Fate/Zero:Act 10 Part 5
Emiya Kiritsugu clicked his tongue as he intently watched this unexpected turn of events.
The ship had already been anchored after moving to the appointed location, and the preparations for the engine-powered escape lifeboat loaded aboard were finished. Saber had also successfully regained her Noble Phantasm of certain kill; all that’s left was to summon Rider back and get him to free Caster's sea demon – just as he thought this, Berserker, as though he had somehow lost control of himself, suddenly shifted his focus, from the battle he had with Archer until now, to Saber.
However, now that he thought about it, this was already the second time that Saber was challenged by Berserker without reason. Even when they first met at the warehouse district, as soon as the black knight lost his target, he assaulted Saber like a starving beast. It could be passed off as a coincidence if it only happened once, but that can’t be said for a second time. To begin with, he had suddenly changed targets while completely ignoring his initial target of Archer, who was still going strong.
Of course, even for Archer, boasting an extraordinary amount of pride, this outrage was an inexcusable disdain.
“Have you no control? Mad dog!”
Archer cursed as he accelerated Vimana and soon approached Berserker’s back, close enough that he could kill him for certain. There was now so little distance between them that the opponent would never be able to evade the barrage of Noble Phantasms from regardless of his transcendent mobility – however, this decision backfired on him.
From the underside of the F15's body, scorching fireballs, like will-o'-the-wisps, slowly scattered in succession, washing over the nose of the trailing Vimana.
Originally, this armament called a flare dispenser simply launched out decoy heat sources in order to throw off the enemy’s heat-seeking missiles. However, as a result of being eroded by Berserker’s prana and demonized, they have even transfigured into tracking incendiary weapons. Based on their dogfight up until now, Archer made the hasty conclusion that the enemy doesn’t have a way of attacking against an enemy behind him, and therefore couldn’t cope in time to this unexpected counterattack. The bow of the Vimana plunged into the hive of roaring fire balls, lost control while surrounded by the crimson flames, and fell towards the surface of the river in a spiral.
Although he finally obtained the result of felling Archer, Berserker thought nothing of it right now. The fiendish steel bird did not even confirm the whereabouts of Archer after he sunk into the river, and with nothing but relentlessness, instead tracked down Saber and mercilessly poured down a rain of 20mm rounds.
For Saber, although the F15 that Berseker spurred on was a completely unknown weapon, her skill of sixth sense, equivalent to precognition, allowed her to comprehend with extreme accuracy the nature of this threat. Just before she was hit by the initial strafing run, Saber had sensed that this attack would result in wide-area destruction. Promptly realizing that Irisviel may be caught in the battle if she stayed on the river bank, she once again leapt onto the water surface and sought a path of retreat on the river.
As this was an unavoidable decision, the result guided her to yet another dilemma.
By good command of footwork as a Servant, Saber would be able to rival a jet fighter in speed and galloped on top of the water. However, this vast river surface, with no obstacles at all, was undoubtedly the best hunting ground for the black knight who strafed down from the air above.
The bullets pouring out like torrential rain swept behind the galloping Saber, missing her by a hair, and scattered raging sheets of water like the streams of an upward waterfall.
Regardless of the size of the caliber, something on the level of mere cannon shells pose no threat to Servants at all. This is especially so with Saber, whose physical abilities would allow her to evade them with no difficulty, and even deflect the shots back with the blade of her sword if she wanted to. However – no matter how extraordinary the Heroic Spirit may be, the 12,000 rounds-per-minute of the pride of America's General Electric, the M61 autocannon, presented an unmanageable amount of shots. Worse yet, as a weapon carrying the properties of a Noble Phantasm due to Berserker’s prana, a single shot would instantly be fatal.
“And I finally recovered my left hand…”
Saber was bitterly regretting. Even now, it would be possible for her to use her Noble Phantasm without hesitation and destroy Berserker in the air, but the enemy’s tenacious and incessant attacks didn’t allow her any opportunity to counterattack. Berserker’s battle tactics were both accurate and prudent, as though he knew the full extent of Saber's abilities. In order to hunt a lion, the best method is to keep chasing it, not giving it a single chance to bare its fangs, strangling it; Berserker's skill was like that of a hunter who fully knew the essence of this.
Abruptly, restless tremors spread from the river bank all the way into its surroundings. Only the magi present knew just what these unexplainable tremor meant – the epicenter was probably the inside of the Reality Marble that Rider expanded. The powerful quakes of the raging sea demon were finally beginning to affect normal space. It was an omen that Rider's Reality Marble was finally approaching its ultimate limit.
He must let Rider know of the situation here. Waver, after deciding as such, began to concentrate his thoughts to calling out his own Servant. Having no knowledge of telepathy, Waver could only rely on speech to come to a mutual understanding. However, Rider, who knew this, did say that ‘I’ll leave a herald for you”.
The space beside Waver abruptly shook, and the form of a knight emerged.
“Mithrenes of the rides forth to listen in the King’s stead!”
Overawed by the intrepid demeanor of the Heroic Spirit and his simple salutation, Waver faltered. However, he changed his mind, knowing that it was not the time to pay attention to such things, and mustered the courage in his heart to give directions to this Heroic Spirit he’s never met before.
“I want you to release the bounded field and throw Caster out to the appointed location as soon I give the signal. You can do that, right?”
“It can be done – but it is a race against time. It appears that our army inside the bounded field cannot stop that sea demon for much longer…”
“I know! I’m aware of that!”
As Waver grumbled he also attended to Saber, who kept dodging the attacks of the black knight, with a heart full of prayers.
“Damn it, Berserker, that bastard… can't something be done about him?!”
“– I will go.”
Lancer, responding resolutely, disappeared after grasping the now solitary crimson spear. The spearman that temporarily turned into spiritual form accurately materialized again on the body of the F15, steadying himself by grabbing the steel wings pulsing with black prana with one hand.
“It all ends here, mad warrior!”
No sooner had Lancer shouted this that he brandished the in his right hand above his head, and pierced the body of the grotesque machine with the spear tip.
The red spear that can cut through all prana circulation gleamed. It was indeed the archenemy of Berserker’s peculiar ability. But the black knight has had his full share of the power of this attack after the battle in the warehouse district. The mysterious Servant, maddened but not without prudence, did not make the same mistake when faced with Lancer’s Noble Phantasm. Right before the red spear skewered the craft's body, Berserker promptly discarded the doomed F15, and leapt high into the sky after using his arms to wretch off the important part of the craft. Immediately after, the fighter jet, reverted to a mass of scrap metal in an instant by cutting off its prana, crashed with Lancer on its wings, throwing up a splendid sheet of water from the Mion river.
The part that Berserker seized at the last minute was naturally the section accommodating the Vulcan unit. The autocannon, having avoided direct contact with Lancer’s spear with a hair's breadth, was still pulsing with the jet black prana that supplemented it, and did not lose the properties of being the black knight’s Noble Phantasm.
Carrying the six barrels and the cylindrical ammunition casing, weighing 200 kilogram in total, Berserker once again aimed from the sky at Saber below him. The rotary cannon, accelerated by prana, spun up in the blink of an eye. Saber finally realized that she had nowhere else to turn in the instant the torrential bullets were about to surge out.
The firing distance for Berserker, having jumped down from the aircraft and continuing to aim at Saber as he descended, was exceptionally closer than before. Saber no longer had time to anticipate for the initial velocity of the rounds, and no matter which way she may dodge, she couldn’t get out of the range of the rain of shells about to pour onto her.
It's all or nothing...!
Now that it has come to this, Saber was prepared to resort to using her Noble Phantasm, misplaced though it may be; the instant she swung the sword over her head, streaks of shining steel came flying in from an impossible angle and struck Berserker head on.
Hammer, axe and bolt gouged the jet black armor, and a giant sickle cleaved the body of the revolving gun barrel in half. Furthermore, a flaming bolt hit the ammunition storage directly, igniting all the remaining 20mm shells, blossoming wild crimson flames in the air. Berserker, washed over by the fragments and blast, was helplessly blown away, drawing a parabola in the empty air before sinking into the river surface like a thrown rock.
Astounded, Saber turned around and, looking up, saw Archer standing haughtily on the top of the arch of the Fuyuki Bridge. The shooting Noble Phantasms encircled him, surrounding him like an halo. He let out a wicked smile.
“Now, Saber, show it to me. I shall see for myself the true worth of your brilliance as a Heroic Spirit.”
It didn't even need to be said - Saber replied to Archer's insolent words with a silent glance, and once again returned her sight to the river surface, adjusting her stance with the golden sword.
All obstacles have been eliminated. Now was the time of conclusion.
Kiritsugu, who witnessed Berserker’s departure, was on a life boat already galloping to the safety zone. He aimed for and shot up a flare at a spot in the empty sky. The roaring yellow phosphorus flame was right above the line connecting Saber’s current position and the speedboat that Kiritsugu abandoned.
“There! Right under it!”
Waver immediately saw the signal and yelled at Rider's herald beside him. The Heroic Spirit Mithrenes disappeared without so much as a nod, returning to the inside of the bounded field where the king and his companions were waiting.
Immediately after, as though it had been in wait, the air around them shook, and the space that was eroded by the thoughts of the Heroic Spirits returned to the shape it was meant to have. Firstly, an alien shadow covered the night sky like a mirage, then its real form emerged in an instant; the giant and ominous body then fell into the water. That place was directly underneath where Kiritsugu shot the flare.
The raging sheets of water thrown up by the gigantic mass impacting the water assaulted the river bank like a tsunami. However, Saber, the only one who had fought and held her own in direct combat with the sea demon, was not hit by even a single splash. The prana gushing out from her right now summoned a surging wind so pressurized that it brushed aside the wall of water.
At the same time as the reappearance of the sea demon, Rider’s chariot also leapt into the dim night sky once again. Its scar-covered form told of the degree of intensity of the battle that played out inside the Reality Marble, but his majestic and awe-inspiring flying form was not diminished at all.
“– Seriously! Just what took all of you so long… Woah!?”
It was during Rider's moment of complaint that he saw the concentration of light pulsing from Saber’s sword; he immediately understood what was happening and urgently turned aside, escaping the area under threat. On the other hand, Caster’s sea demon wouldn’t be able to dodge so dexterously no matter what. The giant throbbing meat lump could do nothing apart from shrieking to scare this unknown brilliance.
The time was ripe.
Pouring all the strength in her body into the two arms grasping the hilt tightly, the King of Knights lifted the golden sword up high.
Light gathered. As if illuminating this holy sword was its ultimate duty, the light condensed further, merging into a blinding brilliance.
At the fierceness and purity of this beam of light, no one could speak a single word.
It was the gallant figure of a knight who once shone the light of purification upon a battle-ravaged world, a darkness blacker than night.
Unyielding for ten years, undefeated in twelve battles. These peerless feats of arms and this glory were eternal, transcending time.
This shining sword itself is the nostalgic, sorrowful, and exalted dream of all warriors past, present and future who stand at the brink of death on the battlefield – the crystallization of the prayer named ‘glory’.
Proudly uplifting this will, ascertaining that this faith will be seen to its end, the king of eternal victory now loudly declared the true name of this miracle she held in her hands.
It was –
The prana, accelerated by the factor of the released dragon, became a streak of light, a swirling and surging torrent that devoured the sea demon together with the dark night.
A silent scream rose within the river water evaporating in an instant, as every single atom composing the body of the giant sea demon that had been the embodiment of terror were exposed to the scorching impact.
But in the center of the sea demon being completely burnt to cinders, within a fortress of bulky defiled flesh, Caster simply wordlessly watched over this moment of white blinding annihilation which had stolen his heart.
Yes – it was unmistakably a light he had once seen in the distant past.
Had he not once been a knight who pursued and rode after this light?
The recollection, vivid and utterly unclouded, brought Gilles back to the distant past.
It was the light that shone through the stained-glass windows of the great cathedral, at the long-awaited coronation ceremony of King Charles. It was a white brilliance, a blessing of joy that wrapped around Jeanne and Gilles, who had attended as saviors and national heroes, together with the ars nova melody.
Aah, there’s no mistake – it was this light.
He could still remember it. Even now, after his fall into brutality, his entire body smeared with corruption, the memories of that day did not fade at all and remained carved into his heart.
Even if his end was stained with humiliation and revulsion, no matter how much he may be held in contempt – the glory in his past alone cannot be denied or overturned, for it was in his heart.
Something that even God or Fate will never be able to take away or violate…
Gilles de Rais was dumbstruck by the clarity of his own rapidly falling tears.
What was he confused with? Had he lost sight of something?
If he could just look back and admit it – wouldn’t that be enough?
“Just what, have I…”
Before this murmur, directed at no one, left his mouth, all matter was brought into another world, annihilated by the white light.
Archer, standing on the high arch of the bridge and looking down upon all, couldn’t help but have a smile emerging on his face when he saw this light of destruction that burnt and consumed all.
“Do you see it, King of Conquerors? This is Saber’s light.”
Archer addressed the empty space beside him. Rider, who had just experienced a merciless fight, was letting the chariot pulled by divine bulls remain still in the air, and was gazing dazedly at the ultimate light Excalibur was emanating.
“Do you still not want to acknowledge her after witnessing that ray of light?”
Rider snorted, dismissing Archer’s question. However, what was on his face as not despite or mockery, but a solemnity as if he was looking out over a thing of tragic grandeur.
“It was indeed because she took upon her shoulders the hope of every man of the time that she’s able to display such might – it’s painful precisely because it is so blindingly brilliant. Who could have thought that the person carrying such a heavy weight is only a little girl who liked to dream?”
On the river surface, which the two of them looked down upon, Saber’s slender body was huffing painfully due to the intensive battle to the death that had just ended. Rider only knew what kind of heaviness was piled upon her young and delicate shoulders thanks to last night’s quiz. For him, whose personality is open and straightforward, this kind of ‘way of living’ is absolutely unforgivable.
“This kind of little girl is truly the final result of someone who discarded youthful romance and dreams, discarded love, and sunk into the eternal curse of ‘ideals’. It is truly painful, and one can’t bear to look upon it anymore.”
“This is exactly what’s lovely about her, isn’t it?”
Different from the King of Conqueror’s fully melancholic expression, the golden Servant’s smile was immeasurably obscene and did not hide his dirty desires at all.
“The overly-mighty ideal that she harbored within her would burn her into nothing but ashes at the end. Those tears that she would shed at her final moment… I imagine it would be very sweet to the taste.”
Complacent, Archer let his imagination run wild. With a flick of his eyes, Rider gave him a look of enmity.
“… It seems I still can’t like you, Babylonian King of Heroes.”
“Oh? You only discerned it now?”
This title made the sparkling golden Heroic Spirit burst fully into a smile.
“What do you plan to do, Rider? Want to use brutal force right now to unleash your anger?”
“Although it’ll be quite a joy to do that, tonight my strength would perhaps not live up to my feelings if my opponent is you.”
After Rider spoke the truth straightforwardly and with no exaggeration, he gave another look at Archer and said scornfully: “Of course, if you don’t want to let the chance pass and insist in fighting with me, this king would gladly do so at anytime.”
“No matter. I permit you to escape, King of Conquerors. I wouldn’t feel satisfied if I don’t defeat you at the height of your strength, anyways.”
Hearing this self-possessed declaration from Archer, Rider lifted his eyebrows as if pulling a prank.
“Hmm? Hahaha. Though you say that, the truth must be that your wounds caused by being sunk by Blackie haven’t healed properly either, right?”
“… All who provokes the king need to die to repent their sin!”
Seeing how the other didn’t take the joke well and that his twin red irises were full with a killing intent, Rider tightened the reins of the divine bulls with a smile and increased the distance between them.
“Decide the victor next time, King of Heroes. The owner of the Holy Grail, I imagine, would perhaps be the result of our battle.”
The only ones who are worthy to obtain the Grail are the Heroic Spirits at the level of ‘Kings’. That is, one of the two between the King of Conquerors and the King of Heroes. Undoubtedly, Rider himself still believed firmly in that point right now. The Heroic Spirit Alexander smiled fearlessly and left the top of the arch of the bridge, and as thus galloped towards the river bank where his Master was at.
“What would happen at the end?... Rider, I still haven’t decided if you’re the only one who’s worthy for me to grant the ultimate treasure to.”
Archer, who was muttering to himself, had another Heroic Spirits in his heart. In terms of the degree of attention he had, the interest of the King of Heroes was actually all piled upon her.
Tonight, witnessing with his own eyes that incomparable light lead the thoughts of the primeval Heroic Spirit back to the distant past.
– Once upon a time, there was a man.
He was a foolish and ridiculous fellow whom, despite having a body made of mud and soil, set his heart to stand shoulder to shoulder with gods.
Of course, his hubris and disrespectful arrogance offended the gods in heaven. The man suffered divine retribution and lost his life.
Even to this day, the King of Heroes still couldn’t forget the way that he passed away with tears streaming down his face.
Why are you crying? The King of Heroes had asked.
Could it be that, only now, you are regretting having taken my side?
It’s not that – He had answered.
“Who would understand you after I die? Who else would march forward by your side? My friend… when I think that you will live on all alone henceforth, I can’t help but shed tears…”
Like so, when he saw that man taking his last breath, the incomparable king realized – the way that this man, who was human but wanted to surpass humanity, had lived, was even more precious and more brilliant than all the treasures he had collected.
“You fool who stretch your hand towards realms not of men… There is only one person in heaven or earth who’s worthy of appreciating your destruction, and that is none other than I, Gilgamesh.
Sink into my embrace, oh you glorious and illusionary men. That is my decision.”
The golden majestic brilliance disappeared in the night mist, leaving only an evil laughter echoing long after.
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