Fate/Zero:Act 11 Part 3
"You—useless fellow! Trash that only knows how to boast!"
Lancer could only quietly lower his head and silently endure the ferocious scolding.
"You were only to protect a woman temporarily. But you could not even do it; this is preposterous! So this is the stuff a so-called knight is made of!"
Kayneth was currently cursing, spit flying everywhere. But from the extent of disconcertment, compared to Lancer who forgot himself out of shame, Kayneth was actually even more out of things. Because of his naturally stubborn personality, now the extent of Lord El-Melloi’s anger was filled with righteous indignation to the point of being fear-inducing.
Kayneth had obtained a new Command Seal; satisfied, he had returned to the abandoned factory that he used as a hiding place, and found that there was in fact no sign of Sola there. Logically speaking, at this time she should already have ended the battle with Caster and returned here. He had waited in a state of anxiety brought on by worry, and waited until—the solitary return of Lancer, whose expression was serious.
"Though it was only a temporary substitution, Sola was undoubtedly your Master, was she not! You actually do not have the ability to guard her till the end—why did you become a Servant? How can you be so shameless as to return alone!"
"...I truly do not have the dignity to return."
"Then you—in the battle with Caster, was it also your foolish childishness that encouraged you to neglect the protection of your Master, focusing only on displaying that foolish heroism of yours?!"
Lancer weakly shook his head. His natural beauty was twisted by sorrow; this meant that he was also remorseful of this hateful outcome. But now Kayneth did not have the time to notice this at all.
"Master, please allow me... Because Sola-sama and I did not make an official contract, we cannot even feel each other’s presence...”
"It is precisely because of this that you should have been even more careful, even more attentive!"
Kayneth immediately shouted, cutting off his Servant’s explanation.
Usually for a Master and Servant who had made a contract, no matter which party had fallen into danger, it would be communicated to the other. In truth, in the Einzbern forest, it was in this way that Lancer had saved Kayneth from the emergency circumstances.
But this time, because Lancer and Sola had in fact entered the battle without forming an official contract according to the laws of contract thaumaturgy, Lancer had only protected Sola out of his duty to Kayneth; this had also become a cause of the disaster.
In the end, by the time Lancer had ended the battle and returned to the rooftop of the building in central Fuyuki, Sola, who had originally stayed there, had long disappeared; only the bloodstains splattered over the floor were any hint as to the seriousness of the occurrence.
The only thing that could be confirmed was that Sola was still alive. The prana supply that allowed Lancer to remain in this world and that provided him with the strength to act was still flowing unobstructed into his body. Undoubtedly, she had been kidnapped, but the instigator did not seem to intend to take her life.
If it had been another Servant, perhaps it would be possible to sense her approximate location by the path of the prana supply. But unfortunately, because the contract which Lancer had made was not a standard one—the contractor and supplier of prana were two different people, his ability to sense the supplier of prana was clearly extremely weak. Even if he could determine that Sola was still alive, but where the prana came from, he could not sense at all. With no leads, searching for Sola in the city was almost like searching for a needle in the haystack. In the end, he had had to return alone.
"Ahah, Sola... indeed I should not have passed the Command Seals to her... a magecraft battle would truly have overloaded her..."
"In not advising Sola-sama otherwise, I am also responsible. But Sola-sama made that decision purely because she wished that you, Sir Kayneth, could regain your standing. In that case, no matter what, please—"
Kayneth raised his eyes, clouded with jealousy, and stared at Lancer.
"You still have the gall to speak thus. Don’t act stupid, Lancer, it must have been you who encouraged Sola."
"You... why would you draw such a conclusion..."
"Hmph, stop pretending! In the stories of legend, you are fairly well known for womanizing and adultery. Were you not involuntarily intending to seduce your master’s fiancée?"
Kneeling on the floor with his head lowered, Lancer’s shoulders were shaking violently, almost dangerously.
"——My master, no matter what you must take back those words."
"Hn, hit a nerve? You cannot endure this anger? In that case, you are intending to show me your true face of ferocity?"
Kayneth continued to mock the Heroic Spirit who could barely control his own emotions.
"You’ve finally slipped up. On one hand you swear eternal loyalty to me, speaking pretty words; on the other hand, driven by lust, you betray me. You always spoke of knighthood with a proud expression; do you think that would be enough to mislead me—Kayneth?"
"Sir Kayneth... you... why do you not understand my loyalty?!"
Lancer’s sobbed. The somewhat quivering inquiry was almost plaintive.
"All I wanted was to defend the honor I have always had! I only want to participate with you in glorious battles! Master, why do you not understand the heart of a knight?!"
"Stop saying these insolent things, Servant!"
Kayneth mercilessly snapped at Lancer’s plea with a ruthless expression. The suspicion of and dissatisfaction with his Servant had at this point already passed boiling point in his heart.
"Presumptuous puppet. No matter what you are only a Servant. You are only a shadow that can stay in the real world through magical means! The glory and pride you speak of is only a trick that the spirits of the dead use to confuse the people of the world. Furthermore you are actually insolent enough to the point of lecturing your Master; know the limits to your audacity!"
Because what Kayneth had said was too much, Lancer was speechless. Kayneth, seeing Lancer’s expression, secretly felt a sadistic pleasure. Seizing the opportunity, he stretched his right arm, on which the image of the Command Seals had once again been carved, towards Lancer; the magus proudly laughed loudly.
"If you are dissatisfied, then try using that pride and honor of which you speak to withstand my Command Seals—hm, no match? This then is your true ability. The spirit and fortitude of which you speak are not even worth mentioning in the presence of the Command Seals. Those are the real tricks of puppets such as Servants, then.”
"... Kayneth... sir..."
Facing Kayneth who was loudly mocking him, Lancer weakly lowered his head, unable to make any sort of rebuttal. The previous majesty of brandishing the twin lances in the presence of warlords had long since vanished without a trace; whether from weakly slumped shoulders, or the unfocused eyes staring at the ground, it was impossible to see any trace of heroism.
Looking at his miserable likeness, Kayneth finally felt that he had vented all the grievances he had been continuously accumulating, and felt slightly relieved.
Perhaps up till now, Kayneth had finally been able to establish his ideal master-servant relationship with this Heroic Spirit. Though it was somewhat late; he should have been able to, at an earlier time—preferably immediately after summoning—completely strike down his pride. If this had been done earlier, this presumptuous Servant would probably not have had other intentions, and served him compliantly.
After a long silence, Lancer suddenly called to Kayneth in a cold voice.
"What is it? Is there anything you still have to say?"
"...That is not my intention. There appears to be something closing in on us. It is probably the sound of an engine equipped with an automatic drive."
Though Kayneth did not hear anything. But the hearing of ordinary people was greatly incomparable to that of a Servant.
A motorcar which, at almost daybreak, drove in this direction with this abandoned factory as its target, definitely could not be simply passing by.
Come to think of it, at the time of deciding this place as a stronghold, the camouflage enchantments he had set up in the surroundings had almost reached the point of revealing weak points... Kayneth sneered at himself who was no longer a magus, and surfaced a dry smile.
"Lancer, go immediately to destroy it. Do not stay your hand."
Lancer nodded, immediately shifted into spirit form, and disappeared.
According to the directions that Irisviel, who was sitting in the front passenger seat, was giving, the Mercedes-Benz 300SL that Saber was driving had gradually left Shinto, moved east, and come to a deserted area.
"If you follow this road straight, on the left hand side there is an abandoned factory. There... appears to be the stronghold of Lancer and the rest."
The location of the factory and the route to take had all been told to Irisviel over the phone by Kiritsugu.
After the intense battle not far from the river, one could guess that Lancer, who had left the battlefield without a word, would probably have returned to his Master’s side. Upon hearing that Kiritsugu had gotten hold of a report as to Lancer’s whereabouts, Saber proposed to act immediately.
"Come to think of it... are you all right? Wouldn’t consecutive battles be a great burden to you?"
"No problem, Irisviel. On the other hand, I hope to be able to face off against Lancer tonight."
After somberly announcing this, this time it was Saber who flanked worriedly at the passenger seat.
"You, on the other hand, Irisviel, are you all right? You did not look too well just now."
While operating the steering wheel, Saber looked at Irisviel beside her. Saber discovered at a glance that Irisviel’s face was pale and bloodless, and that she was constantly wiping cold sweat from her forehead. Ever since leaving the riverside, she had been like this. Though she was trying her best to hide it, observers could tell at a glance that she was exerting herself.
"... Don’t worry, Saber. As long as you are by my side...
Ah, look. That building. That should be it."
A long time ago, when the city had not yet been depicted as an emerging residential area, this was probably a place used for something like lumber. The location that had been abandoned by developing trends, forgotten by emergent flourishing streets, quietly stood in the heart of a small hilly area overgrown with lallang.
Slowly passing through the front door and into empty ground, Saber turned off the car’s engine. The surroundings were quiet; Irisviel, standing outside the car, warily eyed the situation around, then nodded.
"—Indeed there are traces of magecraft enchantments. But what is strange is that they do not seem to be carefully managed; they are already showing flaws."
"No, it is this place. Irisviel."
Saber, who had gotten out of the car a little later, asserted with a calm expression. This highly skilled swordswoman had probably long sensed through sharp senses the scent of battle.
Indeed—as if to prove Saber’s pronouncement true, in front of the silent abandoned land suddenly appeared a handsome figure holding a lance.
"You were actually able to find this place—it must not have been easy, Saber."
"After investigating, my—partner told me this was your stronghold."
The word ‘Master’ had almost issued forth from her lips, but she ultimately had not said it in the end—this showed the minute wave of emotion of which even Saber herself had not been aware. Of course, in principle it was for the sake of concealing the reality of who her true Master really was. But, the most fundamental reason was still that subconsciously, she did not wish to admit that Kiritsugu was her master.
Lancer’s expression was grave, very different from usual, hesitating for a long time as if choosing words in his mind, then asking the visitor a question.
"Where is my master’s fiancée? ... Saber, you will not say that you do not know?"
Saber’s and Irisviel’s expressions both turned troubled; they looked at each other.
"I do not know—what happened?"
"Nothing. Pretend I never asked."
Lancer sighed lengthily; the amount of relief it contained was far greater than disappointment. Originally he had not intended to ask Saber this question. That the one who was his rival would use such underhanded means as kidnapping a hostage—just thinking about it, Lancer found it detestable.
"—Come to think of it, Saber, are you all right? I do not think it was to chat with me that you came here. But didn’t you expend a lot of energy in the battle against Caster?"
"Regarding this, I think the other Servants are the same."
Saber passed over the matter as if it were inconsequential. It was indeed as she had said; in the battle with Caster at the riverside, every Servant had expended a great deal of prana.
"So I predicted that tonight no one would initiate an attack, instead taking the defensive stance—precisely because of this, there is no need to worry that tonight’s battle will be intruded upon by people who have nothing to do with it."
Saber, whose entire body was overflowing with a calm fighting spirit, stepped forward. Her slender, small body nevertheless evoked the impression of majesty; this aura, accompanied by the splendidly radiant armor formed of dazzling prana, enveloped her entire body.
"It is already almost dawn... There is still some time in the night; if this great opportunity were to be missed, we do not know in which month of which year we will have another opportunity to face off without a care. I do not think this opportunity should be missed—what do you think? Lancer."
Lancer, whose usually handsome expression had been lost to the worries of his heart, now finally smiled slightly.
"Saber... now the only thing that can bring a cool and refreshing wind to my heart, is this pure will of yours to fight."
In reality, a while ago Saber had also been secretly surprised as to why Lancer had lost his previous majesty. Until she had seen his smile and discovered that her worries were unnecessary. A man with such a smile clearly did not require concern or worry of any kind. That sort of smile was one that only people who had overcome all difficulties and were steadfast in their beliefs could have.
Lancer brandished the red lance as if wishing to chase away all the worries and laments in his heart; the point was directed at Saber.
Saber also released the Barrier of the Wind King; the precious golden sword was revealed amidst the whirlwind. Facing Diarmuid’s Gáe Dearg, using air pressure to conceal the blade of the sword was meaningless.
And the most important thing was, the King of Knights believed that this rival originally from another time but that she had coincidentally met in this world was a Heroic Spirit worthy to accept the light of the sword in which she had accumulated all her glory that shone upon him.
The morning light was lucent, the sky a faint red; all the fighting spirits concentrated between the two Servants was silently and anxiously on the offensive. If one’s senses were especially sensitive, just standing in the middle of the whirlpool of their wills would make one feel pain as if having been hit; perhaps it would even induce a heart attack.
Every cell in Irisviel’s body shuddered with the anticipation of a lethal blow; to say nothing of the aura, even the circulation of her blood was stagnated.
Then—both parties stepped forward at the same time with spirits majestic as the rainbow in the sky, and the clashing sounds were clear as ripping cloth.
The two heroes who had not had a chance to battle these three days, tonight finally had the chance to face off; an intense battle would once again occur.
The situation of battle tonight—on one hand was a re-enactment of the showdown at the warehouses, but the battle of their crossing swords was even more intense than the first—fiercer, more direct, more final; it was a direct clash of strength on strength.
Between the two there was no need for mutual evaluation, nor the use of tricks to confuse the other. Lancer held only one lance right from the beginning; the blade of Saber’s sword was also completely revealed. Neither used means of plots and tricks. Even faster, even more imposing. After one made a move, the other would immediately retaliate at full strength with a blow that would counter the first. A simple contest of skill, blade of sword against point of lance, even more intense, even more white-hot.
The holy sword intertwined with the demonic lance, in direct opposition; the sparks flying were simply dazzling. The clash between the precious artifacts of legend, driven by strength and speed far beyond that of a human, passed the speed of sound, nearing the speed of light. Observation had long since lost meaning in this momentous battle. Those divine skills, pushed to the limits at the point of this fierce battle, were having a supreme contest between the two.
An unknown number of rounds had been fought; perhaps tens of rounds, perhaps hundreds of rounds. It was simply impossible to determine with a mortal eye. After the lance and sword of the two clashed, they finally separated, and moved away from each other.
Lancer had just started speaking, but was unable to continue, his face an expression of anguish and confusion.
Tonight, though Saber’s swordplay had changed only slightly, but it was indeed lighter in strength than the first time and somewhat held back. Lancer would not have been unable to notice this. This was not due to the expenditure of Saber’s physical strength, but it was that her swordplay itself had changed.
Saber held tightly onto her left thumb, tucked into her palm, in actuality not grasping her sword. The remaining four fingers were lightly wrapped around the sword; in controlling her sword, her left hand was used only for support. When attacking, the strength of her left hand was not used at all.
It had clearly been Saber who had taken the initiative to pronounce her intention of facing off, but she deliberately did not use her left hand, only using the right to hold the sword of gold.
Of course, Lancer understood the reason behind this.
Indeed, Lancer had once used the demonic lance Gáe Buidhe to seal the strength of Saber’s left hand, but in the battle against Caster last night, Lancer had destroyed the cursed yellow lance, proactively giving up the advantageous lead. But Saber’s pride would not settle for accepting Lancer’s concession, and so she intentionally did not use her left hand. This, then, was an action of true chivalry.
But—even that concession that was noble enough to inspire instantaneous respect—Lancer did not welcome this action from his heart.
If the action of casting away Gáe Buidhe had caused Saber unnecessary concern.
From the final result, it meant that Lancer’s actions had dampened the enthusiasm of the showdown between the two. It was a battle in which both parties did not have any regrets, and used all their strength to face off, that Lancer had hoped for. If Saber had held back because she could not put aside her consideration of the fairness of circumstance, Lancer was truly somewhat uneasy about the battle.
"—If you misunderstand, I will be very troubled. Lancer."
As if having guessed what Lancer was thinking, Saber shook her head with a stern but calm expression.
"If I were to use my left hand, my shame would definitely slow my sword. Facing your superb skills with the lance, this would be a fatal mistake."
"So, Diarmuid, this is really the best strategy I use in order to put all my strength into bringing you down."
Saber said resolutely, Holding the sword with one hand was indeed somewhat heavy; Saber lowered the sword slightly, and assumed her stance.
Shining in her eyes was only an awe-inspiring, coolly clear will to fight. There was no carelessness, nor was there hesitation.
Perhaps to her, the extent of the injury to her left hand was only of secondary importance in battle. Perhaps the most important contributor to Saber’s ability to obtain victory was in the clear fighting spirit and passion for battle that had been honed to purity.
To sever her confusion, she would rather give up her left hand—the pride hidden in her heart, then, was her greatest weapon.
It is this in which the King of Knights is most noble.
Saber now undoubtedly had embraced the resolution of fighting to the death. She also wished to face off with Lancer to her heart’s content under conditions like these—after understanding her intentions, Lancer felt something intense and also freeing, as if having been shocked by electricity.
"Glory shines from within the sword of the King of Knights. It is truly great that I have been able to meet you."
The path that the two anticipated was the same.
If it was a narrow bridge on which it was not possible to give way to each other, the person who took a step first must be respectfully seen off from behind by the other who had fallen back.
Precisely thus—was this without worry, without distraction, in which lives were risked, the exploration and pursuit of lance and sword, a battle of true worth.
The expressions of the two were both extremely anxious and serious, but at the corner of their lips hung the hint of a smile.
"Head knight of the Knights of Fianna, Diarmuid ua Duibhne—attacks!"
"That is well. King of Britain, Artoria Pendragon meets battle——!"
The two closed in once again, white blades clashing, sparks flying; from its midst could be seen the joy of those to whom battle is the meaning for their living, shining brightly.
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