Fate/Zero:Act 15 Part 4
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.
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