The Hill of Swords: Last Episode
Author's notes: The theme song for this chapter is Yume no Owari. I won't say anything else now, but at the end of the chapter I have a small section I've titled 'Author's Conclusion'.
On a hill in the northern part of the Valliere's estate in the northern regions of the country of Tristain, a hill nearly completely untouched by human hands, there rested a sword. It was buried blade first at the summit, its steel shaft shining silver amongst the green grass it rested in, its hilt glimmering gold from the sun that shone down on it.
There were many people gathered around the sword. On one side a tall blond man stood. Belted at his hip is a wand sword, a sign of his status as a knight. Beside him stood another blond, this one a woman, her hair curly as it flowed down her back. Between them was a boy, clutching both of their larger hands in his tiny one. To their side were three other men, all of them similarly armed as the first man was. One was a tall and well muscled fellow, another slim and somber. Between the two of them a slim woman with dark hair wrested her hands on both of their shoulders simultaneously. The two seemed grateful for the contact. The last was a giant of a man, with thick limbs and a large frame. He stood alone, but did not seem dissatisfied with his solitude.
To their side, a bit apart from them, stood a woman with long pointed ears and blond hair. Her frame was very slight, though her chest was another matter. Beside her stood a young man, hovering behind her protectively. Unlike the other's he held no wand, but instead had a sword belted to his waist. He stood as though guarding the one in front of him, perhaps in repayment for some debt, perhaps because at one point the girl had been like both a mother and a sister to him, or perhaps it was because they were lovers, though no one besides them would ever truly know which option was the truth.
There was one more group of people standing beside the sword, though these were all women. Two of these women wore crowns, the mark of station resting upon gently upon their heads. The first of the two wearing crowns had dark hair, nearly purple in the light, and wore a white gown. In her hand was a scepter. Beside her on her left was a servant wearing the uniform of a maid, though despite the clothing denoting a lower station they were well tailored. The maid, who was the only one amongst the group to have black hair, stood as though she were attending the woman in white. On the woman in whites other side stood another, this one with blond hair and green eyes, bearing a sword at her waist and a bandoleer of pistols across her chest. The other woman wearing a crown had blue hair beneath the mark of station. She was shorter than many of the others who were in attendance, though not as short as she might once have been. In her hand was a crooked staff, and she wore much simpler clothing than the woman in white had. Beside her on her right was a woman that looked like she might have been her sister, also with blue hair, though she was much taller than the girl with the crown. On the blue haired woman's right was a tall dark skinned woman with red hair. She wore clothing much more provocative than many of the others whom were in attendance, though the hand the redhead rested on the blue haired girls shoulder was somber.
Though they were all different in appearance, they had all gathered before the sword in the hill for the same reason: to mourn the one who rested beneath it.
Some of those gathered were crying, some were silent in their respect. Many of them were glancing about, as though they expected there to be another present, and were searching for the missing member.
Much further away, on another hill entirely in fact, but still with a line of sight to the assembled group, a final woman lay on the ground, her legs propped up as she watched the sky. She wore simple clothing, functional rather than ornate, and had pink hair, a figure that was obviously feminine yet not as gifted as some that had gathered on the distant hill, and appeared to be somewhere in her mid twenties. She had a cloak spread over the grass of the hill was laying on it, chewing slowly on a piece of grass. Beside her, propped up on a rock, rested a sheathed sword.
"You could still head over there and join them, Louise," the sword spoke, shattering the quiet that had permeated the clearing.
"Its fine," Louise answered. The years had been kind to her, and she wore her status as a woman, and not the child she had grown out, of well. "I don't need to mourn him. In fact, I'm happy for him. I don't think the others would understand that."
"I hardly understand it," the sword groused, sounding annoyed. It let loose a sigh. "Well, even if you won't mourn him, I'm gonna miss him. It just won't be the same without partner around."
The woman sighed as well. "Even if I'm happy for him, I'll miss him too, Derflinger." She sat up, spitting the grass she had been gnawing on to the side and turning her gaze to the distant hill where her friends had gathered to pay their respects. "You think he'd like it? His grave?"
"He always said he'd find his end on a hill of swords. Maybe we should plant a few more around there just to be sure," the sword speculated. Louise rubbed her chin slowly, thinking about it.
"I don't know," she muttered, considering. "Wouldn't that be kind of tacky?"
"How should I know what you humans consider tacky?" the sword pointed out. "I'm just a sword."
Louise sighed in aggravation. "Yes, I know. You keep pointing that out." For a moment she glared at the blade, and she had the impression that if Derflinger had eyes it'd be glaring right back. Then she sighed and the moment passed.
"So what are you going to do next, Louise?" the sword finally asked, curiosity in its voice. "Going to meet up with the Queen over there again after this?"
The pink haired woman was silent for a second, and then she shook her head slowly. "No. No I don't think I will. I'm tired, Derflinger. Tired of all the stupid politics, and the pointless missions, and the repetitive wars. I think I might just spend some time for myself. Travel maybe. See parts of the world I haven't been to yet. Maybe meet up with a few of the people we came across in the past."
"A few of the people?" the sword asked, and then its voice turned sly. "Like that Julio, maybe?"
"I thought we agreed never to talk about that slimy playboy again. Him or that asshole Pope, Victorio," Louise snapped, flushing as she did so.
"Oh?" the sword teased her. "But you two were such good friends, you and Julio. You two and that other guy, what was his name? Penterdon? You must have been good friends if the three of you..."
"That was a mana exchange ritual and you know it!" Louise snapped, and then buried her face into her hands and groaned. "That really was so much funnier when it was happening to Shirou," she ground out, and then froze as she realized she had spoken the name she had been trying so hard not to say.
For several minutes after that, neither of the two said anything. Finally Derflinger once more spoke up, this time its voice was serious. "Louise, I have to ask. He'd want me to ask. Why haven't you summoned a new Servant yet?"
"I can't," Louise admitted, her voice laced with sorrow as she did so.
"Why not, Louise?" the sword pushed. Louise knew that it was doing so out of duty to its departed partner, so she didn't begrudge the blade its insistence. "Shirou would have scolded you for not doing so by now."
"Because if I were to summon again, who do you think would show up?" Louise pointed out.
"Well, considering what happened the last five times," the sword said slowly. "But he's dead now, Louise."
"Five times. Did he really manage to break the contract that many times?" Louise muttered, and then shook her head, her pink hair flopping as she did so. "No. Just because he's dead doesn't mean I won't call him. You know about Heroic Spirits, Derf. Do you have any doubt in your hilt that the 'King of Swords', the 'Elf Bane', the 'Endless Armory' himself wouldn't qualify?"
"Well, with fancy titles like that, I guess he most likely would," the sword admitted. Louise gave a decisive nod.
"If I tried to summon, then it would almost certainly be him that returned," the pink haired woman continued. "And I don't want to do that to him. Not now, after he's finally managed to find her again."
"So you're going to go it alone then?" Derflinger asked, its voice serious.
"It's not like I'm some kind of helpless damsel in distress," Louise pointed out, and her voice was confident as she did so. "Shirou's not the only one who made a name for himself these last few years. I'm the 'Duchess of Emptiness', remember. Shirou himself trained me in combat. I might not have been at his level, but I can wield a sword better than most, and ever since he helped me open my circuits it's not like I can be disarmed anymore."
"Oh?" the sword asked, its tone sly once more. "Someone's getting full of themselves. I'd agree that you've been making a name for yourself. After all, there are quite a few rumors out there now, aren't there?"
Louise sniffed in disdain, turning her head to the side. "Most of those have been blown way out of proportion, and even if they were true, there's nothing wrong with a strong, confident woman occasionally having the opportunity to indulge herself. If I do, it's no one's business but mine if I'm not alone in my bedroom."
"Just so long as your mother never catches up with you," the sword added, and Louise nodded without hesitation.
"Just so long as my mother never does," she agreed. She sighed and cast one more look over at the mourners on the hill across from her. "Still, I can't believe that Shirou never did so himself," she muttered, shaking her head at all the lost opportunities her Servant had squandered. "He had women throwing themselves at him, often in groups, and not once did he ever take them up on it." She shook her head in disbelief. "So many wasted opportunities," she mourned regretfully.
"Well, not all of them anyway," the sword muttered, and Louise froze, turning slowly in order to stare at it.
"Wait," she said slowly. "Are you serious?"
"I've been sworn to secrecy," the sword told her solemnly. Louise spun, and using one of the skills Shirou had ground into her head once she started learning how to use his method of magic she reinforced her eyes, focusing them on the group of women that had been Shirou's most loyal.
There. If she hadn't been looking for it, she would never have seen it. It was nothing more than a hand gently resting on a belly, but the implication of it caused Louise's eyes to shoot open.
"N-n-no way!" she gaped. "So they really…and now she's…" For a moment the pink haired mage could only stare, and then she collapsed back onto the ground, rolling with laughter. "Oh," she gasped through her laughter. "Oh! The Water Spirit will be happy! It always doted on Shirou. I'll have to let it know its blessing will be continued!" Beside her the sword chuckled softly itself.
After her laughter finally puttered out Louise lay gasping on her cloak, staring at the sky. The warm light of the late afternoon sun poured down on her, warming her to her core.
Finally, she stood, collecting her cloak as she did so. Grasping the Derflinger by its sheathe, she shrugged the blade onto her shoulder.
"So where to next? You were right about one thing," the sword spoke up. "You are pretty famous now. I doubt you're going to be able to slip about easily when the name Louise Valliere is so well known."
"Well," the pink haired woman said, pulling her cloak's hood up to conceal her distinctive hair. "I was thinking of traveling under a pseudonym," she admitted. The sword shook in surprise.
"Oh? Like what?" it asked.
"How about 'Blue'?" Louise propositioned, and this time it was the swords turn to freeze, and then start laughing helplessly.
One last time before she left, the sword still guffawing, she turned to glance back at the grave behind her. "Well, Saber," she whispered softly. "I looked after him as best I could. He's yours now." Louise smiled softly. "Congratulations, Shirou."
How long had he been searching? It was hard for him to remember sometimes. The endless battles, the pain, the bloodshed, within his mind the suffering and struggling had become blurred. There were times when the only thing he could remember was that he was searching for something, and other times when he only knew that he had to keep going forward. And so he continued, always forward.
How long had she been waiting? At times it was hard for her to remember. A life that had been filled with sacrifice, with duty, with uncompromising ideals, followed by a slumber so deep that it seemed nothing would ever be able to wake her from it. But even in the endless sleep, she had dreamed, longing for someone to come and find her. And so she waited, always waiting.
And finally, after all the searching, he had found who he was looking for. Just as she, after all her patience, had finally awoken to the arrival of the one she had waited for.
At the edge of a forest, a man stood. In front of him, stretching endless were fields of the greenest, softest grass he had ever laid eyes on. Above him, the sky stretched just as endlessly, a gentle blue feathered lightly with clouds of the softest white. The warm sun beat down on him, warming his face, and seeping into his heart and soul as it did so. Behind him, in the endless dark forest he had exited he had left a great weight, a weight that he had shouldered for so long.
In front of him was a woman. Her long hair, as gold as the sun above him blew in the soft breeze that rustled the grass of the field. Her green eyes found his, and she smiled.
He smiled back.
"I'm home, Saber."
"Welcome home, Shirou."
"Even if the author is silent, the performance is stopped, the story will not end.
Whether it's comedy or tragedy, if there is cheering the story will continue on.
Just like many lives.
For the us who are still in it and still in the journey, send warm blessings.
-We will continue to walk down this path until eternity."
Fate/stay night, Realta Nua, Last Episode
It's hard to say just what I was thinking when I began Hill of Swords. I remember that the idea festered for a long time before it finally found an exit, but I didn't think back then that it would ever escalate to the level it apparently has. Over three hundred and sixty thousand words, averaging twenty five pages per chapter, at twenty three chapters, with well over a thousand reviews.
I think when I first began I just wanted to put a story out there where Shirou and Saber were finally able to be together. In the original game, there was not one path that let them end up together. The closest Shirou and Saber ever got was the good ending of the Unlimited Blade Works route, and even then that was with Rin in there as well. I also wanted to be able to portray two protagonists, male and female, that didn't end up together. It seems that wherever I look the legend of the platonic friends is nothing more than a myth that nobody believes will ever happen.
I never imagined that I would ever make something this long, or as apparently well received as it was. Thank you, my readers, for your support. Not just those who spoke up in praise, but also those who offered criticism, aide in developing my writing style, and help in evolving as a writer. Thank you.
And those of you who spoke up in praise? Oh yeah, that felt good. Thanks definitely to you too.
When I wrote my first story, "Finishing What You Start", I mentioned that the title was a dig at those who started so many amazing stories and then never finished them. It's because of that that I believe in giving my stories definitive conclusions. It is why I now bring "The Hill of Swords" to an end. It is a bit more open than many of you might have wanted. I'm sure that some wish I could continue this tale, drawing on the books to come from Familiar of Zero, or perhaps branch out on my own and craft a whole new plot.
Sadly, this will not be the case.
When I began Hill of Swords, I had already planned the entire storyline in my head. I was writing scenes in my head that would take place throughout from the moment I first started typing the first chapter. And now that I have finished what I set out to do, I don't know if I could continue it, not at the level that you, my readers, have come to expect. So instead I give you the ending that I had planned from the beginning. It is an open ending, alluding to things that happened that will probably never be penned, and allowing the reader to draw their own conclusion and write their own stories within.
And no, I will never say just who it was that finally managed to bag Shirou. The mother of his child will be left to the reader's imagination. I know who my favorite is, but I'll never tell.
Though it does appear that Louise finally gave in to her curiosity about kinky threesomes, doesn't it?
I do think I might write a few small side stories and expansions like I mentioned considering earlier. I might take a break before I do, but if I do it will be called "Hill of Swords: Tiger Dojo" It'll probably be posted in the miscellaneous section under 'anime x-overs' when I do. So far I'm playing around with the original Familiar of Zero world, Negima, Fairy Tail , and a few just general scenes from the original story that I just couldn't find a way to fit into the Hill of Swords, like the beach episode.
But that will be later.
For now, my readers, thank you and goodnight.