Fate/Zero:Act 9 Part 4
When it comes to the essential factors of a knight, the first to come to mind should be the sword and the armor, and the other vital one which does not fall behind those armors, is horse-riding.
Straddled on top of the saddle, controlling the reins and gallop on the battlefield at will- that is the expected appearance of a knight. This isn’t limited to horses; other quadruped animals, chariots, or even Imaginary Beasts would suffice. This mobility which far surpassed walking and the exhilaration coming from such freedom is indeed the essential joy connecting together all such ‘riding’ abilities.
For Saber, who had fought her entire life as the King of Knights, the very act of ‘riding’ is something that had already rooted its existence in the depth of her soul. The ‘Riding’ ability that she possesses when materializing as a Servant is perhaps the true reflection of this characteristic of hers.
This is really marvelous – Saber remarked in her heart as she gently caressed the steering wheel of the Mercedes-Benz 300L.
The feeling of controlling this mechanical contraption is completely different from that of riding a stallion, but after only one experience she had discovered that this intricate mechanical contraption gave off the delusion that it is alive.
While it is obvious that mechanical gears have no blood or soul, it still loyally moved forward rapidly and sturdily according to the will of Saber, its driver. This deference the Mercedes displayed was like riding her own beloved stead, and it filled her with trust and satisfaction.
“No wonder Irisviel is so ecstatic about driving.”
As she realized this, a small question also invaded her thoughts – since driving this car is so pleasant, then why did Irisviel pass the chance of driving to me this time?
“How does it feel to be driving, Saber?”
Irisviel, sitting next to her, asked with satisfied smiles all over her face. It was a satisfied expression of a mother who had brought a new toy to her child and looked on as the child played.
“It’s truly an amazing riding being. If this thing appeared in my era, it would definitely be something unimaginable.”
Saber smiled and replied frankly, at the same time chasing doubt out of her heart. Irisviel must have believed that Saber would feel happy with driving and then proceeded to pass the chance of driving to her. Perhaps, it was a kind of a reward for her loyalty as a knight. If so, then Saber should also return this gesture as a knight.
“But a Servant’s ability is pretty awesome too. Although it’s the first time you are controlling a machine, the level of your skills can truly be regarded as first-rate.”
“I’ve got some strange feelings too, more or less – a feeling as if I possess this skill I was made to master long time ago. Rather than understanding it with reasoning, I just remembered the controls of the next steps naturally.”
Irisviel hummed for a while, then suddenly a mischievous smile emerged on her face.
“I’ve suddenly got an idea. We should go to the world’s black market and buy something like the latest tank or bomber; if you get in and drive it, then wouldn't you finish this entire Heaven's Feel with one blow?”
Although she knew Irisviel was joking, Saber gave an amazed and bitter smile.
“Although your idea is interesting, I can declare this – there are no weapons in any era that can defeat my sword.”
While Saber’s words seemed over-confident, Irisviel did not beg to differ. Anyone who had fought together with this Servant would testify the truth of her words with their own eyes.
“Speaking of that, Maiya is getting deeper and deeper into Fuyuki city –”
Saber said in a low voice as she looked at the small truck that Hisau Maiya drove in front of them, which served as the forerunner.
“– Is it really alright? Is this house, which is going to be the new headquarters, too close to the center of the battlefield?”
“That is not something worth worrying about. Both the Tōsaka and Matō families openly built their defenses in the city. Other foreign Masters also resided within in the city without any qualms; it’s the Einzbern family who built their dwelling so far away that they appear to be the odd ones.”
For the Heaven’s Feel, which on broad principles demanded battles to be secret, the location of the headquarters didn’t have any special meaning. The so-called ‘advantages of the terrain’ is just referring to those elements of the leylines that had to do with magecrafts concerning spirituality.
“Also, considering this in terms of concealment, maybe this new place Kiritsugu chose is even more reliable than the previous castle.”
It seems Saber herself didn’t notice it, but her face was briefly clouded with a dark shade when Kiritsugu’s name was mentioned.
Not surprising, Irisviel had already given up in her heart. That's because the strife between the two was already predicted from the start. Irisviel's current position was to cover up for that. If that happens, she would have no choice but to think more of it in accordance to her reputation.
The strange combination of light van and classical sports car finally crossed the Fuyuki Bridge and entered Miyama. The scenery around them changed completely when they exited Shinto, a gentle and quite style, simple and carrying with it a historical weight, filled their surroundings. Despite being plain, the quiet row of houses makes one feel its history.
“This place really is too close to Tōsaka and Matō’s headquarters. He definitely chose a place no one would expect.”
“It’s said that the most dangerous place is also the safest. In terms of unpredictability, Kiritsugu’s choice is definitely correct.”
Although it was a comment of agreement, Saber voice still sounded somewhat stiff. Saber thinks Kiritsugu’s theories are appreciable in terms of strategies; what she could not endure was the coldness and cruelty of Kiritsugu’s tactics.
Maiya, slightly ahead, gradually slowed the speed of the light van and parked on the side of the road. It looks like they’ve already arrived at their destination.
“Here?... Fuuh. Another really mysterious building, right?”
Stepping off the Mercedes which was following behind the light van, Irisviel’s first words were full of emotion.
A Japanese building that was full of classical elegance as if it was a stage set from a period drama. Even in Miyama, where the passage of time seemed unperceivable, this building should still be counted as one of an extremely rare style. Moreover, considering the large area this wooden structure took, it is an extremely rare example even in the architectural history of modern Japan.
However, the feeling of desolation emanating from this building was also extraordinary. It looks like it’s been lying unused for a long time. This place must have some history behind it as it pointlessly occupied such a large space in civic planning and wasn't torn down, while remained without human occupation and yet bore signs of frequent reparation.
“From today onwards, both of you would use here as your headquarters.”
Maiya, getting off the small truck, handed Irisviel a string of keys as she said those words with a matter-of-fact tone.
“Ah, just give this to Saber.”
“ – Understood, Irisviel.”
Since her master ordered her to keep the keys to the rooms, Saber took the key ring from Maiya’s hand without hesitation.
There were many keys on the key ring. Apart from the keys for the main door and the porch, other keys for the back door and other rooms should also have been included. The shapes of the majority of the keys are the normal cylindrical kind; only one was cast in an ancient style.
“Maiya, what’s this key for? It’s very different from the other ones.”
“It’s the key for the storehouse in the courtyard. Although it looks very old, I’ve checked that the lock has no problems.”
After answering thus, as if she realized the condition of that building again, Maiya's cold face clouded just a little.
“This house was bought only a few days ago. I’m very sorry, but as you can see, there isn't any preparation at all. Maybe the inside isn’t really suitable for people to live in…”
“I don't mind. For the time being, I won’t complain as long as it can block out the wind and the rain.”
Although it didn’t sound like something a high-born lady would say, the Einzbern castle in the wildness wasn’t any better in terms of dilapidation.
“– If so, then I’ll be taking my leave.”
Maybe Kiritsugu gave her some other duties as well; Maiya quickly returned to the light van after she excused herself and briskly departed, leaving Irisviel and Saber who were still standing in front of the empty house.
“Then, Saber, let’s start checking out this new home.”
After opening the lock of the door, as they thought, a run-down front yard without any maintenance for a long time, appeared. The courtyard was full of waist-high grass and the main house, immersed in weeds, gave out a feeling of unease.
“Is this is what people call a haunted house?”
Irisviel seemed like she didn’t care at about this desolate and abandoned house at all, and instead looked around cheerfully, like a bad child anticipating a haunted house in a theme park. Seeing her childish face in high spirits, Saber didn’t even know what emotion she should respond with.
“Huh? What’s wrong, Saber?”
“– Nothing. If you don’t mind it, then it’s good.”
For Saber who had been through countless battles, this is already something she’s used to, so there wasn’t much that displeased her with this abandoned house’s dilapidation. If Irisviel can also accept this, then there’s nothing inappropriate about using here as the new headquarters.
“The inside must have a wooden corridor, and tatami, and paper-panelled sliding doors. Ohoho, I once said I wanted to see what old Japanese houses are like with my own eyes, and Kiritsugu definitely remembered that and did this in purpose.”
How could that cold, cruel, emotionless man, who was like a fighting machine, think about sentimental matters like this on the battlefield? Although Saber didn’t agree with Irisviel’s words, she didn’t say anything when she saw how happy Irisviel was.
Just like this, finished checking all the inner rooms while sneezing continuously due to the piles of dust she had to face, Irisviel finally wore a serious expression and began to contemplate.
“Is this far from your expectations?”
“Hmm. I’m already satisfied with this – it’s a bit difficult for this to function as the headquarters of a magus.”
Despite Irisviel’s weak appearance, she was in fact a first-rate magus.
“Although it wouldn’t be problematic to set up a bounded field around here, when it comes to setting up a workshop… but this is the tradition of this country so there’s nothing I can do. The prana can easily drift away in a house with such an open structure, especially for the Einzbern craft… Aaa, this is frustrating. If possible, I want a room sealed off with stone and earth…”
Saber, suddenly remembering something, spoke as she took out the last key that they haven’t used yet.
“Didn’t Maiya say that there’s a storeroom in the courtyard? Shall we check that out?”
“– Aha, this place is ideal.”
Irisviel nodded and spoke with satisfaction as soon as she stepped into the storeroom’s door.
“Although it’s a bit cramped, I can practice the craft in here just like how I did in the castle. After all, as long as a magic circle is established, I can solidify my territory.”
Maybe Kiritsugu thought about this at the start, and specifically found this spot with a storeroom. After all, a traditional Japanese building like this with a storeroom attached is very hard to find.
“Then, let’s start preparing now. Saber, can you please get the material we put in the car?”
“Right, shall I get all of them?”
“For now, just take the chemicals and equipments for alchemy. Hmm, let me think… right, also take the red and silver makeup boxes too.”
“As you command.”
Saber carefully took out a particularly light luggage from the trunk of the Mercedes. Although it was Maiya who was responsible for packing the luggage, Saber had some idea about what’s in it as well.
When Saber brought the makeup box, Irisviel seemed to have already decided on the location she wanted to create the magic circle at, and said to Saber while pointing at one corner of the storeroom.
“Then, I’m afraid I’ll have to trouble you, Saber. Draw two hexagrams overlapping each other on that spot, with a radius of six inches and facing this direction.”
“ – Understood.”
Saber also knew a bit about basic magecraft, so she could easily complete Irisviel’s demands.
Despite knowing the meaning of the instructions, she wasn’t clear on why Irisviel wanted her to do so.
“Then can you please mix some mercury for me? Strictly obey the ratios I tell you, and prudently – “
“Irisviel, I’ve got a question.”
Finally, Saber couldn’t bear it anymore, and spoke the question she’s kept hidden in her heart since this morning.
“ – You seem to be trying your best to avoid touching anything at all today; is it just me?”
“It’s like that for driving the car, or taking the keys… maybe such things can afford to be ignored, but you won’t use your hands even for the all-important magic circle; there must be some reasons behind it. Please correct me if I’m wrong, but is there something inconveniencing you today?”
Irisviel appeared like she’s having difficulties in talking about this, and glanced around. Saber kept asking.
“If you aren’t feeling well you should tell me beforehand. After all, I’m responsible for your safety, and I need to be prepared for such things.”
“… Sorry. However, I really didn’t hide anything from you.”
Irisviel sighed helplessly, then turned towards Saber and stretched out her hand as she spoke.
“Saber, now I’m going to squeeze your hand the hardest I can, is it alright?”
Although she didn’t know the reason, Saber stretched out her hand to hold Irisiviel’s. Those fingers that were too beautiful and fine for humans softly took hold of Saber’s hand – then, they shook extremely gently for just once, and Saber couldn’t even feel any pressure.
“I’m not joking. I did the hardest I could just now.”
Irisviel made a forced smile and spoke.
“Just opening my fingers takes all my strength away, and it’s impossible to hold or grab anything, not to mention driving a car. Just changing my clothes this morning exhausted me.”
“Wha, what on earth is going on? Are you hurt anywhere?”
Saber asked, shocked, but Irisviel just shrugged her shoulders as if it didn’t matter.
“I just didn’t feel well, so I shut off the sensation of touch. Although sealing off one of the sensations would suppress my spirituality in a large degree, it doesn’t have a big influence on other activities. This accommodating convenience must also be one of the advantageous points about being a homunculus.”
“It’s not so simple, is it?! Don’t force yourself when you aren’t well. You should see a doctor.”
“Don’t worry, Saber. Did you forget? I’m not an ordinary human. Even if I catch a cold, I can’t see a doctor – this kind of discomfort is only a blemish in my construction. It doesn’t matter; you don’t need to worry too much for now, I’ll adjust it properly myself.”
Although she couldn’t completely comprehend it, she knew if she kept inquiring about this then the fact that Irisviel is a ‘manufactured’ homunculus would be laid bare in front of her eyes. Therefore, Saber had to stop herself. It was because she knew very well that what Irisviel was most proud of was the fact that she ‘isn’t merely a manufactured doll’.
“Aaah, then I really have to trouble you, Saber. Things like the ones today, driving the car and creating the magic circle, would all need your help, my lord knight.”
“– These are what I should be doing. It’s me who asked questions that shouldn’t be asked, I’m sorry.”
“Alright alright. Then, let’s hurry and make the magic circle. As long as I can rest properly in a magic circle connected to the leylines, my situation would improve.”
“As you command. Then, please repeat the steps of the construction.”
Then, the duo began the creation of the temporary workshop in the storeroom. Saber concentrated on the creation of the magic circle of the Einzbern craft after she refined the mercury according to Irisviel’s instructions. Like two harmonious sisters, the two of them busied themselves together in the storeroom, surrounded by a happy atmosphere.
But Saber would never have imagined that this happy time she spent with Irisviel in this storeroom and their smiles would be the final beautiful memories about this noble princess that she would hold.
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