Fate/Zero:Act 16 Part 1
Two o'clock A.M. -
The streets fell asleep into a silence deeper and more complete than usual. Even the resident night-owls - perhaps terrified by the repeated cases - obeyed the appeal to self-imposed curfews and were submissively drawn into their homes. Even the shadows of cars disappeared from the road's surface. The asphalt, clearly lit by street lights alone, was frozen by the air of the winter night.
This townscape where human life had completely ceased looked like it belonged in a scene with toys stretched to life-size. If a place beyond the recognition of normal humans was called an 'alien world', then that was, without a doubt, what nighttime Fuyuki was.
A single heroic horse sprinted cross that bizarre landscape as though it ruled over the place. Waver was being carried on its vigorous back, hurrying towards his place of death. Directly behind him was the massive and magnificent chest of the King of Conquerors, so close that even its pounding heartbeats were transmitted.
Even if he were to survive this night, Waver would never forget this tense, silent exaltation. There was a time known in the world as the 'moment of truth'. When the soul, bared and released from all deception and embellishment, took in the sweeping view of the world in its true state, there existed an instant that knew nothing but the shaking of the heart. Surely, that was what he was reflecting upon right now. The instant when any and all of the world's mysteries and paradoxes were comprehended and yet remained unanswered. The instant the meaning of existence and the value of death could be clearly grasped even without words. It was a time of supreme bliss, of release from all of the bewilderment and uncertainty, the hardships of human life.
The warhorse leisurely slipped out of the sleeping city and jumped toward the riverbank, filled with still water in the color of darkness. In the still night, the great bridge they were aiming for was lit in white by the brilliance of hollow mercury lamps.
The King of Conquerors responded to the pointing Waver with a nod.
Standing on the bridge illuminated as if by broad daylight, his brilliantly golden, majestic appearance radiated all the more, as though sneering at such counterfeits as artificial light. The remorseless coldheartedness of his eyes' deep crimson glint froze Waver's entire body with fear even when they were hundreds of meters apart.
Servant Archer, King of Heroes Gilgamesh -
It wasn't that he hadn't prepared himself. From the beginning, he had understood that this was an unavoidable opponent. Even so, now that he was once again facing the real thing, the air of intimidation overcame all of the heart's defenses and came to crush the core of his soul.
"You scared, boy?"
Rider, who felt Waver's shaking, asked quietly. The boy frankly nodded without any pretense of bravery.
"Yeah, I'm scared. Or I guess, to put it your way, 'my heart is jumping with excitement'."
At his tense response, the King of Conquerors' face broke into a pleased smile.
"That's exactly it. When the enemy is mighty, the yearning for the sweet wine of victory becomes utter bliss. Oh ho, looks like you understand it now."
Bucephalus strode majestically, carrying the bravely boasting Rider to the foot of the bridge.
This would be their fourth and doubtless final chance meeting. The primordial King of Heroes and the legendary King of Conquerors. To the two of them, both occupying the wide four-lane road as though they owned it, the only obstacle that could hinder them was each other. The bridge was a one-way road; if one wouldn't back down, then the other wouldn't try to avoid. For a competition of tyranny between these two kingly beings, it was an inevitable, even fated battlefield.
Bucephalus stopped his hooves, having halted after evidently sensing the will of his rider, who rewarded him by scratching his mane.
"Boy, wait here for now."
" - Huh?"
Rider lowered himself from the back of his beloved horse, stood on the ground, and began walking with an air of composure towards the waiting enemy. As though it had been prearranged, Archer also began walking to meet him halfway, his heels ringing out haughtily.
They were not warriors who simply competed with their martial skills alone. Seeing as they would both compete in tyranny in addition to crossing swords, they must also proceed through the proper channels.
"Rider, where is your vaunted chariot?"
As soon as he opened his mouth, Archer questioned him with restless anger.
"Ah, that. Well. Aggravatingly, that Saber has carried it off."
Rider replied with a carefree shrug. Archer stared at him, scrutinizing with his blood-colored eyes.
"...Did you forget what I had decided? You were informed that you would be defeated at your most perfect condition."
"Hm, now that you mention it, that's right."
With no fear for the intimidation, Rider, in an exceedingly bold and ferocious way, bent his lips and smiled.
"True, my weapon has been consumed. But do not take that lightly, King of Heroes. Tonight, Alexander is incomplete, and therefore beyond complete."
It was an incoherent manner of speaking, but Archer did not sneer at his nonsense, and looked over Rider's entire body with sharp eyes that seemed to cut into him.
" - I see. Yes, your is overflowing. It is unusually stalwart. It seems you do not stand before me without some prospects of victory."
It was the truth. While he had lost one of his Noble Phantasms, the amount of prana seething from Rider right now was several times higher than before. The three expended Command Seals that Waver had intended to 'waste away meaninglessly' were unwittingly exercising an effect. When using Command Seals to activate ultimate authority, the more vague the contents, the more reduced the effects will be. On that point, as Waver's earlier orders all lacked concreteness, in terms of using the Command Seals, they were in effect wasted. On the other hand, a Command Seal activated not as an absolute command bending the will of the Servant, but with the consent of both parties, would not only enforce the Servant's actions, but also become a way to support and amplify them. In this case, similar to how Kiritsugu's Saber achieved Spatial Relocation, the Command Seals could at times make possible unprecedented things that overturned the normal methods of magecraft, things on the same level as 'Magic'.
While the method of usage made little impression, since the three Seals conformed to the Servant's own will and furthermore were activated in succession, Rider received a definite effect from Waver's Command Seals. As long as he aspired toward the action of 'victory', Rider would receive an amplified amount of Prana support compared to normal. Frankly, the current Rider was, even more so than in the past, at his 'most perfect'.
"Hey, Archer. Speaking of decisions, wasn't there one more agreement from our banquet before?"
"The conclusion that we would have no choice but to kill one another?"
"Didn't we say we would drink up the rest of the wine before that?"
Rider, with an honest smile unthinkable for one preparing for mortal combat, urged the King of Heroes.
"At that time, some boorish fellows tried to spoil our banquet... but there was still something left in the bottle. You can't fool my eyes."
"As expected of the king of usurpation. You are sharp-sighted when it comes to the belongings of others."
Archer, with a bitter smile, once again called forth a set of drinking vessels from the alternate-world 'vault' to his hand. The bottle was emptied, and the rest of the high-quality wine from the Age of the Gods at its bottom was poured completely into two cups. Like two boxers crossing their gloves, they solemnly knocked their cups together.
"One more thing, King of Babylonia. My last summation to you."
"Permitted. State it."
His goblet still raised, wearing a serious face while some rascally naivete remained in his gaze, Alexander began.
"For example, if my was equipped by your , it would undoubtedly become the most powerful army. Even that President of the West wouldn't be more than a break of wind."
"Once again, will you not be my ally? If we join together, we can surely conquer as far as the ends of the stars."
Hearing this, the King of Heroes, as though he had heard some very satisfying satire, laughed out loud without a care.
"How deeply amusing you are. It has been a long time since I have laughed this much at something other than a jester's foolish nonsense."
Even as he laughed, his ruthless dreadfulness did not weaken in the slightest. Perhaps killing intent and great delight held roughly the same meaning to this golden ruler.
"It is unfortunate, but I do not require a second friend. Past and future, my companion will only be one - and there need not be two kingly ones."
At such a resolute response, the King of Conquerors simply nodded quietly without showing his dejection.
"That is a high and lonely kingship. I shall challenge that unshakable state of affairs with great admiration."
"Good. Display yourself to your heart's desire, King of Conquerors. You are a foe worthy of my judgment."
The two Kings gulped down their last drink together, disposed of the emptied cups, and turned back on their heels. Without turning around again, the two each returned to the bridgehead they came from.
Waver, who had watched over their last toast with a tense expression, went to meet the King's return with a sigh.
"Do you two actually get along?"
"Well, we'll be killing each other now. Or he could be the last opponent in my entire life that I will exchange glances with. I can't be ungrateful."
"... Don't be stupid."
Waver countered Alexander's joking tone with a stifled voice.
"There's no way you can be killed. I won't accept that. Did you forget my Command Seals?"
"That's right - yeah, that's it."
With an intrepid smile, Rider once again straddled the back of the waiting Bucephalus and unsheathed the sword affixed to his hip.
"Gather, my brethren! Tonight, we shall mark our gallant figures into the strongest legend!"
A wind of hot sand blew onto the bridge as though responding to the King's call and scattered the mist from the river.
The thoughts of the Heroic Spirits who had once seen the same dream as the King, drawn from beyond time and space, now came together and wove around the sword of the Cypriots.
A boundless blue sky. A horizon, blurred by the heat haze, that all would gaze at with a single heart in order to ascertain its very end.
The mental images of the brave ones who crossed time to seek the battlefield eroded even reality and turned the uninhabited great bridge into a great plain with a raging whirlwind.
And one by one, the Heroic Spirits hastened to the stage of the decisive battle they were ordered to.
This was the second time Waver had seen the spectacle of the arrayed in their magnificence. Even though it was no longer something to be shocked by, now that he knew the meaning of this ultimate Noble Phantasm which actualized the kingship of Alexander, he was overwhelmed by a sense of awe even greater than the first time.
The shining elites of the cavalry - the bond of lord and servant they had formed with the King of Conquerors once upon a time could overcome even the separation of life and the afterlife.
There was no place where their battlefield, sublimed into eternity, could not be actualized. If the King of Conquerors would again set forth in tyranny, then no matter where he was, his servants would hasten to him.
That was the pride of being together with the King.
The joy of being able to battle together, of their hot surging blood.
"Our enemy is the King of Heroes, mightier than tens of thousands - an opponent lacking in no regard! Come, heroic warriors, show the original Heroic Spirit the way of our tyranny!"
"Ohhhhhhhhhhhhhh - !!!"
At Alexander's roar, the cheers of the arrayed troops rose into the air.
Only the solitary Archer was before them, confronting the great host which boiled like the high seas, but he did not show a speck of dismay and simply stood, imposingly blocking their path. His appearance, painted in gold, was like a single arduous towering peak. The air of intimidation was unmistakably unprecedented, precisely what would come from a demigod Heroic Spirit.
"Come, lord of the vanquishers. Now you shall know the true form of a King......"
At the boldly boasting King of Heroes, the host of Heroic Spirits, led by the heroic horse Bucephalus, finally charged in a wedge formation.
Rider bellowed as he spearheaded the vanguard. Answering his roar, the knights released a battle cry. To the surging waves and harsh thundering songs, Waver added his own small voice with all his might.
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