Fate/Zero:Act 16 Part 4
The earth rumbled and clouds of sand were blown up as approached -
Even before such an overwhelming spectacle, the King of Heroes, Gilgamesh did not move in the slightest.
The only thing dwelling in those red eyes gazing at the magnificence was complete blood-colored joy. It was a feeling beyond the bounds of mundanity, known only to the king who had completely exhausted all the pleasures of this world.
In truth, Archer was pleased.
He was tired of how he would be invited till the end of time, repeatedly, to farces that were battles in name only. And now, he had finally obtained an opponent he could recognize as an 'enemy'.
A challenge from that Rider was worth using his full strength to gain supremacy.
"Lashing dreams together and aspiring for tyranny... I will praise your enthusiasm. But brave soldiers, have any of you discerned it? The truth, that a dream is something you ought to wake up from before long."
Archer, with the key sword in hand, unlocked the vault from thin air. However, he did not deploy Gate of Babylon. What he took out was only a single sword.
"And thus, it was inevitable that I would be the one to block your path, King of Conquerors."
- Could it really be called something as specialized as a 'sword'?
It was a weapon of far too abnormal a shape. There was a grip and a hand guard, and its length was about that of a longsword. But the crucial section where the 'blade' should have been assigned deviated far too much from the form of an edged weapon. It was a dull blade with a pillar made of three sections lined up, and a tip which spun in a spiral shape. The three pillar sections were like querns, slowly continuing to rotate in alternation.
Yes, it was no longer a sword. Something born before the appearance of the concept that this world called a "sword" can't possibly have the shape of a known sword. It was something constructed by a God before humans. It was the actualization of the works of a God recorded at the beginning of the world.
The three quern-like cylinders, acting in concert with the movement of the Heavens, revolved as each creaked with a weight and power equivalent to tectonic movement. The enormous amount of seething and overflowing prana was beyond measurement.
"Now, know the conclusion of your unfulfilled dream. The truth shall be shown by my own hand."
Archer held his hand high above his head, and the sword of the beginning gradually increased the speed of its revolutions. Faster with each rotation, ever faster...
Rider, who perceived the threat simply through instinct, pressed on Bucephalus' reins.
He yielded the first move to Archer. That was fine. Even though he yielded it, it was just one blow. would trample that lonely golden shadow without waiting for the next.
That being the case, he had to devote himself to overcoming that one blow. Archer boasted incomparable Noble Phantasms; this was unmistakably a trump card only for when, in his own way, he believed the time was ripe.
Was it an anti-army Noble Phantasm?
An anti-fortress Noble Phantasm?
Or it could be an anti-personnel Noble Phantasm, and what he truly intended was to shoot only at Rider, at the head of the army, bringing him down with certainty...
It rumbled as a tornado roared, and an enormous amount of prana surged forth from the grip of Archer's sword.
"Now awake, Ea. A stage befitting you has been prepared!"
Ea - the God of earth and water from ancient Mesopotamian mythology who had separated Heaven and Earth.
Called by this name, the Sword of Rupture was the primordial sword present at the creation of the world in the Age of Gods. The role the blade of the beginning accomplished - it was nothing short of that which had cut apart what had been shapeless into Heaven and Earth, what had given a definitive shape to that distinction.
And now, the rotating God sword, haughtily blowing up storm winds, would once again perform that miracle of genesis. The golden King of Heroes triumphantly shouted a declaration.
"Come now and look up - to !"
Heaven screamed, and Earth shook.
An enormous collection of prana was released, grinding at the laws of space.
The sword tip Archer swung down was not aimed at anyone in the first place.
It was no longer a matter of aiming at anyone. What the Sword of Rupture's blade cuts down cannot be contained to simply 'the enemy'.
Rider, driving his horse hard, saw before his eyes the fracturing of the earth, and the opening of an abyss.
He had observed the danger that was slowly occurring at his feet, but the momentum of the charging Bucephalus could no longer be repressed.
"Hii - "
The fate of falling could no longer be avoided; Waver stifled his scream. But of course, the horse and rider carrying him right now were not the kind to be daunted by a danger of this level.
"Haa - !"
Responding to Rider's reins, the heroic horse flew high into the sky with a kick of its splendid hind legs.
It was a bloodcurdling leap and glide. But sure enough, at the end of that single instant which seemed endless to Waver, what Bucephalus landed on was firm ground on the opposite side of the fissure.
However, before he had time to feel relieved, Waver paled at the horrific state of the following cavalry.
The brigade of King's Guards, not having legs as strong as Bucephalus', could not completely cross the rupture in the earth, and fell helplessly into the abyss like an avalanche. The warhorses of the ranks further back braked at the very brink and were saved from the miserable fate of the fall; however, it was yet nothing more than the beginning of the tragedy.
"Boy, hold on!"
Reprimanding him, Rider grabbed onto Waver while clinging to Bucephalus' mane.
In the time it took the heroic horse to sense the danger and jump back to a safe zone, the fissure expanded further in width, swallowing the surrounding earth and the knights.
No - it wasn't only the earth. The cracks stretched out from the surface to empty air, distorting space and sucking in the atmosphere. The entirety of their surroundings were blown into the end of the void by a surging wind.
It was such a scene that even the King of Conquerors was at a loss for words.
The Sword of Rupture commanded by the King of Heroes - what its single strike bore through was not only the earth, but the world itself, stretching to the sky. The attack was not even something to be discussed as a matter of whether it hit, or whether its force was advisable. Soldiers, horses, the dust, the sky - nearly everything that used the cut space as a foundation was swallowed and disappeared into the surging void.
Bucephalus planted his hooves firm with all his strength and resisted the atmospheric pressure of the vacuum; even as this happened, the great plain of hot sand woven by cracked, shattered, and collapsed into the abyss of the void like the ending of an hourglass.
Before that one blade was swung, all things were nothing more than chaos which could not form any meaning -
After that one blade was swung, a new truth divided and distinguished Heaven, Sea, and Earth.
The released tumult of genesis was no longer in the realm of an anti-fortress Noble Phantasm. It was an irregularity that broke down not only that which possessed shape, but all of creation. That was the true form of the anti-world Noble Phantasm that made the King of Heroes transcendent.
Heaven fell, Earth broke; within the darkness where everything returned to nothingness, only Archer's Sword of Rupture shone with brilliance. The dazzling light continued to complete the destruction, like a star of creation, the first thing illuminating the new world.
Rider and Waver could not ascertain all of this to the end. To begin with, the Reality Marble they were in was maintained by the total prana of the summoned Heroic Spirits. Before the world itself disappeared, the bounded field broke apart at the seams once over half of the army had been lost, and the distorted laws of space once again returned to the way they had been.
And so, as though awakening from a dream, Bucephalus, carrying the two of them, landed on the great bridge of nighttime Fuyuki.
On the opposite bridgehead the golden Archer stood, blocking their path with a bewitching smile. The location of the two did not change; it was as though time had rewinded back to the outset of the battle.
The only change that could be seen was the existence of the Sword of Rupture in Archer's hand, which was still twisting and growling even now.
And the fatal change that could not be seen - the disappearance of , Rider's trump card.
The giant Servant, with a serious and dignified face, posed a question to his Master, looking up to him with a pallid expression.
"Come to think of it, there's one thing that I have to ask you."
"Waver Velvet. Would you be a servant, and serve me?"
His entire body shook with violent emotions. Then, like the bursting of a dam, floods of tears poured out.
It was a question that he knew would always be out of his reach, and yet one he had been yearning and anxiously waiting for. There was no need to search for a reply; it was because he had already prepared one, hidden deep in his heart like a treasure.
"You - "
The boy, called by his name for the first time, threw out his chest without wiping away his tears, and replied with a steady voice.
" - You, are my King. I will serve you. I will give my all for you. Please, guide me. Please let me see the same dream."
The king of tyranny smiled at the words of oath. To his servant, that smile was a reward surpassing any prize.
"Hm, very well."
As soon as his heart was enveloped by the uplifting joy - Waver's body was truly lifted into space.
The King picked up the boy's short body from the back of Bucephalus, and gently lowered him onto the surface of the asphalt road. Having lost the elevation from atop the horse and returned to the vision of his original height, Waver felt nothing but bewilderment at once again savoring his shortness and smallness.
"It is my duty as the King to exemplify the dream. And it is your duty as the servant to ascertain the dream of the King, and pass it down to later generations."
Upon a saddle so very high that his shaking hand could no longer reach it, the King of Conquerors smiled firmly but brightly as he passed down his royal command.
"Live on, Waver. See everything through to the end, live long, and tell it; the nature of your King; the spirit of this Alexander."
Bucephalus neighed, beating his hooves as though in encouragement - but in the end, was it for the King who would now face his death, or the servant who was entrusted with a difficult charge?
Waver hung his head, and did not raise it. Alexander took that as consent. There was no need for words. From this day until the end of time, the servant would be guided by the figure of the King, and the servant would remain loyal to that memory. In the face of the oath, even separation was meaningless; under the command of Alexander, the bond formed between King and servant was eternal and beyond time.
"Now, Bucephalus, to conquest!"
And so, the King of Conquerors kicked the flanks of his beloved horse, and went off to face his last sprint. Aiming for the bitter enemy waiting for him, he let out a screaming war cry.
He was a strategist. He acknowledged fully the indisputable flow of battle. But 'that' was different from 'this'. The King of Conquerors Alexander could not think of any other prescription other than charging toward the golden Heroic Spirit.
There was no resignation. There was no despair. What was there was only the utter excitement bursting full from his heart.
Strong - he was too strong. The hero who tore apart the world itself was undoubtedly the strongest enemy in Heaven and Earth.
In that case, this man was the last enemy.
He was higher than the peak of the Hindu Kush, hotter than the hot sands of the Mackran - he was the last obstacle in this world. And so, how could the King of Conquerors not challenge it? If he can surpass this, what lay beyond was surely the ends of the world. The faraway dream he had always been seeing was waiting to be fulfilled right now, before his eyes.
"" - he challenged it because it was unreachable; he expressed his tyranny, exemplified it, for the sake of the servant who watched over his back.
The King of Heroes, towering over his path, calmly gazed at the challenger, and released the treasures of the vault. Twenty, forty, eighty - a swarm of Noble Phantasms deployed from thin air, shining like so many glittering stars. That light made the King of Conquerors reminiscent of the starry sky of the East far off in the distance that he would look up to.
Bellowing with a delight that shook his heart, he rushed on together with his beloved horse.
With haughty growls, the rain of stars approached. Incessantly, mercilessly, the impacts trampled over their bodies. However, that pain was nothing more than a worthless trifle compared to the excitement of this sprint.
There were times when he had succumbed to that sort of faint-heartedness - and yet was not about to reach 'the furthest end'. How foolish. What a disgrace.
The 'end' he had been seeking was now towering over his path. Having crossed countless hills, forded countless rivers, he finally discovered the ending point.
Thus, he would surpass it.
He would step across that enemy.
One step, and one step further. The only thing he had to do was simply repeat that. If he continued to accumulate it, then even that figure far in the distance would most surely be reached by his blade.
The swarm of stars poured on boisterously. In his fury where even his consciousness was prone to recede, his posture inadvertently and carelessly began to decline.
Then he realized that, at some point, he had started running on his own feet. How far did his beloved horse Bucephalus reach? Where did he end? He wanted to mourn for his friend, who had boldly carried out his duty to the end, but that was why he could not stop now. This step he would now take forward was in itself the mourning for those who were scattered.
His golden rival, as though understanding this, said something with an expression of amazement. But he could not hear him. Not even the flashes of light grazing past his ears, with the sounds of violent winds, could reach his ears.
What he heard, was simply - the sound of the waves.
The sound of the waves breaking onto the remote empty shores - of the sea at the world's end.
Aah, that was it. With a bright feeling, he understood it.
How had he not recognized it during all this time? - This violent throbbing of his heart was the roaring of .
He saw his dream as he ran on the beach. The sensation of the sprays he kicked up felt pleasant on his toes. The bright red soaking his feet might be the blood flowing from his own abdomen, but what of it? Right now, he was watching a dream of the sea. How could there be any greater bliss?
The King of Heroes awaited him, right before his very eyes. One more step - and then, just one more, and his sword, brandished high, could cleave apart the crown of his head.
"Haaaah - !!"
With a ringing victory cry that reached the Heavens, he swung down the sword of the Cypriots.
It was the peak of a moment when he was convinced of his victory. The instant that should have passed in the blink of an eye seemed, for some reason, to stretch into an eternity. It was as though time stood still -
No. In truth, it did stop - not the flow of time, but his own body.
Just before the swung sword could reach, his blade, his limbs, his shoulders, and his abdomen were wrapped around by a tough chain; the King of Conquerors sighed.
Enkidu - the secret among secrets contained in the King of Heroes' vault. The restraint that captured even the Bull of Heaven.
" - Good grief... All these oddities, one after another..."
There was no wonder or regret. He simply derided himself for finally tripping over a small careless mistake. A bitter smile rose from his bloodstained lips.
The sword of the Cypriots could not reach him; however, Gilgamesh's Sword of Rupture pierced through Alexander's chest with its dull tip. He could feel the sensation of the slowly grinding blade inside his vitals. This sword just becomes more and more absurd - the King of Conquerors felt amazement as well as admiration, as though this was the affair of another.
" - Have you awoken from your dream, King of Conquerors?"
"... Hm, yes. I suppose..."
It could not be carried out this time, either. It had ended with the unfulfilled dream remaining as it was - unfulfilled. However, now that he thought about it, that was a one-time dream he had wagered his life for in the past.
The fantastic dream he saw in Asia Minor in the remote past - now, in this Far East land, he was once again seeing the same dream.
Thinking nostalgically on such checkered circumstances, Alexander smiled.
If he could see the same dream for even a second time, then it would not be strange to have a third.
Which would mean -
It was nearly the right time to see the next dream.
"This expedition has, been... exciting, in all respects as well..."
Alexander murmured in satisfaction, narrowing the corners of his eyes which were blurred by a blood haze. Ascertaining his expression of rapture, Gilgamesh solemnly nodded.
"You may challenge it however many times you wish, King of Conquerors."
To his worthy opponent, whose entire body was skewered from head to toe by the rain of Noble Phantasms, yet who did not stop until thwarted by the Chain of Heaven, the King of Heroes gave his greatest reward - he honored him with true feelings of admiration.
"Until the end of time, this world will always be my garden. Thus, I can assure you. You shall never find this world tiresome."
"Ooh...? That's, good to, hear..."
In the end, carelessly giving out the appropriate response, Servant Rider was quietly extinguished.
In terms of time, it was merely a short battle. It was nothing more than an offense and defense that barely filled the few seconds it took for the mounted Heroic Spirit to gallop across to the opposite bridgehead.
However, it was equivalent to a lifetime to Waver, who had it all burned into his eyes without blinking once.
He wouldn't ever forget it. Even if a lid was closed over his heart, he couldn't possibly forget. The scene his eyes caught in the last few seconds had already become a part of his soul and was impossible to detach.
Waver simply stood rooted to the ground, alone where he was left behind on the road, unable to move in the slightest. He repeatedly acknowledged that he must move, but he felt that if he tried to walk a single step he would collapse onto his knees.
However, he absolutely could not kneel down now.
The golden Archer, gazing at Waver with his brutal blood-colored eyes, slowly walked up to him. He must not avert his eyes. Even though his entire body was frozen with terror, he at least understood that. He would not survive if he averted his eyes now.
The boy shook with fear he did not attempt to hide, yet he stubbornly did not avert his eyes; Archer stood before him, and posed a question in a voice completely devoid of emotion.
"Boy, are you Rider's Master?"
He had thought that he couldn't possibly speak from a throat frozen by terror, but just as he was asked about his relationship with 'him', he was released from his stiffness for a short moment. Waver shook his head, and replied in a hoarse voice.
"No. I'm - his servant."
Archer narrowed his eyes, looked all over Waver in his entirety, and finally noticed that no place on his body conveyed the presence of the command seals.
" - I see. But boy, if you truly are a loyal subject, you have a duty to take revenge for your deceased King, do you not?"
Even with the second question, Waver answered with a strangely calm heart.
"... If I challenge you, I would die."
"I can't do that. I was ordered to live."
Yes - he couldn't die. Not now, when the last words entrusted to him by the King were engraved into his heart.
Waver must escape from this dilemma no matter what. He was before an enemy Servant and had no way to defend himself; even though it was a desperate situation where nothing could be done - the one thing he definitely could not do was give up. He could not ignore the way he had made the oath.
And that was perhaps a pain far more cruel than resigning himself to death.
The boy shook helplessly before the death he could not escape from, but his gaze alone made his adamance known. Looking down wordlessly on that too-small stature for a short while, Gilgamesh simply nodded once.
"The path of devotion is a great labor. Do not ever mar it."
He had no reason to raise his hand against a mongrel who was neither Master nor traitor. That was his decision as the King.
Waver watched his departure as the golden Heroic Spirit turned on his heels and calmly walked away. Before long, the figure was gone from his sight, and a cold wind blowing across the river completely scattered the air of battle that had been stretched out the entire time; afterward, the lone boy realized that he had been left behind in the night, and finally understood that everything had ended.
His knees shook again at the miracle that was his survival.
Right before Archer changed his mind, he had truly had the intent to kill Waver. The killing intent he released as naturally as breathing had wordlessly announced that. Had Waver averted his eyes, or collapsed with fear, or choked in his reply, that would have truly happened.
If one was to sneer at how he had only begged for his life, then one simply did not know of the remorselessness of the King of Heroes. Simply being alive after resisting his terror was a conflict, and a victory. It was the first time Waver Velvet had gained a victory in a challenge by himself.
It was an unsightly and very small battle. It was far from brave, or spectacular. No one yielded to him, and he obtained no plunder. The only thing he did was survive and escape from a dilemma.
Even so, Waver was happy. He was proud. Only Waver himself could understand how priceless it was for him to arrive at that impossible conclusion under those circumstances. That honor was in him only. Even if it appeared unsightly to an onlooker, there was no reason to feel ashamed.
He complied with the order of the King. He saw everything through to the end, and lived on.
He wanted to be praised. By that massive, heavy palm. By his rough, unreserved, and thick voice. This time, he wouldn't need to hide his embarrassment. He could have thrown out his chest unreservedly and boasted about his accomplishments to the man.
Yet - in this night sunken in silence, Waver was helplessly alone. No one was beside him. Like the him from eleven days ago, Waver was alone, left behind in a heartless and apathetic corner of the world.
The battle was only for him. No one had noticed what he had surpassed by himself in his loneliness. No one was praising him.
But if one were to call it a cruel treatment - then no, it wasn't.
He had been rewarded with more than enough words of praise just now. The grandest King in the world had recognized and assigned him. He was told that he would be added into the ranks of the servants.
The order of events was simply reversed.
He had now been praised for the far future as well; the only thing to do now was to devote all that remained of his life to accumulate enough accomplishments to match that eulogy.
Yes. Simply because of those words at that point in time - he was not alone.
The moment he understood this, his days as a boy was over.
And then he knew it for the first time; sometimes, tears flowed free from humiliation or regret.
Now, on the empty bridge, looking down on the black surface of the flowing river, Waver Velvet wet his cheeks without any regrets.
They were the warm and crisp tears of a man.
|Back to Act 16, Part 3||Return to Main Page||Forward to Act 16, Part 5|