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chapters of a dream

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the sun is down

and the war begun;

assemble the great pandemonium

 


 

 

 

The time had finally come. Hanzo had been preparing for this for the past few years, the Holy Grail War. For the longest time it had been him and Genji preparing for it – the Shimada family’s plan had been for them both to summon servants to give their clan two shots at the Grail. They had wanted two shots at having the Grail grant their wish. Their clan’s unique abilities had allowed both Hanzo and Genji to inherit magic crests. Even once it was just the two of them left, they had intended on following their family’s plan for the Holy Grail War – it just seemed like the smartest choice. They’d be able to support each other through the war and strategize together.

But the brothers would not be both summoning servants in the war. Hanzo would be acting alone and winning the war in honor of his deceased brother. A phrase echoed through his mind – something about the best laid plans of mice and men. He was less enthusiastic about the idea of summoning a servant now that his brother had died - his younger brother had died protecting Hanzo from Dead Apostles. 

Hanzo had to admit that it was difficult to believe that a heroic spirit would manifest in this day and age – much less as a servant of all things – he knew he didn’t have the strength to pull off a miracle like that. He knew that’s where the Holy Grail came in, the Grail itself would be performing the miracle. All Hanzo had to do was perform a ritual.

He’d spent the better part of the last year and a half researching the different classes of servants for the Holy Grail War. It was something he should have done earlier on, but grief had kept him from completing that task. There were seven in total – saber, archer, lancer, caster, rider, assassin, and berserker. It was difficult to say which one would be the most useful in the upcoming war. Hanzo didn’t know who his opponents were, though there was speculation going through the world of magi. He figured that Overwatch would be sending someone and that the other mage families in the area might take a chance. The chance for power and prestige was almost enough to make someone forget about how dangerous the Holy Grail War actually was. No, he knew that the draw was that the Holy Grail was described as an omnipotent wish granting machine. Of course people would risk their lives for a wish to be granted. Hanzo knew that he would.

Hanzo supposed that strength would be the smart choice – saber was the strongest class. That was the class he knew he should shoot for, but Hanzo was a trained archer. Something about the ranged knight class appealed to him. Somehow he thought there would be a connection of some sorts there – that he’d be able to bond better with his servant. He knew it was a naïve and idealistic thought (his mind supplied that it was a thought like Genji would have had), but he couldn’t really help it. Maybe there was part of him that was still idealistic and naïve.

Hanzo glanced down at his watch and sighed. There was no sense in delaying any longer. If he continued to do so, he would miss the moment when his mana was at a peak. And while he was a skilled mage, he wanted to have everything in his favor when he was doing something as difficult as summoning a heroic spirit. He had approximately an hour until his mana would be at its peak, which meant it was time to start the preparation for the ritual. He strode to the office that used to belong to his father – he was still getting used to calling it his own. He stepped in and could feel how heavy the air was in the room; Hanzo could only guess that it was from the amount of magical articles that were hidden throughout. He only hesitated for a moment before walking straight to the cabinet that housed the final item that his father had obtained for him – a catalyst.

He held his left hand up to the cabinet and felt familiar magic prickle along his skin. The tattoo was lighting up, almost electric blue in some areas, as mana passed through it and into the door. Hanzo heard the interior lock move with the aid of magic before reaching to open it. This was his first time venturing into this particular portion of his father’s office. There was part of him that had wanted to be surprised at the catalyst that his father had left for him. Hanzo hadn’t been able to choose what type of servant he wanted when his father was still alive, so he was genuinely curious to see what waited for him.

There were many different magical artifacts in the cabinet, but what caught Hanzo’s eye was a deep blue box that had the ornate dragons, clouds, and lightning that comprised his tattoo spreading across the top. That made it clear to him – this was the box that contained the catalyst. Mainly out of caution, he held his hand above the box to make sure there were no magical traps that would trigger and eviscerate him before he even had the chance to summon a servant.

With no traps detected, Hanzo scooped the box into his hands. The box itself was small and lightweight and didn’t seem like it would contain something as important as a catalyst. He would open it once he was in his workshop, he would not risk his enemies seeing what he had for a catalyst. He cradled it to his chest in an almost reverent way as he moved down to his workshop. It was in the basement for both magical reasons and for privacy – part of him wished that a workshop could be more open because there was something inherently claustrophobic about the general workshop setup.

He stepped into the familiar environment of his workshop and exhaled slowly. Now was not the time for nerves. Hanzo could hear his father’s voice in his mind: A Shimada masters his emotions; the dragon will take on anything. With that, he walked in and leaned against one of the work tables while he opened the box.  It was sealed with a simple enchantment his father had favored – one of the first that Hanzo and Genji had learned to disenchant. He removed the lid and peered down at what his father had left him. There was a scrap of leather with a hunk of broken metal attached to it, closer inspection revealed that there was what looked like a bullet wedged behind the metal. Interesting, if he had to take a guess, he’d be assuming that this was the catalyst for an archer. It seemed that his father had figured out that Hanzo would want to summon an archer long before Hanzo had figured it out.

His father had always known him well.

Hanzo set the catalyst aside as he went about moving items around and drawing out the summon circle. He was glad that he’d planned extra time for drawing – it was a detailed circle and he wanted to be sure it was perfect. Especially since he was opting to use stones rather than blood – a combination of tiger’s eye, black tourmaline, and orange calcite.

He stood back up and checked the clock, it was just about time. He grabbed the catalyst and set it into the middle of the summoning circle before grabbing the stones into his hands. Hanzo was as ready as he could be – there was no turning back. He was going to win the Holy Grail War.

His eyes were closed as he started focusing his mana. He grit his teeth at the uncomfortable sensation of his magic circuits opening and being flooded by mana. Hanzo would endure. He was doing this for Genji, for all the other members of his family that had fallen as well. Once he was focused, he melted the stones that were in his hands and watched the drippings run along the drawn lines of the summoning circle. “Fill, fill, fill, fill, fill! Repeat five times. But when each is filled, destroy it.  Let silver and steel be the essence, let stone and the archduke of contracts be the foundation. Let my great master Shimada be the ancestor. Raise a wall against the wind that shall fall. Close the four cardinal gates. Come out from the crown. Rotate the three-branched road reaching the Kingdom.”

He paused and took a deep breath. Hanzo could already feel something happening, so he continued the incantation. Before he could speak, mist seeped through the room and the feeling of raw power surged through him. It took a moment, but he managed to find his voice again. “Heed my words, my will creates your body, and your sword creates my destiny.  If you heed the grail’s call and obey my will and reason, then answer my summoning!  I hereby swear that I shall be all the good in the world, that I shall defeat all the evil in the world! Seventh heaven clad, and the great words of power, come forth from the circle of bindings, protector of balance!”

A roar of energy slammed through the room and knocked Hanzo backwards. His head knocked back against the table and his vision swam from a combination of expending his mana all at once and a potential concussion. The room was filled with mist that seemed to be coiling and undulating around a form of something. Hanzo clambered to his feet – he was unwilling to meet his (hopefully) servant while sprawled out on his rear end. He brushed dust off of himself and waited for the fog to part.

The figure that stepped out from the fog was tall – or at least tall in comparison to Hanzo – and broad in the shoulders. He could admit that there was something heroic about the servant’s figure, at least. It seemed like there was something perched up on his head as well as something draped over his shoulders. A bit stranger, he supposed. The room finally cleared enough for Hanzo to see his servant and he felt his face crunch in with confusion. A Stetson, red serape, a revolver hanging at his hip, his left arm was a metal prosthetic, and cowboy boots that had actual spurs attached to them. His servant was a cowboy.

Hanzo must have hit his head harder than he’d thought. He was clearly hallucinating. There was no way that he’d summoned a cowboy heroic spirit. That just didn’t seem possible. He had been under the impression that heroic spirits were from way long ago…not…cowboys. What the hell is going on…

“Howdy.” The spirit’s voice was deep, drawling, and smooth, but in the way whiskey was smooth. Hanzo suspected that there was a bite there, just like the liquor. “I take it yer my master, darlin’?”

The question snapped Hanzo back to reality and he felt his jaw clench a bit tighter at the pet name being thrown around so easily. He might have been young, but that didn’t mean he was unskilled or anything like that, he would be respected. “Don’t call me darling. And yes, I am your master.” He held his right hand out for the spirit to see the almost serpentine set of command seals that adorned the back of said hand. They almost resembled the crest of his family, they were just a bit more ornate. “I am Shimada Hanzo, what class of servant are you?”

But despite his irritation at his servant referring to him so informally, Hanzo felt giddy joy bubbling through his chest. He’d actually done it. He’d summoned a servant and was one step closer to winning the Holy Grail War. While he’d known he was capable, so many bad things had happened in the past few years that Hanzo had somehow thought that the summoning would fail.

“Don’t mean nothin’ by it, master.” The spirit chuckled as he reached for the revolver at his hip. “I’m an archer.” He twirled the gun on his finger before holstering it again. “Ain’tcha a bit young to be in a war?”

A gun-slinging archer. Hanzo’s mind quickly worked to rationalize how that worked. He supposed that, perhaps, ‘archer’ just meant someone who used projectile weapons. And a gun was, indeed, a projectile weapon. Well, he had an archer, which was what he wanted…but he had an archer who was a cowboy. An archer that was going to stick out like a sore thumb because of his literal cowboy garb. And that was on top of the whole ‘foreigner in the middle of a small Japanese city’ thing.

“I’m 29 and I won’t be the youngest one in the Holy Grail War.” Hanzo crossed his arms over his chest. “I am plenty capable, Archer.”

The servant muttered something that sounded suspiciously like doesn’t look like he’s 29. “Not sayin’ you ain’t capable, master. But you haven’t done nothing to prove you are capable yet.” Archer held his arms out in a shrug. “Just sayin’ you’re young. It would be a shame if yer pretty face got hurt.”

Hanzo resisted the urge to show him exactly how capable he was and tried to scowl when Archer called him pretty, but he could feel heat creeping up his cheeks from the comment. “Isn’t it your job to make sure things like that don’t happen?”

I need to stop letting him get under my skin…we have work to get done. Hanzo exhaled slowly and closed his eyes. He was probably just irritable because he’d spent most of his mana summoning his Archer. He would feel better after sleeping and getting some food in his stomach. Despite that, he wanted to get a few things answered before he collapsed in his bed for the night.

“Well, yeah, that’s my job.” Archer rubbed the back of his head and grinned widely. “But accidents happen and something tells me yer the type that won’t sit back and let me do all the fighting.”

Hanzo bristled slightly at the very on point deduction. He had no intention of sitting back and watching his servant fight while idly twiddling his thumbs. No, they were going to work together to get this Grail. And if Archer didn’t want to accept that, Hanzo would find a way to make him accept it.

“I intend to actively participate.” Hanzo’s voice was stiff when he finally spoke and his eyes were narrowed. I’m still letting him get under my skin, what the hell is wrong with me tonight?

“Look master, that’s all well an’ good, but I’m not lettin’ my master throw himself into an early grave just because he’s stubborn.” Archer sighed and removed his hat for a moment. “Just let me do the fightin’, you worry about whatever masters worry about.”

Despite his exhaustion, Hanzo wasn’t going to let this slide. No, he was going to prove himself to his servant, even though the servant should just be accepting that Hanzo was going to be fighting alongside him. He wasn’t willing to use a command seal on something this trivial; he only got three of them so they were a precious commodity. Keep a cool head…

“No, that’s not how this is going to work.” Hanzo’s lip twitched in irritation. But he schooled his expression to something a bit more neutral. “Why don’t we go and get a feel for the city, hm?”

It would give him a chance to see this bizarre archer in action as well as allow him to showcase some of his talents. Hanzo might be a bit worn from summoning, but he’d be fine. They’d rest tomorrow. If he was honest with himself, he’d admit that they probably wouldn’t rest tomorrow either. Hanzo was bad at resting.

“Ain’tcha a bit tired from summonin’ me?” Archer quirked a brow up and crossed his arms over his chest. “I ain’t opposed to goin’ out and explorin’, but it won’t do no good if you pass out from exhaustion.”

“I’m fine. Let’s go.” Hanzo turned around and motioned for Archer to follow him. He could hear the heroic spirit’s heavy footsteps behind him and exhaled slowly. He only paused briefly to grab his bow and quiver and sling it over his back. There was a moment where it sounded like Archer was going to comment on it, but seemed to change his mind.

“So this is Fuyuki…” Archer whistled low and made an approving sound. “Pretty place. So what’re you wantin’ to scout out?”

“I want you to get a feel for the city.” Hanzo glanced over his shoulder again before breaking into a run and darting up the side of a building. To him, an action like that was almost natural and he was nowhere near as good at it as Genji had been. “I feel the best way to do that is to get you to a high vantage point.”

A startled noise was the only real response from Archer and Hanzo couldn’t help but grin at that. Though he could feel his servant moving through the air quickly. So he possessed ability to jump up to buildings. Impressive.

“Hey now…” Archer’s voice issued from right next to Hanzo. “That was a neat trick, mighty impressive, but lemme handle the climb right now?”

He wanted to say no, but there was part of Hanzo that wanted to see how Archer would handle the climb while keeping Hanzo in tow. “Alright. Show me what you can do, Archer.”

Archer’s low chuckle was close enough that Hanzo almost felt his breath against his ear. “Well master, that sounds like a challenge.”

“Take it as you will.” Hanzo fully intended for it to sound like a challenge. He wanted to see what his Archer was capable of – and he wanted to know how to motivate him properly. It would make things easier.

“Goin’ up.”

That was the only warning that Hanzo had before Archer’s metallic arm hooked around his waist and they were launching into the air. He gasped, closed his eyes as tight as possible, and grabbed onto Archer tightly as wind whipped his hair loose from his ponytail and burned at his cheeks. While he was perfectly fine with climbing walls and buildings to great heights, Hanzo was actually a bit apprehensive with high places. It was a weakness he hid from most everyone and was trying his hardest to not let that fear surface right now. When he was the one climbing, he was in control. Giving that control to someone else…

That didn’t exactly appeal to Hanzo.

“I”ve gotcha, master.” Archer’s voice was low and soothing. “I’m not gonna letcha fall. Open yer eyes.”

Hanzo shook his head as there was the feeling of Archer launching himself off of something.

“What…ya scared or something?” There was a taunt in Archer’s voice that made Hanzo grind his teeth.

“I’m not scared.” Hanzo snorted – but at the same time he was holding tighter to Archer.

“Then open yer eyes.”

He’d walked straight into that one. He bit his lower lip before opening his eyes. Yes, he could see how high he was, but Hanzo could also see how beautiful the view was. It was one thing to climb a building and see the city sprawling out below him, it was completely and vitally different to see the city rushing along below him. To see how the lights blurred into streaks, how small everything looked from how high they were, and to feel the wind rushing over his face and roaring in his ears. While he was frightened of heights, being exposed to them like this was almost exhilarating. He let out a nervous little laugh that became a full belly laugh.

“It’s less scary when yer eyes are open.” Archer explained as he landed on top of one of the tallest buildings. “You some sort of ninja or something?”

“Or something.” Hanzo replied as he breathed in deeply. His feet were on something solid, so he was fine now. “This building has the best view in the city. I had intended for us to walk the streets as well, but we can do that tomorrow if need be.”

Archer’s eyes were scanning around the city. Thus far, Hanzo had seen him look playful, taunting, arrogant, and downright annoying. The expression on his face now was far more calculating and sharp. It was a stark difference.

“Walkin’ the streets will help some, but I’ve got a good lay of the land just from bein’ up here.” Archer glanced at him. “You’ve been up here before?”

“Mhm.” Hanzo’s brow furrowed as he peered in one direction. “…do you see that?”

“Seriously master, let’s not play the ‘can the archer see the thing’ game. Gets a bit old.” Despite the scathing words, Archer was looking in the direction that Hanzo was. A quick glance to his servant told Hanzo that he was seeing something as well – at least he could assume that from the way his face shifted toward concern. “…mighty strange lookin’ fella runnin’ ‘round with that older lookin’ guy. You’ve got good eyes, master.”

“I can’t feel their mana from here…but…” He squinted a little and frowned. “I’m pretty sure that’s another pair.” Hanzo glanced at Archer and smirked slightly. “Shall we go and say hello?”

This was far bolder than he’d intended to be early on – Hanzo had wanted to plan and discuss things with his servant before running into battle. Maybe it was the adrenaline from having the wind rushing around him or just the excitement from having successfully summoned a servant, but something had him amped up. It would allow him to see how his servant fought and allow Archer to get a feel of how Hanzo operated. It seemed like a win/win situation.

“I woulda pegged you for bein’ more careful. But just hello, right?” Archer eyed him, but Hanzo swore he could see a spark in his eyes at the thought of fighting. And not in the metaphorical sense, an actual red flash. He filed that information away for later – maybe that would help him figure out who his servant was.

“Just hello. Recon, not an actual battle.” Hanzo nodded. “I want to figure out the servant’s class as well as who the master is.”

A grin split across Archer’s face – wide and damn near feral. “I’m in. Alright master, time fer me to show off. Hold on tight, it’s gonna be a wild ride.”

A moment later, Hanzo was being pulled in tight and they were rushing through the air again. His heart was hammering in his chest and it felt like electricity was coursing through his veins. This time, Hanzo kept his eyes open. He was looking forward, his eyes and heart set on the end goal, the Holy Grail. His Holy Grail War had started and he was going to see it through to the end. He was going to have his wish granted, he was going to succeed. He had to.