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Thread: Fate/Without Justice

  1. #21
    屍食鬼 Ghoul
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    Quote Originally Posted by Morg van Destro View Post
    The point of his personality is more of a showcase of Kirei's influence on him. It has him looking into situations beyond simply wishing to help people, and often bringing rationalizations of why he's doing this thing for a person when he gets little out of it. With Illya, he wasn't going over there to comfort her. At least, not in a straightforward manner. With how he's been taught and acts, he would've laid out how she's out of the war, but there's no reason they have to keep fighting. Instead, he'd ask if she instead would be willing to join him and Rin, as she was still an incredibly powerful magus, and one that may have been able to help his own issue with Saber, with the obvious other side being that she stay out of there way and go as far away as possible. From a logical standpoint, the former is better than the later, but both remove an obstacle in the path. From a more emotional standpoint, either can be seen as him trying to protect her, with the first option aiding him in doing so.
    All in all, he hasn't changed too much beyond somewhat recognizing that his actions may be spurred on by more than just self-serving motives, with the only person he recognized those before was Rin (mostly because he didn't think about them).
    I see. That helps. Thank you for the insight.

  2. #22
    リビングデッド Living Dead Morg van Destro's Avatar
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    Chapter 6: A Matter of Masters

    #13-Words can be in disunity with their speaker. Trust nothing at face value.

    You can’t do it, Shirou.”

    I stare up at the twintailed girl as my breaths come out hard and fast. The evening air does nothing to cool the heat that had been building with every failed jump, but I push myself off the mat again.

    Not right now, at least,” she says as I pace over to the line I made in the dirt. “You’re just going to end up hurting yourself.”

    I turn back to the high jump, my breathing leveling out. I take a few deep breaths before running to it once more. I jump, curling my body over the bar, only for my legs to catch it on the way down. The bar is knocked from the stand and clutters to the ground.

    I feel sweat bead on my forehead and run down my face, and I begin to push myself up. Rin’s suddenly on top of me, pushing me back down with her left hand. I don’t put up much of a fight, taking the extra rest.

    That’s enough for today,” she looks me in the eye sternly. “You’ll have plenty of time to do this later.”

    My breaths slow as I close my eyes and lay my head back against the mat.

    I come back the next day and try again.

    **********
    The walls of the castle were in shambles. In all honesty, it was surprising that the more focused battle between these two Servants caused greater damage than the carnage of the previous fight. The Servants bounded around the area in gold and red streaks, flashing about and bashing against any barrier only to rebound into one another.

    The nausea that had afflicted me was finally fading, allowing me stand under my own power once more. Rin hadn’t seemed to notice, her arms remaining linked under mine as her attention was transfixed by the duel. I couldn’t blame her.

    Lancer wore a joyous grin as he rushed forward, spear lancing in rapid succession as the stoic Saber swiped her blade through the air. Metallic ringing crashed out in continuous streams as the warriors danced fervently around with their weapons. Despite the power on display, neither had dealt anything resembling damage to their opponent.

    Saber’s sword wove through Lancer’s defenses and stabbed toward his head. Lancer’s head slid to the side, his spear already moving to counter. Saber didn’t flinch.

    Torrents of air lashed out from the sword, flailing out in a mass of force that threatened to send me and Rin to the ground despite the distance. Surprise crossed Lancer’s face as he careened away to break another wall down, the stone structure crumbling over him.

    Saber turned to the rubble, the yellow glow of her body nothing compared to the light of her blade, its golden glory as striking as the previous night. She charged the destroyed wall, leaping into the air with her sword raised high.

    The mound of stone exploded as Lancer lept to meet her, spear flashing against her weapon.

    About time you brought it out!” Lancer yelled excitedly before whirling and slamming the spear atop the swordswoman.

    Saber was driven back to the ground, her heels digging through the dirt of a ruined flower bed, Excalibur moving to block a new onslaught from Lancer.

    The tide of battle seemed to finally choose a side as Saber’s rebuttal began bearing fruit. Lines of red suddenly opened on Lancer with every passing moment, her blade finding its mark every slash.

    Saber moved even faster now, Excalibur flashing into Lancer’s guard time and again to add another cut to his body. The spearman was quickly finding himself on the receiving end of a less balanced battle, but his smile only seemed to grow more ferocious.

    His actions became more primal, his speed and movements like that of an animal, the spear in his hands becoming an extension of that animalist fury. He dashed around erratically, striking at the swordswoman from every possible angle almost faster than I could see. Every attack was met was by the golden blade, another patch of red appearing each clash.

    She can’t keep this up,” Rin finally said. There was no fear in her words. I wasn’t sure she even realized she said them.

    She was right though. The painfully slow progress she was making against Lancer was only due to the command spell’s power, and I could see the yellow glow ebbing from her form. Soon, they’d return to the stalemate of neither making any headway. It would come down to a battle of endurance, and Saber would lose.

    How annoying.”

    Lancer stopped several meters away from his opponent, his face a disturbing mix of battle insanity and clarity as crimson dripped from the gashes dotting his body. His eyebrows furrowed slightly as though he heard something.

    It seems I’ve reached the end of my time,” he shifted his hands’ grip on the spear, adopting a familiar stance. “And just when it was getting good.”

    A meaningful look passed between the two, and their weapons burned with power. The soft yellow glow that had been fading from Saber flowed into her sword, igniting it like a flame. Lancer’s spear bled a deep red as it had the night I first saw him.

    A final blow. A single strike.

    Mana thrummed through the air like fire around Saber and froze like ice around Lancer as they stared each other down, their weapons growing brighter by the second. Then, they charged, Lancer declaring the final words of the duel.

    Ge Bolg!”

    The Servants blurred for an instant, each speeding forward at impossible velocities. A powerful thrust, spear and sword flashing past each other before finding their marks, ending with them jutting from each Servant's back.

    A strange calm swept across the area as the warriors stood still as statues in the middle of the courtyard, their blades slowly dripping blood as Lancer’s body slumped onto Saber’s shoulder. Finally, the silence was broken.

    Damn,” a racking cough seized Lancer, a glob of blood splashing from his mouth to the rubble. “I was hoping I’d be the one to kill him.”

    More than anything, the Servant sounded disappointed, as if he had just missed a sale at the supermarket.

    Tell me, Lancer,” a thin trail of blood runs from Saber’s lips. “How is it that he can be here as well?”

    My eyes narrowed, the pieces starting to fall into place.

    I honestly can’t say,” he shook his head. “I believe only my master could answer your question.”

    And who is that?”

    He looked over at me with a smirk.

    Ask the kid. I think he’s about figured it out.”

    Rin gave me a confused look as Lancer’s form deteriorated.

    That was a wonderful battle, Saber,” Lancer moved his right hand from the spear and placed it on her shoulder. “We should do it again some time.”

    Blue dust swirled gently into the sky as Lancer and his weapon vanished. Saber’s blade slowly drifted down until it *tinked* against the stones, the tension instantly running out of her body as her armor shattered into light to reveal the elegant blue dress beneath.

    I slip my arm out of Rin’s and tread across the uneven terrain to Saber. I placed a hand on her rising and falling shoulder, glancing at where the spear had exited her back. The blood staining her dress was less than I expected for a wound that went all the way through, but that hardly mattered. She was alive, which meant we had survived. For the moment.

    Saber,” I resisted the question eating away at my mind. “How badly are you injured?”

    Her sword disappeared as she fell to one knee, moving her right hand over the front of the wound.

    He almost pierced my heart,” she got out between breaths. “My mana’s working to repair the damage.”

    I grimaced at her words. She was already recovering from Rider, and now, a near fatal wound. We needed time to recover, but, if my suspicions were correct, we might not have that time.

    Can you still fight?” I asked Saber as Rin walked over to us.

    I will need time,” she turned emerald eyes to mine. “But yes. I can fight.”

    That man with Lancer,” I searched her face as I spoke. “Can you beat him?”

    I saw it immediately. Uncertainty moved across her face in a wave, her eyes losing their luster. Her mouth moved to speak, but I continued.

    You called him ‘Archer’ before he left. He launched weapons at you and pulled Illya into a golden portal. I want you to tell me right now that I’m wrong, because if I’m not, I know the answer to my previous question.”

    That was the first time I saw anger in Saber’s eyes. It was only there for a moment, and I got the feeling it wasn’t directed at me. I could see her composing herself before answering.

    You are correct.”

    I knew they were coming, yet the words still caused my features to tighten. This was not good.

    Shirou,” a tinge of worry laced Rin’s voice. “Who is he?”

    I looked at her and found the concern of her words shown in her eyes.

    That man was Gilgamesh. The King of Heroes, widely considered the strongest Servant to have ever been summoned, Archer of the Fourth Holy Grail War…”

    Her eyes widened as she realized the connection I had already made.

    And the Servant of Kirei Kotomine. ”

    **********
    The main body of the castle remained mostly undamaged by the destructives battles, but I was still hesitant to remain there any longer. In the end, I realized that we’d be just as vulnerable out in the woods as in the castle, so allowing Saber time to recover could only benefit us.

    It took some time, but we eventually found a bedroom to put Saber in. I shut the door as we left, telling Saber I’d come get her when it was time.

    We really should have brought some food,” Rin eyed me as I began walking down the hall. “None of us have eaten since breakfast.”

    One of the maids mentioned the market,” I said thoughtfully. “They probably have some fresh produce in the kitchen. If we can find it.”

    I paused before amending.

    If it’s still intact.”

    I looked out one of the uncracked windows into the courtyard.

    There’s something I want to do first, though.”

    Rin tilted her head before following me back the way we came.

    I believed the warriors took care to avoid the two homunculi during their battle as their bodies remained untouched, save for the layer of stone dust that had been kicked up.

    I knelt and gently closed the two maids’ eyes, bringing their hands to their chests and placing a black key in them.

    May you both find rest in the arms of our Father.”

    There wasn’t time for a burial, nor would there be a reason to perform one. From what little I knew; homunculi were beings composed mostly of magical energy. Rather than rotting away, their bodies would likely return to their base forms and rejoin the mana within the world. Still, I could do this much.

    Forgive me.”

    I rose and turned to face Rin.

    Do you really think you can do it?” Rin asked with her arms crossed, purposely avoiding looking at the homunculi.

    I don’t have much choice, do I?” I slipped my hands into the jacket pockets. “If Father is Archer’s master, a fight is inevitable.”

    Even so,” she looked around at the ruined courtyard. “We should probably hold off on it as long as possible. Give Saber time to regain her lost energy.”

    She was right.

    I can’t do that.”

    She gave me a surprised look.

    It only requires five of the seven Servants to manifest the Grail, with sixth to allow it to grant a wish. Three Servants remain, four with Gilgamesh, but if Lancer has been scouting around the city this entire time, then they likely know both Caster and Assassin are at Ryuudo Temple.”

    Both of which they would believe to be easier targets,” Rin continued my thought as it came to her.

    Or that Lancer would finish off Saber,” which he very nearly did.

    Meaning we only have the few hours till nightfall before the last Servants they need are killed,” Rin finished.

    I didn’t think we could have given Father a better path to victory.

    She closed her eyes and put her hand to her chin.

    “As we are now, we don’t stand a chance at defeating that Archer. There has to be a way to bring Saber back to full power.”

    There wasn’t any way I could see. It had become rather obvious that I was the issue. I knew my circuits were below average, but that had never mattered before now. The only reason Saber became drained after using her full power was because her master wasn’t capable of providing enough energy to supplement it.

    But what if they were?

    I eyed Rin for several moments before coming to a decision.

    I’m going to go find the kitchen,” I said as I moved back towards the house entrance. “No matter what we decide on, a meal will only help us.”

    Alright” Rin watched me leave. “I’ll be waiting for you in Saber’s room. I will probably have an answer to our problem by then.”

    She didn’t see my frown as I exited the courtyard.

    It was unfortunate that whatever circumstance prevented Saber’s ability to enter spirit form also made communication along our link an impossibility. We would’ve been gone before Rin could realize.

    Illya’s scream echoed in my mind as all I could do was watch her be taken away.

    Rationally, I knew it wasn’t my fault. Rationally, I knew Lancer, and therefore my father, were the ones responsible for what happened today. Rationally, my anger should be directed toward them.

    In actuality, the only person I felt ire towards was myself.

    In my weakness, I allowed another person to be hurt. So many people have been hurt in this war, and I knew I shouldn’t care, knew that it shouldn’t affect me, knew that I should keep moving forward, no matter who had to fall in my wake, but I now saw that for what it was.

    Archer saw a lot more than I thought,” I turned a corner, my eyes continuing to rove the passing doors.

    How had Archer known so much? It was like he knew the exact words to say to affect me. And that Noble Phantasm. Why did I feel like something coiled around my stomach when I saw it? I could still remember how my head had pounded every second I stared into that bladed horizon. And why had it felt so familiar?

    The better question,” I muttered to myself. “What did you want me to see?”

    **********
    An hour had passed before I returned to the room. Rin’s eyes flicked open when I entered, her head moving from the perch of her hand as she gave me her attention.

    The food’s ready?” she asked, and I noticed the form on the bed to my left twitch at her words.

    And waiting in the dining room,” I moved to and took the other seat at the small table.

    You act like we know where that is,” She sighed, resting her arm on the table. “I somehow managed to get lost on my way back here. Everything in this castle looks the same.”

    My eyes were unconsciously drawn to her hand, faded red marks close to disappearing.

    But, more importantly,” she gave me a triumphant smile. “I believe I have the answer to our problem.”

    And what might that be?” I asked, resting my arm on the table as well.

    A small smile lit her lips.

    Well,” she drew out the word a little. “There’s this obscure method of mana transferal I remembered, and it works well, considering your genders…”

    I’m not even going to pretend to entertain that idea,” I rolled my eyes as her smile widened, not the least bit ashamed.

    So quick to dismiss it,” she said mischievously. “Are you saving yourself for someone?”

    I looked out the window at our backs to see the sun in its descent to the horizon, the view marred by the dead forest stretched out as far as I could see. From the looks of it, we only had around four hours left before night fell.

    I’m not breaking my contract with Saber,” I turned my eyes back to her.

    The Servant who had been getting off the bed gave us her full attention as I moved my eyes back to Rin, her face having taken on a more curious expression.

    Do you have a better plan then?” she asked with a slight tilt of her head.

    None whatsoever,” I shook my head. “But I’m not going to give you my servant.”

    Well, that goes without saying,” her smile returned as she leaned a little over the table. “After all, I plan to take her from you.”

    I felt a smile of my own grow as Saber frowned in our direction.

    Is that a fact?”

    We made a bet, after all,” she glanced at the frowning Saber. “It’d be a shame not to see it through.”

    I followed her eyes, and Saber’s contemplative frown slowly morphed to one of discomfort under our gazes.

    Saber,” I kept my tone light, which I knew only served to make her more uncertain. “You should go get some food. I’ll sort this out.”

    Her eyes flicked between us, brows knitting together.

    Is this wise, Master?” her voice came out slightly troubled. “We shouldn’t be fighting each other with such a bigger threat presenting itself.”

    There’s nothing to concern yourself with,” I waved my right hand and her words aside. “This won’t take too long. We’ll join you shortly.”

    Her eyes narrowed as I lowered my arm, though I was almost certain she hadn’t noticed the black key slip from my sleeve to my palm.

    As you wish,” she conceded with a sigh, quickly exiting the room.

    I waited several moments before speaking again.

    We weren’t very subtle, were we?” I looked at Rin’s grinning face.

    Sometimes you have to be blatant,” she replied.

    I barely had time to reinforce myself before the table exploded into me, the force sending me flying through the wall into the next room.

    I tumbled across the floor before righting myself, two more handles falling into my grip and extending into blades with dulled edges and rounded points. They could still kill with the power I threw them, but her own reinforcement would mitigate them.

    I hadn’t checked this room, but it was like most of the rooms we’d seen in our search for the bedroom. An empty room, devoid of even carpet. I thought the living room had looked ironically unlived in, but it at least had furniture.

    This place really was too big.

    That was more devious than I expected,” I called through the dusty hole I’d created.

    You would’ve done the same,” familiar red orbs shot through the hole towards me, sending me jumping to the side.

    I threw one key in my hand at the area of the wall I’d heard her. The blunted metal smashed through into the other room. This proved useless as Rin leapt through the hole and rebounded on a wall, her left arm having a swelling gandr on every finger. I projected more keys into my hands, slashing them through the air and sending the curses blasting into the room around us.

    I launched two keys at her while sending two more into the floor where she’d be landing. She was able to twist herself midair, narrowly avoiding one while the other clipped her leg, drawing a pained grunt from between her teeth. As she fell toward them, I sent energy into the keys under her, causing them to lengthen and shoot up quickly. While one completely missed, the other smacked the left side, spinning her before she hit the ground.

    I took her time recovering from the attack to dash forward, the remaining keys in my hands spread out in preparation to strike. Rather than rising, Rin placed her right hand on the floor as a rapid string of words flowed from her mouth.

    Von mir brennt eine sengende Welle alles!”

    I bounced back as I recognized the words, retreating as a wave of fire flared around her. The flames quickly dissapated as Rin recovered her footing, the blue gem in her other hand glinting.

    You could have powered through that,” she tossed the gem, the crystal splitting into thirds that streaked towards me.

    Didn’t want to stop and change on the way,” I slashed through one, whirled to avoid the second, and kicked the third. As my shoe made contact, ice immediately encased my foot. I brought my foot down, shattering the newly formed crystals.

    Rin was in front of me, delivering two swift strikes to my shoulder and chest. My reinforcement held, but I had a feeling the only thing keeping me from bruises was Avalon.

    Rin jumped up, her leg rising above my head. I released the keys in my hands, suspending them mid-fall as I grasped her ankle. A sudden impact and chill from behind sent me stumbling, but I held my grip on her leg, using the movement to throw her a few meters away. She landed easily and closed the distance between us as I lifted myself on my hands and brought my back forward, slamming it into the floor to break off the newly formed ice.

    Rin’s hand glowed red, but my hovering keys took aim and shot towards her. One hit her stomach while the other managed to snag her coat, sending her into the wall and shallowly pinning her there.

    Instead of standing, I brought my fists up, focusing the force of the movements into them, and smashed them into the floor. The wood under me collapsed from the blow, causing me to fall into the room below.

    I landed on top of one of the few pieces of furniture in this room, that being a desk. Shattered boards fell around me as I pushed off the desk to my feet. I didn’t waste time bursting through the door into the hallway and dashing down the carpeted path. I rounded a corner and slipped into another room, as barren as the newly destroyed one.

    I projected four keys in each hand, releasing them to float around the room before moving to the center. I made three more for good measure, the dulled blades moving slowly through the air as I waited. Whichever direction she came from, I’d be ready.

    I heard the sound of glass shattering from outside my window, and a key spun through it. I moved to peer out, the key still spinning outside and ready for redirection. I looked down, expecting to see her on the grounds two stories below. Instead, I only found stonework and dead grass. I frowned, aware that the longer I looked out, the more vulnerable I was.

    I allowed myself another quick glance and saw it. A window to my right on the lower level had been broken. I looked up for confirmation and found another window above was also shattered. I must not have heard it when I rushed there.

    I moved back with the key flying in after me. If she were on a lower level, she could be moving to take me by surprise. I could follow after her and try to catch her off-guard, but she may have predicted that. She might be doing the same thing I was, setting up an ambush in a defendable location. If that were true, neither of us could afford to waste too long waiting. One would have to confront the other on their terms, and I was always more patient then she was.

    This idea was shot down as I felt a large surge of energy from below. With no time to think, I launched myself toward the window, grabbing a key from the air with my right before gripping the window frame with my left and swinging into the castle’s side, planting the key into the stonework. I had a moment to register the sharp pain in my left palm before the room exploded in a hail of red orbs firing from the floor. The keys still moving aimlessly in the air were shredded and broken as gandr blasted through them and the ceiling, scattering sharpened debris everywhere. After several seconds, the hailstorm of curses ceased.

    You think so narrowly,” I heard her muffled yell through the floorboards.

    I released the stone and pulled the blade from the wall, falling to plant it above the lower window and swing back into the castle. Rin stood ready, gandr blazing on her hand. I rapidly projected keys and threw them; many being destroyed by the volley she fired. I dodged the blasts my keys didn’t intercept and generated two more, overcharging them with energy before throwing them.

    They sailed through the barrage and exploded in an array of glittering shards. Rin rolled away, another gem in her hand as I rushed her, closing the space between us in an instant. I delivered a quick strike to her wrist in an attempt to dislodge the gem, following it with an open palm to the same place my key hit earlier.

    She was hurled away as a glowing red gem hung briefly in the air. I barely got my arms in front of me before it exploded and sent me out the window to my back.

    I flew through the air before my back painfully smashed into the ground below. I took a moment to notice my charred sleeves as I brought myself to my feet. I realized it wasn’t just my sleeves, but a few good portions of my jacket had been torn or singed in the explosion.

    Dammit,” I hissed between my teeth, and was a bit taken aback by the flash of anger. It was only a jacket. I could just buy a new one. That thought didn’t seem to help, though, so I dismissed it immediately.

    I was pulled from my musings as Rin bounded out overhead. Several gandr streaked through the air, sending me dancing away as she landed. She immediately dashed toward me, eschewing any prepared spells. I readied myself only to notice a light beginning to emanate from the torn inside of my jacket.

    A hot flash of white light blinded me as a fist slammed into my stomach. I felt what must have been a shoe crash into the side of my head, sending my mind tumbling as hands whirled me around and my legs were swept from under me.

    I was pinned, my right arm pulled tightly behind my back as Rin placed herself on top of me.

    That was good,” her breaths came a little faster than normal. “But I’d say I’ve won.”

    Who says I’m finished?” the spots had begun clearing from my vision, and my head cleared enough to form an idea.

    I do,” my arm was pulled tighter, sending pain coursing up its length.

    Well,” I focused on the space behind her, pulling the image from my mind. “I can’t always let you have your way.”

    As it formed, I sent the dulled key whirling toward her, slashing bluntly into her side. She tumbled away from the surprise and force, allowing me to push myself up and give my arm a few testing shakes.

    So that’s how you found me so quickly,” I said as the key slipped into place between my fingers. “You planted a gemstone on me and followed the mana.”

    I probably didn’t need to,” she was on her feet as well, giving me a confident smile. “You didn’t run very far.”

    Four black keys appeared in each of my hands, a plan forming as I glanced over the flat ground around us and felt the wound in my left palm closing.

    I remember back when that pin would end the fight,” she mused, another gem being pulled from her jacket pocket. “Thought it might work again.”

    It didn’t work the last five times,” I smirked as I spread the keys to each side. “But it does make you predictable.”

    At least I have more variety than you,” she said as she pointed her arm towards me again. “You only ever use those priest blades.”

    And the only things that change are your gems,” I began lobbing keys into the air, sending more to join the as I dashed to avoid a fresh bout of gandr.

    Watch what you say,” magic thrummed in the air as crimson orbs sailed towards me. “Or I might forget I still want you able to fight after this.”

    The keys hailed down across the grounds, jutting up like markers in the dirt around us. I continued projecting, feeling the rising heat as mana flowed through my circuits with every blade. Soon, the dead grass of the estate was littered with scorch marks and blades rising in awkward angles both near and far from one another.

    I threw the three last keys at my feet, my circuits burning as my mana continued draining. I sent one final pulse into all the blades, bringing me another step closer to running out of energy. The blades expanded and rose, the three in front of me taking the incoming curses as they all rose into a series of walls and pillars around us.

    I dove over to another metal wall and began weaving through the metallic maze with my head lowered.

    This is a new one,” I heard her call somewhere to my right. “But you can’t honestly think this is enough.”

    I didn’t, but that was part of the plan.

    I began taking shots at her with every pass between keys, moving around and dodging viscous responses from Rin. After a few throws Rin started destroying the metal barriers, working to remove all my protection.

    Whenever my keys weren’t shattered by Rin’s retaliations, I infused them with mana, forming more pillars around her. I focused my aim, working to send more keys into the stone wall of the castle without making it obvious while maneuvering towards it. Every step closer made the reality of losing all my cover and mana more prominent. I was running dry with my circuits on fire, and I wasn’t sure I could even pull off my plan anymore. I gripped my remaining mana tightly, letting it pool and grow like a dammed river .

    Just before I reached the wall, Rin let out a Germanic string of words and threw a gem above her head. The gem spun and glowed brighter with every passing second before erupting in a ball of flame that started flaring out blasts in every direction. Intense heat seared easily through my cover and almost through my leg, leaving me exposed as many more keys fell as molten metal onto the grass.

    The dry, dead grass surrounding us caught as the orb above Rin petered out, fire rising to cast flares of light between us. I saw a few blades had managed to remain intact and readied myself. This would use every last bit of mana I had left, so it had to count.

    Rin opened her mouth to speak as I overcharged the keys imbedded in the wall beside me. The stones erupted in a cloud of dust and sharp shards that I dove into. The dust parted and swirled as gandr sailed over me as I blindly scooped up a piece of debris. The cold feeling told me it was from a key rather than the wall.

    I dashed out the other side, Using the last of my mana to pull the enlarged keys from the soil and send them flying towards Rin. The reinforcement lining my skin dispersed as I swiped the shard into my left palm over the already healed cut from earlier. A bright stream of red welled up in my hand as Rin dodged, shot, and even bashed the large projectiles aside. I quickly deposited the shard in my pocket.

    I rushed forward, feeling slow without the extra power my reinforcement allowed. I was still able to reach her a few seconds after she finished dealing with the barrage. She was prepared, already moving to counter whatever move I could make. Even if I was the better fighter, she had more options and advantages in this moment.

    I swiped my hand in front of me, an arc of blood splashing into her eyes. Naturally, she was taken off-guard by this and reeled away with a small cry. I yanked her arm over my head, driving my elbow into her gut. Even against reinforcement, the force was enough to stun anyone. Continuing the movement, I curled my leg behind hers and pulled it out from under her, putting my right hand to her sternum and slamming her into the ground. I pushed down, slipping the shard from my pocket and bringing it to her throat.

    Neither of us moved as breath worked its way back into her chest, rising under my hand. Her hand moved as though to rise but stopped, her eyes tightly shut as my blood ran down the sides of her face. I took a moment to decide before putting the shard away and wiping the blood from her eyes. Her eyes opened slowly, careful not to have any I might have missed running into them.

    I’d say I won this match,” I replaced the shard back at her throat but left it hovering over it. Even if she was down, I didn’t want to risk her pulling something until she admitted it. Not that I was putting the broken edge toward the skin.

    We stared silently into each other’s eyes as the fires cast orange hues over us with me realizing we should really do something about them before they got worse.

    How many does that make it now?” she asked with a sigh.

    Forty-seven to fifty-three,” I let myself roll to the side. “Your favor.”

    "You just keep catching up,” she let out a small laugh before falling silent again. Seconds passed before she continued. “You didn’t use Archer’s swords.”

    I shook my head, laying it on the rough grass.

    Those swords are amazing,” the beautiful blades flitted across my vision. “But, as ridiculous as it sounds, it didn’t even cross my mind.”

    Another pause before her laugh filled the air.

    We both know that’s a lie,” she tilted her head to look at me. “Not after that show Archer put on.”

    I frowned slightly. It wasn’t a convincing lie, but I had hoped she might let it go. The reason was as ridiculous as just forgetting about them. It felt… wrong to use them in this kind of fight. The power in those blades wasn’t something you used unless you aimed to kill.

    And it would have been over sooner.

    Doesn’t matter in the end,” I shook my head. “I beat you this time.”

    Yeah, yeah,” she waved a raised hand dismissively. “So then, Master, what do you want to do now?”

    I somehow managed to keep from rolling my eyes at the words.

    It’s likely that, by the time we arrive at the temple, both Caster and Assassin will be killed. We will have nothing between us and them.”

    And Saber will have to take on that Archer, which leads us back to the issue of mana.”

    One I couldn’t resolve without forfeiting her to Rin. Though, with this victory, I supposed it would be a little less stinging if I commanded her to be Saber’s master, but that brought on another set of issues. In the end, there wasn’t a clean solution.

    I felt Rin’s hand close over mine and looked to see she had rolled onto her side. I was about to speak when I realized there was something cold now pressed into my hand.

    I think this will solve that problem,” she gave that same confident smile.

    I drew my hand from hers and lifted it over me, letting the object dangle from my fingers.

    A red triangular pendant hung from a simple silver chain, the gem showing dancing images from the firelight. The fact that it was a gemstone would have been enough to clue me in, but, holding it in my hands, I could feel the energy held within the small stone. It was immense. I doubted I could have expended that much energy over the course of several decades, let alone collect it into a single source.

    A final gift from my father,” Rin’s eyes were fixed on the pendant as well. “I discovered it the night before I summoned Archer.”

    I felt a frown grow as she spoke.

    I was planning to use it as a last resort. The power in that gem Is enough to do almost anything. Maybe even miracles.”

    I sighed and let the hand and gem fall to my chest.

    You don’t play fair, Rin,” I looked at her grinning face.

    I don’t remember a lesson in fairness. Do you?”

    I let my frown fade. I had lost.

    Then,” I looked back to the sky. “You’ll be staying here for the night.”

    Don’t give me that!” I cringed from the volume. “I’m not gonna let you fight Kirei alone.”

    He’ll kill you,” I said simply.

    And you’re different?”

    Maybe not, but I at least have a chance.”

    Her hand fell on my chest, grasping the gem laying there.

    I wasn’t giving this to you so you could just abandon me,” despite her words, she didn’t move to take it away.

    But what more can you do?” I stared into her eyes. “Father isn’t even the priority here, and I’m not foolish enough to fight Gilgamesh. You’d only be giving them an extra target.”

    But you’re going to fight Kirei anyway,” she countered. “And you can’t win by yourself.”

    I felt a sudden sting of worry flow through me, and it must have shown on my face because her grip tightened on the gem.

    Stop pushing me away and let me help you,” her words were more fervent this time.

    A part of me wanted to agree, to continue as we were, letting her carry me along, but then, what was the point of this fight? What was the point in me winning the war? What was the point in me fighting her?

    You can’t,” I closed my grip on the chain. “Not this time.”

    I looped the chain around my hand before grasping her forearm and pulling her over me, rolling with her. Caught off-guard, it was easy for me to pin her on her back again. Her other arm moved to hit me, but I pushed it down with my open hand, our position placing our faces only a decimeter apart.

    As your master,” I gazed intently into her eyes. “I am commanding you to not go to the temple.”

    A familiar look of stubbornness that I knew too well was set on her face. Her eyes traced my face, searching for something. She must have found it, because her eye stopped roving, returning to look into my own.

    You had better not lose,” she said firmly. “Otherwise, I’m never letting you out of my sight again.”

    I felt a smile return to my face.

    All the more reason to win.”

    The mask of obstinance broke as a soft smile slid across her lips. I gazed into her eyes as heat seemed to rise around us. I quickly realized that was because the fire had gotten even closer.

    We should put these flames out before they spread to the trees,” I glanced around at the walls of fire sluggishly moving across the grass.

    I pulled myself up and reached a hand toward Rin, noticing a frown usurping the smile. I raised an eyebrow before she spoke.

    I liked that jacket,” she said disappointedly, though I couldn’t say where the disappointment was directed.

    Rin took my hand and I helped her to her feet. Rin gave the fires a look-over before muttering a spell under her breath. She put her hands together then separated them to reveal a long mass of water linking them together. As it stretched, chunks began separating into floating orbs of moisture that bobbed toward clumps of flames before promptly bursting over them. In less than a minute, the only light being cast was from the sinking sun.

    She put her hands together once more and drew them away dry, no trace remaining of the magecraft she’d just performed.

    Well then, Shirou,” the smile had returned. “I think it’s about time we checked on Saber.”
    Last edited by Morg van Destro; November 7th, 2020 at 04:00 PM.

  3. #23
    屍食鬼 Ghoul
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    Quote Originally Posted by Morg van Destro View Post
    The mask of obstinance broke as a soft smile slid across her lips. I gazed into her eyes as heat seemed to rise around us. I quickly realized that was because the fire had gotten even closer.
    Haha, I like that juke. I can appreciate "Will they/won't they" tension as long as, in this case, in the end they don't.

  4. #24
    リビングデッド Living Dead Morg van Destro's Avatar
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    Chapter 7: For Want of…
    #25-Death and defeat are not the same. Neither are victory and life.

    Why do you always buy those flowers?”

    Father nestles the bouquet of flowers into his arm before looking at me. Every few weeks, he joins me on my shopping trip to pick up the same flowers to place around the church.

    A smile tugs at his lips but remains only a ghost.

    I have a proposal,” he turns and begins walking away, leaving me to trail after him. “If you are unable to discover the answer for yourself, then I will tell you. All you must do is admit you are incapable of doing so.”

    Another test. I should expect this by now, but I still know I will face it. The answer will not come easily, but I would pass this test as well. I will discover the meaning behind those white flowers.

    I’m still searching.

    **********
    It’s time.”

    I traced a finger along the pendant hanging from my neck. Mana thrummed at my touch, swirling within its small container. I wrapped it close to my palm, looking at Saber. A clear face and a simple nod were all the confirmation I was given.

    I felt the connection between me and Saber, a long line like a vein pulsing continuously with mana. The power within the pendant beat in tandem, as though it knew where it would flow. I pulled the energy out, leading it to the link and fusing them together. The link bulged and constricted along its length as the influx of power traveled through it. Saber’s body flinched as mana poured into her, adjusting to the new power.

    How do you feel?” I asked as she relaxed once more.

    I feel,” she looked down, clenching and unclenching her hand. “Prepared.”

    I checked the pendant once more. The power was barely being syphoned. I wondered how long that would last. A new idea crossed my mind, and I tentatively pulled another stream from the source and linked it to myself, being certain to close off the connection before it flowed within.

    I hummed for a second before letting it go, the power easily returning to the pendant. Not now.

    I raised my eyes up to the peak of the stairs. The moon was slowly moving to hang over the temple, casting shadows from trees over the stone path leading up. It would likely reach its zenith before we were done. I wondered if I’d see it.

    Rin would kick my ass if she heard that last thought.

    Then,” I took the first step up. “Let’s go.”

    No more words passed between us until we reached the top, an unexpected surprise awaiting our arrival.

    A familiar figure materialized as we approached, Assassin taking form at the top of the steps.

    I’m glad you made it here safely, Saber,” Assassin drew the absurd blade from his back. “To be frank with you, I feared you would be too late.”

    Assassin?” I didn’t bother hiding my surprise. “I was certain you’d already been killed.”

    By that pompous beacon and the priest?” he smiled as he shook his head. “My master may be dead, but I saw no reason to die avenging her. I have only one thing I seek in this war.”

    He pointed his blade down toward us.

    You promised to show me everything you have. Perhaps it is foolish, but that is my wish. Would you do me the honor or granting it?”

    I saw the determined look in Saber’s eyes and the stance she’d already begun taking and spent no more time waiting. I strode forward, stopping when Assassin directed his blade at me.

    You plan to abandon your Servant to face me?” his words might have sounded disdainful rather than a genuine question if they came from another person.

    I don’t have time to watch her win,” I began moving up once more. “Besides, if you kill me, you won’t have your fight.”

    True enough,” he lowered his katana as I drew closer. “However, I can’t very well have you dying before we are finished, and the man waiting within reeks of blood.”

    I’m well aware,” and the fact an Assassin was warning me gave me no comfort.

    Is that so?” he asked as I walked past.

    I didn’t respond as I passed through the gate.

    It had been a long time since I’d last entered the temple grounds, though nothing seemed to have changed in that time. The moon cast streams of light over the courtyard spanning the distance to the temple. A wide stone path laid before me, cutting through the middle of the expanse of dirt and leading to the main temple. Before the temple stood a canopy that rose and covered a large censer, devoid of the incense that usually burned within. My father stood there, staring idly into the ceremonial vessel.

    Are you aware of the reason they burn incense?”

    I continued forward as he spoke, forcing my steps to be metered and calm.

    Or perhaps the reason some partake in ritual sacrifice or communion? The answer to all is the same.”

    I stopped as he turned to face me, his arms folded behind his back. Even across the space between us, I could see a familiar discerning look as he focused on me.

    They wish to draw closer to God,” he took slow, measured steps down the stairs to the courtyard, the movements as natural as breathing for him. “Regardless of religion, belief, or name, they all seek the same thing. It is within every man to seek a path toward the divine. To discover for what reason they were placed in this world. Even those who claim there is no meaning have created something divine from that belief.”

    To believe in nothing is still to believe,” I said, remembering him saying something similar some time ago.

    And to believe is to reach beyond oneself,” his steps made no sounds as he walked forward. “Even if you grasp at nothing.”

    He stopped four meters away as the moon continued sluggishly climbing to its peak, illuminating the clear night easily.

    The instant you showed me your command seals, I knew it would come to this.”

    I wish I could say the same.”

    You never wished for much,” a smile that might have seemed nostalgic on another’s face slid onto his lips. “Only to become better than you were.”

    There was nothing else I wanted.”

    Father’s short laugh echoed in the empty courtyard.

    Then, it is to my detriment as a parent that I could not show you otherwise.”

    He half turned his body to gaze back at the temple, but I was under no disillusion that I didn’t have his attention.

    Soon, something I have longed for will finally come to pass. To have my doubts eased, and all of my questions answered.”

    He faced me once again.

    Only you remain between me and that goal.”

    So, you truly would kill me for a chance to use the Grail?”

    There was no surprise in my voice. Father wasn’t one who chose to do things without being willing to see them through, even if it meant killing his own family.

    You seem to misunderstand,” he gave a small shake of his head. “But it does not matter. I will only say that, while I anticipated this outcome, I did not seek to make it reality. A father is meant to guide his son, and I failed to do so. The fault is mine.”

    I was momentarily surprised. A hint of genuine disappointment had crept into his final words, though whether it was to himself or me was unclear.

    However, there is nothing for it,” his arms moved to his sides, and the smile thinned to a line. “This will be my final lesson to you, my son. I am sorry I can teach you no more.”

    His dispassionate tone hid if his words were true, something I’d grown used to over the decade. However, despite that, my next words were no lie.

    So am I.”

    While I was still irritated by the loss of my jacket, I would have ended up removing it here. The garment would’ve only given him another grip to use against me. Case in point. The cassock Father always wore was promptly tossed to the side, leaving only his dark vestments.

    I began projecting keys but stopped myself. If there was ever a time to use them, it was now. I saw the married blades clearly in my mind, and I brought those images forth into the world, the curved pommels fitting into my grip.

    Those were the Archer’s swords,” Father tilted his head to the side slightly. “How interesting.”

    I rushed forward, low to the ground with the swords spread from my sides. Even as I swung the blades, Father was already moving. He seemed to flow around the strikes, backing away as I pushed forward. As one blade passed, he reached out and pulled on the blade, throwing me off balance. His hand came down in that moment, dealing a crushing blow to my arm before grabbing my shirt and throwing me behind him.

    The pain in my arm was joined by my back as I crashed through one of the columns supporting the canopy. I tumbled briefly before recovering my footing just in time to block the incoming keys. I gritted my teeth as the arm he’d bashed protested blocking one of the keys. It wasn’t broken, but I hoped it healed quickly.

    Father had closed the distance, and I moved to evade his blow. His elbow met my face as I moved, his other fist spearing my sternum. I forced myself to act, Kanshou flipping to a reverse-grip before stabbing down into his arm. I drove it deeper as he pulled away, spinning back as keys filled his hands and whipped out toward me. I dodged to the side, sending Bakuya spinning at his retreating form.

    Father rotated his body, the sword whirling past. He pulled the black sword from his crimson sleeve, watching the blood run over the turtle shell pattern. A smile crossed his lips.

    He was about to throw the weapon back when his body shook from an impact. A white sword jutted from his right shoulder. I dismissed the swords as I charged, projecting new ones in my hands before I reached him.

    He recovered quickly, keys extending in his hands to meet my blades. He blocked a few strikes, but Black Keys weren’t meant to face blades smaller than themselves, nor was Father ever one to use them as such. I slipped between his defenses, earning two more gashes on his right arm and side. He suddenly backpedaled, launching the keys at me before rushing in behind them.

    I sent the married swords spinning toward him, taking out three keys before grabbing the fourth with a reinforced hand. The edge threatened to cut into me as my hand skidded up its length before catching on the handle. I whirled it in my grip, righting it only to send it flying down between Father’s approaching legs.

    He froze in front of me, his shadow seeming to curl where the key and ground met. I drove my fist into his chest, feeling bone crack under the strike, and flashed behind him, retrieving and throwing the key into his back.

    The blade sunk down to the handle, and both Kanshou and Bakuya spun past me on either side toward him. He quickly faced me, the Black Key protruding out his front, and knocked the blades out of their rotations with a flick of his hands, crossing his arms to catch the blades. In an instant, he was in front of me, and the swords bit into my chest as he slashed them, the force of the strikes sending me skidding to the temple gate.

    A rash stinged on my arms as I rolled myself away, the mirrored blades impaling into the ground where I had landed seconds ago. I pushed myself up to find Father touching the side of the key in his chest, the weapon dissipating to let the handle fall to the ground.

    You gained a new tool, but you remain predictable.”

    Even as red spread out from the center of his vestments, he still spoke in that casual, monotone manner I’d become familiar to.

    Perhaps this is simply your limit. As your teacher, I find that disappointing.”

    I scooped up the blades quickly, but Father was on top of me, his fist already drawn back to deliver another strike. He danced back, narrowly avoiding a golden sword sweeping in from the side.

    Saber stood before me, sword brightly shining in all its glory. She chased after Father, her weapon becoming almost a ray of light with the speed of the attacks. He barely evaded them, seeming to move before the attacks even began, but still nearly being hit.

    Saber!” I projected a few keys around me and sent them flying towards them, my Servant moving as they passed to find their way into my father. “Go to the Grail now! Without Assassin, it’s now operational! If Archer decides to use it without his master, this will be for nothing!”

    She stared momentarily before nodding, turning to jump onto the temple roof and out of sight.

    While you are correct,” Father pulled the shallowly pierced keys from his body, leaving more dots of red. “I cannot help but notice you failed to consider that you may die before she can defeat Archer.”

    Why would I consider an impossibility?” I readied myself once more.

    His short laugh echoed against the far-spread walls.

    Then perhaps I am the one who cannot consider it.”

    I projected and launched more keys while I sprinted forward, moonlight glancing off the steel as I slashed the swords. He picked one out of the air and evaded the others, meeting my first strikes with the weapon. He lashed his free hand at my arm, the other driving the key into my shoulder in the opening he created.

    I projected another key to fire down from above while I dropped Kanshou and gripped the extended arm. I attempted to snap the wrist, but he twisted his arm, his other hand delivering a palm strike to my chest, his hand coming away with blood from my wounds. I forced myself to tighten my grip through the pain as the air left my lungs as the key impaling itself in his right shoulder, driven halfway in.

    His right arm went limp, and I dropped Bakuya. I pulled on the limp arm, sending my own palm into his chin. His head snapped back, by own hold preventing him from moving far. Somehow, even after that, his left hand shot around my neck, my windpipe closing in an instant. My grip weakened, and I was lifted from my feet and plowed into the ground. His grip left but was immediately replaced by a foot slamming into my ribs. Unable to concentrate enough to reinforce against the blow, everything exploded with agony.

    I couldn’t even let out a cry, my empty lungs filling with my own blood as I stared up at him. Father pulled the key from his shoulder, looking down at me with calm eyes.

    This could only end one way.”

    The key slid through my heart into the ground, and he walked away without another word.

    I stared up into the night sky, my vision darkening around the edges as the pain set in, the moon a shining beacon high above. This was not what I wanted. Not what I planned. I wasn’t supposed to die here. But what would I have done if I won? With no wish, I’d likely just destroy the Grail again like in every war previous. Even then, what would I do after? There’s nothing I can even say I want from this world. All I’ve ever wanted comes from myself. Be stronger. Be better. Be smarter.

    No. There’s something else.

    I care. I care when people get hurt. I care when I see them weak and manipulated and abused. I care when they die. It won’t help me. That kind of thinking gets you killed, but it’s always there. I could make all the excuses I wanted, but what would I say if someone I cared for got hurt because of it?

    My right arm lifted from the ground, moving to the blade in my chest.

    I already knew the answer. I doubt even Rin could have stopped me if Sakura had actually died. I would tear anyone who harmed them asunder. I would destroy them even if my body were mutilated beyond recovery. Not for some lofty justice or sense of right and wrong, but pure, selfish anger. I would not lose the ones I cared for. Not again. I would protect them with all I had.

    My hand gripped the blade, strength flowing steadily into my arm as I suddenly tightened my fingers. The steel shattered in my hand, shredding the flesh and pelting me with shards.

    I barely knew her. I almost killed her. I fought her as my enemy. She showed herself to me, if for only a brief moment. I saw myself in her, and I believe she saw herself too. She had been born for a single purpose. She accepted her fate and could do nothing but follow it. Her world had crumbled around her, and it was all she had left. I could hardly say I knew enough to call her a friend. Still…

    I coughed violently, blood droplets flying up to fall back onto my face, a trail leaving my mouth as I slowly sat myself up.

    I wanted to protect her.

    Father turned back to me, his attention recaptured by my impossible revival.

    And, Father or not, loved or not, he was standing in my way, and I couldn't protect both.

    I staggered to my feet, my body knitting together as golden light blazed in my wounds. I straightened my back, Kanshou and Bakuya appearing in my hands as Father faced me fully.

    I must be insane.

    You seem full of surprises tonight.”

    I hurled the blades at him, projecting the crimson spear of Lancer into my hands, charging with animalistic ferocity behind them. Keys extended in his hands, blocking the swords and meeting my barrage of jabs. Ge Bolg whirled and struck as though possessed, my body moving without thought. The weapon guided my attacks, bashing and stabbing in almost unseeable movements. Though he continued to show wounds, Father remained countering and evading.

    I slammed the spear into his guard, sending him sliding back a few meters. The married swords he blocked finished curling back toward him, but he tossed the keys into them, knocking them to the ground. I planted the spear and vaulted into the air, keys appearing around me and firing down at Father while the twin swords reappeared in my hands. I saw my target as Father sprinted to the side, the keys becoming markers in the ground behind him.

    I landed, throwing Kanshou before scooping up the discarded cassock in the freed hand. Father caught the blade, preparing to counter my incoming strike. He parried the slashing Bakuya, his left leg shooting up before crashing down on my shoulder. I took the blow, letting the cassock wrap around the leg before reinforcing the cloth. The coat stiffened and forced the leg straight, throwing him off balance as I stabbed the white blade into his defending arm.

    Right hand free, I gripped down on the leg on my shoulder and drove my palm into the side of the knee. The reinforcement vanished at the last second, cloth and bending around the blow. His face contorted in pain for the first time, but he pushed off his right leg, rotating his body on his crippled one to deliver a kick to my skull.

    My neck felt about to snap as I moved with the blow, gripping the cassock and pulling him with me. I stretched out my other hand, landing on it and using the momentum alongside my strength to slam him into the ground, dislodging the cassock from his twisted leg as well.

    He pierced the earth with the blade in his hand, stopping him from going far before pushing himself up, his body easily balancing on his good leg. I projected and fired a key from his side as he righted himself, and Kanshou left his hand as the key dug in it, the force threatening to pull him back down.

    I snatched the sword from the air and planted it in his chest, but his uninjured fist flew into my face before I could push it into his heart. I reeled back, but it was enough. Magical energy flowed into the blade, and it suddenly grew and pushed out through his back, the weapon having extended into a longsword. I ceased my reeling, pushing myself forward and leading with my right fist to direct all the force into it.

    The hilt shot through his body and slammed itself into the distant wall, the blood coating the blade splattering in a wide array on the stone surface. I breathed out heavily and wiped the trail of blood from my face as I straightened, watching my father fall to the ground.

    I released all the weapons I’d projected; the grounds being filled with evaporating particles for a brief moment. I looked down at the ruined form of my father, the large hole in his chest slowly creating a pool of blood from under him.

    It would seem,” his voice came out strained, but remained devoid of emotion. “My question will go unanswered.”

    What could be so important,” I stepped closer, unafraid of retaliation. “That you would sacrifice your own son to see it?”

    You already know the answer,” he stared at me with dimming eyes. “And yet, I doubt you have realized it.”

    He was always vague at times like these. Always a lesson. Always asking me to search deeper. Only willing to answer me when I had already exhausted my every other option. Yet, I never seemed to find it irritating. It was when he was challenging me that he acknowledged me beyond anything else, wanting to see what I would achieve.

    His right arm, bloody and torn, reached up toward me.

    You have done well, my son.”

    I stared at the outstretched hand for several seconds before taking it, the blood of the open wound wetly squeezed across my palm. There was something oddly familiar about this situation.

    And then everything went black.


    Hmm? What is it, Kirei?”

    I shake my head, feeling that would be answer enough for the King of Heroes.

    Kiritsugu Emiya’s eyes were devoid of any expression, a shadow of the sharp, cunning gaze he had once possessed. I doubt he was even capable of recognizing anything set before him anymore. He likely did not even see me in this state, my form no more than an apparition in his glazed mind. There is nothing that held meaning for this man anymore, becoming a ghost that would only be consumed by the flames of disaster he had brought upon himself. This man no longer has any interest for me.

    I turn to follow Archer, putting the sudden gloom that had fallen over me out of my mind.

    Wait.”

    A voice, almost imperceivably quiet, speaks into my mind. I know the voice, having heard it not an hour earlier.

    Go to him.”

    I almost ignore the words, but I feel I will regret doing so for some unknown reason. I turn to gaze where the shell of Kiritsugu Emiya had wandered further into the blaze.

    Do not wait for me, Archer,” I walk in the same direction. “It seems one more thing requires my attention.”

    Very well,” the king calls back, already moving off in search of something new.

    I follow the remnants of a man shambling across the broiled carcass of the city. Charred debris crunches beneath my feet as we move forward, the need to conceal my presence pointless for the phantom wandering ahead of me.

    What am I doing? This man is nothing now. Why would Angra Mainyu direct me to him?

    I place my hand over my chest, the unmarked skin a testament to my connection. It has a purpose, a reason for this. I only need to watch.

    But I do not need to watch for long, it would seem. Something catches the man’s attention, his eyes focusing on a pile of rubble and ash. I follow his gaze and see it too. A tan cloth, covered in soot and flecks of blood, nestled beneath pile of stone.

    He begins digging through the pile, but it is useless. The boy is already too far gone. There is no breath in his lungs, and his body is motionless. Another effort in futility.

    I turn away, Archer’s possible destinations flitting into my mind. It may take some time, but it should be no issue to…

    The night ignites in golden light, casting my long shadow out before me. I spin around to find the light dying from where Kiritsugu kneeled. He stares down at the boy for several seconds before tears begin running down his cheeks.

    I am unsure how, but the boy is breathing. Kiritsugu was able to recover from every blow I landed in our fight. Is it possible whatever allowed him to do so also is what he used on the boy?

    However, that does not really matter.

    A smile crosses my lips as I move closer, the man still unable to see anything but his goal. I may never truly understand you, Kiritsugu Emiya, but I finally understand myself, and stealing this moment from you will be beautiful.

    It seems Angra Mainyu had one final gift for me. I will have to repay them.

    I pull my arm back.

    **********
    The gate closes with a soft metallic click behind me.

    I’m surprised at you, Kirei.”

    I look over at the figure leaning against the foliage covered bars of the fence.

    I had assumed that boy would simply join the others. Is there something I couldn’t see that caught your eye?”

    His existence is similar to my own,” I gesture toward the mansion. “I wish to see how he will develop for myself.”

    Your first instinct when discovering one of your kind,” the King of Heroes smirks at me. “Is to use him as an experiment.”

    I am uncertain if he shares my unique inclinations. We will likely find out soon.”

    Is that why you left him with that girl?” Gilgamesh peers over at the building.

    I will also need to prepare lodging for him,” I turn and begin walking away. “This will aid in both matters.”

    Then I believe I will be leaving you for now,” I hear his footsteps going the opposite direction. “I wish to see what this modern world has to offer. I will return when I grow bored.”

    I listen to his steps trail off in the distance and continue the walk back to the church. Time will reveal the boy’s inclinations. Until then, I will observe him as his caretaker. It may be possible I will find my answer sooner than anticipated.

    **********
    You improve every day.”

    But I still have a ways to go,” Shirou breaths out heavily as he sits-up from the dojo floor.

    Do not diminish your accomplishments so easily,” I reach down and take his hand, bringing him to his feet. “You are improving at a greater rate than most.”

    Yes, Father,” he walks over to the bench where Rin sat, taking the outstretched towel from the girl.

    They interact so easily. The boy is never as open with anyone else as he is with her. It had become clear to me when I returned that something had already changed between them. Though it seems to have vanished, the emptiness deep in his eyes remained. However, something else has thoroughly covered it.

    The boy smiles as Rin says something to him, the gesture coming without thought.

    His development has already differed from my own. While I can see this will not bring me the answers I seek, there is still merit in observing him going forward. Perhaps his connection with Rin is something I can use when the time comes.

    Only time will tell,” I say to myself as Rin rises to take his place.

    **********
    The door closes behind Shirou with a soft thump.

    Well, that’s an issue,” Lancer materializes on the pew to my right, his arms spread across its top. “You probably should have just let me kill him, huh?”

    Then you will have no issue in following him from now on,” I turn my eyes on my Servant.

    A smirk appears on his face as he raises an eyebrow.

    I never expected you to be the protective type.”

    He is my son,” I say simply. “It is merely a father’s duty to protect their child.”

    Whatever you say,” Lancer shakes his head as he stands up. “I’m personally more interested in his Servant.”

    There will come a time when you will fight them,” I tell him. “So long as they survive long enough.”

    All the more reason to make sure that happens,” he vanishes into spirit form.

    You almost made your intentions sound noble,” Gilgamesh enters from the door to my right. “But still, it was quite unexpected that he would be chosen, especially after all that effort you put into keeping him away.”

    It was not my intention to prevent his place in the War. So long as Rin was taking part, it was inevitable he would join as well. I merely had not expected it to be as a master.”

    This world is full of wonders, wouldn’t you agree?” the Golden King walks down the middle aisle towards the doors. “I cannot wait to see what it has in store for you.”

    He exits the church as well, leaving me alone once more.

    Shirou. I can no more stop you from participating then I can stop myself from seeing my wish through to the end. Even if your Servant is eliminated before the others, I will likely have to kill you. You would never be able to stand by and let me kill Rin.

    I link my arms behind my back, turning toward the door to my office.

    I can imagine the look of confusion on your face as I rip out her heart before your eyes. Or perhaps I will you first and see the horror on her face as your life drains away.

    I feel a frown creasing my face. How odd. Why did neither seem as enjoyable as they once had?

    **********
    I stare down at my son as I lift my foot from his chest. He watches me with pained eyes, his mouth attempting to let out a sound, but unable to do so.

    I cannot understand why. Why do I not feel the familiar rush with every blow I deal. Blood seeps into his white shirt while he lies there, his final goal about to be stolen away while all he can do is watch. Rather than joy, all I feel is a strange disappointment. Could it be I expected more from him? A greater battle from one I myself trained?

    How odd. As I hold the Black Key in my hand, I feel the sudden desire to walk away. It is truly peculiar. So close to my goal, and I feel the urge to jeopardize it, even if the chance of failure is now minimal.

    I push these doubts and thoughts aside. In the end, these questions will matter little when Angra Mainyu is finally born. I need only witness it, and all will be answered.

    I raise the weapon over my son’s heart.

    "This could only end one way.”

    And plunge it down.

    **********
    You already know the answer, and yet, I doubt you have realized it.”

    I see the familiar look of challenge on his face. He will likely spend much time devoted to understanding my words. My son has truly grown into a discerning, capable individual. I believe I have done well in my role as his father. But a father’s role is never done, and I have one final gift to give him.

    I force my arm to rise, extending it up to Shirou.

    You have done well, my son.”

    A feeling wells in my chest that I often felt at times like these. Over the years, I have come to think of that feeling as pride in my work.

    After a moment’s hesitation, he reaches out as well.

    But it is still strange. That pride is always accompanied by something else. I am unable to relate the feeling to anything but something similar to watching another suffer. So very similar, yet inexorably different. Before my time with Shirou, I can only recall once when I felt it, though it was shared with a scene of pain.

    He takes my hand, and I begin the transfer.

    Claudia. Is this…


    I jerked my hand away, burning pain coursing over my body as a bright red glow faded from Father’s arm. I nearly crumbled under the searing agony, but the pain had already begun to subside.

    I see,” Father’s eyes stared up at the moon, something seeming to clear from the dimmed retinas. “That is why I have become so weak.”

    I watched as what I could only describe as a content smile set on his face as he took his last breath.

    What had I just…? No, I knew exactly what I had seen. I knew what had happened because Father had just shown me. His life had flashed before my eyes in an instant, every memory and feeling etched into my mind as though it was my own.

    But what he had done was absurd. Transferring magic circuits was as dangerous as transplanting an organ. If the body isn’t compatible with the implant, it would reject it and cause major backlash to both parties. It was nearly impossible to…

    It came into my mind and I kneeled down, pulling back Father’s right sleeve. All the command seals on his arm were now little more than faded imprints.

    He had used the mana within every command seal to make the transfer possible. A massive amount of magical energy like that made even something as implausible as this possible, if only barely.

    But why had I seen all that? It was like our souls had combined in that brief instant. I could find nothing in the new memories that would explain this. Even Father hadn’t known that would happen.

    One final gift.”

    I felt the tears well in my eyes and begin slowly running down my cheeks.

    I had always wondered how he saw me. Why he had killed that man but saved me. Always so many questions, and he only gave me answers when he died. There’s something cruel in that.

    How very like him.

    I did not wail for him, nor did I dwell on his thoughts in those final moments. There would be time for that later. Instead, I draped his cassock over his form, a small red stain beginning to form where his chest had been pierced.

    Thank you, Father.”

    I wiped my eyes and began running for the lake behind the temple, the point of manifestation for the Holy Grail.

    **********
    Partway through the trees, there was an earth-shaking wave of energy, and I saw a torrent of whirling red in the distance. I quickly checked my command seals, making certain to maintain my forward momentum. The remaining seal was unchanged, meaning Saber was still alive. There was still a chance.

    That hope was dashed when I came upon the scene of the battle.

    Dirt and rubble were scattered everywhere I looked. Trees were shredded and splintered in massive waves around the entire clearing, and the lake appeared as blood from the falls of black and red muck emanating from what could only be called a hole in the world hanging high overhead. And there, almost dangling at the base of the hole, was Illya, head down to let her hair fall over her face.

    And, in the center of the clearing, was the Golden King, his body resplendent in shining armor as he stoods a distance away from Saber, her own body bearing gashes and wounds from which blood stained her clothes and spread over her armor.

    Gilgamesh faced to me, seemingly unbothered by leaving himself exposed to Saber.

    So, it would seem Kirei was unable to see it through after all,” portals appeared behind him directed towards me. “As a favor to him, I will make your end quick.”

    Shirou!”

    I projected the married blades into my hands as Saber charged towards me. Archer fired the weapons at me, and I moved my swords to meet them. Each impact felt like a car slamming into the blades, but my reinforced body was able to take the strain as I parried the weapons away, craters beginning to form in the distance behind me.

    Archer paused; his eyes fixed on my swords before Saber got between us.

    Your battle is with me, Archer!” she rushed him, glimmering sword at her side.

    Perhaps, Saber,” a frown fixed his lips as multiple projectiles sent Saber dancing to the side. “But I now see that his life is an offense to me. I will be unable to do Kirei that favor.”

    More portals appear behind him, but I already began projecting keys aimed for them. I was certain they would shatter on impact, but they should be enough to throw of his aim.

    Several of the weapons flew towards me, sending me diving to the right as just as many remained on course as those that went awry. Saber charged, but he met her swords swings with the same blade I saw Archer decapitate Berserker with. Did he copy it from Gilgamesh?

    You can’t protect your master and fight me as well.”

    To show this, more portals appeared above him as he slashed at Saber, weapons firing at me in even greater numbers. I leapt out of the way, keys appearing and clashing with the projectiles while the blades in my hands whirled.

    Suddenly, chains lashed out from portals around Saber, curling over her and tightening fiercely. Excalibur glided through the air, chains shattering and disappearing one after the next, but three more appeared for every length she destroyed. Soon, one made its way around her sword hand, and her limbs quickly followed.

    Especially if you can’t protect yourself,” the King turned his back to her, looking at me with smug confidence as he replaced the black sword in a portal. “It won’t bind you long, but more than enough time to deal with this.”

    I thought about using my last command seal but dismissed it just as quickly. Empowering Saber or releasing her from the chain wasn’t going to cut it, and she’d disappear soon after, leaving me with him. My only choice was to rush him, try to get in close so he had a harder time launching while buying time for Saber.

    I’ve been watching you for quite a while, Shirou Kotomine,” he said as I hurled the mirrored swords at incoming weapons, projecting another pair to parry away the others. “Kirei always said your existence was similar to his, but I could never see that.”

    I continued pushing forward, my circuits blazing with every blade I projected to counter his, every step drawing me closer to the King.

    Kirei was a being devoid of joy and purpose, only for his true desires to be revealed ten years ago. In comparison, one who simply lies to himself while pursuing his wants is nothing more than a hypocrite.”

    I make it to him only to have my strikes blocked by a blade reminiscent of Excalibur, though its history told me why that was.

    But not just a hypocrite,” he continues speaking casually as I assault him. “You’re one without any strength of his own, stealing it from others as you have with those swords you hold. What would you call that except a Faker?”

    Merodach began blazing, but I leapt back as Saber shattered her bonds and slashed at the King. He spun on her, golden swords clashing in a great explosion of power. I moved to attack, but gates had opened above him and fired in a furious barrage at me. I evaded back only to find a single portal opening in the same direction, something akin to a large spearhead with claws at the base peeking out. Even as I moved out of the way, the impact of the weapon against the ground caused an eruption of lightning to lash out.

    Electricity coursed through me as I was smashed painfully through a tree, tumbling into the ground with my reinforcement barely intact. However, my body burned as my mana died, dispelling the protection.

    I gingerly pushed myself up, the ache of my body becoming hard to bear without the reinforcement. I saw the two Servants in their ongoing battle, Saber once more being driven back by a storm of weapons.

    We couldn’t win like this. Even at full power, Saber wouldn’t be able to stand up to him, especially if he brought out Ea. We needed to throw him off balance. Keep him occupied long enough for Saber to slip in and kill him. But that was impossible. Even in Father’s memories, Gilgamesh was a monster. We’d need another Servant to…

    He picked me up and held me, hugging me close as he continued speaking. This wasn’t what happened.

    Kiritsugu Emiya.

    “You saw it, didn’t you? The history of the weapon.”

    “You must imagine a world where it is possible and make it reality.”

    A world of infinite weapons. A factory born of steel and fire.

    …Archer, you Devil.”

    It was a truly mad notion, but one that seemed far to coincidental to be wrong. And, as I was prone to saying, there are no coincidences when it comes to magic.

    But even that deranged possibility left me in a bind. I didn’t have enough magical energy to… Wait...

    I felt the power in the pendant, less than an eighth having been drained by Saber. This amount of power was absurd, and just what I needed.

    Dammit, Rin,” I smiled as I shook my head. “If I tell you, you’ll never let me live it down.”

    I pulled a strand from the pendant and linked it to myself. A tidal wave of mana rushed over me, and I gasped as I was nearly overcome by it. I focused on circulating it through my body, forming the picture of that world within my mind.

    Saber!” I called out as the image became ever clearer in my mind. “I need you to buy me a little time!”

    My Servant didn’t answer. Instead, she moved to stand between me and the Golden King.

    What’s this?” he glanced past Saber to me. “Does the Faker have a scheme? As entertaining it would be to watch it fail, your interrupting my time with my bride, and that is something I will accept no longer.”

    A wall of golden light appeared behind him, but I paid it no mind. I trusted in Saber. Not a single weapon would touch me. By the same token, she was now trusting me to be successful in this gamble. This was it. I couldn’t fail here.

    I saw the world. The world within Archer. The world within myself. It was always there, but I could never see it. Never understand it. It was waiting for me. All I needed to do was call it.

    I am the bone of my sword

    Mana drew from the pendant faster, swarming over my body as a rushing current.

    Steel is my body, and fire is my blood.

    I heard his words, clear as day from his battle. I almost felt I was parroting them, but something was different.

    I have created over a thousand blades.

    I spoke without thinking, drawing the words from within myself, urged on by that internal world.

    Unaware of past,
    Nor aware of future.

    Weapons blew past me in waves, Saber’s sword becoming a ray of light as she danced in front of me.

    Withstood pain to create weapons, seeking my own path.


    The mana burned through my circuits, roaring with barely contained power as it feeds into the shape of my world. My entire being becoming engulfed in this one image, I raised my voice even higher.

    I grasp my life in both hands.


    I stared into the eyes of the King, his face contorting into a furious scowl at my impudence. I allowed a smile to form as I raised my hand overhead.

    So I wield, Unlimited Blade Works!


    The ground beneath my feet shattered, and the world became engulfed in light. When the light finally died down, I saw it.

    A world of infinite swords. Swords scattered over a dirt landscape of hills and valleys with strange pathways that seemed to bear no beginning or end running across, often overlapping and joining only to separate after. The sun shone brightly over the world, numerous clouds gliding across the sky without end.

    Archer looked around in annoyance, his ceaseless attack having ended abruptly. Saber turned and looked at me with a mix of confusion and amazement.

    You’re guess is as good as mine,” I chuckled out. “I honestly barely believe it myself.”

    So this was your plan,” the King of Heroes frowned at us, unimpressed. “You continue to waste my time even further. Disappear and leave me with my bride.”

    More portals appeared and Saber readied herself to defend me, but I looked at the weapons, deciding now was the time to break them rather than deflect them.

    Blades suddenly shot up from the dirt and rocketed at the portals, each colliding with and breaking one of the weapons Gilgamesh had called out. The man’s eyes widened, and he looked absolutely incensed.

    "A mongrel like you dares to copy my treasures?” his anger was mixed with a healthy dose of disbelief.

    You said I didn’t have strength,” I moved up beside Saber, Kanshou and Bakuya projected into my hands. “That I took it from others. If that’s true…”

    I called up a swarm of swords to raise in the air behind me, all perfect replicas of the numerous weapons he’d already thrown at me.

    …Then I’ll make their strength my own!”



    My body is made out of swords.
    My blood is of iron and my heart of glass.
    I have overcome countless battlefields.
    Not even once retreating,
    Not even once being complete.
    The wielder stands alone, seeking out fate on a hill of swords.
    Thus, his life is meaning.
    This body was always made out of swords.
    Last edited by Morg van Destro; November 7th, 2020 at 04:01 PM.

  5. #25
    屍食鬼 Ghoul
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    "Pompous beacon" amused me.

    "I don't have time to watch her win."
    "Why would I consider an impossibility?"
    Damn, this Shirou is quick.

    I like the vs. Kirei fight. It's choreographed without getting dragged down by too much detail.

    I get a Snape-in-Deathly-Hallows vibe from Kirei's last act, unintentional though it may have been on his part. I don't like or dislike that. As for the memories, I can buy Kirei being proud of Shirou's growth out of pride in his own work, but I disbelieve he has any other positive emotion toward Shirou than that, or that the thought of killing Shirou or Rin to see the other despair of it became less appealing because he grew attached to them. Shirou still caring about people at his core despite Kirei's influence is one thing, but Kirei caring about someone is changing who he is at his core, I think.

    We're combining Fate and UBW routes here, it seems.

    I look forward to the conclusion.

  6. #26
    リビングデッド Living Dead Morg van Destro's Avatar
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    I haven't even seen/read Harry Potter, and I still get that reference.
    I will say this right now. I don't believe it's impossible for Kirei to feel empathy for another person. I feel it's only highly improbable. Kirei as a character is so extremely interesting to me because of his warped mind. Time and again, we see a man that knows no joy aside from the suffering of others, but then we see some different sides when we look deeper. When he was younger, he desperately wanted to feel human, to feel love and fulfillment that everyone else seemed to feel without thought. Though he could find any, he kept searching because he knew it was unnatural and, in his mind, contemptable to be like this due to his upbringing. This all culminated in his final attempt with Claudia: a woman who truly loved him despite his inclinations but only served to highlight to himself how much he enjoys the suffering of others. The more she tried to save him, the despair she felt when she couldn't, the happier he felt when he saw it, and the cycle continued. However, this cycle that brought him joy also dragged him down as well, feeling it was impossible for anyone to make him feel whole if this woman who he'd come to see as a saint failed as well.

    We all (or, that is, most of us) know the story. Kirei decides to commit suicide, so he goes to tell Claudia goodbye. I didn't intend this, but I realize this line actually mirrors how his and Shirou's started in this story.
    "He made her his wife as an experiment, so it's his natural duty to go tell her of his end."
    Then, in one final attempt to prove he did in fact love her, she killed herself in front of him to prove he should continue living. The last thing she saw was him crying, but hse was unaware that, in his mind, he was crying over his chance to kill her himself. However, if that is what Kirei believes to be true, then why this?
    "It happened long ago.
    He can't remember her voice or her face.
    But sometimes he thinks,
    'I wanted to kill her.'
    Is that for his pleasure, or...
    Is it grief over wanting to kill the one he loved with his own hands?

    He cuts off his thought process whenever the answer flickers in his head.
    It's something that should be hidden forever.
    The woman's death was meaningless.
    Her devotion couldn't change him.
    But the man didn't want to consider her death to be worthless.
    ...So he stopped searching for answers."
    If he's so certain that's what he felt, that he is incapable of love, then why is he so afraid of the answer? Why does he care if this woman's sacrifice was meaningless? If he searched inside himself for an answer, and truly found that she was wrong and he was right, would he fall back into the despair that lead him to seek suicide, or would he be able to accept it after accepting who he is? So long as it remains unanswered, she was both wrong and right at the same time, and he seems content keeping it that way.
    Here, I think we see a case of an unreliable narrator as we sometimes see with Shirou Kotomine. In Kirei's case, he literally has no basis to discern what emotion he was feeling in that moment, having never felt it before. It's very clear that Claudia was someone very important to him, but it can be said his own rejection of himself kept him understanding that the grief he felt may not just come from her inability to save him.
    Now, if someone else were to come along in a role that typically garnered similar affection in normal people at a time where he has fully accepted himself, I genuinely wonder how that would affect him.
    In the end, I think it's up to the reader to decide what Kirei felt in those final moments. Did he actually come to feel fatherly love for Shirou, or was he simply misinterpreting things in his final moments due to Claudia's influence? Is he even capable of love? Was how he acted to Claudia and Shirou just a man fulfilling his perceived duty?
    I can't tell you the answer. Perhaps the story pushes in one direction, but it can be seen from another.

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