Chapter 7 : Alliances
He felt pain; he felt how, slowly, life was being drained from his body. He felt himself dying, but he didn't know or remember what had happened. He had been exploring the city with his Servant and Saber of Black when he found another Master and a fight began. His side was winning, none of the enemy Servants able to harm Saber of Black despite fighting two-on-one.
He kind of saw it coming. The moment the six other Servants were summoned, Lancer of Black had taken great interest in the swordsman. After Darnic managed to obtain his real name from his Master Gordes, a fat blond man who was the most loyal to him, the black spearman declared Saber would be a key piece in their strategy.
Caules found it weird that the Servant of the spear had such authority. In the time he had seen them together, it seemed almost that Darnic was the Servant and Lancer of Black was the Master. They both shared a lack of expectation in him. Even while Lancer believed Berserker was a good general like the other Servants, he viewed Caules as a weak point with his lack of skill.
That was the reason he didn't let him go alone to explore the city, sending Saber along with him so there wouldn't be problems. But Lancer couldn't predict the actions of that young man with the black coat. Even with Saber and Berserker at his side, Caules had been shot and soon found himself dying. The last thing he saw before everything went black was the worried face of his Servant. It didn't make sense; according to legend, Frankenstein was a monster that had killed countless people, which caused the villagers to hunt him down and make him hide. But the story describe him as a horrid male instead of a beautiful girl, so maybe it had been wrong all along.
The boy slowly opened his eyes. After staring at the ceiling for a few moments, he tried to identify the room. Seconds passed before he realized he was back in the castle. He turned his head to the left and found Berserker of Black seated at his side, looking at him. The moment she saw him wake up, he swore he saw a little smile on her face. At the beginning he wouldn't have believed it, but then he remembered. Someone must have brought him back to the castle. Once Berserker stood, he saw the bloodstains over her pretty outfit.
"Sorry, for your dress," the boy was barely able to say, his throat dry.
"It's… alright… Master," Berserker said, surprising the boy.
He never thought she could talk, a skill not many Berserkers had, but that wasn't all. He was surprised because of her expression. She seemed relieved, happy that he wasn't dead. With each moment that went by, the images of her evoked by the legend began to break. He tried to recall it.
The monster didn't kill anyone for pleasure. The kid had been an accident, she didn't dare hurt the old man who welcomed her into his house, and she only killed the family of Victor Frankenstein because he had rejected the very idea of giving her a mate, because of the pain of being left alone, because of the rage and agony of being rejected, never for pleasure.
That was something Caules understood very well. To the other members of the clan he was nothing but a replacement, a tool in case Fiore couldn't succeed Darnic. He felt rejected by everyone, and that was why he tried to search for a different path, one in which he could find happiness, yet the War stopped him at the moment his Command Seal appeared and he with the others went to that room.
Caules didn't want the Grail, even while he enjoyed being a magus for the sole reason that he could see absurd phenomena that went against logic. But as he continued to study the face of his Servant, he understood the reason why she felt so relieved: she didn't want to be left alone again.
Inside the base of the White Faction, a boy with short blue hair lay over one of the couches, observing the ceiling. At his side was a disk Leo had asked him to do something with last night. It wasn't too difficult; Leo requested he develop for him a program which could find the other Masters. To anyone else that would be crazy, as normally only magi could detect each other. He and the members of his faction, even while they had magic circuits, weren't truly magi and didn't have any way to feel others. However, there was a way to circumvent the issue. The moment any human decided to use magic, the release of prana caused the temperature of their bodies to rise. Simply put, he'd use heat sensors.
Leo entered the living room and looked at the blue-haired boy who had on a brown school uniform, a laptop at his side and a cup of coffee on the floor. Seeing the CD made the blond young man smile.
"It seems you finished. I'm surprised you managed to do it in one night."
The boy just smirked at him as he sat up.
"Who do you think I am?"
"I agree that you live up to the name of 'Reigning Champion in Asia.' Shinji Matou, let me congratulate you for your work," Leo said.
He needed to give the boy some credit. Even though his family hadn't been able to locate him before, even with all their resources, he never believed him to be a thirteen-year-old boy. After all, who would have thought that the greatest hacker in their world would turn out a mere kid?
"All of that is good, but how do you intend to use this program?"
Shinji was asking him a fair question. In order to use it throughout the city, they would need something like surveillance cameras all over, and they had neither the time nor manpower to do this. In that very moment, Kaus appeared with a bag in his left hand. The dragon knight seemed aggravated, and that expression alone was enough to make Shinji tremble with fear.
"I got what you asked for, now don't bother me," the knight said, looking at Leo with cold eyes.
"I won't, and trust me, if I could get these things on my own, I wouldn't even see you, dog of Alaya," Leo said hatefully.
"Don't talk back to me, human!" Kaus said as he was surrounded by a black aura.
Gawain appeared at his Master's side and the two knights confronted each other, the pressure alone seeming about to break the air. Shinji felt himself being killed by the aura of those two, but more so by the dragon knight. There was nothing but darkness, a mix of hate, rage and, was it, sorrow?
Yes, this was a product of betrayal. He had loved humans once, but they let him down and all his love turned into pure loathing.
Shinji was about to crack when a woman with long, salmon-colored hair, appeared behind him with a hand on his shoulder. She wore pirate's clothing and had a scar across her face. Her touch managed to calm him before Kaus decided to back down. Normally he wouldn't, but Antares had warned him not to do anything to the contestants.
Such a hypocrite, he talked as if he were a good person, Kaus thought as he was covered in shadows and disappeared.
After silence was allowed to momentarily reign in that room, Leo grabbed the bag Kaus had left on the floor and began to walk away.
"You must be more careful," the pirate woman said, trying to soothe the blue-haired boy.
Gawain seemed annoyed by the comment.
"You dare to lecture my king?" he asked.
"Take it as you want, but you know my Master isn't the combative type, and moreover he is just a kid, so take your fights outside," Rider of White said, defensive.
"You're right," said Leo, stopping Gawain. "My apologies to you two."
Rider took her Master with her as she left the room. Leo just remained there, unable to understand how that Counter Guardian could make him act differently, how he could make him feel so much hate. Maybe it was because he hated him a lot, so it was fair to return the feelings. Another reason could be Kaus' very nature. He could be described as someone who only brought chaos and death with him, while Leo as a king tried to create order. Leo didn't know, and he decided it would be better to stop thinking about it.
He was about to return to his room when a snow-white dove came through the open window, a small piece of paper wrapped around its leg. The moment he opened the scroll and read the message, Leo became very intrigued.
The pirate carried Shinji to the second floor of the house. He was shaking and she couldn't blame the boy. Even she felt fear when she saw that black aura, and even a villain like her couldn't stand such darkness to the point she wondered how all that hate hadn't destroyed him. She took Shinji to his room.
"Thanks…" the boy murmured as she put him on his bed.
The pirate has never been good with children, but for some reason she liked the boy. At the beginning she cursed her luck because her Master was a child. Her opinion changed as she watched him work all night without a break, the coffee something she had been drinking while observing him.
"You need to man up! You can't cower in fear just because of a fight, kid," she said in an attempt to make him forget the incident.
"Sh… Shut up!" Shinji snapped.
"Yes, just like that," she said while patting him on the head with a tipsy grin.
"Stop that, you drunkard!" Shinji said, trying to remove her hand.
At the church, the priest was sitting in the chapel along with Assassin, awaiting an answer to be returned by her familiar. Assassin of Red could use doves as such. They had searched the city last night, and with them he saw the battle between the two Lancers and managed to find the base of the White Faction by following that clown woman. Still, he had a plan. His advantage was that no one knew he was a man with many Servants, so he needed to keep that secret as long as he could. The easiest way was to lead the others into believing he was the Master of just one.
This War could not be won alone since there were so many competitors at this stage. Making alliances was something that he needed to do.
"Are you sure about this?" his Servant asked as she appeared behind him.
"No, but he is the only one I know from another faction, so why not give it a shot?"
"I hope you know what you are doing."
The priest turned to her, raised his hand and placed it on her cheek. He smiled.
"Worried about me?"
Assassin of Red swatted at his hand and glared at him.
"No, I'm worried that I will lose my source of mana and I won't be able to fulfill my wish."
"Is that so?" he said with a chuckle. "Then I will be careful."
As they continued to watch each other, a third figure appeared, a man with brown hair and a beard wearing Victorian clothing. He clutched a book and a quill pen in his hands and had an expression of earnest excitement on his face.
"Please, continue, this story is rich. The woman is worried about her lord but she doesn't dare show it, and he has such great will that he would do anything in order to achieve his goals." The man began to write things down like crazy. "Oh, I can already see the tragic events that will come and make this story a piece of art!"
Shirou sighed while Assassin blushed at his words.
"Please don't jinx me Caster. I really don't want my story to be a tragedy. Also, what did I tell you about using your abilities?"
"Don't worry Master, this is a regular book and pen. You know that writing is part of my nature."
"I suppose if that's what makes you happy, you are free to continue." Caster seemed delighted by his words, and then he turned to Assassin, holding in his laughter. "Are you really so worried about me that you can't say it?"
She turned once again completely red and didn't know how to answer him.
"I don't have time for this," she said as she disappeared.
"I think I went too far," he said to Caster, although the playwright wasn't paying him any attention.
He sighed again, and at that moment a dove came with an answer to his proposal. When he read it, the priest just smiled.
Rider of Black returned to the castle and changed into his armor before going to the living room in which he had first been summoned along with Saber, Berserker and Archer. He found his Master, a mature-looking woman with silver hair tied back in a ponytail. She wore the usual clothes of the clan along with a black skirt and leggings.
"Mademoiselle Celenike, did you call?"
Celenike looked at him with a smirk and Rider couldn't help but get a bad feeling. His Master was a practitioner of the dark arts, and he didn't really know what that meant for him, but he was a little bothered that she smelled so much like blood. Not that he was saint or anything, he also smelled like it, but as he would reiterate, he was a gentleman, and he thought that it wasn't right for a woman to have such a scent.
"As you know," she started to say, "Caules got shot last night and there was a fight at the castle door."
"How could I forget? Lancer threatened that if Archer and I dared to intervene, he would kill us too."
"Well, since the boy can't move for a while and he didn't finish exploring the city, Lord Darnic and Lancer decided to assign the task to someone else. God, that kid is useless. You and Saber should be able to do it. I know you like to go out, so this is your chance," she finished and began to leave.
Normally Rider would be happy that he was allowed to do what he wanted and that it was okay because it was a mission, but he didn't like that way his Master talked about that young man. He had only seen Caules during the summoning, but he seemed like a nice guy who even answered him on Berserker's behalf when he asked her name.
He decided to check on Berserker of Black and her Master before he'd search for Saber and leave.
At the castle of the Faction of Zero, five people found themselves discussing important matters. It was just Kayneth who didn't want to accept the new plan; the others had agreed with one another. Besides Kayneth, Kiritsugu, Tokiomi, Waver and Kirei, there was only one Master who was left out, Kariya, as they decided he needed to save all the strength he could since Berserker was a very valuable asset.
Using the familiars Aldebaran had given him, Kiritsugu had seen the battles that had begun around the city. He couldn't deny that it was a good but dangerous idea, to strike in the very beginning before anyone put up their defenses, but that didn't leave much time for preparation, so a stronger Servant could possibly win against them. He had also seen a battle between two Lancers and after seeing the victor turn into a Dead Apostle, he recognized the black spearman as Vlad III.
In any case, they have agreed to continue using Assassin to gather information and let the other Servants kill each other. At the beginning Rider protested, arguing that wasn't the way a war should be, but he stopped when Kiritsugu asked him and Waver to look for Caster. He was worried as the only one who'd gone missing was that boy with orange hair.
Still Kayneth didn't agree, as he believed that was the same as hiding cowardly. In a way he was right, but at the same time he was wrong. Kiritsugu had decided this because of numbers; there were thirty-four Servants out there and acting reckless could mean dying like that clown. And so they would move at night since they couldn't leave everything to Assassin, but the plan was to avoid battle if possible in order to gain some advantage over the other groups. But Kayneth, in his arrogance, didn't notice this. They couldn't just charge in; they needed a way to find the other Masters, to create a strategy. It would take him a couple of days. The war was just starting and they had time, or so they thought.
On top of a tall building, a young priest and a young man with fair hair found themselves looking at each other.
"I'm glad you could make it here. I'm Shirou Kotomine," the priest said with his usual false smile.
"Leonardo B. Harwey. Nice to meet you, Shirou-san."
"You must be wondering why I called you here, right?" he asked.
"I do, but why did you address me in particular?"
"Eh? I didn't, I just sent it to the house. You being the one to receive it was just a coincidence."
"I see. So what do you need from me, Shirou-san?"
"As the leader of the Red Faction, I propose to you, Leonardo, an alliance between us until the number of enemies reduces to half."
"What are the conditions?"
"So you are going to accept?"
"I didn't say that. Only a fool takes or rejects something without fully knowing what it involves."
"Fair enough. We will work on our own, but we are free to go to each other for help. I'm willing to reveal the name of my Servant as part of the agreement."
"What about the others Servants of your faction?"
"They have their Masters, I can't speak for them."
"Which is your Servant?"
"Berserker," the priest lied. "So, do we have a truce?"
Shirou extended his hand. Leo thought about it for a moment before making his move. It was something he didn't know at the moment, but this would be one of the turning points in the War.
He reached for the offered hand.