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Nuclear Contemplations

Fate/Mano Po

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So Imperial asked me a while ago about this idea for a Philippine Grail War I had, entitled "Fate/Mano Po". I figured that, since I basically admitted that I can't continue the idea any longer, I might as well give voice to the proposal I had in my head. Basically, I'm just following suit from Sunny's honestly amazing pitch a few posts back.

So the idea of a Grail War in the Philippines sprang out because the Philippines is a mostly Christian country where a few pre-colonial beliefs got syncretized with the mainstream Catholic beliefs (kinda like in Mexico). There's amulet making, monster hunting (especially for bloodsuckers like aswang), shit like that. The title comes from a Tagalog (yes, that's different from Filipino) expression accompanying a gesture of pressing the forehead on the hand of an elder as a sign of respect. It's also the title of a long-running local movie franchise about Chinese Filipinos and their family lives. As you can probably guess, "family relations" was going to be the major theme here, and readers would've been able to see for themselves how the various characters react to the things their families expect of them.

I'll be dividing my ideas based on characters and putting shit in spoiler tags in case it gets really long.

Team Caster
Another of my ideas was that some of my characters would be based on characters in Philippine literature, and Team Caster was created with that in mind. Leon and Baldo were taken straight from Manuel Arguilla's How My Brother Leon Brought Home A Wife, where Baldo is the narrator's name, and the story is about Leon, his brother, bringing home his fiancee, Maria.

Caster: So Caster was going to be Galen, and his NP was going to be a fragment of the Antonine Plague that he managed to isolate. By running certain alchemical rituals, he could modify the bacteria's virulence factors, turning it into basically Plague, Inc. lite. Of course, being a doctor first and foremost, he doesn't actually make use of it because it'll kill lots of people, and he doesn't want that. His specialty is body fluid manipulation Magecraft governed by the four humors theory. By correcting the concentration of humors in the body, natural healing can be expedited. Of course, he can also use it to blow people up into bloody stains. Personality wise, he was the calm one in contrast to Leon's optimism and Baldo's moodiness. In the story, he would act as Leon's back (like Medea and Kuzuki) and philosophize with him on the importance of siblings. He would die trying to safeguard Baldo from Archer's attack on the Cathedral.

Leon "Noel" Mendoza: Caster's Master, and supposedly the main character. My idea for him was "Kairi Sisigou, but as a Filipino family man". As a magus, he's a practitioner of Witchcraft, a common art in the Philippines. Nothing more needs to be said about his character, because I envisioned him as a pretty open, carefree kind of guy. He'd be one of the people who have to deal with family drama, since Baldo would be kidnapped by team Berserker and killed by Archer. At that point, he goes from having one of the lowest stakes in the War, to the highest, as he fights to avenge (and possibly resurrect) his brother.

Baldomero "Baldo" Mendoza: Leon's brother, and the overseer of the Malolos Holy Grail War. He's the moody, introverted kid in contrast with Leon's sunny, outgoing personality. Although Leon is the main character, I planned for Baldo to receive more chapters, since I wanted him to go drop some world-building/exposition by sniffing around diocesan records about the existence of the Holy Grail under the cathedral. Further on, he'd get kidnapped by the Berserker camp because he's related to one of the Masters and because he's the overseer. He escapes when Berserker heads to the Cathedral to wipe out Caster and friends, but dies when Archer attempts to storm the Cathedral to get the Grail.

Team Berserker

The inspiration work for Team Berserker was Lualhati Bautista's Dekada '70, a novel about a family during Martial Law. Julius is the name of the narrator's eldest son, who later on becomes an activist, and even later, a rebel.

Berserker: Berserker was going to be Bisclavret, and his NP as Berserker would be the werewolf transformation. Julius uses a Command Spell to make Bisclavret take off his clothes (l-lewd) to turn him into a werewolf. After this, Berserker becomes little more than an attack dog for Julius. In this capacity, he is the most physically powerful Servant in the war, and it would take a huge battle between him and a combined force of Caster, Rider, and Assassin to take him down.

Julius "Jules" Domingo: Julius was essentially a nod to the preponderance of political dynasties dotting the Philippine political landscape. An Amakusa-like character, being unscrupulous while having good intentions. His stake in the Grail War is highly ironic: he wants to make right the corrupt Philippine political landscape, while being a member of the same system that perpetuates that corruption. His family's Magecraft is basically "Cesar Milan on steroids", allowing him to sweet-talk unwitting voters, blood-sucking aswang, and even Berserker, to do his bidding. He's killed by Marianne after she breaks their alliance, midway through Berserker's assault on the Cathedral.

Team Archer
So, these were my main problem children for the fic. While Lancer and Berserker provided early- and mid-game threats, so to speak, Archer and his Master are endgame threats, killing Saber, Caster, and Baldo. They were inspired by Jose Rizal's El filibusterismo. Marianne Leeds was a genderbent Mr. Leeds, an American swindler with a sphinx illusion.

Archer: So Archer's identity is the biggest mystery of the War, but it was going to be eventually revealed to be Panday Pira, Filipino cannon-maker. His motivation to get the Grail is to bring forth the "old" Philippines saturated with mystery and Magical Beast galore, which is highly ironic considering his American Master. He acts subservient to Marianne until the last moment he needs her, at which he detonates a bomb he made especially for the occasion. He later raids the Malolos Cathedral, killing Baldo and Caster, but runs out of mana the moment he enters the Grail's resting place. Industrious, hardworking, and proud, but highly enigmatic.

Marianne Leeds: One of the three foreign participants in the war, Marianne is probably the least pleasant people in the Grail War. She's driven to secure the Grail as her grandfather helped create it, and she has the resources to match. She doesn't trust Archer, so she spent one of her Command Spells on the command "Don't try to kill me,", which Archer circumvented by planting a bomb at her base. Her magecraft is using spiritual evocation (incanted in Enochian, no less) to summon Bayonetta-style angels, and she has a lesser manticore for a pet which helps kill Saber.

Team Saber
So, for Team Saber, I wanted to demonstrate the schism, so to speak, of being a devout Catholic and a magecraft practitioner. There's no literary inspiration in particular, but I planned on drawing on the some Chinese drama movies for inspiration.

Saber: So Saber was supposed to be Mercurius, and his NP was, you guessed it, his two swords, one of which was for cutting apart shit like shadows, spirits, etc. He's very in-your-face about his beliefs, which causes trouble when he's summoned by magecraft practitioners who also happen to be Catholic. However, any trouble that causes is eventually neutered by the care he shows for his clearly ailing Master. He'd serve as Rider's main rival before Berserker takes the scene, and he's taken out by Archer in an attack that leaves his Master severely injured.

Walter Chua: So the first younger dude I made was a comment on how parents who seek to protect their children actually do them harm by not allowing them to experience things for themselves. For Walter, this meant being sheltered to the point of being home-schooled and not being allowed outside the the family mansion until he had been declared by his parents a "true student" of their art. Even then, he'd be shipped off to the Mages' Association first thing. Additionally, due to his precognition ability being considered a yang abnormality, his parents taught him that he has to take small does of mercury, a yin compound, to "balance out" the strain the eye causes on his brain, which is... not actually a good idea. By the time the Grail awakens, he is the weakest Master both in terms of real life experience and health. After the attack on the Chua mansion that kills Saber, Rider takes him to Cecilia and Bien, where the former's grandmother stabilizes his condition and allows him to stay there for the rest of the War.

Team Rider
This is the part where things take a turn for the boring. Team Rider was the Waver team for the Grail War, and I wanted to use them to convey the frustration of a young adult trying to stay true to his own path.

Rider: William the Conqueror was going to be the mentor in the relationship (again). One can think of him as a sort of tsundere Iskander. He doesn't directly talk to Bien about his issues, but he does try genuinely care about his Master. He goes along with the plan to ally with team Assassin, helps fight off Berserker, and dies avenging Saber against Archer. So despite being born before the age of chivalry, perhaps there is some gallantry to him after all.

Bienvenido "Bien" Azcarraga
: The cheerful, half-foreign senpai with issues. His dad doesn't like him going to college instead of mastering their numerology magecraft, which he doesn't find useful, so he hasn't contacted him in half a year. Come the Grail War, and suddenly his magecraft isn't so useless anymore. His brand of numerology was supposed to be just plain "say something, get something else because there's a different meaning to what you just said". Kind of like ruby texting. He survives the Grail War and probably still doesn't make up with his dad. He gets better at numerology though.

Team Assassin
For Team Assassin, their issue would be that of overseas parents and how their children cope with the irony that they don't have parents literally because their parents are trying to make a living for them.

Assassin: Since I envisioned a fairly normal Grail War, one of the Hassan-i Sabbah was going to be summoned. I was originally going to go with Cyber Phantasy for *parallels*, but GO made me biased towards Cursed Arm, so my bet would've been him.

Cecilia de Leon: She was to be the Shirou of the fic, a newcomer magus with a legacy. Her mom was one of the best puppet-makers in the archipelago, and she used salvaged ivory from broken religious icons as a material for their inherent mystery. In the early stages of the War, she would learn how to use them from her grandmother, up to the point where she uses it to defend her house against Marianne's summoned familiars. I remember wanting to tease a relationship between her and Bien, but eh.

Narcisa Flores: Cecilia's maternal grandma, and respected witch. A dragon grandma respected and feared by the Cathedral's regular parishioners. She's loud, she proud, and she takes no prisoners. Her magecraft would also be witchcraft, but unlike Leon's (who she knows), hers are actual traditional kulam (ie. curse) techniques, that is, using insect familiars as vectors for curses. Over the course of the War, she teaches Cecilia what she knows of puppetry, and she takes care of the sickly Walter.


Team Lancer
While I had a clear image on what to do with each of the other teams, Team Lancer was kind of just... there. I guess the two of them had the worst compatibility in the war, leading to their early defeat.

Lancer: Lancer was going to be Ranavalona I, and her NP was basically Kazikli Bey Lite. She does most of the lifting for their team since Hinden is too obsessed with the Holy Grail. She contemplates poisoning Hinden with her second NP, but without any other Masters to contract with, she decided she'd go with him for the time being. Unfortunately, the time never comes, since she's killed off relatively early.

Hinden von Einzbern: One of many specialized homunculi created by Acht to "recover" the various Grails now erupting throughout the world. Since the only directive he received is "recover the Grail", Hinden does not have much in the way of common sense. The strongest Master, in terms of capacity to become a Master, as well as magical ability, but since he didn't try to understand his Servant, he would end up beaten early on.


I hope you enjoyed sifting through this proposal. This was kind of cathartic to write, and as I'm writing this, I feel hopeful that I can revisit the idea someday. Cheers.
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Comments

  1. Sunny's Avatar
    You sir slander the bad name of my failure!

    eheh. I am sorry you didn't do yours though. It is an interesting setting for one and a culture I am not all that familiar with so I would have liked learning more.

    You had a pretty strong cast and character arcs too. It does make me curious to see it play out.

    ..and yeah, if bittersweet, it is surprisingly cathartic.
  2. You's Avatar
    i don't have the cultural background to fully appreciate everything
    but this seems like a very worthwhile venture
  3. 4score7years's Avatar
    Quote Originally Posted by You
    i don't have the cultural background to fully appreciate everything
    but this seems like a very worthwhile venture
    You said it.
  4. Nuclear Consensus's Avatar
    Quote Originally Posted by You
    i don't have the cultural background to fully appreciate everything
    but this seems like a very worthwhile venture
    This is part of the reason why I stopped writing tbh
    I wanted to convey lots of messages but didn't stop to consider if my writing was up to snuff, which sucks a lot.