Head straight westward from Fuyuki’s busy streets for about thirty kilometers.
There is an east-west orientated state highway that cut through tall mountains far removed from villages and devoid of human presence. A stretch of dense forest occupied both sides of the highway, and this piece of forest seemed forgotten by the torrential upsurge of land development.
Maybe this land is state-owned, but based on its register it appears to be owned privately by an overseas company; moreover, it is yet unconfirmed whether this overseas company truly exists. If someone insists on investigating this land, then the first baffling thing would be this legendary urban myth.
It is rumored that in the deepest part of this dense forest, there exists a ‘legendary castle’.
Of course, this myth is only a boring fairytale. Although the forest is undeveloped it is still only about an hour’s drive away from Fuyuki city. If there truly is such an outlandish castle then everyone would know about it. In fact, people have conducted land surveys in this primeval forest numerous times and have not once found any traces of human structures.
But after every few years, someone would bring that myth up again.
A group of children once walked into this forest half-playfully, half-exploring, and there was also a lost hitchhiker. They saw an ancient castle suddenly appearing out of the dense fog; it was built out of rock and immensely spectacular. No one lived inside the castle and it appeared to be abandoned. But within it there were all sorts of utilities and everything was in perfect order, and people couldn’t help but have the illusion that humans indeed live here. It is said to be an extremely uncanny ancient castle.
Obviously no one would believe in this rumor. The best it can be is a story told by tabloids that have ran out of news material, which used one page in their summer special edition devoted to strange tales to pass it across.
Only a very small amount of magi know that this castle truly exists.
This castle only welcomes the owner that enters here to participate in the war every sixty years; all in all, it is a castle of the way of magecraft.
This castle is enveloped by multiple layers of illusions and bounded fields, and would never be exposed to the outside except in rare accidents. This is a strange space of existence. The people who know of the castle’s existence call this dense forest ‘the Einzbern forest’.
When Fuyuki held the Heaven’s Feel Jubstacheit, the head of the Einzbern family, felt that it is an inappropriate move to establish an outpost on the land directly subjected to their archrival Tohsaka family. Therefore, he fully used the financial power of his clan and bought all the leyline covered grounds closest to Fuyuki as the Einzbern family’s headquarters. That was near the beginning of the third Heaven’s Feel, which also coincided with the tense and dangerous times just before the onset of the Second World War.
This broad primeval forest is covered with a bounded field and completely isolated to the outside world, and the Einzbern family transferred everything in their original castle into this forest. From this act, the Einzbern’s immense financial power and their extraordinary persistence in pursuing the Holy Grail can be seen. Compared to the Einzberns, the various negotiations the Tohsakas had to make in order to purchase land at Fuyuki and the pains they put in to concealing it all would be a mere laughing matter.
The dense atmosphere made Irisviel sigh numerous times.
“– Are you tired, Iri?”
Kiritsugu asked. Irisviel hid her melancholic expression and shook her head with a smile.
“It’s nothing, I’m not tired. Keep going.”
Irisviel urged Kiritsugu. Kiritsugu continued to talk about all sorts of intelligence concerning Fuyuki city. A map portraying the entire Fuyuki city was spread on the table in front of Kiritsugu.
“– Two locations are the heart of the entire area. One is the residence of the Second Master, Tohsaka. The other goes without saying; that is Mount Enzō. All the leylines in the surrounding area gather at Mount Enzō. The details are just as Head of the Household Acht had said – “
Servants arrived at the castle before Irisviel and company did and had prepared everything appropriately at the meeting place before leaving. Therefore, the place where the meeting was being held was immaculate. Not a speck of dust gathered anywhere from table legs to tea cups, and vases were filled with lively flowers. It’s impossible to imagine that no one has lived here for sixty years.
It’d be a lie to say that she’s not tired. But Irisviel had at least rested in bed for a little while. Kiritsugu, on the other hand, didn’t rest for one minute. It was already near noon when Kiritsugu and his assistant Hisau Maiya arrived at the castle. However, as soon as they arrived at the castle they received the summons from Fuyuki church, controlled familiars, confirmed the notice from the supervisor and such, and Kiritsugu busily dealt with all these hassles without a halt. Last night, after the battle at the warehouses, Kiritsugu and company attacked Lancer’s Master Kayneth, and even encountered Kotomine Kirei. Another fierce battle ensued. Yet, Kiritsugu didn’t even show a sliver of exhaustion, then there’s no reason for Irisviel to complain of tiredness either.
No, there were other, hidden reasons for Irisviel to sigh.
“-There's a powerful boundary around Mount Enzo, originating from the Ryuudo Temple at its peak. Because of that, existences that aren't nature spirits -- such as Servants -- are only able to enter via the road approaching the shrine. Keep that in mind when you're using Saber.”
These words advising caution to Saber could be directly said to Saber face to face. However, Kiritsugu still didn’t even once look at the girl dressed in masculine attire and standing behind Irisviel.
There were two reasons why the air became stagnant and heavy. One was that Saber displayed an attitude of absolute refusal towards Kiritsugu. This attitude of Saber’s didn’t form just now, but it only became more obvious since they arrived at Einzbern castle.
“Also, apart from these two locations, there are two more key positions in Shinto where leylines gather. One is the Fuyuki church on top of the southern hill, and the other is the new housing development to the east of the CBD. To conclude, there are four key spiritual grounds in Fuyuki where it is properly equipped to carry out the Holy Grail’s descent.”
"Then, once the war enters the ending phase and the number of Servants have been narrowed down, we must take control of one of these locations?"
"Correct. Any questions concerning the topography?"
"...Saber, is there anything you are not certain of?"
Irisviel did the tactful thing and tried to arouse her interest. The girl Servant smiled and shook her head.
"Nothing in particular. It was a sufficient explanation."
While the girl in question is probably not aware, from an observer's point of view it was a sarcastic, flippant reply.
With a sigh, Irisviel continued.
"So, as for our policies from now on... It seems all the other Masters will hunt down Caster first, right, Kiritsugu?"
"Yeah, that seems to be the case. The supervisor did hint that there would be compensation for the effort."
A while ago, Kiritsugu told them about the announcement from the Fuyuki Church, and the supervisor's revision of the rules; the perverse nature of the Servant Caster and the supervisor's backing in stopping him.
"However, concerning this Caster, it would be more advantageous if we did not join with the other Masters. After all, as of this moment we are the only ones who know his true name... Baron Gilles de Rais."
Kiritsugu, his lips crooked by a cynical smile, continued.
"He must have lost his mind if he's prowling after Saber like that, thinking that she is Joan of Arc. This guy is useful. We don't even need to drive him away, just set our nets and wait."
"Master, that is not enough."
That was the cold, objecting voice of Saber, who had thus far been secluded from the discussion.
"With Caster's personality, if we do nothing and simply watch over him, then the number of innocent victims will only increase. His misdeeds are unacceptable. We should force him out before the damage spreads."
Perhaps Saber hoped that, with her sincere words, she could pass through the wall surrounding Kiritsugu's heart; if so, then it was futile.
As ever, Kiritsugu, with no indication that he even heard Saber's voice, spoke again.
"It'll be fine, Iri. We found no openings in the boundary field, and the alarm and scanning systems have already been checked..."
Biting her lip, Saber's expression became grimmer as she stared as Kiritsugu. While Saber could forcibly endure the way Kiritsugu ignored her, the righteous indignation that he would let Caster do as he wish was too much.
Of course, Emiya Kiritsugu could not be any less concerned by Saber's stare.
"We weren't going to use the castle this time, but the situation has changed. Until we can lure Caster in, we will hold our position in this fortress."
"... But Kiritsugu, don't we need to think of a way to deal with Lancer first?"
Irisviel gave a counterpoint on behalf of the ignored Saber.
"It has been eight hours since you defeated Lord El-Melloi, yet Saber's left hand still won't heal."
"If the curse of that spear doesn't disappear, it means Lancer is still fine. Unlike Archer and his Independant Action skill, the Servant Lancer cannot remain for a long time in the present world without a Master."
Kiritsugu quickly nodded to what his wife was pointing out.
"That's certain. Maybe Lancer formed a new contract with a new Master, or I failed in killing Kayneth... a hindrance came up and prevented me from checking out he was dead."
“If so, in order to face Caster more safely, don’t we need to defeat Lancer first?”
However, faced with Irisviel’s continuous questions, Kiritsugu shook his head.
“We have no need to confront Caster directly when he appears. All you need to do is to use the advantage of the terrain to the maximum. Saber can just run away and confuse the enemy’s line of sight.”
Irisviel was shocked. When Saber heard this from Kiritsugu, she was gaping with anger.
“Not… fighting Caster?”
“All the other Masters have set their aim at Caster. Someone is bound to deal with Caster without us lifting a finger. Therefore, we have no need to commit this extra act.”
“Caster is rich picking for all those Masters who are chasing Caster with bloodshot eyes. Caster’s sight is locked on Saber. As long as Caster makes a move, then one or two of the Masters pursuing Caster would definitely set foot in this forest and we can attack these Masters sideways. The Master who gave pursuing Caster all their attention would never think that they would change from the role of the hunter to the hunted.”
That was it; such was creditably Kiritsugu’s strategy. In Kiritsugu’s eyes there are no human morals or the pride of being a magus. He is only a predatory machine deducted from the formula of the survival of the fittest.
Kiritsugu originally didn’t plan to come to this castle. Irisviel finally understood Kiritsugu’s intention in suddenly changing his plans and joining forces with her.
“Master, you… just how despicable do you want to be?!”
Saber rebuked loudly and angrily, and Irisviel also felt a faint pang in her heart. Saber’s indignation right now was different from the anger she had last night due to Rider’s mockery and Caster’s boasting – in some ways this was an even more furious anger.
“Emiya Kiritsugu, you’re insulting the Heroic Spirits.”
“I only joined this war to avoid spilling rivers of blood. Fight for the Holy Grail, no meaningless bloodshed, minimize sacrifices, one person taking up the mission of fate instead of armies of men and competing here… this is what we Servants should do.”
“Why don’t you give me the responsibility of joining the battle? You were just like that when you attacked Lancer’s Master last night. One misstep had resulted in a disaster. I have already made a deal with Lancer to fight again! You don’t need to use such despicable means – or is it that Kiritsugu doesn’t have faith in me, who is a Servant?”
Kiritsugu didn’t reply. He kept an indifferent silence as if Saber’s furious words were mere trifles. Irisviel hated that mask-like expression of indifference on Kiritsugu’s face to no end.
That man was not the husband she knew.
She indeed knew that the person Emiya Kiritsugu has dual personalities. She detected that on the one hand Kiritsugu invested all his emotions to his wife and daughter, and on the other hand he hid the scars of the past in his heart. Irisviel knew something about what kind of life Kiritsugu lived before he entered the Einzbern family. But was that the decisive factor that caused the split between them?
Also, the factor that helped Irisviel to realize this was that black-clad woman present in the meeting. That woman didn’t speak a single word, and silently entrusted everything she has to Kiritsugu. That woman was the other reason why Irisviel was feeling melancholic.
It wasn’t the first time she’s seen Hisau Maiya. She had seen Hisau Maiya a few times in the Einzbern castle. It was Hisau Maiya who managed all of Kiritsugu’s worldly businesses outside during the nine years of Kiritsugu’s seclusion.
The woman who acted with Kiritsugu before he met Irisviel. In the duration of this meeting, she didn’t have a sliver of doubt towards Kiritsugu’s words and kept her adamant silence. Perhaps, for Maiya, the Kiritsugu right now was the Emiya Kiritsugu she knew.
Suddenly, a faint aroma drifted into Irisviel’s nose. It was the smell of tobacco. That scent of tobacco had always been with Kiritsugu, from the day she met him. Irisviel still remembered that she detested that smell a lot back then.
She hadn’t smelt that scent for a long time after she married Kiritsugu. Now, the scent of tobacco again emanated from Kiritsugu. Perhaps that is the gunpowder smell of the battlefield.
The current Kiritsugu had undoubtedly returned to the Kiritsugu nine years ago. Back then, in order to win the Holy Grail, Acht took Kiritsugu in. Kiritsugu was like a cruel and merciless hound.
And the Irisviel back then was merely a doll guarding the Holy Grail. As she reminisced Kiritsugu’s past, it was almost as if Irisviel was remembering her own past. As if the nine years the two of them lived together no longer existed. Irisviel’s heart started to become fretful and restless.
Right now, the person closest to the man Emiya Kiritsugu was not her, who is his wife, but Hisau Maiya…
Irisviel did not say what she was thinking of, but asked a completely irrelevant question:
“… How should we deal with the new rule of the war the supervisor had proposed? Didn’t he want us to enter a ceasefire with all enemies apart from Caster?”
“Ignore that new rule. The supervisor only provided the rewards for abiding with the new rule, not the details of the punishment you’d get if you break the new rule. If the supervisor really buggers us about it, we can just pretend we didn’t know about this rule.”
Completely different from his attitude when treating Saber, Kiritsugu replied to Irisviel’s questions thoroughly.
“– Besides, it just doesn’t feel like the supervisor of this war can be trusted and respected. Hiding Assassin’s Master as if he knows nothing about it; he’s probably on Tohsaka’s side. Before we figure out everything about him, we should temporarily regard him with some doubt.”
Saber was so angry her body was shaking, and countless thoughts roamed in Irisviel’s heart. For a moment, the two of them both sank into silence. Kiritsugu took such a silence as the sign to end the meeting.
“Then the meeting’s over. Irisviel and I will remain in the castle and prepare for Caster’s assault. Maiya is to return to the city and gather intelligence. Report it to me if there are any changers there.”
Maiya nodded unhesitatingly, stood up, and left the meeting room. Kiritsugu stood up a while later, gathered the map and documents on the table, and also left the room. Kiritsugu didn’t look at Saber even once until the end.
Saber, completely ignored by Kiritsugu, bit her lip tightly and angrily and stared at the carpet beneath her feet. Irisviel and Saber remained in the meeting room. Right now, Irisviel didn’t know what words she could say to soothe the fuming Saber.
No, the proud King of Knights, Saber, wouldn’t expect others to comfort her with useless words. Currently, for Saber, the necessary thing to do was to resolve the current problem at its root. When she thought of this, Irisviel put a hand on Saber’s shoulder to show her gratitude towards her, and immediately chased after Kiritsugu and left the meeting room.
That overwhelmingly deliberate ignorance Kiritsugu showed towards Saber – it wasn’t just because the two of them had different beliefs. If Kiritsugu didn’t harbor emotions such as extreme hatred or anger towards Saber he wouldn’t be able to act so ignorantly towards her. All in all, Kiritsugu had overdone it this time. No matter how much the strategies of the two differed, they were still companions fighting for a common goal. Although they don’t have to respect each other, they shouldn’t humiliate each other either.
Irisviel soon discovered Kiritsugu’s figure. He stood on the balcony that could overlook the front garden of the castle, leaning on the railing, and looked out into the night forest. Fortunately, Maiya’s figure wasn’t beside Kiritsugu.
Irisviel spoke as she slowly walked up to Kiritsugu’s back. She didn’t think that her voice would suddenly become severe. Kiritsugu must have also felt her presence. Because Kiritsugu didn’t appear surprised at all, but turned slowly around.
Irisviel was already prepared. Just then, when Kiritsugu confronted Saber in the meeting room, a look of such cruelty seeped out of his eyes. Irisviel prepared to stare straight into Kiritsugu’s cruel gaze. However, when she saw Kiritsugu’s expression when he turned around, she couldn’t help but feel helpless and stood rooted to the ground.
Kiritsugu’s expression was like a hurt and helpless child, forcibly holding back his tears. Kiritsugu looked as if he’s been driven up against a wall. The Kiritsugu standing before Irisviel right now was so very remote from the figure of that powerful magus killer; he is only a weak and cowardly man.
“Kiritsugu, you –”
Kiritsugu didn’t speak, hugging the confused Irisviel tightly. His chest was shaking. In Irisviel’s eyes, her husband’s shoulders were always strong and powerful, something others can rely on, but now her husband was as helpless as a baby sheltering in the arms of his gentle mother.
“If I –”
Irisviel felt that her husband hugged her tighter, even hurting her. Then, her husband’s weak question sounded beside her ear.
“If right now I decide to throw away everything and run away from here – Iri, will you leave with me?”
Probably, Irisviel would never be able to imagine that a man like Emiya Kiritsugu would ask such a question. She was so shocked she couldn’t speak for a while, and asked back only after a long pause:
“Ilya… that child is still in the castle. What about her?”
“We go back to the castle and bring her out. All who stand in our way will be killed.”
That was a short and crisp sound – but also full of despair. Doubtlessly, Kiritsugu wasn’t joking; he was serious.
“After that – I’ll give everything I have for our family. I’ll protect Ilya and you with my life.”
Now Irisviel finally understood the feeling of this trapped man in front of her. Kiritsugu, the partner of her life, was facing the greatest battle in his life, and he’s already been forced onto a road of no return.
He was no longer the Kiritsugu from nine years ago. No longer that cold and emotionless hound, no longer that killing machine who endlessly chastened himself.
Kiritsugu had changed. He’s gotten very weak, even forcing himself into such a situation to achieve that very cruel ideal. The key that made Kiritsugu change was none other but Irisviel.
Wife and daughter. They weren’t meant to be swept into Emiya Kiritsugu’s life.
Originally, Kiritsugu had nothing to lose. He couldn’t even feel pain. It was precisely because Emiya Kiritsugu was such a man that he can be extraordinarily strong, he can pursue the immense ideal of saving the world, unhesitatingly sacrifice everything for it, and become a soldier whose cruelty knows no bounds.
The current Kiritsugu wanted to go back to the past, to be the man he was before. But – at the same time that he remembered the past, in the depth of Kiritsugu’s current soul an inconsolable dilemma formed. These nine years completely changed Kiritsugu. Kiritsugu was already enduring a huge amount of pressure and pain just to maintain the look of cruelty and heartlessness he had before.
Kiritsugu’s ignorance of Saber was exactly the exposure of Kiritsugu’s weakness. Currently, Kiritsugu was already exhausted trying to preserve himself. He had no energy to accept Saber, even with no extra energy left to communicate to the King of Knights.
Irisviel’s heart hurt terribly. The man she loves with all her heart was being tormented, but there was nothing she could do. That’s because the person that caused all of Kiritsugu’s anguish is herself.
The only thing Irisviel can do now – was to weakly raise her doubt to him.
“Are we able to run away? We…”
“We can. Now there’s still a chance.”
Kiritsugu replied immediately. But that wasn’t believable. Kiritsugu only said that to allow his own heart to still cherish that illusionary hope.
“– You’re lying.”
So Irisviel pointed that out, gently, cruelly.
“That’s impossible. Emiya Kiritsugu, it’s impossible for you to run away. Give up the Holy Grail, give up the ideal of saving the world; you will definitely not forgive such a self. You will definitely be the final judge and declare the death penalty for yourself.”
Kiritsugu finally cried out. He understood that too. He had no choices left since a long time ago.
“I’m so scared…”
Kiritsugu sobbed, and spoke of what was in his heart like a child.
“That guy – Kotomine Kirei locked his aim on me. Maiya told me that. That guy used Kayneth as bait to lure me onto his hook. He’s already guessed all my plans…”
“I may lose the battle. I sacrificed you, and left Ilya aside, but still… that most dangerous person had already aimed his weapons at me. That guy is the enemy I least want to meet!”
Emiya Kiritsugu, not a hero nor a warrior, but a killer. He doesn’t have the courage and the pride to battle others with his life on the line. He is a coward. Therefore, his goal is to cautiously and with the least risk ensure his victory and the right to survive. For the hunter, the worst nightmare is to be hunted by another.
But even so, if it was the Kiritsugu nine years ago, he wouldn’t so much as lift an eyebrow and would calmly think up the best solution. That was the terror of Kiritsugu when he had no loved ones to lose. But now, when the Kiritsugu who is afraid to lose his loved ones faces battles again, the fear of losing those he loves became his fatal weakness.
“I won’t let you fight alone.”
Irisviel said gently as she caressed her husband’s shaking back.
“I’ll protect you. Saber will also protect you. And… Maiya will also be beside you.”
Irisviel was forced to admit which woman Kiritsugu needs the most at the moment.
Only one person can reawaken the tenacious toughness sealed away in the depths of Kiritsugu’s heart, and recall the cruel and heartless personality Kiritsugu had many years ago. But Irisviel would never mention these to Kiritsugu.
If Irisviel still had something she could do, then that is to embrace Kiritsugu, and let Kiritsugu have some temporary solace. However – Irisviel prayed silently in her heart.
It wouldn’t matter if her prayers don’t work. She prayed that the time she’s allowed to embrace Kiritsugu would be lengthened, even for a minute or a second. Then, she can cure Kiritsugu’s pain the best she can with her limited strength.
– Such prayers and the embrace of the two simultaneously disappeared without a trace.
Irisviel’s chest suddenly throbbed intensively, and she couldn’t help but tense up her entire body. Repeating and intensive vibrations appeared in her magic circuits as soon as she held the forest’s bounded field within her own magecraft.
That was the alarm.
“– Here already?”
Her husband muttered beside her ear. Calmly – he returned to the resolute and cruel tone she still hasn’t gotten used to.
Kiritsugu detected that something had happened just by seeing his wife’s expression. Irisviel nodded silently and left her husband’s embrace. The cruel countenance of that ‘magus killer’ once again emerged in front of her eyes.
“Fortunately, he came before Maiya left. Now we can smash him face on – Irisviel, prepare the crystal ball used to look into the distance.”
Events were happening much quicker than expected. The whirlwind of battle began to blow in the forest.
“– He’s appeared.”
All the main players of the Einzbern camp once again gathered in the meeting room – Kiritsugu, Maiya, and Saber. Before the three of them, Irisviel showed the image the bounded field had captured of the invader on the crystal ball.
The invader donned an inky black cassock, and an evil aura reeled about it. Also, the patterns dyed crimson red on the cloth was as if stained with blood, wavering in and out of view in the forest.
“Is this that Caster?”
It was the first time Kiritsugu saw Caster. Irisviel nodded towards him. The figure reflected on the crystal ball was indeed the weird Heroic Spirit that stopped Saber last night.
“But, what’s he going to do?”
What was making Irisviel puzzled was the fact that Caster led a group of people behind him.
Caster didn’t act alone this time. It looks as if he led ten or so people behind him, and sauntered forward in the forest. All these people were immature children. Even the oldest only looked like primary school students. All the children wobbled as they walked like they were sleep-walking, while Caster walked at the front leading them on. Undoubtedly, these children were controlled by Caster’s magecraft.
It must be that Caster saw the notice of the supervisor, and kidnapped these children from Fuyuki and its surroundings.
“Iri, what’s the location of that guy?”
“Within two kilometres northwest of the castle. Looks like Caster doesn’t intend to go further into the forest.”
The bounded field expanded in the forest is a circle with a diameter of five kilometers and has the castle as its center. Caster’s location was at the edge of this bounded field.
If Caster goes any deeper towards the center of the bounded field, then Irisviel can support Saber in battle. However, as if Caster saw through Irisviel’s intentions, he started circling around the outside of the bounded field.
"Irisviel, the enemy is baiting us to come out.”
Saber said resolutely. She needs only a few minutes to arrive at Caster’s location just with her speed on foot as a Servant. Saber’s thoughts also passed to Irisviel. At that moment, Saber’s mood was extremely anxious, and wanted to go out and smash Caster.
But the King of Knights couldn’t do whatever she wanted. The group of children gathered behind Caster – was exactly the reason why the King of Knights was feeling unsettled.
“Hostages… right? Definitely so.”
Irisviel muttered melancholically. Saber nodded.
“Triggering the pre-set traps and machinations would harm those children. Only if I go and defeat Caster can these children be saved.”
The current situation was clear without explaining. However, Irisviel also had reason for hesitating. Saber’s wound is a great disadvantage and it’s worrying to have her fight Caster like this. Irisviel instinctively deduced that Caster is a tough enemy. Irisviel couldn’t support Saber on the outside of the bounded field. Letting Saber fight alone in such a situation…
At that time, Caster’s beast-like eyes suddenly looked up. Could it be that he had already sensed Irisviel’s “clairvoyance”?
Caster stared at Irisviel’s direction and flatteringly lifted his arms and bowed at Irisviel. It was such a simple thing to do for the magus Heroic Spirit.
“I came here specially to visit you according to last night’s promise.”
The surface of the solid crystal ball began to waver, and sound began to be passed along from the surveillance location.
“Now, please give the order, to let me be in the presence of that beautiful holy maiden again.”
Saber stared at Irisviel, urging her to quickly give a command. The girl who was a Servant had already made the preparation to fight. It was only her master who was hesitating.
As if he saw through Irisviel’s thoughts, Caster showed an expression of scorn, spat out a laugh as if he was acting in a one-man’s-show, and said:
“… Ah, looks like you still can’t make up your mind. I expected to wait for a long while too, so just take your time making preparations. C’mon, this is such a boring game – can I borrow a corner of your territory?”
Caster clicked his fingers. The children who were obediently following Caster’s back all the time opened up their eyes as if waking up from a dream. The children looked about themselves helplessly, as if they couldn’t figure out where they were.
“Listen children, we’re gonna play hide-and-seek. The rules are simple. Just run away from me. If I catch you – “
Caster’s hand stretched out from the sleeve of the cassock with a swish, and caught a child beside him.
Saber knew that her prevention would have no effect, yet she couldn’t help but yell out.
The sound of a skull shattering. Brain matter sprayed in all directions and eyeballs slid down in the air. Those nightmarish scenes were engraved into everyone’s mind.
The children let out a harrowing scream and scattered everywhere. Caster, standing in the middle, laughed loudly and happily and licked his blood-covered fingers with his tongue.
“Hurry up and run. I’m gonna start chasing you after I count to a hundred. So Jeanne, before I catch all the children, how long are you going to prepare?”
Irisviel didn’t hesitate anymore when she saw this scene. It was impossible for her to hesitate anymore. She is also a child’s mother. That child who was killed and then discarded; his small and pitiful figure was exactly the same size as her own daughter Ilya.
“Saber, defeat Caster for me.”
The King of Knight’s reply was extremely short. Saber had already disappeared from the meeting room when Irisviel heard her reply. Only the wind that started to blow behind her was full of extraordinary rage.
(Note: A big thanks to CanonRap and Byakko for helping with the missing pages in the Chinese version!)
Saber turned into a gust of roaring wind and galloped in the forest.
Now Saber no longer cared about her disagreements with Kiritsugu. Her heart would turn into a sword once at the battlefield. A sword whetted matchlessly sharp and gleaming. It is a sword that had not a sliver of doubt.
Saber knew very clearly that she was running into Caster’s battle array of magecraft. Her blood was boiling; the evils that this devil had committed made Saber furious. But what’s pushing Saber forward at the moment wasn’t her furious mood. Anger and hatred alone would not be able to turn Saber’s heart into a sharp sword.
Those slaughtered children. It wasn’t as if Saber hasn’t seen such scenes before. As long as one is at the battlefield, no matter how unbearable one finds such things to be, those small carcasses would still be seen. For her, who was once King Arthur, it was an ordinary situation seen all the time.
The so-called humans, once they stand at the edge of life and death, would turn incomparably ugly, despicable and violent. Humans are two-legged beasts that ravished women, slaughtered children, and robbed the poor. Nine out of ten times the blood-stained battlefield would become full of such demons.
However, precisely because of that, humans need to ‘prove’ themselves even if they have sunken into Hell. Prove that humans can still live on with dignity no matter what difficulties surround them. Someone is needed to prove and testify to that.
The one who can testify to that is the knight. The shining star on the battlefield.
A knight must proudly illuminate the entire battlefield by inspiring awe with his justice. He needs to let those fallen souls, reduced to demons, to again pick up honor and pride, and become proper humans once more. Putting aside his own anger, sadness and anguish and focus on the greater good: that is the duty a knight must bear.
Therefore, Saber must defeat Caster. This isn’t the urge of anger but her duty.
Saber had to admit such actions are lacking in careful consideration. She couldn’t help it if someone rebukes that she acted too hastily. However, Saber isn’t someone with only brawn and no brains. Although she predicted that Caster would be a tough enemy, she did not despair; because it’s not as if she has no hope for victory. If it is going to be a fight to the death, the last person standing would be her – that was Saber’s intuition.
Caster must be defeated. Different from Kiritsugu, Saber had her reasons to defeat Caster by her own hand. She must subdue that devil even if she suffers heavy wounds and damages her strength. This is the duty of the King of Knights, an inescapable obligation. A devil that sullied the meaning of war, a scum that humiliated the pride of humans; Saber would never let such a person go.
The stench of blood became heavier. The mud that wrapped about the edge of her armor stopped Saber’s steps.
Behind Saber, the ground was clouded with raised dust, and the disturbed dust was soaked through with dampness. That dampness wasn’t caused by rain, but crimson blood.
It was a sickening stench. A sea of blood surrounded her. Just what kind of cruel slaughter did Caster go through to create such an unbearable scene? Saber’s heart was torn apart with pain when she thought of this.
And the ones slaughtered were all young and lovely children. Saber remembered those children, screaming with terror, which she saw in the crystal ball. That was something that happened just then. Just a few minutes ago, before Saber galloped into the forest.
Back then they were still lively children. Now they’ve already turned into scattered carcasses.
“You’re finally here. Jeanne, I’ve waited a long time.”
Caster greeted the stationary silver-white figure with a hearty smile. Caster’s face was full of complacent smiles as if he was very satisfied with the lavish ‘banquet’ he was holding. Caster stood in the middle of this sea of blood; his inky black cassock was covered with the fresh blood of the hostages, making his smile more spooky and terrifying.
“What do you think about this tragic scene? Mortifying? Could you even imagine the anguish those innocent and lovely children went through at their end?”
“But Jeanne, this still isn’t a true tragedy. Compared to after I’ve lost you, in order to meet you again –”
Saber had nothing to say, and she had no intention to listen to Caster’s long speech either. She wanted to cleave Caster in half with one sword blow; with no hesitation left, she took a step towards Caster.
Caster also detected the killing intent in Saber’s advancing step and stopped talking, suddenly pulling his hands out from the edges of his cassock.
The thing that was hidden in front of Caster’s chest once again made Saber stop her advance.
It was a child – the sole surviving hostage. He was still sobbing weakly as Caster’s forearms held him close. Did Caster leave him alive just to use him as a shield in the battle against Saber?
“– Oh Jeanne, your flaming and anger-filled eyes are so appealing.”
Caster, feeling relaxed, smiled briefly towards Saber.
“Do you hate me so much? Yes, you should hate me. I betrayed the mercy and love of God and you would never forgive me for that. You were truly more devoted to God than anyone else.”
“Let that child go.”
The tone Saber used to command Caster was as cold as a blade.
“This competition for the Holy Grail is to select the Heroic Spirit most worthy of obtaining the Grail. If you use strategies that sully Heroic Spirits, you will be abandoned by the Holy Grail.”
“Since you’ve already been resurrected, the Holy Grail is useless to me… Jeanne, if you really want to save this child’s life.”
Caster couldn’t help but laugh out loud. Then, with his face full of disappointment, he softly let go of his grip and placed the child on the ground.
“Don’t cry, child. You should be happy. God’s devoted disciple came to save you. The omnipotent God finally answered to your wishes. None of your friends received God’s salvation, except you.”
It seemed that the young child also understood that this blonde girl who sprinted here was his saviour, and began to cry loudly at once. At the same time he ran straight towards Saber.
The child’s little hands clasped Saber’s shin guard. Saber’s fingertips softly brushed past the child’s hands. The only thing that can envelope the child and give her solace was the mountains surrounding them. Currently Saber was in a very desperate situation. She could no longer prepare for battle and take care of the child’s safety at the same time.
“It’s very dangerous here. Get away quickly. Run this way, and then you’ll see a big big castle. In there people will help –”
Clack, the child’s spine made a sound. His sobs became painful wails.
Saber was shocked beyond words; the little figure in front of her eyes burst apart. Moreover, what gushed out from within the child was not red blood.
It was an inky horde of snakes, countless snakes intertwined together – no, that thing was covered with suckers as big as fish gills, not something as simple as a group of snakes. Are they octopi? Or the tentacles of some strange octopus-like creature? Those tentacles, as thick as Saber’s arms, extended in the blink of an eye and wrapped themselves around the silver armor, starting to tightly constrain Saber’s arms and legs.
The flesh and blood of the hostage still hung on the demonic monsters summoned from another world – there was more than one demonic monster surrounding Saber. Endless tentacles continued to emerge from the remains of the hostages scattered everywhere; a dozen or so monsters surrounded Saber almost immediately.
Those monsters are about the same size. They have no limbs or a lower body, making them impossible to describe with words. There is a circular mouth at the end of each one of those endless tentacles. The mouths contain razor-sharp teeth like a shark’s. Although the origins of those creatures are unknown, they’re definitely not living beings of nature. They might be creatures from another world, and that world does not obey the natural laws.
“I should have told you beforehand, you should make full preparations the next time you see me.”
Caster laughed loudly as if celebrating his victory. As he spoke, a thick book appeared in his hands. The cover of the book was wet and glistening and, unbelievably, a piece of human skin was placed on it. It is only an ordinary book by the look of it, but with Saber’s lightning-like senses she could tell that massive amounts of prana surged around with the book as its center and expanded outwards. Without a doubt, that book is Caster’s Noble Phantasm.
“This is the magical book my friend and ally left for me. I obtained the means to lead armies of demons using this book. What do you think? Is it that no other army can stand up to the majesty of my demonic army?”
Saber didn’t reply. She was still tightly bound by the tentacles. The rotten and smashed formless carcass still remained in her hands. Those demonic monsters consume the flesh of the hostages as they emerge; therefore the remains of the carcass no longer had any solid weight. That kid was just crying and clutching to the edge of her clothes a minute before; now it was already reduced to this tragic state.
“– That’s enough. I don’t want to compete for the Grail with you anymore.”
The swordsman Servant, Saber, said quietly. At the same time, she released the anger that has been roaring and fuming in her heart.
The demonic monsters began to retreat backwards. Compared to sound waves, that impact wave brought more force to Caster’s eardrums.
What erupted from the slender body of the girl was a yell of blood-churning anger – and a huge burst of prana. Those tentacles that surrounded Saber’s entire body didn’t endure even a second of her prana burst. They broke into slivers of flesh in the blink of an eye, scattered away and disappeared. Not a trace of the slime that enveloped Saber lingered on her; the silver armor regained its brilliant shine. Amid the hordes of demonic monsters, the girl stood like the god of war, and glared at Caster with burning eyes.
“I ask for nothing in this battle, and I don’t want to obtain anything either. But now… this sword in my hands is made to eliminate you.”
Caster was awed by Saber’s majesty, and began to gasp weakly. His expression – it’s not one of doubt or fear, but slightly lost and confused.
“So noble, so just… Oh holy maiden, even gods fall to shame in front of you!”
Caster’s voice was extraordinarily happy, but suddenly he sank into silence. Taking that as their signal, the fragile tentacles lashed towards Saber like an avalanche.
“I have stained my love! I haven sunken into love’s bog! Oh holy maid!”
The swinging sword and the mad laughter lifted the curtains of this battle to the death.
Irisviel held her breath and gazed unblinkingly at the turn of the battle in the crystal ball.
The uncanny matter Saber had predicted was also already very obvious.
Considering the special abilities of Servant classes, Saber has an overwhelming advantage over Caster when they battle. When she achieved the class of the Heroic Spirit of the sword her ability of magic resistance was increased in magnitudes. If Caster uses magecraft as his main weapon and intensively resists Saber upfront, then he has not the smallest amount of chance.
Caster is a magus who can summon evil demons.
Saber’s magic resistance ability can only be activated when someone targets her to use magecraft. It can not stop Caster from summoning monsters from other worlds. Moreover, once those monsters are summoned, they would materialize and carry a threat different from magecraft. The teeth and curved claws of the monsters have attack powers equal to swords. The only things Saber could use are her sword and body when facing those monsters.
But even so, Saber, the mightiest in armed battle, would not fear any mere monsters summoned from another world. That is most certain. However, that is something she could only do when her body has no wounds.
The battle of the forest reflected in the crystal ball was definitely not an optimistic situation.
Faced with the monstrous tentacles that continuously attacked her, Saber didn’t move back a single step. She still maintained the swift and ferocious attacking posture. Every time Saber waved the invisible sharp sword in her hands, monsters would be cleaved apart in the air. Those hordes of tentacles did not manage to go near the girl Servant a single step.
Saber is completely capable of pushing back the monsters’ attacks, but those monsters attacked one wave after another – this means Saber was already in a bad situation where she has to defend with all her might.
Although Saber can defeat the opposing army with her vicious swordplay, Caster was merely standing far away with ease and watching her fight. Saber couldn’t even get one step closer to the leader of the monsters, Caster.
Countless new monsters with their tentacles continued to grow out of places where they were severed, and endless monsters also emerged from the pools of blood soaking the earth. Those monsters surrounded Saber in layers.
That invisible sword and the continuously summoned and materializing monsters were in a situation where their powers were completely equal to each other. This means Caster holds the reins for this battle. That magus wasn’t trying to get a quick victory but moved step by step, maneuvering just enough forces needed to combat Saber, and got the battle into a deadlock.
It seems like Caster planned to fight a drawn-out battle. He wants to tire Saber out, exhaust all her energy, and then finish Saber off with one blow. Moreover, right now Saber was completely stuck in Caster’s trap.
Perhaps the situation would have been different if Saber wasn’t wounded. It’d be a piece of cake for Saber to handle this group of weaklings. However, now Saber’s left hand was troubled by that curse. Saber’s expression could be seen through the crystal ball; she was evidently very anxious about not being able to fight as she wishes.
“Still no sign of other Masters entering the forest at the moment?”
Kiritsugu’s question came from behind Irisviel. Obviously, Kiritsugu didn’t care too much about Saber’s problematic situation. Irisviel was extremely disappointed with Kiritsugu. However, Kiritsugu looked like he didn’t notice his wife’s disappointment and just silently prepared his weapons. Kiritsugu placed various grenades and small machine guns into the suspender beneath his jacket. This is something quite unbelievable, the preparation of a magus about to enter battle – however, Irisviel saw that the holster by Kiritsugu’s waist contained the magecraft single-loader that Kiritsugu only carried at crucial moments. She understood that her husband had made the preparation to fight the best he could.
“Maiya, escape the castle with Iri. Go in the opposite direction of Saber.”
Maiya nodded undoubtedly when she heard Kiritsugu’s command. But Irisviel couldn’t conceal the uncertainty in her heart.
“Can’t I… stay here?”
“Saber is fighting far away from here, which means this castle is no longer safe because others would think the same as I do. So it’s very dangerous here.”
Someone may really want to take advantage of this and attack Saber’s Master in the short period of time when Saber is away from the castle. The best time to kill a Master is when the Master and Servant were acting separated from each other.
Between a Master under the protection of his Servant, and a magus that guards his headquarters all by himself, which one of those two enemies is easier to defeat? – Kiritsugu would definitely choose the latter. If another magus chose the same answer as Kiritsugu, he would certainly attack Irisviel, who remained in the castle, once he knew that Saber was fighting alone.
She had finally met up with Kiritsugu, but they are about to be separated again; this made Irisviel very unsettled. She became more unsettled when she detected the pain and conflict Kiritsugu hid in his heart. However, she’s only a burden if she stays by Kiritsugu’s side. After all, meeting with Kiritsugu in the castle is already a breach of the rules they agreed on before.
Irisviel finally felt the root of her anxiety when she coolly thought things through in her heart. It wasn’t because of being separated from Kiritsugu, but because she has to move together with Maiya. Kiritsugu did originally plan to have Maiya protect Irisviel, but Irisviel still couldn’t get rid of her detest towards Maiya.
But Irisviel wouldn’t go against Kiritsugu’s battle plans due to her personal feelings.
“– I understand.”
In the short time that Irisviel took to nod slightly –
A new prickling pain appeared in Irisviel’s magic circuits. This is the information fed back to her by the bounded field of the forest.
“… What’s wrong, Iri?”
“Kiritsugu, it’s just like you feared. Looks like a new enemy entered the forest.”
Saber sensed the enemy’s intentions after she defeated three monsters.
She didn’t yet know the reason. However, the overly fragile tentacle monsters and Caster’s unnatural degree of confidence triggered Saber’s instinctive alarm.
After defeating ten, Saber finally confirmed the reason for her unsettledness.
The amount of enemies didn’t decrease. No matter how many she defeats, new enemies would emerge. Caster’s summoning magecraft continuously called for reinforcements from other worlds.
Even so, it didn’t matter; Saber silently steeled herself. No matter how big the number of enemies may swell into, all she has to do is to defeat them twice as fast here. Driven by her boiling morale, Saber’s sword sped up in the blink of an eye.
Thirty. Since the enemies didn’t decrease a single bit, a flash of anxiety passed over Saber’s heart.
Fifty. Saber understood that it’s pointless to count anymore. It wasn’t just the hostage children’s flesh and blood that acted as the breeding ground for the demonic monsters – from her peripheral vision Saber realized that new demonic monsters were born from the defeated corpses of other monsters. So that was it, no wonder they didn’t decrease. It’s as if the defeated demonic monsters are able to be reborn indefinitely.
If so, then this is a competition concerning the amount of stored prana. Saber immediately slowed her sword when she realized this is going to be a long battle. She won’t last long if she swings her sword with everything she’s got; she can only use the minimum amount of strength necessary to conduct her hunt.
Caster’s prana should be definite. Repeatedly summoning and resurrecting familiars would eventually exhaust his prana. The question is whether Saber would be able to last until then.
Saber once again felt worried with the fact that she can’t use her left hand. She has to use prana bursts to compensate her lack in strength when she’s only using her right hand to wield her sword. In this situation, any extra spending of prana is a burden heavier than anything else.
Originally, if she could hold the hilt of this sword with both hands – using one blow of Excalibur • the Sword of Promised Victory should completely vaporize this filthy trash.
Saber kept fighting with her sword despite her bitter remorse. Although over a hundred monsters have been defeated, Caster was still smiling with ease while admiring Saber’s struggling battle. Saber looked at her enemy, who didn’t show a single sign of exhaustion, with shock on her part, and once again noticed the extraordinarily dense amount of prana the magecraft book in his hands was releasing.
“Could it be…”
Although it was a most pessimistic guess, but it probably shouldn’t be wrong.
It was summoning magecraft that summoned these countless demonic monsters, resurrected them, and urged them to relentlessly rush towards Saber’s sword. And the one reciting the spell was none other except that book of magecraft.
It isn’t merely a pile of paper which recording spells. That book is probably a prana furnace with an incredible capacity, a ‘monster’ that can use magecraft just by its own power. Caster wasn’t reading the spells from the pages of the book, but just freely manipulating that book which served as a prana source.
Prelati’s Spellbook • The Text of the Spiralled Sunken Citadel – it is indeed a terrifying Noble Phantasm. Had Irisviel been Saber’s proper Master, she should have seen through his abilities the first time she met Caster and recognized that the opponent is an extremely dangerous Servant with an ability to modify the power of his Noble Phantasm. Had she knew of it, Saber would definitely not have fallen so easily into his trap and locked in a dragging battle with Caster even if she’s scorned for being a coward; she might have acted more prudently.
No – regret is a display of weakness.
Saber yelled to herself. A knight that fought for honor and glory can not be allowed to retreat before evils such as Caster. If so, then she would be giving up on the greatest strength and weapon at her disposal – the heart of justice that believes in her holy sword.
“This brings back memories, Jeanne. It’s all just like back then.”
Caster, wearing a trance-like expression as if he was gazing at a holy painting, looked upon Saber’s increasingly miserable battle.
“Even if you’re in a dangerous situation overwhelmed by enemies, you never feared, did not succumb, and your gaze never doubted your own victory. You are indeed the same. That noble vigor, that dignified soul, is undoubtedly evidence of the holy maid Jeanne d’Arc. It’s so obvious…”
Full of nonsense as always, but Saber subdued the anger filling her heart and concentrated on killing the sundry weaklings before her. It would only encourage her enemy if she rebuked him word by word.
“Why? Why have you still not awakened to the truth? Do you still believe in God’s protection? Do you think miracles would arrive to save you in such a desperate situation? – How lamentable! Did you forget the battle of Compiègne? Forgot God’s trap that pushed you down from the zenith of glory to infernal destruction? Do you still consent to remain God’s puppet even after so much humiliation?”
She really wants to block that mouth which is blabbering nonsense. She really wants to let him know just what judgment would be passed onto the sin that he’s committed, robbing the lives of children due to his boring vain hopes – but even as she thought that, her sword can’t touch him at all. Saber was stopped by the wall of demonic monsters that overwhelmed her tenfold and twentyfold. Her distance from Caster was too great.
Saber leapt into a slight gap but a tentacle behind her wrapped itself around her head. Although she reflexively stretched out her hand to grab it before it wrapped around her, her left hand, with its thumb completely out of her control, slipped powerlessly across the skin of the tentacle.
And as soon as Saber stopped, all of her field of view was completely covered by the wall of tentacles. She can only use a prana burst to blow them apart. But this many of them…
In the blink of an eye, a golden red lightning flashed past, and pushed back that alien horde.
In front of Saber, who was gasping after her bondage were taken off, a tall figure dressed in teal armor entered her sight.
“How unsightly, Saber. If your swordplay can’t get anymore awe-inspiring, then the title of the King of Knights would cry out for help.”
This handsome man, whose beauty is almost a sin, gave a stunning look to Saber standing dumbly aside. Only because of her magic resistance ability can she endure this alluring gaze. Contrary to the burning brilliance of his two spears, Diarmuid ua Duibhne’s smile seemed incomparably sweet and refreshing.
But Caster’s surprise was much greater than Saber’s.
“Who are you!? Who gave you the permission to dare disturb me!”
“That’s what I was going to say, heretic devil.”
Lancer stared coolly at the provoked Caster, and pointed the top of the short spear in his left hand towards him.
“It’s because you are so insolent; Saber’s head is destined to be the medal hung beneath my spear. Your act of stealing my fruit of victory is an impudent and despicable thing to do on the battlefield.”
“Nonsense! Nonsense nonsense nonsense --!!”
Caster clawed his head, bulged out his eyes, and made weird sounds in his throat.
“My prayers! My Holy Grail! They were all to let that woman reawaken! She is mine… every piece of flesh, every drop of blood, and even that soul are all mine!!”
But Lancer wasn’t overwhelmed by Caster at all; he shrugged his shoulders and took a deep sigh.
“You listening? I’m the one who wounded Saber’s left hand. Only I have the right to exploit her single-handed disadvantage.”
Slowly, Lancer lifted up the tips of the twin spears by his sides, and took his unique double-spear stance. Standing in front of Saber, it was as if he shielded the King of Knights behind his back.
“Oi, Caster, I’m not meddling in your love affair. If you are set to make Saber succumb to you and take her away, feel free to do it. Only that –”
A burning and yet desolate resolution filled the handsome soldier’s eyes as he proclaimed.
“Don’t even think about putting aside Diarmuid. I won’t ever allow you to defeat the single-handed Saber! If you don’t back down, then from now on my spears would act as Saber’s left hand.”
Now that she thought about it, this is the second time that Saber looked at the spearman’s back in this fashion. Last night, as she faced Berserker’s furious attacks, Lancer also intervened in this way. Is all this just to finish all of his business with her, who once crossed swords with him?
“Don’t get me wrong, Saber.”
Lancer’s sharp glance stopped Saber from continuing.
“My Master’s commands for me today are only about defeating Caster. There are no orders concerning you. Because of that, I deduced that the best thing to do would be fighting together. What do you think?”
Lancer’s words aren’t exactly an explanation of why he arrived to help out Saber’s crisis. This spearman didn’t need to do this. He could have chosen the moment when Caster is completely engrossed in dealing with Saber, and looped around to Caster’s back to launch a surprise attack.
Saber didn’t question him why. She just nodded at Lancer, who had a hint of a smile on the corners of his mouth, and stood at his right.
Saber no longer paid any attention towards the left, but held her sword and faced her right. Right now, she has the most trustworthy left arm.
“I’ll just get this clear – Lancer, just my left hand alone would be able to defeat a hundred such small fries.”
“Huh, that’d be easy. You can just be left-handed for today.”
The two Heroic Spirits joked with each other and sprang toward the gathered demonic monsters. The holy sword and two demonic spears cleaved apart the mass of tentacles that stretched towards them from all directions.
“Unforgivable… enough with your boasts, puny man!”
The magecraft book in Caster’s hand throbbed weirdly as if reinforcing his roar; pages flipped by themselves continuously. All of sudden, the amount of demonic monsters that emerged doubled. The mass of tentacles that looked as if they will drown out the forest surged towards Saber and Lancer.
The fiercer, more tragic second act of the battle began.
It was pure luck that Kayneth El-Melloi Archibald captured Caster’s figure in his sight in Fuyuki.
Although he was dumbfounded upon discovering that figure in a inky black cloak, obviously from the wrong era, strolling casually along the suburban streets at dusk, Kayneth began his chase when he saw Caster stopping a small truck that passed by, gave hypnotic suggestions at the driver, and then sat in it with the children as if it was a kindergarten trip.
A battle between Servants can only be conducted away from other people; however, the truck carrying Caster was incidentally driving towards the remote mountains far from the city. Kayneth snickered as this suited his purpose perfectly, but began to hesitate when he realised their destination is the Einzbern forest.
He’s already heard of the Einzbern territory near Fuyuki when he conducted investigations beforehand. Since it is a territory of magi, it would therefore have its matching bounded field, making it a location where others would find it hard to battle with an advantage. Despite that, leaving aside the true reason for Caster to specially travel here – his intention of challenging the power of the Einzberns is obvious. If so, then maybe there’s a chance to gain something in the battle. Kayneth made up his mind, and stepped into the forest with Lancer.
Just as he thought, Caster began fighting Saber, who materialized to counter his assault. From his fuddled speech and acts it can be seen that Caster, already roaming, is acting alone, but Saber’s Master still didn’t appear. He probably deduced that he can protect himself alone even if he doesn’t stay beside his Servant since this is in his territory, and decided to observe the battle in his headquarters away from the frontline.
So Kayneth decided on his own strategies.
He ordered Lancer to assault Caster. For Kayneth, who has already spent one Command Seal, the reward the supervisor brought up concerning defeating Caster is something he’d do anything to obtain. However, even if he defeats Caster here, it would seem that he’s on the same side as Saber. The Einzbern Master would also be given the extra Command Seal. It’s something that Kayneth definitely doesn’t want to see.
Therefore, Kayneth decided to leave Caster to Lancer, and he himself would secretly enter the Einzbern castle alone. If he wants to claim Caster’s head as his own, all he has to do is to get rid of Saber’s Master at the same time.
Although it is a bold challenge, Kayneth has unshakable confidence in himself. No matter what defenses Einzbern had made, he’s willing to bet the title of Lord El-Melloi that he is able to break it apart. He’s got to show this kind of courage if he wants to amend the defects Sola reprimanded him for last night. For Kayneth, the most pressing problem for him right now is to have his fiancée take back her insults.
Kayneth moved toward the depth of the forest as the seething vigor boiled inside him. Although illusionary magecraft has been cast upon the forest of the bounded field, Kayneth’s outstanding knowledge and instincts allowed him to make precise deductions, and easily found the location of the central axis of the bounded field. It wasn’t for nothing that he has the mighty title of the greatest genius of spirit invocation.
If the magecraft of the Einzberns is only to such a degree, then just how the castle is defended is very clear.
Kayneth still had enough ease left to snicker. Although many magecraft artefacts he brought from England were lost when the hotel collapsed, his strongest trump card, his Mystic Code, has always been by his side. Therefore, he didn’t feel that his strength in battle weakened at all.
The trees hindering his sight suddenly disappeared, and the antique stone castle appeared before Kayneth. So that is it, one would expect no less from these prestigious northern magi; even a relocated castle is a building whose size deviated from normality. But Kayneth is also the son of the prestigious house of Archibald. Even if the castle’s majesty can overwhelm others, the only sentiment it rose from him was a snort.
Not bad. After Einzbern is dealt with, it wouldn’t be bad to take this castle and make it the new headquarters…
After Kayneth lost the Hyatt hotel suite he had obtained an abandoned factory on the outskirts of the city as his temporary base, and hid Sola there. Obviously, his fiancée’s mood couldn’t be worse. After all, it’s an environment that Kayneth’s pride won’t tolerate.
If he’s decided on this, then he has to keep the destruction of this building at the minimum.
Kayneth laughed presumptuously and placed the large porcelain vase he carried under his arm on the ground. Once it left his hand, the vase sank deeply into the earth. This vase, which was under a spell of weight reduction to make it easier to carry, has a true weight approaching 140 kilograms.
Once he chanted the spell that activated the magecraft, the thing in the vase oozed out from the mouth. That liquid, giving off a mirror-like metal sheen, is a large amount of mercury. Flowing out of the vase as if it is a disciplined primeval creature, the ten-kilograms-or-so mercury, shivering, formed a ball.
Among the many of them in his possession, this is the Mystic Code Lord El-Melloi took pride in – Volumen Hydrargyrum • Moon Spirit Cerebrospinal Fluid.
": : "
Following Kayneth’s low chanting, the surface of the mass of mercury vibrated and rustled as if answering him, and followed his feet on the ground to approach the gates of the castle.
Kayneth, who possesses the two attributes water and wind, a feat rare even among magi, excels in the art of manipulating flow, which is shared between these two attributes. He thus created this unique Mystic Code, using mercury filled with magecraft as his weapon, and controls it at will.
The shapeless mercury, can also be sculpted into any shape –
As Kayneth yelled, a part of the mercury ball suddenly became a long and thin ribbon extending upwards. Then, the mercury ribbon savagely thrashed towards the door like a whip.
As it was about to hit, the mercury whip suddenly compressed itself into a thin edge of only a few millimeters thick, becoming a mercury blade as sharp as a razor. Attacked by this mercury blade edge, the heavyset bolt was cut in half as smoothly as if it was a piece of tofu. The great gates collapsed inwards with a heavy groan.
Mercury is a heavy liquid in room temperature; when it moves rapidly under high pressure it would possess a mighty kinetic energy. Moreover, mercury can change into shapes such as whips, spears, and blades at will. Its sharpness can even overwhelm laser rays, rivalling pressurized water jet cutters.
Perhaps he carries with him the confidence of an assured victory. Because, in front of Lord El-Melloi’s Volumen Hydrargyrum, even the most stolid defense won’t stand a chance. Be it titanium alloys or diamond, nothing is unbreakable.
Kayneth walked leisurely towards the great hall of the castle after he’s finished with the obstacle in front of him. The crystal chandelier in the hall emanated brilliant light and the marble floor, polished extremely smooth, had not a single flaw.
Even the air felt extraordinarily still, with only Kayneth’s presence – of course, not a single person came out to greet him.
"The ninth head of the Archibald house, Kayneth El-Melloi, asks for an audience!"
Kayneth, with an air of command, proclaimed loudly in the deserted hall.
"Magus of the Einzbern! For the Holy Grail that you seek, betting your life and pride, come out to meet me!"
Despite Kayneth’s taunting declaration, no one responded. It was as if they weren’t looking forward to duel with Kayneth. As though he was made to look foolish, Kayneth sighed, and walked toward the center of the hall with heavy steps.
The moment Kayneth arrived at the center of the hall, the four flower vases placed at the four corners of the hall suddenly exploded with an enormous roar. However, it wasn’t porcelain fragments that flew out from the explosion but countless metal beads. Those metal beads sprang toward Kayneth like bullets.
This machinery was constructed free from magecraft. Kayneth didn’t sense any scent of magecraft activation. Therefore, it must be machinery Kiritsugu set up in the vases. It is an anti-personnel mine called a Claymore, a cruel pre-set bomb. When each bomb explodes they will release, simultaneously, 700 or so steel balls with a diameter of only about one or two millimeters. These steel balls would radiate outwards in all directions in a fan formation, a terrifying weapon that people say is made to completely destroy infantry units with one strike. When it explodes, one won’t even have time to escape; the only thing the target at the center of the bombs can do is prepare to be beaten into a sieve.
– Of course, provided that the target isn’t a magus.
In the split of a second before 2800 steel balls reached Kayneth, the spot he was standing on became enveloped by a silver semi-circle. The mass of mercury lying recumbent beside his feet suddenly changed form.
Although the tight, thin mercury membrane wrapped around Kayneth was barely one millimeter thick, its surface tension reached the strength of steel when supported with prana supply. Out of the rain of beads that the Claymore mines dispersed not one of them hit Kayneth. All they did was getting reflected back to the hall and hammered the setups in the room into smithereens.
This is Volumen Hydrargyrum's "automated defense" mode. This pre-set magecraft can automatically respond when Kayneth is threatened, forming a powerful protective membrane in a split second. This kind of reaction speed can even defend from bullets. It was also this defense system Volumen Hydrargyrum created that protected Kayneth and Sola when the Hyatt hotel collapsed. The malleable mercury is a perfect weapon that gathered attack and defense all onto itself, being Kayneth’s sword and also Kayneth’s shield.
Kayneth, after he removed the protective membrane and saw the tragic scene around him, snorted with derision at the baseness of the machination. Even Kayneth, who didn't know much about military equipments, understood that it wasn’t magecraft that assaulted him but simply ordinary weapons filled with gunpowder.
Kayneth’s mind finally had some idea about the truth concerning the unpleasant experience last night.
He doesn’t even need to analyze it. Among the other six Masters, the only one who wants to destroy Kayneth more than everyone else is Saber’s Master, the Einzberns. However, how could the magus of the Einzberns, being such a high-born house with eminent prestige, use such a base method? Kayneth, who takes pride in being also from a prestigious family of mages, found this impossible to believe.
However – now he has to believe this. The one who used explosives to destroy Kayneth’s workshop last night with absolutely despicable methods is hiding in this castle at this very moment.
"… Fallen so low, Einzbern?"
Kayneth mumbled, with more lamentation than anger in his tone. It probably isn’t Saber’s Master himself who used such despicable methods, but some lowly guy they hired somewhere else. But even so, it is still a very corrupted thing to do. They invited an irrelevant guy onto this holy battlefield. This is utterly unforgivable.
– Fine, then it’s not a duel anymore, but my crusade towards you.
Arousing his intent to kill once again, Kayneth walked deeper into the enemy’s defences.
Through the CCD cameras concealed in the main hall, Kiritsugu meticulously observed the power of Volumen Hydrargyrum, Lord El-Melloi’s pride.
Using spells to manipulate mercury for automatic protection – although he’s heard about this before, he never thought that the real thing would have such powerful abilities. Even the shockwave of the Claymore mines wouldn’t beat its defense in speed. If that’s the case, then he can’t expect to use firearms to obtain victory.
Although Kiritsugu was very annoyed, he had to admit that this magus indeed possesses first-rate skills. Actually, when his machination at the Hyatt didn’t succeed, he should have known of this already.
In other words, this is an opponent that Kiritsugu must confront as a "magus."
Right now, to find the enemy hiding in this castle, Kayneth must be searching all of the rooms on the first floor one by one. At the moment Kiritsugu is located at the innermost part of the second floor. If he acts immediately, he should have enough time to choose a place advantageous for him to face the enemy.
Kiritsugu analyzed the plan of the castle in his head as he walked out of his room and towards the door – his footsteps stopped.
A drop of mercury, like a thread of cobweb, hung in the door’s keyhole. Although it was only a tiny bit of mercury, Kiritsugu could still see it drooping toward the ground as it left a silver trail on the surface of the door.
The drop of mercury suddenly stopped moving downwards the moment Kiritsugu saw it. Then, it retraced its tracks, retreated back through the keyhole as if it was alive, and disappeared.
"… So that’s what it is; an automated search."
Immediately following Kiritsugu's bitter words, a ray of silver light sprang up from below the salon's carpet.
In the blink of an eye, a circle was cut out on the floor at the center of the room and fell to the ground below. Then a silver tentacle leapt up from that circular hole.
In front of Kiritsugu, Volumen Hydrargyrum’s new shape was like a metallic jellyfish. Endless tentacles grabbed the edge of the opening on the floor and their base, in the middle of the tentacles opening out like an umbrella, was expanded into a flat, bowl-like platform. And the one standing on the platform and smiling was none other than Lord El-Melloi.
"I finally found you. Little mouse…"
Before the triumphant Kayneth ordered the mercury to attack, Kiritsugu had already drawn the Calico submachine gun from his waist holster and opened fire.
Reacting immediately, Volumen Hydrargyrum speedily formed a protective membrane in front of Kayneth and blocked all the might of a rain of 9mm bullets. It took only a few seconds to empty fifty bullets.
But it’s preciously those few short seconds that gave Kiritsugu more than enough time to chant his spell.
"Time alter – double accel!"
Following the pronounced spell, the prana inside Kiritsugu began to gallop at light speed.
Kayneth gave the proclamation of death the moment Kiritsugu’s firing ceased.
The two mercury whips that leapt up following his voice flew towards the prey in front of them with a pincer formation, attacking from the left and right.
It was Kayneth who gave an exclamation of surprise.
The moment the two silver whips were just about to hit the target, Kiritsugu dodged the silver whips’ attack with an almost unbelievable speed and quickly leapt below the Volumen Hydrargyrum, on which Kayneth was standing – into the hole on the ground that the mercury blade just cleaved out.
Kiritsugu’s speed was so fast that human eyes couldn’t see his movements clearly. No matter how you think about it, it shouldn’t be a physical feat ordinary people can perform. Although Kayneth did feel he was a bit careless, he wasn’t too surprised with this strange change happening in front of his eyes. After all, this is the battle between magi that overrides ordinary rules. It wouldn’t be odd even if a little mouse mixed into it possesses extraordinary abilities.
"Oh? Also know a little bit about magecraft?"
Although a small smile passed across Kayneth’s face, the intent to kill was already within his heart. Whether he is an ordinary mouse or not, even if he’s had some teaching in magecraft, he is still a lowly man who used dirty means. Such actions, which humiliate magi, can not be tolerated.
"Scum… I’ll make you know what death tastes like."
Kayneth flipped the tail of his coat and leapt down to the first floor. Then, Volumen Hydrargyrum removed its jellyfish shape and slowly fell down too.
The mercury’s thin tentacles scattered after receiving his orders, and once again scanned through the entire first floor. The mercury immediately confirmed the location of the target. Approaching that location following the tracks of the tracing mercury, a sliver of a bloodthirsty smile emerged on Kayneth’s lips.
Kiritsugu, traversing the corridors, felt that his whole body was being devoured by the after effects of using his magecraft.
The skill he used to dodge Kayneth’s Mystic Code just then wasn’t a basic physical enchantment. It was an advanced magecraft with a greater range of utility – and obviously with far stronger side effects.
The ability to separate the passage of time inside a designated space from the "flow of time" in the outside world; in some ways, Time Manipulation can be regarded as a type of Reality Marble. Although it is classified as a greater magecraft, it is definitely not "magic" which cannot be replicated. Compared to "time modification", which can reverse cause and effect and change the past, this is merely the magecraft of "time adjustment" that can stagnate the time that had passed and accelerate the time in the future. Therefore, it is not a magecraft of extraordinary difficulty.
The only problem one needs to consider is the size of the bounded field and the scope of time that needs to be modified.
Kiritsugu’s root, the Emiya family, spent generations researching and seeking the magecraft that controls time. The magic crests existing on Kiritsugu’s back inherited the fruits of research from generations of men. But the amount of prana one needs to spend and the rituals needed in preparation to activate this kind of magecraft rivals in magnitude with the greater magecrafts. Therefore, it has to be prepared and used strategically. For Kiritsugu, who made up his strategies to just survive on the battlefield, it was originally a rather useless inheritance.
However, to use the "time control" ability he’s inherited at the maximum, Kiritsugu created a flexible way of utilizing this magecraft at a very small scale.
A method that kept the scope of the bounded field within the practitioner’s body made it easier to establish a Reality Marble. Although it is impossible to completely isolate the flesh from the outside world, it can minimize the affect the outside world has on the body. Within this minimal bounded field, he "adjusts" just a few seconds of time; this is the magecraft that Emiya Kiritsugu created, Innate Time Control.
For example, when he fought Kayneth just then, Kiritsugu "sped up" his blood flow, haemoglobin metabolism, and muscle movement all at the same time. All that’s left is to use his quick reaction time to dodge the attack after he easily predicted the track the mercury whips would take. Kiritsugu is capable of accomplishing physical feats impossible for ordinary humans after he accelerated the time inside his body.
The biggest problem for this magecraft is the huge burden on the body.
The craft of time modification inevitably creates errors between the time within and without the bounded field. This error would immediately be corrected by natural forces when the bounded field is removed. That is, the "world’s own adjustment". Of course, this adjustment can only happen where "errors have occurred", which means inside Kiritsugu’s bounded field – his physical body. Adjustments have occurred in his flesh to get back in sync with the normal time flow.
Death is the accompanying danger born from using magecraft, but Innate Time Control is above all Kiritsugu's riskiest technique. Just now, it was as though he was tightrope walking while his flesh was being shredded.
Compared to Kayneth's unrestricted magecraft, Kiritsugu’s ability is not powerful. But this doesn’t mean Kiritsugu has no chances of victory now. Because the best chance Kayneth had at killing Kiritsugu – the strike just then – had already been missed. Although Kayneth may have not realized it, for Kiritsugu it was his biggest mistake. Kayneth had already exposed the true form of his Mystic Code, and also gave Kiritsugu the chance to analyze it. After that, it’s "hunting time" for the Magus Killer.
As he ran, Kiritsugu exchanged the helical magazine on the Calico for a new one. The bullet in the Contender were also changed into a normal one. It’s still a bit early to use the final killing move. He needed to provoke Kayneth even more in order to kill the enemy with one strike.
Lord El-Melloi’s mercury Mystic Code united attack and defense, and also possessed the ability to search out enemies. However, Kiritsugu had already spotted the flaw in this magecraft with its three advantages.
First, its ability to search for enemies –
Kiritsugu suddenly stopped as he turned a corner, and hid in the shadow of a pillar. The mercury wasn’t just approaching from behind him, but spreading silently over the entire corridor and getting closer and closer. Most likely, the mercury tentacles were spreading out into a giant web, and sealing off all of Kiritsugu’s exits.
Using liquid metal as a sensory tool – how is it passing the perceived information back? There are no specialized senses such as sight, smell, taste, which is why Kayneth can control it so fluently. Therefore those ways of communication are out.
The most probable would be through touch. But when Kiritsugu was discovered at the second floor his location was pinpointed without him making contact with the mercury.
However, if the mercury is extremely sensitive to touch, then it’d be able to make judgements based on vibrations in the air. It should also be able to sense differences in air temperature and find a heat source.
Kiritsugu chuckled as he stared at the mercury web approaching from all directions. That thing doesn’t have eyes. Therefore, if he contorted his heart beat, breathing and body temperature, he can make his existence completely transparent.
"Time alter – Triple stagnate."
Following the chanting of the spell, Kiritsugu’s field of view suddenly became very bright.
Of course, the outer world didn’t make any changes; it’s just his delusion. While Kiritsugu’s optic nerves registered whatever he saw, his cornea received three times the light a person’s eyes would normally receive.
The time control this time is the exact opposite of the accelerated physical speed back then. Kiritsugu slowed his biological processes to one third of its normal speed. His breathing lagged, and his heart beat slowed and stagnated until he could barely feel it himself. Also, due to his metabolism having stopped, his body temperature declined quickly, cooling down until it is not much different from the temperature of the outside air.
The mercury flew abnormally quickly and anxiously in front of Kiritsugu, who was as still as a statue. As he expected, the mercury couldn’t detect him now. Kiritsugu’s shallow breathing and slow heart beat was muddled with the noises of the natural world. The mercury can no longer recognize the current processes of Kiritsugu’s body using the standards of a human.
The searching mercury web speedily retreated after it deducted that there are no signs of the enemy, retracing its steps. The sound of footsteps on the marble floor followed. Since he thought no one is here, Kayneth walked on without taking any precautions…
The brightness of his sight and the sharpness of his hearing returned to normal in the blink of an eye. Kiritsugu’s heart also began to beat extremely quickly; all the blood vessels in his body hurt as if they are going to burst. Within his body, blood flow was adjusting to go up to three times its original speed. In fact, there must be bruises forming somewhere on his body due to internal bleeding coming from burst capillaries.
But Kiritsugu already leapt out from behind the pillar before his body had fully adjusted. When Kayneth, who just arrived at the corridor, reacted, Kiritsugu was about fifteen meters away. He immediately opened fire with the Calico in his left hand at the magus whose eyes widened in surprise.
Although Kayneth was shocked, the Volumen Hydrargyrum still displayed its abilities accurately and loyally this time. The protective membrane opened up in the blink of an eye and again blocked the storm of 9mm bullets. Everything was like a replay of the scene before.
"– Idiot. These are just boring tricks!"
Although he was at a loss with the unexpected ambush, Kayneth, hidden within the protective membrane, couldn’t help but laugh when he discovered that the attack was a shooting as unthreatening as the last time. But he didn’t know that the opponent he was mocking had also figured out the weakness of his automated defense.
Before the Calico stopped firing, Kiritsugu’s free right hand had already pulled out the Contender and fired a shot at the center of the expanded, semi-circular mercury membrane.
Volumen Hydrargyrum had already adapted to the best physical shape to protect against the Calico. However, the initial velocity of the .30-06 Springfield is 2.5 times higher than the 9mm bullets, and its destructive power seven times the latter.
Kiritsugu had completely seen through the speed of Volumen Hydrargyrum, which came from pressure. Although a blob of mercury can quickly spread out into a membrane faster than a bullet through hydraulic pressure, it is impossible to quickly go back to a blob from a membrane using pressure alone. That is the limit of hydrodynamics.
Therefore, when another sudden massive force is launched against it, the mercury can’t react quickly and form a powerful defense –
A big hole was punched right through the mirror-smooth surface of the mercury membrane. Judging from Kayneth’s wails inside, the Springfield bullet has hit the target.
However, he couldn’t even aim at the target hidden behind obstructions. Therefore, it was already lucky for him to hit the other man; he couldn’t at all expect this attack to give the other a fatal wound.
Kayneth’s wails also quickly turned into angry curses, then –
Following a roar full of the intent to kill, the mercury unleashed a killing move.
Kiritsugu faced the silver whips roaring towards him with ease. He didn’t even need to activate Innate Time Control this time. There were more than ten meters between him and Kayneth now. Such a far distance was more than enough.
Kiritsugu pulled back just a bit; you can't hit what you can't reach, and the mercury blade only managed to cut the hem of his flowing coat.
Volumen Hydrargyrum’s characteristics can be grasped by just observing its attacks once. Despite being a very fast attack, it is comparatively simple.
When mercury is in the shape of a whip it is the base that controls its extremely quick attacks, but the tip virtually has no power. The power of the blade is basically formed through centrifugal force. For someone as experienced as Kiritsugu in melee combat, the path this kind of attacks would take is easy to predict. This is also the characteristics of controlling mercury with pressure. Only parts with a large mass can fully exert its power, while the strength slowly gets weaker towards the tip end. Kiritsugu had already analyzed this weakness of its when he realized the mercury ends that stretched far from the original mass to search for enemies aren’t as agile as the cutting whips.
Kiritsugu was running before the opponent could continue to attack. It’d be great if the opponent began to chase him immediately, but if the other man didn’t chase him and stopped instead to treat the gun wound he’s just received, then that means the previous taunt still wasn’t enough.
The blow that penetrated the protective membrane was the first and the last. Volumen Hydrargyrum’s defense would become firmer once it realizes the Contender’s power, which is completely different from that of the Calico. In future attacks, all forms of defense should be able to block the Springfield bullet as well. Kayneth would certainly utilize all his prana to strengthen the mercury’s defense.
It wouldn’t be good if he didn't do that.
Kiritsugu, enduring the pain enveloping his body, opened the Contender's chamber and pulled out the empty cartridge as he ran. This time, he slipped in a magecraft bullet.
Kayneth would definitely utilize all the prana he has in his body to anticipate Kiritsugu’s next strike. The previous strike was conducted using the normal bullet just to entice him to be alert.
If things go according to plan – Kayneth is digging himself the greatest of graves. All that's left is to find the way to shove him in, and bury him with Kiritsugu's own hands.
The Magus Killer's "hunt" is about to reach its climax.
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