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The Grand Scramble

Chapter Text

To explain a little what this is before things get started, because I feel like this is a confusing setup.

The following story was the winning run (written by me but ported to AO3 cause I feel like others might appreciate it) for r/WhoWouldWin's Ninth Character Scramble. The Character Scramble is a fanfiction writing tournament wherein all competitors submit so many characters (of a specific power level), the characters are thrown into a pot, scrambled, and then everyone is given a completely randomized team around which their story will center. Each round then has your team fight another person's team, and people vote on whoever wrote the best story. This Scramble's theme was Fate/Grand Order, which basically means important historical setpieces are where each round takes place, and each team has a Master who summons and controls the rest of their team.

The actual story will get into all this stuff, that should be all that's needed to explain what in the hell is happening here.

Chapter Text

The Long Arm of the Law

Master: Danzo Shimura

Archer: Clint Barton

Beserker: Dokuro Mitsukai

Rider: Marshal Bravestarr


Tex Hex's New Gang

Master: Tex Hex

Saber: Saber

Chapter Text

Danzo shifted in his bed. He was taking a while to wake up. Must have been a deep sleep. A restful sleep. A shinobi never allowed himself to fall into such a deep sleep naturally.

Danzo sat up, willing himself to wake. His left eye open slowly, and following it was his right, and that was when he realized he wasn't wearing his bandages. Looking at his right arm, what bleary shapes of it he could make out, his limiter was nowhere to be found as well. When his vision cleared he was finally able to see the man sitting across from his bed.

"Good morning." the man said pleasantly.

Danzo didn't speak a response. Everything about the man exuded a serene calmness. His bright brown eyes closed just enough to tell Danzo he wasn't seen as a threat. His hands were folded on his lap. A sword leaned against his left side, sheathed, far enough away to not appear to be an immediate threat, but close enough that Danzo knew a skilled swordsman could draw it in time. His pristine white outfit didn't seem practical for combat. The sharingan in Danzo's right eye scanned him, seeing the man's chakra practically exploding off of him. He looked back at the man's eyes, past the lock of stray hair dangling in front of them. No, he had been mistaken, those eyes weren't calm. They were composed, efficient, analyzing everything about Danzo that could be of use.

The both of them lingered in silence for a moment.

"You're probably wondering where you are." the man said. "Well, the most literal answer is that you're in London, the year is 1666."

Danzo remained silent.

"Ah, but that probably doesn't mean anything to you. It hardly matters. You are here because you seek the holy grail."

Danzo remained silent.

"Perhaps seek is too strong a word, you didn't have much choice in the matter did you? Not that you would have said no, nobody ever declines to the opportunity of a wish. Would you say no to anything your heart desires?"

Danzo remained silent.

"You're not a talkative one are you? But of course I already knew that. I know a number of things about you, Danzo Shimura. I know for instance that you are more comfortable delegating to a task force than engaging in battle yourself. And trust me, there will be battles to come in the future. And you will, in time, have your task force. Servants, as they're called around here."

Danzo remained silent.

"Unfortunately they can't just whisk themselves across time and space to you, you'll have to summon them. I'm sure you're familiar with the concept at least. For that, though, you'll need a catalyst, an object deeply associated with the legend and ideas surrounding their legacy. There are... three in nearby vicinity. Find them before your opponent does."

Danzo remained silent.

"Did I neglect to mention your opponent? Well, you aren't the only Master in this scene, defeat your opponent and you'll be one step closer to the grail, not quite there yet, but closer. When the time comes to fight, well... you'll know."

Danzo remained silent.

"I've actually heard it's possible to perform a summoning without a catalyst, but I wouldn't recommend it. You'd forfeit your choice of Servant to the grail, and the grail doesn't alway-"

"I've heard enough."

The man was stunned into silence for a moment, before his face went back to that calm and collected mask.

"So he can talk after all."

"For as much information as you have, stranger, you've been avoiding the topic of yourself. Who are you? And what do you have to do with me?"

"I'm a messenger. I simply happen to live here. I was just given information to deliver when you awoke."

"Do not take me for a fool. I can see your right arm tensing, ready to grab that blade at your hip at a moment's notice. You have more chakra than a Jinchuriki, it's almost blinding, but I can see it's concentrated into your blade. You must use your jutsu in combination with it. No simple messenger would be this powerful."

"How very perceptive. Is that because of the stolen eye in your right socket? Of course you're already using genjutsu to make me think my blade is several inches to the right. I would certainly look foolish if I were to grasp at pure air."

"But you're familiar with genjutsu. I can already tell. You have the poise of a genjutsu user, you don't need to rush into combat, as you can make your opponents tear themselves down on their own."

"Is that why you've already cast the hand sign for Izanagi beneath your sheets? You're welcome for the removal of your limiter by the way."

"It is a precaution. How much do you wish to wear yourself out in this fight?"

"I have no intention of fighting you, Danzo."

"Your chakra is being pumped into your blade at an even greater rate now. But that is merely a diversion as you build a relatively insignificant amount of energy into your off hand. The blast wouldn't be strong, but it'd be enough to kill an old man like me."

Both men sat in silence for a brief moment, then the flares in the stranger's chakra subsided.

"You're a smart man, Danzo Shimura." he said. "You'll do fine here. There's just one thing you've failed to take into account."

"And what is that?"

"This is all but a dream."

Suddenly the stranger went for his sword, Danzo responded by quickly drawing a kunai from his robe and throwing it. The kunai was millimeters from the man's forehead.

And then Danzo woke, sitting straight up in bed. He immediately reached for his kunai again, but faltered when he realized he wasn't wearing his robes. His bandages and pants were still on but everything else sat on the night stand next to the bed. Next to them was a paper scroll. His walking stick leaned against the base.

The room was the exact same one from his dream, but the man he'd been talking to was gone. Not only gone, Danzo couldn't find a trace that he had existed at all.

Hesitating only a moment more, Danzo slowly pushed himself out of bed and dressed himself, putting his limiter back on and slinging his right arm into his robe. Next he grabbed the scroll, held the bottom with his right hand and pulled the top away with his left. On the scroll were three symbols and three words.

The first was a bow and quiver full of arrows. Next to it was the word "Archer".

The second was a six-pointed star. Next to it was the word "Rider".

Last was a helmet, a couple of seams running fluidly through it, with merely slits for its eyes and mouth. Next to it was the word "Caster".

Danzo looked up and stowed away the scroll in his robe. He grabbed his walking stick and began shuffling out of the house. The stick stamped against the ground at every step, the sound echoed around the empty house.

Chapter Text

The rhythmic stamping of Danzo's cane didn't cease when he left the single story wooden house. Tapping against the cobbled street, Danzo couldn't help but attract the attention of those around him as he made his steady pace through town. And given how he was dressed, he didn't have trouble keeping the attention either. It was getting late in the evening, and most people seemed to be heading to their homes after a long day of work.

Of course not everyone was up to such upstanding pastimes.

"What have we here, eh?" a boisterous voice called out. Danzo turned, and saw a fat man stumbling from the front steps of a small wooden building. He could clearly make out the bright red glow from the man's face and the word "Tavern" inscribed just above him.

"What be thou, eh? Eh? Are thou a brave warrior from the orient? Come ta... ta steal what be rightfully ours, with thine... thine treachery, eh? Her Majesty's Kingdom don't need none of thine lot, thou... thou louse!"

Danzo would have been happiest to have just moved on, but the man was getting awfully close to him. A hand descended, just about ready to clap Danzo on the shoulder.

So Danzo's hand left his cane, striking like a snake, it lunged out and caught the man in the throat, sending him spiraling back and ultimately falling on his ample posterior. His hand was back on the cane before it could begin falling.

"Pest. Dog." the man gargled from the ground.

Danzo paid him no mind and continued on his way, only increasing the attention bearing down on him. He needed to find this task force promised to him as soon as possible.

Danzo followed the source of where people flowed from. Attempting to find three small objects in a city of this size seemed like an impossible task, especially when one of them was so vague as a bow and arrow. But Danzo figured where people gathered in homesteads, objects gathered at market, and from market is where most would be coming at this time of day. It wasn't the soundest of logic, but Danzo figured it was as good a place to start as any.

And tap, tap, tap, went Danzo's cane.

The sun was beginning to set properly by the time he made it to the marketplace, it was large and expansive, fanning out in a pleasingly organic shape. Danzo could already tell, it was nowhere near busy as it would have been just a few hours earlier, but a sizeable crowd still hustled and bustled about. Danzo wandered through the bazaar, his left eye scanning stalls thoroughly for any hint of the three objects.

And then, finally, he caught a glimpse of one. It couldn't have stuck out more. At a stall selling hunting equipment, a plethora of bows hung from rope out front. And in the very back, if not hung above an actual mantle then an allegorical one, there it was. Instead of shaped wood it was cold, efficient, compact steel painted a rich purple. Its string was a taught metal chord. It could not have been more clearly an object from another time and place, and thus it must have been Danzo's catalyst.

He approached the stand and the young man attending it suddenly stood up straighter.

"Ah- good even, sir."

"Same to you." Danzo said, feigning interest in the wide variety of the man's wares. In the back, leaning against the wall he could see a quiver filled with feather-tailed arrows, all of them painted a similar purple.

"Are ye lookin for any particulars?"

"No, no. Not quite." Danzo said slowly. "My family, we live on the edge of London. My son provides for us by hunting the nearby woods. But recently his bow has begun to wane, the wood is bending under the constant use."

"Have ye thought about moving up to a pistol perhaps? They're loud little things, but they get the job done a lot quicker and easier, tell ye wot."

"Oh no. No, I couldn't possibly hope to afford anything like that. To tell you honestly, I'm using the last of my savings on this. May I see that one?"

Danzo pointed to one of the simple wood bows hanging around the front. The shopkeeper undid the rope around it and handed it to Danzo. Danzo leaned his cane against the stall and took an archer's stance, drawing the string back with a strength and experience unbecoming his appearance. With a held breath, he released the string and felt the satisfying twang as it shot forward.

"The craftsmanship is exceptional." Danzo said, placing the bow back on the stall's counter. He picked his cane back up and leaned on it once again.

"Thank ye, so you will be buying it yes?"

"Out of pure curiosity," Danzo continued. "What is the story behind that peculiar bow in the back there?"

"Oh this?" The shopkeeper motioned to the catalyst. "This is a strange one, I found it in the woods, the metalworking is like nothing I'd see before. You wouldn't want it though. It'll cost ye a heftier sum than any pistol, and the drawstring is so taut I could barely use the thing myself."

"It does look to be of fine quality." Danzo said. "But of course, my story has effected you so deeply that you'll give it to me for free."

"I..." the shopkeeper had a confused look on his face, his eyebrows scrunched and his eyes all but crossed. "Y- Yeah. I think I will."

He turned around and carefully lifted the bow before handing it to Danzo.

"And don't forget that peculiar quiver with the arrows. My son will need something to shoot with after all." Danzo said, slinging the bow over his shoulder.

"Acourse, acourse." the shopkeeper said, leaning down to grab the quiver and likewise handing it over.

With both objects slung over either shoulder, Danzo shuffled away, the rhythmic tapping of his cane marking his exit, leaving the shopkeeper looking like he was trying to remember something important.

It took Danzo several minutes to find a back alley that was suitably deserted to perform this summoning. Of course, when he finally found one, it wasn't exactly deserted. Two men were standing at the far end, one had a knife to the other's throat. Both men turned at the sound of Danzo's cane entering their alley.

"Thou seek trouble old man?" the man with the knife threatened.

Danzo didn't respond beyond releasing the grip on his cane. His hands flashed together, he took a deep breath, and exhaled. The man with the knife was battered with a couple dozen invisible blows. The man who had previously been in his grip scurried away, and as soon as his wits came back to him, the man with the knife followed.

Danzo watched them run and gave the both of them a few seconds before slinging the bow off his shoulder. He gripped it in both hands and briefly wondered how he was going to summon this Servant of his. A burning sensation on his right hand gave him his answer.

He pulled back his bandages and just below the sharingan on the back of his right hand, he saw a bright red mark, no bigger than an acorn, that hadn't been there before. Out of curiosity, he put a finger to the mark, and a spark flew through his brain. Almost immediately, instinct took over his body.

He stepped into the middle of the alleyway and exhaled through his nose. The wind took form, and dug a complex, interweaving, half inch deep trench in the stonework around him. The pattern was unfamiliar to Danzo. Six points, and dozens of Japanese characters surrounding them, some inside an inner perimeter, some sandwiched between it and the outer perimiter, none of which he bothered to stop and read. He placed the bow and quiver in the center of the circle and stepped backwards. His hands moved together again, but slower and more methodical this time. The trench began to softly glow.

And then the alleyway was filled with harsh red light. It was blinding, impossible to look directly at and so Danzo shielded his eyes and looked away. After a moment, the light subsided. Danzo picked his cane back up and took in the sight of his first Servant.

It was a man, a reasonably tall man, with pale skin and tousled blond hair. So tousled in fact it looked to Danzo like he had just gotten out of bed. The only things he wore were a baggy white shirt with a target printed on the front and some grey sweatpants, not even shoes covered his feet. The man was staring ahead, toothbrush in his mouth and scrubbing away.

It took a moment, but the toothbrush quickly stopped moving. The man's eyes widened with concern, he looked around the alleyway before they found Danzo, and they crumpled under even more confusion.

"Oh-ghay." he said, spitting foamy toothpaste. "Dihs loogs bahd."

Chapter Text

The Archer dipped his hand into a barrel of rainwater, poured it into his mouth, swished it around some, and spat the diluted toothpaste onto the pavement nearby. He wiped away what remained with his sleeve.

"So let me get this straight." he said, while similarly cleaning his toothbrush. "You're a ninja from a place I've never even heard of."

"It is the Hidden Leaf Village."

"Right. But you're not from this time period either. You got summoned here by someone who we're not even sure is a real person. And then you summoned me here so that I could fight on your behalf so that we can get the holy grail of legend that'll grant any wish. I assume it's we, not that you're using me without even pretending that I'll get anything from this other than a stiff neck and potentially dying. Am I right so far?"

"You will get your reward same as me, Archer."

"Good. I like to hear that. At least tell me what I'd like to hear when you lie to my face. But, we can't actually hunt down this grail until you summon two other people to also fight on your behalf. And the way we do that, is by finding a couple of random items that could be literally anywhere in the entire city of London."

"You don't believe me Archer?"

"I believe some of it. I definitely believe we're in London and that the year is 1666, and the fact that that's the most believable part of any of this is probably really sad. I believe that you definitely summoned me here for something,weird old Japanese man."

"My name is Danzo Shimura. You haven't introduced yourself either, Archer."

The Archer gave a moment of hesitation.

"Just Archer will do for now. See, what I don't believe is that you think I'm going to help you without at least some shoes. This is the time period where people just tossed their shit into the street for nature to deal with."

"We can get you some shoes."

"Okay, but for real though. What about any of this makes you think I'd just go along with what you say?"

"Because Archer, you are my Servant. And I am your Master. You will do what I say because that is the nature between Master and Servant."

Archer opened his mouth to contest the point, but no matter how hard he thought he couldn't see anything wrong with the man's logic. Archer sighed and shoved the toothbrush in his pocket. Danzo eyed him curiously.

"You're keeping that?" he asked.

"Yeah." Archer rubbed the back of his neck. "It's my toothbrush."

"It's just a toothbrush."

"No. It's my toothbrush. And I'm keeping it."

Danzo's gaze lingered on him for one last confused second before turning to leave the alleyway. His cane continued to tap, tap, tap along the cobblestone ground. Archer slung the bow and quiver over his shoulders, then grit his teeth before taking a wet step forward and following.

"Hey if you're buying me shoes in exchange for my services, can I at least make a full shopping list?"

"Your services come free, Archer. I'm getting you shoes as a show of good faith. And that largely depends on what exactly you'll be needing."

"Well, if I'm going to be getting into constant fights until all this is over, I'd at least like some chainmail."

"Chainmail?"

"It's what I work in."

Danzo placed his right hand to his chin.

"Anything else?"

Archer scratched at his temple.

"Did they have coffee in the 17th century?"

An hour passed. Archer had gotten himself some modest leather shoes from a mercifully close by cobbler, a good-enough-fitting set of chainmail from an antique armory with a nice black tunic to cover it up, some well made fingerless archery gloves from a frustrated tailor looking to close up shop, and was depressed to discover that only Her Majesty the queen was experimenting with this new import called coffee at this time, and that it wouldn't make its way down to the common-folk for a good while, so he got a cup of invigorating tea instead.

What piqued Archer's curiosity, however, was how his Master Danzo didn't seem to have to pay for anything. No one they talked to recognized the man, so it couldn't be from reputation or status, but after a minute or two of talking to him, they agreed that he deserved the wares for free.

By now the sun had finished setting. Pretty much every store had closed up and the streets soon became empty.

"What's our move, Danzo?" Archer asked as they both walked. "I don't like the idea of wandering around this place at night. Isn't Jack the Ripper still doing his messed up crap at this time period?"

"We will not rest until I have the two other catalysts."

Archer sighed.

"Great. At least your reasonable. Good thing I just woke up. Hey, you know the whole thing with time travel is that you could've pulled me from literally any point in time right? Could've saved yourself the trouble and gotten me when I had my gear."

"The summoning jutsu wasn't explained to me. You're lucky I got you here in one piece."

"Oh, more good news. I'm being led by someone with half the information."

"One of the most important aspects of being a shinobi is gathering information. I started with almost none of it. By the time I had gotten you, I had half. Before the sun rises, I will have almost all of it."

"So is any of the information you have telling us where to go, or are we just wandering and praying?"

"I do know where we're going, Archer. When I found your bow, the man who had it claimed he had found it in the woods. We passed by a cartographer's store on the way here. Most of the woods here have been torn down in favor of buildings or farmland. Only one patch of forest stays standing in the 10 kilometer area. We are going to search there."

"Mind letting me know what exactly we're looking for? Just, you know, so I'm not 100% in the dark on this thing you're ordering me to do."

Danzo gave Archer a side-eye with the uncovered one, briefly regretting this entire endeavor, but he reached into his robe regardless and pulled out the scroll and handed it over. Archer unrolled the scroll and glossed over the three symbols.

"Alright, there's my bow there, that's one down. All we're looking for now is the Star of David and..."

Archer gave a pause so pregnant that Danzo stopped in his tracks, the rhythmic tapping of his cane giving way to silence in the empty street, as he turned to look back at Archer.

"This is... Tony's helmet."

"Tony?" Danzo asked.

"It's nothing." Archer rolled the scroll back up and handed it back to Danzo. "Just a guy I know, if your amazing intellect couldn't figure that out on its own."

"Has anyone ever told you that you're difficult to work with?" Danzo asked as he stuffed the scroll back in his robes.

"Sometimes. They tell me I get better when I get to know them. Certainly would help if I was doing something I agreed to or in any way liked."

"So this is your way of pitching a childish fit."

"You make it sound like I wasn't just involuntarily abducted from my home and dragged to a time period without electricity, plumbing, or hot coffee in order to participate in the sketchiest crusade I've heard since scientology."

"The sooner we get this over with the sooner you can go home."

"And you don't even know how long that will take. You don't even know what the end goal is outside of some vague notion of 'getting the holy futzing grail'. If that's even your real end goal, I'm still not entirely sure."

"Do you always have to have the last word?"

Archer mulled the question over, putting a hand to his chin in exaggerated thought, before replying.

"Yes."

Danzo and Archer didn't make it to the woods quickly, but they made it eventually. Archer insisted that he'd be able to get to the forest and search it faster than, quote "it's taking you to hobble your geriatric ass over there" unquote, but Danzo wouldn't hear of it. When they left the confines of the town, Archer dug a pair of glasses out of his pocket and put them on.

"Do you need help seeing, Archer?"

"Used to." came Archer's surprisingly sincere reply. "Don't need to anymore, but they do help whenever I've got to deal with pitch black conditions. Like a forest in early modern London without a flashlight, for example. Don't know what kinda idiot would think to search for a tiny object in a place like that, but just in case."

Danzo in turn pulled the bandages down from over his right eye. Archer gave an impressed whistle.

"Ooh. Fancy eye you've got there."

"Your color commentary is less than appreciated. Get searching."

Archer did as instructed, his glasses taking in what little light could be gathered and amplifying it, displaying the forest as if... well, as if it were getting late in the evening and was still very hard to see.

"Yeah." he muttered to himself. "This was a terrible idea."

Danzo's sharingan meanwhile was working overtime to try and take in enough detail to make anything visible in the black hole of trees and moss. Danzo refused to surrender, however. His pride aside, surrender only gave this opponent of his more time to find the catalysts. Any disadvantage that Danzo was put in could be a fatal one. He knew this, every shinobi did.

After ten minutes of searching though, this entire undertaking was beginning to feel fatalistically pointless. Danzo sighed, and was then struck with a thought. Cautiously pulling back the bandaging on his right hand, he placed a finger to the alien mark.

Immediately he straightened up, leaves crunched under his cane as he moved with renewed purpose.

"Archer, follow."

"Please tell me you have an actual lead."

Danzo refused to answer, Archer wasn't sure what to do with the silence.

It felt stupid to him. Actually no, it felt like the stupidest shit he had ever heard to him. But there was something deep in his gut that ultimately didn't want to disappoint his Master.

Brainwashing, Archer figured. Some form of brainwashing. Magical ones were usually the only things capable of being this subtle while keeping the original personality intact. That said, Hydra had probably managed to pull off something similar, so it was important to keep all the options in mind.

Archer was broken from his thoughts by nearly running straight into Danzo as he suddenly stopped. Danzo pointed his cane upward, Archer could just barely make out a branch from a nearby tree above him.

"I hope you're not expecting me to squirrel it up."

Danzo merely glared back.

Archer tisked and drew his bow, pulling a simple piercing arrow back in the bowstring. He took in a deep breath, held it, released the string, and exhaled as the branch was severed clean through at the base and fell to the ground.

Up close, Archer realized what the old man had been seeing, a crow's nest sat on the branch. Sat in past tense, as it had fallen off and disassembled slightly with the landing. In it was a variety of shiny metal objects from rings to coins to glass gems, and right in the center a silver six-pointed badge.

Danzo leaned over and plucked the badge from the ground, then backed up a good distance from the branch.

"Give me space, Archer." he said.

"Can I loophole that into being able to go home?"

Danzo laughed at Archer's proposal. As soon as the laughter stopped, his hands flashed together faster than Archer anticipated. He breathed through his nose and dirt flew into the air, smokescreening what little Archer could see to begin with. When the dirt settled again, Archer could just barely make out a pattern troughed into the ground beneath Danzo. The old man then tossed the badge into the center of the circle and stepped back out of it. His hands moved together again, Archer tried to make sense of what he was doing, but he could barely make it out, and this time it wasn't from the darkness. The man was faster than he looked.

Apparently whatever he had done worked, as the shape lit up with a dull red glow, bathing the scene in some much needed light.

And then it exploded with light, Archer had to look away, but even that brief glimpse was enough to almost make him blind for a second time.

When the harsh light finally subsided, the duller light thankfully stayed allowing Archer and Danzo to at least get a decent glimpse of this new arrival.

Colors were hard to make out, but Archer figured he looked Native American. Past that, he was... odd. To call him a cowboy didn't seem accurate, he was more like a rodeo's parody of a cowboy, a flashy showman first and an actual cattle rancher maybe 17th. But nowhere on his outfit were there any extraneous dangly parts or needless bells and whistles, there was even some attempts at armor in certain spots. Showy but practical, Archer put it together in his head. It was a super with a theme. Supers really liked to drive home the theme.

The newcomer shook his head clear and looked at Danzo and Archer with confusion.

"What... What's going on here? Who are you two?"

Archer looked at Danzo, waiting for him to explain the situation, like he had explained it to him. Danzo looked back.

"Oh, you're foisting this off on me now?" Archer said with what he hoped was noticable indignation. He noticed that the bandage had been moved back over his right eye.

"Well," Archer started. "I'm Archer, and this is Danzo. Danzo here is kidnapping-" Danzo whacked the back of Archer's head, prompting an Ack! "-recruiting people from across the time-space continuum to fight for the chance to get the holy grail, which is gonna grant each of our wishes, or something."

"And..." the newcomer said. "And I'm one of these chosen heroes, am I?"

"Basically."

"Well, I'm really sorry fellas, but I can't just go leaving New Texas undefended. What if they need me?"

"You're taking this surprisingly well. Either that, or maybe you're just taking this better than me."

The newcomer tapped the side of his ten gallon hat, and a microphone descended from the brim.

"Come in, dispatch come in." he spoke into it. "Thirty/Thirty. Fuzz. JB. Anyone?"

"Uh, yeah." Archer said awkwardly. "That's not going to work. If you're trying to radio someone in, well there's no one to radio in. You're... well you don't look like you're from the year 1666."

"1666, huh? So, I'm really in the past?"

"Really surprisingly well."

"Have some perspective, Rider." Danzo said. "If we're successful, you could wish for the safety of your home. Not just now, but for the foreseeable future. Even after you yourself are long gone."

"Well, when you put it like that... and I don't reckon I'm gonna be able to get back home without it... I'll do it. My name is Bravestarr boys, Galactic Marshall. Now, uh, how do we get this grail?"

"Well first," Archer said. "Danzo needs to find the last of his beleaguered champions for our little loser's club."

Danzo produced the scroll again and handed it Bravestarr.

"Hmm..." Bravestarr pondered. "So this bow and arrow, that's Archer I'm guessing. The star is my Marshall's badge, so that's me. All that's left is this helmet, then? Well, I can't promise it'll help, but I can have a little look around."

Archer was about to question this, but Bravestarr quickly closed his eyes in concentration.

"Eyes of the Hawk!" he said, face twisting in concentration.

Archer then got to stand there and watch as Bravestarr's face slowly sunk into concern and fear, before his eyes flew back open.

"I've got to get back into town and help. You can meet me there, you'll see what I mean."

"Wait," Archer tried to protest. "What's happening, wh-"

"Speed of the Puma!"

Bravestarr then disappeared in a blur of white and yellow.

"Shit. I'm going after him." Archer said. Without giving Danzo time to answer, he turned and ran off in the same direction. He wasn't in the mood to be slowed down by Danzo's limping. Danzo, for his part, didn't even begin to protest.

After a couple minutes of running, hurdling the odd root too large to step over, and swerving at the last second more than once to avoid slamming right into a tree, Archer finally reached the outskirts of London, and immediately had no trouble seeing what had panicked Bravestarr.

The entire city was on fire.

Chapter Text

By instinct Archer reached back and grabbed his water arrow. No, he paused and reasoned. One measly arrow full of water wasn't going to make a dent in the raging inferno that had nearly taken over the entire town. No, if Archer was going to do anything, the only thing he could do was get civilians out of buildings and onto the stone streets.

Running between two buildings, and plugging his nose from the smell of burning feces, Archer silently thanked Tony for his hearing aid. The thing was a little sensitive, Archer occasionally thought it had been made that way on purpose, but it sure as hell came in handy whenever he needed to locate panicking civilians.

Scream from the right, Archer turned and kicked the door open, and was met with a flare of flames in face. He knocked a foam arrow and released it at the ground, smothering the flames instantly. As the foam subsided Archer got a clear glimpse of the family huddled behind it. As soon as they saw him, they charged through the foam and out onto the streets, nearly knocking him over in their rush. Not having time to be indignant, Archer quickly moved on to the next house.

The same events transpired some half dozen more times, more or less. Every so often Archer would have to remind himself that his sweatpants were still very flammable so just running through the flames wouldn't work all that well. Still, he very much wanted to conserve his trick arrows, the water arrow in particular he felt he should hang onto for as long as he could. Now if only he could find that-

"Strength of the Bear!"

That. Archer ran over in time to see Bravestarr rip the entire side of a house off, letting a panicking couple escape out onto the street.

"Thanks for the heads up." Archer called out.

Bravestarr looked over to him.

"It would've taken too long to explain the situation. And the situation didn't need much explaining to begin with."

"'The city's on fire.' There, took one second. So have you saved everyone in the city singlehandedly yet?"

"No need to be so cold, Archer. I noticed you helping out too."

"People, Bravestarr. Are there any people left in danger?"

"Right. Give me a second. Ears of the Wolf!"

Bravestarr screwed his face in concentration for a moment.

"I don't... hear anything... wait."

"What? What do you hear?"

"I don't hear anyone else in danger. But that laugh, that voice."

Bravestarr's eyes flashed open and he darted away, down the street.

"He really doesn't like to dawdle on things like details, does he?" Archer muttered to himself before taking off after him.

Following the cowboy as best as he could, Archer found him stopped in the marketplace. A handful of people were still running around, pulling down what remained of houses with long sticks ending in hooks, but two figures didn't quite fit the scene and they too were standing in the middle of the marketplace.

One of them, standing in the front, was a woman. A pretty woman Archer thought, though his standards were low. She was blonde and in a high-class blue dress that was equal parts armor and fabric.

Behind her, was a lanky man in green dyed leather with chaps around his legs, bandoliers about his torso, and a wide brimmed fedora on his head. His skin was an odd purple, with deep set wrinkles (he almost reminded Archer of a certain mad titan he had seen on occasion), and he had shocking white hair poking out from under his hat and just above his lips in a bristly fu manchu.

The man let out a mad cackle.

"Didn't expect to see you here, Bravestarr!"

"Could say the same to you, Tex Hex. Although thinking about it, this whole situation does seem very you."

"Great, you know each other. That makes things a little more simple." Archer said. "Who's the girl though?"

"I... don't know. She's not one of Tex's usual gang."

"My name is Saber." the woman apparently called Saber stated proudly. "Me and my Master quest for the holy grail."

"Hey, what a coincidence." Archer shot back. He reached for his quiver and drew a pointed arrow. "Given how these situations usually go I'm guessing we're not talking things out."

"Tex Hex." Bravestarr said solemnly. "Is there anything I can say to get you to back down now?"

"If you think there is, then you're stupider than you look, Marshall. Ain't no way I'm ever giving up a chance for a free wish. I'll be rich. Rich! Rich beyond my wildest dream!"

"That's what I thought." Bravestarr lowered his head, eyes disappearing behind the brim of his hat. He sucked in a deep breath before speaking again. "Speed of the Puma!"

Bravestarr darted forward in a blur of yellow and white, aimed straight at Tex. Archer could barely follow him with his eyes.

He could follow Saber even less, she damn near glided in front of Bravestarr at an insanely fast speed, gripping the air like she was holding a sword in a defensive position. Bravestarr then, apparently, hit some kind of invisible wall and rebounded off, flying back several feet. Archer released the arrow he was holding drawn.

Saber shifted her attention, swinging the air(?), or whatever invisible thing she was holding, and sliced through the arrows flying towards her. Archer was firing them off as fast as he could, circling around to avoid that wall of invisible, if it was even still up. Archer hated invisible things.

As the old saying goes, Archer figured as he knocked an explosive arrow, if you can't see what you're aiming at just go for the highest amounts of spread. The arrow was set flying, and Saber went to slice it in half again. The resulting explosion sent her flying through a merchant's stall and the house behind it.

Archer got a solid fraction of a second to celebrate before Saber stood up in the rubble and flew towards him. He fumbled, reaching back for a putty arrow, but he was already pretty sure he wasn't gonna get to it in time.

A blur of yellow and white zipped past him, tackling Saber away. Archer unclenched and released the breath he didn't know he had been holding. It took a second before he pulled himself back together, then he drew an arrow and aimed this one at Tex Hex. Tex just cackled and held up a hand, a purple beam shot from his forefinger, hitting the arrow head on and causing it to spin mid air and turn back towards Archer. Archer rolled to avoid it.

Tex continued to cackle as he splayed his hands, beams shot all around, striking patches of fire. Archer watched as they wriggled and came to life, taking the form of burning red snakes and slithered towards the marketplace. Archer drew another arrow and fired it at one of these snakes. It struck, the flames concaving from the impact point before the snake disappeared entirely.

At least they're easy enough to take care of, Archer thought, shortly before realizing that he was now surrounded by dozens of the things. He sighed and got to work, loosing three or five arrows at a time to keep the waves of fire snakes at bay. 20 arrows deep though, and the snakes were closer to engulfing him than ever.

Archer huffed, then turned to check on Bravestarr. He was skirting along the edge of Saber's range, struggling to get close enough to even land a hit on her.

"Not to distract you or anything." Archer called out, stopping a handful of snakes with a putty arrow. "But you're gonna wanna brace yourself and hold your breath."

With that warning, Archer finally drew and knocked his water arrow, then aimed straight up and launched it. He drew another arrow with a similar capsule for a tip, and aimed up again. He gave it a second, watching the water arrow slowly descend, then let loose.

The second arrow intercepted the first perfectly. At first a tiny splash of water fell out. Then that water started expanding. It grew and grew into a sheet 50 feet across, and it fell like an iron curtain onto the entire city block.

Archer did as he himself suggested, braced himself and held his breath as it hit. It wasn't horribly painful, a brief impact and then a general sense of being cold and wet. When he looked up not only was every fire snake extinguished, there wasn't a source of fire close enough for Tex Hex to spawn more from. Of course a number of the structures had been damaged as well, but he couldn't really imagine the damages would be worse than anything the fire wrought.

Archer turned to Tex Hex, giving a crooked smile full of cocky confidence. Tex Hex, though, was looking at the ground. Something had washed out of one of the ruined stalls. It rolled over to Tex and Tex placed a boot on top of it, bringing it to a sudden stop.

It was a helmet, a face plate on top of the helm, a couple of seams running fluidly through it, with merely slits for its eyes and mouth.

Archer drew an arrow and fired it right at the helmet, anything to get it away from Tex. Tex merely stepped forward and crunched the arrow under his boot, before pointing at the ground. Another beam shot from his finger and carved out a run beneath the helmet, the same one that had summoned Bravestarr.

"Flying knight with armor of iron. Come to my side, I'm looking to hire." Tex chanted.

The rune lit up red, and erupted in light like the last one. When the light subsided, a man in full-body, red and gold armor was standing there, both hands raised and pointing forward. The armor was sleek and powerful looking, with two glowing spots either palm and one larger one on the chest.

"How come Tony gets to show up in his gear and a cool pose?" Archer muttered to himself.

Tony paused for half a second before looking around.

"What in the-" he pondered before he noticed Archer. "Clint?"

"Hey Tony." Clint waved back meekly.

"What in the hell is happening, where are we right now? Wh- Did you get a facelift or something, you look different."

"I do get punched in the face a lot."

"Caster!" Tex Hex yelled. "You are my Servant, and you will follow my commands!"

"Uh," Tony turned to look at Tex. "I'm sorry Mr. Grimace, who are you?"

"I. Am. Your. Master!"

"Thanks, I like Metallica too." he turned back to Clint. "Clint, who is he?"

"We're caught up in some medieval contest of champions type thing where people are summoning heroes to fight for them in a quest for the holy grail. Or something. That guy over there summoned you to fight for him. The guy who summoned me is, uh, somewhere around here."

"You left him in a burning city?"

"He's kind of a dick, alright. I'm sure he's fine."

"Grah!" Tex Hex roared. "Saber. Kill that Archer!"

"Oh no." Clint breathed. He turned to see Archer glare at him from across the marketplace.

She was on him quick, he should have gotten used to how fast she moved by now but she still crossed the gap faster than Clint expected. He raised his bow to intercept the slash and when the two instruments collided a sharp crack splintered through his left arm.

Clint screamed out in pain, cradling his arm and staring down Saber. She went for another slash, but Tony stepped in between them, deflecting the overhead swing with his right arm, then placed his left palm forward, blasting Saber away with a bright blue repulsor blast. Saber clutched at her stomach as she slid backward, giving Clint maybe a second of hope before she stood straight back up. She gripped her invisible sword tightly and charged forward, but was interrupted by a wild haymaker from Bravestarr.

Archer drew an explosive arrow with his good arm and lobbed it to Bravestarr, who snatched it out of the air, but instead of using it to deal more damage to Saber, lunged at Tony, jabbing it into his chest and sending him reeling back. Tony took a second to process what just happened and held his hands up to blast Bravestarr, but then Saber moved to dart back into the fray so he moved one hand to point at her as well and Bravestarr shouted "Strength of the Bear!" and gripped the cobbling below and yanked out a massive slab of rock and hefted it above his head and Clint drew a putty arrow and looked back and forth from Saber to Bravestarr to Tony and

Tap. Tap. Tap. Tap. Tap.

The entire scene was suspended in quiet and stillness as a quiet tapping slowly got louder. Heads all around turned to see the source, and they saw Danzo walking slowly into the marketplace.

"Archer. Bravestarr." he said quietly, yet having no trouble being heard. "I see you've been so wrapped up in squabbling with the enemy Master that you allowed him to reach the third catalyst before me."

Tex Hex cackled. "That's right old man! The Caster is my Servant now!"

"Listen," Tony interrupted. "I'm not looking to fight for anyone right now, so if none of you mind too much I'm just gonna take off."

"Not so fast, Caster." Tex Hex said. He raised his right arm, and just below the black fingerless glove, all five saw the slightly glowing red mark. Danzo noting just how similar it was to his own. "I order you as your Master to kill both of the old man's Servants."

The mark lit up brighter than ever, and when the light faded away, a piece of the mark was missing. Like someone had just taken a massive slice out of it. Danzo placed a hand to his chin in thought. Tony turned to face Clint.

"Tony." Clint said, panic seeping into his voice. "Tony c- come on."

"Really sorry about this Clint." Tony said coldly. "Well, I'm not, but I get the feeling I will be after the fact."

Clint threw the putty arrow at Tony's feet, the putty expanding and gluing the armor's feet to the ground.

Tony pulled against the putty and tore out of it almost immediately.

"Come on Tony," Clint said as he stepped backwards. "Don't make me do this."

"Like you have a chance at beating me, arrow-boy."

"No I mean... I mean this."

Clint swiped his bow off the ground, and gripped it in his teeth. He turned his head sideways, rolling his eyes as far up as they'd go to aim, and drew an arrow with his good hand. He put the arrow in the bowstring, drew back, and released, the bowstring bouncing painfully off his chin. The first shot veered a little to the left and hit Tony in the pectoral. The second flew straight, and Tony grabbed it out of the air before it could hit his arc reactor. The third flew to hit its mark as clean as the second, Tony grabbed this one out of the air as well but when he did a hundred arrows suddenly grew from the tip and pelted Tony with the barrage of an army. Staggering back with a couple dozen arrows piercing the outer layer of his armor, he didn't notice the explosive arrow until it slammed into his face and sent him hurling back.

Bravestarr squared up against Saber again. In their last extended bout, Bravestarr had spent most of the time on the defensive, trying desperately to stay out of her range and occasionally, maybe once or twice, getting in a few punches before moving back out of range.

And the way things were going now, it didn't seem like things were going to be much different.

Saber slashed, the air shimmered around her invisible blade the way it had so many times before, and Bravestarr moved away to avoid it. This time however, something new happened. A shuriken flew in from behind Bravestarr, the wind shimmered about it as well in a wide circle, and it clashed with Saber's blade. Try as she might to overpower the projectile, her arms yielded first, throwing her blade into the air and leaving her wide open.

Bravestarr darted forward and wrapped his arms around her midsection. He leaped up into the air and twisted around and until both of their heads were rocketing straight towards the ground. The resulting impact cratered the street, sending chunks of rock flying everywhere, and leaving Saber bent at the waist and Bravestarr holding himself just above the ground.

Saber was barely even faltered. She kicked Bravestarr off of her, gripped her invisible sword again and Bravestarr was entirely back to square one.

Clint was doing his best to keep Tony at bay, but once he abandoned the "walk slowly and menacingly tactic" in exchange for bullrushing Clint with his boosters, it was much harder for Clint to hit him properly with his handicap. A couple explosive arrows hit, but Tony quickly shrugged them off. A couple of putty or cryo arrows hit, but Tony broke through them quickly. An EMP arrow hit once, sending Tony into a tailspin and crashing into the ground, but his suit rebooted and was back in the air before Clint could properly capitalize. And between every arrow fired, sometimes not even given that much time, Clint would have to drop what he was doing and tuck and roll on his good arm in order to barely evade Tony's charges or repulsor blasts.

It was watching his two Servants struggling as much as they were which caused Danzo to sigh, suck in a deep breath, and send it shooting out his nose. The ground beneath him sent up dust and ash as a rune was carved into it, and he stepped back out of it. Danzo focused, trying to interpret the chakra rushing from his own mark. His hands moved together. It was a slow, uncertain gesture. Then again. Then one last time.

And for the final time, the rune lit up bright red. Everyone's fighting stopped as they were bathed in blinding light. And when the light faded, standing there was a young girl, couldn't be older than 15, in a school uniform with her pale hair done up in two twin ponytails, accessorized by black ribbons. She looked so ordinary, Clint almost didn't notice the ring of gold floating above her head.

He did notice, however, the massive, demonic looking spiked bat in her hand as it was being swung into the ground over and over again.

"I told you I told you I told you I told you I told you!" she screamed, eyes screwed shut. "Knock before you just come barging in here were you raised in a barn I could've been naked I could've been in the middle of dressing you're never going to avert your perverted destiny like this Sakura-kun what's wrong with you!"

The girl opened her eyes, seeing the cratered cobblestone street she had been bashing in for the first time. Confused, she slammed the bat into the spot one more time.

"S- Sakura-kun?" she called out meekly.

Tony, seeing the girl, shook his head clear and landed. Clint drew another arrow, but Tony put his hands to the sky.

"It's... It's alright Clint. I- I think it's alright."

"Caster!" Tex Hex yelled. "What are you doing? I told you to kill both of them!"

"Yeah, well," Tony spoke slowly, like even he wasn't sure of what he was saying. "Well there's three of them now, so... Yeah."

He moved towards the newcomer, placing a gentle hand on her shoulder.

"Hey kid, are you o-"

The girl screamed.

"Stranger danger stranger danger! I don't know you!"

She swung the bat, and Tony's arm disappeared in a cloud of shredded metal and red mist.

Clint's heart sunk into his chest. He stumbled to the side of the road and vomited. The girl swung again and the rest of Tony's torso disappeared along with it.

Clint wiped his mouth, sickness and confusion quickly being replaced with anger. He charged at the girl, grabbing her by the front of her shirt and not caring in the slightest what happened to him as a result.

"What did you just do?" he yelled. "What the hell do you think you're doing?"

The girl did nothing but cry, tears streaking down her face and snot dribbling from her nose. She held up the bat up, straight overhead, and Clint braced himself.

The impact never came, Clint briefly wondered if the death had come so quick he hadn't even felt the hit. Then he looked up, and saw Danzo holding it back with two fingers on either side of one of the spikes.

"Berserker." he said calmly. "Archer is your teammate, and you're not to harm him."

"I don't wanna work with bad guys though!" she yelled back.

Danzo almost looked taken aback, but in a very subdued Danzo kind of way.

"Bad guys?" Clint yelled back. "I'm one of the good guys. You're the bad guy! You're the one who killed someone you just met!"

"Wait," she said, suddenly confused. "You guys are good guys?"

"Y- Yeah." Clint wasn't sure how to interpret the response.

"And him?" she pointed to where Tony's legs lay still.

Clint couldn't bring himself to look at them. When he spoke, his voice choked.

"He was one of the best guys I ever knew."

"Oh! Oh I'm so sorry!"

Clint's anger flared again.

"Sorry's not gonna-"

Before he could finish, the girl pulled her bat out of Danzo's grip, and spun it around one hand.

"Pi Piru Piru Piru PiPiru Pi!"

On the last note of the odd chant, she pointed her bat at Tony's body, and in a flash of light and a cloud of sparkles, he was back on his feet completely in one piece. Not even a dent in his armor. His visor slid up, revealing his face quick enough for him to run off and vomit into the same puddle as Clint.

"Ge- Gerroff me!" came a muffled yell from across the marketplace.

Tex Hex, Clint had almost forgot about him, was face down on the ground. Bravestarr knelt on his back and clapped both hands in a pair of glowing handcuffs. As soon as he did, Saber and Tony disappeared in a flash of light. The girl circled around in front of Clint and held out a hand for him to shake.

"I'm really sorry about all that. My name is Dokuro-chan!"

"Wait." Clint said, massaging his temple. "Wait- I- Hold on I- What... What the FU-"

And then everything went black.

Chapter Text

"Howdy folks." Bravestarr said. "In today's story, me and my new partners learned a little something about 'Safety in Numbers'. Ya see, on our own, me and my friend Archer would've never been able to beat Tex Hex and his new gang. It was only with Dokuro-chan's help that we could outnumber them. Sometimes physical strength doesn't matter compared to being outnumbered, and a lot of bad guys know that. So if ever you need to go somewhere and you don't have your parents or a guardian with you, try and form a group with friends. Always practice the buddy system, and be safe. See y'all next time."

Chapter Text

The Long Arm of the Law

Master: Danzo Shimura

Archer: Clint Barton

Berserker: Dokuro Mitsukai

Rider: Marshal BraveStarr


 

Team Tough Love

Master: Kyu Sugardust

Berserker: Buffaloman

Saber: Roronoa Zoro

Caster: Kopaka

Chapter Text

Danzo sat at the edge of the bed. Hands clasped between his legs. Breath slow and deliberate. Gaze slightly down. Face immutable as ever.

"Are you trying to use genjutsu on me?" the man his opposite asked. "That won't work you know. I told you, this is just a dream."

Danzo's uncovered eye met the man's. The pure venom he was sending was met only with that unflinching serenity. The kind that came from confidence that nothing had a chance of harming you. Danzo would like nothing more than to prove him wrong. But not now. Information came first.

"I'd just like to congratulate you on leading your team to your first victory. Well, you didn't really do much did you? It seemed to me like your team all but abandoned you to handle the situation themselves, didn't they? You should probably curb that in the future."

Danzo remained silent.

"Ooh, we're doing this again. Feel free to speak up whenever it suits you. I'm sure you've realized by now, that this won't be the only Master you're fated to clash with. No, I'm afraid the grail won't reveal itself to you until you've proven yourself worthy enough to claim it."

Danzo remained silent.

"It's a bit like a... like a tournament. The grail will only wilfully give itself to one Master, but there are just so many of you competing for it. It's a conundrum to be sure, how you're going to make it through all that."

"It's a game." Danzo said.

"Pardon?"

"The framing for this quest, it is set up like a game. Like a game, there is only one winner. Like a game, there are rules we all abide by."

Danzo looked at the mark on his right arm. The man noticed him looking.

"I see you've already discovered some of those rules."

Danzo nodded.

"The mark lets me summon Servants: my pieces. Pressing the mark gives me knowledge on what I should do: a hint. I can command one of my Servants to follow any singular order, no matter what: a trump card. But I can only do this three times, and so the game is balanced."

The man placed a hand to his chin in quiet thought.

"Hmm. Yes, I suppose if you look at it from such a perspective, it's a little like a game. Such a perspective might be useful in navigating things from now on."

"Spare me your feigned innocence, stranger. I have no doubts in my mind on how coincidental this is."

"And you continue to give me too much credit. This whole event is merely by the whim of the grail, if it so happens to resemble a game, that too is by some quirk of the grail's desire. I'm sure it would do anything to clean up these singularities..."

The man turned his head, breaking eye contact from Danzo for the first time since they had met. His eyes were, uncharacteristically, distant and troubled. This change lasted only a moment however, and he quickly returned his gaze to Danzo.

"My apologies." he said. "Did you have anything more you wanted to ask?"

Danzo took a moment before responding.

"What is your name?"

The stranger lifted an eyebrow and smiled ever so subtly wider.

"Me? I am but a figment of your dream, I don't have a name."

"Dreams have names. Fantasies, nightmares, even dream is a name we've given them."

"I suppose so. I'm sure it can't hurt to tell you the name of a fake man."

Danzo was silent, awaiting his response.

Chapter Text

Clint jolted awake. Immediately, pain shot through his left arm, and he doubled over, clutching at it. When the stars in his eyes faded he finally saw that his broken arm had been helpfully bandaged and slung.

He got out of bed slowly, gingerly, stopping every couple seconds to wince at the pain. Eventually though, he got the white linen covers off and got both his feet on the ground. He made his way across the wooden floor over to the wooden door and put one hand on the knob.

He paused. He was, right now, in a very similar situation to the last time this happened. Only now he wasn't even allowed his shirt. He had none of his gear, none of his armor, the only thing he had, again, were his sweatpants, and no idea of what would lay in wait beyond this door.

Okay, he thought, this looks bad.

He took a deep breath, grit his teeth, and pushed the door open, barging out in an attempt to keep at least the element of surprise.

Nothing. He entered into a hallway with three other doors spaced pretty evenly apart. To his left was a wall, to his right, at the very far end of the corridor, was an opening to a larger room. The far wall was also wood and belayed no clues or tells as to where he was or what was waiting for him.

"Great." he breathed. "We're dragging this out."

A 'clunk' rang out from the end of the corridor (to the right), and a voice quickly followed it.

"Archer?" called Bravestarr's drawl. "Archer is that you, are you awake?"

A dreadfully familiar pale-haired girl ran into the corridor.

"Archer-san!" she yelled as she shot into the air set to obliterate Clint with a tackle-hug.

Clint braced himself, but no impact came. He looked up to see Bravestarr gripping the girl by the back of her shirt.

"Now hold on there, lil pard." he said softly. "Archer's roughed up enough as it is."

The girl, Dokuro, Clint reminded himself, gave a disappointed "Aw." but seemed to cede to Bravestarr as she was placed on the ground. She was still excessively giddy, but was no longer a threat to his remaining limbs.

Clint had just woken up and already gave an exhausted sigh, pinching the bridge of his nose.

"Where's Danzo?" he asked without looking up.

"Said he was going out to get some information a little while ago. Why?"

"Listen, man. No offense but I really don't want to be here and you really don't need me. I mean look at me. I'm an archer with a broken arm, how much help do you honestly think I'm going to be?"

"You're worried about your arm, Archer-san?" Dokuro asked.

"Among other things. Many other things."

"Well, I can fix that."

Clint shot her an incredulous look.

"How? What are you possibly going to do to fix this?"

"Just close your eyes."

"No. No I am not going to do that. There is no way in hell that you're going to get me to close my eyes in front of you, you little psy-"

Clint couldn't finish his thought as Dokuro swung her bat and his upper torso exploded into a shiny red paint that coated the back wall and all four doors.

Chapter Text

"Sosuke Aizen?" The man wore a golden shirt with a shiny badge just under the left collarbone. He had a suave, adventurous look about him. Most of the time. Now he just looked ponderous. "No, I don't believe I've ever met someone with that name."

Danzo gave an understanding nod. The man took a small device from his pocket and flipped the cover off, then spoke into it.

"Mr. Spock, do the ship's logs have any mention of a Sosuke Aizen?"

"Searching..." came a voice from the device. "...No mentions of a Sosuke Aizen in our logs, Captain."

"Thank you, Spock." he flipped the device closed and looked back up towards Danzo. "Sorry I couldn't be more help, sir. Personally, though, I'd ask her about it."

The man pointed towards a short, pink-skinned woman leaning bored against a table.

"I talked to her once before, and she seems to know a lot about what all's going on here, more than anyone else at least." he continued.

Danzo bowed.

"Thank you very much for assistance." he said.

He turned and slowly began making his way towards the table, his cane tapping along the tiled floor as he went. Very clearly, the woman heard Danzo's approach before he got even close to her.

"Hey old timer." She waved at Danzo cheerfully.

"Respect for your elders is an important virtue to have, young lady." he called back cordially.

"Ha haaaaaaa. It's funny cause I'm way older than you."

"In that case," Danzo bowed low as he finally reached his conversation partner. "I come seeking your wisdom."

The woman giggled in response.

"And what is it you wish to know?"

"I seek information about a man named Sosuke Aizen."

Immediately the woman's cheerful face shattered, Danzo could practically see the shiver run up her spine. Her hand shot forward and slapped itself over Danzo's mouth. Her eyes darted fearfully around, scanning the entirety of her surroundings before talking again.

"Don't-... Don't talk about that guy." she whispered.

Danzo raised a quizzical eyebrow as he removed the hand from his mouth.

"Is this man dangerous?" he asked.

She swallowed hard and nodded.

"Ai- That man may not be the most powerful being in the universe. In fact he's probably not, but he's definitely the strongest being here. The strongest who's involved with any of this. He could wipe out you, me, any one of us Masters or Servants with one swing of his sword. Unless you can find someone who can, like, destroy mountain ranges by blinking at them, you don't want to even think about that man's name."

"And you know this from personal experience?"

"N- Not really. He's not really part of my division, but the kai's have been keeping an eye on him for a while, and everything I've heard about him corroborates that you don't wanna mess with him."

"How is he involved in all of this, then?"

"Nobody knows for sure. If you ask me though, I think he's here to provide enough power to cause the singularities."

Danzo's eyes, near imperceptively, narrowed.

"Singularities?"

The woman looked almost relieved to change the subject.

"Yeah. Those are definitely my department. A singularity is a point in time where the timeline is attempted to be altered. Alterations in the timeline are generally bad news and can lead to some disasterous consequences. The oldest example is: Say you went back in time and accidentally killed your father, thus ensuring that you'd never be born, so you couldn't have gone back in time to kill your father which would mean you were born, so you would go back in time, etc. etc. That's a singularity. Well, technically that's a paradox, but the moment of change is the singularity and they usually cause paradoxes. The timeline isn't so weak that just anyone can alter it though, being able to force a change on the timeline actually takes a great deal of raw energy, that's why most civilizations don't create time travel technology until late late into their development."

"And so you think Aizen is using his power to send us back and cause these singularities?"

She winced slightly at the mention of his name.

"Not quite. I think he's causing them outright, using his power to send a Master to a point in time to disrupt the timeline, then the grail is using its power to create a counter-singularity, which sends an opposing Master to the same point to stop them. When the timeline is no longer in danger, the grail sends everyone back. The only question is why he's doing that."

"Why go through so much trouble to create a situation that resolves itself, you mean."

The woman nodded.

"Maybe he's looking for something, or maybe he's trying to wage war with the grail, I don't know. I just know I don't want anything to do with that guy until I can find a Servant with much much stronger firepower."

Danzo bowed.

"Thank you so much for sharing this information."

The woman cautiously bowed back.

"I feel like I shouldn't have to say this, but I wouldn't look into this any more if I were you. That man may not take well to people snooping."

"I'll keep that in mind."

Danzo stalked off, cane tapping along on its path away from the woman. She collapsed onto the table and gave a sigh of relief.

Chapter Text

Clint was standing. Somewhere. It was hard to tell anything more than that. His eyes were definitely open, he didn't feel groggy or lightheaded, it was just really hard to see.

Blue lights danced in front of his eyes, if there was anything to bathe they probably would've bathed it in their aquamarine light.

He held a hand in front of his face. Yep. Confirmed. Bathed in blue light. Pulling his hand bacck down though, he saw something had appeared behind it. Something familiar.

Clint felt the wind shoot from his gut the second he laid eyes on the woman. Blonde hair, cut tight in a bob. A modest, archetypically midwestern dress on. Her hands were clasped in front of her as she stood 50 feet away from Clint.

He took a shaky step forward, then another, than broke out into a run, stumbling to a stop just in front of her.

"M- Mom?" he gasped out.

Edith Barton returned a melancholy smile.

"Hey there Clint."

"Mom what are you- Where-" And then the realization hit. "...Is dad here?"

"No Clint," Edith sighed. "No he's not."

"Mom, I'm so sorry. I'm so sorry I couldn't do anything."

"Oh, Clint. You were just a boy, there wasn't anything you could do. So long as you and your brother are out there and surviving, I'll be happy."

"Well," Clint rubbed the back of his head. "I guess things didn't go quite that way. Had to happen eventually though, right?"

Edith only gave that melancholy smile again.

"B- But I'm here now mom, and this time I-"

He reached out towards his mom, but his hand caught on something. A translucent fabric suspended between the two, it only became visible once it had been disturbed.

"Wha- What the-"

He looked up, following the fabric to its source, and only then did he see her. She was gargantuan, taller than Goliath had ever been. With a shapely body in pitch black robes and an empty-eyed skull for a face. Her jaw creaked open and she spoke, her words were soft, whispered directly into Clint's ears.

"Don't worry, she does this all the time."

Clint barely managed to voice any kind of audible confusion before sharp metal hooks embedded into the back of his skull and both heels. They pulled him back and into the air, folding him in half at the waist. He could feel himself getting speared in every corner of his body, felt himself being bent and compacted in ways his body was never meant to handle. When he couldn't have been taking up much more space than an inch by inch cube, he managed to glance back at Edith. She gave one last melancholy smile and a tiny wave.

"Pi Piru Piru Piru PiPiru Pi!"

Clint breathed in, his lungs instinctively filling to capacity, his body was covered in a cold sweat, his hands were shaking, his eyes couldn't focus on anything, and he could feel the bile rising in the back of his throat. Bravestarr leaned over and grabbed a tin bucket, handing it over. Clint immediately vomitted the last remnants of what was left in his stomach. But he realized as he was just about finished that he was holding the bucket with both hands.

So that was nice.

Chapter Text

Clint decided to redress himself while Bravestarr talked. According to Bravestarr, a lot happened while Clint was out that he needed to be filled in on.

"How long was I out?" he asked.

"Not that long, about an hour or so, it's just that a lot happened the second we got here."

Firstly they were at a place that a lot of people had taken to calling "The Hub", and emphasis on a lot of people as apparently there were several dozens Masters living here along with Clint and his group, each one with their own team of Servants. Nobody was quite sure yet what was stopping them from taking each other out of the picture here, but surely this wasn't a colosseum type death game situation. Either way, most people had been capable of keeping the peace thus far.

The Hub itself was... weird. The closest Clint could compare it to would be a shopping mall, in fact it was very very similar to a shopping mall. Clint took a peek outside the front door and could see that, it looked EXACTLY like a shopping mall. Same endless tiled floors, same sterile white walls, same guardrails (so they were on the second floor), same minimally required fauna.

"There's even a food court," Bravestarr said. "Staffed mostly by robots."

"My stomach is really empty right now."

There were even skylights, though Bravestarr was quick to mention that a lot of people had already tried breaking through them to no avail. In fact, as far as anyone could tell, there were no exits of any kind in the Hub, because of course things were never that simple.

The main difference between the Hub and a shopping mall though, was that instead of stores, each installation was a heavily decorated, heavily disparate, heavily themed set of quarters. It was apparently difficult to tell what exactly the connecting idea behind these themes were. Their quarters, for instance, were themed after a sheriff's office, complete with functional holding cells. But others might be themed after a boiler room, or a mystic's hut, or a chrome spaceship.

"Some of them might offer the service their quarters are themed after, but you'd have to bargain with them." Bravestarr said. "It's not really much different from a regular barter system, with or without the theming."

Speaking of the holding cells, Tex Hex was currently being held in one of them. He couldn't have his handcuffs removed because as it turns out,

"My energy cuffs are specifically designed to stop people like Tex from using hexes. Danzo says it stops his 'chakra' from reaching his hands, and since that's where the Master mark is located, he can't summon any Servants so long as they stay on."

And finally, the energy cuffs in question, well they were still on Tex Hex, Bravestarr confirmed that multiple times, but for some reason he still had a set of cuffs on his belt where the old pair had been. Clint hefted his quiver and noticed that his own arrow supply had been replenished as well. There was no point looking a gift horse in the mouth, but he figured he might want to know where this horse even came from. Either way, he strapped it and his bow over either shoulder as Bravestarr finished.

"And... I think that's everything."

"Cool." Clint responded, nonplussed. "Can we eat?"

"Sure we can, I could go for some grub myself. Dokuro, you wanna come too?"

Clint made a face somewhere between disgust and a wince, a face he didn't manage to hide well. Dokuro's cheerful expression sunk, as did her head. She stared at her shoes and responded in a mutter.

"No, I'm fine."

Bravestarr gave her a concerned look.

"Well... alright. We'll catch up with you later, okay?"

Bravestarr pat Clint on the back and the two made their way out into the Hub proper.

The food court was a wide, circular plaza, pretty predictably. But in terms of actual food, it was structured more like a Chinese buffet. There were rows upon rows of islands outfitted with heat lamps to keep every type, sort, and classification of foodstuff ready for consumption. Clint even spotted a couple of islands full of things that he could at the least confirm were some form of matter, but couldn't begin to recognize beyond that. He decided to stick to the American section for today.

Cold, steel grey robots whizzed about, removing empty trays and replacing them with full ones. They were pretty standardly humanoid, but with bases low to ground with tiny black rubber wheels barely peeking out from the bottoms. Very bottom heavy, Clint figured, would be hard to trip. This wasn't a tactical observation mind, but Clint thought it might be funny to see one of them topple over.

Burger and fries, he decided, couldn't go wrong with that. You were generally supposed to go all out at a Chinese buffet, but considering this would be his sole source of food for the foreseeable future, he might as well ration things out to avoid repetitive tastes.

He sat himself down at a table and Bravestarr took the seat opposite of him with a handful of jerky. Clint immediately grabbed his burger with both hands and chowed down. Bravestarr took a couple bites of his jerky, not taking his eyes off Clint.

"You know," he eventually said. "You could stand to be a little softer on Dokuro. She's just a kid."

"I've seen her do two things so far." Clint said through a mouth full of beef and bread. "One, kill one of my best friends, and two, kill me. What reason do I have to not hate her guts?"

"How about the fact that the both of you are fine? She obviously knew what she was doing, she wouldn't... do something like that without knowing she could bring you back."

"With all due respect, Marshall, you didn't see what I did in that in between."

Bravestarr lowered his hat.

"No. No I didn't. But maybe you should talk to her about that instead of calling her names and shooting her nasty glances. She really does mean well, Archer."

Clint gave a sharp, shotgun laugh.

"You really do see the good in everyone don't you."

"I try."

Clint gave nothing more than a grunt and a turn of his head to look somewhere else.

"I mean that, Archer." Bravestarr continued. "I do try. I try very hard. Because it's something you have to try and do. It's easy to write off people as being wrong or evil or just bad people. It's hard to try and look at things from their perspective, think about how they see you and your actions. But I'm no one's judge or jury, and I couldn't do my job as Galactic Marshall if I couldn't take other people's feelings into account. So yes, I do try and see the good in everyone. And I don't know what it is you do, Archer, but given the way you saved those people in the fire, I think you're a good person who wants to help others too. So I would just consider it."

Clint didn't say anything. He popped the last piece of burger into his mouth and gave Bravestarr a long, extended look. Finally he sighed.

"Fine. You want me to apologize to her something?"

Bravestarr laughed.

"I ain't your father, pard. You just do whatever you think is right."

Clint picked up the first fry from his plate and put it in his mouth thoughtfully. The rest of his fries disappeared under a pair of shoes.

Dokuro landed on the table (directly on top of Clint's fries!) hard enough to split it in half. Clint back flipped out of his chair on sheer instinct, landing in a crouch. Dokuro ran over and grabbed his hand.

"Archer-san, Archer-san! I know I upset you earlier, so now I'm gonna make it up to you, okay! Close your eyes and come with me!"

The venom began rising in his throat, but subsided when he saw Bravestarr's expectant gaze. Clint sighed and closed his eyes.

"Alright. Lead away, uh, kid."

Dokuro let out an excited squee and ran off, nearly yanking Clint's arm from its socket. He ran to keep up with girl, diligently keeping his eyes closed. Of course, he hadn't quite remembered where the stairs were, but Dokuro clambered up them so fast he only banged his chin off of a few of the steps.

When she finally stopped and Clint could catch his breath and his footing, she let go of his hand and instantly Clint was holding himself on his knees and panting.

"Okay Archer-san, you can open your eyes now!"

Clint did and was immediately face to face with a sea of pink. It was one of those themed quarters, this one had an entrance way in the shape of a giant, velvet heart. Pink neon strip lighting lined the whole thing, with at least one XXX sign on the front. The windows were adorned with silhouettes of attractive women in prominent lingerie, all back lit with a soft pink light.

She took him to a brothel.

"You took me to a brothel."

"Well yeah. This is where adults go when they're stressed and angry and they wanna feel better, isn't it?"

Clint rubbed both his temples and sighed.

Chapter Text

A matching pink head poked its way out from the pink brothel's pink front door. Her pink hair was messy, her eyes were nearly closed (Clint couldn't tell if they were pink but he guessed so), the only thing on her that wasn't pink were the bags under her eyes. She yawned before speaking in an exhausted, listless tone.

"Uh, yeah, hi. Can I help you?"

"Oh, no, we were ju-" Clint started.

"My friend needs to get laid." Dokuro said.

Clint's face flushed a bright red (or was it also pink at this point). He silently seethed, wondering where in the hell a schoolgirl picked up that kind of language. The pink girl, for her credit, didn't seem phased.

"Yeah, him and me both sister."

One of her hands emerged from behind the door to scratch behind her ear. For a split second, Clint saw the glowing red mark on her hand.

"You're a Master." he noted.

"And you're observant." she shot back before yawning again. "Yeah... I dozed off a little. I'm not sure where my team is right now."

"You've doomed us, Zoro." Kopaka growled. "I just want you to know that."

"Shut up!" Zoro shot back. "Our rooms are right around here, I'm sure of it."

"Zoro, we're not even in the Hub anymore. That's not supposed to be possible."

Kopaka gesticulated towards the grassy fields that surrounded them. Not a single structure or figure was visible to the horizon in every direction.

"It's fine! I'm not an idiot. We're just retracing our steps, we should be pretty close by now."

Kopaka placed a claw to his forehead and growled.

"Buffaloman... please back me up here."

Buffaloman surveyed his surroundings, eyes squinting as they studied the subtle shape of the hills, the clouds, and the broad horizon.

"I think we're lost." he concluded.

Kopaka let out a yell of frustration.

"Listen," Clint said, trying desperately to defuse the situation. "This is all a big misunderstanding, we'll just get out of your hair."

Clint turned to leave and almost ran straight into the pink girl. Clint hadn't even seen her move, but now she was hovering inches from his face.

She was wearing a (pink) collar not attached to anything, certainly not to the meager scraps of (pink) fabric that she considering coverings. Her (pink) underwear was covered up by a whole lot of (pink) nothing, and a (pink) voile shawl was hanging loosely from her midsection. Finally, she also wore (pink) stockings with some (pink) ballet shoes. Strangest of all though, were the (pink) butterfly wings sticking out of her back. She looked a lot more awake now, her (pink) hair was even done up in two twintails now. She was studying Clint very closely with her (FUTZ, they're green) eyes.

"Hmm, yes." she mused. "I see."

Clint's eyebrows scrunched.

"See what?"

"You're a hot enough guy just looking at you, got that scruffy charm that chicks dig, but you struggle heavily maintaining anything past a one night stand because a previous breakup makes you afraid of intimacy. You crave it, definitely, and you get lonely when left to yourself for too long, but the second things go the slightest bit wrong you push them away with... emotional distance and loud shows of bitterness and anger. And because you don't want your relationships to be intimate, on the off-chance you hook a girl in, the both of you just circle the drain, going nowhere and delving no deeper than that awkward first couple months phase, before disappointedly cutting things off. Heh, you're a real fixer-upper, aren't you?"

"I- I'm sorry. Where is this coming from?"

"Oh, honey, it's written all over your face."

Clint gave her a look. She giggled.

"Name's Kyu, I'm a love fairy. It's my job to be able to tell these things."

Clint gave a half second's thought to disputing that claim, but she was floating, so...

"Yeah, alright, I'll buy that."

"And as a dutiful servant, that's servant with a lowercase S not a summoned Servant, of the goddess Venus, it's my duty to lead wayward souls back onto the path of love and romance and all that mushy shit."

"Um, yeah, thanks but no thanks."

"Uh, a-ha ha ha, maybe you didn't hear me. I am offering my specialty services to take care of, frankly, a pretty hopeless case in order to make your life objectively better. You need me right now, and I am willing to help you."

"You know what, I'm leaving. I'm leaving now. I am just going to leave right now. Leaving."

And leave he did, Clint maneuvered around Kyu and started walking sternly away.

Kyu darted forward and grabbed him by the wrist. Clint paused, and shut his eyes. He tried, tried desperately to contain his frustration at her and Dokuro and this stupid grail and his tattered sweatpants and this entire situation and-

-and he failed pretty spectacularly.

"Lady." he said through grit teeth. "I have had a really really rough past 24 hours. If you do not get your goddamn hand off of me, I'm going to start fighting for this grail, right here, right now, so I can get this over with, go home, and sleep."

"Oh come on, this is more important than sleep or any stupid wish from a grail. We're talking about your love life here."

Clint sighed.

"A- Archer-san?" Dokuro muttered.

"I did warn her." Clint told her. "You saw it, I did."

Moving quickly, Clint grabbed an arrow from his quiver, spun on his heels, and thrust towards Kyu. She shrieked out in surprise, but Clint didn't get to hear much of it. As soon as his arrow struck, Clint was consumed by a bright light.

Next thing he knew, he was standing on a rocky cliff face. Dokuro was to his right, Bravestarr to his left, and right across from him was Danzo, fixing him with a slightly judgemental stare as putty exploded from his arrow and fell to the ground between the four of them.

"Archer. Bravestarr. Dokuro." he nodded to each of them. "It seems the grail has transported us to our next destination."

"Hi, Danzo-san!" Dokuro said cheerfully.

Bravestarr tipped his hat. Clint just stowed the spent arrow back in his quiver and tried to save whatever face he had left.

A pregnant pause lingered over the four of them, or at least Clint felt like there was one. He wanted to fill it with something, anything, an apology, an explanation, a blame placed on Dokuro, but nothing was coming to mind.

"Hey," Dokuro saved him the trouble. "What's that sound?"

Now that she mentioned it, Clint could hear it too, sounded like... lots of yelling, lots of stomping, some metal-on-metal impacts.

"Bravestarr," Danzo motioned to him. "If you would."

"Of course." he said. "Eyes of the Hawk!"

Bravestarr stood quietly for a second, his eyes screwed shut in concentration. Then his concentration broke and he took a step back.

"G- Galloping galaxies! Between the two mountains, it's a warzone down there!"

"Details, Bravestarr." Danzo snapped. "What kind of weaponry are they using?"

"Spears and swords with some bows and arrows it looks like, a lot of people riding around on horses. Two tents on either side."

"Probably where the generals are making battle strategies." Clint added.

"What's this?" Bravestarr continued. "There's one man, riding a red horse, he's carving his way through most of the enemy forces."

"Ah." Danzo said, lifting his head. "The battle of Hulao Pass, where the forces of eight warlords clashed with those of Dong Zhao. They were almost defeated by the living legend Lu Bu, before three heroes managed to match him, dwindling his army's resources and forcing them to retreat."

"Well," Bravestarr said. "I see three strangers down in the crowd... but they're not fighting against this Lu Bu, they're fighting with him."

Danzo placed a hand to his chin.

"So... this is one of the singularities she spoke of."

"Pardon?" Clint interjected.

"Our mission is to stop these three interlopers. You three head down and get on it. I will join you shortly."

Bravestarr nodded.

"Speed of the Puma!"

He zipped down the side of the mountain in a flash. Dokuro watched him run off with surprise.

"Bravestarr-san, wait uuuuuuuuup!"

She crouched and leaped, cratering the rock beneath her and sending herself flying over the fray.

Clint looked back at Danzo. Danzo returned the look, then gestured to the path down the mountain, expectantly.

Clint sighed and began jogging down the mountain.

Chapter Text

~ The Previous Day ~

Kopaka was the only one still conscious. As much as he respected his new comrades, they were, after all, still entirely organic. Both had astounding endurance, but they'd been trudging underneath the beating sun for the greater part of a day, with no source of water, no food, and no shade, and so they had unfortunately, involuntarily, shut down. But Kopaka ran on finite energy too, and his was slowly dwindling to emptiness.

Of course, this was still all Zoro's fault.

And so Kopaka walked, hauling the both of them. Zoro fit on his angular shoulder like a book on a shelf, but Buffaloman was just so unreasonably large. Kopaka could lift his weight well enough, at least with the Pakari Mask he could, but that didn't stop his feet and hands from dragging along the ground, or from his width requiring Kopaka's entire arm to support.

Kopaka's one spot of hope, the one irregularity on the horizon, was a distant mountain range. It was, at the least, a geographic feature, and a vertical one at that. That meant there would have to be shade somewhere. How they would get back to their master was a mystery. How they would get back to anything was a mystery. But this certainly wasn't the first time Kopaka had been in this situation. Even if it took another thousand years, he would return to his mission.

It took another hour and a half of walking, repetitive, droning trudging, but he made it to the edge of the mountain range. As their elevation increased, Kopaka felt a comforting chill growing around him. It wasn't anywhere near his idea temperature, but it was refreshing, invigorating, and it drove him through the last leg of his journey.

And then, finally, Kopaka found it. The perfect place to stop, a pass nestled between two peaks. The spot guaranteed shade most times of the day, exception of course being when the sun hung directly overhead. Kopaka was running on fumes at this point, and so he found a suitably grassy spot and dropped his two compatriots down onto it, before he himself collapsed, leaning against a cliff face and letting himself rest. He faded out of consciousness.

When he faded back in, approximately a dozen spears were pointed towards his head, even more bows pointed arrows at him from a distance. On instinct he went for his sword and shield, but just that movement caused every one of his threateners to tense up. He stopped, and kept both claws in the air.

Murmurs filled the crowd, speculating on what he could possibly be. Monster, warlord, demon, god, the possibilities were apparently endless. His personal favorite theory was perhaps a ghost possessing a suit of armor (that's why it doesn't have hands!), but the mild humor he was getting from this only barely dampened the tension.

Kopaka's audio receptors perked, however, when they heard some light discussion coming from the back.

"It is an odd creature." came a man's voice. "Sharp and angular, like a white stone suit of armor. We found two oddly dressed men as well, not far away."

"Yep, that sounds familiar." followed a recognizable young girl's voice. "It's either my gaggle of bitches or my job just got easier."

"Master! Kyu!" Kopaka called out, prompting the entire crowd surrounding him to flinch back.

"Oh, yep, that's them."

Kyu glided above the crowd, the faces underneath her turning red in a wave as she moved forward.

"Hey, Icy Hot." She waved to Kopaka. "What are you guys doing here?"

"We... got lost."

Chapter Text

Kyu burst into a sharp laugh, matching the crackling fire in front of her.

"You serious?" she asked. "Zoro got so lost you three ended up in Ancient China?"

"More or less." Kopaka responded.

"Hey," Zoro cut in. "I was getting close. If I had just stayed awake a little longer."

The sun had well set by now, and the entire army that surrounded them had set up campfires all across the mountain pass. People were chatting and laughing and eating their meager rations, and in the dead center was Kyu and her team.

"What's with the preferential treatment, Kyu?" Kopaka asked. "When did you even get here?"

"Couple days ago. It was the weirdest thing, one of my cases tried to attack me, but apparently the grail chose that exact moment to send me here. Crazy coincidence, huh? Guess I'm not going back to help that dude though."

"Wait," started Zoro. "It couldn't have been a couple days, we only got to the Hub yesterday."

"Time travel, numbnuts. I got here a couple days before you did."

"But... it hasn't been a couple days though."

Buffaloman looked up from his extra large helping of rations (that he convinced a couple other soldiers to part with).

"I get it." He said.

He said nothing more, so apparently didn't feel a need to help his teammate out in figuring out this puzzle.

"Fine," Zoro grumbled, turning to face her. "What's the plan for now?"

"Well," she looked up and placed a hand to her chin. "I guess we just gotta find the other Master and beat them up and stuff, then we'll get sent back to the Hub. At least I hope that's what happens."

"If there is some grand design to all this," Kopaka said. "That should mean the enemy team won't have spawned far from where we are now."

"There's still that 'if we even get sent back at all' issue." Zoro added. "I don't trust a cup to expertly handle the entire existence of time and space well enough to know exactly when it needs to send us back."

"But, it's time travel, right?" Kyu noted. "There should already exist a precise point after we win to send us back from. The grail doesn't need to react to anything, the points already exist. I- I think."

"Grah!" Zoro growled. "This hurts my head so much."

"So," came a new voice, thankfully stopping Zoro's train of thought. "These are the miraculous strangers."

The four of them turned to see this newcomer. Approaching the fire ring was a squat man in flowing robes, with a long, full beard and thick connecting mustache.

"Oh, yeah," Kyu flew into the air over to him. "Guys, this is my new case, Dong Zhuo. Right now he's trying to score with the empress of China, that's big y'all. If I can pull this off it'll be a major accomplishment for me."

Dong Zhuo smiled.

"The Empress of Shao is a beautiful young woman, it would make me the happiest man in the world if she were to return my affections."

"The Empress is travelling with this caravan right now, actually. They're moving west to try and escape some generals who wanna kill her for, you know, power and rulership reasons. I haven't actually seen her yet, cause she's the empress and shit, the most heavily protected etc. etc., but the Dongmeister here's been reporting his results to me as I help him try and get things going."

Her three Servants seemed varying levels of uninterested in this story. Zoro pointed to the space behind Dong Zhuo.

"Who's the bodyguard?"

As he was recognized, a mountainous man moved from the shadows towards the fire. He was taller than Zoro or Kopaka (but not quite to Buffaloman's height), and contrasted Dong Zhuo with tight, multi-layered armor, with only a few loosely draped pieces of fabric, and two long feathers protruding from his tied up hair. In his right hand he carried a long, jagged spear.

"Ah," Dong Zhuo said. "This is my prized general and greatest soldier, Lu Bu. He may well be the strongest man in all of China."

At the word, Buffaloman was on his feet.

"I'd like to test that claim." he said with a smirk.

"Hmph." grunted Lu Bu. "How would you like to spar then, warrior?"

"We go freestyle, to submission. No weapons, just strength."

Lu Bu cast away his spear.

"I agree to these conditions."

The two men charged at each other and clashed in the middle, catching each other's hands in their own and pushing against the other. Neither budged an inch, but Kopaka could see even in the low light how much Buffaloman's muscles were straining, and Lu Bu's most likely doing the same in turn.

"They're going to be at that for a while, I think." Kyu said. "So Dongy, you ready to start tonight's session?"

"Well, I-"

"Commander, sir!" a young man ran up to the fire circle. All eyes (save for Lu Bu's and Buffaloman's) were on him.

"What is it?" Dong Zhuo snapped, looking annoyed.

"The coalition, sir. They're approaching our rear, faster than we expected, they're camped a hundred li from our current position, sir."

Dong Zhuo turned, and paced back and forth in thought.

"They wouldn't be foolish enough to attempt a strike in the darkness of night... still, double the number of people on watch, get some of them to position on the clifftops. The cliff sides should prevent any flanking but I don't want to take my chances. For now, we retire early and prepare for battle before it's light. We'll hold them off here."

The messenger ran off and began spreading the decree. Dong Zhuo himself hurried off as well, ducking into a nearby tent.

"I guess that's a no, then." Kyu muttered.

"He's a smart man." Kopaka said. "This is exactly the bottleneck you'd want to hold off a larger army with. It's fortunate you decided to stop here."

"We should probably rest too." added Zoro. "Don't want that heat stroke to impede any fighting tomorrow."

"Alright." Kyu said. "First we should take care of this fire, safety first as my aunt always says, and-"

Kopaka drew his blade and snuffed out the fire in a single flash of ice.

"-and I guess that settles that. Dong Zhuo's got a special chamber for me, I'll see if he can't set something up for you guys."

"Nah," Zoro dismissed the offer with a wave of his hand. "I can sleep on anything, I'll just find that patch of grass I woke up on."

"Not having flesh, I shall do the same." Kopaka added.

"A- Alright. Well, night guys." She turned to Buffaloman and Lu Bu, neither of whom had moved an inch. "And uh, you guys head to bed whenever you finish up with your dick measuring."

Chapter Text

Morning came before any of them knew it, and when it did, they were given the treat of being forced to watch the enemy army approach.

Kopaka drew his sword and shield. If this war for the holy grail had any kind of design behind it, the enemy team would not be far behind. There was a decent chance they would be in the approaching army. And Kopaka was definitely in a hurry to defeat them so he could get back to his mission.

Zoro secured the black headband around his head, then drew his blades, placing the third between his teeth. Looks like, somehow, he ended up on another adventure. Well whatever, he couldn't really just stand by and let a woman get kidnapped or killed or whatever these guys were planning to do to her. It wasn't any kind of duty thing, it just wasn't right to let that kind of thing happen, anyone who considered himself a man wouldn't stand by it.

Buffaloman stretched, gripping and loosening his muscles up. Didn't want to cramp out in the middle of a fight. After last night's stalemate with Lu Bu, he refused to get shown up again. If he wasn't going to be able to beat him in pure strength, he'd beat him when it came to warfare, and tear this army apart more than Lu Bu could ever hope to. Buffaloman grinned. This was gonna be fun.

The enemy army drew themselves into the pass, and they paused. Kyu briefly wondered how wars usually started, was someone supposed to walk forth and issue that it begun, fire a gun into the air or something? Maybe they wanted to make some kinda surrender offer before things got started?

Kyu's many questions were answered by a shout and a rain of arrows flying directly towards their army. She herself was positioned far FAR back with the generals' planning tent, so they didn't threaten her much, and she saw pretty quickly how Dong Zhuo's army returned fire with their own volley of arrows. She hoped none of her Servants wound up getting killed in this whole affair. All things considered, she felt pretty useless just hanging back, but what could she honestly do? She already handed out her huniebees, the most she could do now was just stay alive for her Servants.

No, no there was something she was good for. There was something she could do to help, and she was determined to do whatever she could.

"So," she said, turning to Dong Zhuo. "Let's talk compliments, those are very important."

Kopaka raised his shield to block the volley of arrows, Zoro began slicing the projectiles out of the air, and Buffaloman was content enough to sidestep any that came close to him. Several screams from behind told them that most of the footsoldiers were far less skilled and fortunate.

Lu Bu was the first to charge into the fray. With a valiant, earth-shattering, and surprisingly melodic battlecry, he charged forward on his red horse. The enemy army charged to meet him and from the first contact, Lu Bu began to carve a swath through their ranks.

Buffaloman growled.

"He's showing me up."

"Dong Zhuo didn't lie." Kopaka said. "That man's a force to be reckoned with."

"Do we even need to be here?" Zoro asked through his teeth. "I almost feel sorry for those guys. They're getting destroyed."

Lu Bu circled back to give himself room to continue to slaughter, and following him from the enemy army were three soldiers in brightly colorful gear, wearing similar armor. Each of them was outfitted with some form of carefully groomed mustache and beard, and all brandished similar weapons. The three converged onto Lu Bu, striking as one, and yet being unable to even touch his armor. Still, with his bloodstained hands busy, the rest of the army was able to charge forth, dauntless.

"Alright," Zoro said. "I guess we do need to be here."

Buffaloman was the first to rush into the oncoming army, predictably. He sprinted into the ground with both arms out to his side, clotheslining row upon row of soldiers. He lowered his head and ducked to the side, butting a horse and sending it spiraling through the air, knocking down dozens more of the fodder. Somehow the horse landed on its feet, dazed but otherwise almost untouched.

That is until it was flash frozen. Another flash of ice, another half dozen soldiers were frozen, dead eyes and horrified faces showing their final emotions. Another soldier ran up on Kopaka from behind. He spun, snapping his spear in half with a kick, and slicing at his gut with his sword, the wound coated with ice immediately after forming, and with a swing of Kopaka's shield, he was sent flying away.

Zoro was being much more careful. His blades did not slow once as he made a path through the swarm of people, but the sharp ends of his blades were only cutting through weapons, while the dull ends hitting men over the head to knock them out. He occasionally parried a spear or blade, or split an oncoming arrow. He turned his head left, catching a man's spear with the blade in his mouth. The man was given a second to absorb what had just happened before Zoro jerked his neck, snapping his weapon and striking him with the flat of one of the swords in his hands.

When he had a moment, Zoro looked over to his two teammates to see how they were fairing. Kopaka was striking with wild abandon, decimating human and horse and wood and metal alike, what he didn't slash he froze. It was... kinda gruesome actually. Buffaloman, meanwhile, disappeared in a red mist underneath a teenage girl's massive spiked club.

Wait. What?

Dammit. Zoro liked Buffaloman.

He charged towards the girl, raised a blade to strike her, but before he could, something hit his sword, sending it spiraling from his hand. He turned to the direction the force had come from, and saw a blunt-tipped arrows speeding towards his face. He shifted his head, slicing through the projectile with the blade in his mouth, then cut through its follow up with the blade in his hand. This barrage wasn't the same as the volley the army's archers had launched before. These were targeted, calculated, aimed by an expert marksman. And the most frustrating part was that Zoro couldn't tell where they were coming from.

Chapter Text

Clint positioned himself near the very back of the battlefield, with maybe a half foot of elevation. He needed to see above everyone's heads to get clear shots, but he didn't want to draw attention to himself. Not that he was desperate to relegate himself to 100% sniping but, he wasn't positioned right next to the generals' tent for no reason.

Right now they were talking about how they were going to handle the other three forces of nature tearing the everloving shit out of their army (paraphrased), apparently none of them had bothered to poke their heads outside of the tent yet. It wasn't the part he was interested in anyways, not yet.

These three Servants though, they were almost your quintessential super team. There was (emphasis on WAS) that buffalo guy, standard theming for a bruiser with nothing really going for him but enhanced physicality. Reminded him of, uh, that one pig guy. The Warthog...? No, Razorback. That was it.

Bravestarr was currently engaged with the white robot, it was armed with a pretty basic sword and shield. Just a robot plus some other standard theme was pretty common, (robots were basically just people at this point), or so Clint thought before its sword flashed and Bravestarr was frozen solid. Ah crap.

Clint took a moment to redirect his focus, and launched an explosive arrow. It landed right before the robot was about to swing its sword down, sent it stumbling back, and freed Bravestarr. Robot plus sword and shield plus ice, huh? Well, it was a unique combination at least. Its sword flashed again, this time though, Bravestarr placed a hand to his chest, and a giant holographic badge covered his front (Clint didn't even realize he could do that). The flash reflected off of it and froze its left half solid. It went for a slash, but Bravestarr kicked its sword out of its hand and sent it flying away. The robot lifted its free hand and suddenly the ice around it broke off and began floating in the air. It then pointed and, well Bravestarr could probably handle that. Better than having to deal with another sword wielder at least. He needed to keep his eyes on that last guy.

The last of their members was the really odd duck. Like, swordsmen were pretty played out, but a guy using three blades at once? And he carried one of them in his mouth? That was pretty inventive, asinine and couldn't at all be practical, but Clint had never seen it before, so it was something. And, ah crap, while he was distracted the swordsman got his third sword back, and instead of rushing Dokuro like he had been he was running straight towards Clint. Nope. Nope nope nope. Clint nocked a regular arrow and fired, the swordsman predictably dodged straight into Clint's follow up, a putty arrow, sticking him to the ground. It took him a moment to realize what was happening, and it would take him even longer to free himself from the gunk.

A dull crunching from behind told Clint that the moment he was waiting for had arrived. There was no clean stone for the cane to tap across, but he could recognize the sound of Danzo approaching the generals' tent regardless.

Clint listened as Danzo opened the flap of the tent and entered. There was a large commotion, people blustering and demanding to know who he was. There was a hilarious moment when they confused the name Danzo for Dong Zhuo, Clint was giggling so much he almost missed his shot as he shattered one of the robot's ice crystals.

Danzo then proceeded to list off a long list of samey sounding Chinese names (Yawn Yee, Bao Zshin, Zshang Yang, was one of them called Cow Cow?), Clint figured he was greeting the generals by name or something. After that it was a little easier to follow.

"I have brought with me three foreign warriors to match those recruited by Dong Zhuo." Danzo said.

"Is that so?" said one of the generals (presumably).

The ruffle of the tent flap, probably one of them poking their heads out, where they could see Bravestarr still trading blows with robot, Dokuro pulverizing enemy forces with reckless abandon, and the swordsman still trying to pry the putty off of him.

"I only see two." commented the general.

"The third is a deadly, hidden sniper." Danzo said.

Clint figured he might as well show off, and launched an explosive arrow straight up, and watched it fall right in front of the swordsman, sending him tumbling across the battlefield. This got a decently impressed "Ooooooh." from the general.

Another ruffle, the general was back in.

"Now," Danzo continued. "In order to assist as best we can I would like information on the enemy and the threat they pose."

There was a pause, and when the generals started speaking up again they seemed awfully... compliant. Given the situation Clint couldn't exactly blame them, but he was mildly peeved at how Danzo could just ask for things and get immediately cooperation. It was suspicious was all he was saying.

"Not long ago, Dong Zhuo kidnapped the Empress Shao."

"For what reason?"

"To depose her, and instate an emperor more favorable to him, presumably. We wish to defeat his army here, slay Dong Zhuo, and return the Empress to us safely."

"And their forces?"

"They outnumber us, but given the way this battle is going, that hardly seems to matter. Victory will mostly likely come down to [more Chinese names] and your warriors for us, and Lou Boo and the two remaining warriors for Dong Zhuo."

"I see."

"But there's one more pressing issue." another general spoke up.

"And what is that?"

"What will happen to the Empress before Dong Zhuo is slain."

There was a short pause. Clint figured Danzo was like, raising an eyebrow or something. Although imagining alternatives was pretty funny. Maybe he did like, a Dramatic Chipmunk face or something (God, Kate would give him so much shit for that reference, it's so outdated), or maybe Danzo very quietly slapped him.

Off-topic, it was just a moment and another general spoke up.

"We have several spies in Dong Zhuo's army claiming that he's been wooing the Empress. In recent days she's even been seen taking a shine to him, inviting him to conversations, and smiling in his presence. Moreover than whether the Empress will even want to return to us, Dong Zhuo siring a generation of children with the Empress will only mean his regime is maintained well after his death, his family could even control the fate of China for an entire dynasty."

"That love fairy..." Clint muttered to himself.

"I see." Danzo said. "Please, excuse me then, I shall try to resolve this situation as best as I can."

A smattering of "thank you"s and the ruffle of Danzo exiting the tent.

That was all, huh? Clint shifted his focus back to the battlefield and the enemy Servants and... wait, the buffalo guy was back?

Chapter Text

Dokuro turned from the crimson field of mangled corpses and splattered organs before her, to see her eternal rival approach.

"You..." she said, sneering at the man. "How are you alive? No man has ever walked away from one of my bokusatsus without my permission. Your existence brings dishonor to the Mitsukai name and the Rurutie itself."

"You are a fool, Dokuro Mitsukai." Buffaloman shot back. "Not even death can contain my power! You could kill me 1000 times and I would get back up to destroy you."

Dokuro scoffed.

"It is you who are a fool, Bafaromanu. For as long as I have my nakama (TN: Nakama refers to a close band of comrades or allies with deep personal connections), I will defeat you as many times as it takes."

"Ikuze!" Buffaloman snarled. "My fists against your steel."

Dokuro brandished her bat.

"If you insist." She charged forward, thrusting her bat forward, striking several times a second. "ATATATATATATATATATATATATATATATA!"

Buffaloman's fists went in a similar blur, redirecting each one of her blows and leaving not a mark on him. "ORERERERERERERERERERERERERERERE!"

After a prolonged couple seconds of this, the two backed off.

"Tch." Dokuro said. "You're not bad. It looks like for this battle, I must use my sacred technique."

"If you think any pitiful technique of yours could defeat me, you are sorely mistaken."

Dokuro charged her energy, a golden aura visibly surrounding her. She let out a scream that rocked the very mountain surrounding them and forced all the soldiers to stop their warring to take in the spectacle. The ground underneath her split, a crack travelling up both peaks on either side of the pass.

"Bokusatsu Tenshi..." she yelled. "Hijiri Sutoraiku!"

Dokuro kicked forward, nailing Buffaloman square in the junk. He collapsed, doubled over and clutching his groin in pain. While he was distracted, Dokuro swung her bat, separating his top half from his bottom and sending the former over the nearby mountain top.

"Heh." Dokuro chuckled, fanning out her hand and placing it over her face. "Just according to keikaku."


 

What the FUTZ was going on over there?

Well whatever, Clint could hardly afford to focus solely on her, not when there were still the two other Servants to keep an eye on. He shifted his focus back to the empty puddle of putty sitting in the middle of the battlefield. And it was about then that he realized the swordsman was mere feet from Clint and closing the distance fast.

Clint panicked, reached back for an arrow and tried to get it to his bow as fast as possible. Something was telling him though that he wasn't going to make it time. Maybe instead of drawing the arrow he could just jab the swordsman with it instead? Would he have time for that, even? What arrow did he draw anyways?

The swordsman was in slashing range now, and Clint barely had his arrow out. Whatever it was, Clint wasn't getting any use out of it. Given the way he was moving, the swordsman would probably be going for a vertical slash, if Clint wanted to have an immediate counter he couldn't roll to avoid it, he'd have to lean away, not enough time for a kick, maybe jab the throat with his bow then stab forward with the arrow, probably want to avoid vital organs in case it was a piercing arrow, it'd be nice to get one of those blades out of commission, so if it was pointed, stab towards the shoulder and-

From the corner of his eye, Clint saw Danzo running towards the both of them (with both arms stuck straight behind him for some reason), despite the fact that it felt like Clint and the swordsman were barely moving, Danzo got between them in an instant. He struck with a reverse roundhouse, and the swordsman shot back like he was launched out of a cannon. He barreled over a row of soldiers, moving so fast most of them didn't have time to react, before tumbling to a rest just short of the enemy's generals' tent on the opposite side of the pass.

Clint was dumbstruck, but Danzo merely picked his cane back up and leaned on it.

"So," he said. "What's this about a love fairy?"

Chapter Text

Danzo and Clint made their way across the raging battlefield. Clint was keeping a wary eye out, shooting anyone who approached with a blunt-tipped arrow and knocking away any approaching arrows with his own. He seriously wondered if he even needed to look out for Danzo with the display he'd just seen, but he felt it was probably better to be safe than sorry. If magic handcuffs could desummon Servants, he didn't want to know what killing a Master would do.

"So yeah," Clint said. "Before this, I got into a fight with another Master who called herself a love fairy. She seemed very interested in butting into other people's love lives."

"And the moment you struck her you were teleported here," Danzo responded. "And you suspect she's the one attempting to alter history."

"Yeah, well, maybe not purposefully."

"It seems another element of the game has been revealed to us."

"You think these fights are triggered by two enemy teams trying to hit each other in the Hub?"

"It gives an order to how the fights are determined and set up, and prevents wanton brawling in the Hub itself."

Archer couldn't reply as he sniped a man off of his horse.

"Archer." Danzo said. "Take care of the white Servant, I must speak to Bravestarr and Dokuro."

Clint giggled.

"The white Servant."

He nocked an explosive arrow and hit the robot with it just as it lunged towards Bravestarr with its empty claw bared.

"Tag out." Clint said, running up to Bravestarr. "Danzo wants to talk to you."

He held his hand out for Bravestarr to tap, Bravestarr didn't seem to notice and ran on by him.

"Alright." He turned to the robot, taking out an explosive arrow. "Hey buddy, remember me? Remember this?"

Clint's ear twitched as he heard someone charging from behind. He jumped, somersaulting backwards and landed to see the swordsman, battered but otherwise standing, glaring at him over his shoulder.

Clint grit his teeth. Just one of these jokers was gonna be a handful, but two was gonna be an ordeal. Motion to his left, his vision shifted, and somehow the buffalo guy was back again. The three Servants surrounded him, watching him closely.

He shifted his focus slightly, he needed to know how long he needed to distract these guys. In the distance Danzo was talking with Bravestarr and Dokuro, Bravestarr was animated in his discussion, but Dokuro looked more than peeved at being bossed around. She swung her bat at Danzo, he effortlessly caught it and shoved it back, where it slipped from her grip and landed squarely on her forehead. She rubbed the sore spot and picked the bat up, looking a lot more compliant.

And then he heard it. The shout wasn't exceptionally loud but it could be heard across the battlefield.

"Speed of the Puma!"

Salvation. Bravestarr blurred in a streak of white and yellow and shot towards the enemy generals' tent. Dokuro sped along with him, nipping at his heels.

"Okay," Clint sighed. "This is looking pretty one sided. So I'd just like to make a proposal..."

He tucked his right arm behind his back.

"One arm or two?" he finished with a smirk.

"I'm getting pretty tired of this guy." the swordsman spat. "Let's see how much of a nuisance you are where I can hit you."

"Pft." Clint shot back. "If you can."

"Eliminating him would make the mission go a lot smoother." the robot added.

"You think I'm that important, I'm touched."

"It won't even be a fight, that's disappointing." the buffalo guy said. "But I'm feeling pissed off, and I don't mind taking out my aggression on a coward."

Clint shrugged with his one arm.

"You can make the first move big guy."

The buffalo guy snarled, stamping the ground with his massive boot, then charged forward. Clint waited it out, being sure never to drop that asshole smirk until the last second, then ducked to the side and stuck his leg out, tripping the massive man and sending him tumbling to the ground.

No time for celebration though, the swordsman swiped towards his back, Clint jumped and planted a foot on one of the blades, springboarding into the air where he shot an arrow straight at the ground. Smoke erupted over the four of them, and the sound of the swordsman and the buffalo guy coughing was pretty satisfying at least. He tapped the side of his glasses, switching to infrared. He wasn't entirely sure that IR vision could see through smoke but, oh look it could. Neat. The swordsman and the buffalo guy stood out well enough, but of course the robot guy wouldn't be radiating any heat. The opposite actually, because of that nifty ice theming, it stood out as being significantly colder than its surroundings. And the thing it had in its hand was even colder and, wait shit, it had its sword back.

The robot swung and Clint dived to the side, a massive ridge of ice shot from the ground. The robot would be quickly manipulating that ice, he'd have to get rid of it somehow. He was running low on explosive arrows though, there was the incendiary arrow but, there was nothing around to catch, was the putty arrow flammable?

Noise from the left, a loud one too. Clint turned and saw the buffalo guy charging the ice. He shattered off a large chunk, gripped it with both hands, spun and launched it at Clint. He bent backwards and watched it soar over his head, then jumped back into a handspring.

Just before landing though...

"Hurricane Mixer!"

The buffalo guy caught him with the side of one of his horns, knocking Clint back into the air and somehow causing him to spin wildly. The sudden movement made Clint felt like he was gonna hurl. He was just about to land, when the buffalo guy hit him again, juggling him back into the air. The other two, seeing his vulnerability, went for the finishing blow.

Okay Clint, just like training.

The robot drew a cluster of ice shards from the ridge and sent them flying towards Clint, he pulled 5 arrows and with a single draw, shot down all of the robot's projectiles. Next was the swordsman, he was leaping towards Clint, so Clint drew and shot a net arrow. With blinding speed, he sliced through the projectile with all three of his blades. STUPID, Clint, STUPID. He grabbed a bola arrow, no time to draw it so he just tossed it in the swordsman's direction, wasn't much but it shifted his momentum just enough that the initial strike missed, and any follow up was contained by the bolas.

The buffalo guy hit him again, knocking him back up into the air. God this sucked, worse than the rides at Six Flags. Focus Clint, focus. The robot was sending another volley of ice shards towards him, much more than five this time, and Clint didn't fancy his chances of shooting down 20 of the things at once. He drew and shot the fireworks arrow, and the initial explosion took out a couple of the center shards while the follow ups got to work on the rest. Next was the putty arrow, the ground near the ridge was a pretty broad target so he hit that one pretty square, next was the incendiary arrow and oh blessed be, it lit up in an inferno.

"And now," Wait, what's going on, the buffalo guy was yelling something again. "For the finisher! Buffalo Bomb!"

Clint reached back and grabbed an arrow, but before he could do anything, he felt the buffalo guy gripping him from behind, the both of them rising up into the air. Clint wasn't an expert on wrestling, but he was fairly familiar with a power bomb, especially since his head was looking straight down. He struggled to twist the arrow around in his hand, but as they reached their apex, he managed to poke its tip into the buffalo guy's flesh, and the taser arrow activated. The buffalo guy spasmed mid-air, releasing Clint and letting him fall.

He hit the ground unsteadily but nonetheless upright, staggering slightly as he waited for the earth to stop spinning around him. He swallowed the burger from earlier for a second time.

"Is that all you got?"

The buffalo guy was twitching on the ground, he ran over and stuck this one with the net arrow, the guy's horns and knee spikes going through the holes in the net. Okay, one down. The swordsman broke free from the bolas and goddammit, why wasn't the ice melting? Small victories, Clint.

The robot switched out its face plate and... just kinda stood there. Clint tapped his glasses again, switching to the normal spectrum and saw like five of them rushing him at once. He quickly switched back to IR. Would an EMP arrow work, it was a pretty advanced robot. No wait, didn't he have that anti-Vision arrow, the bioelectric scrambler. Yeah, that'd probably work. Clint shot it at the robot and it probably worked.

Clint was too busy jumping back to avoid the swordsman's blades to check, he ducked, spun, rolled, backflipped, this guy was relentless.

"For futz sake." Clint muttered. He shot a couple normal arrows, each expertly blocked but sending the swordsman skidding back ever so slightly. It was exactly the gap Clint needed. "Let's see how you handle this."

He charged forward, and now the swordsman was on the defensive. Clint grabbed an arrow and gripped it in his teeth, then grabbed a second and drew it in his bow. The swordsman held the two blades in his arms in a defensive position, but then swung at Clint with the one in his mouth. Clint jumped, stepping off of the blade and planting a foot right on his forehead and launched up. He fired the arrow in his bow, directly up. The rocket arrow activated dragging him upward by a cord. After a sufficient height had been reached, he detached the rocket arrow's cord, took the arrow from his mouth and fired down. It exploded in a rain of arrows upon the swordsman, and even from his great height, he could swear he saw the swordsman smile. The number of swords, no the number of his heads and arms tripled, and the man became a goddamn hurricane of spinning blades, slicing every one of the hundreds of arrows raining down upon him without breaking a sweat.

"Of course he could handle that." Clint muttered. "Time for plan... one of the really late ones."

Clint drew an explosive arrow and shot it at the peak above the swordsman. Boulders broke off, larger than even that buffalo guy, and tumbled down the cliffside. The swordsman was busy deflecting the arrows, not one of his heads had time to even look at the source of the noise, but of course he wasn't an idiot. While making his way through the torrent, he pushed forward, away from the cliffside, and as the last arrow was sliced cleanly in half, he made a mad dash forward, leaped, and almost made it before disappearing underneath the rocks.

Clint grabbed another arrow and popped the cap off, a net and parachute bursting out, and Clint locked his fingers around the net's roping. His descent slowed to a drift and he touched down on the ground without a scratch.

Charge from the right, Clint drew a pointed arrow, turned, saw the robot, and shot. The arrow passed clean through, leaving it with a gaping hole in its chest. The robot looked down, it didn't have much of a face, but Clint could see the disbelief. Clint was in some disbelief too, he didn't think it would be that easy.

The robot collapsed onto its knees before falling forward. Clint likewise fell back on his ass. Crap.

Chapter Text

Bravestarr got the robot into a headlock, trying to immobilize the thing however he could, but then it jabbed its shield into his ribs. He sputtered and the robot took that moment to escape the hold, creating distance between the two. He was staring down the robot, looking for his opening, when it was hit with an explosion that knocked it back. Archer ran up to him.

"Tag out." he said. "Danzo wants to talk to you."

He moved his hand up, looked like he was going to draw from his quiver, so Bravestarr left him to it and ran back towards Danzo.

Danzo was pulling Dokuro from the fray by the back of her shirt, he plopped her on the ground just as Bravestarr made it to him.

"The enemy Master is currently with Dong Zhuo, assisting in the kidnap of the Empress of China," Danzo said. "You'll find him and the Master in one of the generals' tents. The intention of the singularity is to alter history by allowing Dong Zhuo to sire children with the Empress. Stop this from happening."

"Well, hold on now Danzo." Bravestarr said. "I'm a little behind it seems, you're telling me the reason we're being teleported to other time periods is to stop other time travelers from changing the past?"

"That seems to be the grail's intention."

"But with the Hub and all, I thought we were meant to be fighting in one on one battles to win our way to the grail."

"That may well be the ultimate goal, however it is not in doubt that we were brought here in response to the enemy Master, they've been altering the timeline for days at this point."

"But that doesn't make any sense." Dokuro piped up. "We left at the same time."

Danzo shot her a glance before moving on.

"The both of you will make your way to the enemy Master and stop them. By any means necessary."

"Hey!" Dokuro yelled. "Don't ignore me."

She swung her bat to smash Danzo, and he stopped it with two fingers and pushed back slightly. The bat slipped from her grip and fell through her halo to land painfully on her head. She rubbed the bruised spot, picked her bat back up, and lowered her head in dejection.

"Did I not make myself clear?" Danzo said.

"Clear as sweet water." Bravestarr responded.

He clapped Dokuro on the back.

"C'mon little pard, let's mosey on over there and see what we can't do. Speed of the Puma!"

Bravestarr ran towards the enemy's side of the pass, fast as lightning. Looking back, he could see Dokuro pretty easily keeping pace. After making it the other end, they got through three tents of jumpy old Chinese men before barging into the one they were looking for. A portly gentleman in purple with a long mustache and beard was sat next to and conversing with a girl in pink everything.

"-it's the little nub at the very top, that's the key spot to..." The girl seemingly just noticed them enter. "Um, who the fuck are you?"

"That's her!" Dokuro said, pointing to the girl. "That's Kyu-chan!"

"Well howdy ma'am." Bravestarr said, tipping his hat. "Howdy sir."

The man, Dong Zhuo presumably, blustered.

"Wh- Just who are you people, what are you doing here? Guards! Kill these intru-"

Dokuro threw her bat before he could finish, and splattered Dong Zhuo into a torrential spray of red, erupting from the hole in the tent created just behind him.

"Uh," Bravestarr said. "Little pard, we kinda need him alive to keep the flow of time steady."

"Oh. Whoops." Dokuro looked embarrassed. "Pi Piru Piru Piru PiPiru Pi!"

Dong Zhuo reappeared, looking nauseous. He quickly ducked outside the tent and Bravestarr could hear him vomiting a few feet away. He didn't come back in.

Kyu meanwhile was looking at a small device in the palm of her hand.

"Uh huh." she muttered as she examined it. "Really? Wow. That's exploitable."

Dokuro was undeterred, pointing at Kyu again.

"We're here to stop you, Kyu-chan! And there's nothing you can possibly do to deter us in any conceivable or even barely noticeable way!"

Kyu fluttered her butterfly wings and floated over to where Dokuro was triumphantly standing. With a quick movement, she kicked Dokuro's halo off her head, and watched as it tumbled to the ground.

Immediately Dokuro's face soured, she crossed her legs and held her stomach and turned a nasty shade of green.

"I, uhhh... That won't- I- I'll be right back, Bravestarr-san."

She darted out from the tent, leaving Bravestarr alone with the love fairy.

"Wow." Kyu said. "That was exactly as easy as it sounded."

"Perhaps it's for the best." Bravestarr lowered his hat. "I don't wanna fight you ma'am, I just want to talk."

"Uh-huh. I'm sure."

"I mean that Ms. Kyu. I just wanna ask if you're fully aware of what you're doing and why."

"Of course I know what I'm doing. I'm not some mind controlled slave or under any threats or anything."

"That's not what I meant. You see, Miss Kyu, the reason we were sent back to stop you, the reason I have a vested interest in stopping you, is that what you're doing in this time could have really bad consequences on a lot of people."

"What are you talking about? I'm a love fairy, I'm just doing my job and my job is to spread love and affection, how could that hurt anyone?"

"Well Miss Kyu, my name is Bravestarr and my job is Galactic Marshall. My job asks me to keep the peace on my home planet of New Texas, and that doesn't sound like it could cause any harm does it? But there are a lot of people out there who would take that goal the wrong way and use it to hurt people."

"Okay, but I'm not some corrupt cop. I'm not doing anything for selfish reasons, so what's the problem?"

"Well then, let's talk about a friend of mine, a judge named JB. Her job asks her to pass sentences based on what she thinks is right and how the consequences of a crime should be handled, or even if the person under scrutiny committed a crime at all. Now, if I was caught stealing something, how do you think my close friend JB would respond to that?"

"Well," Kyu crossed her arms. "No offense dude, but you don't really seem like the type."

"That's exactly it, I don't seem like the type do I? She'd vouch for me, try to convince people I didn't do it, and would probably give me a very light sentence. And she may agree to the sentence, and I may agree to the sentence, but everyone else is a lot more uneasy from then on knowing that there's a thief among them that the law doesn't want to punish properly. It's dangerous to rely on your preconceived notions of people."

"Where are you going with this?"

"What do you know about your pal Dong Zhuo?"

"Well, he's always nice and courteous to me, and the Empress seems to like him a lot more now."

"Did you know that he kidnapped her? Took advantage of a coup attempt to hold her hostage and replace her with an Emperor of his choosing?"

Kyu was taken aback.

"I- Is that what your Master told you? Talk about preconceived notions, huh?"

"Now I ain't the most book smart, but I have done some reading on Ancient Earth history. Every record states that Dong Zhuo's run-in with the Empress was a kidnapping, through and through, and not many of them describe him as a particularly kind man. He might even be using you to secure his future by having his own royal children."

"You don't know that!" Kyu snapped. "It's just love, plain and simple love."

"Alright," Bravestarr put his hands up. "But my point still stands, if Dong Zhuo is accepted into the royal family, it'll make a lot more people unhappy, even if you think you did a good job and he's happy about the results. It may even wreck the future that you and I come from, that's a big change on the past that you're imposing because of your own goals."

Kyu was silent for a moment, brow furrowed and staring at the ground.

"So..." she said quietly. "So what do you want me to do about it."

"Well, that's the bad part. Ya see, you still did try and ruin the timeline, and so I still have to take you in." He produced a glowing pair of handcuffs. "I was just hoping to convince you to turn yourself in instead of making this fight go on any longer than it has to. At least until this whole grail business is over with."

"If you try and put me in handcuffs, my Servants will just come to rescue me."

"These are special handcuffs. They'll desummon your Servants and send us back to the Hub when I put them on."

"Well, in that case, just put them on me now and take them off when we get back to the Hub."

"Now now, didn't we just talk about getting a lighter sentence because you seem like a nice person? Fair's fair, and the law is the law. We all have to accept the consequences of our actions, no matter our intentions."

"I-" Kyu rubbed her temples. "Oooooooooooh."

The both of them stood there for a solid half minute, Bravestarr waiting as Kyu made her decision.

"Fine." she eventually said, thrusting both arms forward. "Do it quick before I change my mind."

Bravestarr obliged, the second the cuffs snapped around her wrists, she, him, Danzo, Archer sitting on the ground, and Dokuro squatting with her underwear around her ankles, were crowded in the Sheriff's office quarters. Immediately, Dokuro squealed, she drew her bat and looked like she was about to splatter all four of them, but stopped at a loud gurgle in her stomach, and waddled over to the quarter's built in bathroom. Archer looked exhausted, and the second he registered where he was he collapsed backwards, leaning against the wall.

"Excellent work, Bravestarr." Danzo said, before he shuffled off, out the front door.

"Alright now, ma'am." Bravestarr said, tipping his hat. "If you'll just follow me."

Chapter Text

"Howdy there folks." Bravestarr said.

"What's up?" Archer said, poking his head out from another room.

Bravestarr continued, not even acknowledging Archer.

"In today's story, we learned a lot about our preconceived notions of people."

"We did?" Archer asked, confused, as he made his way into the main room.

"Sure we did, Archer-san." Dokuro said cheerfully. "Kyu-chan was super cute, but she was actually evil.

"Why are you just going along with this, what is happening?"

"That's not quite what I mean, Dokuro." Bravestarr said. "But at the beginning, you Archer, thought Dokuro was a bad person. And later on, Kyu thought Dong Zhuo was a friendly man just trying to help the Empress. But you can't judge people just on how they treat you, look at their actions, and how they treat others."

"Okay, but," Archer butt in. "This is a faulty message, cause Dokuro's actions were that she treats me like crap. Aren't you a lawman, shouldn't you, like, do something about this? She is brutally murdering people."

"Well, me and Dokuro and you too will probably need to sit down and discuss where our boundaries are and how best to go about respecting them."

"Okay, I don't have a lot of boundaries. Just, don't kill me? Is that too much to ask?"

Bravestarr turned away from Archer to look at you.

"You shouldn't condemn people based solely on misguided actions. If a kid steals something, but realizes that they made a mistake and returns it, try and have the heart to forgive them."

"Oh God, is this a Deadpool thing? I don't know who you're talking to or what message you're trying to deliver here but I don't actually believe Dokuro's even realized what she's doing is wrong."

"Until next time, partners." Bravestarr waved.

"No. No! Don't just wrap it up there this is a bad message, a bad hypocritical message, what even are you talking about?"

Chapter Text

The Long Arm of the Law

Master: Danzo Shimura

Archer: Clint Barton

Berserker: Dokuro Mitsukai

Rider: Marshal BraveStarr


 

The Hoshimiya & Co. Law Offices

Master: Miles Edgeworth

Saber: Jeanne "Tart" d'Arc

Berserker: Kate Hoshimiya

Archer: Warren Worthington III/Archangel

Chapter Text

Danzo paced the floor of that small, wooden room. Aizen watched him patiently.

"Go on, you'll get it eventually," Aizen said.

"Your objectives as I understand them are contradictory," Danzo said.

"Are they? I wasn't aware."

Danzo glared at him before continuing.

"Your methods for forcing the grail's hand in retaliation to creating a singularity-"

"Lighting."

Danzo stopped to glare at Aizen again.

"Lighting a singularity, that's the appropriate terminology. You can't create a point in time that already exists, you merely activate it, allowing for changes to be made. That's called lighting a singularity."

"- lighting a singularity takes too much power for the grail's purpose to be arbitrary."

"Of course it's not arbitrary, you are hunting for the grail after all."

"I'm not finished."

Aizen was mockingly taken aback. "Oh how the tables turn, I remember when I had to give a proper speech before you'd say word one to me."

"Every singularity is perfectly orchestrated to induce a fight between the two teams. Bringing two parties to conflict is the oldest trick in the book with a wide variety of intended effects, but such balance is not usually enforced outside of tournaments, games, things intended for entertainment."

"Incorrect, Danzo," Aizen tutted. "A tournament can also be used to gauge the skill levels of its participants. I believe I told you before, the grail is seeking a worthy champion to receive it. Is it really so impossible to believe the 'game' patterns you see are just a product of this fact?"

"The biggest inconsistency in that theory is your involvement. This tournament of yours reeks of the carefully handcrafted involvement of man, why would the force of a mystical artifact like the holy grail place us in a shopping center's sheriff's office?"

"And how would a mastermind be able to transport these hypothetical contestants of yours on immediate reaction to one being struck by an attack?"

"So you admit it?"

"I know of the fact, as do you. I know everything you know, Danzo. Even the things you might consider secrets. Which begs the question, do they know?"

Danzo huffed.

"You're not making any sense."

"Your Servants, Danzo, do they know what you plan on doing with the grail?"

Danzo responded to this by...

remaining silent.

Chapter Text

For the past several days, Clint's life had been little more than a series of splatterings. Oh sure, everyone was nice when they first got back, let Clint relax, congratulated him on being able to hold back 3 Servants at once, it was all very impressive for "that guy with the bow".

They didn't say that last part, but Clint could tell they were thinking it.

But no, the first incident came that night. There were four rooms and Clint couldn't remember which one was supposed to be his. It was one of the doors in the back, he remembered that, so he picked one at random. As soon as he pushed it open, he heard Dokuro's high pitched scream and his top half became a fountain of red.

Clint sighed and looked towards the ethereal form of his mother.

"I don't even know what I'm doing here," he said. "Well, I mean, not here here but back up there here. I feel so outclassed, that girl keeps killing people, I hate working with that scheming old man, and I don't think I even want the stupid wish in the first place."

"Are you sure Clint? After everything you've been through, I think you deserve it."

Clint laughed, he laughed at the very idea of him deserving something like that. Edith just looked concerned. Clint rubbed the back of his head and came up with an excuse.

"No. No I know how wishes usually turn out, and it's more often than not a really bad idea. Besides, what would I even-"

Clint caught Edith's eye.

"You... Did you want me to use it to bring you back?"

"Course not, Clint. I made a lot of mistakes in my life, and Lord knows I've paid for them, but there's no use in worrying about any of that now. I just want you to be happy, and more than that I want you to make the choice that you can look back and be proud of."

"Mom, I-" Clint stopped short and gave a grunt as the hooks latched onto him. Just like last time, he got pulled back, bent in all sorts of angles, collapsed into a box and eventually forced back into his body. Clint felt nauseous, but managed to keep his lunch down. Dokuro was yelling at him about knocking or something. Clint didn't really care.

People were quick to pick up on the fact that if you tried to fight with another team, the two of you disappeared and only one came back, so squabbles quickly plateaued and people went about their day to day business as best they could. They conversed, made friends, made allegiances, made partnerships, made deals, figuring out what to do and who to fight to have the best shot at getting the grail. It all felt a little meaningless to Clint.

The second incident was noonish, second or third day at the Hub. Dokuro was bugging Clint to play with her, and with nothing left to do but stare at the ceiling, he grudgingly agreed. She set up a chess board. She had zero idea how to play chess. Clint won easily. She bashed him into paste.

Clint sat in front of his mom.

"I... I think I might've killed someone."

Edith looked a little shocked at this. Clint expected that.

"It wasn't on purpose," Clint continued. "But it wasn't really an accident either. I just... he was coming at me and I panicked. I don't think he deserved it either. He was probably just like me, lost and confused and just trying to survive."

"Clint..." Edith knelt down to Clint's level. "It's not only our actions that make us who we are, it's how we react to them. Sometimes there isn't an easy solution, but the guilt you're feeling right now is telling you that you're still a good person, and it'll push you to try and find better solutions in the future. And... And if I see this guy, I'll tell him that you're really sorry, okay?"

"I don't know if he'd be here." Clint quickly noted the look on Edith's face and corrected himself. "He was a robot. The level of AI sentience is pretty high these days, they basically act like people, more or less, but the whole 'soul' aspect is still a little iffy."

Edith struggled to understand the situation, but Clint could tell it was no good trying to explain it to a simple Midwestern butcher's wife. And then came the hooks, and back up Clint went. Dokuro was giggling. She'd rearranged the chess board to make it look like she had won. Clint didn't really care.

One of the nicer things about having access to the food court was the supply of freshly brewed coffee. Clint quickly realized that the robots had a security system to prevent people from going through the kitchen that basically amounted to "yelling that something bad was totally going to happen" so he'd move past them and bring the entire pot back to his quarters every morning. Wasn't going to risk having to fight a giant robot at the crucifixion or something without having his caffeine. The staffer-bots would make more anyways.

A couple times Bravestarr would try and strike up a conversation with Clint. Guy probably thought he was lonely or something, but Clint wasn't really interested, not while he was continuing to defend Dokuro. Between him, Clint's reluctance to do literally anything with Dokuro, and Danzo seeming to want nothing to do with his own team (stalking around the Hub and asking everyone weird questions that no one was sure how to answer), Clint did a whole lot of nothing by himself for those first several days.

The third incident took place on the fifth or sixth day. It was unprompted, which was perhaps the worst thing it could've been. Dokuro was bored. Clint was an easy target. Put two and two together.

"What am I going to do about her? I can't keep doing this, as much as I love seeing you again, it hurts, every time it's the worst experience of my life. I gotta do something to get her to cut the sh- to cut this out."

"Have you tried talking to her, Clint? She is just a kid, after all."

"I'm tired of hearing how she's just a kid," he snapped. "I'm tired of hearing the excuses. She's a brat with no understanding of morality or consequences who can get away with anything cause she's younger than the people she's killing, and she can just wave her magic wand to make it all better. The fact that she fixes the problems she created is not an excuse."

Edith stood stock still for a moment, absolutely silent, but not once breaking eyes contact with Clint.

"Clint." She pressed a hand against the fabric that separated them. "You're a fighter, Clint. You and your brother, you've always been fighters. When you see something that you don't think is fair, you can never let it rest. You never took abuse from anyone, no matter-" She choked up for a second. "No matter who they were. That's how you survived back home, that's how you'll survive here. I can't rightfully tell you to hurt a little girl, but if you really think she's this bad, then you fight back however you can."

Clint didn't have anything to say. Fight back huh, it was one hell of something to say about a 13 year old, but of course Clint wanted nothing more than to fight back. There was just something in him that glowed at his mom's words, words that told him that he wasn't alone on this, that someone understood that the girl wasn't some bastion of innocence that was just unintentionally hurting people, and that he wasn't the bad guy for wanting to do something about it.

"I just want you to know, Clint, I love you. No matter what, I'll always love you."

Clint looked back, looked into her eyes, and then his face broke and he smiled.

"I love you too."

As the hooks dug into him again, Clint saw perhaps the first genuine smile from his mother he'd seen these past few days. Free from sadness, of guilt, of that melancholy that'd hung over her. Just for a second, though, before he was back up.

Clint took in a sharp breath as he came back to life, vomited into his bucket, then trudged to his bed and fell asleep.

He didn't dream of anything, which perhaps was for the best. There was nothing to confuse with the voice that woke him up.

"Archer-san..." it cooed. "Archer-san. Archer-san, wake up!"

Clint's eyes snapped open. He rolled his legs up to avoid the downswing of Dokuro's bat that cleaved his bed in half, then sprung upwards and landed in a crouch on the headboards.

"I have had," he growled. "Just about enough."

Chapter Text

Tart was in a peculiar situation to be sure. Her new companions were... well they were a mixed bag, to be certain.

There was, of course, her Master, Monsieur Miles Edgeworth. The name suggested, to her at least, an air of danger. Not villainy but something touched by the darkness, something that would require her help to be rescued from. But he was far from that, he had a curiosity that amused her, asking often about her daily life back in France and what her village was like and what her army was like and what the kingdom was like and what the royalty was like and her armor and her swords and her abilities, so many questions. Surely, he was just trying to figure out how best to utilize her abilities in a fight. But he was, underneath it all, a kind hearted man and himself a servant to justice. When Tart thought of him in that light, he almost seemed...- No. He was just a man to look up to, that was all.

Mademoiselle Kate was an odd one. The young girl would boast often about her grand dreams of conquering the world, subjugating its people, and ruling what remained with an iron (well, it seemed to be more magical than anything) fist. They were words befitting a witch, and given her appearance and abilities, Tart almost wondered if she too had taken up a contract with Monsieur Angel. But despite Tart's prodding into the subject, she had gotten no hint that this was the case. Regardless, Tart couldn't help but have her suspicions. Certainly, if she were to find any proper witches, she'd let Mademoiselle have her first pick. Despite her bluster, Tart felt a remarkable innocence from her, she was as a child playing adult, although any comments to this effect were met with sharp response. Mademoiselle insisted that she was elder to everyone here, looks aside.

And then there was... Monsieur Worthington. There was a name he preferred to go by, but Tart shuddered when even thinking it. Such as the angel of death himself was the presence he gave off, and that truly was what he wished to be seen as. He was a brooder, a loner, and wanted little to do with Tart or Monsieur Edgeworth or anyone. It was a coldness Tart recognized from the men who had come home from war, those who had committed atrocity and had trouble living with it when they found themselves in peace. For most, it was a darkness they recognized as such, pushed to the side and ignored, allowing it to surface only in moments of absolute vulnerability. But there was something different about Monsieur. In his moments of vulnerability, when he was fighting, she could see that the darkness consumed him fully. Tart knew she should do something to help but... but she admitted that when given the chance she avoided Monsieur Worthington. He was hardly ever with the rest of them anyways.

Then one day, Monsieur Shimura appeared. His approach was marked by a rhythmic tapping across the stone floors of the Hub. When he entered their quarters, his attention went immediately to Monsieur Edgeworth. The Master's mark was unmistakable on both of them, although Monsieur Shimura had a complete mark while Monsieur Edgeworth had used his first command to make sure Mademoiselle Kate would remain in her "civilian clothes", insisting it would be best for them to lay low and not draw attention to themselves. Tart had followed his lead and made sure to only transform when absolutely necessary. She hoped he would notice her efforts.

Monsieur Edgeworth greeted Monsieur Shimura with as much dignity and class as he handled almost every interaction.

"Can I help you?"

Well, not that part. Monsieur Shimura bowed first.

"My name is Danzo Shimura. I'm a Master, the same as you."

Monsieur Edgeworth bowed back.

"Miles Edgeworth, prosecuting attorney. I hope this visit isn't a sign of trouble, Mr. Shimura."

"Would I be hoping to cause trouble among another group without the aid of my Servants? What could an old man such as myself hope to do against any of you."

"Forgive the rudeness, but in my line of work you learn quickly that looks can be deceiving."

"I'll keep that in mind, Mr. Edgeworth. But no, I am simply inquiring on a number things about this event we find ourselves trapped in."

"So you wish to share information. I too would appreciate knowing more about what exactly's going on. If you would please join me in m-"

"Ahem!"

It was always difficult to tell when Mademoiselle Kate was paying attention to anything. She occupied herself with almost anything she could find in their quarters or about the Hub. She had recently managed to acquire a small box that lit up from the inside, Tart wondered if it was crafted to cast shadows, it was probably a very pretty spectacle.

Mademoiselle, however, was at the moment tapping her foot and glaring at Monsieur Edgeworth.

"-in Miss Hoshimiya's office, we can discuss things further."

Monsieur Edgeworth lead Monsieur Shimura (with Mademoiselle Kate walking fast to make herself look like she was leading the two men) through the dual mahogany doors that lead into the office. It was the sleeping quarters of no one and served very little actual purpose, but the desk inside was very nice.

Tart got up to join them, but the doors snapped shut before she could make it a step closer.

She found herself faced with an incredible moral dilemma. She wanted to be part of these discussions as well, but if they had left her out here she clearly wasn't wanted. It would be rude of her to barge in if they wished to discuss these matters in private but, ooh...

The conclusion Tart came to was probably more clandestine than any of the alternatives she considered, but as she lowered her ear to the keyhole, she found herself committed to the action.

"-ticed a number of patterns in the battles we've gone through so far." That was Monsieur Shimura talking.

"Patterns, you say?" Monsieur Edgeworth. "Such as?"

"You seem to be a smart man Mr. Edgeworth, I'm sure you've noticed them as well."

A silence hung over the air. Tart lightly gasped. This was no doubt Monsieur Edgeworth's powerful "Logic Chess" technique, he had boasted it on more than one occasion. The ability to remain silent at the right time to force the opponent into divulging information. But, Monsieur Shimura was employing the same technique back at him, the two were locked in a stalemate! How could this clash be resolved?

"What are you two doing?" That was Mademoiselle Kate. "Why are you just staring at each other? Say something!"

Monsieur Edgeworth went "Oof!" Mademoiselle Kate probably kicked him.

"Yes, quite, e- ergo." It sounded like he cleared his throat and then slammed a hand against the desk. All very necessary actions, of course. "I have noticed a few things. One team seems to arrive before the other, for one."

"And why do you suppose that is?"

"H- Hold on, now. I thought we were supposed to be giving you information."

"That would be most beneficial, Mr. Edgeworth. By all means, share."

"Well..." Monsieur Edgeworth gave a meaningful pause. At least, Tart imagined it was probably meaningful. "In our last battle, we discovered Mr. Jackie Chan attempting to steal treasure from pirate ships."

"And why do you think he was doing that?"

Another pause.

"He said something about them being 'valuable artifacts'. Interested in them from an archaeological standpoint. He even..."

Tart leaned closer as Monsieur Edgeworth trailed off, then flinched back when he yelled something to the effect of "GRAAAAAAAHH!"

"I see where you're coming from." he continued. "Mr. Chan arrived in the time period before us, and threatened to steal valuable artifacts. Doing so would would change the timeline, but we stopped him, preventing that from happening. Are you suggesting then, that-"

"Yes, it seems that one team is sent to a point in time before the other, the other is sent in response to the first doing something that could endanger the stable timeline."

"Most of us have no idea what's happening when we're teleported. Which means that whoever is orchestrating this is using our confusion to force our hands to fight. But to what end?"

"That is the question, isn't it. I have been developing-"

"EEP!"

That one was Tart.

Monsieur Worthington loomed over her, a grimace adorning his face as usual. He brushed Tart aside with one of his wings then burst into the office. Tart followed, and watched from the doorway.

"Fraternizing with the enemy, are we Edgeworth?"

"Cut the attitude, Warren. We're not enemies with anyone here, not yet."

"The grail goes to the last man standing, that makes everyone here an enemy. That includes you if you get in my way, Edgeworth."

Monsieur Edgeworth raised his fist, Tart was worried for a second that he was going to attempt to fight Monsieur Worthington, but his true meaning became apparent rather quickly. The red mark on his hand.

"If you get out of control, Warren, do not forget that I still have the means of reining you in."

"Mr. Edgeworth," Monsieur Shimura said. "I can tell now is the best time to take my leave, but I shall part with some advice. Relying on that mark is a dangerous game, its uses are limited and dependent on our kind orchestrator, if you wish to truly control your team, you should do so under your own power."

With that he bowed and tapped out of the quarters.

"What the hell was he talking about?" Monsieur Worthington snapped back towards Monsieur Edgeworth.

"I don't quite know myself."

"Well I do!" Mademoiselle Kate clambered onto the desk. "As the leader of this group I must take responsibility for my subordinates acting out. You, Warren, have yet to swear your undying fealty to me, and that's a problem."

She grabbed her stuffed animal and plunged her fist into it. Immediately Tart's eyes widened and she scrambled away.

"Conquest..."

Tart ducked into a side hallway just in time to see Mademoiselle's giant fist destroy the wall between the office and the main room. Monsieur Worthington was planted on its very end.

"Time!"

Chapter Text

There was no time to get his gear together properly, Clint knew it wouldn't help him anyways. He leaped from the headboard as Dokuro swung again, demolishing what was left of his bed. He rolled away from her and grabbed nothing but his quiver and bow.

He drew and fired at Dokuro, sticking to the blunt-tipped arrows for now. She held her bat like a samurai would hold their sword and swatted each of them out of the air like they were flies. He nocked two arrows at once, Dokuro only smashed one of them away, the other one missed completely. Clint nocked another arrow, Dokuro ready to intercept this one same as the others, until the boomerang arrow returned and pegged her square in the back of the head. The blunt-tipped arrow then smacked her in the forehead, stunning her. Clint was out of the room by the time she recovered.

She giggled as she chased him out. That was probably the creepiest part about any of this.

He nocked two arrows again as she barged into the main room, both flying to hit their marks this time. Dokuro swung downward, in just the right way to hit the both of them, but the one closest to the ground exploded in ice, freezing her bat to the wood panel flooring. She yanked on the bat, put both feet on the ice block to try and get more leverage, but it wouldn't budge.

She then performed a one-handed handstand with her palm on the bat's pommel. It was a move so out of nowhere, it stopped Clint's attacks in their tracks. She then, with expert dexterity Clint had to say, spun herself around the stationary bat, and chanted "Pi Piru Piru Piru PiPiru Pi!"

In a flash of sparkles, the ice disappeared, and Dokuro was once again armed with her bat and an evil grin. Then she disappeared. Clint bent backwards to avoid her sudden horizontal swing as she reappeared. He transitioned into a handstand, launched back, then placed both feet on the wall behind him and pushed forward, soaring through the air. He popped out his hearing aid and shot a sonic arrow at the ground. The sound made his ears nearly bleed as he was, but it forced Dokuro to her knees.

In Dokuro's moment of weakness and Clint's moment of righteous (come on, at least a little, right?) anger, he nocked a pointed arrow and shot towards her dominant arm. But then she rocked forward, more than Clint was expecting, the arrow shot through one ear and out the other. Clint panicked for a second, but far from falling over, she stood up, immune to the noise. Her next grin was especially ominous, as she looked like some cross section of a schoolgirl, an undead horror villain, and a hack comedian.

Dokuro wasn't walking or running anymore, she was just appearing places, moving faster than Clint's eyes could track her. Fortunately, she was pretty predictable, going almost exclusively for wide and wild swings, and so Clint had little trouble dancing around her. Okay, not just "little trouble", it was actually incredibly hard trying to stay one step ahead of the flash stepping pain in the ass, but Clint was spurred on by the knowledge that getting tagged meant another humiliating death to satisfy the little sadist's twisted sense of humor. He'd be brought back, sure, but that wasn't the point anymore.

Time to get proactive, Clint dodged another wild swing and tucked and rolled away. He drew an arrow from his quiver and stuck it to the ground, then drew another and held it forward as Dokuro moved. She ran right into it, activating the net arrow and causing it to explode around her and entangle her in its ropes. Clint ducked around her, sticking to her non-dominant side, Dokuro flailed, shredding the netting with her bat in an instant, but Clint was already running out the front door by the time she was free. And then the explosive arrow detonated right under her feet.

Even from his position, the explosion sent Clint flying. He shot straight through the glass banister and down towards the first floor. He shot a grappling hook arrow, attached it to the rim of the second floor, then swung forward before rolling to a safe stop inside a set of quarters themed after a gym. The long haired, blonde teenager and short-cropped brunette kid stopped their sparring to look at Clint in confusion, then panicked and ducked away as Dokuro landed just outside the front door. She smoking and charred, but otherwise perfectly fine and with a madder glint in her eyes than ever.

She threw the bat, sending it flying forward like a missile. Clint moved to the side to avoid it, and when he heard the whistle of its return (and having plenty of experience with the boomerang arrow trick himself), backflipped and watched it soar back under him. Before landing, he fired another arrow at the bat itself. The arrow struck true, but did nothing to alter the bat's trajectory. Dokuro grabbed her bat out of the air, but with the taser arrow attached to it and active, began spasming as electricity rocked her body. Clint ran forward, slammed his foot into her face and jumped off, knocking her to the ground. He fired the rocket arrow, and watched the sizable crowd that had been spectating his bout from the second floor as he flew above them. He almost reached the Hub's ceiling and dropped when something tackled him out of the air.

Both of them tumbled to ground, yards away. Clint immediately got to his knees and nocked an arrow, expecting it to be Dokuro, but then it wasn't. It actually really wasn't.

The full-grown man had weird blue skin and a weird blue costume, with two massive, angular, metal wings sticking out of his back. He shook his head clear before sneering at Clint.

"What the hell do you- Hold on... I know you." He did? "Aren't you that third rate Avenger they leave behind for the important missions cause you're just a normal human with a bow?"

Clint wasn't sure what to do about the guy who just tackled him out of the sky suddenly critiquing his crime fighting abilities. But wait, no, he did recognize this guy. Angel, right? Archangel? Which was it nowadays? Well, blue skin, stupid question.

"Yeah." Clint said. "And aren't you that third rate X-Man who's apocalyptic mood swings means he can't be trusted with anything, and who's only mutant power is having wings?"

"Wh- Having wings is better than goddamn archery." Archangel snarled.

Clint gave a laugh so genuine it surprised even him. "Yeah, no it's not."

"You little-"

"Get back here Warren and swear your fealty!" rang out a high pitched voice.

"Archer-san!" came Dokuro's familiar shrill. "I'm gonna find you, Archer-san, so get ready!"

The two men shared a deeply knowing glance.

"Middle schooler angel's made some weird game out of constantly killing then resurrecting me."

"Grade schooler immortal has some weird fixation on conquering the planet and wants to kill me for not being her minion."

"... Wanna trade?"

A loud impact from behind Clint told him his little chat with Archangel was about over.

"Found you Archer-san..." Dokuro growled.

Clint dove to the side as she swung her bat into the tiling, sending ceramic flying into the air. He shot another grapple arrow across the second story gap and leaped over the railing and into open space, swinging downwards and on trajectory to go flying into another set of quarters (this one a... clock shop?), but he didn't. He grabbed a suction arrow and stuck himself to the bottom of the second floor, then let go of the grapple arrow's rope and let it dangle.

Dokuro herself jumped down onto the first floor and looked around, then darted inside the quarters. Clint let go and fell to the floor, only to see Dokuro looking directly back at him from the doorway.

She swung her bat, Clint jumped back to avoid it and fired off a putty arrow. Dokuro stuck to the ground but was already pulling at it, tearing at the putty's already thin sinews. So Clint fired another. And another. And another. He unloaded his entire stock until Dokuro was completely covered in the stuff, entirely immobile with nothing given the slightest bit of air contact but her face and the top half of her bat.

She still struggled, even swung her bat a little with the leverage she could manage, nowhere near enough to even tap Clint on the head though.

Clint kneeled down and looked her dead in the eyes.

"Alright listen to me," he said sternly. "I've spent my entire life dealing with people who thought they could beat on me and get away with it because I was weaker than them. I don't care if you think this is a game or some harmless little prank, but that's the mentality I smell all over you. So I'm putting down an ultimatum. Whether you bring me back or not, you try and kill me again, I'm killing you back. You understand me?"

Dokuro spent a long moment in silence, sitting still for once in her gooey prison.

"I think I get it, Archer-san." she said calmly.

Clint breathed a sigh of relief.

"But I'm still going to have to punish you for humiliating me like this!" she yelled, wiggling her bat with renewed vigor.

"Dammit!" Clint got to his feet, nocked a pointed arrow and took aim right through her throat.

"I told you..." A distant voice echoed around the Hub, giving him and Dokuro a second of pause. "Swear your fealty to me or DIE!"

A massive, glowing, neon yellow fist suddenly broke through the entirety of the second floor, rocketing towards the two of them at blinding speeds. Clint thought he saw the relatively minuscule silhouette of Archangel plastered on the front of it, but got zero time to consider it before the fist hit him and Dokuro and all of them were consumed in a bright light.

Chapter Text

Julius Caesar was not having the best of days. He briefly considered whether or not he was only saying this from the perspective of a man who's life had been going very well recently, but no, he figured, being bound and gagged and tossed into a small dark room was, probably, a bad thing to have happen to just about anyone.

A cloth had been strapped tightly around his mouth, his hands were tied behind his back, and his ankles were crossed and tied together. He struggled to stand, but for reasons just stated, had trouble. He was just about to cry out, but stopped when he heard voices just outside.

"Monsieur Edgeworth," said what sounded like a young girl. "Are you sure about this. It just seems... wrong."

"I can't say I like it much myself." This voice was older, more masculine. "But it's just something we have to do if we want to survive this. I can't imagine Mr. Caesar would disagree if he knew the alternative."

Caesar had just enough time to wonder what on earth was happening.

"You idiots!" came a third voice. Another young girl. "Someone's coming."

Caesar took that moment to start crying out. He didn't get through a lot of it before a noise rang from behind, a ruffle of some kind, then daylight filled the room, and something landed on the ground behind him. Caesar struggled, trying to see what had hit the ground. He didn't manage to but it did start speaking.

"I'll give him credit, it's not a bad plan." the thing said. Another masculine voice, this one deeper though, rougher than the first. "But just like all the best laid plans, something always goes wrong. Isn't that right?"

Caesar had almost moved his body enough to see the man speaking. He twisted, craned his neck, trying to get even the barest of glimpses.

He did finally see something, he wasn't sure if it had been the man who was speaking or not, but as he turned he caught just one glimpse of death flying towards him.

Chapter Text

The flash of light had not undrawn Clint's bow, nor did it stop Dokuro's struggling. It did, however, give them quite an audience.

"Archer, what in the heck are you doing?"

Clint had half a mind to explain everything, to tell Bravestarr every thought he had this past week, and every conversation he got to have with his dead mother while awaiting judgement from above to be thrust straight back into more pain. In the end, however, he settled on,

"What the heck does it look like I'm doing?"

"It looks like you're about to kill Dokuro."

"Got it in one."

"Alright now Archer, calm down, you don't want to do this."

"Give me a reason, then."

Bravestarr grabbed Clint by the shoulders and spun him so they came face to face. This had the unfortunate effect of bringing Clint's arrow directly to Bravestarr's chest, but he seemed undaunted by the prospect.

Clint lowered his bow and let the drawstring fall loose again.

"Well," he said. "I'm listening."

"I understand that what you're going through right now is painful, and uncomfortable, and it doesn't feel fair. I'm on your side, Archer."

"Are you? Is that why you keep letting her get away with it? Is that why you won't even entertain the notion that maybe what she's doing is wrong?"

"What she's doing is wrong, Archer. But wouldn't you rather talk your way out of a situation than fight your way out?"

"You think she'll listen to reason?"

"She has been listening to reason. I've talked with her every day since we got to Hub, trying to convince her that what she's doing isn't harmless fun, and that what you're going through isn't just a joke. She's been making improvements, seeing the error of her ways, and I don't know what kind of message you shooting at her is gonna send after all that."

"She's improving? Really? I sure as hell never noticed, not between all the brutal bludgeonings I've received for basically no reason. Face it, Bravestarr, that little brat-" Clint pointed towards the pile of loose putty on the ground, then realized that it was a pile of loose putty on the ground.

"Truly," Danzo said as he tapped his way past the both of them. "I have the most attentive Servants."

Clint huffed and put the arrow back in his quiver.

The first thing Clint noticed about his surroundings was that the roads were nice and paved. That was nice. He still didn't have any shoes. Or armor come to think of it, that was probably gonna be an issue later. The shoes thing was an issue now.

It was definitely a big city. Some things never change through the course of human history and the feeling of a big city was one of them. It may not have had skyscrapers or smog, but it had an energy all its own, and it was an energy unmistakable for anything else. Also it was crowded, like, really crowded.

The houses and buildings were all made from stone, well carved stone, although not well carved enough to be anything approaching modern. A weird, awkward middle phase of carving quality. Though Clint supposed as long as they stood standing it didn't really matter.

Clint saw a woman leaning against a building. She looked bored. Bored people were generally good people to bother.

"Excuse me," he called. "You know what day it is?"

She shot him a look before responding.

"The 15th."

"Of...?"

"You don't know what month it is?" She gave Clint one of the top 5 most disgusted sneers he'd ever seen.

"It's not an odd question." Danzo interjected. "Not when you think about it."

The woman looked like she was deeply considering something.

"No, I guess it isn't. It's March."

"Thanks." Clint turned back to his group. "Ah, the Ides of March. Right?"

In the next instant Clint's eyebrows scrunched.

"Wait. Shit. It's actually the Ides of March."

Danzo turned towards Bravestarr and raised an eyebrow.

"The Ides of March." he explained. "It's the day the emperor of Rome, Julius Caesar, was assassinated."

"So, what," Clint said. "We got sent back in time to stop it?"

"Quite the opposite I'd imagine." Danzo said. "If the theme is preventing changes to the timeline, then it is most likely that we have to ensure the assassination takes place."

"Oh boy. This just gets better and better."

"Common opinion among the Roman senate was already against Caesar." Bravestarr said. "If that's what we're doing here, then all we have to do is let them do what they already wanted to do."

"You know, for the supposed moral beacon of this group, you certainly do condone a lot of murder."

"It'd be bad to try and change things now. There's no use dwelling on the past, even when you're right in the middle of it."

"I thought that was because there was nothing you could normally do to change it."

Bravestarr shook his head.

"It's cause the past makes us who we are now."

Chapter Text

About half an hour had passed, Clint grappled to the top of a building and looked out among the sea of heads swarming through the streets and alleys. Maybe not sea, maybe the better word was river. A sea sat and its currents flowed and intermingled and collided. A river was focused, it had a destination it must reach, with tributaries that only fed into the single collective flow.

These people were heading somewhere.

"Told you I wasn't imagining things." Clint called down. "They're all going that way."

Clint pointed towards their destination and Bravestarr shot him a thumbs up in response. Clint got to work, leaping from rooftop to rooftop, keeping a steady eye on the movement of the ever increasing crowd. Of course, he didn't need to pretty quickly. Bravestarr and Danzo got swept up into the flow, Clint just followed along from the shore.

Man this was a solid metaphor Clint was working.

After a couple minutes it was pretty easy to tell where the people were heading. It towered above the neighboring buildings, a colosseum. It was something straight out of Ben-Hur. Clint didn't realize that real life could get so stereotypical.

When the river finally emptied out into a lake, the people stood about just outside. Clint could see armored guards making sure none of the crowd made it past the front steps, though he couldn't imagine anyone on the ground could. In exchange though, he figured Bravestarr and Danzo could hear the murmuring of the crowd more than he could. Clint was only catching snippets, "who would do such a thing" "have they found the guy" "some strange characters milling about" etc. etc. Clint was just about to make his way into the building one way or another, when a voice made itself heard above the crowd.

"People of Rome!" The voice commanded presence, and in an instant the massive crowd of hundreds out front quieted and cast their eyes upon the speaker.

He was very obviously out of place. More than Clint, even. In a... purple? Red? There had to be a word for whatever color that was, but Clint couldn't think of it. Rurple. In a rurple three piece suit, with a frilly cravat around his neck and silver, perfectly coiffed hair.

"You wish to know the identity of the person who killed your ruler, Gaius Julius Caesar, do you not?"

The crowd roared in response. Once it quieted again, the man continued.

"We have apprehended the one who we think is responsible. Their appearance may be surprising to you, but we have hard evidence that they are the culprit. I know it must be hard to accept the words of a perfect stranger, and so I propose we hold a trial here, in the theater, and we shall prove it to you all."

Clint squinted, not cause it was bright or anything (though it was) he was just trying to wrap his head around what was happening. This guy could not be any more clearly an enemy Master or Servant, but did that mean he had done the deed himself? Shouldn't that mean they should get beamed back to the Hub now?

Suddenly Archangel walked from inside the building, Clint should've realized he'd be here, pushing out a young girl girl in a red schoolgirl's uniform. Her pale blue hair done up in two opposite facing ponytails, and a glowing halo hovered just above her head.

Okay, this looks bad.

Chapter Text

Bravestarr was a very tall man, at the very least he was tall enough to see over the crowds of Romans that surrounded the colosseum, though he felt bad for everyone standing behind him. And when the big blue guy pushed Dokuro out for the public to see, he got a full view of it.

Bravestarr launched into action, pushing through the crowd and making his way to the building. He was just about to step onto the stone stairs leading up to the entrance when two spears crossed to block his path. Glaring faces beneath helmets told him that he would not, by the guards' power, be allowed anywhere near the colosseum or Dokuro. Bravestarr grimaced, then steeled himself.

"Strength of the-"

Danzo placed a hand on his chest, cutting him off.

"It's fine." Danzo told the guards. "The suspect is an acquaintance of ours, we should be let past in order to see her."

The guards thought this over and shared a look before retracting their spears. Bravestarr ran past, and Danzo's cane tapped slowly behind him as he went. He had half a mind to just sprint until he found Dokuro, but stopped short when he heard the grinding of a cord and a winch close by. Archer landed softly next to him.

"Archer? How'd you get in here?"

"This place is like 80% windows. It wasn't that hard. So, what are we doing here, I hope you're not expecting me to join the rescue team or anything."

"That should not be necessary." Danzo said.

"I don't know, Danzo." Bravestarr said. "We might need his help, shouldn't we at least try and convince him?"

"Absolutely not."

"Well why in the big red spot not?"

"I don't like walking headlong into traps."

Both Archer and Bravestarr were taken aback. Danzo continued.

"Mr. Edgeworth is smarter than I gave him credit for, he's testing the limits of this game while putting us in a vulnerable position. He, like I, wants to know what happens when the first team keeps the timeline on track for the second. And he wants to know what happens if the second team is the one to disrupt events."

"But, Dokuro didn't do it, did she?"

Archer laughed for a solid second, then when he saw how serious Bravestarr was and his face dropped.

"That was a joke, right? We're talking about the same spiked-bat-wielding psychopath, right?"

"Despite the bad blood you've been building, Archer, Dokuro's not a bad kid deep down. I don't think she'd make a mess like this and just leave it."

"Alright then, devil's advocate. How are you even planning on helping her? Danzo here just got done saying that fighting them's only gonna make things worse for us."

"That guy." He turned towards Danzo. "Mr. Edgeworth you called him, he mentioned something about a trial. If it's a fair trial, maybe they'll realize she's innocent."

Danzo eyed Bravestarr.

"You think anyone in the city would try to defend the one accused of killing their leader?"

"Aw, heck you're right."

"Let's watch the language, shall we?" Archer said.

"Honestly, you two, you're acting like you don't even care what happens to her."

Archer threw up his arms.

"Caught me red handed."

Danzo simply nodded.

"I have faith in your ability to get her out of this situation safely."

Bravestarr sighed.

"Guess it's up to me then. Eyes of the Hawk!"

Bravestarr's vision took flight, soaring through corridors and zooming past doorways, before it eventually landed on a cluster of out-of-place looking folks talking to a bearded gentleman who was much more of the time. And there, off to the side, was Dokuro, looking dejected with her hands tied behind her back.

"Alright, I see them. Follow me."

Bravestarr bolted off down a corridor, he didn't wait to see if Danzo or Archer had bothered to do what he asked.

The architecture was large and open, so it didn't take long for Bravestarr to find this enemy group. They were gathered at the far end of the building, just outside a large, ornate set of doors.

There were six people in total. The man in a suit with silver hair, Mr. Edgeworth is what Danzo had called him, a taller man with blue skin who had adopted some heavy robes from the time period, or perhaps that's just what he always wore, two young girls, one dressed in 21st century clothes, the other in something older and simpler, Dokuro herself, and an older gentleman dressed in a toga with a large, shocking white beard, though no hair anywhere else.

Mr. Edgeworth crossed his arms and looked at the newcomer quizzically.

"Hmm? And who's this?"

Bravestarr was taking a moment to catch his breath.

"I'm... the girl's... defense." he said.

"The girl's..." started the bearded man.

"...defense?" finished Edgeworth.

Bravestarr stood a little taller and placed his hat to his heart.

"My name is Bravestarr. And I'm a Galactic Marshall."

Confused looks answered him from all around, but he took a bit of pride in Dokuro's beaming smile.

"Basically, I'm a man of the law. I have a friend who's a judge, so I'm no stranger to court proceedings. And if no one will stand up for Dokuro, then I would like to fill that position myself, if you wouldn't mind."

It took a second, but Bravestarr finally got a response. Edgeworth chuckled.

"Well, suffice to say this is last thing I expected. But if you don't have a problem with this, Your Honor, then it's fine with me."

"Why yes," the bearded gentleman said. "With a case this important, I do believe it's for the best that we hear all sides."

Edgeworth gave a bow.

"In that case, the scene of the crime is just past these doors here. You're free to investigate to your heart's content, Marshall, given that I accompany you. Just to ensure there's no foul play, you understand. My name is Miles Edgeworth, prosecuting attorney."

Bravestarr placed his hat back on his head and tipped it.

"That sounds perfectly fine to me, Mr. Edgeworth." He pushed the door open and gestured inside. "After you."

Edgeworth graciously accepted the invitation and the two made their way inside.

The room was spacious and spartan, large but plain in layman's terms. The only purely aesthetic additions were a collection of beautiful marble statue. One was standing at the back of the close wall's raised stage, and framed between several large columns. Several more were stationed amidst the rows of stone bleachers that circled the far wall, all surrounding an empty area in the smack middle. And right in the middle of that middle was the body of Julius Caesar, laying on a red rug with gold embroidery.

"This," said Edgeworth. "Is the curia."

"Exactly where it was supposed to happen, huh?"

"Indeed. The circumstances are a little different from how you'd remember them, though. The victim died from blunt force trauma. It was a single blow, he bears no injuries outside from the one on his head. No signs of a struggle on Caesar, the girl, or in the room."

"Any bloodstains?"

"The only visible ones we found were on the rug underneath him. And of course, on the murder weapon."

Bravestarr didn't even want to ask. He already knew what he was referring to.

"Any invisible ones, then?"

"In this time period, the people are not likely to trust the result of a luminol test. That said, I happened to have some on me, and I couldn't find any traces of blood being wiped away when I searched."

Bravestarr nodded, but began to search the room regardless. Still, there weren't many places for evidence to hide. He scoured the entire room and found nothing but dust, then inspected the body itself and found himself coming to the exact same conclusions as Edgeworth had.

"Do you have any witnesses?"

"Just one. He didn't witness the actual crime though, he merely found the body."

"Well, I don't mean any offense Mr. Edgeworth, but it sounds to me like you lack definitive evidence."

Edgeworth gave a short laugh.

"So you are familiar with court proceedings. Very well, Marshall Bravestarr, I'll explain myself. As there were no other reported incidents of violence or injury today, blood being present on both the victim and the murder weapon will be enough to prove a connection to the court. We may lack decisive evidence, but we have plenty of circumstantial evidence with nothing contradicting the case as we see it."

Bravestarr rubbed his chin.

"I think that's all I'm going to get out of this room. But I'd like to ask you something, Mr. Edgeworth."

"By all means."

"What are you doing here? I can see the red mark on your hand, you're a Master. You have to know that interfering with affairs of the past isn't going to end well for anyone."

"Perhaps you should tell the girl that, she was the one who killed the emperor."

"Do you truly believe that?"

"With all of my conviction."

Bravestarr paused for a moment, before tipping his hat and responding in earnest.

"Alright. I believe you. I'd like to talk to the defendant now."

Immediately, Edgeworth's cordial air was back about him.

"Please, be my guest."

Bravestarr stepped back through the door to see that Archer and Danzo had indeed caught up with him. The young girl in the simple clothes was holding her hands to either side with her back to the door, blocking the way.

"We're finished here, Miss D'Arc, it's fine."

"But Monsieur Edgeworth, if tampering with the crime scene is as serious as you say, then they mustn't be allowed in before the trial, not without supervision."

Edgeworth gave it some thought.

"Perhaps. Since me and the defense have already examined the crime scene, I don't think anyone else should need access to the room."

Bravestarr walked over to Dokuro and kneeled down.

"Hey there, Lil' Pard. How you holding up?"

"You're gonna help me, right Bravestarr-san?"

"Well that's what I wanted to talk to you about. You didn't actually kill him, did you Dokuro?"

"No! I didn't! If I had, I would've brought him back I think."

"Yeah, that's what I thought too. What were you doing here, anyways? Why'd you run off?"

"Archer-san was scaring me, I thought he might hurt me."

Archer frowned.

"Are you hearing yourself right now?"

"Now Dokuro, you've hurt Archer a lot too. You should've taken my advice sooner and apologized. But I believe you, and if you say that you didn't do it, then I'll do everything in my power to prove it, okay?"

Dokuro beamed back. Archer gagged.

A guard rushed over to Mr. Edgeworth.

"Sir, the witness is ready and wishes to see you before the trial begins."

"Thank you. Ms. D'Arc, Ms. Hoshimiya, Mr. Worthington, let us take our leave. Bring the suspect with us." He turned back to face Bravestarr. "Good luck, Marshall."

Bravestarr tipped his hat.

"Same to you, Mr. Edgeworth."

Bravestarr made to follow them, when an elbow jabbed him in the ribs.

He turned to see Archer standing next to him, looking unassuming with his hands in his pockets.

"Hey." he said.

Bravestarr wasn't sure how to respond to that.

"Howdy." he eventually said back.

"You check out the cart?"

"The what?"

Archer nodded his head off to the side, pointing out an unassuming wooden cart. Two handles out front, four wheels underneath.

"What about it?" Bravestarr asked.

"Just that, you should probably check it out, is all."

Bravestarr was still confused, but walked over to the cart anyways. The inside was entirely empty, except for,

"A knife? There's no bloodstains on it, and Caesar wasn't stabbed, so I don't know if it's related to anything."

Archer kind of half shrugged.

"That's part of it."

Bravestarr scrunched his eyebrows, but went back to inspecting the thing. Nothing else in the bed, nothing on the front, nothing hidden on the side closest to the wall, nothing on the wheels, it wasn't until he was laying on his back and looking at it from the bottom that he saw what Archer was talking about.

On the bottom of one handle, there was blood. It wasn't voluminous enough to drip onto the floor, Bravestarr could barely see it, but it was still bright enough to be fresh.

"Galloping galaxies." Bravestarr breathed. "What in the nebula does this mean?"

"I don't know." Archer responded. "And given that I have no investment in whether the girl fries or not, I don't care. Just, uh, thought you ought to know."

Bravestarr got back to his feet and gave Archer a smile.

"Thanks, Archer. You're a good friend."

Chapter Text

The court as it was had been set up, surprisingly, on the curia's stage. Caesar's body had been moved away for further examination, the rug that had been underneath him kept the curia floor clean and spotless, one might not even think a person had died here only hours prior.

The bleachers were filled to capacity with a roaring crowd. Up on the stage, Bravestarr and Edgeworth had each been given a wooden table. A stand had been set up on one end between them facing towards from the crowd, and right next to it was a tall structure where the bearded gentleman from earlier, presumably the judge, sat.

"Court is now in session," he said, quieting the crowd. "For the trial of Dokuro Mitsukai. Are the defense and prosecution ready?"

"The prosecution is ready, Your Honor."

"The defense is ready, Your Honor."

"In that case," the Judge continued. "The prosecution may make it's opening statement."

"Your Honor, and members of the court," Edgeworth began. "On this day, the emperor Gaius Julius Caesar was killed. I will now run over the facts of the case for the understanding of the court.

"Caesar was killed in this very building, the Pompey Theater, in this very room, the curia. The cause of death was one singular blow to the head with a blunt object. From the lack of signs of a struggle, it can be assumed that death came quickly, if not instantly. The murder weapon was this."

Edgeworth pulled Dokuro's bat from behind his table. Bravestarr noted that it, unfortunately, was coated in dried blood, although that actually probably belonged to Archer.

"Excalibolg, a spiked club that is the preferred weapon of the defendant, Ms. Mitsukai. As you can see, the weapon is covered in blood, and as this murder was the only incident to take place at this theater today, it no doubt belonged to Caesar. The weapon was found being casually carried by the defendant, leaving little doubt that she had used it to commit the murder."

The crowd applauded the astounding culmination and conclusion of logic on display.

"I object." Bravestarr spoke up. "You have no direct proof that Dokuro was the one who killed Caesar, nor do you have any idea on whether she has the temperament or motive to do such a thing."

"No, I suppose I don't have any idea about that. She is, after all, a stranger in these parts." Edgeworth paused for a moment and clutched something in his pocket. "But I would assume you, as her cohorts, would know a thing or two about that."

Edgeworth pointed towards Archer.

"You, with the bow and arrow, Mr..."

Archer paused for a second, not expecting to be called out.

"Archer."

"Mr. Archer, do you have anything to state about the nature of the defendant?"

"...No. Nothing to state."

"You seem very tense, Mr. Archer. Being the girl's travel companion, I'm sure you've had a lot of first hand experience with this girl and how she uses her weapon."

Bravestarr could see Archer's teeth gnashing in his closed mouth.

"You seem to get very angry whenever the girl is brought up, is it possible that Caesar wasn't her only victim? Have you been on the receiving end of this club before, Mr. Archer?"

"Archer, don't..."

"This is a court of law, where the guilty receive their punishment. Your testimony can only be beneficial to the end sentencing."

"Archer-"

Archer slammed his fist on the table in front of him.

"She'd do it." he said. "She's never needed a reason and she likely never will. She's a tiny little sadist who revels in the pain of others and I don't have a lot of doubts in my mind that she'd kill the emperor of Rome just for fun."

The crowd erupted at this outburst. Edgeworth was looking confident. Dokuro was staring at her shoes.

"...c'mon Archer." Bravestarr muttered

Edgeworth continued.

"I believe I have provided sufficient evidence, but to get a complete summary of what happened, I'd like to call upon a witness."

"The court accepts."

Edgeworth nodded towards the side of the stage closest to him, and a person made their way towards the court. He was a young man, with short and curly brown hair, wearing a simple but very clean and well maintained toga. He didn't appear to be in much rush, but even from a distance Bravestarr could see the serious expression etched into every feature of his face. When he made it to the witness stand, he adopted a calm, yet confident stance with arms behind his back.

"Witness," Edgeworth said. "Please state your name and occupation."

"My name is Marcus Junius Brutus. I'm a senator for the republic."

"And what was your relation to Julius Caesar?"

"He was a colleague and," For half a second, a twinge of sadness penetrated his expression, but he cast it off just as quickly. "And a close friend."

"You have the court's sympathies. Now please, tell us about what you witnessed on the day of the crime."

Bravestarr took a deep breath and let it out slowly. Edgeworth was looking to wrap things up, if he could find anything to prove Dokuro was innocent, he'd have to find it here.

"I'm sorry to say that I didn't witness much. There was supposed to be an important Senate meeting today, Cimber was looking to petition Caesar to bring his brother out of exile. I arrived early, earlier than any of the other senators."

"And why was that?" Bravestarr asked.

"Excuse me?"

"Why did you arrive so early?"

"I am a strict believer in punctuality. I despise wasting time and I despise Senate meetings that start late because people can't be bothered to show up when they're supposed to."

"What if you had something to do just before the meeting that might make you late? Sometimes, things come up that you aren't expecting, it's important to know how to deal with them."

"I admit this to be so, however, today I personally had no other appointments or matters to attend to. My schedule was, as the kids say, clear."

"And is that really the reason you showed up to the meeting early?"

"Objection!" Edgeworth yelled, catching Bravestarr off guard. "Marshall, the witness has said all he has to say on the matter. I insist that you cease this line of questioning."

"The court agrees." agreed the Judge. "So, what did you see when you arrived?"

"When I entered the Senate's meeting room, I saw Caesar's body lying on the ground. It was immediately obvious that he was dead."

"What makes you say that?" Bravestarr asked. He saw Brutus' peeved glance, and preempted the question. "What I mean is, how did you know that Caesar was dead just by looking?"

"Well, he was lying on the ground, still as a corpse, with blood coming from his head. Was I not right to assume?"

"The victim was bleeding from his head." Edgeworth stated. "And a puddle of blood had formed under him. Anyone could see that."

"I don't know about that." Bravestarr said. "The body was found lying on a red carpet, wasn't he? You wouldn't be able to immediately tell that he was dead."

"I suppose," Brutus said, eyes closed in thought. "Yes, I do remember there being a rug underneath him. Perhaps I had mistaken it for blood, and jumped to the conclusion."

"Was that really all there was to it?"

"Objection! You can't just badger the witness on every point, Marshall. If you disagree with the statement, then present evidence that contradicts it. Otherwise, it will stand as is."

The Judge nodded.

"Witness, what did you do after discovering the body?"

"After I realized Caesar was dead, I ran out and found a guard to alert him of what happened. There were a great many stationed around the theater, considering the meeting today. After that, they cordoned off the area and went through all the people currently in the building to try and find the culprit. That's when they found the defendant, and her massive, bloodstained club."

"One last question, Brutus." Bravestarr said. "How did you feel when you realized Caesar was dead?"

"I'm sure I don't know what you mean."

"Mr. Bravestarr," Edgeworth interjected. "The witness has already stated that he and the victim were close friends."

"Sometimes friends don't see eye to eye on things, and that's okay. You can still be someone's friend when you're angry at them."

"I don't appreciate your implication." Brutus said. "But I state for the record, that I had no wish to see Caesar harmed in any way. It is a great loss for all of Rome that he is gone."

"I see." Bravestarr said. "In that case, a follow up."

Bravestarr drew the knife.

"Would this happen to be your knife?"

"Wh-" Brutus looked like he had the wind knocked out of him. "Of course not, I have mine r-"

Brutus flinched as the impact of what he just admitted hit him.

"I'm sure the court all heard that. Brutus, do you have a knife on you right now?"

Brutus did nothing but sneer.

"If you don't answer the question, we can and we will search you."

"I do."

"So then do you admit you had a will to harm Caesar?"

"Objection!" Edgeworth slammed a hand into his table. "That doesn't prove anything. Owning a knife does not equal a motive for murder. He could've had it for any number of reasons."

"The witness just stated that he had no other plans for the day, the only thing he was out for was the Senate meeting. And he went armed with a knife."

"Brutus, you don't have to-"

Brutus held a hand up and sighed deeply.

"No. It's fine. I was prepared to take responsibility for this anyways. I admit it, I did go to the Senate meeting with full intention to kill Caesar. He was a close friend of mine, but I care too deeply for the state of this republic to allow one man to rule over it."

The crowd exploded over this. The Judge yelled to be heard over the stadium of discourse.

"C- Come off it, Marshall." Edgeworth said. "It doesn't take a genius to realize Brutus couldn't have committed the crime. He admitted to bringing a knife to the meeting, the victim was killed by blunt force trauma, not a stabbing. And there still isn't a viable alternative to what the murder weapon could have been."

"My apologies, Brutus." Bravestarr said. "I wasn't trying to accuse you or anything. But, you have been hiding facts from the court, and if we want to reach an accurate verdict, we need all the information."

Brutus studied Bravestarr before he spoke up again.

"I understand. Your Honor, I'd like to change my testimony."

"Uh... Y- Yes, I suppose that's for the best."

Brutus cleared his throat before beginning again.

"I had planned to assassinate Caesar today, I was going to do it during the meeting. Our forefathers fought to ensure that our republic would be a voice for the people, free from the shackles of monarchy. A dictator perpetuo would ruin everything they worked towards. I visited the curia an hour early, in order to chart out my attack. It was a simple plan, but I didn't want anything to go wrong. I then left, and planned to not go back until it was time for the meeting. But my anxiousness got the best of me, and I ended up going before it was time. That was when I saw Caesar lying on the floor, and you know the rest."

"I see." the Judge said. "It is most unfortunate that you felt the need to do such a thing. And of course, your own trial for conspiracy to murder will be held in the near future."

"I will accept any verdict handed down to me, Your Honor. For the good of all of Rome."

"Until then," Bravestarr said. "I'd like to ask a few more questions."

"What could you possibly ask about?" Edgeworth said. "The testimony is largely unchanged from before, it still indicates that Ms. Mitsukai was the most likely culprit."

"There is one major difference, however. Brutus saw the state of the room before the murder took place. This could lead to an invaluable clue."

"I hate to disappoint you." said Brutus. "But not much changed. I looked over the entire room."

"Well, what did change?"

"Apart from the dead body, I'm having trouble thinking of anything."

"Try harder. What was there when you entered the room the first time?"

"I- I don't know. I don't know what you want from me. The statues were there as they always are, there was nothing in the seats, nothing on the floor..."

"There was nothing on the floor? Are you sure about that?"

"Yes, yes, I'm sure, the floor was bare, there was nothing there."

"Objection!"

It was Bravestarr that yelled this time.

"Finally. I got something to work with."

Edgeworth slammed a hand into his table.

"What are you talking about, Marshall? You saw the room, it was completely empty after the murder as well."

"Not true, Mr. Edgeworth. There was something on the floor. You might've missed it though, considering it was right under the body."

Edgeworth flinched back and let out a pained yell.

"Th- This is preposterous." he said. "Perhaps the witness simply didn't consider the rug to be a thing worth noting, or he might have forgotten about it."

"I don't know about that, Mr. Edgeworth. It is bright red, in an otherwise plain, gray room."

Brutus was staring at the ground, a hand to his chin.

"No... No matter how much I think on it, I don't remember a rug being there when I checked the first time."

"Wh- WHAT?" Edgeworth yelled. "What does this mean then?"

"What it means, Mr. Edgeworth, is that there's a lot more to this case than meets the eye. Caesar's body was found on the rug, that means the real killer would've had to place him there."

"R- Ridiculous."

"That's not all, Mr. Edgeworth. I've been trying to make sense of this piece of evidence since we started, but I think I finally get the picture now. You remember this knife, right?" Bravestarr held it up again. "We found it inside of a cart, just outside the curia."

Edgeworth crossed his arms and scrunched his forehead in thought.

"Yes. I recall there being a cart just outside."

"Did you bother examining that cart, by any chance?"

"N- No. I did not."

"You really should have. On the underside of one of the handles, we found a bloodstain."

"What?! B- But that..."

"It's not that hard to put together, Mr. Edgeworth. The rug was brought in from outside the curia, and the body was placed on top of it. And the cart means that the murderer had to haul around something large. And of course, if he used the rug he could conveniently cover whatever it was he was hauling. Therefore, I assert that the scene of the crime was NOT the curia, but somewhere else entirely!"

The Judge looked entirely dumbfounded by this turn of events.

"P- Prosecution. Do you have a counter to these claims?"

Edgeworth wasn't making much noise outside of some guttural moaning.

"In that case, we must perform a thorough search of the Theater, we must find where this crime actually took place, post haste."

The guards were scrambling, Edgeworth looked like he might keel over, overall Bravestarr was feeling pretty good.

"Don't get cocky yet."

Bravestarr turned, Archer was looking out over the chaos with a scowl.

"You're not in the clear. You have to know that, right? Edgeworth's next move is just gonna be to claim Dokuro killed him in whatever room they come up with as opposed to the Senate room."

"But, whatever room they do come up with has got to give us more clues as to what really happened, right?"

Archer shrugged. Bravestarr was undaunted.

"It has to."

Chapter Text

"Mr. Edgeworth." A guard ran onto the stage. "We may have found something!"

Edgeworth had mostly regained his composure, and nodded in understanding. Bravestarr did much worse at keeping his emotions under wraps and practically pumped his fist in the air in celebration. The two of them moved from behind their desks and followed the guard. Bravestarr heard Archer talk to the crowd as they left the stage, something about some arrow tricks.

A short jog and only a few turns later, and they found themselves outside a small, not particularly impressive wooden door. Bravestarr quickly pushed through it and entered the, if one were being generous they might call it a room. It was about the size of a janitor's closet, the sunlight streaming through the window on the far wall doing almost nothing to improve the dismal, dusty atmosphere. The room was also, disappointingly, more empty than the Senate room, plain walls, plain floors, plain ceiling. There were only two things of note in it, both on the far wall, a small mound of clay on the floor and a statue.

The statue drew the most attention, it was... it was... hmmm... Bravestarr was having trouble finding the words.

It was... It...

Well to start with it was clearly meant to resemble a person. Yes that was a good place to start. On some level, it was probably a human being of some variety. It was wearing a very stiff looking toga, and its head had a short, curly, oddly angular beard and a weird, cross eyed expression. On the very top of its head, it looked to be wearing a starfish. The head was also, notably, twice as large as the torso. The statue had spindly little limbs that bent at angles just odd enough to be uncanny, and held in one hand a really big fork.

Bravestarr was so caught up in examining this statue, that he was only barely paying attention to what Edgeworth was doing. It wasn't until he stood from kneeling by the mound of clay and charged out of the room that Bravestarr broke eye contact with the strange structure. Probably best to examine everything.

He looked down at the mound, and instantly saw what had Edgeworth in such a rush. A hand print, clear as day, had been imprinted deeply into the clay. If it did belong to Caesar, then it would prove almost definitively that the murder took place in this room. Bravestarr just wished there had been a little more here to work with. He looked over the entire room again, which took only a few seconds, and found nothing. No bloodstains, no scuff marks, no signs of anything happening anywhere.

Bravestarr sighed. Apparently the wind sighed too, a stiff breeze blew through the window and into the room, slightly ruffling Bravestarr's hat. He turned towards the window, just in time to see the statue careening towards him. He panicked and shot his arms up, catching the statue and holding it for a moment before propping it back up on its feet.

Bravestarr wiped his brow. The thing was about as unstable and top heavy as it looked apparently.

Chapter Text

Bravestarr walked back onto the stage, the crowd was cheering wildly for something. As his eyes adjusted to the light, he saw Archer fire an arrow at a column, where it hit at an angle and began ricocheting around the stage. He then fired another behind his back, which began bouncing around just the same. Then, while looking the other way, he fired an arrow straight at the wall, where it pierced the other two through the center, shish kebabing them perfectly. The crowd roared. Even the Judge was awestruck. Archer bowed.

"Enjoying yourself?" Bravestarr said as he settled behind his desk again.

"Eh," Archer shrugged, though clearly pleased with himself. "I picked up a few tricks on keeping people's attention. You find where Caesar kicked it?"

"I think so. I also think I have an idea on how the murder happened."

"Assuming of course that Dokuro did not in fact just beat him over the head."

"Yes, Archer. We are assuming that to be the case. Only issue left is somehow proving it."

A few minutes passed, as did a few more archery tricks, before Edgeworth took his place opposite to Bravestarr.

The Judge calmed down from the last of his giggling fits, then cleared his throat and assumed the most grave demeanor he could.

"We are now set to reconvene the trial of Dokuro Mitsukai. Are the prosecution and defense ready?"

"The prosecution is ready, Your Honor."

"The defense is ready, Your Honor."

"In that case, let's continue from where we left off."

"Yes, let's." Edgeworth said. "Before the recess, the defense posited the argument that the murder did not take place in the curia like we initially believed. We have since found strong evidence that this was the case."

"Did you now?" Bravestarr asked. Looked like Archer was right, Edgeworth was looking way too confident.

"Indeed. The room we now suspect the murder took place in belonged to a local artist. He had been using the space as his studio. As such, he had a large mount of molder's clay at the ready."

"And," the Judge started. "Is it safe to assume that you found some kind of clue in this clay?"

"It is, Your Honor. Behold." With a grunt, Edgeworth lugged the mound up onto his desk.

"Wh- Why. There's a hand print in that clay!"

"There is, Your Honor. Additionally, on further inspection, we discovered bits of clay underneath the victim's fingernails, leaving no doubt that the handprint belongs to Caesar."

"And that proves it then, that Caesar was killed in this studio?"

"Not quite."

Bravestarr was taken aback.

"Not quite? But you just said-"

"The hand print proves that Caesar did indeed enter the studio at some time today. It does not, however, prove that he was killed there. After discovering this fact I interviewed much of the audience, and thus produced a new witness to testify about what this hand print means."

The Judge gave an understanding nod.

"The court would like to hear from this next witness then. Please, call them out."

Edgeworth nodded and motioned again towards the edge of the stage. The man who walked out was also clad in a toga. He was older than Brutus, his salt and pepper hair receding back across the dome of his head, and overall he was much stouter and portlier than the prim and cut Brutus. His demeanor was also much more relaxed, he had none of Brutus' gravitas, only an elder's sensibility that things would happen when they would happen.

"Witness," The Judge firmly stated once the man had reached the stand. "Please state your name and occupation for the court."

The man took a second of pause, as if he had to think the question over.

"Marcus Tullius Cicero. Consul of the Roman Republic, and a thinking man."

"A thinking man?"

"Yes, a man who thinks."

"So you mean, a philosopher?"

"That's perhaps giving me too much credit. I couldn't rightly pretend to be a professional, but I do, unlike a great number of people, think."

"As a consul, were you scheduled to attend the meeting that day?" Edgeworth asked.

"I was, though I never got around to it for obvious reasons."

"And were you aware of Brutus' plans?" Bravestarr asked.

"Unfortunately, I was not privy to his machinations. I can hardly blame him, however. It is a most unfortunate situation Rome has found itself in."

"Quite." Edgeworth said. "Cicero, could you testify as to what you witnessed today?"

"Yes, I suppose I could." He absentmindedly scratched at his chin before beginning. "I still had a good amount of time before the meeting was set to start, so I was loitering about the garden."

"And what were you doing during that time?" Bravestarr asked.

Cicero gave it some thought.

"Ruminating. Pondering. Thinking about things, I suppose."

"You seem to like thinking, don't you?"

"There are surprisingly few who still do."

"What were you thinking about?"

"Well, I was meditating on the nature of man's duty to society an-"

Edgeworth slammed a hand into his desk.

"For the sake of the court, I'm going to cut you off there. You were in the garden and thinking, what did you see then?"

"Right. Well, I was shaken out of my thoughts when I saw an odd looking girl going into that room."

Bravestarr turned to Dokuro.

"You did what?"

Dokuro winced under the pressure.

"S- Sorry. What I mean is, what were you doing in there?"

"I saw the funny looking statue from outside, through the window. I wanted to check it out."

Edgeworth chuckled.

"We can take the defendant's last statement as a confession of entering the crime scene then."

"Hold on now." Bravestarr shot back. "The statue in there might've been funny looking, but we don't know for sure that was the same room as the one Caesar was killed in."

"I'm positive it was that room." Cicero said. "I know the kid that uses it, he's a nice boy. Really putting his all into learning his craft."

Bravestarr crossed his arms.

"Alright then, continue."

"The girl was certainly odd, but I had much more pressing matters on my mind, so I wandered away from the door. But, oh, I did definitely see the cart just outside the room before I left. A little while later, maybe 15 minutes or so, I wandered back. Nothing much looked different, but the cart had disappeared."

"That would mean that the murder probably took place in those 15 minutes."

"Exactly in the time frame when the defendant was in the room." Edgeworth noted.

"Objection. There's a massive gap in the witness's testimony. There's no saying that Dokuro didn't leave the room in that time."

"She'd have cut it awful close in that case."

"Anything's possible."

"Including the possibility that she killed Caesar."

"Ah, yes," Cicero added wistfully. "The uncertainty of the existence of all possible occurrences. You see, when an event occurs outside of the observation of any person, than all possible occurrences exist within that timefrane simultaneously and equally as-"

"Hold on there Cicero." Bravestarr said. "Before we start talking about that, I had a few other questions to ask you."

"Yes, of course."

"How long were you watching the door before leaving to wander?"

Cicero gave it some thought.

"Probably... 30 minutes. Perhaps a little longer."

"And did you see anyone else enter the room in that time?"

"No, I can't say that I did."

"No one? Not a single other person?"

"Is this a riddle? I'll have you know, I'm very good at figuring those out. Let's see..."

"It's not that complicated. I just mean, if Caesar was killed in that studio, then shouldn't you have seen him enter?"

"Objection." Edgeworth said. "Caesar could've easily entered in the 15 minute gap."

"Objection. Caesar's hand print was found on the far wall, how would it get there if he entered second, putting him closer to the door than Dokuro?"

"She could've easily lulled him into a false sense of security, allowing him to move around the room before the murder occurred."

"...All right. I have something else to ask anyways. Cicero, what exactly were you doing in this 15 minute gap?"

"Well, that was about when I stumbled on Mr. Edgeworth and we struck up a conversation."

Bravestarr's eyebrows shot straight up.

"Don't look so surprised, Marshall. My cohorts and I arrived here a few days ago, of course we would think to visit the Pompey Theater."

Bravestarr quietly noted the real reason Edgeworth would have for wanting to visit the theater on this day.

"And I'm glad you did." Cicero said. "Our conversation on the role of the law was quite thought provoking."

"Who all was with Mr. Edgeworth when you talked to him? I see he has all three of his... cohorts with him now."

"I believe it was just the two young girls that were with him at the time. The frightening man with the blue face paint wasn't present for our conversation, though I would've loved to hear his input."

"Marshall, you best not be suggesting-"

"That with as heavily involved in the investigation as you were, it would be easy for one of your cohorts to have committed the crime and slipped back with you before anyone could notice? I might be."

The crowd flew into an uproar. The Judge practically had to scream to quiet them all down again.

"Objection!" Edgeworth yelled. "Have you forgotten Marshall, that the only possible murder weapon that we've found so far is the girl's bat?"

"Now, Mr. Edgeworth, what did we just finish saying about possibilities? There was another murder weapon, and it was left at the scene even."

"What are you- GUH!"

"I think you get the picture. There were two instruments of murder present in that room that would've allowed anyone to commit the crime. One being gravity, the other being a top heavy statue just waiting to get pushed over."

"Order!" the Judge yelled, straining to be heard over the crowd. "I said, order! Mr. Edgeworth, what is this statue?"

"This statue," Edgeworth growled. "Is a wobbling atrocity in the vague shape of Pluto, that has trouble staying upright when looked at too hard."

"I didn't think it was that bad." Cicero said.

"Unfortunately, Marshall, there was no blood found anywhere on the statue."

"The murderer could've easily wiped it away with the rug. There was no blood found in the cart either, but you seem to have accepted my theory that it was used to haul the body."

"That is merely a possibility, but it is a possibility that holds no evidence, unlike the one stating that the girl used her bat to kill the victim. Some possibilities, Marshall, are more likely than others I'm afraid."

"But you just admitted-"

"Mr. Worthington spends a lot of time on his own, so no, he was not with us at the time of the crime. By the fact that she was spotted at the scene of the crime, however, I'm guessing the same could be said about your cohort Ms. Mitsukai. Your Honor, I implore you, do not get caught up in the defense's faulty train of logic."

"But..." Bravestarr stammered. "But..."

"I do think there's a lot of holes present in this case." The Judge said. "However, as much of the tangible evidence points in one direction, I feel confident handing down my verdict. The defendant was seen entering the scene of the crime at the time of the crime, and was carrying a bloodstained murder weapon."

Bravestarr stole a glance towards Dokuro. Her teeth were grit and tears were welling up in her eyes.

"Bravestarr-san, please... Say something."

"I- I don't know what to say. I've asserted every point that I can think of, I thought the statue would be my ace in the hole, but that just got cast aside."

"And that was your mistake." Edgeworth said. "Putting your faith in faulty evidence and conjecture."

Bravestarr placed his face in his hands. What in the nebula was he supposed to do now? There had to be something, anything he could latch onto. Some piece of evidence, something the murderer left behind. But as the Judge finalized his thoughts, his mind became an absolute blank.

"Well, I mean, if he's not going to."

Bravestarr looked up just in time to see Archer pound his fist on the desk.

"Objection!"

In an instant, the entire theater fell into a deafening silence.

"Wow, that felt pretty good." Archer said.

"Archer, what're you-"

"Don't get the wrong idea or anything. It's just that Archangel's a dick, and I don't like the idea of him getting away with this."

The Judge seemed to have trouble following.

"Err, does the defense have any further statements?"

"Yeah, yeah it does. See, Bravestarr, you were doing pretty good, but your thinking's too narrow, you weren't asking the right questions."

Edgeworth pounded his hand against the desk.

"And what on earth does that mean?"

"Just, stick with me on this one, okay? Question one, how ignorant was Caesar actually to the murder plot? Maybe he was so full of himself that he didn't think for an instant his fellow Senators would turn on him."

"Seems likely to me." Cicero said.

"Or, maybe he didn't. Maybe he had his own suspicions, especially when he was being called to a meeting. Which brings me to question two, where did the knife in the cart come from? It wasn't Brutus', and given that the cart was found empty and we couldn't find any objects left behind in its absence, we can assume that it started empty as well. In which case, the knife most likely came from the scene of the crime, and was dumped in the cart by the murderer."

"What are you getting at Mr. Archer?" Edgeworth asked. "Need I remind you again that the victim was hit with a blunt object, not stabbed?"

"Hold your horses, I'm getting there. Question three, how long did the victim survive after being hit over the head? Whether it was the statue or the bat, getting clobbered doesn't always mean the person immediately dies. The only reason you thought he did is because there weren't signs of a struggle on Dokuro or in the curia. But of course, the scene of the crime wasn't the curia, we know that now. Question four, why was there blood on the cart's handle? Obviously it had to have been left there by the murderer, but for that to be the case, the murderer would have had to touch an open wound with their palm. In both scenarios, the victim was killed by a lengthy weapon that wouldn't cause enough splatter to leave a stain, least of all on the murderer's hand. The only wound the victim sustained was on his head, and trust me it's actually really hard to haul people around by their heads. The murderer would have no reason to do something like that, so we have to think instead about what wounds they would touch with their palm. Combine that with the fact that the victim was probably carrying a knife on him and might have lived for a while after being struck, and we come to my main point. Question five. Why is Archangel suddenly wearing a thick and heavy toga?"

The entire theater was dead silent. The quiet hung over the entire stadium like a veil, cushioning not only sound but seemingly movement and time in that one instant.

"What?" Archer asked. "Did I get something wrong?"

"Unfortunately for you, defense," Edgeworth said. "The only thing Mr. Worthington has covered is a back growth that would draw stares. Nothing more, nothing less."

"Well, partner." Bravestarr said. "I'd put my money where my mouth is. I promise we won't laugh."

Edgeworth chuckled.

"Very well. I think it's about time we revealed our hand then, wouldn't you agree Mr. Worthington?"

Archangel cross his arms and growled. A twinge of concern flashed across Edgeworth's face.

"Worthington, don't waste the court's time."

"You seem nervous flyboy." Archer said. "Sure you aren't hiding anything else beneath that robe?"

"Warren... You didn't..."

Archangel sighed.

"Whatever." he growled. "It wasn't a bad plan, Edgeworth. You just lacked conviction to see it through."

With one hand, Archangel ripped the fabric from off of him. The crowd gasped in shock at the sight of his looming, metal wings. Bravestarr, however, was only focussed on the gash in his side.

"It's appropriate, the only way a human could hope to harm one of my kind was by catching us with our back turned. That son of a bastard must have been sawing at his binds the entire time." Archangel's wings fluttered, then pushed him into the air over the crowd. "Caesar was doomed to die, he was always doomed to die, and Rome was always doomed to fall. The same way all human civilizations fall, rotting from within. The only question there ever was, is who would fulfill that destiny. Would it be them?" He pointed towards Bravestarr and Archer. "Or would it be us? Edgeworth was given the opportunity to get the upper hand on the enemy, and he nearly squandered it. But you, people of Rome, you don't care anymore. How could you? Once your species witnesses Homo Superior, what course have you but to forget the petty squables of your own. Behold, people of Rome, your obsoletio-"

Archangel stumbled in the air, falling, flinching, and shrieking in pain. An arrow had pierced the tip of his right wing.

"Come on guys," Archer said, nocking another arrow. "It's just wings, not like it's anything impressive."

Archangel turned and fixed Archer with a glare so intense that Bravestarr could see it from the ground. He dived, Bravestarr had to hold onto his hat to keep it from getting lost in the slipstream, Archer didn't have a chance at dodging.

All Romans present took that as their cue to leave. Scrambling over one another to get out of the building, they quickly left the two teams on their own to settle things however they saw fit.

Bravestarr turned, facing the enemy Master.

"Mr. Edgeworth, I'm gonna need you to come with me."

Edgeworth looked panicked.

"Ms. D'Arc, to me."

The girl, D'Arc, slid to a stop just in front of Edgeworth. A flash of light blinded Bravestarr for a moment, and when he looked back her plain jane clothes were gone, replaced by brilliant armor and a shining sword.

Chapter Text

With a tug, Dokuro broke the rope tying her hands behind her back.

"Wh-"

A girl with long, lavender hair pulled back with a headband, wearing a soft red dress with black pants underneath stood off to the side.

"You could break out of that?"

"Yeah, of course."

"Why didn't you earlier, then?"

"I couldn't. You captured me."

"That- That doesn't make any sense? Are you stupid or something?"

Dokuro's face crumpled.

"Bitch what you just fuckin' say to me?"

"You heard me. Stupid."

Dokuro dove through the air, shouting "WORLD STAR" with the intensity to make a warrior shrink like a kitten. The girl reached behind her for a pink, rabbit shaped stuffed animal, but Dokuro tackled the girl to the ground before she could. She wrestled her onto her back while furiously, and almost exclusively, yanking at the girl's hair.

The two children quickly began a tangle of limbs, each trying to grapple the other and land a blow somewhere fleshy and soft. The hair, also, a major target for both. The words "skank" and "ho" got thrown around at an impressive firing rate of at least 10 rounds a minute.

Chapter Text

"Now, ma'am." Bravestarr said, slowing backing up. "I don't want to hurt you."

"That's good. You should leave then."

"Well, I don't want to do that either."

"Then you leave me no choice."

D'Arc swung her sword, Bravestarr wasn't anywhere close enough for the swing to hit, but the beam of energy that shot from the blade certainly would. He tapped his badge, and the energy barrier sprung to life, reflecting the beam back to sender. D'Arc tackled Edgeworth to the ground as the beam passed over them both. It struck a pillar, slicing it clean in half and sending a tremor through the entire building. Rubble began falling from the ceiling as cracks spider webbed their way through what little support it had left. D'Arc clung to Edgeworth who himself curled up, doing his best to cover the back of his neck.

"Speed of the Puma!"

In a blur of yellow and white, Bravestarr scooped the both of them up in either arm, getting them clear of the stage as the pillars crumbled completely and crashed to the floor.

Chapter Text

Dokuro pushed a large slab of marble off of her and clambered out of the rubble. She took a moment took catch her breath and brush some of the dust off her before cackling madly, kicking at the chunks of stone that had buried her opponent.

"Yeah! Fuckin', yeah! Fuck with me! Fuck with me, ho! Ha ha! World Star!"

Chapter Text

Archangel dragged Clint off the stage and onto the floor by his leg. He stopped at just the point where Caesar's body had been found, then flipped Clint and slammed him into the ground. Clint had a moment of being spread eagle and gurgling before Archangel grabbed him by the back of his head. His wings took them both into the air, 1... 2... 3 feet up before slamming back down.

The entirety of Clint's face broke, or at least it felt like it did. Blood was pouring out from somewhere, probably somewhere important, probably a lot of somewhere importants.

And it came again, Archangel flew him up 5... 10... 15 feet, and then back down he went. Rock crumbled underneath the impact of Clint's face, the fact that he even had a face anymore was honestly a surprise.

"You are truly a representation of your entire species. Trying to assault your genetic superior with such a primitive weapon. Shooting pointed sticks at a god!"

The ground left Clint again. 10... 20... God, please stop counting. His face slammed back down, historians could probably ID him by the imprint he was leaving in the floor. He lifted his head however slightly he could muster. Teeth were practically flowing out of his mouth.

"It's still... cooler... than just... having wings."

Archangel responded by tossing him into the air and grabbing him by his neck, holding Clint off the ground, struggling and failing to keep his hand from crushing his windpipe.

"Let it not be said that I'm not merciful to those lesser than me. I grant you your final words."

"Wha- Yeah, no, it's fine go ahead."

Archangel looked confused at the final message, but wasn't about to wait for a second one.

"Very well. Here is where the great legacy of the third rate Avenger dies, wi-"

Archangel couldn't finish his sentence as Dokuro's bat rended through him, scattering his upper half in a confetti of chunks of bleeding flesh and shredded metal.

Clint fell back to the ground and gave a weak smile that was more gap than tooth, then shakily raised a thumbs up. Dokuro enthusiastically returned it.

Chapter Text

"Edgeworth, listen to me." Bravestarr said. "You're associated with the man who killed the leader of Rome and now you've gone and destroyed a landmark. How do you think they're gonna treat you the second they get their hands on you?"

"Monsieur Edgeworth," D'Arc said, not turning her back to Bravestarr. "No matter what happens, I promise I will protect you."

"I can get us all back to the Hub right now. It'll desummon your Servants and knock you out of the running for the grail, but at least you'll be safe."

"Monsieur Edgeworth please, I can get us out of here, I can still fix things."

"I..." Edgeworth shakily got to his feet. "I'm sorry, Marshall. But I can't accept these terms. Ms. D'Arc, take us a-"

A sound cut him off. It wasn't loud or anything, it wasn't a booming shock or an out of nowhere screech that forced his mouth shut. Rather, it was a simple sound. A sound that seemed out of place in its simplicity, surrounded as they were by ruins and carnage.

It was the sound of a cane tapping across the floor.

"You played a good game, Mr. Edgeworth." Danzo said as he approached. "But I believe this is checkmate."

"You should learn your chess Mr. Shimura, checkmate doesn't happen until the king has no further options. Ms. D'Arc, we really need to-"

This one was a bit more a surprise. In a flash, Danzo was on D'Arc, lifting her into by her throat before slamming her into the ground. Rock flew into the air for meters as D'Arc landed. The stone underneath her cratered like a comet hit, and all the air was forcibly shot from her body. Danzo released his grip, leaving D'Arc to writhe on the ground. He turned back to Edgeworth.

"Checkmate."

Edgeworth stumbled back and fell onto his hands.

"Wh- What are you going to do to me?"

Danzo looked at him, gave him a moment to be truly terrified before responding.

"Nothing." he said. "Bravestarr, we're leaving."

Bravestarr watched as the implication of what Danzo said hit home.

"W- Wait. You said you could take us back to the Hub. Take me back, take me back now! Please!"

Danzo smiled.

"Glad you could see things our way."

Bravestarr produced his handcuffs and ran over to Edgeworth. He didn't lose any time pulling Edgeworth's hands behind his back and clapping them over his wrists. As the chakra was blocked from his hands and the last of it ebbed away from his mark, the five of them got caught up in a bright flash and in the next instant they were back in the Hub.

Clint was laying on the floor, bleeding out of who knows how many wounds.

"Um, Archer-san."

"Yeah, Dokuro?"

"Well, um, Bravestarr-san told me that you didn't want me to bludgeon you anymore. And, and you seemed really angry at me for doing it. But then you saved me anyways, so I want to help you, but..."

"Alright, one last time. Just the one last time. I still got things I want to do with this face, so-"

Archer was cut off from finishing that sentence as he found himself in that black and blue void with his mother again.

Archer sighed.

"Hey mom." he said, doing his best to smile for her. "I'm hoping this'll be the last time. I think things might work out from here on. At least, you know, as well as things can work out with me. So, uh, I guess this is goodbye. Again."

Clint pressed his body as far against the fabric between them as he could muster. Edith mimicked the motion, and the two got the closest thing they could get to an embrace.

"Goodbye Clint. I know some things didn't turn out like you wanted, but I just want you to know I'm so proud of you."

"Thanks mom. That means a lot."

Chapter Text

"Hey there kids." Bravestarr said. "In today's story we learned something about boundaries."

"Pi Piru Piru Piru PiPiru Pi!" Dokuro twirled her bat behind Bravestarr as he talked.

"Dokuro may have just thought she was playing, she didn't think she was actually hurting Archer, but she also wasn't respecting his boundaries."

Archer stumbled through the glittering sparkles as he came back and readjusted to his body. It took a second for him to get his footing, but the second he did he bolted off to grab his bucket.

"When a friend, or anyone really, tells you to stop doing something, the best thing to do is stop and apologize. The same goes in reverse, if someone you know is doing something that you don't like or don't feel comfortable with, don't be afraid to set boundaries for yourself. If they don't respect those boundaries, tell an adult."

The sound of retching could be heard from the next room.

"That's some good advice Bravestarr-san. I'll try and respect Archer-san's boundaries from now on."

"Thank futzing Christ. I'm going to bed."

Chapter Text

The Long Arm of the Law

Master: Danzo Shimura

Archer: Clint Barton

Berserker: Dokuro Mitsukai

Rider: Marshal BraveStarr


 

The Brightest Day and Blackest Night

 

Master: Grigori Rasputin

Rider: Viewtiful Joe

Lancer: Creed Diskenth

Saber: Velvet Scarlatina

???: ???

Chapter Text

"You take me for a fool."

"I have no idea what you cou-"

"Don't. You will stop feeding me lies this instant."

Aizen leaned back in his chair and checked to make sure Danzo was done.

"Danzo," he said after the confirmation. "I have done nothing but present you with hypotheticals and possibilities. You're the one hellbent on figuring out my deep, hidden, intricate plans. I'm here to help you develop your ideas and check your logic."

Danzo snarled, but said nothing in response to this.

"No, no. Please continue. Tell me all about how I've been deceiving you this entire time."

"These missions, these fights you've been sending us on, they've nothing at all to do with correcting any issues with the timeline. Not from your end, or the grail's."

"It's not as if Caesar was supposed to be killed by a teenage girl, your team changed things."

"Caesar was not supposed be to killed by a blue winged devil either. The only deciding factor on when the singularity is extinguished is when one team defeats the other. It's nothing to do with correcting a timeline or keeping transpired events transpired. All it's ever been was a fight between two teams, despite your insistence that there was more to the grail's intention."

Aizen gave Danzo another moment, and when no more words came, he began to laugh.

"And just what is so funny?"

"I'm sorry," Aizen said, calming himself. "But when were you under the impression that you were supposed to be correcting the timeline? Did I ever tell you that this was the case? Have I ever gave you any hint that this was for something so petty as the good of mankind?"

Danzo blustered.

"But that girl-"

"Is a master of time. You could tell, couldn't you? When you looked at her with your sharingan? She probably just had it on her mind, and you took her words at face value."

"The grail, it-"

"I have told you one thing since the beginning. That the grail is looking for someone worthy to possess it. And so far, you have clawed and scraped and argued and speculated your way to come to the exact conclusion that I let you in on to start with. It would be giving me too much credit to say you've been outplayed, Danzo. You outplayed yourself."

Danzo snarled. He reached into his robe and grabbed at his kunai. And in that instant, something unexpected happened. Aizen moved.

Before his fingers could even find purchase, Aizen drew his blade and held it to Danzo's throat. Standing at full height, Danzo could see that Aizen had a solid head's advantage on him. From his position, against the window, shadow covered his face, shrouding that never breaking smile.

"You may want to wake up now."

Danzo didn't have much of a choice as his eyes flashed open. He grabbed at his face and yelled in frustration.

In the main room, Clint was shooting arrows into a makeshift target (all dead center every time of course) when he heard Danzo screaming about something.

A couple thoughts flashed through his mind at that moment. Was he in trouble? Should Clint check on him? Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha. You're funny, Clint. Thanks, Clint.

Stop talking to yourself, Clint.

Whatever, there wasn't any follow up noise and Clint wasn't disappearing from this plane of existence yet, so he probably wasn't in any danger. Wonder what caused it, then. Was the old man human enough to have nightmares? Did he have enough stamina left to have wet dreams? Maybe he saw a cockroach. Yeah, that was probably it. Cockroaches were gross.

Chapter Text

World famous High Prosecutor of the Los Angeles area, noted prodigy, prosecuting genius, and obscenely wealthy man Miles Edgeworth sat in his rusty and run down jail cell, leaning against the wall on his bed. The first thing he made to do was take his jacket off, but with his cuffs on that was impossible, so he reluctantly left it on and fished Widget out from his pocket. Apparently Athena had installed a number of games onto the device. He certainly hoped she didn't play them during court, but at the moment they came in quite handy.

Still, it wasn't to say that Edgeworth was bored. Or alone. Edgeworth was wishing he was bored and alone but neither of those things seemed like they were going to happen any time soon.

"-and when I get outta here, why I'm gonna, I'll make Bravestarr sorry he ever crossed me, I'll use my hexes to enchant the bars of the prison and make them swallow him up and then HE'LL be the one locked away."

"I have been here for only three hours." Edgeworth said. "And you haven't stopped ranting long enough for three seconds of silence. Will you give it a rest?"

"I've been here for like a week, dude." said the pink cosplayer in the opposite cell. "He doesn't."

Edgeworth and the purple man with shocking white who was doing all the ranting both sat in mostly bare cells. The cosplayer's cell though, was decked out in a number of creature comforts. Shelves filled with books, a writing desk with plenty of pens and paper, a large plastic purple shaft that she hadn't even bothered to hide. Edgeworth was worried that favoritism would play some kind of role in how his stay in the makeshift prison would go, but the cosplayer assured him that it was only cause the purple man hadn't asked for anything. Bravestarr was an agreeable man, Edgeworth had picked so much up on his own.

"Bravestarr thinks he's such a saint, he'll bring us food and talk on and on about not wanting to make this experience worse than it has to be. Actin' like he isn't lockin' us up just for bein' in his way."

"It's an unfortunate situation, but I can't complain too much. Offering imprisonment over death is the exact thing I just tried to do. Perhaps it's my just desserts to end up on the other end. From everything I've heard, there are plenty of people here who'd sooner kill those they defeat than offer them mercy and asylum."

"I'm telling you, dude. You're not gonna get through to him. Just let him rant, he'll tire himself out eventually."

"Let me ask you this, then." Edgeworth said. "Do you actually have a plan of escape or are you just a sore loser?"

The purple man snarled.

"It's a work in progress."

"Of course it is."

"Alright, smart guy. How about a wager, then. If I can get us out of here, then you'll join my gang and take orders from me."

"I'll try to avoid holding my breath."

"Yes or no, fancy-pants. You gonna talk all that trash then back out?"

"Fine. It's not like anything will come of it. Should I at least learn the name of my would-be boss?"

"Tex Hex." His smile turned wicked. "But soon you'll just need to call me sir."

"Very well, Mr. Hex. But if I win, if you don't manage to help us escape in any way whatsoever, then you will turn yourself in as soon as you return to your home."

"What? Why in Alpha Centauri would I do something like that?"

"Because, this is where criminals like you belong, Mr. Hex. But I can understand if the confidence you hold in your 'work in progress' plan is suddenly waning."

Tex Hex growled.

"Alright Mr. Prim and Proper. You gots yourself a deal."

The cosplayer rolled her eyes and huffed.

"Men."

Chapter Text

There was something troubling Clint.

"Archer-san!"

Couple things, there was a couple troubling Clint. He flinched back as Dokuro grabbed him on his shoulder. He wasn't even sure how she was able to reach, and turning to face her didn't give him any answers.

"Hey, uh," The kid's making efforts to actually play nice, don't be mean to her Clint, try and repair this massacred, burning bridge. "Little shit."

Dokuro gasped.

"Archer-san..."

"Wai- I, I didn't mean-"

"Was that a pet name Archer-san? You really don't hate me?"

Clint rubbed the back of his neck.

"Ah, yep. Caught me red handed."

"You seemed lost in thought Archer-san. What were you thinking about?"

Crap, what had he been thinking about? He looked back over the Hub's second floor balcony, trying to rerail his train of thought, then suddenly remembered.

"Oh, right, everything's not broken."

"Huh?"

"Well I mean, just before we left that giant fist obliterated the second story, but there's not a scratch on it now. That's, that's weird right?"

"Maybe they fixed it while we were gone."

"It's time travel, Dokuro, it'd be harder to do something other than send us back to right after we left."

"But, we were gone too long to do that, Archer-san."

Clint rubbed his eyes.

"Forget it. You want to tell me something or what?"

Dokuro slammed a fist into her palm.

"Right! Another adult fun place opened up, Archer-san!"

Clint frowned at her.

"You're not taking me to another brothel."

"No, this one is an actually fun adult place with adults in it having actual adult fun."

"...Orgy club?"

"No Archer-san. Just, follow me."

She didn't give Clint the time or option to say no. Last time she had been kind and dragged him up a flight of stares by his wrist. This time he wasn't so lucky, she went for the ankle. The back of Clint's head bumped along each and every step as the two of them rushed down the stairs.

Eventually, mercifully, she stopped. Clint got to his feet and tried to force the world to stop being three for a moment to catch his bearings. The world refused.

Going off what he COULD interpret in his severely rattled brain, he could hear talking, laughter, the clinking of glass. Ah.

Yes, as Clint's vision grudgingly returned to him, he could confirm that he was standing just outside of a bar. Well, kind of. It was clearly another set of quarters, and wasn't originally supposed to be a bar. The outside framing was rusted and scrapped together metal, but whoever hadn't repurposed the outside had repurposed the inside just fine.

Wait, no. Did Clint have a concussion?

The inside was heavily repurposed. Glowing mahogany table, excellent mood lighting, shelves upon shelves of booze of every kind, and standing behind the bar was an odd looking but well dressed man cleaning out the inside of a shot glass.

"I do have a killer headache..." Clint muttered as he stepped inside.

The moment he stepped through the quarter's door, the sound became amplified, but that was just how acoustics worked. The laughter and socializing suddenly became very close, not literally, well, yes literally since he had gotten closer but more in that it got very loud very suddenly.

Dammit, Clint did have a concussion didn't he?

Still, one familiar voice could be easily heard above the crowd.

"And then she said 'That's MY spaceship!' and I said right on back to her 'That's nice, but it's illegally parked.'"

The group of people sitting around Bravestarr's table burst into laughter. Many of them, most of them, actually all of them downed their drinks in celebration.

"Well now," Bravestarr said, finally noticing. "Look who's finally up and about."

"Yeah, well, I kinda got dragged here. Didn't think the Hub would have a place like this."

"Just opened." The blond man in a ripped red jacket and matching baseball cap lifted his shot towards Clint. "Just in time too, I was close to losing it without a drink."

"Tell me about it." Clint grabbed an empty seat and pulled himself up to the table. "So what've they got here?"

"Well just about anything!" Bravestarr downed the rest of the clear liquid in his shot glass. "That bartender's a real genius I tell ya. Just describe the kind of drink you're looking for and he can make an exact copy."

"That's impressive. And kinda suspicious. Yo barkeep!" Clint threw a hand up to motion to the strange guy behind the bar. "Just a brandy for me. You know what that is, right?"

The bartender grunted some kind of affirmation. Within seconds he walked over to the table and placed a shot glass full of golden brown liquid in front of Clint. He downed it, and was genuinely impressed.

"Hey," he said, holding the empty glass up for the bartender to see. "This is really spot on!"

The bartender looked up from cleaning out that glass again. Clint still wasn't sure how to feel about the odd appearance though. Traditional Japanese robes, they hung off him loosely too, and a face covered in paint, or maybe that was just how his skin looked, forming a black and white pattern, framed by shining golden accessories. The bartender grunted a confirmation of receiving the compliment and looked away again.

Chapter Text

People were stupid, Mayuri thought. Stupid and gullible and really far too trusting. A fellow Servant just opening up a bar? Really? Giving away drinks for free, and doing nothing to hinder the competition? Really? Stupid. They sure were lucky that his thoughts were somewhere other than on winning the grail. If he wanted to he could kill the whole lot of them without risking a hair on his head. But he wanted test subjects, so they wouldn't die. Not yet at least.

"Hey guy." The annoying patron with the bow and arrow yelled at him again. "I think that glass is clean by now."

Mayuri paused, stopping the proccess of rubbing anaesthetic into the glass for a moment, and grunted an understanding of the fact. Then went back to it. The patron shrugged and dived into a deep conversation with the other patrons at the table. Stupid.

The patron at the bar spoke up. Caucasian middle aged male, bald with scars across his face, wearing a yellow and black shirt with some kind of weapon strapped to his back.

"Man," he said. "How do you do it?"

Trick a whole room full of trained fighters into ingesting poison? Easy, they're stupid.

"You're working from raw materials here, how do you get it so close to the actual drink?"

A grunt wasn't going to answer that one. Unfortunate.

"I'm a chemist by trade. It's a simple matter to know what mixture will cause what reactions to the tastebuds."

And which won't be detected in the slightest.

The patron gave a short laugh.

"Now ain't that something. That's gotta be a fucking superpower on it's own. Hey, uh, get me another one while I got you."

"Yo, barkeep!" Just pass out already, the lot of you. "Another brandy, please."

Mayuri acquiesed to both requests. At this rate it'd be faster to just spread the powder over the crowd.

Ah, finally, the canary drops dead. A kid who had sat and drank in the corner collapsed onto his table. And with the crowd as inebriated as they were, nobody noticed. Mayuri just kept rubbing his glass.

"No, seriously." The bow patron again. "That glass is clean man, stop it."

"Oh." Mayuri said, allowing a broader smile to creep onto his face. "It seems you're mistaken. You see, I'm not cleaning this glass, I'm rubbing in the anaesthetic."

The patron laughed.

"What?" Stupid.

He got the picture when the rest of his table began to collapse as well. The last thing he muttered was about something looking bad, and then Mayuri was in a room full of prime test subjects, ripe and vulnerable for the plucking. He stopped cleaning the glass, err, rubbing in the anaesthetic.

Chapter Text

Danzo approached Dokuro. Usually the tapping of his cane caused people to notice him quickly, it was useful for when he wanted to start the conversation as soon as possible. Dokuro didn't however. She was standing in the middle of the food court, using her bat to smash a pile of raw tomatoes. Not once did her ears even perk up at his approach.

"Dokuro," he yelled. "What are you doing?"

She looked to Danzo, then back to the pile of tomatoes, then back to Danzo.

"I don't understand the question."

Danzo growled.

"Where are the others?"

"The other who?"

"Archer and Bravestarr!"

"Oh. They're at that new bar, drinking special grown up juice."

She immediately went back to smashing tomatoes. Danzo snatched the bat from her.

"They're what?"

"Someone opened up a bar in their quarters and have been giving out free drinks."

"You idiot!" He whacked Dokuro over the head with her own bat. "One of our competitors is giving out free drinks? Did you not for one second consider that this might be a trap?"

"Um, no, Danzo-san." Dokuro rubbed the sore spot on her head.

Danzo thrust her bat back into her arms.

"Take me to this bar, now."

Dokuro sollemnly left her pile of half-smashed tomatoes and walked off into the Hub. They soon stopped in front of a set of quarters. The framing was of rusted metal, but the interior was a ritzy bar. It was also dead empty and dead quiet.

"Oh no," Dokuro placed both hands to her face. "You don't think they got killed, do you Danzo-san?"

Danzo thought about it.

"Possibly. But given that the bodies were carted away, they may want to do something else with them. And if that's true, they may want live ones."

"I- I'll fix things, Danzo-san. I'll go in there and bust some heads and-"

"Absolutely not." Dokuro stopped dead in her tracks. "If you attack any of them we'll just be dragged into a singularity. If Archer and Bravestarr are truly dead, then we'd be put at a major disadvantage. I'll allow you to make amends for your disasterous mistake, but you are to under no circumstances harm an opponent, am I understood."

"So what you're saying is, this is a sneaking mission?"

Danzo raised an eyebrow at the absurd question. Dokuro returned it with a sly smile.

Chapter Text

A cardboard box shuffled its way into the bar. Dokuro was inside it, practically invisible to the world. Her headband fluttered in the breeze that eaked its way into her box. She took a drag on her cigarette. Then she coughed all the smoke back up, nearly hacked up her lung. Cigarettes were gross. She threw it out the hole in the box and made her way in. Invisible to the whole entire world.

Dokuro inched her way to the back, stopping just outside a door marked "Employee Only". She tapped the piece of machinery in her ear, activating her codec communications network. A ringtone buzzed in her ear as she connected to her intel.

"Otacon-san. I'm ready to infiltrate the compound, what do I need to know?"

The man with curly hair and glasses on the other end seemed very surprised.

"Wha- Who- How did you get this frequency? Listen, little girl, I don't know what's going on but you can't-"

The ringtone buzzed again.

"Hang on Otacon-san, I need to put you on hold."

Danzo's annoyed visage quickly replaced Otacon's.

"Dokuro, have you found the Servants yet?"

"Not yet, I'm just about to infiltrate the compound now."

"You know, there is such a thing as being too careful."

"Really?"

"No, but it would be best for everyone if you hurried it up."

"Roger."

"I've done some research on the occupants of those quarters. They're an odd group to say the least. Two fighters, an assassin and a sportsman, pay them no mind and avoid contact with them at all costs. The Master is close to powerless, what little abilities they do possess are purely passive, meaning they cannot initiate a singularity. Still, do not engage."

"And the last Servant?"

"The last Servant is our target. Mayuri Kurotsuchi, a chemist who makes a hobby of experimenting on human test subjects."

"A chemist?"

"An apothecary, a pharmacologist, a scientist specializing in chemicals. The good news is that probably means Archer and Bravestarr are alive, for now at least. Get in, find them, get out."

"I'm on it."

Dokuro quietly deactivated her codec and used her box to nudge the door open. It was a slow process, but a neccessary precaution. The space behind the bar was decorated more to look like a boiler room, probably a holdover from whatever the quarters were supposed to look like before they redecorated it to be a bar. Steam hissed from the walls, water dripped from the ceiling. Dokuro quietly wondered if these things served any actual purpose. A hallway branched off to Dokuro's left, voices pinged off the metallic walls, Dokuro situated her box just behind the corner, and listened.

Thwack! Thwack!

"No!" an older voice yelled.

Smack.

"You are used to fighting for the amusement of others." it continued. "You are used to holding back to ensure the safety of your fellow performers. If you wish to not die broken and in pain then you will learn to release your inhibitions and strike with intent to kill. Now, again."

A girl moaned, then the Thwack!ing continued. Ooh, scandalous. But Dokuro wasn't here to learn all the local gossip. She was on a mission, and as such she shuffled on.

The voices continued.

"What was that noise?" the girl asked.

"Likely an intruder. Hopefully they'll save me the trouble and kill Mayuri. Now, who said you could stop attacking!?"

The girl went EEK and went back at it.

Eventually Dokuro made it to a metal door, as rusted and worn down as everything else in these quarters. She reached a hand out through the box's slit and tried the handle. Locked, she should've known it.

She activated the codec again.

"Danzo-san. I've hit a locked door, what do I do?"

Danzo-san stared at the girl.

"By the look of the lock," she continued. "I'd say the key is made with a shape memory alloy, so I'll have to not only find the key, but find ways to bring it to different temperatures and try each variation on the lock."

"Dokuro, j-"

"Where would I even find a key though, maybe those two fighter guys have one. I bet if I could sneak up on them real quiet like, I could snatch it from them without them even noticing."

"Dokuro-"

"And if I time out the bursts of steam just right, I can maybe heat the key to a high enough temperature to try it like that, but if it's the cold key I need, I'd have to go back to the food court and try their ice box."

"Dokuro!"

"Whaaaaaaaaaaaaat?"

"Break the door down."

"Oh yeah."

Dokuro burst from her cardboard box and drew excalibolg. With a single swing, the door was sent flying from its lock and hinges and frame and the everlasting pull of gravity, only stopping when it hit the opposite wall and fell with a clang. She looked around the room, and when she saw the coast was clear and not nobody had noticed nothing, she shuffled back under her box and moved on.

Past the door the quarters led into an expansive maze of corridors, each one leading to a number of rooms, each room containing man-sized tubes of liquid that were so perfectly man-sized that each one contained a man. Dokuro made sure to check every room she came across, but it wasn't until the fifth that she found Archer and Bravestarr. Unfortunately, there was also another man in the room with them, but he wasn't in the man-sized tubes. He was walking around, studying the men in the man-sized tubes closely. He was wearing a poofy white overcoat and had a weird black and white face with a fancy golden hat.

Being a top secret, super stealthy, sneaking mission as this was, Dokuro knew exactly how to handle this situation.

She lifted the box a smidge and brought out excalibolg. Carefully and quietly, she tapped the door. This time it didn't fly off its hinges, it just slowly fell out of them, landing on the ground with a massive SLAM!

Mayuri turned around just as Dokuro pulled her arm back into the box.

"What are you doing?" he asked.

"I'm hiding." she answered.

"What's the purpose of hiding if you're going to give away your position anyways?"

"Because you can't find me."

Mayuri wordlessly walked over and kicked the box off of the crouching Dokuro.

She jolted. How did he-?

Mayuri reached into his pocket and Dokuro took the opportunity, ducking under his arm and charging into the room. She threw excalibolg at the man-sized tube that held Archer.

Archer, for his part, tumbled out of the tube as soon as it broke and flumped onto the ground. He didn't move. And excalibolg just kept flying, spinning and crunching through layer upon layer of metal as it went past where the walls of the Hub should have logically ended.

Mayuri began saying something, but excalibolg was crunching through metal very loudly, so she couldn't hear him.

"What?" she yelled.

Mayuri looked disgruntled, then repeated himself, making a visible effort to be heard over the sounds of tunneling. It didn't work.

"WHAT?"

Mayuri was getting frustrated, his arms went down to his sides and he began screaming as loud as he could.

"WHAAAAAAAT?"

"I said-" Dokuro eventually made out, before an arrow planted itself on the ceiling above him. A gas sprayed out, covering Mayuri's face and causing him to, on the spot, fall backwards and hit the ground with as much force as the door had.

Holding her breath and checking his body, it looked like he was sleeping. She turned around to see Archer, still dripping wet, but holding his bow.

"Hey there, little shit." he gasped, smiling.

"Archer-san!" Dokuro yelled, bounding towards him arms outstretched.

"Nope, no. No hugs. You'll probably break something."

He pushed himself to his feet using his bow, then staggered over to the man-sized tube that held Bravestarr and swung it at the glass. The tank shattered and Bravestarr likewise flumped onto the floor.

The two non-comatose people in the room looked up when they heard Danzo's tapping. He entered the room, took a look at the unconscious Mayuri on the floor, and looked to the both of them.

"You're not very good at stealth, are you?"

"But I did it Danzo-san! I saved them!"

"I suppose." he said, and made his way to the corner of the room.

"Where are you going?" Archer asked.

"It seems in your struggle, you've carved out passageway to somewhere deeper within the facilities."

Danzo nodded to the large hole excalibolg had carved into the wall, it was tall and wide enough for a person to walk through, and at the end Dokuro could see cold, artificial light filtering in from a distant room.

Danzo payed their musing no mind and entered the hole, tapping his way down the improvised hallway.

Bravestarr groggily came to his senses, Archer quickly ran over and helped him to his feet.

"Wha- What's going on here?"

"I don't really know myself. I think we might've been drugged."

"And uh, lil Pard, why are you wearing that headband?"

"Infinite ammo."

"It looks like" Archer interrupted. "Dokuro saved us. So thank you for that. Really. But also it looks like she might've carved us a path to some behind the scenes stuff, so Danzo's on his way to check it out. I suggest we go with him."

"Well, hold on." Bravestarr said, clutching at his forehead. "We can't just run off yet, we have to save these people, and we don't know how long we'll be back there. Or if whoever's running this shindig will let us back if they find out what we're doing."

"Yeah, well, to tell you the truth I don't trust that old man as far as he can hobble on the cane of his. How about you get these people out of here, I'll follow Danzo and see what's going on. If we can, we'll regroup back in our quarters. And if we need to, we'll start a fight with the bartender and regroup like that."

"Sounds like a plan. Who you going with Lil Pard?"

"Oh, um," Dokuro was surprised to be so suddenly acknowledged. "Well I left excalibolg down there so I better go get it."

"Gotcha, stay safe down there." He gave her a firm pat on the shoulder. "Speed of the Puma!"

With that, Bravestarr rocketed around the room, shattering the rest of the man-sized tubes, collecting the people inside, and moved on to the next one. Archer and Dokuro went down the tunnel with Danzo. It did not take much time at all to catch up with him.

After several painstaking minutes of walking so slowly they made their way through the other end of the tunnel. They exited out onto a catwalk and found themselves on the third floor of a massive warehouse. Wooden crate stacked upon wooden crate lined the entire room, some even reaching up to even their lofty position. Robots similar to the ones staffing the food court, but these with extendable torsos, were carrying and placing more crates onto the stacks.

"Somehow I don't think these ones will be content just yelling at us to leave." Archer whispered. "Let's try and keep a low profile."

"They're all coming and going through that set of doors." Danzo whispered back. "So that's where we're going."

Dokuro didn't have anything to add to the conversation so she just said "Yeah."

Oh, excalibolg! It had hilted itself inside one of the crates on one of the really tall stacks. She yanked it out and bullets flowed out from the crate like water, splashing on and through the catwalk. It made a lot of noise.

Both men turned to glare at Dokuro. She returned nothing but a sheepish smile.

Archer reached into his quiver and pulled out an arrow with a button on the tip. He didn't even both to fire it, he just pressed the button with his thumb and suddenly all the robots in the room fell over.

"Stealth is overrated." he said. "Come on, let's go."

The three of them ran and leaped over the side of the catwalk. Dokuro and Danzo just landed, Archer attached a grappling hook to the side and shimmied down. Dokuro whistled a little tune while waiting for him.

Once they were all on the floor, the three of them bolted through the double doors that separated the two rooms. This second room was more like a factory, conveyor belts and hoods covering robotic appendages whirred as they sent an assortment of weird looking objects every which way throughout the room. It did not occur to her why the machinery was still running when the robots had all died, but then a great many things didn't occur to Dokuro.

Dokuro's attention flitted from machine to machine, she drifted into the center of the room and spun on her heels trying to keep up with all the movement and pathways. It was dizzying and a little magical for a room full of dull beiges and rust and dust.

"Hey guys, check this out." Archer called from the other side of the room. Dokuro ran over to check what was what. Danzo moved a lot more slowly.

loooooooooooot more slowly.

The machine that Archer was standing in front of seemed nearly identical to every other machine in the room, but the objects it was hauling were some familiar looking purple arrows. Archer plucked one from the conveyor belt.

"No doubt about it, these are mine. This one's a net arrow."

Sure enough, he pressed the tip and a net shot out and fell listlessly to the floor.

"How'd they get your arrows though, Archer-san?"

"That's the question isn't it." he said as he pulled the net back in and messily stowed it away in his quiver.

Archer examined the machine closely, as did Danzo now that he finally caught up.

"Alright, I think I got it." Archer said. "The screens are pictures of me from back home, that one's from... the fight with Ultron, that one... that one was from the Tracksuit Dracula incident, that one's from the fight with Cyclops."

"But why would they need to display pictures of what they're producing?" Danzo asked. "And why would they be such unoptimal shots from the middle of a fight?"

"Well, they do have to restock our gear after every fight."

"And bringing new gear here would require lighting a singularity, it'd take too much energy. They'd also run out quickly for the more individual pieces."

"So, instead of transporting gear to us every single time, they just need a schematic of the gear, and then they recreate the object in this time, no time travel required."

Dokuro didn't have anything to add to the conversation so she just said "Yeah."

"Well that's one mystery solved at least." Archer said. "Not that anyone really cared, but ya know, good job everyone. Is that all we can do here? I imagine if we leave behind too many clues about having been back here, we'll end up in some kind of trouble."

"Information is never a bad thing, Archer. That said," His eyes wandered to a nearby machine pumping out katanas. "I can think of other things to be gained from this."

He walked over and snatched up three of the blades, then made his way back to the door.

If he were entirely honest, Clint would admit that he expected all the robots to come back online as they were leaving, forcing them to fight their way tooth and nail to the exit, but that didn't happen. They stayed offline as the three of them made their way back to the tunnel. Dokuro and Danzo just jumped up to the third floor, Clint had to scale the grappling hook's rope like he was back in gym class. Once he made it up, he stowed that arrow back in his quiver as well.

But of course, that weird bartender would be back up and at 'em by the time they got back, and they'd have to fight him and probably get sucked into a singularity and a million things would go wrong there. But no, he was still out cold. Clint used a couple of putty arrows to seal that hole back up, hopefully it would be strong enough to keep them out, but who knows.

Would they get any resistance from the bartender's teammates then? Nope, nothing. Well, not nothing, some of them heard their exit from a branched off hallway.

"Did you kill Mayuri?" his voice echoed towards them.

"Uh, no," Clint called back. "He's just passed out."

"Do a better job next time."

And that was that.

They made it back to their quarters all in one piece with absolutely no incidents to speak of, and it was kind of putting Clint on edge. Something should have gone wrong by now.

"I see things went fine on your end." Bravestarr greeted them. "What'd you find?"

"Not much." Clint said. "Found where they've been making duplicates of our gear, probably how they're restocking all our stuff while we're out dealing with singularities. You get everyone out alright?"

"Sure did. Oddest thing though, one of the folks staying in those quarters asked me if I'd killed someone called Mayuri when we were leaving."

"Yeah that guy said the same thing to us." Dokuro said. "I wonder why he'd want his own teammate to get killed."

Clint looked at her for a second, trying to work out how best to respond.

"Yep, it's a mystery all right."

"At least that's the end of all that." Bravestarr said.

"You're telling me, I could use more relaxing days like this."

And then the entire quarters exploded with light.

Chapter Text

It was but a moment before the light faded and Clint could take the hand away from his eyes. He was still blinking out spots, but he could make out the shape of Danzo and... someone else near the entrance.

"A little warning might be nice." he muttered.

"Look out." Danzo deadpanned.

Now that Clint was gifted with sight again, he could make out what exactly his Master had done. On the floor just outside he had carved a ring of symbols, Clint recognized it as the same ring he used to summon the three of them. Presumably he'd done it outside because marble reacted better to being carved out than wood flooring. And standing in the middle of that ring was the swordsman, the green-haired guy who used three swords at once like a jackass, he was Kyu's Servant.

The last time Clint had seen that guy he had buried him under a mountain.

Immediately the swordsman's hand went to the hilts of the katanas at his hip.

"Woah," Clint threw his hands up. "Woah woah woah. We're not here to hurt you." He turned to Danzo and hissed through his teeth. "What were you thinking, summoning him of all people?"

"I was curious to see what would happen."

"Hold on a goddamn second." the swordsman said back. "What are you talking about? Who the hell are you people?"

Danzo raised an eyebrow.

"What do you remember?"

"The hell kinda question is that? I don't know, I was trying to find my way back to my quarters. Kopaka and Buffaloman were with me, where are they now? What did you do to them?"

"Nothing!" Clint said quickly. "Well, okay, not nothing we kinda, um..."

"Hold up one second, pard." Bravestarr stepped forward. "Let me try and explain what's going on here, Mr..."

"Zoro. Roronoa Zoro."

Bravestarr spoke calmly, emphatically so somehow. It was a special kind of forceful calmness, Clint was impressed at the aggressive passiveness on display.

"It would seem to me that the last thing you remember is just before we all got spirited away to Hulao Pass. That was about a week ago."

"A week ago? But I've only been here for a couple days."

"It's time travel, man." Clint said. "Just, try not to think about it too hard."

"When we met at Hulao Pass," Bravestarr continued. "Your Master was endangering the time stream by altering the past, so we had to stop her."

Zoro growled.

"What did you do to her?"

"Now hold on there partner. Just calm down. She's not hurt, actually she's still here. But, we have to keep her under lock and key until this whole mess is over."

"Meaning?"

"Bravestarr-san put her in handcuffs and locked her in the dungeon."

Zoro gave the girl a look more quizzical than shocked.

"Did she asked to be or..."

Clint chuckled at the joke. It had to be a joke, right? Well, Zoro wasn't laughing.

"The handcuffs keep her from summoning Servants," Bravestarr explained. "So she can't go into the past again to mess with anything."

Zoro's expression softened, but only barely. And his hand hadn't moved away from his swords once.

"I got no intention of keeping any secrets from you." Bravestarr said. "And if you're actually along for the ride now, well, you were going to find out anyways. Better to be up front with everything as soon as possible, right?"

Zoro's eyes narrowed, his hand hovering just above the hilt.

"Can I talk to her?" he asked.

"Sure thing. She and the rest of the Masters with her, they're just through that door there."

Zoro's hand finally moved away from his swords and he made his way towards the door that Bravestarr marked out. He veered off a little at the last second, but after a secondary course correction he made it in. As soon as the door clicked behind him, Clint turned to Danzo.

"What the hell were you thinking? Are you trying to get us killed?"

"I believe I just told you, Archer. Information is never a bad thing."

"Oh, great, I'm glad your motives are so reasonable, we learned so much from this little experiment of yours."

"I know you're being sarcastic, but think for once in your life and consider what we did learn. He remembers nothing past being sent to Hulao, what does that mean?"

Archer made to retort, but the argument died on his throat as his face scrunched in realization. What did that mean? He guessed that meant desummoning Servants didn't just send them home, but why did his memories stop right there of all places?

Well, he did hit his head on some very large rocks.

Clint didn't get much more time to think on it, however, as a voice lilted its way into the quarters.

"I don't remember saying those patients were allowed to leave."

Clint spun on his heels, and saw the second strange figure to loom ominously in that doorway today. The bartender was standing there, it was hard to tell with the fact that his lips were always a little bit pursed and his eyes didn't do much other than get wider, but Clint was gonna take a wild guess and say that dude was pretty pissed.

"I also didn't take kindly to that humiliation just then. Fortunately, it was a loss worth learning from. I've completely immunized myself to your anesthetic gas now."

Clint chuckled at the joke. It had to be a joke, right? Well, the bartender wasn't laughing either.

"Whatever," Clint said, drawing an arrow in his bow. "Let's just get this over with."

He let the arrow fly, the bartender drew his sword and sliced the arrow cleanly in half. Both pieces passed by on either side of him. He did the same to Clint's two follows ups.

Bravestarr charged, going for a football tackle, the bartender took a step forward then leaped through the air, spinning over him. Clint fired a putty arrow up at him, he cleaved this one as well, leaving the putty to coat his blade.

The bartender landed, Clint shot two more arrows at him, both of which he effortlessly dodged. As he did so he reached into his coat and pulled out a vial. He crushed it in his hand and slid the dripping liquid over his sword, the putty sliding off just as easily.

The bartender reached into his coat again and pulled out a mound of powder. With a swish of his arm he sent it flying in an arc towards Clint. Bravestarr rushed in front of him and pressed the badge on his chest, lighting up his shield and reflecting the powder away harmlessly. Dokuro was also contributing, she began to spin her bat in a wide circle. Within a second, Clint couldn't follow her arm's movements, and the wind it generated sent the powder flying out the front door. It also sent Clint, Bravestarr, and the bartender flying out as well.

The three of them landed on the lower floor. Well, Bravestarr and the bartender landed, Clint crashed. Bravestarr rushed the bartender, he threw a hook to his head and a gutshot to his gut, both of which the bartender blocked with the flat of his blade. The bartender flicked his wrist up, Bravestarr jerked his head back to avoid the flat of the blade slamming into his chin and stepped away just in time for the bladed end to cut a nick in his hat.

Clint drew another knockout arrow and fired it, the bartender snatched it out of the air and held it up to his face as it released. From the distance, Clint could see him sucking air through his nose. Once the gas finished releasing, he tossed the arrow away.

Holy shit, he wasn't joking.

"You bastard!" A new voice broke the three of them from the squable. Looking up, they all saw Zoro perched on the upper floor's banister, all three swords drawn. He leaped, flying over the scene.

"Not bad for your first 10 minutes, huh?" Clint said. "Just showed up and already getting into-"

It was at that moment that Clint realized that Zoro was not flying towards the bartender. He lifted his bow, locking the three blades in place as Zoro slammed down on him.

"What the hell are you doing?"

"Kyu told me what you all did. She told me what you did to Kopaka."

Sure enough, the pink pain fluttered over the banister on her dumb butterfly wings and landed right next to Zoro.

"And don't try and play dumb." she said. "Masters have a very special connection to Servants, I could feel it when he was taken out. And I don't know what you did to Zoro, but you're not getting away with this."

"Got anything to say for yourself?" growled Zoro.

Clint sighed. He could feel his stomach sinking. What honestly could he tell them? No don't worry it was an accident?

"Honestly, it might just be easier for all of us if you went back to trying to kill me."

Zoro's gaze hardened, the next swipe went right for Clint's head.

He ducked, bending almost completely backwards, then followed through into a handstand as Zoro swiped for his feet. He pushed himself forward with his hands, slamming both feet into Zoro's gut and launching himself backwards. Before landing he shot a blunt tipped arrow downward, it ricocheted off the ground and slammed Zoro in the shin, but he didn't so much as falter as he started running forward again.

"Why'd you do it? What reason could you have possibly had?"

Clint had no answer, at the very least nothing he could come up with in the time it would take for Zoro to be on him.

Instead he drew three pointed arrows, aimed at some non vital locations and fired. He had hoped that Zoro would at least slow down a little to block the shots, but no such luck. He continued to charge forward, slicing all three to ribbons with a single, fluid motion.

The ribbons didn't stop, however. Just as Zoro was preparing to bring all three blades to his chest, Clint caught a sight of one of the scattered pieces of arrowhead flying right towards an older, bearded looking man in a robe happily carrying a bowl of soup.

The man looked up, dumbfounded.

The blades slashed across Clint's chest.

Everything went white.

Chapter Text

"Shut up." Tex Hex snarled.

"I didn't say anything." Edgeworth retorted.

"Good, let's keep it that way."

For the fifth time now, Edgeworth's eyes flickered to the newly empty cell, the bars having been cleaved through like butter.

"This don't mean nothin', you know."

"Is that so?"

"My escape plan is still in the works. So long as we ain't got out yet, the deal's still on, Fruit Loop."

Edgeworth just shot a grin back.

"I wait with baited breath."

Chapter Text

Clint jolted upright, he felt at his chest, but quickly found it to be completely untouched. He wasn't sure how he aught to feel about something like that.

He shook his head clear and pushed himself to his feet, trying to figure out where or when he was. It was cold. It was wet. It was foggy as hell. It was some kind of forest. In short, to answer his question, no idea.

"Dokuro?" he called out. "Bravestarr? Danzo? Guy who wants to kill me? Anyone?"

No answer.

Okay. This looked bad.

Chapter Text

If there was anyplace in the world that Grigori Rasputin loved to be, it was in a position of power. It was generally a good feeling, the feeling he got being in a place like that, and so this "Salem", this English colony, it was also a good place to be because he could be in power here.

Not like that atrocious hall of whiteness, "the Hub", forced to pretend to be on equal terms with peasants, commoners, bums with swords, it was disgusting. And the cleanliness, the floors were so well polished, they blinded Rasputin at times. Horrible, that Hub was just a horrible place to be.

But if there was one thing Rasputin loved as much as power, it was good food. And in that sense, the Hub really shone above Salem, the food in Salem was paltry, especially in comparison to the feast of flavor that was the Hub. In the Hub even the plainest of soups packed a strong enough flavor to overload his long dead senses and explode with goodness in his mouth. In Salem, all they had was salted meats and various boiled things and occasionally some sweet preserved fruit byproduct, and Rasputin did not like sweet things. It was nothing compared to what he had eaten under the royal family's roof, and it was practically like trying to eat a rotten apple core compared to the food prepared by those metal demons in the Hub.

Power or good food, it was a difficult choice for Rasputin to make. But of course, the thing he liked above either of those was revenge, and he would not be able to have any of that if he idled around this scrap of a colony, desperately clinging to what little sway he held over the population. No, he would have to return to the Hub eventually, and now that he thought about it, he probably preferred good food anyways.

Although, by all rights he should have had power back in the Hub, he was a Master was he not? He was supposed to lead his army of divine spirits in a crusade to achieve the single greatest goal held by anyone in all of Europe for generations! And what was he given to accomplish this goal? Three squabbling idiots with a pittance of power a piece.

There was Joe. Joe. Joe was an idiot, such an arrogant, foolhardy idiot that it steamed Rasputin even thinking about him. The puny child in a young man's body was one of those hero types, obsessed with interfering in other people's business and putting an end to perfectly respectable ideas like bloody revenge against a sworn enemy and their entire family line. The only good thing about Joe was that he was such an idiot that he never once caught onto Rasputin's goals or ambitions and followed his instructions blindly so long as he gave a modicum of lip service to ideas like peace and justice.

Then there was Creed. Creed. A psychopath and a sadist, qualities that Rasputin was not averse to in an assassin, but he was also a narcissist and deigned his most regal attention to nothing that didn't directly affect him. Trying to convince him to do anything was like herding wild oxen. The only thing that truly seemed to interest him was that rabbit girl.

Oh and that rabbit girl.  An annoyance, not dissimilar to Joe, but also not stupid enough to be fooled by Rasputin's ploy for very long. The only good aspect of her was that Creed held her distracted enough that she didn't hold Rasputin under very much scrutiny. Those two were a pair, Creed kept her mind off of Rasputin enough to trust him and she kept Creed motivated to do literally anything by her staunch refusal to give in to his philosophy. Those two, they couldn't go 10 minutes with each other without debating philosophy. Rasputin didn't care about philosophy, he didn't care whether wiping out the entire Romanov clan was technically the right thing to do or not.

Now that Rasputin thought about it, it wasn't like herding oxen in the slightest. It was like dealing with children. The lot of them, they were all children. And Rasputin hated children.

It was this hatred that caused Rasputin to seek summoning a fourth Servant. It had been a risky gamble, he had seen the destructive force of that girl with the spiked club around the Hub, and wished for even the barest mimicry of such power, and so he had used means outside what was normal for summonings. And the demon he had gotten... Rasputin had plenty of regrets to be sure, falling into that frozen lake, not wiping out the Romanovs when he had the chance, experimenting with raw eggs in his diet, but he regretted little more than having brought such a monstrosity into this world. Even as the leader of demonic ranks, there were some sins that not even Satan himself would dare commit, and Rasputin had made the biggest mistake of his life trying to put a harness on such power.

Rasputin was having these and many, many other thoughts as he wandered through Salem's roads. Occasionally he'd pass by someone. They usually averted their gaze, as they should, Rasputin had more important things to deal with than people wantonly looking at him. He turned a corner and saw that rabbit girl, rabbiting it up with her rabbityness all out in the open.

Out... in the... open...

Rasputin flustered and flailed his arms and charged forward. He grabbed Velvet by the head, pulling her ears down and pushing her back behind a building.

"Ew, ew, ew, gross gross gross gross, get off of me!" she whined.

"You idiot! What were you thinking?"

"Well I was thinking about having a nice walk around town, but that's already ruined now."

"With your ears out? Wear a hat or something for God's sake, woman."

"Alright I get it, now get off of me."

Rasputin pushed himself away and Velvet smoothed her ears down to camouflage them with the rest of her hair.

"The people in this town," Rasputin snarled. "They're paranoid, looking for any outside group to blame their woes on, and they respond to anything alien with violence. If they catch one glimpse of those rabbit ears, you'll be put on the stake and roasted alive for being a demon before you can even start blubbering about whatever pittance of discrimination you face wherever you're supposed to come from."

"You know that's really cruel of you to say."

"Reality is cruel. Keep those ears under wraps until we get back to the Hub, and don't die."

With that Rasputin stomped off. When he peaked out from behind the building, he got the sight of a dowdy woman glaring at him. He had seen her before, given his position he had been forced to memorize the names of everyone in town, she was Goody... Goody Hatcher.

"You disgusting pig." Hatcher snarled.

"How much did you see?" Rasputin snarled back.

"I saw enough, that poor girl, she's under your ward isn't she? And in broad daylight too."

Rasputin pushed her aside.

"It would be in your best interest if you forgot that you saw anything."

But of course he couldn't leave it at that. Any bad press would topple his already shaky standing in this town, let alone if she had actually seen the rabbit girl's ears. He reached into his robe and gripped the reliquary. A tiny green demon flew from his sleeve and latched onto Hatcher's overcoat.

He quickly made his way to the center of town and into the meeting house. He burst in, flinging the doors open wide in a grand entrance, and there he found Magistrate Corwin busy jotting down some such legal nonsense.

"Mr. Rasputin," he blustered, looking up from his work. "Have you come with more news?"

"As the Lord's humble servant, I have heard Him speak the name of the next of the devil's allies!"

"So soon?"

"The devil can tell that his time here is short, Magistrate. He is amassing what remains of his forces and preparing to strike. The time to act is now. Is there a Goody Hatcher anywhere in town?"

"Y- Yes, there is a Mary Hatcher."

"Well find her, man! Search her! Interrogate her! Put an end to the devil's grasp on this place and set yourselves free, Magistrate!"

"Right, we'll get right on that, yes. Oh, wait, Mr. Rasputin."

Rasputin had been making to leave, but stopped, turned, and glared over his shoulder at the Magistrate.

"Err, Magistrate Hathorne wanted you to know, a stranger showed up in town today. He's being held in the jail at the moment and is already being tried for witchcraft."

"I see. I'll have a look at this stranger, then."

Rasputin huffed as he left the building and huffed all the way to the jail house. He entered this building with much less bombast, stalking his way through the entrance and towards the cells. Just before entering though, he stopped, licked his palm and slicked back his hair, then adopted the best, most menacing smile he could manage. Always good to leave people with a strong first impression.

"Well, well, well," he mocked as he turned the corner. "Just who do we have he-"

Rasputin's words got cut off by his own high pitched shriek. There, in the jail cell, was that man. The man with the bandages over his entire body. The man who commanded that terrifying little girl with the spiked club. Looking up at Rasputin with the most unimpressed gaze he had ever seen.

Chapter Text

Clint didn't really know where he was going, but he had a pretty solid sense of direction, so he was probably headed the right way. And you may ask yourself, would a sense of direction even help if he didn't didn't know which way he was supposed to be going?

Futz yeah it would.

It was obvious that wherever Clint was headed, that's where he wanted to go. Blatant even. He might, though, admit that you can only mask your fear at getting lost in the woods with so much bravado before your senses catch up and remind you that you have no idea where you're going and no survival tools outside of a couple dozen trick arrows and in a completely unknowable time and place and-

Hold on, he could hear whispering.

He trudged his way towards them, crunching the twigs and leaves underfoot so noticeably it was a miracle that the source of the voices couldn't hear him. Eventually he was looking over a small clearing, a dozen girls sat in a circle, giggling and tossing in small plants.

And when Clint thought about it, a cluster of a bunch of teenage girls in the forest in the dead hours of the morning tossing plants into a circle, that was weird right? This whole situation smelled of nonsense, and Clint didn't want to deal with nonsense.

"Hey!" he called out, entering the clearing.

Immediately every head shot up, every eye was on Clint, and every face was overcome with a primal fear, not unlike a rabbit who had just now seen the fox.

"What are you all doing here? Get out of here. Go on. Get. Scram."

He shooed them all away, and the girls scattered, taking off into the forest with more than a few screams.

Well, at least he knew which way was towards civilization now.

Clint shoved his hands and shivered. It was way too damn cold to be out here in a chainmail vest and some sweats.

Eventually Clint made it to the edge of the treeline. Eventually Clint started seeing some houses sprout up between the long patches of field. Eventually the number of houses overtook the amount of field. Eventually Zoro was standing right behind Clint with a sword pressed into his back.

"Alright buddy," he said. "Start talking. I want to hear you out."

Clint rubbed his eyes and turned.

"I got nothing that you'd want to hear, man."

"Then spit it out so I can kick your ass already."

He sighed.

"I'd thought that I had knocked him out with an EMP arrow. Turns out I didn't. He charged me when I wasn't expecting it. Panicked. Shot an arrow. Went straight through his chest. That's that."

Zoro nodded and made a hmm sound. Then he brought two blades down onto Clint. Clint drew his bow and blocked, only barely holding off Zoro's clash.

"You're insulting me, you know that."

"I'm not lying."

Zoro pulled back from the clash, then went low, slashing towards Clint's feet. Clint hopped back, and Zoro swung both swords up, the backs of the blades slamming his stomach and sending him flying into the air.

The swords went with him, and as Clint landed on his back a few meters away, Zoro drew his third blade, caught one of the falling swords in his free hand and one in his teeth.

"I know you're not. But you're supposed to be skilled, aren't you? You kept up with me this long without getting killed, didn't you?"

Clint staggered to his feet.

"I mean I don't like to toot my own horn."

"Someone that skilled shouldn't be going around accidentally killing people."

"Well it happened, alright?"

"And that's what's insulting me. How crap am I if I can't even beat you?"

"That sounds like a really personal problem."

Clint fired the bola arrow, watching the weighted ropes fall from the arrowhead at just the right trajectory to catch Zoro. Zoro responded by leaping, twisting mid air and angling the blade in his mouth to slice the bolas in half. Then as he was landing, his arms were free to slice up Clint's two blunt-tipped follow ups. Clint shot the boomerang arrow, watched it curve back and move to ping Zoro in the back of the head. Zoro also watched it, ducking and slicing through this one with his mouth blade just as easily.

And then the flashbang arrow struck him in the head.

Clint didn't have to means to completely protect his eyes, but he was able to look away, and that was enough to get the edge on Zoro. He fired three blunt-tipped arrows at once, one at the head, one at the chest, one at the gut. Zoro sliced through all three and looked at him with blank, staring eyes, his pupils contracted down to not much more than pinholes.

"How the hell..." Clint breathed.

"You can do whatever you want to my eyes, I'll still see through you."

"Okay, but that doesn't explain-"

Zoro swung his blade up, and a spinning wheel of razor wind shot right towards Clint. He leaped, handspringing into the air and firing a putty arrow. Zoro cut it out of the air, and just like before the putty coated his left hand's sword, only difference was Zoro didn't have a magical liquid to just ignore something like that.

But Zoro wasn't finished talking.

"You can use my anger as some twisted form of self-flagellation all you want, I can tell you're just selfishly looking for punishment to get some sense of closure for your own stupid mistake."

Clint stuck to his left side, running and firing, Zoro couldn't cut them out of the air anymore and so he was much more on the defensive now, weaving through the arrows as they flew.

"But I don't care about your damn closure. Either you're gonna die here or you're gonna prove to me that you're better than your stupid slip up in Hulao."

"God, will you shut up."

Clint shot a scatter arrow to Zoro's right, he darted to the left, and Clint followed up with an explosive arrow. The explosion struck true, sending Zoro flying into the air. He then sniped Zoro out of the air with a second explosive arrow, sending him rocketing away.

Clint sprinted after him. Zoro was recovering, pushing himself back to his feet, and Clint grit his teeth and gripped his bow and lifted it to swing. Zoro got his blades ready to intercept.

"Hold on right there!" The two of them slammed to a stop to inspect this new third party. "No evil escapes the ever vigilant eyes and ever ready fists of Viewtiful Joe!"

Standing on the roof of a nearby house was a kid in a blue shirt, khaki shorts, and a backwards baseball cap, with a red goatee that Clint could only assume he was very proud of. The kid, Joe, struck a pose, holding up a gang sign and showing off his fancy watch.

"Henshin a-go-go, baby!"

Two blades grew out from the watch, then detached in some kind of weird boomerang formation, flying through the air and attaching to his forehead. In a flash of light the kid was wearing a full spandex red and white suit with a helmet that covered his eyes, the boomerang now forming a V on its helm. Joe then spun on his heels and struck another pose, then went low for a third.

"So, uh," he eventually said. "Which one of you is the bad guy?"

Clint and Zoro looked at each other, then back to Joe.

"We were, uh, kinda in the middle of something." Clint said. "Some really personal, man to man type shit?"

"Oh, seriously?" Joe dropped the posing and sat down on the edge of the roof. "What happened?"

Clint just kind of sneered at the question. Zoro pointed towards Clint.

"He killed a close friend of mine, we were having a duel to-"

"Woah woah woah!" Joe was instantly back on his feet. "Say no more! That sounds like a villain to me!"

Joe leaped from the rooftop, flying into the air with all too much joy in the act, and then angling his feet towards Clint. With a cry of "Red Hot Kick!", he shot towards Clint like a rocket, body bursting into flames. Clint dove to the side, just barely avoiding the attack. He nocked a net arrow and fired at Joe, and watched as the arrow slowed to a crawl in front of him. Joe flipped, moving at the same molasses speed as the arrow, twisting mid air and flying over the net as it exploded outward, visibly sticking his tongue out as he showboated.

Clint's vision returned to normal as Joe landed and held out a flat palm towards Clint. He flicked his fingers up, as Clint had seen in a thousand martial arts movies. Goddamn this kid was a nerd.

Suddenly Clint's head was rocked from the side, he was sent spiraling into the air, but recovered with a handspring and landed to realize what happened, Zoro had struck him with the sword that was covered in putty.

Clint sighed as Zoro and Joe both squared up to fight him.

"You can't keep doing this to me, man."

Chapter Text

"Bravestarr-san!"

Bravestarr stopped in his tracks. He had been wandering around for a while now, trying to find where the rest of his team had ended up. One of its members suddenly calling his name might suggest that he was close to finding one.

"Lil pard? Dokuro? Where are you, girl?"

"Up here, Bravestarr-san."

He cast his gaze skyward and was surprised to see Dokuro dangling just above him. Her foot had gotten caught in the branch of the tree planted right next to him.

"Oh, there you are, lil pard. What's up?"

"Me."

Bravestarr gave a hearty laugh. It was a funny joke.

"Bravestarr-san, could you stop laughing at me and help me get down?"

"Why don't you just break the branch yourself?"

"I can't move my hands, Bravestarr-san. My skirt would fall down if I did."

Bravestarr nodded knowingly.

"A lady's modesty is very important. Alright, give me a sec."

Bravestarr bent at the knees, and with a "Hup" jumped up and grabbed onto the branch. He reached into his pocket and pulled out an expanding tomahawk, and with a swing cleaved the branch in two. Dokuro crashed to the ground, nursing her sore butt as Bravestarr landed next to her.

"You doing alright?" He offered her a hand and helped her up.

"I think so. Where are we?"

"That's the question, isn't it? The architecture and technology levels look to be colonial American, but there's any number of events we could've landed at. The Roanoke Colony, the settlement of Jamestown, the ride of Paul Revere, I don't even know what part of the country we're in."

"Salem."

A young girl with long brown hair and very out of place clothes stepped out from behind a building.

"The town, it's called Salem."

Bravestarr placed a hand to his chin.

"The Salem Witch Trials, huh?"

Dokuro's eyes went wide at the word.

"Tr- Trials? They're not gonna put me on trial again, are they Bravestarr-san?"

"There there, just stick with me and I'll keep you safe Dokuro."

"You two," The girl tentatively walked closer. "You're from the Hub, aren't you?"

Bravestarr tipped his hat.

"Sure are, ma'am. I'm Bravestarr, this is Dokuro."

"Yes, I'd gathered." She grabbed at the camera hung at her waste. "Do you mind showing me that hatchet you had just there? I collect pictures of interesting weapons, is all."

"Oh this? This is just a standard collapsable tomahawk."

"Yeah," Dokuro chimed in. "Forget Bravestarr-san's lame little axe. If you wanna see a really cool weapon, peep this!"

The ground rumbled, and with a sharp crack, Dokuro's bat flew from the earth and into her hand. The girl was instantly snapping up pictures. In her excitement, two massive rabbit ears snapped up to attention on top of her head.

"Ooh," Dokuro was immediately enthralled. "I like your ears, Miss."

The girl straightened up and blushed a burning red. She smoothed her ears back down where they blended back in with her hair.

"Th- Thank you. I'm supposed to be staying incognito, though. My Master says the people would burn me at the stake if they saw my ears."

Bravestarr gave her an understanding look.

"There are plenty of people in this world that say or do mean things to people that are different from them, but really they're just scared of things they don't understand. And there's a lot of people too stuck in their ways to ever become better, but there will always be just as many people who can see past the differences and appreciate you for who you truly are."

"It's true." Bravestarr and Dokuro both jumped and turned. Leaning against the tree was a newcomer, also very out place, especially since neither of them had heard him approach. He was a young man with white hair and black clothing that showed off a lot of his chest. "I appreciate you. Or at least, I have appreciation for what you might become."

"Oh, screw off. What do you want, Creed? Don't you have puppies to kick?"

This Creed stood up fully, pushing past Bravestarr and Dokuro as he approached the rabbit girl.

"Perhaps later. For now, Velvet, I see you've made some bright new friends. And we simply cannot have that. I learned my lesson long ago about the kind of poisonous ideas that keeping such company will feed you. So say bye bye to your new friends, Velvet."

Creed grabbed at the sheath on his waist and drew the hilt of a sword.

"Imagine Blade, Level 2." he called, and from the hilt sprang a weird shark-like tendril with a bladed face. Creed lifted the blade into the air and swung it down with surprising speed, it's face cackling with mad glee. Bravestarr stepped in front of Dokuro and braced himself.

And then, it stopped. A bright light shone from behind Creed, and the outline of a massive scythe held Creed's blade back. Creed turned his head to glare at Velvet over his shoulder.

"That's not the weapon you should be using."

"Blow it out your tailpipe."

Creed's blade changed targets and lashed out at Velvet she spun the scythe around her waste and deflected the next two strikes. The scythe faded and in a new flash of light both her fists were coated in the outline of a pair of gauntlets. The blade launged and Velvet hit it with an uppercut, then crossed the gap between her and Creed and slammed his gut with a punch, then rocked his jaw with a hook. The gauntlets were already beginning to fade, and Creed's blade was slithering around to Velvet's unguarded backside.

Dokuro pushed past Bravestarr and drew back her bat and thrust her arm forward and Creed exploded into messy, red, wet pieces and...

And Dokuro hadn't thrown her bat. It was still held firmly in her hand. Velvet, however, was gripping a glowing copy of the bat's outline, looking more shocked than Dokuro or Bravestarr.

"Oh... Oh no... What did I- What did you-"

She looked over at Dokuro's original copy, still being held straight forward. Dokuro looked back at her blankly.

A wind picked up, and a storm of what looked like rose petals swarmed the area where Creed had been previously standing. But no, looking closers, those were thepieces of Creed collecting together in a single mass. The pieces all shone, and Creed was back in one piece again, standing there with a casual pose and a cocky grin.

"That's quite the interesting weapon you've given the rabbit, girl. But it doesn't matter. A club like that pales in comparison to true power. Imagine Blade Level-"

Dokuro finally released the bat and it shot forward like a rocket, plowing through Creed and scattering him into pieces again.

"Does it always do that?" Velvet asked.

"It doesn't usually bring them back by itself." Bravestarr said.

"Oh no, that's all Creed. He just, uh, he does that himself."

"Oh, that's neat."

Within the minute Creed reformed again, and he was seething.

"You think you can treat me like some sort of play thing, you useless pissant? Imagine Blade Level 3!"

Creed's blade grew to twice its size and melded with his arm, cresting at his shoulder where the sword's eye now glared from. Creed thrusted, the blade flying forward at blinding speeds. Dokuro prepared her bat, but the blade stopped short and Creed disappeared into the sky, a massive glowing green demon clutching him by the shoulders in his talons. Even from the distance they could see his struggles and hear him screaming.

Bravestarr was about to comment, before Velvet and Dokuro similarly disappeared into the sky. He looked up just in time to see another demon swoop down and grip him by the shoulders as well. Wind rushed by his ears and in the time it took him to blink, he was meters above the ground, following close behind the other three. He gripped his hat to keep it from blowing away and quietly wondered just what in tarnation was going on.

Chapter Text

Clint darted forward and slid underneath Zoro's horizontal slash, kicked out with his right leg to hold Joe back and fired an exploding arrow. Zoro jumped back and moved around the smoldering crater, while Joe jumped back and moved around Clint's leg. Clint shot a net arrow towards Zoro, curving the arrow to make it lean towards his left, Zoro instinctively went to slash it to pieces, but with his left hand blade covered in putty, it tugged uselessly on the rope as the net covered him. That'd give Clint a second.

Joe's fist hit Clint in the gut, and time sped up as he followed up with a lightning fast barrage ending with a roundhouse that sent Clint flying away, carving a trench into the muddy ground. Zoro was already charging in again, though Clint hadn't expected him to spend more than a few seconds on the net anyways. He grabbed an arrow and jabbed it into the ground next to him before rolling away and climbing to his feet, and saw as Zoro attempted to change direction but faltered as he slipped on the ice from the cryo arrow. Joe was already coming in with another "Red Hot Kick!", Clint aimed and fired a rocket arrow, the two forces colliding in mid air and struggling for dominance.

Clint turned and Zoro was pouncing through the air towards him. Clint rolled to the side as Zoro landed and thrust forward with his left blade. Clint jumped, springboarding off of the blade and pulled out an arrow as he launched into the air. Zoro apparently saw this coming, if that twinkle in his eye and the impressive-for-having-a-sword-in-your-mouth grin was anything to go by, or his right blade shooting towards Clint as he fell. Clint didn't have time to nock the arrow, he just held it forward and popped the cap off. Putty burst from the arrow and coated this blade as well, just in time for it to slam into Clint's side and send him sprawling away again. Still, it didn't slice him in half, so that was nice.

Clint shifted his focus again, paying too much attention to only one of them for too long was a good way to get ambushed, Joe was... where was Joe?

Clint leaped back as Zoro charged him again, but he was only half paying attention as he scanned his environment for wherever the hell Joe had run off to.

Only half paying attention quickly caught up with Clint, as Zoro was on him and exploiting his vulnerability in an instant. He went low, swiping upward with the blade in his mouth, the only one not covered in putty, and there was nothing Clint was gonna be able to do to get out of the way in time.

And then, he didn't have to. A pair of glowing green claws grabbed Zoro by the shoulders and he was yanked off into the air.

Huh.

Clint watched them fly off, thinking about how much things weren't looking so bad anymore, when something grabbed onto his shoulders, presumably something very similar, and carted him off in the same direction.

They spent several minutes in flight, after a bit the three demons (one had caught Joe too) met up and converged paths with four others, carrying Dokuro, Bravestarr, and two other weirdos. The guy up front, some ponce in black bondage gear, was clearly not having any of this. The flock of demons moved over the treeline and into the forest before eventually, thankfully, landing. Clint's arms were starting to get sore.

Chapter Text

They touched down in a clearing, come to think of it, it was probably the same clearing that circle of girls had been in when Clint first arrived. Now, there was just a man standing there. Balding and in some moldy brown robes that Clint could smell from where he was standing. The man was facing away from the group as they landed, and when the last of them was placed down and the demons had all flown away, he turned to face them. His grin was wide and shit-eating, and his breath smelled worse than his robes.

"So nice of you all to join us." he cackled.

Dokuro responded by raising her bat.

"Wait! Wait!" The grin disappeared and the man raised both hands in panic. "You don't want to kill me!"

"I don't?"

"No. No, you don't." He tried pulling his smile back up. "Because I have something very precious to you."

"In that case I'll kill you and take it back."

"No. No! You can't take it back if you kill me, if you do that it'll be destroyed."

"Aww." She seemed genuinely disappointed.

"Let's try that again. Okay." He cleared his throat again. "So nice of you all to join us. My name is Grigori Rasputin."

"Rasputin?" asked Bravestarr, surprised.

"Yes."

"Like, the Rasputin?" Clint asked, skeptical.

"The one and only."

"Russia's greatest love machine?" Dokuro asked, curious.

"Ye- No! Don't be ridiculous, Rasputin the terrible does not love anyone."

"Hey, come on dude." Joe spoke up. "That's not a very heroic thing to say."

"Wh- What I meant was, Rasputin the horrible to evil-doers does not have the time for love. For I am exacting too much... justice."

Joe gave a thumbs up.

"Nice, me too man. My girlfriend's always bugging me to take her out shopping and to go on dates and I have to be like, 'Not now Silvia, I have to save the world.' and she's like-"

"Enough!" Rasputin yelled. "Enough, I'm pulling my bargaining chip now."

Rasputin then, quite literally, picked a rope off the ground and pulled. Out from behind the trees walked in Danzo, a rope tied around his midsection, binding his arms to his side.

"I have captured your Master," Rasputin explained. "And if you do not surrender to me immediately, then I shall kill him and end you all right here."

Clint gave him a second, plenty of time to allow the benefit of the doubt to prove itself. It did not.

"What are you doing, Danzo?"

"He's captured me."

"Look, we don't have time for this. The Master's right there, let's just clap him in cuffs and get on with it."

"Consider it a test of faith, then."

"Don't talk about me like I'm not here." Rasputin yelled. "I'm threatening you. Be threatened."

"Look," Zoro stepped forward, pointing one of his goop-covered blades at Clint. "If this is all this is about, then let's get back to it. You haven't proven shit to me yet."

"We'll handle you later too, alright."

"This is pointless," the weird leather dude said. "Let me just slaughter them all now. It won't take more than a second."

"Yeah, cause you were doing so great before." said a girl with rabbit ears.

"Let's calm down everyone," said Bravestarr. "I'm sure there's a valuable lesson to be learned from all this."

"So are we sure I can't just kill him?" said Dokuro.

The entire clearing had broken into mindless chattering and argument, and it wasn't silenced until a quake rocked the entire forest.

"What the futz was that?" Clint asked.

"Oh no." Raputin breathed. "Not her, not now."

The quakes continued in steady, rhythmic footsteps. Each one closer than the last, closing in on their location. Within seconds, the impacts were strong enough to send everyone an inch off the ground.

And then, she stepped into the clearing.

She was short, a little too short, with a head that was a little too big, in a white and blue sailor uniform, complete with skirt and shin high socks in brown loafers. Her orange hair was tied into stubby little twintails with two yellow scrunchies. And her face... her face was the oddest part. Flat, almost painted-on looking, with too big eyes and a too small nose and a mouth perpetually curled in a mischievous smile. She walked into the clearing with her arms behind her head and elbows up.

As soon as she had entered the clearing, the tremors stopped, by the way.

"Hey there boss," Her mouth didn't open and close when she talked. It just... jiggled. "I got the memo."

"I didn't," Rasputin stammered, clearly trying and failing to imbue his words with some bravado. "I didn't send any memo, Popuko."

She just stared at him.

"I got the memo." she insisted.

"Well, whatever. We don't need any of your help for right now anyways."

"Oh, I'm sorry. Are you calling me USELESS?"

On the last word she grabbed Rasputin by the cuff of his robes. She was clearly enraged but, her face didn't change. Her pupils got smaller, and veins popped in her head, but that smile never, not once dropped.

"Of- Of course not. It's just, I had everything under control."

Popuko's face was back to normal now, and she looked over the small crowd gathered, still in their argumentation positions.

"Sure looks like it, boss." Her gaze stopped and fell squarely on Dokuro. "Hey wait a second, ain't that the girl you kept wanting me to be like?"

Rasputin looked away while he lied.

"I don't recall saying anything like that."

"It is."

"No it's not."

"That's the girl, I swear it."

Dokuro decided to respond to these allegations by hurling her bat forward. Popuko glared at the bat, the veins nearly exploding off of her head, and miraculously, the bat slowed to a stop. It fell to the ground, then rolled back to Dokuro, whimpering like a dog. Clint didn't even know it could do that. Dokuro also looked confused.

"Uh huh. I see how it is." said Popuko. "Looks like I'll have to use my ultimate technique."

Popuko's hands flashed together, faster than anyone in the clearing had expected. Even Danzo looked impressed. When she finished, she gave a wink and held a peace sign over her open eye, but the eye had changed. It was red, with black teardrop-like marks circling the pupil. It almost looked like Danzo's bandaged up eye.

"Boss Rush Copy no Jutsu!" she yelled with enthusiasm.

And then she exploded.

Clint coughed up the smoke and looked up from the prostrate position he had fallen in. In the smoldering crater, both Popuko and Dokuro had completely disappeared, not even a pile of ash left.

"Wh- What the hell? What the hell did she do? Where did they go?"

Rasputin also coughed as he got to his feet.

"I don't know. All I know is, within 5 minutes time, Popuko will return and the other girl will not."

Chapter Text

When Dokuro's vision returned to her, she was standing on a circular, floating, stone platform, and oddly enough dressed in a red shirt and overalls with a cap and a fake mustache. Stomping opposite of her, was a massive spiked dragon-turtle-bull, with Popuko's face plastered over its head like a bad sticker.

"Seriously?" Dokuro asked. "Super Mario, that's the best reference you could come up with."

"You have to start with something recognizable to establish the theme!" Popuko shot back.

"Whatever, I've played this game before, I just have to grab you by the tail and throw you into the bombs."

"Like you're ever gonna outspeed me, little girl."

And then Dokuro grabbed Popuko's tail.

"N- Nani?"

The afterimage of Dokuro faded from sight. The real Dokuro grunted and began turning on her heels, spinning Popuko ever faster before she released her grip and sent her flying into one of the floating mines that circled the arena. With a violent explosion, Popuko was sent flying into the air.

Dokuro gave a winning smile and a peace sign. Popuko landed-shell down right on top of her and squashed her flat.


 

Zoro had apparently had enough futzing about and full body tackled Clint out of the clearing. He straddled Clint, and couldn't get a good a swing with the blade in his mouth and so he just opted to batter him with the dull blades in either hand.

Clint took about three solid swings to the face before mounting a counter, swinging his legs up and wrapping them around Zoro's throat, before slamming them and him back into the ground. He gave Zoro's head another stomp for good measure as he scrambled to his feet.

Clint grabbed the chainsaw arrow and quickly sliced a couple nearby trees, toppling them behind him as he bolted into the forest. He spared a glance behind him as he ran to confirm that, yes, Zoro vaulted over the fallen trees with barely any trouble. Clint spun and fired the chainsaw arrow, cutting down one last tree in Zoro's path. Zoro leaped, planting one hand on the fallen tree to push himself over, then released the blade in his mouth and slammed its butt with one his putty'd blades. The sword flew straight, Clint barely ducked in time and watched the sword cleave a tree's trunk in half. The tree toppled, and Clint jumped, bouncing off the tree as it fell and grabbing onto the upper branches of the forest's canopy. Then he pressed a smoke arrow into the branch beneath him.

The smokescreen overtook the entire area, and Clint as quietly as he could hopped from branch to branch to try and lose Zoro. He stopped, pressing his back against a cluster of branches thick enough to hide him, and let out a deep breath.

Then something demolished the trunk and the tree started to topple.


 

Dokuro jumped from floating metal platform to floating metal platform. Popuko had turned into a much more conventional dragon and was flying behind her, demolishing the platforms as she went, and the Mega Buster on Dokuro's arm was barely scratching the thing.

"I haaaaaaaaaaaaate this level!" Dokuro screamed above the rushing wind. "When do we get to the three platforms that I can just stand on already?"

Sure enough, she soon came to a gathering of three platforms clustered close together. She hopped onto the first and turned to see Popuko slowing down. Dokuro began firing with reckless abandon at her, moving quickly between the three platforms to try and become a hard to hit target. Then, Popuko flicked her tail and sent the three platforms flying away. Dokuro plummeted.

"That's cheatiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiing!"


 

Bravestarr was still just recovering himself when Archer got tackled away by Zoro. Rasputin growled.

"The three of you, end him."

Bravestarr turned to see the other three Servants staring him down.

"Velvet," he said. "You're a reasonable person. We don't need to do this."

"One of us has to beat the other. We can't go home until this entire thing's put behind us. The least I can do is beat you before Creed up and kills you or something."

Creed laughed.

"Fat chance of that. Imagine Blade Level 2."

Creed's blade shot towards Bravestarr. He rolled under the first strike, then backflipped over the second.

"Hey, Danzo," he said, weaving around another strike and pressing his badge to deflect a shot from Velvet's sniper-rifle-scythe. "I understand you're trying to test our abilities and all that." He stopped the kid in red's wild charge and threw him against a tree, then stepped back to avoid Creed's blade's bite. "But I am very outnumbered here, and I'm sure you've noticed before-" He stopped and hissed as Creed's blade nicked the side of arm. "I'm not so good at dealing with swords."

Danzo, painfully slowly, thought it over. Then he reached his conclusion.

"I suppose it can't be helped."

He moved his arms slightly and in an instant the rope around him snapped. Rasputin looked at this development with shock, then made to move towards Danzo. He hadn't made it one step before Danzo struck him with a palm, and it was like he'd been hit with a cannon. His body exploded into parts like an action figure, it wasn't a gorey mess like when Dokuro hit people, it just seemed like Rasputin's body was already kind of falling apart anyhow. The hypothesis was certainly backed by the fact that his head was still screaming bloody murder.

Danzo walked to the center of the clearing as Bravestarr continued to weave around his opponent's attacks with barely any chances of actually hurting any of them.

"I saw Zoro's betrayal coming before I even summoned him," he said. "So of course I came prepared."

When he was in an open enough spot, his hands flashed together and wind shot from his nostrils, carving the summoning ring into the ground. He then ignored Bravestarr soaring over his head and reached into his robe, pulling out two blue and black striped socks. He tossed them into the ring, stepped back, and moved his hands together again.


 

A cardboard box shuffled its way into the base. Dokuro was inside it, practically invisible to the world. Her headband fluttered in the breeze that eaked its way into her box. She took a drag on her cigarette. Then she-

No, wait, Dokuro burst from the box.

"Hold on," she said. "We already did a Metal Gear parody this chapter."

Popuko was dressed in a brown trenchcoat with an eyepatch.

"Maybe you could make it like, a callback?"

"No, a proper callback joke requires setup, planting, and payoff. If you skip from setup to payoff, it just feels redundant. Especially when it's the same joke both times, with only minor differences."

"I see, how interesting."

Popuko drew her pistol and shot Dokuro through the forehead.

"Dokuro?" Otacon screamed through her earpiece. "Dokuro?! DOKUROOOOOOOOOOOO!"


 

"So, let me get this straight."

The girl who now stood in the circle was pale with dark, maid-like clothing and long dark hair. Danzo didn't see a weapon on her, he briefly wondered if she wouldn't end up in the exact same situation as Bravestarr was, but of course any new Servant could easily turn the tides of battle.

"You want me to fight that group of losers over there who are beating up on Tonto."

Danzo nodded.

"And my reasons for doing this are that you told me to."

Danzo nodded again.

"Because you want to have some freaky sex relationship with me, despite the fact that I don't know who the fuck you even are."

Danzo crossed his arms.

"For one dressed as a maid, you seem to have an odd idea of what servitude is."

"Okay hold on, let's get one thing straight here douchebag. This right here, this is fashion, and it's got nothing to do with your weird sex shit, alright? And if you want me to actually help you, you're going to have to give me something a little more than because I told you so."

"Are you planning on just walking home? We are currently trapped in the distant past."

"Psh. I'm an angel, heaven deals with time travel shit all the time, I'll be fine."

"Perhaps a wish then. The heart's greatest desire."

The girl's eyes narrowed.

"You best not be fucking with me, old man."

"I'm sorry to say that you've been called here into the middle of a tournament spanning space and time, the winning team's prize is the holy grail, which can grant a person any wish."

"For fucking real? And I can wish for anything, right? Infinite money? Infinite sweets? Infinite money to buy infinite sweets?"

"And so much more."

The girl smiled wide and grabbed Danzo by the hand, vigorously shaking.

"You got yourself a deal, sir, my name's Stocking and just to clarify you don't actually want any weird sex shit from me, right?"

"Just do your job and defeat the enemy Servants."

Stocking reached down and grabbed at her socks. In a flash of blue light, they transformed into twin, glowing katanas in either hand. Her smile dropped in an instant and was replaced by a look of absolute seriousness.

"I'm on it."


 

"Objection!" Dokuro yelled, dressed in a blue suit with a pink tie. A ziplock baggie with a bullet inside appeared in a window in the top right. "If you compare the ballistic markings on this bullet with those in the prosecutor's shoulder, the truth of the matter will become clear!"

Popuko was situated on the other side of the courtroom, dressed in a blue and gold suit with a cravat around her neck.

"Objection!" she yelled back. "I'd like you to take a look at this piece of evidence."

A window appeared in the top right, replacing the one with the bullet, this one was a baseball bat with several nails driven through it.

"But that evidence has nothing to do with this case." said Dokuro.

Popuko reached up and grabbed the bat out of the window, and tapped it against her palm. "Doesn't it?"

The bearded judge watched Popuko chase Dokuro around the courtroom with bat held high over her head.

"Well, Ms. Mitsukai? Do you have a rebuttal to the prosecution's claims?"


 

Stocking shot forward, crossing her Stripes and catching the weird ghost looking snake sword thing in the resulting scissor. The leather daddy holding the blade looked shocked to hell and back.

"Who in the hell are you?"

"Like I'm really gonna tell you my fucking life story while we're trying to murder each other emo douche. And for the record casual fetish wear died with the Matrix movies, keep that shit in the bedroom where it fucking belongs."

Stocking thrust up, knocking the leather daddy back, then with her Stripes sent several blades of energy flying at him. His sword snapped out, coiling up to form a shield in just the right spots to deflect her slashes, slicing through rows and rows of trees behind him.

"Tch," the leather daddy tch'd. "Imagine Blade Level 3."

His sword grew to twice its length and melded with his arm, the eye moving to the shoulder, and for some reason a third arm grew out of his back.

The leather daddy blurred, shooting from place to place in a semi-sphere around Stocking, using his third arm to bounce from tree to tree to ground to rock to tree to more trees, mostly trees, there was a lot of trees around here. Every third or fifth jump he'd launch at Stocking with a slash, and Stocking would barely block it in time and be sent sliding back and the leather daddy would already be jumping around again.

And then Stocking saw her opportunity, it was a straight forward shot, and so Stocking shot straight at the dude herself. She waited until the last second, then slid under his swipe, slashing Stripe I in return. The two stopped on opposite sides, and it wasn't until Stocking turned her blade that the leather daddy started falling apart.

Far from screaming or gurgling like he should've done though, the leather daddy just started laughing. The arm on his back pushed his torso back onto his legs and he turned.

"Did you honestly think that would be enough to kill me?"

"I kind of hoped."


 

"Did you want to talk to me about something, kohai?" Popuko asked.

Dokuro looked over her options. "Do you want to eat lunch with me?" "Can you help me with the homework?" and... "Stick it in."

Okay, not that last one, Dokuro went back and forth between the first two. Lunch. Homework. Lunch. Homework. Lunch... Homework...

Did it actually matter?

She picked lunch.

Popuko got mad.

"You... You pervert! Think you can pull one over on me, eh?"

She smashed a beer bottle over the nearby desk.

Dokuro cried.


 

Bravestarr was having a lot easier a time now that Creed was out of the picture. Velvet swung the outline of a warhammer at him, but with a cry of "Strength of the Bear!" he braced himself and caught it, only sliding back a little. He pushed her back then turned and hit the kid with a clothesline, interrupting his wild diving kick.

It was a little harder a hit than he was intending though, as the kid was sent spiraling through several trees before coming to a stop. The poor kid's head was spinning as he just sat there in the rut.

"Oh, sorry about that kid."

He shook his head and stood up.

"Hey, I'm not just some kid. The name's Joe. Viewtiful Joe!" He struck at least 3 poses while introducing himself.

"Well howdy there Joe, my name's Bravestarr."

Velvet returned Bravestarr's courtesy by slamming the warhammer into his back. He went flying but stopped himself with a handspring and landed on his feet.

"Speed of the Puma!" Bravestarr shot forward, tackling Velvet and grabbing her around the waist. He spun, jumped, and slammed her back into the ground, satisfied hearing the wind rush from her gut.

Bravestarr then turned and charged at Joe, Joe charged on back, but as he was doing so, everything sped up around Bravestarr, Joe shot from spot to spot, striking a pose at each stop, but between them Bravestarr could barely even see him. That is, until Joe slammed his jaw with an uppercut that launched him up into the trees.

Bravestarr took out his tomahawk and dug it into the tree's bark, stopping himself, then pushed off and tackled Joe to the ground.

"What are you gonna do to me, huh? Take my V-Watch to rob me of my powers? Good luck with that tough guy."

Bravestarr sat on Joe's chest, honestly stunned at the challenge.

"That sounds like a mighty fine idea, actually. Let's try that."

Bravestarr pulled Joe's glove back and found the shiny silver watch around his wrist. He gripped it and pulled with all his might, but as Joe suggested taking it off was easier said than done.

"Strength... of... the Bear!"

The ground cracked and buckled beneath Bravestarr and Joe, Bravestarr's teeth were grit so hard he was afraid they'd start digging into each other.

And then, finally, it broke. The watch shattered as it was pulled from Joe's wrist. Joe laid on the ground, awestruck, as his clothes shifted to the much more average looking t-shirt and khakis.

"Woah..." was all he had to say.

Bravestarr stood back up, and turned to see what had happened to Velvet, when a bullet flew straight through his hat.

"Well, that was quite rude." he said, turning to see Velvet wielding some weird cross between a rapier and a revolver.


 

Dokuro sat in an empty field, nothing but short, yellow grass as far as the eye could see.

"So, what am I supposed to be doing here?"

Popuko's face appeared in the ground.

"This is an art game, you're supposed to contemplate your life and the futility of existence."

"Oh."

Dokuro sat down and hugged her knees and thought.


 

Rasputin had darted off into the woods as soon as he had managed to pull himself together. This was ridiculous, not only was that bandaged cretin managing to pull the fight back after summoning an extra Servant, how he even thought to bring an extra catalyst was beyond him, but he himself was stronger than Masters were supposed to be. Masters were supposed to be weak, pitiful, an easy target to exploit and end a fight quickly, like hi- Not like him. Rasputin was the strongest Master in this tournament, or at least he was supposed to be. But that Danzo person, he was ridiculous. What were they thinking, letting someone like that be a Master.

Leaves fell from overhead, Rasputin paid them no mind, at least not until Danzo landed right in front of him. Rasputin choked down (most of) the scream that rose from his throat in response. Then he forced himself to man up and charge Danzo. Drawing power from the reliquary, he forced the destructive force into his hand and thrust his palm forward.

Danzo chopped the hand aside, breaking the bone in Rasputin's arm, then in one fluid motion, swatted Rasputin's nose. That too broke, and Rasputin brought his good hand up to cover it, Danzo grabbed that hand and pulled it out straight, spun Rasputin around and placed a foot on his back.

"Alright!" Rasputin yelled. "Alright, I- I give. I give up."

Danzo was silent for a moment.

"Good."

He gave Rasputin's arm another tug, dislocating it, then pushed him forward.

Rasputin quietly sobbed as the two of them slowly walked back to the clearing.


 

Popuko had Dokuro in the corner, juggling her in an endless series of hits.

"This is so unfair. What's the point of putting us in a fighting game if you're just going to use an infinite on me."

"This isn't an infinite, it's a reset loop. There's a grab in the middle, you can get out at any time."

"Then tell me how!"

Popuko looked her dead in the eyes while hitting her with an uppercut, launching her into the air again.

"No."

Dokuro concentrated. Waited. The moment had to present itself, it had to, at least if Popuko wasn't lying. Which she could be.

No, wait, there it was, she could feel herself able to move again, and when Popuko's arm shot for her collar, Dokuro swatted it aside and the two jumped back.

Then Popuko slid with a kick, tripping Dokuro and putting her right back into the loop again.


 

Stocking's arms were spinning in a blur, deflecting every sword swing the leather daddy sent her way. When she saw her opening she darted forward, slicing him evenly into a bunch of little chunks, but he just laughed some more and his wounds closed up.

"Come now!" he cried. "Is this not the best way to live? Don't you feel the adrenaline pumping through your veins? Doesn't it just make you feel alive?!"

"Do you even hear yourself talking?"

The leather daddy's third arm pushed him off the ground and sent him flying in a pounce towards Stocking. She blocked the strike, then followed it, rolling onto her back before using his momentum to kick him away.

The leather daddy recovered with his third arm and easily landed on his feet. He shot forward again, cackling maniacally, blade held out to his side and preparing for the swing. Stocking just stepped forward and cold cocked him. He was sent spiraling through the air and landed hard on his back, Stocking slammed her foot into his chest. He just smiled up at her.

"What are you going to do? You can't kill me. No matter what you do I'll always come back and you'll just become more and more tired because you're just a pathetic, mortal, hu-"

Stocking shoved Stripes I through his mouth and into the ground below, pushing it all the way down to the hilt. Then she took Stripes II and did the same thing to his gut. The leather daddy looked furious, scrambling to free himself from the pin, but given the circumstances couldn't channel any of that anger into his dumb flowery bullshit.

"By the way dick, I'm an angel, don't go forgetting that."


 

Dokuro and Popuko sat across from each other at a table with a chess board between them. It was a lot less fun when she couldn't bludgeon her opponent when she lost. Surprisingly though, despite making everything up to this point, Popuko hadn't called her out on anything be against the rules. Could it be...

She moved the horsey piece to a spot across the board. She liked the horsey piece.

"Checkmate." she said.

"What?" Popuko screamed. "How?"

"Because... I have you cornered."

Popuko yelled her rage and flipped the table over, scattering the pieces across the floor. She ran over and began systematically stomping on all the black pieces (the one Dokuro had been using).

"Stupid! Stupid! Stupid! Stupid!" she screamed over and over.

Dokuro had to admit, despite everything, the girl had spirit.


 

Bravestarr pressed his badge as Velvet emptied the clip of her gunsword. He charged forward, then weaved around the stab. He went to grab at her ankles but flinched back as she swiped low, then rolled under the high swipe that followed. He turned to see the rapier also fading. Velvet closed her eyes.

"I can control it," she muttered under her breath. "I can control it I can control it I can control it."

And with a flash of light, she was holding the outlined copy of Creed's living sword.

Bravestarr sighed.

"Speed of the Puma!"

He ran in a circle around Velvet, trying to catch her off guard, but the sword was vigilant, snapping at him and forcing him to falter and sidestep to avoid it every time. He steeled himself and then went for it, charging towards Velvet's back and aiming a punch, but Velvet turned and the sword coiled around Bravestarr's wrist, the blade sinking into his skin. Bravestarr screamed and tried to pull back, but doing so would only accomplish ripping his skin off.

But then, Velvet flinched and the sword retracted, Bravestarr took a few steps back to reevaluate his opponent and nurse his wound. Then he ran off into the forest at blinding speeds.

Velvet looked relieved for a second, before a fist rocked the back of her head. She could barely react to the blur of yellow and white before it was gone again. And then the fist hit her from behind again. And again. And again. She grit her teeth, she was clearly getting frustrated.

"Just... Just DIE!" She closed her eyes and let the blade move on its own, then swung it downwards, on a perfect course to intercept Bravestarr's dash right down the middle. He dug in his heels and skid to a stop, not in time of course, but before getting too close to Velvet. Both hands shot in the air and clapped the blade between them.

"Strength... OF THE BEAR!"

With one final exertion, the blade snapped in half, a shocked look on its face before it fizzled out of existence.

Velvet looked furious at this turn of events, for a brief moment. Then her face dropped before adopting something closer to shock or despair. She dropped to her knees, sobbing into her palms, and Bravestarr gently patting her head.


 

Dokuro was trapped in a black void, standing before her was a massive construct of machinery and flesh and plant life and eyes and eyes and a tv screen right in the middle with Popuko's face glaring down at her.

Popuko was sending a torrent at her, disembodied hands holding up their middle fingers were a favorite and each one struck with the force of a grenade, but mixed in were miniature office buildings that got cracked in half when they landed, spiked bats, airplanes, robots, mechs, energy beams, and explosions.

They also came down in a torrent, there was barely any space for Dokuro to maneuver, and most of the time she didn't, most of the time she took the brunt of these rainstorms of weird, random objects and each one seemed to hurt more than the last.

She had just dodged out of the way of a burst of YouTube subscriber buttons when she saw the flashing text in the corner "GAME SAVED". She barely worked out what that could mean before the text changed to "LOADING" and then "GAME LOADED". In the time it took to blink, she was standing back where she had been a second ago and the buttons all slammed into her at once, blasting her off her feet.

Dokuro was, at this moment, in incredible pain, but she surprised Popuko and gave a slow, defiant laugh.

"And just what is so funny?" came Popuko's screeching, modulated voice.

"I knew it. I just knew you'd end this whole gauntlet in a meta game about games as a medium. I knew you'd do it!"

"It's popular and topical! So what? You still won't be able to win!"

To prove her point a hose slithered down from the main console and sent a spray of middle fingers towards her. Dokuro jumped, vaulting and flipping over the spray, and landed just in time to see the "GAME SAVED" message. Dokuro smiled and held out her hand.

The void itself cracked and excalibolg rumbled through the blackness before breaking through where it flew up and into Dokuro's waiting hand. She hurled the bat forward, not aiming for Popuko, but for the words themselves. It struck, shattering the words into a million billion pieces just before they were replaced with the word "LOADING".

Popuko screamed, her pupils shrinking down so small they could barely be seen even on the massive screen. Her mouth, still closed, frothed a white cloud of spittle. The screen rocked back and forth in her rage and toppled and was just about to crash down onto Dokuro when the message changed to "GAME LOADED" and the entire Popuko structure disappeared.

At the start of the game, Popuko's face was sprouting out of a tiny flower, writhing and screaming loud enough that the entire mountain could probably hear her.

Dokuro had beaten her.


 

The tree was falling. Clint waited until the momentum would suit him best and then jumped, rolling across the ground and eventually coming to a stop on his stomach and palms. He pushed himself up to his feet and flipped backwards as Zoro charged him again, Clint noticed that he swapped the putty covered blade in his right hand with the clean on in his mouth.

Clint landed with the taser arrow nocked and drawn, and when he set it loose it plugged Zoro right in the forehead. Electricity coursed through his body and Clint watched with relief as he writhed. Then, with concerted effort, Zoro straightened up, and without removing the arrow charged Clint and slammed a putty covered blade into his gut. Clint was sent flying backwards, he might've gone straight through a tree, his consciousness at this point was getting kind of fuzzy.

He landed back in the clearing on his back and Zoro immediately straddled him. Clint went for the scissor hold again, but Zoro held the clean blade over his shoulder and Clint nearly ran his leg through on it. Zoro meanwhile got to work slamming him across the face and chest with his putty'd sword. Over and over and over again for at least a minute. Possibly more. Or maybe less. Did Clint mention how much he was fading out of consciousness at this point?

He was still awake enough to see Zoro raise his clean blade, point aimed straight at Clint's heart.

"This..." Zoro breathed. "Is for Kopaka."

And then he exploded into red paint that, unfortunately, got all over Clint's face. He rubbed the blood out of his eyes and saw Dokuro standing there, bat in the follow through position.

"We've got to stop meeting like this." he half gasped out.

"Please, no more references Archer-san."

"Fair." He pushed himself up onto his elbows and from there onto his feet. "Better bring him back though, he's not a bad guy, got his heart in the right place. And, you know, he was right, I screwed up."

"Alright!" She cleared her throat then began to spin her bat. "Pi Piru Piru Piru PiPiru-"

"Dokuro!" That was Danzo's voice. Clint turned to see him walking out of the woods leading Rasputin by his beard. "I command you not to resurrect Zoro."

His hand flashed red and when the light faded, a third of his Master's mark was gone. Clint and Dokuro both looked at him in shock, Dokuro tried to finish the chant, but no matter how much she tried, she knew she couldn't.

Clint scowled.

"You basta-"

Danzo shoved Rasputin at Clint, stopping his advance.

"Find Bravestarr." Danzo said. "Get this one in cuffs. We're done here."

Chapter Text

"Howdy kids." said Bravestarr. "Sometimes, when you're working on your schoolwork or trying to make something, or doing something important on your own for the first time, it can be scary, especially when you don't have all the information you need."

"Wait, hold on," Archer said. "I know you're doing your bit, and stuff, but can I ask who she is?"

Stocking sat on the quarter's couch with a slice of cake on a plate, munching on it happily.

"Hey bow boy." she said. "You look very not half dead."

"I'm used to the feeling, it heals quick at this point, that didn't answer my question though."

"Well, that's what I was gonna talk about, Archer." Bravestarr said. "See, in today's story, Danzo showed us that it's okay to ask for help if you feel like you're in over your head."

"Are you actually putting Danzo on any kind of pedestal right now?" Archer asked. "After the shit he just pulled with Zoro?"

"He's got a point," Stocking added. "That shit was fucked up."

"Thank you."

"Whatever, don't talk to me like you know me."

"Nice. Great. So are you capable of compassion or positivity on any level or is this just the treat we get for not knowing you well?"

"I compassionately wish you'd get off my fucking case."

"That's not even how you use that word."

"So remember kids," Bravestarr moved on with the lesson undaunted. "Don't be afraid to ask your parents or teacher if you're having trouble with something. Everything people've done has been part of a group effort, so there's no need to feel like you have to deal with something on your own. We'll see you next time."

Chapter Text

The Long Arm of the Law

Master: Danzo Shimura

Archer: Clint Barton

Berserker: Dokuro Mitsukai

Saber: Stocking Anarchy

Rider: Marshal BraveStarr


The Chinmin

Master: Pfle

Berserker: The Crimson Chin

Archer: Stella

Caster: Red Vamirio

Saber: Luke Skywalker

Chapter Text

"So, you're here again." Aizen noted.

"You're the one insistent on haunting me." Danzo shot back.

"I assure you it's quite the other way around, Danzo. But I can't blame you for not knowing, you're still in the process of figuring all this out, after all."

"Am I?"

"You are."

"Such a confession is news to me, Aizen, considering you'd have me believe your part is so uninvolved. But it's unlike you to let that kind of information slip. Wouldn't you rather let me sit and stew, thinking I had everything figured out?"

"But you don't truly believe that, do you? You're still clawing away at the walls laid up for this tournament, desperate for any clue to my intentions, to the purpose you seem to believe I have. And why would I try and keep an idea hidden that you already believe in?"

Danzo remained silent.

"I see you've used one of your Command Seals. A wise choice, most of the other Masters have already gotten through their first, some of them even their second. But you seem so distrustful of the grail's intentions, giving you these powerful gifts."

"I was under no impression that these had anything to do with the grail."

"No, of course you don't. Despite my efforts to convince you otherwise."

"They're a balancing measure, I'm sure you put them there, like you organized everything surrounding this hunt for the grail."

"And here we go again. I proved your theories wrong in our last discussion, did I not?"

"Don't misconstrue things, Aizen. You proved that I was correct, just that some of my conclusions supported some of yours. You haven't shown me anything to make me believe your fingers aren't all over this tournament, just that you're not as much of a liar as you make yourself out to be."

"As you make me out to be, Danzo. If you want to talk about misconstruing, how about your insistence on painting me as some sort of bad guy."

"I see you as nothing of the sort. I have no qualms about the morality of others, it is not a ninja's way to have such foolish thoughts. But you are an adversary, and an impediment."

"Oh? And to what, might I ask?"

"The grail of course."

Aizen raised an eyebrow.

"Don't act surprised. If you supposedly know everything about me, then you should have known when we first met. You can set up as many measures as you wish, put as much detail in the orchestration as you can cram, but I will not abide by anyone's rules but my own."

Chapter Text

Clint stood, arms crossed in the doorway. Danzo looked at him with what little patience he had remaining.

"Do you honestly think you could hold me back, Archer?"

"Do what you want, you're not going anywhere until we talk about this."

"Don't be so dramatic, Archer. I require your assistance with an experiment anyways, you're coming with me, so you can interrogate me all you want as we walk."

Clint eventually ceded and stepped out of the way, Danzo tapped his way out of the quarters and into the Hub. Clint fell into step behind him.

"Now," Danzo said. "Where are the others?"

"The new girl's probably stuffing her face down in the food court, that seems to be where she spends most of her time. Bravestarr's out socializing and being a model citizen somewhere, but it's bound to be somewhere out in the open at least. And Dokuro... I really hope you didn't expect me to be able to predict that girl."

Danzo nodded and made his way down towards the food court.

"You're not getting out of this, Danzo." Clint continued. "I want to know why."

"Why what Archer, be more specific."

"Why you stopped Dokuro from reviving Zoro."

"It's been days, Archer, are you still on that?"

"You're despicable, you know that? Gonna keep dodging the question or do I have to pick a fight with an old man?"

"There's hardly anything to explain, Archer, it makes perfectly logical sense. You're just too sensitive for your own good. Zoro wouldn't have stopped until he had you dead, and you're too useful to allow that."

"Glad to know you care so much."

"Zoro's a hothead, and I have no idea how cooperative he would be. You, on the other hand, have proved your loyalty."

"Any loyalty I have to you gets shaken the more you talk like a supervillain talking to a minion."

"Perhaps loyalty isn't the right word. But you are bound to my words as a Master, and our interests are aligned anyways, so what problem do you have with this relationship?"

"The fact that you want to treat me like a loyal servant."

"Do you disagree with anything I've said?"

Clint huffed and looked away.

"We already met Zoro, you knew he was a hothead, why'd you bother summoning him in the first place then?"

"I was curious about the summoning process. And the fate of those who lose."

"So to sate your curiosity, you brought him back just to kill him, is that it?"

"Zoro's fate was determined by a series of decisions made entirely by him, you, and Dokuro. The only thing I did was, in a way, force you to deal with the consequences."

"Alright wise guy, what'd you learn then? If this whole thing was some learning experience for you, what's the take away?"

"I took away exactly the same thing you did Archer, only I did better to connect the dots and come to conclusions."

"Can you say a single word without making me wanting to punch your teeth in? Just curious, you understand of course."

"Of course. But I'm afraid your biting questions will have to wait."

Stocking sat at a table in the middle of the food court, surrounded by a sea of prepubescent girls, chatting it up and looking all too pleased with herself. She had her legs daintily crossed and sipped tea from a porcelain cup with one pinky out all bourgeois like, talking about... Clint could barely believe what he was hearing.

"-nd I'd rather die without pastries so I thought, you know, fuck it, I might as well just not get fat. I mean I still pack in a little weight, just enough to fill out my figure, don't wanna look like a cancer patient and shit with all my hair falling out, it's just not a good look, I'm sorry." She winked an eye open and saw Clint and Danzo approaching. "What the fuck do you two dickmunchers want?"

"No, I'm sorry," Clint said. "This sounds real important. If we're interrupting something, we can leave."

"Good. Hop to it then."

Clint leaned both hands onto the table.

"I was being sarcastic."

"And I don't care. In what world did you think I wasn't about to take you up on that offer?"

"In a world where you weren't bragging about unrealistic body standards to a bunch of kids. Now get your fat ass up, we're apparently wanted for an experiment."

The teacup rattled in her hand, but Stocking quickly calmed herself, placed the cup onto its saucer onto the table, and stood.

"And another lesson kiddies, part of being proper and presentable is holding in your rage until the right time and pummeling the object of your hatred in privacy to maintain a strong social image."

She went to follow Danzo who had already began tapping away. Clint turned to the crowd of confused looking kids.

"And, uh, there's nothing wrong with having a stomach. All that stuff's a part of being healthy. Stretch marks are beautiful. Not that I'm, like, coming onto any of you. That'd be creepy. But just so you know, it's- Whatever. Don't kill yourselves."

He turned and jogged and caught up with Danzo and Stocking as they walked away.

"Smooth move, bowboy." she said.

"You started it, what were you doing saying stuff like that to a bunch of impressionable kids?"

"Hey, it's not my fault, they wanted to know how I ate so many sweets and maintained my figure."

"How do you do that?"

"By being absolutely flawless of course."

"So your advice was... just be perfect?"

"Uh-huh."

"Caught yourself a good one here, Danzo."

"Perfection would be a nice change of pace." he said in return.

Stocking giggled.

"Ooh, burn."

"So," Clint continued. "You plan on ever telling us what this experiment of yours is?"

"I will." Danzo answered. "When the time is appropriate."

"I knew it," said Stocking. "Old man comes out of nowhere promising you anything your heart desires, that's some unmarked white van shit. Should be surprised he didn't show up asking for help finding his lost puppy."

"The more you insist upon this strange worldview of yours, the more it seems to reflect upon your own interests. If you must know, it's an experiment on the mechanics of this tournament."

"What, you think something's up?" Clint asked.

"I've held that suspicion since we got here. If you were smart, you'd be doubtful of the information you've been fed as well."

"But, you fed me that information."

"I told you everything I was told, that doesn't mean it wasn't someone else's cover."

"So you lied to us."

"I was the one lied to, Archer."

"Don't bullshit me old man, you lied to us."

"Will phrasing it like that make you feel better?"

"It might."

"Would you two sagging old lady vaginas cut it out." Stocking interrupted. "Your friend's over there."

Sure enough, Bravestarr was leaning against the banister, chatting amicably with a blond man in a blue suit with a yellow shirt and tie, and a brunette in a navy dress with a white corset that seemed just a little bit too tight for comfort.

Clint called out to him from across the gap.

"Hey, Bravestarr."

He turned and waved back.

"Howdy. There a party going on? I didn't miss it did I?"

"Danzo lied to us."

Bravestarr looked a little bewildered.

"Pay him no mind," Danzo said. "As usual, Archer's bitter and petulant. I require your assistance with an experiment. Follow."

Bravestarr tipped his hat towards his two companions, saying a few words of goodbye (presumably), then moved to join their group.

"Actually," Danzo said upon further thought. "Lead."

"Pardon?"

"We need to find Dokuro before we can continue, you're our best bet of doing so. Find her and lead us."

"Ah, alright then. Eyes of the Hawk!"

Clint, Stocking, and Danzo were left waiting there as Bravestarr concentrated. Clint whistled a jaunty tune to pass the time. He stopped after Stocking drew on her blades and jabbed him in the stomach with the pommel.

"Found her. But uh, she looks like she's in rough sorts right now. It'd probably be for the best if I went in by myself to talk to her."

Bravestarr moved with stern purpose, and the three of them followed. Clint's mind, for one reason or another, got caught up on something.

"You two seem pretty popular."

"That's to be expected." Stocking said. "I don't crave attention or anything insecure like that, but I am fashionable and adorable and sexy as hell, so it's only natural people would flock to me."

"Don't forget humble."

"Shucks, Archer," Bravestarr said. "It ain't that hard to make friends here. There are plenty of good people and plenty of bad people, same as anywhere you'd go, you just gotta be willing to get out and socialize. At least, with the good ones."

"Yeah, what are you a fucking shut in or something?" Stocking giggled.

"I'm not here to make friends." Clint snapped. "Besides which I think that bar trick effectively killed any enthusiasm I had for giving people a chance in this hellhole."

"What happened to wanting me to want you to not die?"

"I'm not here to make any more friends than I have to." Clint could feel himself getting way more defensive than he should've. "It's not like we're gonna ever see each other after all this is over."

"For what it's worth, Archer," Bravestarr added. "I consider you to be a good friend."

"Thanks," Clint said back. He scratched his chin awkwardly. "Me too."

"Get a room you two." Stocking said.

"No, you know what, Bravestarr is a good friend. He's friendly, courteous, actually has morals, is up front with his intentions, and hasn't tried to kill me even once. That's a hell of a lot better than I can say for anyone else here."

"Aw, well I'm flattered you'd say that."

Stocking gagged.

"Sorry, was I ruining the moment? It's just that I'm allergic to No Homo Guy Love, are we there yet?"

"Just about," Bravestarr said. "She's in that set of quarters over there."

Clint recognized it instantly.

"She's holed up in the brothel?"

Chapter Text

Clint, Stocking, and Danzo acquiesced to Bravestarr's request that he go in alone to talk to Dokuro.

"Wonder what she's so torn up about." Clint said.

"Did peace and quiet kill your parents or something?" Stocking responded.

"No," he turned to look her dead in the eyes. "A car did."

"If you were expecting me to get all teary eyed and apologize, you better start holding your breath."

"Seriously? Nothing? That's kind of a major faux pas you just did there."

"I didn't know." She shrugged. "And I had no way of knowing, so it's not my fault."

"Cause everything's about you, isn't it?"

"Pretty much. For what it's worth, though, I'm pretty sure she's upset over totally 86'ing that dude."

Clint laughed.

"You weren't here before her little come-to-sanity moment. She must've killed me at least a half dozen times in that first week, didn't get any tears out of her then."

"Really? You don't look very dead."

"She does this weird thing where she twirls her bat around and brings people back from the dead."

"Yo, seriously?" Stocking suddenly looked very interested. "She straight up has a direct line to heaven?"

"What?"

"Don't fucking 'What?' me, where'd you go after she killed you?"

"Uh, some weird black and glowy blue place."

Stocking sigh-groaned.

"Dammit. Just purgatory then. So much for that idea."

"I cannot begin to tell you how lost I am right now."

Stocking knocked on his forehead.

"Um, hello, earth to bowboy. Stocky wanty to go backy to heaven."

"Why do you want to go to heaven?"

"Oh my sweet Jesus. Okay, let me break this down for you."

She adopted a low down, knuckle dragging stance.

"Stocking." She patted her chest.

"Angel." She held her hands behind her and flapped them.

"Fall." She slowly crashed a fist into her palm while whistling, with bschooooww at the end.

"From heaven." She pointed up.

"Stocking." She patted her chest again.

"Want go." She mimed walking with two fingers on the flat of her hand.

"Home." She mimed a triangle over her head.

Clint watched this bizarre display with a thoughtful hand on his chin.

"Mmhmm, I see. Of course, I understand everything now. So wait, you're an angel?"

Stocking clutched at her face.

"Fucking, yes. Is that not the clearest?"

"I mean it is NOW. If you had explained that to begin with, you wouldn't have had to do... all that right there in front of everybody."

"It was worth it for the mockery."

"I guess as long as you had fun with it."

"If you really have to know, angels just perceive the world differently. We see both sides of the whole affair so it doesn't matter what happens to someone in the instant, what matters is where they end up. So long as you get plopped back into the world, trivial shit like the fact that you just died doesn't really matter. Not to angels."

"You're not gonna start killing me now, are you?"

"I fucking might if you keep asking stupid questions. Only you wouldn't get brought back after the fact. For most of us rank and file angels, that shit costs money, even just a basic trip from purgatory, and I ain't exactly rolling in coinage here."

Clint nodded, and looked over the Hub in thought. Then it hit him, his eyes shot wide and he turned back to Stocking.

"Wait! Dokuro's an angel?!"

Chapter Text

Bravestarr entered the abandoned set of quarters. Plush, heart-shaped beds and loveseats lined the walls. Like the exterior, the interior was designed with the colors red and pink heavily in mind. Each room wasn't separated by a door, but by bead curtains and a couple bends in the hallway to prevent peeping. And the entire thing had since been covered in a layer of dust. Had it really been that long since Hulao? Time was very hard to gauge here.

Bravestarr had already seen which room Dokuro was sitting in, so he went in, pushing through the beads and knocked on the wall.

"Hey lil pard. It's me. Can I come in?"

"Mmmhmmmm." Dokuro mumbled from inside.

Bravestarr walked in, she was sitting on the bed and hugging her knees. it was a surprisingly normal bed actually, for the rest of the decor. Her face was clear, but her eyes were pretty red and her nose was glowing.

"How's it going, lil pard?" He sat down on the opposite end of the bed.

"Mmm."

"You're upset about Zoro, aren't you?"

"Mmmmmm..."

"You want to talk about it?"

"Mm." She buried her face in her knees.

"Well that's alright. You don't have to."

The two sat in silence for a moment.

"Danzo wants all of us to go do something with him. From the sounds of it, it's probably important."

"Mmmmmmmhm."

"Aw, but you know that old coot. It's impossible to tell what he thinks is important or not. He gives the same reaction to strategizing a battle as he does to wondering what he's going to have for lunch."

Dokuro's shoulders were shaking. She was trying to stifle her laughter. Bravestarr smiled. He covered up one of his eyes and gave his best Danzo impersonation.

"Hmm, I'm craving a bean enchilada, but eating such a thing would certainly give me the toots."

Dokuro's shoulders rocked with even more barely contained laughter. Bravestarr gave her a small pat on the back.

"Alright, we'll be waiting outside for when you're ready to go. Just want you to know that nobody blames you for what happened, alright?"

He left the room and stepped back out into the Hub, only to find Stocking and Archer were at each other's throats again.

"-she has a halo?" Stocking was saying.

"I don't know, I thought it was just like, a gimmick or something." Archer said back.

"What the fuck do you mean a gimmick?"

"A gimmick, you know, supers always have weird gimmicks. I use a bow and arrow, that's a really weird gimmick to have."

"At least you acknowledge it."

"I just kind of figured that an actual angel would have, like, morals and stuff."

"I have plenty of morals."

"Cheesecake isn't a virtue."

"What are you two numskulls arguing about now?" Bravestarr interjected.

"Bravestarr," Archer said, almost accusingly. "Did you know Dokuro was an angel?"

"I, uh, I kinda figured. She's got the halo and everything."

"Told you." Stocking stuck her tongue out.

"Yeah, real mature. So what's the deal, is she coming with us or not?"

"I talked to her, she's really shaken up about the whole Zoro thing, but I think she'll bounce back."

"I would like to get this done as soon as possible, Bravestarr." Danzo said.

"Same," Stocking added. "I was barely fucking into that desert trolley when you called me away."

As if on cue, Dokuro came bursting from out the front doors, her usual cheery self.

"Hey everyone, sorry to worry you all but I'm ooooooooookay now." She tapped her knuckles against her forehead and stuck her tongue out.

Even Bravestarr thought the transition was a little fast. Archer in particular was eyeing her closely, looking for some crack in the facade.

Then he concluded the scan with a shrug.

"Cool. So, where are we going?"

"Yes, now that we're all together," Danzo said. "There's something I would like to try, somewhere away from prying eyes."

"You keep talking," Stocking said. "But all I can hear is the missing persons reports."

"Back to the quarters, then?" Archer asked.

"No, when I wish to avoid prying eyes, I mean the prying eyes of the organizers."

"Organizers?" Stocking asked. "Who are they?"

"I don't know." Archer said back. "He rambles about this kinda thing all day."

"The idea at least," Bravestarr said. "Is that the grail isn't the only thing controlling this whole shindig, the mysterious organizer is the person who's doing all the gruntwork. At least, that's what I'd figure."

"Where are we gonna go that they couldn't see us though?" asked Dokuro.

Archer had a pensive look on his face. Within seconds in broke.

"Oh, goddammit."

Chapter Text

Clint had tried to seal up that hole. He'd honestly tried. But you know, being in a hurry, sometimes you don't do the best job of things. As it had turned out, it was actually very easy for that bartender (Clint was sure he'd learned his name at some point but he'd honestly forgotten) and his team to break through the putty Clint had left behind. Word was, they were now offering access to the equipment factory in exchange for some kind of vague notion of a fee. To say that people jumped on this opportunity would be an understatement, Clint heard talk that some people even sacrificed team members to become test subjects in order to get their hands on that extra bit of equipment.

And so the five of them found themselves huddled outside the same door that Clint and Bravestarr had entered only days earlier under the guise of being a new bar. The memory was still pretty fresh in Clint's mind, but he had been forced to learn long ago how to swallow that apprehension of going to ask for help from someone who had just been trying to murder you in fiery rage the day before. It came up more often than you'd think.

Danzo knocked. Within moments, the door cracked open and the creepy face of that bartender peeked through at them.

"What do you want?"

"Yeah, what do you think we want?" Clint said.

"We wish for passage to the factory." Danzo answered Clint's hypothetical.

The bartender squinted his eyes.

"Do you have payment?"

"We created this passage for you, did we not? Do you not owe us?"

"Create another one, then."

Danzo nodded knowingly.

"Very well. Name your price."

"Well," The bartender mused it over. "I would like to kill that archer..."

Clint instinctively went for his quiver.

"I'm sorry to say, that his life is not on the table for this negotiation."

*"This" negotiation?" Clint muttered to himself, but drew his hand back anyways.

The bartender thought it over some more. Then he pointed to Stocking.

"You. You're non-human, correct?"

"What's it to you, asswipe?"

"I'd like a DNA sample."

Stocking reached down and pulled one of her katana.

"Touch me and I cut you."

"Nothing major, just a strand of hair or a glob of spit."

"I'll spit on your fucking corpse how about th- HEY!"

Dokuro grabbed onto a strand of hair and yanked, plucking it straight from her head.

"You little snatchwagon!"

"Here you go Mayuri-san."

The bartender grabbed the (absurdly long) strand of hair from Dokuro and looked it over as he smiled just a little wider.

"Entrance granted."

"I hope the next week of masturbation you're getting out of that is worth it shit-for-brains." Stocking growled as they made their way inside. "Because the next time I see you, you're fucking dead."

The path to the tunnel was the same as Clint remembered it, and Dokuro seemed to have the directions memorized for whatever reason, so finding the entrance took almost no time at all.

The tunnel itself, however, was also just as long as Clint remembered it. Whoever had designed this place, grail or creepy shadowy Illuminati-figure, wanted the Servants and Masters to be as far as possible from the inner workings, so getting from one end to the other was a trek and a half.

About 2 minutes had passed. Clint opened his mouth to say something, fill in the awkward silence.

"Don't say a word or I'll take out my anger on you instead." Stocking said. "I still haven't forgotten that fat comment."

Clint accepted that.

Another 5 minutes passed.

"For Christ's sake!" Stocking yelled. "How fucking long can this fucking tunnel be?"

"I thought we weren't supposed to be talking." Clint muttered.

"I bet if I ran as fast as I could," Dokuro said. "I could get there before Archer could sneeze."

"Why not make it a race?" Bravestarr said. "I can get my mosey on when I put my mind to it."

"We could be on the other end by now," Stocking continued. "Doing whatever the fuck it is we came all this way to do if it weren't for bowboy. And you call me fat."

"You're free to race my rocket arrow if you're that confident."

"None of you are racing anywhere." Danzo said. "I won't have anyone risking themselves getting caught on the other end due to childish rivalries and impatience."

Stocking let out a groan that she was happy to make as audible as possible.

"Tunnel can't be that much longer, right? It's gotta be an optical illusion or something, it looks far away but it's actually right there in front of us, right?"

Stocking was unfortunately quite wrong. It took almost 15 minutes of walking (and bitching from a certain bitch) before they finally reached the cold, artificial light at the end of the tunnel and all clambered onto the catwalk.

"Alright Danzo," Clint said. "You went through all that effort to drag us here, what do you want?"

Danzo was scanning the room, hardly paying attention to the four Servants he had spent most of the morning gathering and herding.

"Hmm, yes," he said. "I suppose we shouldn't need to go too deep in to test this. Alright then."

He cleared his throat.

"Stocking, I use my command seal and order you to kill Archer."

It felt like the wind had been knocked from the entire room, which again, it was a very large room. All five of them stood there in a hung silence for what felt like an eternity. Not a one of them moved an inch. Clint's arrow arm tensed, he wanted to dart for his quiver, arm himself with literally anything, but would there be time? Was this part of the test? Why wasn't Stocking moving?

"Um," she eventually said. "No?"

Danzo seemed intrigued by this answer.

"And why not?"

"Why the fuck would I just kill this guy? Will that get me the grail, cause if so..."

"It will not get you any closer to the grail, you will simply do it because I told you to."

"Okay look gramps, I'm not nobody's lap dog, and to be honest I don't know why you expected this weird little gamble of yours to work, I'm not just gonna kill bowboy for no good reason."

"Yes, I suppose it would seem like a strange request to you. But you're also much less familiar with command seals."

"Hold on," Bravestarr cut in. "Just what is happening here?"

"That's what I'd like to know. A Servant should not be able to deny an order from a command seal, we saw that in the ordeal with Zoro. But Stocking wasn't there for that, or for any other uses of a command seal. That's why I asked her."

"You think it might be because I'm an angel?"

"Of course not. It worked perfectly fine on Dokuro."

"Hold on," Clint said. "Okay one, I don't much appreciate having my life on the line just for this little test of yours."

"Noted. Although had you been killed, Dokuro would have resurrected you."

"Alright, I'll accept that answer. Two then, how come the command seal can work hundreds of years in the past, but it won't work inside the central facility?"

"Several other Masters have used their command seals in the Hub. Make no mistake, the deciding factor is that we've moved behind the scenes. Away from prying eyes, I believe I put it earlier."

"But, that still doesn't make any sense."

"No, it doesn't." Danzo turned back and moved towards the tunnel. "That is all, you're free to go."

"So is it just me," Stocking remarked as the four of them filed back into the tunnel. "Or was that whole thing kind of pointless?"

"It's worth thinking about." Bravestarr said. "I certainly can't figure out how the command seal's supposed to work now."

"I guess..." Clint started. "I guess it's gotta be done manually, right? Whoever's running this has to press the big red Obey Button, and they don't have eyes back here, so they didn't know to press it."

"Still, how would you be able to just have a button that makes Servants obey any single order?"

"Maybe uh... Maybe some kind of hypnosis that makes people super vulnerable to suggestion. But, I guess, only for a short time. Just long enough to make a command."

"If it's so open, why wouldn't they just give that power to the Masters to simplify the process? We already saw that it's not an issue of morals."

"I don't know, maybe they just don't trust them enough."

"I don't get it," Dokuro said. "Why wouldn't someone trust Danzo-san?"

"Would you all shut up?" Stocking said.

"Yeah, yeah, we get it," Clint rolled his head. "You don't want to hear us talk, but this is kind of important."

"No. Seriously. Shush." Stocking stopped, her eyes going far away. "Do you hear that?"

Clint stopped talking and focused. His hearing aid was working overtime to try and pick up whatever Stocking could possibly be talking about. There was something coming from the Hub-end of the tunnel but... he couldn't exactly tell what. Whatever it was, it was rhythmic, artificially rhythmic, falling on a steady on-off beat, and...

"Ears of the Wolf!"  Clint nearly jumped out of his skin. "Why, that's an alarm. There's an alarm going off in the Hub."

"Does this normally happen?" Stocking asked.

"Hasn't done anything like this before." Clint said.

"Wait, there's something else." Bravestarr continued. "It sounds like some kind of explosion. A lot of them, actually."

"You think someone finally snapped and tried to take everyone out at once?"

"Wouldn't they just end up in a singularity with whoever they hit first?" Stocking added.

"Doesn't matter," Bravestarr said. "Whatever it is, it's big. And we don't have time to sit around and talk about it. Speed of the Puma!"

Bravestarr zipped to the other end of the tunnel in a flash of yellow and white. Dokuro zoomed off just as quickly.

"Try and make it there sometime this year, bowboy."

"Yeah, well, don't wait up for me."

Stocking drew both her blades and took off, kicking up dust in Clint's face.

As he coughed that back up, his ears caught the sound of Danzo tapping up from behind.

"Blech." Clint wafted away the last of the dust. "I'm assuming you heard all that."

"Naturally."

"And I'm assuming, despite the fact that you could make it to the end of the tunnel before me, that you're just going to let me go on ahead."

"It is a Servant's place to rush headlong into battle, not a Master's."

"Yeah, yeah, whatever."

"I expect you to be in the process of resolving the situation by the time I catch up with you."

"High expectations."

"You've quite earned them."

Clint almost laughed.

"Was that a compliment?"

"Archer!"

"Shit. Right. Alright, I'm going."

Clint took off himself, running as fast as his legs would allow towards the light on the other end. It still took a solid 3 minutes, and by the time he reached it he was ready to keel over. He decided to give himself at most 30 seconds, stopping and clutching his knees.

At least, he had planned that, before a girl pushed past him. Clint didn't get too many details, a tracksuit, a ponytail, a look of terror that Clint rarely saw outside of life or death situations. No time for a break then.

The klaxon alarms bored through Clint's skull as he ran, the shortness of breath wasn't helping matters much, but he pushed through it. He had to push through it. Push Clint, push!

Why wasn't this door opening?

Whatever, Clint had a lock picking arrow. He planted it on the door and ducked away as it was blown off its hinges.

Clint ran off into the Hub proper and got a decent look at what exactly he was dealing with.

Things weren't looking good.

Chapter Text

Where the blast wasn't pure blinding light, it glowed a hateful red, bathing the entire quasi-mall in the color of blood. It reached from floor to ceiling and had to be at least 15 feet across. If that wasn't bad enough, it was moving. Homing in on Servants and Masters alike, obliterating each of them within seconds along with the quarters around them.

Stocking and Dokuro were weaving just outside of the blast radius, both had their eyes on the sky, trying in desperation to get a lock on just what was firing on them. Clint's eyes followed theirs, and something struck him, and in retrospect it should've been obvious.

The ceiling had been blown open. Clint could see out of it and into the inky blackness of the sky above. The thought of escape crossed his mind for just a second.

"Nice of you to finally join us, bowboy."

Right. He'd have to be a monster to leave all these people to die. He had to do something.

"What's the situation?" he asked.

"What the FUCK does it look like?"

"Sorry. Dumb question. Where's Bravestarr?"

"Where the FUCK do you think?"

Clint somehow felt more winded than he already was.

"You mean he..."

"Yep. Ran right into it like a dumbass."

"Archer-san, I'm scared."

"Yeah..." Clint breathed. "Yeah me too."

"Unless you two want to join him I'd get a move on." Stocking growled. "Looks like we're the next targets."

Clint took her advice and ran, moving right as the beam started crawling dead on towards him.

He had an idea, it wouldn't work if this thing was some kind of orbital laser, but if the attacker was close enough- Clint drew his adamantium arrow, a special kind of metal for a special kind of emergency, tracked the beam to its source, took aim, then fired.

The beam swallowed it, and Clint watched as the heat burned away at the metal before not even ash remained.

"You're firing arrows at it?!" Stocking yelled as they ran.

"That was the unbreakable metal arrow. You should be able to dip that shit in the sun and it won't melt. I've seen that stuff survive nuclear explosions, what is this?"

"If you want to know so badly, why don't you get a closer look."

"Do we even have a plan?"

"Yeah, it's don't die. I'm going through that hole in the roof, you're free to join me."

"Hold on, we have to get everyone else out first."

"They're Servants they can handle themselves."

Clint's mind flashed to that girl in the bartender's quarters. He skid on his heels and turned around.

"Where the fuck are you going!?" Stocking screamed.

"Get Dokuro, get out of here, I'll catch up with you later."

Clint didn't wait for Stocking to say fuck at him again. He ran straight towards the beam, watching as it curved to meet him head on. He drew his grappling hook arrow, he'd have to time this perfectly. He counted in his head, breathed quick, deep breaths, then shot to the right. The hook attached to the trimming of a quarter's doorway and he pulled, pulled with every muscle he dared to think he had in those arms, and shot to the side as the beam passed over the spot he just was.

No time to stop, Clint, stopping means painful, fiery death. He ran straight back into that bartender's quarters.

"Hey!" he yelled. "Girl from earlier! I'm here to help! You stay in here and that thing'll get you!"

The girl's ponytailed head poked it's way out of a doorway. The panic certainly hadn't left her eyes, but the tears were new.

Clint offered his hand.

"Come on. And come quickly, that thing'll be back on us in a second."

She tentatively reached out and accepted, Clint didn't wait an instant before yanking her out of the room.

The plan was being formed in his head as they ran. There were two places they could go, the equipment factory and the hole in the Hub's ceiling. The factory didn't have any "eyes" on it, but would whoever's firing still know they'd run off there? The beam could track people through the ceiling, so either the person firing could see through metal or they were working with whoever was running things, or were whoever was running things. But could anyone follow what was going on in this chaos? Still, the factory was completely closed off, it wouldn't be hard to just destroy everything to get at them.

Hub it was, he darted out through the door and immediately took off to his left as the edge of the beam nearly grazed him. Clint could feel the skin peeling off of him, but there was no time. There was never time but now especially there was no time.

How many rocket arrows did he have? Not many, it wasn't all that useful an arrow. 2 tops. 2 was the standard but the constant refilling was messing up his count. Get the girl out, the beam should destroy a couple walls by the time he could find anyone else. He drew his rocket arrow with his free hand, looked back up to figure out where he should aim, and then for like the 12th time that minute, the impossible happened.

A second beam shot from the sky. With it came a sudden burning in his Clint's hand. He didn't need to look to realize what happened, especially when he couldn't feel the girl's hand in his anymore. Especially when he couldn't feel his hand anymore.

There was no time. There was never time. God why was there never time? He activated the rocket arrow with his thumb and shot away, his arm dislocating at the shoulder in the process, as the two beams collided and passed over each other. Clint spared a glance at his hand and immediately wished he hadn't. A burnt black stump was all that existed past the wrist, and realizing that sent pain shooting into his brain.

But there was no time.

Clint ran, listening intently over the oppressive sounds of destruction, listened for anything, any cry for help, any scuffle of panicked movement, any shuddering breaths, anything. He kicked down every door that was still closed, searched every set of quarters as much as he could manage before the beams passed over them, and he found not a soul. At least, not on the first floor, the second floor didn't really exist anymore. The last place to check was the food court. A number of feelings twinged at his heart as he saw the same spot Stocking had been boasting in earlier. He thought about all those girls, there was still hope, there had to be hope, but Clint couldn't help that his first thought was about how they had all been incinerated.

The food court and the kitchens were clear, even the robots that staffed it had disappeared, the only sounds left in the Hub were the tapping of Clint's feet as he ran and the pure, blaring obliteration from the beams.

Clint took a knee in the food court, dumping his quiver onto the floor with a flick of his shoulders. He grabbed a grappling hook arrow with his teeth, using his stump arm to help wrap the cord around his dislocated one. One breath, two breaths, YANK, and with a tug of his teeth, his arm snapped back into place. He grabbed the rocket arrow and stowed it in his teeth as he ran back to the center of the building. As he made it under the massive hole in the ceiling, he spotted the lumpy figure of one of Stocking's socks lying flaccid on the ground.

There was no time to think about it. There was never time. Why did Clint never deserve any time?

He grabbed the bow off his back with his good hand, then braced his stump against the grip, grabbed the arrow from his mouth, nocked, aimed, fired, and flew. Up past the destruction, up to what remained of the ceiling, up to freedom.

His aim was off.

The rocket crashed into the very edge of the ceiling, Clint flew a little farther and his midsection slammed against the splintering rim. Both arms scrambled to find any kind of purchase on the roof, and for the first time, Clint saw exactly where he was.

It was nothing short of a vision of hell. Suffocating heat came from a patchwork of lava flows, mixing with the assaulting stench of sulfur to create a concoction that nearly knocked Clint out on the spot. The ground was dark, burned, and cracked, letting loose bursts of steam as the the crags shifted and shook and warred with one another for dominance. Clint could see now that what he had assumed to be a black night sky was actually the roof of this massive cavern, stalactites the size of city buses hung perilously above them. Just the sight made Clint wonder if the beams hadn't actually caught him, if he wasn't actually already dead.

"Archer-san!"

Clint's head shot towards the voice. Dokuro was standing on the roof, dumbstruck with her bat held loosely at her side, and sure enough, Stocking was nowhere to be seen.

"Go!" he screamed. "Run!"

Dokuro did run, she ran right towards him, concern plastered all over her face.

He screamed at her, screamed with every ounce of fury he could still muster for the kid, hoping it would be enough to chase her away. And he continued to scream, right through a third beam shooting from the sky and overtaking and overwhelming her form in an instant.

God. Dammit. Damn it. Damn it all to hell.

Clint's purchase slipped. He found it hard to keep caring. He barely noticed as he fell back down into the Hub. And yet, he wasn't even allowed the privilege of hitting the ground. The three beams converged on him and overtook him as he fell, washing over him with the most intense light Clint had ever experienced.

And then there was nothing. Nothing but light. Clint was floating in it. Bathing in it. Merging with it. Clint was light. Light was no longer Clint, just a drop of light in an endless sea of light. Light was simultaneously the most minuscule speck of light, a single photon amidst an endless ocean, and also all of that great expanse of all light to every exist that filled eternity.

Chapter Text

Hours may have passed. Years may have passed. The entire course of human civilization may have passed. But then, gradually, Clint was Clint again. He was still in the light, but he was separate from it at long last.

And then he heard something through the light. The sounds of waves washing against shore. The sound of birds chirping at each other. The sound of... people. People talking with one another.

And then there was sensation.

It was the sensation of Stocking jabbing her sword into his side.

"Hey. You can open your eyes now, bowboy."

Clint honestly hadn't realized they'd been closed. At the realization though, they jolted open, and Clint had to shield them for a second as they adjusted.

He was on a beach. Ocean stretched out as far as the eye could see in front of him.

"Is this heaven?" he breathed.

"No." Came the simultaneous response from Dokuro and Stocking.

"It's alright, Archer," came Bravestarr's voice. "That big beam of light had us shaken too, but it looks like it was actually some means of mass teleportation."

Clint raised his hands, looked at the both of them. They were both there. They were both in one piece.

"No," he said, turning to face his companions. "No that can't be right, that's impossible, I- Wh- What are you all wearing?"

Swimsuits were the obvious answer, Clint supposed a better question might've been why they were wearing swimsuits.

Stocking had a blue and white striped bikini, a flower in her hair and multiple others strung around her neck with some Kanye West shutter shades perched in her hair.

Dokuro wore a navy blue one piece, Clint had the vaguest inclination that it was some kind of school uniform swimsuit, but no way of confirming.

Bravestarr... also wore a one piece. An old-timey marine blue, striped one piece that showed off his shoulders and ended in tight shorts just above his knees.

And Danzo was skulking off away from the group, dressed as he always was. Clint was honestly pretty relieved, he'd hate to even imagine what that might look like.

"Why don't you speak for yourself bowboy?"

Clint looked down. He himself was apparently wearing his favorite purple trunks, and, goddamn did he actually have that much of a tan line?

"It's alright Archer-san." Clint was having trouble consolidating the now cheerful Dokuro with the image of pure fear she had been. "That was really scary but look! We're on the beach! It's a vacation! You were saying that you wanted a break and here we are! Wishes do come true after all!"

Clint scanned the rest of the beach. It was a small little alcove of sand, surrounded by a thick forest of leafy green tropical trees and full of every single Servant that had just been disintegrated. Even that ponytail girl was there, though she'd traded in the tracksuit for a sporty, backless one piece. The water was clear. The sand was pristine. There was even a tiki-styled mini-bar-slash-shack staffed by a hot number in a bikini, and with some beach equipment leaning against the side.

Was the cost of a decent vacation the experience of dying? Had he died? It felt so different from the previous times. How did Clint get to such a situation that he was becoming an expert on dying? Just, overall, what in the hell just happened?

The prospect of figuring it all out hurt Clint's head. So instead, he gave up. He accepted that he was now on the beach God knows where on a forced but not wholly unwelcome vacation.

Futz it.

Chapter Text

Stocking Anarchy

The midday sun felt amazing as it hit Stocking. It filled her with a warmth that, due to her angel biology, could only be truly matched by receiving strong feelings of gratitude and love from another, supposedly capable of filling her with celestial force all on its own. Supposedly. She wasn't the most experienced with that quirk of her body.

Still, where there is warm sun, rain is sure to follow. But like, metaphorically, you know.

"You can't be serious." Danzo snarled. "You plan to just roll over and accept this trap at face value? Expose yourselves? When it couldn't be more blatantly a ploy at shallow manipulation?"

"Uh, yeah." Stocking shot back. "Mama needs some fucking R&R, and if anyone tries to fuck with me while I'm doing that, I'll just send them back home in a shoebox."

Archer had her back. "After what we just went through in there, I'm not willing to look a gift horse in the mouth."

"Look at this way, Danzo," The three hit combo concluded with a final blow from Bravestarr. "Morale all around is starting to look low. This is a good chance for everyone to rest and rejuvenate and prepare for the fights to come."

Danzo didn't look satisfied (Stocking wondered if he ever had been, would explain why he had such a stick up his ass), but he conceded. In a way.

"You're all fools." he said. "Be wary for the first sign of danger."

Stocking was cool with that.

First thing was first, she needed something fruity from that fucking mini-bar, then-

"Yo, Stockin'!"

Oh God no.

"Panty!" Her sister was running up to their group, waving her arm like an idiot. "What the crap are you doing here?"

"I could ask you the same thing girl, when the fuck did you decide to pop in? I've been bustin' my clit for like a month now, figured I woulda seen your stank ass gloomin' it up at some point in all that."

"That's funny, the idea of you putting work into something other than dick. For your information, whore, I got here a couple days ago."

"What? Oh that's some bull to the motherfucking shit, you don't get to just jump in halfway through and suddenly be in the running for a wish, nuh-uh."

"Um," Archer interjected. "Who's this?"

"This is-"

Panty draped an arm around Stocking's shoulder, pulling her in way too tight.

"I'm Stockin's big sister, name's Panty. Stockin', you didn't tell me you were drowning in grade-A man meat over here."

"I'm drowning in something alright."

"You're not hitting that are you? I mean I might still anyways, but I figure I might as well ask up front."

"Um, what?" Archer had no idea what was about to happen to him, Stocking almost felt sorry for him.

"Oh please," Stocking said. "I wouldn't touch Archer with a 20 foot pole. The whole bow and arrow thing reeks of hipster and sorry thick-rims, but I'm allergic."

"Fuckin' A!" Panty grabbed Archer by the wrist. "I got a backpack for you to stick your shaft in, big boy."

"Uh, it's called a qui-"

Archer didn't get to finish whatever he was going to say before Panty yanked him away. That poor poor motherfucker. She hoped he didn't die too quickly from the cocktail of STD's brewing in Panty's snatch. Speaking of cocktails though...

Stocking absolutely HAD to hit the bar before the peons caught wise. There was already a small crowd forming, though whether it was for the bartender or the drinks, Stocking wasn't sure. The girl mixing drinks was definitely a hot piece of ass, there was no denying it. Soft, amber eyes and long, dark brown hair with a little fringe of bangs in the front and enough draping over her shoulders to frame her face, but the real length behind her back went well below where Stocking could see over the bar. Strong arms and a decent set of abs, and she wore a simple, functional, black bikini, which was only barely containing those funbags, Jesus fucking Christ.

Stocking, however, was a goddamn professional, and was sure not to stare as she ordered a Sex on the Beach (might as well) and from the sound of it, Panty was getting something similar behind the shack. Stocking had barely registered this fact, when she realized the bartender was pouring in the last bit of her drink in. And she even added a little garnish with a cherry and an orange slice skewered on a toothpick! Damn, this bitch was good.

"So hey," Stocking said. "If a girl wanted to catch some rays out here without turning into a walking blister..."

"Oh, don't worry about it." The bartender ducked down and popped back up with a bottle of tanning oil. "They've got me working here as combo bartender, lifeguard, surf shop attendant, medical professional, referee, and fight-stopper."

"Is that all?"

"There might be a few titles I'm forgetting. Chairs are on the side there, feel free to grab one. And uh," she pointed at the things in Stocking's hands. "Don't get those two confused."

"Funny. How long have you been waiting to use that line?"

She was already busy working on someone else's drink.

"Please, I've gotten to say it five times already. Never stops being funny. Have a good day."

Stocking grabbed her drink and tucked the bottle of oil under her arm, hopped up from her stool and grabbed a chair from the stack leaning against the shack.

Archer stumbled out from behind the tiny building. His trunks were on backwards.

"Hey Archer, done already?"

"No he's fuckin' not." Panty grabbed him by his waistband and pulled him back behind the shack. Stocking could, for just one moment, see the look of utter panic on his face before it disappeared from view. She really hoped that wouldn't be the last time she ever saw him, but with Panty there was no telling.

Stocking sipped her drink while she searched out the most idea spot to set shit up. A nice patch of sand, distant from the noisy bar, but not so distant in case she wanted to go back for more, which she probably would, and also away from where people were already setting up a goddamn volleyball net (better be a spot that minimized the chance of getting hit by a stray shot too), but also not in some desolate fucking corner, there was no point in being hot as balls on the beach if there was no one to see.

And soon, she found it, the perfect spot and it hadn't even been claimed yet. Baller. She opened up her chair with a flick, lowered her shades, then reclined back. She took another sip of her drink before setting it down in the sand.

The instant she poured some lotion into her hand, they appeared. Creepy old men, horny jackoffs, and pitiful virgins apiece surrounded her in a veritable wall of gross. Covering her arms, shoulders, and chest had them worked up enough, as she moved down to her stomach and legs, they were practically creaming their shorts already.

And then, when everything was covered, it was the moment they'd all been waiting for.

Stocking sighed.

"Alright, I need someone to get my ba-"

She hadn't even finished the word and they were on each other like wild dogs. The virgins were on their knees, begging, shoving each other off balance to look the most presentable. A douchey guy with douchey slicked up hair and douchey sunglasses was wrestling with another douche with a douchey fucked up demon arm. The creepy old men were giving their creepy old man laughs. Stocking would rather die tied up in some embarrassing position than give one of these slow swimmers the invitation to start touching her. She'd need some way out, but she also really needed her back oiled.

"You." They fell into silence immediately, and all looked to where she had pointed. Then their jaws collectively dropped when they saw her.

She looked decently young, like college girl young not pedophile young, with a short red bob cut and some ridiculously long pointy ears. At the invitation she had started chewing on her lower lip, giving Stocking a full view of some razor sharp canines.

Smelled like a demon, but whatever, Stocking could do worse.

She was wearing a strapless wraparound top made of loose, tied together cloth, and a flowing beach skirt that was only slightly transparent, teasing her shapely legs. The entire ensemble was a fiery orange to compliment her hair and general complexion.

"I'm sorry," she said just a bit nervously. "You must be mistaken, I'm not-"

"You were part of the crowd, obviously you wanted to peep something."

"I only meant to see what all the commotion was about. I didn't realize it was something so... base."

"Yeah, well, you're the only one in the crowd right now who's not about to play grab-ass with the goods, so help a sister out."

She hesitated. Stocking wasn't fucking blind so she could see that the girl wasn't only here out of curiosity, but the crowd of hard dicks wasn't helping her confidence any. Eventually though, she caved, moving forward to rampant applause.

Stocking turned over, moved her hair out of the way, and undid the back of her bikini top. The crowd was fucking losing it, the girl at least was trying her best to keep her cool. But when the hand laid gently against Stocking's back, the cool oil sending a pleasing shiver up her spine, she could feel it shaking.

"This is demeaning." the girl muttered.

"Careful fire crotch," Stocking muttered back, eyes drifting shut. "You're gonna hurt my feelings."

"Oh, I didn't mean- It's just, all these men. I feel like a piece of meat on display here."

"There's a trick to using their desperation to your advantage. It's all about knowing that you're better than them and that their attention is absolutely deserved, even if it's unwanted."

"I understand, it's just... I- I wish they'd just BACK OFF, IDIOTS!"

Fire exploded from the girl in all directions. The douchebags all jumped back to avoid being cooked alive. As the fire faded, a ring of glowing sand slowly dimmed and turned into solid glass.

"Holy shit."

A shrill whistle made itself heard over the commotion. The bartender was leaning over the bar to see them properly.

"This is a safe zone ladies, no fighting."

The girl looked down, ashamed.

"Sorry." she muttered.

"Alright, you heard the bitch," Stocking yelled out. "All of ya clear out or we'll be forced to start breaking some rules, understand me dicks?"

The crowd grumbled and made up some excuses before breaking off to go their separate ways.

"Thank you." the girl said.

Stocking was already back in full relaxed mode, almost falling asleep on her chair.

"Mmm, don't mention it."

"No, it's warranted. I don't suffer fools kindly, but all these humans around make me nervous."

She instantly clapped her hands to her mouth, then drew them away and spat when she realized they were covered in oil. Stocking redid her top and flipped back over onto her back.

"Well, pull up a seat fire crotch, I'll do you next."

"Oh no, that won't be necessary. I, um, don't burn."

"Makes sense, being a demon and all."

The girl's face immediately flushed red.

"Y- You knew? All this time?"

"The ears give you away sweetheart. That and the fire bullshit."

"I- I have a name, you know."

"Sure as fuck ain't told me it."

The girl humphed.

"It's Anne."

Stocking lifted her glasses and shot Anne with a stare.

"Sure, whatever, I'll buy that."

Anne, despite her standoffishness, grabbed a chair from the bar and set up right next to Stocking.

"Oh, I never asked your name." Anne said.

"It's Stocking."

"Well then, it's a pleasure to meet you, Stocking."

Anne spoke with complete emotionless professionalism, like Stocking was a business partner or something. If she wanted anything to come of this, it looked like she was going to have to tear down some walls. She absentmindedly sipped on her drink.

"What is that, by the way?" Anne asked.

"Sex on the Beach."

Anne's forehead scrunched.

"That cannot be the actual name."

"What can I say, bartenders think they're funnier than they are, and it's easier to sell drunk people on something if it's got a funny name."

"Oh, so it's alcoholic then."

"Sure as shit, sugar tits. Vodka, schnapps, and some fruit juice."

"I've never heard of mixing fruit with alcohol. Then again, I find myself so busy most times, I don't really have a lot of time for casual drinking."

Stocking looked over, slowly raising her glasses with a thumb, and a smile creeping across her face.


 

"Hey," the bartender said. "I thought you were out to catch some rays."

"Change of plans, I need to give this bitch a drinking problem, stat."

"Yeah," said Anne. She'd swiped the orange slice from Stocking's drink and was currently munching on it. "What she said."

"Sounds like fun. What can I get you two started on then?"

"I'd like to try having sex on the beach."

"No you don't. Trust me. The sand gets everywhere."

"You're just full of punchlines aren't you?" Stocking said. "You know what the lady meant, and let me get a refill as well."

"Sure thing." The bartender got to work, filling the two glasses. "And for the record, Miss, it's a proper noun. You ask for "a Sex on the Beach", people less understanding than me are gonna be laughing at you for phrasing it like that."

It took her just as long to say those sentences as it did to put the finishing touches on the twin red-orange cocktails, and not a second more.

Anne looked over the drink, plucked the toothpick with the fruit on it from the top, then downed the whole thing in one gulp.

Stocking was honestly stunned. Anne blinked it out as the vodka hit.

"Sweety," the bartender said. "It's a cocktail, you're not supposed to down it-"

Stocking absolutely refused to be shown up, and countered by downing her drink as well.

"How about something a little harder, huh?" she said. "I'm trying to get drunk here, not hold a tea party."

The bartender shrugged. "Alright."

She got to work on two taller glasses, the liquid remaining clear as she mixed in ingredient after ingredient until the very end, when she poured from a bottle that turned the entire concoction a startling blue.

"Baby steps you two," the bartender said as she presented the drinks. "The Blue Lagoon. The actual alcoholic content of these isn't much higher, there's just more of the drink to get through."

Stocking and Anne shared a devilish smile, a smile that suggested that this standard mating ritual was very quickly becoming fierce competition. Each grabbed their drink and began to chug. Within seconds, the glasses were being slammed back down onto the bar.

The bartender was starting to look impressed.

"How about we move on to margaritas?"

Things were starting to move away from the fruity sweet shit, which Stocking wasn't 100% okay with, but at this point it wasn't about sipping something tasty and relaxing. It was proving that she wasn't some pussy, that she could handle anything and she meant anything. You know, in a sexual way.

The bartender presented them with their margaritas, Anne downed hers like all the rest, the salt and sourness visibly running up her spine.

"Oh," She hiccuped. "Oh, I quite like this one. Give me another."

Stocking made to down hers as well, when the glass was suddenly snatched out of her hands. At first she thought Anne had done it, lusted by her newfound desire for margarita, but no her hands were still empty. She spun on her stool to see Archer pour the drink into the end of a pool noodle, then hand her back the empty glass.

"Archer what in the FUCK are you doing?"

He was already running off with his newly inebriated pool noodle. Stocking turned back to see Anne working on her second.

"Gah!" Stocking slammed the bar. "Get me two, I ain't falling behind on this."

The bartender did as she was asked, Stocking poured both into her open mouth at the same time. Her face crinkled under the pressure of salt and lime.

"Not a fan of the taste? Well, I got something you might like here, a Chocolate Martini."

Stocking and Anne both went through their Chocolate Martini, then a Cosmopolitan, Slippery Nipple, Quick Fuck, Redheaded Slut ("THESE CAN'T BE THE REAL NAMES, IDIOT."), Goldeneye, and Strawberry Daiquiri before moving on to what the bartender called some real drinks ("You're actually meant to chug these.") with a Black and Tan, Cuba Libre, Irish Coffee, Irish Coffee Bomb, Skittle Bomb ("Holy shit can you guys excuse for a second I need to run a lap around the beach or something, even my clit is vibrating."), 7 & 7, Bobby Burns, Rusty Nail-

Stocking and Anne were collapsing all over each other at this point, sloppy and slurring and just generally a complete mess.

"Why d'ya do it Stocking?" Anne hiccuped. "Why d'ya tell me to oil your back, how'd it get to this, I can't feel my toes Stocking."

"I'll be honest, because... I really don't have the mental facilities to make shit up right now, I only did it cause I wanted to get into your pants."

"Whyyyyyyyyyy Stocking? Why would y'do that, you," hiccup "you idiot."

"I like it when you say that word. It's cute."

"Don't say that, you i- you- shut up."

"Anne, I gotta know. Why were you actually hovering around me? When I was oilin' up."

"I thought, I thought you were very pretty Stocking. And I, I thought it was quite scand-lous to see so much of a woman's skin that I wasn't... intimate with."

"So you are cool with that, right? The whole lesbo thing?"

"I don't know what that word means Stocking."

"Like... would you fuck me?" Stocking giggled. "I'd fuck me."

"You're so vulgar, idiot. But... I mean, I might. If I knew you better."

"Anne sweety, you're gonna make me motherfucking blush."

Anne made a distant sound to the effect of gerrofmeh, considering Stocking was hugging her midsection.

"You don't think I'm a slut, right?" Stocking asked. "I'm not a skank I swear it, I just haven't had the opportunity to get it off in so long. Everyone I meet is either an asshole or that one ghost who flew away just as things were getting going. But you're so nice Anne, I really like you."

Anne started tearing up and hugged Stocking back.

"What are you saying, idiot, I've only been mean and callous to you since we met."

"No no no Anne, I was the one being mean to you, I'm so sorry Anne. I'm mean to people and swear like a fuckin... person who swears a lot cause I'm scared of people getting close cause everyone's always so mean I'm sorry Anne."

"Well... Well my name's not actually Anne."

"Yeah I could tell."

"My name's, I keep it hidden cause I don't want people to know I'm one of the four heavenly kings, so don't tell anyone, but my name's Vamirio."

"That's the most fuckin adorable name I've heard in my goddamn life."

Anne hiccuped.

"Thank you."

"I gotta confess somethin' back Anne. Vamirio. I'm actually an angel. If we hook up, someone's probably gonna get pissed. Someone real important probably."

"An angel? Holy... crap."

"Yeah. Yep. Yeah."

Ann- Vamirio broke away and held Stocking at an arm's length.

"Stocking."

"Anneirio."

"Stocking, I need-"

"What is it Vamirianne?"

"I need you-"

"Holy shit."

"I need you to look out..."

"I'll look out for you Vannemirio. Cause if you let me in~ here's what I'll do~ I'll take care of you~~"

"No, I mean, look out. There's something comin' towards us."

"Wha-"

Stocking looked away from the bar and saw a great white shark flying right towards them. Her brain, lagging as it was, didn't move as quickly as it probably should've, but it still moved quickly enough. She stood on her bar stool, wobbled a little, then slammed her fist into its nose, sending it spiraling into the beach.

"What the FUCK, I'm trying to have a GODDAMN MOTHERFUCKING TENDER FUCKING MOMENT over here who the FUCK is throwing around FUCKING SHARKS!"

In the distance, in the ocean, Bravestarr waved back.

"Sorry." he yelled.

Stocking plopped back down on the stool, steaming.

"Alright," the bartender said. "Have you two had enough?"

"Fuckin," Stocking spat. "Fuck no. Bitch, I am barely fuckin' buzzed right now, I need something better than these piddly little piss drinks. I'd get more wasted snorting the fuckin ocean water than trying to drink this stuff."

"Stocking," Vamiranneo muttered. "That's not-"

"I'm trying to fuckin' impress this chick here, and you're not helping in the fucking slightest, skankwhore."

"Are you testing me, girl?" The bartender's eyes narrowed.

"Bitch I might be."

The bartender slammed two glasses onto the bar and began filling them. Not small glasses either, decently tall glasses.

"Jim Beam, Jack Daniels, Johnnie Walker, and Jose Cuervo. The four horsemen cometh."

She pulled out a fifth bottle, Stocking only barely finished reading the word on the front, "Everclear", before she was pouring it in. A sinister smile played at her lips.

"And hell follows in their footsteps."

Stocking scooped up the drink and without a second thought downed it.

Stocking woke up buried in the sand from her toes to her neck. The first thing to strike her was the killer headache-

Fuck.

Fuck.

Fuck.

Fuck.

Fuck.

Fuck, okay she could think again. Why... why was she buried in the sand? Where did Vamirio go?

Stocking craned her neck and scanned the beach. Eventually she found the girl lying face down on a beach chair, arm dangling off the side and overall looking like a corpse.

"Finally awake, huh?"

She looked back to see Archer sat down in the sand next to her.

"Archer, what the FU-" The pounding migraine wouldn't let her finish yelling. "What happened?"

She made to unbury herself, Archer quickly put his hands up.

"Woah. Before you do that, you may want this back."

He tossed what was unmistakably her bikini top onto the sand covering her.

"Why the fuck do you have this?"

"Uh... What's the last thing you remember?"

"I was talking to... Anne. And I think Bravestarr threw a shark at us? Did that happen?"

"He was throwing around some sharks, yes."

"Right. And then the bartender made us a new drink and... that's it. Wait..."

Stocking turned her neck again to look towards the bar. Well, really she was looking behind the bar. Right there, behind the shack, sat a massive shark, like 5 times the size of the bar itself.

"What the fuck is that?"

"The bartender? Yeah, she's something alright."

"No, the fucking shark!"

"Oh. You know, it just kinda, um, washed up."

"I'm fucking serious Archer, what the fuck happened while I was out?"

"Well, you weren't really out. Uh, I'm not sure whereabouts your memories stop, but when I found you, you were swinging your top above your head, yelling something about cup size. Then you started groping your drinking buddy over there, she pushed away, and you started bawling your eyes out."

"I swear to crap if you tell anyone-"

"Tell anyone what? The whole beach saw it."

Stocking laid her head back onto the sand.

"God, just kill me."

"Yep, after that you asked to be buried alive. But you asked Dokuro, so she actually did it."

It was at this point that Stocking realized the sand she was under was molded to look like an ornate coffin.

"The lifeguard caught it though, so she had me and Bravestarr uncover your face."

"So like is Anne dead or?"

"She passed out a little bit after you I think."

"You think she'll remember anything."

"Only if you're exceptionally unlucky."

Stocking shifted, pulling herself up from the sand. Archer averted his eyes as she put her top back on.

"Don't play gentleman now Archer, I know you saw them."

"I still have some dignity left. When a drunk girl rips her top off, you look away, cause she will regret it by the time she sobers up."

Stocking laughed.

"Tell that to Panty."

"Oh yeah. I got to say, that sister of yours is... odd."

"You can call her a slut, it's okay."

"At least she didn't run around in public with her tits out."

"Fine. Whatever. Don't you need to go back to plowing her or something?"

"Well, most of us are going to see about carving up and cooking that megaladon. But uh, if I were you I might check in on your friend there. See where things stand. Take it from a guy who's futzed up a lot of relationships in the past, avoiding the topic's only gonna make things worse."

"I don't recall ever asking for your shitbrained advice, Archer."

Archer shrugged and ran off towards the big shark. Stocking turned back to Vamirio, who had just begun stirring. She plopped down on the other beach chair, still right where it was, and crossed her arms over her knees. It was still another couple minutes before Vamirio was conscious enough to look up.

She looked like a mess, her hair was disorderly and frazzled, she'd very quickly developed some bags under her eyes, and she looked like she was having trouble focusing. Of course, Stocking could only assume she looked just as bad.

"Stocking?" she asked weakly. "My head is pounding."

"Welcome to the next part of habitual drinking, the hangover."

"That wasn't as fun as you said it would be."

"I don't know if it was a shining example of the experience. The bartender may have been trying to kill us."

"Oh."

Vamirio shifted and flipped onto her back, gazing straight up.

"How much do you remember?" Stocking asked.

"Not a lot. There was a shark. And the drinks. And you were yelling. And that... Four Horsemen concoction. After that, nothing."

"And that's the other part of the drinking too much experience, the black out. Where your mind decides to take a nap but your body decides, fuck it I can do this shit on my own."

"How are people meant to enjoy this as a hobby? Nothing bad happened while our minds were asleep, did it?"

"Um... I might formally request that you not ask your friends about what happened. If that gives you any hint."

"Oh... God, I'm such an idiot."

"No, you're not. I'm the idiot."

"I trusted an angel out of lust, nearly poisoned myself, blacked out and may have done something stupid. I don't know if I could live with myself if I tarnished my reputation among humans. I am an idiot."

"You didn't- You didn't do anything Vamirio."

Vamirio's head shot up, and she looked at Stocking with genuine fear in her eyes.

"What did you call me?"

"Okay, um, you did tell me what your real name was. I'm surprised you forgot that."

Vamirio groaned and covered her face with her hands.

"I did it, I did the thing I wasn't supposed to, I'm such an idiot."

"I guess you probably never want to see me again. That's fine. I won't tell anyone. And after this we can go back to trying to kill each other over the grail."

"I don't even want to think about that right now."

"Before that, though, I just want to ask. Did you mean what you said? At the bar?"

"Stocking, I can barely remember anything after the fifth or so drink."

"You said, you thought that I was pretty. And that... you might consider being intimate with me. If you knew me better."

"I don't know Stocking. Most of what I know about you is locked away behind a fog I can't access anymore."

"And what you can remember was me being a bitch. Because I couldn't help myself from being a bitchy slut. Fucking... shit."

"You're not a slut."

Stocking looked over.

"You called yourself that before. I remember that much, I think. But I don't think you need to keep shaming yourself for wanting to be intimate with someone."

Stocking sighed and collapsed onto her beach chair.

"If you say so."

"And for the record," Vamirio continued. "I do think you're very pretty. And I would like to know you better."

"Thanks." Stocking felt herself on the verge of passing out again. "You too."

"Maybe we could meet up sometime after this? No- No alcohol though."

Vamirio didn't get an answer, Stocking was snoring on the beach chair.

Chapter Text

Marshal Bravestarr

There was something about the heat that reminded Bravestarr of home. Just a little. There were plenty of differences though. New Texas smelled of dust and dirt and more than a little like the south end of a northbound Equestroid. The beach smelled of salt and mud, not unpleasant, but definitely different. The air was also humid, not suffocatingly humid, but a huge departure from the dry air of New Texas.

Admittedly, Bravestarr had been to a beach before, he didn't like taking vacations but JB would insist that he had to, fair's fair and all workers are entitled to days off, she would tell him. Still, that had been years ago at this point, and most of the exact memories were fading from Bravestarr's mind.

"You can't be serious." Danzo was saying to the other Servants. "You plan to just roll over and accept this trap at face value? Expose yourselves? When it couldn't be more blatantly a ploy at shallow manipulation?"

"Uh, yeah." Stocking said back. "Mama needs some fucking R&R, and if anyone tries to fuck with me while I'm doing that, I'll just send them back home in a shoebox."

"After what we just went through in there, I'm not willing to look a gift horse in the mouth." Archer added.

Danzo wasn't looking pleased about this turn of events, Bravestarr figured he ought to say something to put him at ease.

"Look at this way Danzo, morale all around is starting to look low. This is a good chance for everyone to rest and rejuvenate and prepare for the fights to come."

The answer didn't seem to put Danzo at ease much, but he eventually yielded to popular opinion.

"You're all fools." he said. "Be wary for the first sign of danger."

"Will do." Bravestarr said back. He turned to Dokuro. "So, lil pard, what do you want to do?"

"Ummmmmmmmmmm," Dokuro gave it considerable thought. "I wanna go swimming!"

Bravestarr gave a soft chuckle.

"I quite agree actually, that water looks as good as a big ol' batch of Kerium right now."

"Race you, Bravestarr-san! Last one there's a rotten eggplant."

"You're on. Speed of the Puma!"

The two of them took off, kicking up sand and digging a trench through the beach as they ran. When they reached the water they both leaped, flying through the air. Bravestarr put his hands forward to dive through the water, Dokuro was performing an impressive series of frontflips.

Bravestarr hit the surface, slicing through the water like a knife as he shot air through his nostril to prevent accidentally sucking any in. He took a moment to absorb the truly beautiful sight beneath him, clear water as far as they eye could see, the sands eventually gave way to rock with outcroppings of coral and fields of seaweed.

Still, he eventually surfaced, and saw Dokuro still floating on her stomach, completely still.

"Lil pard? Dokuro!" He swam over and flipped her onto her back.

Dokuro was in fact, still alive and conscious, she sucked in air and looked at Bravestarr with a deadly serious expression.

"Bravestarr-san. There are fish down there."

"Well, of course. Fish are one of the most populous groups of animals on earth, and can be found in almost every kind of body of water, wi-"

"I'm gonna catch one!"

"-th species ranging fro- Wait, Dokuro no!"

She was already under the water. Bravestarr dove after her, and saw her speeding like a torpedo after a colorful angelfish. Bravestarr used his speed of the puma to shoot after her. When eventually he caught up, he placed a hand on her shoulder to draw her attention. He wagged his finger and shook his head.

The two of them surfaced with a gasp.

"Now Dokuro," he started. "As citizens of the planet earth, it's our responsibility to protect and care for its wildlife. You can't just go around touching wild animals, you could end up hurting them or getting your skin oils on them, which can cause some problems when other animals smell you instead of them. Even worse, the animal could end up be dangerous, even small creatures can be carrying harmful poison and will lash out at anything larger than them that could be perceived as a threat."

Dokuro had long since stopped paying attention.

"How about this, why don't you head on back to shore and find some other Servants to play with. Look, they're setting up a volleyball net, that looks like fun. Just no playing around with wild animals, alright?"

Dokuro let out an exasperated sigh, but eventually she started paddling back to shore.

"And no killing anyone!" he yelled after her.

With Dokuro thoroughly occupied, Bravestarr's curiosity had been piqued with this underwater world. He dove under again, controlling his breath to sink down into the forest of coral. Brightly colored tropical fish ducked about, scurrying from cover to cover. Bravestarr couldn't name most of them, aside from the occasional tang and bannerfish, a handful of gobys and, oh my, that was a beautiful pale triggerfish, though Bravestarr made sure to steer especially clear of that one. Those suckers could bite. Delving deeper into the forest and Bravestarr got a pleasant view of some of the ocean's more familiar oddities, spotting a flounder and a frogfish hidden among the sands at the bottom. And Bravestarr felt especially lucky when a cuttlefish of all things swam by.

Bravestarr broke the surface and noted with some slight satisfaction that Dokuro had indeed gotten along well enough with another Servant to have some fun splashing about in the water. Although Bravestarr himself had ventured quite far from shore at this point.

He was thrown off balance as a slipstream hit him. His attention shifted, trying to track the movement of whatever had sent that wave his way. The water was clear, but with the surface shifting as it was, it was hard to get a handle on anything. He went back under. The reef that had once been teaming with life now looked deserted as all the fish hid away in their own little cubbyholes. Still, there was no mistaking the shape as it swam towards shore, that was a shark. And not just any shark, that could be nothing other than the infamous great white shark.

But of course, sharks were a largely misunderstood and undeservedly feared ocean predator, they didn't hunger for human flesh in the slightest, often mistaking surfers for seals from below, thus perpetuating their notoriety as bloodthirsty killers of the deep. The shark likely wouldn't attack anyone, and given the level of strength of most Servants it likely wouldn't pose a threat to any single person on that beach. Instead, Bravestarr was most worried for the shark. It might end up getting itself killed over a misunderstanding.

Bravestarr swam after it. He figured the best course of action would be to challenge it directly, scare it off and send it back into the depths where it could hunt for large fish to its heart's desire. The shark was definitely making a beeline, going faster than Bravestarr figured a shark really ought to be going, but it didn't take him long to catch up and then pass the hunter. He let himself sink to the sea floor and stood directly in the shark's path. He waved, puffed out his chest, tried to make himself look like something large and dangerous, and yet the shark continued onward. Was it blind? Or was this the rare and sad instance of a shark actually developing a desire to eat people?

Bravestarr dug his heels in as best he could and prepared his hands, when the shark crashed into him, he had one hand on its nose and the other below its jaw, and the two of them slowed to a stop. The shark thrashed in his grip as Bravestarr shifted to a slippery headlock with an arm over and under its dorsal fin. He kicked off the sea floor, pushing them both up before breaking the surface. This only increased the shark's thrashing, Bravestarr struggled to point the creature away from beach, hoping it would be content to swim off after being contested like this, but through the slimy tango they were partaking in, it was clear that the shark was positively hellbent on reaching shore.

Then things moved a little fast for Bravestarr to follow. There was a flash of red, an impact that shook even Bravestarr, and then the shark was flying back towards the ocean, splashing down several hundred feet away.

Most curious of all however, was the musical accompaniment.

"HERE COMES THE CRIMSON CHIN!"

"Take that, you gilled menace!" The man hovering above the water announced to no one in particular.

The man, his theme music introduced him as the Crimson Chin, was dressed very oddly. Bravestarr should've been used to people being dressed oddly by now, but the Chin added to that strangeness by being dressed oddly while being dressed normally. He wore a tight, crimson red speedo, and otherwise had nothing else to cover his hairy torso and legs, but he still wore a cowl to cover his face, also bright red with a black spot around the yellow tinted eye holes. The cowl had two odd protrusions to it. One was a fin jutting from the very top, the other was the man's massive, foot long chin which jutted forward from his jaw like a diving board, the end of which was emblazoned with a bright yellow C. Bravestarr could only assume it stood for either Crimson or Chin.

The Chin hadn't finished talking yet.

"So long as I, the Crimson Chin, protect this beach, I swear on my mother's mandible that it shall come under threat from NO fish, bony or cartilaginous. So long as these sandy shores remain a bastion for peace, fun, and overpriced alcoholic beverages, then your taste for human flesh will remain unsated, like when you go to a fast food place and the machine for the one thing you want to order is broken, or, a bit closer to home, my own neverending quest for JUSTICE."

"That was one hell of a speech, partner." The Chin seemingly just took notice of Bravestarr. "But sharks aren't bloodthirsty, that little fella just seemed confused to me."

"What? But you were just wrestling with it."

"A friendly, correctional wrestling."

"Alright fish whisperer, who are you then?"

"Bravestarr, Galactic Marshall."

"A future space cowboy, huh? Man, and I thought this writing was getting hack during my edgy 80's phase."

"I'm afraid I don't understand what you mean, Mr. Chin. But it looks like the danger's passed, so I thank you for your assistance."

No sooner had he said that than something brushed past his leg. Looking down, Bravestarr caught the sight of dozens of grey sharks of all types swimming past, all headed in a straight line towards shore.

"By Marlon Brando's mandibular."

"Gallopin' galaxies."

"We have to protect the beachgoers."

"We gotta protect those sharks."

Bravestarr and the Chin shared a look.

"Whatever." Crimson Chin eventually said. "Let's just clear these bad boys out of here."

He zoomed off in a blur of red.

"Speed of the Puma!"  Bravestarr kicked out of the water and started running along its surface. The two came to a stop where the water reached up to their chests. The Chin dove beneath the surface, and sharks of all kids flew from the water as he carved his way through their ranks, flopping through the air and landing a good distance away. Bravestarr decided to start helping the misguided sharks a little more forcefully, and gave a solid sock in the jaw to the next several to slip past the Chin's assault. Most turned tail and ran as soon as he did, but one or two were determined to make it past him, so he had to grab them by the caudal fin and use his Strength of the Bear to fling them back with the rest that Chin was sending away.

Bravestarr made to jab at a great white, when it swerved around his fist and latched its teeth around his arm. Bravestarr did little more than flinch and raise the flopping fish out of the water.

"HA!" The Crimson Chin bellowed. "I told you they were bloodthirsty."

"Nah, I'm sure he's just acting out in self-defense." Bravestarr flinched as another shark latched onto his leg. "Er- Maybe not then. Something's going on for sure, they shouldn't be acting like this in the wild."

The Chin stroked his prodigious namesake in thought.

"Perhaps there's some dastardly villain controlling the sharks from afar. Or maybe we're in one of those low rent shark themed disaster movies."

"Those are options, I suppose. Maybe not my first guesses, but options nonetheless."

Bravestarr's next move was to try and shake the shark latched onto his arm off while the Chin cleaned up the ones slipping by. The more determined the shark showed itself to be, the more violent with his shaking Bravestarr was forced to use, until he practically pitched the shark off his arm like a fastball.

And straight towards the beach.

Bravestarr watched its trajectory with fear, and saw it moving to land right on top of Stocking and a girl in red sitting at the bar. At the last second Stocking turned and stood on her stool, and punched the shark down into the sand. She started yelling at him, he couldn't make out every word but the F-word certainly was being used a lot, and he got the gist of being upset that she had a shark thrown at her.

Bravestarr waved back and yelled "Sorry!" She seemed satisfied with that as she sat back down.

Next was the one on his leg, he ducked underwater and decided to try handling things a bit more surgically with this one. Slipping his fingers between the teeth, he carefully pried its jaws apart. As soon as he was free, the shark made to dart past him and towards the beach, which Bravestarr stopped by grabbing onto its tail and flinging it away like all the rest.

"You don't think any blood got into the water, do you?" Bravestarr asked his shark punching companion.

"I thought these were peaceful animals who wouldn't dream of craving human blood."

"I don't recall saying all that, but at this point it's the only explanation I can think of."

"I'm sticking to my dastardly, shark-controlling villain theory."

"Well," Bravestarr grabbed a shark by its underside and threw it like a football. "It's a valid theory."

"Make all the snide comments you like, but when we find whoever's controlling these sharks, I'll be the one with the last guff-jaw."

"Not bad, partner. A little forced though."

"I'll have you know, there's not a greater force in this world than the Crimson Chin!"

"Sharp recovery."

Bravestarr and the Crimson Chin spent the next several minutes doing their best to keep back wave after wave of sharks of all kinds. Bravestarr even had to stop to grab a lanternshark between two fingers and toss it away like a paper airplane. At some point, Bravestarr wasn't sure if they same sharks were cycling back over and over or if they were dealing with the entire ocean's population.

"I don't think we're going to make any real headway here until we figure out what's got them so aggravated." Bravestarr said, batting away a tiger shark with a hammerhead.

"Good idea, Bravestarr. I'll fly back to the beach and search for any villainous types lurking about."

"I don't think it's a villain, Mr. Chin. Follow the sharks to their source, you'll probably find a better clue there."

"I'm not going to waste time swimming around in the trenches to try and find some shark-infested cave."

"But you will waste time combing the beach?"

"Listen, pal, I-" The Chin's eyes suddenly went skyward. "Oh sweet chin dimples."

Bravestarr turned to see what had drawn the Chin's attention, and was greeted with a massive wall of water.

The tidal wave hit, knocking Bravestarr off his feet and sending him tumbling head over heels. The following waves pushed him back and forth and rolled him like pin over raw cookie dough. Against the bright blue sky, he caught sight of a titanic grey object flying overhead, before he was facing the ground again. After a minute of tumultuous tumbling with a scant few temporary breaths for air, Bravestarr finally came to a stop. Looking over at the beach, he saw a bonafide megalodon sitting on the shore, wiggling weakly.

Bravestarr quickly swam over to get a better look.

The mega-shark was a dark gray, with glassy eyes the size of dinner plates and a maw that could eat a house. Most curiously though, were the swarm of smaller, normal sharks holding onto it like lampreys and squirming underneath the afternoon sun, yet refusing to let go.

Bravestarr looked over the strange display with curiosity, before realizing just what he was looking at. He let loose a bellowing laugh.

"Hey Mr. Chin!" he called out to the Crimson Chin, who was just now recovering from the wave himself. "I found your villain."

"What's this? A mammoth megalodon mama making her moppets massacre unmanned margins with murderous, maladjusted, omnivorous motives?"

"Quite the opposite actually. These sharks weren't looking for food, they were looking for mates. This megalodon must've been dumping gallons of pheromones into the water, sending every shark in a 10 mile radius into a frenzy."

"Oh. So what, they were just... lonely?"

"Sure looks like it. That's why they're biting her like so."

"Are you sure that's not a sign of ravenous hunger?"

"Nah, when sharks mate, they grab onto their partners through the only means they have, with their teeth. That's why they were so intent on biting me, they were looking to grab onto anything that could."

"Man, I know how that feels."

Bravestarr and the Crimson Chin both threw an arm over each other's shoulders and shared a friendly laugh.

"So remember kids," Bravestarr said. "Steer clear of wild animals. Even if you don't think they're dangerous, there could be any number of natural processes at work that can make them more aggressive than usual. And while things like bears and wild cats and large fish look cute, they're scared of people more than anything and will do anything they can to fight back."

"Wait," The Chin stopped laughing. "Don't tell me I've been working with a PSA character this whole time. The adventures of the Crimson Chin have too much high octane violence and adult themes for such a young audience! I demand to know who wrote this garbage!"

Chapter Text

Dokuro Mitsukai

Wishes do come true after all. That's what she'd told Archer, and it was probably still true. Dokuro was pretty sure. But there was something about these past few days that had shaken her a little.

She had killed Zoro. She hadn't teased and tortured him and then brought him back no harm done. He was dead now, and he would never be alive again, and it was her fault. In the past couple days she'd spent a lot of time thinking about that. But she usually just came back to that last part. He was dead and it was her fault, it was her fault that he was dead.

And then her new friends showed up and Bravestarr said all those nice things and tried to make her feel better. And she did feel better, for a bit there everything was fun and nice. But then those kamehamehas flew through the ceiling, and she tried to be better, tried to help people, but then everyone was dying and she couldn't bring any of them back and they were all dead and it was her fault. And then the big kamehameha hit her and then she died. She'd never died before, it was a lot scarier than she thought it'd be. The light hit her, and she kind of... stopped... for a second there. Stopped being. It was scary.

But wishes do come true, probably, she'd wished that she could've saved everyone and that the kamehamehas would stop and then they did and they were on the beach and everyone was fine. She should go back to being happy now, right?

Bravestarr clapped her on the shoulder. She was suddenly aware of how hard she'd been thinking.

"So, lil pard, what do you want to do?"

"Ummmmmmmmmmm," Dokuro scrambled to think of something she'd want to do. She was coming up short, which was weird. Usually she didn't have trouble with this kind of question. Swimming, she liked swimming, she knew she liked swimming. "I wanna go swimming!"

Bravestarr laughed. Dokuro smiled back. Usually when Bravestarr laughed that meant something good.

"I quite agree actually, that water looks as good as a big old batch of carry 'em right now."

She didn't know what that meant, but now was definitely the time to start having fun, okay.

"Race you, Bravestarr-san! Last one there's a rotten eggplant."

"You're on. Speed of the Puma!"

The two of them shot down the beach and towards the water, and when they reached it they both jumped and flew through the air. Dokuro tucked her legs in and began to spin like a cannonball. When the water came up to meet her, she threw her arms and legs wide and accepted the water's embrace, sending up a wave as she slapped against the surface.

Fun.

Dokuro floated at the top of the water for a bit, her mind drifted from her as she stared at the sea floor and she thought about Zoro and Archer and the kamehameha and all the people and they were all dead and it was all her fault and-

FISH!

There was a pretty blue and yellow fish just swimming by, she wanted to hold it and pet it.

Bravestarr said something from above the surface, Dokuro couldn't really hear it, but then he flipped her over so she was facing the air and the sun.

She sucked in air, not even realizing how much she needed it. She looked at Bravestarr in his eyes.

"Bravestarr-san. There are fish down there."

"Well, of course. Fish are one of the most populous groups of animals on earth, and can be found in almost every kind of body of water, wi-"

"I'm gonna catch one!"

She dove underwater and torpedoed after the fish, which was swimming faster now. Fruitlessly. The fish would be hers to love and pet and cherish, and nothing was going to stop her.

Bravestarr stopped her. She turned to face him and he gave her a shake of the head and a finger waggle. The two of them surfaced.

"Now Dokuro," he started. "Blah blah blah blah blah blah blahdy blah, blah blah blahdity blahdy dah blah blah-blah blah blah blah blah blahdy blah. Blah blah blah blah blahblah blahbity blah blah blah, blah blah blah blah blahdy blah blah blahdy blah blah blah blah blah, blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah-blah blahdity blah blah blahby blah blah. Blahdy blah, blah blahblahblah blah blah blah blahbity, blahdy blah blahblahdy blah blah blahpity bloopity blahblah blah blah blah blah blahdy blahdy blah blah blah blah blah blahdyblah blah blah blah."

He hadn't actually said that but Dokuro was kind of zoning out.

"How about this," he said. "Why don't you head on back to shore and find some other Servants to play with. Look, they're setting up a volleyball net, that looks like fun. Just, no playing around with wild animals, alright?"

Dokuro sighed her greatest sigh possible and started swimming back to shore. Volleyball might not be terrible, but she'd rather chase a fish.

"And no killing anyone!" she heard him yell from behind.

Not that she needed to be reminded of that.

As she was swimming back, however, her eyes spotted something. A girl with long black twintails and a orange two piece that was really entirely too small, just kind of treading water and staring at the sea floor.

Dokuro got a devlish idea just then. She giggled to herself and dived underwater, circling the girl like an aquatic vulture. She got closer and closer, the girl showing no signs of having noticed her.

When she was only a few feet away she stopped right behind her, then shot from the surface and squeezed her hand to shoot a stream of water right at the back of her head.

The girl spun, turning to face Dokuro and shifting her head just enough for the water to shoot past her aquamarine eyes. Once the water passed her by, she pushed into the motion and raised her right arm, revealing a large black weapon that had just finished shifting. Dokuro looked down its barrel for a single, awkward moment, before a torrent of water hit her with the force of at least 4 fire hoses. Maybe 6. Dokuro was sent flying back and she skipped over the surface of the water like a rock.

This was a lot more fun than stupid volleyball.

The girl pointed her cannon back, shooting water to propel her forward, then shot forward to decelerate just enough to stop right in front of Dokuro, pushing the cannon's muzzle right into Dokuro's chest.

"Who are you?" she asked.

"Your worst nightmare."

The girl clenched her jaw just a little tighter.

"Are you here to kill me or Miss Piffle?"

Dokuro was forced to drop her tough guy act at the word, sputtering in barely contained laughter.

"What was her name again?"

"P- Piffle?"

Dokuro clutched her gut and burst out laughing, her buoyancy shifted as a result and she spun face down. The laughter didn't stop, but it did become a whole lot less audible, now little more than a stream of bubbles.

As soon as she was able, she turned upright and popped back up through the surface, spitting out a stream of water away from the girl.

"Who in the heck is Pi- Puf- Piffle?"

"My... My Master. Are you not here to kill us?"

"Nah, I just wanted to getcha."

The girl's expression was becoming more confused by the moment.

"I'm afraid I don't understand."

"You know. I wanted to swim up behind you and PEW, getcha."

"Oh, I see. This is one of those pranks, I think. Or perhaps some form of physical challenge? Or game?"

"Something like that. Yeah, game, let's go with that. I like splash fights."

"Should we greet each other cordially before engaging, then?"

"Sure. I'm Dokuro-chan!"

"Hello, Dokurochan. I'm Stella."

"That's a pretty name."

"Thank you."

"That's a nifty super soaker as well."

"Thank you. It's not normally like this. Normally it fires regular bullets, like a regular gun."

"That sounds like especial fun."

"So, what are the parameters of this game?"

"To the death."

"Understood."

Stella's cannon let loose another torrent, shooting Dokuro down to the sea floor and carving a trench in the muddy sand while it was at it. Dokuro pushed off to avoid the second blast, the stream carving through the water with an outline of bubbles brought down from the surface.

Dokuro popped up behind Stella and struck a pose.

"Behold, my secret technique!"

Stella turned to blast Dokuro again, Dokuro responded by squeezing her hands together and shooting up a tiny piddle of water. The two beams clashed in the middle, spraying in every which way that didn't have a combatant.

Dokuro dove through the liquid curtain and caught Stella unawares, grabbing her by the face and forcing her under. From there she began kicking as hard as she could, dragging Stella's head along the sea floor as she flew through the water. Stella took a moment to recover, but then aimed her cannon behind her and fired, the stream accelerating her right into Dokuro, catching her on her shoulders. It was then her turn, with a shift of her back, to drag Dokuro along the sea floor, before the two became untangled and separated by several meters.

They surfaced.

"I thought we would just be fighting with water." Stella said.

"A master fighter uses everything at their disposal to win."

"Of course, how could I be so foolish."

Stella's cannon shifted again, this time transforming into a massive blade. She held it overhead for just long enough for Dokuro to marvel at its size, before bringing it down right on top of her.

Dokuro dove out of the way. She kicked in a circle around Stella, feet spraying up water like a motorboat and going at about the same speed too. Stella swung horizontally, Dokuro dove under the water to avoid it, then avoided the follow up by shooting into the air and flopping around like a graceful salmon.

That said, if melee weapons were suddenly allowed...

She reached out a hand as she fell, and kept the hand extended as she belly flopped back into the water. Stella moved to capitalize with an overhead swing, but at the last second excalibolg came to her rescue and flew to her hand, where it was promptly raised above her head to block the strike. The clash flushed the water from the surrounding area before it quickly filled back in and created waves going in every which direction.

Dokuro was still laying spread eagle on the water's surface, just holding a bat over her head, so she quickly corrected that, lifting her head up and gasping in air. She was just in time to see Stella flying towards her, practically running on the water's surface.

That was a smart idea actually, Dokuro decided to join her. She pushed out of the water and started swinging her feet fast enough to run along the surface, the two were eyeing each other, side by side. Dokuro held her arms out behind her to ninja-run, just for the added effect.

Stella moved in, swinging her massive blade, which Dokuro effortless blocked. The clash however, created another vacuum under Dokuro's feet which caused her to stumble.

Stella noted this. Dokuro noted Stella noting this.

Stella launched into the air and brought the blade down on top of Dokuro, forcing her to block. The water opened up beneath her again, and like a hungry mouth it swallowed her up. Stella dove, stabbing forward as Dokuro sank like a rock. Dokuro held excalibolg in both hands to stop Stella's thrust, or at least prevent her from getting bisected. The impact sent her flying down, hitting the sea floor hard enough to send plumes of sand up into the water and dig a trench for Dokuro to fit snugly in. Stella was rapid-stabbing down at her, moving quick as a flash, but Dokuro was faster. Every stab Stella threw out was blocked by her afterimage as Dokuro swam around and swung excalibolg at her exposed back.

Stella barely got her sword there in time, the impact sent Stella and a brand new underwater current flying out to sea. Dokuro leaped from the water, gasping for breath, but running along the surface all the same. She was coming up on Stella now, and Stella had only just breached the surface.

Stella awkwardly swung her blade to intercept Dokuro, or at least to give herself some space to work with. Dokuro responded by swerving to the side, vanishing from Stella's view before reappearing right behind her. She held excalibolg overhead. She had her right where she wanted her. She could go for the kill strike right here. She could win.

But she hesitated, her muscles refused to swing excalibolg down like they were supposed to, giving Stella just the moment she needed to dart out of the way. Dokuro instead struck nothing but water.

And then the entire ocean underneath her disappeared.

The impact sent a crater into the water, over a hundred meters wide and reaching to the sea floor. Poor little fish flopped about, not sure what to do about the sudden increase in oxygen, but they were even more confused when all that water rushed back in. And when it all met back up in the center it sent a wave several stories tall in every direction.

And Dokuro was riding that wave, feet planted firmly on excalibolg as it carried her towards the shore. People were scrambling as the wave descended upon them, Dokuro had half a mind to try and help some of them, but then something much cooler drew her attention away. A shark, like, a really REALLY big shark had been sent flying through the air right towards the beach. She watched it intently, wondering just what would happen when it landed, but before it could, Dokuro landed. She tumbled off of excalibolg and was sent rolling across the hot sands before eventually stopping by means of having her back slam into a tree. She looked up, the shark was sitting on the beach now, it certainly didn't look like anybody had been hurt. So that was nice.

Stella was on her now with a bounding slash. Dokuro lifted excalibolg to block, then began spinning it around her wrist to parry the next several follow up strikes. Without stopping the spin, she brought excalibolg down to her stomach where the handle grabbed and spun around her waist. With a flick of her hips, the whole thing shot towards Stella like a missile. She leaned to the side and dodged the strike with enough ease, then moved to capitalize on Dokuro's defenselessness.

But she was WRONG, excalibolg shot backwards, the handle slamming into Stella's blade and knocking her off balance. Dokuro then gripped excalibolg and swung upwards. Stella's blade was sent flying into the air where it became little more than a twinkle in the sky.

Stella dropped to her knees.

"I've been bested. You are the winner, Dokurochan."

"Yes. Remember that name as you pass on into your next life."

She held excalibolg overhead and-

And-

Her breath was getting shallow, she wanted to swing excalibolg down and beat Stella and win. And then she could bring her back and then they could be friends. But she couldn't. Any time she moved to splatter her she only thought about how they're all dead and it was her fault. And oh God, they were all dead and it was all her fault she couldn't bring them back, and if she killed Stella and couldn't bring her back then she'd be dead and it would be her fault and they were all dead and-

"Um," Stella looked up confused from her forlorn position. "I thought the game ended with a death."

"Y- Yeah. It does. This is just the part where I prove my moral superiority, and spare you in the face of those who wanted me to kill you."

"But, you were the one who stipulated on killing me."

"Whatever, game's over, I still won but you don't die."

"Oh, that's good for me then. That was a fun game, Dokurochan."

Stella offered her hand. Dokuro accepted it, though something was gnawing at her as she did, and they shook.

"Yeah. Same."

Stella looked skyward to try and spot her blade whenever it'd start falling. Dokuro dragged excalibolg and moved more to the middle of the beach, where all the people were.

Twice it'd happened, twice she'd tried to bludgeon someone and something stopped her. Something like, a feeling of not wanting to bludgeon someone. Where had that come from? How was she supposed to bludgeon people if she didn't want to? It was a confusing thought process to be sure, and one that didn't make her feel very happy.

She was suddenly aware of a weight around her midsection. And a bawling sound in her ears. And Stocking hugging her stomach and crying with her boobs out. Apparently someone was having a worse day than her at least.

"She hates me, they all hate me." Stocking burbled out. "Just kill me, bury me alive so I can choke on sand and die."

And now her friends were asking to be killed? This was the most confusing day Dokuro had ever had.

Chapter Text

Clint Barton

Clint wasn't thinking about it, he told himself he'd forget about the whole gruesome death thing and enjoy a nice day on the beach. So he wouldn't think about it. He wasn't thinking about it.

But, okay, it was a little bit personal but Clint had died before, before meeting Dokuro even, and the experience was a little like that, closer to that than the times with Dokuro. Maybe it had something to do with Dokuro's angel nature? As an angel she could specifically send Clint to purgatory. This could've come from not an angel, but someone else with resurrection abilities, so... the process would take longer? Clint didn't know.

FUTZ, HE WAS THINKING ABOUT IT.

"You can't be serious." Danzo said, snapping Clint out of his thoughts. "You plan to just roll over and accept this trap at face value? Expose yourselves? When it couldn't be more blatantly a ploy at shallow manipulation?"

It was a solid point, but of course, Clint really wanted to get his mind off things. Stocking helped make his mind up.

"Uh, yeah. Mama needs some fucking R&R, and if anyone tries to fuck with me while I'm doing that, I'll just send them back home in a shoebox."

"After what we just went through in there," Clint added. "I'm not willing to look a gift horse in the mouth."

And Bravestarr only enforced his decision to try and take it easy for once.

"Look at this way, Danzo, morale all around is starting to look low. This is a good chance for everyone to rest and rejuvenate and prepare for the fights to come."

And Danzo, predictably, had to chide them all for the decision.

"You're all fools. Be wary for the first sign of danger."

But whatever, Clint needed something to get his mind off of this stuff soon or he'd become a shivering bundle of nerves. He needed something, some game or activity or conversation or something to think about other than... son of a bitch, he was predictable.

He'd love to say his eyes were just drawn to her immediately, but really he hadn't even noticed her until she yelled out from across the beach.

"Yo, Stocking!"

She ran up to them, waving her arm, Clint could swear she was moving in slow motion like an episode of Baywatch or something. Long, wild, blonde hair, brilliant blue eyes, thin and athletic, with a crooked smile and a perky disposition. She wore a pink bikini with shutter shades and flowery accessories that matched Stocking's.

"Panty!" Stocking yelled back. "What the crap are you doing here?"

"I could ask you the same thing girl, when the fuck did you decide to pop in? I've been busting my clit for like a month now, figured I woulda seen your stank ass glooming it up at some point in all that."

"That's funny, the idea of you putting work into something other than dick. For your information, whore, I got here a couple days ago."

"What? Oh that's some bull to the motherfucking shit, you don't get to just jump in halfway through and suddenly be in the running for a wish, nuh-uh."

"Um," Clint felt the need to jump in here. "Who's this?"

"This is-"

The stranger slung her arm over Stocking and pulled her in close, smiling wide.

"I'm Stocking's big sister, name's Panty. Stocking, you didn't tell me you were drowning in grade-A man meat over here."

Wait, was she talking about him? Could be Bravestarr, did girls like guys like him? He was a very husband type dude.

"I'm drowning in something alright."

"You're not hitting that are you? I mean, I might still anyways, but I figure I might as well ask up front."

She... might've been talking about him actually.

"Oh please, I wouldn't touch Archer with a 20 foot pole. The whole bow and arrow thing reeks of hipster and sorry thick-rims, but I'm allergic."

"Fucking A!" Panty grabbed him by the wrist. Clint had trouble looking away from her hand. "I got a backpack for you to stick your shaft in, big boy."

Was that... That was an arrow joke, right?

"Uh, it's called a qui-"

Clint didn't get to finish as he was suddenly, familiarly, dragged away across the beach. Unlike Dokuro's tendencies to ragdoll him though, Clint was at least able to keep his footing and run along with her.

"Wait, where are we going?"

"Oh, you're adorable. Don't worry big guy, I'll take you somewhere where people won't see."

"Won't see what?"

They stopped behind the mini-bar shack. Clint was about ready to start asking questions, when Panty pulled him in close and pressed her lips against his. All the questions died in his mouth when Panty's tongue entered it.

When they broke apart, Clint blubbered something, something really unsexy he could only imagine. Panty pressed a finger to his lips.

"Don't say anything," she whispered. "I just need you to fuck my brains out."

Clint couldn't do much but nod to this. And oop, there went his trunks.

About twenty minutes later, probably, Clint stumbled from the back of the shack with his trunks back on and facing the right direction this time.

Wow.

Holy shit.

Like clouds parting to reveal the sun, bringing an end to flooding rain and promises that the water would soon dry, so too did the fog of Clint's mind feel cleared, leaving it all to bask in a sunlight as warm as the one literally beating down on him at right this second.

Like. WOW.

Clint still wasn't entirely sure how this had happened. Had Stocking's sister, The Striped Bitch Stocking, her sister, really just run up, grabbed him by the wrist and led him behind a shack to graciously allow him to partake in the best sex he'd ever had in his life?

That was like, the plot to some shitty porno, right? Or one of those weird real people fanfictions? It couldn't have just actually happened?

Clint hadn't really noticed he was smiling up until this point. Noticing this fact didn't really make it drop. Life was good. Clint was sure it wasn't actually, a nagging voice in the back of his head fought to remind him of everything wrong with this situation. But right now, on this beach in the sun, life was good.

He collapsed back into the sand, content.

Now the question was, what was he going to do now.

As much as he'd love to bask in the afterglow a little, he had been more or less kicked out of bed here, and he figured he might end up getting bored just sitting in the sand like a loser.

Let's see, there were some people setting up a volleyball net, that looked neat, Stocking was chatting with some girl at the bar, he might could've used a drink but not while she was hanging about, Bravestarr and Dokuro were out swimming in the ocean, maybe later, and there was some kid in some slightly too sporty red and blue trunks...

He seemed to be practicing some kind of sword style, but his weapon a pool noodle.

Yeah, alright, Clint could feel his second wind coming, might be fun to have a fight where his life wasn't on the line. He stood up, grabbed his own pool noodle, and approached.

The kid took his stance, then sliced down, right, then up, then spun on his heels and thrust his noodle at Clint's chest. Clint stepped back to avoid the attack, at which point the kid seemed to realize what he was doing.

"Hey." Clint said.

"Sorry, I..." he was having trouble finding the words.

"No, I get it, instinct takes over. It's cool."

The kid nodded and got back to his practice swings. Then he noticed Clint hadn't left.

"Did you, uh, need something?"

"Well, I just saw you over here training by yourself." He drew his own pool noodle. "Thought you might like to spar."

"Are you trained in the way of the saber?"

"This is a pool noodle."

"Yeah, but the point of this exercise is to-"

Clint swung his noodle up to knock away the kid's.

"I know what I'm doing. Come on."

The kid widened his stance, getting his pool noodle ready. He was a defensive fighter, that much was immediately clear.

Well, it's not like anything ever happened between two turtles. Clint dove in with a upward swipe, which he parried and countered as Clint expected him two. Clint knocked away his counter and the kid immediately jumped back. Defensive to the extreme. Well, the benefits to going on the offensive was getting to make the first move and set shit up.

Clint charged, the kid made to intercept him with a stab, and Clint slid under it, swiping at his ankles, which the kid just barely managed to block. From behind, he brought his pool noodle up to the kid's neck, then grabbed the other end and pulled it back, and pressed a knee into his back just to round the trap out. The kid had again, just barely gotten his own pool noodle up in time to keep Clint's off of his neck.

"I don't think sabers are supposed to work like this."

"Focusing on what your weapon ought to be instead of what it is will just limit you in the long run."

The kid responded by swinging his head back, bashing Clint's nose and forcing him back. The kid was on the offensive now, capitalizing off of Clint's stun, smart move. Clint held his nose with his off hand, but managed to parry the kid's strikes with the one he was using.

"Here, I'll give you an example." Clint said with a lot more nasal than he intended.

He allowed the kid to continue on the offensive, parrying each of his strikes. Then, there was a slight opening, not much but it was enough for Clint to slip away and run. He hit Stocking with a drive by and snatched the margarita out of her hand, dumping the drink into his pool noodle and handing her the glass back in time to grab the other end to keep it from falling out, then charged the kid again. Stocking was yelling something at him, but that wasn't important.

The kid was watching him, confused, but got a whole lot less confused when Clint rushed back towards him. He held his noodle up defensively, but was not anywhere near prepared enough for Clint to leap through the air and push off of his shoulders.

The kid turned to face him, Clint sucked in a deep breath and blew into one end of his noodle, and salty margarita shot from the other end and blasted him in the face.

The kid stumbled back. Shit, was that too far? He'd get him something nice to drink after this, make it up to him, for now though, he'd get to pull the tough older mentor thing where he kicks the kid's ass and gives him a valuable lesson on why he lost.

Clint swung for the kid's head. The kid intercepted. Did he miss? Fake eyes? Robot?

His eyes were shut tight, tight enough to believe that he was actually in pain. Clint swung from the side, then overhead, then flipped over the kid's head and swung from behind, each attack met nothing but more noodle.

Interesting. Looks like the kid had more surprises in him than Clint thought.

Clint went for a thrust, the kid batted his noodle aside and thrust back, which Clint barely sidestepped. The kid was back on the offensive, throwing out tightly controlled swings that varied from downward to horizontal, Clint ducked and weaved out of the way of each, but each time the kid locked back in on him without so much as faltering. And no, his eyes still hadn't opened.

Clint got curious, and kicked a pebble over to knock against a tree. The kid just charged him. Not sound based, then. Clint parried a couple more swipes and backed off to create some distance.

Distance the kid was not letting him have, strike after strike after strike, Clint was surprised his arms weren't getting tired, and he was beginning to speed up. Clint had gone from confidently parrying his strikes to just barely knocking them away. The surprises just kept on coming, when the kid pulled off a masterful feint, stabbing low and transitioning into an overhead swipe that Clint had no chance of dodging.

And then, he stopped. His head flicked over to the ocean.

"I... sense a disturbance." he muttered.

Ah, yes, of course, psychic sensing, Clint should've figured.

"Ah, yeah, sorry about that margarita thing, you want me to get you some water to wash that out?"

"I don't know if there's going to be time."

That didn't sound good. Clint looked out to where the kid was staring without his eyes. He didn't see anything out of place, except... was the beach always that long? Where'd the ocean go?

"I've got a bad feeling about this." the kid said. Clint found himself agreeing.

"Hey!" he yelled out. "Everyone, off the beach, there's a tidal wave coming in!"

Very few people actually heard him. There was a lot of shouting going on. Shit. He ran over to the bar, Stocking and her friend had already cleared out. Where had she- OH wow, she was just topless, alright. Clint quickly turned away and slammed his hands against the bartop.

"Where's the lifeguard?" he asked the bartender.

"I'm the lifeguard." she answered.

That seemed... well it seemed like a lot of things but Clint didn't have time to articulate exactly what.

"We need to clear the beach, there's a tidal wave coming."

The bartender peered over Clint's shoulders.

"Oh, crap you're right."

She grabbed at a red whistle underneath the bar and blew into it. Instantly, the beach quieted down and all eyes were on her. Even Panty, looking irritated and adjusting her bottoms as she stalked from behind the shack with some dude in douchey sunglasses, was at the very least paying attention.

Clint felt like he ought to be a little more hurt at this development, but given the emergency situation and, honestly kind of seeing it coming, it got quickly brushed aside.

"Tidal wave incoming!" the bartender shouted.

The occupants of the beach then shrugged and went back about their business. That was certainly not the reaction Clint had been expecting. Though he supposed with how strong everyone here was, maybe they just didn't feel the need to be threatened by something like a little wa- oh shit there it was.

Speeding towards the shore much faster than Clint thought it would, the wave must've been stories tall. He'd thought he might've been able to climb a tree or something, but looking at it now, he didn't think there'd be any way to actually escape being hit by the thing.

Plan B then, with the general apathy towards the impending doom, Clint didn't worry too much about everyone else handling it on their own. Clint however, carried two pieces of emergency equipment inside his favorite swim trunks. One was a single arrow, the single most useful arrow he had, and the other was a length of rope in case he needed to fashion a makeshift bow. He was not going to do that however, instead he ran behind the closest tree he could get to and started tying the rope around the trunk, then the other end around himself.

Then the kid ran up right next to him.

"Any space back here for one more?" he asked. He was trying to keep casual, the business casual approach everyone was taking probably didn't help, but Clint could see the actual fear in his eyes.

Clint handed him what was left of the rope.

"Tie this around your waist and hold on." he said.

The wave was on them now, the kid better be good with knots. Clint gripped the tree with both arms as literal tons of water hit him. The current threatened to sweep him away, at this point his arms weren't doing much of anything, but the rope kept him in place.

And then came the backwash. Clint was slammed against the tree, and got confirmation that the kid was still there when he slammed up against his back.

The entire ordeal only took half a minute, but it felt like forever. As soon as the wave passed back over him, Clint was gasping for breath. He supposed the workout that came immediately before didn't help his lung capacity in any way.

But still, it was over, the wave receded back into the ocean, and all the superpowered people on the beach laughed it off just a little bit wetter than they had been a moment ago. There was a large metal wall that was not there before, Clint kind of wished he had been invited to hide behind that thing instead of this flimsy tree. But whatever, Clint looked back to make sure the kid was okay. He was, and the two shared a brief, relieved smile.

And then shit went off the rails, because of course it always has to.

From the depths of the ocean, Clint could only guess as some kind of result of the tidal wave, a megalodon of all things flew out over the surface of the water and straight towards the beach. Even from a distance, Clint could tell how massive the thing was, with a maw that could easily swallow dozens of people and a body that could crush most of a supermarket. People were a little more panicky about that, clearing out of the way, though whether they'd make it out of the line of fire in time was getting less clear by the moment.

Clint muttered a few naughty words as he tried desperately to slip out of the rope in time. He half stumbled over it before running out of the beach and drawing the one arrow he kept on him. It was a versatile arrow, could handle a wide variety of situations and end most threats almost as quickly as they started. And most useful, it could be used without a bow. Clint drew the goliath arrow and jabbed it into himself.

Clint held his arms out as he started growing, forming a canopy of safety over those few who hadn't managed to run out of the way in time. By the time he was at full size, the megalodon was in his arms, the impact sending him skidding backwards and carving some deep trenches into the sand with the balls of his feet.

When he finally stopped, he looked down to confirm that yes, oh thank God, nobody had been hurt. With that he gently placed the massive fish down and began shrinking back down.

He was about to do the cool guy hand clapping thing where he dusted himself off after a job well done, and really the shark was pretty slimy so he kind of wanted to clean his hands, but then a sudden sensation stopped him short.

The feeling of a wet pool noodle slapping him on the back.

He turned around to see the kid, looking more pleased with himself than he really should've been.

"Really?"

"You threw salt water in my face."

"Fair enough."

"Say, uh, I didn't catch your name in all that. I'm Luke."

"Archer."

The two very cordially shook hands. Luke pulled away to see his palm now covered in shark slime. It was what he had coming, interrupting his hand clapping though.

Chapter Text

Danzo Shimura

The pieces were falling into place, and the cracks in the oh so cleverly created facade were beginning to show. Immediately after discovering a major tell in the game's system, the Hub was cleared and every Servant was taken to an out of the way location, without even the pretext of following any rules of the game.

Whoever was behind this, Aizen or otherwise, they were panicking. And with the veneer of a tropical retreat, they likely wanted Danzo on his own, with Servants too distracted to defend him.

"You can't be serious." he said to his Servants, already looking to abandon him. "You plan to just roll over and accept this trap at face value? Expose yourselves? When it couldn't be more blatantly a ploy at shallow manipulation?"

Stocking was, of course, the first one to defend her actions.

"Uh, yeah. Mama needs some fucking R&R, and if anyone tries to fuck with me while I'm doing that, I'll just send them back home in a shoebox."

Archer quickly joined her.

"After what we just went through in there, I'm not willing to look a gift horse in the mouth."

"Look at this way, Danzo," Bravestarr was the most intelligent of the four, so of course he would attempt to use a modicum of logic to justify such foolhardy behavior. "Morale all around is starting to look low. This is a good chance for everyone to rest and rejuvenate and prepare for the fights to come."

It was just as he expected. He would have to handle this on his own. That said, it would be unfortunate to lose a Servant over something so pitiful.

"You're all fools. Be wary for the first sign of danger."

If they wanted him on his own so bad, the only logical course of action at this point would be to give them what they wanted.

Danzo didn't wait long enough to deal with their elated responses. He turned and moved towards the forest of trees that surrounded the beach. If he were to meet with someone alone, where his Servants couldn't possibly help him, whether it was to talk or be threatened or be attacked, that would be the idea cover.

Danzo made his way slowly through the thicket, scanning his surroundings as he moved. It wasn't long before the beach was out of sight, and not long after that when not even the sounds of cheering and merriment could be heard anymore.

And it wasn't until then that he appeared.

Standing there, back to a thick palm tree, was Sosuke Aizen.

"Finally decide to show yourself, have you?"

Aizen flashed his disarming smile and shrugged.

"I'm afraid you forced my hand. I couldn't rightfully let you wander around wherever you'd like."

"I see. And what, out of curiosity, is to stop me from killing you here and now?"

"You've been asking around about me, I'm sure you know that you wouldn't stand a chance in a confrontation like this. Not since you've so foolishly left your Servants behind."

"Of course. I've heard impressive tales of your power. Is it safe to assume then, that the beams back at the Hub were your doing?"

"I hate to boast, but it took such a pittance of effort it honestly doesn't feel like something to flaunt."

"And of course, given that you've yet to kill me with this tremendous power of yours, you've come with nothing more than warning, not willing to disrupt the game by eliminating a competitor for performing too well."

"My, you are full of yourself aren't you? But you're correct. If you want the grail so badly, it would be in your best interest to seek it legitimately, and stop with your fruitless searching."

"Such cowardice is so unlike you, Aizen. You seemed ready enough to let me claw my way to the truth, fruitless as it may have been."

Aizen said nothing, only smiling a little wider. Danzo's eyes narrowed.

"Yes, I would be a fool to challenge the power that you possess, Aizen. You could end my life with a thought no doubt. To someone such as you, my jutsu would be nothing more than the buzzing of gnats. An irritation to be crushed."

As he spoke, Danzo's hands very slowly moved together.

Aizen just laughed.

"Is this meant to be a test? Nothing you've said has been in any way untrue. And if you were to attack me unprovoked, why I'd have the excuse to end you right where you stand."

Danzo drew a kunai and breathed over it. The wind took shape, forming a lengthy blade around and beyond the small knife.

"Do I look to be a joking mood, Danzo? If you don't cease this at once I will kill you."

Danzo brought the blade back, taking aim with his uncovered eye.

"This is your final warning Danzo. I don't want to baby you but this is getting childish."

Danzo threw his arm forward, sending momentum to his wrist as he brought the knife point directly towards Aizen's throat. His fingers began to uncurl from the handle and it began to fly.

"Wait, WAIT!" 'Aizen' was curled up in a ball at the base of the tree with both hands up. "Please, don't."

Danzo stowed the kunai back into his robe, then shot forward and took the man by the throat, lifting him off the ground.

"Who are you?" he asked.

"T- Tanaka." he gasped out.

"Where is Aizen, where does he get off sending me imposters?"

Tanaka sat silent for a moment, squirming in Danzo's grip.

"Answer me!"

"He's not- There's no Aizen. There is no Aizen please don't hurt me."

Danzo was silent for a moment.

"Explain yourself." he growled with barely contained fury.

"I- Okay- I... Every team in the competition has a person assigned to them, to tell the Master how the game works at the beginning, you- you remember that, right? I- Well, I saw the file they had on you, I didn't think the hoods and altered voices would be enough to intimidate you, you're- God you're so scary. So I cheated, I cheated and used the chip I'm so sorry please, please don't hurt me."

Danzo tightened his grip to get Tanaka to focus.

"What chip? What did you do?"

"There's a chip, a computer chip, every competitor has one in their brain, we can use it to pump raw information into a person's mind. It's how-"

"It's how the command seal works. When I'm lost and losing time, I press it, and you tell me what to do in order to keep the competition moving. And when I need to rein in a Servant, you force them to 'know' that they have to obey me."

"Yeah. Yeah that's it exactly. See, I'm helpful, and you're smart. You don't have to-"

"Continue explaining."

"Right. I- At first I was just going to put in the rules of the game and leave you be. But I thought, I thought if your power wasn't regulated-"

"You wanted to keep me in line, by presenting me with something I'd fear."

"No. No! Well, kind of. But, Aizen is a real person, one of the strongest I've ever seen, I just thought-"

Danzo put more pressure on his throat.

"And not content with that, you decided to plague me with dreams as a constant reminder as to what I was facing."

"Dreams? Dreams- What dreams? I- I- I didn't."

"Don't lie to me."

"I swear. I swear I don't know anything about any dreams. You have to believe me I didn't- I never-"

Tanaka wasn't lying, that much was clear. He was too sniveling a coward to try and withhold information at this point. So then who had been...

It clicked together. Danzo laughed. It was a laugh he hadn't used in a long time, and it's disuse showed with a slow, creaky buildup. Tanaka had no idea what to make of this turn of events. Danzo didn't care.

It was amusing, it was. The power of the human subconscious. He had been so obsessed with finding the orchestrator and solving the puzzle of this tournament, that his mind latched onto the image and name he had been given and melded it with his subconscious thought processes to form an identity for the express purpose of figuring out who and what was behind the game. Aizen hadn't lied, not once. He was a messenger who only cared to help Danzo reach a perfect conclusion. He knew everything Danzo knew because he was simply than a part of Danzo.

Aizen had told him up front. He was nothing more than a dream.

"I'd like to thank you, Tanaka." Danzo said softly. "You've lifted a heavy burden from my shoulders today."

"Really? I- I have other information worth sharing, if you keep me alive I can-"

Danzo crushed his windpipe and threw his body to the side.

"But attempting to manipulate me like a pawn, actions such as those have consequences."

Danzo picked up his walking stick and made his way back towards the beach.

Chapter Text

When Danzo made it back to the free sand of the beach, he looked out over the relative chaos. A monster shark sitting in the middle of the sand, Stocking crying her eyes out, clearly inebriated, being buried in the sand by Dokuro who was of course none the wiser to what her compatriots were feeling, Bravestarr lecturing and Archer snarking.

"You think them to be fools."

Danzo looked down, mildly surprised to see a young woman with an eyepatch sitting in a wheelchair with thick, rubber, over-inflated wheels at his side. Most notably, however, was the Master's mark on her right hand.

"They are fools." he told her. "Fools who will do nothing but hold me back."

"Your thinking's all wrong. A pawn cannot hold back a queen."

"A queen can control her pawns with absolute precision to ensure that they don't get in her way."

"If you can't control a fool, then you're not much of a chessmaster, are you?"

"Fools are easy to control in the moment. But they're also the hardest to keep a handle on. They are governed by their ideas and their emotions with no sense of a bigger picture. A fool can be made to kill a man, but he's guaranteed to return and demand retribution for the life he was forced to take."

"Hmm, perhaps. I suppose it supports the theory that it's better to kill them sooner rather than later."

"I'd rather not give them the opportunity to capitalize on a mistake and disrupt my machinations."

"The answer then, is not to make a mistake."

"Yes, well..." Danzo sighed. "Perfection would be a nice change of pace."

Chapter Text

The sun was setting, gorgeous sunset in Clint's opinion, as fillets of megalodon meat roasted open dozens of open fires. Each team had congregated together to enjoy the meal and each other's company, and for better or worse Clint's was no different.

"And really it's that barskank's fault, if someone's that fucking drunk don't hit them with literally the hardest thing you have on you, like what the fuck."

Stocking had made a full recovery from her Everclear-induced coma, and was ranting about the whole thing to anyone who would listen, which in this case was just Bravestarr.

"Well, I hope you learned a valuable lesson about overextending yourself."

"Whatever, Mr. PBS, I'm looking for some sympathy not the moral of the story."

Clint used some tongs (the bartender had given a pair to each group. These were supposed to be used for ice, but so long as you didn't leave them over the fire for too long they worked fine) to pick up a strip of shark and drop it on a paper plate for himself.

"You know," Bravestarr said. "Since we're all together here now, there's something I've been curious about for a while. What are you all going to do with your wishes?"

Huh. Clint had thought about it sure, but he hadn't really finalized any one thing as the thing he should be wishing for.

"That's easy," Stocking said. "I'm trying to get fucking paid over here. Put in enough work for it, I'm ready to live the good life for the rest of eternity."

"And you're sure you're an angel?" Clint shot back.

"Whatever, it's not my fault that heaven's decree states that materialism is the fucking best. What's so wrong with wanting to be a little pampered?"

"A little?"

"What about you, Archer-san?" Dokuro asked.

"Um, shit I don't know. I'd like my brother back. I'd like my wife back. I'd like my mom back. Hell, I'd like my hearing back. But, I don't know, something about wishing for those things to just... come back, it doesn't feel right. They're such a huge part of who I am now, and really it doesn't feel fair that I could just ask for happiness and get it."

Dokuro and Stocking made an exaggerated show of their snoring while still sitting upright.

"Why do I bother?"

"Well, Archer," Bravestarr said. "I for one think that's a very mature point of view. Hopefully by the time we get to it, you'll have an idea of what you want. For me personally, I can't think of anything I'd want more than to keep my friends and loved ones safe."

Stocking continued to snore, but Dokuro had "awoken" and shifted her gaze downward, towards the sand.

"I..." she muttered. I... I have to stop Sakura-kun from creating the pedophile paradise!"

Bravestarr nearly fell off the rock he was sitting on, Stocking coughed as she breathed in her own snot bubble, and Clint had to give himself the heimlich to stop from choking on a chunk of shark.

"The..." he eventually sputtered out. "The what?"

"Heaven shows that he's destined to create a world where women never grow older past the age of-"

"Actually, I- I really don't want to know."

"Well, um, what about you Danzo?" Bravestarr said. Clint hadn't even noticed him lurking at the edge of their circle. "You're part of this group too, after all."

Danzo looked back with a surprisingly genuine gaze.

"I only want what I've always wanted. To keep my village and its people safe."

"That was a good one." Clint laughed. "Now be honest and tell us about your ambitions to conquer the world or kill Tony Stark or something."

Danzo offered no further comment, simply sitting down cross-legged in the sand.

The group had a good laugh, talking about what a sketchy guy Danzo was, with Bravestarr tossing some good natured comments at him every now and again to let him know it wasn't personal. From there the conversation spiraled out of control to broach each and every topic imaginable. Clint was starting to lose track of time, the sun had long set by now. It was in the middle of a particularly hard laughing fit that he felt himself falling asleep.

And in an instant he woke up standing in the middle of the Hub in his sweats and chainmail.

The laughter died in his throat.

"What the..."

"Huh." Stocking muttered. She, along with everyone else, was back to being dressed in their normal day wear. Stocking had even lost those bags under her eyes.

"We all remember this place being destroyed, right?" Clint asked.

"Sure do." Bravestarr said.

"I guess we really are just meant to move on like that whole nightmarish thing didn't happen."

"Yes," Danzo said, tapping his way before the group. "I had a feeling something like this would happen. If there's one thing the orchestrator seems to hate, it's his game being disrupted."

"So, what do we do now, Danzo-san?" Dokuro piped up.

"That is for you to decide. For now, I have some parting words."

Parting... Wait, what? What was happening here?

"I acknowledge, as a ninja and as an assassin, the work put forth by all four of you, and I wish you luck in your further endeavors. However, I'm afraid to say, your work here was most likely for nothing."

"Danzo," Stocking drew her blades. "You little shit, are you backstabbing us?"

"There has been only one thing staying my hand this game, keeping my compliance with the rules as the orchestrator has set them out. That thing no longer exists, and so I am done being shuffled from time period to time period. The time has come for me to seek out the ending of this game on my own, in my own ways. And unfortunately, I will not permit you to come with me."

"Don't do this Danzo," Clint warned. "You've only got two command seals left, you can't stop all of us."

"Oh, please." Danzo scoffed. "I could stop all of you without any of these useless tools."

Dokuro lifted her bat back over her shoulder, but froze. In that time, Danzo's hands moved together and in a flash of smoke, a massive creature was standing behind him, its back brushing up against the ceiling. It was feline, like a lion or a bobcat, but it had the trunk of an elephant, a gaping, human mouth with tusks like a warthog, and a long, pointed beard.

It roared. Dokuro threw her bat forward. Danzo dropped his cane and shot away between the creature's legs before it came close to hitting him.

"Bravestarr!" Clint yelled. "We'll hold this thing off, follow Danzo, don't let him escape."

"On it. Speed of the Puma!"

Bravestarr followed Danzo through the creature's legs before it had even noticed.

Chapter Text

Bravestarr knew why Archer asked him. With his Speed of the Puma, he was the fastest, along with Dokuro. But Dokuro wasn't in the best mental shape as it was, and Bravestarr would at least be able to reason with Danzo if it came down to it.

Bravestarr was worried about not being able to find Danzo, though. He had so much of a head start after all, but before he could worry about it too much, a raucous rumbling caught his attention. When he saw the freshly carved tunnel right in the middle of the Hub's walls, well that could only have been him. He drifted, lining himself up with the tunnel's entrance, and noted that Danzo had already dug an impressive depth. He looked back over his shoulder, saw Bravestarr dashing towards him, and made to dig faster with a spinning four-pointed star of air. Bravestarr was getting closer, closer, he was on him now.

He was a hair's breadth away, arm outstretched, when Danzo hit air on the other side, he ducked through the gap, into the deeper parts of the facility, and right before Bravestarr's eyes, a tree sprung up where Danzo had been, plugging up the end.

Bravestarr threw out a jab. Then a straight. Then pounded both fists into the tree. Not one hit left a mark. He gripped the tree with both hands and tried to pull it out by the roots, but it refused to budge.

"Strength... of... the... BEAR!"

Bravestarr pulled with all his might, he was worried he might end up obliterating the facility before he got this tree out, but in the end neither happened.

The tree sat where it was. The floor staunchly refused to cave. And Danzo had escaped.

Bravestarr ran back just in time to see Archer lob an explosive arrow into the creature's mouth, accelerated by Dokuro's bat, while Stocking had two blades sinking into its forehead. The creature disappeared in a puff of smoke, just as easily as it had appeared. So it really had just been summoned to act as a distraction.

"Bravestarr!" Archer called out as soon as he noticed him. "You... Danzo- Did he?"

Bravestarr nodded solemnly.

The four of them stood in a disorderly circle, looking back and forth at one another, breathing heavily but not really saying a word. At least, not until Archer spoke up.

"Okay. This looks bad."

Chapter Text

The Iron Fist of the Law

Master: Danzo Shimura


The Spirit of the Law

Archer: Clint Barton

Beserker: Dokuro Mitsukai

Saber: Stocking Anarchy

Rider: Marshal BraveStarr


The New Time Patrol

Master: Chronoa

Berserker: Mako Mankanshoku

Caster: Emmett Graves

Archer: Littlepip

Rider: Shun Kurosaki

Chapter Text

Danzo was immediately met with fortune that surprised even him. Carving through the walls of the Hub and making his way into the inner workings, he had wound up entering in through a broom closet. Said broom closet was largely unusable for now, being as it was filled with a tree, but it would at least give Danzo time to investigate before his makeshift entrance was found.

This was not, of course, for his own sake, but the law of the shinobi stated that one wasn't to engage until they were engaged, or until such time as they could assure victory with utmost confidence. Aizen was probably the only threat to Danzo's ambitions, but until he knew all of the variables he would have to stay on reconnaissance.

The area behind the Hub was spotless and blinding. Yellow walls that glowed a little too brightly with hard linoleum floors that were polished to the point that you could use them as a mirror. The corridors were only decorated with the occasional potted ficus and wooden doors that were placed uniformly every dozen meters. The hallways turned and branched off at perfect 90 degree angles, giving the illusion of readable orderliness. Danzo knew, however, that the lack of landmarks could be a problem when finding his way back to the broom closet.

Every door he came across, he leaned into and listened through. And every one, he heard the same thing, arrhythmic clacking, not the work of any machinery, but what could only be the process of a worker. Now was not the time to engage, and so in each instance he went on to the next door.

While making sure to keep track of where he was, where he'd been, and how exactly to get back in case a retreat became necessary, Danzo began strategizing how he was going to handle a situation should he not find an empty room to investigate and be forced to infiltrate one of the occupied ones. Based on the sounds he was hearing, each room should only contain one person, at most one worker and security detail. If there was security, they'd be trained to call in backup as soon as something went wrong. They were to be the first targets. Workers would be hired to perform a task, not react to an emergency. That said, they should have rudimentary training, so any strike would need to take every person in the room out before a proper reaction and retaliation could even begin to get underway.

And then a door opened in front of him.

Danzo's eyes went wide, but his reflexes were still faster than any man's here. In an instant he was holding his breath behind the door as it swung open. If the bored looking man in a business casual uniform noticed the flash of white and grey that shot past him, he didn't show it. He merely yawned, turned away from Danzo, and walked away. Danzo quietly slipped into the room, one hand firmly clutching a kunai. No security detail. No other people. The room was empty. His time was limited, but this was going well.

In stark contrast to the pristine hallway, the room was an unkempt mess. On one end was a desk, covered in candy wrappers and empty soda cans, even more filled the overflowing trash can to its side, and even more than that spilled over and littered the ground. Danzo was sure not to disturb a single one. A proper shinobi should leave no trace of his presence, no matter how seemingly insignificant. On the end of the room opposite of the aforementioned desk was a set of lockers, poorly maintained with clothing poking out of the side and more than a few dents. No lock on it, which was fortuitous, that would make a good hiding space if need be. That said, the side of the room with the desk was the most interesting part.

On the desk was a monitor, on the monitor was a grid, partially filled with text. Danzo read a few sentences before coming to the conclusion that it was a clinical document describing the current state of some of the competitors. None that he recognized, but the information was thorough, concerningly so. Above the monitor was a 5x4 array of other monitors, each of these paused in the middle of footage, each one showing a different scene, but all taking place on the same beach. The beach they had just left.

There was, however, something interesting about the footage. On one screen, Archer had grown titanic, and was grabbing a megalodon from out of the air. On another, that same megalodon was being held aloft by a kid with tousled hair, thrusting his arm forward and stopping the shark without even touching it. In one, Dokuro held her club above her head, preparing to strike down a girl with long, black hair. In another, the same girl had Dokuro in the same position, a giant black sword held above her own head.

Danzo absorbed the information plainly, objectively, without drawing conclusions. Not yet.

The door opened again. Danzo watched as the man entered back into the room, just as bored and disinterested as he'd been when he left. Danzo was watching him from atop the door, balancing perfectly still as it swung open then back closed. At the last moment his body could even fit through the crack, he swung himself down and back out into the hallway. He checked his surroundings. All clear. And he moved on.

In his dash, he had accidentally disturbed one of the wrappers on the floor. An inexcusable mistake on his part, but so long as the mission continued, he could deal with it.

Chapter Text

Littlepip sat curled up in front of a campfire. If she was honest, just being around the fire made her feel safe. It had long since been the instinct of all ponies that the fire guaranteed safety, a primal desire to know what surrounded oneself, a notion that the hordes of the night would be kept at bay by the fear of being known. It was an instinct that was hard to shake, even with the rise of sapience and civilization, so her feeling of safety wasn't under her own conscious decision. It didn't actually make her safe though. She knew this. If anything it made her a target. A burning light of fellow intelligence, standing out against the dark of the night. A signal of supplies that could be raided, bodies that could be used, and lives that could be snuffed out. No, the fire didn't actually make her safe.

The 8 or so matching meter-thick bulletproof steel walls that completely enclosed the campsite, each armed with an automatic motion-detecting double-barreled turret that fired a barrage of 7.6mm bullets at 6000 RPM did though.

As did the twin circling metallic birds of prey, each the size of a carriage and each equally capable of tearing through flesh and bone like paper.

As did her own handy Pipbuck, tirelessly scanning the surrounding area and ready to alert her of hostiles approaching at any time, given that the turrets and the raptors didn't see them first. And if they didn't, they also had a crate bursting at the seems with high grade weaponry from shotguns to snipers to rocket launchers.

The Pipbuck was also helping comfort her with some of Velvet Remedy's best material. Mako sat to her immediate left and hummed along. She wasn't doing anything to keep them safe, but that was okay, they were pretty set as far as protection went.

As she and her four cohorts relaxed around the fire, allowing it not to be a constant source of stress and paranoia, a pilot light to draw out the marauders and the psychopaths and the mutated beasts and well, perhaps she was the only one worried about those things, she learned quickly that differences in origin aside, none of them were particularly concerned about radiation and mega spells which was really unfair, perhaps she was callous for being so dismissive of the hell Shun had hailed from but honestly, he still had access to three perfectly good dimensions and had never once had to hide behind the corpse of a pony alleviated of its skin and a number of internal organs in order to survive, why was she the one who had come from the worst possible scenario, she supposed someone had to have it worse off but it was just her luck that she ended up being the worst of the worst

BUT

as they sat around the fire Littlepip contemplated something that didn't have anything to do with those things she had just been pondering. No, the real question that had been plaguing her mind since arriving at that burning city was where were all the other ponies? Why was she the only one? She'd seen one once, very early on. A unicorn with a muted lavender pelt and fancifully styled hair. Given the way she dressed she was either from a Stable or, more likely, from before the mega spells hit. That was pretty easy to comprehend given just how large a role time travel played in all this. Of course, even without the weird species difference, her companions were incredibly odd.

Their Master, Chronoa, claimed to not even be of the same species as the rest of them, even though she clearly was just a... human, yes they were called humans, a human with an exceptionally rare pink pelt. But it wasn't that odd. Just in this group the pelt spectrum ranged from pale beige to brown to pink to her own simple grey.

Mako... well she wasn't that odd really. Just kind of ditzy. It was charming. She sometimes claimed that she grew stronger depending on the clothes she wore, but that was really the basis of all clothing when you thought about it. Armor was only there to give you a larger percentage chance of surviving getting shot at, a modifier to your fate in the form of some sort of number, Littlepip could imagine. Not that she knew any of these exact numbers, but hypothetically they were possible. And if you strapped something heavy to your hoof, well beaning someone over the head with that would hurt more than if you just clobbered them normally. That was the best part about pony shoes. So that, that made perfect sense to Littlepip.

But then there were her two fellow soldiers just fighting to survive. Emmett Graves, a man who claimed to come from another planet, and the one on the team who knew the most about guns. Watching him work confused Littlepip, not through any fault of his own, but Littlepip had never once considered why her guns were fashioned the way they were, the triggers squirreled away inside these little compartments, the trigger guard it was called. It was, as everypony knew, impossible to fit a hoof inside them. Obviously her magic allowed her to use it without any problems, and earth ponies had even been able to use them reliably with their tongues, but seeing Emmett work, the gun could not be more plainly designed to function with the humans' hoof's weird little appendages. But that wasn't even the weirdest thing about Emmett! That, that entire diatribe, that was the normal part! Every human could do that, that didn't make Emmett strange. The weird part about Emmett, the part that no one in this ragtag team could fully comprehend aside from Emmett, was that he had a sky friend who dropped buildings and guns for him to use. A sky friend! Who dropped buildings! What the fuck!

Shun was also equally if not more weird, but his weirdness was less fun to think about and more just... perplexing. He claimed to come from a place called the exceeze dimension. Littlepip could swear he had just sneezed the first time he said that, but no, that was the name. His "dimension" apparently got raided by people from a different "dimension", leaving him in just as much a wartorn wasteland as Littlepip, except not quite as bad for reasons previously stated. But he didn't have a gun. He had a weird offshoot of the Pipbuck that didn't do ANY of the things Pipbucks were supposed to. Instead it handled his deck of cards, "Fight Monster Cards" they were called. Probably. Slap a card on the face of the Pipbuck and it created a hard light construct of the monster on the card. At least, that's how Littlepip assumed it worked. Littlepip was very unaware of the exact mechanics behind Shun's raptors. She had considered on several occasions asking to disassemble it to check out the hardware, see what exactly he was working with, but her own fear of permanently fucking it up kept her away from that idea. It was better to have the giant murderous metal birds on your side and not know how they work than to dissect them and end up with no giant murderous metal birds, as the saying goes. So whatever, guy fights with hard light constructs of bird robots, it's weird as all hell but it gets the job done. The weirdest part about Shun, though, was that he was the strongest person on the team. By far. But he never, ever went full strength. Ever. His cards, they all followed some really weird and esoteric and arbitrary rule system, which Littlepip could understand if they were hardware or software limitations, but they factored in completely random things like allowing the opponent to act and specific birds that had been put in the "graveyard". Ideally there should be a massive swarm, an armada of giant metal weapon birds covering them, but Shun had only made two of the weakest ones because that was all he was allowed to on his "turn". Littlepip once considered whether there was a cooldown or something like her S.A.T.S. spell, but it'd been hours at this point and she'd seen him make bigger and badder birds much quicker in the middle of a fight.

And all of that, ALL OF THAT, only compounded how weird it was that Littlepip was the only pony here. Honestly, given how weird that all was, she'd be more accepting of it if they'd all been completely different, completely unimaginable species. Instead, the Hub was positively infested by these weird mutant monkeys. She'd even seen one with a tail! She swore! Maybe she'd somehow wandered into a weirdly specific spot in Equestria where the monkeys were mutated enough to evolve intelligence and had formed their own society, isolated from the ponies. Or maybe from their perspective, she came from the distant past, and they were from a time when ponies had long since died out as a species, killed by their hubris and squabbling, long after the radiation from the mega spells had died down and diluted away, the earth made anew and clean, and now this race of hyper intelligent apes ruled the earth.

Littlepip really missed when the only thing on her mind was not having a bullet tear through it.

"Okay, but it is weird though, right?" Littlepip said.

The five of them had more or less given up on the idea of the enemy showing up tonight. Usually these things took a couple days, but nobody had been able to come up with a concrete, accurate time frame that you'd get to prepare. Having finally gotten the chance to show up first, Littlepip and her group made damn sure that their defenses were air tight. No more scrambling to call down turrets and start summoning Raidraptors, they had the advantage and were going to milk every peaceful second of it. And with Shun's raptors both scouting the surrounding area and occasionally venturing out to collect food, they didn't even need to leave the campsite at all. Sure, that sounds oppressive and maddening, but it wasn't that much different from being cooped up in the quarters in the Hub, so hey, what's a couple days when you're among friends? They'd spent the last couple hours caring little for stealth or secrecy, conversing openly and occasionally very loudly.

"That the red lady had four arms?" Mako asked. "Or maybe she was just flapping them really fast."

"I mean that she was a 'lady' to begin with, everything we've encountered follows your genetic models."

"Oh," Emmett interjected. "Take a shot."

"I'm just saying! When are we gonna fight another pony or anything vaguely quadrupedal?"

"There was uh," started Chronoa. "There was that dog robot, right?"

"Nuh uh. Bipedal. Its front two legs were mini-guns."

"I heard tell," Shun started. "Of a massive, four-legged beast with teeth like broadswords and breath stronger than the winds of a typhoon."

"Really?" said Mako. "Where is he?"

"I don't know. Never saw it."

"There was that one guy," Emmett said. "He wasn't a full on wolf but he had a wolf head. Was it that guy?"

"If it's a wolf head on a human body," Littlepip said. "That doesn't sound very quadrupedal."

"What if it was a guy with a wolf head who ran on all fours?"

"Why would it run on all fours if it was a human with a wolf head?" Chronoa asked.

"Oh oh oh! There was that one guy! The old guy! The guy with the other guy who ran that bar that Emmett got drugged at!"

"I thought we agreed we were done talking about that."

"There was that old guy who acted like a frog when he fought."

"Like a frog?" Shun asked.

"Yeah! Puffed his throat out and croaked and everything."

"When did you see that?" Emmett asked.

"It was um... um......."

The entire group stared at Mako as she fought to recall the information. Eventually she pounded a fist into her palm.

"Oh yeah! I don't remember!"

The four of them burst into laughter of varying strength. Shun gave little more than a chuckle while Chronoa fell completely on her ass. Mako seemed a little confused at first but she quickly joined in.

"I'm pretty sure," Emmett said once he had recovered. "The wolf guy had a sword anyways."

"Okay no hold on." Chronoa was struggling to get off of her back. "There was definitely, definitely a guy who held a sword in his mouth."

"Yeah, but he wasn't a wolf."

"But I'm saying the wolf guy could've held the sword in his mouth and ran on all fours."

"This is sounding less and less like what was described to me by the minute." Shun said.

"Teeth like broadswords could've been literal." Emmett noted.

"Maybe it wasn't the wolf guy." Mako said. "And if it wasn't the wolf guy then that means there's a really big beastie somewhere in the Hub that Littlepip can make animal friends with."

"Is that offensive?" Emmett asked. "Calling her an animal like that?"

"Oh! Oh my gosh, I'm so sorry Littlepip I didn't mean it like that."

Littlepip had, admittedly, been zoning out a little while they discussed this wolf man. She yawned before responding.

"It's fine. I've been called worse things. If you think about it, we're all animals anyways."

"She's right! We can all be animal buddies!"

"I certainly wouldn't mind seeing this monster in action." Shun added.

"Are you all forgetting the part," Emmett said. "Where this thing was probably a Servant. If we haven't seen it around the Hub, it must've got eliminated a while ago."

"I don't know," Shun said. "The Hub holds many secrets. Chronoa didn't believe me that there was a giant robot hanging around."

"I pilot a giant robot."

"A giant autonomous robot!" said Chronoa. "It could think for itself and everything."

"And that robot got eliminated. So the beast with the bad breath probably got eliminated too."

"What are you talking about Emmett?" Chronoa gave a sly smile. "You're still with us, aren't you?"

More laughter followed. Emmett was good natured about it, chuckling along.

"Alright, alright. I walked right into that one."

Emmett stood up, dusting off his very dusty pants. He made not a dent in the amount of dust on them, so Littlepip wasn't entirely sure why he bothered.

"Anyways, it's starting to get about that time. Let's wrap this up."

He drew his pistol and shot Chronoa between the eyes.

Littlepip jerked to attention as the echo of the gunshot sent a wave of deathly silence over the entire campsite. Even Chronoa's body as it fell refused to make a sound.

"Emmett, what the fuck are you doing?" she yelled.

"Oh please," Emmett turned to face her, cool and cold as ever. "You honestly think you'd get this far without someone-"

Emmett didn't get to finish his sentence as he was shredded to viscera by one of Shun's Raidraptors, one of the ones that had been circling. Littlepip turned to face him only to see a titanic, black, metal bird of prey shadowing him.

"Without someone stabbing you in the back?" Shun finished Emmett's last words for him. "The law of the wasteland is take what you can no matter the cost. And trust me, I know a thing about the cost."

"Wasteland? But we're not..." But they were. It was just as he said. Dead yellow grass and coiled, black trees surrounded them as far as the eye could see. The walls and turrets were gone, replaced with nothing but empty air.

The air was filled with Raidraptors, robotic vultures and hawks and owls and raptors circled in layer after layer, Littlepip couldn't even see the sky beyond them.

Missiles shot from the ground, uncountable missiles rising to meet uncountable raptors, they struck at the birds in the air and the sky itself was replaced by fire and shrapnel. This was the power of the mega spells, Littlepip didn't know how she knew, but what she was looking at was equal in magnitude to the magic that had killed the world.

She looked back down to see Mako, spiked bat in hand, standing over Shun's body, his head little more than mushy red paste now.

Littlepip drew her Zebra Rifle, the tears welling up in her eyes throwing off her aim.

"Why..." she muttered. "Why did you... All of you... Why does it always end up like this?"

Mako chuckled darkly and looked up at Littlepip from underneath the brim of her hat.

"Beep." she said.

"Wh- What?"

"Beep. Beep."

"Stop it!"

"Beep. Beep. BEEP. BEEP. BEEP BEEP BEEP BEEP BEEP BEEP"

"BEEP"

"BEEP"

BEEP

BEEP

BEEP

BEEP

Littlepip jolted awake. BEEP. The fire was out. BEEP. The four... Her four companions were lying on the ground around her. BEEP. She panicked. BEEP. Then she saw, with a hefty sigh of relief, they were all still breathing. BEEP. She must've fallen asleep, and they must have followed in suit. BEEP. It was a dream, it was all just a horrible, horrible dream. BEEP. So then what was that beeping? BEEP.

Her Pipbuck was the one beeping. She tapped on it, silencing the device, and saw the four nearby hostiles. One rapidly approaching, the rest staying still around the campsite.

Shit. Fuck.

Littlepip pushed the image of their group killing each other in pragmatic survivalism out of her mind. They would never, she knew this. She had to know this. And if there was a time to question them, it definitely wasn't now.

She ran over to each in turn, nudging them as rough as she could with her front two hooves.

"Guys," she whispered as loud as she could. "Guys they're here, they're here!"

"Wuzzah what?" Chronoa muttered. "Who's here?"

"The enemy. They're here."

Shun was already on his feet, checking to see if his Raidraptors were still in the sky. They were. So long as he didn't end his turn, they'd stay there. He started drawing cards from his deck.

Emmett was blearily shaking his head clear.

"Cutter? Cutter you up? Shit. We're flying solo on this one."

Mako continued to snore blissfully on the ground.

"With any luck," Littlepip whispered back. "We won't need him. We're already pretty well defended, maybe they won't see the turrets coming and end up killing themselves."

"What's the movement look like?"

"One approaching, three staying back."

Emmett narrowed his glowing, green eyes.

"They know."

All 8 turrets suddenly beeped to life, each one pointing at a young girl in a red jacket with blue hair and a wicked spiked bat who vaulted over the far wall. Each unleashed its payload with not an ounce of hesitation or mercy. The girl just kinda floated there, trapped in a position of falling without ever really getting closer to the ground. The bullets though, they seemed to pass right through her, as if she wasn't there.

And then all 8 turrets exploded and the girl landed not anywhere close to where she had just been.

"So much for that idea."

Littlepip and Emmett drew their rifles in tandem.

"Strength of the Bear!"

On their right, the metal parted as it was forcibly split open and two men ran in, one barehanded, the other with a bow and arrow. On their left, another girl, this one with hair that reached down to her ankles, an all black ensemble, and two glowing blue blades, also jumped over the side of the wall.

The bow guy drew an arrow and aimed it directly at Chronoa.

"We don't want any trouble." he said. "Surrender peacefully and I promise no one will get hurt."

Okay. This looked bad.

A moment passed in silence.

"I'm- I'm serious." the bow guy continued. "We got these handcuffs, we're going to slap them on your Master, it'll desummon your Servants but all in all you get to go home unscathed."

"You honestly think we're just gonna give up like that?" Emmett shot back. "After getting this far?"

The bow guy gave a half shrug, his aim impressively didn't waver in the slightest from it.

"Worth a shot."

"So's this." Littlepip said, activating her S.A.T.S.

And then... a lot happened at once.

The guy with the bow made to send his arrow flying, so Littlepip shifted her aim and fired a bullet straight through the shaft of the arrow, cracking it in two and sending the pieces flying of course. She then grabbed Mako's still sleeping body with her magic and flung her at the bow and barehanded guy. They faltered, trying to figure out what to do with the projectile friend, but the bat girl was rushing Littlepip now, and she only had time to turn her head to see this coming, but one of Shun's raptors grabbed her around the midsection and took off with her in its claws. But then the sword girl shot through the air and sliced the raptor clean in two, dropping the bat girl and Emmett aimed and opened fire on the sword girl, but her sword blurred and dropped crumpled bullets into the grass below and the entire scene froze again.

It took Littlepip a second to realize, but as the... 6, 7, 8, 9 of them stood around staring each other down (Mako had woken up at this point and was glancing around, trying to figure out what was going on), they were right back where they started. In some kind of bizarre dozen-pony standoff.

And then a booming voice made itself heard, shattering the stillness.

"My turn!"

Chapter Text

Shun looked at his hand. A whole lot of nothing that would help in the circumstances as they sat, but that was alright. The beauty of duel monsters was that a good duelist could set up his strategy early in order to push through any situation.

An unskilled duelist would've been dead by now if he was in Shun's position.

"I activate my trap card, Raidraptor - Return. This card allows me to return a destroyed Raidraptor monster to my hand, sending my Vanishing Lanius back to me."

The woman with the swords attempted to break turn order and charge Shun directly, Shun's remaining Vanishing Lanius wouldn't have it, razor sharp feathers clashing with her swords and sending sparks into the air, lighting up the rage-filled features of her face.

"I now normal summon the Raidraptor - Vanishing Lanius that you just destroyed back onto the field in ATK Mode."

"You son of a bitch." the sword girl muttered. "Are you fucking with me right now?"

Across the battlefield, the two men ducked for cover as Littlepip and Emmett fired upon them with their guns. The girl with the bat however was undaunted, weaving through the onslaught as she ran forward. She struck the ground, dirt and grass being sent airborn, Littlepip was galloping away, circling back around to attack her, Emmett was much less fortunate and stumbled back, barely avoiding the girl's attack. He stumbled, crawled backwards, and reached into his crate.

"But my turn doesn't end there, Raidraptor - Vanishing Lanius' Effect allows me to special summon another Raidraptor - Vanishing Lanius from my hand. Unfortunately, I do not have another Raidraptor - Vanishing Lanius in my hand."

The woman redoubled her efforts, but by summoning a second Lanius, Shun's defenses were doubled as well.

Emmett drew his rocket launcher from the crate and fired the explosive at the bat girl. She swung her bat in retaliation, striking the missile like a fastball and sending it flying back. Emmett might've been done for if Mako hadn't rushed to his defense, swinging her own bat and sending the missile up and into a tailspin before it straightened out and flew right back down towards the bat girl.

"However, I do have in my hand, this: Raidraptor - Retrofit Lanius. While this card is in my hand I can activate its Effect, allowing it to take on the name and level of any Raidraptor monster that I control. I now Special Summon Raidraptor - Retrofit Lanius to the field."

"Are you just gonna flap that queef factory on your fucking face or are you gonna fight me numbnuts? Cause honestly I have way better shit I need to be doing right now and dealing with 20 million stupid birds because you think quantity is the same as quality when you won't even try and hit me is not fucking one of them."

Mako and the batgirl were playing a much different game across the battlefield. A deadly game of tennis, knocking the rocket back and forth between them and leaping and dodging to try and catch the other unawares. Emmett meanwhile couldn't drop down a wall of his own, but he was making do, firing wildly at the two men while Littlepip stood in front of him, catching every arrow the man with the bow fired at them with her magic, only occasionally dropping her makeshift shield to cover Emmett's need to reload with her own firing. The two men were in quite similar situations though. The man in the cowboy hat was forming a 6-pointed star shield which was effortlessly absorbing the bullets from Emmett's and Littlepip's rifles. The cowboy only needed to drop his shield rarely, as the man with the bow and arrow was curving, ricocheting, and lobbing his arrows more often the firing them straight.

"I now overlay these three Raidraptors and transform them into Xyz Materials. Obscured falcon. Raise your claws sharpened by adversity! Spread your wings of rebellion! Xyz Summon! Come forth! Raid Raptors - Rise Falcon!"

The two Vanishing Laniuses and Retrofit Lanius melded together into a single ball of intense light before dimming again and showing themselves to be an altogether new creature. Aquamarine and Navy Blue, and standing at twice the height of the Vanishing Lanius, Rise Falcon gave a warrior's screech as it appeared. The woman gave a cry in return, leaping through the air with her blades at her side, ready to slice through with all her power. Rise Falcon retaliated by swinging its wing faster than a creature of its size logically should, sending the woman skipping like a stone across the battlefield. She got to her feet, snarling, began walking back towards Shun and stopped only to lean out of the way of a bullet fired from Littlepip's pistol.

"I then activate Raidraptors - Rise Falcon's Effect, sacrificing one Xyz Material to raise its ATK to that equal of the combined ATK of every Special Summoned Servant on your side of the field."

Shun shifted his attention to his duel disc, watching the numbers pour in. First was the woman's ATK, which on its own pushed it past 1000. Then the cowboy's ATK, raising it another 1000. The man with the bow, a measly 100 ATK from him. And then, finally the girl with the bat.

Shun's eyes went wide as the number refused to stop going up. It quickly passed 5000, it should've stopped after that but it kept going, past 10000, past 100000, that shouldn't be possible. There wasn't a card in the game with this much ATK power.

Shun couldn't claim life ever offered him many advantages, so when this gift from heaven came his way, well he was happy to play by the rules.

"Rise Falcon, show her no mercy."

Rise Falcon shot towards the woman like a bullet, she leaped into the air, twisting over its attack and planting a foot onto its wing, using it to springboard off and over it, where she laid several slashes into its back. Rise Falcon flinched and screeched but refused to give in, driven forth by an unbreakable spirit shared with its master. It turned upwards, then upside down, then spun in the air and crashed down, sending a wave of dirt spilling from the impact point. The woman had to leap back to avoid the hit, then darted around it, slashing with her blades, but Rise Falcon parried every slash with its feathers.

Then, when even Shun could see that its guard was down, she shot forward, faster than Shun could see. She landed on the opposite side of Rise Falcon and turned her blade, waiting for the monster to come undone, then looked very very concerned when it didn't.

Rise Falcon slammed a talon down onto her, she put up as much resistance as she could muster, but couldn't hope to match Rise Falcon's newfound power. It clutched her in its claws.

"Ow, ow, ow, too tight too tight. Wait. Wait shit, that's fucking good, oh fuck yes. Tighter, tighter! Put your fucking back into it!"

Shun wasn't sure what to make of this display, perhaps a strategy of reverse psychology. Whatever the case, he wasn't about to give her the chance to escape.

“Rend and tear all of our enemies! Brave Claw Revolution!”

Rise Falcon tossed the woman into the air, sending her soaring straight up. She quickly reached the apex however, then began falling. Rise Falcon gave her two seconds before launching into the air itself. With nowhere to go, it shot with a headbutt right into her back. Shun saw the moment of impact, then the woman shot away into the distance, leaving nothing but a sonic boom, before disappearing over the horizon.

"And with that, I end my turn."

Chapter Text

"Is it me?" Clint asked through grit teeth. He lobbed another blunt tipped arrow which was, like the others, unceremoniously snatched from the air and tossed away by the horse's telekinesis. "Or are we getting nowhere fast."

"I believe the term for it is 'A war of attrition.'" Bravestarr responded, keeping his shield up as the bullets continued to bounce off of it.

"The term for it is a pain in my ass. I only have so many arrows here."

"You want to press the advantage?"

"Only if you keep covering me. Just make sure to close your eyes when it happens."

"You got it, partner."

Clint dashed to the right, Bravestarr sticking to his front like glue. Their attacker's aim was pretty spot on though, following them as they moved, so Bravestarr made sure not to drop his shield or turn away from the source of the bullets.

They were just about to hit the wall, so Clint finally jumped off, leaving the protection of Bravestarr's shield. He pushed off the wall, flying up even higher over the horse and the guy, and took aim with two pointed arrows. The horse drew its rifle in tandem with the guy with the green stuff leaking out of his eyes, Clint shot both down at the same time. The horse's rifle fell to the ground, but the man's aim had been nothing more than thrown off. He readjusted and fired, Clint twisted in the air to avoid the bullets, pushed farther into the twist, grabbed an arrow from his quiver and landed on his back while plunging it into the ground.

The flashbang arrow went off, Clint squeezed his eyes shut and still had trouble seeing anything past the spots, but he knew where everyone should still be. He took blind aim, fired the bola arrow, and heard a satisfying thump and grunting as the man hit the ground.

More gunshots rang out, the horse was likely blindfiring, at least he hoped it was still blind. Clint followed the sound of gunfire, mapping out its source and where it'd be. He really wished the horse would make some kind of noise too, just so he wouldn't accidentally hit it, but it didn't seem to move much while fighting so it was probably still where it had been after the flashbang went off.

Clint nocked and fired the acid arrow, something fizzled and there weren't any screams of pain, so he'd probably hit what he was aiming for.

The spots were starting to blink out of existence, so Clint could finally see his handiwork. Dude was struggling on his back with a rope tied around his waist, binding his arms to his side, and the horse was searching around with unstaring eyes while a half-melted rifle sat in the grass next to it. Clint drew the taser arrow and jabbed it into the horse's back. It shuddered and collapsed onto the ground, still breathing but unconscious.

Two down, now if Dokuro and Stocking can follow through... where was Stocking anyways? Well, Clint made sure to keep an ear out in case any of those birds tried something.

Dokuro meanwhile was still going back and forth with the other girl, against all odds that rocket was still airborn, pinging back and forth between the two bats like a shuttlecock. There was a simple enough solution, though. Distract the girl while it was headed towards her, especially with the explosive arrow trick, and the compounding rocket would probably take her out of the fight.

Clint nocked an explosive arrow and drew it back, he took aim, got it dead center, and-

A gunshot rang out. That wasn't right, he had taken down the two gun users among the enemies. What had it even hit?

And then the pain struck Clint. And he thought, oh.

A hole had been drilled straight through his back and out his stomach, straight through his chainmail too. Clint knew from experience a bullet wound should hurt a lot more than this, and this already hurt a hell of a lot, but time was crawling around him as he tried to figure out what happened, so maybe it just hadn't hit yet.

Oh wait no, there it was.

Clint fell to the ground, clutching at his wound. He used what little strength he had left to turn and look behind him as he fell. Bravestarr had rushed over and put his shield between Clint and the man with the glowing green eyes, blocking the followup shots that definitely would have killed Clint. The man had somehow come undone from his bindings. In his left hand he held a long dagger in a reverse grip which, well, okay yeah that was probably how, and in his right hand was a revolver.

Clint wanted to do something so much. In this situation he'd use the putty arrow, one of the really foamy ones, stop his movement and keep another bullet from hitting anything without having to disarm the guy first. But as it was, Clint's body didn't want to do much more than writhe on the floor.

"Dokuro!" Bravestarr called out. Dokuro turned her head in attention and promptly took a rocket to the stomach.

Dammit, why was Clint ruining everything. If he could get to the taser arrow still stuck on the horse, he could surprise the man with the glowing green eyes and give him enough of a jolt to knock him out as well. But he couldn't, his body refused.

Dokuro was recovering, pulling herself out of the smoldering wreckage she had gotten dug in.

"Stocking's gone missing," Bravestarr called out to her. "And Archer's down. We gotta get out of here."

Come on Clint, even a smokescreen arrow and a tap on the head would put this guy down, he knew it would.

One of the big metal birds dove for Dokuro with talons outstretched, Dokuro shattered it into scrap metal with a swing of her bat.

"My turn!" the guy with the cards yelled out.

"We've got to go, Dokuro, come on!"

Dokuro looked around. The man with the glowing green eyes was getting to his feet. He was laying down solid cover fire with his revolver while inching towards his big crate of weapons. The girl with the bat had dropped her bat and was cracking her knuckles, some very painful looking accessories adorning them. The guy with the cards was yelling something and summoning more birds. The horse was still out, that was at least something. And the Master... wait, where the futz did the Master go? She must've ran off somewhere, maybe Stocking followed her? Crazy bitch would probably end up killing her, Clint needed to run off, find them, stop her, get the Master, salvage literally any part of this.

Bravestarr hoisted Clint onto his shoulder while Dokuro joined them behind the shield. This only made Clint hurt more, but he grit his teeth and took it. Barely. Sweat was forming and Clint's vision was starting to swim.

Bravestarr backed himself towards the hole in the wall he had created earlier. The girl started to charge, but stopped and backed off when she saw Dokuro's bat arm tensing. A couple more birds were swarming overhead now. Clint didn't know how fast they could go, but the chance that they'd follow if Bravestarr Speed of the Puma'd off wasn't nothing.

"Hold on..." Clint coughed out. "Hold on I... I got this."

With the last of his strength, Clint reached back towards his quiver. One of the birds swooped down and met Dokuro's bat, surprisingly clashing with it. The man with the glowing green eyes started circling, firing with a shotgun he'd produced from the crate and trying to get around Bravestarr's shield. Bravestarr turned, following his movements, but that only left him open for the girl to dart in. She aimed a punch squarely into Dokuro's distracted cheek, sending her tumbling out the hole and into the woods beyond it.

Clint finally got his bloody fingers around the arrow he was looking for, shakily drew it from his quiver, then pressed it against his back. The EMP arrow went off, it shorted out his hearing aid so if anyone started yelling something, and God he hoped Bravestarr was yelling four really specific words right now, he wasn't hearing it. But, what he was able to see just fine was the metal birds fading out of existence, blurring into flashes of light and disintegrating. He got a little bit of enjoyment out of the look on the card guy's face.

And then, in an instant, all of that blurred into the distance as Bravestarr bolted away. Dokuro recovered from the punch and had just started to catch up.

Clint passed out.

Chapter Text

Flashes of image lazily drifted through Clint's consciousness. Each time a rocking back and forth accompanied them, the sensation of being on a boat amidst the waves. His movement was slow, the trees would only float by, not in any rush to get to shore. After every blink, the trees grew thicker, more and more of them crowding around Clint.

It's not like Clint had claustrophobia or anything. He wasn't running short on breath. But the ways the greenery crowded him, well it was annoying, no two ways around it. And around he went. Clint closed his eyes and when he opened them again it was the same tree again. Was Bravestarr leading him in circles?

Was Bravestarr leading him in circles? Clint was walking, yes, following Bravestarr, he was leading Clint. That was the rocking. Was Bravestarr leading him in circles? But wait, where was Bravestarr? He wasn't in front of Clint, Clint opened his eyes to look and he saw the tree, his sworn enemy. How many times must he be forced to look this monstrosity. He looked away, there was no Bravestarr, not left, not right. There was only that tree. Every tree was the tree. Was Bravestarr leading him in circles?

Circles are infinite. To master the circle, to master the perfect spin, was to master infinity. To not start and to not stop, to only exist and to always exist. How long had Clint existed?

Like, damn, now that was a question.

Clint was supposed to be dead, he was dead, but he wasn't dead. A fake version of himself given the memories of his dead self. How long did he exist then? When real him was born, or fake him was brought into this world? Was real Clint leading him in circles?

It was really futzed up, now that he thought about it, that fake Clint got to talk to real Clint's mother and accept her sympathies. Her motherly love. That she'd love him like he was real. What did fake Clint deserve? To be lead in circles?

Was real Clint's mom leading him in circles?

Circles are infinite.

Clint killed the infinite and opened his eyes again. The tree was gone, he was finally free from the tree. Instead of the tree there was just a lake. Its surface glittered with white hot fire. But wait, no, there across the lake, it was that tree again. Hundreds of it.

Was Bravestarr leading him in circles?

Circles were infinite.

Clint was not infinite. He was very, very finite.

Was he going to die here? Again? Would he actually be set free this time or would Dokuro pull him back in? Was Dokuro leading him in circles? An infinite circle around death?

Only one way to find out.

Clint fell into the infinite.

Chapter Text

Clint woke up feeling something warm. It was a very cozy kind of warm. Kind of felt like he was napping in a hot tub. Although he'd heard before that you weren't supposed to spend too long in those things. Gave you heat stroke or something.

His eyes fluttered open, and miraculously, he was not dead. Looking around, he was sitting in a small below-ground pool of water dug out of the mud. The water was... concerningly green actually. Plenty transparent, just tinted like some weird off-brand vitamin water. Was this stuff safe to be in? He was also completely nude, similarly very concerning, but at the very least it gave him a clear view of his stomach wound. It was half closed already, still a fleshy pink, but also not actively bleeding anymore, so that was nice.

The pool itself was inside of a hut, it was made of very simple building materials, seemingly woven out of nothing more than sticks and leaves. There was one entrance on Clint's left with no door and the hut was only just large enough to house the pool he was in and a couple other people standing inside.

Clint stretched out his arms, shaking off the numbness, then gripped the edge of the hole in the ground and started pushing himself up and out of it.

Now, obviously someone had gone through the trouble of filling this pool and putting Clint in it while he'd slept-slash-almost-died. And given that this was Clint's first experience with a weirdly colored pool with mysterious healing properties, one might also venture to guess that it wasn't Bravestarr or Dokuro that put him in here. If it had been, you'd think they'd try this sooner, right? And since it wasn't either of those two, you could then come to the conclusion that a stranger had put Clint into this bath. If the stranger had gone through such lengths to help Clint, they'd probably be at least somewhat concerned for his wellbeing, might keep an eye or ear on him. No eyes could be seen in the room, Clint couldn't even see his own, so that left only the ear option, obviously. Logically then, the person who helped Clint would likely hear his splashing about in his attempts to exit the pool.

Ergo, it wasn't any surprise at all when a woman entered into the hut around the point that Clint had made it halfway up.

It was very surprising that she was also naked though.

Clint slipped and fell and landed back in the pool with even more splashing. He tried desperately to avoid looking at the woman as she helped him back into place.

"Oh dear me," she started. "You mustn't move so. The bath needs your relaxation to work its miracles. Are you quite alright?"

"Yeah." Clint said back. The woman was fussily trying to push Clint down to lay back on his back. Clint tried struggling against her, but quickly succumbed to how nice the bath felt. "Doing fine, thanks. Hey, listen, I have a lot of questions right now, do you think you could help me out a little?"

"Yes, of course."

"Where am I right now?"

"I'm afraid I don't understand."

Of all the things to get stumped on...

"Right now, the place we are in right now, what is it called?"

"This is the house of healing."

"I meant- Alright, whatever, um, who are you then?"

"Eve."

"Hi Eve, I'm Archer. Okay, now, why are you naked?"

She gave him another puzzled stare.

"Naked?" Archer continued. "Is there a reason you're not wearing any clothes?"

Eve just pursed her lips.

"Nevermind. What, um, what is this stuff?"

"A miracle from the Lord, with it your wounds are healed. That is why what we're currently in is called the house of healing, you see."

"Oh. Thanks for that, then."

"Thank not me, thank the Lord for his benevolence."

"Right, um, thank you, Lord. So, Eve, where are my clothes?"

"That word again, I'm afraid I just don't-"

"You know the things I had on me when I got here?"

"Yes, your skin. And quite beautiful skin too I must say, I sure hope your new skin takes on an equally vibrant appearance."

Clint's mind was feeling pretty boggled now, he was about to start asking more questions, many of which were related to that last statement there, but a third party quickly interrupted him.

"Oh my, that voice, it couldn't possibly be."

Clint recognized the voice, but... but that was impossible. The tone, the words being spoken, that couldn't have belonged to who Clint thought they belonged to. It was a contradiction so fundamental to the fabric of existence that if he was correct, he'd have to worry about reality coming undone. But then, against all odds, Stocking poked her head through the doorway.

"Oh joyous day Archer, you've awaken. I was quite concerned for you, you must have scared me half to death."

Clint stared back, slack jawed.

"Wh-" he barely managed to stammer out. "Stocking quit messing around-"

Stocking entered only for Clint to discover that she too was completely naked. He quickly averted his eyes.

"Woah! Hey! Stocking, your boobs are out! Again!"

"Well I surely don't understand what the problem is. This is the natural state of all God's creatures, does a mother lion need cover her teats?"

"My dog wears a sweater when it's cold. Eve, please, help me out here, tell me what's going on."

"Oh, are you perhaps already acquainted? We discovered young Stocking here in a grave state, at the jaws of death one might say. Were it not for the healing bath that you lay in now, she-"

"Alright!" Clint quickly got to his feet and stepped out of the bath. "Eve, I greatly appreciate everything you've done for me, but I think it's time I head out. Can I have my clo- my skin back? My old skin, do you still have it?"

"Well, you had it shed, like a chameleon, why would you need it back? Are you not in the process of growing your new skin?"

"I'm going futzing crazy is what I'm doing." Clint muttered.

"What was that?" Eve asked.

"I said I'm going out for a walk. That is what I'm doing."

Clint uncomfortably brushed past Eve and Stocking and moved out through the door and into the sunlight. His eyes didn't adjust immediately, but Clint didn't much feel like stopping to let them. As a result he only barely stopped himself from slamming into a towering figure that he could only barely make out as a splotch of black against the bright white light.

The details were reluctant to become fully visible, and only slowly presented themselves. It was a large man... piercing eyes and a titanic afro on his head... with a thick beard and mustache... and of course he was also naked.

"I take it you're Adam then?" Clint muttered.

The man returned with a voice packed full of smooth bass.

"Nah, but he's around here somewhere."

That was the response Clint neither expected nor wanted.

"So this is actually-"

"Garden of Eden, yep, you found it. Don't know how you did that, but look at you. You deserve a medal or something."

"Oh, Garterbelt," Eve cried out from the hut's doorway. "Our new friend Archer seems very troubled, could you help him find his footing? Stocking and I are going to go harvesting."

"Ain't no thing." Garterbelt smiled brightly at Eve as she lead Stocking away. As soon as she turned away, his expression turned as sharp as it had been before.

"Okay..." Clint started. "You actually called this place a place, so clearly you have some concept of, like, anything. Do you have any idea what's going on here?"

"Dude, I don't got a fucking clue on how your ass ended up here. Unless God's as pissed as you as He is me."

The profanity was honestly a breath of fresh air for Clint's ears.

"I just mean, what happened to Stocking? She used to be a massive bitch, couldn't go a sentence without swearing or insulting someone. Now she's talking about teats and kindness and our friendship. What the hell happened to her, what is going on here?"

Garterbelt gave a stoic look as his gaze shifted to the distance.

"It's the garden. Dociles people the fuck up. Turns 'em back into proper animals. They don't get dumber, just more in tune with nature and the pack animal mentality and shit. Least I think that's what's going on, they don't exactly tell me much."

"Good to know nature didn't account for the f-word. So how come you're not like that then?"

"Fuck if I know, maybe God just don't like the idea of me getting comfortable, what is this a fucking interview?"

"Fine. Whatever. I'm looking to get out of your hair as quickly as possible, just let me get my clothes and I'll leave."

Garterbelt shrugged.

"Fine by me."

Chapter Text

The Garden of Eden was well maintained in a weirdly impossible kind of way. Nature bloomed all around Clint. Different types of trees, a number of which were contradicting any kind of possible specific climate, sprouted tall and proud in thickets about natural trails. Fruits of all kind grew in plain view of Clint, each one as ripe and full as the ones that surrounded it. Animals flitted back and forth through the underbrush, some of which logically should be hunting the others but apparently decided to take the day off. Everything was perfectly orderly and controlled, despite no apparent human interaction with any of it. It was like...

It was like nature owed the mob money, so it made sure to be on its best behavior without being told to.

Clint was thusly lead to Garterbelt's quarters. It was a simple hut, there probably wasn't the technology to make anything more complex, but that didn't stop there being some suspicious coconut-technology apparatuses in the back that Clint really didn't want to question. Still, Garterbelt had his clothes kept and folded and Clint quickly redressed. Garterbelt refused to not watch.

Pushing past that, step 2 on the agenda was to find Bravestarr and Dokuro. Shouldn't be too hard. There's only 2, er... 3(?) people living in this whole place. All of the small, primitive buildings were in a short walking distance from one another in a spacious, empty field. From there, Clint only needed to follow the sound of discussion. He could hear Bravestarr's soft voice drifting through the air, conversing pretty casually with another male voice that Clint didn't recognize. As he moved about the field the voices got louder and louder and, a-ha, here it was.

Clint knocked on the doorway of the hut and peered in. There, sitting in the dirt, was a naked man who looked very similar to Eve. But like, you know, a man. Probably Adam, that was a fair guess. Across from him was Bravestarr, chatting amicably, and Dokuro who was staring at the ground and glowing red in the face.

"Hey." Clint said as he peered in. Dokuro immediately darted out the door and pressed her face into Clint's back. "Um, you mind if I borrow my friends for a moment?"

Adam gave a jovial laugh.

"Not at all, all of the Lord's creatures are welcome to go anywhere they wish."

Clint gave a possibly too forced smiled and the signal of 'Please get the hell out here.' to Bravestarr. He stood up, nodded to Adam, and exited the hut. Clint started walking away, leading Bravestarr and kind of dragging Dokuro who had not dislodged from him yet.

"Good to see up and about, Archer. How are you enjoying this place so far? A lot nicer than where we normally end up."

"Eh. Too many naked people for my liking."

"It was horrible Archer-san." came Dokuro's muffled voice. "That man was showing me his naughty parts like a pervert. It was so disgusting. I wanted to bludgeon him but I couldn't."

"Hmm? Why not?"

"Well that's the thing, Archer." Bravestarr said. "We were talking about it while you were recovering. Dokuro's decided to turn over a new leaf."

"Really?"

"I don't want to hurt anyone anymore, Archer-san. It doesn't feel good. After what happened to Zoro-san, I'm scared of not being able to help them if I hurt them too much."

"Oh, well. That's- that's good. That's good that you feel that way. It's good that you're starting to learn about responsibility."

Clint wondered briefly if that was just the garden's effect on her. But, no, she was still freaking out over bare penis, so maybe she really had just up and decided to stop being a horrible little sociopath.

Bravestarr took in a great breath.

"Ah. Isn't this place beautiful, Archer? It's like paradise."

"Yeah..." Clint said. "Yeah about that. We need to get the hell out of here."

Bravestarr shot an eyebrow up.

"I guess you're in a hurry to get back to the mission, but don't you think you ought to take more time to heal?"

"Have you seen Stocking yet?"

"No, not yet."

"She's gone... weird. There's something about this place that brainwashes you. Sure, it looks nice, but soon you're never gonna want to leave, and apparently you stop wearing clothes too. Whatever's doing it, it got to her first, don't know why. She was being all nice and polite and... and not at all herself. It was freaky."

"But Archer-san," Dokuro poked her head from behind Clint's back. "Stocking-chan is always nice and polite."

Clint gave that response the moment of confused silence it deserves.

"So," Bravestarr continued. "You seemed to have picked up quite a bit, any idea where we are then?"

"Garden of Eden. You know, biblical source of all people, guy and girl get cast out for sinning and have to populate the whole earth, has that apple tree that..."

Bravestarr gave him a moment before motioning to continue. "That..."

"We can't leave yet."

"Um, Archer, is this that brainwashing you were just telling us about?"

"No, it's not. When I feel the desire to start stripping, I'll tell you though. No, in the Garden of Eden is a fruit tree that gives knowledge. Knowledge of some big, vague thing. Eating that fruit wakes Adam and Eve up to how they're living and they get cast out because that was the one thing they weren't supposed to do. It's like, representative of mankind's temptation to learn more even at the expense of their own safety, curiosity killed the cat and all that."

"Alright, what about it?"

"What do you think we're going to do about Danzo when we get to him? We're not going to be able to beat him or outplay him or stop him from doing... whatever it is he's trying to do. If that fruit gives us half as much intel as what legend says it does, then that could be the one advantage we get."

"I see your point. But didn't you just say that's what we're not supposed to do?"

"Based on how the story goes, all of us are descended from those two and carry their sin anyways, eating it now's not going to actually change anything for us on that front."

Bravestarr rubbed his temple and huffed.

"I've got to be honest here, this isn't really any area of expertise of mine. What do you think we should do lil pard?"

Dokuro blinked before the wires in her head connected and told her she'd been addressed.

"Huh? What?"

"You're an angel, this seems like your department. Archer wants to eat the fruit of knowledge, what do you think?"

Dokuro muttered to herself, Clint only caught the words "good and evil" but that was enough to make him nervous.

"I think," Dokuro started. "I think I'd like to know what the fruit has to tell us too."

"Well that settles that." Bravestarr said. "Let's hop to it."

"Not yet," Clint said. "We need to pick up Stocking first."

Clint really hoped his face was appropriately conveying how terrified he was of that prospect.

Chapter Text

They found Stocking and Eve picking berries on the outskirts of the clearing. Both still, so uncomfortably, naked.

"Archer!" Stocking took notice of them as they approached. "You're looking much better now. Oh, and you've found our friends too, how wonderful. Join us, we're going to be making some delectable jams from all these berries."

"You were right, Archer." Bravestarr muttered. "This is freaky."

"Stocking-chan, this is weird, call me a cunt or something."

"Why would I ever be so rude to you, little Dokuro?"

Stocking gave a wide, genuine smile that sent a shiver running up Clint's spine.

"Look, Stocking, we need to get out of here. This place is obviously doing something to you and either way we don't really have time to be hanging around and picking berries."

"But why would we ever want to leave, Archer? Here is everything advantageous to life!"

"Yeah, yeah I'm sure. Hey, um, Eve. What do you all eat here, by any chance?"

"Only what the good Lord provides for us."

"Do you do any hunting or farming?"

"Oh, surely not. The Lord's gift of life is sacred within all creatures, and they are to be left within their own kingdom. We are strictly vegan."

"Wait WHAT?" Stocking suddenly snapped to attention and turned to face Eve. "You don't even have, like, pizza or curry or bacon or anything?"

"Please, Stocking, you've become quite heated, try and remain calm. Ours is the best life the Lord can provide for us, we have access to bounties of amazing food only using the vegetation that surrounds us."

"Yes, yes I suppose so. I'm sorry for yelling, Eve."

"You know," Clint said, stepping a little closer. "Vegans don't eat any kind of animal product at all. That includes eggs, butter, milk. Which of course means no sweet breads, no pastries, no cake."

"Oh motherfucking hell to the fuck NO!" Stocking snapped, a much more familiar scowl replacing the calm smile. "Jesus Fucking Christ what kind of piss shit existence fucking is this? FUCK."

Eve looked terrified at the outburst, too scared to say anything in retaliation. Stocking turned to Clint as if she'd just realized he was there.

"Archer what the fuck are you doing here? Why the fuck am I naked, did I get drunk again?"

"Good to have you back, Stocking."

"Back to what? No I'm fucking serious, where are my clothes?"

Chapter Text

Clint found Stocking's clothes also stowed away in Garterbelt's hut, though folded with much less care. Once he allowed Stocking to redress herself in private and checked to make sure that no one was listening in he began to run the plan by Stocking.

"You want to steal a fruit of knowledge? Why? Why the fuck would you want to do that? Let's just get out of here, this place sucks dick."

"What are we going to do about Danzo then?"

"Who gives a shit about Danzo?"

"I do. If he's gotta go behind our backs on this, clearly it's cause he's up to something that he doesn't want us to know about."

"I'm sorry, I'm having a lot of trouble caring. If you've got a stronger point than that, take the ballgag out of your mouth and say it already."

Clint gripped the bridge of his nose.

"Think of it this way, Stocking." Bravestarr jumped in. "If Danzo gets to the grail before we can, and does it by cheating, then you won't get your wish even if you won it fair and square."

"That son of a bitch! Alright fine, let's go fuck him up then."

"Which brings me back to the root of the problem." Clint continued. "Nobody in this entire competition has been able to touch him. If we go against him we're going to get our ass handed to us."

Stocking crossed her arms.

"Fine. Fucking, whatever. So where they keeping this fruit, let's get it and get the fuck out of here."

"Now," the deep, bassy voice caused the four of them to freeze in their tracks. "I wouldn't be doing that if I were you."

However the hell Garterbelt had ended up right next to their whole group without a single one of them hearing his approach was lost on Clint. And honestly he was a little too scared to question it too thoroughly right now.

"Hey!" Clint stammered out trying to salvage the situation. "We weren't- we were just-"

"Garter?" Stocking yelled out. "What the fuck are you doing here?"

Garterbelt looked over Stocking as curiously as Clint did.

"Do I know you? You one of them hookers I used to herd around back in the day?"

In a day that had been chock full of weird, uncomfortable surprises... Clint had really not expected these two to know each other. Although, wait, Stocking and Garterbelt... should Clint have seen this coming?

"Garter you shitheel, it's me! Did you hit your fucking head on something or were you always this braindead?"

"Well whatever. I'm here to tell y'all, hooker and company, that going after that fruit is a bad fucking idea, an not cause I'm nobody's snitch."

"Any reason that you would like to share, then?" Bravestarr asked.

"Well I'm so glad you asked, weird stripper cowboy. It might be cause God ain't so much an idiot that he's going to leave some dangerous shit like that lying around without any protection. You can ask your hooker friend about what that protection is."

"Get off my ass afro fuckboy, I don't know dick about any fruit."

Garterbelt didn't question further, he just deepened his glare.

"Well, heh heh, I might've seen some really delicious looking appley things when I crash landed in the forest."

"Let me regale your asses with the story of a man, much like yourselves. Already tainted by the original sin and seeking the fruit to gain some ethereal knowledge to help him in his quest. As he approached the tree of knowledge, however, he felt his desire to know waning, along with his desire to do anything but hang around the garden as some kind of drugged out flower child. He realized then that the fruit was protected by one of the strongest defense systems known to man, forcing those who came close to getting a piece to no longer want it. Recognizing this, and not willing to give up his desires yet, he turned away from the tree and left the garden forever. And I suggest you do the same if you don't want to stay here as a bunch of naked hippies."

"Wow, Garter-san." Dokuro said in awe. "That was an amazing story. When did this happen?"

"Like five minutes before y'all started showing up. Weird dude too, old as fuck, bunch of bandages over his eye, talking some shit about a grail or something."

Oh. Shit.

Clint spun on his heels to face Bravestarr.

"He might still be close by, we need to-"

"Archer." Bravestarr grabbed Clint by the arms. "I understand your feelings, but I thought the plan was get the fruit so we might actually stand a chance against him."

"Yeah, but I don't know how long getting around this protection on the tree is going to take. What if he gets away?" Clint turned back to Garter. "Is there any way you can think of to getting past it?"

Garterbelt closed his eyes and put a hand to his chin in thought.

"If your temptation to possess the fruit was more powerful than God himself trying to force you back down, you might be able to push through. But it would take an overwhelming amount of raw gluttony and a complete lack of restraint for partaking in even the most minor indulgences."

All eyes were immediately on Stocking.

"Fuck you guys."

"Alright, how about this," Clint said. "Me and Stocking will get the fruit, you and Dokuro see if you can't find Danzo and slow him down until we can get there."

"Um..." The incredibly meek call for attention almost went unnoticed by Clint, and he certainly hadn't expected it coming from the speaker. "Do I really have to be the one to help find Danzo-san?"

Dokuro wasn't usually one to miss out on action. Was she actually scared of Danzo? That certainly wasn't a confident booster.

"Sorry Dokuro, but you're the only one of us who's not going to slow Bravestarr down, and you might actually be able to compete with Danzo's speed. It would really help us if you could."

Dokuro looked at the ground and chewed her lip, muttering a quiet acceptance. Clint hated to make her do it, but it really did make sense.

Bravestarr clapped her on the back.

"Come on Lil Pard. It's you and me. We'll show that Danzo what's what."

"Okay." The mix of emotions with which Dokuro spoke that single word were complex and mixed. A hint of acceptance, a dollop of regret, some kind of grim determination, Clint honestly couldn't catch all of them before the phrase had ended.

"Speed of the Puma!"  Bravestarr bolted off in a streak of yellow and white. Whatever was bugging Dokuro didn't bring about any hesitation, just as quickly she was blurring away in red and blue herself.

"Thank you for all your help, Garterbelt." Clint said. "Oh, um. One last thing though, how de we actually get to the tree?"

"All paths lead to temptation. You'd best well remember that." Garter said with a knowing gaze. Then he pointed towards a wide path underneath two cherry trees. "Except for that one. That's the exit."

"And we can just leave whenever we want? No higher power's going to try and stop us?"

"The only thing that can stop you is your own hesitation to do so."

"Um. Alright then. Thanks again for all your help."

Clint turned to leave, moving over towards the nearest thicket of trees with a trail at its head, but looked back towards Garterbelt one last time, maybe to ask for a little clarification on those last couple of statements. Garterbelt, however, was gone. Not a trace of that hulking black man anywhere as far as the eye could see.

"So fucking creepy." Stocking muttered as she pushed past Clint.

Chapter Text

All paths lead to temptation, what a crock of horseshit, just say 'Go literally anywhere and you'll find it.'

Or better yet how about some actual fucking instructions you prissy drama queen, how about that. How about telling Stocking which path would take her to the damn tree fastest. How about literally anything more than 'Just wander around the forest and you'll find it eventually.'

But wander they did for wander they must. Just standing around wasn't going to make Archer shut up about how much they needed this thing to fuck up Danzo. If it would even work. They'd told Stocking all about the fruit of knowledge and what it did back in Angel Academy but expecting her to pay attention to any of that pointless shit was ri-goddamn-diculous. It's not like she ever used that kind of thing out in the real world.

"So..." Archer started.

"Archer I am going to be 100% honest with you right now. I started today with a card playing nerd who thinks trenchcoats are still the height of fashion pounding my shit in with toy birds. After almost dying I then got turned into a tea-sipping door-holding thank-you-maam-ing pussy-ass bitch by a fucking tree. And now, despite my protests, you're marching my fine ass back to that tree to try and force me to do the thing that got me turned into the aforementioned bitch in the first fucking place. Oh and let's not the fact that I got to parade around the goods to anyone who felt like watching a-fucking-gain. So, if there was ever a time when you might want to read the fucking room and not bother me with your shitty small talk, now might be that fucking time."

"That's nice," Archer shot back, cool as ever. "I was gonna say though, 'So, do you think that's the tree?' when we passed it a minute back."

"Shit! Fucking speak up next time."

Stocking and Archer then got ran back the way they came for a bit.

In the middle of the grassy clearing with pollen drifting in such a perfect way to catch the light and dazzle (and fuck with Stocking's sinuses) just right, was a grand, thick oak tree. It wasn't actually, like, an oak tree, but Stocking didn't know trees and oak just felt like the right thing to call it. Amongst its perfectly green leafy branches were shimmering red-yellow fruits, not the right shape to be apples, not the right texture to be peaches. They were some nebulous fruit that combined aspects from dozens of its brethren without really looking like any one in particular. Like every other stray bush and tree in the garden, the tree was brimming with its fruit of choice, each shining piece of produce spaced perfectly evenly from all the others.

Stocking didn't want to admit it, but the firm skin, the swollen shape that no doubt implied a mouth-soaking juiciness, enough to run down her chin and splash all over her chest in a bukkake of naturally sugary sweetness, Stocking reallywanted to eat one of those fruits.

She took an uneasy step forward, Archer watched her carefully.

Maybe Garter was full of shit, he usually was right? How the fuck would you protect a tree by just making people not want it? Stupid, it was stupid, it was probably that moss dip Eve had put her in that made her act all weird. Stocking was halfway to the tree now and not a single thing was going wrong, she wanted to shove that big juicy fruit into her mouth and savor its excellence just as much as she had when she started walking. Garterbelt just didn't like it when she enjoyed life, his existence was miserable and he wanted everyone to be miserable with him. And of course he'd do anything and everything to make her look bad. He had probably lied about the whole protection thing just to get Stocking herself to try and pick one of these fruits. And then what? What was he going to do, catch her in the act and try and blackmail her? Have her put up with his bullshit or he'd let slip to all of heaven that she had attempted to commit the cardinal sin? Or maybe he'd just tell them anyways and let her become the laughing stock of heaven, eternally banished for fucking up in the same way that every average human had been cursed with fucking up. Was he here in the clearing? That creepy fucker could be goddamn ninja stealthy when he wanted to, sometimes it felt like nowhere was safe from the wrath of the afro queen, so why the fuck would this be any different? She scanned her surroundings, looking for any trace of fro or disapproving stare, curse his black ass for blending into the shadows so well. Whatever, she'd grab the fruit real fast and then get away before he could gather any evidence. But then she'd just be playing right into his fucking hands. How much should she even be fucking with this stuff anyways, I mean she was actually assisting a bunch of humans with committing the actual cardinal sin, what the fuck. If heaven found out she'd be over, she couldn't express order Cherub Brand flavored baby lotion, let alone actually be let back in through the pearly gates. It was fucked up, this whole thing was fucked up.

And really, who was Stocking to disturb such a perfect looking tree?

SHIT!

Shit shit shit shit shit shit SHIT!

Stocking spun on her heels and fast walked back to Archer's side. She tried to hold her composure as long as she could, fists shaking, teeth grit, eyes cast downward and squeezed shut. But eventually she collapsed, gripping her knees just to stay standing and letting out a shaky "Mother fuck."

"No good huh?"

Archer reinvigorated Stocking's righteous fury, she clutched her fist as she looked up to scream at him.

"What the fuck do you think assmunch?"

"Let me give it a shot."

Archer drew an arrow and pulled it back in his bow, taking steady aim. Then his aim became a lot less steady, faltering and shaking before the entire bow was vibrating harder than Panty's favorite toys. His hand jerked and he shot the ground.

"That's one hell of a shot if you were aiming for that one blade of grass."

"How about you bite me, huh? Guess it's not literal closeness that sets this stuff off."

"So what happens now?"

"I dunno. Guess we should just keep trying at it until something works."

Stocking sighed.

"This sucks dick."

Archer lifted his head skyward and huffed.

"It gargles major balls."

Chapter Text

Dokuro had never payed all that much attention back in Angel Academy, she got into the Rurutie with bare minimum examination marks and an overwhelming amount of strength and skill in combat. Still, she didn't know nothing. The fruit of knowledge was the ultimate symbol of humanity's temptation, and the reason why angels were required to involve themselves in human affairs in the first place. Adam and Eve lived in blissful ignorance, devoid of sin SOMEHOW, COULD'VE FOOLED DOKURO WITH JUST RUNNING UP AND EXPOSING THEMSELVES TO A YOUNG GIRL LIKE THAT, before Eve was tempted by Satan in the form of a snake drawing her towards the fruit. Among other knowledge gained by the fruit, however, was an understanding of good and evil, and in fact the full title of the fruit was the fruit of the knowledge of good and evil. Not just knowledge for knowledge's sake, but an understanding of what it meant to commit sin. Knowing that you had the option to do the wrong thing, and thus opening such an idea to be acted upon.

Dokuro really, really wanted to know the difference between good and evil right now. And she really, really wished Archer had let her try her hand at getting the fruit instead of Stocking. But no, Stocking knew all about sin and temptation, all those bad things, which probably meant that Stocking was a bad person, didn't it? But Archer liked Stocking, he liked her a lot more than he could ever like Dokuro, even now that she wasn't bludgeoning him anymore.

Dokuro really wanted to know more about good and evil. She wanted that fruit so that all her fears about what she'd done with most of her life could be assuaged. Was that not enough temptation to bypass the protection that surrounded the tree?

Lost in thoughts, Dokuro barely noticed when Bravestarr yelled out one of his things. "Eyes of the Hawk!"

Bravestarr had two really cool powers and two really lame powers. His Puma Speed and Bear Strength let him move almost as fast and hit almost as hard as Dokuro, they were cool, flashy, stylish. But whenever he used Wolf Ears or Hawk Eyes, Dokuro just had to sit around and wait for him to notice whatever it was he was trying to notice.

She was bored. And bored and sad weren't a good combination.

Dokuro tried whistling a quick tune. Spun her bat like a baton to keep her fingers all loose and warmed up. Hit a tree and sent it flying over the horizon. She wondered if she couldn't knock a tree like that and then jump onto it before it flew away and then just ride it. That seemed like fun.

She almost, almost didn't notice the shuriken that flew towards the back of her head from the forest's shadows. Not that she needed to though, Bravestarr was so cool, such an overall good guy, he snatched that dagger right out of the air and even caught the handle instead of the sharp part.

"Howdy there, Danzo." he said, nodding towards the ninja standing on a tree branch, meters above the both of them.

Danzo hmphed. "If only they'd sent me Servants just a little bit weaker."

"You ain't planning to pack up and run now are you? It's hard to picture you quitting after one failure."

"I saw an opportunity to eliminate a couple thorns in my side. A prolonged confrontation was not part of any plan though."

"Well that's perfectly alright, we don't need to fight. There's not anything we can do to you here that's going to stop you when we get back to the Hub, anyways. Not if the last time was any indication at least."

Danzo remained silent.

"We couldn't even slap a pair of energy cuffs on you, it'd desummon all of us and on the off chance that that wouldn't remove the cuffs, you'd be left all alone to figure out how to escape anyways."

Danzo remained silent.

"And, well, right now it's just me and Dokuro here, so we're not about to rightly kill you."

Danzo remained silent.

"You might not believe me, but Dokuro here's taken up a vow of pacifism, or at least a pledge against killing. This entire experience has been quite good for her I'd say."

"I've yet to hear a reason to stay and listen to this drivel."

"How about because you owe us." Bravestarr's tone went from friendly to deadly serious in an instant.

"What could I possibly-"

"I know you're not dumb Danzo, so how about you quit acting like it. You summoned the four of us here, despite the fact that you were plenty strong and skilled enough to handle every challenge thrown at you on your own. All the while, you'd plotted from the beginning to toss us aside like garbage the moment you saw your opportunity. From the very beginning we were nothing more than some meat shields so you could protect your own hide. There's nothing for you to do in this singularity, we're still going to go back and defeat the enemy team, so I think you owe us some explanations."

Danzo was silent, silent for a long time, Dokuro couldn't tell if he was searching for a response or just waiting for her to look away in boredom so he could throw another shuriken at the back of her head.

"Very well."

"Glad we could work together to come to a mutually beneficial conclusion." Bravestarr tipped his hat. "Now, howsabout we start with how you got here. I thought the back of the Hub didn't have cameras, how'd they lock you down to send you through time along with us, huh?"

Danzo did little more than squint tighter at Bravestarr.

"I see. You don't know either. This whole thing is still one big mystery then."

"If you're going to ask about where I was, or where I will be, don't bother. I was sent here as soon as I stepped foot out of the Hub. It's a disappointment really, but I won't be held back for long."

"Some kind of defensive measure then, I see, that makes sense."

"Yes, you very well can see, and as you can so clearly see I will not be able to provide any more useful information."

"Well now hold on there a second, Danzo. I got one more thing I wanted to ask you. On the beach, you told us that your wish was going to just be to protect your village. I don't mean to imply anything about your character, but I don't think you'd wish for something quite so simple. Or at least, I think you'd put a little more thought into how your village was going to be protected. Archer had a point, a betrayal of this magnitude would be unnecessary if that's all it was. So the last thing I want to ask you Danzo is simple: What are you actually going to wish for?"

Danzo looked down on the both of them. Looking them over. Evaluating them. Studying the situation.

And he was silent.

Chapter Text

Stocking charged at the tree, picking up speed as her stylish black loafers pushed at and dug through the dirt, repelling even the lightest speck that threatened to dirty them, for even the earth knew well enough not to piss off Stocking Anarchy. But apparently this fucking tree didn't know that. Blind charge after blind charge and every time an errant thought wormed its way into Stocking skull and made her stop just before reaching it.

She felt bad for all the dirt she kicking up, disturbed and dislocated, uprooting all the blades of grass that could've lived long, full lives and NO! NO!

Stocking swerved to the side and stumbled to a stop just at the line of brush that ringed the tree. At this point the fear of turning back into a polite, nature loving monstrosity was scarier than any of the thoughts about the plan going horribly wrong or Garterbelt setting her up.

This cockmunching tree.

Stocking drew Stripes I and walked right up to the base. She spit on both her hands to tighten her grip, then swung. The image of the sky darkening, the wrath of an angry God vengeful at having his prize defiled, striking the tree and Stocking down in one fell swoop with a bolt of lightning struck her brain like, well, like a bolt of lightning and that meant it was absolutely about to happen if it hadn't already.

Stocking stopped, pulled her Stripes back from the tree. Not even a scratch, she hadn't come close. And the sky was still as clear as ever.

Stocking needed to focus, man the fuck up, just think about how delicious that fruit's going to be in your fucking mouth Stocking and swing! Just think about fruit, don't think about the tree or Garter or this stupid protection bullshit, don't think about the tree and it's roughly, finely detailed bark that Stripes I is about to start plowing through, about the chips of wood that will no doubt be sent flying as she struck. The detailing on the bark was so intricate and beautiful, truly the work of a loving God, it would be a shame wouldn't it, to destroy it like that SON OF A BITCH!

Stocking walked away from the tree and kicked a perfectly smooth, mossy rock.

"Fucking son of a shit fuck ass FUCK!"

Archer sighed. He couldn't even reach for an arrow now without wincing and pulling back. Stocking wondered what went through his head every time he went for it.

Okay no, that had to be the tree talking, Stocking wasn't about any of that gay emotional shit.

"Archer, I'm going to say this with the last ounce of pity this stupid fucking tree has shoved into my head, please I am begging you let's fucking bounce I hate this stupid garden."

"Yeah. Yeah I'm kind of feeling that myself. But what about..."

"There's gotta be some other way to beat Danzo. The guy's barely lifted a finger this whole time and he's fucking old. How tough could he honestly be? You're worrying over nothing like the diaper wearing granny that Danzo is."

"I... I don't know. Still, either way, we don't even know how much of an advantage this thing's going to give us. We probably shouldn't gamble on it, let's just go and find another way, yeah?"

"That's the smartest shit you've said in your life." Stocking said with relief. She was immediately moving towards the exit of the clearing. Archer made to follow her, but something stopped him.

Didn't stop Stocking though, fuck that shit. She power walked her way out onto the trail and whoopdee fucking doo looks like it was back to wandering through unmarked trails again and hoping against hope that somewhere lead back to where she wanted to go. Why couldn't Garter have said something like all trails lead to a day spa or something? The trail branched at random intervals, and when these intervals came up, Stocking likewise branched randomly. Left, right, straight, right, right, left, straight. She was just beginning to wonder if she was getting close to the big clearing where Adam and Eve were when she saw a familiar opening to her right and oh for the love of goth.

She looked back into the clearing with the tree to see Archer aiming an arrow at a fruit again. Quite appropriately, such an action was fruitless.

God, it was worse than she'd thought, this place was turning her into Panty. Next thing you know she'd be inviting Archer and Bravestarr over for some light double anal, because what self-respecting slut doesn't want pain and a week of funny walking and the sensation of pooping out two dicks at once.

But whatever, like every other time he tried Archer's aim would waver and then he'd redirect his shot and miss the tree by a country mile, Stocking was just waiting for it so she could laugh at him.

And then his aim didn't waver in the slightest.

And then he let go of the arrow.

And then it flew straight and cut a fruit right from off the tree.

Alright, he got it down, but now going up to the fallen piece of fruit he was going to freak out and double back and then the humiliation would happen. Either that or he was going to start humping a flower. A worthy source of mockery either way. Any second now.

And then he reached down, picked up the fruit, tossed it up and down in his hand for a second, before stowing it in his quiver.

What the fuck?

"What the fuck?"

"Oh hey, you're back."

"All roads lead to temptation, fucking apparently. That still doesn't answer my question."

"It was simple really, deceptively so, and it's something Adam and Eve in their little isolationist colony here would never have thought of."

"Keep spouting shit that don't mean shit and I'm going to knee you in the balls."

"I'm not going to eat the apple. The protection only applies to those who are getting close to attaining the knowledge it holds. Go into it knowing full well that you'll never be able to get it because you won't let yourself, and the tree doesn't care."

"Well slap my ass and call me Panty, if you would be such a dear I'd like to partake in it then."

Archer was holding in a laugh, really really shitily holding it in. Stocking almost went through with the ball kneeing thing anyways.

"Eat shit. We're still lost in this utopia shaped mountain of ass, at least I ain't finding my way back."

"Well for that, I have a shortcut."

Archer drew a red rocket arrow and fired it up, he snatched Stocking by the wrist and she made sure to give him so much shit for that as the two of them flew up and over the Garden of Eden.

Good fucking riddance.

Chapter Text

Danzo had been quiet for a while, Bravestarr was worried that he might himself be stalling for a moment to attack the both of them. Bravestarr was tense, ready to intercept any attack that came his way and double ready to keep Dokuro safe. But then no attack came, and Danzo did eventually speak.

"I meant what I said," he finally started. "I desire for nothing but to protect my village. A perfect, selfless soldier. Dedicated to the wellbeing of his country by the law of the shinobi."

It was Bravestarr's turn to give Danzo the silent treatment.

"And for that it must be asked what threatens my village most. Invaders. Warring with other villages. Coups from within. No matter how many times the Hidden Leaf prevails in its efforts, lives will be lost. Good men slain before their time. How many shinobi do you think make it to my age?"

"You're a regular charity case. You're still circling around the question. Or maybe you're just trying to justify what you're about to say next."

"If that is what threatens my village the most, if that is what extinguishes the lives of so many of my countrymen, then there is only one solution to make sure it stays safe. I must permanently remove humanity's capacity for violence. Once man cannot hurt one another, only then will the shinobi no longer be needed, and my village will finally be safe."

Bravestarr took a hesitant step back.

"You're mad." Bravestarr yelled up to him. "You're talking about robbing people of their free will."

"I'm talking about attaining global peace. Is that not the very thing you've spent this long fighting for? Marshal?"

"I don't throw people in the slammer before they've committed a crime, Danzo."

"And by my work you'll never have to throw a man in prison again. I deserve your adulation, not your accusations."

"You couldn't have thought we'd go along with you on this."

"No, I didn't. You all, with your obsession over fighting like a pack of primitive apes could never understand my purpose, of course I knew this. That is the reason I decided to finish this mission on my own."

"Danzo, you-"

All ears twitched, a distant groaning, the shifting of canopies, birds flitting away. Bravestarr made the mistake of turning towards the source of the sound, and caught a full glimpse of Archer and Stocking rocketing towards them on one of Archer's odder arrows. Bravestarr was elated, he'd stalled long enough, he'd almost done it. But then his elation turned into frustration as he turned back and Danzo was already gone.

"How in the nebula..."

Allowing his attention to fall back on the two high fliers. Stocking was yelling at Archer, berating him as per usual, so that was comforting. If they hadn't been successful, at least the both of them had kept their minds.

"...not to fucking grab me without my permission. Next time I ought to separate your empty head from your tiny shoulders."

A potent lesson on respecting others, but perhaps with too harsh a punishment as she drew one of her swords and slammed the flat end over Archer's head.

Archer buckled under the hit, his hand slipping from the rocket's cord and no longer having any connection to their source of flight, the two of them tumbled towards the ground. Their fall was broken by the trees overhead, but Archer had the misfortune of spinning midair and landing on his shoulders. His quiver's contents spilled from it and scattered all around the clearing.

Amid a handful of small explosions and detonations of smoke, Bravestarr saw something peculiar fly from it as well. A red and yellow stemmed fruit soaring through the air. If they had just gotten back from their job, then that had to be it, right? The fruit of knowledge. But why hadn't Archer himself eaten it yet?

Bravestarr watched the fruit as it flew, watched it as it dived through the specks of light poking their way through the treetops, before it landed right inside of Dokuro's gaping maw.

Archer fell clumsily to the ground and landed flat on his back with an ow. Stocking landed on her feet and did little more than dust herself off, so it was up to Bravestarr to help Archer to his feet.

He turned back to Dokuro, expecting her to still be chewing on the fruit or even better to have spat it out so they could tactically decide what should be done with it. But no, as he looked at her, she had fully well swallowed the thing by now. But something else was wrong, Dokuro was sat in the middle of it all on her knees, gaze slightly downward and far away. It was hard to tell from the distance, but it looked like tears were welling up in her eyes.

"Lil pard." Bravestarr called to her. "You doing okay?"

Dokuro looked up, face crumpling further and on the precipice of bursting into tears.

Chapter Text

"What did you just do?" he screamed into her face. "What the hell do you think you're doing?"

Dokuro raised excalibolg to bludgeon this bad man just the same, but then something else came. A sudden pain in her midsection. She looked down, teardrops dripping off of her cheeks, to see... nothing. A whole lot of nothing but two massive wounds, one in her stomach, one in the man's, lined up perfectly like they'd been stabbed by the same sword.

Dokuro looked up, saw the man's eyes filled with just as much fear as her own, and she was suddenly aware of the sensation of her head being severed from her neck.


 

Dokuro really wanted to move, wanted to shake off the block of ice that encased her and burst free and bludgeon all the people who put her in here. No matter how much she struggled though, the ice refused to so much as crack. And with excalibolg at her feet, there was little she could do anyways.

Two men and a woman stood outside, yelling at one another. Dokuro wished she could tell what they were saying, but she couldn't hear anything through the ice. The white robot motioned towards her, then motioned out towards the field. Through the distortion, Dokuro could make out just how many corpses were scattered around. The green haired swordsman gestured wildly, pointing back and forth from the white robot to Dokuro and to the woman.

She had apparently been differed to, as she suddenly started thinking while the two guys shut up and watched her. Before she could draw any kind of conclusion though, the white robot roared (or at least motioned like he had) and struck the block of ice with his sword.

The ice did finally crack, and Dokuro's brittle flesh along with it. She quite literally fell apart.


 

"Pitiful."

The evil angel man pulled Dokuro up by her throat from out of the rubble. Dokuro could just barely make out the body of Archer lying still in a puddle of blood, surrounded by cracked rock.

In the scuffle Dokuro had dropped excalibolg. She flexed her hand, urging it to come back to her. The evil angel man didn't give her time and threw her against the wall. Her head bounced painfully off of a stone column.

"All of you are nothing. If I truly am the most disappointing of homo superior, then what does that say about you? I told you pathetic humans, genetic inferiors, that no number of you can even hope to match only one of us. And be sure, the war is coming, and no sudden rhetoric of acceptance or peace will stop it."

The evil angel man approached Dokuro as he talked, calmly and slowly. When Dokuro thought he was just in range, she jumped up and swung. Not fast enough though. The evil angel man darted back, wings fluttering to push him faster, and with that flutter came a number of sharp metal projectiles. They took Dokuro by surprise, and by the time she even registered their existence a dozen of them were embedded in her skin.

She felt woozy almost immediately, stumbling forward and trying and failing to gather enough strength to even lift excalibolg. Soon she collapsed forward onto the stone, right next to Archer.

"Behold humans," was the last thing she heard. "Your apocalypse."


 

Dokuro ran for her life down a dimly lit corridor. Strips of light lined the hallways, the only thing illuminating her path forward, but of course the only thing worth illuminating were the twists and bends in the hallways that kept her from running straight on into a wall.

Behind her, a terrifying noise. The crunching for titanic jaws obliterating fiberglass. Every step she took, a massive version of Popuko's head followed. And with every step, the massive head folded backwards, opening and closing on a hinge, every bite obliterated one of the lights Dokuro was reliant on to stay one step ahead of this thing.

Dokuro quickly realized that she really wasn't staying one step ahead of it. Every time she turned around it had inched a little bit closer. The darkness that followed it creeping up on her back.

Dokuro made a mad left, ducking into a corridor and hoping that would be enough to lose her.

It wasn't.

The crunching got louder until Dokuro could feel the impact against the back of her neck each time the giant set of jaws closed in on itself. Dokuro jumped forward, desperate for any amount of acceleration that would get her away. None came. Darkness swallowed Dokuro whole as the mouth slammed shut and squashed her.

GAME OVER


 

Dokuro lifted excalibolg to block Stella's charging strike, then began spinning it around her wrist to parry the next several follow up strikes. Without stopping the spin, she brought excalibolg down to her stomach where the handle grabbed and spun around her waist. With a flick of her hips, the whole thing shot towards Stella like a missile. She leaned to the side and dodged the strike with enough ease, then moved to capitalize on Dokuro's defenselessness.

Excalibolg reversed mid-air, flying handle-first back towards Dokuro and more important towards Stella's blade, set on a collision course to knock it away and send her careening off balance. Then, Stella shifted, spotting the club as it flew back towards her and shifting her blade to avoid it.

Her blade transformed as she moved it, and before Dokuro could reach out and grab excalibolg, Stella blasted it with a torrent of water that sent it flying into the jungle that ringed the beach.

"I am victorious in our duel, Dokurochan." Stella said, not a hint of emotion in her voice. "These are the parameters as you established them, so no hard feelings, yes?"

Dokuro had half a thought about protesting as Stella's cannon shifted back to a blade. Then she brought it down on Dokuro before she could finish it.


 

The pony's horn glowed a bright green as Dokuro was pounded over and over again into the metal wall.

"Wait!" Dokuro cried out. "Please. I can bring him back, let me go so I can bring him back!"

"You think I'm going to trust you?" the pony yelled back. "You think I don't know that you'll take any opportunity, no matter how small, to thin our ranks even further? That you're not terrified of what I could do to you right now and are looking to solve that problem as soon as possible? That you're not going to kill us like you killed Emmett?"

On the final word, the pony slammed Dokuro into the wall again. Not once did she let her fall, not letting her any amount of movement, not even enough to call excalibolg back to her hand.

The pony did not shake, falter, or say a word as she levitated a pistol from her saddlebag and floated it towards Dokuro's forehead.

"Please," Dokuro sobbed. "Please let me save him, I have to save him. I can bring him back I need to save him I have to save him."

The pony didn't let her though. In the end she couldn't save anyone.

Dokuro barely heard the bang.

Chapter Text

Littlepip stretched our her forehooves and yawned as she woke up. The sleep had been... well not pleasant, she was, as she always had been, plagued by nightmares of death, gore, and betrayal. Still, the torture of that was better than the torture of just staying up forever.

She knew that from experience.

Having woken up though, Littlepip wasn't very surprised to see that Shun and Emmett were the only ones to join her. Shun was shuffling through his deck, it was little more than a nervous tick since his Pipbuck automatically shuffled his cards for him anyways, but Shun insisted that putting the deck in with a certain order would give him better hands than just slapping his cards in whichever way. Emmett meanwhile was talking with his sky friend.

"Yeah, no... Four of them, guy with trick arrows, though he might be dead by now, cowboy guy with a portable shield generator, might've been a Marshal, and two strong girls, one with a bat, one with swords... No I'm not making that up, we work with a magical apocalypse horse... Listen it's fine, we handled them well enough... I'm just saying you leave me on my own again and you might be searching for a new guy on the ground... All 8 turrets and the northeast wall, but if you could also hook us up with a watchtower in the middle and a bunker just in case... Nah, no, take your time. I don't know if those guys are even going to try and come at us again, we might've scared them off so bad we'll end up starving them out... Don't worry, we got plenty of food down here, not so little that we need to rely on union rations..."

A tell tale whistling rang out from above as turrets started slamming their way down one by one. Littlepip went ahead and grabbed Mako, still snoring loudly, and moved her out from the middle of the encampment, where that watchtower was supposed to come down. Best to get that done sooner rather than later.

Mako slept through Celestiadamn everything, so that wasn't much of an issue, but at the first impact Chronoa shot awake.

"Wha- Wuzza- What's going on, are we under attack?"

"Morning, sleeping beauty." Emmett called to her. "We're doing fine, just boosting our defenses a little after what happened last night."

"Oh, okay." Chronoa blinked a couple times. "Well, I'm definitely awake now."

The crate the size of a shack crashed right in the middle of the 8 walls. Support beams sprouted from the steel, growing high into the sky and pulling a central pole out from the crate up just as far. A support skeleton sprung to life right behind them and as the beams shrank back down they pushed up one final piece, a yellow painted ladder.

It had only taken a second and the watchtower was now fully constructed, sitting in the middle of the field like it had always been there. It never failed to impress Littlepip.

"I'm going to keep watch from up top." Emmett said. "Give me a holler if your scanner picks up anything."

"Aye aye captain." Littlepip gave a mocking salute as Emmett started climbing.

Watching him climb the ladder got her thinking again though, how was she going to get out of this little camp in an emergency? It was very hard for ponies to climb ladders. Stupid humans with their stupid hoof tendrils.

Hours passed, Littlepip passed the time by doing not a lot in particular. She fiddled with the grass, juggled a couple pieces of fruit that Shun's birds had brought back, tried to watch as Shun and Mako had a fight monster duel and got unbelievably bored with that, juggled a couple of her guns, fiddled through the local radio wavelengths to see if she could pick up anything, and that was only in the first hour.

Being cooped up in here wasn't as maddening as some of her other experiences, but it was still pretty maddening.

Littlepip was lying on her back, contemplating letting herself fall asleep again, maybe this time she'd just get the slowly dying from radiation dream instead of the all her friends turn on her and kill her dream. And then all 8 of the turrets exploded.

"What's going on Pip?" Emmett yelled from his roost. "I thought you were gonna give me the heads up."

Littlepip scrambled to her feet and gave her Pipbuck a couple taps. It wasn't showing any hostiles or, really, any anythings.

"I'm not picking up any readings."

"Then what happened?"

"I don't know, you'd have to be a mile out to get around the Pipbuck's scanning. But that, you couldn't... Dammit, should I even bother being surprised at this point."

Emmett started talking to his sky friend again. Now that he wasn't yelling, Littlepip could barely hear him, but it sounded like he was already calling for more turrets. That was probably smart, more guns usually resulted in better results.

"Hold on, Emmett." Shun was suddenly standing at Littlepip's side. He wasn't actually looking up to talk to Emmett who was, again, some 30 feet up, but relied on the strength of his voice to carry his message anyways. "The opponent has us at a disadvantage. Call more turrets and they'll get shot down just the same. The opponent has us at a stalemate. The move right now is to let them come to us so it may be resolved."

Again, Emmett, very high up, so Littlepip didn't catch his immediate reaction, but eventually she heard a "If you say so. Keep an eye out for me Pip."

Littlepip's eyes became glued to the Pipbuck's screen. A very tense couple of minutes crawled by. If Littlepip thought waiting for anything to happen while being unable to see anything farther than 10 feet away was maddening, it had nothing on incessantly staring at a screen, waiting for a person who's about to kill you to show up.

And then

fuck

there they were, four red dots blipped into existence, in a single file line.

"Emmett!" She called up. "Coming from the west."

"On it."

A couple seconds passed, just long enough for Littlepip to get worried, and then the familiar sound of a sniper rifle went off. She panicked for a second, but no, wait, no one on the other side actually used guns. Emmett had a sniper rifle, and a watchtower was a good place to use a sniper rifle from, so things were probably okay.

"Shit!"

Okay maybe things weren't okay.

"What's going on Emmett?"

"The girl blocked my shot."

"Which one?"

"Does it matter? It was the one with the club."

"You got visual on all four of them?"

"Yep. Get ready, they're coming in hot."

Emmett fired off a couple more sniper rounds. Then there was a slight clang from the roost, and Emmett was sliding down the ladder.

"Cowboy's got his shield up. Wasn't going to get much more done up there. I'm gonna dig around that bunker Cutter dropped for me, see what I can't find."

With that he ran off, climbing up the north wall's ladder and vaulting over the side, out of Littlepip's sight. Littlepip had her zebra rifle at the ready, trying to get her nerves under control with some deep breathing.

"Don't worry about it, Littlepip." Mako said. "We beat em before, we can do it again. We just gotta have faith in each other."

"Right. Right okay. Let's go."

As if on cue, the enemy vaulted over the walls, each one coming from a different angle. As soon as they entered, Littlepip started laying down cover fire to give Chronoa enough of an opportunity to book it without being noticed. The girl with the club charged forward first, taking a couple of swings at Mako which she weaved around with, well, with a unique kind of grace. One of Shun's birds swooped down to grab at her, but was intercepted by the girl with the swords slicing the bird in half. Shun then took that as his signal to start putting shit into motion.

"My turn!" he called out. "I summon to the field, Raidraptors-"

Shun's look of absolute shock mirrored Littlepip's own as the guy with the bow hit Shun across the mouth with some kind of sticky looking black substance. Shun was given about a second to figure out how to deal with this impediment to his battle strategy before an arrow with a rounded off tip struck him on the forehead. The man almost immediately went down.

"Yeah, wasn't a big fan of the runaround from last time." snarked the girl with the swords. "I like a good buildup as much as the next gal, but eventually you got to get to the fucking point."

"And as much as I like to see Stocking eat shit," the guy with the bow followed up. "Yeah no, it's not worth spending another second in this shit hole."

It was now just Littlepip and Mako against the four- no, wait, three of them. But they definitely had a fourth, right? The bare-handed guy, yeah. But then, that meant-

Shit.

Chapter Text

When they had been strategizing how exactly to take these guys down, Archer mentioned that the Master had given them the slip during that first attack. It then turned into an integral part of the plan to have someone stay outside of the walls in order to catch them as they tried to flee. Bravestarr insisted that he be allowed to assist in the battle within the walls, given his shield could protect from the two Servants that both used guns, but that was eventually shot down by the fact that Archer, Dokuro, and Stocking were much more skilled in fighting and Bravestarr's forte laid much more in his ability to talk people down.

And so here he was, circling the out perimeter and waiting for the Master to make their move. Of course she wasn't all that hard to spot as she made her escape, what with her bright pink complexion and all. Bravestarr made to move towards her, using his powers would draw attention to himself and he didn't want to freak out the little lady and make her do something that anyone would regret.

Unfortunately, his position was given away without his help. A mech, over a dozen feet tall, stomped between him and the Master. Bravestarr had paid careful attention to everything he could at the Galactic Marshal Academy, so he recognized union technology when he saw it. He also recognized the rift energy that drifted off of the pilot's arm and eyes.

"Well, well," its pilot said as he stood up in the cockpit. "Wasn't expecting to have a Hawk waiting for me, and I wasn't expecting to catch one of you going for the dirty move to counter our own. But what really blows me away is meeting a Galactic Marshal all the way out here."

"How d'you do." Bravestarr tipped his hat. "That an impressive Hawk you've got there. Not many people work with such high grade weaponry. You're a mercenary aren't you?"

"You gonna take me in for that? For trying to help people without letting a bunch of high and mighty bureaucrats force me towards the higher profit planets?"

"Doing things by the book ain't so bad. It keeps you safe when handling dangerous materials." The pilot sneered at this remark. "I've been keeping a kerium mine safe for a couple years now, not a single accident to report."

"Don't give me any of that. Kerium's easy to mine, easy to ship, easy to control. It ain't like rift energy. But you in your fancy kerium mines with your native workers, you wouldn't know anything about that, would you?"

"You made a choice to mess around with that kind of stuff."

"Not everybody gets to choose what their planet gives them. For some it's glowing rocks that make people better. For us, it's a backwater sandpit filled with... well I think you can see what rift energy does."

"I already know full well what rift energy does, sir."

"Do you now? Is that why we've yet to get so much as a complimentary shell from the Marshals for fighting off the scabs? You want to know why mercs like me are forced to do what we do on planets that got rift energy in them? It's cause if we didn't, those settlements would be overrun by those monsters within a day. We're the ones brave enough to be out on the frontlines, you just get to sit behind your fancy desk and wag your finger at us for not protecting ourselves the right way."

"Those are people you're talking about, I might remind you. People who got caught up in a tragic accident and don't know what they're doing. The Galactic Marshals have, in fact, been working on a solution to the scab problem, but until such time as we can fix the effects of rift energy in people without killing them, that's as best as you're going to get. Rift energy is a dangerous business to get involved in, especially when kerium gets people by just fine, you should've known that before trying to harness something so volatile. Now, did you have actual business with me or the Marshals or are you just going to keep telling me how to do my job?"

"Nah, just had a lot of thoughts to unload. If you couldn't tell my experience with rift energy is a very personal one."

"In that case, I'll be off to see your Ma-"

Bravestarr moved to activate his shield, when the blast of a pistol assaulted his ears and a sharp pain struck him in the chest. His badge clattered to the ground a distance away, along with a crumpled bullet. The man held a smoking pistol in his hand.

"I'm sorry, I didn't mean to suggest we'd be letting you walk away the winners here because of that."

The man settled back into his Hawk, hands at the controls and both gun barrels pointed right down towards Bravestarr.

"Wouldn't have it any other way, cowboy." Bravestarr breathed.

Bravestarr's hand moved slow, the only reason the man hadn't opened fire yet was because he probably thought Bravestarr was out of options. He wasn't that far off though, all Bravestarr had left on him was one collapsible tomahawk. A tiny axe against a Hawk, and it was strapped on his belt as well. As soon as he went for it, there was no doubt the pilot's patience would run out at that exact moment. He had one move, time to make it count.

Bravestarr reached for his tomahawk and hurled it at the machine. Just as he thought, the pilot squeezed both triggers and both gun barrels were alight in gunfire. Bravestarr dove to the side, just barely avoiding the onslaught of bullets already tearing up the ground right behind him. The tomahawk unfolded itself mid air and pinged off of the Hawk's left shoulder, throwing off its aim. Bravestarr leaped into the air and snatched the tomahawk back up before it could hit the ground. He landed and didn't lose any time, throwing the tomahawk again, this time it sliced clean through the two machine gun barrels, the stumps spraying bullets around wildly and without aim before the pilot had the good sense to take his fingers off the triggers.

Bravestarr wasn't done yet though. With a cry of "Speed of the Puma!" he rushed around to the opposite side and grabbed the tomahawk back out of the air before it could land. He ran forward and swung the axe twice, each time a leg was separated from the Hawk. By the time he stopped and the pilot could catch up with what just happened, Bravestarr was standing behind the mech, collapsing and holstering the tomahawk back onto his belt.

No time to gloat though, not that Bravestarr was that kind of person. He spotted the enemy Master disappearing behind the treeline, already panicking at how quickly the mech had been taken down. He hated to be so blunt about things, but the time for subtlety had long since passed, now was the time to finish things up. In an instant he was by her side, holding a pair of energy cuffs with one hand and the Master's arms with the other.

"Excuse me, ma'am." he said. "I'm going to need you to come with me."

Chapter Text

Dokuro was back in the Hub. Well, everyone was. As soon as the pony and the girl with the bat and the guy with the cards had all disappeared, Dokuro could take a wild guess at how Bravestarr's part of the job went. And that was good, a job well done, another step closer to the Holy Grail.

But Dokuro wasn't feeling great. All the things she'd been shown by the fruit of knowledge, no, all the things that happened to her because she ate the fruit of knowledge, had put her in another sad mood. She was getting really, really tired of those. And it hadn't told her anything about the difference between good and evil either.

That last part especially hurt Dokuro because, well, she felt like what she was about to do was very very bad.

Archer and Stocking were already in another argument. At some point, the both of them had tried to hit the pony at the same time and almost hit each other, and they were both very mad about that. Bravestarr was attempting to calm them down, but he'd be there for a while longer before making any kind of headway into that. Dokuro slipped out of their quarters and nobody noticed her.

Danzo had said that he wasn't able to make it outside the Hub before he got time traveled away to the Garden of Eden, but that wasn't actually true. The fruit of knowledge had told her that. She didn't know if he was lying or what, but she did know that he was still back there, which only made sense because he hadn't shown up in the quarters like the rest of them.

It was weird knowing as much as she did. Helpful, certainly, she knew that the guy with the green stuff on him was going to shoot Archer between the eyes when they were walking up to the enemy team's camp, so she was able to stop that before it happened. Knowing things was very useful, it was just that she hadn't learned any of the things she wanted to know.

Dokuro made her way back to where Danzo had carved that pathway into the wall. It was as long if not longer than the path that was made to the weapon factory, but Dokuro didn't mind walking it. It gave her time to think about whether she should be doing this. And yet, no matter how much she thought about it, no matter how much her inner self protested, she kept walking forward, not hesitating for a single step.

At the very end of the path was the tree Danzo made, the one that Bravestarr wasn't able to budge, even with his Bear Strength. Dokuro gripped excalibolg tightly, then swung with all her might. The tree exploded into wood chips and the path was made open for Dokuro. She stepped into the broom closet that the path lead to, but before making her way further in, she turned around and spun excalibolg around her wrist. It was a fun dance to do, this was probably the first time doing it didn't make Dokuro feel even a little happy. Still, she recited the chant.

"Pi Piru Piru Piru PiPiru Pi."

The crack in the wall sealed itself up, would seal itself up all the way down to the other end. Now no one else could make it out here. It was just her and Danzo now.

Dokuro stepped out of the broom closet and out into the spotless hallway. She didn't really know where Danzo was inside this maze of well polished corridors. Right now the plan was kind of just to wander and hope she would run into him eventually. Maybe the fruit of knowledge was leading her with her feelings, in a way that wasn't as direct or blunt as all the other things she knew now were, she wasn't really sure. But lo and behold, for better or worse, it worked. There he was.

Danzo swung out through a door by its top, like a monkey, and landed like a cat out in the hallway. He looked around with that one good eye of his, and when it landed on Dokuro his hand darted into his robe.

"Um, Danzo-san..." Dokuro started. Her hesitation was just enough to give Danzo the pause to hear her out. "I... I want to help you... get the Grail and make your wish."

Chapter Text

"Howdy kids." Bravestarr greeted cheerfully. "In today's story we learned a little something about thinking out of the box."

"I'm always thinking about box." Stocking said without tone or inflection.

"Hey, um, I know you guys are doing your things, but where'd Dokuro go? She was just here with us, right?" Archer asked.

"We were in a right pickle trying to get the fruit of knowledge back there, whoever put that spell in place thought through it a lot. But sometimes the answer is to work smarter, not harder, and that's how Archer was able to figure out a way around it to get the fruit."

"So remember kids," Stocking said. "Always exploit any loopholes you can, even if they don't actually benefit you, and never ever do as your told."

"Why are you playing along with this?" Archer asked. Stocking giggled.

"I like corrupting messages of purity. It's fun."

"Okay but actually, where'd Dokuro go? Should we be bothered by this at all?"

"So remember, the next time you run into a problem, try approaching the solution from multiple angles and try and see a new way to approach it. I promise it's better than trying to the same thing over and over again. See you all next week." Bravestarr waved. Stocking waved along with him, flashing a smile worthy of a gremlin.

"No? Alright then."

Chapter Text

The Iron Fist of the Law

Master: Danzo Shimura

Berserker: Dokuro Mitsukai


The Spirit of the Law

Archer: Clint Barton

Saber: Stocking Anarchy

Rider: Marshal BraveStarr

Chapter Text

Danzo Shimura was a man with a vision, a goal, and a plan.

His vision was to secure a future for the village of the hidden leaf, free from conflict that would bring harm to its people, even after Danzo was no longer there to lead them.

His goal was to use the Holy Grail's power to strip humanity of its capacity to do harm to others. Their lifelong dream of world peace would finally be attained, and it would be by Danzo's hands and his hands alone.

His plan, then, was to infiltrate the Hub's inner workings and find his way to the Grail. Whether the Grail itself was being held here or somewhere that he would have to find some other access to, the only way to ensure victory in this game was to go for the prize before anyone else could.

The plan, however, had not accounted for Dokuro.

When Danzo flipped from the room with the door swinging shut behind him, she was standing right there, in the middle of the hallway, club at her side. Instantly, his hand went into his robe and latched onto a kunai. She wasn't making a move though, uncharacteristic for one who was demonstrably the team's berserker.

"Um, Danzo-san..." she started. "I... I want to help you... get the Grail and make your wish."

Danzo had been prepared for any action Dokuro could take, any charge she would attempt based on how he had seen her fight, any childish attempt at psychological manipulation, any stalling tactic that would allow his other Servants time to catch up. To say that he was surprised would be inaccurate, he had prepared himself for this possibility as well. That said, even given the slim chance that she was telling the truth, it wasn't one of the more likely ones.

"I, um..." Dokuro stared at her shoes as she fidgeted nervously. "I sealed up the tunnel back to the Hub. I didn't want the others to follow me. But, you told us something back at the Garden of Eden."

Danzo scanned her, analyzing that last statement. He certainly didn't recall ever being in any garden. But she should know he'd know that, a lie such as this would be utterly pointless.

"You said that you wanted to use the Grail to stop people from hurting each other. And... And now I want that too. So I want to help you."

That, however, was unmistakably true. It was refreshing at least to interact with someone who knew exactly as much as they let on, but concerning that it was Dokuro of all people who knew so much.

"I- I don't like when I try and bludgeon someone and I'm scared they're going to stay dead now. And- And dying really hurts, it's so bad and I hate it. And I don't want to do it to anyone else and I just want all the hurting to stop. Please, Danzo-san, let me help you."

The girl seemed sincere, a stalling tactic was unlikely at this point, probably an attempt at proper infiltration, though it would've been a lot smarter to send Stocking instead. This place, however, offered a number of disadvantages to confrontation. Given that they were still fully capable of lighting singularities, Danzo wasn't convinced that the true orchestrator wouldn't be of Aizen's level of power anyways. Attracting attention at this phase could be suicidal, and there was a chance, small but existent, that she was telling the truth. No, the only course available for now was to play along with Dokuro's proposal and simply await her betrayal.

Danzo finally withdrew his hand from his robe and turned away. He said nothing, but Dokuro took the gesture as intended, a sign of acceptance, and followed. The two of them moved through the deceptively complex maze of unmarked walls and spotless floors and potted ficuses. Each room he came across he listened into, each time he heard the continuous typing and moved on. Dokuro followed silently and obediently. Danzo thought about when he'd first summoned her, she had been temperamental, uncontrollable, unpredictable, attempted to strike him down a number of times. She failed every time of course, but the complete shift in behavior, again, either nodded to the girl's spirit breaking, not unheard of when the innocent are thrust into war, or an attempt at treachery. He was already forming plans for either instance.

Danzo was moving through the motions, paying more attention to figuring out what to do about Dokuro than his work, when he came across a door that held complete silence. No clacking, no movement, not even breath was being drawn behind it. He motioned back to tell Dokuro they were going in, then cracked the door open.

It was quickly apparent why he heard nothing from this room. Unlike the office that the worker had been occupying, this room only contained two sets of stairs in it. One going up, one going down.

A sensible choice would be to split up, one of them could investigate the upstairs while the other could investigate the downstairs. A sensible choice, were it anyone with him but Dokuro. Leaving her alone and free to operate behind his back was the last thing he wanted right now, and even if he trusted her, he doubted she had the mentality suited for investigation. She was a mindless enforcer, and she would remain as such. Danzo motioned that they were headed downstairs, Dokuro followed without question.

The downstairs corridors, while similarly constructed to the second floor, was much darker. Strips of light were nestled into the bottom trim of the walls, illuminating the ground and not much else. Danzo pulled the wrappings from around his sharingan, scanning the hallways with its superior sight, and seeing nothing.

Like before, he moved up to the nearest door and pressed his ear against it. Inside he heard relative silence, but among it a nearly imperceptible chorus of shallow breathing. He cracked the door open and peered inside. It was darker than the hallways, with not a single light to illuminate anything inside, Danzo only made out as much as he did because of his sharingan. The room was filled with bunk upon bunk of sleeping men and women alike. Nothing here but beds and personal amenities. He closed the door just as silently.

The purpose of this structure was quickly becoming clear. Trapped as it was, eternally inside, upstairs was day and downstairs was night. The workers would perform their task for the day, then return down to the sleeping quarters where they would trade off with the workers just now exiting their own night.

Downstairs then likely held nothing worth investigating, the Grail wouldn't be held in such a high risk location under any circumstances. With no need to waste time, he made his way back up to the stairs. This time he and Dokuro went up, skipping past the second floor and moving up to the third, the highest floor.

The third floor was immediately a visual improvement from the first and second. Carpeting instead of linoleum, with a pleasing, deep green on the walls instead of the nasty yellow. They entered onto the floor through a room that seemed to serve very little purpose. Right across from the door they entered through was a second door. Two writing desks sat squarely across from each other, both had a small green lamp on them and neither had chairs. Lining the walls were professional, framed portraits of important looking men in business suits.

And contrasting the professional atmosphere, standing against the far door were two creatures. Humanoid, certainly, but with red skin, yellow eyes, bulbous noses, large, curved horns, and a larger, wicked pitchforks.

The two creatures took notice of the two of them as they entered. They didn't have time to do anything more than that. In an instant, Danzo crossed the room and slammed his palm into one of the creature's chins. Dokuro moved just as quickly, landing a chop on the back of the other creature's neck. They went down simultaneously.

Danzo tried the door, it was locked. One of the creatures likely held a key of some kind, but if there was more security from here on out, it would only get tighter. Confrontation was becoming unavoidable.

"Dokuro." Danzo spoke his first words since entering this place. "Break down the door. We're storming the castle now."

Dokuro looked hesitant, a hitch in her plans or was her pledge of pacifism getting in the way? In either case, she quickly moved past it, steeling herself and gripping her club. One swing and the door exploded off the hinges. Dokuro charged into the room with Danzo right after her. He expected more resistance, more security and a greater length of corridors to make their way through. But, no. Past the door was only one room, a grand office with a large mahogany desk in the middle, bookcases full of legal tomes, half filled out papers strewn about, and another set of monitors on the opposite side of the desk, like in the worker's room. An odd detail of the office, however, were the four stone statues in each corner of the room, each one depicting a unique but equally torturous death. Behind the desk was a comfortable looking chair, behind the chair was a massive portrait of the one in the chair, and in the chair was, undoubtedly, the orchestrator.

Danzo had to admit, he was a little surprised.

Chapter Text

"Okay," Clint said. "This is starting to look really, really, really bad."

"Is it Archer? Do you think that it might be looking bad?" Stocking shot back. "Is it bad that Dokuro ran off, the tunnel leading to wherever Danzo fucked off to is just gone, and we have no chance of finding either of them now or stopping Danzo's plan to fuck over the entire world and steal my wish? Does that look bad to you Archer?!"

"Alright, calm down you two." Bravestarr said. "We're not gonna get anywhere fighting about this. Now's the time to put our heads together and think of a plan."

"Shut your mouth, Commander PSA, you know I'm no good at thinking and I want to yell at Archer some more."

"Then how about you sit back and stuff your face while we try and solve everything, like you always do?"

"You want to fucking go Archer? I don't need to know what the trajectory of your ass is going to be when I kick it."

"Unfortunately I have better things to do than deal with a spoiled brat who thinks she's hot shit because she has some holy weaponry. Newsflash, lady, nowadays even raving loonies with too many guns and a savior complex can get their hands on divine prison shanks or whatever you call those blunt sticks on your legs."

"You wanna step over here and say that?!"

"Why? Have I earned a paddling from your canoe oars?"

"Classic Archer, run away and uselessly poke people from a distance."

"So at what point did you plan to take your top off this time?"

"They won't recognize the corpse when I'm done, I want you to know that."

"You're hurting my feelings now, I'm not that cruel you know."

"Oh!"

Clint and Stocking both turned towards Bravestarr and his tiny outburst.

"I think I've got an idea."

"There's a first time for everything I guess." Stocking said. Bravestarr ignored her.

"Every night they restock all our supplies, right? We found out where all the gear was coming from, the weapons factory."

"But the path to the weapons factory is also closed." Clint pointed out.

"That may very well be, Archer. But how did they get all that gear to us before then?"

"They got weird trekkie shit here," Stocking said. "They probably just teleport it to us when we're not looking."

"If that was the case, why would they have to wait until we weren't looking? We already know they send us through time, why wouldn't they just teleport our gear onto us whenever?"

Clint nodded.

"Alright, I see what you're saying. You think there's a secret path to the weapons factory, then. Is that it?"

"More or less. See what you can come up with when you're not too busy fighting each other?"

"Yes, I'm sure you're very proud of yourself," Stocking added. "But if you could stop jerking each other off for two seconds, didn't you guys search the weapons factory before? I thought there weren't any doors to any other parts of the facility. Granted this somehow works, we still have no way of actually getting to Danzo."

"Well," Bravestarr scratched his chin. "Maybe uh, maybe there'll be another secret passage back there?"

"Oh I'm sure. Maybe there'll also be a free gonorrhea clinic for Archer and a free gateway to heaven for me."

"Alright I see your point. But at least it's progress, it'll get us behind the scenes where we can plan out our next move."

"It's not like you had any better ideas." Clint muttered.

Stocking punched Clint in the back of the skull as she walked past him. He nursed the forming bruise and fell in line behind her.

"I'm only going along with this so I can say I told you so when civilization gets upended and we're stuck sniffing factory glue."

Chapter Text

The three of them stopped just outside that bartender's old quarters. That team had been eliminated some time between the beach and the garden though, so their quarters sat sad and empty. They weren't going inside it either way.

"The angle the tunnel got dug at was..." Clint moved to the side, lined up his shot, and pointed. "There. Went for about 700 meters."

"What an impressive memory." Stocking said. "Now tell me how many loveseats were in the brothel."

"Now now, Stocking." Bravestarr said, clapping a hand onto her shoulder. "Archer's got the right idea. The actual tunnel, if it was built intentionally, is gonna be a straight shot from the factory to the Hub."

Clint started walking forward, keeping his arm pointed steadily at the target.

"You sure you're gonna be able to keep that up, Archer?" Stocking asked.

"Hardy har. I am trying to hit a target the size of a warehouse, so I shouldn't be too far off."

With a target so far away, the trajectory didn't change much as Clint moved. A gradual tilt that only really manifested itself every dozen feet. The change was so minimal that Clint was worried that they'd hit a wall before things lined up right.

It turned out pretty square, though. Nestled in the corner of the Hub, taking into account the multiple stories of the weapons factory, were 4 sets of quarters situated dead in front of where the factory should be. Two on the first floor, two on the second. A music shop, an army base, a boutique, and a weird door frame full of mystical swirling star patterns.

"So," Stocking said, catching up. "We just choose one at random or..."

Clint shrugged. "Wanna split up?"

"Oh, because that always works out fantastic. I call dibs on the boutique."

"I'm shocked."

"Hey, I'm allowed to be predictable sometimes."

"Sometimes?"

"Splitting up is probably a good idea," Bravestarr added. "We don't have much time to search thoroughly after all. Archer, how about you take the magic shop there, I'll search the two places upstairs. That alright with you?"

"Sounds like a plan. If we don't find anything, we'll regroup out here and start searching the walls and floors and anything else we can."

"And when we still find nothing?" Stocking asked.

"Then we're shit out of luck."

"Great. It's nice to see everyone else shares my confidence."

Chapter Text

Stocking grumbled as she pushed her way through the boutique's front doors. This was a stupid plan. A stupid plan that depended on too much going right and wouldn't in a million years lead to anything. Like, fuck, what were they hoping was gonna happen if they even made it to the weapons factory, the magical psycho fairy would fly in and hand them Danzo on a silver platter?

Stocking's only real hope for this boutique was to find, and maybe snag some new duds. If their quarters had working cell doors, the boutique should at least have some dresses on display.

The inside of the boutique was... dark. The lights were off. It made the pastel red walls look musty and faded. A half dozen pure white mannequins dotted the entrance room in fashionable poses. A half dozen naked mannequins that is, each one had not a scrap of clothing on them, revealing to Stocking their slender, almost inhuman anatomy. With their blank faces, Stocking almost felt that, even though they were all looking in different directions, each one was staring at her. The intruder into their utopic sanctuary of stillness and dark.

Alright, nope. Nuh-uh. Fuck this place. Stocking spun on her heels and made to get the hell out of there. The door creaked as it swung back open, but just under the sound, Stocking heard something else. An undercurrent of nonsensical babbling, set to no rhythm Stocking had heard in her life. She couldn't make out any of the words, but she seriously wondered if that would even help her understand what was being said.

Fuck that even harder. How was this place not abandoned by now, there were like 3 people left in the whole Hub.

Stocking spared a single look back, and suddenly the stares from the mannequins became a lot more judgmental. Like, even they believed that she should be investigating this instead of chickening out and running away.

"Hey, kiss my ass." she whispered back at the mannequins. "That's some creepy voodoo shit going on in there and I am not in the mood to get my head shrunken."

She left the quarters and entered back into the comforting artificial light of the Hub. With a deep breath, she started to calm down. There was no way in hell she'd be going back through those doors, no way. She was just going to stand out here and wait for Archer and Bravestarr to come back so she could tell them that she couldn't find anything.

She would just... wait... She paced as she waited, arms behind her back, whistling a jaunty tune. God, what was taking them so long, her foot started tapping against her will. She drew Stripes I & II and started juggling them, perfectly snatching the blades out of the air by their handles and not missing a beat. That got old after just a couple seconds and so back on her legs the Stripes went.

Fine. Being scared for her life was better than being bored out of her skull. She went back in. The mannequins looked at her judgmentally.

"Whatever, get off my dick alright?"

Stocking followed the chanting to its source. And she had been right, it was a string of gibberish that made no sense whether you could hear the words or not. In the back of the boutique, there were four bedrooms that looked like changing stations, closed off with nothing more than a curtain. A fifth room had an actual door on it though, and that's where the sound was coming from.

She knocked. It was only polite really. Not like she was here for a fight.

"Wait wait wait, d- don't come in love!" A voice yelled from within.

"Yeah that's not suspicious. Listen, I'm guessing by the voice that we're all girls here so I'm just gonna come on in and-"

Jesus tittyfucking Christ. This had been a mistake.

What...

What the FUCK.

The stench hit her first and just that was enough to make her puke up her lunch.

Inside was a scene from one of those creepy gore-porn literal cult movies. Some goddamn Ted Bundy ass Jeffrey Dahmer ass fucked up shit. The only light was from a couple of candles sitting at an altar, none of which did anything to mask the smell. Stocking puked up the rest of what was in her stomach.

There were two girls in the room. One was less alive than the other. This was immediately obvious in ways Stocking did not want to expand upon. The less alive one was laid down on the altar. The more alive girl stood right beside the altar, bloody knife in one hand, the Master's mark glowing underneath all the red. She was clothed in a bizarre cross-stitch of about 10 different dresses, hung loosely off of her and looking like rags despite being fashioned from altogether more elegant somethings than the sum of their parts. She was covered in blood and not all of it looked like it got there by accident. And she had the face of a kid who's parents just caught her hand in the cookie jar.

"It's um... not what it looks like?" Stocking didn't really need to respond to that, she didn't think, but she was also pretty sure this girl knew that as well. The two of them stared at each other for a second. The girl took a step forward like she was going to make a move.

"You don't want to do that." Stocking said, not shifting her gaze in the slightest. The girl stopped just as quickly. "I don't wanna end up in another goddamn singularity, and you don't want your other Servants to see this shit. You fucking psycho, Jesus, what the- So just sit the fuck down and I'm gonna ask some questions. And for whatever reason, I'm not even going to start with 'What the fuck is wrong with you?'."

Stocking closed her eyes and leaned against the door's trim, wondering quietly what the fuck she was doing. And then she opened her eyes again and she saw the body again and-

"No, no I can't do this."

The girl moved again and Stocking held her hand up to stop her.

"I wasn't talking to you little miss Buffalo, you stay put."

Stocking begrudgingly reached down her shirt and grabbed the coin purse she kept in her bra. She flicked open the clasp and dumped the 8 heavens she had stored up onto the dead girl.

Nothing happened for a second. Stocking kicked the altar.

"I know you're watching. Alright, so I'm cheaping out on 8 but I'm scrapped for cash right now." No response. "Look I'll pay the rest later, just deal with this alright."

Stocking's request seemed to be acknowledged, as the girl's body lit up and made a really gross schloop sound. In just a moment, a perfectly living girl was lying there with short, pale blue hair and all the things that were supposed to be inside her back inside her. She got up woozily, puked over some candles on the side of the altar, then shakily stood up. She circled around the room, moving to the door but not taking a fearful eye off of the other girl.

"Deluge, love, I didn't-"

Stocking's shoe grabbed the psycho killer by the back of the neck and forced her to the ground. Stocking pushed down only hard enough to hope it wouldn't count as a proper attack and send them flying back to the past.

"Listen skankerface, I don't give half a rat's ass about whatever fucked up shit you're into, and I certainly don't care about letting you deal with the fallout from this, but I'm here to get information, so that comes first. Got it?"

The girl groaned from under her boot. "If you've got a question then spit it out already."

"Gladly. We're looking for some secret passages that are supposed to be around here. What do you know?"

"I don't know shit."

Stocking pressed down a little bit harder.

"Fuck! Is this your thing, love? And you give me shit."

"Rightfully so, I might add. Am I jogging your memory yet or do I need to get out the chains? You don't seem much like a bottom so this should be fun at least."

"Fine. There's a panel, underneath the mannequin in the main room. I don't know what's down there but it exists and it leads somewhere Servants and Masters aren't supposed to go."

"How about some specifics, bitch. Which mannequin?"

"The heaviest one! The one that's really hard to move. Aside from you, I mean."

"I'm going to ignore that."

With a stiff kick, Stocking rolled the girl over. She curled up in pain, but just when Stocking's focus shifted, she lunged, stabbing at Stocking's ankle with her knife. Stocking casually lifted her foot and stomped down on the blade.

"Yeah, nice try. I'm leaving now."

She did in fact leave, slamming the door behind her like a badass bitch. Out in the hallway, she could hear arguing and yelling among the Servants in their rooms. This place was going to turn into a shit show fast, better grab dumb and dumber and check if this secret panel was actually going to lead to anything or not.

She moved back into the main room and, upon seeing the light switch by the door, flicked it on before leaving.

"Drama queen."

Within seconds, Stocking was pounding on the quarters next door.

"Archer get the fuck out here!" She drew Stripes II and chucked it at the upstairs door. "You too Bravestarr!"

"What's going on?" Archer asked, his head poking out of the mystical magic doorway. "You find it?"

"I found something. It's going to get a lot harder to get to it really soon though, so hurry up and follow me, lardass."

Archer stepped out of the room and Bravestarr vaulted over the banister (and handed Stocking her Stripes back what a gentlemen) and the three of them darted back into the boutique. Loud fighting could be heard down the corridor.

"You were only in here for like 2 minutes." Archer said.

"This wasn't me, now start kicking over the mannequins."

To demonstrate, Stocking did just that. The faux foam human closest to her went flying before floating gently back to the ground. Archer and Bravestarr exchanged a look but quickly followed suit. One mannequin joined its sister on the floor. One didn't.

"Shit!" Archer hobbled back from the mannequin that hadn't even budged and gripped at his foot.

"That's the one!" Stocking said. "Push it out of the way!"

Bravestarr effortlessly grabbed the woman under its arm and lifted it up. Archer took only a moment to look indignant before he started to search the ground. His fingers hooked under something, and with a tug a section of the floor lifted up.

The tunnel went down a long long ways. There was a metal railing on one side, but outside of that nothing approximating a ladder or a rope or anything. Archer started attaching a grappling hook to the upended floor panel. Stocking and Bravestarr just jumped.

It was a thrilling half minute of wind whipping through her hair and the ground growing ever closer before Stocking landed on one knee, sending dust flying into the air. Bravestarr touched down right beside her. From way up high, Stocking could see the lid get pulled back closed, and watched as Archer slowly sidled down the length of the rope. Eventually he made it down with them and landed softly.

The path forward was tight, not tight enough to be a turn on but tight enough that they had to move through it single file and Bravestarr was forced to duck down.

"Delaney?" the voice of a young girl echoed from within the structure. "Is that you? Come on, don't fuck with me like this."

Archer muttered something from behind Stocking. Sounded like he said "No fucking way" but he'd probably done that weird thing and said "futzing" instead. Stocking didn't really care either way.

A couple of sharp, right angle turns later and the three of them were entering into a much larger compound. Pitch black walls with embedded strips of blue light along the ground and lined with crates brimming with equipment, some of it having noticeably spilled onto the floor. Stocking kicked aside a wickedly curved blade as she entered.

The structure was larger than a standard room but not exactly the warehouse the weapons factory had been. Two stories tall with five openings. The one they'd just came through, an identical tunnel opposite to them, two more openings 10 feet above the first two with no way to get to them other than metal tracks along the wall, and the entire wall to their right which was not a wall, but one long, wide tunnel glowing with blue strip lights and a half dozen more metal tracks.

Also floating up near the ceiling was some pink chick in her underwear with butterfly wings on her back.

Chapter Text

"Kyu?" Archer called to her. "What the hell are you doing here?"

"That's my line, asshole." Kyu yelled back down at them. "It's not enough to let me rot alone in peace down here? It's gotta be in the cell with the handcuffs? Is that what you're into, huh?"

Stocking sighed. No one appreciated the finer things in life anymore.

"Okay," Archer said, pinching the bridge of his nose. "First of all, we're not even here for you. I don't know how 'what the hell are you doing here' didn't clue you into that."

"I'm sorry, who's the dumb broad?" Stocking asked.

"Again," Kyu said. "My line."

"What a comeback, I'd almost be hurt if I was the one stuck in a dungeon in my lingerie."

"And who's fault is that again?"

"The underwear thing's not really on us." Archer pointed us.

"Stocking." Bravestarr interjected. "This is Kyu. Kyu, this is Stocking. Kyu's a Master, we fought her and her team very early on."

"And killed one of my Servants, yes." Kyu added.

"Oh, I see, so you're a skank and a drama queen like your butt buddy up top. Good to know."

"I'm not going to take shit from a hoebag who dresses like a high end prostitute and smells like the low end."

"You wanna say that to my face slutella?"

"I don't feel like catching herpes today, so I'll pass."

Stocking drew Stripes I and lunged.

She stopped lunging when Bravestarr grabbed her by the back of her shirt and held her off the ground.

"My apologies ma'am." he said. "We didn't mean to cause you any trouble, we're just trying to find our way back into the weapons factory."

"What for?"

"Hold on, how do you even know what that is?" Stocking asked.

"It's like right down there." She motioned to the great big tunnel leading away from the Hub. "Also Delaney keeps me in the loop."

"Yeah, I don't know who that is." Archer said.

"Yeah, you don't want to." Stocking muttered.

"What's wrong with Delaney?"

"Alright!" Bravestarr yelled above the bickering. "If the weapons factory is down there, then we'll just be on our way. Thank you very much for your assistance."

Bravestarr put Stocking down, and she reluctantly put Stripes I back onto her leg. The three of them turned down the massive tunnel and started walking.

"Wait, hold on." Kyu fluttered over them as they walked. "You never told me what you wanted down there. How did you guys even get down here, I thought I told Delaney not to let anyone past."

"Homegirl's a little tied up right now." Stocking gave a pleased with herself smile.

"Well, um," Archer started. "It turns out our Master is uh, kinda nuts. Wants to forcibly stop the violence, made his way into the inner workings of the Hub to get the Grail before anyone else. We're just trying to figure out some way to find him."

"He's a Master." Kyu noted. "How tough can he be?"

"You'd think that wouldn't you." Archer said. "But then I don't know what whoever dragged us here was thinking. I somehow ended up as a Servant and Danzo, who's probably stronger than all of us put together, got the cushy, bossing people around job. And I have no idea how we could even try to stop him."

"Uh-huh..." Kyu scratched at her head.

"Look, I'm-" Archer caught himself before continuing. "I'm really sorry about what happened with Kopaka. Honestly. Haven't gone a day in this hellhole without thinking about what I did. I don't expect you to accept that, but then I wouldn't expect any of us to walk away happy."

"What about Zoro? I noticed he didn't come back with you before I took off to go hide."

"That, that was Danzo. And just another item on the list of why we want to stop him."

"A bit hypocritical, don't you think?"

"Maybe. But on the other hand, he hasn't apologized to you, so I might have a leg up."

"Well... Alright then."

Kyu's anger was fading surprisingly fast. In the moment of silence, Stocking's ear caught a distant rumbling and a tiny light lit up at the far end of the tunnel.

"Shit." Kyu said. "Robot's coming. Get up."

"What?"

"The robots can't see up. Get the fuck up, idiots."

Archer was already shooting an arrow at the ceiling, no, sorry, it was a plunger. That was a plunger he just shot. It stuck and left a rope dangling down below it, a rope which the three of them quickly climbed up as high as they could go.

Stocking was absolutely convinced that there was no way this would work, from the time she could see the robot with its crate trundling along the metal tracks all the way through when it passed under them without even a moment of hesitation, she was convinced it was gonna turn around and look at them and fill them with more lead than the church's pipes. But, it didn't. It went along its way without stopping once. The fuck kind of bumbling ass robots were these?

Archer fiddled with the arrow at the top of the rope and the three of them fell back down, Archer landed on his ass so Stocking got to have a snicker at his misfortune.

"Right, well," Kyu said. "I'm going to head back before anything catches me this far down. You all have fun with your suicide attempt."

"Yeah, maybe we will." Archer called back.

"I'm not having fun, Archer." Stocking said.

Archer sighed. "Me neither."

The tunnel down to the weapons factory was just as long as Stocking remembered it being. Longer actually, since every now and again they had to stop and dangle from the ceiling for a few minutes to let a robot pass under them. At the far end of the tunnel was a massive door, as large as the tunnel itself, that opened up and over to allow the robots to trundle along under it whenever they needed in.

Once they got within a hundred feet of the door, Stocking hit full on fuck it. She dashed forward as quick as she could, drew her Stripes and sliced a clean, triangular opening into the door. With a kick it went flying in and Stocking calmly walked inside after it.

It did in fact lead to the weapons factory as it turned out. Bottom floor of the warehouse area. Robots whirred about the place, so Stocking took the bare minimum effort to stay vaguely out of their limited line of sight. Bravestarr fell in right behind her but it took Archer another minute or so to catch up.

"You sure that was a great idea?" he asked while catching his breath.

"Who's going to notice? These buckets of bolts don't care if you start fingerbanging them, what's a hole in the automatic door going to do?"

"I'm beginning to wonder if these bots even have security systems to begin with."

"Who cares? We're here now. So do we have any idea what to do to get not here or do I get to start doing the told you so dance?"

Bravestarr cast his gaze skyward and stroked his chin.

"I might have something. Maybe."

"The confidence you build is inspirational."

He walked out into the open area, right up behind one of the robots, politely tapped the bot on the shoulder, and when it turned to face him, he knocked its head off with a punch then ran back for cover.

"You're both a couple of absolute morons." Stocking breathed, barely containing her rage as her shoulders shook and her arms tensed. "We spent all that fucking time avoiding these things and you're just gonna haymaker it? Seriously?"

"Sorry, let me explain." Bravestarr said. "See, every time we come back here, the bots are all in perfect working order, there's not a single nonfunctional one among them. But these robots are not that well constructed, and working in a warehouse like this, where any number of things can cause major damage, way I see it there must be an on call engineer who comes back here to fix them up anytime something goes wrong. We find an engineer, we find our way somewhere deeper into the Hub."

"This is a horrible plan. Worst I've heard in my fucking life. How are you so consistently bad at this?"

"It's the best we've got right now."

"Is it?"

A light flashed out in the middle of the floor. Another person stepped out into the warehouse.

"Fuck me with a cactus how the shit did that work?"

The engineer was a really, a very short person, almost looked like a kid. Her blonde hair was short and well maintained outside of a weird cowlick sticking up in the back. She was wearing a thick, black denim uniform that covered her entire body save her head. Small tools were strapped around her belt but it was nothing too dangerous looking. And her face, there was just something unpleasant with it. A permanent scowl, naturally furrowed, bushy brows, eyes filled with malice so intense that most of mankind would never experience anything of such power in their lifetimes.

And that was before the three of them made their move.

In an instant Stocking and Archer were at her front, Stocking had Stripes I at her throat and Archer had a taser arrow pointed at her face. From behind, Bravestarr clapped her hands together with some handcuffs.

Her gaze slid between Stocking and Archer, every time it landed on Stocking a chill was sent running up her spine. Hellfire burned behind her eyes, not lively but inevitable, an unspoken promise of centuries of pain in store for her because of this. Stocking kept her blade up out of sheer spite but Archer's bow was already faltering.

"Get those toothpicks out of my face." she growled.

That was apparently all the invitation Archer needed to back down, stowing the arrow back away.

"And you," the girl continued. "Get these things off of me."

Bravestarr wasn't entirely sure what to make of someone less than half of Stocking's height ordering him around, but with a more forceful "Now!" Bravestarr quickly worked to undo her bindings. With that her focus was purely on Stocking. It took less than a second of staring into those pits of despair and anguish before Stocking backed down like a scared kitten, setting her Stripes back onto her leg.

"That's better." the girl said, her expression doing nothing to indicate the slightest uptick in elation. "Let me guess. You're Servants, tired of the runaround and looking to revolt against the shadowy organizer and take the wish for yourself."

"Um," Archer started. "Not really no. But, our Master is. And we're trying to find him."

"Wait, hold on," Stocking said. "Who the fuck are you?"

She quickly regretted drawing the girl's ire again.

"You will speak when spoken to. I'm running things here. If you need to call me anything, then call me... M."

Chapter Text

"I see." M said. "Your Master betrayed you all, went rogue, and wants to steal the Holy Grail and wish all of humanity into a pathetic, docile state, just ready to be conquered."

"I don't know if he said anything about conquering anyone." Archer said. M ignored him.

"While I can greatly appreciate so thoroughly disarming people to make the path to rulership a cakewalk, I happen to like violence. Bickering among the underclass keeps a dictator in her place after all. One might even go so far as to say that I might have a stake in this."

"Well that sounds perfect, Miss M," Bravestarr said. "If we work together-"

"However." She cut him off. "I'm not in need of any wannabe heroes. I'm in the need of revolutionaries. I've been looking to put an end to this pathetic excuse for a game show since it began. I can get you to the orchestrator, but only under the condition that you do exactly what I say."

"I'm sorry," Stocking said. "I keep coming back to this question. Who are you?"

"Just someone who has a vested interest in power being used responsibly. You can say no if you like, I'll leave you here and handle Danzo myself. Make no mistake, this isn't a bargain, it's a very generous offer to not leave you behind in the dust. So do we have a deal or not?"

The room was silent for just a moment.

"I think we should agree." Archer said curtly.

"You can't be fucking serious." Stocking turned to glare at Archer along with M. "You want to trust this little... thing?"

"I might be with Stocking on this one." Bravestarr added. "We can't go along with her demands."

"I don't trust her as far as I can throw her." Archer said, making sure to stare back directly into M's eyes as he spoke. "At the very least though, agreeing to this will give us the chance to stop her from using the wish along with Danzo."

M stared daggers right back into Archer.

"You may certainly try."

With that she pulled a small device from her belt and started tapping at its buttons.

"I can take the four of us to the managerial building. That's where the orchestrator works from, and probably where Danzo would go first. If you've got any objections, say them now."

An objection sprung to Stocking's mind, but she didn't get a chance to voice it before they were consumed by a bright light.

The machinery around Stocking and her three tag-alongs slowed to a stop, and the wooden door in front of her clicked open. The room they were in now was a cylindrical, transparent tube with silver bits and bobs surrounding them. Even to Stocking's less-than-sci-fi-aware brain, it was obvious that they'd popped into existence in some kind of teleportation station. Although popping up out of nothing and being one place one second and somewhere entirely different the next left Stocking a bit disoriented. M didn't miss a beat though, she moved towards the door and left, not even looking back to see if they'd followed. They still did, but like, dick move you know.

The door lead them into a disgustingly clean office hallway, filled with dozens of doors identical to the one they just passed through along with generic potted plants. The walls were an utterly hideous yellow and no matter where Stocking looked she couldn't tell any section of the place apart from any other place. She started getting seriously worried that M didn't actually know where she was leading them, but no matter what happened her dead serious demeanor didn't drop or falter for even a second.

They took what must've been a dozen bends. Stocking tried to remember, it was a left, right, straight, straight, right... no that wasn't it. No at this point Stocking was helplessly lost, if there wasn't someone leading her somewhere she'd be trapped in this piss yellow hell forever. Forced to subsist on asbestos and plastic leaves. She was already ready to cannibalize the first salaryman she came across.

M took a hard left and opened the door, identical to every other door surrounding it so again, Stocking had no idea how she just knew this was the place to go, but the door lead into a stairwell. M went up and they wordlessly followed.

The third floor was a much more pleasing green color. However, entering onto the third floor, the first thing they saw were a pair of demons in suits, knocked the fuck out. The door behind them was broken down, and neither Danzo or Dokuro were anywhere inside the office room beyond.

"Son of a bitch." Stocking muttered.

"They can't have gone far." M growled. "The only way out is through the teleporter room. I'm going to head them off."

"Wait-" Archer tried to stop her but she was already gone. "Son of a bitch."

Stocking knew there was no way she was going to find her way back to the teleporter room without M leading them. She also kinda figured that Archer and Bravestarr felt the same way considering neither of them made to catch up with her. Only way forward then was... forward. Stocking stepped through the busted doorway and into the orchestrator's office.

The orchestrator themself, well, there wasn't a whole lot left of them. Nothing identifiable, no clothes, no flesh, just the scattered remains of a skeleton. Pure white bone dotted every little patch of brown carpeting, with an unstaring skull sitting right in the center of it all. Stocking really wished this would stop happening today. But, she was broke now and the sight didn't make her want to vomit, so she could live with herself.

"Poor bastard." Archer muttered. "What the hell did Danzo do to him?"

"Hey Archer, check this out." Stocking giggled as she picked up the orchestrator's skull. "To be or not to be, that is the question."

"That's not even the right line, stupid." the skull said back. "Don't you know your Shakespeare?"

"Jesus fuck!" Stocking dropped the skull, it hit the ground with an "oof" and rolled over face down.

"A little help here?" The carpet muffled the skull's voice. Archer ran over and picked it up off the ground, placing it upright on the desk like an expensive, living paperweight.

"Are you alright, sir?" Bravestarr asked.

"Do I look alright to you, man?"

"That depends," Archer added. "Are you usually a skeleton?"

"I've been a skeleton longer than you've been a human, show a little respect why don't you."

"So this is normal then. Okay, um, next question, who or what are you?"

"Your Aunt Sally." the skull snarked. His Jamaican accent played with the words as he spat them. "Kids today, don't recognize their demise when they see it. Listen up, cause I'm only gonna say this the once. Right now you're staring into the pitch black eyesockets of the Grim Reaper."

Chapter Text

"The Grim Reaper." Clint repeated.

"Yuh-huh."

"Like. THE Grim Reaper?"

"That's my name, don't wear it out."

"Can you confirm this at all Stocking?"

"How the fuck should I know? I don't talk to those virgins down in death processing."

"Hey, that's got nothing to do with-" The Grim Reaper groaned from atop his minor perch. "Look, how about instead of asking stupid questions you help me pull myself back together and I'll show you just what a Reaper I am."

"No, it's just, I deal with a lot of people with all kinds of costumes and gimmicks. Is the Grim Reaper thing like a metaphorical concept or are you literally the reaper of souls?"

"You're conversing with a talking skeleton, how many of those do you know?"

"More than I probably should. Though most of them are on fire."

"Fine. Since I apparently have to do everything around here myself."

The Reaper whistled... somehow, and the bones around the room started to shake. Nubs and tiny strips jumped together to form hands, humerus radius and ulna popped together to form arms, all the vertebrae banded together to make a spine.

A mostly formed arm jumped onto the desk, grabbed the Reaper's skull and planted it onto the spine, slapped on the ribs, hopped onto a tailbone which sat and plugged in its legs.

The now fully formed skeleton stood upright, tall and proud. Shadows from every corner of the room slithered and pooled around his feet, then shot upward and enveloped him. They solidified and formed a hooded cloak, dark as night on the outside, crimson as blood on the inside. The Reaper held his right hand out, and in a flash of smoke it was filled by a long, black, metal pole, ending in a simple and curved scythe that shone like perfect drops of dew on a spring morning.

"I'll say it again." The Reaper boomed. "Right now, you are staring into the pitch black eyesockets of the GRIM REAPER!"

The ground erupted in neon green flames, burning as high as the ceiling while the Reaper let loose a bellowing laugh that shook the earth itself.

"GRIM!" M screamed from the doorway. The Reaper fumbled with his scythe, accidentally tossing it up where it landed on his skull and disassembled him onto the floor again.

"M- M- M- Mandy!" The Reaper stuttered from the ground. "Wh- Wh- What are you doing here?"

"I think the better question is what are you doing here Grim? I don't recall authorizing any time off. And if you thought you could get away with that pathetic excuse for a decoy back home-"

"Of course I didn't mean anything by it." The Reaper formed himself back up, though a lot less proud and a lot more cowering in the presence of the girl. He let out a nervous laugh. "It's just- Well, I thought you would appreciate my attempts to make a little extra money."

"I might have respected such a remarkable show of initiative, that is until I got here and find out you've gotten your hands on an ancient artifact of untold power, capable of twisting the fabric of reality to the user's wishes, and you're using it as a prize."

"Well it only made sense, I mean nothing gets people fighting like unlimited power. It got you here didn't it?"

"Oh, yes, about that. Where is the Grail now, Grim?"

Grim looked away. "Not here."

"Did Danzo take it?"

"Course not, child. How stupid do I look?"

Mandy just stared back at him.

"Don't answer that. When I say the Grail's not here I mean it's not anywhere here. It's stored in the past, where finals are gonna take place at. Not even Danzo can get to it until there's only two teams left."

"And what will you do when he tears through your competition like wet toilet paper, Grim?"

"Wait, wait, wait." Clint had both his hands up and was shaking his head. "What- What is going on here?"

Grim and Mandy exchanged a glance wordlessly. Grim then reached behind his desk, opened a drawer, and pulled out a remote. He pressed a button and the monitors on the opposite wall lit up, all of them forming one singular image.

"Last time on Hunt For the Grail!" an overly excited announcer yelled. "You sent in your votes and by the slimmest of margins, The Long Arm of the Law pulled ahead of The New Time Patrol. But, how will that effect relations back in the Hub? After eating the fruit of knowledge, Dokuro decides to join forces with Danzo in their quest to finally bring peace to humanity. Archer and the gang are hot in pursuit, but will they be able to stop him in time? Meanwhile, the Chinmin are clearing out what remains of the competitors. Is this what it could take to finally put a stop to Danzo's mad rampage? Or did Pfle lose before this match even started? Find out on this week's episode."

As the announcer spoke the screen flashed with different camera angles of the events that went down in the Garden of Eden. From the initial assault on the campsite to the tunnel being sealed back up just hours ago. Then there were more shots Clint didn't recognize, Luke and his crew being lead by a tiny girl in a wheelchair, some guy in a stock standard red supersuit working with her to pound Panty into the dust.

"Galloping galaxies." Bravestarr muttered. "What is this?"

"Race For the Grail." Grim explained. "It's the underworld's hottest show this quarter. A bunch of cool, superpowered dudes living together and fighting each other for a shot at getting a wish, it's like Real Housewives crossed with Wrestlemania, and the ratings are a killer. Get it? Cause, I-"

"You broadcasted my tits on television?" Stocking screamed.

"Oh, that's nothing. You haven't seen a wardrobe malfunction until you've seen the Underbowl 37 half time show. Medusa's career hasn't been the same since."

"I have a more pertinent question," Clint said, barely containing his anger as he walked up to the desk and slammed his fist onto it. "I understand your position here, Mr. Reaper, but you've been killing people over a game show? For ratings?"

Grim just looked at him for a moment, before he burst out laughing again.

His laughter continued, before he took in the looks on the faces that surrounded him and the laughter started dying. He cleared his throat.

"Well, um, you see, the reason that's so funny is that, um..."

"You've been to the weapons factory, right?" Mandy asked. "You know how they make copies of your gear?"

"Of course." Bravestarr said. "You take a snapshot from a point in time, and then recreate an object using the data instead of actually pulling them from their time period."

"Why would you think Grim only did this with gear?"

In that instant, Clint felt like he'd just been socked in the stomach. He knew full well what she was implying but a part of him, some animalistic, instinctual, bent on survival part couldn't believe it.

"You mean..."

"Yep. You're all fake. Everyone in the compound is. You can't actually get in or out of this place, just create a copy of you to do what you need to on the inside. Copies which are automatically destroyed and replaced after 24 hours."

"What the fuck?" Stocking yelled. "What the flying, shitting, fucking FUCK does that mean? I'm not Stocking? What the fuck am I then?"

"A cluster of alterable atoms strung together to look, act, perform like, and think she's Stocking. And nothing more."

"That's," Clint started. "That's even worse. You're creating people just to destroy them, what is wrong with you?"

Grim shrugged. "It's cost effective."

"Cost effective?!"

"Okay okay okay!" Grim held his hands in front of his face, flinching back from Clint's outburst. "Let me explain. Lighting singularities, well, it's really hard. There's only a handful of ancient artifacts that have enough accumulated power to do it. So, me and the execs at the station, we worked out a workaround."

"Do I want to know at this point?" Clint asked, rubbing his face.

"I think I'm going to go listen to some edgy whiny emo rock," Stocking moaned. "They're the only ones who understand my pain now."

"Every single competitor has a little bitty computer chip stuck in their skull." Grim tapped on his hollow skull to demonstrate. "The computer chip allows us to upload information directly to the brain, that's how the command seal works, but it also works the other way, sending information from the brain to us. This allows us to send that information to a time clone of anyone at any point in time in order to make it feel to them like they moved from one point to another. We then compile a list of all the times to create a time clone and what information needs to be put where and when, see. Then, at the very end of all this, we upload that information onto a satellite and send it back to the dawn of history."

"Alright, you're losing me," Bravestarr said. "Isn't that just lighting a singularity at that point?"

"Surprisingly, no. Singularities aren't about objects displaced in time, it's how they affect the timeline. I can drop you into any part of a river that I want, and nature runs its course, it's only when I try and divert the path of the stream that things get hard. And, well, there's nothing up in space until the 1950's, so there's nothing for the satellite to impact. Therefore, no singularity."

"That-" Clint stuttered. "That makes no sense. The satellite should still impact history when it creates the time clones. We proved in a public court that Caesar was killed by a flying mutant from the 21st century."

"I know, crazy right? It makes absolutely no sense, but it works. Manipulating time this way creates these strange, temporal pockets where anything you do doesn't actually impact the timeline at all. Great, isn't it? Once we figured this out we actually sent two versions of the satellite back, switching who gets sent into the time period first. This adds a level of audience participation, viewers get to send in votes on who they think should get to stay in, and we use that data to know who to clone back into the Hub by the time the next episode rolls around."

"I- But that- You can't- Send people to the same time period... TWICE without any overlap- God, I hate time travel."

"And then, at the very start of the show, we get the satellites back with all the data on who to clone when and what brain knowledge to give them, and it forms a complete loop. It's funny, we actually know who wins every round beforehand because of this. No singularity needed, no hassle."

The room was deadly silent as Grim finished his explanation.

"What about my energy cuffs then?" Bravestarr asked. "If everyone appears and disappears on your time table, how come they automatically desummon Servants?"

"Oh, that. Well the thing is, they don't. But that was a good angle to work for the audience, people love a pacifist team."

Clint was absolutely baffled. Taken as far aback as one could possibly be. Astounded at how much of the past weeks of hellish competition and emotional turmoil had been completely and utterly fake in all ways.

In the corner, Stocking rocked back and forth quietly singing to herself. "Craw~ling i~n my ski~n. These wou~nds they wi~ll not hea~l."

A small alarm went off in the corner of one of Grim's monitors.

"Um, Mr. Reaper," Bravestarr pointed towards it. "What is that?"

"Oh no. That's the alarm that says two teams just started a fight. So sorry, we're going to have to pick this up in the next episode, okay?"

"Wait, hold on." Clint said. Grim adamantly refused to do so however. He hefted his scythe, pointing the pole directly at him. "What do you mean-"

Chapter Text

"-pick this up next episode?"

Grim was lounging in his chair. A large portrait of the skeleton was now hanging up behind him, one Clint swore wasn't there a second ago. Mandy was gone. On the monitors across the room footage was playing again.

"Last time on Hunt For the Grail! Delaney succumbs to her inner demons and turns her Servant into some kind of sexual sacrifice. Only by the saving graces of Deluge's guardian angel is she spared from the brink of death. But, playing dress up with your teammate's innards isn't without consequences, and Bound By Blood put up a pitiful fight against the unstoppable Chinmin. Meanwhile, The Long Arm of the Law is still off the grid, but they're the only team that remains. Will the Chinmin be able to find them and put a definitive end to this game? Or will Danzo be able to pull a come from behind victory? Find out on this week's episode!"

"Oh. You're back." Grim said, as if he'd just noticed the three of them (and, getting the slightest bit suspicious, Clint made sure to check and yes, the three of them were still there in the exact same position they'd been in beforehand). "Now, uh, what were we talking about?"

"You were... explaining how this whole thing worked. We're all fake people and this entire endeavor has been in service of some reality tv show..."

"Oh, yes, here's the part where I explain what I'd like you to do to help me."

"You must be out of your fucking mind," Stocking said from behind Clint. "If you think we're going to do jack dick for you after the shit you pulled."

"Oh but this is really simple though, you can help me help yourself. Both of us wants to stop Danzo, but I can't go back and get the Grail without lighting a singularity. Besides, even if he wishes for humans to all be cheery and lovey-dovey to each other, that won't do anything to the underworld denizens and if I don't provide a climactic series finale the execs are going to have my head. Literally, they will eat my head. It won't be pretty. BUT, if Danzo does get the Grail and wishes for peace and harmony among men, then I don't get a second season, and that means the execs are going to be even more mad. I don't even want to think about what happens then."

"Sounds like you're screwed from all angles." Clint said. "Deal with it yourself, Grim Reaper."

"Listen you little punk, I'm offering you a way out of this, alright? Now, me and the execs got to talking, and if you all can catch and subdue Danzo, then we can replace him with an actor who won't wish for the end of all human conflict."

Grim tapped his scythe against the ground. A puff of smoke erupted from the carpet. The smell caught in Clint's nose and he coughed it back up. Standing there now was a Japanese kid, couldn't be older than 25, with sharp pointed features and pensive, calm eyes. In short, he looked nothing like Danzo, but not from lack of trying with some stenciled in wrinkles and bandages around his head and a too big coat over it all.

"This is Tanaka, he's going to be your replacement Danzo."

Tanaka waved. "Hey."

"Evening." Bravestarr tipped his hat.

"Tanaka here knows a bit about Danzo, so as long as we don't focus too closely on him, the audience should be fooled."

"We did talk once," Tanaka explained. "And he, um, killed me. And I've also been looking over some footage to try and get a feel for the role."

"We're not, okay, no," Clint stuttered. "We're not gonna play along with this."

"Your ratings can bomb for all I care." Stocking added. "And in fact I think I'd prefer that they did for thinking you could use me like this, dickhead. Get your head eaten."

"Look, either you take the fake Danzo or we give the auto-win to Pfle's team. All you have to do is stop him before the match starts, like you were going to, and then don't say anything when the time comes. Now... where is he?"

"Who? Tanaka?" Clint asked. "He's right there."

"No you buffoon. Danzo."

"Um, with all due respect, Mr. Reaper," Bravestarr started.

"How the FUCK should we know?" Stocking finished. "You're the one who just pops us into existence whenever the hell you want, you tell us where he is."

"Fine." Grim grumbled. "Have to do everything around here myself around here." He reached over to the black rotary dial phone on his desk, grabbed the receiver and plugged in a number. The entire scene was dead quiet (because death was being quiet, get it?), Clint just barely heard the ringing on the other end.

"Ah, yes, hello Linda," Grim eventually said. "Can you connect me to Deborah? From HR. Yes I'll hold."

More silence. Clint mouthed at Grim 'There's an HR?' Grim just scowled back before speaking again.

"Yes, hey Deborah... Oh, fine, you know. How are the kids? ...Well that's good, don't want to have to step into your personal life any time soon... No just keep exercising... I- Yes, I called for a reason, I need to know the whereabouts of one Danzo... Shimura... S-H-I-M-U-R-A" Grim placed a hand over the receiver. "That is how you spell that, right?" He was met by a chorus of shrugs. "Yes, the Master... Alright, thanks a bunch Deborah... Alright buh-bye."

Grim placed the receiver back on the phone and smiled.

"Well?" Clint asked.

"Danzo's back in the Hub now, apparently he's in a hurry, headed towards that Pfle girl as we speak."

Clint wasn't speaking. He was too flabbergasted. As the wires connected, Grim suddenly let out a sharp gasp.

"Great Mother Theresa! We have to get back to the Hub, now!"

"Take us back to the teleporter room," Bravestarr said. "We'll handle Danzo."

"There's no time, we'll have to take the shortcut."

Grim stood up and swung down his scythe. Green energy overtook the four of them and with a flash they were standing back in the Hub.

"Ah, good old fashioned teleportation, none of that time clone nonsense."

"Can the shit, Reaper." Stocking said. "Where's Danzo?"

"I'll find him." Bravestarr said. "Eyes of the Hawk!"

"You do that," Clint said, taking off. "I'm going to try and head him off."

"You don't even know where to look, man!" Grim yelled after him.

"Maybe I'll get lucky."

Clint took a bend and disappeared from their sight. Well, maybe not Bravestarr's. That said, Clint didn't have much of a plan. He was actually just hoping to get lucky. And if he did find Danzo... Clint didn't really know what he'd do then, shoot some arrows at him? That usually worked out well enough.

"You're crazy, man! Crazy!"

Clint looked to his side to see the Grim Reaper keeping pace flying through the air.

"I'm not the one who took a control freak with superpowers and gave them access to a free wish. Look, Grim, if this goes south, I need you to make sure Bravestarr's energy cuffs don't desummon us. I know it's a great bit for you, but those are still our main way of subduing a Master."

"You're not going to kill him?"

"I don't want to make a habit out of killing people in cold blood just cause you set them up to die."

"We all gotta make money somehow. I'll see about that handcuff thing, though. In the meantime I'll hit you with a spell that should make you strong enough to fight with Danzo."

"Cool. Hit me."

"Well I can't now, you need to stand still for me to aim it right."

"Are you always this useless or is this special treatment just for us?"

Clint skid as he turned the corner, losing as little momentum as he could as he started forward again. But he didn't need to.

He got lucky.

"So here he is!" A boisterous voice roared from the end of the hallway. "The final dastardly villain in a long and incremental procession, the ultimate test of both one's might and mental faculties, their abilities and morality, the pivotal hammer swing to nail down the overall theme and moral of this plotline, the"

The big man in the red suit kept talking as Danzo sized him up. Clint didn't really have time to listen though. Even from a distance he could see Danzo tensing, getting ready to charge. He grabbed the net arrow from his quiver, but already he could see he was too late.

"Boost me now!" Clint yelled.

Grim fumbled with his scythe. Clint drew the arrow back. Grim finally held his scythe firmly in his hands. Clint's aim was already made. Grim was just now lining up the shot. Clint released. Grim fired a bolt from the end of his scythe. Clint exhaled as the arrow launched forward.

Danzo struck the man.

And then everything was white.

Chapter Text

Tanaka was thinking about where his life had gone. He had attended Julliard. Julliard. His mother wanted him to be an accountant, but Tanaka wanted to be an actor. Hell he'd even taken up kung fu lessons on the side, he knew he was going to be typecast as some honorable warrior ninja type. And he accepted that. He would be fine with it so long as he could do what he loved.

His parents hadn't supported his career path, the student loans had piled up quick and where was he now? He was doing voice overs for local commercials. Well, that's not where he was NOW, or maybe it was. Maybe the real Tanaka was up on the surface, continuing to enthusiastically pimp out Jerry's Back Lot Car Dealership. Had he already gotten paid for this job? Was he going to get paid for this job? He'd taken on a sketchy Craigslist ad, but it didn't list anything about being trapped in an office building for months on end. He had been told the job would only take an afternoon.

He asked the Reaper about this once and he had been told it would only take an afternoon. After all was said and done, real Tanaka wouldn't have known anything that happened and he'd get his salary in full, all at once, and it wouldn't take more than an afternoon.

All this felt really illegal, the experience was much longer than an afternoon and even beyond the multiple homicide attempts, it was mind-numbingly boring, but Tanaka's mind faltered at figuring out a way to sue the Grim Reaper. Honestly, dealing with Danzo had been a brief moment of interest in this long dirge of data entry work. He'd at least been a little excited about the prospect of impersonating Aizen, of finally putting that degree of his to use and making it work for him and scaring Danzo so bad that he, a normal man, would defeat this insanely powerful ninja warrior.

Which, you know, didn't really happen. Actually, the more pathetic part was when the Reaper approached him about doing some more acting, being Danzo's replacement. Finally some real work. It wouldn't pay, he'd get no publicity for it, and he wouldn't even be able to keep the experience, but it was an actual, honest to God job. It was actually someone coming to Tanaka and saying "We need you to act." If it went through, maybe he could even start up a career in the underworld instead. They had to have a shortage of human actors down here, it might be a market to finally break into. This could be Tanaka's big moment.

That's what he had thought when the Reaper had proposed this idea to him. And poor poor Tanaka, he had been ecstatic at the opportunity. And now he was here, in the Reaper's office, all alone, while everyone ran off to handle it themselves.

Tanaka started ripping off the three layers of kimono he'd had to wear. All the bandages and the metal armbands, all of it.

He should've become an accountant.

Chapter Text

Danzo looked out over the battlefield. A sea of silver clad warriors trampling the grass beneath them under the sky grayer than their armor, clashing, fighting, killing. One force was attempting to breach the walls of a castle, the other trying to defend it. Some wielded swords, some lances, a few were brave enough to charge into battle with battleaxes and maces. On the ground, those riding horses used their height and speed advantage to as full an effect as they could. In the air, the horses were outclassed as men rode wyverns, raining fire and lightning from the sky. Adding to these were men and women atop the castle's walls, adding their own elemental jutsu to the mix.

Heading the forces defending the castle was an immovable figure in heavyset armor with large tassets, almost forming a skirt. Their helmet had two steer horns jutting from the sides and only the barest slits for eye holes. And yet, Danzo could tell in an instant where they were looking, staring intently at a woman in armor. The woman who had been there from the beginning. The woman who called herself Saber. Saber was carving her way through the oncoming forces, inching closer and closer to the castle.

Danzo straightened out his back. The warforce was too large and too clustered to make a clean beeline for the castle. He'd have to fight his way through some of these people, which shouldn't pose too much of a threat on its own. However, it risked drawing the attention of the two real players in this war, Saber and her opponent. Danzo wasn't sure if Saber was still in this hunt for the Grail, but now was not the time to risk it.

Dokuro tugged on his sleeve. He cast a disinterested eye towards her.

"It's not there." she said.

He said nothing and made to move past her.

"The Grail, it's not in the castle. It's over in this direction."

She started walking, moving towards a path leading away from the castle. On the horizon, Danzo saw a cathedral, tall and ornate. The cathedral looked practically untouched by the raging war happening just past its doors. An active deterrent to strategists, the cathedral had been left aside, forgotten and untouched by the battle. Easily surroundable and offering little in the way of vantage, it would make the perfect hiding for something that had nothing to do with this war. Danzo fell into step behind Dokuro.

"How do you know this?"

"I ate a fruit and now I know things."

Danzo moved past her. "A useless as always. As useless as the rest of them."

"Hey!" Dokuro ran to catch back up. "Don't be mean Danzo-san, I'm helping you."

"If this is meant to garner my sympathy, it's failing."

Dokuro blew a raspberry and fell back.

"I ate the fruit of knowledge at the Garden of Eden."

"And what knowledge did it give you?"

"Not anything I wanted to know. I just see things."

"You see things?"

"I see things." She repeated. "Bad things. Weird things. Sometimes I'm dying, sometimes someone else is dying, a lot of bad things happen when I see things."

"Saying things is not a substitute for proper specificity. What do you see?"

"Um, well, I'm pointing towards the cathedral, and saying that's where the Grail is. So the Grail has to be there, right?"

Danzo thought over the question. It was a bit far fetched, wasn't it? Danzo was meant to believe that Dokuro ate some magical fruit that gave her a vague knowledge of alternate versions of events, and that it lead her to believe that the Grail was being kept in the most strategically indefensible location on this battlefield? If Dokuro's assertions of loyalty were a trap, this is where it was sprung.

And yet, it was an oddly specific story, was it not? Why assert what she didn't know? The key to a convincing cover story is the teller's ability to provide details, realistic details. Dokuro wasn't smart enough to provide those kinds of details herself. It didn't disprove anything, but Danzo believed the chance that Dokuro telling the truth was just possible enough to be worth the risk. He watched as the cathedral slowly approached. It's grand, stained glass windows coming into clearer detail, the chips on the white painted wood that built it becoming visible. Danzo took the whole thing in as he approached. Dokuro tripped and fell on her face.


 

"Son of a bitch!" Stocking yelled.

"I'm gonna take this as a sign that things didn't go so well." Bravestarr said.

Clint huffed. "You could say that."

"Do we know what we're dealing with?"

"Um, about what you'd expect. Danzo landed a hit on the last enemy team in the Hub. The Reaper was trying to do something before we got sent back, but he didn't get to do it in time. Big dude in red got hit."

"Did he have a..." Bravestarr gestured, grabbing his chin and pulling away.

"That's the one. Stocking's beach buddy was there too."

"Wait!" she yelled. "V- Anne's here?"

"Van?"

"Anne."

"You said van."

"Archer I swear to fuck."

"Yes." Clint said, putting his hands up. "Anne was there. That said, based on what the Reaper told us, they might not even be here yet."

"Which means Danzo would have a clear shot at the Grail." Bravestarr noted.

"That's an if, we have no way of knowing for sure."

"I'll go ahead and get to looking. Eyes of the Hawk!"

Bravestarr clenched his eyes shut and concentrated. Clint meanwhile, got to looking on his own. They'd popped into existence on one of the castle walls, perfect place to look over the crowd below. It was a bit like Where's Waldo, except where Waldo should be piss easy to find cause everyone else in the picture is wearing really big, shiny, metal armor and Waldo is a half blind ninja.

Would hay in the needle stack have worked better for that metaphor?

Clint's eyes scanned the crowd, picking through every single indistinguishable soldier before moving onto the next one. No sign of Danzo though, was he not heading towards the castle.

"Alright, I've got a bead on him." Bravestarr said.

"Yeah." Clint muttered. "Yeah I see him too."

Stocking frowned. "You see him?"

"Sure. I'm an archer, I don't need eyes of the hawk to have hawk... eyes..."

"What?"

"Forget about it. Look out there."

Stocking shielded her eyes from the no sun peaking through the dense cloud layer and peered into the distance. Far, far away from the battle, two specks were making their way away from the castle.

"Looks like he's headed towards that old cathedral down there." Bravestarr said.

"Looks like it." Clint confirmed. "But we'll never beat him there from here."

"Maybe you won't." Stocking said as she vaulted over the side of the wall and tore a path through the two armies, along with the ground.

"Meet you there?" Bravestarr asked.

"Yeah yeah, I'm used to the deal by now, just go on ahead."

Bravestarr yelled "Speed of the Puma!" and zipped off with Stocking. Clint drew a rocket arrow, fired it straight horizontally and held on as he was tugged off the roof and into the air. Even being propelled by a rocket, Clint had no hope of catching up with Stocking Bravestarr, but Danzo and Dokuro didn't seem in too much a hurry. Clint thought maybe they just hadn't noticed them yet. That is, until he passed them by. Danzo looked up, even from the distance of a couple hundred yards, he looked straight into Clint's eyes as he passed by. And even after Clint passed them, they continued to just mosey along towards the cathedral, clearly in no rush.

Well, shit.

Clint let go of the rocket arrow right in front of the cathedral, leaving it fly off and cause all kinds of weird anachronistic time shit somewhere else. Stocking and Bravestarr were there waiting for him.

"I swear Archer, one of these days we're just going to leave you behind." Stocking said.

"You always leave me behind."

"And we should do it more often."

"Hey," Bravestarr said, interrupting them. "You see that?"

"See what?" Clint asked.

"There was something there. Just now."

"Where?"

"Right in front of us."

"That peyote kicking in?" Stocking asked. "I don't see jack dick."

"For just a second, I thought..."

"Well, whatever." Clint said. "No point in just waiting around. Was never much for that high noon stuff."

He drew an explosive arrow, took aim, and fired it straight at Danzo in the distance. Clint watched it sail through the air, approach Danzo, and just before it was about to land he disappeared.

Shit.

Clint dove to the side, hoping that would be enough to avoid the incoming strike. It wasn't. Danzo followed him and caught him mid-leap with an upward palm thrust to the chin. Clint's brain rattled inside his skull as it was his turn to sail through the air. He landed painfully on his back in the grass.

Very slowly, Clint pushed himself onto his elbows. He tried to blink the lights out of his eyes, but they were persistent little shits. Persistent big shits, really, they were clustered together in the right center of his vision. It took Clint a second to realize everyone was staring at them too. Eventually the lights faded away and the object that now sat between the five of them took form.

A blue phone booth, the words "Police Box" written on its top. The door opened and a man in a big brown overcoat stepped out. He looked around at his surroundings.

"Is this the place? Suppose the place alone isn't so important, is this the place, time, temporal branch, dimension, and plane? I'd really hope so, things might get awkward otherwise."

Eventually his gaze settled on Danzo.

"Ah, yes. Here we are." He looked back into the box and yelled. "We're here! Well, come on then!"

From out of the box shot a new shape. A deep purple mountain of muscle carving through the air on a pair of oversized bat wings. He flew out of the box, up, and landed on its top, sharp claws on his hands and feet anchoring him into place.

Clint thought those two would've taken up all the room in that thing, but was utterly shocked at what followed. A robot, couldn't be anything but a robot, 15 feet tall with a red torso and blue legs with 18 wheeler tires along them. Honestly it was kind of a miracle that thing could even fit through the door, but now it stood between Clint and Danzo, and facing away from Clint which was a real reliever.

One final figure stepped out of the police box. The color scheme was off, a very similar red white and blue to the robot that came before him, but Clint recognized the shape of the armor, the patterns over the mask as he looked right towards him.

"Tony?"

"Hey Clint."

Chapter Text

The Knights of Time and Space

Master: The Doctor

Berserker: Goliath

Caster: Tony Stark

Saber: Optimus Prime

Chapter Text

"Okay, wait," Clint said, speaking over the noise of the battle raging behind him. "How did you guys even, like, get here?"

"Time machine." Tony responded.

"They gave you a time machine?"

"Well no, they didn't give us a time machine, might as well hand us the keys to the place, scold us to make sure we came back."

"Then that brings us back to my first question. How did you guys get here?"

"Well, the answer to that one's quite simple," the man in the brown coat said as he walked up to them. "It's that I don't think there's a prison in the universe that could hold Tony Stark and me in the same place."

"I'm sorry, who are you?"

"Clint, this is the Doctor. Doctor, Clint."

"Morning." the Doctor said. "Or is it afternoon? Can never tell in this bloody English weather."

"So you broke out the Hub, without anyone noticing, and what, just found a time machine?"

"Hardly call it just finding, it is mine after all. The other me was quite cooperative in letting us borrow it for a bit, probably cause we'll just drop it off right after we left, but still, awful nice of me isn't it?"

"The other you?"

"Oh shit," Tony said. "Okay, Clint, you may want to sit down for this, it's a little world shattering but you can get through i-"

"I know about the time clone stuff Tony. I'm just trying to get a grasp on what exactly happened."

"Oh, well, it's quite simple really," the Doctor assured him. "After we got my Tardis back, the four of us have been using the 24 hours time clones have to live to make sure this little contest going on here doesn't have any irreparable consequences on the timeline."

"So, how many causalities have you fixed?"

"Oh, well, um," The Doctor shared a look with Tony. "None actually, so far. You get to be our first. But I assure you, we're all quite well accomplished with this type of thing."

"Whoever's running this thing," Tony added. "They're good at covering up their tracks, haven't had any reports of an ancient people revering a giant green monster as their god, seems like there's only one real point where the timeline is even in danger of being altered."

"And that's right here," the Doctor concluded. "And right now."

"Because Danzo could actually get his hands on something to cause an actual singularity this time." Clint said. "Shit."

"Wait, this time?"

"Right, um," Clint rubbed his forehead. "The guy running this, he jerryrigged some way to create, how the hell did he put it, a temporal pocket of isolated time that wouldn't actually affect the timeline?"

"Speaking as a professional," the Doctor said. "That makes no sense."

"So only the Grail can actually affect anything outside of this temporal pocket then?" Tony said. "It's probably outputting enough energy to actually get the job done so-"

"-so all we have to do is stop Danzo from touching the Grail and everything else will sort itself out." the Doctor finished.

"That's the plan." Clint said. "Not going to be easy though."

"You let us worry about that." Tony started tapping on a panel on his wrist. In the fight, the giant robot gave Danzo some space just in time for him to explode out of nowhere. Clint flinched back.

"How'd you do that?"

"I haven't done anything." Tony said simply. "Not yet."

With that he pointed his fist towards where Danzo had just been. The metal around his wrist unfolded, linking together to form a holster. More pieces and parts rose up from the armor, constructing before Clint's eyes a tiny rocket, fitting snugly into the holster, and with a hiss of the ignition it shot forward. The moment it hit the epicenter of the explosion however, it disappeared.

Clint gave an impressed whistle.

"Time travelling missiles?"

"Yep. The Doctor quite graciously allowed me to check out his tech. I might've picked up a few things. Plus a cybertronian touch here and there for some material conservation."

"So should I bother being surprised that you mastered time travel in a day or?"

"You're certainly welcome to, I could always use an ego boost, but if you ever plan on getting tired of being impressed, best to quit while you're ahead."

"Well Tony, I have to say, I'm very impressed."

Tony gave a short chuckle. Identical holsters began sprouting up all across his armor.

"You ain't seen nothing yet."

Chapter Text

Goliath crossed his arms and leaned back on the machinery. Optimus, Stark, and the Doctor all buzzed around the inside of the Tardis, posing ideas and comparing notes for their respective technologies. The three of them were certainly powerful and brave warriors, the kind of people that Goliath would gladly charge into battle alongside. But Goliath couldn't quite match their enthusiasm for science. He had trouble operating basic computers, he couldn't hope to follow conversations on how to build time machines or robotic suits of armor.

Having only 24 hours of existence to clean up the aftereffects of a madman playing around with time travel should be a tense race against the clock, a quest to right as many wrongs as possible with the limited time he had left. Instead Goliath had spent a number of those hours sitting around in the novelly bigger on the inside phone booth. He'd been assured a number of times that Stark and the Doctor had created a foolproof program to scan the timeline for temporal disturbances, or something to some such effect, and the second they found something they'd rush over and put a stop to it as soon as possible.

But until such time, Goliath just had to wait it out.

An alarm roused Goliath from his dozing off.

"Oh!" the Doctor said. "Looks like we've got a hit."

"Just one?" Stark asked.

"Just the one."

The Doctor went to work on the console, staring down at the tiny screen situated in the dead center of the room as his fingers clacked against the buttons.

"537 AD." Stark noted. "What would that be?"

"Battle of Camlann, perhaps? Final battle of one King Arthur Pendragon. Or was it Arturia? Can never remember."

"Certainly fits the scale they usually go for."

"Either that or it's the appointment of Pope Vigilius."

"What are we looking for once we get there?" Optimus asked.

"Can't say for certain, anything out of the ordinary I suppose."

"Actually, about that," Stark said. "I might have found a lead. Do you mind if I..."

He gestured towards the panel. The Doctor bowed out of the way. A small plug appeared on the arm of Stark's armor and he stuck into one of the main console's ports.

"I gotta say, first of all, this scanner that works through time, absolutely amazing, so glad I came up with."

"I believe actually, I was the one who figured out how to apply the method of time travel to your scanning technology."

"Hey, I'm willing to share credit. So I got to thinking, well if they're sending these time clones to a bunch of big important events, maybe they won't all be ancient history, so I sent Jarvis on ahead to scan some broadcasts, thought I could narrow down the search with some facial recognition, but obviously none of us would work, we jumped ship so early."

"Your previous Master?" Optimus said.

"Close but no cigar, Megazord. I did check that, but my old Master didn't show up anything, not before the 23rd century at least. But, fortunately, I had some old leftover footage from that fight, thought what the heck, sent some of the faces through the same program and I found something... surprising."

The screen shifted, showing a new feed of images. An old man with robes collected around his waist, an odd arm that seemed to have eyes embedded in the forearm and a face in the shoulder, and bandages wrapped around his face and one eye, was beset upon by no less than 9 other warriors, and was doing not a terrible job at fighting them off. The feed then switched locations, showing the same man walking along a simple dirt path.

"You can't hear it, but there's color commentary. Some kind of Survivor type game show, which is admittedly a new one on me."

"Not on me I'm afraid." the Doctor said.

"Any idea on the man running it?"

"Not really, MO's completely off, probably just a coincidence. Still, interesting. Do we know who's broadcasting?"

"Whoever is broadcasting is good at covering up their tracks, I couldn't even get a timestamp, but if we're heading towards King Arthur's court," the film cycled through a bit before freezing on an image, towards the back of the frame Goliath could just make out a grand castle with an army fighting in front. "This looks to be the destination."

"But which of these humans is causing the time issue?" Optimus asked.

"Well, you may have to do something dangerous and trust me on this one," The image flipped through again, this time pausing on a man in a black tunic and chainmail armor with a bow and arrow. "I only recognize one guy here, but he's a good friend, always fights for what's right. If I had to bet on who was trying to screw everything up, I'd put my money on whoever he's fighting."

"So," Goliath's voice rumbled as he finally spoke up. "We know where we're going, we know what to do when we get there, so let's just get off this accursed vessel."

The Doctor gave a sneer. "Accursed?"

"Itching to go, big guy?" Stark asked.

"Partly." Goliath averted his gaze and grumbled.

Stark shot him a look.

"My senses, they are finely attuned to the direction of gravity to help with my gliding. Being in a ship like this is throwing them all out of whack?"

"You're getting time machine sick?"

"I did not say that."

"Well then," The Doctor rubbed his hands together and began fiddling with the switches and buttons around the main console. "Let's not waste another second then. Only one more thing really needs to be said before we ship out."

"Which is?" Goliath asked.

"Allons-y!"

The Doctor grabbed a large lever and thrust it forward. Goliath was approaching the verge of throwing up.

When the ship finally came to a stop, and Goliath's head began the process of slowing down in its spinning, the doors slid open and the Doctor was the first one to prance on out. Whether it was smart for the physically weakest of the group to be the scout seemed to be lost on him.

That said, the second he called back in that this was the place, Goliath took off, gliding up through the door and bursting out into the open air. He circled up before landing on the Tardis' roof, taking in the environment.

The smell of the air, it gave him a nostalgia he wasn't even aware that he'd been carrying. The feeling of the gentle wind playing through the rolling, open hills as it passed over his face reminded him of Castle Wyvern and his old clan. It was the first he'd felt of clean, unpolluted air in a long time.

Still, reminiscing now would get him killed. Optimus had managed to squeeze out of the Tardis by now, and Stark was talking with his friend. Standing there, however, next to the tall, white cathedral the Tardis had found itself parked next to, was the old man from Stark's footage. His robe covered his odd arm, but it was undeniably the same man.

"You," Goliath pointed down towards him from his perch. "Are you the man who would change history?"

"I am the man who would save it."

"That's all I need to hear."

Goliath leaped forward, claws outstretched towards the man. He expected more resistance based on the footage, but the man barely moved a muscle as Goliath charged.

Someone yelled "Look out!" and Goliath was suddenly aware of the girl shooting towards him with a massive, spiked club. Her strike was intercepted by another man, this one with darker skin and yellow clothing, he grabbed the club around the spikes and barely held it back, sweat visibly building on his forehead. He called out, "Strength of the Bear!" and the girl's downward swing was slowed only a margin more. Once Goliath had passed her by, he jumped to the side and let the club hit the ground, sending dirt and grass spraying into the air.

All of this distracted Goliath from the man he was charging towards, and when he looked back it was just in time to see his foot snaking its way towards Goliath's face. The impact struck and he was sent flying through the cathedral's walls, tumbling through pew after pew before coming to a sudden stop, spread out on a stone slab. Goliath shook his head clear and ran back out through the hole he'd created.

Optimus had drawn his Star Saber and swung it at the girl. She intercepted his strike with her club, shattering the saber into a million pieces. Optimus stared at the girl in shock. Goliath launched forward again, tackling him out of the way just in time to avoid the follow up swing.

"She..." Optimus muttered. "She destroyed the Star Saber."

"Keep your wits about you, or that won't be the only thing she destroys."

"Yes, of course." Optimus shook his head as he got back to his feet. He drew both the blades in his arms and prepared himself to strike again.

"You two." The man in yellow called out again. "I assume you're here to help us."

"We'll do what we must." Optimus said.

"Well, we'll keep Dokuro busy, you take care of Danzo, alright?"

"What the fuck?" his female companion yelled. "Why do we have to deal with the psycho bitch?"

Her question was left unanswered as the both of them dived out of the way to avoid the girl swinging her club again.

Optimus dashed towards the man, blades glinting in the light. The man, once again, did not move until the last minute, but at that last minute, his hand flashed into his robe. When Optimus swung down, his blade was being held back by a knife in the man's hand, no longer than any of his fingers. Optimus swung a few more times, each strike was parried by the man and his knife.

While he was preoccupied, Goliath dashed behind the man, grabbing at his back with both claws and hefting overhead to slam him back down. The man, however, reversed Goliath's grab, twisting his wrist and using what little leverage he had to send him flying away, carving a trench through the dirt. Optimus faced the man down again, but suddenly backed up just in time for the man to violently explode, flying backwards into the cathedral.

Stark, the showoff, was busy explaining his weaponry to the archer. As soon as he was done, however, he sent a volley of those time travelling missiles into the surrounding area, essentially turning the place into a minefield before he deigned to fly into the battle.

"You guys miss me?" he asked.

"Support would be appreciated." Optimus responded.

"It's one old guy, how tough could he be?"

The old guy stepped back out of the rubble of the cathedral. Optimus drew his mini-gun and opened fire, Stark following suit with the energy blasts from his hands.

The man weaved through Optimus' bullets, not a single one so much as grazed him, and through the storm leaped up into the air. Goliath only caught sight of two shiny projectiles before Stark's palms fizzled, the energy from the dying out as a couple of throwing stars pierced the circuitry.

"Well," Stark said. "Shit."

Chapter Text

"You two!" Bravestarr called out. "I assume you're here to help us."

"We'll do what we must." the robot said back.

"Well, we'll keep Dokuro busy, you take care of Danzo, alright?"

"What the fuck?" Stocking yelled "Why do we have to deal with the psycho bitch?"

Bravestarr didn't have time to answer her question properly before he had to dive out of the way of Dokuro swinging her bat down between them.

"Because," Bravestarr said as he regained his footing. "We're going to have the best chance at getting through to her."

"Yeah, I have an idea. Fuck that and fuck you." Stocking drew both her blades and slashed. Bands of energy shot from her blades and flew towards Dokuro. Dokuro, in response, spun her bat around and simply sent each band flying somewhere else. "If you think we're still at the point of talking with this crazy whore, you're fucking delusional."

Bravestarr ignored her and tried talking to Dokuro directly.

"Hey there, lil pard. We don't want to hurt you, and I think maybe you don't want to hurt us."

Dokuro slapped one of Stocking's blades away and Stocking leaned back just far enough for the tips of the spikes on Dokuro's bat to just barely miss grazing her face on the return swing.

"I'll do what I have to." she said.

"There's a lot of that going around today, it seems."

Dokuro slammed her bat into the ground, sending a massive hunk of rock into the air. With another swing, the rock was sent hurtling forward. Stocking slashed forward again, cutting the rock into a dozen different pieces. Bravestarr ran forward with a "Speed of the Puma!" and landed a punch on the rock, sending the pieces flying away.

"You're upset about what happened to Zoro." Bravestarr continued. "It's fine. Our feelings are important. But running away from them and denying the realities of the world isn't going to help anyone."

"I'm not running away from anything!" Dokuro yelled back. "I'm facing the cause head on and fixing it!"

"You're fucking it up is what you're doing!" Stocking yelled. "How the fuck am I supposed to get back into heaven if I can't kill ghosts?"

"Shut up!" Dokuro yelled back. "I outrank you! I know what's best for humans! If a couple of dumb... mean... stupid angels get trapped on earth then that's fine!"

"You don't know shit! You outrank me because the Rurutie hires angels who shut up, don't think, and follow orders."

Dokuro swung horizontally. Both Bravestarr and Stocking managed to lean out of the way, but the wind sent them both hurtling back off their feet and onto the ground. In an instant, Dokuro was over Stocking, holding her bat up high.

"I know what I'm doing." she growled.

Bravestarr scrambled up onto his knees as Dokuro began to swing down. "Speed of the-"

Dokuro paused. A blunt tipped arrow pinged off the back of her head. She turned to see Archer nock another arrow.

"Hey there, little shit."

Chapter Text

"Archer-san." Dokuro said.

Clint pulled his arrow back a little tighter.

"I don't want to-"

Clint laughed.

"You don't want to. That's funny. The idea that you care."

"Archer-san, I-"

"But I care. And unlike you, I have the means to stop you without killing you. Taser arrow worked pretty well last time. Knockout gas arrow. Maybe a shrinking arrow or somethi-"

Dokuro edged forward, Clint tensed up and pulled his arrow back again. A moment of stillness passed between the two of them.

"No, go ahead," Clint said. "Do it."

"What?"

"Do it! Go on, do it!" Clint took a step forward, arrow still nocked. "Kill me. Splatter me across the entire country. Play jump rope with my innards because I know you futzing want to. So go ahead. Prove me right. Prove that's all you'll ever want. Prove that through all the bullshit about pacifism and shit, prove to me that you'll never be anything more than a bratty, selfish, murderous, bloodlusted, little sociopa-"

Dokuro's face broke. She let out a long, defeated cry as she sank to her knees and started bawling her eyes out. Tears mixed with snot and it all ran around her mouth. She sniffled fruitlessly in a minor effort to compose herself before breaking out into even sharper cries.

"I just wanna go home." she half-mumbled through the blubbering. "I miss Sakura-kun and I miss school and I don't wanna fight anyone anymore. Everyone here only wants to hurt each other and no one will be my friend and Arch-" she swallowed hard. "And no matter what I do Archer-san hates me and it's all my fault. I just" hiccup "I don't wanna go to Greece and France and Rome and China I just wanna go home."

Well, Clint certainly felt like an asshole. He let his bow fall slack and stowed the arrow back in his quiver.

Clint's mind went back to when they'd first gotten to the Hub. When Dokuro was still splattering him around for no reason. He'd been told so many times back then that Dokuro was just a child, that she didn't know any better. This was the first time Clint really saw it though.

He awkwardly walked forward, keeping a cautious eye on Dokuro, but fairly confident this wasn't any kind of gambit. He sat down next to her and wrapped an arm around her shoulders.

"I'm sorry," he said quietly. "I'm sorry for what I said. I was angry, you've uh, you've certainly given me a lot of reasons to be. But, I shouldn't have said that. You are at least still trying."

Dokuro gave a loud sniff.

"Do you think," she mumbled. "Do you think I'm a bad person Archer-san?"

Clint looked into her eyes, they were nearly drowning in her tears at this point. As soon as she saw his look, she turned away, staring at the ground and clenching her hands.

"Someone very close to me said something recently," Clint eventually said. "And what I think is that, I agree with them. It's not our actions that makes us who we are, it's how we react to them. Sometimes you do something that you hate having done, maybe you didn't have a choice or maybe you made an honest mistake or maybe you were just a different person then. But that guilt you're feeling right now is telling you that you're still, on some level, a good person. The key is to listen to that guilt, because it won't let you do anything like that again."

Dokuro didn't say anything, she didn't look up, she just continued to stare at the ground, sniffling quietly.

"You want to help Danzo because you want people to stop hurting each other. Ask me, you're already listening to your guilt, but this is the wrong way to go about it. People aren't ever going to stop trying to hurt each other, even if you try and stand between them, they'll find away, nothing you can do about it. The only thing you really can do is decide for yourself not to hurt anyone, and just hope people take to your example."

"That doesn't sound like it would work really well." Dokuro muttered.

"Ah, well, doesn't usually, but you'll get a couple people. That's just the way of the world, though. You're not going to get anyone to stop hurting people unless you can convince them to not want to."

"I dunno, Archer-san."

"Well, you're a little torn up right now either way. Just give it some thought. And, you know, if nothing else it at least worked for you."

He gave her shoulders one last squeeze before standing up and moving over to where Bravestarr and Stocking were watching.

"I'm gonna gag." Stocking said. "You're not going to tell her about how she needs to brush her teeth after every meal and always use a condom too?"

Clint ignored her, running his fingers through his hair. He let out a sigh.

"I'm no good with kids, was that okay? I didn't lay it on too thick at the end there, did I?"

Stocking had a pithy remark of course, but Bravestarr returned the question a warm smile.

"I couldn't have said it better myself." he said.

A moment later, Dokuro was walking slowly up to the group, bat dragging behind her. Her eyes were still bloodshot, her face still red, but she'd stopped crying at any rate.

"I'm sorry for leaving you guys behind to help Danzo." she said.

"Well that's quite alright," Bravestarr returned. "Apology accepted."

Dokuro lurched forward and hugged Bravestarr around his midsection. Bravestarr returned the hug and patted the back of her head.

"Oh my GOD!" Stocking groaned. "We get it, this kumbaya shit's gone long enough can we just beat someone up now?"

"Right." Clint said. "Now that the four of us are working together, along with Tony's team, we might actually stand a chance against Danzo. So let's-"

A flumping noise drew Clint's attention. There, lying in the grass, was an unconscious and badly scorched Danzo. Standing above him was Tony's aforementioned team, not unconscious and only a little scorched.

"This was the guy you kept warbbling on about?" The Doctor asked. "Wasn't that hard."

Chapter Text

"Well, shit."

The Doctor rushed over to Stark, pulling out his sonic screwdriver and shining the light over his broken palm blasters. The Master's mark glowed visibly on his hand, and Goliath saw Danzo noticing it.

With a growl of "No!" he leaped between Danzo and the Doctor, just in time for Danzo to disappear completely. He reappeared the second Goliath got into place, and he had only a moment to get his hands up, locking with Danzo's.

Goliath gave a grunt as he tried to push, put all his muscles into the act of keeping Danzo away. All he ended up accomplishing, however, was slowing him down. Goliath anchored down his claws into the dirt, but Danzo pushed him through it, digging up trenches as he inched backwards.

He had barely a moment to see the tiny missile appear between the two of them before it detonated.

Stark graciously moved out of the way to avoid Goliath hurtling towards him. The Doctor had apparently finished repairs on his suit. Goliath pushed himself up onto his elbows.

"A little forewarning would've been nice." he growled at Stark.

"Sorry big guy. I'll give you a heads up next time."

Stark took off into the air and the Doctor had already darted back out of the fight, so that left Goliath to climb back to his feet. He gave a roar and shot forward, swiping at Danzo, raking nothing by air as the man weaved around his attacks. Goliath saw Danzo's hand move back, preparing to strike, but he stopped, jerking to the side to avoid Stark's concussive blasts. He zipped from spot to spot, continuing to effortlessly dodge Stark's projectiles. Optimus' hand shifted, becoming a cannon, and filling the air with more laserfire.

Goliath jumped up, letting the currents of air take him, and weaved around the tunnel of energy Stark and Optimus had created. He spun to the side, angled towards Danzo, then dove.

"Wait!" Stark yelled. "Don't-"

Danzo turned to see Goliath's divebomb, and jumped back to avoid it. In the instant afterwards, another tiny missile appeared and exploded. Goliath pumped his wings as much as he could in the time given to him, attempting to slow down, but he was still treated to a face full of cinders and ash. Five more explosions went off in a chain, one which had presumably been intended to catch Danzo. He turned to glare at Stark.

"What happened to my heads up?"

"I got out as much as I could. I already uploaded the time and position of the detonations to Optimus, but uh-"

"Forget it."

"Look, maybe you'd want to sit this one out, we-"

"I said forget it!" Goliath huffed. "I will not be anyone's burden."

Almost at the word, Danzo shot through the smoke and slammed his palm into the side of Goliath's head. Goliath stumbled back, but regained his focus quickly. He blocked Danzo's next strike with his forearm, which came with not an inconsiderable amount of pain, and countered with a strike, one that Danzo easily moved around. Danzo struck Goliath's extended arm twice, once from above once from below, Goliath recoiled in pain and Danzo sent him flying away with a kick.

As he did so however, 10 pins lodged themselves into the ground, each gave only one beep of warning, enough time for Danzo to start moving, but not enough for him to escape the explosions entirely. Danzo stumbled and spun along the ground for a distance before landing on his feet and skidding to a stop.

Stark landed next to Goliath.

"I'll give you this, you're exceptionally good at being a distraction."

Another two explosions went off as Stark took off into the air again, firing some laser blasts down at Danzo. Optimus meanwhile charged forward, transforming into his vehicle form as he ran and giving himself a burst of speed. Danzo took several steps back, maneuvering around Stark's blasts while keeping an eye on Optimus as he approached. Optimus for his part refused to slow down in the slightest as he drove straight on towards Danzo.

Just as they were about to collide, Danzo shot a flat hand outwards. Optimus, however, moved into the hit, transforming as he flew through the air and over the strike and Danzo. A blade sprung from his wrist and he slashed downward, Danzo only barely managed to intercept the strike with one of his knives. The impact, however, crumpled the ground underneath Danzo and sunk his feet into the dirt.

Goliath eyed Stark and Optimus, both of them were backing off, watching Danzo move and waiting. Danzo, however, wasn't waiting at all, Goliath could already see him moving to free himself.

Goliath charged forward, running on all fours to get the most amount of speed into crossing the gap between him and Danzo. Stark was already yelling at him again, he got the first half of "Wait" out when Goliath made it. He gripped Danzo by the back of his robes, claws tearing into the material, and ripped him out of the ground, hoisting him over his head. Once again, Danzo quickly reversed the throw, and in less than an instant, he was throwing Goliath away again and landing down on the ground.

And then the missile appeared, and Danzo was caught in the center of the blast.

The explosion hurled him away, right into the center of a second blast, which knocked him down into a third.

"Send me a signal when the chain is about to end." Goliath said to Stark, not giving him time to respond before running off.

When he came to the cathedral he jumped and grabbed on, claws digging through the wood and stone of the building, as he used the purchase to scale upwards. He looked over his shoulder as he climbed. Danzo was blasted upward once again by an explosion, but this time one did not meet him in the air to send him back down. Stark had not given him any signal, and Goliath had not climbed high enough to catch him.

What Stark did do was bring both his hands together, the machinery around them transforming and combining together. When it was finished, it had formed a large lens being held just in front of his chest. The circle in his chestpiece lit up, charging for a single moment before it let loose with a beam twice as thick as the ones from his palms. As the beam entered through the lens, however, it shrank down, became focused, turning into a needle as Stark shoot into the air. And with expert aim, the shot struck Danzo right between the eyes just as he began to recover.

And with that second, Goliath pushed off of the cathedral wall, his wings catching an updraft and giving him just enough height to reach Danzo. Still wincing in pain from Stark's beam, he did not have a chance to avoid Goliath's hand as it grabbed onto the back of his head. And disoriented as he was, he did not get a chance to reverse the throw until it was too late.

Goliath tucked in his wings, angling them to become streamlined as he shot back towards the earth like a missile of his own. Claw latched firmly onto the back of Danzo's head, he held the man out forward, face first as the ground shot up to meet them.

Impact. Dirt was sent flying up and around Goliath as he thrust forward with all his might, adding some last bit of acceleration to Danzo's head as it slammed down. As Goliath landed, he gave Danzo's head an additional stomp for assurance. And as he stepped away, the man did not move.

"Like a bat out of hell." Stark said.

"And what is that supposed to mean?" Goliath asked.

"Means good job, big guy. Now let's go deliver Clint his present."

Chapter Text

Bravestarr ran over and clapped Danzo's unconscious hands in handcuffs.

"Seriously?" Clint asked. "You guys, only you three, you took down Danzo?"

"Well," the Doctor said. "My efforts can't be understated, I believe I was probably pivotal in ensuring his defeat."

"Were they?" Tony asked.

"Well sure, I fixed up your palm repulsors there, didn't I? Couldn't have done it without those."

"Unfortunately," Goliath cut in. "Our time is short. It would be unwise of us to sit idly by and chat. If anyone else were to try and get the Grail or use the mechanics of the game to alter history, we need to be able to stop them."

"Oh, but before we leave." Tony held out his hand, in it a tiny device quickly assembled itself, more or less a small pod with one big, red, inset button on its face. "Take this."

He tossed the device into the air, Clint caught it.

"What is it?"

"Temporal and spatial distress signal. Since the game doesn't use proper time travel, we can't find where or when the Hub is. If you need any help though, press that button and we'll receive it anywhere and at any point in time. Then with the Tardis, we can come to you."

"Huh." Clint looked over the device. "Handy."

"Alright well," Tony waved as they all turned to head back towards the phone booth. "I'll catch you at work tomorrow, when we're both feeling more like ourselves."

"Giant robot-sama!" Dokuro yelled out. "I'm sorry about your special space sword!"

Optimus looked back towards her.

"A weapon means nothing if the wielder must rely on it." he said sagely. "So long as I live on, I will work to bring an end to the fight."

Dokuro looked positively awestruck.

The four of them squeezed back into their phone booth and within the minute it was gone again.

"Well that," Stocking mulled something around in her head. "I'm struggling to find the words here, that happened I guess. What now?"

"I say we clear out." Bravestarr said. "Get out of the way, let the other team get the Grail."

"Ha ha, no, really."

"I'm with Bravestarr on this one." Clint added.

"Ha ha. No. Really."

"Look, Stocking," Bravestarr said. "If what people say is true, they might've already won this by just showing up after us. Maybe we'd lose even if we tried to fight them."

"Not to mention every second we spend fighting is a second Danzo could wake up and take the Grail anyways."

Stocking growled. "I have one request."

"What's that?"

"Tie me up so I don't get tempted."

Clint gave her a scrutinizing look.

"Is that the actual reason?"

"I didn't say it was the only reason."

Chapter Text

"And so," The Crimson Chin continued. "Whenever the old, worn out razor of evil leaves immaculately sculpted mandible that is the good people of earth burned and chafing, we will be the high end brand aftershave balm to soothe that irritation, and we will be the brand that comes with a new, top of the line razor. A razor of TRUTH, JUSTICE, and FREEDOM! For wherever there is-"

"Chin." Pfle said curtly. "Be quiet."

The Crimson Chin was taken aback by the sudden command.

"Oh. No, that's fine." He gave an overexaggerated sniffle. "I hear it all the time, the constant diatribes about justice, they're old hat. Modern day heroes have all these moral complexities and questions about what they fight for. They're not supposed to blindly follow the law, they're supposed to determine what right and wrong mean to them and the intricacies therein. Nobody appreciates something as old hat as me, it's fine. Everything's fine."

Tears began to stream down his face in a very not fine manner.

"I don't think that's the problem with your diatribes." Vamirio muttered to herself.

"I appreciate you and your efforts more than you can know, Chin." Pfle stated simply. "However, we are approaching the field of battle, and I don't want to give away our position."

The Chin brightened up in an instant.

"Of course!" he said not very quietly. "Our brilliant tactician has done it again! Why, without you Pfle, I'm sure we would've persevered through all the challenges that stood in our way, but would have had a much harder time of things without your stunning intelligence and insight."

They approached the doors to the cathedral.

"Chin, Stella, point. Vamirio, Luke, rear."

The Servants took up their positions, like had been practiced so many times before. The Chin and Stella walked up to the grand, double doors.

"Knock knock!" The Chin announced before sending the doors flying with a punch.

"Who's there?" Stella chirped as the two of them darted inside.

"Is it Justice?" Vamirio asked.

"It's JUSTICE!" The Crimson Chin responded.

So much for not giving away their position.

"That's weird." Luke said, ignoring the rampant shenanigans going on. "I don't feel anything. I think this place is entirely empty."

"Did they already run off with the Grail?" Pfle asked.

"No, the source of all that power is still here. Just through there." He motioned towards the tunnel on the far end of the cathedral, just under a massive stone slab with a picture of a Grail immaculately etched into it.

"Perhaps," The Chin said. "It's some kind of devious trap to lure us in and then steal the Grail out from under our chins!"

"Maybe." Luke said simply. "I seriously can't sense anyone else here though."

"Be on your guards, just in case." Pfle said.

"Just wait. It'll be sprung any second now."

The five of them moved cautiously to the other end of the cathedral. The steps leading up to the platform on the far end weren't wheelchair accessible, so Stella had to lift Pfle and her chair up and over onto it.

"Any second now."

The tunnel operated on some strange, magical form of lighting. From within the cathedral, it appeared to be dark as midnight on a new moon. Once entering it, however, one could see the straightforward tunnel was illuminated by a number of torches in their brackets, and now the cathedral appeared to be pitch black.

"Any second now."

At the far end of the tunnel was a thin, stone pedestal, on top of which was a golden chalice encrusted with a number of brilliantly vivid gemstones. Without breaking formation, they approached the Grail.

"Any second now."

Pfle carefully plucked the Grail from off its pedestal. She waited a moment to see if those treasure hunting movies actually held any merit. Nothing happened, so she drank from the cup.

"Any second no-"

Everything went white.

Chapter Text

Danzo looked out over the battlefield. A sloping green canvas under a dark gray sky. Scorch marks scarred the land in long swaths, some still glowing dimly with dying embers. An army was charging a castle made of stone and brick, another defended it. Ranks upon ranks of men in metal armor wielding lances and broadswords charged forward and clashed in the middle. For as many riding an armored horse, they were matched by those traversing the skies on wyverns raining fire upon the opposing forces, cooking men alive in their armor. Atop the castle's walls, men and women in robes cast down elemental jutsu, further splitting the earth with blasts of fire and bolts of lightning.

Heading the forces defending the castle was an immovable figure in heavyset armor with large tassets, almost forming a skirt. Their helmet had two steer horns jutting from the sides and only the barest slits for eye holes. And yet, Danzo could tell in an instant where they were looking, staring intently at a woman in armor. The woman who had been there from the beginning. The woman who called herself Saber. Saber was carving her way through the oncoming forces, inching closer and closer to the castle.

Danzo straightened out his back. The warforce was too large and too clustered to make a clean beeline for the castle. He'd have to fight his way through some of these people, which shouldn't pose too much of a threat on its own. However, it risked drawing the attention of the two real players in this war, Saber and her opponent. Danzo wasn't sure if Saber was still in this hunt for the Grail, but now was not the time to risk it.

Dokuro tugged on his sleeve. He cast a disinterested eye towards her.

"You don't want to go there." she said.

That captured a bit of his interest.

"The Grail isn't in the castle. It's over that way."

She pointed down towards a path leading away from the castle. On the horizon, Danzo saw a cathedral, in ordinary circumstances perhaps a grand cathedral, but it was dwarfed by the castle's size. The cathedral looked practically untouched by the raging war happening just past its doors. It was not a site of any strategic significance, easily surrounded, unfortified walls, little in the way of traversable vantage or attack points. Danzo turned back to Dokuro.

"How do you know this?"

"I ate a fruit and now I know things."

Danzo turned away from the girl and back towards the cathedral. "You're as unhelpful as you always were, brat."

"Hey!" Dokuro circled back into Danzo's line of sight, pouting up at him. "Don't be mean Danzo-san, I'm helping you."

"If this is meant to garner my sympathy, it's failing."

Dokuro sank back down.

"I ate the fruit of knowledge at the Garden of Eden."

"And if gifted you... knowledge then?"

"Not anything I wanted to know. I just see things."

"You see things?"

"Yeah!"

Danzo gave the girl a moment to explain herself. She didn't so he cuffed her.

"Ow! Danzo-san, stooooooooooop! I don't know what I see, I just... see things. Things that didn't happen. Bad things. I, um, I die a lot in the things I see. People we fought with before, they kill me in ways that didn't happen. And if I'm not dying then someone else is or something bad is happening."

"And you see us dying should we go towards the castle?"

"No. That hasn't happened yet. But I can see us going towards the church, so that's where we find the Grail."

Danzo thought over the proposition. It was a bit far fetched, wasn't it? Danzo was meant to believe that Dokuro ate some magical fruit that gave her a vague knowledge of alternate versions of events, and that it lead her to believe that the Grail was being kept in the most strategically indefensible location on this battlefield? If Dokuro's assertions of loyalty were a trap, this is where it was sprung.

And yet, it was an oddly specific story, was it not? Why assert what she didn't know? The key to a convincing cover story is the teller's ability to provide realistic details, yes, but Dokuro wasn't smart enough to provide those kinds of details herself. It didn't disprove anything, but Danzo believed that Dokuro telling the truth was just possible enough to be worth the risk. He moved towards the cathedral. Dokuro bounced along.

Chapter Text

The Chinmin

Master: Pfle

Berserker: The Crimson Chin

Archer: Stella

Caster: Red Vamirio

Saber: Luke Skywalker

Chapter Text

Vamirio was in quite an unfortunate situation.

The Crimson Chin was talking again.

"This is simply the way of heroes my friends! Writers bounce you back and forth from crisis to crisis, crossover event to crossover event, the emotional strain can certainly be draining, but it's worth it for the reader count! Nobody wants to read 6 straight issues of a hero lounging around in the underwear, eating Ben & Jerry's from the tub, watching soaps, and waiting for the next perfectly audible cry of distress. There's no drama! No suspense! No tension! Well, except the tension in whether Maria and Santiago will be able to patch up the tatters of their relationship, but Santiago shouldn't count on it after he slept with Maria's evil twin sister! And after he embarrassed her at her niece's quinceanera, sister if that was me I'd be kicking him to the doorstep." He paused to gaze upward pensively. "What was I talking about again?"

"No breaks between missions." Stella offered helpfully.

"Right! Keep your chins up my fellow freedom fighters! For no matter how weary you may feel right now, rest assured that when the time comes, you'll get a dramatic burst of adrenaline to kickstart you into tip top fighting shape, just enough for us to get the drop on the arc villain! For as long as I'm there to be the laser guided, gyroscopic razor to edge off the peach fuzz of villainy from the perfectly sculpted jaw of justice, never shall" he was getting into the standard stuff now so Vamirio started tuning him out. Stella hung onto every word, but Luke looked just as distracted as she was, maybe moreso.

"Luke? Luke!"

The human snapped out of his trance and looked down towards Vamirio.

"Huh? What's up?"

"You seem out of it. Are you okay? You're not thinking about that last fight are you?"

"Well, I wasn't before. That girl was odd though, touched by the dark side certainly, but I didn't sense any malice from her. If what her Servants said was true-"

"You're our lie detector, you know they were telling the truth."

"Right. Well, I don't know what to think. Reading her was like... like reading a droid. A whole lot of nothing, no anger, no pride, no bloodlust, she must have masterful control over her emotions."

"It doesn't matter. What's done is done, no point in dwelling on it. If it wasn't that girl, what were you thinking about?"

"I wasn't thinking. I was focusing."

Vamirio scowled at him. "You're splitting hairs."

"I was trying to read the Force. It's very turbulent right now, there's a lot of anger in that battlefield, but underneath it all is... something. I'm trying to put my finger on it. It's shifting and swirling and moving about but it's coming from somewhere."

"You think it might be the Grail?"

"Might be."

"Well then," Pfle said, rolling up from nowhere. "When you get a bead on it be sure to let us know."

Luke nodded and went back to "focusing", Pfle had nothing to say, that left only one noise to fill the dead air.

"and I know I say this a lot, repetition helps drill the moral of the story in for the younger audience, but that fight with the dastardly blood manipulating Crimson Bubble, well I couldn't have done it without you guys."

"You didn't do anything, idiot. We showed up, the other Servants explained what happened, I burned her to a crisp."

"And I couldn't have done it without you!"

"Mr. Chin doesn't have the means to burn someone to a crisp." Stella noted.

"Yes, I'm aware."

"My heat vision might be able to, but I haven't used that on another person since the 90's!"

Vamirio looked out over the battlefield again. Staked out on a nearby hill, they were privy to everything without needing to be involved in it. From here, she could see the scores of humans brutalizing and slaughtering each other. Turning on their own kind. Among the shiny metal armor, however, were three somethings very out of place. One which surprised her more than the other two.

"Hey Anne!" one of them yelled, waving towards them.

"Stocking?" Vamirio yelled back. "What are you doing here?"

"Friends?" Pfle asked.

"Yes I recognize the cowboy," the Chin bellowed. "Another champion of justice!"

"I'm not sensing any violent intentions." Luke said. "Think we can trust them?"

"They weren't with the man that attacked us in the Hub." Vamirio noted. "Most enemies don't launch their attack with a friendly greeting."

"Not the ones you recognize as enemies at least." Pfle muttered.

Stocking ran up and clasped Vamirio's hands in her own.

"Anne sweety it's so good to see you again, I was worried we wouldn't be able to meet up like we promised!"

"I'm sorry," the bowman said, rubbing the back of his head. "Did Stocking get hit with the Eden curse again?"

"How about you shut the fuck up Archer." Stocking hissed as she glared over her shoulder.

Vamirio cleared her throat and withdrew her hands, smoothing out her dress.

"Yes, it has been far too long, Stocking. Things have just been so busy, I think we're all ready to get this over with."

"You can say that again, I need to sleep on a real bed again, that hunk of cardboard they gave me at the Hub is bad enough on my back, but last night I slept in a shit encrusted mud hut. On the floor."

"So," the Archer man sauntered up. "Anne, huh?"

"Yep." Stocking said. "Just Anne. We met on the beach."

"Yeah, I remember."

"Howdy, Miss Anne." the man in orange said. "Pleasure to make your acquaintance."

"Likewise. Although," she cleared her throat. "Given the situation as it is, the secret is out now. You can call me Vamirio. It's fine."

"Alright." Stocking shrugged. "Much nicer name if you ask me."

"That is a lot closer to what I was expecting." The bowman added.

"Now that introductions are out of the way," Pfle rolled up to face the newcomers, a pleasant smile on her face. "Explain yourselves before I have you killed."

The declaration shocked the scene into silence for a second.

"You can't-" Vamirio started.

"I still have all three of my command seals, Vamirio, I can do whatever I need to. But, it doesn't need to come to that, now explain."

"You little shit." Stocking growled. The orange man however cut her off with a hand to the chest.

"Howdy ma'am." he said politely. "We came here chasing after our own Master, when we saw you, we thought perhaps a team up was in order."

"Danzo's stronger than any of us," Archer said. "And he's trying to get to the Grail before anyone else so he can make some wish about stopping people from being able to hurt each other."

Pfle placed a pensive finger on her chin. "That doesn't sound like a particularly evil wish to me."

"Well it does to me!" The Crimson Chin said. "If I don't have pulse pounding action every issue, I'm gonna get cancelled!"

"Danzo's also a stank ass hypocrite by the by." Stocking added. "Asshole just wants the universe to do his job for him, and he's killed a fuck ton of people to get to this point so clearly he's not that hung up on world peace."

"And I'm sure your aims are purely selfless, content to let us get the Grail after we defeat your Master."

"Honestly, I don't care who gets the Grail at this point," Archer said. "So long as it's not him. Unless, you're also going to wish for something that will effect all of humanity or something."

"I have no such intentions."

"And I trust you completely." Archer said, in such a way to suggest that he did not, perhaps, trust her completely. "Now, we've explained ourselves, you gonna drop your threat or what?"

"Certainly! It never hurts to ask, but you're all welcome aboard. We're just waiting for-"

"I found it." Luke burst out. "I know where the Grail is."

"That. Lead the way Luke."

Chapter Text

Danzo stepped through the cathedral's front doors, a double set twice as tall as him, made of a rich, brown, well polished wood. He sandals clacked against the marble, echoing through the empty chamber. High up, intricate stained glass windows showered pools of light onto the pure white floor. On ground level, the walls were ringed by a series of gray stone slabs, each one bearing a carving, some depiction of religious iconography Danzo couldn't admit to being familiar with. At the far end of the cathedral, however, the stone held a carving of a jewel encrusted goblet, liquid spilling from its lip.

"That's it then." Danzo said.

"I don't know. I can't see inside it."

"But there is a path beyond the stone."

"Yeah. But it won't open until everyone else gets here."

"Everyone else?"

"Ye-"

"Don't answer. I can figure it out for myself. Reaper wants his spectacle."

Danzo stepped in front of the slab. He struck the slab with an open palm strike. Dust billowed from the hit, clouding around Danzo before settling back onto the floor. The slab remained intact. His hands flashed together and he took in a deep breath, before battering the slab with wind bullets. Each one dissipated on contact, leaving not a dent in the stone.

Danzo stepped to the side and gestured towards the slab, looking back at Dokuro. She took the hint and stepped forward. Spitting on her hands, she gripped her club tightly, braced herself, and swung. The club rebounded off the slab without leaving a scratch, Dokuro was left taking the aftershocks, vibrating intensely on the spot and looking very uncomfortable for it.

As Dokuro eventually got control over herself, a rumbling echoed through the cathedral. What little dust remained on the slab begun to shake off as the slab rattled in place. A thin opening made itself seen where the slab met the floor, growing wider and wider as the slab slowly lifted up.

Dokuro gave an excited gasp. "Danzo-san! I did it!"

Two globs of black goop exploded onto the slab, holding it in place along the ground.

"Danzo." Archer called out as he rappelled down from the cathedral's steeple. "You weren't planning on getting started without us, were you?"

The cathedral's doors were blasted off their hinges as Bravestarr, a floating man in red, and a girl in a wheelchair moved in. On his right, glass shattered, Stocking and an orange-skinned girl entered, the same on his left, a boy and girl, both in black, one carried a glowing green blade, the other a massive cannon.

The words strategically indefensible flashed through Danzo's mind, he wasn't sure why. It hardly mattered. He shrugged off his robe, letting it pool around his waist.

"Yes, I had an inclination that it would come to this."

"We've got you surrounded, Danzo." Bravestarr yelled. "Stand down now, you can't win this."

"I knew it would come to this from the moment I summoned you." Danzo continued. He slipped the first pin out from his seal.

"What the fuck are we all just standing around for?" Stocking yelled out. "He's monologuing, kill the dickweasel!"

To demonstrate she darted forward, baring both of her blades. Right as she was about to strike, Dokuro appeared before Danzo. Stocking had just enough time to block, and for that she did not die as Dokuro swung her club. The walls, however, were not enough to stop her, she flew past them.

The second pin hit the ground.

"When I saw you for the first time, Archer, I knew exactly what kind of man you were. A simple man. A normal man. A man who wanted to keep his two lives separate."

The orange-skinned girl cupped her hands and let loose with a blast of fire, Dokuro stood in front of Danzo and spun her club, redirecting the flames. She moved into the spin to slap away three of Archer's arrows.

The third pin hit the ground.

"You had not a weapon on you then. Not a scrap of armor of any kind. If I had meant to, I could have killed you where you stood."

"Are you regretting that yet or do I need to do my job better?"

Dokuro's club blurred as she began blocking shots from the girl in black's gun. In a split moment's opening, one which Danzo saw perfectly well, Dokuro hurled her bat, knocking the girl's weapon from her hand. It continued to spin as it moved through the air, and while Dokuro herself leaped and hit the man in red in the chest with a dropkick, the club intercepted the explosive arrow Archer had attempted to curve around Dokuro. It returned to her hand just in time to block a slash by the boy with the green blade.

The seal came apart and collapsed at Danzo's feet. He began to unwrap the bandages from around his right hand.

"I recognized you so instantly because I am familiar with your kind, Archer. You are precisely the kind of man who gets drafted for war. Who goes to it happily and fights it willingly. Who believes not in the cause or the leader but in the men who fight alongside him."

Danzo's hands moved together.

"And you are the man who does not return home once it is ended."

Chapter Text

Eyeballs in the arm. Clint had to admit, he hadn't seen that coming.

Heh, seen.

Seriously though, this was futzing gross. And was that a face sticking out of his shoulder? Double gross.

Clint flipped backwards, just in time for Luke to rush with his saber. Danzo leaped backwards, threw out a couple of kunai, each of which melted into slag when Luke blocked them, red hot metal flying in globules around his head. Danzo moved quick, appearing behind Luke. Clint fired a bola arrow at him, hell even Luke was starting to turn, noticing Danzo's presence. Danzo grabbed Clint's arrow from out of the air and stuck it onto Luke, however, who stumbled away, arms bound to his side. Danzo was preparing to strike him, but Stella covered his escape with a hail of bullets.

The already thinning sinews that held the stone slab with the picture of the Grail on it in place snapped, and with a rumble it started sliding up again. Fortunately it moved very slow, no one was getting through there unless they were paper. Not yet at least.

Still, adding in an element of time didn't help matters much when their forces were divided this much. On the other end of the cathedral, Dokuro swung her bat and sent a pew flying forward. Bravestarr slid under it and the Chin shattered it with his Chin. Clint could vaguely hear someone say his name from over there, he wasn't sure who. Vamirio smokescreened their approach with a blast of fire, and Bravestarr burst through it with a football tackle. Dokuro swung her bat down, but even from the distance Clint could see she pulled the hit. Bravestarr caught it with both hands, struggling to keep it away from him as he yelled out "Strength of the Bear!"

Clint's attention shot back towards Danzo. As did the boomerang arrow, always a fun trick, though probably overplayed at this point Clint realized as Danzo snapped it out of the air with a chop, one that landed on Stella's neck and sent her flinching back.

Next trick in the quiver, the taser arrow. Danzo slipped around the next of Luke's strikes, keeping his distance and respecting the melting power of that energy blade of his. Stella transformed her gun into a massive blade and swung down on Danzo while his back was turned. Danzo simply spun on his heels and caught the blade with both hands, keeping it at bay with little trouble. But, with his hands busy, Clint felt like it was the perfect time to let the taser arrow loose.

Danzo shifted his attention, saw the arrow approaching, and shot a gust of wind towards it. The arrow was redirected, hitting the handle of Luke's saber and sending electricity coursing through his body. Stella looked worried, and Danzo used the distraction to slam her nose with a headbutt. His heel shot up, rocking her chin, before slamming her face into the marble floor, cratering it.

And then Danzo turned his eyes towards Clint.

Clint didn't have time to blink before Danzo was on him, a hand was moving towards his waste where Clint saw, tucked into his waistband, the hilt of a katana. And Clint would've been real embarrassed if his last thoughts were if he actually had that on him the whole time.

But, fortunately, they weren't. Before he could draw it, Danzo exploded into red mist. And standing behind where he had just been, bathing in the shower, was Dokuro.

Clint wasn't sure what was happening, did the girl's inner bloodlust catch up to her? Before he could question it further, she slammed him over the head with her bat's hilt. It didn't kill him, at least he hoped it hadn't, but it did lay him out flat on the ground. He prepared himself mentally for the fight to come, that is until he rolled onto his back and saw the blade stabbing straight through where Clint had just been. Right now though, it was locked into one of the spikes on Dokuro's bat.

"I was waiting for you to get around to betraying me." Danzo said.

"It's not a betrayal. I just... changed my mind. Archer-san was able to convince me."

"I did what?"

Danzo slipped his katana from Dokuro's grip and aimed a slash that she parried and countered with a swing that he blocked. And so they worked, back and forth, each not being able to so much as touch the other.

Something was up though. Clint wasn't the greatest at spot the difference, but he had a pretty sharp set of eyes regardless. One of the eyes along Danzo's arm, the one closest to his elbow, it closed.

"You gotta be futzing kidding me." Clint muttered to himself. "He won't go down unless we put him down 10 more times?"

"Yeah, no, fuck that."

Clint looked to his side, Stocking was standing there, looking not much worse for wear.

"When'd you get back?"

"While you were getting your asshole fed to you crotchrocket, now stand back and watch how a bitch angel gets things done."

Chapter Text

"Do we have to?" Vamirio asked.

"I'm ready to get this done now," Stocking answered. "Finally go home and get some cake."

"I'm insulted Stocking, you're supposed to tell me how you wish we never had to part."

"Well, I mean, that too of course." Stocking gave the back of her neck an embarrassed rub. "How about this, every second Danzo spends alive and kicking is a second where one of your friends has a chance to get killed by a crazy nutbag."

Vamirio looked over to see the Chin charge Danzo, only to be kicked through the ceiling.

"Point taken. But do we really have to do it this way? You know they make contracts for this sort of thing now, much less... pomp and circumstance."

"I'm an angel, I can't just go around signing contracts of power. Besides," she flashed a smile at Vamirio. "The pomp and circumstance makes it fun."

Vamirio sighed.

"Fine. Just this once. You lead."

"I always lead."

Stocking stepped out into the middle of the cathedral. The clacking of her shoes brought a quiet to the din. And if it didn't, what she said next certainly did.

"Hey shit for brains. How but you stop rubbing your nub for a second and I pay you back for leaving us behind to smell our own farts."

"And I certainly don't appreciate being kicked around by a Master." Vamirio added. "We'll be taking that Grail now if you don't mind."

Danzo spared them a glance while ducking and weaving through the combined assault of Luke and Dokuro.

"And how exactly do you plan on doing that?"

"God I'm so fucking glad you asked. You ready Vam."

"I was born ready and don't call me that."

"Then let's do this shit."

Stocking held a hand over her head, summoning a ring of light. With a thrust downward it slid over her body, changing her black gothic lolita dress into a pure white corset and gown. Vamirio swept a hand to the side, her own dress bursting into flames and forming a much thinner, jet black number with a low back and a sharp design around the cleavage. The glowing white specter of a halo and wings faded into existence around Stocking, red horns and a lengthy tail with an arrowed end around Vamirio.

O pitiful shadows lost in the darkness.

O dark force of looming destruction.

O evil spirit born of those drifting between heaven and earth.

O invader to the realm of the wicked, seeking chaos and spreading misery.

May the thunderous power from the garments of these holy, delicate maidens strike down upon you

As heavenly king of the great demon empire, I sentence thee to torturous death at the hands of the flames of hell

Shattering your loathsome impurity and returning you from whence you came.

As punishment for the pain brought upon all of demonkind.

Get ready Danzo

I think it's about time for you to

REPENT YOU FUCKING IDIOT!

Stocking's stockings melded into pure light, sharpening into blades capable of cleaving through sin itself. She raised Stripes I & II above her head and brought them down, sending in all directions a torrent of slashes that carved through the marble floor and deep into the ground. These blades of pure energy touched not a soul that Stocking didn't want them to, so it was only Danzo that saw himself falling apart, split clean in half.

He reappeared behind Stocking and charged forward, so it was Vamirio's turn. She placed both palms to the ground. From each of the gashes in the earth erupted great walls of flame, flitting as high as the ceiling and suffocating the room in heat. Danzo had the great misfortune of being over one of these chasms, and in an instant he was reduced to ash. He reappeared next to Vamirio.

Stocking dashed between them, intercepting Danzo's katana in a downward swing between her own. Even in her full angel costume, Danzo was easily overpowering her. He thrust his sword to the side, knocking Stripes II away. Stocking moved with the hit, going low and then leaping forward. She grabbed Danzo around the midsection and the two of them barreled through one of the walls of fire. The flames licked around Stocking, but refused to touch her. Danzo, however, was reduced to nothing by the time she burst through to the other side.

Danzo reappeared, he threw out three kunai, she responded by spinning Stripes I fast enough to send all three of them flying away where they quickly melted in the heat. In that time, though, Danzo was behind her. He went for a horizontal slash, she arched her back and felt the cold of the blade just barely whiff over her chin. He went for a low sweep and so her feet left the ground, she caught herself with her hands and jumped over Danzo with a handspring. She swiped at him twice before landing, each time he parried. She landed on his foot and launched a headbutt at his face, he leaned out of the way and rocked her chin with an elbow. He went for a stab next, one that Stocking parried, but the force pushed her back and off of Danzo's foot. Three slashes followed, Stocking blocked each one, but each one sent her back, either to keep her leverage or just out of sheer force. If Stocking was any slower, she'd be swiss cheese by now. And unfortunately, she wasn't anywhere near as strong. Danzo swung his katana with both hands, and Stripes I was knocked away the same as its sister. Danzo went in for a stab, Stocking gave a small smile as she sidestepped, keeping her leg in place and sending Danzo stumbling into the wall of fire right behind her.

She ran over and snatched Stripes I back up.

"You're smarter than you'd have me believe." Danzo said. "You know you can't beat me in a one on one fight, so you use your surroundings to their full extent."

"I'm going to ignore the backhanded compliment and point out there's so much more going on here."

"Oh, and what might th-"

The Crimson Chin flew in from nowhere and landed a punch on Danzo's cheek, sending him flying into the flames.

"Man, it sure is a good thing I know for a fact that Danzo can come back before doing that, otherwise I would've been directly responsible for the death of a living, breathing human being." The Crimson Chin said.

"That's five." Stocking said. "Halfway done with this shit."

Stocking was on her guard, waiting for Danzo to jump out of nowhere and start slicing at her again.

"... Alright where the fuck did he go?"

"This doesn't look great for my appeal with parents."

Chapter Text

Luke wasn't entirely certain what Stocking and Vamirio had done, but being trapped in a small section of the building with massive walls of fire surrounding him on all sides. Still something in the force was assuring him, inching him towards the flames. Still, when he checked to see if he could touch it, he did it with his robotic hand. The flames parted at his touch. He registered that just in time to feel the force moving him away from it. Very quickly.

Luke tucked and rolled away, and saw a steel saber cleaving through the space where his head had just been. Danzo glared at him, Luke was just appraising how good a choice it had been to move.

Danzo charged, moving way faster than Luke could even follow. Given that, then, he decided the best course of action was to close his eyes. He gave himself over fully to the force, dodging each slash that was thrown at him. He was waiting, waiting for his opportunity, a slight break in the assault, a moment of questioning a new tactic.

There it was, Luke grabbed the hilt of his own saber and slashed forward. Danzo moved back and made to guard, and Luke's saber melted through his flimsy metal one like it wasn't even there. But it was, and the molten metal that followed through with Luke's swing was certainly distracting to Danzo as it burned through his clothes and into his flesh. Luke pushed forward with the force, hurling Danzo back where the flames consumed him.

Somehow he got the feeling that wasn't the end of things though.

Danzo reappeared in the ring of fire, one of the eyes on his arm slid shut. He looked down at the ruined saber in his hand before tossing it to the flames.

"I don't want to fight you." Luke said. "And I certainly don't want to kill you."

"Then get on with it and die already."

Luke ducked just before Danzo was on him, aiming an open palm strike at where his head had just been. He wove around the strikes as Danzo started pushing him back towards the center of the ring.

The cathedral was starting to break apart, if the massive slashes to its foundation hadn't damaged it beyond the breaking point, pieces and parts of it being melted away did. Rubble started raining down from the ceiling, it took all of Luke's concentration to move around the hunks of rock and Danzo's attacks.

"I sense a darkness in you. It's dense, it's settled, but it's not overwhelming. You can still stop this, Danzo. It's not too late. Just realize the impact you're going to have on other people."

"I put more thought into my every action than you're even capable of, boy."

Luke attempted to push Danzo with the force again, Danzo responded by leaning back and exhaling, the force of his breath carving a ring through the flames and pushing himself back towards Luke. Luke now had his saber out and was using it to keep Danzo at a distance as well as get rid of any projectiles he tried to throw out.

"So are you hoping people will accept this change or do you just not care?"

"You tell me."

Luke swung, Danzo ducked the saber and retaliated with a strike, one which Luke cut short with with a follow up downward swing, forcing Danzo to roll away.

"If you must know, petulant child, the rest of the world can burn for all I care. So long as my village remains safe I will have accomplished my mission. And there's nothing you can do t-"

An explosion hit Danzo head on and sent him careening into the flames. Stella stepped out and took her place next to Luke.

"You always this fashionably late?"

"Not usually. You're not hurt are you?"

"I'm fine. How have you been?"

"Unharmed for now."

Luke felt something tug at him.

"Get down!"

Luke hit the deck, Stella simply spun on her heels and snatched the shuriken out of the air with two fingers. Danzo stood, shurikens spinning on the index finger of either hand. He gently breathed out, the air taking shape around the stars, forming whirling, circular saws.

With a flick of the wrist, he sent both flying forward. Luke held up his hands and pushed with the force, trying to stop the blade's momentum. Stella was having much less luck, opting to simply put her shooter in between her and the blade. It's momentum continued on and pushed Stella back, sparks flying from the contact point as Stella dug in her heels. Luke was having no luck with it, so he opted to change the thing's direction rather than continue and try and stop it. With a shove the shuriken flew over and slammed into its brother, and the both of them flew off through the walls of flame.

"Stella, keep him busy."

"Roger."

Stella drew her saber, slashed a falling chunk of rock to slip through the bisected pieces then darted for Danzo. Danzo drew a kunai and used it to block Stella's strike as she passed by him. She drew her cannon and fired with a rapid barrage of bullets. Danzo's hand flashed, Luke couldn't see it himself but the force told him where each of the bullets rebounded as Danzo struck them down. Stella's cannon shifted and she fired a giant, deep purple ball of energy. Danzo took a step forward and leaped over the projectile, it exploded behind him as he soared through the air. Luke then gave the shuriken a tug and sent it flying back towards him. It intercepted Danzo in the air, cutting him clean in half, before flying through the wall behind him.

Danzo reappeared behind Luke, the force made his presence known. Luke turned and activated his saber again. Then a new object made its presence known. A sharp hiss rang out through the ring before it was quickly filled with smoke. Danzo looked just as confused as Luke was. Another object struck the ground between Danzo's feet, this one sending out a sheet of ice that grabbed onto Danzo's legs and held him in place. A blunt stick flew from out of the smoke, striking Danzo in the back of the leg, and immediately after another one hit the back of his head. Danzo began writhing, covering his ears with either hand. The ice around his feet was already beginning to crack.

Then, from out of the smoke, Archer ran up behind Danzo and jumped, slamming both feet into his back. The ice shattered, Danzo did little more than stumble forward, but before Archer even hit the ground he fired another arrow at Danzo's back. An explosion went off just behind Danzo, and that was the last shove needed to send Danzo into the flames again.

Danzo reappeared in the ring, almost all the eyes along his arm were closed now.

"Cheap trick."

"Oh please," Archer shot back. "You think I've been doing this for this long and I don't know how to deal with someone who can dodge arrows?"

"It hardly matters, this ends now."

"Really? We've been swatting you around like a paddleball this entire time."

"Through a combination of the element of surprise and my own hesitation to go all out. But your surprises are running out, as is my patience. It hardly matters either way, once Izanagi has run its course, you all are too afraid to kill me for real, and the only thing I need to do is buy time."

Nobody said much after that, on account of the glowing blue saber sticking out of Danzo's forehead. Stocking gave him just long enough to realize it was there before her hands started moving again, chopping him up into tiny chunks of Danzo.

Once she was done and nothing of Danzo remained other than the pile, she called out of the disconcertingly loud rumbling of the structure.

"Alright, he's dead now, you can cut the pyrotechnics Vamirio!"

Vamirio apparently got the message as the fire quickly died down, leaving the charred and melted and torn up building to finally rest. Upon doing so, it began to collapse in on itself.

"What are you talking about?" Archer yelled over the din. "I don't know if we should be killing him, but he's not dead yet."

"What? But that was the last eye."

"Yeah, he's about to get rid of the last eye to come back."

"But, he has no more eyes."

"The eyes are just extra lives, have you never played a video game before?"

"The fuck kinda loser, shut-in, social skills of a gnat, home alone on a Friday night, fucking nerd do I look like to you?"

"It's refreshing, really," Danzo said, standing in front of them. "This is the level of stupidity I expected from you."

Luke and Stocking both held up their sabers and Archer pulled an arrow back in his bow. By the time they accomplished that, Danzo was gone. The force pointed out his path to Luke, right through the pathway underneath the fully risen slab. Luke could swear he saw another blur of pink and beige before the entire structure operating it collapsed, burying the tunnel's opening in marble rubble.

"Shit!" Archer yelled. "We have to go after him."

"Are you crazy?" Luke yelled back. "This entire place is coming down, we've got to get out of here."

"We can't let Danzo get that wish."

"The only thing you're going to get sticking around here is crushed."

Archer made to argue more, but a blur of yellow and white whizzed past, grabbing and carrying him out. Luke made haste to follow, everyone else either falling in behind him or quickly passing him up. Most quickly passed him.

It wasn't a second after the slowest of them (it had been Vamirio) got out that the walls gave up on being walls and the entire structure collapsed into a flat mess of stone, brick, and wood. If there was anywhere past the slab, or where the slab would have been, Luke couldn't figure where it would be.

Stella pointed out something important.

"Pfle isn't with us."

"Great jaws of justice, you're right!" Chin slapped a hand to his forehead in shock.

"You think she's in the rubble somewhere?" Vamirio asked.

"Nah, something's not right about this." Bravestarr said. "There's no way that would be enough to take Danzo out."

"So that means," Dokuro started. "They're somewhere else?"

"An underground tunnel maybe?" Luke offered.

"Let's talk about the more pressing issue," Stocking said. "Wherever they are, it's our roided up freak of a Master versus a gimpy cripple. How do you think this is going to end?"

"Yeah." Archer said. "Yeah this looks bad."

Chapter Text

Danzo stood nowhere. The last of his sharingans depleted, the idiots had made a single fatal mistake, as idiots are want to do, and he'd been able to capitalize on it well. Past the slab, however, was nowhere. A void of endless nothing. And Danzo was not alone in it.

The enemy Master, a girl confined to a wheelchair, sat across from him. The two said nothing, only looking each other over. Evaluating each other, judging the threat they posed, waiting for the other to make a move. Neither did. It would've been so easy for Danzo to end this now, kill the girl and finally win this game. Unfortunately, he couldn't.

"So, we meet again." the girl said.

"And what good your pawns have done you now."

"Ah, so you do remember me. Yes, I must admit, in a stressful situation a rash decision was necessary to make. And yet, here I am."

"Where I have all the power."

"Do you believe that to be true, Danzo? I don't. When I say, here I am, I mean quite simply, here I am. I am sitting here, in front of you, I am not dying on the ground or moving about desperately attempting to defend myself with what little resources I have, I am here. Sitting stock still and staring you in the eyes, challenging you to do something about it. So then, we must ask ourselves why this is the case."

"Perhaps I am just waiting for the opportune time to strike."

The girl responded by shifting in her chair, sitting on her hands and craning her neck so Danzo got a full and open view of her dainty throat. Danzo did nothing.

"I understand at least a little what's going on here." Her hands moved back to her lap as she relaxed. "To test a theory, I pictured myself rolling up and punching you in the arm, but something's stopping me from actually performing such an action. Your Servants told me what they could in the time they had, and as I understand it you wish to stop humanity from being capable of hurting each other. Do you think perhaps that has something to do with it?"

Danzo gave it thought.

"A preview. We're given a vision of our wish, so that we may be incentivized enough to give a final, desperate struggle at attaining it. Reaper has thought this through."

"Who now?"

Danzo remained silent.

"Please, Danzo. It's impolite to hoard information."

"Information is the strongest weapon imaginable. It would be more foolish of me to freely give it away."

"How about a trade then."

"And what are you offering in return?"

"More information of course. My name, and if this is a preview like you say, then what I wished for."

Danzo raised an eyebrow. Eventually however, he agreed.

"The creature running this game, if you did not see him before we left the Hub, is a living skeleton who calls himself the Grim Reaper."

"Is that so? Grim is running this death game?"

"You're familiar?"

"The Land of Magic has cooperated on numerous occasions with the Underworld. Of course I would be familiar with its Reaper. I couldn't have imagined the corruption spread that deep though."

"And now, it is time for you to hold up your end of the bargain."

"Of course, I have no mind to betraying an agreement. My name is Pfle, and my wish was to make all magical girls impervious to all forms of damage and ultimately unkillable, though not immortal."

"And I assume you count yourself among these magical girls."

"Yes, there's a phone app, it's all very official."

"Which means that even should I change my mind, you're still protected."

"Quite the sticky situation you've found yourself in."

"Don't confuse a disadvantage for helplessness. If I don't change my wish then we are locked in a stalemate, I don't get the Grail but neither do you."

"You'd rather we both lose than I win?"

"On the contrary, I have you right where I want you."

Danzo reached into his robe and pulled out a small white cloth. Inside were three tiny black capsules. He popped one into his mouth, Pfle watched patiently as he swallowed.

"And what was that a display of?" she asked.

"What did we just discuss about information?"

"Another trade then? But I'm afraid I don't know much that will help either of us here."

"You have some relation to Reaper, I want to know about him. His capabilities, his skills, if he's a threat."

"Grim? He's a pushover. Nothing more than a pile of bones. Impossible to kill but easy to take out. Fully unqualified for the weight of his responsibilities. The only thing that makes him a threat is his scythe, capable of power beyond the comprehension of most mortal men. It's an interesting artifact, it draws power into itself constantly, so no matter how much its used it will not ever permanently run out of energy."

"And how much energy can the thing hold? Enough to light a singularity?"

Pfle looked at Danzo.

"I wouldn't really know. If he's used it like that before, it wasn't on any official Underworld business so word never reached the Land of Magic. But, I hear that's the case for a lot of his powers. Rumor has it, the Reaper spends most his time nowadays babysitting a couple humans. Now, I believe it's your turn. What were those capsules?"

"Military ration pills. With it, a trained shinobi can fight for three days and three nights without need for food or rest."

"So you intend to starve me out."

"If it proves necessary."

"Quite an ingenious solution to this dilemma you've found. You really will go to whatever lengths possible to get what you desire. I wonder, is it out of loyalty to your people, or your own personal pride?"

"Everything a shinobi does, he does for his people."

"If the need is great enough, I'm sure. But for such a smart man, you sure are stupid."

Danzo's eyes narrowed.

"Think for a moment about what you've proven just now. We are in your idea situation, neither of us capable of hurting the other. And yet, you've managed to discover a foolproof way to threaten my life without laying a finger on me. Think, and you realize that humans have a great multitude of ways to hurt one another that have nothing to do with violence."

Danzo remained silent.

"It might be in your best interest not to change your wish just yet, however. Remember that I still cannot be hurt and you aren't the only Master who got to where they were by being good at disguising their true power."

Danze remained silent.

"But let's consider your alternative options for a moment. The words that formed the basis for your wish were chosen very carefully. Most other people would simply settle with "keep my village safe" but you didn't. Why? The idea of your village is an incredibly nebulous concept, admittedly. What defines a village? I think you don't care that much about the structures or the earth, not as much as you care about its occupants. Your wish does involve people and their safety after all."

Danzo remained silent.

"So how does one protect the people of their village? Before you can answer that, you must ask who is of your village? If a man passes through on business, is he of your village? Of course not. But what of the immigrant who enters a stranger but becomes a neighbor? Your will to protect surely can't wane for them specifically, can it?"

Danzo remained silent.

"So you cannot simply cast protection over the residents, proximity then? But what then defines a village? Do you define it by architecture? Do you create a dome large enough to cover every house in the village? What then of your merchants? Your messengers? Any member of your village can be lured outside of the bounds and brought to harm there, the parameters don't cover enough. You know this, that's why you worded your wish the way you did specifically. But the parameters you set forth there were equally as inadequate. A man can kill another man as simply as destroying the building around him, and this would work well around your ideas for security."

Danzo remained silent.

"The specificity of my wish was created for the means of solving a specific problem efficiently. I must put an end to the Land of Magic's death games, so I remove the element they rely on most. The specificity of your wish is a lame excuse to cover as many bases as possible in the hopes that it will eventually lead to the result that you desire. You have two options now, ruin everything and fail your mission or allow me to do what I must and return to your life."

Danzo remained silent.

"Do you intend to continue then? You feel like you still hold all the cards and so you wish to go through with your foolish plan despite the fact that I have clearly and plainly laid out how it will not work?"

Danzo remained silent.

"Before, you said that your wish was to be made for your people. You said that everything a shinobi does-"

"-he does for his people."

"Then where are your people Danzo? If this realm shows us our heart's desire, then we should see your village safe and sound, its people rejoicing at their newfound safety. But we're all alone here Danzo. The only thing our wishes affect is ourselves. We're both selfish monsters, but at least I'm a selfish monster with a plan."

Danzo remained silent no longer. He roared. He reached down into his robe and pulled out a kunai, charging forward towards Pfle.

Pfle shot like a rocket. Before Danzo could even see her move, her wheelchair was slamming into his chest. He careened to the ground, Pfle skidding along with him. When they both finally came to a stop, she had one wheel pressed firmly on his neck, and held his kunai in her hand.

"The thing about chess is," she said. "It's not enough to know what your opponent can do. You have to know why they act, and how they react to stimuli. Only then can you beat someone at their own game."

Chapter Text

The group of them waited just outside of what used to be the cathedral. The dust had settled, and the sounds of war were muted and far away, leaving the entire scene still and silent. Every single one of them was afraid to move, of disturbing the silence before knowing what was about to happen.

Well, okay, not every one, Stocking was attempting to hold a casual conversation with Vamirio, but Vamirio herself was among the shocked and silent so it came across more as Stocking was just rambling about nothing to herself.

Luke was nervous. His hand kept brushing against his saber, ready to draw it at a moment's notice. He had been trying to feel out where Danzo and Pfle had gone using the force, but he couldn't feel anything anywhere. It was like they were just gone. And not in the "a million voices cried out in terror only to be silenced" gone, they simply did not exist.

Or, well, they hadn't. Something stirred within the rubble, something Luke felt as soon as it appeared. And after unburying themselves, two figures made themselves known. One standing tall, the other maneuvering herself as best she could while in a wheelchair.

Bravestarr moved really fast, clapping a pair of handcuffs on Danzo as soon as possible. Pfle meanwhile, approached the group slow and confidently. One hand was working the wheels on her chair, the other was balancing a chalice on her knee.

"Is that?" Luke started.

Pfle nodded. "The Holy Grail."

"How the hell did you beat Danzo?" Archer asked.

"There are more ways to beat someone than brute strength. I should've taught the four of you that by now."

As Pfle drew closer, Luke got a better look into the cup.

"There's barely anything in there."

"What's this now?" Vamirio asked, finally pushing away from Stocking to investigate. "Pfle what's the meaning of this?"

"I took as little as possible making my wish."

"Oh, so you already got to make yours? And we get to fight over the scraps?"

"I don't think you're listening."

"Okay, guys," Luke said. "Let's just keep calm about this, maybe we can ration the last bit of it so everyone can get some."

"You're kidding me, a fly could drink up what's left of this."

"Now, now," The Crimson Chin said, approaching the group with both hands up. "In times like these it's important to remember virtues of selflessness and humility. By which I mean, you all should keep that in mind and give the Grail to me."

"I don't think any of us are being particularly selfish about this, Chin." Luke said.

"Please, I'm begging you here. Let me have this one thing. Let me finally forget the woes of being dry ink on cheap, 10 cents a page paper. Let me escape my Promethi-chin curse!"

"If we look at things objectively," Stella added. "My wish would benefit the most people and restore a dead civilization. It should go to me."

"I knew it would come to this." Vamirio said. "From the second that hooded idiot told us what we were after, I knew I'd have to make this choice. But between my people and you humans I'll always side with demons."

"Without this wish, humanity will go extinct."

"Without this wish, humanity will drive demons to extinction."

"Without my wish I'll probably end up drowned in generic brand ice cream."

"That's it!" fire exploded off of Vamirio, Luke ducked away but the rest of his team merely shielded their eyes. When he looked back up, Vamirio had snatched away the Grail.

"I've had enough of you humans mindlessly disregarding the needs of demons and casting us aside like garbage. On this day, the demons will finally claim a victory over your hoard of heroes!"

A flash of red and Vamirio was left empty handed and shocked beyond belief.

"Sorry little miss, but this is a cause I'd be willing to temporarily turn evil for."

A flash of black and the Chin was just as dumbfounded.

"This is for the good of all life on earth. I cannot let you ruin that."

A flash of blue and- Wait, what?

Luke tried to follow where that blur had gone. What he found was Stocking, holding the Grail in one hand, and wiping her mouth with the other.

"Has anyone ever told you guys that you talk too much?"

With a pop a tiny black card appeared in the air in front of her. She giggled, snatched it up, and quickly got to coveting the thing.

"What-" Luke started. "What is that?"

"Black Heaven Express Card with infinite heavens on it."

"You." The Chin said, his normally heroic voice wavering with anger. "You sacrificed all our hopes and dreams... for a credit card?"

"Well I wouldn't have if you guys had hurried it the fuck up and just wished for something already."

"Stocking..." Vamirio's mouth hung open. "I... Why..."

"Don't worry about it babe, I'll treat you to a fancy dinner later. I can afford it now."

Vamirio's face sunk into her hands.

"I suppose I should've seen this coming."

And with that everything went white.

Chapter Text

When Clint reappeared inside the Hub, a lot of things happened at once. A lot of terrible, horrible, really unfortunate things.

Grim was in the exact same position they'd left him in. Clint didn't really have time to wonder how or why the winner was determined in the microsecond between them leaving and them arriving, and he certainly didn't have time to come to the conclusion that it probably had something to do with the satellite's perfect time loop presetting the winners. The only thing Clint did have time to register was the beam from Grim's scythe, still flying through the air right at where he had been. Now he wasn't there, Bravestarr was. Clint definitely didn't have time to wonder why that position switch happened.

But, Bravestarr was still holding Danzo's hands behind him, and through some of the unluckiest positioning Clint had seen in his life, Danzo was now situated directly between Grim and Bravestarr.

The beam from Grim's scythe hit Danzo straight on. From there, all Clint heard was a shattering of metal, and all of the sudden Bravestarr and Grim were both knocked to the ground, and Danzo was gone, along with Grim's scythe.

Clint blinked a few times, perhaps hoping against hope that what just happened didn't actually just happen.

"Oh no." Grim said, the realization slowly dawning on him. "Oh no. How could this happen?"

"You fucking" Stocking was struggling to find the words. "Stupid... shitting... moronic... ass... fucking... ass fuck!"

"Hey, no need to get mean about it."

"You heard me bitch, you are an ASS FUCK. The physical manifestation of getting fucked in the ass. All the pains of anal personified into someone too stupid to be alive so he just fucking died instead. What the fuck is wrong with you, you let Danzo take your scythe you fucking... FUCKING..."

"Idiot?"

Stocking turned to glare at whoever spoke, but he expression softened as soon as she saw her.

"Hey, Vamirio, when did you get here?"

Vamirio, and indeed the rest of her team, approached from around the corner.

"The same time as you, presumably."

"We planned from the beginning to bring the final two teams back at the end for a little afterparty." Grim said. "Speaking of which, Danzo's team were actually the winners by the way." He gave an obligatory golf clap. "We'll send you that credit card in the mail."

"In the mail?"

"Well when you wish for a physical object, you won't be able to keep it on you after the game ends. So we send it to you through the mail."

"This all seems very not important." Clint said. "Can we focus on what Danzo's gonna do with an all powerful scythe?"

"I don't think it's unimportant." Pfle noted quietly.

All eyes were on her.

"Danzo will not be able to keep the scythe after his time clone is destroyed in 24 hours. So whatever he's going to do with it, he's going to do now."

"Teleport to the surface and hand the scythe off to his real self?" Bravestarr offered.

"Well he can't do that." Grim said. "You didn't think I would've filmed this all when any of you were walking around, did you?"

"He could just use the scythe to go to when he is alive." Stocking pointed out.

"No," Clint crossed his arms and shook his head. "No, I don't think he's going to just use the scythe to try and make himself all powerful. He doesn't seem like the flashy type of ruler, it just makes him a target."

"You mean like now?" Luke said.

"Archer-san." Dokuro spoke up. "Do you remember what Danzo-san said when he left us after the beach?"

"Um, not exactly. A lot's happened since then."

"He left because he didn't want to follow the rules, he thought if he could get to the Grail before anyone else, even if he cheated, it'd be the easiest to get the wish."

"You don't think..." Grim started.

"That he's going to use the scythe to make another go at the Grail?" Clint finished. "It's certainly possible."

"That was quite deductive of you, lil pard."

Dokuro gave a wide and toothy smile. "I cheat a lot."

"So," Vamirio said. "So what now then? Can you make us time clones back at the castle?"

"You're so smart." Stocking said, gripping onto her arm.

Grim shook his skull. "Won't work. If he used the scythe to go back, that would light a singularity, putting him in a history that the satellite doesn't exist in."

"God, I hate time travel." Clint muttered.

"Hold on," Luke said. "When did we even get sent to on that last mission?"

"That's an excellent point, Luke." Pfle said.

Luke blinked at her.

"The Battle of Camlann doesn't have a specific recorded date. The only people who would know when it occurred-"

"Would be the ones who sent us back there." Bravestarr finished.

"Excellent!" The Crimson Chin yelled out. "These superhero group huddles are always so productive! I'm off!"

"Chin, stop." Pfle said.

The Chin froze in his takeoff position.

"It's not smart to run off into this battle alone."

"She's got a point." Clint said. "We all went after Danzo without the scythe and whatever that magic beam did to him, and we still didn't even really beat him."

"Oh, fucking finally."

Clint faltered for a second, he didn't realize at first that the voice, while familiar, was not any of the 10 people already gathered in a circle here.

"I was waiting for an appropriately dramatic beat to make my grand entrance."

Kyu floated from around the corner, looking smugger than Clint had ever seen her.

Chapter Text

"Oh hey, slutania, the fuck are you doing here?" Stocking asked.

"Saving your flabby ass, skankosaurus. And here I thought you all couldn't fuck it up more than you already had. Fortunately, I've come to help fix everything."

"Look no offense, but what in the shit is a love fairy gonna do to fix this? You planning on going down on him as a distraction?"

Kyu held up on hand and snapped.

"That's the cue ladies and gentlemen!"

And from around every bend they came. 4 Masters, 5 including Kyu herself, 14 Servants, every team Clint had faced up until this point surrounded them on all sides.

"How in the hell?" Clint asked.

"They make copies of your handcuffs, and the keys, back in the weapons factory. One of those and a shit ton of catalysts, and I bring you a proper fucking army."

"Howdy there, Marshal." Tex Hex said as he stepped forward. "Fancy meeting you here."

"Tex Hex." Bravestarr nodded back. "You feeling like putting our differences aside to do this thing?"

"Well, I'd considered it." Tex looked at Kyu with a sly smile. "But considering how big a pain in my side you are, and that this here is my gang, not no girlie's, I think the new plan is we pound you into the dirt."

"Oh." Clint said. "I don't really like that plan."

"Mr. Hex," Edgeworth said. "You must know we won't go along with this."

"You agreed, Mr. fancy-pants, you're part of my gang, you do as I say."

"I don't follow any human's orders." Archangel said, cracking his knuckles. "But I have personal business with the girl with the bat."

"Monsieur Worthington, no. Seeking out pointless revenge will only make the heart grow darker."

"I don't think his soul could get blacker if he picked up smoking." Kate added.

"Speaking of personal business," Zoro said, slipping a blade into his mouth. "You and me ain't finished yet, Archer."

"Stay your blade, Zoro." Kopaka said. "He did what he had to. This is war, and most soldiers don't get a second chance like we did."

"Bullshit. Nobody hurts my friends like that and gets to just walk away."

"Oh right!" Joe exclaimed. "You're that villain, and the rest of them must be working with you! I knew trusting a skeleton is always a bad idea."

"Hey!" Grim yelled out in indignation.

"Forget this." Creed snarled. "Just let me slice them all up, then I'll take on this Danzo guy myself."

"You'll only get yourself killed." Velvet said.

"So by all means, go ahead." Rasputin added.

"Don't give me any of that old man. I know you only brought me back because I'm your best chance at taking this guy down. That's why you didn't bother to try and resummon Popuko."

"I didn't resummon Popuko because I don't have a death wish."

"What in the hell are we even doing here?" Emmett asked Chronoa. "This isn't our fight and I don't much feel like dying for someone's personal vendetta. Not without getting paid at least."

"I dunno, I thought they seemed nice." Mako said. "Playing tennis with that angel girl was freaking AWESOME, following them around seems like a good way to find more extreme sports and debauchery!"

"Trust me on this one," Littlepip said. "Joining a group like this is a good way to get killed in your sleep."

"We're HERE," Chronoa crossed her arms. "Because this Danzo guy is posing a legit threat to the timeline, and as the New Time Patrol its our job to stop that."

"Yeah," Emmett said. "It'll be my job when you start paying me."

"I gotta say, Kyu," Clint said. "I'm impressed. You somehow, some way, managed to make this situation a million times worse than it already was."

Kyu scratched her head and gave a nervous laugh. "They seemed so agreeable on the way over here."

"Alright, that's it." Stocking walked over and aimed a kick straight into Grim's back. He collapsed onto his hands and knees, and Stocking stepped up onto him like a stool. "Everybody SHUT THE FUCK UP!"

The din quieted down at Stocking's command.

"Alright now here's the shit, dick pickles. Every single fucking one of us has a couple things in common, we're all a bunch of bitches and assholes."

"Hey!" Joe yelled. "I resent that, I'm a hero!"

"Did I say you could talk, nerd?"

"Hey, you can't talk to him like that!" Velvet spoke up.

Stocking flipped her the bird. "Shut your mouth while I'm talking or I'll fuck you like a rabbit deserves."

Velvet looked horrified at the comment.

"That's better. Now as I was saying, each one of us is rotten and selfish to our disgusting core. But more than that, the one thing we all have in common is that we all want to kick the everloving crap out of each other for getting in our fucking way. Well guess what, asswipes. If Danzo is allowed to get to that Grail, that's all going to end very soon. You won't get to throw 3 punches before he'll have you sucking each other off just to be polite. Unless you want to deal with the entire world getting its ass plowed by an old pervert who's going to get his panties twisted if any of this assholes living in his village get a scraped knee, the most self-serving thing you can all do is shut up and nut up and dogpile Danzo's ass like he resisted arrest, or else you're going to spend the rest of your miserable lives embroidering doilies and saying good morning to your neighbors like a bunch of elderly, white bread pussies. Do I have your fucking attention now?"

No response, the entire scene was completely silent, save for the clacking of Grim's bones as he shook, struggling to hold up Stocking weight. But each person in the circle was staring at Stocking in rapture.

"Alright, shitheads. Now the question is, are we going to let that asshole fuck us all over? Or are we going to show him what happens when you fuck with the baddest motherfuckers in all of time and space?"

Buffaloman gave a shout. The silence now broken, a dozen more people among the crowd shouted out their own agreement.

"Then quit your bitching and agree to put up with one another long enough for us to get this shit over with!"

More yells of agreement. Tex Hex stepped forward.

"Alright new plan. We'll follow your lead, girlie. First we deal with this Danzo loser, then we go after the Marshal."

"We still have no reason to do what you tell us, what, just cause you told us to?" Kate said.

"Saber, if you would."

In an instant, Saber was standing in front of Kate, her invisible blade leveled directly at her throat.

"Alright, that's a pretty compelling argument."

"Good. So are we all in agreement, or does anyone else want to speak up?"

Nobody felt up to it.

"Fucking fantastic." Stocking said. "Now let's go do this shit so we never have to ever deal with each other ever fucking again!"

The crowd gave a roar of approval.

With one last pump of her fist in the air, Stocking stepped off of Grim's back, where he quickly collapsed.

"That was quite a speech Stocking." Bravestarr said. "I'm impressed."

"Yes, it was quite, um..." Vamirio searched for the words. "Stirring."

"The secret to public speaking is to speak from the heart. And I'd love to sit around and have everyone felate me some more, but we have some old man ass to kick."

Chapter Text

The logic was, if Danzo needed to find his way back to the Grail, he'd go through the people working behind the scenes to figure out just where and when to go. This was all but confirmed when the group of them appeared just outside where Danzo had made his tunnel last time to see another, brand new tunnel there. Wider and cleaner than any of the previous handmade tunnels had been, this one actually looked like it could comfortably accommodate more than one person at a time.

And standing in front of it was a massive creature. With bandages around its head, like Danzo's own, a body like a tiger, an elephant's trunk, a warthog's tusks, and a long, pointed beard, and standing over three times as tall as any of the people there.

"Shit." Archer said. "We have to get through this thing again?"

"It's a distraction method." Bravestarr said. "Danzo's trying to buy time and split us up."

"Well, it doesn't look like something we can just walk around."

"Everyone, go on ahead." A booming voice made itself heard over the nervous crowd. "Because now, it's my turn!"

Shun extended his duel deck and drew his first hand of cards.

"I place a trap card face down, then summon Raidraptor - Fuzzy Lanius to the field!"

"The futz is he doing?" Archer asked.

"He does this shit, it's weird, let's just go." Stocking assured him.

As Shun placed the card down, a purple and black monster appeared, looking not unlike a swan, but with deadly, precise machinery instead of flesh and feathers.

Fuzzy Lanius took to the air, circling around the enemy monster and drawing its attention. It dive bombed the monster, not having a high enough ATK to actually harm it, but it angered the monster. It reared up on its hind legs, and the rest of the group scrambled around its thrashing to get into the tunnel. Shun smiled. The monster also smiled, opening its maw wide and creating a vortex of wind leading into it. Fuzzy Lanius attempted to escape the current, but ultimately succumbed to the monster's power. As soon as it entered the monster's jaws, it chomped down, crushing the Raidraptor into spare parts.

"It matters not, I activate Raidraptors - Fuzzy Lanius' Effect, if this monster is sent to the graveyard I can take one Raidraptors - Fuzzy Lanius from my deck and add it to my hand. Now it's my turn, I normal summon the Raidraptors - Fuzzy Lanius onto the field. Then, I special summon Raidraptors - Retrofit Lanius, which takes on the same name as Raidraptors - Fuzzy Lanius. But my turn doesn't end here. I activate my spell card, Raidraptors - Nest. With this, if I control two Raidraptors that share a name, I can take a third from my deck or graveyard and add it to my hand, which means the Fuzzy Lanius you destroyed is coming back to me. I then lay another trap card face down and end my turn."

Fuzzy Lanius reappeared, this time joined by a slender, green mechanical bird with thin spikes protruding from its sides instead of wings.

The monster roared in anger, then began to inhale again. Fuzzy Lanius shot up into the air, but Retrofit Lanius wasn't fast enough, getting caught back in the vortex again.

"I activate my trap card, Adversity! With this, if one of my monsters is targeted by an attack and has less ATK than the monster attacking it, then it cannot be destroyed. And since you previously destroyed my Raidraptors - Fuzzy Lanius, which has a DEF of 1500, I know Raidraptors - Retrofit Lanius with its ATK of 800 doesn't quite fit the bill."

Just as the monster was about to bite down, a circular, glowing green shield enveloped the Retrofit Lanius, stopping the creature's bite and causing it to howl out in pain. Retrofit Lanius flew out from the monster's mouth and retook its place next to Fuzzy Lanius.

"I now summon Raidraptors - Fuzzy Lanius from my hand. I then overlay these three monsters to form Xyz Material and summon my Xyz Monster. Obscured falcon. Raise your claws sharpened by adversity! Spread your wings of rebellion! Xyz Summon! Come forth! Raid Raptors - Rise Falcon!"

The three Raidraptors formed together, becoming one ball of light. The light took form, and as it dimmed, hovering before the monster was a much larger monster, green and blue metal with two sets of wings and an elongated neck ending in a fierce head adorned with a crest of plumage. Three pink balls of light spun around the Raidraptor in an orbit.

The monster, evidently tired of using its vortex, leaped forward. It disappeared for an instant from Shun's sight, but reappeared just above Rise Falcon. It brought its mighty claw down, slicing Rise Falcon cleanly in four. Sparks of electricity crackled from the severed wires before it disappeared.

The monster stared into Shun's eyes. Shun stared back.

"One of the first thing I learned when the people of my dimension were attacked, is that when it comes to war, rushing in headfirst is a good way to end up dead. Even if it looks like you hold an advantage, someone with a plan will always be able to outmaneuver your efforts."

With that he grabbed a green card from his hand and slammed it down.

"I activate my spell card, Rank-Up-Magic Doom Double Force! With it, I can special summon it back onto the field, and then use it as Xyz Material to special summon an Xyz Monster of double its rank. Dauntless falcon. Hoist up the flame of anger, and become the flash of light that sears the land to ash! Rank-Up Xyz Change! Soar! Rank 8! Raid Raptors - Satellite Cannon Falcon!"

Rise Falcon returned to its place next to Shun, then quickly became consumed by light. The two topmost wings became thick energy cannons, the lower pair turning into thrusters. As the light faded, Satellite Cannon Falcon's red, white, and gold plating became visible, its crest now blood red and hiding its eyes.

Energy started building around Satellite Cannon Falcon's chestpiece. A second later and it fired, forming an energy beam thicker around than the monster, disintegrating the ground underneath it and sending it crashing down the floor below. Shun hopped onto Satellite Cannon Falcon's back, allowing it to lower him gently down before his own footing gave way. Through the smoke and dust that filled the air, Shun couldn't see whether that attack had been enough to put the monster down.

And then it lunged through the smoke. Shun made sure to speak quickly.

"I activate my trap card, Overlay Armor. With it, I can sacrifice one Xyz Material in exchange for protecting my Satellite Cannon Falcon!"

The monster brought down its claw, but bounced off Satellite Cannon Falcon's new, magenta chestpiece without leaving a scratch. Shun hopped down to the ground.

"Next, I activate my spell card, Rank-Up-Magic Skip Force. I can target any Xyz Monster on my side of the field and convert it to Xyz Material to special summon an Xyz Monster of 2 ranks higher. Falcon of ultimate creation... Fly to victorious heights with the wills of your countless comrades! Rank-Up Xyz Change! Come forth! Rank 10! Raid Raptors - Ultimate Falcon!"

Satellite Cannon Falcon dissolved into light, its cannons and thrusters melding together to form a halo of sharp, pointed wings. As the light faded, their golden sheen was revealed, contrasting Ultimate Falcon's navy blue body. Two red gemstones embedded the wings, with a third shining on its forehead. Ultimate Falcon shot forward, creating a slipstream that Shun had to shield himself from. It spun around the monster, slashing at the beast with the tips of its wings, but while the monster flinched back, it seemingly took no damage. Ultimate Falcon then took to the sky, building a sphere of dark energy around its chest, before launching it down at the beast. The monster took the hit to its back, but quickly stood back up to full height and roared.

It leaped up into the air to meet Ultimate Falcon, but this time its claws weren't sharp enough to pierce the Raidraptor's hide.

"Raidraptor - Ultimate Falcon's Effect automatically reduces all enemy ATK by 1000 points, so while we may still be unable to harm you, the same finally goes in return. Now, for what will be, one way or another, my final turn, I sacrifice my spell card, Rank-Up-Magic Raid Force to the graveyard. By doing so, I can return any Rank-Up-Magic card from the graveyard to my hand. I then activate again, Rank-Up-Magic Skip Force, allowing me to convert Raidraptor - Rise Falcon into more Xyz Material and Xyz Summon an Xyz Monster 2 ranks higher than it! Falcon of my very soul, with your heart of unwavering conviction and deep affection, become my sturdy last defense and descend! Rank Up Xyz Change! Appear! Rank 12! Raid Raptors - Final Fortress Falcon!"

Final Fortress Falcon was as tall as the Hub itself. Two massive thrusters, each the size of Rise Falcon, elongated wings shooting behind it, cannons positioned along its back, and a pair of giant legs on which it stood. Its head looked minuscule in comparison, but shined gold with glowing green eyes glaring at the monster beneath it.

"Final Fortress Falcon, attack!"

Ports along Final Fortress Falcon's back opened up, each one shooting forth a salvo of missiles that exploded around and on the monster's body. And finally, it flinched back, falling down to one knee and wincing. Final Fortress Falcon saw the moment of weakness, and gave the monster no quarter. Each of the cannons along its back tilted, pointing directly at the monster. Energy gathered around their barrels for but on second, and then they fired. Beams of blue energy shot down onto the monster, all concentrating on one spot, the creature's forehead. It gave out one last distressed cry, and then Final Fortress Falcon's attack pierced, driving through the monster's head and drilling straight through down and out its chin.

The monster lay on the ground, eyes staring at nothing, before it disappeared into smoke.

"And with that, I end my turn."

Chapter Text

Danzo pressed the woman's head against her desk with the staff of the scythe.

"Please." she begged. "I'll tell you whatever, they don't pay enough to keep secrets."

"Has anyone ever told you, that you all talk too easily?"

"What do you want from me then?"

"It was just an observation. I want to know where and when the Grail is being kept."

"Shit." The woman groaned under the pressure. "I don't know that. They don't tell us shit."

"Probably because you talk too easily."

"Okay, listen, go out the door, take a left, five doors down, that guy works in temporal distribution, he probably knows something."

"So you mean to say that you're useless to me."

"I mean, wait, no, I- I helped you."

Danzo spun the scythe in his hand, bringing the sharpened end up, and prepared to swing down.

The door exploded off its hinges.

"Stop right there, Danzo!" The Crimson Chin bellowed. Stella was standing wordlessly by his side. "In the name of all that is mandibular and priced at 4.99 an issue, you will be stopped!"

Danzo gave a moment of pause, and turned wordlessly towards the Chin. The woman jumped out of her chair and scrambled away towards the back of the room.

"You think you pose any challenge to me? Now? I could unmake you with a thought."

To demonstrate, he pointed the scythe at the Chin and fired a green bolt of energy. A bolt of energy which struck the Chin and seemingly did nothing, leaving him as perfectly fine as he had ever been.

"Ha! Jokes on you Danzo, you can't unexist something that-" The Chin's heroic visage faltered for a moment. His eyes watered and his lip quivered. "That doesn't exist in the first place oh ON THE NAME OF MARLON BRANDO WHY?! Why must I be cursed with this knowledge?!"

The Chin collapsed onto his knees, hands covering his face as he bawled his eyes out. Stella looked at him with something approaching pity. Danzo prepared to finish them both off, when from over their head flipped a new figure, Viewtiful Joe.

"Don't worry CC." he said, striking a few unnecessary poses. "Feel your feelings, I'll take care of this bad guy!"

He struck a pose approximating a fighting stance, Stella meanwhile readied her cannon.

"Fine." Danzo said. "The hard way."

Stella readied her cannon and launched a burst of energy beams, each one curving mid-air to lock on and shoot towards Danzo.

Halfway through their flight, however, they suddenly doubled speed, and with them Joe shot forward, fire burning at his heels.

It hardly mattered though.

Danzo ducked through the array of energy beams and slipped forward. Joe met him and threw out a punch, one that Danzo blocked with the staff of the scythe.

"Mach speed!" Joe launched a barrage of punches, moving fast enough that his entire body was on fire now. A casual onlooker might mistake him for having grown multiple arms, each punch seemingly wasn't even waiting for the previous one to finish before launching itself. Danzo blocked every single one.

Joe faltered for one moment, long enough for Danzo to swat the rocket that Stella had fired out of the air, and Danzo responded by shifting his body to the side, just in time for the energy beams to slam into his face and send him flying back.

Stella darted forward, drawing her katana and slashing at Danzo's throat as she passed him. Danzo effortlessly parried the attack and spun to face her down. She jumped back, her cannon shifting and firing a hail of bullets. Danzo spun the scythe, creating a fan that knocked the bullets away, leaving not a scratch on him. Stella's cannon shifted again, this time launching a large, dark, sphere of energy that fell to the ground. Danzo looked at the projectile with his sharingan, and saw the power building, waiting, a timed detonation no doubt.

Danzo lingered around the bomb. Stella's cannon shifted, this time growing a scope with which she fired a single bullet, this one travelling much faster than any of the previous. Danzo swung his scythe forward, slicing it out of the air. Danzo juked to run forward, just in time for the world to slow down around him.

He'd heard Joe's sloppy approach from behind of course, the child knew nothing of subtlety or stealth, and instead of running forward he leaped backwards, planting a foot on the back of Joe's head and shoving him forward, down into the bomb in time for it to explode as Danzo himself shot upwards to meet Stella, who had planned to leap over Danzo's charge.

She looked surprised as he swung his scythe up, piercing her clean through the chest. His swing continued overhead, and landed with the tip of the scythe impaling the ground and leaving Stella suspended just above it, face down.

"Stella! No!" The Crimson Chin broke from his waterworks to stare down Danzo. "You utter monster!"

The Chin shot forward, both fists out front, but Danzo wasn't worried about him yet. Instead he reached down, grabbing Joe by the throat and tightening his grasp. The child was quite small already, so it took Danzo very little effort to swing the arm holding him back, catching the Chin with an elbow to the face that knocked him out of his charge.

Danzo spun, slammed a flat palm into the Chin's chest to send him stumbling back. Then he kicked high, rocking the Chin underneath his prodigious jaw, before slamming his heel back down on top of his head to flatten him out on the ground.

Joe was broken now, so Danzo tossed him aside. He walked over and plucked the scythe from the ground, letting Stella's still body fall from it, and pointed the weapon at the Chin, just now getting to his feet, unleashing a torrent of pure heat from the blade. In an instant, the Chin was reduced to nothing but a pile of ash.

"Yowzah." For whatever reason, the pile kept the Chin's face. "I'm gonna need some aloe vera for that one."

Danzo stepped through the ash pile and moved through the door and out into the hallway.

As soon as he did, he was tackled from the side by Buffaloman. He held the scythe up, blocking his horns, but was still sent skidding back, back the opposite direction of destination, before he managed to sneak in a kick to Buffaloman's chest.

Danzo swung the scythe forward, impaling Buffaloman through the shoulder. Buffaloman opted to swing with his other hand. The sudden clothesline struck Danzo in the cheek and caused him to stumble back. He had to admit, it had actually hurt.

As Danzo and Buffaloman seperated however, Danzo had left the scythe stuck in Buffaloman's shoulder. He darted forward to grab it when a force lifted him off his feet and held him suspended in the air. Over Buffaloman's shoulder, Danzo could see Luke, holding a hand outwards, gripping the air.

Buffaloman charged again, catching Danzo in the chest with his head, he took him down the hallway, even further from his destination, before slamming him down, bouncing him off the ground where the force took hold of him once more. Over Luke's head, Archangel flew at Danzo. With a twist of one of his wings, he sent a cluster of pinions flying at where Danzo sat motionless in the air. Buffaloman began another charge.

Danzo drew a bit of chakra from within and channeled it into his sharingan as he stared Luke down. Luke saw Danzo drop from his hold, reach forward, grab the hilt of the scythe and pull on it to rip Buffaloman in half. Seeing this, his grip on the force was loosened, and Danzo dropped, reached forward, grabbed the hilt of the scythe, and pulled on it to rip Buffaloman in half. The pinions flew just over his head, as did Archangel. Danzo listened to the sounds of the currents of air he flew on, and noticed his u-turn before Archangel even properly decided to make it.

Danzo pointed the scythe forward, shooting a bolt of energy that caught Luke in the shoulder and stopped him from hoisting Danzo back into the air, for the moment at least. He then twirled the scythe in his hand and pointed the blade back through his armpit just in time for Archangel to run himself through on it. Danzo withdrew the blade, turned on his heels, and brought the blade down through his head, then kicked the body away.

Danzo turned back towards Luke and fired a couple more blasts of energy. By now, however, Luke had drawn his energy blade, the blasts rebounding off of it and flying into the nearby walls. Danzo rushed forward, hopefully faster than the kid could react, and brought the scythe down on him.

Unfortunately, Luke did react, bringing his blade up and pressing against the scythe's staff. On reaction, the scythe lit up with a similar energy, clashing with Luke's blade and sending sparks flying between them.

Danzo pulled back and switch his grip on the scythe, swinging the staff now instead of the blade. Luke was nowhere near fast enough to react reliably, somehow he was moving to block Danzo's strikes before Danzo even started to make them.

Something thumped into the back of Danzo's head.

"What the shit?"

Danzo clashed with Luke and turned his head to look behind him. There, he saw a bullet flying right towards his face. Instinctively he leaned out of the way, and the bullet flew past him right towards Luke. Luke got his blade up in time to block it, but unlike the blasts of energy, the bullet melted into slag and kept flying through, right into Luke, burning his clothes and causing him to flinch back. Danzo turned around fully, seeing Littlepip and Emmett standing behind him, each one holding up their own gun.

Emmett fired a single bullet from his revolver. Out of curiosity, Danzo simply reached out and grabbed at the bullet. When he opened his palm, his hand had not a scratch on it, and a crumpled bullet sat in his palm.

Footsteps came from behind him. He spun and saw Luke rushing him, blade held up high. Danzo easily parried the strike with the scythe, and put his focus back on dueling with Luke. Bullets bounced harmlessly off of Danzo's back as the two gunmen opened fire.

"Cutter," Emmett said. "Is there anything you can get down to me?"

Danzo barely heard the voice crackling from his earpiece.

"There's about a mile of rock between the surface and you. I'll start dropping bombs, see what I can clear out, it'll still take a minute though."

"I'll take what I can get at this point."

Danzo made a swipe that Luke swatted to the side, Luke countered with a slash that Danzo effortlessly blocked. Something made a whizzing sound from behind him, approaching fast. Danzo ran up the wall and flipped over the rocket as it passed underneath him. Luke dove out of the way. From above, a light rumbling could be heard.

Something closer was approaching. A young girl's voice.

"Just get out of the way and leave this to me. Conquest time!"

Emmett and Littlepip both ducked into a side room, as suddenly the hallway was filled with a giant, glowing yellow fist. It tore away at the nasty yellow walls, collapsing them down into woodchips and connecting the office rooms. Panicked workers from inside evacuated quickly after she passed over them.

Danzo spun the scythe, and blasted a hole in the ceiling. He then jumped up and started running along the fist, his head poking just inside the hole he'd created, moving fast enough to not move forward or backwards inside of it. When the fist finally ran out he saw Kate, pointed the scythe at her, and energy flashed. In a second the fist vanished and a very confused looking statue of Kate hit the ground.

The rumbling overhead grew heavier.

Creed blitzed around the nearest corner, a mad glint in his eye. His living blade snaked forward, attempting to slip between Danzo's defenses. It failed. Danzo spun the scythe, batting the sword away, then slicing at its face with the blade and causing it to recoil. He stepped forward, knocked aside Creed's hand and with a flash of steel, separated his head from his body.

He turned as another approached, Velvet, wielding a pair of gauntlets on her arms. He slashed for her throat with the scythe, she effortlessly weaved underneath it and slammed two punches into his gut. She aimed a third at his head, but he blocked with the scythe's staff, then spun to swing the blade up. She dodged to the side and countered with a haymaker that Danzo likewise dodged. He held the scythe up over his head and made to swing, but the scythe slipped from his grasp. He spared a second's glance to see Creed, fully whole again, with his blade gripping the scythe in its mouth with a cheeky smile. The blade lunged forward and swung the scythe, but Danzo rolled along the ground, under the swing and slammed a palm into Creed's chest. Creed went flying back to the far end of the hallway. The blade tried to extend to keep Danzo in reach, but quickly faltered and flew away along with its wielder.

Danzo turned back towards Velvet, she launched a hook that Danzo ducked under. He countered with a flat palm to the face, but she shifted her head to the side at the last second, then weaved under his roundhouse and took a step back.

Her gauntlets faded away. Danzo heard her muttering under her breath. "I can do this I can do this I can do this."

She created a copy of Creed's blade, the same face smiling at Danzo. She thrust the blade forward, it snaked forward and coiled around Danzo's arm. The blade, however, failed to cut through Danzo's skin. He yanked the girl forward by her blade and aimed a flat palm at her head. She moved as much as she could to avoid it, the strike grazing her cheek, and she responded with an identical strike to Danzo's chest.

She was not strong enough to match Danzo however. Simply performing the strike shattered the bones in her arm. Danzo took the moment of confusion to aim a strike at her good arm, shattering the bones in that as well and forcing the blade to disappear. He then grabbed her by the arms and swung her bodily around, just in time to intercept Creed, returning and attempting to swing the scythe at Danzo, and only succeeding at piercing Velvet through the midsection. Danzo yanked back on Velvet's body, tugging the scythe from Creed's grasp, grabbing it out of the air and sending it passing over Creed, turning him to ashes in a flash.

Danzo's ears picked up the faintest sound.

"Alright, I've got a visual."

"Drop an outpost then."

There was a moment of screaming noise as something big descended. That noise was soon replaced with the sound of the ceiling crashing in. A crate wider than the hallway and as high as the ceiling fell through right on top of Danzo.

Danzo held both of his hands up and braced himself.

He caught the crate, buckling only slightly under the impact, as it began to assemble itself, forming a proper building on top of Danzo. Danzo looked over his shoulder, seeing Emmett and Littlepip staring at the feat in disbelief. He responded by swinging the building down, letting it fall on top of them.

Gravity quickly took effect, but something stopped the building as it fell. Danzo moved into an adjoining room to look around the building, and saw Luke with one hand thrust into the air, sweating as he tried to keep the building floating above him. Emmett and Littlepip attempted to scamper away while they had the time. Danzo aimed the scythe and shot a blast of energy into Luke's shoulder. The building continued to fall on top of the three of them.

Danzo spared a glance upward, through the hole in the ceiling, through the hole in the cavern, and saw the midday sky. He also saw Rasputin flying up through it with the help of a glowing green demon.

Danzo paid it no mind and moved on.

Danzo moved past the next set of doors when something tapped him on the back of the head.

He turned around, more curious than anything, to see Edgeworth holding a fire extinguisher in both hands, looking incredibly fearful. He lazily swiped the scythe across the man's throat. He was incredibly surprised when it passed right through him. Danzo moved forward, attempting to grab at Edgeworth's face, and he watched as his hand melded through him without touching a thing.

And then Jeanne shot through the visage of Edgeworth, stabbing her blade through Danzo's stomach. The two of them did not stop shooting forward until they hit the wall, which Danzo's head rebounded off of. The pain wasn't helped much when Jeanne sent a pulse of light shooting through the wound.

Danzo gave a course laugh, observing Jeanne's face, the tears welling up in her eyes.

"A decent trick." he said. "You'll regret waiting for me to bleed out, however."

He brought the scythe up and tapped it against the back of Jeanne's neck. Her face shot to one of utter shock, then froze there. Slowly, her skin and armor was drained of color, become an ashy, sickly grey. After the color covered her completely, Danzo pushed himself off of the wall, and Jeanne, at the touch, crumbled into a pile.

Danzo held himself up with the scythe, pushing power through it. Slowly, his wound closed back up, leaving perfectly immaculate skin, still stained with his own blood, but it would be replaced soon.

He spotted Edgeworth darting out of a room down the hallway and attempting to run away. He casually drew a kunai from his robe and with a flick, sent it flying where it embedded into his back within seconds. Edgeworth fell over and Danzo stepped forward.

He had passed the door he was meant to go in earlier, so Danzo made his way back to that. He made it a few steps when the walls on either side of him exploded outwards. Dokuro and Mako both swung their spiked bats at him on opposite ends. Danzo stuck the scythe horizontally, catching both of them at once. Dokuro gave the situation a once over, then opted to slide her club down a little and swing that way. It caught Danzo in the side, and Dokuro released the swing to send it spinning forward, continuously striking Danzo's gut and pushing him into the room Mako had jumped out from.

Once the club returned to Dokuro's hand, Danzo was able to regain his footing. She swung again, and this time Danzo locked the bat into the crook of the scythe.

"You're mean!" Dokuro suddenly blurted out. "You're mean and a liar and... And you don't actually care at all about keeping people safe!"

Dokuro pulled the bat out of the trap and swung again, Danzo deflected the strike and slashed with the scythe, forcing Dokuro to go on the defensive and block.

"Everything a shinobi does, he does for the sake of his own village, and nothing more. If you expected better from me, then you've only set yourself up for disappointment."

As soon as Dokuro saw an opening in Danzo's offensive, she swung again. Quite predictably, Danzo might have noted. He pulled the scythe up, catching the club in the crook again, but this time he twisted his wrist and wrenched the club out of her grip and into his own. She was able to give one last dumbfounded look before Danzo swung, and Dokuro vanished into a torrent of blood that coated the far wall of the room like so much red paint.

Danzo cast the club to the side, and looked up just in time to see Mako coming down on him, a giant star shaped brass knuckle on one hand, one which she was currently using to slam down onto Danzo.

"You're gonna get it now, jerkpants!"

He blocked the strike with the staff of the scythe, but the floor underneath him began to crumble. Great chunks began to fall down into the floor below, and Danzo quickly lost his footing. He then quickly regained it, pushing off of the chunk of floor to jump to another falling chunk, pushing off that one to jump to another, and jumping from there back up into the room where he lunged at Mako with the scythe held forward. Mako responded by thrusting her fist forward, blocking the scythe with the metal on her fist. She was still sent skidding back, but her face was one of cocky defiance.

Danzo swung his scythe several more times, Mako blocked each swing by more or less punching the scythe away. When she had just the barest room to maneuver, Mako pulled her bat back out and swung. Danzo made to block the strike, but the scythe's blade cut clean through the bat, lopping the top off. Mako looked just as surprised as Danzo was then, when a salvo of missiles shot from newly opened end. Intentional or not, however, the missiles immediately locked onto Danzo.

Danzo took a couple steps back, then aimed the scythe up. Lightning arced from the blade, targeting each missile individually, drawing them together and forcing them to collide. Light flashed and when it faded, the salvo had turned into a singular, altogether much meaner looking missile with angry, crazy eyes and a jagged, toothy smile. The missile spun around midair and shot directly towards Mako, laughing maniacally as it went.

"Say whaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa-"

The missile struck Mako head on and exploded violently. Mako shot back from the explosion and didn't stop flying back until she'd passed through at least 20 walls.

Danzo finally made it close to his destination. Close enough that he could hear discussion from beyond the door.

"We're out of time, just put these on and try and remember the steps." A young woman's voice.

"I'll see about buying as much time as I can, just hurry it up." That was Archer. "And please, try not to futz it up."

"Don't worry about a thing, we'll show that bastard up if it's the last thing we do." A young man's voice.

"So does this mean we're on speaking terms now?"

"You don't get my respect until we get to finish that fight of ours. Just don't die until I get to kick your ass, alright?"

"Same goes for you."

Archer burst from the doorway. Danzo casually swatted him aside with the blunt end of the scythe, sending him flying through a wall.

He opened the door himself. Inside was no worker, given the commotion he'd be surprised if any of the workers were still hanging around. There was, however, something even better. At the very back of the room was the Grim Reaper, looking terrified despite not having a face. In front of him was Pfle, looking as calm as ever, although perhaps because she knew she couldn't be hurt anymore. In front of her was Bravestarr, Tex Hex, and Saber, and in front of them, Chronoa was affixing an earring onto Kopaka, Zoro stood confidently, already wearing an identical one.

Danzo looked around the room. Someone was missing. A few someones to be exact.

Chapter Text

Back in Kyu's old quarters, the ones that looked like a brothel for whatever reason, Stocking and Vamirio sat kneeling on one of the beds. Stocking had her tongue, like, all the way down Vamirio's throat. She quietly bemoaned how much more comfortable the beds were here than in her quarters, but then again that was the reason she'd brought Vamirio here instead.

Stocking's mouth moved from Vamirio's and she started nibbling along her ear. Vamirio got out a moan out while Stocking moved down to her neck, planting kiss after kiss along its length. Stocking moved back to her lips, but Vamirio stopped her with a couple of fingers, gently pushing her back.

"Wait, wait, this is... we can't..."

Stocking looked her over for a moment, then breathed onto her wrist and gave it a sniff.

"That's not what I mean, idiot. This all seems... really quite important. Shouldn't we at least try and help?"

Stocking went psh.

"Okay 1, there's like 20 fucking people there already. I don't even know how they're planning on all hitting that guy at once, you'd have to form a line or some shit. 2, whatever Danzo does to the humans, it ain't gonna affect either of us."

"But you went through all that trouble to get everyone so worked up to go fight Danzo."

"Well that was before I realized that being an angel meant I wouldn't be affected. I mean, I already got my wish, so who cares, right?"

Vamirio sighed.

"Just shut up, idiot."

Her lips grabbed back onto Stockings, and she instantly forgot any of the shit they were just talking about.

Chapter Text

Kyu stared through the bead curtains that barely constituted a wall in her old quarters at the two chicks making out in her bed.

"Holy shit this is hot." she whispered.

Chapter Text

Zoro and Kopaka both struck a bizarre pose, bent over at the waist and touching each other only at the fingers. They were consumed by a bright light, and when Danzo could look again, a new being altogether was standing there.

His radiant blue eyes were shielded by a pure white mask being worn on the top of his head. His white shirt, green belly warmer, and black pants were now outfitted with strips of white armor. In his left hand he held a white broadsword, in his right, a round shield, and in his mouth was clenched a long katana.

"Danzo." the amalgam growled. "I am Zoraka. And you're dead."

Zoraka swung his broadsword forward, following its path a massive spear of ice shot from the ground. Danzo swung the scythe, its blade glowing with red heat as it sheered the ice in two. Danzo hadn't moved an inch.

Zoraka roared as he launched forward, he slashed with broadsword, which Danzo parried with the scythe, but immediately followed it up with a swing from his katana, grazing Danzo's face. Danzo swung low with the scythe's hilt, which was parried by Zoraka's broadsword, then high with the blade, which was blocked by his shield.

Zoraka thrust his broadsword forward, Danzo blocked the hit but was sent skidding back through a wall. Then, through the hole, a dozen spears of of ice came flying in after him. Danzo began twirling the scythe, shredding each icicle as it came flying towards him, and then ended by firing a blast of heat. Zoraka blocked the blast with his shield. Moving into the hit, Zoraka then threw his shield forward. Danzo parried the hit, but in that time, Zoraka was above his head and thrusting his broadsword down. Danzo poured chakra into his sharingan, using genjutsu to make Zoraka believe he'd been felled by the hit while he actually darted forward and slashed at him while he was exposed. The scythe however, passed right through Zoraka, and for the second time Danzo realized he'd attacked an illusion.

Danzo's gaze turned as he spun on his heels, facing Zoraka. He swung the scythe, firing a giant blade of energy that carved through what remained of the walls and support beams between them. Zoraka responded by swinging his broadsword, creating an equally large slash of ice, which collided with Danzo's and created a massive gust of wind. While Danzo shielded himself, however, Zoraka followed up with a slash from his katana, this one seemingly made of wind. Danzo didn't have a hope of blocking or intercepting it, he leaned out of the way but the explosion had thrown him off balance and he hadn't made it quite far enough. The slash lopped off his left arm, Danzo winced as the pain made its way into his brain, but he was undaunted. Without the sharingan, it was useless to him anyways.

Zoraka charged Danzo again. Fighting him off had been hard enough with two arms, with only one, Danzo was quickly going to be overwhelmed.

A true shinobi, however, must consider all of his options in any given circumstance.

Danzo swung the scythe, this time not aiming the slash through flesh but through time itself. A swirling green portal appeared between the two men, Zoraka having leaped through the air to attack Danzo had no way of stopping his momentum. Zoraka vanished, the portal closing up before he could have a hope of making it back through.

Danzo huffed and raised the scythe to his stump, using the heat to cauterize the wound and stop the bleeding. He took only a moment to gather his composure, then made his way back towards the room.

More discussion was coming from the room.

"Everything's quieted down." Chronoa said. "You think they did it?"

"The robot guy or the madman with a scythe?" An older voice, most likely Tex Hex.

"I don't know anyone who can go toe to toe with a fusion like that and come back."

Danzo responded by kicking the door open and blasting a hole through Chronoa's chest.

"S- S- S- S- S- Saber!" Tex Hex stammered. "K- Kill him! Do it already!"

"As you command."

Saber shot forward, almost fast enough to catch Danzo by surprise. Almost. She thrust her invisible sword forward, Danzo watched the energy forming the blade with his sharingan, and used the staff of the scythe to block the absolute tip. He maneuvered out of the way of the blade, shifted the scythe to catch the blade in the crook, slid it down to the handguard and twisted the blade out of her hands. He moved into the motion, catching her head with a reverse roundhouse and grounding her. He shot a beam from the scythe, this one did no harm to Saber whatsoever.

She got back to her feet and recalled her blade to her.

"Saber!" Tex Hex yelled. "What in tarnation are you doing, I said kill him!"

Saber instead turned towards Tex Hex, and there he saw her blank glassy eyes.

"Whadarya- I am your Master, you will do as I say! I- I use a command seal, stop coming at me and kill that Danzo!"

Saber didn't stop in her approach, and Tex Hex continued to yell at her up until the point where she ran her blade through his chest and he collapsed to the ground. She then turned her blade on herself and stabbed herself through the chest, and joined him.

"Only you and me now, huh?" Bravestarr said, putting up his fists.

"You honestly believe you can take me on? By yourself?"

"I only believe one thing, Danzo. I have to try. "Speed of the Puma!"

Bravestarr shot towards Danzo in a blur of white and yellow. Danzo grabbed him by the throat and held him above the ground.

Bravestarr kicked at Danzo, struggled to pull his hands away, but he may as well have been trying to move the earth itself. He barely gasped out "Strength... of... the Bear..." but ultimately it changed nothing. His struggles eventually slowed to a stop, and then Bravestarr was still in Danzo's hand. He cast the body aside.

"Danzo." Pfle nodded respectfully, as if she wasn't surrounded by corpses, or perhaps simply like she was used to being in such a situation.

"Do not attempt to stop me, girl. I may not have forgotten your newfound immunity, but the scythe has many ways to stop you other than physical harm."

"I understand this, and I had no intention of underselling the power you now wield. I'm just confused is all. When we fought for the Grail the first time, you had to give up on your wish to attack me. How can you still fight for it?"

"Because I have a new wish now. If I cannot physically stop humanity from killing each other, I must take away their will to do so. I will remove the original sin from humans, return them to a docile, cooperative state. And only then will my village finally be safe."

"But you must realize-"

Danzo pointed the scythe at her and fired a bolt of energy. In an instant, Pfle's mouth disappeared. She seemed only a little surprised at this development.

"Now Reaper, you will tell me what I wish to know."

Danzo raised the scythe above his head. Grim faltered back, hands over his head.

"537!" he blurted out. "April 27, 537, focus on the word 'Camelot'."

Danzo lowered the scythe, analyzing the Reaper's demeanor. After a moment, he turned and left the room, closing the door behind him and melting the handle and locking mechanism with the scythe.

He swung the scythe through the fabric of time again. And this time he himself stepped through it.

Chapter Text

"There's still a chance, right?" Grim asked Pfle.

Pfle said nothing.

"There has to be a chance. There's always a chance. There's no way he could actually do it, right?"

Pfle still said nothing. She gave Grim a look, like she was wondering what he honestly expected from her.

"Right. Cause, yes it all makes sense. If he had actually been able to do it, then there wouldn't be all these dead bodies everywhere, of course. But, then if he did actually do it, he wouldn't be able to have taken the scythe and gone back to do it anyways? How do singularities work, I- I've never had to deal with a real one before."

Pfle rolled her eyes.

"God, I hate time travel."

Chapter Text

Clint woke up in a pile of rubble. He was more than a little embarrassed at having been taken out so easily. Wasn't he supposed to be an Avenger? One of earth's mightiest heroes? And he got taken out by a backhand.

And then Clint remembered where he was, and the panic set in. He tried to force it down, reminded himself over and over again, they weren't real people. None of them were real, he wasn't even real, and not in the usual way, he wasn't even real fake Clint, he was fake fake Clint. Somehow the existentialism that came from that thought was more soothing than anything. Somewhere all these people were actually just relaxing at home, sipping some tea and reading a good book. Somewhere, real fake Clint was passed out asleep, having some weird dream about chasing banana men at a carnival or something. It wasn't real, none of this was real, the only real thing would be if Danzo managed to actually get his hands on the Grail again. The thought drove him forward, which in this case meaning he was able to push himself to his feet.

He stepped cautiously out into the hallway. To his left was an entire building lying sideways in the middle of his hall, to his right-

SHIT.

To his right, a glowing portal of swirling green energy sat dead in the middle of the hallway, the last of Danzo's robe disappearing through it. Clint booked it, booked it faster than he'd ever had to book it before, booked it like that shit was a sequel to a New York Times Bestseller. He was feet away from the portal when it started to close up, there was no time, there was never time.

Clint pushed off the ground and jumped.

Chapter Text

Danzo appeared at the entrance to the castle. He stared out over the battlefield, across the sloping, grassy hills, across the men and women fighting and dying and killing one another. In the distance he could see the cathedral, sitting as square as it had been the last time Danzo had his eyes set on it.

He started walking forward. A man with a greatsword gave a battle cry and charged him. Danzo lazily swung the scythe and cut him in half. He did the same with the next attacker. And thus, he began to work his way through the battlefield.

Chapter Text

Clint landed on his stomach and let out an "oof." He felt at the ground beneath him. It was mossy stonework, pale grey bricks. He breathed a sigh of relief, he'd actually made it. One last chance to stop Danzo. He looked up and the relief caught in his chest.

The entire battlefield was dead. Soldiers lay bisected, decapitated, cut into ribbons more ways than Clint ever wanted to know was possible. Those that weren't laying dying had been transformed into stone statues. Those that didn't still have a body were nothing more than piles of ash.

Clint ran across the plains, taking in as little of the sights as he could. These weren't time clones or fake people, these had been real living people who were born and would have died, if not here then somewhere else, living full, complete lives.

This was the first change Danzo had made to history.

Clint would've loved to run past everything, focus on the mission at hand, he would've loved to ignore it when he found the one living person remaining on the battlefield. Instead, he ran over to her, lifting her head up slightly.

It was that Saber woman, the one who had been Tex Hex's Servant. She had a hole cut straight through her chest and out her back.

"Hey. Hey!" Clint shook her, trying to keep her conscious. "Stay with me, okay. You're going to be alright."

"Who are you... archer?" she asked weakly.

"Got it in one, name's Archer, now don't move, I'm going to see about sealing up these wounds, okay?"

"Archer... I am... Arturia Pendragon... king of the Brits. Don't concern yourself with me... I... knew... I was destined to die here... go... escape this massacre... Live..."

Arturia collapsed back into Clint's hands, eyes focusing only on the grey sky above her before they relaxed and went still. Clint layed Arturia back onto the ground.

Fuck.

Chapter Text

The scythe's handle tapped along the marble floors as Danzo entered the cathedral. What he had done on the battlefield, it was likely to change little, but he could feel the energy swirling around him. This wasn't like viewing chakra with his sharingan, this time it was actually tangible. The current of change that poured through the annals of time.

Danzo slowly walked into the middle of the cathedral.

The singularity was lit.

Chapter Text

Clint burst through the big double doors of the cathedral. He quickly, one might say immediately realized that that had been a huge mistake. As soon as he entered, Danzo looked over his shoulder, staring Clint down with that freaky red eye of his.

Chapter Text

Danzo shot towards Archer. He slammed the scythe's handle into both of Archer's shins, hearing the crunch of bone under each hit. Archer fell to his knees. He reached behind him to pull an arrow from his quiver. Danzo beat him to it, grabbing every arrow from it, snapping them all in half with one tug and tossing the pieces behind him, out of Archer's reach. Archer reached into his pocket, pulling out a small device, Danzo batted it out of his reach with a flick of the scythe.

Archer kneeled on the ground, winded and breathing heavily. He was clearly going over the options in his head, and clearly coming to the conclusion that there was nothing he could do.

If Danzo was merciful, he would kill the man now. Unfortunately for him, Danzo was not feeling particularly merciful to this thorn in his side.

Instead he turned, walking back towards the back of the cathedral. He lifted the scythe and pointed it at the slab. With a burst of energy, it collapsed into dust, and just beyond it was an altar, atop which say the Holy Grail.

Chapter Text

Clint was scrambling to think of what he could possibly do in this situation, he had to be able to do something. He was the world's greatest marksman, if he could get his hands on something, literally anything, it would be enough.

But everything he had on him had been tossed away before he'd had a chance to use it. And the cathedral was in a perfect state, the wood on the door frame wouldn't chip if Clint went at it with a chisel. He started patting himself down, maybe there'd be something on him. His glasses, where were his glasses?

Nowhere on him, that's where his glasses were, he must've dropped them somewhere. He wondered where briefly, but that really didn't matter right now.

Come on Clint, there had to be something. There had to be SOMETHING.

He felt a lump in his pocket.

It took him a second to realize what it was.

Dammit.

Clint reached into his pocket and pulled out his toothbrush. He had to force down the instinct to cling onto it with dear life, it was his toothbrush after all. But no, it was another fake, just like him.

He took his bow off from his shoulders, placed the toothbrush against the bowstring, inhaled, drew the bowstring back, took aim, released, and exhaled.

Chapter Text

Danzo was standing just in front of the Holy Grail. At the bottom of the chalice sat a tiny puddle of auburn liquid. Untouched by the ages, looking like glass in its stillness, with not a speck of dust floating in it.

He reached forward to grab the Grail. To claim his prize.

His ear twitched. Something was wrong, it was a sound, a subtle sound, Danzo didn't realize what it was until it was too late. With a tiny plink, the most insignificant sound in the world, Archer's purple toothbrush bounced off the Grail, tipping it over. The liquid spilled onto the ground, where it fizzled, boiled when it came into contact with anything other than the Grail, and disappeared.

Chapter Text

Clint was pretty sure he was about to die. But something about the situation, he couldn't help smiling at it, laughing. Even when Danzo had his one remaining hand wrapped around his throat.

Chapter Text

Danzo was intent on crushing the life out of Archer, as slowly and painfully as possible. He didn't care about the scythe clattering to the ground behind him, he'd do this with his hands, prove that he didn't need its jutsu to kill a pathetic weakling like Archer. Even at his most unmerciful, he had spared the whelp too much. He should have killed the lot of them when he moved behind the scenes. He should have killed Archer the moment he summoned him.

Danzo's thought process was interrupted by a small beeping sound from behind him. He turned to see the Master, the one with the time travelling box, running a small device over the scythe.

"Yep, that should about do it."

Danzo was left baffled for just a moment, but once it had passed he threw a punch, ready to separate the man's head from his body. Instead, however, the punch connected with the palm of a large, purple hand. The gargoyle smiled at Danzo, gripping his wrist tighter than anything should be able to. And with a simple motion, he flipped Danzo into the air and slammed him down into the marble hard enough to indent in it.

The gargoyle did this a few more times, swinging Danzo around like a ragdoll, each hit splintering more marble on the cathedral's floors. When he finally let go, Danzo was winded, too tired to move.

"What..." he groaned. "What did you do."

"Undid all the spells cast by the scythe in the last 24 hours, why?"

"You... little..." Danzo struggled to push himself up onto his hands.

"Woah there." The one Archer had called Tony a lifetime ago stepped forward and splayed his hand. A cord ejected from the slats in his palm, wrapping around Danzo and tightening, binding his arms to his side. "You're not going anywhere big guy."

Tony slung Archer's arm over his shoulder and lifted him off the ground.

"You doing alright?"

Archer nodded. "Better. Now at least."

"Alright well, let's get you into the Tardis, get you patched up."

"I can always count on you."

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See, the thing about being the world's best marksman is accomplishing more than one task with one shot. While Clint was mainly just worried about knocking over the Grail, he angled the shot so that his toothbrush could ricochet off of it and hit the beacon just enough to slide it over to him so he could push the button.

Given that he was able to knock over the Grail, and Arturia seemed convinced she was "destined" to die on that field, there hadn't really been much of a singularity for the Doctor and Tony to notice, so who knows what Danzo would have done with that scythe had he just up and killed Clint and be allowed to try again. Then again, that probably would light a singularity, so maybe they would've shown up anyways.

Still, as a near expert on the subject now, not dying was nice.

"And fortunately," Tony explained. "We can trace where and when the other side of the portal that brought Danzo here came from. So we'll be paying the orchestrator a visit after all."

"Actually," Clint said. "I... Could you let me handle it?"

Tony laughed. "I'm- I'm sorry, what was that?"

"Just... Just let me handle it alright?"

"What are you going to do, limp them to death?"

The Doctor didn't have the tools to really patch Clint up in the Tardis, but he had fashioned some pretty decent leg braces out of the tools he had on hand, decent enough to let Clint walk around. Well, kinda. It was more like waddling.

"Please, just trust me on this alright?"

Tony looked at him for a moment, taking in how serious his expression was.

"Alright. I trust you. Show em hell, Robin Hood."

"Yeah, well, it's a little late for that."

Chapter Text

The Doctor dropped Clint and Danzo off at the Hub before taking off again. Clint had taken the scythe with him and now handed it back off to Grim.

Grim wasted no time in making things weird, kissing the scythe up and down the blade. Once he realized people were watching though, he tried to look stoic about the whole thing. He aimed the scythe down, it only took a flash and what was once Danzo became a pile of ash.

Clint winced. He shouldn't have but he did.

"Amazing job, Archer! That was fantastic! What a climactic cap to end the season off on, the execs are thrilled with the results! And we didn't even have to cheat or anything! We've already been greenlit for a season 2!"

"I can't begin to contain my enthusiasm." Mandy said from around Grim's ankles, giving off literally no enthusiasm whatsoever. "Just remember Grim, next time you find an ancient artifact of untold power, I get first dibs. You don't use something like that for a game show."

"Well, I'll need something to motivate the next crop of contestant. Oh, maybe we can dig up Thromnambular, he loves granting wishes and you and I are both smart enough to know not to touch him with a 10 foot pole."

"So," Clint said. "You're really going through with it? This whole second season thing?"

"Are you kidding? We're basically printing money at this point! I'd have to have less brains than Mandy has compassion to pass up on an opportunity like this."

"Yeah." Clint sighed. "Yeah I figured."

He reached into his quiver and pulled out the one piece of equipment he'd managed to bring along with him.

"Uh," Grim gave a nervous laugh. "What is that?"

"30 megaton depth arrow."

"30 megatons?" Mandy asked. "That's stronger than an atomic bomb."

"Why do you have that in an arrow?"

Clint spun the arrow around his fingers.

"It might not actually be 30 megatons, but it's pretty damn powerful. Not too worried about accidentally killing death, I'm just curious, how willing are your execs going to be to greenlight a second season if you lose your big, fancy set? Like, all of it?"

"You wouldn't dare. You'll..."

"Die? I'm a time clone. A fake person. I have 24 hours left to live, and I don't feel like spending them around here."

"Oh... Oh no..."

"I just want to say, before we do this, fuck you Reaper. Fuck you for everything."

Clint jabbed the arrow into his thigh, and it detonated. As the light consumed him, fake fake Clint wondered briefly if real fake Clint would be disappointed in him.

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"Yes!" Stocking moaned. "God, yes. Fuck I'm so fucking close. Right there, right there! Just a little more! Deeper, dammit!"

Stocking gave out a yell of sexual bliss as her orgasm ripped through her.

No, wait, that was fire. Definitely fire.

Son of a FUCKING BITCH!

Chapter Text

Bravestarr leaned back in his chair at the sheriff's office, hat down low and dozing off. Then something... odd struck him. He put all four of the chair's legs on the ground and gazed off into the distance.

"Something the matter, Marshal?" Thirty/Thirty asked.

"Nah, it's just like... like an itch I can't scratch."

"Need me to help?"

"Thanks for the offer, but I meant like, figuratively. It feels like, I don't know, I went somewhere while I was asleep. Like I met new friends, learned a valuable lesson, something like that."

"Sounds like a load of hooey to me. You probably just had another one of your weird dreams."

"Maybe, big pard. Maybe."

Before Bravestarr could give it another thought, the alarm in the station went off. Bravestarr lowered his receiver.

"Bravestarr? Are you there?"

"Read you loud and clear JB, what's going on?"

"It's Tex Hex, he and his gang are laying siege to the Kerium mine!"

"Galloping galaxies." Bravestarr turned to Thirty/Thirty. "You ready for a firefight? Cause it looks like we might be getting ourselves into one."

Thirty/Thirty drew his boomstick and whinnied.

"Me and Sarah Jane were born ready, Marshal! You knew that."

"Then let's ride!"

Chapter Text

The pink couch crash landed from the church's balcony down in front of its alter. Stocking had to work to make sure her bowl of sugary chocolatey cereal with mixed in marshmallows didn't spill all over the place. Course it wouldn't be the first white liquid to stain this couch.

Speaking of which, Panty waved off her most recent man-slut. This one had douchey slicked up hair and wore sunglasses indoors for some reason.

"Call your friends, let's make it a party, I'm always open."

"Can you resist the urge to be a whore for 10 minutes, I don't need to be reminded of the shit that you fill yourself while I'm trying to eat breakfast."

"Whatever bitch, if there's a hole might as well fill it, know what I'm saying?"

"Would you two hookers shut the fuck up?" Garterbelt yelled from behind the altar. "We got important shit to deal with that ain't involved with the disgusting shit you fill yourselves with, now focus."

Garterbelt pulled open a spreadsheet.

"Lately there've been reports of a series of drownings with yellow tinted victims smelling like asparagus, most of these is locked room murders and by locked rooms I'm of course referring to the commode, so what we're obviously dealing with here is some kind of vengeful, toilet-based spirit."

"A piss ghost? Are you fucking serious?" Panty asked.

"Well at least you'll feel right at home fighting this thing."

"Hey, that was like one time, and it was only cause the guy wanted to."

"You'd fill your cunt with rotten meat if a hot guy was into it."

"Fuck, do you know someone who's offering."

"And also," Garterbelt dug into his afro and pulled out a brown cardboard box. "Package for you."

He tossed it to Stocking, Stocking tossed aside her cereal to catch it. She ripped the motherfucker open and stared at the treasure hidden within.

"Holy shitballs," Panty muttered. "Is that..."

"A Black Heaven Express Card? Sure as fuck looks like it."

"It's even got your name on it and everything."

"Garter, you didn't... Did you?"

"Course not. You hoes cost me enough money, what the fuck reason do I have to reward you for shit?"

Panty and Stocking exchanged a glance.

"Wanna max it out?" Stocking asked.

"Hell to the fuck yeah!"

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Dokuro woke up in her room.

She woke up in her room.

She was finally, finally back in her room. Dokuro started crying, she was so happy to finally be back home. To finally be out of all the pain and death.

She rushed out of her room as quickly as she could to find Sakura-kun. When the door slammed open, he predictably freaked out.

"D- D- Dokuro-chan! I swear I didn't see anything, look, I'm not looking at all!"

Dokuro ran over and pulled him into a tight hug, wanting nothing more than to never let go.

"Gah! Dokuro-chan you're choking me, you're... Wait, you're not choking me."

"I'm," Dokuro started through her tears. "I'm so sorry Sakura-kun. I'm so sorry for everything. Please forgive me Sakura-kun."

Sakura was hesitant at first, but eventually leaned into it, embracing Dokuro and patting her on the back.

"It's fine. Really. I had gotten used to all the bludgeonings so it's not like it was a big deal."

"But it was! I was really mean and nasty to you, all this time, and I didn't even realize it! I'm the worst friend you've ever had!"

"No, of course not. I mean, the bar isn't exactly high, but Dokuro-chan... I love you. I couldn't hate you no matter what you did to me."

Dokuro smiled weakly and gave Sakura one last squeeze before breaking the hug.

"So," he said. "What uh, what prompted all this?"

Dokuro swallowed and started wiping the tears from her eyes.

"I just had... a really bad dream. That's all."

Chapter Text

Clint woke up. Eventually. It was a slow and groggy start to the day, but eventually he rolled out of bed. He looked at the time on the clock on his nightstand, was disappointed but not surprised by what it read, then stood up. He scratched at his side and yawned.

On a nearby table was a half glass of water that he'd probably filled up last night. He downed it. It was warm and tasted like the pipes, but whatever, he was thirsty.

Into the bathroom he went, pulling his sweatpants down just enough to take a leak, thought about a whole lot of nothing doing that. Flushed the toilet when he was done and wandered over to the sink. He opened the medicine cabinet and pulled out his toothbrush and a mostly used roll of toothpaste. Ran his toothbrush under the water, put the paste on and got to scrubbing.

While doing that, he put the paste back into the medicine cabinet, swinging the door closed and looking into the mirror. The first thing that struck him, was just how tired he looked. When did he even go to bed last night?

The second thing that struck him was the ninja creeping up behind him. Completely black outfit, with a hood that only showed his eyes, a kunai in his hand, held in a reverse grip.

Behind him were at least two others. Probably more casing the apartment. And he was standing here in his pajamas armed with a toothbrush.

Okay, this looked bad.

Chapter Text

"Howdy there folks." Bravestarr said. "In today's story, we learned about a little something called autonomy. Now, I think we all wish we could make the world better. It's why I became a Galactic Marshal in the first place. But sometimes our ideas get ahead of us. Danzo just wanted to keep his people safe, just like me, but he thought the way to do that was to force everyone in the world to act and think the way he wanted. While it would be great if everyone would stop being mean to each other, it's our differences that make us special, and removing them from the equation would make life a lot more boring. That's all for now, see you next time."