Though the majority of the Shinto district was only developed in recent decades, the parts nearest to the Mion River—in particular, the area surrounding the harbour—have been around much longer. The first major modernisation of Fuyuki began shortly after the Great War, due to strong trade and investment interest from the Western world. Some of the richer arrivals built lavish mansions in Miyama, while others constructed higher-density housing and industrial estates along the river. As such, there lies a relatively small borough of buildings designed in the time’s European style. It was in one of these buildings, situated at the fork of a ‘Y’-shaped intersection, which Assassin’s Master had taken up residence.
In stark contrast to the weathered exterior, the interior was very sleek and ultra-modern. Dozens of high-tech screens and other devices littered each room, mounted from the walls or on various desks and tables. Displayed on them was numerous webpages and other documents, no doubt for extensive research. But beyond those and the necessary items for daily living, the building was empty. It was clear that this was not a home, or even a house—it was just a work space.
This was perhaps not surprising. Most, if not all, of the Masters came to Fuyuki from abroad. It was logical to assume they would only acquire temporary accommodation. The same must have been true for Assassin’s Master, he reasoned. Not that he could confirm it; his Master was a near impenetrable wall for him. No matter how he tried, he couldn’t learn anything beyond what was absolutely necessary to establish the contract between them. In addition to winning the Holy Grail War, getting into his Master’s head was a goal that Assassin had every intention of fulfilling.
‘You found all of the other Servants. Tell me.’ Assassin’s Master said, without looking up from her work. She wasn’t one to beat around the bush.
‘I did indeed.’ Assassin had been ordered not to return until he had done so. ‘I confirmed the summoning of all six, and was able to visually confirm the appearances of them and their Masters. Having observed several skirmishes, I’ve even discerned general combat potential and possibly a Noble Phantasm or two.’
‘Saber’s regeneration might prove difficult to overcome, while Berserker’s and Rider’s true power is yet to show itself. I’d recommend targeting their Masters. The others are nothing special.’
‘I don’t care about their abilities.’
Assassin knew that. The purpose of his reconnaissance was to learn about the other Servants’ identities, nothing more. It didn’t matter how strong a Servant was if one knew their weaknesses and how to exploit them. To do so, all you needed to know was that Servant’s legend. And to do that you needed to identify the Servant.
‘I’m sorry to say that I haven’t heard of any Heroic Spirits like these,’ Assassin said, bowing deeply. The gesture was hollow; a mere formality.
‘If I may, it might be more productive to simply eliminate the Masters. It would be much easier to find out their identities—’
‘That won’t be necessary. I already know who they are.’
Assassin concealed his surprise. His Master must have been doing some reconnaissance of her own. Needless to say it was successful. The thought irritated him. But why did she not share the Master’s names? It would be a trifling matter for Assassin to kill them. After all, the Assassin class specialised in killing, not fighting. It was most effective when used to target Masters rather than their Servants. Once the Master was defeated, a Servant would surely vanish without an anchor binding them to the world, given enough time. Then…
‘You want both Master and Servant defeated simultaneously.’
‘A wise decision. Still, it’s clear that these Heroic Spirits are very obscure; some of them may not even exist yet in this time.’
‘Not likely. A connection must exist somewhere in order for them to be summoned. Once I know that connection, I can trace the Servant’s origin.’
Assassin frowned. “I”, his Master said. Not “we”. Did she know something he didn’t?
‘With all due respect, I, having been called from the Throne of Heroes, have a much broader knowledge of my fellow Heroic Spirits than any living human. It would be remiss to exclude my expertise.’
‘Broader, possibly. But not deeper.’
‘Are you suggesting that you know more about the Throne of Heroes than one who sits upon it? Ridiculous.’
Assassin’s Master looked up from her documents and caught his eyes with a cold glare. This was a first. It was rare enough for her to even acknowledge Assassin’s presence, let alone look at him. She practically bored into his skull with the intensity of her gaze, and yet she gave no response. Assassin could tell that her non-response was not for lack of an answer; everything that needed to be said was said with that look alone. She was, in fact, suggesting she knew more than he. This was merely Assassin’s punishment for doubting her.
And then she answered anyway: ‘I have studied a great many Holy Grail Wars. Every Master; every Servant; every battle; to as much detail as possible. If there is only one thing I have learned, it is that history tends to repeat itself. And when it does, I’ll know how to influence things to my advantage. But to do that, I need information. I need not remind you that your “expertise” hasn’t yet uncovered any.’
A chill ran down Assassin’s spine. Whether from fear or awe, he couldn’t tell. ‘Then here: the notes I’ve already taken. I’ll conduct more observations and return when I have something useful to share.’
‘A wise decision.’ Assassin’s Master returned her gaze to her work. The conversation was clearly over. Assassin spun on his heel and made for the exit. Just before he left, his Master added one final order: ‘Don’t forget what I told you about using your Noble Phantasm.’
‘I wouldn’t dream of it.’
And how could he? His orders not to use it unless instructed otherwise were the sole reason Assassin was in this position in the first place. If he had used it, this Holy Grail War could have been over by now; every other Master and Servant dead without breaking a sweat. But his Master had decided it was “too costly” to use foolishly. It made him wonder why she summoned him in the first place, if she wasn’t going to make full use of his abilities.
Assassin’s Master was a poor one. She was either incredibly arrogant or incredibly ignorant to talk so threateningly to her own Servant. Even the weakest Servant could easily overpower a mere human, magus or not. It was not unheard of for one to simply murder their Master and seek another, more easily manipulated person. Some Servants were even able to survive until the end of the Holy Grail War without a Master to anchor them to this world. This was no doubt the reason for Assassin’s Master’s desire to eliminate both Master and Servant at once. Clearly she had done her research.
But even that knowledge should be limited. There was a lifetime between Holy Grail Wars. Since its inception, there had only been—four?—five?—a mere handful, at most, by this point in time. Yet she claimed to have studied “a great many”. Just where had she gotten her information? And if she had so much knowledge, why did she still need Assassin to conduct reconnaissance?
It was all extremely suspicious. At the very least, the other Masters’ plans could be assumed to be two things: one, having the Grail as their end goal, and two, in opposition to Assassin’s. With enough observation he could infer the details. He then only needed to figure out how to counter or inhibit them. But his Master’s plan was unknown to him. He needed to get inside her head; to know what she was planning. To that end, he would turn his eye on her just as much as on his opponents. As of this moment, Assassin decided that the most dangerous participant in this iteration of the Holy Grail War was his own Master.
Fate/Cross features elements originating from Fate/Stay Night by Type-Moon