Reminiscing, this is the first time she felt uneasy since Irisviel stepped onto the grounds of Fuyuki.
She realizes once again the importance of Saber, who remained by her side constantly. The quiet confidence and tolerance emanating from her lithe frame gave Irisviel much assurance.
It was not that Hisau Maiya, Saber’s replacement to accompany her is untrustworthy as a guard; Kiritsugu also held Maiya’s abilities in high regards, and she is not being suspicious of her.
So what is the reason for this strange anxiousness?
Leaving the castle due to a strategic retreat, there was absolutely no dialogue between the two walking in the forest of the bounded field. True, Maiya didn’t seem to be the type who enjoyed banter, but her complete silence seemed too heavy for Irisviel.
Would Maiya answer if she is spoken to first? Trying once probably won’t do much harm. Currently, the two are within a safe zone, isolated from battle and not in a precarious situation where quietness needed to be maintained.
If so, then she is going to gather her courage and open her mouth – but because she didn’t know what to say, Irisviel once again checked herself forcefully.
The things she wanted to ask were piled as high as mountains. Meeting Kiritsugu; memories of time spent with him. Kiritsugu’s integrity in Maiya’s eyes… no matter what the question is she wanted to know the answer. But Irisviel felt hesitant to ask any one of them.
Hisau Maiya knew the Kirtsugu she did not know.
If the answer coming from Maiya’s mouth had enough force to shatter the image of her husband in Irisviel’s heart –
No, such a thing is impossible. There is no evidence to deny it in such a way. For Irisviel, the short span of nine years since their initial meeting was the whole of Kiritsugu.
The silence continued as her mind circled about irritably. Though the atmosphere was clearly awkward, Maiya continued to move as she ignored it completely.
“– Clearly, I am not apt at handling this woman –”
As she hung her head and sighed deeply, a warning flashed inside Irisviel’s head.
With a face full of surprise, Maiya looked at Irisviel, whose whole body suddenly stiffened.
“What’s the matter, madam?”
“… Another new intruder. Slightly ahead of our position. We’ll meet if we continue onward.”
The situation was only to be expected. Maiya nodded calmly.
“Then, let us slowly loop around. It will be very safe if we looped from here towards the north.”
Irisviel, concentrating in her current efforts to scry on the invader with the magecraft of ‘clairvoyance’, did not respond immediately.
Clad in pitch-black vestments, the tall figure was intimidating. His short hair and serious demeanor appears exactly like the photographs found in the resources that Kiritsugu collected.
“… It’s Kirei Kotomine.”
Compared to her statement, Irisviel is more surprised by the change in Maiya’s expression as she made her report.
Always icy and expressionless, she is a woman whose emotions are impossible for anyone to detect. She had thought previously that Maiya’s heart must have been truly cold and cruel to her core -
This is the first time Irisviel saw Maiya’s “expression”. It was crisscrossed with anxiety and fury. What she saw was completely different from fear, but a sense of apprehension. Her fear was probably not Kirei, but instead the fact that Kirei appeared in such a situation.
As she detects this point, Irisviel understood. Though the process was brusque, Irisiviel, however, finally understood the mind of Hisau Maiya.
“Miss Maiya, the orders you accepted from Kiritsugu is to ensure my safety, correct?”
“Correct, but –”
“But what? You’re thinking “this is the only man whom I cannot allow to interfere with Kiritsugu”, right?”
Smiling slyly, Irisviel pointed out her thoughts. Maiya was temporarily rendered speechless.
“Madam, you… “
“Incidentally, I have the exact same opinion as you.”
Kirei Kotomine. The man who is probably the greatest threat to Kiritsugu. Maiya’s response upon merely hearing his name makes it self-evident.
Even though Irisviel was a homunculus, she fell in love, fulfilled that sentiment and even became a mother. Thus, she obtained the sixth sense that humans have but homunculi can never understand – that is, “a woman’s intuition.”
“Let the two of us stop Kirei here. Is that alright, Miss Maiya?
After a brief moment of hesitation, Maiya nodded her head with a strange expression on her face.
“My deepest apologies. But please prepare yourself, madam.”
“No problems. Don’t worry about me. You carry out your task. Not the orders Kiritsugu gave, but act on the things you think are necessary.”
Come to think of it, perhaps she had already suspected. That was why she was afraid to confirm it.
Now, Irisviel understood. The reason why she’s been avoiding Maiya… was not that she was afraid of her, but she was afraid to know her heart.
She was afraid of the truth that she “wasn’t the only woman who cares about Emiya Kiritsugu”.
Irisviel cannot help but to laugh in the exultation that came with the approaching deathmatch. Pulling out her Calico submachine gun, Maiya gave her a glance of surprise.
“– What’s the matter?”
“The human heart is truly an amazing thing.”
Gambling her life for Kiritsugu – the fact that there is another woman with such determination other than herself.
Clearly, the answer is supposed to be shocking. However, now – such a truth made her feel infinitely at ease.
For Kirei Kotomine, it is not difficult for him to assess Irisviel’s side and their plan of action.
All the other Masters are setting Caster as their target, while Caster has his eyes set on Saber. Therefore, there was no need for specific movements. The best strategy is to make complete preparations to confront an attack in the home base and wait for the opponents to arrive.
Therefore, there was no need for a search. The Einzbern Forest in the wilderness of Fuyuki – it should not be unused at this time. Emiya Kiritsugu should still be there.
Of course, Kirei never planned to enter battle himself. There was a high chance of the eastern side of the forest becoming a major battleground. It would make sense for their enemies from Fuyuki to attack from that direction.
Thus, Kirei hung around the western edges, waiting for battle to be joined. He also hedged his bets on the chance that – if battle really started on the eastern side as he predicted, then he can launch a surprise attack on the castle from its opposite direction.
He released Assassin into the forest as scouts in spirit form. With the ability of “presence concealment”, Assassin is able to enter the bounded field without being detected. Though they cannot go near the castle, they were still able to observe the battle around the outer rim of the forest.
And – as predicted, the battle between Caster and Saber begun on the eastern side of the forest. What’s more, and lucky for Kirei, Einzbern only engaged with the Servant alone, while the Master remained hidden behind closed gates. Assassin’s report was an excellent opportunity for Kirei.
If Kiritsugu was hired by Einzbern to be a hunting dog, then he should be guarding the Master who was defenseless and isolated from her Servant. Now it’s an excellent chance for Kirei to force them into a dead end.
Even though Assassin immediately alerted him to the fact that Lord El-Melloi was also advancing towards the castle, Kirei did not hesitate. Instead, he felt anxious. If Kiritsugu died by Kayneth’s hand, then it would be impossible for Kirei to complete his purpose. Thus, Kirei prepared for the worst case scenario of being forced to confront Kayneth and advanced rapidly in the forest.
Also, depending on situation, there was also a possibility of Einzbern abandoning the castle in order to escape. Thus, it is obvious that the path of retreat will be the direction away from the eastern battlefield where the Servants were currently battling. If that happened, then there was a good chance of encountering Kirei.
Just to be safe, Kirei began his battle preparations early – As such, he reacted dexterously to the unexpected murderous intent.
Within half a breath he ducked and dodged a hailstorm of bullets, which howled above his head like thunder. Sometimes, even veterans of many battles would lose morale and judgment capabilities when surprised by a machine gun. However, such events are mere exceptions to the Executioners of the Holy Church. Kirei didn’t even break a sweat as he analyzed the situation calmly.
There is a single opponent present. Judging from the sound of gunfire, it was a submachine gun with a barrel width under 9mm. Because the handgun bullets lacked the ability to penetrate tree trunks, its threat level was significantly lower than that of the sniper rifle in the forest.
Inferring the opponent’s position through the location of the gunfire, Kirei threw two Black Keys. However, contrary to expected results, he only heard the sounds of blades piercing tree trunks.
The murderous edge of the kill returned to raid him, flanking the surprised Kirei.
Once more, the sound of gunfire appeared. This time from his left. Though he dodged it at the last second, this volley was considerably more dangerous than the volley above. The conclusion he previously reached concerning the enemy consisting of only one person slightly slowed his reaction.
The position of the second gunshot was completely different. It was too fast for movement. Although, if there were two gunners from the start, it was entirely possible to take out Kirei if a coordinated crossfire was used.
Amidst his confusion, he sensed again four more presences. Kirei quickly placed two black keys in each hand, four black keys in total and positioned himself as new sensations flashed in his brain.
“That means – an illusion?”
It wasn’t impossible. He was deep into the forest’s bounded field. A bounded field includes illusion. In addition, if there was a magus present who could control illusions, it was entirely possible to cause delusions to the lone target, Kirei.
Was the unseen sniper really just a single person? Does this mean the one who controlled the illusion was the same? Or does this mean that there was someone else responsible for support…
Regardless, before the discovery of a counter to the illusion, he could only follow his opponent’s tempo. Kirei pulled out four black keys, throwing them simultaneously towards the four directions.
-As anticipated, there was no sign of contact anywhere.
Kirei, annoyed at the fruitless endeavor exhibited his frustration. At the same time, the bullet scored a direct hit on his back.
The third gunshot had even no scent that he could sense. That is to say, the first two attacks were designed feints in order to confuse Kirei. In theory, if an illusionary trap could control fake hints of murderous intents, it should be also possible to seal the true killing intent behind it.
Without even time to howl in pain the tall, robed figure fell face first, his feet tangled. There was neither a twitch nor moans of pain.
Has she pierced the spine and killed him instantly? Maiya, deducting as such, stood up from her sniping location as she pointed the Calico at the prone Kirei and approached him cautiously.
“- Miss Maiya, no!”
Irisviel, sensing a trap, shouted a warning. But it was too late.
Kirei, maintaining his position, did not stand up. Instead, he threw a hidden Black Key with a single swing of his arms. From the lower trajectory, the black key ripped apart Maiya’s right calf, taking away her opportunity for the next action.
Like a spring, Kirei mechanically leapt as he suddenly charged toward Maiya. Fearlessly, Maiya pressed the trigger.
But Kirei only protected his head; he didn’t bother dodging. Even the sleeves of the monk’s robes were made from thick Kevlar filaments. It was covered seamlessly with the Church’s special protection spells. 9mm caliber pistol rounds, even at extremely close distances, cannot pierce it. Even then, the strikes from 250 foot-pound bullets, firing at 10 rounds per second, struck Kirei’s body like metal bats. However, he was able to completely protect his organs and bones because of his well-trained musculature that acted like armor.
Sensing that Kirei was bulletproof from head to top, Maiya immediately tossed the Calico and pulled out the combat knife located near her thigh. Kevlar, though protective against gunshots, was very vulnerable to the cutting of a sharp blade. If her gun was useless, she could only survive through melee combat.
As the hailstorm of bullets stopped, Kirei pulled out another pair of Black Keys with his hands. He slashed at Maiya with a cross shaped movement. Except, Maiya was not slowed in the slightest by her wounded right foot, and she deflected the continuous strikes of the Black keys with her heavy dagger.
Even though the edge of the Black Key was far longer than the dagger, it was still a modified throwing weapon. In close combat the Black Key, due to its extreme length, lacked balance; Maiya’s large dagger, due to its versatile nature, possessed overwhelming advantage.
“Victory is still possible ---!”
Maiya suddenly charged forward in what seemed to be a half-suicidal move. The Black Keys should have a very difficult time defending against such an attack, and even if she was struck in retaliation, the chances of being seriously wounded were low.
With the Black Key in his right hand, Kirei blocked Maiya’s dagger hand for hand. Perhaps he was relying on the length of the blade for a counter attack – the crisscrossed blade’s shadow lunged forward, its edge poised to strike.
Maiya, foreseeing the attack, easily dodged the counterattack. Simply moving her head a little, the tip of the Black Key missed her as she barged into her opponent’s embrace.
Yet, just when Maiya believed that victory was at hand, her gaze was drawn to Kirei’s unusual movements.
The point to a crisscrossing counterattack is that the crossed hands – the right hand, where Kirei should have held the Black Key was empty. As he lunged forward, he abandoned his weapon.
That is to say, Kirei’s right hand never had the intention of using the Black Key to pierce Maiya in the first place -
Like a clamp, the veiny fingers grabbed Maiya’s right hand.
Snakelike, the tall black-robe twisted his body deftly, and dived beneath Maiya’s right arm. In the next instant, as if supporting someone who is wounded, Kirei carried Maiya’s right arm with the back of his shoulder.
The exorcist who wielded the Black Keys – she was fooled by her prejudiced first impression. In deadly despair, the helpless Maiya finally understood. This movement is Chinese kungfu, Baji Quan. At the same time Kirei’s side pressed close to Maiya’s waist. Using his left elbow to land a blow at Maiya’s heart as simultaneously, a brilliant strike from his left foot struck Maiya’s supporting leg.
An amazing completion of “Six grand opening – elbow upthrust.” As he grabbed the hand holding the dagger, all the actions are completed in an instant. A combo worthy of the soul of Ba ji quan – combining offense and defense.
Maiya could not even move as she fell heavily to the ground. Due to the extreme level of impact, the paralyzed Maiya thought she had dislocated both her arms and legs. Subconsciously, she could only feel the sharp pain in her chest after it had been struck by the elbow. She probably had broken two, or three ribs.
Even though a single strike was capable of disabling Maiya. Kirei, however, was satisfied. Since now he knew Kiritsugu’s location, Kirei did not need to grant her any mercy. As he clenched his fist – ready to deliver the death-blow – at that time, he saw something that made him doubt his eyes.
The embarrassed Maiya was also surprised. It was already agreed upon, that prior to battling Kirei, Irisviel will only be supporting her from a hidden location. But she – Irisviel, who, except for magic, should have no other type of self-defense gently floated from the bushes and stood facing Kirei.
Now, Maiya tossed away all her fears and embarrassment. To her, compared to her own danger, more serious question was the threat now to Irisviel.
If Kiritsugu were to lose his wife now – as someone who swore to protect him, there can be no danger that’s more despairing.
To Kirei, this situation was hard to comprehend.
He knew that Irisiviel and her family were not apt at using combat magic due to their specialization in alchemy. During the previous three Heaven’s Feels, they were helplessly defeated during the first rounds. Perhaps, that was also the reason for these northern magi being nearly useless in actual combat. Judging from the fact that they found the mercenary Kiritsugu, they must have reflected upon the issue.
Thus, in the situation where the female protector lay fallen on the ground, isn’t this most unlikely situation - the fact that the Einzbern family’s Master appearing alone in front of Kirei?
Kirei was fairly certain that the silver-haired maiden in front of him was Saber’s master. If she dies, then the Einzbern camp will undoubtedly be defeated.
This woman should be the key piece that must escape no matter what the cost is.
“Woman, you may be surprised, but my reason for coming here is not to defeat you.”
Before the enemy Master, the statement is equivalent to abandoning battle. Even though it is unlikely that his opponent will believe him, at least Kirei made the attempt to negotiate. This new developing was too far from what he had hoped for – meeting with Kiritsugu on the battlefield was his real goal. Compared to that goal, the situation of the Heaven’s Feel can only play second fiddle.
Of course, he didn’t expect his opponents to believe his words -
“I understand, Kirei Kotomine.”
-Because he did not anticipate the belief of the opposition. The silver-haired maiden’s reply only made Kirei more confused.
“I know why you’re here. Although, this is not negotiable. You cannot reach Kiritsugu…We will stop you. Here.”
To Irisviel, it was a good thing that the exorcist looked confused. The opponent clearly underestimated her, and his carelessness was her chance at victory. Perhaps, he knew the specialty behind Einzbern’s magic, and figured out that she was not a combat magician.
Irisviel pulled out the “secret weapon” hidden in her large sleeves. At first glance, it was no magic, but rather an unreliable item. A soft and thin metallic bouquet of wires dangled lightly between her fingers.
“Madam, this man is an executor – an expert magus hunter! This is not an opponent that can be faced with only magic!”
Maiya, suppressing her pain, screamed on the ground. In response, Irisviel only smiled quietly.
"What I learned from Kiritsugu, isn't limited to operating a car!"
As Maiya watched speechlessly and Kirei observed in surprise, Irisviel poured mana into the metallic threads. The thin threads became unraveled and moved between Irisviel hands like a living organism.
Kirei’s understanding was half correct. The Einzbern family possessed magic that was designed to forge, create, and more importantly, use matter. Kiritsugu could not have taught her any offensive magic. Originally, if one went solely by magical ability, Irisviel was far superior to her husband. Thus, Kiritsugu could not have taught her magic.
What he taught her was not how the homunculus lived. Rather, it was to use tears, laughter, joy and anger to sing about life – the meaning of the term “to live.”
In addition, he also taught her the determining to “live on.”
Kirei’s understanding was also half-wrong. Irisviel already had a method of turning her magic into offensive purposes as a “battle” state. It was something she learned from her husband, who always lived for battle – if she was to “live on” with him, she must face the test of “survival” one day. Thus, she will also need to face battle.
“Shape ist Leben!” (From German: "Shape is life!") [Furigana translation: "Shape, conceive life!"]
Through two small chants, weaving the magic in one breath. The control of metallic shapes was Irisiviel’s true skill.
This secret was peerless.
The silvery thread crisscrossed as it drew into complex shapes. It crisscrossed, combined, like a weaved piece of art as it took on a complex solid shape. Possessing fierce wings and beaks, and sharp claws. Using a giant eagle as base, it appeared as an intricate silvery work of art.
No, wait, this was not a mere framework-
Like the sound of a metallic blade scratching, the eagle made out of silver threads screeched and flew from Irisviel's hands. It was created by an alchemy-using homunculus on the spot. It was a “weapon” given life by Irisviel, whose fate hangs in the balance.
The bullet-like flight far surpassed Kirei’s imagination. Surprised, he dodged the attack, but the razor-sharp beak still brushed past his nose.
As the first strike missed, the silver thread eagle started to circle above Kirei’s head. This time, both claws dashed downward. The target was Kirei’s face. Although, for an executor, this battle was not simply defensive. Fearless of the sharpness of those claws, he struck at the eagle with a powerful strike from his fist.
The sharply descending eagle could not change its flight path. The fist landed a clear blow on the abdomen of the eagle.
Yet, Kirei was the one who was surprised. As the eagle was struck by his fist, it changed into shapeless silver thread and wrapped around his right fist like vines.
Immediately, he pulled with his left hand, but the silver thread also trapped the other one. Only moments ago, the silver thread flew with an eagle’s shape in the air, but now, like handcuffs, it tightly trapped Kirei’s hands.
Yet, as an executor, Kirei has fought countless magi to the death. Only grunting lightly, he charged towards Irisviel. It didn’t matter if his hands were trapped – as long as he delivered a kick up close, the battle would be decided.
Irisviel scolded as she poured more mana into the silver threads.
Not even Kirei can hold out this time. As he lost his balance, the silver threads wrapped around the tree tightly and pulled Kirei towards it. Finally, it bound him firmly towards the tree trunk
The grown tree was more than 30 cm thick. Even if Kirei wanted to use his outrageous strength, it was impossible for him to break or uproot the tree. At last, he was completely immobile.
And even then, Irisviel was the one who steadily lost her advantage underneath Kirei’s strength. In theory, Kirei’s hands should have been overpowered by the pressure generated by the silver thread. Yet, his muscles were trained to the point where they appeared steel-like, and they were powerful beyond all belief. Her silvery thread almost broke, as they struggled underneath the saturated state of near-collapse. In order to keep it tight and to prevent the metal from breaking, she must constantly use her mana to maintain it.
The key to victory – was the still-prone Maiya. She was the only one who could give Kirei a final blow. As long as she stayed out of the range of his kicks, a simple shot to the exposed head was enough. For Kirei, it was impossible for him to cover his head with his sleeves like before.
As she received a momentary respite, the injured Maiya recovered sensation in her hands and feet. Moaning in pain from her broken ribs, she moved slowly to the abandoned Calico.
Victory or defeat is a battle of willpower measured by seconds – even though she clenched her teeth in pain from the magical backlash, Irisviel still encouraged herself.
Maiya picking up the gun to fire; as long as she can keep the thread’s strength to that point, it would be good. Then, they could eliminate Kirei Kotomine, the greatest threat to Kiritsugu.
It could be said that the two women still mistakenly underestimated the terror that is the Executor of the Church.
With no knowledge of Chinese kungfu, Irisviel thought that it was only necessary to bind Kirei’s hands to render him helpless. It was not her fault that she only thought like that. However, for someone who managed to reach the level of training such as Kirei, the entire body is a weapon. For example, if he only planted both feet on the ground…
“BOOM,” the deafening sound rendered Irisviel speechless.
The tree trunk shook erratically. As if struck by a full-powered fist. That means the sound she was hearing – only someone using his full strength to strike at the center of the tree could make that sort of sound.
The clear strike sounded again. This time, she started to doubt her ears. She heard a chilling sound of breakage.
She could not see the situation, but Irisviel understood through the touch of her silver thread. The tree trunk that bound Kirei had large cracks in it. The cracks were next to the part where the silver thread wrapped around – the spot directly below Kirei’s hands.
Kirei, with the back of his hands pressing against the bark, was striking at the tree trunk with all of his strength.
Irisviel could not have known – but the strength from a martial arts master is not merely produced from the wrist. From the strength of the feet on the ground, the turning of the back, and the twisting of shoulders, it was possible to instantaneously release a burst of power in the fists. To an expert in this phenomenon, the strength of the arm was insignificant in comparison to the power of the whole body. If it was necessary, one can press the fist next to the target and strike simply by virtue of the “force” coming from outside of the arm – this is known as the hidden technique of “explosive force.”
The sound of the third strike shook the forest. In comparison to the time before, this was much stronger. The tree trunk groaned one last time as the broken fibers broke with loud cracks. As the supporting point of the silvery thread, the trunk collapsed. Grabbing the thread with both of his hands, Kirei nonchalantly escaped the silvery ring at the point of collapse and pulled the thread apart link by link.
Irisviel knelt instantly as she felt the powerful backlash from the breaking of her magic. Calmly stepping forward in the manner of a victorious conqueror, Kirei looked into the despairing eyes of the two women and strode to the Calico, easily crushing its wooden frame with his hammerlike feet.
Still not being able to stand back up, prostrate, Maiya moaned viciously. After throwing at her an extremely bored glance, with the tip of his foot, Kirei casually kicked her at the stomach. As if sobbing convulsively, after Maiya fainted in agony and rolled over, she was perfectly still this time.
And then, with a look that lacked any expression, this time his gaze was laid on Irisviel.
The battlefield of the Heroic Spirits had already turned into a swamp full of filthy mud.
The horde of alien demonic monsters which appeared endlessly regardless of how many were slaughtered; piled into mountains of corpses, the spraying innards and bodily fluids mixed, was kicked and stirred by two pairs of feet, and formed a chaos even more terrifying than Hell itself.
More rancid that the stench of rot, the smell of the demonic monsters’ internal organs was thick as mist and filled the air - just like lethal poisonous gas. Living humans will probably die from lung corrosion just from inhaling.
By now, the number of enemies cut down by Saber and Lancer had long surpassed five hundred.
"...To make no progress at all for this long, this is a surprise beyond amazement."
Although Lancer had yet to show signs of tiredness, his muttering was full of bitterness.
The tide of battle cannot be determined. Despite facing the might of two knight class Servants, the number of alien demons still didn't decrease, being summoned again and again to fill the gaps in the encircling horde.
"It’s that grimoire, Lancer. As long as his Noble Phantasm is here… this situation won’t change."
"I see, so that’s what it is."
Lancer gave a depressed sigh after he heard Saber’s muttered words.
"But, if we want to remove the book from the weakling's hands, we have to break through this wall of minions no matter what."
The demonic monsters grouped together and approached them slowly as they waved their tentacles mockingly. Perhaps these alien creatures do not feel fear of death or pain. As if feeling that happiness only come from being slaughtered, they endlessly attacked the two Servants.
Even now, facing both Saber and Lancer, Caster continues his battle of attrition. If this is his strategy, it would obviously promise him victory. The amount of prana wielded by Caster and his Noble Phantasm might as well be infinite.
"...Lancer, at this desperate time, do you want to make a gamble?"
"Although it annoys me to appear outlasted, playing with his minions like this will accomplish nothing.
Fine. I accept, Saber."
After Lancer's ready consent, Saber stared at the repulsive wall of flesh which stretched back to Caster, carefully calculating its thickness and density.
This is her greatest secret skill - intuition told her this idea is 'correct', and worth putting all her stakes into.
"I'll open the way. There is only one chance. Lancer, can you run with the wind?"
"Hm? – Hehe, so that's what it is. Simply done."
Despite Saber's puzzling words, Lancer nodded with a smile.
Although it was only once, they were enemies who fought with their lives on the line. Both of them have etched into their memory all the secret techniques the other used. Even without an explanation, Lancer could understand the skills and intentions of Servant Saber.
"What are you quietly mumbling about? Your dying prayers, perhaps?"
Caster mocked the two Servants calmly and evenly. Right now it wasn't him who was fighting Saber and Lancer, but his Noble Phantasm, . Caster was like the audience observing the battle from outside the ring. For him to elegantly and composedly taunt his opponents and get on their nerves is enough to be considered an 'attack'.
"Feel the terror. Feel the despair! There is a limit to the 'difference in numbers' that brute force can overcome. Hahaha, it's humiliating, isn't it? To be crushed and suffocated by these ignoble, nameless evils! For heroes, there is nothing more humiliating than this!"
Even awashed by her opponent's joyful scorn, Saber, emotionless and unfaltering, merely wielded the sword in her right hand with a decisive and calm expression.
Those unwavering eyes were only staring at – the victory that must be obtained.
"Haha, that beautiful face... now twist in agony for me, Jeanne!"
The horde of demonic monsters roared together. They surged towards the center of their ring for the kill as they made alien strange sounds, indistinguishable as joy or hatred.
Now it would be – the time to decide who will become the victor.
With a loud voice, the King of Knights commanded the noble holy sword.
In the middle of the whirling air, the resplendent brilliance of gold shone through.
The sheath of super-high pressured air that protected the holy sword was released from the bondage of the invisible barrier – bellowing forth like a savage dragon's roar.
The secret sword technique that guaranteed the kill. It is a different way to use the Noble Phantasm . Last night in the battle against Lancer she released this extreme air pressure to accelerate quickly. If it was released towards the enemy it would become a tempest, a crushing hammer that blows away entire armies.
Thoughtlessly packed together, the demonic beasts took the blow all the harder. The super-high pressure tempest, compacted like a solid force, smashed the demonic monsters to smithereens, mixing the minced flesh together with gravel and broken wood. It was as if an invisible giant hand swept across the entire earth and opened up a dead straight path. The instant they were blown apart by the air pressure, a perfect hole appeared in the demonic monsters' ranks.
The destructive power of was countered by the many layers of demonic monsters, reduced to a strong gust of wind that merely blew at the ends of Caster’s robe when it reached him.
The penetrated gap would serve as a path. However, against the density of the demonic monsters summoned, it could only count as a temporary opening that could be sealed off immediately.
"What - ?!"
Even so, Caster still made a sound of shock. It wasn't just the blow of wind which penetrated the ranks.
When objects move extremely quickly in the atmosphere they are capable of tearing apart the air in front of them, while leaving a vacuum behind. Of course, that vacuum would draw in the surrounding air, and become a surge that follows the object which passed through it. There are techniques in autoracing that allow cars to follow right behind the car in front of it, using that 'slipstream' to accelerate faster.
The air pressure resulting from the release of Saber's triggered a similar phenomenon. It created a vacuum behind the passing gale at the same time it destroyed the army of demonic monsters, and prepared a point of in-rushing air.
Then, the one who sprang into this converging surge without hesitation was the one who was waiting for this one strike – Lancer.
"Come - prepare yourself!"
It was an ultimate skill that not only demanded superhuman physique, but complete synchronization with his partner. However, Lancer achieved this miraculous combination with watching his enemy Saber using the secret sword of wind for just once.
With one leap Lancer passed through the passage twirling with gales of blood and flesh, like a swallow that tucked in its feathered wings by its side as it chased the wind. When his feet once again touched earth he was barely ten strides away from Caster, with no obstructing barriers between them.
"I have you, Caster!"
The demonic monsters that turned around due to their master's crisis stretched their tentacles together towards Lancer's back. But Lancer didn't turn back. He brandished the short spear in his left hand behind him like a windmill to cut down the pursuing attacks, while he turned half his body and approached Caster with the long spear in his right hand extended.
He was just short of the killing blow. The long spear's strike only resulted in the tip cutting slightly into the surface, and didn't make a serious tear.
But the Noble Phantasm in the enchanting spearman's hand was such a weapon that would decide the victor on the battlefield even with such a slight touch.
His growl was followed by a crimson stab. The tip of the spear did not touch Caster’s fragile body – but the cover of the grimoire in his hand.
That is the red spearhead which once penetrated Saber’s and canceled out her magical armor. It is a fatal "Noble Phantasm killer", capable of severing all ties of prana. For Caster, who completely relied on the mighty power of the grimoire to summon demonic monsters to manipulate, it was a decisive blow equal to a checkmate.
"Boom", a sound akin to waves breaking against rocks beside the sea echoed in the forest.
The countless alien demonic monsters on the ground all liquefied in the blink of an eye. The demonic monsters, which were originally created from the flesh and blood of the sacrifices, changed back into blood and scattered away. They lost the power to materialize into being the moment the prana supply from was terminated.
Within the rapidly retreating Caster’s hands, the grimoire immediately activated its ability as a prana furnace and quickly regenerated the damaged cover. The prana was only cut off during the brief moment when ’s blade was in contact with the grimoire; the spear had no power to damage the Noble Phantasm itself. However, once canceled, the magecraft can’t be salvaged. Even if he wanted to repeat the summoning spell, Saber and Lancer’s holy sword and twin spears wouldn’t give him the time either.
"You bastard- BASTARD bastard BASTARD bastard BASTARD BASTARD BASTARDDDDDD!!"
Faced with such a desperate situation, Caster’s expression twisted until his eyes were rolled to the back of his head and he raged while foaming around the mouth. Lancer nonchalantly gave the smile of a rascal that he was born with.
"How was that? Now that Saber’s taken back her ‘left hand’, this is something that can be done with just lifting her little finger."
But Saber wasn’t in the mood to joke like Lancer.
Until the moment victory is decided, the only thing that echoed in her mind were the final screams and tears that the children gave out as they were torn apart and cruelly slaughtered.
"...You had better prepare yourself, heretic."
The King of Knights muttered in a quiet sound of anger as she lifted the golden holy sword with her right hand. The sword tip was pointed straight towards Caster.
Anger, like acid, was eating away at Kayneth drop by drop.
He is a first-rate magus. He would never lose his composure due to emotions, especially when facing a situation when he is fighting for his life.
Actually, if this is a duel of secret craft between first-rate magi colleagues, Kayneth wouldn’t be harboring things like anger at all. He would probably admire and acknowledge the opponent’s ability, calmly analyzing its true value, and concentrate in performing his magecraft that would serve as a proper reply for the enemy’s craft. Those noble and flamboyant, gentlemanly games are what Kayneth knew as ‘battles’. With the right to use the Holy Grail at stake, he aimed to compete with Tōsaka Tokiomi, Matō Zōken, and four other unknown yet outstanding opponents, and arrived at this desolate place at the farthest east.
However – the pain of the wound on his right shoulder throbbed and invaded his senses as if mocking Kayneth, continuing the pain as if it was humiliating him.
This isn’t a wound taken in battle. Those things – are never fit to be called "battles".
It was as if he stepped on a piece of rotten floor board. As if he tipped over a steaming pot. As if his best suit got stained with mud.
The opponent is as insignificant as an ant, not worthy to be called an enemy. A piece of rubbish that even seeing it would make him feel dirty and unpleasant.
To feel "anger" at something like that, and risk his pride as Lord El-Melloi, would be unthinkable.
These things are just daily hassles. Something close to being bitten by a stray dog.
It was just bad luck. Dismiss it as a simple misfortune.
Even as he tried to convince himself in this way – he screamed at the pain of the wound on his shoulder. The severe pain that felt like he was slowly being burnt tormented him and ate away at his pride.
Kayneth’s icy cold face was as expressionless as a mask, not loudly swearing or gritting his teeth. For an observer, that is definitely not the expression of someone in anger.
Indeed. He didn’t hate anyone. All his anger was directed inwards. It was merely that he was provoked by a situation that surprised him – something that is impossible, unreasonable.
The rage that had nowhere to go became destructive impulses that spread to Volumen Hydrargyrum. Kayneth smashed the walls of the corridors around him with his whips of blades.
That base scum made me bleed... impossible! It shouldn’t have happened!
His walk resembling a sleep-walker, Kayneth pursued Emiya Kiritsugu, who had fled. The shapeless mercury lump, taking the place of its master’s heart, followed him, full of murderous intent.
The door that blocked his way wasn’t pushed open, but smashed apart by the mercury's weight.
Be it flower vases, paintings, or elegant furniture: all the decorations that happen to fall into his sight are smashed and destroyed.
There were many traps along the way. Wires tripped by Kayneth's defenseless feet, or a fuse in the carpet that when stepped on would cause a pre-set grenade to explode or a mine to throw out shrapnel. At those times, the mercury protective membrane would expand immediately and rush forward to block it.
Those set traps were like toys made to fool children, so ridiculous that Kayneth wanted to laugh. But the sound of his laughter was at the same time mocking Kayneth, who was hurt by those tricks that were like toys made to fool children.
Self-mockery cut into pride like a razor. That humiliation inflamed the anger in his heart even more.
Lord El-Melloi’s admirable Mystic Code isn’t something that is made for this kind of foolish tricks. His mercury should be a weapon that takes in Gandr shots, deflects magical swords, and breaks through supernatural fire, ice and lightning. It should be a craft that makes whichever magus who hates him marvel, revere, and at the same time arrive at death.
Then, what would his current distasteful situation be?
The opponent that he unleashed his proud Mystic Code to chase is nothing more than an anonymous mouse... Every passing second was making him feel humiliated. The wound on his shoulder was hurting worse and worse.
An endless hysterical downward spiral – however, that had also come into sight of its conclusion.
No matter how big the castle may be, the possibilities of escape become limited if one runs upwards. The mouse finally got chased to the end of the corridors in the third floor. The stream of mercury that Kayneth sent out earlier to find the enemy accurately located him this time. Looks like the target had set himself to stay firmly where he is. He should have decided to have the final confrontation with Kayneth at that place.
Confrontation – as that word floated into Kayneth’s mind, he couldn’t help but let out a laugh.
Seems like the enemy still hasn’t given up. So that’s how it is. He had wounded Kayneth once, so there should still be a chance of victory if the same luck decided to grace him again. He should have made this final decision with all the spirit of a desperate mouse trying to bite the cat.
Kayneth’s tight mouth became twisted with his sneer as he muttered.
It wasn’t because of his skills or outstanding strategies that the mouse managed to touch Kayneth. It was just an unreasonable coincidence. There’s a need to make sure he knows the difference.
Not a confrontation. This is execution. This is slaughter.
Kayneth, as his body filled of his cruel intention to kill, turned the final corner with his Mystic Code and arrived at the end of the corridor.
It basically fitted the setting Emiya Kiritsugu expected. The third confrontation with Kayneth El-Melloi Archibald.
The distance was barely thirty meters. The width of the corridor was just over six meters. There are no places to hide. No place to retreat.
Kayneth’s Volumen Hydrargyrum has potentially fatal speed and power within a radius of seven-and-a-half meters. The initiative remains with Kiritsugu until Kayneth can get in range.
In his left hand – fifty rounds of 9mm bullets in a fresh helical magazine, the Calico waited for the moment to open fire.
And his Mystic Code, the Contender Custom, in his right hand. The "magecraft bullet" was already loaded in the single-shot chamber.
Kiritsugu didn’t show any fear or beg for mercy; he merely stood silently holding two guns. This made Kayneth even more unpleasant and twisted his expression as he uttered mocking jeers.
“You wouldn’t think that the previous method would still work, right? Despicable thing.”
It won’t work. It would be a problem for Kiritsugu if it did work – however, he needn’t tell the other person this. He needed to have Kayneth think that Kiritsugu is stupid enough to repeat the exact same attack.
"I won’t just simply kill you. I’ll only heal your lungs and heart to make them revive, then I’ll slowly deal with you starting from your toes."
Kayneth said sinisterly as he slowly walked towards Kiritsugu step by step. The Volumen Hydrargyrum twirled beside him, flexing its countless whips dauntingly as it shook their sharp tips.
"Die in regret, in pain, in despair. And curse when you die. Curse the cowardice of your employer... the Einzbern Master who humiliated the Holy Grail War!"
Right – Kiritsugu sniggered within his heart as he regarded Kayneth’s proclamation of execution as nothing more than a breeze beside his ear. It seems the Master substitution plan he proposed worked at the end.
Fifteen meters. If he was to make a move, it would be now.
Towards Kayneth, who was looming nearer, Kiritsugu first used the Calico in his left hand, firing a rain of 9mm bullets in full-automatic. It was a completely identical replay of that sneak attack in the first floor corridor, a pinning attack made to trigger Volumen Hydrargyrum’s automatic defence. In order to make it unable to take the following strike by the Contender, this is a feint made to weaken the mercury’s defensive membrane.
Of course, Lord El-Melloi would not fall for the same trick twice.
“Fevor, mei sanguis!”
The mercury’s defensive form activated immediately, but this time it wasn’t a membrane. Volumen Hydrargyrum leapt in front of its master and formed countless spikes from the floor to the ceiling. It was like a thick bamboo forest covered Kayneth’s entire body, and at the same time completely blocked all the bullets flying near.
There’s no need to use a membrane as defense if he wasn’t facing an attack such as flames or mist. Things such as bullets would become harmless as long as it is not allowed to move in a straight line. Thus, using only “columns” to defend would be enough.
Of course, the prana needed to expand the mercury into a mountain of swords isn’t even comparable to that used to form a membrane. Every single spike, twirled as thin as a steel wire, had to be equipped with all the strength and malleability to deflect bullets. The automatic defense this time was completed using all the prana Kayneth had in his possession. The inherited Magic Crests of the Archibald family on his shoulders circulated to its ultimate limit, creating extraordinary pain to the practitioner.
It could be said that the defense this time was the true impregnable fortress.
The bullets, hindered by the silver mountain of swords, bounced back and forth in the gaps between the numerous spikes, making raucous metallic noises. Finally, they lost all power and dropped to the ground. Not one of them reached Kayneth’s body.
Then, the Contender in Kiritsugu’s right hand gave a roar. This is the single-shot bullet that made Kayneth bear his despicable scar the first time it penetrated Volumen Hydrargyrum’s defenses, something with far more destructive power than the 9mm bullets.
However, the degree of defence the mercury mountain of swords put up wasn’t even comparable to that of the membrane.
All the spikes closed up together like a Venus flytrap the instant before the killing move touched the mercury spikes, and surrounded the bullet. The thick cluster thin spikes became a single giant column in the blink of an eye, completely sealing off the .30-06 Springfield bullet.
Volumen Hydrargyrum, made to interchange forms freely, showed what marvels it can do. The immaculate skill that controlled the magecraft of fluidics to such perfection should indeed be the epitome of this unparalleled craft, fully worthy of the prestigious name of the Archibald house.
The moment he beautifully completed this magecraft he devoted all his skills in – Lord El-Melloi’s destiny also came to its end.
Even a Master and a Servant, whom had made a contract, have to use communication techniques such as speech to establish a connection between them when they are far away from each other.
But if the two of them are connected with the bondage of the Command Seal, then one party would quickly detect a disturbance in the other’s scent if the other is in a life-threatening crisis.
Therefore, Kayneth’s dire situation swiftly passed to Lancer, who was still in the forest.
"What – !?"
Lancer suddenly turned to gaze at the direction of the Einzbern castle straight after he destroyed Caster’s army of demonic monsters, just when he was prepared to finish off their nemesis with Saber. For the first time, Lancer realized the fact that his Master, whom he thought was observing his battle behind the frontline, had already entered the enemy formation and undertook another battle.
Lancer’s momentary wavering was a god-sent opening for the desperate Caster.
Within Caster’s hand, having already finished regenerating, throbbed with torrents of prana. Of course, Saber wouldn’t stand aside and leave the magus’s spells alone.
Saber wielded her holy sword with her right hand and rushed forward, trying to defeat the enemy before he could complete his incantation.
But Caster wasn’t foolish enough to pronounce incantations in front of a blade. He didn’t speak even one syllable of incantations, just chaotically let out the surge of prana that the Noble Phantasm produced.
Although the previous summoning magecraft was nullified, the pools of blood that stained the ground were still connected to the prana. The uncontrollable prana that spurt out flowed into that mesh of blood, but finally scattered apart without forming any shapes.
Her sight was blocked off before she got close enough to strike; even Saber didn’t take a rash move and stopped her steps.
Caster didn’t intend to complete the spell to begin with, but forcibly activated a magecraft that was bound to fail. That would be enough in this situation. The blood that didn’t form any summoned monsters immediately boiled and evaporated due to the saturated prana in them, spreading out in all direction as a fog. This is an imprudent skill that could only be used with the enormous amount of prana provided by a Noble Phantasm.
What he expected – was a blinding mist.
Even Caster, overloaded with confidence, deducted that it would be impossible to reverse the situation and arrive at victory at this state. The magus Servant quickly removed materialization in the time while the bloody mist covered Saber and Lancer’s sight. Faced with two of the three knight classes, he didn’t even get to leave a word behind. Swallowing his anger and humiliation, Caster rapidly left the battlefield in spiritual form.
Luckily for Caster, Saber doesn’t have the ability to turn into spirit form and chase him; Lancer, who has that ability, could not chase him due to his Master’s crisis.
“Bastard... what unbelievable cowardice.”
Saber muttered in anger as she recalled from the surrounding atmosphere. The refreshing wind immediately blew in from all direction and scattered the filth of the blood mist. When the two Servants regained their field of sight and was recalled to once again conceal the holy sword’s form, even Caster’s spiritual aura had disappeared, not to mention his physical figure.
“Lancer, what’s wrong?”
Regarding the fact that Lancer could easily have chased their enemy but instead let Caster escape, Saber didn’t heckle him but just questioned calmly. It was obvious that something happened based on his changed expression.
“My lord is in trouble... Looks like he left me and attacked your headquarters.”
Lancer explained hesitantly. Saber also figured what had probably happened, and displayed a dejected expression.
Then... everything did happen according to Kiritsugu’s plans.
It wasn’t what she wanted. It wasn't that she wanted to completely deny the tactic of deception, but the cruel trap that Kiritsugu set is an existence that can not co-exist with the King of Knights’s belief of standing stoically in the battlefield no matter what happens.
"It must be my Master’s work... Lancer, you should hurry. Go save your lord."
The spearman was at first dumbfounded at Saber’s unhesitating urging, but then bowed his head deeply in thanks. For Saber, this decision was the same as going against her own lord. Retain Lancer here so his Master can be killed would be the reasonable choice made to win the Holy Grail War.
But if we continue on this train of thought, then there was no need for Lancer to fight Caster to save Saber from her crisis. He didn’t think of himself as stupid then. Therefore, he wouldn’t think of Saber, who let him go on his way, as foolish now.
"I am in your debt, King of Knights."
"It’s all right. We swore to have a duel between knights. Let’s hold on to that glory till the end."
Lancer nodded briefly, then disappeared into spirit form. Just like that, he galloped towards the castle in the depth of the forest as a whirl of wind.
When the Emiya family of the previous generation determined the "Origin" of their son and heir, at a loss they named him "Kiritsugu" due to the strange results.
Basically, he possesses the dual attributes of "Fire" and "Earth". To be specific, they were composite attributes, "Severing" and "Binding". That is the form of his soul that was born with him, and the true form of his "Origin".
Sever, and bind – it’s not exactly the same as being called "destruction and rebirth", because Kiritsugu’s Origin has no meaning of "recovery". For example, a string that is cut and then connected again would have change of thickness at the point where the knot is tied. That is, the action of 'severing and binding' would cause irreversible "corruption" in the target.
Kiritsugu became particularly aware of his Origin when he was asked to complete some hands-on work. His hands weren’t very skilled. If a normal contraption breaks down, he could fix it. But if it comes to delicate machinery then everything would suddenly become the opposite. The more he wanted to fix it, the worse the damage would become for the machine.
As a matter of fact, Kiritsugu’s handcraft isn’t extraordinary. If a normal metal wire snapped, the original function can be restored by just connecting it back together. However, if he were to fix a delicate electric circuit using the same principles, the result would be fatal. It wasn’t something that would work as long as everything is connected. If the connections become out of order, the circuit would lose its function.
This wasn't something created by Kiritsugu’s personality or temperament; from magecraft’s point of view, it is the true essence of the root deep within his soul.
Emiya Kiritsugu utilized his extraordinary "Origin" to its fullest extent when he created his Mystic Code. The first and second ribs on both sides were cut off and taken out of his body. The extracted ribs were grinded into dust, condensed with a craft to preserve the soul, and sealed within sixty-six bullets as their core.
These bullets would actualize Kiritsugu’s "Origin" on the target when it hits. If it were to hit a living creature then there would be no wounds or bleeding, but the place where it was hit would appear to be suffering necrosis. The surface may seem to have healed, but the nerves and capillaries wouldn’t be regenerated properly and the original function would be lost.
Moreover, as a Conceptual Weapon, this bullet poses an even graver threat to magi in particular.
Kiritsugu had already used thirty-seven bullets, but not a single one of them was wasted. The bullets that were made using a part of his body had already completely destroyed thirty-seven magi.
Now, the thirty-eighth "Origin Bullet" severed a new sacrifice’s life force.
Kayneth probably didn’t comprehend what was happening to his body until the end. The moment that the excruciating pain spread into his body, all of his vital organs and nerves had already been torn into a shapeless mess.
Before a scream escaped his throat he was already spurting out blood. All the muscles in his body were sent into spasms with uncoordinated movements conducted by a nervous system that was on the edge of being broken; the lean body clad in the chic suit began to perform a ridiculous dance.
Using intense pressure to make the densely-packed prana, circulating in the Magic Circuits, suddenly begin to ignore those paths and flow chaotically, destroying the practitioner’s body in the process. The moment Volumen Hydrargyrum blocked the Contender’s strike, Kayneth suffered damages more severe than getting directly hit by a bullet.
When Kiritsugu’s magecraft bullet is interfered by magecraft, the impact of the "Origin" within the bullet would affect all the way down to the Magic Circuits of the practitioner.
If we were to compare a magus’s Magic Circuits as a high-voltage power cable, Kiritsugu’s bullet would be a drop of water. What would happen if a conductive liquid attached to a thickly-placed electrical circuit? The short-circuiting current would destroy the circuit itself, resulting in permanent damage.
Just like that, shorting out Magic Circuits is the terrifying effect of Kiritsugu’s Mystic Code.
In order to avoid the damage of Kiritsugu’s magecraft bullets, one has to discard all magecraft and purely defend the bullet by physical means. On that point, Kiritsugu’s choice of using .30-06 Springfield bullets is a malicious one. There isn’t something that can completely block this specialized hunting rifle round to begin with. This is a type of bullet that excelled in penetration. As long as one isn’t in an armored vehicle, one can’t avoid getting hurt.
Only one shot. That would be enough. Kiritsugu dared to choose a gun that doesn’t suit real combat, the Thompson Contender, as his Mystic Code, due to the fact that it is the handgun that can deal the maximum physical damage possible.
Kiritsugu placed his finger on the spool of the trigger guard when his beloved gun finished its duty and swung the long barrel downwards as if throwing off a blood stain. The empty cartridge flew from the opened magazine into the empty air with the momentum, falling onto the marble floor with a faint trace of sulfur.
Kiritsugu felt nothing for this victory. This was exactly the same as all the times before, a successful taunt with a calculated conclusion. That is all.
The destructive power of Kiritsugu’s magecraft bullet depends on how many Magic Circuits were activated within the target the moment the bullet hit, since what destroys the practitioner’s body would be his own prana. On this point, it was absolutely fatal for Kayneth. Since he was provoked continuously and used the utmost amount of prana he had, he granted Kiritsugu the best result he could hope for.
Even the mighty Volumen Hydrargyrum was finished if the practitioner’s prana was cut off. Kayneth lay recumbent in the sea of mercury that reverted to its original shape and spread all over the floor, his body twitching slightly. The former Lord El-Melloi was now as harmless as a baby. Let alone the power of a magus, his body may not even be spared a normal human’s functions.
Although he was going to die sooner or later if left alone, Kiritsugu’s principle is to give a concrete final blow to a fallen enemy. He switched the Calico into semi-automatic and walked towards Kayneth, who already resembled a breathing corpse. He was going to fire one shot into his head at critical distance. Then, one of the seven groups of people fighting for the Holy Grail would have dropped out.
But just then, Kiritsugu felt a mighty aura of prana approaching him with intimidation and frowned.
Unhesitatingly, Kiritsugu held up the Calico and took aim, firing repeatedly towards Kayneth. But the bullet emitted sparks in the empty air and sprayed in all directions and disappeared. It was the twin spears of red and yellow that performed movements too fast for eyes to see.
Facing Lancer, who materialized on a position set to protect Kayneth, Kiritsugu was gobsmacked. Stopped by the enemy’s Servant at this time; this was definitely unexpected.
Originally, Kiritsugu thought that Saber intercepted Lancer, based on the fact that Kayneth entered the castle alone. But if so, then how did the spearman get past the King of Knights? If Saber was defeated, Kiritsugu would have confirmed that the recipient of his prana had disappeared. However, Kiritsugu’s prana was definitely still being absorbed by Saber, who still existed somewhere. His Servant was wholesome without a doubt.
Then, there’s only one conclusion – he could only deduce that Saber voluntarily stepped out of Lancer’s way.
Lancer stared at Kiritsugu, who was mentally wavering, with a look as cold as ice. He shifted both spears into his right hand, emptying out his left hand to scoop up Kayneth’s body. Kiritsugu didn’t rashly attack this apparently defenceless move. He had just confirmed that bullets are useless to Servants.
"– You should understand just how easy it is to pierce you through right here, Saber’s Master."
For Lancer, had he not heard what Saber just said to him, he would find it very hard to deduce that this man in front of him, who looked nothing like a magus, is in truth the Einzbern Master. However, he knew his lord Kayneth’s strength. If he managed to break through Lord El-Melloi's magecraft, there are no grounds left for suspicion.
However – no, just because of that, Lancer’s spear tip didn’t point towards Kiritsugu.
"I won’t let you kill my Master. I won’t kill Saber’s Master either. Neither I or her want to end in this way."
Is that so? – Kiritsugu once again regretted the conflicting personalities between himself and his contracted Servant.
“Never forget. The only reason that your life is spared now is the King of Knight’s nobility.”
Lancer declared this to Kiritsugu, his tone carrying a cool sarcasm. Then he took up Kayneth and leapt out of the castle, using his torso to break the glass window.
Kiritsugu wasn’t as foolish as to chase them. Just like Lancer said, that would be a completely suicidal move. Since Saber wasn’t here, there was nothing Kiritsugu could do.
No, even if Saber is beside him, would Kiritsugu entrust this to her?
Although Lancer, the Heroic Spirit Diarmuid, is also naive, it was Saber’s idiotic chivalry, which rivalled Lancer, which completely exceeded Kiritsugu’s capacity of comprehension.
Her mind probably believed very firmly that Lancer would not kill Kiritsugu. There must be something wrong with her. How could the King of Knights do such a thing like permitting her own Master to be exposed to the enemy’s Servant alone? If Lancer decided to go back on his word, then her Holy Grail War would end right there. Even if that spearman had no such thoughts, if Kayneth remained conscious he could have used a Command Seal to demand it of him. Didn’t she even think of such a possibility?
Kiritsugu contemplated this appropriately, and lit the cigarette in his mouth.
How ironic. A Heroic Spirit who single-handedly created an extremely foolish trust with an enemy Servant, while she had great estrangements with her own Master.
It looked like he should have chosen his Servant more carefully after all – only then did Kiritsugu feel this failure with a pang, and puffed out the hazy smoke with a sigh.
"Woman, I will ask you a question."
Said Kotomine Kirei with a deep voice as he slowly walked towards the woman who, standing helplessly aside, had no ways of resistance left.
The black haired woman who served as her bodyguard, lying on the grond like a rag doll and already implacably beaten by him, was no longer a threat.
"Both of you seem to have challenged me in order to protect Kiritsugu. Whose intention is that?"
Kirei used one hand to grasp and softly raise the silent Einzbern's homunculus. Her statue-like, demure and beautiful face was torn apart by the grief inside her.
"I'll ask once again. Woman, under whose orders you two fought me?"
Kirei was really interested in this question's answer. Who was the person who set such a pointless obstacle in his path to Kiritsugu. That truth is very important for him.
But Kirei did see through one thing. No matter how he searched for them, there were no Command Seals on the body of the homunculus. She was not any Servant's Master. This recent, rash move was one that no Master would do.
In that case, it really was like what he and Tokiomi had known from the very beginning – Emiya Kiritsugu was indeed Saber's master, and these women were merely his pawns.
Now, the troublesome part.
If it was Kiritsugu who commanded these women to fight him, then he would have underestimated him. These women, as adversaries, were defeated by him without much effort.
There was also the possibility that someone else had ordered this. The main goal for the Einzbern was to conceal Kiritsugu, as a Master. For this purpose they would sacrifice anything. They were probably willing to sacrifice lives just to gain some time.
Still, every possibility led to this one question.
Kirei carefully looked again at the face of the silver haired girl who was gasping for oxygen. It was a doll-like face, too beautiful and well-crafted. Her red pupils were like rubies. She was exactly like the portrait of the "Lady of Winter", Lizleihi Justizia von Einzbern that was passed down through the ages.
This homunculus wasn't a Master, but she still participated in the Holy Grail War. So she should be the marionette with the responsibility of being the "Grail Vessel". Then she should be a being of great importance in the final stages of the Holy Grail War. To send such a pawn to the front line of the war, and expose her in midst of danger, it's definitely not a foolish move made by amateurs due to a lack of manpower.
Suddenly, Kirei felt a strange sense of weight on the tip of his toes, and looked down.
Kirei didn't notice it until now, because it was something so subtle and not worthy of notice. The weak, painful gasps that started from the ground were now beside Kirei’s feet without him knowing it.
With the body full of wounds, the black haired woman stretched out a trembling hand, and caught Kirei's right leg. Even though her grip was very weak, it was probably all the strength she has left in her body. Even if she had no strength to stand up or to clench her fists, those dim eyes were nonetheless burning with hatred and fixed upon Kirei unwaveringly.
Kirei, without a word, lifted his foot and trampled down mercilessly upon the chest of the woman with broken ribs. The woman who can’t even wail didn’t let out a sound of pain, just a tragic gulping sound produced by the air squeezed out from her lungs.
Even so, the woman didn't let her hands go. As if she was the driven by the current, firmly attached to a trunk, her weak hands grasped Kirei's arm, but she kept staring at Kirei with an expression of hatred.
Kirei moved his gaze back, and lifted up his gaze towards the silver haired woman lifted in midair.
The homunculus, although muffled and twisting her painful body, had no terror reflected in her face. If so, it's nothing special. If it's merely an imitation of humans, it's natural that it hasn't any feelings as fear towards the death or pain — but it doesn't seem like that. Because the red eyes of the homunculus staring at Kirei were certainly full of hate and anger.
Suspended in mid air and from the ground, both women looked furiously at Kirei, their eyes full of hatred.
"I won't let you pass from here."
"Even at the cost of my life, I'll stop you here."
Neither of the women answered Kirei's question. Who could have been the one who ordered them to attack Kirei?
No matter how the problem is looked at, there were always contradictions in the reasoning.
Then, Kirei thought about another situation.
What if these women weren't following any instructions, but actually acted accordingly to their own will, thus deciding to fight Kirei?
That was another possibility that couldn't be ignored.
Kirei suddenly felt a familiar spiritual body soundlessly arriving next to him. Assassin's words were transmitted directly to Kirei's mind.
"Caster, and Lancer, as well as his Master, already finished their battle. They've left the forest. Saber will catch up soon. My master, it’s very dangerous here."
Kirei coolly finished listening to Assassin's report, and nodded, disappointedly. It was pointless to do anything there. There was no chance to confront Servant Saber face to face. Instead, even retreating and escaping safely from there was dangerous now.
Now there's only one stratagem to be used – just to stop Saber's pursuit?
Kirei drew from his shirt his new black keys, and without hesitation, as if tearing up cloth, casually stabbed the silver-haired homunculus’s belly.
The artificial woman let out a silent cry, and blood flowed out from her mouth. So it was red – Kirei let out a bored sigh as he let the shaking body on his hand fall to the ground.
Hurting her was unavoidable. A few minutes should pass before she dies from blood loss. Save her, or let her die and chase Kirei: Saber will soon show up and will have to choose between those two demanding options.
It was done. Kirei, without a glance towards the dying women, took the path from where he came and started to gallop through the forest.
At the end of an event, there's no room for unnecessary thoughts. Regarding the two females that just entered the death match, there was nothing important or worthy to remember.
Despite this, as he galloped, the gazes of those two people were imprinted in Kirei's mind.
That was true hatred. Their killing intent were definitely not coming from their sense of duty or doing their job.
Those women were not trying to achieve victory for the Einzberns, but instead they were protecting that man, Emiya Kiritsugu. If it was the former, both women would probably be in the city with Kiritsugu, fighting their enemies. They didn't use this sort of steadfast battle tactics, but instead they were putting aside Kiritsugu and advancing defensively.
Even staying away from Emiya Kiritsugu, they were still willing to protect him. With a persistent desire to win a battle that can't be won.
What trust and expectations did those women had towards Kiritsugu? When the battle skills are in a totally different level and the victory is unreasonable, what were they protecting, trying to do?
A reason for someone to be so thoughtless and to do such a foolish thing, Kirei could only think of one.
If those two people were aiding Emiya Kiritsugu because of the faith they have in him, then all of their foolish actions were logical. But at the end, an important question appeared.
Women are frequently selfish beings. Sacrificing themselves to save him is something that can only be done when those two women fully accept him, fully comprehend him.
That was to say — Is Emiya Kiritsugu a being that could be comprehended by others?
"That's not possible..."
Kirei's throat made a moaning, whispering sound.
Those contradictions can't be occurring.
His expectations of Emiya Kiritsugu were completely overturned, an accident to his intuitions.
Emiya Kiritsugu was an empty man. It should be a man who was at the verge of emptiness but still hasn’t found a reason to fight. That's why Kirei was looking forward to him. He considered that deep in Kiritsugu's heart, in that kind of lifestyle, there should be the answer he was searching for.
If he wanted to do so, Kiritsugu must have been solitary. He mustn't be accepted and comprehended by anyone, thus becoming the master of a soul that has been separated from the world — Just like Kirei.
Kirei threw off the growing suspicions in his heart, as if escaping from those thoughts, and gritted his teeth as he ran through the forest alone.
Irisviel heard someone calling for her from far away, and dimly opened her eyes.
A familiar face and golden hair, shining even more beautifully as it reflected the light.
"Irisviel, hang on there! Irisviel!"
After Irisviel confirmed that it wasn't any other person but the girl that was the King of Knights, she was completely relieved by a sense of safety and nearly collapsed again.
"No! Keep your consciousness! I'll go call Kiritsugu right away. Hang on until then!"
"...Kirei.... Where is the enemy?"
Irisviel asked with a faint voice. Saber frowned regretfully as she answered.
"He escaped. If only I was here a bit earlier, this wouldn't have happened."
"...and Miss Maiya?..."
"Although she's also heavily wounded, they aren't life threatening. Yours are worse! The amount of blood coming out from this - "
Saber stopped halfway, astounded.
The blood that flowed out of Irisviel's abdominal wound until now suddenly stopped. Saber carefully rolled up the torn clothes and saw that it was all stained with blood but couldn't find any trace of the wounds on her smooth skin.
"—Sorry, I scared you."
Irisviel got up painlessly from Saber’s arm that was holding her up. Her face ought to be pale, but it already regained its color. The recent wound seemed like a mere illusion.
"It should be alright. Don't worry. Compared to magecraft used to heal others, healing myself is pretty easy... from the beginning, my body wasn't created as a human's body."
As Irisviel smiled gently towards Saber, whose eyes were wide of surprise, she apologized in her heart for lying to this incomparably trusting knight.
"It's actually thanks to you, Saber..."
Although Irisviel's body, from magecraft's perspective, is artificial, the art of self-healing when the practitioner is unconscious wasn’t added in. What healed her was a miracle that had nothing to do with Einzbern's magecraft.
The Noble Phantasm Avalon • All is a Distant Utopia – it heals all it's bearer's wounds, and even stops his aging. The sheath of the holy sword Excalibur. The artifact used back at the Einzbern's castle to summon Heroic Spirit Artoria was now sealed inside Irisviel as a conceptual weapon.
Normally, it should be a trump card that the Master, Kiritsugu, should equip. But then, serving as the front line substitute Master Irisviel's protection, he left this utmost defensive Noble Phantasm in the hands of his wife. Anyway, if its real owner Saber wasn't near supporting prana, the sheath wouldn't have any properties. To Kiritsugu, who decided from the start to act separately from Saber, it was a useless thing.
Kiritsugu, who didn't trust his own Servant, had carefully asked Irisviel not to tell Saber about the existence of the sheath for insurance. But Irisviel felt very uneasy in her heart about forcefully borrowing the Noble Phantasm of the King of Knights.
Even so, when its effects were confirmed, it was a truly astounding power. Before Saber arrived, Irisviel was undoubtedly in a critical state. Just by the touch of the hand of the king of knights, the wounds suddenly healed, and her strength rapidly recovered. It was nonetheless known as a miraculous Noble Phantasm.
Her Magic Circuit that Kirei broke by brute force should have malfunctions, but now it hadn't any problems. So now she should be able to smoothly use magecraft as always.
So the next thing should be treating Maiya's wounds. Unconscious, she was not dying, although she suffered serious wounds. Irisviel, looking at the wounds mercilessly done upon the body, realized again the terror of that man, Kirei.
The Executor was a monster. Whether facing firearms or magecraft, he only used his physical capabilities to pulverize Irisviel and Maiya's combined attack.
This is an enemy who should never be allowed to approach Kiritsugu – Irisviel bit her lips because of the intimidation of his presence.
This victory could be called a miracle attained from the persistence. But it was clearly luck. If Saber had been slightly delayed in the battle with Caster or Lancer, Kirei would have reached the castle deep within the forest.
This wasn't the end. Next time, Kirei will challenge Emiya Kiritsugu again.
"But it's not only me who is protecting Kiritsugu... right, Miss Maiya?"
Maiya's pained expression had become serene because of being anesthetized in preparation for healing her. She hadn't regained consciousness yet, and without the usual rejecting, sinister expression on her sleeping face, she just seemed an innocent girl.
She should hate her. Irisviel wasn't inhuman anymore. Because her soul became one of a woman, a wife who loved a man. But now, Irisviel must thank Hisau Maiya. Because it was Maiya who told Irisviel her objectives in this War.
"Next time we must win. We'll protect him together..."
After setting a new oath, Irisviel began to concentrate on healing Maiya's bruised body.
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