Act 14
When it was almost dusk, it vaguely occurred to Saber that today’s ambush might once again be a waste of effort. The thought frustrated and unsettled her.
Saber arrived at Miyama in accordance to the intelligence gained from the Master of Archer, Tōsaka Tokiomi, and located the residence of Glen Mackenzie and his wife. Upon hearing the doorbell, an old woman appeared before her. According to her, her grandson and his friend had indeed been staying there over the past few days. The old woman seemed to have mistaken Saber for her grandson’s friend as well, and so told the whole truth without reserve.
Saber persuaded the old woman to describe the appearance and clothing of the two people. Undoubtedly, they were Rider and his Master. It was regrettable, however, that she could not feel the presence of any Servant from there. A house of this size—if there was a Servant hiding within, it would have been possible to sense his presence even at the entrance.
According to the old woman, those two had left in the morning and not returned since. It was worth suspecting that they somehow knew of Saber's coming arrival and fled as a result, but it was truly difficult to imagine that the haughty King of Conquerors would actually resort to cowardly tricks like flight. If he intended to seize victory, he would definitely attack head-on.
In the end, Saber came to the conclusion that they had simply missed each other by coincidence. Courteously taking her leave of the old woman, she decided to keep watch from an area slightly away from the house and wait for Rider to return.
Of course, she would conceal the truth from the old woman. Though they had been deceived by Waver Velvet, this family was, in the end, completely ordinary and unrelated to the events surrounding them. Rider must have considered this as well.
Rider had been able to temporarily set aside the fight for the Holy Grail in order to stop Caster’s atrocities and prevent Fuyuki City from falling into crisis. Thus, Saber made this judgment: the King of Conquerors would never act against the pride-worthy deeds of a true Heroic Spirit. After Rider returned and discovered Saber, he would definitely choose a location worthy of a Servants’ battle and have a showdown that was open and aboveboard.
Aware that she was already very conspicuous just walking around, Saber decided to sit on a chair at the closest bus station and wait. Henceforth, she began to keep intent watch, but a few hours passed by without any sign of movement.
Though she could not directly see the Mackenzie house from her position, Rider would definitely sense the presence of a Servant upon his return and seek out Saber. He was not the sort of opponent to ambush her or run away. He would definitely welcome Saber’s intent of challenge and lead her to a suitable location for combat.
As strange as it was to say, Saber professed a hundred percent trust toward this Servant, Rider. Though their respective viewpoints could not be reconciled, it was incontestable that the other Heroic Spirit would take action according to his pride as a king. He would only challenge openly, and would never make secret plans or commit acts of betrayal. That was because Rider would never choose despicable tactics or strategies that would damage his reputation.
It could be said that Saber's unease originated from her allies rather than from her opponents.
Her Master, Emiya Kiritsugu, was eyeing Rider's Master with intentions and combat goals completely opposite to her own. At this very instant, it could even be that he had used Saber as bait to lure Rider out and was now keeping watch from afar—there was nothing wrong in thinking so. Indeed, she had to make such a mental preparation. Kiritsugu probably believed the instant at which Rider went all out to confront Saber to be the optimal opportunity to assassinate his Master.
With this thought in mind, Saber’s heart could not help but feel weighed down.
Kiritsugu might as well carry out a showdown between magi, with the Masters of Berserker and Archer as targets.
That would have been fine. Kiritsugu would only be obtaining victory through strategy and power play rather than by relying on Servant Saber. It was for his own legitimate reasons that Kiritsugu wanted the Grail. It was not unreasonable to desire a victory that could be obtained through more reliable means.
But in this showdown with Rider, Alexander, King of Conquerors, Saber had a deep boundary that she was absolutely unwilling to compromise.
If there could not be a fair showdown between them—not as Servants, tools by which to fight for the Grail, but as Heroic Spirits who possessed great pride—Saber would be forever unable to undo the knot left in her heart by the ‘Grail question-and-answer session’ from several days ago.
Alexander reveled in his tyrannical kingship without restraint; he reveled in the violent way of the Ionian Hetairoi, and took pride in it. If she were not to defeat him with the similar symbol of the King of Knights' ideology, the ‘Sword of Promised Victory’ Excalibur, then Arturia’s way of kingship would be broken and ended.
Rider’s Noble Phantasm had a strength such that even thinking about it would cause one to tremble all over. Even if Saber were to exert the strength of her own Noble Phantasm to the greatest extent, victory was not guaranteed.
The result of a showdown between an anti-army and anti-fortress Noble Phantasm was already beyond the capacity of human imagination. Emiya Kiritsugu would definitely think paying such a large price for victory to be a foolish course of action, and pay it only a perfunctory smile. But to Saber, the Holy Grail should be a thing to be fought for on the premise of sticking to one’s ideals. Since there was someone who threatened the basis of her kingship, it was definitely intolerable for Saber to even consider using methods that sidestepped this problem.
Only by assuring the way of kingship, which was the pride of the King of Knights, would the Holy Grail choose the King of Knights.
Precisely because of this, if Kiritsugu kept interfering as he did in the duel with Lancer, this Heaven’s Feel could be considered completely void for Saber.
Even if those despicable methods saw them through the final battle, Saber would definitely be unwilling to take the fruit of victory, the Grail.
If Rider were to set up a Reality Marble to protect his Master before carrying out battle, then the fight would not be interrupted. But Kiritsugu also understood Rider’s techniques. If he were to play any tricks before the activation of the Ionian Hetairoi…
Curling up, Saber sat on the chair and gritted her teeth. She felt very frustrated for not being able to read Emiya Kiritsugu’s intentions. She was facing a strong adversary and yet could not concentrate her full strength; it made her all the more apprehensive.
The bone-chilling north wind became even colder as she waited uneasily, leaving Saber even more anxious and unsettled.
Just as Saber feared, Emiya Kiritsugu was indeed there.
He was on the rooftop of a six-story apartment of a public housing estate across the street, approximately eight hundred meters from where she was.
Unlike the haphazardly arranged edifices, the rooftop of the apartment was structured somewhat strangely as it was unnecessary to think that residents would ever use it. Though it was somewhat difficult to enter, one could be disturbed only with difficulty once inside. One could not be seen, even from downstairs, after hiding behind the water tower; it was an excellent position for sniping or setting up an ambush.
Even the smoke and smell of tobacco could not be noticed here. To be able to enjoy to his heart’s content the vitality and energy that came with cigarettes—Kiritsugu’s mental burden here was much smaller than Saber’s.
The sniper rifle scope, propped on a tripod, was directed at the front door of the Mackenzie home.
And another specially prepared portable scope could clearly see Saber's every action as she sat in front of the bus stop.
It was fairly difficult to observe with two alternate scopes without break, but it was a situation that could not be helped since he was unable to rely on Maiya’s help. She had not managed to leave in the end because she had been entrusted with the job of guarding Irisviel. From this day on, ‘hunting’ adversaries could only be Kiritsugu's responsibility alone.
Kiritsugu had begun observing the Mackenzie house slightly later than Saber had; he saw that Saber, who could definitely feel the presence of Servants, was doing nothing, which indicated clearly that Rider was not at home at the moment—in which case the Master was definitely not around either. The Master was not bold enough to stay home alone under these circumstances. Once he discovered that the enemy’s Servant was pacing at the door, he would definitely summon Rider at once.
Kiritsugu was different from Saber; he took the situation, in which the targeted prey did not remain at the stronghold, more seriously than she did. They had left home the day after Kiritsugu learned of the existence of Glen Mackenzie's family and not returned since; this timing was too precise to be a coincidence. Though there was no concrete evidence, there was still a relatively high chance that Waver Velvet had discovered the enemy’s attack and fled in a hurry.
Nevertheless, Kiritsugu continued to wait there with a thread of hope, thinking that this was also an issue worthy of thought.
If Waver returned again to the Mackenzie house, it would definitely be necessary to blow up the house with a timed bomb. But if he had already fled, then he must have already found another stronghold, in which case the probability of his returning to this house was very low.
It looked like it would no longer be appropriate to use that old couple to lead Waver into a trap in the same way that he had used Sola as bait to lure Kayneth.
Kiritsugu held high regard for Waver's indifference to the fortress's security and choice in an ordinary household for his stronghold. In comparison to the Three Noble Families of the Beginning and Kayneth, who had built extravagant strongholds where they could easily be found, Waver’s strategy was much better. It was difficult to conclude that a magus who could make this judgment would show sympathy for the household he was temporarily living in. To Waver, the Mackenzie couple was only a pair of pawns to be abandoned.
The impatience that came with wasting precious time and the taboo of acting with undue haste—these two thoughts crossed swords in Kiritsugu’s heart.
On one hand, he had given up hope of Waver’s return; on the other hand, he was unable to completely abandon the possibility that Waver's departure was only coincidence. The important reason for this was that it was very difficult to imagine that the young magus would actually be one step ahead of Kiritsugu in a battle of information.
From the beginning, Kiritsugu had never treated Waver, Master of Rider, as an opponent. Though he had later learned some of his background through additional investigation, he had only treated Waver Velvet as a novice magus who had become a Master by chance and made the conclusion that he was a layman no different from ordinary people who did not know magic.
Of course, Kiritsugu was not the sort of person that directly correlated ability with experience. Kiritsugu still remembered that he had already been a ruthless assassin when he made his debut, and he did not think himself a rare example.
But he had observed Waver Velvet’s performance on the battlefield several times. Based on that, it was still very difficult to say if he could become a strong opponent capable of surpassing Kiritsugu.
Having never gotten an answer, at the time when he was beginning to feel an inexplicable anxiety…
Suddenly, intense pain burned at the base of Kiritsugu’s little finger; his back stiffened.
When he had truly started treating Hisau Maiya as his assistant, Kiritsugu had put a spell on a strand of her hair and embedded it in the subcutaneous tissue of his little finger. At the same time, Maiya had also embedded a strand of Kiritsugu’s hair in her finger. If the Magic Circuits of one of them entered a state of extreme stagnation—the stage at which one's life force was weak on the verge of impasse with death—the strand of hair given to the other person would burn, warning the other and notifying them of the existence of danger.
That was a measure implemented for a worst-case scenario in which it was already impossible to use a wireless network or familiar to convey information. That is to say, it was only a signal to inform that "it is already too late". For it to activate now, at this moment, what exactly could it mean…?
Before wavering, one must first be caught in a quandary. Kiritsugu mobilized all his neurons and began to ponder the situation at hand as well as to formulate response plans.
Maiya was on the verge of death—in other words, this meant that Irisviel, hidden in the underground storage, was in danger. The sequence of events and its cause could not be determined now.
Now, the absolute priority was to carry out help as soon as possible. The only method that could be chosen was the fastest—a miracle made possible by the Command Seals on his right hand.
“I order my puppet in the name of the Command Seals!”
Kiritsugu clenched his fist, at the same time reciting the spell as quickly as an automatic machine.
“Saber, return to the underground storage quickly! At once!”
The prana sleeping in one of the Command Seals carved on the back of Kiritsugu’s hand woke up and shone with light.
It was not an overstatement to say that Saber was very surprised.
She immediately understood that she had become the subject of some powerful magecraft. In the next instant, she was stripped of all recognition of the surrounding space and sent into the midst of a 'transfer' that did not have an existence or direction.
That was probably the legendary spell specifically meant to 'command Servants'. With an ultimate speed that neared destruction of the laws of cause and effect, she had already overcome the distance of space in a 'moment' of a few milliseconds at a speed close to that of light and completed the instantaneous movement between two different points in space.
Even so, she was indeed a sword-wielding Heroic Spirit of special conditioning. Though she had just been ‘transported’ from a chair beside a bus stop to a completely different place, the familiarity of the underground storage made her understand immediately that the strange phenomenon just now was caused by the activation of one of Kiritsugu’s Command Seals. In addition, some emergency must have occurred here that necessitated her immediate return to guard the headquarters. In the few milliseconds between the completion of the space break and her arrival on the floor of the underground storage, Saber had already completed the transformation from her disguise suit to her silver white armor.
Without question, the situation was clear at a glance.
The metal door had been broken down with brute strength. Irisviel, who should have been lying in the middle of the Magic Circle, had vanished; in her place was the body of Maiya, covered in blood, writhing and discarded.
Saber quickly ran to her side. She could not help but furrow her brow at the depth of her wounds. The injuries sustained in the Einsbern forest could not even begin to compare with this. What she sustained now were injuries that were fatal if not given emergency treatment as soon as possible.
As if feeling the Servant’s radiant presence, Maiya slowly opened her eyes.
“Maiya, pull yourself together! I will bind these wound immediately. It’s all right—“
But Maiya pushed away the hand that Saber stretched out to her.
“Quickly… go after him, quickly, outside... Rider, he…”
If the Command Seal-induced voyage here had been surprising, Saber was even more surprised at Maiya’s reaction.
Maiya must already have known the extent of her injuries. She must have fully understood that she was on the verge of death. But compared to her own life, this silent assistant to an assassin cared more for the safety of the kidnapped Irisviel and was urging Saber to consider making Irisviel's safety the priority.
Just as she was about to ask a question in reply, Saber suddenly understood.
This woman was also a knight. Though different from her own proud expressions, this courage to abandon life for the duty she had taken up was precisely the chivalry that Saber so firmly believed in.
I must protect Irisviel in the underground storage until the last moment—Hisau Maiya had certainly already made an oath to Kiritsugu and Irisviel. To entrust Saber with that promise she could not carry out to the end, she was willing to lose her own life.
“I… it’s all right… very soon, Kiritsugu will come… so… you must, quickly…”
Saber gritted her teeth and shut her eyes.
Logically thinking, every minute and every second Saber wasted on worrying about Maiya was time in which the abducted Irisviel could be moving toward a hopeless situation.
The thread of hope that Maiya could be saved by Kiritsugu, who would quickly rush here, still remained. But the fate of Irisviel, who had been taken away, had no guarantee if Saber did not give chase immediately. According to the marks left behind in the underground storage, it was undoubtedly a Servant’s doing. The follow-up attack could only be carried out by another Servant—and that meant Saber.
“—Maiya, you must hold on till Kiritsugu arrives. I will bring Irisviel back safely.”
Maiya nodded, and shut her eyes as if reassured.
Saber made a new vow to continue Maiya’s own—there was no reason to hesitate further.
She ran out of the underground storage like a hurricane, leaping onto the roof in a single bound, and gazed into the darkened, faraway sky in search of the enemy’s figure.
Since it was a godspeed instantaneous transfer caused by a Command Seal, surely the attacker must not have left here very long ago. The enemy had not yet gone far. Even if she was unable to sense his presence, it was still possible to find him by sight alone.
Saber stood on the rooftop and scanned the surroundings with the supernatural vision of a Servant. She effortlessly caught sight of the enemy.
A distance of about half a kilometer… majestically standing on the roof of what looked like an apartment building of the business district.
A robust physique, curly, flame-colored hair, and a crimson mantle; it was undoubtedly Rider, King of Conquerors, Alexander, whom she had met many times before on the battlefield.
“It wouldn’t be—unless it really was Rider?!”
Saber still held a strand of suspicion regarding Maiya’s eyewitness statement.
That the King of Conquerors, whose name had been unyielding all this time, would employ such base methods—it was indeed difficult to believe. But his thickset hands were indeed holding up the unconscious form of Irisviel; the sight left no room for doubt. Though it was yet unknown how they had guessed Saber’s new stronghold, this was undoubtedly the Rider who had just now ambushed Maiya and critically injured her.
Rider showed himself openly as if luring the enemy to venture deep; he immediately turned and vanished to one side of the edifice immediately after meeting Saber’s gaze.
Saber took her stance and intended to continue pursuit, but her adversary was a Heroic Spirit of the Rider class—Saber could not help but purse her lips.
It would be easy to continue like this, leaping through the streets in pursuit. But that was assuming the other party was also traveling on foot like she was. If Rider fled on his Gordius Wheel, Saber would not be able to catch up no matter how fast her pace was.
But Saber also had the skill of Riding. Against a Noble Phantasm that could fly through the air to reach its destination, it was necessary to also utilize a long-distance cruiser that could surpass the mechanical energy of walking.
In the past, Saber would definitely have given up pursuit for lack of a way to catch up. But for better or for worse, the previous day, Maiya had given her a new ‘steed’.
With a deep gratitude to Kiritsugu’s foresight and meticulousness in preparing for every eventuality, Saber leaped to the ‘horse’, removing the prana armor that would only hinder her riding, and mounted the steed parked in the abandoned courtyard.
Emiya Kiritsugu was very sensitive to the scent of Death.
Perhaps it was because he had witnessed the deaths of others countless times. Death could not be seen, nor could it be heard. Nonetheless, he could still sense the silent descent of something unknown at the moment when life was waiting to disappear from the corporal body.
The times when he felt the ‘joy’ of that thing were definitely times when he must watch, helplessly, someone else’s final moments, with their lives already beyond saving.
Therefore, Kiritsugu felt despair and gave up the moment he stood in the silent underground storage.
He would definitely be witnessing someone else’s death again at this place.
Holding on to the gun tucked in at his waist, he carefully crept into the underground storage, its iron doors already smashed. There was no killing intent or any other scent of danger. There was only the air with the stench of blood permeating through it; the heat of battle had already cooled down.
There was a little figure curled up on the floor; the sound of her breathing was almost too faint to be heard. Unmoving, its gradually cooling body temperature was surprisingly nostalgic.
Because he had always known this scene would appear sooner or later.
He had saved this girl’s life, but her heart had already been dead the moment she met Kiritsugu. This girl, who had fortunately remained alive after her baptism of bullets and gunpowder, felt not happy, but confused at her good luck.
She could no longer feel any meaning or joy in the fact that she was living as a human again.
So she would return the life that had been saved to the master who gave this gift of life to her – with her eyes closed, it almost seemed the girl was telling Kiritsugu that. It was a meeting eleven years ago.
Kiritsugu also accepted her conclusion as such.
He had known with a certain premonition that this girl would die in the near future. Kiritsugu had killed his own father and foster mother with his own hands. Therefore, he knew clearly that this girl standing beside him would soon also step onto the road of no return.
But even so, the more tools he could use the better. One day she would lose her value and be discarded; it would be a rather happy ending if she could actually manage to save the lives of two or more people… Kiritsugu gifted this girl with a name, a nationality, and taught her the skills and knowledge he possessed. That was the first beginning of Hisau Maiya, this person whose final destiny had already been decided.
Therefore, there was no need to sigh or feel loss here – this was the logical, unquestionable end.
He took Maiya’s body into his arms. Slowly, she opened her eyes. Her empty gaze wandered around until she recognized Kiritsugu’s face.
Not knowing what to say to her, Kiritsugu bit his lip in confusion.
Words of gratitude or comfort have no real effect. If he were to say anything with meaning to her at this moment, it would be to tell her the conclusion, ‘you will die here’.
Tell her that she has no tasks left, no need to be troubled any more.
If he simply regarded her as a tool to be used, Kiritsugu would definitely be able to say those things.
However, no sound could come out of his dry throat. He just stood there dazedly, his lips spasming.
“… No. You can’t cry…”
Kiritsugu didn’t notice the tears welling up in his eyes, threatening to fall out of the corners until Maiya pointed them out.
“You… need to save your tears for madam… if you cry here. No… you, are really weak. If you… start to cry now. No way…”
He must have made some fatal error; Kiritsugu only felt that acutely now.
Functioning as a tool, thinking that even such a fate was acceptable at the end – just as Emiya Kiritsugu had always done, he had always thought the same of Hisau Maiya.
However, towards such a Kiritsugu, she spoke these words.
Shouldn’t there have been other ways for her to live or die?
“This morning. You finally… returned to the Kiritsugu of the past… if you waver over such a small matter. No…”
True. At this same place, he had embraced a different woman and understood the path he should walk in his life.
Just a moment’s wavering could overturn his belief.
The correct method could achieve an impossible miracle.
He reminded himself thus. It had been only half a day.
“ – Maiya, rest assured.”
Kiritsugu said in a suppressed voice as he stared into Maiya’s eyes, which were gradually losing their light.
“Trust Saber with everything. Maiya, your task… is complete.”
Although she had lost her value, the machine that was Emiya Kiritsugu still needed to keep functioning without error. Kiritsugu promised her that.
So there was no need for her to keep holding on.
No need to keep suffering pain, no need to keep thinking; she could let everything go.
Hearing this incompatibly cold declaration, Hisau Maiya softly nodded her head.
No words of correction or refusal would ever be voiced again. What lay in Kiritsugu’s arms was already an ice-cold corpse.
Rider’s escape was evidently in Shinto’s direction.
Saber kept seeing Rider’s back appearing on top of apartment buildings and billboards; perhaps it was because the latter was jumping from one vantage point to another. Maybe he did not deliberately hide his movements due to his total disregard for Saber’s pursuing speed on foot.
If so, then he had excessively underestimated his enemy.
With completely opened throttle valves and Saber’s rising fighting spirit, the ferocious two-wheeled beast let out a courageous roar. The rumbling of the V-style four-cylinder 1400cc engine was like that of an iron-cast lion – the crazed bellowing of the giant carnivore violently shook the silence of the night.
The mechanical tool Emiya Kiritsugu had prepared wasn’t four-wheeled, but two-wheeled, perhaps to maximize Saber’s Riding skill. Compared to ‘controllable’ automobiles, which had the driver in a seat while constrained by safety belts, it was easier to control balance if the driver became a part of the vehicle itself. A Servant’s reinforced skills could only be maximized by ‘Riding’ a motorcycle, with the driver’s body exposed to the elements outside.
Of course, provided that it would be used by a Servant, an existence beyond ordinary humans, it wouldn’t matter if the motorcycle’s functions ignored the limits of normal drivers. It was originally a ridiculously impractical and hypothetical motorcycle design, but Kiritsugu actually managed to make this design a reality.
The basic body of the motorcycle was the Yamaha V-Max, the most powerful in the modern world. The characteristics of the original 1200cc 140 Horsepower engine, which could already work near its limits, were strengthened again. Moreover, the acceleration system had been completely reinforced, making it a monstrous abnormality with an output equal to 250 Horsepower. That was the silver stallion Saber was now riding.
Of course, the two-wheeled design could no longer be expected to function properly after various extreme reinforcements. The wheels had too much torque and could not generate enough friction with the road; they could only keep turning. The front wheel would jump up whenever the brakes were applied and could throw off the driver immediately.
Saber was steering this monstrous, physically uncontrollable steed perfectly and galloping at full speed. The secret to controlling this motorcycle so willfully lay in her battle skills, which she always took pride in, and the enormous power of her prana bursts. The prana burst throbbing out of Saber’s back urged the crazed vehicle to race along the road, using its entire horsepower on acceleration.
Rather than using skill, it was more like using even more power to overwhelm the vicious beast. For Saber, who was short in stature, she could only control this 300-odd-kilogram, super heavily reinforced motorcycle in a precarious driving position. Saber was practically lying flat on top of the engine, which was covered by a plastic turbopump, and was forced to bear the powerful vibrations of the large engine while she held onto the steering. The pose was like a child desperately clinging onto the back of a beast.
However, this trial wasn’t particularly painful for Saber. The more untameable this iron beast, the more excited and vigorous she felt.
The feeling she had when driving the Mercedes-Benz was nothing compared to this current feeling of breakneck gallop. Yes. This really felt like riding a horse.
Although she was driving a creation of modern technology, her spirit had already returned to memorable battlefields of the past – she had regained the spirit of chivalry from a time when she had held her lance and charged towards the enemy formation.
“If I keep up this speed, then maybe –”
The distance between her and Rider became larger. That was the difference between the paths of jumping on top of buildings and merely driving on roads.
However, there was no need to feel anxious. It was true that a Servant’s dexterity was far above that of the V-Max in terms of maximum acceleration and maximum speed. However, this iron beast could maintain its speed as long as there was fuel left. If she was expecting a drawn-out pursuit, then the motorcycle would be very advantageous.
The streets of Miyama-chou were huge obstacles for the party pursuing on land. Moreover, this V-max, which had been completely revamped to achieve the ultimate acceleration, was not any different from those cars modified to compete in high-speed short and straight courses; it had almost no dexterity. However, a Servant’s superior skills overturned even the physical rule of ‘vehicles can’t turn corners at high speed’. This rule had no meaning before her.
Saber had completely mastered the machine’s characteristics. She didn’t slow down when she turned, but instead opened the throttle valves and poured all the excess torque into the back wheel. The moment the front wheel drifted up due to the intense acceleration and threatened to topple the turning vehicle sideways, Saber used the explosive force of prana bursts to forcibly tilt the vehicle to the side and complete the turn. It was like she was using a mighty and overwhelming blow to twist the direction of the vehicle.
Rider seemed to have passed Mion River and entered Shinto, and she couldn’t see his figure anymore. However, Saber did not panic, looking out over the night sky to search for the other’s whereabouts.
Rider should have known that Saber, who was already chasing him, wouldn’t give up easily. He currently could not turn into spiritual form to hide – not with Irisviel in his arms. There were only two choices for Rider once he entered Shinto. One was to hide somewhere to avoid Saber’s pursuit, and the other was to drag out the distance between himself and Saber using . Based on Rider’s personality, Saber believed he would choose the latter option. Therefore, she didn’t need to be anxious about losing him for the moment. The flying Noble Phantasm, , would emit large amounts of prana, and therefore wouldn't pass undetected by Saber.
"The problem is that it’s disadvantageous to follow on ground –”
It would be better if she could predict his destination as soon as she spotted and get there before him. Rather than a competition of driving skills, this was in fact a test of the pursuer’s sensitivity and hunting skills.
Everyone on the road was staring at this roaming V-Max that kept overtaking vehicles before it with a stunning speed. Saber completely ignored their looks and focused all of her concentration on the nemesis above her. She could detect obstacles blocking her path through changes in air flow. She wouldn’t hit anything even if she closed her eyes.
“– Found him!”
Saber’s senses, like the keen sight of a wild beast, detected the prana disturbances in the sky. As if to avoid being noticed by ordinary humans, did not emit its thunderous noise, and its speed also appeared to have slowed. However, this feeling was undoubtedly caused by the prana disturbances created by Rider’s Noble Phantasm.
The location was towards the east. He may have been planning to escape from Fuyuki through Shinto.
Saber thought he was probably pushing his luck. If so, she could fully exploit the machine’s acceleration using the broad national highway.
After passing through the bridge in one go and arriving on the six-lane road, Saber bravely opened the throttle valves even wider and urged the V-max forwards.
Thanks to this reckless driver, the tachometer was already indicating over 6000 revolutions per minute – at that moment, the engine gave out a surprising sound.
The low rumbling sound of the engine, like that of angry waves, suddenly changed into a deafening and violent high-pitched noise. The sound was even madder, ferociously ripping apart the quietness of the night sky. The acceleration from just a moment ago was incomparable to what it was now.
The near-flight speed turned Saber and her motorcycle into a soaring bullet, and the surrounding night scene whooshed past like comets.
That was the moment when the true prana hiding within that iron beast woke. Being a design that utilized the most advanced modern technology, the structure of the V-style propelling mechanism, the four-cylinder design could immediately start to work as a two-cylinder design when the limit of engine rotation was reached and increase the amount of air sucked in to achieve an ultimate acceleration. This was the unique design of the V-max. Originally, a machine using two cylinders would never have such a structure, but this design had already completely surpassed the limits of a motorcycle.
As she endured the air friction that was starting to approach the force of water pressure, Saber hung on to the body of the motorcycle with all her strength - and yet couldn’t help but give a peerless smile.
This motorcycle had already surpassed the basic rule of a machine; that is, the limit of ‘machines are tools of men’. This was an alien creation born through advanced modern technology. That loneliness and sadness made her feel a similarity that surpassed sympathy.
Only an inhuman Servant could let this machine show its true worth. This motorcycle must have obtained life just for Saber to ride it that night.
“– Alright, then you can gallop until you burn yourself out!”
Saber roared loudly in the bellowing wind, and opened the throttle valves even wider.
The speedometer was already over 300 kilometers per hour, and it was still increasing slowly.
The brilliance of the flood lights no longer seemed like a light that belonged to the ground; it could almost illuminate the sky.
“Rider. Hey, she… couldn’t have caught up with us, right?”
Waver was the first to notice the situation and pointed under the driver’s seat with his hand. Rider gave a downward glance towards the direction his Master was pointing at and lifted his eyebrows, rather surprised.
“Huh? I was just wondering who it might be, and it turned out to be Saber. Then I can be saved of the trouble of finding her… Say, kid, are those motorcycles things that fast?”
“That’s… a motorcycle??”
Waver’s sight only registered it as a bright dot. That didn’t seem like the kind of motorcycle speed he could comprehend with his normal logic, even if he exhausted his entire brain.
“No, that’s impossible… however, it is definitely possible through Saber’s skills. If we think this way, then perhaps…”
“Hmph, she dares to challenge me, who possesses the mighty title of Rider.”
Rider gave off a ferocious smile as if satisfied.
“Haha, this is so interesting. Since she’s caught up with us, we don’t need to go into that weird forest anymore… If this is the case, then I’ll have one heck of a good fight with her.”
Rider grasped the divine bulls’ reins and suddenly slowed the war chariot’s speed.
“Hey, are we landing?!”
“I changed my mind. I have decided to battle that little girl with ordinary ‘wheels’. There’s still a long way to go to get through the forest in front of us, right? This will be the most ideal battleground!”
Waver originally wanted to complain about why he would want to give away his positional advantage in the sky and fall into Saber's trap. However, Waver remembered the power of he had seen the day before yesterday. Based on the characteristics of Saber’s Noble Phantasm, the further away they were from her, the more dangerous it would get. It would probably be safer to have a close-range melee battle that could limit the destructive power of the enemy’s Noble Phantasm.
“Alright, then that’s decided. You should be careful!”
“Hahaha! Kid, you’ve finally understood the exquisite taste of battle. Don’t worry! Nothing in heaven and on earth can hinder me in my path!”
Fortunately, there were no ordinary vehicles on the national highway at the moment. Although the meandering tarmac mountain road wasn’t very suitable for battle, they didn’t need to worry about hurting innocent bystanders.
finally landed 200 meters in front of Saber, who was coming nearer and nearer, and proudly proceeded on the road to prepare for the ensuing attack from its challenger.
From a building far away, three pairs of eyes watched Rider’s flying Noble Phantasm as it appeared in the airspace above Shinto city, as well as Saber as she changed her route to pursue him.
One person’s eyes expressed satisfaction. One pair of eyes was extremely fatigued. And one more person —could those eyes, filled with violent frenzy, still be said to belong to a human?
“I did not think that the real Rider would actually appear… This is truly a good show. Matou Kariya, you often bring luck to your companions on the battlefield.”
Kotomine Kirei said this with a smile, in a tone that held a slight insinuation of sarcasm. At the same time, he slapped Kariya’s shoulder to indicate admiration. Kariya's good right eye regarded him with suspicion.
“Father… do you think it is worth wasting two Command Spells on such a small matter?”
Kariya looked at his right hand, which was missing two Command Spells, with some dissatisfaction. Kirei said to him, smiling.
“There is no need to worry. Kariya, as long as you are willing to help me, you need not worry about wasting Command Spells—come, stretch out your hand.”
Kirei caught hold of Kariya’s veined and withered right hand, softly chanting a Holy Word while tracing the mark of the Command Spells with his own hand. At his small ministration, the darkened Command Spells immediately regained their light and returned to the previous shape of three marks.
“Did I not already tell you? Kariya. I accepted the duty of Supervisor, so I have the right to redistribute the Command Spells in safekeeping of the Church at will.
Kariya was unable to surmise the other’s true intentions; he regarded Kirei unabashedly, then glanced with a sigh at his own Servant.
The large silhouette standing behind him was Rider, King of Conquerors, Alexander. Whether it was the crimson mantle or the curly red hair, or the burly physique—everything was the same as the driver of the chariot that had sped out of Fuyuki City with Saber. The only difference was the pair of eerie, blood-red eyes radiating resentment… Undoubtedly, this was a characteristic unique to a Mad Enhanced Servant.
Wrapped in his thickset arms was the slender body of Irisviel, who had lost consciousness and was still in a coma. This ‘Rider’ was the true culprit who had kidnapped the ‘Guardian of the Holy Grail’ from the underground storage that Maiya protected, and had also lured Saber to give chase toward Shinto.
“… That is enough, Berserker.”
Kariya nodded. The large body of the King of Conquerors turned into a pitch-black fog as if burnt, then reverted to the armored figure filled with an ominous air. The dark energy that imitated Rider’s appearance twined about his hands and legs, obscuring small parts of the black armor.
Seeing Berserker returned to his original form, Kirei said as if groaning.
“This sort of transformation ability… It is truly wasted as a Noble Phantasm of Berserker’s level.
“This guy initially had the ability to transform into many other Heroic Spirits that had won merit in military exploits for other people. Because of the Mad Enhancement, it has been reduced to the ability of ‘imitation’.”
The black fog that twined about Berserker’s entire body was originally a Noble Phantasm that had the purpose of not only hiding his visage, but also of mimicking any person in order to deceive enemies’ ears and eyes. Ever since Berserker had been stripped of his rationality, this ability could not be brought into play. Kariya had forced this ability to manifest through the power of the Command Spells and made it possible to disguise Berserker as a fake Rider. But this ability could only be used once.
Berserker stared after the light of Saber’s motorcycle headlights moving gradually further away into the east, his gaze full of hatred. A bone-deep hatred caused his shoulders to shake ceaselessly, the armor chafing with a creaking sound, but he did not do anything else out of the ordinary. That was due to the binding of the ultimate command, the second Command Spell that Kariya had used—“capture Irisviel, and let Saber escape”.
In order to make Berserker, who had an unusual stubbornness when it came to Saber, follow his own instruction, it was necessary to restrict him with a forceful command.
For Berserker, it appeared that those shackles were extremely difficult to endure. Although his task was now complete, the black knight seemed like a mechanical part that had malfunctioned; his limbs continuously convulsed, stubbornly resisting this command.
Kariya felt a chill run down his back at Berserker’s willfulness. As Berserker fell into a state of uncontrollability, Kariya forcefully cut off the prana connection with him. Having lost the prana that sustained his form in this world, the Servant immediately reverted to spirit form and the body of Irisviel, losing its support, was violently thrown to the rooftop floor. On impact, the sleeping homunculus gave a soft groan of pain, but nevertheless did not open her eyes. Since being forcefully kidnapped from the Magic Circle in which she had rested, Irisviel’s awareness had become even thinner.
“Is this woman really the ‘Vessel of the Holy Grail’?”
“To be precise, it is this homunculus. If one or two more Servants are finished, then it will probably show its true form… I will prepare the ritual to receive the Grail as it descends. Until that time, let this woman also be temporarily under my protection.”
The robed man picked up the weak body of the woman; Kariya wordlessly communicated his question with his eyes.
Kirei noticed his gaze and replied as before, with a leisurely and self-satisfied smile.
“Don’t worry. I will give you the Grail as per our agreement. Because I have no need to pursue that wish-granting machine.”
“Before that, you seem to also have promised me another thing, Father.”
“Ah, that thing… Of course there is no problem. You just have to come to the church at midnight tonight. I will make the preparation for you to meet Tohsaka Tokiomi then.”
Exactly what did this priest intend? — It made Kariya’s heart very troubled to not be able to discern his true intention all this time.
Though Kotomine Kirei had once been a disciple under Tohsaka Tokiomi, for the sake of participating in the Heaven’s Feel he had split ways and become a Master—a hypocrite. But from the perspective of the Matou family that had also participated in the previous Heaven’s Feel, the collusion between the Tohsaka house and the Church had long been known. In this case, it was also obvious without needing to be said that this son of the Supervisor, who was also an Executor of the Church, had summoned Assassin as Tokiomi’s lackey.
At noon today, Kirei had actually come running all of a sudden to knock on the door of the Matou house, saying that he hoped to discuss the establishment an alliance. According to him, the responsibility for Supervisor Kotomine Risei’s death fell on Tohsaka; as the man’s son it was necessary for him to avenge his father, and so he wished to use the hand of the Matous to kill Tokiomi.
Although Kariya knew that this intention was suspicious, the conditions laid out by Kotomine Kirei were truly too alluring to him.
This man had not only planned to trap Tokiomi, but also investigated the location in which Einzbern, protector of the ‘Vessel of the Grail’, was hiding and secretly succeeded the right to safekeep the Command Spells as Supervisor; it could be said that he held the most important trump card to the latter half of the Heaven’s Feel.
To Kariya, holding the ticking time bomb known as Berserker, isolated and unable to trust even his own kin, Kirei’s assistance was greater than an army of thousands; his heart was immediately grounded. However, the condition was that he had to trust everything that this man Kotomine Kirei said.
Kotomine Kirei could ensure that the homunculus of the Einzbern family was in his hands. He even generously replenished his consumed Command Spells… But even thus, Kariya was unable to completely trust this priest whose smile surfaced as leisurely and self-satisfied.
The attitude of this man was truly too relaxed. Perhaps it was due to the confidence brought about by the secret he held, which was the most important deciding factor. But if he were only to look at it thus simply—that indicated that he had no sense of danger in the face of battle, or a sense of anxiety in needing to consider tactics.
If it were absolutely necessary to describe, that smile was closer to that of an excited child playing a game. In the name of betraying his benefactor to avenge his father, this man had formed an alliance with him. It was very obvious that this man found great joy in this sort of situation…
“It will be too suspicious if both of us appear at the same time. Kariya, why don’t you go back first?”
“… And you?”
“I still have some small things to do… Don’t forget, Kariya. Tonight at midnight, your wish shall be accomplished there.”
The priest seemed to be even more concerned over the whole affair than Kariya himself, reminding Kariya again in a voice filled with anticipation.
Kariya once again regarded his smile with a suspicious gaze, then slowly turned around and walked toward the rooftop staircase.
Without the slightest carelessness, Kotomine Kirei listened closely to his ally’s footsteps moving into the distance. After confirming that the sound of footsteps had entirely disappeared—he again moved to a corner of the rooftop and shifted his gaze to a pile of discarded material covered by many sheets of water-resistant material.
“… I have already sent him away. I don’t know who you are, but isn’t it about time you revealed yourself?”
This voice carried an authority that did not permit compromise. After a period of silence, a hair-raising and suppressed laughter rang out, seeping into the icy night air.
“Oh, already noticed, have you? Indeed, you are worthy of being an Executor who has experienced battle. Much more sensitive than that kid Kariya."
From the darkness appeared a shadow without definite form. At first glance Kirei had even thought that it was a large pile of worms, a collection that would send a chill through anyone—but the bright moonlight immediately chased away this misconception; it was an old man, thin and small of stature, that quietly walked out.
“Executor, you have no need to worry. I am not your enemy. I am the kin of that kid who is cooperating with you.”
Since he named himself thus—in Kirei’s heart surfaced a suitable person.
“Matou Zōken… is it not?”
“Indeed. You even know my name. It seems that Tohsaka instructs his disciples well.”
The old magus quirked a corner of the lips deeply hidden in wrinkles, revealing an inhuman smile.
The thickness of the darkness spread about the mountain road was already incomparable to that of evening; it seemed that it was already night.
In the darkness that was black as ink, you would not see your hand in front of your face. The brilliance of the headlights ripped apart this patch of darkness. Saber was still driving the steel beast as if her life depended on it.
She had traveled this path when escorting Einzbern out of the city. When they had left, it had been Irisviel driving; returning, it was Saber who tightly gripped the steering wheel of the Mercedes-Benz, sure of the road. Though it was only two times that they had come and gone, it was enough for Saber. Her memory was above average; be it the width of the road or the angle of inclination or even when to make a turn, she could clearly recall it all.
Saber saw that Rider’s ‘Gordius Wheel’ had only just descended from high in the air and landed somewhere far away. For some unknown reason, the King of Conquerors had not continued to flee, but had landed on the ground, seemingly intending to respond to Saber’s challenge of having a competition of riding skills on the ground.
His air of heroism seemed not to be miscible with his sneak tactic of kidnapping Irisviel, but perhaps this was exactly the conflict between Rider and his Master. The actions of Servants restricted by the contract often brought about many contradictory results; this was not surprising.
This was exactly the personal experience that Saber herself had gained through her conflict with Emiya Kiritsugu.
It made Saber very happy that Rider could make a decision based on his own agenda in this final battleground. Between these two fast-moving riders, Kiritsugu had no way of interfering even if he wanted to. To Saber, this was something she wanted very much.
The key of the problem lay somewhere else—the vibration of the handlebars she was tightly gripping sent a message of danger.
As a man-made machine, the V-MAX had already fully manifested all of its ability. What was sad was that what was driving ahead was a quick-moving Noble Phantasm that transcended normality. Although the V-MAX was already being towed along by its rider Saber’s internal prana, the strength of its material composition and structure was definitely limited.
The engine and acceleration system, which from the city to here had been continuously used to their greatest capacity, were already showing signs of breaking down. Saber’s excellent driving allowed her to be aware of this vehicle’s internal situation as well as she would have known an extension of her own physical body. It was already possible to clearly hear the dejected cry of almost having reached its limit.
“It’ll be terrible if this goes on…”
There would be nothing more to say if she were to decelerate in consideration of the vehicle’s burden, but if it were necessary to force the motorcycle to continue at its high speed, this vehicle would fall apart within a few minutes. If no measures were taken to strengthen the innate capability of the vehicle…
Saber herself had difficulty judging the feasibility of the plan that had momentarily flashed into her mind, but there was no way to hesitate further. Saber made up her mind and entrusted everything to all the possibilities that had been given to her as a Servant.
The full-body platinum armor that she wore while fighting— she now intended not to put the armor on her own body, but to fuse it with the body of the V-MAX through intense psychokinesis. The concept was similar to the armor that protected beloved horses on the battlefield. With the sense of unity of riding as the mainstay, this time she must definitely turn this steel beast that could not speak into her own limbs…
Her prana continuously being released, the various important parts of the V-MAX that could ensure maximum speed of movement were completely covered and protected; the flexible and strong armor increased the capability of the motorcycle.
“—This is great!”
Though this usage was unexpected, Saber’s great skill made this difficult task possible. The entire structure of the V-MAX was wrapped in brand-new silver armor, beautiful and majestic to behold. This hard structure of the vehicle was in no way inferior to that monstrous, extraordinarily strong horsepower; this time, the mechanical lion had finally become a real magical beast. The exhaust pipe thundered.
Saber released the Invisible Air like an arrow directly in front of her, completely covering the body of the vehicle. Using the compression of the pneumatic umbrella to decrease air resistance to zero, the V-MAX was finally released from air resistance.
The needle of the speedometer was already damaged and could not be used. Saber’s prana had caused the rushing vehicle to transcend the laws of physics; already the speed was more than 400 kilometers per hour. The pressure released by the magecraft pressed the rear wheel firmly against the cement; even when making turns, Saber did not release the throttle and turned the body of the vehicle round by force.
Like this, it might even be possible— it made Saber extremely excited to have captured this thread of victory through so much effort.
The distance from the ‘Gordius Wheel’ in front gradually shortened. Originally it had looked like only a point of light, but now it was already possible to clearly see the entire likeness of the thundering vehicle that was releasing lightning bolts and also turning at high speeds.
On the other side, Waver, who had been sitting in the charioteer’s seat since having touched down, was constantly watching the rear. Seeing the brilliance from the headlights of the motorcycle that was suddenly approaching, he could not help but hold his breath; he tugged at Rider’s cape.
“Rider, at this rate they will catch up to us! Eh, idiot, look out behind!”
Hearing Waver’s frantic voice, Rider snorted. As a Heroic Spirit who had appeared in this world and gained the throne of Rider, even without turning back he could clearly feel the presence of Saber gradually closing in.
“This fellow, Saber. On the account that she can catch up just using that gizmo, I cannot but praise her. On the other hand…”
Rider roared, the corner of his lips twisting, showing the smile that had always seemed somewhat sinister.
“Sorry, but this is a war chariot. Now I can no longer play nicely in this game of competing speeds with you!”
Then Rider slid the enormous structure of the car to the side, arriving at the side of the road.
On the two sides of ‘Gordius Wheel’ whose dimensions were greater than an ordinary truck were fixed two large, fiercely curved sickles. On the two sides of the national highway on which Rider was now speeding were dense forests that almost covered the path. If the wheels of the chariot were moved to the very edge of the paved road, then the blade of the sickle would definitely pass into the lush green forest—
“So, Saber, pursue me from behind!”
The electrified wheels of the chariot crushed the forest as easily as if it were cutting through paper; Rider had begun a brutal deforestation.
Though the tree trunks were all very thick, for the sharp sickles flying at 400 kilometers an hour, it was as easy as sawing wood. The tree trunks that had been instantaneously broken all snapped back and were swept into the air. The sight was like shredding wood shavings, only it was a nightmare a few hundred times more majestic.
Seeing this tremendous scene of destruction, Saber could not help but hold her breath.
The trees that had been swept up into the air descended like rain upon their target, which was obviously the head of Saber who was catching up from behind. To say nothing of being directly hit—at this speed, even if the steering wheel should be gently brushed across, it would be a matter of life and death.
Deceleration—was impossible. This was not a test that could be avoided just by retreating. The only path of survival was to rush on forward.
Saber made up her mind; after making thorough mental preparation, she rushed into the rain of continuously falling trees without any timidity whatsoever.
These things fell toward the ground like an avalanche. The V-MAX advanced forward in a twisting manner like a snake, passing through narrow spaces. Saber thought that braking to make the motorcycle stop was an act of stupidity, so not only did she not decelerate, she also made use of the momentum from acceleration to make the front wheel leave the ground, relying only on the rear wheel to maintain balance and performing the consummate stunt of controlling the driving of a motorcycle using magecraft alone. That beautiful one-wheeled dance incited Waver to stare, completely forgetting his fear; on Rider’s face also appeared a very satisfied smile.
“Hahahahaha! Fabulous! Indeed the King of Knights of consummate dignity! Only you are worthy to be named flower of the battlefield!”
Laughing, Rider continued to deftly slide the chariot from side to side, closing in on the next object to be cut down.
“Here I come again—next up after the trees is a rain of stones!”
The next prey of the sickles was surprisingly the solid asphalt and concrete that covered the surface of the road. Rock had a density and hardness much greater than tree trunks. But the sickles nevertheless mercilessly crushed them to rubble, sending them flying in all directions like droplets, blocking Saber’s way.
A fatal baptism of rocks much more lethal than tree trunks. But— Saber stared ahead, moving forward bravely, the corners of her mouth suddenly showing an undefeatable smile.
“King of Conquerors, you underestimate me!”
Rocks were more dangerous than tree trunks only when first assuming that they must ‘hit’. If she could dodge it all, then it would make no difference even if it were raining rockets or bullets. Saber entrusted the last hope of victory to the V-MAX which she completely trusted, using valiant and yet beautifully skilled riding ability to pass through the gaps between the stone and concrete.
On the other side, sweeping the surface of the road with its large sickles, Rider’s war chariot had already lost its ability to accelerate. The concrete was much more difficult to cut through than tree trunks and was an obstructing force to the divine bulls, one that could not be overlooked.
Saber’s sixth sense predicted the arrival of a divine opportunity for victory. From then on, the priority was to pass through the next few successive tests safe and unharmed; there would definitely be a chance to rise again from death— A large concrete slab that had broken off the surface of the road obstructed the path of the V-MAX. The large flat stone slab, measuring more than two meters in both length and breadth, was just like a stone screen.
Facing the blocked path right ahead of her, Saber’s gaze was unwavering; driving the V-MAX forward, she raised Invisible Air over the edge.
Along with her roar, the clump of air pressure—which had the momentum to sweep away an army of thousands and was supported by the release of prana – impacted heavily on the top of the stone slab; the slab, which looked as if it must weigh at least several tons, was easily flung into the air. It completely defied the laws of physics that the slender wrist of a young girl could carry out such a grand feat; this was the godly skill transcending normalcy that only a Servant could possess.
Spinning rapidly in midair, the stone slab fell forward along the fatal parabola, aligned exactly with the top of the war chariot in front. Hearing Waver’s terrible scream, Rider turned his head. Raising his sword, he stared wide-eyed at the rock over his head.
As if saying ‘In a competition of strength I will definitely not lose to you’, Rider boldly brandished the bronze sword level with the stone slab. The slab’s trajectory was once again changed, spinning even more wildly in midair. At last it fell down like a boomerang, embedding itself deeply in the surface of the road behind the chariot.
Seeing this scene, Saber’s entire body was electrified by a revelation.
The concrete slab embedded into the asphalt road surface—the smooth side facing the sky, it was embedded diagonally into the ground at an angle of slightly more than thirty degrees. It was like a key that foretold the presence of victory.
“Now is a good time—“
Under the thumb of her right hand, which was tightly gripping the steering wheel, was a button that she had always been acutely conscious of. Saber drove the V-MAX with extraordinary riding skill; though she did not know that button’s ‘function’, she did know that button’s ‘effect’. That was the deepest secret hidden within this horse of steel, and also the most powerful trump card.
Without the slightest hesitation, Saber pressed down on the red button; the two-wheeled beast let out a provoked roar.
Within the interior of the rapidly rotating engine, inside the valve that had switched to atomization mode and filled with oxide fuel, the nitrogenous oxide expanded under the high temperature of 300 degrees Celsius and reached the boundaries of its limit. The V-MAX, suddenly increasing acceleration twofold, sped forward; this could only be called rapid acceleration. Saber used a great deal of strength to control the body of the vehicle; her target was a slope that had just appeared before her eyes.
The front wheel had already moved onto the concrete slab which was giving out creaking sounds resembling screams. Then the body of the vehicle was propelled upward; the force of the madly spinning rear wheel suspended it in the air. Even the restriction of gravity had been broken, as it flew high into the air—
To Rider, this was definitely a surprise attack that he had not anticipated. Complacently flying his Noble Phantasm in midair, he had not at all expected that the enemy would appear right above his head.
Taking advantage of the lapse as the chariot slowed, due to a great acceleration from the V-MAX’s turbocharger, as well as having made a springboard of the slope that had come about only through coincidence, Saber found Rider’s weak spot at last.
And this position above the enemy’s head was one of absolute advantage in crossing blades. This was indeed the grace of the goddess of victory given to the sword-wielding Heroic Spirit; this time was a chance of certain victory.
Invisible Air, which had been lifted as if she gambled everything with this one blow — slowed slightly with hesitation at that time.
Rider raised his own blade to block. The blades that clashed together—considering only power, Saber should have had a greater chance of victory due to the advantage of her position; however, the outcome was an even match. Invisible Air could not break past Rider’s defenses, and had at last been deflected away.
There was no opportunity for the swords to clash again, not between Gordius Wheel and the V-MAX which had fallen. Saber let off the speed that had been increased by the instantaneous prana release, sustaining the balance of the vehicle in midair only with great difficulty; as the rear wheel touched the ground, all the force of impact was absorbed by the rubber tire and suspension.
Thus was an excellent opportunity to seize victory lost in vain, but Saber’s unease was for another reason.
“Einzbern is not here?!”
There was no mistake. In the instant that the V-MAX had leaped, she had seen that in the charioteer’s seat of Gordius Wheel, aside from the driver Rider there was only his Master.
In that case, then where had Irisviel, who had been kidnapped from the underground storage, gone?
Saber braked with all her strength, restraining the vehicle that weighed more than 300 kilograms. The tires skidded on the surface of the ground, stopping the violent revolutions of the two wheels. All this time, she had pursued Rider without the slightest hesitation, but now the clouds of doubt surfaced in her chest.
Exactly where was Rider’s destination as he moved?
From the city street he had moved east to pass through the national highway… His final destination was the Einzbern forest.
Rider had already walked this path once, holding a bottle of wine. After kidnapping Irisviel, why would he specifically choose an escape route that led to the enemy’s territory?
Feeling a chill that made her restless, Saber gritted her teeth.
What if this was not an escape?
And how would the Master of Rider have known about the underground cellar at Miyama—yes, it was basically impossible for him to have known. Rider’s camp had not in fact known that the Einzberns had changed their location. He had definitely thought that Saber and the rest had still been in that forested citadel, and so had, in the middle of the night, driven his chariot in midair in a blind rush there.
In that case, then who was it that had attacked Maiya and kidnapped Irisviel in the underground storage?
The truth was still unclear, but now an intense premonition rushed forth into Saber’s heart that she had been tricked. That feeling made her restless. While Saber had been pursuit Rider, the culprit that had set Rider up might be fleeing with Irisviel even now.
She could not stay here any longer. She needed to return to Shinto as quickly as possible to search for Irisviel.
And yet—though this judgment was entirely accurate, Saber did not move. There was a tense aura about her body, like the rising wind that heralds a coming storm; no useless action was allowed. She gazed upon the danger before her eyes, taking her stance and preparing to go all out at any time.
About a hundred meters away, Rider’s chariot also slowed to a stop. And it had reversed the direction that it was facing, too. All this time, it had moved straight forward to let Saber trail in its dust, but now it actually turned around; the eyes of the two divine bulls, as well as their master the King of Conquerors, were filled with a feeling of the joy of battle; he looked upon Saber with a captivating gaze.
There was no need to guess. Rider’s intentions were very obvious—he intended to fight.
From his eyes could not be seen the slightest shadow of deception or scheming; he had truly been set up. The fires of rage burned in the eyes of the King of Conquerors as if demonstrating his might and saying ‘No matter how you may stab me, I will return it in equal measure’.
If Rider had moved east because he had the intention to challenge Saber, then his situation was different from that of Saber who had been led into a trap; he was in no way opposed to the current situation.
Precisely because of this, if she were to ignore the problem of Rider and return to Fuyuki City, this would mean that she would be victim to Rider’s attack from behind while she was completely unprepared.
She could only make an immediate decision now—it was a moment with no room to choose, in which she must quickly make her choice.
The small hands of hers that gripped the hilt of her sword suddenly gave out a creaking sound.
Waver huddled on the charioteer’s seat of the Gordius Wheel; he could feel that the fighting spirit of Rider, who stood beside him, had already reached its peak.
The target of the King of Conquerors was definitely ahead of him by a hundred or so meters: Saber, riding on the large motorcycle, staring in this direction with a serious expression.
She had chased Rider fervently from Shinto till here; why would she suddenly stop now? But Rider, upon seeing that his pursuer had stopped, did not take the opportunity to flee and widen the distance, but instead immediately turned the chariot around and pull it to a halt, as if intending to have a face-to-face confrontation. It stood to reason that this was a matter of course. Because to have a showdown with Saber had been Rider’s intention from the start. If the other had given up the pursuit, then it would be necessary for this side to take the initiative.
But—although Waver was not yet very mature, he still bore the burden of being a Master; feeling restless and uneasy, he could not help but bite his lip.
This distance, and this position, was all terrible.
Saber’s Noble Phantasm, which had taken the life of Caster at Mion River—ever since witnessing the ‘Sword of Promised Victory’, the war situation in front of him was clear at a glance. This was a straight road that was not obstructed by anything. There was no worry that unrelated people could be affected. Both sides were still as they stared at each other—without a doubt, the current situation was a uniquely advantageous condition for Saber’s Noble Phantasm.
Small things of this magnitude would not have gone unnoticed by war veteran Rider. He had also witnessed the might of Saber’s Noble Phantasm at Mion River. Although his judgment was more often based on emotion than reason, in matters of war strategy, this Servant would definitely not judge wrongly.
If, at this moment, the mechanical energy of the Gordius Wheel had been manifested at the largest capacity possible, perhaps it would have even been possible to evade for a time. But for some unknown reason, Rider just had to abandon the advantage he had in leg power and choose instead to confront Saber directly.
“Nn. Even if it is to you, my Master, I must first make this clear.”
As if seeing through Waver’s doubt, Rider surfaced an irrepressible smile; nevertheless, his gaze never shifted from Saber as he said to the youth beside him.
“From now on, I will put aside my thoughts of winning the Grail; I intend to raise the stakes. If you wish to use a Command Spell to stop me, then perhaps now is the time?”
Because he knew the haughty personality of this Servant, he could understand his intention.
A rational Master would definitely use the power of the Command Spell to stop him; the Servant himself knew this well, too, but he wished to act recklessly anyway. Was this the case?
“You… are you really going to initiate the attack? From this angle? Rush straight over?”
“That sword of light that we saw at the riverside. When Saber has taken her stance and is preparing to use it, we shall see if my Gordius Wheel can use the time lapse to cross this distance. This is what we are contesting.”
Waver’s expression changed drastically; he began to recalculate the distance between both sides.
It would be just in time; this was so alarmingly dangerous.
Comparing the time he remembered it would take Saber to activate her Noble Phantasm and the acceleration power of Rider’s Noble Phantasm... No matter what angle he looked at it, it was very difficult to guess at the final result. The distance across which the two confronted each other was really very opportune.
“… How sure are you of victory? Rider?”
The King of Conquerors replied with a dignified air, in a tone that was nevertheless very relaxed. To one who managed military affairs, this statistic was not in fact very optimistic.
If the chance of victory was half, then the chance of failure was also half. It was as absurd as flipping a coin to decide between life and death. This sort of thing was definitely not worth being called a ‘strategy’. If one absolutely had to name it something, then it could only be called ‘the stratagem of gambling with one’s life’. Only under conditions in which there was no other way out would one adopt such foolish action.
“Why do you want to… act irresponsibly like this?”
“Precisely because it is acting irresponsibly, therefore.”
The Servant said softly, showing a somewhat sinister smile; his eyes were filled with the belief in victory— while gazing fixedly upon an uncertain future of which he was only fifty percent assured.
“If a challenge is made under conditions like this when both sides are evenly matched, then the side that loses will definitely be left with no excuses or face. This is the true ‘ultimate defeat’. I don’t actually think that that the sword of that girl who’s always trying to show off her cleverness can use this opportunity to bring me down. If I can completely defeat her in this way, then perhaps this time she will feel fear at her own incompetence, and from then on become my subordinate and serve me.”
Waver furrowed his brow; he could only sigh. There were truly no words that could be said.
In the end, it was only thus. Compared to the war centered around the Holy Grail, they placed even greater importance on the open and aboveboard competition between themselves as Heroic Spirits.
“…You... want to win against Saber so much that you are willing to do something like this?“
“Mn, indeed, I would like that very much.”
Rider nodded his head without the slightest hesitation.
“On the battlefield, she is certainly a star on earth. Rather than letting her make those jokes about whether or not she is actually an ideal king, it is better that she emit true light as a subordinate under me.”
This despot had defeated countless nobility and war generals; ignoring their power and wealth, he had obtained their ‘souls’.
It was for this reason that people called him the King of Conquerors.
He did not eliminate the enemy, nor belittle them; he subdued a standing opponent—this was what he thought was the true form of victory.
What right had one who relied only on the Grail to connect and establish a contract to be concerned with whether this was right or wrong?
“… Forget it, Rider. If you can win by your methods, then that’s okay too.”
Waver had given up; exhaling frustratedly, he threw out such a sentence.
This was not a case of sending the helve after the hatchet. To Rider, whose prana had been replenished through a day of rest, this was an excellent opportunity to make a challenge; it was an opportunity that would definitely not come again. No one could guarantee that the next time he confronted Saber, his physical condition would be better than this.
In that case, instead of believing in a statistical chance of victory, it was better to place his bet on Rider’s fighting spirit.
Compared to attempting to convince the King of Conquerors through logical reasoning, it was better to let him do things on his own grounds—it was precisely that transcendent personality that was afraid of neither heaven nor earth that perhaps formed a chance of victory one could believe in.
Waver’s expression was serious, as if having said these many reasons in order to convince himself. Rider maintained a confident smile.
“Hehe, kid, you seem to be starting to understand this idea of ‘supremacy’.”
His confidence was not hollow. Though he had said that it was a large gamble, Rider himself had full confidence in his victory.
“Light is at the other end of the world—conquer! Via Expugnatio: Distant Trampling Domination!”
The true name of that which had finally been released, the chariot drawn by divine bulls from which lightning suddenly burst forth. The majestic braying of the divine bulls under whose feet Berserker had been trampled in the first battle could never compare to this.
“—Let the wind come!”
Seeing her opponent rush towards her, Saber also hurriedly pulled out her sword under the protection of the air pressure.
Opening the vortex of the hurricane, a golden light shone forth as if to show the kingship of the knight; prana was continuously roiling.
Accompanying Rider’s roar, the bulls stamped hard once on the asphalt ground; their cloven hooves rushed forward like raging billows. Waver, though overwhelmed by their majesty, nevertheless made an utmost effort to open his eyes wide, so as not to pass out again like the last time. At the fore was a very strong anti-city Noble Phantasm about to be released; in order to gain the initiative, Rider rushed as if his life depended on it, definitely unwilling to give up an opportunity to defeat Saber.
The King of Conquerors’ direct attack sent a shiver down Saber’s spine. By the rushing of the divine bulls, the hundred-meter distance had instantaneously been decreased to zero. In the blink of an eye, the might of Gordius Wheel manifested before her eyes.
If the hilt of her precious sword had still been in her hand, then she would definitely have been certain of victory; facing the golden radiance that Rider raised, there was only one thing that she could shout out, one true name.
In the moment that the rushing incarnation of thunder was about to trample upon Saber’s small frame—
Golden lightning, as if radiating countless comets, made the night as bright as day.
Waver’s gaze was drawn by this, dazzled by this, and he could not help but turn around—within the intense attack, he rationalized extremely calmly and realized one thing.
He had personally witnessed the light of Saber’s Noble Phantasm, and that meant… the result was that, before the Gordius Wheel had reached its final step, the King of Knights had taken the first step to initiate her attack.
But even thus, the touch of the thickset arm that extended all the way to his shoulder nevertheless did not disappear.
To be aware of one’s own defeat at the same time indicated the truth that one was still alive and clearheadedly conscious.
Waver gingerly opened his eyes and saw the appalling condition of the battlefield.
Due to Excalibur's blow, the surface of the road had instantly been burned away; even the forest a little way away had been instantly blown to waste. The road was scarred, carved in the likeness of a single straight line. The molten asphalt gave off a revolting stench; it was extremely pungent. Waver felt as if his body was floating through the universe… no, carried by a strong man on his shoulders. Who was it that carried his young Master like a small luggage bag— it was not necessary to ask to know.
“Ah… we’ve failed.”
Rider said softly, as if remorseful from the heart. But considering the current situation, it did seem like too much of an understatement.
It appeared that Rider was not hurt, either. But the chariot in which he rode, as well as the two divine bulls, had all vanished without a trace. The Noble Phantasm ‘Gordius Wheel’ had borne the might of the ‘Sword of Promised Victory’ and so had, like Caster’s sea monster, vanished and left no trace, not even a speck of dust.
In the moment at which he had bordered the line of death, Rider, who had understood his failure, had quickly plucked Waver from the charioteer’s seat and narrowly escaped from under the attack of the anti-city Noble Phantasm. It could really be said that the two had cheated death. But the price was high enough. The flying chariot, which Rider had used as his main weapon all this time, had at the last minute gone up in smoke.
But this was not yet over—using his will to fight, Waver immediately chased away his frustration at failure. Even if the ‘Gordius Wheel’ had been taken away, the King of Conquerors still had one last real trump card.
“Rider! Use ‘Ionian Hetairoi’—“
Toward Waver who spoke thus, Rider lightly but very firmly shook his head. The King of Conquerors seemed to not yet intend to dismiss his foresight regarding the latter half of the war, which he had come up with while resting. If Saber was his opponent, it was best to use the chariot. As for the summoning of the Hetairoi, which could only be activated once, it was necessary to save it for the showdown with Archer later.
But no matter how physically strong and unwilling to admit defeat Rider was, to engage in a battle of blades without mechanical force was clearly a definitively advantageous position for Saber. Though the build of the two were vastly different, this was a battle between Servants that transcended normalcy. Though Saber looked weak, she had a monstrous fighting ability; from the battles so far, Waver had long since become aware of this.
Very obviously, Rider understood her strength well. But the King of Conquerors still did not look at all afraid; he confronted Saber open and aboveboard by raising his sword, without the slightest indication of retreat.
In this closely matched staring competition, it was Saber who lost first.
She slid the sword wrapped in windstorms back into its sheath, then released the throttle and slid the rear wheel around to turn the vehicle, speeding away with her back to Rider.
Saber did not show off her weakness to Rider at all; at the same time she was moving the rear wheel, she also quickly accelerated, leaving behind only a tremendous roar of exhaust and moving quickly in the direction of Fuyuki City in one breath.
To Waver and Rider, this was certainly unexpected; now Saber needed to quickly search for Irisviel and had no time for a showdown with Rider. She needed to find the culprit who had led her to clash with Rider, then snatch Irisviel back from that person; for this goal, even if she had to throw aside the showdown with Rider, she needed to retreat as soon as possible.
In the blink of an eye she had disappeared from sight, leaving only the roar of a motorcycle that was moving away. Waver and Rider stood there stupefied, listening to the sound of the motorcycle. Rider, who had been listening intensely to the sound of the exhaust, nodded, showing a knowing expression.
“A motorcycle… Nn, it is truly a good thing.”
“—You—after being defeated, this is really the first thing you have to say?”
In the aftermath of battle, all the strength had drained out of Waver’s body; angrily questioning Rider, he suddenly became aware of an important problem and became dismayed.
“Hey, Rider—how are we ever going to get back?”
“Ah, that… We shall have to walk.”
In the darkness, Waver gazed upon Shinto which shone with light in the distance, and sighed heavily.
Matō Zōken –
The man before him was the mastermind behind the Matō family, a presence known but never seen. Kotomine Kirei’s senses couldn’t help but go on the alert.
There was a small, short figure that had deliberately chosen to stand in a dark corner of the night street, a place that bright lights could not illuminate. Contrary to his shriveled and aged appearance, this man was an extremely dangerous entity; Tokiomi had told Kirei this time after time. Although he had publicly declared that he was retired and no longer cared for the businesses of the outside world, he was an abnormality that covertly used the secret arts of magecraft to prolong his life and rule over the Matō house for generations. In a way, he was far more dangerous than the actual Master of the family, Kariya. This old man was someone who required special attention.
“Kotomine Kirei. I heard that you’re the son of that stubborn and honest Risei. Is that so?”
“That is true.”
Kirei nodded to show agreement when he heard the question asked by this hoarse voice.
“Hmph – what a surprise. It is often said that heroes come from the most unexpected places. There must be some truth to it. I didn’t think that man could sire a son as wily and deceitful as you.”
“What do you want, Matō Zōken?”
Kirei ignored the old magus’s provocation and demanded an answer.
“You should be on Kariya’s side, so why did you have to hide here and eavesdrop on us?”
“What are you talking about? I’m just a parent worried about his child. I wanted to see with my own eyes what kind of helper that child Kariya got for himself.”
He deliberately pretended to smile like a doting grandfather, but that skeletal, shriveled countenance was markedly different from that of normal humans. It was obvious that his face, with such a structure, would never have such a smile.
“I heard everything you said to Kariya to appease him. You seem to want to get rid of the son of the Tōsaka house.”
“That is true. That man killed my father –”
“Be quiet. Don’t repeat such a lie twice.”
Those deep-set eyes, buried in wrinkles, glistened with a keen light and stared at Kirei.
“Kotomine Kirei, you’ve gone too far with your petty trickery. You even dared to act behind Tōsaka’s back; you’ve overstepped your boundaries. You don’t need Kariya’s hand to kill Tokiomi at all, not since the moment you decided to get rid of him. You must have prepared for every eventuality – I’m not so old that I’m turning senile. You might be able to trick Kariya, but don’t you dare think you can trick me too.”
Kirei quietly improved his evaluation of this old magus in his mind, but he maintained his mask of calm.
“Your goal isn’t the son of the Tōsaka house, but Kariya himself. Isn’t it?”
“… If you doubt me so, then why didn’t you stop Kariya?”
A bone-chilling creaking sound, like the muted chirping of a hoard of insects, resonated. Kirei only understood it to be the sound of this old man’s suppressed laughter after a few moments.
“Hmm, how should I say this… you can say it is simply out of my curiosity. I want to see what methods you would use to ‘destroy’ Kariya. I am very interested in this.”
“… Zōken, can you really watch Kariya, who is fighting for the Matō house, have his chances of victory destroyed little by little?”
“Chances of victory? Kariya? Hmph, such things never existed. If that piece of trash can obtain the Holy Grail, then the past three bouts of slaughter would all seem like a comedy show.”
“I don’t quite understand. Isn’t the Matō house also one of the Three Noble Families of the Beginning, one that craves the Holy Grail?”
Hearing Kirei’s question, Zōken gave a cold snort.
“I think the Tōsaka son and those of the Einsbern house are all idiots. If they remember the details from the last battle of the previous war, then they should understand that there is something odd with this fourth Heaven’s Feel, and be alert towards it.
"I saw through the battle for this round from the start. Truth be told, just by looking at that despicable Caster at the start of the War, we should have been able to tell that the summoning didn’t call forth a Heroic Spirit, but an evil spirit far removed from heroes. Without a doubt, something has begun to err within the Heaven’s Feel system. We need to solve this problem first.”
This odd man, who had overcome ordinary humanity, had likely been present in every single Heaven’s Feel. This man Matō Zōken had grasped something that even the previous Supervisor, Kotomine Risei, had not known about.
“Then why did you let Kariya and Berserker participate? If you only wanted to watch from the sidelines, then why did you even prepare a Servant?”
“That’s not the reason. Although there were some dubious elements, it is still a grand ceremony held every 60 years, after all. It wouldn’t have been interesting to watch the children fumble around. Therefore, I found a unique method for me to enjoy the event.”
Zōken said with a tone of ridicule. His mouth tilted even more, and there were smiles all over his face.
“Of course, if that failure really grabbed the Grail, then there’s no better outcome. Despite what I say, I really am impatient.
"Just seeing how Kariya, who betrayed me, suffers in pain day by day – I honestly can’t get enough of it. I desire the Matō house’s victory, but I’m also tempted by the thought of observing Kariya’s defeated and helpless end. How conflicted I am!”
Zōken’s hoarse laughter was truly piercing to Kirei’s ears. How much better would it have been had they met on the battlefield and fought for their lives not with words, but with swords? He could not help thinking that even though he knew the other was a very dangerous old magus. It seemed that Kirei already found the existence of Matō Zōken to be unbearable.
Faced with the inquisition from Kirei, who was trying his best to hide the true feelings in his heart, Zōken lifted his eyebrows as if deliberately mocking the other man.
“Ahhh, how surprising. I thought you would've been able to understand my joy.”
“– What did you say?”
“I may look old, Kotomine Kirei, but my nose is still very sensitive. You have the same smell as I do. You’re like a maggot that crawled here, attracted by the piece of rotting meat that Kariya is.”
Kirei remained quiet, but slowly drew out his Black Keys from within his frock.
He now knew he could no longer persuade this old magus with reason, but they must fight to the death. Zōken had stepped into his range. He had entered the 'absolute territory' at the risk of his life. If he wanted to ensure his vitals remain safe, he could only use a killing strike, attacking the enemy head-on without any warning. If Zōken had thought of evading that strike at his vitals – an inevitably certain kill – Kirei would have no other choice but to confront him directly. Right now, Matō Zōken had already crossed this line - not with his feet, but with his words.
However, Zōken still faced the cold killing intent emanating from Kirei with a casual smile.
“…Oh? Did I overestimate you? I thought I’d finally managed to find a kindred spirit. It seems you still feel ashamed of your own heresy – hahaha, you’re still too inexperienced. Do you feel ashamed of these matters, such as a man would feel shame in indulging in self-pleasure?”
There were no shows of strength, nor were there any warnings. Kirei simultaneously threw out two Black Keys at his left and his right in the blink of an eye, so fast that his preparatory movements couldn’t even be seen. It was as if he was going to pierce this old man’s body like a piece of barbeque meat.
However, faced with those blades, Zōken remained completely unmoved. He was extremely nonchalant, and it was no empty boast. The silhouette of the old magus melted like mud moments before the two blades were about to pierce him through, and he once again became a shapeless shadow hiding in the corner.
Kirei’s entire body tensed up. A voice full of happy mockery sounded from somewhere.
“Ahh, scary, scary. You are young, but still a hound of the Church. It’ll definitely endanger my life if I mock you.”
Kirei took up another Black Key and stared at the throbbing shadow in the darkness.
Was it an illusion a moment ago, when he saw that he was just about to pierce Matō Zōken’s flesh? Or was it that Matō Zōken’s physical body didn’t even exist here? Any kind of extraordinary thing was possible when it came to this wily and devious old magus. If such trivial matters surprised Kirei, then he would not be suited to the role of Executor.
“Honestly. Until next time, young man. You must nurture your personality so that you can be on equal footing with me the next time we meet. Hahahaha…”
Zōken’s scent melted into the darkness and disappeared, leaving only a terrifying shrieking laughter. All that was left was the figure of Kirei, who stood holding his blade like a scarecrow.
Irritated, Kirei threw the Black Key, which had lost its target, on the roof.
He hadn't imagined that this old man was a monster with no usable potential whatsoever. There was no reason to keep him alive.
He was certain that Matō Zōken was a nemesis that he must eliminate sooner or later.
To escape the gradually darkening night, Matō Byakuya continued to drown himself in alcohol.
Nothing had happened last night, and it passed peacefully. But now he was resentful of the fact. Mighty waves rushed up after calm sea weather. Nothing dangerous had happened last night and it went past peacefully, which meant that dangerous happenings would be afoot tonight.
Byakuya clearly understood the truth behind the alien events that had been threatening the Fuyuki night recently. He was the eldest son and inheritor of the prestigious Matō house, the final remnants of a mighty bloodline that had begun a pilgrimage to seek the traces of the Holy Grail in the distant past. In truth, he should have been a part of this cruel and extraordinary war as one of its participants.
However, he had turned his back on his duty and drowned himself in alcohol day after day. Byakuya felt no shame towards his own behavior. On the contrary, he actually thought his was the correct and logical attitude in comparison to his little brother Kariya. Byakuya could say that with his chest thrust out in pride.
Byakuya could never understand why Kariya, who had been disowned by the Matō house a long time ago, had returned to his homeland and gone so far as to participate in the Heaven’s Feel. He didn’t even want to understand it. He couldn’t thank his little brother enough for having changed his mind. Had he not returned, the one reduced to such a state and forced to participate in the Heaven’s Feel would have been not Kariya, but Byakuya himself.
Whenever he remembered that figure, black like a vengeful spirit, that Kariya had summoned using the Summoning Circle and signed a contract with – Byakuya could only use alcohol to numb himself, to get as far away from the terror he felt then as possible.
How could anyone stay sane when he knew there were 6 other such things slaughtering each other in the night while devouring human flesh and blood? The current Fuyuki city was an authentic demonic realm. Alcohol was the only thing he could rely on to keep on living in this place while maintaining a calm mentality.
His only child Shinji was sent overseas in the name of studying. Byakuya himself was strongly against staying in the present Fuyuki. However, he had no legitimate reason to leave the Matō mansion. Zōken had given him the task of acclimating the little girl adopted from the Tōsaka house to the underground worm storage and training her to one day be worthy of becoming the next head of the Matō house.
Yes. Byakuya had already completed his task to near perfection as the current head of the Matō house. Zōken’s original plan had been to sit aside and observe this Heaven’s Feel anyways. After all, Kariya was simply a toy played in that old magus’s hand. Byakuya was the only one in the current Matō family who was walking along the right path. It wasn’t a matter of the number of Magic Circuits. Even if his abilities were only good enough to defeat a small child, Byakuya still firmly believed his path was the only one that could truly connect to the future of the Matō house…
He said this to himself and continued to gulp down large mouthfuls of liquor into his stomach while despising his little brother.
Becoming a magus of the Matō house meant becoming the puppet of Zōken – the mastermind controlling everything behind the scenes. Because Byakuya understood this, he had no sympathy for Kariya, who had once left the family but foolishly returned and willingly became the foster bed for the Crest Worms. He never had much familial love for his little brother to begin with. Kariya had talent that far surpassed his older brother, but left the family and forced the cursed destiny carried by generations of the Matōs all unto Byakuya. How could he feel sympathetic toward such a man right now?
Ahh, why was he still not sleepy today? Normally, he would have been dead asleep a long time ago. He hadn't drunk enough; he was not drunk enough. He wanted to forget what was happening outside of the house as soon as possible, wanted to skip through the night as quickly as possible – but someone took the wine glass on the table and poured all the ice water in the glass onto Byakuya’s head.
He fainted for a moment under the piercing cold, but his drunkenness was immediately dispelled and he regained consciousness. A merciless impact slammed into his cheek this time. Byakuya curved up into the blankets on his bed.
Byakuya’s mentality snapped. Even his cries of horror were suppressed in his throat and couldn’t be voiced. A wraith-like man whose appearance sent shivers down Byakuya’s spine was standing there, looking down on him.
He was dressed in a dirty, creased old coat, and the stubble on his chin said he hadn’t shaved in days. If judging by appearances alone, this man looked even more like a drunkard in a pub than Byakuya, who was inside his own house and dressed in everyday clothing. However, his eyes refuted all that. The temperature in that man’s eyes had already surpassed the realms of cruelty or mercilessness. It was only filled with the cold sadism and lethality of a wounded beast. After staring into those eyes, Byakuya surrendered all will to uncover the origins of this man or his business here and became a complete slave of despair.
Who this man was, how he had broken through the impressive layers of protective boundaries outside the house; none of that mattered now. This thing that now appeared before Byakuya was undoubtedly the reincarnation of the very horror that he had only managed to temporarily forget through the effects of alcohol for the past week.
“…Where is Irisviel right now?”
Byakuya was convinced that he must answer before he understood the meaning of the question, or else he would be killed.
– After a moment, he finally realized he actually didn’t understand the meaning of this question. Byakuya was instantly crushed by an overwhelming despair.
“I, I, I…”
Byakuya moaned unintelligibly. The man stared at him with an ice-cold gaze and slowly took out the weapon from his coat. He roughly jammed Byakuya’s right hand between the floor and the muzzle and pressed the trigger.
Byakuya’s right hand scattered in the wind with a thundering bang that could make anyone who heard it go insane.
A part of his body had just disappeared without reason. Byakuya was so shocked that he couldn’t speak. After a while, a scarring pain made him scream in agony.
“No, no no no I don’t know I just don’t know I don’t know anything! Ahhhhhhhhhhhhh! My hand! AHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!”
There was no one with more experience with getting information out of people unwilling to provide it than Emiya Kiritsugu. Instinct honed over the years told him he wouldn’t get much of an answer even if he kept asking.
Matō Byakuya’s soul had already been ruined long ago. Although Kiritsugu didn’t know the reason, Byakuya had already forced himself onto a road of no return long before Kiritsugu came to visit.
In retrospect, Kiritsugu was the final straw that broke his back and made him crumble completely. This man before him would not hesitate to do anything to get rid of his present pain, including betraying Zōken. When they reached such a stage, everything humans said was a guaranteed truth.
It seemed Byakuya truly didn’t know anything about what had happened in the last few hours.
Which meant – the destination of Irisveil’s kidnappers was definitely not the Matō mansion.
He had spent hours breaking through the protective barriers in such a pressing and tense circumstance, and yet the result was nothing. Kiritsugu couldn’t help but grit his teeth in regret.
By process of elimination, only those from the Matō camp could have kidnapped Irisviel. Rider’s Master didn’t have the reconnaissance ability to discover the secret headquarters Kiritsugu had prepared, whereas Tōsaka didn’t need to contradict himself in this way when they had just formed an alliance last night.
Although the possibility of a new opposing force emerging apart from the seven Masters and Servants was very low, it was not impossible. However, such wild guesses wouldn’t get him any results at this stage. At the moment, he could only find this potential enemy amongst the three Masters who still had the protection of their Servants and needed Irisviel for the final stage.
It was almost four hours after the raid on the underground storage. Victory was slipping further away from Kiritsugu with every second he lost, and he had no time to stop and think thoroughly.
Kiritsugu didn’t even bother to look at Byakuya, who was sobbing with pain and terror, and left the Matō mansion.
Kiritsugu again used about three hours to break through the protective magecraft formations in order to enter the Tōsaka mansion, his next target.
His methods were already close to miraculous. The bounded field that Tōsaka Tokiomi set up was a first-rate security system specifically guarding against magi, and was created with magi in mind to begin with. It couldn’t be broken through by sheer magecraft even if attacked continuously for a whole year. Kiritsugu could overcome this bounded field in a short time precisely because he was someone who did not seek results by way of magecraft and fought against magi by perceiving traps wrought through magecraft.
However, no matter how comparatively quick he was, it was long enough to make Kiritsugu anxious in the current state. He had never wasted this much time on the battlefield. He had finally broken through the protection between the inner porch and the living room, but Kiritsugu was still tormented with a nameless anxiety the moment he arrived in the main lounge. Although he passed through the protective barriers at the risk of his life, it didn’t mean he was guaranteed to find Irisviel, just as had happened at the Matō mansion.
Saber, who started chasing Irisviel one step before Kiritsugu, must have also failed. He could still feel that the Circuits providing prana were not interrupted, which meant that Saber had not suffered any major attacks.
However, had she been safely protected, Irisviel would have definitely activated her signal conducting system and relayed Kiritsugu with detailed information on her current location. He still had not received that, which meant Saber’s pursuit had also been a wasted effort.
After carefully removing the seal on the window, he also removed the inner plug with glass-cutting tools. Kiritsugu had finally arrived at the inner parts of the Tōsaka mansion. No lights were lit within, and all was quiet. It was almost like an empty house with no inhabitants. However, because it was an enormous mansion, such conclusions were hard to draw. As an outstanding Master, Tokiomi was much more prudent than the eldest son of the Matō house. If they were to chance upon each other, then Kiritsugu must make the mental preparedness to fight him. Of course, he would definitely use Archer, and Kiritsugu would have to summon Saber here too. He would have to once again spend a Command Seal and forcibly summon her here.
Although he had wanted to avoid having a confrontation between Saber and Archer, whose true fighting strength remained to be seen, the current situation was too urgent for him to be able to choose his battle strategies. Even so, he wanted to start fighting after having confirmed Irisviel’s whereabouts. If it happened to be an unknown enemy who currently had possession of Irisviel, then Kiritsugu would be falling into a trap if he began to duel with the Matō or Tōsaka houses. What annoyed him the most was that he had to consider this possibility and be wary of it.
Suddenly, Kiritsugu’s sense of smell detected something unavoidable as he stepped into a dark room.
It was the stench of blood. It was undoubtedly fresh.
He focused his prana to his eyes and used night sight. He could instantly see the furniture and design of the room with impeccable clarity. It seemed to be a living room. There were also two sets of teacups on the table.
There was obviously a large amount of blood in the middle of the luxurious carpet.
Kiritsugu carefully checked the bloodstain, which had dried completely. Although the blood had not splattered widely, the amount shed didn’t seem to be from a light wound. With his experience, he concluded it could only have been a bloodstain left from a stab wound.
Kiritsugu searched through all the other rooms, just to be careful. However, his goal was no longer to have a better grasp of the situation, but to find the inhabitant here.
As a medium and the starting point of magecraft, blood was the most important ingredient in magecraft. It would have been unthinkable for a magus to casually let out his blood in his territory with no intent to cast a spell. Of course, it would be a different matter entirely if it happened to be the magus’s particular habit. However, according to Kiritsugu’s previous investigations, the man Tōsaka Tokiomi was not so careless.
His premonition became conviction when he reached the basement workshop without much trouble. A magus would never allow others to easily set foot into his workshop even if he was away from home, let alone present in the house. It seemed that Tokiomi was not only absent from his home, but in a situation where he couldn’t even detect the current state of his house.
To verify, Kiritsugu took out an eye drop bottle from his pocket containing the liquid that could be used to test his hypothesis. The liquid was made by refining the body fluids of a succubus, a kind of demon that particularly liked to seduce men. It was especially sensitive to the blood of men and aged things, and could distinguish differences accurately.
First he tested the reaction of the liquid in the bathroom sink, and then he verified the bloodstains in the living room. It was evident that the reaction was the same for both. Only one man would have shaved at this bathroom sink in the past few days.
And that man’s blood was spilled on the carpet in the living room…
Now he was sure Tōsaka Tokiomi was either dead or had disappeared.
Faced with the emergence of this surprising turn of events, Kiritsugu did his best to calm himself and began to assess the situation.
There were no traces of a fight in the room. The two teacups placed here were to welcome a guest. Tokiomi had definitely suffered a heavy or even lethal wound after having chatted to someone in this room, whom he had welcomed as a guest. It seemed that Kiritsugu wasn’t the only one carrying out revenge on magi.
But what was Tokiomi’s Servant doing at that time? How could he look from the sidelines and ignore his Master? However, there was another possibility… the possibility that Archer no longer needed Tokiomi as a Master, and Archer murdered Tokiomi together with his next contractor. This would also be a reasonable explanation.
Faced with this solemn answer that he had achieved after prolonged thought, Kiritsugu felt as if a knife was twisting in his heart.
A man who was Tōsaka Tokiomi’s friend and was welcomed as a guest, a man before whom Tokiomi could even show his weaknesses.
Archer’s new Master had gained new Command Seals – he was someone who had lost his Servant and thus lost the authority of a Master, but retained his life.
There was no need to think any further. There was only one such man. Moreover, if he had really obtained a new Servant and was once again participating in the Heaven’s Feel, kidnapping Irisviel and controlling the ‘Vessel of the Grail’ with his own hands would have been a logical and necessary move.
Therefore – Kiritsugu finally understood that confrontation with Kotomine Kirei was unavoidable.
It was midnight, but a bright light was still on in the hilltop church.
The house of God that promised peace on earth – as he came upon it, a small yet contradictory sentiment stopped Matō Kariya in his tracks.
The naivety of those humans who easily sought solace at the so-called place of prayer. He sneered at the thought; but at the same time, one could not help but feel sympathy towards them.
If one said that every suffering in this world was but a trial of God, then Kariya would strangle that God and His disciples to death with his own hands – he was probably driven by that impulsion.
One step, and then another. Steadily, Kariya was getting closer to the Holy Grail. But even faster, the crest worms inside his body kept eating into his life. If he strained his ears, he could almost hear the trilling sound of the worms slurping flesh and blood from his body, the sound of them scraping his bones and feasting on them. To Kariya, the pain of the crest worms’ slow, continual torture had already become a part of himself, like breath and heartbeat. His consciousness was always cloudy and dim, and if he lost focus he would be only vaguely aware of the passage of time.
He swore never to forgive him as a person. Like water seeping out of a crevice, that thought continued to erode his heart bit by bit.
How many more times can I fight later?
How many more days will I live?
If Kariya was trying to gain the Holy Grail and secure Sakura’s salvation with his own hands – which was exactly his last wish - he could only wait for a miracle, right?
If that was the case, should he pray? From the top of the towering gable roof in front of him, at that cross with its detached gaze, the worms creeping towards the ground; should he kneel down and pray earnestly?
“Stop kidding… me… ugh!”
He felt like he was being flooded by a humiliating timidity. Scoldingly, Kariya rebuked himself. He did not come to the church at a time like this to seek imaginary help. No, it was the exact opposite. This evening, Kariya sought the blood of his sworn enemy. If he was to believe Kotomine Kirei’s words, then at this moment, the one awaiting Kariya’s visit at the chapel was none other than Tōsaka Tokiomi. He was not here for repentance or worship – Kariya was standing in front of the altar now to conclude a vendetta. Kotomine Kirei had prepared an unlikely rematch for his previous duel with Tokiomi, the one he had lost. Tonight would probably be his last chance to get back at that loathsome magus. He must not be careless.
The pain of his flesh, conflict and despair – all were burned down to ashes by the flames of hatred that flared up in his heart.
Memories of the previous battle – he had not even returned a single attack – further fanned the fury within Kariya.
His mind could only see the instant in which he would destroy Tokiomi – who had snatched Aoi away from him and abandoned Sakura – with his own hands. With only that in mind – how near he was to the Holy Grail; the terror of being defeated – all was forgotten. He had completely turned into an automatic, hate-driven machine. With only that in mind, Matō Kariya’s heart was liberated from all sufferings. His mouth even curved into a smile. There was no longer any fear of letting Berserker loose. With that, he would grab Tokiomi’s heart, and he would bathe in the gush of his blood. If he could achieve that, there was nothing he could not afford to lose – he was reduced to such thinking.
His shoulders shook like a beast drawing a deep breath. Having arrived at the front gate of the church with killing intent seething from his entire body, Kariya slowly pushed the doors open.
A candlelight glimmered gently in the center of the chapel. In contrast, the still air was overly peaceful, as if it had frozen. Kariya felt a slight sense of unease, like one would feel in a graveyard. Nevertheless, the instant he saw the back of the head of the person sitting in the first row of the congregation seats, he was awash with overwhelming anger.
It was a shout brimming with killing intent, but there was no reply. Knowing that complete disregard was just like the prideful attitude of the magus, Kariya walked in on large strides and closed his distance with Tokiomi.
“You want to kill me, Tokiomi? But you’re too naïve. Until I have my revenge on you, no matter how many times, I will……”
But with his defenseless back exposed to Kariya, Tokiomi still did not show any response. Despite himself, Kariya slowed his pace with distrust and caution.
He wondered if it was a decoy puppet sitting there to trick Kariya. However, from up close he could see the shoulder width, the carefully trimmed, curly and glossy hair, and even the shape of his slightly visible ears – without a doubt, this was Tōsaka. Kariya would not be mistaken about the figure of his sworn enemy, which had been burned into his eyes.
Kariya came to a distance where could reach out and touch Tokiomi with his hands, and stopped.
With hatred and an odd unease and confusion, he gazed at the back of Tokiomi, who had not budged an inch.
He stretched out his hand.
The day before yesterday, defensive fire had stopped all his attacks. Recalling the scorching heat, he instinctively drew his hand back. Even so, he could not resist the impulse to grab Tokiomi’s neck, just a few centimeters away, and break it… Finally, the shivering fingertip reached the front of the neck with its stylish tie.
With just a light touch, the corpse that had been leaning against the seat lost its balance.
The flaccid limbs were like those of a puppet whose strings had been cut. Like building blocks tumbling down, Tōsaka Tokiomi’s ice-cold body collapsed into Kariya’s arms.
At that moment, the confusion and shock that hit Matō Kariya was as destructive as a single hammer blow to his head.
Like an empty shell, the blank face was unmistakable – without any room for doubt, it was the countenance of Tōsaka Tokiomi. At that point, Kariya had no other choice but to accept that Tokiomi was dead.
The once scornful, haughty derision, all the intimately cold-hearted and sneering words; all the memories related to Tōsaka Tokiomi saturated Kariya’s thoughts and overwhelmed him. With the existence of Tokiomi as a starting point, the sentiments, motivation, and urge swirling within Kariya, were all blown off at once.
“W – W – Why….?”
And then, standing with the soundless corpse in his hands, thunderstruck, Kariya was stunned at the size of the hole gaping wide within it. A cavity so large that it caused Matō Kariya’s countenance to crumble to an unrecognizable appearance.
At that moment, for the first time, he realized that he had not considered, much less foreseen losing his driving factor – his bitter enemy, Tōsaka Tokiomi; but this realization was already too late. Uncontrollably shaken, Kariya was at a point where he could not even recall basic information like why he had been fighting Tokiomi or what had he wished for in participating in the war of the Holy Grail.
And then –
– At that moment, until he sensed the presence of the new visitor who had just stepped into the chapel, until he was called from behind by that familiar and lovely voice – Kariya had not noticed anything at all.
Turning back in a stupor, Kariya could not grasp at all why Aoi Tōsaka was still standing there. If his brain had been functioning properly, he probably would have wondered why he was being called by Aoi of all people, and why she had visited this place when there was no reason at all for her to do so. And he probably could have gone even further back in his train of thought to the one person who would have been able to position Tokiomi’s body at the chapel beforehand – it had to be a human - and been able to guess without difficulty the identity of the person who had killed Tokiomi.
However, at the height of his confusion, in a state where he could not mouth legible words, Kariya could only moan uselessly. The instant he staggered back, the corpse he had been carrying in his arms fell onto the chapel floor with like a sack. Thud. For a long time, Aoi stared at the figure that had once been her husband. Staring, without twitching a muscle.
Without uttering a syllable, Aoi slowly approached Tokiomi’s body as if being drawn to him. For reasons unknown, Kariya felt overpowered and retreated further, but was obstructed by an obstacle just a few steps later. Rigidly still as if passing judgment unto him, it was the altar of the chapel.
Bending her knees to the floor, Aoi lifted Tokiomi’s face up. With no place to hide, Kariya could only watch her. He could not understand why Aoi did such a thing. – No, he did not want to understand. Why she did not even spare a glance at him, her childhood friend, but continually fixed her eyes on the body of Tokiomi; what the meaning of those tears falling down her face was – Kariya obstinately rejected comprehension, and because of that, he could not utter a single word.
If memory served – he was supposed to never make this person – whom he loved above anyone else – cry again, and to fight for her even at the cost of his life.
If that was the case, then this woman sobbing in front of him right now – who was she? If he were to accept the answer, wouldn’t Matō Kariya fall to pieces?
She did not look at Kariya. As if ignoring the air and all else, tears poured out from her to her husband’s body. She, the tragic heroine, was exactly at the center of the world as its axis of revolution. Having regarded her in that way, Kariya was an existence devoid of all meaning, like trash on the stage or a stain in the background. Kariya was terrified of the delusion that his position and his very existence were erased. He even felt the impulse to scream to catch her attention. But not a sound could come out of his dry throat.
Nevertheless, before long, when he was looked straight in the eye by Aoi – who had finally lifted her head up – Kariya finally understood: Ignorance was a greater compassion; if he could disappear from the world at that instant, it would be a far greater relief.
“……So now it’s as if the Matōs had gained the Holy Grail, right? Happy now, Kariya-kun?”
It was a familiar voice, but in a tone he had never heard before. That was because his gentle and kind childhood friend had never hated or cursed anyone in front of Kariya before.
“I – but, I – “
Why must he be blamed? Tokiomi Tōsaka was the cause of all the evil. When that man was not around, everything was supposed to turn out well. First of all, why had he died in a place like this? It should have been Kariya asking questions instead.
However, not even allowing time for Kariya to reply, she asked him back instead.
“So after snatching Sakura away from me, the Matōs are still not satisfied? Of all people, you killed this man in front of my own eyes…… Why? Did you really hate us so much?”
I don’t know I don’t know.
With a face just like Aoi's; with a voice just like Aoi's; why was this woman directing such seething enmity and cold killing intent towards Matō Kariya?
Kariya was supposed to have saved Aoi. He was supposed to have obtained a future for her beloved daughter. Then why was he being blamed? Who on earth was this woman?
“That guy – it’s his, fault – “
Pointing at Tokiomi’s corpse with a shaky hand, Kariya tried to correct Aoi in a loud voice.
“If that man would just, disappear – no misfortune would befall on anyone. Aoi-san, Sakura-chan – I thought you’d be, happy –“
“Stop talking nonsense!”
With a demonic expression, the woman shouted.
“You, what do you know! Someone who has never loved anyone before!”
“– Ah –“
With a snap –
– the decisive cracking sound caused Matō Kariya to collapse.
I have a person I loved.
Someone warm and gentle; someone whom I want to be happy, above everyone else.
If it’s for her sake, even my life was worth it. Because I felt this way, I had to, endure, endureendureendureendureendureendureendureendureendureendureendureendureendureendure to this day whatever pain or hardships so being denied with no chance of explaining myself so for whose sake that I am willing to die for GO TO HELL you’re lying you’re lying you’re lying the one I love most is without a doubt certainly I –
“For me…… the person…… I love ……”
While murmuring with a scraping sound, Kariya’s fists tightened.
In order to heap denials upon those words that denied his everything; in order to shut her mouth up, he tightly squeezed her throat.
The woman opened and closed her mouth, gasping for oxygen like a fish that had left its tank – and yet it seemed to Kariya as if she was trying to form words to further abuse him, which infuriated him all the more.
If I don’t shut her up, everything will end. Everything I’ve done to this day will be meaningless. There’s no way I can allow that to happen.
As a matter of fact, Matō Kariya’s madness was the last fortress left to rescue him. In spite of that, he had even missed that lowliest aid at the last moment – the face of the woman rapidly turning deathly pale due to lack of oxygen was too similar to the image of the beloved woman he cherished so much in his heart – no, it was the very woman herself. At last, Kariya realized that.
At the instant both hands loosened up, a sound slipped from Aoi’s mouth.
Collapsing onto the ground with a thud, she had fainted, not budging an inch. Lacking even the sound judgment to differentiate the living from the dead, Kariya thought that just like Tokiomi, she had died.
He gazed at the hands that had just choked Aoi with all their might. Someone more important than anything else; someone who was the very meaning of his life – those fingers that had plucked that someone away stiffened like they belonged to someone else. But without a doubt, there was no way to deceive himself – those fingers belonged to him.
Like a peal of thunder, he realized. Those fingers squirming so shakily were just like the crest worms creeping about Sakura’s skin.
He clawed at his broken face.
He tore his dried-up hair.
A scream escaped his throat. Whether it was a shriek or a wail, he could not even understand that.
Losing the last bit of sense in him, with only his animalistic instinct, Kariya desperately sought to flee; stumbling, he ran away from the chapel.
The man who had lost everything was greeted by the pitch-black darkness of the starless night.
Within the chapel of Fuyuki Church, there were secrets known only to the priest.
The wall that separated the chapel and the priest’s room in the back in reality only served as a partition. It was built with the consideration that all the writings in the chapel went through the priest’s room.
Therefore, as he relaxed in a chair of the priest’s room, Kotomine Kirei could hear every development of the tragedy in detail.
He seemed deeply immersed in his thoughts. Beside him, the golden Servant watching over him asked.
“A foolish, worthless play. Oh well, not too bad for the first script you wrote. – How was it Kirei? Your views?”
Silently gazing into space, Kirei gulped down wine from a glass he was holding.
It was a mysterious sensation. The plot was just as he imagined and expected – it was performed and recreated relying on human beings in flesh and blood, furnished with souls.
There was no surprise at all. Both Matō Kariya and Tōsaka Aoi had accepted the roles Kirei conveyed to them; and at the appointed time, they had visited the church and encountered each other with the perfect timing. He had not expected Tokiomi’s body – which was just a stage prop – to have the exact effect he desired. Because he had rectified the death spots and the stiffened post-mortem body, theoretically, no one should have been able to perceive that the person had been dead for more than half a day.
But if it was a development that betrayed none of his expectations - even if there were supposed to be no surprises – when he watched over it to the end, he felt a peculiar excitement.
If it was to be named, it might be called a sense of “freshness”.
The tragic scene just now was not a fantasy performed by actors. It was true that Kirei had guided the scene. But baring their innermost feelings, his fellow humans clashed against one another – the radiance of souls scattering the sparks was, without a doubt, authentic. While struggling to decide on an answer to Gilgamesh’s question, Kirei tasted the fragrance of the wine in his mouth again. Indeed, if it was surprise he was looking for, he was better off looking into this wine.
“…… Why, I drank this before, and yet…… I did not notice how profound the taste of this wine was."
The King of Heroes smiled at Kirei who gazed at his wine glass, straight-faced.
“The taste of a wine is disguised in unexpected forms depending on the side dish served alongside it. Looks like you have begun to understand the meaning of the phrase, ‘broaden one’s view’.”
Not knowing the best way to reply to the rapturous Gilgamesh, Kirei put down his empty glass and stood up. He thought about the things he was supposed to attend to later and felt that he could not afford to keep relaxing. Aoi, lying on the chapel floor, would undoubtedly require treatment. And he also had to retrieve the fleeing Kariya for his next course of action.
Nevertheless, before leaving the room, Kirei once again glanced at the empty glass. He noticed that he felt reluctant to part with the wine, which he had finally finished.
Earnestly, he thought – if I can taste such flavor from this wine, I would love to drink it again.
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