The Canterlot Grail War Part 1

Nov 29th, 2016
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  1. "Hey girls, you ever wonder why Anon is always alone?"
  2. >A few of the girls exchanged confused looks before following Sunset’s gaze
  3. >The young boy in question sat by himself, skimming through a notebook while picking at his meal.
  4. >You are Sunset Shimmer, and the boy’s isolation had begun to crawl into your thoughts for the last few weeks.
  5. >From where you sat with the girls at lunch he was usually in your sight as he sat in his regular spot at the end of one of the corner tables.
  6. >The entire time, no one ever sat with him. He either had his head in a book or was writing something in that notebook of his.
  7. >”I don’t think I’ve even seen him before. His name’s Anon?” Rainbow asked as she turned her attention back to the group
  8. >”He does sort of blend into the background...I think I might have a class with him?”
  9. >Rarity’s uncertainty seemed infectious among the group save for one energetic hand in the air.
  10. >”Oh, oh, he transferred here this year! I tried to throw him a welcome party but he never showed up! Something important must have come up!”
  11. “Uh, yeah I’m sure something must have...”
  12. >You trail off uncomfortably before shaking your head, remembering your point.
  13. “It’s just, I don’t think I’ve seen him talk to anyone really. And he always sits alone at lunch.”
  14. >”I’ve seen him talking to Trixie from time to time.” Twilight offered before smiling uneasily.
  15. >Applejack scoffed before crossing her arms.
  16. >”Ya mean you’ve seen Trixie botherin’ him from time to time. Ahv’ seen it too, that girl does most the talkin ‘tween them.”
  17. >”You don’t think he’s being bullied, do you?”
  18. >Fluttershy meekly adds before Applejack shakes her head.
  19. >”Ah think he just likes bein’ alone. Doesn’t seem like much of a talker to me.”
  20. “Well, isn’t he a senior? It must be hard moving to a new school for his last year...”
  21. >”What, you thinking about talking to him Sunset? Didn’t think the loners were your type.”
  22. >Rainbow cracked a carefree smile before taking a drink from her milk.
  23. >You scowled in response.
  24. “It’s not like that...I guess I just don’t like the idea that he’s alone for his last year of school.”
  25. >A somber silence falls over the group before Rainbow shatters it while looking down at her drink.
  26. >”You know, it might not be any of our concern...But what the hell, it never hurts to try.”
  27. >You look up, surprised but smiling.
  28. >You had a feeling the girls would end up supporting you.
  29. >But for Rainbow to be the first one to speak up was unexpected.
  30. >”Lunch is almost over now, maybe we could talk to him after school before practice?”
  32. Meanwhile...
  34. >You honestly couldn’t believe this town.
  35. >You hadn’t even been here for a full year yet
  36. >Barely a month could pass at CHS without some insane magical shenanigans happening.
  37. >Demonic transformations, thousand year old sirens, this “ponying up” nonsense...
  38. >While other students seemed to acclimate to this magical strangeness, you just couldn’t.
  39. >Not because you couldn’t believe that it was happening in the first place, mind you.
  40. >But because it was inconceivable that this much magic could happen in the public eye without the Mage Association wiping the town off the map.
  41. >This magic was STRONG, and broke almost all the rules you had been taught all your life.
  42. >Almost as if it came from another world or something.
  43. >There’s no way The Association could turn a blind eye towards all this...right?
  44. “With all this craziness, the next week seems like it might be sane in comparison.”
  45. >You mutter under your breath as you remind yourself of your imminent perilous future.
  46. >Some introductions are in order, it seems.
  47. >You are Anonymous, a Magus.
  48. >You had been staying in Canterlot after a contact from the Holy Church tipped you off early that the next war would be taking place here.
  49. >You began to attend this school at the request of said contact who was acting as your guardian during your stay.
  50. >Living with Discord had been an adjustment to say the least.
  51. >You had a lot you wanted to ask the old fart but he seemed to get off on talking in circles around you.
  52. >Not to mention the pranks.
  53. >Still, for every headache inducing session you got at least one piece of good information to work with.
  54. >Like this morning, after you had caught the bastard mismatching all of your socks
  55. >He informed you that all but one of the mages you would be fighting against had arrived in Canterlot.
  56. >What a nice guy, huh?
  57. >You never liked wearing socks of the same color anyways.
  58. >Anyways, if five of the other mages had reported into the church to announce their participation then that was it.
  59. >The last confirmation you needed before knowing that tonight was the night that it would all begin.
  60. >The Holy Grail War. A battle royale between seven mages to prove who was worthy to obtain the ultimate prize.
  61. >One single wish. No rules, no restrictions. Whatever your heart desired.
  62. >In order to ensure a battle worthy of it, The Grail itself also provided the strongest of “weapons” for the mages to fight with.
  63. >The most powerful form of familiar, a heroic spirit. A legend made real, bound to the caster and in it to gain the same prize.
  64. >While there was a lot more rules and codes (though surprisingly few rituals) involved, that was the long and short of it.
  65. “Eeeyuuuuup, just a week full of fighting other, probably more experienced mages and whatever fancy heroes their catalysts will summon...”
  66. >In all honesty, you probably weren’t giving yourself enough credit.
  67. >You had studied magic most of your life and had prepared specifically for the war for the past two years
  68. >More importantly, you came from a pretty long line of mages which counted for a lot when it came to how strong a magic user you were.
  69. >At least, it should have.
  70. >Once again, this last year was really starting to fuck with your preconceived notions of magic.
  71. >Maybe you should have talked with the band it all seemed to revolve around to get a better idea of what was going on.
  72. >What was their name, the Raincoons?
  73. >Something like that.
  74. >Kinda late in the game now.
  75. >But that was beside the point.
  76. >The point is that you honestly weren’t that shabby of a mage.
  77. >However, you were still young for someone about to fight to the death.
  78. >You also had no catalyst planned, meaning when the grail gave you a servant it would find one it thought suited you.
  79. >That thought kind of scared you, but you didn’t really have an alternative.
  80. >The only other option was to have some sort of artifact connected with the hero you wished to summon.
  81. >You spent a solid year searching for anything of that sort. Turns out, finding genuine historical artifacts is rather difficult.
  82. >Oh well, you’ll just have to deal with it.
  83. >The five minute bell broke your line of thought, almost time for your next class.
  84. >Harshwinny’s class.
  85. >You swear that woman must have been an executor at one point
  86. >According to Discord she had no history with The Holy Church's black operatives.
  87. >Not quite sure you believe him.
  88. >You swiftly dealt with your tray and secured your trusty notebook
  89. >Full of notes on your schoolwork of course.
  90. >You weren’t stupid enough to bring magic texts to school.
  91. >Although once again, not that it really mattered anymore
  92. >The students here seemed almost desensitized to magic
  93. >You'd never get over that.
  94. >As you made your way to your locker you heard someone clearing their throat behind you.
  95. >Ah, now there was a familiar sound.
  96. >You continue to not acknowledge the person standing behind you while visualizing the upset frown she was undoubtedly giving you.
  97. >It’s the small things in your day to day life at this academy you had actually started to enjoy.
  98. >”Anonymous! The Great and Powerful Trixie demands your attention!”
  99. >You crack a small grin before returning to a more neutral expression to face her.
  100. “Well, if it’s a DEMAND...”
  101. >You say sarcastically, knowing full well this girl could never read subtext.
  102. >”Indeed it is! In fact, you should feel honored that Trixie has deemed you worthy of her time!”
  103. >You’ve always had difficulty connecting with people your age.
  104. >Growing up in a Mage Association family, it was fairly common.
  105. >The inheritor of the family is expected to spend all of their free time studying.
  106. >Most would never attend “normal” school, instead being home schooled by private tutors or fellow mages.
  107. >The only real form of school most mages get is if they get to attend class at The Clock Tower.
  108. >Boy, was that place a real piece of work. Well, most places made by mages were.
  109. >In general, most mages are terrible people.
  110. >At least those in the association were.
  111. >They view themselves as separate from normal humans with a divine duty to keep magic a secret from the world.
  112. >Really, they were elitist who used the excuse of “distancing themselves from normal human emotions” as a reason to assholes to pretty much everyone.
  113. >Normal people, fellow mages, family members...
  114. >God, especially family members.
  115. >You were nothing like that, much to the disappointment of your father.
  116. >You were “soft” for a mage.
  117. >Still young and full of those pesky human emotions.
  118. >"...ixie there! What do you say?"
  119. >Oh shit, Trixie was still talking.
  120. >You tended to block out the world when stewing about your family and peers.
  121. >That and while it was fun to subtly mess with Trixie...
  122. >...You can't really say you enjoyed her company in general.
  123. "Uh, well I don't know..."
  124. >You say something non-committal to maybe get some more information out of her.
  125. >"You don't know?! What is there to know?! Are you free two nights from now or not?"
  126. >Ah, she was probably asking you to another one of her shows.
  127. >In spite of her rotten personality, her tricks were honestly pretty entertaining.
  128. >She had a good amount of talent in that regard.
  129. >Last time you had finally caved and ended up enjoying yourself, much to your surprise.
  130. >And then the gloating had started up again.
  131. >It was a shame, she was pretty cute when she was a decent distance from you.
  132. >Too bad she had to talk.
  133. "Well, I'm-"
  134. >As you began, you were interrupted by the shrill pitch of your imminent doom.
  135. >"Oops, looks like we're late to class." Trixie said lightly as the color drained from your face.
  136. >Oh you wish you could care as much as she did, she had Ms. Cherilee next period.
  137. >Shit, you should have kept better track of your time.
  138. >Looks like you were going to die before the war even started...
  139. >You'd like to say you had a good run, but momma didn't raise a liar.
  140. "Igottago, yeah I'm free we'll talk more tomorrow kaythanksbye."
  141. >You shot out a quick response, not bothering to check Trixie's reaction.
  142. >Maybe if you got there quickly enough, the executor would settle for some light punishment like public lashes as opposed to crucifixion.
  144. >You are now Trixie, The Great and Powerful.
  145. >And you can't believe it!
  146. >Anonymous said yes!
  147. >Glimmer had told you that asking him out was a bad idea.
  148. >'He's not that into you', she said.
  149. >'It took you months to get him to come to one show', she said.
  150. >'Do you even hear the same conversations I hear?!' she screamed.
  151. >Well who's into who now Starlight!
  152. >You had a hot date with Anonymous this Friday!
  153. >While YOU were still single!
  154. >...
  155. >Okay, maybe that was a little mean.
  156. >But you can't help it, you're excited!
  157. >It would be the perfect end for an already exciting week.
  158. >You see, it was a well kept secret...
  159. >But you were not just a magician who preformed glamorous tricks!
  160. >In your blood ran the blood of actual wizards.
  161. >And we had inherited their power!
  162. >We would have bragged about it more, but grandfather made it clear.
  163. >Never tell anyone about our powers.
  164. >In exchange, he taught us how to grow and control our magic circuitry.
  165. >Or something like that.
  166. >For weeks now you had been reading books from his study without his permission
  167. >He was away on business, so no one was the wiser
  168. >There had been a certain ritual you had your eye on
  169. To cheer you up if he said no
  170. >And tonight was the night you would try it!
  172. >The bell rings, bringing the school day to a close.
  173. >You are Anon, as always.
  174. >And you had survived, by some miracle.
  175. >Hell, you went beyond surviving.
  176. >You had completely avoided punishment.
  177. >Harshwinny was already laying into another late student and hadn't noticed your own tardiness.
  178. >So you left the poor girl to her fate and slipped into your desk whistling a happy tune.
  179. >Sorry, Roseluck. It was either you or me.
  180. >You were currently standing outside of Canterlot High, waiting for Discord to finish with his current task.
  181. >For reasons you couldn't hope to comprehend he was moonlighting here as a janitor.
  182. >You used to try to come up with theories as to why.
  183. >Boredom, keeping a closer eye on you, a crush on one of the teachers...
  184. >In the end, all you learned is to not worry about why Discord does the things he does.
  185. >Anyways, the old priest usually gave you a ride home before his nightly duties.
  186. >Saved you time walking, your current home was on the complete other side of town.
  187. >Not that you had much to do at home recently.
  188. >Your magical practices were extremely light in anticipation for the ritual tonight.
  189. >You had read every single tome in the house at this point.
  190. >Recently most of your home life had been you laying around
  191. >Thinking about what was to come.
  192. >Still, you didn't really have much choice.
  193. >Discord cancelled his Netflix subscription and it wasn't like you had any friends at this school.
  194. >No one to hang out with,
  195. >No one to call out for you as school ended
  196. >No one to-
  197. >"Hey, Anon!"
  198. >...what?
  199. >Your minor pity party was interrupted by the sudden realization that you were no longer standing alone.
  200. >There was now seven others standing together to your side
  201. >Most of them wearing bright, welcoming smiles.
  202. >Save for the quiet, pink haired one in the back.
  203. >She was smiling, but her eyes were searching in every direction but yours.
  204. "Uhh...H-hi?"
  205. >What was going on?
  206. >People didn't talk to you here.
  207. >Well, besides Trixie.
  208. >And sometimes her friend Starlight.
  209. >You're pretty sure she doesn't like you.
  210. >The bacon-haired one that turned into a demon earlier this year was standing at the front of the group.
  211. >"Hi, I've seen you around but I don't think we've really met! I'm Sunset, and this is-"
  212. "I know who you are."
  213. >You cut her off rather tersely, bringing her optimism to a slight halt.
  214. >Her discomfort actually helped you to relax a bit.
  215. >You weren't used to seeing that many unerringly happy faces so close to you.
  216. >It had thrown you off a bit.
  217. >You gave her a small smile to reassure her.
  218. "I haven't been here long, but it's kind of hard not to know who you girls are."
  219. >You eyed one of the holes in the earth caused by Sunset's transformation as you spoke.
  220. >The school should really get around to fixing those.
  221. >"Oh, well okay! That makes this a little easier then!"
  222. >Easier?
  223. "...Makes what easier?"
  224. >You questioned them, the uneasy feeling beginning to return.
  225. >It must have shown on your face, as Sunset began to look a bit concerned.
  226. >"Oh, it's nothing major! I was just wanting to know if you would like to go to Sugercube with us sometime."
  227. >Sugercube Corner?
  228. >That was the place Discord picked up his peanut brittle from, wasn't it?
  229. >It was damn good peanut brittle.
  230. >Wait, she wants you to go with them?
  231. >Like, hangout with them?
  232. >Thats...
  233. "...a bad idea."
  234. >Your inner thoughts slip out before you could get a chance to censor them.
  235. >Many of the girls face shrink into disappointment
  236. >The Rainbow and Stetson seem kind of annoyed.
  237. >"Uh...what was that, Anon?" Sunset asked, confusion clear on her face.
  239. >You hadn't meant to let it slip, but it was your honest feelings.
  240. >Maybe if they had approached you months ago you might have been more receptive.
  241. >You'd been meaning to distance yourself from The Association by making some normal human friends.
  242. >If nothing else it would really piss off dear old dad.
  243. >But now there was a distinct possibility of you dying in the next few days.
  244. >It wouldn't really be fair to them or you.
  245. >It was also probably a good idea to minimize the amount of possible heartache in the case of your failure.
  246. "Well...It's just that this week I'm kinda busy at home, so..."
  247. >You offer a lame excuse as you averted your eyes from the group.
  248. >"Well, that's okay! Maybe another time then?"
  249. >Sunset beamed once again, though it seemed more forced this time.
  250. "Yeah...Yeah, some other time."
  251. >You halfheartedly accept the olive branch.
  252. >Hopefully if you were still alive by next week the war would be over.
  253. >"Sounds good! I'll talk to you later, then!"
  254. >Sunset said her goodbyes before turning to walk away with the other girls.
  255. >You breathed a heavy sigh before you heard the entrance doors behind you open.
  256. >"Anonymous, my boy! Come, it's time to get you home. You have a big night ahead of you!"
  258. >"Well, that was awkward."
  259. >Rainbow voiced the thought many of you were thinking once a good distance from Anonymous was reached.
  260. >"I hate to say Ah told ya so Sunset, but Anon just doesn't seem the socializing type."
  261. >You could only nod your head slightly while frowning.
  262. >You couldn't help but feel down about Anonymous.
  263. >You felt like there was some part of him that wanted to say yes.
  264. >But something was holding him back.
  265. >"Hey, at least he said some other time!" Pinkie interjected, focusing on the silver lining.
  266. >"Ah doubt he meant it, sugarcube..."
  267. >"M-...Maybe we shouldn't have come to him all at once?"
  268. >Fluttershy eeked as the group turned to her.
  269. >"I-I mean, I tend to get nervous around large groups...Anon could be the same way maybe?"
  270. >Her voice got smaller as she continued, but it honestly made a bit of sense.
  271. "That...actually could be it!"
  272. >You began to feel excited.
  273. >Maybe you could get a second chance to convince him to hang out.
  274. "I'll talk to him again tomorrow, alone this time. If nothing else if he is actually busy I might be able to get him to commit to a day to hang out."
  275. >You exchange a few nods and Rainbow gives you another smirk.
  276. >"Sounds like a plan!"
  278. >The car gently hummed down the road as Discord flipped through the radio stations.
  279. >He never stayed on a single station for more than one song before switching.
  280. >You were currently listening to one of country's top ten songs of the week.
  281. >Well, listening might be a little much.
  282. >You were actually still focused on your little exchange with the Raincoons earlier.
  283. >Was that their band name?
  284. >You were getting worried of getting used to calling them that if it wasn't.
  285. >It was kind of depressing to turn them away like that.
  286. >You knew that Sunset girl had been working hard to turn her old ways around.
  287. >Their offer was probably more than genuine, you just weren't used to them yet.
  288. >You came from a world where making "friends" almost always came with a price.
  289. >Calling your schoolmates from The Tower connections would probably be more accurate.
  290. >Even making actual friends usually ended for the worst in that horrific place.
  291. >You had seen more than enough bright, kind people lose themselves in the competition of the society.
  292. >The pressure to succeed.
  293. >The lives you had to trample in order to do so.
  294. >You'd even lost your best friend to it, a man you looked up to like an older brother.
  295. >A sigh once again found it way through you as you dragged your mind away from those days.
  296. >Being a Magus honestly kind of sucked.
  297. >Hell, Mages sucked so it only made sense.
  298. >Throughout history your peers have caused more harm than good.
  299. >The world would probably be better off without them.
  300. >A single click and the following silence grabbed your attention.
  301. >"Anonymous. We need to talk."
  302. >The sound of Discord's voice sent shivers down your spine.
  303. >The last time he spoke like this was when was giving you the news about your sister, years back.
  304. "What is it?"
  305. >You tried your best to mask your concern as your gazed reached him.
  306. >He seemed fairly troubled.
  307. >"I received word today that the father who was originally intended to monitor this war had met with an unfortunate accident."
  308. >"They are still looking into the circumstances, but in the meantime I am the only member of the Church with sufficient rank to watch over the battle."
  309. >The car came to stop at a red light, and Discord finally turned his mismatched eyes to you.
  310. >It was always unnerving to meet his stare, one of his eyes had a much larger pupil than the other.
  311. >"Starting from today, you'll be living in that house alone. The Holy Church had no knowledge of my residence there, and that it how it will remain. From this point on, you are the son of my old friend. Nothing more."
  312. >You took a moment to think as the red light turned green and Discord turned his attention back to the road.
  313. "That makes sense."
  314. >The Holy Church and The Mage's Association were considered allies, but that was only on paper.
  315. >In reality, the two groups rarely even came into contact with each other.
  316. >It made the higher ranking members of The Church ideal overseers and mediators of The War.
  317. >In theory, at least.
  318. >If it was brought to light that an overseer was playing favorites, other mages could call foul on the war.
  319. >While there were no real concrete punishments in place for such favoritism, there didn't need to be.
  320. >The giant target painted on the overseer's favorite would do more than enough to ensure his eminent demise.
  321. >Really, Discord was doing you a favor by cutting ties at this point.
  322. >Besides, when the chips were down there was still a good chance that he might still do a favor or two for you.
  323. >He wasn't explicitly stating he WOULDN'T help you, after all.
  324. >Though you probably shouldn't rely on it. Discord had been more than helpful these past years, but loyalty was a fickle thing in the magical world.
  325. "Where will you live in the meantime?"
  326. >A smile returned to his face as he began to casually reach back to the radio.
  327. >"The local church has a room for me, though they'll be expecting me to commit to a sermon this Sunday to repay them on such short notice."
  328. >You raised your eyebrow in disbelief as you felt the mood gradually shift back.
  329. "A sermon? From you? Guess I got another reason to at least stay alive 'til then."
  330. >"Glad to see you're taking to your upcoming challenge and likely annihilation with a smile. I was concerned I was going to have to comfort you tonight."
  331. >You audibly retch at the mere thought of what Discord as joking about.
  332. "Who would possibly want comforting from you, you crazy old coot?"
  333. >"Now now, I know living without me is going to be difficult...But, you're just going to have to find a way to move on."
  334. "Trust me, I'll manage just fine without you. At least if I die it'll be in matching sock brands.
  335. >Discord's laughter and the sound of the mariachi station he had just settled on make up the majority of the remainder of your ride.
  337. >The rest of the night begins to slip by in a blur.
  338. >After Discord left, your spacious three bedroom home was eerily quiet.
  339. >The gentle ticking of the gaudy grandfather clock kept your mind out of the book you were halfheartedly flipping through.
  340. >Every tick brought you one second closer to the turning point.
  341. >You checked the time, squinting at the ugliest clock you ever had the misfortune to witness.
  342. >11:35
  343. >Twenty-five minutes before you could go all out.
  344. >Every magus has a time of day where their magic peaks
  345. >Yours was midnight.
  346. >Performing the ritual by allowing all of your energy to be free and at it's highest potential would help greatly.
  347. >The ritual itself didn't take much energy to preform, but the class and power of the servant would be stronger for it.
  348. >It would especially help considering your lack of catalyst
  349. >You were aiming for either a Rider or a Saber.
  350. >Of the brief description of the seven classes they seemed like the ones you would like to rely on the most.
  351. >Riders came with their steeds along with some of the strongest Noble Phantasms of all the servants.
  352. >They were highly mana consuming, but you were ready to deal with that should the time come.
  353. >Sabers were considered by many to be the best servants all around.
  354. >They had high base attributes in every category,
  355. >Magic resistance that would defend them from every human mage in the war,
  356. >And swordsman worthy enough to be summoned by The Grail usually had strong legends, which impacted their strength as a servant.
  357. >You weren't expecting to get a Saber, however. You had confidence in your mana but not that much.
  358. >You just hoped you wouldn't get a Caster
  359. >You were the magic man around here thank you very much.
  360. >You closed the tome and set it down on a nearby coffee table
  361. >Standing, you began to make your way down to your basement.
  362. >It was almost time, and it might be good for you just to go over the incantation a few more times.
  363. >Opening a door in the back of the kitchen, you descended down a small flight of stair into murky darkness.
  364. >You fumbled for a bit to find the light switch
  365. >It was always higher up on the wall than you remembered.
  366. >Your mental picture of what the room usually looked like was corrected as it was illuminated
  367. >Normally this room was essentially a game room.
  368. >The couch, TV, mini-fridge and other comfy appliances had been shuffled into a corner under a cloth.
  369. >What had taken their place was a table covered with magical tools, precious stones and various liquids
  370. >Along with a large ritual circle taking up most of the middle of the room.
  371. >The copper smell of the blood you had used to paint said circle caused you to wrinkle your nose.
  372. >Blood was used fairly often in the magical world, so you were used to the smell enough to be comfortable around it.
  373. >Still wasn't pleasant in the slightest.
  374. >Moving around the room, you lit some candles set a certain distance from the circle before turning the lights back off.
  375. >Electricity could do some wonky things in the presence of strong magic, and this room was about to be flooded with it.
  376. >You gathered the rest of the reagents needed for the ritual while going over the incantation in your head
  377. >It had struck you as odd that the ritual for summoning the strongest servant was so simple.
  378. >A ten line incantation was practically nothing for even an average mage, and the circle was designed in a way to not be mana consuming.
  379. >Instead The Holy Grail itself took on the impossible task of summoning the servant to you.
  380. >You were just here to supply it with a steady stream of mana so it could keep it's form.
  381. >After inaudibly repeating the incantation to pass time, you finally here the chime from the grandfather clock upstairs.
  382. >Midnight.
  383. >You could still back out of this.
  384. >Discord would keep you safe at the church, where masters without servants were protecting if they dropped out.
  385. >But you wouldn't.
  386. >You spared one last brief glance at the command seal decorating your right wrist before reaching over the circle and beginning the incantation.
  387. "Fill. Fill. Fill. Fill. Fill.
  388. Repeat five times, then break."
  389. >You activated your magical circuits with the image of lighting a match and felt them flare to life.
  390. "Let silver and steel be the essence. Let stone and the archduke of the contracts be the foundation. Let my great master Star Swirl be the ancestor."
  391. >As you spoke, the crimson circle below you began to glow a blinding blue, reacting you your mana.
  392. "Let rise against the wind a wall that shall fall.
  393. Let the four cardinal gates close, the three forked road from the crown reaching unto the kingdom rotate."
  394. >The circle beneath you was thrumming with the gentle hum of magic as it began to fill the room in specks and rays.
  395. "Hear my command! Your body shall be born from me. My destiny will be forged by your blade. Submit to the beckoning of The Holy Grail. If you hear to this will and reason, then answer!"
  396. >The ritual had reached it's pitch, the air thrummed with magical energy that was threatening to blind you.
  397. >You did not look away.
  398. "This is my oath! I will be the protector of all that is good in the eternal world! I will be the avenger for all those broken by evil!
  399. From the seventh heaven, attended by the three great words of power
  400. Come forth from the ring of restraint, keeper of the holy balance!"
  401. >The room went silent as the light completely filled the room.
  402. >You held your breath.
  403. >The light died down, leaving the room lit by the candles around the circle.
  404. >Trails of smoke crawled upwards from the magic circle, obscuring the figure standing before you.
  405. >You had done it.
  406. >You were officially a master.
  407. >Now, to bear witness to your champion.
  408. >Before you could even get a chance to lay your eyes on your servant, however, their voice rang out.
  409. >"Well met, brother! I assume you are my master?"
  410. >The voice was a bit rough, but undeniably feminine.
  411. >As the smoke cleared, you got a better view
  412. >It was indeed a woman
  413. >And she was gorgeous
  414. >The first thing that struck you was her skin. Dark and olive in tone.
  415. >Her raven hair was pulled into a long ponytail behind her back.
  416. >She wore a medieval looking armor, rings and a breastplate trimmed in gold and red.
  417. >Her eyes were dark brown and shined with a certain...playfulness?
  418. >Her widening smirk was a perfect match for her eyes as they trailed along your person.
  419. >Oh yeah, that right.
  420. >She asked if you were her master.
  421. >And you just stood there absorbing every detail about her without answering.
  422. >You straightened your posture before meeting her eyes with determination.
  423. "Yes, that is correct. I am-"
  424. >"Do you think you can win?"
  425. >Your servant cut you off as you were about to introduce yourself, throwing you off.
  426. "Uh...you mean the war?
  427. >She nodded her head expectantly, crossing her arms as she awaited an answer.
  428. >Well, that was the ultimate question wasn't it? Could you actually win this war?
  429. >Unlike before, where you had degraded yourself, you let the thoughts of why you entered this war to begin with take hold.
  430. >The thought of other magus getting a wish, what they would do with that power. The things you could make right.
  431. "Yes, I can. Will you be the servant who gets to enjoy victory alongside me?"
  432. >At first, silence.
  433. >As you had spoke, the smile had left her face.
  434. >You began to wonder if your little challenge there might have been taken as offensive.
  435. >The full gravity of just how much stronger she was from you started to sink in.
  436. >Then, the dark skinned warrior uncrosses her arms as she laughed a deep laugh from her belly.
  437. >You felt yourself relax slightly as her mirth filled the room.
  438. >Good, you hadn't just signed your death sentence.
  439. >Every master had three commands seals to either empower or compel their servants to follow their wishes.
  440. >If she had decided to attack you one would have been needed to be used to make sure your own blood didn't paint the walls.
  441. >You were glad you didn't have to.
  442. >Forcing her cooperation through such a limited means would have been a losing battle.
  443. >Your servant's laughter dies down as she wipes an honest to goodness tear from her eye.
  444. >"Good, good! Excellent to know that this generation's youth still have that fire!"
  445. >With a flick of her wrists her armor disperses, leaving her in a regal looking pants and tunic red in color.
  446. >"Forgive me for the ostentatious question, but I believe you asked one of your own, yes?"
  447. >She stepped forward out of the circle, stopping a few short feet from you.
  448. >Closing her eyes, she dropped to one knee in a bow towards you.
  449. >Even with those simple movements you could sense her power, far beyond that of any human.
  450. >"It has been quite a long time since I bowed for anyone...It's strange, after all this time. But fitting."
  451. >She gave a short laugh before looking up to meet your gaze.
  452. >"I will gladly be the one who seizes victory with you, master. Your enemies are my enemies, and your allies are mine. This, I swear."
  453. >Her arm reached forward with an open palm before another burst of light filled the room, leaving a resplendent longsword in it's wake.
  454. >"I swear on this blade that I will not rest until complete victory is ours! You may call me Saber! What is your name, my master?"
  455. "I am Anonymous, it's a pleasure to me-"
  456. >For a moment you were certain you misheard her.
  457. >Going back over her oath, you're convinced there was no way that was the case.
  458. "Did...Did you just say Saber...?"
  459. >Your question was barely a whisper.
  460. >Your reaction was clearly unexpected by the surprise on the hero's face.
  461. >"Yes?"
  462. "Not-not rider, or lancer?"
  463. >Those two classes would still make sense with the armor you saw earl-
  464. >"No master, my designation is that of the Saber class servant."
  465. "..."
  466. >How was this possible?
  467. >Surely some other magus had managed to secure a catalyst for a high profile saber servant, right?
  468. >They should have beaten you to the punch in that regard
  469. >"Is...Is that disappointing to you, master?"
  470. >Shit, Anon, you gotta remember there's another person here now.
  471. >Gotta clear this shit up NOW
  472. "NO! I mean- um...No, Saber. I was just shocked. I did not think I was capable of summoning the saber, is all."
  473. >Saber offered you a short nod, followed by a small smile as she stood
  474. >Damn, she was pretty tall for a girl.
  475. >Practically eye to eye with you.
  476. >"Well then, consider it a sign from The Heavens of things to come. As long as I stand by your side, we shall triumph!"
  477. >You feel your heart swell with Sabers confidence before shaking your head, remembering your situation.
  478. "Keeping our spirits high is fine, but let's not lose ourselves before the fighting even begins."
  479. >"Understood, master. That being the case, what is our first move? I am eager to size up our foes, but I shall follow your lead. We may wish to familiarize ourselves with..."
  480. >As Saber spoke you gestured for her to follow you up the stairs.
  481. >You drew the Saber.
  482. >Outside of her sight, you felt yourself smile.
  483. >The widest you've smiled in years.
  485. >The sleepy little town lays at your feet as your eyes trace the roads and buildings
  486. >A map began to take form in your mind as you absorbed every little detail.
  487. >Canterlot was certainly easy on the eyes, making it even easier to scan through
  488. >It was a soothing and comforting process for one such as yourself
  489. >You always preferred tactics and terrain over brute strength in battle.
  490. >Every path you scanned, every detail uncovered could be the difference between life and death...
  491. >"Archer, are you done yet? My hair isn't going to remain radiant in this wind for much longer!"
  492. >Your master's whining reached your ear, his voice dripping with vanity typical of those with his upbringing.
  493. >You felt your eye twitch involuntarily in annoyance.
  494. >You are Archer, servant of the bow and one of the three knight classes.
  495. >And you were not having a good night.
  496. "We've been here no less than a minute, Master Blueblood. I just need a bit more time. You can wait inside if-"
  497. >"You'd leave your master alone? What sort of servant are you?"
  498. "Very well, master. If your hair is so much more important than your safety, I believe I am familiar enough with our surroundings."
  499. >You really weren't, but you were never going to be able to focus with the Prince bellyaching behind you.
  500. >"Good. The sooner we can win this war, the sooner we can get out of this backwater slum."
  501. >This peaceful serene hamlet a slum?
  502. >O sweet merciful Lord in heaven
  503. >Please give you the patience to deal with this little upstart
  504. >The patience that would keep you from picking up the righteous bastard and tossing him off this roof.
  505. >At the very least, the patience to wait until he was sleeping to split his skull in two with your bow.
  506. >Ah, there was a delightful image.
  507. >...Needless to say, you weren't fond of your new master.
  508. >Even though the world seemed to remember you as a hero you were a simple man
  509. >Born among simple folk.
  510. >And you loved simple pleasures.
  511. >A good hearty meal, companions to engage in drunken revelry with.
  512. >A beautiful night sky, adorned with stars much like this one.
  513. >A pretty woman to share in warmth under said sky.
  514. >The good things in life.
  515. >This master, this Prince Blueblood...
  516. >It was as if he was the embodiment of everything you had spent your life fighting.
  517. >Pompous, privileged, selfish...
  518. >The festering core of the worst "nobility" had to offer.
  519. >Fate was indeed cruel to match you with him.
  520. >"I'm still uncertain what I should use my wish on...Unimaginable power? What do you think, Archer?"
  521. "That sounds like a fine goal to me, master."
  522. >Like you would ever let that happen.
  523. >If only he knew how many of his kind had met their end by your arrows
  524. >Maybe then he would show you even just a modicum of respect.
  525. >As it was, the command seals on his arm was the only thing saving him.
  526. >As much as you hated Blueblood, the thought of being controlled by him against your will was much worse.
  527. "May I ask what is our next course of action, my master?"
  528. >As Blueblood went over his plan, your heart completely shifted from despair to joy.
  529. >If this was actually the young noble's plan, maybe you would be free from your chains sooner than expected...
  531. "Saber, you can sense that too, right?"
  532. >"Uh, yes master. I can."
  533. "That...that can't be right, can it? No one would be that stupid, right?"
  534. >"Normally, I would agree with you...But unless our eyes deceive..."
  535. >You are Anonymous, and you can't believe what you are feeling.
  536. >You had decided to let Saber become familiar with the town for the night.
  537. >The Grail was kind enough to fill servant’s mind with some important knowledge.
  538. >The language of the region, the current year, the name of the land etc.
  539. >But things like history after they had died and the layout of said land were things she would have to learn herself.
  540. >With that thought in mind you had spent the last few hours simply roaming the town.
  541. >Servants could enter a sort of spirit form that was invisible to all but other servants
  542. >Though Magus' could sometimes feel their presence, they could rarely see them.
  543. >In this form they were still aware of their surroundings and could communicate with their master
  544. >But their mana draw was practically non-existent, making it more sustainable.
  545. >You had already gotten to know this city very well
  546. >Probably better than most of the natives.
  547. >You had just gotten done guiding Saber past Canterlot High
  548. >You were about to head back home down another path when you had felt it.
  549. >No master would want to pick a fight tonight, it was too early.
  550. >It's why you felt safe wandering around even the empty streets of Canterlot after dark.
  551. >If any of the other mages had familiars watching the area you risked being tracked after fighting.
  552. >Even worse, if you actually fought you were essentially giving free information to your enemies.
  553. >Knowing even just one of your opponent's attacks or noble phantasm would give a huge advantage.
  554. >They could prepare a counter strategy for you while you would still have no knowledge of them.
  555. >The first night of the War, at least according to history, was quiet as a result.
  556. >Contrary to that knowledge was what you were currently sensing
  557. >For just a few miles away you were sensing a powerful magical energy source.
  558. >That of a Magus with active magic circuits and a Servant.
  559. >You felt Saber rematerialize next to you, adorned in her armor she had first worn when you met.
  560. "Either this mage is very confident in their skills or very foolish."
  561. >"Possibly both."
  562. >You share a slightly nervous chuckle with Saber at that.
  563. >Neither of you had truly intended to fight this night.
  564. >However, between your clenched fist and the looks Saber was giving you as her attention shifted from you to the source of energy
  565. >It was fairly clear what you both wanted to do.
  566. >"It could be a trap." Saber offered.
  567. "It probably is."
  568. >You agreed.
  569. >"Even if it wasn't, fighting this soon would be a foolish idea."
  570. "Yup."
  571. >"It is not in my nature to deny a challenge, but the smart move would be to retreat."
  572. "That would be the smart move, wouldn't it?"
  573. >A beat of silence followed as you both glanced at each other.
  574. >A matching smile crawled onto both of your faces before you looked ahead.
  575. "Stay close to me, until we know what servant they are I don't want the master or servant taking shots you could easily negate."
  576. >The two of you began to run to the source.
  577. >You struck the match in your mind, feeling your magical circuits flood with mana at the image.
  578. "After we size them up and should we choose to fight, split them apart. I'll take the master. You defeat the servant and join me as soon as possible."
  579. >You kept your eyes forward for any traps or familiars as you heard Saber laugh behind you.
  580. >"One on one to the death, huh? I was the greatest duelist alive in my age, time to see if any other hero can measure up!"
  581. >The two of you slowed as you closed in on the source of the magic.
  582. >Before you was one of the many parks of the city.
  583. >It was on the smaller side, more of a recreational area for Canterlot High and other festivities.
  584. >Picnic tables decorated alongside the walkway that went through the middle of the park
  585. >Leading to a gazebo overlooking a small man-made lake.
  586. >Standing at the center of the gazebo stood two figures, seemingly both male
  587. >It was hard to tell from this distance.
  588. >The shorter of the two figures turned in your direction, an arrogant grin plastered on his face.
  589. >He wore a slick, white suit with no tie and the three top buttons of his shirt undone.
  590. >Giving a good view of his chest.
  591. >Okay, Weird.
  592. >He had long, blonde hair, blue eyes and a handsome face.
  593. >"Well, well, well. And I had just begun to think none of the other mages would bother to show up."
  594. >The snootiness dripping from his voice dragged you right back to your tower days.
  595. >You didn't know this mage personally, but you knew his type.
  596. >Good, you thought. That'll make this easier.
  597. >The taller man, who you assumed was the servant, had still yet to face you.
  598. >He wore a heavy brown cloak, making it difficult to make any observations.
  599. >Saber moved quickly in front of you, her majestic longsword taking it's place in her hand.
  600. >The enemy servant finally turned around, regarding the sword with a nervous look.
  601. >"The Saber, huh? What an opponent for the first round..."
  602. >You swear you hear him mutter "Why me?" before he materialized his own weapon.
  603. >It seemed to be a simple longbow made of Yew, but the runes decorating the front of the bow told you it was much more than that.
  604. >So, your first opponent would be Archer.
  605. >From what you knew, it should be an easy matchup for Saber.
  606. >But you wouldn't let those thought distract you from the pretty boy giving you a sly grin.
  607. >"So you're the master of Saber? Perfect! Defeating the strongest servant will give the other masters pause of me!"
  608. >Was this guy for real?
  609. >You didn't get much chance to respond before a blur of action in front of you took you by surprise.
  610. >Archer had attempted to get a cheeky shot in as his master had spoken
  611. >The arrows he had loosed quickly fell to a few quick slashes by Saber before she charged forward.
  612. >Archer immediately retreated, bounding back in a great leap to keep distance.
  613. >The speed at which they had both moved was incredible, leaving their masters stunned in their wake.
  614. >It took a moment for you to realize as you watch Saber bound after Archer that she had done exactly what you had ordered her to do.
  615. >The masters now stood before one another without the defenses of their servants.
  616. >In only a split second Saber had put Archer into full survival mode
  617. >He almost seemed eager to be split from his master.
  618. >Archer's master finally seemed to understand the situation as well.
  619. >"Your servant was foolish to leave you unprotected, boy. You are no match for a Magus of the Blueblood line."
  620. >He sneered at you as he reached his hand forward.
  621. >You copied his motion and moved backwards as the two of you launched into soundless incantations.
  622. >Your spell finished first, high speed incantations was always one of your strong suits.
  623. >A steady jet of fire beamed from your hand
  624. >The wind spell Blueblood had been weaving finished right as the flames reached him, dispersing the remainder of the jet.
  625. >A little late, however, as you smile at your handiwork.
  626. >His once pure white suit was now singed from top to bottom in ugly patterns.
  627. >Parts of the suit still remained ablaze.
  628. >Steady streams of smoke rose from his charred hair.
  629. >Blueblood frantically produced a mirror from his coat to see his appearance for himself.
  630. >You hadn't done much physical damage, but the mortified look on his face was absolutely priceless.
  631. >"Wha-WHAT HAVE YOU DONE?!"
  632. >His voice had gone up several octaves as he screamed.
  633. >The laughter you had tried to hold back forced itself out.
  634. "PFFTAHAHAA, I don't know, black's a good color on you!"
  635. >You manage to slip in a snide remark in between fits of laughter.
  636. >It only stopped once his rage filled eyes locked onto to you once again.
  637. >"Your filthy spells will not touch me again, peasant!"
  638. >Blueblood growled before raising his hand to the air and starting a new incantation.
  639. >Your little laughing fit had cost you some focus, and this time Blueblood's incantation finished first.
  640. >This time you had sent the fire in much more concentrated burst, practically a laser
  641. >You had expected him to counter with another wind spell, but instead your laser met with a solid wall before reaching him.
  642. >There was now a rippling field surrounding Blueblood, picking up dirt and rocks as he moved forward.
  643. >His sneer had melted into a confident grin again as he touched his hand to his new shield.
  644. >"What did I say? The Blueblood line has spent eight generations perfecting this barrier, it is completely unbreakable!"
  645. >With a few light taps to his shield, the debris it collected shot out at you with great force.
  646. >They weren't accurate, but a rock crashed into your right shoulder, breaking skin and leaving a gash.
  647. >You grunted in pain before fleeing behind a nearby picnic table for cover, flipping it over.
  648. >Okay, time to think.
  649. >That shield wasn't indestructible, even Casters were incapable of that.
  650. >But it was WAY stronger than a wind shield should be.
  651. >Fire was YOUR element, and offensive magic was your bread and butter.
  652. >You had never heard of a wind barrier strong enough to deflect a concentrated blast.
  653. >Either something about that shield deflected specifically fire or it was just that strong.
  654. >As you felt more objects whirl into the picnic table, you ventured a dangerous gaze back at Blueblood.
  655. >He was still moving, but it was slow.
  656. >And he wasn't using any other spells.
  657. >All right, if he wasn't moving quickly towards you that might mean he doesn't have full control over the barrier.
  658. >If he could just be running at you, he would.
  659. >Since he wasn't using any other spells, either this barrier took all of his mana
  660. >Or he had to feed it so much that casting any other spell would risk breaking it.
  661. >Either way, it was good for you.
  662. >Unlike the wound on your right shoulder, which was starting to bleed through your shirt.
  663. >Focus.
  664. >If you can't overwhelm his shield with magic, you could possibly overload it with other things.
  665. >He was slowly moving out of it, but he was still under the gazebo.
  666. >That was your ticket.
  667. >You launched into your next incantation, an explosive fiery projectile
  668. >You braved the storm as you stood up and aimed between two of the gazebos pillars.
  669. >The ball of fire whizzed past Blueblood as another rock slipped past your face, scratching your cheek.
  670. >"Cracking under pressure, you dirty peasant? You missed! You'll never break my shield like that!"
  671. >Good, keep that confidence.
  672. >Keep your attention on me.
  673. >It'll make what happens next all the more satisfying.
  674. >You repeated the process with the same incantation, blasting on the opposite side.
  675. >Two more pillars erupted in fire.
  676. >The gazebo screamed in protest as the roof began to cave in.
  677. >The sound finally caused Blueblood to turn his head back.
  678. >His face blanched as he realized your plan.
  680. >You are now Saber.
  681. >And this Archer is infuriating.
  682. >You had spent the last few moments chasing him as he took pot shots at you in between fleeing.
  683. >He was currently leading you around the rooftops of the commercial district.
  684. >Even further and further from your masters.
  685. >Was that his plan? To drag you away and then race back to slay your master?
  686. >If so, he was in for a painful revelation.
  687. >This fight had only dragged on as long as it had because you refused to use your Noble Phantasm
  688. >You were certain it would kill this servant in a single blow, but you knew other masters were watching.
  689. >Only if your master was in danger would you release your blade's true fury.
  690. >You continued chasing Archer for a few more moments before he finally stopped running.
  691. >He had come to a complete stop on the opposite side of a roof.
  692. >Does he finally wish to fight? Or does he have some sort of trap here?
  693. >You leaped to the side of the roof opposite him before slowly moving forward
  694. >Your blade was leveled to his motionless person.
  695. >"Wait."
  696. >His voice surprised you, though not as much as when his hands rose in a gesture of peace.
  697. >"I wanted to see if we could talk, hero to hero, before we commit to battle. Would you mind, uh...putting your sword away?"
  698. >He could barely keep his eyes facing you, tossing wary glances to your sword.
  699. >So that's why he had been running.
  700. >You felt your lips curl into a smile, as you knew the reason why.
  701. "The worthy have no reason to fear this steel. Only those weak in heart or who fight dishonorably feel such dread seeing my blade."
  702. >Archer quickly shook his head as the accusatory glance you gave him.
  703. >"I have no intentions of cheating you in this battle...Though if I'm forced to be honest, that's only true because I have no intention of this battle."
  704. >What?
  705. "No intentions of battle? Then what was the point of this merry chase?!"
  706. >Archer took a step back at your sudden rage.
  707. >You were worried he would flee again before you could get answers.
  708. >You sighed before dismissing your sword, much to Archer's immediate comfort.
  709. >"The truth is, I was against fighting anyone today. However, my master is a foolish man with evil intentions for The Grail."
  710. >Though you were annoyed Archer was denying you a fight, you couldn't help but sympathize.
  711. >When you first laid eyes on Anonymous earlier that night, you had been concerned.
  712. >By his age you had already been on your first military campaign, but to have such a young master...
  713. >You were worried he would keep you on a tight leash and deny you the honorable combat you sought.
  714. >Unfounded concerns, it would seem, as it was he that suggested to duel the enemy servant.
  715. >A duel you were no longer getting, you reminded yourself.
  716. >Your mood quickly soured at the thought.
  717. >You wanted to feel sorry for Archer
  718. >But you also REALLY wanted to fight him.
  719. >"Hey, I'm sorry if you're disappointed, but I wanted to offer you a bit of a consolation deal."
  720. >Your emotions must have shown.
  721. >You never were very good at hiding your feelings outside of fighting.
  722. "What sort of consolation?"
  723. >"I'll get straight to the point. I let you go back and you kill my master before he uses a seal to force me to defend him. If you do, I'll give you an honorable duel another night besides tonight."
  724. "So that's it? You're just giving up?"
  725. >"I'm afraid so. Us Archers can stay alive longer than other servants without a master due to our Independent Action skill, I would prefer to use that time getting to know this wonderful town then at the beck and call of Blue-"
  726. >Archer cut himself off as his head snapped back to where you had left your masters.
  727. >The magic in the area had been fairly potent before, but now it was dying down.
  728. >In fact, you could make out what seemed to be a fire in the distance...
  729. >"Guess we won't have to make that deal after all. Your master has already set me free."
  731. >You are Anonymous again.
  732. >You're a bit shell shocked in the aftermath of the fight
  733. >Your shoulder has started to scream in pain with every small motion.
  734. >The ruins of a once quaint gazebo lay at your feet, a trail of blood oozing out from beneath it.
  735. >The ground was completely torched in the wake of your spells.
  736. >Small, isolated blazes were beginning to light before a wave of your hand and a few words put them out.
  737. >Overall, you had a mess sitting before you.
  738. >But you were alive.
  739. >And judging from the fact that Archer wasn't back here shoving arrows down your throat...
  740. >Blueblood was either dead, or unconscious and about to be.
  741. >You weren't going to leave the job unfinished.
  742. >Not against his kind.
  743. >You lacked the time to search for the body, however.
  744. >You knelt down to the demolished pile of wood and spoke what you hoped would be your last incarnation of the night.
  745. >A smaller jet of flame left your palm, igniting the wood into a makeshift funeral pyre.
  746. >As you watched the pillar of smoke rise toward the sky, the distinct smell of burning flesh was the last proof you needed.
  747. >You gave just a few more lines, barely even a full spell just to attempt to contain the pyre as it did it's job.
  748. >The Church would help cover this up to look like an accident and to hide Blueblood's death
  749. >Still, you didn't want to burn down the entire park in your wake.
  750. >There was a burst of movement to your side as Saber rejoined you, catching you off guard.
  751. >"Master, are you hurt?!"
  752. "My shoulder needs to be cleaned and bandaged, but I'll be fine. More than I can say for Blueblood."
  753. >Saber turned her attention to the bonfire, nodding her head.
  754. >"A fitting pyre for someone willing to participate in the war."
  755. >You had a small laugh before you gestured for Saber to follow you.
  756. >The Grail had done well in choosing your servant
  757. >You were already thinking on the same page.
  758. >Still, as you left the scene behind you doubt began to creep in your heart.
  759. >If he was still alive, you could have spared Blueblood.
  760. >Should you have?
  762. >Two figures watched the aftermath of the fight from the shadows.
  763. >"I must admit, I had not expected such bloodshed. I had thought they were merely testing the waters."
  764. >One of them spoke, his voice deep and rough.
  765. >"Still, it was quite an impressive display, was it not? I had no idea he was capable of such quick thinking."
  766. >The other answered, her voice regal and dripping with malice.
  767. >"I never doubted him. Blueblood may have been powerful, but he was a fool."
  768. >The man reached out his arm as the familiar that alerted him of the battle, his trusty owl, flew down to his arm.
  769. >"It has been a few years since we had last seen our little victor. It's surprising he would take a place in a battle such as this."
  770. >He let loose a low, menacing laugh at her confusion, causing her to gaze at him questioningly.
  771. >"I agree, but it matters not. It's fitting him and I should meet here, after all this time.
  772. >"Furthermore, I am certain he's got a few more tricks up his sleeve. I can't wait to see them."
  773. >This time it was her turn to laugh.
  774. >"You almost sound like you are looking forward to it. Don't forget about our ultimate goal, 'Master of Rider'."
  775. >She chided him with a playful tone, earning a scowl for her effort.
  776. >"Don't confuse my excitement for rashness, woman. Have Assassin keep track of him. If all goes well, a second master could be dead by the second day.
  777. >Even the shadows could not hide the twisted grin the grew on her face.
  778. >"It is already done. I'll join her in pursuit and regroup with you in the morning."
  779. >With that, the Master of Assassin took her leave in with a flash of emerald flames.
  780. >His partner finally gone, he let his own smile finally grow as he turned back to the pyre.
  781. >"Anonymous...After all this time, we meet again..."
  784. >"...I can truly hardly wait."
  787. >The sun’s rays find the one weak spot in your curtains to beam you directly in your face as you turn in your sheets.
  788. >It would have bothered you a lot more if you had gotten a wink of sleep.
  789. >Your thoughts had kept you occupied most of the night as you had laid in bed.
  790. >The brief doubt you had felt regarding your killing of Blueblood had been easy to dispel.
  791. >Surprisingly easy.
  792. >You were still uncomfortable about taking a life
  793. >But your options were highly limited.
  794. >A master could leave the war one of three ways.
  795. >They could surrender their command seals and wait out the war at the Church
  796. >If they lose their arm, they lose their command seals and their servant shortly after.
  797. >And finally, death.
  798. >The problem with the first two option when it came to Blueblood was that it left you with a powerful enemy.
  799. >Should he decide not to take refuge at the church it was doubtful he would actually leave you alone.
  800. >Not an eighth generation magus
  801. >Being embarrassed by a mage with three less generations like yourself would earn you an enemy for life.
  802. >Besides, all the masters who joined this war understood the risk.
  803. >Masters were going to die.
  804. >No, what had been plaguing you was whether or not you made a mistake confronting him in the first place.
  805. >One less master was in the way
  806. >You had made your first strike back at an establishment you hated
  807. >But without a doubt at least one master would have seen your fight last night.
  808. >If not ALL the masters.
  809. >Knowing this, you had done your best to conceal your presence on your way back.
  810. >It was difficult as that sort of magic was not your forte but it should have at least kept your home a secret for now.
  811. >You’d really have to thank your teacher for drilling it into you if it worked.
  812. >Especially considering she was against you joining “this whole mess” in the first place.
  813. >You turned again onto your right side to move your sight out of the sun.
  814. >A sharp pain to your shoulder was your reward before you decided to just sit up.
  815. >You examined the bandage that Saber had applied to you last night.
  816. >She had done an amazing job
  817. >Disinfecting it hurt like hell though, that alone almost made you pass out.
  818. >Considering your current sleepless state, that might have been ideal.
  819. >You check the clock on the stand next to your bed.
  820. >6:05AM.
  821. >Yeah, you weren’t going to school today.
  822. >Honestly, you might not be going back to that school again.
  823. >You found yourself unexpectedly sad at that thought.
  824. >If nothing else, it was a pretty exciting place.
  825. >The kids there were nice too
  826. >Reminded you of the kind of people you were hoping to protect from other mages.
  827. >Even Trixie, as annoying as she could be, was pretty fun to be around.
  828. >Though seriously, who refers to themselves in the third person?
  829. >Thinking of Trixie suddenly reminded you that you had agreed to go to her show tomorrow night.
  830. >That...was going to be risky now.
  831. >Still, you hated breaking your word.
  832. >If you could manage to stay low tonight and avoid any fights, you’d still go.
  833. >You’d just have to be very careful.
  834. >You stretched out before getting up from your comfy safe haven and stumbled into the living room.
  835. >You brought along your blankets and pillow in the hope that maybe a change of location would coax out some rest.
  836. >You closed all the blinds in the living room to set an appropriate amount of darkness before flipping on the TV.
  837. >You tended to leave it on the news.
  838. >As you set about making a new snug nest on the couch, something occurs to you.
  839. “Saber?”
  840. >”Yes, master?”
  841. >Her response was immediate.
  842. >She must be close by.
  843. >What a dutiful servant.
  844. “If you like, you can remain in your material form.”
  845. >After some silence, you felt her reappear on the side of the couch.
  846. >”Sounds good to me. I was concerned about your mana after that fight with that other master-”
  847. >You cut her off with a quick motion of your hand.
  848. “Please, have more faith in your master. True, I was a bit drained from casting spells in quick succession...BUT”
  849. >You lazily made a flexing motion with your left arm so as to not upset the currently dulling pain on your right.
  850. “Your master has plenty of mana left where that comes from. Sustaining your physical form is child’s play.”
  851. >Saber seemed a bit...uncertain for a moment?
  852. >For the first time, you felt like you were having trouble reading her.
  853. >Quickly though, her small frown was replaced with a sly smile.
  854. >”I’m happy to hear I have such a...virile...master.”
  855. >Her emphasis on virile made you pause.
  856. >Was...was...Saber flirting with you?
  857. >...Nothing good could come from that.
  858. >She was beautiful, but she was also a servant.
  859. >You had to nip this in the bud right now-
  860. >...
  861. >Your confusion and desperation must have shown on your face.
  862. >Because Saber was currently giving you the biggest shit eating grin you’ve ever seen.
  863. >Dammit.
  864. >She got you good.
  865. “Very funny, Saber. I offer to let you keep your form to learn about my world and you tease me.”
  866. >”C’mon. It’s at least a little funny.”
  867. >You say nothing in response at first, merely finishing your snuggle cocoon and burying your face in your pillow.
  868. “Yeah, yeah. Anyways, our study is behind that door. Shelves on the right are mostly world history, stick with that side.”
  869. >You felt yourself yawn, finally feeling sleep claim it’s hold on you.
  870. “I’m going to finally get some rest. I have wards around the house so we’ll know if anyone approaches.”
  871. >Saber nodded her head, her gaze shifting from you to the current news story on the television.
  872. >”Good night, Anonymous.”
  873. >You give her a weak smile before you can resist the dream realm’s siren call no longer.
  875. >You are now Saber.
  876. >And while messing with dear Anonymous had lifted your spirits...
  877. >You couldn’t help but feel slightly down as your master closed his eyes.
  878. >The previous night’s events were weighing heavily on your mind as well.
  879. >You weren’t worried about the other masters hunting you.
  880. >Hell, you relished the challenge.
  881. >However, last night you had been, well...
  882. >Next to useless.
  883. >Archer intended for his master to be killed. He never intended to fight you, meaning your entire pursuit of him was just a waste of time.
  884. >Doubly so, as even Archer’s plan to have you kill his own master-
  885. >Still uncertain how you felt about that offer
  886. >Ended up being FOR NOTHING
  887. >Anonymous killed Blueblood by his own hand.
  888. >One part of you was proud of your master.
  889. >You had sensed that Blueblood man’s energy when you first arrived, he must have put up a hell of a fight.
  890. >Another part of you, the loudest part, was highly unsatisfied with the events of last night.
  891. >You sighed as you took your eyes away from the strange box that had people in suits arguing with each other.
  892. >These thoughts were going to get you nowhere.
  893. >Remember your soldier’s training, just focus on being ready for the next battle.
  894. >Surely, there would be at least one servant who would meet you steel to steel.
  895. >With that thought, you make your way to the room Anonymous had pointed out earlier.
  896. >You were glad he had offered to let you maintain your physical form.
  897. >It would allow you to make more use of the time Anonymous needed to rest.
  898. >That, and spirit form just felt unnatural.
  900. >You wake up as the sound of high pitched ringing shocked you from sleep.
  901. >The sound of your wards being triggered.
  902. >You quickly shoot up from the couch before hearing a clattering in your room.
  903. >Probably Saber, the wards around your house were set up in a manner to catch someone on their approach.
  904. >Not when they were already in your house.
  905. >A quick glance to that disgusting grandfather clock reveals the time to be 3:46 PM
  906. >Well, at least you got plenty of sleep this time.
  907. >Wait, it was still daylight out.
  908. >No master would risk attacking you now.
  909. >The Holy Church and to a degree the Association would help to cover up incidents during the war.
  910. >However, this didn’t apply to acts or attacks that were out in the open.
  911. >Attacks that were against the whole “Let’s keep magic out of the public eye” thing mages were supposedly devoted to.
  912. >So probably not a master.
  913. >But you can’t think of anyone who would be visiting around this time.
  914. >Your door opens quickly and slams into the nearby wall with a loud thud, revealing Saber.
  915. >...Wearing your clothes.
  916. >Specifically a plain white T-shirt and blue jeans.
  917. >”Master, is it the enemy?!”
  918. >Saber speaks in a hushed but urgent tone.
  919. >Not going to even mention your trip to my wardrobe, huh?
  920. >A sudden knock at the door dragged you from your current thoughts.
  921. >Going to have to table this for now.
  922. >You gesture for Saber to be quiet before you move over to the door.
  923. >It wouldn’t be Discord, would it?
  924. >He said he wouldn’t be coming back for the duration of the war.
  925. >...If he is here, it must be extremely important.
  926. >Honestly, that thought was beginning to scare you more than the possibility of another master on the other side.
  927. >You peer through the peephole of your door to so who-
  928. >Oh.
  929. >Well, on your list of people you have expected to see standing there, she was not one of them.
  931. >Be Sunset Shimmer
  932. >Also be slightly nervous.
  933. >You weren’t able to go through with your plan of asking Anonymous if he wanted to hang out.
  934. >He didn’t show up to class today.
  935. >When you had asked Principle Celestia, she said she hadn’t received a call regarding his absence.
  936. >You had thought maybe Trixie would know, apparently she was the only person to ever talk to him.
  937. >She seemed surprised since he doesn’t usually miss school.
  938. >That had you pretty concerned.
  939. >Also, Trixie was REALLY tired.
  940. >The whole time you talked she didn’t even go on any tangent about how great and powerful she was.
  941. >It was almost refreshing talking to her like that.
  942. >Still, you hoped she was okay.
  943. >Those bags under her eyes did not look good.
  944. >Your concern lead you back to Prince-Principle Celestia.
  945. >It was still weird how this world mirrored Equestria.
  946. >You came up with some lame excuse of needing to take his homework to him to get his address.
  947. >She decided not to question it..
  948. >She knew how hard you had been working to turn yourself around, she had no reason to suspect you of anything nasty.
  949. >Like when you first came over.
  950. >You try not to think about those days anymore.
  951. >”Um...Hello?”
  952. >The present, Sunset.
  953. >You live in the present. The one where Anon is standing in front of you.
  954. “Hey, Anon! You didn’t-”
  955. >You lose your train of thought when you realize what Anon was wearing.
  956. >Or rather, wasn’t. He was shirtless.
  957. >He was wearing a pair of sweatpants and that was it.
  958. >Huh, under his normal clothes he had a pretty good body.
  959. >Not Big Mac amazing but better than you would have expected a loner like him.
  960. >Wait, his shoulder was bandaged.
  961. >It had a pretty fresh looking red splotch on it too.
  962. “Uh, you weren’t at school today. Are you okay? Your shoulder-”
  963. >He gives his shoulder a glance before widening his eyes.
  964. >He must have just realized he answered the door in his current state.
  965. >”OH, I mean uh, yeah my shoulder’s fine. It looks a lot worse than it is.”
  966. >His own discomfort set you a bit at ease and you felt your lips curl into a small smile.
  967. “Well that’s good! Sorry this is a little out of the blue, but I heard it was strange for you to be absent and wanted to make sure everything was okay.”
  968. >”Yeah, I’m usually the model of health around CHS huh?”
  969. >Anon joked before chuckling lightly.
  970. >Well, this was a pleasant surprise.
  971. >Anon seemed much more comfortable talking to you today.
  972. >Maybe Fluttershy was right, you shouldn’t have all approached him all at once.
  973. “That’s what I hear, at least! If...uh...If you don’t mind me asking, why weren’t you at school then?”
  974. >Anon took a moment to think about it.
  975. >Its looking like he’s considering not telling you.
  976. >Crap, maybe it’s too personal to ask him about yet.
  977. “You don’t have to-”
  978. >”No, it’s fine.”
  979. >Anonymous cut you off before you could finish
  980. >”A family friend from abroad wanted to come visit Canterlot. My family offered her a place to stay so she could save on hotel fees.”
  981. >Anon leaned his left side into the doorframe as he spoke.
  982. >”Sadly, my parents were out of town so I had to be the one to go pick her up from Manehattan last night.”
  983. >Ah that’s right, there was no airport in Canterlot.
  984. >The closest one was in Manehattan, which was like an 8 hour drive.
  985. >”We ended up getting back at like 8AM, so I decided to just skip school for the day. Would have slept through all my classes anyways.”
  986. >You both share a light laugh at that.
  987. >That’s probably why he looked like he was in sleepwear.
  988. >This was honestly going WAY better than you thought it would.
  989. >But now was the real clincher.
  990. “So, I know you said no to it yesterday, but the girls and I were still wondering if you would like to come to Sugarcube Corner today!”
  991. >You inject as much enthusiasm as you can into your voice.
  992. >Aaaaand there’s that classic reluctant Anon look.
  993. >”Look, Sunset...I really do appreciate the offer...”
  994. >Nonono, you had come so far!
  995. >He hadn’t frowned at you once!
  996. >Quick, think of something!
  997. >What can you use to as a reason for him to come!
  998. >A light bulb flashes in your mind as a stroke of genius reveals itself to you.
  999. “Hey, you could bring that family friend of yours! She came to visit Canterlot, right?”
  1000. >Anon visibly looks caught off guard for a moment.
  1001. >”Er, yes but-”
  1002. “Well, a trip to Canterlot isn’t complete without a visit to it’s premier family bakery!”
  1003. >God, what are you?
  1004. >An infomercial?
  1005. >”...Do they have coffee there?”
  1006. >That worked!?
  1007. >I mean, that worked!
  1008. “Yes! Mr. Cake actually brews a pretty mean cup, if you ask me.”
  1009. >Anon was quiet for a beat before sighing.
  1010. >”All right, Sunset. You’ve won this round. But let me ask her first, okay? I also probably need to shower.”
  1011. “Of course!”
  1012. >Nothing could contain your smile as you Anonymous ducked out of sight and began to converse with a female voice.
  1013. >After a few moments they stopped conversing and you heard a door close.
  1014. >You had done it!
  1015. >With this simple first step, you were on the path to making sure Anonymous’ last year of high school was his best yet!
  1016. >I’d say you’ve outdone yourself today, Sunset Shimmer.
  1017. >Why thank you, Sunset Shimmer.
  1018. >...Okay, enough patting yourself on the back.
  1019. >”So, you’re one of Anonymous’ friends, huh?”
  1020. >A rough female voice dragged you out of your head
  1021. “Yeah, I’m Sunset Shimmer! And you are...?”
  1022. >You turn your attention back to the doorway and then stop.
  1023. >When Anon has said friend of the family, you had pictured a much older woman.
  1024. >A dark-skinned beauty like the vision you saw before you was the furthest thing from your mind.
  1025. >”Where are my manners? You can call me Castilla. Any friend of Anon’s is a friend of mine!”
  1026. >Castilla surprised you as she moved in quickly and wrapped you in a bear hug.
  1027. “Ugh...Like..wiiiiisseee..”
  1028. >You managed to squeeze out.
  1029. >Sweet Celestia you were seeing stars.
  1030. >Your vision began to fade.
  1031. “Someone...Save meeeeee...”
  1033. >You are Anonymous
  1034. >And you are currently in the shower
  1035. >The best place for a bit of contemplative thinking.
  1036. >You had just let yourself be convinced by Sunset to hang out with her friends.
  1037. >A lot of things had played into your decision at the time.
  1038. >You were still pretty sleep at the time.
  1039. >Standing in front of Sunset without a shirt was pretty embarrassing
  1040. >You sort of just wanted to end that little mistake as soon as possible.
  1041. >Also, coffee and something sweet to go with it sounded really good to you right now.
  1042. >All of this combined with a spoonful of guilt at having to deny her again
  1043. >The perfect recipe to lead you to reason that it was fine as long as you were back by nightfall.
  1044. >At least, at the time.
  1045. >Now you were beginning to regret it again.
  1046. >Your shoulder was feeling better but did you really have the time for this?
  1047. >While you hoped to slip by the other master’s notice tonight it wasn’t very likely.
  1048. >You could be spending the rest of your day fortifying your home.
  1049. >Even worse, there was a chance you could be endangering all of the girls.
  1050. >It was mage association policy to...take care of any normal human who learned of magic.
  1051. >While you would never dream of carrying out that particular rule, other masters would.
  1052. >Just being close to you would put them at risk.
  1053. >You sigh as you turn off the the shower and step out.
  1054. >Well, at least Saber seemed to approve by the grin she gave you.
  1055. >Mischievous little servant had listened in to your entire conversation.
  1056. >She agreed faster than you could even ask her.
  1057. >Even already had a name picked out for herself.
  1058. >Apparently it had something to do with her homeland.
  1059. >You didn’t pry much farther.
  1060. >A servant’s true identity was like a blueprint for their powers and abilities.
  1061. >While you were confident in your ability to protect your own mind, it was far from your strong suit.
  1062. >A certain shapeshifting upperclassmen from The Clock Tower taught you that.
  1063. >Quick minute later and you are fully dressed.
  1064. >A casual dress shirt and some jeans.
  1065. >Something with a long sleeve to cover up your command seal.
  1066. >As you went to retrieve your shoes, sounds of distress from the doorway caught your attention.
  1067. >Saber- no, probably better to think of her as Castilla for now, had decided to greet Sunset.
  1068. >Sunset’s limbs were currently flailing weakly with what little strength she had left
  1069. >The carefree look on Castilla’s face as she smothered the life out of living being...
  1070. >It was actually terrifying.
  1071. “Castilla, I’m almost ready. Give the poor girl some air and make sure you’ve got everything, okay?”
  1072. >Castilla gave you a blank look before suddenly gasping.
  1073. >”Oh, I am so sorry! I just...get really excited when I meet new people.”
  1074. >Sunset doesn’t respond as she fills her lungs with sweet life giving air.
  1075. >You just shake your head as you begin to put on your shoes.
  1076. >She didn’t even realize she was probably a few minutes away from killing her.
  1077. >With her breasts.
  1078. >Truly terrifying.
  1079. >As you tied up your laces, a thought occurred to you.
  1080. >You lived on the other side of town from the school.
  1081. “Sunset, you didn’t walk here did you?”
  1082. >”....yeah, I *pant* did, why?”
  1083. >The fact that she had walked all the way from school to ask you again
  1084. >When you were most likely going to turn her down.
  1085. >That was kind of heartwarming.
  1086. >Certainly made you a bit less apprehensive about hanging out with her friends.
  1087. >Such dedication should deserve some sort of reward.
  1088. “In that case, we’ll take my car. I need coffee in me five minutes ago. Ready, Castilla?”
  1089. >”Coming!”
  1090. >Her chipper voice called from in the house as you grabbed your keys and rolled your eyes.
  1091. >She came out wearing even more of your clothes, a light brown jacket and a pair of sneakers.
  1092. >You shook your head as you walked to your car, a dark blue Sedan
  1093. >Discord’s, for you after he left.
  1094. “Well, everyone pile in. Next stop, Sugarcube Corner!”
  1095. >Sunset gave a pathetic “woo” as she climbed into the back seat.
  1097. >You are now Twilight Sparkle.
  1098. >The ACTUAL human one, not the one from ponyland.
  1099. >You and the girls were having a nice little chat as Sugarcube Corner as you waited for Pinkie’s shift to end.
  1100. >Well, minus Sunset who was still trying to get Anon to come.
  1101. >”Hey, AJ! Did you catch the Wonderbolts game this weekend?!”
  1102. >Poor Sunset, she really wanted to befriend Anon.
  1103. >You were fairly certain he wasn’t going to come.
  1104. >”I know, they got totally crushed! I was like, what?!”
  1105. >He seemed like an alright person, at least from a distance.
  1106. >He had enough patience to be friendly with Trixie.
  1107. >”If they had just put Spitfire back in, I’m sure they could have won!”
  1108. >You were upset when AJ had “corrected” you earlier about Trixie annoying Anon.
  1109. >You had watched the two of them a lot longer than she had.
  1110. >Anon acted annoyed, but whenever he thought Trixie wasn’t watching he was smiling.
  1111. >It was the only times you had seen him smile.
  1112. >He was usually so glum as he went about his day.
  1113. >And the look on his face when he turned you down yesterday.
  1114. >He seemed so sad.
  1115. >You knew Sunset had seen it too.
  1116. >It was probably the reason why she was so desperate to get him in the group.
  1117. >Not that you didn’t understand, you remember what it was like to be alone.
  1118. >”They’re still in it though, one loss isn’t gonna- Holy shit, is that Anon?!”
  1119. >GOD Rainbow Dash was so loud
  1120. >You could barely hear her over your own musings.
  1121. >...Wait, what did she just say?
  1122. >Sure enough, through the bakery window you could see Anonymous himself stepping out of a car.
  1123. >Followed by an absolutely beaming Sunset.
  1124. >Her enthusiasm was infectious as you felt your own smile grow.
  1125. >Good for you Sunset.
  1126. >Then the passenger seat opened to reveal a new woman, one you didn’t recognize.
  1127. >”Seems so, but who in tarnation is that with ‘em?”
  1128. >Applejack gave words for the confusion you all felt.
  1129. >”She’s beautiful...”
  1130. >Fluttershy spoke without thinking, causing the girls to whip their heads toward her.
  1131. >”I- I mean, I’m sorry...”
  1132. >The poor thing fell into full panic mode at the sudden attention.
  1133. >Rarity laughed.
  1134. >”No, WE’RE sorry darling. I suspect we were all thinking similar. I just did not expect you to be the one to say it.”
  1135. >You nod.
  1136. >She was undeniably attractive.
  1137. >Fluttershy gave a sheepish smile.
  1138. >”Psh, whatever. Who do you think she is?
  1139. >The bell on the door ringed as Sunset happily strolled through
  1140. “I guess we’re going to find out...”
  1141. >You mutter under your breath
  1143. “Stop smiling like that, you’re starting to creep me out.”
  1144. >”I can’t help it!”
  1145. >You sigh as you parked the car in front of Sugarcube Corner
  1146. >You were glad Sunset was happy, but why did she care so much?
  1147. >Questions for later, you guessed.
  1148. >For now, you were just a few steps away from getting some caffeine in your system.
  1149. >”What a lovely place! This town truly is a sight to behold.”
  1150. >What a wonderful place for our war, huh Saber?
  1151. “Yeah, I guess so. Come on. Let’s get this over with.”
  1152. >Castilla rolled her eyes at your mock reluctance.
  1153. >Sunset was already barreling indoors.
  1154. “Hey, Castilla. A quick word?”
  1155. >She stopped, giving you a wary glance.
  1156. >”Yes, Anonymous?”
  1157. “I just wanted to say thanks for going along with this. It has nothing to do with the war, but...”
  1158. >”Please, Anonymous. It is more than understandable to want to take comfort in your peers.”
  1159. “Sure. However, tonight is probably going to be...
  1160. >”Hectic. Do you suspect a master may have followed us?”
  1161. “I can’t be certain, so it’s best to assume yes.”
  1162. >”I agree wholeheartedly.”
  1163. “If we end up spending too much time here, excuse yourself and enter spirit form.”
  1164. >”Anonymous?”
  1165. “Any Magus that sees you about like this should be able to identify you as a servant. It’s risky.”
  1166. >”Ah, I understand. How should I excuse myself?”
  1167. “I dunno, say you’ve got some shopping to do or something. Or you’ve got an appointment.”
  1168. >”Understood. Anonymous?
  1169. “Yes?”
  1170. >”Thank you for this chance. I know it is not ideal, but I am looking forward to learning more about this world.”
  1171. “...No problem.”
  1173. >You opened the door to the bakery and are immediately hit with a wave of heavenly smells.
  1174. >It was almost intoxicating.
  1175. >”...and so he said he would come, but only if his family friend could join him so I said yes!”
  1176. >Seems like Sunset was filling in the rest of the band about earlier.
  1177. >She was recounting it with exaggerated gestures and such fond tones.
  1178. >Like a soldier recounting her favorite war story.
  1179. >You rolled your eyes as you approached the group.
  1180. >Their reaction to your arrival seemed to be mixed between comforting smiles and complete shock.
  1181. >The one in the stetson covered her shock with a grin as you approached.
  1182. >”Well well, I have ta say I’m surprised you actually came!”
  1183. >You quirked an eyebrow at her accent
  1184. >Unique for this part of the country.
  1185. >Her whole family must have it, otherwise she would have probably lost it by now.
  1186. >Young people tended to lose accents pretty quickly if not exposed to it.
  1187. >Hell, you had a bit of an english accent after living at The Clock Tower in London.
  1188. >It was mostly gone now, though.
  1189. >Made Discord really sad, he liked the way you used to pronounced “Herb”
  1190. “Sunset made a good argument. Anyways, I’m sure you all know already but I’m Anon.”
  1191. >You never really introduced yourself earlier
  1192. >Stetson stood up and offered you a handshake that you accepted.
  1193. >”Applejack, but all mah friends call me AJ.”
  1194. >Strong grip.
  1195. >”Twilight Sparkle, the one originally from Crystal Prep.”
  1196. >You broke off the handshake and turned to the purple haired girl.
  1197. >Oh yeah, there was two of her.
  1198. >Dammit, when you had less on your plate you REALLY needed to figure out all the specifics about the strange things around here.
  1199. >You looked back to the pink haired one sitting farthest from you.
  1200. >She just let out a cute little “eep” before a blur of blue and rainbow filled your vision.
  1201. >”And I’m Rainbow Dash! Though there’s no doubt you’ve already heard of me.”
  1202. >How is it possible to ignore the loudest girl in school.
  1203. “Uh yeah, nice to finally meet you and stuff.”
  1204. >She just gave you a cocky smile and sat back down.
  1205. >The last one who hadn’t introduced herself besides the shy one cleared her throat.
  1206. >”And my name is Rarity. It’s such a pleasure to finally meet you Darling.”
  1207. >Wait.
  1208. >One of them was missing.
  1209. “Where is the pink one?”
  1210. >”RIGHT HERE!!!”
  1211. >A sudden dread fell over you as a shadow cast itself over your head.
  1212. >Pinkie came crashing right into you, clinging onto your back.
  1214. >”So you do know my name! Why was I just “the pink one” earlier?”
  1215. “That’s not important, GET OFF.”
  1216. >”Aww.”
  1217. >She gave a disappointed pout but obliged.
  1218. >Jesus, you thought your skeleton was going to jump out of your body in shock.
  1219. >”I’m sorry Nonny, I was just excited you actually came! NOW WE CAN THROW YOU THAT WELCOME PAR-”
  1220. “No. Sorry Pinkie, but I’m still kinda busy this week. I got a guest to show around.”
  1221. >”Speaking of which, are you not going to introduce us to her?”
  1222. >Rarity spoke back up as everyone else seemed to be busy laughing at your recent misfortune.
  1223. >Including Saber.
  1224. “I figured she could introduce herself, but whatever. This is Castilla, she’s an ex-student of my father. She’s practically family.”
  1225. >You and her had decided to go with a simple background.
  1226. >Your father was a professor overseas, and Castilla was a student.
  1227. >She came to live with you for her vacation.
  1228. >She studied medieval history and other such things.
  1229. >Castilla was about to speak before a giant Pinkie gasp cut her off in her tracks.
  1230. >”You’re new in town?!”
  1231. >What is she
  1232. >”Girls, you know what that means!”
  1233. >Oh no.
  1234. >”I need to throw YOU a welcome party!”
  1235. >Pinkie immediately shot to Castilla, standing directly in her face.
  1236. >Castilla’s eyes widened at her sudden speed.
  1237. >”Oh, well I would not want to inconvenience you...”
  1238. >”It’s not inconvenient, I throw everyone new around here a welcome party!”
  1239. >Castilla backed slowly away from Pinkie
  1240. >Pinkie stayed in step with her, leaving no avenues for retreat.
  1242. >You are now Saber/Castilla
  1243. >And the pink haired one that had originally burst through from behind the counter had now fixed her sights on you.
  1244. >Now, you didn’t like to brag.
  1245. >Immodesty was unbecoming of a knight.
  1246. >But there were few who could match your bravery in your realm.
  1247. >You had nerves of steel spoken of in legend.
  1248. >The Holy Grail itself recognized this and conferred onto you a B rank in the Bravery skill
  1249. >It took a lot to break your spirit.
  1250. >However, this Pinkie was truly testing your mettle.
  1251. >You were certain Anonymous would object to the party.
  1252. >He already reminded you how dangerous you keeping this form in public was.
  1253. >You had to stay strong for your master.
  1254. ”Pinkie, was it? I am sorry, but I am afraid that-”
  1255. >You looked her in the eyes as you spoke.
  1256. >You immediately regret it.
  1257. >Sensing your imminent rejection, the girl’s face had dropped into a pout.
  1258. >Her baby blue eyes were glistening with tears.
  1259. >Now this was just not fair.
  1260. >You could physically feel your will crumble.
  1261. >You cast a worried glance to your master.
  1262. >Anonymous read your difficulty in turning her down and sighed, raising his hand to his face.
  1263. >Finally, he gave a weak smile as he nodded his head.
  1264. >I am truly sorry master.
  1265. >This enemy was too strong.
  1266. >You put your hands on Pinkie’s shoulders before grinning.
  1267. ”You know, what better way to celebrate a vacation than with a party?”
  1268. >Pinkie gasped in excitement this time around, clapping her hands together and spinning in place.
  1269. >”This is going to be great! We’ll have it now so we can kick off your vacay with a BANG!”
  1270. >With that statement, Pinkie booked it out of the room past the spindly looking man at the counter.
  1271. >You look back to the table.
  1272. >All of girls are giving you a knowing smile.
  1273. >”Well, you just survived Hurricane Pinkie. Congratulations?”
  1274. >There was a moment of silence.
  1275. >Rainbow began to snicker.
  1276. >Then the entire group began to laugh, yourself included.
  1277. >The only one not to laugh was Anonymous, who was talking to the man at the counter.
  1278. >You move back over to the large table where the girls sat.
  1279. “So, what sort of festivities should I be expecting from Miss Pinkie?”
  1280. >”Her welcome parties are usually kiddy stuff. Cakes, party favors, games, that sort of stuff. Kind of lame if you ask me.”
  1281. >Rainbow Dash spoke before her bored look turned into a wicked grin.
  1282. >”Just wait for her going away party for you though. THOSE can get pretty crazy.”
  1283. >This drew a giggle from Rarity but a groan from the rest of the table.
  1284. >”Land sakes Dash, I think I’m still recovering from Twilight’s going away couple weeks back.”
  1285. >You quirk your eyes at the mention of Twilight leaving, turning to her.
  1286. >She smiles sheepishly.
  1287. >”Different Twilight.”
  1288. >Ah.
  1289. >”And I agree, I don’t think I could handle repeat of that night so soon.”
  1290. >Rainbow crossed her arms with a frown, shaking her head.
  1291. >”Pfft, you guys are lame.”
  1292. >You were becoming more and more impressed the more you heard of this little pink baker.
  1293. >The looks of sorrow on Twilight and Applejack’s face was very familiar to you.
  1294. >Your soldiers bore the same faces for days after celebrating victories.
  1295. >Celebrations themselves that sometimes lasted days.
  1296. >For these girls to have those feelings weeks later only spoke for her skill.
  1297. “If all that is true, I can hardly wait!”
  1298. >”Really?! Then how about we have the party today?”
  1299. >When did Pinkie appear next to you?
  1300. >You didn’t even hear the kitchen door open.
  1301. “Unfortunately, I already have plans for tonight.”
  1302. >As you spoke, Anonymous return from the counter with a steaming cup in hand.
  1303. >He took a seat at the table next to Sunset and the shy one who hadn’t introduced herself yet.
  1304. >The latter discretely scooted away to create distance between her and Anonymous.
  1305. >Anon didn’t seem to notice as he inhaled the scent of his drink before taking a small sip.
  1306. >He closed his eyes, a look of pure bliss taking ahold of his face.
  1307. >You took a seat across from Anonymous next to Rainbow and Applejack
  1308. >Pinkie put a finger to her chin as she thought.
  1309. >”That’s too bad, but it can’t be helped. How about tomorrow?”
  1310. >If we are even alive by tomorrow, you solemnly remind yourself.
  1311. >Still, what harm was there in planning for success?
  1312. “Well, I do not-”
  1313. >You were cut off as a much more alert Anonymous cleared his throat.
  1314. >”I actually have a thing I need to go to tomorrow night. Trixie is having one of her magic shows and I promised I would go.”
  1315. >The group turned to Anon with an incredulous look.
  1316. >All save for Twilight, who was trying poorly to hide a small smile.
  1317. >”And yer actually goin’? I didn’t think tha two of ya were really friends.”
  1318. >Anon takes another, longer drink before responding.
  1319. >”She can be annoying, but it’s kind of fun to mess with her back. Her shows are pretty cool too.”
  1320. >Applejack just shook her head and gave a short laugh.
  1321. >”Coulda fooled me Anon, ya looked pretty miserable at times when talkin’ to her.”
  1322. >”Well, it can get kind of tiring to hear her talk in the third person all the time but you get used to it.”
  1323. >”Dude, I’m not really sure that’s something you want to get used to.”
  1324. >You were missing something here.
  1325. “Who is this Trixie you are all talking about?”
  1326. >”She is a classmate of ours. An eccentric girl to say the least.”
  1327. >Rarity was the first to respond, followed by a quick scoff from Rainbow.
  1328. >”Eccentric? More like lame. She used to wear a cape to school last year before Celestia told her to stop.”
  1329. >Twilight, Pinkie and Applejack frowned at Rainbow.
  1330. >Anon had begun to frown as she spoke, but was now suppressing a giggle fit.
  1331. >”She...she what?”
  1332. >”Oh yeah, had a wizardy hat to go along with it and everything.”
  1333. >Anonymous was having a really hard time trying not to laugh.
  1334. >You looked back to Pinkie, who was frowning.
  1335. “The day after, then? From what I understand of the school system, you would all be free that day correct?”
  1336. >Anonymous nodded, calming himself.
  1337. >”If we could do it during the day, that would be really nice. I’d like to leave nights as open as possible.”
  1338. >You nod in agreement, and Pinkie claps her hands together.
  1339. >”Well, sounds like a plan to me!”
  1340. >”Pinkie! I know your friends are here dear, but I need your help back in the kitchen!”
  1341. >A voice as sweet as honey called out to the group.
  1342. >”Coming Mrs.Cake! Let’s make it Saturday at noon then, Castilla! See you there!”
  1343. >With that, she was back to the kitchen in a blur.
  1344. >The comfortable atmosphere began to settle over the table as small talk began to flow.
  1345. >The girls and Anon talked about school in between questions about you.
  1346. >As the hours passed, you realize you don’t think you’ve ever seen Anonymous this relaxed.
  1347. >”Hey Anon, you said you were going to one of Trixie’s shows tomorrow?”
  1348. >The table’s small talk died down
  1349. >Everyone at the table had at least a passing interest in this topic.
  1350. >”Yeah, why? Did you wanna come? She’s always trying to get bigger audiences so I’m sure she wouldn’t mind.”
  1351. >Twilight shook her head, frowning.
  1352. >”That’s not it, it’s just...Usually Trixie hands out fliers to everyone when she has a show.”
  1353. >Anon finished off the remainder of his coffee as Twilight continued.
  1354. >”I haven’t been going to Canterlot long, but since I’ve been here I’m fairly certain I’ve received an invite to all of her shows.”
  1355. >”That stubborn persistence does sound like Trixie. Why bring it up though?”
  1356. >”That’s just it Anon. I haven’t received any invitation from Trixie. I also haven’t seen her handing out fliers.”
  1357. >Anon’s eyes widened slightly at that before shrugging his shoulders.
  1358. >”So? Maybe she was just late this time around.”
  1359. >”Anon, I usually received those fliers a week in advance.”
  1360. >Anon paused before he started to tap a single finger against the table.
  1361. >”So, if I’m following you correctly, Trixie ISN’T doing a show tomorrow?”
  1362. >Twilight shook her head.
  1363. >”I don’t think so, at least. I could always be wrong.”
  1364. >Anon thought for a moment before shaking his head.
  1365. >”No, I believe you. When she invited me I was in a rush to get back to Harshwinny’s before I got...punished.”
  1366. >You notice Rainbow Dash and Applejack visibly shudder.
  1367. >”Honestly, I wasn’t really listening to her that well when she was inviting me, but she ask if I had plans on friday...”
  1368. >Anonymous gazed thoughtfully at his now empty coffee cup.
  1369. >”Well, ahm sure it’s nothing to worry ‘bout, Anon. She might ‘ave just givin’ up on inviting anyone ‘sides her friends.”
  1370. >”Yeah, maybe...”
  1371. >You could tell Anon was barely listening as he locked his eyes into his cup.
  1372. >He was deep in thought
  1373. >Probably dissecting every bit of information at his disposal to figure out what he agreed to.
  1374. >An orange glow began to fill the room as the sun began to duck behind the horizon.
  1375. >Night would fall soon.
  1376. >You bit your cheek in irritation.
  1377. >It had been a complete joy to talk to these girls, but you couldn’t forget your true purpose here.
  1378. >You had a war to win.
  1379. >After that, maybe...
  1380. “Well, this had been a lot of fun everyone, but I am afraid I will have to take my leave for the night.”
  1381. >Anonymous broke his gaze from his cup to look at you before simply nodding.
  1382. “I’m meeting up with another acquaintance tonight in town. I’ll be seeing the rest of you at my welcoming party on Saturday, right?”
  1383. >A collective “yeah!” came from the table, causing an uncontrollable smile on your face.
  1384. >A quick look to Anon showed he had a matching smile.
  1385. “I’ll see you at home, Anonymous. Don’t wait up for me, I might be out for a while tonight.”
  1386. >Anonymous rolled his eyes.
  1387. >”Whatever. Try to stay out of trouble, or dad will wring my neck.”
  1388. >You gave a mischievous grin and said nothing else and you turned to the door.
  1389. >The girls all gave you a collective goodbye, along with a shout from the kitchen
  1390. >”Remember, Saturday at noon!”
  1391. >You gave a brief wave as you exited and walked to a nearby alley.
  1392. >Didn’t want to leave any witnesses for your transformation.
  1394. >”Wow Anon, I didn’t expect you to know anyone that cool!”
  1395. >Rainbow’s praise for your servant brought a smile to your face, but your thoughts were elsewhere.
  1396. >Namely, Trixie.
  1397. >And what you had agreed to yesterday.
  1398. >Try as you might, you could not for the life of you remember any part of the conversation relevant to WHY she asked if you had plans.
  1399. >Still, you were trusting Twilight’s judgement on this.
  1400. >From your interactions to her today and her reputation at the school you knew she was smart.
  1401. >Possibly smarter than you.
  1402. >And studying was essentially your hobby at this point.
  1403. >But what did that leave you?
  1404. >”Well, it’s been fun darlings, but I really must be getting home. I have a few projects to make progress on before the weekend.”
  1405. >”Cool, see ya later Rares!”
  1406. >What possibly could Trixie want with you Friday night?
  1407. >You already spent most of your school time with her.
  1408. >You saw her practically every day...
  1409. >”I oughta be headin’ out too, Granny gets worried sick when we’re out past sunset.”
  1410. >”I might as well walk you back, give me a good excuse to get a decent jog in from the Acres to my house.”
  1411. >”Bye Applejack, bye Rainbow!”
  1412. >Why did Trixie ask you out if it wasn’t to a show?
  1413. >...Wait, something about that thought.
  1414. >Trixie asked you out?
  1415. >Puzzle pieces began to immediately lock into place.
  1416. >Her invitation.
  1417. >The lack of asking anyone else to the “show”.
  1418. >The amount of time you spend with her.
  1419. >It wasn’t a certainty, but you could think of nothing else at the moment.
  1420. >Trixie asked you out.
  1421. >And you said yes.
  1422. >...Shit.
  1423. >”...Um, Anonymous? Are you okay?”
  1424. >The girl to your left who hadn’t said a single word to you the entire night spoke up for the first time.
  1425. >It brought you out of your mind prison at just the right time.
  1426. >Twilight and Sunset were starting to stare too.
  1427. >Looks like some of the others had left while you weren’t paying attention.
  1428. “Y-YEAH, I’m just fine! Why wouldn’t I be?”
  1429. >Smooth, Anon.
  1430. >Totally inconspicuous.
  1431. >Twilight and Sunset exchanged worried glances.
  1432. >The other one, Fluttershy you think the girls called her in their small talk, keeps her eyes on you.
  1433. >”If...If you don’t mind, would you like to talk about it? You look like you had a lot on your mind...”
  1434. >You were kind of shocked it was her offering you an ear.
  1435. >You had expected if from Sunset, but not the one who had subtly moved away when you sat.
  1436. >Still....
  1437. >This was a personal matter.
  1438. >You didn’t even know you were right, after all.
  1439. >Maybe she just wanted to hang out with you.
  1440. >Maybe Glimmer would be there.
  1441. >Hell, she might even be trying to include you in her show.
  1442. >That would be pretty neat.
  1443. >Even though you still felt your gut instinct was most likely, in the meantime you didn’t want to spread around false information.
  1444. “Thanks, but not right now. I might take you up on the offer later though, if it still stands then.”
  1445. >Fluttershy adopts a kind smile, one that spread a warmth in your chest you had never felt before.
  1446. >”Of course, Anonymous. I’m sure I speak for the others when I say you can rely on us anytime.”
  1447. >Sunset and Twilight nod in unison, mirroring Fluttershy’s own smile.
  1448. >You sigh, rubbing a hand through your hair.
  1449. >This sappy stuff left you out of your element.
  1450. >This warm, happy feeling was one you hadn’t felt for a long time.
  1451. >But you couldn’t help but feel like their kindness was wasted on you.
  1452. >These innocent girls really were the image of the people you wanted to protect.
  1453. >But in the end, your hands were tainted.
  1454. >God’s sake, you had just killed your first man last night.
  1455. >If they knew, what would they think?
  1456. >You shook your head before standing up.
  1457. >That was a dangerous line of thinking you were about to go on.
  1458. >You knew because you had been down it before and had already made up your mind.
  1459. >If bearing these kinds of sins were the weight needed to keep people like Sunset and her friends safe...
  1460. >You were more than willing to cast aside what they might think.
  1461. >You took a look outside.
  1462. >Night had fallen completely over the town.
  1463. >Saber was most likely already by your side.
  1464. ”Sunset, Twilight, Fluttershy? This has been fun, but I really have to be heading home soon.”
  1465. >Sunset nodded, an unsure smile decorating her face.
  1466. >”You...you did have fun, right?”
  1467. >You tilted your head slightly at her question.
  1468. “That’s what I said, right? I wouldn’t just lie about that.”
  1469. >”So, since you had fun...You would be interested in maybe doing this again, right?”
  1470. >Oh.
  1471. >Wow.
  1472. >She was still worried you weren’t going to hang out with her and her friends again.
  1473. >To be fair, you thought to yourself, you won’t if you end up dying.
  1474. >My mortality has been noted, self. Thank you.
  1475. “Of course, Sunset...Though I did mean what I said when I was busy this week. Most of my nights are reserved by Castilla.”
  1476. >Sunset’s face brightened by huge measures as you talked, causing the rest of you to smile as well.
  1477. >Her smiles were extremely contagious.
  1478. >Someone should look into weaponizing them.
  1479. >”I understand. See you at school tomorrow, then?”
  1480. >You had begun to stand up, but you stop.
  1481. >Ugh, school.
  1482. “Maybe, I might end up just taking off tomorrow too to rest up. Castilla...can be a handful.”
  1483. >You swear you felt the air next to you thrum in annoyance at the comment.
  1484. >Not now, Saber.
  1485. >Twilight’s gaze moves to next to you as you felt Saber’s presence before looking back to you.
  1486. >...Did she?
  1487. >....No, not possible.
  1488. >You were just paranoid.
  1489. >Just you slipping back into “Master Anonymous”.
  1490. “I will DEFINITELY see you on Saturday for Castilla’s party. Until then, take it easy!”
  1491. >The girls give you varying degrees of “Bye Anonymous" as you exit the bakery and enter your car.
  1492. >You sighed and took a moment to center yourself
  1493. >At the end of your exhale, a vibrating in your pocket grabbed your attention.
  1494. >You pull out your cell phone, it’s pale blue light illuminating your car.
  1496. >Well.
  1497. >This was going to be...interesting.
  1498. >You could just let it go to voicemail.
  1499. >Could you really afford any more distractions tonight?
  1500. >However, your thoughts from earlier crept in
  1501. >If you had unknowingly accepted a date with Trixie, what now?
  1502. >Turning her down would be the smart move
  1503. >Safest too, for yourself and for Trixie.
  1504. >Still...
  1505. >There was a small part of you that was compelling you to pick up the phone.
  1506. >A small, but very loud part.
  1507. >If agreed to a date without thinking, it was completely your fault.
  1508. >It felt wrong to just ignore her after that.
  1509. >You also recalled telling her that you’d talk to her today as well
  1510. >You not going to school sort of messed that up
  1511. >You take a deep breath hit the green button on your phone.
  1512. “Hey Trixie, what’s up?”
  1513. >”...You weren’t at school today.”
  1514. >Oh wow, she sounds pissed.
  1515. >And also tired?
  1516. >She was talking much slower than she usually did.
  1517. >It reminded you of the days at school she told you she had spent all night perfecting magic tricks.
  1518. “Yeah, sorry about that. I had some stuff come up and decided to take the day off to recover.”
  1519. >”So you weren’t sick?”
  1520. “No. I had to pick up a family friend from the airport yesterday.”
  1521. >”...That’s good, Trixie is glad you aren’t sick.”
  1522. >Trixie sounded relieved.
  1523. “Uh...thanks I guess? Anyways, were you just calling to check on me?”
  1524. >”No, um...Would you maybe want to meet up tonight?”
  1525. “Tonight?”
  1526. >”I know we have our date tomorrow, but Trixie was hoping to talk to you more about it today...”
  1527. >Well, there’s all the confirmation you needed.
  1528. >Explicit use of the word date.
  1529. >You fucked up, Anon.
  1530. “Well, we’re talking now right? What did you want to talk about?”
  1531. >There was silence on the other line for a bit as you swapped which hand was holding the phone.
  1532. >”I...uh, Trixie was hoping we could talk in person.”
  1533. >You bring a hand to your temple in frustration, restraining yourself from sighing.
  1534. >She wasn’t going to make this easy on you.
  1535. >You were already pushing it for one night as it is.
  1536. “Trixie...”
  1538. >”Please? Trixie has something she really wants to talk to you about...”
  1539. >She cut you off before you could reject her.
  1540. >You’ve never heard her so deflated before
  1541. >You can’t do this, Anon.
  1542. >Nothing she needs to talk about is so important as to risk your life
  1543. >To risk her life.
  1544. >Tell her no.
  1545. “...”
  1546. >”Anon? Are you still there?”
  1547. >...You know what?
  1548. >The smart thing would be to tell her no.
  1549. >The mage thing would be to tell her no.
  1550. >But you were hardly a mage as it stood, at least according to The Association.
  1551. >Not acting like a mage had earned you a pretty awesome day so far.
  1552. >Trixie may have started off by bugging you, but she also did a lot for making you feel welcome at the school.
  1553. >You’d probably never have a normal school life like other kids your age
  1554. >But for a while, it felt like you did.
  1555. >Well, as normal as a school with frequent demon and siren attacks could be.
  1556. “Where did you have in mind?”
  1557. >Trixie’s voice brightened by measures
  1558. >”Maybe something to eat? Trixie has not had dinner yet.”
  1559. >Your stomach growled in agreement.
  1560. >Wow, you forgot you haven’t really eaten anything today.
  1561. “Sounds good to me. How does curry sound to you? I know a place that serves the best in town.”
  1562. >”Oh, are you talking about The Tasty Treat? Starlight and Trixie went there a while ago.”
  1563. “Yeah, Discord is friends with the owner. We’d go there whenever I didn’t feel like cooking.”
  1564. >”Indeed, it’s a place worthy of Trixie, The Great and Powerful!”
  1565. >Ah, there she was.
  1566. >You never thought you’d be happy to hear that bravado return to her voice.
  1567. “Where are you now? I have my car and I’m in town, I could pick you up.”
  1568. >”Trixie is at home, and that would be lovely.”
  1569. >You start the car, feeling the call coming to a close.
  1570. “Got it, I should be there in like ten minutes.”
  1571. >”Trixie will prepare. And Anonymous?”
  1572. “Yeah?”
  1573. >”Thank you.”
  1574. >You give a short laugh.
  1575. “No problem, Trix. I’ll see you soon.”
  1576. >A short drive later and you pull into the Lulamoon’s driveway.
  1577. >In spite of coming here a few times for Trixie’s shows, you actually haven’t met her parents yet.
  1578. >Made you feel kind of awkward about going up to the door, so you just send her a text.
  1579. >A moment passes in silence before Saber’s voice catches you by surprise.
  1580. >”Master...Is this wise? You said so yourself, we could be hunted tonight.”
  1581. >You sigh.
  1582. “In all honesty? No, it isn’t. But it feels right.”
  1583. >You couldn’t see her, but you could feel Saber’s eyebrow raise.
  1584. “Trixie kept my year here preparing for the war pretty fun. It’s inconvenient, but I feel like I owe her this.”
  1585. >Saber chuckled.
  1586. >”I see. Yes, it is important to make sure your bonds of friendship remain strong in spite of adversity.”
  1587. >Friendship?
  1588. >You never really thought of it like that.
  1589. >The more you think though, it fits.
  1590. >Putting yourself in this precarious of a position...
  1591. >You wouldn’t do that for just anyone.
  1592. >But honestly, Trixie being your first friend since your early days at The Tower was the last thing you were expecting.
  1593. >”You need not worry Master. No harm will come to yourself or Miss Trixie while I still draw breath.”
  1594. >You grin.
  1595. “I must have been a saint in a past life for the grail to give me you as a servant.”
  1596. >”Please, Master. Such praise is unneeded.”
  1597. “But not undeserved.”
  1598. >”You have my thanks. For what is it worth, you are a most acceptable master.”
  1599. >You scoff at her tone.
  1600. “Just acceptable?”
  1601. >”I prefer my partners to have just a bit more muscle, I’m sorry to say.”
  1602. >Her voice dropped into a low purr.
  1603. >”Although, I hear you more than make up your lack of strength with your stamina.”
  1604. “I take it all back, what did I ever do to deserve the grail sticking me with you?”
  1605. >Saber just laughed.
  1606. >A light from the front door shined out, revealing Trixie in a casual skirt and a light blue jacket.
  1607. >She turned off the light and locked the door behind her before practically running to your car.
  1608. >As she climbed into the car you got a better look at her.
  1609. >She had dolled herself up a bit, but you were something of an expert when it came to losing sleep.
  1610. >Light makeup tried to cover the telltale bags under her eyes.
  1611. >Her eyes themselves were red and obviously strained.
  1612. >Still, in spite of how tired she seemed she still gave you a bright smile.
  1613. >”Good evening, Anonymous. The Great and Powerful Trixie has arrived!”
  1614. >Jeez, even without rest she could still be loud.
  1615. >Still, it brought another small smile to your face to hear her in high spirits.
  1616. “Yeah, I can see that. Now buckle up so we can get on our way, I’m starving.”
  1617. >She complied, snapping the buckle into place and you started the car.
  1618. >As you began driving, you felt the beginning of an awkward silence set in.
  1619. >Well, awkward for you.
  1620. >Trixie was mostly having trouble keeping her eyes open.
  1621. “You doing okay there, Trixie?”
  1622. >She jolted upright at your voice, all weariness ejecting itself from her body.
  1623. >”I don’t know what you mean, Anonymous. Trixie is feeling great, as always!”
  1624. “Right, just felt like a little nap before dinner right?”
  1625. >Trixie laughed a nervous laugh.
  1626. >She knew she was bad at hiding her exhaustion from you.
  1627. “What’s up? Stayed up late last night practicing magic?”
  1628. >That was the usual story.
  1629. >Trixie gave you an odd reaction, sighing and looking out the window.
  1630. >”I guess you could say that...”
  1631. “Shouldn’t you be getting some sleep, then? There’s still school tomorrow.”
  1632. >”Believe me, I tried. I’ve...got a lot on my mind.”
  1633. “...That why you called me out tonight?”
  1634. >She just nods, still keeping her eyes out the window.
  1635. >You sigh
  1636. >So, looks like you were a sympathetic ear tonight.
  1637. >You really hoped you could help poor Trixie, but who were you to be giving out sage advice?
  1638. >You fell into a comfortable silence, the sound of wheels on the road the only soundtrack.
  1639. >She probably planned to bring whatever up over dinner.
  1640. >Works for you, you could listen while inhaling your food.
  1642. >”Wow, you weren’t joking. You must have been starved.”
  1643. >You were already halfway through your kodi kura while Trixie had only been picking at her own curry.
  1644. >You give a satisfied sigh
  1645. “Sorry, all I’ve had today was a cup of coffee. Didn’t realize how hungry I was until you called me.”
  1646. >Speaking of which, you could use more of that.
  1647. >Your cup just ran out and you still had a long night ahead of you.
  1648. >You gestured to Saffron, the owner’s daughter who was manning the front counter.
  1649. >She nodded, grabbing a pot from behind the counter and coming over to the table.
  1650. >It was a slow night for them, the two of you were the only customers in the quaint little shop.
  1651. “So, what was it you wanted to talk about Trix?”
  1652. >She remained quiet as Saffron refilled both of your cups, giving a small “Trixie thanks you” before she left.
  1653. >She shuffled in her seat before taking a sip of her coffee calm her nerves.
  1654. >”...Well, Trixie mostly wanted to talk about our date for tomorrow.”
  1655. >Well, this should be fun.
  1656. >You didn’t even know where it was you were going to-
  1657. >”I’m...I’m afraid Trixie is going to have to cancel.”
  1658. >Wait, what?
  1659. “Oh, I see...”
  1660. >What was this stinging sensation?
  1661. >This was fine.
  1662. >No, this was GOOD.
  1663. >You didn’t want to have to turn her down yourself, but now she was giving you an out.
  1664. >You could actually focus on the war.
  1665. >And yet, you were kind of dissapointed.
  1666. >”I’m sorry Anonymous, but something’s come up. I would love it if we could reschedule it for the future.”
  1667. >You just nod.
  1668. “I guess it can’t be helped. I’m going to be busy this week too, so maybe it’s for the best.”
  1669. >Trixie’s frowned deepened.
  1670. >Dammit, you meant for that to make her feel better.
  1671. >Well, you were already making an ass of yourself.
  1672. >In for a penny.
  1673. “If you don’t mind me asking, what’s going on with you? You seem a little out of sorts.”
  1674. >It was her turn to sigh as she absentmindedly turned her spoon in her food.
  1675. >”...You’ll think I’m crazy.”
  1676. >You pause before letting out a laugh.
  1677. >She gives you an incredulous stare.
  1678. “Sorry, just...I’ve been living in crazy recently. Have you not seen what’s been going around the school?”
  1679. >Finally, Trixie gives you a relieved smile.
  1680. >”Trixie guesses you are right.”
  1681. “Anon knows he’s right. Now, what been eating at you?”
  1682. >Trixie gives a glance to Saffron, calmly flipping through papers at the counter.
  1683. >She put down her spoon and dropped lower to the table.
  1684. >”You can keep a secret, right Anon?”
  1685. >Oh boy, it’s secret time?
  1686. >If only she knew how many secrets you could keep.
  1687. “Of course, you have my word.”
  1688. >She nodded, knowing what your answer would be before you said it.
  1689. >”You know how Trixie is a master of the spectacle, a show magician?”
  1690. “Yeah, and you’re pretty good at it too.”
  1691. >”Anonymous, do not distract Trixie with your sweet words. She already knows how great she is.”
  1692. “Okay then, continue?”
  1693. >”Yes, well what if Trixie told you that her stage persona was not merely an act?”
  1694. “Meaning?”
  1695. >Where was she going with this?
  1696. >”You probably think that Trixie was just an exceptionally talented performer, but in truth Trixie is a magician to her core!”
  1697. >She was obviously excited, but what she said confused you.
  1698. “Uh, care to elaborate?”
  1699. >”It’s simple, Anonymous. Trixie is an actual magician, a true blue magical master?”
  1700. >You scoffed.
  1701. “What, are you about to tell me you came through that portal along with Sunset and you’re actually a magical horse?”
  1702. >In all honesty, it wouldn’t be that shocking.
  1703. >Nothing about that school would be that shocking.
  1704. >”No, Trixie is an actual mage! One from our world! Though, grandfather told me the technical term is magus...”
  1705. >You had started to bring your coffee to your lips but stopped.
  1706. >You felt your blood turn to ice as the mention of that one word.
  1707. >There was no way.
  1708. >There was absolutely no way.
  1709. “Actual magic? That’s crazy, Trixie. You’re a great magician, don’t get me wrong, but...”
  1710. >”It’s true!”
  1711. >Thinking it over, it very well could be.
  1712. >If she was actually a mage, then she would know how to keep her magic secret.
  1713. >Much like you kept it a secret from her and the other students.
  1714. >Better yet, you realized that she probably wasn’t a part of The Association.
  1715. >She wouldn’t be spilling her secrets to you, who she thought was normal, if she was.
  1716. >Unless she planned on killing you after this.
  1717. >If that was the case, she probably should have waited until she was well rested.
  1718. >Still, Trixie a magus?
  1719. >No, there’s got to be some sort of mistake.
  1720. “Prove it.”
  1721. >”Wh-what?”
  1722. “You know actual magic, right? Show me some.”
  1723. >”It is not the simple, Anonymous! We are in public,what is someone saw?”
  1724. “It doesn’t have to be big, and Saffron is focused on working right now.”
  1725. >”Still, Trixie doesn’t believe it would be wise...Um, I do have a magical tattoo. Would that suffice?”
  1726. >A magical tattoo?
  1727. >Sure, they existed, but did she really think that would be enough to convince a normal person?
  1728. >Whatever, if she actually was a magus you should be able to tell if the tattoo was authentic or not.
  1729. >You’d throw her a bone.
  1730. >Who knows, if she was an out of association magus like yourself you may have found a new ally.
  1731. >She rolled up the left arm of her jacket to reveal-
  1732. >A command seal.
  1733. >That’s a FUCKING COMMAND SEAL.
  1734. >You felt your heart skip a beat in shock.
  1735. >Your hand started to shake so you set your mug back down.
  1736. >There was no way mistaking that.
  1737. >Trixie wasn’t just a magus, she was a fucking master.
  1738. >And she was telling you with a nervous smile on her face.
  1739. >She started to say something, but you couldn’t hear her anymore.
  1740. >Your heart and mind were still racing.
  1741. >Why did she tell you?
  1742. >It was one thing to admit to being a mage, but a master?
  1743. >Did she understand how dangerous that knowledge was?
  1744. >”Anonymous? Are you okay?”
  1745. >Trixie looked concern as you got a better hold of yourself.
  1746. “Yeah, I’m uh, I’m fine. So, that tattoo’s magic, huh?”
  1747. >You tried to sound as unimpressed as you could.
  1748. >”Indeed, it’s part of the bond I share with my familiar. The strongest familiar. I summoned it last night.”
  1749. “Wow, that’s...something.”
  1750. >Trixie frowned.
  1751. >”You still don’t believe Trixie.”
  1752. >Good, looks like she was buying it.
  1753. “I mean, I’m sorry Trix-”
  1754. >”No, it is fine. Trixie understands that you believe Trixie is a liar.”
  1755. >You wished she was lying.
  1756. “I don’t think you’re-”
  1757. >”It is fine, Anonymous. Forget Trixie said anything.”
  1758. >Trixie began to pout with a huff.
  1759. >Honestly, upsetting her was the least of your worries.
  1760. >Your thoughts had begun to travel to darker places.
  1761. >You could kill her.
  1762. >She didn’t know you were a master. She didn’t know you were even a mage.
  1763. >If her servant was here with her, they would be in spirit form.
  1764. >That gave you a window to work with.
  1765. >Another one of your rivals could be out of the way tonight.
  1766. >It would be so easy
  1767. >...But could you do it?
  1768. >You had just come to realize that Trixie was pretty much the first friend you made here.
  1769. >She either didn’t understand how dangerous letting others know she was a master or she trusted you that much.
  1770. >More importantly, she wasn’t like the others you had expected to kill.
  1771. >She could be annoying and she had no sense of humility but she could also be nice.
  1772. >Funny.
  1773. >Normal.
  1774. >Even if she was a master, even if you would come to regret letting her live tonight...
  1775. >Why did things have to turn out this way?
  1776. >...You wouldn’t do it.
  1777. >At least, not tonight.
  1778. >You needed more time to think about this.
  1779. >If that meant you lost your shot to easily eliminate another master, so be it.
  1780. >Trixie was still stewing as you thought, though she had resumed eating her dinner.
  1781. >Your heart was heavy with conflicting emotions, but you did your best to put on a smile.
  1782. “I really am sorry, Trixie. I know you wouldn’t lie to me, it’s just...not something I was expecting.
  1783. >She just gave you a small “humph!”
  1784. >Jeez, you didn’t realize you had made her this mad.
  1785. >You resumed eating your meal in awkward silence.
  1786. >For god’s sake, you were just considering killing this girl and were still reeling from that internal dilemma.
  1787. >Now you had to think of a way to cheer her up.
  1788. >What a night this was turning out to be.
  1789. >...Trixie was a master.
  1790. >If you hadn’t seen the command seal yourself you still wouldn’t have believed it.
  1791. >What have you gotten yourself into?
  1792. >In the end, you couldn’t think of a way to lift Trixie’s spirits over the dinner.
  1793. >She gave only one or two word answers to your questions up until it was time to leave.
  1794. >The car ride wasn’t much better, prompting you to fiddle with the radio for a good station to cover up the silence.
  1795. >Finally, you arrived back at her place.
  1796. >You had expected to see Trixie leave your car in a storm, but as you looked over to her you smiled.
  1797. >Poor girl fell asleep during the ride.
  1798. >She was currently leaning back into the seat, her head lazily hanging down.
  1799. >She still had a grumpy frown on her face though, causing you to chuckle.
  1800. >She really had a one track mind.
  1801. >You reach over and grab her shoulder, shaking her lightly.
  1802. “Hey Trix, we’re here.”
  1803. >Her eyes flutter before opening, reaching her arms up to stretch.
  1804. “I’m sorry again about tonight. Kind of ruined the dinner.”
  1805. >Trixie put her hands into her lap, looking down.
  1806. >She seemed worried.
  1807. >”It’s fine Anonymous. I-...Trixie is just tired. She shouldn’t have taken your suspicion so personally.”
  1808. “Water under the bridge then?”
  1809. >She smiled again at last.
  1810. >”Agreed.”
  1811. >Then, Trixie surprised you.
  1812. >She reached over and wrapped her arms around you, bringing you into a hug.
  1813. >Feeling lost, you return the hug
  1814. >You were used to getting teased but not used to seemingly genuine affection.
  1815. >”You...still want to reschedule our date, right?”
  1816. >Really?
  1817. >Was that was she was so scared about?
  1818. >Here you are, a direct adversary for the grail draped over you
  1819. >A friend who you had entertained killing earlier this evening.
  1820. >And she was worried you didn’t want to go on a date with her anymore.
  1821. >Maybe you shouldn’t be wanting a normal school life so much, you didn’t really get high school drama.
  1822. “Yes, I still want to reschedule our date. But for now, you should focus on getting some sleep. We’ll talk more tomorrow.”
  1823. >She nods into your chest.
  1824. >Aww, sleepy Trixie is adorable Trixie.
  1825. >She reluctantly let go and opened the door.
  1826. >”Trixie will take her leave, then. Good night, Anon.”
  1827. “Night, Trix.”
  1828. >She exits the car and walks to her house, turning back to give you a smile once she reached the doorway.
  1829. >You give her a wave that she returns before entering her home.
  1830. >Finally, you relax.
  1831. >You were still pretty shell shocked.
  1832. >Trixie was a magus.
  1833. >Trixie was a master.
  1834. >And you let her go.
  1835. >Then she hugged you.
  1836. >It was nice.
  1837. >...You really needed to take time to think about how you really felt about all this, but for now...
  1838. “Saber?”
  1839. >”...Yes, master?”
  1840. “We’re going home.”
  1841. >”Understood.”
  1842. >You couldn’t help but feel like you had let her down a bit.
  1843. >She had a wish she would like granted as well, and you had just let an obstacle get away.
  1844. >As the engine comes to life, you decide not to leave anything unsaid.
  1845. “Saber, what do you think about my decision?”
  1846. >At first she was silent.
  1847. >”I...understand your hesitance to engage young Trixie in combat. She seems an alright sort, if a bit vain.”
  1848. >”However, we must not forget that her servant could be problematic. Regardless of your feelings for her the servant remains a threat.”
  1849. >You nod, a grim frown forming on your face.
  1850. >”For what it’s worth, I personally believe the path you’ve chosen is the most honorable.”
  1851. >You nod as you pull out of Trixie’s driveway.
  1852. “Just not the smart one.”
  1854. “Anonymous? What’s wrong?”
  1855. >The two of you had just arrived back at Anonymous’ home.
  1856. >Or rather, the street outside of it.
  1857. >Before pulling in, Anonymous made a grim expression and stopped the car.
  1858. >”Shit. I was worried this would happen.”
  1859. >Anon raises a hand to his face and sighs before continuing down the road.
  1860. >”Someone tampered with the wards around the house. Whoever it was followed us long enough last night to figure out where I live.”
  1861. >So Anon’s home was compromised.
  1862. >Not an ideal situation to be certain.
  1863. “From this point, either we continue to evade as best we can or we find favorable terrain to engage the enemy in.”
  1864. >You reaffirm your two best options
  1865. >Anon nods his head in agreement but goes silent, weighing the options.
  1866. >From his troubled expression, you knew a lot more besides the current problem was eating at him.
  1867. >”We still don’t know how many masters might have followed us, are STILL following us. Good terrain won’t save us from multiple servants.”
  1868. >As much as you wished to argue against him, you couldn’t.
  1869. >Your effectiveness as a servant only truly shined in one on one fights.
  1870. >However, even if all the servants possibly hounding you fought one at a time...
  1871. >You doubted you could take on more than two in a single night.
  1872. >...Okay, maybe three. Depending on the classes.
  1873. “So we evade. Do you have any other locations we can retreat to?”
  1874. >Anon shakes his head.
  1875. >”I didn’t have the funds to make any secure secondary locations. Going into public areas MIGHT save us...”
  1876. “Or we could endanger the lives of innocents, depending on the mage hunting us.”
  1877. >”Exactly.”
  1878. >A thought struck you, one that you were hesitant to give form in words.
  1879. “Master...If they followed us long enough in order to find our home-”
  1880. >”They might have followed us when we went with Sunset. Yeah, I know.”
  1881. >Anonymous spoke through gritted teeth.
  1882. >”Hopefully, they didn’t follow us and simply took the time to investigate the house. However...”
  1883. “Even then, they would still know of Sunset.”
  1884. >The car went silent again as Anonymous drove.
  1885. >”I’m sorry, Saber.”
  1886. >You raised an eyebrow as you turned to face him.
  1887. >He allowed his eyes to meet your for a fleeting second before turning them back to the road.
  1888. “For what exactly, Master?”
  1889. >”This is whole situation is my fault. Just...maybe if I had said no to Trixie, we might have caught them in the act...”
  1890. >You frowned.
  1891. “Master, it is nothing to concern yourself with for the moment.”
  1892. >He was about to speak again, but you cut him off.
  1893. “Making it through the night in favorable conditions is where our focus should remain. We can reflect later.”
  1894. >”...Haha.”
  1895. >Anonymous gave you an uncomfortable laugh, but the beginnings of an honest smile was starting to form.
  1896. >”You’re right, of course. Should probably save the pity party for when our lives aren’t in active danger.”
  1897. >He was quiet once more, taking more time to think this time around.
  1898. >”Maybe the orchard? It should be deserted at this hour...Could help us hide and run.
  1899. “An orchard? It would leave us exposed come morning, a fight could carry on outside of the city.”
  1900. >”There’s a warehouse district on the south side of town, though it’s not very large...Last I checked they were all in use.”
  1901. >It went on like this for a while.
  1902. >Master would suggest a location to hide out, you’d find the faults.
  1903. >Too many possible bystanders.
  1904. >Too much exposed area.
  1905. >You were getting nowhere fast, sitting at the red light of an empty intersection.
  1906. >Anonymous had just suggested simply driving around the commercial district when a shiver coursed through your spine.
  1907. “ANONYMOUS, DOWN!”
  1908. >Instead of waiting for him, you reach over and pull him down as a deafening thunder pierces your hearing.
  1909. >The Saber servant, in general, had excellent statistics all around.
  1910. >This was relevant to every statistic other than mana, including luck.
  1911. >Yourself, in particular, possessed a high rank of B+ in luck.
  1912. >Mostly due to your ability to find your stride no matter what life threw at you.
  1913. >That knight must have the luck of the devil himself, they would say.
  1914. >For servants, luck manifested a sort of sixth sense.
  1915. >A feeling of dread.
  1916. >In some cases, a brief vision of things to pass.
  1917. >Even before becoming a servant, you knew to trust your instincts and when you felt in danger.
  1918. >Judging from the now blown apart window, your instincts had served you well yet again.
  1919. >Anonymous, for his credit, swiftly returns to driving, running through the red light.
  1920. >His face tells a different picture, his visage gripped in horror.
  1921. >”Did someone just shoot at us?!”
  1922. “Well, I am fairly certain they were aiming at you, Master.”
  1923. >”Not really the time for jokes, Saber. But thank you for saving me.”
  1924. >As if you would let any harm come to him while you still stood.
  1925. >”Who was that? What sort of mage uses guns?!”
  1926. >This statement confused you.
  1927. “Why would they not? It is foolish to limit your arsenal. You said so yourself, I saved you.”
  1928. “Had that attack connected, would you not be dead?”
  1929. >”There’s...nothing wrong with it exactly, just unnatural. Most mages would rely on their magic, considering it a point of pride.”
  1930. >You were going considerably faster now, speeding through red lights as they came.
  1931. >”If that’s true, we might have a magus with no pride as a mage but experience with weapons. God, what a mess.”
  1932. >A new sensation drew your attention as you detected a large magical force closing in on you quickly.
  1933. “Master...”
  1934. >”Yeah, I feel it too. A Servant. Looks like we stand and fight.”
  1935. >He bit his lip in frustration before pitching a left in the direction away from the servant.
  1936. >”We have maybe a minute lead. We pick a location to fight and then separate.”
  1937. “Master?”
  1938. >”I’ll only hold you back. I’ll remain close, concealing my presence...But where to fight.”
  1939. “The rooftops will suffice, I would think. It would make spotting other servants easier.”
  1940. >”I’ll trust you, but speaking of other servants...”
  1941. >”If...If it comes down to it, I’ll use a command seal to get us to safety.”
  1942. >The dire thought washed over you.
  1943. >Command seals were powerful tools, and a master who aimed to win the war only really had two to work with.
  1944. >They were the manifestation of a servant’s obedience and the usage of one could let a servant do amazing things.
  1945. >Using one just to get out of a bad situation was a giant waste, but ultimately worth it if the alternative was death.
  1946. >You were going to do everything in your power to make sure it did not come to that.
  1947. “I understand.”
  1948. >”In the meantime...Aha! Perfect.”
  1949. >Anonymous slowed the car back to a much gentler pace before pulling into a nearby alleyway.
  1950. >”This’ll keep the car hidden, at least for the time.”
  1951. >He pulled the car next to a dumpster before quickly getting out, shaking out the remaining glass shards.
  1952. >You also got out of the car
  1953. >A flash of light absorbed you as you summoned your armor and sword in place of your clothing.
  1954. >”We should part here. I’ll be watching from afar. I expect a good showing, Saber.”
  1955. >Anon’s playfulness relaxed you slightly, an uncontrollable smile decorating your face.
  1956. “I aim to please, master. I shall return with the servant’s head.”
  1957. >With a single leap from the alley you land safely on the roof of the nearby building.
  1958. >You made no attempt to hide your energy, acting as a light that you could feel the enemy servant diving for.
  1959. >They seemed eager.
  1960. >That suited you just fine.
  1961. >Seconds passed.
  1962. >You could feel the grip on your sword tighten as they approached.
  1963. >Whoever they were, they were fast.
  1964. >In the distance you could see a blur moving from building to building.
  1965. >Suddenly, in a single bound it brought itself to the opposite side of the roof you stood on.
  1966. >Before you stood a tall, lanky young man.
  1967. >His lithe body seemed at odds with the heavy armor of bronze he wore.
  1968. >A golden laurel framed his short blonde hair and decorated his angular face
  1969. >His eyes were centered squarely on you.
  1970. >His stare was disciplined, taking in your entire person and watching for openings.
  1971. >They lacked any trace of uncertainty.
  1972. >Even at the sight your blade he maintained his focus.
  1973. >Another shiver ran down your spine, though this was different from the one before.
  1974. >This was from excitement.
  1975. >The disappointment that was Archer was still fresh in your mind.
  1976. >The possible dangers of another servant were getting pushed farther and farther from your mind.
  1977. “I know not what customs you have from the land you hail from, but in my country it is customery to give one’s name before a duel.”
  1978. >The other servant did not speak, though his eyes met your own as you spoke.
  1979. “Given the circumstances, I would say an exchanging of classes would suffice. I am the Saber.”
  1980. >Your opponent lacked any noticeable weapons to identify his class.
  1981. >He paused before taking a step to the side, causing you to mirror his action.
  1982. >He smiled.
  1983. >”Is that so? Well, I would certainly hate to be rude. Saber, is it? I am Lancer.”
  1984. >The Lancer class, one of the three knights along with yourself.
  1985. >It was almost funny how you were being forced to eliminate your knightly brethren from the war.
  1986. >...Even if Archer was anything but knightly.
  1987. >”I must say, after your...performance against Archer and how you let him go...I was concerned.”
  1988. >Your excitement began to sour as he reminded you of your past failures.
  1989. >A moment passed before his smile widened further.
  1990. >”But now I find myself pleasantly surprised. Your prose is truly the perfect mixture of manners and bloodlust.”
  1991. >That he could read your killing intent did not surprise you.
  1992. >Any warrior truly of note could easily read such from your body language.
  1993. >The same way you could tell by the way he spoke that he was well learned and used to speaking.
  1994. >He took his time between phrases, carefully considering his words.
  1995. >Observation was a key skill of any fighter.
  1996. “I’ll erase your concerns completely along with your life. Now, pull out your steel! I would have this be a fight worth remembering!”
  1997. >You dropped into a low fighting pose, awaiting his first move.
  1998. >”Draw my steel, eh? Unfortunately, I have no steel to draw...”
  1999. >He...shrugged his shoulders noncommittally before sharpening his gaze again.
  2000. >What was he doing?
  2001. >He reached his hand out in front of him, as if to take something...
  2002. >Suddenly, a flash of light came down from the sky and touched his palm.
  2003. >His hand cackled with electricity, causing you to take a step back.
  2004. >He merely laughed as he reached out his other hand to touch the lightning.
  2005. >The cackling energy calmed as his second hand touched it, though it still shot violently in small intervals.
  2006. >It’s form became more focused and stretched out as you realized what was happening before you.
  2007. >You watched in amazement as the lighting took the form of a long spear.
  2008. >Lancer quickly flipped the spear in his hands into a combat stance
  2009. >The lightning arced as he spun it, though it always seemed to stray from touching himself.
  2010. >Your mind began to race after watching Lancer turn the elements himself into his weapon?
  2011. >Would you blade even be able to meet his lance in combat?
  2012. >You were not given more time to think before Lancer spoke again.
  2013. >”I can, however, grant your second wish. Here I come, Servant of Anonymous!”
  2014. >In a single swift, blinding motion Lancer moved forward a thrust the tip of his spear at your chest.
  2015. >You took a step back to keep it’s edge from possibly connecting and gave a light slash to knock the spear off it’s path.
  2016. >Your sword connected against his spear as if it was solid as you directed it to your side.
  2017. >So you would be able to deflect his weapon
  2018. >Excellent, knowing this would allow you to be more aggres-
  2019. >A numbing sensation in your arms traveling through your body halted your train of thought.
  2020. >Your own blade was cackling lightly with lightning
  2021. >So blocking would come with a price
  2022. >You gritted your teeth as Lancer continued his series of jabs
  2023. >He was maintaining a safe distance from your blade to protect against any counterattack.
  2024. >You focused on evading attacks rather than parrying.
  2025. >With every parry you were forced to make, that familiar and painful stinging returned as small jolts coursed down your arms.
  2026. >Your opinion on his weapon as you fought had completely changed
  2027. >Before you had thought if you were able to deflect the spear, to interact with it you would have a certain victory.
  2028. >However, with how taxing every block would no doubt become you would have almost preferred being unable to defend.
  2029. >Lancer took two steps quickly forward, putting himself just on the edge of your striking distance.
  2030. >For a brief moment you think he’s made a mistake
  2031. >However, his determined and unwavering glare informed you otherwise.
  2032. >Sensing danger, you deftly jump backwards to the very edge of the roof.
  2033. >As Lancer jutted his spear, the tip of the spear expanded slightly before exploding in a burst of lighting.
  2034. >Small traces licked your armor
  2035. >You had just barely managed to avoid the full front on the blast.
  2036. >Now with a good deal of distance between the two of you, Lancer rested his spear behind his neck.
  2037. >His glare wavered as a playful grin began to grow.
  2038. >”Impressive, the way you dance with my lightning. The two of you are truly quite the pair.”
  2039. >With his intentions set on talking instead of attacking, you could afford a moment to think.
  2040. >Lancer was obviously a very skilled spearman
  2041. >His spacing was perfect as he attempted to find a weakness in your defense.
  2042. >However, his style was straightforward.
  2043. >Disciplined.
  2044. >Predictable, hopefully.
  2045. >You had left small openings in your defense as a test, and he had exploited them all.
  2046. >If you wanted to start returning blows, you were going to have to gamble on his methodical approach.
  2047. >”However, I’m sure your arms must be feeling rather numb. It won’t be long now before you are unable to defend yourself.”
  2048. >You smirk.
  2049. >Lancer’s lightning hurt, but he was underestimating you.
  2050. >Given a few more moments of intense blocking and yes, your arms would go numb.
  2051. >However, as it stood it was a painful nuisance, nothing more.
  2052. “Do not concern yourself with me, Lancer. I would be far more worried for yourself.”
  2053. >He quirked an eyebrow at your sudden bravado, but before he could respond you continue.
  2054. “You see, I have measured you Lancer. And I have found you lacking.”
  2055. >You goaded him as his smile slowly dropped.
  2056. >This only fed your own shit eating grin.
  2057. “I had thought the other knight might provide a challenge...But honestly? I could defeat you with one hand behind my back.”
  2058. >Lancer was no longer amused, dropping his relaxed pose and resting his spear close to the ground.
  2059. >And now, for the finishing blow.
  2060. >You dropped one hand from your sword, resting it at the small of your back.
  2061. “In fact, I believe I shall do just that. A handicap should certainly keep things more interesting.”
  2062. >Lancer’s eye twitched as he leveled his spear at you without a word.
  2063. >Success.
  2064. >You had his pride right where you wanted it.
  2065. >Trampled under your boot.
  2066. >With a frustrated roar Lancer once again started his assault.
  2067. >Finding yourself at the edge of the building, you jumped to another roof before he could attack to return to even ground.
  2068. >Lancer followed in hot pursuit, catching up to you in short fashion.
  2069. >This time, his attacks were much faster.
  2070. >In all honesty, between keeping an arm behind your back and dodging you were barely keeping up.
  2071. >That, however was all a part of the gamble.
  2072. >Even in his rage, his process was still there.
  2073. >He never overextended his reach, preferring to keep you at a distance.
  2074. >Which meant if he saw an opening, he would take it.
  2075. >An admirable approach when fighting with a team.
  2076. >In a duel, however, it could be his downfall.
  2077. >After you parry another attack and feel another jolt run up your arm, you knowingly leave an opening on your left side.
  2078. >To sell the act, you grimace in pain.
  2079. >If his victorious smile was any indication, he had completely fallen for it.
  2080. >If only he knew what you had intended for him.
  2081. >As Lancer dives for your opening to strike a decisive blow, a flash behind your back gives him pause.
  2082. >It was too late, however.
  2083. >You feel the familiar feeling of a steel hilt in your left hand as you summon your second sword.
  2084. >In one swift movement your thrusting sword knocks his lightning spear to the side.
  2085. >Leaving Lancer completely undefended.
  2086. >You waste no time, swinging your longsword for his center.
  2087. >Even as fast as he was, your sword still connects to his lower left side.
  2088. >As your sword meets his armor it cuts through effortlessly, sparks flying as steel meets bronze.
  2089. >You twist the blade as you feel it sink into the flesh, rending as Lancer finally manages to retreat.
  2090. >This time it’s his turn to jump to the edge to get a safe distance.
  2091. >He clutched his side, now dripping fiercely with blood.
  2092. >That was going to take a while to heal, even with magical assistance.
  2093. >Still, you smiled as you flipped the sword in your left hand.
  2094. >Keeping your second blade a secret had just bought you the advantage you needed to go on the offensive.
  2095. >Lancer’s face ran a gambit of emotions as he recentered himself.
  2096. >Confusion, anguish, fury...
  2097. >He settled on returning to his even glare before speaking as you slowly approached him.
  2098. >”I suppose I fell right into your trap...I would have expected the Saber to be above foul play.”
  2099. >You scoffed.
  2100. “Foul play? Please. I did not poison my blade, though I could have. Your own recklessness earned you that wound.”
  2101. >His annoyed frown told you that you still had a good hold of his emotions.
  2102. >This was going to be easier than you thought.
  2103. >His weapon was a unique threat, but the man himself was, for lack of a better word, simple.
  2104. >In a duel, and in any combat to a certain extent, deception was what granted victory.
  2105. >Understanding your opponent’s emotional state granted a large advantage in predicting their actions.
  2106. >So long as you could keep Lancer’s emotions, you could keep him one step behind you the entire fight.
  2107. >And so far, he had been VERY easy to annoy.
  2108. >Surprisingly so.
  2109. >He struck a defensive stance as the distance between the two of you began to close.
  2110. >For now, you had him right where you wanted him,
  2111. >Injured, easy to read and easy to manipulate.
  2112. >However, it was not the time to get complacent.
  2113. >Your advantage meant nothing if you didn’t press it.
  2114. >And neither of you had revealed your Noble Phantasm yet.
  2115. >This fight was far from over
  2116. >But the time for talking was.
  2117. >You both understood this as you dashed forward and your blades met his lightning yet again.
  2119. >Servant battles were truly something to behold.
  2120. >Saber and the other servant who you guessed was Lancer moved at times so quickly you had difficulty keeping track.
  2121. >On top of that, when they engaged in strikes with each other they were far too fast for you to comprehend.
  2122. >Still, even you could tell Saber currently held the advantage after that first heavy blow.
  2123. >You had settled on a roof several buildings away, suppressing your magical aura as best you could.
  2124. >You lay prone to keep yourself out of sight as the servants traveled from rooftop to rooftop.
  2125. >As the battle raged on in the distance, another figure captured your attention.
  2126. >Someone else was currently standing on the rooftops.
  2127. >Specifically one a few buildings away.
  2128. >It was hard to make out their figure as they wore mostly black with a hoodie to cover their face.
  2129. >Were they an innocent bystander? Or a master?
  2130. >Either way, it was worth investigating.
  2131. >Saber was currently winning, but if a little effort on your part could make her fight easier you were more than willing.
  2132. >You watched as the figure watched the battle for a moment before turning to reenter the building behind them.
  2133. >That was your cue.
  2134. >You quickly made for the fire escape you had used to climb up to the roof and went back down.
  2135. >Once on ground level, you stuck to the alleyways as you ran to the building you had seen the figure enter.
  2136. >It looked like some sort of office complex.
  2137. >Could they have been a night guard?
  2138. >Regardless, even if they were innocent you still needed to find them.
  2139. >Any non-magus who bore witness to the going ons of the magical world were in danger.
  2140. >You wouldn’t take care of them yourself, but you could at least warn them.
  2141. >Your search for an entrance revealed several possibilities, including a door in the alley and the buildings several windows.
  2142. >A quick check to the door revealed, to your surprise, that it was unlocked.
  2143. >A night guard would have kept this locked.
  2144. >At the very least, that figure was most likely not meant to be here.
  2145. >Still concealing your presence, you turned the handle fully and entered the office building.
  2146. >It was dark inside the building, but the moonlight filtering in from the windows gave you vision to work with.
  2147. >It outlined the rows of cubicles that the back entrance had led you to.
  2148. >While you were sure that it was a pleasant enough place during the day, at night it was fairly creepy.
  2149. >You quietly moved forward, sticking to the outside of the room as you sought out the figure.
  2150. >It would be difficult to find them in this light, to say the least.
  2151. >Maybe you should have grabbed your flashlight from your car?
  2152. >Focus on the task at hand, Anon.
  2153. >If that figure was Lancer’s master, how should you fight him?
  2154. >Well, first off of course you would need a barrier.
  2155. >Your barriers weren’t too shabby, more than enough to stop most bullets.
  2156. >After that, you could see if the magus was perhaps using guns as a crutch.
  2157. >It was unlikely, but not impossible for the Holy Grail to pick a weak magus.
  2158. >You continue to ponder your course of action for battle when a strand of light grabs your attention.
  2159. >Strangely, before your walkway in between the wall and a cubicle was a rather large spider web.
  2160. >Well, several spider webs to be more accurate.
  2161. >Had the moonlight not caught on the silver strands you would have just barreled through them.
  2162. >A shiver ran down your spine at the thought.
  2163. >You had always hated spiders.
  2164. >From a distance, fine.
  2165. >But the sensation of any bug crawling on your skin was a problem for you.
  2166. >You were about to carefully press through them but something about them felt...off.
  2167. >It was hard to put your finger on it, but it felt like it was out of place.
  2168. >In order to confirm your suspicion, you check the nearby cubicle for dust.
  2169. >You found some, but very little. This desk saw relative active use, if not cleaning.
  2170. >So why were there spider webs in a walkway if the place wasn’t abandoned?
  2171. >You tried to sense anything magical from the webs but to no avail.
  2172. >Still, it would be better to exercise caution and just stay away from them.
  2173. >You turned to go back the way you came but...
  2174. >...There was webs further down that path as well.
  2175. >Your hair began to rise as the sense of imminent danger flooded your body.
  2176. >You had just come from that direction, you KNEW there wasn’t any webs back there.
  2177. >Quicker than you could react, you felt something wrap around your left arm.
  2178. >The spider web behind you had jumped forward, sticking to your arm and dragging you into the web.
  2179. >Fierce struggling was all that saved you from being completely trapped
  2180. >However the web was still trying it’s best to restrain you.
  2181. >As you felt your magical circuits come to life, a voice echoes through the building.
  2182. >”There’s no use resisting, love. Once you’ve found yourself in my web, not even your feeble magic can save you.”
  2183. >Her voice was as smooth as silk but also full of hubris.
  2184. >Your circuits flare, but as you begin to cast a spell a strange sensation comes over you.
  2185. >Your circuits were fully active
  2186. >But the amount of magic they were putting out was far less than you were used to.
  2187. >It felt like trying to throw a punch through water.
  2188. >The webs were restricting how much magical energy you could exert.
  2189. >In desperation you try to tear the webs, but in response they tighten and cut into the skin.
  2190. >It was obvious the way it had grabbed you, but these webs were far stronger than a normal web.
  2191. >”Still, if you feel like struggling I won’t stop you. I can always use a nice show before-”
  2192. >”Okay, that’s enough Assassin.”
  2193. >Your attempts to break free come to a halt.
  2194. >That voice.
  2195. >That regal, awful voice.
  2196. >”I can’t have you terrifying poor Anonymous to death before I get a turn with him.”
  2197. >You knew that voice.
  2198. >”As you wish, my master. The little morsel won’t be going anywhere, I assure you.”
  2199. >There were footsteps before three figures entered your sight.
  2200. >The first to enter was unfamiliar, but her unearthly beauty immediately denoted her status as a servant.
  2201. >She wore a long, flowing black silk dress that completely covered her entire lower body.
  2202. >Her hair was the same silver of the webs that belonged to her, long enough to reach down her back.
  2203. >The second was the figure you saw on the roof.
  2204. >Now closer, you could better tell the feminine figure that the hoodie was hiding.
  2205. >You didn’t even have to look at her face to know who it was now.
  2206. “Chrysalis. You’re a master? I must say, I’m shocked. I didn’t figure you for the type.”
  2207. >An old “friend” from your tower days.
  2208. >One who loved making your life a living hell back then.
  2209. >She was the reason you had so much practice attempting to defend your mind.
  2210. >As you were once a young and impressionable first year, Chrysalis had taken great delight in pouring over all of your secrets.
  2211. >Thankfully, at the time your secrets were more of the embarrassing nature.
  2212. >By the time you reached the point of having actually important secrets you could keep her out
  2213. >Well, as long as you were conscious.
  2214. >She used to tease you readily with her unique ability to shapeshift, as well.
  2215. >However, her appearance as a master did surprise you.
  2216. >She had made it quite clear that she was looking to use magic to live a comfortable life.
  2217. >She had no desire to further the association, one of the few things you agreed on.
  2218. >”You know, I told her the same thing when she came to me to ask for my help.”
  2219. >The low, rough but playful voice of the third figure informed you.
  2220. >Your eyes widen, which draws a wicked smile from Chrysalis.
  2221. >He stepped into view and your worst fears were confirmed.
  2222. >His clothes were far less conspicuous than Chrysalis’, a simple well tailored suit with a red tie.
  2223. >His messy, jet black hair had grown longer than you had last seen it, now wild locks reaching down to his shoulder.
  2224. >His expression was as playful as his voice sound.
  2225. >The look of a man greeting an old friend after a long time apart.
  2226. >However, the way his eyes bore into your own spoke volumes towards his true intentions.
  2227. >”Still, I guess it just goes to show. No matter how well you know a person, they can always surprise you.”
  2228. >He began to pace back in forth in front of you, his eyes never once leaving your own.
  2229. >”Like you! You gave an impressive show last night, worthy of a mage of your stature. But...”
  2230. >His pacing stop as he stood directly in front of you, just out of reach of your free right arm.
  2231. >”Still, with all that quick thinking for Blueblood you were so simple to track. To trap while you servant engages another.”
  2232. >His words meant little to you as the sheer shock from his presence wore off.
  2233. “S-Sombra? How...Why are you here?”
  2234. >”Why am I here? What a redundant question. The war, Anonymous!”
  2235. >You just stare at him, dumbfounded.
  2236. >The last time you had seen Sombra was the day you left the tower.
  2237. >He was pouring over tomes, knowledge that was supposed to be forbidden to him.
  2238. >You had tried to get him to come with you, to get him away from The Tower.
  2239. >He just snapped at you for interrupting his studies.
  2240. >A far cry from the young man you met a few years prior to then.
  2241. >Now, he stood before you, a more than willing adversary.
  2242. >One you were completely at the mercy to.
  2243. >You attempt to use a command seal, your inner thoughts crying out for Saber to come save you...
  2244. >However, in response the web tightens, now tearing into your skin.
  2245. >The new wounds began to bleed quickly
  2246. >It felt like these webs were made for bloodletting.
  2247. >”Assassin, ease up on him. We don’t need him dying before Sombra’s done with him.”
  2248. >Chrysalis, noticing the bleeding through your shirt and scolded her servant, only to get a frown.
  2249. >”If only such a thing was possible. Your Anonymous makes his own bed in my web.”
  2250. >Chrysalis gave an exasperated sigh before looking back to you.
  2251. >”You hear that, Anon? Stop struggling or you’ll start bleeding like a pig.”
  2252. >You didn’t even risk nodding your head.
  2253. >You were already starting to feel woozy from blood loss.
  2254. >If you wanted ANY hope of getting out of this alive you needed to be conscious.
  2255. >Sombra shot a disdainful look to the two women accompanying him before returning his attention to you.
  2256. >”As I was saying, I thought it would be fairly obvious that I’m here for the grail. That amount of power is too much to pass up.”
  2257. >He shook his head, laughing.
  2258. >”And here I thought you knew me well, Anonymous.”
  2259. >Disgust began to fill up your heart at the sight of the only mage you used to respect.
  2260. “I knew the man that you were, Sombra. Not the man you are now.”
  2261. >”All the more pity. This Sombra is the one worth knowing. Not the weak and vacillating man he was.”
  2262. >You wanted to tell him just how wrong he was, but you knew it would fall on deaf ears.
  2263. >It always had.
  2264. >”Now, as much as I would love to catch up on the good old days...”
  2265. >Sombra lurched forward and grabbed your face, causing the webs to tear even more flesh.
  2266. >Excruciating pain almost caused you to miss his next words.
  2267. >”You and your servant are a threat.”
  2268. >He smiles.
  2269. >The very sight curls your blood.
  2270. >”And you already know how I deal with threats.”
  2271. >So.
  2272. >This is how you die, huh?
  2273. >Almost fitting, being killed by the symbol of everything you hated about The Mage Association.
  2274. >You wait for Sombra’s next move with bated breath.
  2275. >What you had not expected was for him to reel back in pain.
  2276. >”AHH!”
  2277. >He screamed, letting go of your face to focus on the slender piece of wood jutting out of his arm.
  2278. >”Sombra, what-!?”
  2279. >A high pitched whistling sound met your ears as a streak of light flew past you.
  2280. >It cut webs as it passed before landing squarely in Chrysalis’ chest.
  2281. >”Master! Who dares?!”
  2282. >Assassin pushes both Sombra and Chrysalis behind her, materializing a dagger.
  2283. >Just in time as a volley of arrows shoots all around you, cutting you free from the web bleeding you dry.
  2284. >You fell to the ground, blinding pain irradiating all over your body as Assassin did her best to deflect the arrows.
  2285. >”...You? Why would you possibly want to help him?”
  2286. >You did not have to look up to know who had saved you.
  2287. >There was only one person who had that sort of skill with the bow.
  2288. >”Let’s just write it up as I owed him a favor and leave it at that, okay beautiful?”
  2289. >You couldn’t believe your luck.
  2290. >Your idiotic move to confront Blueblood had gotten you into this position.
  2291. >And now, your decision to let Archer go might be what gets you out of it.
  2292. >Archer looked down at you, concern clear on his cowl covered face.
  2293. >”You should still call Saber, kid. You’re in bad shape, and I’m about to have my hands full with this lot.”
  2294. >As much as you wished Archer could save you from having to use a command seal, you know he was right.
  2295. >Your vision was starting to go dark as you extended your arm.
  2296. >Saber...Get me out of here...
  2297. >A burst of bright light surrounds you, leaving Saber in it’s wake.
  2298. >Her expression goes from determined to mortified at your condition.
  2299. >Still empowered by the command seal to retreat, she grabs onto you and light envelops you again.
  2300. >You feel your stomach lurch as the sensation of teleporting washes over you.
  2301. >The light leaves a stunned Sombra, Chrysalis and Assassin in it’s wake.
  2302. >Archer smiles.
  2303. >”So, who wants at me first?”
  2305. >You felt the laws of nature themselves bend around you as you grabbed Anonymous.
  2306. >The power of the command seal flooded your limbs, giving a light tingling sensation.
  2307. >A light flooded around you as in a single movement the two of you vanished from the office.
  2308. >You reappeared in a garden of some sort.
  2309. >No one was around, no magical presence to be felt.
  2310. >Save for Anon’s, his magical energy weakly coming to life.
  2311. >Now safe for the time being, you gently set him down before trying to get a better look at his wounds.
  2312. >”AH-, Saber...careful...”
  2313. >He winced in pain as you peeled part of his shirt away.
  2314. >Shit, he was in pretty bad shape.
  2315. >There were cut marks in dancing patterns all across his skin.
  2316. >They had dug deep, in some areas where cuts lined up flesh was only barely clinging on.
  2317. >Luckily the cuts weren’t deep enough to tear into any organs...
  2318. >So many questions were buzzing through your mind.
  2319. >Who was that other servant you had seen?
  2320. >Why had Anonymous waited until he was in such a state to call you?
  2321. >What in the hell was Archer doing there?!
  2322. >However, those questions would have to come at a time where your connection to this world wasn’t slowly leaving it.
  2323. >”...So, does it look as bad as it feels?”
  2324. >Anon’s glib comment did nothing to raise your spirits.
  2325. >You were surprised he was still conscious.
  2326. >Though, judging from the way his eyes were unfocused he wouldn’t remain so for long.
  2327. “Be quiet. Don’t say anything, conserve your energy. Try to stay awake for as long as you can.”
  2328. >You lightly scold him as you think of your options.
  2329. >Hospitals were a complete no go.
  2330. >Even if you could explain his injury somehow, it would make you a complete sitting duck.
  2331. >Besides, magical healing was far superior than most forms of medicine.
  2332. >Upon deeper observation of the wounds...
  2333. >With enough supplies, you might be able to stabilize him.
  2334. >Back in your military days, you had patched up worse wounds.
  2335. >However, the scope of the bleeding remained a problem.
  2336. >If you were going to try and stop it, it needed to be SOON.
  2337. >Even then, it was a long shot.
  2338. >And you would still need some sort of magical assistance afterwards to assist in healing.
  2339. >Now, the only question that remained was where to go?
  2340. >Anonymous’ home was no longer an option.
  2341. >You could attempt to steal supplies directly from the hospital
  2342. >However, that would require leaving him alone while doing so.
  2343. >An idea you were loathe to even think of.
  2344. >The chances of you leaving your master out of your sight if you made it through this was close to zero.
  2345. >As you continued to think, you made makeshift bandages from Anon’s now ruined shirt.
  2346. >You wrap them around areas where the cuts intersect, tightening them to cut off circulation.
  2347. >He cries in pain as you frown, at a loss as to where to take him.
  2348. >Looks like raiding the hospital was your best-
  2349. >”Saber.”
  2350. >Anonymous took a deep breath to steady himself as he spoke
  2351. >His voice was still wracked with pain, however.
  2352. >It barely rose above a whisper.
  2353. “Master, I told you-”
  2354. >”Listen, if I don’t make it out of-”
  2355. “Shut. Up.”
  2356. >You hissed at him as you tightened another strip of cloth.
  2357. >The sudden pain stopped his train of thought as he threw his head back, yelling.
  2358. “There is no ‘if’ here, Anonymous. You are going to live. We are going to regroup and recover.”
  2359. >Even if you didn’t know how.
  2360. “You are not allowed to die on me until we at least get to Pinkie’s party.”
  2361. >Anon managed to crack a smile in spite of all his pain.
  2362. >...Wait.
  2363. >Anon’s friends.
  2364. >You had overlooked a possibility.
  2365. >Another home you knew the location of.
  2366. >The home of someone who knew of magic and servants.
  2367. >It would be risky, but given how you had seen her looking at Anonymous earlier...
  2368. >And the look Anonymous was giving you now as he slowly lost consciousness...
  2369. >It was turning into your only option.
  2371. >Sometime earlier...
  2372. “You should have seen it, Starry. Trixie made a complete fool of herself!”
  2373. >”Come on, I’m sure it wasn’t that bad.”
  2374. >Starlight’s dreary voice did little to calm you down.
  2375. >Earlier, you had gone to dinner with Anonymous.
  2376. >When you had heard he hadn’t shown up to school, you were worried about him.
  2377. >Your worry only doubled when talking to Starlight in class.
  2378. >She had suggested he might have been playing up a sickness in order to skip your date.
  2379. >You, of course, knew she was wrong.
  2380. >No one would simply turn down a date from Trixie!
  2381. >...Okay, some would.
  2382. >And have.
  2383. >But you were sure Anonymous would never do such a thing!
  2384. >Sure, he liked to give you lip from time to time.
  2385. >Most of the time, actually.
  2386. >But Anon was soooo sweet!
  2387. >He even came to your shows!
  2388. >Not tell you he would or that he would think about it like the others!
  2389. >Still, even though you knew she was wrong Starlight’s words bothered you.
  2390. >Even when you had tried to take a nap, you couldn’t get a wink of sleep.
  2391. >You had to call him.
  2392. >You were SO happy when she turned out to be wrong.
  2393. >Sure, he had sounded a little reluctant at first over the phone
  2394. >But for most of the night he was the perfect escort!
  2395. >...Except for one part.
  2396. >You had expected Anonymous to not believe you when you told him your secret.
  2397. >Even in spite of all the strange things that happened around the school.
  2398. >All of those had come from another world entirely, after all.
  2399. >Magic in your world was unheard of.
  2400. >So you weren’t shocked or anything that he doubted your story.
  2401. >But it still hurt to think that he thought you were lying to him.
  2402. >Or worse, delusional.
  2403. >However, part of being Great was taking responsibility.
  2404. >And YOU were the one who had taken his disbelief too personally.
  2405. >The one who had ruined the rest of the dinner.
  2406. >You were lucky he had at least said he was still interested in going on your date.
  2407. “It was that bad! Anon came to see me on such short notice, only for me to get caught up on ONE little thing-”
  2408. >”Yeah, what was that you said about real magic earlier-”
  2409. “-And I messed up the whole night!”
  2410. >You took another sip from your overly-sweet coffee, bidding goodbye for any hope of sleep tonight.
  2411. >It was hovering close to 2 AM and you were far to wired from this evening.
  2412. >Grandfather was still away on a business trip for a few days.
  2413. >He liked to stay active for such an old man.
  2414. >The OTHER old man who now shared your residence for the time being had left.
  2415. >Practically the moment you had summoned him.
  2416. >It had been an upsetting couple of days, to say the least.
  2417. >”Look, you said so yourself. He still agreed to go out with you at a later date.”
  2418. “Well, yes but-”
  2419. >”And while him going on a date with you is already beyond my comprehension, no offense,”
  2420. “...You know, you say no offense but...”
  2421. >”He’s probably just trying to not let a single bad moment ruin the night.”
  2422. >”Unlike some neurotic magicians I know.”
  2423. >Starlight tried to inject a small amount of venom into her voice but was undermined by a yawn.
  2424. >You deflated onto a stool next to the kitchen counter.
  2425. >Your coffee was gone, having been sipped in quick motion while Starlight talked.
  2426. “Maybe...maybe you’re right. Maybe Trixie is overthinking things.”
  2427. >”I am right. Trust me on this one Trixie, guys don’t sweat the small stuff.”
  2428. >You had to stop yourself from scoffing.
  2429. >If you had listened to ALL of Starlight’s advice, you’d have never even asked Anon out.
  2430. >You hoped she was right this time, though.
  2431. “Thank you, Starlight, Trixie appreciates your assistance.”
  2432. >”Yeah...Can I go back to bed now though? We still have school tomorrow.”
  2433. “Yes, of course. Trixie thanks you for your advice. Have a good night’s sleep, Starlight.”
  2434. >”You try to get some sleep too, Trixie. I don’t want to keep pinching you awake through Cheerilee’s.”
  2435. “Trixie will try. See you tomorrow.”
  2436. >”Night.”
  2437. >Click.
  2438. >You set your cell phone onto the table in front of you.
  2439. >Your face shortly followed, forehead resting on the counter.
  2440. >The last twenty four hours had been such a roller coaster for you.
  2441. >You were successful in summoning a servant last night.
  2442. >You had thought that you were summoning a familiar like grandfather’s raven.
  2443. >Instead, it had been a human.
  2444. >An older man, probably somewhere around his 60’s.
  2445. >You had thought it was a mistake, but he confirmed that the seal on your arm bound him to you.
  2446. >You honestly weren’t sure how to feel about it at first.
  2447. >A servant had sounded nice, sure, but an actual person?
  2448. >Isn’t that sort of like slavery?
  2449. >Turns out, you had been concerned over nothing.
  2450. >Even if he called himself your servant, he had no qualms not listening to you.
  2451. >He just up and left after following you around school in some ghosty form thing.
  2452. >Said something about seeing an ideal spot to set up your new base.
  2453. >Like you were going to move out of the house or something.
  2454. >What was wrong with your home?
  2455. >You hadn’t seen him since.
  2456. >You had so many more questions for him too.
  2457. >Like where he got his fancy robes and jewelry
  2458. >Or what sort of name was Caster anyways?
  2459. >You were just going to have to wait, you guessed.
  2460. >Unless your so called servant just completely abandoned you.
  2461. >Maybe you should do a bit more reading through that book to see if you had a way to call him back?
  2462. >Better than staring deeply into the bland pattern of your kitchen’s countertop.
  2463. >You rose wearily, pouring yourself another heavenly blend of coffee with lots of milk and sugar.
  2464. >You had told Starlight you would try to get sleep, but that just wasn’t going to happen.
  2465. >Not for a while.
  2466. >You made your way up to your grandfather’s study.
  2467. >The old man had never put a book back into it’s proper place in his life.
  2468. >The room was a complete disaster, tomes littered all over the floor and various surfaces.
  2469. >There was a single empty chair in the center of the room.
  2470. >Every other chair and desk were covered in books.
  2471. >The lack of any sort of system for organization made it a pain to find specific books.
  2472. >Still, you were relatively new to magic.
  2473. >You had only inherited your circuits from grandfather last year.
  2474. >Just reaching for a book and reading it from cover to cover had begun something of a passtime for you.
  2475. >Your grandfather didn’t know about it.
  2476. >He forbade you from studying magic without him around.
  2477. >You had listened to him at first...But his lessons were so mechanical.
  2478. >They were focused on your circuits.
  2479. >How to strengthen them.
  2480. >How to open them properly.
  2481. >And yeah, that stuff was important, but...
  2482. >You were just told magic was real!
  2483. >You wanted to know more about things like dragons!
  2484. >Fairies!
  2485. >Unicorns!
  2486. >It wasn’t like grandfather would ever know, anyways.
  2487. >You could just leave books wherever and he’d never notice.
  2488. >Well, now you weren’t so sure.
  2489. >The mark on your arm was a dead giveaway now.
  2490. >Something to worry about for later.
  2491. >You picked up the book you had read with the ritual in it and began to skim through the pages.
  2492. >You had read most of it that seemed to have relevant information.
  2493. >The book was in German, but it had translated notes from your grandfather.
  2494. >It detailed a ritual for summoning “the strongest familiar”
  2495. >There was several mentions of The Holy Grail, but it didn’t go too deep as to WHAT The Grail actually was.
  2496. >Only that it was what powered the summoning.
  2497. >It was also what gave you the “command seal”
  2498. >It marked you as “one worthy of a servant.”
  2499. >Like there would be any doubt!
  2500. >You looked through, looking for anything like spells to control your servant.
  2501. >You found nothing of the sort, however a small note in red ink you hadn’t noticed before caught your attention.
  2502. >It was on the inside of the back cover of the book.
  2503. >It simply read;
  2504. >”Reference: The Sister’s Account of The 4th Holy Grail War.”
  2505. >Well, that’s just great.
  2506. >Your grandfather’s only form of organization came in these notes.
  2507. >It meant some important detail or details about servants were in that tome, not this one.
  2508. >Which could be anywhere in this nightmare.
  2509. >...Well, not like you had anything better to do tonight.
  2510. >You knew it would be fruitless, but the sooner you eliminated corners from the room the sooner you could find it.
  2511. >It would be a masterstroke of luck to find it in any sort of decent time.
  2512. >About an hour into your search, you heard a loud knocking coming from downstairs.
  2513. >You checked the time.
  2514. >3:47.
  2515. >Who the hell was knocking at this hour?
  2516. >If it was grandfather he would have just come in.
  2517. >Was it your servant?
  2518. >No, you doubt someone rude enough to abandon his master would be polite enough to knock.
  2519. >Another series of knock came, this set even louder and faster.
  2520. >Whoever they were, they were in a hurry.
  2521. >Was it a criminal?
  2522. >Criminals don’t knock, do they?
  2524. >You head downstairs as the knocking continues.
  2525. >You quietly moved over to the doorway and looked through the peephole.
  2526. >Damn thing was next to worthless, but you managed to make out the shape of a woman.
  2527. >Hanging onto her shoulder was a man, his head hanging down and-
  2528. >Oh my god that was a lot of blood.
  2529. >The two of them must have been in an accident.
  2530. >You quickly open the latch
  2531. >This could be some elaborate con
  2532. >But if they actually needed help you wouldn’t be able to live with it if you did nothing.
  2533. >You open the door and the woman before you gives you a nervous smile.
  2534. “Are you two okay?! Should Trixie call the hospital?! Get in, we have an emergency kit inside!”
  2535. >You move to usher them in before you finally notice the man’s outfit.
  2536. >One that, while stained with blood, was familiar to you.
  2537. >Your heart seized up as all your thoughts quickly evacuated your mind.
  2538. “A-Anonymous?”
  2539. >Your voice felt so much farther away than it had before.
  2540. >The foreign woman with him was saying something, but you didn’t hear the words.
  2541. >In fact, you didn’t hear much of anything as your legs gave out and you hit the floor.
  2542. >It was the last thing you wanted, but it looked like you were getting sleep tonight.
  2544. >Okay Saber.
  2545. >You now had a near death Anonymous to take care
  2546. >A passed out master on the floor in front of you.
  2547. >And no sight of her servant.
  2548. >All in all, not ideal.
  2549. >You had hoped to be able to talk to Trixie while tending to Anonymous.
  2550. >Pleading your case to her would be much easier considering her relationship with Anon.
  2551. >Now, she was unconscious.
  2552. >Luckily, you felt no magic energy on the premises.
  2553. >Meaning the servant was most likely not home.
  2554. >It occurred to you that there was a distinct possibility her servant was Lancer.
  2555. >You had been forced to leave things with him unfinished, after all.
  2556. >These thoughts were all in the back off your mind as you carried Anonymous to a large table in the kitchen.
  2557. >You laid him out before searching the house for the emergency kit Trixie mentioned.
  2558. >You found it in the room you identified to be the restroom.
  2559. >You smiled as you cracked the large box opened.
  2560. >This would do nicely
  2561. >Her parents must either deal with injuries often or believe in preparation.
  2562. >You closed the case before rushing back down to Anon’s side.
  2563. >You immediately tend to his wounds.
  2564. >Taking off the makeshift bandages you had made earlier was a nerve wracking process.
  2565. >Where the blood was once held back, it bleed anew in many places as you took off the rags.
  2566. >If you were dealing with one of your soldiers...
  2567. >Well, this would be the part where you would start praying for his trip to the afterlife.
  2568. >But not this time.
  2569. >You KNEW Anonymous was strong enough to make it through this.
  2570. >You disinfect the wounds quickly before wrapping the the heaviest areas first.
  2571. >You were seriously in luck that whatever did this didn’t cut deep enough to hurt the organs.
  2572. >Thanks to that Anonymous was still breathing normally, even though he had passed out.
  2573. >When it came to wounds back then, you lost most your men due to them choking on their own blood.
  2574. >It was extremely frustrating to deal with.
  2575. >You don’t think you could bear losing Anonymous the same way.
  2576. >Time passed around you as you did everything you could to make sure Anon made it through this.
  2577. >This went on until he was covered in pristine, fresh bandages.
  2578. >His breathing had labored slightly as you worked, filling you with hope.
  2579. >He had fallen unconscious on the way over, but he was still alive enough to feel discomfort.
  2580. >It was a good sign, but you were still unsure how much longer he’d last.
  2581. >You ears picked up a groaning back by the front door.
  2582. >Looks like Miss Trixie was coming back to our world.
  2583. >With nothing left to do for now, you wiped your hands clean as best you could before walking back into the hallway.
  2584. >She was slowly standing up, her hand raised to her head.
  2585. >Looks like her fall had earned her a new bump.
  2586. >Ouch.
  2587. >”Anonymous?”
  2588. >She calls out weakly before turning to you.
  2589. “He’s in the kitchen. I’ve dressed his wounds to the best of my ability. For now, it’s in his hands.”
  2590. >The expression she gives you is blank, but behind her eyes you see them shift quickly.
  2591. >Confusion, concern, panic, outrage...
  2592. >”Why...why would you bring him here?! He needs to get to a hospital!”
  2593. >She went to move pass you, but you block her path with a single strong step.
  2594. >Her defiant gaze melts before your own.
  2595. “If you truly wish Anonymous to live, then believe me when I say that a hospital would be a death sentence.”
  2596. >As you spoke, her head turned behind you.
  2597. >From where she was standing, she got a decent view of Anon on the table.
  2598. >She fell back a few steps, her hands covering her mouth.
  2599. >Tears began to collect in her eyes, but she wiped them out before facing you once more.
  2600. >”What happened to him?! Who are you?!”
  2601. >Well, here was the moment of truth.
  2602. “My name is Castilla...No, you ARE a mage. It would be proper for you to know me as Saber.”
  2603. >Confusion once again grew on her face.
  2604. >”Saber? What sort of name is- Wait, are you related to Caster by any chance?”
  2605. >...Okay, this just got a bit more tricky.
  2606. >Firstly, her servant was Caster.
  2607. >Someone who should prove no problem for you, after all you had extremely powerful magic resistance.
  2608. >However, chances were you just walked your master into their workshop.
  2609. >Where they are their strongest.
  2610. >Secondly, Trixie obviously had NO clue what she had gotten herself into.
  2611. >She knew nothing of the servants if she thought you were related.
  2612. >Then again...
  2613. “Well, I suppose in a sense we are related. For I am the same as he is.”
  2614. >”...Wait, so you’re-”
  2615. “A servant, yes. The servant of my master, Anonymous.”
  2616. >Her confused look melted away into a blank stare.
  2617. >”...That would make Anonymous...A magus?”
  2618. >You just nod your head.
  2619. >Her blank stare continues before you realize that her legs are shaking.
  2620. >You quickly reach out and grab her by the should.er
  2621. “Miss Trixie, please do not fall unconscious again.”
  2622. >You give her a light shake which seems to bring back her senses.
  2623. “I have enough to worry about from Anonymous, I don’t need you to get a concussion as well.”
  2624. >She takes a moment before removing your hand from her shoulder.
  2625. >”You still haven’t answered my other question. Who did this?”
  2626. >You gave a quick look back to Anonymous to make sure he was still breathing.
  2627. >Satisfied, you turn back.
  2628. “Another mage’s servant, I believe. You really have no idea what we are for, do you?”
  2629. >The poor girl shakes her head.
  2630. >Your brow furrows as you raise a hand to it in irritation.
  2631. >This was going to take awhile...
  2632. “Well then, Miss Trixie. I believe it falls upon me to teach you. What do you know about The Holy Grail War?”
  2634. >Sunlight floods the library with one last huzzah as twilight approaches.
  2635. >You lift your arms over your head and stretch, shaking out the cramps in your hand.
  2636. >The Clock Tower’s library would be closing soon, and you still had so much work left to do.
  2637. >Being thirteen year old Anonymous was suffering.
  2638. >”Still got your nose to the grindstone, huh? You really need to take a break, Anon.”
  2639. >A familiar and friendly voice greets you before you slam your head against the book.
  2640. “Sombra...It’s not like I WANT to be stuck translating for last period...Catrina practically forced me to.”
  2641. >”Hey, when it came time for the mandatory language class, YOU choose Sanskrit.”
  2642. “Because I thought it was a mostly dead language!”
  2643. >How were you supposed to know that mages were decades ahead of the rest of the world in restoring it?!
  2644. >”Well, tough luck. Now you can count yourself among the few hundred of us that actually know it.”
  2645. >You sigh.
  2646. >There were a lot of old texts and tomes that remained untranslated to this day.
  2647. >The Clock Tower made a point of magus learning other languages and translating as part of their responsibilities.
  2648. >It was under the guise of working together to further magical research...
  2649. >But really, it was because no magus wanted to be a translator full time.
  2650. >It was a thankless and time consuming job
  2651. >Everyone, including yourself, would rather spend time doing literally anything else.
  2652. >However, while some students could shirk their translating duties for a while you had no such luck.
  2653. >Very few mages learned to read and write Sanskrit, and there were TONS of books untranslated.
  2654. >This meant your last period every day was translating.
  2655. >If you fell behind your quota, your free time turned into translating.
  2656. >You were starting to have nightmares where you would be drowning in letters.
  2657. >But Professor Catrina made it quite clear how much choice you had in the matter.
  2658. >I.e. None.
  2659. >”Hey, just be thankful you’re not in my year yet. I got my mock dissertations coming up.”
  2660. >He took a seat next to you as you set your pen down, organizing your papers.
  2661. >You could spare a little bit of time to talk to your best friend.
  2662. “How has that been going? Between that and my translating, we haven’t really talked much recently.”
  2663. >”Oh, you know...It’s going just fine...”
  2664. >Sombra tries to seem uninterested to hide his excitement, but his smile does a poor job.
  2665. >You felt your own smile began to grow.
  2666. “Oh really? No interesting developments? Not even going to try to shake up the magical world just a little bit?”
  2667. >”Anonymous, I would never DREAM of such a thing. That sort of influence is far above a mage of my station!”
  2668. >There is a brief moment of silence before you both start laughing.
  2669. >Earning you a “shush!” from the students at other tables.
  2670. >The two of you calm down as Sombra pretends to be checking your notes.
  2671. >”...Although, now that you mention it, I guess you could say I’m near a breakthrough of sorts...”
  2672. “Oh do tell.”
  2673. >You respond flatly, earning another chuckle from Sombra.
  2674. >”I could tell you, but where’s the mystery in that?”
  2675. “C’mon, man. At least give me a little hint?”
  2676. >”Well, since you seem to be obsessed...Let’s just say my research with crystals is yielding fantastic results.”
  2677. >Coy bastard.
  2678. >He knew you could be trusted not to tell other magus about what he was working on.
  2679. >Yet he still insisted on playing around like this.
  2680. >”Anyways, I didn’t just drop by to mess with your duties. Brand Tirek is calling a conference.”
  2681. >You pause from shuffling your notes, giving him your full attention.
  2682. “A Brand is actually here? And he’s calling a conference?”
  2683. >”Seems so. I was just as shocked as you are.”
  2684. “Wow...Something big must be going. Anyways, why tell me?”
  2685. >Brand was a title given to a high ranking magus with outstanding abilities.
  2686. >There was one that was a professor at The Tower, but they were extremely rare and usually did their own thing.
  2687. >However, their influence and power meant they usually had a lot of respect from fellow magus.
  2688. >If not downright reverence.
  2689. >You had never heard of this Tirek before, but his presence came completely out of left field for you.
  2690. >”Well, it’s not just a conference for the professors. He’s also asked for exceptional students to drop in to hear him.”
  2691. >He shoves a playful finger to your chest.
  2692. >”And YOU just happened to make it onto the shortlist. Congratulations.”
  2693. >Okay, getting your stuff together could wait.
  2694. >Cause you just had a bomb dropped on you.
  2695. “What, me?! I’ve been here for barely over a year! I mean, sure I get good grades and all...”
  2696. >”Beats me. Maybe it was a mistake. Anyways, I was on the list too and figured I might as well go get you on the way.”
  2697. “Wait, it’s soon?”
  2698. >”Little less than an hour from now. Figured we could get a quick bite to eat on the way over, catch up a bit.”
  2699. >The idea of hanging out with Sombra helped calm you down, but your mind was still swimming.
  2700. >What made you so important to attend the conference of a Brand?
  2701. >You didn’t have any unique traits, to your knowledge.
  2702. >You had a good pedigree, sure.
  2703. >Would that be enough to get you in?
  2704. >Fifth generation magus were pretty rare.
  2705. >Maybe Tirek knew your father?
  2706. >If he did, dad never mentioned him.
  2707. >And bragging about knowing such a powerful mage was SO something he would do.
  2708. >You finish getting all of your stuff together, standing up along with Sombra and turn to face him.
  2709. “Yeah, that sounds good to-”
  2710. >You get cut off by the feeling of arms slipping around you.
  2711. >”Now, what are you two boys talking about? Hmmm?”
  2712. >A shiver crawls down your spine at the contact before you break it off and turn around.
  2713. >Who else would be there but Chrysalis, a playful smile behind those teal locks.
  2714. “None of your business, Chrysalis.”
  2715. >”Now, is that any way to greet a friend Anon? Besides, I already overheard a bit as I came over.”
  2716. >You turn to Sombra for support, but he just rolls his eyes.
  2717. >”Yeah, I’m pretty sure I saw her on the list too.”
  2718. >Great.
  2719. “Great.”
  2720. >Chrysalis jumped for your back, wrapping an arm around your neck.
  2721. >”Like there was any doubt! My shapeshifting ability is truly one of a kind!”
  2722. >You knew she was right, but you’ll be damned if you let her hear it from your mouth.
  2723. “Whatever. I guess we’ll have an intruder on our little get together.”
  2724. >Sombra just shrugged.
  2725. >”I guess that’s fine, she usually only bugs you.”
  2726. >That’s your brother Sombra.
  2727. >Always leaving you to the wolves.
  2728. >Chrysalis giggled maliciously as she pushed you towards the doorway, Sombra following closely behind.
  2729. >Only, instead of finding the normal hallway outside the library...
  2730. >The hall was engulfed in darkness...
  2732. >You feel you eyes slowly crack open as they shake off the last little bits of your dream.
  2733. >Well, more like a memory.
  2734. >It had been a long time since you had thought about how it was back then.
  2735. >It was hard to think about without also thinking about how things ended up.
  2736. >Still, why were you asleep agai-
  2737. >Blinding pain as you attempt to move gives you a harsh reminder of last night.
  2738. >Oh, right.
  2739. >Those spider webs that Assassin had must have done a number on you.
  2740. >You do your best to exhale the pain, your throat feeling to dry to yell.
  2741. >”Anonymous? Are you awake?”
  2742. >Saber’s concerned voice rang out from your side.
  2743. “Yeah, though kind of wishing I wasn’t. Where are we? How bad is it?”
  2744. >Your speech is slow and raspy due to dehydration, and you felt like your limbs had no strength to them.
  2745. >”It seems I was able to stabilize your condition. You won’t die anytime soon, so long as you stay stationary.”
  2746. >You frown as best you can.
  2747. >Being alive was certainly a good first step...
  2748. >But in this state, there was no way you could continue fighting.
  2749. >You weakly turn your head around before you feel your breathing hitch.
  2750. >This place.
  2751. >You knew this place.
  2752. >”As for where we are-”
  2753. “Why are we at Trixie’s?”
  2754. >Even though you weren’t looking at her, you could feel Saber stiffen up.
  2755. >”Well, your list of possible friends is highly lacking. With hospitals not being an option and no other hideouts...”
  2756. >It made sense, but you still weren’t happy about it.
  2757. “Where is she? How much does she know?”
  2758. >”She knows you’re a mage as well, if that’s what you’re worried about. She’s upstairs. But, Anonymous...”
  2759. >Saber folded her arms before continuing.
  2760. >”...She had no idea about The Holy Grail War. After I told her more about it, she sprinted upstairs.”
  2761. >She sighed.
  2762. >”I haven’t seen her since. Her servant, Caster, doesn’t seem to be here.”
  2763. >You felt her stand up and travel to the side your head was currently looking at.
  2764. >”Master, what happened? Why did you not call me back sooner?! Which servant did this to you?!”
  2765. >Oh man, she was PISSED.
  2766. >You give her the answers quickly.
  2767. “Assassin. She used some sort of web and trapped me in it. It suppressed my magical ability...No, that’s not it.”
  2768. “It’s probably more accurate that is suppressed ALL magic. I couldn’t use my command seals while I was entrapped.”
  2769. >Saber tapped her fingers against the table as you continued.
  2770. “There’s more. There were two masters, working together. Someone other than Lancer’s master, I would guess.”
  2771. >Sombra had mentioned isolating you while your servant fought another.
  2772. >That probably meant that Lancer was not his servant.
  2773. >Leaving him with either Rider or...Berserker.
  2774. >Even in spite of what he had done, you hoped he didn’t have the servant of insanity.
  2775. “I...I knew them. From my days at The Clock Tower. Sombra and Chrysalis. What a mess...”
  2776. >Okay, first things first.
  2777. >You needed a way to heal your body.
  2778. “I..don’t suppose you asked Trixie if she knew healing magic?”
  2779. >”I did, actually. Unfortunately...”
  2780. “No, it wouldn’t be that easy...”
  2781. >If your master was still in town, you MIGHT have been able to call her
  2782. >But she was most likely already on another one of her adventures.
  2783. >As you weighed the options of what to do about your injuries, you heard the front door swing open.
  2784. >Saber was immediately on guard.
  2785. >”Master Trixie! I have returned at last! My deepest apologies for taking so long-”
  2786. >He spoke as he walked into the hallway, but cut himself off as he walked into the kitchen.
  2787. >Saber had already positioned herself between the two of you.
  2788. >”...Master Trixie failed to inform me we would be having...guests.”
  2789. >His voice dropped low and dangerous.
  2790. >You were really hoping Saber’s magic resistance would also stop him from attacking you.
  2791. >At the moment, there was just a long silence.
  2792. >”...Caster. We mean neither you nor your master harm-”
  2793. >”Where is my master?”
  2794. >”Upstairs, and unharmed. We-”
  2795. >”Is that your master behind you?”
  2796. >”...Yes, but will you please listen to me?”
  2797. >Another beat of silence.
  2798. >”Ah, yes. How rude of me. Speak your case.”
  2799. >”My master and I simply needed a place to recover, safe from the other masters.”
  2800. >”Anonymous and Trixie are friends. I was hoping we might take shelter here under a flag of truce.
  2801. >”Oh. Well, that’s perfectly fine.”
  2802. >”I know it is hard to believe, and we are not in the position to- Wait, what?”
  2803. >Saber’s shock mirrored your own.
  2804. >”I said it’s fine. I know you will not bring any intentional harm to Miss Trixie.”
  2805. >”...H-how?”
  2806. >Caster laughed a deep hearty laugh, taking the edge from the room.
  2807. >”My dear Saber, far better liars than yourself have tried to trick me. None can hide the truth from my eyes.”
  2808. “A living lie detector, huh? Can’t decide if that’ll make things easier or harder.”
  2809. >”That depends entirely on you. MASTER TRIXIE! I HAVE RETURNED, AND YOUR GUEST HAD AWOKEN!”
  2810. >His voice almost shook the walls as he yelled before he quickly walked past Saber to your side.
  2811. >”Hey, hold on a moment-”
  2812. >Saber gave protest, but you felt no killing intent from the older man now kneeling next to you.
  2813. >He looked to be somewhere in his sixties, though if it wasn’t for his wrinkles you wouldn’t think so.
  2814. >His size and stature were impressive, and he carried himself with energy far younger than his visible age.
  2815. >He wore resplendent robes, black and trimmed with gold.
  2816. >His neck, arms and fingers were adorned with brilliant jewelry of many different precious metals and gems.
  2817. >His eyes met yours and you immediately began to feel small.
  2818. >They bore into you with such depth that you felt like you could hide nothing from him.
  2819. >Not like a compulsion, just that he knew you from simple observation.
  2820. >”So, you are the Anonymous I have heard so much about. It is an honor to finally meet you!”
  2821. >He stood again, breaking eye contact.
  2822. >You hadn’t realized it, but you hadn’t breathed the entire time he had spoke.
  2823. “She...told you about me?”
  2824. >”Not directly. However, you would be surprised how often her school day revolves around you.”
  2825. >You would be touched if there weren’t a million other things distracting you.
  2826. >Like pain.
  2827. >Or figuring out how you were going to heal said pain
  2828. >Or what you were going to say when Trixie-
  2829. >”Anon?”
  2830. >Shit, you would have liked more time to think about it.
  2831. “...Hey, Trixie.”
  2832. >You did your best to turn back to her voice.
  2833. >It hurt like a motherfucker, but you saw her standing in the doorway.
  2834. >Eyes starting to tear up.
  2835. >”...I’m...Trixie is glad you’re okay...”
  2836. >Fuck, your heart.
  2837. >”...There was so much blood...”
  2838. >You try to give her a reassuring smile.
  2839. “Well, it’s all thanks to you. Thanks for letting Saber take care of me here. I’m alive because of you.”
  2840. >You tried to reassure her.
  2841. >Instead, she started openly bawling as she ran over to you and buried her head in your shoulder.
  2843. >”Miss/Master Trixie! Can you not see you are hurting Anonymous?!”
  2844. >Saber and Caster both spoke at the same time, getting a confused look from the former and a smile from the latter.
  2845. >Trixie let go of you and instead pulled up a chair, an apologetic smile on her face.
  2846. >”Trixie apologizes, Anon. She was just so glad to hear your voice...”
  2847. “It’s....It’s okay Trix, just...be gentler next time.”
  2848. >Her smile widens before she drops her eyes.
  2849. >”Saber told me everything. About the war, I mean. I...I didn’t know. I found the ritual for a servant in my grandfather’s study...”
  2850. >The pain stops you from laughing, but really what were the odds?
  2851. >Had Trixie tried the ritual any other week, nothing would have happened.
  2852. “...I’m sorry. About not telling you earlier, and acting like I didn’t believe you.”
  2853. “Magus, and especially masters, are supposed to keep their identity a secret.”
  2854. >”Saber explained that too...That if you were any other master, I would have been-”
  2855. >Jeez Saber, how much did you tell her?!
  2856. >She didn’t need to know THAT much.
  2857. >A silence falls over the room before Trixie breaks it.
  2858. >”So...What happens now?”
  2859. “First off, I need to figure out a way to heal these wounds. I may be alive now, but with Chrysalis and Sombra hunting me...”
  2860. >”Who?”
  2861. >Trixie turned her head quizzically.
  2862. >”The mages who did this to him. They seem to have formed an alliance of sorts, which is a whole other problem in itself.”
  2863. >”Do you know which servants they posses?”
  2864. >You regard Caster as he spoke.
  2865. “Chrysalis seemed to be the master of Assassin, though I don’t trust anything that comes out of her mouth.”
  2866. “We’ve engaged with Lancer and dealt with Archer’s master. Their other servant is either Rider or Berserker.”
  2867. >He frowned.
  2868. >”Either possibility could be problematic. Combine the brute strength of a Rider or Berserker with the killing potential of Assassin...”
  2869. >He brought his hand to his clean-shaven chin, thinking on it before snapping his fingers.
  2870. >”Well, the answer is obvious! Too obvious, if I say so myself. We counter an alliance with one of our own!”
  2871. >The room was quiet.
  2872. >”What?”
  2873. >Saber was the first to finally ask the question that was on both of your minds.
  2874. >”I’ll be frank; The moment I realized Master Trixie had no idea about The Holy Grail War, I planned to keep it from her.”
  2875. >He moved to his master’s side and dropped his hands on her shoulder as he towered over her.
  2876. >”I was originally going to move her to my temple to keep her safe from the war while I fought it, but this could work out even better!”
  2877. >Saber frowns.
  2878. >”Caster, you make it sound so easy. We may be in bad shape, but Anonymous and I have no intention of giving up The Grail.”
  2879. >You nod in agreement.
  2880. >You liked Trixie, and you were extremely thankful in her part for saving your life.
  2881. >But so long as you were still alive, The Grail was your goal.
  2882. >”No Saber, it is YOU who is making it more difficult than it needs to be.”
  2883. >Caster wags a finger at her.
  2884. >”The alliance I suggest is temporary. We may return to our honorable war after the other team of masters is dismantled.”
  2885. >Saber was about to speak again, but Caster cut her off.
  2886. >”If it will sweeten the arrangement, at my temple I believe I could heal Anonymous’ wounds.”
  2887. >Now that caught both yours and Saber’s attention.
  2888. “Wait, you can-?”
  2889. >”Caster, why didn’t you say anything earlier?!”
  2890. >Trixie’s yell caught you by surprise.
  2891. >Caster sighed.
  2892. >”Master...If I may continue being blunt, as a magus you leave much to be desired.”
  2893. >Trixie looked genuinely hurt for a moment before Caster continued.
  2894. >”It is no fault of your own, but a servant’s strength is tied to our own master’s mana supply.”
  2895. >He looked back to Saber before continuing.
  2896. >”It would take quite a bit of my power to do so, however. I would never just offer it to a friend. An ally, however...”
  2897. >He smiled, looking down on you.
  2898. >”So long as Saber gave her word, I would trust her to protect both myself and my master as I recovered my energy.”
  2899. >This was an extremely generous offer.
  2900. >...Honestly, you had very little reason not to take it at this point.
  2901. >However, there was still the chance that this was a trap.
  2902. >This Caster could see to the heart of people, he could be using that to draw you into his temple.
  2903. >”Master, what do you think?”
  2904. >How could you make sure this wouldn’t end in your death?
  2905. >”...Anonymous?”
  2906. >Trixie’s voice at your side gives you a sudden idea.
  2907. >You couldn’t quite trust this Caster yet.
  2908. >If he was summoned then he must want The Grail himself.
  2909. >But you felt like you could trust Trixie.
  2910. “We’ll accept, on one condition. Trixie?”
  2911. >”Y-yes Anonymous?”
  2912. “Do you know how to use your command seal?”
  2913. >”...You can use it? Trixie thought it merely represented our bond.”
  2914. “Yes, using it you can force a servant to follow your commands, though you only have three uses.”
  2915. >”Ah, Trixie was wondering if there was a way to- Wait, why do you ask?”
  2916. “I’ll instruct you how to use a command seal before we leave.”
  2917. >You use what little strength in your body to raise, yourself, pushing away Trixie and Saber as you looked at Caster.
  2918. “My condition is that if this turns out to be a trap set by Caster, you’ll use a command seal and order him to kill himself.”
  2919. >The room was silent again.
  2920. >You had expected Caster to be upset, but instead...
  2921. >He gave you a beaming, almost proud smile.
  2922. >”An extremely wise precaution, young one. To be caught in a trap like you had earlier must be a rare occasion.”
  2923. >His flattery confused you, but you didn’t drop your glare.
  2924. >He laughed.
  2925. >”Master Trixie, I am fine with these conditions. Do not worry about having to give the command. I give you my own word.”
  2926. >Trixie still seemed shocked, but she nodded her head in agreement.
  2927. >”Okay...”
  2928. >She sounded unsure.
  2929. >You hadn’t considered that you had essentially just told Trixie you expected her to kill someone.
  2930. >Definitely not an association magus.
  2931. >When you were better, you were going to have talk to her personally.
  2932. >You were sure Saber had filled her in on the technical details of the war...
  2933. >However, judging by the shellshocked look on her face from time to time she was still having trouble comprehending it.
  2934. >Or maybe just that fact of how involved she was in it.
  2935. >”We don’t really have anything to carry him on...How far away is your ‘temple’?”
  2936. >”He could stay on the table, shouldn’t a strapping young girl like yourself be more than capable of carrying it?”
  2937. >”...Point taken.”
  2938. >”As for my temple, it is hidden in the forest outside of town. We could be there in a few hours by those amazing au-to-mo-biles.”
  2939. >He gives each syllable some length, smiling at the term.
  2940. >”Sounds like a plan. I’ll carry Anonymous to the car.”
  2941. >Before Saber moved over to pick up the table, Trixie gave your hand a light squeeze before moving to join Caster.
  2942. >Well, this couldn’t have gone much better.
  2943. >You had your own set of allies to combat Sombra and Chrysalis.
  2944. >A scared, in deep over her head fledgling magus.
  2945. >And her weakened Caster.
  2946. >What a pair you would make.
  2947. >Most of the car ride goes by in a blur.
  2948. >Saber had done her best, but getting you from the table to the backseat of the car had almost knocked you back out.
  2949. >Caster reverted back to spirit form to make more room for you while Saber drove the car.
  2950. >She explained something about having the Ride skill, allowing her to operate any vehicle.
  2951. >Sure enough, she was a natural driver.
  2952. >Between that and Trixie’s grandfather’s expensive as all hell car, it was a smooth ride.
  2953. >If a bit quiet.
  2954. >The only talking that really went on was Trixie relaying directions from Caster to Saber.
  2955. >The sky began to lighten gradually as morning approached.
  2956. >You must have been out for about four hours.
  2957. >It would explain why, in spite of discomfort of your wounds you were still tired.
  2958. >You were getting close to twenty four hours without sleep.
  2959. >One look to Trixie told you she was in the same boat.
  2960. >If she didn’t have to stay awake to give Saber directions, you have no doubt she would already be gone by now.
  2961. >Like last night.
  2962. >Eventually, the ride gets considerably less smooth
  2963. >Saber had to go off road into to reach where Caster had set up his workshop.
  2964. >Or as he put it, his temple.
  2965. >That probably marked him as some sort of religious figure in his past life.
  2966. >Time drags on as you lose yourself in the passing trees
  2967. >You wandering thoughts only break whenever Saber hits a large bump.
  2968. >Your wounds reopened in a few places
  2969. >This news sent Saber into a panic, but Trixie told her that it wouldn’t be much longer.
  2970. >Five minutes later and you see it, even through the trees.
  2971. >A huge boundary field.
  2972. >A magical barrier that mages often used to fortify a position.
  2973. >They served many purposes, essentially being giant magical walls that the caster could let allied through while keeping enemies out.
  2974. >It also could project an image to appear as it’s surroundings, camouflaging to remain unnoticed from a distance.
  2975. >But JEEZ, this field was huge.
  2976. >From what you could tell, it seemed to extend all the way to the top of the treeline.
  2977. >You couldn’t even see where it ended from side to side.
  2978. >”We’re here. Caster says to keep driving forward...Make sure not to go left or right.”
  2979. >Saber quirked an eyebrow.
  2980. >”Straight ahead? Into that tree?”
  2981. >”Yes. He say’s it’s an illusion.”
  2982. “...part of the boundary field...”
  2983. >You try to add to the conversation but underestimated how weak you had become.
  2984. >Your voice was barely above a whisper.
  2985. >Trixie gave you a sad look before turning back to Saber.
  2986. >”We need to hurry...Trixie fears Anonymous might not stay awake much longer.
  2987. >As much as you hated to admit it, she was right.
  2988. >Those reopened wounds were bleeding you of your strength as they spoke.
  2989. >You try to hang on as Saber speeds ahead, barreling straight for the tree.
  2990. >The boundary field sparks bright red as the car goes through it and a new scene unravels in front of you.
  2991. >Gone was the forest you had previously witnessed, now replaced by a large clearing.
  2992. >It must have been a few square miles of cleared woodlands.
  2993. >In the center of the clearing was an impressive looking stone wall with a single gate.
  2994. >Through the gate and peeking above the wall you saw the top of Caster’s temple.
  2995. >Two pillars adorned it’s front, wrapped in pressive details chiseled in its stone exterior.
  2996. >You wanted nothing more than to continue absorbing details of the temple.
  2997. >To try to figure out what hero would call such a magnificent temple home.
  2998. >However, your vision began to fade.
  2999. >Signaling an end to all lines those lines of thinking.
  3000. >Well, here’s to hoping Caster is a hell of a healer.
  3001. >The last thing you here is Trixie calling your name as your eyes close.
  3003. >For the longest time, darkness.
  3004. >No dream, no visions of the past.
  3005. >Just you and the void as time passed you by.
  3006. >Slowly, you feel the tug of consciousness pull you back.
  3007. >Caster’s voice fill your ears as he speaks unfamiliar words.
  3008. >A strange feeling overtakes you as you feel someone touching your body.
  3009. >Where the hand touches, it feels like your body melts away before it moves on to another part.
  3010. >However, instead of being painful it seemed to completely rid you of pain.
  3011. >As the hand traveled, you could feel the previous flesh form itself back into the familiar shape of your body.
  3012. >It was surreal to say the least
  3013. >For a while, you had thought you were dreaming.
  3014. >However, these sensations were TOO vivid to be a dream.
  3015. >It must have been Caster’s healing
  3016. >Well, at least at this point you were confident he actually WAS healing you.
  3017. >If he wanted you dead, you probably wouldn’t have woken up.
  3018. >You open your eyes, but they are shocked by bright light forming a seal high above you.
  3019. >A few more attempts were met with similar results.
  3020. >The hand gives you a light shake as you struggle, signalling you to stay still.
  3021. >You complied, though the strength rushing back to your limbs as Caster healed you made it difficult.
  3022. >A few more moments passed and the hand had traced over your entire body, not just where the wounds had been.
  3023. >Then, as the hand stopped touching you, the light died down and you finally felt like you could open your eyes.
  3024. >Standing high above you was Caster, his hand stretched out as he breathed a deep sigh.
  3025. >”Good, you have awoken.”
  3026. >On the palm of his hand was the seal you had seen earlier, resonating with the ring on his finger before dispersing.
  3027. >You didn’t get long to look at it, but you did make out the english characters that surrounded the seal.
  3028. >M A R B A S.
  3029. >...As in the demon?
  3030. >Demonology was an extremely difficult thing for even a magician to master.
  3031. >You clenched your fist before looking down at your body.
  3032. >Incredible.
  3033. >If you had ever been injured, it didn’t show.
  3034. >In fact, some old scars you had were completely healed as well.
  3035. >Also at some point he must have stripped you down to your underwear.
  3036. >At least, you hoped it was him.
  3037. >”You should be fine to move around, young magus. In fact, I think you’ll find-”
  3038. >You were already moving before he could finish his sentence, feeling for yourself what he was about you say.
  3039. >You weren’t just healed.
  3040. >You felt GREAT.
  3041. >All the exhaustion you had felt earler was completely gone.
  3042. >You hadn’t felt this awake and alert in years.
  3043. >You took a stroll around the large room you were in, your bare feet hitting the cool stone floor.
  3044. >The room itself was fit for royalty, fine silk and furs decorating the walls and furniture.
  3045. “Caster, what did you do? This is well beyond healing...And that strange feeling...”
  3046. >Caster smiled, moving over to a table next to the wall and closing several books.
  3047. >”Sadly, as a mage I have very little talent for healing. I had to enlist the aid of an old friend.”
  3048. >You paused as he sidestepped around his skill with demonology.
  3049. “I see...So the demon known as The Great President is ‘an old friend’, huh?”
  3050. >Caster frowned as the pieces began to fall together in your head.
  3051. >His ability to see through falsehood.
  3052. >His immense magical power, even when paired with a poor master.
  3053. >His use of demons...
  3054. >And, most importantly, his grand temple.
  3055. >You had studied many of the great magicians, but one was so important that every modern magus knew his name.
  3056. >King Solomon the Wise.
  3057. >The father of all Magecraft.
  3058. >According to most, at least.
  3059. >...Holy shit, you weren’t just dealing with some magician from The Age of the Gods.
  3060. >You were dealing with THE magician as far as The Clock Tower was concerned.
  3061. >Your fingers began to tremble as Caster gave you a worried look.
  3062. >”So, you’ve figured out my identity I assume? I don’t mind if you tell Saber, but I trust that you know to keep it a secre-”
  3063. “eeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee”
  3064. >”...I’m...I’m sorry, are you sure you’re alright Anonymous?”
  3065. >Holy shit you just squeed.
  3066. >Control yourself Anon!
  3067. >Gotta play it cool...
  3068. >...around the most influential mage of all time oh my god
  3069. “YEAH, yeah I’m...totally fine. And...don’t worry, I know how to keep my mind and mouth shut.”
  3070. >You place your hand to your chest, calming yourself.
  3071. >Caster finally seems to have caught onto your reaction.
  3072. >”Ah, I see...I had no idea I would be so revered even to this day to inspire such a reaction.”
  3073. “...Revere might be a LITTLE strong...But yeah, just kind of shell shocked to be in the same room as the creator of magecraft.”
  3074. >A few people thought that magecraft was a modern invention.
  3075. >However, Solomon the Wise was the one who had gifted magecraft to the common man.
  3076. >Before him, only true magicians could dream of wielding magic.
  3077. >Something struck you as odd, however.
  3078. “Wait, you summoned Marbas to heal me? Doesn’t his area of expertise in healing come down to herbs?”
  3079. >”Ah, so you’re well versed in demonology then?”
  3080. “Please, no magus today would DARE meddle with demons with our paltry control of magic. I’ve only studied it.”
  3081. >Your first dissertation was on Demonology.
  3082. >The moral of that paper had been unless you had a specific artifact that gave you complete control over demons...
  3083. >Summoning them was never worth it.
  3084. >Modern day non-magus demonologists will insist otherwise, but they’re usually full of crap.
  3085. >They will mess you up in the long run unless you show them you aren’t to be trifled with.
  3086. >”Well, in any case you’re right. Marbas’ knowledge of herbs and healing would be inadequate for your wounds.”
  3087. >He returned to his table, gathering some clothes from the far end.
  3088. >”However, that is not his only area of expertise, now is it Anonymous?”
  3089. >His other domain?
  3090. >That would be...
  3091. “...Changing men into other shapes? I thought that had meant shifting into animals...”
  3092. >”It can, but in this case I simply had him shape you back to a healthy version of yourself.”
  3093. >That would explain the melty feeling from earlier.
  3094. >And the complete lack of any fatigue.
  3095. >Seriously, you felt like you slept for like twelve hours-
  3096. “Wait, what time is it?”
  3097. >”The day is still young. The...”healing” process didn’t take long at all.”
  3098. >He handed you a set of fine silk white clothing
  3099. >Right, your clothes from last night were pretty much ruined.
  3100. >It looked to be a size too big for you, but you would deal.
  3101. >”Master Trixie is finally getting some sleep. Saber wished to see you after you awoke. She’s in the dining hall.”
  3102. >You nodded before throwing the shirt over your head.
  3103. “Thanks, Caster. I know this alliance is temporary, but it’s still an honor to meet you.”
  3104. >”I could say very much the same.”
  3105. >Pfft.
  3106. >Like you were anything special.
  3107. >”Besides, the fact that we may be trying to kill each other in a few days is no excuse for bad manners today. You’re welcome, Master Anonymous.”
  3108. >You smiled.
  3109. >You finished up getting dressed, taking a belt when Caster offered it to you.
  3110. >It was baggy, but functionable.
  3111. >For now.
  3112. >Before night fell tomorrow, you’d have to make a stop by your house.
  3113. >”I will remind you of our deal, however. In spite of what you think of me, I meant it when I said this would leave me drained.”
  3114. “For the time being, you have our sword. We can deal with Sombra and Chrysalis tomorrow, tonight we should bunker down.”
  3115. >No one would dare attack this temple if they knew you were here, even if anyone had followed you.
  3116. >At least for tonight.
  3117. >You were going to make the most of this while you could.
  3118. >You step out of the door, leaving Caster and a bit of your dignity behind you.
  3119. >Your mind was swimming with thoughts of the ancient sorcerer as you walked the halls of the temple.
  3120. >However, they were no longer of just raw admiration.
  3121. >They were of how you would deal with him once the alliance was over.
  3122. >Well, how Saber would deal with him would be more accurate.
  3123. >Even with Trixie as his master supposedly weakening him, you knew you wouldn’t match up to him.
  3124. >Your only aspiration in the war had been to fight other masters, especially ones from the association.
  3125. >It’s really a shame you were still on the “not killing Trixie” side of things.
  3126. >It would make dealing with Solomon so much easier.
  3127. >...Okay, it wasn’t that much of a shame.
  3128. >Letting her live last night had already saved you once.
  3129. >If you were conflicted about killing her before, you were certain you didn’t have it in you anymore.
  3130. >So it would ultimately come down to Saber.
  3131. >How lucky you were that you had drawn a servant with magic resistance.
  3132. >If you were lucky, in his weakened state he might not have strong enough magic to overcome it.
  3133. >You wouldn’t rely on it, though.
  3134. >He would know that, and would probably engage you indirectly
  3135. >You’d have to think of a way to corner him.
  3136. >But without the possibility of threatening his master...
  3137. >...Maybe you could convince Trixie to just give up?
  3138. >It’d be a dirty tactic to use against someone you respected, and a selfish thing to ask of her.
  3139. >But if she didn’t have any stakes in this war, she might just do it.
  3140. >You’d be patient, however.
  3141. >There was no sense in rushing this when you didn’t really know how Trixie would react.
  3142. >You’d see how she acclimated to the idea of being in the war first.
  3143. >”Anonymous.”
  3144. >Your musings had distracted you, and before you knew it Saber’s voice was breaking your concentration.
  3145. >She stood in the hallway next to an open door you could only assume was the dining hall.
  3146. >Her expression was neutral and her arms were crossed.
  3147. >”I can see Caster kept his word. Do you need sleep? Unconsciousness does not make for good rest.”
  3148. >Her tone was a rigid as her posture, which threw you off a bit.
  3149. >She was normally much more relaxed.
  3150. “No, I’m fine for now. Caster didn’t just heal me, he completely got rid of my exhaustion.”
  3151. >”Perfect. That will make this next part easier.”
  3152. >...Wait, what next part?
  3153. >Before you get a chance to ask, Saber grabbed two fistfuls of your new shirt and turned you to the wall, slamming against it.
  3154. >Even though you knew she was holding back, the impact took your breath as she pinned you.
  3155. >”What were you thinking?! Following those masters into that building-”
  3156. “I wasn’t expecting a trap, much less by two other masters!”
  3157. >”Do not give me that pitiful excuse, Anonymous! You KNEW the chances of more than one master spying on us!”
  3158. >Her grip intensifies on you as she pushes you up the wall, your feet leaving the ground.
  3159. >”And still you gave chase! You had said you would stick to the roof and stay out of sight!”
  3160. >The pain radiating through your body did nothing to help your mood.
  3161. >You wanted to fight back, to be defiant against your servant...
  3162. >But she was right.
  3163. >You should have thought of the possibility that the master on the roof was drawing you into a trap.
  3164. >Instead, you let reasoning that it might not even be a master, that it might have been a civilian carry you to that office.
  3165. >...No, even that was an in-the-moment excuse.
  3166. >You were hoping it was another master.
  3167. >You were hoping to fight.
  3168. >The one thing you truly hadn’t accounted for was a servant who could prevent you from using your seals.
  3169. >”I know you are not a coward, and it is clear to see you are a mage of some talent in this day...”
  3170. >Saber’s yelling dropped a bit, closer to her normal tone now.
  3171. >Though you could still see her fierce resolve in her eyes.
  3172. >”But from today forward, how we engage the other masters changes. From now on, only I fight.”
  3173. >It was the safest option.
  3174. >Especially while Chrysalis was still around with her servant.
  3175. >But you didn’t like it.
  3176. “...I’ll agree. But only until Assassin has been dealt with.”
  3177. >Saber stopped for a moment before letting you down.
  3178. >However, even though she physically eased up on you her gaze grew more cross at your words.
  3179. >”What?”
  3180. “You are right. I made a poor judgement in pursuit of the master. However, Assassin’s ability to suppress magic was the true problem.”
  3181. >You lifted your arm and pulled back the sleeve to show the seal
  3182. >The edge of the symbol was now a dull black in contrast to the rest of it’s bright red.
  3183. “Even if it had been a trapped, I put too much faith in the ability to escape with this.”
  3184. “However, once Assassin is gone then as long as I have command seals there should be no prob-”
  3185. >As you spoke Saber had begun to step back from you with a level gaze before a flash of steel cut you off.
  3186. >In a split second, far faster than your eyes could track she had raised her sword next to your neck.
  3187. >”I am an enemy servant. In less than the blink of an eye my weapon could end your life.”
  3188. >You feel the blade dig in slightly to punctuate her point.
  3189. >”Command seals are fast, there is no doubt. They are given at the speed of thought and can move the heavens and earth to let us fulfill your command.”
  3190. >”But they are not as fast as my hand twitching. Assassin is not the problem, Anonymous. Servants are.”
  3191. >You didn’t breath, nerves tensed as her sword teased your most vital area.
  3192. >Finally, she dispersed the blade.
  3193. >You had seen how fast servants were when fighting each other.
  3194. >Briefly as Saber chased Archer and more thoroughly as she fought Lancer.
  3195. >But you had just come to realize that was always in comparison to another servant.
  3196. >You could tell it was fast, but seeing someone be able to react to it kept it out of perspective.
  3197. >You had thought that Assassin’s web had made you feel helpless, but Saber had made her point.
  3198. >You were helpless against all the servants.
  3199. >If that was the case, there was no other choice then.
  3200. >You had gotten lucky to be allowed to fight Blueblood one on one, no other master would give you that chance.
  3201. >The only exception you felt might be Sombra.
  3202. >It could be possible to goad him into fighting you.
  3203. >But you wouldn’t tell Saber that for now.
  3204. >After all, it was still a bit of a longshot.
  3205. >Sombra might lean towards the safety of his servant instead of settling things with you.
  3206. >It would be the better choice if he was truly aiming for The Grail, after all.
  3207. “Okay Saber, you win. You handle the fighting from now on. I’ll support as best as I can.”
  3208. >You raise your hands in defeat and begin to move away from the wall, but Saber pins you back against it.
  3209. >This time with just a single arm over your shoulder.
  3210. >”You see, you say that...But I still see a bit of fight in your eyes.”
  3211. >Her eyes were still angry, but her mouth was twisting into a playful grin.
  3212. >...Shit, why did you have to think about Sombra?!
  3213. “It’s, it’s nothing Saber...I won’t go picking fights with other masters...”
  3214. >”That’s not what I was telling you, Anon! You can’t just not look for trouble, you need to avoid trouble!”
  3215. >Now you just felt like a child being scolded by his mother.
  3216. >”What a hopeless master I’ve been stuck with. Your servant just cares about your well-being, and you already are scheming behind my back?”
  3217. “...I wasn’t scheming...”
  3218. >A bit of the anger in Saber’s eyes died down as the atmosphere lightened.
  3219. >However, now she was just...staring at you.
  3220. >Neither of you had moved either, so it was getting a bit awkward.
  3221. >Finally you noticed the slightest shift in her gaze.
  3222. >It was...uncertainty?
  3223. “...Saber, what’s wrong?”
  3224. >”...I don’t think I can trust you. If in the moment you decide it would be best to fight the enemy master, I still think you would attack them.”
  3225. “What would you have me do? Unlike you, I can’t stake a command seal on it...All I have is my word.”
  3226. >She drew her arm back and crossed them again, tapping a finger nervously.
  3227. >”...No, there is one other option...I’m simply loathe to use it. I don’t want to encourage your reckless gamble last night...”
  3228. “Saber, the war is starting to reach its pitch. Six masters still live and two alliances have been formed.”
  3229. “I need to know if you have something that could help us.”
  3230. >”...Know this now, Anonymous. Had we not this safe haven I would not even consider this...”
  3231. >She put her left hand forward, summoning the second sword you had seen last night.
  3232. >Up close, you realized it was even more beautiful than her other longsword.
  3233. >The thrusting sword before looked like it would be more at home in a display case than in the hands of a deadly warrior.
  3234. >It’s golden hilt and crossguard were particularly dazzling, it almost felt like the blade was calling out to you.
  3235. >Even moreso when Saber took it by the blade and offered it to you.
  3236. >Today was just turn after turn, wasn’t it?
  3237. “You’re...giving me your sword?”
  3238. >”Just as this blade was a gift unto me, so to can I gift the blade unto my master.”
  3239. >”Doing so will weaken my natural magic resistance, but it will impart it to you, as well as connect you to my strength.”
  3240. >This sword would give you some of Saber’s magic resistance?
  3241. >That would make enemy magus a complete non-issue.
  3242. >It would either completely cancel out spells that reached you or at the very least weaken them.
  3243. >However, that other part was a bit more interesting right now.
  3244. “It will connect me to your strength? What do you mean?”
  3245. >”Just as I said, while you hold the blade you will find that your speed, strength and reflexes will grow.”
  3246. >Your head began to think of the possibilities.
  3247. “Wait, does that mean I would match your strength?”
  3248. >”Absolutely not, and don’t even THINK about trying to fight other servants with this sword!”
  3249. >As you spoke you had began to reach out to take the blade, but Saber’s words stopped you.
  3250. >”Judging from your performance thus far, the sword will raise your ability somewhere past what you would consider peak human condition.”
  3251. >”Any servant inclined towards combat could still tear you to pieces. The sword would merely buy you more time.”
  3252. >”However, if you are insistent in staying on the front lines of the war, the only way I would allow it is if you take this sword.”
  3253. >There was a lot to consider here.
  3254. >The most pressing of which was that taking the sword would weaken Saber’s magic resistance.
  3255. >If you did that, it would decrease the chance of her being able to take on Caster when the time comes.
  3256. >Though, it would also reduce the chance of Caster killing you somehow behind her back.
  3257. >Also, it would be next to useless against the other servants.
  3258. >Part of you wondered about the validity of that but after Saber’s display of dominance you weren’t going to question her judgement.
  3259. >However, it might buy you the time you need to summon Saber to your side in the situation she had presented to you before.
  3260. >Ultimately, that last part was the deciding factor.
  3261. >Being able to buy time against servants would be worth it enough, you might even be able to help her should she have to fight multiple.
  3262. >With no more hesitation, you reached out your hand and took the sword.
  3263. >You had expected some sort of fanfare of sensations.
  3264. >The feeling of newfound strength surging through your body.
  3265. >Instead, you feel...pretty normal at first.
  3266. >It wasn’t until you took a few crude practice swings with it that you noticed any difference.
  3267. >The blade moved swiftly, but not as much as you expected.
  3268. >Saber’s nervous look had disappeared as she studied your movements, nodding her head.
  3269. >”Looks like Colada takes to you well.”
  3270. >You frowned.
  3271. “Really? I don’t feel much different...”
  3272. >”Quick, defend yourself!”
  3273. >As she spoke, Saber resummoned her own longsword and swung it at your side.
  3274. >This attack was much slower than the previous one for your throat, but you still struggle to position your own blade in time.
  3275. >The two swords clash lightly into each other, ringing melodically in the air.
  3276. >You could tell Saber hadn’t put as much force behind that one.
  3277. >”Good, it seems your timing has improved dramatically as well.”
  3278. “I guess, though we won’t really know until we take off the training wheels.”
  3279. >Saber’s smile widened.
  3280. >”I held back, but mostly in strength. In speed, I completely matched the strike from before.”
  3281. >That didn’t add up.
  3282. >Before all you saw was a flash, this time you clearly saw the blade travel the whole-
  3283. >Oh.
  3284. >So that’s what she meant by taking to you well.
  3285. >Here you had been expecting to feel stronger and faster.
  3286. >Instead you just...were.
  3287. >You body was moving as if it had always had these traits.
  3288. “I see...interesting.”
  3289. >”Figured it out for yourself? Good, because now we’re going to deal with Colada’s OTHER weakness.”
  3290. “A weakness you hadn’t mentioned? What’s that?”
  3291. >Saber planted her hands on her hips as she explained.
  3292. >”She may give you strength and speed, but she can’t give you skill. Your block from earlier gets points for accuracy, but I could have easily gotten past it.”
  3293. >”Even against an opponent as rigid as that Lancer, having no finesse will set you classes below opponents of similar strength.”
  3294. >”Which is why us having a safe haven was so important for this.”
  3295. >Saber gestured for you to follow her as she spoke.
  3296. >”As of now, we have no impressing engagements until tomorrow morning. Miss Trixie is asleep, and Caster needs to rest as well.”
  3297. “I had already thought of that. I had figured that for tonight we could rest for once, come up with some strategies for Som-”
  3298. >”That is all well and good...However, your resting will be saved for tonight.”
  3299. >Saber cut you off as you walked into a much larger hall.
  3300. >A quick gaze down it revealed to be an entrance hall
  3301. >The sunlight poured in past sandstone pillars revealing the large grassy area outside.
  3302. “What do you mean?”
  3303. >”It’s easy to read from your movements that you’re used to fighting, but not swordplay.”
  3304. >She raised her sword again to you.
  3305. >It gleamed wonderfully in the light.
  3306. >”Therefore, today we train. We train until you think you can train no more. Then we train a bit more.”
  3307. >Your natural sense for danger began to pick up.
  3308. >Training was honestly a good idea, and would make for an excellent use of your time.
  3309. >However, the smile Saber was now giving was a bit...off.
  3310. >And that terrified you to your core.
  3311. “S-saber...You aren’t still mad about the whole almost dying thing, right?”
  3312. >”Come on, Anonymous. We are moving past all that! That is what this training session is for, after all...”
  3313. >Her cheery tone did little to help your nerves as you noticed her gripping her sword tightly.
  3314. >”To make sure that you can protect yourself when the time comes! Now, I’m going to start by taking a few swings at you. Defend the best you can!”
  3315. “Wait, shouldn’t we be using practice swords?!”
  3316. >”Silly master, you don’t get your strength boost unless you are actually holding Colada! Which means I have to use my own sword!”
  3317. ”This seems highly dangerous. Look, Saber I’m sorr-”
  3318. >”Come now, master! Show some stones! I won’t hurt you!”
  3319. >Under her breath, she slips in an obvious “much...”
  3320. >You knew Saber wouldn’t kill you, but as it stood you’d currently rather be back in Assassin’s web then face down your behemoth of a servant.
  3322. >Ugh.
  3323. >In spite of being worried about Anon, you had completely passed out once Caster showed you a bed.
  3324. >You don’t know how much time had passed, but once you had finally woken up you found you couldn’t get back to sleep.
  3325. >You still felt tired
  3326. >Never were much of a morning person
  3327. >Was it even morning?
  3328. >There still seemed to be light outside, at least.
  3329. >You dragged a hand through your messy hair as last night’s events replayed in your mind.
  3330. >Anonymous’ bloody and weak form, clinging to his servant was something you doubted you would ever forget.
  3331. >Then, his servant’s talk with you and just what you had become a part of.
  3332. >A war between seven mages, fighting over a wish.
  3333. >Servants were meant to be the “weapons” they fought with.
  3334. >It was already too much to take in at that point, but she continued on.
  3335. >A lot of details flew by you until she started talking about Anon again.
  3336. >How he had put himself in danger by going out with you last night.
  3337. >How if he was any other magus he probably would have killed you when you showed him your “command seal”.
  3338. >However, the knowledge you were a mage had been what brought Saber to you for help.
  3339. >Apparently, Anonymous didn’t have many friends among mages.
  3340. >As far as you knew, he didn’t have many friends in general.
  3341. >You didn’t see why not. Anonymous can be a great person when he wants to be.
  3342. >Even if he does enjoy teasing you a bit too much.
  3343. >You were still unsure as to how you really fit into all of this.
  3344. >In the time in which it took Anonymous to wake you then managed to find that book your grandfather had referenced.
  3345. >You brought it hoping it would help, but you doubted it.
  3346. >You had lost complete control of where your life was going the moment you had summoned Caster.
  3347. >However, you were happy to have played some part in saving his life.
  3348. >Caster.
  3349. >On one hand, you were thankful that he had the ability to help Anonymous.
  3350. >On the complete other hand, he had planned on keeping all of this from you.
  3351. >You weren’t sure how to feel about that.
  3352. >Sure, you probably would have been safe here.
  3353. >But you deserved to know if your life was in danger.
  3354. >Especially since HE LEFT YOU ALONE THE WHOLE DAY
  3355. >What if someone other than Anon had figured out you were a master?
  3356. >Not like you were keeping it much of a secret, you didn’t even know you needed to hide the mark.
  3357. >You thought you could just pass it off as a tattoo in public.
  3358. >Not at school though, of course.
  3359. >You’ve had more than enough trips to Celestia office, you didn’t want to explain that one.
  3360. >All in all, you were still thankful for his help.
  3361. >And the beds here were amazing.
  3362. >So you felt like it was in you to forgive him for the time being.
  3363. >After all, you were still alive.
  3364. >And as of right now, your only concern was getting through this whole ordeal.
  3365. >Along with Anonymous, of course.
  3366. >Speaking of Anonymous, you should probably get up and check on him.
  3367. >...but these sheets are sooooo soft
  3368. >No Trixe, you are stronger than this!
  3369. >You drag yourself from the bed’s heavenly embrace and begin to put your clothes back on.
  3370. >You had slowly wrangled yourself out of them earlier after you woke up from initially passing out.
  3371. >As you zipped up your favorite jacket, a sound you hadn’t heard before caught your attention.
  3372. >A distant ringing somewhere in the halls.
  3373. >The sound of steel on steel.
  3374. >There was fighting in the temple?!
  3375. >Now much more awake, you rushed out of the room to see what was going on.
  3376. >If enemy servants were already here, was Anonymous ready to be moved?
  3377. >A short moment later and you realize you were worried about nothing.
  3378. >Saber and Anonymous had yet to notice you as they traded blows.
  3379. >She was out of the armor you had seen her in earlier, now wearing much more casual clothing.
  3380. >Blue jeans and a t-shirt that looked kind of familiar.
  3381. >Anon had new clothes on, though he seemed to have ditched his shirt at some point.
  3382. >Saber was dancing around Anon, it was clear who was the teacher here.
  3383. >However, Anonymous was moving with speed and force you hadn’t expected from him.
  3384. >He never really seemed the sporty type.
  3385. >Maybe he just hid it well?
  3386. >Anon, in spite of being able to block all of Saber’s attack, seemed on the verge of panic.
  3387. >Like his life was actually on the line.
  3388. >Meanwhile, Saber was smiling and laughing.
  3389. >Playfully complimenting him when he made a particularly good block.
  3390. >It brought a smile to your face, though you did wonder at the exact nature of their relationship.
  3391. >They obviously got along really well, that much was clear.
  3392. >The two of them were completely focused on each other as they fought
  3393. >Though for Anon it could be out of fear
  3394. >Why were they fighting with real swords, anyways?
  3395. >Due to the danger involved, you didn’t want to disturb the two of them.
  3396. >You tried to sneak back to the hall to look for Caster
  3397. >However, a certain stray garment you hadn’t noticed on the ground as you had entered had other plans.
  3398. >As you backed away it caught on your foot, sending you tumbling down.
  3399. >Your precious bottom landed squarely on the hard stone floor.
  3400. “Owww...”
  3401. >You make a whimpering noise unbefitting your great and powerful nature.
  3402. >”Trixie? So you’re final-ACK SABER STOP!”
  3403. >Anonymous turned to acknowledge you, just barely turning back in time to block another swing from Saber.
  3404. >”Distractions in combat happens, Anonymous. You must steel yourself against it and learn not to take your eyes off your opponent.”
  3405. >”Whatever, can we take a break?”
  3406. >”That is fine with me. Thank you, Miss Trixie, for providing a supplementary lesson.”
  3407. >Saber nodded to you with a smile before walking outside of the entrance hall to the outdoors.
  3408. >Well, at least your trip was good for something you guessed.
  3409. >Anon walked over to you and held out his right arm.
  3410. >”Need a hand there, Trixie?”
  3411. >As he spoke, the sun came into the chamber as just the right angle to give him and his sweaty body a heavenly glow.
  3412. >No atmosphere, you stop that.
  3413. >You’ve already got plenty to worry about today, can’t be getting hot and bothered on top of it all.
  3414. >You accept the assistance and he pulls you up, though it still stung a bit.
  3415. >He then knelt down to retrieve his shirt, though it had accrued a fair amount of dirt from the ground.
  3416. “Trixie apologizes for interrupting, she merely wished to check on you.”
  3417. >”Nah, I should be the one thanking you. She only used the flat of her sword when she hit but some of these are going to leave a mark.”
  3418. >On closer inspection he was correct
  3419. >Several square discolored marks decorated his chest
  3420. “You’re lucky neither of you were hurt! I would think the two of you wouldn’t practice with real blades.”
  3421. >”We sorta had to, though I think it was mostly so Saber could punish me for last night.”
  3422. >A moment of uncomfortable silence followed as he put his shirt back on.
  3423. >”...So, uh...We kind of need to talk.”
  3424. >You really did.
  3425. >But now that the time was here, you were feeling apprehensive.
  3426. >”...It’s really important that we try to clear this up as soon as possible.”
  3427. >Anonymous had kept his magic a secret, he was a far better actor than you thought.
  3428. >It made you wonder just how much you really knew about him.
  3429. >Was the Anonymous you knew a complete lie?
  3430. >The thought was horrifying...but...
  3431. >You knew you couldn’t run from it forever.
  3432. >Still, even though your mind was made up, you couldn’t find your voice.
  3433. >”...You see, I’ve heard some troubling things...”
  3434. >What, more bad news?
  3435. >You weren’t sure your heart could take much more...
  3436. >” And I just wanted to go over them with you...”
  3437. >Okay, deep breaths Trixie. You could take this.
  3438. >Like ripping off a band-aid, you just gotta do it.
  3439. “...Trixie understands. Where...where would you like to start?”
  3440. >Anonymous tapped a finger to his chin with a serious look on his face.
  3441. >”Where would I like to start, huh? Well, I’ll start with the most pressing question I have...”
  3442. >He moved over to you, looking you over once before...
  3443. >...Smirking?
  3444. >”Did you really use to go to school with your cape and wizard hat? Were they the same ones you use for your shows?”
  3445. >It takes a moment for what he said to sink in before your face flushes with heat.
  3447. >”So it’s true?! That’s amazing! Honestly, it was probably great for hiding your magic too!”
  3448. >”After all, who would expect the person dressed like a wizard was a magician!”
  3449. >Anon’s laughter fills the room as your expression sours.
  3450. >You were an absolute idiot to get so worked up.
  3451. >However, even as a weight lifted from your heart it felt like you were going to die of embarrassment.
  3452. “Trixie is very passionate about her passions! Who even told you about that? I swore Starlight to secrecy!”
  3453. >”You know that still leaves most of the school as witnesses, right? Anyways if you want a name, it was Rainbow Dash.”
  3454. >Oh, she was going to pay DEARLY for this humiliation.
  3455. >Anonymous smiled as he continued laughing at your scowl.
  3456. >A moment later, however, you found yourself joining him as your relief finally overpowered your shame.
  3457. >”But seriously, how are you holding up? The Holy Grail War...It’s a lot to drop on a person.”
  3458. >The two of you had moved to the dining hall as the laughter died down, and were currently sitting next to each other at the table.
  3459. >”I mean, I had several years to study, practice and prepare for it all and I still feel like I’m in over my head.”
  3460. >He had been training for a competition involving killing others for years?!
  3461. “I’m...okay, considering. There’s just so much to think about, it’s hard to pick out where to begin.”
  3462. >Anon nods, crossing his arms.
  3463. >”I can understand that...Still, it’ll probably be for the best if you ask the questions. I’ll answer as best as I can.”
  3464. “Well...there was something I was just thinking about when you mentioned you preparing for the war...”
  3465. >You second guess asking for a moment, maybe it would be better to start less personally...
  3466. >But you continue on.
  3467. “You joined the war of your own free will, right? Why?”
  3468. >Anonymous had been tapping his finger against the table, but he stopped at your question.
  3469. >”...Heh, starting with the hard balls huh? Well, there’s actually two reason I can give, though one is far stronger than the other.”
  3470. >He leaned back in his chair, lifting the front legs off the ground.
  3471. >”You probably wouldn’t know, living away from The Mage’s Association...”
  3472. “What even is that? Saber mentioned it...”
  3473. >”Essentially the biggest worldwide organization of mages there is. Don’t feel sad you didn’t know about us, though.”
  3474. >”Quick little disclaimer; Most Association mages are awful people. You’re much better off if you never get involved with them.”
  3475. >You just nod your head as Anon continued.
  3476. >”Anyways, that ties in a bit to my reasons for being here. After I found out what was at stake, the thought of a typical Association mage getting that much power...”
  3477. >”I just couldn’t allow it, not while I could do something. I had already started to drift from The Association, it wasn’t difficult for me to leave.”
  3478. >That made sense, in a way.
  3479. >The idea of being granted a wish...
  3480. >There was a ton of things you wouldn’t mind getting, but not enough to risk your life for it.
  3481. >But if someone with evil intentions got the same wish, it wasn’t going to be for an everlasting ice cream cone.
  3482. >This was getting into possible evil overlord over the earth territory.
  3483. >Scary times were going to lay ahead, you could tell.
  3484. “How do you even prepare for something like this?”
  3485. >”Research and training, mostly. Though things on the research end didn’t go very well...”
  3486. “What do you mean?”
  3487. >”Well, all mages can have general access to basic knowledge about the war. A loose history, common protocols, rules set by The Church...”
  3488. >Mages were religious?
  3489. >You wanted to stop and ask, but he continued on.
  3490. >”Advanced knowledge is stuff like the summoning, classes of servants, their general abilities. However, there was one thing...”
  3491. >”No matter how much I dug around, I couldn’t find any detailed accounts of previous wars. Looks like most of them were sanctioned by the church.”
  3492. >...Oh.
  3493. >Oh HO HO.
  3494. >Anon shook his head sadly before looking over to you.
  3495. >Your triumphant feeling must have spread to your face, because he looked very confused.
  3496. >”...Um, why are you smiling like that? It’s kinda weirding me out...”
  3497. “Wait right here, Anon!”
  3498. >You didn’t know if there were any taboos about running in the halls of a temple, but who cares?!
  3499. >Anon was going to FLIP when you showed him the book you found in grandfather’s study.
  3500. >You hadn’t read it yet, but the title said it all.
  3501. >”The Sister’s Account of The Fourth Holy Grail War”!
  3502. >You threw open the doors to your room and grabbed the leather bound book from the table you had set it on.
  3503. >hehehehehehehe this is great!
  3504. >You practically skip back to the room with the journal in hand, earning a strange look from a wandering Caster.
  3505. >You paid him no mind, however.
  3506. >You quickly returned to the dining hall where you found Anon sitting, still looking confused.
  3507. >He took one look at what you were clasping to your chest, though, and it turned to disbelief.
  3508. >”You’re joking. There’s no way.”
  3509. “I think you’ll find there is.”
  3510. >You say in a sing song voice before retaking your seat next to him and setting the book on the table.
  3511. >He takes one look at the title before smiling.
  3512. >”Well, I’ll be damned. Mind if I take a look?”
  3513. >You gesture “go ahead” to him and he open the book carefully.
  3514. >The way he handles the book reminds you a bit of Twilight Sparkle, he’s careful to hold it in a way to preserve the book as well as he can.
  3515. >You give him a moment to read the first few pages and watch his face the whole time.
  3516. >His smile on his face grows as he reads from line to line.
  3517. >His expression only falters for a brief moment before he closes the book and turns back to you.
  3518. >”Well, it’s probably legit. The detail it goes into the preparation and what was likely to happen after they started is pretty convincing.”
  3519. >He taps his fingers in excitement.
  3520. >”These sisters seem pretty interesting too. They have a unique sorcery trait that allowed both of them to share the magic circuits their parents passed down.”
  3521. >”This allowed both of them to be the master of one servant...How would that even work? I don’t doubt it, though, since magically they would basically be the same person...”
  3522. >You continue nodding as he talks, going over the dozens of interesting things he read on the first few pages alone.
  3523. >However, that brief flip in expression was starting to take focus in your mind.
  3524. >It wasn’t for long, but for a brief moment as Anon was reading about the sisters he had looked...
  3525. >Sad.
  3527. >Time began to fly by as the two of you talked more about The War.
  3528. >It was difficult putting the book Trixie had brought you down, it was one of the missing pieces of your prep work before your very eyes.
  3529. >This left you with all sorts of questions as to who Trixie’s grandfather really was.
  3530. >He had access to the summoning ritual and a journal mages would kill to get their hands on.
  3531. >Whoever he was, he was no average mage.
  3532. >As the sun began to crawl beyond the horizon, the torches in the room lit to life.
  3533. >Judging from the gentle light in the hallway, the entire temple was capable of lighting itself.
  3534. >It wasn’t an impressive display of power, but that level of accuracy and autonomy was still impressive.
  3535. >If you would guess, even if Caster was weakened it was possible his temple was self-sufficient.
  3536. >”So wait, that janitor from our school is a part of that Holy Church thingy?”
  3537. “Yup, that’s Discord. He’s back to working as a priest at the local church, though.”
  3538. >”...Why was a priest-”
  3539. “I’m going to stop you right there and say it’s better not to question him. We should move onto to less stressful topics.”
  3540. >Trixie gave a small pout at you interrupting her but you just laugh it off.
  3541. “Seriously though, do you have any other questions? We’ve been through most of it tonight, I think...”
  3542. >You did your best to give her a decent run down of the different classes as best you could.
  3543. >What they were good at, what they generally came with, how they would fight.
  3544. >Explaining how command seals really worked and what you should and shouldn’t do with them was probably the longest part.
  3545. >It was a pretty simple concept; Keep your orders clear, concise and immediate.
  3546. >If a command was vague or designed to have a long lasting effect, the magic wouldn’t be as strong.
  3547. >Same with orders meant to control the servant.
  3548. >Trying to order complete obedience would almost certainly fail.
  3549. >However, you could order them to do anything within their power within a small time frame, even if they wouldn’t do so normally.
  3550. >You could even order them to kill themselves.
  3551. >It was a dreary thought.
  3552. >But a necessary one.
  3553. >After all, that threat of a command seal was what compelled most servants to be obedient.
  3554. >”I-...Trixie does not have any more pressing questions. Honestly, she’s worried if she’ll be able to remember all of this.”
  3555. >And there was the third person making a comeback.
  3556. >Earlier she had almost dropped it completely
  3557. >Guess you flustered her pretty good earlier.
  3558. >Still, you felt like it was important to get her comfortable.
  3559. >She had looked terrified earlier, and honestly you needed a good laugh too.
  3560. >After almost dying and all that.
  3561. “I get it. If anything else comes up as we go though, don’t be afraid to ask.”
  3562. >”...Umm, Trixie actually just thought of something else she would like to talk to you about...”
  3563. >Uh oh, she seemed kind of nervous again.
  3564. “Yeah? Like I said, you can ask me anything.”
  3565. >Trixie linked her fingers together before taking a deep breath.
  3566. >”Well, it has to do with-”
  3567. >”Master, where have you run off to?”
  3568. >Saber’s voice from the hallway caused Trixie to jump before she shook her head.
  3569. >”N-nevermind! Trixie has decided it can wait until later!”
  3570. >Huh.
  3571. >Guess whatever it was, she didn’t want to discuss it in front of Saber.
  3572. >Sure enough, Trixie’s eyes started wandering around the room as she walked in.
  3573. >”Ah, there you are Anonymous. Miss Trixie. Am I interrupting something?”
  3574. >”NO, nothing at all Saber! Please, join us!”
  3575. >Dang, Trixie was all flustered and you didn’t even have to do a thing!
  3576. >You felt an irrepressible smirk begin to grow on your face as you put two and two together.
  3577. >Because of how last night went, you never did get a chance to think about how you really felt about Trixie.
  3578. >But seeing her like this gave you this sense of sadistic glee.
  3579. >You could get used to that.
  3580. >”Well, if you insist then I shall. Besides, I had something to give to Anonymous.”
  3581. >You quirked an eyebrow before Saber presented you with a sheath.
  3582. >”Unlike myself, you cannot materialize your new sword at will. As such, please keep it in this. I would hate to discover you hurt yourself.”
  3583. >You weren’t going to argue with that.
  3584. >During your little practice/torture session you had gotten a good feeling of just how damn sharp the sword you set to your side was.
  3585. >You carefully lifted the blade and slid it into the sheath before taking it from Saber.
  3586. >If you had thought your new weapon was beautiful, then it’s case was twice as resplendent.
  3587. >Practically every inch of it had some sort of jewel in a spiralling pattern that caught the dull light from the torch in ripples.
  3588. >It was mesmerizing...but at the same time, a little gaudy.
  3589. >You preferred how the blade looked, honestly.
  3590. >This reminded you too much of that damned clock.
  3591. >Saber must have caught onto your disappointment because she laughed.
  3592. >”You as well, huh? I tried telling the man who gave it to me it was a bit much, but he respectfully disagreed with me.”
  3593. >You share a smile with your servant before setting the blade down again.
  3594. >“Ah, so this is where you all are.”
  3595. >Caster smiled warmly as he entered the dining hall, earning a wary glance from Saber.
  3596. >You had informed her of Caster’s identity during your bout.
  3597. >After she had gotten most of her aggression out, that is.
  3598. >She showed concern, but the two of you had yet to talk about how you were going to deal with him.
  3599. >She had made a passing mention at not being worried about his magic, however.
  3600. >At the very least, Saber seemed confident.
  3601. >”Saber. Anonymous. Trixie. Are you hungry? The temple provides nourishment to all who seek it’s protection. You just need to will it.”
  3602. >Really?
  3603. >You looked down at one of the empty plates that lay on the table before thinking of the curry you had eaten the night before.
  3604. >At first nothing happened, but as soon as you blinked an eye the meal exactly as you pictured it appeared.
  3605. >Trixie gave a light gasp while you just smiled.
  3606. >What a swiss army knife of a temple.
  3607. “A neat trick. Mind divulging a bit of it’s secret?”
  3608. >”I’m afraid magecraft will have trouble imitating it. It relies heavily on conceptual magic.”
  3609. >Whoa, he was way more straightforward than you had expected.
  3610. >Then again, not like he had much to hide. Conceptual magic was something a modern magus would sacrifice millions of lives to obtain.
  3611. >It was a powerful form of magic, almost bordering on being a miracle.
  3612. >...If you had to take a guess...
  3613. “...Would the concept in question be ‘providing’?”
  3614. >Caster smiled gleefully.
  3615. >”Indeed! It is heartening to hear that even if magus can not use such magic, it’s theory remains to this day.”
  3616. >You scoff.
  3617. “Of course they care. They all want to be able to use it.”
  3618. >Caster gave you a confused look before you sighed.
  3619. “We...THEY don’t study it out of academic interest. They want power. They want to be the first magus to bring it back.”
  3620. >”...So, they commit themselves to an impossible task in a bid for strength. A much sadder state of affairs than I expected.”
  3621. >He sounded almost sympathetic, but it was only for a moment before he returned to smiling at you.
  3622. >”How did you come to your conclusion, if I may ask?”
  3623. “It was a bit of a leap, actually. Only had two things and your words to base it on. When it was getting dark outside, the torches lit up.”
  3624. “The temple itself sensed that light was needed and provided it. Same with the food...In fact...”
  3625. >Caster was hanging on every word, and while Saber and Trixie had created their own food they were listening intently as well.
  3626. “I wouldn’t be surprised if the entire temple itself was built on the concept of providing for those inside of it.”
  3627. >Caster leaned back in his chair, lifting the legs off of the ground.
  3628. >”Right on almost all accounts.”
  3629. >Saber looked genuinely impressed, but you frowned.
  3630. “Almost? What am I missing?”
  3631. >”As a concept, ‘Provide’ wouldn’t really allow for you to materialize any food at will. Had to sprinkle just a bit of ‘Want’ to get that to work.”
  3632. >That...made a bit of sense, but you had never read anything about mixing concepts.
  3633. >Some more details are probably in order.
  3634. >Conceptual magic was simple in explanation, yet mind-boggling deep in practice/theory.
  3635. >Essentially make something or someone tied to a simple concept to give it magical powers.
  3636. >It would take the magical energy from within the original caster or the item itself to fulfill that concept.
  3637. >The concept, in everything you had studied, was always a single word.
  3638. >Thus Caster’s mention of using two was a bit confusing.
  3639. “You can use two concept for one purpose? But....”
  3640. >...No, wait...
  3641. >It should be impossible to apply two concepts to the same thing.
  3642. >But maybe they didn’t have to be the same thing for them to mix.
  3643. >It would probably be difficult to balance, if they were of equal strength they would just fight for dominance...
  3644. >...You were just about to go into your own world again before you noticed Caster smiling at you again.
  3645. >”Judging from your expression, you seem to have an inkling as to how it works. As for the question that’s currently on your mind-”
  3646. >How did he manage to get the balance right?
  3647. >”-Very carefully. Took me years to get it correct.”
  3648. >On one hand, it was kind of exhilarating talking magic theory with FUCKING SOLOMON
  3649. >But you were starting to get uncomfortable with how well he was reading you.
  3650. >Trixie had begun to pick at her meal, barely paying attention to the two of you.
  3651. >You weren’t entirely sure the level of her magical education, but she was acting like you two spoke a different language.
  3652. >Saber was still watching you two however, frowning at Caster.
  3653. >”Saber, are you following any of this?!”
  3654. >Trixie mock whispered over to her.
  3655. >Saber nodded her head.
  3656. >”I am not the most versed in magic’s inner workings, but concepts are fairly central to a servant’s strengths as well.”
  3657. >”Really?”
  3658. “Yeah, but it’s simpler when it comes to servants.”
  3659. >Trixie quirked her head.
  3660. “The first person to do something or someone strongly tied to a concept is practically the embodiment of it.”
  3661. >”Indeed, The Grail gives quite a bit of power specifically for being the start of something. The first magician would probably make for the strongest Caster.”
  3662. “...Maybe. Magic is kind of a fickle thing, and no one today knows who the first magician was.”
  3663. >”That was true for the past as well. All the magicians of my era said that for as long as they knew there were always five magicians.”
  3664. >Well, chalk that up to a mystery even Caster couldn’t solve.
  3665. >”So, Anonymous...”
  3666. >Caster began to speak again, a mischievous glint in his eyes.
  3667. >”If you were to win The Holy Grail War, what would you wish from The Grail?”
  3668. “Would you believe me if I said I hadn’t really thought about it?”
  3669. >”I would believe you thought that at one point, but I’ve seen that shared conviction in both your and Saber’s eyes.”
  3670. >You sighed.
  3671. “Honestly? I’ve entertained some ideas. Mostly selfish ones, I’ll admit, but my first and foremost goal was always to keep it out of other’s hands.”
  3672. >”You know, in spite of our situation I would like to consider us friends. Humor me. Tell me one of your selfish desires.”
  3673. >The first thing that came to your mind was her.
  3674. >The one you had failed.
  3675. >The only person you had considered helping with The Grail.
  3676. >Your distress must have shown, as Trixie carefully crept her hand over your own before grabbing it.
  3677. >”You don’t have to say anything if you don’t want to, Anonymous.”
  3678. >You gave another look to Saber.
  3679. >She gave you a small nod, signalling you her support.
  3680. >...But you still didn’t feel like it was right to get into.
  3681. >At least not with Caster.
  3682. “I’m sorry, Caster. I respect you, and it was pretty fun to ‘talk shop’, but as it is I feel like with each passing moment you learn too much from me.
  3683. >You give Trixie’s hand a squeeze before separating, going back to eating your meal.
  3684. >”A shame, but I suppose I only have myself to blame. Forgive me, Anonymous. It is a hard thing, trying to keep these eyes from wandering.”
  3685. >...That sounded vaguely...
  3686. >No, you’re reading too much into it.
  3687. >Suddenly, an unexpected ringing goes off from your side.
  3688. >Trixie scrambled for her pocket, pulling out her phone before frowning.
  3689. >”Starlight is calling...Trixie forgot to tell her we would not be attending class today.”
  3690. >She didn’t tell Glimmer?
  3691. >That could actually be bad news.
  3692. “You should answer it, don’t want to keep her worried for too long.”
  3693. >Trixie nodded.
  3694. >Starlight could be a bit overprotective when it came to her friends.
  3695. >If she didn’t hear anything from Trixe and found her house empty there was no telling what trouble she would stir.
  3696. >You heard the beginning of their call start as Trixie walked out into the hall.
  3697. >She got service here?
  3698. >Oh, right. The temple “provides”
  3699. >...While Caster wasn’t looking, you should really look into what you could get away with in regards to that.
  3700. >An uncomfortable silence followed before Caster shortly excused himself, leaving you with Saber.
  3701. >..It occurred to you that the two of you never really discussed what either of you would do with your wish.
  3702. >Your partnership had started off so smoothly it just...never came up.
  3703. “Hey. Saber.”
  3704. >”Anonymous?”
  3705. “...You don’t have to answer me, but if you were summoned that means you want a wish, right?”
  3706. >”...That is correct.”
  3707. >From her tone, it was clear she didn’t want to talk about it yet.
  3708. >Far be it from you to push it when you didn’t want to share either.
  3709. >”Well, enjoy your meal master. I think I shall revert to spirit form for now to conserve energy...There really is not much else to do around the temple.”
  3710. >You give her a smile between spoonfuls of curry.
  3711. >You were kind of starting to regret just imagining the last thing you ate, your stomach was going to hate you for this.
  3712. >”Just so you know, I will be minding my own business...Should you and Miss Trixie needs some privacy.”
  3713. >Achgl
  3714. >She caught you mid swallow, causing you to choke.
  3715. “Jesus, Saber!”
  3716. >”Why are you yelling at me? I’m the one having my master stolen from me...”
  3717. >She gives you a fake pout as Trixie walks back into the room.
  3718. >Looking quite lost.
  3719. >”Uh, who’s stealing Anonymous?”
  3720. >There was a small moment of silence before Saber just started guffawing with laughter before dispersing.
  3721. >”...Trixie is so confused.”
  3722. “Try not to worry about her. God knows I don’t.”
  3723. >Trixie sighed before sitting back down.
  3724. >”Starlight was in a complete state of panic...She visited Trixie’s home and saw no one there.”
  3725. “What did you end up telling her?”
  3726. >”Well, she knew we didn’t just stay home sick so Trixie told her we had skipped school to be with you.”
  3727. >That...would probably work, actually.
  3728. >It was a bit scandalous, sure, but if it would keep Starlight out of this it was for the best.
  3729. “That’s a good cover. To add to it, maybe we should see her tomorrow? Saber and I need to go into town anyways, we could see her during the day.”
  3730. >”Sure, that sounds-! Wait, you need to go into town tomorrow? What for?”
  3731. “Eh, I finally caved and ended up agreeing to a...Pinkie party.”
  3732. >”Really? When you talked about that before, you seemed almost desperate not to go.”
  3733. “Well...I mean, a lot of that was me trying to keep some distance you know? I’ve known about The War the whole time I’ve been here.”
  3734. >”...Oh...You mean in case?”
  3735. >She put that together quick.
  3736. “Yeah. Not a happy thought, I know.”
  3737. “Still, recently I’ve been thinking I’ve been going about it the wrong way.”
  3738. >You finish your dinner as you talk, standing up and stretching for the first time in a while.
  3739. >How long had you been sitting down for?
  3740. >”Really?”
  3741. >You gesture for her to follow you as you walk through the halls back to the entrance.
  3742. >Some night air might do you some good.
  3743. “Yeah...See, it all started when Sunset Shimmer came up to me after school...”
  3744. >The two of you walk around the temple, admiring the night as you fill her in on the details of your past few days.
  3745. >Sunset and the girls approaching you after school.
  3746. >You shooting them down.
  3747. >Sunset coming over the next day, catching you off guard and convincing you through the allure of coffee.
  3748. >Your day at Sugarcube Corner before your dinner with Trixie.
  3749. >You even go a bit into your past at The Clock Tower, though you steer her questions away from Sombra in particular.
  3750. >”...So wait, if you were trying to remain distant, what about Trixie? And Starlight?”
  3751. “Well, I guess you’re a bit of a special case. Even Pinkie eventually stopped bugging me. You didn’t.”
  3752. >”You make Trixie sound like some sort of pest!”
  3753. “You said it, not me.”
  3754. >Trixie gives you a playful shove and a scowl, though her eyes are far more playful than she lets on.
  3755. >Suddenly words come to you.
  3756. >Words that you know will initiate trixieblush.exe
  3757. “And hey, you may be a pest...”
  3758. >You link an arm around hers, leaving her no escape route.
  3759. “But you’re MY pest.”
  3760. >Trixie stared at you in shock before turning her face away.
  3761. >”You.....dumb....stop it...”
  3762. >She was weakly trying to pull away from your arm and keep you from seeing her blush.
  3763. >Like you’d even let her.
  3764. >Eventually the two of you got tired of walking and talking, instead opting to sit next to the temple and look up at the sky.
  3765. >Trixie dropped her head onto your shoulder.
  3766. >”Thanks, Anon.”
  3767. >You didn’t know exactly where this would go, but for now it was too much fun to give up.
  3769. >You are Starlight Glimmer.
  3770. >And Trixie was probably lying to you.
  3771. >You currently stood in the center of her home, where you had been when she had answered your call.
  3772. >She told you she had spent the entire day with Anon.
  3773. >You didn’t really have a way to confirm or deny that, you didn’t really know where he lived.
  3774. >But her answer didn’t explain why there was a trail of blood leading from her door to the kitchen.
  3775. >So either Trixie was lying to you or something crazy happened at her place while she was at Anon’s.
  3776. >You were sincerely hoping for the later, but her call from last night was echoing in your head.
  3777. >She was so focused on her date with Anon that she let slip that little detail about magic.
  3778. >You weren’t sure how it escaped your notice, but it was entirely possible she may have gotten caught up in something awful.
  3779. >You sigh as you scroll through the contacts on your phone and select the entry “Literally Kill Me”
  3780. >If you had any other option right now you would take it.
  3781. >But he was your best chance at figuring out this mess quickly.
  3782. “...Discord. We need to talk.”
  3783. >You didn't get paid enough for this.
  3785. >”Honestly, I don’t know what that fool was expecting.”
  3786. >Chrysalis’ voice starts close to your ear as she leans closer to you.
  3787. >You withdraw closer to Sombra, causing her to give a fake pout.
  3788. >You wish she would just leave you alone for just a day.
  3789. >Ideally forever.
  3790. >”I have to agree. Tirek was a fool if he ever thought this little meeting would yield any results.”
  3791. >The three of you were walking the halls of The Clock Tower.
  3792. >Night had fallen as Brand Tirek’s conference had dragged on.
  3793. >You were all past curfew but considering most of the teachers had been present for tonight’s surprise there was little chance of someone enforcing it.
  3794. >They were too busy making sure Tirek left in peace.
  3795. >He had started to get...rather impassioned for his cause.
  3796. >Still, as much as you hated it you had to agree with the she-witch.
  3797. >Tirek had called a conference of all high ranking mages, as well as those with unique talents or potential.
  3798. >You had apparently made it in under the “potential” category.
  3799. >He had been cordial for the start of the meeting, striking an accord with the magus he already knew.
  3800. >While the others did everything they could to add to the air of politeness, it set you on edge.
  3801. >Something about this man rubbed you the wrong way.
  3802. >...Speaking of rubbing you the wrong way, you peel Chrysalis off of your arm for the fourth time since you had left.
  3803. >Tirek’s conference had one goal in mind.
  3804. >He had recently awoken to his own unique trait.
  3805. >The ability to absorb other mages’ magic circuits and add them to his own.
  3806. >You remember the absolute stillness in the room as your peers and teachers took that in.
  3807. >The thoughts of what they could do with that power.
  3808. >The fear of what Tirek would do with that power.
  3809. >The room erupted into protest, however, when Tirek called for volunteers to offer their circuits to him.
  3810. “Well, technically his viewpoint was correct. If he has a way to reach The Root, we should do everything we can to support it.”
  3811. >Sombra snorted at your sarcastic tone.
  3812. >”I didn’t see you stepping forward, Anonymous.”
  3813. “Because I think he’s full of it. If raw magical power was all that was needed to reach The Root we would have gotten there already.”
  3814. >Some of your teachers had shared your opinion.
  3815. >Tirek never gave them an answer that satisfied them or you.
  3816. >Instead he focused on their duty to the world to work together to reach The Root.
  3817. >The source of all magic.
  3818. >The source that true magicians drew their power from.
  3819. >It was said if someone could reach out and touch the route, they would become a god.
  3820. >Or at least, obtain god like power.
  3821. >While on paper The Mage’s Association existed to make sure magic’s decline went smoothly, in reality they wanted The Root.
  3822. >They wanted to make the world a place for magic to reign supreme again.
  3823. >And in order to do that, someone needed to reach The Root.
  3824. >It was the goal of almost every modern mage.
  3825. >You would probably just settle on living a happy life and taking care of your sister...
  3826. >But you couldn’t deny that The Root interested you as well.
  3827. >You were a mage, after all.
  3828. >Even if you didn’t see eye to eye on a lot of things your kind did.
  3829. >”I wonder...Brand Tirek didn’t describe how his ability worked. Do you think he can absorb other unique traits?”
  3830. >Chrysalis actually sounded slightly worried, but you just rolled your eyes.
  3831. “I think I don’t really care.”
  3832. >You turn your head away from her, but that turns out to be a mistake as she throws herself on you.
  3833. “CHRYS, LET GO.”
  3834. >”Oh Anon, won’t you protect me from the terrifying Brand?”
  3835. “Where is he? I’ll take you to him now.”
  3836. >”Sombra, Anon’s being mean to me again!”
  3837. >”Sorry, it’s not my place to get involved in lover’s quarrels.”
  3838. “Sombra, you damn traitor! Help me!”
  3839. >The bastard just starts whistling as he begins to walk further ahead.
  3840. >The two of you battle back and forth as you attempt to deflect her playful pinching and teasing to no avail.
  3841. >A few more moments of walking down the hall passed by before she relented, putting her hands behind her back.
  3842. >”Really though, do you think he’ll come back?”
  3843. >It was rare to see a moment of weakness from Chrys, so you guess you’d humor her this once.
  3844. “It’s not likely. Most of us would make easy targets for him, true, but he’s going to be watched constantly from this point out.”
  3845. >”Anon’s right. I wouldn’t be shocked if we learned he suffered an unfortunate accident.”
  3846. >You nodded.
  3847. >It didn’t matter how the rest of the night had went, the one thing every mage took with them in that room was Tirek’s ability.
  3848. >It was a major threat.
  3849. >If it could, it would have to go.
  3850. >Still, you doubt your teachers would find much success.
  3851. >Tirek had to have known this was a possibility, he wouldn’t have come here unprepared.
  3852. >”Well. Today has been...interesting.”
  3853. >You arrive in front of the male common room, which you quickly ducked into to avoid Chrys diving for you one last time.
  3854. “I’d say. Same time tomorrow?”
  3855. >Sombra laughed, but it sounded a bit hollow.
  3856. >He shook his head.
  3857. >”Sorry, Anon. I’m actually heading straight for the study from here. Dissertation and all that.”
  3858. >It wasn’t that big of a deal, but for some reason you felt your heart sink.
  3859. “Oh...Okay then. We got to find some time to actually hang out though.”
  3860. >”You got it, I’ll let you know the moment some time pops up in my schedule.”
  3861. >You felt your hands ball into a fist as the surroundings around the two of you started to melt away.
  3862. >Even as Sombra gave you a tired smile, it all started rushing back to you.
  3863. >You’d never get to see each other again, not really.
  3864. >Every time his schedule opened up for precious hours, your own schedule would get in the way.
  3865. >If only you could actually go back. You could have made the time.
  3866. >To hell with translating, it wasn’t like you would still be there even a year from now.
  3867. >Instead, you had grown distant.
  3868. >You close your eyes, trying to control your emotions before they get out of control.
  3869. >This isn’t real, you think to yourself.
  3870. >It’s just a dream.
  3871. >You open your eyes, hoping to be awake.
  3872. >Instead a familiar door sits before you in a black void.
  3873. >The last door you could remember opening at The Tower.
  3874. >You took a cleansing breath before reaching out to the handle.
  3875. >Your outfit had changed as your eyes had been closed, now the uniform of a student one year older.
  3876. >The handle was cool to the touch as you turned it, pushing the door open.
  3877. >You took a few tentative steps into the library, slowly moving to where you knew the dream was taking you.
  3878. >Dozens of books were stacked high on the table you approached, low mutterings barely heard over them.
  3879. >A hunched figure trailed a finger along the words, only breaking to take a moment to study a crystal from different angles as the moonlight touched it.
  3880. >His black hair was beyond disheveled, wildly covering his face as it was buried in the tome.
  3881. >It kills you to see him like this again.
  3882. >At least the last time you had actually met it looked like he was taking care of himself.
  3883. >The Sombra before you looked only a few moments before passing out from any number of reasons.
  3884. >You consider what you are about to say, but the words choose themselves for you.
  3885. ”Sombra.”
  3886. >His reading didn’t even slow down.
  3887. >”What do you want, Anonymous? Can’t you see I’m busy?”
  3888. >You sigh.
  3889. >He had been like this for months, especially after his first mock dissertation had received such high praise.
  3890. >However, he had failed to make a second mark this year.
  3891. “I know. I just wanted to tell you...I’m leaving.”
  3892. >Sombra peers into the crystal as you talk, giving you a glimpse of his reflection.
  3893. >Of those dead, tired, hollowed eyes.
  3894. >”Oh? When shall you return?”
  3895. >The robotic tone of his response sent another pain through your heart.
  3896. >He didn’t actually care. Not yet, at least. He was just going through the motions.
  3897. “Ideally? Never. I’m leaving for good, Sombra.”
  3898. >His hand stops moving the crystal as you finally have at least a small portion of his attention.
  3899. >”...Is that so? That’s a surprise.”
  3900. >You tear your eyes away from him as you begin to pace in front of his table.
  3901. “Is it really? This place is a nightmare, Sombra. I don’t think I can be a part of it anymore.”
  3902. >”Does this have anything to do with your sister? I had heard-”
  3903. >You come to a complete stop.
  3904. “Don’t you talk about her. She has nothing to do with this.”
  3905. >For the first time, he finally looks up but says nothing.
  3906. “Did you hear that a group of my classmates died recently? Torn apart by vampires. I’d feel sorry, but they were running experiments on them.”
  3907. “Experiments that our teachers ordered them to. That’s not even the worst of it. The things I’ve heard about them doing to normal humans...”
  3908. >”Thaumaturgy is a dangerous field of study. How can we be expected to master it without playing with fire from time to time?”
  3909. “There’s playing with fire, then there’s being ordered to jump into a damned inferno Sombra! Besides, what’s the end goal here?”
  3910. “Gain power and try to stomp out those with power who threaten you. I didn’t come here to destroy lives.”
  3911. >”Well, that is a shame. In spite of your protests, you’ve done well here.”
  3912. >A hint of jealousy and bile tinted his voice.
  3913. >You moved past it, planting your hands on his table.
  3914. “Sombra, come with me. We don’t have to stay here to learn. We can get out there, actually help people. Your crystals could be the start of something big our teachers haven’t even thought of!”
  3915. >Even as you talked, you knew your words had little sway on him.
  3916. >He simply sighed and closed the book before him
  3917. >”You’re a child, Anonymous. You aren’t a magician. What can one magus hope to accomplish by himself?”
  3918. >He stood up suddenly, losing a bit of his balance as he did so.
  3919. >You reached out an arm to stabilize him but he knocked it away.
  3920. >”You’ll be wasting your gift out there, Anonymous! A magus with your power belongs here.”
  3921. >His eyes narrowed, a wicked smile crossing his lips.
  3922. >”But you won’t listen. No, you need to see it for yourself. Go then, Anonymous. See the world you’re so determined to save.”
  3923. >He sat back down, obviously having not expected how weak he had become.
  3924. >Neglecting meals and sleep for study would do that to you.
  3925. >”And take your leave of me. When you return, we’ll speak more. I apologize about our lack of communication recently, but I’m on the cusp of another breakthrough.”
  3926. >And just like that, it was back to his research.
  3927. >Writing your leaving off as a phase.
  3928. >Your heart had lifted ever so slightly at his apology, but looking back on it you even wondered if he was genuine.
  3929. >You had lost Sombra a year before.
  3930. >There was no way you would just go back as if nothing happened.
  3931. “...So that’s it, huh?”
  3932. >No response.
  3933. >You give a dry chuckle.
  3934. “Goodbye, Sombra. Maybe I’ll see you on the outside.”
  3935. >You take some steps back to the door as the library’s foundation begins to tear away violently.
  3936. >You don’t even make it to the door before you begin to fall into the abyss, looking up at a stationary Sombra as you descend.
  3938. >Your eyes shoot open with a start.
  3939. >The sun gives you no reprieve as it beats down on you, causing you to lift your hand to your face in irritation.
  3940. >Why was it so bright here?
  3941. >And why couldn’t you lift your left arm?
  3942. >The answer to both became clear with the faint sound of slow, light breathing next to you.
  3943. >Seems like you and Trixie didn’t make it back into the temple last night.
  3944. >You stretch as well as you can considering the girl clinging to you tightly.
  3945. >Judging from your sleeping position against the side of the temple, you were going to have a hell of a kink in your back when you stood up.
  3946. >Honestly though, you still felt fairly rested considering.
  3947. >Though your eyes felt a bit weird-
  3948. >Oh.
  3949. >One quick rub of your eyes reveals the problem in the form of unexpected moisture.
  3950. >Shit, you were crying.
  3951. >These little trips down memory lane were really starting to mess with you.
  3952. >You had done such a good job at repressing those thoughts, too.
  3953. >A light stir on your chest prompts you to wipe away the tears as quickly as you could manage.
  3954. >You didn’t have much experience with this stuff, but it probably wasn’t ideal to wake up to your cuddling partner crying.
  3955. >A few more quiet moments pass in the serene clearing before Trixie straightens herself in a stretch and yawns.
  3956. “Morning, Trix.”
  3957. >”Umm...G-good morning Anonymous...”
  3958. “I’d hate to cut this short, but we should probably get back. We got a party to get to today.”
  3959. >Trixie gave another yawn as she released you, standing up slowly and carefully.
  3960. >”About that, Anonymous...Trixie was thinking last night...”
  3961. “And?”
  3962. >”Well, this party is for you and Sab- Castilla. While I’m certain the party would only be improved by our presence, wouldn’t it be rude for us to show up unannounced?”
  3963. “Don’t be ridiculous, Trixie. I don’t think Pinkie has a mean bone in her body. She’ll be fine, and I’ll give her a call just to be sure.”
  3964. >”But-”
  3965. “Trixie. If they have a problem with you being there, then we leave.”
  3966. >Her eyes widened, but it was the truth.
  3967. >Considering that your opponents had started teaming up, you couldn’t afford to separate from Trixie.
  3968. >Her servant was weakened, and you needed your own with you at all times.
  3969. >Simple logic insisted on the two of you staying together.
  3970. >She blushed and fidgeted in place as you stood up yourself.
  3971. >”Th-thank you, Anonymous. That means a lot to Trixie.”
  3972. >Oh, what a burden.
  3973. >As the two of you walk back into the temple, the first thing you are greeted by is a grinning Saber leaning against a pillar.
  3974. >”Good morning Master Anonymous, Miss Trixie. I trust you had an eventful night?”
  3975. >It takes a good few second for Trixie to realize what your servant was suggesting.
  3976. >”Oh, no! I mean-Trixie and Anonymous were doing no such thing!”
  3977. >”Truly? I apologize, then.”
  3978. >She gave a fake disappointed look.
  3979. “Stop teasing the poor girl, Saber. I can handle it, but Trixie might implode.”
  3980. >Besides, that was your job.
  3981. >”As you say, master. It will be difficult, but I will suppress my true character around Miss Trixie.”
  3982. >Trixie tilted her head in confusion at your exchange.
  3983. >”Saber doesn’t need to change herself around Trixie, Anonymous. She may be free to act as she wishes in our presence.”
  3984. “Oh you poor naive summer child.”
  3985. >”What was that, Anon?”
  3986. “Nothing, Trix. Saber, could you go alert Caster? We leave to head back into Canterlot soon.”
  3987. >”So, we are still going to my welcoming party?”
  3988. “Hey, you laid out the plan yourself that night. We regrouped and we recovered. Now it’s time to party.”
  3989. >She smiled at your relaxed tone, shaking her head as she stood away from the pillar.
  3990. >”Good to hear, though I would like for us to get at least one more practice session in before tonight.”
  3991. >You shiver.
  3992. >You knew it was a good idea, but even after last night the sight of Saber attacking you...
  3993. “Y-yeah, sure thing Saber. Let’s at least save that for after the party though.”
  3994. >”Of course, my master. I shall go fetch Caster and let him know.
  3995. >”Actually Anon, do you think we might have time for a bath?
  3996. >Saber raised an eyebrow at Trixie’s question.
  3997. >”Together? And here you told us things hadn’t progressed that far.”
  3998. >”NOT WHAT I MEANT.”
  3999. “Actually, she’s right. We should be as fresh as possible for the party. Still, we should hurry. It’s still a few hours by car-”
  4000. >A sudden thought strikes you.
  4002. >A brief panic attack and breathing exercise to calm yourself later and the four of you were all in Trixie’s car.
  4003. >On the road back, you pondered what to do about your vehicle you left in that alleyway.
  4004. >If you were lucky, it was still there.
  4005. >If it got impounded, you doubt you could explain the broken window.
  4006. >Any amount of police investigation would probably tell them it was shattered by a bullet.
  4007. >In a town with low crime rates like Canterlot, you’d have a lot of explaining to do if you wanted it back.
  4008. >...If it came down to it, your car could wait until after the war.
  4009. >It would put you at a disadvantage for a bit if your alliance dissolved, but you really didn’t want to risk being taken in for questioning.
  4010. >That sounded like a new breed of headache.
  4011. >Especially since Discord might not get you out if they decide to keep you due to his position as mediator.
  4012. >You sigh from the back seat before looking over to Trixie.
  4013. >Her eyes were completely trained on the passing scenery.
  4014. >Her expression was neutral, though a small smile crossed it from time to time.
  4015. >The fighting would start again soon.
  4016. >You weren’t sure what would happen anymore
  4017. >Forming an alliance was the farthest thing from your original battle plan for the war.
  4018. >That combined with the sudden arrival of Chrysalis and Sombra certainly changed quite a few things.
  4019. >While you had more baggage when it came to Sombra, Chrysalis was probably the greater threat.
  4020. >You hadn’t forgotten that they had probably watched you with Sunset and the rest of the girls.
  4021. >It was horrific to think about, but it was entirely possible that she had already kidnapped one of them and taken their place.
  4022. >In fact, it wasn’t just possible. It was almost certain.
  4023. >The best you could hope for was that she didn’t kill however she captured.
  4024. >Your stomach turns at the thought.
  4025. >You knew getting even a little close to them was a mistake.
  4026. >And doing whatever you can to keep them safe would surely put your own life at risk.
  4027. >Damn.
  4028. >”Anon, are you okay?”
  4029. >Trixie’s voice brought you out of your thoughts.
  4030. >That’s right, you had a team now.
  4031. >Going to have to get used to vocalizing your thoughts for the time being.
  4032. “In truth? Not really.”
  4033. >You explain Chrysalis’ ability to shapeshift and your fears that she’s probably already supplanted herself.
  4034. >Saber nods gravely while driving the car.
  4035. >You had hoped she would get a chance to enjoy her party, but you needed her looking out for you.
  4036. >Trixie was completely horrified.
  4037. >You had told her a little of what made an Association magus such bad news last night.
  4038. >But the idea of someone you knew being hurt by them gave it perspective.
  4039. >”Do...do you think they’ll be alright?”
  4040. >You turn towards your window and look out it, trying to remain calm.
  4041. >It didn’t work, you feel your fists clench tightly.
  4042. “I don’t know. I hope so, though.
  4043. >For Chrysalis’ sake.
  4044. >”I will stay close in spiritual form. If we are lucky, the shapeshifter will let her guard down when she thinks no one is watching.”
  4045. >Caster spoke while stroking his chin.
  4046. >You could only hope, but it was a good idea.
  4047. >Back when she used to transform into people to play tricks on you, she had trouble suppressing her natural personality.
  4048. >However, that was years ago.
  4049. >You had no doubt that she had improved her ability to deceive others since you had seen her last.
  4051. >”Here, Sunny! Have a slice of cake!”
  4052. >”Why, thank you Pinkie!...ugh...”
  4053. >You nearly facepalm as “Sunset” sneers at Pinkie as she walks away
  4054. >She even straight up tosses the piece of cake into the nearest trash bin with a roll of her eyes.
  4055. >You were about 100% certain that Sunset Shimmer had been kidnapped. Or worse.
  4056. >Fucking. Great.
  4057. >You break eye contact as you notice her head swivel back to you.
  4058. >”Sunset” had been keeping an eye on you ever since the start of the party.
  4059. >That alone was a pretty decent clue, but it was really how she was talking to her friends that was the real clincher.
  4060. >That and her mannerisms were all wrong.
  4061. >For starters, Sunset didn’t move her hips NEARLY that much when she walked.
  4062. [spoiler]>Though she totally should, damn.[/spoiler]
  4063. >The idle way she would lace her fingers together was completely Chrysalis as well.
  4064. >”...Sir Anonymous, I believe I know which one of your friends the enemy has-”
  4065. “I know, Caster. Trust me, I know. Also, Sir?”
  4066. >You respond under your breath to the voice in your head.
  4067. >”Just a sign of my respect. Would you prefer I call you something else? Master? Your lordship?”
  4068. “I’m not so presumptuous to ask a title from The King of Mages. Just call me Anon, anything feels sarcastic.”
  4069. >Caster’s mind-chuckle did little to lift your spirits.
  4070. >Sure enough, your car had been gone from the spot that you parked it.
  4071. >And now this.
  4072. >While you guess that it was a good thing that Chrysalis had not improved over the years, it still was troubling that she was here.
  4073. >You needed a way to get her isolated.
  4074. >Even if Sombra and their servants was somewhere waiting in the wings, you doubt they would force an all out brawl in daylight.
  4075. >Meaning if you could just get her alone, the presence of Saber alone should get her to talk.
  4076. >She had been keeping away from your servant all night as “Castilla” walked around the little party
  4077. >You hadn’t told her about Sunset yet, but it could wait just a bit longer.
  4078. >You were worried, but the way you figured it...
  4079. >She was either captured, meaning she was safe for the time being.
  4080. >Or she was dead, meaning there was nothing rushing would do.
  4081. >Instead, you would take your time.
  4082. >Find the right moment to get her in private.
  4083. >Then find a nice quiet spot perfect for either interrogation of taking care of a body.
  4084. >”Heya, Nonny! Why are you sticking to this wall?”
  4085. >The Pink One finally made her way towards you, shoving a bright multi-colored piece of cake into your hands.
  4086. “It’s a very nice wall?”
  4087. >In one quick motion Pinkie throws her back against the wall next to you.
  4088. >Her face was drawn into deep contemplation.
  4089. >”Eh, it’s alright I guess.”
  4090. >Her deadpan tone actually gets a chuckle out of you.
  4091. >She suddenly gasps
  4092. >”That’s the first time I’ve actually heard you laugh, Nonny!”
  4093. >Her wide, blue eyes were brimming with excitement.
  4094. “Really? Huh...I think your right.”
  4095. >”Which is good, cause you looked suuuuuuper serious for a while there! And I was thinking ‘Gee, Anon sure looks like he could use a good laugh’, and then YOU ACTUALLY DID!”
  4096. >Your smile gives way to a bit of a cringe.
  4097. >And here you were judging Chrysalis for being easy to read.
  4098. >You look back over to her to check in.
  4099. >She was nodding politely while talking to Applejack and Rainbow.
  4100. >Her smile said “No please, go on.”
  4101. >But her eyes screamed “Kill me.”
  4102. >Well, at least she was distracted. She of all people would have been able to see the malice on your face for what it was.
  4103. “I gotta say, this party is almost exactly what I had in mind when I agreed to it. Thanks for that.”
  4104. >Besides you and the girls, there were only a few other guests.
  4105. >A group of younger girls, two of which you knew were related to Rarity and AJ.
  4106. >Apple’s older brother was there as well, talking with the owners about something.
  4107. >”Of course, Nonners! Bleh, don’t like that one. Sticking with Nonny.”
  4108. >She leaned closer to you, her eyes shifting from side to side.
  4109. >”Now, for her going away party...How are we feeling about that?”
  4110. >You scratch behind your head.
  4111. >This party was okay, in fact in a way it was even helpful for the war in terms of drawing out Chrysalis.
  4112. >But judging from the other’s reactions before, going away parties involved a lot of drinking.
  4113. >Something you should probably avoid while you still had three mages actively hunting you.
  4114. “I’ll keep you informed?”
  4115. >Pinkie just nods before whipping out her phone.
  4116. >”Trade numbers.”
  4117. >That felt like a command.
  4118. >You oblige.
  4119. >She hums absentmindedly to herself as she puts the last few digits of your phone into her own.
  4120. >Your own list of about a dozen people paled in comparison to the glimpse of the library of numbers you saw on her screen.
  4121. >”While I’m at it, I should probably give Twilight a call...She still hasn’t shown up, even though she said she would.”
  4122. >You had noticed that earlier as well.
  4123. >In fact, before “Sunset” started dripping with contempt for her friends, you had thought she might have been the one captured.
  4124. >Now, she was just a question mark.
  4125. >”But back to our original topic...This wall is fine and all, but isn’t there another wall you should be going to?”
  4126. >Pinkie gives you a playful smile.
  4127. >...You have no idea what the hell she’s talking about though.
  4128. “What do you mean?”
  4129. >She gives you a shove before nodding her head towards the back wall.
  4130. >Where you see Trixie, standing alone while chipping at a piece of cake.
  4131. >The two of you had sort of split while talking to others.
  4132. >”So, what’s happening there?”
  4133. “...Isn’t that getting a bit personal?”
  4134. >”Come on, Nonny! First neither of you show up to school yesterday, then you show up here together...Even I could figure out there’s something going on.”
  4135. >It was kind of part of the plan to let everyone think that
  4136. >But having Pinkie call you out on it made you feel surprisingly bashful.
  4137. “I’d...rather not say.”
  4138. >”Fiiiiine...Still though, that wall over there is the best one in the building. You should go try it out.”
  4139. >Pinkie gave you an over exaggerated wink before bouncing over to Fluttershy and Rarity.
  4140. >You look down at the cake in your hand before you sigh and lift a small bite with a plastic fork.
  4141. >Fucking Pinkie Pie.
  4142. >Good things she wasn’t a magus...to your knowledge.
  4143. >You wouldn’t stand a chance against her.
  4144. >And you could only imagine what devastation her wish would wrought.
  4145. >Well, you were still waiting for a good moment to nab Chrysalis.
  4146. >Might as well throw Trixie a lifeline in the meantime.
  4147. >You move over to her side of the room.
  4148. >She lights up the moment she notices you joining her.
  4149. >”Hello, Anonymous! This cake is delicious, is it not?”
  4150. >She looked relieved, but her tone was still a bit forced.
  4151. “And I thought I was bad at these things. Relax, Trix.”
  4152. >She dropped her head, poking at the confectionary on her plate.
  4153. >”Trixie is sorry. She feels a bit out of place among The Rainbooms. Also...she might be slightly jealous.”
  4154. “Jealous?”
  4155. >”Pinkie was able to get this whole event together in such a short time. Meanwhile, I hold shows every week and only recently has my audience size doubled.”
  4156. >By doubled, she meant from one to two.
  4157. “This is kind of her thing, though. That, and she lives in a bakery.”
  4158. >”But magic is Trixie’s thing, Anon! Besides, this is a small Pinkie Party from what we’ve been told.”
  4159. “Well, maybe you should go talk with her. Pick her brain on how she does it.”
  4160. >You already had some ideas on the difference between Pinkie and Trixie.
  4161. >If nothing else, Pinkie harnessed the power of networking.
  4162. >But it would be better for her to find out for herself.
  4163. >One should learn directly from their master when it comes to these things, after all.
  4164. >”Do you think that’s wise? We have barely spoken to her, even at school...”
  4165. “Trust me, she’ll be fine with it. Although try to stay in the room, I-”
  4166. >”Hey Anon! I got you a drink!”
  4167. >You and Trixie both jump in shock at Sunset’s sudden appearance.
  4168. >She grinned widely, holding a glass out to you.
  4169. >...Yeah, there was something in that drink.
  4170. “Hey, thanks Sunset.”
  4171. >You take the drink from her.
  4172. >”No problem, Anon! What kind of friend would I be if I let you go drinkless?”
  4173. >You smile at her.
  4174. >If you just outright refused to drink it, she’d know that you knew.
  4175. >Instead, you get to have some fun.
  4176. >There was a beat of silence as Sunset just stood in front of you, her eyes moving back and forth.
  4177. >From your drink.
  4178. >To you.
  4179. >Back to your drink.
  4180. >You.
  4181. “Anyways, like I was saying you should totally go talk to Pinkie-”
  4182. >”Aren’t you going to drink?”
  4183. >Sunset interrupted you, still smiling.
  4184. “I mean yeah, but I’m kind of busy.”
  4185. >”It only takes like a second for a sip.”
  4186. “I’m not that thirsty right now, but thanks again for the glass.”
  4187. >Sunset’s left eye twitched.
  4188. >Trixie looked completely lost.
  4189. >”Did we miss something?”
  4190. “Nah, Sunset was just looking out for me. I’m fine though, really.”
  4191. >Looking past her, a closing in AJ gave you your clean way out.
  4192. >By the way, I think Applejack is looking for you.”
  4193. >A look of sheer terror crossed Sunset’s face.
  4194. >”Well, I got to go! Make sure you stay hydrated Anon!”
  4195. >Sunset panicked at the first mention of Apple and ducked out in the direction of the restroom.
  4196. >Both Trixie and Applejack looked confused.
  4197. >”Now what was that all about?”
  4198. >AJ spoke as she walked over to the two of you.
  4199. “I dunno. She looked kind of sick though. Maybe you should check on her.”
  4200. >”You betcha I will, Anon. The least I could do since she let me rattle on about the different apples we’re growing on the orchard.”
  4201. >You smirked.
  4202. “Rattle on? She seemed so excited to get back to talking to you, though...In fact, maybe if you keep telling her it’ll make her feel better!”
  4203. >”Why, that sounds like a wonderful idea! Thanks, Anon!”
  4204. “Anytime, AJ. Good luck!”
  4205. >You wave as Chrysalis’ unknowing tormentor slowly moves to corner her.
  4206. >”...I-, Trixie doesn’t...What just happened?”
  4207. “Long story short? Chrysalis is Sunset and I’m having fun tormenting her before I deal with her myself.”
  4208. >Trixie was suddenly extremely alert.
  4209. >”Sunset seemed strange, but Trixie didn’t know her well enough to say anything...What should we-”
  4210. “WE aren’t doing anything.”
  4211. >You cut her off.
  4212. >”Anonymous, we’re a team. We need to work together.”
  4213. “I know, that’s not what I meant.”
  4214. >You set your piece of cake on a nearby table as you dispose of the drink so no one drinks it.
  4215. “I mean I’m going to corner Chrysalis with Saber while you and Caster stay out of it for now.”
  4216. >Trixie looked like she wanted to object, but she just crossed her arms waiting for you to finish.
  4217. “Thanks to Archer, they probably didn’t track me to your place. They might have no idea you’re a master.”
  4218. “I’d like to keep it that way for as long as possible.”
  4219. “Especially while we don’t know what happened to Sunset...If she’s still alive, they’ll be watching me like a hawk.”
  4220. >Trixie’s expression softened as she nodded along with your words.
  4221. “If she’s alive, you and Caster will be the ones to ultimately save her. I’ll provide a distraction.”
  4222. >”...and...If Sunset’s dead?”
  4223. >You grimace.
  4224. “Honestly? Easier in the short term, we’d have no reason not to deal with Chrysalis now. But...”
  4225. >”Trixie understands. She’s sure Sunset is fine, Anon.”
  4226. >The air is somber between the two of you.
  4227. >Then you heard a retching sound from the bathroom.
  4228. >Applejack came out of the door, looking nervous.
  4229. “What happened?”
  4230. >”Ah did as you told me, Anon. I just kept telling her about our apples from outside the stall...Why are ya makin that face’?”
  4231. >Applejack had actually told Chrysalis so much about apples it made her physically sick.
  4232. >You weren’t even sure how that worked
  4233. >But you were going to hold onto this feeling for a while.
  4234. >”Remind me to never cross you, Anonymous.”
  4235. >Caster’s voice rang clearly in your mind.
  4236. >You just smile.
  4237. >Suddenly, the door to Sugarcube Corner swung open forcefully.
  4238. >A haggard looking Twilight Sparkle stood in it’s wake, breathing heavily.
  4239. >”Girls, we’ve got to hurry! I just talked to Shiny, and Anon’s gone MISSING!!”
  4240. >The room froze before turning to you.
  4241. >Following their gaze, Twilight regarded you with shock.
  4242. “Um..hi?”
  4243. >Mass confusion set in among the party guests before Twilight ran straight to you
  4244. >”Anon! You’re okay!”
  4245. “Yeah, I’m fine. Why would you think I wasn’t?”
  4246. >Twilight’s hair was a mess, her glasses were barely hanging onto her face and her clothes looked like they hadn’t been washed in days.
  4247. >She suddenly grabbed you by the shoulders.
  4248. >In the corner of your eye, you saw Saber tense up and edge towards you.
  4249. >”Shining told me you had just disappeared!”
  4250. “Well, I haven’t. Who’s Shining, anyways?”
  4251. >”My brother, he’s a police officer!”
  4252. >Oh shit.
  4253. >Oh, SHIT.
  4254. >Okay, so time to do some damage control and find out how much her cop brother told her.
  4255. >Game face time.
  4256. “Really? There must be some sort of mistake. Maybe we can call him to explain?”
  4257. >Twilight nodded quickly, though you could tell she was still confused.
  4258. >”Yeah, we better! He told me to call him if we found you, or any hint about where you went!”
  4259. >”Anon, is everything okay?”
  4260. >Applejack sounded concerned, but her look has a slight skeptical tint to it.
  4261. >You had heard rumors about the girl’s ability to tell when someone was lying.
  4262. >Did that also apply to stretching the truth?
  4263. “Yeah, I just haven’t been home in a few days. Twilight, wanna take this outside? It might get a little loud in here.”
  4264. >You needed to get away from Applejack, and more importantly you needed to figure out how much Sparkle knew.
  4265. >”Uh, sounds good to me I guess.”
  4266. >You turn to Trixie, who looks concerned.
  4267. “I’ll be fine, just got to explain a few things.”
  4268. >You put a hand on her shoulder and lean closer to her ear before whispering.
  4269. “Tell Saber what I told you about Sunset and to keep an eye on her.”
  4270. >She grabs your hand with a smile.
  4271. >”You can count on Trixie, Anonymous.”
  4272. >You knew you could.
  4273. >Twilight was already walking out the door, looking slightly nervous.
  4274. >You quickly move to follow her.
  4275. “So, why does the police think I’m missing?”
  4276. >You already knew the answer, but Twilight’s brother might not have told her about the bullet.
  4277. >It was likely that you were missing due to them needing to bring you in for questioning.
  4278. “Shining said they found your car in an alley the night we hung out. He also said-”
  4279. >She cut herself off by covering her mouth and turning away from you.
  4280. >She hadn’t meant for that last part to slip out.
  4281. “He also said what?”
  4282. >”It’s...not important.”
  4283. >Her voice was drenched in fear.
  4284. >There was no doubt.
  4285. >She knew about the gunshot and it scared her.
  4286. >Fuck, what were you going to do now?
  4287. >Calling her brother wasn’t a good idea.
  4288. >There was no other choice, you were going to have to appeal to her.
  4289. “Did he mention anything about the window being broken?”
  4290. >You dance around the issue while buying time to come up with a good lie.
  4291. >”Uh, yeah he did! That was what he also told me.”
  4292. “...That’s not all he told you, was it Twilight?”
  4293. >Your voice drops lower as you talk.
  4294. >Her body freezes.
  4295. “Listen, Twilight...If I’m being honest, I could really use your help.”
  4296. >”A-anon, we already told you that if you ever needed help the girls and I would be more than willing. We’re friends.”
  4297. “Yeah, but this goes kind of just beyond relying on you. I need you to not tell your brother that you found me.”
  4298. >”But why? What’s going on, Anon?”
  4299. >Where was that lie?
  4300. >Still nothing
  4301. >Guess your best bet was to be vague.
  4302. “I don’t want to get you involved. I’ll go to the police on my own tonight, but I just want Castilla to enjoy her party for now.”
  4303. >”...We don’t have to call Shining, but you have to tell me what’s happening! Why was there...”
  4304. “A bullet? Exactly what it looks like. I don’t know who, but that night someone shot at me and Castilla.”
  4305. >”But why?!”
  4306. >You needed to make her lost trust in going to the authorities
  4307. >At the very least wait until you had left the party to do so.
  4308. >Suddenly, you are struck with inspiration.
  4309. “Twilight, I don’t know who, but I do know one thing. I dug around about that casing? It’s police standard issue.”
  4310. >It was a bold faced lie
  4311. >But you were certain her brother hadn’t gotten into specifics with her about the type of bullet.
  4312. >She gasped.
  4313. >”B-b-but that’s not possible! No one working with Shining would do such a thing!”
  4314. “Even so, I just can’t take that chance.”
  4315. >Not to mention some totally would.
  4316. >You didn’t know who, but a couple of them had to be on Association payroll.
  4317. >They wouldn't hold The War here otherwise.
  4318. “Look, I’m worried more about Castilla than anything. She was really shaken up that night. I had to convince her to come out today.”
  4319. “Now that she’s here, she’s having a good time. I don’t want to take that away from her.”
  4320. >You both look back into the shop at Saber.
  4321. >With perfect timing, she goes from watching the bathroom to looking back to you with a worried look.
  4322. >Saber couldn’t of known what you had told Twilight, she was just worried about you.
  4323. >But Twilight's expression softened at the sight.
  4324. >”I’m...I’m sorry Anon. You’ve both been through something so terrible. I was just worried about you.”
  4325. “I know, Twilight. Who knows, maybe it was just some freak accident. Either way, I’ll come into tonight. Can’t be without my car forever, right?”
  4326. >Another lie, your car was staying there until the war was over.
  4327. >But she wouldn’t know that until it was too late.
  4328. >Until you won, you couldn’t afford to see them again.
  4329. >You’d already gotten Sunset into trouble.
  4330. >”I guess so...Are you sure about this, Anon? If anything happened to you or Castilla, I...don’t know what I’d do with myself.”
  4331. “We’ll be okay, Twi. I’m sorry to have worried you so much...If you don’t mind me saying, you look...ragged.”
  4332. >”I look like shit, Anon.”
  4333. >Whoa, wasn’t expecting that tired and sarcastic of a tone from her.
  4334. >”Probably smell like it, too. When Shiny first told me about it, he asked me not to tell the girls...Friday was rough.”
  4335. “Well, if it’s any consolation you still look pretty good. Almost got a hot-mad scientist vibe going for you.”
  4336. >The complement left your mouth before you even really thought about it.
  4337. >”Oh, um thanks I guess.”
  4338. >She blushed slightly, turning away from you.
  4339. >The fuck were you doing?
  4340. >Her sudden shift must have thrown you more than you thought.
  4341. “ANYWAYS, we should probably head back inside. If they ask, tell them we already talked to Shining and it was just a misunderstanding.”
  4342. >She nodded, straightening her glasses before taking a deep breath.
  4343. >”Okay, I think I can do that. Anon?”
  4344. “Yeah?”
  4345. >”Just..be careful, okay.”
  4346. “Sure thing, Twi.”
  4347. >It was honestly an easy promise
  4348. >Having normal friends and all the feelings that came with them was still new and confusing to you.
  4349. >But in the end, you could always take care of yourself.
  4350. >Twilight began to walk back into the bakery.
  4351. >You move to follow her, but a Trixie suddenly appeared and moved past Twilight as she walked in.
  4352. >”Anon, is everything alright?”
  4353. >She watches Twilight as she moves back to talk to the largest group of girls.
  4354. >A lot of them visibly relax as she talks.
  4355. >You sigh.
  4356. “Yeah. I managed to avoid getting taken in...for now.”
  4357. >You rub your fingers while contemplating what happens next.
  4358. >You get Chrysalis alone and interrogate her
  4359. >With Caster around it would be simple, once she knew she couldn’t lie to you she’d fold
  4360. >Ideally get her to forfeit her servant
  4361. >If not, she'd join Blueblood
  4362. >Then, with whatever information you have you move to rescue Sunset
  4363. >Survive whatever trap they have in store for you and rescue Shimmer
  4364. >If you could, escape. Sunset’s safety took priority over killing Sombra
  4365. >Simple, in theory. The hardest part was walking into their lair
  4366. >But you already had every advantage you could give yourself
  4367. >...Well, not every one
  4368. “Trixie, can I borrow your phone? Mine was destroyed when I was attacked by Caster.”
  4369. >”Oh, of course Anonymous! Who are you calling?”
  4370. >You close your eyes as Trixie hands you her cell phone.
  4371. >You had one more person you could call upon for assistance.
  4372. >There wasn’t a good chance she’d be able to come.
  4373. >Hell, there was a good chance she wouldn’t answer her damned phone.
  4374. >But you owed it to Sunset to do whatever you could to save her.
  4375. >And your master, even though her family line was a generation weaker than yours, was easily twice the mage you were.
  4376. >You’d ask for her help.
  4377. >Even if you were in for the mother of all “I told you so”’s.
  4378. >You take a cleansing breath as you enter her number and hit call.
  4379. >Trixie stays outside, clearing away from the door and leaning against the shop.
  4380. >She turns her head in confusion, but doesn’t comment on you not answering her question.
  4381. >The phone rings for what feels like a lifetime.
  4382. >...Yeah, that’s about right. How she always managed to get separated from her phone, you’d never-
  4383. >Click.
  4384. >”Who is this?”
  4385. >Your master’s terse but tired tone interrupted your thoughts.
  4386. >Wow, she actually answered!
  4387. >Things were already looking up.
  4388. “It’s Anonymous, master.”
  4389. >”...Anon? What, you in trouble already?”
  4390. “Well, yes and no...”
  4391. >”Kid, you know I hate playing games. Just spit it out already.”
  4392. >You roll your eyes.
  4393. >She only hated playing games when she wasn’t the one initiating them.
  4394. “Someone I know, a normal human got caught up in The War. I need help getting her back.”
  4395. >”Sounds like a right mess you’ve landed yourself in.”
  4396. >Oh boy, here it comes.
  4397. >Master always loved to scold you whenever she could get the chance for any little thing.
  4398. >She had ALWAYS been against you even joining The Holy Grail War.
  4399. >And know that you had actually called her, you’d given her every reason to give you shit for it
  4400. >You brace yourself for her next words
  4401. >”...Well, where are you right now?”
  4402. >Man, you hated it when she got like this-
  4403. >Wait, what?
  4404. >That almost sounded...supportive
  4405. “Uhh..Right now we’re at Sugarcube Corner. We uh, don’t know where she is yet. But we will soon.”
  4406. >”Okay kid...Well, I’m actually in town right now.”
  4407. >Double what?
  4408. “Did you have like a signing going on or something?”
  4409. >”Nah, nothing like that. Just not many leads for a good adventure.”
  4410. >Okay, you knew she was full of it now.
  4411. >But were you really going to question this gift horse?
  4412. “We’ll wrap things up here as soon as possible then. Do you want to meet up here or...”
  4413. >”Just call me when you figure out where your going, kid. I still got a few things to prep on my end.”
  4414. “Honestly, just having some healing support would be nice.”
  4415. >”I told you before and I’ll tell you again, kid. You can never be too prepared.”
  4416. “Yeah yeah. Anyways, thanks for the helping hand. I just want to make sure Sunset’s safe.”
  4417. >You hear her stifle a yawn on the other side of the line
  4418. >Maybe you were just lucky and caught her while sleepy?
  4419. >You hear a few lip smacks from her in the affirmative.
  4420. >”...Wait, you have friends?”
  4421. >Shit, she’s lucid again.
  4422. “Uh...yeah, kind of a new development.”
  4423. >”What, like a week?”
  4424. “A few days?”
  4425. >”And their already in trouble?! Jeez kid, I know The Tower told you that you were a prodigy or some shit but trying to set a record in quickest kidnapping-”
  4426. “Yeah yeah, you can give me more shit in person. I’m going to get back to saving my friend now.”
  4427. >”If you had been a good little student and listened to your oh-so-wise master, your little friend probably wouldn’t be in trouble right-”
  4428. “GOODBYE, Master Yearling. I’ll call you later.”
  4429. >Being the rebellious little magus you were, hang up on your esteemed master.
  4430. >Daring, as awesome a mage as she was, was a pain of a teacher to deal with.
  4431. >Still, credit where credit was due.
  4432. >You learned far more from her than any of your tutors at The Tower.
  4433. >”That sounding interesting...Wait, did you say Yearling Anonymous?”
  4434. >Trixie’s eyes widened slightly as she recognized the name.
  4435. “Yup.”
  4436. >”Funny, she shares the name with a famous author.”
  4437. “She doesn’t share shit- I mean, she doesn’t just share the name. A.K. Yearling is one of us.”
  4438. >You suppress your irritated tone when you notice Trixie flinch.
  4439. >Didn’t mean to take it out on her.
  4440. >”Really? Trixie was never much a fan herself, but she had not expected you to know someone so famous.”
  4441. “Discord introduced me to her when I needed a teacher from out of The Association.”
  4442. >”Wait, that wouldn’t mean-”
  4443. “Yup, most of her stories would be better suited under the non-fiction section. Well, she spices up quite a bit of it from what I hear.”
  4444. >You’d never actually followed her on her adventures yourself.
  4445. >The only thing you knew for sure is that in the books, Daring Do didn’t have any magical powers.
  4446. >Just good streaks of luck and an inhumane ability for taking punishment.
  4447. >Well, a lot of that was just from her being able to heal herself.
  4448. >Though you still weren’t sure what her talent was, she was able to instruct you pretty well when it came to your fire.
  4449. >”Trixie might have to give them another look, then. She wonders how many other authors are also magus?”
  4450. >You roll your eyes again.
  4451. “Don’t get your hopes up, Trix. While it’s not impossible, Daring’s probably one of a kind.”
  4452. >You hand her back her phone.
  4453. “At the very least, no magus in The Mage’s Association would bother with something so trivial.”
  4454. >”Trixie would think the call of adventure would be universal among those with the power to explore. It’s only human.”
  4455. >You move past her towards the door, but you stop with your hand on the handle to look back at her.
  4456. “Magus don’t consider themselves human, Trixie. If you remember anything about them, remember that.”
  4457. >You share a moment of silence before opening the door and rejoining the party
  4459. >Bluargrlg
  4460. >You are currently evacuating the contents of your stomach.
  4461. >What little there was before you had come to this blasted party.
  4462. >That would make you the most beautiful of all mages, Chrysalis.
  4463. >Though your current visage was that of one Sunset Shimmer.
  4464. >You were having a bit of trouble maintaining your appearance.
  4465. >Shapeshifting came naturally to your wonderful self.
  4466. >It barely even used any mana.
  4467. >You did need to keep your circuits in a certain state of power.
  4468. >A certain state of power very difficult to keep up while you were-
  4469. “Hurk...”
  4470. >God, when this was all over you were going to find that apple-
  4471. “HURK...”
  4472. >...That blonde hick in an alley and you were going to make her feel every bit of pain you were feeling now.
  4473. >Things hadn’t been going well.
  4474. >You weren’t sure if Anon knew you were posing as Sunset, but he didn’t consume your totally spiked drink.
  4475. >Furthermore, he refused to be alone!
  4476. >That was not the worst of it
  4477. >That servant of his was walking among the guests.
  4478. >Meanwhile, Assassin was still in the last stages of recovering from fighting that infuriating Archer.
  4479. >He had been quite the tricky servant to deal with, and even with no mana reserves he was more than a match for Assassin.
  4480. >You made short work of him once Rider joined you.
  4481. >Though watching him finish off Archer had been...disturbing.
  4482. >The thought of those mares of his still terrified you.
  4483. >And made you sick to your
  4484. “hurk”
  4485. >Someone, anyone save me
  4486. >Suddenly, over the sound of your sick you hear something.
  4487. >The clicking of shoes against the floor stopped...in front of your stall.
  4488. >Who was
  4489. >The door jimmied slightly.
  4490. “Someone’s in here!”
  4491. >You say weakly.
  4492. >”I know.”
  4493. >That voice.
  4494. >You overcome your sickness and do your best to stand.
  4495. >Earning you a stall door to the face as Anonymous’ Saber almost pushed it’s off it’s hinges.
  4496. >Shellshocked, you barely hear her as she grabs you by your shirt.
  4497. >”We need to have a little talk, ‘Sunset Shimmer’.”
  4498. >You blink quickly, trying to come back to your senses.
  4499. “Wh-what are you talking about Castilla? Please let me down-”
  4500. >”Your ruse will not work on me, Chrysalis. Anonymous has already told me of your abilities.”
  4501. >Ugh, of course he would.
  4502. >Couldn’t count on poor little lonely Anonymous anymore with only Sombra to protect him.
  4503. >No, he had to go and get friends now.
  4504. >What a fun sucker.
  4505. >”Now, I would like to keep this meeting as brief as possible. Where is the real Sunset Shimmer?”
  4506. >In spite of the sick feeling in your gut, you can’t help but smile.
  4507. >Sombra just wanted to kill the girl, but you had managed to convince him otherwise.
  4508. >Your argument was that it would be easier to draw Anonymous out to fight if you actually had the girl.
  4509. “She’s alive. Our servants are seeing to her well being as we speak.”
  4510. >Your eyes widen as Saber moves her hands from your shirt to your throat
  4511. >She squeezes.
  4512. >Hard.
  4513. >”You did not answer my question, Chrysalis. Where. Is. Sunset.”
  4514. >Her grip loosens slightly, allowing you to get a breath of sweet air.
  4515. “She’s- she’s at the office we first cornered Anonymous in! The basement!”
  4516. >Saber’s eyes bore deep into your own.
  4517. >Looking for any falsehood.
  4518. >It would be for nothing, however.
  4519. >Even in a situation like this, you knew how to sell a lie.
  4520. >And for a moment, you were convinced of your success.
  4521. >Until her hands tighten again.
  4522. >”I should have started by telling you it is impossible to lie to me. I see to the very heart of you, Master of Assassin.”
  4523. >She could see past your deception?
  4524. >Just who was this servant?
  4525. >”Now, where is Sunset Shimmer? I will not ask again.”
  4526. >Curses!
  4527. >You couldn’t give up her true location!
  4528. “I...can’t tell you that.”
  4529. >The Saber looks genuinely shocked.
  4530. >”I am sorry...What about this situation makes you think you have a choice? Tell me!”
  4531. >You grit your teeth as she chokes you slightly harder, cutting off any response.
  4532. “Please...let me explain...just let go a moment...air...”
  4533. >Saber holds for another moment, but finally lets go.
  4534. >Your neck throbs with a dull ache as oxygen rapidly refills your lungs.
  4535. >You painfully accept each gasp before Saber reaching out again forces you to fall back onto the toilet.
  4536. “Wait, wait, WAIT! I was originally sent to deliver a message! From Sombra!”
  4537. >Saber stops again, but her gaze doesn’t falter for a single moment.
  4538. >”Go on.”
  4539. “He...he wants to fight Anonymous. Him and his servant against you and Anon. He has 24 hours to agree, or Sunset Shimmer dies.”
  4540. >”And what guarantee do we have of Sunset’s safety?”
  4541. “You...you don’t.”
  4542. >Her hands begin to rise.
  4543. “B-BUT! Sombra will probably keep her alive taunt Anonymous...or to distract him.”
  4544. >While it wasn’t a lie, it was stretching the truth.
  4545. >If Sombra was to use Sunset against Anon, it would be by killing her in front of him.
  4546. >You...wanted to avoid that if possible.
  4547. >Not that you cared about the girl
  4548. >It was Anon you were concerned about.
  4549. >”Wait, something doesn't add up here...”
  4550. >Saber puts her hand to her chin.
  4551. >”You are not lying, but if Sombra sent you to deliver a message...why the sneaking around? And why lie about where you are keeping Sunset Shimmer?”
  4552. >You freeze up.
  4553. “Uh, natural instinct?”
  4554. >Sheepish grin.
  4555. >Hand-to-neck
  4556. “Gak...if you crush...my voice box...I can’t talk...”
  4557. >”Then stop dancing around the questions and answer them!”
  4558. >Even more than before, you desperately didn’t want to tell her your true intentions here.
  4559. >If you told her, she in turn would tell Anonymous.
  4560. >Which would leave you weakened for your future encounters.
  4561. >If you wanted things to go your way, it had to be avoided at all cost!
  4562. “Well, you see...I uh...Sombra has this thing where...how to explain...”
  4563. >”You are stalling.
  4565. “No, don’t be ridiculous! What would I even be-”
  4566. >Just then, you heard the bathroom door opening.
  4567. >At the moment, that sound might as well have been a chorus of heavenly angels singing.
  4568. >The sound of footsteps moved closer to your stalls.
  4569. >More specifically, the heavy clicks of cowboy boots.
  4570. >”Stay quiet. Anonymous would be displeased if I had to deal with an innocent finding out about us.”
  4571. >Saber attempted to play tough, but you knew better.
  4572. >You were having trouble suppressing your grin, but you did your best to keep looking scared.
  4573. >”Sunset, are ya’ll really okay in there?”
  4574. >A deep breath and a flicker of green flames to correct your disguise drew an alarmed expression from Saber.
  4575. >Before she could react, you quickly responded.
  4576. “Yeah, I’m actually feeling a lot better! In fact, I’m just about to come out!”
  4577. >”Good ta hear, sugarcube!”
  4578. >”What are you doing?!”
  4579. >Saber furiously hissed the question, her right hand clenched in a fist.
  4580. >You finally release your twisted grin.
  4581. “That Apple girl is expecting me to come out now. We wouldn’t want to cause any suspicion now, would we?”
  4582. >Understanding finally dawns on the servant.
  4583. >The glare she gives you is priceless now that you had all the power.
  4584. >You may have made a few mistakes here and there, but you did know how to manipulate people.
  4585. >It was comforting to know it could work against weak-hearted servants as well.
  4586. “We’re keeping Sunset in a shack in the Canterlot Gardens. We’ll be expecting you tonight. Now, stand aside.”
  4587. >”...Fine. We’ll be there. However, if either of you harm Sunset Shimmer...”
  4588. “I’m sure some horrific fate will befall us. I honestly couldn’t care less about her, if you were going to win you could have her,”
  4589. >You stand to move past Saber, but to your surprise she disperses to her spirit form before you.
  4590. “But you won’t win.”
  4591. >No response.
  4592. >You exit the stall to a beaming Apple.
  4593. “Hey. Sorry about that, must have been something I ate.”
  4594. >”No need to apologize, Sunset. Now, let’s get back to the party!”
  4595. >You could honestly kiss her right now for getting you out of that stall.
  4596. >But sticking around was no longer in your best interest.
  4597. “About that...I actually have to get going. I have some homework I have to finish up tonight.”
  4598. >She quirked an eyebrow.
  4599. >”It’s barely even three.”
  4600. “It’s a lot of homework.”
  4601. >”Whatever ya say. I’ll let the girls know you’re heading out then.”
  4602. “Thanks Applejacks.”
  4603. >She gives you a confused look before exiting the bathroom.
  4604. >One handwashing, a beeline to the door and a few minutes later and you can finally breath easy.
  4605. >Relatively.
  4606. >That was too close.
  4607. >You didn’t care that they now knew where Shimmer was.
  4608. >That was all part of the plan.
  4609. >But you couldn’t let her figure out you were trying to kidnap Anon yourself.
  4610. >Ever since the night you saw him again, you couldn’t help but wonder if killing him was necessary.
  4611. >So you created a little scheme.
  4612. >You would steer Sombra towards a stacked duel against Anon
  4613. >But along the way, you would make opportunities to capture Anon yourself.
  4614. >He’d hate you at first, sure.
  4615. >But after the war ended and you win The Holy Grail with him still alive, you knew he’d come around.
  4616. >Hey, if he was willing to cooperate with you, maybe you could even save Shimmer!
  4617. >And he and Sombra could make up!
  4618. >...Like hell that would happen.
  4619. >Sombra wanted Anon dead, and Anon’s heart hadn’t changed that much since he left The Tower.
  4620. >The once inseparable duo might as well have been oil and water now.
  4621. >How sad.
  4622. >But if Anon was to just disappear for the duration of the war, he’d at least have to postpone his hunt.
  4623. >You had toyed with the idea of leaving Sombra to see if you could form a new alliance with Anonymous.
  4624. >However, even if Anon was open to the idea-
  4625. >Which he probably wasn’t
  4626. >Sombra’s servant was powerful, and as it stood you had a better chance of getting to The Grail while stringing him along.
  4627. >...If you didn’t get to capture Anon, you were going to have to come to terms with killing him again.
  4628. >Funny.
  4629. >You were certain Saber had left marks on your neck from how it ached.
  4630. >You were still breathing slightly irregularly, and each breath stung lightly.
  4631. >And yet, these strange feelings in your chest were by far the most distracting.
  4633. >The party dies down as night begins to fall.
  4634. >You and the remaining girls, Pinkie, AJ, Trixie, Castilla, Rainbow and Twilight were sitting at the table while some of them waited for their rides.
  4635. >Saber had taken you aside earlier after Applejack had told the rest of you “Sunset” was leaving.
  4636. >You weren’t going to lie, you were slightly miffed your servant jumped the gun on interrogating her.
  4637. >You had planned to string her along and catch her as she was leaving.
  4638. >That way, you would have all the time you needed.
  4639. >Instead, Saber decided to go for her in a public restroom.
  4640. >You’d be more upset if she hadn’t yielded some results.
  4641. >Thanks in part to Caster helping her, you did have a truthful location for Sunset.
  4642. >Even better, you knew she was still alive.
  4643. >It was still a shitty situation, but you could work with shitty.
  4644. >Maybe you could even stop it going from shitty to completely fucked.
  4645. >”So, how did you like your party Casty?”
  4646. >”It was nice, Pinkie. Thank you for keeping things simple. I don’t think I have felt this welcomed at home!”
  4647. >Pinkie can barely contain herself at the compliment.
  4648. >”Calm down there, sugar. Well, if ya’ll ever want to do anything just let us know! If ya have the time, I wouldn’t mind taken ya on a tour of the orchard!”
  4649. “That actually sounds nice. Maybe we’ll take you up on that.”
  4650. >You give a noncommittal response.
  4651. >AJ gives you a playful frown.
  4652. >”Ah don’t recall offering to take YOU around, Anon.”
  4653. “Sorry, I’m basically Castilla’s legal guardian at this point. I can’t in good conscious leave her unsupervised.”
  4654. >”...I would like to argue, but he is right. No telling what trouble we could end up in.”
  4655. >The table shares a light laugh.
  4656. >Twilight still looks distracted from earlier.
  4657. >You yourself were barely taking part in the conversation, more than happy to just sit back and listen.
  4658. >But she was noticeably concerned about something, though if the girls picked up on it no one was bringing it up.
  4659. >”So, Anon. What do you even do for fun?”
  4660. >Unexpectedly, Rainbow Dash starts up a conversation with you.
  4661. >You just shrug.
  4662. “Honestly? Reading, mostly.”
  4663. >You didn’t really have many normal human hobbies.
  4664. >”Oh, come on! That’s so boring! I know you’re more active than the egghead!”
  4665. “Wait, you know? How?”
  4666. >She smiled slyly.
  4667. >”I may have been texting with Sunset a couple days ago...And she may have let slip that she saw you without a shirt on.”
  4668. >The table falls deadly silent.
  4669. >”Um, what?”
  4670. >Pinkie was the first one to speak up.
  4671. >You roll your eyes.
  4672. “I had just woken up when Sunset came to my house the other day, I sort of didn’t bother with a shirt.”
  4673. >”So?”
  4674. >Rainbow seemed...actually excited.
  4675. >”What do you do to keep in shape? Sports, running, weight-lifting?”
  4676. >What would you even call your training with Daring?
  4677. >The woman had you doing precision running training on an actual alligator infested lake once.
  4678. >Hop from platform to platform quickly, or you take a dip.
  4679. “...Running mostly, I guess. I also do a bit of survivalist stuff.”
  4680. >”Really? That sounds neat, like what kind of stuff?”
  4681. “Climbing, swimming...You seem oddly interested in all this.”
  4682. >”Anon, the only other rainboom that even knows what a good workout is is Applejack. And she gets it from working on the farm.”
  4683. >”It’s just nice to have someone else to hang out with who actually gets active. We should go hiking sometime or something.”
  4684. >Huh, of the Rainbooms the one you had been least excited to know was Rainbow.
  4685. >She was always so loud and cocky.
  4686. >But she wasn’t so bad now that you were actually talking to her.
  4687. “Yeah, that actually sounds pretty neat. Anyone else want to-”
  4688. >As you talked, Rainbow had started to focus on something behind you through the window.
  4689. >Her eyes widened and her jaw dropped.
  4690. “Um, are you okay? Earth to Rainbow Dash?”
  4691. >You wave a hand in front of her face before the ringing of the front door caught your attention.
  4692. >You turn around to see
  4693. >Oh, Christ.
  4694. >She couldn’t have just waited, could she?
  4695. >Twilight joined Rainbow as the abrupt entrance of a certain, currently well dressed author.
  4696. >”...Wait, is that-?!”
  4697. >”A.K. YEARLING?!”
  4698. >Rainbow shot straight up in her seat, frantically looking around.
  4699. >”Ohmygod, I don’t have any of my books here for her to sign!!!”
  4700. >So, Dash was a Daring Do fan.
  4701. >You smiled.
  4702. >What was about to happen was going to blow her mind.
  4703. >”Ohno, she’s walking over here! What should I do?!”
  4704. “Calming down might-”
  4705. >”What if she heard of the Rainbooms and she wants to meet us? Scoots was telling me that our show went semi-viral!”
  4706. “Um, Rainbow she’s not here for-”
  4707. >”Here she comes! Shush, Anon! Be cool!”
  4708. >...You know what?
  4709. >You weren’t even going to say anything.
  4710. >It was just going to make this all the sweeter.
  4711. >”Good evening, everyone.”
  4712. >Yearling addressed the whole table as she approached.
  4714. >Rainbow suddenly yelled, though she remained completely stationary.
  4715. >To her credit, Yearling just smiled.
  4716. >”Well, thank you for the support! It’s always nice to meet a fan~”
  4717. >HA.
  4718. >You knew she was cringing on the inside, she always had a bit of a disdain for gushing fans.
  4719. >She preferred fans who challenged her.
  4720. >Still, you didn’t want to ruin her opinion of Rainbow so you should probably intervene.
  4721. “A bit impatient much, Miss Yearling? I told you we’d call when we were ready.”
  4722. >”There was an opening in my schedule, so I figured it wouldn’t hurt to check in on you.
  4723. >Rainbow’s head snapped between the two of you as you talked.
  4724. >”Wait, you know each other?!”
  4725. “I didn’t want to make a big deal about it, but yeah. My dad introduced us a while ago.”
  4726. >”Who the hell is your dad?!”
  4727. “Just a simple college professor who knows an interesting amount of people. I don’t even know how he does it.”
  4728. >Yearling didn’t actually know your dad, but he was your convenient excuse for things since he wasn’t around.
  4729. >It was probably more believable than “The school janitor introduced me to her”.
  4730. >You stood up from the table and moved to Yearling’s side.
  4731. “I guess that’s our que to head out. Got a busy night ahead of us.”
  4732. >You nod to Twilight to give her the impression you haven’t forgotten about your promise.
  4733. >She nods back.
  4734. >Sorry, Twi.
  4735. >You felt a bit bad about lying, but it was for everyone’s good.
  4736. >”We are heading out already? You aren’t going to introduce your friends, Anonymous?”
  4737. >Yearling smiled kindly at you, though you knew that the Daring part of her was doing so smugly.
  4738. “Some other time maybe...Although...”
  4739. >A sudden thought strikes you.
  4740. >You could score some major points with Rainbow, which could be nice for the future when you make it through the war.
  4741. >You gesture for Yearling to lean in before whispering into her ear.
  4742. >She nods a few times as you talk, and Rainbow looks noticeably concerned.
  4743. >”Applejack, what’s going on? What are they talking about?”
  4744. >”How in tarnation ahm I supposed to know? I ain’t a lip reader.”
  4745. >”Okay, but you’ll owe me for this Anonymous.”
  4746. “Add it to my tab.”
  4747. >She rolled her eyes behind her glasses before smiling at Rainbow.
  4748. >”Rainbow Dash, was it? Would you perhaps like to take a picture together?”
  4749. >”yes.”
  4750. >Rainbow agreed even before she realized what was happening.
  4751. >”Wait, really?”
  4752. >You smile.
  4753. “Pass me your phone, I’ll take the shot.”
  4754. >She absentmindedly handed you her cell and rushed to Yearling’s side.
  4755. >You turn on the camera.
  4756. “Okay, smile!”
  4757. >You take several shots.
  4758. >Rainbow goes from utterly overwhelmed in the first shot to blissfully smiling in the last.
  4759. >”Thank you so much! Anon, set it to my wallpaper!”
  4760. “Already done.”
  4761. >The first shot, of course.
  4762. >You can’t help but smile as Rainbow snaps back her phone and gleefully flips through the shots, showing them off to Twilight.
  4763. “Thanks for that. I know that her brand of fan isn’t your favorite.”
  4764. >”It’s fine in small doses. Besides, I’ve seen much spazzier. I still won’t forget the spaghetti incident two years back.
  4765. >A bit of Daring slips out as the girls focus are on Rainbow.
  4766. >”So kid, what’s the plan?”
  4767. "Well, firstly can we talk in private? I mean, it should be pretty obvious that these girls-”
  4768. >”Yeah, I getcha kid. Continue outside?”
  4769. >You nod before looking over to Saber.
  4770. “Start saying your goodbyes, we got a lot to go over before tonight.”
  4771. >”As you wish, Anonymous. Should I give them your regards as well?”
  4772. >You think it over for a bit before nodding again.
  4773. “Yeah, just tell them I needed to talk to Yearling and that I’ll see them later.”
  4774. >You and Daring watch Saber as she goes back to the rest of the girls.
  4775. >”So she’s your servant? Didn’t expect them to look so...normal.”
  4776. >You gesture for the door and the two of you begin to walk.
  4777. “She may look like a normal woman, but once you’ve seen her in action it’s obvious she’s anything but.”
  4778. >”So it’s true? What ol’ Discord said about The War?”
  4779. “For the most part, yes. Servants are just as strong as he described...maybe even stronger.”
  4780. >”Stronger? And you called in me for help? Kid, I’m glad you have a high opinion of me and all but I don’t really think I have much to offer you.”
  4781. >You look up at the sky as Daring talks.
  4782. >The sun was still high, only a few hours had passed since the party had started.
  4783. >If you wanted to meet Sombra and Chrysalis in combat tonight, you’d have maybe six hours at most to prepare.
  4784. “If nothing else, your ability to heal could end up saving our lives in the end...Also, what happened to waiting for my call?”
  4785. >She gave a nervous, forced laugh.
  4786. >”What? A teacher can’t be eager to help out her student.”
  4787. >You raise an eyebrow.
  4788. “This is beyond eager...This is prepared. Like you were waiting for me to call you.”
  4789. >”I told you, the old adventure pool just dried up a bit-”
  4790. “And I call bullshit, when the pool dries up you move on to find a new pool. But you didn’t move on this time, did you?”
  4791. >Daring suddenly threw her hands up in exasperation.
  4792. >”Fine, I stayed in town just in case you needed my help! Are you happy?!”
  4793. “Well, I mean yeah...But you were against this whole thing in the first place.”
  4794. >”Look...I still think this whole business with the grail is bullshit. For many reasons we’ve already gone over.”
  4795. >Reason 1: She didn’t buy that the grail was powerful enough to grant any wish
  4796. >Reason 2: Even though there had been four wars, there had yet to be a winner of The War.
  4797. >No master and servant team has managed to make it to the end together.
  4798. >Reason 3: She thought it was stupid of you to throw your own life in this mess.
  4799. >This list goes on for a few dozen reasons.
  4800. “And...?”
  4801. >”And...it still doesn’t change that I want you to live through it.”
  4802. “Then why did you even leave in the first place?”
  4803. >”I was reeeeaaallly hoping you’d just give up. Change your mind before entering. I didn’t think it would happen, but it didn’t stop me from dreaming.”
  4804. >You frown.
  4805. “Still doesn’t explain why you didn’t let me know you were in town sooner.”
  4806. >”I wanted to wait for you to call me, didn’t want to give you the idea that I secretly supported your choice.”
  4807. “Trust me, I would NEVER assume that. You’ve made your stance quite clear.”
  4808. >You fall into silence for a moment, so you look back into the shop.
  4809. >Saber and Trixie seem to be in the center of a group hug.
  4810. >And Saber’s got Trixie.
  4811. >She’s turning blue.
  4812. >You really needed to weaponize your servant’s embrace.
  4813. >”So..uh, kid...Have you had to, you know...off anyone yet?”
  4814. >Images of a crumbled gazebo engulfed in flames play out in your mind.
  4815. “Yeah...I have. Actually, I’m the only master I know of so far who had successfully killed another master.”
  4816. >Daring looks shocked, for once.
  4817. >”A war full of cutthroat magus and only one casualty so far?”
  4818. “Well, not for lack of trying mind you...”
  4819. >You detail the last couple of days and the other attempts on your life.
  4820. >Focusing mainly on the unknown gunman who shot at you and the trap Sombra and Chrysalis caught you in.
  4821. >She looked distracted as you talked, like she wasn’t very interested in the details.
  4822. >”So...are you doing alright?”
  4823. “What do you mean?”
  4824. >”You killed your first human, Anon. You can’t tell me you just walked it off like a bad knee.”
  4825. >You shake your head.
  4826. “I was conflicted afterwords, but I was lucky that Blueblood made it easy for me...Although I should probably correct you.
  4827. >Daring looks confused before you look her dead in the eye.
  4828. “I didn’t kill a human that night. I killed a magus. A magus who would have done terrible things with his gift.”
  4829. >You not being able to kill Trixie the following night cemented it for you.
  4830. >As long as your opponent was a “true” magus, you could live with it.
  4831. >”I see. Whatever helps you sleep at night, kid. Just let me know if you need anyone to talk to alright?”
  4832. “Master, you gotta stop with all this mushy caring stuff. It’s really clashing with my image of you.”
  4833. >”Fuck you, so I care about my top student. Is that such a crime?”
  4834. >You just laugh in response.
  4835. >It was pretty touching that Daring actually cared enough to stick around and worry about your mental state.
  4836. >You had known your master for a few years now, but she had never shown such tender tendencies before.
  4837. >The front door rings as Saber walks out to join you wearing a sheepish grin.
  4838. >Trixie stumbles behind her, breathing heavily.
  4839. >A chorus of goodbyes ring out from the shop before your new entourage jumps into the car.
  4840. >Saber and Trixie in the front, you and Daring in the back.
  4841. >”Where are we heading now, Master?”
  4842. >You think for a moment.
  4843. “Trixie’s place? For all we know, Lancer’s master could still be watching my home.”
  4844. >”Trixie has no objections.”
  4845. >”Sounds good to me, kid. Probably beats my hotel room.”
  4846. >Daring gives a noncommittal agreement while looking out the window.
  4847. >She looks deep in thought as Saber begins to pull away from Sugarcube Corner.
  4848. “Something on your mind, master?”
  4849. >”...So tonight, you got some sort of life or death rescue mission planned?”
  4850. “That’s right. We have a bit more to plan out for finer strategy, but the working plan is I fall into the trap while Trixie saves Sunset.”
  4851. >”We don’t have long to prepare, then. Gonna want to keep this all at nightfall to reduce exposure.”
  4852. >You nod.
  4853. >She sighs and rubs her eyes.
  4854. >”You’re gonna need everything you can get at your disposal. Even if it’s a worst case scenario sort of thing...”
  4855. >She starts to mumble to herself to low for you to hear.
  4856. >What was she talking about?
  4857. “Um, wanna clue me into what’s going on master?”
  4858. >”Look, kid. I want to start of by making it clear just how much I really don’t want to teach you this certain...trick.”
  4859. >Wait, what?
  4860. “You have some technique you can teach me? In such a short amount of time?”
  4861. >”Well, yes. An effective and extremely powerful technique.”
  4862. >Your spirits lift!
  4863. >”And also HIGHLY dangerous.”
  4864. >And sink slightly.
  4865. “How dangerous are we talking here?”
  4866. >”The symptoms for doing it wrong are similar to someone forcing open their circuits and messing it up.”
  4867. >Your spirits sink.
  4868. >That meant you could do irreparable damage to your body.
  4869. >Or even worse, to your circuits.
  4870. “Have you used this technique?”
  4871. >”Only once. It’s not something a normal magus is interested in, it’s risks are too high. You can get the symptoms from overuse as well.”
  4872. “And the benefits?”
  4873. >”How does ten times your normal magic output sounds?”
  4874. >Bullshit.
  4875. “Really?!”
  4876. >”Nah, not really actually.”
  4877. >Okay, good.
  4878. >Cause even with risks involved, that would be a pretty insane increase...
  4879. >”It’s about ten times when I use it. With how strong your circuits are naturally, it’ll probably be more.”
  4880. “WHAT?! And I can learn how to do it in a few hours?!”
  4881. >”Yup. It’s not really something you can practice, though.”
  4882. “I’m...I’m confused.”
  4883. >”Well, no shit. I haven’t even explained what the technique is yet.”
  4884. >You stay silent, your eyes begging her to continue.”
  4885. >”Okay, so in broad strokes what you have to do is increase the speed that magic flows through your body.”
  4886. >”A lot of magus have difficulty with controlling the speed of their circuits safely. It’s why so many magus’ magical output isn’t equal to their overall energy.”
  4887. >Trixie had completely turned around at some point, absorbed in your mini magical lesson.
  4888. >You already knew what she had gone over, of course.
  4889. >Basically, if you were to put it in number terms;
  4890. >A magus could have power equaling 500, but only able to use 20 on a single incantation.
  4891. >”Now, the core of this technique is to let go of the idea of safety. Let your circuits spin as fast as you can possibly get them.”
  4892. >”Then, the really tricky part. While the circuits are at their fastest, you’ve got to shut them down and then restart them just as quickly.”
  4893. “Is that even possible? Closing is one thing, but it usually takes a few seconds for circuits to reopen.”
  4894. >”Normally, you’d be right..but in this case the amount of energy that spinning causes creates this weird sort of inertia, allowing you to quickly reopen them...
  4895. >”...If you do it right. Mess up reopening them, and that energy’s got to go somewhere. Namely, your circuits. And when it overloads them...”
  4896. “...Your body.”
  4897. >Jeez, this does sound really dangerous.
  4898. >”This does sound extremely dangerous.”
  4899. >Thanks, Trix.
  4900. >”Anon, are you sure this will be necessary? If you fail, you could end up making things worse for yourself.”
  4901. >She had a point, even if you only used it as a last resort failing it would be signing your own death sentence.
  4902. >”That’s not even all yet. After you reopen, in order to get the kind of results I was talking about earlier you gotta start spinning again.”
  4903. >”You can get your circuits even faster when your body already starts at your normal full speed, and at this point you’re a figurative magical powder keg waiting to go off.”
  4904. >”Now, something else to note here; When you’re swinging around this big of a magical dick, you can’t really do subtle spells. I’ve only gotten it to work with offensive magic.”
  4905. >So your options would be limited too...
  4906. >Still, with that amount of power...
  4907. “Saber, what do you think?”
  4908. >”I think that this sounds extremely foolish. There is no need for you to wield such power for as long as we’re together.”
  4909. >She wasn’t wrong.
  4910. >Plus, if you crippled yourself your chances of living to see the end of the war would go down drastically.
  4911. >”...However, as a last resort it isn’t the worst idea.”
  4912. >This surprised you.
  4913. “Really?”
  4914. >”I will, of course, make it completely unneeded. But, with that amount of power you should be able to damage any servant lacking magic resistance.”
  4915. >You had similar thoughts yourself.
  4916. >”Such an option should not be taken lightly. I would advise learning, but solely as a last resort.”
  4917. >Saber tossed you a sharp glance before returning her attention to the road.
  4918. >Her message was clear.
  4919. >Go ahead and learn the technique, but don’t get hung up on the idea of having to use it.
  4920. “Okay...We’ll go ahead with it then. In the meantime, Trixie?”
  4921. >”Yes?”
  4922. “I would suggest studying under Caster. He may have been trying to keep you out of the war, but I don’t doubt he hasn’t thought of a few ways to work alongside you.”
  4923. >You looked back out the window as Trixie returned her gaze forward.
  4924. >Familiar surroundings passed by.
  4925. >You were getting close to Trixie’s house.
  4926. >”Anonymous? May we speak in private a moment?”
  4927. >Caster’s voice rang in your head, his spirit form ever present in the car.
  4928. “In private? Sure, I guess.”
  4929. >You think out loud to Solomon.
  4930. >”I would like to speak to you in regards to Saber’s interrogation of that Chrysalis girl.”
  4931. “Why? Did she leave something out?”
  4932. >”Nothing of the sort...Rather, something she failed to notice from her perspective...”
  4933. “What is it?”
  4934. >”Her reaction when questioned about why she had snuck around was a bit odd. She seemed frantic, and highly concerned.”
  4935. “Wasn’t she being throttled by Saber?”
  4936. >”Yes, and yet that line of questioning seemed to worry her more. Puzzling, is it not?”
  4937. “What are you getting at, Caster?”
  4938. >”Nothing in particular. I just found it a bit curious she was more concerned when asked about why she had tried to drug you than she was while having the life choked out of her.”
  4939. >You stay silent, contemplating.
  4940. >Chrysalis was obviously there for you.
  4941. >And yet, according to Saber, she was not lying when she said she had come to deliver a message.
  4942. >Why would she try to capture you then?
  4943. >”In any case, it might be indicative of a rift between the two masters. Something useful for the future to explore.”
  4944. “Agreed. If we could somehow turn them against each other, it would solve a whole laundry list of problems.”
  4945. >”We are of the same mind. Ah, it seems we are here. Thank you for your time, Anonymous.”
  4946. >Caster’s ability for reason was impressive...and something for concern.
  4947. >Maybe this alliance would turn out to be a mistake.
  4948. >All this free time to study you and Saber from up close could give an inquisitive mind like his a steep advantage.
  4949. >The car slowed as Saber parked carefully in Trixie’s driveway.
  4950. >You were the first out of the car, eager to get inside and get started.
  4951. >”Uh, the door should be unlocked! Trixie thinks we forgot to when we left the other day!”
  4952. >Unsafe, but convenient.
  4953. >You didn’t really feel like standing still right now.
  4954. >You throw open the door, managing to take a few steps into the house before something slams into you and throws you against the wall.
  4955. >”Anonymous?! Don’t you move a single muscle!”
  4956. >What the fuck, what was Starlight doing here?
  4957. >And why did she have a knife?!
  4958. “Starlight, what the fu-”
  4959. >”I’m asking the questions here, Anon! Discord already told me you are a magus, now WHAT HAVE YOU DONE WITH TRIXIE?!”
  4960. >She knew Discord?!
  4961. >You didn’t get a chance to question her before another blur rushed towards the two of you.
  4962. >Before Trixie could react, Saber was twisting the hand that held the knife and pulling her away from you.
  4963. >”Let me go! What have you done with Tri-”
  4964. >”Starlight?”
  4965. >Trixie finally speaking up brings Starlight to a halt.
  4966. >”Trixie? You’re okay! Thank god- ACK”
  4967. >Saber slammed Starlight into the ground, putting her in a secure and rather painful looking hold.
  4968. >”Miss Trixie is fine, but you will not be unless you explain quickly why you decided to attack my master.”
  4969. >”Discord told me that Anon was a magus in The Holy Grail War! Trixie sounded weird over the phone the past two days, so I thought maybe Anon took her hostage!”
  4970. >Wow, jumping to conclusions much?
  4971. “Wait, how do you even know Discord? Did I somehow miss another Magus at our school?”
  4972. >Starlight scoofs, earning her face a small push into the ground from Saber.
  4973. >Good job, servant.
  4974. >Glimmer isn’t allowed to be indignant until everyone here gets some answers.
  4975. >”I’m not a magus! I work for The Holy Church!”
  4976. >...
  4977. >...Okay, that checks out.
  4978. >Discord rarely talks about work.
  4979. >Wait, there was one thing that was off.
  4980. “I thought Discord said he was the only one in the area suitable to mediate the war? You’re a local.”
  4981. >”I’m not a high ranking member, at least officially. Currently I’m ‘studying’ under the old man.”
  4982. >You rub your eyes in irritation and kick away the knife.
  4983. “Saber, you can let her go now. The last thing I need is accusations of assaulting a man of the cloth.”
  4984. >Your servant complies.
  4985. >Starlight curses under her breath while she favors her knife-stabby hand.
  4986. >”...So, Starlight knows about magic? She’s a member of that Holy Church thing you mentioned earlier?”
  4987. >Trixie was still playing a bit of catch up.
  4988. “Sounds like it, though she seems to be out of the loop about one thing...”
  4989. >You move to Trixie’s side before gently grabbing her left arm and pulling up her sleeve.
  4990. >At the sight of her command seal, Starlight pales.
  4991. >”Is...is that?”
  4992. “A command seal.”
  4993. >Starlight goes quiet, before taking a deep breath and sighing.
  4994. >”Fuck, why couldn’t it have just been you kidnapping her?”
  4995. “I think we should probably play a bit of catch up, but we’re pressed for time as it is. It’s gonna have to be brief.”
  4996. >Daring clapped a hand to your shoulder as you spoke.
  4997. >”Count me in on that talk too, kid. As soon as it’s over, we’ve got to start.”
  4998. >You just nod before looking to Trixie.
  4999. “Trix, wanna order us some food or something? We’re gonna be here for a while. I’d cook myself, but kinda got my hands full.”
  5000. >”Uhh...Sure, Anonymous. Trixie shall order us some pizza then?”
  5001. “Sounds good to me.”
  5002. >”Do...do servants have any allergies?”
  5003. >You give her a blank stare.
  5004. >”Okay, what about Miss Yearling?”
  5005. >”Just order whatever, I’m not picky. Also, you can just call me Daring.”
  5006. >”Oh, well thank you Miss-...Daring.”
  5007. >”That’s more like it. Now, shall we?”
  5008. >Daring flopped herself down onto the long couch in Trixie’s living room, leaving no room for anyone else to sit.
  5009. >Starlight decided to settle into a recliner in the corner of the room.
  5010. >Leaving no place for you to sit yourself.
  5011. >”Anonymous, would you like a chair? Trixie could bring one from the kitchen.”
  5012. “No, that won’t be necessary. This won’t be long, anyways.”
  5013. >You move over to the wall opposite of Starlight and lean against it.
  5014. “Well, where to start?”
  5015. >”I’m mostly interested in just who you really are and how you managed to get Trixie involved in The War.”
  5016. “I didn’t- You know what? Maybe I should just start be reintroducing myself.”
  5017. >You sarcastically extend your hand towards her in a mock greeting.
  5018. “Hello, my name is Anonymous. I’m an out-of-association magus participating in The Holy Grail War.”
  5019. >You drop your hand when Starlight Glimmer rolls her eyes at you, but you continue.
  5020. “I dislike my own kind so much that the idea of one of them getting a wish sickened me into joining The War myself to deny them.”
  5021. >You were starting to feel a little heated as you carried on, describing your background and the events that led up to you and Trixie teaming up.
  5022. >Before, you had gotten along decently with Glimmer.
  5023. >While you had only met because of Trixie’s forceful intrusion to your daily life, she had this snark and slightly jaded view on life you enjoyed.
  5024. >Most of the time.
  5025. >Right now, you didn’t have time for her to give you any lip.
  5026. >And her single mindedness at blaming was going to stop, now.
  5027. “...And so, in short, I was just as clueless as you when it came to knowing Trixie was a magus until a few nights ago.”
  5028. “I didn’t make the choice to go to her when I needed help, but I don’t regret Saber’s decision.”
  5029. >Starlight had fallen silent a while ago, and settled on listening to you with a neutral expression.
  5030. >A few seconds tick away with silence, the only sound coming from the kitchen where Saber, Trixie and Caster were talking.
  5031. >Finally, Starlight spoke up.
  5032. >”So...you actually had to live with Discord? My condolences.”
  5033. >Well, that wasn’t the reaction you were expecting.
  5034. >In spite of yourself and your situation, you feel the edges of a smile begin to take form.
  5035. >”Sorry if I was a bit testy before. When I realized Trixie was lying to me, I guess I just started jumping to all sorts of conclusions.”
  5036. >Starlight crosses her arms as she scowls.
  5037. >”And Discord was no help.”
  5038. “He very rarely is.”
  5039. >“He told me about you being a magus in The War, then started going on and on about this rare picture of a frog he found last night or something.”
  5040. “You’re telling me. He used to take the little sound chips out of greeting cards and put them under our welcome rug. I thought I was going mental and hearing music whenever I came home.”
  5041. >”I left my phone at the church once. He got into it and renamed all of my music files to other songs I had on it.”
  5042. >Your irritation with Starlight quickly diminished as the two of you traded a few of your Discord stories.
  5043. >You’re interrupted as you begin talking about your mismatched socks by Daring clearing her throat.
  5044. >”As much as I’d hate to interrupt my fellow veterans showing of their war wounds, we still got work to do.”
  5045. “You’re right. Starlight, if you have any more questions for now I’d direct them at Trixie or even Saber.”
  5046. >”Actually, about Saber...”
  5047. >Daring stretched her arms as she stood up.
  5048. >”I was thinking about including her in our training.”
  5049. >You quirked an eyebrow.
  5050. “Really? Why?”
  5051. >Ah ah ah, Anonymous! That’s for your master to know...and for you to find out!”
  5052. >You were getting all sort of bad vibes from her tone, but whatever it was couldn’t be that bad.
  5053. >The three of you walked into the kitchen.
  5054. >Trixie and Caster were sitting at the table, while Saber was looking through the fridge.
  5055. “Couldn’t wait for the pizza, Saber?”
  5056. >”Just looking for refreshments, master.”
  5057. >She doesn’t even turn to look at you before she finds a sports drink and lifts it from the door rack.
  5058. >You notice something else catch her eye as she does so, as she hesitates and smirks for a moment before closing the door.
  5059. >”Did you require something from me?”
  5060. “I guess we do. Daring said she wants you to sit in on our training. What for, she hasn’t told me.”
  5061. >”Understood. Where shall you be practicing?”
  5062. >”Hey kid, we’re gonna probably need a bit of room. And outside is a no go for obvious reasons.”
  5063. >Can’t be practicing magic in public, no duh.
  5064. >”You could use Trixie’s basement. The floor is clear since that is where she performed the summoning ritual.”
  5065. >”Perfect! Thanks kid, where’s the basement?”
  5066. >Trixie lists off some directions and Daring jets off, Saber following after her with a nod to you.
  5067. >”Anon? Before we leave tonight, Trixie would like to speak to you...alone.”
  5068. “Yeah, sure thing Trix. Be sure to take some time with Caster and Starlight, though.”
  5069. >You give your back and left arm a stretch.
  5070. >They were still a little sore from your sleeping arrangements earlier that day, but it wasn’t anything serious.
  5071. “Consider a nap, too. You were way more behind on sleep than I was, and considering how we slept last night I can’t imagine it was that comfortable.”
  5072. >Trixie’s face began to redden as she averted her eyes from you.
  5073. >”I’ll, uh, Trixie will keep that in mind.”
  5074. >Starlight looked at Trixie.
  5075. >Then at you.
  5076. >Back to Trixie.
  5077. >”Did...did you two fuck?”
  5078. >Trixie shoot up from her chair like lightning.
  5079. >”WHAT?! No, we did no such thing!”
  5080. >Back to you.
  5081. >”Anon?”
  5082. “Nah, we just cuddled.”
  5083. >”ANONYMOUS, why would you tell her?!”
  5084. >”Really? So you two are going out then?”
  5085. >”That is OUR business, Starlight Glimmer!”
  5086. “I’m pretty sure we are, yeah.”
  5088. “You got it.”
  5089. >You give a quick mock salute to Trixie and Starlight, who had a devious grin.
  5090. “I’ve got magic to learn. I’ll see you two later.”
  5091. >”Just go!”
  5092. >You can’t help but laugh at Trixie’s flustered expression as you chase after Saber.
  5093. >”And master told me not to tease Miss Trixie. Such an unfair double standard.”
  5094. “You say that like I can actually stop you.”
  5095. >”Ah, but I am a dutiful servant, bound by her honor to be loyal to her master’s orders.”
  5096. >Her voice took on a dramatic, weary tone.
  5097. >”Even if such orders leave her unable to toy with the hearts of young maidens. Such is my lot in life.”
  5098. “I never said you couldn’t ‘toy with the hearts of young maidens’. Just not MY young maiden.”
  5099. >”By god, you are right! Now, which maiden should I set my sights on...?”
  5100. >Your inner chaos loving Discord began to stir as you thought.
  5101. “Saber, I would legitimately pay you money to flirt with Fluttershy.”
  5102. >Images of the meek girl with Saber doing flirty, lewd things to her made you laugh.
  5103. >You reflect on how you were terrible person as Saber began to walk down the stairway to the basement.
  5104. >”Ah, an excellent choice Anonymous. Though you may keep your money. What use does a King have for riches?”
  5105. >The question hangs in the air for a moment before the two of you even realize what she just said.
  5106. >Did she just?
  5107. “Saber...”
  5108. >”I...apologize, Anonymous. I allowed myself to become too relaxed, and was unable to catch myself before I spoke.”
  5109. >Saber doesn’t turn to talk to you as she apologizes, though you see her face turn down to the floor.
  5110. >She just gave you a clue to her identity.
  5111. >She...was a king?
  5112. >How did that even make sense?
  5113. >No, you needed to not think of this as much as possible.
  5114. >Before, you didn’t want to know Saber’s true name due to mages like Chrysalis having a talent for information extraction.
  5115. >Now, Chrysalis herself was a master.
  5116. >And she already had a history of getting into your head.
  5117. >You couldn’t risk piecing it together, for both your sakes.
  5118. “Don’t apologize for being comfortable around me, Saber.”
  5119. >”I-”
  5120. “Saber, I silently thank The Grail every day that I ended up with you as my servant. One slip of the tongue isn’t going to change that.”
  5121. >”...Thank you, Anonymous. Even so, I’ll be sure to mind myself in the future.”
  5122. >You lay a reassuring hand on her shoulder.
  5123. “Just don’t let it get in the way of our talks. I’d hate to be the cause to the death of your witty tongue.”
  5124. >Saber perked up a bit at your touch, and she turned and grinned at you.
  5125. >”Master, there is only one way to still my witty tongue...but, you seem happy with Miss Trixie so I would not recommend it.”
  5126. “That’s my servant. Now, lead on. I’ve got a life threatening technique to learn.”
  5127. >It did not shock you in the slightest that Trixie had a basement.
  5128. >Almost all mages who lived among humans did, it made an ideal location to practice magic.
  5129. >A few of the richer ones used attics, as some rituals required being “closer to heaven”, but these were mages that lived in gated mansions.
  5130. >And even then, you could rarely go wrong with a basement lab set up.
  5131. >Even just the briefest of glances at the seals around the room told you Trixie’s grandfather recognized it himself.
  5132. >You particularly admired the actual sealing seals that decorated the room.
  5133. >You had similar, slightly better ones back at Discord’s place.
  5134. .>They were the ultimate “Uh oh, I just messed up the ritual and now a wraith is trying to eat my soul” protection button.
  5135. >Just activate and boom, automatic magical quarantine zone.
  5136. >You scratch a bit of the blood off of one as you enter the basement fully.
  5137. >Yearling was clearing some more space as you walked down.
  5138. >”Okay kid, first let’s get you used to what going full speed feels like. Start up your circuits, like normal.”
  5139. >You do so, mentally striking the match as your circuits thrum to life.
  5140. “Done.”
  5141. >”Kay, now for this to work you’re going to want to make your circuits visible.”
  5142. >You frown.
  5143. >You always hated making your crests visible.
  5144. >Certain spells required it, but most of your go to attack spells didn’t.
  5145. >You extend your arm out, keeping it straight before closing your eyes.
  5146. >You trace the feeling of the energy moving through your circuits and open them.
  5147. >Now decorating your arm was three magical circles, shimmering in a pale blue light.
  5148. >Two of them were around your arm, while one was floating in front of your hand.
  5149. >”Now, focus on spinning them. The sensation of spinning gets hard to discern sometimes, having a visual guide will help not mess it up.”
  5150. >You coax your circuits to do as your master commands.
  5151. >Your body starts to feel warmer as the circles around your arm begin to increase in speed.
  5152. >After a moment, you see what your master was talking about.
  5153. >The rushing, warm sensation of the circuits getting faster in your body sort of peaked at a certain point, making it hard to tell if you were actually making it faster.
  5154. >However, you could still see the circles around your arm picking up in speed as you egg it on.
  5155. “Okay, I’m spinning as fast as it will go. What now?”
  5156. >”For now, just focus on the feeling. It’ll make it easier to hit full spin, though keep in mind it’ll take longer the more magic you use beforehand.”
  5157. >You don’t nod your head this time, instead you close your eyes again.
  5158. >Over the sound of the circuits reverberating in your body, you can barely hear Daring whisper something to Saber.
  5159. >What were they up to now?
  5160. >The moments pass on in silence afterwards before Daring spoke up again.
  5161. >”Okay kid, that was the easy part. Now, keep your eyes closed and open your hand to me.”
  5162. >You comply, even though you were confused.
  5163. >That was until you felt a familiar, cold metal placed in your hand.
  5164. >You opened your eyes to see Saber carefully giving you your new sword.
  5165. >Unsheathed.
  5166. >Meanwhile, Saber’s own blade sat calmly in her other hand.
  5167. >Also unsheathed.
  5168. >”Now, you mentioned when we talked earlier that you had been training with Saber...and that gave me a little idea!”
  5169. >Oh no.
  5170. >”See, I figured that when you need to use this technique, you’re probably in a bit of trouble. So, why not practice holding full spin while in combat?”
  5171. “Is...is this such a good idea?”
  5172. >”Come on, Anon! It’s safe, just don’t ACTUALLY turn them off. Just focus on keeping them going.”
  5173. >Saber smirks.
  5174. >”I shall take it easier than before, in light of your new handicap...At first.”
  5175. >You gulp.
  5176. >This is what you got for promising her a training session later.
  5178. >Meanwhile, at the Canterlot gardens...
  5179. >Ugh, this place was a maze.
  5180. >Yeah, it made for good place to keep a low profile.
  5181. >And it wasn’t like you were getting lost, you had a little slip of paper with directions on it.
  5182. >But the constant turning right and left made for an obnoxiously long walk.
  5183. >Oh well, all it really meant was that the food you were carrying in a greasy brown bag would be cold by the time you finally reach the shed.
  5184. >You should still have a few hours until Sombra arrives.
  5185. >This wasn’t your main base of operations, just a convenient place to leave Shimmer and a good place for a trap.
  5186. >In the meantime, someone had to feed the prisoner.
  5187. >Okay, you didn’t NEED to feed her.
  5188. >If Anon was a no show, Sombra would kill her long before dehydration and hunger started to affect her.
  5189. >Still, you might be able to earn some points to steering Anon to your side if you actually took care of her.
  5190. >And nothing says “well taken care of” like the nearest fast food place’s dollar menu.
  5191. >...You may have grabbed a few things for yourself as well.
  5192. >They were a childhood weakness of yours, from a time where money did not come easy.
  5193. >A much darker time, one you were not keen to go back to.
  5194. >Finally, the hedge walls surrounding you peak open into a wider clearing.
  5195. >A stone fountain, a few benches and most importantly, the shed tucked into the corner.
  5196. >You grabbed the key from your jacket pocket, giving it a couple of flips between your fingers as you walked over and unlocked the door.
  5197. >”Hello again, my master.”
  5198. >Assassin greeted you as you entered.
  5199. >The room was filled with cobwebs, though you could tell hers apart from their telling shine.
  5200. >Shimmer was at the far end of the room, completely restricted by Assassin’s webs in a snug cocoon.
  5201. >Only her face was even visible, which allowed you to see that she had her eyes closed.
  5202. >However, whatever Assassin was doing was far more to your interest at the moment.
  5203. >Her admittedly near-flawless and fine dress had already put her in contrast to the dull, dusty and boring cabin.
  5204. >You had similar thoughts before when you came to visit.
  5205. >But somehow, she had procured herself some archaic looking device.
  5206. >She fed her thread into the device, moving it back and forth in intense concentration.
  5207. “Is that a spinning wheel, Assassin?”
  5208. >”Indeed it is. Now that the girl has stopped crying and shouting, and I am feeling much better, I decided it was time to indulge in...an old hobby of mine.”
  5209. >You honestly had a bad habit of forgetting that these servants were people once.
  5210. >They were all just so larger than life, it felt strange imagining them doing things like hobbies.
  5211. >”Besides, this type of thread is special. And very useful.”
  5212. “I thought your webs were absolutely perfect as they were? Why tend to them with such care?”
  5213. >”My normal webs ARE perfect, but unsuited towards artistic work. I need to create more of this kind if I want to complete my tapestry.”
  5214. “Your...tapestry?”
  5215. >This was new.
  5216. >Assassin does not respond, but instead simply nudges her head at the floor behind her.
  5217. >Something was laying there you hadn’t noticed before.
  5218. >A long, colorful but tragically unfinished tapestry.
  5219. >Examining what was complete, it seemed to be segmented into different sections.
  5220. >The letters were greek, you recognized them, but the pictures themselves seemed to take place in...Spain?
  5221. >It isn’t until you reach the end of the pictures, following the tale of a soldier’s rise to grace that the principle soldier takes on a form you knew.
  5222. >A form you had just became rather acquainted with.
  5223. “Assassin...this is...”
  5224. >”My noble phantasm. Once I am finished, the greatest moments of that Saber’s history will be laid bare before us, from the beginning to present.”
  5225. >Your eyes widen.
  5226. >This was huge.
  5227. “So...when it’s complete...”
  5228. >”We’ll know exactly who this Saber is, and most likely everything she is capable of.”
  5229. >You smile gleefully, hopping a bit in celebration.
  5230. “How long? How long until it’s finished?!”
  5231. >Your revelry is cut short by Assassin’s disappointed frown.
  5232. >”I’m afraid not quickly enough, unless her master decides to attack late into the night.”
  5233. >You join her in frowning.
  5234. “Is...is there anything I could do to help?”
  5235. >”A command seal could be used to compel me to expedite my work, but I’d highly recommend against it.”
  5236. “If it would get the task done quicker, why shouldn’t I? I still retain all of my seals, after all. I could spare one.”
  5237. >For the first time since you started talking, Assassin’s eyes leave the wheel and look at you.
  5238. >Her glare sends in involuntary shiver down your spine.
  5239. >”This is not a simple task, master. This is art. And an artist must never be rushed.”
  5240. >You could do nothing but nod weakly until she took her eyes off you.
  5241. >”Have some faith, master. The gods willing, we’ll still have enough of her legend to identify her.”
  5242. >You release the breath you were holding, taking care to not make unnecessary noise as you moved pass Assassin.
  5243. >Your relationship with your servant was...interesting most of the time.
  5244. >And always terrifying when not.
  5245. >The two of you were similar in a lot of ways.
  5246. >You were told by Sombra that this was because you didn’t use a catalyst like he did.
  5247. >But it was irritatingly clear that you were lesser to her.
  5248. >To all servants.
  5249. >If not for the command seal and the power it holds, you doubted you’d be capable of being her master.
  5250. >You’d never be able to trust someone as powerful as she is.
  5251. >And she wasn’t even the strongest class of servant!
  5252. >By all accounts, The Saber and The Berserker were even more impressive, at least physically.
  5253. >To think, one of them had been squeezing the the life out of you not hours ago.
  5254. >At the very least, once you made it out of this war, win or lose you’d have plenty of stories for your future children.
  5255. >”If you absolutely must wake her, my master, might I ask that you keep her quiet?”
  5256. >You shrugged.
  5257. “That’s really up to her, but I’ll try my best. Not like I want to listen to her sniveling, either.”
  5258. >”I still do not understand why you are even caring to her. After this is over, she will have to die.”
  5259. >You had heard this before, so you open the bag and set it on a worktable fastened to the wall.
  5260. >”She’s a human. One who has been exposed to the world of magic. The Church and The Association would be displeased-”
  5261. “Assassin, we ARE going to kill her. In the meantime, I’ve known what it was like to go hungry. I’m merciful enough to spare her that pain.”
  5262. >It wasn’t a complete lie.
  5263. >As a child, you had come close to starving while living on the streets.
  5264. >Ugh, why did you have to remember back to then TWICE today?.
  5265. >Back to before your talents had been discovered...
  5266. >...But, you didn’t really intend to dispose of Sunset unless Anon proved to be uncooperative.
  5267. >You had always thought the law requiring the killing of normal people was a bit harsh.
  5268. >After all, they could easily be dealt with by other measures.
  5269. >Those of low standing could be discredited.
  5270. >Those of high standing could become potential allies.
  5271. >It seemed like such a waste to simply kill them.
  5272. >But, if you stood to gain nothing from her living, she would need to die.
  5273. >If she lived and someone found out she knew, you could be punished.
  5274. >Hell, The Church could punish you in The War itself for reckless actions that risked discovery.
  5275. >It wasn’t anything personal, of course.
  5276. >All you really knew about this women was her name, where she lived and that she was a friend of Anonymous.
  5277. >You just don’t have the patience for setbacks.
  5278. >Your mind returned to the present with the smallest of shrugs from your servant.
  5279. >”Whatever you say, master. Just...make it quick, please.”
  5280. >You just nod your head toward Shimmer’s face.
  5281. >Assassin scowls before turning back to her wheel.
  5282. >The webbing around Shimmer’s face loosened.
  5283. >Now, to wake her.
  5284. >You grab onto her face and yank it around.
  5285. “Hey, wake up. Food’s here. Be grateful.”
  5286. >Sunset blinked rapidly after you released your grip.
  5287. >”Why...why are you doing this?”
  5288. >You scowl.
  5289. “I didn’t answer you the last seven times you asked. What do you think has changed since then?”
  5290. >Tears began to collect in her eyes, but you interrupt her incoming sobs by shoving a cheeseburger in front of her face.
  5291. “Eat now, cry later. Or never. Preferably that.”
  5292. >Her confusion was clear.
  5293. >Her watery eyes were nervous as she looked from the sandwich to you.
  5294. >You scoff.
  5295. “Oh, come on. It’s not any more poisonous than your average trashy burger.”
  5296. >She still didn’t bite.
  5297. >God, why did everything have to be so difficult today?!
  5298. “If we wanted you dead, or even drugged, you would be helpless to stop us. EAT.”
  5299. >Your commanding tone finally did the trick.
  5300. >For the next few moments, she takes careful bites of the cheeseburger.
  5301. >Okay, so far so good.
  5302. >A little rocky, but she hadn’t been too loud so far.
  5303. >If you were lucky, you would have an obedient and quiet prisoner yet.
  5304. >You were on your way through the second burger before she finally spoke again.
  5305. >”Are...are you from Equestria?”
  5306. >You tilt your head.
  5307. “I’m from a lot of places, but Equestria doesn’t ring any bells. Why?”
  5308. >”These...these webs...I thought magic didn’t exist here naturally.”
  5309. >You chuckle.
  5310. “You’d be with the rest of the sheep on that. Magic is the world’s best kept secret, these days.”
  5311. >For a moment, it looks like Sunset is about to say something, but instead goes for another bite.
  5312. >Something about what she said is bugging you, though.
  5313. “This equestria...they have magic there?”
  5314. >Her nervous look returns.
  5315. >”Uhh...what?”
  5316. “Don’t play games with me, Shimmer. You said magic doesn’t exist ‘here’...Meaning it exists somewhere for you.”
  5317. >You hear the spinning wheel slow behind you
  5318. >Assassin was still working, but now had an eye turned to your conversation.
  5319. >”I....well, it’s not a place you can get to easily...but yes, we have magic there.”
  5320. >Oh.
  5321. >OH.
  5322. >This...could be interesting.
  5323. “We?”
  5324. >Sunset’s eyes widen, but she slowly nods her head.
  5325. “You know how to use magic?”
  5326. >”It’s...it’s harder now that I’m not there, but recently I’ve gotten a little back in touch-”
  5327. “That’s not important. What’s important is you already knew about magic, at least in some context. This...changes things.”
  5328. >”...Changes things in a g-good way? Or...”
  5329. >If she was a mage, she didn’t have to die!
  5330. >She already knew magic existed and admitted to using it!
  5331. >Wait, if that was the case, then was she an ally of Anonymous’?
  5332. “That might depend. What is the nature of your relationship with Anonymous?”
  5333. >”Relationsh- I’m just his friend! What does Anon even have to do with this?!”
  5334. >Hmm, it didn’t seem like he told her about him being a magus.
  5335. “More than you know. More than you’ll ever know, if you want what’s best for you.”
  5336. >This shut her back up, and her feeding continued.
  5337. >There were questions left unasked, but you weren’t in any hurry to hear the answers yet.
  5338. >What you WERE in a hurry for was to get out of here and get back to Sombra as soon as possible.
  5339. >He needed to know that you had a fellow magus captive, not some random human.
  5340. >...He’d probably still want to kill her, but you didn’t HAVE to now.
  5341. >As you finish the last burger with Sunset, you turn back to get a better look at how your servant was reacting to the news.
  5342. >To your surprise, she had a troubled frown and had returned her attention to the wheel yet again.
  5343. “Assassin? Is something wrong?”
  5344. >”...No, my master. Just dealing with a...rough piece of thread.”
  5345. >She was holding something back from you.
  5346. >That much was easy to tell.
  5347. >But confronting her about it might not be wise at the moment.
  5348. >That tapestry of hers would prove vital for tonight, best not distract her.
  5349. >Besides, it probably wasn’t anything too important.
  5350. “Well, Miss Shimmer...I’m afraid I’ve got some business to attend to. Don’t you worry about me, I’ll be back before you know it.”
  5351. >You give her a playful poke on the nose and walk to the door before turning around.
  5352. “Oh, and could you continue to keep the crying to a minimum? Assassin needs her concentration...I can’t promise to stop her should you break it.”
  5353. >You leave exactly what Assassin might do to her unanswered as you shut the door behind you.
  5354. >Your HQ on the docks where Sombra was preparing those damned crystals of his was a distance away.
  5355. >You could teleport there, it was one of your favorite tricks...
  5356. >But it was a bit of an energy hog.
  5357. >You sigh as you make your way back to the maze, pulling the direction back out yet again.
  5358. >About halfway through the maze, the sound of voices in the distance catches your attention.
  5359. >You prepare yourself for dealing with some nosy groundskeeper before you pick out a bit of their conversation.
  5360. >”...not to be trifled with, Rider.”
  5361. >Ah, perfect!
  5362. >Even had he not give himself away by saying his servant’s name, you’d recognize that low growly voice anywhere!
  5363. >A few more turns and your partner and his servant came into view.
  5364. >The sight of the tall, muscle bound man next to Sombra was quite a bit unnerving.
  5365. >Sombra wasn’t a short man by any means, but Rider towered a full two heads over him.
  5366. >His short, dark and wild hair almost peaked over the top of the maze.
  5367. >A manic grin, one you rarely saw him without, was surrounded with a full, bushy beard.
  5368. >You swear you could see bits of food still left in it.
  5369. >”Ah, Chrysalis. Did you deliver the message to Anonymous?”
  5370. >Sombra was the first to address you of the two.
  5371. >Good, the less you had to talk to Rider the better.
  5372. “I did. Are you finished with your crystals? I had not expected you to arrive for a few more hours...”
  5373. >”Not quite, but I am prepared enough for tonight. I assume you’ve seen Assassin’s...project, then?”
  5374. >You quirk an eyebrow.
  5375. “Yes, I saw. How did you know about it? Haven’t you been cooped up in your room all day?”
  5376. >Like how he spent most of his days, you left out.
  5377. >”She mentioned it to me last night. I could have sworn you were there for it.”
  5378. “...No, I wasn’t.”
  5379. >Sombra smiled and shrugged his shoulders.
  5380. >”Must have slipped her mind to inform you, what with her focused on her recovering and all.”
  5381. >You frown.
  5382. >Sombra was trying to lead you away from the important thing here.
  5383. >Why was he talking to YOUR servant without you?
  5384. >And why had she told him about one of her powers she hadn’t told you yet?
  5385. >”Come on, don’t look so sour little lady! Ooo, I see you’ve gathered us some rations!”
  5386. >Before you can react, Rider’s hand swoops down and takes the bag of burgers you had bought for yourself that you had still been clutching.
  5387. >OH NO HE DOESN’T
  5388. “Rider! Gives those back, those are mine!”
  5389. >”Okay, fine. I won’t eat all of them.”
  5390. “That’s better- wait, no, give them ALL back!”
  5391. >”You know, I AM a monarch, and you have yet to pay me any taxes for my services thus far. I think one of these little morsels would make a fine start.”
  5392. >You continue to fume at him as he devours the first burger in one bite.
  5393. >His facial expression changes the second he starts chewing to one of thoughtful meditation.
  5394. >Then, abject horror before he swallows.
  5395. >He slowly raises the bag back to you.
  5396. >”On...on second thought, I weave your need to pay tribute. You may have your...”food” back.”
  5397. >Was he dissing your terrible burgers?!
  5398. >Good lord you hated him.
  5399. >So.
  5400. >Much.
  5401. >”Okay you two, let’s head to the shed. I have a few things I would like to prepare for Anonymous outside.”
  5402. >You continue to bicker with the oafish Rider as you walked behind him.
  5403. >You could tell Sombra about Sunset’s magic later.
  5404. >For now, you had a godlike being to enlighten about the glory of fast food.
  5406. >”A-anon?”
  5407. “...trixie?”
  5408. >”Are you okay?”
  5409. “...kill me, please.”
  5410. >”Oh, no! Did the training go wrong, did you hurt yourself?!”
  5411. “...no, the training was successful.”
  5412. >”Then why are you...like this?”
  5413. >You lay spread out on the basement floor, covered in sweat and barely moving.
  5414. >Daring and Saber had decided to rejoin the others about a half hour ago.
  5415. >You had chosen to stay behind.
  5416. >Well, chosen was the wrong word.
  5417. >Moreof, your body refused to follow them.
  5418. >You had hoped that Saber would have gone easier on you since you had to focus on keeping your circuits spinning
  5419. >She was harder.
  5420. >MUCH harder.
  5421. >You were certain under your drenched clothes she had left many welts from striking with the flat of her blade.
  5422. >You were absolutely certain that the only reason you hadn’t passed out from exertion was because you were still clutching your sword.
  5423. “Trixie...go get caster...tell him I need him again...”
  5424. >”Trixie doesn’t think that’s such a good idea, Anonymous.”
  5425. “Oh. Some water, then?”
  5426. >”THAT, Trixie can do. She shall return momentarily.”
  5427. >You wince as you try to move your limbs around.
  5428. >In spite of the burning sensations flooding your limbs, you finally manage to move them around a bit.
  5429. >Progress, thy name is Anonymous.
  5430. >Well, that was certainly an experience.
  5431. >At first, keeping your circuits going took almost all of your attention.
  5432. >That was when Saber had landed a majority of her hits on you.
  5433. >Daring would yell at you every time she saw them slow down.
  5434. >About an hour into, though, it began to feel second nature.
  5435. >The spinning sort of just sustained itself for a while.
  5436. >You did your best to memorize that feeling for next time.
  5437. >You doubted you would be able to just get straight into “the zone”, as Daring called, right away even if you needed too.
  5438. >But knowing what it felt like would make it easier to identify.
  5439. >So, the spinning became second nature.
  5440. >Training should have gotten easier after that, right?
  5441. >Nope.
  5442. >Even though you could focus a bit better and got hit less, you had still been training against Saber for an hour.
  5443. >By the time you got used to the sensation of spinning as you fought, you were dog-tired.
  5444. >And you still had to fight for another half hour.
  5445. >Saber and Master had done very careful calculations to give you enough time to rest, supposedly.
  5446. >Your body would have to disagree with them, but when the time came you know you’d suck it up and keep pushing on.
  5447. >You might be a bit sore, but what other choice did you have?
  5448. >...Okay, floor time was over.
  5449. >You give your limbs a few experimental shakes and stretches before wincing your way into a sitting position against the wall.
  5450. >You continue the small moving and stretching even though your body protests at every movement.
  5451. >Another moment passes in silence before you hear footsteps coming down the staircase again.
  5452. >”Behold, Anonymous! Trixie has returned with your refreshment!”
  5453. “You are a blessing, Trix.”
  5454. >”And don’t you know it.”
  5455. >Her playful grin draws one of your own before you take a few long drinks from the clear glass Trixie hands to you.
  5456. “You seem like you’re in a good mood. Wish I could say the same for myself...”
  5457. >”Our talk with Starlight was...enlightening. It’s mind-boggling that the three of us were all keeping this big of a secret from each other.”
  5458. >You do your best to nod.
  5459. “Just the unfortunate nature of our world, I guess. Still, I never would have had you pegged for a magus myself. Not in a million years.”
  5460. >”Trixie is unsure how to take that. Obviously, our shows failed to dazzle you enough to leave no question.”
  5461. “It’s a compliment. You’re good people. Jury’s still out on Starlight now, but she’s probably fine too.”
  5462. >”Oh, you don’t mean that. The two of you seemed to strike some sort of accord last we saw.”
  5463. “Mutual misfortune can indeed be a strong bond, but that’s not what I meant. I’ve met some good people in the church...”
  5464. >”...but?”
  5465. “The Church, at it’s worse, can be just as bad as The Association. Especially the executioners. They tend to be extremely quick to anger and action...”
  5466. >You trail off as you begin to think of all the stories you had heard of the executioners.
  5467. >The raids they carried out against enemies of the church tended to have extreme innocent death tolls.
  5468. >But...there was no reason to bog Trixie down with that knowledge quiet yet.
  5469. “Like I said though, I’m sure Starlight’s fine. At the very least, she seems loyal to you.”
  5470. >”...Yeah. I’m- Trixie is grateful that her friendship remains true. And that there is one less secret between us.”
  5471. >A comfortable silence crawls over the room, only broken by a pained grunt from time to time as you continue to exert your arms.
  5472. >”Should Trixie return later? You seem like you could use some rest.”
  5473. >You shake your head.
  5474. “Sleep is the last thing on my mind right now. Please, keep talking. I could use a friendly voice after Daring’s yells.”
  5475. >”Hmm. Okay, if you insist.”
  5476. >Trixie plopped down next to you against the wall.
  5477. >Her bemused facial expression shifted to concern when she got a better view of your arms.
  5478. >Which you had neglected to check out earlier but...
  5479. >Yep, covered in welts and bruises.
  5480. >When she looked directly at you again, you just gave her the biggest smile you could muster.
  5481. “Hey, don’t worry about it. Good news is it wasn’t a waste.”
  5482. >You weakly reach an arm out and manifest the circles around your arm again.
  5483. >Trixie’s gaze is completely transfixed by them as they get faster and faster.
  5484. >”How...how are you doing that?”
  5485. “You’ve never manifested your circuits outside of your body before?”
  5486. >”Not like that...It usually stays on our skin when we do it.”
  5487. >That was kind of shocking.
  5488. >It wasn’t required for a lot of spells, but it was a great training tool to observe how your student moved their mana while casting.
  5489. “When we have more time, maybe I’ll teach it to you...Though I should probably ask for your grandfather’s permission, wouldn’t want to steal his student.”
  5490. >Trixie goes quiet for a bit before whispering something angrily you couldn’t hear.
  5491. “Uh, what was that?”
  5492. >”Oh, Trixie was just saying we...would probably prefer you to my grandfather.”
  5493. “Really? Should I take that as a compliment?”
  5494. >”It’s just...he’s so restrictive. We’re practically self taught when it comes to most things.”
  5495. >An eager learner, huh?
  5496. >That sounded uncomfortably familiar.
  5497. “That can be dangerous, little missie.”
  5498. >”Oh god, don’t start sounding like him now.”
  5499. “Seriously though, I can’t say anything about what he’s been teaching you...but self study has a lot of risks. Lots of ways to get into trouble.”
  5500. >”Like?”
  5501. >You give her your best incredulous look.
  5502. “Oh, I dunno...Like getting wrapped up in a battle royal between experience mages and godlike servants?”
  5503. >Trixie winces.
  5504. >”...Point taken.”
  5505. >You give her a short laugh at your victory.
  5506. “Honestly, The Grail War isn’t even the most lethal thing you could get caught up in.”
  5507. >”That’s a scary thought.”
  5508. “With all the plusses of magic, there’s got to be at least two negatives. You get familiars, but you also got to take vampires and zombies...”
  5509. >”Vampires and zombies are real?!”
  5510. “Look, that’s not the important thing here. The important thing is that IF we make it through this, maybe you should consider listening to your grandpa.”
  5511. >”You may have a point...At the very least, we shall keep our hands away from rituals in the future.”
  5512. “Good a place to start as anywhere, I guess.”
  5513. >You give a few bigger stretches as the conversation dies down a bit again.
  5514. “So, you mentioned you wanted to talk about something earlier? I doubt it was about your grandpa.”
  5515. >”No, you’re right. I just..Trixie wanted to talk about us.”
  5516. “Oh man, are you dumping me already? Should have figured, there was no way I could keep up with someone as great and powerful as you.”
  5517. >”WHA-?! No! Trixie isn’t-”
  5518. >Trixie cuts herself off when she notices your smug grin.
  5519. >”You’re fooling with Trixie again! Can’t you just...be serious for a moment?”
  5520. >You carefully consider.
  5521. “...”
  5522. >”...Trixie does not like how long it’s taking for you to respond.”
  5523. “This is an important decision, Trix.”
  5524. >”You’re impossible.”
  5525. “...Okay, I can be serious. Something bothering you?”
  5526. >”Yes. No? Trixie doesn’t know. One of the things she wanted to discuss was making us...official.”
  5527. >You don’t respond, as your first thought is to tease her about HOW she wanted to make it official.
  5528. >”However, you settled that question up there with Starlight. Trixie was happy to hear you say it, even if you could have been less casual about it.”
  5529. >You shrug.
  5530. “Some normal people things still elude me, Trixie, but after our hastily thrown together date and last night even I could put together the dots.”
  5531. >”It still felt good to hear directly from you though, you know?”
  5532. >You did.
  5533. >There was something satisfying about saying it earlier, too. Even beyond teasing her.
  5534. “Yeah, I know. What was the other thing?”
  5535. >You ask while dropping your head into her lap.
  5536. >”The other thing was...What are you doing?”
  5537. “I’m too weak to sit up anymore, and I saw a comfy alternative.”
  5538. >You lied through your teeth.
  5539. >You just saw this on TV shows and always wanted to try it.
  5540. >Trixie rolls her eyes, aware of your bullshit excuse but not bothering to point it out.
  5541. >”The other thing was about our alliance. When we discussed it with our servants, it was established that it would last until Sombra and Chrysalis were not a threat.”
  5542. >She looks down briefly, her eyes meeting yours for a flicker before she looked everywhere but.
  5543. >You swear you could make out the slightest pink on her cheeks.
  5544. >”It shouldn’t come as a surprise that Trixie would prefer that arrangement to become permanent.”
  5545. “I would too. Even if we weren’t...together, I still wouldn’t. You’re not the kind of person I can fight.”
  5546. >You were feeling slightly bashful, talking about being together while having you head peacefully in her lap.
  5547. >”The problem is...Trixie has no grand wish she wants granted, but Caster does.”
  5548. >You nod.
  5549. >”Same with Saber...And, as you said last night, yourself to an extent.”
  5550. “I mean, I wouldn’t turn down the wish if I won, but it would be on something stupid.”
  5551. >”Exactly. As long as that’s true, however, we’ll have to fight each other eventually.”
  5552. >Wait.
  5553. >This was your moment.
  5554. >Earlier, you had thought about asking Trixie to give up Caster when the time came.
  5555. >Get rid of a potentially very annoying obstacle AND keep her safe.
  5556. >And now here she was, saying she didn’t want to fight you.
  5557. >It was a perfect time to suggest it.
  5558. >...So why were you holding it back?
  5559. >Even though you knew this could be big for you, you felt bad for wanting to put it into words.
  5560. >Fuck, you already knew why.
  5561. >It was clear Trixie didn’t want to deny Caster his chance for a wish.
  5562. >And you were about to ask her to completely remove the possibility of him ever winning the grail.
  5563. >You didn’t want to put her in that position.
  5564. >Even if it meant possibly more hardship for her later on.
  5565. >Dammit.
  5566. >”Anon? You look upset...It something wrong?”
  5567. >Oops, don’t let that frustration slip out there Anon.
  5568. “Just thinking about it. If...If it comes down to it, I’ll talk with Caster. Worst case scenario, I ask for him to leave you out of it.”
  5569. >”I still don’t like that the two of you will be fighting.”
  5570. “It’s going to have to happen eventually, assuming we even make it to the end.”
  5571. >You make a point of finding her eyes again before you continue.
  5572. “I know you won’t like it, but I won’t abandon Saber. Not while I have the strength to help her get her wish.”
  5573. >”Trixie doesn’t like it, but she understands. You’re a fool, but a noble one at least.”
  5574. “Damn right. And you love me for it.”
  5575. >”Love is a strong word.”
  5576. “Ouch.”
  5577. >You smile as Trixie deals some of your cheeky attitude back.
  5578. >”Oh, don’t be a baby. Trixie is sure you’ll earn it some day.”
  5579. >Then, unexpectedly Trixie leaned her head close to yours.
  5580. >Her silver hair cascaded down around you, leaving nothing but Trixie in your sight.
  5581. >”And The Great and Powerful Trixie is never wrong about these things.”
  5582. >Stunned by her sudden boldness, you don’t even have time to speak before she closes the last few remaining inches between you and your lips connect.
  5583. >It wasn’t a long kiss.
  5584. >Or even a serious one.
  5585. >A light, playful peck if anything.
  5586. >But it was filled with such honest affection you were at a loss for words.
  5587. >Your lips separate, and you feel the heat start rushing to your face.
  5588. >You hadn’t noticed until now, but your heart was starting to beat out of your chest.
  5589. >Not in the usually “Oh dear god I’m going to die, why did I ever agree to Daring being my master” way.
  5590. >This was far more enjoyable.
  5591. >Comfortable, even.
  5592. >Trixie raises her head, wearing a satisfied smirk.
  5593. >An idle hand strokes the side of your face before she lets out a deep breath.
  5594. “Satisfied?”
  5595. >”You have no- I, Trixie means...Yes, that was acceptable.”
  5596. >You give a short laugh.
  5597. “I aim to be adequate.”
  5598. >Another moment passes by before you give your arms a big stretch and yawn.
  5599. >”Trixie thought you said sleep was the last thing on your mind?”
  5600. “Your lap is a very coercive pillow. Plus, we still have time for a quick nap.”
  5601. >”Not here, you don’t.”
  5602. >You defiantly nuzzle your head deeper into her lap.
  5603. “This pillow is great, but it talks too much. Goodnight, Trixie.”
  5604. >”Anonymous, we’re serious. If you want to take a nap, our room is upstairs.”
  5605. >You stop.
  5606. >Was she suggesting?
  5607. >...No, she probably just meant you could use her bed instead of her lap.
  5608. “I’m sure your bed is comfortable Trix, but I doubt it’s better than this.”
  5609. >”...We could just...move this upstairs?”
  5610. >Okay, all hands on deck.
  5611. >She WAS suggesting what you thought she was suggesting.
  5612. “Oh. Uh...wow. Don’t you think that’s moving just a little fast?”
  5613. >Trixie turned her head to the side, looking confused.
  5614. “Like, I know tonight’s going to be an intense, dangerous situation...But aren’t there steps for these things?”
  5615. >”Steps for cuddling?”
  5616. >...God, you’re an idiot.
  5617. >Of course she didn’t mean sex, this is Trixie you’re talking about.
  5618. >That kiss must have muddled your brain.
  5619. “I meant steps for- You know, just forget it. Fine, let’s take this to your room I guess.”
  5620. >You turned your gaze back upwards from her lap to find her grinning down on you.
  5621. >”Why Anonymous...you seem rather flustered.”
  5622. >Crap, she realized.
  5623. >”Were you perhaps expecting something...more?”
  5624. “D-don’t be silly, Trix. Come on, let’s just-”
  5625. >You began to move to get up, but Trixie laying a hand on your chest forced you to stop.
  5626. >”Now, Anon. That’s no fun.”
  5627. >She lowered her head back to yours, but instead of going for a kiss she lowered her lips next to your ear.
  5628. >”You know, you could just ask Trixie. What’s the harm in asking?”
  5629. >As her breath tickled your ear and filled your mind, she lazily dragged her finger in a circle on your chest.
  5630. >You’ve only ever had one other person this close to you, ever.
  5631. >And it was non voluntary.
  5632. >Having someone you allowed to get this close to you do these things...
  5633. >It was complete sensory overload.
  5634. >You were frantically trying to form words, a sentence, anything to respond.
  5635. >You were unable to before Trixie started laughing lightly.
  5636. >”Okay, Trixie will stop teasing you now. She’s not sure you could handle much more.”
  5637. >The word “teasing” brought your mental faculties back to full alert.
  5638. >You scowled.
  5639. “Oh, you little...”
  5640. >”Come on, take the payback graciously. You tease Trixie all the time!”
  5641. “Yeah, but I worked up to the low blows. You went from zero to sixty WAY to fast.”
  5642. >”Trixie was going against a professional. She couldn’t afford to pull any punches.”
  5643. >The two of you sit in a beat of silence before you both started laughing.
  5644. “Okay, you’ve had your fun. Now, was the bedroom an actual offer? Otherwise, I’m going to try to rest now.”
  5645. >”Yes, now just get up already!”
  5646. >You make a few exaggerated, slow stretching moments before Trixie just rolls you off her lap.
  5647. >A couple more retorts and some teasing is shared between you as you interlock your fingers and make for the stairs.
  5649. >You breathe in the crisp night air as you step out of the car.
  5650. >The entrance of the Canterlot gardens stood before you.
  5651. >”You know, I always thought such a large maze seemed like a waste on a small city like this.”
  5652. “The people around here are pretty big into nature, you should know that from living here.”
  5653. >Starlight rolled her eyes.
  5654. >”But a maze? Parks and forests I get...”
  5655. “Anyways, you really sure about coming here? Even if you aren’t going in with me, being within a ten mile radius of servants fighting is general a dumb move.”
  5656. >”Trust me, I’m keeping my nose as far out of the fight as possible.”
  5657. “So what, you’re here for moral support? Won’t The Church get mad you’re playing favorites?”
  5658. >”Something like that, and The Church isn’t going to hear about this. As far as they are concerned, I’m dutifully studying while Discord arbiters.”
  5659. “Whatever, it’s not on me if you get hurt. I’m already going to have my hands full as it is.”
  5660. >A strong hand clapping down on your shoulder makes you jump a bit, pulling you out of your conversation with Glimmer.
  5661. >”Getting nervous, kid?”
  5662. “...I’d like to say no, but in the end Saber and I are still the bait for two servants.”
  5663. >You reaffirm your grip on the sword by your side.
  5664. “If I didn’t have this, I would think this was a suicide mission. Even with it, there’s a lot of ways this could go bad.”
  5665. >An armored hand dropped to yours and wrestled it away, clasping it in a strong grip.
  5666. >”Have faith in your plan, Master. Just focus on being loud and being alive. Your friends can handle the rest.”
  5667. >You grasp back with strength not your own, drawing from the blade.
  5668. >Saber smiles.
  5669. >”You’re getting used to your new capabilities. That’s good. However, always stay on the defensive when dealing with enemy servants.”
  5670. “I don’t think you have anything to worry about.”
  5671. >You were fairly certain that Sombra would want you for himself, especially after you got away last time.
  5672. “Okay, time to get moving. We got a lot of maze to cover before we reach the center-”
  5673. >As you spoke and began to dig out a map of the maze you had printed off at Trixie's, Saber moved forward.
  5674. >With a few swift flashes of her blade, a large portion of the tree wall in front of you slowly fell apart.
  5675. “...”
  5676. >”Miss Sunset is in danger, Anonymous. Do we really have the time to be playing with mazes?”
  5677. >You pause before sighing, crumpling the map and tossing it over your shoulder.
  5678. “I suppose not. Lead on, mighty hedge trimmer.”
  5679. >”With pleasure.”
  5680. >Saber began to cut down wall after wall, gaining greater speed with every section.
  5681. >She made no effort to be quiet, assuring that Sombra and company heard you coming.
  5682. >Well, you felt a little disappointed you wasted time finding that public map.
  5683. >But this honestly suited your purpose much better.
  5684. >That purpose being keeping the Servants occupied while the rest of your group found a way to get to Sunset.
  5685. >It only took you maybe a minute before a clearing lay open before you.
  5686. >A single shack dotted the clearing, along with a small ornate water fountain.
  5687. >”Quite an entrance you made there. Didn’t think gardening was a very knightly activity.”
  5688. >A deep voice, gravelly voice you were unfamiliar with greeted you.
  5689. >A large man sat lazily on top of the shack, picking through his beard.
  5690. >Completely not focused on you.
  5691. >The first thing that struck you was his size.
  5692. >He was a giant, his long legs hanging from the shack were a testament to that.
  5693. >Easily eight or nine feet tall, by your estimate.
  5694. >His clothes were modern, a very nicely tailored suit fitted snugly on his body.
  5695. >However, the rest of his appearance was dirty and unkempt in contrast to his attire.
  5696. >Saber spoke before you.
  5697. >”You must be Rider? It is an honor to meet you. I am the Sa-”
  5698. >”Hmph.”
  5699. >Rider gave Saber an indignant grunt, bringing her introduction to a halt with his rudeness.
  5700. >”What a bore. You’re just the same as that lightning fellow.”
  5701. >So, Sombra’s servant has met Lancer. Interesting.
  5702. >”I tire of these coy games our masters play. My name is Diomedes.”
  5703. >You and Saber shared a shocked glance before looking back to Rider.
  5704. >No, to Diomedes.
  5705. >He just gave up his identity like that?
  5706. >While your mind was kicking into overdrive, frantically trying to remember everything you could about the name, he continued.
  5707. >”It’s actually KING Diomedes, but I shant be concerned with titles at the moment.”
  5708. >Rider finally stopped picking though his beard and leaned forward, a crazed grin widening as he did.
  5709. >”After all, I’ve been informed that I’m among peers! What a surprise! A king playing the noble knight!”
  5710. >Your blood turned to ice.
  5711. >They knew Saber’s identity?
  5712. >How, did you mess up?!
  5713. >You didn’t even know her identity, and Saber only just recently slipped around you.
  5714. >Rider leapt from the shack, hitting the ground with a loud THUD.
  5715. >You felt the earth move slightly under you, but you kept your footing.
  5716. >Saber had taken to biting her lip, hard enough to draw blood.
  5717. >However, before you could find words to reassure her she had already started smirking again.
  5718. >”So, is that all?”
  5719. >Rider raised an eyebrow, still smiling.
  5720. >”You aren’t worried? I know your name, who knows what else I might know about you?”
  5721. >Saber lifted her sword into a low fighting stance, taking a single step foward to keep distance between you and Rider.
  5722. >”If anything, it’s a relief. I have no reason to hold back against you anymore, Mad King.”
  5723. >It was encouraging that Saber knew who she was dealing with, because you were still drawing a blank.
  5724. >You were certain it was Greek, but there were several Diomedes of note to your recollection.
  5725. >Suddenly, the entire scene before you lurched as Saber and Rider leapt at each other.
  5726. >If it weren’t for your sword, you would have had trouble making out the movements.
  5727. >Saber was staying out of his hand-to-hand range, staying mobile and slashing here and there.
  5728. >Diomedes made motions to try and catch her blade, or at least catch any part of her.
  5729. >One of his attempts go wide, causing him to grab onto the fountain instead.
  5730. >The madman made the best of it, ripping it out of the ground as if it was a weed and launching it at Saber.
  5731. >The display of raw strength shocked you, though Saber was quick to duck to the side and slice a chunk of the fountain as she went.
  5732. >Your sword was long drawn, but you had no idea how to even begin to help.
  5733. >You could tell just from watching, one hit from Rider’s raw strength and you were a dead man.
  5734. >You were seriously doubting if Saber herself could take a hit from him.
  5735. >”Come now, Mad King. I thought you were a man of Greece! No appreciation for art?”
  5736. >Saber’s sing song voice taunting Rider did little to slow him, though it did set you a bit at ease.
  5737. >”Anonymous. I’m glad you decided to come, but I believe us masters have no place in this battle.”
  5738. >A familiar voice called to you from behind in the direction of the maze.
  5739. >You turn to see him, and your sight immediately sets on a bright yellow crystal in his left hand.
  5740. >He grinned, though his tone remained even. Calm.
  5741. >”I’m glad you’re still quick on the uptake when you need to be. With this crystal, I literally hold Sunset Shimmer’s life in my hands.”
  5742. >So, he would use Sunset as a chip.
  5743. >You knew you were dancing to his tune, but you simply nodded your head and moved to follow him as he turned into the maze.
  5744. >You have to work hard to contain your smirk, however.
  5745. >You were currently dancing to his tune, you couldn’t risk him finding out that he was dancing to yours as well.
  5746. >Still, while things were going as you had predicted so far, you couldn’t help but feel uneasy.
  5747. >The sounds of Saber’s fight against Rider only grew more intense, even as you walked away from it.
  5748. >Couple that with actively choosing to walk into a trap and you had so many things that could go wrong.
  5749. >You had to have faith, however.
  5750. >Sombra would no doubt want to twirl his metaphorical moustache at you.
  5751. >Maybe even show off what all that crystal research he was so invested in lead him to.
  5752. >However, he would use Assassin as a trump card to assure his victory.over you.
  5753. >At least, if he still respected you he would.
  5754. >If he didn’t, Saber’s sword and the magic resistance it offered you would spell his death.
  5755. >With him and Rider out of the way, all that would remain would be for Caster to deal with Assassin and save Sunset.
  5756. >A backup plan for if Sombra didn’t have Assassin waiting for you.
  5757. >The two of you walked for precious minutes through the maze.
  5758. >Sombra’s cocky grin had shrunk to a small, peaceful smile.
  5759. >...Honestly, how at ease and happy he seemed while talking to you had annoyed the hell out of you before.
  5760. >That hadn’t changed now.
  5761. “So, how far are we intending to walk? It’s gotta be soon, I imagine. That crystal has to have a range restriction.”
  5762. >Sombra’s smile flinched for just a moment.
  5763. >You had no idea if the crystals had a range restriction, but you knew now.
  5764. >”You’d be surprised how much of what you know is wrong, Anonymous.”
  5765. >His tone was less even now, barely containing his bile towards you.
  5766. >He stopped at an intersection in the maze, the hedge cutting into two different paths beyond the one you emerged from.
  5767. >”For example, I’m willing to bet you believe that I am here to challenge you to a duel.”
  5768. “The thought had crossed my mind, but I also thought-”
  5769. >”And I’m willing to bet you thought that sword of yours would protect you from my magic.”
  5770. >...
  5771. >Oh shit, that’s right.
  5772. >”The sword of her squire and the abilities they grant...I’m fully aware of them.”
  5773. >They knew her name.
  5774. >So, he intended to fight you with Assassin the whole time.
  5775. >”You’d actually be right about that, by the way. My crystals, as much as I hate to admit it, would be paltry versus a servant’s magic resistance.”
  5776. >You kept an eye on your surroundings, looking for and of those silvery strands that contained you last time.
  5777. >”So that’s why-”
  5778. “You never intended to fight me? You’re not as clever as you think you are.”
  5779. >”...Well, I suppose that much should be obvious.”
  5780. >So far, you couldn’t see any webs coming for you.
  5781. >Where was she?
  5782. >”Looking for Assassin? She’s not here. Someone has to guard the prisoner, after all.”
  5783. >You raised an eyebrow.
  5784. “She’s not here?”
  5785. >Sombra’s confident grin set you on edge.
  5786. >Dammit, he knew something you didn’t.
  5787. >Before you could ask, movement down one of the paths caught your vision.
  5788. >A tall, large figure walking on four legs made it’s way towards you and Sombra.
  5789. >The clip-clopping of it’s hooves gave away it’s equine nature before it’s horrifying visage met your sight.
  5790. >The horse’s muzzle was covered in dried blood.
  5791. >It’s flaring teeth were died a light crimson, and it’s eyes were dead.
  5792. >And completely focused on you.
  5793. >Suddenly, it started to come to you.
  5794. >Diomedes, his super human strength, and this crazed looking horse...
  5795. >He was the Diomedes of Heracles’ legend.
  5796. >Diomedes of Thrace.
  5797. >And...his man eating mares.
  5798. >...Couldn’t they breath fire?
  5799. >The horse exhaled, a small puff of fire and smoke reaching out as it did.
  5800. >They breathe fire.
  5801. >Shit.
  5802. >”Judging from your expression, I see that my servant’s mounts need no explanation.”
  5803. >Sombra lifted the crystal high in the air, grinning madly.
  5804. >”I’ll keep this simple. Defeat them, and you get the crystal. Die to them, or come after me, Sunset Shimmer dies.”
  5805. >”Them” became more apparent as a mare stalked down every possible path.
  5806. >”I’d draw your sword, Anonymous. I’ve seen what they do to men. It isn’t very pretty.”
  5807. >Sombra didn’t need to tell you twice.
  5808. >Your blade came out as your mind raced to come up with a plan.
  5809. >Were they really going to use fire in the maze? That seemed stupidly risky.
  5810. >The blaze could easily get out of control in the heat of fighting and spread beyond the gardens.
  5811. >Sombra would avoid getting penalized by The Church, right?
  5812. >You got your answer when the mare closest to you standing about 15 feet away stopped before taking a deep breath.
  5813. >Your nerves began to tingle, and you emulate Saber’s maneuver from earlier, cutting a new path into the maze.
  5814. >A much smaller, rougher cut than hers, but enough of a hole for you to flee into as the foliage catches ablaze around you.
  5815. >”No, you fools! You’re going to set the whole maze on fire!”
  5816. >You didn’t stop to look back and see if the mares listen.
  5817. >With speed not quite yet your own, you dash down the path of the maze.
  5818. >You need to put distance between you and the mares.
  5819. >Taking on all of them at the same tim/e would be tantamount to suicide.
  5820. >The sounds of hooves behind you hitting the earth and quickly closing in draw an end to that line of thought.
  5821. >Holy shit, they are FAST.
  5822. >You turn a sharp corner, hoping that maybe it might slow them down by at least a bit.
  5823. >You don’t even hear the hooves miss a beat.
  5824. >Okay, running isn’t a real option here then.
  5825. >...Stand and fight then.
  5826. >Your mind racing, you wait until the sounds are almost upon you before turning and slashing with Saber’s sword.
  5827. >A warm spray of blood hits your face as it slices a deep gash into the horse’s chest
  5828. >But the horse can’t, or won’t, stop.
  5829. >She crashes into you, sending both of you tumbling to the ground.
  5830. >The wind being knocked out of you might have slowed your reaction time, but Saber’s training had done wonders in that regard.
  5831. >Luckily so, as you barely managed to rip your blade up to the mare’s throat before it’s head jutted out to bite your shoulder.
  5832. >Even as your blade sinks into it’s neck and strikes bone, the monster still chomps closer towards you.
  5833. >It’s fervor was admirable, if not horrifying as more of it’s blood dripped onto your chest as it did.
  5834. >Still, you could feel it’s attempts growing slightly weaker.
  5835. >It’s strength was lower than Saber’s, but still far stronger than she should have been.
  5836. >If you could just keep this up, you could-
  5837. >Clopping sounds grab your attention.
  5838. >From the other direction you had come from.
  5839. >Another one had found you.
  5840. >Panicking, you dug the blade deeper and deeper, trying to end the life of the mare atop you swiftly.
  5841. >It just kept trying to wrestle it’s way forward as the sound of the other one closed in.
  5842. >No, there was no way!
  5843. >You were not about to become horse food!
  5844. >You kicked your circuits into high gear, letting them spin faster and faster.
  5845. >However, it was too slow. Too many distractions kept you from getting to the speed you needed.
  5846. >You felt the beast inhale as the air behind you warmed.
  5847. >Incineration then, huh?
  5848. >Guess they like cooked meals.
  5849. >You braced yourself as the fire washed over you.
  5850. >Harmlessly.
  5851. >Like, you could feel the unbearable heat but the actually flames did not touch your skin.
  5852. >You don’t let your confusion slow you down as you muster all the strength you can and dive your sword deeper.
  5853. >Finally, you feel a snap in the mare’s effort as it slowly goes limp over you.
  5854. >The pressure of it’s weight was almost unbearable, and you barely manage to toss it to the side to avoid it crushing you.
  5855. >What you didn’t avoid was the bite from the other mare.
  5856. >It’s large teeth dug deep into your left shoulder, disjointing bone as it went.
  5857. >You cry out and start stabbing wildly and blindly, just trying to keep it from doing anymore damage.
  5858. >The mare, to your surprise, takes a stab before retreating, jumping back and watching you carefully.
  5859. >Your eyesight shakes from pain and blood loss.
  5860. >What was it doing?
  5861. >The other one had killed itself trying to get a bite on you.
  5862. >Why did it retreat once it had succeeded?
  5863. >You stand up, readying your weapon against the incoming charge.
  5864. >But it never comes.
  5865. >It seems more than content to just watch you from the distance.
  5866. >...Watch you bleed out before it.
  5867. >It was watching you weaken.
  5868. >The first one had been crazed, so you thought the beasts beyond reason.
  5869. >But it was obvious now.
  5870. >They may be reckless, but they were hunters.
  5871. >Not unlike other carrion feeders with poisonous bites.
  5872. >...Shit, you really hope it wasn’t poisonous.
  5873. >Taking stock of the situation, you try to find what hope you can.
  5874. >Your left arm was numb, but it was still on. And you could still make a fist.
  5875. >One of the mares was dead.
  5876. >It’s slightly charred skin was a good sign, and gave you an idea.
  5877. >And judging from the intermittent ground shakes, Saber was still alive.
  5878. >Finally, the horse was bleeding too. Not as much as you.
  5879. >But it was a start.
  5880. >You lunged foward to test your theory that the mare was avoiding you.
  5881. >The moment your muscles tense, she hops a small distance away.
  5882. >Barely out of your striking range.
  5883. >Another lunge.
  5884. >This time, a good deal out of your striking range.
  5885. >No doubt about it, this horse was smart.
  5886. >After just one attack, it adapted to the distance you could cover with a lunge.
  5887. >...or so she thought.
  5888. >You had been holding back, partly out of conserving yourself.
  5889. >But partially because if she was as clever as a human, she could be tricked like a human.
  5890. >This time, you jumped forward with all the strength you could muster.
  5891. >The mare moved, but not enough.
  5892. >Colada strikes true, cutting deeper into her chest.
  5893. >Your heart swells at the victory but you draw back to avoid any possible counter attack.
  5894. >With a wound like that, there was a chance that the mare might bleed out first.
  5895. >Her dead eyes refocused on you, and it’s muscles tensed.
  5896. >She knew it too.
  5897. >So she would go back on the offensive.
  5898. >It moved at blinding speed this time, far faster than the other mare had acted.
  5899. >A speed difficult to track, but not impossible.
  5900. >You duck to the side and repeat the hedge-cutting trick, avoiding head on collision at all costs.
  5901. >It could probably dive through the hedge with that strength, but it would have to do so blindly.
  5902. >Either that, or follow the path you took.
  5903. >You steady yourself, ready to lash out at any sudden movement from the opening while also readying your circuits.
  5904. >It barrels through the a separate part of the hedge and you let loose the spell.
  5905. >A concentrated beam of fire flew forth, the laser searing the monster’s skin.
  5906. >It howled in pain, but drove itself forward.
  5907. >A second beam struck home into one of her legs, causing a misstep in her charge.
  5908. >All the opening you needed to go for the kill.
  5909. >You move your body to the side of the stumbling leg before charging forward yourself, taking Colada into both hands.
  5910. >The mare’s head goes over you as you bury the sword into her chest up to the hilt.
  5911. >Your left arm screams in protest as the mare’s weight falls on you, causing you to have to drop the sword as the monster collapsed to the ground.
  5912. >You move to retrieve the sword, but something connects with the back of your head.
  5913. >Your body freezes, your eyes turned to the group to see the object that connected with you.
  5914. >A small blue crystal, the size of a marble at most.
  5915. >A slow clap follows.
  5916. >”A much better performance than I expected. However, the mares did their job well enough by getting you to drop your sword.”
  5917. >Sombra’s voice crawled it’s way into your ears as your spirits dropped.
  5919. >”Come on now, Saber! I expected more bravery from one of your caliber!”
  5920. >Diomedes thrashes at you, once again not connecting as you steer clear of his hands.
  5921. >The Mad King of Thrace. What a bothersome Rider.
  5922. >From what you had seen, he barely WAS a rider.
  5923. >Certainly, he was the owner of horses of legend...But he did not ride them.
  5924. >You couldn’t be certain he even had them.
  5925. >Maybe they were part of a reality marble, or at least tied to his noble phantasm?
  5926. >In the meantime, you found a different problem to contend with.
  5927. “I have pride in my abilities, but I’d rather not find myself in the grip of someone who wrestled with the mighty Heracles.”
  5928. >”Some upstart brat comes to MY kingdom to take my mares and I end up bastardized in history! Such is the way of the world, my dear king.”
  5929. >You move to object, to remind him that he was demonized for his feeding of strangers or prisoners to his mares, but he continued.
  5930. >”You should understand such struggles well. You have a fondly remembered place in history, but how you were treated in life...criminal.”
  5931. >Your grip on your sword tightened.
  5932. “I know not what you mean. I have no regrets from my past life, save that it ended before my work was done.”
  5933. >Diomedes crossed his arms, eyes narrowing at you.
  5934. >”You claim that, but I can’t possibly see how. Until you took things into your own hands, your loyalty was constantly spat on.”
  5935. “Rider...”
  5936. >You warn him, but he just smiles.
  5937. >”Forgive me, but I have to know, ‘El Campeador’...Did Alfonso ever apologize?”
  5938. >Bile built up in the back of your throat, but you kept yourself from carelessly lashing out.
  5939. “There was no need. I betrayed his trust. That was the reason for my exile.”
  5940. >”We both know that’s not true.”
  5941. “I am curious HOW you know that’s not true-”
  5942. >”Well, I suppose it worked out for the best. In the end, you got to be king! And among your people, you are remembered as a true hero!”
  5943. >You frown, slightly confused.
  5944. “I do not understand your aim, here. Why the flattery?”
  5945. >”It’s hardly flattery if it’s fact, is it not? Am I not allowed to state my admiration of one who virtuously struggles through life?”
  5946. “...I suppose not. Still, seems fairly strange timing.”
  5947. >”In this war, I have only gotten to meet two other servants. And that lightning boy barely said a word. Excuse me for enjoying the rare chance to converse with someone of my station.”
  5948. >He punctuated his statement by tossing a rock at you with that ridiculous strength of his.
  5949. >You barely manage to meet the stone with your blade, crumbling it to pieces.
  5950. >”There. I attacked you. Is that better? May we continue with conversing, because I actually had a few more questions to ask-”
  5951. “Rider. If you do not start to take this more seriously, I’m going to kill you. There are more lives at stake here beyond my own. I can’t waste time with you.”
  5952. >There’s a moment of silence before Diomedes sighs, dropping into a low stance and picking up more rubble.
  5953. >”So be it, then. If you will not amuse me, then I will grind you up for my mares. Goodbye, El Cid. Your war ends here.”
  5954. >He spoke with a certainty that set you on edge, but you stood your ground.
  5955. >For the past few moments, before he had decided to talk, you had been observing his style.
  5956. >To be frank, he had none. His movements were wild, grabbing the closest object he could and swinging with it.
  5957. >As opposed to Lancer’s careful controlled movements, Rider acted like he didn’t value his own life.
  5958. >His strength was still a major issue, however. If he managed a solid grip on anything, you were doomed.
  5959. >This kept you from capitalizing on mistakes. Fear of reprisal meant you could only get a hit in if there was no chance for a counter attack.
  5960. >Or...if you could fell him in a single strike.
  5961. >He began to move again, but stopped himself as your sword erupted with flame.
  5962. >”Oh?”
  5963. >You barely heard him over the flame’s roar.
  5964. >Tizona, the Firebrand. Slayer of the Unworthy.
  5965. >The king retained his speed, meaning he was fighting you honestly.
  5966. >But you were certain that he would not be able to protect himself from it’s righteous blaze.
  5967. “This is the end, Mad King of Thrace. Come at me with all of your strength!”
  5968. >The light from your sword cast striking shadows across Diomedes’ face, hiding his eyes as he charged ahead with a crazed grin.
  5969. >And then, he vanished.
  5970. >Into thin air.
  5971. “...What...?”
  5973. >”Honestly, I was just hoping they would kill you. But dropping your magic resistance was more than worth it.”
  5974. “And here I thought we had a deal. You gonna let Sunset go, or not?”
  5975. >Your mouth still worked, for some reason.
  5976. >Typical Sombra, an absolute sucker for banter.
  5977. >”Oh, I’ll let her go. Apparently, she already knows about the magic world in some capacity, so there’s really no need.”
  5978. >He laughs, stepping into your view with both the yellow crystal from before and a new, blue crystal.
  5979. “Those are a lot more potent than I remember them being. Guess all those years of being a shut in paid off.”
  5980. >”This? This isn’t even HALF of what my crystals are capable of!”
  5981. >As he started to speak, you felt for your circuits.
  5982. >They still had flow. So it was only paralysis of the body.
  5983. >”I have grown so much since back then, Anonymous. While you tossed your potential to the side, I rose to new heights!”
  5984. >A glint in the moonlight caught your eye in the distance.
  5985. >What was that? It looked familiar...
  5986. >”To be perfectly honest, I’ve outgrown you...But I never managed to move beyond you.”
  5987. “Aw, does Sombra have a little crush on me?”
  5988. >You teased, drawing out a sneer as you tried to get a better view at that glint in the corner of your eye.
  5989. >”A crush? Depends, do you consider wanting to crush your spirits a crush?”
  5990. “...Well, for some people, I try not to judge-”
  5991. >”I’m going to kill you, Anonymous.”
  5992. >Sombra’s voice was filled with such honest hatred it brought even you to a pause.
  5993. >”I’ve bested you. You’ve tossed aside the association. There’s no more meaning to your continued existence.”
  5994. “If you really think that, then I was right all those years ago. There really is no hope for you.”
  5995. >He reached out and grabbed your shirt, bringing your head into an upright position along with it.
  5996. >”How?! How can you still think that? I’ve won! The only servant of note will soon be gone! The Grail is as good as mine!”
  5997. >You smirked.
  5998. “You think that Saber is the strongest servant in the war? Trust me, even if I die here...You won’t win.”
  5999. >”What do you mean?”
  6000. >You enjoyed the look on Sombra’s face for a brief moment.
  6001. >Utter rage, puzzlement, then pain.
  6002. >Wait, pain?
  6003. >Before you had a chance to register it, a flash of silver in the night blinked behind Sombra.
  6004. >A blade emerged from his chest, having stabbed him through the back.
  6005. >”Wh- What?!”
  6006. >He ripped out the blade, but another flew at him as he did so.
  6007. >It struck his other hand, causing both of his crystals to fall to the ground.
  6008. >You felt freedom return to your body, and you dashed for Colada.
  6009. >”Rider!”
  6010. >Sombra screamed, his hand aglow with the use of his command seal.
  6011. >The scene before you shifted as Sombra’s servant appeared seemingly out of nowhere.
  6012. >You brandished your weapon, ripping it from the mare’s corpse and leveling it at them.
  6013. >Rider calmly looked to his mare before sending you a glare that gave you shivers.
  6014. >”You did that, boy? I do not take kindly to peasants soiling my possessions.”
  6015. >Shit, were you going to have to waste another command seal to have Saber save you?!
  6016. >Another sword flew out from the distance, but Rider moved swiftly and caught it before it connected to a wheezing Sombra.
  6017. >He crumpled the sword with a single hand before Sombra spoke.
  6018. >”He has...allies...need to leave....finish the project...”
  6019. >Rider’s face scrunched in disappointment.
  6020. >”You sure we have not time to kill at least this one? Saber will be upon us in a moment, no doubt.”
  6021. >”If...I die, you die...”
  6022. >”Fair enough.”
  6023. >Rider leaned down and picked Sombra up, slinging him over his shoulder.
  6024. >You managed to take a step forward to move to stop them before freezing as Rider twisted his head to you.
  6025. >”This isn’t over, kid. I’ll take back the price of my mare in blood before the war is over.”
  6026. >You felt a chill creep down your spine as Rider leapt out of the maze, far farther than any servant you had seen jump before.
  6027. >Barely a second passed before you lost sight of him in the late night sky.
  6028. >You dropped to the ground, clutching your shoulder with a strained gasp.
  6029. >Someone begins to approach you, and you smirk through the paon as you recognize them and the swords she was carrying.
  6030. “I thought you said you weren’t getting involved?
  6031. >”Are you seriously complaining? Looked like you were in a bit of a bind to me.”
  6032. ”...Fair enough.”
  6033. >You try to shrug at Starlight before getting another reminder of your injury.
  6034. “Why is it always the shoulder?”
  6035. >”That looks pretty bad. We should get you back to-”
  6036. “No, not yet. Sunset. We need to see if she’s alright.”
  6037. >You stood back up, your breathing back if a little labored, and lifted your sword to cut a path to the center.
  6038. >A blur of movement and similar hedge destruction revealed Saber, who quickly grabbed onto you.
  6039. >”Master, are you hurt?!”
  6040. “YES, Jesus let go!”
  6041. >Saber released you, looking at her right hand now covered in blood.
  6042. >”I’m sorry, Anon. It didn’t strike me that Rider vanished with the use of a command seal until...God, I thought I might have been too late.”
  6043. “You can thank Glimmer for that. The summoning and the reason they fled.
  6044. >You frowned.
  6045. >You wanted this to be over tonight, but of course you wouldn’t be that lucky.
  6046. >Soon, you found yourself at the hut.
  6047. >Outside was a pacing Trixie, her hand resting at the base of her neck as she did so.
  6048. >Relief flooded you.
  6049. >So they were able to keep her safe.
  6050. >Assassin being left to watch over Sunset had concerned you, but it looks like there was going to be a silver lining to this mess.
  6051. >”Anonymous! You’re...alright!”
  6052. >Trixie greets you, though she pauses when she notices your shoulder.
  6053. “I’ll be fine, you know I’ve had worse.”
  6054. >You lied. You were fairly certain the mare’s bite had crushed some part of your bone.
  6055. >The pain was agonizing, but you could push through it until Daring could take care of it.
  6056. “Is...Sunset?”
  6057. >”She’s fine. There was a slight complication, but Caster-”
  6058. >”Assassin fled, despite my best efforts.”
  6059. >The low tone of Caster interrupted, his form appearing before you.
  6060. >”I had been hoping to restrain use of my power, but such an opportunity could not be passed up. Especially considering her skills.”
  6061. >You breath a sigh of relief.
  6062. “Well, at least Sunset is safe. We can worry about dismantling Sombra and Chrysalis later.”
  6063. >Caster and Trixie look at each other with a strange expression.
  6064. “...What?”
  6065. >”Well, about Chrysalis...Uh, we ran into something strange.”
  6066. >”Indeed. I believe you should see this with your own eyes, master Anonymous.”
  6067. >Something happened? Something about Chrysalis?
  6068. >Caster opened the door to the shed, gesturing for you to go inside.
  6069. >You do so.
  6070. >For a moment, you think that your eyesight is blurring from pain again.
  6071. >On the far side of the room, Assassin’s webs still lay after her departure.
  6072. >Sunset was inside it with her mouth covered, but her eyes widen upon seeing you.
  6073. >That, however, was not what caused your mouth to drop dumbfounded.
  6074. >Next to her, also covered in webs in a similar manner...
  6075. >Was Chrysalis.
  6076. >And she looked PISSED.
  6077. ”Hey Caster...what exactly am I looking at?”
  6078. >”You have younger eyes than I, Anonymous. I doubt you need me to state the obvious.”
  6079. >Chrysalis wriggles in the web bindings tying her down.
  6080. >Her muffled cursing as it cut into her skin drew a bemused grin to your face for a brief moment.
  6081. >You remembered what it was like to be bound by that damned weave.
  6082. >Serves her right....Though the reversed situation from the last night you had met did nothing to alleviate your confusion.
  6083. “Is...is this some sort of trick? Why would still she be here, bound by her own servant’s webs?”
  6084. >”An astute question. One that I believe I can guess the answer to.”
  6085. >You wait for a moment in silence, eyeing Caster.
  6086. “....Are you going to make me ask? What’s the answer?”
  6087. >”Well...Before we go into to fine of details, I believe we have other things to see to?”
  6088. >Caster nods in the direction of Sunset.
  6089. >”I will not act on it, but servants are duty bound to kill non-mages who know too much.”
  6090. >You nearly slap yourself on the forehead in response, but restrain such a dramatic reaction.
  6091. >Of course, you idiot. Sunset wasn’t out of danger yet.
  6092. >Anyone who wasn’t a magus that knew about The Holy Grail War needed to be killed.
  6093. >Those were the rules. The Church would hunt you down if they found out you disobeyed.
  6094. “Right. Can we get her down safely? Sunset, that is. Ideally without releasing Chrysalis.”
  6095. >Chrysalis struggles more.
  6096. >You’re pretty sure you can make out an “Oh, fuck you!”
  6097. >”I can; I will need a moment. I know not this Assassin’s identity but her webs are obviously not her phantasm.”
  6098. >That came as a bit of a surprise for you.
  6099. “Really?”
  6100. >”If they are, it’s an exceptionally weak noble phantasm. C-grade magic work at best.”
  6101. >In other words, effective against normal humans but very few servants.
  6102. “That’s actually unfortunate. Means she still has a trick up her sleeve we don’t know about...”
  6103. >Caster doesn’t respond, instead focusing on the weave.
  6104. >His waves his hands gently over the webs covering Sunset.
  6105. >They glow slightly as he closes his eyes. The strands of silver start to lose their luster.
  6106. >It’s almost as if he was sucking the threat right out of them.
  6107. >As he continued, the webs started to sag. Without the reinforced strength, they could barely contain Sunset.
  6108. >Perhaps in response to the feeling of being liberated from the pain, the poor girl rips herself from the web frantically.
  6109. >”Gah! Celestia, is...i-is it over!?”
  6110. >She falls to the floor as she asks, looking up at you on the verge of tears.
  6111. >The most familiar face in the room.
  6112. >Someone’s she has only really known for a few days.
  6113. “....Yeah. It’s over. It’s safe now.”
  6114. >Tears stream down her cheeks before she brings her hands to her face, sobbing loudly.
  6115. >What...were you supposed to do now?
  6116. >Could you just let her go?
  6117. >No, Sombra used her. It’s his responsibility to take care of her now.
  6118. >Could you protect?
  6119. >That had great risk too. If Sombra told the church, he could spin it that you were to blame to begin with.
  6120. >It would be bullshit, but the fact that you hadn’t killed her yourself would be enough evidence in their eyes.
  6121. >Where would she be safe?
  6122. >...Gah, you should have thought of this before.
  6123. >In any case, wherever you went you shouldn’t linger here.
  6124. >The park is slightly isolated, but there still might be curious humans passing by.
  6125. “Sunset, it’s safe now but we need to go. Do you mind coming with us?”
  6126. >She continues to sob, but she manages a nod.
  6127. “Good. We’ve got a lot of talking to do, and this shack isn’t the place to do it.”
  6128. “Trixie, Starlight. Can you take Sunset out to the car? It’ll be cramped with the five of us but we can manage.”
  6129. >”...Oh, Yes! Trixie can easily handle escorting Sunset Shimmer.”
  6130. >Trixie seemed a bit distracted before she answered, gaze shifting from Sunset to Chrysalis.
  6131. >If you had to guess, she just didn’t know what to do with herself in the situation. Just like you.
  6132. >The trio shuffle out the door leaving yourself, Caster and Saber in the shack.
  6133. “So...what’s the deal with Chrysalis? I would have thought you would have just killed her, Caster.”
  6134. >Chrysalis’ wiggling subsides as you approach the web, locking her jade eyes with yours.
  6135. >You break the stare almost immediately.
  6136. >”Oh, I wouldn’t have! However, what I DID do was go for her command seal arm.”
  6137. >You stop from getting too close to the web and look.
  6138. >Chrysalis did indeed have a single arm sticking out of the web, but she wasn’t moving it at all.
  6139. >Looks like the way Caster dragged it out was pretty brutal; It was a mess.
  6140. >Even you wince in empathy at the sight of the bloody, slightly flayed skin.
  6141. >She probably wasn’t moving it out of concern of losing it...
  6142. >...Wait.
  6143. “Wait, her arm is out of the web? That means she can use her seals.”
  6144. >Caster grins slightly at your revelation, while Saber looks confused.
  6145. >”If that is the case, why has she not summoned her servant to save her? Does she have no faith in her abilities?”
  6146. >”An astute observation, the both of you. The answer lies on her arm. Look closely, beyond the blood.”
  6147. >At Caster’s urging, you strain you sight and suppress your stomach to look at her arm once more.
  6148. >It took a fair bit of time, spotting the red seal among a sea of dancing crimson
  6149. >However past the blood, you could make out the outline of the seal.
  6150. >It was hollow.
  6151. >You could see where the seal once was, but only in a thin outline.
  6152. >It looked nothing like a normal seal.
  6153. >You give a brief check to your own used seal to compare it.
  6154. >Nope, yours was different.
  6155. >The part of the seal you used to save yourself didn’t keep it’s outline.
  6156. >It was still visible, but it looked as a child has tried to erase it with a bad eraser.
  6157. >That is to say, dulled and spotty but still very visible.
  6158. >It was nothing like how Chrysalis’ looked.
  6159. “That’s not a used seal. What is this?”
  6160. >”I am not certain, but she is unable to call her servant with her seals in that state.”
  6161. >”Meaning she’s not a threat. Still, wouldn’t cutting off her arm remove Assassin from the war?”
  6162. >Chrysalis’ muffled protest pick back up, along with the wiggling.
  6163. “...Oh for god’s sake, let’s just cut her down. She knows she’s cornered without her servant.”
  6164. >Chrysalis’ enthusiastic nod almost made you chuckle. Almost.
  6165. “Besides, seeing as how Sombra left her here...I’m starting to see the bigger picture.”
  6166. >”As you wish, Anonymous.”
  6167. >Caster once again moves to the web.
  6168. >However this time, he simply snaps his fingers and the entire web loses it’s silver luster.
  6169. >Chrysalis burst from the web,
  6171. >-and then falls face first against the shack’s floor.
  6172. >”ack”
  6173. >You spare your “old friend” a moment to embrace her agony as you took in the brief flash of information.
  6174. >You weren’t shocked. Sombra had no friends or allies anymore, only tools.
  6175. >Dropping Chrysalis wasn’t surprising, but the when was a bit off...
  6176. >You’d think he’d wait until he had used her to eliminate a few more masters.
  6177. >Chrysalis’ pained groans turn into a yelp as Saber sticks her sword into the floorboard near her.
  6178. >”My master may have the patience for you to collect yourself, but I do not. Continue speaking.”
  6179. >”...I, I already told you! Sombra betrayed me!”
  6180. >Chrysalis picked herself up off the ground, ripping a section of her lower shirt to start bandaging her arm.
  6181. >”He sweet talked Assassin, did something to my seals-thanks for fucking up my arm, by the way-”
  6182. >”Keep backtalk to a minimum. You still might die in this shed.”
  6183. >Saber warns Chrysalis in a low tone, causing the shapeshifter to shrink.
  6184. >”A-and then she wrapped me up and left me at the first sign of trouble! Me! Her master!”
  6185. “Sombra...did something to your seals?”
  6186. >”Yeah, with those damned crystals of his! They sucked out the center, and now I can’t use them to control Assassin!”
  6187. >That wasn’t good.
  6188. >That wasn’t good at all.
  6189. >Combined with Assassin’s ability to isolate a master, the power to take control of the master’s seals...
  6190. >Sombra could capture more servants than just Assassin, if he played the war patiently enough.
  6191. >Shit. You had been hoping for good news when you saw Chrysalis tied up, not this.
  6192. “...Caster. Strictly speaking, our alliance should be over. Theirs is now broken. But-”
  6193. >”No need to continue, Anonymous. One man with two servants is far more dangerous than two, in my eyes.”
  6194. >You breathe a sigh of relief.
  6195. “Good. We’re safer working together now anyways...”
  6196. >”Wait. So Sombra can...take other people’s command seals?”
  6197. >You nod to Saber’s question.
  6198. “If he can use them, that’s just as good as taking the servant. Assassin couldn’t rebel if she tried.”
  6199. >”Can he use them, though?”
  6200. “I would think so...Why do you ask?”
  6201. >Saber taps her chin.
  6202. >”She said that Sombra ‘sweet talked’ Assassin.”
  6203. “And?”
  6204. >”It could be that Sombra can’t use the seals but Assassin is cooperating for personal reasons.”
  6205. “That...is possible, and it would be great for us. Chrysalis?”
  6206. >”H-how the hell-”
  6207. >Chrysalis cuts off her vulgarity with a swift glare from Saber.
  6208. >”Um...heck should I know? I only found out his crystals could do that when he did it!”
  6209. >You exhale deeply in frustration.
  6210. >Turns out all that talk of his research being productive wasn’t just for show.
  6211. >”...Are you...going to let me live?”
  6212. >Ah, the question on everyone’s mind.
  6213. >...In reality, she was no longer a threat.
  6214. >You doubt she’d go back to Sombra and without a servant, her bid in the war was done.
  6215. >But it wasn’t as simple as that.
  6216. >She put an innocent in danger.
  6217. >She put Sunset in danger.
  6218. >You weren’t letting her free off the hook for that.
  6219. “We should cut off her arm, just to be sure.”
  6220. >”WHAT?!”
  6221. “Once we deal with Sombra and his crystals, your seals could return. Dismembering you is our only guarantee you won’t be back.”
  6222. >”If you cut off my arm, I guarantee I’ll be back! To shove it down your stupid throat!”
  6223. >Saber scowls.
  6224. >”Just give the command, Master. It’ll be off before she can feel it.”
  6225. “Okay-”
  6226. >”WAIT, I still have something I can tell you!”
  6227. “Oh, really? What’s that?”
  6228. >”...The location of Sombra’s workshop.”
  6229. >....Hmm. That was tempting. But...
  6230. “...I’m not sure that’s worth forgiving you for. You pulled my friend, a normal human, into The Grail War.”
  6231. >Chrysalis pauses before laughing in spite of her injuries.
  6232. >”Who, bacon-hair? She’s not in anymore danger...At least none besides what’s following her because of you!”
  6233. >You grit your teeth.
  6234. >Partially from pain, your shoulder was still in agony.
  6235. >But also because condescending tone of hers that always pissed you off was crawling back to voice.
  6236. “What do you mean?”
  6237. >”She’s not a human, Anon! She said she knows about magic. Sombra doesn’t HAVE to hunt her down.”
  6238. >You blink.
  6239. >Twice.
  6240. “Bullshit. Sunset isn’t a magus.”
  6241. >”Hey, it’s what she told me. Take it up with her.”
  6242. >No.
  6243. >BULLSHIT.
  6244. >Missing Trixie was one thing.
  6245. >Missing Starlight was embarrassing.
  6246. >There was no way in HELL you missed three whole people at your school privy to the association.
  6247. >...Although...You really should call you ability to spot these things into doubt.
  6248. “.....Assume you’re telling the truth. You still put her in danger.”
  6249. >”Yeah, because you broke Magus rule number one. Don’t make friends with normals.”
  6250. “I thought rule one was just ‘Don’t make friends?’”
  6251. >”Okay yes, but ESPECIALLY not normals! I mean, I always thought that rule was crap anyways...”
  6252. “Anyways, are you really trying to shift blame to me?”
  6253. >”You know the world we live in just as well as I do. Besides, I was going to give her back to you..Eventually.”
  6254. “Yeah, right. That’s why you drew me to this trap in the first place.”
  6255. >”....”
  6256. >Chrysalis falls silent. You sigh.
  6257. >Your shoulder was in too much pain to deal with this shit.
  6258. “...Okay, what do you got?”
  6259. >”Oh no, I’m not telling you!”
  6260. >Saber pulls her sword from the floor.
  6261. >”No, fuck you! If I tell you, I’m no good to you anymore! I’ll take you there and then we part ways. Deal?”
  6262. >”Anonymous, we can find the workshop ourselves. Let’s just deal with her now and-”
  6263. “I can work with that.”
  6264. >Saber groans.
  6265. “On one condition.”
  6266. >”What’s that?”
  6267. “You’re coming with me to The Church.”
  6268. >”...Is, is that a marriage proposal?”
  6269. >You keep a curmudgeon expression at her joke.
  6270. “Your war is over Chrysalis. You’ve been bested. You are going to resign.”
  6271. >You walk closer to her and reach down, grabbing her shirt and pulling her up to her feet.
  6272. “Then, you tell us where the workshop is. At the Church, we can’t kill you. Deal?”
  6273. >Chrysalis’ expression shifts to...very conflicted before narrowing her eyes at you.
  6274. >”Deal.”
  6275. >You release her with a push before walking back over to Saber.
  6276. >”Are you sure this is wise?”
  6277. >Your servant asks you in a whisper.
  6278. “...I despise her. But, lately I’ve been thinking...If I can avoid killing, I should.”
  6279. >You look back over to Chrysalis before nodding to the door, letting her and Caster leave the shack first.
  6280. >The old man was already keeping a steady gaze on her, making sure she didn’t try anything.
  6281. >As she passes, she looks over at you. Her eyes glance to your side, specifically on your shoulder.
  6282. >”...D-did Sombra-”
  6283. “Don’t worry about it, just get moving...We’ll follow.”
  6284. >You chide her, practically pushing her out of the door before closing and leaning against it.
  6285. “Agh...”
  6286. >You had done your best to distract yourself from the pain, but it had only grown worse from before as you talked.
  6287. >”M-master?! Your shoulder, quick! We must get to your teacher-”
  6288. “I-in a minute, Saber...”
  6289. >You halt her line of thinking with a shaky voice.
  6290. “This...isn’t going to kill me. I don’t want her to see me falling apart like this, though...”
  6291. >Saber frowns, tilting her head.
  6292. >”Chrysalis, or Miss Trixie?”
  6293. “...Ha, either I guess. Don’t want to worry Trix, don’t want to give Chrysalis the satisfaction...”
  6294. >”Then...is there anything I can do? I could perform rudimentary treatment...”
  6295. “Nah, we don’t have time for that...Just need to...get my head back...”
  6296. >You close your eyes, shutting out the world around you.
  6297. >You could feel the urge to just slip out of consciousness, but you fight it as you count down from ten in your head.
  6298. >...4....3....2...1.
  6299. >You reopen your eyes and pick yourself up from the door.
  6300. >”...Wait, that easy?! Impressive.”
  6301. >You give Saber a short laugh.
  6302. “It still hurts like hell, but I can...at least keep a steady voice again. Just had to clear my mind a bit.”
  6303. >The two of you make your way back to the car quickly, Saber helping you along her custom made path.
  6304. >The three girls have all settled into the back of the car, nestled tightly against each other.
  6305. >All three pairs of their eyes look at you with concern.
  6306. >Your heart aches at the sight.
  6307. >They were..all worried about you. Even Sunset, after everything she’d been through.
  6308. >It was touching, and a bit heart wrenching.
  6309. >”Anonymous, Saber and I can follow in spirit form of course...But where shall we put Chrysalis?”
  6310. >You look to the car and open the door to the backseat with your not-mauled arm.
  6311. “Hey Trix, is the trunk clear?”
  6312. >”Um, I think so?”
  6313. >You look back at Chrysalis and smile.
  6314. >”...Oh, HELL N-”
  6315. ---------
  6316. >Daring drives calmly down the road as you sit in the passenger seat, clutching your arm.
  6317. >Everyone is pretty quiet, save for the ruckus bleeding in from the very back of the car.
  6318. >Banging, shouting, the works.
  6319. >Jeez, you made sure she wouldn’t suffocate back there and she still complains?
  6320. >Looking in the rearview mirror you notice a small, almost sadistic smile on Sunset’s face.
  6321. >It was good to see, her sharing in your small joy at stuffing Chrysalis in the trunk.
  6322. >Turns out it wasn’t completely empty but hey, that just wasn’t your problem.
  6323. >”You sure you’re gonna be okay, kid? That shoulder looks pretty bad.”
  6324. “I mean, I might get feverish in a bit but it’s nothing you can’t handle.”
  6325. >”Tch. I never did like how well you handled pain. Ain’t human.”
  6326. >You grin in spite of yourself.
  6327. >”Um...Shouldn’t we be going to the hospital for Anon’s arm?”
  6328. >You frown at Sunset’s question.
  6329. “It’s complicated...Wait, that reminds me. Sunset, are you a magus?”
  6330. >”A what-us?”
  6331. >You knew Chrysalis had to be lying to you. When you got to your stop, you were going to give her hell.
  6332. >”I mean, I know about magic...but I thought everyone around the school did.”
  6333. >You nearly smack your head in frustration.
  6334. >Of course, you idiot.
  6335. >The war had taken up so much of your thoughts, you forgot about the incidents surrounding the Rainbooms.
  6336. >Those strange showings of powerful magic that you never got a chance to investigate properly.
  6337. >This was your chance to find out all about it.
  6338. “Well...From what I can tell, your magic is a bit...different from ours.”
  6339. >”Ours? You know how to use magic too, Anon? Can you Pony Up?!”
  6340. >Sunset was leaning out of her squished seat in the center, drawing protests from Starlight and Trixie.
  6341. “No, not at all...But ah, can we save this for after we get where we are going?”
  6342. >”But...”
  6343. “I know you have questions. I have them too. I’d prefer not to have my shoulder bothering me while we talk about this.”
  6344. >Sunset shrinks back into her seat.
  6345. >”Where are we going, anyways?”
  6346. “Back to Trixie’s house. It’s closer than Caste-...Our other hideout.”
  6347. >It should still be safe. Chrysalis was the only one who knew that Trixie was a master.
  6348. >As you begin to think of your next move, your phone begins to ring in your pocket.
  6349. >By the time you wrangle it out with your left arm, the ringing stops.
  6350. >One missed call; Twilight Sparkle.
  6351. >Probably wondering why you hadn’t turned yourself in yet to answer to the car situation.
  6352. >You frown.
  6353. >Trixie’s house...might not as be as safe as you hoped.
  6354. >It all depended on whether or not Twilight had talked to her brother yet.
  6355. >You’d need to call her back, but not while your injury might give away you were still in trouble...
  6356. >Twilight was a good girl. If she knew you were in real danger, she’d go against your wishes to help you.
  6357. >A good girl, but a problematic one.
  6358. >You breathe a sigh of relief as you pull into Trixie’s driveway.
  6359. >No sign of any suspicious activity yet.
  6360. >You pull yourself out of the car with a pained grunt.
  6361. >Never realize how much you use your non-dominant arm until you could barely use it.
  6362. >As you stand, a rush of support surrounds you from Sunset, Trixie and Daring.
  6363. >”That’s enough, kid. Let us help you from here.”
  6364. “...I appreciate the thought, but...isn’t all three of you a bit much? One would be fine.”
  6365. >”Let Trixie! Considering...recent events, she is basically responsible for him!”
  6366. >”You know anything about moving an injured person safely?”
  6367. >”...Well, not exactly but-”
  6368. >”Let the healer handle the dirty work, Trixie. This isn’t the first time I’ve had to throw Anon on a table to work on him.”
  6369. >You nod.
  6370. “It’s true. Your training was...no, IS extremely hazardous.”
  6371. >”Aw, but...”
  6372. >You weakly ruffle Trixie’s hair with your left arm before Daring throws it over her shoulder.
  6373. “It’s fine, Trixie. I’m in good hands.”
  6374. >”...Fine. I suppose The Great and Powerful Trixie should allow her friends to shine in their fields.”
  6375. “Thanks. Now can we hurry? I’m-I’m starting to see spots.”
  6376. >”Shit, already? Okay, nevermind the careful thing then. Someone, open that door!”
  6377. >Daring goes from careful and methodical movement to a rush, causing your shoulder to erupt in an inferno of pain.
  6378. >.”Wait, what are you doing?! Trixie thought you knew how to move injured people?!”
  6379. >”He’s already close to blacking out now, he’s 100% going to after I start working on him with a shoulder that bad.”
  6380. >Daring’s healing magic...was not the most pleasant.
  6381. >In fact, it was downright torturous.
  6382. >Honestly, you were glad you’d probably only be awake for the first part of it.
  6383. >”In other words, his comfort is now the last thing on my mind. Now, move!”
  6384. >Daring drags you hard through the door and straight to the kitchen, laying you out on the table with a quick THUMP.
  6385. >The impact strengthens the encircling darkness, and you smile.
  6386. >Awesome, you didn’t even have to stick around for the first part...
  6387. >...
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