Fate/Zero:Act 2 Part 3
Uryū Ryūnosuke disliked splatter movies. He did understand the necessity for that kind of amusement in itself, though.
Not just horror, but war movies, panic movies, and all the way to adventure movies and dramas; why does fiction keep painting man's death tirelessly?
That may be, because the spectators can minimize their fear of death by observing a fictitious imitation of "death".
Humans find pride in "wisdom" and dread in "ignorance". Hence if they can "experience" and "comprehend" a given fear, then it is a victory that resembles the overcoming of that fear.
However, "death" is merely... something that you can't experience while you live. Therefore it is impossible to understand its true meaning. That's why humans can only guess the essence of death by observing other people's death, and make up a virtual experience.
Indeed, for the civilized society to respect human life, this virtual experience cannot but rely on fiction. Yet, where war makes your neighbor minced meat with bombing and land mines, nobody watches horror movies.
Similarly, it is important to be entertained by fictional physical pain, mental stress or any kind of sorrow. When experiencing bodily sensations by yourself becomes too risky, you can overcome and remove uneasiness by observing those who do taste those sensations. ―That's why a silver screen or a cathode-ray tube bring tears of screams, grief and anguish.
That is good. That's understandable. Once, Ryūnosuke feared "death" like any ordinary person. He could have been an amateur of horror movies, if death could have been minimized and fear conquered by looking at the special make-ups of slaughtered bodies, the red ink of blood splashes and the realist acting reproducing a screaming "stale death".
Depiction of cruelty in fiction has a bad influence on young people, that much can be said; but to Uryū Ryūnosuke, this is highly ridiculous nonsense. Because if blood and screams in splatter horror had been at least a little more realistic, he wouldn't have become a homicidal maniac.
This is, really, nothing but the result of an earnest curiosity. Ryūnosuke just had to know what "death" was. The vivid red of the haemorrhagic artery, the touch and the warmth of what was inside the abdominal cavity. The agony of the victim getting these pulled out until death, the musical tone of the screams. There really was nothing that could beat that.
People say murder is a crime. But let's think about it. Aren't there 5 billions of humans crowding on this Earth? Ryūnosuke knows well how outrageous a number that is. Because he counted the gravels in the park when he was a kid. Of course he got discouraged after ten thousand, but he didn't forget the frustration he felt that time. There are five hundred thousand times that many humans. Furthermore, it is said that the number of births and deaths everyday can be counted by the tens of thousands. What weight can Ryūnosuke have by becoming a murderer? Beside, by killing people one by one, Ryūnosuke can perfect each of their death thoroughly. Occasionally, he enjoys making sure the "process of death" takes up to half a day. With this incentive and experience, the information volume brought by one death can be much more important compared to what you can get by living a too short life. From Uryū Ryūnosuke's reasoning, can't you say that homicide is a more productive action?
With that creed, Ryūnosuke wandered around in various places, accumulating murders. He didn't fear the law. The feeling of being imprisoned and handcuffed ―however many men it would actually require for that― was something he definitely "understood" to the point of not fearing it; he had "observed" enough deaths by hanging or on the electric chair for that. But his reason for escaping the law was, simply, because there is nothing to gain from being taken away from freedom and life in prison; hence he considered that living a life seeking everyday pleasure was better, that it was the right choice for a healthy man.
He is satisfied by squeezing the best out of the life force of those he kills, of feelings such as the attachment for human life, anger and affection. To let his victims know the exact time and circumstances of their death, that in itself had a deep meaning as rich as a miniaturized life.
When on the verge of death, very common people will behave strangely, and on the other hand, people seen as exceptional will die in an extremely banal way― observing such patterns in humans, Ryūnosuke pursued death; and while being an expert in death, he greatly studied its complete opposite, life. The more he killed people, the more he understood the lives he took.
That knowledge, that discernment in itself was a kind of dignity, a style.
Although Ryūnosuke couldn't find the words to accurately explain why he had that power― if he really had to sum it up, it would be all with the expression "be cool".
To make a comparison, it's like sprinkles in a bar or crags spraying around. Unable to get used to such a playground, loosening without knowing one's place, and not understanding one's amusement. But if it is about accumulating experience and adopting a rule of conduct, then he is a welcome regular customer in a place where he can control the mood into intimacy. That's what it is to be cool as a way of life.
So to speak, Ryūnosuke was a genuine player when it comes to be familiar with the comfort of the stool that is human life. Like that, he could look for victims savoring a cocktail of new methods, appreciating the taste of satisfaction.
This isn't some sort of metaphor; in the town, at night, Ryūnosuke's pleasure was his excellency in attracting victims like light traps for insects, with a certain interest in the opposite sex. Moreover, women were, certainly, charmed by the composure and dignity that emerged from his enigmatic posture. After seduction, he would always enjoy some alcohol, and the girls he really got into always ended as a blood-stained piece of meat.
The town at night would always be Ryūnosuke's hunting ground, and the prey would never notice the menace that is Ryūnosuke.
Once, he saw a leopard in some animal program, and was enchanted by its elegance. He felt a connection with the brilliant modus operandi of the hunt. The leopard was the beast with a cool way of life that became his model, literally.
Since then, Ryūnosuke ended up being self-conscious of his image of a leopard. He was always wearing clothes with something from a leopard. Jacket or pants, shoes or hat, or if that was too showy, he even had socks or underwear, handkerchief or gloves. He had an amber-colored cat's-eye ring, always in his pocket even when he couldn't slip it on his middle finger, and he would always carry on himself a pendant made with a real fang.
So, this murderer named Uryū Ryūnosuke has just recently started feeling down with a serious loss of motivation.
After some 30 victims, his methods for execution and torture has started losing its freshness as they all look the same. Testing all the techniques he can come up with, even when Ryūnosuke witnesses their dying agony, teasing his preys has already lost the taste of excitement and stimulation.
Deciding to return to the place of his origin, Ryūnosuke came home after some 5 years, breaking into the backyard storehouse as his parents had fallen asleep in this late night. It was in this storehouse that he had taken his first victim, and it was now crumbling, abandoned.
Meeting again after 5 years, his sister's body had completely changed, but she waited for her brother at the place Ryūnosuke had hidden it. The silent meeting with his sister gave him no particularly strong emotion, and Ryūnosuke was disappointed that he had come for nothing; but at that moment, he found a rotten old book from the mountain of junk crammed in the warehouse.
The thin worm-eaten book was not a printed copy but an individual note. The postscript says ninth year of the Keiō era. This writing is more than a hundred year old, dating back to the end of the Bakumatsu.
Having occasionally tapped into Chinese books during his student days, Ryūnosuke could actually read the notes without much difficulty. But the problem was the content itself. The incoherent writing of thin characters was preposterous nonsense about some kind of dark magic. Moreover, the inscriptions involved Christianity and Satan; apparently it was about some western occults. Offering human sacrifices to otherworldly demons to invoke spirits; that was definitely fiction.
In the dying hours of the era of Edo, studying western knowledge was a genre of heresy. While a book about the occult, the most heretic of heresy, could only be a prank, Ryūnosuke had some admiration for it, and he cared little about its authenticity. It was already quite cool and funky to keep just the old book on the occult from the storehouse. That was enough of a stimulus to renew his inspiration as a homicidal maniac.
At once, Ryūnosuke made the place a "spiritual ground" as described in the notes, then resumed his night time reading. He didn't know just what meaning the land now called the town of Fuyuki had, but Ryūnosuke was setting up the important points of the mood for new killings; he followed the instructions of the old book as faithfully as possible.
When he first sacrificed a girl who had run off to play at night in an abandoned factory, the stimulus was more interesting than expected. The style of the sacrificial ritual totally captivated Ryūnosuke despite his inexperience. He became infatuated with the method, and after three failed attempts, the peaceful provincial city was struck with fear.
Like that, Uryū Ryūnosuke broke into the house of a four person family for the fourth crime; he was by then completely intoxicated with ecstasy in the midst of the crime, and of course he started cooling off after repeating the same crime for the fourth time. The voice of reason in his head started whispering in his ears.
Ryūnosuke had accumulated crimes as he wandered all over the country. He never killed twice on the same spot, and always disposed scrupulously of the body. Most of Ryūnosuke's victims are, even now, being searched as missing persons.
But this time, a series of crimes without hiding the remains would warn people quickly; this definitely was folly. Obsessed with the method, he had completely forgotten about his usual prudence. This one was particularly bad. For the three previous ones, he had tried to draw the magic circle with blood, and mistakes made him go short on blood. So this time, to draw a perfect circle, he had decided to kill a little more than usual; but really, slaughtering a whole sleeping family might be a little too sensational. The police will be in a frenzy and everyone in the region will be increasingly wary. Going into hiding is definitely not the style of a ‘leopard’.
Ryūnosuke finally decided ― for the time being, let's leave the city of Fuyuki quiet. He will stick with the black mass as he quite liked the result, but he would have to reduce the number from 3 to 1 at a time for safety purpose.
After sorting up his feelings, a renewed Ryūnosuke decided to concentrate on the ritual again.
"♪ Fill, fill, filling, fill. With each repetition, four times― eh, five times? Err, only when it's full, break it up... Is it? Yeah."
Reciting the summoning chant, Ryūnosuke drew on the wooden floor of the living room with his bloody brush. The ceremony really is some serious business; that ambiance isn't Ryūnosuke's style at all. The serious mood was for his personal satisfaction; after all, what's important is the feeling.
Having practiced the magic circle all night, he finished it in one go. There was no need for reserves anymore, then. Even though he had killed the parents and the eldest daughter to draw their blood.
"♪ Fill, fill, filling, filling, fill, there. That's five times alright. Okay?"
The leftover blood seemed suitable for some fine art on the walls of the room. Waiting for a reaction, he turned toward the last survivor rolled up in the corner― a grade school boy gagged with a rope. The young kid was crying, his eyes swollen, looking at his torn up sister and parents.
"Say― boy, do you believe in demons?"
Asking the shivering kid, Ryūnosuke tilted his head in a dramatic act. Obviously, he wasn't expecting a reply: with his mouth gagged, all the kid could do was tremble in fear.
"You know, newspapers and magazines keep calling me a demon. But ain't it weird? A single stick of dynamite would do more victims at once than me."
Kids are nice. Ryūnosuke liked kids. Frightened adults cry and scream, so on that part, kids really are better. You can just laugh it off when they get incontinent.
"Nah, it’s fine. I'm kind of a demon. But if there were real demons beside me, I'd like to try to talk a little with them. Now that'd be nice. " 'Sup, name's Uryū Ryūnosuke, I'm a demon!" how does that sound for an introduction? That should be a good opportunity to make sure of it. If real demons exist or not..."
His good humor improving, Ryūnosuke tested his charm on the trembling kid. Normally, talking was annoying, but looking at blood― and standing in front of someone on the verge of death, he seemed to change and started getting loquacious.
The blood of 3 people was enough, and that was his only reason for letting the youngest child live. Though he did think he'd take the time to enjoy killing him later, after the completion of the ceremony―
"Anyway. If by any chance, a demon really comes out, wouldn't it be stupid to not have anything to drink and chat? So, boy... If Mr. Demon here does pay me a visit, how about a little killing?"
The young kid could understand well enough Ryūnosuke's idea. Ryūnosuke beamed when the kid, his eyes wide open, started twisting and struggling around without a scream.
"I wonder how it is to be killed by a demon. Will it go zip or splash, that gotta be some fun to watch. Not something you see everyday― ah ouch!"
The unexpected sting was like a cold shower on Ryūnosuke's frenzy.
That was the back of his right hand. He felt an intense pain as if he had bathed his hand in a powerful poison. As soon as the pain started, the swelling calmed down and stuck on the surface of his skin.
"... What the, hell? This..."
Somehow, a pattern like a tattoo was there on his pained right hand, and he had no idea why.
Rather than feeling anxious, Ryūnosuke reacted dandily. That incomprehensible pattern of three intertwined snakes resembled some tribal tattoo, which didn’t look half bad.
But his foppishness lasted only a moment; Ryūnosuke turned around in surprise when he felt the air move behind him.
The air grows hot. A current that shouldn't be possible indoors. Soon, the breeze changed into a whirlwind blowing in the living room.
Ryūnosuke stared at the magic circle drawn on the floor with fresh blood as it unbelievably started emitting a phosphorescent light.
He did expect some sort of abnormality to occur, but― such a blatant phenomenon was beyond his anticipation. Something big, just like in the horror movies Ryūnosuke despised. These childish effects were so laughable it wasn't funny, but it was definitely real.
The violent gust was now trampling the room, blowing off the TV, the flower vase and other furniture. In the center of the magic circle, a mist started rising, and sparks scatter. The scene was otherworldly, but Uryū Ryūnosuke was definitely not scared. He was he child staring at a magic trick, his chest dancing from expectation.
Fascination for the unknown―
The enchantment once discovered in the marvel called "death". The radiance that disappeared unnoticed when he grew tired of accumulating murder, right now―
A flash. Then a roaring sound like a thunderbolt.
The impact ran past Ryūnosuke's body. The feeling was like being fried by a high-tension current.
The strange power once passed through the Uryū family. Now forgotten by its descendants, but still carried through their blood uninterrupted, the 'Magic Circuits' had been sleeping until this day inside Ryūnosuke; that inherited mystery was now unleashed like a tidal wave. And that "alien power" flowing in Ryūnosuke has just now started running in him, then streaming back outside to the thing invited from the underworld.
―So to speak, this was an exception amongst exceptions.
To begin with, the Grail of Fuyuki itself requires seven Servants. It isn't the capable ones who summon Servants and try to become Masters. The Grail will pick appropriate persons until the count reaches seven.
The summoning of a Servant is also fundamental for the Grail. The hard work magi put into the ritual is only a precaution to create a bond with a perfect, reliable Servant. Even with an unskilled summoning circle and without chanting the spell, if a human has a catalyst, the requirements for the Grail can be met...
"―I ask of you"
From inside the enveloping haze, a soft yet strangely carrying voice called out.
The wind had stopped unnoticed. The light had left the magic circle, the radiance was disappearing, and the circle drawn on the floor with fresh blood was blackened as if burned up. And from inside the fading mist, the owner of the voice earlier suddenly showed his figure to Ryūnosuke.
A young face without a single crease yet. A pair of large, hulling eyes and greasy cheeks. Along with the deathly pallor of his face, he reminded Ryūnosuke of a painting from Munch.
His garments too were quite odd. His figure, tall enough to reach the clouds, was wrapped in a much-folded robe, decorated with luxurious latches made of precious metals; his whole style looks exactly like some "evil magician" from a manga.
"You who called me, you who requested for me, summoning the spirit of the Caster class... I ask for your name. Who are you?"
Ryūnosuke gave a small response. The one who had come out of the summoning circle with great flashes and smokes― was an ordinary human. That was definitely not what he had expected. No exaggerated monster, just a perfectly normal human? Ryūnosuke was puzzled. His clothes were definitely queer, but did that mean this man was a real demon?
Scratching his head for a moment, Ryūnosuke took his decision.
"Uh, name's Uryū Ryūnosuke. I'm a freelancer. My hobby is murder in general. I like kids and young women. Recently I'm back to sharpening my basis again."
The man in robe nodded. Apparently he had ignored everything beside the name.
"Very well. The contract is complete. Your desire for the Holy Grail is my desire as well. We shall make the cauldron of heaven ours."
"Holy― Grail ?"
On the moment, Ryūnosuke didn't get what it was about. Right, thinking again, didn't the old book found in the storehouse mention something like that? And he had skipped it because the passage was dull.
"... Yeah well, let's save the troublesome talk for later."
Ryūnosuke waved his hand lightly, before pointing with his chin at the kid rolled up in the corner.
"For now, let's talk over a drink. Won't you eat that?"
The other man, with a face as expressionless as a mask, gauged the tied kid and Ryūnosuke. Feeling anxious, Ryūnosuke couldn't tell by the silence if his words and intentions had hit home. Maybe that was asking for too much. After all, who decided that demons eat children?
Silently, the man picked a book from a pocket of his robe. The bulky book appeared to be an antique treasure from an ancient era. No doubt it was some gadget of the demon.
Ryūnosuke noticed in one glance what hide the cover was made of.
"Ah, cool! That's human skin, right?"
Ryūnosuke can recognize it because he once tried to put up a lamp shade with human skin pelt off a victim. Eventually, he got discouraged at his poor handicraft midway, but he can't help but respect an elder who has achieved a similar work through the end.
The man, casting only a glance at Ryūnosuke, ignored his compliment and gently opened the book, his hand rapidly flipping through the pages; he then muttered one or two words that made no sense, and as if it was enough, closed the book before putting it back in his pocket.
Leaving the helpless Ryūnosuke, the man walked toward the boy rolled up on the floor. At the strange events that had kept happening, the boy winced harder as if death was inevitable, trying to crawl away from the man.
Looking at the child in such a state, the man seemed suddenly full of compassion and kindness, which startled Ryūnosuke. What does that mean?
"― You have nothing to be afraid of, my boy."
Unlike what his odd appearance suggested, the strange man gently spoke to the boy. The imprisoned kid gradually notices his warmth, and looks at the man questioningly.
As a reply, the man gives a smiling nod, bending toward the boy and extending his hand at him― gently untying his ropes and gag.
"Can you stand?"
As an encouragement, the man patted the boy on the back, helping him up.
Of course, Ryūnosuke had no doubt the man was a devil, but he was really dissatisfied with how he was treating the child. Is he actually going to let him live?
Anyway, no matter how you looked at him, the man is queer. When silent, his features would look dreadful like the face of a corpse, but when smiling without any apparent maliciousness, he would seem as pure as a saint.
"Now, my boy, the door over there will lead you out of this room. Don't look around, walk straight forward by yourself. Can you do that by yourself?"
At the boy's brave nod, the man responded with a bright smile, softly pushing his back.
The boy started running lightly across the bloodstained living room, as he avoided looking at the corpses of both his parents and his sister as instructed.
Of course Ryūnosuke couldn't ignore it all and spoke, but the man quickly interrupted him with a hand sign. Overpowered, Ryūnosuke helplessly watched the kid escape.
The boy opened the door and stepped into the corridor. In front of him was the entranceway. His eyes drowned in fear until then were now shinning again in hope and relief.
The climax came the next instant.
The boy was leaving the stairs behind him, facing the entranceway. From the second floor, invisible from the living room, something suddenly fell down in an avalanche on the young boy. A bundle of heavy ropes ― no, a flock of countless snakes ― an indescribable life form, or rather, a living creature twined around the boy's whole body, and with an otherworldly force, took away the young body up to the second floor.
Then― a soul-rending scream. The clicking tongues of an infinite number of creatures, and the echo of small bones crushed. The rashness of whatever was happening on the upper floor easily stimulated imagination even without witnessing it.
The strange man closed his eyes and raised his face, listening to the nightmarish sound, drunk it in attentively. His hand shivered. Apparently he was deeply moved.
But the emotion was just as great for Ryūnosuke... No, as he didn't expect something like that to happen; the catharsis was far more intense for him.
"There is a certain freshness in fear."
The lingering memory of the horror he had himself planned out hadn't drawn out yet ―there now was no remaining doubt he was a devil― when he started speaking, and his voice sounded like he was entranced in a dream.
"Fright is about the feeling that you will die. The true meaning of terror doesn't lie in a static condition, but in a change― this is the instant when hope is turned into despair.
How was it? The smell of fresh fear and death."
"― Kh ―"
Ryūnosuke was at loss of words.
The 'thing' that was feasting on the kid's remains upstairs was, apparently, the man's doing. He was the one who had appeared from the bloody magic circle, after all. There was no possible doubt something had happened when he had opened his book with the binding made out of human skin.
The method was nerve-racking, but that is what is splendid in this philosophy. Ryūnosuke was no match for the creativity and perfect aesthetics of such evilness. Him who held such a vivid and moving "aesthetics of death" deserved the greatest praises.
"Cool! That's wicked! Man, that was super cool!"
Feeling like dancing with joy, Ryūnosuke grabbed the man's hand and shook it. Making friends with this strange man was no less moving than meeting a celebrity. The mass murderer Uryū Ryūnosuke finally felt adoration and respect from the depth of his heart for someone in this boring world.
"Okay! I don't know about this Grail thing, but I'll follow you! I'll help you in whatever you want. We'll kill more. There are plenty of sacrifices. Show me more of your cool killings!"
"You are a pleasant fellow."
Understanding of Ryūnosuke's emotion, the man replied gently to his violent handshake with a pure smile.
"Ryūnosuke, was it? It is a good omen I got a Master as understanding as you. This is developing more and more into an ideal situation for my aspirations."
When a summoning is made without a catalyst, the Heroic Spirit will be one that has a similar mindset as the Master. The one summoned by the vicious murderer was one who had left his name on extremely cruel acts; he was a Heroic Spirit with a taste for true tyranny. Or rather, based on that nature, it would be more suitable to call him a vengeful spirit instead of a heroic spirit.
"Ah―, right, I didn't get to hear your name."
Remembering about the important parts, Ryūnosuke started acting more familiarly.
"My name, yes. Indeed. For this era, you could call me..."
The man put a finger to his lips, then after thinking a little,
"... Then, for now, you can call me "Bluebeard". Pleased to meet you."
He replied familiarly with an angelic smile.
Thus, for the last position of the fourth Heaven's Feel ― the Master and his Servant 'Caster' completed the contract. This is how, without knowing the meaning of the Grail War or his nature as a magus, the casual murderer received Command Seals and a Servant.
For a trick of fate, this may be the foulest play.
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