Fate/Zero:Act 13 Part 3
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.
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