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B8/Stay Night is a Choose Your Own Adventure by Ed Bellis loosely based on the visual novel Fate/Stay Night.

Intro by Ed Bellis[]

Welcome to B8/Stay Night, a new CYOA based on FSN. The way this works is we have players who have signed up and submitted characters; as the story goes on, these characters will eventually be given choices, and they must choose their path. Anyone is welcome to suggest things to the players, and of course, to simply read and enjoy.

For those who submitted a character but aren't in the intro: I may use your services later on in the CYOA, as there are a few major characters who haven't been introduced yet, so don't give up hope!

Also, a disclaimer: this is not FSN. I have taken major liberties with the FSN “rules” (as you can already tell from how summoning works) to keep people on their toes and to make a more entertaining story. I have also taken liberties with some of the submitted characters to fit in with my universe and, again, to keep people on their toes.

That said, happy reading!


The Story[]

Updated through 2/17/10


Prologue[]


It is said that the Holy Grail can grant any one wish.

Only one has the right to possess it.



Morning. Or was it afternoon? All he knew was that light was streaming in through the open window. Groaning loudly, he reached his weathered hand toward the shutters and closed the blinds, preparing to return to the bliss of sleep, the bliss of not having to be awake.

Then the phone started to ring.

Swearing in two different languages, he drew the pillow above his head to drown out the unwanted noise. After a few unsuccessful attempts, he groaned again and lifted it off his head.

“Shakes, it's Lucian,” came the cool, measured voice over the answering machine. “Did you forget our little appointment today? Probably hung over, aren't you... I suppose I'll forgive you. Again.”

The man stared up at his ceiling, ugly stains and a rusted fan looking back at him. He ran a hand through his thinning hair and knew that, whatever it was, the dream he had been having was better than the life he was currently living.

---

The alarm clock was buzzing, but the young man was already brushing his teeth in preparation for the day's coming events. He was a sound sleeper, but he had found himself unable to get to bed in the luxurious hotel room, too excited about the coming events to sleep.

“Kanzaris,” a booming voice echoed from outside the bathroom. “I will be outside.”

The young man nodded at his father, already dressed in a crisp suit and tie. He brushed quickly and efficiently, knowing that they'd soon meet with the representatives and ensure that everything was in order. Of course, knowing Kanzaris's father, everything had been in order since the moment they'd arrived in Fuyuki City, but formalities were formalities.

There was a knock at the door to the hotel room. “Cmurf inf,” Kan muffled through the toothpaste, before spitting it out and chiming, “Come in!”

Another man in a black suit entered the room, accompanied by Kan's father. Kan checked the alarm clock, still beeping indolently. They were here already? He threw down his toothbrush and pulled on his blazer before turning to face the man.

“Mr. Elegnithos,” the man said. “Are you ready?”

Kan smiled. “Ready as I'll ever be!”

---

So, the man thought, watching the three people in suits leave the hotel, this is how it goes. Masters cherrypicked from birth to win the War. Nothing to do with talent whatsoever. I don't even know him and he makes me sick.

He had been following the Elegnithoses since their arrival in Fuyuki City a few days prior. Everyone knew Miklos Elegnithos and his multinational corporation, but few had ever suspected he and his family of being involved with the Mage's Association. He'd watched that proud man and his idiot son make arrangements for the latter to be selected as one of the Masters... but that wasn't how it worked. Masters were not chosen by the Association.

At least, that was how Semi Yi had always believed it to be.

The Association is supposed to be a neutral party, he thought, concealing his own magical presence and walking behind his targets. I haven't prepared for this little game just to be dealt in with a rigged hand.

He strongly suspected that the boy had little to no knowledge of what he was getting himself into. No, Miklos would likely pin everything he had on his son, all his hopes and dreams and the wish. Damn them! The Grail is mine for the taking, and I won't lose it to some rich punk who doesn't know light magic from lightning!

After a few minutes of walking, the two adults entered a nearby building Semi knew to be a tavern secretly fueled by the Association. But the boy hesitated, then turned around, staring directly at Semi, who froze. Was it possible he'd detected his presence? No... I used all my concealment... there's no way he could have sensed me.

Still, Kanzaris Elegnithos's eyes met Semi Yi's across a sea of people walking to work or school. Semi tipped his fedora to the boy, and walked in the opposite direction.

I've waited my whole life for today, and I'm not about to let you – or anyone – stand in my way.

---

A passing bird nibbling at the young man's leg woke him up sharply.

“Hey! Get off! This suit doesn't belong to you!”

In sharp contrast with the sleek black suits of the three men who had just passed by the park, Konoda Mushiyama's suit of choice was dirty, stained, and too tight. Still, he thought as he brushed the bird off his pants leg, he wouldn't have traded it for anything else.

Konoda stretched his arms and yawned. Today was the day of days, the one every magi in the world was looking towards. He could practically feel the magical energy around him; it had been increasing in intensity over the past few weeks. To be faced with such competition, and to potentially not even get chosen... still, he thought, he'd faced worse odds.

“Konoda! Hey! Over here!”

He squinted his eyes across the park. Running towards him was a young girl in a beret.

Konoda smiled. “You're late, Min. What would I have done if I'd slept the whole day away?”

“I'm sorry!” Min rushed forward, her coat flapping as she ran, schoolbooks and accessories clutched tightly to her chest. “I had to make you some breakfast!”

Konoda's smile quickly faded. “You didn't have to -”

“Got to go!” Min hastily dropped the covered tray of food on Konoda's lap and started to sprint away when the young man called for her.

“I'll see you tonight, alright kid?”

Min paused, then smiled; in the split-second before she did so, Konoda could detect a tremor of hesitance in her face.

“You betcha!” With a final wave, she dashed off in the direction she'd come.

Konoda chuckled darkly. Good kid, he thought to himself, unwrapping the bacon she'd no doubt made for him without her mother's knowledge or consent. I just hope she remembers everything...

---

“Good morning, Mai.”

The Sinclaire estate was vast and luxurious yet strangely empty, thought Mai Tokiha as she entered Jasmine Sinclaire's room, perhaps the biggest exemplar of both facets. The head of Jasmine's bed took up the entire wall, ornate wooden patterns etched into its frame; a fine silk carpet lay beneath Mai's feet as she brought a tray of breakfast to Jasmine.

And yet, despite the room's opulence, one look at Jasmine's face revealed an emptiness as devoid of life as one of her puppets.

“Thank you,” she said. “You've been so kind to me over these past few weeks.”

“I do what I can, mistress,” said Mai. In contrast with Jasmine's sweet voice, Mai's was absent of emotion. “I have always wished to help those in need of assistance.”

Jasmine smiled as Mai lifted the lid to the tray brought from the kitchen. It had been all too easy to gain the trust of the Sinclaires upon Mai's arrival to Fuyuki City as a girl sent from a foreign country looking for a job to pay for her education. The Sinclaires needed part-time assistance, for their daughter, strong as she was in the ways of magic, was bedridden due to a mysterious illness. Mai had known this before venturing to Japan, of course, for her own family had supplied her with enough information to successfully navigate the coming weeks.

“Delicious,” Jasmine said as she nibbled on the soup Mai had brought for her.

“Thank you, mistress,” Mai said.

After taking a few more bites, Jasmine sighed. “Today is the day, Mai.”

“So I recall, mistress.”

The two young women stared at each other.

“...will you be making an attempt yourself?” Jasmine asked.

Mai blinked. “I wouldn't know the first thing about such -”

“Don't pretend,” Jasmine said, a sudden edge to her voice that took Mai aback momentarily. “I've known what you were from the moment you set foot on our estate. The Sinclaires may be weak physically, but in magic we are second to no one.”

“...I see. I apologize for deceiving you, mistress.”

Jasmine nodded. “I assume it was not your choice. At any rate, the time has come for us to part ways. Once the War starts, you and I can no longer be friends.”

Mai remained silent, unsure of what to say.

“There can only be winner of the Holy Grail War,” Jasmine said. “And I intend for it to be me.”

“We shall see about that, mistress,” Mai said quietly. She spun on her heel and walked across the silk carpet toward the door. She would no longer be empty like Jasmine was. Soon, she would be filled with life and purpose, and it would be Mai herself who would cross the threshold of the Grail.

---

He was always on time. Never early, never late, but always on time. School, like so many things, was just another experience to be had, and Chris always took his experiences as they came, one day at a time.

Yawning, he crossed the threshold into the classroom. Most of the other students had already arrived, and he was amused to see that much of the chatter died down as he approached.

“Morning,” he said to no one in particular. There was no immediate response. Chris smiled as a girl almost bowled him over from behind. Wincing as a beret flew into the air, Chris sighed.

“Hello, Min.”

“Sorry, Chris!” Min said, stooping to pick up her books.

“No worries,” Chris said. “Want a hand?”

Min shrugged. “I'll be alright.”

Chris nodded. Of all his classmates, Min Farshaw was one of the few who could look him in the eye and hold a conversation with him. He had to respect that.

One of Min's papers caught his eye. Inscribed on it were magical runes and symbols with which he was vaguely familiar. He reached for the paper as Min snatched it up, a horrified look on her face. Their eyes met as the chatter around the room resumed.

“Get a load of the new kid...”

Chris's attention was torn away from Min to focus on a student he'd never seen before who looked around the room and quickly took a seat in the corner.

“Promise you won't tell,” Min whispered.

“What?” Chris started. “Oh yeah...” He couldn't mask his surprise: today was the day, and to find one of his classmates going for the Grail was a huge shock. Perhaps he didn't expect anyone his own age to be as capable as he was in the ways of magic... but he had other things to worry about.

He approached the new student's desk and extended his hand.

“Name's Chris. Sir Chris, actually. And you are?”

The student looked stunned that someone was speaking to him, eventually breaking into a wide, almost forced smile. He shook Chris's hand. “Zathras Morn. It's... nice to meet you, Sir Chris.”

“Interesting name,” Chris said. “Where are you from?”

“Nowhere you've probably heard of,” Zathras said. “I'm just glad to be here now.”

Now specifically? As in, today? Chris wondered. We'll see about that...

---

“You're late.”

Shakes sighed as he eased his way into the bar. “Sorry,” he grumbled. “I -”

“It doesn't matter,” Lucian said as he extended a chair towards him. “What matters is that you're here, and we can get started.”

“Great,” Shakes said, reaching into his shabby coat pocket and pulling out his bottle of bourbon.

“As you know,” Lucian continued smoothly, “today is the Day of Summoning. Magi from all across the world have gathered in Fuyuki City to attempt to compete in the Holy Grail War. Only seven, however, will be able to successfully summon a Servant for the competition.”

“Yeah,” Shakes said, drinking heavily from the bottle. “And I'm Captain Fairy King of the Third Brigade of Who Gives a Crap.”

Lucian frowned. “You are not taking this seriously, Skrane.”

“Ooh, busting out the real name, eh Lucian? Who says I want to even compete in this thing anyway? I don't have any wishes left to wish.”

“Then give me your Servant,” Lucian said. “Summon her, and let me control her. I will win the Grail.”

Shakes laughed. “Not a chance, Lucian. Remember what happens when I lend you things? I still haven't gotten my cheese grater back from three months ago.”

Lucian sighed. “I've tried to stress the importance of this to you. You have a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity here, Shakes, and if you don't take it, someone else will.”

“Someone else like you, Lucian? You're as transparent as glass. Let it go. I'm through with magic, and magic's through with me.”

“Fine.” Lucian stood up. “Then our business is concluded. Good day, Shakes.”

Shakes smirked as he took another swig of his bourbon. Good day indeed, ya dirty thief, Shakes thought. I know the rules, probably better than you do. See you on the battlefield...

---

1. Choices[]

Kanzaris looked around the strange building they'd entered. From the outside it appeared to be a run-down tavern, but the inside was lavishly decorated with all manner of magical arcana. Miklos had told his son that this was one of several buildings maintained by the Mage's Association throughout Fuyuki City, and that if somebody without magic circuits passed by it, they would be compelled to stay away.

Keeping that in mind, the tavern was filled with odd people; Kan saw two elderly women in green shawls staring at him, and a middle-aged man speaking to something concealed in a box. He knew better than to approach any of them: they were here on business, and business alone.

Still... Kan's mind raced back to the man who'd been following them. Thanks to his family's magical abilities, Kan's own magic potential was enhanced around the hotel they were staying in and the few blocks surrounding it; thus, the man's concealment magic was ineffective. Kan wondered what the man wanted and if he was a friend or a foe... his father would probably assume the latter, but Kan wished to believe in the good of everyone...

“Kanzaris? Are you listening?”

“...sorry, Father. Just getting used to my surroundings.”

“Forgive the boy,” Miklos said to the Association representative sitting across the table from them. “He is very skilled, though a bit... absent-minded.”

“He will need every bit of his skill if he is to succeed,” the representative said, staring hard at Kan. “Many powerful magi with more training than your son will be attempting to summon a Servant tonight. That is why I am giving you this.”

Kan watched as the representative pulled out a small box.

“This,” he said, “is an ancient jewel. It is fortified with centuries of magic. If your son wears this around his neck during the Summoning, he will be sure to attract the most powerful of Servants.”

“I see,” Miklos said. “Does the artifact have any unintended side effects?”

“Aside from enhancing the wearer's raw power, the jewel can lead to an increase of emotional swings.”

Miklos nodded, reaching for the box, but the representative pulled it away.

“I have your word, Elegnithos, that the... generous contributions you have promised to my sect of the Association will be forthcoming?”

“Assuming he is able to summon a Servant, yes,” Miklos said.

The representative nodded, handing over the box. Miklos made to open it, but the representative cut him off with a wave of his hand.

“Not here. Too many magical minds will sense it. Open it in your room, in safety and privacy.”

“So wait,” Kan chimed in. “Isn't this... cheating? Shouldn't I summon the Servant with my own powers, not using other people's things?”

“Others will be doing the same thing you are doing,” Miklos said gruffly. “They will be looking for any advantage they can to be chosen. Now is not the time to play fair, Kanzaris.”

Kan looked down at his folded hands under the table and nodded silently.

The representative stood up. “I must now take my leave. Good luck to you both.”

“Well,” Miklos said as the man left, “are you ready for tonight?”

Kan nodded, mulling things over in his head. Did his father think him so poor a magus as to be unable to summon a Servant with his own power? Was that why he was being given a free pass to the Summoning?

“Then let us return to the hotel,” Miklos said. “There is still much to do.”

---

Shakes watched the pair leave their table out of the corner of his eye. He wasn't normally interested in the business of the Association, not since his youth. But there was something about that kid that piqued his interest. Maybe it was because he'd become all too acquainted with overbearing father figures...

He finished the remainder of his bourbon and sighed.


---

Lunchtime was a rather quiet time for Chris. He usually preferred to eat on the roof: that way, he wasn't bothered by the incessant chatter of the people around him. The three-story school gave him a decent view of downtown Fuyuki, and if it was a nice day he could normally relax in privacy.

Today, however, his rooftop sanctuary had been invaded.

“Oh, hi,” Zathras said, eating some instant food from a paper bag as Chris came up the stairs. “I didn't expect anybody else to come up here.”

“Neither did I,” Chris said. “Normally I eat up here by myself.”

“Ah.”

The two boys stared at each other for a few seconds. Finally, Zathras smiled.

“Do... you want to eat with me?”

---

Konoda always attracted some unwelcome glares if he walked down the main city blocks, which was why he preferred to take the back roads. His hands in his pockets, he breathed in the cool autumn air. Winter was coming, and with it hardship and strife, rewarded at the end by rebirth. That was how his mother had always looked at the seasons: a continual reminder of life, its struggles and its triumphs.

As he walked down the dirt path, he could sense someone approaching from further away. Sense... not see. Though he wasn't a particularly well-developed magus in terms of power, Konoda could still at the very least since the presence of magic in the air, and it was emanating rather strongly from just a few feet away.

---

Mai walked down the path, away from the Jasmine estate. She had not expected her mistress to guess the existence of her magical capabilities, but at least she had not deduced her true name, for Mai had given a false surname when she arrived. The Tokihas were among the most prominent of magical families... well, hundreds of years ago, at any rate. Still, given Jasmine's intense education in the ways of magic, Mai had no doubt that the name “Tokiha” would register.

Despite this setback, Mai still had every intention of fulfilling her objective, and if she could not do so through the means given to her, she would just have to make her own way.

The first Holy Grail War... I will not be a mindless shell any longer.

In the distance, she could sense magical presence. She stopped suddenly, realizing too late that she had forgotten to conceal herself. Was it a rival magus sent to ambush her? Perhaps one of Jasmine's puppets, out to harm her? Or was it simply a harmless bystander out for a walk?

---


CHOICE TIME.

Alright folks, here's how this works: a question is posed to one (or more) of the players, and they must decide which of a list of possible actions they will take. Anyone – even other players – is free to offer advice and suggestions, but ultimately the player has the final word on what their character will do.

Bear in mind that this is a CYOA with “bad ends,” and that the wrong move taken can make things end badly for your character. Also bear in mind (it bears repeating) that the rules of this CYOA are not the same as those of FSN, so don't make assumptions based on that.

Ideally I would like for you all not to “metagame” and use outside knowledge that your character would not have.


With that in mind, here's the questions for Chapter 1:


Kanzaris, how do you handle the situation regarding the jewel?

A. Refuse outright to use it and tell your father you wish to summon a Servant by your own power or not at all.
B. Keep it, but when the time comes for the Summoning, do not use it.
C. Keep it, and use it to help summon your Servant.


Shakes, what do you do after downing the rest of your bourbon?

A. Follow the unknown kid.
B. Return to your apartment and sleep it off some more.
C. Continue to stay in the tavern and buy another drink.


Chris, what do you regarding Zathras's offer?

A. Rudely decline, and leave without another word.
B. Politely decline, saying that you prefer to eat alone.
C. Demand that he leave your private space.
D. Acquiesce and share lunchtime with him.


Konoda, how do you react to the magic presence?

A. Strike a defensive stance and hide in the bushes.
B. Run towards it, yelling and flailing.
C. Wait it out patiently – it could be nothing.
D. Continue your walk uninterrupted.


Mai, how do you react to the magic presence?

A. Strike a defensive stance and take tactical position.
B. Run towards it, magic at the ready.
C. Wait it out patiently – it could be nothing.
D. Continue your walk uninterrupted.


---

Konoda sighed. He had suspected that it would come to this – with so much at stake in the coming days, he should have thought that chance encounters with other magi would be inevitable. Not wishing to cause enmity or create any potential enemies, he simply continued his walk, hands in his pockets, trying to pay the danger sense in his body no heed.

There was a rustling in the bushes as a monotone female voice spoke clearly.

“State your business.”

“Just out for a walk,” Konoda said lazily. “Doing some gardening yourself?”

“You have magical energies about you,” the voice continued. “Are you friend or foe?”

Konoda put his hand to his stubbled chin in mock thought. “Neither, I think.”

“That is not possible.”

“Sure it's possible. People who don't stand alongside you aren't necessarily against you.”

After a few seconds, the bushes parted and a young girl with orange hair emerged. Her eyes took in Konoda's appearance and, Konoda suspected, his magical energy.

“...you do not seek to harm me.”

“Can't say that I do,” Konoda said. The fact that she had reacted with hostility and was still sizing him up was predictable of so many magi out there. So much enmity and hatred, he thought. And yet despite this response, he was still getting a strange vibe from this girl...

She squinted her eyes. “That suit does not fit you.”

“What, this?” Konoda gestured to his ragged clothing of choice. “It fits me in all the important ways.”

“...I see.”

She continued to stare at Konoda. Eventually he kicked up some dirt and clapped his hands.

“...well, looks like I'll be on my way then.”

He was a few feet behind her when she spoke.

“Will you be competing?”

Konoda stopped. “That's what life is all about, isn't it?”

---

Mai walked in the opposite direction from her fellow magus. He had... perplexed her, to say the least. He did not seem at all concerned of the presence of other magi in the city, nor did he seem fazed at all by her appearance. Clearly he was either a negligible opponent – or the most dangerous one of all.

Still, she didn't have time to be bothered by this. She had expected to use the resources of the Sinclaire estate to aid her in summoning; she would now have to make do with her own wits and talent.

---

Shakes stumbled out of the tavern and squinted at the bright sunlight. He looked around for a bit and eventually spotted the pair walking down the street. Without a moment's hesitation he followed behind, making sure to keep his distance.

If this kid was getting involved in Association business, then there was some powerful magecraft involved, probably fixated in that small box. He hadn't overheard much of their conversation, but he heard enough to know that whatever was in there could help him win the Grail, and that merited further investigation.

I'm disgusting, he thought as he bumped into a pregnant woman. I don't care about that kid at all. I just want the MacGuffin in his coat pocket.

After a block or two the pair turned down a side street and Shakes followed, not even noticing what he was walking into until he slipped and fell hard on the cracked pavement below.

He looked up and saw the older man staring down at him with a cold expression, the boy standing further back.

“Wastrels and mongrels,” the man said. “Kanzaris, do what must be done.”

---

“Sure.”

Zathras's smile faltered. “...really?”

“Sure, why not?” Chris walked to where the other boy sat and parked next to him, opening his bag and pulling out a sandwich.

Zathras watched Chris with fascination as the latter took a few bites.

“...you can eat too, you know.”

“Right, sorry.” Zathras stirred his spoon and drew the instant curry to his lips. He hadn't given himself any time to make a proper meal... not that he had ever really cared for food all that much.

He turned to Chris as some birds soared into the air behind them.

“So...” he started, trying to think of something to say, “Why do you sit up here?”

“Privacy.” Chris's mouth was full of sandwich, but his words were still particularly clear.

“Privacy? What do you need privacy for?”

“I don't need it,” Chris said, “but it comes in handy. It keeps everybody else sane.”

“...oh.” Zathras wasn't sure what to say – he hadn't been around normal people all that often. Was this how they all acted?

“You're not afraid of me,” Chris said.

Zathras looked at Chris. “Why would I be afraid of you?”

Chris smirked. “There's a lot of reasons to be afraid of what you don't know. But the biggest reason people are afraid is because they feel like they don't have what it takes to conquer their fear, so they keep getting caught in a loop: they don't get out because they think they can't. What are you afraid of?”

Zathras paused. “Well... I guess... death scares me, a little.”

Chris nodded. “People fear death all the time, but that's just stupid: death comes for everybody. It's like being afraid of waking up in the morning.”

“Well, what are you afraid of?” Zathras asked, a little defensively.

“I don't get scared,” Chris said.

“Really?”

“Nope. I get even.”

A distant bell chimed as Chris stood up.

“Nice talking with you, Zathras Morn. We should hang out sometime.”

“Yeah...” Zathras watched Chris leave, deep in thought. He could maybe understand why normal people wouldn't fear death... but then again, normal people had souls.

---

“Are you alright, Jasmine?”

“Yes Mother, I'm fine. Just tired.”

Merissa Sinclaire lived to fret over her daughter, but, Jasmine supposed, it was this attention to detail and care that had kept Jasmine stable and alive for all these years.

“There will be no more lessons today,” Merissa said, changing the subject briskly, as Jasmine knew she was wont to do when something was on her mind. “You have enough pressure on your shoulders. Tonight... Jasmine, tonight -”

“I know, Mother, yes. Everything will go according to plan. For now, please let me rest.”

“Of course, dear.”

According to my plan, at least, Jasmine thought bitterly as Merissa left the spacious bedroom. With a flick of her wrist a lifelike cloth doll walked over to the door and locked it. The puppet nodded and returned to its master, becoming inanimate once more. I can't have them interfere with the summoning... the Servant I get must be attuned to my needs. And Mai would have used me, just like the rest of them. No one can be trusted.

Abruptly she heard her mother's voice outside her room, and then a knock at the door.

“Jasmine, dear?”

“Please, Mother,” Jasmine said irritably, “I must rest.”

“I know, dear, but... you have a visitor.”

---

CHOICE TIME.

Mai, time is running out. Where do you go?


A. Back to your home.


B. To the magical tavern.


C. Back to the Sinclaire's.



Kanzaris, what do you do?


A. Engage the downed man in a fight.


B. Question the downed man about why he was following them.


C. Refuse to do anything and leave matters in Miklos's hands.



Shakes, what do you do?


A. Attempt to flee immediately.


B. Attempt to fight the man.


C. Attempt to fight the boy.


D. Do nothing – wait for the first move.



Zathras, school is now over for the day. What do you do?


A. Find Chris and try to walk home with him.


B. Scout around for any afterschool activities.


C. Head home to prepare for the summoning.



Jasmine, what do you do?


A. Outright refuse to let the visitor in.


B. Allow them in under the condition that they not stay long.


C. Allow them in without specifying how long they can stay.

---

Kan stared at his father. Miklos probably intended for the boy to use lethal force, but Kan had no intention of doing so – not in broad daylight, and not against someone who looked so... pathetic. The man was dressed in a shabby coat and reeked of alcohol. How much harm could he be?

But, Kan thought, this is the second man that's been following us today. Obviously the Elegnithoses had attracted more attention than Miklos would have liked...

Kan gulped and approached the downed man. “Why are you -”

Then, like a burst of lightning, the man lunged.

---

The tavern was rather full as Mai entered. She sought not the temporary comfort of drinks and company, but rather some sort of resource to aid in the summoning. Though it was only mid-morning, she would need all the time she could muster to summon the best possible Servant, and she had been careless to depend almost exclusively on the Sinclaires.

Mai approached the counter and signaled for the man behind it.

“I seek some sort of power to aid in tonight's activities,” she said. “Can you help me?”

The bartender chuckled. “Kid, join the club. Every man, woman and child with an ounce of magic circuits is looking for the same thing. Why don't you ask around?”

Mai arched an eyebrow and looked among the crowd. People of all shapes and sizes were present in the tavern, and she had no idea where to start.

“Try the woman with the shawl in the corner,” whispered the bartender.

Mai craned her neck. She could barely see such a woman, but she dutifully made her way around to the outskirts of the bar where, sure enough, an old woman in a shawl sat, sipping a cold drink.

“I need your help,” Mai said. “For tonight. Can you assist me?”

The woman looked up at Mai. Her mouth was devoid of teeth, and her breath came out in hot, rattling gasps. She laughed hoarsely, her sunken eyes boring a hole in Mai's skull.

“You are Tokiha,” the woman said.

Mai did not deny it. She was not sure how the old woman could tell her true lineage, but Mai didn't care: if the woman could help her, give her something, then it wouldn't matter.

“I have a secret for you,” she said, leaning in close to Mai's ear.

Mai's heart began to beat quickly. Could this be the key to winning the Holy Grail?

“The summoning,” the woman began, “is a lie.”

...what?

“Masters,” the woman continued, drawing sharp breaths in between her words, “do not summon Servants. It is the Servants... who summon the Masters. If you are meant to have a Servant, you will have one. If not...”

The woman began to laugh once more. Mai frowned.

“Then you cannot give me anything,” Mai said.

The woman stopped laughing and scowled. “You'd better get home, Tokiha,” she said. “There is nothing for you here...”

Mai looked around the tavern in frustration. An invisible force seemed to come over the throng of people, and most of them stopped what they were doing to stare at her. So many people, and yet none of them could apparently help her...

“My family's reputation -” Mai began, but the old woman cut her off with a wave of her hand.

“Do not lie to me, Tokiha... what you seek cannot be won with the Grail. Now go home and prepare...”

So many questions rang through Mai's head as she walked down the street. Was the old woman truly meant to be believed? Would Mai be unable to summon a Servant if the Servant did not wish to be summoned? And what did she mean about what she truly desired... all Mai wanted was to restore her family's reputation... right?

Keeping her face impassive, she hurried back to her small apartment. There was much work to be done.

---

Shakes was down. He'd been a fool – lured into a trap by some Association thugs. His fighter's instincts were screaming at him: he could barely hear the words out of the boy's mouth as he pounced at the man, delivering a solid blow to his face.

The man screamed and staggered backwards, clutching his hands to his broken nose. Shakes moved forward, connecting with a right hook that landed squarely at the man's temple, knocking him down to the ground. Shakes jumped onto the man, attempting to harm any inch of him he could get to. He could feel somebody trying to pull him away - the boy - but Shakes resisted, kicking and flailing at the man.

A growling began to emanate from behind him, and before Shakes knew it a powerful force struck him from behind, sending him flying into a nearby trashcan.

“Father, let's go!”

Shakes's vision was blurred but he could still make out the boy helping the man to his feet. The former boxer tried to stand up, but tripped yet again; some sort of magical presence in the air was diluting his skills. He stumbled forward after the retreating pair, but then something caught his eye, lying on the ground a few feet away.

---

...a visitor? Jasmine scowled. Her mother knew better than to let potential enemies behind her defenses... but if she was breaking that rule, then it must be someone important.

“...very well. Send them in, but please tell them not to stay long.”

She could hear Merissa talking outside, and then Jasmine's door slowly opened.

“Ms. Sinclaire?”

A man crept into the room. He had dark brown hair and wore a suit and tie. Jasmine's blood ran cold.

“...you are from the Association.”

The man said nothing, instead walking slowly to the bed. A puppet, however, quickly intercepted the man's movement, standing in between him and Jasmine, its cloth arms crossed.

“I take it I'm not welcome here,” the man said, smiling.

“My family has suffered for many years,” Jasmine said, “and the Association has done nothing to help us find a cure. How can you march in here knowing this?”

“The Association has many sects,” the man continued smoothly. “I am not in the business of magical illnesses. My business is... of a different nature. May I please speak with you?”

The puppet stepped to the side.

“Make it quick,” Jasmine said.

The man nodded. “My name is Graham Quill. I am searching for a particular entity that I believe may have settled in Fuyuki City. It escaped from our custody and could be very dangerous.”

Graham reached into his jacket pocket and pulled out a manilla folder, from which he extracted a photograph. He held it up to the puppet.

“Do you recognize this entity, Ms. Sinclaire?”

Jasmine viewed the picture through the eyes of her puppet. The photo was of a boy, maybe a few years younger than Jasmine herself, with white hair. She had been educated enough to recognize the white hair as the tell-tale sign of a homunculus, an artificially created magus.

“I've never seen him before,” Jasmine said truthfully.

Graham nodded. “Do you know of anyone who might be able to give us any information on its whereabouts? Your cooperation would be most... appreciated.”

“I am rather secluded from those my own age, Mr. Quill,” Jasmine said. “My family is powerful, but we are not privy to everything that occurs in Fuyuki City.”

“I see.” Graham put away the picture and folder and nodded to himself. “Then our business here is concluded, Ms. Sinclaire. Thank you for your time.”

Graham walked towards the door when Jasmine spoke.

“...wait. Suppose I were to help you find this person. Why did you come to me? What specifically can I offer you, and you, in turn, offer me?”

“You are a very perceptive girl, Ms. Sinclaire. I know how your puppet magic works, and it would be particularly helpful for my mission. I also know that you intend to participate in the Holy Grail War, and I can provide you with resources to help you succeed.”

“Isn't the Association supposed to be a neutral party?”

“As I said before, the Association... has many sects. Consider my offer. Should you need to contact me for any reason, I have left my calling card with your mother. Good day to you.”

Jasmine shut her eyes as the man left her room. He could hear Graham Quill speaking with her mother... the Association was simply trying to use her, just like everyone else. And yet... perhaps she in turn could use the Association. If it was true that Graham could offer her extra resources – and she had no doubt that she would need them – then perhaps finding this homunculus should be a priority for her.

These thoughts consumed her brain as she drifted off to sleep. She would need to save her strength for tonight.

---

The pair stumbled up the steps to the hotel, past staring crowds and whispering masses. Kan supported his wobbling father through the elevator, dripping blood over the carpet as they entered their room. Eventually he got the businessman situated on his bed and ran to get a box of tissues.

It seemed that Miklos had already cast some minor healing spells on himself to stem the bleeding, but Kan didn't want to take any chances. After a few minutes of tending to the head wounds, Kan spoke.

“...are you alright, Father?”

Miklos's eyes opened and found those of his eldest son. Kan wilted under the surprising ferocity of the stare.

“You let him escape.”

“Father!” Kan instinctively stood up to defend himself. “I had to get you to safety!”

“What kind of offensive magus will you be in the War then if you are concerned with innocent bystanders? There are people out there who would see us destroyed, Kanzaris! We are not in a position to show mercy!”

“I... I tried to help you!”

“And all you did was let a miserable vagrant humiliate us!”

“That was no vagrant, Father. Did you see how fast he moved? How hard he hit?”

“I did notice how hard he hit, yes.”

Kan fell silent as Miklos slowly sat up. The normally dignified man looked somewhat ridiculous with his hair and face matted with blood, but Kan did not dare laugh.

“Our enhancement magic diluted the man's power,” Miklos said. “I've been able to spread it over the blocks around our hotel, but outside of that you will be on equal footing with the enemy. Use the jewel you were given to your advantage.”

Miklos reached for his suit pocket, and then Kan saw his father turn a deep shade of crimson.

“The jewel - !”

---

...hrm. That is one strong Bounded Field.

Semi Yi sat under a tree in a nearby park, watching people pass by... people from days ago. Miklos Elegnithos walked around, subtly casting magic Semi had only heard of in ancient tomes.

I suppose it's not even a Bounded Field at all... it's an obscure branch of magic involving strengthening one's presence in a particular area. Looks like Elegnithos is using it to detect magi, which is how that kid could sense me. I've never heard of it being extended that far, though.

He returned his Jougan, his special eye that could see into the past, to the present day and adjusted his fedora.

So that puts me at a disadvantage if I were to confront the family directly. Wonderful. Though of course there's more than one potential Master out there...

Semi returned mentally to his notes of Fuyuki City he'd obtained throughout the weeks of reconnaissance.

There are several powerful magical families that have strong roots and ties to the city. I've been able to find numerous magical strongholds as well, and not all of them were particularly inviting. Makes me wonder... Fuyuki is strong, but I'm sure there are other places in the world that are even more magically-inclined. Why was this city picked above all the others?

He frowned. No time to wonder about things like that. I've got to prepare for tonight. Here's hoping I get somebody good.

---

He walked haphazardly, erratically, up the steps to his apartment, shutting the door behind him and laying down on his tattered bed to gaze at his price. Shakes opened the box and gazed at the contents.

Inside was a small red jewel dangling from a string. Shakes wasn't a top-tier magi by any stretch of the imagination, but even he could sense the raw magical power emanating from its reflective surface. With tremulous hands he reached out for the jewel and held it in his palm.

Mine now, you bastards. Mine, and it's a small fee for everything else you took from me. Pleasure doing business with you.

---

Zathras's classes had proven intriguing. It had been too easy to use his skills and connections to forge a fake identity for himself and enroll in school; now all he had to do was stay alive long enough to win the Grail. He'd actually enjoyed striking up a conversation with Chris, even if his fellow student was a bit... odd. But hey, maybe they're all like that.

As Zathras walked down the hallway of Homurabara Gakuen, his first day there completed, he clutched his schoolbooks in his hands and stared into space, mind racing.

I can't go back to the apartment yet... there's only so much preparation I can do. And Chris... I don't want to impose myself on him. What does one do after school, anyway?

As if on cue, Zathras collided with another student, whose beret went flying into the air. Papers and books cluttered across the floor, and passing students snickered.

“Sorry,” Zathras muttered, looking into the face of a girl about his own age who was hurriedly collecting everything that had fallen. “Let me help you...”

“I'm fine,” the girl said; her Japanese was fluent, but she had traces of another accent mixed in... British? “Thanks, though!”

“No, let me,” Zathras insisted, scooping up both his own papers and the girl's. He felt bad for causing such a spill.

The girl smiled at him. “You're pretty nice,” she said, grabbing the last of the detritus. “You're the new kid in my homeroom. It's... Zack, right?”

“Zathras.”

“Right, right... how'd ya like Homurabara so far?”

“It seems...” Zathras struggled for the right words. “Nice, I guess.”

The girl nodded, snatching her beret and extending her hand in one fluid motion. “Min Farshaw. Pleasure!”

He shook Min's hand and nodded. “So... what do you do after school, Min?” he asked, trying to sound as normal as possible.

“Ah,” Min said, smiling again. “You look like you'd be into the Dojo!”

“The Dojo?”

Abruptly Min grabbed Zathras's arm and ran down the hallway with him; her surprisingly strong grip forced the boy to clutch his books and papers tightly to him lest they spill everywhere again. They dashed outside and into a small wooden building just on the main grounds.

“Argien-sensei!” Min called. “I have a new recruit!”

Zathras jumped as a figure fell from the rafters of the spacious building.

“Ah, Min... always looking to expand your rivalries, eh?”

The man speaking looked to be relatively young and well-built, with flowing, shoulder-length blonde hair. His sharp eyes sized Zathras up; the boy felt as if he were back with the Association, being put through a battery of tests.

“So, this one wishes to learn the art of the Dojo?” the man asked.

“Er... well, I'm not sure what I'm doing here, to be honest -”

“Zachary really wants to learn, Argien! I can feel it in his blood.

“Good, good,” Argien replied. “How much do you know about the art of close-quarters combat?”

Zathras hesitated. If he told the truth, he would say that he knew quite a lot about many forms of fighting, both magical and nonmagical, though he didn't excel at any of them.

“...a bit.”

“A bit, eh? Well, I hope you're ready to learn. The key to mastering any fighting style is the 'power of perception.' THINK FAST!”

Without warning Argien lunged at Zathras and shoved him to the ground. Gasping, Zathras shakily got to his feet.

“...the heck? Why'd you do that?”

“It's all about the power of perception. You've got to constantly think on your feet and be prepared for any situation. Your brain must move faster than your body must move faster than your opponent who will be moving very fast.”

...okay, I was right. They're all like this.

Min giggled. “Argien-sensei is a master of fighting. He hosts the Dojo every day for half an hour after school. We get all kinds of students who want to learn how to defend themselves!”

“The young apple dumpling is correct,” Argien said. “Are you interested in learning the power of perception?”

Zathras thought. He would need every ounce of training he could muster to win the War, let alone evade what would surely be agents from the Association...

“Sure,” he said.

Argien clapped his hands together. “Wonderful! Leave your shoes at the door and take a seat on my floor.”

It wasn't long before other students began to file into the Dojo. Argien turned to the small group with a pensive look on his face.

“The last time we met, we discussed the principles of weaponless self-defense and how to disarm opponents. Min, would you like to -”

The door to the Dojo opened and a voice rang out: “Yo dawg, where da lessons at?”

Argien sighed. “Hello, Mac. Take a seat, please.”

A dark-skinned young man with gold chains around his school uniform sauntered into the Dojo.

“Sup ladies,” Mac said, flashing his large watch at Min. “Check yo' clocks: it's Mac Bronx time.”

“Sit down, Mac,” Argien repeated. “Anyway, Min: would you like to demonstrate the disarm steps we went over last time?”

“Sure!” Min had already jumped into the air and made her way to the padded floor where Argien stood.

“And... you, new blossom,” Argien said, pointing at Zathras. “You'll be the attacker.”

“Uh... okay.” Zathras stood up, wondering what 'being the attacker' would entail when Argien tossed him a long staff with foam on each end.

“Attack her!” Argien yelled.

Zathras blinked. “Uh... alrig-”

Within seconds Min had dashed at Zathras and knocked the staff out of his hands, sending it to the ground.

“Well done, Min!” Argien clapped. “Much improvement from last week. I want each of you to pair up and grab a staff; you'll be taking turns disarming the other. This is an essential skill in close-quarters combat.”

At first Zathras was taken off-guard by Min's speed, but after a few practices he started to counter her disarms with some quick feints and blocking. When it came time to switch, Min was somewhat awkward with the staff, giving Zathras numerous opportunities to knock it out of her hands.

“See?” Min said. “You're a natural!”

Argien clapped his hands. “That will do for today. Good luck out there in the cold, cruel world.”

Zathras slipped on his shoes and gathered his belongings. He had had a nice time... he'd have to come here more frequently... if I don't get hunted down like a dog, he thought...

“So I'll see you tomorrow? Same time?” Min asked.

Zathras smiled. “Sure. I'll be here. Though I guess you'll see me in homeroom before that too...”

“Yo, new kid,” a gruff voice called from across the room. “Get yo' ass over here.”

Zathras walked towards the speaker: the dark-skinned kid who'd called himself 'Mac Bronx.'

“This school,” Mac said, gesturing toward the ground, “is mine, dawg. Mine. Don't think about messin' with my turf, alright?”

“I wonder what Sir Chris thinks about that,” Zathras said, remembering how everyone around Chris had seemed so intimidated.

Mac's face blanched momentarily, but he recovered quickly. “That punkass bitch ain't worth shit, cuz. You just keep ya head down and don't mess around, and we'll be cool, aight?”

“Sure. Whatever you say.”

As Zathras walked away, he distinctly heard Mac mutter under his breath, “bitch be trippin' balls...”

I... guess I like people, he thought. I never expected them to be so different from each other. They're all incredibly unique. Hopefully I have enough time to become one myself...

He started walking towards his apartment. It was now or never.

End of Chapter 1


2. The Summoning[]

Chris relaxed in his small living room. His mother was still at work, but Chris knew that she would not come home tonight; this was his time, and she knew better to interfere in it. He looked over to the small summoning circle he'd compiled in the corner. Lacking a true magus's lineage, Chris had substituted the magical artifacts with important familial objects: his parents' wedding photo, his correspondences with the Queen, and, scrawled on both a piece of parchment and his left hand, his choice of magical symbol: a circle inside a triangle, the logo of his father's old business.

He'd taken all the necessary preparations, done all the necessary research. He knew magi from all around the world would be attempting to summon a Servant tonight, the night of the total lunar eclipse. But Chris knew, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that he would be one of the seven Masters able to summon a Servant, and he knew this because of his strength of character, his unshakeable personality, and his dedication and commitment.

He'd been surprised to see that Min had magical affinity, and he strongly suspected that the new kid had some as well. Chris wondered if he'd been neglectful of his opponents – was he too confident? Too self-assured? No, he thought. Impossible. His father had always said that the difference between confidence and arrogance is that confidence acts rather than speaks.

Now, he would act, and the world would once again react accordingly.

---

Those that didn't know Miklos Elegnithos might have been amazed that the man hadn't exploded with raw fury when he discovered that the precious jewel was gone. But Kanzaris knew his father well, and he knew that the silences were always the deadliest.

Their hotel room had been converted into a high-tier magical facility. The walls were inscribed with various arcane markings, among them the iconic logo of Vult Industries; the floors were covered with tokens from their past heritage. In substitution of the jewel, Miklos had placed a small bowl in the center of the room with drops of his and, taken somewhat begrudgingly, Kan's blood. Now all Kan had to do was perform the proper enchantments and hope for the best.

Miklos grunted. “The time is coming. I hope you are prepared.”

Kan nodded. He'd been hoping his father would have left to give him some privacy, but apparently the loss of the jewel had spurred Miklos towards even greater scrutiny of everything his son did. Sighing, Kan approached the center of the room, took a deep breath, and began the spell.

---

Mai scowled. It wasn't like her to forget things, but she couldn't shake the feeling that something was... off about the preparations. She had all the heirlooms her family had loaned to her for the occasion, but she had relied too much on the Sinclaires' support and she worried that her spells would thus be inadequate. What else could she offer for the Summoning?

She had carefully rearranged everything at least three times, turned the lights on and off at least fifteen times, and lit the candles with her special match more times than she cared to count. If things weren't going to go properly now, she told herself, they weren't going to work at all.

Mai scrawled her choice of symbol on her right hand: a jagged arrow pointing up. She watched the clock turn one second at a time.

The Servants choose their Masters...

She stepped into the circle and closed her eyes.

---

“You're late.”

“I'm sorry! I had to make sure everything was set. I brought all the supplies.”

“Well, let's hurry it up then,” Konoda said. “The family upstairs won't take very kindly to us summoning a Servant in their garage.”

“They're still here?!” Min gasped. “I thought you said they'd be out of town!” “Apparently they had a change of plans. I overheard the father talking over dinner: bad weather. So we'll just have to be very quiet.”

Min laid out the items carefully in a circle, then turned to Konoda.

“Do you really think this will work?” she asked, her voice barely a whisper. “Dual Masters?”

“You tell me,” Konoda said with a smile. “You're the one who can see the future, right?”

“...can't you do that too?”

“Well, it takes one to know one, after all.”

Min sighed. She grabbed a permanent marker and etched the male symbol on her left hand, then handed it to Konoda, who drew the female symbol on his right.

“Either way,” Konoda said, “we'll do our best, and that's what really matters.”

Min snorted. “Do you ever stop and realize how lame you sound?”

---

Tch. How lame.

Semi placed his fedora alongside the familial artifacts he'd obtained from both sides of his magical bloodlines. He'd heard rumors that Servants were attracted to both magical and personal objects so he wanted to keep his bases covered, but he still found the concept of a powerful being like a Servant being compelled by a simple hat ridiculous.

His symbol, a green eye, was carved into the floorboards and drawn on his right hand. Semi nodded as he stared at the floor carving, mulling over his careful preparations in his head. He glanced outside through a crack in the blinds to make sure nobody was watching, then stepped into the circle.

Every magus with half an ounce of pride will be trying this tonight... the only way to stay ahead of the competition is to be on my toes. I've prepared as best as I can; now all that's left to do is watch, and wait.

Semi began the spell.

---

Zathras sighed. He was sure that other magi would have elaborately crafted summoning circles, filled with powerful artifacts, but he himself had no true past, no true heritage. All he could offer to any potential Servants was himself. He'd heard stories of using one's own blood as a conduit, but he didn't think his would amount to much.

So he'd devised another plan: he would cast the spell with himself at the center of where the circle would normally be and use his own body as the connection. It was a long shot, but it was the best he had to offer, and he needed any chance he could get to win the Grail.

If this backfires, it won't be pretty... but what other choice do I have?

Zathras looked down at his right hand, where he'd drawn a question mark. Nodding to himself, he began the incantation.

---

The full might of the Sinclaire clan was powering Jasmine's magic. Her puppets stood off to the side, ready to leap into action at a moment's notice. Powerful trinkets adorned the walls and floor, borrowed from Jasmine's relatives, and in the center of the circle was the secret ingredient: a red crystal Merissa had obtained years ago when she was in training, said to have been used by the first magi.

Jasmine laid on the ground beside her bed, looking around her room with satisfaction. They had carefully planned everything, and now, at the moment of truth, it would come down to Jasmine's own considerable skill, as she had always known it would.

She stared at the emblem on her hand: a circle overlooking a line, meant to represent a sunrise. The symbol was symbolic to Jasmine in a number of ways, but the one first and foremost on her mind was her true heart's desire.

They all want me to use the Grail to find a cure for the family's ails... but I won't be led around so easily. When I get my Servant, I'll be using her to follow my own wishes. I'll be free... forever, always free...

---

There was no “official” circle in Shakes's messy apartment: just a bunch of old newspapers from his days as a boxer, scattered about the floor. Shakes himself wore the jewel around his neck, grinning madly as he thought of his triumph over the Association thugs.

Lucian thinks I'll never be able to do it... that magical power is all you need. Ha! What I can offer a Servant goes far beyond any simple magic.

He brought the jewel to his lips and kissed it, then began to chant.

---

Even those not attuned to the ways of magic would look back on the night of the eclipse with strange memories. The sheer amount of raw energies across Fuyuki City would have been enough to power the entire city several times over... and that was without all the magi attempting to summon the Servants.

Graham Quill stood on a hill overlooking most of the city. He was curious about who the seven Masters would be, but that question presupposed a number of things... things he claimed to know precious little about.

Masters and Servants... what a curious relationship.

He listened as a distinct rumbling emerged: not from the earth, but from the energy in the air.

It's time.

---

Chris opened his eyes. His living room remained exactly the same, all his personal mementos in their exact place. He frowned. Did something go wrong?

Then the symbol on his hand began to glow. He smiled.

“Welcome home,” he said aloud.

There was no indication of where the Servant was, so Chris expanded his presence detection throughout the house. Still nothing.

Hrm...

Then he felt a pressure behind his back, and within a split-second his arm was bent back at a decidedly uncomfortable angle.

“Hello to you too,” Chris said through gritted teeth.

The figure behind him let go of Chris's arm. He turned around and saw a tall man clad in white robes that concealed his entire face. Chris held up his glowing hand.

“We're bonded now,” Chris said. “There's no need to act so hostile.”

“On the contrary,” said a female voice from beneath the hood. “The bond we share is a bond between soldiers, and there is no time to relax when a war has begun.”

Chris arched an eyebrow. “Starting already, huh? Works for me. What should I call you, anyway?”

“Call me what you wish,” she said. “But my official title is Assassin.”

Chris smiled. “I'm Sir Chris. Let's win this war, shall we?”

---

“Kanzaris - !”

“I see her, Father!” In the center of the circle a woman with blonde hair began to materialize. Kan's heart leaped with joy: he'd done it!

The woman blinked rapidly, looking down at herself with a blank expression on her face. She took in the room, and her eyes eventually came to rest on Kan and Miklos.

“Greetings, Servant,” Miklos said. “We are your Masters.”

Her eyes found the glowing symbol on Kan's hand. Kan looked down and gasped – the picture he'd drawn of the Vult Industries logo had changed, and in its place was a small, red heart.

The woman looked into Kan's eyes, and Kan knew, without any verbal communication passing between them, that she was his, and his alone.

He stepped forward. “Hi,” he said, offering his hand.

She smirked, engaging him in a tough handshake. “I won't be going easy on you because you're young,” she said.

Kan nodded. “What's your name?”

“Kanzaris!” Miklos yelled. “She does not have a name, she has a class. I've told you this -”

“Actually,” the woman said, her voice cutting through Miklos's words like a cold shower, “I do have a name, believe it or not. But it's not for you to know. For now, Saber will do.”

Miklos opened his mouth as if to speak again, but no words came out.


---

When Mai looked up, she was on the ground, facing her empty room. I must have passed out during the spell, she thought, starting to panic: Had she summoned her Servant but been unable to support his existence? Had she failed entirely?

“Are you okay?” asked a voice.

She looked up. Standing before her was a young man in blue robes with shaggy brown hair.

Mai rushed to her feet, the emblem on her hand glowing, and looked at her Servant.

“I am Mai Tokiha, your Master,” she said. “What is your class?”

“Archer,” the young man replied a little dejectedly.

“Why were you drawn to me, Archer?”

Archer's eyes took in the small summoning circle and Mai's disheveled appearance.

“...I don't think I understand the question,” he said. “You summoned me, right? So here I am.”

“That is an insufficient answer.” Mai frowned. “You don't look much like an Archer to me.”

Archer crossed his arms. “And you don't act much like a Master. Ever heard the phrase 'appearances can be deceiving'?”

“I have, yes.” Mai began to worry again. How could she bring glory back to her family with a Servant who didn't even know why he'd been drawn to her in the first place?

---

“...Min? Min!”

“I'm right here, doofus. The spell just blew out all the lights.”

“Ah, okay.”

Konoda fumbled around the dark garage for a match as a flashlight turned on.

“Good going, Min – where'd you find that?”

“Uhh, I figured that was you...”

Min lit a candle and drew it to her face. The light bounced around the garage, illuminating Min, Konoda, and the third person, who appeared to be child-sized. The person held up the flashlight to Konoda's eyes.

“Stop that,” Konoda groaned.

“I think we pulled it off,” Min said, breathless.

“Yeah, and he's obnoxious,” Konoda said. “Come on, let's get out of here.”

They gathered their belongings in silence, hampered in part by the other person's continual playing with the flashlight. Once they'd grabbed everything, they left quietly into the night.

“It's easier to see out here anyway,” Min said as the breathed under the light of the eclipse.

Konoda took a look at their Servant. He wasn't just child-sized: he was a child, wearing the strangest outfit Konoda had ever seen. The kid was decked out in a blue t-shirt with a star on it and a red hat with prongs that resembled a rooster's cowl, accompanied by headphones.

I hope we didn't get a defective one, he thought dully.

“He's kinda cute!” Min said, sizing the kid up. The kid, for his part, kept clicking the flashlight on and off.

“Give me that,” Konoda said; the kid obliged, handing over the object. “Where'd you get that, anyway?”

The kid pointed to something he was holding in his hand. It appeared to be a notebook.

“This isn't helping us any,” Min said. “What class are ya, anyway?”

The kid smiled and ran back into the garage. As Konoda and Min exchanged looks of confusion, they could hear the car inside starting. Konoda watched in horror as the kid drove the car through the garage door, smashing it to pieces and sending debris flying everywhere.

Three people instantly ran out of the house, looking incredibly confused.

Konoda turned to Mai. “Well?”

---

“...what a pitiful summoning that was.”

Semi opened his eyes. Standing before him was an older man, balding and with a goatee.

“...I'm sorry?”

“You very well should be. Why I was summoned into your presence baffles me, as you are clearly an inferior magus with minimal talent for subtleties and -” he paused, picking up Semi's fedora - “even less for fashion.”

Semi angrily snatched his hat back, placing it squarely on his head. “I can always send you back, y'know.”

“I'm afraid it doesn't work like that, and we are – for lack of a better term – stuck together.” The man frowned. “You may call me Caster. I exist to serve you, Master.

“...are all you guys this ugly?”

“What?!” Caster's eyes flared.

“Temper, temper,” Semi said. “You do know that you can't disobey me and that my word is law, right?”

“Of course,” Caster said silkily. “My Master is always right. Except when he isn't, which is apparently going to be quite often.”

Semi sighed. “Let's make a few things clear, Caster. First things first: I don't take crap from anyone, especially not somebody who's supposed to be following my orders. So you can take whatever notions you have about dominating this relationship and shove them up your bulbous nose.”

Caster's eyes flashed menacingly again, but he said nothing.

“Second,” Semi continued, “I'm in this Holy Grail War to win. It's not only my job to win it, it's my right. And to that end, we need to function as a team. You may not like me and I definitely don't like you, but you said it best – we're stuck together. Let's make the most of it.”

After a few moments of silence, Caster smirked. “What is your name?”

“Semi. But you can call me 'Master.'”

Caster's smirk was quickly replaced with a scowl. “Very well... Master. What shall you have me do?”

---

“You can get up now, kid.”

Zathras had no memory of what had happened in between starting the spell and now; all he knew was that he was shaking and sweating all over. A gruff man stood in front of him, extending a hand to help him up.

“Thanks,” he muttered. “I guess... I guess I did it, then?”

“Kid,” the man said, “I don't quite know what ya 'did' exactly, but I wouldn't recommend doing it again – you're a mess. But yeah, I'm your Servant. Call me Logan.”

“...Logan? That's not really a class name...”

“The kid's got some brains,” the man chuckled. “Yeah, it ain't my class name. But I always thought the whole 'class' concept was a little... demeaning, don't ya think? Besides, 'Berserker' doesn't have that great a ring to it.”

Zathras nodded, still amazed he was able to pull it off. “Okay, Logan... thanks for coming to me, I guess -”

Logan laughed harshly. “I ain't done nothing worth being proud of yet, kid. Just wait. They don't call this a 'War' because we sit around and drink tea. What's your name, anyway?”

“It's Zathras. Zathras Morn.”

“Right. Zathras, listen – you're the one callin' the shots here technically, but don't hesitate to ask for any advice. I've lived a hell of a long time and I've seen more crazy stuff than most people would ever dream of. Just keep your cool and we'll get through this.”

“If you're a Berserker,” Zathras said, “that means you can get a boost in power, right?”

“Yeah, but it costs both of us: I lose my reason and you lose a ton of mana. It's hard supportin' a Berserker in the first place, let alone when the Mad Enhancement comes into play. So what are we doin' first?”

---

Jasmine smiled, looking up into the handsome face of her Servant: a dark-skinned man with black, red-streaked hair. The Servant, for his part, looked somewhat disgruntled.

“Hrm,” he muttered, staring at all the magical artifacts and examining a few of them. It was minutes before he spoke.

“You... summoned me.”

Jasmine nodded as the Servant looked her over.

“And now you expect me to do your bidding.”

Uh oh, Jasmine thought. This could get ugly. She did not say anything, simply staring at the Servant from the floor.

“Servant...” he continued. “Such a pejorative word. You'll have to earn my respect, girl.” “That's not how it works,” Jasmine spoke up.

“Oh?” The man's expression was neutral, but Jasmine could feel the hostility radiating from him like poison. “I don't like taking orders from anyone, so you'll need to prove you're worthy of being my Master.”

Jasmine could feel the heat rising to her cheeks. “I summoned you,” she protested. “I used my magical power to bring you into existence! How dare you defy me like this?”

The man crossed his arms.

“We will have,” he said, “a contest. To determine who is truly the Master... and who is truly the Servant.”

This can't be happening.

The man cupped his hands together. A burst of energy began to radiate from his palms, forming the shape of a spear.

“Give me your best shot!” he yelled, holding the spear back as if to throw it.

---

“...”

“Good, you're awake. You were out for a long time.”

Shakes lifted his head off the ground. He could feel something throbbing above his chest and could see a dim glow emanating from his hand.

“So you're my Master, huh? Not much to look at.”

He slowly sat up and looked at the woman before him. She dressed in casual clothing: blue jeans and a leather jacket. He suddenly smiled.

“Howdy,” he said. “Name's Skrane, but they call me Shakes. Account of my hands.”

The woman arched an eyebrow. “I see. I'll be Enhancer, then.”

“...the hell's an Enhancer? That's not one of the classes.”

“No, it certainly isn't. But then again, you're not a typical magus, are you, Shakes?”

She's putting me on. Maybe she's Lancer or something. There's no such thing as -

Suddenly Shakes stood up forcefully and not at all of his own accord.

...Enhancer.

The woman smiled. “So let's get this party started, shall we?”

---

CHOICE TIME.


This question is for Chris, Kanzaris, Mai, Semi, Zathras, and Shakes: Congratulations on summoning your Servant! What is the first thing you will do with them?

A. Get to know the Servant a little better through questions about their past and class. (Kanzaris, Zathras, Semi)
B. Take them on a tour of Fuyuki City. (Chris, Mai)
C. Request that they perform menial tasks (like cleaning your room).
D. Begin the hunt for rival Masters immediately. (Shakes)
E. Nothing – it's been a long night. You can start in the morning.


Min, the family just came out of the house and they look confused and scared. What do you do?

A. Tell them the truth: you're an amateur magus who just summoned a Servant.
B. Make up a story and try to bluff your way out of trouble.
C. Run away with Konoda and the kid – it's not worth it.
D. Hop in the car with Konoda and the kid, then run away.
E. Kill them and be done with it.


Jasmine, your Servant looks like he's about to impale you with a spear. What do you do?

A. Plead for your life and hope he's merciful.
B. Fight back with one of your puppets.
C. Call for outside help: your mother, your father, anyone will do.

---

In an instant Jasmine's puppet dashed at the Servant, grabbing him from behind – or at least attempting to. The man was fast, darting around the puppet and slashing at it with his spear-like energy weapon. The puppet, however, was powered by the full might of Jasmine's energy, and it would not go down so easily, sending out a burst of raw magic that caught the Servant off-guard. He staggered backwards – and then he hurled the weapon, piercing the puppet through the chest.

Jasmine gasped in pain, but almost instantly the Servant dashed over and retracted the weapon.

“You're connected?” he asked casually, as if they were chatting about the weather.

The pain subsided quickly as the Servant stared at Jasmine with an odd expression on his face.

“What?” Jasmine asked, her voice betraying her anger and pain. “I have no need for a Servant who's unruly and disobedient, let alone one who attacks his Master. If you won't be mine, then get out now.”

The Servant continued to stare at Jasmine.

“...what? Haven't you ever seen a girl who can barely walk, who can't even leave her room most of the time?”

“...I have, actually,” he muttered. “And you can call me Lancer. Master.”

Jasmine blinked. “What was that, some kind of test?”

“Something like that. You have pride, Master. But pride will be your end if you're not careful. I get the sense that you've already let me into a world few have ever glimpsed.”

“...I suppose I have, yes. I'm still not very happy with you. You could have severely damaged one of my three puppets.”

Lancer arched an eyebrow. “To say nothing of your own health.” He looked at the puppet. “You should get some rest then. Tomorrow will be a long -”

“Rest?” Jasmine laughed. “Lancer, all I do is rest. I want to win the War, not sleep.”

The Servant smirked. “I was right: you are proud. Fine then. Lead me, Master.”

---

“Tell me about yourself,” Semi said. “Caster doesn't seem to be all that powerful a class, since the other Servants are apparently resistant to magic.”

“An amateur's observation,” Caster sneered. “There is more to magic than flashy attacks and large explosions. As a Caster, I deal in the subtleties of magic: item construction, for instance, and territory creation and modification. Rather than engage the enemy directly, I can alter their presence, their memory, their very sense of being.”

“Give me an example,” Semi said.

“I am not a trained monkey who performs on command -”

“I'm your Master. Give me an example.”

At once Semi went flying across the room, colliding painfully with the wall.

“Oops,” Caster said.

Semi quickly stood up and drew his weapon of choice: his concealed butterfly knife.

Caster laughed derisively. “You can't hope to damage a Servant with that, boy!”

“Wasn't planning on it,” Semi said as he dangled the knife's tip over his glowing hand.

Caster fell silent immediately. “What are you -”

“Knew it. This is what's keeping you in the physical world, Caster, and if I damage the magic circuits inside, you can't sustain your form. Sucks to be you, huh?”

For the first time since the Summoning, Semi could see fear and hesitance in Caster's face.

“You would do irreparable damage to yourself just to spite me?” Caster asked.

Semi grinned. “Do you really want to chance it?”

Caster drew something back into his black robes that Semi had not noticed before. His eyes narrowed.

“...very well, Master. I will obey your commands without hesitation from now on, and I will not give you any... backtalk.”

That I find hard to believe, Semi thought, but he simply nodded. “Keep talking. Tell me more about yourself."

“In terms of item construction, I require a bit of time, but I can create artifacts that can offset moods and mental states, change their perceptions, even destroy them slowly from within – though I do not prefer such brutality. Good items, however, take time. I can start tonight if you wish.”

“That would be nice,” Semi said. “Tell me about your territory creation.”

“I am able to fortify buildings or dwellings with powerful protective spells. I can alter or shape the surrounding environment to a certain extent, blocking out or silencing enemies. If this is your stronghold, I can enhance your own enchantments, making it almost impregnable.”

“Nice. I take back what I said about Caster being useless. And your Noble Phantasm?”

“I have two. One is my weapon of choice. The other makes me... shall we say... unpredictable.”

“What do you mean?”

“Many fighters will attempt to predict their opponents' movements and actions. None may do this with me: my actions and mind are completely impervious. In return, I also gain the ability to anticipate others, doing to them what they cannot do to me.”

“Got it. And what's the weapon?”

Caster flicked his wrist and showed Semi a small object.

“Doesn't look all that impressive,” Semi muttered. “Then again, I know big things can come in tiny packages.”

“Indeed. I suggest you get some rest. I will work on my first item and on enchanting this place.”

Semi frowned. “I hate to just sit around... but you're probably right. Don't want to rush into things.”

---

Min blinked, dully trying to take into what had just happened. She had to think fast. The family was staring at them, completely confused, but they could instantly turn hostile.

She grabbed Konoda and dashed into the backseat of the car, slamming the door shut.

“Floor it, kid!”

The kid slammed on the gas and the compact car screeched out of the driveway and smashed into their mailbox.

“Sorry!” Min yelled out the window as they drove off. “We'll bring it back if we can!”

“That was probably not what I would have done,” Konoda sighed.

“Hey!” Min frowned. “Then you shouldn't have let me make the call! What else were we supposed to do – talk to them? 'Hey guys, we're amateur magi trying to compete for a mystical object that can grant wishes, and we had to break into your garage to summon a little kid who drives.' That would have gone over well.”

“Point,” Konoda said. “So I assume we're going back to your place?”

Min sighed. “We... we can't.”

“What? Why not?”

“I got found out at school. Another kid saw my notes, and he recognized them. I can't go home and endanger my mom.”

“She's not even your real mom -”

“Konoda! That doesn't matter! This kid might be a Master by now. I'm not putting her through this!”

“...okay. So where do we go then?”

Min had no answers. Konoda was homeless, and for all intents and purposes she was too now. Why hadn't she gone home to prepare more instead of going to the Dojo -

Then it hit her.

“Konoda! Argien!”

“Say what?”

“The man who runs the Dojo, the afterschool club. He loves me! Maybe he can take us in!”

“You're fine putting his life on the line then?”

“The difference is that Argien knows how to defend himself, so even if the kid comes looking for me, Argien can put up a fight. It's the best option we have, Konoda...”

“Hey, you're the one with actual obligations to keep in mind. School, family, friends...”

“None of those things matter any more,” Min said. “School is out, family has to be protected, and you're the best friend I've got.”

“Heh. Get better friends, honestly.” Their conversation was interrupted as the car skidded to a halt at a traffic light.

“And we need to teach this kid how to drive,” Konoda said.

“The sad thing, I'm guessing he's Rider,” Min said. “Hey kid! Here's where we're going next...”

---

“So, Saber...” Kan started. “What exactly can you do?” He expected a biting reply from Miklos, but Saber's sharp jab seemed to temporarily deprive the man of speech.

Saber nodded. “Well, what do you know about Servants in general?”

“I know they're immune to most conventional weapons. They can turn invisible and escape detection from non-magical beings, and sometimes even magical ones.”

“Good,” Saber said. “And what do you know specifically about my class?”

“A Saber is supposed to be skilled in melee. They're very resistant to magic and they tend to be a well-rounded class in terms of fighting.”

“Right. There's more to it than that, of course – a Servant can do more than just turn invisible. When a Servant is first summoned, they can alter their appearance to conceal their identity. Most Servants prefer to do this to protect themselves from opponents and to give themselves an advantage when it comes to concealment.

“And as for me specifically, I can tap into raw magical force. This gives me lots of abilities. My Noble Phantasm is my signature weapon.”

Saber pulled something out of her robes. Kan stared at it curiously.

“What does it... do?” he asked.

“Let's put it this way: just hope you're never on the receiving end of it,” Saber said, holstering the item again. “And now, let's get some things clear about our relationship. A Master exists to give the Servant orders and to provide them with enough mana to remain in the physical world. That doesn't mean you're my boss and I have to obey everything you say. It means we're a team.”

“I like that,” Kan said, smiling.

“Outrageous,” Miklos muttered.

“I'm sorry?” Saber asked.

“You should be. An unruly Servant is a disgrace to her Master. You are here because we have summoned you here, and you cannot continue to exist without us. You are a tool, a means to an end. That is all.”

“...do you honestly have to live with this all the time?” Saber asked Kan. “No wonder you're so timid.”

“You know nothing about our family -” Miklos started, but Saber cut him off.

“I know plenty. I've seen families like yours before. It makes me sad to see relationships about power and dominance instead of mutual respect and love. Let me make this perfectly clear: your son is my Master, not you. And if you get in his way, I will not hesitate to cut you down. Are we clear?”

Miklos sputtered, his face turning shades of red Kan had never seen before. Then he stormed out of the room.

“Father - !” Kan called after him.

“Leave him,” Saber said. “You're better off without him. Don't you see how badly he treats you?”

“I know he loves me,” Kan said. “He's just doing what's best for me...”

“You're better than this. Trust me: I'm a good judge of character.”

Kan looked at the closed door and sighed. “I hope he doesn't get hurt out there...”

“Worry more about yourself,” Saber said. “I don't think we should rush into anything just yet.”

---

“I don't think we should rush into anything just yet,” Zathras said.

“Good call, kid,” Logan said. “Between you and me, you ain't looking too hot.”

Zathras sat down on a nearby chair. The Summoning had taken a lot out of him, and he didn't want to risk running into any potential traps just yet. “So Logan,” Zathras said. “I know about Berserkers and what they can do as a class. What can you do specifically?”

“Well, kid, let me put it this way: you want somebody found, I'm your man. I got supersenses: hearing, smelling, all that. Makes me a great tracker.”

“Then why aren't you Assassin?”

“Assassin's all about being stealthy. Me, I got a different approach: once you meet me, you're gonna know who I am and how you're gonna die.”

“...fair enough.”

“Another thing about me: I'm hard to take down. I've got pretty good healing, and I'm pretty much impossible to take outta commission without some heavy-duty firepower. Plus I got these.”

Logan held up his hand and three sharp claws unsheathed from his flesh.

“These'll cut through damn near anything,” Logan said.

“That's pretty intense,” Zathras said. “Who are you, exactly? Where did you come from? You don't seem to mind giving away your identity.”

“Heh,” Logan said. “Fact of the matter is, kid, I don't remember. I know a little bit about my past and my abilities, but most of my life is one big blur. Wish I could give you more information.”

“It's okay,” Zathras said. “It's not your fault.”

“You're a good kid,” Logan said. “Why don't you get some rest? We'll start this War in the morning, on our own terms.”

Zathras smiled. “Sounds good.”

---

“We should begin at once,” Mai said. “Let me take you on a tour of Fuyuki City.”

“Alright,” Archer said. “Do you want me to turn invisible?”

“That would be sufficient,” Mai said. “I will show you various places around the town that may be of interest.”

Archer followed Mai outside, into the cool night air.

“I have not been here all that long,” Mai said as they walked, “but I've managed to find several places that are strong magical reservoirs. Other Masters will be likely to head there, and we may be able to intercept them.”

Archer chuckled softly. “All business, huh?”

“What do you mean?”

“...never mind.”

---

“This,” Chris said, “is the high school: Homurabara Gakuen. Another girl, a magus, goes here, and a new kid just showed up today. He's probably one too. I don't know if they'll be coming back to school or not. I still intend to take classes during the War, though.”

Assassin was silent, but Chris knew she was listening to every word. Her attention had not wavered once from her Master's stories. It had been under an hour and Chris already trusted her completely.

“The grounds,” Chris continued, “are expansive, though afterschool clubs make use of them more than the actual classes. There are plenty of hiding places here as well – if I'm ever ambushed or attacked while in class, you'll be able to help me quickly.”

They walked across the perimeter of Homurabara and turned down the street.

“This is the church my mom goes to,” Chris said as they approached a tall, white building. “She goes rather frequently. She and I don't talk about what she does in there – we respect each other's worlds and leave it at that. The view from the top of the church bell tower is incredible. Would you like to see it?”

“I would,” Assassin said.

---

“You're a rather eager beaver,” Enhancer said as she and Shakes walked across the road.

“Ain't no time to waste,” Shakes muttered. “The Servants have already been summoned, and we've got to start the hunt before they do.”

“If you say so.”

“I do say so, yes,” Shakes said. He was getting odd looks from passersby for muttering to no one in particular, as Enhancer had gone invisible. “And keep your eyes peeled – any one of them could be a rival Master.”

“...you do know how this works, right?” Enhancer's voice was lathered with bemusement.

Shakes growled. “Yeah yeah, presence concealment and all that. Who cares – I'm not gonna get jumped by some punk who wants the Grail to summon a concubine or something.”

“I see,” Enhancer said. “And your wish is pure and noble, yes?”

“My wish,” Shakes said, “is my business.”

He bumped into a woman carrying heavy packages and a man walking with a small child.

“Where exactly are we going, anyway?” Enhancer whispered. “Taking your secret, eighth Servant out for an evening stroll on a crowded street corner isn't what I'd call good strategy.”

“Oh?”

Shakes cupped his hands to his mouth.

“ATTENTION RESIDENTS OF FUYUKI CITY!” he bellowed. “I HAVE IN MY POSSESSION A LEGENDARY HEROIC SPIRIT! COME AND GET IT!”

“The shit are you doing?!” Enhancer whispered furiously, grabbing Shakes's arm, but the former boxer shrugged her off.

“WHO WANTS SOME MAGIC?” Shakes yelled before his body began to walk down an alley, out of the view of curious pedestrians.

“What the hell was that about?” Enhancer asked.

“You've got to stop moving my body around like that,” Shakes said. “Kinda disorienting.”

“Are you on a suicide mission?” Enhancer asked. “You do know that the whole point of this is to be discrete, yes?”

“War has no point, sweetie,” Shakes said. “And we rock it by my terms, and no one else's. If they want me? Come and get me. I've spent my whole life cowering in the shadows. It's time to stand up and fight.”

Enhancer sighed. “Don't make me sew your mouth shut. Because I totally will.”

---

“This is Parkside,” Mai said, gesturing around the mostly empty canvas of trees and grass. “When I first came here, I was surprised at the magical strength of the area. Normally non-magi are repelled by such places, but Parkside seems to attract many of Fuyuki City's denizens.”

A few kids were playing with a frisbee underneath the darkened canopy. Mai stared at them with a blank expression on her face.

“..why did you bring me here, Master?” Archer asked.

“I told you: to show you the magical reservoirs of the city.”

“You told me you wanted to show me strong spots of magic, but every time we pass people, you go quiet and lose yourself. I'm wondering if there's something else going on here.”

“My personal feelings are not your concern,” Mai snapped. “All I want is to win the Grail.”

“Or maybe,” Archer said, “you just want to be human.”

The children laughed as one of them dropped the frisbee.

“...what do you mean?”

“I've seen your case before,” Archer said. “You feel like you can't experience the world. You want more, but you don't know how to get it, so you internalize your struggle and just wind up making it worse. You've focused on nothing but the war since you summoned me, and it's been completely forced – which says to me that what you really want isn't just a win, it's fulfillment, however that manifests itself.”

Mai frowned. “I don't want you to analyze me. I'm very boring.”

“See? You don't know how to respond to situations like this. It's going to hurt you, and it'll be soon if you're not careful.”

“...I am not interested in psychoanalysis. I was bred to be the best, to be the greatest hope of my family.”

“Why not the greatest hope for yourself?”

Mai opened her mouth to retort, but she suddenly sensed something from the air.

“We're being watched,” Archer said.

Mai nodded. “I told you they'd be drawn to here.”

“It's not a Master.”

“It's – what? How can you tell?”

“Call it a hunch.” Archer's voice moved farther away; Mai assumed he was scouting out the perimeter. He returned a few moments later.

“I can't see them,” he said, “but they know we're here.”

Mai nodded. Perhaps it was someone from the Sinclaires, sent to intercept her – was it possible Jasmine was unable to summon a Servant?

“They don't seem to mean us any harm,” Archer said. “If they did, we'd know it.”

“That is not necessarily true,” Mai said. “They could be here for intelligence gathering, watching us from the shadows.”

“Well, Master?” Archer asked. “What should we do?”

---

Chris smiled, staring out at the Fuyuki skyline. The four-story church wasn't that tall, but its comparative position to the rest of the city gave it an excellent view.

“Do you like it?” Chris asked Assassin.

“It's captivating,” Assassin said quietly.

Chris pointed to a location in the distance.

“That's the shopping district. There's lots of stores and an expansive mall there. And that's -”

His words were cut off as he saw, from four stories below, a car drive erratically towards the school grounds.

“Assassin?”

“I see it, Master.”

---

“I don't like your tone, Enhancer,” Shakes said. “Maybe I should use a Command Spell to sew your mouth shut.”

“If you want to waste a spell like that,” Enhancer said, “be my guest.”

“Listen,” Shakes growled, “I know damn well what I'm doing, and don't tell me otherwise. We don't have to skulk around in the shadows! We can -”

Shakes saw it out of the corner of his eye: a flash of silver. He moved to duck, but his body contorted for him, bending to the side at an unnatural angle as the bullet flew past him.

The man in the alleyway frowned. “You won't get the drop on me this time, wastrel. I believe you have something that belongs to me.”

---

CHOICE TIME.


Jasmine, what do you do with Lancer?

A. Get to know him a little better through questions about their past and class.
B. Take him on a tour of Fuyuki City.
C. Request that he perform menial tasks.
D. Begin the hunt for rival Masters immediately.
E. Nothing – it's been a long night. You can start in the morning.


Mai, there is someone watching you. What do you do?

A. Search Parkside with Archer for the potential foe.
B. Send Archer out on a scouting mission while you remain behind.
C. Let them watch – you've got nothing to hide.


Chris, a car just approached the school grounds. What do you do?

A. Watch from the top of the church; do nothing else.
B. Send Assassin to investigate while you remain behind.
C. Investigate personally, with Assassin coming with you.


Shakes, you've seen this man before and he just shot at you. What do you do?

A. Rush him – you beat him once before, you can beat him again.
B. Give him the jewel; it's most likely what he wants.
C. Tell Enhancer to fight him.
D. Ask Enhancer for help.
E. Run away.

---

The car skidded to a halt just outside the school grounds, in front of a narrow driveway that led up to a ramshackle cabin. Min and Konoda stumbled out of the vehicle, looking a little queasy, but Rider hopped down from the driver's seat looking perfectly fine.

“Argien lives up here,” Min whispered, “just outside the Dojo. Let's keep it quiet: I think there's some cameras around the grounds.”

The three approached the home as Min knocked. She could hear shuffling from inside, and then the door opened slightly and puffy eyes emerged from a crack.

“...Min?” Argien asked.

“Hello, Argien-sensei,” Min said. “Can we come in? We have... something important to talk about.”

“You are aware, child, that you are disrupting my natural sleep cycle?”

“I'm sorry! Like I said, it's important.”

Argien stared at Min's company for a few seconds before slowly opening the door.

---

Chris watched the car until it disappeared behind a canopy of trees. He heard the doors open and shut, and then, from a distance, a faint knocking.

“They've gone after Argien,” he said aloud. “He runs the fighting club. It's either a Master seeking help or an enemy seeking information. I don't think we should interfere – Argien is more than capable and we don't want to tip our hand too early. Besides, if it were a Master, I would feel it.”

“Not necessarily,” Assassin said. “Presence concealment can be a powerful thing.”

“I thought Command Spells reacted in the presence of other Masters?”

“Sometimes they do,” Assassin said, “and sometimes they don't. It depends on the strength of the Masters and their personal connection.”

Chris nodded. “It seems I still have a bit to learn.” He listened for other noises, but nothing came.

“Let's finish the tour and then go home,” Chris said. “My mother might be there, and I can introduce you.”

---

Lead me, Master. Jasmine smiled. Finally, some respect.

“Let's start with the basics,” she said. “Who are you? What can you do?”

“I am Lancer,” Lancer said, crossing his arms. “As you just saw, I can tap into raw magical energy; this can manifest itself as a spear, or other weapons or attacks. I am an excellent fighter, and the fastest class by far.”

“I know all that,” Jasmine said, hoisting herself back onto her bed. “I mean who are you? A bond between a Servant and his Master must begin with trust.”

“True,” Lancer said. “But my identity must remain a mystery for now. Rest assured, you will know in time. The more pressing matter is your own past. If you are to be an effective leader, you must come to terms with your demons. I know this firsthand.”

Jasmine frowned. “I am perfectly fine apart from my health. I have been able to live as best as I can, through whatever means I can.”

“You are lying to yourself,” Lancer said. “You blame others for your own misfortune. You cannot continue this practice if you wish to succeed.”

“And you pretend to know me after five minutes? What kind of preposterous analysis is this?”

“The kind that looks past appearances, deep into the heart. I can see your soul, Master. It is like mine once was: full of rage, hatred, jealousy, spite, every bitter emotion in the world. You mask it well, like I did, but I played the part for too long to be deceived. Let me help you, Master. Let me help you overcome your grief about living.”

Jasmine opened her mouth, but no words appeared. She touched her hand to her face and realized, with sudden shame, that she was crying.

Lancer nodded. “There are many lessons to be learned here. For now, at least, we will resume in the morning. I want you to get some rest, and I want to make sure I did no lasting damage to your puppet. Tomorrow we will begin the War... on two fronts.”


Jasmine exhaled. So much for the respect, she thought. He probably thinks I'm incredibly weak... I'll have to show him my true strength.

---

Mai considered her options. She wanted to prove herself to Archer, yet at the same time she didn't want anyone to get the drop on her.

“Let's scout around Parkside together,” she said. “I don't want either of us to be ambushed.”

“Alright,” Archer said, still invisible.

The two paced the perimeter of the park, and though Mai heard nothing but the rustling of trees, birds, and playing children, her senses were still attuned to the foreign presence in the air. Eventually, a rustling from a nearby bush startled her, and she drew her secret weapon – a special match that could strike a flame on any surface.

She watched the bush carefully as a normal-looking man in a suit strolled into view, seemingly nonplussed by Mai's appearance.

“Greetings,” he said. “You have very strong magical blood.”

Mai scowled. “You were spying on me.” She was careful not to use the word 'us.'

“That's a very rude way to put it,” the man said. “I was... observing.”

“Call it what you like,” Mai said, “but you are not welcome here.”

“I was under the impression,” he said, still smiling, “that Parkside was a public place. At any rate, I have... something of a proposition for you, Ms. Tokiha.”

Mai struck the match on her arm, igniting the weapon instantly.

“You know too much,” she said.

“To fight here would be foolish,” the man said. “My business with you is of an official nature. I mean you no harm.”

“You know my true identity and my magical heritage. Were you sent by the Sinclaires?”

The man's smile grew larger. “No. I was not. What I seek does not concern them. It concerns you, Ms. Tokiha, you and your... unusual situation. You see, my sect of the Association has been monitoring your progress since you arrived in Fuyuki City. We are very pleased with what you've done thus far, and we wish to give you the opportunity to do even more. The Association is very interested in you, very interested indeed...”

“I am no one's experiment,” Mai said. “You should leave now.”

The man outstretched his hands. “You will need help in this War, Ms. Tokiha, and I can offer you resources that can ensure your success. Obviously you are resistant to these... ideals now, but you will need me sooner rather than later. Graham Quill knows these things...”

Mai took a step forward, the dancing flames illuminating her face in the darkened park.

Graham Quill smiled and, without another word, turned around and walked away. Mai watched him leave and stared at the bush he had emerged from for a few seconds before Archer spoke.

“Are you alright?” he asked.

“I have never seen that man before,” Mai said. “And yet he knew my name. He knew I was competing in the War.”

“We should go home,” Archer said. “You're being followed, and we don't want to stay in the open too long -”

“Let them come,” Mai said. “Let them come, and I will show them why the Tokihas were once the most feared family among magi.”

She put out her match.


---

Shakes didn't even think, didn't even process what was happening. All he knew was that he was under attack by the man he'd stolen the jewel from, and his fighter's instincts did the rest. He lunged at the man with the gun, curving his fist back for a powerful punch, but the man sidestepped with frightening ease and muttered something under his breath. Shakes's hands began to ache, his pugilistic dementia accelerating to the point where he could hardly stand.

“Yes, that's right,” the man said. “Bow to me. You're in my territory now, and we fight on my terms. Where is the jewel?”

Shakes stared the man in the eyes and spat in his face.

The man, a furious look on his face, drew the gun to Shakes's shoulder.

“I want that gem back,” he said. “And if you refuse to cooperate, I will keep shooting until there's nothing left.”

“Killed... my... wife...” Shakes gasped out as his body convulsed.

“Delusional,” the man said, wiping the spit off his face. “You're pathetic, do you know that? The sole reason you were able to defeat me earlier was because I would never have expected a bum like yourself to dare to attack me. This is your last chance before I start shooting.”

Shakes turned his eyes to where Enhancer had been standing. The pain in his body was so great that he retched, curling into a ball on the cold, wet ground of the alley.

“Very well,” the man said. “I am not a killer by nature, but I will do anything to protect my son. It is time you learned a lesson, vagrant.”

The man pulled the trigger.

It was as if time slowed down for Shakes. He watched the bullet approach his downed body, heading straight for his shoulder, and then he found himself rolling out of the way. His body, still wracked with pain, contorted on its own as he stood up and lunged once more for his assailant.

“What -”

Shakes tackled the man, fighting through the pain, uppercutting the gun out of his hand. His attacker muttered something else, and Shakes was forced backwards by what felt like an invisible string, landing sprawled onto the ground.

The man wiped his face. “You are no ordinary man,” he said.

Shakes's pain had subsided, and he looked to his left and saw the gun. He snatched the weapon from the ground and, with shaking hands, turned it on its owner.

The man looked up and froze.

For a few moments the two stood there, Shakes teetering back and forth, the man crouching on the ground, staring death in the face. Shakes could hear people outside the alley, obviously attracted by the gunshots. He would give them one more to listen to.

The attacker opened his mouth, and whether he was preparing another spell or simply entreating him to stop, Shakes never knew, because the former boxer fired the gun, and the bullet, despite Shakes's poor aim, landed squarely in the man's forehead. His brains splattered across the brick wall of the nearest building, and he slumped over, seeping his life onto the ground.


At once Shakes felt his body jerk down the other end of the alley, running as fast as he could. He could hear people screaming in the distance as he sprinted in between nearby darkened buildings. Eventually, his body winded to a stop, panting and wheezing.

“You didn't have to kill him,” Enhancer said, her voice filled with contempt.

Shakes grabbed the jewel dangling from around his neck and stared at it. That man had been willing to die to get it back... and now he was dead, and Shakes had been the one to kill him...

“I could only assist you so much in that fight,” Enhancer continued. “I can't do much when you keep resisting me, and I won't do much if this is how you're going to conduct yourself. I'm very disappointed in you.”

Shakes laughed hoarsely. “Bastard,” he chuckled, pocketing the gun. “He had it coming.”

“Do you really believe that?” Enhancer asked.

He slowly stood up, still shaking. “Sometimes,” he said, “that belief is all that keeps me going.”


End of Chapter 2


3. The Law of Disorder[]

It is more dangerous that even a guilty person should be punished without the forms of law than that he should escape. Thomas Jefferson


Morning. Or was it afternoon? All he knew was that light was streaming in through the open window, and that he'd done this same song-and-dance for years.

But this time... something was different. There was a small fluttering sound coming from the side. Shakes opened his eyes to see a woman flipping casually through a magazine on his table.

“Oh, you're awake,” Enhancer said. “About time.”

“I feel terrible,” Shakes said, slowly sitting up.

“Somehow, that's both the response I was hoping for and the opposite of what I wanted.”

Shakes looked down at his hands, vibrating back and forth with intensity. Suddenly everything came flooding back to him – the Association man, the sudden bursts of pain and power, the gun in his hand... he looked to the table and saw the weapon of choice seated there, next to Enhancer's magazine, an elephant in a room full of china.

“Did...” Shakes began, but Enhancer cut him off with a stern glare. She looked him up and down, and Shakes had the distinct impression that his quivering form would not be met with any sympathy.

“Give me the jewel.”

“...huh?”

“The jewel. Give it to me.”

Shakes blinked. “I know they're a girl's best friend, but -”

Now.

---

Fuyuki City's main police station was a sprawling mess of corridors and hallways, filled to the brim with bureaucracy and pointlessness. Kanzaris half-watched the people walking by, staring mostly at the floor and a nearby painting of a sunset. He'd received a call shortly after Miklos had left the hotel, but Kan had known in his heart that something was wrong moments before that, for the protective enchantments that his father had placed around the surrounding blocks had dissipated.

And Kan knew that his father, no matter how gruff or uncaring he may have ever seemed, would never have willingly abandoned him like that.

“Mr. Elegnithos?” came a voice from around the corner. A squat police officer emerged with a clipboard. “Come with me, please.”

Kan obeyed, standing up and following the man down a twisting maze, passing rooms where he got the distinct impression that everyone was staring at him. He felt a hand squeeze his shoulder – Saber had come along, masquerading as the family's attendant. She had warded off the press and any other prickly questions that had arisen, and her simple presence there assuaged Kan's heart like nothing else could have.

Finally the party came to a stop outside an office. The man opened the door and invited Kan and Saber to sit down across from his desk. He stared down at his clipboard for a few seconds before facing Kan.

“How are you feeling?” he asked.

Kan opened his mouth, but words could not come, nor did he expect them to.

“How in the hell do you think he's feeling?” Saber protested.

The man shuffled some papers on his desk. “Your father's presence in our city was no small secret, nor was the amount of political power he wielded. The closest lead we've been able to find from last night was a man yelling about 'magic' in the streets surrounding where your father was found, but none of the witnesses were able to get a good look at him.”

Kan's blood ran cold. So it had been a rival magus that had killed his father. And Kan had let it happen, had let Miklos walk out the door and into the streets, unprotected, and he would never be coming back... again he felt the reassuring presence of Saber's hand on his shoulder.


“We've contacted your brother and extended family,” the man continued, “as well as the corporate offices of Vult Industries. They want a statement from you -”

“Absolutely not,” Saber interrupted.

“- which,” the officer said, “we said would not be feasible at this time.” He looked at Kan, his eyes betraying a flash of pity through his gruff exterior. “We have your contact information. If there's any way we can be of use to you, don't hesitate to call us.”

They left the station shortly after, the bright sun burning Kan's eyes. There were a few intrepid reporters with cameras standing around, seemingly ready to pounce on him as they walked past, but for some reason they kept their distance. Kan looked up and saw Saber boring a hole in each one of them with her eyes and, unbidden, a smile came to his face.

What's wrong with me? Smiling after a day like this...

As they walked across the street, away from the crowds, a man in a fedora jostled his way apart from the reporters and turned the opposite direction.

---

“Hmph. This is unexpected.”

“Welcome to War, Master,” Caster sneered; Semi could hear the bald Servant's contempt even through his invisibility. “I am rather surprised that you wished to approach the boy so directly, especially considering the obvious presence of a Servant.”

“I wanted to see what would happen.”

“Hrm... so reckless of you. You cannot -”

What Caster was about to say never got finished, because the woman accompanying Kanzaris Elegnithos had caught up with Semi, and now towered over him, her hands crossed across her chest.

“Er... hi.”

“I couldn't help but notice you following my Master,” the woman said.

Semi arched an eyebrow. She obviously had no intention of concealing her status as a Servant, so he wouldn't conceal his own status as a Master.

“Just doing my job,” he said, tipping his hat.

The woman approached Semi, who instinctively grabbed his butterfly knife from inside his coat pocket. She stopped a few paces before him, and despite his cool outward appearance, Semi began to feel intensely nervous.

---

The morning bell chimed across the Homurabara grounds. Min watched the students arrive from all corners of the city, taking in their emotions with an odd feeling of detachment.

“You miss it already,” Konoda said, slowly waking up from the cot on the floor.

Min nodded. “It's hard being so close.”

The door to the back room opened and Argien entered, dressed in sharp blue robes, Rider trotting behind with a plate of tea.

“Ah, good morning, peach blossoms,” he said. “Did we all sleep accordingly?”

“I've had worse nights,” Konoda said, cracking his back.

“You must eat breakfast quickly,” Argien said, “for there is much to do today.”

“I thought we were in hiding,” Konoda said. “Shouldn't our options be limited?”

Argien wagged a finger as Rider poured some tea into cups. “That kind of thinking will lose you this War. Your options are only as limited as you allow them to be... especially with this child here. Quite a curious boy he is... have you taken a look at his notebook?”

“Can't say I have,” Konoda said, sipping his tea. Min listened halfheartedly to the conversation, watching people from a crack through the curtains.

“You should ask him to write something in it some time,” Argien said. “You may be pleasantly surprised at the results.”

“But he's Rider,” Min said, “not Writer. What good is a notebook gonna do?”

“Child! You are thinking in narrow terms again! You must -”

Min gasped and pulled away from the window as if she'd been burned. Konoda splattered his tea all across the cot and ran over to her.

“What is it?” he asked.

Min sighed, readjusting her beret. “Maybe it's not the best idea to be so close to the school after all...”


---

“Are you sure this is wise?”

“Trust me,” Chris said, walking past the Dojo towards the school grounds. He wondered if Argien was alright – he'd never interacted directly with the man, but he'd heard word that the instructor was a formidable opponent. If the passengers of that car intended to do him harm... well, Chris thought, woe to them.

What Assassin had worried about was Chris returning to school. He had assured her that he would be fine, that he could simply summon her in the event that he would need her. She did not protest, but he could sense her hesitation.

“Chris!”

He looked forward and saw an approaching figure: Zathras, accompanied by a gruff-looking older man with wild hair. He could feel Assassin shifting slightly.

“Hello,” Chris said. “Ready for another day?”

Zathras nodded. “This is my Uncle Logan. Chris is the guy I was telling you about, the one I ate lunch with.”

Chris stared at Uncle Logan, who extended a hairy, large hand, which Chris shook.

“Thanks for lookin' out for my nephew,” Logan said.

Chris nodded, turning to the school. “We should get inside.”

Zathras followed the boy towards homeroom, waving Logan farewell. Chris looked back towards Assassin – and, to his mild surprise, saw Logan staring directly at her as if she were not invisible.

“Chris?”

The teenager hesitated, then walked into the building.

---

“There's little time to waste,” Jasmine's puppet said to Lancer as the two walked down the path away from the Sinclaire estate. She was able to manipulate, speak, and see through the puppet without leaving the confines of her bedroom, and she had dressed the puppet in heavy clothing to mask its false features. “We need to find the other Masters.”

“And how do you suggest we do this?” Lancer asked. “They could be anywhere in the city.”

Jasmine smiled, wondering offhand if her puppet's expression mirrored her own. She had a plan that would both ensure her success and impress Lancer.


CHOICE TIME.


Shakes, Enhancer is demanding you fork over the jewel. What do you do?

A. Comply – surrender the jewel.
B. Refuse – keep the jewel.
C. Demand to know why she wants it.
D. Fight her for it.


Semi, a woman who is presumably Kan's Servant is accosting you. What do you do?

A. Attempt to fight her yourself.
B. Introduce her to your friend Caster and watch the magic unfold.
C. Do not fight – try to talk with her and see what she wants.
D. Flee immediately.


Min and Konoda, what is your first course of action today? (Note that you both must agree to it for the choice to take hold.)

A. Attempt to learn more about Rider and his notebook.
B. Leave the confines of the Dojo and try to hunt for Masters.
C. Leave the confines of the Dojo and seek out information.
D. Return the stolen car to the family.


Chris, you just saw Uncle Logan staring directly at your invisible Servant. What do you do?

A. Find Assassin at some point and send her home – it's too dangerous here.
B. Find Assassin at some point and insist that she remain at Homurabara.
C. Find Assassin at some point and tell her to eliminate Zathras.
D. Confront Zathras directly about your suspicions that he is a Master in the War.
E. Attempt to ambush Zathras at some point and fight him.
F. Leave school immediately.
G. Send answer secretly to Ed like a jerk.


Jasmine, what is your brilliant plan?

A. Track down Mai.
B. Contact Graham Quill and attempt to pursue the Homunculus.
C. Gather information from reputable sources.
D. Visit large magic reservoirs across town.


Mai... hang tight, we'll get to you soon.

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