Fate/Zero:Act 16 Part 2
At that moment, Saber was wandering aimlessly around eastern Shinto in search of Irisviel. Naturally, she too noticed the smoke signal sent out at Fuyuki Municipal Hall.
Though she did not understand the significance of the signal, it undoubtedly had something to do with the Heaven’s Feel. Like one critically ill who would turn to any doctor, as if grasping a lifeline, Saber immediately turned the vehicle and sped in the direction of the smoke signal's flare.
Saber, who did not need to cross the Mion River to reach her destination, was not attacked by Archer who was guarding the bridge, and arrived first at the Fuyuki Municipal Hall.
Saber drove the V-MAX through the silent night scene; revving the V-type four-cylinder engine, she drove into the front porch, the walls of which still looked new.
There was no sign of the enemy in sight, and neither could she sense any killing intent hidden in the darkness. In that case — was the enemy hiding within the building?
Saber gazed for a moment at the pitch-black area near the outer wall of the Municipal Hall, turning the V-MAX around to the guiding road designated for visitors. She followed the sloping path that extended below the building and entered the underground parking area.
In the underground area where the moonlight could not reach, the white light of the headlights cut through the darkness to shine on the icy cement wall. The wide car park, designed to accommodate more than a hundred cars, had not yet been opened for use; only several cars from the construction company were parked here and there; the rest of the empty space was heavy with dusty air.
The rough roar of the V-MAX’s engine was also swallowed up in an instant by the strange, crypt-like silence. Saber warily glanced at her surroundings. All around her was dense darkness, the shadows of the support pillars that had been built all over the place… Extremely suitable for the enemy to hide his form. More importantly, her instinct felt the murderous intent that almost saturated the air.
From the floor came a resentful sigh; it sounded like the groaning of the dead from a dark abyss.
Saber could not have heard this sound wrongly, for she had many times been its target—
She immediately reacted to the explosion that closely followed the roar.
Saber twisted and retreated quickly. In the spot she had just been, the V-MAX left behind was surrounded by fire that splashed like rain. In just one instant, her beloved steel steed was turned into a shapeless heap of scrap. The gunpowder scent of burning reached Saber’s nose.
“This weapon is—“
Saber had an impression of it. This was the rain of fire that had turned Lancer’s Master and the rest—all who had fallen terribly victim to Emiya Kiritsugu’s calculations—into pitiful corpses. It was the mechanized shooting weapon that had become mainstream in this modern world.
In the depths of the darkness, red lotuses of flame blossomed once more. Under the firelight that shone from the muzzle of the gun, the black shadow of Berserker lengthened to a state of deformity as it gestured threateningly on the walls of the underground parking area. Without the slightest hesitation, Saber leaped into the air, dashing out through a baptism of flying lead bullets. The stray bullets of unimaginably destructive power tore open a large hole in the cement of the ground and walls. That power obviously could not be spoken of in tandem with the weapon that Maiya had used. Saber sensed that even though she was a Servant, if she were hit she would be fatally wounded; she gnashed her teeth in anger.
Of course, she could not have known the process by which Berserker had obtained the small machine guns. Both of the crazed black knight’s hands held a modern firearm that Kotomine Kirei had prepared using the power of his position as Supervisor; Berserker nimbly and freely operated them as if they were extensions of his own hands. The firearms’ structure and holster were all immersed in the hated prana, and had turned into fierce magecraft military equipment that could threaten even Saber.
The two machine guns were not in any way inferior to the black knight’s angry howl; screeching hotly, they attacked Saber. The bullets, faster than the speed of sound, were still unable to surpass the speed of Saber’s sword. Nevertheless, the speed of twenty-odd bullets per second left her only able to parry.
Berserker could confer the properties of a Noble Phantasm on the weapon in his hand, regardless of its origin or time period. Once it had been upgraded to the category of Noble Phantasm, the difference in power between the two weapon types of ‘sword’ and ‘firearm’ forced Saber into a decisively disadvantageous situation.
Because the building's construction was not yet finished, a large number of paint cans were piled in one corner of the parking lot. One of the stray bullets struck them, and the calcined bullet caused the solvent to explode. The underground darkness was dissipated by red lotuses of flame.
Saber was so restricted by the curtain of bullets that she could not close in; she looked around in search of a method by which she could return from certain defeat. Then, she saw a small truck parked in a lot at the corner of the car park.
“— That’s it!”
Accepting the risk that she could be forced into the corner with no route of retreat, Saber dashed toward the vehicle she had set her eyes on. Berserker pursued her as she fled, at the same time shooting at random with the firearms in his hands. Saber made a ferocious step that narrowly preceded the howling bullets, dashing to the back of the truck. She brandished the flat of her blade upward, flinging the structure of the vehicle into the air.
At that point, the rain of bullets targeting Saber crumpled the truck as if it had been a paper model. Saber continued to hide behind the structure of the truck, pieces of which had been scattered all over, using her shoulder to halt the rotating chassis. In this manner, she dashed toward Berserker.
Berserker continued to shoot, using the machine gun to mercilessly smash the structure of the truck to iron chips. Even though the heavy frame of the truck quickly met its disintegrated fate, from Saber’s perspective, as long as the ‘temporary shield’ could close the distance and bring Berserker into proximity of her sword’s attack, it would be enough.
The bullets, which had penetrated the structure of the truck, grazed her face and shoulders. One bullet sent sparks flying in all directions as it impacted the oil tank, combusting the fuel inside. The structure of the vehicle, already unrecognizable, was consigned to the flames. Nevertheless, even this did not stop the pace of Saber’s attack.
When the distance to the adversary had closed to less than ten meters, Saber picked an opportune moment to throw the wreckage of the truck toward Berserker. Facing the flaming iron scrap, Berserker not only declined to dodge, but also brought up a single hand in the attempt to smash it with one fist.
— The time was ripe.
With a great shout, Saber once again pressed in on the burning structure of the truck with the thunderous speed of lightning, using all her strength to drive her attack downward. The precious sword pierced the burning piece of iron that had been used as a distraction; the point of the sword closed in on Berserker on the other side.
Blocked by the obstacle, Berserker was completely unable to see Saber’s actions, and thus had no way of avoiding this attack. In the third clash of blades, Saber finally scored a hit on the enemy in one blow. From the point of her sword, a sense of having scored a direct hit traveled up to her hand.
“— Too shallow!?”
On Saber’s side, because of the blocking shield, she too could not directly see her target. Even though she had indeed scored a hit on the other by relying on her intuition to attack, she had ultimately not been lucky enough to score a critical hit in that blow. The front part of Invisible Air, though it had accurately made contact with the center of the forehead of the black helmet, it had been unable to smash the skull inside.
The outside of the truck was subject to a heavy rain of bullets, and its inside had been pierced by a sword; this time it finally broke into two pieces. Although Berserker had not received a fatal wound, the fierce attack to his face made him stagger backward and left him unable to recover for a short moment. That was time enough for a follow-up attack. Now the scales of victory were tipped toward Saber.
Saber kicked aside the burning vehicle wreckage and lifted her sword high into an upward stance. This time, she would definitely not let him off. She aimed at the top of Berserker’s defenseless head and gambled victory on the following direct attack.
The stance, speed, and timing were all perfect. It was a strike worthy of the name of the sword-wielding Heroic Spirit, enough to make one believe that the outcome had been decided—precisely for this reason, the instant when Saber’s sword was stopped in midair was especially surprising.
Berserker threw away the machine guns, trapping the blade of Invisible Air between his bare hands before her eyes. That consummate skill was unbelievable on two counts: the first was that he had used an impossible stance to respond to Saber’s follow-up killing blow, and the second was that he had done so even though it was impossible to perceive the path of Invisible Air. But the Black Knight had grabbed the white blade with his bare hands to seal Saber’s attack as if he had known every detail of Saber’s sword, from the shape to the length, like the back of his hand.
Saber suddenly realized the fatal danger of having Berserker come into contact with her weapon; she shuddered violently. She banished the astonishment of her heart to the back of her mind and used all her strength to kick out towards the black knight’s chest. Berserker, who could not take the blow and was forced to retreat, released the precious sword, allowing Saber’s beloved weapon to narrowly escape the danger of being corroded by the other’s black magic.
The sprinklers on the ceiling at last reacted to the flames spreading all around; they began to violently spray curtains of water. Even though their bodies were exposed to torrential pour of water, the silver and black knights still did not move in the slightest as they confronted each other.
In Saber’s heart again rushed forth a question that could not be overlooked.
The deceptive illusion of Invisible Air had been ineffective against Berserker. He was obviously very familiar with the sword protected by an invisible sheath. In other words, that meant that he had originally known her before she had become a Heroic Spirit.
At the warehouse district and Mion River, this black knight had shown an abnormal persistence in attacking Saber. If his actions had not been under his Master’s instructions, but this insane Heroic Spirit’s own hatred…
The more she stared at the black fog, the more indistinct the details of the armor became. This indicated that around Berserker’s body was twined a delusive protection similar to Invisible Air, making it impossible to see the true face of this Heroic Spirit. But at this point Saber could not but believe — he was undoubtedly one of the knights who had known her.
“… Your skill says that you are by no means an anonymous knight. Answer me!”
Saber made up her mind and cried out loudly to the enemy she confronted through the mist.
“Since you have recognized that I am the King of Britain Arturia Pendragon and challenged me as such, you should make known your background with the glory befitting a knight! To issue a challenge while hiding your identity is akin to plotting against me!”
The patter of water, like a heavy downpour of rain, was slowly penetrated by a clear clatter — ka-da-ka-da — of metal. Though it was very slight, the sound that permeated the ears chilled her soul; undoubtedly, it came from Berserker — under the cover of the black mist, his full-body armor was trembling.
That was the gentle sound of the armor that completely covered his limbs as the pieces rippled softly and knocked against each other.
Saber finally discovered the source of the strange sound, like a sigh or a groan, crawling across the ground.
That grinding, sobbing noise originated from the depths of the black helmet. Berserker’s entire body shuddered, revealing an emotion that could not be suppressed.
Laughter — when Saber understood it thus, an unspeakable shudder ran through her body.
Lacking sound logic or proof, with only her sixth sense as guidance, she realized one thing: her previous interrogation had been a fatal mistake.
It was a pity that she had realized it too late. The words that would have summoned to her the worst possible curse had long since been spoken through her own lips.
The black fog painting the black knight’s entire body began to swirl and contract. Within the rushing mist, the pitch-black armor finally revealed its true colors.
It was perfect armor that was neither exquisite nor crude, but which perfectly melded magnificence and functionality.
The delicate, nuanced workmanship of a smith who had put in his utmost effort succeeded in granting it an air of formidability and fine construction. The countless marks and scratches etched into it became carvings highlighting the wearer’s illustrious military exploits, adding a touch of valor to the armour. It was an ideal battle outfit that all knights could not help but envy.
Saber recognized the hero that had once worn that armor to ride forth on the battlefield. At the Round Table of Camelot he had been an unrivaled swordsman more radiant than any other; he had been a knight more excellent and a warrior more loyal, more brave than any other.
“You are— how could—“
She wished that she had seen wrongly. He was the ideal incarnation embodying the true face of a ‘knight’. That illustrious appearance could not have become the pitch-black form corroded by the Mad Enhancement curse.
The black knight laughed sinisterly as if mocking Saber’s thoughts, reaching for the hilt of the precious sword in its scabbard. That sword had neither been picked up nor stolen. This Heroic Spirit who had been hiding his name all along was finally revealing his own Noble Phantasm.
Saber could only watch on helplessly as he slowly drew the precious sword from its scabbard.
She could not have been wrong; the design of the sword was the same as that of her own, and the fairy letters carved into it was proof that it had not been forged by mortal hands. The flash of the sharp blade under the moonlight was like the water of the lake as it shone with radiance. That was a limitless sword that would not be damaged regardless of the attack it had received.
Only he who was exalted as ‘the perfect knight’ was worthy of having that sword; its name was also known as ‘Arondight • The Indestructible Light of the Lake’ — that evidence spoke the bearer’s name even more clearly than if he had said it himself.
“… Ar… thur…”
The vengeful cry reverberated within the black helmet. With this one vibration, the mask that had already cracked under Saber’s previous blow now shattered.
From the fractured mask was revealed a blackened face.
Nothing remained of the beautiful visage that had once drawn the admiration of many women. Yesterday’s hatred had made him as gaunt and pallid as a phantom; only his eyes, filled with hatred, gave out light. That was the visage of a living dead man who had lost everything to a curse.
Saber felt her knees weaken. The unyielding King of Knights forgot herself in helplessness; as if unable to bear the weight of water droplets raining upon her shoulders and back, she fell to her knees on the wet floor.
— Even those who are heroes will fall so far as to lose even the most basic sense of honor —
In the past, someone had spoken to her thus.
In that case, had the curse started from then?
“… Do you really…”
Saber looked at the figure before her eyes, who had long since lost the distinguished dignity of yesterday and had been thoroughly changed by his descent into the seat of madness; hot tears rushed forth, and she could only question.
“… Do you really hate me so much, my friend…? Even if you have become as such… Do you hate me so much, Knight of the Lake?!”
In that instant, the young girl who always maintained her glory to the very end, who fought for honor to the very last—
That was the instant in which she was defeated.
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