Fate/Zero:Act 15 Part 5
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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