Hidden 16 days ago Post by ERode
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"Eh, I can imagine someone from Japan doing it for sure," Naoko replied, bobbing up and down slightly as she wiped the counters. "Ancestral worship n all. Elders would probs like to know how their legacy's doing as well. Like a doting grandpa, yeah?"

A pause. Her lips pursed. "Not that a magus family would have something like that."

The comment about their propensity for the manipulations of the masses gave her some pause as well, another thoughtful silence passing, before Naoko ultimately ended up shrugging. Just because they were like the kings of old didn't make them assholes, though a magus heritage certainly would. She sharpened her knives on a whetstone, wiped them off with a damp cloth, made sure all her spices were secured, before flashing Sophie the thumbs up.

"Peeking's fine with me. Don't forget your shades though, Sophie. Pretty sure this is the perfect time to dress down...but we're definitely taking a u-turn if they've set up a Bounded Field, no matter the distance. Can't have them spontaneously nuking my truck."

Hidden 16 days ago Post by DrowsyPangolin
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Rider


“Hmm, now that you mention it, I suppose that wouldn’t be too far-fetched. I was never terribly familiar with the people of the Far East… there was the issue with the trade envoy of co-”

Catherine cut herself off, caught a bit off guard by the next comment. She turned back toward Naoko, looking at her with a vague mix of curiosity, understanding, and something else.

“Yes, right. A Magus family wouldn’t. It’d be something more akin to… a business relationship I suppose. A means to move forward.”

There was a slight, almost unnoticeable venom behind Rider’s words, which she promptly disguised with an eye roll and a shrug as she sat down and began adjusting the driver’s seat.

“Oh, right! I’ll need a very low-key sort of outfit for this… hmm…”

Rider’s humble apron-centric work attire was replaced in a shower of colorful sparks by an all-black outfit consisting of a wool beanie, a cashmere turtleneck, skinny jeans, and designer combat boots. The Gucci shades also made a reappearance, of course. Holding a hand over the passenger seat, Sophie conjured up a matching beanie and shades for her Master.

“It is important that we match for this. Outfit synchronization is crucial to success.”

Rider turned the key, a genuine smile crossing her lips as the truck shuffled to life. This would be her first experience driving in the modern era, and she intended to make the most of it.

“Don’t worry about that. I have no desire for any outright confrontation with them, not yet at least.”

When Naoko gave the go-ahead, Rider’s hand snapped the gear shift into reverse and the Winter Palace screeched dramatically into the street. In an instant the vehicle was shifted into drive and whipping around the narrow streets of Boston. Rider giggled enthusiastically as they sped toward their destination.

“You know, Master, I was a bit disappointed with being summoned as a Rider, but I do believe I’m starting to take a liking to it!”

The tires of the Winter Palace spun furiously, the humble food truck now radiating with determination and purpose.
Hidden 16 days ago Post by Sosuke
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The bellowing smoke would clear with an orange flame that roared forth.The mediocre bullets weren't even bothered to be avoided... Modern weaponry even in the hands of a Servant not containing enough Mystery to harm him. Shielding his face he'd watch the Assassin be mowed down by the barrage he'd set forth, but his gut told him this was too easy. Mounting his magical energy into his bow countless arrows began to manifest and take shape under Archer's command as he weighed his options. The azure tips cracking with magical energy it would make his previous volley paltry in comparison once released from the taut bowstring.

Archer smiled as the less than fortunate guard's safety. The servant naturally put his master's safety first and foremost he hadn't hesitated when the innocent was going to be caught in the crossfire. One less bloodstain on his conscious made him feel his lips curl upwards with intrigue. What a polite and selective murderer. The twin blue daggers nestled firmly in Archer's skull quickly darted around the scene and assessed the aftermath. "Hmmm." A fleeting streak of black was the only thing his sharp eyes needed to decide on his next recourse. Projecting in his mind's eye a complete map of the layout of the interior he'd reference quickly all the possible paths Assassin could have taken. Applying the approximate speed of Assassin he'd bring his aim to target every relevant corridor and passage that the assailant could be taking enroute to his Master. Human sharpshooters could track a target and make a precise shot. A feat within the realm of Mortals... This however was a Heroic Spirit with whom logic and mortal abilities meant nothing.

"Lets see what our little rat is capable of shall we?" Stilling his breath the bowman would set his focus on every target he deemed to strike true. Esfandiyār would release the dam that was holding back the hail of arrows which harried into the sky like a blue tide and descended upon the Estate with overwhelming force. Assuming Assassin maintained the same swift speed through her entire trip towards their destination every corridor and path that could have been taken as she followed the "thread" would have a two meter in diameter hole open up in the ceiling. An Icy hell rained down from above at these points... A area too wide to merely rush past and vast enough that even if he was slightly off he'd still deal moderate damage to his quarry. These points would collapse almost immediately from the assault akin to tens of rockets going off in the building.

The Invincible Archer felt his breathing resume as the carnage was cemented into the landscape. Nothing was certain in war so he wasn't about to get arrogant when he couldn't even verify his tactic. Vanishing into a golden mist the loyal knight would travel on the winds to Otto's side as the very structure of their estate was likely compromised. Reappearing in his full golden splendor walking alongside the bodyguards the Servant of the bow kept his eyes peeled and his instinct sharp as he waited for their invader to make themselves known, "You'd best hurry along Master. I somehow doubt she'd be defeated even if we brought the building down on top of her." Ignoring the startled nature of the guards he'd keep his senses alert as they moved towards the evac point.
Hidden 14 days ago 14 days ago Post by Sightles
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Otto von Habsburg


Otto could see his entourage shout the various commands, at a blur that appeared down the hallway from them, but Otto couldn't hear their words. The blur itself, along with the hallway, exploded in a whirlwind of debris and dust. A hand placed on Otto's back forcefully turned him back around from the cataclysm.

Otto could swear that a large piece of marble took off the head of one of his guards, as it was launched through the corridor. The manse creaked and moaned under the extreme amount of force exerted on it. Otto knew it was Archer, none other could possibly carry out a attack of this power and magnitude. Looking back, Otto couldn't see the would be assailant blur down the hall, largely due to the dust and collapsed parts of the ceiling.

Quickly, his two remaining guards led their charge towards another unaffected stairwell, the mansion screaming in protest to the damage done to it. The words shouted to him by one of his guards were drowned out by the sound of falling debris from above. The leased estate was coming down, Otto knew it.

The door. A light at the end of the proverbial tunnel. Shoved ahead by a heavy hand, Otto charged forth towards the opening to the magnificent gardens to the rear of the manse. Debris began to coat them, before a large portion of the ceiling collapsed upon them. Through the cacophony of falling debris, Otto could hear the wet and sickening crunch, followed by more than one scream. The shove from before was all the more Otto needed as crisp morning air assailed him.

Looking back, only for a moment, Otto could see that this particular route was now blockaded by the increasing amount of materials that made up the manse. Gathering himself, Otto sprinted another dozen feet from the crumbling mansion, standing stoically by the large fountain that decorated a large portion of the garden.

The manse hadn't caved yet, not completely. It still stood, although the echoes of it's strain called out onto the gardens, letting all know that it's imminent downfall was coming. Placing a hand on the side of the fountain, Otto turned as his Invincible golden Servant appeared before him. Archer was right. Otto could still sense the presence of another Servant in his Bounded Field.

Turning, Otto began a light jog towards the rear of the estate, where the 4x4 loaded with his entourage would be waiting for him. "As soon as my safety is guaranteed, recovery efforts will be started. We can't afford to lose the items I have stored inside." Otto began, already thinking ahead of what now needed to be done. It was all Otto could do to not protest against the absolute destruction of his plans. This attack hadn't been coincidental. The enemy had made the attack knowing the implications of tonight's result. If Otto was allowed to gather that much raw magical energy, again, his victory in the Grail War would of been all but assured. This was an interdiction attack, and combined with the willingness of his Servant, the attackers had succeeded beautifully.

"Did you happen to catch sight of Assassin's master, Archer?" Otto asked, checking his surroundings as the duo were now about half-way through the extensive gardens to the exfiltration point at the rear of the estate. The location of Assassin's master was of utmost importance. While Otto was aware of most of his shortcomings, he was confident that he'd be able to beat the master of a lowly Servant like Assassin in a duel. There must be something that Otto could salvage from today's disaster, and the identity and location of Assassin's master would be the best way to remedy the awful taste in Otto's mouth.

Hidden 14 days ago Post by King Cosmos
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The wind howled as it rushed inwards, sweeping through the gardens from all directions before crashing together above the centre of the carved magic circle. The cold night air, which only a second ago had been placid and peaceful became a sudden maelstrom which swirled and pulled and threatened to tear the plants from the ground with their intensity; it was a violent reaction to the blood sacrifice used to begin the summoning process, even more so than usual for the summoning of a heroic spirit.

A boom of thunder tore the air apart as the Servant appeared. There was no fanfare, no sparkling lights or glorious entrance; just what was once an empty space finding itself suddenly occupied by a bloody minded Viking as a sound like the world exploding rang out. The mana which had lit the circle slowly faded out, even the old leylines seeming to dim, leaving the night to be lit only by the moon above, the red marks on the new Master’s hand, and the glint of barely restrained fury in the Servant’s eyes.

The new arrival stood tall, taller even than Katherine, and imposing; he wore nothing but a fur pelt around his waist and a cloak fashioned from the plundered fur of a bear, the rest of his body bare to expose a muscular form untouched by blade or spear or arrow. Not a single scar could be seen. Berserker, for with that appearance he could be nothing else, wielded a solid oaken club in each clenched fist, the weapons held with white-knuckle intensity as if the warrior was already eager to bludgeon something. The weapons were nearly identical to the one still resting on the altar.

From the moment he had been summoned Berserker’s eyes had been locked on Katherine’s own but now they turned away, looking down at the altar that sat between Master and Servant and the wooden object on its surface. Placing his two clubs down on either side of it, the warrior picked up the old weapon in his right hand, holding it almost tenderly as he ran the fingers of his left hand over its smooth surface. It was nothing more than an old piece of wood, lacking the magic of a Noble Phantasm, lacking anything other than the distinction of once being wielded by a legendary king, but it was familiar. As he examined the catalyst used to summon him Berserker’s eyes no long held the glint they did before, taking on a calmer and more relaxed appearance.

@LukasVolkov
Hidden 14 days ago Post by Scallop
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Scallop

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June 24th, Old State House
@Reflection @Epsir
Giuseppe Messana


The detective sat observing the statues around the house before nodding to Caster, a fresh face full of optimism for the war flashing bright as he tipped his hat like some cheesy 1930s detective. He walked voer, picking up an amulet in his hands, being able to feel the magical properties of the item already, without even doing further investigation he could tell manco had infused these with enough magic to protect him from assassin. Just as he was about to call back to Manco, he felt a shudder through his bones as his eyes narrowed. No, nothing magical had breached the field.

Just something tedious

"Oi caster, get ready....we've got company." he hushed his voice down, wondering how thin the walls of the state house were. He really should've done more research into things that weren't Incan or Aztec. God if he told Manco he mixed up the two he knew he was mince meat. "Nothing serious...locals, ya gotta help me give them a scare alright?" He gave him an okay sign with his hands and opened the door.

As the light burst in through the black door and took Giuseppe by surprise, he tilted his hat to allow him some shade, to recover his sight and observe the congregation before him. He looked over for his renovations sign but couldn't find it and he let out a sigh. So these were the arrogant tourists he had been warned about. With a rub of his temple and a hidden smirk, he titled his head and looked out to all of them. "EH can I help ya? We got some work goin' on over here and this ain't stuff ya can just walk in and interrupt! Fine though, don't want to leave any of you in the dark with your history, come on i-"

He beckoned them in and cut himself as he walked in, snapping his fingers and looking for Manco. Time to give himself some entertainment before the murder investigation started.
Hidden 14 days ago Post by Reflection
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Reflection Slightly Stressed but Flawless

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June 24th, Old State House
@Scallop-@Epsir
Manco Capac


Naturally the main entrance hall was still rather pristine. After all, if somebody tried peeking in without knocking it would be rather obvious something was miss if Caster had been plastering lucha posters all over the walls. But, he was aware first that somebody was coming. Deciding early that it was merely a group of tourists, it was clear that he and his master would need to be pretty blunt on why you shouldn't ignore the warnings on a building. As Giuseppe stepped out into the hall, Caster stood just out of sight, plotting and ready to act...

"EH can I help ya? We got some work goin' on over here and this ain't stuff ya can just walk in and interrupt! Fine though, don't want to leave any of you in the dark with your history, come on i-"

RAWR!


BRUTAL! SWIFT! The hallways of the old state house became filled with the growls of Peru's deadliest hunter. The echoing growls of a jaguar, green eyes highlighted by a pitch black fur. Bowling into Giuseppe's side, knocking him over as the vicious predator pinned him by the chest to the floor. Dinner plate sized paws rested on what could only be called the largest jaguar any of the people in that room had imagined. Larger than lion, and growling loudly so that saliva and spit splattered all over the detective.

He expected somebody to run, as the jaguar looked up from the pinned detective, not hurting him. But the intruder's might not notice that. He pounced again, this time towards the door, snarling. Aiming to push them out the door... And then the door would slam shut, latching loudly and leaving the crowd to run screaming into the streets. Probably humiliating themselves later.

After all, who would believe "A man from New York was just mauled to death by a Peruvian Jaguar in the middle of the Boston State House?"
Hidden 14 days ago Post by LukasVolkov
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Katherine's breath caught in her throat at what she had just witnessed. Her wraiths hissed and lurched toward the mountain of a man. He consumed a goodly portion her personal reserves with his mere presence alone. Either he didn't notice or ignored them outright as he seemed to be having a moment with the wooden club. Katherine found herself appreciating the gravity of the situation much more kennly, this Grail War (though in her mind it was more akin to a battle royal of sorts). She came to realize that perhaps, thinking on the endeavor set before her was more than a simple side project. A chill ran down her spine that just maybe she could die in the battles to come. Looking at her own Servant now she knew if it weren't for the Command Seals he could crush her skull like a sparrow's egg if he so wished, and weren't one thing she could do about it; Katherine doubted hers was the most powerful Servant out there as well. A near mad grin split her neutral mask in twine. She picked up on his sudden shift in intensity and met him halfway.

"It was found where its believed you fell, some valley in Denmark." She said suddenly. "If you want to keep it you may, though I doubt it will be of much use to you." The fingers of her right hand fiddled with the broach choker wrapped about her throat. "But thus is nostalgia, no rhyme or reason." She chuckled then squared herself to her Servant. "I take it you are Berserker; I am you're new Master, Katherine Brekker. Given you're fondness for the club of a long dead king I take you are Harald Wartooth. At least a phantom of him." Katherine snapped her fingers. Annabelle was at her side with the platter. Katherine pulled the large goblet from it and opened a vein on her wrist with her teeth. Sweet pain fueled her action as she let the blood flow into the cup. The amber liquid became stained red, masking the little seeds floating in the mixture, or so she hoped. Katherine took a drink from it. Harsh, burning liquid with a hint of sweetness to it ran down her throat. She offered the rest to Berserker. "A drink shared between Servant and Master, a more fitting beginning to our pact than mere seals. Drink your fill Berserker because tonight we bring death to all standing in our way.

@King Cosmos
Hidden 13 days ago Post by Epsir
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The Habsburg Rental



End this madness. A single command governed their body as she sprang from wall to wall down twisting corridors, hounding the sound of panicked voices and rapid footfalls. Her boot came down on the floor, rubber sole skidding across the luxurious hardwood. The Servant slid to stop, turning a single eye on the group down the hall from them. A single green eye, alight with the fire of violence, fell on Otto von Habsburg. Already she moved to draw their weapon from their side, black steel appearing from under her coat. A red circle jumped to Otto's chest, a crimson hologram dancing between still beating life and the all consuming tempest of the marksman's eye.

Just in time, the roof shattered above them. The splintering of the upper stories offered only an instant of warning before the hallway was filled with azure lights, the sound of hammering artillery falling to the earth. Explosion after explosion, a hail of awe inspiring firepower. Noise was done away with, replaced with a simple concussive feeling in her skull as she flickered backwards. Arrowheads pierced the Assassin's weapon, wrenching it from their hands as she chose survival over taking their shot. Debris filled the air, dust muffling the blinding lights and hiding the whistling shapes of lethal fragmentation. Shock from the repeated blasts tossed them backwards, the Servant's form flung through drywall as if it were rice paper, and trailing blood where she landed.

The building shook beneath them. The sounds of collapse played around her, the familiar noises of a building bombed into submission. Plaster dust fell from the ceiling. The lights flickered. This amount of collateral damage... before they were even out of the building. Just what kind of resolve did the Master have, commanding an attack so close to himself? She rolled backwards over their shoulders, rising to hands and knees from under a falling ceiling panel. The mansion's lifespan was best measured in seconds after such a thorough carpet bombing. What had they been targeting, to strike nearly every part of the building? The idea of an intentionally controlled demolition sprang to mind.

Wars were won by those willing to lose the most. Otto von Habsburg had the mind to sacrifice even his trump card, this atelier in the countryside. He needed to die.

The wraith stood straight as the world around them came crashing down. The building breathed its last: a caustic cloud of eddying gray and black pouring from its many openings as the top floor plummeted one layer after another down to the basement. Windows exploded outwards as the internal shockwaves compounded. The skeleton of supporting beams not severed by the Archer shed its body, holding up tiny fragments of the building while the rest simply sloughed away into a ruined pile.

A single soldier still walked the barren ground. Rubble settled with a gravelly rumble as a slab of flooring was pushed over. A slender specter rose from the ashes, a long black coat frayed to pieces and flapping around them in the swirling air currents. A hollow stared out at the world from one eye socket, empty and dark and bereft of its cover. Beside it the light still shined, verdant spite glowing from their working sight. She stood over the gardens on what was assuredly a burial mound, staring into the duo of Master and Servant as they carefully navigated their way to safety at the other end of the expansive compound. Magical energy still flowed from the dismantled building, currents of siphoned power escaping back into the environment as the dying structure took with it many of the mystic codes lying around such a workshop.

"I can't give you any more, I'm sorry, I'm sorry..."

Words rang in their head as they reached for a weapon that never came. The tether snapped, the shared pain that came with it easing away. The wraith turned away, casting their good eye over their shoulder for a final glance at opportunity slipping away, and strode back into the ruins.

Discordant Starting Bell/Clear


The Habsburg Ruin
June 29th, 2021
Gemstone Ash Collection



The Winter Palace could truly cruise once it was free of the Boston interior, guided by the skilled hands of a Rider Servant into the somber New England countryside. Even after the lunch rush, the sun hung up in the summer sky, bearing a sultry sort of coastal heat down on the land. Haze rose from the roads, creatures sheltered in the shade, and once you were past the tourists creeping back to hotels it was a world of normal suburbs. The estate identified by the newspaper ad was a scant few hours and a map search away, a distance and time perhaps reduced by just how much determination and purpose the food truck was imbued with.

Little changed besides the slight shifting of the sun as they rode on. A rest stop passed by. A man quietly walked his Labrador, stretching tired legs for the final stretch of a journey from the west coast. Two girls sat in the back of an opened up gray van, one staring across the road and holding the second while she wept. A trucker watched the food truck pass idly, nursing an iced tea in the sweltering cockpit of his ride. The last picket before richfolk land, it too faded into the urban haze of Boston behind them.

Woods surrounded the estate, barring sight of the compound from the highway. Even as the food truck mounted the hillside roads, the truth of the estate's state would remain a mystery until they pulled free of the forest, to the final open stretch to the estate's ruined front gates.

The smoked out remains of a gray van stood where an entrance once was, wrapped in the wrought iron corpse of the gate. The fence on both sides had been eviscerated, broad holes punched in the spikes and survivors leaning where heat stress had deformed the trestles. The cabin of the van still flickered with flames, the scent of a gasoline fire on the breeze as the upholstery was sanitized. Behind it only half of the building's front face remained, holes punched in the massive glass windows overlooking the driveway. The rest had simply crumbled away into a nondescript gray heap, splashes of color in the form of hardwoods and tapestries peaking out to hint at the luxury the building once contained. The lack of a gas fire was as good a sign as any, and no hint remained of any electric life in the perimeter lights.

A closer approach would reveal the shells of the front doors, frames still standing even when the doors themselves had been stripped from their hinges. The hollowed out lobby, tables coated in dust or toppled entirely, promised nothing beyond. A trail of blood stretched from beside the car, droplets flung out over the lawn to a deeper crimson smudge, and an obvious drag path back to the charitably untouched gatehouse.

Old State House



For what little it was worth, the congregation was also taken by surprise as someone actually opened the door. Some of the remaining tourists scratched their head at the attire of their would-be host, someone passing an idle remark about a detective before smartly deciding to walk away from the scene.

The tour guide, of course, was undeterred. An uncertain smile flashed at Giuseppe underneath impish, mischievous eyes. Something sinister indeed flashed beneath those bifocals. As her lips curved they prepared to speak, readying the honeyed words that would see her group inside at any cost-

"Is that a fucking cougar?" Someone else spoke first.

The light inside the building was dim. All their widening eyes saw in the dark was a giant cat taking the noire looking fellow who answered the door in its enormous paws and flooring him. That was sort of enough, and the tourists turned and ran without ever really crossing the threshold into the building. A few shrieking people going loudly into central Boston was an abnormality... but not the strangest thing that could be happening in the midday. The jaguar released the doorman and lunged towards the door, straight for her.

The guide took a swift step forward, shoulders dropping to one side as they cocked a hand back and thrust her gloved palm up at the creature's jaw. White silk sunk into the flesh, fingers hooked in... and scratched affectionately at the enormous cat. She turned, redirecting the creature and tossing the cat playfully to the floor. The door quietly closed behind the guide as she knelt down, drumming on the docile predator's belly with an open palm. It rolled and thrashed in place, tail swinging noisily from one wall to the other in the narrow entranceway. Slowly the tour guide looked up, past Giuseppe for the first time to the interior of the building. A brief flicker from left to right left them sighing with relief, contented that the building was still mostly in one piece.

"I agree wholeheartedly. It's a dark thing to forget one's history, and darker yet to be led astray by it... I suppose it's for the best that my guests have left early." They stood up from the jaguar's side, shuffling awkwardly as claws held onto their sock to offer a hand down to the dapper man previously 'mauled' by the predatory cat. "Because I also suppose that you are exactly the person I need to speak to. The enterprising fellow leading history astray. Putting it to work for you, so to speak. Closing a public building to siphon a leyline, to put it another way."

Blue eyes burned behind their lenses, striking with a non sequitur innocence to their bladed words.
Hidden 12 days ago 12 days ago Post by Sightles
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Otto von Habsburg


The 4x4 was, in quick order, packed with two black suited guards, their charge, and the resplendent Archer. Wordlessly, the 4x4 peeled from the estate grounds, driving off road to the freeway. Otto was safe, for now, at least until he'd be able to arrive to the Boston Park Plaza. There he would have to save himself, and his chances, from the clutches of ultimate defeat. Today's losses had been hard. The estate was in ruin, effectively ruining any chance of the party tonight, not to include the loss of the Mystic Codes that had still remained in the building. Archer would have to be sent on a quick retrieval, once Otto had made it to the Boston Park Plaza. Even if only the Crown Jewels were recovered, it would be worth it.

The drive was largely silent, with both guards in the front seats sitting wordlessly, staring straight ahead at the black-tinted windows. Eventually, the 4x4 pulled itself from it's off road journey, onto the asphalt of the freeway, speeding east back into Boston itself. As the 4x4 started it's navigation on the freeway, Otto glanced down at the scabbard that laid across his lap. Luckily, he had the wherewithal to snatch it before leaving. If he was to be by himself in the Boston Plaza, then thankfully he had a means to protect himself adequately until Archer returned.

Boston Park Plaza Hotel


It hadn't taken long for Otto to be set up on his room on the 15th floor. Luckily, Otto had reserved the entirely of the 15th and 14th floors, allowing himself more than enough room to practice his Magecraft in peace. The room themselves were passable for Otto's taste, perhaps a little too pedestrian, but Otto would live as austere as he needed if it increased his chances of winning the Grail.

Taking a seat at a comfortable and large arm chair that rested near the room's bay window, Otto produced a small silver case from his jacket pocket. Opening it, Otto produced a long and tubular cigarette. It short order, Otto struck a match upon a strip in the case, and lit the cigarette. While most Mages of his station would turn their noses up at such a hobby, Otto found strange calmness and peace in the arms of nicotine, at least when his normal methods of focus were deprived of him.

Dragging from the cigarette, Otto finally addressed Archer, whom was the only other soul in the room with him. "You'll go back to the grounds of the estate, immediately. The Crown Jewels of my family must be retrieved. They will be in a large, five foot long, rosewood box. It should be easy enough for you to find. They are the priority." Otto shot a serious glare back towards his Servant, conveying the importance of the Mystic Code. Exhaling the smoke, and turning back towards the window, Otto continued, "Any survivors from the attack need to be gathered. I can arrange to have them picked up. They'll have to be questioned before they're...dismissed." Otto finished, stubbing out his cigarette in a stainless steel ash tray beside him.

Pushing himself up from his arm chair, Otto straightened his tie and jacket, and turned towards his resplendent Servant. It was time to set ground rules with Archer. While the display of power had been impressive, more so than Otto had even expected, the execution of the maneuvers left it wanting in terms of structure. "These are your new orders, Archer. You're expected to act in accordance with them, unless I otherwise state." Otto paced his way from around the armchair, and towards his Servant, stopping a few feet from him.

Otto was not angry, no. He couldn't even say he was disappointed. How could he be? His Servant had removed all threats towards himself, and had also made it clear that this War's Archer-class Servant was not a lightweight. However, all rules are needed, in order to add an air of predictability that Otto could rely on. "First, no more collateral damage." Otto's complete loss of the estate was tragic, in many more ways than one. Internally, Otto cursed himself, realizing he would still have to send out all the automated calls to the people he invited, telling them the party was cancelled. However, covering up the collateral damage would be a feat in and of itself. "Second, do not engage on anyone or anything, unless first engaged upon." Of course, this rule was much to Otto's liking. It would allow him to more accurately place Archer's firepower where Otto needed it, and perhaps would make sure there would be a chance for a parley in the event of another attack. "Finally, the identity of Assassin's Master is the focus of our War, for the time being." Otto would not suffer the upstart to live, not after the blow he had been dealt. Despite the reservations behind his orders, Otto kept himself even-keeled and firm of tone, as he had always spoke when in the presence of his Archer.

It was scant past lunch time, but Otto did not hunger. He couldn't. There were too many things to set upon, and to think about. Before turning away from his Servant, Otto produced a purple-tinted jewel from a compartment on his belt, handing it out to Archer to take. "This will allow you to show me what you hear and see. It's Shared Perception. It won't last much longer than a few hours, but it'll allow me to observe the remains of the estate, once you get there." Otto spoke up, producing a matching jewel from his belt once more. "As long as that is on your person, I'll be able to activate it at anytime. You'll just simply need to let me know, via our mental link." Otto finally turned, returning to his resting spot at the armchair.

Rubbing his temples, Otto let silence fall over the hotel room, allowing his Servant a moment to speak, before, in all likeliness, he'd take his leave and start back towards the estate.
Hidden 12 days ago Post by DrowsyPangolin
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Rider

The Habsburg Ruin

The drive had been exhilarating. Truly, the modern world was full of marvels. Amongst her hyperactive swerving, however, Rider had also managed to take in a bit of the countryside. The suburbs were beautiful in a quaint sort of way, and for a moment she lamented that she was passing through them at double the posted speed limit. As the Winter Palace glided along through the summer heat, however, she found her thoughts drawn to their destination.

She had been summoned for a war. The past few days had almost persuaded her to forget that fact. Mentally, she began to prepare herself for the possibility that the reality of that war could meet them soon. Still, this was a scouting mission at best, a casual (if incredibly expedited) sightseeing tour at worst. There was no intention of seeking out trouble. They would just see what there was to see and be on their way.

As the food truck passed into the woods, Rider felt a bit uneasy. What if the Habsburg Master planned an ambush? Of course, Rider masked this feeling of uneasiness with a bright smile.

“Well Naoko, are you ready to scope out our competition?”

Catherine giggled softly as the truck began to slow to a somewhat normal pace.

“You really should let me drive more often, Master. Modern vehicles are so much fun! Do you think we could perhaps arrange to get me a sports ca-”

Rider’s lips creased into a hard line as the estate came into view.

“Oh. It seems we’re a bit late. Someone else has taken the first shot…”

The truck slowed to a halt about twenty yards from the ruined gate. Rider sat silently for a moment, looking over the damage. It was difficult to gauge her emotions from behind her shades, but her lips suggested… disappointment?

“Well, let us see if we can determine what happened. Perhaps we’ll find something of value.”

The door of the Winter Palace opened, and Rider slid out, the soles of her new boots meeting the newly-worn ground. The closer she came to the building, the clearer the severity of the destruction became. The conflict had been intense, and if the flames that still licked out from the van were any indication, it hadn’t been too long ago. Catherine took a few more steps towards the wreck of an estate before coming to an immediate stop. Blood.

“Naoko, please stay close to me.”

Rider began following the blood trail, keeping a close watch on the estate in case something might be waiting in ambush.Her right hand opened, and multi-colored sparks flickered within it. A flintlock pistol emerged from the sparks, and Rider’s gloved fingers wrapped tightly around its ivory grip as they neared the gatehouse. Pausing at the door, Sophie raised the pistol, her thumb cocking the hammer.

"I’ll go first. Be ready though, there could be anything in there."

Rider’s left hand counted down.

One.

Two.

Three!

The Servant’s boot slammed into the gatehouse door, easily forcing it open. Rider dashed into the room, her eyes scanning about rapidly… only to fall upon a ghost of a man slumped in the far corner. Bloodshot eyes strained themselves to focus on the newcomers, cracked lips scarcely managed to mouth “Don’t shoot.”

Rider lowered the pistol, taking a step forward. The man before her was obviously a survivor of the catastrophe that had just unfolded. A layer of chalky dust marred his suit. Sweat had glued his inky hair to his forehead. A tourniquet had been tied beneath his knee. A gunshot?

Sophie kneeled down in front of the disheveled guard, removing her shades. Her bright silver eyes shown with a radiant warmth, and she brushed the man’s hair from his eyes.

“Don’t worry, you’re safe now. We’ve come to help! What is your name? Can you speak? Oh, actually.”

Rider put a hand behind her back, a teacup bearing an insignia of a two-headed eagle materializing instantaneously. It seemed to fill itself with water.

“Here, here. Drink up! Please, can you tell us what happened here? Did something happen to Mister Habsburg?”

Her voice was smooth and soothing, enough to put even the most panicked soul at ease.

“Just take a deep breath. Everything is going to be alright.”

"Master, do you happen to know any sort of Healing Magecraft? If we get him more stable he might be able to tell us something."
Hidden 12 days ago Post by King Cosmos
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The hand moving along the club froze as Katherine started talking, Berserker’s eyes rising to regard the woman as she continued to speak. The Servant gave no impression of understanding her words; there was nothing within his eyes to suggest comprehension or acceptance of her explanation or offer, or even recognition of his own name. The dangerous glint did not come back at least; the primal fury that had been there on his summoning remained absent and the wild Viking merely watched impassively as the witch snapped her fingers and prepared a drink of her own blood.

When she held the goblet out for him Berserker lowered the club back to the altar and walked around it, covering the distance between them in a few short strides before coming to a stop before her. Now that he stood closer the difference in their stature was more apparent; the height difference was not too great, only a head or so between them, but Berserker was far broader of shoulder and chest than the witch. He tilted his head down to look at the goblet held in Katherine’s outreached hand, no doubt seeing the viscous mixture of blood and something else within, before reaching out a hand to take it from her with surprising gentleness.

If he had any reservations about accepting a drink mixed by a witch, especially one that included her own blood as an ingredient, then he didn’t show it. Lifting the goblet to his lips and tipping his head back Berserker drained it of its contents swiftly before throwing the container aside. His eyes locked with Katherine’s own again, the Servant waiting patiently as if in preparation for the next command.

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Naoko's own hand was curled around her Sig Sauer as they approached the scene. It had been a wild and wonderful ride, filled with pin-point turns that she had grown accustomed to with Uber drivers and Riders, but now that they were at the scene of the crime, for it truly was a crime, the cheery girl slid easily into the role of 'undercover hipster cop', backing up Sophie as they followed the blood trail.

Thankfully, whoever caused the explosion wasn't present any longer, and the pink-haired woman quickly crossed the threshold once it became clear that only an unlucky man was present. Kneeling beside him, Naoko repressed the urge to grimace, quickly looking over his injuries instead. Bullet wounds were nasty business though, and all her food trucking hadn't prepared her for dealing with all this, so instead, she pulled out a small flask. "Smelling salts," she explained, more for the man's benefit than Sophie's. As he inhaled, his breaths grew deeper and light returned to his eyes, the lines on his face smoothing out. He wasn't healthy, but at least he was mentally aware now, and Naoko stood up, brushing dust off her clothes.

"I'll call emergency services for now. Sophie, ask away," Naoko said, her phone already in her hands, "And keep an eye out. Who knows what scavengers would pop up after something like this."
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June 24th, Old State House
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Giuseppe Messana


Thank god Manco ahd taken the signal seriously and helped him with his plan. These toursists intruding on their base of operations could lead to nothing but chaos and mishaps, something he was determined to avoid so that he could focus on pursuing the mysteries this City held and figure out whot his mysterious killer was. However, he wasn't too fond of all the spit and saliva that dripped from the "beasts" maw onto him, scowling a little and wincing.

He watched Manco go to close the doors and put this tourism trouble to rest immediately when suddenly his heart sunk. The tour guide suddenly started scritching at Caster. Like a domesticated house cat. Still on the ground, his hand went for the inside of his waistcoat, ready to draw his gun at any moment and get his guard up. Like it wasnt already up as he eyed the newest visitor to their base of operations up. His mind bustled with a million thoughts at once, desperately trying to figure out who this woman could be and how she had actually found them. He'd kept it as hush hush as possible when he claimed this place for his base.

Hearing her words, he looked up at the woman with a look of shock as he took her hand and pulled himself to his feet, turning to glance at Manco, hoping to god he had any clue as to what this was. Gisueppe had heard talk of mage association involvement and church involvement sure, but nothing about the woman indicated either parties involvement. If anything, he could tell her job was to keep an eye on the place, not him. But now he was involved...he guesses he was being observed by this woman.

"Well, you definitely got me by surprise" He said letting out a low chuckle as he looked around the house, making sure his golems hadn't been interrupted or damaged. "Enterprising in this is the only way to ensure survival after all, but rather I'm more interested in the fine details of this "war", I guess ya already know about the war right? Otherwise how the hell would you know about the leylines"

He let out a chuckle again and looked to Manco. "I'm doing everything ethically, city officials gave me permission to use this place, nothing;s getting damaged and we're not hurting anyone. If anything I wanna know who has been with all those murders takin' place, but right now I gotta bigger fish to fry" With that he looked to her again and held out his hand again.

"Name's Giuseppe, and you?"
Hidden 11 days ago 11 days ago Post by Epsir
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The Habsburg Ruin



Don't shoot.

Powerless to even say the words that scorched in his head the decrepit guard could only mouth them, lips cracked and bleeding as his sore jaw forced them to part. Of course it was too good to be true, of course there was no second chance. The reaper had changed their mind, come back to collect, the dark shape in his eyesight kicked the door in like it was made of tin, leveled the silhouette in their hands at him as they swept the room. His tired body lurched in place, remembering the feeling of being shot at as death loomed. How long, how long, how long...

The shadow lowered their weapon. Eyes nearly swollen shut struggled to watch as they took a step forward and knelt down. A cool hand swept his residue matted hair from his sight, pulled down the darkness over their face to reveal a soft color. Even though it was dim, color was all that he could remember. It was the green that had terrified him, the void he felt in himself while staring into something without a soul. Two eyes. Two eyes of gallant silver stared at him, a noble color, wisdom, warmth... The regal shape of her face swam in his burnt-away vision but he was looking at someone he didn't know, and that was the most comforting feeling he'd had in years.

He could hear just fine. Perhaps a weak pulse made the world sound far away and dreamlike, perhaps they were words his mind was not set to receive, but he could hear and not answer. Hands covered in blood shook as they reached up to the teacup, gingerly accepting the out of place vessel without wondering why someone would carry such a thing. It stung his lips as he turned it up, trying to drink as much as he could without spilling any. He felt every drop he did, the rivulet running down his chin reawakening the diminishing sting of the chemical agent lingering on his skin.

"Thank you, thank you... Thank you." His voice came on weak, croaking through the phlegm and inflammation until he finally came to resemble a human, hoarse but alive. "Somebody shot the place up, just drove through the gate and... Got me pretty good. Are you guys robbing the place? I won't say shit, I won't say shit..."

The guard felt compelled to go on speaking for the voice. A series of blinks cleared his eyes. The grim reaper was kind of a looker, actually. And there were two. A different girl had crept into the scene, wrought in brighter colors, but the two wore the same kind of accessories. A burglar team? Fuck it, he'd happily empty his wallet for a glass of water delivered with such aplomb. The second one was holding out a flask. He'd heard of smelling salts, there was some ammonia in the response kit under the desk. Why hadn't he thought of that? Before he could even worry about the horrible smell his mind felt sharper, the pain in his leg rescinding into a dull nervous throb. They stood up, leaving him to the questions of the silver woman.

"I don't know what happened next. The woman just got out of her car and started shooting. I couldn't see much, there was gas everywhere, and then... Fuck I dunno, everything was exploding and I was getting thrown around like a baseball. By the time the smoke cleared the building was leveled, nobody was on the radio anymore, and I heard Principal Detail's truck, uh, the guys who are supposed to watch Hapsburg, driving out from the garden. I guess he's alright, fuck him he'll just cut us loose after this, I just hope the guys made it out with him." He lingered, glancing up at the window and the absence of the estate's front face. His hands twitched emphatically in his lap, his arms feeling too numbed to do it themselves. Talking took his mind off the aches. "They, the, uh, her... The shooter came back around, missing an eye, really cut up, still carried me around like a kid. Threw me in here, bound up my leg and told me the pain would keep me awake. They told me to run for the country when I could-"

"Hey are you calling the cops?" He bolted upright at the sight of a phone, staring up at Naoko with the widest eyes he'd managed yet. "Hold- hold on. They said if I went to the hospital or the cops there'd be people trying to kill me. Please, don't, don't."
Hidden 11 days ago 11 days ago Post by Sosuke
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Boston Park Plaza Hotel

Archer felt his nerves recovering quickly from the energy he'd exhausted. Flexing the bare muscular and calloused fingers of his hand he'd reaffirm this notion. The energy had already returned to him in the mere hour they'd been driving and setting up shop here. Unable to idenitfy or track Assassin or even find her Master they'd retired for now. Readorning himself in his fashionable black suit the Invincible Archer would be sprawled out in a chair silently as Otto paced back and forth with a mixture of emotions that the machine of the bow couldn't fathom. He'd protected his Master from an unknown threat no matter the cost. Great wars had often had much more sacrifice than a modest bit of housing, "Of course. You needn't concern yourself of that detail... I'll find your trinkets Master."

By this time it was likely that the estate was crawling with Police and other individuals drawn by the smoke and destruction. The thought of the battered and bruises guard flashed to mind. The broken man that had escaped death with the intervention of an angel. Clad in black as a matter of fact, "And if any witnesses on the scene?" Sure he could sneak in through spirit form but clearing a less than minor amount of debris wouldn't be a quick process. Though he was sure he could come up with more than a few distractions to keep them occupied with minor collateral damage and mayhem. Not that he'd even hesitate to slay everyone who'd get in the way of him and the Jewels that his Master sought even if it left an unpleasant taste in his mouth.

Taking the pendant Archer would stand to his feet and take the Jewel of Shared Perception and tuck it into his breast pocket. The Golden Bowman bowed once before fading into a icy golden mist. The last feature to vanish from Otto's eyes were those piercing blue eyes that illuminated the soul itself. Then his strongest pawn was off on the wind to venture back to the estate... Using the wind itself to make the journey unknown to everyone in the city. A possible calamity was passing through their midst.

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Ten minutes later, after the multiple hour drive to the Hotel Otto had procured, the well dressed destroyer reappeared in the garden with a casual expression on his face. Hovering for the slightest moment his feet would touch down on the ground with a faint 'tap' as he surveyed the wreckage. Turning to face the reality of his power in its entirety his radiant gaze flicked across the entirety of the rubble. His mind reconstructed the rooms and elements within them to try and determine where he'd begin digging. He'd have to make his endeavor here quick and to the point. Like an architect flicking through blueprints he'd connect patches of raw and marred earth to the map he'd conjured in his mind's eye, "Right about here..." The feeling of the earth beneath his feet was satisfying. The texture of broken rock cracking soothing to his ears as it reminded him of his barren homeland.

Morbid and strange, sure, but it was something that he couldn't help drawing reference to. Turning his senses outwards he'd sense a tug on his Spiritual Core. A familiar presence that was like yet unlike his own. Turning halve a step on the rubbled earth he'd scout his surroundings before taking note of the vehicle parked nearby and how it'd been abandoned. The blue eyes drifted slightly over more to the guard's ruined shack nearby that the bowman had leveled himself, "You there.... Whomever arrived in my absence. Come out and identify yourself." There was no need to play nice when it was obvious that there was a Servant involved, and they likewise could sense his arrival. His tone wasn't threatening but it was, at the same time, far from casual or friendly. A prince demanding those in his presence to bring themselves to light.
Hidden 11 days ago 11 days ago Post by Reflection
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June 24th, Old State House
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Manco Capac


The cat was scooped up like a toy, and thumped against the floor. But as soon as the belly rubs ended, the feline faded away. Dark fur rolling into a soft skin, with a blue tinge around the ears. The massive jungle cat rose to his feet, revealing the face of Caster, having transformed himself into the large creature earlier. There was a flick of the tail as it began to curl back into Caster's body, and whiskers receded back into his face. The feline form vanished, and Manco raised up a hand, helping his summoner to his feet along with the strange woman. He didn't fully trust her yet, but the fact that she acted passively suggested she wasn't here to cause a fight. But they should be cautious.

"Well, it is a pleasure to meet you. I apologize for the strange method of introduction, but I am Caster." The servant said, a smile on his lips. Layering on the friendly aura. It helped that he had Negotiation B as a skill, easily making the situation a lot more amicable. "We did notify proper authorities, and all the documentation of our visit is in state hands. In all honesty, our goal is to provide protection for the people of Boston during this war. If you are invested in protecting the lives of innocents, then throwing your hat in with my summoner and I would give you the best means to do so." He bowed just a bit, but his guard never lowered. "We are bringers of peace, not war. Men who dedicate our lives to punishing the wicked. You are the same."

With that said, Caster hoped an understanding could be made. After all, it would be a shame to have to detain somebody on the premises for the period of the war.

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HAPSBURG RUINS!

The eyes of a crow. How... Valuable. Caster's web was massive. Caster's knowledge of the city was perfect. After all, he possessed Navigation A and Map-Making B as skills. Naturally he had already found the manor well before the attack upon it. The attack only made it more obvious to the eyes of the many familiars that lurked around the city. One such crow among others had settled on a part of the ruins, overlooking both Rider and her master. He spied the vehicle they came in on, and they guard who's life they spared. Even if it was for personal gain, Caster knew they weren't bad people. Already the odd raccoon was rummaging through the building, searching for anything of value. Animals were so easily ignored. They could squeeze into places humans could not. At best they might pilfer the smaller things, before Archer got his hands on the real prizes.

The crow fluttered in closer, landing on a clock, and watching as the golden archer returned. It was clear that this was the Archer class servant. A man with many gifts and blessings bestowed upon him. That much was clear. Furthermore, this was the servant of the Hapsburgs no doubt, but the crow did not speak, nor did he do anything to give himself away. After all, there was another servant here. Let Archer have them. The crow had his other things in mind. Even if the Hapsburg's magecraft was well beyond his own, some of it might have value.
Hidden 11 days ago Post by Epsir
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Old State House



The look of idle amusement on the Guide's face sprang into one of moderate shock as the cat underneath her hands revealed itself in short form to not be a cat after all, but a blue haired man. Still, her hand retreated only reluctantly from them as they righted themselves and joined her in bringing the saliva covered hat wearing man to his feet.

"Oh right, the war. You must be Servant and Master then, I had not supposed as much. Unfortunately I am not currently equipped with the faculty to discern much difference between the two." She spoke plainly with a constant sort of enthusiasm, carrying on the even tone that had addressed the tourists outside and anyone who passed close enough to catch a lecture. Finally, though, it was her turn to listen. She nodded, hmming at appropriate times as the two of them related a string of information about their occupation of the State House.

Glasses flashed in the warm lighting as her head came back up. A swift finger adjusted them on her face after they had fallen. "I have never known Magi to be concerned with ethics until they simultaneously seek to advance their own selves by enforcing them, but what you say is indeed heartening news. I have no reason to doubt it from your conduct thus far. However, you are a Caster, then? That would explain the degree of drain I have measured lately, and would certainly indicate that the discrepancy stems from this building and this building alone. The spellcasting capabilities of a Heroic Spirit are of course a plausible explanation."

The Guide began to walk away from the duo, deeper into the building, standing in its looming corridors and casting glances over some of the smaller... Differences that had emerged with the building's new occupation. She ran her fingertips across the wallpaper, peering into the grained texture for a moment before she continued. "Pleased to meet you, Giuseppe and Caster. I am a mere Custodial Ghost Liner, without a name to provide. Like you, I am a familiar of the grail, only without a Class Assignment or corresponding Container."

"I must correct you on one point however, I am not the same as you, though it is certainly flattering to be lumped in with you 'allies of justice' so early on." She turned on her heel, back to facing the dissonantly colored duo. "My purpose in arriving here is to caution you, as participants in the Grail War, that you have every right to claim this leyline and with it the risks involved. As expected of an ambitious Magus and his magically inclined Servant, you have positioned yourselves at the best possible terminal to draw in magical energy for the Holy Grail War. One of them, at least, on this auspicious Trail."

Their eyes flashed over to Caster, focusing on the Servant entirely as they droned on. "As common sense would have it, the same nexus is home to the node feeding the foundation of both of our existences, the spiritual machinery that encapsulates the Holy Grail. A destabilization will not be tolerated, such is the design of our Grail's benevolent sponsor. There's no bother in you using this place, but you should be aware that damage to these grounds will not be taken likely. Do be careful not to make this structure a target. Punishment will likely fall on shoulders other than your own, of course... But any conditions that jeopardize the completion of the Grail will be corrected."

They walked forward, placing themselves in arms reach of the pair and simply attempting to move towards the door. Their peace said, the Liner made no movement of their arms, no shifting of their eyes as they saw fit to extricate themselves from the interaction. But they stopped, turning to look up at Giuseppe. A tiny glimmer for the former persona of Guidance returned to them, a smile cracking on their doll like face as they regarded the detective. "You refer to the serial killings of the North End, they've been bad for my business. I would caution you against the belief that you can do anything about them, but the simple truth of the matter should not be too difficult to find with the presence of a skilled Magus."
Hidden 10 days ago Post by DrowsyPangolin
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Rider


“Common robbery? No, no, of course not! We were just in the neighborhood… though if something of value is within the wreckage, it’d be a shame to leave it exposed to the elements!”

Sophie nodded, listening attentively to the guard’s story. It seemed to be as she had surmised. One of the other teams had evidently decided to attack the most public member of the Grail War. The woman the guard described was almost certainly a Servant… but how curious that she had let him live.

“This one-eyed woman, did she happen to say anything else? Anything that might have suggested which direction she was going?”

Perhaps this new Servant would prove interesting. Their sparing of the guard suggested that they probably weren’t a mad warrior, but the rest was still a mystery. Whoever she was, though, she hadn’t been the only Servant present. Habsburg’s Servant had clearly been around to defend him, and if the Master had escaped, it seemed likely his Servant had as well.

“Was there anyone else with Habsburg, perhaps? Other than you and your compatriots, of course. Speaking of which, if Naoko and I come across any others in the wreckage we will do our best to help!”

Rider smiled a warm, reassuring smile, nodding toward Naoko just as she pulled out her phone. Her eyes grew wide for a moment, and then a grin crept across her face.

“I believe we should listen to our friend here, at least for the moment. We can always alert the proper authorities after we’ve made our exit. In the meantime, friend, if you cannot go to a hospital, then we can at least help you to escape this wreck. I can carry you to our truck!”

Sophie knelt down, but paused for a moment to glance toward Naoko.

“I don’t suppose that will be a problem, will it, Naoko? I will see to it that he doesn’t touch any of the equipment. I’d hate for us to get a health code violation.”

Rider took a deep breath, and with great care lifted the wounded guard from the ground. She began walking toward the Winter Palace immediately, talking to soothe the man’s nerves.

“Actually, if you have any talent in food service, you might be able to help us out…”

As she rattled on about the intricacies of running the most admirable food truck in the greater Boston area, she subconsciously communicated with her Master.

“If you’d like, you can begin searching through the wreckage. I’ll join you momentarily. If you come across anything questionable, wait for me.”

Catherine gently placed the man in the back of the Winter Palace.

“... it really is a wondrous time though! And the food is quite delicious, perhaps we can let you sample it after we leave here! But wait here for just a moment if you don’t mind. My partner and I will be back shortly!”

Rider closed the door and immediately dashed toward the estate, vanishing into glittering dust as she did. A few seconds later, she appeared beside Naoko.

“Who ever that Servant was, they certainly did a number on this place. I strongly doubt Habsburg had time to grab all of his things. Perhaps we will find something useful!”

Rider joined her Master in rummaging through the ruin of an estate. At first, it was difficult to find anything of value amongst the wreckage. One of the guard’s compatriots, Catherine discovered, had not been as lucky as their wounded friend. Rider frowned at this discovery, but continued looking about, her eyes slowly scanning for anything of value amongst the rubble.

Finally, her eyes fell upon the corner of a box protruding from beneath a great chunk of stone. With some difficulty, she pushed the rubble aside, revealing a rosewood box, about five feet in length. It was dusty, but still quite intact. Sophie knelt down, realizing the box was locked, she produced an overly-ornate dagger, quickly dealing with the problem. As the box creaked open, Rider’s eyes grew wide.

“Surely you didn’t, Habsburg. These can’t be…”

Rider’s eyes flashed, changing from glittering silver to a warm gold. A commanding aura seemed to emanate from the Servant as Autocrat’s Privilege took effect. More specifically, she sought to appraise the authenticity of the items that lay before her. Eye For Art told her what she had already suspected.

“Master! I’ve found something grand!”

Rider closed the box, dashing over to Naoko.

“It seems our friend Habsburg was kind enough to leave behind an, ahem, valuable family heirloom.”

She opened the box, revealing a number of fine, glittering artifacts. Rider’s fingers traced along the orb and scepter before coming to rest on a gleaming crown.

“These, Master, are the Crown Jewels of Austria. This regalia was once worn by the Holy Roman Emperor. They’re incredibly valuable, but more than that they are a very useful tool for a Magus. They are… an amplifier, of sorts. They will likely be sorely missed… speaking of which, Master, I believe we should be leaving soon. If these were left behind, I have no doubt someone will be sent to retrieve them posthaste. Did you find anything out of the ordinary?”

Rider spoke with her Master as they returned to the Winter Palace, carefully placing the box containing the jewels next to the guard.

“Oh, wait here Naoko, there’s one last thing I’d like to do.”

Sophie crossed the grounds quickly, heading toward the guard shack. As she entered the building, she brought her hand to her chin, thinking for a moment.

"I think we should leave behind a message for Habsburg, perhaps we could convince him to meet with us. But the question is what to sa-”

The pressure was choking, suffocating. There could be no mistaking it. Rider took a deep breath.

“Master, there is another Servant here. I am going to speak to them. When I come out of this shack, I need you to drive away as quickly as possible. I will follow shortly, but I don’t intend to put you or the Winter Palace in danger.”

A regal voice called out from the direction of the estate. Rider bit her lip. What sort of man would this Servant be? Some warrior? A king perhaps? The Empress clenched her fists in anticipation. The outfit she had been wearing was replaced in a shower of multicolored sparks, being replaced by a dress of deep blue. It’s design had clearly drawn heavily from that of a military frock. Brilliant gold embroidery accented the piece, and a gold-hilted cavalry sabre manifested at the left hip to complete the look.

One last breath. Rider stepped out of the shack, her hand resting on the hilt of her sword. She held her head high, and the afternoon light shone brilliantly on her chestnut hair. The cool silver of her gaze met with the azure pools that peered at her from across the way. The man before her cut an imposing figure, to be certain.

“Servant:Rider!”

Catherine strode toward the strange Servant, taking slow, careful steps. Her voice was calm, and a polite smile hid her excitement.

“By your mention of absence, I suppose you are the Servant who was guarding this place? I had come with hopes of meeting your Master, but I see someone else arrived first… and it seems they were quite rude for a guest.”

Rider’s silver eyes shone like snow in the sunlight.

“The Habsburg Master escaped unharmed, I should hope? Oh, ahem, do excuse me sir.”

Catherine stopped about fifty yards from the Habsburg Servant, curtseying with a soft smile.

“I’m afraid I’ve been quite rude. I have introduced myself, but I have neglected your own title! What class of Servant might you be, so that we might talk more plainly?”

Sophie didn’t spare a glance toward the food truck, maintaining eye contact with the Servant.

“Please be careful, Naoko."
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Hidden 10 days ago Post by ERode
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Ruins, wreckage, and the dead. If she had known things were going to look that bad, Naoko would have rented a shovel from the hardware store before coming over. Alas, most of the finery of the estate ended up smashed, and its unfortunate occupants…
The girl knelt down beside the corpse of another unlucky guard, gently closing his lightless eyes. Even this far out of town, the Grail War claimed the lives of the uninvolved, huh? Naoko clicked her tongue and stood up again, wiping the dust off her pants as Sophie called for her.

“Wow, think if we sold these, we’d like, be set for life, huh?” Naoko remarked upon seeing the regalia. It looked way to ostentatious for her own taste, after all, and royal heirlooms had a nasty habit of backfiring on those who tried using them without the proper blood flowing through their veins, sadly, so really, all this was just money. Or an alliance with the rich boy who’d be searching for it. She helped Sophie (at least verbally) haul the entire box back into the Winter Palace, sliding it beside the refrigerator before stepping in.

“Yeah,” she waved, “Go for it, Sophie. I’ll just see if I can get some more work done on the dude’s leg.”

And with that, Naoko pulled out her first aid kit, rolled up her sleeve, and made him go to sleep before he could say much in the way of protesting. Wouldn’t want him to be awake, after all, when she started sewing.




Sometime later, shit hit the fan in the form of a Servant with such an impressive aura that even a middling mage like Naoko could feel it in the back of her truck. Rich people were rich after all, but could the Habsburgs actually have summoned something like Archer Hercules? Judging by the aura of death, something that affected even the unconscious guard as he fidgeted slightly in his sleep, yeah, that was pretty fucking likely. There was a good two hundred meter distance between the Winter Palace and that walking nuclear bomb, and the tall trees created a good amount of visual cover as well, but those didn’t matter at all in the presence of that Servant. Sophie was special, but this?



Well, Naoko wasn’t the praying type, so what could she do but her best?

Dragging the rosewood box towards her, she positioned it right by the driver’s seat before buckling herself in. The guard was strapped down in the back as well, his leg now bandaged up properly, the tourniquet tossed in her organic compost bin. Glancing in the rearview mirror and catching a glimpse of Sophie between two broken-down walls, Naoko took a breath, imagined her body as something as fluid as a gentle stream, and turned the ignition key.

‘I’ll burn a Command Spell to call you back whenever you need me to. Have fun on your date, Sophie!’

No regrets. Let's have some fun.

She drove off, casually, unassumingly. The roar of an engine was a dead giveaway regardless of how hard she hit the gas, after all.
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