Nobody had ever understood Waver Velvet's talent.
As a magus, he was neither born of a famous family nor lucky enough to meet a good master. Mostly self-taught, he finally got himself accepted to the Clock Tower, the teaching arm of the Magus Association that controlled magi across the world.
Waver always believed this fact to be incomparably honorable, being very proud of his talent. "I am the most capable student of the Clock Tower since its founding. Anyone should have to respect me." At least, Waver himself thought this way. In truth, the magus lineage of the Velvets had only existed for three generations.
As time goes on, the number of Magic Circuits and concentration of Crests constantly increase and expand. Many students that receive scholarships to the Clock Tower are offspring of families with more than six generations of pure magi blood.
The wonders of magecraft could not be completed within one generation; therefore, the results of a whole life of research by parents are passed on to their children... only through this could their magecraft become more refined. The stronger prana of the old magi families is stronger precisely for this reason. Compared to the offspring of well-established magi family, Waver's Crest concentration and Magic Circuit quantity paled by comparison.
Furthermore, because a magi's Magic Circuit count is determined at birth, there are some ancestral magi families that deliberately contrive to increase the amount of Magic Circuits in an offspring, thus distancing themselves from new magi families in this regard. In other words, advantages within the world of magecraft are predetermined even before birth. This is a commonly accepted point of view.
But Waver did not see it that way.
Differences in ancestry could be made up for by increasing experience. Even without exceptional Magic Circuits, the difference between quality caused by birth could be bridged through deep understanding and skilled utilization of magecraft. Waver had always believed that deeply. He believed himself to be an excellent example of that, and had always strived to show off his abilities.
But, the reality was cruel. The workings of the Clock Tower are determined by those who boast of their ancestral bloodline, and those who endlessly fawn over them.
Even the lecturers were no exception, only expecting anything from those with great lineages. To a "pauper" researcher like Waver, they were reluctant to even let him into the library to browse books, let alone teach him magecraft.
Why are the expectations of a magus' future dependent on his lineage?
Why is the credibility of a theory dependent on the experience of one's lineage?
Nobody cared about Waver's questions. The lecturers used flowery language to trick Waver when presented with his research thesis, then acted as if Waver had been convinced otherwise, laughing at it, ignoring it.
It truly is unbelievable. His anxiety drove Waver to take action.
To expose the Magus Association's corrupt system, Waver wrote an exposition, " An Inquiry of Magecraft's Path In the New Century.” The result of three years of conceptualization and one year of writing, it viciously attacked traditional views, was written with painstaking effort, presented clear and intense thought, flawless. If seen by the Inquisitors, it would have definitely caused quite the scandal.
But - The Department of Eulyphis's lecturer tossed it out after casually reading through it just once.
His name was Kayneth El-Melloi Archibald. He was the heir of the Archibald family with nine generations of magus lineage, a very popular man whom everyone called "Lord El-Melloi." Engaged to the daughter of the principal, a lecturer at such a young age, he was the best of the best. He was also the representative of authority that Waver despised.
"A man who gives in to delusions such as yourself is not suited for research, Waver" - lecturer Kayneth said in a condescending manner, without a shred of pity in his voice. Kayneth's ice cold gaze was something Waver would never forget.
In the nineteen years of Waver's life, he had never been humiliated worse.
If Kayneth had the talent to be a lecturer, it should have been impossible for him to not understand Waver's talent. No, he was probably jealous precisely because he understands. He was probably afraid of Waver's hidden talent, becoming jealous of him, treating Waver as a threat to his own position. That is probably why he treated Waver's exposition in such a violent manner. To purposely rip an exposition of gathered wisdom... is this the attitude a scholar should assume?
Unforgivable. His talent, which could cause the world to tremble, was actually arbitrarily written off by an authority. There really is no justice. But not one person sympathized with Waver's frustration. The Magus Association was actually - in Waver's point of view - already corrupt to the core. But... while living these infinitely frustrating days, Waver heard a rumor.
The rumor was that the reputed Lord El-Melloi, for the sake of adding an entry to his resume for his vanity, had decided to join the nearby thaumaturgical competition in the far east.
Waver began researching about the details of this 'Heaven's Feel' overnight; he was deeply mesmerized by the horrific details. With the wish-granting 'Holy Grail,' summoning Heroic Spirits into the present world and commanding them was possible, resulting in a battle to the death among their Masters.
Title, authority, everything lost its value: skill was the only factor.
It truly was a bit barbaric, but also a simple yet fair method of judging superiority. For an unrecognized genius, this was an excellent opportunity, an idealistic stage to exhibit himself. Lady Luck had finally smiled at the excited Waver.
It began with the financial department's negligence. Lecturer Kayneth's requested holy relic from Macedonia was delivered to Waver to give to his teacher along with normal parcels, when it should have been a parcel opened only when Kayneth himself was present.
Waver immediately realized that was a catalyst used to summon Servants in the Heaven's Feel. And so, he received a once in a lifetime opportunity.
He no longer had a shred of love left for the corrupt Clock Tower. The glory of graduating as a valedictorian was trash compared to the honor brought by Fuyuki's Holy Grail. The moment Waver Velvet became victorious in the war would be the moment when those insignificant members of the Magus Association would grovel at his feet.
That day, Waver left England, heading for the island country in the far east. The Clock Tower immediately realized who stole Kayneth's parcel, but did not chase after him. Nobody knew Waver was interested in the Heaven's Feel.
But there was something Waver didn't know. Everyone thought he did no more than to hide Kayneth's relic in rage. Nobody thought he was on the level to knowingly risk his life to participate in a thaumaturgical competition. In that aspect, the Clock Tower really had underestimated Waver.
In the far eastern village, Fuyuki City, the place that would decide his destiny, Waver hid under the blanket of the bed, desperately trying to hold back his laughter. No, it was impossible to hold back. Illuminated by the dim sunlight coming through the cracks of the curtain, he raised his right hand every few seconds, letting out some muffled laughter.
With the relic in his hands, himself in Fuyuki, and enough quality as a magus... How could the Grail turn a blind eye to someone like that? Indeed, the pattern of the tripartite Command Seal had clearly materialized on Waver's right hand last night, proving that he was a Master, one who can summon a Servant. Even the ruckus made by the roosters in the courtyard near dawn went unnoticed.
"Waver, breakfast time." The voice of the old woman calling him on the stairs sounded different this morning, not as annoying.
To begin this commemorable day, Waver quickly began changing.
Although a backwater place for an island nation, Fuyuki City had a lot of tourists from other places. And precisely because of that, Waver's appearance, obviously different from that of the Japanese, did not attract too much attention. Even so, Waver was cautious and cast a suggestion spell on the old couple who had always lived alone, deceiving them into thinking that Waver was their grandson. He had very successfully used a fake identity to live comfortably here. He didn't need to pay hotel fees; it was like killing two birds with one stone. Things worked out perfectly; Waver began to have more and more admiration for his own ability to adapt.
To fully enjoy this mild morning, Waver descended the stairs to the first floor kitchen. Like any other morning, the plebeian dining room table was decorated with newspapers; the television news and cooking welcomed the freeloader openly.
"Good morning Waver, did you sleep well?"
"Yes, grandpa. I was sound asleep until morning."
Waver answered with a smile while he spread jam thickly on his toast. The soggy bread that cost only a hundred and eighty yen per catty wasn't very pleasant to chew. Usually, that was very unsatisfactory, so it could only be made up for by putting lots of jam on it.
Glen and Martha Mackenzie immigrated to Japan from Canada more than twenty years ago. But their son could not get used to the Japanese lifestyle and went back, creating a family in his home country. Their grandson, raised in Japan until he was ten, also went back. Not a single letter was sent, let alone a visit. Ten years passed in this manner. Discovering that information through hypnosis, Waver decided that that kind of family was ideal for him. Through suggestions, Waver transformed the old couple's impression of their grandson into his own image, successfully becoming their beloved grandson, "Waver Mackenzie."
"But Martha, ever since dawn, I felt that the chickens were very noisy... would you know why this is?"
"We have three chickens. Where exactly did they come from...?"
Hastily making up an excuse, Waver hurriedly swallowed the bread in his mouth.
"Ah, that... I have a friend who sent his pet chickens for us to take care of for a few days. He's going on a trip and won't be home, so they'll be here temporarily. I'm returning them this evening."
"Ah, so that's how it is."
It seems like they didn't really mind, so the two easily believed it. The fact that these two old people were hard of hearing was good for him: the incessant crows of the three chickens nearly annoyed the surrounding neighbors to death that day.
But the most stressed person was Waver. As soon as he found the Command Seals on his hand, Waver excitedly began preparing sacrificial offerings needed for the ceremony.
He never thought finding a chicken farm nearby would be so difficult. He finally found one, but actually catching three chickens wasted nearly an hour. He finally got home just as the sky began to grow bright, covered with chicken droppings, hands pecked bloody.
In the Clock Tower, animals used as sacrificial offerings were always prepared. But here, how can a genius magus such as myself be in such a piteous state for catching merely three chickens? Having this thought, Waver almost cried out in lamentation. But staring at the Command Seals on his right hand, his mood began to gradually brighten.
He decided to hold the ceremony tonight. Those annoying chickens could at most live until then. And, Waver wanted to have the strongest Servant. The relic hidden in the closet of the second floor bedroom... That would be the catalyst for summoning a great Heroic Spirit... Waver already knew that much.
The withering, half decomposed piece of cloth was a piece of the cape that once hung on the shoulder of a king. The legendary "King of Conquerors" who destroyed the Achaemenid Empire of Persia and created the world's first huge empire spanning from Greece to north western India. His Heroic Spirit would descend upon Waver through summoning tonight, to guide him to the glorious Grail.
"... Grandpa, grandma, I'm sending the chickens back to my friend's house tonight, so I might be a bit late. Don't worry about me."
"Okay, be careful. Fuyuki isn't too safe lately."
"As in, that fabled serial killer has appeared once more. This world really is too scary." Eating cheap sliced bread at that long dining table, Waver was surrounded by life's greatest happiness. The noisy cries of those chickens were only slightly grating.
The darkness was permeated by a thousand years of ambition. Emiya Kiritsugu and Irisviel answered the summons of the head of the Einzbern family, rushing to the Einzbern's old castle sealed off by ice, to the grandest yet darkest place in it: the ceremony chamber.
It was definitely not for praising the gods for favors, or letting spirits find their peace. As a castle of magi, the so-called ‘prayer room’ is used for executing thaumaturgical ceremonies by sacrificial offerings. As such, the stained glass does not portray any saint, no, but rather the long history of the Einzbern’s pursuit of the Grail.
Of the three founding families, the Einzbern spent the most time searching for the Grail. They enclosed themselves in the deep, icy mountains, severing all ties with the outside world, and began to seek the miracles of the Grail a thousand years ago. But their search was filled with setbacks and humiliation, suffering and opposition. Searching like that, they failed.
Finally, they grew weary of their solitary search, and agreed to cooperate with two outside families, the Tōsaka and Matō, two hundred years ago.
In the Heaven’s Feel rituals that followed, they never won, as their Master always fell short. Their solution, nine years ago, was to hire a magus specialized in fighting from outside the family.
Emiya Kiritsugu can be said to be the trump card of the Einzbern family, ones who have always been proud of their pure bloodline. To accommodate him, they changed their family creed, only for the second time.
Passing down the halls, Kiritsugu caught sight of a relatively new stained window.
On it was drawn the Einzbern’s "Holy Maiden of Winter" Lizleihi Justizia, and two magi waiting on her, left and right. All three of them extended their hands to the Grail in the sky. It was easy to tell from the composition and balance how much the Einzbern looked down on the Tōsaka and Matō, and their humiliation on having to rely on them. The painting communicated it all.
If he was lucky enough to win and survive the upcoming war, thought Kiritsugu, laughing at himself bitterly, his own image would probably be displayed like that on a window, against his will.
The old magus king of this icy castle awaited Kiritsugu and Irisviel in front of the sacrificial altar.
He was Jubstacheit von Einzbern, better known as "Acht" after he became the eighth head of the Einzbern family. By prolonging his life, he had lived for almost two centuries, leading the Einzberns through every one of the Grail wars. He did not remember the Justizia era, but ever since the second Heaven’s Feel, old Acht has suffered the pain of defeat many times. To him, the anxiety that he feels at this third opportunity for the Grail is extraordinary.
"The holy relic we requested people to find in Cornwall finally arrived this morning." Stroking his white beard like a frozen waterfall, old Acht stared at Kiritsugu, an astute light emitting from his deep sockets, hiding his senility. Kiritsugu has lived in the old castle for a long time; yet, he can never tolerate the bias and pressure he feels in Acht’s eyes every time he meets him.
Acht’s had indicates the sacrificial altar, which holds a large charchol colored box, trussed tightly. “using this as a catalyst, it’s possible to summon the strongest Heroic Spirit of the Sword. Kiritsugu, count this as the Einzbern family's greatest aid to you."
"I am deeply grateful, dear head of family." Pretending to be expressionless, Kiritsugu bowed deeply.
The Grail seems to have accepted the Einzbern family breaking the rules, and including blood from outside. The Command Seal appeared on Kiritsugu’s right hand three years ago. Soon, he will bear the zealous, thousand year old wish of the Einzbern family, and participate in the fourth Heaven’s Feel.
The old man turned his eyes to Irisviel, who was facing downwards in respect. "Irisviel, what's the status of the vessel?" "No problems. Even in Fuyuki, it will function normally," Irisviel answered fluently.
The wish granting machine, the omnipotent chalice, is only a spiritual entity and does not possess a physical form. To allow its Holy Grail form to descend, a vessel for it must be prepared. As such, the war of seven Servants for the Grail can be called a spiritual evocation ritual.
The duty of preparing a vessel for the Grail, ever since the beginning of the Heaven’s Feel, has been carried out by the Enisbern family. For the fourth War, the mission of creating the vessel has fallen to Irisviel. Therefore, she must leave for Fuyuki with Kiritsugu: she must be at the battlefield.
Old man Acht, eyes shining with insane strength, nodded seriously. "This time... no one must survive. Kill the six Servants; this time we must acquire the Third Magic, the Golden Grail."
"Yes sir!" Hearing the burning fervor in the old man’s command, magus and homunculus, spouses bearing the same fate, answered simultaneously.
But in his heart, Kiritsugu could care less about this old head of family's rigid desire. Achievement… Acht has condensed all of his emotions into this one word, and all of its infinite interpretations. Come to think of it… his spirit likely only has this rigidity towards achievement left.
The materialization of the spirit is a miracle. A thousand years seeking this lost miracle... in this long and arduous journey, they have long since lost their method and purpose. The Einzbern family continues to fight only to prove that their thousand year journey was not wasted, only for the confirmation that the miracle does exist.
It doesn't matter. As per your expectations, through my hands I will grant you your sought-after Holy Grail.
As to not lose to old man Acht's enthusiasm, Emiya Kiritsugu said so in his mind.
But that's not all. I will use that omnipotent chalice to grant my own deepest wish...
Kiritsugu and Irisviel went back to their own rooms, and opened the long box entrusted to them by the head of family. They were mesmerized by its contents. "Who would've thought... They were actually able to find this thing..." The usually composed Kiritsugu right now seems deeply impressed.
A scabbard made of gold and decorated with dazzling blue enamel. This sort of luxurious equipment should be called a treasure, to show dignity and nobility like a crown, or a scepter, instead of a weapon. Engraved into the middle is an inscription of the long lost Fairy Letters, proving this scabbard is not a work of man.
"... Why isn't there the slightest flaw? Is this really the genuine relic made from an era over one thousand five hundred years ago?"
"This thing is a type of Conceptual Weapon. It definitely won't deteriorate physically, not mentioning that it's a holy relic that will be used as a catalyst. This treasure lies in the realm of magic." Irisviel took out the golden scabbard from the lined box carefully, holding it in her hands. "Legend says keeping this scabbard on one's body will heal the wounds of its possessor and can stop aging... of course, the mentioned facts are magical powers provided by its 'original owner.’ Meaning as long as the Heroic Spirit summoned is functional, this thing itself can be used as a 'Master's Noble Phantasm.'"
The scabbard’s one-of-a-kind ingenious design and exceptional beauty entranced Kiritsugu, but in just a few moments, his train of thought immediately changed to the direction of how to use it as a pragmatic 'tool.'
Watching Kiritsugu, Irisviel can't help but let out a small bitter smile. "That's really your style. A tool is a tool no matter what, right?"
"If you say it like that, even Servants are the same. No matter how famous the hero, as long as it is summoned as a Servant, to the Master he is a tool. It is impossible for a person who has unrealistic fantasies about a Servant to win this war."
When showing his aspect as a soldier, Emiya Kiritsugu’s profile becomes rock hard and callous, quite unlike him as a father and a husband. Before, when Irisviel didn’t understand him, she was truly afraid of that side of him. "Only someone like you is worthy of this scabbard -- this is grandfather's judgment."
"Is that really how it is?" Kiritsugu's expression shows obvious dissatisfaction. If Acht knew the reaction of his hired son-in-law to the holy relic he spent so much effort finding, he would certainly be unable to speak from rage.
"Are you unsatisfied about grandfather's present?" Irisviel did not blame Kiritsugu at all for wanting to make impertinent remarks, but only thought that asking that question would be amusing.
"How can that be? He has done more than enough for us. There cannot possibly be another Master who got a trump card as good as this."
"Then what are you so unsatisfied about?"
"With such a perfect holy relic, the summoned heroic spirit will definitely be the one we want. But his and my personalities are too vastly different. Originally, the nature of the summoned Servant will be affected by the Master’s personality. In theory, all Servants have similar personalities to their Masters’. However, this holy relic takes priority. The more exact the nature of the relic, the more likely it is that the summoned Servant will be locked as a certain spirit.”
"... Meaning that you are uneasy about the contract with the 'King of Knights,' right?"
"Of course. There probably isn't anyone in the world who is more incompatible with the ways of the knight." Half jokingly, Kiritsugu's lips curled in a slight smile. "A head-to-head battle is not my style, especially in a death match. If I am to attack, then it should be from behind while the enemy is asleep. Not caring about the time or place, just for the purpose of eliminating the enemy most efficiently, using the method with the greatest probability of success... You think that prestigious knight would aid me in such battles?"
Irisviel became silent, focusing on staring at the shiny scabbard. Without a doubt Kiritsugu was that type of soldier: attaining victory by any means necessary. There is no need to test it; the personalities of Kiritsugu and the owner of the scabbard would definitely clash.
"... But don't you think it's a waste? The owner of 'Excalibur' is without a doubt the strongest of the Saber Class."
That is correct. Only this glory-radiating scabbard is fit to pair that supreme sword. This is definitely the relic of that King of Knights whose tale has been passed down in legends since medieval times - King Arthur.
"That's right 'Saber' was already the strongest of the seven classes conjured by the Holy Grail. And if this King of Knights occupied this position... I've obtained a virtually invincible Servant. But the key here is the question of how to use this strongest battle force effectively. To be honest, if only the factor of being easy to control was considered, 'Caster' and 'Assassin' are actually more fitting to my style."
Then -- clashing with the nandi flame-style, extravagant decor of the room, a light electronic sound interrupted the two's conversation. "Ah, finally here."
On the heavy black sandalwood table was a randomly placed notebook computer; the marvelous combination was like that of a stitching machine on an operating table. Magus lineages with long histories have never found the convenience of technology. The Einzbern family is no exception. The small electronic device that looks strange beyond compare to Irisviel is a personal item brought in by Kiritsugu. A magus who does not feel repulsed from using such machines is very rare; Kiritsugu was one of them. When he requested that a telephone line and power generator be installed, he had a huge argument with the old head. "...That sound, what is it?"
"The report sent from the fellow that infiltrated the London Clock Tower. I asked him to investigate the status of the participating Masters in this Heaven's Feel."
Kiritsugu sat in front of the machine and began operating the keyboard skillfully. The LCD monitor displays one new mail. That is the new technology commonly known as the "Internet" in the cities, which Kiritsugu has already explained to Irisviel. But, her patience shows that she does not comprehend a bit of it.
"...Oh, there's information on the identities of four Masters."
The Tōsaka participant is obviously the head of family Tōsaka Tokiomi. A thorny person of the 'fire' attribute who specializes in jewel magecraft.
The Matō family seems to have forced that failure who couldn't succeed as the head of family into being a Master, what nonsense... but the old fogy of that family is exerting great effort to gain the grail.
As for the magi coming from out of town, first of all, there's the first-rate lecturer from the Clock Tower, Kayneth El-Melloi Archibald. Ah, he knows about this man. Having both 'wind' and 'water' attributes, an expert who is proficient in spiritual evocation, summoning, and alchemy. He is currently the most renowned magus in the Association. How troublesome.
And there's a man sent by the Holy Church... Kotomine Kirei. Originally the representative of the 'Assembly of the 8th Sacrament,' he is the son of the one who fulfills the role of supervisor - Kotomine Risei. Sent to Tōsaka Tokiomi to learn magecraft three years ago, and then broke away from his teacher after being granted the Command Seals. Hmph, a fellow filled with the smell of gunpowder.
Kiritsugu browsed the detailed contents of the investigation; watching her husband, Irisviel was extremely bored. Suddenly, she noticed that Kiritsugu, who had been staring at the screen, had quite serious and tense expression. "...What's wrong?"
"This son of Father Kotomine. Even his past has been cleaned." Irisviel stood behind Kiritsugu and looked at the LCD monitor, following his finger. To Irisviel, looking at text not on paper was very difficult, but considering her husband's serious expression, she did not complain.
"...Kotomine Kirei. Born in 1967, accompanying his father Risei to the holy grounds since youth, graduating in '81 from the Theological College of Manresa St. Ignacio... skipping two grades, and was the student council president; he seems to be quite an accomplished man."
Kiritsugu nodded unhappily. "He could've definitely reached the position of cardinal minister like that, but he willingly abandoned this outstanding opportunity to join the Holy Church. In fact, he had lots of choices, so why did he chose to dedicate himself to such an inside organization of the church?"
"Perhaps he was influenced by his father? Kotomine Risei is part of the Holy Church too, right?"
"If that's the case, then he should have had the goal of retrieving lost holy relics like his father all along. Indeed, Kirei did join the same department as his father in the end, but before that, he was transferred three times and was once chosen as an 'Executor.' He was only ten-something years old then too. This job cannot be done without a certain amount of willpower." That was the Holy Church's bloodiest department, called the Shura's Den for its responsibility of punishing heresies. To be able to gain the title of "Executor" would mean that he is a first-rate murderer, signifying that he has passed brutal and pious training to become mankind's weapon.
"Perhaps he is a faith fanatic. The younger the purer; such a thing as having a fanatic love for belief surpassing certain limits exists."
Even after hearing Irisviel's opinion, Kiritsugu still shook his head. "It's not like that... if it was, then this guy's situation of the past three years cannot be explained. If his faith was chaste, it would be impossible for him to transfer into the Magus Association; it seems to be an order from the Holy Church, or it's possible that he was more faithful to the religious doctrine than the organization. But even this cannot explain it, because there is no necessity to train in thaumaturgy this seriously. Look, Tōsaka Tokiomi's report about Kirei given to the Association. The scope of training includes alchemy, spiritual evocation, summoning, divination... he is even more adept at healing magecraft than Tōsaka Tokiomi. What exactly is the reason for this enthusiasm?"
Irisviel continued reading the document, all the way to the end where Kotomine Kirei's ability summary was. "...I say, this Kirei really is kind of strange, but is it worth it for you to scrutinize to this degree? Although he seems to be very talented, he's not really a cut above other people."
"Ah, that's what I find strange." Looking at the uncomprehending Irisviel, Kiritsugu patiently explained. "No matter what this man does, he cannot reach the 'first-rate' level. When it comes down to it, he's not some sort of genius, just a normal man. But his achievement of quick results through complete and total effort is indeed scary. Certainly he has to exert ten or twenty times more effort than other people to achieve this level, but he actually stops when there's only one step left, and then without any lingering love transfers into another region. All the things he raised laboriously all along are tossed out like trash."
"He clearly chose a lifestyle many times more exciting than that of others, but in this man's life, he has never let others feel 'affection'. This guy - is definitely a dangerous man," Kiritsugu concluded.
Irisviel understood the meaning contained within his words. When he says "troublesome", although the opponent is very thorny, he actually is not seeing the opponent as a threat. The method of dealing with this type of opponent and the chance of success, Kiritsugu is already eighty percent assured. But when he uses the rating of "dangerous"... Emiya Kiritsugu only uses this rating against opponents he need to fight whole-heartedly.
"This man certainly does not believe anything. Only continuously seeking answers, that's why he experienced so much. The result is he still did not find anything... he is that kind of morally void man. If I had to say what this guy's heart contains, then it's probably only anger and despair."
"...You are saying, to you this Executor is a more powerful foe than Tōsaka Tokiomi and Archibald?"
Pausing for a while, Kiritsugu nodded resolutely. "...A terrifying man. Indeed Tōsaka and Lord El-Melloi are strong adversaries. But I think Kotomine Kirei's 'way of existence' is more fearful."
"Way of existence?"
"This man's heart is thoroughly void. He has nothing that can be called a wish. But why would a man like this bet his life to fight for the Grail?"
"...Is this not the intent of the Holy Church? Supposedly those guys mistakenly believed Fuyuki's Grail is the real relic and targeted it because of this, isn't that right?"
"No, only with that level of motivation, the Grail will not grant Command Seals. This man was chosen by the Grail as a Master. He must have some reason to obtain the Grail. What this reason really is, precisely because it cannot be seen... that's what makes this point terrifying."
Kiritsugu sighed deeply, looking at the monitor drearily, attempting to find something more from the character of Kotomine Kirei fabricated by dull text. "What do you think would happen if this kind of void, desireless man obtained the Grail? This man's whole life was built by despair. The power of the wish-granting machine, the Holy Grail might be tainted by the color of his despair."
Kiritsugu was being too indulgent of his sadness, and for the purpose of advising him, Irisviel shook her head strongly. "What's stored within me, the vessel of the Grail, I will not give to anyone. When the Grail is filled, the one who has the privilege of owning it - it's only you, Kiritsugu."
The elders of the Einzbern only wish for the completion of the Grail; that is their sole desire... but for this young couple, after this, they still have wishes that need realization. Dreams that need realization. Kiritsugu shut the lid of the notebook computer and hugged Irisviel tightly. "No matter what, we can't lose."
For his wife, right now compared to her family's desire, Irisviel cares more about her and her husband's ambition. This fact deeply moved Kiritsugu. "...I got it. The way to use the strongest Servant's power to the maximum limit."
At the same time, at the far away land of the east across the sea, another person is receiving the same report by the spy in England as Kiritsugu.
Being a legitimate magus, Tōsaka Tokiomi would not resort to using the new technology of the vulgar world like Kiritsugu. He is adept at using the Tōsaka family's exclusive secret technique of communicating over long distances, a jewel magic passed down through the generations.
Towering in Miyama-chou of Fuyuki is the Tōsaka mansion. In Tokiomi's workshop set up below ground, an installment of experimental equipment similar to what is commonly known as the black pendulum was prepared. The difference between common physics experimental equipment and this is that, this pendulum's massive bob contains a magic jewel of the Tōsaka heirloom, and it was constructed so the ink flowing down from the string can moisten the jewel.
The rock paired with the jewel of this pendulum is currently in the possession of Tōsaka's spy. If this rock was placed in front of a roller and start writing, the matching pendulum's jewel would start to undulate, the ink dripping down would write perfect and errorless text on the Rollin paper underneath. That's the type of structure it was.
Right now the jewel on the pendulum and the rock on the other side of the globe in London are undulating in sync, and through watching this strange repetitive motion without a pattern, the reporter's writing began to smoothly and accurately resurface.
Tokiomi, noticing this occurrence, picked up the paper without waiting for the ink to completely dry and began browsing what was recorded on it.
"— No matter how many times I look at this setup it always make me feel like it's unreliable."
Kotomine Kirei, who's been standing guard off to the side all this time, expressed unscrupulous sentiments.
"Oh, so do you think fax is more convenient?
If this method was used, even if the power was out, there won't be any breakdowns. There's also no need to worry about the report being divulged. Without the need to rely on new technology, us magi have long ago possessed apparatus not inferior to modern tools today."
Even so, as Kirei sees it, fax that can be used by anyone is more convenient. 'Anyone' can use it... this inevitability is definitely something that Tokiomi cannot comprehend. It's perfectly reasonable that the techniques and knowledge of aristocrats and commoners are different... even in the present, Tokiomi still bears this outdated mode of thinking; he is truly a legitimate 'magus.'
"The latest report from the 'Clock Tower.' The 'prodigy' Lord El-Melloi seems to have obtained a lost relic. If that's the case, then it is confirmed that he will be participating. Hmph, this is truly a thorny opponent. So it's clear, there are now five Masters including myself..."
"It really makes me worry that there's still two positions empty until even now."
"Why, it simply means that there are no suitable bearers for the Command Seals. When time is running out, the Grail will randomly fill the seven slots regardless of quality. For the sake of having enough people, there should be two small characters. There's no need to be alert."
That's really suited to Tokiomi's optimism. Having been his student for three years, Kirei now understands his master very well. Although he's very thorough in preparation, he has a habit of missing small details once in action, and taking care of these small details in his stead is probably his responsibility; Kirei has long since understood this.
"But speaking of being careful - Kirei, nobody saw you as you entered this house, right? In appearance, we're already enemies."
Completely according to Tōsaka Tokiomi's plan, the reality was twisted and announced. Kirei, who had been chosen by the Grail three years ago, carefully hid the insignia on his right hand according to Tokiomi's order, all the way up until this month before he announced the fact that the Command Seal is present on his hand. From that moment on, he severed his ties with Tokiomi as a contender for the Grail.
"No need to worry. Regardless of being able to see or not, there are no familiars or spells surveying this house. I —"
"— I guarantee that."
The voice of the third person cut in and, at the same time, a black shadow appeared beside Kirei.
The Heroic Spirit that's been accompanying Kirei in spirit form all this time has, at this moment, appeared in front of Tokiomi.
That skinny and tall shadow has a great difference in prana compared to humans. He's 'something inhuman.' A strange one wearing a long black cloak and a white skull-like mask to shield his features.
Yes, he is the first Heroic Spirit to be summoned in the fourth Heaven's Feel, the Servant "Assassin" who made a contract with Kotomine Kirei — Hassan-i Sabbāh.
"No matter what tricks they play, they cannot hide it from my eyes, the eyes of the Heroic Spirit of Subterfuge, Hassan. My Master, Kirei, does not have any aura of being followed by an enemy around him... you can relax."
As if understanding Tokiomi's position was higher than that of his own master Kotomine Kirei, Assassin politely reported with a bow.
And then Kirei said,
"As soon as a Grail-summoned Heroic Spirit appears, no matter which Class it belongs to, it would definitely be reported to father accurately and without error."
Father Risei was the supervisor of the Heaven's Feel, appointed as the head priest of and dispatched to the Fuyuki Church. Currently, he is in possession of a magical device known as the "spirit board." It has the function of displaying the attributes of the Heroic Spirits summoned by the Grail.
The identity of Masters can only be confirmed by reports from people, but the quantity and Class of appearing Servants, no matter where they are summoned, will definitely be displayed on the "spirit board," to grant the supervisor better control of the situation.
"According to my father, my Assassin is the only Servant to have been summoned so far. Other magi taking action is still yet to come."
"Yeah. But this is only a matter of timing. Sooner or later, there will be familiars of other Masters coming and going around this room. Because here and the Matō mansion, as well as Einzbern's dwelling, are already confirmed locations of Masters."
Compared to the three imperial families, the advantage of foreign magi is that their place of concealment is unknown to others. Because of this, during the early stages of the Heaven's Feel, no matter what family it is, they will use spies for reconnaissance.
It's not like Kirei distrusts Tokiomi's information network, it's just that they have to be on guard for the possibility that the remaining two mystery Masters are using wise measures to conceal themselves. If facing against an opponent with this kind of strategy, Kirei's Servant Assassin can utilize his powers to the greatest limit.
"You may leave. Assassin, continue keeping watch outside. Be very cautious."
Receiving Kirei's command, Assassin once again assumed spirit form and left the room. For a Servant who is a spiritual entity to begin with, it is possible to shift freely between spirit form and physical form.
Assassin has the special ability of "Presence Concealment" that other Classes do not possess. He is unrivaled in concealed movement and tracking.
To Kirei, whose responsibility is not to pursue victory but to provide backup for Tokiomi, summoning Assassin was the best choice.
That is the battle plan.
First, let Kirei's Assassin go around thoroughly investigating the battle stratagem of other Masters and their Servants' weaknesses. After obtaining a method of certain victory against each enemy in this manner, Tokiomi's Servant will then be used to defeat each one accordingly.
Because of this, Tokiomi must summon a Servant possessing great offensive abilities. As for which Heroic Spirit he has his eye on, Kirei never heard him mention this.
"The holy relic I prepared will arrive tomorrow morning."
As if understanding Kirei's doubts from his expression, Tokiomi said so without waiting for him to ask.
"I found what I was expecting. The Servant I will summon would certainly be advantageous against all of the enemies. If it is a Heroic Spirit, then it will have no chance of victory against this guy."
Tokiomi, being secretly happy in this manner; his face was brimming with the unrivaled confidence he was born with.
"The summoning ceremony will be held tonight -- if no other Masters are spying on us, Kirei, you can be present too, as well as your father."
"Yes. If 'he' is successfully summoned, then our victory is assured. I want to share this happiness with everyone."
This sort of unconcealed haughty confidence shows what can be said to be Tōsaka Tokiomi's hereditary characteristic. Regarding his oversized ego, Kirei feels somewhat in awe, yet somewhat in admiration too.
Suddenly, Kirei noticed the pendulum's jewel. The jewel's movement on the Rollin paper did not cease, it was continuously writing.
"There seems to be more to come."
"Yeah, ah, this is the investigation regarding another matter. This isn't the latest information - it's probably regarding my request for him to investigate Einzbern's Master.
Information on the Einzbern family who's cut off all contact with the outside world is difficult to obtain even in London's Clock Tower, but Tokiomi has already mentioned before that there was a lead on that Master. Tokiomi rolled up the paper beside him and put it atop the writing table, then picked up the Rollin paper containing new text.
"...This was something that happened nine years ago. The Einzberns who have been proud of their bloodline's purity suddenly found a magus from the outside to be their son-in-law. This has even instigated much debate within the Association at the time, but the only one able to see the truth of this matter, other than me, would be the old head of the Matō household.
The magi of the Einzbern family who only excel in alchemy were not suited to combat since the start. This was also the contributing factor to their losses in the previous Heaven's Feel rituals. These people seem to have finally lost their patience.
This magus they found seems to really 'fit the requirements.'"
After browsing through the paper quickly while talking, Tokiomi passed the paper to Kirei. After seeing "Investigation report: Emiya Kiritsugu" as the title, Kirei's eyes narrowed slightly.
"This name... I've heard it somewhere before. Supposedly, this is a dangerous person."
"Oh, does the Holy Church also know of this? The 'Magus Killer' Emiya was really notorious at the time. Not belonging to the Association in appearance, but in fact was the Association's higher ups' killing tool."
"So in the words of the church, he would be a sort of Executor, right?"
"Even worse than that in nature. He is a freelancing assassin who underwent special training to kill magi. Because only magi are most comprehensive of other magi, he will use methods most incompatible with the rules of magi to kill other magi... he is the sort of man who will utilize despicable measures nonchalantly."
There was obvious hatred in Tokiomi's voice, yet Kirei began to bear interest for this man called Emiya Kiritsugu. He did hear rumors about this man; it seems he has opposed the Holy Church in the past, and there have been people who told Kirei to be very careful of this man.
Kirei began reading the information passed on to him. Most of what was recorded was an investigation regarding Emiya Kiritsugu's battle strategy - the cases of missing persons and accidents believed to be magi he killed; but mainly, it was an analysis of his methodology. While reading, Kirei began to gradually understand why Tokiomi hates this man. Ambush and assassination was only the tip of the iceberg.
Planting a bomb in public, striking down an airplane with many passengers on board; these were the type of unbelievable cases reported. It is also extrapolated that the tragedies of the past reported as major acts of terrorism were in fact the criminal acts of Emiya Kiritsugu for the sake of killing one magus. Although there is no convictive evidence, looking at the information given, it is a very believable story.
Assassin; that word is very befitting. Magi opposing each other to the point of killing each other, these scenarios are common. However, it is purely a competition of magecraft and usually decided through a series of processes that abide certain combat regulations. Saying it like that, the Heaven's Feel also belongs in this category; although called a 'war,' it is not a chaotic death match, but rather a series of strict rules and regulations exist.
There isn't even a single line of text recording Kiritsugu having undergone a battle like this, using the 'regulations of magi'.
"The thing called magus exists outside of human law to begin with, and that's all the more reason to strictly obey the rules of our own world."
Tokiomi said so, his calm voice seething with anger.
"But this man Emiya completely ignores all rules. He does not have a bit of pride as a magus. This kind of man is unforgivable."
"What you said was... pride?"
"Yes. Even this man surely underwent strict training as a magus.
If that's the case, then he certainly has the faith to overcome and surmount difficulties. It is impossible to forget his original intent and desire, even after attaining success."
What Tokiomi said is wrong. Submitting oneself to brutal training even without any intent whatsoever, this kind of idiot exists in this world. Regarding this, Kirei understands better than anyone.
"— So why did this Emiya Kiritsugu become a killing tool?"
"That... it's probably because of money. After going into the Einzbern family, he's washed himself clean. He's already obtained enough money as to not worry about it for the rest of his life, so that is only reasonable - it should be written on that report, that guy did more than just assassinations. He seems to have done other stuff around the world any chance he gets for some extra money."
It's just as Tokiomi says, nearing the end of the report, other than magi related incidents, there are lots of other experiences of Emiya Kiritsugu. So that's how it is, Kiritsugu can be placed in most of the conflicts going on around the world; he's not only a killing tool, but also did a lot of work as a mercenary.
"...This document, can I borrow it to read in detail?"
"Ah, sure. If you can analyze it in detail for me, then it would be a huge help. I'm still busy preparing for the summoning ritual tonight."
Kirei left the workshop in the basement and returned to the ground floor. In the hallway, he ran into a young girl battling with oversized luggage.
"Good afternoon, Rin."
Not wanting to especially entertain her, but merely greeting her normally. The girl stopped in her tracks and stared at Kirei with wide eyes. He has been in contact with Rin in this house for three years, yet the suspicion in the girl's eyes while regarding Kirei has not diminished.
"...Good afternoon. Kirei."
With a hardened voice, but still with the proper attitude, Rin returned Kirei's greeting. Although young, Rin already acts similar to her mother, her actions refined and ladylike. She's not just anyone, but rather Tōsaka Tokiomi's daughter. Being different from other students her age was perfectly natural.
"Going out? That luggage is huge."
"Yes. Starting today, we will go to grandpa's house for a bit. I'm even taking the cable car from that side to go to school."
Because the Heaven's Feel was imminent, Tokiomi decided to let his family temporarily live in the neighboring district--his mother-in-law's house.
The mother and daughter cannot be exposed to the battlefield, that is too dangerous. Of course these are reasonable arrangements.
But his daughter Rin seems to be very unsatisfied about this. Although her features are fine, her cute little mouth is puffed up, showing that she's unhappy. Although she's to be a future lady, no matter what, she's still just a kid. She can't be expected to totally act to that point.
"Kirei, you're staying with father to help him fight, right?"
"Yes, as his apprentice, this is what I should be doing."
Rin is not a clueless child. As the Tōsaka magi's successor, she has already received Tokiomi's expert teaching. Regarding the imminent Fuyuki Heaven's Feel, she is equipped with some degree of knowledge.
As to why she has to go to her grandpa's house, she can understand the legitimate reason. But, what she's unsatisfied about is--after she's gone, Kirei's the only one left in the Tōsaka house and could do whatever he wants.
Rin has extraordinary respect for her father Tokiomi. Precisely for this reason, as the successor, Rin's dislike for Kirei is probably because he became Tokiomi's student first, learning magecraft from him.
"Kirei, can I trust you? Will you protect father to the end? Will you promise me that?"
"That is impossible. If this war was benign enough for me to promise you that, then there would be no reason for you and your mother to get out of harm's way, right?"
Kirei is unwilling to speak empty words to comfort her, and thus plainly spoke the truth. But Rin's eyes became fiercer, glaring at her impudent and shameless apprentice elder.
"...As I thought, I don't like you one bit."
Only when speaking upsetting words befitting her age, that's when Kirei has a favorable impression of this girl.
"Rin, don't ever speak such impolite words in front of others again. Otherwise, you will put the moral character of your father in suspect."
"This has nothing to do with father!"
Seeing as even father has been pulled out as a shield; Rin's anger caused her face to turn a profuse red. This is exactly what Kirei hoped to see.
"Listen up Kirei! If father is hurt because of your errors, I will definitely not forgive you! I —"
At that moment, with what can be said to be the best possible timing, Aoi's shadow appeared. Already done with her preparations, but because Rin didn't come, she came to check out the situation.
"Rin! What are you doing? With such a loud voice!"
"— Ah, that is, I —"
"Before her departure, she came to give me encouragement, lady."
Kirei pretended to be calm and purposely helped Rin, but Rin became even angrier. But she can't say anything in front of her mother, so she turned to leave.
"I'll help you with the luggage. Rin, that case is way too heavy for you."
"No! I can do it myself!"
Rin pulled at the box even more vigorously than before, and because of this mired into an even fiercer battle with the case, but despite everything, finally got it out the door. Kirei knows that acting this way would be very unlike a mature adult, but he still wanted to laugh at Rin whenever he had the chance to.
Aoi, who remained, gave Kirei a very respectful bow.
"Kotomine-san, I'll leave my husband in your hands. Please help him realize his wish."
"I will do my best, please don't worry."
The way Kirei sees it, Tōsaka Aoi is the perfect wife. Solemn and discreet, meticulous, understanding of her husband and never interfering, regarding loyalty as higher than love and has respect for duty - in short, she's the model of the perfect wife and mother from older times. In an era where the feminist movement has begun to soak through society, she's like a character carved from stone. Tokiomi has really picked a person most compatible with himself as his spouse.
Kirei stood at the door to see the mother and daughter off with his eyes, leaving not with a taxi, but a private car with Aoi at the steering wheel. Not only the chauffeur, but even all the servants, starting last week, have all been laid off. It is done to prevent from bringing harm to the innocent, and also as a kind of careful tactic against espionage. Tokiomi wasn't cautious enough to keep up his guard even against his servants; this suggestion was Kirei's, and Tokiomi was half forced to carry out this act.
Before the car left, Rin was shielded from her mother's eyes and stuck out her tongue at Kirei, making a face. Kirei laughed bitterly and saw them off with his eyes, then returned to the now empty mansion.
Tokiomi has not yet left the basement workshop. Kirei, being the sole occupant of the otherwise empty living room, began to thoroughly read through the report regarding Emiya Kiritsugu.
He didn't understand why he had such intense interest in this strange magus he didn't even know. Perhaps it's because he derives some sort of feeling of pleasure from the loathing placed onto this man by his teacher Tokiomi.
The relationship of teacher and student maintained for three years in this house has always had a sense of satire about it.
As a teacher, Tokiomi cannot nitpick on Kirei's concentration in learning and speedy comprehension; originally a holy servant who detests magecraft, yet he has immense interest in all thaumaturgical fields. Kirei's use of what can be called 'a greedy desire for knowledge' to learn everything makes Tokiomi happy. Now Tokiomi's trust for Kirei is completely unshakable, even to the point of making his only daughter Rin show respect for Kirei as an elder apprentice.
But compared to Tokiomi's increasingly profound friendship, Kirei's heart became more and more desolate.
For Kirei, he's not studying magecraft because he likes it. Leading a long, pious life in the church, yet ending up with nothing in return; because of that, Kirei bet all his hopes on the new study which has exact opposite values to that of the church, that is all. But the result was a complete disaster. In the world of pursuing magecraft, Kirei did not find any enjoyment, nor did he gain any satiety. Quite the opposite, it seems to have lengthened the radius of the empty hole in his heart.
Tokiomi doesn't seem to have noticed Kirei's disappointment at all. The assessment of 'the same type of person as my father Risei' is completely correct. Tokiomi's appraisal of and trust for Kirei is exactly the same as Risei's.
There's always an uncrossable line between himself and people like his father and Tokiomi. Kirei understood this completely, and so that's probably why he has such interest for a character Tokiomi detests.
He thought, maybe this man Emiya Kiritsugu exists on 'the other side of the line.'.
Tokiomi's caution against Emiya Kiritsugu seems to be purely against his title of 'Magus Killer', so this investigation report created at the request of Tokiomi focused on 'his personal history of battles against magi', any other record not on this topic was rather simplistic.
But, looking at this man Kiritsugu's experiences in chronological order, Kirei began to gradually gain a belief.
This man's actions contain a high level of risk.
In the era of freelancing assassination before he was taken in by the Einzberns as their son-in-law, Kiritsugu expertly completed countless missions. But the pause between missions was clearly too short. Considering the time he has for preparation and accepting missions, the only possible conclusion is that he is simultaneously executing several plans. And these plans are all parallel; he appears in the conflicts of various areas, and always when the conflict is the most heated, at the point of destruction.
As if he was suicidal, as if he had some sort of sickness driving him... the principle behind his actions is clearly self-destruction.
This can be said without question. This man Kiritsugu does not have a selfish heart, the risks of his actions and profiting from them do not match. It's impossible that he's the kind of freelancing assassin with money as the intent.
Then — what does he seek?
Unconsciously, Kirei put the report aside, propped his lower jaw on his hand, and sunk into deep thought. This man Emiya Kiritsugu has a turbulent life inconceivable by others, but Kirei doesn't see it as unrelated to himself.
A magus without pride, a man who lost his belief, Tokiomi assessed him as thus.
If that's the truth, Kiritsugu's intense experiences, as if seeking destruction... or can it be said as a journey of seeking a long lost answer?
Then, the curtain on Kiritsugu's continuous battles fell suddenly nine years ago. That's because through continuous searching, he met with the Einzbern magi seeking victory in the Heaven's Feel in the northern lands.
That is to say, at that moment, he obtained his 'answer.'
Right now, Kirei anxiously anticipates his meeting with Emiya Kiritsugu. He has finally found the significance of his participation in the Fuyuki battle.
Even now, he has no interest in the Grail. But, if Kiritsugu broke a nine-year silence for it, Kirei has just gained the significance of coming here to participate in this fight which can dispel all difficulties.
He must ask this man. 'What is it that you are seeking that you would participate in this battle... what do you obtain from it in the end?'
Kotomine Kirei will confront Emiya Kiritsugu no matter what. Even if it's on a battlefield where both sides wager life and death.
Matō Kariya’s mental strength had, in conclusion, withstood the bitter pain, but his physical body had reached its limit.
Within three months all his hair had turned white. His skin was covered with emerging lesions interspersed with regions devoid of the rosy color of living flesh, turning instead into a sepulchral shade of earthen grey. The poison named prana that circulated in his veins can be seen to expand beneath his semi-transparent flesh, as if his torso was harboring a crawling mess of inky black cracks.
Like so, his body collapsed at a rate faster than he had ever imagined. The impact was particularly heavy on the left side of his body and its nerves, so much so that at one stage his left wrist and ankle were completely paralyzed. A temporary rehabilitation program got them back to work, but the left hand still reacted slower than the right, and a quicker stride would result in a dragging left feet.
Palpitations due to his irregular pulse have become regulars for him. Solid food can also not be taken in; intravenous glucose injections were used as its substitute.
According to the theories of modern medicine, it is a matter of amazement that a creature in his state still continued to live and function. Although Kariya can still stand and walk it was, with a tint of irony, a gift granted to him by the prana that he, as a magus, bought with his life.
The crest worms that have been invading Kariya’s flesh have already grown into a form that can imitate the function of Magic Circuits. In order to maintain the life of their decaying possessor they are now desperately acting out their role.
If it is simply a matter of the amount of Magic Circuits, then Kariya have already possessed the prana needed for qualifying as a magus. It appears that his progress was even faster than what Matō Zōken had expected. In the end, the three scars of the Command Seals had blatantly shown up on Kariya’s right hand. The Holy Grail also seems to have accepted him as the representative of the Matō family.
Based on Zōken’s estimations, Kariya has about a month left to live. For Kariya, it seems that this amount of time is enough.
The Heaven’s Feel has entered into its countdown stage. If all seven Servants are summoned the war may even begin tomorrow. The duration of the war, according to past experiences, should be about two weeks. Sometime before Kariya’s death.
Yet, if Kariya activates his Magic Circuits, it means he will be inciting the crest worms. Indeed, then the burden placed on his body would be far greater than that of the other magi.
The worst case scenario would be that, before the war has ended, the crest worms have already devoured their host.
Kariya does not only have to fight against the other six Masters. It could be said that his greatest enemy are the creatures hosted within him.
That night, as Kariya approached the basement of the Matō residence to face the final test, he accidentally met Sakura in the corridor.
The frightened expression that emerged on Sakura’s face when she first saw him slightly pricked Kariya’s chest.
At this stage of affairs, although there is nothing to be done, Kariya was still pained to know that he was now an object of Sakura’s fear.
‘Oh, Sakura-chan – were you scared?”
“… Um. Your face, what happened?”
“Ah. It’s just a little problem.”
The sight of his left eye has been completely eradicated yesterday. Like the nebulous eyeball that had undergone necrosis, the surrounding muscles also have fallen into paralysis. The eyelid and brow cannot be moved, neither; maybe the left side of his face was already showing signs of lifelessness, turning rigid as a fake mask. His reflection in the mirror frightens even him, let alone Sakura.
“Just a bit more, then I might be defeated by the ‘worms’ within me. Uncle is not as enduring as Sakura-chan.”
A bitter smile was intended, but looked like a more gruesome feature was formed. Sakura became more scared and even curled her body up.
“– Uncle Kariya, you are like a different person now.”
“Ha ha, maybe that is the case.”
With a dry laugh as pretense the matter was vaguely passed over.
– I can say the same about you, Sakura.
Yes, Kariya comment wearily in his heart.
The Sakura that is now named Matō has also changed into a girl completely different from the Sakura that Kariya knew.
A gaze as hollow and dim as that of a doll. The various emotions behind those pair of eyes were never seen by him in this whole year. The innocent face of the girl that followed her elder sister Rin and played carelessly like a puppy had long ago disappeared.
This is understandable. Just consider the cruel training that Sakura undertook this year in order to become the successor of the thaumaturgy of the Matōs.
Sakura’s body does indeed have fitting potentials to become a magus. On this matter she was far better than Kariya and his elder brother Byakuya. Yet, it was inevitably a potential more appropriate for a magus of the Tōsaka brand of thaumaturgy, with fundamental differences to the thaumaturgy of the Matō.
Acclimatization was needed in order to allow Sakura’s body to adapt to the thaumaturgy of the Matō. The treatments of this so called acclimatization are the tortures that occurred in the underground worm storage of the Matō residence every day and night in the name of "education."
Children’s minds are immature.
They do not possess a firm resolve and the strength to turn their misery to anger. Confronted with a cruel fate, they were not provided with the choice of having a strong will. Moreover, as they have not lived through and comprehended life, ideals such as honor and hope are yet to be completely nurtured in them.
Therefore in moments of despair children are more prone than adults to seal away their own mind, lock up their own heart.
Because they have not tasted the joy of life they can afford to discard. Because they have not understood the meaning of future they can sink into despair.
Kariya was forced to witness, with his own eyes, how in the duration of a year a girl had gradually shut out her heart due to the torments imposed upon her.
He had suffered from the piercing pain of the parasite worms eroding away his body, and suffered from the worse and overwhelming guilt that sought to devour his soul.
Undoubtedly he was one of the reasons that resulted in Sakura’s anguish. Kariya cursed Matō Zōken, cursed Tōsaka Tokiomi, and in the same time placed this curse upon himself.
The only consolation was that – the Sakura that has turned as introverted as a doll was only carefree when with Kariya, and even occasionally uttering words of innocence when they met. Whether it was a relationship shared by those who endure the same pain, or a friendship forged while she was still called Tōsaka Sakura, this girl continued to regard him as different compared to her ‘tutors,' Zōken and Byakuya.
“I don’t need to go to the worm storage room today. Grandfather said that’s because something more important is going to happen there.”
“Ah, I know. That’s why uncle is taking your place to go to the worm storage.”
Sakura tilted her head as if she was spying on Kariya when she heard his answer.
“Uncle Kariya, are you leaving for somewhere far away?”
With a child’s distinctively sharp intuition Sakura seemed to have detected Kariya’s fate. But he did not want to worry the young Sakura too much.
“Uncle’s going to be busy with important business for a while, so I won’t have much time to talk to Sakura-chan like this.”
“Is that so…”
Sakura moved her sight away from Kariya and it immediately reverted back to a meaningless gaze, a gaze that was focused on some distant object that only she could see. Hurt at seeing Sakura like this, Kariya attempted to start another topic.
“Say, Sakura-chan, shall we play together again when uncle’s work is finished? Together with your mother and big sister.”
"Mother, big sister..."
Sakura said dejectedly after a pause.
“...I don’t have people that I can call by those names anymore. Grandfather told me that I should treat them as no longer existing.”
“I see…” A reply with an indecisive voice.
Kariya knelt down in front of Sakura, and with his still mobile right hand held her shoulders softly in an embrace. With her head buried in his chest Sakura can no longer see Kariya’s face. He would therefore not be afraid of her seeing his crying countenance.
“Then, let’s bring Aoi-san and Rin-chan from the Tōsaka family, and go somewhere far far away with just the four of us; like how we used to. What do you say about that?”
“– Can we see those people again?”
A weak voiced sounded within the enclosure of his wrist. Kariya tightened the hand that held Sakura and nodded.
“Of course we can see them again. I promise you.”
Nothing else can be promised.
If it is possible, then other words can be used for another promise. If he could, Kariya longed to tell Sakura right now that she only has to endure a few more days before he delivers her from Matō Zōken’s deadly grasp.
But that is not permitted.
As the only way she knew how to protect herself, Sakura had tried hard to paralyze her mind through despair and resignation. In order to counter the unbearable pain, the hapless girl can only destroy the sense of self that is still able to feel.
How can you say cruel words such as ‘you should keep hoping’ and ‘you should look after yourself’ to a child like this? These lines that confer temporary solace can only save the speaker. Giving her hope means to take away the armor named ‘despair’ that was cast upon her soul. If that is to happen, Sakura’s young and tender mind would collapse within a night.
Although they both lived in the Matō residence Kariya had never claimed to be Sakura’s ‘savior.' He can only protect her by standing beside her, as an adult that is also been ‘bullied’ by Zōken and as powerless as Sakura.
“– Goodbye then. Uncle’s gotta go now.”
Kariya released Sakura, hoping that his tears have dried up. Sakura looked up solemnly at the decaying left side of Kariya’s face.
“…Mm, bye, uncle Kariya.”
Words of farewell seemed appropriate for this situation. She had accurately felt this even though she was only a child.
Kariya prayed piously in his heart as he watched Sakura’s retreating spiritless figure – please do not let it be too late.
Kariya no longer cared about anything concerning himself. His life was already given to Aoi and Sakura, the pair of mother and daughter. If he had anything of his own that might be ‘too late,' it is the possibility that he might be dead before he had taken the Grail.
The delay that he was truly worried in his heart was about Sakura. If Kariya can successfully gain the Holy Grail and deliver Sakura back to her mother, can the girl who had sealed herself up tightly with despair one day break apart her solid shell and once again enter the world outside?
The heartaches that Sakura endured this year would undoubtedly follow her throughout her life, but he hoped it would gradually heal as time went on. He hoped that her heart was not given torments that equated to a deadly blow.
All that is left for him to do is to pray. The one that can heal the wounds in this girl’s heart is not Kariya. There is not much time left for him; he is unable to take up that job.
That is a job for those whom, in the future, are guaranteed of their lives.
Kariya turned around and slowly, but resolutely, took a step on the staircase leading towards the worm storage room underground.
In a clearing within a bush at a corner of the small mountainous town of Fuyuki, Waver Velvet began his preparation of the summoning ritual after making sure that he was completely alone.
Waver’s nerves were held extremely taut the entire day due to the incessant crowing of the chickens, so much so that a ritual of purification of the mind was needed before the conduction.
The shape of the magic circle has to be drawn on the ground while the dripping chicken blood was still warm. He had practiced the procedure many times, drawing the four encircling patterns of departure within erasure inside the summoning circle.
No mistakes must be made.
“Shut. Shut. Shut. Shut. Shut. Five perfections for each repetition. And now, let the filled sigils be annihilated in my stead!”
Waver carefully spread the chicken blood on the ground as he chanted the incantation.
In the underground workshop of the Tōsaka residence in the same small mountainous town, the same preparations were being made for the same ritual.
“Ye first, O silver, O iron. O stone of the foundation, O Archduke of the Contract. Hear me in the name of our great teacher, the Archmagus Schweinorg.
Let the descending winds be as a wall. Let the gates in all directions be shut, rising above the crown, and let the three-forked roads to the Kingdom revolve.”
Tōsaka Tokiomi chanted the incantation loudly as he inscribed the magic circle, using not the blood of sacrificial victims but the molten essence of magical gems. To prepare for this day, Tōsaka have liberally used up all the gems that were full of prana stockpiled in his hoard.
Beside him were the Kotomine father and son – Risei and Kirei.
Kirei gazed intently at the holy relic placed on the altar. At first glance it looked like a broken fragment of a mummy, but in fact it was claimed to be the fossil of the skin that was shed by the first snake in the world in ancient times countless eons before.
Kirei cannot help but feel a wave of fear at the thought of the Heroic Spirit it would summon.
Tokiomi’s reasons for his confidence were finally understood. No Servant can defeat the Heroic Spirit that Tokiomi have chosen.
At the same time, in the distant castle of the Einzberns, Emiya Kiritsugu was examining the completed state of the summoning circle scribed on the floor of the ceremony room.
“Would such a simple ritual suffice?”
For Irisviel, who was standing aside overlooking the procedure, it was surprising that the preparations were so plain.
“Maybe you are disappointed, but the summoning of Servants never needed an extravagant spiritual evocation ceremony.”
Kiritsugu explained as he carefully checked for twists and smudges on the patterns drawn with mercury.
“Because it is in fact not the power of the magus that summons the Servant, but the power of the Holy Grail. As a Master I am only a cord that connects the Heroic Spirit with the world we reside in, and then merely provide him with prana necessary for materialization in this world.”
As if satisfied with the completed state of the summoning circle, Kiritsugu nodded and stood up. The holy relic was placed on the altar – the sheath of the legendary holy sword.
“According to this, victory should be within our hands.”
“Have you accurately memorized the incantations of summoning?”
Matō Zōken reminded Kariya again and again for safety’s sake. The latter nodded in the darkness.
Full of the foul odor of rot and dampness, a green darkness as that of the depth of the sea. This is the worm storage hidden deep beneath the ground of the Matō residence that stood on the hill of the small mountainous town.
“That’s good. Only, midway through the incantation, add two more lines of incantations.”
“What do you mean?”
Zōken smiled ominously towards Kariya’s confused expression.
“Isn’t it obvious? Kariya, you should know that as a magus, your abilities are not just one or two notches below the other Masters. It will affect the basic abilities of the Servant.
If that’s the case, it can only be amended through the Servant’s Class, and we must raise the parameter from the root up.”
Predetermining the Class of the Servant through the alteration of the summoning incantations.
Usually, the assignment of Servant Classes is inevitably decided by the summoned Heroic Spirit’s own attributes. However, there are exceptions; two Classes can be designated by the summoner beforehand.
One of them is Assassin. The Heroic Spirit that belongs to this Class can be assumed as a group of killers that inherited the name of Hassan I Sabah.
And the other class is for all Heroic Spirits and can be manifested as long as the summoner incorporates the required foreign ingredients. Therefore –
“This time, give the summoned Servant the attribute of ‘Mad Enhancement’!”
Zōken declared loudly with an overjoyed face, as if welcoming the disastrous implications contained within it.
“Kariya, as the Master of Berserker, fight for me with all that you’ve got.”
On that day, incantations from different lands and aimed at different entities were chanted almost simultaneously, a harmony so coincidental it can hardly be regarded as an accident of chance.
For all the magi have the same hope.
A hope about a miracle. The summons pronounced to the heroes on the other side of the universe by these humans, who will brutally slaughter each other to achieve this miracle, were ringing out from the earth at the same time.
This is the moment that will present the greatest test to him as a magus. If he lost, he would even lose his life. Waver felt this acutely, but he was not a bit afraid.
A passion that desires strength. A determination that relentlessly pursues his goal. Based on those qualities, Waver Velvet is undoubtedly an outstanding magus.
“ – Set
Let thy body rest under my dominion, let my fate rest in thy blade.
If thou submitteth to the call of the Holy Grail, and if thou wilt obey this mind, this reason, then thou shalt respond.”
The sensation of prana that surrounded his body. The malevolent chill and agony caused by the slithering and circulation of the Magic Circuits within one’s corporal being is something that no magi can escape from.
Waver bit down on his teeth as he continued to chant the incantation.
“ – I make my oath here. I am that person who is to become the virtue of all Heaven. I am that person who is covered with the evil of all Hades.”
Kiritsugu’s sight darkened.
The Emiya family crest, that was passed down through the generations and carved on his back, began to separately chant the incantation as individual entities in order to support Kiritsugu’s thaumaturgy. Kiritsugu’s heart, in a dimension that escaped his mind’s control, began to beat rapidly like a hurrying clock hand.
His flesh that was tormented by the prana gathered from the air had already forgotten its functionalities as a human; instead, it had turned into a component of the mysterious ceremony, into a circuit that purely connected the ethereal with the material.
Kiritsugu gave no thought to the severe pain created by this discord that was enough to make one want to scream out loud, and concentrated on pronouncing his incantation. Even the presence of Irisviel, who stood beside him holding her breath, was no longer present in his consciousness.
Adding the forbidden alien ingredient in the incantations of summoning, Kariya included two lines of incantations that would rob the sanity of the summoned Heroic Spirit and demote the hero to a level of a berserker.
“ – Yet, thou serves with thine eyes clouded in chaos. Thou, bound in the cage of madness. I am he who commands those chains – ”
Kariya is different from other magi in that his Magic Circuits are made from other organisms that lived within him as parasites. The anguish necessary for inciting them and activating his Circuits are incomparable with that suffered by other magi. As he chanted the incantations his limbs twitched in spasms, and blood seeped out from his shattered capillaries.
Sanguineous tears flew from the remaining wholesome right eye, dripping down his cheek.
Even so, Kariya did not lax in his concentration.
Thinking about the duty that he bore on his back – then he would not shrink back at this moment.
“Thou seven heavens, clad in a trinity of words, come past they restraining rings, and be thou the hands that protect the balance – !”
With this as the end of his prayers, Tokiomi felt that the acceleration of the prana that raced in his body had reached its uttermost limit.
Thunder and lightening roared, accompanied with rolling clouds bore on a mighty wind. In the pressure of a gale that wouldn’t even allow onlookers such as Kirei to open their eyes, the patterns of the summoning circle glimmered with brilliant light.
Finally, the Magic Circuits have connected with the plane that is not of men… from the dazzling light that endlessly shone forth, a golden silhouette of an upright man emerged. Awed with such august solemnity, Father Risei muttered dreamily despite himself.
“…We’ve won, Kirei. Our battle is won…”
The wish was passed onto them like this.
Arriving from the other side and landing here, a legendary illusion wrapped in tornado and lightening.
Originally of human kind but separated from the mortal plane. Elevated to the level of elementals through powers not of men. The place where the supernatural primates gathered… from the Throne of Heroes that had its power of the Gods suppressed, the Heroic Spirits weaved from the dreams of countless ordinary men descended on the earth at the same time.
In a forest in the night, on a stone stool enveloped by the darkness, at each of these locations someone now asked in a majestic voice:
“I ask thee, art thou the Master that called me?”
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