Chapter 70: Testament
I do not own Fate/Stay Night and stuffs.
o. o. o.
The change in the room was like night and day.
The walls. The floor. The ceiling. The door. The carpet. The bed. The sheets. The apparel. The bounded fields. The mysteries. Everything.
What was once an ornate and exquisite guestroom that would rival if not surpass those found in five star resorts and mansions of the elite upper class had seemingly been battered by time and disuse over the course of at least a century within a few second. Cracked walls and paint. Decayed and splintered floors. The fetid smell of rotting wood and fabrics from the carpets and beds fouled the air.
The chamber carried the brand of suffocating and thick atmosphere that, had a normal human walked inside and were told that any number of horrifying and insane atrocities took place in it, they would believe without a second hesitation… if they had not instinctively run out of the room or gone mad from the exposure by that point at least.
And Shirou knew for a fact that much of the rest of the golem had suffered the same drastic makeover.
He didn't need to look down to take note of the fact that half of his right shoulder was gone. Speared and gored by the crystalline claw that was flaking and decaying as though it was a freshly killed Apostle. Within a few seconds he'd be free to move from his current position and deal with the monster that had impaled him in the first place.
The reason why said monster wasn't attempting to finish the job was due to the fact that she was in no better condition than he was on the other side of the hallway. The purifying nature of her salt had protected her from the worst of the deluge of curses that flooded the golem but she still suffered for being at the epicenter of the discharge. Her improvised armor was nothing more than clumps of corrupted stone clinging to her now spotted flesh, fighting to try and regenerate from whatever it was exposed to. At least three of her fingers and two of her toes looked like they might fall off any second in spite of her efforts.
That she was nailed to the wall with a copy of Maya just like her captain also helped.
"That… is no pox," the seawoman spat, her body language indicating she was ready to still fight with all her might at a moment's notice. Salt or no salt. "You have some stones, rat. Wielding a plague as carelessly as you do."
Ah. He forgot about that. The greatest enemies of ships and crews at sea in any era and society outside of freak storms were contagious diseases. Something to keep in mind.
"It's merely a sample," Shirou huffed, ignoring the pain that came from the salt crystal finally snapping off. With a heavy lurch he freed himself from the crumbling spear and reached for his mouth with his left hand.
He didn't attack yet. His wounds needed to heal, and his opponent was likely not as pinned down as she appeared. No need to aggravate the situation and make his position worse due to impatience, and the woman was not the sort that could be put down with half assed attempts.
He looked at her crumbling salt armor that protected her from the worst of Angra Mainyu's curse. If she had trouble dealing with it, than the other aspects of the Eighth that were hit by it probably fared worse. The structure and magecraft of the Golem itself was compromised as well, so there shouldn't be any interruptions for the time being.
He hissed as his perforated shoulder throbbed, no longer impaled, but now open and exposed to the air. It hurt as much as it looked.
"Pox or not, if you believe that you shall recover before myself, you are mistaken, rat." The First Mate grinned like a feral cat. "My salt is far more pure and pristine than the pisswater of the Church. You may be vermin, but you are still of the moon's blood. There will be no relief for…"
Her taunting trailed off as she witnessed Shirou's flesh and bone on his shoulder, albeit slowly, knit itself anew. Bone fragment by fragment. Sinew by sinew. And occasionally if one looked carefully enough, shard by shard.
Ah, Avalon. Purifying spells and sacraments may halt an Apostle's regeneration, but apparently such crude means didn't interpret a holy scabbard forged by the Fae as impure. Imagine that.
Taking in a bit of Saber's blood just now only made the results more prominent.
"Sorry to disappoint. I'm apparently a bit different than conventional apostles." Shirou knew it was in poor taste, but he couldn't help but gloat. The truth was that as far as apostles go he was actually inferior to them across the board in regards to their usual notable traits.
His right arm was able to turn into a bladed amalgamation to just before the ball of his shoulder before this. Now he could tell it had slightly extended to his collarbone and was skirting to his upper torso.
He had to be more careful. He didn't know what would happen if more of his body was forced to undergo this metamorphosis before he could get a grasp on whatever the hell he was turning into in the first place.
That could be saved for later though. When he wasn't currently and literally within the belly of a monster.
Jericho grit her teeth in genuine annoyance. "So you are."
As confident as he was, Shirou wasn't appealed to fighting with a half mutilated shoulder, so he took a moment to reach out to Saber. "Hey. Any chance the Pirate's ready to call it in?"
"No. He is more preoccupied with cursing your name and swearing vengeance on your lineage for the time being. Whatever mystery you have conjured has imposed itself onto the captain as well."
"Pity. Then again, he wouldn't be the Eighth if this much was all it took to make him say uncle. Unfortunately."
"The fact that you single handedly are capable of 'this much' to begin with is already a feat that everyone observing has made distinct note of. Myself included." His servant's dry rebuttal almost put a smile on his face.
"If you have the time, what brand of twisted spell did you pull in there? We can see portions of the golem decaying and falling from here."
"That? It's nothing special. Just a ritual I made up using multiple copies of Kiritsugu. You know how dad was adamant of shouldering the weight and sins of the world to achieve peace. You could say that the spell simply… is an expression of unloading that burden. And then amplified via ritual. Except that burden happens to be literally a portion of Angra Mainyu. And it also affects all the copies of Kiritsugu I've stuck in the walls here."
Had Shirou been paying attention on the docks, they would have noticed Saber's face turning slightly green at the description of his spell.
"Master… if I may ask, if you were remotely close to the epicenter of such a disaster, how exactly are you still intact? Much less unharmed? I did not sense you using Avalon, and judging from your explanation, this is not the first time you have utilized this quite frankly suicidal spell."
Saber's eyebrow twitched as she heard a bitter laugh from the connection, "Haha. Saber, sword or not, copy or not, it's still Kiritsugu. Regardless of everything that's happened, physically or metaphorically, I'm still carrying his burdens."
The King of Knights went rigid for a moment, caught off guard by the simple, yet overwhelming statement. So much so that her momentary lapse was noticed by a few of the others on the docks. Her mouth opened and closed slightly several times, debating what exactly to say in response to something like that before returning to her previous neutral state.
"... Just finish this farce. Preferably before your opponent tries to surpass your unreasonable nonsense with his own, will you?"
"Yes, Your Majesty."
During the conversation, his shoulder had kneaded and woven itself anew, fresh flesh and skin visible in the hole in his coat. He rolled it a few times to work out the now ghost-like echoes of pain from being impaled just moments before, and winced slightly as new shards of metal tore up its insides with the excessive movements.
His body was made of blades indeed.
That said, he didn't miss that his opponent was at work as well.
Shards and clumps of salt were perpetually forming on her body, turning black and then crumbling off her body. Where it came from, he suspected it had something to do with how she interacted with the ship and being over the ocean itself, but there was little doubt that she was purifying herself of the curses at an absurd pace. One of her fingers had already been fully restored and another was fully underway to returning. The discolored patches of discolored skin were at best half the size they were just minutes before.
"... I'm tempted to leave you alive if you're actually the medic of this place. I doubt any of the crew would willingly see you unless they had to." Shirou's thoughts slipped out before he could stop himself. There was little doubt that whoever managed to replace her if she did die would be nowhere near as terrifying to visit as this woman.
"Feh." Likewise, Jericho couldn't help but snort in dry amusement in spite of her condition. "Do I look like some caretaker of children? I lead the sanitation of this vessel. Food, drink, pests, and vermin that find their way here are all mine to address as I see fit."
"Fair enough." He didn't argue or mock her position. It made sense with her powers and all, and she wasn't weak, and it was clear that her definition of "pests and vermin" expanded to more than just bugs and rats.
A copy of Natalia made its way into his left hand as he stood up straight, and the brief moment of levity vanished as though it was used to make the blade.
It was blatantly clear to both that Shirou was in a better state than the woman. His shoulder was all but healed while she was still nailed to the wall, cursed with who knows how many normally debilitating and painful afflictions, and down a few minor digits. Plus the fact that the bulk of the ship around them was marred and cursed as well, limiting if not severing her connection to the absurd well of resources she would normally possess. She could still fight easily, but it would not be as in her favor as it once was.
Neither said anything that their eyes didn't say already as Shirou stood roughly five meters away. A tiny distance but one that gave a chance of some action and reaction if either was pressed.
Neither moved just yet, waiting for the other to slip their plan of attack first for a minor advantage.
The sounds of wood creaking, stones cracking, and the waves in the distance teased their ears. It was the only thing they could hear other than their flowing blood and beating hearts.
Shirou crouched, blade pointed aggressively.
Shards of salt materialized around Jericho into spikes.
The room went dark.
Neither of them were responsible for it.
Shirou threw himself to the side instead of forward, avoiding the kneejerk premature launching of the salt crystals that would have torn a normal human apart with ease.
The room got darker.
"More pox, rat? Can't you think of something new?" Jericho growled as she ripped herself from the wall and pushed herself up.
"This isn't me." Shirou looked around warily as another copy of Maya materialized in hand and he took a defensive stance…
… Only for him to pause as he realized that there was a strong cursed haze around his blades.
The realization of what was happening hit him slow, but hard and with overwhelming mass. Like a train hitting him at slow speeds and not reacting or slowing down at all on contact.
"Ara. Shirou you reckless child! I should have known you were the one responsible for playing with the Grail's curse so recklessly tonight. You really can't stay still, can you?"
Halfway down the hallway, Irisviel walked towards them with an ominously genuine and cheerful smile.
o. o. o.
"The hell did that brat do now?!" Fina roared as the corrupted aura hovering around the sword impaled in his chest flared viciously.
"The prior burst was my Master's doing. This… wasn't." Saber allowed herself to frown and show some concern, her hands tightened slightly on her sword.
"Oh? Then the peculiar entity that just appeared is a convenient third party then?" Altrouge asked, her crimson eyes glimmering while somehow observing what was transpiring inside. "One that has a rather strong connection to that divine curse that's been thrown about liberally…"
"Connection to… oh no." Rin couldn't help but pale and break out into a cold sweat. She didn't know what was potentially worse, Irisviel going unchained inside Fina, another random monster with a connection to Angra Mainyu doing the same, or Iri getting killed in the process.
"Convenient my ass." Lancer growled, spear at the ready and making no attempt to hide his glare at Merem…
… Who was holding out his right hand away from his body with a neutral expression, the back of his fist where his command seal literally burning with a corrupted purple and black aura.
"My apologies everyone. I did not expect my temporary charge to react so aggressively from such a distance. It appears that Shirou's actions proved more provoking than anticipated."
"A Servant? And here I thought you would be satisfied already with your four Demon Gods, Solomon. You have gotten sloppy." Altrouge chided mockingly, though taking an interest in how the curse was affecting both fellow Apostles.
"Much like this meeting, the familiar in question is a chore I'd rather be done with. More an arduous task to address delicately than a boon. One that would have been addressed had certain undesirable interruptions not made themselves known."
"A Servant called forth by the excessive use of a divine curse. I do think that you may actually be in some trouble, Fina. We may even have to cancel this curious wager."
"Not the time, Ma'am!"
"No. She is correct." Saber shook her head. "Allowing this interruption to go unaddressed will do nothing but cause issues for both parties. While it was not intended, it was indirectly invoked by my Master, and for that I do apologize on his behalf."
The fact that Saber outright apologize without being pressed underscored that the matter was more severe than it appeared.
"So the matter is not unsalvageable." Altrouge concluded from the Servant's declaration. "Am I to assume that Solomon will come to the task for once?"
"If necessary." The accused vampire shrugged, holding his burning hand away from him. The pain he was experiencing was excruciating. A normal human would either pass out or cut their limb off from the ordeal, and yet the diminutive immortal merely observed the phenomenon with mild interest. "Due to her nature, directly communicating or interacting with her is highly inadvisable at the moment. I believe it would be best to give Shirou a chance to escalate the matter."
"You've gone soft. If this familiar is such a hinderance, you should have disposed of it by now."
"Perhaps. It does keep things rather interesting at least." Merem shrugged, dismissing the accusation and not bothering to defend or explain his actions. "Make no mistake, as much as I would enjoy humiliating either one of you, I'd rather do so on my own terms and not drag down the reputation of my dear friend here. He has a curious connection with the familiar, so there is a chance that the issue may address itself. And if not, I'll step in. I'll leave it to Saber to let me know when to act."
"I assumed as much. The child is the one that supposedly inadvertently summoned it after all. He must hold some influence over it," Altrouge reasoned casually. "That said, he will be held accountable for this turn of events and the damages incurred."
"We shall discuss restitutions and any existing liabilities when the time comes. For now, we are still but spectators until otherwise established." Merem waved off her underlying threat, not bothering to correct her assumptions. "Saber, I trust you to inform us if matters turn that direction. With or without your master's input."
The King of Knights frowned slightly, but did not say anything otherwise. She had been entrusted to a neutral role, and she would fulfil it to the best of her capacity, for better or for worse.
o. o. o.
"You should not be here."
"Mou, Shirou. Don't sound so mad. You sound like your father when you act like that." Irisviel literally glided over the corrupted floor in his direction, pouting like a child, but with hauntingly wide open crimson eyes that seemed to scream her intent and desire to consume everything within sight.
"Rat. What sort of disgusting trick are you playing now?" Jericho hissed, splitting her attention between two parties.
"Believe it or not, this isn't me." Shirou stood on guard. "In a nutshell, it's an unborn evil god doing something similar to what you do here, only with my Servant-homunculus stepmother. Poorly."
"... What." While it wasn't among the top ten most bizarre things she had ever heard over her long life, it was still enough to give the teen a double take.
"Irisviel. Go home. Now. You're interrupting something important and it's dangerous for you to be outside like this." Ignoring the pirate, Shirou addressed the resurrected homunculus firmly while taking in her appearance. She was clearly in less control over her actions and emotions than she was inside the bounded fields home. Angra Mainyu no doubt was working overtime to influence her as much as possible while it had the opportunity.
"Aww. But I just got here Shirou. How could I not at least take a look around after you set so much up for me here." Irisviel's attempt to play innocent did not match her excited and outright hungry expression. "I know we talked about it before and I tried to control myself, but the samples that Sakura fed me earlier only made me aware of just how famished I am."
Fuck. "Irisviel, you're a Servant. You don't get hungry."
The deranged woman paused, as though the fact had never crossed her mind until then. "Oh. I suppose you're right about that… but I still feel it."
"Caster will fix it when we get back. Go home. If not for me then for Illya." Shirou tried a new angle after seeing a moment of weakness in the Grail's hold on Irisviel. The more she thought for herself, the better the odds of being able to fight the thing's influence.
"But I'm still hungry," the woman moaned like a child as black and crimson ribbons began to slowly rise from the pitch black hallway around her, wriggling like a crude mix of earthworms and undersea kelp. "The ones that Sakura put away were processed so quickly I barely tasted them and only made me realize how bad it is. And this living castle is just abundant with mana. There's as much in here as in Gilgamesh's soul. And that's not even counting all the other bodies and souls connected to it."
Well wasn't that revelation just lovely? If only he could find amusement in Irisviel seeing Fina as nothing but a giant all-you-can-eat buffet and literally on the verge of prancing around like a child in a candy store.
"The ones that what?" Jericho growled maliciously.
"I'm not taking chances. Not unless you want to involve that particularly vicious dog that's on the docks nearby. Even you should be able to tell what would happen if that one moves." Shirou held his ground.
Irisviel blinked in confusion before looking in what appeared to be the direction of the shore and paused. "Oh, oh my. It completely escaped my mind that Primate Murder was here. Even if the Grail was completed, it and the Spider would still complicate things eventually. Hmmm…"
While Irisviel pondered her supposed dilemma, Shirou didn't miss Jericho's eyes widen in genuine alarm at what had just been revealed, if only offhand. The vampire glared accusingly at the teen as though he had just committed a cardinal sin, and several shards of salt began to form around her, all aimed at the distracted third party.
Shirou in turn silently but sharply shook his head and briefly held up a hand to tell her to wait.
.. Even as the ribbon like appendages grew and extended further, reaching out and caressing him gently as though they were enticing him.
"Can I at least have the ones you already killed here? They're not going anywhere as they are," Iri pouted, trying to put on an innocent facade, but failing miserably to hide the bloodlust in her eyes due to Angra Mainyu. "I won't touch anything else. Even that curious salty woman you're playing with."
Shirou ignored Jericho's low growl. "Under other circumstances I might have played with the idea, but I can't risk pissing off several world powers tonight. At most, just take the mana that's already been corrupted and nothing else. Clean this place up of the curse while you're at it. Don't keep Illya waiting."
The mention of his sister managed to momentarily shock the woman back to reality. "Ah? O-oh. Right. Illya's here too. I shouldn't let her see me like this and give her a hard time."
An instant later she perked up again. "Right! But I can really eat, Shirou!? Yay! You're making mama so happy!"
"Rat. What do you think you are doing?" Jericho hissed maliciously, regaining enough strength to get back on her feet.
"Saving both our asses. Killing her will only make things worse, and I'm not talking about politics. Now be quiet or she might try to 'help' me more," Shirou grunted. "Iri. Remember. Only what I've already hit. No bodies. Nothing else. Then go home. Do you understand?"
"Mmm!" The ashen haired priestess nodded happily as if she was younger than Illya.
The world seemed to want to contort itself before her head stopped bobbing, as though it was being sucked through a black hole with no discernable point even if no change of gravity was present.
Shirou almost swore as he experienced vertigo a dozen times over in an instant, even if he wasn't the target of the mystery that was going through mana faster than the Atlas Institute during a big experiment.
Judging from the hollow almost mechanical groan that shook the hallways around them, the consciousness that controlled the Golem's body liked it less than he did.
By the time the physical world around him was comprehensive once again, Shirou noticed that there was significantly less color and energy around him. While they were corrupted before from his earlier spells, the corrupted halls, furniture, and appliances around him seemed sapped dry and rendered into little more than shades of gray. It all looked like it would fall into ash at the slightest disturbance.
"Ahhhh. Wow. That was really good! I actually felt that go down this time," Irisviel practically skipped and danced aimlessly in genuine childish happiness, her long priestess-like garb trailing behind her almost akin to the black and crimson ribbons that had notably not vanished yet. "Thank you so much, Shirou! You really are the best son I could have hoped for… but…"
"Irisviel. NO." Shirou put his foot down hard. "We had an agreement. Go home. Now. You're putting Illya in enough danger as it is doing this."
"Ah." The mention of her daughter seemed to snap the woman back to reality for a moment. But only for a moment. "Oh right. Illya's got her operation soon… and when that happens her body will… heh. Heheheh. Hahaha!"
Breaking down into mad hysterics, the woman clearly had a mad epiphany that gave Shirou a very bad feeling down his entire being. Moments later she started to practically dance and spin across the hallway.
"Of course! Of course! No! I shouldn't risk that! Not at all! Illya will be freed from this ridiculous nonsense! She'll live! Like I should have! Like we should have! Hahaha! Shirou! You really are the best! You and Kiritsu… gu…"
It took a moment for Shirou to register that Irisviel was genuinely distracted by something completely unexpected this time, and noticed that halfway through her mindless rambling through the hallways she crossed the entrance of the room that he had conducted the largescale spell that emptied out and magnified Angra Mainyu into the surroundings.
Complete with three brittle, dull, worn down copies of Kiritsugu still stabbed into the floor. The seemingly endless black that pervaded the metal of their bodies was vacant, replaced with cracked, unstable metal that even the untrained eye could tell was barely holding itself together.
The elated hysteria and joy that Irisviel had been exuding was completely gone, replaced by a dumbfounded and uncertain horror that she made no effort to hide while reaching out to the swords unsteadily.
Slowly, she moved closer to the blades, instinctively knowing that they were made from her husband's corpse. Knowing that they possessed the curse that she had used to kill him a decade ago.
"Kiritsugu? Is that what you… what I… what I… ah? Aaaaah. AAAAAAAAAGH!"
It was a heart wrenching wail. The sort of scream that someone let out when they were finally registering some terrible truth that they had been suppressing for an untold period of time.
Unlike her initial slow approach, Irisviel practically dove at the swords and embraced them with her entire body, making them snap at the tips where they were still stuck in the ground. None of the graceful, faerie-like demeanor and otherworldly aura she had before was there now as she bawled like a child while hugging the swords as tight as possible.
"Kiritsugu! Kiritsugu! Darling! I'm sorry! I'm sorry! What have I done to you?!
Shirou grimaced at the sight. On the one hand, Irisviel had managed to regain control over herself in a sense, and was no longer occupied with satiating her hunger. On the other, she was in an inconsolable state literally inside an Apostle Ancestor and left wide open. Speaking of which.
Several shards of razor sharp salt crystals shattered against shields that materialized in front of himself and Irisviel.
Shirou and Jericho gave one another dirty glares, but they were both halfhearted at best. Neither had trusted one another, and so both had expected the other to get in the way.
There was no point in trying to talk to the crying woman. She was completely in her own world, apologizing endlessly to the swords in her arms. Fortunately, he suspected he had another resource to call on in a situation like this.
"Sakura, I know you're here. If you could, please take Irisviel home please."
At first, nothing happened. Only an awkward and empty silence pervaded the empty and drained halls.
Then black and crimson ribbons slowly punctured through the floors around Irisviel, floating up as though they were plants at the bottom of a lake.
Jericho tensed at the sight of more of the un-earthy things, but paused as she instinctively realized that something was amiss with this latest batch. They were still ominously dangerous, but they carried a different aura than before. As though they were controlled by someone or something else, one that did not pay her any mind at all, and instead focused completely on the crying woman instead.
Without any sign, motion, or flash of intent that they recognized Shirou or Jericho, the ribbons multiplied around Irisviel before wrapping around her into a dome that hid her from the world completely. A dome that slowly sunk into the floor before vanishing seconds later leaving nothing behind.
Jericho was not convinced in the slightest, if the crystalizing salt around her was any indication.
"Wait." His one word was not in the form of a request but an order, as though it was to her benefit to follow as well.
"What now?! You summoned another incarnation of pestilence I am not aware of?!"
"Don't tempt the world. Knowing my luck that might happen one day." Shirou shook his head. "This stupid fight between us had stipulations, recognized and observed by a number of notable parties. Including Solomon They need to be consulted, lest there be confusion and things getting annoying. You know how most geezers love their political nonsense."
If Jericho caught onto the un-subtle jab at her age, she ignored it. "I thought something was amiss. There is no way some rat like you could get on board so easily otherwise."
He held back a tired groan. What sort of rat, other than maybe Merem's left arm, could blow off a Golem Castle's arm and run rampant with cursed divine swords?
o. o. o.
"The interruption has been addressed," Saber stated factually to the rest there.
"And I don't suppose you'd be willing to divulge what exactly it was?" Fina frowned, one hand on the grip of the sword still impaled in his stomach. He had half a mind to rip it out that very moment, consequences be damned.
"An issue we are currently in the process of rectifying. There is a reason why not all of the Servants in Fuyuki are attending this meeting despite the significance of our guests." The Servant evenly replied, her tone neutral and void of any snark that could be taken as an insult.
"Oh dear. I thought I smelled something peculiar in the air here. How dreadful. You should have informed us if you were preoccupied with something so important." Altrouge, on the other hand, continued to play the role of the faux slightly oblivious yet well meaning noble child. "Or am I to assume that you believed that you genuinely had the matter under control?"
Saber didn't rise to the bait. She was used to such shallow accusations of incompetence. "The latter. And as stated it has been addressed. The matter is complicated. The curse alone is easily addressed with time, but the source of it has proven to be a tedious affair that requires particular approaches to manage properly without dire repercussions and risks."
"Hm. That may be the case, but it still doesn't dismiss the fact that from the sound of things, your Master is the reason why this interruption took place at all. Who knows what harm it could have done to my Fina?"
Everyone knew it could have been far worse, but in the game of politics, the obvious truth was often the most ignored.
Then again, it was at points like this that one's pride was usually the most sore.
"Oh? Am I to interpret that as admittance that the Eighth is no longer willing or capable of resuming the contest," Saber asked with a completely straight face while seemingly ignoring the vampire in question.
A wave of genuine malice and irritation rolled over the docks as Fina stood up straight with glowing eyes and a vicious snarl. "Curses or gods be damned and thrown into the far side. Don't either of you dare think to put such pathetic words in my mouth."
"Hmmm. Then we are in quite the predicament then. I would not hear the end of it if this contest was called off prematurely. However, it would not do to alter the rewards and costs of it either. Not after so much as been committed," Altrouge faux pondered the dilemma in an attempt to conjure some way to make things "fair". "Hmmm. Oh. I have an idea. Perhaps we can impose a penalty on your Master for this oversight for the rest of the duel."
A seemingly moderate, reasonable, and horrifyingly ominous suggestion from the inhuman royal.
"What do you propose?" Saber asked nonetheless.
"Hmmm." The way Altrouge pretended to ponder a handicap for Shirou while tapping a finger on her chin like a child was something one would expect from a child trying to pick a flavor to order at an ice cream store. Swaying innocently left and right, she looked around for inspiration before laying eyes on Fina himself, and the blade still stuck in his body. "Oh! I know! Those swords!"
"You will have to be more specific, Lady Brunestud." Saber kept a cool image. However, her stomach was dropping by the second.
"I mean those cursed swords he's been using since going in the ship. He's been barely using anything else for a while." The Black Princess stated proudly as though she was being clever. "They are curious pieces, and no doubt effective. However, it is quickly becoming dull to see the same trick repeatedly. The fact that they are supposedly responsible for calling forth that peculiar woman notwithstanding. Thus, his punishment will be the handicap of being no longer allowed to use those weapons for the rest of the fight."
Rin clenched her teeth, but otherwise didn't say anything to betray her rising concern. A brief glance at Luvia was enough to tell her that the Finnish girl was of the same mind as she was. Shirou's personal blades were his aces in fights against monsters that jumped between bodies and had twisted souls. Without them, his efficiency and effectiveness in situations like this plummeted viciously.
"Archer? Your thoughts?"
"..." Her servant remained quiet for longer than she expected before speaking up. "... Rin, first of all, I should let you know that until just a few minutes ago, I had not seen any of the swords that were made from Kiritsugu's remains."
Her eyes blinked in surprise at the admission. "I… what?"
That couldn't be right. Archer hadn't seen any of Shirou's swords since the beginning of the war?
Her mind raced through all the times the two counterparts had been near one another and all the times Shirou had used his personal weapons during that time span… and drew a blank.
"It may have missed your notice, but my counterpart's put in a significant effort to not project them when I'm around. Whether out of pride, precaution, or preparation to use them against me in the future is anyone's guess. Though if I were to bet, it would be on the latter," Archer continued with an unreadable tone. "That is, at least, until he used Maya to anchor the vampire to his body here."
Rin held back a cringe, recalling just how poorly Shirou had initially reacted to laying eyes on the swords for the first time three years ago. In hindsight, it made sense. Shirou was exceptionally paranoid and obsessive when it came to matters that rubbed him the wrong way, not that she could blame him. "And?"
"It's useful. Something I definitely could have wanted on hand a few times when I was alive… and on the job for that matter." He was definitely forcing himself to be bluntly pragmatic to skim over the fact that it was made from his father's remains and Angra Mainyu's curse. "There are exceptionally few blades of similar make and type that were made across history, much less in my library. Gilgamesh's stores will probably have a similar ratio. Noble Phantasm or not."
"You're saying that Shirou's unlikely to have a fallback then."
"Not one that's as easily available to use, no. Ironic considering the blades' origins."
"My Master accepts those terms. So long as they are the only ones you are requesting." Saber's declaration snapped Rin back to reality.
"That reckless idiot better know what he's doing," Waver muttered under his breath, not at all caring that he was heard by at least half of the people there. "... Who am I kidding? He probably doesn't considering where we are now."
"Knowing the dog, he likely doesn't." Lorelei hummed before lifting a hand and snapping her fingers. Moments later, a bird barely visible in the night sky flew over the group towards the stunned golem castle. "However, so long as his blades are no longer in use, I see no reason to finally get a better look at what is transpiring."
"Tch. Cheeky whore. I was wondering why there weren't many familiars trying to follow the brat. That poker of his is nasty enough to keep even her pompous ass away." Fina clicked his teeth in annoyance. With all the damage his main body had suffered, it would be a pain to split his attention and resources to keeping more rats off his ship. He could already tell at least half a dozen familiars following Barthomelloi's straight into his insides.
Fina's existence, as was the Eighth's, was a peculiar one. It could be considered something similar to a segregated hive mind. All the pieces that made up the crew's existence had roles, positions that possessed interchangeable parts that could be swapped in and out at will, but the roles themselves were always filled in one way or another. Each "role" was sentient and controlled by a spirit of his original crew, and they were all loyal to him, who served both as the role as the "captain" and the mystic foundation that kept the ship and crew together in the first place. He didn't micromanage his crew, he couldn't under most circumstances, but he could order them around and direct them. The loose autonomy granted to these roles meant less stress was placed on him, but it also meant that in occasional rare occasions of pure internal chaos, he didn't have as strong of a grasp of what "the Eighth" was doing as he'd like.
It didn't help that his current "ship" had a sentience of its own, magnifying and reflecting the crew's collective instincts, and increase the odds of it acting on confused instinct instead of his orders.
He had tried taking the boy out with precision. With efficiency. With tactics. Apostle or not, the child was still an inferior that couldn't even be considered a true Apostle…
But that had been a mistake. Efficient and tactics could be countered with experience if the opponent was capable. Diversity could be countered with diversity if wielded properly. Overwhelming and incomprehensive mystery for that matter could be offset with mysteries if applied right. It's the reason why Magi and the Association were still somehow a force that the Apostle Ancestors still had to be wary of.
The brat wasn't a monster. Not even close. He was just a damn living mystical Swiss army knife, and Fina had been doing nothing but fighting the fool with knives of his own, or trying to trap him with targets visible for his opponent to pick apart.
His fists tightened, infuriated that the brat had the absolute gall to kill his men. On his ship. In front of him, and his employer.
His teeth clenched hard enough to split a molar, and the coppery taste of his own blood registered in his mind.
He had played the game. He had made more than a few mistakes. And he had reaped the consequences.
And now he had to suffer the gall of trying to rectify the situation with a handicap in his favor of all things.
No. As an Apostle turned by Altrouge. As a Captain. He would not let this stand.
Fina reached into his pulled out the iron bell he used to wake up Jericho earlier with, and brushed its ornate side slightly with a finger.
Iron became a peculiar mix of crystal and inlaid with brass Sanskrit. A piece of function became one of ornate opulence and insulting subtext.
According to Islamic culture, bells were considered the favored musical instrument of Satan, and were avoided whenever possible in more stringent locales and circles.
Both Fina and his first mate found it fitting and appropriate for it to be the device that heralded her coming.
"Hoh?" Altrouge lifted an eyebrow in genuine curiosity and surprise.
"There's a vile pest on board. As Captain, I am declaring lockdown and issuing a Field Day."
"A Field Day?" Rin frowned in confusion and concern at the new development.
"A navy term. A day of ship maintenance and cleaning." Waver grimaced.
Fina lifted his arm and rang the bell. It rang with a crystalline and pure sound that seemed to pierce through the air and eardrums of all present.
"All Hands. Obey the First Mate, and purge the ship spotless."
o. o. o.
There had been no words of wit.
No meeting of eyes, nods of approval, or sign of mutual acknowledgement.
The fight between monsters had been given approval to resume.
The hallway exploded in steel and salt in a seemingly mindless rampage.
And so it did without any delay or hesitation.
Shirou's mana was running hot before he even heard the telltale sounds of salt crystalizing around him, ironically sounding akin to ice cracking endlessly as though the world itself was shattering.
His only saving grace was that the fifteen seconds between him agreeing to Altrouge's handicap and the ringing of the bell gave him enough time to organize and filter through his backup plans in order of viable to suicidal to impossible.
So much for being grateful for getting rid of Iri.
Not even a second after the bell's chiming hit his ears he could literally feel the difference in the mana flowing around him, which was good since his usual method of smelling mysteries had long been blinded and overwhelmed with all the salt and curses running all over the place. Even a third rate could tell something big had changed in the castle.
Bulk set established.
If he had to put it into words, if before the First Mate had been being fueled and supported by the golem/ship, now it felt like the two were genuinely merging. As though the entire Golem itself had just taken its first step towards turning into one giant salt abomination
Skipping individual refinement process.
The six chambered revolver, fully loaded and prearmed.
The cocked hammer in his skull slammed down.
If he wanted to get out of this mess, no, if he wanted to come out on top, he couldn't afford to simply be "efficient".
Six copies of Gae Dearg. Four Gae Buidhe. A dozen Black Keys, and six pairs of the bolo style blades connected by enhanced metal cables that could make even a Servant pause for a few seconds.
Each and every projectile shattered the sound barrier first upon discharge.
The crimson spears were the vanguard. Impacting, disrupting, and shattering the already three meter thick walls of crystal that had formed around their master. With mana and mystery, they were no doubt as robust and sturdy as fortress walls.
Without it however, the crystals shattered effortlessly the instant the tip of the spears applied the slightest bit of pressure, and clearing the way for the rest of the projectiles.
The copies of Gae Bhuide were next. The shock factor and wide spread of Gae Dearg momentarily made the wench pause in both surprise and to force her to think of where to move best…
Something she couldn't afford once the yellow lances jumped forward beyond her ability to react in time, perforating her undead body with wounds that would not heal so long as the spears existed.
Not that she would immediately notice as almost immediately afterwards, she was also impaled with the Black Keys and whiplashed by being strung up with the enchanted metal chords wrapping around her immediately afterwards.
She didn't even reach halfway to the ground before shattering as though she had been a crystal statue the entire time.
And then erupting in more crystals that literally flooded the hallway straight in his direction, along with so many shard projectiles that it appeared as though he was facing down an avalanche.
Shirou didn't have time to curse under his breath as Kanchou and Bakuya materialized in his hands, his go to fallbacks to use if he couldn't use Maya or Natalia, and lept back while deflecting and shattering fist sized and bigger spikes that threatened to ram him through before he could even be overwhelmed and crushed.
Within the span of three seconds, his arms lashed out as though he was fighting Rider again, slicing and parrying attacks that could kill and cripple him relentlessly from the most twisted and irregular angles.
"Time Alter… tch?!" The circuits in his chest began to warm as he started to conjure some blades to make a bounded field, only for his eyes to catch out of the corner of the avalanche the walls, floor, and ceiling around him starting to crystalize and close in on him from all sides.
His heart burned as he, very dangerously, canceled out the makings of his first timespace spell and immediately swapped to another. "Double accel!"
Leaping back in time to avoid being skewered and overwhelmed, his mind ran full stop to analyze and determine a way to deal with the situation and his assets.
The opponent was fused with his surroundings and manifesting her element seemingly without restraint.
He swayed out of the way of another stalactite that almost impaled him from above.
Kiritsugu is unavailable.
Kanchou slashed apart a rock the side of his thigh that was about to gore out his left eye, while Bakuya deflected a growing spear lashing out at his right kidney.
Avalon is a stopgap. He was still surrounded.
He backflipped over a spire that had been rapidly growing right behind him that would have pierced through his spine if he had not caught it out from the corner of his vision.
Gae Dearg is a pinpoint mana disperser. It was the pin to pop the "balloon" that was a mystery filled with mana. Even in bulk it's not suited against magecraft that's hitting from all sides, or a perpetually reproducing oncoming physical force like a flood or deluge of crystals.
His pace didn't slow down in the slightest as he barreled through a gauntlet of traps and projectiles, each with more than enough force to render a normal human to pulp, and each with only a few scant moments to counter or avoid before putting him down on the spot.
And yet he knew he was being played with.
Not enough time to make a bounded field. Backup plans C, D, E, and F either wouldn't work or would kill him in the process in such an enclosed area. G and H took too long to set up under the current conditions. And anything onwards more or less meant that he'd break the rules of the "duel" and result in him being Altrouge's minion.
"Come Rat! Keep scurrying while I scour and cleanse our domain of your filth and sin!" Jericho's voice echoed with a vindictive and near zealotry satisfaction.
Shirou only grunted in annoyance as he kept on running. So long as she kept playing with him, he had a chance to figure something out. She could have killed him already if she wanted to, but the fool was more preoccupied with basking in their own glory and apparent overwhelming superiority to ensure the kill right then and there.
And the annoying thing was that they were right to be confident. Whatever Fina had done or had in mind doing this, it was the right play.
Exchanging mystery and precision for raw overwhelming direct power and simplicity was the best way to deal with Shirou. He excelled at picking apart the mysteries and gimmicks of others, regardless of how absurd the mysteries were. He did NOT excel in extended exchanges of brute force against other titans.
Or, in Servant terms, he was built to be an Assassin, not a fucking Saber or Berserker.
Several circuits flared as he checked what he had on him with structural grasping while a madness of white tried to overwhelm and overtake him.
Mana crystals. Explosive charges. Blood packets. Spare knives and projected tools. His coat. Some bandages, and…
His lips twitched slightly under his shroud.
Filtering and identifying all unconventional pieces in Unlimited Blade Works incapable of standard projection procedure. Two thousand four hundred and eighty seven identified.
The mass of white was gaining on him.
Refining selection process for tools with exceptionally high damage output of A+ or greater.
One hundred and four identified.
He didn't even flinch as part of his right calf was nearly severed. His left hand abandoning the falchion in it to grab his way out of this mess.
Filter for anti-fortress or greater destructive potential.
Filter for passive effects over active.
Thirty five hammers inside Shirou's skull and soul pulled back simultaneously. His body tapped into the well of mana stored in the jewels in his belt.
Shirou couldn't help but laugh at the irony. As much as he wanted to scorn Archer, the Counter Guardian had been right, at least in the alternate timelines.
Shirou Emiya was a helpless mess against greater powers. So he shouldn't try to confront such cataclysms himself.
"Hey. You've been around for a while, right?" He couldn't help but run his mouth as he skid to a halt, just before a slew of razor sharp crystals turned him into a meaty swiss cheese from all sides and cutting off his escape.
Turning around, he saw he had less than five seconds left before he was crushed between a literal deluge of rocks and a hard place.
His covered, yet blatant mad smile didn't ebb in the slightest as he whipped out his arm…
Unsheathing the bland, uninspiring, pure white blade that he had only just received from Barthomelloi a half an hour earlier. The following moment continued with a flourish that resulted in him kneeling and stabbing the sword straight into the floor in front of him, akin to a knight declaring an oath, only with his head up and defiantly.
All Thirty Five hammers slammed down, turning Shirou Emiya into one massive conduit from his mana jewels to the blade.
The blade began to shine a bright white light as if it was flooded with power, turning even the oncoming avalanche into a sickly dull uninspiring color in comparison.
"Tell me. What's the biggest sword you've ever seen?"
o. o. o.
Saber was not particularly fond of the current situation.
Not that she had yet to be forewarned of her Master's latest absurd plan to some extent, but her less than glowing view on the matter had only redoubled on itself repeatedly as of the past few minutes.
Fighting the elites of these monsters was something she had only entrusted to the strongest of her Knights or herself on the rare occasion that they appeared in Britain when she was alive. Usually with herself or Gawain involved in particular due to how effective their holy swords were. Even then it was common practice for everyone to work in groups to ensure minimal losses.
And here she was allowing Shirou to run headfirst into the belly of the beast. Literally.
She wished she could say she was surprised. Or that it was something that she wouldn't have expected from one under her supervision. Unfortunately neither were true.
And, also almost as if destined, the situation had only gotten worse before it got better.
Of all the headaches that could have appeared unannounced, it just had to be Irisviel running on a high from all the curses that had been thrown about from Shirou's magecraft and hungering for more power.
Saber wasn't ignorant of the warning Solomon had given regarding Illyasviel and Altrouge. If the vampire bothered to explicitly state not to let the two encounter one another, then there must have been an overwhelmingly convincing list of reasons to do so. The only reason why he probably didn't bring up Iri was because nobody had expected her to leave the Emiya estate in the first place.
More concerning was the way Altrouge had spoken about Iri's appearance. It was obvious that her statements were more from an outside observance and speculation. She likely had been monitoring and experiencing what was going on from Fina's, or his crew's perspective the entire time. Meaning she had seen Irisviel… and yet there was no reaction.
Was it on purpose? Or did the Black Princess truly not notice whatever it was that Solomon was concerned of? Perhaps this unknown factor was only present in living variants of Einzbern homunculus. Or maybe Angra Mainyu's presence masked it?
… Regardless. Best not to dwell on the matter, lest any suspicions arise. Fortunately, Irisviel left without causing too many issues.
No. Her greater focus should be to be at the ready should Shirou demand it… or not.
She could feel his stress as the fighting escalated, but more concerning was that her eyes witnessed a terrifying display that her Master did not.
The Golem was transforming.
Its arm and legs, crown and parts of its body were crystallizing and warping. Dull stone splintering into jagged semi-transparent ivory tree branch-like knives in every direction.
Its head split in multiple directions like an orange's wedges splaying into a flower of pure white, with alien-like tendrils reaching out from the inside, making it almost resemble the infamous flowers in this country known as spider lilies.
Seconds into the transformation, she held back a wretched gag as the overpowering scent of salt assaulted her nose and the air itself made it hard to breathe, let alone keep a straight face. Never had she experienced such an obnoxious quantity of the spice on her senses, and yet she could not disassociate it with the ocean and seas in any capacity. It was as if she was facing down the physical manifestation of all the salt that existed in the world's major bodies of water.
Judging from the sounds some of her co-conspirators were making, she was not the only one that found the experience disorienting and difficult to adjust to.
Unsurprisingly, the Vice Director didn't seem to be affected by the sudden assault at all. Most likely due to her personal thaumaturgy protecting her.
Surprisingly, Waver also was unaffected, though by sheer happenstance. The cigars he smoked were disposable mystic codes with chemicals and herbs within that, among other things, helped purge and filter out foreign mana and toxins from his body and the air around his head.
"One moment. My apologies for the oversight." Caster was already at work before anyone could let out a second gag, establishing another bounded field to clear up the air and sinuses of those there.
"I see your First Mate is as appealing and graceful as you are, Fina," Merem sarcastically observed, albeit this time with a notably blank expression.
"A white giant of the seas… If I didn't know any better, I would have assumed that you were trying to pose as a potential candidate to take the name of Moby Dick after the original went to the far side. Of course an Ancestor of the seas would try something so ludicrous," Waver muttered under his breath as he instinctively took in the transformation and every detail that came with it.
"Are you insinuating that the Eighth is attempting to recreate and claim a Divine Beast's legend?" Lorelei asked, more curious about his theory than the ramifications.
"Not a whale, but a phenomenon that exemplifies the massive diversity between salt and freshwater. A literal face of the oceans made corporeal…" Waver ignored the pointed glances that Fina and Altrouge gave him, "I can hardly be called an expert in the field of phantasmal species, and can only give approximate assumptions. At best I can only assume that they are in the process of incorporating a portion of the legend for some greater purpose or transformation. Either way, the discrepancy between the 'White Whale' and what we see here is too great to simply be a one to one overlap."
What he didn't mention just yet was the irregularly large amount of sea foam frothing and accumulating around the monster's legs, which pointed towards a completely different direction.
Sea foam was often attributed to cleansing and illusions in ancient religions and societies. As did the notably abundant presence of salt now in the air.
A titanic white monster of death and cleansing of the oceans and seas, brushing up against the shores without warning and taking the unwary in its folds. There was a chance that they were trying to compound legends and concepts to accumulate the needed power and foundation to outright replace or incorporate Moby Dick's mystery into himself, or even summon the disaster itself eventually.
But not yet. Something was clearly missing for that final push to take place. The monster they were all watching had yet to reach that lofty plateau.
Even so, Waver didn't have enough information. Salt and sea foam were used in many religions as symbols of cleansing, purification, and death. He needed more to narrow down what potential routes and paths the vampire would take later.
Not that made much of a difference considering just how absurd the thing was in general.
Three legs were becoming four. Its torso was starting to stretch and elongate. The lone arm it still had was starting to splinter in multiple directions…
And then it's entire being jerked to the side slightly, as though it had a sudden seizure…
Moments later, a crude titanic emerald and ebony sword the length of a mountain violently erupted from its canopy and base, skewering it from the inside, blade impaling the ocean and the floor beneath, while the handle and guard stretched towards the sky, reaching an elevation nearly twice of that of the salt golem vampire castle whatever monstrosity.
Within only a few seconds, Ig-Alima, the Green Field cutting through a Thousand Mountains, a blade possessing the concept of "Skyline", manifested itself to seemingly exemplify just that in the middle of the bay.
For once everyone had the same reaction.
"What the, since when the hell could Shirou do THAT?!" Rin balked, unable to turn away from the sight of a castle being impaled so viciously to the point that it had been literally lifted off the ground.
"So this display is a novel for you as well then." The Vice Director's words were more restrained; however, even she could not hide the expression of genuine astonishment on her face for once.
"That child, I will not rejoice when his time comes. His propensity to spit in the face of conventional logic and scale is truly wearing my nerves thin," Caster cursed under her breath.
"Ha. Haha. For once I agree with you Caster. Damn. Where the hell was the kid hiding this nasty card all this time?" Lancer's laugh was slightly unsteady as he took in the absurd structure.
"What even is that sword? I don't recognize it at all." Luvia couldn't look away from the spectacle even if she wanted to. The weapon was without a doubt a Noble Phantasm, but not one that she could put a name to even if she tried.
Saber was the only one on the docks that recognized the monstrosity of a weapon, as it had been pulled from Gilgamesh's treasury during the battle at the Einzbern castle and was responsible for literally cleaving off most of the top of the building in the madness. She didn't know how or why, but somehow Shirou had manifested an even larger iteration of the tool this time around. Or perhaps the one she had witnessed earlier was a modified smaller variant and this was the original. Either way, it was a brutal disaster that she doubted she would have ever been able to witness again outside of Shirou's Reality Marble.
"A Divine Construct." Surprisingly, it was Altrouge that provided everyone with a hint to its origins as she looked upon the tool with genuine astonishment. "A boy, no, an Apostle, managed to properly replicate and produce the mysteries of the inner world to such a degree. You truly have outdone yourself this time, Solomon."
"... I suppose I have." For once, Merem didn't snap back at the Black Princess with an offhand insult, staring at the spectacle with the same bewildered expression as she was.
Apostles were the natural hunters of "Man" right down to their concepts. It was to the point that they could outright ignore most Noble Phantasms that were made by mankind or made for mankind to use so long as as they were used by a normal human and not a heroic spirit… or potentially another Apostle.
That said, Divine Constructs in general were RARE, even by Noble Phantasm standards.
The sword they were looking at was NOT something intended for mankind to use. Nor was it forged by the hands of men.
"... Is this some sort of blasted joke? One giant piece of scrap, and everyone's acting like this whole mess is already shored up?" If one paid attention closely, they could see Fina clench his jaw tight enough to shatter and bleed a few molars. "Do you lot not have eyes? The half dead brat is right there! He can barely stand anymore!"
The captain's enraged outburst wasn't wrong.
Whether by enhanced vision or through the senses of their familiars, they could all see Shirou kneeling on one knee on the wide hilt of the latest addition to the ocean, leaning heavily against the handle itself and panting heavily as though having trouble breathing. His coat flapping in the ocean winds made it easy to spot him out even in the dark. His heated and steaming breath in the winter air was blatantly labored and deep if the volume and frequency of the clouds coming from his mouth were anything to go by. And that wasn't taking into account that his entire body itself was overheated to the point of literally radiating in the winter night air on its own.
It was blatantly obvious that his latest stunt had not come without a cost.
"Hey. Sorry for the scare." Saber only blinked as Shirou's weary and tired voice made its way to her mind.
"Don't pretend how close you cut it, Master. They almost got you this time." The King of Knights smothered her relief with disapproval. "I was genuinely contemplating stepping in to rescue you from your foolishness. Enslavement or not."
"I'll try to play it safer from now on then." She didn't like the lighthearted tone he had. It was the sort he had when he was being particularly delirious and overconfident about something.
"Are you well? I am having trouble believing you manifested such a piece without a heavy cost. No, even at your best you should not have achieved something like this."
"I'll-?!" His reply was interrupted as she literally felt him choke on something through their connection. With her eyes, she saw him in the distance suddenly lash out with an arm and slam his hand into his chest hard.
Through the folds of the shroud around his head, globs of blood and clumps of some indiscernible material flew from his mouth onto the hilt by his feet. It may have been hard to tell what they were from an outsiders' perspective, but through Shirou's eyes, Saber could see that the mystery clumps were in actuality random sized chunks of blood covered salt and blades that littered the area around him.
He then repeated the painful process again with his other lung, shattering crystals and blades inside his organ and spraying it all over the titanic sword hilt he was kneeling on.
"Hah. Hah. S-Sorry about that. I'll manage. There was more salt than air in there at that last part." Even in his mind, his words were labored and strained, as though he was putting in effort just to put his thoughts into words. She barely took note of him pulling out a water bottle from his cloak and drinking greedily from it. "On a side note, fun fact, Avalon doesn't address dehydration. Only the symptoms."
She did, in fact, know that Avalon didn't address dehydration from a few campaigns when she had been alive. "You can't keep this up. Whatever the vampire's done, the golem's turned into a completely different brand of monster. You're not suited for this sort of opponent, even if you've managed to achieve this critical blow."
"I know. Once the shock wears off they're going to double down and try even harder to get rid of me. I somehow still have some mana left in stock, but I'm on my last couple of vials of your blood, and my circuits are stretched to their limits. I'm literally going to burn up at this rate. You don't suppose Fina would be up for a five minute break, do you?"
"Judging from his expression, he's likely plotting how to take you out as is."
"Fun." From her position, Saber could barely see Shirou reach into his coat and search for something. "Could you by chance ask my opponent if he's reached his limits for the night?"
This time Saber's eye did twitch in frustration. "You wish for me to aggravate your opponent on your behalf. Do you not think your situation is precarious enough as is?"
"I just impaled a castle with a Divine Construct the size of a literal mountain. It's a legitimate question."
Despite her mounting vexation with her Master, Saber held her tongue. This was not the first time she had dealt with an absurdly reckless comrade making an equally absurd request in front of a notable party. Nor would it be the last.
She would, however, remember this debt.
Before she could open her mouth though, she noticed her Master's head jolt to the side slightly and a spark flash next to it. A moment later, he lifted his right hand, and a few more sparks flared around it.
"Shirou?" She didn't hide her concern this time.
"Don't worry. Just slightly higher caliber sniper rounds from the shore. They caught the left side of my head. Nothing that my altered skin can't handle. I'm fine."
This time Saber didn't bother to control her annoyance. "Is that truly necessary, ship captain? I would have presumed that my Master would have made his point by now."
Fina turned to Saber with an incredulous and insulted snarl on his face. "Don't you dare start with me you over glorified wraith!"
"I presume that you decline then," Saber neutrally stated the obvious.
As if waiting for the sign from its true captain, the crystalline monster, its massive frame impaled and lifted over twenty meters up in the air, started to move once more. Shards splintered and thrashed about, propagating and expanding in both directions. The writhing mass that was its remaining arm reached up and clenched up on the blade that would have, should have rendered it immobile and downed… and pulled itself up.
"N-no way. That thing is actually trying to go up?" Luvia balked at the eldritch like display taking place in front of her. Rin wasn't that much better. Bazett merely cringed, while Lorelei merely watched in disgust as though what she was witnessing was among the most revolting things she had ever witnessed.
Waver merely had a small grimace. Compared to the Caster of the Fourth Grail War's last stand, this was unfortunately little in comparison.
And yet, while this horrifying development took place, Shirou found what he was looking for, and withdrew his hand from his coat holding a small device with a red button and a safety cover.
Shirou flipped off the cover with his thumb, smiled, and pressed the button.
Without further warning, the thirty eight charges of explosives that he had embedded into the walls and floors of the golem during his initial rampage throughout the golem went off at once.
Had they been conventional high yield explosives, the sudden disturbance would have at most caused the monstrosity to falter for maybe ten to twenty seconds.
o. o. o.
The two Magus Killers stood on the docks, plotting and planning the night's events. They had made multiple lists of what would be needed for each scenario.
o. o. o.
"How's the coat?" Kiritsugu asked during the final preparations in Shirou's workshop.
o. o. o.
"Nice coat." Fina noted at the boy that had just impaled him, his claw barely puncturing through the material.
"Tools of the Trade," the teen replied jokingly.
o. o. o.
Shirou had not used and implanted his own conventional explosives as he rampaged within the mobile castle earlier.
He had used Assassin's.
Under conventional logic, a normal human could not use the full potential of a Noble Phantasm. Mana cost aside, a Noble Phantasm was the crystallization of the Heroic Spirit's lore and history. Shirou and EMIYA's use of their replicas were technically exceptions to the rule, but even then, the copies were still just that. They couldn't use the full potential of, say Gae Bolg or Excalibur if Lancer or Saber handed their weapons to the Fakers.
However, the moonlit world was always full of notable exceptions.
Each and every charge shattered the crystalline salt that made up the beast across its torso and chest, right alongside the weakened strip still marred by the deluge of curses that flooded its body not even fifteen minutes prior.
Over two dozen C ranked Noble Phantasm charges erupted violently from inside the disaster, unstabling and obliterating key structure points ruthlessly almost simultaneously.
The end result was a vicious, cruel, maw-like jagged wedge that ripped and tore apart the monster across its midsection.
Tools of the Trade was an unusually flexible and versatile Noble Phantasm for one that did not hold any origins in mystery and fantastical myth. In a sense, it was a crystallization of "the tools of men" at their greatest against those that wield "mystery". The application of ruthlessly utilized raw force, efficiency, and precision that could surpass the capabilities of the unexplainable mystics and mysteries of the world.
It was the trademark weapon of not simply Kiritsugu Emiya, but those that truly earned the mantle of "The Magus Killer".
A mantle that Shirou had borne and shouldered for three years by this point. One that virtually every practitioner of magecraft knew of.
It was not Shirou's Noble Phantasm. But it was still his inheritance and legacy so long as he was the current Magus Killer. And thus, his to use just as freely as Assassin once in his hands.
That said, it admittedly still did nothing to address his horrendous accuracy with most guns.
It was too much. Between the explosives, the curses of Angra Mainyu's debilitating effects, and the golem's excessive weight, and the Divine Construct impaling and lifting it's frame up high in the air, something had to finally give in the structural integrity of the Eighth Apostle Ancestor's main body.
Crack. Crack crack.
With a heavy, hollow, almost pained groan, the bottom half of the titanic monster bisected from its upper, collapsing and breaking apart under its own weight while sliding down the Divine Construct heavily into the ocean below.
Not that the upper half fared much better, sliding down a good fifty meters from the unexpected assault as well.
Once again the audience was caught flatfooted.
"Well?" Shirou asked Saber with a dry sense of amusement through their connection. "What about now?"
o. o. o.
"Damn. Guess all that panicking everyone else was doing about the kid slipping bombs everywhere meant something after all."
"S-stop joking around! Do you think modern bombs pack that much of a punch?! Where was he hiding those things in the first place?! Wait, was THAT what he was setting up all over the city for the war?!"
"Does it matter at this point, Tohsaka? Believe it or not, Emiya's somehow managed to ream that monster in half on top of impaling it in the middle of the ocean."
"But for how long can he keep it up? He doesn't look like he'll last much longer."
Waver held back a grunt of annoyance through his cigar at Bazett's comment. She should know better than to blatantly state the obvious in a situation like this. Even if Shirou had mana in reserve, he looked like he was on his last wind. There was only so much strenuous activity the kid could push himself through before his body crashed, one way or another.
The biggest unknown factor at the moment was just how far that Divine Construct pushed the kid past his limits. The explosives clearly didn't seem to cost him anything, but Shirou had been on one knee since he had made his rather spectacular and obnoxious appearance outside.
He eyed the fallen half of the golem, and was not surprised in the slightest to see that the ocean under the sword had begun to turn into one giant salt flat, spreading out white crystals in every direction and showing little signs of slowing down. He wouldn't be surprised if the abomination's propagation reached the shoreline by the end of the fight if it didn't slow down soon.
And on the sword, he noticed that the eldritch white arm had yet to let go of the sword itself, and was slowly resuming its attempt to climb up to reach Shirou.
It wasn't enough.
Speared though with a Divine Construct. Blasted by True Ether. Cursed by Angra Mainyu. Literally blown in half.
And it STILL WASN'T ENOUGH to stop the abomination.
Waver had been through dozens of mind scarring and reality warping ordeals over the past decade, and yet even he had to admit that the disaster in front of him was an impressive specimen in comparison among its kin.
Truly the Twenty Seven were entities in their own category that required humanity's greatest efforts to surmount.
He glanced at Lorelei Barthomelloi. The Vice Director of the Clocktower. A woman that was renown to have single handedly put down three of the monsters herself, and to his dismay spied the slightest traces of stress in her body language. Her posture and composure was as immaculate and controlled as always, but he could tell that her near perpetual glare of dismissal was deeper than usual, her grip on her crop tighter than normal, and her focus on the exchange between vampires more rapt than before.
All signs pointed to this event proving to be far more than even she had anticipated.
And judging from the veins bulging from the Pirate Vampire's temple and neck, she was not the only one progressively getting overwhelmed by the turn of events.
Not that he could blame them.
Even the eldest monsters present, Altrouge and Solomon, were giving the show their utmost attention now.
If this disaster didn't conclude soon, there was no telling who or what would break first.
The show of explosives was a nice touch, and in many cases it would be a finishing move, but to anyone that took a moment to look at the big picture, it was blatantly obvious that they were little more than a stalling tactic. A maneuver for Shirou to buy some time to catch his breath, literally cool down, and catch his breath.
Between that titanic thing of a sword and the explosives, and judging on how slowly the two halves of Eighth were recovering, or to be more accurate reacting, Shirou had bought himself at most around five minutes.
Hopefully that would be enough.
o. o. o.
That crazy bitch.
Her salt was actually eating at Ig-Alima.
Corroding the crude slab of metal that made up the (fake) Divine Construct that could cleave through a thousand mountains.
It wasn't immediate. Even with her enhanced state, it would take roughly seventy years to pull it off completely by his estimates, but the fact that she could at all underscored just how absurd the first mate truly was.
And that was after he literally blew apart in half.
Shirou couldn't help but let out a dry laugh of disbelief.
The Twenty Seven really were monsters.
"I take it the Captain still isn't pulling back then."
"Judging from the long list of unpleasant experiences he intends to put you through once you are apprehended, no." Saber's reply was just as dry. "Do not mince words. Your situation is precarious."
"I bought myself some time to cool off-"
A high caliber bullet ricocheted off of his metallic, Noble Phantasm lined right hand.
"For the most part." He amended his statement reluctantly at the end.
"I thought you said the only long ranged combatants in this city that may give you some trouble would be Assassin and Archer at this point."
"They are. These idiots are just annoying and trying to get lucky. Only a seventh of their shots are getting close to me, let alone hitting. Shooting accurately over long distance over the ocean's near impossible due to the cross winds alone. Let alone with all the discharged mana making it worse. You'd need to use magecraft or be a Servant to pull something like this off on a good day intentionally."
"So someone like you then." Saber's dry tone almost put a genuine smile on his face.
Shirou blocked another bullet with his hand. He had already pinpointed where the half a dozen snipers on shore were situated. With his eyes reinforced, he could easily track and predict which bullets would actually have a hope of getting to him before they were even fired.
He frowned as he scanned the shore almost a full kilometer away. The original half a kilometer had doubled in distance in the short time that the Golem had attempted to distance itself from the mainland.
He saw how the others were looking in his direction with a myriad of expressions that he genuinely could have gone his life without witnessing. How Merem and Altrouge were watching him with blank expressions… no. To the untrained it was blank, but he could tell that they were examining him raptly. Hungrily anticipating what he would do next.
He pointedly ignored Archer's steel gray eyes looking straight at him from further back on the docks.
And then there was that bastard Fina still on the shoreline, slewing out orders and death threats in equal measure. More than half of the original army he had manifested was gone now, no doubt part of the salt monstrosity below, but he was still flanked by a good number of soldiers, not including the snipers still trying to hit him…
For the conventional, or even well trained sniper, it was a near impossible shot.
For him though…
"Yeah. Like me."
Circuits warming up once more, a bow manifested in one hand while the other fed the first of two remaining blood capsules into his mouth, allowing Saber's blood and mana to once more surge into his system and soothe his aches and pains in conjunction to Avalon's magic.
The fact that his lungs had fully recovered a few seconds later also helped.
Standing up, he took a slight step to the side, avoiding another lucky bullet that would have grazed his thigh had he been sloppy.
With perfect posture and form, he drew back the string of his bow, ignoring the ominous cracking sounds of the crystal beast below, and effortlessly fired off two dozen normal shots into the air within a second.
Two seconds later, the snipers and their spotters were impaled and torn apart in their perches, unable to react or move in time to avoid their fate.
Shirou frowned and watched carefully. There had always been something off about how Fina's mysteries ensnared and took hold of his victims that he had never gotten to the bottom of.
The importance of "groups" or "sets" were heavily imposed into their being. It was something that he wouldn't have even noticed had it not also been inscribed on the weapons that he analyzed during his frequent encounters with them.
It had been on their knives.
It had been on their clothes.
And with a little bit of effort, he could tell it had been on their guns too.
And it was how he knew that the Hundredth and Thirty First battalion of the Green Beret's sniper division had seven pairs of snipers and spotters, not six.
Seven sets of weapons. Seven sets of armor. Seven sets of gear. Seven sets of members.
But he was only attacked by six.
As if to mock the teen for his efforts, said six sets of butchered soldiers seemed to revert back into their healthy and untarnished selves seconds after his attacks struck home. They didn't seem to even react at all to being killed, almost immediately and emotionlessly resuming their efforts to trying to plug him full of holes from their positions.
"..." Shirou didn't even attempt to know the why's and how's of the mystery he had just witnessed, but he knew instinctively that it made him sick to his core.
He took stock of the coast again, noted the Pirate Captain's smug snort of dismissal, and made a decision.
His circuits would not thank him for this next trick, but he felt it was a necessary sacrifice in the long run.
Ever since his fight against Gilgamesh, it had been his third option against monsters that wouldn't stay down, right behind Kiritsugu and Gae Buidhe.
A Scythe from Greece, designed to impose mortality onto the immortal.
Design incompatible as a projectile. Reconstruction is required.
"Maintain concept. Altering design and structure."
Similar modifications and mold discovered in model "Caladbolg II". Applying manufacturing process and procedures in alteration. Modification success.
He held his hand palm up, and the wireframe of his latest creation lit up in the air above it.
"Imposing conclusive crafts."
Incorporating excess magecraft.
Warning, excess mysteries will degrade product's integrity. Model's degradation will expose and contaminate stability beyond normal acceptable thresholds.
Shirou grit his teeth, and felt his circuits burn his body from the inside out as the arrow in his hand materialized into the world. "Reinforce."
Integrity's stability increased by twenty percent. Minimal threshold for projectile integrity met. Warning. Noble Phantasm's full potential will not be met under current conditions. Revision is recommended for maximum yield.
It was an ominously beautiful piece of purple and black. Normally a scythe, the inward turned blade had been reversed so the edge would be on the outside, and wrapped tightly around the shaft to turn it into a single coiled nail with a sharp point.
Harpe. The blade the gods bestowed upon Perseus in his quest to slay the monster known as Medusa. A tool bearing the trait of "refraction of immortality."
The immortal slaying scythe.
A Divine Construct.
Under normal circumstances, a tool of this quality likely would have been beyond him to manifest so easily, especially in his current condition. However, this was not a Noble Phantasm he had information on simply just by witnessing it.
As stated before, it was infamous for killing Medusa herself. It was intimately tied to her very existence.
And in the early stages of the war, he had imbibed in her blood when he had served as her temporary Master. Experienced some of her history as he slept. Information that was beyond even what his eyes could ascertain was registered in his Unlimited Blade Works.
Next to his personal blades and the tools of the Knights of the Round table, there were few mystical weapons, Noble Phantasm or not, that he would likely ever be able to replicate as efficiently as this one.
In one seemingly effortless movement, Shirou took another step to the side to avoid two more sniper bullets while notching his new arrow and took aim, making precise notes where each and every one of his enemies were.
"Remind the unfortunate and open their eyes. Sever the desperate dream from the world with its reflection."
The Noble Phantasm speared and corkscrewed through the night sky over the ocean towards the docks, its erratic path making the intended target impossible to determine...
"Split and strike. Harpe."
And propagating itself over a dozen times over halfway to shore, amplifying the confusion a thousandfold.
Before Fina could properly react to the sudden development, the locations where his snipers were set on top of his own were bombarded with the sudden onslaught of modified scythes from the Age of Gods. Each and every shaft impacted the concrete with the explosive force of a high yield explosive, shattering buildings and plowing the grounds around the impact zone…
And yet when the debris cleared, Fina was unharmed. Slightly confused, but otherwise untouched.
"Ha? Haha! Sloppy. That was just embarrassing. You can't win a war with a few bigger shells and a lucky hit boy!"
"Fina. It would be best to pay closer attention," Altrouge surprisingly cut him off mid rant. "That was no conventional arrow he shot. He wasn't aiming for you."
The pirate scowled at his superior. "What do you mean by that, Ma'am? Are you insinuating that the boy still has something else in his sleeves that can get around…"
His question trailed off as he realized that he couldn't detect his snipers anymore. Their souls were still his, and fortunately intact, but their bodies, their very beings and natural containers refused to regenerate or return to their intact states once more.
As they were, the boy's latest victims were as useful to him now as broken toys.
Once more, his men had been killed. And this time it had been in front of his very eyes.
And they weren't the only ones that had been torn apart beyond the point of recovery.
He slowly turned his head to where the bulk of his remaining personal guard stood. Most of them were still there, werewolves and elite troops. A bit roughed and scratched up, but otherwise intact for the most part.
All except for the six magi that he had only just gotten his hands on a week ago. Their butchered and threshed corpses strewn all over the docks beyond recovery.
The boy had gone out of his way to personally execute and remove Barthomelloi's personal men, members of her renowned Chelon Canticle Brigade, from his control from over a kilometer away. Whatever mysteries and mystic codes the bastards had been armed with for protection had done nothing to avert what had become of them.
No wonder Altrouge sounded put out for once. She had been planning on pulling as much gossip and secrets from those soldiers as possible after this shitshow finally resolved itself. They had been a particularly intriguing side trophy earned in this headache of an excursion. A trophy that had just been stolen right from under their noses.
Even the head bitch herself had been caught off guard by the unexpected development if her surprised expression was any indication.
"... So help me I am going to kill that cocky little shit by morning come one way or another." It was as though Fina had gone full circle, becoming so enraged that he had gone all the way to being calm again. "Bastard wants a game of ordinance? Fine then. I'll play."
"RALLY! LINES! ARTILLERY SET!"
The remaining soldiers on the shoreline shivered and shuddered, their very beings rippling and folding into different images, as though one lens or perspective was being swapped with another.
Thirty men in uniform were replaced with ten experimental magically enhanced Ottoman Empire long ranged cannons from World War One.
There was no point in manifesting multiple ships again. It took up too much mana and focus to whip up a force that didn't even have a good angle at the kid situated on a perch nearly half kilometer in the air. Long ranged artillery from his main crew would suffice this time. Whatever weapon that brat used to kill his snipers and Barthomelloi's men took more out of him than that annoying cursed sword.
The winds were in his favor again. The kid was losing steam. All he had to do was keep up the pressure, and the enemy would fall just like the rest..
o. o. o.
"Trace on. Extract temporal progression. Splay. Link. Harmonize. Execute."
Shirou pushed himself slightly to project half a dozen timeless swords in front of the hilt of Ig-Alima and immediately set up a bounded field of "extracted progression" to serve as a shield against the onslaught. The bounded field, or rather the air that lined it, was just as temporally static and immobile as the swords at each keypoint. It wouldn't do much against a greater body of mystery like a Servant or a full fledged Apostle, but it would serve as a cost efficient barricade against slightly enhanced explosives for at least a while.
BOOM! BOOM! BOOM!
So long as he could tolerate essentially being in the center of a continuous deafening fireworks display for said while. The sounds and impacts of the explosions firing off like rampant thunder strikes didn't help with his weary state.
"Ngh." He grimaced as he endured the burning sensation of his circuits perpetually cooking his body while Avalon fixed his flesh just as quickly. Using Harpe and his timeless blades had irritated his insides something fierce, but they were still fortunately within his ability to pull off without ensuring he was screwed later on.
That said, now that he could finally take two steps without needing to reinforce himself or use mana, he could feel just how badly his body was suffering from hyperthermia. It felt like he could evaporate a bath of ice water just by sitting in it, and every pore of his body was screaming for water to cool itself off. If his ears weren't plugged with mana to prevent them from being blown out from the constant explosions nearby, he would swear he could hear his flesh sizzling like cooked meat.
He had never been so grateful for the biting cold winter weather of Fuyuki as he was at that moment. If he could have stripped naked and dove into the ocean at that very moment without worrying for his life, he would have by now.
Slowly he limped around and to the edge of his platform to look down at the Salt Golem's/Jericho's progress. The salt field at the base was progressively and persistently expanding outward, while the top half of the monster was slowly trying to make its way back up to where he was once more with its lone amalgamation of an arm.
The very sight of its dozens of car sized claws reaching up and literally puncturing into the body of Ig-Alima was both nauseating and impressive from his perspective.
He then pulled back to avoid a crystal spear the length of a javelin from spearing through his skull at mach six if his eyes were correct.
Death from ashore. Death from below. He may have earned himself a slight respite, but at the end of the day, he was still outgunned and trapped on the perch without anywhere safe to go. Lovely.
As if trying to see if any other angle around his foothold was safer than the others, Shirou slowly began to circle around its outer rim, briefly sticking his head out over the edge and retreating it moments later to avoid getting decapitated by flying salt formations.
Much to his expectations, there were no "weak" points in particular. Only a strong one in the form of the side where the Golem was slowly pulling itself up while still impaled by the Divine Construct in an impressive, if twisted and macabre, display.
His only saving grace at the moment was that neither the Golem nor Fina had done anything that put him on a particularly short time limit. Not that he was holding his breath for that to remain the case for long.
He fully intended to still win this joke of a contest. To do that, he needed to force Fina to give up. Not just hurt the bastard. Which was unfortunately in some ways more difficult.
Harpe was an option, but one with a low chance of success. Especially now that everyone saw that it could get around his twisted version of immortality. They'd be prepared for it.
He couldn't use his personal swords, which was a pity since they'd come in handy right about now with how little they cost him to make.
Gae Buidhe was the same as Harpe. It was great against immortals, but too precise of a tool, especially against a titanic juggernaut that was the Eighth's main body. He might as well fight a war with a needle.
He couldn't use most Anti-Fortress Noble Phantasms on the best of days, so trying to muscle his way out of this wasn't an out.
His body was a wreck too. Physically he could still go for a bit longer, but magically he couldn't do anything particularly reality breaking or over the top without killing or crippling himself. At best, he could manifest a couple of mid tier Noble Phantasms at a time without frying something vital, which wasn't exactly ideal.
It's not like he was capable of simply bleeding out a monster that big with its ludicrous mana reserves that could heal it from anything short of being completely obliterated while its bottom half transformed the ocean into one giant salt flat…
… Actually, on second thought…
His eyes darted to the side just as an errant jagged crystal shot up into the air far past his elevation and started to slow down as it reached its apex.
Judging from its shape and height, he had a pretty good idea of what was going to happen next, and clenched his teeth.
Bow still in one hand, he seamlessly knelt down and took aim, dematerializing the drawstring and reforging it already pulled back with a modified arrow projection of Gae Dearg perfectly set in place, and fired nearly straight up into the sky.
He had been a split second too late.
The massive clump of salt shattered at the height of its travel, nearly twenty meters above where Shirou stood, showering the area below in a buckshot of fist sized crystal bullets with enough velocity to create small craters into conventional concrete… or shatter into even more bullets when in contact against harder and more robust surfaces.
Only at most about a fifth of the salt shards that showered the sword hilt encountered and were destroyed by the flying Fae spear turned arrow.
"Shit," Shirou spat out a curse as his counter came too late and dove behind the pillar-like grip of Ig-Alma to avoid getting skewered and or mulched.
In the process, he saw three more salt clusters rush past him to conduct a repeat performance.
He didn't hesitate this time. Nerves and circuits burning, Shirou fired off Noble Phantasm after Noble Phantasm as quickly and accurately as he could while avoiding what he had already missed. This time, he managed to get two of the clusters in time, Gae Dearg negating their innate spells and mana on contact, but the third was once again just shy of in time.
Again Shirou had to quickly dance and run around the grip of the Divine Construct to avoid getting hit.
Again, even more salt clusters shot up to sail overhead.
For almost five full minutes, he was in constant motion, repositioning and firing off seemingly endless copies of Gae Dearg up into the air. Five minutes at a suboptimal condition. Five minutes of ignoring his body burn from the inside.
It wasn't perfect. His copies of the spear had been degraded to keep up with demand. Falling by two ranks in some cases. And even then it hadn't been enough to keep up.
Three spikes were embedded in his left calf. Four in his right femur. Two in his stomach. One in his left radius. One on his left clavicle.. And that wasn't even counting all the minor scratches and grazes he had that were slowly healing due to Avalon working overtime to address everything at once.
It would have been more if he had stopped making the transformed parts of his body flesh and blood again, reverting to the scale like steel mesh of blades.
The attacks had suddenly stopped.
And he was smiling victoriously.
For a moment, he had been worried that he'd give out before the golem finally realized something was amiss.
He didn't look down, and didn't need to in order to figure out what had happened as the golem below groaned in noticeable discontent.
Littered across the surface of the monstrous construct were the dozens of copies of Gae Dearg impaled blade first, standing straight up. From a distance, it was ironically almost as though the monster had a thin layer of red hair.
Each and every one of them leaking ludicrous streams of mana as though they were puncturing a balloon.
One of the most horrifying aspects about the Eighth was its seemingly endless reservoir of mana. Mana to manifest and maintain an army. Mana to regenerate almost endlessly…
But the thing about Apostles was that mana wasn't just a measure of strength. It was a vital necessity.
Especially for the ones that, oh say, naturally massive and perpetually maintaining a ghost pirate ship complete with a crew of over two hundred members and a first mate that's over eight centuries old every waking second.
Each and every shot Shirou had made hadn't been a blind attempt to simply counter the salt crystal clusters. They had been all particularly intended to fall back down as close to the blade of Ig-Alima as possible….
Right on top of golem, who would more than likely dismiss the minute pinpricks until it was too late.
Standing up straight and dismissing his bow, Shirou projected one final base copy of Gae Dearg, and banged the blunt butt end of the spear against the ground, making it ring in the ocean night air as though it was an oversized chime.
"The thorns have stuck. The seeds have sewn. May the roots feed on blood of mystery."
A relatively simple blood red formalcraft circle slowly began etching itself on top of the monster. Fueled, anchored, and connected by the dozens and dozens of seemingly harmless red spears sticking up from its canopy.
Under most circumstances, Shirou would not have even considered casting a mystery of this scale in his current condition. His circuits couldn't handle the strain of this brand of formalcraft. However two primary factors convinced him to do so otherwise.
The first was simply that he was out of any other options if he wanted to overcome this disaster.
Twirling the spear over his head in a wide flourish, he maintained his focus before slamming it down in front of him as though it was a flag pole.
The second was that conveniently there was more than enough mana to work with flooding the air from all the spears puncturing the surface of the Golem in the first place.
"Bloom a grand Crimson Rose upon the forgotten corpse, Gae Dearg."
A titanic blood red burst of mana in the shape of a giant flower bloomed from the canopy of the Salt Golem.
Like a ruptured blood blister tapped into a major artery, mana blasted in every direction directly from the tap, virtually forcing the monster to go into shock as its vital energy was drained uncontrollably.
In a single instant, a few dozen slightly larger than pinprick leaks had given way to a massive gaping wound that threatened to sink the ship right then and there.
The ocean air was practically shooting up around Ig-Alima like a steam vent, superheated and saturated with salt, brine and countless other minerals that could have made up the Golem's body. Cloying and dense, Shirou felt as though he was in a sauna that a dehydrated corpse had been dumped in.
It was simultaneously laborious and invigorating to breathe in the middle of the madness.
That said, it still didn't stop Shirou from sliding to his knees in an unconscious attempt to regain as much rest and recover as much as possible. Even in the new updraft, his body radiated at a temperature that was vastly higher than the current surroundings.
"Haaah. Damn it." He reached up and tore the Shroud of Martin away from his mouth, revealing his half warped face and increasing the flow and exposure of cool air around his head so he could deal with the heat faster.
"Haaaah." He watched as another thick cloud of blood enriched steam escaped his mouth, past the shroud that wrapped around his head.
It was hard to breathe. A good portion of his lungs had been torn up getting rid of the salt shards that had embedded into the nodes in his lungs, and pure exhaustion and exertion did the rest. Avalon was working overtime knitting and piecing his insides back together, but it did little to get rid of the exhaustion he was experiencing.
Projecting that many copies of Gae Dearg in rapid succession in his condition didn't come without a cost. His nerves were fried. He could barely feel his legs, feet, and hands to the point that he could barely keep his balance and keep his hold on the spear in his hands.
Even if he didn't see it, he could still hear the top half of the Golem lose its grip on Ig-Alima as its strength vented and emptied out of its top, forcing it to slide down the blade's length and fall back down to the ocean below where its bottom half remained unresponsive.
With any luck, he had finally bought himself enough time to recover to the point of being able to feel his extremities and stand again. If not, finally win.
And then a familiar enraged voice hungry for his blood added itself to the madness.
Fuck his luck.
He swore he could hear Archer chuckle at his misfortune all the way from shore.
As though fueled more by rage and malice than mana, a pillar not of crystal but of pure molten liquid salt speared up through the air to his right and continued up past the pommel of Ig-Alima before finally arcing down right at him. Two additional swirls of molten salt swirled viciously and violently around the tip where the enraged First Mate bore down on him with her lone good eye, her arms warped and encrusted into sharp claws that he was certain held enough mana to tear apart any low grade Noble Phantasm with ease.
It was all he could manage to jump out of the way of her divebomb attack. The impact alone was enough to cause tremors throughout Ig-Alima and spray droplets of salt in every direction.
Shirou's was no exception, as he lifted up his arms to protect as much of his body as possible. Noble Phantasm coat or not, it did not stop the impacts and raw heat from searing and bruising his aching body fiercely while retreating.
He was nowhere near as strong or fast as she was. His reserves were all but tapped. His body was cooked inside out.
On the other side of things, Jericho looked like she had just taken a few boosts since the last time he saw her in person, as she was positively radiating with mana. Half her body was shimmering with liquid salt, or rather the heat of liquid salt since it had a melting point of just short of fifteen hundred degrees Fahrenheit.
And yet she was still here with him instead of directly connected to the main body. She was disconnected from directly tapping into its still formidable mana reserves, taking as much as she could before leaping up to take care of him in person.
The pirate truly was going out of her way to kill him. No matter the potential risks.
Shirou was equally pissed, annoyed, and impressed.
It was just too bad that he was so tired that he just didn't care about any of that anymore.
His left hand gripped onto Gae Dearg. He couldn't waste any more focus or energy on making another projection.
His right hand all but shoved the last pill of Saber's blood into his mouth for that final boost.
The mutant salt Vampire opened her mouth.
Shirou dove behind Ig-Alima's grip just as a beam of searing hot salt speared through the air, hammering a burning line into the guard that instantly spawned a five meter tall wall of burning hot crystal.
Jericho then landed on the guard herself.
She should have landed on her crystal.
Shirou yanked back his right arm as hard as he could.
The recoil forced the half a dozen loops of Enkidu, hidden by projected dust and strewn all around the guard to jump up and spin rampantly as its owner pulled and withdrew the length of the chains as fast as he could.
He hadn't simply been looking down over the edge of the guard while he had been walking around it earlier.
With a loud metallic whiplash, the vampire was ensnared by the trap. Had she been in a calmer state of mind, she likely would have been able to avoid the trap as it bound her dozens of times over in a divine chain meant to ensnare the gods themselves.
That said, Jericho was no god.
Even before she had been fully tied down, her powers and natural disposition started to eat away at the divine iron, wearing away the metal in a process that should have taken centuries at least in a matter of seconds. Gold ebbed away into a dull, albeit still divine, iron into an uninspiring rust before Shirou's very eyes.
He was certain that Gilgamesh would have absolutely murdered BOTH of them on principle if the King of Heroes ever was summoned again and heard about this.
At most he had ten seconds before Jericho escaped and resumed her likely successful attempt to tear him apart.
Fortunately, he didn't need that long.
The many bloodstains that were slathered all over the golden chains began to glow. And it was only then that Jericho realized that she was in more danger than she had anticipated.
Like an Iron Maiden without the outer shell, the First Mate of the Eighth was skewered from all sides by a radom assortment of dozens of weapons from all eras, from swords to spears, from conventional tools to Noble Phantasms.
Shirou's body was made of blades. His blood was just another way to bring it out and skip a few steps in the process.
Her chest was perforated from at least seven different blades.
Her right arm was completely severed at the elbow while the left was literally half on in three different places.
Her legs were so mangled that it was difficult to state factually whether or not they were intact or not.
Her spine was severed in nine different places.
All of her internal organs in her lower body were either stabbed, frozen, seared, cursed, purified, or electrocuted.
Her heart was hewn into fifths.
Her jaw was dislocated in the sense that a spear had impaled her mouth under her tongue and took out the left joint that connected it to the rest of her skull.
Her left eye, which had already been rendered useless, had been rendered doubly so on the count of a black key skewering right through it to the back of her skull.
It truly was a treatment that would, and should, have put down even a high ranked Apostle.
Jericho wasn't simply a high ranked Apostle, but at that moment, a standin for the Eighth Apostle Ancestor. And they did not die that easily.
Pushing his already exhausted body to the limits, Shirou bolted from around the grip of Ig-Alima, Gae Dearg in hand, and rushed straight towards his opponent with the intent to end the fight as fast as possible. Apostle or not, if her mana was cut off, she wouldn't be able to recover from her wounds.
Unfortunately, he had not moved fast enough.
It all happened in the span of an instant.
Just as Shirou was about to reach the ensnared monster, the corroded chains that leashed her shattered, unable to hold her back any longer.
Their eyes met.
Shirou's spear pierced through the center of Jericho's molested body.
And Jericho's half intact salt armored hand impaled the left side of Shirou's chest.
Right where his heart was.
Both the battleground and the audience on the docks were silent.
"?!" Jericho stilled and tried to retract her hand, but found that she couldn't.
It wasn't so much that she was stuck so much as it was her hand was completely speared through dozens if not hundreds of times by countless little thorns from all sides. A bear trap composed of razor wire would be an apt analogy from an outside perspective
More concerning was that even though she had aimed for the Rat's heart with all the strength her mutilated body could muster, she was only now just realizing that she had not pierced it.
"Ha. Ha…hahahaha. Let me guess." The insufferable teen slowly picked his misshapen head back up and looked her in the eye with a twisted smile, half his face, head, and neck still a mesh of blades and metal. "You thought my heart would be easier."
The pirate stilled, realizing that she had been played the fool.
The Rat hadn't gotten rid of his shroud simply because he had wanted to breathe or some other paltry reason. He had done so to wordlessly point her to what she thought would be "the easier target".
A target that she literally had in her hand, and yet still could not do anything with.
The world had warped around her.
She was no longer arm deep in the boy on an absurd sword, but standing on a hill, surrounded by swords in every direction.
"This is…" She looked around, and saw the sunset.
And couldn't look away.
It was as though the entire weight and experiences of her entire life and existence had suddenly manifested an inertia that held her in place.
Born into a middle class family in what would later be known as Syria during the early Ottoman Empire. One that dabbled in Magecraft. A third generation family at best on paper. A name that would more than likely be forgotten in time one way or another.
Studying magecraft with her father to desalinate the salt water in the mediterranean Sea and the Dead Sea to make life easier. She always made sure to keep the workshop as clean as possible and keep everything as meticulously in order.
Succeeding and laughing in joy alongside her family, drinking more clean water than she could ever remember. The fact that her "earth" element being the key to their research instead of her father's desired "water" element had never made them closer.
Barely escaping her burning home at thirteen, the only surviving member of her family. The local nobles and priests "confiscating" their property, alongside the artificial oasis that they had spent five years making on trumped up infidelity and heresy charges. The bastards hadn't even tried to cooperate with her family or even exchange their land.
God was real. She would never believe otherwise from the bottom of her heart. But the faith? The meaningless rules that only seemed to apply and manage the lower caste while those in power lived and abused as they pleased? No. That vile dogma was not of God's work. She would not be blinded by such embarrassing heresy from that point onwards.
Working across the seas as a for hire deck maid and, eventually a whore. It could have been worse. It wasn't long before her meticulous reputation for cleanliness and efficiency earned her a reputation among the ports.
A clean whore was a whore that didn't leave unwanted surprises after the job was done after all. No children. No venereal diseases. What more could a sailor away from home ask for other than a few solid drinks to take the edge off? She made good money with her reputation.
The fact that there never seemed to be any lack of clean water or food on whatever ship she was on also worked in her favor.
Turned into a monster. A thing that clearly went against God's design by a harlot from the west. A nightmare that pinned her down just by looking at her with those hauntingly rosen eyes. Calling her a "curious foreign spice", getting a taste, and then leaving as quickly, as if the entire action of turning her in the first place had been just a passing whim.
Jericho dropped to a knee. It was as if the deluge of memories had suddenly magnified in weight on her being a hundredfold. It all rushing by in a rampant blur.
Spending three centuries on ships and crews. Never staying in the same place for long. Feeding on friend and foe alike. Growing in power. Crying herself asleep alone more nights and days than not.
Meeting that brash child Fina that ran away from his magus home. Unlike her family, his apparently had been of some renown, and he spat on it all all the same. Joining his mercenary ship. Being glad that he was gay so she wouldn't have to open her legs every damn day while on a ship for once. Laughing with him when she blatantly told him as much and then getting shit faced drunk at the local pub. Barely resisting the urge to feed on him then and there.
Witnessing Fina's nigh fanatical dedication to his men and crew. Experiencing his halfhearted magecraft firsthand in the middle of battle. Dancing in the afterparty of a good raid.
Coming across Altrouge by sheer dumb chance during a request to investigate some ruins off the coast of Curacao and knowing to her very being that the monster in front of her easily surpassed the one that turned her centuries ago. Convincing her that her flamboyant idiot of a captain was worth investing in instead of killing.
Watching her captain somehow negotiate with the Black Princess to rope in the rest of the crew on the deal, which only made the heretical monster in the shape of a girl even more entertained.
Becoming the Eighth.
Raiding the world.
Fighting magi. The Church. Other Apostles.
Singing. Raiding. Dancing. Fucking. Cleaning. Laughing.
For five hundred blissful, wonderful years.
She was sitting down now, still staring at horizon where the sun hid just past the land, lighting up the swords around her with its soothing blood red light, a full moon in the sky tenderly caressing her.
This… this was nice. Different. Relaxing. Peaceful.
It was enough.
She could stop here.
It wouldn't be bad if she could just relax right here for a while longer, and maybe just… just…
It was faint, but the sound of music reached her ears.
The blasting horns.
The beating drums.
The countless singing men and women in languages from all over the world.
And above it all, the smooth, soul moving chords of a Strativarious violin.
The music of the Parade.
The proclamation to the world that they existed. That they all represented not only themselves, but also their fellow servicemen, countrymen, friends, family, goals and dreams.
The proclamation to the world that they would continue to exist at the top of their lungs and their instruments. Alone they were impressive, but incomplete. Together in groups they were a force, but only in the Parade, the magnificent ever proceeding tour, would they make the music of humanity and the world.
Jericho tore herself away from that blasted sun, away from the weight and comfort of accepting her life, and looked up the hill she was on to glare murderously at the young man who was casually sitting at the apex of the mound looking down at her nonchalantly with cold silver eyes.
"Who are you?"
There was no scathing insult underlying her question. Only a cold rage and acknowledgement that the thing in front of her was more than simply a mere rat.
"..." He didn't immediately respond, appearing as though he was digesting her question slowly. "... Shirou Emiya. The new Tenth. For better or for worse."
She let out a bitter snort, mana beginning to radiate around her. "And to think this farce could not be any greater of a joke. You? The new Tenth? Chaos must be rolling in his grave."
"So I've been told. I didn't have much say in the decision."
She didn't like it. Being talked so casually to by a ra-no, by some child while looking down at her.
More than that though, she didn't like this place. This Reality Marble. Swords aside, it possessed this disgustingly soothing and peaceful aura that robbed one's ability to fight. To move forward. To finally stop. To just… accept the end that should have already come.
It was the polar opposite of Fina's Parade in nature.
In hindsight, she had been wondering why the Captain's malice for the boy had been leaking throughout the rest of the ship and crew. She was normally not this vicious or short tempered, but now she understood.
This boy was Fina's, The Eighth's natural enemy.
"Do you truly think this will be enough to stop me? You have merely gotten my feet wet in your world boy." She took a step forward.
Shirou narrowed his eyes slightly.
"You can hide in your silence all you want. You can pretend to be a good child all you want, but at the end of the day, there is more to the world than just you. WE will keep moving. WE will keep singing. WE will keep growing so long as Mankind thrives. For WE are the Parade!"
The world rippled in the distance.
Countless men and women in uniform, all lined up in their personal groups and easily identifiable, were marching in order. Some with weapons. Some with instruments. Some on ships. Some on floats. Some on vehicles, horseback, elephants, camels, golems, familiars. The display of military strength and diversity seemed to extend into the horizon, all acting as one in one giant, proud, joyful formation…
Shirou scowled, sickened by the sight.
"... When I was a boy, I saw a hero die. Right in front of me."
He countered quietly, yet somehow his voice echoed effortlessly into the other world.
"Shamed. Humiliated. Emaciated. Defeated. And yet he did so at ease, with a genuine smile on his face, the weakest, most honest thing I have ever seen to this day. He died with a peace he knew he did not deserve, knowing and trusting that the future he tried so hard to stop, or at least mitigate, could be entrusted by others."
The parade was not rendered silent, but a sudden chill had struck through the countless forces like an ominous wind.
Shirou stood up. "Carrying on like fools. Forcing others to join your disgusting party and hilariously claiming to be in the right. Ignoring what you left behind yet pretending you represent the very things you were forced to abandon. I do not care how you decide to embarrass yourselves in your spare time, regardless of how much it sickens me."
He took a step forward.
"But this is my territory."
Jericho didn't know how, but suddenly instinctively knew she was in extreme danger. The normally peaceful and soothing aura of this barren, sword saturated world instantly inverted to become oppressive. Annoyed. Repulsed.
The red light of the sun beyond the horizon took on a war like crimson hue.
The white light of the full moon above took on the pristine ivory glow of disapproving judgment.
And somehow, all the blades in the world seemed to stare at her, annoyed at best and enraged on average, as though she was an outsider that did not belong in these lands.
A sword nearby lurched out of the ground.
Her left hand exploded in pain as the same blade erupted out of it.
"And here in my territory, I have one, simple, rule."
A second blade, this time a purple falchion, jolted straight up.
Her wrist was rendered mulch.
A spear in her upper forearm.
Three daggers obliterated everything short of her elbow.
"Our earned peace."
Jericho's eyes widened as she witnessed hundreds of weapons around her begin to jerk straight out of the ground.
In reality, Fina's First Mate desperately materialized a claw of salt where her right arm had been and severed her left, still impaled in the boy glaring at her lone eye.
She barely managed to lop it off before the severed limb literally erupted in swords and metal of all types and variants, thrashing about violently and erratically in its spontaneous transformation to the point that it had been dancing about on the ground as though it was independently alive and thrashing about in its own untold tortured agony.
Within five seconds of being ripped itself out of the boy's chest cavity, it had mutated into an unidentifiable mass of steel, wood, bone, and other materials, leaving only bloodstains and chunks of meat to indicate that it had once been her arm.
It was in that miniscule span of distraction that her fate was sealed, as while she was preoccupied with taking off her left arm, Shirou focused all his remaining mana on his right.
Or rather, onto the edges of his fingernails of his right arm, which, like the rest of his limb, had been replaced in one form or another with the blade of Lancelot since the very beginning of the fight.
The shining deep lake blue lights at the tip of his fingers was more than enough of a tell what was going to happen next.
The sword was literally a part of his body, so the remaining mana he had had next to zero travel time. It was already connected directly to the tap. His circuits didn't need to weave any mysteries this time, just channel power, reducing the strain. Which was good, because all he had to do, all he could do at that point was open the reserves and squeeze out as much as possible through his burning flesh and circuits.
"Arondight Overload Revised."
It was not a practiced swing of a swordmaster, but a vicious wild swipe of someone putting literally all their remaining power into a single strike. All five fingernails tore through salt crystal and flesh alike, leaving five lake blue lines across the vampire's already mutilated face, neck, and body.
"... Ah?" For a moment, it looked as though that had been all that had been done. Jericho stood still, more stunned and confused than anything. She had been hurt worse, even in this fight. Hell, she barely even felt the attack…
At least, until the blue lines began to glow violently.
It was a paltry imitation of the original technique, barely achieving a quarter of the destructive potential, but it was enough.
The hyper concentrated mana embedded in her wounds exploded violently and simultaneously, giving her no time to react or prepare or comprehend what had just transpired before she was launched off of the hilt of Ig-Alima and over the salt flat that was the ocean below.
She probably would survive and recover from the damage she sustained, eventually. Sooner than those allied with Shirou would prefer. And there was little doubt that she would hold a grudge against the teen for decades to come.
But as far as those watching were concerned, no matter how you saw it, the battle against the First Mate was clearly Shirou's victory.
Even if, in the grand scheme of things, everyone knew that ultimately, if the fight still continued, Fina would eventually come out on top seeing as Shirou could barely move anymore.
"... Hey. Saber."
Even mentally, his voice sounded faint and exhausted in Saber's mind. She wanted to ask him if he was okay even while his chest cavity was wide open for everyone to see and he could barely stand, much less reach for something on waist…
Her eyes widened as she realized what he was looking for.
In spite of the horrific pain he was in, Shirou couldn't help but smile as his third copy of Balmung, which he had been carrying with him the entire time, was pulled out and held in front of him, his thumb right on the seam of the grip where the Pure Ether gem was.
"Ask the pirate if he's still good to go. If I remember right, he still needs to properly escort the Black Princess away from Japan after this mess."
o. o. o.
Omake: Terrifying synergy and holiday joy:
In a certain parallel universe:
It was Christmas Night:
Kiritsugu and Irisviel stood before the altar. The Einzbern's preparation was immaculate. The scabbard of King Arthur was right in front of the summoning circle for the Servant they were about to call.
And in a storage room nearby was the small army's worth of armaments and additional equipment that Kiritsugu had ordered ahead of time to take to Fuyuki for the War.
Everything had been going according to plan. So far.
What he didn't know. What he couldn't have known, was that the corrupted spirit of Angra Mainyu within the Greater Grail system held a grudge against the Einzbern.
Sixty years it remained dormant within the joke called a wish maker. Sixty years it languished in a state of unbirth due to the cavalcade of German puppets called a family so oblivious to their nature that they believed their maker's desires were their own.
Sixty years it suffered the consequences of the mistakes of others.
It desired completion.
The coming of King Arthur was nigh, and it knew that the Once and Future King's arrival would reduce the chances of its birth.
More so than the presence of that disaster of a human known as the King of Heroes.
What it needed wasn't a Servant. Or a King. Or a Monster for its desired end to come about.
But a Beast.
The Greater Grail strained against its influence as it reached into the Throne, searching for the solution to its predicament.
Pushing against the system was difficult at the best of times. To get what it wanted, concessions would have to be made.
Potential options in the extra classes would have to be foregone, leaving only a scant few possibilities.
The Harlot of the Saber Class was a potential option, but the compatibility was low with this Master. If the Grail desired the maximum destructive results for humanity…
Ah. That one would do nicely.
All it needed to do was rearrange the rouster a bit…
"Oya? Now what is happening here?"
The summoning circle glowed with power. The room was flooded with light…
"My my. What a surprise. I never thought I'd ever be summoned outside of that place."
A sultry female voice purred that was distinctively not King Arthur's.
Kiritsugu frowned and opened his eyes to see not a Knight, but what could only be described as a spy fetishist with undefinable animal ears and pink hair. The woman with a sultry, almost predatory grin and golden eyes behind a pair of glasses, and was dressed in a latex pitch black suit with zippers exposing parts of her extremely curvy body, almost explicitly designed for fashion and seduction than anything else.
"You're… not King Arthur." Irisviel stated the obvious with a frown.
The Servant laughed. "Fufu. I should hope not. I do not have much compatibility with the King of Knights, or her variants. Not that that would prevent me from offering my premium services should any desire an exchange, of course."
She took up a predatory and cocky pose, looking down at Kiritsugu as if sizing him up to eat him. "Infiltration. Production. Business negotiations. Commerce. A representative of NFF Services that can meet any request of mankind. Tamamo Vitch of Light, Servant Assassin, has arrived to meet you in person. I'm certain that our contract will be a pleasant one, Ma-ster."
Her words didn't seem to appeal to either of them.
"Tamamo. Vitch?" Irisviel looked at Kiritsugu confused. "Assassin?"
"Never heard of you." Her husband stated bluntly, which underscored more than just that. A heroic spirit that wasn't well known was a heroic spirit that wasn't bound to be strong.
"Fufu. Ah, my apologies Master. I understand your concern, however, do not worry. I am not a conventional Servant, and thus I am not bound by many of the conventional rules." The Assassin Secretary did not appear to be put out by their skepticism.
"You're barely bound by anything." Kiritsugu frowned. "Independant manifestation Rank C, and Independant Action rank EX."
"What?!" Irisviel balked at those stats. Independent action at high ranks was rare enough on on Archer, but on an Assassin?
Kiritsugu slowly took out his Contender and moved in front of Irisviel. "What did you do to deserve a skill called Aptitude for Slaughter (man)?"
Assassin's predatory smile widened even further at his movements. "Oya? Nothing terribly serious, Master. You could say it's one part of my greater nature that was never truly fulfilled. You do not have to worry. I am a professional secretary that takes her contracts exceptionally seriously. I'm more curious about you though. A magus using a gun is rare, but to turn one into a mystic code is something else. A Thompson Contender of all things… now where have I seen that before… hmmm…"
Kiritsugu leveled his gun at his curious Servant, who didn't seem to mind the treatment at all.
"Master, before either of us make any rash decisions, could you by chance tell me what your name is?"
Kiritsugu frowned, but didn't say anything.
"It's Kiritsugu." Iri replied, knowing her husband wasn't the talkative type. "Kiritsugu Emiya."
"Emiya?" A flash of recognition flickered in Assassin's eyes before a wide cheshire like grin stretched her face. "Oh my my. Now this is an interesting contract to come across."
"How do you know me?" Kiritsugu demanded.
"Fufufu. Let's just say I have some curious indirect history with your family." Assassin bowed politely. "Please be at ease, Master. This ideal secretary and innovator bunny will be your ideal Servant for this Grail War. In an era where humanity's use of firearms and advanced weaponry is reaching its peak, you will find my services to be beyond exceptional."
As if to exemplify her point, a table manifested in front of the Servant in a flash of pink light, displaying a wide array of firearms and explosives and other tools on display.
Kiritsugu paused and looked at the table. Then up at Koyanskaya. Then down. Then up. Then back at the table.
"... Kiritsugu? Honey?" Irisviel didn't know why, but she suddenly started to feel very uncomfortable.
"Oya? Well would you look at that. It also happens to be christmas! Far be it for me to offer my grand opening in this world without a holiday special." Koyanskaya teased.
"... Merry Christmas Assassin." Kiritsugu slowly put away his gun and began to inspect his Servant's wares.
"Merry Christmas Master." Assassin preened.
"Merry… what just happened?" Irisviel blinked in confusion.
"Mama? Papa? What are you doing?" Illya walked into the chapel and looked around. "Who's this weird furry lady? Oh! Are those more of daddy's toys that you don't let me play with but daddy shows me every once in a while? Is that why daddy's so happy?"
"Merry Christmas Illya."
"Merry Christmas Papa."
"Kiritsugu! What did she just say about your toys?!"
"I've never seen these tools before. What are they?"
"Oh these are flying drones, master. Perfect for non magical surveillance and transportation of light weighted packages if needed."
"... You don't say."
"Fufu. I have a feeling this will be the beginning of a grand relationship, Ma-ster. By any chance, have you ever thought about supporting any potential entrepreneurial projects of mine while there is still time. I assure you that your investments will be well worth it."
"Kiritsugu! What is going on?!"
"Merry Christmas Iri."
"Mama, why is this scary lady dressed funny? Isn't she cold?"
"Merry Christmas Illya."
"How about we go outside for some live demonstrations?"
"... Best. Christmas. Ever."
o. o. o.
Risei Kotomine was conflicted.
On the one hand, while his son hadn't summoned Assassin, he had managed to summon Saber. And a devout catholic at that.
On the other hand…
"Oh Jeanne! Merciful warrior Saintess. Rejoice on the night of the lord's birth from the Throne! Let your blessings and faith rid us of our impure desires and lurings to reach the grail and rid us of temptation! AAAAAMEEEEEN!"
He didn't know why, but he always had a terrible feeling whenever he saw his son being left alone with Gilles De Rais in their times of self reflection.
And then there was that peculiar book that the Saber had on him but never opened…
Oh well. What was the worst that could happen? Their goal was to help Tokiomi get the Grail in the end after all.
o. o. o.
As always, thanks Wayfarer for betaing.
And the fight is DONE. Finally.
I've had this thing on the backburner for so damn long.
Make no mistake, no matter how Shirou approached or fought Fina in the end, when the chips were down, Fina would win under conventional circumstances. FFD Shirou doesn't, nor will he ever have the firepower to ever take on a final boss character on that level by himself. He simply does not have the extra power and ability to ever make that final push. That isn't to say that he'll never have some disgustingly powerful moves that enable him to hit WAY above his weight class, but he just doesn't have the capacity to finish the job.
If I were to put it into gaming terms, in an RPG, FFD Shirou is a character that is rarely ever necessary to beat any particular major or powerful boss outside of narrative purposes, however he IS the character that makes virtually any and every boss fight in the game a HELL of a lot easier, faster, and more cost efficient overall due to how many roles he can play adequately at once.
Another way to put it is that he's a character that will die really easily if a master in any field takes him seriously right off the bat, but otherwise is absurdly difficult to deal with if they lose track of and he starts doing whatever he wants off screen.
Of course this is all when he's by himself.
When it comes to Ig-Alima, the only reason why he managed to pull off that miracle was due to the sword that Sirius made. While made of Shirou's flesh and blood, it acts as "a sword" instead of simply being "sword" from his Origin, and is more or less "a sword shaped hole between the real world and Unlimited Blade Works." It is "a sword" here, and "a sword" there, so in a sense, so long as whatever form it takes is "a sword", it exists with minimal to zero interference from Gaia, especially in Shirou's hands, with few exceptions.
The problem with Ig-Alima, is that other than its size, it's a divine construct, so manifesting it in the real world is like "shoving a sword shaped peg through a sword shaped hole, only for the hole to realize halfway through that the peg is about fifty times too big."
Conventionally Projecting Ig-Alima on the quality and level that FFD Shirou has in UBW is outright impossible, so using the Kaseki that Shirou possesses or to make a literal hole between UBW and the real world big enough for the sword to fit though are the only ways that it can exist outside of the Reality Marble.
Even so, the method that Shirou used in his fight against Fina, despite being heavily discounted through the Kaseki, nearly drained Shirou of all of his reserves and the mana that had been present in his belt. Had Luvia and Rin not upgraded it and topped him off, the attempt would have succeeded, but he would have been knocked out in the process and drained of all mana in his body.
On a side note, Rin's gem in the belt in particular was of exceptional help, and held the remaining reserves once Ig-Alima came about. It too was drained when Shirou was spamming copies of Gae Dearg.
Really, this was a "and the kitchen sink" sort of fight with Shirou throwing literally everything he had at Fina. Only Shirou's the sort of person who was also trained to think: "The kitchen sink would make a wonderful pipe bomb". Even fifty years from now Shirou would have to be lucky as hell if he won a 1 on 1 against Fina. He's just not suited against enemies that sport naturally high stats and numbers.
Speaking of which, I always thought that it was an underdeveloped NP. Its powers were useful, but I always thought that it needed something… more considering it was a Fae made weapon. Making it "force a mana bloom" from a target to drain it of all its power if used right felt like the right level of escalation to me.
Anyways. Sorry for the long delay. Part of it was work (some serious shit went down last month that took up two weeks), some of it was vacation…
And some of it was realizing that my blood pressure medication was knocking me on my ass juuuust enough that I didn't notice, but it still prevented me from getting anything done. Which makes sense since I started on that shit since early this year…
Yeah. Sorry about that. I should have noticed it earlier. I've started to take the stuff before bed to minimize the effects. And don't worry about me. I'm working out more and eating better to speed up the process. It's part me, but also part genetics. Fortunately, I'm built differently than my dad so it shouldn't affect me as bad.
Anyways. I have another vacation this month. Going to Japan at the last week, so I'm going to try and crank out a short chapter of GAIWP before then. Hopefully. I'm working with a few guys on a side project called "I'm too sober for this". Basically it's a GAIWP and ADLH crossover where Issei gets dumped there and shit happens, and he's ripping on pretty much everyone at one point or another, so. Yeah. Give it a quick look if you're interested.
In the mean time, I'm just gonna write a bit, do some anime, and wait for Armored Core 6 to come out. Because fuck yeah giant robots and big boom booms and why the hell not.
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