Matō Kariya had fallen into a pitch-black dream.
He could see nothing.
He could hear nothing.
Only his skin could feel the shockingly dense pressure of the darkness.
Where, is this — here seemed to be inside someone’s body.
Therefore, Kariya asked the darkness—who are you.
As if with a suffocating pressure, the darkness rumbled low. Like the angry roars of stormy winds; like the sky had fallen and the earth had cracked.
The dense black shadow that moved within the darkness was like a human shape poised to attack.
The bones and skull immersed in the pitch-darkness.
The pair of bright eyes even more terrible than the darkness.
Berserker—the manifestation of Matō Kariya’s curse, no, the Servant his hatred had called from the ends of time.
"No need to praise my name—
No need to envy my body—
I am the shadow under the radiance of heroic spirits—
Birthed of the darkness of glorious legend—"
Like a miasma that rose forth from underground, the sound of sighs of hatred wrapped around Kariya from every direction.
Kariya began to feel uneasy; just as he was about to turn his gaze, the icy touch of metal gauntlet gradually neared, catching mercilessly on Kariya’s clothes.
Thus was Kariya’s thin body lifted into midair, before Berserker’s eyes—he was fixed in a position where he could not but meet that crazed gaze.
Nourished by the sighs of the people precipitated within the darkness, people that curse the light—"
Kariya struggled against the gauntlets mercilessly locked around his throat, groaning in pain. In his eyes, yet appeared another indistinct and confused scene.
A sword shining bright light, and holding onto the hilt, a radiant young warrior.
This person was not a stranger to Kariya.
That was the Einzberns’ Servant – Saber...
"This is my disgrace—
Because of her unsullied glory, I must forever be belittled—"
The Black Knight's helmet cracked apart.
The face revealed was shrouded in darkness, but that pair of fiery eyes, and the teeth trembling from hunger, could be clearly seen.
"You are, the sacrifice—"
He pronounced coldly, embracing Kariya without another word, coldly flashing sharp teeth piercing into his jugular.
Kariya screamed in agony.
But this scream could not move the other. The berserk Black Knight sucked at the blood seeping from Kariya’s throat, and swallowed heavily.
"Good, give me more—
Your blood and flesh, your life—
Let them ignite my hatred—!!"
Kariya used all the words he could think of to beg forgiveness, hoping there would be someone to extend a helping hand, but in this darkness, it was impossible for him to obtain salvation.
A miasma of red flashed intermittently before his eyes, consciousness confounded by pain and fear gradually becoming foggy.
But he still squeezed out the last remaining bit of strength, and cried out in his loudest voice.
—Waking with a pained cry, he was still within the darkness.
But even thus, the stench of rotting given out by the ice-cold and damp air, as well as the hair-raising sound emitted by thousands of worms crawling, still told him clearly—this was, without question, the real world.
The dream of just now, compared to reality, exactly which world seemed more merciful to Kariya—
At least, from the one fact of being able to forget that this body was about to die, perhaps remaining in the world of nightmares would be happier.
By exactly what miracle he—burned and having fallen from the rooftop of a building—had been saved, and how he had returned to the underground worm storage of the Matō residence again alive, was now impossible to understand through his memory alone.
His limbs felt dulled, but he knew that he was chained to a wall, his hands shackled. He could not stand on his own feet; his shoulders, supporting the weight of his entire body, hurt as if they were about to be torn from their sockets. But compared to the itch of the worms covering his body, it was not even worth mentioning.
The worms licked at burnt skin, and under that skin was new skin colored pink. It looked as if the burns were currently healing—though the reason was unknown.
It looked as if the Crest Worms intended to use Kariya’s body as a seedbed to extend his life. But this was completely useless. In order to re-grow the skin, prana had already been forcibly consumed; the few days of life left in Kariya’s body were also about to dry up. He could clearly feel that even the simple action of drawing a breath and then expelling it was depleting his strength.
Very soon, he would die--
At the same time he understood that he was absolutely unable to put up resistance, Aoi and Sakura’s faces were constantly flashing in his mind.
He had once vowed to save them with his life as the price… but in the end, his wish had not been fulfilled. This disgrace and shame tortured Kariya’s heart even more than the pain of his body.
Remembering the faces of the people he loved, but immediately after, the indifferent expression of Tōsaka Tokiomi and the sneer of Matō Zōken invaded his heart, pressed onto him until he could not breathe.
From the depths of his dry throat, Kariya cursed angrily with all the strength he had left.
"Bastard... bastard, bastard..."
The sound of his sobs was suddenly muffled by a sound of pleasured laughter that came from behind him.
The worms scurried to avoid the elderly and small silhouette propped up by a crutch and slowly walking closer to Kariya. It was none other but precisely the object of Kariya’s hatred, Matō Zōken.
"Ah, Kariya, you are really quite pitiful like this."
The elderly magus used his crutch to poke at Kariya’s jaw, forcing him to lift his head. Kariya no longer had the strength to rail at him, but nevertheless used his remaining right eye to glare at the other with hatred and murderous intent. Just looking disdainfully at his opponent already exhausted him.
“Don’t get it wrong—I’m not reprimanding you in any way. With such serious injuries, I’m surprised you came back here alive—Kariya, I don’t know who it was that saved you. But luck does not seem to be bad in the battle this time around.”
Zōken, murmuring gently to his ‘son’ as if caressing a cat, was in a particularly good mood today—thus the implication of evil was written all over his face that was full of smiles.
“Three Servants have already been taken care of; only four remain. Truth be told, I did not think you could actually hold out till now. It looks as if—this gamble, I may still have a chance at winning.”
And like that, Zōken suddenly finished speaking, retreating a few steps to distance himself from him.
“Perhaps adding one more lock on you is not a bad idea. Ah Kariya, since things have come to this point I will pass on to you the ‘trump card’ I have secreted away for this day, come on—“
Ku, Zōken’s crutch suddenly pushed at the hollow of Kariya’s throat, forcing him to open his mouth. Immediately after, it moved upward like a mouse, and was fiercely stabbed into Kariya’s mouth.
Kariya fainted from the pain. The worms followed the cavity of his mouth and mercilessly invaded his gullet, finally arriving within the spasming abdomen. Now, even if he had wanted to vomit, he could not; it was already too late.
After which—as if a red-hot block of metal had been placed into his stomach, an intense burning sensation grilled Kariya’s body from the inside.
Kariya began to struggle in agony; the cuffs on his hands jangled. The blood which seemed to have stagnated now boiled, runaway, and his heart also pounded crazily, almost to the point of breaking apart.
That had been a piece of concentrated prana. The Crest Worms within Kariya’s body, which had temporarily regained vitality, began to move again. The mock prana circuits of Kariya’s entire body also started to pulse like never before, and his limbs were beginning to feel pain as if they were being torn apart—but this also meant that Kariya’s numb arms and legs could feel again.
Seeing the 'trump card' take effect, Zōken jeered loudly.
"Huhuhuhu, this does have immediate results.
Do you know? That piece of prana you swallowed just now came from a Lust Worm. The one that first absorbed Sakura’s innocence. How about that, Kariya? The vitality of a young girl, absorbed continuously over the course of this past year—it is the best magecraft energy of all, yes?"
And perhaps it was this chain of cruel actions that satisfied his sadistic heart; the elderly magus turned around, his face full of smiles. Just as he was about to leisurely leave the worm storage, his derisive mockeries once again pierced into Kariya’s ears.
"Go forth and fight, Kariya. Burn up completely the life snatched from Sakura. Do not be stingy with your blood and flesh, but bring back the Grail! If one like you can do it, that is."
After which, with the heavy closing of the doors, the surroundings were once again only filled with icy darkness and the noise of crawling worms.
Kariya began sobbing silently.
The warm afternoon sunlight gently warmed the outer walls of the storeroom and gradually slanted towards the west.
However, the air in the storeroom remained silent and cold. A few rays of sunlight shone in from the small skylight, as if bathing the storeroom in the soft dusk of afternoon.
Saber was sitting on the ground with her back against the wall, waiting for the arrival of that time.
In the magic circle beside her was Irisviel, who still laid face-up with her hands crossed across her chest. She was still deep asleep. Saber had, without moving, gazed at her sleeping profile ever since she brought her here this morning.
Would the magic circle that Irisviel and she drew together yesterday work as expected?
For Irisviel, who is a homunculus, it appeared as if resting in this magic circle is the only way of recovering. In the past, a ceremony would also be held with it. However, considering the current situation, it seemed to be a very distant and unreachable past.
It was truly a long night.
Caster, who hindered the battle and joined mid-way, was finally defeated.
And then, the duel with Lancer ended into a heartrending manner.
The War of the Holy Grail made great advancements last night, with two Servants leaving the battle. Saber could indeed be said to have played an extremely important part no matter what the situation of battle was.
It would be a lie to say that she’s not tired, but right now she was more worried about Irisviel’s situation.
She recalled that they were already signs since morning. Irisviel had called it a defect in the functions of a homunculus. However, Saber couldn’t figure out just what had happened yesterday to make her body condition worsen so much. It wasn’t due to wounds, nor did she undertake overly vigorous exercise. If this situation happened to the Master that formally sealed a contract with Saber, then it’s very probable that it was due to Saber’s tiredness and the increase of the prana supply that increased the Master’s burden. But if that were the case then it shouldn’t be Irisviel, who is only a substitute Master, but Kiritsugu instead.
The gentle sunlight shone in through the skylight. As the time went past noon, the sunlight also slowly changed its angle.
Finally – Irisviel moved slightly. The stilled air moved as if there were ripples stirred within.
Saber immediately widened her eyes, and saw that Irisviel was slowly sitting up as she moaned in anguish.
Lazily brushing the silver strands of hair away from her eyes she looked at Saber, who guarded her side, with a lost gaze.
“Irisviel, how are you doing?”
“…Umm, mm. I’m fine now.”
That’s impossible. Saber wanted to rebuke, but she saw that the reddish color of Irisviel’s cheeks have returned to its normal healthy state. It’s hard to believe that she was in a coma until now.
Ahh, she gave a small stretch, as if joyfully waking up in the morning after having fully rested.
“Mmm – looks like I made you worry.”
“N… no. It’d be great if it’s really fine… but…”
“Mmm, I understand what you want to say, Saber.”
With a bitter smile, Irisviel combed through her long hair with her hands, and tidied her clothes that have gone slightly messy.
“Looks like I really did have a lot of problems after I came here. It shouldn’t matter if I just remain quietly like this, but – Saber, from now on, I may be unable to stay beside you and support you anymore.”
Irisviel said in a rather downcast manner. On the contrary, it made Saber a little surprised.
“Sorry, although it’s very embarrassing, but compared to becoming your burden –”
“No, that’s not it. I hope you’ll be more careful with your body. It’s all my fault. I feel like this is a reminder to me, saying that because I forced you to continuously participate in battles that you…”
Saber stopped, afraid that what she may say next could hurt Irisviel. Irisviel smiled weakly, and said.
“You don’t need to worry about that. We homunculi are different from humans, and we understand the structure of our body very clearly. It’s like a car; if a car doesn’t flash a warning light when the gas runs out, then that’s really what’s called malfunctioning.”
Although those words were correct, the analogy wasn’t fitting enough. Hearing this, Saber became silent with a gloomy face. Then, with a very serious gaze, she looked at Irisviel with a frontal stare.
“… Irisviel, although you are indeed a homunculus, but I never thought of treating you differently from ordinary humans. Therefore, no matter what, you don’t need to speak so lowly of yourself.”
Saber said it so straightforwardly that Irisviel conceded her defeat.
“… Saber, you’re so gentle.”
“Everyone who got to know you would think this way. Irisviel, you’re a very charismatic person.”
In order for the conversation to stop being so heavy, Saber deliberately joked with a light tone.
“For a woman, her body would often have various discomforts. There’s no need for you to be ashamed.”
With that, even Irisviel gave a bitter smile of embarrassment.
“Speaking of that, Saber, you’re also a girl – umm, wouldn’t it be problematic? You have to act as a man during such times.”
“No, about that –”
Seeing that Irisviel’s face has regained its usual smile, Saber relaxed, so she continued with a tone that’s even lighter than usual.
“You wouldn’t know it, but I had the extra protection of my Noble Phantasm when I was alive. Not to mention disease, even aging had stopped for me. Therefore, no discomforts would appear for my body. I’d still be like I am right now even ten years later.”
Then, Saber suddenly saw that Irisviel’s expression became anxious, as if she was in discomfort, so she quickly stopped.
Although she couldn’t understand how come this casual topic got Irisviel so down, Saber discovered that currently Irisviel was in no mood to chat with her.
“– Anyways, Irisviel, you don’t need to worry about anything. Indeed, I would be more relieved with you covering me, but now not many enemies are left. Even if I act alone, I’ll still have complete confidence in victory.”
“… Saber, if you truly act ‘alone’, then I won’t worry either.”
Saber couldn’t help but feel a bitterness welling up in her throat when she realized the true meanings of Irisviel’s words.
Yes, she wasn’t acting alone. The Master that made a contract with the Servant Saber was still on the same battlefield.
“Hey, Saber… from now on, will you be able to treat Kiritsugu as a comrade, and fight beside him?”
She wasn’t able to answer immediately. This act showed the struggles within the King of Knights’s heart blatantly.
“… If all other Masters seek the Holy Grail only due to their own selfish desires, then I believe the Grail should be obtained by Kiritsugu. I have no objection over becoming his ‘sword’ due to that.”
As she answered with a subdued tone, Saber furrowed her brows as if she couldn’t hide her distress.
“– But I wish the only one who becomes a ‘sword’ would be me. I don’t want to once again intervene in Kiritsugu’s methods.”
Saber’s heart couldn’t help but feel a throbbing pain as she recalled Diarmuid’s end.
No matter how much she understands the man called Kiritsugu, no matter how much a concession she’s willing to make, Saber can not forgive that scene no matter what.
“Now I need to perform battles that Kiritsugu has to agree with. As a Servant, I can obtain victory without staining the Master’s hands, can’t I? The remaining three Servants cannot win against me no matter what.”
Irisviel nodded. She could only nod. It was already a miracle for Saber to retain such a fighting spirit after having witnessed Kiritsugu’s despicable behavior with her own eyes. However, on the other hand, she also knew that right now Saber wanted very much for Kiritsugu to trust her at least minimally, but there was no possibility for Kiritsugu to do so. The meaning of the phrase ‘true victory’ differed as drastically as heaven and earth between the ‘King of Knights’ and the ‘Magus Killer’.
Relying on her unyielding will to strive until victory is obtained and a perseverance that allows her to rise once again no matter how many times she’s defeated –
A prudence that completely eliminates all possible reasons that may cause his defeat –
Although their goals are both the same, their methods are fatally different.
“For me, the Holy Grail is like myself. Because from the moment I was born, I have the ‘vessel’ that allows its descent.”
Hearing Irsiviel’s words, Saber nodded.
“I heard about it. Your duty is ‘the guardian of the vessel’.”
However, although Saber is with her 24 hours a day, she still does not know how and where she hid the ‘vessel of the Grail’. Since they trusted each other, then there’s no need for her to ask. All Saber needs to do is to accept the ‘vessel’ from her hands once she obtained victory in all battles.
“…Therefore, no matter what happens, I hope that my ‘treasure’ would be passed into the hands of those I love – Kiritsugu, and you, Saber.”
Irisviel said, as if praying. Saber nodded resolutely.
“Back then, when I was first summoned, I already swore to protect you and obtain the final victory. I don’t plan on going back on that oath.”
Irisviel could only smile and nod ambiguously.
If they were to fulfil the initial purpose of the ‘Three Noble Families of the Beginning’ – reaching ‘Akasha’, then Command Seals must be used to demand Saber, who has defeated all the Servants, to kill herself and use all seven Heroic Spirits as sacrifices for the Holy Grail to end the war. However, what Irisviel and Kiritsugu entrusted to the Grail was no such wish. Although the wish of ending all conflicts and ‘changing the world’ seemed immense, it does not leap out of the boundary of ‘miracles’ at the end. The changes that occur according to its result would only happen ‘within the world’ at the maximum. It is really too easy compared to the goal of reaching ‘the root of all things’ that is ‘outside’ the world. However, if they only want to fulfil a miracle in the physical world, then they wouldn’t need the ancient Lady of Winter herself as the ‘vessel’ to completely awaken the Great Grail. Enough prana would be replenished for Kiritsugu and Saber to fulfil their wish as long as they defeat the other six enemy Servants.
However, what Irisviel was more worried about in the two’s process of experiencing this cruel war of survival was – compared to the enemy’s strength, what was more important was Kiritsugu and Saber’s disagreement.
As their ways of living and beliefs were the complete opposite, the conflict between those two were unavoidable. Therefore, Irisviel believed that she should do her best to soften the conflict between them. But regarding whether she can actually achieve that – actually, there was already no more hope.
Because Irisviel’s body was already –
“ –? Someone’s presence is getting closer, Irisviel.”
Saber’s face was covered with alertness. Then, Irisviel also detected the guest from the reaction of the bounded field established in the courtyard.
“ – Ahh, don’t worry. This is Maiya’s presence.”
With a soft knock of the storeroom door, it was indeed Hisau Maiya herself who came in. She had her usual cold and dispassionate expression, and her icy cold beauty made Saber move her eyes away with some displeasure. Judging from her action of mercilessly shooting Lancer’s two Masters dead, she was indeed only cruelly and loyally executing Kiritsugu’s plans. However, Saber found it very hard to agree to such an action.
It was unknown whether Maiya understood those inner thoughts of Saber’s. Like always, she didn’t greet them, nor did she say anything in a roundabout way, but cut into the main topic straightaway.
“Tōsaka Tokiomi sent a secret messenger. He got his familiar to bring a letter. Madam, it is for you.”
After Irisviel withdrew from Einzbern castle, it had become a dangerous house of traps under Kiritsugu’s hand in order to make other unaware Masters fall into the bait. Maiya’s bats were responsible for surveillance. Just then, a familiar, not a magus, had appeared there with documents.
“It was a jade bird. According to Kiritsugu’s deductions, it should be a puppet that the Tōsaka magi habitually use.”
“That’s what I heard too. Then, where’s the letter?”
Taking the note that Maiya handed to her, Irisviel began to read. All pleasantries and formalities were emitted on it, and the writer’s intentions were written very simply and openly.
“… That’s to say, he petitions us to fight together.”
Irisviel gave a snort of derision. Saber was the same. Just thinking about that Archer’s Master’s intentions made her annoyed.
“An alliance? At this point?”
“Tōsaka should feel very uneasy about how to deal with the remaining Rider and Berserker. He thinks we’re the easiest to deal with, so he invited us to unite with him – that’s to say, compared to the other two groups, we were belittled.”
The letter said that if Irisviel is interested in a negotiation, then Tokiomi would humbly await at Fuyuki Church at midnight tonight.
“As the Supervisor, the Holy Church should stay neutral. How did it agree to let him do this?”
“That’s because it appears that the Supervisor, Father Risei, is already dead. That is to say, the War of the Holy Grail has no Supervisor this time.”
Hearing Maiya’s explanation, Irisviel nodded with approval.
“Kiritsugu said that the relationship between Tōsaka and the Church had also been exposed with this. The Supervisor, who supported him, died, so he began to change his plans in a hurry.”
“…Irisviel, the opponent is the magus that controls Archer. I feel that we shouldn’t trust him.”
Remembering her disgust towards that golden Heroic Spirit, Saber concluded with caution.
“I am at my optimum condition now my left hand had healed completely. I can single-handedly defeat Rider and Berserker without a need of forging alliances. Of course, Archer is of no exception.”
Saber said, full of confidence. Irisviel nodded first, but then crossed her arms with concern.
“Although what Saber said is true, but Tōsaka has other things that can force us to concede. He has things we don’t… such as certain intelligences.”
Maiya nodded upon hearing this.
“Indeed. For example, if Tōsaka can get information about the whereabouts of the headquarters of Rider’s camp, then it’s worth the risk of going into his trap and obtain this intelligence.”
“– Can that still be unknown? I didn’t think such a kid would make it so troublesome for Kiritsugu.”
“It’s because Rider and his Master usually ride their high-speed flying Noble Phantasm, so it’s impossible to follow them on land. My bats are also unable to match their speed, so we can never catch them.”
“Concerning ways of hiding their trail, can they be even better than that Lord El-Melloi?”
“Although it is surprising, we have checked all the locations within the entire Fuyuki area that a magus may set up a workshop, but still didn’t find Rider and his Master.”
Like Maiya said, what troubled Kiritsugu the most at the moment was the search for Waver Velvet’s headquarters. Although Emiya Kiritsugu knew well all the methods for a magus to hide himself, he still couldn’t have guessed that a Master omitted even accommodation funds and boarded in civilian houses straightaway.
“But what are the possibilities that Tōsaka Tokiomi have such intelligences?”
Maiya replied affirmatively.
“Tōsaka Tokiomi had conducted various sorts of thorough preparations from the beginning of the War of the Holy Grail. The Supervisor is a very good example; moreover –”
Maiya paused when she reached this part, and discreetly gave a glance at Irisviel’s expression. She, who was silent, appeared to have thought the same as Maiya.
“– Moreover, we think that Tōsaka is also controlling Assassin’s Master – Kotomine Kirei, in secret. If that man stands at a position that can influence Kotomine Kirei, then his invitation is still advantageous for us in some degree.”
It was the first time Saber heard this name, but she easily understood this man means very much to them just judging from the solemn and heavy expressions Irisviel and Maiya were wearing.
“Remember this, Saber.”
With an oddly stiff tone, Irisviel said.
“In this War of the Holy Grail, if someone can defeat Kiritsugu and obtain the Holy Grail… then he must be this man called Kotomine Kirei. Kiritsugu said so himself. He had locked the goal onto this man named Kirei from the beginning.”
Maiya and Irisviel didn’t say much. But even so, Saber still obtained a rather clear understanding of this man called Kotomine Kirei.
Now that they spoke of it, Saber also recalled a mysterious attacker, who was hiding in the castle, had badly injured Irisviel and Maiya during the battle in the Einzbern forest.
With a resolute tone, Irisviel declared thus.
“Apart from the matter of alliance, there is the need to find out what intelligences lay in Tōsaka’s hands at the moment. Let me go to Fuyuki Church to confirm it tonight.”
Since such a clear command had been given, Saber couldn’t say much anymore. Moreover, she was also very attentive of that person named Kotomine. If Kiritsugu can consider him as a nemesis, then he must need special attention without a doubt.
“– Right, Saber. You have a job today too.”
Saber was rather confused when Maiya suddenly called to her.
“Yes. Since you could skillfully drive that Mercedes, I’ve prepared a mechanical prop even more fitting for guerrilla warfare according to Kiritsugu’s orders.”
Hearing this, Saber appeared to be interested.
“That’s good. A machine that is more suitable to battle than a ‘car’ is a very big help for me.”
“It’s parked outside right now. Take a look to see if you can use it.”
“Mmm, I’ll go right now.”
Saber walked out of the storeroom with expectant and light steps. Maiya watched her leave, expressionless as usual. However, she sighed within her heart for the fact that Saber appeared only as an ordinary girl no matter how one looks at it, and it’s absolutely impossible to discern that she was the King of Knights, Arturia – no matter what, ordinarily, Saber only appeared to be a rather mature short girl; no one would believe that she was indeed that king who made glorious victories during that battle-ravaged time.
It was rare for Maiya to have such meaningless emotions for things apart from work. Just as she was about to mutter something to herself, which is rarer still, she heard something fall down beside her.
Turning her head she saw that Irisviel, who was sitting in the magic circle just now, was once again lying on the ground. Her state was very unusual. Sweat was pouring down her pallid face; her breathing was painful and fast.
“Ma-madam… what’s wrong?!”
Maiya hurried up and took her in her arms. The slender body in her arms was abnormally hot.
“… Did Saber… see this?”
Irisviel asked bitterly, with no fear or shame in her tone. She seemed to have no questions about these sudden abnormalities happening to her body.
“Madam, your body, just what…”
“… Hehe, Maiya’s panicking face… is actually… rather cute…”
“What are you talking about? Now’s not the time to say this. I’ll get Saber and Kiritsugu here immediately, please stay awake!”
Maiya was about to stand up, but Irisviel reached out and pressed down on her shoulder.
“This isn’t abnormal; this was – predetermined a long time ago. For the current me to continue existing as a ‘human’ is already so lucky it seems miraculous.”
Sensing that there were deeper meanings in her words, Maiya calmed herself. Although she was still nervous, she had recovered her usual cool.
“… Does Kiritsugu know this?”
Irisviel nodded, but she softly added a ‘but’.
“Saber… does not know. She still has to face important battles… don’t let her worry about anything else.”
With a deep sigh, Maiya once again let Irisviel’s body lie quietly face-up within the magic circle. She knew this is the position for her, who is a homunculus, to fully rest.
“… Should I also pretend that I don’t know about this?”
“… No, Maiya… I have something to say to you… is that alright?”
Maiya nodded, stood up, and looked outside the storeroom. After she made sure Saber was no longer in the courtyard, she quietly closed the door and returned to Irisviel’s side.
“Ok, Saber can’t hear us now.”
Irisviel nodded, adjusted her rapid breathing, and said calmly.
“I am the homunculus designed for the Heaven’s Feel… you should know this.”
“The guardian of the vessel – my duty is to manage and transport the ‘vessel’ prepared for the Holy Grail’s descent. Actually, that’s not completely accurate.
During the previous Heaven’s Feel, not only did Grandfather Acht lose his Servant, the precious ‘vessel’ of the Grail was also broken during to the war. In the Third Heaven’s Feel, since the ‘vessel’ was damaged before the victor was decided, the war was meaningless. That’s when Grandfather began to reflect and decided to cover the ‘vessel’ this time inside a humanoid shape that has a consciousness and can self-manage.”
Her nonchalant voice was as if she was leisurely recounting things that have nothing to do with her. It was probably because she’s seen through everything that she had decided to speak out everything about her body.
“And that is – me. The ‘vessel’ itself was granted the instinct to live. In order to dodge all sorts of dangers by itself, Grandfather made the ‘vessel’ into ‘Irisviel’.”
“How can that be… then, you…”
Maiya’s heart was not cold as a rock. She couldn’t help but lose her composure when faced with the impact of this fact.
“Three Servants have already deceased in battle, and the war would end very soon. The function of the ‘vessel’ within me would begin to ceaselessly put pressure on this unnecessary outer appearance with the passage of time. In the future I would, gradually and without a doubt, become unable to move, until at last – Maiya, I wouldn’t even be able to talk you like this.”
Biting her lower lip, Maiya was silent for a while, and she carefully repeated her previous questions once again.
“Does Kiritsugu really know everything? Does he know what kind of situation you’re currently in?”
“Yes, that’s why he gave me Saber’s scabbard… Avalon • All is a Distant Utopia… do you know its abilities?”
“The ability to stop aging and limitlessly heal the wielder – that’s what I heard.”
“It prevented the peeling off of my ‘outer shell’. I originally thought I’d be overcome very quickly, but thanks to it I can still maintain a human appearance and behave as such until now… also, if I increase in distance from Saber like now, the situation would suddenly worsen…”
She was already unable to get up. Faced with Irisviel, who seemed as if sunken to the edge of death, Maiya couldn’t help but lower her eyes.
Maiya cannot imagine what Saber’s response would be had she been here. Rather than suffering herself, the girl who was the model of chivalry would be more distressed with others’ pain. If she knew that the victory that she expected can only be achieved with Irisviel’s sacrifice as the prerequisite, it would be unknown whether she would still be able to grasp the holy sword like before.
“… Why are you telling me this?”
Irisviel only smiled peacefully.
“Hisau Maiya – you’re the only one who won’t pity me. You’d definitely agree with me… that’s what I believe.”
Maiya gazed at her smile silently, then nodded soundlessly.
“Madam, I – I had originally thought that you’re someone who’s very hard to be close to.”
“No such thing – can you understand me?”
Maiya nodded without hesitation, showing her agreement.
It was precisely because she was a woman who was born as a human but lived as a machine that she’s able to express ‘agreement’ to another woman who was made as a machine but faced her end as a human.
“Even if I were to give up this life of mine – Irisviel, I would protect you till the end.
Therefore, for Emiya Kiritsugu, please don’t die. For the fulfilment of that man’s dream.”
Stretching out a shaking hand, Irisviel grasped Hisau Maiya’s hand.
The twin black eyes that stared at him from his chest level were like a pair of jewels.
Yes – that was the truth; Tōsaka Tokiomi once again felt it himself. This girl is the ultimate treasure that the Tōsaka family obtained after five generations, a rare shining gem that equates to a miracle.
Although she was yet young, she was destined to become a beauty in the future judging by her looks. Rather than her mother’s appearances, Rin had more similarities with Tokiomi’s mother when she was young.
The time was dusk; the veil of night has yet to fall.
Arriving at his wife’s house, Tokiomi, in front of the doors of the Zenjō house, did not plan to step inside. Right now, Tokiomi was one of the Masters who seek the Grail, and had long entered the realm of Shuras. In order to protect his wife and daughter, he had entrusted them to the Zenjōs. This realm does not allow blood or gore to invade.
With a nervous expression, Rin gazed at her father, who had called her out of the door but didn’t speak a word. Her father didn’t just come to see her, but arrived with something very important. Instinctively, the girl understood it this way.
He had originally decided not to see his daughter until the end of the war. What made him waver was Father Risei’s sudden death last night.
The old priest was his father’s good friend and watched Tokiomi grow up. Under the secret pact sealed between the two parties, he was there to support Tokiomi’s back. For Tokiomi, this was the biggest factor that made him have a sure confidence in winning.
Of course, Tokiomi isn’t someone who would be at a loss once he loses his backup. However, it is an indisputable fact that a dark cloud named “unforeseen” had appeared on the road to victory that he had believed wholeheartedly in till now.
Just like how that experienced and stubborn priest had suddenly fell – his own confidence had also suddenly been cut in half.
Till yesterday, the victory of the Heaven’s Feel had appeared to Tokiomi as something already in the bag. However, due to the death of his trustworthy companion, at this time he had also made the preparation to devote himself in the gunpowder-covered battlefield as a fighter.
What if… this is the last time he talked to Rin?
Faced with the young girl before him, what should he say?
Rin swallowed, staring at her father, and waited for him to speak to her.
Tokiomi knew the respect and longing his daughter had towards him, who is her father.
He knew that what he said to his daughter today would definitely decide Rin’s road from now on.
No – there were no doubts for the future; it has all been decided long ago. Rin has no choice but to inherit the title of the sixth head of the Tōsaka family.
Perhaps it was because of this thought that Tokiomi now bore a little bit of guilt towards his daughter.
He knelt down, and put his hand on Rin’s head – at that time, Rin suddenly widened her eyes with surprise.
Only when he saw his daughter’s reaction did Tokiomi remember that he has never caressed his daughter’s head like this before.
It was normal for Rin to be shocked, too. Tokiomi also discovered, for the first time, that he didn’t even know just how he should express his gentleness to his daughter.
“Rin… put the Association in your debt by the time you mature. I’ll let you decide what to do after that. You should be able to take care of yourself.”
He originally had some doubts and didn’t know what to say; but once he opened his mouth, he began to speak on and on.
He had thought of many ‘maybes’; there were many things to be passed on. How to manage the treasures – that is, jewels – in the house, and the rules of the basement workshop that was inherited from the Great Teacher – all such things, Tokiomi focused on key points and recounted to Rin, who was intently listening.
Although there were no Crests, but in truth, it was equal to having Rin appointed as the head of the Tōsaka house for the next generation.
On a side note.
Tōsaka Tokiomi was definitely not a genius.
Compared with the members of the Tōsakas through the generations, his talents are mediocre at best.
The reason that the Tokiomi right now is a skilled and respected magus was largely due to the fact that he had always loyally obeyed the family creed.
That was why he could always be confident and elegant –
If he wanted to achieve a ten-fold result, then he must give out twenty-fold of practice. Elegantly and composedly pass all sorts of cruel training; that had become Tokiomi’s creed. If one has to find something about him that’s better than others, then maybe it would only come down to the two things of complete self-control and a will of self-restraint.
His father, who was both his teacher and the previous head of the household, should already have fully foreseen just what a hard journey his son would embark upon if the son had the way of magecraft as his ambition. Therefore, when his forebear passed the Magic Crest onto Tokiomi, he had repeatedly asked his son – ‘will you inherit the family business?’
These questions are merely very ritualistic, and it’s only for a show too. As the only son, what Tokiomi had been taught since childhood was an education of how to become a leader. This pride that was nurtured since his childhood made him have no other dreams in his life.
Even so – this method of ‘asking’ was still used; that is, Tokiomi still has an incomplete ‘ability to choose’.
Now that he thought back, for Tokiomi, this was the best gift that his father gave him as the previous head of the family.
Tōsaka Tokiomi decided to enter the way of magecraft through his own will, and decided not to be swayed by fate.
It was indeed this preparation that gave Tokiomi an iron will. What supported him through the days of merciless, strict practices ever since then was indeed this proud overconfidence of ‘this is the way of life I chose for myself’.
If only he would be able to pass the treasure that he got from his father onto his daughter – Tokiomi thought sadly.
However, that was already impossible to be achieved.
For Rin and Sakura, there were no choices for them in the first place.
One of them has all elements, having five multiple elements as her alignment. The other has no elemental alignments, having Imaginary Numbers only. Both sisters have a rare potential that can be equated to miracles. This had surpassed the limits of so-called natural talents or inborn skill; it is almost like a curse.
A magical nature would equally gather magical powers to it. Prominent people who are far outside the rules inevitably ‘gather’ equally extraordinary experiences. This can not be controlled by the person’s own will. There is only one way to deal with this kind of a destiny – consciously walk away from the rules yourself.
Apart from understanding and practicing the way of magecraft themselves, there are no other ways to deal with the magical powers hidden in the blood of Tokiomi’s daughters. Moreover, the protection of the Tōsaka house can only be endowed on one of them. This fact tormented Tokiomi for a long time. The one who did not become the inheritor would get mired in all kinds of odd evens due to her own blood, and trouble bound find her. If the Association found this kind of ‘ordinary humans’, those guys would definitely gladly put her in formaldehyde as a specimen in the name of ‘protection’.
Precisely because of that, it was nothing better than a godsend for the Matō house to hope to have Sakura as their adopted daughter. He had obtained the way to have both his beloved daughters inherit first-class magecraft, unconstrained by their bloodline’s consequence, and carve out their own lives. At that time, Tokiomi could be said to be freed from the heavy burden of being a father.
But can it really be achieved? – Tokiomi didn’t even have that confidence. This question continued to torment him.
With Rin’s talents, she should find it to be easier to understand the mysteries of the way of magecraft than Tokiomi.
Therefore, compared with embarking on this road through a choice of his own will, what a painful thing it would be if she tries to escape her destiny but still ends up on this path at the end.
If he is unable to give any guidance on the trials that Rin will face and just disappear like this – would such a Tōsaka Tokiomi count as a fitting father?
As if questioning the confusion in his heart, Tokiomi once again condensed all his thoughts into the hand he had put on Rin’s head.
Rin let his large hand caress her head, but her jet-black eyes remained gazing, unmoving, at her father. There was not a sliver of anxiety or doubt in that look.
“– Aah, really.”
This unconditional reverence and trust finally brought answers for Tokiomi.
There was no need to apologize to this child, nor worry about her future path. Faced with the proud child of the Tōsaka family, the previous generation, who was about to pass away, no longer needs to entrust anything else.
“Rin, the Holy Grail will appear eventually. It is our duty as the Tōsaka family to win it. More importantly – if you want to be a magus, you can’t avoid it.”
The girl nodded adamantly. Her eyes made pride fill Tokiomi’s chest.
Tokiomi did not feel this kind of pride even when he inherited the position as the head of the family.
“I’ll have to get going now. You know what to do now, right?”
“Yes – take care, father.”
Rin answered resolutely with a clear voice. Tokiomi nodded and stood up.
Lifting his head, he cast one look inside the house and happened to catch the eyes of Aoi, who was standing by the window and peering out.
Trust and encouragement was in his eyes.
And thankfulness and reassurance was in her eyes that responded to him.
Just like that, Tokiomi turned his back on his wife and daughter, and left the Zenjō house without a backward glance.
Confusion is a shadow created from a restless heart. That is far from elegance.
Remember the family creed in your heart; Rin’s sight told him that once again.
If he still had regrets towards his daughter, then – it must be his failure and the self that cannot fulfill his long-cherished wish through the Holy Grail.
If he wants to become a father that can lift his head up high and proudly puff out his chest in front of Rin, then Tōsaka Tokiomi must become a perfect and flawless magus.
Only then – can he complete the magecraft art of the Tōsaka family with his own two hands.
He must become a father who’s fit to teach and guide his daughter, a truly perfect father.
With a brand-new decisiveness, Tōsaka Tokiomi embarked on his return journey in the dusk.
Once again towards Fuyuki.
Soon, the veil of the night would descend.
Regarding the midnight meeting at the Fuyuki Church, Tōsaka Tokiomi had naturally defined the number of people allowed to attend in the conditions.
Apart from the respective Master and Servant, both sides can also bring along a supporter.
For Irisviel, who found it difficult to act alone, she never expected such a condition to exist. It would be impossible for her to rely on Saber’s strength if she happens to accidentally be caught in a battlefield later on. If Maiya happens to be beside her at that time, she would be much more at ease.
Of course, as the reciprocal condition, one other person also attended apart from Tōsaka Tokiomi and Archer – at the end, when Tokiomi introduced that follower to Irisviel and the others as if it was nothing important, they couldn’t help but change their expressions a little.
“Let me introduce him, Kotomine Kirei – my student. Although he was also someone who competed with all of you, it was in past. He had lost his Servant, and had given up the rights of a Master for a long time.”
Is that all? Irisviel cast a dubious look at the other man, but Tokiomi was full of calmness and appeared not planning to say much else. Maybe he was underestimating the opponent. If not – then he may still be unaware of the feud between Irisviel and Kotomine Kirei.
Saber, leisurely reclining against the wall behind Tokiomi and the others, glared unblinkingly at the red-eyed Servant. Tonight, Archer had also removed his battle arrays and put on a set of ordinary clothes suitable to this era. Although the outfit, decorated with leather and lacquer, looked like it was full of a distasteful glamor, it did not create any incongruities when paired with the overwhelming presence of the golden Heroic Spirit.
Those blood-red eyes looked as if they stripped away Saber’s clothes just with their sight, licked and caressed her soft skin. What seeped out of his eyes was blatant lust. Although this inevitably stirred up Saber’s impulse of immediately drawing her sword and go into battle, she could only endure it when she thought of Irisviel.
“I am immensely thankful of your arrivals upon receiving my invitation.”
It was unclear whether he noticed the pressing presence of the three women; Tokiomi solicitously offered his opening speech.
“The Heaven’s Feel this time is also finally about to enter the most important stage. Right now, all that’s left are the Masters of the ‘Three Families of the Beginning’, and one sudden intruder – then, do you of the Einzbern family have any thoughts on this battle situation?”
After answering thus with a cold and clear voice, Irisviel continued to speak audaciously.
“We have the strongest Saber, so there’s no need to stealthily grasp every opportunity. Just walking towards victory like this would be enough.”
“Is that so –”
With a provoking undertone, Tokiomi couldn’t stop himself but laugh.
“Then, please allow me to speak of my own thoughts. Putting aside our respective strengths for now, let us talk about Berserker and Rider first.
Of course, our final goal is to let the ‘Three Families of the Beginning’ remain and therefore ensure the right of possessing the Grail in the final battle. However, very unfortunately, due to a strategic mistake of the Matō family, a Servant that needs to spend large amounts of prana was summoned by a weak Master. I fear that they would face their demise sooner or later. It seems the one that would obtain victory among them will be Rider. I guess that you would also know something about the might of that Heroic Spirit Alexander.”
Tokiomi paused, waiting for Irisviel to react. However, seeing that she remained silent, Tokiomi continued speaking.
“A newcomer who suddenly popped out of nowhere dares to stretch his hands towards the Holy Grail, in which two thousand years of longing were entrusted; does Einzbern not feel very uncomfortable about this?”
“Speaking of newcomers, aren’t Tōsakas and Matōs included in that too?”
Normally, Irisviel will never speak so unscrupulously, but tonight’s strategy was to completely suppress Tokiomi. When she discarded her daily gentleness and demureness and stood upright to confront, she seemed as inviolable as a beautiful and adamant queen.
But Tokiomi wasn’t going to succumb just with that. He still carried a solicitous smile, and his expression didn’t waver a bit.
“Since what Einzbern wishes for is only the fact of achieving the Third Magic, then would it fit your original intentions if you were to entrust the Holy Grail to me, Tōsaka Tokiomi, with my goal of reaching ‘Akasha’?”
Hearing this, Irisviel cast a contemptuous sneer towards Tokiomi.
“Could it be that the Tōsaka family would even beg just to rob the Holy Grail from our hands?”
“Huh… although the explanation would make one doubt the questioner’s moral character, it doesn’t matter. The question now is that this guy who knows nothing about the Grail has the possibility of obtaining the final victory. I would definitely not allow the Holy Grail to fall into a layman’s hands – our opinions should be the same on this point.”
To put it simply – the one that Tokiomi considers as most threatening is only Rider. Irisviel agrees with that point.
Since she already understood the opponent’s intent, then it would be about time for her to state her position.
“We Einzbern have never had the habit of uniting with others. A so-called alliance will only make others laugh – however, if you want to fight enemies one by one, we would also express our sincerity.”
“… Go on.”
“Regard Tōsaka as our enemy only after all other Masters are defeated – we’re willing to obey such an agreement.”
Irisviel’s roundabout way of speaking made Tokiomi nod his head coldly.
“That’s to say, a ceasefire agreement with conditions attached. It’s appropriate for both parties.”
“We have two demands.”
As if trying to suppress the other and take the initiative, Irisviel followed up,
“Firstly, give us the information you have on Rider’s Master.”
Tokiomi sniggered in his heart when he heard this. Since Einzbern made such a demand, then it meant she really wanted to go defeat Rider herself. This development was completely within his expectations.
“– Kirei, tell them.”
Hearing Tokiomi’s command Kirei, who had stayed aside and waited silently, began to explain with a flat tone.
“Rider’s Master is an apprentice magus named Waver Velvet, who was studying under Kayneth. He now flats in the home of an old couple surnamed MacKenzie in Miyama city, Nakagoe 2-chome. They are an ordinary family that has nothing to do with the Heaven’s Feel, but they think Waver is their own grandson under Waver’s hypnosis magecraft.”
Kirei finished fluently. Hearing this, Irisviel and Maiya couldn’t help but shiver. Although they’ve roughly guessed it, they didn’t think that Kirei, who had once controlled Assassin, could undertake a war of intelligence so thoroughly.
“… Alright, what’s the other condition?”
Tokiomi urged delightedly. Irisviel stared straight at him with a solemn and heavy expression, and spoke with an uncompromising tone that didn’t allow the opponent to decline.
“The second condition – is to eliminate Kotomine Kirei from the Heaven’s Feel.”
Tokiomi, who originally had a leisurely expression, couldn’t help but gape when he heard this. However, Kirei remained nonplussed, and didn’t even move his eyebrows.
“I didn’t mean to kill him. I’m only saying that he needs to leave Fuyuki – no, leave Japan – before the war finishes. We hope that he’d depart tomorrow morning.”
“Can you explain the reason?”
Tokiomi calmed the wavering of his heart and requested with a rather low voice. Irisviel, who could tell people’s emotions very clearly, believed more firmly that this pair of teacher and student has estrangements between them – it was obvious that Tokiomi did not know what Kirei did exactly.
“That Executor has quite a feud with us Einzbern. If Tōsaka is to include him in your camp, then we would be completely unable to trust you. We would regard you as the target to be eliminated first, and unite with Rider and the others to initiate attacking you.”
There wasn’t a single hint of joking in Irisviel’s tone. Finally, Tokiomi detected that there were many things he didn’t know, and cast a doubtful look towards Kirei, who was beside him.
“What’s going on, Kirei?”
Kirei remained silent, expressionless as if wearing a mask. However, since he didn’t make any rebuttal to Irisviel’s words, his silence was enough to explain the problem.
With a sigh, Tokiomi once again hid his emotions in the bottom of his heart, and gazed at the Einzbern camp with a nonchalant expression.
“As the substitute of the late Father Risei, Kirei had inherited the job of the Supervisor. If you believe that he must leave, then we have a condition too.”
Silently, Irisviel inclined her head and motioned for him to continue.
“– I observed last night’s battle. That Saber of yours has a Noble Phantasm with an overly-powerful destructive power; we hope that you can restrain her use of it.”
Now Saber furrowed her brows. She understood that Tōsaka wanted to forcibly push the duel with Rider onto her. She could only regard this extra condition as being too unreasonable.
“Why are you interfering with our battle tactics?”
“We are the managers of Fuyuki. If the Heaven’s Feel is going to leave the concealment of the Holy Church and proceed openly, then I hope unnecessary disturbances can be avoided.”
At this moment, Maiya, who had been quiet until now, suddenly interrupted.
“Saber’s Noble Phantasm caused damage to the surrounding structures last night?”
“– Luckily, it was minimal damage. Coincidentally, there was a large ship on the path of her attack. However, one mistake would have indeed flattened all the houses on the opposite river bank.”
“It was us who placed the ship there.”
Hearing Maiya’s words, Saber’s eyebrows twitched. Indeed, it was precisely because that ship was there that she was able to use Excalibur without worries. However, she only knew upon hearing Maiya that it was actually prepared by Kiritsugu.
“On a side note, we’ve already confirmed that the owner of that ship has bought insurance. The Einzbern camp has already thoroughly considered the destructive power of Saber’s Noble Phantasm without needing you to remind us.”
“I’m asking you to put your so-called consideration into a treaty.”
Rather toughly, Tokiomi interrupted Maiya’s words.
“It is unconditionally forbidden to use Noble Phantasms on ground level in Fuyuki city. The same applies even if you’re on air if it would indirectly cause harm to residents – can you agree to this condition, Einzbern Master?”
“… If I agree, then would Kotomine Kirei really leave Japan?”
“Ah, I assure you of it, and can be held accountable.”
Tokiomi nodded without hesitation. Kirei, beside him, couldn’t let out his anger and could only grit his teeth tightly by himself.
Irisviel consulted Saber for her opinion. Saber nodded to show that she agreed.
Saber also did not want her Noble Phantasm to create unnecessary sacrifices. This wouldn’t count as exceeding restriction if Tōsaka Tokiomi’s concern was the same as hers.
“– Very good. Since you confirmed that you can fulfil the condition, then we also agree to a ceasefire.”
After the meeting concluded, Kotomine Kirei remained in the church, which both Masters have left, all by himself.
Just like Tokiomi said then, Kirei, right now, as a member of the Holy Church, was proceeding with managing the aftermath all around Fuyuki City. Due to the death of his father, Risei, who was the Supervisor, the on-site command chain was completely fuddled and there was absolutely no time to wait for the Assembly of the Eighth Sacrament to send in the official successor.
However, the work at each scene was now progressing methodically after giving only appropriate directions to the management at each place. This showed that the orders Risei made when he was alive was very much correct. Kirei’s job was to continue along the trail that Risei had already lain down and sends the duties down one by one; in truth, it wasn’t anything particularly difficult.
But right now he must make a decision concerning his work.
Actually, for Kirei, he had already understood that his situation was dangerous when he sensed Tokiomi had the intention of making an alliance with the Einzberns. The decision that he made at the meeting just now wasn’t surprising, either. The Einzbern women – and Emiya Kiritsugu, the true manipulator behind them – had gradually realized Kirei’s threat towards them, whereas he was only an ‘ordinary assistant’ for Tōsaka Tokiomi. Therefore, the alliance with Einzbern was more important to him than Kirei.
Moreover, Tokiomi didn’t know about the Command Seals that once again appeared on Kirei’s arm and the existence of the Command Seals that were taken back for safekeeping and secretly inherited from Risei. Nor had Kirei told him that Saber’s real Master, Emiya Kiritsugu, had yet to make an appearance, or that Matō Kariya was saved. The fact that he was hiding such important information at this time meant that Kirei had already discarded his duties as Tokiomi’s subordinate. Tokiomi would discover this sooner or later; right now Kirei didn’t have the right to complain.
After contacting the employees distributed everywhere by phone, Kirei returned to his room alone. He sat down on the edge of the bed, and felt the quietness and stillness of the empty church.
Kirei questioned his own heart while he stared at the darkness.
He had already asked himself like this thousands and tens of thousands of times in his life up until now.
But this question was really pressing down on him tonight. Only, this time he had to come to an answer before dawn break.
Just what, is my wish?
Among the vast amount of information that the employees passed on while they were cleaning up the aftermath, there were two pieces of information that Kirei could not ignore.
One – an adult male body that died in a weird fashion appeared before the public at the riverside, where things have sunk into chaos after being stirred up by Caster’s sea demon. The corpse was taken over by the Holy Church and avoided being handed over to the police. It could no longer be identified due to severe facial damage, but due to the traces of the Command Seals on its right hand it can be roughly determined that he was Caster’s Master, Uryū Ryūnosuke. Cause of death – large diameter rifle bullets with diameters of 30 millimeters or more, two shots.
The other report was even more shocking.
Just a few hours ago, the bodies of Kayneth El-Melloi Archibald and Sola-Ui Nuada-Re Sophia-Ri were found within an abandoned factory on the outskirts of Shinto. The two bodies have similarly been discovered by Church employees while patrolling and were dealt with. A discarded and signed Self-Geis Scroll was found at the scene. This was the naked evidence of the perpetrator having used despicable means to kill Lancer’s Master.
Emiya Kiritsugu – this cruel and emotionless hunting machine was eliminating his opponents one by one.
What he was afraid was that Kiritsugu was still continuing the war somewhere out there. Different from Kirei, who could only sit on the spot, perplexed, he was stepping towards the Holy Grail pressingly.
This battlefield named Fuyuki made a man who had continuously devoted to hollow battles re-emerge after a nine-year long silence. However, before Kirei knew just what his intentions and reasons were, he has to leave here.
What would that man pray for when he obtains the omnipotent wish-granting vessel?
Would that answer really fill up the emptiness in Kirei’s heart?
“… Who, are you?”
He suddenly muttered to himself. He had once expected Emiya Kiritsugu with a premonition almost equal to prayers, expecting his answer. Now Kirei had a sense of danger. The image that crisscrossed his mind was that of the women who stood upright in front of Kiritsugu and protected him. Why would they risk their lives for Kiritsugu? Or was it that Kiritsugu had sunken so low, to the mundane degree of sharing his own goal with a third party?
Kirei felt a presence stirring up in the deep quietness. The presence was approaching him from the corridor outside his door. Kirei had already become very familiar with this presence. Even if he was only walking silently, that Heroic Spirit did not hide the flamboyant majesty emanating out of him. Even if he were stepping into the realm of gods, he remained as obstinate and unrestrained as ever.
Archer didn’t knock and stepped into Kirei’s room straight away. He sneered with a sarcastic and pitiful tone when he saw Kirei was deep in thought.
“What are you thinking of, even at this stage? There should be a limit on being slow.”
“… You let Tokiomi-sensei go back on his own, Archer?”
“I was with him until the house. Recently there were poisonous insects more treacherous than Assassin lurking in the night.”
Kirei nodded. That Emiya Kiritsugu won’t ignore the meeting just then; he would definitely seek an opportunity to act during Tokiomi’s journey to or back from the meeting. Kirei had briefed someone thoroughly about that point – not to Tokiomi, but to Archer.
“However, you really are an honest guy. Knowing that you’re situation is getting worse but still worried about the safety of your lord.”
“This is a logical decision. I had long finished my duty of being Tokiomi-sensei’s tool, and there were no reasons left to keep staying at Fuyuki.”
“– You don’t really think that, right?”
Archer’s gaze seemed to have seen through everything. Silently, Kirei gazed back at him.
However, Kirei didn’t plan to rebuke, because what Archer said wasn’t wrong. Otherwise, he wouldn’t be sitting here idiotically, and would already be making preparations for leaving Fuyuki.
“Even now, the Holy Grail is still calling to you, and you yourself are also longing to keep on fighting.”
Archer said thus. Kirei remained silent, and gave up on rebuttal.
No matter what he says, there’s nothing to hide in front of Archer. That Heroic Spirit had even seen through the fact that he was only deceiving everyone including himself. Then, maybe the answer that Kirei had always sought was also already within his heart.
It was as if those twin red eyes were gazing from above at little white mice, wandering lost and perplexed. There was no inducement, nor was there salvation; maybe appreciating other’s worries was something that made the King of Heroics delighted.
“… Ever since I can remember, I’ve been looking into one question.”
As if confessing to the darkness within his heart, Kirei stood in front of Archer.
“Wasting time, enduring the pain… but everything ended in fruitlessness. However, right now I feel that I have never been closer to the ‘answer’.
What I seek must be at Fuyuki, at the end of the war.”
After he said those words, Kirei once again understood just what drove him to walk on till today.
It was a long time ago, when Kotomine Kirei was yet to be Tōsaka Tokiomi’s hound. The Kirei back then continuously stirred up dissent just for himself.
“Since you’ve reflected so much, then why are you perplexed?”
Archer asked coldly.
Hearing this, Kirei lowered his head and looked at his open hands, then covered his face as if going to sigh.
“I have an ominous premonition – I would walk towards annihilation when I have obtained all the answers.”
If the expectation that was endowed on Emiya Kiritsugu was not fulfilled –
And if he couldn’t find something else in Matō Kariya’s end either –
Then, Kirei could no longer turn back; he could only face it. He could only try to face the thing that he discovered in the deaths of his father and wife.
It would be better for him to just turn around and leave. Be Tōsaka Tokiomi’s deferent disciple until the end and obediently leave. That way, it would at least look better on the face of it.
And forget everything from now on. Don’t ask anything, don’t demand anything, and pass through a busy but mundane life like a plant would. No matter what he had lost, this would at least let him rest in peace.
“– Don’t think of those boring things, idiot.”
Archer’s reminder interrupted the thought that he had almost been prepared to fulfil.
“You won’t be troubled until now if you could change your way of life so easily. You, who’s used to questioning while you’re alive, would die with questions at the end too. You won’t receive the answer, and can’t rest in peace.”
“Maybe I should congratulate you. You’re finally going to arrive at the destination after such a lengthy journey.”
“… You would congratulate someone else, Archer?”
Archer inclined his head. There was still no sentimentality on his face, but it was sparkling with an innocent and joyous light like a child observing an ant hill.
“I should have told you that observing humanity’s cause and retribution is the most interesting entertainment. I, the king, full-heartedly looks forward to the moment when you come face to face with your destiny.”
The King of Heroes said this gallantly. Hearing this, Kirei gave a bitter laugh.
“Is it really so fun to live so stubbornly for the greed of ‘enjoyment’?”
“If you’re jealous, you can try to live a little like this too. You won’t fear annihilation once you comprehend just what is enjoyment.”
The phone in the priest’s office in the corridor outside rang. As if he had already predicted it, Kirei did not appear to be surprised in anyway. He walked out of the room, picked up the receiver, and quickly disconnected the phone after just a few words and returned to the room.
“– What’s wrong?”
“It’s a call from the employees of the Holy Church who originally worked under my father. They now have to report everything to me.”
Seeing that Kirei’s expression was unusually relaxed, Archer furrowed his brows and asked.
“Are there some good news?”
“You could say that. This news is quite decisive.”
After this, Kirei hesitated for a while, considering whether he should say it. However, at the end, he still chose confession.
“I sent people to follow those from the Einzbern camp after the end of the recent meeting. I told them it was my father’s order given before he passed away, so they went and did so. Thanks to that, I found out the place where those three are currently hiding.”
After Archer heard Kirei through, he couldn’t help but be stunned for a little while.
Then the King of Heroes laughed heartily. He clapped continuously.
“– Honestly Kirei – you really are – ! Haven’t you already made up your mind ages ago!”
He was still using his own position to detect the movements of the enemy camps, so it would be impossible for him not to join the fight. While Kirei was being anxious, the battle strategy had made concrete advancements.
But he had not made the mental preparations just then – just a few minutes ago.
“I was lost once, and had also wanted to give up. But at the end – King of Heroes, it’s like what you said – someone like me can only live on with questions.”
As Kirei spoke, he rolled up his sleeves and confirmed the Command Seals on his arms.
There were two Command Seals on his left lower arm. Command Seals that would allow Kirei to make a contract once again with a Servant.
Meanwhile, the Command Seals that were taken back for safe keeping and inherited from his father covered his entire right arm. The innumerable Command Seals, yet to confirm a target for a contract, can be used and forged into highly practical prana that has no alignments, and can be used to restrain Servants as well. That means they can be used as mock Magic Crests. Apart from the fact that they are expandable, the magecraft that Kirei now possessed was enough to rival famous magecraft houses that have collected their Crests through the generations. Kirei’s preparation was more than enough for him to continue participating in the Heaven’s Feel that was still going on.
There were no greater good and no illusionary glories on the road before him. A battle that only belonged to Kotomine Kirei was about to start.
In order to fill his own nihility, in order to confirm the capacity of his own emptiness – he would question Emiya Kiritsugu, question Matō Kariya, and question the wish-granting vessel, the Holy Grail.
“Hahahaha – however, Kirei, although it’s a bit abrupt, I have a few questions.”
Archer laughed madly and arrogantly. Those blood-red eyes were permeating with the implications of a prank – and at the same time carried an evil shade.
“If you’ve really decided to participate in the War of the Holy Grail, then you would become Tōsaka Tokiomi’s enemy. That’s to say, right now you’re staying defenselessly in the same room with the enemy’s Servant. Isn’t this very awful?”
“Not necessarily; I do still have ways to keep myself alive.”
Archer, interested, narrowed his eyes.
Kirei spoke calmly.
“Since now I am already opposing Tokiomi-sensei, then I don’t need to hide his lies anymore – Gilgamesh, let me tell you the truth of the Heaven’s Feel that you don’t know about.”
“… What did you say?”
Hearing this, Archer furrowed his brows with perplexity. Kirei proceeded to speak thoroughly of the truth of the Heaven’s Feel that he got to know from Tokiomi.
“The miracle that occurs in the ‘inside’ of this world cannot be used universally on the ‘outside’ of the world. The fight over the wish-granting vessel is only a camouflage; the ‘Three Noble Families of the Beginning’ has other plans.
The ceremony that had originally been held in Fuyuki was a kind of attempt to use the souls of seven Heroic Spirits as sacrifices to open the road that leads to the ‘Root’. The promise of ‘Fulfil a miracle’ was also only bait used to attract Heroic Spirits. However, as the result of the unilateral spread of this ‘bait’, the current Heaven’s Feel had lost its original meanings and is only left with an empty shell.”
This is a secret known only to the Matōs, Tōsakas, and Einzberns and people related them. The foreign Masters and all of the Servants are oblivious to this truth.
“This time around, the only magus who wants to fulfil the once long-cherished wish of the ‘Three Noble Families of the Beginning’ is Tōsaka Tokiomi. He wants to kill all seven Servants to activate ‘the Greater Grail’. That’s right, kill all seven. Do you understand? – that’s why Tokiomi-sensei was so stingy with the expenditure of Command Seals. He can only use two Command Seals in the battle with other Masters. He needs to use the final one that’s left to order his own Servant to commit suicide once everything is finished.”
Archer heard him through without interruption, then questions with a lowered voice and with an extremely apathetic expression.
“… You’re telling me that the loyalty Tōsaka Tokiomi had shown to me were all to deceive me?”
Kirei knows his teacher’s character. Therefore, he slowly shook his head.
“He indeed does have the uttermost respect for ‘Gilgamesh, King of Heroes’. However, it’s completely different for the Servant Archer. That’s to say, you’re only a representation, a meaning not too far off from a statue or a portrait. Everyone who walks past it would give it a respectable look of admiration if it’s put at the most conspicuous place in a gallery – but if this representation was removed when the collection is being rotated off, then it would be despised.
That’s to say, Tokiomi-sensei is a complete ‘magus’ at the end. For him, a Servant is just a tool. He had once calmly told me that even if he admires Heroic Spirits, he won’t harbor any illusions towards idols.”
Hearing Kirei’s account, Archer nodded dramatically as if suddenly realizing something, then once again showed that evil smile he had beforehand. There was cruelty within tolerance, decisiveness within boldness; it was the smile of a king who was an absolute existence, who could decide everything with just one word.
“Tokiomi – today I’ve finally discovered your worth. Even that boring man can make me so delighted.”
If viewed from the meanings hidden beneath those words, this was definitely a tragic declaration enough to freeze someone’s blood.
“King of Heroes, what do you plan to do? Will you still show loyalty to Tokiomi-sensei even so, and punish my betrayal?”
“Yes, what should I do? Although he has been disloyal to me, Tokiomi is after all my prana provider. Moreover, where would I get a perfect Master –”
Archer stopped speaking, and suddenly gazed at Kirei with a cold expression.
“Ah – speaking of, it seems like there is a Master here who had obtained Command Seals, but had lost his Servant.”
“You speak the truth.”
Using a smile to reply to Archer’s naked lure, Kirei lowered his head.
“But does that man have the worth to be graced with the favor of the King of Heroes?”
“No problems. Although it’s not flawless, there is enough potential. Maybe he’d even be able to let me thoroughly enjoy myself.”
– Like so.
At that moment, the final Master and Servant chosen by fate exchanged smiles to each other for the first time.
‘It’ was lost in an abyss of shallow slumber within the darkness sealed in the bottomless earth.
What ‘It’ dreamt of in the shallow slumber – was the endless ‘prayers’, unreasonable and unattainable, that have been entrusted a long time ago.
A beautiful world. A beautiful life. A flawless soul.
Because such longings were too strong, so they had to entrust all other evils to one place; that was the wish of the fragile men.
Through answering that ‘prayer’, ‘It’ had once saved a world.
There is no evil apart from me. This is no imperfection apart from me.
I am the only one who should be hated. I am the only one who should be abhorred.
Like thus, ‘It’ saved the world, and let them obtain peace.
‘It’ was not a saint who saved men and aided the world. Without praises, without reverence, without tributes, but only with spurns, only curses, only disdain… before ‘It’ knew it, even its name as a human had been rubbed away, only left with a title of its ‘way of existence’, and finally became a concept that was passed down through the ages.
Until now, all that had already became a dream of memories that had had its full share of time’s baptism.
Just how much time had passed since then?
Right now, ‘It’ was thinking dazedly on top of the bed it had slept on peacefully.
It felt like some complicated changes had occurred. That’s right; it was about sixty years ago. Something had happened almost in the blink of an eye.
Because it happened so suddenly, ‘It’ didn’t understand everything completely – when ‘It’ came to, ‘It’ was already at a place like a mother’s warm placenta.
An infinite darkness that sighed in the deepest place beneath the earth.
Back then, it had been a place that had concealed an ‘egg’ that had endless possibilities. One day, like a seed, ‘It’ entered and planted its roots into this place. From that day on, that place because the abdominal cavity that nurtured a darkness that didn’t belong to anything, veritably became a uterus with the purpose of fostering ‘It’ into maturity.
Since then, ‘It’ had surely absorbed the prana that flew in from the leylines in the earth like a baby that obtained nourishment from the mother’s placenta while ‘It’ slept in its shallow slumber. While ‘It’ veritably grew, ‘It’ waited without being discovered by anyone for the arrival of an opportunity.
Waiting to one day leave this scorching profound darkness, the moment of delivery.
Suddenly, ‘It’ – perked up its ears and listened for the sound coming from near ‘It’.
Just then, someone really did speak.
“…all the evils of this world… it won’t matter… gladly accept it…”
Aaah, someone was calling ‘It’.
Blessing and itself were both called by someone.
Answer him. It must be able to right now.
The prana whirlpool that had swelled long ago to an incomparable size in the darkness gave ‘It’ a concrete form.
The endless ‘prayers’ that had been entrusted in the distant past should also be able to be fulfilled right now.
An ‘existence’ like something that was prayed upon.
‘Going to do’ all the things that were wished for.
All the pieces of the puzzle had been assembled.
The gears of fate grinded together, and were now turning bravely, accelerating with the day of completion as their goal.
All that’s left – was waiting for the birthing canal to open.
As ‘It’ dreamed in its shallow slumber, ‘It’ emitted cries that will dye the world crimson red…
‘It’ also repeated its contractions in the darkness beneath the earth, unknown to anyone else.
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