Different Paths: EMIYA
In the depths of the forest, a castle without its owner stood. The former home of Ilyasviel von Einzbern was desolate, with naught but spirits lingering within. A tranquil resting place filled with memories of sorrow and loneliness.
It would be a battlefield once more.
Shirou and Kirito stood outside the ruined castle.
"Is this the place Shirou?"
He nodded. "Yeah. Archer should be inside." Shirou narrowed his eyes. "He better not have harmed Rin. If he did I-"
The black swordsman gave him a reassuring smile. "Relax Shirou. Archer won't harm Rin."
Shirou didn't answer and looked at the ruins.
"You know what to do right Shirou?"
"...Save Rin. But-"
Kirito shook his head. "I told you. Leave Archer for me. I'll deal with it."
No more words were said as they entered. The sun was already setting and time was running out.
The main hall was in the same shape it had been after Berserker's death. Rubble scattered across the tile floor, and deep gouges could be seen all around where Gilgamesh's weapons had landed.
In the center of the room, a stairway led to the upper levels, with a tattered red carpet rolled down the middle. At the top, their enemy stood.
"So you've come."
Archer glared down at them, arms held loosely by his sides.
Shirou ground his teeth. "Archer! Where's Rin?"
The crimson knight shrugged and pointed to a room. "She's in there. Shinji came by not too long ago though, so I can't say for sure how she is."
Kirito stepped between the two. "Enough. Shirou, go get Rin. I'll take care of this."
The black swordsman shook his head. "Go. Protect the one you hold dear."
Shirou hesitated for a brief moment, then ran up another stairway to the room with Rin.
Archer shot a sword towards him, but in an instant Kirito was there. He batted the nameless sword aside with ease.
"Archer. Your fight is with me."
The bloodied hero narrowed his eyes. "You won't stop me from achieving my goal. That idiot will die."
Kirito grinned. "You can try."
Archer scowled and charged down the steps, a pair of black and white falchions appearing in his hands with a flash of light.
Kirito responded with his own charge, brandishing a blade of pitch black and one of glittering gold.
A crash of steel midway across the hall signalled the start of the fight, both Servants unyielding in their advance.
"Why do you want Shirou to die Archer? What has he done to you?"
Archer leapt back, buckling under Kirito's superior strength.
"You would never understand! Just shut up and die!"
He whipped both of his blades towards Saber, black and white razors intent on tearing him to shreds.
"Hah!" Black met white and gold met black as Kirito swung his blades. With a sharp note, Kanshou and Bakuya shattered in a burst of light.
Kirito looked on with mild amusement at the sight. "Oh? So swords can shatter like that in reality too?"
Archer's scowl deepend and he materialized another set of the twin blades, throwing them at Saber as he charged with yet another pair of materialized blades in his hands.
Again, the blades were shattered as the black swordsman met each with his own and Archer was weaponless once more. The knight leapt back to a safe distance.
The two Servants stood at an impasse, each studying the other.
Archer narrowed his eyes as he observed Kirito.
This Saber was strong, much more troublesome than the one Archer remembered. But why? If it had been HER who had been summoned, this would never have happened. Emiya Shirou would have been killed and his existence would be at an end.
Why had this black swordsman been summoned instead?
"…Just who are you Saber?"
The man grinned. "Why don't you tell me? A swordsman, a soldier, or perhaps I'm just some hero?"
This was getting irritating. He couldn't force his way past Saber or face him in direct combat. Those blades of his shattered Kanshou and Bakuya in a single hit. Even though Archer's traced blades weren't high ranking Noble Phantasms, they shouldn't be broken that easily.
And it wasn't a property of Saber's blades making that happen. He had scanned the two before. Elucidator, Saber's dark sword, and Excaliber, Saber's golden one, were strong. Even more so in the case of Excaliber that was on par with King Arthur's own holy sword. But neither possessed an ability that could break his traced blades in a single blow.
That meant that Saber himself could do it and Archer wasn't willing to test his Tracing speed against Saber's attack speed.
"Do you give up Archer?"
The Saber lowered his swords. "It's obvious that you won't win. I'm sure Rin and Shirou will forgive you. Let's just end this already. There are no more Servants, so what's left to fight for?"
Archer sneered. "What's left to fight for? I've waited an eternity for this. I won't let you stop me, not now!"
Rin and Shirou jumped down from the balcony behind the Saber.
Archer's time was running out.
Nothing was going right. It was supposed to be simple. Kill Emiya Shirou and end his cursed existence. But now…
"…There's only one way."
I am the bone of my sword.
Shirou clutched at his head. Archer had no doubt that the words were ringing into his very soul, echoing throughout his being.
They were one and the same, after all.
Steel is my body and fire is my blood.
The Saber shook his head. "So you plan on fighting, even now? Is your wish worth that much?"
Archer didn't reply. He brought his hand to his chest, standing like a knight in attendance of the court.
I have created over a thousand blades. Unknown to Death, nor known to Life.
Rin's eyes widened as she realized his intent. She took a step back. "Archer… you…?"
Have withstood pain to create many weapons. Yet, those hands will never hold anything…
The Saber crouched, ready to act at the slightest indication Archer would attack.
So as I pray, Unlimited Blade Works.
The world vanished, enveloped in a sea of flames.
Burning fire and turning cogwheels. A field of swords without owners extends to infinite horizons.
It was an unlimited projection of weapons, an innumerable number of blades that made this realm seem like a graveyard of swords. A wasteland, buried under smog and a fading sun.
The knight in red reigns at the center of this kingdom of rubble on a hill of swords.
"Archer… This is…"
Rin looked around the world, eyes wide in realization. "Reality Marble… The forbidden magic that puts form to the user's mind. But then-!"
Archer raised his arms and the swords rise, one by one.
"Saber. No matter how skilled you may be, you cannot win here. Yield, or I will end you and then kill the idiot you protect."
The infinite swords point to Saber, each of the weapons sure to kill when they're launched.
The black swordsman shook his head. "Sorry, but I can't do that."
Archer snapped his finger and the myriad of blades flew through the air.
"Kirito!" Shirou called out, but the black swordsman didn't reply.
Left, right, up, down. A brilliant rectangle. A seamless arc. A savage strike tracing the number four.
The black swordsman seamlessly defended against the blades, weathering the storm of steel. Yet, even he was being worn down, bit by bit. A tiny cut, the barest of scratches.
It couldn't go on.
"Archer! Stop this!" Rin stepped forward, tears trailing down her cheeks. "Isn't this enough…? You became a hero like you wanted, so why…?! Why are you trying to kill yourself?"
The red knight didn't answer and advanced, Kanshou and Bakuya appearing in his hands.
"Rin. Emiya Shirou should never have become a hero. Move, please. I don't want to kill you, but if I must…"
He raised his swords.
Rin stepped in front of Shirou, arms outstretched. "No! Please, Shirou!"
"…It's fine Rin. Step back." Shirou advanced, the same blades in his hands as Archer. "It's been useless from the beginning. Neither of us can approve of each other. So now…"
She shook her head, looking between the future and present versions of her lover. "Idiot! Both of you! This…! No, I won't let it happen!"
The two fakers moved as one, mirroring another. An inevitable conflict.
A flash of golden light stopped the two in their tracks.
Kirito stood, battered and wounded. His pristine black coat was in tatters, his body torn and bleeding. But he was standing, his stance even stronger than before.
The rain of swords had halted, each shattered in that burst of pure energy.
"Shirou. I told you before… I will deal with Archer."
Shirou opened his mouth to protest but stopped at the look in Kirito's eyes. The playfulness was gone, replaced by unyielding steel. In the face of such determination, Shirou could only step back.
"…I underestimated you, Saber. Even King Arthur would have fallen beneath that onslaught." The red knight raised his hand. "But I doubt you can do it again."
The infinite swords rose once more, guided by their master.
"Shut up." Saber stood tall, looking defiantly at the red knight. "I won't let you kill Shirou."
That look in his eyes... it's irritating.
Archer hated him.
This Saber was a true hero. He had a brilliant legend behind him, both of his blades carrying the history of it.
He had never faced the betrayal. He never had his ideal turned against him, his friends leaving him.
The blood-stained counter guardian readied his blades, prepared to end the Black Saber so Archer could finally end his cursed existence.
The Saber had only used his two blades, Elucidator and Excaliber. The pair of swords had been enough to deal with any Servant, even Berserker. But now he sheathed that golden sword, and reached for a third blade on his back, one kept hidden until now.
With a sound like shimmering bells, the blade appeared.
It was a rapier of excellent make, but one that had no magical or extraordinary properties on first sight.
And then Archer learned its history.
A radiant lady fighting by [Kirito]'s side. The trials they went through together. The love she felt for him, the affection and determination to fight by his side.
She was lost at until she met him. Admiration changed to rivalry, to friendship, and then gradually into a love so deep, she had devoted her entirety to his being.
He was alone, always alone in that world. Taking on the burden by himself, he fought for strength, enough to end the nightmare. She couldn't accept that.
So she fought. She fought to become one able to be by his side, to share his burden, to let him experience the happiness he gave her.
She died for him.
He fought for her.
And together… they ended a realm. Separated, but reunited.
She always believed him, always trusted him, always loved him.
And now, even separated by time and death… their bond continued to live in that blade. The crystallization of her soul, her love.
"Kirito… please save me…!"
"Kirito, I won't let you go alone!"
"Kirito, why don't you party with anyone else?"
"My heart is yours Kirito… forever and ever. We'll always be together… right?"
Archer blinked, desperately trying to rid the images entering his head, his soul.
Memories he had lost, that he had tossed away for his ideal, returned. Memories of Rin, of his Saber, of Sakura. Memories of all the ones he loved. That blade… it called to each of them.
Memories of missed opportunities, of discarded feelings. Worried cries that pierced his heart of steel.
Kirito charged, appearing before Archer in a flash of light. That lady, the one who poured her soul into that sword to protect him, stood by his side.
Archer was stunned at their grace, at their fluid motion. As one, they moved, flowing in an elegant dance as they advanced. It spoke of a bond so strong, of understanding so great that no words were needed.
Their blade pierced through Archer's chest… but that pain was nothing compared to what had already been inflicted on his soul by seeing that sword.
"Archer," Kirito said. "Shirou isn't like you. He has friends, a lover. Precious people to protect instead of some foolish ideal."
His words stung but Archer forced himself to acknowledge them.
Rin clung onto the idiot's shoulder. It was nostalgic. But the steel in his past self's eyes, that determination he had when he advanced to face Archer...
Would I have won?
He laughed as the truth became clear. That Shirou was different now. This Black Saber had changed him. No longer did he want to be a 'True' Hero, one who fought to save. Instead, he had chosen the path of a Protector, one who fought for those he loved, for those who he had been entrusted, and for those who believed in him.
"I see… How foolish of me."
Even if Archer killed him now, no paradox would result. Already Heroic Spirit EMIYA and this Emiya Shirou had become different individuals.
"So it was worthless after all."
Unlimited Blade Works faded. The fight was over.
He had lost… no. There was never anything to gain.
Kirito gave him a small smile and stepped back. The rapier vanished in a flash of light, reappearing in its sheath behind his back. "I wouldn't say worthless. You did your best, didn't you?"
The words were casual, seemingly directed to the battle. But he could tell. The black swordsman was talking about more than just that. Could he have…?
"You can't save everyone, but you can still try, right? Even when everything's hopeless, when the world is filled with despair, a single person can make the difference. And though you might be alone now, there are people who believed in you. So don't give up… and be happy. For their sakes if not yours."
Maybe it was his words, or the lingering memories of that rapier, Lambent Light, but for the briefest of moments Archer caught a glimpse of the ones he had lost long ago.
Rin, her twin tails let down in a black cascade, smiling.
Ilya grinning with her innocent charm.
Sakura sharing her calm smile.
…Even Saber, his Saber giving a look of approval.
Despite their parting, despite the eternity that now separated them, they were still there. In the memories he had thought lost, in the feelings he had cast into emotionless steel.
They had always been by there by his side.
Archer lowered his arm. "Heh… it's your win Saber."
Kirito replied with his laid-back grin. "It's yours too Archer. You've realized it, right?"
The red knight grinned, looking for a moment just like the red-head boy in front of him. "Yeah, yeah. I understand." He turned towards Rin. "Take care of that idiot. The Root knows what sort of trouble he attracts."
"Archer…" Rin buried her face into Shirou's back, tears trailing in the air. "…Idiot."
"And Shirou. Take care of Rin… or else."
"Yeah. I'll take care of her."
Archer locked eyes with Kirito. Forged steel met its unyielding counterpart and the two nodded.
"Same to you, Kirito."
A/N: So, there was some talk in the SAO Fandom Nexus Chat and the topic of Kirito being summoned in the Grail War came up. I actually couldn't resist the idea and wrote this one shot. It takes place in a path similar to UBW, but a bit different due to Kirito's presence. The details aren't ironed out since this is a oneshot so imagine what you will of the Grail War events.
Saber refers to Kirito in this case. Hope you enjoy. Oh, ToumaFF helped smooth out some of the rougher edges but any mistakes are my own.
2/12/14: Edited to fix things. Reading back, I found that it was... blegh. Should read much better.