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"Trace On!" He shouted as he felt the hammer in his head fall. Eight circuits opened and were immediately flooded with prana. Behind him, he felt four blades forming. He didn't even wait for them to finish solidifying before he threw his right hand forward and sent all of them straight at his opponent.
The swords flew, blades aimed at Aemulo, ready to pierce the old vampire. He was unnerved however, by the calm look Aemulo was giving him as the swords came upon him.
A second later, a wall of false swords formed between the swords he Projected and Aemulo. He clucked his tongue. Damn, if his opponent could make a wall of swords like that so casually, he'd be hard-pressed to counter without invoking the Blade Works… which was impossible right now with his current prana capacity.
"I'm disappointed." He felt movement from his right, he didn't think before he rolled forward, his instincts taking over as they saved him from being run through by Aemulo. He watched as the vampire slashed a false sword at his previous position. The act itself causing the air to disperse and give out a small sonic boom, which only meant that he had managed to swing – or at least, the tip managed to swing – faster than the speed of sound.
It was strange. He knew that he shouldn't be able to match that speed, shouldn't be able to fight him. But, his instincts were on par with Aemulo's movement. Even stranger, his body could react at the same speed as his instincts. He didn't know if this was because of fighting both Archer and the King of Heroes, but it was saving his life right now.
"I expected someone of my caliber." Again, he felt movement to his right. He dodged by rolling again. And a second later, another boom sounded. Okay, he was getting predictable now. If he moves again… There!
"Instead, I have someon- guk!" This time, he expected the movement. And this time, he swung to the right with both Kanshou and Bakuya already formed in his hands. Both blades met with his opponent's chest, sending the Apostle staggering back as two furrows were carved into the sides of his chest.
If he was anything like the King of Heroes, or if he just didn't like fighting dirty, he would point out that flaw to his opponent, where he would go behind him and try for his head. As it stood though, he needed all the advantages he could get. He doubted his opponent would make the same mistake twice, but just in case, he shifted his right leg and foot forward slightly to give him a pivot point.
He watched as his opponent's wounds began to heal, but didn't stare for long. "Trace On!" Fifteen circuits this time, and then eight swords. All identical and already flying towards his opponent as they were busy forming.
He hadn't expected his opponent to just leave himself undefended however, and so was unsurprised as he saw another wall of false swords appear to block the swords he had fired.
As soon as his own swords dispersed in blue motes, Aemulo's own wall of false swords clattered to the ground. He then saw Aemulo, standing straight and looking just peachy, his previous wounds already gone as the vampire's innate healing factor erased them from existence.
"As I was saying." Aemulo craned his neck, eliciting a popping sound. He frowned at the casual way he was dealing with him. "I expected something else. Someone that was a student rather than a master."
He raised an eyebrow. "What are you talking about?" He couldn't help but ask. He wasn't a master at anything, let alone magecraft.
In response to his question, Aemulo chuckled. The action causing some parts of his face to seep down onto the ground. He sneered a little. Really, that was just… creepy. "Humility born from ignorance? That is a surprise." Aemulo shook his head, again sending bits of his melting face flying off. "Your Projection skills are at a level that could rival my own. Your Projections, they hold weight. They hold substance. You do not just create them from falsities, you create them using real memories, from real material. I've no idea how you managed that, but I am not far above dissection to figure out." Aemulo then regarded him with a half-smile/half-leer. "Or vivisection, depending on your status."
Right, as far as he was concerned. He wasn't getting vivisected. "Why are you so curious anyway?" Now he was stalling. He didn't have a doubt in his mind that Aoko would be able to clear that wall of false swords separating him from her and Lorelei, but he didn't know how long that would take. If he can just get his opponent to keep talking though, that would help.
"Because child, I am searching for the first True Magic! The Denial of Nothingness! To create something from nothing at all. The penultimate power of a god before omnipresence!" Aemulo looked even more manic now than he had even been before. He grimaced a little at the passionate tone Aemulo had used, he seemed more… zealous about this then he first thought.
"But I digress." Aemulo again shook his head. "I do not wish to become God. I wish for knowledge, for something that will fill this gaping hole in my soul, which yearns to be filled."
Hollow. He had been trying to describe a word that would make sense with Aemulo, and now he knew the perfect one for him. "Hollowness."
Aemulo again smiled at him. "Your branch of Projection might help me fill this void. Might help me find what I'm looking for, the missing link. The key to filling this hollowed soul."
Again, movement. He twisted his body to react, and it was only when he did that he realized that it was a mistake. It had come from his left this time.
A sharp pain erupted on his back, before he felt a foot kicking him and sending him flying forward slightly. He landed on the ground, but he didn't have time to rest as he scrambled on his feet just to narrowly avoid getting impaled on the ground by two swords.
Well, maybe thinking things over in that situation was stupid. He had assumed his opponent would make the same mistake, only for his opponent to take advantage of him.
"You seem accustomed to fighting someone far above your caliber." Aemulo commented as he dodged to the right. Again the vampire was behind him, was he making a showing of just how fast he was compared to him? Or did he just want to end this fast? Either way, this was getting predictable… no, he shouldn't think like this. He was playing with him; that should have been obvious from the start.
Despite himself however, he found himself answering Aemulo. "I've fought beings so far above humans that it's funny how I'm still alive." That was true. After all, if any human had gone against the King of Heroes, magus or not, they would probably end up as a splat on the ground. Or a pincushion, depending on the Golden King's mood.
"Oh?" As he righted himself, he watched as Aemulo tilt his head to the side, regarding him curiously. He saw the only stable eye on Aemulo narrow slightly as it honed into his right hand. He tried to cover it by twisting his hands so that the command seals couldn't be seen, but Aemulo had already noticed. "Ah, the Holy Grail War. I've heard of it, but it never proved interesting to me. Though I must say, you're young for someone who has fought in one."
That surprised him. "If you've heard of it, why aren't you after it?" He questioned. If anything, Aemulo had the biggest reason to want it. A wish to be granted? Why not fill that hollow soul of his? The corrupted Grail trying to kill everything else not withstanding that is.
"You mistake my wish for something else." Aemulo began as he let go of the sword he had in his hand. The sword clattered to the ground, but was replaced a second later by another identical sword. "I wish to be able to fill this void in my heart through creation. I don't wish for it to be filled immediately. A wish is simply a means to an end, and what good is that if the journey is the best part of the wish?"
He hated to say it, but he agreed. A wish is something that should be fulfilled on your own, not something you put up to an omnipresent wish-maker. If it was something monetary, like money, then a wish-maker is what you wanted. But if you wanted to fulfill something, to see something come into reality, you work for it.
That was the reason he never had any want for the Grail. Rin had questioned him then, and he had simply answered he didn't need it. He didn't need it because he wanted to become a hero on his own. Not take a shortcut to it.
"That's something you and me agree on then." He said, though it sounded more ground out than normal.
Aemulo inclined his head at him. "See? Something we have in common. Though I guess it's nonsensical and shallow. But still, it's something we share. I sense it in you, your power, you borrow it. Those swords you create, they come from memories, but they do not come from you. There is too much weight in them, too much credence to be simple swords you copy from your own memory."
He frowned. Readying another copy of Kanshou and Bakuya in his hands.
"Do you not…" Aemulo disappeared from his sight. He whirled around, and faced him once again. Okay, now this was getting ridiculous. He didn't even attack this time. He just moved from point A to B. "…Think it odd? Your power and mine, so vastly different, like night and day, like life and death, are so similar? Your swords, the ones you Project, they come from you, from your innate hollowness. If you were a warrior, those swords would all hold the same weight, the same power and substance. Yet, as I watch them, as I read them, as I Grasp them, they are all vastly different from each other. The only things that you created that have a modicum of similarity are those two swords."
He narrowed his eyes. Was… was his Structural Grasping on the same level as his? No, that was a stupid question. Of course it was. He was never a good magus. It would be simple for a vampire that was once a magus to Grasp something as he did, especially if they were years older than him.
"So you know about my Tracing?" He questioned. Aemulo raised his one eyebrow at him, an act that disgusted him simply because the half of his face that was melting tried to mirror that movement, only for a sludge of it to fall to the ground.
"Tracing? A peculiar word, but I cannot say I disagree with the name." Aemulo hummed in thought. "Nonetheless. Your swords are definitely no mere blacksmith's weapons. They hold weight, a significant amount of it. A clear contrast to mine, where there is nothing but false heaviness and memories."
No. Even if the memories were false, they still had a weight of their own. Those memories were something that couldn't be taken lightly. Doing so would result in his death.
An explosion occurred just outside the circle of false swords Aemulo created. He didn't turn his head towards it, but nonetheless, the explosion had rocked the entire room they were in and caused some chunks of the ceiling to fall through. He noticed that he could actually see parts of the sky in the holes that opened, he would have been happy about that, had it not been for the fact that it was currently cloudy and raining. Water droplets fell from the holes and into the room, causing the battlefield to take another level of danger.
Great, now he had to worry about slipping.
"It seems that Miss Blue is feeling rather restless." For the first time, he noticed that Aemulo's voice sounded a little perturbed. "I would apologize, but a corpse needs no apology." Aemulo finished as he took a ready stance.
He could feel the bloodlust emanating from the vampire, and suppressed a shiver. For the first time since the Blood Fort, he smelled bloodlust. But unlike the Blood Fort, which was spread out over a large area, this one was concentrated. Like a room of fresh blood had been opened and spilled unto him.
Despite his suppressed fear, he couldn't help but reply. "I could say the same to you. You should have been dead years ago."
He steeled himself. Archer had been cold and calculating in his animosity, kicking him down and trying to make him stay down. Gilgamesh had been hot and prideful, trying to match him just to prove he was superior.
Aemulo however, was none of those. The feeling he was getting as he stared at the vampire, as he readied the next set of swords in his head, as he readied for the coming fight. The feeling he got was that of a hunter. Someone that stalks their prey, someone that will strike when his defenses were down.
Someone that will kill him without thinking twice.
"I Am the Bone of my Sword." He recited the beginning of his aria. The world shifted slightly in response to his words, reality bending to give him steel, to give him swords.
The world shifted, and then Aemulo charged.
"Hold still you little-!" She couldn't even finish her curse as she was blindsided by the homunculus' axe. The blunt shaft of it struck her ribs and sent her careening in the air. A few seconds spent airborne later, and then she impacted on the castle wall. Her breath literally taken away from her as she forcibly coughed up blood.
She clenched her jaw, before she pushed herself off with her feet and towards the white haired homunculi. Damn. That hit was hard as hell; whoever made this homunculus obviously made her a combat type. But still, with that kind of strength, she wondered what kind of enemy it was designed to combat. It friggin' hurt her for Christ's sake!
"Rahh!" She pulled her right arm back, intending to punch the pristine face of the homunculus and cave it in. She was taken by surprise however, as the homunculus ducked under her blow, before she used the butt end of her giant axe to hit her chin, sending her flying high up. Damn it! This was getting ridiculous.
Still, even though its hits stung a little, that didn't mean it could beat her.
She brought her head down, before she gripped her left wrist with her right hand. A faint humming that could only be attributed to her starting her spell sounded. She took a breath, before she shouted, her body still flying away from the ground. "Crash down!"
Originally, the aria was three lines longer. But she didn't need that long to cast a spell. She just needed the proper amount of prana, before she shouted a quickened aria to invoke it. It was partly the reason she was so good at fighting. The other reason was well… her spells were mostly destructive and all that. The only thing she could tinker with that didn't blow up in her face was time. But then again…
She watched as an orb of energy rocketed away from her open palm and towards the homunculus. It was far too quick to be dodged, and by the looks of it, the homunculus herself couldn't react in time.
The orb connected, and a brilliant flash of light engulfed her vision, the flash of light was soon followed shortly by a loud bang.
She smirked as she began to fall down on the ground. She landed on her feet, all the while wiping her chin as it still stung a little from that impromptu hit from the homunculus' axe butt. She straightened herself, before she caught sight of the crater where the homunculus was currently lying face down on.
"Your attacks are crude by nature aren't they?" She turned her head, and saw Lorelei walking towards her. Her voice was laced with mild disapproval, while her face showed a bit of disgust in it.
She shrugged her shoulders. "Whatever gets the job done. I'm not what you call a 'good' magus. If anything, I use magecraft like it was an appliance. Convenient when you need it to be." She explained as she rolled her shoulders.
As expected, Lorelei's look turned into one of heavy disapproval. "How one such as you stumbled upon the fifth magic is beyond me."
Again she shrugged. "It's not magic. It's just-" She didn't finish her sentence as she caught sight of movement from her peripheral vision. She turned towards the crater she had made, and saw that pieces of rubble were rising and falling as the homunculus was beginning to stand up, apparently having been buried under rubble.
"Miscalculated… opponent is destructive mage… changing fight style…" It spoke robotically as it began to straighten itself. She watched as it began to raise its axe into a fighting form.
She sighed. Well, she should have expected this. Whatever it was this thing was designed to fight, it was obvious that it should be able to take hits like that as well. Still though, she was a simple woman in regards to fighting. If it doesn't fall after getting hit, hit it again. It was a simple belief, and if she were honest with herself, sounded completely idiotic. But hey, if it worked…
She watched as the homunculus began to run at her, her giant axe mid swing already. She narrowed her eyes in suspicion; surely it knew it was telegraphing its moves.
But then, it did something completely off kilter. It was perhaps still a few feet away from her, but instead of closing the distance, it instead, swung its axe preemptively, letting go as she sent it flying towards her at an obscene rate.
She cursed as she readied herself to catch it. She did, but not without having skid a few feet on the ground back towards the wall where she had landed on awhile ago. She was surprised her feet struck the wall, that throw was insanely st-
"Look out!" Lorelei shouted at her. She looked up and cursed as she saw the homunculus' foot coming for her face. She ducked forward, and felt the foot sail right above the back of her head. She heard the foot impact the wall, and then heard the wall cave in.
She didn't give it time to recover from its strike however. Holding both ends of the axe, she used the pole of it to send the homunculus up and away from her, before she chucked its own axe towards its still airborne form.
The homunculus however, managed to right itself in the air, before it grabbed the haft of the axe just in time. She watched as the homunculus landed on the ground with as much grace it could muster, before it coiled its legs and then leapt towards her.
The speed it had was definitely something that shouldn't even be possible without the best materials to make its composition, but still… it was too slow for her.
As the homunculus got within striking range of her, she watched as it swung its axe sideward in an attempt to slice her in two. She ducked under the blow, before she channeled prana onto her left fist, coating it in blue translucent energy.
"Crash." She spoke swiftly and without remorse. She threw her left arm upwards, and gave a straight uppercut under the homunculi's chin.
For a split second, the homunculi continued forward, the momentum from her punch having not taken over yet. After that split second however, the impact made itself known with a brief explosion.
It wasn't a big deal, well, to her anyway. She had just punched so hard that she had ignited the hydrogen in the air. However, to her opponent, that would be something akin to having been hit by a missile at point blank range.
The explosion dispersed, and with its dispersion came the homunculi's sudden launch away from her. To be honest, she was surprised it was still whole. Far be it for her to use her full power, but that punch had enough power to topple a house, probably turn a person inside out as well. But this homunculus… whatever it was designed to fight would probably be in the levels of the Apostles Ancestors and Werewolves.
She flicked her hand to disperse the prana still attached to it. She watched as the homunculus soared through the air, before it collided with the ceiling and was sent straight through it. She winced a little, okay, maybe that was a little too powerful. But hey, might makes right in this case.
"That was a wholly unnecessary display of power." She turned her head to stare at Lorelei, who was giving her another disapproving look. She ignored it. Yeah, maybe it was. But still…
"That was one of my more tame moves." She defended herself. And really it was. Igniting the hydrogen in the air was child's play to her. Now, fusing the hydrogen and then punching all those fused molecules at an opponent, now that was overkill.
Lorelei stared at her for a second, before she shook her head. "Regardless," Lorelei gestured towards the ceiling where her opponent had exited. "I doubt that abomination will return. In all likelihood, you've punched her straight out of the castle. Now, if you can only do that with that wall of swords." She could detect that hint of sarcasm in the future vice-director's voice.
"I was getting to that." She ground out. Trying her damn best to stop herself from snarking off at Lorelei. She walked over towards the wall of swords, before she frowned and placed a hand on one of the blades that made the wall.
"It's not attacking?" She spoke out loud. She had thought-
"Perhaps it's because of your intentions." Lorelei supplied from behind her. She turned towards her, and gave her a questioning look. What did she mean by that?
Lorelei gave her a blank look, before she sighed. She frowned at the act; that was insulting. "Do you not remember? Aemulo had stated that if your intentions are to harm him, then the swords will turn on you should you ever try and destroy them."
She flushed a little. "O-of course not!" She lied. She totally forgot. "I-I uhh… I just- I got nothing." She gave up trying to think of an excuse and saving face. Yeah, she was never one for excuses and deception. That was more Touko's skill.
"Of course you don't." Lorelei said with a sigh. She ground her teeth, but knew that Lorelei was more disappointed and didn't mean anything by it… probably.
"I suppose if you just have the intention of helping Shirou, these swords will probably crumble if you destroy them then and there." Lorelei frowned. "But I am hesitant to say even that. Aemulo is – was – a magus. If anything, I doubt that he will leave such an obvious hole in his defense… that is, unless he believes he can kill anyone that comes his way. Even a Sorceress."
She turned back to the wall, before she readied her right arm to punch a hole straight through it. She felt power coalesce into her right arm, she then threw it forward.
An explosion, and then suddenly smoke all around them. She receded her hand and shook it off. Let it be known that she could destroy anything she wanted to, given enough prana and time.
"Right," She turned towards Lorelei. "Are you coming?" It was a weird question. Given Lorelei's nature, then it was sure she would-
"Of course." Lorelei answered quickly before she jumped through the hole she had formed, leaving her there to stare as her figure disappeared through the smoke. She shook her head, at least have the decency to wait for her to go first damn it.
She stepped through, and walked through the smoke cloud that had formed behind the hole she made. She saw Lorelei's figure just a few feet in front of her, and quickened her pace. A few steps later, and she was next to her and out of the smoke cloud.
What she saw as she stepped out of the cloud however, was Shirou and Aemulo fighting… or more like Shirou and Aemulo both trying to outdo each other with their Projections.
Aemulo was throwing swords away haphazardly. Projecting one, slashing with it, before discarding it by throwing it to the floor before he Projected another one. It was predictable with the way he was moving and attacking, and even Shirou knew what Aemulo was doing. From the amount of scattered swords on the ground around the two combatants, she already knew that they had been exchanging blows for awhile. The problem was, he was moving around at speeds that should be impossible to follow for a human. When Aemulo landed on one side, he'd kick up a dust cloud, before he jumped away as the dust cloud was forming.
But whilst Aemulo discarded his swords with reckless abandon, Shirou held onto his for as long as he could. The black and white twin Chinese swords he had seen him use from time to time were in his hands, looking a little worse for wear, cracks and pieces of both swords were missing, He watched as Shirou blocked a strike from Aemulo, causing his already degrading swords to chip some more. But as Aemulo dropped his sword and Projected another one, Shirou's own glowed white for a split second. The white glow dispersed as quickly as it arrived, before she saw the newly fixed state of both swords. The swords had fixed themselves just in time for Shirou to block another strike from Aemulo.
"I feel like I'm watching two child magi playing around." Lorelei commented, though there was a hint of respect in her tone, a clear contradiction to her words.
"Then why do you sound like you're being respectful?" She questioned as she watched another set of sparks fly as both Shirou and Aemulo exchanged blows. She saw Shirou wince at the heaviness of the blow, before Aemulo pushed himself forward and tried to take advantage of Shirou's slight misstep by Projecting another sword in his offhand and swinging it as fast as he could.
"Because of the way they're using their magecraft." Lorelei finished just as Aemulo's offhanded sword struck. She had already determined that Shirou could block that, so wasn't surprised to see him manage to stop the attack before it pierced him. But still… it was abnormal. And judging from Lorelei's tone and the way she was watching, she knew it too.
"One has to wonder however," Lorelei commented, right before Aemulo jumped over Shirou and tried to take him from behind. She could see everything they were doing from the little hand gestures to the way they moved slightly from left to right just in time to avoid an attack from their opponent. She could see this, because she was adept at fighting, adept at killing and destroying things that no normal human should be able to keep up with. "How Shirou manages to keep up with an Apostle Ancestor candidate."
She could see everything, but the same couldn't be said about Lorelei. The air pressure around both fighters was changing from the way they moved, the way they fought. Aemulo's strikes arrived a touch slower than the sparks that flew from their swords meeting, but also a tad faster then the sound the meeting of both swords created.
Faster than sound. That was the pace Aemulo was taking the fight from his repeated strikes against Shirou.
Any normal human would have succumbed after the first blow, no normal human, magus or otherwise, could hope to go faster than the speed of sound without training their body. Add to the fact that Aemulo's strikes could rival hers, then one would wonder if Shirou could keep it up. Shirou however, was doing exactly that. His defenses were raised just before Aemulo's strikes came, and he managed the strength by hitting at just the right place to deflect any excess strength from Aemulo. His Projections occurred faster than Aemulo's when he was Re-imaging his own swords, and his reflexes reacted faster that that.
The battle was quick, it was brutal, and it was something that Lorelei probably had trouble seeing altogether.
"I can see them." Lorelei spoke up suddenly. "Barely. But… the way the air around them shifts, it is obvious this isn't something I can throw myself into without being thoroughly injured." She could sense the bitterness and the grim respect Lorelei had in her tone.
She sighed, before she placed a hand on the Barthomeloi scion. "Don't worry." She had no idea why she was going to comfort her, but hell, they were allies, so that had to count for something. "You're almost there. I've no doubt that in a few more years; you'll be a step farther than most Apostle Ancestors." And what she said was true as well. Lorelei was a genius, a genius in a genius family even. Give her a few more years to mature, and she'd no doubt be as strong, if not stronger, than most Apostle Ancestors and their ilk.
She was about to say something else, but then a thought occurred to her. She turned towards Lorelei, and gave her another questioning look. "By the way… what happened to that Executor?" She mentally cursed herself for forgetting something like that. She was the whole reason they were fighting mismatched opponents in the first place.
"She's…" Lorelei's voice was hesitant. "She's fine." Lorelei finished softly.
She raised an eyebrow in question. "What do you mean by that?"
Lorelei shook her head at her. "She won't die, if that's what you're asking. But currently, she's… recovering." Again she had no idea what Lorelei was saying, but before she could rebuke the Barthomeloi heiress for being cryptic, footsteps were heard approaching fast from behind them.
She immediately spun, fist raised as she channeled prana into her left arm. She caught sight of who was approaching, and all hostility from her died down. She was… surprised to say the least.
"How the hell are you still walking around?" She questioned as Carrie, the Executor that had been pinned to the wall with swords not even an hour ago, slowed to a stop right behind both her and Lorelei. She noted that her clothes – the Executor robes – had small patches ripped here and there from the previous swords that were imbedded before, showing unblemished skin. "No wait, scratch that. How the hell don't you have any wounds on you?" Heck, there was even some spots in her robes that had blood that still hadn't dried yet. Even the polished sheen of her armor piece had some flecks of blood on it.
Carrie finally stopped right before her, but her eyes were focused on the fighting occurring right in front of them. "Does it matter?" Carrie asked, her voice laced with sarcasm.
It didn't, but… bah whatever. "Don't think about interrupting yet." She told Carrie. Carrie turned to her and gave her a raised eyebrow in question.
"And why not?" Carrie asked her. She just shrugged her shoulders and turned back to the fighting.
"'Cause right now, Shirou's losing." She smirked a little. She had channeled her inner Alice for a second there.
Carrie stared at her with disbelieving eyes. "Isn't that a good enough reason to interfere?" Carrie made a move to go past her, but she grabbed Carrie's arm right before she could jump forward.
"Nope." She shook her head as Carrie turned back towards her. "Whatever it is Shirou's doing, it's keeping him alive at this point. You interrupt that flow, you risk getting him killed. There's a reason a lot of people die during war time. Most of those reasons involve soldiers getting stabbed because they got distracted by someone jumping at their opponent." She then thought for a second, before she tacked on something else. "Besides, Shirou seems adept at winning during losing situations."
"…" Carrie just stared at her as if she was stupid or something, and to be honest, her reasoning… really was stupid. "That logic involves fighting an entire army, not just one abomination."
"That 'abomination'," She used air quotes. "Is an entire army. He also potentially has the arsenal as well. So you tell me. Is it a good idea to go in there right now? What with two armies literally fighting against each other?"
Carrie just stared at her in silence. A few seconds passed, with nothing but the clash of steel resounding as Shirou and Aemulo fought. Finally, Carrie sighed and inclined her head. "You have a point." She amended, although her voice sounded like she only begrudgingly accepted that she was right.
She then heard a soft "Humph." She turned towards Lorelei, who was shaking her head as she watched the fight. "Shirou is far from an army."
She nodded her head. "Yeah… but he can sure as hell supply for one." She grinned as she stared at Lorelei, who was now staring at her with narrowed eyes.
"You know something." It wasn't a question, it was a fact. A fact that Lorelei was stating.
She just faced back towards the fighting, a more than stupid grin on her face.
This was getting ridiculous. He ducked under another strike coming for his head, before raising Kanshou upwards to try for an uppercut. He just barely grazed Aemulo's chin, before the Apostle disappeared from his sight and he was forced to stand up to react in time for another coming from his back.
Again he ducked, dodging another blow for his head, but this time, he had overcompensated and was now tittering on the edge of slipping, the wet floor having made his sneakers wet and slippery. It was a ridiculous mistake, a fatal one even. But still, his opponent had opted to get in front of him, and try for his head again. He raised Bakuya just in time to catch the brunt of the strike, before he winced under the strength. He took a step forward for leverage, before he threw all his weight to the side, allowing Aemulo's blade to pass by him, barely grazing his sides. He then took off, trying to gain as much distance as he could from Aemulo.
He stopped right by the side of the wall, the regular stone wall that formed the castle. He turned his back to it before he let out a large breath. Ideally, fighting with your back on the wall wasn't the best choice of a battlefield. But with Aemulo being almost as fast as most of the Servants during the Fifth Grail War, he needed some kind of defense to defend his back. He didn't want a repeat of Archer slashing his back when it was undefended.
Still, he felt his right humerus bone creak as he moved his right arm. He shouldn't have blocked that strike. He had given up blocking at one point, and had thrown all he had to just basically dodging whatever Aemulo threw at him. The reason was simple, his body couldn't take the pressure. Against Gilgamesh, he had struck before his opponent could, against Archer, he matched him technique for technique. But against Aemulo? He couldn't do that. He had no technique to counter what he threw, he couldn't call on his swords as fast as he could outside the Reality Marble, and he could only barely react as fast as he could to avoid getting his skull split open.
He felt a brief wind pass over him, before he weaved his head to the left, just in time to avoid getting his head impaled by Aemulo's fake blade. He threw his body to the left again as another sword appeared in Aemulo's hand before the Apostle tried to impale him again.
He cursed silently, he had made another mistake. Aemulo's swords didn't disperse after they were made. They stuck there, allowing Aemulo to shape the battlefield to his will.
He was running out of room, he couldn't keep dodging these blades with his back against the wall, he was running out of wall! He needed to think, what could he-
An idea popped into his head. Not a good one, but still an idea.
His body started shifting, the gears began turning, and his world began responding. "Steel is my body, and Fire is my blood." The second part of his ten-count aria, in English, like Archer's. Both Kanshou's and Bakuya's images reformed, and both blades in his hands strengthened in conjunction to their images reforming.
This time, when Aemulo's swords came for him, he didn't dodge, he didn't block. He took a step forward, towards the incoming blade, towards Aemulo, raising Kanshou upwards as he did so.
A loud metallic clang resounded, reminiscent to that of swords clashing. He felt his entire body resonate from the vibrations of blocking a strike like that with just his body, but it wasn't anything he couldn't recover from. Aemulo staggered back, surprised at the sudden steel in his body. This second opening was all he needed.
Kanshou flashed downwards like a streak of black lightning, carving a large furrow in between Aemulo's shoulder and his torso. It wasn't enough to properly remove his arm from his body, but it was enough for Aemulo to take a step back in surprise.
He didn't stop there; he took a step forward again, this time, Bakuya raised in another flash of light, catching Aemulo's torso and giving the Apostle a gash that didn't bleed.
Another step, and he managed to slice his jugular. Another, cutting the tendons in his elbow that made his hands respond to his brain's signals. Another, and then Aemulo was on his knees, the back of his knees cut, forcing the old Apostle on the ground.
By pure skill alone, he should have won. Aemulo's attempts to kill him left him wide open and easily predictable. He had strength, but no power. Speed but no agility. Intelligence but no cunning. Aemulo would beat him by pure raw stats no questions asked. But the thing was, he's done that before. He knew how to fight against people like that, against monsters like that. It was the reason he had managed to force Aemulo to his knees, injured him so greatly that now he was at his mercy at this split-second.
But in terms of statistics… he just couldn't match him.
He swung down with both Kanshou and Bakuya, intent on executing the Apostle right then and there. But both blades met nothing but air as Aemulo shimmered into nonexistence from his sight. An afterimage, a deci-second illusion. That was all it took for him to suddenly lurch sideward, before the sound of crunching steel inside his body echoed around the makeshift arena.
He flew, head over heels he tumbled. His back met the wall of fake blades, and he was forced to expel all the air in his lungs, the air leaving his mouth with a heavy heave.
He pushed himself off the ground, well, he tried to push himself off the ground. His entire body had been shaken, and now he was trembling, not from fear, but from his sword/body resonating from the vibrations it was still giving off. Causing his teeth to chatter uncontrollably, and making it very disorientating for his sight. It was only then, after he was trying to control his shaking body, did he notice he had dropped both Kanshou and Bakuya after the hit from Aemulo.
He looked up, his sight now returning to normal and his body having released most of the vibrations in the air, and saw Aemulo picking up Kanshou from the ground. "Interesting." The apostle muttered as he examined every inch of the blade. The vampire took an experimental swing with it, before he grit his teeth and forced the blade and its partner to disappear. Even if it wasn't with him, it was still tethered to him, to his Blade Works. Nothing could possibly remove that… hopefully.
"Ah," Aemulo uttered almost elegantly as Kanshou disappeared into blue motes of light. "A shame. I was merely curious about that weapon of yours. It seems to bear significant weight for something a Projected. But then again…" Aemulo trailed as he Projected another blade in his hands. "It wasn't normally Projected now was it?"
He clenched his jaw, making his teeth clack together audibly, before he steadied himself and focused. "Trace On!" Another set, but this time, he threw them.
One flew high and the other flew low, both angled in a way that they would curve towards Aemulo. The memories of how to use this technique flooded his mind. He remembered, he knew how, but he also Altered.
Aemulo readied to defend himself, looking over both blades coming at him from his sides. But before he could do anything, before the blades could meet dead center, he Traced another pair.
He ran forward. "Trace On!" Two black blades were now in his hands, the partner swords of the two white ones he threw. This wasn't the original technique, this wasn't Archer's version. This was his Altered version.
The two spinning white blades that were about to meet Aemulo suddenly veered off-course, back towards him. Surprising the Apostle at the sudden turn. He kept running forward, towards Aemulo, towards the white blades that were now coming straight at him.
As the white blades approached, he threw both Kanshous in his hands upwards in an underhand throw, sending both blades spinning over Aemulo's head. The white blades veered right past him, before they followed the black ones that were thrown upwards.
He clenched his jaw as he was in striking distance of the Apostle. He saw the Apostle reach forward, a blade forming in his hand. He was faster. "Trace On!" Another set of white blades, both appearing in his hands. He used the first one to deflect the still forming blade in Aemulo's hand, before using the second in his right to thrust forward and into Aemulo's chest.
Dead center. The Bakuya in his right hand struck dead center into Aemulo's chest, making the Apostle stagger back in pain. It wasn't enough. His opponent wouldn't die from that, his wounds will heal.
Sending a pulse of Prana into the Bakuya in Aemulo's chest, he overloaded it, turning it into a weak Broken Phantasm. The blade exploded, still in Aemulo's chest, sending chunks of flesh and bone flying outwards. He wasn't done yet. The Bakuya in his left hand flashed forward, already Broken, already forming wings of steel. He aimed for the now exposed heart, right between the ribcage, and struck. Blood that shouldn't be there spurt out and covered his face and body.
He backed off as Aemulo suddenly staggered forward as if struck. He knew why, the black blades had come for their partner, the one in Aemulo's chest. Once and twice, Aemulo lurched forward as two blades met his exposed back. Aemulo took another two steps forward as the last two blades, the ones he first threw, caught up with both Kanshous.
It was a perfect technique, designed to prevent any sort of defense and leave your opponent wide open. It was a sure kill move, a technique that was supposed to win, supposed to finish the opponent.
But it wasn't, not yet. His opponent wouldn't die from having his chest exploded and his heart and back pierced. His opponent didn't even have a beating heart anymore. His opponent would heal in time, and if he didn't act now, he would most likely be on the receiving end of something worse that his opponent could dole out.
So he searched his World. The Blade Works was a world that had an infinite number of swords, that created and stored them into his soul. So he would find one, a sword that can defeat something that can heal even when their heart is pierced. He would find one, he will find one.
He did find it, but it was too late. Damn statistics.
His vision blackened as he felt a strong blow to the side of his head. He tried to focus, but could only see a silhouette of who he could only assume to be Aemulo in front of him, everything else was blurry as the blow sent him flying to the side. He had already lost count the number of times this had happened.
Again, he rolled on the ground, the rolling dispersing some of the force behind Aemulo's… strike? Slash? Whatever it was. And again, he found himself flat on his back as he stared up towards the ceiling, the only difference this time was that he was under a hole, under the clouds that was pouring rain down onto him and the battlefield littered with fake swords.
He tried to stand, but a boot landed on his chest, sending him back down on the wet stone floor with a thump. He groaned in pain, okay, his body may have been made of swords, and it may have been repairing some of the damage that had been caused to it, but damn it hurt like hell when hit with something blunt.
He looked upwards, and saw the tip of a blade right in between his eyes, he looked past the tip, and saw Aemulo, face still half-melting, but panting considerably. His wounds were already repairing themselves – no – they were already becoming the way they were before they were wounded in the first place.
"You were much harder to beat then I first thought." Aemulo commented, flecks of his face falling right next to him, and some bits of it splashing onto his face. He suppressed the urge to shudder in disgust, as the slightest movement could push the sword into his brain and onto the ground. "Still, in the end, you're no match for me."
A thought and his mouth moved on his own. "Well, I-" He didn't get to finish his words as Aemulo pressed down onto his chest with his boot, putting more pressure onto his chest and making it even harder to breath.
"I've no time for games." Aemulo said, his eye for once deadly serious. There was no more apathy in his eyes, like a hunter hunting its prey for food would have, no, now his eyes were filled with so much malice and annoyance that it was almost choking. Gilgamesh had hot white fury to power his maddened malevolence, and even Archer had shown some semblance of that as well. Aemulo however, showed nothing but cold contempt as the Apostle stared down at him.
It scared him.
It scared him to the core. But scared or not… "Don't mess with me!" He shouted as he raised his hand and deflected the sword in his face to the side, before he Traced another pair of the black and white Chinese swords he was so accustomed to and swiped it at Aemulo.
The apostle leaned back to avoid the incoming blades, dodging both with sickening ease, before he pushed down with the leg still on his chest and sent him crashing down onto the wet floor again. He felt something embed itself onto his chest, the sick squelch of metal grinding upon metal as Aemulo plunged his blade right on his chest.
"Guah!" Was all he could manage to say as the blade exited his back and hit the stone floor beneath him. His eyes closed tightly as his mind registered the pain and agony he was feeling. But through the pain, through the agony, he could feel his body begin to repair the damage, he didn't know how he knew this, but he knew that his body was trying to reconstruct himself. Trying to make it so that he wouldn't die.
It was a futile effort. The blade was still there, it needed to be pulled out of him for it to heal properly.
"Pity." Through the pain he was feeling, he managed to hear Aemulo's voice. He cracked open one eye and stared up at the melting face of the Apostle. "Your techniques and Projection thaumaturgy is definitely something I haven't seen before. You wield blades as if they were made from legends themselves. I would have liked to talk to you about it in earnest."
He saw the look Aemulo was giving him, one of pity and disappointment. Normal people would have felt indignant about that, that your killer was giving you a look that said they never wanted to kill you. But to him, that look meant something else.
That look reminded him of the way Archer would look at him. Of how disappointed he was, of how pitiful he must have looked to the Servant. There was no anger when he fought him, sure, there may have been at first. But in the end, his anger wasn't what fueled him to keep going during that battle. It was his defiance.
With shaking hands, he gripped the false blade that was still embedded onto his chest. His eyes closed tightly as each small move from his body caused him agonizing pain. Each shift of his muscles and bones caused the blades in his body to creak against each other. It may have been a body made of swords, but that only meant that his body would hurt and maim and kill.
Through the pain, he pushed through.
He pushed back against the blade, against Aemulo who was leaning onto the blade, against the weight of losing to someone who reminded him so much of himself!
"You still have some fight left in you?" Aemulo commented as he managed to push the blade steadily out of his chest. It had pierced his left lung, he didn't need to Structurally Grasp himself to know that his breathing was shortened and was quick. But still he pushed, ignoring the pain, ignoring the sound of metal grinding upon metal.
But even with everything he had pushing against the blade. It still sank onto him as Aemulo pushed down. "Give up," He heard Aemulo taunt him even with his mind and body addled with pain. "You're beaten and battered and now pinned to the ground. What hope do you have of beating me?"
None. He wanted to answer, but his only response was to gurgle in pain. But even then he pushed back, defiant as he tried to stop himself from succumbing.
"Is your soul so broken that you would let yourself die like this?" Aemulo asked, he barely registered the flecks of his face falling on his own as he kept pushing. "Your body is broken, your swords, shattered. Why won't you just let yourself die and end the misery? Is your will that strong?"
Mind and body were both broken. He couldn't think straight, he couldn't even regurgitate a word as Aemulo bombarded him with condescending questions. His body was wreaked in pain, the blades trying to reforge something that they simply couldn't – no – more like they could never heal, only repair.
Mind and body had succumbed to pain and near death. But his soul, his will, his spirit, it was unlimited.
"Rahh!" He pushed, harder than before. His body, the body made of – no – the body that was a blade. It reforged against the falsity that was embedded into it.
If he died, if he succumbed, then all his effort, all his toil, all his works. They wouldn't have mattered.
He could feel Aemulo desperately pushing the false blade into his body, to pin him down. But he countered Aemulo's strength with his own, his sword of a body assimilating the false sword into his own world.
The false memories of the sword embedded into him flooded his mind. Images of the sword cutting down women, children, men, and even animals although real, were false. These false memories were assimilated into one sword, to try and make something hollow into something full, something with substance. It was a success, yet at the same time a failure. It existed with girth, with fullness like that of a real sword. But it was hollow, it held no soul, no sense of what made a sword a sword.
Nonetheless, it assimilated itself into his World, into the Unlimited landscape of wills, along countless number of Blades, with Works unseen and unconceivable to humans.
It assimilated, and then it disappeared. Something that existed, but something that couldn't exist.
He pushed against Aemulo and the false sword in the Apostle's hands. And judging by Aemulo's reaction, of widening eyes and a gasp of air, he probably didn't expect for his fake blade to push back against him as well.
"What is-" Aemulo began, but couldn't finish as he let out a yell and pushed the blade right out of his chest. He didn't waste any time as he Traced another blade in his right hand and wildly swung it at Aemulo's direction.
To his surprise, he heard Aemulo shout in pain, before the Apostle jumped away from him to tend to his wounds. This gave him some much needed room to breath as he sat up and clutched his still impaled chest. He looked down into it, at the fringes of the wound, and saw what looked like blades starting to knit themselves into a makeshift coat of skin and veins for him. It was gruesome to look at, but something that oddly seemed right for him.
He stared at the false blade still embedded into him. With a small grimace, he clutched the hilt before he pulled it off in one swift motion. The metallic sound of metal rubbing against metal sounded again, and to his surprise, he didn't find it uncomfortable anymore. Maybe he was used to it now.
"What did you do to me?!" He looked up, and saw that Aemulo was clutching his right side with a look of pain and confusion etched onto his panicked and melting face.
He looked at Aemulo, and then the scythe-sword in his right hand, before he looked back up and took a ready stance with the scythe-like blade in it, discarding the false blade that Aemulo had stabbed into him a few moments ago. "It's a prototype." That was true. This blade had no name yet. But its effects were still rather prominent, especially to those that would heal unnaturally. For humans and some animals, this blade would only hinder them from fighting. But for monsters and Apostles with healing factors that could only be described as other-worldly. It was a deadly tool. A deadly tool that forces your wounds to heal naturally.
This was the blade he found when he was looking for a way to kill Aemulo just a little while ago. The blade he didn't manage to Trace in time was now in his hands, had struck Aemulo the Dead Apostle, and was now giving him a hell of a ride with something he could never heal.
"Why can't I heal?" Aemulo muttered as he took his hand away from the wound and glared at him, another fake blade appearing in his hands. It didn't matter, the blades wouldn't harm him now, they couldn't harm him now.
"This sword." He waved the prototype lightly in Aemulo's direction. "Forces all wounds to heal naturally. It's supposed to make a fight even when fighting something that heals at an obscene rate. Against you however, it's an unfair advantage for me." He said the last part with calculated coolness. This was it, his trump card against Aemulo. A blade that forces wounds to heal naturally, a Noble Phantasm prototype he had seen Gilgamesh use and he had countered while inside his Blade Works.
It was an unfair advantage for him, partly because it forced his opponent to heal naturally, but largely because his opponent couldn't heal naturally. At least, not anymore.
A slight niggling at the back of his mind told him that this sword was named Harpe, and also other names that he couldn't focus on. It didn't matter; he didn't need the name to use its effects, a rarity when Noble Phantasms were being used.
"You can Project a Mystic Code?" Aemulo asked, sounding incredulous with his recent explanation.
He shook his head. "Not a Mystic Code." He corrected. He took a step forward, and readied the scythe-blade. He launched himself forward, Harpe swinging right for Aemulo's head. The metallic sound of metal hitting metal sounded as two swords materialized and blocked the strike from reaching Aemulo's head. He stared straight, towards Aemulo, into his one remaining eye, ignoring the melting face that was now sneering at him. "It's a Noble Phantasm." He finished.
Fighting someone with a weapon he had no idea how to use. This was his third time doing it now. Oh well, at least this time, he couldn't get hurt by his enemy.
Time to put Aemulo on the back foot.
She raised an eyebrow in surprise and wonder, before she turned towards the only person that still had the same grin she sported when she had asked what she knew. "This is what you were talking about?" She couldn't help but add an accusatory tone in her voice.
Aoko only turned towards her and gave her the same grin she had been using. "Yup." The Sorceress nodded her head. Her grin disappeared quickly however, before it turned into a confused stare. "You never noticed?"
She didn't. All this time she had thought that Shirou was Projecting strong Mystic Codes. The projects Shirou had given her weren't ever anything she thought were Noble Phantasms. She had Traced swords that could heat and ignite, that could freeze and harden. But she never thought… but then again, they did hold a certain weight to them when she did manage to Trace them.
But regardless of holding weight or not, the swords she managed to Trace weren't anything of this caliber. A sword that ignited and heated things didn't seem as impressive as a scythe-blade that forces wounds to heal naturally.
She couldn't help but be impressed however, of Shirou's weapon of choice. That blade was more than deadly to a Dead Apostle.
It was then she noticed something. Something she hadn't seen Shirou do at all, something that seemed uncharacteristic for him. "Is he just swinging that thing wildly?" She questioned as Shirou seemed to swing recklessly forward before slipping a bit because of the wet stone floor.
Of all the time she knew Shirou (which admittedly wasn't that long), she had always seen him calculate his moves and attack with caution. Now he was just attacking with reckless abandon, leaving himself open whilst attacking with all his might, channeling raw power into his attacks.
It was dangerous, more than dangerous. It was deadly for him to be attacking like that. But still he showed no intention of stopping, no intention of reverting to a stance. It was like… It was like he-
"He doesn't know how to use that thing." Aoko finished her thoughts. "He's just swinging it like it's some sort of baseball bat."
"He's going to get killed at this rate." She heard Carrie say. She was about to agree with her, but then another peculiar thing happened.
Shirou had overextended, his right side open for Aemulo to strike, to decapitate. But as Aemulo took the shot, took the deadly strike that actually made her tense and almost run forward to help. The blade in Aemulo's hands… bounced away from Shirou with a loud clang.
"What the-?" She began, surprised again at what was happening with Shirou.
Another strike from Aemulo told her that she wasn't seeing things. Aemulo had managed to recover fast enough from the surprise bounce of his blade, and had Projected another one in his off hand, which he had then used to try and stab Shirou. The strike connected with Shirou's chest, but instead of sinking in and actually debilitating him, it had instead bounced off like the previous strike that would have decapitated him.
Just what was going on now?
"He is just full of surprises isn't he?" Aoko commented. She didn't answer that question. The answer was obvious anyway. Still, was that the reason he was fighting with such reckless abandon? Because he somehow figured out a way to get past getting stabbed and sliced by Aemulo's swords?
She shook her head. Shirou was many things, but he wasn't exactly dumb enough to leave himself open because he couldn't get hurt.
In the shadows, she waited.
She had been watching them ever since they had entered the castle. She had done her best to avoid being detected, and surprisingly, it had worked. Even against a Sorceress she had managed to keep her presence concealed.
She grimaced a little as another gash appeared on her master's chest. The wound didn't bleed, but it also didn't heal. The blade that her master's opponent wielded was something troubling for her. She wanted to jump in and fight him with her master. Wanted to just blindside the brown haired teenager (she knew he was a teen. His body was too lithe to be a proper adult's, and his height wasn't that impressive.). Wanted nothing more than to get her master away from that unfavorable fight.
But she was under orders, she wasn't to interfere and was to keep her head down and away from notice. The reason was simple. On her back lay her master's magnum opus. His masterwork, the culmination of all his research into developing something filled; something that contrasted his innate hollowness.
She was under orders that if he should ever fall in battle, she would take the sword and leave without anyone noticing. He didn't want this sword to be discovered, to be known to anyone other than her and him personally.
The sword on her back increased in weight as each blow that her master took on his opponent just bounced right off of him. Blows that could slice a house in two were nothing but mere flicks to his opponent. And slashes that could cut an elephant in half didn't seem to make her master's opponent stagger in the least.
Just what did her master's opponent do to make these blows mean nothing? Just a little while ago he was struggling with wounds inflicted by her master's swords. But now they just didn't faze him.
She shook her head, staring at the fight with intensity and devout loyalty. She would follow her master's orders to the end. Should he fall in battle, she would run with the sword, never to be seen again.
One hand reached behind her, and grabbed the hilt of her master's work. Her instincts were screaming at her to help, and her body was reacting to those instincts. But she held back, forcing her body to keep still, to keep from moving in the shadows.
She managed it, but it was one of the hardest things she had ever done. And she didn't know how long she could keep stopping herself from it again.
Alright. I've hit the wall. Writers know what I mean, joggers know what I mean, and other creative and physically fit people know what I mean.
I'm suffering from a lack of inspiration. And even though I'm on semestral break and have all the time in the world to be pumping out chapters like it's nobodies business. I can't seem to just sit down for an hour and write 1500 words like I used to. Now I barely manage to scrape 500, with 800 on a good day. I don't know if I'm just being lazy again, or I've just exhausted my mental gas, but yeah. Writing a chapter a week for a year can probably do that to you. Again, I've written fifty plus chapters for four different stories in a year. That's more than a chapter per week people. So don't go telling me to hurry the hell up. You try pumping out chapters like that and then get people complaining about you to hurry the hell up with the next chapter. That's a first world problem right there.
Anyway. This story is officially one year old. Though I guess that was two months ago. Yeah, probably should have updated this then. Anyway. I haven't forgotten about this one, but running on nothing but mental fumes is tiring for me.
Anyway, next chapter is the end for the Aemulo arc. And a slight warning, I may or may not be trying a different way of writing an ending. So... if it's different and you don't like it, sorry about that.
Anyway, I'm out. I'll try and get rid of this damn writer's block and come back to my old schedule. But I'm not promising anything, at least not yet. Because aside from my writer's block, I'm also extremely lazy. Just ask my professors.
C.O.Y.L out, peace!
P.S: Changing my user to Cyronyx in the next few weeks.