Fate/Zero:Act 14 Part 5
It was midnight, but a bright light was still on in the hilltop church.
The house of God that promised peace on earth – as he came upon it, a small yet contradictory sentiment stopped Matō Kariya in his tracks.
The naivety of those humans who easily sought solace at the so-called place of prayer. He sneered at the thought; but at the same time, one could not help but feel sympathy towards them.
If one said that every suffering in this world was but a trial of God, then Kariya would strangle that God and His disciples to death with his own hands – he was probably driven by that impulsion.
One step, and then another. Steadily, Kariya was getting closer to the Holy Grail. But even faster, the crest worms inside his body kept eating into his life. If he strained his ears, he could almost hear the trilling sound of the worms slurping flesh and blood from his body, the sound of them scraping his bones and feasting on them. To Kariya, the pain of the crest worms’ slow, continual torture had already become a part of himself, like breath and heartbeat. His consciousness was always cloudy and dim, and if he lost focus he would be only vaguely aware of the passage of time.
He swore never to forgive him as a person. Like water seeping out of a crevice, that thought continued to erode his heart bit by bit.
How many more times can I fight later?
How many more days will I live?
If Kariya was trying to gain the Holy Grail and secure Sakura’s salvation with his own hands – which was exactly his last wish - he could only wait for a miracle, right?
If that was the case, should he pray? From the top of the towering gable roof in front of him, at that cross with its detached gaze, the worms creeping towards the ground; should he kneel down and pray earnestly?
“Stop kidding… me… ugh!”
He felt like he was being flooded by a humiliating timidity. Scoldingly, Kariya rebuked himself. He did not come to the church at a time like this to seek imaginary help. No, it was the exact opposite. This evening, Kariya sought the blood of his sworn enemy. If he was to believe Kotomine Kirei’s words, then at this moment, the one awaiting Kariya’s visit at the chapel was none other than Tōsaka Tokiomi. He was not here for repentance or worship – Kariya was standing in front of the altar now to conclude a vendetta. Kotomine Kirei had prepared an unlikely rematch for his previous duel with Tokiomi, the one he had lost. Tonight would probably be his last chance to get back at that loathsome magus. He must not be careless.
The pain of his flesh, conflict and despair – all were burned down to ashes by the flames of hatred that flared up in his heart.
Memories of the previous battle – he had not even returned a single attack – further fanned the fury within Kariya.
His mind could only see the instant in which he would destroy Tokiomi – who had snatched Aoi away from him and abandoned Sakura – with his own hands. With only that in mind – how near he was to the Holy Grail; the terror of being defeated – all was forgotten. He had completely turned into an automatic, hate-driven machine. With only that in mind, Matō Kariya’s heart was liberated from all sufferings. His mouth even curved into a smile. There was no longer any fear of letting Berserker loose. With that, he would grab Tokiomi’s heart, and he would bathe in the gush of his blood. If he could achieve that, there was nothing he could not afford to lose – he was reduced to such thinking.
His shoulders shook like a beast drawing a deep breath. Having arrived at the front gate of the church with killing intent seething from his entire body, Kariya slowly pushed the doors open.
A candlelight glimmered gently in the center of the chapel. In contrast, the still air was overly peaceful, as if it had frozen. Kariya felt a slight sense of unease, like one would feel in a graveyard. Nevertheless, the instant he saw the back of the head of the person sitting in the first row of the congregation seats, he was awash with overwhelming anger.
It was a shout brimming with killing intent, but there was no reply. Knowing that complete disregard was just like the prideful attitude of the magus, Kariya walked in on large strides and closed his distance with Tokiomi.
“You want to kill me, Tokiomi? But you’re too naïve. Until I have my revenge on you, no matter how many times, I will……”
But with his defenseless back exposed to Kariya, Tokiomi still did not show any response. Despite himself, Kariya slowed his pace with distrust and caution.
He wondered if it was a decoy puppet sitting there to trick Kariya. However, from up close he could see the shoulder width, the carefully trimmed, curly and glossy hair, and even the shape of his slightly visible ears – without a doubt, this was Tōsaka. Kariya would not be mistaken about the figure of his sworn enemy, which had been burned into his eyes.
Kariya came to a distance where could reach out and touch Tokiomi with his hands, and stopped.
With hatred and an odd unease and confusion, he gazed at the back of Tokiomi, who had not budged an inch.
He stretched out his hand.
The day before yesterday, defensive fire had stopped all his attacks. Recalling the scorching heat, he instinctively drew his hand back. Even so, he could not resist the impulse to grab Tokiomi’s neck, just a few centimeters away, and break it… Finally, the shivering fingertip reached the front of the neck with its stylish tie.
With just a light touch, the corpse that had been leaning against the seat lost its balance.
The flaccid limbs were like those of a puppet whose strings had been cut. Like building blocks tumbling down, Tōsaka Tokiomi’s ice-cold body collapsed into Kariya’s arms.
At that moment, the confusion and shock that hit Matō Kariya was as destructive as a single hammer blow to his head.
Like an empty shell, the blank face was unmistakable – without any room for doubt, it was the countenance of Tōsaka Tokiomi. At that point, Kariya had no other choice but to accept that Tokiomi was dead.
The once scornful, haughty derision, all the intimately cold-hearted and sneering words; all the memories related to Tōsaka Tokiomi saturated Kariya’s thoughts and overwhelmed him. With the existence of Tokiomi as a starting point, the sentiments, motivation, and urge swirling within Kariya, were all blown off at once.
“W – W – Why….?”
And then, standing with the soundless corpse in his hands, thunderstruck, Kariya was stunned at the size of the hole gaping wide within it. A cavity so large that it caused Matō Kariya’s countenance to crumble to an unrecognizable appearance.
At that moment, for the first time, he realized that he had not considered, much less foreseen losing his driving factor – his bitter enemy, Tōsaka Tokiomi; but this realization was already too late. Uncontrollably shaken, Kariya was at a point where he could not even recall basic information like why he had been fighting Tokiomi or what had he wished for in participating in the war of the Holy Grail.
And then –
– At that moment, until he sensed the presence of the new visitor who had just stepped into the chapel, until he was called from behind by that familiar and lovely voice – Kariya had not noticed anything at all.
Turning back in a stupor, Kariya could not grasp at all why Aoi Tōsaka was still standing there. If his brain had been functioning properly, he probably would have wondered why he was being called by Aoi of all people, and why she had visited this place when there was no reason at all for her to do so. And he probably could have gone even further back in his train of thought to the one person who would have been able to position Tokiomi’s body at the chapel beforehand – it had to be a human - and been able to guess without difficulty the identity of the person who had killed Tokiomi.
However, at the height of his confusion, in a state where he could not mouth legible words, Kariya could only moan uselessly. The instant he staggered back, the corpse he had been carrying in his arms fell onto the chapel floor with like a sack. Thud. For a long time, Aoi stared at the figure that had once been her husband. Staring, without twitching a muscle.
Without uttering a syllable, Aoi slowly approached Tokiomi’s body as if being drawn to him. For reasons unknown, Kariya felt overpowered and retreated further, but was obstructed by an obstacle just a few steps later. Rigidly still as if passing judgment unto him, it was the altar of the chapel.
Bending her knees to the floor, Aoi lifted Tokiomi’s face up. With no place to hide, Kariya could only watch her. He could not understand why Aoi did such a thing. – No, he did not want to understand. Why she did not even spare a glance at him, her childhood friend, but continually fixed her eyes on the body of Tokiomi; what the meaning of those tears falling down her face was – Kariya obstinately rejected comprehension, and because of that, he could not utter a single word.
If memory served – he was supposed to never make this person – whom he loved above anyone else – cry again, and to fight for her even at the cost of his life.
If that was the case, then this woman sobbing in front of him right now – who was she? If he were to accept the answer, wouldn’t Matō Kariya fall to pieces?
She did not look at Kariya. As if ignoring the air and all else, tears poured out from her to her husband’s body. She, the tragic heroine, was exactly at the center of the world as its axis of revolution. Having regarded her in that way, Kariya was an existence devoid of all meaning, like trash on the stage or a stain in the background. Kariya was terrified of the delusion that his position and his very existence were erased. He even felt the impulse to scream to catch her attention. But not a sound could come out of his dry throat.
Nevertheless, before long, when he was looked straight in the eye by Aoi – who had finally lifted her head up – Kariya finally understood: Ignorance was a greater compassion; if he could disappear from the world at that instant, it would be a far greater relief.
“……So now it’s as if the Matōs had gained the Holy Grail, right? Happy now, Kariya-kun?”
It was a familiar voice, but in a tone he had never heard before. That was because his gentle and kind childhood friend had never hated or cursed anyone in front of Kariya before.
“I – but, I – “
Why must he be blamed? Tokiomi Tōsaka was the cause of all the evil. When that man was not around, everything was supposed to turn out well. First of all, why had he died in a place like this? It should have been Kariya asking questions instead.
However, not even allowing time for Kariya to reply, she asked him back instead.
“So after snatching Sakura away from me, the Matōs are still not satisfied? You of all people, killed this man in front of my own eyes…… Why? Did you really hate us that much?”
I don’t know I don’t know.
With a face just like Aoi's; with a voice just like Aoi's; why was this woman directing such seething enmity and cold killing intent towards Matō Kariya?
Kariya was supposed to have saved Aoi. He was supposed to have obtained a future for her beloved daughter. Then why was he being blamed? Who on earth was this woman?
“That guy – it’s his, fault – “
Pointing at Tokiomi’s corpse with a shaky hand, Kariya tried to correct Aoi in a loud voice.
“If that man would just, disappear – no misfortune would befall on anyone. Aoi-san, Sakura-chan – I thought you’d be, happy –“
“Stop talking nonsense!”
With a demonic expression, the woman shouted.
“You, what do you know! Someone who has never loved anyone before!”
“– Ah –“
With a snap –
– the decisive cracking sound caused Matō Kariya to collapse.
I have a person I loved.
Someone warm and gentle; someone whom I want to be happy, above everyone else.
If it’s for her sake, even my life was worth it. Because I felt this way, I had to, endure, endureendureendureendureendureendureendureendureendureendureendureendureendureendure to this day whatever pain or hardships so being denied with no chance of explaining myself so for whose sake that I am willing to die for GO TO HELL you’re lying you’re lying you’re lying the one I love most is without a doubt certainly I –
“For me…… the person…… I love ……”
While murmuring with a scraping sound, Kariya’s fists tightened.
In order to heap denials upon those words that denied his everything; in order to shut her mouth up, he tightly squeezed her throat.
The woman opened and closed her mouth, gasping for oxygen like a fish that had left its tank – and yet it seemed to Kariya as if she was trying to form words to further abuse him, which infuriated him all the more.
If I don’t shut her up, everything will end. Everything I’ve done to this day will be meaningless. There’s no way I can allow that to happen.
As a matter of fact, Matō Kariya’s madness was the last fortress left to rescue him. In spite of that, he had even missed that lowliest aid at the last moment – the face of the woman rapidly turning deathly pale due to lack of oxygen was too similar to the image of the beloved woman he cherished so much in his heart – no, it was the very woman herself. At last, Kariya realized that.
At the instant both hands loosened up, a sound slipped from Aoi’s mouth.
Collapsing onto the ground with a thud, she had fainted, not budging an inch. Lacking even the sound judgment to differentiate the living from the dead, Kariya thought that just like Tokiomi, she had died.
He gazed at the hands that had just choked Aoi with all their might. Someone more important than anything else; someone who was the very meaning of his life – those fingers that had plucked that someone away stiffened like they belonged to someone else. But without a doubt, there was no way to deceive himself – those fingers belonged to him.
Like a peal of thunder, he realized. Those fingers squirming so shakily were just like the crest worms creeping about Sakura’s skin.
He clawed at his broken face.
He tore his dried-up hair.
A scream escaped his throat. Whether it was a shriek or a wail, he could not even understand that.
Losing the last bit of sense in him, with only his animalistic instinct, Kariya desperately sought to flee; stumbling, he ran away from the chapel.
The man who had lost everything was greeted by the pitch-black darkness of the starless night.
Within the chapel of Fuyuki Church, there were secrets known only to the priest.
The wall that separated the chapel and the priest’s room in the back in reality only served as a partition. It was built with the consideration that all the writings in the chapel went through the priest’s room.
Therefore, as he relaxed in a chair of the priest’s room, Kotomine Kirei could hear every development of the tragedy in detail.
He seemed deeply immersed in his thoughts. Beside him, the golden Servant watching over him asked.
“A foolish, worthless play. Oh well, not too bad for the first script you wrote. – How was it Kirei? Your views?”
Silently gazing into space, Kirei gulped down wine from a glass he was holding.
It was a mysterious sensation. The plot was just as he imagined and expected – it was performed and recreated relying on human beings in flesh and blood, furnished with souls.
There was no surprise at all. Both Matō Kariya and Tōsaka Aoi had accepted the roles Kirei conveyed to them; and at the appointed time, they had visited the church and encountered each other with the perfect timing. He had not expected Tokiomi’s body – which was just a stage prop – to have the exact effect he desired. Because he had rectified the death spots and the stiffened post-mortem body, theoretically, no one should have been able to perceive that the person had been dead for more than half a day.
But if it was a development that betrayed none of his expectations - even if there were supposed to be no surprises – when he watched over it to the end, he felt a peculiar excitement.
If it was to be named, it might be called a sense of “freshness”.
The tragic scene just now was not a fantasy performed by actors. It was true that Kirei had guided the scene. But baring their innermost feelings, his fellow humans clashed against one another – the radiance of souls scattering the sparks was, without a doubt, authentic. While struggling to decide on an answer to Gilgamesh’s question, Kirei tasted the fragrance of the wine in his mouth again. Indeed, if it was surprise he was looking for, he was better off looking into this wine.
“…… Why, I drank this before, and yet…… I did not notice how profound the taste of this wine was."
The King of Heroes smiled at Kirei who gazed at his wine glass, straight-faced.
“The taste of a wine is disguised in unexpected forms depending on the side dish served alongside it. Looks like you have begun to understand the meaning of the phrase, ‘broaden one’s view’.”
Not knowing the best way to reply to the rapturous Gilgamesh, Kirei put down his empty glass and stood up. He thought about the things he was supposed to attend to later and felt that he could not afford to keep relaxing. Aoi, lying on the chapel floor, would undoubtedly require treatment. And he also had to retrieve the fleeing Kariya for his next course of action.
Nevertheless, before leaving the room, Kirei once again glanced at the empty glass. He noticed that he felt reluctant to part with the wine, which he had finally finished.
Earnestly, he thought – if I can taste such flavor from this wine, I would love to drink it again.
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