Fate/Cross – Chapter 3

Fuyuki City is serviced with three high schools. East of the Mion River, one can find Kitakou High School and Misakihara High School, the latter of which also operates as a middle school. Both facilities, being part of the recently redeveloped Shinto district of Fuyuki, are high-end and modern. West of the Mion River, one can find Homurahara Academy, an establishment that has endured for decades. Consequently, it possesses a classic design that can inspire nostalgia among many Japanese, even if they never attended the school themselves. Perhaps it was for this reason that two Master-Servant pairs currently occupied Homurahara.

At the top floor of the school building resided one pair. “Resided” didn’t just refer to their present location, either; these competitors had set up the school as a mission control of sorts and had been operating with it as their base of operations since the beginning of the Holy Grail War. Naturally, a vast array of wards, barriers and other magical constructs infested its hallways, set up by a combination of both Master and Servant’s efforts. If an enemy dared invade this fortress, they would certainly face strong opposition. And since it was not this pair’s inclination to leave the safety of these walls, it was only a matter of time before an opponent came to them.

Entering warily through the gate at the front of the grounds was the second pair. Leading the incursion was the Servant, a girl elegantly dressed in yellow. The way she carried herself in front of her Master gave the impression of a doting, older-sister personality. Conversely, her Master—also a girl—followed meekly, her demeanour betraying her inexperience as a magus. The yellow Servant gave a reassuring smile. It was not only a Servant’s duty to fight in the Grail War as their Master’s proxy, but also to keep them alive. Another Heroic Spirit might have baulked at the task and coerced a Master such as this into keeping hidden, but the yellow Servant was determined to keep her Master at her side so she could learn firsthand how to survive in combat.

The two of them advanced through the grounds slowly. They inspected each building and courtyard for traces of magic, but for the most part the school was untouched. It was as if no one had set foot in it for some time. Though, given it was the height of summer, this could very well have been the case. They continued to search the grounds, but it was only when they entered the main building that something prickled at their senses. Finally, a lead.

The air inside the main building was noticeably different. It was very apparent that someone was here. Too apparent. There was a distinct feeling of being warned; that if one continued to intrude, they would face severe consequences. Yet, at the same time, it seemed inviting, almost daring one to challenge the beast at the centre of this labyrinth. This feeling was quite familiar for the yellow Servant, which was somewhat reassuring. It meant that whoever had holed themselves up here was either so powerful as to consider seeking out opponents to be pointless, or so weak as to construct extra protections to make up for it. The former was the less likely of the two, in her experience.

As the yellow Servant and her Master ascended the main building, they began to encounter waves of familiars. They were strange, amorphous beings that seemed only to be able to flail their pseudo-limbs to attack. It was of little consequence for the yellow Servant to dispatch them; a single shot from her musket was enough for multiple familiars. Her Master was amazed. The yellow Servant wasn’t designated as Archer for nothing, after all.

When the two arrived at the top floor, however, the atmosphere took a sudden change. They stepped through the doorway of a classroom, and before their eyes it began to shift. The door vanished, while out the windows there appeared to be some kind of desert landscape—but it seemed to be a rainy cemetery—or was it a ruined cityscape? Every desk and chair seemed to warp out of place while remaining perfectly still. And at the front of the classroom, standing side-by-side with her Master, was the originator of this bizarre Reality Marble: Caster.

Caster’s appearance took Archer by surprise. They seemed to be of similar age, which meant that Caster was only in her teens; an impression well supported by her outfit—a typical girls’ sailor uniform—to say nothing of the comically clichéd witch’s hat and cloak over the top of it. Archer wondered if that was a natural part of Caster’s appearance, or something donned after being summoned. But the nature of the enemy Servants was irrelevant as far as the Holy Grail War was concerned. No matter what, they all had to fight and eventually die.

Archer drew a musket in each hand and made to raise them at Caster. As she did so, Caster opened her mouth to speak. But what came out of Caster’s mouth was not a spell; it was horribly garbled, like a recording played in fast-forward. A whole sentence—maybe a whole stanza—was uttered in the fraction of a second needed for Archer to pull the trigger. Her shots cannoned out of their barrels, only to be extinguished by Caster’s hand. Concerned, Archer drew further muskets, multiple this time, firing them in alternation at Caster. Not one shot struck its target.

What was this magic? Archer looked to her Master for advice, but got little more than a timid shrug in return. Fine then. As she turned back towards her target, Archer’s reflexes kicked into gear before her brain even registered the situation. She had already pushed her Master to the ground, who slid under a desk, and she herself stepped back just in time to see Caster zip past with a knife in hand. If she had moved even a millisecond later, the knife might have sliced through more than just Archer’s blouse.

Immediately afterward, the furniture in the classroom began to levitate, and then zoomed towards Archer. It took two dozen muskets to divert the assault, the debris smashing forcefully into the walls. Normally that kind of impact would leave a hole, but inside the Reality Marble it just revealed an oscillating black and white barrier. Archer frowned. They were trapped. Then a change of tactics was in order.

Archer whipped her beret around her body, muskets falling out of it like water poured from a glass. An array of guns surrounded her, a shining silver garden. In a flurry, Archer began her attack. She flipped about, aiming some muskets directly at Caster, throwing others into the air, and ricocheting more off the furniture now strewn haphazardly about. The effect could be described as beautiful; golden bullets pinged off of every surface in every direction. It took a concerted effort for Caster to erase the innumerable projectiles. As she did so, it became apparent that the thickness of the barrier was decreasing. Her control over the space had a limit, and it was rapidly approaching.

Caster, to her credit, was doing an admirable job of deflecting the bullet hell her Reality Marble had become. She was hindered by having to protect her Master, though. It took double the work to shield them both, plus some overhead, and the sheer number of object instances in the room was siphoning the power of her barrier at an incredible rate. So when Archer removed the ribbon from her blouse and began to whirl it out around her body, Caster rightly suspected she might not have the mana to uphold both the Reality Marble and her shields in the face of whatever devastating attack Archer was about to unleash.

There was no decision to make. Strike first. Diverting all power from her defences, Caster flicked her wrist, and in place of her hands she formed two blinding beams of light. She thrust both at the mass of ribbon before her, piercing it right through the middle. It should have been lethal. But instead the ribbons collapsed in on themselves, emitting a whiff as if Caster’s attack had struck only thin air. Where Archer was standing not one second previously, there was nothing. Curiously, Archer’s Master was also missing.

Caster wasn’t so foolish as to think her opponent defeated. They had escaped. Even now, she could feel the lingering traces of the crafty female duo as they left Homurahara behind them. Caster’s Master breathed a sigh of relief and started monologuing about the experience. Caster herself had no such reaction. She never had any such reactions. She simply let her Master talk himself out and started preparations for the inevitable next invasion. There was one thing that caused her some consternation, however: a man dressed in a suit, watching her from the window of another building.

* * *

That man shuddered. Could the little Caster girl see him? Impossible. He was Assassin, the Servant specialised in stealth and underhandedness. It should have been beyond the capabilities of any Servant to see him unless he willed it. But he had observed some most unusual Servants in these past few days, this one especially so; for a few minutes there, the fight between Caster and Archer was completely invisible, like they had up and vanished off the face of the Earth. Nevertheless, Assassin wrote down whatever he could, and left to return to his Master.

NEXT CHAPTER


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

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