"Souichiro-sama!" yelled Caster, clutching the folds of her robes in distress. "You don't have to push yourself so hard!"
"It is something I have begun, Caster," he replied, not even looking back at her. "I cannot stop halfway." His arm moved again, and with each repetition, his breath grew ever more laboured.
She looked around in desperation. "Assassin, what on earth are you doing? Help him!"
The once-handsome warrior looked back toward her, swaying. His face was pale enough that he looked almost transparent, and an eyelid twitched in tandem with his erratic heartbeat. "I'm afraid… I've reached my… limit," he said, taking deep breaths. "I'll last… but a few… moments more. My task is over." He stood, swaying dangerously, and looked up at the sky. "I thought the moon was beautiful, and yet… even the sun…"
Caster's wails soon reverberated from the walls.
"Berserker? What's wrong?"
An innocent voice, on the verge of tears, as if the owner might shatter at any moment.
The hero tried to respond, but it was futile. Twelve lives had not been enough. The grey giant was finally slowing, the bright, red eye fading.
"No… Berserker… You don't need to carry on, we've lost…" Illyasviel whispered, on the verge of tears. "That's enough…"
He finally stopped, fingers loosening on the spoon. It clattered to the floor, and the tiny girl hugged her protector, still whispering, as if the words would take her away from this madness. "Let's go… Let's just go home already, Berserker."
Blood sprayed from a severed artery.
She couldn't do it; it was too much- even time with her sisters would be preferable to this torture.
The weapon tore its way out of her throat, and the artery healed over, almost instantly.
There were perks to being part monster, but right now, the fragility of humanity looked better to her than she'd ever imagined.
The nail ripped its way into her throat again, severing the artery and painting the ground a bright crimson.
Over and over, the blade pierced her, and again and again, she healed- but, every time, she looked more and more pale.
Finally, she thought, as her vision began to recede to darkness. Sweet release.
And Rider slipped into unconsciousness, yet another casualty of the Holy Grail War.
Archer looked down at the challenge before him. He could read a book from four kilometers away, spot individual ingredients in soup, and find tiny screws in carpets- but that only seemed to make this situation worse. The… stuff… seemed to be made up of part hatred, part undiluted evil, and part mud, with just a hint of salt.
A quick look around to make sure nobody was looking, and in the next moment he held a small container filled with spices. He flipped the lid, and, disguising his movements with stretching motions, sprinkled the spices into the bowl.
Archer watched in horrid fascination. The spices seemed to shrivel up and blacken, and then sunk into the broth. He slipped the container back into his belt, taking three more containers from unlikely places. Another disguised movement sprinkled the surface with pepper, rosemary and a certain rare herb from the Himalayas.
Wisps of black smoke curled up from the dish. The rosemary was sucked underneath the surface by something, the pepper actually disappeared, and the bits of herb burst into flame, before being immediately extinguished by the broth. Whatever it was, it would not let even fire survive.
Archer's eye twitched. This was not the way it was meant to be! Professional rage swept through him, and his lip curled in distaste. Nobody could create a malignant dish like this, unless it was intentional. He turned his head- and there, looking innocent, and completely baffled, was the culprit. Glacial eyes swept across the room, the unconscious and the even worse off- and Archer quickly turned back to his bowl before the eyes fell on him.
He began to panic. There was no way out of this situation. He reached into his belt for the first container, dumping almost half the contents into the now slightly frothing stew.
It made no difference. The bowl began to rock, ever so slightly. There was no way out. He was going to have to-
"Disqualified," said an annoyed voice. Archer turned to look behind him.
Rin stood there, arms folded, tapping her foot on the ground, and a very annoyed expression on her face.
"Disqualified, for adding extra flavouring," she ground out again, looking incensed that her Servant, of all people, would dare to cheat.
Archer stood. Free. I'm free! He had to fight to stop a grin forming on his face, which only threatened to grow wider at Rin's now furious expression. "Sorry, Master. Looks like I wasn't capable of winning after all."
The sound of Rin gritting her teeth was audible now, and Archer had to fight to keep from laughing out loud as he turned away, stepped over the prone form of Rider and headed for the exit, stopping on the way only once, to mutter, "Drown in your soup and die."
Hassan I Sabbah crouched, frozen and invisible, in the corner of the room. So far, he had been lucky. Nobody seemed to have remembered him- which seemed like something he really shouldn't have been happy about; but under the circumstances, it was a blessing.
He took a step forward, and stopped, looking around. So far, so good. His luck was holding up. Sneak past sobbing Caster, three steps across the table Archer was just at, diagonal across the hall, and he'd be free!
Another step forward. And another. Good so far, a third step. Might risk a four-
A chill ran down his spine, and he made absolutely sure he was invisible, before oh-so-slowly turning his head towards the source of this feeling.
There she was. Those cold blue eyes, pinning him to the spot. He dared not move, even invisible- it was as if she could see him. But that was impossible, he was Assassin! Nobody could see him if he didn't let them.
And yet, her stare remained fixed on him, rooting him to the spot. His legs shook, as they hadn't since the day his teacher had told him he'd be killing his first man. He looked into those merciless eyes, and the faces of everyone he'd ever killed stared back at him from those dark depths.
The gaze slowly turned away, and the pressure vanished, and Assassin sank to his knees; legs shaking too much to carry his weight, curled up into a ball and began to cry.
Sakura and Ayako stood, looking down at the spearman dressed in blue.
Lancer sat, hunched over at the table, spoon moving mechanically between his mouth and the empty bowl.
"What's he doing?" whispered Ayako, watching the man repeat the action, over and over.
Sakura shook her head. She reached out, gently taking hold of the man's hand, stilling his arm and taking the spoon from his convulsively tight grip.
"Wait, you can't do that, you're not supposed to interfere with the participants-"
"It's all right, sempai," Sakura spoke quietly. "He's already dead."
"Finished already, mongrel? Well, I suppose I shouldn't have expected more from a woman."
Gilgamesh leaned back against his chair, propping up his chin with his arm, watching Saber as she struggled to finish the latest dish.
Saber looked up from her dish, face pale, trembling. Her mouth moved, as if she was trying to speak, but no words emerged. She looked back down at her dish, then determinedly drove her spoon into the gunk and hammered a fist on the end of the spoon until the stuff cracked, and she was able to lever another piece out. She lifted the spoon to her mouth, but her hand trembled, and wouldn't let her move it any closer.
"Don't give up, Saber." Shirou's voice was full of confidence, bolstering her own, but even so, her hand wouldn't move.
Gilgamesh's face distorted, as if trying to sneer, but he seemed to have forgotten how to use most of his facial muscles. The colours on his face began at purple and ended somewhere in the infrared, and various body parts twitched at random.
"Well, don't be so disappointed. In fact, you should be proud for having kept up with the rightful king for so long. However, no mere mongrel will defeat me, even at something so trivial as an eating contest."
"If…" Saber's voice was quiet, barely audible. "If only I had my sheath… I'd be able to eat twice this much…"
"That's it!" yelled Shirou. "Trace on!"
A moment of concentration, and he held in his hands a golden sheath, glowing with internal light.
Saber looked back at Shirou, expression changing to relief at the glowing sheath. "So you were my sheath all along…" She reached out towards it, calling out its true name. "Avalon!"
"What?" roared the king of heroes, bowl temporarily forgotten.
Ribbons of golden light wrapped around her, purging impurities and restoring Saber to top form- except even the legendary sheath could not purge such an abomination so easily. She channelled more and more prana into the golden sheath, until it finally cracked, finally having reached its limit. Her stomach slowly settled, the broth vanishing, until nothing remained.
The bowls of pure evil had not faded without taking a price, though. The legendary sheath of Excalibur, portal to the land of fairies, granter of immortality… shattered.
Saber stared at the pieces sadly, then picked up her spoon once more.
"Here I come, King of Heroes. Can you take enough spoonfuls?"
"Hah! You overestimate yourself, mongrel!" He shovelled another two spoonfuls into his mouth. "I am the one and true king!" Two more mouthfuls found their way into his mouth, before the third missed his face entirely. "If you wish to stain me, bring… at least three…" His voice trailed off into nothing, and he fell, face-first, into the bowl.
"I… I won…?" asked Saber in wonder, arm falling slack, her spoon clattering off the table and onto the floor. "Thank goodness…" She began to fall forward, only to be caught by Rin.
"She's had a tough time, I'm just gonna… um… give her CPR, over there," stuttered a blushing Rin, before dragging Saber off the table onto the floor, and taking control of her lips rather more enthusiastically than she should have been.
Shirou watched, until he finally seemed to realise- Why do I not have a camera? Goddamn it!
Shiki jumped, hearing the two words he'd been dreading for the entire competition.
"Yeah, Hisui…?" he asked nervously. Generations of assassin breeding tried and failed to find an escape route. Please don't let her ask, please don't let her ask, please don't let her ask-
"Was my cooking not satisfactory?"
"Uh… Um… Well, y'see, I think it's more like…" Shiki looked down at those expressionless eyes that still somehow looked as if she'd burst into tears if he told her that her cooking sucked.
"It was a splendid meal."
I'm saved…? Shiki, shaking with relief, turning to face the speaker-
Kill kill kill killkillkill him kill him
Shiki shook his head. The man looked perfectly normal, and, despite the coat that made him look a little like Nero, nothing was overly amiss.
Kill kill him KILL HIM KILL HIM NOW
Standing up from the bench, bowls sparkling clean, Kotomine Kirei turned to Hisui and bowed slightly.
"In all my life, not once have I tasted such a tremendous dish. Your skill as a cook is superb."
KILL KILL KILL HIM KILL HIM
Hisui bowed to him and turned back to Shiki. Whilst she looked just as expressionless as before, Shiki could practically feel the happiness coming off her in waves- like an emotionless angel, she lit up the room so full of despair.
Shiki, filled with relief, turned back to Kotomine to nod his thanks, but-
KILL KILL KILL KILL HIM GODDAMN IT KILL HIM NOW YOU DUMB SON OF A-
"You might like to begin taking care of the meals on a regular basis from now on. Given time, your cooking may reach such levels that living beings would not be able to stomach it."
Told you you should've killed him.
Looking slightly confused, but still grateful, Hisui bowed to the priest, then turned back to her master, seemingly not noticing the dark cloud of despair hanging over him. "Shiki-sama, shall we be off?"
Shiki allowed himself to be led away, limp and unresisting.
Kotomine watched the two leave, grinning, and his smile grew even wider as he surveyed the battlefield before him. He barely noticed when a hooded figure stepped up beside him, unnoticed by anyone.
"How did it go, priest-san?"
"The results are clear." He turned to the figure, cloaking in a dark purple robe, eyes shining out from beneath the dark hood. "Are you satisfied, Kohaku? You won."
Assassin - retired at 3 bowls.
Kuzuki Souichiro - retired at 4 bowls.
Berserker - retired at 11 bowls.
Rider - retired at 2 bowls.
Archer – disqualified. 0 bowls.
True Assassin – disqualified. Was never found.
Lancer – retired at 6 bowls. 7 finished due to Battle Continuation.
Gilgamesh – retired at 14 bowls.
Saber – Retired at 15 bowls.