"...Damn it. This is bad."
Rider, who was standing on the arch of the Fuyuki Bridge overlooking the battle taking place in the warehouse district, muttered softly as he stood up.
"Wha, what is?"
Seeing the giant Servant display impatience for the first time, Waver became agitated, and he questioned Rider while clinging to the steel frame.
"Lancer brought out a decisive technique. Looks like he wants the match decided quickly."
"Wouldn't that be favorable for us?"
"Fool, what are you talking about?"
Rider stamped his heel on the steel frame he was standing on with a bang. For Waver, whose entire body was clinging to the frame, the tremor shook him to his very bones, and another shriek rose.
"I wanted to wait out on the battle's development before everyone arrives, but by the look of the current situation Saber's going to have a disadvantage, and it would be too late to attack by then."
"Too late? – Didn't you want to strike when they have all become exhausted from fighting each other?"
"...I think you have misunderstood something, boy."
Rider furrowed his brows and tilted his head downwards to look at the Master lying beside his feet, as if disappointed at the performance of a humorless clown.
"I did hope that other Servants would take up Lancer's bait. Isn't it obvious? Rather than picking them out one by one, it's far better to get them all together and have a great battle royale!"
Waver forgot to answer; he was shocked out of his wits in realising the differences between his understanding and that of the brave Heroic Spirit.
"Get them all together... a great battle royale?"
"Yes. It's such a rare opportunity to cross blades with the greatest heroes across all ages. If all six of them are here in completion, I won't let any one of them get away."
A fierce and dangerous growl as that of a lion seeped out of Rider's throat, but there was a tint of laughter as he tilted the ends of his lips upwards. Waver realized that only this man could wear a grin like that.
"Now then, Saber and Lancer. They both have the flaming spirit of true warriors. I admire them; it would be a pity to let them die like this."
"What else is there apart from killing them?! Isn't that the point of the Holy Grail Waaa-!"
Waver's slightly hysterical voice was mercilessly interrupted by a smack to his forehead.
"Victory without ruin, domination without disgrace. That is true conquest!"
Rider proclaimed, holding his chest upright; then he unsheathed the sword by his waist and sliced through the hollow sky with a swing, cleaving apart the empty space.
An enormous shining Noble Phantasm immediately appeared, accompanied by spiralling torrents of galloping prana. Waver felt like he was about to be blown over by the sudden storm, swallowing his screams and hugging the steel frame even tighter.
"Observation is over. We will join the battle, boy."
Before his words were finished, Rider had mounted the Noble Phantasm with a leap, his mantle flowing.
"Idiot idiot idiot! You're acting nonsense!"
"Oh? If you don't want to go, you can stay here and look."
"I am going! Bring me along, idiot!"
"Good, that's more like my Master!"
Rider emitted clear laughter, took hold Waver's collar gently, and let Waver ride beside himself.
"Now roll on, Gordius Wheel • Wheel of Heaven's Authority!"
The Noble Phantasm answered the call of the King of Conquerors with a thunderous tremor.
Gales surged. A confusion of life and death.
The moment that the swordsman and the spearman slid past each other, flowers of bright crimson blood fluttered and bloomed briefly – before fading away in the blink of an eye.
Saber, who charged past, stopped. The two of them turned at the same time.
They both still stood erect, without losing the thought of warring against each other. The two Heroic Spirits were still intact.
Finally the battle had the slight possibility of moving away from the path of attacking each other. At that moment Saber took in the situation and made a quick decision that prolonged their duel.
As a result, the yellow short spear that poised to pierce Saber did not land on Saber's chest, but her left arm. At the same time the golden sword that Saber uplifted deviated just a little from Lancer's vitals, the edge aimed at Lancer's left arm... Curious how they were injured at the same place.
But were they damaged to the same extent?
"You still won't let me win easily... It's very good, that adamant manner of yours."
Lancer stared at Saber with a desolate smile, as if desperately trying not to pay attention to the wound on his elbow. As expected, like a film on rewind, Lancer's injury was healed without anyone touching it and left no trace behind. A Servant's self-healing would not manage to recover him that quickly; it must be his hidden and observing Master who used the healing magecraft.
Contrary to Lancer, even Saber's demure beauty could not hide her pain and anxiety.
Lancer's airborne spear and the sword clutched tightly by Saber's two hands had a definite imbalance in power. At least, from the outside, the wound dealt by the short spear on Saber's forearm seemed rather light compared to Lancer's injury.
"...Irisviel, heal my wound as well."
"I healed it! I did, but..."
Compared to Saber, who was injured, Irisviel's expression appeared even more flustered.
Irisviel was undoubtedly a first-rate magus. The strength and intensity of her craft goes without saying. She is, in truth, an exception in the world of magi, possessing a body that was ‘designed' and ‘manufactured'.
It would be impossible for her to make mistakes when using basic magecraft such as healing. Even if an error did occur on the off chance, Irisviel would know how to deal with it herself.
And yet –
"No, the healing did work. Saber, your current state is one of full health."
Saber did not dare to keep her guard down as she kept appraising Lancer with caution, and at the same time stared at the injury on her left arm. The wound did not bleed much and was quite shallow, but the problem was that her sinews were severed. The most important digit on her hand, the thumb, can not be moved; therefore Saber can not exert enough strength to grip the sword hilt.
Saber knew that there is nothing wrong with Irisviel's healing methods, but the arm was not cured. Her left thumb felt as if it was born crippled, turning completely immobile.
Lancer paid no attention to Saber, nor did he resume his attack. Full of confidence, he bent down and retrieved with his left hand the yellow short spear that fell to the ground.
"In front of my Noble Phantasm Gáe Dearg • Crimson Rose of Exorcism, it's good that you realized armor is useless."
Perhaps he thought that after showing the effects of his Noble Phantasm, there was no point in keeping up the masquerade. Lancer spoke the true name of his Noble Phantasm with no hesitation.
"But you were rash to discard your armor. If you had not, you would have a defence against Gáe Buidhe • Golden Rose of Mortality."
Lancer, the long red spear in his right hand, the short yellow spear in his left, began to swing them exaggeratedly as though spreading a pair of wings, in exactly the same manner as when the battle first began. It was not a gesture to seduce, but a unique battle style mastered after arduous training.
"I understand now... It is a cursed spear; wounds dealt by it would never heal. I should've noticed this earlier..."
A crimson spear that severs prana, a cursed golden spear, and a love spot below his left eye that attracts women – it was easy to determine once all those are put together. Based on legends, the glorious name praised by the Celtic legends of heroes was actually remotely related to King Arthur. It was quite incredulous that this did not occur to Saber.
"The first warrior of the Knights of Fianna... Diarmuid of the Love Spot. I did not know that the Grail granted the honor of participating in the war to you."
"That's the beauty of this war for the Holy Grail... But the honor is mine. For one that traverses time and space to join the Throne of Heroes due to its invitation would not mistake your golden sword for any other."
The Servant participating in the fourth Holy Grail War, Lancer... the Heroic Spirit of the Celts, Diarmuid ua Duibhne.
Lancer, whose cover was carelessly blown off, narrowed his eyes with a refreshed feeling despite that.
"Competing with the famous King of Knights to avenge your sword blow – Hmph, I wouldn't give this opportunity up either."
As Heroic Spirits who are separated by time they had no historical connections. Through the legends of the past from the era that invited them forth, they managed to know the heroes that came after them. Diarmuid also knew of the legend of King Arthur that brought fame to his homeland after his time.
"So, since we know each other's name, I challenge you as a knight to determine the victor of this mundane battle – although I've already wounded your arm. Are you feeling that it's unfair, Saber?"
"Don't kid me. It would be more of a shame to me if you worry about such a small injury of mine."
Saber declared resolutely, while at the same time gritted her teeth with hatred deep in her heart.
Just one blow is not a big deal...
Saber gathered her prana once again to wrap herself in silver armour. Although it would be a waste of prana before Lancer's Gáe Dearg, it could still block the critical blow from Gáe Buidhe. Saber compressed the surrounding air and once more sealed her golden sword inside Invisible Air • Boundary of the Wind King.
Her wound cannot be healed. Most likely, the curse of the golden spear will not be dispelled until the spear itself is destroyed, or its owner Diarmuid has fallen.
Saber must break through Lancer's twin spears with her remaining right hand. With the aid of prana bursts, single-handedly wielding her sword would not be too painful. But the strength that could only be delivered with both hands was sealed, and she can not use her ultimate attack: Excalibur • Sword of Promised Victory.
However – At this moment, far from cowering down, Saber's fighting spirit soared.
It was a meticulous plan to use one of his two Noble Phantasms first, and cunningly lure his enemy into carelessness. Saber was not angry with the trick; rather, she eagerly wanted to applaud Lancer's scheme.
This enemy is perfect.
She encountered such a flawless enemy for the first battle of the Holy Grail War. As a warrior who lived by the sword, it was inevitable that her fighting spirit ascend to the skies when faced with a fabulous opponent. At the same time Diarmuid ua Duibhne, the one that stood opposing Saber, was also forcing himself to face her not only with tricks, but spending all of his wits on this ultimate battle.
Lancer would have detected Saber's vigor without words. A satisfied grin seeped up Lancer's mouth. His heart felt the exact same way as Saber's did. Lancer respected Saber for sacrificing her left arm to block the surprise attack of his Gáe Buidhe that was unleashed for the kill. It added an extra sheen to the joy Lancer associated with the worth of winning this battle.
As knights, the two Heroic Spirits even echoed each other on their souls' desire to do battle.
"Prepare yourself, Saber, I will win this time."
"Only if I do not win first, Lancer."
The two exchanged their bold provocations as both planned their next, fatal attack, slowly and cautiously approaching the other.
The holy sword and demonic spear were at the edge of an explosive situation.
The air that was cold and clear and full of tension – at that moment, it was suddenly cloven apart by a thunderous ruckus.
" – !?"
Saber and Lancer were both stilled with awe, simultaneously turning to look at the south-eastern sky. The source of the sound was clear for all eyes to see.
A flying object drew a straight line across the sky and was heading directly to their location, shedding violet sparks of lightning on its way. The sound was undoubtedly created by it.
Irisviel was dumbstruck as she said in shock.
From its appearance, it was an antique chariot with two prows. War horses were not yoked on the shaft, but handsome bulls with muscles rippling like waves. Their hooves ploughed the empty space, pulling the luxurious and splendid chariot forward.
No, the chariot was not merely floating in air. Its wheels boomed loudly; it was not solid ground but lightning that the bulls stood upon.
Every time the bulls' hooves and the chariot 'stomped' upon the empty sky, violet lightning spread like a web, rolling the air upwards with deafening roars. The prana spurting from the lightning was probably what Lancer and Saber can only unleash if they use up every single ounce of their strength.
Only a Servant's Noble Phantasm can be so strange and emit such a great amount of prana. Without a doubt, a third Servant had decided to interrupt the duel between Saber and Lancer, and was therefore showing himself.
Saber and Lancer both tensed, and stared at the suddenly arriving chariot soundlessly. Irisviel's alarm was obvious, and the unseen Master of Lancer should have also felt a shiver of fear.
To be enveloped by such an enormous aura of lightning and thunder, the Heroic Spirit is most likely some sort of thunder god. And if it was a thunder god with a connection to bulls, the first one to come into someone's mind would be the highest god of Mount Olympus. Although this chariot can not be called a Heroic Spirit itself, even as a Heroic Spirit's attachment it was very threatening.
The chariot that tread on lightning circled above Lancer and Saber menacingly, then slowed down and landed on the ground. It was positioned exactly between the two Heroic Spirits, blocking both the sword and the lance. The dazzling light that ceased as the chariot landed revealed the figure of a muscular man, standing commandingly at the helm of the chariot.
"Both of you, put down your arms. A king comes!"
This casual bellow was almost as loud as the thunders emitted when he rode upon the air. The fiery glare almost held the power to reflect back the opposing sword blade and spear tip.
Lancer and Saber are both famous Heroic Spirits; a yell or two is not going to scare them away. However, this new Heroic Spirit did not want to attack them, but just joined in because he wanted to intervene in their duel. The two of them began to hesitate since they did not understand the reason behind that action.
The imposing owner of the chariot first dented Lancer and Saber's vigor then continued to speak in a stern tone.
"My name is Alexander, King of Conquerors. I am participating in this Holy Grail War and received the class of Rider."
That was when everyone really became gob-smacked. In the war of the Holy Grail no Servant would want to declare his identity as it could be a key component of his battle plans. Meanwhile, the most agitated people around was Waver, who sat beside Rider.
"What – the bloody hell do you think you're doing, stupid moroooooooon?"
His fear of Rider's looming bulk already forgotten, Waver shrieked at Rider while grasping the mantle of the King of Conquerors.
Bish, the merciless finger flick echoed in the night; the protesting voice died down. Only the middle finger of Rider's right hand paid any attention to it, and Rider asked with a glance to Lancer and Saber that were on either sides of him.
"You slaughter each other to obtain the Grail... I want to ask you something before you engage.
I don't know what expectations you have of the Grail. But now, consider for moment whether your wishes are even greater than the desire to possess all of earth and heaven."
Although Saber still hadn't understood what he meant, her instincts told her that those words were full of danger. Her pupils widened subconsciously.
"You – what do you want to say?"
"Hum? I was quite clear."
By then Rider had maintained his dignity, but his voice was much more gentle and amicable.
"I have descended upon the battlefield, so do you have any intention to pass the Holy Grail to me? If you forfeit your claims to the Grail, I would regard you as friends, and share with you the joy of conquering the world."
It was such a random suggestion. Saber was dazed before she had a chance to feel angry. Opposite her, Lancer was also stunned speechless.
Alexander, King of Conquerors. He is indeed an extraordinary Heroic Spirit. There had no one else like him in human history, so full of eagerness to manifest his ambition of conquering the world.
But even so, what about Rider's suggestion? Suddenly jumping out, proudly declaring his true name, demanding others to respect him before he had shown his worth in battle: all those actions made it look like he has no desire to join the war for the Holy Grail.
It was the first time that anyone had seen something like this. It was hard to tell whether this was a wise decision or a foolish move.
"I admire your boldness in declaring your identity just then, yet... I found it hard to agree to your proposals."
Lancer shook his head with a bitter smile, but there was no laughter in his eyes. A glare as intimidating as a sharp sword collided head-on with the scornful sideway glance of the King of Conquerors; sparks flew.
"I will lift up the Grail; that is the oath I took with the only new king of this era. The one that will hold the Grail in his hands will not be you, Rider."
"...Did you stop my duel with Lancer just to declare all those nonsense?"
Saber asked, immediately following Lancer's words. Her expression was different from that of the beautiful spearman; there wasn't any laughter to be found. Rider's suggestion was extremely irritating for someone as serious as her.
"Your joke was overdone, King of Conquerors. This is unbearable humiliation to a knight."
Lancer and Saber both cast hostile glares towards Rider. Rider mumbled as if troubled, massaging his temples with his knuckles subconsciously at the same time. Although Rider appeared to be running out of plans, his majestic pose did not change at all. Therefore, Rider is actually someone rather rare.
"... Are you offering terms to me?"
Feeling that Rider might make some attempts of flattery, Lancer and Saber simultaneously refused him. Saber continued with disappointment written on her face.
"Besides... I am also that lord that rules the kingdom of Britain. No matter what kind of a king one is, he can never bow before another lord."
"Oh? The king of Britain?"
Rider showed interest in Saber's declarations and raised his eyebrows.
"How surprising. The renowned King of Knights is actually a young girl."
" – And would you like to try the blade of that young girl, King of Conquerors?"
Saber lifted her sword as she lowered her voice. Her left hand was still powerless to hold the sword; its four fingers were just resting on the hilt. The fighting spirit that rose wavering from the blade, however, was more solemn and majestic then when she fought Lancer. Rider furrowed his brows and let out a long sigh.
"My – breakdown of negotiations, is it. What a waste, that's too bad."
When Rider looked down and mumbled to himself, he found the glance that was full of hatred that looked up from beside his feet.
"Ri, de, eeer..."
He had the pain that came with his swollen forehead, but his regrets were more tragic than that pain. Waver's deep cries passed through the air.
"Nooow what? Talking again and again about conquest, and people still dislike you... do you really think you can beat Saber and Lancer?"
The stocky Servant faced his master's questions with no sign of remorse, but began to laugh heartily.
"Er, well, wasn't there a saying that says actions speak louder than words?"
"And your action is just to say your true name out loud like that!?"
Waver was so angry that his head was dizzy. Using his two weak fists, he continued to hammer at the breastplate of Rider, who was just standing there, and started to cry tears. Looking at this sad situation, Irisviel felt neither contempt nor sympathy. She just felt that she couldn't take it anymore.
The atmosphere that had subtly relaxed –
"Oh? It is you, of all people."
– Suddenly became tense again with the low, resentful voice that crept along the ground.
It was the still-concealed Master of Lancer. Ever since he had urged the Servant to use his Noble Phantasm, the observation had been very quiet. Now he was interjecting to ask Waver's purpose in coming here.
It was a sound that was completely different from the tone used before; something that exposed a heart drunk with hatred.
"And I was wondering what you stole my Holy Relic for in your outrage – I didn't think you would actually have the guts to join the Heaven's Feel on your own, Waver Velvet."
Waver heard someone calling his name with malice and knew that he was the subject of that hatred. Not only that, Waver may be able to guess the owner of that voice.
How could he not predict it? With his rank as high as lecturer of the Clock Tower, Holy Relics for other Heroic Spirits can still be prepared even if Alexander's cloak was stolen. Therefore, at the land of Fuyuki, it is not a surprising thing to have this man standing before Waver as his enemy...
"What a pity. It's a shame, really. I actually wanted my poor beloved student to be happy. Waver, someone as mediocre as you only deserves to possess the calm and stable life of commoners."
Waver was dazed with delusions, unable to determine where the voice came from. He no longer knew how many times he had experienced the nauseating feeling in his stomach – Lecturer Kayneth El-Melloi Archibald. The feeling of having those crystal blue eyes that held a mixture of humiliation and pity, which glared down at Waver from the lecturer's mean and slender face somewhere above the boy's head – he felt it acutely once again.
Waver wanted to return some smart remarks to the lecturer. Waver had, before his lecturer had managed, skilfully made the Heroic Spirit Alexander into a Servant that obeys him. Was that not the best revenge for the humiliation that he suffered at the Clock Tower for such a long time?
Yes. It is no longer a relationship of teacher and student. He is now my true enemy. I can hate him as much as I want, even going as far as taking his life. Now he is undoubtedly my real opponent.
During the few years that Waver spent at the Clock Tower, he had always hated that haughty lecturer in every waking and sleeping moment, even considering killing him for a few times – yet, it was the first time that he was faced with such enmity from his lecturer. The youth Waver experienced the gaze of a true magus that was full of the desire to kill for the first time.
However – the reverse is also true.
The owner of the voice saw the petrified fear on Waver's face with his sharp sight. With a tone of icy mockery that sent Waver's hair to stand on its end, he continued to speak as if toying with Waver.
"Well, I can't help it, Waver-kun. Let me give you some extra tutorials. The true meaning of the slaughter between magi – I will pass the terror and the pain of the kill onto you without any reservation. You should be proud."
In fact, Waver was already shivering with fear, not even paying attention to the humiliation brought by those words.
To become a true magus, one must be prepared to be killed... A theory that was usually comprehended through books was keenly felt by Waver. The glare that the man shot from who-knows-where was more lethal still. The moment when a magus wanted to kill is the moment when the death sentence is pronounced – Waver did not know that until now.
Then, something enclosed the slender lone shoulders of the boy, which was shivering from terror, in a gentle and powerful embrace.
Waver was befuddled of the rough yet gentle touch. The hand of the stalwart Servant – with coarse fingers that are thick with calluses could only induce dread from the short Master.
"Oi, magus. If I understand correctly, you were supposed to be my Master instead of that kid, apparently."
Rider called out to the unseen Master of Lancer. In fact, his face was covered and twisted by a huge smile of malevolent pity.
"That thought is beyond ridiculous. The man that deserves to be my Master should be a warrior that rides with me into the battlefield, not a coward that doesn't even dare to show his face."
Silence descended; only the anger of the unseen Master could be felt spreading along the night air. Rider suddenly laughed into the empty sky, a roaring laugh that exhausted the airs in his lungs.
"Come on out! There must be others. Friends that are hiding in the darkness and spying on us!"
Saber and Lancer were both shocked.
"– What are you doing, Rider?"
Facing an inquiring Saber, the King of Conquerors did a thumb-up accompanied with a hearty smile.
"Saber and Lancer, your frontal battle is most excellent and fine. The clear sound made from the clashing of sword and spear would perhaps attract more than one Heroic Spirit, don't you agree?"
Irisviel was trembling at the thought that Kiritsugu might have been discovered in his unknown hiding place, but Rider only had other Servants in mind. Rider wanted to deliver the deafening sound to every corner of the surroundings, and bellowed once again.
"What a shame. What a shame, really! The heroes of might gathered at Fuyuki! Seeing the prowess displayed here by Saber and Lancer, does it not invoke any sentiments from you? Having a name that deserves praise, yet concealing yourself and spying in secrecy; what cowardice. Even Heroic Spirits would be troubled upon hearing this, huh?"
After another fit of laughter, Rider tilted his head with a fearless expression at the corner of his mouth, and ended with a challenging glance.
"The Heroic Spirits invited by the Holy Grail, gather here at this moment! For those cowards that fear to show their faces, spare yourself the humiliation that Alexander, King of Conquerors, would deal to you. Prepare yourself!"
Rider's enthusiastic speech even passed to Emiya Kiritsugu, who was hiding in the distant container port conducting his observation. It was also heard by Maiya, opposite Kiritsugu's position.
The minds of ancient heroes were so far removed from Kiritsugu's own that he couldn't even sigh in response.
"...That fool managed to conquer the world?"
Opposite the intercom, Maiya also appeared like she could not understand the situation.
Like Kiritsugu and Maiya, the secretly-observing Kirei also saw all of Rider's actions and heard his senseless words through Assassin's eyes and ears. At the moment Kirei was at the distant Fuyuki church, and Kirei had told everything he saw and heard to Tōsaka Tokiomi through the jewel communicator beside him.
"... This is bad."
From the distant Tōsaka residence such an irate sentence was heard.
Although Kirei knew the speaker couldn't see him, he furrowed his brows and nodded.
"Indeed it is."
Tokiomi and Kirei did not disregard Rider's nonsense talk like Emiya Kiritsugu did. The reason was that they both thought of one particular Heroic Spirit, who would never ignore something like Rider's challenging words.
A golden light immediately arrived following Rider's bellow.
The light was still faltering out, and there already was no surprise left in the heart of the spectators. It wasn't just a wild guess anymore that this was a fourth Servant who had made an appearance responding to Rider's provocation. The dreadful point is that the beginning of the hostilities was a gathering of four Servants already. Nobody could possibly conjecture what the turn of events would be.
As expected, the golden light came from 10 meters above, atop a street pole, where a figure standing in a shining armor could be seen. Waver held his breath at the sight of such dazzling dignity.
"This guy is..."
He had seen him for only one instant the previous time, but there was no mistaking such an intense existence. The one standing calmly atop the street light was none other than the enigmatic Servant who had sent into oblivion with an overwhelming destructive power the Assassin who was invading the Tōsaka mansion the previous night.
This couldn't be Caster, his entire body covered in armor. If he had materialized in response to Rider's call, it meant he had the sense to recognize the provocation as such, thus he couldn't be Berserker.
By elimination, the only one left was― the last of the three Knight classes, Archer.
"I didn't expect there would be two fools in one night to have the insolence of calling themselves "kings" and ignore me."
For his very first words, the golden Heroic Spirit looked very displeased, scorning from above at the three Servants with a glare. His arrogance and his tone were comparable to Rider's haughtiness, but it differed from the very root. There was never cruelty and mercilessness in the voice and eyes of the King of Conquerors.
Even Rider didn't expect anyone more domineering than himself to show up, as he was stroking his chin with a bewildered look void of malice.
"You are mistaken... I, Alexander, am the one who is well known throughout the world as the King of Conquerors."
"Fool. The only hero in Heaven and Earth who is a real king is me. The rest are a collection of mongrels."
Archer threw him aside with a declaration that was more than an insult. Of course, color was already drained from Saber's face, but the tolerant Rider drew an amazed sigh, ignoring it altogether.
"If you want to say that much, could you first announce yourself? If you are such a king, you couldn't be ashamed of your fame?"
At Rider's banter, Archer's crimson eyes grew even more of a proud anger as he glared at the giant under him.
"Are you questioning me? A lowly mongrel questioning a king like me?"
Frankly speaking, Rider's point was reasonable, but apparently, Archer took it as an incorrigible disrespect from his point of view. This wasn't a matter of gaining interest from concealing one's true name, but rather from a personal irritability, the golden Heroic Spirit was emitting a very clear murderous intent.
"I grant you the honor of my presence yet you can't recognize me; such ignorance isn't even worth living."
At Archer's conclusion, the space around him distorted in a haze― the next instant, the glow of beautiful blades started coming out of the empty space.
There are bare blades as well as spears. Each of them is decorated with eye-catching ornaments, and emits a fierce magical power. It is clear they are no common weapons but Noble Phantasms.
Without a doubt, this is the same thing as the previous night― the mysterious attack that unilaterally wiped out Assassin. All of those who were observing the Tōsaka mansion the previous night understand that.
Waver was struck with awe. The unseen Master of Lancer gulped. Kiritsugu and Maiya as well, observing at a long distance, also felt the tension.
And now, one man― just like Rider and Waver, one Master who had been following Lancer's movements through the day and was now observing hidden in the storehouses; as that man was spying on the battlefield through the vision of a familiar, he stared at Archer's strange battle preparation.
Yes, it was undoubtedly the same. Archer was definitely the golden Servant who had defended the Tōsaka mansion from Assassin's invasion the previous night, in other words, this was Tōsaka Tokiomi's Servant.
In the darkness, an old hatred burning in his one bloodshot eye, Matō Kariya let a laugh escape.
Now was the time he had anxiously waited for. He had endured a year of living hell looking forward to that instant.
Husband of Aoi, father of Sakura, yet the man who had trampled over the happiness of the mother and child.
The hated, cursed sworn enemy who took everything Kariya wished for, who degraded it all.
Now, the old resentment is cleared away. This was the time to face that man, changing into a sword the hatred boiling in his heart――
There was an unimaginable pleasure in filling his voice with hate. Now, Kariya understood the meaning of the saying "revenge is a dish best served cold."
Tokiomi himself can wait. His Servant must first be demolished, to make him lose the Holy Grail War. He was in a maddening excitement just thinking of Tokiomi's face smeared in the frustrating humiliation.
"Kill him, Berserker!! Pulverize that Archer!!"
At that time, somewhere else, an unexpected torrent of prana swept in a roar.
As everyone was watching, the flowing prana gathered and solidified, materializing into the shadow of a robust man.
That shadow stood up near the four lane road that had become the battlefield of Saber and Lancer, two blocks further toward the sea. Truly, that was a fantastic apparition that could be described as nothing other than a "shadow".
From the width of the tall figure's shoulders, this was the body of a man, completely covered in a full armor without any opening. But it was different from the silver armor wrapping Saber or the luxurious golden one of Archer. This man's armor was black. Without any delicate ornament, with no polished luster. Like darkness, like Hell, it was just a bottomless black. The face was also invisible, covered with a rustic helmet. In the depth of a thinly carved slit, there was the ghastly glow of a pair of eyes with a glare burning like a flame.
A Servant. That was plain. Yet, just what Heroic Spirit was this sinister appearance?
This black knight definitely didn't have any of the "radiance" that bore the other Servants who were already there. Artoria, Diarmuid, and the King of Conquerors Alexander as well as the yet unannounced golden Archer all have that "shine". This is the expression of the pride of a Heroic Spirit. The honor of the legends everyone praises and longs for. This is an essential element of their "noble phantasm".
But the newly appeared black knight had none of it. You could say he was closer to an Assassin. The darkness around the black armor definitely held a "negative surge".
Thus, more than a Heroic Spirit, he might be labelled a vengeful spirit instead...
"... Hey, King of Conquerors. Did you invite that guy too?"
Still observing the black knight carefully, yet with a light tone, Lancer railed at Rider. Taking the hit, Rider grimaced.
"Invited, eh? That one doesn't look like he'll take any negotiation, ugh."
Nothing but blood thirst flowed from the black knight. Even the whirlwind of prana seemed ominous as a groan full of deep hatred.
Berserker... Everyone could see that without waiting for a confirmation. Such a fiendish surge of murderous intent could only come from the class of the Heroic Spirit of fury.
"So, kid. What kind of Servant is he, that guy?"
Rider asked Waver, but the small Master shook his head, dumbfounded.
"... I don't know. I simply can't tell."
"Whaat? You're a Master, aren't you? His strong and weak points should be visible to you, eh?"
As a Master who has made a contract with a Servant, it is possible to read out the status of a Servant with powers of clairvoyance. This is a unique ability granted by the Grail that has summoned the Heroic Spirits. This doesn't work for the fake Master that is Irisviel, but Waver, rightful Master of Rider, is capable of seeing through the abilities of the other Servants and compare them to those of Rider, to guide him as efficiently as possible in battle situations. In fact, Waver already had a clear understanding of the faculties of Saber, Lancer and Archer. But—
"I said I can't see it! That black guy is definitely a Servant... But I just can't read out his stats!"
Rider frowned in suspicion at Waver's confused explanation, and took a new look at the black knight.
The armor with the color of darkness shows no characteristic feature, and tells no clue on the lineage of the maker. —No, it isn't just that there are no details to see; it is all blurred.
It wasn't just Rider. Saber, Lancer and Irisviel had also noticed the same thing. No matter how carefully one would watch, he just wouldn't accurately perceive Berserker's figure.
Just like an off-focus photograph, the outlines of the black armor was always shifting, like a mist, and you would sometime see it double or triple. Somehow, the material seemed to be made out of a hallucination. It isn't just the vision that was affected; it also matches the clairvoyance of the Masters. That would be some sort of unique curse that fakes the person's true identity. It couldn't be a skill proper to the Berserker class.
"Looks like another troublesome enemy we have..."
Saber nodded at Irisviel’s murmur.
"That's not all. With now four opponents, we can't do any careless movement."
In a regular battle royal, the most reliable tactic is to smash those in numerical inferiority with a concentrated effort. Thus, if they show one weakness here and now, they might be forced into the worse outcome, a four to one hopeless battle. In this case, even Saber doesn't stand a chance.
Who will start attacking who, and who will take that chance to make his move— To survive in this place, one needs to accurately see through everyone else's movements. This is true for all Heroic Spirits.
Presently, Rider isn't targeting anyone in particular. His current purpose is probably to have a look at the Heroic Spirits participating in the Holy Grail War. But as one who knows no fear, he is the kind of man who stands up at anyone's challenge.
Archer clearly sees Rider and Saber as his enemies. The golden Heroic Spirit seems to take ill humor in the two who call themselves "King of Conquerors" and "King of Knights". His preferred target is likely the one who provoked him, Rider.
There is one problematic person left.
Berserker. Nobody could figure out what was the intention of the black knight in materializing here and now. It added to the mayhem in which nobody could take control of the situation. No prudent Master would think of pitting his Servant in the middle of this chaos.
No doubt anyone would be equally wary of Berserker, yet there was one exception. There was no doubt or hesitation in Archer's crimson eyes, only an absolute anger and murderous intent he was holding in while looking down at Berserker.
The disgusting stare of the black knight was turned only at him standing on top of the street pole; the golden Heroic Spirit could undoubtedly see that.
"You mad dog, do you expect pity from me?"
A lowlife's gaze is equally lowly and filthy. Being poured by this gaze is an intolerable disgrace for a nobleman. To Archer, who claims the title of king even more than Rider, Berserker's ill manners made him a complete criminal.
The treasure swords and spears all around him changed direction. Their tip was now fully aiming at the new target; that is, Berserker.
"You shall at least entertain me when you scatter away, mongrel."
A sword and a spear bustle in the air at the heartless verdict.
The weapons coming out of nowhere shot without warning— this must be the reason the golden Heroic Spirit is an archer. But this off-hand Noble Phantasm was too abnormal. The Noble Phantasm, which should be a treasure to the Heroic Spirit, was being pitched carelessly like you’d casually throw a handful of stones.
Still, the destructive power was enormous. The road surface was blown up like it was hit with an explosive blast, and the scene was shrouded by the dust of the asphalt pulverized into particles.
Everyone gulped equally.
In the thick dust, the shadow of a dark, tall figure wavered into their visibility.
Berserker stood unharmed. He had merely moved from his starting point, where the road had become a crater. Out of the weapons thrown by Archer, the spear is the cause of this, hitting its target after being delayed a little. And the sword that should have reached its target a little before the spear had brought no destruction.
The reason for that would be that the sword was in Berserker's hand.
How many had seen the swift offense and defense? At least Irisviel and Waver couldn't understand what had just happened. Truthfully— Berserker had grabbed the precious sword effortlessly, the first strike thrown by Archer, and with his newly acquired weapon he had deflected the second strike, the precious spear.
"... That bastard, is he really a Berserker?"
Rider responded with a howling voice to Lancer's strained murmur.
"For someone who has forsaken his reason for madness, he's a remarkably skilled chap."
A Noble Phantasm is a weapon for the exclusive usage of the Heroic Spirit who owns it. Another Heroic Spirit who gets a hold of it won't be able to handle it correctly. Be it by miracle or skill, it should be properly impossible to repel a consecutive strike so clearly in a flash.
And yet, more than surprise, it was apparently rage that came to Archer. All kind of facial expression distorted his elegant face, frozen in a murderous frenzy.
"— How dare you touch my treasure with your filthy hand... Do you want to die that badly, you cur!"
The air around Archer starts dancing again. Like a halo, a golden majesty twirls in circles to show a flock of new Noble Phantasms— now sixteen of them.
Not just spears and swords. There are axes. Hammers and halberds. Even items with indefinite usage or origin, bladed weaponry with a strange shape.
Every single one of them is polished like a mirror, and still has an enormous amount of prana flowing from them. Not one of them is below the level of a divine mystery... All of them, no exception, are indeed Noble Phantasms.
"That's, not possible..."
That was Waver thinking out loud. But the other Masters and Heroic Spirits probably thought likewise.
A Heroic Spirit doesn't need to stop at one Noble Phantasm. Sometime, someone can treasure three, four super weapons that qualify as such. But nobody could have that many.
And here— Archer is throwing them one after the other like he has an inexhaustible supply of them. And not one of them was even already seen in the battle against Assassin the previous night.
"Let's see— just to what point this little compulsive thief can keep up!"
At Archer's command, the flock of Noble Phantasms floating in the air were left loose, rushing toward Berserker.
A thunderous roar shook the night air, a flash of light exploding through the sky.
Who would believe that such destruction could be done by throwing swords and other similar weapons? A countless number of Noble Phantasms rained down on the road of the warehouse town, which already looked like it had received carpet bombing.
And still, Archer's fierce attack didn't stop. The Noble Phantasms fell like thunderbolts, shot at Berserker's standing place with enough force to scatter anything away, and kept striking and striking and striking again. The attack was continuous, even increasing in violence. —Because the target, Berserker, just wouldn't fall down.
Everyone was shocked. Even in a critical situation with a great number of enemies around, everyone shared the same thoughts.
This was a replay of the miracle of the first attack. Berserker just took the first halberd that came at him with his left hand, then swung left and right the sword in his right hand, repelling every single one of the following Noble Phantasms away.
Such a technique was subtle and flawless. There was grandeur in it. Even with a Noble Phantasm snatched from Archer, the handling wasn't poor by a bit. He was swinging them around freely, like extensions of his arms; it simply looked like a demonstration of his polished skills with the favourite weapons he had specialized in for years.
Both offense and defense followed their course together.
Thinking about it, unlike the three other Servants, the identity of the golden Archer and the dark Berserker is still a mystery. Saber and Lancer shuddered at the threat. If they are to advance through the Holy Grail War, they may get to cross arms with these two. But in front of these beasts who are beyond reason, just how should they get ready to stand up?
"—The golden one seems to be proud of the number of his Noble Phantasms, but the black guy has the worst affinity with him."
The two Servants watched silently on one side, as the other one standing there, Rider, spoke confidently.
"When Blacky takes a weapon, he becomes stronger by just taking it. And Goldy throws them so shamelessly. He's a versatile fellow."
As the King of Conquerors calmly commented, Berserker wasn't taking one step back in front of Archer's fierce attack. On the contrary, when a more powerful Noble Phantasm flew at him, he would abandon his current one to exchange it scrupulously with the new weapon.
The violent roaring sound stopped when the last of the sixteen Noble Phantasms fell down.
In the hollow silence, there was only Berserker in the middle of the dust coming down. The surroundings, including the storehouses and street lights, were all completely ruined. The black knight had a battle ax in his right hand and a simple sword in his left. All the other Noble Phantasms were scattered at Berserker's feet, or stuck in the rubbles around. Not a single blade had reached the black armor.
Berserker nonchalantly raised the two remaining Noble Phantasms in his hands— and without preparation, he threw them in Archer's direction.
Maybe the aiming was off, or he didn't really try to hit anything, but the ax and the blade hit the pole of the street light that Archer was standing on top of. The blade hit the middle, and the ax, the top, cutting the pole into pieces as if it was butter.
The pole cut in three pieces fell in a tremor. But that's the only thing that fell clumsily on the ground. The golden Heroic Spirit had jumped before the iron pole was cut into pieces, and landed on the ground apparently unscathed.
"Damn fool... Are you trying to put me on the same ground as you, me who should be at the top?"
—No, saying he was unscathed is only from a third party's point of view.
Archer's rage had apparently reached its critical limit. The wrinkles carved between his eyebrows changed his good features to an evil omen.
"You deserve death for your insult. You mongrel, I won't leave a single piece of your body!"
In anger, Archer howled at Berserker, his eyes burning crimson. For the third time, the space around him warped to let a herd of blades materialize...
The next count of glowing Noble Phantasms reached thirty-two. This time, even Rider kept silent. Berserker had endured a continuous attack of sixteen Noble Phantasms, but there was no way to resist twice that number. That was the same for all the other Servants. Nobody could estimate the limits of the latent power of the golden Archer anymore.
"Gilgamesh is serious. He intends to open the 'Gate of Babylon' even more."
Tōsaka Tokiomi held his head at Kotomine Kirei's comment coming from the jeweled communicator.
The basement of the Tōsaka mansion had none of the discomfort of the far away storehouse town that had become a battlefield. Kirei, manipulating Assassin, was bringing results. The conditions were perfect.
The only thing that wasn't part of the calculations was— maybe that the strongest Heroic Spirit, Gilgamesh, had come to the present time in the Archer class.
It wouldn't be an exaggeration to say the characteristic of the Archer class is the strength of its Noble Phantasms; for Gilgamesh who owned an extraordinary one with the rank EX, it might have been inevitable. But in the end, the skill of Independent Action of the self-conceited King of Heroes was high ranked, and that certainly was the biggest miscalculation.
Tokiomi respected the high prestige of the King of Heroes as much as he could, and as much as he deserved. But to think that his tolerance would be tested so much, so early...
Gilgamesh must be the last to move. Right now, this is still Assassin's turn to act and gather information. Something as rash as exposing the Gate of Babylon again to everyone— and throwing all his strength against the mysterious Berserker, this just can't be overlooked.
To a Servant with the skill of Independent Action, who doesn't rely on the Master, the only way to give him orders are the Command Seals. This grants the right for only three absolute orders. To make a Servant out of Gilgamesh who doesn't have an ounce of respect for his Master, they are all the more precious.
Always maintain your elegance— this is a family precept handed down for generations for the Tōsaka family. To him who keeps it to his heart, to be pressed into using a Command Seal before all the other Masters...
"Master, your decision?"
Kirei urges with a hard voice from the other end of the communicator.
Grinding his teeth, Tokiomi stared at the back of his right hand.
Staring at Berserker with a burning hatred, Archer slowly looked away.
He faced south-east. Over there is the hill of the Miyama district and the high class residential area. How many people can guess it is the direction of the Tōsaka mansion?
"Do you think a sermon from someone like you could appease a king's anger? You're quite presumptuous, Tokiomi..."
With a tone of abject annoyance, Archer spat in a suppressed voice. The glow of the countless Noble Phantasms around him disappeared at once, off to somewhere else.
"... You dodged death by a hair, mad dog."
He was containing his resentment, but his crimson eyes had already lost the flame of the killing intent. With his firm haughtiness, the golden Archer glared at the row of Servants.
"You mongrels. Cut down the mob next time. I will tolerate no less than a real hero."
With this final careless remark, Archer cancelled his materialization. The golden armor lost its materiality and disappeared, leaving only the remains of its glow.
The confrontation between the two knights, golden and dark, reached its conclusion in a way no one expected.
"Hmf. Apparently this guy's Master has even more of a hardy character than Archer himself."
Amazed, Rider exaggerated with a bitter smile. But everyone else figured it wasn't the time for a careless remark. The Berserker who was evenly balanced with Archer was still standing in front of them.
The eyes glowing widely in the slit of the helmet first wandered in the empty space, having lost their target... Then, finding a new spoil, they flamed up again.
Stared at by those eyes dyed the color of malice, Saber felt a chill bustling through her spine.
The voice seemed to boil from the ground. Like a spell, like a curse, it was a moan full of malice that hardly resembled human speech.
This was the voice of Berserker, the first time the others heard it.
"... Ar... Ur... h!!"
Like a curse with a human shape, swelling from the murderous intent, the black knight charged at the silver King of Knights.
Prana is consumed not just to keep the Servant materialized, but also for all the effort they do. Thus in battle, the consumption rate is all the higher. The prana is extracted from the Master's Magic Circuits, and is supplied to the Servant.
And the activation of the Magic Circuits, in Matō Kariya's case, means a hell of pain by having his body eaten by the Crest Worms.
When dematerialized, the prana consumption is at its minimum. Still, in that state, Kariya would sometime be tortured with palpitations and dizziness.
But when Berserker was materialized, the agony was beyond imagination.
The foreign body awakens, starts eating his flesh, creaking his bones. Acting as Kariya's pseudo Magic Circuits, the Crest Worms supply the sucked off prana to Berserker without concern for the host's limits.
Speaking about agony isn't even half of it. Being corroded, plundered by a living creature inside his body —the pain of being devoured alive doubles with fear and disgust.
"Guh... Ga, gwa...hh!!"
Hiding in darkness, Kariya stifled his scream of impending death, raking up his throat and chest. When his skin tore and blood started running, he started chewing off his nails on both hands.
For even more of a disaster, the prana consumption required from the Master by the Berserker class is even higher. When Zōken had Kariya use the maddening formula during the summoning to make him stronger, maybe this really was already a plan of the old magus to tyrannize him.
The worms bite at his spine. The worms are melting his nerves. The worms are, nesting en masse inside Kariya's body, the worms are the worms are the worms are the worms the worms the worms the worms...
He was unable to hold out his scream, but only a feeble moan came out. The intense pain was choking him and wouldn't come out of his throat. As he started sobbing, Kariya kept trampling his body out of rage.
He couldn't even watch over the fight between Archer and Berserker in the main street. When the tempest of pain finally calmed down, it took Kariya some time before recovering his ability to think and get a grasp of the situation.
"... Haa... Haa..."
Roughly breathing away the remains of his agony, Kariya resumed his observation of the battlefield through the vision of his familiar. There are three Servants left. Archer is nowhere to be seen. The battle has ended.
Victory— is not acquired. Perhaps Tokiomi evacuated Archer when he realized the disadvantage.
Kariya's Berserker hasn't taken one step back in front of the overwhelming golden Archer. With a magecraft improvised in a year, Kariya was able to rival the Tōsaka magecraft polished through generations all by himself.
"... Fuhu, hahaha..."
Haggard, Kariya left out a dry laugh from his theory.
He did it. That haughty magus was finally splattered with mud by an ordinary man like Kariya, after always looking down to the likes of him. In his heart, Kariya sneered abundantly at Tokiomi and Zōken, thinking, did you see that.
I'm not a loser. Nobody will call me a failure or an insect anymore. I can fight against you. I'll have you know what fear is...
This is enough for tonight. There is no reason to continue a battle that will pain him now that his sworn enemy, Archer, has withdrawn. Just let the other Servants kill each other as they wish.
As he reached his conclusion, Kariya was the most panicked of them all when he saw Berserker took Saber as his new target and charge at her.
"Stop... Come back! Come back here, Berserker!"
He called out to him. Such a simple instruction should be enough to reach him, and yet the black knight didn't respond. Instead, the amount of prana consumed by Berserker's excitation stimulated all the Crest Worms at once, and pain shot again through Kariya's body.
"Berserkeeeeer! Stoop iit!!"
With the pain, Kariya's voice was more like a scream. He didn't even have the mental freedom to use a Command Seal anymore. Swarmed by a torrent of agony, Kariya could only focus entirely on keeping a hold of his receding consciousness.
The black knight charged with the force of a wild beast, kicking the asphalt. He looked only at Saber, with a swirling, black killing intent.
Naturally, Saber isn't unprepared. She immediately readied her sword in a defensive stance.
"~~ ~~ ~~ ~~ ~h!"
Like a ghastly drive creeping on the ground, Berserker swung his current weapon down at Saber's head.
Saber blocked it safely with her invisible sword, but she was astonished when she identified what the weapon was.
An iron pole — this is what was left of the street light pole Archer was standing on top of, that tumbled on the ground when Berserker chopped it down. Berserker probably picked it up at his feet when he charged at Saber.
Berserker held the iron pole, over two meter long after being cut down, with two hands like a spear, putting a terrible pressure on Saber's sword. But the surprising point is that this weapon was nothing but an iron pole.
Saber's sword hidden under Invisible Air was definitely the holiest of the holy swords. It was the most supreme Noble Phantasm. There is no way it will have troubles against a piece of metal you pick up on the roadside.
The only thing that could possibly rival Saber's sword with such strength is the Noble Phantasm of another Heroic Spirit. Yet...
Holding up, Saber couldn't believe her eyes.
The iron pole in Berserker's hands was being tainted in black. Black lines were spreading and multiplying like the veins of a leaf, invading the iron pole.
The starting point was Berserker's two hands. The black lines were spreading on the entire pole like a spider's web from where the black gauntlets are holding it.
This was Berserker's prana — the prana muddled with bloodthrist and hatred, possessed only by the black knight. The iron pole was receiving it by permeation from his hands.
"You can't mean...!?"
Saber understood through her surprise. The true nature of this Berserker's Noble Phantasm.
Lancer and Rider, watching closely, reached the same conclusion.
"... So that's it. When Blacky takes something, it becomes his Noble Phantasm."
Rider growled in admiration. The Noble Phantasm of a Heroic Spirit doesn't need to manifest through a characteristic object. Sometime, it can be a type of Noble Phantasm that manifests through a "unique ability" retained by the Servant's very body. This is exactly the case for Berserker.
Still, what an astonishing power that was. Berserker was capable of pillaging at will the countless Noble Phantasms thrown at him by Archer. They now understand the frightening lure. The instant Berserker's gauntlets grab one, the control of Archer's Noble Phantasms go to the black knight.
Not only that, even ordinary scrap iron became full of the immense prana fit to compete with other Noble Phantasms once it came into Berserker’s hands. Unlike how the golden knight owned numerous Noble Phantasms, Berserker’s Noble Phantasm is endless.
The second blow, the third blow – Berserker pressed Saber back with impressive throws of his ‘spears’, while Saber was merely defending herself. Saber’s left hand that was resting on the hilt had no strength in it, and the wound dealt by Lancer’s Gáe Buidhe started to hurt again. With only her right hand wielding her sword Saber could barely fight with the support of prana, but faced with the torrential attacks sent by the furious Berserker she could only defend. Saber could not find a chance to retaliate, and gradually became disadvantaged.
Irisviel called out eagerly. Unnoticed, drops of anxious sweat seeped out of the King of Knight’s brow.
Emiya Kiritsugu, from his distant surveillance, also saw that Saber was in a tight spot. But with Kiritsugu’s current equipment he could not interfere in a duel between Servants.
If they could at least find out where Berserker’s Master was located, there might be ways to handle this... But Kiritsugu could not see Berserker’s Master with any of his two night scopes.
"...Maiya, can you see from your side?"
"No, I can’t see him."
Kiritsugu furrowed his brows when he heard Maiya’s reply. Kiritsugu and Maiya’s positions were actually each other’s blind spots. The reason that they could not see the Master might be that Berserker’s Master also considered his own hiding place as a priority, and did not stay at a position where he can deliver direct commands to his Servant.
It seems the opponent’s personality is even more prudent than Archer’s Master. For Kiritsugu, compared with those talented but flippant magi, magi who do not show themselves off are much harder to handle.
"...The situation doesn’t look good..."
Right now it was not just a single combat between Berserker and Saber. In between the two of them stood Lancer and Rider, both at their full strength. On a battlefield where only the strongest survive, the worst position is to be at a clear disadvantage. The Masters of the other Servants must be thinking the same – at this point, by just helping Berserker a little, they can easily defeat Saber.
Then eliminate an exhausted Berserker. It would be two birds with one stone. Lancer and Rider can defeat two enemies with minimum prana expenditure.
Kiritsugu sighted his rifle towards the top of the crane once again. The Assassin with the skull mask was still sitting there. Just one moment of carelessness might cost Kiritsugu his life.
Kiritsugu gritted his teeth, but could only sit and wait.
The wound on Saber’s finger cost her the maneuverability of her sword. Saber was keenly anxious because of that.
Of course she was aware of how dangerous her situation was. While she needed to stall Rider, who was observing at one side, Berserker’s fight with her had also become a stalemate. In the current situation – she didn’t have any strength to fight Berserker anymore.
Berserker, on the other hand, mercilessly and ferociously attacked, fitting for the title of the Heroic Spirit of fury. Although Berserker continued to throw his iron 'spear’ in a way as rough as a beast, the skill of the throws was nonetheless accurate and precise.
It was not Berserker’s vigor that pressed Saber down, but his intensely fierce barrage gave Saber no way to retaliate. No matter how bad the wound on Saber’s hand might be, as the strongest Servant Saber didn’t even have a chance to strike back. On top of that, although Berserker’s weapons were strengthened with prana, they were still twisted remains of an iron pole.
Berserker is definitely not a simple mad dog. The Heroic Spirit that became Berserker is a master warrior with amazing skills that even after his Mad Enhancement, he still possessed such an extraordinary ability.
"You... Just who are you?!"
Of course, the black knight ignored Saber’s question, but threw the iron pole following his piercing vigor.
The strike could be called as an absolutely exceptional feat. The ferocity of the strike appeared to hit Saber’s short stature and –
However, the thrown pole did not hit Saber.
The two meter iron pole was split down the middle, and fluttered from the air to the ground. It was Berserker’s fake Noble Phantasm, with enough strength to compete with Saber’s holy sword. What broke this fake Noble Phantasm with ease was a streak of red light that glimmered through the darkness.
Lancer had his back towards the astonished King of Knights. This beautiful spearman took a pose of protecting Saber, the King of Knights, whom he regarded as an enemy only moments ago, and stood against Berserker.
"Please stop your pranks now, Berserker."
Lancer pointed at the black knight with the tip of the long spear in his right hand – Gáe Dearg, the Crimson Rose of Exorcism, and coldly declared war on the black knight. If Lancer’s red spear repelled the prana of Berserker’s Noble Phantasm, then the fake Noble Phantasms covered by Berserker’s black prana would be nothing but bundles of iron.
"Saber has a previous engagement with me... If you keep up this nonsense and interrupt the battle between us, I won't stay quiet."
Although this was a fight to the death, Saber was immensely touched by Lancer’s words. The Heroic Spirit of the spear devotedly believes in the same ‘chivalry' as she does.
Despite that, not everyone gathered on this battlefield praised Lancer’s actions.
"What are you doing, Lancer? This is a good chance to defeat Saber."
A voice questioned severely. This displeased voice should be Lancer’s Master, However, Lancer unexpectedly donned a solemn expression unfitting to this Heroic Spirit,
"The fight with Saber is a battle that I, Diarmuid ua Duibhne, gambled my honor on!"
and yelled loudly at the empty sky.
"I’ll first let you see how I will kill that mad dog. Therefore, my lord! This duel between Saber and I..."
Mercilessly interrupting Lancer’s passionate plea, Lancer’s Master ordered with an even colder tone.
"Lancer, assist Berserker in killing Saber. I command you with the Command Seal."
The air on the battlefield froze with tension.
The Command Seal. An absolute order for a Servant. No matter how great a Heroic Spirit might be he cannot disobey a Command Seal. Consequently, Lancer no longer possessed his free will –
The tip of the red spear reversed direction and attacked, flying towards Saber with a low whistle. The two demonic spears, long and short, brushed past the shoulders of the rapidly retreating Saber one after the other in front of her face, sweeping across the sky.
Lancer used the two spears in his left and right hand to attack the target directly behind him without even turning his head around. This astonishing prowess with the spears, as though the pair could change form at will, is the show of Lancer's true strength. The accuracy of Lancer’s techniques didn’t even invoke his opponent’s rebuke.
Saber was halfway through her sentence, but she suddenly went silent. Lancer turned around. Humiliation and anger filled his face with anguish; it spoke of the Heroic Spirit Diarmuid’s thoughts more than any mighty argument ever could.
For Lancer, whose body was bound by the Command Seal, his flesh no longer belonged to himself. It was merely a cruel and merciless machine called a Servant. All the skills and abilities the Heroic Spirit Diarmuid had gained were manipulated wantonly without regard to his own beliefs, used only to fulfil the Master’s supreme command. As a Heroic Spirit, Saber deeply understood Lancer’s regret.
Beside Lancer, Berserker was closing in step by step. Although the situation had changed on the battlefield, Berserker’s goal apparently remained as Saber herself. Berserker picked up the iron pole that was cleaved in half by Lancer’s red spear, and this time he held it at eye level like a longsword. Although the shape of the Noble Phantasm had changed, there were no inconveniences with him using it.
Saber was out of options.
If her left hand was not injured, she might be able to fight her way out of this.
But now, Saber was at the limit of her abilities just handling Berserker alone. At the moment, with Lancer being her enemy as well, Saber has no chances of emerging victorious.
"... Saber... I’m sorry..."
Lancer moaned painfully, but continued to advance towards Saber step by step. Contrary to Lancer’s expression of shame, the quivering prana of the two spears on his left and right, hiding its killing intent, was raising in a haze.
The black knight beside Lancer remained silent as ever, but the intensity of his threatening surge was increasing exponentially and advancing towards Saber. A thick layer of black veins covered the fragment of the iron pole, turning it into something beyond a sword, alien and repulsive, and the tip of the splint was pointed with intimidation at Saber.
Saber stared calmly and intensely at those Noble Phantasms, gave a sidelong glance at Irisviel, and caught her gaze.
"Irisviel, I will handle the situation. During that time – "
Saber’s thoughts were already running in circles. There’s only one desperate measure left. She has to do this in such a grave situation. No matter how big a sign of defeat she was showing right now, she must protect Irisviel. Even if she is to lose her own life...
"During that time, I need to get you out of danger. Run as far as you can."
Saber nonchalantly reported this quick decision to Irisviel, but Irisviel did not detect Saber’s true intention.
The proud maiden knight will cleave out a path for Irisviel to survive, at the expense of her own life.
Irisviel shook her head decisively. She did not expect Saber to sacrifice herself in even the smallest of ways.
"Irisviel! No matter what happens, you must – "
"Rest assured Saber. Believe in your Master."
Saber recognised the deeper meaning hidden in the sentence, but she was still very puzzled.
Kiritsugu – Is he here?
Actually, Irisviel did not help with Saber’s confusion, but she had always believed firmly in Kiritsugu.
At this point, Saber and she did not do anything wrong. As per Kiritsugu’s orders, they have fought honorably and made a big show in the open. Now Saber is the focus of the battlefield. Everyone regarded this delicate knight as a thorn by their side.
The two spears of exorcism and mortality, the iron soaked through with the black aura of the kill, did not threaten Irisviel. All this is proceeding as Kiritsugu had planned. That is – Saber and Irisviel should now be in an advantage.
Therefore – the rest is up to you, dear.
Faced towards her husband who was nowhere to be seen, Irisviel prayed with total conviction.
Emiya Kiritsugu made a decision to start acting, not because he detected his wife’s worries, but from a clear analysis of the situation.
The first to be protected is ‘the Vessel of the Grail’, Irisviel. Since Saber can no longer protect her Master, right now no hesitation can be afforded.
"...Maiya. Match my countdown and attack Assassin. Restrain him."
The answer ‘Understood’ immediately came from the other side of the radio. The air was soaked with tension.
At this point, they need to kill Lancer’s Master. That is the only way.
" – Six."
Kiritsugu began to count in a low voice, and focused the heat-vision scope towards Lancer’s Master.
After the WA200 sniper rifle was customized it was tested outside the country before it came into Japan, therefore Kiritsugu was already familiar with the gun’s characteristics. However, he hasn’t tested its compatibility with the night scope system... At this time, he can only rely on Maiya’s skill.
" – Five."
According to Maiya’s report – the shooting range was adjusted to 500 meters. The reticle in the scope should be identical to the bullet’s flight path, from the muzzle to 500 meters out.
For long-distance shooting, the bullet does not travel in a straight line, but in a shallow parabola. That is, when the target is closer than the shooting distance, the bullet’s actual landing point is a bit off from the aim, a bit lower.
Lancer’s Master was less than 300 meters away; therefore Kiritsugu carefully adjusted the aim.
" – Four."
Lancer was forced to attack Saber due to his Master’s Command Seal. After his Master is shot dead, his reactions may be unpredictable, but he shouldn’t keep attacking Saber. Then the only direct threat would be the lone Berserker. Kiritsugu should come up with an idea that can get Saber and Irisviel out of danger.
The last question was Kiritsugu’s own safety. Under such a situation, he had no other choice apart from employing bold actions like firing right next to Assassin.
" – Three."
To reduce the risk, Kiritsugu is timing his shots with Maiya's. Her AUG fires a 5.56mm Remington high-velocity catridge. This power will not damage the Servant Assassin. However, if Assassin comes under sudden fire he might ignore the other sniper in front of him – it goes without saying that the preparations are severely deficient.
Assassin might mistakenly take Maiya, who was only pretending to attack, as his enemy. However, Maiya’s position was far enough from Assassin for her to escape. Perhaps, due to the fear of showing himself in front of other Masters, Assassin would have left before that point.
However, in this already unexpected situation , Assassin might immediately assault Kiritsugu, who was right beside him. At that time, they can only fight on and hope for the best. In the first place, this has nothing to do with winning. That is the only way.
" – One."
Kiritsugu breathed quietly and slowly pulled the trigger. The Walther's muzzle was completely still; the hollow barrel was like a killing glare that locked its gaze on the target.
At this time, a deafening rumble reverberated around.
That loud sound was not Maiya’s AUG firing full-auto and was obviously not Kiritsugu’s shots, either.
That sound is not something a rifle would make when it fires, but an impact enough to shake the earth.
It was a thunderbolt that suddenly visited the battlefield. It had the dizzying flash of lightning that contrived to make night into day, and a roar that boomed greater than any thunder.
The lightning didn’t descend from the sky, but traversed across the ground. No – that thing that looked like lightning was the galloping chariot entangled by escaping electricity.
Lancer quickly flipped backwards and avoided the chariot in time. But for Berserker, who kept all his attention of Saber, he didn’t even have time to turn around and register what was going on.
Accompanying Rider’s war cry, the two divine bulls first kicked the black knight to the ground with their four front hooves, and then trampled the black knight mercilessly with their four hind hooves. Each hoof was enveloped with rolling purple lightning; just one kick would have been a very heavy hit. The divine bulls trampled upon Berserker eight times overall and his wounds must have been fatal. After Rider’s chariot roared past, Berserker didn’t even have the strength to stand. The figure with the black armour lied face up on the ground.
Rider sat on the stopped chariot and gazed down at his utterly defeated enemy. His spirited face was covered with smiles.
" – Oh? What happened to you, one with such a backbone?"
Berserker wasn’t dead yet. His body twitched feebly, and he slowly rose up from the ground. The black knight, who was stomped upon by the divine bulls, finally managed to bend his body around and crawl away from the chariot’s path. He had noticed Rider, and luckily avoided the decisive maximum impact of the chariot wheels.
Rider’s Noble Phantasm sped across in front of Saber. Upon seeing the Noble Phantasm’s overwhelming power of destruction, Saber was speechless.
Gordius Wheel... Its power obviously does not lie in fighting with individuals, but with armies. Even the gallop just then was carefully calibrated by Rider. Had Rider wanted to, even Saber, much less Lancer, would have fallen prey to those hooves and wheels.
The recumbent Berserker stretched out his leg weakly in an attempt to stand, but he had suffered a heavy impact and it seems he had realised he can’t possibly keep on fighting. Just when he has carefully stopped moving, his outline was already getting fuzzy and dissipating away like thin mist. He removed his physical form and resumed his spiritual form, and ran away in that fashion.
"Under such conditions, I can only ask Blacky to remove himself –"
Standing on his chariot, Rider appeared as if nothing has happened. He called out with his face towards the sky and his robust neck bent.
"Master of Lancer. Although I do not know where you are hiding to overlook us, but you disgraced a battle between knights with despicable means... not fitting for a magus’s opponent."
At this point, the stalwart Servant smiled savagely, threatening the invisible enemy.
"Have Lancer retreat. If you still insist in humiliating him further, then I will join Saber and the two of us will defeat your Servant, how is that?"
The anger of the hidden magus enveloped the entire battlefield. But he did not hesitate.
" – Retreat, Lancer. That is enough for tonight."
After he heard the command Lancer heaved a sigh of relief and lowered the spear in his hand.
"Many thanks, King of Conquerors."
When he heard the whispered thanks of the handsome spearman, Rider gave a satisfied smile.
"That's nothing. The beauty of the battlefield is the show of affection."
Lancer once again expressed gratitude towards Rider with his gaze, then he nodded towards Saber.
There was no need for words. They have confirmed the oath between them. Saber also nodded towards Lancer.
The duel would continue at another time –
After Lancer confirmed this, he turned into spiritual form and disappeared.
After the destructive storm blown cross the battlefield, silence has arrived.
Soon after, as thought suddenly remembered, the sound of the waves smashing against the cliff and the bustle of faraway streets crept back into the night sky. Lancer’s Master must have released the barrier cast in the neighboring area.
Saber gazed at the last person standing on the battlefield, Rider, with complicated feelings.
"... So, why did you come here, King of Conquerors?"
"Ah, I’ve never considered that properly."
Faced with Saber’s inquiry, the stalwart Servant appeared as if it didn’t concern him and shrugged nonchalantly.
"All those things like reasons and plans, those bothersome stuff, should be left for future historians to find a reason to give me. Heroes like us only need to obey our hearts’ desire, and gallop along the battlefield with our boiling blood."
"... That’s something only kings can say."
Saber’s disappointed reply was adamant. She believed in the chaste way of knights, a world away from Rider’s barbaric principles used justify his actions.
"Oh? Are you saying my way of kingship is alien to you? Hmph, that’s just natural."
Rider snorted, and ignored Saber’s defiant glare.
"All ways of kingship are unique. For I, who am a king, is as incompatible to you, who are also a king, as fire is to water... You are trying to split this world into two clear bands of black and white."
"That is what I desire. Today, at this place, I’m also going to – "
"Enough, enough, don’t be so vigorous."
Rider gave a small smile and pointed at Saber’s left hand.
"As Alexander, I won’t take advantage over your weakness like others would. Saber, fulfil your promise with Lancer first. Then I would duel with Lancer or you, whoever might be the victor in the battle between the two of you."
Saber was about to rebuke, but her left thumb is too much of a handicap before Rider. It wouldn’t do to underestimate the battle prowess of this Heroic Spirit, who defeated Berserker in one blow.
"Then, King of Knights, we’re going to part ways for now. The next time we meet, I’ll incite all of my hot blood to fight you... little master, have you got anything else to command?"
However, the youth that lied on the steering platform beside Rider’s feet did not respond. Rider grabbed his collar and heaved him up, but this short little Master’s eyes were rolled back and he had already fainted. Looks like Rider’s power was too strong when he surprise attacked Berserker.
"... This one needs to learn how to be unwavering."
Rider sighed and placed his Master into his own arms, then tightened the reins of his two divine bulls. The bulls brayed, emitted thunder, and beamed rays of lightning from their hooves as they soared into the sky.
Accompanied by the roaring thunder, Rider’s chariot galloped into the southern sky.
Irisviel finally disentangled herself from the tension and released the breath she was holding. When she looked about her, it was a scene of total devastation. That was to be expected. Five Servants were gathered at one place, with some of them unreservedly releasing their Noble Phantasms, destroying at will.
"The first battle was already conducted with such intensity. Had there ever been a Holy Grail War like this before?"
Irisviel was not worried about the traces of destruction. The Holy Church supervisor is responsible for the secrecy of the war. This place looks like it’s been through an earthquake. The supervisor must organize those employed by the Church and carefully mend the area.
Saber was still silent, staring at the sky that Rider flew past. Her delicate silhouette had no signs of excitement and exhaustion left from the savage battle, but just stood sternly and soundlessly on the battlefield. That figure of the girl clad in armour was like a painting, an image of beauty that allows no violation.
But Irisviel was different from Saber’s calm demeanor, because she knew Saber took a heavy wound.
"Saber, your left arm –"
"Yes. The hand hurts too much, what a disgrace. Like what Rider said, if I do not end my duel with Lancer and remove the curse of this wound, it will interfere with my battles with other Servants."
Irisviel couldn’t detect any sign of unease in the indifferent tone of the King of Knights. Instead, Saber’s resolution consoled Irisviel.
"... Thank you, Saber. My life was saved because of you."
Irisviel said with her head lowered. Saber replied with a smile.
"I fight in the frontline only to protect you behind my back, Irisviel."
Irisviel once again felt it with a pang; Saber’s strength, courage, and gentleness.
More than a dozen years younger than herself, the stature of a girl who is yet to be a woman – Such a delicate figure, such slender wrists, but she is a true knight, a hero.
"The war had only begun, Irisviel. Tonight’s battle was only the first night of the beginning of war."
"They’re all strong enemies with equal might. Heroes invited from different eras... none of them can be easily disposed of."
There was no anxiety or fear in Saber’s voice. Before the coming of the storm, the heart of a warrior is both excited and calm. The soaring spirit and boiling blood would not change in any era, in any world. That is the true testimony of a hero’s soul.
The girl stared at the southern sky and proclaimed calmly.
"This is... the war of the Holy Grail."
A black curtain was drawn across this space.
Not empty darkness, but viscous and condensed. Like fetid decaying matter, this darkness surpassed the limit of black.
The dense, nauseating smell of blood emanated out. The weak moans and cries that can be heard everywhere allowed one to sense the terrifying atmosphere. At the moment, the curtain of darkness that closed off all sight may instead be a screen full of mercy.
In such a darkness, there was a sphere that shone with a white light like the full moon viewed from beneath the water surface.
It was a crystal globe the size of a ball of yarn. The translucent, faint light came from the images floating within it.
Rubbles piled like mountains. A desolate nightscape. Yet this scenario was not present at the beginning. The current image of complete destruction was not present twenty minutes ago as it was simply emptiness. Behind its back, the crystal ball projected and recorded every detail.
Also, the two VIPs who saw all of the fighting. The dim light from the crystal ball illuminated the pair’s faces as both of their visages expressed unusual joy at the sight of destruction.
“Impressive! Truly impressive!!”
A happy demonic killer that stepped into this extraordinary world with an astronomical rarity - Uryū Ryūnosuke. His slanted eyes sparkled with a childishly innocent smile, and began to cheer.
“Sir Bluebeard, everything that happened was real, right? Awesome! This isn’t just some video game platform!”
Due to the random chance of signing a contract with the Servant Caster, Ryūnosuke has since turned away from his daily routine and became ever stranger. He greedily sought excitement and pleasurable entertainment and treated the battle that had just happened as a supreme entertainment feast.
“So, this is the Heaven’s Feel? Sir, will you participate in this battle as well? Will you, sir, like the people we just saw fly in the air and shine?”
Caster did not respond but instead stared at the crystal ball passionately. Within the nightscape displayed in the crystal stood a petite figure. As if a ghost possessed him, Caster gaped blankly at her silhouette.
At the beginning of the monitoring of the battle on the storage street, Caster was in that intense state. He paid no attention to his master Ryūnosuke’s excitement nor did he care about the other Heroic Spirits. Only staring at one person.
Sterling silvery armor covered her fair and slender body; beautiful blonde hair flew like golden sand. The young woman, a Saber class Heroic Spirit invited from among the seven Servants.
Her body is most petite, yet she is the bravest and most majestic. No matter forced into what sort of trouble she showed no fear and firmly confronted her opponents. Caster cannot remove his sight from Saber; it was impossible for him to do so. Because that faraway reminiscent figure and the aura of nobility diffusing from her profile was precisely the illusion that Caster toiled for across time.
Ryūnosuke saw the face of Caster, who was silent from the beginning and lapsed into silence.
It was then he noticed the gaunt, pallid face was stained by tears of pure elation.
“…it has come true..”
Caster, overcame with excitement, whispered gently.
“…Everything has come true. I once thought …it was impossible. Yet the Grail is truly all-powerful…”
“It has come true? What, what?”
What? It was a question Ryūnosuke must ask. Caster’s exulted expression meant that something extraordinary has happened, while the reason for it left him puzzled even after thinking deeply.
“The Grail chose me!”
It was as if Caster cannot see the inquiry within his master’s eyes. He grabbed Ryūnosuke’s hand and shook it fervently, wishing to share with him his happiness.
“We do not need to go through with a battle, but we have already obtained victory. Yes. The Grail is already in our hands.”
“Yet I …I haven’t seen it, nor have I touched this supposed “Grail”!”
“That’s beside the point.”
Caster declared as his eyes widened and he pointed at the young woman reflected within the crystal ball.
“Do you see that? She told me it. That august expression, her divine figure … she must be “her,” the one destined to change my fate!”
Ryūnosuke furrowed his brows, repeatedly studying the figure in the crystal ball. The young man or woman, clad in period-style armour, whether it be a young man or woman has a rare beauty enough to rival Caster in modern Japan.
“…Do you know her?”
“I do know her. She is my light. She guided me forward. She gave me life. She is the purpose of my very existence…”
Caster, choked with emotions, placed his head in his hands and continued.
“She was once abandoned by God, annihilated in disgrace. But now, she has been resurrected. It’s a miracle! It was because of my faithful wishes that allowed her to be reborn!”
Ryūnosuke had no idea what was going on, but he could understand the man whom he admired, Bluebeard’s current state of delight. Also, though he and Blueheard have not been together for very long, Bluebeard can always reveal impressive ideas even at times of great distress. A new challenger to the world, a murderer – the strange man whom Ryūnosuke worshipped was a sadistic artist.
Therefore, to Ryūnosuke, Caster Bluebeard’s happiness – whatever may have happened to him must be a good thing and certainly worth anticipating.
“For some strange reason, I’m beginning to get excited as well, Sir Bluebeard.”
Caster shook his hair loose as he simultaneously wept and cried. He clasped the crystal tightly with both hands as he pressed his forehead against its icy surface, his frenzied eyes staring at the face of the young woman.
“Oh… maiden, my holy chaste virgin… I will be with you soon. No matter what, please wait for me…”
The wet, snakelike smile lingered in the darkness.
After watching the story unfold, Kotomine Kirei ordered his Assassin to return from the field, and ceased his shared perception.
As Kotomine ceased his ability and stopped the smell of winds blowing over the sea and the sense of assessing the battlefield, he returned to the basement of the church.
Kotomine Risei appeared out of nowhere as he stood next to Kirei. It was as if he was listening to Kirei report to Tokiomi about the battle. As soon as the battle ended, Kirei assumed his position as regulator, rapidly giving orders with his cellphone.
“…Mion district. Yes, the streets and storage next to the sea. Massive damage…Ah, ah. Alright. Mobilize the city rangers to clean up the battlefield…Use Plan D…I’ll be depending on you for the on-site identifications…”
They have previously made arrangements with the police and the local government. Maybe on tomorrow's morning paper a completely distorted and glossed-over report on the tragic scene of the warehouses will appear.
As he eyed his father from a corner of his eye, Kirei begins his analysis of the people who appeared in tonight’s battle.
The Clock Tower’s elite magus, El-Melloi, has lost Alexander’s artifact, of which he once possessed.
Tokiomi’s spy had also once reported this. Alexander entered the Grail war as a Rider-class Servant, and his young Master seemed to be unusually connected with Lancer’s Master.
But – there is no doubt that Lancer’s Master is El-Melloi. After Alexander’s artifact had been stolen by a young man named Waver, he must have obtained the Heroic Spirit Diarmuid’s artifact.
When Matō summoned Berserker, Zōken had reported the event to his father. At the moment, neither Kirei nor Tokiomi paid much attention to it. However, they had not anticipated Servant Berserker’s immense powers or his exceptional ability of harnessing an opponent’s Noble Phantasm. He was a natural opponent for Tokiomi’s Gilgamesh.
In order for the battle to swing in Tokiomi’s favor…The other Servants must first defeat Berserker. This task is best accomplished by Lancer. Diarmond’s Noble Phantasm, Gáe Dearg, is the best artifact to nullify Berserker.
Caster and his Master remains a riddle as they have not yet appeared. But considering the class of Caster, there was nothing surprising. Other than Berserker, all the other Servants have already exposed their true names. In addition, the large threats Saber and Berserker also lost their respective battles. Especially Saber, whose wound will affect latter matches greatly. Gilgamesh displayed his Noble Phantasms with great fanfare and placed himself at a disadvantage, yet he did not expose his true name. Also, no one noticed the fact that Assassin was still alive. Thus, judging from the current situation, Tokiomi was still at a great advantage.
Kirei calmly calculated as he organized, but there was not one shred of excitement within his heart.
According to the wishes of the church, Tōsaka Tokiomi is to obtain the ultimate victory. Kirei’s mission is to help Tokiomi achieve that goal. He does not see many obstacles towards it. It was a mission without any real anticipation. It was also the conclusion of everything in the past three years.
Kirei tensed. A shadow silently came up, next to him. Someone, a woman wearing a skull mask and garbed entirely in black; it was Assassin who was responsible for reconnaissance near the storage street.
“… What is it?”
“Reporting. I have located something strange outside of the church.”
Assassin respectfully handed the corpse of a bat. Though the head has been twisted and broken, it was slightly warm – suggesting it hasn’t died for too long.
“Yes. Though it is outside the bounded field, but it is obvious that it was placed there to monitor the church.”
Assassin’s conclusion was unthinkable. The church is neutral in the Grail war and is not to be challenged. If anyone dares to interfere in the affairs of the church, the regulator can choose to punish them by decrease Command Seals or to temporarily suspend the ability to battle.
There is no reason to risk such a great amount to monitor the church. Unless –
The story that Kirei has lost Assassin and is now under the protection of the church…Already is a Master doubting the validity of the event?
He picked up the corpse of the bat from Assassin’s hand. Kirei fixed his sight on a strange object as he noticed that on the stomach of the bat there were small electronic parts taped onto it. A button-sized battery and … seemingly wireless CCD miniature camera.
If the bat was a familiar from a magus, it must have been a strange combination. Kirei knew that most magi scorned and ignored the worldly technologies. His teacher right now, Tokiomi, was one such man. This magus, on the other hand, not only uses magical sight but also uses machines to record everything. This is not something that a normal magus will even consider.
“… completely indiscriminating in their methods. Completely unaware of the pride as a magus…”
Like a lightning bolt, Tokiomi’s words flashed in the mind of Kotomine Kirei as he remembered his mentor’s words.
Kirei cannot deduct the magus who did this, or why he might have done this. He stared at the body of the little animal for a long time. In his heart, the answer to this riddle was more meaningful than tonight’s battle between five Servants.
Lift the iron top of the entrance, move it aside – such simple affairs also required almost an hour. To the haggard Matō Kariya, it was tenuous work even if he put all of his strength into it.
At last, Kariya pried a crack as the lid slide aside and the refreshing air flowed into the disgusting sewers. During this short moment, Kariya felt reinvigorated. Utilizing all of his strength, he pushed the manhole cover aside and slowly crawled up like a caterpillar. There was not a single person on the streets. In the silence of the night, no one noticed Kariya’s shadow.
It was the same street that the Servants battled over. It was only three streets away from the four-lane road.
Kariya was different from the other magi. He was only a skimmer magus – lacking the formal training and learning of a real magus, he was like a student who just went to cram school. He was not like the others and does not share their arrogance or their carelessness. On the other hand, however, he does not have the confidence when confronting other magi. Add the fact that his Servant was Berserker…even if he wanted to command Berserker at his side…
Berserker will never listen to his commands.
Thus, it was probably better to allow Berserker to wildly lob bombs at his opponents. Let him rage. Kariya decided to first protect himself as he observed the events from a safe location.
Kariya detected the scent of Lancer as he chased the Heroic Spirit to that location. As the battle began, he decided to not expose himself. Sending out “sight worms” obtained from Zōken, he hid in the sewers and observed the battle from underground.
Trying for a long time to stabilize his breathing, Kariya collapsed on his back on the freezing asphalt.
Blood covered his body. Most of his capillaries have exploded. Blood slowly flowed non-stop from the cracked parts of his skin.
A long time ago, Kariya once saw the victim of a nuclear power plant explosion struggle against disease. Right now, his appearance and situation was no different than the victim prior to his death. His body of flesh has already been destroyed. But there are Crest Worms spread across Kariya’s body. Its magecraft extended his lifespan and allowed him to wiggle.
Kariya cannot believe that his body was reduced to this state. When he supplied prana to Berserker, he felt as if the worms had already devoured his entire body.
Merely one battle and he has turned into this.
The backlash and responsibility for controlling Berserker was far beyond what Kariya can handle. In addition, Berserker is completely ignorant of Kariya’s orders – he was like a bloodthirsty beast.
As soon as he lets go, Berserker will butcher everything it sees, and it will not stop until all of its prana is spent. If the battle had continued for much longer, all would have been lost. Kariya would be drained into a dry husk by the worms as he would have been forced to supply more prana – more than his body would ever be able to handle.
To Kariya, the battle among Servants was truly risky. If he couldn’t endure to his limits and stop Berserker, the only thing that’s waiting for him is his own destruction.
Kariya thought about the various aspects of battle. He sighed deeply and cannot help but to think that the future was grim.
In order to defeat Tōsaka Tokiomi, there was still a long way to go.
Then, to defeat everything else and obtain the Grail…that future was even further away.
Yet to save Sakura, he must overcome all of his obstacles.
There is only pressing on. He cannot fall. Even if it costs him every last drop of his blood and every inch of his flesh, Matō Kariya must reach that far distant shore. If he cannot succeed, then all would have lost meaning.
Kariya forced his extremely weakened body to rise as he unsteadily stood up. He cannot slumber here forever.
Berserker has been hit by Rider’s Noble Phantasm. The damage was enormous. Without question, in order for it to fully heal it would take a great amount of time.
And prana. The prana Berserker requires to repair its body can only be obtained from the worms in Kariya’s body.
Kariya needs to rest.
He leaned against the wall. Struggling, Kariya’s body was incapable of standing alone as his and his wavering gait disappeared into the night.
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