And Special Guest….Lesser Ruler: Longinus
~ Serafina and Sofia’s Room, Ryuudou Temple
~ Close Encounters
It had barely been three hours since the two had arrived in Fuyuki. They had ventured from the boat, and made a beeline for the Temple, making sure to avoid the less populated areas in case an already prepared Master recognised them as seekers for the Grail. They hadn’t even had a chance to bathe from their long journey from England, and yet here they were about to go out and summon Heroes from the past. As much as Sera was love to have said she “couldn’t believe this was happening”, she very much could, and was all the more glad for it. Such an opportunity came once in a lifetime.
All that was left was to find a suitable location within the forest to summon their Servants, and the war would be in full swing. Sofia hadn’t been able to attain a Catalyst, which was the only thing that worried her. Her sheer lack of experience in Magecraft was a red light, and what kind of Servant she would summon was completely up in the air. On top of that, and while she hated to use the word, Sofia was… “defective”, as mages went - a low amount of circuits only made up for by the quality the Whitehall Family was beholden to. In these thoughts, Sera grasped the handle on the door and pulled it open, ruminating on what level of power Sofia could even handle.
And the moment she did, something appeared. It wasn’t standing there a second ago, nor did it approach randomly. It was waiting
. Instinct took over and she leapt back, boosted by a burst of speed from an Uruz Rune. How had she not sensed a Servant
nearby?! As quickly as she dodged backwards, the room became charged with a certain electricity, as though static was being built up around them, being charged and focused into a single point - Serafina. There was no way for her to take on a Servant one on one, but at the very least she could do was give Sofia a chance to run. The three Runes inscribed just below her back, the most powerful ones on her body, had flared to life - the Body of the Thunder God.
Upon seeing the visibly more prodigious mage of the two leap back and prepare for an attack, the Ruler-class servant did not even flinch in the face of things. Rather, his eyes coolly observed the woman’s actions, both of the women’s actions at that. Such was the power of a Ruler, even that of a servant, to unflinchingly look into the face of such actions without blinking back. Not that any servant with Magic Resistance had to worry about Magecraft to some degree or another.
And then they stopped.”The… Ruler?”
she paused for a second, releasing her stance and looking him over, ”You’re the… mediator of the war… Jesus, I thought someone had found us before we could even summon our Servants.”
a drawn in breath found itself released from her tight lungs as she spoke, relieving a tiny amount of tension that had built up inside her.
Slowly and carefully, Sofia peeked from behind Serafina, a look of consideration on her face ”A catalyst?”
Sofia peered at Sera, unsure if they should answer Ruler truthfully.
Sera looked back towards her suitcase, then the girl behind her. ”My sister doesn’t have a Catalyst. I, however, have brought with me a sword once belonging to the great Trojan hero, Hector - they are the Servant I seek to summon.”
she explained, before addressing the cautious look Sofia gave her, ”It’s fine, sis. The Ruler exists to maintain the war - they don’t belong to anyone and they don’t want the Grail.”
her gaze then drew back to Longinus, with a slightly suspicious glance, ”We can trust them.”
Such suspicious eyes, but Ruler could understand the look and the sentiment. Though mages, a cautious and dark breed as they could be, were seemingly easily startled into actions. Were he a more mischievous sort, he might have found this “entertaining”, though instead had let his words sink in instead of taking further action. Were this woman to attack one of the Rulers of this war, he would’ve had to debate action, potential punishment since he had informed them of his status immediately after appearing. Though it was not like he blamed the one for powering up an attack, ready to attack and ask questions later if need be. This city itself was to become a massive battleground, after all. “I bear no desire for the Grail, but i will enforce its rules and codes accordingly,”
the Saint said, charismatic tone filled with a sense of reassurance, whether it worked or not to allay the sisters’ suspicions and worries it did not matter to him despite his good intentions.
From there, Sera walked back to the suitcase, and pulled the cloth and sword out from the bottom. ”If the Ruler found us, other people might have found us too… as defensive as the Temple is we don’t exactly have time to scout around. We’ll do the summoning immediately, sis; bring your bag.”
sword in hand she stood from the floor, and approached the door once again, ”Say, Ruler, while you’re here, why not watch our summoning? Then you can find out the Servant my sister here summons, as well.”“I must check in with the others, so I cannot stay I’m afraid. But I shall give you both two warnings for preparing to summon your servants. First, take to the woods north of the temple’s location for your summoning, where none shall be watching you,”
the Lesser Ruler said, pushing off of the wall before his eyes glanced upon the catalyst the older of the two female magi still under it’s cloth shield, until he looked away and back towards her, “Second….take great care with just whom that catalyst could call forth, and whom your sister might also call forth as well as a result of this. This is all I shall give, and good luck in your pursuit of the Grail.”
With that, the saint’s form disappeared once more from view, entering spiritual form before he swiftly left the premises of the temple as quickly as he had come.
Sofia slowly let her guard down as ruler disappeared, walking in front of Sera and facing her. “Are we gonna listen to him? I thought we wouldn’t waste any more time.”
Sera waited for a few moments as the Saint took his leave, waiting by the door looking over the sword she held. The Ruler was, in theory, an impartial adviser to the Masters of the War, and the upholder of the rules established for them. Whatever information he gave was more than likely valuable, however his cryptic, final message left much to be desired. What did he mean, “Be careful”? Was the sword she held not close enough to her chosen Hero to summon them?
Nonsense. She had picked the Catalyst herself, and made sure of its past. The sword in cloth mere millimetres from her skin was one owned by Hector, Prince of Troy. There was no doubt in that fact. Maybe the warning was simply one of “Be careful who you both summon, as they may end up at odds.” If that was the case, all she could do was pray that would not be so. Their sibling coalition would break down quickly, or they’d be forced to use their precious Command Seals.”Yeah, we’ll listen to him. North of the Temple… sounds good enough to me.”
she left out a small sigh, relieving some more of the still pent up tension from the encounter, then looked back to her sister, with a small smile, ”Ready to go?”
Sofia confidently smiled at Serafina, taking a few steps ahead of her before spinning on her heels. “I’ve been ready for a while.”
She span once more for good measure, before skipping through the halls, heading north, her actions lacking the dread a typical person might have expressed on the advent of a war, “We don’t have all day sis, pick up the pace!”
The only indication of a response Sera gave was a small smile to the back of her sister, as she pranced along the halls to the exit of the compound. Watching her, one might have thought things were ordinary: just two siblings staying at the residence of family friends. Any indication that a War of any kind was lost in the moment, as she followed on behind her.”Don’t get too far away; we both know how bad you are with directions.”
~ The Forest, Mt Enzou ~
The two had made their way North from the Temple, past the lake that bordered the compound and into the forest, a short ways down the mountain. The Anti-Spirit Bounded Field surrounding it made for a great location, especially within the Grail War, but Sera wasn’t explicitly sure how it would effect the Servant summoning; if she was right, only those crossing the Boundary Line would be affected, though she didn’t have the firmest of grasps on how exactly the field operated.
They had found a small clearing, mostly flat despite the incline of the mountain. Two large mats lay spread out across the ground, weighted with nearby debris to keep them from folding up or blowing away in any morning breezes that might have come by. The process had been somewhat arduous, but after a little while, they were finished.
Two Summoning Circles sat atop the mats. Sera had little information on more complex rituals, but if the circle seemed complex to her, she couldn’t imagine how they looked to Sofia. That said, she was curious just how such a simple array - a single circle, nevermind its complexities - could be used to bring about a Heroic Spirit, one with the power to destroy buildings and modern structures in seconds. From what she understood of the process, the Grail did most of the work, but even then, she found herself intrigued by the concept.
To the North of one, on a makeshift altar, was her chosen Catalyst: a bright, sharp blade, glinting in the morning light, its incredible edge obvious even at a distance. Sera had taken great care and effort to restore the blade to its once and former glory, and she had to say she was pleased with the outcome. It was a blade worthy of belonging to a famous Hero. ”Alright then, Sophie…”
her gaze trailed over to her sister, stood before her own Summoning Circle, though without a Catalyst to speak of, ”You go first. Remember how we practised? Stand outside the circle, dominant hand outstretched with your palm open, using your weaker hand to support it. Do you remember the incantation?”“Of course; I did my homework. Geez Sera, you don’t have to fret so much over me, i’ll be just fine.”
Sofia pouted, stretching her left hand as she should. With a deep breath she relaxed her body, and focused her mind.
“Let silver and steel be the essence.
Let stone and the archduke of contracts be the foundation.
Let rise a wall against the wind that shall fall.
Let the four cardinal gates close.
Let the three-forked road from the crown reaching unto the Kingdom rotate.
Let it be declared now;
your flesh shall serve under me, and my fate shall be with your sword.
Submit to the beckoning of the Holy Grail.
Answer, if you would submit to this will and this truth.
An oath shall be sworn here.
I shall attain all virtues of all of Heaven;
I shall have dominion over all evils of all of Hell.
From the Seventh Heaven, attended to by three great words of power,
come forth from the ring of restraint, protector of the holy balance!”
Serafina watched closely as her sister began the ritual, as the circle before her began to glow, and as the wind around them picked up in speed. The circle didn’t just glow, though - instead its light spilled out from the lines drawn on the mat to fill every space around them, igniting the nearby wood in a glorious display, drowning out even the sunlight. A tremendous gale picked up around them, shaking the trees to their roots, forcing their hair to whip back and force, and drag down leaves from above them to create a rain of amber foliage.
The volatility of the Ritual was far from what she was expecting. Considering the Grail did most of the work, she almost anticipated it to be relatively calm, but this? This was on an entirely different level. From the center of the circle, and all around it, it felt like a hurricane, that would rip the two from their positions and drag them into the depths of whatever hole the Grail was opening to bring about a Heroic Spirit.
And then everything subsided; the wind stopped, the light died out, and the Ritual came to a close. Except one detail was wrong with the picture. The circle was empty
. No Heroic Spirit, no deformed amalgamation of body parts resembling an eldritch abhorrence - there was simply nothing there. As quickly as she began to think, Sera looked over towards her sister, and specifically her hand.
The red marks were there. Her Command Seals, designating her as a Master in the Holy Grail War. Had the Summoning worked then? Where was the Servant? What was going on? And then an idea struck her.”Hey Sophie?”
she walked up and wrapped her arm around her shoulder, ”You might wanna go find your Servant. They probably knew it was you who summoned them and ran away~”
In response, all that Sofia could do was blink out of sheer confusion. “W-what? You’re kidding me!? They can do that?”
And then it dawned on her, causing the single most extreme pout she ever released. “Owh ha...ha, you're such a comedian. Well I’ll just go and find my servant then. Go ahead and summon yours, I’ll be back soon.”
With a single wave she turned around and ran towards the back of the temple, a small chuckle escaping her lips.
Of course what she said was a complete lie. At the very least, she didn’t want her sister to feel like she had failed at something else, but in truth, she didn’t have a clue as to what caused the error in the Summoning. Sofia had Command Seals, so there was no doubt a Servant had successfully been Summoned by her, but… what had caused them to spawn in an entirely different location? And where, anyway, were
She turned back towards her own circle, eyeing the sword just a short distance from it. There wasn’t much she could do, except chalk it down to Sofia’s general ineptitude in Magecraft. Maybe her faulty Circuits just caused an issue of some kind? At this point, all she was doing was spit-balling. Without a clear indication of what the problem was, there was no way to diagnose the issue. All that was left to do, in that case, was Summon her own Servant.
Mimicking her sisters previous position, she stood face on to the circle, right hand outstretched, with her left hand supporting. She had drilled her own chant into her head since she decided to partake in the War, and now she was finally getting a chance to use it. A shot of nervous excitement flooded through her, despite her typical calm disposition, and she began to speak.
”For the essence, silver and steel.
The archduke of contracts, and stone for the foundation.
A wall shall rise against the falling winds,
and the four cardinal gates shall close.
Let the three-forked road from the crown reaching unto the Kingdom rotate.
Know this now:
Under me you shall serve, and to you I pledge my fate
Submit yourself to the call of the Holy grail and answer,
If you would give yourself to this truth and reason.
This oath I swear to you:
Of the Heavens I shall attain every value;
Over Hell, and the evils within, I shall hold every dominion.
Attended by the three words of power, and from the Seventh Heaven,
come forth from the ring of restraint, protector of the holy balance!”
Once again, a violent whirlwind ripped through the forest, tearing at the girls clothes, and forcing her to shield herself against it. The glorious and incandescent glow blinded her for a brief moment, before everything went still again, and her eyes were able to open, only to be greeted by a sight she never thought she would see. The kind of sight she dreaded to think of seeing.
Nothing. No Servant. Her eyes flicked to her and, observing the Command Spells she possessed, and then back to the circle. The same thing had happened. Had the Summoning failed? Had she messed up? Just where the hell was her Servant?! Where was Sofia’s?! Something was desperately wrong with what had happened, but she couldn’t for the life of her figure it out. There had to be some kind of explanation, there just had to be.
Her mind raced with different possibilities in the few moments she had to stand and ponder the situation. It wasn’t a case of the talent of the Magus, since neither of their Servants had Summoned in their respective circles. It couldn’t be due to their incantations, either; they had used different ones. So what was it? The Catalysts didn’t change anything, so was it environmental?
And then it hit her. The Anti-Spirit Bounded Field. Trying to Summon a Spirit into the Bounded Field was the exact same as having them cross it. The Field would reject their Spiritual Core, and the Summoning wouldn’t function properly, so the Grail had to place them outside of the Field. For example… in the Temple. An explosion and scream from behind her, back towards the temple, confirmed that hypothesis for her.
That was far from good.
Multiple scenarios flashed through Sera’s mind as she ran towards the circle, grabbing the sword before turning back to face the way they had come. Vitality and vigour flushed her system on top of the adrenaline that had begun to pump through her veins, as a multitude of Uruz Runes sprung to life across her body. She crouched down low, digging into the dirt of the forest, before leaping off, kicking up dust as she sped through the woods at an unnatural, magic enhanced speed.
It didn’t even take half a minute to arrive at her destination, and her eyes locked onto the scene. Sofia was stood outside the wall of the Temple, looking in through a demolished section of the structure, at two figures. One wore a huge set of armour, and rose into the sky at at least seven feet tall, gripping a shield and a spear, which was currently locked with the second figure. But she couldn’t tell who the second figure was. The only visible thing they wore was a cloak, but even looking at them, Sera found difficult, as though they weren’t really there at all. Their hands, too, appeared clutched around something, though nothing was present, and with it they were blocking the spear.
Servants. They must have been, and from the looks of things one was a Berserker. That was… Her
Berserker. She had summoned a Berserker..? But that was…”That’s not Hector…”
she said aloud, to no one in particular, as the behemoth of a man raised his shield to strike the other figure across the head.
Yet in a nimble move, the hooded figure dodged to the side and ran out the building, moving past Sofia and Serafina in a flash, as if to avoid them and the monks getting involved.
The two Servants moved in a flash, their speed faster than their anxious eyesight could process as they chased each other round the outskirts of the compound. The moment Sera saw the hooded figure run towards them, though, she took initiative, and grabbed her sister by the hand, dragging her to the side to get away from them.“That hooded person called me master, I think it’s my servant.”
Sofia anxiously said, before running after the two servants. ”But as soon as she did, that beast attacked us; I only barely dodged it with the help of my servant.“
Sofia looked behind her to see if Sera was following her, before asking, “But where’s your servant?”
Despite her preconceptions, if the hooded figure really did belong to Sofia, then there was no doubt in the matter.”That there, is my Servant. The Berserker Class Servant… Evidently not Hector, I guess... “
it was obvious that Serafina was lost in thought, her sentences disjointed and uncertain as she considered possibilities as to who she Summoned, how they had been Summoned, and everything in between, ”we, um… we need to calm him down, like now.”
As she spoke, the giant Servant leapt past them, rushing towards the hooded figure to strike at them, spear held close and just behind the shield for added protection against any swings.
As Berserker moved in, the hooded figure stopped and faced him, wielding the invisible weapon and bracing for the impact. But upon hearing Serafinas' words, she lost her attention, even if for only a split-second; it caused her to lose her footing, and although she managed to block the attack, Berserkers' overwhelming strength send her flying several feet against a tree.
The tree splintered on impact, sending shards of bark across the field as Berserker prepared for another strike, launching himself at the tree to catch the winded and mysterious figure before him. He gripped the spear once again, charging towards the tree, leaving small craters in the dirt as he ran.
And already could Serafina hear the sounds of the Monks waking up, no doubt to check what the sounds had been. Things were getting worse by the second: people would find the Servants, would find her and Sofia, and to top it all off Berserker was going to kill the Servant of her own sister. She glanced around, unsure what exactly to do, until an idea struck her.”Of course, the Bounded Field.”
she turned back Sofia, with something of a smile on her face, ”Sophie, I need you to get your Servant and lure Berserker through the Bounded Field. It’ll weaken them both, and I can get him to calm down. Got it?”“Uhh, yeah sure.”
Sofia was a bit confused and concerned, but trusted her sister; whatever she had in mind was going to work. “Servant! Go south until you reach a barrier. Moving through it will weaken Berserker!”
As Sofia spoke, her servant had just barely dodged Berserkers' last attack . She gave a nod to Sofia before zigzagging south between the trees.
As the unknown Servant fled, Berserker kept up his charge, smashing through the tree in a single blow. As it fell, he gave chase to the person, ignoring the obliterated tree as it collapsed to the ground with a massive crash. The chase didn’t take too long, though, as the two breached the Bounded Field. In a split second the effects hit the both of them, dropping their parameters by several stages.
It was clear Berserker wasn’t happy with that. His grip on the spear tightened, and the ground below his feet collapsed further into craters. At first, the tip of the spear seemed to crackle slightly, like some small electrical discharge, but in the next second the thing lit up a strange, incandescent blue ripple, which pulsated down the shaft and up his arm, which hoisted the spear above his head, as though prepared to throw it.
The moment the two Servants had crossed the field, though, Sera had run in with them, commanding Sofia to stay behind. She locked eyes with her Servant, and his spear, and the realisation hit her. That was a Noble Phantasm being prepared. At first she had plans to solve things more peacefully, but it appeared she had no choice left. Her fists clenched, and she raised her right hand into the air, her palm facing towards her Servant.
”In the name of Serafina Whitehall, and through the powers bestowed upon my by Command Seal, I order you, Berserker, to calm down immediately!”
A wave of red spread out from her glowing Command Seals, striking Berserker from behind, immediately halting his spear throw, and forcing his assault to end. She lowered her hand, only to watch the two circles in the center of the tattoo like emblem dissipate into her skin, leaving behind an ugly, purple bruise as the only evidence they ever existed.
Soon after, Sofia caught up to Serafina, cautiously observing Berserker. “Did it work?”“It seems so.”
The hooded figure spoke, a somewhat gentle woman’s voice emanating from under the cowl. She took a few steps towards Berserker, watching him closely, and then walked towards Sofia and Serafina. “That was reckless, you have already wasted a command spell, to protect a servant not your own no less...Though I admire your dedication to your...sister?”
Serafina sighed, looking towards her sister as she ran up to her. Then her eyes trailed on the nameless Servant that approached her, and began to criticise her decision.”The Grail gives you information of the War, right?”
she started, half glaring at the figure behind the cloak, ”Then you should understand that Berserkers are people clouded by insanity. They don’t use rational logic. That, coupled with the fact that the Anti-Spirit Bounded Field messed up our Summoning, means I don’t have time to wait until our connection stabilises and I can order him around.”
She started walking towards her own Servant, looking him over as she did so.”Your cloak… it’s a Noble Phantasm, right?”
she looked back, activating her Masters Clairvoyance, only to find it useless. ”I can’t even sense you as a Servant, let alone read your parameters… so that cloak can mask your presence entirely?”
though before the person could reply, she continued, ”And let’s get this straight. Me and my sister are in this war, together. Which means you answer to both of us. This is our coalition, and you’re gonna help us win this war. You and… Berserker, are the Combat Force, while me and Sophie here are the Backup Force. Comprende?”“Come on sis, don’t antagonise her, she’s a heroic spirit.”
She clasped her hands together as she looked at the servant. “I’m sorry, my sister intends well.”
She looked at the hood closer, but not even her pure eyes of the moon could spot anything. “So uhm, who are you?”“You can call me Saber.”
she said as she lowered the cowl of the hood, revealing her face, which looked upon Berserker and Sera. “For as long as Sofia is your ally, so am I. But a coalition goes both ways, and you are not the only one with a wish. While I know us servants rely on our masters to exist in this world, it would not harm you to listen to us occasionally; We are heroic spirits for a reason, after all.”
As she spoke, there was a proud undertone in her voice, albeit with a bit of cockiness.
Saber then put the cowl back on, hiding her face again, though this time, Sera and Sofia could identify her clearly. “The hood of Kismet, it completely masks the wearers identity by replacing it with a fictional one; however, it has no effect on those who know what it does, like you do now.”
She lowered the cowl once more. “But rest assured, it is not my only weapon.”
She said as she tapped the scabbard tied around her waist.
Serafina nodded slowly to each of the things the Servant said, listening intently as she spoke, likely due to the side effects of the still lingering Adrenaline.”A cloak that can mask the existence of a Servant… I can make use of that.”
she said, turning back to Berserker, ”And of course, I will listen to you. Your input will be valuable. And rest assured, you’ll get your wish, as long as you win the… Grail..?”
Her voice trailed off, only to be drowned out by the sound of… buzzing. Her gaze drifted towards the sound, only to see a group of winged insects flying towards them, wielding a sealed envelope between them. She had heard of the Matou’s odd magic before, however witnessing it first hand was something else entirely. As they came to her, Sera took hold of the envelope, and the insects dispersed, no doubt returning to the Matou Mansion.
She broke the seal, and swiftly opened it, taking care to read it thoroughly.”We’re in luck.”
she said, smiling, and looking towards Sofia, ”We’ve been invited to tea.”
but as quickly as she spoke, she realised something, ”Christ, okay, um, the Monks are all awake now. We’re gotta get back to our room, Sophie. Can you, like… put Saber into Spirit Form or something?”“Owh no, the monks! Uhmm uhh yeah I think I can.”
Sofia hastily looked at Saber, who was already dissipating. “What about Berserker?””It might take a little bit before Berserker can… our connection hasn’t fully established. Let’s just head back, get out of this Bounded Field, and see what we can do, okay? We’ve gotta get ready for half past two, including washing.”
she looked back towards the direction they summoned their Servants, and then back to Sofia, ”You go ahead, okay? I’m gonna get our stuff, then meet you back at the room.”
and then with a short wave, she started walking, Berserker in tow, back the way she had come.