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[BGM: Fate/Zero Anime OST - Little drop of peace]

“Waver, we were so worried!!” Martha Mackenzie all but wailed, the elderly woman’s arms wrapped tightly around Waver Velvet’s neck as she hugged him tightly, tears in her eyes. “It’s such a relief you and Mr. Alexei made it out of that horrible fire!”

“I… I’m sorry I caused so much trouble for the both of you, Grandma and Grandpa,” Waver said, a genuinely apologetic tone to his voice as he sat in his hospital bed, his hands thoroughly bandaged from the severe burns he’d suffered. “Alexei was the one who got us out in time, to be honest.”

“Hahaha!” Rider laughed heartily, “That might have proved difficult had you not helped me out of the rubble that had gotten on top of me!” He and Waver were both dressed in hospital gowns at this point, which Rider found quite roomy and comfortable as he sat in a chair across from Waver, himself completely unharmed but still appreciating the change of clothes.

“Is it true, Waver?” Glen Mackenzie asked, the elderly man having a relieved look on his face. ”We were so shocked to see it on the news--you two actually went back in there and rescued people from the fire?”

“We most certainly did!” Iskandar boldly affirmed. “While we don’t know what happened to most of them, I can assure you your grandson was instrumental in keeping them alive--he used his knowledge of science to help keep them breathing whilst I carried them to safety!” Not quite a lie, considering the boy had used some basic alchemy to filter out the smoke and thus allow them to breathe.

“Did you hear that, Glen?” Martha exclaimed, a joyous smile on her face which beamed with pride towards Waver, “Our grandson’s become such a hero!”

“He really has,” Glen replied, pride likewise in his eyes as he gave Waver a wink.

“I-it was nothing really!!” Waver blurted, his face going red from embarrassment.

“Nonsense, boy!” Rider insisted, “That hero's welcome we so warmly received was for all of us!”

After he, Waver, and Emiya Kiritsugu had gotten the boy--whose name was Shirou as Iskandar recalled--out of the fire, they were immediately all but swarmed by the field healers they had been bringing the injured to; even though aside from Waver’s burnt hands and a few scrapes and scratches between the four of them, they were more or less unharmed, they were nonetheless rushed to the hospital posthaste--where they were given a hero’s welcome. Apparently, word traveled fast of their rescuing of the people they had extricated from the fire, and the hospital staff was eager to treat them posthaste, contacting the Mackenzies as soon as Waver has given them their phone number.

“Those lovely nurses were oh so very keen to treat your grandson no sooner than we had entered the building!” Rider laughed, grinning all the while. “Ooh, how they coddled and surrounded him--it was as though he were a dove with a broken wing! They wouldn’t have done that for a mere bystander, boy!”

Now the boy’s face was a deep hue of red. “Y-y-y-you be quiet!! You didn’t get so much as a scratch, and they were flocking all over you!”

“Ohh, that they were,” Iskandar admitted with a pleased chuckle. He thoroughly enjoyed having those pretty nurses gently tending to him. He chuckled, remembering how prettily they blushed when they disrobed him, only for him to flex his muscles and allow them to gaze upon his natural magnificence.

Mmph, I’m feeling a powerful appetite, he thought lustfully. Perhaps I should invite them into a vacant room somewhere and…

“Excuse me,” Came a familiar voice from the entrance to the hospital room. When Rider turned his gaze, Emiya Kiritsugu stood there, still dressed in his dark clothing, his face disheveled and tired as he looked directly at him with an utterly serious face. “Alexei… san, was it?”

“That is a name I go by,” Rider replied evenly, a bit frustrated he’d had his pleasant train of thought interrupted.

“I... need to speak with you. In private, if you wouldn’t mind.”

“Hm?” Glen turned to look at the new arrival. “Mister Alexei, is he an acquaintance of yours?”

Rider nodded. “More or less. I suppose you could say we’re associates of sorts. He was with us in that fire, you see--helped us save a boy’s life.” Standing up, he moved for the door.

“Rider,” Waver called out, a concerned tone in his voice, as though to warn him to be careful.

To that, he gave his newest vassal a reassuring grin. “Worry not, Waver, I’ll be back later. I actually do have some business with this man, truth be told. You stay here and rest--those hands of yours still need healing, after all, and if you moved around too recklessly, Mister and Missus Mackenzie would be quite cross with you!”


Rider followed Emiya Kiritsugu through the halls of the hospital until they were able to find a relatively empty space in which to speak.

[BGM: Fate/Zero Sound Drama OST - A Dreams]

“I’ll ask this as bluntly as I can--how are you still here?” Emiya asked, staring at Rider. “Servants can’t exist in this world without the Grail or a suitably powerful magus to support them.”

“True,” Rider agreed, scratching his beard. “Were I my body comprised of magical energy as a normal Servant was, by all rights I shouldn’t be here right now. However, that is no longer the case for me. My body is one of true flesh and blood; same as you and the boy’s.”

How?” Emiya pressed, his eyes narrowing as he demanded an explanation. Though he looked worse for wear compared to when they had first met, there was still some of the lingering steel he always had left in his eyes.

Rider answered the Magus Killer’s gaze with a completely serious look of his own. “When you destroyed the Grail, the black ichor that cascaded from that reverse-moon-thingy washed over me, as it nearly did the boy. Inside that infernal mud, I felt… a presence.” It was now Rider’s turn to narrow his eyes. “You know of whom, or rather what I speak of, don’t you Emiya Kiritsugu? That thing that inhabits the Grail.”

That caused Emiya Kiritsugu’s eyes to widen--whether from shock, fear, or a bit of both, Rider couldn’t tell. “You saw… Angra Mainyu?” Emiya asked, his voice shaken.

“Not a pleasant experience by any means,” Rider affirmed. “It attempted to corrupt me into bending to its will, but I managed to throw it off by the sheer force of my own will… much as I imagine you did.” Rider distinctly recalled how that abomination had referred to a human who had rejected it. “That’s why you ordered Saber to destroy the Grail, didn’t you? To keep that monster from enacting its will upon the world.”

Emiya’s gaze fell to the side. “...Yes. I had been seeking the Grail for so long, hoping that I could save the world with it. But the Grail would’ve simply corrupted that wish to destroy the world instead. So in order to save the lives of billions of people… I destroyed it. But even then, Angra Mainya somehow had the last laugh.”

“Perhaps,” Rider said solemnly. “But it cannot be denied that your actions saved this world, Emiya Kiritsugu. For that much, at least, you have my gratitude as well as my respect. However, I’m afraid that is not the end of our troubles. Do you recall that golden Servant that was there with us when you commanded Saber to use her Noble Phantasm?”

For a moment, Emiya blinked at him uncomprehending the meaning behind his words… before a look of true horror crossed the Magus Killer’s face. It was not unwarranted. “No… You’re saying that Archer still alive as well?!”

“I’m afraid so,” Rider said, his tone unchanging. “What's more, he claims that the next Holy Grail War will occur in ten years’ time. And that he intends to use the Grail to allow the awakening of Angra Mainyu upon this world.”

Almost frantic desperation filled the man’s face. “Then we have to destroy the Greater Grail before he can use it--!”

“I fear that path will not bear the fruit you desire,” Iskandar cut him off with a shake of his head. “I do not think he will allow for the destruction of the Grail, and even if we managed that, you will only have deprived him of the most efficient means of accomplishing his goals. What those aims are, I have only a rough idea--but the fact remains that he is willing to allow that abomination to be born into this world; with all the horrific consequences that it entails. In other words, he wishes to commit genocide against the human race as he sees fit. Robbing him of the Grail will not stop that.”

Emiya seemed like he was about ready to surrender to despair at those words, and Rider was quick to rectify that with a finger flick to the forehead, knocking the shorter man off his feet and falling on his ass. “Wallowing in anguish will solve nothing, Emiya Kiritsugu! Just because we cannot solve things the easy way doesn’t mean there isn’t hope! I’ve been developing a strategy to counter him and thereby save the world from his designs, so wipe that distressed look off your face!”

For some reason, Emiya seemed to have a hard time putting words together at Rider’s incredibly obvious statement. He sounded almost like a child when he could finally form a response. “Wait… you’re saying want to save the world?”

“Of course I do! I obviously can’t conquer anything that's been destroyed! Besides, I have an obligation as a Heroic Spirit to defend mankind from such evils anyway--therefore, I have no intention of allowing Goldie to do as he pleases!”

“But… how?” Emiya began, standing himself back up.

“Simple! We merely need to shake the status quo!” Rider declared confidently.

Emiya once more blinked, confused. “Wa-wait… ‘we’?”

Rider grinned. “Precisely! A Magus Killer like yourself would prove an invaluable asset to combating powerful magi, after all! First, we’ll take out the Matous, since they sit too close to the Mackenzies’ residence for my comfort, not to mention I’ve managed to salvage a prime source of information on them. Then we shall go to that country called Germany, and with your knowledge of their defenses, we’ll storm the Einzberns’ castle! As for the Tohsakas, we shall deal with them once we’ve likewise gathered the necessary intelligence on their strengths and weaknesses as well!”

“Wait, wait, wait, hold on!” Emiya shouted in equal parts exasperation and confusion. “I don’t have any idea what you’re talking about!”

Rider refused to indulge Emiya at the moment, already beginning to walk down the hallway. “No time to explain right now, Emiya--we’ve much to do, and little time to do it! The first phase of Operation: Iskandar’s Ultimate Plan To Save The World starts today, and time is of the essence! Come, you have an important part to play in my plans, so keep up!”


[BGM: Fate/Stay Night Heaven’s Feel OST - What are you gonna do?]

To say that Emiya Kirirtsugu’s world had been turned upside down and shattered several times in succession over the past twenty-four hours wouldn’t be an inaccurate statement. First, he thought he’d defeat Kotomine Kirei and then finally complete his mission to use the Grail and bring peace to the world. Then, when he learned the Grail was corrupted, he destroyed it in order to save the world from Angra Mainyu--only for that evil god to somehow spite him at the last moment and unleash its evil upon Shinto in a final act of malice. Even the salvation he’d felt when he had saved the boy, Shirou, now felt fleeting with the revelation that the golden Archer still lived, planning to unleash Angra Mainyu upon the world in a mere decade.

Yet, as he followed the King of Conquerors through the hospital, a newfound drive had fueled him to keep moving. And as much as he wished it were not so, he found himself swept up like a leaf on the wind in the massive Servant’s wake. He’d thought his fight was over with the Holy Grail War, but if there was something, anything he could do to help protect the world he’d given up everything to save… He knew he couldn’t give up. Not yet.

Not after Rider had given him the faintest glimmer of hope that he could be reunited with his daughter.

He had no idea what the red-haired conqueror was planning, or why he declared he was going after the three families traditionally involved in the Holy Grail War, but when he’d announced his intent to attack the Einzberns, Kiritsugu knew that if he was to have any chance to see Ilya again, it would inevitably involve Rider’s aid.

“Ah, here we are,” Rider said, stopping at the entrance of a singular hospital room. “Right, we’d best hurry--if we’re to strike the Matous whilst the iron is hot, we’ll need the information this man can provide for us. From what the doctors had told me previously, he doesn’t have very long now. I know you might have something of a history, but let’s hear what he has to say, first.”

For the briefest moment, Kiritsugu couldn’t comprehend who Rider was talking about--until he saw the name that was written on the door.

‘Matou Kariya.’

Almost immediately, conflicting emotions began to surface within him at the realization that the Master of Berserker was still alive. The prodigal son of the Matous had been at least partially responsible for Irisviel’s death, as it had been his Servant that had attacked his base, taken Iri… and killed Maiya. So, it was only natural that he felt rage at Matou Kariya. Truthfully, all he wanted to do was go in there and strangle the life out of him for the part he played in the deaths of those he’d held dear…

But the reason he felt conflicted was because, in truth, Irisviel would have died regardless of whether or not she had been taken from him, and at that time, he had treated Maiya as little more than a tool--a trusted tool that he had relied and counted on many times, but one he nevertheless had been willing to sacrifice for the sake of his ideals. It was one of the many things that he would regret for the rest of his life.

Thus, with shame tempering his rage, Kiritsugu followed into the room after Rider.

Matou Kariya lay on his hospital bed, seeming to be either sleeping or unconscious. Contrasting an earlier photograph Maiya had taken of him prior to the Holy Grail War, the man’s entire body looked vastly deteriorated from before; his formerly black hair now pale white, and the once healthy complexion of his skin now sickly pale in color. One side of his face was noticeably worse for wear than the other, with veins visibly protruding beneath his skin and the musculature in his cheeks and jaw being notably contorted compared to the other side of his face.

“From what Waver told me,” Rider began, “His condition was the work of worm familiars which had inhabited inside his body. The strain of maintaining Berserker had been so much that they were eating away at him from the inside, but evidently, the fight that I and Saber had against his Servant was simply too much for him. The physician who tended to him told me that he was too far gone to be saved--frankly, they were surprised he had managed to hold out for so long.”

“What do you plan to do with him?” Kiritsugu asked. “Do you mean to interrogate him?”

Iskandar sighed, closing his eyes. “I’d prefer to question him, but at this point, I doubt that would be possible. On top of his physical deterioration, it appears his mind is quite unsound from his experiences. He had previously regained consciousness, only to start screaming and trying to leave his bed; ultimately, he had to be sedated. So I doubt we’d be able to put him to the question regarding what we can expect in storming his family’s stronghold.” Rider then opened one eye to look expectantly at Kiritsugu. “At least… not in the traditional sense.”

“...So that’s how it is,” Kiritsugu concluded. “You want me to use magecraft to look into his memories.”

“I would imagine a man of your talents would highly prize the gathering of information, so I figured you might have a trick or two for being able to extract knowledge from an uncooperative or unreliable source. And if we are to be assaulting a magus’ stronghold, we need whatever we can glean from inside his memories. However, I would prefer that you not cause him undue harm. He’s already been defeated, and is already marked for death, besides.”

Kiritsugu glared at the Servant. “You feel pity for him? Even after he nearly killed your Master?”

“Perhaps,” Rider admitted. “Don’t misunderstand--this man had to be defeated. Had he been allowed to take the Grail, Angra Mainyu would have inevitably spilled out onto the world. Yet, when I see how far he was willing to obtain it, how much he allowed himself to fall to come as far as he had? I honestly wish to why he had gone through so much torment. Even if it is necessary to kill your enemy, I believe that, whenever possible, it is important to understand the reasons they fight. Whether it was to obtain something, to defend something, or simply to satiate one’s desire for something. Only through this understanding, this acknowledgment of the worth of your enemy’s struggle, can you truly feel the weight of your own actions.”

To that, Kiritsugu found that he could give no reply. Throughout most of his life, he had always been single-minded in his goals, never bothering to understand the reasons behind the actions of those he had killed beyond their capacity to help gain an edge over them; both to make it easier on him to remain focused on his goals, and to lessen the burden of killing people in the name of his ideals.

Now, with his ideals tarnished and his dream to save the world forever lost, he wondered how things might have been different, had he been able to see the reality of all the death and destruction he had caused. Perhaps, for all that he had considered the King of Conquerors a fool, it was, in fact, the latter who had been stronger between them for seeing the worth of his enemies--to find value in the causes they fought for.

With a sigh, he closed the shutters of the hospital room’s windows and doors, before walking over to the side of Matou Kariya’s bed. “Had he been conscious, this might have been more difficult. But in his current state, getting inside his head should be simple.”

Placing a hand above his head, Kiritsugu closed his eyes and recited the necessary incantations, a glow appearing from his hand. As expected, Kariya’s mental defenses were essentially nonexistent thanks to the sedative, allowing Kiritsugu to effortlessly begin peering into his memories.

[Fate/Zero Anime OST -- The Dreams Fade before Dawn]

What he found was a story perhaps as sickeningly tragic as his own--perhaps even more so. And the deeper he delved, the more he realized that the man he had called his enemy had far more in common with him than Kiritsugu would have been comfortable admitting before.

When he had first looked into Kariya during his research prior to the Grail War, he had thought his goals were atypical of any magus from an esteemed family: obtain the Grail in an attempt to reach the Swirl of the Root. But as he delved deeper into Kariya’s mind, Kiritsugu realized that Kariya’s reasons for fighting were incredibly human. He had wanted to save a little girl from a horrific fate--a girl whom he loved like a daughter, and whose mother Kariya held an unrequited love for. He hated his family’s cruelty, particularly Matou Zouken, and despised Tohsaka Tokiomi for selling his own flesh and blood to a family Kariya knew would violate her for the sake of furthering their magecraft.

So, he allowed himself to be subjected to that pit, condemning himself to a fate similar to what that little girl, Sakura, had been forced to endure, even knowing that he would not live past the War even if he did manage to win. He was willing to give up everything to accomplish his goals--his life, his sanity, everything to save that girl and return her to her mother and sister. To punish Matou Zouken and Tohsaka Tokiomi for their crimes. And perhaps finally earn the love of Tohsaka Aoi.

And in the end… he did lose everything.

Tokiomi was killed; murdered by Kotimine Kirei, Kiritsugu knew now. Yet Kariya was framed as Tohsaka’s murderer, causing the woman he loved--the woman he had endured so much for--to lash out at him and say that he never loved anyone, blaming him for the loss of both her husband and the daughter she had been forced to give up. In a fit of madness, and in a scene which painfully reminded Kiritsugu of when he had likewise thrown everything away, Matou Kariya strangled her until she moved no more… And when he realized what he had done, he could only limp away, wailing in horror and despair.

From then on, the only thing that kept Kariya going, the only thing that allowed him to keep fighting, was that singular desire to save Sakura from her fate. He was promised the Grail by Kiritsugu’s enemy, Kotomie Kirei, in exchange for Berserker fighting against Saber and Rider; so he threw his last, desperate effort into the final hour of the Holy Grail War. Even with his sanity fracturing, his body dying, and suffering unbearable agony all throughout, he personally engaged Waver Velvet to keep him away from the Grail… away from Irisviel’s dead body.

He realized that had Kariya held out for just a few moments longer, then Waver, Rider, and Saber would have all likely been killed. Kiritsugu would have faced Archer alone, left with virtually no way to destroy the Grail. So much could have gone wrong, had Kariya not finally collapsed right then and there, utterly drained of mana from maintaining Berserker. That had been Matou Kariya’s last memories before waking up in the hospital, having been carried from the fire by Rider and Waver and handed over to medical personnel. Only to be immediately tranquilized when he tried to leave, hoping to get back to the Matou estate and get Sakura out… still clinging to the illusion of taking her back to the mother who was now likely dead, and to the sister who was now orphaned to the world.

[BGM: Fate/Stay Night Heaven’s Feel II OST - What he has believed]

Finally finished looking through Kariya’s mind, Kiritsugu slowly, almost gently removed his hovering hand from over the unconscious man’s forehead, saying nothing as he simply looked down upon the ruined face of Matou Kariya. Whatever enmity he had only just felt for the man had now faded--and in its place was a sincere sense of empathy for what he had struggled and fought for.

Because if there was one thing Kiritugu himself wanted more than anything now… it was to rescue a little girl of his own. A girl who was now trapped in the hands of those who would undoubtedly subject her to inhuman cruelty because someone had failed them.

“...I’ve gotten everything I need out of him,” he quietly said, almost somber in tone.

“You have the information we need?” Rider asked, looking at Kiritsugu curiously.

“More than that,” he affirmed, his open hand clenching into a tight fist.… and for the first time in what felt like an eternity, Kiritsugu found his voice filled with a determination he had thought lost amidst the flames. “We have a reason to fight.”

Iskandar’s eyes widened when Kiritsugu looked his way, as though surprised by the look in his eyes. “And that reason is?”

Just as Rider had told him earlier, Kiritsugu knew he couldn’t give up. Not when he still had a chance to feel the salvation that came with saving just one person.

“There is someone I must...no. Someone I will save.”

For a long moment, the Servant stared at Kiritsugu in silence. Then, a broad smile crossed his face. “I see!” He laughed heartily. “Ha! Excellent! That fire in your eyes suits you far better than the hopelessly lost look you previously sported, Emiya Kiritsugu! If that is your reason to fight, then this shall be as much a rescue operation as it shall be an assault! Come, we have a castle to storm and a princess to save! You can explain your findings along the way!” Without another word, Rider stood up and headed for the door to the hospital room.

Kiritsugu was about to follow him… when he heard a groan from the bed.

Matou Kariya struggled to wake, still heavily sedated as he opened his eyes only slightly. “Sakura...chan...” He breathed weakly.

Seeing this, Kiritsugu walked over to him one more time, before gently taking Kariya’s hand.

“Wait here and rest for a little longer. I promise I’ll save her.”


Chained naked to the wall, Sakura numbly watched the writhing mass of worms which covered the floor of the basement. There was no light down in the pit, save for the low, sickly green glow which emanated from the stonework itself. It was enough that she could see her grandfather approaching as he made his way from the stairs, his cane clacking against the stone floor as he not so much walked as he did slither towards her.

“I have good news, Sakura,” Matou Zouken said, his tone pleasant. But the vicious grin on his face gave away some darker, more cruel intent. “We received a call from the hospital not too long ago--it appears that Kariya was admitted after being rescued from that fire.”

“Kariya...oji-san…?” She asked weakly, suppressing a pained shudder from the manacles cutting into her wrists. Her uncle had been gone for some time, saying that he’d be busy with very important work. She hadn’t seen him since he had made his promise that she’d get to see her mother and sister again, promised to take them all far away and play like they used to. “...Is… he okay?”

“That fire did not kill him, surprisingly,” Her grandfather admitted. “Truthfully, I never expected him to come as far as he managed.” A twisted laugh escaped his lips. “But if you were placing any hopes in him somehow freeing you, then you had best throw them away, Sakura. Though he might have survived long enough to see the end of that ritual, Kariya is doomed regardless. The doctors themselves cannot explain it, of course--but I know that the stress placed on his body, coupled with the worms eating away at him, has destroyed his body from the inside out. He may yet cling to life, but you may as well consider him dead already.”

[BGM: Fate/Zero Anime OST - Curse]

“...” Sakura gave no reply, only allowing an expressionless acknowledgment to cross her face at the news. She knew it had been foolish to have any hope of escaping this place. She knew that she should not have placed her faith in Uncle Kariya being able to set her free when he had defied Grandfather. Despite that, she had clung to that promise he had made--that he would let her see her mother and sister again. That he would take them far away from the Matous and the Tohsakas, and play together like they used to. It had always been futile to hope, she knew. And yet, now faced with the reality that it would never come to pass… she felt some part of her break inside, as though there had somehow been something left to break after all the despair and suffering than she had been forced to endure already.

“Let this be a lesson for you, Sakura. An example of what befalls those who defy me. Discard any and all hope you may have had of ever leaving this place.” A cruel grin crossed his face. “Or, perhaps you still hold to the faint hope that your sister will somehow come and rescue you? Even after I told you to forget such a person ever existed in your life? Although… I must confess I do relish the thought of reuniting you with her. Come to think of it, I’ve also heard that Tokiomi was found dead in the church, with his wife Aoi strangled but still alive next to him. The only one left to care for both of them is that fake priest… If I were to eliminate him, whatever shall become of the two of them?”

She thought she couldn’t feel more fear for the monster before her, but somehow, Sakura found herself give the slightest gasp at what he was implying. “Nee-san… Okasan...”

Truly malevolent laughter escaped Matou Zouken’s lips. “You desire both your mother and your sister, do you?! My, what a heartfelt plea! Yes, though your mother might not come out of this war unscathed, her womb still functions! Well, then, would you like to see them again, Sakura? Just say the word, and you can be with them again, just like that fool Kariya promised you! You and your sister can spend your days down in this pit as my crest worms perfect you, whilst your mother spends the rest of her days siring Byakuya’s children! Or shall all three of you like to be together in here, with your mother’s belly so full of Crest Worms that she looks as though she’s about to give birth? My, what a splendid thought! All of the potential of the Tohsakas, their bloodline and their futures, all stolen away to service the cause of the Matous, with no hope of ever escaping my designs!!”

Silently watching him as he cackled, Sakura could do nothing but silently hate and fear her grandfather, knowing that there was no way she could ever hope to defy him, were he to attempt such a thing. ‘Anything but that…’ she silently despaired. Nothing could possibly fill her with more horror and misery than the thought of her mother and sister being subjected to the same fate as her--even if it meant she could see them again.

It would be better if she just accepted the simple truth--

That no one would ever come to save her.

...Then, for the briefest moment, Sakura thought she heard a faint rumbling come from upstairs, and the whole basement seemed to tremble at the sound of distant thunder.

“Hmm?!” Her grandfather’s laughter was immediately cut short, his formerly malicious grin replaced with an almost dumbfounded look before he bared his teeth in anger. “Someone has broken through the Bounded Field...? Who would dare to--?”

Zouken’s anger evaporated, his words dying on his lips. For the first time in her entire stay at the Matous, Sakura saw an entirely new expression cross her grandfather’s face.

Sheer disbelief.

“Emiya Kiritsugu…? Why is he here, and how did he...?” He muttered before his blackened eyes widened as he gave a raspy gasp. “No--no, that’s impossible! How can a Servant manifest without the Grail?!

Without another word, her grandfather vanished, his form dissipating into a swarm of black incests as he departed the basement, seeming to go and investigate what that noise had been upstairs.

[BGM: Fate/Zero Sound Drama OST - The Battle field]

Chained to the wall as she was, she could do nothing but stand there and wait for him to return, and before long, she heard a second crash of thunder, both closer and louder this time. Again the whole basement trembled, this time causing the chains which held her to rattle. As the trembling died down, she could begin to hear other noises, too. Distant tapping noises and little pops, which she couldn’t make out at first. But soon, the crash of thunder sounded a third time, even louder than before.

This time, Sakura almost lost her footing, giving a small, distressed gasp as she felt the irons pulling painfully at her wrists. Now, the worms within the pit began to shriek and frantically move about, seemingly panicked by the tremor which now rocked the basement, but otherwise seemed to ignore her. The tapping noises from earlier seemed closer as the latest tremor died down, now loud and fast bangs--while the infrequent popping now sounding like small explosions. Wood was splintering somewhere. Stone was crumbling down in another. Even metal was being smashed and pulverized.

‘...Is it some kind of trick…?’ she thought. Her grandfather was always one to try to elicit any sense of hope out of her, just so he could destroy it in an attempt to make her feel even more despair. Was he trying to make her believe someone had come to stop him? That, someone... had actually come to save her? She wouldn’t fall for it. Any minute now, he’d come back down into the basement with a vicious grin on his face, telling her no one was coming.

...But when he did reappear moments later, there was no pleasure in his eyes. There was no smile on his face. At that moment, Sakura saw a second look she had never seen on her grandfather’s face.


How…?” He uttered, seeming to tremble almost as much as the worms beneath his feet. “How is that Servant still alive? How is he fighting with the Magus Killer? How did they break through my defenses so quickly?!”

A look of realization crossed Matou Zouken’s face before a look of black rage filled his eyes. “Damn you, Kariya! This is your doing, isn’t it--?!”

Before he could curse any further, a fourth and final crash of thunder filled the air with a deafening roar, so loud it caused the world around Sakura to buckle around her. At the same exact instant, a blinding flash of lightning exploding from the entrance of the basement, briefly filling the pit with such intense light that it forced her to shut her eyes, even as it felt as though an earthquake was ripping through the air.

When the light faded, she hesitated to open her eyes for but a moment, but when she did… she could not believe what she saw.

Standing between her and her grandfather, their backs towards her, were two figures. One was a man dressed all in black with dark hair, holding some kind of gun in his hand. Beside him stood an absolutely gigantic red-haired man wearing armor, wielding a sword at his side.

“So this is your little hidey-hole, you wrinkled and cowardly parasite?” Bellowed the larger man, his voice booming and regal in tone.

“You have nowhere else to run, Matou Zouken,” The dark individual coldly declared. “The Matou line ends with you.”

Her grandfather sneered at them. “You dare meddle where you are neither welcome nor wanted, Magus Killer?!” He growled angrily. “I know not how you managed to have this Servant survive the Grail’s destruction, but it will not be enough to kill me, I assure you! I have not endured these five hundred years just to be killed by the likes of you! KILL THEM!!

All at once, the Crest Worms on the floor suddenly jumped up towards the two figures, brandishing fanged mouths and bladed wings as they intended to rip the two men into meat--only for the giant figure to roar defiantly as lightning erupted in front of him, exuding such an enormous amount of magical power that the wave of insects about to swarm them was all but vaporized before him, the lightning instantly cooking them to a crisp.

Sakura’s eyes widened as she watched, desperately trying to convince herself that what she was seeing couldn’t be real. She had to be dreaming. No one could defy Grandfather like that--no one was powerful enough to stand up to him...!

From the ceiling of the basement came far more terrible shrieking, as six giant, chitinous spiders the size of cars dropped from on high.

“Magus Killer!” The larger man shouted, “Live up to your title and deal with the magus! I will handle these foul creatures!” With a roar, the giant leaped into the air, and with a single swing of his sword, he cut through one of the spiders like parchment, while with his free hand, he slammed a fist down into the thorax of another. The floor soon became littered with their bloody, bisected, and crushed carcasses falling to the floor with wet crunches. Lightning emanated all around his body all the while, incinerating the lesser Crest Worms as they attempted to surround him.

Yet as that was happening, Sakura found herself all but fixated on the dark-clad man, who raised his gun and loosed it upon her grandfather without fear or hesitation, the rapid-fire of his gun seeming to ignite the end of its barrel as bullets whistled through the air, the sound of it nearly deafening her yet again. Yet none of the bullets pierced through the barrier that her grandfather had erected to protect himself, and with a sneer, mocked him. “Your pathetic ammunition will not pierce through my magecraft, whelp!”

[BGM: Fate/Zero Sound Drama OST: Emiya -Time Alter-]

As if in answer, the figure in front of her reached with his free hand for another, smaller-looking gun, aimed it at Zouken… and fired a single bullet.

This time, it smashed through Zouken’s barrier, and Sakura watched as the entirety of her grandfather’s arm was violently torn from his body, causing him to cry out--whether from pain or from rage, she knew not. “Why?! Why do you interfere, Magus Killer?! Was it not enough that you deprived me of the Grail yet again?!?” With a wave of his free hand, a small swarm of blade-winged insects flew straight towards him with blistering speed, ready to tear him to shreds.

Time Alter: Double Accel!!

The man became a blur, seeming to move faster than any human had any right to--fast enough to avoid the swarm intent on devouring him, shooting them down with his bigger gun so quickly that they were nothing but shredded meat dropping to the floor in less than two seconds. Again, he redirected fire upon Zouken, who shielded himself with a wall of Crest Worms. The giant armored figure had cut through four of the six spider-worms at this point, tearing through her grandfather’s most powerful familiars as though he were swatting flies.

For the third time that day, Sakura once again saw an emotion she had never seen on her grandfather’s face as he saw the giant cleaving through his finest creations.

“No, no, no, NO!” He yelled in outrage. “I will NOT die here!! I CANNOT DIE HERE!!!

Again, Sakura saw the dark figure raise his second, smaller gun, aiming it to shoot at her grandfather one more time--and fired another single shot.

This time, her grandfather raised his staff, seeming poised to pour his mana into blocking the bullet, darting his head around as though to find some way out.

But he never had the chance. She didn’t know it at the time, but as soon as that bullet had hit Matou Zouken, he was a dead man.

All she knew was what she saw--and what she saw was that her grandfather suddenly and violently lurched; a cry of pure agony erupting from his lips as a torrent of blood spewed forth from his mouth. Gasping for air, he clawed at his neck and the sides of his face, as veins flaring all across his face before they burst open.

All around them, those of Matou Zouken’s Crest Worms that had not been incinerated by the lightning that the giant exuded began to convulse and fall to the ground, as their master himself began to wither and die. His very flesh began to come apart, decaying flesh falling off of his ancient, crumbling bones like hot wax. He screamed and screamed and screamed, trying and failing to will his dying familiars to reform his body. But his magecraft no longer worked, and soon he was naught but a screaming, incoherent lump of meat desperately clinging to some aberration of life.

Half a heartbeat later, the giant figure, his sword sullied and covered in the viscera of the monsters he’d slain, slammed his massive foot down upon the pile of flesh--silencing the thing that was once Matou Zouken once and for all. At that very moment… the chittering of the Crest Worms ceased entirely, filling the room with a haunting silence.

For the longest moment, Sakura could scarcely comprehend the reality of what she saw, much less believe it. She had convinced herself that Matou Zouken was a figure of absolute power; that the monster that had tormented, violated, and tortured her for the past year could never be defied on pain of death. ‘This… this is all lies,’ She told herself, trembling. ‘He’s… he’s just hiding somewhere, waiting or me to lower my guard so he can make me despair even more… This is all just a dream that I’m about to wake, and nothing will have changed--!’

The figure in black, whose back had faced her the entire time, finally turned his gaze behind him, until his eyes met hers.

In that moment, Sakura was paralyzed in fear. She could not move, she was so afraid. All she could do was look up at the stranger, trembling, naked, and bound in the chains that kept her against the wall as he approached her, bracing for the moment that the illusion would end, and the nightmare which she had been forced to endure would resume, yet unable to close her eyes, as some small, desperate part of her prayed and prayed and prayed...

[BGM: Fate/Stay Night Heaven’s Feel II OST - I will be her hero]

“It’s going to be okay,” He said to her, in the kindest, most wonderful voice she had ever heard. “You’re safe now.” His eyes were filled with supreme joy, tears streaming down his cheeks as he freed her from her chains, catching her in his gentle arms and wrapping her in his long black coat. “I’m so glad...” He cried softly as he held her close. “I’m so glad that I could save you!”

Sakura tried to hold back the tears, but couldn’t. She tried to hold back the sobs, but she couldn’t. She tried to hold back her cries, but she couldn’t. Because with just those words, a complete stranger had shattered the despair that had ruled over her heart.

And as she cried into the shoulder of her savior, as he and the giant man quietly took her from the basement, the Matou estate in flames all around them… How was it, that in saving her, the man seemed to have saved himself?