The sky was already brightening by the time Waver Velvet returned to the MacKenzie house in Miyama.
He had walked for hours on the night footpath. He wouldn’t have managed to make it back to town had he not met a taxi on the way. It had been a stroke of luck that an empty taxi was in such a remote location, but he didn't know if he should feel thankful or angry. Fortune should have graced them when Rider and Waver were in their fiercest moment of battle. He could only feel sad at this untimely luck.
Waver let out a long sigh at his prolonged night march when he got out of the taxi. Suddenly, he heard someone call out to him.
“– Hey, Waver. Come, come here.”
The voice was coming from above his head.
He lifted his head. Old man Glen, the patriarch of the family that Waver had assumed was sound asleep, was sitting on the rooftop of the second story and was waving at Waver as he stood at the door.
“Grandpa? You… what are you doing?”
“Alright, alright. Come on up. I’ve got something to say to you.”
“Something to say to me? Then… why are you on the roof?”
“You won't find a view like this anywhere else. There's no better place than this to be bathed in the light of the early dawn.”
This kind of strange behavior was enough to make people wonder if he was going senile. To be honest, Waver didn’t feel like humoring the old man. He had returned with a tired, shuffling gait after having suffered through the chilly night air; all he wanted right now was to tuck into bed as soon as possible and let his exhausted body have some rest.
“Grandpa… can it wait till morning?”
“Don’t say that.”
Although his tone was placid, old man Glen was quite adamant.
“Kid, you better get up there. That old man seems to really want to say something to you.”
A rough voice that only Waver could hear said this above his shoulder. Rider had finally promised to conserve his prana and remained in spiritual form on his return journey after his fight with Saber.
“I’ll keep an eye out on the surroundings. Don’t worry.”
“It’s not a matter of whether I’m worried…”
Waver wanted to rebuke, but immediately hushed himself. Old men Glen couldn’t see a Servant in spiritual form. If Waver spoke, it would look like he was muttering to himself oddly.
“No one cares about what I think…”
At this stage, with the War of the Holy Grail almost at its end, he had to force himself to provide company for this useless old man. Waver couldn’t help but feel resentful. However, it would only drag this on for longer if he started to argue. Even if he didn’t agree to it, he still didn’t know how to respond if he was asked why he was returning in the early hours of the morning. In the end, Waver could only walk towards the roof, where the old man was at.
The MacKenzie house differed from the other houses in one way: its roof had an attic and a skylight. It was easy to climb up to the roof through the skylight if one used the ladder that stretched towards the rooftop attic from the second-story stairway. It had not been made that way by accident. Rather, the house had been been designed to enable easy access to the rooftop when from construction. It was easy to get onto the roof if one got used to it.
Although it was easy to get up to the roof, he had to endure the frosty winter dawn. Waver, having gotten up from the skylight, shivered in the northern wind. With absolutely nothing around to break the wind, the chill at this height was incomparable to what it had been on ground level.
“Sit. Here, I prepared some coffee. Drinking it will heat you up.”
Old man Glen said loudly as he poured the steaming liquid out of the thermal flask and into the mug. He was wearing a down coat and had a few blankets wrapped around him. It seemed the old man had made thorough preparations for the cold. Waver couldn’t think of a reason for the old man to do this.
“Grandpa… how long have you been sitting here?”
“I woke up when the sky was getting bright, and I discovered you were still not back. Moreover, you can look at the spring constellations at this time of the year. So I wanted to look at the sky while I waited for my grandson’s return…”
Waver didn’t reply when he heard those drunken and almost senile words, just drinking his coffee nonchalantly. Glen had thought of getting up specifically to look at constellations; did all old men have such leisurely thoughts?
“What’s wrong, Waver? Didn’t you like this spot a lot when you were young? You watched the stars with me many times. Do you still remember that?”
“Mm… I think so.”
Waver gazed out at the scene beneath him as he perfunctorily brushed off these past events that he had no memories of.
The entirety of Fuyuki city, from Miyama to the sea, could be seen from the rooftop since the house was grounded at the side of the hill. The air was fresh and crisp while the dawn dyed the sea with a shade of pearly pink, and he could even detect with his eyes the shadow of sails sailing away to distant lands.
“How is it? Isn’t this a nice view?”
It was the entire view of the battlefield for Waver. He had no leisure in his heart to appreciate such beauty.
“I first set foot on this land because of a business trip… Martha asked for two things when I discussed the decision to leave our bones on the land of Fuyuki with her. One was that the house was to be built on the hill of Miyama, and the other was that there had to be a skylight that allowed us to go on the roof… However, Chris still couldn’t forget Toronto. He just didn’t want to be brought up a Japanese.”
Glen’s gaze, immersed in memory, looked toward the other side of the ocean, his homeland where his departed son resided.
“… Do you really like Japan that much?”
“You could say that. But if that was ultimately the reason why I fought with my son and separated with him… then honestly, I regret it…”
The old man let out a sigh as he recalled those years of loneliness.
“I’ve always dreamed of sitting on the roof and watching the stars with my grandson just like this, though I expect it will never happen.”
There was an obvious incongruity in that reminiscence, accompanied with a bitter smile. That made Waver pause.
As if mocking him, old man Glen silently shook his head and said.
“My real grandson never came to the roof with me. Martha is also afraid of heights. I’d always been alone when I watched the stars…”
What injured Waver more than the awkwardness and the sense of crisis was the feeling of humiliation.
“Say, Waver, you aren’t our grandson, right?”
The subliminal suggestion was removed – moreover, it was by this gentle old man with no training in magecraft.
“Hmm, who are you? It doesn’t matter. It’s incredible that Martha and I actually believed you were our grandson. But even after living for so long, I've found that some incredible things in this world remain incredible no matter how hard you think about them… Your usual behavior was gentler than our grandson's, anyways.”
“… Aren’t you angry?”
Waver asked in a small voice. Old man Glen said with a complex but calm expression.
“As for that, of course I’m angry. However, Martha is always smiling happily now; that used to be impossible. I need to thank you for that."
“Also, it seemed you didn’t enter our house with ill intent. Straightforward youths like you and that man Alex are so hard to find nowadays. As to why you deceived us… I couldn’t understand it even if I wanted to.”
Waver came to the conclusion that this old man was completely defenseless and extremely dense. Even the lab rats in the Clock Tower were smarter than him.
Why didn’t he hate Waver? Why didn’t he blame Waver? For Waver, who only knew the small world of the Mage's Association, the old man’s leniency was something he couldn’t comprehend.
“Or maybe I can ask you to stay only because I don’t know anything about you… If possible, I hope we can keep this relationship for a while longer. Myself aside, Martha probably didn’t feel anything unusual. It doesn’t matter if it was a dream. The times we spent with our kind grandson have been our hard-sought treasure.”
Waver couldn’t bring himself to look at the old man. He lowered his eyes and looked at his hands.
It was a pair of hands that would one day create great mysteries. He had such talent – even if others refuted him, at the very least he could firmly believe in that possibility within himself.
But what did reality say?
He couldn't even carry out a hypnotic hint, the most basic art amongst basics, to an outstanding degree. It wasn’t a matter of luck or an accident. Those excuses were useless. His magecraft didn’t even maintain a satisfactory result when faced with this kind old man who begged him to deceive them a while longer.
Had he been that man, he could have obtained his goal while laughing and holding a goblet in his hand.
Not only did Waver Velvet’s magecraft fail to achieve such a result, he had been indebted to another’s gentleness in return.
There was a sense of absurdity on top of regret – yes, he was only a clown.
Staring into the empty sky, Waver became oblivious to his surroundings and sank into contemplation. Now he fully understood the mindsets of those in the Clock Tower who had laughed at him. Waver was laughing at his own stupidity with those people.
Although he thought as such, he couldn’t actually laugh. Glen and Martha MacKenzie weren’t expecting a comedy.
They were making a sincere request to Waver in their own way. Now that he thought about it, this was the first time that he wasn’t the subject of ridicule.
“… I’m sorry, I can’t promise you that. I can’t even promise I can safely return here next time.”
“So you and Alex are doing something that endangers your lives?”
Saber’s Noble Phantasm and its cold light flashed before his eyes. That had happened half a day ago. Waver would not forget the abyss of death he saw then any time soon.
Old man Glen was silent for a while as if in thought, then he gave a heavy nod.
“I don’t know how important that thing is to you… but I do hope you will listen to me say this. You’ll realize that there’s nothing more important than life itself when you look back after having lived through most of it.”
This logic was in contrary to the reason for which Waver gambled his youth.
The so-called way of magecraft could only begin once the practitioner became prepared to die – the ultimate state could only be achieved by burning away one’s life. That was the direction he had labored towards until this day.
However, if one were to search for a way of existence that fits oneself, then perhaps the words said by this peaceful old man would prove to be the truth.
With a sense of loss that left him speechless, Waver stared at the dawn.
Little did he know that he was greeting the final day of the fourth War of the Holy Grail.
People remembered that day in Fuyuki city to be one of abnormal weather conditions.
Unbelievably, the daily north wind suddenly ceased, and intense, midsummer-like sunlight scorched the seemingly stagnant air, resulting in an unseasonable heat haze everywhere. Bafflingly high temperatures and humidity – inexplicable even to weather forecasters – occurred over a very limited region with Fuyuki city at its center, further fueling the premonitions first felt by the clueless townspeople when strange things had first begun to happen.
The guerrilla incidents happening one after another in the city; the bizarre, appalling murderers; the disappearance of infants – not a single clue could be found towards a solution. There was no sign of the night curfew being lifted, and worse still, there had been the incident of the waste processing plant on the Mion River the day before yesterday. With these constantly bizarre incidents grating the nerves of the exhausted people, they could not help but feel that this peculiar weather was an omen of more calamities yet to occur.
Sitting wide awake in the shade of a tree, Emiya Kiritsugu watched as the angle of his shadow slowly changed with the blazing sunlight.
More than 40 hours had elapsed since he last slept, but his senses were still tense, never desiring rest.
Because he was in a dangerous situation, he had to time his breaks well and maintain a condition at which he could deal with things perfectly in crucial times – this was his experience as a professional fighter. Because the forewarning boundary field was already in place in key positions, when someone approached him he could instantly wake up. If he was in standby mode now, he could enter REM sleep within a few seconds, possibly dealing with his accumulated fatigue as well.
However, at this moment, Kiritsugu did not even spare a thought about such established caution. To cut off his feelings and maintain his very best condition was also one of his “mechanisms”, but under the state of being prepared to be scorched, he was able to surpass his limits and overdrive himself – this was another “mechanism”. The thing able to convert himself to such operational state was none other than the premonition of “settling the score” he felt under his skin.
Right now, the thing Kiritsugu was anticipating for was by the side of the pond in the back of Ryūdō Temple, which was situated along the mountainside of Mount Enzō, east of Miyama town of Fuyuki city.
After confirming Tokiomi’s fallout and Kotomine Kirei’s comeback at the Tohsaka residence yesterday night, Kiritsugu launched an assault on the Shinto church immediately, but that which was supposed to be his headquarters was already empty. There were signs of humans being there about an hour before, so it was possibly a paper-thin miss. The delays during the invasions of the Matou residence and Tohsaka residence had cost him precious time.
At that point, Kiritsugu had completely abandoned his search for Irisviel. That’s because he came to the conclusion that if he continued to be attached to her, he would fall all the more into the enemy’s trap. If he wanted to have any chance of winning, Kiritsugu had no choice but to enter into battles not as a husband who lost his wife, but as a Master seeking the Holy Grail.
By relinquishing the “Holy Grail vessel” – the trump card of the Einzberns – Kiritsugu now had to participate in the Holy Grail war with terms similar to that of outsider Masters (not from the three origin families). The strategy of luring the enemy to make mistakes whilst utilizing his superiority and overlooking his defense was no longer viable; he now had to seek ambush opportunities to outsmart his leading rivals. Thinking about it, what made the strategy of jumping ahead of his opponents effective was that he could, from this point onwards, fortify his position – which was to look beyond the final stage of the battle – and to set up traps about it.
From the outside, the War of the Holy Grail was mending its image as a battle royale, but as the war progressed, it began to show signs of it being a battle of occupying each other’s camps. The ultimate goal was to hold the ceremony for the descent of the Holy Grail; but to secure a proper place for the altar was part of the victor’s path which could not be avoided.
In Fuyuki, there were only four points in the land containing the suitable spiritual ground to summon the Holy Grail.
The first key place was Mount Enzō which held the natural cavern, the “Dragon’s Hole”. At that place, the “Greater Holy Grail” – which used Justicia as a foundation – was located. It was a secret altar known only to the three origin families, their favorite ever since it was prepared 180 years ago.
The Tohsaka family – which provided the ground – had the right to use the best spiritual leyline as their base. However, the prana overflowing from Mount Enzō was too powerful, and too dangerous to be used as a living ground to bring up the next generation of magi. Hence, they set up their stronghold at the next best spiritual leyline – the Tohsaka residence of today. Though inferior to the Greater Holy Grail, this place was sustained by sufficient spiritual power to summon the Holy Grail.
The Makiri were assigned to a ground when they migrated here, but because they realized that the spiritual aura of the ground was not suitable for the family’s element, they shifted their base, the Matou residence, to a different place. The original spiritual leyline was protected by the Holy Church who intervened later. Today, it was at the top of the hill on which Fuyuki Church was built – that was the third spiritual leyline. Far away from Mount Enzō, it was located at the outskirts of Shinto, which was at the opposite side of the river – however, it was not much inferior to the second best spiritual ground.
The fourth spiritual leyline did not exist in this ground originally – because of spiritual processing by the other three spiritual leylines, the flow of mana subtly induced an anomaly; forming a gathering spot after 100 odd years, which appeared at a certain location as a result of it. It could also be called a subsequent spiritual ground. Through subsequent investigations, the fact that it was sufficiently furnished with spiritual grounds to carry out the ceremony, was confirmed; and during the third Holy Grail War, it was marked as a candidate site. Today, this place was located at the centre of the developing residential area of Shinto. Nevertheless, there was a problem with it, in that a council meeting hall was just built recently on that spot.
Even if Kotomine Kirei had taken possession of the “vessel of the Holy Grail”, in the end, he had to perform the ceremony at one of these four key spiritual grounds. If Kiritsugu went to those places, set up traps and could ambush him, then there was a high chance of turning the tables around.
With Fuyuki Church left unoccupied, Kiritsugu unexpectedly landed in a good position of being able to secure the Tohsaka residence and the Fuyuki Church – the second and third best spiritual leylines. The silver lining of the cloud; in order to use this to his fullest advantage, all the way till morning, Kiritsugu planted explosives into the two buildings, making them into traps. And then, since noon, he had set up a new position at Ryūdō Temple, and was on the lookout all the time.
Kiritsugu anticipated that Kirei would probably choose Mount Enzō as the ceremonial place. His enemy had vanished from Fuyuki Church. Naturally there was also a possibility that his intention was to seclude himself from society, but for him to relinquish the spiritual leyline he had already secured in the first place, he would only want to perform the ceremony at the best spiritual ground – Kiritsugu thus conjectured. If he thought about it, after obliterating Tokiomi Tohsaka, his residence was also at Kirei’s disposal – but he had left that place readily, so what’s left was just the Greater Holy Grail at Mount Enzō.
Obviously, there was a non-zero possibility that all of these were just a bluff to mislead Kiritsugu, and that Kirei would return to Fuyuki Church or Tohsaka residence. However, because of that, Kiritsugu had already set traps so that if Kirei set foot in any of the buildings, he would not be able to return alive. After being bombed to death, if the “vessel of the Holy Grail” was still unharmed, then victory would easily be his – as for Irisviel’s life, Kiritsugu had already looked philosophically upon it as a loss.
If he were to further increase his chances of outwitting Kirei, he could not disregard the Fuyuki council hall – the fourth spiritual leyline. As for that place, Kiritsugu settled on placing a familiar there for the purpose of surveillance. After being confirmed as being a spiritual ground, the “ground of origin” was left just like that without any spell-like defense being set up around it. Compared with the other three ceremonial sites – which were “hard to attack and easy to defend” – the council hall was not a strategic position at all, from the view of magi battles.
Hypothetically speaking, if Kotomine Kirei were to appear at the city council hall, then Kiritsugu would carry out a full-front assault. It was of course the worst development, but the risk of such a thing happening was also the lowest. If he acted according to priorities, whether he was right or wrong, the place he had to seize no matter what was Mount Enzō.
If Maiya was not harmed, she would be able to secure the city council hall, and confront Kirei directly with her perfect preparations. But, it was futile to lament about it. At this point, he could only rely on himself.
Suddenly, Kiritsugu recalled those times after he had lost Natalia. Come to think of it, his experiences of independent action without joining anyone, was surprisingly little. To have felt that unexpectedly, was it because Kiritsugu was always the one surviving in the end?
Kiritsugu thought about it, and felt that he had led a life distantly connected to the word “alone”. It could also be called a life much crueler than being alone. There was always someone beside Kiritsugu. The one making excuses all this while for killing or causing the deaths of those “someones” was again, Kiritsugu.
Both Maiya and Irisviel were people he was destined to part with ever since he met them. Sure enough, as he thought, Kiritsugu was left on his own, trying to enter the final stage of the battle. To begin this way, and to end this way – this had to be Emiya Kiritsugu’s fate. Someone like him who had lost so many people – such absurdity was unforgivable.
–The boundary field established at the temple gates sensed the presence of something approaching. Kiritsugu cut off his disorganized emotions, held his Calico submachine gun in his hands, and stealthily examined the grounds. Nevertheless, his caution was not necessary. Kiritsugu already knew the prana waves which approached him.
Come to think of it, there was someone – who was the strongest reinforcement to him – that had not joined his side as an ally yet. At that fact, despite himself, Kiritsugu could not help but to be surprised and snigger. She was still alive. Though it was hard to decide that if this noble knight – which was not part of Kiritsugu’s tactics – joined him, whether she would be an “ally” or not.
Though hidden, a Servant could not be mistaken about her own Master’s whereabouts. Saber was not lost, and she had come all the way to the front of the treetop at which Kiritsugu was hiding himself, and had stopped within a distance from which they could talk, but outside the perimeter at which they could exchange blows – a delicate distance indeed. A distance too far for intimate words to be exchanged between them; that was also the distance separating the hearts of this Master and his Servant.
The slender figure in suit was as imposing as ever, but the exhaustion within her face could not be concealed. As a Heroic Spirit, physical fatigue was nothing to her; but the excessive exhaustion due to her worrying was a completely different matter. The commanding glint in her eyes during those times when she was waiting upon Irisviel, was evidently losing its force.
“ – Since yesterday night, I had been searching all over the streets for Irisviel. But, I still haven’t discovered anything……I’m very sorry.”
The Servant he did not think about and had left behind; Kiritsugu had no interest at all at how much time she had wasted within a night; and when he heard about her idle actions which were just as he expected, he could not even think of any words to answer her.
Even now Saber’s aim was still to “rescue Irisviel”.
From last midnight till this morning, within this time when Kiritsugu had steadily prepared the deathtraps for Kotomine Kirei, this Servant had probably sought Irisviel recklessly, and drove around in the city looking for her without even any hint of where she was.
Was that the willpower as a knight? The naively honest loyalty towards someone she had once served? …… Her actions were just a silly plan with no strategic planning whatsoever. But at the same time, it was also a stinging criticism towards Kiritsugu who had resigned to the death of his wife, and changed his strategies accordingly.
Needless to say, she did not come all the way to this place to mock him. Saber was just stopping by at Ryūdō temple as part of her search for Irisviel, and sensed the presence of her Master. But to have to see her again the second day, and having to once again face the difference between their principles and their actions, he could do nothing but to ascertain all the more the conflicting principles between both of them.
From the dim shadows of the tree, at that cold look from Kiritsugu, the dry premonition she felt within her heart returned. – Perhaps, even until the end of the war, she would not have the chance to respectably exchange a single word with her own Master.
“……Well then, I will continue the search for Irisviel. If there’s anything, summon me with the Command Spell like last time.”
After saying that, Saber returned to the temple grounds. Needless to say, she was neither called back, nor were there any words of appreciation before her departure.
From the viewpoint of the Holy Grail contest, Kiritsugu’s actions was the best plan – Even Saber herself understood that. Because of that, she could also decide without a doubt that it was safe to leave this place to him. She had no fear of leaving Kiritsugu alone. If the situation arose when the Servant was needed, the compelling force of the Command Spells could transcend even space and summon her to his side – she had already experienced that last night, and confirmed it.
Whilst descending the flight of stone steps connecting the temple gate to the ground below, Saber squinted her eyes in the unpleasantly blazing sun.
The enemies to be killed could not be found, and the location of the one she was to protect could not be ascertained…… what’s left was just her definite intuition, which told her that she could not afford to waste a single moment.
Not even knowing where to go, she was spurred on from the inside by the tingling impatience.
The scorching summer heat, unusual for the season, had nothing to do with Kotomine Kirei.
The ice-cold humid air sank into the darkness and was completely isolated from the bustling world outside. His location possessed all the ideal properties that would allow him to wait till night had fallen and then make his move.
The temporary hiding place that Kotomine Kirei, who had left the Fuyuki Church, had chosen was the blood-covered underground cavern that Uryū Ryūnosuke and Servant Caster had once occupied as their headquarters – that is, the water tank deep within the Fuyuki City sewage system. Moreover, this was the fated place where the Assassins he had summoned had been utterly humiliated. It was truly ironic that it was that memory which made Kotomine Kirei choose this hiding place.
The best testimony to the secrecy of this place was the fact that Caster, who had become the target of all Masters after Risei’s command, had managed to stay alive here after the chaotic battle in the Einsbern Forest. Rider and his Master were the only ones who had found and entered this place, but there was longer any reason for them to pay attention to Caster’s workshop.
After ensuring his own safety, Kirei reviewed the current situation of the war.
On top of having eliminated Tōsaka Tokiomi, befriended Matō Kariya, and secured the Vessel of the Grail, he had also managed to keep Saber and Rider in a stalemate whilst his own whereabouts were unknown to all –
All this was achieved within one day after his decision to return to the Heaven’s Feel.
Although luck did play its part, nothing in the world was meant to be perfect. Even Kirei himself was surprised at the fact that he had immediately changed the chaotic and senseless situation of the war.
Kirei had usurped and taken over the advantage Tōsaka Tokiomi had possessed at the beginning of the war. Archer, who had materialized into this world as the most powerful Servant in this Heaven’s Feel, was in Kirei’s hands. Berserker, who was a formidable enemy due to his natural differences with Archer, had also become Kirei’s puppet along with his Master. There was nothing else that could threaten Kotomine Kirei.
It didn’t matter who emerged victorious between Saber and Rider. The battle amongst Servants would end as soon as the victor was eliminated by Archer’s ultimate Noble Phantasm. On the off chance that both the King of Knights and the King of Conquerors managed to survive – or worse, if they came to an agreement and joined forces against him – then there was still the powerful Berserker to stop them. Although Matō Kariya was almost in ruins after the incident with Aoi, Berserker would automatically start attacking Saber and would not require his Master’s command.
Although Kirei knew that having three or four battle plans ready for the potentially unpredictable fight with Rider would be good enough, Archer did not agree to it. This battle did not belong to Kirei, but the King of Heroes. Kirei needed to respect the wish of the warriors if they desired a face-to-face rivalry. This was likely the biggest difference between Kirei and the other magi, who merely used Servants as tools.
He was opposed to using even a single Command Seal on Archer. He would only get the opposite result if he forced a man with such a huge ego to serve another’s will. The best way was not to control this Servant as a pawn, but to use him as if he were an environmental condition, like the weather or the direction of the wind. A sailor could not control the wind, but he could dexterously control his boat using the sail. That was his reasoning.
Archer had left for the moment because he didn’t like being locked up in this underground place. Kirei understood that Archer would rush back when necessary, so he did not feel uneasy in the leasts. Kirei did not regard this King of Heroes as a familiar, but as an accomplice with mutual interests.
In other words, there were more efficient ways to use the Command Seals he had taken from Risei’s hand. Even if Kirei possessed no Magic Crests, there were many ways for him to perform magecraft provided he paid the proper price. His chances of victory were high even if he were to fight an expert magus now.
The final battle tonight between Servants will decide the Holy Grail’s final destination. As an onlooker, all Kirei needed to do was wait for the right opportunity. As a Master, his main concern was actually a battle of strategies beyond that of the Servants’ – Kirei’s greatest enemy would be in that battle.
Emiya Kiritsugu. He would be the only one still capable of taking away the advantage in Kirei’s hands at this stage.
In his heart, Kirei had always looked forward to the duel with him. However, since the opponent was a thorough assassin, the kind of encounter that Kirei wished for would never come about. He would have to frequently consider the situation of the battle and continue to ensure his advantage if he were to create a scenario in which he could fight Emiya Kiritsugu face to face. If Kiritsugu took the upper hand, Kirei would definitely be finished without ever seeing what his opponent looked like. If that were to happen, then all would have been for naught.
Emiya Kiritsugu could not obtain information concerning this water tank. He was reassured of that. Had that not been the case, Uryū Ryūnosuke would have been eliminated even sooner than he had. He would not suffer a sudden attack from Kiritsugu as long as he remained hidden here. For now, all he needed to do was keep his opponent worrying and running around blindly. Kirei would be the one to decide the location of the duel.
Kiritsugu operated strictly according to logic. Kirei would predict his moves and turn that logic against him, misleading him until he had no choice but to voluntarily appear before Kirei – that goal was already finalized. All that was left was to wait for night to fall.
Kirei cast his eyes to a corner of the darkness when he heard a painful moan. The Einsbern homunculus that he had gotten Berserker to kidnap was lying there face-up. She wasn’t lying there naturally; a simple Magic Circle had been drawn around her to allow the surrounding prana to flow in. Although this location was not above a leyline, there was still leftover prana gathered here from when Caster had greedily devoured the souls of those he had sacrificed. Putting aside whether this supply made her comfortable, it was enough to stabilize her condition.
Of course, it would have been easy if he were to simply cut open her abdomen now and take out the ‘Vessel of the Grail’. However, Kirei wished for a chance to speak with her. That was why he was wasting his effort to provide her with prana.
“Can you hear me, woman?”
The homunculus opened her eyes, breathing faintly. Her empty gaze was without focus and her eyesight had evidently diminished, but she still recognized the voice of her nemesis.
“Kotomine… Kirei. Like I thought, you’re the one…”
“The victor of the Heaven’s Feel is about to be decided. Perhaps I will be the one to complete the ancient wish of your Einsbern house.”
Although he was not confident enough to declare absolute victory, such a conclusion was a conservative estimate.
“You still have an attitude and are so uncooperative. Are you so displeased with me?”
“Of course… There’s only one person I will entrust the Holy Grail to… and that would never be you, Executor.”
Although she found it difficult even to speak, the hatred and power in her voice made Kirei furrow his brows.
“I don’t understand. You’re nothing but a doll that carries the Holy Grail. The completion of the ceremony should be your only concern, rather than who may win the war. Why are you so bent on certain Masters in your current condition?”
“Yes, how could you possibly understand?... You’re the kind of person who doesn’t even have a wish to bestow upon the Holy Grail.”
The loathing mockery made Kirei even more baffled – was this woman really just a homunculus? Why did a homunculus, which didn’t even have a soul, possess such emotions?
“Kotomine Kirei… you’re an empty man who doesn’t even understand the meaning of battle. You’ll never win against that man… Be prepared; my knight, my husband will surely destroy you…”
“… Why are you talking about me?”
What made Kirei more baffled was the content of her words. How could this homunculus look into his heart with such accuracy? Tokiomi could not do that, nor could his own father or wife.
“Hah, scared? Fine, I’ll tell you… Emiya Kiritsugu has seen through you. He is alarmed by you and therefore regards you as the greatest enemy … Kiritsugu will fall upon you in a way more cruel and merciless than anyone else. Be prepared…”
So that was why – Kirei nodded with satisfaction.
If it was that man – if those who could understand Kirei truly existed – then that man must be the same kind of person as Kirei.
Emiya Kiritsugu did not let him down. Though the two of them had never met, he had nevertheless made the most appropriate evaluation of Kotomine Kirei.
“Thank you, woman. That is a blessing for me. The man Emiya Kiritsugu is truly just as I had imagined.”
However, a bout of mocking laughter answered Kirei.
“… You’re such a foolish man. You’re saying you understand Emiya Kiritsugu? … Hmph, don’t make me laugh. You aren’t even up to his heel in worth.”
“– What did you say?”
The sudden sound made his entire body shiver. He could not forget that sentence.
“True… Emiya Kiritsugu can see through you, but you’ll never see through him… Kotomine Kirei, you don’t have any of the things that man has in his soul.”
Kirei grasped her slender neck before more mocking words could flow out of her throat. The rage and confusion swirling within Kirei’s heart at that moment was incomparable to what he had felt back in the Einsbern Forest even if the fatal battle there was to be repeated.
“… I admit it. True, I’m an empty man. I have nothing.”
His roaring seemed to be calm at the beginning, or maybe traces of agitation only surfaced later on.
“But what’s the difference between Kiritsugu and me? Between me and that man who only devoted himself to senseless war – a man who never got anything out of it but only repeated his slaughter?! He departed so much from common sense and he got absolutely nothing. What is he, if not a lost soul!?!”
Kirei rebuked her desperately and hoarsely.
His inquiry was like the angry roar of an anguished soul that could not obtain the answer it sought even after having experienced every kind of trial imaginable.
“Homunculus, answer me if you can. Why does Emiya Kiritsugu seek the Holy Grail? What is the wish that man bestowed upon the all-powerful wish-granting vessel!?!”
As if provoking her, Kirei loosened his hands, which were grasped around the homunculus’s neck, and permitted her to breathe so she could answer him. There was an unspoken warning that if he received a vague answer, he would end her breathing forever.
Even so, this woman did not express even a sliver of terror. Kneeling before Kirei’s knees, she weakly gasped for oxygen in such a pitiful manner. But the look that she gave Kirei still contained the derision and superiority reserved for the victor.
It was almost as if Kirei was the one kneeling.
“Alright, I’ll tell you – Emiya Kiritsugu’s lasting hope is to save humanity. It is to end all wars and bloodshed and achieve eternal world peace.”
That only seemed like jestful nonsense for Kirei. After a few seconds, he burst out laughing.
“– What was that?”
“You can’t understand it. That is the difference between you and him. You believe in nothing while he does.”
Was this woman really talking about the man Emiya Kiritsugu? Kirei had doubts. What kind of man did Emiya Kiritsugu pretend to be while in front of this woman?
“… Woman, what are you to Emiya Kiritsugu?”
“I gave birth to his child as his wife. I’ve looked into his heart and shared his worries for the past nine years… unlike you, who has never seen him.”
Nine years. Perhaps he had passed such a long time in a lie? Kirei had such doubts, but he instinctively felt it would be impossible. What existed in this woman’s heart was undoubtedly her trust toward Emiya Kiritsugu. It would be unimaginable to form such a strong personality within her if she based it on an empty lie. This woman was originally only an ordinary homunculus after all.
The focus of his anger began to shift away from this woman before her. Kirei gave out a melancholic sigh and sat down onto the chair next to him.
“Irisviel von Einsbern, were you always a good wife in those nine years? Did you win Emiya Kiritsugu’s love?”
“… Why do you care?”
“I don’t understand the bond between you two – you took pride in having Emiya Kiritsugu as your husband and trust him as if you’re a real couple. However, if Emiya Kiritsugu is a man who seeks the Holy Grail, you should have been just a tool with which to fulfill his wish. He has no reason to give you something as unnecessary as love.”
“… I won’t forgive you if you laugh at him for being stupid.”
Those were the decisive words spoken by one who had something that could not be violated.
“… I have no parents, and I’m not a product of love. Therefore, I can’t understand what a ‘good wife’ is. Even so… the love he gave me is my entire world. No one can humiliate that.”
“Then, Irisviel, you’re a perfect wife.”
Kirei said as if making a disinterested judgement. It was not praise, nor was it sarcasm.
“But I can’t understand Emiya Kiritsugu because of that. Since he loves you as a wife, then why… why would he want eternal world peace? Why would he sacrifice his loved one for such a pointless aspiration?”
“… Such an odd question. For you, a man who has admitted that he has no reason for existence… You’re mocking others and saying their aspirations are meaningless?”
“Any sensible adult would have laughed at him.”
This was an anger completely different from before. Kirei’s heart swelled up.
“Combat is instinctive of humanity. Eliminating it is no different from eliminating humans. What else could be more pointless? This so-called aspiration of Emiya Kiritsugu’s – it shouldn’t have been called an aspiration to begin with, but the dream of a child!”
“… That is why he could only rely on a miracle…”
Irisviel tried her best to keep her cool and continued speaking.
“He lost everything for the aspiration he sought… He always suffered through his punishments for wanting to save those that could not be saved, and everything around him was robbed… I am also someone taken away from him. He has been forced to discard his loved ones many times…”
Kirei stood up from his chair and gazed at Irisviel with a bottomless and gloomy look.
“You’re saying it’s not just limited to this once – but that this is the way of existence for this man?”
“Yes. Kiritsugu is far too gentle. He doesn’t hold back on his love even though he knows he will lose those around him sooner or later…”
Those answers were enough for Kirei. He completely lost interest in the homunculus before him.
“… I understand.”
He grasped the woman’s neck with his strong fingertips and stopped her blood flow.
Looking at the other’s weak and painful expression, Kirei calmly said.
“I finally understand. So this is Emiya Kiritsugu.”
Kirei threw the woman, who had already fainted, to one side, and gazed emptily into the darkness.
In retrospect, Kirei had been wrong since the start– his question was answered, but his anticipation became disappointment.
Emiya Kiritsugu was not looking for the truth amongst meaningless repetition.
That man had simply consigned all meaningful things into nothingness.
It wasn’t that he had no wishes, but that he had such a ridiculous wish that he fell into a cycle of nothingness. His futile efforts and what he had wasted was so foolish that it was unsalvageable.
Perhaps Kiritsugu could see through Kotomine Kirei’s empty heart, and perhaps he would fear that emptiness and be alarmed. However, he would never be able to imagine the meaning of having such an emptiness. He could never hope to understand the fervent desire that Kirei harbored.
Emiya Kiritsugu’s life could be concluded as having repeatedly discarded everything.
The joy and happiness that man had discarded – even its fragments were important enough in Kirei’s eyes for him to protect with his life or even die for.
For a man like Kirei who continued to be lost and could not find a single piece of such joy and happiness, Kiritsugu’s life only existed in his dreams and his admiration.
His insatiable thirst and unrecoverable loss had been belittled and mocked in such a way – how could he endure this? How could he not hate this?
The dark feelings swelling up in his heart twisted Kirei’s smile.
He finally understood the meaning of this war.
He had absolutely no interest in the Holy Grail. It did not matter if he had no thoughts of fulfilling a wish.
But if he could break the dreams of this man, who had gambled everything upon this miracle, with his own hands – then even the Holy Grail, which was completely meaningless to him, had a use in being obtained.
The excitement of approaching battle made Kirei’s hands tremor. The rising desire of battle burned in his heart, as if he were about to take out his Black Keys right then and pierce through everything in front of him.
In the darkness muddied by the stench of blood, Kotomine Kirei laughed out loud. It was something that had never ceased in all these long years - the throbbing of his soul.
Waver woke from a deep and dreamless sleep.
What he saw, when he opened his eyes, was a blackness like that of sleep. The thicket in which he had fallen asleep during the daytime was now completely mired in a hazily starlit darkness.
The curtain of night descended again. To those who commanded Servants, this was a time of battle that could not be avoided.
The night wind, as bitter cold as the intent to murder, did not make him uneasy in the slightest; right beside him was a presence that could make his fear and unease vanish into thin air.
Rider, who had already materialized, had already made a thorough preparation for battle and was currently flipping through his anthology of Homer’s poetry.
This hardcover, so heavy and depressing to Waver, was small and thin in the eyes of the King of Conquerors. The large man was completely immersed in the world of words. As he flipped through the book, his gestures were enthusiastic; he especially cherished details as minute as the touch under his fingertips.
It looked as if he was really very fond of that book. Waver could not help but smile wryly. If he were to suddenly ask Rider, “Why were you born to this world?” perhaps his reply might not be his ambition to conquer the world, but, “Without fingers, I would be unable to read this anthology of Homer’s poetry.” That was the sort of person this man was. A hero whose heart yearned for something far away, who enjoyed good food and wine, who regarded his ambition of conquering the world to be as common a desire as eating or sleeping. This peculiar personality had drawn many men to follow him for a lifetime.
In human history, such a man had existed.
“—Nn? Kid, are you awake?”
Though Rider had already read Achilles’ adventures countless times before, his interest was nevertheless undiminished. He smiled like a mischievous child as he looked at Waver. Perhaps he would always show this smile, no matter whom it was for. No matter if it was for the heroes with which he had lived and died side by side, or for a Master with no redeeming qualities, like Waver.
“… Didn’t I tell you to wake me as soon as it was night? What exactly are you doing?”
“Ah, sorry. I got engrossed in reading without realizing it. But the night is still young. I don't think we have to be so anxious tonight; just facing it while at ease will be alright.”
The subsequent question caused the large man to open his mouth, then fall into thought.
“… Oh. In any case, I don't have any proof, but I have a premonition that there can be a decisive battle tonight.”
He said as if there was no problem.
Waver nodded lightly and did not question Rider's reasoning. He could not explain why, but the air that brushed against his skin made him feel like the Heaven’s Feel had entered a climactic stage.
If it had to be put in words—then it was because the air tonight was too peaceful.
As far as Waver knew, the only eliminated opponents were Assassin, whom Rider had personally crushed, and Caster, who had been defeated at Mion River. But of course, in places he could not see, the battle was still ongoing, still developing.
Every day and night he could feel that the unusual presences appearing in this town were changing, shifting from a chaotic commotion to a heavy sense of urgency.
This was also one of the reasons why the impatience he felt now left less of an imprint in his mind than the anxiety caused by Saber, with whom they had fought last night. It seemed that an emergency situation had also emerged in the Einsbern camp.
Therefore, Waver did not say anything to contradict Rider’s instinct. It was precisely because he was the King of Conquerors who had galloped through innumerable battlefields and issued commands and strategies that his sixth sense was much more reliable than that of Waver, who lacked experience.
Whether Lord El-Melloi was still alive and well—now, news concerning his once hated enemy only made him feel vaguely sad.
Waver had already experienced the unimaginably difficult self-cultivation required to rush forth into battle with a Heroic Spirit. Even though he had a reputation for genius in the area of thaumaturgy, the Heaven’s Feel could not be surmised according to the logic of magi. When he considered that there had once been a time when El-Melloi had undergone the same difficult self-cultivation, he felt satisfied—and yet at the same time a thread of sympathy could not help but appear in his heart. Among the six Masters, Kayneth alone had shared a connection with Waver, regardless of whether that relationship had been good or bad.
That such feelings could be evoked in him towards an opponent with whom he had fought bitterly since they had first met—Waver once again felt the change in the workings of his heart.
——Yes; no matter what the premonition was, to him, the Heaven’s Feel was as good as ended.
The moment he began to sigh, a light yet distinct impact dispersed his drowsiness.
“This surge of prana is very strange. Like I have encountered it before.”
Hearing Rider say this, Waver remembered. The smoke signal with which the Holy Church had summoned the Masters. This was exactly the same feeling as then.
To get a look at the sky, he walked out of the thicket; to the northeast appeared a flash of magical lightning, accompanied by colors even brighter than those of the first summons.
“This shape is…”
“What is this? A sort of sign?”
Hearing Rider’s question, Waver—though unsure—still nodded his head.
“Differently colored light, four and seven… It is ‘Emperor’ , accomplishment, and ‘Chariot’, victory. To give this sort of signal… Unless this means that the winner of the Heaven’s Feel has already been determined?”
Waver’s explanation made Rider furrow his brow.
“What is this? Treating me as if I don’t exist? Exactly who is it that has taken the victory?”
This was truly strange. In the Heaven’s Feel, only by eliminating all enemy Masters and Servants could victory be counted. But as things were, Rider and Waver were standing right there; how could the declaration of victory be made?
“… Also, that position is not where Fuyuki Church is. Very strange. Maybe it's not a signal from the people from the Church.”
“Ah. If you put it that way, that's a possibility I can accept.”
Hearing Waver’s doubt, Rider snorted disdainfully through his nose and nodded his head.
“Wh—what’s the matter?”
“It must be that some impatient fellow has taken it upon himself to make the declaration of victory with the challenge, ‘If you object, then come here.’ In other words, it is meant to draw opponents to the decisive battleground that he himself designates.”
Rider gave a sinister laugh. Staring at the smoke signal shining in the sky, he seemed to be saying, ‘That coincides with my own intentions.'
“Very good, very good. Now I can even be saved of the effort of searching. I don’t think a single Servant will be able to sit still after receiving this sort of challenge. The guys who are still alive will definitely all gather around the place where the smoke signal was sent out—hn, like I thought, tonight is the time of the decisive battle.”
The King of Conquerors’s burly frame was trembling with joy and fighting spirit.
Waver regarded the strong and brave Heroic Spirit with an icy gaze, as if waiting and watching from a distance.
“Is it? Finally the last phase.”
“That’s right. Since the battleground has already been decided, I cannot bring shame to the class of Rider.”
Rider drew the Celtic longsword and raised it high into the sky.
“Appear, my precious horse!”
Accompanying the call, a radiance that pierced through space shone forth from within the torn void. Shining with the light of Heroic Spirits appeared a steed Waver was familiar with.
The hoofed Heroic Spirit horse, Bucephalus. The precious legendary horse that had once carried the King of Conquerors to trample upon the eastern world. Today, it passed through time to return to the side of its ‘ally’. As it sped across the tarred road, it gave a cry of thirst for battle.
Alexander’s trump card ‘Ionian Hetairoi’ required the opening of a Reality Marble to correct interference from the world if its various aspects were to be gathered together. Nonetheless, like Mithrenes, who had taken on the role of messenger at Mion River, if only a single horse and rider which were to appear, then it was within the boundaries of ordinary space. Having lost ‘Gordius Wheel’, the best place for Rider to unleash his riding skill was now on ‘its’ back.
“Come, kid. Even if it's not as stable as sitting in the charioteer’s seat, put up with it for a while. Come up here.”
Rider, on the back of his beloved horse, nudged his body backward to make space for Waver. Nevertheless, Waver smiled wryly and shook his head.
Only heroes were qualified to ride on the back of a steed that was second to none in the entire world. It was definitely not a place to be taken by ordinary youngsters.
For instance, a useless magus who could not even cast a hypnosis spell, the most basic of basics—
Or for instance, a clown who overrated himself and only got in the way of the despotic path of the King—
The glorious road on which the King of Conquerors Alexander was about to rush forth could not be arbitrarily sullied.
Waver understood that—the night before—it had been he, the Master, who had at the last moment caused Rider’s determination to challenge Saber to end in vain. At that time, if Rider had challenged the ‘Sword of Promised Victory’ with a desperate heart, then perhaps he would have been victorious over Saber’s Noble Phantasm by a small distance and trampled the King of Knights beneath the hooves of the divine bulls. The reason why he could not but give up at the decisive moment—had been the Master standing beside him in the driver’s seat. At the last instant, Rider could only jump from the chariot in order to protect the clown beside him. Of course, he could not sacrifice the contractor who had made him appear in this world. At that time, what had decided the victory between Rider and Saber had been whether or not their Master had been at their side.
Waver Velvet had once thought he had what it took to become a victor, and had been complacent about it.
But now it was different. Now, after two weeks had passed, after he had personally witnessed true heroes; now, as he understood his own useless and meager existence.
A dog without a home has its own intentions as well. At the very least, it can gaze upon that back, the nobility of which it can never match—
“My Servant. I, Waver Velvet, use a Command Seal to give this order.”
The youth raised his tightly clenched right hand, displaying the Command Seals that were as yet unused. These were the shackles that bound the Heroic Spirit before his eyes, the greatest obstacle that blocked his despotic road.
“Rider, you must take the final victory.”
This was not a restriction, only a judgment that was a matter of course. Therefore, Waver gave the order. His heart was light as he watched the first of the Command Seals unleash its prana and disappear.
“Again I use a Command Seal to give this order—Rider, you must seize the Grail.”
The second Command Seal also vanished; he felt a thread of pain in his heart for this light. If he stayed his hand now, there would still be time—this meaningless confusion swept across his heart. It was a fool’s hesitation not worth mentioning.
“Lastly, I use a Command Seal to give this order.”
Waver resolutely raised the hand on which the last Command Seal was drawn, looking at the King who rode on the horse’s back. In that instant, Waver could meet his eyes without the slightest show of timidity. This was his last and only glory as a Master.
“Rider, you must seize the whole world. Failure is not allowed.”
Swiftly liberated, the third holy mark radiated hidden prana; summoning a whirlwind, it disappeared. Waver the magus would probably never again have the chance to perform such tremendous thaumaturgy in his life. But even thus, he felt from the bottom of his heart that this was the most satisfying action of his life. He had no regret whatsoever. In compensation for losing everything, this was enough.
Waver lowered his head to look at his own hands. The proof of the contract etched on his hand had already vanished and left no trace.
“And thus, I am no longer your Master.”
Waver said, looking at his feet with his head bowed. He did not want to know what expression Rider wore as he looked at him. Perhaps it was surprise at Waver’s cowardly act of giving up the fight; perhaps it was a relieved smile at having been freed from the hands of a useless Master. Regardless of which it was, Waver did not want to see it. If it were possible, he even wished that Rider would forget the entire process of their encounter.
“Go. You can go anywhere, you are already…”
Oh, rang out the quiet reply.
Subsequently, he should hear the sound of a horse's hooves swiftly galloping away over the land. Even as Waver thought this, he was lifted by the collar. In the next instant, he was sitting on Bucephalus’s back.
“Of course I will go at once—but, since you have given that annoying command, surely you are also determined? Come to witness the moment in which the order is fulfilled.”
“You, you, you idiot! I say, eh!”
His will having been changed so easily, Waver cried out awkwardly. Bucephalus gave a rough cry through its nose as if mocking his panic. Even that horse mocked people in the same way as its rider—thinking this, driven by an indignation that even he did not understand, Waver cried out.
“I don’t have Command Seals any more! I don’t want to be a Master any more! Why do you still want to take me with you? I—“
“Whether you are or are not a Master, you are my friend, and that will never change.”
Waver knew that these words, spoken along with the smile that was the same as always, had been spoken to him. In that instant, the hardest part of his heart crumbled—even though he had protected it with his life, only a moment was required to destroy it.
The tears flooded like a spring unending from his eyes, mixing with snot as they flowed past his nose; he found it difficult to breathe, and even more difficult to make a sound. Even so, he still asked in a choked voice.
“… I… someone like me… can… can I really… be by your side…?”
“After going forth into battle with me so many times, why are you saying all this? You idiot.”
As if listening to jokes at a banquet, the King of Conquerors poked fun at the youth’s tears. He slapped his thin, weak shoulders.
“Aren’t you a real man who has faced enemies with me? So, you are a friend. Stick out your chest and stand shoulder to shoulder with me.”
Waver forgot self-deprecation. He forgot the mortification before today, the timidity towards tomorrow, as well as the fear in the moment facing death.
‘Fight and win’—this unshakable conviction took root in his heart.
There would be no failure, there would be no disgrace; now he was with the King, and as long as one believed and continued to run forth on the despotic road, one would set foot, no matter how unreliable those feet, on the edge of the world—this he firmly believed.
“So, I should make my answer to the first Command Seal now. Open your eyes wide and look properly, boy.”
“Ah, I will definitely use this pair of eyes to watch!”
The legendary steed gave a cry of assured victory and began to gallop, carrying the King and magus whose hearts were linked, rushing towards the decisive battle with a mortal enemy.
The location indicated by the smoke signal was the opposite bank of the Mion river, the fourth leyline of Fuyuki.
Fuyuki City Hall –
This structure, which had been built at the cost of eight billion yen, was considered the symbol of Fuyuki Shinto’s development, along with the Central Building in front of the train station. It covered an area of 6600 square meters and had 4700 square meters of usable space. Its complex design housed four floors above ground and one floor below. The two-story music hall could accommodate about 3000 patrons. The building's prestigious architect had created a novel design that made this modern City Hall as majestic and splendid as an ancient shrine. Fuyuki City's high ambition toward Shinto's development could thus be seen in physical form.
However, only the exterior was complete. The interior was still being decorated in preparation for the commemoration ceremony. Active and practical use of the building was still a long way off. In addition to the minimal level of safety precautions, the building still had no access to electricity. Deep in the night, with no workers on site, this pristine and splendid building became an unreal space, with an inhuman silence and an alien feeling flowing and drifting through its emptiness.
Civil planning did not take magecraft into consideration. It was a complete coincidence that the City Hall had been built on top of Fuyuki’s latest leyline – in other words, such a rare coincidence could only be attributed to the paranormal characteristics bestowed upon the area by the leyline.
Kotomine Kirei stood on the rooftop and calmly watched the magecraft signals he had set off as they scattered to smoke in the night wind. The only thing he had needed to do to infiltrate the unguarded building was break the lock. He had already made preparations for the ceremony and was ready to confront an attack. All that was left was to stay and wait for the remaining enemies to be attracted by the signal.
Battle was near, and yet he did not seem to be affected by the thought at all. Executors did not need to be excited with the prospect of bloodshed, nor did they need to jest to relieve the tension. They possessed the ideal characteristics of the tools of God’s will, and would gallop toward death with hearts knowing only the routine completion of yet another duty. Long years of such training allowed Kirei to display the calm and nonchalance of a practicing surgeon.
“Hmph. Your face tonight is as cold as ever, Kirei.”
Archer, who was walking up to the rooftop with a relaxed gait, mocked him. Kirei laughed bitterly in his heart.
What did his face, emotionless as always, look like in the eyes of this Heroic Spirit who could see through everything? Even the shifts in his emotions that he himself could not detect were unable to escape from the Heroic Spirit’s eyes.
Although his heart had wavered in the beginning, Kirei was used to it by now. Yes, he was a cold man in truth – he understood himself as though he was analyzing the business of another.
The King of Heroes, who had just returned from the night market in the street, still wore his flamboyant and luxurious casual clothing. A residual tint of indulgence remained in those crimson eyes, and he showed no sense of urgency at the approaching battle. However, this Heroic Spirit would never separate his outer appearance from his inner feelings. The battle surrounding the Holy Grail only seemed like child’s play to him.
“What do you want me to do next, Kirei? Just wait here?”
One wrong command could make Archer question the worth of his Master. Kirei, who knew this very well, shook his head after having thought about it for a while.
“The ceremony will be in jeopardy if your power is released close to the Holy Grail. If you want to have fun, then attack head-on.”
“Mm, fine. But what do you plan to do if you’re attacked while I’m away?”
“Get Berserker to stall the enemies and I’ll use that time to summon you back. I would have to borrow the power of the Command Seals, though. You wouldn’t mind, would you?”
“It is permitted. However, I can’t guarantee the safety of the Holy Grail. I won’t be merciful tonight. This narrow little room may be completely destroyed.”
“That would be the worst outcome, but it would also be fate.”
Kirei nodded decisively, but Archer narrowed his eyes.
“Kirei, it looks as if you have understood the meaning of this war. But do you still not have a wish to bestow upon the Holy Grail? Not a single wish, even if you do manage to obtain the miracle?”
“That’s right. What’s wrong with that?”
“Although it’s yet to be completed, the ‘vessel’ is already in your hands. It may accept a ‘pre-ordered’ wish, you know.”
“… Hmm, I see. You’re saying that, if possible, a miracle can occur at the same time when the Holy Grail descends, right?”
Kirei sighed disinterestedly and thought about it for a while. In the end, he still shook his head.
“I still don’t have a wish. If I have to have one – then I wish for there not to be any innocent people meddling with us in the final battle. Unfortunately, there are residents all around us. I had wanted to fight for my victory somewhere desolate if possible.”
Hearing this completely boring answer, Gilgamesh said with derision.
“Hah, the thing hiding in your heart will only be truly understood in the presence of the Holy Grail.”
At the end of the day, even if those two were closer to the Holy Grail than anyone else, they also cared the least for it. For those two, compared to gaining the Holy Grail, it was more meaningful to chase away those who had gathered because of it.
“– Ah, there’s one more thing. If Saber appears before I return –”
As he was about to depart, the King of Heroes halted in his steps as if having suddenly thought of something.
“– Then let Berserker play with her for a little while. I saved that mad dog’s life just for this.”
Kirei still could not figure out the reason why Archer was so bent on Saber. As for Berserker, who had longed to destroy the King of Heroes after their initial battle, things were different. The King of Heroes had allowed for Berserker’s continued existence after discovering his true name in his investigation of Matō Kariya. He had said, "It'll be entertaining to let that dog bite Saber.” The King of Heroes could always control his anger whenever it came to Saber; it seemed Gilgamesh was very interested in the King of Knights.
“Say, Kirei, how’s that doll, the one Saber protected at the risk of her life? I heard that whatchamacallit – Vessel of the Grail – is in it.”
“Ah, that's what you meant.”
Kirei did not want to mention its existence. His interest was gone at this stage; he did not even feel the need to remember the woman’s name.
“I just killed her. There was no longer any reason to keep her alive.”
Irisviel opened her eyes and looked around at her surroundings.
She felt very strange. Her consciousness was impeccably clear, and yet she could not think logically.
It seemed like it was not her mentality that had become muddled and nonsensical, but the world she was in.
Many scenes flashed past her eyes. When she beheld them, the only emotion that welled up within her heart was an unbearable sorrow and emptiness.
The scenes reflected in her eyes were eternally sundered from happiness or joy. That was the only constant in this kaleidoscope of confusion.
There was pain, there was humiliation, and there was regret, hatred, and loss.
Bloodshed and a desolate land. Betrayal and vengeance. Having devoted everything and yet receiving nothing in return – it was an expensive cycle that reaped no rewards.
The familiar snow-covered scene continued on.
It was recounting the story of a clan that had sealed all it possessed within a castle of deep winter.
And here she finally remembered – what she was looking down upon was the Einzbern family's thousand-year-long pilgrimage for the Holy Grail.
The primeval Justeaze and the female dolls modeled after her… They were homunculi, fake living beings.
They were humanoid disposables created with the secret craft of alchemy and used to fulfill the unattainable lasting wish.
This lost and confused history of the Einzbern clan was written with their blood and tears as ink and their broken bones and frozen fingertips as pens. Their sighs and their despair made Irisviel’s heart clench tight.
If any place had existed such that allowed her to see all of this, then it could only be the epicenter of the entire conflict, within the thing that had witnessed all.
Irisviel finally understood. She was looking inside the Holy Grail.
It was the Greater Grail that embraced the primeval Justeaze, the Greater Grail of Mount Enzō. All homunculi were manufactured to the standard of the ‘Lady of Winter’, using her as their model. Therefore, they shared the same pain.
– No, was that really the truth?
“Why are you crying, Mother?”
When she came to, Irisviel discovered that she was in the room of her child, protected by the warmth of the fireplace.
Icy wind and snow gathered outside the window and the storm roared past. A pair of tiny hands clutched her mother’s arms tightly in search of protection.
“Mother, Illya had a nightmare. I dreamed that I became a wine cup.”
Although her heart was terrified, Illyaviel’s two red eyes still looked at Irisviel with trust. Though her face looked the same as her mother's and all of her sisters', this child was different. She was more adorable than anyone else –
“There were seven big blocks in Illya’s heart. When Illya felt like she was about to break and was so scared but couldn’t run away, she heard Justicia-sama’s voice, and there was a big black hole above my head…”
Irisviel embraced her daughter tightly. Her silver-white fringe brushed past her daughter’s face, which was wet with tears.
“It’s alright, it’s alright… That won’t happen. You won’t see such things, Illya.”
There was one sad wish that only Irisviel possessed out of her innumerable sisters and could not share with anyone else – and that was the maternal love of a ‘Mother’.
Out of the many generations of homunculi, she had been the first to give birth to a child from her womb. Out of all of her kind, only she had been given a love for her child. But even so, the fate she carried was just as lamentable.
Illyasviel von Einzbern was the next Vessel of the Grail, and also a mechanical part swept up in the thousand-year-old cogwheel of delusion and stubbornness.
This shackle would not break until someone claimed victory.
The Third Magic, the Heaven's Feel – that achievement was the only salvation.
Many sounds rushed towards Irisviel. She chanted with her countless sisters.
The Holy Grail –
Please grant the Holy Grail into my hands –
Deep within the forest, where the used homunculi were discarded, the mountain of corpses composed of her kin chanted. Those rotten, maggot-infested faces overlapped with Illya’s young and small face, and emitted those painful sounds.
“It’s alright –”
Full of love, the mother hugged her daughter tightly in her arms.
“Illya, you’ll definitely be freed from this shackle of fate. I will finish everything. Your daddy will definitely fulfill this wish as well…”
At that moment, a question suddenly flashed past her thoughts.
If this was a dream conjured by the Holy Grail – since she could see the ‘Vessel’ within so clearly and it had taken shape – then what would Irisviel, who served as the outer cover, look like now?
It was as if the eggshell could see the innards of the chick.
If so, then this would be a giant contradiction. The shell was supposed to break when the chick hatched.
Then – who was the Irisviel that was dreaming?
The touch of Illyasviel’s slender body, which she was hugging tightly, was so realistic. Irisviel looked to her own hands, which were hugging her daughter.
Irisviel had already disappeared. If the chick had consumed the broken shell…
The falling snow outside the window suddenly stopped. What melted into the darkness of the night was a thick black mud that stirred up ripples.
She wasn’t scared, nor was she surprised; she only comprehended it calmly and gazed upon it. The mud seeped in from all corners of the room and dripped from the chimney, slowly soaking the ground under her feet.
Yes, the question of ‘who am I?’ was so minuscule.
She had been no one since the start. Even now, she was still ‘someone’ who used the personality of Irisviel, a woman who had already disappeared, as a mask.
Even so, Irisviel’s wish, hidden in her heart, remained true. It was the wish of a mother who thought of her beloved daughter and lamented the future of her child even as she drew her last breath and passed away. She had inherited the wish of this mother.
Therefore, she was the one who must fulfill that wish.
She was the existence that had been worshipped and anticipated because she was to grant everyone’s wish, because she was made to be the one.
“– It’s alright, Illyasviel, everything is about to end.”
Gently, she murmured beside the ear of the young girl, whom she was embracing for the first time.
“So let us wait here awhile. Father will definitely come. He’ll come to help us fulfill all of our wishes.”
The scorching mud that clung tightly to her had elegantly dyed her skirt black.
As she waited for the moment when the wish would be granted, the woman with her body entangled in the inky darkness smiled.
Dispel all sorrows and chase away all worries.
Soon, she would receive the power to fulfill wishes and become the omnipotent wish-granting vessel that could realize all.
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