Chapter 38: Shirou's Glass World
I brandish my swords, black and white.
The red knight does not turn his back nor does he draw his bow. I could not let him release a single arrow onto the city below. Perched upon the highest peak with the moon above us and the city below us; there was no one to interfere with what will take place. Deep in my heart, I hoped for Sakura to lay low just a bit longer, but my luck was never that great in the first place. I purge all other thoughts. Power enters my legs. Everything will be decided in the next second.
"Huh?" was the sound Shinji makes. Writhing around on the floor, Shinji catches wind of the tension.
I lunge at the red knight whom I could not trust with Sakura's life, thrusting Kanshou forward.
The black bow is split in two, but Archer wasn't in front of me anymore. I push my perception to the limit and see the world beyond the one in front of my eyes.
I parry his Kanshou with my Bakuya. The swords were naturally drawn to each other which made them perfect counters. If he traced any other weapon, he may have already won, but that was not his objective. He stands in front of me, eyeing me, comprehending me...
He strikes a familiar stance and I respond in turn. Neither of us had much luck as we lock blades.
In each of our hands were twin swords. Simple they may seem, but they were swords that a legendary craftsman forged at the price of his own wife. No, what we had were mere illusions, but they were illusions that could kill. There was no question why we were drawn to these swords. There was no question whose illusions should be superior.
Just before my swords break, I throw them forward in an arc, but he dodges them with ease. Before he could strike me, another pair of swords form in my hands ready to receive.
The me that became an Ally of Justice, Heroic Spirit EMIYA; the logical conclusion of the ideals Kiritsugu and I had once sought.
His journey ended upon a hill of swords, alone. For the sake of ideals he had cast away everything else away. No family, no lover, no friends; he had cut away everything he could possibly hope to lose. He was everything I wanted to deny. He was a husk of cold steel, but fire remained in his veins. If a threat to humanity appears, the guardian will cut it down to balance the scales without question. He was a cold machine that simply fulfils its function; the Kiritsugu in my dreams was the same way. That's what it meant to be an Ally of Justice.
Our sword dance stops for a moment. That guardian stares at me, measuring me.
"Of course, I'm the last person you would trust in this world, but to think you have no faith in my Master," was the small talk he makes in light of all this. On some level, he found our predicament amusing.
I glare at him, gauging him.
In front of me was the source of my power and my greatest enemy; my own image. Compared to the distorted image created by the card, this time I was the one who was clearly lacking. He was the personification of my ultimate self honed over an eternity. The twin swords were my most trusted weapons, but that made them the greatest liability. All my techniques were derived from him; consciously or unconsciously. Mirroring will lead to a ladder of certain death, but there was no rule that a copy can't surpass the original.
I throw my swords in an arc and step back.
The black bow appears in my left and in my right...
Twin Kanshous arc from the left. Twin Bakuyas hook from the right. The sets of twin blades seal his escape as I release the red hunter.
My body is made out of swords.
My blood is of iron and my heart of glass.
"Overedge," he announces.
Sprouting like a pair of wings, his feathered married blades swat down mine as they bisect my altered arrow. Before the arrow shaft is broken, I throw down the axe sword of temple stone Heracles had heft around in front of me. It will do.
An explosion of sparks and shrapnel envelope the roof, but such attacks shouldn't be something that could have harmed a Heroic Spirit. I can't stop to think. There were people I needed to protect; that hasn't changed.
I have overcome countless battlefields.
Not even once retreating,
I draw my bow once again to head back into the fray.
Another red hunter flies anew without mercy. Against myself, there was no one to rely on but myself.
"Rho Aias," was the voice beyond the smoke before the sparks strike apart.
Not even once being victorious.
The orphan is alone again, striking diamond dust on a hill of swords.
Behind the iridescent shield of light and his outstretched palm, he stood. Archer stood with Shinji on his back and paid no heed to the extra pair of hands frantically flopping about on his face. Honestly, I felt nothing for Shinji. I had already betrayed myself long ago. Others may see me as nothing more than a cold machine, but there were people I needed to protect. I just needed to cut down those who stood in my way.
"Kill him. Kill him. Kill him. Kill him," was the plea Shinji makes that Archer brushes off.
But this life is not yet over.
I was an anomaly. I cared not for justice and gave up being a hero, but continued to borrow the power of one. It did not matter. It did not matter that I was a fake of a fake because...
This false body was still made of swords.
The world around me shatters apart, but night remains all the same. A moonless sky sits over a desolate land of cold snow and colder steel. An endless sea of cold steel was at my beck and call. The blizzard wind caresses my cheeks; I had forgotten how cold this place was. The red knight was unfazed by the cold or the endless graves that dotted the place.
"A.. .a..a Reailty Marble?!" was the laboured music Shinji makes that completes this world of mine from that snowy night. That snowy night that must not come to pass. The fire in my blood tells me so.
"You didn't choose me, but I love you, so I'll protect you," was the reality I denied with all my might. It will never come to pass; I won't let it.
My opponent simply lets out a breath with a smirk as he takes in my nightmare with his eyes.
"So this is your hell," Archer remarks.
I'm forced to look at this place again. I don't know if this was the correct decision or not. A hero can't save everyone, but I was no hero. I knew that from the start. In that nightmare on that night, Sakura had confessed everything. Sakura had given me the option to runaway with her, but I refused it and that had sealed her fate.
Just because people may be siblings doesn't mean that they won't kill each other.
I glare at the person Archer was protecting. I didn't care what happened to him, but an Ally of Justice would. There was no reason for me to pity an enemy. There was no reason for me to worry about an enemy. I never had such luxuries. I was not that kind.
"This is the world we both saw at the end of our journey; a land of endless graves."
"This snow globe? Maybe for you," he ascertains.
Flesh and blood cannot hope to match a legend on equal terms. Spirits did not need rest, while I had been neglecting mine. If I was to cut down my strongest self, then it had to be in this world where I was the ruler. I need to defeat him and focus everything for that goal. I draw Gram from the ground before me and the rest of the swords respond.
"It may be uncouth of me to have drawn first, but here's my entire stock."
For Miyu's sake, I had abandoned everything else, but on that night I had nothing else. When Sakura's body fell, I had nothing more to lose. That's why I could never hope to become an Ally of Justice; a world of graves rested on my back when I made an oath to save a single person. Right now, Sakura was at risk of falling just like in that unforgotten memory.
Swords, halberds, spears, shields and all forms of metal work converge. Holy swords, demonic swords and constructs that could not be classified as either of the two joined together to become my army. They come from all directions, from both East and West. The endless blades clatter and sing, striking together as one with singular purpose against the red knight giving him no chance to escape!
"Almace, Ama-no-Habakiri, Ame-no-Ohabari, Arondight, Ascalon, Asi, ... Balisarda, Blutgang... Chandrahrasa, Cheng Ying, Chrysaor, Chun Jun, Claíomh Solais, Clarent, Coreiseuse, Cruaidín Catutchenn,... Dáinsleif, Doujikiri Yasutsna, Durandal,... Galatine, Gong Bu,... Harpe,... Kogitsunemaru, ...Ridill, ...Tai A, Tyrfing, ...Zulfiqar..."
The sea of swords crash into him on all sides, but before they skewer his skin the red knight utters the words...
"Unlimited Blade Works."
From where the red knight stood, the world of snow and swords was swept away by an inferno. The freezing cold gives way to the sweltering heat of a forge. As the night dies, my eyes are greeted by a red sky dotted with gears in place of clouds. The graves that dotted the sand remain, but they did not heed my commands for this world was not mine.
He had banished my hell with his own. I muster all of my magical energy...
"My body is made out of swords..."
"You're at your limit. I know your capacity. I have my Master, but you are alone. The connection you have been relying on up until now has been severed since last night. You must know what that means," was something I avoided thinking about.
The hospital rooms were filled with Sakura's victims. Most were lucky and simply woke up exhausted with nightmares, but there were unlucky ones too. There were people who would never wake up after having their magical energy drained. No matter how many people Sakura takes from, they were all small fish compared to what Miyu was. Those who insist on saving everything will end up losing everything. When I woke up in this world, I swore to myself that I wouldn't lose anything more. Sakura had always hid things from me, but there were things I knew about her that everyone overlooks.
"You shouldn't look down on Sakura like that. She would never hurt Miyu."
I believe in the wish contained in those words.
"Those are your own biased feelings," Archer points out. Shinji dropped unceremoniously onto the red sand as Archer raises his hand and his blades follow his command. The sea of blades I aimed at him were now turned on me.
"What do you think happened to Caster's Master? Why else would Caster have gone down that easily? How are you so sure that your sister is even alive right now? You should know by now that Sakura is too dangerous to be left alive," were words he didn't have to say.
Sakura was a kind girl, but because of that kindness, she was more dangerous than anyone else.
"You need to face reality. The Sakura you knew is already dead, so what does it matter to you?" were his harsh words that cause me to falter, but I could not stop. I charge.
Tall blades sprout from the sand, inches away from skewering me blunting my charge. I roll to the side before the sand beneath me is stained any further. More blades descend forming a cage before I could make a break for it. If my mind was just a bit faster, I would have been skewered.
"Trace On. Overedge."
The feathered married blades in my hands cut away the flimsy obstacles in my path. I make a bee-line towards the red knight, but he does not move from his spot. Whether it was pity or arrogance did not matter to me.
My gamble had failed.
I did not have the reserves to purge his hell away. Miyu did, but I did not. I wasn't so kind because I was no Ally of Justice. At long range and at close range, I have no hope of beating him in a fair fight. In his world, there was absolutely no hope for me to win, but in times of desperation, the odds never mattered to me. Logic was a tool, but humans didn't always have the mind to use their tools correctly.
I smash my blades into his with reckless abandon.
Left, right and center; the deadweight named Shinji on the floor was an extra opening I could take advantage of and did. Right from under, I aim Bakuya towards the deadweight once more, but Archer meets it with his Kanshou.
"Kill him. Kill him. Kill him before he kills me you useless Servant!" Shinji cries over the sound of crashing blades.
Our blades lock.
"He might not act like it, but that thing is still Sakura's brother," he tells me, but I don't listen. His calm tone only serves to boil my blood.
I don't stop swinging. I keep attacking, but my twin swords are met by his.
"But he isn't mine. For siblings to kill each other...," was the memory I'm forced to remember and my swings only become more powerful than before. Sakura was someone I couldn't lose again. Someone who willingly gave up that life could never understand! I push myself further.
My attack does not reach as he breaks my blade with his. The red knight parries all my attacks without retreating. I could neither tell what my opponent was doing anymore or if my attacks were doing anything anymore.
This was a fight I lost from the start, but I continue to pump oxygen into my lungs. I don't stop. I can't stop. Frustration and anger boil over.
The night sky was above me. Archer stands above me. His boot pressed against my stomach. His Bakuya planted inches away from my neck. I muster all the magical energy I had left, but I had none to spare. There was no way for Emiya Shirou to beat Heroic Spirit EMIYA.
Archer looks over into the distance as he lowers Kanshou.
"Lucky for you, it seems your biased feelings were right," Archer tells me, which was of no consolation. He moves his foot from my stomach.
I pounce back on my feet and look to the black horizon. A pair of comets fast approaches, crossing the Fuyuki Bridge in an instant. On the wings of mythical beasts, Miyu had come with both Saber and Rider. Sakura was unconscious in Berserker's grasp while Illya and Tohsaka prepare for the inevitable battle. Archer was no longer looking at me as he creases his brows.
"But that doesn't make things any simpler," as we both curse our own luck.