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Either is fine. Cluttering the thread might be an issue if it takes a lot of back and forth though.

Budapest
District V




Caster appeared at the scene - perhaps a moment too late, had the servant decided to attack her own Master - drifting across the snow like a ghost, umbrella tidily poised once more, shadowing her eyes. A momentary glance, and small grin, was all that was given to her enemies, as they made their intention to retreat clear. Pursuing this past the river was an unnecessary risk.

Hero and Human. It seemed there were a lot of things that combination could mean.

She began to walk, arm in arm with her Master. Having her close was important, even if she could handle herself. “Enjoyed myself? Hm, I wouldn’t put it like that exactly. Though I think I’m beginning to understand the difference between myself and these heroes.”

The scent of flowers filled the air as they neared the sight of the battle. “People who fight as if it’s in their nature, as though it could be a method of communication by itself. Such a thing is quite alien to me, I’m afraid.” Her voice was almost apologetic. “For me, fighting is something that should be a last resort. Even in a war like this, it’s difficult to shake those feelings. Well, perhaps it's the difference between one who ‘fights’, and one who ‘kills’...” She pondered. “I wonder how the Assassin of this war will differ from the others.” She said.

In the world of humans, killing was an aberration. Something that was hidden from humans wherever possible, even if it underpinned that quiet world that seemed so peaceful on the surface, roiling beneath the surface. She turned her eyes away where she could. Perhaps that made her unworthy of the title of ‘hero’.

The life of a simple country pharmacist was one as far away from both killing and fighting as possible - though they were the ones who saw the underbelly of the world, the ones who had to deal with the consequences of those who fought so casually. Perhaps that was the reason she found it distasteful.

But in the world of monsters, killing was a simple fact of life. Strike the prey as fast as possible, swallow them without a chance to resist. If it came down to a fight, even if you won, you had already lost by simply opening yourself to an attack.

Breaking her musings, she began to report on the battle. “It was something of a tie overall. Neither of us revealed too much. If our battle stayed on such a level, I’m confident I could win, but who knows how things could escalate.” She paused a moment, before addressing her Master. “Well, I’m glad you dealt with your end most admirably,” she smiled.

The waves of the water broke, and a woman rose from the river. Smaller than her sister - and there was little resemblance between the two - she stared, unblinking, at the Master and Servant. The moment she exited the water, she was dry. Perhaps she had never been wet to begin with.

“In any case, they didn’t find out about my dear sister,” Caster smiled, extending a hand to ruffle the shorter woman’s hair, which she pressed into happily.

Yes, my lady,” her sister replied, her tone clipped and formal. “I apologise for being unable to assist you in battle.

“Oh, don’t worry about that. It’s good that I wasn’t in enough danger to need you.” Caster smiled warmly, lifting the umbrella to show kind eyes. “And that means I didn’t put you in any danger either.”

They walked for a few steps, as Caster scanned the area for further intrusions. “I’ll leave your defence to my sister for now, Master,” she said. “I have some important experimentation to do.” It wasn’t a matter of separating, but that her focus would be insufficient, for a short while.





Budapest
District V - Banks of the Danube




“The goal of experimentation…” Caster responded to his question, happy to keep him engaged here rather than retreating. “Determining the nature of the land here, and more broadly, the very nature of this war. A holy grail is certainly worthy of study, too. As for my methods, well - that remains to be seen.” Whether that information would be shared with her fellow Servants was unknown, too. Her results, or her methods - keeping them secret would likely be the most logical option.

It was then that the enemy let loose with the spear, a powerful projectile headed right for her. More powerful than his previous thrust, this wasn’t something Caster was sure she could challenge with the strength of flowing water alone. Particularly since it was a piercing throw, something that meeting with a liquid wall of force might simply see it penetrate the water. Knocking it off course might not be reliable, either. However-

She wasn’t assertive? Well, that was true enough. That was the principle of Wu Wei, after all. Action without action, simply cultivating one’s mind and body to achieve understanding. Concentrating one’s breath and one’s senses. Flowing like water as the world acted upon you. Teachings of this kind of meditation were fundamental for most Magecraft, even if the specifics varied.

But for Caster, this was a matter of her being. Spending her life in water, cultivating her self-understanding to the point where form itself became mutable. The world flowed, and it was simply a matter of understanding that flow, moving with it.

In an instant, the water distorted beneath her, creating a magic circle that extended out of the river only slightly. Caster muttered a quick incantation, and moved. The spear blasted past, mere inches from her face, blowing her hair around with its force.

This wasn’t simply a matter of dodging an attack, but rather utilising Feng Shui - Geomancy - to determine the perfect location to inhabit, to ensure the force passed harmlessly past her. Dodging would involve analysing the opponent’s throw with one’s instincts and moving out of its path - something Caster did not have the combat experience to reliably do. This was unmistakably a use of Magecraft; analysing the space around her and inhabiting the most auspicious spot. The spear itself was therefore irrelevant.

Any combatant capable of a throw like that would be able to tell the difference, even if they had missed the appearance of the magic circle. Caster sighed. It seemed she would not be able to conceal her class, though perhaps that had been a vain hope to begin with.

Shuǐ to . Water nourishes Wood.” The circle beneath her shifted in shape.

This was her first attack using Magecraft, finally befitting her class. The water splashed on the earth in a way that seemed so careless began to shimmer beneath the enemy Servant’s feet, as the trampled grasses began to grow into thick trunks of wood, and flowering vines, aiming to trip and entangle the man.

The five phases of Wuxing that made up the cycles of life, of the world. The world flowed on, as Caster gave it only the slightest of pushes.

But the true nature of the attack would soon become clear as the scent of blooming flowers filled the air as if it were spring anew. She had seen the enemy’s deep inhalation just before the attack that had almost skewered her. Simply clouding this man’s sight had not been enough, but now his sense of smell would be unable to make up for it.The mist began to rise on the river once more.

Beneath the river, something began to stir.





Budapest
District V - Banks of the Danube




The enemy dismissed his bow, switching weapons to something more suited for close range. As he approached, Caster began to gather water as a defence. If they weren’t an Archer after all, that opened some new tactics, dangerous as being close to them was.

“The best way to get to know someone is through combat? I couldn’t disagree more. But it’s a good way to get people to reveal their tricks, I suppose.” Perhaps that was simply her nature. Monsters didn’t fight as a method of communication, they did it to kill, and to eat. And though she had long put that behind her, combat was not something she had ever pursued, except in necessity. She had been content to live the simple life of a human. That itself was likely to prove a weakness, when it came to a war.

As the spear was thrust towards her, Caster met it with a wave of water, curving up from behind her. Though she couldn’t meet the strength of a Servant’s attack with her body, the force of the water would be enough. The water burst into both the spear and the Servant, crossing around her body. At the same time, she used the opportunity to slip backwards into the river.

At the same time, a mist rose from the river, obscuring it from sight, along with Caster’s exact positioning. A minor obstacle, particularly if her opponent was an Archer, but it could make all the difference here. For her, it was a simple matter of enhancing her eyes, ensuring the obscuring effect was one way only.

“Something unusual? Ah, why else would I ask? But as to what it means- I wouldn’t want to speculate until I’ve done some experimentation.” Caster’s voice echoed out from the mist, along with several swift tendrils of water, probling at the enemy’s defences. Ideally, she could finish this fight without revealing her Magecraft at all, but that was a best case scenario, certainly unlikely to happen.

As it stood, the advantage was hers. But that could be upset easily. If the Servant fled to his Master’s side, she would have no choice but to pursue, losing the favoured ground of the river around her.

“Well then, what does this tell you about me,” She asked, with a taunting edge to her voice. Letting it ring out, to see how he responded, how sharp his senses were. Tantalise just enough to stop him from rearranging the battlefield to his advantage.





Budapest
District V - Banks of the Danube




It seemed their rivals were putting on a fireworks display of sorts. For a moment, Caster worried this signified a stalemate of sorts, with each team looking to draw the other out. But it wasn’t long before she noticed them drawing closer.

As the snow fell, she was glad for her umbrella. Even now, she disliked the cold. The presence of such a memento from her husband helped, too; she never felt cold while she held it.

Caster stood and turned towards the guests, rising from the river and placing her back towards it. She rested the umbrella on her shoulder, holding it down far enough that it shaded her face just a little. Even the minor advantage of hiding where she was looking could factor into a fight, here. She looked the arrivals up and down, trying to glean what information she could. They seemed an odd pair, but any two who joined this battlefield would certainly be unusual.

“It is indeed a pleasant evening. It bothers me that we cannot introduce ourselves properly.” She spoke formally, but didn’t risk a curtsey, impolite as that was. “You are perhaps the servant of the bow, then?” Her voice was light, and there was a slightly playful tone to it. Perhaps it was simply an effort to convey confidence. Or perhaps she simply wanted to savour the moments before speech became useless. In any case, she would not be the one to strike first, though she was ready to counter at a moment’s notice.

It was unusual for a ranged combatant to get so close, but it was fortunate for her for them to talk rather than simply sniping from a distance. Though if this enemy was an Archer, then their visual acuity could be a problem for some of Caster’s tactics.

Though it didn’t take long before the Master began to attack her own, dismissing any conversation. That was the way of war, Caster supposed. Strange bladed weapons that seemed hardly the domain of a magus. Even those who simply dedicated themselves to the perfection of their body through martial arts could likely manage a stronger throw. Or perhaps her standards were too high? In any case, her Master had promised to try and impress, so Caster would simply allow the two to display whatever strengths they had. Even in the worst case, anything short of a deathblow could simply be healed away as if it had never happened, with Caster’s medicine.

Focussing on her Servant counterpart, Caster tensed, preparing for action at any moment. Sending a thought to her sister, she made sure she was ready too. Though even now, she didn’t want to make the first strike. “Unlike those hasty ones there, I’m happy to simply discuss things for as long as you wish. In fact, I had a question of my own, provided you aren’t also the impatient type. Something I would like to ask all the Servants of this war, if I get the opportunity.” Lifting the umbrella, she looked her fellow Servant in the eye, and her tone became deadly serious. “Was the information the grail gave you unusual in any way?”





Budapest
District V - Banks of the Danube




Caster sat on the grassy bank of the river that flowed through this town, gently kicking her feet in the water and twirling an umbrella in her hand. She watched the setting sun as the chilling winds blew around her.

The presence of an enemy so soon is unfortunate. It would have been better to find some ingredients to work with, but we can hardly pass up on the opportunity to gain information on our enemies this early.’ She spoke in the mind of her Master. It was hard to get an impression of the woman from such little time together, but she was optimistic enough about their prospects as a team.

She had swiftly set up a bounded field upon learning that an enemy was nearby, ensuring there wouldn’t be any intrusions on the site of the battle. Now it was simply a matter of waiting for them to appear. If they were cowardly enough to flee the encounter, then that suited her well enough, too.

Little sister, are you comfortable?’ She asked. It was awkward, ordering around her sister without considering her wishes, but there was little time to waste.

Of course, my lady,’ Came the response. It was a little painful, too, that Xiaoqing still retained the habit of addressing her so formally, after all they had been through. But it was a difficult habit to break.

Closing her eyes as the sun dipped below the horizon, Caster began to sing softly, a lullaby she had so often whispered to her child in life. Though she seemed relaxed, she was coiled and ready to act at any moment, her senses focussed on the enemy Servant that shared this district. She would be ready to act at a moment’s notice.





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