Fate/Zero:Act 16 Part 6
The battle tactic analysis concerning Kotomine Kirei had been conducted based on information from Hisau Maiya, who had fought him twice.
He used Black Keys during ranged battle. A single throw, complete with preparatory movements, could be completed in 0.3 seconds. He could perform four separate throws in 0.7 seconds. His accuracy rate was 100% even when striking down unconfirmed targets, such as the illusions in the Einzbern forest. The blades themselves, half-spiritual entities, could penetrate iron.
He used Baji Quan for melee fighting. Specific details were unclear, but he was undoubtedly at the level of an expert. He had seriously injured Maiya, a dagger-wielding opponent, with just one strike, and snapped a fully grown tree in only a few strikes.
The frock he wore had been reinforced with bullet-proof materials, and processed to protect against spells. It would protect him, at the very least, from 9mm Parabellum bullets.
Pre-battle intelligence gathered from other fields:
According to the magecraft teaching result reports obtained from Tōsaka Tokiomi, Kotomine Kirei’s tutelage of magecraft had not progressed beyond the degree of a beginner. His most outstanding skill was spiritual healing. If he were to use any effective magecraft during battle, then the only predictable one would be physical enhancement; his most adept skill, used to exert even greater physical strength.
Lastly, predicting his battle tactics.
Since Emiya Kiritsugu had thoroughly hidden himself, the most information Kotomine Kirei could obtain to analyze Kiritsugu’s tactics would consist of rumors. The only battle in this Heaven’s Feel that had forced Kiritsugu to use his ‘secret weapon’ was the fight against Lord El-Melloi. The bounded field of the Einzbern Castle at that time had still been dense enough to prevent the Assassins from penetrating too deeply. Moreover, Kirei himself had been battling Maiya and Irisivel during that time. It was impossible for Kirei to have found out about Innate Time Control, or the ‘Origin Bullet’. It could safely be assumed that he would not have countermeasures for these.
– That was all the information that Emiya Kiritsugu had gathered concerning the final decisive battle.
Their initial wave of attacks would consist of Black Keys versus bullets. Kirei would, of course, be in an overwhelmingly disadvantageous position. However, if he were to rely on magecraft to compensate for his lack of weaponry, it would be very possible for Kirei to rush forward fearlessly and shorten the distance between them.
The Executor waved the six wing-like Black Keys, and charged directly towards Kiritsugu. He had made some defensive preparations for Kiritsugu’s bullets.
Which was exactly what Kiritsugu had wanted. The success of Kitisugu's killing blow was ensured precisely because Kirei had prepared defensive measures. The magecraft bullet was already loaded into his Mystic Code.
Kiritsugu fired. Kirei should have been able to predict the trajectory of the bullet from Kiritsugu’s killing intent and preparatory actions. As a humanoid Shura, an Executor of the Holy Church, the agility of Kirei’s mind far surpassed that of a bullet.
Kirei initiated a large-scale magecraft.
The Black Keys that he gripped in both hands instantly expanded to more than twice their original size. The half-spiritual blades, which had been woven with magecraft to begin with, had extra prana forced into them. The forceful execution of this spell evidently surpassed the limit of the weapons themselves, but it was enough to handle the single bullet. Kirei crossed the six enormous swords before his chest, holding them in a fan-like formation. The immense destructive power of the .30-06 Springfield assault rifle bullet was neutralized in an instant.
The bullet was deflected, a shower of flying sparks accompanying the clash. The Black Keys, which had been overflowing with prana, could no longer handle the heavy load, and shattered.
This extraordinary skill, which allowed swords to surpass bullets, was the wrong move. It was truly shocking that Kirei, who should not have even had a Magic Crest, could exert such a surprising skill. But more importantly, this would allow the fatal destruction of Kirei’s Magic Circuits, which were currently supplying the Black Keys with energy. Due to Emiya Kiritsugu’s Origin, Kirei’s flesh and circuits would instantly be annihilated due to the massive amounts of prana running rampant in his body – at least, that was what was supposed to happen.
A rapidly approaching figure clad in a black frock appeared within the scattering fragments of the six Black Keys. Kiritsugu couldn’t help but gasp in surprise.
“Time Alter: Double Accel!”
His body reacted whilst his brain reeled from the shock. Kiritsugu cast his spell.
Kiritsugu jumped backward at the last moment. Kirei’s right foot swept ferociously past the tip of Kiritsugu’s nose, and the left foot that followed up the attack didn’t crush Kiritsugu’s throat either. Kirei’s smooth roundhouse kicki completely missed its target, thanks to the confusion caused by Kiritsugu’s double-speed movement.
That had not been within the scope of Kiritsugu's predictions. The Origin round fired from his Contender gun had been nullified – Kiritsugu couldn’t figure out the reason. Even Kirei himself wouldn’t have imagined that the uniqueness of his magecraft had nullified Kiritsugu’s killing blow.
Kirei had never been an orthodox magus. He, whose Magic Circuits had yet to be developed properly, had only obtained a source of prana through utilizing the spare Command Seals he received from Risei. The disposable, single-use Command Seals were all that saved Kirei. The moment the Origin round made contact, the Command Seal that served as his source of prana simply disappeared from Kirei’s arm.
His one-turn-kill plan now aborted, Kiritsugu could only progress onto the next step. He had not expected the opponent to have the opportunity to attack. Kirei’s attacks would only be a waste of effort if he couldn't touch Kiritsugu, but the overwhelming destructive power of his martial arts was evident. The man was a high-level martial artist, and if pulled into melee range, Kiritsugu's chances of victory were slim.
Kiritsugu ignored the pain Innate Time Control inflicted upon him, and maintained the spell, backing out of Kirei’s range. His first step had to be to increase the distance between them. Kiritsugu would be able to deal with Kirei if his only method of attack were the Black Keys, but for the moment, the competition had become an authentic contest of distance. Kiritsugu retreated, and Kirei advanced. Since the ideal distance for them to initiate an attack differed between the two men, now they could now only compete via footspeed.
The mobility that Innate Time Control gave him was Kiritsugu’s most reliable defence. He required a certain distance to fill the Contender. As long as Kiritsugu was close enough to target Kotomine accurately, yet far enough that he was beyond arm's reach, then he could win. Even if the bullet contained no magecraft, the bulletproof clothing the enemy wore could not stop the sheer penetrative power of the .30-06 rounds. Though the continuous activation of Innate Time Control amounted to suicide, there was no other choice.
Even then, however, Kiritsugu still underestimated the man named Kotomine Kirei.
Kiritsugu’s sudden acceleration was a simple miscalculation that caused Kirei’s roundhouse kick to go off the mark. His speed, however, was not so nimble that Kirei was unable to grasp it. Once he realised that Kiritsugu had doubled his speed, Kirei made the appropriate calculations.
Kiritsugu experienced surprise for the second time in a few short seconds.
The space between them was a little over five steps. The tall Executor took a slight step forward, shortening this seemingly safe distance. This step, which sneaked toward the enemy without announcing its speed, was called ‘the moving stance’. It was also one of the dangerous secret skills of Baji Quan.
Kiritsugu shuddered, as the tall, frock-clad figure glided forward. Kirei's reached Baji Quan's optimum distance, and his fist drove toward toward the enemy with the power to reach infinity in all eight directions.
Kirei stepped forward. The concrete floor boomed under the impact, and the heavily planted forward fist slammed into Kiritsugu’s chest like a rock. Using the ‘Eight Postures of the Buddha Guards’ style, the sheer force of Kirei’s strike was like a grenade exploding in Kiritsugu's chest. Kiritsugu’s body, which took the full force of the blow, flew through the air like a strand of hay, and slammed into the support pillars that crowded the room. He never had the chance to defend himself. His thoracic cavity crumpled beneath Kirei’s iron fist, and his lung and heart were pounded into a mash of meat.
Kirei sighed slowly, fist still outstretched, the feel of death on his hand. Even this fight to the death, in which every second mattered, had taken only a moment to decide the victor. He experienced an emptiness that he had never felt before the moment he attained victory. This had originally been an end that he had pursued with a crazed fervor.
This lethargy made Kirei’s focus dull. He could not have realised that the opponent would actually sneak in an attack at this momentary gap. Nor could he have known that he would be the next to experience surprise.
There was a piercing pain between his brows, and a sheet of red covered his field of sight.
Kirei instinctively raise his arms to shield his head before he understood what was going on. A rain of 9mm bullets showered unceasingly upon him. His sleeves, made of Kevlar and covered in protective sigils, barely managed against the force of the bullets. Kirei was stunned.
Kiritsugu was surprised that he was still alive. He had already been prepared to die when Kirei drew near. Kiritsugu’s heart and lungs had indeed been completely destroyed, and all he should have been able to manage was a final, feeble struggle.
But the fatal injury had healed, moments before his oxygen-deprived brain would have begun to die. Kiritsugu, of course, knew of no healing magecraft powerful enough to heal injuries like this. Nonetheless, he immediately understood what was going on.
The Noble Phantasm, Avalon. The holy relic that had summoned Saber; the sheath of the holy sword, which had protected Irisviel’s body for so long. Irisviel had separated the sheath from herself, giving him the miraculous sword sheath that protected its wielder from any harm, and prevented them from aging. Kiritsugu, Saber’s true Master, could obtain prana from Saber, and so exert the sheath's powers as if he were its true wielder.
Kiritsugu had heard of its ability, but had never seen it with his own eyes. He had not expected the sheath to be able to heal fatal injuries. Though still shocked at the power of the sheath, Kiritsugu began to consider battle tactics the moment he realized that he had been revived. He left his eyes closed, and suppressed the urge to cough as his body regained its ability to breathe, and played dead, waiting for the chance to launch a surprise attack.
Unfortunately, the Contender's barrel was still empty. If he wished to attack the other unawares, then he could only use his left hand to draw the short automatic machine gun from his chest holster. However, since Kirei’s protection against bullets were near-perfect, only a direct shot to the head would give Kiritsugu a chance at victory.
The target was small, the angle was awkward, and he could only fire instinctively. Nevertheless, Kiritsugu, an expert gunman, managed a hit. Though he hit his target, the bullet failed to penetrate. The bullet sliced into the skin on his forehead, leaving no more than a gash. Since the skull is made of curves, bullets can easily be deflected by bad angles. Aiming at the head is not encouraged in real combat, for this very reason.
Once he realised his target had not fallen, Kiritsugu switched the machine gun to full automatic mode, sealing Kirei’s movements with a tight wall of suppressive fire. At the same time, his right hand flicked the Contender’s barrel open, expelling the empty shell. Although the machine gun’s kickback inertia was difficult to control, Kiritsugu still managed to fluently carry out a series of movements with his right hand. It was as if he had trained himself into a war machine.
His strength of mind was even more intense than that. Both hands engaged with two completely different tasks, he actually managed to cast his spell with superhuman concentration.
“Time Alter: Double Accel!”
Time dilated. Kiritsugu threw everything to the wind, to maximise the tiny gap he had managed to steal from this powerful enemy.
He drove his accelerated limbs and leapt up from the ground, jumping backwards to further the distance. The machine gun ran out of bullets. Kirei turned to face him. Kiritsugu dropped the machine gun and drew a .30-06 bullet with his now empty left hand. Kirei loomed near. With a near-flight speed, Kiritsugu slid the bullet into the chamber. He closed the barrel half-way, took aim –
A space of three steps separated him from Kirei’s iron fists.
The Contender once again let out a furious roar. Kirei had no time to dodge, nor did he have time to draw his Black Keys.
But Kirei had never intended to dodge.
Kirei once again activated a Command Seal the moment he stepped toward Kiritsugu. He reinforced his physical abilities. Kirei accelerated his reaction time, multiplying the maximum power output of his right flexor, radius muscle, and pronator teres. There was no time to strengthen the sleeve of the bulletproof frock. The rest depended entirely upon his skill.
Kirei threw a right punch a moment before the Contender fired. His arm, having transformed into a lethal magecraft Mystic Code, carved a spiral through the air, and a tornado roared into being.
This movement became a spiral of force. Originally a defensive skill to nullify an opponent’s strike, the martial arts move was performed at a horrific speed after the prana of two Command Seals was infused into it.
The bullet left the barrel at a speed of 2500 inches per second, and was wrapped up in the spiral that moved at a divine speed. Even so, the .30-06 bullet still kept a straight path. It tore apart the Kevlar sleeve, clashing viciously with Kirei’s hardened arm, emitting alien sounds like the clash of two mill stones.
The scattering sparks seemed to distort the laws of physics; a supernatural phenomena where approximately 3000 pound-per-inch kinetic energy was forced to bend to the power of magecraft. A chill ran down Kiritsugu's spine as he watched the second Contender bullet's trajectory change. The bullet flew off at an angle, into the distance.
Monster. There were no other words to describe the man before him. At this moment, Kotomine Kirei’s current combat ability is equal to that of a Dead Apostle. Just what kind of willpower was required for a living man to drill his own body into such a terrifying lethal weapon?
A piercing pain suddenly invaded his entire body. With a moan, Kiritsugu stumbled. His body had reached its limit. The continuous activation of Innate Time Control had ruptured blood vessels all over his body, and the bones in his limbs also began to fracture due to having borne an unimaginable burden.
However, Kirei did not follow up his attack during this pause. He remained where he stood, unmoving, as if observing the opponent’s next move. Large amounts of blood gushed out of his right arm, where the frock sleeve was torn. Possibly because he had used too much prana with his unskilled method- his right arm, which had been overly strengthened by magecraft, was severely wounded as the price for having blocked the attack of the Contender.
The two men kept narrowed eyes on each other, analyzing the situation and attempting to figure out their next move.
According to Kirei’s analysis, Kiritsugu’s strategy consisted of a magecraft that could accelerate his movement, and a healing power that could revive the caster even if his heart was destroyed. This meant Kirei could not win, no matter how heavy a wound he dealt, unless he could destroy Kiritsugu’s brain. His own right arm had been damaged, all the way to the bone, so he could manage only one more blow only if he was prepared to destroy his right arm. On the other hand, although the wound on his forehead wasn’t deep, the blood that seeped out affected the sight of his left eye. The frock's bullet-proofing had also been severely reduced, thanks to Kiritsugu's machine gun and Contender, and only the protective sigils close to his torso remained intact. He had twelve Black Keys and eight Command Seals left.
According to Kiritsugu’s analysis, Kirei’s strategy consisted of an unknown prana source that could nullify his Origin bullets, and his Baji Quan skills. Kiritsugu would be at an extreme disadvantage in melee combat. He had lost his own machine gun, and the Contender needed to be loaded. His remaining weapons consisted of one dagger and two grenades. His chest wound had all but healed, but the damage caused by Innate Time Control–
Kiritsugu finally realised that there was something different when he attempted to tighten the muscles on his arms and legs.
He could move them. His fractured bones were now in perfect condition, as if they had never been damaged. The echo of that pain remained, but the injuries were gone.
“... I see.”
Kiritsugu finally understood the true worth of the trump card within himself. It seemed Avalon could heal injuries caused not only by his enemies, but also the damage his body caused to itself. This discovery gave Kiritsugu, who had at that point had fallen into a desperate situation, against an unimaginably strong enemy, the greatest confidence in the world.
“Time Alter: Triple Accel!”
Kiritsugu leapt toward Kirei as he uttered the forbidden spell. His unpredictable acceleration caught Kirei off-guard. One blow from the hardened walnut wood snapped Kirei’s right radius and ulna. The Executor's right arm was destroyed.
As he struck with his right hand, Kiritsugu drew the dagger by his waist using his left. With one eye and one arm ruined, it didn’t matter how great Kirei’s martial art skills were; victory would belong to Kiritsugu as long as he continued to move at three times his top speed. Using Innate Time Control in this way would ordinarily be suicide, but thanks to the protection of Saber’s sheath, he could now use it to its full potential as a strategic weapon.
Kirei dodged the upward stab as the dagger was removed from its sheath, and used his left arm to block the downward slash and backhand horizontal swing Kiritsugu followed up with. However, with these three attacks, Kiritsugu shifted around to Kirei's left hand side, into Kirei’s blind spot. As long as he stayed on the left side of the enemy, Kiritsugu would have all the chances in the world to strike Kirei down from his blind spot.
Kiritsugu’s sharp blade sliced closer, but Kirei didn’t turn; instead using the left side of the body to block every swing. Turning would have been pointless; his broken right arm could not possibly block Kiritsugu’s dagger. Thus, though it disadvantageous for Kirei to use his left side to defend himself, he had no other choices.
The dagger attacked continuously, flickering through the air with a chilling light. No regular human would have been able to even see Kiritsugu’s movements; only the lighting-like residual images the dagger left in its wake. Kirei, though, blocked every attack using just his left arm. Kirei, who easily defended himself even when faced with attacks made at three times the speed of normal humans, terrified Kiritsugu. There were a few attacks that even Kirei would never have seen coming with his eyes, but the Executor’s left arm defended him, as if it could see every swing.
“Could this be the idea of ‘hearing’ a move?!”
Kiritsugu only had a vague impression of this phrase. Some schools of martial arts thought that when a martial artist had reached a certain state in his skills, he wouldn’t need eyesight to detect the enemy’s movement. He could predict the opponent’s next move purely on the brief moment when his arm blocked that of his opponent.
The attacks from his blind spot had also been rendered pointless, then. Since the attacks were coming from a static location, Kirei could block them even if he couldn’t see them. This man’s skills made him someone who wouldn’t be at a disadvantage even when put under the duress of speed.
Kiritsugu’s arms, legs, and heart let out sad screams of pain with every swing of the dagger. The adverse effect of Innate Time Control mercilessly tore apart Kiritsugu’s flesh, and Avalon fixed the damage, momentarily. Regardless of how Saber herself had used it, the sheath was only ‘healing’ Kiritsugu while in his body- it could not prevent him from taking damage, it was simply healing the damage he took. The excruciating pain of torn tendons and snapped bones tormented Kiritsugu’s nerves every single moment.
Even so, Kiritsugu did not hesitate. There was no need to hesitate. As long as his body could still move, he didn’t need to pay any attention to what he was feeling. Kiritsugu bet everything on the effects of the holy sword's sheath, and continued to accelerate against the agony.
Kiritsugu’s body died and was reborn. He shrieked in agony as he sliced at the enemy before him with the dagger. His blood vessels, endlessly repeating a cycle of rupture and repair, shed sanguineous mists with every movement.
Kirei suddenly changed his feet stance, and rolled forward, towards his opponent. Kiritsugu thought that the enemy’s ability to ‘hear’ a move had been pushed to its limit, but Kirei moved a foot, hooking one of Kiritsugu’s legs from the inside, in a move known as the locking stance. Kiritsugu stumbled backwards. The moment he finally managed to balance himself, he realized that a heavy blow from Kirei was fast approaching. He was still recovering his balance, however, so he could not move.
If so – Kiritsugu grated out a spell, from a throat that was frothing with blood.
“Time Alter: Square Accel!”
The explosive pain boiled into every part of his senses. Kiritsugu leapt up and backwards, turning in mid-air to escape from Kirei’s range, simultaneously hurling the dagger in his left hand, with all the strength in his body. Faced with yet another repeated acceleration, Kirei couldn’t dodge. The dagger ripped through the air and struck into Kirei's thigh, effortlessly slicing through Kevlar and stabbing deep into flesh.
Kiritsugu maintained his four-time acceleration, continuing to leap backwards, as if strapped to a jet engine. Kirei took a moment to draw a Black Key and throw it, but Kiritsugu dodged it with ease, simultaneously reloading the Contender.
He drew the weapon and broke open the barrel.
Kirei charged forward. He paid no attention to the dagger still sticking out of his left leg. Even the fact that the sharp blade was tearing the wound open wider as he ran did not cause him to hesitate.
The expelled cartridge danced in the air; the golden bronze sparkled.
Kirei drew four Black Keys with his left hand; the limit to the number he could wield in one hand.
Kiritsugu placed the new bullet in the barrel. The bullet slid in easily, but the split second it took seemed so long in the quadruple-accelerated time.
Kirei threw his Black Keys- not toward his opponent, but upwards. The four sharp blades danced in the air beneath the tall ceiling of the warehouse. Kirei didn’t plan to use the Black Keys for a normal attack; Kiritsugu didn’t know his intentions. They didn't matter, in either case. There was no time to think.
His arm flick up, the gun barrel closed. The Contender once again became that terrifying weapon of murder.
Kirei drew close. He again used his martial art stances to shorten the distance between him and Kiritsugu, but he would not land a blow. Kiritsugu could dodge his attack and fire at the same time.
The Black Keys fell from above. Kiritsugu finally realised Kirei’s strategy when the four sharp blades surrounded him in all directions like a bird cage.
His movements were sealed. If Kiritsugu wanted to dodge Kirei’s next attack, the sharp blades of the Black Keys would be waiting for him no matter where he moved. Kirei’s intention had been to seal Kiritsugu’s movements from the start, when he threw the Black Keys.
The only way to stay alive was to fire before he was struck.
Kiritsugu aimed the Contender. There was no need to be anxious; no need to fear. All he needed to do was focus on his target.
Kirei drove his right foot viciously into the ground, and leapt forward. This leap equaled to about five normal steps. His left foot would likely be broken the moment he landed, but it didn’t matter- the following blow would decide the victor. There was no need to hold back; his entire body had been fully prepared. His next strike would be one of the Eight Grand Openings – The Standing Upward Cannon. The heavy upper hook would shatter the opponent’s skull.
"I will win." Both men believed.
"I will die." Both men understood.
The fist and the gun; both weapons aiming for the kill exchanged their last strike.
Emiya Kiritsugu and Kotomine Kirei, who were deeply engrossed in battle, did not notice the abnormality above them.
Directly above the big prop warehouse where the two men were, Irisviel’s already-cold corpse was placed upon the raised stage of the music hall.
As the ‘Guardian’, she had almost lost all signs of life. The organs within her body had already reverted to the form of the Vessel of the Grail, and was waiting to recollect the souls of the remaining Servants.
After Archer’s victory, this vessel had finally absorbed the soul of the fourth Servant.
The sealing enchantment had already disappeared. Having gathered enormous amounts of prana, its residual waves brought scorching heat to its surroundings.
The corpse of the beautiful homunculus was completely consumed by the heat in the blink of an eye, and was reduced to ashes. That was not all. The golden cup that had contacted the outside air charred the floor and the curtains, and roaring flames enveloped the completely empty stage.
On the stage where the fire was raging ever wilder, the golden cup floated in the air as if it was upheld by a pair of invisible hands. The ceremony of the descent of the Holy Grail, which the Three Noble Families of the Beginning had desired so much, had begun silently even without the presence of a priest.
Then – a gap no wider than the width of a hair, so minute and almost invisible, appeared on the ‘Gate’ that remained tightly closed. Through this tiny gap, something beyond the Gate silently seeped into the Holy Grail.
That thing seemed very similar to ‘mud’. It was black, simply and only black, a ‘thing’ that seemed like mud.
The thing that seeped into the Holy Grail suddenly overflew by one drop, then another drop. It soon became a thin black line. Like a crack that had appeared on a dam, the black torrents soon completely overflew out of the vessel and drained toward the stage floor.
The strength of the stage floor could not bear that inky black substance at all. The dirty mud seeped into the brand new building materials, eroding them, and flew even deeper like how the water from melted snow seeps into land.
The moment that the trigger of the magecraft gun was pressed –
The moment the floor moaned from the heavy step –
In that moment, Kiritsugu only saw Kirei, and Kirei only saw Kiritsugu.
The two of them did not detect that thing, which dribbled down through the ceiling, even till the end.
At that brief moment between life and death, the two men were drenched with the black dirty mud that descended from above.
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