Chapter 6: First night
In the sewers of the city, a young man with short orange hair found himself crying on his knees while looking at the bloody scene before him. Corpses were lying everywhere, bodies completely dismembered, barely recognizable as humans anymore. To just about anyone it would have been viewed as a sad picture where the young man would be crying for the people that had died, but that wasn't the case. The man in question wasn't crying because of the dead, since he was the one who'd ended their lives to begin with. The man cried because the emotion had been taken away from it.
Screaming, that was what made their murders so exciting, and it was indeed "theirs" because he hadn't committed the last ones on his own. But he couldn't hear what he wanted. The spell that stopped their awakening, used in order to avoid the War being discovered, didn't let them feel any pain while being killed. No matter the method of torture he tried on them, they remained asleep, and for him that was the worst possible punishment. During his youth, the man had murdered others with the purpose of understanding death. The twisted young man had butchered countless people, not caring whether they were old or young, women or children. In any case, those times were special because they provided him with reactions and feelings that were different from the others. Their eyes full of terror, their voices asking him why he was doing it: all of those things made his work worthy.
The young man continued to sob until another figure appeared behind him and put a hand on his shoulder.
"Ryuunosuke." The figure spoke, trying to console the young man.
"Boss, they're just like dolls! There is no beauty in their deaths, no screams, no pain. It was as if they weren't alive at all!" Ryuunosuke exclaimed tearfully.
The young man looked to the figure beside him. It was a man wearing a dark blue cloak with a silver cross-shape decorating the lower part of it. Around his neck he wore a contrasting magenta-colored collar. He had huge, rolling eyes, oily, glistening cheeks and short black hair. The man was the Caster from the Faction of Zero, but even his magic couldn't wake the people from their slumber. After he was summoned, the pair decided to leave the castle since neither of them had any interest in the Grail.
The two had mounted their lair in the middle of the city sewers, and during the first hours of the night they began to abduct people in their sleep. At the beginning they didn't complain—it was easy kidnapping their victims—but they soon discovered that what seemed like a blessing really wasn't.
"I know, but worry not my friend, this atrocity is something we won't let stand," the cloaked man said, fully sharing his sadness.
"But who could have do this to the people, boss, to take from them the ability to feel?" the young man asked without realizing how hypocritical it sounded.
"I don't know, my Master, but the only way to find out is by continuing on."
"But boss! In this state it's no fun!"
"I know, but it is a sacrifice we must make in order to regain what has been taken from us."
At the residence of the White Faction, an old man with a gray beard wearing green and black noble garb looked out upon the city from the balcony of his room.
He observed how peaceful it seemed. No one would have ever thought that there was a war being waged between six different groups. He sighed. Leo had come just a moment ago and told him his plan for tomorrow, a way to beat the other Masters using the ability of his Servant, Archer. He understood it was a good strategy, but he had taken some issue with the resulting collateral damage. The only answer he received had been that "in war, sacrifices must be made." As a veteran soldier, he couldn't object to the logic of that phrase.
The man known as Dan Blackmore had already decided to execute the plan, but in his conscience he felt that what he was about to unleash was uncalled for, and that they didn't need to do such things in order to win. He began to remember, the blond boy had managed to make the others trust him by revealing his name and that of his Servant. He couldn't deny the charisma the boy emitted had a strong grip, something only a king should possess. He knew it better that anyone; he had felt the same when serving under the queen of his country.
But the line that truly convinced all the others, except for that girl in a clown costume who disappeared after getting her Lancer, had been a wish all of them shared, something everyone from that faction desired so much that they could put their own wishes behind them.
"Let's change the destiny of our world."
He, just as the others, had endured many things in that future where none of them could actually aspire to do more because the world was in stagnation. Life wasn't easy, all of them suffered in order to survive, as the only way was to do so was to belong to one of the rising empires that ruled the new world. One of them was the Harwey Family, having staked claim to sixty percent of the world. Another was the Kingdom of England, or what remained of the European Union, which Dan belonged to. It held twenty percent. Another ten was controlled by an organization known as the Atlas Institute. In the past it had been one of the three branches of the Mage's Association along with the Clock Tower and Sea of Astray.
During the purge, it was destroyed just like the other branches, but after everything died down, people began to reunite there. It was no longer a place to teach magic; it became a fortress where people who didn't have anywhere to go could stay. The one who made all that possible was Sialim Eltman Re-Atlasia, the sole survivor of the carnage. Still no one knew how she managed that.
The last ten percent of the world was composed of the many organizations that rebelled against the Harwey family and tried to break the grip they had over the world. Even though Dan respected their ideas, he just saw it as a waste of energy since it was just a matter of time before the Harweys ended up controlling the world in its entirety. After all, even though they still had control over their respective territories, both the Atlas Institute and the Kingdom of England were their allies.
But that wasn't the reason Dan would follow the Harwey boy for the time being. He really wanted to change his world; he didn't want to live in a place where no one could aspire to do anything, but most of all he hoped that if the world were different then maybe his wife would still be at his side. He had lived as a soldier with a life full of regrets, but he never looked back because everything he did was for the sake of a single person, the woman he loved.
As the old man continued to stare at the city, a younger man wearing green clothes with spiky ginger hair and bangs covering his left eye appeared behind him.
"What's wrong, boss? Don't tell me you're still against the plan."
Dan turned to the Servant clad in green and looked at him seriously.
"Tell me, Archer, you really don't feel there's anything wrong about it?"
Archer sighed. He would be lying if he said he didn't have any objections, but he had done similar things many times in life, no wonder it became his Noble Phantasm. Even while he could claim it had been for the sake of the people from that kingdom, the fact that he had used many questionable methods was undeniable.
"Look boss, I'm not saying I'm happy about it, but the blond kid has a point, and it's a very good plan that will get rid of our enemies in an easy way."
Dan went back to looking at the city from the balcony.
"A soldier knows how to adapt, Archer; we need to defeat the enemy. Nothing else matters," he said in a voice devoid of emotion.
Archer of White looked at him and disappeared. Part of him couldn't help but be curious about tomorrow, and whether he would meet another side of his Master: the soldier.
As for the seven young Masters, after their introductions Zelretch had given them a list with pictures of the Masters from the other factions. Each of the seven recognized some of the people from the list, and while some had mixed feelings about fighting them, many saw this as an opportunity to settle some old grudges.
Still, it was nearing midnight and Zelretch told them where their rooms were before disappearing. Apparently he had taken the liberty of putting all their personal belongings inside. Six of the seven Masters decided to sleep, but when Edward went to follow, Sakura stopped him.
"Edward-san, can I have a moment?"
Edward just stood there and waited until the others left before taking a seat on the couch. Saber appeared and sat at his side. Sakura took a chair and positioned herself in front of him.
"So Sakura what do you want to know?"
"I was just wondering how you recognized me."
"Why? I don't think it such a big deal."
"I'm just curious." She said with a smile.
"Your voice…" He said while looking at the ceiling.
"…your voice…it's the only thing that seemed that didn't change between the two of you."
He lowered his head to look at her just to find an expression of surprise in her face.
"Is it weird that I recognize you because of it?"
"No it's alright." She said with a laugh. "I was just surprised, I mean even my sister failed to recognize me after I changed my appearance."
"Really…? I thought that Rin would notice right away."
Sakura laughed. "You have no idea how dense she could be." She said before pausing thoughtfully. "So, I assume the Sakura you met must mean a lot to you."
"Yeah, she was someone very important to me." He said that with a sad smile.
She had learned to read people from her mother, so she assumed something must have happened to that version of her and was wondering if she was dead when he spoke breaking her line of tough.
"You aren't wrong but you aren't right either." He said as if reading her mind.
"So what happened?"
"I failed her. I protected her, but I never noticed the scars in her heart," he said, standing up. "In the end I forced her to bear a greater burden than she deserved."
"But I don't understand, does it mean your relationship changed?"
"No. Well, I don't know," he said with a chuckle. "I haven't seen her in some time so I don't know if she still considers me a friend."
His words left her thinking. Sometimes she wondered how her life would have been if her mother hadn't saved her from that pit of soul-sucking bugs, what would have happened to her if she had been alone in that hell.
"Hey, Sakura, do you mind if I ask you something?"
"I don't mind. Go ahead, Hellhound."
"Are you happy?"
She was taken by surprise. She never expected him to ask her that, but still she decided to answer with the truth.
"I'm happy for you, then," he said as he began to walk again. Saber followed him. "Goodnight, Sakura, and thanks. It was good to talk with an old friend." He waved a hand.
"Hellhound, wait ..."
The boy stopped walking, Saber doing the same at his side.
"Zelretch asked something stupid of all of you, and all have accepted," she said, standing up. "But tell me, what do you think you can accomplish?"
The young man didn't turn around, and Saber looked at him with worry.
"It's simple, to protect."
"You can't save everyone."
"I know, I don't intend to."
"Then you intend to save the highest possible amount of people? Like Emiya Kiritsugu?"
"How dare you!" Saber snapped but her Master stopped her.
"As I said, I'm not a savior. I will protect these people from other Masters, but I will let them decide their own fate. I'm not like him; I can't sacrifice what is important to me for an ideal; no matter how beautiful an ideal it may be, I can't follow it." He grabbed Saber's hand. "My path is a simple one, Sakura. I will protect my loved ones and help those who I see need it."
Even though his words didn't seem any different from the ideal of the magus killer, she understood that they were different. He wouldn't live his life trying to save people; he would help others but still try to achieve his own happiness.
"Goodnight, Edward Hellhound. It was interesting to talk with you."
The young man went to his room, and once the girl was alone, a figure appeared at her side.
"I can't believe you were eavesdropping on my conversation, Ruler."
Sakura looked carefully at the blonde woman with violet eyes standing beside her. Zelretch didn't trust any of the Counter Guardians sent to supervise the other factions, so if it came to the point where they needed to take them down, they would need all the help they could get. That was the reason from bringing Sakura of Colchis from another world. The supervisor selected by Alaya had been Jeanne d'Arc, another member of the counter force, but he had managed to convince Sakura and Jeanne to make a contract during the war.
"Tell me Ruler, what you think of them?" she asked the Servant.
Ruler remained silent for a second.
"They are an interesting group. If they manage to work together, they could actually win. Each of them is unique and seems to complement the others very well."
Sakura just nodded.
"But I have some doubts about their personalities. I know I can't expect them all to be good people... I only wonder if they would actually get along."
"Well I guess time will tell but for now I think I'll just keep an eye on them."
Within the castle of the Faction of Zero, Aldebaran found himself in the room of Matou Kariya. He could describe the situation of the young man as fascinating. The man had worms inside his body that were slowly killing him, but still he had managed to endure that pain with strength of will alone. The butler had met few people with such determination. But if that was all, his death was a given and he couldn't imagine him winning.
The man in question was now lying on the floor of his room, gasping for air. The butler didn't think it was strange. After all, his Servant was a Berserker, and even in spirit form the worms continued to feed on him.
Aldebaran exited the room and continued to walk through the house. His reason was simple: he just wanted to know more about his faction. For him, this war was one big source of amusement. Unlike Kaus who hated humans or Situla who was curious, he didn't feel anything toward them. He saw them as puppets in a play. He didn't care what they would do; he was only interested in the spectacle. If the puppets ended up broken, he'd just wait for the next show. In other words, he wasn't interested in humans themselves, but in their actions.
Still, he always had his guard up, even knowing none of the Masters would be able to beat him. None of them trusted him, and it was fine since he didn't trust them either. He knew the magus killer was observing all his movements with the familiars Aldebaran himself had provided him. He knew that Kayneth was searching for a way, in his arrogance, to defeat him so he could restore his honor after the humiliation from when they first met.
As the butler continued to walk, he came across a bearded man with crimson hair even taller than him wearing bronze Greek armor and a red mantle over his shoulders.
"Rider," the butler said, making a small bow. "What business could you have with me?"
The Servant looked at the butler with a gaze that contained both interest and distrust.
"Tell me something, Counter Guardian, would you join my army?" he asked with a smirk.
The butler didn't react in any great way. He just raised his head and smiled.
"I don't know. It depends on how much you can entertain me."
"Oh, so if I promised you a life free from boredom, you would follow me?"
"Maybe. You see, my services aren't free of charge, so I should first make you sure you can fulfill your end of the bargain."
The Servant laughed.
"You are an interesting guy."
"So are you, but I really doubt you can pay my price."
"Is that so?"
"You are welcome to prove me wrong, King of Conquerors." That being said, Aldebaran disappeared.
Kousuke continued to inspect his room. All that he needed was there: his black kimono, the ancient scroll and book from his family bloodline. There was even some of his manga and DVDs and a small television he assumed he could use to relax during downtime.
When he turned to see Caster, he knew something wasn't right. Since they entered the house she had remained silent.
"Tamamo, is something wrong?" he asked as he walked up to her and caressed her cheek.
The fox-girl said nothing for a moment.
"Goshujin-sama, I'm alright," she said with a fake smile.
He knew straight away she was lying. It was probably because of the new information they got.
"Please, you know you can tell me anything. Right?"
"I thought that after the last war it would be over, that you wouldn't need to risk your life for something like this. And don't misunderstand, Kousuke, I'm happy that I managed to meet you again, but I think it's unfair that you were chosen."
The young man didn't say anything. He just hugged her, completely understanding her feelings. He knew it wasn't fair that the old man asked so much from them, but he couldn't run and leave those people to die. He wasn't that kind of person, but he also understood that saying something in this situation would only make her worry even more, so he remained silent and held her.
In his room, Breno sat on the edge of his bed and couldn't stop thinking about the last thing he remembered before appearing in that white room. His Servant, Rider, was sitting in a brown chair while drinking a glass of wine. The room had a portable wine cooler with a very good selection, so fine that the Pharaoh didn't object and drank quietly, trying to savor all of it.
Still, Breno remembered how he fought a man with dark clothes and a katana, how he had been beaten with ease, how with his first strike the unknown man had pierced his left lung.
"Rider, do you remember that other War, the one in Lyon, France?"
The Servant didn't answer, but Breno didn't pay him much attention.
"You remember being defeated…"
In that moment, the glass of wine shattered and all its content were spilled on the carpet floor. Rider looked at him angrily.
"Don't you dare say I was defeated, peon!"
Breno paid no mind to the outburst of his Servant. He wasn't surprised, as he knew that it had been a wound to his pride, but he needed to be sure of his memories.
"You remember that in my rage after losing the Roux girl, when I was so close to achieving my vengeance, I ordered you to fight that Berserker claiming I would take care of the Master."
Rider seemed annoyed remembering how that monster had destroyed his chariot and how he'd been beaten to a pulp. He could still recall the pain of having his arm broken and being killed while he continued to claim he wouldn't lose to a mere beast.
He blamed his Master for that, as he had let his emotions take control of him, and more than that he had dared to order him around, him of all people. He was the great Ramses II, but the Command Seals didn't let him try anything funny, and even when he disliked his Master, he knew there were bigger problems, like that black swordsman who no matter how many times he was hit didn't receive a single wound.
But his thoughts were interrupted by two words he never expected to hear from his Master.
The Pharaoh was speechless and couldn't say anything in response, so the two remained silent.
Atosaki walked through the hallways of the house searching for Edward's room. She had forgotten to return his jacket.
She was beginning to feel lost when she saw him walking with a red swordswoman and ran to him with the jacket in her hands.
"Edward-san!" she called.
He turned to her.
"Hey there, you need something?" he asked.
"I just came to return this," she said, handing him his jacket.
"Thanks," he said with a smile. "Where's Lance?"
"In our room." She seemed embarrassed saying that.
"He let you come here on your own?"
"What do you mean?"
"Well, I know he was giving me the evil eye when I gave this to you."
"I understand how he feels," Saber said.
"You just want another kiss," he said while looking at Saber, and before she could say anything back, he returned to Atosaki. "I'm sorry, really."
Atosaki was confused by his words.
"I know you were bothered when I told you about cutting off other Masters' arms."
"So you won't do it?" she asked hopefully.
"Trust me when I say I don't want to, but I know from experience that some people will stop at nothing in order to get the Grail," he said.
"...Does that mean you have done it before, Edward-san?"
"Edward-san... I don't agree with it, but if this way we don't need to kill others, then I think I'll have to accept it."
"Thanks for understanding. Goodnight."
Kotomine Shirou entered a secret room inside the church. In its center, Pleiades stood looking at something. As Shirou continued to her side, he saw a massive gladiator held back by many pillars of light.
"Any chance he can escape?" the priest asked.
"At least not right now."
The priest smiled.
"Then everything is ready for tomorrow, Pleiades?"
"Yes, yes it is," the blond woman said.
The priest went on smiling, and with that the first night drew to a close.