope, this fight is not taking place. Not now, and especially not within your Absolutely Safe stronghold. You make yourself the center of attention and then request info of the Executor.
>>5320067
>>5320107
>>5320482
"We got our info AND an ally, so I'm expecting good news, Woods."
Assassin quietly demands her Master do something about the inconvenience in front of her, but Woods merely nods, sounding pleased. "Well done, Miss Klein. Thank you for recruiting that Berserker and her Master." The next time you see Natalia, she smiles to thank you for your support.

"In return, I have two pieces of good news," he says, listing them off one after another: "Firstly, we've managed to prove that Saber is the ultimate counter-play to the enemy Lancer, though he retreated before we could defeat him outright. The second is related to this- We now know where the Founding Families' Alliance is, and how to to get in and out undetected. The members are Tokiomi Tohsaka, his two daughters Rin Tohsaka and Sakura Matou, and the homunculus Julia Von Einzbern. Rin masters Archer Gilgamesh, Sakura masters Lancer Mordred, and Julia masters Rider Rostam."

"I thought Zouken Matou was the Matou family head," Wodime asks cautiously. "Did they leave?"

"Oh, no... They're dead. Lancer killed them." So blood is thicker than water, it seems. Or maybe Sakura is just an ungrateful bitch? Magus are weird.

But something about his report sounded weird besides that. Get in and out undetected?

"That's right, I wanted to make sure we could get in and out in case I needed to kidnap Tokiomi and hold him hostage, so Rin would be forced to make Archer kill himself." He says that calmly, clearly, as if it didn't sound like a war crime. Okay, maybe he really is an Executor.

Natalia has a crisis of conscience, and sits still. You remember her previously thinking of Woods as a Hero of Justice or something... What kind of impression did she get of him when they first met?

Wodime, on the other hand, focuses on the utility and not the morality. "That's not going to work. She'll refuse, and then raze the city to get to you."

>"That's what you're concerned about? I know this isn't exactly a fair fight, but..." You refuse to participate in a kidnapping of this kind.
>"Kirschtaria is right. Ethics aside, it's not going to work."
>"Well, it's a good thing Woods isn't with the Clock Tower, then, because if she does, he's on his own."
>"Rin Tohsaka? Ruby Bitch Rin Tohsaka?" You've met her... Under bad circumstances.
>"She won't get the chance. We'll kill her if she refuses."
>[Write-In]
>>
>>5320484
>"Rin Tohsaka? Ruby Bitch Rin Tohsaka?" You've met her... Under bad circumstances.
>"Kirschtaria is right. Ethics aside, it's not going to work."
Poor Zouken. We will avenge you.
>>
I realize that the layout of Team Tohsaka is essentially doubling down on information passed on earlier, but said information was also given by someone who's marginally less reliable than Woods, so this serves as confirmation, among other things.
>>5320507
>Poor Zouken.
No, not really, but Elizabeth wouldn't know that.
>>
>>5320509
Who is Elizabeth?
>>
>>5320484
>"Rin Tohsaka? Ruby Bitch Rin Tohsaka?" You've met her... Under bad circumstances.
>"Kirschtaria is right. Ethics aside, it's not going to work."
Way too much of a risky gamble, though admittedly anything against Archer Gil will be a dicey as fuck
>>
>>5320522
(You), Elizabeth Klein, which was passed along in the filename for the Command Spells but should have been made clearer by me. I'll correct that when I can. This is my first time on /qst/ in a hot minute, and it shows.
>>
>>5320484
>"Rin Tohsaka? Ruby Bitch Rin Tohsaka?" You've met her... Under bad circumstances.
>"Kirschtaria is right. Ethics aside, it's not going to work."
>>5320509
Zouken did nothing wrong
>>
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>>5320507
>>5320524
>>5320569
"Rin Tohsaka? Ruby Bitch Rin Tohsaka?" You've met her... Under bad circumstances.
When the Einzbern woman spoke about Rin, the name Tohsaka sort of rolled over your brain as a vague name associated to an enemy. But having the connection repeated by a second individual makes you remember something else. It's not a good memory.

She threw a hissy fit when your father, Melville Klein, attempted to guide her through the procedure for safely storing and retrieving precious gems. He was remarkably patient, despite her living halfway across the world and also being completely incompetent with modern technology, such as e-mail and online forms. In fact, part of you thinks you blocked that out of your brain by way of trauma, because she kept harassing your father through repeated, unsolicited postage filled with inane, pointless questions. At some point, tossing her ravings into the trash whenever they came in became akin to throwing out credit card advertisements. You think she persisted as long as she did just to try and force a response, but eventually the Mineralogy Head got her to stop due to repeated complaints from your father.

The good news is that if she recognizes you, Elizabeth Klein, at all, it's going to be as someone she thinks should be working for her. Still, harassment and murder are two different things, and while it might be fun to make her squirm for being a titanic cunt, you don't see threatening her father as something that would work out for anyone, especially not you.

"Kirschtaria is right. Ethics aside, it's not going to work."

You're just not seeing an upside. If he kills Tokiomi, Rin is going to kill you all. If he convinces Rin, Archer will kill at least him and probably everyone else in London on his way out. Someone as proud as Gilgamesh probably has a couple of ways to justify turning 'kill yourself' into 'kill everything on the surface of the planet' with minimal mental gymnastics. Yeah, Archer is your main obstacle here, but you need to think of him as a natural disaster, not a target.

Woods cedes the argument, seeing as he was probably relying on being supported in this plan. "Well, if nothing else, we have some additional funds," Woods says, placing a bag filled with items onto a table which materializes just to hold it. Twenty jewels, of varying quality, something you know without even opening the bag. That you know this surprises you, but 'counting' is your family skill, right?

>"Nice. She needed those as a focus for her spells, didn't she?" It's not much of a handicap, but it's something.
>"I'm not a genius like the rest of you... Can I have those gemstones to cover for my weakness?" She's stored magical energy in those, you can use it.
>"You need to put those back, before she realizes they're gone!" He's gotten her attention in a bad way!
>Take the bag. You'll consider this payment for services rendered. Bitch.
>[Write-In]
>>
Why is Rin so painfully OOC.
Christ, this quest is an absolute mess.
I hope the MC dies.
>>
>>5320577
>"I'm not a genius like the rest of you... Can I have those gemstones to cover for my weakness?" She's stored magical energy in those, you can use it.
>>
Also how does MC know how to use Gem Magecraft?
That's a pretty well guarded secret of the Tohsaka and the Edelfelt families, it's not something any random plebe can use.
Why does this magus family for some reason happily know how to use modern technology when it is shunned for good reason by most actual magi?
Why is Rin asking this literal fucking who halfway across the planet about gems instead of her strangely alive father?
What the fuck is any of this?
>>
>>5320624
Okay, since you're clearly not giving up until this quest is run out on a rail, allow me to enlighten you.
>She doesn't, she wants to draw on the energy itself
>Because she is the first person in her family in the last four generations to actually use Magecraft
>Because his entire fucking job is to perform financial taskings, including things like storing gemstones
>It's something you're clearly not interested in, so go away
This isn't a professional, canon work, it's a quest played by randos on a Bolivian juggling forum. Based on your whiny behavior, which has consisted entirely of complaining about me and not even bothering to reply to my posts, I have no reason and even less motivation to give the perfect quest you want to you.
>>
>>5320577
>"I'm not a genius like the rest of you... Can I have those gemstones to cover for my weakness?" She's stored magical energy in those, you can use it.
>>5320630
at least vote if you're gonna devout that time to complaining
>>
>>5320577
>"Nice. She needed those as a focus for her spells, didn't she?" It's not much of a handicap, but it's something.
Ignore the retard sperging out for no reason QM, I really like this quest so far.
>>
>>5320624
>atN8XO8o
Why is this autistic retard so retarded?
>>
>>5320614
>>5320654
>>5320728
"Nice. She needed those as a focus for her spells, didn't she?" It's not much of a handicap, but it's something.
Despite your impression of her, she's too powerful for you to fight with anything less than all your strength, so...
"I'm not a genius like the rest of you... Can I have those gemstones to cover for my weakness?" She's stored magical energy in those, you can use it.
None of them protest, so you palm one of the crystals and try to use it. After a few minutes, you realize you're drawing a blank. Despite your best efforts, you can't figure out how to access the raw mana inside. It might as well be a locked box with batteries inside. Some items are tied to bloodline, is this that effect here, or do you just not know how to do this? You curse your luck, either way, and feel completely useless.

Woods holds out his hand and says, "If you want genius, you should talk to the people who developed this. I, in contrast, am a cheat." He takes the precious stone, and concentrates. When he hands the gem back to you, the power is on tap, but it's much less than you gauged before. It's also warm. "You run some mana through this and it'll break, releasing the 'charge' inside. In Tohsaka's hands, it would be more powerful, obviously. Maybe an order of magnitude more. Now, it's nothing but a power source, and one that's running down."

As he does this for the rest, you ask how it is he's doing it, and he shrugs. "My Magecraft is devoted to analysis and disruption, as befits an Executor. Against a second-rate Magus, I'm just a guy with combat training. But against someone like this, I can 'hack' their spells to a limited extent. Strong against the strong, weak against the weak."

You note that in case you have to kill him. Woods doesn't have an answer to someone who's simply faster and stronger than he is, and if he could hack Servants he would have already, so Rider could simply beat him to death if push comes to shove. Speaking of Rider, he still seems fine, but in a pinch, you can empower him with these, or your Command Spells. The stones are much weaker- significantly so, you'd have to burn them all to get anywhere close to a Command Spell- but for his minor wounds or the like, you can use them. There's also the fact that these gems are valuable even to those not in the know, so you can use them as a bribe.

Acquired 20 Gems.

With a valuable resource in your hands, you're itching for some action.

>"That Caster and Assassin still aren't pinned down."
or
>"The Founding Families are the higher priority."
and
>"We're getting back out there." You're planning on bringing along the people you came with.
>"We're going, but the girl stays." You're not pitting Natalia versus possible killers, even if she is willing.
>"I want a change in teammates." Woods and Assassin, Olga and Saber, and Wodime and Caster are all willing to swap in.
or
>[Write-In]
>>
>>5320958
>"That Caster and Assassin still aren't pinned down."

>"We're getting back out there." You're planning on bringing along the people you came with.
>>
>"The Founding Families are the higher priority."
>"We're getting back out there." You're planning on bringing along the people you came with.
>>
>>5320958
>"That Caster and Assassin still aren't pinned down."
>"We're getting back out there." You're planning on bringing along the people you came with.
>>
>>5320958
>"That Caster and Assassin still aren't pinned down."
>"We're getting back out there." You're planning on bringing along the people you came with.
>>
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>>5321043
>>5321188
>>5321403
>>5321532
While your blood is currently spiced with vitrol, something seems off when you handle the gems. You feel like you're forgetting yourself, like you did when you had to stop and catch your breath. If you get ahead of yourself, Assassin's dagger will wind up in your back. Saber can handle Enemy Lancer and perhaps the others can handle Gilgamesh, you need to focus on enemies you know nothing about.
"That Caster and Assassin still aren't pinned down."
"We're getting back out there." You're planning on bringing along the people you came with.


Rider stands up first, and the others follow your lead. When you return to where you were before and continue searching, the list of possible locations gets shorter and shorter. Soon, you're in London's Chinatown, and Natalia stops and looks at one of the food shops in awe. While it's kind of adorable how she looks at the menu, you think eating while there's an Assassin on the loose is a great way to get poisoned, so you tug her along.

Sion waves for you to follow. "This way... I'm picking up odd movement around here." A bookstore your group ducks into on Charing Cross has a small customer-base and a lot of winding bookcases, but despite the musk of old paper and relative quiet, the place doesn't really give any indication that Assassin should be here. Then again, if he gave away his location, he wouldn't be a very good Assassin. As an old city, any building in London might have a hidden path or trap door you're not aware of, so if he the Master did his homework, thousands could walk over his hidey-hole and not notice him or his Servant. Alternatively, he could just be popping in, to have an excuse to slow down. You keep an eye out for any people that seem unusually well-dressed, or anywhere that would be out of line-of-sight of the windows.

As soon as you duck down one of the more obscure paths, a man with a wicked hook between his fingers gives you a jumpscare. His attempt to rip your throat out is only prevented by Rider, who is substantially larger than the would-be killer and pushes him back. This guy who just attacked is also wearing an iron mask beneath the face covering he's wearing, meaning he's likely one of the other possible Men in the Iron Mask. He takes a semi-defensive stance, not willing to dematerialize yet. Something else comes to mind, just a little too late: You're still in public, so throwing him through walls seems like a great way to get everyone busted. Berserker will be completely useless here, and Lancer might be too big to fight here. Sion hears the noise and places her hand on Natalia's chest, waiting for your decision.

>"Keep it quiet, Rider." He fought guys in prison, right?
>"Rider, do whatever you have to." Better to be judged than buried.
>Gesture to Sion for additional help. If Rider keeps him pinned, Lancer just needs to stab a fish in a barrel.
>This isn't the time or the place- get somewhere more open.
>[Write-In]
>>
>>5322551
>Gesture to Sion for additional help. If Rider keeps him pinned, Lancer just needs to stab a fish in a barrel.
>>
>>5322551
>Gesture to Sion for additional help. If Rider keeps him pinned, Lancer just needs to stab a fish in a barrel.
>>
>>5322551
>Gesture to Sion for additional help. If Rider keeps him pinned, Lancer just needs to stab a fish in a barrel.
>>
>>5322586
>>5322748
>>5322783
Gesture to Sion for additional help. If Rider keeps him pinned, Lancer just needs to stab a fish in a barrel.

You give Sion a hand movement demanding help and when you do, Assassin lunges. Rider is directly in his way, so the hook trying to stab your hand is trapped as Phillipe instinctively catches it under his arm. He grabs the other Iron Mask's leading arm with his right hand, bringing the other to support it. The attacker persists and tries to make Rider let go by kicking him in the side with his opposite leg, but the impact only shakes the shelves and your nerves. Rider swings Assassin like a bat, slamming him into the nearest bookshelf with a crack and thud. The back of the shop dumps about twenty tomes onto both of their heads, and a few others from nearby shelves.

You lose track of both of them for a moment while the books fall, but a sickening tear is heard and Rider grunts. Lancer attempts to pin Assassin, but the injury causes Rider to loosen his grip for a second. Wriggling free by letting go of his hook, Assassin steps back and out of the way of the thrust. Climbing up the shelves in the blink of an eye and hopping over Rider, he attempts to take the hook back by drawing it through Rider.

"Just for that, I'm ignoring Caster's orders... Virgin sacrifices are the best!" Oh yeah, no, you're not getting anywhere near that guy. Trying to step out of reach, you find your back to a bookcase. You can see it now... He has to take two steps to kill you, but he can rip your chest open with one blow. Phillipe, however, isn't letting that happen, and when Assassin grabs the hook, Rider puts his hand on top of the foe's, slowing him. Assassin hatefully spits at Phillipe, "I can use your blood too! Bl-"

With a clear line of sight to the foe and Assassin's arm extended and held, Lancer's second strike goes right through the Assassin's back and out of the front of his chest. The other Iron Mask doesn't have time to do much more than burble on his own blood before he collapses, fading out into a pile of shimmering dust which fades into the air. His last words continue his cut-off incantation, which is indistinguishable and doesn't have any effect.

Lancer looks at the huge gash in Rider's side, and when your gaze follows his, you nearly faint. There's a ragged chunk taken out of Phillipe, comparable to a chainsaw wound, and you can see ruptured organs. Good Lord, is that a kidney? He's sweating bullets, but Rider gives you a thumbs up, before concentrating and closing over the gap. Lancer, confused, also gives a thumbs up to Sion, who cracks up.

>"You're not toughing this one out, Rider." (Spend 7 Gems)
>"We've got Assassin down... So what about Caster? They seem to be on the same team."
>"See, Natalia? This is what it means to hurt someone."
>Immediately begin searching for passages or hideaways around where Assassin popped up. If Servant...
>[Write-In]
>>
>>5323562
>"You're not toughing this one out, Rider." (Spend 7 Gems)
>"We've got Assassin down... So what about Caster? They seem to be on the same team."
>Immediately begin searching for passages or hideaways around where Assassin popped up. If Servant...
I have a gut feeling that his NPs might be endurance based and as a result this may be a waste, but better safe than sorry
>>
>>5323562
>"You're not toughing this one out, Rider." (Spend 7 Gems)
>Immediately begin searching for passages or hideaways around where Assassin popped up. If Servant...
>>
>>5323562
>"You're not toughing this one out, Rider." (Spend 7 Gems)
>Immediately begin searching for passages or hideaways around where Assassin popped up. If Servant...
>>
>"You're not toughing this one out, Rider." (Spend 7 Gems)
>"We've got Assassin down... So what about Caster? They seem to be on the same team."
>Immediately begin searching for passages or hideaways around where Assassin popped up. If Servant...
>>
>>5323588
>>5323735
>>5324055
>>5324471
"You're not toughing this one out, Rider." (Spend 7 Gems)
13 Gems Remain
Without having to check after you think it over, you know exactly how many gems to run through your fingers one after another to pass mana to Rider. He's impressed by your quick aptitude, and nods approvingly. Making effective guesstimates isn't exactly on par with summoning lightning or the like, though, so you're not too impressed with yourself. However, when you hold the remaining thirteen gems, you realize something. Thirteen has special meaning in a lot of cultures, so maybe you could calculate a specific use for the remaining gems? You've got little to no experience preparing spells, but if you got some help... You can think it over when you're back in safety.

Immediately begin searching for passages or hideaways around where Assassin popped up. If Servant...
Taking a knee, you look around for any trap-doors or signs of movement. The books are getting in the way, so part of looking for any tricks or traps is putting the books back on the shelf. Rider helps you do so, and Natalia steps up to help as well. Lancer vanishes, but Sion helps you look. Unfortunately, out of the 211 cloth tiles within your line of sight, none of them show the tell-tale signs of having roughed-up edges, replaced texture, or out-of-place coloration used to suggest they're a sliding door or removable floor.

"Eh, Miss, Miss, Miss... and Sir," an overly anxious employee asks, when he moves over to see the fallen books, "A man just left, and I heard a confrontation. Is everything all right?" He sees Rider, who is still covered in bandages, and immediately goes still with shock, then rifling into his pocket and holding out a coupon. "Sosorryfortheinconveniencethankyougoodbye!" He drops the paper and dashes away. You get the feeling he's not going to tell anyone anything. So sticking around did get you something- a new lead, a possible investigation squelched, and a coupon. Rider pockets the last of these, while you rush out to take the first.

(1/2)
>>
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(2/2)
"We've got Assassin down... So what about Caster? They seem to be on the same team."
If Assassin's Master just booked it, he's got two real options, in your mind- to try and hide behind Caster, or to go anywhere else so that he's not leading you back to Caster's hideout. Self-preservation or confidence in Caster suggests the first, while true bonds or even just servitude lead to the second. You don't have a good psychological profile on Assassin's Master, so he could be anyone. At least you've confirmed he is a he.
"Too many people," Sion mutters. "If I got a look at him before he left, this would be cake. A Servant is one thing... Picking a magus out of a crowd is a bit harder."

You can't ask for them to bring him up on camera, if there's even a camera in that bookstore at all. Or it could be a false positive, or... Thinking about this for too long will lose you your lead for sure. The street is too busy for you to make any good assumptions about how far he's gotten.

>Count the number of men who aren't carrying any bags.
>"If he's going to go to Caster, we should just find Caster first. Forget about him."
>"...He isn't leading us to Caster, he's leading us away!" Return to the bookstore.
>"One is good enough for now. We need to re-enforce our allies."
>[Write-In]
>>
>>5324646
>"If he's going to go to Caster, we should just find Caster first. Forget about him."
>>
>>5324646
>"If he's going to go to Caster, we should just find Caster first. Forget about him."



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