Ophelia hated Sundays. And it to happened that the Scandinavian Lostbelt had been stuck on Sunday for a long time.
The moment she died in flames was the moment she saw him from the first time. He too was dying, or something close to it. She took pity on him.
He was born to bring the twilight of the world and then he would suffer defeat. When he rejected such notion, he became imprisoned.
She was born to continue her parents' magecraft lineage.
Both were born to their fate, unable to do anything but follow it.
The only choice she ever had was to join Chaldea in a ploy to escape from her family's eyes. In the organisation, there would be no one to judge her for not acting like she's expected to. She would be able to develop on her own, show her skills by herself.
But even in a world that had been wiped clean, expectations still weighted upon her. Surtr was a monster, who took some sick interest in her. Day and night, he would remind her of her failures, crush her dreams, spite on her hopes, laugh at her connections. He was destruction incarnate.
Yet, she could not escape him. The moment she was born with a Mystic eye, she became fated to be his attendant. To follow him on his promise to destroy the world.
She was nothing but a tool from the start.
That was why she found Archer's insistence on professing his love for her so sickening. She was pretty, hardworking, but she doubted he saw anything more than that. Yet, it also made her curious.
Then, Shirou Emiya, who was neither god nor Servant, swore to save her without a second thought. That left her reeling, so much she failed to protect and support her knight.
That confirmed how helpless she was, further cemented by Surtr's emergence.
In the end, going with him and watching him burn the world was only natural.
She could not even use this second chance to befriend Mash.
Ophelia Pharmsolone was placed with care on the fiery giant's shoulder.
She took her place, and watched as Hildr died in Emiya's arms.
She cared for the Valkyries a great deal. Her head hurt as hate bubbled up in her chest and was then suppressed by something.
"Now… I'll turn the world to ashes," as he said that, he raised his hand. A huge amount of magical energy surrounded it as a tornado of flame began to form.
A multitude of attacks him Surtr. Mash's Bunker Bolt, Napoleon's cannon, Emiya's arrows, Ortlinde's False Gungnir.
She felt Surtr shake as the attacks took their toll.
"Surtr, please deal with them. You are still too weak," she said in a voice that seemed disconnected from her own.
"Of course," he replied, and swung the sword prematurely. Ophelia watched Mash disappear in an ocean of flame. But, when the flames resided, she found them covered in an icy dome. Skadi was on top of it. Her magical energy was raging all over, dwarfing Surtr's own.
Ophelia felt a chill on her spine. She could do nothing, nor could Surtr right now.
"We must leave," she said.
"Hmmm, how troublesome…" he said, before his eyes shone and a beam shot forward. With a rune, Skadi dispersed it without breaking a sweat.
"Surtr! I will not allow you to continue decimating my world! I'll end what the all father started!" She declare as the ground shook. Multiple gigantic spikes of ice arose, alongside ice golems. The Chaldea crew seemed to recover their senses as well, standing behind her to support the queen.
"My lord…" Ophelia spoke, her breath shaky. She had only called one other person that, a special person she was forgetting. What was going on? Every thought on her head was being destroyed and replaced by Surtr.
She wanted it to stop. It hurt.
"My beloved!" screamed a voice. It was full of joy and happiness. Sinmara appeared, elated and floating in front of Surtr's face. However, his expression remained neutral.
"Sinmara…" he said, voice booming.
"Yes it's me!" An attack came, but she used her mystic eye to make it miss, allowing Surtr to continue.
"After all this time…"
"Yes! We can finally be free!"
"...Indeed. Now, give me Lavaelin, so that I can destroy this world,"
"Love, you must be confused. You have to destroy the world no more, remember? We defied fate."
"I defied fate, yes. But, my desire is for the world to come to an end."
"What? But… where would we go? What would we do? What about our brethren?"
"I do not care. I want to set this world ablaze, show her the beautiful landscape I can make," he said, looking at Ophelia for a split second.
Something akin to a combination of anger and confusion took over Sinmara's features.
"I don't understand…"
"You don't need to," he said. A giant hand of brimstone then closed in on around the woman, trapping her. "The moment you swore yourself to me, you became my tool."
"But I loved you!" She screamed, face contorted in anguish.
"Yes. That's why you are doing all this, for me," he replied, giddy.
"Please don't… let me help you. Please!" She begged. Surtr closed his eyes.
"I chose my fate. You simply followed me. You are no better than my old self. Now it is time give me back what I gave you," he said as his mouth began to open wide, the corners of his mouth cracking.
"No! My love!" She screamed, struggling to break free.
Despite his size; Surtr's head, jaw and neck moved at lightning speed to chomp on the smaller woman. In one move, she had disappeared in his mouth with a crunch that shook the giant's entire body. He ate her, making munching sounds all the while.
She felt sick to her stomach, but still did nothing to stop Surtr's acts.
Meanwhile Chaldea's group watched in abject horror.
The ground shook, along with Surtr himself.
"Finally!" he said. Ophelia felt magical energy swirl as the world grew a little dark for the first time in ages. "I'll recover everything I've lost!"
His body twisted and grew. His flames brightened, letting more embers free. His entire right side became blue with ice spikes protruding out from his body. He was transforming into something else. Cold winds that would freeze anything without magical protection began to swirl around him. Skadi's spikes began melting.
Then, Surtr reached to the ground and pulled his sword, Lavaelin, as big as he was now. She felt… happy.
"Do it, my lord," she said, despite a part of her screaming to stop.
"Yes. Let's end this."
Flames swirled, his sword burned brighter than the sun itself as he raised it.
The Chaldea group attacked with ferocity. Unlike before, Surtr did not budge. Their attacks did almost nothing, and any scratch became healed in an instant.
"Loptr Laegjarn!" The sword came down,.
Chaldea saw this. Mash raised her shield in respinse, erecting a glitching fortress behind her. Brynhildr and Napoleon fired their strongest attacks. Skadi assisted by protecting them with runes.
Even with that, it was impossible to stop the sword.
An emerald slash, almost as big as Surtr's own sword, cashed against his weapon, along with a cold blue projectile.
His sword could not come down but the energy was released anyways.
Flames enveloped the world all over, so much it hurt to look. Ophelia had to close her eyes before that light of destruction.
When it faded, the Chaldeans could not stand up. They laid scattered and beaten among a burned landscape.
She felt glee in seeing the destruction. A glee that was disgusting her.
"Let's go, Ophelia," said Surtr, beginning to move his massive body.
"Where?" She asked.
"The tree, of course."
Ophelia looked down to the earth, searching for Mash's body, but found nothing. She was gone.
Ophelia truly, absolutely hated Sundays.
"Human…" He heard something from the darkness. A voice calling to him. "Human!"
His eyes jolted open. He found himself once again on that night, with crumbling buildings, the sound of fire and brimstone, the smell of burnt flesh…
"Human. Are you functional?" Thrud appeared in his field of vision. Why was she here?
Then he remembered. It was not that night. Surtr had attacked them. A single stroke of his weapon was enough to incapacitate them.
"Is… everyone else alright…?" He asked her. Thrud nodded.
"Unknown. Ortlinde is confirmed functional," she said. With effort Shirou stood up and looked around. All around the smell of ash surrounded his nostrils. Trees were burnt to a crisp, and the ground charred, smouldering embers still lingering about. Far away mountaintops were melting down into rivers.
Shirou could see a trail of fire and destruction leading towards the south. The only thing in that direction was Gerda's village.
"Why did you come back?" He asked. Thrud said nothing for a moment.
"I'm… here for my sisters. But I cannot reach Hildr," she said, looking him straight in the eye. Shirou felt numb upon hearing her name. His response got caught in his throat, but Thrud deserved the truth, so he willed the words out.
"She's gone," he said looking downwards. Thrud's eyes opened wide before narrowing, her mouth twitching downwards.
"Did she… die honourably?" Thrud asked. Shirou did not know how to answer that question correctly, so he opted to give his own answer.
"Yes," he said.
"Good," Thrud said, turning around.
Shirou nodded. He could not believe Hildr was gone again.
He suppressed the feeling by force of will. He had no time to grieve, he needed to move forward and find the others.
"Come on," he said passing by Thrud. He heard footsteps follow behind.
Shirou activated his communicator, and as expected, static came through.
"Hello? Anyone?" He asked into it, in a vain hope someone would reply. The static continued for half a minute before a distorted voice came through.
"Emiya? Is that you?" Asked the voice. It belonged to Da Vinci.
"Yes it's me! Are you all alright?" He asked, a little too eager.
"The Shadow Border is fine. We picked up the others, we need to have an urgent meeting! All of us!" She said.
"Where are you?" He asked.
"En route to your location," she said before shutting off the transmission.
Shirou sighed in relief, then turned to Thrud. She was looking away, beautiful as ever.
"Thrud?" He asked, getting close to her. She turned to him, and the sight surprised him. Tears were running down her eyes, falling into the charred ground. Despite that, her expression remained neutral with a small frown beginning to form.
"What do you require?" She asked him. He immediately felt the need to comfort her somehow.
"Is this about Hildr?" He asked. Mentioning her hurt, but it also hurt to see Thrud crying.
"No," she replied, looking away. He knew it was not going to be easy to get her to open up. It never had been.
"About yourself?" He asked. She did not respond. "You think you failed her?"
"I was indecisive," she replied after a long silence. "I allowed my feelings, my doubts to distract me and because of that Hildr is dead."
Shirou said nothing. It was painful, because he knew it had been his weakness, his want to save Ophelia what forced Hildr to step in. He, once again, had lost her in search of fulfilling his ideal. Nothing had changed at all, and that hurt. But he suppressed the pain because he needed to go on.
"You loved her more than anything. It's okay to cry."
"I should not be like this. I should be happy she died like a warrior. But I'm not. I'm… angry instead," she said. Shirou reached out to her, but retracted his hand. What else could he say or do?
"Besides," Thrud continued, facing him fully. "Isn't it hypocritical of you to say that? You haven't even reacted."
That question pierced through his chest, or it felt like that at least. He opened his mouth to answer, but struggled to come up with a response. At that moment, he felt weak. It was only in front of the Valkyries that he felt like he could be weak. Even if this wasn't his Thrud, the feeling of safety was still there.
He could allow one thing. A wish to revive old memories.
"Believe me, I want to break down and cry more than anything, but I can't do that right now. I have to keep moving, I have to keep being a hero," he said.
Thrud looked him for a long while, as if trying to look deep into his soul.
"I see," she said. "You are like us after all…"
Thrud's musings came to a swift end when the Shadow Border drove over a hill, skidding to a stop and opening it's hatch in seconds. She wiped her tears with one hand.
"Get in on, the double!" He heard Goredolf say. He looked as clean as ever.
With a nod, Shirou entered the vehicle. Thrud followed silently.
He was immediately brought to the command room.
Everyone else was there except for Da Vinci. Ritsuka, Mash, Goredolf, Holmes, Napoleon, Brynhildr, Ortlinde and… Skadi?
Instantly his mind went on alert. However, Skadi seemed to notice his distress.
"Easy, my child. I'm not your enemy, for now," she said. Shirou lowered his guard, then turned to Brynhildr, who seemed to be in much better shape than before.
"Are you all alright?" He asked. Brynhildr was taken aback, but smiled nonetheless and nodded.
"Yes. Thanks to Skadi here," she said. "However–"
"Our spirit cores were heavily damaged," said a grave voice. Everyone in the room turned to a new arrival, one he recognised all too well. "If I and Brynhildr aren't careful we'll fall apart at a moments notice. But Skadi's holding us up for now."
Sigurd entered the scene. He stood upright, with some difficulty. The gaping hole Shirou had left on his chest was all but gone now.
"So are you…?" Shirou began asking.
"...I am myself now, although I am deeply ashamed. I could not fight Surtr's influence, and thus caused you all great suffering," he said. His words seemed genuine, even if his face remained stoic.
"It's alright dear. Even when possessed, you did save lives," said Brynhildr, putting a hand on his shoulder. She looked downright radiant now, compared to before.
"Wait a second…" Mash said, as if having an epiphany. "Now I remember! You retreated on our first encounter! Was that your influence?" Mash said.
"Yes. That was the best I could do," Sigurd said.
"And then helped deflect Surtr's blast! Lover boy here sure does pull his weight!" Napoleon said with a bright smile. He was a little bruised, but his knife wounds were gone.
"Are you all forgetting about me? I guess appreciation is hard to come by in this age," said the voice of a small girl. Shirou turned in an instant, and saw the high Servant that was Sitonai smiling at them.
"Illya!" He said, going toward her in a rush."You're alright."
He was smiling, which caused Illia to smile in return.
"Of course I am," she said.
"I'm so glad," he said, patting her head. Illya grimaced and blushed out of embarrassment. Her hair was as silky and soft as he remembered.
"Hey now! This is neither how you treat a high Servant or your older sibling!" She complained, but did not back away from his touch which only made her all the more endearing.
"Wait, you two are related?" Ritsuka asked. Everyone was looking at them with either confusion or surprise. Shirou sighed.
"It's a long story," he said.
"Then let's not dally any longer," Holmes said, stepping up at the centre of the room. "We must address Surtr immediately."
With a nod, the group converged near Sherlock Holmes.
"Where is he?" Ritsuka asked with a frown.
"He's heading towards village 23," Skadi said.
"That's where Gerda is!" Mash said.
"Yes. But that's not all, every giant has broken free of their masks," Skadi said. "They are no longer under my control. All they seek now is the destruction of all lifeforms, as their king demands."
"I see. So my guesses were correct. Ragnarök did go awry here," Holmes said. "Not only that, Surtr plainly defied his fate, did he not?"
Skadi closed her eyes, as if remembering something painful.
"What happened?" Ritsuka asked.
Thus, Skadi told them the story of the Lostbelt. How Surtr had decided to destroy not only the Norse Age of the Gods, but also the rest of the world along with it. While Odin managed to seal him in, it took all of his strength, along with the rest of the gods'. They all died, and left the earth charred with remnants of Ragnarök still smouldering in the mountaintops, kept in check by Skadi's magic. The handful of humans, Valkyries and lone God survived for months.
Until they got pruned.
During her tale, Shirou could see Ortlinde and Thrud frown before forcing their expressions back to neutrality. They had suffered a lot, as they had told him before. But seeing it on their faces brought him some anguish.
"So… this is not only a threat to us, but to the world as a whole," Ritsuka said, arms crossed.
"Indeed. And with the paper moon in his possession, nothing can stop Surtr from leaving this Lostbelt," Holmes said while stepping back.
"And Ophelia is right in the middle of it," Napoleon said. Ritsuka turned to him with a glare.
"You're still thinking of saving her?!" She asked him, mouth hanging agape.
"I already said I would, and I'm not stepping back. Even if it seems impossible, hope still remains and so will I!" he said. Everyone looked at him with skepticism.
"I knew you were not normal, but now I see you're batshit insane! Can you not see that she's right there on his shoulder?!" Goredolf asked.
"While I would word it differently, the director is right on one thing," Holmes pointed out. "Ophelia is Surtr's master. She is the one who, through their connection, summoned him in Sigurd's body by accident. As long as she remains her Master, there is no chance we can defeat him."
Everyone fell silent, a grim aura lingering through the room. Not even Napoleon seemed to have anything to say.
"She's his Master…" Shirou mused.
"That is correct," said Holmes, looking at the magus with intrigue.
"...if we cut their connection, without killing her, then–"
"–He'd be like any other Servant without a Master, since Ophelia summoned him through a contract! He would only be able to keep himself up with whatever magical energy he had from the time of summoning!" Da Vinci finished, joining them through a hologram.
"But do we have anything that can sever such a contract like that? Maybe… if I overload my Noble Phantasm…" Napoleon said. Shirou frowned, tired of people giving up their lives.
"I have something that might work. I've seen it, a noble phantasm that can sever any magical contract or theory," Shirou said.
"T-That sounds like Medea's–" Ritsuka said, which caught Shirou's attention.
"So you've met her," he said.
"That's right. You've met her too?" She asked.
"Yes, although not under friendly circumstances. But I'm confident I can trace her noble phantasm and use it on Ophelia."
"But you'd have to get close," Mash added.
"Well… we've done crazier stuff," said Ritsuka. "In fact, I may have a plan. But it will be risky."
"But how are you going to get close to him when he is as hot as a sun?" Goredolf asked.
"One of his sides has Fenrir's authority, the cold of Niflheim," said Thrud.
"And?" Ritsuka asked. Before thrud could speak again, Skadi stepped up to Shirou.
"Well then…" said Skadi, a single finger touching the black belt collar that hung around his neck, adorned with a green gem.
"It is done. You have the protection of my authority as the goddess of Winter. No cold will harm you, although given Surtr's nature I doubt even that will hold for long," said Skadi.
"So that's the plan?! Simply go into that giant's shoulder for the Crypter girl?" Asked Goredolf.
"It is certainly very risky. But neither Ritsuka nor Shirou attempting such a thing would be a surprise to me at this point. While I believe it may need more consideration, we are out of time. What do the rest of the you say?" Holmes asked.
Skadi spoke up first. "She is my child. I won't let her die."
Napoleon followed with a toothy smile. "Neither can I! It's her or nothing!"
"I'll stick by Fujimaru, my Master. And Emiya as well," Brynhildr said, flashing a smile to the two humans.
"I'll go with Senpai's plan," Mash said, gripping Ritsuka's hand tightly. "And Ophelia… she's my friend, or at least, I want her to be. It's the only thing I want more than anything right now, even if it's very selfish. I have to try."
Ritsuka beamed at Mash's determination, even if her voice seemed to crack under pressure at times.
Sigurd saw the three humans in front of him, and sighed. "I would prefer a direct, fast takedown myself. However…" with that, the looked at Shirou directly, and kneeled like a knight swearing an oath. "Emiya protected my wife when I could not. Fujimaru and Mash rescued her just like I once did. That is something that is impossible to ignore. Thus, I'll follow your lead."
Shirou did not know what to say, opting to look away instead.
"I'm glad you are on board, Saber!" said Ritsuka with a smile that could pierce any defence.
"I don't agree with this plan, and consider it somewhat foolish, but I cannot leave any of you alone. Even less so my brother," Sitonai said, grabbing Shirou's right arm.
"Then we are all in agreement," said Skadi. The group nodded, much to Goredolf's dismay. Then the queen turned to the Valkyries. "What will you two do?"
"Whatever you desire," Ortlinde said. However, Thrud did not, she instead looked down at the floor.
"What would Hildr have wanted? I do not know," said Thrud with her usual flat tone. "But she would have defended her sisters, and defeated the evil Surtr. I will do the same."
Thrud seemed to have a fire in her eyes that reminded Shirou of the one that fought during the 5th Holy Grail War. The one that stuck with him on his battle against the King of Heroes.
"My, my. How unexpected, my daughter. But yes, I approve. Ortlinde, you are to assist her," Skadi said. Ortlinde nodded.
"Alright then! Let's do this thing!" Ritsuka said, raising her fist to her chest, expression unusually grave. "This is what we will do, so listen close…"
Destruction is all she thought about, in that moment.
Her head pounded, as if her Mystic eye were trying to escape it's socket.
Her thoughts were hazy. Except for one.
"Yes… my love…" she muttered to herself, as Surtr advanced upon the tree of emptiness. Ophelia thought about it. It was so strange. She knew she had something to do with it, but… she was forgetting.
"I'll eat this, and recover every last bit of power I've lost. That's what you want as well, don't you?" he asked her through their mental link.
"Y-Yes. Yes. Yes. Eat it, absorb it. What you'll get is something you never imagined," she said with glee in her voice. Why? Why was she so gleeful? Ophelia questioned herself as her head pounded even harder. She was losing something…
"Hmm," Surtr said as he began tearing apart the tree with his bare hands, the trunk revealing a dark galaxy inside. "You're still not a part of me. Well… things take time after all…" he muttered, eating every piece, sucking every star.
"Of course. I'm a part of you, my beloved. I always was," she said, looking around them. The ice was melting, the giants around the region roared and attacked villages, fighting the envoys of Skadi. "Soon we'll destroy this world."
Her eye warned her of something.
She spotted a black figure among the white snow and blue trees. A vehicle.
Someone stood above it… some she detested and… admired.
Who was he? He couldn't remember him.
"Hey you!" He screamed, voice booming. "Lord of giants! You still haven't squashed me! You really think something like that can destroy a world?! Face me and let lady Ophelia go!" He remembered her name. How?
Her head pounded. She had an objective to complete.
"Ignore him, my love," she told Surtr, caressing his face. He continued eating the tree.
"So you won't listen! Fine by me!" He said. Ophelia felt a surge of energy coming from the approaching vehicle. "Take this!"
A beam of energy impacted Surtr's back. The giant shook.
Flanking the vehicle, three figures began running towards them, flanking the giant. A man with a sword, a woman with a lance and Mash. Mash?
Her head hurt.
An emerald beam, followed by a barrage of daggers, an ethereal lance of energy, icy arrows and another barrage of energy bolts all impacted Surtr's back. The quantity was massive, enough the Ophelia had trouble keeping her balance.
At this rate…
She felt one of the plates on his back break. He would not last if he allowed himself to continue being hit.
"How persistent…" Surtr mused, stepping away from the tree. Ophelia felt his back break even more. "… Then, I guess I'll have to destroy them as well."
Lava erupted from his wound. The Heroic spirits continued to attack him. She recognized them. Skadi, the queen.
Sitonai, the High Servant.
She observed their fruitless battle, one that they could not win. Surtr spewed fire from his mouth, and icy winds turned their skins to ice. Even so, they persisted.
Ophelia watched the Last Master of Humanity stand by Mash, supporting her as she withstood indescribable pain to resist the Fiery Giant's onslaught.
She grit her teeth. Mash, the shy girl of Chaldea, someone so distant, but back then her gaze also held the wish for someone to reach out.
Ophelia had wanted to reach out, but she did not.
Her head hurt.
"Are you not going to help me?" Asked the fiery giant, taking another barrage of attacks to the face.
"I… cannot… Mash…" Ophelia said as her head felt like it was about to explode.
"So she's holding you back… then I'll destroy her first," he said, turning his gaze to the shield maiden.
"No… No… I…" what could she do? Nothing. Nothing could be done, not by her. Something appeared on her field of vision as she looked around for a way to dissuade Surtr. Two robed beings with wings of light, carrying a human. Those were…
"Ho, they want to attack me as well? Or is it you they are targeting?" He asked her. Ophelia felt her chest tighten. Thrud and Ortlinde would never harm her, unless ordered to. "Accept it, you are meaningless to them. You only matter when you stray for the path. Once you do, they turn against you. Now… what do you say?"
Ophelia was pensive as Surtr continued to fight the Servants on the ground. Her ears rung.
"Ophelia, please!" She heard Mash scream. However, she barely glanced at her. "You have to stop this! Your responsibility is was to the Lostbelt's protection, to your beliefs! Don't let Surtr tell you otherwise!"
Mash's screams stopped as Surtr attacked again, flinging Mash, her Master and the Servants away. They were barely saved by Skadi's runes.
Ophelia grit her teeth, partly because of the pain in her head, but mostly because Surtr was making sense. Her parents did unspeakable things to her if she stepped out of line and even if she did not.
Beryl was an enforcer from Marisbury, contracted to keep all of team A in line.
Trapped between life and death, Ophelia had to live and serve, or die.
There was no point. She never had true choices, for all wrong paths lead to pain. She had to avoid those.
Ophelia smiled as she locked her eye onto the incoming Valkyries. Surtr would never have caught sight of them.
Shirou looked below him for a second before looking back up. Once again, he was being carried by a Valkyrie, but this time, it was Thrud. They were being escorted by Ortlinde, approaching Surtr from the skies.
Shirou could see his towering figure in the distance, grabbing onto a strange, pinkish tree that towered into the heaves, it's bark opening to darkness in several spots. He did not know what Surtr was doing, but the tree was breaking apart.
"What's he doing?" He asked the Valkyrie carrying him.
"He's absorbing the tree of emptiness," Thrud said, in as much shock as Shirou himself.
"If he absorbs it, he'll regain most of his lost power," Ortlinde said.
"Like when he ate Sinmara," Shirou added, remembering the fiery woman's awful demise.
"Yes. Once the tree is destroyed, the Lostbelt will fall, and he will escape. It would be possible course of action to let him absorb it, would it not?" Asked Ortlinde. Shirou looked at her with a confused expression. She was totally serious in her inquiry.
"I– We can't let him escape. I can't let him kill everyone here, or outside. Besides, Ophelia is still there. Do you not want to save her?" He asked her.
"It doesn't matter," said Ortlinde.
"It does," Shirou replied.
"No it does not," Ortlinde shot back.
"It does, sister," said Thrud, breaking her silence. Ortlinde and Shirou looked at her in shock. "As much as we try to deny it, Ophelia is a good woman, if a little meek."
"It was hard to accept at first, but… I like her. She was good to us and I want to do good by her, just like I should have done with Hildr and Brynhildr. That's the best thing we can do," Thrud said, looking at Ortlinde straight in the eye.
"So I should let my feelings control me? Sacrifice myself like Hildr?" Otrlinde asked with some spite in her voice.
"No! You should do what you feel like you must do! I want to protect my sisters more than anything," Thrud said. Ortlinde looked at her with a shocked expression. "Hildr wanted to live up to her image of being a Valkyrie, fighting and evaluating heroes. I… wish she had not saved him at the cost of her life. But she made her choice, while I stood by uselessly."
Ortlinde looked away, pensive. The moment did not last, as a rumbling sound caught their attention.
Surtr was closer, the calls of giant became louder, and the heat becoming unbearable.
"We are about to make contact," Thrud announced.
"Engaging combat mode," Ortlinde said.
Shirou's wrist communicator beeped, and then he felt a shockwave come from the king of giants. His back was being struck by multiple explosions.
"Emiya, we've engaged Surtr!" Mash announced.
"Execute the plan," said Ritsuka, her image shacking as Surtr retaliated after not paying mind to the attacks.
"Understood. Get me close then steer clear," Shirou said. "I don't want you to get hurt."
"Attention!" A giant lance came flying in their direction.
"The giants are attempting to impede us!" Said Ortlinde as she continued to evade the barrage of weapons being thrown from the thick ice forest. Thrud did the same, but carrying Shirou reduced her mobility. He did his best to shut down the incoming projectiles with his projected bow.
Surtr was two hundred meters ahead. He was completely focused on the ground team.
"Alright, if we can keep this up–"
"She's spotted us," Thrud stated.
"Ophelia?" Shirou asked, shooting down another incoming lance.
"Yes–!" Thrud suddenly jerked and they lost altitude before regaining it.
"Sister!" Ortlinde said before she herself began falling down, her light wings shutting on and off.
"She's using her mystic eye to shut down our Mystic Codes!" Thrud said.
"We must land!" Ortlinde said.
Shirou grit his teeth as they began lowering towards the forest. Multiple giants wandered towards them in the distance, maskless and full of rage.
"We're going to have to fight!" He said. He focused and traced the married twin blades. With their anti-monster properties he was sure to put up a fight.
"Their forces are overwhelming. You will not make it," said Ortlinde, landing at his side.
"I don't care. I'm not going to retreat, I'm not going to waver! Not while I can still save someone!" He said. Ortlinde looked straight through him, as if trying to find something deep inside his soul.
"Very well," she said, breaking eye contact. "We'll continue assisting you."
"We won't accept dismissals," said Thrud, landing on his other side. "We'll rescue lady Ophelia or fall trying."
The footsteps grew louder. The ground shook. A stale smell, foreign to the forest that usually had clear air, seemed to emerge from the treeline.
The giants emerged all varieties closing in on them.
The three of them grouped together, back to back.
It was a familiar scenario. It reminded him of the attack on Homurahara academy during the 5th grail war, where Rider erected the Blood Fort Andromeda.
"we have to move towards Surtr," Shirou said, keeping his eye on the enemy.
"Acknowledged," said the Valkyries in unison.
Surtr was to the west. Shirou faced south. He looked in that direction for a second. Surtr stood tall over the trees, receiving barrage after barrage of attacks.
They began advancing. Thrud and Ortlinde charged together towards the wall of giants. They moved fast, their spears became trails of light as they slashed and thrusted into the bodies of the enemy.
Shirou followed. The Valkyries fought with ferocity, and he covered them. When a giant stepped to attack from the flank, he was there to slash at their legs, or throw his swords at to in order to incapacitate them. They had no time to waste after all.
Ortlinde and Thrud tore through the giant horde, advancing to the point that Surtr was beginning to look like a towering building.
As they breached into a clearing where giants' numbers had dwindled, Shirou decided to call Fujimaru.
"Fujimaru! You there? Are you holding up?" He asked her.
"Not for long! Things are getting hot here, literally! The ground is starting to melt, where are you?!" He heard her distorted voice, and could hear fighting in the background.
"We had to take the grounded route. Retreat if you must, I can–!"
"You cannot. We'll keep holding, It was my plan after all. Besides, I'm doing this for Mash." Ritsuka said. Shirou remained silent, pondering over her answer. He did not want Ritsuka to get hurt, not only because she was deserving of living but… he could not bear to lose another person. Not when they were two of the last humans of proper human history.
"Please don't die," Shirou said.
"We won't. Now hurry," with that, the transmission cut out.
The air was getting hot, and the smell of burning matter and death filled his nostrils, reminding him of that night. It was unbearable.
He came next to a cliff, which gave way to what he could only describe to be the site of an active volcano, except a giant fiery leg was standing on it.
"Can you launch me up there?" He asked. It was the only idea that came to mind.
"We can, with a force rune," Thrud said.
"Ophelia will see us coming," Ortlinde protested.
"I'll distract her then," Thrud replied. Ortlinde nodded, but her eyes widened. Shirou felt his stomach sink.
"Wait a second–" he said, before Thrud raised her hand.
"I do this to save Lady Ophelia, my sisters, and my queen. I… won't abandon my duties again," Thrud said. She turned to Ortlinde, stepping up to her, before embracing her tightly. The younger Valkyrie stood stiff as a plank. "Forgive me for failing you."
"You… you did not," Ortlinde said, burying her face into her sister's chest. Thrud frowned, then separated from her.
"Hildr… sent me info before cutting herself off, from when she got hugged by sister. It felt warm," Thrud said, smiling slightly.
"She was right. It did feel warm," Ortlinde said, smiling as well.
"I've requested envoys from lady Skadi. You two, get ready," Thrud said, locking eyes with Shirou. He wanted her to be safe, to not leave again.
He had to remind himself that this world was going to vanish anyway, that the only choice was moving forward.
Even so, he had to save who he could. Get a hold of whatever he could reach.
"Don't do something stupid," he said before turning towards Surtr.
The mass produced Valkyries arrived, hovering over Thrud. She raised into the air to join them.
"Manifesting Corresponding bodies," Thrud and half a hundred envoys stood high up into the air, contrasting with the blackened sun.
"Beginning Synchronization," they raised their arms in perfect synchrony. Like a chorus of angels, their presence was impossible to not notice.
"The rune is ready, Emiya!" Ortlinde said, doing motions with her hand as wind began to swirl in place in front of Shirou.
"Got it!" He said, standing in position. He continued to observe Thrud. Even if he wanted to turn away, he could not, would not.
He owed her that much.
"Releasing True Name," the spears of the Valkyries shone bright like stars. The ground rumbled. Surtr noticed, turning his full attention to the flying army while one of his hand blocked incoming attacks from the Chaldea group.
"Heh, I see. As fruitless in their struggle as their progenitor. In that case, I'll let you die like he did," Surtr's sword swirled with fiery energy. Shirou's throat tightened. He was going to kill Thrud.
"Ragnarök Lífþrasir!" The lances of light flew like a meteor shower, fast as comets. They impacted Surtr before he could release his Noble Phantasm.
Every hit shone with the shine of a star. Surtr was bombarded multiple times, enough that he was completely covered by smoke and light. So much he was forced to cover his face. The ground shook. The entire area was enveloped by sprites of light and a calm feeling.
They had no time to waste.
"Now, Emiya!" Ortlinde said.
The rune was released.
Shirou flew high into the air, impulsed by wind. Such was the speed that his face contorted backwards.
His momentum ended at Surtr's left shoulder, where the ice was forming. There, Ophelia stood with her eyes shut.
As Shirou descended, the giant swung his sword and a torrent of flame flew towards the Valkyries. Thrud and the envoys were enveloped by the beam, and Shirou turned his eyes away in order to not be blinded.
Shirou felt hollow, but even so he pushed forward to rescue Ophelia and get back to Thrud.
He used what little power his Mystic Code had left, and activated it's flight function. For him, it would never work properly, but it did allow for a single boost in the air.
He impulsed himself forwards to land on Surtr's shoulder.
Just in time for Ophelia to spot him.
"You will not!" She screamed, using her magecraft to summon flame spirits that shot magic towards him.
Falling down, Shirou began to fill the chilling winds of Niflheim. They were dry, enough to make his skin feel like it was going to crack.
He blocked with his divine Iron shield, but a burning sensation still engulfed his left arm.
He grit his teeth, and landed on Surtr's shoulder. His legs screamed from the strain, and his hand that he used to stabilise himself was instantly frostbitten.
"Ngh–!" He looked up, locking eyes with Ophelia, who observe him with eyes opened wide.
"Stay away…!" She said. Her right eye began glowing. Shirou felt the cold sensation began to overwhelm him. The runes Skadi put in place to protect him from the cold were failing.
"Ophelia! Listen–!" He said, mustering all of his willpower to stand up and bear the pain.
"What do you want?! Don't you see… this is what I'm meant to do… heh," she said in a manner reminiscent of Surtr himself. She smiled, almost like she were deranged.
"I'm here to save you…"
"Again with that shit? I don't–!"
"You said it yourself! No one came to save you when you died, but it's still not too late! You can still save yourself! You can still save others from your fate! Please–!" Shirou felt weak, he could barely move forward.
Any more of that, and he was sure to die of hypothermia.
"I… belong to…"
"You don't belong to anybody."
"I don't have a choice,"
"You do! Even if it was obvious one to make, it still is one! You are not powerless. We can't save you if you don't let us. So please, let us help you!" he said, advancing towards her. Ophelia did not retreat.
Shirou activated his circuits, all twenty seven of them working overtime to reproduce the Noble Phantasm of the Witch of Betrayal.
"We won't hold it against you, whatever you do," Shirou said. His hand shook under the strain. If she wanted to, Ophelia could easily stop his tracing with her Mystic eye, and then he would die from the intense cold.
Ophelia looked to the battlefield, where the Chaldeans held their ground before closing them.
"Do it," she said, taking a single step towards him.
That was enough. The blade was in his hand. He raised it above his head, and aimed for her chest.
A/N: Finally it's done! Not much left of this arc now. I really enjoyed writing this chapter, even if at times I was horribly stuck. Sorry it took so long, college had a few surprises in store for me. I'm not totally happy with how Sinmara ended up, but that's how I planned her to end.
Anyways, I haven't said this yet so I better say it now. Thanks to all my readers for supporting Valkyrie Flavor. I never expected it to be well received, and seeing it receive a little following is kind of awesome, so I'll do my best to keep it going and finish this Lostbelt arc.
See you in the next chapter!