Fate/Zero:Act 12 Part 2
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.
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