Fate/Zero:Act 13 Part 4
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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