Fate/Zero:Act 1 Part 2

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-282:14:28

The darkness was permeated by a thousand years of ambition. Emiya Kiritsugu and Irisviel answered the summons of the head of the Einzbern family, rushing to the Einzbern's old castle sealed off by ice, to the grandest yet darkest place in it: the ceremony chamber.

It was definitely not for praising the gods for favors, or letting spirits find their peace. As a castle of magi, the so-called ‘prayer room’ is used for executing thaumaturgical ceremonies by sacrificial offerings. As such, the stained glass does not portray any saint, no, but rather the long history of the Einzbern’s pursuit of the Grail.

Of the three founding families, the Einzbern spent the most time searching for the Grail. They enclosed themselves in the deep, icy mountains, severing all ties with the outside world, and began to seek the miracles of the Grail a thousand years ago. But their search was filled with setbacks and humiliation, suffering and opposition. Searching like that, they failed.

Finally, they grew weary of their solitary search, and agreed to cooperate with two outside families, the Tōsaka and Matō, two hundred years ago.

In the Heaven’s Feel rituals that followed, they never won, as their Master always fell short. Their solution, nine years ago, was to hire a magus specialized in fighting from outside the family.

Emiya Kiritsugu can be said to be the trump card of the Einzbern family, ones who have always been proud of their pure bloodline. To accommodate him, they changed their family creed, only for the second time.

Passing down the halls, Kiritsugu caught sight of a relatively new stained window.

On it was drawn the Einzbern’s "Holy Maiden of Winter" Lizleihi Justizia, and two magi waiting on her, left and right. All three of them extended their hands to the Grail in the sky. It was easy to tell from the composition and balance how much the Einzbern looked down on the Tōsaka and Matō, and their humiliation on having to rely on them. The painting communicated it all.

If he was lucky enough to win and survive the upcoming war, thought Kiritsugu, laughing at himself bitterly, his own image would probably be displayed like that on a window, against his will.

The old magus king of this icy castle awaited Kiritsugu and Irisviel in front of the sacrificial altar.

He was Jubstacheit von Einzbern, better known as "Acht" after he became the eighth head of the Einzbern family. By prolonging his life, he had lived for almost two centuries, leading the Einzberns through every one of the Grail wars. He did not remember the Justizia era, but ever since the second Heaven’s Feel, old Acht has suffered the pain of defeat many times. To him, the anxiety that he feels at this third opportunity for the Grail is extraordinary.

"The holy relic we requested people to find in Cornwall finally arrived this morning." Stroking his white beard like a frozen waterfall, old Acht stared at Kiritsugu, an astute light emitting from his deep sockets, hiding his senility. Kiritsugu has lived in the old castle for a long time; yet, he can never tolerate the bias and pressure he feels in Acht’s eyes every time he meets him.

Acht’s had indicates the sacrificial altar, which holds a large charchol colored box, trussed tightly. “using this as a catalyst, it’s possible to summon the strongest Heroic Spirit of the Sword. Kiritsugu, count this as the Einzbern family's greatest aid to you."

"I am deeply grateful, dear head of family." Pretending to be expressionless, Kiritsugu bowed deeply.

The Grail seems to have accepted the Einzbern family breaking the rules, and including blood from outside. The Command Seal appeared on Kiritsugu’s right hand three years ago. Soon, he will bear the zealous, thousand year old wish of the Einzbern family, and participate in the fourth Heaven’s Feel.

The old man turned his eyes to Irisviel, who was facing downwards in respect. "Irisviel, what's the status of the vessel?" "No problems. Even in Fuyuki, it will function normally," Irisviel answered fluently.

The wish granting machine, the omnipotent chalice, is only a spiritual entity and does not possess a physical form. To allow its Holy Grail form to descend, a vessel for it must be prepared. As such, the war of seven Servants for the Grail can be called a spiritual evocation ritual.

The duty of preparing a vessel for the Grail, ever since the beginning of the Heaven’s Feel, has been carried out by the Enisbern family. For the fourth War, the mission of creating the vessel has fallen to Irisviel. Therefore, she must leave for Fuyuki with Kiritsugu: she must be at the battlefield.

Old man Acht, eyes shining with insane strength, nodded seriously. "This time... no one must survive. Kill the six Servants; this time we must acquire the Third Magic, the Golden Grail."

"Yes sir!" Hearing the burning fervor in the old man’s command, magus and homunculus, spouses bearing the same fate, answered simultaneously.

But in his heart, Kiritsugu could care less about this old head of family's rigid desire. Achievement… Acht has condensed all of his emotions into this one word, and all of its infinite interpretations. Come to think of it… his spirit likely only has this rigidity towards achievement left.

The materialization of the spirit is a miracle. A thousand years seeking this lost miracle... in this long and arduous journey, they have long since lost their method and purpose. The Einzbern family continues to fight only to prove that their thousand year journey was not wasted, only for the confirmation that the miracle does exist.

It doesn't matter. As per your expectations, through my hands I will grant you your sought-after Holy Grail.

As to not lose to old man Acht's enthusiasm, Emiya Kiritsugu said so in his mind.

But that's not all. I will use that omnipotent chalice to grant my own deepest wish...


※※※※※


Kiritsugu and Irisviel went back to their own rooms, and opened the long box entrusted to them by the head of family. They were mesmerized by its contents. "Who would've thought... They were actually able to find this thing..." The usually composed Kiritsugu right now seems deeply impressed.

A scabbard made of gold and decorated with dazzling blue enamel. This sort of luxurious equipment should be called a treasure, to show dignity and nobility like a crown, or a scepter, instead of a weapon. Engraved into the middle is an inscription of the long lost Fairy Letters, proving this scabbard is not a work of man.

"... Why isn't there the slightest flaw? Is this really the genuine relic made from an era over one thousand five hundred years ago?"

"This thing is a type of Conceptual Weapon. It definitely won't deteriorate physically, not mentioning that it's a holy relic that will be used as a catalyst. This treasure lies in the realm of magic." Irisviel took out the golden scabbard from the lined box carefully, holding it in her hands. "Legend says keeping this scabbard on one's body will heal the wounds of its possessor and can stop aging... of course, the mentioned facts are magical powers provided by its 'original owner.’ Meaning as long as the Heroic Spirit summoned is functional, this thing itself can be used as a 'Master's Noble Phantasm.'"

The scabbard’s one-of-a-kind ingenious design and exceptional beauty entranced Kiritsugu, but in just a few moments, his train of thought immediately changed to the direction of how to use it as a pragmatic 'tool.'

Watching Kiritsugu, Irisviel can't help but let out a small bitter smile. "That's really your style. A tool is a tool no matter what, right?"

"If you say it like that, even Servants are the same. No matter how famous the hero, as long as it is summoned as a Servant, to the Master he is a tool. It is impossible for a person who has unrealistic fantasies about a Servant to win this war."

When showing his aspect as a soldier, Emiya Kiritsugu’s profile becomes rock hard and callous, quite unlike him as a father and a husband. Before, when Irisviel didn’t understand him, she was truly afraid of that side of him. "Only someone like you is worthy of this scabbard -- this is grandfather's judgment."

"Is that really how it is?" Kiritsugu's expression shows obvious dissatisfaction. If Acht knew the reaction of his hired son-in-law to the holy relic he spent so much effort finding, he would certainly be unable to speak from rage.

"Are you unsatisfied about grandfather's present?" Irisviel did not blame Kiritsugu at all for wanting to make impertinent remarks, but only thought that asking that question would be amusing.

"How can that be? He has done more than enough for us. There cannot possibly be another Master who got a trump card as good as this."

"Then what are you so unsatisfied about?"

"With such a perfect holy relic, the summoned heroic spirit will definitely be the one we want. But his and my personalities are too vastly different. Originally, the nature of the summoned Servant will be affected by the Master’s personality. In theory, all Servants have similar personalities to their Masters’. However, this holy relic takes priority. The more exact the nature of the relic, the more likely it is that the summoned Servant will be locked as a certain spirit.”

"... Meaning that you are uneasy about the contract with the 'King of Knights,' right?"

"Of course. There probably isn't anyone in the world who is more incompatible with the ways of the knight." Half jokingly, Kiritsugu's lips curled in a slight smile. "A head-to-head battle is not my style, especially in a death match. If I am to attack, then it should be from behind while the enemy is asleep. Not caring about the time or place, just for the purpose of eliminating the enemy most efficiently, using the method with the greatest probability of success... You think that prestigious knight would aid me in such battles?"

Irisviel became silent, focusing on staring at the shiny scabbard. Without a doubt Kiritsugu was that type of soldier: attaining victory by any means necessary. There is no need to test it; the personalities of Kiritsugu and the owner of the scabbard would definitely clash.

"... But don't you think it's a waste? The owner of 'Excalibur' is without a doubt the strongest of the Saber Class."

That is correct. Only this glory-radiating scabbard is fit to pair that supreme sword. This is definitely the relic of that King of Knights whose tale has been passed down in legends since medieval times - King Arthur.

"That's right 'Saber' was already the strongest of the seven classes conjured by the Holy Grail. And if this King of Knights occupied this position... I've obtained a virtually invincible Servant. But the key here is the question of how to use this strongest battle force effectively. To be honest, if only the factor of being easy to control was considered, 'Caster' and 'Assassin' are actually more fitting to my style."

Then -- clashing with the nandi flame-style, extravagant decor of the room, a light electronic sound interrupted the two's conversation. "Ah, finally here."

On the heavy black sandalwood table was a randomly placed notebook computer; the marvelous combination was like that of a stitching machine on an operating table. Magus lineages with long histories have never found the convenience of technology. The Einzbern family is no exception. The small electronic device that looks strange beyond compare to Irisviel is a personal item brought in by Kiritsugu. A magus who does not feel repulsed from using such machines is very rare; Kiritsugu was one of them. When he requested that a telephone line and power generator be installed, he had a huge argument with the old head. "...That sound, what is it?"

"The report sent from the fellow that infiltrated the London Clock Tower. I asked him to investigate the status of the participating Masters in this Heaven's Feel."

Kiritsugu sat in front of the machine and began operating the keyboard skillfully. The LCD monitor displays one new mail. That is the new technology commonly known as the "Internet" in the cities, which Kiritsugu has already explained to Irisviel. But, her patience shows that she does not comprehend a bit of it.

"...Oh, there's information on the identities of four Masters."

The Tōsaka participant is obviously the head of family Tōsaka Tokiomi. A thorny person of the 'fire' attribute who specializes in jewel magecraft.

The Matō family seems to have forced that failure who couldn't succeed as the head of family into being a Master, what nonsense... but the old fogy of that family is exerting great effort to gain the grail.

As for the magi coming from out of town, first of all, there's the first-rate lecturer from the Clock Tower, Kayneth El-Melloi Archibald. Ah, he knows about this man. Having both 'wind' and 'water' attributes, an expert who is proficient in spiritual evocation, summoning, and alchemy. He is currently the most renowned magus in the Association. How troublesome.

And there's a man sent by the Holy Church... Kotomine Kirei. Originally the representative of the 'Assembly of the 8th Sacrament,' he is the son of the one who fulfills the role of supervisor - Kotomine Risei. Sent to Tōsaka Tokiomi to learn magecraft three years ago, and then broke away from his teacher after being granted the Command Seals. Hmph, a fellow filled with the smell of gunpowder.

Kiritsugu browsed the detailed contents of the investigation; watching her husband, Irisviel was extremely bored. Suddenly, she noticed that Kiritsugu, who had been staring at the screen, had quite serious and tense expression. "...What's wrong?"

"This son of Father Kotomine. Even his past has been cleaned." Irisviel stood behind Kiritsugu and looked at the LCD monitor, following his finger. To Irisviel, looking at text not on paper was very difficult, but considering her husband's serious expression, she did not complain.

"...Kotomine Kirei. Born in 1967, accompanying his father Risei to the holy grounds since youth, graduating in '81 from the Theological College of Manresa St. Ignacio... skipping two grades, and was the student council president; he seems to be quite an accomplished man."

Kiritsugu nodded unhappily. "He could've definitely reached the position of cardinal minister like that, but he willingly abandoned this outstanding opportunity to join the Holy Church. In fact, he had lots of choices, so why did he chose to dedicate himself to such an inside organization of the church?"

"Perhaps he was influenced by his father? Kotomine Risei is part of the Holy Church too, right?"

"If that's the case, then he should have had the goal of retrieving lost holy relics like his father all along. Indeed, Kirei did join the same department as his father in the end, but before that, he was transferred three times and was once chosen as an 'Executor.' He was only ten-something years old then too. This job cannot be done without a certain amount of willpower." That was the Holy Church's bloodiest department, called the Shura's Den for its responsibility of punishing heresies. To be able to gain the title of "Executor" would mean that he is a first-rate murderer, signifying that he has passed brutal and pious training to become mankind's weapon.

"Perhaps he is a faith fanatic. The younger the purer; such a thing as having a fanatic love for belief surpassing certain limits exists."

Even after hearing Irisviel's opinion, Kiritsugu still shook his head. "It's not like that... if it was, then this guy's situation of the past three years cannot be explained. If his faith was chaste, it would be impossible for him to transfer into the Magus Association; it seems to be an order from the Holy Church, or it's possible that he was more faithful to the religious doctrine than the organization. But even this cannot explain it, because there is no necessity to train in thaumaturgy this seriously. Look, Tōsaka Tokiomi's report about Kirei given to the Association. The scope of training includes alchemy, spiritual evocation, summoning, divination... he is even more adept at healing magecraft than Tōsaka Tokiomi. What exactly is the reason for this enthusiasm?"

Irisviel continued reading the document, all the way to the end where Kotomine Kirei's ability summary was. "...I say, this Kirei really is kind of strange, but is it worth it for you to scrutinize to this degree? Although he seems to be very talented, he's not really a cut above other people."

"Ah, that's what I find strange." Looking at the uncomprehending Irisviel, Kiritsugu patiently explained. "No matter what this man does, he cannot reach the 'first-rate' level. When it comes down to it, he's not some sort of genius, just a normal man. But his achievement of quick results through complete and total effort is indeed scary. Certainly he has to exert ten or twenty times more effort than other people to achieve this level, but he actually stops when there's only one step left, and then without any lingering love transfers into another region. All the things he raised laboriously all along are tossed out like trash."

"..."

"He clearly chose a lifestyle many times more exciting than that of others, but in this man's life, he has never let others feel 'affection'. This guy - is definitely a dangerous man," Kiritsugu concluded.

Irisviel understood the meaning contained within his words. When he says "troublesome", although the opponent is very thorny, he actually is not seeing the opponent as a threat. The method of dealing with this type of opponent and the chance of success, Kiritsugu is already eighty percent assured. But when he uses the rating of "dangerous"... Emiya Kiritsugu only uses this rating against opponents he need to fight whole-heartedly.

"This man certainly does not believe anything. Only continuously seeking answers, that's why he experienced so much. The result is he still did not find anything... he is that kind of morally void man. If I had to say what this guy's heart contains, then it's probably only anger and despair."

"...You are saying, to you this Executor is a more powerful foe than Tōsaka Tokiomi and Archibald?"

Pausing for a while, Kiritsugu nodded resolutely. "...A terrifying man. Indeed Tōsaka and Lord El-Melloi are strong adversaries. But I think Kotomine Kirei's 'way of existence' is more fearful."

"Way of existence?"

"This man's heart is thoroughly void. He has nothing that can be called a wish. But why would a man like this bet his life to fight for the Grail?"

"...Is this not the intent of the Holy Church? Supposedly those guys mistakenly believed Fuyuki's Grail is the real relic and targeted it because of this, isn't that right?"

"No, only with that level of motivation, the Grail will not grant Command Seals. This man was chosen by the Grail as a Master. He must have some reason to obtain the Grail. What this reason really is, precisely because it cannot be seen... that's what makes this point terrifying."

Kiritsugu sighed deeply, looking at the monitor drearily, attempting to find something more from the character of Kotomine Kirei fabricated by dull text. "What do you think would happen if this kind of void, desireless man obtained the Grail? This man's whole life was built by despair. The power of the wish-granting machine, the Holy Grail might be tainted by the color of his despair."

Kiritsugu was being too indulgent of his sadness, and for the purpose of advising him, Irisviel shook her head strongly. "What's stored within me, the vessel of the Grail, I will not give to anyone. When the Grail is filled, the one who has the privilege of owning it - it's only you, Kiritsugu."

The elders of the Einzbern only wish for the completion of the Grail; that is their sole desire... but for this young couple, after this, they still have wishes that need realization. Dreams that need realization. Kiritsugu shut the lid of the notebook computer and hugged Irisviel tightly. "No matter what, we can't lose."

For his wife, right now compared to her family's desire, Irisviel cares more about her and her husband's ambition. This fact deeply moved Kiritsugu. "...I got it. The way to use the strongest Servant's power to the maximum limit."


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