Fate/Zero:Act 16 Part 9
Saber walked through the flames that burned like purgatory.
The wounds that Berserker had inflicted on her were beyond that which could be cured by her regenerative abilities. The once shining platinum armor was also stained black in places by Berserker’s countless attacks. Her bloodless skin was white as paper. Her knees were weak, her ankles trembled, her breathing was rapid; with every step, pain wracked her entire body, almost making her lose consciousness.
Even though every step was difficult, Saber nevertheless did not stop walking forward.
She still bore the responsibility, bore the promise that she as a King must fulfill. There was only one way left to fulfill this promise, and that was to obtain the Grail. Therefore it was necessary that she go on; spurring on her wounded body, she gritted her teeth and walked forward.
At last, she reached the first floor. Passing through the entrance, she pushed open the main doors; an empty music hall appeared before her eyes. In the middle of the stage in front of her, the Grail floated encircled by flames, shining with eye-catching golden light.
It was clear at a glance; this was undoubtedly the Grail that she desired so much to obtain.
The flesh body of the homunculus had reverted to the gold vessel that was forged from inorganic material. Saber did not know the process by which this was done, but she could tell, from the scene before her, exactly what had happened.
She was ‘the Guardian of the Vessel’, and had been determined to pass the Grail to Kiritsugu and Saber. If there was a possibility that the ‘Vessel’ could be stolen, then before that happened, she would definitely come forward to defend the Grail unto the death. Now, the ritual setting was missing Irisviel’s form; controlled by an invisible hand, the Grail was about to descend.
Remembering her voice and her smile, Saber bit her lip with a sob.
She had sworn on her sword to protect her, but had been unable to do so. She had reneged on her vow.
Just like she had been unable to save her beloved home country.
Just like she had been unable to resolve the torment of a friend.
Self-reproach and humiliation tore at her heart. Flashing in her mind was the city eternally covered by falling snow, and the words of Irisviel as they had exchanged vows.
—Saber, you must get the Grail. For you, and your Master—
"...Yes, at least this promise I will keep. Only this promise…”
—was supporting everything of Saber now.
In this moment she still held the precious sword in her hand; she still breathed, her heart still beat. All this, for one reason.
Saber stepped forward resolutely. Exactly at this time—
"Too slow, Saber. Even if you were bitten by that domesticated mad dog, you shouldn’t have let me wait this long.”
A devastating golden form was standing in the middle of the aisle in the spectator stand, blocking Saber’s way.
“Heh heh, don’t make that expression. I know you’re envious of my riches, but do show more restraint. That undisguised expression is really tasteless. Like a dog that has gone hungry for too long.”
The enemy’s appearance did not come unexpectedly to Saber.
This municipal hall was the final gathering place for all the Servants that still remained. Even if the other enemies initiated attacks on each other, it would be too naïve to hope that they would perish together. There was still one battle left, and the adversary was undoubtedly one of Archer or Rider.
But—Archer’s intact armor and his leisurely presence, infused with prana, made Saber grit her teeth.
Undoubtedly, not a hair of this golden Servant had come to harm. Beyond unharmed, it could even be said that he was running at full capacity.
Saber had been seriously injured in the battle with Berserker. If she wished to defeat Archer, she could only pin her hopes on her opponent having been drained considerably in a battle with Rider. But at this moment, not even a single scratch from battle could be seen on Archer.
Unexpectedly, the King of Conquerors had been unable to exact his revenge for that one sword blow…Was this Servant, whose identity was still unknown to her, really so strong?
Now, even the last thread of hope had been ground out of existence, but in Saber’s heart still flared a flame of anger.
Chances of victory, or tactics—None of that mattered any more. Saber only thought it unforgivable—she could not forgive that even now, there was still someone who stood between her and the Grail.
"...You, get out of the way…”
Saber’s low voice was filled with hatred. The insane obsession caused her once clear jade eyes to fill with a murky yellow-brown.
"The Grail… is mine… !”
The many wounds on Saber’s body could not stop her; roaring, she swung her sword at Archer. But after having made only a single step, her left leg was immediately pierced through by a Noble Phantasm that shot out of the air.
Saber fell to the floor, but gritted her teeth to prevent herself from groaning. Looking around, she saw groups of weapons from the Gate of Babylon continually appear in midair, all directed toward her, ready to be launched at any time.
As soon as their owner gave the order, countless primeval Noble Phantasms would shoot in unison toward Saber. She had literally become the target of a thousand arrows (3). As her left leg had been previously pierced through, she could not even dodge.
"Saber… this sight of you crouched on the ground, fallen into this presumptuous obsession, makes you even more beautiful…
Archer’s blood-red eyes held an uncomfortable emotion as he looked at Saber, who despite being mired in a hopeless situation, was still intending to make a final struggle.
"I don’t know why you are so obsessed with some wish-granting Grail. Saber… the fact that a woman like you exists can already be considered a rare miracle, no?”
Archer’s tone was unnaturally calm, as if it was not a dangerous enemy that was before him. This calm made the cornered Saber suspicious.
"What… are you saying—“
"Throw away your sword, and be my wife.”
In this situation, in this circumstance, Archer’s words surprised Saber. She was stunned by the sheer unexpectedness of it.
"... Wh—what did you say… What are you going to do!?”
“Even if you don’t understand, don’t you feel happy to hear such words? It is not anyone else, but I, who have admitted your worth.”
Perhaps only Archer alone would think that such a conclusion was a matter of course. The golden Servant arrogantly lifted his head, looking before him at the first woman he had ever loved.
"Abandon these pointless ideals and vows. These things will only restrict you and bring you misfortune. In future you need only desire me and live under my protection. In that case I vow, on my honor as King of everything, that I will grant you all the happiness in the world.”
His presumptuous tone was enough to re-ignite the flame of anger in Saber’s conflicted heart.
"For this ridiculous motive… you are fighting with me for the Grail?"
A second Noble Phantasm exploded as it flew past Saber’s nose. The force of the impact blew Saber into the air.
"I am not asking your opinion, but informing you of my decision.”
Archer’s face showed a bloodthirsty joy, as if relishing the sight of Saber’s furious resistance.
So this proud Heroic Spirit had never seen his opponent as a competitor of equal standing with himself. The enemy was worthy only of being manipulated and humiliated; he liked to admire the sight of their surrender to him. Saber’s desperate retaliation, on which she had gambled her all, to Archer was only an ordinary entertainment.
"All right, let’s have your response. Although the answer is right in front of you, I am very curious as to what expression you will wear as you say these words yourself.”
"I refuse! I will never—“
Without waiting for her to finish, Archer’s lightning-fast Noble Phantasm once again pierced into Saber’s already injured left leg. Hearing Saber’s groans of intense pain, Archer could not but laugh loudly.
"You can’t say it because you are too shy? It’s all right; I’ll forgive you no matter how many times you get it wrong. First you must learn suffering, and then you will be able to experience the joy I give you.”
The Noble Phantasms floating in midair waved their sharp blades as if to intimidate, gradually pressing closer to Saber.
An uncontrollable anger roiled in Saber’s thoughts. Compared to being killed in humiliation it would be better to try to get back at the enemy, even if it meant her life.
There was no other way. If she concentrated all the strength left in her body, perhaps she could still eke out the prana needed for one last strike of Excalibur. It would not be surprising if a Heroic Spirit of such unfathomable ability could defend against the attack of an anti-fortress Noble Phantasm, but at this moment he completely believed that he would win, and that made him complacent; he had never thought that Saber would still retaliate.
And yet—if Saber launched a counterattack on Archer from this position, the impact would wreck the Grail on the stage. Even if Archer took the full impact and was reduced to charcoal, the Grail would also be inevitably destroyed. In that case, all her efforts would have come to nothing.
"What should I do…!”
Facing this difficult choice, Saber sank into a dilemma; at this time, she noticed that a third figure had appeared in the hall.
On the wall that was approximately two floors high, within the semicircle-shaped box that did not protrude outward. In the light from the fire, appeared a ghostlike silhouette wearing a long windbreaker. He was the true Master who had made the contract with Saber—Emiya Kiritsugu.
From within the hopelessness, appeared a ray of sunlight.
Kiritsugu still held the forceful commanding power of the Command Seals. If he could lend her this magecraft power that he possessed, that had the ability to make the impossible possible, perhaps she would be able to break this stalemate.
As long as Kiritsugu understood Saber’s current situation, it was almost certain that he would use the Command Seals. Fortunately, Archer had not yet realized Kiritsugu’s presence.
Kiritsugu raised his right hand, showing the Command Seals carved on the back.
It was completely up to Kiritsugu what kind of order he would give. But Saber had already made up her mind that no matter how strange the battle tactics he intended to employ, she would do her utmost to carry them out. As long as she could retaliate against Archer, any methods would be fine.
Even if his command was to block the sense of pain and use all her strength, Saber would ignore the pain of her physical body, and exert the greatest strength from within her body until there was nothing left. If he commanded her to undergo instantaneous movement to the side of the Grail, then she would be able to escape this extremely disadvantageous position. Perhaps through precise calibration of Excalibur, she would be able to bring Archer down without harming the Grail. Such is a Command Seal. If the Command Seals were used with the consent of both Master and Servant, then no matter how impossible the task, it could be completed. In this moment, Saber entrusted everything to this last hope, because only it could turn the tables astonishingly on the current situation.
—Emiya Kiritsugu uses the Command Seal to command Saber—
The low words shook her entire body from the depths of her soul. The voice that could not have been more familiar announced, clearly and decisively.
—Use your Noble Phantasm, and destroy the Grail—
How the significance behind these words should be explained, how she should understand them—Saber’s mind went momentarily blank.
The rising hurricane dispelled the surrounding flames. From the heart of the deactivated Invisible Air, the form of the golden sword appeared.
Even if Saber’s brain refused to understand, her physical Servant’s body loyally accepted the command of the Command Seal. The precious sword began to accumulate light, completely independently of its bearer’s intention.
"Wh—what is this—What do you want to do!?”
Even Archer was stunned speechless. He had thought that because he had his back to the Grail, Saber would never execute a counterattack on him.
Saber roared in anger; that was a scream into which she had put all her strength. The golden sword raised high suddenly halted in midair.
As the legendary King of Knights, and as a Servant of the most excellent class, the the outstanding Magic Resistance ability that Saber possessed could actually resist the restraint of the Command Seals, albeit just barely. She used all her strength to halt her action of bringing her sword down. The opposing forces of compulsion and resistance clashed intensely within Saber’s body; her slender form seemed as if it would be torn apart at any time.
This intense pain and unimaginable torment made Saber remember the last moments of Diarmuid Ua Duibhne. Now she experienced utterly for herself the bitterness and humiliation that the tragic Heroic Spirit had undergone.
At the same time that she opposed the strong magecraft, Saber stared at Kiritsugu who stood in the middle of the box, and shouted.
"Why?! Kiritsugu—Why did it have to be you!?”
Impossible. It was impossible that he had given this order.
Kiritsugu desired so much to obtain the Grail—then in this moment, why did he reject it? Did he want to let the ritual, that his wife had given her life to bring about, go to waste?
After realizing that Saber’s unnatural actions were the doing of the Command Seal, Archer finally realized Emiya Kiritsugu’s presence.
"Are you trying to ruin my wedding, mongrel?!”
The Noble Phantasms that had been aimed at Saber now suddenly turned in unison to target Kiritsugu’s box.
But without waiting for the Noble Phantasms to begin their attack, Kiritsugu again raised his right hand to show the back to Saber below him—there was still one last Command Seal carved there.
—I use the third Command Seal to command again—
Seeing that her pride and hope were about to disintegrate into ashes in the blink of an eye, Saber shrieked out in tears.
—Saber, destroy the Grail—
That was an ultimate might that could not be resisted at all.
The tremendous force of the dual Command Seals ravaged and crushed Saber’s form, at the same time drawing out all the prana that still remained within her body, weaving it into the light of destruction.
The released beam of light made a cross-section of the entire hall, directly impacting the Grail that floated on the stage. Archer nimbly dodged this attack, but because he was in close proximity to the beam of light, its high intensity made him momentarily unable to execute the attack on Kiritsugu.
In the heat of the lightning, the golden Grail that had once been a part of Irisviel’s body now quietly lost its shape, then vanished. Saber closed her eyes, not daring to look directly at this sight—now the last hope had been destroyed. Her fight had ended.
Since things were thus, how could she look upon this tragic scene with open eyes?
In truth, she never did open her eyes again. The Noble Phantasm, that had been forcibly executed in opposition to her own intentions, had already consumed all Saber’s remaining prana; she could not even maintain her physical Servant form any more. Saber had lost the strength and the will to remain in this world. Of course, this was also because her Master, who was also part of the contract, did not intend to let her stay.
Maintaining her stance of bringing her sword down, Saber started to leave this world; soon, her physical body also vanished.
In the moment in which she gradually lost contact with the real world, the riddle of this character Kiritsugu was the last consideration that flashed in Saber’s mind.
The adoring father that doted on his daughter, the warrior that hoped to save the world, the killer that had lost all hope in justice; it was various conflicting pieces of humanity that he showed, but in the end he had betrayed everything, denied everything.
Until the end, Saber could be sure only of the callousness and ruthlessness of this man’s heart.
Until the end, he and she had never been able to understand each other and build up a relationship of trust—no, perhaps it should be said that only at the final moment had she realized that she had never understood his true thoughts.
And yet, that was also not altogether unjustifiable—
Within her gradually vanishing awareness, Saber mocked herself.
How was she to understand this man who had not crossed paths with her beyond having given her three orders? She had once been unable to understand even the hearts of those at her side.
Perhaps all of this was the long and euphemistic punishment that tormented the ‘King who did not understand others’ hearts’.
Even though Saber left the world carrying many injuries, without having realized the burden in her heart, perhaps not having to personally witness the tragedy that came after was also a sort of recompense to her.
The beam of light from Excalibur that had destroyed the Grail had blown away the ceiling of the stage, and sheared the entire municipal hall into two. The building, that had already been burned beyond recognition, could not withstand the blow. The structure of the upper levels had been destroyed; the roof, having lost its support, now dropped into the hall like an avalanche.
Following which, through the fragments of debris, Kiritsugu saw ‘it’ in the revealed night sky.
A black sun — that which he had seen when he had touched the black mud. The sign of the end of the world.
At that time Kiritsugu had not seen clearly that its physical form was actually a true ‘hole’. It is a space tunnel that connected with the Magic Circle of the Greater Grail, which had been hidden beneath the altar of the ritual of descent, deep underground in Mount Enzō to the east of Miyama. The insides of the Greater Grail, which had drawn energy from the leylines for sixty years and now had obtained the souls of six Heroic Spirits, had been filled to the brim and turned into an enormous prana whirlpool. That was the true form of that black ‘hole’.
The ‘Vessel’ that had been removed from the Einsberns’ homunculus was only the key to open that ‘hole’, and also the control that sustained the stability of the hole. Kiritsugu, who did not know anything about this secret, had made a fatal mistake; he should not have commanded Saber to destroy the Grail, but instead should have made her use Excalibur to burn down the hole in the sky. No longer controlled by the ‘vessel’, the black sun began to melt; the hole gradually shrunk, but before it closed completely, it was already completely impossible to prevent the black mud from flowing out from within the hole.
That was a neutral energy that had been used only to create an opening to the ‘outside world’, but due to Kiritsugu’s previous mistake, it was stained with the pitch-black color of the curse.
This cursed mud that was full of ‘Angra Mainyu • All the Evil in the World'. The destructive power could burn away all the life in the world—at this moment it descended like a great waterfall from above the Municipal Hall.
Archer, standing in the spectator stands on the first floor, could not find a way of retreat to escape this baptism.
"This… this is…!?”
The turbulent black waves carried away the helpless golden Servant. No, he was not simply carried away; the moment he had touched the black mud, he had vanished. Archer’s body had been broken down and absorbed by the black mud in the blink of an eye; he had become one with the tempestuous flow of mud.
The black mud consumed the first-floor spectator stand like a tsunami; Kiritsugu, who was standing in the box and had thus escaped misfortune, stared blankly at all this. The cursed waterfall that descended from midair did not show any signs of stopping; the black mud became a river as it passed through the entrance of the municipal hall, flowing out of the building and spreading out toward the surrounding districts.
Thus, the massacre began.
The people were all sleeping soundly; the mud of death sensed the presence of human life, and became a burning curse that attacked at their pillow-side.
It burned the houses, burned the courtyards. No matter if they slept, or woke and tried to escape, all the people burned without exception—that which had waited within the Grail for sixty years now mercilessly seized all the life it touched, as if celebrating its fleeting freedom.
After the event it was found that there were more than 500 casualties, and 134 buildings had burned down. This great calamity of unknown cause left a mark in the hearts of the citizens of Fuyuki that was difficult to erase.
After a while, the hole in the sky disappeared, and the black mud no longer poured forth. But the mud had brought a fire of enormous proportions; the people who had been unable to escape turned one by one into burnt black corpses. A magnificent red lotus of fire bloomed in the night sky; on the ground was staged an endless banquet of death.
Having escaped the gradually collapsing municipal hall, Emiya Kiritsugu personally witnessed the entire process.
The life that tended toward destruction—was so much like the scene that had tormented him in nightmares. But that before him now was undoubtedly real.
She dreamed a dream, and in the dream, the world was burning.
The young girl, wrapped in a duvet and trembling from fear, opened her eyes.
The bedroom, guarded by the warm firelight from the fireplace, was still as calm and peaceful as before. The chilly night outside the window could not be of any threat to the girl who lay on the bed.
Even through the thick glass, she could hear the howling of the icy wind outside the window; the wind crept quietly into the house through the gap between the window and the frame. It was surely this sound that made her think mistakenly that she heard the tormented cries of people as they burned and died.
— What's wrong, Illyasviel?—
This her mother spoke, gently caressing her face. Her mother’s voice and touch, which stayed at all times by the girl’s side, at once set her heart to rest.
The girl and her mother were both existences that had been designed in the image of the magus who was called the ‘Lady of Winter’. Thus, in the girl’s heart there was her mother, and her aunt. Even if one were to pursue all the way to the very earliest ‘Primeval Justicia’, it was recorded in the girl’s heart.
Thus, even if it was a night during which she was alone, sleeping soundly wrapped in a duvet, the girl would never be lonely. She need only call out, and she could hear her mother’s voice any time, see her mother’s form any time.
“Mommy… I had a scary dream. In the dream, Illya became a cup.”
Gazing relieved at her mother’s soft silver hair and gentle eyes, the girl continued to recount her nightmare.
“Seven very, very big things were put into Illya. Illya almost broke, she was scared but also could not run away… then I heard Justicia’s voice, and above my head appeared a big black hole… then, the world started to burn. Kiritsugu looked at the world, and cried.”
Yes, she dreamed of him too. The father that she had heard say was in a faraway foreign land, dealing with some troublesome work.
Having thought of this, the girl suddenly realized that her nightmare just now seemed to represent something bad; she became uneasy again.
"Mommy… Kiritsugu will be okay, right? He won’t be alone and scared?”
Looking at the girl worried for her father, the mother smiled gently.
– It’s okay. That person will definitely strive, for Illya’s sake. So that Illya will not have that sort of scary memories again, he will definitely realize his dream, for us —
"...Nn, that’s right, that’s right.”
She knows that that person is one who has a strong desire to win. So, once he has finished that important work, he will definitely come back here immediately. The girl spread her fingers, counting the days till that day came. Though it was cold sleeping alone, even thus, her mother was still by her side. She wouldn’t be lonely—until the day she could correctly understand this contradiction.
The girl waited from within the city eternally sealed within falling snow. The promise that she had exchanged with her father, was the treasure that she valued the most.
The sky at sunset was the color of blood.
The ground before her eyes was also the color of blood.
The corpses slumped on the ground were the people who had once believed in a young girl and supported her as King, offering up to her the songs of victory.
Due to traitors sowing discord, they had divided into two factions; each had seen the other as an enemy and carried out slaughter, and then, they had fallen together on this battlefield. King Arthur’s final resting place, the foot of Camlann Hill.
Waking from a dream of the other side of space and time, kneeling dejectedly once more atop the bloodstained hill, Arturia blankly gazed at the desolate scene.
In order to change this ending, she had entrusted her soul after death to the ‘World’; and started a journey in search of a miracle.
She had initially decided not to return here; she had initially believed that she would never see this scene again. But at this moment, the young girl still knelt on this piece of land.
But this was not the ending. This was only one point on the endlessly cyclic path.
After being released from her contract, the Heroic Spirit named Arturia had not set forth for the ‘Throne of Heroes’, but had been brought back to this place Camlann, because she had not come to the end of her fate’s path; It was necessary that she meets her final end here.
In other words, before she had been summoned to be a Servant, she was not a standard Heroic Spirit who had become one after dying in reality.
At the last moment she had exchanged vows with the ‘World’, hoping to obtain the Grail, and the price was to turn her soul after death into a guardian—this was the truth about the Servant named Arturia.
The contract could only be fulfilled only under the condition that the Grail had been obtained. In other words, if Arturia did not obtain the Grail, then time would forever stop on this land; forever, where even death cannot be achieved. Before obtaining the Grail, she could only continue to participate in the fight for the Grail on the other side of time.
Therefore, Arturia’s time had been frozen in the moment before her death. Unless she obtained the Grail, she could only return again and again to Camlann. Over and over again, this scene would eternally reproach her, torment her.
On the slope of death, she still held the stance with which she had established the contract.
Her face covered with tears, gauntlets stained through with the blood of enemies, the lance in her hand piercing the heart of her own flesh and blood.
The traitor who had also inherited her own bloodline, the child of tragedy, Mordred. The entanglement of love and hate had caused her to lose everything, and the scene to be fixed at the instant when she killed her own flesh and blood with her own hands—
The instant in which the awareness of the ‘World’ had come, summoned by wretched and tormented cries, and established the contract with the hero who searched for a miracle—
This was the prison that forever bound Arturia, who had lost her time.
Within time that had lost its meaning, within an instant that was equivalent to eternity, she gazed upon the battlefield under the light of dusk, and waited for the next summoning.
She was always right; this she firmly believed in. Even thus, she had still overlooked the spark that had caused the tragedy before her eyes, just like she had overlooked Lancelot and Guinevere’s pain.
She could not figure it out, and she did not understand why she could not figure it out—this was the limit of the king Arturia.
In that case, could it be that the terrible scene on Camlann was not any trick of fate, but the necessary result of the king Arturia’s rule?
Unable to stop herself, she began to sob.
She remembered those long and distant days. She remembered the girl who had never paid attention to the men as they contested each other in the noisy arena, and had instead faced, alone, the sword stuck in the stone.
At that time, what had she been thinking of?
With what kind of resolution had she extended her arm to grip the hilt?
The memories had long since blurred; even though the tears obscured her sight, she could not remember.
In that case—her mistake must have been made that day.
She let the tears run freely down her face. In this place where time did not run, no matter what she thought or what she did, it would not be recorded in history. Here, she did not need to place on herself the title of King. In that case, it mattered not if she showed weakness; it mattered not if she showed shame.
With these thoughts, she faced the ideals that had not been fulfilled; she faced the people who had not been saved.
She faced everything that had vanished because she was king.
Though she was choked to the point where she almost could not speak, she still could not control the impulse to apologize. Though she understood that her apology could not be conveyed to anyone’s heart, the girl nevertheless repeated her regret.
"I’m sorry… sorry… I, someone like me…”
One day, after stepping over endless battles, she would finally obtain the Grail. A that time, all the mistakes that she had made, could be erased through a miracle.
As she was now—she should not be called a king.
Before the next time she was summoned, the girl would always— within the instant that was called forever, within the censure that was called eternal rest—weep and regret.
Enduring torment in eternal punishment. Feeling cowardice toward sins that could not be repaid.
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