Fate/Zero:Act 2 Part 4
The saying goes that the hour when even trees sleep doesn't apply to magi and Servants.
The Heroic Spirit of the shadows, Assassin, has a better grasp than anyone on the complexity of being prepared in the darkness of the night.
Especially since the magi gathered in the city of Fuyuki have a double interest. Standing on the hill of Miyama town, neither of the western-styled houses of Matō and Tōsaka were left behind in term of splendor.
Masters aiming for the Grail, the two landlords were using, lately, some low-grade familiars to patrol left and right, day and night around their visible castles. Naturally, the master of the mansion must be ready, and stretched around a multitude of bounded fields for detection and defense even inside the mansion; it must be a stronghold in the magecraft sense of the term.
Stepping unauthorized into the bounded fields is all but safe, all the more for the large mass of prana that is a Servant. Essentially, even if it is a spiritual body, it should be just about impossible to slip through the bounded fields of the fortress undetected.
However, the impossible can always be made possible. That is the Presence Concealment skill of the Assassin class. While he does not excel in battle power, Assassin can suppress his prana emission until it reaches zero to creep in the shadows and reach his target.
Additionally, for the Assassin of this time, Kotomine Kirei's Servant, this night's infiltration operation was especially easy. The garden he was now sneaking in isn't the one in the Matō mansion that has been considered enemy territory for some time. It is the mansion of Tōsaka Tokiomi, who was his Master Kirei's ally until just yesterday. Of course, Assassin too has agreed with Kirei and Tokiomi to deceive the other Masters and remain undercover. Obeying that secret agreement, he has undertaken the guarding of the Tōsaka mansion on countless occasions. Knowing all about the disposition of the bounded fields, he was naturally aware of the blind spot.
In his spiritual form, Assassin progressed through the many alarm fields without a problem, laughing at the ironic fate of Tōsaka Tokiomi. That arrogant magus has placed a considerable faith in his protégé Kirei, but can't imagine that he might be bitten by his dog.
Kirei's order to murder Tokiomi had reached Assassin no longer than an hour ago. He was unsure of what caused Kirei to change his mind, but Tokiomi's summoning of a Servant a few days ago must be when it began. Tokiomi seems to have summoned the Servant Archer, but apparently, that Heroic Spirit must be weaker than Kirei expected. And as the merit of the cooperation with Tokiomi faded away, he agreed with the decision Kirei made this night.
"Vain prudence is unnecessary. Have no fear of facing Archer. You need to obliterate Tōsaka Tokiomi quickly."
That was the order of his Master Kirei. Against the despised, weakest fighter Assassin, he won't be afraid and won't hurry— it should be easy to betray the miscalculations of the Heroic Spirit Archer summoned by Tōsaka Tokiomi.
Halfway through the garden, the blind spot of the bounded field one could just pass through vanished. From there on, the barrier has to be destroyed by physical mean, and one need to progress while removing it. It is impossible to proceed while invisible in spirit form.
Leaning over the shadow of the vegetation, Assassin returned from spirit form to physical form, exposing his bony mask and tall, lean figure. He can feel many "eyes" all over him from afar, different from the bounded field of the Tōsaka residence. The familiars of other Masters must be observing the Tōsaka residence from outside the barriers. As long as he remains unnoticed from Tokiomi himself, there is no need to worry about any Peeping Toms. Tokiomi's rivals disputing the Grail would never warn him of Assassin's infiltration. If one competitor drops, the others should remain unconcerned spectators.
Snickering without a sound, Assassin extended his hand at the first keystone that binds the barri—
The next instant, that hand was pierced through by a spear flying from above, shining like a flash of lightning.
An intense pain, terror, and above all, shock. The simple spear strike was completely unexpected, and Assassin swung his head upward, looking for the thrower.
No, there is no need to search.
On top of the roof of the Tōsaka residence, a golden shadow stands magnificently. That divine radiance even steals the dignity of the starlit sky and puts the moon to shame.
The rage of being wounded made Assassin forget the pain, but he could only fear the overwhelming coercion.
"You worm crawling on the ground, whose pardon do you seek?"
The golden man asks indifferently to the Assassin hidden on the ground, looking down at him with a pair of disdainful, burning crimson eyes.
"You can't look at me. Worms can only look at the ground when they die, like the worms they are."
Around the golden shadow, even more glows appeared, growing to a countless number. Suddenly sliding out of mid-air were swords, halberds, not one of them were the same, all of them treasured weapons with dazzling ornaments. And all of them were aimed at Assassin.
I can't win.
Without even thinking, Assassin realized it instinctively.
Winning against him is impossible. It's stupid to even think about facing him.
If he is able to hit Assassin, a Servant, it means that golden shadow is definitely a Servant. And if he is stopping an invasion into the Tōsaka mansion, then the Master is Tokiomi— In other words, he must be the Heroic Spirit Archer.
There's no need to fear that?
In his pledge to his Master, Assassin knew there was no contradiction in Kirei's words.
In front of such an overwhelming enemy, fear is— yes, there is no place for fear—
There can only be despair and abandon.
Slashing through the air in a howl, an infinity of shining blades started raining down on Assassin.
Assassin felt the eyes. The familiars observing from outside the place. The first Servant to fall in the fourth War of the Holy Grail met an unsightly end without even a retort, witnessed by the other Masters.
And at the last moment, Assassin understood. The true intention of his Master, Kotomine Kirei, and... of the leader, Tōsaka Tokiomi.
Relaxing in a comfortable chair of his room, Tōsaka Tokiomi listened to the roar of the countless Noble Phantasms drilling the ground, tearing flesh to pieces.
"Well, things are looking up. Now..."
The magus muttered to himself, his profile glowing a different gold from the other one under the lamp shade.
Just by its presence, the golden figure stood out in the dimly lit surroundings, like the one on the roof that just executed the invader. Turning into spirit form to come back to Tokiomi's room, then again in physical form, the Servant Archer stood proudly beside his Master, who bore a satisfied face.
The figure looking around is tall and dignified and wearing a golden armor. He is a young man with golden hair standing up like a blazing flame, handsome with an elegant face. His eyes, crimson like blood, are visibly not those of a human, and whoever is stared at cannot but wither in front of their mysterious radiance.
"You made me perform some extremely trifling duty, Tokiomi."
Tokiomi stood up from his chair and bowed respectfully, yet elegantly.
"I am sorry for your trouble, king amongst kings."
As a Master to the summoned Servant, those were manners more humble than expected. But Tōsaka Tokiomi expressed his gratitude without reserve to the Heroic Spirit he had summoned. As someone from a valued lineage himself, Tōsaka Tokiomi can perfectly discern "nobility" better than anyone. He is the guest of honor Tokiomi has summoned to win this fourth Heaven's Feel, not a humble servant, but the greatest hero.
This man, Archer, in the present era, is the "King of Heroes", Gilgamesh. The tyrant who ruled ancient Mesopotamia, part divine, part human. As a hero, rooted in the oldest origin of mankind, he is amongst the oldest kings.
Tokiomi firmly believes in the value of nobility. Even with the supremacy of the Command Seals, or with the best contract, nothing can surpass ranks. Even if he was a Servant, that golden young man was one who deserved the highest honor.
"The outcome of tonight's event will save us a lot of complications. Having witnessed the power of the "King of Heroes", no stray dog will try to bite in vain."
Archer appreciated the truth in Tokiomi's words. Tokiomi and his upright attitude, lost in more flattery than it was necessary, also has no hope in this era. The King of Heroes could understand that.
"In a little while, the field beasts will understand who the hunting lion really is. Please have patience until then."
"Very well. I will just walk off my boredom. This era seems fairly interesting."
At Archer's words, Tokiomi glossed over his slight irritation with a sour look.
Certainly, the Servant he has contracted with is the strongest. But he gives him headaches when he wanders away for his selfish curiosity. In the present world, he hasn't spent even one whole night quietly in the Tōsaka mansion. Tokiomi devoted much effort to keeping Archer inside the mansion for Assassin's raid tonight.
"... Does this era please you?"
"Its ugliness is beyond help. But it does hold love as it is.
What is essential is whether or not there is a treasure worthy of my fortune."
Bragging with a cynical smile, Archer gazes at Tokiomi with his red eyes full of divine authority.
"If there is not a single thing worthy of my favor in this world— the price for summoning me in vain will be heavy, Tokiomi."
"Rest assured. The Grail will definitely catch your attention, King of Heroes."
Confident, Tokiomi replied without fear.
"That will be mine to decide. ... Well, this is fine. For the time being, I will do as you say. Every treasure in this world is mine. Depending on what kind of treasure this Holy Grail is, I will not overlook mongrels fighting for it."
With that haughty declaration, the King of Heroes turned his heels and cancelled his physical form, vanishing like a mist.
"I will be your lion, and I expect to be amused. I will leave the details to you, Tokiomi."
Tokiomi dropped his head at the shadowed voice without a shadow. He didn't stop his reverence until the presence of the Heroic Spirit had disappeared from the room.
"... Well, well."
The magus sighed deeply when the pressure from the golden man went away.
Servants receive certain skills when a class is attributed for the Heroic Spirit in the present world. Those skills are abilities such as Assassin's "Presence Concealment", Caster's "Territory Creation", and Saber's and Rider's "Riding". By the same way, a Servant being assigned the class Archer in the present world possesses the unique skill of "Independent Action".
This ability means he is capable of being severed from the Master supplying prana and act in autonomy; this is useful, for example, if a Master needs to concentrate all of his prana for a single large spell, or if the Master is injured and unable to supply enough prana. Yet on the other hand, it becomes harder for the Master to have the Servant accompany him and be completely under his control.
As an Archer, Gilgamesh's skill of Independent Action is ranked A. With this alone, he can use Noble Phantasms at will in battle and remain in the present world without the Master's back-up... But by having this, the King of Heroes was able to ignore Tokiomi's inclination and stroll around in Fuyuki City as he wished. Constantly apart from each other, Tokiomi can never be aware of his own Servant's whereabouts, or of what he is doing.
Having not a single interest in his own world, Tokiomi cannot understand what amusement a man like the King of Heroes can find by walking around to watch people's lives.
"Anyway, for now, I can have Kirei handle it. Everything is going as planned for the moment."
Snickering, Tokiomi looked down at the garden through the window. The excess of destruction gouged when Assassin crept in made the scene look like it had been bombed.
"Assassin― has been killed?"
Disappointed by how quickly it had ended, Waver Velvet opened his eyes.
Until a moment ago, he was spying over the complete turn of the scene at the Tōsaka mansion, and his vision now returned to the room he has gotten used to ― on the second floor of the house of the old couple he lived with like a parasite. The image that was behind his eyelids until just then was coming from the vision of a rat familiar. That kind of magecraft is nothing spectacular for Waver.
With the opening of the Heaven's Feel, the first step was obviously for Waver to start by observing the Matō and Tōsaka mansions. There is a detached villa owned by the Einzberns in the forest on the outskirts, but the magus from the North hasn't arrived yet, so there's no reason to observe an empty place.
Nothing had moved yet from both houses, and the Masters were growing tired of waiting, wondering about raiding either the Tōsakas or the Matōs; that was only wishful thinking to ease the observation, but they didn't expect it to actually happen.
"Hey Rider, here's something new. There has been one loss."
The giant, despite being called, was lying there on the floor, and only responded with an "Hmf" devoid of motivation, not even turning around.
Waver was downright pissed.
He had been doing nothing but rest his pained muscles all day in his room ―strictly speaking, that was someone else's room, but let's put that detail aside― but Waver couldn't settle down. Even though he had ordered him to go back to spirit form when he wasn't doing anything, Rider had refused, saying he felt "more comfortable in materialized form", and so he has been showing off his giant body all this time. Just dragging on the materialization means a large prana loss for the Master to supply to his Servant; that isn't too much of a problem for Waver, but in those circumstances, Rider is quite unmindful.
Harder to forgive was what Rider was doing while spending Waver's prana, which was... well, nothing, in fact. Even with Waver scornful, he was just resting, relaxed, nonchalantly picking around in a dish and watching a rental video. Can you believe that Servant?
"Hey, did you hear me? Assassin got done in. The Heaven's Feel is starting!"
As Waver was rising his voice with excitation, Rider finally turned around half of his body.
"Yeah, what about some assassin guy? A rat in hiding is not much of an enemy."
"Anyway, boy, what's amazing is that, here."
Rider turns back to face the CTR as he speaks more heatedly. The cassette is playing "an authentic account on the flight force of the world, part 4"... With a mania for military affair, Rider has put his hand on everything related, books, images. Of course, providing all of it is Waver's problem. Otherwise the giant Servant would walk in a library or video store, which isn't fine with the Master.
"There, that big black B2 thingy. It's wonderful. I'm thinking about buying ten of those."
"―Just go and buy a country if you have that money."
Waver spat his answer out of frustration, and Rider made a serious face, moaning "Oh yeah..."
"Of course, funds are an important matter... Maybe I should plunder a city as rich as Persepolis."
Apparently, that guy, Rider, has seriously been considered conquering the world and done research on the wars of the current era. Even the information he has received from the Grail has limits. For one, he doesn't know the price of one stealth bomber.
"For the most urgent matters, this Clinton man is a formidable enemy. He might be a stronger enemy than King Darius."
Waver has endured stomachaches ever since he has summoned that Servant. He'll have a stomach ulcer by the time they get the Grail.
Shutting the giant in front of him out of his consciousness, Waver tried to think positively.
At any rate, it was a good thing for Waver that Assassin was the first to fall. Waver is aware that his own Servant, Rider, with his battle abilities, is the type to go full frontal in a fight. With that in mind, an enemy who can plan out clever tricks is a bigger threat. And Assassin was pretty much the definition of that. An unknown Caster Servant is also a problem, but an Assassin who creeps up without revealing himself was the most direct menace.
The three main Knight classes, Saber, Lancer, Archer, then Berserker who just riots his way, are nothing to be afraid of. Rider's abilities and Noble Phantasms are enough to push them back and win. All that is left is finding out Caster's true name―
"― So, how was Assassin killed?"
Sitting up cross-legged, Rider threw a surprise attack at Waver with his sudden question.
"Yeah, the Servant who beat Assassin. Didn't you see him?"
Waver faltered. He did see him― but, just what did he see?
"Must be that Tōsaka Servant... I guess. Looked strong and aggressive, showing off with a lot of shiny-goldy things. It took only an instant, so I'm not sure..."
"That's what mattered, fool."
Along with his shocked voice, something burst in the middle of Waver's eyebrows. The completely unexpected pain and the surprise make Waver fall off then tumble flat on his face.
That was Rider's middle finger. Holding it bent by the thumb then shot forward: that's a flick on the forehead. Of course, there was no strength in that. However, when it's Rider's finger, hard as the root of a pine tree, Waver's skin swelled red from the force.
Violence again. Corporal abuse again. Waver was confused between fear and frenzy, and was at a loss for words. This is the second time he is hit by his Servant. This is the second time in his whole life. Unable to breathe properly because of anger, Waver opened and closed his mouth like a fish. Ignoring how upset his Master was, Rider drew a deep, grand sigh.
"You know, if I fight, it's to win and survive. What will happen if you can't observe properly?"
Waver didn't reply. Rider was right. He doesn't want to hear it from a Servant who does nothing but lie down, eat tea cakes, watch videos, and read, but it's true that there are enemies who can become a problem.
"Oh well, never mind. That shiny-goldy or whatever, what impression did he give you?"
"I, I told you that..."
How could he have understood anything in that instant?
For starters, the attack that sent Assassin into oblivion is probably a Noble Phantasm. Even through the eyes of the familiar, he had perceived a huge burst of prana.
Yet the number of weapons that poured down on Assassin―
"... Hey, Rider, Servants usually have just one Noble Phantasm, right?"
"Generally, yes. Sometimes, there are Heroic Spirits who managed to get two or three. I myself, for example, am one of this case."
That's right, the night he arrived in the present world, Rider showed Waver a Noble Phantasm and said it wasn't his only trump card.
"Eh, there's no sense in considering the number of Noble Phantasms. As you must know, Noble Phantasms are the crystallization of the historical facts and anecdotes that made the Heroic Spirit famous, but that doesn't have to be a weapon; it can be a specific ability or a unique mean of attacking."
"... So, throwing ten or twenty weapons at once could be a "Noble Phantasm" in itself?"
"A sword that splits in an infinite number, eh? That could happen. It has the potential of being one "Noble Phantasm", yes."
Still, what defeated Assassin is yet again something different. Waver did see through the eyes of his familiar that the weapons thrown weren't all the same. That wasn't a multiplication. Those were all unique weapons.
Could they have all been Noble Phantasms after all? That shouldn't be possible. There weren't just one or two blades flooding down on the crawling Assassin.
"Oh well, that's fine, we'll know when we figure out the true identity of the enemy."
Laughing heartily, Rider slapped Waver, who was thinking deeply, on the back. The impact shook his spine and the small magus starts choking. The blow this time wasn't humiliating, but Waver could appreciate some gentler skinship.
"Are, are you quite done!?"
"Good. My heart is in joy."
Rider remarked carelessly with a daring smile.
"Food and sex, sleep and war― enjoy yourself however you want. That's the secret to a man's life."
Waver couldn't find the fun in that. Or rather, he had no experience in two of those.
"Alright, let's look for some fun outside."
Cracking the muscles in the back of his neck, the giant Servant stretched largely.
"We're departing for the front. Be ready."
"The, front... Where?"
"Over there of course, where else."
Standing up and nearly reaching the ceiling, Rider looked down at Waver's angry face and smiled.
"You're not the only one who was observing the Tōsaka fort. This means Assassin's death is already known. So they'll all grow tired of looking out for an attack from the shadow, and they'll all start moving together at once. We'll find them and hunt them."
"Find and hunt... Like it'll be that simple..."
"I am Rider. I have predominance over the other Servants going by foot, you know?"
With that exaggeration, Rider drew the sword at his waist out of its scabbard. Realizing that he was about to call out that Noble Phantasm, Waver stopped him confusedly.
"Waitwaitwait! You can't do that here. You’ll blow up the house!"
That night, the expected visitor appeared at the Fuyuki Church on the hill of the Shinto suburb.
"Following the Heaven's Feel agreement, I, Kotomine Kirei, request the protection from the Holy Church."
"I accept. Conforming to my duty as a supervisor, I, Kotomine Risei, will guarantee your security. Come inside."
To the two men who had arranged everything, this was a laughable farce, but they couldn't know if there wasn't still someone spying at the gate. Kotomine Risei feigned strictly his role of supervisor with a grave face, and invited his son, weakened by his defeat as a Master, inside the Church.
With many residents from outside, Fuyuki has a lot more people coming at the church than the other towns; despite being in the Far East, this church of Fuyuki is the center of the belief from Western Europe, giving it a genuine splendor. However, the resting place of ordinary Christians is nothing more than a camouflage, as the church was built in this place by the Holy Church specifically for the Heaven's Feel. Being the third best spiritual place, it matches the mansion of the Second Owner of this earth, the Tōsaka family.
Obviously, the Father who has come here and taken over the supervision of the struggle to the death between Masters and Servants is a member of the Assembly of the 8th Sacrament. In other words, the priest who has been administrating the daily religious service for the ordinary Christians is no other than Kotomine Risei.
"I see everything has been carried out without problem."
Leading Kirei through the priest’s house, Father Risei dropped his acting and nodded with a serious face.
"Father, who is watching over the church?"
"Nobody is. This neutral ground has guaranteed inviolability. The Church dissuades Master from interfering unnecessarily. On top of that agreement, the defeated ones are of no interest."
"We will have tranquillity, then."
Sitting on the chair that was offered to him, Kirei sighed deeply. Then―
"We shouldn't neglect vigilance, to be sure. There should always be someone."
He speaks with a cold-hearted, commanding tone to nobody. Of course his words aren't addressed to his father. Father Risei beside him doesn't see the speech of his son as strange.
"― Also, was anyone observing the scene?"
"Yes, that is me."
This time, a voice responded to the question Kirei had apparently asked at an empty space. A woman. Under cover in the corner of the room, a female appeared in black clothing that seem to boil.
Neither Kirei nor Risei raised an eyebrow to that appearance. ―But the appearance of the woman was that of one that shouldn't be here.
Jet black robe wrapping a soft stature, a symbolic skull mask hiding her face, this costume is without a doubt that of the Heroic Spirit of assassination, Hassan-i Sabbāh.
"There were traces of four different types of familiar at the place of Assassin's death. I believe there are at least four Masters who have witnessed the scene."
"Hm... We are missing one."
Narrowing his eyes as if to think, Kirei looked at his father at his side.
"The 'spirit board' definitely indicated the arrival of seven Servants, didn't it, father?"
"Yes, without a doubt. The last one, 'Caster', arrived two days ago. As usual, the names of the Masters weren't given, but all the Servants of this Grail War must be present."
Kirei would have preferred all five people to witness this night's farce.
"Observing the mansion of each of the three main families should be a given for all Masters participating in the Heaven's Feel."
The woman in a skull mask standing at his side ― the one who cannot be anyone but Hassan-i Sabbāh spoke her opinion.
"If there is anyone with the nerves to ignore their guard like that, they are too careless for us Assassin to begin with. Is this conclusion satisfactory?"
If the Master Kotomine Kirei had lost his Servant, the Seals carved on his hand should have disappeared. But the three deep black stigmas were still carved there.
In brief... The Servant Assassin hasn't been annihilated. Then the masked woman who was currently serving the two Kotomines must be the real Hassan-i Sabbāh.
"Is it regrettable that the man died?"
The woman shook her head with an air of indifference at Kotomine's question.
"That man was one of us Hassans who didn't have any particular forte. Losing only him does not affect us as a whole. Still―"
"I cannot say his death affects us, but a loss is a loss. You could say it is like losing a finger. I do not wish to think he was a vain sacrifice."
Kirei listened intently as the woman put forth her growing protest through her humility. Of course that was not unreasonable.
"That is not vain. You can deceive the other Masters by sacrificing one finger. They all already believe Assassin has fallen. Do you not think all of you can now turn the tide of battle under cover?"
"Indeed, you speak the truth."
The woman in black clothing bowed her head deeply.
This time, thinking Assassin has been removed, nobody will expect the Heroic Spirit of shadows to creep up behind their back. Who would know― that the Servant Assassin was still kneeling in front of the Master who had ran to the Church.
Even for those competing for the miracle called the Heaven's Feel, that was evidently a strange situation.
Indeed, the name of Hassan-i Sabbāh doesn't refer to just one person. The name Hassan, that means "old man of the mountain", was once the root of the word "assassin", a name passed down to the head of a group of assassins in the Middle East. This means that historically, there are several Heroic Spirits with the name of Hassan. Of course, it isn't a miracle that there was one female Hassan.
But as a general rule, there can be only one Assassin summoned for the Heaven's Feel. It is theoretically possible to have control over two Servants by taking one from another Master, but having over two Assassins simultaneously means it is obvious a rule has been bypassed.
"At any rate, this marks the opening of the hostilities."
The exaggerated voice of the dignified old priest was filled with anticipation for victory.
"The Fourth Heaven's Feel has begun. It seems these old bones of mine will witness a miracle this time."
Unable to share the enthusiasm of his father, Kirei silently gazed at a dim-lit corner of the priest’s house.
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