Fate/Cross – Chapter 1

A chill settled over Fuyuki City. However, “chilly” was the last thing it should have been. Despite being midnight in the coastal city, it was still the height of summer. Truthfully, to equate this chill with being physically cold would be a mistake. Rather, it was more akin to the fierce tension of a cold war–belligerents standing in close proximity, each watching to see if another would strike first and reveal a weaker hand, but themselves playing their own cards close to their chest in case theirs was the weaker one. In fact, it wasn’t just akin to a cold war—Fuyuki City was, as of this night, playing host to an actual war.

The Holy Grail War: a battle to the death between seven magi, with resurrected Heroic Spirits as their proxies. The winner would lay claim to the titular prize and have their deepest desire granted upon them. To say that the reward was attractive would be an understatement, but among magi the wish was but a bonus; what really drew in competitors was glory—pride—power. To be venerated as the magus who successfully called the Holy Grail into this world and received its incredible power was a reward in itself.

To that end, seven magi Masters now occupied the city of Fuyuki, their Heroic Spirit Servants in tow. By the conclusion of the Holy Grail War ritual, it was extremely likely that most of them would be dead. The immense destructive power of the seven Servants and the magical abilities of the seven Masters left little room for mercy. With that strength, however, there was a great risk of the general public being put in harm’s way—or worse, being exposed to the secrets of magic. As such, the competitors had an unspoken agreement to only engage at night or away from public view. Henceforth sprang the tension hanging over Fuyuki this night, and there would it stay every night until the war’s conclusion.

* * *

The central business district on the Eastern half of Fuyuki—Shinto, as it was more commonly known—stayed lively longer than the more rural Miyama in the west. Despite being after midnight, the occasional person wandered about, perhaps heading home from post-work drinks, or conducting secret rendezvous. One person, however, strode with a sense of purpose; eyes, ears, and mind open for the tell-tale signs of another magus’ presence. Starting the search for enemies in Shinto was the logical choice, since it was more densely populated, but so far it had proved unsuccessful.

Rounding the corner into the plaza in front of the Center Building changed that. The plaza was usually very busy during the day, and foot traffic persisted well into the night. Right now, however, it was unusually empty. Not a single soul could be seen in any direction. It occurred to the Master that an open plaza like this was in direct line of sight from the vantage point that was the Center Building. Anyone setting foot here was completely exposed to aerial assault.

The Master looked up as soon as the thought crossed his mind, but even in that fraction of a second he was too slow. Rocketing down from above was an enemy Servant, weapon trained for his head. If he were any other person, he would have been killed before even being able to confirm his suspicions. But, thankfully, as a Master he also possessed a Servant, and that Servant had appeared to protect him, catching the enemy Servant’s weapon with his own, mere millimetres from piercing his Master’s skull.

The impact cratered the ground beneath the clashing bodies, sending splinters of concrete into the air around the Master. The attacking Servant’s momentum carried them still forward, flipping their body over their targets and coming to a graceful landing a few metres away. Only now did the Master have a chance to take in the appearance of his would-be murderer: a young girl, seemingly albino, garbed in a figure-hugging suit and carrying a crimson lance. Actually, to call it a lance was not quite correct; it was similar, but rather than consisting of a single shaft with a single bladed point, it seemed to be hewn from two lances twisted together, tipped by twin needle-like points. It was a bizarre weapon not unlike a trident, which the Master supposed could qualify this Servant as one of the Lancer class.

The Master’s own Servant positioned himself between his lord and his opponent. This Servant also carried a lance-like weapon, but his class was not Lancer. The Master was, of course, quite familiar with his Servant’s abilities, but Lancer eyed him warily. It was one thing to see a Servant and discern their class by sight; you could assume some general battle parameters and fighting styles by class alone. For Lancer, however, seeing an opponent wielding a lance and who was not a Lancer was cause for concern, for it made them unpredictable.

Fuyuki’s tense air now solidified in this spot. With two Servants now about to engage in an arena bordered by skyscrapers on every side, the Holy Grail War could now officially be called “begun”. Lancer moved first. Since her opponent held a lance but was not a Lancer, her Master had reasoned that their proficiency with the weapon was secondary at best. Lancer struck pointed blows at her opponent, which were blocked or evaded in turn. It did not go unnoticed that his weapon skill was lacking; while he was physically fast and strong enough to wield it, he lacked the finesse and strategy learned by experience.

The Master watched the initial exchange in a mixture of awe and pride. It was incredible that this Servant of his was so powerful, and the Master, himself, was incredible for summoning him. He knew that, somewhere nearby, Lancer’s Master was also watching this exchange. He wondered what Lancer’s Master was thinking; were they analysing his Servant as he had analysed theirs? What did they make of the tall, spiky-haired Servant and his audacious blue coat? It was similar to those worn by sailors in the past, but this Servant did not command a ship, per se.

Though, as incredible as his Servant was, his skill with a lance was no match for the albino Lancer’s. It would be inevitable that a master of a weapon would defeat a mere wielder. So, the Master gave the order for his Servant to show his true skill: the blue Servant drove Lancer back with a wild blow, and used the opening to detach a conical object from a string around his neck. It began to glow, and the blue Servant held it aloft, pointed towards the heavens. The glow erupted out of the conical object and formed itself around his body, cocooning him in light.

When it faded, in the blue Servant’s place was some kind of mechanised armour. In stark contrast to the Servant’s outfit, his armour was a bold red colour. Lancer narrowed her eyes at the revelation. She had reasoned that her opponent was too strong to be a Caster or Assassin, and too composed to be a Berserker, but she did not expect to encounter something like this. In seeing the man-sized machine standing before her, blue Servant entombed within and likely piloting it, she had to conclude that her opponent tonight was Rider.

Had Rider’s Master heard Lancer’s thoughts, he would have praised her correct deduction. In lieu of that, he ordered his Servant to go on the offensive. Bolstered by the strength of his armoured body, Rider was now a much more even match for Lancer. Where before Rider was merely fending off Lancer, now he was actively forcing her on the defensive despite his limited range. While Lancer’s weapon could damage Rider’s armour, it somehow repaired itself in mere moments, meaning that, in order to land a lethal blow, she would have to strike directly through the body, where the armour was thickest.

It quickly became apparent to Lancer and her Master that this fight was becoming untenable. Satisfied with discovering Rider’s class and true weapon, they decided it was time to withdraw. Lancer, more mobile than Rider, sidestepped haphazardly around him, striking at his legs to put him off balance. Gathering all the force she could muster, she then kicked at Rider’s face, forcing him to raise his arms to defend himself. With her opponent’s vision temporarily blocked, she fled into the streets. Rider and his Master made no attempt to follow. They had shown off their strength. Tonight was a victory in all regards.

* * *

Unknown to both Servants and Masters, a fifth competitor was present at the Center Building. Content merely to watch, the mysterious figure simply recorded all that transpired in an equally mysterious notebook. When the fight was over, he stowed his notebook in his blazer and vanished into the night.

NEXT CHAPTER


Fate/Cross features elements originating from Fate/Stay Night by Type-Moon.

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