Fate/Zero:Act 4 Part 2
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.
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