Fate/Zero:Act 14 Part 4
Matō Zōken –
The man before him was the mastermind behind the Matō family, a presence known but never seen. Kotomine Kirei’s senses couldn’t help but go on the alert.
There was a small, short figure that had deliberately chosen to stand in a dark corner of the night street, a place that bright lights could not illuminate. Contrary to his shriveled and aged appearance, this man was an extremely dangerous entity; Tokiomi had told Kirei time after time. Although he had publicly declared that he was retired and no longer cared for the businesses of the outside world, he was an abnormality that covertly used the secret arts of magecraft to prolong his life and rule over the Matō house for generations. In a way, he was far more dangerous than the actual Master of the family, Kariya. This old man was someone who required special attention.
“Kotomine Kirei. I heard that you’re the son of that stubborn and honest Risei. Is that so?”
“That is true.”
Kirei nodded to show agreement when he heard the question asked by this hoarse voice.
“Hmph – what a surprise. It is often said that heroes come from the most unexpected places. There must be some truth to it. I didn’t think that man could sire a son as wily and deceitful as you.”
“What do you want, Matō Zōken?”
Kirei ignored the old magus’s provocation and demanded an answer.
“You should be on Kariya’s side, so why did you have to hide here and eavesdrop on us?”
“What are you talking about? I’m just a parent worried about his child. I wanted to see with my own eyes what kind of helper that child Kariya got for himself.”
He deliberately pretended to smile like a doting grandfather, but that skeletal, shriveled countenance was markedly different from that of normal humans. It was obvious that his face, with such a structure, would never have such a smile.
“I heard everything you said to Kariya to appease him. You seem to want to get rid of the son of the Tōsaka house.”
“That is true. That man killed my father –”
“Be quiet. Don’t repeat such a lie twice.”
Those deep-set eyes, buried in wrinkles, glistened with a keen light and stared at Kirei.
“Kotomine Kirei, you’ve gone too far with your petty trickery. You even dared to act behind Tōsaka’s back; you’ve overstepped your boundaries. You don’t need Kariya’s hand to kill Tokiomi at all, not since the moment you decided to get rid of him. You must have prepared for every eventuality – I’m not so old that I’m turning senile. You might be able to trick Kariya, but don’t you dare think you can trick me too.”
Kirei quietly improved his evaluation of this old magus in his mind, but he maintained his mask of calm.
“Your goal isn’t the son of the Tōsaka house, but Kariya himself. Isn’t it?”
“… If you doubt me so, then why didn’t you stop Kariya?”
A bone-chilling creaking sound, like the muted chirping of a hoard of insects, resonated. Kirei only understood it to be the sound of this old man’s suppressed laughter after a few moments.
“Hmm, how should I say this… you can say it is simply out of my curiosity. I want to see what methods you would use to ‘break’ Kariya. I am very interested in this.”
“… Zōken, can you really watch Kariya, who is fighting for the Matō house, have his chances of victory destroyed little by little?”
“Chances of victory? Kariya? Hmph, such things never existed. If that piece of trash can obtain the Holy Grail, then the past three bouts of slaughter would all seem like a comedy show.”
“I don’t quite understand. Isn’t the Matō house also one of the Three Noble Families of the Beginning, one that craves the Holy Grail?”
Hearing Kirei’s question, Zōken gave a cold snort.
“I think the Tōsaka son and those of the Einsbern house are all idiots. If they remember the details from the last battle of the previous war, then they should understand that there is something odd with this fourth Heaven’s Feel, and be alert towards it.
"I saw through the battles of this round from the start. Truth be told, just by looking at that despicable Caster at the start of the War, we should have been able to tell that the summoning didn’t call forth a Heroic Spirit, but an evil spirit far removed from heroes. Without a doubt, something has begun to err within the Heaven’s Feel system. We need to solve this problem first.”
This odd man, who had overcome ordinary humanity, had likely been present in every single Heaven’s Feel. This man Matō Zōken had grasped something that even the previous Supervisor, Kotomine Risei, had not known about.
“Then why did you let Kariya and Berserker participate? If you only wanted to watch from the sidelines, then why did you even prepare a Servant?”
“That’s not the reason. Although there were some dubious elements, it is still a grand ceremony held every 60 years, after all. It wouldn’t have been interesting to watch the children fumble around. Therefore, I found a unique method for me to enjoy the event.”
Zōken said with a tone of ridicule. His mouth tilted even more, and there were smiles all over his face.
“Of course, if that failure really grabbed the Grail, then there’s no better outcome. Despite what I say, I really am impatient.
"Just seeing how Kariya, who betrayed me, suffers in pain day by day – I honestly can’t get enough of it. I desire the Matō house’s victory, but I’m also tempted by the thought of observing Kariya’s defeated and helpless end. How conflicted I am!”
Zōken’s hoarse laughter was truly piercing to Kirei’s ears. How much better would it have been had they met on the battlefield and fought for their lives not with words, but with swords? He could not help thinking that even though he knew the other was a very dangerous old magus. It seemed that Kirei already found the existence of Matō Zōken to be unbearable.
Faced with the inquisition from Kirei, who was trying his best to hide the true feelings in his heart, Zōken lifted his eyebrows as if deliberately mocking the other man.
“Ahhh, how surprising. I thought you would've been able to understand my joy.”
“– What did you say?”
“I may look old, Kotomine Kirei, but my nose is still very sensitive. You have the same smell as I do. You’re like a maggot that crawled here, attracted by the piece of rotting meat that Kariya is.”
Kirei remained quiet, but slowly drew out his Black Keys from within his frock.
He now knew he could no longer persuade this old magus with reason, but they must fight to the death. Zōken had stepped into his range. He had entered the 'absolute territory' at the risk of his life. If he wanted to ensure his vitals remain safe, he could only use a killing strike, attacking the enemy head-on without any warning. If Zōken had thought of evading that strike at his vitals – an inevitably certain kill – Kirei would have no other choice but to confront him directly. Right now, Matō Zōken had already crossed this line - not with his feet, but with his words.
However, Zōken still faced the cold killing intent emanating from Kirei with a casual smile.
“…Oh? Did I overestimate you? I thought I’d finally managed to find a kindred spirit. It seems you still feel ashamed of your own heresy – hahaha, you’re still too inexperienced. Do you feel ashamed of these matters, such as a man would feel shame in indulging in self-pleasure?”
There were no shows of strength, nor were there any warnings. Kirei simultaneously threw out two Black Keys at his left and his right in the blink of an eye, so fast that his preparatory movements couldn’t even be seen. It was as if he was going to pierce this old man’s body like a piece of barbeque meat.
However, faced with those blades, Zōken remained completely unmoved. He was extremely nonchalant, and it was no empty boast. The silhouette of the old magus melted like mud moments before the two blades were about to pierce him through, and he once again became a shapeless shadow hiding in the corner.
Kirei’s entire body tensed up. A voice full of happy mockery sounded from somewhere.
“Ahh, scary, scary. You are young, but still a hound of the Church. It’ll definitely endanger my life if I mock you.”
Kirei took up another Black Key and stared at the throbbing shadow in the darkness.
Was it an illusion a moment ago, when he saw that he was just about to pierce Matō Zōken’s flesh? Or was it that Matō Zōken’s physical body didn’t even exist here? Any kind of extraordinary thing was possible when it came to this wily and devious old magus. If such trivial matters surprised Kirei, then he would not be suited to the role of Executor.
“Honestly. Until next time, young man. You must nurture your personality so that you can be on equal footing with me the next time we meet. Hahahaha…”
Zōken’s scent melted into the darkness and disappeared, leaving only a terrifying shrieking laughter. All that was left was the figure of Kirei, who stood holding his blade like a scarecrow.
Irritated, Kirei threw the Black Key, which had lost its target, on the roof.
He hadn't imagined that this old man was a monster with no usable potential whatsoever. There was no reason to keep him alive.
He was certain that Matō Zōken was a nemesis that he must eliminate sooner or later.
To escape the gradually darkening night, Matō Byakuya continued to drown himself in alcohol.
Nothing had happened last night, and it passed peacefully. But now he was resentful of the fact. Mighty waves rushed up after calm sea weather. Nothing dangerous had happened last night and it went past peacefully, which meant that dangerous happenings would be afoot tonight.
Byakuya clearly understood the truth behind the alien events that had been threatening the Fuyuki night recently. He was the eldest son and inheritor of the prestigious Matō house, the final remnants of a mighty bloodline that had begun a pilgrimage to seek the traces of the Holy Grail in the distant past. In truth, he should have been a part of this cruel and extraordinary war as one of its participants.
However, he had turned his back on his duty and drowned himself in alcohol day after day. Byakuya felt no shame towards his own behavior. On the contrary, he actually thought his was the correct and logical attitude in comparison to his little brother Kariya. Byakuya could say that with his chest thrust out in pride.
Byakuya could never understand why Kariya, who had been disowned by the Matō house a long time ago, had returned to his homeland and gone so far as to participate in the Heaven’s Feel. He didn’t even want to understand it. Byakuya couldn’t thank his little brother enough for having changed his mind. Had he not returned, the one reduced to such a state and forced to participate in the Heaven’s Feel would have been not Kariya, but Byakuya himself.
Whenever he remembered that figure, black like a vengeful spirit, that Kariya had summoned using the Summoning Circle and signed a contract with – Byakuya could only use alcohol to numb himself, to get as far away from the terror he felt then as possible.
How could anyone stay sane when he knew there were 6 other such things slaughtering each other in the night while devouring human flesh and blood? The current Fuyuki city was an authentic demonic realm. Alcohol was the only thing he could rely on to keep on living in this place while maintaining a calm mentality.
His only child Shinji was sent overseas in the name of studying. Byakuya himself was strongly against staying in the present Fuyuki. However, he had no legitimate reason to leave the Matō mansion. Zōken had given him the task of acclimating the little girl adopted from the Tōsaka house to the underground worm storage and training her to one day be worthy of becoming the next head of the Matō house.
Yes. Byakuya had already completed his task to near perfection as the current head of the Matō house. Zōken’s original plan had been to sit aside and observe this Heaven’s Feel anyways. After all, Kariya was simply a toy played in that old magus’s hand. Byakuya was the only one in the current Matō family who was walking along the right path. It wasn’t a matter of the number of Magic Circuits. Even if his abilities were only good enough to defeat a small child, Byakuya still firmly believed his path was the only one that could truly connect to the future of the Matō house…
He said this to himself and continued to gulp down large mouthfuls of liquor into his stomach while despising his little brother.
Becoming a magus of the Matō house meant becoming the puppet of Zōken – the mastermind controlling everything behind the scenes. Because Byakuya understood this, he had no sympathy for Kariya, who had once left the family but foolishly returned and willingly became the foster bed for the Crest Worms. He never had much familial love for his little brother to begin with. Kariya had talent that far surpassed his older brother, but left the family and forced the cursed destiny carried by generations of the Matōs all unto Byakuya. How could he feel sympathetic toward such a man right now?
Ahh, why was he still not sleepy today? Normally, he would have been dead asleep a long time ago. He hadn't drunk enough; he was not drunk enough. He wanted to forget what was happening outside of the house as soon as possible, wanted to skip through the night as quickly as possible – but someone took the wine glass on the table and poured all the ice water in the glass onto Byakuya’s head.
He fainted for a moment under the piercing cold, but his drunkenness was immediately dispelled and he regained consciousness. A merciless impact slammed into his cheek this time. Byakuya curved up into the blankets on his bed.
Byakuya’s mentality snapped. Even his cries of horror were suppressed in his throat and couldn’t be voiced. A wraith-like man whose appearance sent shivers down Byakuya’s spine was standing there, looking down on him.
He was dressed in a dirty, creased old coat, and the stubble on his chin said he hadn’t shaved in days. If judging by appearances alone, this man looked even more like a drunkard in a pub than Byakuya, who was inside his own house and dressed in everyday clothing. However, his eyes refuted all that. The temperature in that man’s eyes had already surpassed the realms of cruelty or mercilessness. It was only filled with the cold sadism and lethality of a wounded beast. After staring into those eyes, Byakuya surrendered all will to uncover the origins of this man or his business here and became a complete slave of despair.
Who this man was, how he had broken through the impressive layers of protective boundaries outside the house; none of that mattered now. This thing that now appeared before Byakuya was undoubtedly the reincarnation of the very horror that he had only managed to temporarily forget through the effects of alcohol for the past week.
“…Where is Irisviel right now?”
Byakuya was convinced that he must answer before he understood the meaning of the question, or else he would be killed.
– After a moment, he finally realized he actually didn’t understand the meaning of this question. Byakuya was instantly crushed by an overwhelming despair.
“I, I, I…”
Byakuya moaned unintelligibly. The man stared at him with an ice-cold gaze and slowly took out the weapon from his coat. He roughly jammed Byakuya’s right hand between the floor and the muzzle and pressed the trigger.
Byakuya’s right hand scattered in the wind with a thundering bang that could make anyone who heard it go insane.
A part of his body had just disappeared without reason. Byakuya was so shocked that he couldn’t speak. After a while, a scarring pain made him scream in agony.
“No, no no no I don’t know I just don’t know I don’t know anything! Ahhhhhhhhhhhhh! My hand! AHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!”
There was no one with more experience with getting information out of people unwilling to provide it than Emiya Kiritsugu. Instinct honed over the years told him he wouldn’t get much of an answer even if he kept asking.
Matō Byakuya’s soul had already been ruined long ago. Although Kiritsugu didn’t know the reason, Byakuya had already forced himself onto a road of no return long before Kiritsugu came to visit.
In retrospect, Kiritsugu was the final straw that broke his back and made him crumble completely. This man before him would not hesitate to do anything to get rid of his present pain, including betraying Zōken. When they reached such a stage, everything humans said was a guaranteed truth.
It seemed Byakuya truly didn’t know anything about what had happened in the last few hours.
Which meant – the destination of Irisveil’s kidnappers was definitely not the Matō mansion.
He had spent hours breaking through the protective barriers in such a pressing and tense circumstance, and yet the result was nothing. Kiritsugu couldn’t help but grit his teeth in regret.
By process of elimination, only those from the Matō camp could have kidnapped Irisviel. Rider’s Master didn’t have the reconnaissance ability to discover the secret headquarters Kiritsugu had prepared, whereas Tōsaka didn’t need to contradict himself in this way when they had just formed an alliance last night.
Although the possibility of a new opposing force emerging apart from the seven Masters and Servants was very low, it was not impossible. However, such wild guesses wouldn’t get him any results at this stage. At the moment, he could only find this potential enemy amongst the three Masters who still had the protection of their Servants and needed Irisviel for the final stage.
It was almost four hours after the raid on the underground storage. Victory was slipping further away from Kiritsugu with every second he lost, and he had no time to stop and think thoroughly.
Kiritsugu didn’t even bother to look at Byakuya, who was sobbing with pain and terror, and left the Matō mansion.
Kiritsugu again used about three hours to break through the protective magecraft formations in order to enter the Tōsaka mansion, his next target.
His methods were already close to miraculous. The bounded field that Tōsaka Tokiomi set up was a first-rate security system specifically guarding against magi, and was created with magi in mind to begin with. It couldn’t be broken through by sheer magecraft even if attacked continuously for a whole year. Kiritsugu could overcome this bounded field in a short time precisely because he was someone who did not seek results by way of magecraft and fought against magi by perceiving traps wrought through magecraft.
However, no matter how comparatively quick he was, it was long enough to make Kiritsugu anxious in the current state. He had never wasted this much time on the battlefield. He had finally broken through the protection between the inner porch and the living room, but Kiritsugu was still tormented with a nameless anxiety the moment he arrived in the main lounge. Although he passed through the protective barriers at the risk of his life, it didn’t mean he was guaranteed to find Irisviel, just as had happened at the Matō mansion.
Saber, who started chasing Irisviel one step before Kiritsugu, must have also failed. He could still feel that the Circuits providing prana were not interrupted, which meant that Saber had not suffered any major attacks.
However, had she been safely protected, Irisviel would have definitely activated her signal conducting system and relayed Kiritsugu with detailed information on her current location. He still had not received that, which meant Saber’s pursuit had also been a wasted effort.
After carefully removing the seal on the window, he also removed the inner plug with glass-cutting tools. Kiritsugu had finally arrived at the inner parts of the Tōsaka mansion. No lights were lit within, and all was quiet. It was almost like an empty house with no inhabitants. However, because it was an enormous mansion, such conclusions were hard to draw. As an outstanding Master, Tokiomi was much more prudent than the eldest son of the Matō house. If they were to chance upon each other, then Kiritsugu must make the mental preparedness to fight him. Of course, he would definitely use Archer, and Kiritsugu would have to summon Saber here too. He would have to once again spend a Command Seal and forcibly summon her here.
Although he had wanted to avoid having a confrontation between Saber and Archer, whose true fighting strength remained to be seen, the current situation was too urgent for him to be able to choose his battle strategies. Even so, he wanted to start fighting after having confirmed Irisviel’s whereabouts. If it happened to be an unknown enemy who currently had possession of Irisviel, then Kiritsugu would be falling into a trap if he began to duel with the Matō or Tōsaka houses. What annoyed him the most was that he had to consider this possibility and be wary of it.
Suddenly, Kiritsugu’s sense of smell detected something unavoidable as he stepped into a dark room.
It was the stench of blood. It was undoubtedly fresh.
He focused his prana to his eyes and used night sight. He could instantly see the furniture and design of the room with impeccable clarity. It seemed to be a living room. There were also two sets of teacups on the table.
There was obviously a large amount of blood in the middle of the luxurious carpet.
Kiritsugu carefully checked the bloodstain, which had dried completely. Although the blood had not splattered widely, the amount shed didn’t seem to be from a light wound. With his experience, he concluded it could only have been a bloodstain left from a stab wound.
Kiritsugu searched through all the other rooms, just to be careful. However, his goal was no longer to have a better grasp of the situation, but to find the inhabitant here.
As a medium and the starting point of magecraft, blood was the most important ingredient in magecraft. It would have been unthinkable for a magus to casually let out his blood in his territory with no intent to cast a spell. Of course, it would be a different matter entirely if it happened to be the magus’s particular habit. However, according to Kiritsugu’s previous investigations, the man Tōsaka Tokiomi was not so careless.
His premonition became conviction when he reached the basement workshop without much trouble. A magus would never allow others to easily set foot into his workshop even if he was away from home, let alone present in the house. It seemed that Tokiomi was not only absent from his home, but in a situation where he couldn’t even detect the current state of his house.
To verify, Kiritsugu took out an eye drop bottle from his pocket containing the liquid that could be used to test his hypothesis. The liquid was made by refining the body fluids of a succubus, a kind of demon that particularly liked to seduce men. It was especially sensitive to the blood of men and aged things, and could distinguish differences accurately.
First he tested the reaction of the liquid in the bathroom sink, and then he verified the bloodstains in the living room. It was evident that the reaction was the same for both. Only one man would have shaved at this bathroom sink in the past few days.
And that man’s blood was spilled on the carpet in the living room…
Now he was sure Tōsaka Tokiomi was either dead or had disappeared.
Faced with the emergence of this surprising turn of events, Kiritsugu did his best to calm himself and began to assess the situation.
There were no traces of a fight in the room. The two teacups placed here were to welcome a guest. Tokiomi had definitely suffered a heavy or even lethal wound after having chatted to someone in this room, whom he had welcomed as a guest. It seemed that Kiritsugu wasn’t the only one carrying out revenge on magi.
But what was Tokiomi’s Servant doing at that time? How could he look from the sidelines and ignore his Master? However, there was another possibility… the possibility that Archer no longer needed Tokiomi as a Master, and Archer murdered Tokiomi together with his next contractor. This would also be a reasonable explanation.
Faced with this solemn answer that he had achieved after prolonged thought, Kiritsugu felt as if a knife was twisting in his heart.
A man who was Tōsaka Tokiomi’s friend and was welcomed as a guest, a man before whom Tokiomi could even show his weaknesses.
Archer’s new Master had gained new Command Seals – he was someone who had lost his Servant and thus lost the authority of a Master, but retained his life.
There was no need to think any further. There was only one such man. Moreover, if he had really obtained a new Servant and was once again participating in the Heaven’s Feel, kidnapping Irisviel and controlling the ‘Vessel of the Grail’ with his own hands would have been a logical and necessary move.
Therefore – Kiritsugu finally understood that confrontation with Kotomine Kirei was unavoidable.
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