Fate/Zero:Act 6 Part 4
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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