Fate/Zero:Act 10 Part 2
Archer looked down towards the distant, waveborne battle of Heroic Spirits from high in the air.
"What a disgraceful sight..."
The King of Heroes rode upon a shining bright ‘ark’ made of gold and emerald, 500 meters above the ground.
Gate of Babylon – the treasury of Gilgamesh, the primeval hero who once owned all of the treasures in the world, stored within it the original forms of many treasures that were praised by the legends and myths of latter men.
The golden ark that he is using to float in the air is also one of those 'divine secret treasures'. Indeed, this is the flying contraption that was passed from Babylon to India and recorded in the two epic sagas Ramayana and Mahabharata as the "Vimana".
"Although they’re mongrels, they are famous warriors at the very least... I wouldn’t have thought that they’ve fallen as low as joining together to finish that filthy thing. There should be a limit to deplorability. Don’t you think so, Tokiomi?"
In contrast with the languid and heedless Archer, Tōsaka Tokiomi, who was permitted to share a seat on the ark, had a heart full of anger and anxiety.
For the most part, magecraft has to be used in secret – it was indeed due to the need to obey this basic principle that the Tōsaka lineage was appointed this land's Second Owner by the Association. Caster's rampage not only threatens the progress of the Holy Grail War, it wholly tramples over even Tokiomi’s own prestige.
It would be a horrid tragedy if the liberated beast were to go mad again. If that happens, then the problem would no longer be a simple matter of finishing Caster's bounty, or properly conducting the Heaven’s Feel. Right now, this monster must be eliminated as soon as possible. The dignity of the Tōsaka name would be at stake if the number of witnesses increased.
"O King, that monster is an evil creature laying waste to your garden. A sinner that deserves death by any means!"
"That’s the work of the gardener."
Archer immediately rebuked Tokiomi’s request.
"Could it be, Tokiomi, that you regard this great treasure of mine as a gardener's hoe?"
"That is not what I meant! But as you can see – they won't be able to hold on much longer."
In truth, it is evident that the battle is progressing towards despair.
Although Saber and Rider’s blades continued to slash the sea demon’s gigantic body with no respite, it showed no signs of being wounded.
Of course, it wasn’t that the Servants were holding back. The unyielding sword that clove rocks and the iron hooves that brought forth roaring thunder; they ruthlessly carved out the sea demon’s flesh, scattering them about in waves of blood and decay. However, the shredded wounds would be filled up by new flesh in the blink of an eye.
The demonic monsters that Caster summoned and commanded previously also had physical regeneration abilities, so it was not surprising. However, the giant sea demon this time was indeed enormous in size. It was as if they were digging a hole in a marsh; the damage of the two Servants combined cannot keep pace with the monster's regeneration.
Even the utmost effort and combined attacks of the King of Knights and King of Conquerors could only slow down the sea demon's progress towards the river bank by a little.
"This is a great opportunity to display the majesty of a true hero. Please, give the command!"
The King of Heroes gave Tokiomi a glance of displeasure. Then he swung his right hand, which was propping up his chin on the edge of the ship. Four swords and spears appeared in the air next to him. The shining primeval Noble Phantasms unleashed a thunderous roar, and flew to impale the filthy mountain of meat that wriggled down below.
Saber and Rider reacted immediately and jumped away to avoid being caught in the attack, but Caster’s sea monster was in no ways so agile. The four Noble Phantasms hit it head on. Their power, enough to split mountains, blew one-third of the giant beast’s body into nothingness.
It was an unprecedentedly mighty impact, but Caster laughed out loud with an even more piercing sound.
"How can it be...?"
Tokiomi was dumbfounded. Beneath him, the wriggling meat mountain swelled up like a balloon, and repaired the damaged parts as he watched.
The physical structure of the giant meat lump was perhaps as simple as an amoeba. It has no bones or organs, and thus no weaknesses. Its movement won’t be impaired no matter which body part is destroyed, and it will speedily restore the destroyed parts relying on its mighty regeneration ability.
" – We're leaving, Tokiomi. I can’t watch that filthy thing a second longer."
Archer spat out while his crimson irises expressed his revulsion.
"But... please wait, King of Heroes!"
"Tokiomi, I used four Noble Phantasms for your honor. I don’t want to take them back now that they’ve been touched and stained by that thing. Don’t take my leniency so cheaply."
"You are the only one who can defeat that monster!"
Tokiomi desperately persisted. As it had progressed into such a situation, he had no time to think about the prudence a liege should have.
"With a regeneration ability of this level, we can only destroy it entirely with one blow. The only one who can do this is you, the King of Heroes, and the Sword of Rupture – "
This time it was Archer who raged, his pupils a burning crimson.
"Draw my greatest treasure, Ea, here? You are senseless, Tokiomi! I should take your head for speaking such rash words to the King!"
Tokiomi lowered his gaze, grinding his teeth, and stayed silent.
Indeed, it is impossible. With Gilgamesh's pride, he would only draw his his trump card, his cherished blade, when facing an opponent whom he recognizes as 'fitting.'
However, there was no other way to completely destroy Caster’s sea demon. That was also the truth.
He was forcibly reminded of the Command Seals on his right hand. Even if he uses one here, he can obtain another one from the Holy Church as the reward for defeating Caster. However – this kind of choice would definitely cause the relationship between the King of Heroes and himself to shatter.
Since that’s the case, he could only place his hope on other Servants.
...And if Caster is successfully destroyed by the other Servants, Masters other than Tokiomi would gain the additional Command Seals held by Father Risei.
The constrained anger caused Tokiomi to clutch his hands into fists. His nails dug into his palm.
Why did things progress toward such an unexpected direction? It was supposed to be a perfectly planned and prepared Heaven’s Feel, so how did it turn into such a mad and chaotic situation?
At that moment, a thunderous sound tore apart the sky. Tokiomi lifted his head stiffly.
The lightless thunder could only be the residual noise of a sonic boom. The paired lights that flew across the night sky, north to south, were the identification lights of jet-propelled fighter aircraft.
The situation was deteriorating rapidly with every passing moment. For Tōsaka Tokiomi, the Second Owner of Fuyuki, there was nothing he could do except to look on.
The strange scene spread below them shocked the two Eagles speechless.
"... What, is that...?"
Captain Ōgi raked his brain and considered the possibility that his eyes were playing tricks on him. Beyond that, he was doubting even his own sanity.
"And there's some strange lights at six o’clock. It's not a helicopter... is it a UFO or something?"
The stunned voice of his wingman, 2nd Lieutenant Kobayashi, coming through the wireless made the situation clear. This wasn’t an illusion that only Captain Ōgi could see.
"Control to Diablo I. Situation report."
"The situation – it's, uh – "
How can he explain this?
Disaster? Unknown craft? Airspace intrusion?
Monster – no, that can’t be considered. There isn't a codeword for that.
In order to explain this, it must be built upon the foundation of current knowledge. However, such knowledge far surpassed Captain Ōgi's capacity of thought.
"I’ll go a bit lower to look at it closely."
"Wait – Kobayashi, hold it!"
A nameless evil chill descended upon his back; Captain Ōgi reflexively tried to stop his wingman. However, Kobayashi's F15 had moved from circling to actual descent.
"Pull back! Diablo II!"
"If we observe it a bit closer, then we can know – "
At this moment, the two fighter jets were no longer onlookers.
The opponent wasn’t a modern weapon like anti-aircraft artillery or missiles, so Lieutenant Kobayashi had no way to estimate the range of the enemy’s attacks. And first of all, it would be impossible to react to tentacles that can stretch over 100 meters in the blink of an eye.
He couldn’t figure out what was happening even after the he lost control of the stick. It was as if he smacked into an invisible wall and spiralled into a fall. All he could do was scream.
Although he died this way, it may still be somewhat fortunate compared to what Captain Ōgi was seeing.
Numerous thick and robust web-like extensions stretched out from the surface of the meat lump on the river and entangled Kobayashi's craft, forcibly dragging the plane down despite the turbofan engine's thrust. Such a scene can only be called a nightmare.
The plane didn’t explode when it smashed into the meat lump. The F15, reduced into scrap iron, sank deeply into the gigantic primeval creature and was swallowed with not a single fragment left.
"Kobayashi – "
Having witnessed everything, Captain Ōgi's mind had gone over the ultimate limit of thought and comprehension, and was left solely with a perception alien to common sense.
Aah, it – was swallowed.
"Control to Diablo I. What's going on?! Report!"
"Eyes, it has eyes, so many eyes..."
Despite the thick mist Captain Ōgi still saw, very clearly, those wart-like eyes that emerged on the surface of the meat lump, which all opened at the same time and stared at the prey in the air above them.
Captain Ōgi could feel that ‘gaze’ even in the airtight cockpit.
That was it. That thing was unimaginably hungry. It focused on the next prey after it swallowed Diablo II, and kept a death glare on it...
However, overwhelming horror instead exploded into violent anger.
" – Diablo I, engaging!"
"W-wait, Ōgi! Just what is – "
He forcibly turned off the noisy radio communication and disengaged all safeties. 4 AIM-7F/M Sparrows. 4 AIM-9 Sidewinders. 940 rounds for the M61 Vulcan. All in premium condition.
Kill it before he gets swallowed.
Ōgi's lips twisted with mad laughter, having lost all normal capacities of thought. At the control column of a F15, the most powerful fighter jet in the world, he was the true God of Death.
Must avenge Kobayashi... rip that thing to shreds, then burn it to ashes.
He turned the plane around, locking onto the target with the HUD reticle. He would never miss with such a giant enemy. A saturation run, firing all weapons at once –
Powerful tremors rocked the plane’s body.
Right behind him – Ōgi battle instincts, pushed to the limit, told him this. However, judging from its results, his sudden turn to look behind him delivered the final blow to his already half-shattered consciousness.
An inky-black figure suddenly appeared on the other side of the canopy, fully exposed to the subsonic convection currents at the back of the plane. Behind his obscuring helmet, his gleaming eyes emanated blazing fire, and his gaze harbored endless hatred and madness as he stared intently into the cockpit.
In the sealed, radio-silent iron coffin, Captain Ōgi gave a final hoarse scream that reached no one.
Tōsaka Tokiomi, his sight reinforced with magecraft, watched the F15 streaking through the air.
The shadow that suddenly appeared on the back of the plane, armored in dully shimmering titanium... only a Servant is capable of something like that. Judging from its appearance, it must be the Berserker mentioned in Kirei's reports.
The blackness on the armor corrupted the fighter jet's outer shell drop by drop as if it was ink.
Indeed, it was Berserker's special ability that once robbed Archer's Noble Phantasms away and transformed even scrap iron into demonic swords and spears ― perhaps that power allows him to use anything and everything that can be remotely conceptualized as a 'weapon'?
The black prana again corroded the sonic silver wings, and even that epitome of modern science was instantly changed it into a monstrous form.
The twenty-meter-long craft having completely fallen under his control, the black knight lightly gripped its back like a dragon rider of legend. His howl, full of vengeance, reverberated through the night sky.
Tokiomi had already been informed by Kirei about the primary targets of Berserker and its Master.
Unexpectedly, the fiendish steel bird, now completely corroded by the pitch-black prana, turned its nose and charged directly towards Archer's airborne Vimana.
"Oho, is it that mad dog again...? Interesting."
Different from the initial battle at the warehouse district, Archer smiled wickedly and rose to Berserker's challenge. Tokiomi had no idea about what may have changed the King of Heroes' thoughts, and he didn't want to ponder about it either.
After all, Tokiomi had already vowed in the past to defeat that enemy with his own hands. He wasn't put off with doing it himself as the other man was an opponent who had more or less troubled him personally.
Standing at the edge of the ark, Tokiomi looked towards the highest vantage point in the area, which would be the ideal spot to spy upon Tokiomi's group ― as expected, on the high-rise apartment complex where he locked his gaze, the opponent he wished for appeared.
That man stood there, this time with no intention of concealing himself.
The left side of his face was like a corpse, distorted and stiff with pain. His right eye was like a devil's, burning with the flames of hatred.
His eyes crossed with Tokiomi's and wordlessly declared battle.
"O' King, let me be the Master's opponent."
"Very well. You can have your fun."
The Vimana glided through the air and brought Tokiomi right above his target. It would be approximately an eighty meter descent. For a magus, such a distance is nothing to be afraid of.
"The fortunes of war upon us."
Tokiomi took his staff Mystic Code, smoothed the edge of his overcoat, and fearlessly leapt down from the sky.
Alone on the Vimana, Archer gazed at the pursuing steel shadow, his eyes burning with a sadistic light.
"A despicable and lowly dog only fit to prostrate on the ground now soaring into the heavens where kings dance... Even as a jester you are beyond help, mongrel!"
He unleashed Gate of Babylon, throwing out a continuous attack of six Noble Phantasms. Sparking with blinding brilliance, spears and blades charged to meet Berserker like comets, trailed by light.
The twin turbofan engine, receiving Berserker's alien power, gave off a monstrous roar. The black F15 used its acceleration to exponentially increase its relative velocity, breaking through a gap in the tightly-knit screen of Noble Phantasms.
However, Archer's Noble Phantasms did not lose their lethality simply because they were avoided. Three out of the six - an axe, a scythe, and a scimitar - immediately spun, changing direction and closing in on the F15's tail.
Just as they were about to hit, the black F15 writhed its ailerons and flaps like a living creature, escaping the blade edges of Archer's Noble Phantasms with aerodynamically impossible abruptness. With a second, then a third barrel roll, the barrage of Noble Phantasms scattered away into the sky. The intense G's of the first spin was enough to instantly kill Captain Ōgi in the cockpit, rupturing his internal organs; but of course, this was just a trifle for Berserker.
As soon as it dodged all the attacks, the F15 forcibly performed an Immelmann Turn and aimed its nose towards Archer, the pylons under its wings sputtering the flames of rocket motors. Two Sparrow missiles attacked Archer's Vimana with vengeance.
Although ordinary weapons would be useless in a battle of Servants, the weapons that Berserker corroded were of a different caliber. Carrying the prana of hatred, every single shot of the twenty-six-pound explosives had an annihilating might.
Archer boldly smiled and placed his hand on the Vimana's helm. Immediately, the ark of light accelerated and evaded the missiles' attack with an elegance that Berserker's brute force control can never compare with. The legendary flying Noble Phantasm, crossing the sky at the speed of thought, has already surpassed the laws of physics.
The mad black knight roared. As if echoing his malicious call, the front stabilizers of the two Sparrows suddenly twisted and once again they bared their fangs towards the Vimana which had evaded the first attack. Even the electronic radar-guided missiles have been transformed into magic weapons that chased the subject of Berserker's hatred like hounds.
However, Archer sneered at the incoming threat, deploying Gate of Babylon once again. He took out two shields and stood them in the sky, striking down the cursed missiles. With the ark shaking with the impact of the explosion, the red eyes of the King of Heroes were gradually stained with a shade of fanaticism.
"Interesting... I haven't played like this for a long time. Even a mere wild beast can make me so pleased!"
Archer's laughter raised as the Vimana's altitude sharply increased. Berserker's F15 once again gave pursuit, clawing at its back. The two instantly broke through the sound barrier, falling up through the sea of clouds in the night sky, climbing ever higher as the dogfight continued.
The thick evening mist enveloped the icy air as Tōsaka Tokiomi descended from the sky.
For a proficient magus, a controlled descent through manipulating mass and air currents is nothing too difficult. Or perhaps it should be said that the degree of proficiency is determined by the elegance of its execution.
Maintaining an absolutely vertical and straight path, landing as lightly as feather with his clothes and hair completely unruffled － an ordinary magus would definitely give a heartfelt praise upon seeing such an exemplary and skilled move like Tokiomi's.
But Matō Kariya had already transformed into something else. There was absolutely no respect or admiration towards magecraft in his heart.
Respect had turned into hatred, admiration had turned into anger. For Kariya, whose body was twisted into a thing ugly beyond comparison, Tokiomi's elegance and flamboyance deserve to be cursed.
You bastard － you are always like this no matter what.
His speech, his manners, and that royal disposition - this man has been 'perfect' ever since the day he appeared before Aoi and Kariya. That elegance and ease had always made Kariya feel the difference in their 'ranks'.
However, that will end tonight.
Elegance, something that this man paid the most attention to, is nothing on the battlefield where every man slaughtered one other. Now, right here, the Tōsaka family creed that was held in such pride will be dragged through the mud, destroyed...
Berserker, already in battle, began to mercilessly wring Kariya out of his prana. The agonizing pain caused by the maddening activity of the crest worms inside him was as if his hands and feet were being slashed by razors. His bones were rent, his eyes blurred.
However, such a pain is nothing when compared to the hatred that tore and gnawed at Kariya's heart.
" － It looks like you've changed, Matō Kariya."
Sharp, narrowing eyes that looked as though they were pitying; Tōsaka Tokiomi's showed his ease before battle and deliberately taunted Kariya.
"Discarding the way of magecraft, yet still longing after the Holy Grail and even returning to it in a form like this... Your shameful sight alone would be enough to cause slander of degradation of the Matō family."
Kariya replied with a mocking laugh. The sound that emerged from his mouth sounded like the chirping of insects even to himself.
"Tōsaka Tokiomi, I'll only ask you one thing... Why did you hand Sakura to Zōken?"
Tokiomi furrowed his brows when he heard this completely unexpected question.
"Is this a question you should care about at this time?"
"Answer me, Tokiomi!"
Tokiomi sighed, and said to the agitated Kariya.
" － You should know it without needing to ask. I only want my beloved daughter to have a happy future."
"What... did you, say?"
Upon receiving this incomprehensible reply, Kariya's brain momentarily blanked out. While Kariya froze, Tokiomi continued with an indifferent tone.
"Any magus with a second child would be troubled – the secret craft can only be passed on to one of them. This is a dilemma where one of the children must fall into mediocrity."
That word echoed in Kariya's empty mind. Sakura, who has lost her smile, and the image of Rin playing with Aoi... Tokiomi's words mixed into his few happy memories.
The image of the mother and her daughters from so long ago － did this man cleave it apart and discarded it just with the word 'mediocrity'?
"This is especially so since my wife is very outstanding as a mothering body. Both Rin and Sakura are born with equal and rare natural talents. Both daughters must have the protection of a house of magi.
Robbing away one's potential for the other's future － no father would hope for such a tragedy to occur."
Kariya couldn't understand the reasons flowing out of Tokiomi － no, he didn't want to understand. He felt that he was going to start throwing up on the spot if he understood just a small part of this magus' philosophy.
"The only thing to do in order to preserve both sisters' talents is to give one away for adoption. Old man Matō's request was a godsend. As a house that knows of the Holy Grail's existence, the possibility of reaching 'Akasha' is even higher. Even if I can't complete it, there's still Rin, and if Rin fails there's still Sakura; someone will always inherit the Tōsaka family's wish."
How can he speak of such a despairing truth with a still expression?
If they both walk the road leading to 'Akasha', then －
"...You want them to fight each other? Sister against sister?!"
Faced with Kariya's accusation, Tokiomi gave an unbidden laugh and nodded with a cold expression.
"Even if such a situation is to result, it is still happiness to the remnants of my house. If we succeed, the glory will be in our own hands; even if we fail, the glory will belong to our ancestral name. There is no such thing as a confrontation without sorrow."
Faced with Kariya, who was gritting his teeth, Tokiomi merely gave a cold glance and called out mockingly.
"It's a waste to tell you anyways. You are someone who doesn't understand the nobility of the way of magecraft at all, and had left the way and betrayed the art."
Hatred and anger, surpassing their uttermost limit, stimulated the crest worms within Kariya into life. An evil chill and agonizing pain passed through his entire body. Even so, it is a blessing for the current Kariya.
Erode me, devour my body. Let all the prana created thus become a curse for my nemesis...
Worms slithered out from the shadows around them like galloping waves and gathered to one place. These are disgusting crawling worms that looked like maggots and have the size of mice. All of these were the fangs Kariya acquired from Matō Zōken before Kariya became a Master － weapons to deal with battles outside the laws of the ordinary world.
"I won't forgive any of you... you disgusting magi...!
I'll kill you! And Zōken! Kill until none of you are left!!"
The worms that took in Kariya's hatred twitched and twisted together in agony. Soon shimmering, steely shells and wings emerged from cracks straight down their backs.
One by one － the slithering worms metamorphosed into giant beetles, which buzzed as they spread their wings and formed battalions as they flew around Kariya. A giant group amassed in the blink of an eye. These 'blade wing worms' adjusted into battle formation as they grinded their sharp jaws threateningly and ferociously. As a worm-user, this is Matō Kariya's deadliest hand.
Tōsaka Tokiomi's expression was still impassive, faced with a mass of carnivorous worms that could devour a bull and crush even its bones in an instant.
His level as a magus was far above Kariya, after all. Therefore, the suicidal secret craft that Kariya released was neither awe-inspiring nor frightening for Tokiomi. He could even spite this mockery of fate with ease in this battle to decide the victor between two former rival suitors.
" － From the moment a magus is born, he is someone that has 'power'. And some day, he will achieve a 'greater power'. This responsibility was already flowing in his 'blood' before he realized this destiny. That is what it means to be born into this world as the child of a magus."
Tokiomi said coldly as he lifted his Mystic Code and unleashed the craft of fire from the giant ruby embedded into its head.
The defensive form that traced the Tōsaka family crest in the air turned into crimson flames and burned the night air. This is an aggressive defense that will burn everything it touches to ashes; even to him, it feels childish to use this against a complete novice of an enemy, but he had no intention of holding back.
After all －
"The Matō magecraft was passed into Sakura's hands because you refused to inherit the family headship. I have to thank you on that point... however, I would never forgive a man like you. Escaping from the responsibility of your blood is a weakness, a vile behavior which can never be overlooked. Matō Kariya is a disgrace to the way of magecraft. Since we have met once again, I will have to exterminate you."
"Enough nonsense... you inhuman bastard..."
"You're wrong. Being responsible for yourself is the first requirement of being human. If you can't even do this, then you are only fit to be a dog, Kariya."
"O' worms, devour him, tear him apart!"
The dancing, scorching flames confronted the howling hive of insects.
The third deathmatch of the night had begun.
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