Fate/Zero:Act 3 Part 2
Just at the time Emiya Kiritsugu and Hisau Maiya were meeting in a cheap hotel of Shinto, the Volare Italia charter coming from Germany was landing on the F lane of the airport neighboring Fuyuki City.
Even under the same frozen wind of winter, the one of Japan can't be compared to the intensity of that of the Einzbern castle. Looking up at the soft sunlight of the early afternoon, Irisviel von Einzbern feels her heart lighten.
"So, this is the country Kiritsugu was born in..."
It is a good place. Although she could get to know the place with pictures and such, Irisviel felt refreshed feeling the air through her body.
Not only her heart lightens. Coming to Japan posing as a passenger, she couldn't bring dresses for the castle, but had to bring more common clothing as much as possible to at least get to know the town. With short heeled boots and a knee-long skirt, her movements felt as light as if she was reborn.
Nonetheless, to an Einzbern who lived a secluded life oblivious of the common sense of the outside world, the dress-up she thought would be fit of common garments was already off. Her silk blouse, her thigh-high long boots, her casual coat with silver fox fur, everything was coming straight out of a high class display window; it was very visible that she was a rare gem from a particular birthplace with a particular tailoring. They were clothes clearly fit for a fashion model, but to Irisviel who grew up with polished jewelry, it seemed intimate enough; even, Irisviel had indeed considered it a camouflage for towns areas, but it was simply impossible for a beauty such as her to disappear in the general public to begin with.
"So, Saber? What did you think of the plane travel?"
One step ahead down the runway, Irisviel asks the Servant with a short stature, who is leaving the lap that continues further.
"Nothing in particular. It was more wearisome than expected."
There is no lie in her words. Her jade green eyes are perfectly serene.
"Oh, too bad, I thought you would be more surprised and interested."
"... Irisviel, you must be thinking of me as a primitive person."
To the frowning Saber, Irisviel replied with a bright laugh void of any ill intention.
"Flying in the sky is nothing surprising for a Heroic Spirit?"
"Not exactly, But as a Servant summoned in the present world, I have received information about this era. Also, as a Saber, I possess a skill dedicated to Riding. Presently, I might be able to ride this airplane."
Hearing that, Irisviel's eyes go round from astonishment.
"You could― pilot it?"
"Probably. My riding skill applies to all vehicles. If I can sit on a saddle and seize a bridle, I can manage the rest from instinct."
Irisviel burst into laughter from Saber's expression. She hasn't seen the cockpit. What would she think when seeing one filled with gauges instead of her saddle and bridle?
Be that as it may, she said the truth about skills. The mounting ability of the Saber class allows the use of any vehicle save for phantasmal beasts and divine beasts. If needed, she could definitely handle modern tools like a car or a bike.
"I'm still a little disappointed. You must be the first Servant ever to travel in a plane with a flesh and blood body."
"... I must apologise about that. I am not a good reference."
"Oh, it's fine. ―Don't worry. That isn't what I meant."
Foreign Masters have to travel to Japan one way or another, but Irisviel and her Servant posing together as a party of two must be an exception.
The cause was Saber. Despite being a Heroic Spirit, she had limits other Servants didn't have. The gravest amongst these was that she could not dematerialize. She didn't have the ability to cancel her physical form to move at high speed or cut down the prana consumption from her Master when at rest, something all Servants should be able to do. It's not that there had been a mistake in Kiritsugu's contract or his summoning: the soul of the hero named Artoria functioned differently from the other Heroic Spirits... Apparently. For a reason unknown to even Irisviel.
The most problematic burden was that she was unable to turn invisible and hide her existence to the other people. There was no way she would walk under her armor suit, so Saber had to dress up as a human with a costume of the latest fashion, and accompany Irisviel.
―Although, Irisviel found rather welcome that Saber would follow her in convenient garments.
"I am happy I could travel with you, Saber. I can't get tired of looking at you."
"? Irisviel, why the change?"
"No, It's nothing. Don't mind that."
Hiding a smile, Irisviel turns her head away. Saber finds that reaction suspicious.
"... It means you are holding something when you laugh like that. Tell me frankly what it is."
"It is not a problem if you always remain in physical form, really. I get to have fun choosing your clothes, like that."
How carefree― Saber wanted to reply, but sighed instead. Being unable to dematerialize is essentially a drawback that can't be dealt with for the Master. Enjoying oneself isn't the primary objective, but telling the Master it is no laughing matter would be mistaking the cause for the end.
"Irisviel, are these clothings fit to look around in town?"
"Yes, ... I guess. It is my first time in this country as well, so I am a little anxious."
If a third party with the common sensibility of a Japanese had happened to be present, he would have definitely been able to tell that Irisviel was different.
Irisviel had taken Saber's measurements before their departure and issued orders to get modern clothing at a tailor of the Frankfurt airport for a dark blue dress shirt and necktie with a French continental dark suit. That was perfect to disguise her as a man.
It would sound wild and foolish to dress a young woman of under 155 centimeters like that, but this is suddenly a different matter when speaking about Saber.
This isn't the perverted beauty of having a beautiful woman dressed as a man. The air of Saber's cold and hard face isn't that of a feminine complexion. It was already a given that her disguising as a man was unequalled as a beautiful young man. Along with her thin stature, her face was obviously glamorous and fair-skinned, which could pass as the manly, charming air of a pure young man.
"I chose the clothes to balance with my appearance, maybe you do not like them?"
"Ah, not at all. This costume allows me to move freely, and I am used to posing as a man."
The necessity of slipping out of her armored clothing was obvious, but there was no denying Irisviel had jumped straight into a dressing-up hobby more than it was required.
Entrusting to the two maids who had come with them the luggages coming out from the cargo area, Irisviel and Saber turned to the customs house with empty hands. After the two maids had sent the luggage to the Einzbern villa in the forest on the outskirts of Fuyuki City by a different route, they arranged their return to home. They were not to remain at Irisviel's side for this Heaven's Feel. There is no need to put in danger people who aren't related. On that matter, Irisviel would care for her personal belongings by herself, and the strong-hearted Saber would remain by her side.
Completing without delay the procedure to enter the country, it didn't take much time until they were allowed to get to the airport lobby. But until they could reach it, every single one of the officials on the way got astounded by Irisviel and Saber and rolled their eyes as they passed, quickly making them uneasy.
"As I thought... Is there something wrong with my clothes?"
Sensing the eyes of the people coming and going in the lobby, Saber mutters as if feeling awkward.
"Well, it might be too elegant..."
Irisviel could only smile bitterly, but to tell the truth, she too was the center of attention. At any rate, the two of them are unequalled beauties. Their eccentric clothing, how removed from common sense they are, balances their rash match rather well. The attention from the surroundings was not just odd glances, but already envious ones.
"― Let's go, Saber. Worrying won't change much."
Saying so, Irisviel pulled Saber's hand with a bitter face.
"At last we are in Japan. We must enjoy ourselves as much as possible before the battle begins."
"No, Irisviel, the question isn't about enjoying―"
As Saber stretched her mumbling halfway, Irisviel walked like on springs to find a taxi. Somehow, Saber hadn't noticed until now how lively she was shining.
Soon after the two arrived in Fuyuki City, sunset colored the western sky as it was quite late in the afternoon.
As the hired car was going down the plaza of the park in front of the station, Irisviel's impression lit her eyes as she was exposed to the traffic jam of the evening hours.
But Saber by her side was studying the surroundings just like a commander investigating the topography of a battlefield.
"Kiritsugu has already arrived in this place, hasn't he?"
"Yes. He arranged to arrive half a day before us."
Already inside the country, Kiritsugu was to hide his existence and follow a completely different route from that of Irisviel's group. He was to take a passenger flight to the international airport at Shin-Ōsaka and change for the railroad to Fuyuki City.
"Are we to meet up again?"
"It's alright. He will be the one to come to us."
Saber wouldn't show any of it, but she was quite shocked by Kiritsugu and Irisviel's plans that she didn't quite find satisfactory.
"Then, what is the plan, now?"
"Right... For now, we shall observe the changes in the situation and adapt ourselves accordingly."
"Do you mean we have nothing to do?"
Irisviel gave a childish smile that looked mischievous to the discouraged Saber.
"But what a waste. After finally arriving to this distant country."
Smiling while watching the traffic jam around, Irisviel strolled a little dispirited. At her side, Saber, feeling confused, firmly followed her pace.
"And― what about trying to find an enemy Servant?"
"Hmm. No way."
Refusing blankly, Irisviel turned around, staring expectantly at her partner.
"Say, Saber. Since we have such an opportunity, we could look around the town. It must be interesting."
For an instant, Saber was taken aback by the unexpected proposition, but immediately straightened up with a stern face.
"Irisviel. We cannot be unprepared. We have to consider the land of Fuyuki we are walking in as an enemy territory already. The Heaven's Feel has already started."
"Yes. I depend on you for that, Saber. If we come near a Servant, can you notice it?"
"Well... That is correct."
Dematerialized or not, Servants can perceive the presence of other Servants. Of course, everyone has their own affinity with searching for the enemy, and there are those like Assassin who have the ability to erase their presence.
"In my case, I am able to perceive a presence in a radius of up to roughly 200 meters. Also, an opponent with the proper ability could tamper with that."
"I see... But right here and right now, there is no Servant targeting us, is there?"
"Then let's have a look around over there. We don't have to search anyway."
When seeking a hidden opponent, striding across the town provocatively was certainly an acceptable plan. An audacious one, but since Saber has no ability for searching actively, there is no other way to do a proactive search. Being unable to dematerialize, she also loses the choice of doing covert espionage.
But more than being based on a coherent plan, Saber sensed that Irisviel had a hidden motive. Actually, Saber could only see Irisviel's invitation as a mere sightseeing jaunt.
"Irisviel, we really should establish somewhere and reunite with Kiritsugu to work out a plan. Hasn't the Einzbern family prepared a castle on the outskirts of the town?"
"Well... Yes, we have that."
It was Irisviel's turn to start mumbling. Apparently she was conscious that her behavior wasn't fit for a situation of crisis. Guessing there was a reason, Saber asked again.
"Why do you insist so much on visiting this town?"
"You know... This is my first time."
A little nervous, Irisviel looked down as she replied. Saber sighed from the shock.
"―As you know, by being taken over by the Grail, I have knowledge of this world. Of course I also know about this land that will become a battlefield. Irisviel, this town isn't really a place for sight-seeing. Especially since there are no particularly famous places."
"No, that isn't it. That is not what I―"
Like a child, strongly refusing to give any explanation at first, Irisviel then hesitated a little and finally confessed frankly.
"I― this is the first time I have gone out."
Not understanding at first, Saber kept listening, dumbfounded.
"As I say, like a rebirth― this is the first time I have walked in the outside world."
"Then ever since you were born... You have stayed in that castle all your life?"
Not liking the conclusion, Irisviel hung her head in shame, giving a small nod.
"I am a puppet created only for this Heaven's Feel. The elder has always told me I had no need to go out."
Saber didn't really have a life full of joy as Artoria either.
But she couldn't avoid feeling compassion toward this person who had been like a bird in cage, imprisoned in that frozen castle ever since she was born.
"Of course, It's not like I don't know anything, right? Especially since Kiritsugu came. He taught me a lot of the scenery and the happenings, with movies or pictures. About New York, Paris, and all the people in the world. About Japan too, of course."
Smiling miserably, Irisviel looked at the traffic jam around.
"But... This is the first time I have seen this world with my own eyes. So, maybe I am being a little too happy and merry. I'm sorry."
Saber nodded, quietly turning her eyes, and gently offered her arm wrapped in her dark suit to Irisviel.
"This is my first time walking in this town ― but escort is also the duty of a knight. So I will do my best. Then, if you please."
Her eyes lit with a bright joy, Irisviel entwines her arm around Saber's elbow.
There must be a lot of time left before the night.
Saber and Irisviel easily drew all the attention in the middle of the business district.
The young woman was full of dignity, with her glittering silver hair and cashmere coat, by no mean pompous, but definitely nicely fitting, walking with a good looking young man with a brilliant face, holding her arm. That wasn't a combination you'd see anywhere except outside of a cocktail party filled with movie stars.
Those visions coming straight from the silver screen are now leisurely striding through the road of a Japanese provincial city. Anyone walking down the road would stop to look and forget walking for an instant.
The two didn't have the harmony of a couple at a date, nor the admiration of people just sightseeing, only following the flow of their journey, walking aimlessly. Sometimes, they would suddenly stop to happily gaze at the setting sun shining in the windows of the buildings and the show windows, nothing special; they wouldn't enter any shop to make any expense nor sit at a cafe terrace to rest.
Like two understanding outsiders, they would simply slip in the noisy surroundings, watching over the working life of the city from a fixed distance.
Unnoticed, the winter sun had completely sunk behind the mountain range, leaving the curtain of night to reveal a different face of the urban area. Irisviel sighed, entranced by the colorful illuminations of the twinkling scenery.
The world is probably full of towns with a more beautiful night view than that of this Fuyuki city. But Irisviel was deeply moved by the night before her eyes, as if putting her hands on a treasure for the first time.
"It's really beautiful... The life of people alone makes the night dazzling..."
Irisviel's murmur showed her emotion, to which Saber silently nodded. The political world she once lived in was now in a distant space-time from this place, but no emotion sprang from this scene she saw for the first time. Yet, the tranquillity was only on the surface, as inside, her nerves were like a needle.
This place is already an enemy territory― this knowledge remained unchanged.
Saber is definitely not a Servant excelling in searching for the enemy, and depending on the situation, an enemy Servant would likely find her first if she was wandering about. It is hard to think that any enemy could pounce straightforwardly when everyone is looking, but still, right then, a well-timed surprise attack would not be weird.
Even so, without reproving Irisviel, she complied to her hope of fully enjoying herself freely for a brief time; the reason is her unwavering confidence in her sword.
She is the Heroic Spirit summoned as the strongest class of the Grail of Fuyuki, the position of swordsman. There is no Servant that surpasses her in close combat. She is certain that she can clear an escape route from the battlefield under any disadvantageous situation.
Actually, a surprise attack is what she desires. To withstand it fair and square, turn the table and go for the kill. If anyone is enough of a fool to plan on making her their enemy, she may remind them that the Saber class is not about gallantry.
"... Hey, Saber, do you want to see the beach next?"
As Irisviel was unable to hide her excitement, the young woman disguised as a man nodded with a smile. Her tension wasn't picking any opponent.
She had sworn she would protect Irisviel. So she would protect her to the end as she was enjoying herself. That was the strength of her high pride as a knight.
There was a vast seaside park on the opposite shore of the big bridge that crossed the Mion River.
Late at night, two persons were strolling on the lone walkway with nobody around anymore. The north wind from the sea was blowing softly uninterrupted, blowing up Irisviel's long silver hair like the trail of a shooting star. In this place, couples dating hate the chill of winter nights and would only come in summer; but Irisviel, who was seeing the sea for the first time, didn't care about the cold as she had grown accustomed to it, back at her home place.
"We should have come here when it wasn't dark..."
Simply looking at the sea at night filling the bleak darkness, Saber said so in an apologetic tone. But Irisviel was unconcerned, concentrating on the horizon that had sunk in the dark.
"It's fine. The sea at night is beautiful too. It mirrors the night sky."
Listening to the endless roar of the waves, Irisviel's smile was all over her face.
As she had greatly enjoyed today's walk, her fair-skinned cheeks were flushed. She looked more like a young woman of tender years rather than a married woman with a child, with her innocent and naïve smile.
"I really had no idea― that walking through an unknown town as a couple with a gentleman would be such an enjoyable experience."
"Was my imitation of a gentleman satisfying?"
As Irisviel rejoiced, Saber banter with her with a sarcastic tone, unusual from the stubborn Heroic Spirit.
"Plentifully. It was faultless. Saber, today, you were a superb knight."
"You honor me, princess."
The young woman in the dark suit bowed courteously in front of her. Irisviel felt a little embarrassed, turning her head toward the sea.
"Saber, do you like the sea?"
"In my time, in my country... What was beyond the sea was always the enemy.
It was annoying and not very attractive."
At Saber's reply, Irisviel's expression becomes a little clouded.
"... It is tough to forgive. You are a woman like me.
For you who lived as King Arthur, dating gentlemen was not a suitable thing to enjoy."
"Well yes, that it was."
Saber shrugged her shoulders, smiling nonchalantly. She had no regret from casting aside her womanhood. Instead, her small chest was filled with the pride of leading through the battlefield.
"But you, Irisviel, would you not want to walk through the city with Kiritsugu rather than with me?"
This time, it was Irisviel's face that was crossed by a smile.
"He... Cannot do that. He would be pained with mixed feelings."
Not grasping the meaning of her reply, Saber makes a dubious face.
"Can Kiritsugu not enjoy his time spent with you?"
"Not that. He would certainly enjoy it as much as I do. ... That's why he can't. He is one for whom 'happiness' is a pain."
Carefully analysing these words, Saber tries to comprehend the contradiction in the man named Emiya Kiritsugu.
"―He is a man who cannot value his happiness, is that the weakness he bears?"
"Maybe so. That man is always punishing himself deep inside. If he wants to keep chasing his dream, he has to be coldhearted."
With a distant gaze, Irisviel looks at the sea. Thinking of her husband who is hiding somewhere in the city, preparing for the same goal.
Saber reflected for a moment upon those words.
... Today, the discussion has moved on an unexpected topic after the sea. Even though they had intended the day to end on a pleasant mood.
Nonchalantly, Saber held and pulled Irisviel's upper arm. Just by this gesture, Irisviel settled down and exchanged a look with Saber.
"... An enemy Servant?"
The sensation didn't change. From undercover, a hundred meters on the side, he is leaving plain indications like a provocation. He is clearly conscious of Saber's presence, yet doesn't shorten the distance, rather slowly distancing himself―
"He seems to be inviting us."
"Hmm. That is honest. Does he want to choose the battlefield?"
Without a trace of tension in her voice, Irisviel still kept cool as she replied. In this battle situation, that is the proof of her complete faith in Saber. This made Saber revise her inner judgement in favor of her mistress.
"It appears the opponent has the same expectations as us. Making the opponent bite on the indications left for show... He is a Servant looking for a frontal fight, just like you, Saber, isn't he?"
"That would be a Lancer or a Rider class. He makes a straightforward opponent."
At Saber nodding, Irisviel again returns a fearless smile.
"Then, shall we take on the invitation?"
"I wish the same."
It is dangerous to blindly take the bait and follow the enemy to a field at his advantage. But Saber isn't the frail type to fear such tricks, and her mistress doesn't underestimate her Servant either.
The marks of the enemy were getting more distant, and Saber started walking with a quiet self-confidence. Irisviel, following likewise, turned on the switch of a palm-sized device hidden in her pocket. This is a "transmission machine" entrusted by Kiritsugu, a device for him to follow the position of Irisviel's group from a different route. It is a mechanized gadget that works without prana that Kiritsugu intentionally chose.
Irisviel trusted Saber's power. Any enemy of a rank lower than Saber that they would meet shall be killed in a blink of the eye with one sword strike by her proud Servant― that was the easy development she was expecting.
Yes, as much as possible... She wanted her knight to end the fight before Kiritsugu entered the battle.
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