It was not yet morning. Kotomine Kirei was already waiting at the door of the Tōsaka mansion.
He had not come to this place since summoning Archer ten days ago. This was the Western-style mansion he had spent his time in as an apprentice magus three years ago, the one place in Fuyuki he felt closer to than even the church.
"Welcome, Kirei. I’ve been waiting for you."
Though a guest had arrived at an unusual hour, Tōsaka Tokiomi appeared quickly at the door after hearing the doorbell. Perhaps he had not slept at all since leaving the Fuyuki Church the previous night. Kirei bowed deeply to Tokiomi in the manner of a disciple to his master.
"There are some things I wish to tell you before I leave Fuyuki, and then I must bid you farewell."
"So it has come to this... and on such short notice. To part with you in such a manner—I have my regrets as well."
Tokiomi spoke these words, but there was no trace of guilt on his face. That was to be expected. Tokiomi understood that Kotomine Kirei was but a pawn the Tōsaka family had borrowed from the Holy Church.
To Kirei, the Heaven’s Feel would yield no reward, being a mandatory task assigned by unseen powers from above. Kirei’s parting from Tokiomi was not a rejection or a betrayal, but a release from duty. Coming to say farewell was purely an act of formality.
"At dawn I will board a plane and head for Italy. First, I must hand my father’s possessions over to headquarters. I may not be able to return to Japan for some time."
"Oh... Come in. Do you have time to talk?"
"Mn. It shouldn't be a problem."
Kirei contained the feelings in his heart and stepped once again through the Tōsakas’ front door.
"The more I think about your leaving, the more reluctant I feel. Whatever may happen, I hope you can succeed your father Risei’s last behest and continue to assist the Tōsaka family in fulfilling a wish we have always desired..."
Tokiomi was now the Tōsaka residence's only occupant, but the guest room was nevertheless spotlessly maintained. Perhaps some low-level familiar under his control had been cleaning so as to maintain composure even in this time of intense war. When it came to Tokiomi, no less was expected.
“Though it is a pity your actions against the Einsbern family failed, I understand that you had good intentions. Perhaps this is the way that Executors work, but I hope you will duly inform me of the situation before and after you act in the future. Then I can be prepared.”
Tokiomi's magnanimous attitude made Kirei lower his head further.
"To have given you, my teacher, this much trouble at the last moment... I am truly ashamed."
Kirei raised his head, seeing the sincerity in Tokiomi’s eyes, and said to himself.
"It is true that we met only because of the Heaven's Feel, but no matter what the circumstances, I am very proud to have had you as a disciple."
Hearing this, Kirei momentarily lost control of his emotions and laughed out loud. But Tokiomi, completely misunderstanding his disciple's intentions, continued to speak in earnest.
"Talent is not something to be taken by force of will, but your sincere attitude towards training as one who walks this path is something that even I, your teacher, am very much impressed with. Kirei, from this day on you can continue to fight for the best interests of the Tōsaka family as your father did before you. What do you say?"
"I could not wish for more."
Kirei smiled slightly and nodded. Tokiomi, who for the past three years had constantly misunderstood his disciple's character and inner world, now also misunderstood the meaning of Kirei’s smile. And so he continued to speak even more happily.
"You allow me to rest assured. I wish for my daughter to learn from you. After this Heaven's Feel ends, Kirei, you shall be Rin’s master, and guide her as such."
Then Tokiomi retrieved a letter that had previously been placed at a corner of the desk and passed it to Kirei.
"... Teacher, what is this?"
"Though it is written rather simply, it can perhaps be considered a will of sorts."
Tokiomi spoke thus, smiling wryly.
"If—and the chances are very small but a possibility nonetheless—if something unexpected happens to me, then I have written here that the Tōsaka household shall be inherited by Rin and you will be her guardian until she is mature. Pass this letter to the Clock Tower, and all further procedures will naturally be taken care of by the Association."
This time, Kirei did not stop at perfunctory verbal assent but sincerely accepted the responsibility that Tokiomi had entrusted him with from his heart. After all, Kirei was of the priesthood. It was his duty to fulfill the responsibilities entrusted to him with honesty and reliability.
"Please trust me. Even though your disciple’s abilities are limited, I will make every effort to take up the responsibility of caring for your daughter."
"Thank you, Kirei."
Though the words were brief, they contained a deep gratitude. Next, Tokiomi picked up the thin, long black box that had been beside the letter and handed it to Kirei.
"Open it and see. This is my personal gift to you."
Kirei opened the box. On the velvet-lined interior neatly lay an exquisite dagger.
"The Azoth dagger. It has been meticulously crafted from heirloom jewels. After it is filled with prana, it can be used as a Mystic Code. You have learned and practiced the ways of the Tōsaka magecraft; use this as the proof of your graduation."
Kirei held the dagger in his hand and examined it carefully. His gaze fell upon the sharp knife-edge and for a long time did not move away.
Kirei’s face, devoid of expression, must have seemed full of gratitude from Tokiomi's perspective.
"My benefactor... I will truly never be able to repay your great care or live up to your expectations."
"To me, you are the best reward, Kotomine Kirei. With this, I can set forth for the final, decisive battle with no regrets."
Tokiomi said with a clear smile, then got up from the sofa.
Kirei believed that moment to be an arrangement of fate.
If one were to say that it had been a mere congregation of coincidences, then how could it have been that Tōsaka Tokiomi chose precisely that time and place to provide Kotomine Kirei with that dagger in the form of a gift? Was it all not an indication of inevitability?
"I am truly sorry to have delayed you for so long. Will you still be in time for your flight—"
—Now Tokiomi was facing the direction of the guestroom exit, completely defenseless with his back to Kirei. Could this be a coincidence as well?
"No, you do not need to worry, teacher."
—Or could it be said that this was inevitable, that this was fate? That no matter how much he could have prayed or hoped, everything would have eventually been drawn toward the abyss of betrayal?
Kirei began to laugh loudly, a laugh more cheerful than ever.
"There was never been a flight to begin with."
Not even Kirei himself knew he could laugh so heartily. Moreover, the dagger in his hand struck toward the defenseless back in front of him,.
The Azoth dagger that had been a proof of love and trust slipped between ribs to directly pierce Tokiomi’s heart. This one strike by an Executor who had experienced countless battles could be said to be deathly precise. There was no intention of murder, and there was no sign of it. Perhaps even Tokiomi, who had been stabbed, could not understand the significance of this wave of pain in his chest for a brief moment.
Tokiomi staggered forward. Turning his head, he saw only Kirei, smiling brightly, his hands stained with fresh blood—but there was never the slightest indication of understanding in Tokiomi’s eyes even till the end. With only a dazed expression, devoid of anger, he collapsed onto the carpet.
To his final moment, this magus must have stubbornly believed his own understanding to be accurate and refused to accept the real truth. Unerringly believing in the path he had chosen, moving forward without the slightest hesitation every time — what a man, to not wake to the truth even after having fallen into an endless abyss.
A sparkling aura suddenly surged beside Tokiomi’s rapidly cooling corpse. Shining with radiant light, the golden Servant materialized in front of Kirei.
"Hn—what a disappointing ending."
A condescending expression seeped out of those red pupils. Archer nudged the corpse of his former Master with the tip of his foot.
"I was anticipating he would make a last retaliation before death. Look at his expression. Completely at a loss. He was not aware of his own stupidity even till the end."
"That was because his Servant was in spirit form at his side. It was not illogical for him to let his guard down."
Hearing Kirei’s quip, Archer began to laugh loudly.
"Already, you have learned to make jokes? Kirei, your progress is truly great."
With a serious expression, Kirei asked Archer.
"You really have no qualms about this, Gilgamesh, King of Heroes?"
"Only until I grow tired of you. Once you cease to be interesting, you will meet the same fate as this carcass lying here. If there is anyone here who should be coming to a realization, it is you by right."
The reply was extremely sharp, but Kirei showed no sign of wavering and nodded.
Indeed, he could not entrust his life to such a dangerous character. It could be said that this was a deal with the devil. A domineering and violent Servant with neither morality nor loyalty, whose interests were difficult to judge.
But—precisely because of this, they were a perfect match.
Those at the pinnacle of morality had not brought Kirei the real answer; it was actually this Heroic Spirit, who was completely at odds with morality, who could become the goal for which Kirei would fight from now on.
Kirei rolled up one sleeve, revealing the Command Seals on his arm, and chanted solemnly.
"Let thy body rest under my dominion, let my fate rest in thy blade. If thou submittest to the call of the Holy Grail, and if thou wilt obey this mind, this reason, then thou shalt respond—"
"I so swear. Thy offering shalt be my flesh and blood. Kotomine Kirei, my new Master."
The prana supply opened the moment the contract was completed. The Command Seals on his left hand, functional once again, glowed anew, accompanied by a burst of pain.
The pact was ended; and so the strongest, most wicked team involved in the fight for the Holy Grail—here, under conditions unknown to all others—was born.
"So shall we begin, Kirei? ... You shall command and draw open the curtains to this farce. As your meager prize, I will grant you the Grail."
"No problem. King of Heroes, you will certainly also draw pleasure from this. Before you find the answer you anticipate, enjoy the jubilation of this battle to your heart’s content."
The gazes from the red pupils filled with a delighted light and black pupils immersed in gratitude intertwined with each other.
In the cool morning air, Emiya Kiritsugu appeared before a certain abandoned house in Miyama.
It was an old building built many decades ago, bereft of renovations or maintenance. The courtyard even possessed a storage room built in the previous era. To be exact, this was the place he had bought as a preparatory headquarters for Irisviel. Considering that even Einsbern Castle, with its location beyond city limits, had already been attacked by enemies, it became clear that purchasing this hiding spot had been far from meaningless.
Saber was not here. Normally, he could feel the Servant’s presence through his Command Seals, but now he felt nothing. Perhaps she was on her way to Rider’s headquarters. Realizing this, Kiritsugu planned to follow her.
It would be very easy to assassinate an apprentice magus like Waver once his hiding spot became known – however, he could only make his move once Saber had lured away the opposing Servant. Kiritsugu had also followed Tōsaka Tokiomi, who had left Fuyuki Church by himself, all the way to the Tōsaka house last night, but hadn't found any opportunity to strike. He had felt Archer's surveillance over the situation from some unknown location. If he had boldly struck his Master under such conditions, it would have been nothing short of suicide.
Although he had affirmed the target’s location, Kiritsugu didn’t go to the scene straightaway. Instead, he rushed to this abandoned building serving as temporary headquarters.
It wasn’t his intuition, but a premonition comprised of many factors… he feared that this would be his last chance to communicate with his wife.
Now, with three Servants already fallen in battle, Kiritsugu was very aware of the situation surrounding Irisviel, the ‘Vessel’ of the Holy Grail. Had his heart been fragile, he would never have come here.
The meeting with his wife was now a trial for Kiritsugu, in a way his punishment.
The sacrifice required for the Holy Grail he sought was the life of the woman he loved dearly – he had to face that fact without showing even a sliver of indecisiveness.
If he could overcome this trial, then the Emiya Kiritsugu that emerged would be able to defeat all sentiment in his heart and remove all doubt. Prudently and concretely, just like a machine, it was certain that he would hold the Holy Grail in his hands.
Therefore, for the self called a weapon of war, this was the final and the greatest test.
If he could not handle it… then that meant every dream in the chest of the man called Emiya Kiritsugu held no meaning at all.
Standing in front of the door leading to the underground storage, Kiritsugu knocked out a pattern according to their arranged password. Soon, Maiya opened the heavy steel doors from within.
Kiritsugu noticed the changes in Maiya before any words were said.
Maiya, whose eyes were full of nonchalance and nihilism in every situation, now had sliver of a nervousness flit past as if Kiritsugu’s appearance made her waver.
“… Are you here to visit madam?”
Kiritsugu nodded wordlessly. Maiya lowered her head and said in a low voice.
“Her current situation…”
“I know, I know everything.”
No matter what, Kiritsugu needed to look at the scene in this underground storage with his own eyes. Moreover, he had long been mentally prepared for this – upon understanding this, Maiya said no more and stepped out Kiritsugu’s way, then walked towards the outside of the underground storage.
Irisviel silently lay in the Magic Circle filled with prana pulsations in the corner of the dim underground storage. This figure provoked Kiritsugu’s memories.
Kiritsugu and Irisviel’s first meeting had been just like this. Brought by the father of the household, Acht, into the deepest part of the Einsbern family workshop, he had stood before an Irisviel deeply asleep within a sink of amniotic fluid.
As the Vessel of the Grail – why would they give a contraption with only a few years' usage such a beautiful appearance? Back then, he had really felt it was unreasonable.
Is this thing the Holy Grail? When he had asked this question of the old magus beside him, she who had been deep asleep suddenly opened her eyes. The eyes that stared at him through the amniotic fluid floating in front of her face, that gaze filled with dark crimson, had completely enthralled Kiritsugu. He could not forget it to this day.
It was the same now as it was then.
Irisviel opened her eyes. She and Kiritsugu looked at each other, then she gave a small, gentle smile.
“Ahh – Kiritsugu –”
Irisviel stretched out her hand and caressed Kiritsugu’s face.
Even a simple movement like that required the current Irisviel to spend a relatively large amount of energy – her icy cold fingers convulsed a little in reflection of that.
“– Is this a dream? You really – came to see me again – “
It was easier than he thought, and he could still speak freely. It was the same as when he had sunk Natalia. Language and actions were not affected at all. No matter how tangled his heart was or how frayed his emotions became, his two hands could still complete the job with precision.
He could obtain victory – he believed that firmly.
Now, Emiya Kiritsugu was prepared for anything and could completely guarantee the trustworthiness of his functions. The strength of humans was never something that bothered Kiritsugu. No amount of confusion or anguish could affect his work. For Kiritsugu, his mental system of recognizing a goal and acting towards it could function without being disturbed by any factor whatsoever.
From this perspective – he was the most perfect tool because he had that fatal flaw as a human.
“I… feel very happy…”
Irisviel gently caressed the cheek of the man who can only be called a machine and said softly.
“For being able to fall in love with you… to marry you… to have a husband, to have a daughter. In the fast few years… you gave me everything I wanted… I no longer have any regrets. Everything, all the happiness in this world, I’ve already…”
“… Sorry, there are many, many promises left unfulfilled.”
I said I’d get you out of that eternally wintry castle and go look at the flowers blossoming outside, to look at the sea that sparkled with light on the waves.
I once promised you that I’d one day bring you with me and look at all those things.
Now that he remembered it, it had been such an irresponsible promise.
“No, it was good enough. Mmm.”
Irisviel didn’t complain about those promises that couldn’t be fulfilled and said with a smile.
“All those happinesses I didn’t experience… all that was left undone, please give them to Ilya. Your daughter – our most important Ilya.”
At that moment, Kiritsugu finally understood the reason why Irisviel, who was approaching the edge of destruction, could still smile with such strength.
“You must, bring that child there.”
The mother who bestowed her hope onto her child had no fear.
That was how she could face her own demise with a smile, with no trace of terror.
“Let that child, see everything I didn’t see in my stead… let her see, the cherry blossoms in the spring, the clouds in summer…”
For a machine that only knew to obtain the Holy Grail, this was a meaningless action and yet another meaningless promise.
Even so, he would still nod as a human.
After he had obtained the Holy Grail and fulfilled his wish of saving the world… the machine that had fulfilled its duty would change back into a human again, right?
At that time, he would definitely remember his promise to his wife. And at that time, do the duty of a good father and love his child thoroughly.
That was something for the near future. It could come true after only a few more short days.
However – this was not that time.
“This… needs to be returned to…”
Quivering, Irsiviel placed her hand on her chest and concentrated all the prana within her onto her fingertips.
Suddenly, in her empty hands a golden light started to shine, enveloping the entire storeroom with a cover of warm brilliance.
Holding his breath, Kiritsugu looked upon everything happening before him. The light gradually formed a silhouette, then turned into an object that shone with a metallic sheen and fell into Irisviel’s hands.
The golden scabbard.
“This… is something very important for you. In the final battle, it’ll be definitely be useful…”
Irisviel’s voice sounded even weaker than before.
That was to be expected. Irisviel, who hid in the Magic Circle in this underground storeroom in order to slow the speed of her destruction, had separated the last thing protecting her, the miraculous Noble Phantasm – Avalon • All is a Distant Utopia, sealed within her as a Conceptual Weapon – from her body using her own hands.
“I… will be fine. Maiya’s here to protect me… so…”
“… I understand.”
Upon calm contemplation.
Avalon, which was originally Saber's property, was a Noble Phantasm that would only show its effect once it had a supply of magical energy from the Servant. Since she had no hope of joining Saber on the front lines, there was no strategic merit to Irisviel being equipped with it any longer.
Even if this Noble Phantasm could slow the speed of her destruction, it did no good in the bigger picture – the most correct choice now was to repossess this Noble Phantasm from her.
Kiritsugu took the golden scabbard, placed his wife’s weak body on the ice-cold floor, stood up, and said.
“Then, I’ll be going.”
“Mm – take care.”
The words of farewell were very brief.
Emiya Kiritsugu turned and walked out.
Maiya, who had been standing and waiting outside, couldn’t help but draw a sharp breath when she saw Kiritsugu coming out of the underground storeroom. Of course, she did not know the true meaning of the Noble Phantasm shining with light in Kiritsugu’s hands. Actually, what surprised Maiya was the change in Kiritsugu himself.
“We’ll go finish Rider’s Master today. Saber has already left, right?”
“… Yes. Just this morning, not too long ago before you came here.”
“Very good – Maiya, I’ll keep entrusting the job of protecting Irisviel to you.”
“Yes, sir… Hmm, Kiritsugu?”
Just as Kiritsugu was about to walk out of the door, Maiya stopped him in a dazed voice.
Maiya stared for a moment at the eyes that turned to her, then made a small sigh and said after lowering her head.
“It’s finally back. The expression that you had back then.”
After a low reply, Kiritsugu continued walking outside without once turning back.
After that completely unbelievable day, Waver finally came to terms with the implications of the current situation.
After getting up in the morning, Waver told the old couple he would be coming back later than usual today, then rushed to Shinto without even eating breakfast.
Though the worst of rush hour was yet to come, the bus heading towards the station already seemed to be full; perhaps too many people were commuting between Fuyuki and the neighboring town.
With a great ruckus of people around him, Waver was unused to the way the crowd pushed him along. But right then, when he felt so hollow and empty, he was actually filled with a sense of security.
Over the past few days, there had been an overwhelming presence continuously filling the space next to him. In comparison, the level of oppression from the crowd felt more like an empty lot abandoned after a bustling ritual.
Of course, Rider’s presence was always next to him. Even now, he could still feel the majestic and oppressive atmosphere of the Servant in spiritual form.
Speaking of which, the big man had been maintaining his spiritual shape, not once materializing since that great battle with Caster two nights before.
That wouldn't have been strange for any other Servant. Out of battle mode, there was no need to specifically materialize and expend excess prana. However, that didn’t apply to Alexander. The man participated in the War of the Holy Grail with materialization as his goal, after all.
If the situation had only lasted a few hours, it could have been interpreted as him just having some fun. But it became unusual when he didn’t appear for an entire day. There could only be one reason why Rider would not materialize.
As a Master, Waver could still converse with his Servant of spiritual form at any time. If Waver called for him now, there was no doubt that Rider would respond immediately. However, Waver didn’t dare open his mouth and inquire. It would be better not to start a conversation until he knew how Rider would respond and had thoroughly prepared himself in advance.
In order to be prepared for everything, Waver decided to start shopping in the morning.
First of all, he needed to go to the supermarket’s outdoor equipment sale and purchase sleeping bags and mattresses suitable for winter wilderness. They were expensive, but nothing in comparison to the gaming console Rider had bought.
What really irritated him were the prices at which pharmacies sold energy drinks and portable heaters. Achieving the same degrees of medication and equipment with magecraft would have required huge amounts of prana worth ten times the effort. Though he felt it bruised his pride as a magus, Waver, with anger beyond reason, still bought more than he actually needed.
He was intensely annoyed at the fact that he had been born in the modern world. What bad luck. If only the era he had grown up in was full of respect and fear for magecraft! Why did he have to be born into a time when a portable heater only cost 400 yen and no one knew the harshness of life?
In any case, when he was done buying all of his necessities, Waver took the bus back to Miyama town, bought some eel fishball bento from the supermarket two bus stops down the road from the MacKenzies', then heated it gently with a microwave. If he wanted to eat his meal before it got cold, he'd have to hurry to reach his destination.
Actually, Waver was already eager to ask Rider just what had happened. However, he couldn’t do anything to a Servant who offered no explanation and didn’t even want to show his face. Had Waver been more outgoing, he definitely would have gotten the answer he wanted. But he had many concerns – as an immature magus, his sense of powerlessness made him afraid to question Rider.
He thought this in his heart, and yet refused to bow his head to Rider. After all, it was humiliating enough being ordered around by his own Servant.
He was indeed very weak and very useless, but Waver was reluctant to admit it. If he could achieve the best results through prudent preparation, then even Rider wouldn't be able to underestimate him anymore. With these thoughts in mind, Waver chose to likewise remain stubbornly silent in the face of Rider’s muteness.
Waver had soon traversed the residential areas and walked into a bushy forest soon to be developed into an urban park.
Passing through the brushwood with no roads yet to be developed, Waver walked into its greatest depths. Although the scenes here varied drastically between morning and night, Waver still marched towards its center with familiarity.
Having finally reached his destination and made sure all of the surroundings were in order, Waver sighed in relief. After placing the thermal mat on the leaf-strewn ground, Waver sat on it and began eating the bento he had just bought from the supermarket. The microwave-heated bento was already cold and had lost its flavor, but that didn't matter. What mattered was that it contained the energy he needed to maintain life.
“–Does that taste good?”
It was Rider’s voice, something he hadn’t heard for an entire day and night. Even in spiritual form, was food still the only thing that could arouse his interest? Waver couldn’t help but idly wonder.
“No, it’s disgusting. It’s probably the most disgusting thing in Japanese cuisine.”
A reply like that made Rider in spiritual form sigh as if in regret and say:
“Kid, do you remember a shop called ‘Shogi Okonomiyaki’ that you passed in Shinto? The innovative pancake they sell there is really damn miraculous. Pity you didn’t buy it…”
“If you still want to eat it, then hurry up and recover to a state that allows you to materialize.”
A strange silence began to fill the atmosphere. However, Waver now appeared to be quite at ease. The apprentice magus continued to speak as he ate the eel bento in big gulps.
“Do you know where we are? This is the place where you were summoned. The quality of this spiritual ground hardly needs saying, and the Magic Circle used that night for the summoning hasn’t been damaged either. This is the leyline in Fuyuki that suits you the best. This place would definitely help make your recovery more efficient.”
Actually, Waver had noticed it two nights ago. It was impossible for a large Noble Phantasm like Ionian Hetairoi to be used two nights in a row without any repercussions.
A large amount of prana was required just to expand such a powerful Reality Marble and maintain it for a short time. Moreover, in his battle with Caster, Rider had also been within the bounded field and received heavy damage.
Above all, so much prana had been spent that Rider, who clung to his physical so obstinately, was forced into spiritual form in order to concentrate on recuperation. It was obvious that this was no small amount of prana.
“I’ll be staying here the whole day today and doing nothing but sleeping. So you can take as much of my prana as you'd like, as long as it doesn’t kill me. This way, it should help your recovery a lot too.”
Rider’s spiritual form was silent for a long time, as if he had his mouth open in shock. Then he laughed loudly.
“…Hahaha. Why didn’t you say so earlier if you noticed it? Mm, I’m really sorry.”
“Idiot! If you don’t hurry up and recover from your current condition, I’ll be the one in danger!”
Waver felt angry all of a sudden. Rider, who had been so carefree, actually felt apologetic. But if he put some thought into the real reason behind their whole predicament, Waver was the one who should have felt embarrassed.
Waver’s reason for not wanting Rider to maintain his physical form was obvious – as a Master, Waver’s prana supply was far beneath the prana expenditure Rider required in order to recover.
Of course, it was humiliating for the Master. He was not fit to command a Servant as powerful as Rider. It was the best proof that he was nothing but a weak, second-rate magus. Humiliation and anger: those were accurate reflections of Waver’s current mood.
Was it Waver who was at fault for being unable to accurately grasp his Servant’s condition, or was it Rider, who had hidden and kept this truth from him? If Rider had straightforwardly brought it up when he felt his prana supply running low and made Waver prepare for it ahead of time, then perhaps there could have been some other way.
After Waver finished his bento, he drained the energy drink he had bought in one gulp, then asked the spiritual entity beside him.
“…What’s wrong? You’ve been quiet.”
“No, I’m wondering if I can hold on a bit longer. The battle at the river bank wasn’t as exhausting as I thought.”
In order to stop the sea demon Caster had summoned from coming on land, Rider had maintained the area of his Ionian Hetairoi Reality Marble beyond its limit. No matter what, it was too much. Back then, Waver had been more worried about his Servant than his alliance with Saber.
“In the end, your trump card was surprisingly wasteful of prana, wasn’t it?”
“Not at all. Just that its size became bigger. Those guys in the army weren’t summoned out, so it didn’t cost too much prana to maintain.”
“Liar. Large magecrafts of that degree need to use an enormous amount of prana just to be activated. Once activated, the army summoned within was a pretty surprising expenditure for you, wasn’t it?”
“When I first saw it, I really did think it was a very efficient Noble Phantasm, just like you said. In retrospect, the amount of prana you took from my Magic Circuits when you first fought Assassin was really too small.”
That was when Waver had misunderstood the amount of prana required for Ionian Hetairoi. Even magecraft must obey the greater rule of ‘equivalent exchange’. Therefore, activating a large magecraft of such a degree was definitely not an easy thing. Waver couldn’t help but feel angry once again at his own naïveté.
The excessive intake of energy drinks made Waver feel nauseous, and his chest felt as if it was on fire. Waver sat up on the thermal mat, took off his boots, and dived into his sleeping bag.
“Rider, why did you use your own stored prana instead of using mine? It is my duty to provide it. And you made that decision twice in a row without consulting me… just what are you trying to do?”
“As for… that.”
Rider made a deep sigh as if it were difficult to explain.
“Frankly, as a Servant I am purely a killer of souls. If I had involved you when I released all of my prana, it could have threatened your life.”
“Even so – I was prepared.”
Waver said in a low voice, staring at the ground.
“I don’t want this to become your solo battle. This is my first time joining a war. If I do not make sacrifices or shed blood, and do not obtain victory, then this is completely meaningless.”
Back when they'd had the chance to stroll around Shinto, he was quickly laughed at for the meaning behind his battle. But even so, he did not cast it aside. He did not give it up. No matter how much it was laughed at for being tiny, what was in this heart would never be yielded to anyone.
“Do you know why I want to obtain the Grail? I’m not concerned with what happens after I obtain the Grail. I just want to prove this for everyone to see! I just wanted to confirm it! That I, Waver – even someone like me is able to grab what belongs to me with my own two hands!”
“–But kid, that’s only meaningful under the premise that the Holy Grail actually exists, right?”
Rider’s surprising words left Waver gaping and speechless.
“Everyone's fighting madly for the Fuyuki Grail, but does it really exist? It’s only a legend. No one’s ever seen it with their own eyes, have they?”
What did Rider mean? Waver could not completely comprehend his words, but neither could he refute them, and so only nodded.
“True, it’s like you said, but…”
“I have also fought for things with an ‘uncertain existence’.”
Somehow, Rider’s words contained a hint of bitterness and sorrow far from his usual majesty.
“I want to behold the endless sea with my own eyes – I continuously crusaded across the world for the sole sake of this dream. Those who believed in me fought with me without a doubt, and even sacrificed their own lives. However, even till the end, it was only in their dreams that they saw the endless sea of which I spoke.”
“Finally, the eastern crusade was disbanded under the persuasion of those who did not trust me. But that was the right thing to do. Had I continued, my army would surely have been defeated somewhere along the way. I only realized that the earth was a globe when I came to this era. It was such a farce. Now, anyone could figure out that there is no endless sea just by looking at a map. My so-called dream back then would be nothing more than a delusion now.”
Even if that was the truth.
To hear Alexander say it – it shocked Waver quite a bit.
A man who had marched forward so bravely towards the vivid dream in his heart – why would he now deny his own dream with such a calm voice?
However, those words of rebuttal tangled in Waver’s throat and remained unsaid in the end.
Waver had the same dream as Rider, but he could not express it no matter what. Because it concerned Waver’s pride.
“I’ve become tired of others sacrificing themselves because of my whims. If I can ascertain that the Grail indeed exists somewhere, then I will obtain it even if it means your life and mine… but unfortunately, we still don’t know whether the Holy Grail really exists. I don’t want to make the same mistake, a mistake like not knowing the world is a globe.”
“But I… even so, I’m still your Master.”
Waver wanted to argue, but he immediately mocked himself in his heart.
He couldn’t even provide prana, which should have been the least he could do.
He couldn’t even detect the weakness of his Servant, who pushed himself to participate in battle.
As if unaware of Waver’s worries, Rider’s voice, in spiritual form, once again returned to its usual carefree style, and he laughed out loud.
“Kid, that goes without saying. True, your Magic Circuits are a lot more powerful than usual. The leylines here are pretty good too. If we rest for the whole day like this, then we can get some things going at night.”
Waver himself could already feel the amount of prana Rider had absorbed through his Magic Circuits. The previous burning sensation in his chest had already completely disappeared; in its stead was an overwhelming exhaustion as if all the strength in his body had been drawn away. Even moving his fingers and opening his eyes became difficult.
“…What? Get some things going? What do you plan to do after this?”
“Hmm, it’s gonna be like this… Tonight, we should regard Saber as our opponent first, and attack that castle in the forest again.”
“Not going to chat with them, right?”
“Of course not. The alliance is over. What should be said has all been said. What’s next is to oppose each other with everything we’ve got.”
Although Rider’s voice was still powerful and confident, there was an audible wariness hidden within. That Saber would definitely count as a powerful enemy even for Rider. He was already prepared for a majestic and desperate battle to the end.
“…If we keep this up, how much can you recover by nighttime?”
“About that… if all goes well, I won't be able to use Gordius Wheel in its most powerful form, but simple flight shouldn’t be a problem.”
Then, as if it had been weighing on his mind, the spiritual form continued speaking with a sigh mixed in his words.
“But Ionian Hetairoi – I fear I can only use it one more time.”
In the midst of all this misfortune, having one final trump card was the greatest strength left in his hands.
“That should be left for the battle with Archer. I can’t handle that goldie’s killing blow without my trump card. The other enemies can probably be finished with just the war chariot.”
That was fine strategically, but a new question suddenly emerged in Waver’s mind.
“But… Rider, why did you pick Saber specifically as your opponent?”
“Didn’t you say that you weren’t regarding that woman as an enemy anymore? Besides, with the way you are now, shouldn’t you do your best to minimize the number of battles in the future? And Archer… never mind, that’s some kind of strange promise that you made yourself; can’t go back on that now. But the battle with Saber should be put off; best to wait for other Servants to finish her off.”
Listening to Waver’s serious advice, Rider couldn’t help but laugh.
“Oi, kid. If I could stretch out my fingers, I’d give you a hard flick on the forehead.”
“Wha– what!? Isn’t that the best strategy?”
Had Rider’s physical form been here, Waver would’ve been covering his forehead with his hands. However, now that the other is in spiritual form, the short magus appeared a bit more forceful than usual.
“I must be the one to defeat Saber. We’re both Heroic Spirits, so that is my duty.”
“… What does that mean?”
“If I'm not the one to defeat her, then that idiotic woman will continue walking down her wrong path. Then it’d really be too sad for her.”
Although Waver had a hard time understanding him, he understood the feelings of this King of Conquerors, this guy who was willing to let even the War of the Holy Grail go.
Therefore, as a Master, extra thoughts were better discarded – in fact, Waver didn’t even have the optimism to wish for someone else to finish off Saber. The Servant called Saber was truly too powerful. That mysterious golden Servant, Archer, was also a mighty competitor. Waver thought he was very shrewd, and it was nearly impossible that Saber would damage him before Rider fought her.
For Rider, a face-to-face confrontation with Saber was more or less inevitable.
“…Never mind, if that's how you want it to be… fine…”
Waver wanted to argue a bit more, but realized that nothing would change no matter what he said and simply gave up. He eventually felt so tired that he could not fend off the sleepiness and tucked himself into his brand new sleeping bag, all the while feeling the warmth of the downy feather quilt.
“Alright, stop holding yourself up. Go to sleep, kid. Rest is your battle now.”
Although there was still much to be said, they could be said when he woke up. He didn’t need to be on guard against getting his forehead flicked when conversing with a Rider not in physical form, but he kept feeling as if something was missing there. Moreover, he was at a point where it was tiring just to open his mouth and speak. It was best to just have a good nap.
And so, Waver began to relax his nearly exhausted body and sank into a deep slumber.
When Irisviel opened her eyes again, the first thing to fall into her sight was the light of the setting sun dying the high windows of the underground storage a sheen of crimson red.
Since losing consciousness, she had been immersed in a deep sleep and felt as though the entire day had disappeared. Rather than sleeping, her deteriorating body was better described as entering a near death state.
But it felt fine for the moment, so maybe such a long rest had some effect after all. She still didn’t have enough strength to sit up, but she could at least gather enough breath to speak.
Irisviel looked to her side and discovered Hisau Maiya still sitting in a corner of the room, still as a painting. She was in the same place with the same posture as before Irisviel had fallen asleep, but the razor sharp look emanating from her eyes held not a sliver of exhaustion or fatigue. She was just staring blankly into air.
Though she made a dependable sight, she could easily have been mistaken for a robot or familiar. Even Irisviel couldn’t help but feel a certain degree of fear towards her. Just what kind of training and how strong a will must she have had to be able to maintain such a degree of focus? It was unimaginable.
With some awe, Irisviel suddenly realized – this woman called Hisau Maiya may have achieved a state above the realm that Kiritsugu pursued.
Irisviel called softly. Like a hound that suddenly heard its calling trumpet, Maiya immediately turned her eyes towards Irisviel.
“Why… do you fight for Kiritsugu?”
“…Because I have nothing else.”
When she realized that her charge was not in any pain or discomfort and just wanted to chat, Maiya relaxed her taut nerves a little and answered after a short pause for thought.
“I can’t remember anything concerning my family or my name. This name, Hisau Maiya, was given to me by Kiritsugu when he made my fake passport.”
Seeing the surprise on Irisviel’s face, the end of Maiya’s mouth twitched with a small smile. For someone like her, who showed no discernible emotion on her face, that was the limit of what she could do to show her relaxed mood.
“All I can remember is that it was a very poor country. There was no hope, there was no future. The only things left were communal hatred and conflict over food for survival. War would never end. There were no funds left to maintain armies, but the mutual slaughter continued without a moment’s pause… No one remembered whose idea it was, but at that time someone decided it was faster to get children to go to the frontline with guns than to hire soldiers and train them.”
“Therefore, I don’t remember anything before I had a gun in my hand. I could only keep killing others to prolong my own life. Snipe my enemy, pull back the trigger; that was the only function left in my being. Everything else was discarded… the children who couldn’t do that were all killed by those children who could. I lived on aimlessly just like that until I met Kiritsugu.”
As Maiya spoke, she lowered her head to look her at hands. Those long, slender fingers possessed no feminine gentleness, only comparable to sharp weapons of murder.
“As a human, my heart had already died. Only my body still functioned, maintaining my human behavior. The person who picked me up and kept my ‘life’ was Kiritsugu; therefore, he can use my life in any way he wishes… That is the reason why I’m staying here.”
Although Irisviel had long predicted that Maiya had a tragic past, the things she said far surpassed Irisviel’s imagination.
Irisviel was silent and didn’t know how to respond. This time, it was Maiya who opened her mouth and posed a question instead.
Irisviel hadn't expected Maiya to say such a thing and couldn’t help but feel surprised.
“You’ve always lived in such a secluded castle and known precious little about the outside world. Why would you support Kiritsugu, who vowed to change the world, to such a degree that you would be willing to sacrifice your own life…?”
Maiya’s words once again made Irisviel sink deep into thought.
Emiya Kiritsugu, her husband, the man with a dream to ‘save the world’. Now that she knew he sought the Holy Grail hidden in her own body, did her current self still hold the same ideal as he did?
“—True. To be honest, I don’t understand Kiritsugu’s ideal all that much.”
Yes, her answer was – negative.
“In the end, I probably only pretended to understand. Maybe it was just to stay together with the person I love. Like you said, Maiya, I know almost nothing of the world Kiritsugu wants to change. The ideal in my heart was probably just something Kiritsugu taught me.”
“…Do you think that?”
“Mmm. But please keep it a secret from Kiritsugu.”
This was an incredible feeling for Irisviel. She had said words in front of this person she would never say in front of her own husband.
“No matter what the situation, I would tell him I firmly believed him to be right. I could even sacrifice my life for his ideal. I pretended that I possessed the same ideal as him. If I gave my life for an ideal we both shared—compared to a woman who simply sacrificed herself for her husband, wouldn’t I have become less of a burden for Kiritsugu?”
Her love for Kiritsugu and her trust in Saber were two completely different feelings. For Irisviel, this feeling of relying on someone, a feeling she was having for the first time, could probably be called ‘friendship’.
“Then, madam, don’t you have any wishes of your own?”
As she was again asked this question, Irisviel couldn’t help but remember the battle she and Maiya had faced together in the forest. Back then, faced with Kotomine Kirei’s enormous and overwhelming presence, just where had that surge of fighting spirit come from?
“I probably do have… a wish. I wish for Kiritsugu and Saber to obtain victory. I, for them, wish them to possess the Grail.”
Of course, that would also mean Irisviel’s death, her eternal farewell with Kiritsugu.
However, even so, this wish – became the fountain that provided the heaving courage in Irisviel’s heart.
“Is that… the so-called wish of the Einzbern family, the achievement of the Third Magic?”
“No. I don’t mind even if we don’t reach the Greater Grail. What I hope for is an end to the war forever. It’s the same as what Kiritsugu seeks; to change the structure of this world and end all fighting. This battle for the Holy Grail at Fuyuki City would be no exception, wouldn’t it? This is already the fourth time, and I wish for this to be the last Heaven’s Feel. In terms of homunculi sacrificed as vessels of the Grail – I hope I will be the last one.”
Illyasviel von Einzbern. A creature with all great achievements of alchemy gathered within her, born from the womb of a homunculus and conceived with the sperm of a magus. Although she hadn’t seen her with her own eyes, Maiya had heard of her existence long ago.
“It was the plan of the head of the family. For the ‘protector of the Grail’ after me, he planned to use a homunculus with even greater mechanisms. He not only implanted the secrets of the Holy Grail into the embryo, but also added Magic Circuits to her exterior and made her physical body capable of becoming a vessel of the ‘Grail’ by itself. The head of the family had already predicted the possibility of ‘the Fifth round’ before the ‘Fourth’ Heaven’s Feel began, and he allowed me to give birth to Illya. If Kiritsugu and I fail, that child will become the experimental specimen for ‘the Dress of Heaven’.”
At this time, Irisviel’s voice was full of the gentleness of familial love.
This was the concrete evidence that the homunculus called Irisviel was not simply an artificial machine. She had the heart of a human, the benevolence of love, a smile of happiness, and tears of sadness. The warmth swelling in her heart was the most important part of being human.
“When I held that child and fed her… I was also very much aware that she wouldn’t be able to escape the destiny of becoming a ‘vessel’ in the end. Can you understand the feelings of a mother who felt endless despair when looking at her beloved child?”
Maiya was silent and didn’t answer. Irisviel continued.
“However, that is the destiny carried by the homunculi of the Einzberns. Be it that child or my granddaughter, this sorrow is tasted again and again every time a daughter is born. This fate will be repeated every time the Fuyuki Holy Grail descends. Therefore, I hope this pain can end here with me, using my body to end the stubborn wish of the Einzberns. If my wish can be fulfilled, then my daughter will be freed from this tragic destiny. That child would probably be able to live her entire life as a human and have nothing to do with the Holy Grail.”
“Are those the feelings of a mother?”
Only when Maiya asked this did Irisviel realize she had exposed too much of her feelings. She gave an embarrassed, bitter smile.
“Perhaps. Maybe you find it hard to understand, Maiya.”
“It's not too hard. I’ve also been a mother, myself.”
It really was a surprising reply. Irisviel almost doubted her own ears.
As if feeling slightly apologetic for surprising Irisviel so, Maiya related the event in a calm voice.
“I…actually experienced pregnancy and delivery, although it could be said that it was an accident.”
“…Were you married once?”
“No. I don’t know who the father is. During battle, every night in the barracks, the male soldiers would come to all of us female soldiers and… I can’t remember when it started… anyways, I became pregnant soon after I became a woman. The child wasn’t given a name and I don’t know if he’s still alive. If he hasn’t died, he must still exist in some remote corner of that battlefield, fighting for his life. The children there are all given guns and sent to battle when they turn five years old.”
“How can it…”
When she heard this former child soldier in front of her recounting tragic stories of the past, Irisviel couldn’t help but feel stunned.
“Are you surprised? But such things are definitely not new in this world, are they? Modern terrorists and guerrilla warfare groups all know the benefits of using children as soldiers, and early successes such as I also serve as evidence. Therefore, children who share my experience did not decrease in the modern age, but rather increased.”
Maiya narrated silently, her eyes seeming less and less alive. Sorrow and hatred also began to disappear from her voice. Perhaps the only thing left in her memories was endless despair.
“Madam, perhaps you thought the world you saw with your own eyes for the first time was very beautiful and envied the happy people living there. However, I am very envious of you, who always lived in that castle. You did not experience any of the terror and ugliness of this world.”
Although there were no feelings of jealousy or hatred in Maiya’s contemplation, Irisviel felt rather embarrassed upon hearing it.
Maiya seemed to detect Irisviel’s feelings, so she continued.
“If such a world can really be changed… then no matter how Kiritsugu chooses to use my life toward that end, I will not utter a single word of refusal.”
But I don’t know how to do anything apart from fighting—Maiya muttered softly to herself. There was no exaggeration in that sentence. Without goals and without hope, her heart was as desolate as a barren, fire-ravaged field.
Although her inner feelings were completely different from Kiritsugu’s, they were amazingly similar as soldiers. Maiya’s existence constantly served as a reminder to Kiritsugu, and at the same time provided him with an example. Because of Maiya’s close existence, Kiritsugu had sealed himself within this dilemma and made himself a cruel hunting machine devoid of mercy.
“What… do you want to do after Kiritsugu achieves his wish?”
When Irisviel asked this, Maiya’s eyes once again became confused.
“—I never imagined I’d be able to complete this task and live. If I really managed to stay alive, I would have no reason to keep living. There shouldn’t be any place for me in the world changed by Kiritsugu.”
A world without war had no place for someone like her, someone who knew nothing but combat. For Maiya, it was the logical conclusion.
Such sad, melancholic feelings made Irisviel speak out.
“No, that’s not true. Maiya, you still have things you have to do after the war finishes.”
Irisviel continued speaking while staring at the confused eyes of the female soldier.
“You must search for your family and your own name, and the whereabouts of your child. They are things that shouldn’t be forgotten. They are things that should be remembered.”
“Is that so…”
Contrary to Irisviel’s passion, Maiya’s reply was full of emotionless nonchalance.
“If we really can usher in a world without war, then the memories of people like me would be nothing short of nightmarish. Remembering them would only make me more painful. Would you want me to bring the seed of hatred into the utopia we’ve finally created?”
“That’s not true. Your life wasn’t a dream. It contains facts that really happened. A peace created by burying all those memories in the darkness of the past is nothing but a sinful lie. I think a truly peaceful world shouldn’t simply forget those past pains. Instead, we should solemnly remember those previous pains and sacrifices so we don’t go down the same sad road and can continue on to create a peaceful new world.”
Maiya gazed at Irisviel silently – then spoke with a slightly more relieved face.
“You should have said these things to Kiritsugu earlier. Had you done that, maybe he would already have obtained salvation.”
Maiya’s heartfelt words brought both joy and loneliness into Irisviel’s heart.
Perhaps – as she was on the verge of destruction, she would never have the chance to chat with her husband again.
“—Then, Maiya, I trust you to bring these words to him. Tell him I said them.”
Maiya replied with a vague shrug of her shoulders.
“I’ll do as I see fit. But that’s to come after the war finishes. We shouldn’t be careless for now.”
Although Maiya’s tone was very cold, Irisviel still heard the playfulness in her words.
“Really, you’re just—”
Before Irisviel finished speaking, the underground storage suddenly began to shake violently .
Maiya rushed to Irisviel and held her shoulders, quickly switching to battle mode. Her gaze became as sharp as a blade, and she grabbed her light machine gun with her right hand and aimed it at the iron doors of the underground storage.
The underground storage shook once again. This time, the thick and heavy iron door deformed with a violent impact from the outside, as if someone outside was powerfully banging on it. It was a terrible feat only possible through use of a mechanical crane. For the two participants of this Heaven’s Feel, it wasn’t something worthy of surprise – rather, they only felt despair.
If it was really a Servant attempting to charge into the underground storage, then Maiya’s weapons would be completely useless against it. Moreover, they couldn’t even escape in the current situation, truly trapped at a dead end.
However, before terror could even pass through their minds, there came a disbelieving confusion.
Who could have known that Irisviel was hiding in this underground storage?
The protective barrier should have detected any clairvoyance or arriving familiars. However, the enemy skipped any reconnaissance and directly sent the Servant to Irisviel’s safe house with such accuracy; could it be that the enemy had learned of this place a long time ago?
A third shockwave. Before the iron doors were destroyed, the earthen walls around them could no longer take such a powerful impact and collapsed first.
With soaring dust, the iron doors fell into the underground storage. The setting sun shone in through the doorway, dying the room a shade of bloodstained red.
And that giant figure looming over the debris and dust was undoubtedly – Servant Rider, King of Conquerors, Alexander.
Maiya could only hold onto the light machine gun in her hands with utter despair.
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