Skidding on the roof of the building, Diarmuid frowned at the long lines carved amongst the solid stone slabs that covered its face. The lines were nearly indistinguishable from the smooth polished black stone, the degree of which could only be the masterful architecture of the modern age.
"Ogham." he relayed. "Fearn, Nin, Uath... I confess my surprise that there is someone in this modern world capable of using the Ogham. Even the Hound of Ulster resorted to the Runic system."
"Do hurry, Diarmuid." Watanuki's voice drifted from the amulet gifted to him this morning. "It is a protection array, is it not?"
"Isolation, protection, indeed," Diarmuid answered, watching the sun set. "Do you think it possible that the temporal loop has to do with the Ogham array?"
"Mmm, no." Watanuki declared. "For one thing, the scale and the degree of accuracy is not possible without permission from the owner. Which means that this was an outside contractor. And I believe I have an idea of whom."
"Darkness approaches, master."
"Save the formality, Diarmuid. I am standing at the nearest park."
"What?" Diarmuid leapt down, spreading out in a skydiving X as the floors passed him before gathering his legs to propel him towards the nearest building, then jumping from either side in a fairly controlled descent.
True to word, the seer was waiting. Dressed in a fairly elaborate ensemble of black edged in silver, the butterflies that edged the hems stood out as a sign of wealth, and yet the dark-haired seer went unnoticed. Watanuki did not look up from where he was studying the group of children kicking a black-and-white ball about.
"Master, I thought..." Diarmuid's brow furrowed.
"I am dream-walking," Watanuki raised a hand that passed through the nearest bush. "Those who do not see the otherworld cannot touch me, and I am vulnerable to the spirits in this state. Likewise, my body is vulnerable within the shop. Yet, there are some things I must take this ghost-form to do so, and yet I cannot communicate unless needed."
"I see," Diarmuid relaxed. "I will protect you, mas- Kimihiro-sama."
"Just Kimihiro..." Watanuki absently murmured. "Kimihiro... I haven't been called that in a long time." Raising a hand, Watanuki motioned as the ball bounced slightly to touch his leg.
"I'll get it!" A small boy ran up to them, his blond hair jutted in spikes and his red eyes gleaming. "Hey, mister?"
Watanuki glanced at him with a small smile. "Who would expect the King of Heroes to take such a form?"
The boy bit his bottom lip, his scarlet eyes growing hard as he studied the former Lancer and the seer. "Master and Servant?"
"Not participants," Watanuki tapped two fingers against the back of his other hand. "But parties interested in why the flow of time has become cyclic."
"Yeah, I know," the boy Gilgamesh scoffed. "Who knows, in a city like this any and all events are possible. The city of Winter's wood... just like how you got that Servant who's supposed to be dead over there to work for you, eh?"
"Archer?" Diarmuid exclaimed. "You're... reduced. And..."
"You can say it," Gilgamesh waved.
"More... polite." Diarmuid admitted.
"I know," the child Gilgamesh nodded solemnly. "I can't imagine how did I grow up to be a jerk."
"And yet you know that this cannot last," Watanuki gently suggested. "You are waiting."
"I am." Gilgamesh nodded. "You're the wish shop-keeper, right?"
Watanuki smiled, and it was a grim smile. "You have a wish that no one can fulfil for you. You gather treasures because that is the only thing you have that will help you. And yet the one treasure you truly wished for cannot be reclaimed, because it is no longer here. Only a distant memory remains, and beyond that... who knows."
"I knew it," the Golden King scoffed. "You can't help me."
"I will not, King of Heroes," Watanuki shook his head as he rose to go.
"I have nothing I want from you."
"Everyone has a wish. If one says that they desire nothing, it only means that they do not know their own heart." Watanuki's reply was soft. "You have everything, but you will be nothing. And that is why you are not satisfied. That is why I cannot help. You must do something, first, for others, before you can embark."
The child-form of Gilgamesh, first of the epic heroes of the Age of Gods, sneered, though his scarlet eyes never left the departing Master and Servant.
It was after going to the mall to talk to a woman, visiting a female student with a rather odd taste and a strange aura followed by an unusually beautiful Servant – thankfully who had listened to them – and then running towards the front portal of the Ryuudouji Temple to converse with a samurai – which was fun to battle, Diarmuid could admit, if only because of the godly swordsmanship of the portal's guardian – that the pair finally ran into another pair.
"Oh my," Watanuki conversationally murmured as the red-haired be-suited woman confronted them, her Servant hanging behind.
"Who are you?" the woman demanded. "I am Bazett Fraga McRemitz of the Mage's Association. By the rules of the Fifth Holy Grail War, let us duel honourably."
Watanuki peered at her. "And you have given me your name. I suppose this duel's conclusion is a foregone subject. After all... if you give someone your name, they can control your life."
"That's..." Bazett took a deep breath. "Avenger!"
Diarmuid used one of his wrapped swords to block the other's daggers. "Unusually faint energy. Basic form."
A single move of the yellow lance and Avenger was knocked back. "Verg Avesta!"
Diarmuid examined his leg, which had begun to smart. "Damage transfer of a sort."
"Diarmuid, stand down," Watanuki instructed. "Avenger himself is a Heroic Spirit born into existence according to people's wishes. Other Heroic Spirits are recognized as true heroes, but Avenger represents the belief that heroes are lies and fabrications. In short..."
"Avenger?" Diarmuid mouthed. "I did not know that there was an eighth Servant class."
"To figure out the mystery would be the key to the loop," Watanuki answered. "For one thing, both Master and Servant are responsible for it."
"H- How do you know that?" Bazett demanded. "Avenger-!"
"What, so he knows, big deal," Avenger scoffed. "We can kill him, right?"
"I will not allow you to harm my master," Diarmuid stood up to shield Watanuki.
"For one thing, the Avenger class did not exist, did it?" Watanuki archly continued. "Another thing, what is the function of this temporal loop? Surely to contain something. Yet, for a war that was already over, to repeat itself once more... do you understand my meaning, Servant Avenger?"
"To... live..." Avenger defended.
"Avenger, what are you doing?" Bazett demanded as the Servant dropped both daggers. "If you do that-!"
"I can't sense any intent to fight," Avenger summarily informed her. "We wouldn't last."
"A battle that depends on two people," Watanuki noted.
"From the damage transfer... I suppose that Avenger's Noble Phantasm depends upon our injuring him, and then transferring of his pain to us," Diarmuid observed. "But it does not seem like a very useful strategy, not against Lancer and Saber class Servants. Even Assassins would be able to finish him off at the level of skill I detected. In short, I can only conclude that his Noble Phantasm is modelled to revive him automatically, and that the true offensive power rests with the Master."
Bazett backed slightly, readying a dagger in her glove. "Want to try me?"
Diarmuid's gold eyes scanned her, and the female magus shifted uncomfortably until Diarmuid opened his mouth once more. "Ansuz, Kenaz, Sowilo... the Runic Magecraft system has been employed. I can only conclude that there is some form of reinforcement present in your armour, yet it would not be enough to handle a Servant. On the other hand, against an ability like Avenger's, a Servant would indeed need to focus upon him and move for the kill quickly. From the observations of Kimihiro-sama, I can only conclude that it must be the Master using the dagger to catch the enemy Servant unaware as they are focused on Avenger in some manner."
Complete silence resulted.
"We are not here to participate in the Holy Grail War, Diarmuid," Watanuki admonished as he raised a hand. "But, Avenger, and Master of Avenger. A word of advice. You cannot continue in this time, not forever. It is only by accepting the bitter truths that rules your lives that you must escape this loop, Avenger. After all, the wish made upon the Grail has already been fulfilled."
Avenger's stilled form did not budge even at his Master's yell of anger as the pair left.
Diarmuid finally spoke up. "Master, I realise that perhaps we should not have taken them on, and yet... how did you know?"
"I observe." Watanuki paused. "Would you like to hear the story of an Avenger?"
"You mean that soul behind?"
"Perhaps. Perhaps not."
"I would be delighted to anyway."
Watanuki took a deep breath as they continued walking. In that midsummer night, the story was told with a flair that enchanted.
"Initially, Avenger would have been Angra Mainyu, the god of darkness of Zoroastrian myth. In actuality, it is a curse that had put all of the evils in the world on one person, that who became Angra Mainyu."
Watanuki sighed. "In reality, he who would have been Angra Mainyu could be no more than an ordinary villager. By being a human freed from the confines of Order by having his name expelled from the Avesta, The Universal Revelation of Inscribed Creation, his fate was decided. One day, this ordinary person had been randomly chosen as the source of all evil in the world by his village. The villagers believed that from the moment humans are born, there was evil in them. Since it was impossible to be freed from malice just through clean, righteous living, the only way to realize the true goodness of human beings was to force all the evils of the world onto one person and blame him as the true source of any human evil. By the simple, child-like theory of embodying evil, the rest of the people could not be evil, so they thought, and therefore they would sacrifice evil.
"So they continuously tortured him until he went insane. They captured him, beat him, carved every word that cursed mankind onto his body, forced every sin imaginable upon him, took out bits and pieces of him slowly, defiled his mind with absolute evil, and held him responsible for all of it in the world. They would not allow him to die until he succumbed to old age. He had a curse put on him as a result, one made of the great evil that he was to represent.
Which was eerier, the fact that such a thing happened, or that Watanuki was able to calmly relate such a story, Diarmuid was undecided.
"He was shocked at first at the senselessness of it all." Watanuki continued. "That ordinary person himself only felt anger and hatred towards the world and the people that mercilessly executed him. Eventually, he started wondering who it was he should hate. His forced sacrifice eased the confused minds of his people, which despite being unintentional, qualified him to become a Heroic Spirit.
"After the first few years, the hate became a natural function for him rather than an emotion; hate was the state he was always in, so it was only natural for him to continue hating everything for no rhyme or reason. By that time, he had forgiven and tolerated humanity for whatever sins they may cause, while hating them. The imbalances were evened out by his hatred, so the people could be absolved of all guilt and live freely. But this kind of forgiveness, was also the same type that validates any evils that humans may perform, and so the cycle continued. Yet as the time passed by and he saw many rises and fall of generations, he realized that while he still hated humans for what they did, he still loved the world. Over the generations, expanding, declining, people changed and yet, people reviled him, people feared him, people scorned him, and yet they revered him as the sign of their salvation. But he could do nothing but hate, since that was the only thing he could communicate to the world. In the end, he accepted his role for humanity, even if it meant to be the blame for their wrongdoings."
If Diarmuid were to maybe squint, and perhaps imagine the sea mists that drifted in on the Emerald Isle, perhaps, Watanuki's words would have been all the more chilling in that it ran counter to every belief he ever knew:
"A helpless sacrifice – an ordinary person without any special talent – that transformed into exactly what they wanted, that was determined to be and came to represent all evils of the world. And thus, hated by everyone and losing his self, a hero was born."