Hidden 4 mos ago Post by Ever Green
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Downtown Boston
Seedy Building #4
@USS Iowa


Two weeks. Two weeks of being bled dry. This was the price she paid for having her ‘Followers’. Ah, but she was a diligent girl if nothing else. Idols required fanclubs, and Demon Lord's armies. This was just the nature of things, and so Lancer did her duty as a responsible bureaucrat. Call it a privilege afforded to the nobility, but Lancer was definitely relaxing on a ‘Throne’ in the rather dreary room. It was not completely out of touch with the room, being made out of bones. It was also sentient, certainly a plus. There was no need to even stand up, since it could move around at her will.

...Of course, the fact it couldn’t fit through any of these buildings doors made it difficult, but that was beside the point. It was also exceedingly uncomfortable, too. Actually, why was she still even using this thing? As a chair, it was probably closer to a torture device in the first place. This would have to change certainly. After all, it wouldn’t stand if the Dark Heroine of this war got sores from sitting on a uncomfortable chair for two more weeks. Lancer would have to take it up with her master sometime later. Speaking of, he was proving to be quite the prospective manager. Of course, the fact he had luckily summoned the special A++ tier Servant, [Elizabeth Bathory], was implicitly helpful. Anyone had to be amazing if they called upon a [Demon Lord] on their first try, afterall.

“Ehhh? We can use those old things to torture someone later I guess?” What a weird piggy. Regardless, it was time to move out. Without any hesitation, the young girl stood up.

“The stage is calling on me. Lets go, Piggy.” It seemed she wouldn’t accept any other response than ‘yes’. Perhaps if he performed well, she’d watch that movie with him tonight. Lancer didn’t get more than a few feet toward the door until she stepped on something exceedingly warm and rather slippery and slimy. With a displeased look, she kicked at the ‘Thing’ that would probably make a normal man mad. Astoundingly, it survived her rather annoyed attack, scurrying and slithering off. Given how it was shifting its body to enter a crack in the wall, it was likely rejoining its brethren. Acceptable.

They would be heading toward a nearby baseball field. It was important to scout out locations like that. There were very few good places to give performances in the pigpens they were based in now. As they started to leave the building, a small cadre of ‘Men’ that had an aura of unnaturalness followed them. They were covered in clothing, to the point of being excessive even for the cold season. No matter the angle, it was difficult to get a good glance at whatever face was being hidden away.

“And anyways we can just make that movie real, can’t we?”
Hidden 4 mos ago Post by Epsir
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The Habsburg Ruin



"No, she didn't say anything, I didn't even hear shouting during the... Fight? Now you mention it, someone had to be shooting back and none of us called it. Fuck." Realization shot up his spine. Maybe that was just one of the scratches from the dust shower he'd gotten. The shock that came with piecing together his fragmented memories was just as painful. The guardsman flinched, the cabinet behind him dinging as he laid his head back against it. "She left the same way she went, but she trashed the only vic she brought. So I guess that woman and Habsburg both have some friends we didn't get to know about. I only know what I heard, I got splashed almost as soon as the shooting started." He briefly indicated the stains up and down his black suit. Aah, at least the gig being over meant they didn't have to dress like henchmen anymore. If he could even find the guys back in town. A bitter frown came over him, his eyes falling to the radio left on the floor as he cursed the incomplete hand he'd been dealt.

"You're what?" His moping was cut short as powerful arms scooped him off the floor. His numbed body still hurt as his wounded, sore leg was jostled but it wasn't as bad as he was expecting. The strength of the silver eyed woman caught him by surprise though. Especially with how familiar it was. The awkward sensation of being hefted around without any resistance. Play along. It felt like the only play to make. He'd... followed the rules they set, right? Were these exceptional folks the cleaners he'd been warned about? A cold sweat boiled the dormant CS particulate on his skin. "Oh, yeah, sounds great. Hey, I know a little about running a kitchen. Be a Marine in peacetime you learn a bunch of dumb shit... Sure sure, stayin' right here."

And then she shut the door on him. No quiet escape. What could he even do, the way he was? The guard laid back and waited. The cold floor of the food truck at least smelled different. His eyes fluttered easily in the comforting aura of something approximating a home. Make it easy on yourself. The voice that commanded him to sleep had a pretty good point. He was a twig in that woman's arms, his handgun was toast and... His hand fumbled on his pantleg. He'd dropped in the shack anyway. "Whatever..."

Drowsy eyes fluttered open as the duo reboarded, bringing with them an intimidating looking box of spoils from the rubble. He shifted on the ground, eyeing it quizzically before the one that almost called EMS approached him. 'Work.' You didn't usually stitch people up if you were going to kill them. He almost managed to crack a smile at her approach until his head began to spin. There was a soft thud as his head reclined against the floor plate, control gone from his body as consciousness suddenly faded away.

Gemstone Ash Collection/Clear
Hidden 4 mos ago Post by Sosuke
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The savy man in black moved slowly and with purpose towards the one who called herself Rider. The snow blue stare drifted from her battle gear to the truck behind her then back to the rubble. Quickly his eyes noticed a bit of shifted debris he'd not noticed before where the flesh of the building had been overturned. Even as the slab of rock shifted slightly with a grating jostle of stone he'd feel his intuition pointing directly at the lady before him. Or rather the party as a whole had arrived to survey the carcass of the The Habsburg Ruin in his absence. Rembering his standing orders from Otto the Lion maned Archer took up his stance fifteen meters from his fellow Servant, "Yes. Otto Habsburg is alive and well... In fact I was tasked with returning and surveying the wreckage."

The sound of a engine igniting and sputtering reached Esfandiyār's ears as he realized that whatever had been retrieved from the wreckage was likely within that vehicle. Naturally it could be the object that his Master had sent him to retrieve and tracking down the escapee after finishing up his civil discussion with Rider would prove a hassle. Muttering a brief aria under his breath the other Servant could feel the air itself distort as if a hole had been opened in multiple places. Fangs piercing the air and flashing forward in the blink of an eye in a streak of radiant gold. Chains of pure luxury snaked around the Food Truck in the blink of an eye. Numerous and impossibly long they tightened their coils around Naoko's mode of transite. These shackles defied common sense as they began to bite into the steel and the bearings of the wheels threatening to twist off the spinning treads. After the initial "bite" of the glimmering chains there was no more damage inflicted by the bindings which seemed merely content with holding its prey in place. There was no mistaking that the regal servant could tear the Food Truck apart at a whim.

"I would imagine robbing from my Charge's manor could be construed as rude," At the mention of Class the weaponless bowman wouldn't answer immediately. Instead he'd carry out a brief conversation in his mind. The exchange took the speed of thought and caused the Hero to break into a smile, "I'd rather not play the part of an Executioner, so I'll ask you return the object you've likely stashed within that truck." The hesitation and slow approach of the other servant showed she wasn't in a rush to fight and the small glance over her shoulder showed concern. At least the brief moment before the shining embrace emerged from the sky, "What say you... Rider?"
Hidden 4 mos ago 4 mos ago Post by LukasVolkov
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LukasVolkov The Recently Returned

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June 30th, Franz Burine Plaza Hotel


Candles burned brightly in the hotel room. With a steady hand Katherine painted flowery text across the man’s flesh. He was calm, breathing easily. His eyes looked up but didn’t seem to register where he was at. Katherine set her brush down and muttered to herself. The man convulsed on the table before going slack. He slowly sat up, his runes glowing faintly. She led him out of the room with a gentle tug of the hand. In the adjoining room, more people waited, eyes blink and postures lax much the man. There was twenty or so.

The runes glowed in the low light of the hotel room, as she felt her mana drain a little as her mind became linked to theirs. Her mind reached out to the many more watching, waiting. She was a little proud of her work, she’d never commanded so many people at once before. Some were staff, others strays off the street. At their feet were an assortment of firearms, knives, chains. Boston’s underbelly was thriving so finding such an inventory was child’s play. For weeks she’d been working on this little trap, readying it. She smiled and walked out of the room and to the elevator. The lobby was bustling with activity as a punk rock crowd was gearing up for a night they would never forget.

“Did you enjoy your stay?” The receptionist asked as she passed the front desk.

“It was wonderful thank you.” She settled her account. Out of the corner of her eye she watched a young man in the lobby. He was settled in a plush armchair pouring over a book. He was handsome, well built, definitely arm candy. He looked a tad haggard sadly, hollow cheeks, bags under his eyes. On his hand a red mark sat, identical to her own. They’d fool the eye at a distance. Close up… but that was what Berserker was for. He was a Mage, low caliber, second generation, third maybe. He had had the intention to summon his own Servant, take part in the Grail War. He would get his wish though not how he’d envisioned.

The night air felt wonderful after being in that stuffy hotel room for days on end. Her hands had even begun to cramp! She walked into the building crowd waiting for the concert to begin. She looked like some punk rock reject, not her favorite fashion. Worst part was she had to cover her lovely tattoos. She was shoved into a man with way too much cologne. Growling, she pushed back. God, she hated crowds! She took a deep breath- sacrifices, sacrifices.

“Don’t murder the flesh bags, don’t murder the flesh bags,” Katherine recited. The mantra kept her sane.

A strum of a guitar signaled the concert beginning. Katherine gave the order. I’m the hotel she sensed her pawns pick up the weapons at their feet and begin shuffling toward the door. Inside the lobby she materialized the connection between her and her… assistant. She bade him to stand and through his mouth uttered a few words. She sensed a bounded field go up. Subpar at best and of her own craft. She was forced to give off the impression of her proxy being the real Master, that meant mimicking the skill of a truly inexperienced Mage which was a bastard unto itself- the boy had only been a student at the Clocktower for fuck’s sake.

Sadly she’d had to… dismantle his circuits some or her art wouldn’t take, cutting her off from his repertoire. He still had a few of course. It’d taken her nearly a month to prepare her good little proxy, even weak Mages had an abundance of will. He’d broken as they all do. In her mind he prepared the incantations necessary to begin syphoning mana from the souls of the crowd to power Berserker.

Then the pawns broke through the ornate glass doors of the hotel. Bursts of gunfire screamed over the music as people panicked and ran only to find themselves locked into the plaza by the bounded field. Katherine played her part and was intent to watch. Berserker’s only order was to protect the proxy adding to the act further. How he accomplished that was up to him. It was odd, what she read of the Grail War told her Berserkers needed explicit instruction, but hers seemed lucid, intelligent enough to handle himself. Thus she would let him rely on his own autonomy. She would see how Harald waged war.

She ran with the crowd only to be tackled by one of the pawns. He gripped a knife in hand. She fought him off. All part of the play. She clenched her teeth and muttered a single phrase.

“Come and find us.”

Hidden 4 mos ago Post by DrowsyPangolin
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Rider


Rider smiled, watching the Habsburg Servant intently.

“Well, I’m glad to hear that he is unharmed… I look forward to the pleasure of speaking with hi-”

The engine revved, and the opposing Servant instantly reacted, moving forward and beginning a chant. Catherine’s eyes ignited in gold light, flicking to the food truck. Magical Energy began surging out of her at an incredible rate. In the past few days she’d had little cause to make use of her expansive reserves, but the time had now come. As the other Servant muttered the last of his aria, Rider extended a hand out in a sharp, cutting motion toward the truck, where portals were beginning to open.

“Огонь!”

The surge of energy from Rider permeated the air with a sudden heat, and her face was taken over by absolute determination. A resounding boom shook the area, echoing from the trees in the distance and rebounding off the remains of the estate. Like lightning after thunder, an ear splitting wail pierced the thick air. A bolt of searing red streaked out from the treeline like a comet.

“Naoko, the gas, now!”

The projectile slammed into the ground just behind the Winter Palace as the glimmering chains writhed out toward the vehicle and exploded in a blinding starburst of orange-red light. The following shockwave sent a rumbling subbass pulse through the countryside. The force of the blast would serve to repulse the chains, if only for an instant. More importantly, it would push the truck forward, out of harm’s way, if a bit roughly. The artillery strike ripped up the ground, tearing the concrete and earth into a cloud of fine particulate that served as a sort of smoke screen for the food truck, and shrouding the path from the piercing gaze of the other Servant.

It had only been for a moment, but Sophie had seen the chains as they emerged, and her eyes were now sharply focused on the man that stood before her. Her stomach twisted up as the realization of what those chains meant came to her. Again, Magical Energy began flowing out of her at a rapidly increasing rate. The sabre at Rider’s side flashed from its sheath, and she held it leveled before her. It took all she had not to tremble, but a bold grin emblazoned itself across her face.

“Oh-ho! Forgive me sir, I did not realize I was in the presence of the King of Heroes!”

Her fingers gripped tighter around the hilt of the sabre.

“But now, let us speak, Ruler to Ruler, without outside distractions! I pray that you’ll refrain from accusing me of petty thievery again, and I can forgive you making such a hasty attack in the midst of a dialogue. Now then…”

Rider dipped the tip of her blade slightly, smiling.

“It seems to me that you’ve already had your share of trouble this day. There’s no need to take this any further here. If your Master will agree to it, we can arrange a meeting, and sort out whatever misunderstandings and misconceptions each of us might have. How does that sound, King of Heroes?”

Internally, Rider’s very being screamed to run. The Servant before her was not something she could expect to face seriously and live. Maybe under perfect conditions, but here and now she was almost certain to lose if it came to blows.

“Master… I am ashamed to admit I don’t think this is a fight I can win. If it comes to it, you may need to use the Command Seal you spoke of.”
Hidden 4 mos ago Post by ERode
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ERode And Others

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So much for the benefit of the doubt.

Hands tightening on the wheel of the car, Naoko spoke another incantation, her eyes becoming bloodshot as veins bulged out from her temples. Not a flattering look, but she had no time to waste on appearances now. As the world slowed around her, her thoughts accelerating beyond human norms, the back of the truck lifted up from Sophie’s artillery strike, her own stomach lurching with it. A meaty thunk sounded as the unconscious guard slammed into a wall, while a metallic one confirmed that the Winter Palace had just lost its rear bumper. Her spine felt the impact of the truck returning onto its four wheels again, and Naoko’s foot immediately slammed the accelerator, pistons pumping like mad as the wheels bit into the ruptured ground.

For one breathstealing moment, the back wheels simply churned against loose dirt.

And then in another, it shot off, rubber burning on tarmac. A cold draft seeped in moments later, the back doors having been busted open by Sophie’s reckless method of securing a temporary escape. Naoko could only watch in horror as expensive cooking gadgets and spices, already jostled loose from her rash driving, tumbled out, scattering and breaking against the road. Logic told her that these were replaceable, but sentiment made her grimace regardless. Another backwards check. Guard? Ok. Box? Ok. At this point, she definitely wasn’t going to give his shiny shit back for free. What a fucking dickweed. Bet he beats his wife as well and then uses his money to hush things up.

Narrowing her eyes, she continued to accelerate, eyes frenetically flickering in every direction as her hands grew numb against the rumbling of the steering wheel. Guard, box, front, back, don’t forget to breathe, go faster!

Don’t tell him anything, Sophie! He might not even be Hapsburg’s to begin with!

A pause, and, throughout all the pin-point turns, Naoko grinned, teeth exposed, resilient in the face of supernatural bullshit.

And remember, the safe word is ‘#MAGA2021’~
Hidden 4 mos ago Post by Sosuke
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The Habsburg Ruin


Affixing his gaze on the truck as it was thrown forward Archer would feel his lips upturn slightly. The dagger tipped chains would tear into the outside of the Truck as they sailed through the air several meters. The glittering claws rending large gashes into the steel as if it were made of paper and several handles to the doors were knocked off like a trivial hunk of metal. The tires that had been Archer's object of interest bounced over the initial thrust of the bindings. With a thought a myriad more "holes" opened up in space where the truck had crudely landed. Rider would expect the Noble Phantasm to shoot forward a split second later but swiftly they closed again as Naoko was allowed to swerve and retreat off into the distance, "Understood." The conversation between himself and Otto had been completed in a fraction of a second and the fangs of Esfandiyār had been retracted for the moment, appearing as countless daggers hovering around the Bowman.

"Hold your tongue," Animosity was thrown across the battlefield with the potency of a loosed arrow striking Rider in the breast. Staring at the Saber without any hesitation of concern Esfandiyār began to walk towards his "guest" and all the civility had faded from his face. The clock of his heels on the ruined stone reminded the Cavalry Servant of a clock ticking down. Ten seconds till he came to stand before her. Not a weapon nor the vaguest notion of armor adorning his body, "Your party has torn something from Otto's dwelling in my absence, whether in good will or ill... And now wish to negotiate a meeting?" It was a slight and an insult in the same breadth to his Master. To that end, spitefully, he didn't bother to correct her mistaken identity. Gilgamesh? Such a title was beneath him as a Knight but it seemed to coil the tension so tightly in his quarry he took mild delight in it.

"Make your case Rider, quickly, before I run you through... The only reason I let your entourage escape was because Otto willed it. If you've some gratitude I suggest you try not to tarnish that good will." Anger. Normally he was composed and efficient but such disregard for his honor and Master he couldn't help but become more than a little riled up. As if to enunciate the point the Chains around their bodies all angled down at her and it was clear the outcome that'd await anyone entrapped in their coils. Immobilization. Crushed body. Twisted limbs. Death itself awaited from the Judgement of the executioner.
Hidden 4 mos ago Post by DrowsyPangolin
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Rider


Naoko had escaped. That was good, now the only issue was the ancient machine of destruction standing across the way. Rider held her smile, even as the sharpened tips of the chains appeared and angled themselves toward her. Her eyes, still shimmering gold, met with the other Servant’s. Despite the obvious animosity, Rider’s demeanor remained unchanged. Her smile was cool and collected, her blade rotated smoothly in her hand and returned to its sheathe. There was no point in getting worked up now that Naoko was safe. Either she would die or she wouldn’t. Such a situation was nothing new.

“Ahem. There’s no need for such animosity, do keep in mind that any strange Servant could have shown up and claimed to be aligned with Habsburg, I had no way of ensuring the… authenticity of your statements. Though with this amount of anger, I think my doubts have been assuaged. Now then, I am happy to hear that your Master is a reasonable man. He does well to live up to his name.”

Rider spoke in the same conversational way as before, though she doubted her words had any particular effect on the King of Heroes. Perhaps his Master, though, would be more willing to listen.

“I propose that we meet, that is, you and I, along with our Masters. We can discuss this incident here today, clear up our misunderstandings… maybe even exchange some gifts. I am certain that we can come to some sort of mutually beneficial agreement. I suggest we meet somewhere within the city, somewhere public, to ensure that no hostile actions will be taken. We are to have a dialogue, not a battle. As for the specifics of time and place, I will leave that to your Master’s convenience, though I might suggest somewhere with food. I find negotiations always go more smoothly over a meal.”

Concluding her proposal, Rider dropped her arms down to her sides, watching the King of Heroes to see whether she’d have to risk being skewered or not. In the back of her mind, she went down a list.

”Ivan, Boris, Michael, Peter…”
Hidden 4 mos ago 4 mos ago Post by Sightles
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Boston Park Plaza
June 29th, 2021
Mirage Umbral Waltz


Heavy smoke lingered in the air, dancing with the smells of bitter alcohol and sweet mixers. The occasional gentle clinking of glasses echoed across the barroom, heard only by the few souls that dared to populate it at this time of day. A slightly shimmering glass, wet with condensation, sat before the Head of Habsburg. The amber liquid beckoned to be drank, wafting forth and calling to the noble with it's caramel tones.

Picking up his glass, Otto took a slight sip of the liquid, thinking only to his past. He hadn't partaken in alcohol for at least a decade. His father had done enough drinking for the both of them, back then. It had done nothing but build a bonfire of hate for the hobby inside of Otto's heart. Drunkards were some of the most detestable vermin to walk this Earth, Otto had thought. Yet here he sat on the bar stool, glaring down at the aged whiskey with all the hate a son could muster for his long dead father. Otto pitched his head back, downing the rest of the burning liquid, before signaling to the barman for a refill.

The events of the day had driven Otto to the den of sin. He could still see, and hear, what his Servant could. Distant echoes and visions that gleamed inside his mind, and allowed him to direct Archer. It was laughable, and without shame, in all honestly. A prestigious mage took to conducting his business in a barroom. Given, the barroom itself was in the back of the hotel lobby, it still was the far cry of his estate, or his new impromptu headquarters on the 15th floor.

Another glass chimed as he it was placed in front of Otto, the man behind the bar only giving the Master a polite smile before turning to attend to other business. Otto considered the liquid, his face even and calm, but his insides boiling with fury. Twice today he had been done over by his opposition. Oh, how the lowly tear apart at the seams of the Nobles at the signs of cracking. Otto dared a smirk into his glass, teasing himself at how he'd play the main part in the second fall of Habsburg. A joke he swiftly removed from his mind, along with his smirk.

Even now, he carried on silent instructions and conversation with his Servant, interested in Rider. Their quick appearance after the assault only spoke to some kind of hidden alliance between Rider and Assassin, but Otto knew there was more to it than that. Rider spoke of Habsburg in too familiar of a tone, for his liking. A sense of understanding, or at least, knowing that bothered the noble. He would set up this meeting, using Archer as his go between, and hear what Rider had to say. At the very least, he would find one way or another to obtain what was rightfully his. While fury bubbled underneath, Otto knew better than to buy into feelings of vindication or vengeance. Now was the time for neither. Now was the time for a measured response to his increasingly dimming situation.

Otto was snapped out of his own thoughts by the flash of gold, from the other end of the bar. That made it the fifth time now. She had been here before him. Otto dared not return her stares with his own, least he invite the shadow of conversation on himself. In his peripheral, however, he had managed to make heads of his admirer; Blonde locks that fell in elegant heaps upon her dainty shoulders, soft golden hazel eyes that begot innocence and youth, and clothes that spoke to a certain amount of wealth.

He had not sensed anything out of the ordinary entering the bar, nothing that would make him pay any heed to scant few in the barroom. He had found a sense of peace that he had not known since he was back in Austria, playing with his eldest son in their gardens. However, this lost lamb nagged at the edges of his mind, invading and inducing paranoia in a way only a mage's mind could bring about. Against his better judgement, Otto pushed these thoughts out of his head, refusing to allow them to interrupt his nig-

A sixth time, now, this time seemingly longer than the rest. With a heavy sigh, Otto picked up his glass, swirling it in his hand. Otto was unsure if his anger towards the girl was necessarily legitimate, or if he was just looking for a scapegoat to take out all his feelings upon. Whatever the case for his fury was, the girl was transgressing. Besides a couple that shared a booth on the edge of the wall, Otto and the girl were the only two in this barroom. She had to know what she was doing was obvious. That or she was too nervous to realize her own actions.

With a dull thud on the lacquered wood, Otto placed his glass upon the bar. The noble took a moment, closing his eyes and taking in deep breaths for a moment, pondering the consequences of many actions. Finally, he opened his eyes back up. With a stern expression and piercing eyes, Otto von Habsburg turned towards the girl, meeting her fleeting stares with a long, uninterrupted one, of his own.
Hidden 4 mos ago Post by Reflection
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Reflection Slightly Stressed but Flawless

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June 29th, Old State House
@Scallop-@Epsir
Manco Capac


What luck. What luck indeed. A custodial ghost who was merely curious about who was tapping into the Leyline. And a familiar of the grail no less. Without a doubt this put them in the greatest advantage. Knowing before all others just where the grail will appear. Best of all, they sat right upon it. Unfortunately, while sitting on it, they had become targets to anybody else who may figure this out as well. And it put a hamper on his plans to use this spot as the location of his finalized noble phantasm. But, there were other spots that had less value to him. He could easily set up elsewhere, or better... Expand.

"To be honest, I'm glad you do not consider yourself the same as me." He bowed softly, with his golden staff being used to hold himself. "After all, had you marked yourself as a familiar, you would have robbed yourself of the things that make you different. Human individuality... It's the very reason I came here today. Because Mr. Giuseppe is an individual. An individual who sees things on individual levels. Had my summoner been anybody else, I would have resisted, and sent one of my descendants in my place. I am going to keep active, by increasing my network. But detective..." The blue haired Caster smiled at his summoner now.

"Go with her. I will keep an eye on both of you. But I will keep my focus on the grail war." He placed a hand on Giuseppe's shoulder, pushing him closer to the Guide. There was a soft screeching on the floorboards, as Caster's push was like that of a strong man, and Giuseppe was just a regular man. "You summoned me to participate in this war in your steed, while you investigated the happenings of Boston. We should keep to our roles for the time being." Caster's smile broadened, and he turned his attention back to his workshop. "Keep me up to date on what you learn. I'll be crafting some... Particular artifacts. As I suspect I'll have some materials coming in soon."

With that, Manco stepped away, a flick of a long feline tail showing him off, before he realized he'd forgotten to remove that, and pulled it back in. The caster returned to a makeshift workbench, and he gazed upon the very thing he'd been working on. A slender bow, carved with delicate hands. Silver was used in it's creation, the most valuable metal in the mind of Caster. "Soon. Soon I will have need for you."
Hidden 4 mos ago Post by Epsir
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Boston Park Plaza



She had made it back safely. Her chest still ached, her body felt empty and tired no matter what she ate or drank. That was the cost, the wraith had said. Hollowness. The only reward for a struggler. The wraith had taken her gun back, folding the weapon into her torn coat and smiling for the first time as she had broken down. The day was barely a haze remaining in her memories, the clarity of the morning replaced with the fuzziness her sight had taken while a distant battle with nothing to do with her slowly drained away her life. Somehow it had been even more horrifying than the first night. She'd felt more resolve standing face to face with a monster beyond her comprehension than she did knowing that specter was somewhere fighting on her behalf. The car ride home had been silent. They said nothing, they tried not to say much around her. Even their name had to be withheld. Without fail the reason was the war they found themselves in. Impossibly cruel, irredeemably destructive, inconceivably reckless. Those were the words which had described this "Grail War" to her. Assassin's words dripped with venom when they did come. She had never seen a creature possessed of such simple, pure resentment.

"Here, for you."

Assassin's bandaged hand reached out with a sweating glass of ice water. Luna Harsyke accepted, cradling the drink to pale lips. The inside of the hotel was cool even on this summer eve, but her condition had left her feeling feverish. 'I promse it will go away,' was all they had said while she bawled her eyes out. Being threatened in person was one thing, the feeling of dying to a force that couldn't even be seen had been... damaging. 'Take me with you.' All she had asked, flatly refused.

Assassin mounted the stool next to her. Why were they sitting at the token understocked hotel bar? Luna grumbled as she turned over her shoulder, picking out a number of suitable spots in the mostly empty room behind them. The Assassin had recovered swiftly, even her decimated coat returning to form when she had rematerialized. No matter what healed, they still insisted on wrapping their extremities up and donning that eyepatch. The gloves and heavy clothes covered them up in public, made them look sane, but their idea of unwinding meant leaving the tactical gear sitting in the hotel room. Her Servant drank nothing, bowing their chin and listening to the noise of the building as they waited on nothing. "I'm going for a walk. Remember." The wraith clasped her left hand as they left, stinging the sore seal.

Right. Not even the hotel was safe anymore. They had said that plainly, a few minutes after the two returned. Assassin had tensed, relating through their mental link that an opponent had come to share the same lodgings. It wasn't dangerous, they couldn't feel Assassin until they made the first move, right? The Servant left one door, the woman in black disappearing as a smarmy Austrian host she'd met a while ago entered from another door. Did they not card here? She stole a look at the bartender and pondered the immoral. More importantly: The man was a target. Assassin. She called out with her mind, even her mental voice choked with panic. Their answer... made sense, always. She couldn't look away from someone she was supposedly engaged in mortal combat with. How did he act, how did he move? She paid attention to the things she would have never cared about, like the shifts in his expression as he killed off his drinks. Like looking into a mirror, only more dignified and self assured. A man having an internal monologue. Only they both were freaks that could commune with the dead killing machines at their beck and call.

A blink of an eye, a sharp clack on wood. His eyes were locked with hers. That was awkward. Face to face with a problem for once, Luna did not wallow in silence.

Remember who you are.

"Oh my gosh, you're who I think you are, aren't you?" Her voice tweaked as it overcame nervousness. She cradled her glass, facing the hand that needed to hide away from his interrogating stare. "Habsburg, right, right? Ganivet's announcement party? I- what are you doing here? I was just thinking about that party tonight. Loved the last one, you know, my old man said it was just a big lipservice festival but you sure showed him. I don't think anyone will be forgetting the friends Senator Ganivet has when he runs. I hope our gracious host will be joining us again tonight?" She bit back the urge to ask him if he was on the run from the noise or just pregaming. Her pet psychopath had gotten his house blown up a few hours ago. She missed the gun once holstered at her back.
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Preparations


@DrowsyPangolin

Once the contract was made and their partnership was official, Saber quickly began to get to work, collecting many smooth stones from the shore they stood upon. After inquiring to his Master about potentially fishing in this location some time during a lull in the war, Saber had followed his Master to his makeshift Workshop. While it surely was anything less than special, it did serve as a suitable spot for Saber to practice his own particular brand of magecraft; the use of runes.

First, Saber had began with the stones he had gathered earlier, carving archaic symbols into each individual stone. By the time he was done, he had made enough to fill almost two belt pouches full of them. What came next was Saber's own equipment, as he had continue to inscribe more intricate rune chains into his weapons, armor, and shield. The efficiency and speed of which Saber worked on his runes would possibly cause one to almost mistaken him for a Caster, a class he would surely qualify for.

"I'm not a fan of using it honestly, but my teacher insisted that I learned magecraft along with martial arts. I'm fine with showing some to you if you'd like, Master!"

After the first night of prep, Saber chose to stick with his Master whenever he was out scouting the city. It pleased Saber that his Master wasn't the cowardly type who stays in his workshop for most of the Holy Grail War. If anything, this proactive approach was one that Saber had approved of. The times Saber spent with Rocco were also used to gauge what sort of man he is. While he kept an air of caution around the seedier elements his Master was associating with, Saber didn't see it as much of an issue overall. In the end, Saber kept himself in sync with the quiet professionalism that Rocco conducted himself with, even going so far as to adopt his Master's smoking habit. While Saber was scouting alone, he used much of the time scouting out the highest places in the city, using his Clairvoyance runes in order to scout out as much of Boston as possible, taking note of the best places to have an "ultimate showdown" at, but also the high-profile places his Master had marked on his map in order to see if any of them are occupied..



"Ah, thanks Master! It's nice how convenient it is to get food in this age..." Saber had remarked, taking the cup of coffee and drinking it slowly. While food wasn't one of the first things on his mind, he had grown accustomed to eating and drinking whatever Rocco had chosen... well, almost anything, at least. The only food he could not dare tolerate were the sausages wrapped in buns served by the occasional street vendor. The mere thought of people enjoying such a dish in the modern age made Saber a bit uncomfortable, although he wasn't one to really complain.

After lighting his own cigarette, Saber had kept an eye outside the window, trying to keep the same sort of anonymity his Master normally adopts, adorned in more modern clothes. In the backseat of the car was a guitar case, and within the case was a beautifully crafted sword, its blade wrapped with talisman paper and suppressing whatever latent power it possessed. While carrying such a thing seemed clunkier than just astralizing the sword, the guitar case was also inscribed with various runes of destruction, allowing it to be utilized as a makeshift explosive weapon of sorts.

"If it's a fight we're looking for, then you already know I am prepared, Master! If you need me to, I could also do some scouting in spiritual form if you'd like. I'm much faster on foot, after al-"

Saber paused, his keen eyes picking up a strange group of men, clearly standing out because of how heavily clothed they were. Their movements were strange... something Saber recognized as possibly some sort of interference.

"On second thought, I think we might have found that new 'gang' you mentioned.. want me to say hello, or are we just trailing them for now?"
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Rocco Moretti

Downtown Boston


The strong fragrance of black coffee and cigarette smoke permeated the interior of the Town Car as Rocco smoothly maneuvered the vehicle through seedy neighborhood after seedy neighborhood. They rolled along at a seemingly leisurely pace, carefully avoiding the numerous potholes that pitted the streets. As the pair began to wind around another corner, Saber spoke up.

“Probably best if we stick together for now, no telling what we’ll come across out here. Especially if the rumors we heard are true.”

Speak of the Devil…

As the Town Car rounded the corner, an odd assembly came into view. Rocco casually passed by the group, peering through his tinted windows. There was something obviously… off about the gang. For one thing, their outfits denied the sweltering summer heat. Their uniformly concealed faces were strange as well, but it wasn’t like such a thing was unheard of in the criminal world. No, the truly uncomfortable thing about them was something the Magus couldn’t quite place. Nonetheless, it made him uneasy. What made him more uneasy, though, was the pink-haired girl leading the group.

“Hold on the ‘hellos’ for now… we’ll follow them, see what they’re up to out here.”

After the vehicle passed, Rocco calmly turned onto another street and began trailing the gang at a safer distance.

“That girl leading them has gotta be a Servant. Not many girls with horns out on the streets these days. Whadya think about it, Saber?”

The pair followed from a distance for quite a while. By now it was late afternoon, and the sun was beginning to sink in the sky. Finally, the gang seemed to come to a stop at… a baseball field?

Rocco slowed the car to a stop across the street after the strange group had made their way toward the field. The ex-hitman lit another cigarette, taking a deep drag before reaching behind his seat and producing a shortened assault rifle. Checking the AK-105 before racking the charging handle, Rocco looked toward his Servant with a nod.

“Well, let’s take a look. Doubt they’ve got a ball game planned.”

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The Archer would sigh heavily as some honied words filled his brain as his fangs dripped back into pace. The open wounds in the air would close as he who bore the Heavenly Chains would bind them tightly back into his essence. The unusually cold atmosphere between them was cuttable with a dagger as the man in black spoke plainly, "You lies, keep them. I don't want to hear any more of your twisted excuses... " Clearly Esfandiyār was done listening to this conversation and turned his back on her. The blacken clad shoulders were broad and muscular, imposing like a steel wall.

After a quick discussion with his Master telepathically he'd tell the nosy Rider a meeting place and time. Adding mentally to no one but himself that he'd make sure to notch an arrow with her name on it as soon as he'd been given the chance. Then without the dignity of a farewell the Golden servant would vanish into mist. Seconds later his presence would fade from the surrounding area allowing the Cavalry servant to feel at ease with herself. Death had retreated for now.

Boston Park Plaza
June 29th, 2022
Mirage Umbral Waltz


For all his Master's strengths the bowman thought he was a fool for letting the Rider servant off so easily. Though perhaps it was his own bitterness that was filling him with such thoughts. No matter, Archer thought as he watched his Master from a vantage point a just over ten dozen meters from the hotel. A distance his arrows could close in an instant. In his fashionable suit no less he'd keep his sharp eyes primed on his precious boss. Deigning that his glowing eyes would cause too much of a stir he'd play the scout for now as well as watch for anything suspicious. Then again perhaps a lone male hanging his legs off the edge of a skyscraper was somewhat odd as well, "Master... I'd request you not indulge in Liquor too much. I'm already questioning your wit as it is."
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Otto von Habsburg


Disgust instantly filled Otto's stomach. Despite this, he managed a strong, practiced smile. His mage's mind was pushed to the rear of his head, replaced instead by the mind of a man who had made his life in the political and public spheres. "I appreciate that you enjoyed the party, madam." Otto replied, allowing a practiced amount of his German accent to show, something he knew drove most typical American girls crazy, "I hate to admit it, but I've always had a small taste for American whiskey. It also helps that American bars are much more a proper peaceful experience than the halls back in Austria." Otto lied, turning his smile into a sheepish one. Otto fully detested the situation, now. A starstruck admirer was a case he had dealt with many times before, and he was no more receptive of such a situation than he had been before.

"Unfortunately, tonight's party has been cancelled. The automated calls went out not to long ago." Otto began to explain, allowing his smile to falter slightly, to express his sorrow and regret at the situation. "Unforeseen circumstances. Terrible situation, really. The manse's current condition isn't one I'd like to present to such esteemed guests.." Otto went on, taking a sip from his whiskey. This was making him physically ill. Having to disregard his current situation with Archer to answer this lackluster exchange of niceties was wearing on him.

Pushing himself from his stool, glass of whiskey gently held in his right hand. "I'm afraid I did not get your name, madam." Otto stretched out a hand to the young woman, after making his way to her. Appearances were everything, even now in the midst of a Grail War. If this woman had been at his party, then it was likely that there was someone important she knew, or her herself was important. Although the fact that her body seemed to scream out in anxiety at Otto's presence seemed to suggest that she was someone of inconsequential worth.

There was still something nagging. Something. Something distant in the back of his brain. Something he had pushed to the back of his head. It was screaming at him to see something he wasn't even consciously aware of. Shouting to discover some secret that hadn't even made itself obvious, yet.

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Boston Park Plaza



Her smile strained a shade deeper, sharp teeth showing as the word 'madam' slid, slimy and unappealing, into her ears. Did she look old enough to be called madam? Was that a European thing? "Oh, sorry." She carefully put her glass onto the counter, folding her hands together beside it as she squared her shoulders forward. Nervousness, but unyielding eye contact as she turned her head aside. Her nails dug into her palms. Assassin said that Mages didn't act in public. She also said that pain provided resistance to mesmerization. The swirl of a drink, the scent of the air, hypnotic patterns were common to the craft of European Magi. They knew from the party a few of the mechanisms at play in the Habsburg arsenal... but this man was supposed to be a top class magician, whatever that meant. 'A tool of the nobility.' She didn't like the way Assassin had looked at her after that talk.

"I've been pretty busy today, haven't even thought to check my phone yet. Uh, I'm sure you know it worse than I do, haha. You've got an exacting nature to not just throw the party anyway, big garden and all. I'm sure that will send a stronger message than a few cocktails and frankfurters." There was no piercing the professional aura surrounding him. As he sat and sipped his whiskey there was little Luna could do to read the situation. This wasn't exactly a worried man drowning himself in alcohol but if it had been it would have been a lot easier to handle.

But there was something to benefit from here. Assassin had said so.

Habsburg was closing the distance of comfortable bar conversation at an alarming rate, coddling his drink in one hand and offering the other. Nice tattoo, she almost said, but became mortified at the prospect of showing her own. Even this close, there was no ignoring it. The pang of agony up her Command Seal. Did he get the same warning? Was a... cultivated mage, or whatever he was, more attuned to that hideous scar? She hoped so, even as she reflexively flinched at his approach. That was all common sense. She was unexpectedly sharp for being so tired: 'Common sense meant nothing to Magi,' a mantra rang in her head. If they touched she would die. Exploding runes on his palm, some kind of mind control balm, a karate chop to the side of the head. Who would honestly see it?

"I'm Luna nice to-"

Her folded hands moved on the countertop, fist crashing into the side of her glass. All the feigned awkwardness of some giddy, money hungry girl just too excited to get networking brought to bear. A fan of water splashed harmlessly between the two of them, the glass falling to the floor and shattering both itself and the comfortable quiet of the bar with an ear wrenching squeal of crystal on hardwood. The couple in the back shot upright in their seats, the bartender cast his eyes their way, even an attendant passing by poked their head in at the loud noise. All the eyes she could muster were upon them. But mostly, Luna was just mortified. She balled her hands against her chest, shriveling as a reflex to the embarrassment.

She slid backwards off of her seat, taking a measured few steps back from the pile of sharp, wet glass left on the floor. "Oh gosh, sorry, sorry!" She looked hurriedly between Otto and the bartender, engaging the employer with eye contact as hard as humanly possible. He was already on the move, hiding the annoyance in his eyes with a rehearsed smile and a harsh tug on the dust pan kept under the bar. She flicked droplets from her mantle as her face reddened. This was fine though. "Are you alright Mister Habsburg? Such a klutz, am I right? A few long evenings and- and this!" She forced a laugh, getting out of the way as bartender came around the counter and swept. She offered him yet more apologies, professionally deflected as she backed away from the bar.

Franz Burine Plaza
Canvas Anglerfish Mass



No fighting in public. That was the rule. If she'd stayed a second longer in that hotel it would have meant coming face to face with Habsburg and inevitably the Servant that followed him. The wraith's ability was sufficient. It was not the outcome of conflict that she feared but the consequences of trying in the first place. His own base of operations, his own trump card was an acceptable loss. How many people were staying at the Park Plaza that night? How many in the neighboring structures, fragmentation zone, debris cloud... Her fist slammed into the postal dropbox beside her. Blue metal crumpled with the indent of her bandages. A dog began to bark at the sudden noise. A few lights flickered on down the empty street, old apartment homes beginning to glow with life. How easily the strong forgot the frailty of the weak. Disgusting. There was only one thing her addled mind could feel about the situation. The people that needed to be saved were the unwitting shield of their oppressors. How nostalgic. Assassin climbed to her feet, rising from the comforting gap between postal box and recycling bin. That dog was still barking, and it was time to move along. Under the veil of espionage the wraith turned and strode off towards the city's lights, away from the old quarter and into the modern halls of glass and neon.

Any place to hide, any task to distract the mind until the next opportunity presented itself. Assassin had found an airy plaza, a place with trees, a breeze, and the smell of something other than exhaust fumes. It thronged with people, more than enough lively faces passing by for her to just sit on a bench and feel invisible for a while. A Servant was a spiritual creature, and despite the human trappings this Servant clung to that nature came with a new set of senses to match. A ghost turned loose on the world, forced to drink in its emotive states and persist on the immaterial energies of her new dimension. Excitement was in the air. Passion, invigorating just seductive enough. A concert was gathering, the sounds of instruments tuning up swelling over the voices of the crowd come to see the show. Bright hair, distressed clothes in plaid, she knew the type. The instrumentation was actually familiar. Played on her van's speakers that very morning, while her Master nervously eyed the touchscreen. The Servant tittered to themselves as they bowed their shaggy head and listened.

Something passed through her. A sickening expansion of magical energy. Once more the senses of a spirit betrayed the wraith. That boiling sensation, passed almost in an instant, was the creation of a bounded field. Her knowledge of Magecraft was not so specific as to identify its source, type, or function but it was enough to know that a Magus was nearby. Enough to remind her she was at war. One green eye hinged open to stare at the pavement below, slick lid creaking open over dark bags. A local mage, uninvolved? A Master? Worst case, the Caster Servant? The inside of her wrist revealed the cracked face of her watch. The hour struck. Glass broke. Guns roared over the plaza. The music stopped, each instrument dying away on its own rhythm. Feedback filled the speakers as stage mics toppled, some capturing the screams of terrified spectators turned prey.

Assassin's head raised, face sullen, question answered. Bodies fluttered around them, tangled masses of people scrambling for an exit. The flow of the crowd ceased too soon, locked in place. Though they couldn't see it, the spirit could intuitively feel that borderline holding them back. At least one function of the field was identified. The couple sitting next to her scrambled away, both shrieking as the rattle of uninterrupted gunfire continued. One fell to the ground. The count began. Assassin stood up, lurching forward, hunching as her body loosely followed a trained-in procedure. The glass facade of the adjacent hotel was broken, figures silhouetted in the remains of the doorway by the internal lights. The fiery report of gunfire was unmistakable. The ones she could spot in the chaos of the crowd all shuffled with telltale purpose. Muzzle flashes lit the night, some staying to open fire while others streaked into the crowd, the weapons not stained in blood glinting in the dark. Some kid fell away from the herd in front of her, the back of his denim vest bloody. Not fast, not lucky... Caught up in the cull. Over him stood another man, smoking pistol slowly raising for another shot at the punk rock teen.

The bullet flattened against her chest. The wraith intervened, lithe form stretched across the ground as a bound placed her between predator and prey. Self indulgent. Unnecessary. Her mind reprimanded her as a second bullet meant for another body bounced off of her harnessed torso. The Servant's frayed coat fluttered behind her, a ragged tail shadowing every movement as she reached out at the gunman. A slap on the back of the hand collapsed his aim, the third shot burrowing harmlessly into asphalt as his arm folded against his chest. Her other hand came up holding the blackened polymer of her service pistol.

The owner of the bounded field was in for a surprise. Whatever they expected to harvest or monitor, whatever trap they had laid... Was working exceptionally well. Only moments into the ruse, an unmistakable signal went up. A feeling familiar to another Servant, an anomaly in the field that could mean only one thing to a Master. As fast as the trigger could reset, taking three measured shots, Assassin relinquished her camouflage. The answer to their bait was a Servant spontaneously appearing, wrapped neatly in their net.

The rat in their trap had sharp aim. The first shot destroyed the pawn's hand, a mass of twisted fingers letting his gun fall to the ground. They walked the last two up his body, perforating the stomach, smashing the sternum. "Live." She surged onto him, scowling maw relinquishing a breath that steamed even in the sultry night. His dazed form spun in her hands, head shunted across her shoulder as a boot cracked the back of his knees. The wraith pulled its scarf up over its fangs, returning to its face the illusion of determined calm as a single burning eye set itself forwards. Assassin braced their elbow into the pawn's back, powerful legs driving her forwards. "Live a moment longer." Assassin charged the boundary, straight towards the gunmen at the front of the hotel. A spirit could have ran from most bounded fields, but this spirit wanted to know just how well it would stop a body. A crowd of ordinary people had no chance at breaking the barrier. A sane person can't throw themselves into a wall without regard for the crash.

But her victim was going through one way or another. Whether it broke the threshold or took her closer to the caster or did nothing at all no longer mattered. Bystanders, other pawns, bullets, plenty of distractions pelted her human ram as Assassin raced straight for the doors of the hotel.
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ERode And Others

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Well, that was certainly a drive.

With a careless toss, Naoko unloaded the unconscious guard onto a soft leather couch, as she began to strip off her own outerwear. Though that crazy, broken-as-fuck, totally-cheating Servant never did end up doing anything terrible to Sophie (outside of the sort of verbal harassment that would get him publically lynched on social media), the stress-sweat that Naoko shed during her escape was still sufficient for her to want to flat out incinerate her clothing. Looked like the Winter Palace was going to be closed tomorrow as well, unless her Servant had Car Repair as part of her Autocrat’s Privilege. Ah, what a pain.

“Ah, what a pain,” she vocalized, swinging herself over to her refrigerator. The apartment suite was cramped, especially for the three people who were now living there, but the kitchen was nice and spacious at least, perfect for a food-truck owner’s experimentation. Popping open the fridge, she brought out yesterday’s leftovers, spaghetti and meatballs from Olive Garden takeaway, and extracted a frozen pizza sitting in the freezer as well. With the powers of the microwave and oven combined, dinner was procured with brutal efficiency, and the Japanese magus finally plopped herself onto a wooden chair. “Ey, Sophie, dinner’s ready. Mind opening a bottle of wine? Think surviving a day like this without actually losing anything’s a pretty good thing to celebrate.”

A pause. Outside, she could hear another ‘something’ brewing in the distance, but Naoko was human and chose to pretend her dull, human senses couldn’t pick that up at all. Instead, she scratched her old boy’s ears, the floofy golden retriever having found that the spot underneath the dining table to be the best for naps.

“Oh, uh, guard dude, you want something to eat too?”
@Epsir@DrowsyPangolin
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Katherine pushed the man off her and jumped to her feet to run just in time to witness a woman kill one of the pawns. She felt the bounded field stretch and morph in response. A Servant. Someone’s taken the bait. Katherine ran away and felt bullets pelt her back. They gave the illusion of blood spraying from her ruined flesh. She fell like a puppet with its strings cut. Another victim fell on her, covering her “corpse.” Katherine took control of her proxy Master, she saw through his eyes in a form of pseudo-possession.

“Berserker. Come,” she said through his lips.
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Rider

Habsburg Ruins


Rider maintained the same composed, polite smile as the Habsburg Servant cut her off. Her eye twitched slightly as he turned his back. Ordinarily an enemy offering his back would’ve been a welcome gesture. In this particular enemy’s case, however, it didn’t much matter where he was facing. So, Rider waited patiently for the King of Heroes to finish the deliberations with his Master.

The black-clad warrior turned back around and recounted Habsburg’s instructions flatly, broadening Rider’s smile. She curtsied in a grandiose way.

“I am delighted to-”

The Servant was already gone.

Rider froze in place for a moment, waiting for his presence to fully fade. When she was certain of her safety, she turned on a heel and began walking toward the forest, the same calm smile adorning her lips. As she entered the brush, though, she let out a long breath, leaning against a tree. Her shoulders shook with a boiling mixture of indignation, anxiety, and utter gratitude that fortune had deemed her worthy to survive another day. A delicate crystal glass manifested between her fingers in the signature shower of colorful sparks. She took a deep drink of the swirling burgundy liquid within and chuckled to herself.

“Master, I trust you escaped without any further issue? I’ve managed to keep myself in one piece. We’ve a date with nobility later… but in the meantime, I will make my way back to the apartment. You’ve no need to wait for me, a ride through the countryside will do me some good, I believe.”

Catherine took another long sip from her glass, holding her free hand out before her.

“Come, Brilliant.”

An equine figure faded into existence in the forest clearing with a happy whinny.

The horse was a stallion, tall and pale with broad, powerful shoulders. His snowy mane was meticulously braided, and his tail flowed behind him like a banner. The lavish design of the saddle and bridle exalted his position as property of the Tsarina. The horse whinnied again and pawed the ground as the Empress reached out a hand to pat his snout.

“It has been too long my friend. Much too long.”

The glass faded from Rider’s hand as she rounded the side of the horse and elegantly threw herself into the saddle.




Naoko’s Apartment


Rider stretched her arms above her head and let out a sigh. It had been a stressful day, that much was certain, and though it wasn’t yet over, she hoped the threat of imminent destruction had faded away for the moment. At the very least, they got some time to rest, however brief. Sophie currently sat cross-legged in the floor, scrolling away endlessly at Naoko’s smartphone and listening to the distant and muffled sound of a concert going on nearby. Her martial outfit had been replaced with a simple black tank-top and shorts. As her Master mentioned dinner, Catherine hopped to her feet.

“Mmm, mmm… let’s see…”

The Empress seemed to think for a moment before conjuring up a full bottle of wine and placing it, along with a trio of twinkling crystal glasses, on the table.

“I think that vintage should do. Just the thing for a day of cheating death!”

Catherine smiled, but a sudden ripple of regret passed through her, bringing her gaze down dejectedly.

“I do wish we could have gotten away without damaging the Winter Palace, though.”

An indignant frown flashed across her face.

“That man… I suppose I should’ve expected as much from the King of Heroes, but I didn’t predict he would be so… how do you say… extra?”

Catherine nodded approvingly at her masterful use of modern vocabulary and uncorked the wine.

“But certainly, let us eat!”

She glanced over at the guard, seeing if he would join them before filling the wine glasses. Raising her own cup, she made a broad gesture.

“To our survival, the blessings of good fortune… and this delightful fluffy boy!”

Rider made the toast before kneeling down and patting the dog.

“So Master, do you have any plans for our meeting with Habsburg? I’m sure he will want his treasures back… Perhaps we could negotiate some kind of-”

A chorus of gunfire ripped through the air in the distance, silencing the concert. She waited in silence for a moment, glancing toward the apartment window. As she turned to take a step toward it, she felt an unmistakable jolt in the depths of her being. A Servant was involved, maybe more than one.

Catherine sighed, raising the glass to her lips and slowing tipping it upward before sliding back the blinds and seeing if any of the chaos had spilled in their direction yet.

“Shall I see to this interruption, Master?”
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Naoko's Apartment



Guard dude slumped into the couch without a fight, rolling uncomfortably in the hazy half-sleep he'd been in since his head smacked into the side of the freezer. "Nn Kanda... Har... Shiii-" His muttering broke off in a sudden wheeze, halfway between a snore and a sneeze. If the dried blood down the side of his head was any indication it wasn't really all that bad. A bloody bruise, a bullethole, some minor chemical burns, all in a day's work for a rent-a-cop. Dull flashes clouded his perception. A thundering had woken him to the sight of open doors, sparkling metal and strange spices spilling out into the night. The wet thud of his body against a wall had ingrained that final sight into his nightmare for a time, but plenty of time had passed. His verbosity was the sign of a reawakening consciousness. Stronger than torment, stronger than whatever drugs he'd been given, a sensation that commanded the human heart on a far deeper level reached out to him. The smell of pizza.

Stained eyelids flickered open. His sight came back in waves, an unfamiliar ceiling washing into view. The color, the texture, all off. He was somewhere else. "Guard dude." He bolted upright at the sound of voices, head spinning between the other two occupants of the room. Kidnappers, now? He wasn't a paranoid man, he could only laugh at that thought and look a bit dumb staring around the room and laughing to himself. If they'd meant anything ill... He felt for stitches above his kidneys, surprised at how little it hurt to sit up. If they'd meant anything ill they would have done it already. He wasn't dead, he wasn't filing a police report, the Russian sounding chick was pulling a bottle of wine out of nothing.

"Fuck it- I mean, yes please." He shuffled around on the couch for a few moments, touching his pantlegs to make sure he wasn't bleeding all over the place before sliding his legs off and testing how it felt to put weight down for the first time in what seemed like too many hours passed. Obviously, one was good to go and the other was not. What surprised him was that pushing himself up onto one leg was not an immediate game over onto the floor. He hobbled towards the kitchen. His inner ears spun, his stomach churned. "Maybe... I'll stick to just fluid for a sec." He affected a toothy smile, accepting a wine glass as he balanced around on one leg.

"Nostrovia!" Was the most cultured attempt at a toast he could manage, tilting back some of the fine wine and grimacing at the aftertaste of pepper everything had. Upside, he could taste again.

"So what you're selling Habsburg his own stuff back? That's brutal." He'd thought to at least tune himself out of their strange conversation until that point. When were they cheating death? King of Heroes? Master? Fuck kind of codenames were those? He was stuck along for the ride, but he knew his former principal at least in passing. Before even finishing her thought the speaker had turned and was walking over to the window. He had a bad feeling about that, and so silenced it with another sip of wine.

"But guy's a robot, I mean his vacation's fucked now but that's a tough customer to pinch if you're like... Really opportunistic treasure hunters. 'Mean, he's got money, just didn't strike me as a 'spend my problems away' kinda guy. I'll be honest I thought you were feds. You're not spies or some shit right? I'd be dead already, yeah? Nah, nah..." Dark eyes flickered between Naoko and Catherine then back to the window itself. He didn't like the silence that accompanied the woman downing the rest of her drink and staring outside, and discomfort made it hard to stop rambling. He thought that thrumming was just his own head until it changed abruptly. Melody became staccato, sharp; a distant, muffled hammering. 'Interruption' she said. Sounded like a range day.
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